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  • Chinatown 1974

    ★★★★½ Rewatched 02 Nov, 2014

    What struck me on third viewing was how beautifully *straightforward* this was -- told from a single point of view, with just about all the plot's mysteries neatly explained and the main character's backstory kept concise and simple. The movie connects so strongly, I think, because Polanski imbues the film with such an impeccable sense of place (there's a *reason* for this particular noir to be in color, you know?) and because Nicholson's tough noir hero manages to be so human despite living up to all the archetypes.

  • Stonehearst Asylum 2014

    ★★ Watched 27 Oct, 2014

    Very strange to see a movie this slack from Anderson, who usually imbues even his weakest films (e.g. THE CALL) with an urgency and energy that has made him one of the most beloved genre wizards in the biz. I blame the screenplay, which is thematically ambitious -- tackling no less heady a topic than The Moral Authority of Science, Necessary Conditions For -- but totally inert as thriller and drama despite the fairly crackling premise. Biggest concrete problem I…

  • The Rover 2014

    ★★ Watched 26 Oct, 2014

    Hey, so, no big deal, but generally speaking, if you're going to make your main character an enigma and spend the entire film playing hide-the-salami with his motivations, you really ought to make sure there's something remotely satisfying at the end of the road, or at least something better than the ludicrous schmaltz this movie ultimately offers. THE ROAD is the obvious point of comparison, as gritty post-apocalyptic wastelands go, but that (brilliant) film felt totally organic whereas Michod seems…

  • The Innocents 1961

    ★★★★ Watched 25 Oct, 2014

    Poised almost perfectly between old Hollywood (black and white, with a lush classical score) and new (CinemaScope photography, a fluid camera, action during the opening titles), this is a phenomenally skillful horror film, getting most of its mileage out of vague insinuations and a pervasive sense of confusion. Ordinarily I'd get annoyed at how scanty the plot turns out to be, but the movie absolutely thrives on ambiguity, preferring to operate as creepy mood piece and as metaphor for Victorian-era…

  • Iron Sky 2012

    ★★ Watched 19 Oct, 2014

    Doesn't take itself seriously and also isn't funny -- a toxic combination. Premise wears thin almost immediately.

  • We Are the Best! 2013

    ★★★★ Watched 19 Oct, 2014

    Seems so fragile as it plays that I kept worrying it would veer into schmaltz or else "punk" fetishization, but it never steps wrong. Funny and rousing, it's a truly feminist coming-of-ager that's more about independence and identity than punk music, which is deliberately left mostly in the background. Remarkably assured work from Moodysson, whose trust in his three non-pro leads is absolute, and pays off.

  • Kill List 2011

    ★★★½ Rewatched 12 Oct, 2014

    Still riveting and undeniable, though on third viewing I'm a bit more convinced that it's not as ingeniously layered as I first thought -- it's possible that Wheatley and Jump don't do *quite* enough work to set up the big left turn. I still love the subtlety, don't get me wrong, but there could have been a little *more* to the hints that are dropped, content-wise, y'know? Otherwise it seems a bit too easy.

  • Honeymoon 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 12 Oct, 2014

    Haven't seen IT FOLLOWS or THE BABADOOK just yet, but this seems pretty solidly like the horror film of the year from where I'm sitting. The moment when Bea stumbles over "nap" would be enough all by itself, but everything from set-up to pay-off works like a charm, and Janiak knows exactly how vague to leave the premise for maximum creepiness. Must-see.

  • Cold in July 2014

    ★★½ Watched 12 Oct, 2014

    A rare whiff from Mickle, who remains a technical and tonal virtuoso but is defeated here by a narrative that seems almost totally arbitrary and makes zero emotional sense after a crackling HISTORY-OF-VIOLENCE-like set-up. And since thematically it appears to be a pretty basic violence-reawakens-suburban-dude's-masculinity sort of thing, it really needed something a little more. Good to see him branching out a bit though.

  • Gone Girl 2014

    ★★ Watched 11 Oct, 2014

    I get the sense that Fincher purposely resisted making this any sort of emphatic statement on marriage or relationships writ large, which is probably wise, but what he's left with here is a pretty unremarkable pulp revenge story -- and one that's structured in a way that's far better suited for the page than for the screen, with the plot's secrets revealed through arbitrarily timed flashbacks and an unreliable-narrator gimmick. I felt more jerked-about than surprised, and the film plods…

  • Casablanca 1942

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 11 Oct, 2014

    Spending some time as an expat in not-the-friendliest-of-places kind of gives one a new perspective on this. I'd totally come hang out at Rick's.

  • Godzilla 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 02 Oct, 2014

    Looks tremendous, and Edwards is very smart about what to show and what to withhold and when; this is often the film people wanted PACIFIC RIM to be. Shame about the narrative, which bifurcates the set-up and the main action and then strains to shoehorn characters from the former into the latter, where they don't really fit. People complained about thin characterization, but that's not the problem so much as the fact that Aaron Johnson (for example) should have exited…