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  • While We're Young

    While We're Young 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 29 Apr, 2015

    This one slowly won me over. Opens with Baumbach in full-on misanthrope mode, rendering every character as derisively as possible to the point where I kind of wanted to leave on the theory that I didn't have anything in particular against these people and didn't feel like watching Baumbach mock them for the next 90 minutes. Came around once it became clear that it was going to be about the characters' insecurities rather than their absurdity -- Stiller's unfinished six-hour…

  • Kingsman: The Secret Service

    Kingsman: The Secret Service 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 28 Apr, 2015

    Loved every second of this, and if it had just had a bit more follow-through on its thematic and emotional threads (like, isn't an obvious payoff having Eggsy's bespoke Kingsman suit ultimately be in his own style rather than traditional?), it might have been a masterpiece. As it stands it's merely virtuosic pop cinema with an R-rated edge. Everything works: Egerton is engaging and charismatic as the plucky hero; Jackson is hilarious as the squeamish mad genius villain and his…

  • Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

    Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief 2015

    ★★ Watched 26 Apr, 2015

    Maybe it's just that I've read a fair bit about scientology (though not Lawrence Wright's book), but this talking-head doc struck me as really tedious -- Wright says that he wanted to examine what it is that drives people to this brand of belief, but the movie's mostly just the same old (no doubt true) muckraking about Hubbard and Cruise and Miscavige, presented in unremarkable 60-Minutes fashion. Eh.

  • Unfriended

    Unfriended 2015

    ★★★ Watched 25 Apr, 2015

    Clever, and undeniably effective for the entire first hour. The key is attention to detail and a genuine sense for how people use computers and various internet tools -- a few minor things do seem understandably engineered for the screen, but the overall impression is one of painstaking realism. (The IP lawyer in me would love to know how the various rights issues were hammered out with Apple, Google, Facebook, Spotify, etc.) Gabriadze succeeds in creating both a creeping sense…

  • The Age of Adaline

    The Age of Adaline 2015

    ★★★ Watched 25 Apr, 2015

    Impressively directed by Lee Toland Krieger, who works in an ultra-fluid, controlled style I really like, giving the impression that every shot was captured with perfect foreknowledge of what the final, edited-together product will look like. (Editor Melissa Kent probably also deserves her fair share of credit for this effect.) Audiovisually, he has a consistency of vision that reminded me of someone like Tony Scott or the underrated Paul McGuigan. The story resonates too, with Adaline's agelessness and resulting isolation…

  • A Most Violent Year

    A Most Violent Year 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 24 Apr, 2015

    Rich, generous, expansive entertainment for adults -- shades of Scorsese and James Gray and a little bit of Mamet -- a crackerjack story in a vivid setting, beautiful and beautifully acted. A gangster movie with a main character who fights tooth and nail against becoming a gangster -- and continues to fight well past the point when any other protagonist in a movie like this would have given in (thus providing the dramatic fulcrum for countless stories sort of like this). A film about the intersection of ambition and scruples, or at least the self-image of oneself as scrupulous. Phenomenal.

  • Exodus: Gods and Kings

    Exodus: Gods and Kings 2014

    ★★ Watched 24 Apr, 2015

    You'll find no bigger fan of Sir Ridley than I, but this screenplay is so turgid and ham-handed that even Scott's remarkable penchant for robust Hollywood spectacle can't save it. Unlike Aronofsky's NOAH, EXODUS simply fails to find any sort of compelling dramatic angle on the story, so we're just left to mentally go through the Biblical checklist as we wait for the movie to end. Closest it comes to something interesting is Moses' profound unease with God's vengeance on…

  • Kill the Messenger

    Kill the Messenger 2014

    ★★★ Watched 17 Apr, 2015

    First half is mostly a journalism procedural and it has some crackerjack moments (e.g. the courtroom scene), even though Cuesta's direction is choppy and inelegant -- the dude has no sense of rhythm vis-a-vis storytelling; easiest to see this during Andy Garcia's big scene, which keeps undermining itself with pointless and clunky cross-cutting, but really a problem throughout. Second half gets a little maudlin (all the family-is-what's-really-important stuff), though it's arguably justified by what ultimately happens to Webb, which kind…

  • Beyond the Lights

    Beyond the Lights 2014

    ★★★ Watched 04 Apr, 2015

    Loved the first hour, which skewers the 21st century music industry as shrewdly as anything I've seen, shot through with a sadness that the film has no need to overexplicate. Sadly, it's designed as an inspirational story of a young woman who Finds Her Voice™, and the second half of the film is therefore tasteful, well-intentioned, warm-hearted, and kind of interminable -- particularly the half-hour-long interlude in Mexico, which is dramatically crucial but refuses to fucking end. The performances are lovely and I'm glad this got made, but it's just disappointing to see it retreat so aggressively to convention after a start that suggested something special.

  • City Lights

    City Lights 1931

    ★★★★ Watched 28 Mar, 2015

    I know almost nothing about silent-era comedy and thus have zero credibility -- as evidenced by the fact that this is my first viewing of CITY LIGHTS. Most of it is obviously delightful, but my instinctive reaction is that the Tramp is too play-acted, too choreographed -- the funniest moments here are the precious few where Chaplin lets chaos break loose, like in the awesome nightclub sequence. Like, I don't have a ton of experience with Keaton either, but my…

  • Spring

    Spring 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 24 Mar, 2015

    Only one real quibble, and it's with the ending -- to be as vague as possible, the thing that happens in the film's final seconds is set up kind of mechanically, through dialogue, a mere few minutes earlier, and the pay-off feels like a contrived and too-easy resolution to a heartrending conflict that had theretofore played out unpredictably and organically. That aside, Moorhead/Benson's follow-up to RESOLUTION is bold, gutsy stuff, risking embarrassment to deploy horror tropes in service of sincerity…

  • Citizen Kane

    Citizen Kane 1941

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 22 Mar, 2015

    The remarkable thing about the identity of "Rosebud" is that: (1) when you learn what it is, the mystery is deepened rather than solved; (2) that doesn't make it any less satisfying or cathartic as resolution; (3) its power doesn't remotely diminish with knowing the answer in advance.