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  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 2013

    ★★ Watched 14 Dec, 2013

    For all the touted 3D and HFR-smoothed movement, this film is at its best when it is showcasing static objects: the mangled shards of Dol Guldor, the impossibly huge room in Erebor that replicates and vastly expands the shot of interior sand dunes in STALKER, albeit with a floor made of mounds of gold. Don't get me wrong, everything is still overlit to hell to compensate for its double-gimmick format, but at least Middle-Earth no longer looks quite so much…

  • Under the Skin 2013

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 08 Jul, 2014

    The Kubrick allusions are understandable (BIRTH was, wrongly, seen as Kubrick moving forward in a new vessel), and the beginning of UTS seems to reference 2001—a round cyber eye, light peeling over a motorcycle helmet in a makeshift Stargate sequence. But this is very much Glazer's film, abstract where Kubrick is largely upfront about his themes, and more mournful than the black comic streak that runs under the other director's work. Besides, for all the gorgeous framing and beautifully unguarded…

  • Under the Skin 2013

    ★★★★½ Watched 10 Sep, 2013

    High-concept but almost lo-fi despite its formal crispness. It creates a disconnect of alien-human communication solely through incomprehensibly thick Scottish brogues, replicates 2001's Stargate sequence using only the blur of tail lights rolling over a shiny motorcycle helmet and deals with the fate of the men ScarJo's alien picks up in such a way that what happens is clear but almost abstract. Doubles as a harrowing, but also elegantly tragic view of our warped sexual development, in which one learns of the power of sex before fully understanding the act itself, sometimes with abashed but benign results and sometimes with devastating ones.

  • Edge of Tomorrow 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 02 Jun, 2014

    Tom Cruise really does make entertaining action movies. It's a bit grim that the film plays his character's constant cycle of death and reversal for light comedy, with barely any nod to the psychological toll such a thing would take (PTSD apparently doesn't exist in the future). But Cruise's undimmed charisma does a lot to sell him as almost exasperated by having to constantly start over after dying horribly, and a combination of smart editing and an eye for subtle…

  • Snowpiercer 2013

    ★★★★ Watched 05 Jul, 2014 1

    I still need to see Bong's first feature, BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE, but I would say SNOWPIERCER doesn't quite match up to the level of his other Korean films. But if this is his weakest (or second weakest), it is the sort of curve-obliterating lowest score that ranking becomes irrelevant. The best, by far, of the recent crop of transplant vehicles for Korean auteurs, SNOWPIERCER is necessarily limited, spatially, by its conceit, and some of the action falls into the…

  • Batman Begins 2005

    ★★★★ Rewatched 15 Sep, 2012

    I underrated this as much as I overrated TDK and TDKR. Gotham is given actual character, the dialogue is (relatively) on-point instead of didactic, and Batman actually FEELS like Batman, using stealth and intelligence over the brute force approach of the sequels. The first act still drags, and a few narrative choices and lines land with thuds, but overall this is the clear highlight of Nolan's trilogy.

  • Spring Breakers 2012

    ★★★★½ Watched 23 Mar, 2013

    The lost toys of pop culture have fed Korine's other films—vaudeville, VHS, etc.—but SPRING BREAKERS is a film terrifyingly of the present. The stagnant small-town life has been replaced by a hip youth minister with gelled, bleached blond hair, a neck tattoo and an Ed Hardy shirt complete with bro-y crucifix. Soft shoe and death metal has become Skrillex. And the various obsessive trinkets given meaning by the have-nots is now simply the hunger for money and "shit." Yet this…

  • Zero Dark Thirty 2012

    ★★½ Watched 12 May, 2013 1

    I don't see how anyone walks away from this thinking it justifies torture, but there's still something off-putting about that final image, with all its "Was it worth it?" properties. It frames the waste and rot of the War on Terror as a measure of what we lost in terms of our true selves, as opposed to taking stock of the astonishing collateral damage we amassed just to kill one man. (A far more appropriate closing would've been the last…

  • Captain Phillips 2013

    ★★ Watched 06 Oct, 2013

    This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.

  • Goodfellas 1990

    ★★★★★ Watched 28 Dec, 2013 1

    I love returning to this film. As a teenager, I thought it was just the coolest movie ever, yet I'm reminded of Ebert's thoughts on returning to LA DOLCE VITA throughout his life: the movie never changes, but I do, and every time I revisit GOODFELLAS every few years, I see more and more cracks, its coolness a subjective veneer of the gangsters' self-perception that clashes with how increasingly banal they seem. Looking at it after seeing THE WOLF OF…

  • Prisoners 2013

    ★★ Watched 21 Sep, 2013 1

    A promising opening that moves quickly but patiently through the realization of children gone missing, allowing comprehension to dawn on parents without taking too long to get to the event, soon collapses as Villeneuve's arthouse-thriller aesthetic puts enough space in the shots that the distended, half-connected threads of the script have more room to fall apart. The film's greatest tension is in the total incompatibility of its forced stabs at social relevance (which at least aren't as clumsily on the…

  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2012

    ★★½ Watched 03 Jul, 2012

    The bit where Garfield is adjusting to his powers is fantastic. Everything else is muddled, poorly shot and contradictory. But it has potential, at least, to not suck.