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  • Kubo and the Two Strings

    Kubo and the Two Strings 2016

    ★★½ Watched 11 Aug, 2016

    "The stop motion provides Kubo with integrity, but more than Laika's previous features, the images feel slick instead of tangible. While the complete CGI world of something like Zootopia gave the 'camera' a whirling velocity, the acrobatic moves here simply pull the film away from the stop motion creatures. It seems in trying to attempt to repeat the CGI standard, the sequences feel less comfortable exploring their own properties."

    Sigh. I was really excited for this so it pains me to find it just kind of barely passable. Take your kids to see Pete's Dragon. Skip the 3D for both. My review for LAist.

  • O.J.: Made in America

    O.J.: Made in America 2016

    ★★★★½ Watched 26 Jun, 2016

    "ESPN’s 30 for 30 has never attempted to radicalize the documentary form as is standard practice at Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, and Edelman does not challenge the aesthetic per say. But he finds ways to make the form feel relevant and necessary. He may not be probing his interviewers to break them on screen and deconstruct their personalities before their eyes, but he also asks a limited set of questions speaking to specifics; where broader statements are put in the…

  • Topaz

    Topaz 1945


    I wasn't sure what to put here in place of the latest podcast, which explores amateur videos of police violence and brutality against African Americans. But as my guest Snowden Becker discusses, David Tatsuno's footage from inside the Japanese concentration camps remains an essential work of amateur film history, and one of the few moving image works that had lasting effects in terms of the US government's response. So take a listen to our discussion of what it means to be an amateur video and what does it mean to look for evidence instead of art.

  • Pete's Dragon

    Pete's Dragon 2016

    ★★★ Watched 09 Aug, 2016

    "It may be only by comparison that Pete's Dragon gets a pass for having a genuine storytelling motive behind it, but the direction here shows a knack for the economy of film language. After Ain't Them Bodies Saints showed a little too many stylistic tics, Lowery's camera remains more subtle...It's a kind of rare Spielberg homage (of which the film does reference many—including the underrated Sugarland Express) where the camera captures experience first and spectacle second."

    My review for LAist, and hey it's a movie I actually liked.

  • Celine and Julie Go Boating

    Celine and Julie Go Boating 1974

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 07 Aug, 2016

    A meeting of two women who've only lived their lives through the fantasies of men. One receives the far away affection of a man who only remembers the vulgar doctor's games of childhood adolescence. The other dresses up the part of a magician, though Gob Bluth's line of the difference between tricks and illusions rings true given the masculine audience's "refrigerated glasses" creating an ugly gaze. The safe space first appears as a collection of dolls, toys, and books of…

  • Bad Moms

    Bad Moms 2016

    ★★ Watched 26 Jul, 2016

    "While Ghostbusters had its numerous problems, it knew that devoting screen time to four women cracking jokes at each other in a room was itself something of a revolutionary act. Bad Moms rarely gives its characters time to breathe, and its few best moments derive from improv sessions of the cast. Otherwise, the performers feel trapped by plot."

    In the words of Todd, "Fuck, man. What else is there to say?"

  • Jason Bourne

    Jason Bourne 2016

    ★★½ Watched 25 Jul, 2016 1

    "Vikander gets little to do beyond strenuously stare at computer screens, deliver exposition in droll monotones without a hint of curiosity or excitement underneath that British accent. She gets to wear black eyeshadow with a gray-red lipstick and a clip tightening her hair back into an awkward bun all while sporting a series of dark blue pantsuits. Is her pouting lip and steely-eyed stares meant for her superiors or those behind the camera? I'm not demanding that she smile, but…

  • Don't Go Breaking My Heart

    Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2011

    ★★★★ Watched 16 Nov, 2014

    "To and Wai opt against bawdy humor for an elegance reminiscent of 1930s comedies by Ernst Lubitsch. The playful cross-office flirtation sequences use silent-film gestures and sticky pad-made emojis, recalling Jacques Tati’s Playtime. The directors shoot Hong Kong as a brightly lit metropolis with metallic lines of pastel colors, all aided by Xavier Jamaux‘s frothy piano plucks. With wide-opening framing, To and Wai create playful, unexpected sight gags as the characters spy on their expected partners through windows."

    More discussed here over at The AV Club.

  • Indignation

    Indignation 2016

    ★★★½ Watched 24 Jun, 2016 2

    I interviewed writer-director James Schamus here. Not a masterpiece by any means, but it's such an interesting experiment in performance by Lerman, Gadon, and Letts. Because it depends on this super bizarre structure of a film all revolving around a 15-minute conversation in the middle of the film, it becomes a largely internal film. It might look and sometimes flow like Mad Men, but I don't think it is (too many long shots, and the photography is a little toned…

  • The Tall T

    The Tall T 1957

    ★★★★ Watched 15 Jul, 2016

    Discussed with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon screenwriter / Focus Features co-founder / Indignation director James Schamus in this latest episode of The Cinephiliacs (its 4th anniversary show!). Due to time constraints, James and I only scratched the surface, but I think the things we discuss — the quasi-proletariat leanings, the lack of external action, and the strange final line — cover some of the essential parts of this Western. Boetticher is such a plain-style director that it can be hard…

  • Star Trek Beyond

    Star Trek Beyond 2016

    ★★½ Watched 20 Jul, 2016

    "Beyond just barely hits the marks that have become all too thin in blockbuster filmmaking, causing dead stops with the film's monotonously thematic conversations and constantly growing expository backstory (when will villains simply be evil again?). Though running what now must be considered brief at two hours, there are still too many beats pounded on by Michael Giacchino's score; a late action set piece scored to the Beastie Boys almost rescues the picture and gives the film an indelibly humorous…

  • Ghostbusters

    Ghostbusters 2016

    ★★½ Watched 14 Jul, 2016

    "[McKinnon] never sits normally nor stands properly, her legs appearing in places like a set of misguided yoga poses. She mutters dialogue in Shakespearean asides under her breath, but with an acuity that makes them feel like a dare. That is unless she's describing the series of technological doohickeys her character devises; her body and voice suddenly take on the adrenaline rush of a junkie with boyish exasperation flailing out of her body."

    Has the problem of wanting to be…