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  • Ex Machina

    Ex Machina 2015

    Watched 06 Oct, 2015

    Ex Machina is the kind of science fiction movie that hammers home Solaris' point (or one of them anyway). Attempts to study or, in this case imagine, the inhuman or post-human almost always collapse into yet more navel gazing. Ex Machina is a decent film about a very particular delusion: The god complex as it manifests in twenty and thirty-something male technology professionals; Frankenstein 2.0. But it fails utterly when attempting to depict an artificial intelligence. The best it can…

  • The Gift

    The Gift 2015

    Watched 05 Oct, 2015

    The Gift is an efficient, machine tooled film in which not a second is wasted and every detail is essential. As a result it feels more than a little airless. That's a fault I could forgive - if it's end purpose was a little more ambitious or if it was more interesting on a moment to moment basis.

  • Phoenix

    Phoenix 2014

    Watched 11 Jun, 2015

    The rare holocaust film that attempts to convey its impact beyond immediate terror and broken bodies. Which is not to say it's a state of the nation address although it includes that aspect too. it's occasionally a little too blunt for its own good. Pheonix happens to be the name of a bar in the film and Hoss' character explicitly remarks that the the process of pretending to be herself is helping her reclaim her pre-trauma identity in a way…

  • The Assassin

    The Assassin 2015

    Watched 14 Jun, 2015

    Seeing as everyone has an opinion about this now (courtesy of TIFF) I decided to stitch together some of my SFF tweets into something almost coherent:

    One of the really neat things about THE ASSASSIN is its sound design. It's very quiet - even in action scenes. But violent blows - fists, arrows and blades striking - are very loud. It makes the violence feel abnormal and very aggressive even though there's virtually no visible blood. It's a choice that contributes to its rhythm of long periods of plotting, spying and regretting interrupted by brief, furious bursts of violence.

  • Spring

    Spring 2014

    Watched 10 Sep, 2015

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

    Cleverly locates romance in biochemistry and history but, like its fumbling hero, reaches a little too hard for profundity.

    It also fails to get beyond the hurdle of how to characterise an immortal (or at the least a very long lived person) and falls back on the usual solution: An otherwise ordinary person with a great deal of knowledge and skills.

  • Painted Skin

    Painted Skin 2008

    Watched 30 Aug, 2015

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

    Painted Skin doesn't always put its best foot forward. There are a number of clumsy moments: The most egregious being an attempt to create drama by cutting around the moment a character suddenly turns to face another. The absence of the turning movement is intended to shock but instead it just jars. That said, as The Bride with White Hair showed, I'm more than capable of overlooking some oddities (both films share an extreme fondness for Dutch angles) if the…

  • Of Horses and Men

    Of Horses and Men 2013

    Watched 27 Aug, 2015

    Tonally similar to Imamura's work in that it is both bawdily humorous and startlingly tragic. The animals are active participants here though rather than just metaphors deployed via inserts (although to be fair the fish in The Pornographers isn't exactly passive). Like Imamura's work Of Horses and Men does effectively balance its tonal shifts - transitioning from levity to grief with uncommon grace. It's also cleverly structured in a way that takes full advantage of its small town setting.

  • Leviathan

    Leviathan 2014

    Watched 27 Aug, 2015

    Leviathan feels like Zvyagintsev gathered up The Return's study of authoritarian masculinity and Elena's class portraits and wove them together. In that regard it feels like a full stop or a culmination and I'm not sure where he goes from here. His perspective feels new though: as though he's shifted from being a mostly detached observer to a bitter commentator.

  • A Most Violent Year

    A Most Violent Year 2014

    Watched 24 Aug, 2015

    Essentially a version of The Godfather in which there are no innocents to begin with: just men who are very good at pretending to themselves that they're innocents. In doing so it makes a direct attack upon The Godfather's narrative of capitalism with a human face being pushed out by ruthlessly amoral capitalists, and of pure individuals being tarnished by impure people. It's counterintuitive but somehow in removing the gangsters from the gangster film Chandor made the genre even more cynical.

  • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

    Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation 2015

    Watched 22 Aug, 2015

    In a way this is surprisingly ambitious. Rogue Nation's finale doesn't try to top its previous stunts in spectacle but in suspense and... um... catharsis??? It's even more surprising that it nearly succeeds. In other words I wasn't expecting wine gently sloshing in glasses to be a salient detail in a Mission Impossible film.

  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 2015

    Watched 22 Aug, 2015

    It's refreshing to see a contemporary spy film that's more interested in bon mots & stylish clothes than action. Unfortunately it's stuck in third gear.

    Oh and the score has some neat, not entirely explicable nods to Spaghetti Western soundtracks.

  • Mr. Holmes

    Mr. Holmes 2015

    Watched 18 Aug, 2015

    A movie that knows it's about memory, regret and fiction and yet centers its climax around an almost irrelevant moment of peril.