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  • 8 Million Ways to Die

    8 Million Ways to Die 1986

    ★★½ Watched 01 Apr, 2013

    Hal Ashby's final film, reportedly taken from him at the end of production, so what survives is not his edit. It probably would have been better if he'd had full control, but I've always found his films lugubrious, so I didn't really notice (this is among the more lugubrious crime movies of its era). Jeff Bridges' performance as struggling-to-get-sober ex-cop Matt Scudders is excellent, though, and the other actors are at least tolerable. Rosanna Arquette tries hard but mostly just…

  • Advise & Consent

    Advise & Consent 1962

    ★★½ Watched 02 Mar, 2012

    The one word that comes to mind for me with Otto Preminger's movies is stolid. For all their virtues, his devotion to the most stage-bound and classical style makes his films leaden.

    The virtues of Advise & Consent are mostly contained in Charles Laughton's performance (his last). He plays a nasty old lizard, a career politician who can outmaneuver everyone else playing the same game, and he is only defeated when George Grizzard's McCarthyesque character plays by his own (rude) rules,…

  • Amigo

    Amigo 2010

    ★★★ Watched 20 Jan, 2012

    If you can put up with the clunkiness of its narrative, Amigo offers some real pleasures. When the story stops grinding its gears, there are some lovely moments captured by director of photography Lee Meily (using the Red digital camera). Sayles has also cast the film well, particularly in some of the smaller roles, and the actors are very good at quiet, genuine moments. They're not so good at bigger, emotional scenes, with one exception: a woman holding her dead…

  • Argo

    Argo 2012

    ★★★ Added

    A fun thriller with a surprisingly low body count. We're used to thrillers in which lots of people die, and yet this is in more than one way an old-school movie, a movie that is optimistic about the world-changing power of cinema, and nostalgic for a time when people thought movies could be a force for good in the world. At its core, it's a true story, but the liberties taken with the more mundane truths of the tale are…

  • Batman

    Batman 1989

    ★★★½ Rewatched 09 Mar, 2012

    I hadn't watched this since it came out in the theatres when I was 13. Watching the movie now, what struck me is that Gotham City is NYC in the 1970s. Burton clearly tried to keep it from being a specific time, with cars and clothes from various eras (note all the fedoras), but it still exudes, to me, the NY of Death Wish and Taxi Driver. This makes sense, since it is, in effect, their sequel, or cousin, in…

  • Bellflower

    Bellflower 2011

    ★★ Watched 16 Nov, 2011

    A movie that begins as mumblecore, then in its last 45 minutes turns into a nasty, cruel horror movie (almost anti-mumblecore, or mumsploitation), and then ends as sentimental weepie. This progression shows the full depths of the characters' shallowness, then has them embrace their monstrous natures, and finishes by wanting us to feel sorry for them. Thus, the film narrows itself. The weep is for misplaced masculinity. The style ducks absurdity and expressionism, and ultimately just wimps out, lacking the courage of its weirdness.

  • Berberian Sound Studio

    Berberian Sound Studio 2012

    ★★½ Watched 15 Dec, 2013

    Conceptually fascinating, I found the film itself to be ultimately pretty tedious.

  • Bill Cunningham New York

    Bill Cunningham New York 2010

    ★★★★ Watched 01 Feb, 2012

    A perfect example of documentarians stumbling on a great subject and having the good sense to goad the subject on and then get out of the way. I couldn't care less about fashion or the fashion world, but this movie made me care about how Bill Cunningham cares about that world. It made me laugh a lot and shed a tear, too.

  • Breaking News

    Breaking News 2004

    ★★½ Watched 07 Apr, 2013

    I've been generally indifferent to many of Johnnie To's other movies, neither loving them nor hating them, but Breaking News kept up the pace and offered frequent enough surprises to be diverting. Hard to say it's more than that. An early long take of a gunfight is impressive, showing us the cops and crooks united in destruction, but nothing later can really match it for excitement or pure technical skill. The characters are barely characters -- quite literally, they are…

  • Bullet to the Head

    Bullet to the Head 2012

    ★★½ Watched 22 Aug, 2013

    Bullet to the Head is not just familiar and predictable in a lot of its moves, but sometimes feels like a mash-up of earlier Walter Hill movies. The premise is an inversion of 48 Hours, with a cop (Sung Kang) forced to tag along with a criminal (Stallone), with resultant banter (including racial stereotypes from the grizzled white guy), mutual mistrust, and then a grudging friendship. The lighting often looks like an update on Streets of Fire. Certain action scenes,…

  • Burn After Reading

    Burn After Reading 2008

    ★★★★ Added

    Burn After Reading is a film about containment and knowledge, or, to put it another way, a tale of wars against chaos. Necessarily, it is a farce.

    Some thoughts on the film at Press Play:

  • Chungking Express

    Chungking Express 1994

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 11 Dec, 2011

    Pure delight. This may be the first Wong Kar-Wai movie I saw (back in the late 1990s?) -- probably so, because whatever the first one was, I then watched all that I could get my hands on as quickly as possible afterward, and much as I love some of the others, I can't imagine any (other than maybe Happy Together) having the same effect: the desire to be immersed in a particular aesthetic.

    Chungking Express is always delightful, no matter…