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  • Valkyrie

    Valkyrie 2008

    ★★★ Watched 06 Apr, 2015

    Bryan Singer is a good director, though--like in his very different Superman Returns--there is a surprising lack of tension in Valkyrie, the true story of the Nazi officers who led a failed attempt on Hitler's life. So much of the film is consumed with explaining who's who and where they stand in the Reich that it can seem cold and distant. Little importance is given to what the men believe and what their plans are for Germany once Hitler is…

  • Jurassic Park

    Jurassic Park 1993

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 22 Jul, 2014

    I don't think the idea of "popcorn movies" is inherently a bad thing. People like to eat popcorn when they go out to a movie, right? It's part of the event, something you do when you want to have a good time. It's a comforting ritual. Cinematic comfort food doesn't come much more satisfying than Jurassic Park. After a long, exhausting day dealing with a family emergency, I came home, turned on the TV, and sat glued to an edited, commercial-filled version of a movie I've seen a hundred times and own on Blu-ray. And you know what? I don't regret a single P90X ad.

  • The Host

    The Host 2006

    ★★★★½ Rewatched 21 Jul, 2014

    Like all great monster movies, Bong Joon-ho's The Host has more on its mind than a giant fish-thing snapping up folks with its tail. Released in the midst of the Iraq War, it's a biting satire of American imperialism, not to mention general government incompetence. Of course, it's also just a fucking great monster movie, one of the absolute best of the last ten years.

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990

    ★★★★ Rewatched 20 Jul, 2014

    After disastrous rewatches of the sequels in recent months, I'm pleased to report that the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles still holds up. There's the animatronics and puppetry by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, still impressive a quarter of a century (!) later; but there's also the fact that this film, unlike any of the others, has a real story and takes its time to establish the Turtles as real characters. It might not be great filmmaking, but it's still a hell of a lot better than what came after.

  • Imitation of Life

    Imitation of Life 1959

    ★★★★★ Watched 19 Jul, 2014

    Douglas Sirk used melodrama as a means of exploring tougher issues and deeper relationships than other Hollywood films of his time did or could. Only by pitching the story of a struggling white actress, her black nanny, and their daughters' differing paths through life at such a fever pitch of emotion could Sirk offer such a searing message on the destructive power of racism. Seen nearly 50 years later, it's almost shocking how much Imitation of Life gets away with;…

  • Snowpiercer

    Snowpiercer 2013

    ★★★½ Rewatched 17 Jul, 2014

    I really wanted to come away loving the film this time, but instead I'm even more steadfast in my criticisms. Specifically that the film's tones--somber drama, black comedy, intense action--never quite cohere. It snaps back and forth between them, which works to a degree, though it's far from seamless. Still, this is a strange, lively movie, not one that feels like it fell off the assembly line. Bong Joon-ho's got a unique vision.

  • The Thin Blue Line

    The Thin Blue Line 1988

    ★★★★½ Watched 15 Jul, 2014 1

    One of the most important documentaries ever made, right up there with Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's Paradise Lost trilogy, in that it led directly to the exoneration of Randall Dale Wallace, wrongly convicted for the murder of Dallas police officer Robert W. Wood. As he has throughout his career, Errol Morris makes use of his Interrotron, allowing subjects to speak directly to the camera lens. It's fascinating what people reveal when there's no live person in the room, how…

  • Bicycle Thieves

    Bicycle Thieves 1948

    ★★★★½ Rewatched 14 Jul, 2014

    I loved this film when I was younger, but I don't think the devastation of it really hit me until now. Such a simple story, and a bleak one at that, but De Sica is incredibly humane in his approach. I have a feeling this is a film that will only resonate with me more as the years pass.

  • Pillow Talk

    Pillow Talk 1959

    ★★★★ Watched 13 Jul, 2014

    In retrospect, it's weird that I watched and enjoyed Down with Love years ago without having seen Pillow Talk or, actually, any Rock Hudson vehicle. But I'm glad I finally got around to this, because it's a zippy, colorful romantic comedy brimming with witty asides and silly gags. The chemistry between Hudson and Doris Day is off the charts, which makes the whole thing sing.

  • Still Alice

    Still Alice 2014

    ★★ Watched 19 Dec, 2014

    Still Alice is the cinematic equivalent of a softball, an inoffensive, competently made film with no interest in narrative or style, starring a great actress as a beautiful person felled by a tragic disease. Does it matter that the work is far from her best or that the film spends no time showing you who her character is or why she's so beloved? No, it's enough that it's about early onset Alzheimer's and has her giving a big speech about…

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 13 Jul, 2014

    Who could have expected the sequel to a prequel to be so stirring and soulful? After the generic, Heston-quoting bullshit of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I was ready to write off this new franchise attempt. Leave it to my boy Matt Reeves, director of underrated genre pics Cloverfield (the rare great found footage movie) and Let Me In (the rare great foreign film remake), to offer a course-correct.

    Andy Serkis, the previous film’s saving grace, is back…

  • Life Itself

    Life Itself 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 12 Jul, 2014

    Roger Ebert meant a lot to me. He meant a lot to a great many people for whom movies became more than just a hobby; indeed, he and partner/rival Gene Siskel probably introduced the idea of serious film criticism to millions of Americans. When he passed away early last year, I was taken aback by how strongly I reacted. I felt like I’d lost a family member.

    In a way, Steve James’ documentary Life Itself is like being reunited with…