• Mary Reilly

    Mary Reilly

    ★★

    Chainsawnukah 2022: Psycho Killer, Queue Que C’est?
    Preview Night! Movie 2

    A movie I really want to work. It's got a lot going for it; the stately cinematography of Philippe Rousselot (INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, BIG FISH), unique and evocative production design by Stuart Craig (all the HARRY POTTER films, THE ELEPHANT MAN, GANDHI), and steady direction by old pro Stephen Frears (THE GRIFTERS, and fresh off the success of DANGEROUS LAISONS which utilized much of the same cast and…

  • The Rite

    The Rite

    ★★½

    Chainsawnukah 2022: Psycho Killer, Queue Que C’est?

    Preview Night!

    For a movie that's ultimately pretty unambiguously bad, it gets a surprising amount of things right. First, the look: director Mikael Håfström (1408) and cinematographer Ben Davis (most of the films of Mathew Vaughn and Martin McDonagh, plus three of the best-looking Marvel movies [and two pretty nondescript ones]*) ably capture gritty, lived-in real world places and people with a stately, austere elegance that ushers in an uneasy atmosphere where mundane…

  • Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

    Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

    ★★★

    It's a fun idea to use animation to, essentially, create more episodes of the 1966 Batman show, retaining the campy tone (and surviving original cast) but freed from budgetary concerns and consequently able to turn it into a weird, spazzy action epic. Unfortunately since I never saw more of the show than that clip of Batman trying to get rid of the bomb, I'm probably not the ideal audience and I suspect I missed a lot of funny little details…

  • Gorky Park

    Gorky Park

    ★★★½

    A solid little detective procedural with just enough exotic elements (set in Soviet Russia, early Ian McDiarmid role, plot revolves around illicit sable trade [?], 1812 Overture used to cover the sound of a murder) to feel fresh despite its familiar structure. Director Michael Apted (a reliable old journeyman with his hands in everything from the transcendent UP series to the Bond film THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. And NELL?) is able to conjure…

  • Elvis

    Elvis

    ★★★½

    Baffling as a biopic,* barely even discernable as a drama,** but as an experience, just a sheer cinematic tidal wave washing over you with a irresistible riptide of images and sounds, pretty god damn special. Tacky and grotesque and sublime and electrifying in about equal measures, it's cinema at its most punch-drunk and out-of-control, nauseating, invigorating, impulsive, asinine, dangerous. If it doesn't capture the literal historical truth, it certainly captures the cultural, collective unconscious truth of Elvis, which is far…

  • The Dirty Dozen

    The Dirty Dozen

    ★★★½

    As was inexplicably the style at the time for these mid-century WW2 ensemble movies, it's both too long and perplexingly languid, taking its time in ways which are so unproductive that even at 150 minutes I could barely identify half the titular Dozen* and could only describe, like, three major plot events.

    And yet, it does ultimately manage to pack some serious punch, thanks mainly to its simple but effective abrupt pivot from a shaggy, sophomoric snobs-vs-slobs underdog comedy to…

  • Troy

    Troy

    ★★½

    Granted, I don't know that there's any way to make a movie out of The Illiad, a tract emerging from an utterly alien culture almost three thousand years in the past that defies nearly every narrative convention which has subsequently developed in Western literature. It's full of characters who are either unlikable or inscrutable wandering through non-arcs in and out of the action, the carnage is as relentless as it is repetitive, half the text is people you've never heard…

  • Batman: Under the Red Hood

    Batman: Under the Red Hood

    ★★★

    Gets and "A" for effort; though there's no shortage of "edgy, dark, very serious grown-up Batman adventures for very mature big boys who just happen to direct their cultured attentions to the field of Batman" animated movies, this one feels unusually able to at least grasp that "for adults" means more than "uses swear words." This is a reasonably good story* that at least gestures towards complicating the Batman mythos is some interesting ways, most notably in Red Hood's criticisms…

  • Three Thousand Years of Longing

    Three Thousand Years of Longing

    ★★★½

    Well, shit. When I saw this, I still had a pretty long queue of movies on letterboxd that I hadn't reviewed yet, and thought it would buy me some time to get my thoughts in order. But ten days later, I'm still not quite sure what I think of this. Or, rather, I do know what I think of this: I like it. But I'm not quite sure I get it.

    It's a story about storytelling, except the stories that…

  • Double Team

    Double Team

    ★★★

    You come to DOUBLE TEAM for the crazy, and it does not disappoint. Everything you've heard is true. Rodman's hair changes color every scene. Every one of his lines is a basketball pun, even though there's nothing in the plot about basketball (and he's playing an arms dealer). The whole middle of the film is an insane tangential riff on The Prisoner. Van Damme fights a tiger. In a minefield. In the Roman Colosseum.* A ridiculously swole, shirtless Mickey Rourke…

  • Alexander the Great

    Alexander the Great

    ★★

    As my Oliver Stone retrospective continues, I've been circling ALEXANDER, and thought I might check out this earlier predecessor as an instructive point of comparison. It comes with a reputation as a stinker, and while it doesn't exactly defy that impression, there are some good things about it. Fredric March is quite good as Alexander's drunken, barbarous father who is nonetheless quite a bit more savvy than he might appear, and Danielle Darrieux is also effective as his scheming mother.…

  • First Blood

    First Blood

    ★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    When I first started the RAMBO series, I thought it might be interesting to save FIRST BLOOD for the end, as a reminder of just how far the series drifted from its origins over the course of 40 years. That technique proved quite elucidating when I pioneered it by watching the BATMAN/GOUGH/HINGLE TETRALOGY in dyadic reverse chronological order, and I thought it might serve me well here, too. But no; the whole series is so all-over-the-place that FIRST BLOOD doesn't…