• Bill & Ted Face the Music

    Bill & Ted Face the Music

    ★★★½

    If you want to feel old, watch a heavily made-up Keanu Reeves act confused and disconnected in a film that should feature him in the top three (top five? top seven?) rated by star power and screen presence.

    But: his sleepwalking leaves ample room for Bill and Ted's daughters, whose high-energy warped impressions of their fathers gives "Music" more than half of its momentum. And Alex Winter, underappreciated his entire career, more than makes up for his near-absent costar. Schaal…

  • I'm Thinking of Ending Things

    I'm Thinking of Ending Things

    ★★★★

    Given that I am probably in the top 10 worldwide Synechdoche fans and have been a wild cheerleader for Kaufman's career, I was very excited to sit down for this. Since my family was universally negative on watching it, I went in solo, and they may have done me a favor.

    It does a lot - crammed full of ideas, not all of which resonated on first watch. I need to put it on again to steep more in what…

  • Hail, Caesar!

    Hail, Caesar!

    ★★★★½

    I liked this just fine, and I don't know why I'm so surprised by that. I like the Coen brothers! George Clooney doesn't look like he's trying too hard anymore, but he's sort of always coasted on charm! Scarlett J can do basically anything she puts her mind to, right?

    But this is a mind-boggling achievement. Sets of sets on sets, musical numbers, tremendous lightness, stunning depth, and laugh-out-loud pranks that never feel pranky. And of course the usual dose…

  • The Walk

    The Walk

    ★★★½

    Talk about being trapped by Wheel of Movies! I think I actually rejected two before I got to this one and simply felt I had to take it out of fairness to Wheel.

    This is in no way superior to the documentary from some years back that covers the same event - but it's not irredeemable, either. It would be asking a lot to have Joseph Gordon-Levitt learn tightrope skills, but I've learned that he did (from Petit!) so I…

  • Au Revoir les Enfants

    Au Revoir les Enfants

    ★★★★

    I was moved by this life-during-wartime boarding-school drama, if I am a little nervous when I see that 12 year olds have to carry an entire film. (I am also wary of Nazi-occupation stories, because they're usually a little one-sided and bleak. Nothing wrong with that, just not how I choose to spend my time!)

    But the 12-yos here are stellar and tender and deep and true. It's just dizzying how much this script asks of them and what they showed up with. Tone and sets and costumes are truly transporting - this is a sad and sweet masterpiece and I recommend it.

  • Bad Day at Black Rock

    Bad Day at Black Rock

    ★★★½

    Spencer Tracy has business in a small town but nobody will give him the time of day. He perseveres, and slowly his motives (and theirs) become clear - there's a mystery, and the folks in the town do not want it solved.

    Effective, tense, occasionally unpleasant, and seemingly much longer than its 81 minutes. Not boring - and not hard to look at, even if some of these costume choices were probably as crazy in 1955 as they are here 65 years later.

  • Frozen II

    Frozen II

    I think I saw the entirety of this film during two or three ten-year-old rewatches, so I'm going to take credit for it, but I don't really know what it's about or what happens. It's very pretty and it works harder than it would have to in terms of entertaining fifth graders.

    But I was not paying attention.

  • The One I Love

    The One I Love

    ★★★★

    Ooh! Fun and twisty, adults-only paranormal fantasy drama? Sign me up.

    I actually had no idea what this movie was about, so it was all a surprise to me. That's probably the way to see it, so I'll leave you to it, except to say I think Duplass really nails the wonder and frustration and hope and hopelessness of his situation. And also I have never really understood the appeal of Elizabeth Moss. I may feel differently if we hung…

  • October Sky

    October Sky

    ★★★

    I was one of the first users of IMDb and its "movie trivia" section, I'll have you know (back in 1994, before they had their domain). The reason I mention that is that this was supposed to be called "Rocket Boys" and, because women would never go see a movie called that, had to change its name to an anagram. (I also loved anagrams in 1994.)

    But I didn't know a whole lot else about it, and when my family…

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

    A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

    ★★★★

    Mr. Rogers is a life-long inspiration, and I'd been looking forward to seeing this since it was announced. "Day" takes an oddball angle to enter the story, but it's perfect in hindsight: a skeptic wants to undo an American hero, or at least explain what inexplicable. Through that lens, we can understand this story with fresh perspective, and get behind the scenes in a way that recent documentaries have not.

    A tremendously well-crafted narrative structure, a charming application of a…

  • Boyz n the Hood

    Boyz n the Hood

    ★★★½

    Having listened to West Coast hip-hop records, I had assumed that Compton looked like the Brooklyn brownstones of "Do the Right Thing" and Sesame Street. But apparently inner-city LA looks like the suburbs, exactly like where I was brought up. The teens in "Boyz" do a lot of what I did as a teen - stand around, make jokes, play video games, navigate their changing relationships with their parents, and think about death.

    We had no real reason, of course,…

  • The Death of Stalin

    The Death of Stalin

    ★★½

    I found this wordy, overlabored, unfunny, and shocking.

    And confusing! Because I'm no scholar of Russian history, I actually probably don't get the jokes. I don't know very much about authoritarianism or fascist regimes, aside from the one I'm living in. And generally speaking, there's not a dark humor too dark for me, or a dry satire too dry, but maybe I found it? I don't know what I expected coming into something where I'm truly so ignorant of the…