• Dumbo

    Dumbo

    ★★

    The plot was a mess.  The nods to the original felt half-hearted.  The cgi Dumbo looked kinda ugly.  Somehow, it bothered me that we were supposed to believe that Dumbo could understand human speech.  Alan Arkin and Danny Devito were ok, but Colin Farrell and Michael Keaton were not.

  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

    Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

    ★★★

    Not nearly as bad as I remember hearing it was when it came out.  I would choose this over many blockbuster movies today.  The visual effects were pretty good and the story moved along quickly enough that it kept me engaged and never lagged.  It’s not hugely memorable or impressive but it’s not bad either.

  • In the Heights

    In the Heights

    ★★★★

    A lot of the melodies and rhythms sounded very similar to Hamilton.  It was fairly predictable, but it was fun and there was always plenty to catch your eye.  It felt a little longer than it probably needed to be but there were also so many story lines and threads that it felt like it just breezed through most of them and you didn’t really get too much of a feel for the characters.  But it feels like it’s less about the characters and more about the neighborhood itself and the community and it succeeds in giving you a feel for it.

  • Mank

    Mank

    ★★★★

    A visual treat.  Great cinematography, and the lighting was perfect.  It’s hard to judge the acting when they’re kind of mimicking films from that era.  I wish the picture quality had been slightly fuzzier, but it was at least consistent.  The score felt right, too.  The script kept things moving along at an engaging clip, even though the plot itself isn’t tremendously exciting.

    The flashing circular blotches were a little jarring though - they seemed a lot bigger than the ones I’ve seen in other older films (which I remember being more of an oval shape, too).

  • My Octopus Teacher

    My Octopus Teacher

    ★★★½

    A little too sentimental for me, but it’s beautiful and interesting to watch.  It felt like they were trying a little too hard to give this emotional depth and stakes, so it ends up feeling slightly underwhelming.  The other thing that distracted me was that the narrator protagonist hints at turmoil in his personal life and possibly his family but doesn’t really say anything more than that, so it wasn’t clear why he had time to obsess over this sea…

  • The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

    The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

    ★★★★½

    The script is almost Sorkin-esque but with more self-awareness and vulnerability (rather than smug, self-satisfied attempts to be impressive).  The cast is phenomenal.

    It’s a weird film, though.  There is so much insecurity on display here that it’s almost stressful to watch.  It’s interesting to see these deeply sympathetic characters performing their chosen versions of themselves for each other and the way that they recite their own heroic and/or broken narratives to themselves and each other.  It’s overwhelming and kind…

  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    ★★★

    There’s not much in terms of plot here - it’s basically just a collection of musings and stories told.  The actors all do a fine job and the production value is good, but it takes a while to find its rhythm.  Viola Davis is consistently great and was perfectly cast for this role.  Chadwick Boseman’s performance felt a little clunky at first but comes together pretty well about halfway through.  His character, Levee, is pretty unlikable throughout, but Boseman does…

  • We're All Going to the World's Fair

    We're All Going to the World's Fair

    ★★½

    Super creepy on several levels.  Really did not enjoy this as it felt like it was halfheartedly toying with really intense and dark themes - the way an immature teenager does.  I think there’s something interesting to be said about the ways our online interactions and/or games played with total strangers can have unforeseen and unintended consequences.  But yeah there’s so much loneliness here and so many uncomfortable unanswered questions.  The camera work and soundtrack were fine and the main…

  • First Cow

    First Cow

    ★★★

    The first hour was pretty boring with little dialogue, plot, or character development.  The acting isn’t great, either, and the score is almost annoyingly plain.  It picks up in the second hour and gets a little more interesting.  It just all feels a little experimental and unfinished - a lot of the scenes are filmed so darkly that you can’t really see what’s going on. A lot of the dialogue and mannerisms feel anachronous for the time period - and…

  • The Trial of the Chicago 7

    The Trial of the Chicago 7

    ★★★★

    Great script keeps things moving and packs in a lot of history and context without feeling tedious - if anything, it almost felt rushed.  An impressive ensemble cast brings the history to life and makes it all feel real.  The plot beats are a little familiar and formulaic, but I can’t fault a director for knowing how to tell a story without losing the audience.  It just works.  It’s interesting and funny and powerful, even if it is a little…

  • Another Round

    Another Round

    ★★★★

    An interesting plot with deeply sympathetic and complicated characters.  It’s cool to see a warmer and more relaxed side of Mads Mikkelsen, and it’s a pleasure to watch the relationships he has with his friends.  It’s rare to see a film portray men with this level of honest vulnerability rather than just a caricature of adult children or some idealized perfect dudes with no real passions or struggles.  This film carefully balances several delicate tensions in these characters’ lives and…

  • It Comes at Night

    It Comes at Night

    ★★½

    Nice cinematography and decent acting, but the premise is never really fleshed put and never goes anywhere interesting.  Relies too heavily on suspense and jump-scares to create tension.  There’s never any explanation or context - just stressful, violent, and gory confrontations throughout.  It felt pretty bleak to watch them fight for survival but there’s never really any hope or reason given why they should keep fighting.