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  • Dig Two Graves

    Dig Two Graves

    ★★½

    49/100

    A.V. Club review. Form 8, content 3.

  • X-Men: The Last Stand

    X-Men: The Last Stand

    ★★½

    48/100

    Despite multiple assurances that Logan doesn't require detailed knowledge of all the preceding mediocre-to-terrible X-Men movies, I feel obligated to sit through them. It's a sickness. (I also rewatched X-Men and X2 at 3.25x, with subtitles, because I barely remembered anything about them.) True pain is presumably still forthcoming, but Last Stand isn't so bad—there's some godawful "quippy" dialogue, and a bunch of useless mutants (I don't even understand what Colossus' power is, honestly, and Juggernaut needs some comprehensible…

  • Pépé le Moko

    Pépé le Moko

    ★★★★

    75/100

    While Charles Boyer never actually said "Come wiz me to ze Casbah," that is more or less the irresistible offer that Duvivier makes here. I confess that it's not 100% clear to me why Pépé can't be arrested unless he leaves home base (is it just that his friends protect him there?), but confining the action almost entirely to that overpopulated warren makes for a gloriously atmospheric exercise in romanticism and suffocating stasis. It's the kind of film that'll…

  • The Belko Experiment

    The Belko Experiment

    ★★½

    45/100

    Las Vegas Weekly review. I sort of admire how confrontationally bleak this gets, in terms of ignoring viewer expectations (thinking especially about Melonie Diaz), but it's pretty monotonous to sit through. More head shots than both John Wicks combined, minus the elegant choreography.

  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

    Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

    ★★★

    58/100

    Didn't start really enjoying Almodóvar until he entered his "mature" phase ca. Flower of My Secret; the early films are too undisciplined for my taste, given what they're ambitiously trying to achieve. That's especially true of this one (the first I ever saw*), which feints at the structure and timing of a bedroom farce without ever quite committing to actually being funny. Some bits, like the spiked gazpacho, serve as plot devices but fail to become jokes; others, e.g.…

  • After the Storm

    After the Storm

    ★★★½

    61/100

    Five of Kore-eda's last six films have fallen within my range of 55–61, i.e. "solid." (Exception: Like Father, Like Son, which I liked not.) My report from Cannes (briefly) explains why this is (marginally) my favorite of the bunch.

  • The Son of Joseph

    The Son of Joseph

    ★★★½

    65/100

    As performed by Fabrizio Rongione and (especially) Natacha Régnier, Green's signature direct-to-camera shot has an effect on me that's like a non-lethal version of Madame Psychosis speaking lovingly to the viewer-infant in Himself's "Infinite Jest (V?)." It's pure, unconditional compassion—a singular and radical approach that pays off magnificently here in the climactic non-confrontation with Amalric and the gendarmerie. However, I'm troubled by the film's implicitly reactionary viewpoint on single motherhood. It's possible to yearn for an absent father without…

  • Frantz

    Frantz

    ★★★

    52/100

    A.V. Club review. Not sure what Ozon was thinking here—Broken Lullaby was no great shakes to begin with, and he's added almost another hour that's pretty damn blah.

  • Akira

    Akira

    ★★½

    50/100

    Pretty sure Akira was my first anime experience (upon its original U.S. theatrical release, which looks like it would have reached San Jose sometime in 1990). Wasn't a big fan then, and I still find this particular style (which remains the Japanese default, decades later, as far I can tell) visually unappealing*, save for isolated surreal moments like Tetsuo being attacked by hallucinatory toys. The convoluted messianic-villain narrative isn't really my thing, either. Kind of a big ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    *…

  • Raw

    Raw

    ★★½

    48/100

    I see that I didn't even tweet a reaction to this from TIFF last year, and I don't really have much of one, frankly. My vague memory is that I found it thematically empty, if not incoherent; unfortunately, I didn't write anything down, and now I can't remember what my specific objections were. In any case, not impressed. And it wasn't even as tough to stomach as I'd heard (though I'm hard to gross out; it's suffering that bothers me).

  • Babe

    Babe

    ★★★½

    64/100

    [originally written on my blog]

    Odd for a children's movie to push two completely distinct morals. The primary one—"Don't be trapped by societal expectations; you can be whatever you're determined to be"—has become so ubiquitous that it no longer makes an impression, especially when its anticlimactic visual representation involves six sheep walking in formation behind a pig. But the other—"Kindness can achieve the same results as intimidation"—packs a surprising punch...even though it, too, overestimates our (or at least my)…

  • For a Few Dollars More

    For a Few Dollars More

    ★★★★½

    81/100

    [originally written on my blog]

    More confident and assured than Fistful (which I nonetheless somehow misremembered as superior) right from the opening shot: a fantastic formalist gag that also serves to calibrate your expectations w/r/t pace (slow), rhythm (measured) and respect for human life (absent). That sly sense of humor carries over into the wary partnership between Eastwood and Van Cleef, whose first proper meeting amounts to the traditional Robin Hood archery contest with the challengers doubling as targets;…