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  • White Boy Rick

    White Boy Rick

    ★★½

    50/100

    A.V. Club review. Not that remarkable/compelling as true stories go, save for the injustice aspect. And while the film wants to present said injustice as a form of entrapment, it’s really about mandatory-minimums. New kid’s quite good in the title role.

  • Greta

    Greta

    ★★★

    55/100

    Halfway through: “I’m sorry, but you can’t elevate a generic ’90s X-from-hell thriller just by casting Isabelle Huppert as the X.”

    By the end: “My bad, you can absolutely elevate a generic ’90s X-from-hell thriller just by casting Isabelle Huppert as the X.”

    Also features one minor but satisfying subversion of this genre’s expectations, involving a character who clearly “should” die yet repeatedly does not. But you’ll have to endure some remarkably clunky act-one dialogue, and you’ve seen 95% of what follows at least 195 times.

  • Can Go Through Skin

    Can Go Through Skin

    ★★★

    57/100

    [Originally written on my blog, so long ago now that I spend a lot of time wondering what happened to Lynne Ramsay.] 

    Virtually a one-woman show, and superb lead actress Rifka Lodeizen is ready for her many disorienting close-ups, Ms. Rots. I got unduly excited early on when it looked as if a truly startling act of violence was going to be all but ignored—or at least treated as just one notable event of many, no more or less…

  • Three Faces

    Three Faces

    ★★★

    53/100

    Not Panahi’s fault that I got overly enthused about the film I briefly thought he was making: a meta-reflexive, neorealist gloss on Suspicion in which nobody he knows can trust that they aren’t being filmed for some secret authority-defying project. (Still think that would’ve been amazing.) Instead, 3 Faces gradually reveals itself to be about three generations of actresses, spanning the spectrum from aspiring to successful to forgotten. Panahi chooses to keep the eldest of the trio almost entirely…

  • Sunset

    Sunset

    ★★★★

    71/100

    No less immersive, relentless and disturbing than Son of Saul, and the comparatively innocuous context arguably better suits Nemes’ now-signature style: Rather than being horrified by known atrocities kept just out of frame and/or focus, you’re creeped out by unknown ruptures signified primarily via the mise-en-scène itself. (See: Lynch, David.) Sustains a dazzling degree of waking-nightmare tension for roughly 90 minutes, anchored by Juli Jakab’s quiet ferocity; I was certain I’d found my film of the year, especially following…

  • La Bête Humaine

    La Bête Humaine

    ★★★

    59/100

    Second viewing, last seen 2002. Doesn’t help that it’s sandwiched between Grand Illusion and Rules of the Game in Renoir’s filmography (along with La Marseillaise, which I haven’t yet seen), but Zola’s a tough adaptation under any circumstances. The film has an especially difficult time making sense of Lantier, whose homicidal impulses arrive out of nowhere; Gabin seems wholly disconnected from the horror, just dutifully following his script rather than overcome by inexplicable urges. Low-key melodrama works well, though,…

  • Grass

    Grass

    ★★

    32/100

    I seem to be largely alone in finding Hong’s last two films (not counting the just-premiered Hotel by the River, coming soon to a TIFF screening near me) exceptionally, almost insultingly lazy. Concept here is solid enough, but the various conversations that Kim Min-hee’s enigmatic character observes and/or imagines are so banal that their provenance scarcely matters. Still maintain that Hong’s current working method, in which he writes each day’s pages the morning he shoots them (essentially improvising the…

  • Girls of the Sun

    Girls of the Sun

    ★★½

    44/100

    Back at what I guess we can now call, sans irony, the turn of the century, I engaged in a lengthy chat-group debate regarding the nature of bad movies. Participants will remember it by its thread title: "Ambitious Failure" = Utter nonsense. The main question being passionately argued was whether ambition per se merits some unspecified number of evaluative "brownie points," with some folks asserting that a film can't be truly terrible if it's attempting to do something unique…

  • Cold Water

    Cold Water

    ★★★★½

    88/100

    Third viewing, last seen 1997. Even more miraculous than I remembered, moving with exhilarating assurance through every aspect of adolescence, from desultory rebellion to euphoric abandon to the stinging shock of impending adulthood suggested by the title. Assayas honors that last element by immediately immersing the viewer in these two kids' lives, without feeling the need to "establish" anything; I could probably write an entire essay about his counterintuitive decision to open the film with grandma's harrowing WWII anecdote,…

  • Smithereens

    Smithereens

    ★★★★

    72/100

    Wasn't a huge fan of Young Adult, but I did admire Cody for creating a rare "mundane" female antihero, by which I mean someone who's charismatically horrible without also being, like, Aileen Wuornos. (See how I tied it all together via Theron?) Whole lotta men like that in indie movies, precious few such women. Turns out Seidelman did the same long ago, to far superior effect. There's nothing remotely likable about Wren, who's first seen swiping her signature checkered…

  • Annihilation

    Annihilation

    ★★★½

    62/100

    People keep requesting my thoughts on this film—understandably, since it's among the year's most celebrated—but five months have passed in silence mostly because I have nothing very coherent to say. On paper, it's the sort of idea-driven, creepily ambiguous sci-fi that I adore, which was likewise true of Ex Machina. Yet I don't adore either one, and in this case I find my reservations difficult to articulate. Basically, I was engrossed start to finish without ever quite becoming enthused.…

  • BlacKkKlansman

    BlacKkKlansman

    ★★★½

    65/100

    Thoroughly enjoyable, but way too much of a shameless crowdpleaser (cold splash of present-tense water at the end notwithstanding) to rank alongside—or in some cases even above, ye gods!—a genuinely thorny masterpiece like Do the Right Thing. Indeed, its very premise is fundamentally nonsensical: Why on earth would Stallworth continue speaking to Klan members by phone after Flip has (necessarily) assumed the role in person? That's just shy of actively trying to blow the operation; if it's what actually…