• Why Did You Kill Me?

    Why Did You Kill Me?

    ★★★

    Mostly eschews the exploitative nature of other recent Netflix crime docs (though I'm pretty sure I heard "Tick of the Clock" by Chromatics from the "Drive" soundtrack at one point). While the filmmakers don't probe deep enough into many underlying issues here, including racial tension in Riverside and the criminal history of the subject family, the twisting narrative leaves the viewer with plenty to think about. 2006 doesn't feel that long ago to me but the doc made it feel like ancient history—MySpace, She Wants Revenge, Windows XP.

  • The Silence of the Lambs

    The Silence of the Lambs

    ★★★★★

    Thomas Harris's 1988 novel is one of the best page-turners I've ever read—but it's just that, a page-turner par excellence. Jonathan Demme's 1991 adaptation elevates the material to the level of cinematic artistry through the director's highly subjective take. This is a film about seeing and being seen, and all the danger that entails. Of course, Demme was not alone in his endeavor: there's Tak Fujimoto's exquisite close-ups, Howard Shore's lush score, and Jodie Foster's steely determination.

  • Captain America: Civil War

    Captain America: Civil War

    ★★★★

    First viewing since the year of its release as I prep for "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," and it's still one of my preferred MCU entries. Stray observations in 2021: fun to see Chad Stahelski and David Leitch's names pop up in the credits, even if the cutting remains too fast to truly appreciate their action design (no doubt to hide the copious use of stunt doubles); the quieter moments with Wanda and Vision play better for me now…

  • WeWork: or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn

    WeWork: or The Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn

    ★★★★

    If our sense of meaningful community and individual value in the United States has deteriorated over the last 50 years, recent documentaries like "The Inventor" and "WeWork" make you feel as though the only people who have stepped forward to turn the tide are, in fact, 21st century charlatans and psychopathic narcissists who offer little more than smoke and mirrors. In other words, thing don't look good.

  • Shiva Baby

    Shiva Baby

    ★★★★

    One of the most auspicious and flat-out hilarious debuts I've seen in some time. Writer/director Emma Seligman takes a standard indie comedy set-up but layers on an unnerving, discordant score and frequently claustrophobic camera angles; it's like Ari Aster directing a mumblecore movie—which helps "Shiva Baby" stand out in a crowded genre, true, but also effectively conveys our main character Danielle's anxiety-ridden headspace.

  • Q: Into the Storm

    Q: Into the Storm

    ★★★

    The question of 'Who is QAnon?' is probably the least interesting aspect of the whole phenom; I'm more fascinated by why this conspiracy theory has struck a chord with millions of otherwise ordinary people, not just in America but worldwide. So I was a little disappointed that Cullen Hoback's film is actually more of a documentary of the rise and fall of 8Chan, rather than QAnon, but I was intrigued for its duration.

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier

    Captain America: The Winter Soldier

    ★★★

    Still one of the better entries in the MCU, and in hindsight it's the first film that created a direction for the franchise to go post-Whedon. Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson clearly enjoy each other's company, which goes a long way, as do the crunchy vehicular stunts, but every viewing I bump against the lack of any definable visual style—the film's aesthetic is both digital and anonymous—and the third act's predictable 'city and/or building falling out of the sky' imagery that was all the rage in the mid-2010's. Doesn't help that this fails to do anything more with the Winter Soldier than re-introduce his character.

  • Con Air

    Con Air

    ★★★

    This has always felt like a high-concept spec script that's just that: a high-concept in search of an actual story. "Con Air" relies heavily on its supporting cast of loathsome rapists and murderers, and rarely allows Nicolas Cage the chance to shine as a tank top-wearing action hero (but when he shines, watch out). I've seen most of director Simon West's movies and none of them looks this visually slick, which is either a testament to Jerry Bruckheimer's production muscle or veteran DP David Tattersall ("The Phantom Menace," "Speed Racer").

  • Nixon

    Nixon

    ★★★★★

    If you had taken this same exact script but shot it and released it to theaters in 2020, critics would likely decry "Nixon" as far too obvious and on the nose; such are the film's eerie parallels to the Trump presidency, not to mention Oliver Stone's "JFK"-like cryptic evocations of a powerful Deep State. Sublime photography by Robert Richardson, music by John Williams, and a murderer's row of A-list acting talent circa 1995 mean I was rapt for three hours.

  • Days of Thunder

    Days of Thunder

    ★★★

    Genuinely wish I had been there for this in theaters in 1990 and seen the film that Quentin Tarantino saw; I believe he's referred to "Days of Thunder" as 'a Sergio Leone movie with cars.' To me, this has always just felt like a transparent rehash of "Top Gun," albeit on the race track and bolstered by Tony Scott's keen eye. Scott conveys everything the viewer needs to know about a scene the second you lay your eyes on it; his sensuous imagery has the immediate iconographic recognition of Eighties commercial advertising—which is not a critique.

  • Godzilla vs. Kong

    Godzilla vs. Kong

    ★★★★

    Ah, wouldn't you love to live in a world where the biggest concern is not COVID but Godzilla attacking shady bioengineering corporations off the coast of Florida? With each entry in Warner Brothers' Monsterverse, I have less patience for the wacky comedic relief and human storylines, but once the titular bout of "Godzilla vs. Kong" begins, it doesn't really matter; Adam Wingard's film delights and delivers in the kind of IMAX-ready, visually astonishing setpieces the MCU can only dream of.…

  • The Rider

    The Rider

    ★★★★

    I'm continually amazed by Chloé Zhao—born in Beijing, educated in the UK and US, influenced by filmmakers like Wong Kar-wai and Terrence Malick, not yet 40 years old, and somehow she has become one of the great chroniclers of white Americans living on the margins. "The Rider" is a sensitively told and quietly moving story that might represent the endpoint of the Western genre in the 21st century. If so, it's as fitting and elegiac a sendoff as any.