• Heaven Can Wait

    Heaven Can Wait

    ★★½

    My least favorite Lubitsch so far, by far, although there's still something I find fascinating about how he directs even a relatively boring scene. Don Ameche has an undeniable kind of corrupt charisma as a spoiled dude who can charm his way through a lot, which sort of works on a scene-by-scene basis, enough that at first I thought I could see how the movie might successfully pull off its obvious intended conclusion (spoiler? no, it's super incredibly obvious) of…

  • The Return of the Great God Pan

    The Return of the Great God Pan

    ★★

    This was a pre-preview screening of a very rough cut, so a lot could change, but I think it's safe to say that this is a micro-budget effort with a couple of good ideas, a very game cast, and a sometimes effective sense of humor peeking out from under very flat dialogue. I think it would've worked better as a short than a feature. Except for the basic premise of the mad-science experiment that starts things rolling, it doesn't have…

  • Nine to Five

    Nine to Five

    ★★★½

    I loved about half of this, liked another 35% pretty well even though it had more of a generic 1980 comedy style, and sat through the other 15% feeling like "I'm sure this bit seemed like a good idea at the time and someone was enjoying it." The cast is 100% awesome, and the movie works like crazy whenever it's trusting them to move things along with the energy of their characters, all of whom are both instantly iconic in…

  • The Double Life of Véronique

    The Double Life of Véronique

    ★★★★

    In a lot of ways, this is the purest example I've ever seen of a transition point between two parts of an artist's career, where you can see all the distinctive things that have defined their work so far, and a subset of those things that will be handled differently from now on. We used to be in Poland, now it'll be a little Poland and a lot of France. We used to dabble in color symbolism and color filters…

  • Godzilla Minus One

    Godzilla Minus One

    ★★★★

    I can only unnecessarily repeat the chorus of appreciation for this: obviously this is a very very very good Godzilla movie, it respects and extends a lot of things from the original movie, it looks great, the historical setting is used in good ways(*), the actors work really well together, it makes a good case for Godzilla being more of a horrifying death beast than a cool misunderstood guy (although I think there's still plenty of room for the latter…

  • The Fall of the House of Usher

    The Fall of the House of Usher

    ★★★

    I think the idea of what Mike Flanagan was trying to do here (based on how it comes across to me, plus things he's said) was a good one. This kind of straight-faced horror-comedy with detours into seriously unsettling psychology and florid writing is a good fit for Poe—and for Flanagan's excellent ensemble, who I would watch in pretty much anything at this point. Using the various colorful deaths in Poe stories as intermediate punchlines in a bigger deal-with-the-devil plot…

  • May December

    May December

    ★★★★

    This is unmistakably a Todd Haynes movie from the get-go in terms of the look, the atmosphere, and that strange mix of intimacy and detachment that we're seeing the actors with. When things heat up later on, seeing bigger feelings through that same ambiguous eye has an effect that I've seen a lot of people refer to as campy, but I think that's a misreading: he's 100% sincere about both these people's suffering and their ridiculousness, this is how he…

  • Zazie dans le Métro

    Zazie dans le Métro

    ★★★½

    Very hard to rate or summarize this one, because it's so uneven and off-putting in ways that are sometimes clearly on purpose and sometimes I'm not sure, but it's rarely boring and a lot of it made me happy.

    I had managed to avoid knowing a lot about what it was beforehand. That may have helped, because I think if you go in looking for a playful comedy with surreal touches based on a kid's point of view, you could…

  • Saltburn

    Saltburn

    ★★★½

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    So I guess I may as well spell out my problems with the ending. It really does bother me—it's not that I think a big twist is just a thing the movie doesn't "need", but this one felt to me like a misstep because almost any version of "person deals with unforeseen problems and fucks up like crazy but gets surprising rewards anyway" is so much more interesting to me than "person achieves all goals flawlessly and outwits everyone." I…

  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

    Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

    ★★½

    In terms of ultra-low production values, period SF design, and square-jawed patriarchal space crews, my closest point of reference for this is Nude on the Moon... but even aside from the lack of nudity, this is clearly a whole other kind of thing: a kids' movie where almost everyone is at least semi-invested in the make-believe energy (and the plot, such as it is) even when everything around them is shabby. The actual kids in it are very boring; most…

  • Gremlins

    Gremlins

    ★★★★

    There are a few nonessential parts, like the running gag about broken inventions spraying stuff on people, but mostly Gremlins has two goals that it pursues with focused vigor: making a scary creature feature with cool puppets, and expressing joy in mayhem. I didn't see it as a kid, alas, since this frequency of horror-comedy would've absolutely been my jam. It does eventually get pretty scary, but there's a playfulness all the way through, both in terms of actual funny…

  • Holiday Inn

    Holiday Inn

    ★★½

    If I had paid more attention and realized that the song "White Christmas" is in both the movie White Christmas and this movie, I probably would've stuck to watching just one of them because I hate that song so much (hearing that song, for me, is like being drowned very slowly in a vat of peppermint molasses; I was so relieved to find out that Bing Crosby doesn't actually look the way he sounds in that). And I would've preferred to…