• Maps to the Stars

    Maps to the Stars

    ★★★★

    "The world will know... they'll know we've done crimes."

    Netflix has this categorized as a "comedy", and I pity the poor souls who have watched it expecting such. It's not that. It's David Cronenberg painting a vicious portrait of Hollywood elites slowly spiraling into madness as they implode with petty insecurities. And while it lacks a lot of the body horror and disturbing visuals that are more typical of Cronenberg, it's still well within his wheelhouse in the sense that…

  • The Incredibles

    The Incredibles

    ★★★★★

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

    The Incredibles has long been one of my favorite movies, but I hadn’t seen it in a while and I was, honestly, a bit worried going back into it. Things have a way of not holding up, and a few people have pointed out a worrisome Ayn-Rand-ish subtext in the story.

    But, I was relieved to find, the film does still hold up. And the messaging of it isn’t so much insidious as it is kind of odd and hard…

  • The Iron Giant

    The Iron Giant

    ★★★★

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

    Finally getting back to my Brad Bird retrospective, let’s talk about The Iron Giant. As an animated feature it feels very unique. It doesn’t really follow the same familiar fairy-tale format that so much of the Disney oeuvre does, it takes place in neither Storybook Times nor present day, and in general tends to feel more grounded and “adult” than most. It even includes some very light cursing; nothing that would raise an eyebrow for most adults but still surprising…

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

    ★★★★

    Is it possible for something to be popular and hugely famous while still being underappreciated? If so, that’s surely the case with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. It’s now been twenty years since the first entry and nearly as many for the third, and we’ve endured an ill-advised prequel trilogy in the meantime, but discourse around these films seems to have all but evaporated at this point. Nearly every week new reviews of Fight Club or…

  • When Pigs Fly

    When Pigs Fly

    ★★★★★

    It's always fun to see a really original ghost story, and this is a great one. Not to go into too much detail, it's about a washed-up jazz musician who becomes a sort of chaperone to the ghosts of a woman and a young girl, helping them go for strolls on the town and exact revenge on a sinister bartender.

    It has its moments of melancholy, as most ghost stories do, but for the most part it's just an absolute…

  • Frosty Returns

    Frosty Returns

    I think I only saw this once or twice as a kid but I've had a kind of compulsive fascination with it ever since. It's a really bizarre cultural artifact, and only gets stranger the more you dig into it.

    On a mere surface level it's odd because it's clearly meant as a sequel to the much more famous Rankin-Bass Frosty of 1969, but it's very different both visually and tonally. Where the original was about a quest to save…

  • Sorry We Missed You

    Sorry We Missed You

    ★★★½

    “Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and consequently all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for his maintenance, and for…

  • Exotica

    Exotica

    ★★★★★

    "Do you think this is normal?"
    "What?"
    "What we do."
    "What do we do?"

    Exotica is my favorite kind of film: the kind that feels distinctly unlike any I've ever seen before. Completely unpredictable in how the story unfolds and how information is parsed out to the viewer, and finished off with excellent photography and a really unique score.

    Others have written about the film's story with plenty of detail, so I won't go into great depth about its characters…

  • Showgirls

    Showgirls

    Well, it’s certainly not some misunderstood masterpiece. And it seems odd that it tries to criticize the artsified pornography of its subject matter while being little more than artsified pornography itself. But it’s indeed a transfixing piece of work, all neon colors and constant motion. And let’s not ignore the fact that the cinematography is impeccable.

    It’s not “good.” But it’s not “bad,” either. It just is.

    Side note: wow, Jeffrey Beaumont grew up to be a real sleazebag!

  • Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

    Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

    ★★★★

    "I have a Ph.D., motherfucker!"

    You know, I don't want to accuse superhero movie fans of being a bunch of misogynists who refuse to have fun if there are too many ladies involved. But guys, you all said such terrible things about this movie, and you're all so very, very wrong. What else am I supposed to think?

    Birds of Prey can be seen as a followup to the objectively awful but still kind of awkwardly charming Suicide Squad, but…

  • The Kindergarten Teacher

    The Kindergarten Teacher

    ★★½

    I feel like I’m missing something. None of the characters in this are remotely plausible, yet the film doesn’t appear to be trying to do anything surreal. Some of the photography is very nice, but some of it is distractingly odd, such as the bizarre decision to include two moments when the actor bonked the camera lens in the very first shot of the film. It’s hard to shake the feeling that this is some sort of complex allegory that’s…

  • The Host

    The Host

    ★★★★

    Bong Joon-Ho really excels at packing about a dozen different genres into this thing simultaneously. It goes from funny to dramatic to action-packed at a moment’s notice. He’s also honed the art of toying with the viewer’s expectations to a degree that borders on cruel. It’s also, not surprisingly, a really great-looking film, with lots of nice shots of normally invisible architecture, tunnels and the undersides of bridges and such. Fun characters and great performances. This is the good stuff.