• The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

    ★★★

    Despite periodically grinding to a halt or playing a bit too much like a magical realism-infused variation of Forrest Gump—absolutely no surprise the films share a screenwriter—there's plenty that works. First and foremost, it's just very productive to think with, not only about the passage of time, so ingrained in every single frame of the film, but also about the related experiences of bodies, aging, and mortality. Nothing profound, but certainly nutritious—it's interesting to see how much life is different…

  • The Wasteland

    The Wasteland

    ★★

    The Wasteland serves up some nice mood and atmosphere, but in service to what? Yet another instance of an otherworldly threat as an unsubtle allegory for mental illness, in this case a family living in isolation and haunted by a shadowy figure who, to quote, makes life feel hopeless. It mostly works as intended and it's not without the odd flash of inspiration (the horror of outhouses, I know it well!), but we've seen this particular take on the genre so often lately that I really can't muster up the enthusiasm.

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    ★★★

    Hard to deny the sheer pleasure in listening to such a phenomenal cast rattling off Martin McDonagh's reliably razor-sharp dialogue, but it's equally difficult to deny that, as a whole, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri comes together like a big bowl of slop. It's oblong and messy, and maybe just a bit too generous. Every character gets to make a valid point and challenge the presumptions of another, which, while laying groundwork for complex and engaging drama, also drains the…

  • 10x10

    10x10

    10x10 is a small-scale thriller written and produced by Noel Clarke, an actor best known for the Doctor Who revival in 2005 and the dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct made against him in recent years. The latter is particularly noteworthy because the film is premised on the psychopathy of a woman so disgusted by sexual immorality that she's willing to kill those she deems impure. Now I don't want to immediately jump to a psychological reading of the text,…

  • Choose or Die

    Choose or Die

    ★★

    Netflix continuing its tradition of producing no-burn horror films that fumble exciting premises. Here a cursed text-based adventure game offers a young woman a way out from a life circumscribed by poverty and predation. There's something compelling about juxtaposing the sense of control offered by the game as it penetrates into the protagonist's world, granting her an illusory choice over the material realities of those around her, and the false choice offered to her and her mother: work a soul-crushing…

  • West Side Story

    West Side Story

    ★★★

    Not at all familiar with the original film, aside from whatever I've absorbed through the cultural ether—Larry David's encounter with a real-life Officer Krupke is maybe most resonant, for whatever reason—and I can't help but feel the film is caught in a perpetual wink, working only only as far as one's knowledge extends. Each beat and emotional current feels constructed with reference to some alternate version, and this fidelity continues down to Spielberg's decision to replicate (what I assume to…

  • La Soufrière

    La Soufrière

    ★★★★½

    Werner Herzog, Edward Lachman, and Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein head to the island of Guadeloupe, a French colony in the Caribbean, for a "report on an inevitable catastrophe that never took place." Obviously the volcano never erupted, but they end up producing some of the most sublime minutes of film in a body of work just packed with them. Herzog is fixated on the few men who chose to remain, either in anticipation of their inevitable death by volcanic ash, or to…

  • Rescued by Ruby

    Rescued by Ruby

    ★★

    Mostly harmless doggo content, with just a kiss of copaganda. Remarkable for way the plot moves ahead exclusively through uncharacteristically dumb decisions. When the obligatory end-of-second-act canine estrangement goes down, we cut to Ruby sitting out in the rain shivering right in front of the shelter where she might be found. Likewise, despite Ruby being an ace at finding human remains, the first moment it really matters owner Daniel decides the dog has no idea what she’s doing and blows…

  • Beanpole

    Beanpole

    ★★★★

    Within minutes, Beanpole underscores this story about two young female veterans eking out an existence in postwar Leningrad with an accidental infanticide. The movie's ultimately not without hope, but it's such a bitter introduction to Iya and Masha's lives that I spent most of the movie with a deep sense of apprehension in my gut. Kantemir Balagov's glimpse into wartime's aftermath is unsparing. Stepan, another veteran, has been left so physically and psychologically damaged that he'd rather die than reunite…

  • Top Gun: Maverick

    Top Gun: Maverick

    ★★★★½

    Astounded that Top Gun: Maverick is in the running for one of the best films I'll see all year. It's no less a dopey heartfelt slice of jingoistic kitsch than the original, which I like but do not love, but every part of this thing—and I mean every part—works perfectly. Unfolds in world entirely of its own making, as if the heart-on-your-sleeve camaraderie of the original became the dominant cultural mode for decades to come. The scene at the bar,…

  • Gravity

    Gravity

    ★★★

    Feeling especially equivocal about this one. Even in a clearly diminished capacity removed from the theatrical experience, Gravity's got some neat tricks up its sleeve. The single-shot conceit and gliding frame work wonders, and the sequence of space debris colliding with the space station and shooting off in a million directions, just full-on entropic hell, with our protagonist sent spiraling out into an endless pitch black void—whatever else Alfonso Cuarón has on his agenda for the movie, that's space horror…

  • Promising Young Woman

    Promising Young Woman

    ★★★½

    Always bracing to see a genuinely angry movie, and Promising Young Woman's just bristling with it. It's angry at a culture that trivializes sexual assault, at those in authority incentivized by career or remuneration to sweep things under the rug, and at the legions of ostensibly good guys who wouldn't balk at taking advantage of vulnerability behind closed doors. Maybe most of all, it's angry at the way this society lets those perpetrators move on with their lives after utterly…