• Don't Open Till Christmas

    Don't Open Till Christmas

    ★★★

    When “Silent Night, Deadly Night” caused a wave of protest and controversy during the 1984 holiday season, only a few folks bothered to notice that it wasn’t even the only “Santa slasher” in theaters. But this British import is about a killer who targets people in Santa suits, not one who wears one himself, so that was apparently the fine line between “tasteless” and “whatevs.” But “Don’t Open” is just as sleazy as its American counterpart, if not more so, though the British accents and locations make it all seem a little classier.

  • Fancy Pants

    Fancy Pants

    ★★★½

    Bob Hope and Lucille Ball followed up their successful pairing in the 1949 hit “Sorrowful Jones” just one year later with this Western-era comedy from director George Marshall. He previously directed such stellar Hope comedies as “Monsieur Beaucaire,” and by this point, he knew how to mine his star’s qualities for maximum comic effect, casting him here as a ham of an American actor working with a British stage company who (via circumstances too complicated to explain here) ends up…

  • Earth Girls Are Easy

    Earth Girls Are Easy

    ★★★★

    “I can’t believe you’re Frenching an alien in front of all these people!” So says Valerie (Geena Davis, all in) to Candy (co-writer Julie Brown), and that line is pretty much all the summary you need for Julien Temple’s delightfully bright and delectably silly 1989 rock musical comedy. Valerie is a Valley manicurist whose swimming pool is the unexpected landing spot for an alien spacecraft; the trio of extraterrestrials inside (played by Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey, and Damon Wayans –…

  • Infernal Affairs

    Infernal Affairs

    ★★★★½

    Most American audiences will know Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s original 2002 film “Infernal Affairs” as the basis for Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” and what’s most striking about revisiting it is how closely it stuck to the original (duplicating full scenes, story beats, and set pieces) while still pulsing with local color and Scorsese’s stylistic flourishes. Yet much of that style is also found here; Lau and Mak move their movie like a well-aimed bullet, and the ingeniously crafted, cleverly…

  • Daisies

    Daisies

    ★★★★½

    Věra Chytilová’s Czech New Wave groundbreaker – another new addition to the Criterion Collection – is a heady brew of kabuki theater, absurdism, and social commentary. Stars Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová are like a proto-Celine and Julie, an uproarious and effervescent pair of resourceful young women taking advantage of their limited opportunities and turning their decadence on its head. Chytilová uses playful edits, shifting color temperatures, archival footage, and more tools of the Godard era to craft a picture that plays just as fresh and energetic more than a half-century later.

  • Blue Hawaii

    Blue Hawaii

    ★★★

    This 1961 Elvis Presley showcase is far from the King’s best movie, but it’s undoubtedly one of his prettiest – so Paramount was wise to give it this crisp, clean 4K release, a sumptuous presentation that captures the beauty of the original Technicolor and Panavision presentation. The movie itself is a mixed bag, with supporting players ranging from an entertainingly untethered Angela Lansbury to an oafish Howard McNear (aka “Floyd the Barber”) and songs stretching from the heights of “Can’t…

  • Escape From Alcatraz

    Escape From Alcatraz

    ★★★★½

    Don Siegel’s 1979 Clint Eastwood vehicle (new on 4K from KL Studio Classics) is surprisingly muted for a prison-escape movie; it’s more of a process piece, a step-by-step, nuts-and-bolts examination of exactly how this was done. As usual, Siegel’s direction is a model of ruthless efficiency; this is a guy who knows how to get the job done and get on with it. He’s a good old-fashioned picture maker who knows when to get the hell out of his story’s…

  • Top Gun: Maverick

    Top Gun: Maverick

    ★★★★

    It’s hard to recall a sequel (particularly one this long in the making) that so outdoes its predecessor by pretty much every possible metric. Yet Joseph Kosinski’s follow-up to Tony Scott’s 1986 mega-hit is both a narrative continuation and a thematic re-examination, following the broad beats of the original while genuinely questioning what it did and said to that audience and this one. And this is one of Tom Cruise’s finest performances, as he thoughtfully probes what becomes of a cocky superstar who fails to live up to his full potential.

  • Shadowlands

    Shadowlands

    ★★★★½

    “Her letters are rather unusual,” C.S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) says. “She writes as if she knows me somehow.” The “she” he refers to is Joy Davidman (Debra Winger) a gregarious – uncouth, if you’re being less generous – American poet whom he entered into a marriage of convenience that became, rather unexpectedly, emotionally devastating when she was diagnosed with cancer. It sounds like movie-of-the-week stuff, and it could’ve been. But Richard Attenborough directs with sensitivity and good humor, Winger is…

  • The Paper

    The Paper

    ★★★★★

    Ron Howard’s fast-paced comedy/drama confines its action entirely to a 24-hour period (bookended by the morning news on 1010 WINS — it’s not just a great newspaper movie, but a great New York movie) and set in the newsroom of a Gotham tabloid daily not unlike the New York Post. Michael Keaton plays Henry Hackett, the metro editor, heading into what his very pregnant wife Martha (Marisa Tomei) dubs one of “those days that could change your whole life”; over…

  • No Escape

    No Escape

    ★★★½

    “In the year 2022, the international prison system is operated by private corporations. Criminals from all over the world are exploited at a profit. Prisons have become big business.” Hey, how about that science fiction, huh? So begins director Martin Campbell’s (then) futuristic 1994 sci-fi/action hybrid, a kind of a ‘90s riff on “Terminal Island” that’s both silly and thrilling, often at the same time. Ray Liotta stars as a former military man sentenced to life (or death) on an…

  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

    ★★★★★

    One of these days, young cinephiles are going to discover director Rouben Mamoulian, and it’s all gonna be over. His take on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson story, lensed by the great Karl Struss (“Sunrise,” “Gone with the Wind”), is innovative from the jump, opening with a series of immersive POV shots (take that, “Halloween”!), and it continues along those lines, eschewing the visual clunkiness of early talkies with dazzling camerawork, innovative cutting, and even some split-screen. It’s a stunning…