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  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    ★★

    Martin McDonagh attempts to channel the Coen Brothers, and while the characters are fleshy and interesting, the story is a disaster. It's an under-developed script with lots of loose ends, pointless diversions, clumsy exposition, awkward humor that undermines the drama, and no real backbone holding everything together. It might work much better if Sam Rockwell was the protagonist and McDormand the villain, but the conflict between her and the cops is baseless anyway, and the movie keeps pointing in directions…

  • Baby Driver

    Baby Driver

    ★★★

    It's flashy and it's kinda fun but it's so empty-headed, and unlike all of Edgar Wright's other movies, it's not a comedy, which is an issue because it leaves us with a straight heist movie we've seen a hundred times filled with two-dimensional comic book characters that Wright tries to jazz up with unending pop music, stylized dialogue, and over-edited action scenes. None of that matters if I don't like the characters. It offers something to chew on but it runs out of flavor before the movie's over, but I can't hate a movie that resurrects Paul Williams. Maybe it should have been a musical?

  • Dunkirk

    Dunkirk

    ★★★★

    Oh boy, it's comparison time. Here's a proper Dunkirk movie that does many of the things that Nolan's film doesn't do, and I feel Nolan was hampered by intentionally trying to not be like this film to the detriment of his own storytelling. It's true the 1958 film is tinged with propaganda, but that's an inherent part of telling the story of Dunkirk, and I wouldn't say either film is more anti-war than the other. In fact this version goes…

  • Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

    Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

    ★★★★

    I'd argue one of things that makes Scorsese such a great filmmaker isn't just his popular DeNiro/DiCaprio films like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Wolf of Wall Street, but all the little movies he does in between that nobody seems to see or talk about. Alice is one of those films, as is New York New York, The Color of Money, The Age of Innocence, Bringing Out the Dead, The Aviator, and Hugo - movies that make you go…

  • Hangmen Also Die!

    Hangmen Also Die!

    ★★★

    It's all about the pimple. Fritz Lang may have been Germany's greatest filmmaker in the silent era, but in the few Hollywood films I've seen from him, he tends to tackle political and social issues in the most blunt and heavy handed manner. Hangmen Also Die is a great Nazi resistance thriller about the assassination of Reinhard "The Hangman" Heydrich, but Lang undermines it by being too obvious in the way of bad propaganda. Dramatic situations play out with broad…

  • Cloak and Dagger

    Cloak and Dagger

    ★★★★

    Gary Cooper is a "Midwestern University" scientist-turned-spy out to stop the Nazis from building an atomic bomb. He infiltrates Mussolini's Italy in a series of over-wrought spy scenes filled with intrigue and distrust, and then the movie halts for a partisan romance before diving into an action-packed climax that seems to have inspired the movie Top Secret. Fritz Lang's blatant hand can be found in the way that nobody can be trusted and everyone's a spy, and the romance brings…

  • The Battle of the Rails

    The Battle of the Rails

    ★★★★

    Rene Clement's film details the efforts of French railway workers to halt or slow down the Nazi's efforts in occupied France. It's basically Frankenheimer's The Train without a story, and is almost documentary in its catalog of resistance efforts using non-actors and actual locations. Their ingenuity at wrecking trains without getting caught is impressive.

  • The Damned

    The Damned

    ★★★★

    Fascinating Rene Clement film about Nazis trying to escape Germany after WWII in a submarine. If you admire the claustrophobic nature of Das Boot, you can see it pioneered here. This submarine is all sweat and steel. The examination of fanatical Nazi ideology is nicely balanced by the story of a shanghaied doctor trying to survive and escape from the sub, and it offers a terrific ensemble of diverse characters. This is worth exploring further.

  • Army of Shadows

    Army of Shadows

    ★★★★

    The film is shot in drab hues (although not the monotone drab of Anthropoid) that make it look amazingly contemporary. Melville's well known for his cinematography, and this newly restored film looks like it was made yesterday (it's Roger Deakin's favorite movie!) This is acclaimed as the epic account of the French resistance, detailing how they operate, their chain of command, and all their secretive espionage and cold-hearted assassinations - although in the end they seem to spend more time fighting each other than they do the Nazis. This is an impressive, smartly-made film, but was perhaps a little too chill for me to truly enjoy.

  • Lacombe, Lucien

    Lacombe, Lucien

    ★★★★

    The story is almost the same as La Silence de la Mer, except the resident Nazi isn't a well-educated gentleman, but rather a thuggish French farm boy who joins the German police force and uses his authority to intimidate others. It makes a hero out of an ugly brute and demonstrates the oppressive nature of German occupation. It's fascinating how a simple change of perspective gives you completely opposite results, and it's worth comparing the two films.

  • Operation: Daybreak

    Operation: Daybreak

    ★★

    An historically based account of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich that might tell the true story but doesn't offer much in the way of drama or character. It's one of those mild-mannered, tasteful, serious British films that has a bland TV movie feel - nothing to complain about, and nothing to get excited about. A couple of things kept my attention: The script was written by playwright Ron Hardwood, who also wrote The Dresser, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly…

  • Black Book

    Black Book

    ★★★

    An entertaining spy thriller about the Dutch resistance, but there's also something cheap and exploitative about the whole thing, as if Verhoeven still hasn't washed off the stink from Showgirls. He was never one for subtlety, and this film goes a little overboard with intrigue, twists, and revenge.