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  • My Man Godfrey

    My Man Godfrey

    ★★★★

    A screwball comedy with incisive social commentary that doesn't overpower the zany humor. That's a feat by itself (although Sullivan's Travels does it better). William Powell steps into the role of butler so easily that it often feels like just the setup for a TV sitcom, and it's yet another film about class divide that gives the rich more substance than the poor, but that's asking a lot for a big studio picture that's just aiming to entertain, and it's terrific ensemble of talent does just that, and the film still has some bite.

  • Destination: Planet Negro!

    Destination: Planet Negro!

    ★★★

    A great idea for a movie but I'm not sure Kevin Willmott knows what he wants to say with it. The early black and white scenes look fantastic for this no budget film (he said it cost $7,000) and the humor is spot on. Once we reach modern day, however, it suddenly looks like its budget and the jokes become hit and miss. Even overlooking the fact that the film was obviously pieced together, the social commentary isn't as sharp…

  • The Westerner

    The Westerner

    ★★★★★

    A film where the sidekick is the star, and Walter Brennan gives one of his greatest performances. This film is all about his bromance with Gary Cooper, and William Wyler often lets the camera linger on their faces to give the acting its full due. A terrific film that transcends the Western genre to become an actor's showcase with a witty script and a touching ending.

  • Planet Earth II

    Planet Earth II

    ★★★★

    I don't think there are any action scenes in any recent film that are as harrowing and edge-of-your-seat thrilling as the life and death struggle of the Galapagos iguanas in the first episode of this series. Planet Earth II continues the glorious tradition of demonstration quality nature photography and the fascinating and surprising look at animal survival that began in Planet Earth, although ten years later it doesn't seem quite as remarkable. 90-year-old David Attenborough has more authority in his narration than even Morgan Freeman can muster.

  • Doomsday Book

    Doomsday Book

    ★★★

    This fun trilogy of Korean sci-fi tales offers a zombie story, a robot story, and an end of the world story. It's an entertaining mix of humor, horror, and contemplation, although the third short didn't really work for me, and the first two could have easily been whole films by themselves.

  • Lady Snowblood

    Lady Snowblood

    ★★★

    An interesting revenge tale that's notable for its stylistic storytelling flourishes, blood that sprays like a busted sink, and its heavy influence on Kill Bill. I can't say the substance matches the cartoonish spectacle (which I can also say about Kill Bill), but it's a few steps above a lot of 70s Asian action movies.

  • The Panic in Needle Park

    The Panic in Needle Park

    ★★★★

    O squalor of 70s New York, why do I love thee? The concrete jungle. The exhaust fume haze. The ringing din of traffic and trains. The dimly lit, crumbling apartments. The multi-cultural melting pot of lowlifes, losers, drunks, petty criminals, drug addicts, and the simply impoverished. All of it is on fine display in Panic in Needle Park, whose youthful denizens seem right at home and even happy with their heroin-fueled stupor, as do the weary cops that are powerless…

  • The Trials of Henry Kissinger

    The Trials of Henry Kissinger

    ★★★★

    Based on a Christopher Hitchens book, this is a detailed and thorough condemnation of Henry Kissinger's alleged war crimes, and a testament to just how messy and corrupt politics can get while officials still remain unaccountable. However the film is more of an attack than a well-rounded portrait, so watch it with that in mind.

  • Ocean's Eleven

    Ocean's Eleven

    ★★★★

    Their heist plan is absolutely preposterous and relies on all kinds of coincidences, but the movie is so slick and entertaining and full of cool that it doesn't really matter. It's good fluff, and as much as Brad Pitt eats on camera, the guy should weigh 250 lbs.

  • The Celebration

    The Celebration

    ★★★

    This was the first Dogma film, and I'm no fan of Dogma. Arbitrary rules for filmmaking is not how you make great movies. The rules need to come from the stories you're trying to tell. Plus, the Dogma rules seem to have little to do with telling great stories, and a lot more to do with making movies fast and cheap, and in the burgeoning digital age was probably why it sort of caught on. We're certainly plagued with drunkenly…

  • Brave

    Brave

    ★★★★

    Even a lesser Pixar film still has plenty of leeway to be a decent film, and Brave is filled with humor and charm and beauty. Where it fails Pixar's high standard is creating a compelling central character. The red-head in Brave is simply too close to the mold of all the other recent Disney princesses - young and headstrong girl empowerment icons who embody easy feminism and budding femininity in equal parts. It's a character we've seen a dozen times…

  • Big Fish

    Big Fish

    ★★★★

    An oddball Forrest Gump-like fantasy that wants to be whimsical but keeps grounding itself with a serious father/son drama. It might always remain one of Tim Burton's forgotten films. Johnny Depp is missed, but Ewan McGregor makes a plucky substitute. I kind of like the movie despite its flaws - it's a mature fantasy and seems more focused on storytelling that most Burton movies.