RSS feed for Bryan

Bryan has written 225 reviews for films during 2018.

  • Ready Player One

    Ready Player One

    ★★★★

    "Ready Player One" is "Willy Wonka" meets "Roger Rabbit," and I suspect both of them appear in this movie somewhere. While I could find a dozen points to complain about - the bland main character, the standard plot, the too easy romance, the unabashed commercialism - it's so thoroughly entertaining from start to finish that I didn't much care. The film is full of incredible images inspired by the video game artwork used to entice you into playing a game…

  • The Death of Stalin

    The Death of Stalin

    ★★★★

    Who would have thought you could wring a hilarious comedy out of the death of Joseph Stalin? Historical fudging aside, it perfectly captures the Soviet empire and all the fear-induced scrambling, scheming, and backstabbing of Russia's top leaders. I suspect Trump's White House is very similar - minus all the executions. My only real criticism is that I've also seen Iannucci's "In the Loop," and while it is also brilliantly funny, you can see it leaning on the exact same…

  • Crime School

    Crime School

    ★★★

    This is a remake of Cagney's "Mayor of Hell," all cleaned up and sanitized for the production code, with all the real drama neutered. Bogart takes over as lead, only he's not a former criminal motivated by lust, but a goody two shoes motivated to reform the reform school. It's hard to buy it when he says he grew up in the same neighborhood as the kids. The movie also dispenses with "Mayor of Hell's" overt political corruption and the…

  • History Is Made at Night

    History Is Made at Night

    ★★★★

    Many romantic comedies are built on implausible lies, but History is Made at Night does a great job of separating its would-be lovers with some clever plot devices. That doesn't mean there aren't implausible schemes, but it seems to work better here than in many of these kind of films, and it actually gives it some dramatic heft. It's helps that the two leads - Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur - are absolutely charming and smart and mature. The film climaxes with an impressive Titanic-styled disaster, esp. considering you can see the iceberg coming before they even get on the ship.

  • The Bells Go Down

    The Bells Go Down

    ★★★★

    Basil Dearden film about London firefighters during World War II. The first half is kind of mundane as just a vehicle for mugging comedian Tommy Trinder (and what a huge mug!) but once the Germans start dropping bombs and the fires get going, the drama sets in and the movie makes a solid emotional impact. There's a surprising amount of good firefighting action too (although a lot of it is done with obvious models). A young James Mason has a supporting role.

  • Susan Slept Here

    Susan Slept Here

    ★★★

    Even though the Production Code was in full swing in 1954, this blows those pre-code films away with its disgusting ick factor. For all it's moralizing, the Production Code seems to have no issue with a 50-year-old man being with a 17-year-old girl (provided they're married!) We have Dick Powell, who says he's 35 but looks exactly like his real age of 50, getting stuck with and marrying a 22-year-old Debbie Reynolds, who's a supposed to be a juvenile delinquent.…

  • Cry Danger

    Cry Danger

    ★★★

    Dick Powell stars in a tough-as-nails crime drama that hits all the right buttons - ridiculously clever banter, seedy dives, easy women, cool cars, tough cops, and jilted lovers all drenched in booze and cigarettes. Unfortunately the story never really escalates, gets too complicated, or rises above the cliches, but if you want to wallow in the stylish underworld of the 1950s noir, Cry Danger will definitely scratch that itch.

  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer

    The Killing of a Sacred Deer

    ★★★★

    If you can tolerate the stilted, emotionless line delivery, you're rewarded with an inventive interpretation of a Greek tragedy in Kubrickian style, and aside from being "weird" it's nothing like the funny social commentary of Lobster. This is a smart horror film.

  • The Return of the Living Dead

    The Return of the Living Dead

    ★★★★

    A silly punk rock zombie movie saved by a handful of strong performances and a clever script. This is what you get when smart people make a bad movie, and everyone seems to be having a great time.

  • London After Midnight

    London After Midnight

    ★★

    Todd Browning's London After Midnight is one of the most famous lost films of cinema, but the story has been reconstructed into an hour long film using a pile of still production photos, and it gives a fair idea of what the silent film might have been like. It's basically a variation on Dracula that feels like Browning warming up for his definitive Bela Lugosi version, and it's notable for Lon Chaney's extensive makeup, but the reconstruction is only for the supremely curious.

  • Carnival of Sinners

    Carnival of Sinners

    ★★★★★

    A fantastic old-fashioned horror fantasy with a great performance by Pierre Fresnay. I risk spoiling it by saying more, but I have nothing to offer but praises and I highly recommended checking this out. A true classic.

  • The Abominable Snowman

    The Abominable Snowman

    ★★★★

    Despite the change of setting, the story is practically identical to Creature from the Black Lagoon, but the execution is so much better. Solid acting, good direction and pacing, and some spectacular mountain scenery that also manages to feel claustrophobic and isolating. The lone woman, however, is stuck in the more traditional worried wife role. It's less of a horror thriller and more of a contemplation of the origins of life (a trait also shared by the bombastic opening of Black Lagoon) and the creature takes a back seat to the cerebral drama (a trait not shared with Black Lagoon)