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  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

    The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

    ★★★★★

    While the pacing is slow and the plot threadbare, this is an exquisitely crafted and well-acted character study that presents Jesse James as an enigmatic, powerful, and charismatic villain. Brad Pitt's performance is sort of a slow motion Tyler Durden, fighting an internal struggle with his own identity, ostracized from the world around him because of his fame. However, he's completely upstaged by Casey Affleck as Robert Ford. Affleck's peculiar performance is remarkable and worthy of any award that can…

  • End of Watch

    End of Watch

    ★★★★

    What it lacks in plot it makes up for in humor, character and details, although the maudlin ending doesn't jive with the reality of the rest of the film. Gyllenhal seems to relish playing a real, believable person who is more than just a cop. He's intelligent and educated, has a life and feelings beyond his job, he's tough without being macho, has a great sense of humor, and it's easy to imagine him shopping for groceries or pumping gas…

  • Just Another Love Story

    Just Another Love Story

    ★★★★

    Danish film with a twisting story and scruffy, corruptible hero. There are several visually inventive sequences, but it devolves into a cliche if well-done thriller. A great example of how modern noir has shifted to Europe.

  • The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

    The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

    ★★★

    Herzog's strange movie is about an idiot man who can barely care for himself left standing in the middle of a 19th century village. The more he learns the more he rises in the ranks of society, becoming a sort of German Chauncey Gardner. His child-like view of the world provides droll commentary of civilization, but on the whole the film is enigmatic, as the title suggests. The lead Bruno S is terrific, and looks like Neil Young. The commentary enhanced my appreciation for the film greatly.

  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley

    The Wind That Shakes the Barley

    ★★★★

    Excellent and violent drama about Irish independence and subsequent civil war, all neatly told through a small group of angry villagers. Bastards, brutality, and betrayal in the pretty green fields of Ireland - a tidy history lesson if rather one-sided. Cillian Murphy is great as the lead, backed by a really strong ensemble. Script by Paul Laverty (Even the Rain)

  • The Manchurian Candidate

    The Manchurian Candidate

    ★★★★★

    Angela Lansbury is only two years older than her son, Laurence Harvey. Still, it's one of the best political thrillers ever made, and I've found out that a CIA program in the 50s and 60s called MKUltra comprised 10% of the CIA's budget and was all about the kind of brainwashing experiments depicted in the movie. The program apparently became a haven ex-Nazi scientists. It's all very Dr. Strangelove. Frankenheimer's commentary's kinda lame.

  • The Ghost Writer

    The Ghost Writer

    ★★★★

    My second viewing, and it's still a smart, well-acted little political thriller, but you have to wonder how earth shattering its political revelations are. I was impressed by the lead actress, Olivia Williams, and surprised I'd never heard of her considering everyone else is a name. Since she's 44, the character would have been about three years old in the movie when she was in college. Odd they would cast a relative unknown to play someone 20 years older. It's also odd that it's 2010 and apparently nobody has a camera on their phone. Ewan MacGregor is extremely likable.

  • Argo

    Argo

    ★★★★

    A well-done political drama that's not as funny as I was led to believe, and is a little too Hollywood in its efforts to ramp up the tension as much as possible. The movie has high stakes, but it has to keep reminding you what the stakes are. I can imagine a different movie focused on the six people in the embassy instead of all the CIA activities - a movie where you got to know the characters a lot…

  • Skyfall

    Skyfall

    ★★★★

    Now we have Freudian Bond, hinting at the dark secrets of his childhood that have turned him into a cold-blooded killer. Good thing he's got a license for that. Psychologically, it's not especially deep, but Skyfall's Bond is a million years more complex than any previous Bond. More importantly, the filmmakers are willing to question his perfection - and not just because of his age. All of this gives us a very satisfying Bond experience that acknowledges the long, deep…

  • Along Came Polly

    Along Came Polly

    ★★

    This Something About Mary wannabe is a lousy example of a romantic comedy. The toilet humor was overly forced, the jokes and romantic situations were predictable, character traits were only alluded to, the plot was driven by gags rather than character, and most of all it lacked style. Stiller’s character was better suited for someone like Matthew Broderick, who would have made the phobias a funny but deeply seated emotional problem and not just an excuse to constantly mug the…

  • All the King's Men

    All the King's Men

    ★★

    Standard war fare hampered by typical Masterpiece Theatre production values. Nothing engaging in the acting, characters, photography, or story, yet it came highly recommended by online sources, many of whom were impressed at how graphic it was, which it wasn't unless all you ever watch is Masterpiece Theatre. The battle scenes are little more than guys running around with flying dirt and lots of noise and a totally invisible enemy, like Paths of Glory without the stark beauty. Yawn. This…

  • All of Me

    All of Me

    ★★★

    Mildly funny movie with a lousy setup and wooden villain. Only worth watching for Steve Martin's physical comedy, which is pretty good. Not very well made, but that's typical of Carl Reiner. I remember at the time it was supposed to be the best Steve Martin movie ever. 20 years hasn't improved it. Script by Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams)