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  • 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.

  • All About My Mother

    All About My Mother

    ★★★★

    Amoldovar's portrait of a woman looks at the complex lives of a half dozen women (and men dressed as women) like he's single-handedly trying to make up for Hollywood's systemic failure to pass the Bechdel test. Needless to say Amoldovar is the greatest director of female-centered films since George Cukor, although I have yet to crossover to fandom. The performers are excellent, the plot is light, and drama is well done even if it's a little bit of a soap opera.

  • Aguirre: The Wrath of God

    Aguirre: The Wrath of God

    ★★★★★

    I've got a soft spot for movies like this - man against nature meets early-American culture. The film seems far more allegorical now than when I first saw it. Hunchbacked Aguirre limping around on the raft is every bit Richard III as he connives to rule his tiny, floating kingdom. The conquistadors are so remarkably ignorant of the cultures they encounter, and strive so hard to retain their European culture, that it would be big joke if it all wasn't true. What's painfully obvious is the hardships the actors had to suffer just to make the film, which is why it still impresses 40 years later.

  • The Adventures of Dollie

    The Adventures of Dollie

    ★★

    D.W. Griffith's first film is about a happy family whose daughter is kidnapped by a gypsy. There's a nice pastoral quality about it, but the pacing is abysmal and the story is too simple, esp when compared to the earlier Trip to the Moon or the Great Train Robbery. This is not a sign of greatness to come, and offers little more than historical interest.

  • King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis

    King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis

    ★★★★★

    This documentary does for Martin Luther King Jr what Triumph of the Will did for Adolf Hitler. It paints a dynamic and persuasive portrait of a charismatic leader with the power to change the world. The narrationless film is almost entirely composed of historical footage of the events surrounding King's life interspersed with his speeches, telling his story visually in a way that makes you a witness to the events. The only weak spots are interludes of famous actors being…

  • The Theory of Everything

    The Theory of Everything

    ★★★

    A standard biopic that might remind you of My Left Foot, but it doesn't have nearly the character depth of Jim Sheridan's debut film. Stephen Hawking's life is unfortunate (an understatement?), but he approaches his disability with courage and humor, and his life is more inspiring than what this film can offer.

    The story takes shortcuts that leaves it feeling thin and incomplete - the thematic conflict of Hawking's atheism never comes to a head, Hawking's three children reach their…

  • The Age of Shadows

    The Age of Shadows

    ★★★★

    From the director of I Saw the Devil and The Good, the Bad, and the Weird, an entertaining cat-and-mouse spy movie set during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The acting is sharp and the sets, costumes and photography are lush, elegant, and beautifully done. It's full of tension and sporadic bursts of action. The only thing odd is the western music choices.

  • Showgirls

    Showgirls

    I knew it would be a bad movie, but I thought it would be a fun bad movie. It's not fun, despite having all the potential for campy excess that its high-brow cousin All About Eve revels in. The best I can say is it's incredibly well-crafted. Verhoeven may not know how to take a bad actress and a bad script and spin it into gold, but from a craftmanship angle the movie is perfectly put together in a way…

  • The Brainwashing of My Dad

    The Brainwashing of My Dad

    ★★★★

    My dad is brainwashed, and it's sad. FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Donald Trump. He's become the stereotypical angry white man. This documentary contrasts a detailed history of the rise of right wing media with loved ones who have swallowed the propaganda pill and become unbearable human beings. It really is akin to a mental illness. You can watch it here: view.yahoo.com/movie/60798523/the-brainwashing-of-my-dad

  • Whisky Galore!

    Whisky Galore!

    ★★★★

    If you enjoyed Waking Ned Devine, then here's the movie where it got all its ideas. It was also apparently remade last year - but it received terrible reviews. The original Ealing comedy is a delightfully charming film about a colorful community in a tiny Scottish village subverting the law en masse to enjoy some whisky. A delightful tale of harmless anarchy.