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Bryan has written 244 reviews for films rated ★★ .

  • 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.

  • Stereo

    Stereo

    ★★

    Cronenberg's first film is an hour long "silent" movie about a group of test subjects given pills to make them telepathic, and is considered a prelude to Scanners. It's arty in a sixties counterculture way (instead of psychedelia, it's futuristic brutalism) in that there's no sound except for the voiced-over clinical observations of the scientists, and seems like a high quality student film (along the lines of THX-1138). Restored by Criterion, it looks fantastic, but it's only interesting as an artifact.

  • They All Laughed

    They All Laughed

    ★★

    You can't make a good movie from a bad script. Bogdonavich tries to marry 1940s screwball comedy with 1970s Blake Edwards free love sex comedy, which sounds like a good idea, but it mixes like oil and water in Bogdonavich's hands (Edwards managed this feat much better in Victor/Victoria). It boils down to a weak script with no plot and no stakes. There's a clearly defined A-story and B-story, but both stories are exactly the same - detectives falling in…

  • Robot & Frank

    Robot & Frank

    ★★

    A good idea executed in a lackluster way, from the script that doesn't fully mine the potential, to blandly serviceable direction, to great actors not being given enough to chew on. This could have been a lot better. Whiny Liv Tyler doesn't help things, either.

  • FDR: American Badass!

    FDR: American Badass!

    ★★

    A terrible film with some really clever moments, with Barry Bostwick going all out as FDR and several supporting players pulling their comic weight. It bogs down once World War II starts, but to paraphrase Roger Ebert's review of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, it's probably the best film you'll find with President Roosevelt fighting werewolves. Good for a laugh.

  • Rock & Rule

    Rock & Rule

    ★★

    I didn't finish this trippy sci-fi, rock and roll, animated Canadian film, but I was just surprised it existed and wondered how I missed it during my teen years. It's exactly the kind of movie my friends and I might rent for a weekend (along with a 20 pound VCR). It's not particularly good (the story seems ripped off from Phantom of the Paradise) but the animation is decent and if you want something in the vein of Ralph Bakshi…

  • Shin Godzilla

    Shin Godzilla

    ★★

    This monster movie full of board meetings and disaster response preparedness probably plays much better to a Japanese audience, and the parallels to the tsunami and Fukushima disaster are obvious, but the seriousness doesn't mesh well with the silly monster stuff, which is nicely done but far too brief.

  • Fade to Black

    Fade to Black

    ★★

    A mildly interesting documentary about euthanasia that plays largely to its Australian audience.

  • You've Been Trumped

    You've Been Trumped

    ★★

    This is just your typical inhuman developers vs. charming rural folk story, and the movie acknowledges that by constantly referencing Local Hero, which was filmed in the same place. The only thing that makes it interesting is that Trump is involved, demonstrating yet again that he's a bona fide, grade A, first class asshole. The man running our country is literally everything we've been told is evil and wrong and unconscionable in the world - the villain of a thousand…

  • Hannah Arendt

    Hannah Arendt

    ★★

    One trouble with adapting historical subjects is not making the dialogue sound like quotes from books, but Hannah Arendt feels entirely cobbled together from research material. For people who don't know who Hannah Arendt is (she coined the phrase "the banality of evil" and was attacked for her apparently sympathetic views on Adolf Eichmann) the movie does a terrible job of bringing you in. What's left is an intellectual treatise on a very fascinating person that probably should have been a documentary instead of a dramatic film.

  • The Stepfather

    The Stepfather

    ★★

    It tries to walk the line between domestic thriller and outright horror film and doesn't succeed at either one. In fact, the two genres undermine each other. The movie has a reputation for its great acting, and yeah, it's far better than your average 80s slasher film, but Terry O'Quinn is the only standout here, and it's really just a competent performance in otherwise standard, low-budget fare.

  • The Whip and the Body

    The Whip and the Body

    ★★

    Mario Bava struggles to overcome a ponderous, exposition-heavy script and a cast of wooden actors. The only saving grace is the lighting and photography with its blue-purple-red color scheme. This movie is all about the castle. It's also has a lovely romantic theme which unfortunately repeats to the point of distraction. Christopher Lee does little more than look beautifully menacing, but it's hard to play a bad guy named Kurt. The message is muddled - I don't know if it's…