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Bryan has written 259 reviews for films rated ★★ .

  • Maria Full of Grace

    Maria Full of Grace

    ★★

    A young Colombian woman becomes a drug mule smuggling cocaine into the U.S. A TV-movie quality production that offers little surprises, but nicely details every step of the story with a strong central performance by Catalina Sandino Moreno.

  • The Doorway to Hell

    The Doorway to Hell

    ★★

    Cagney's the trusty sidekick of Lew Ayers, who's far too clean-cut and friendly to pass as a mafia boss, but he gives it his best shot (apparently there was some debate that casting such a handsome actor would make crime seem too appealing). Ayers takes over the illegal booze racket, rids the city of gang violence, and thinks he can retire, but the mob wants him back before everything falls apart. It's a somewhat naive early gangster film that's severely…

  • Taxi!

    Taxi!

    ★★

    Cagney's a taxi driver in his least appealing role as a brutish, angry hothead and a manipulative womanizer constantly threatening domestic violence - and he's supposed to be a good guy, or perhaps a warning to women about who not to fall in love with. Soft-eyed Loretta Young deserves better, and it's the women that carry the film. Cagney seems to be relying on his wise guy charm rather than his acting talents, although his crying scene is effective. The film's fame largely boils down to being the one where he speaks Yiddish and calls someone a "dirty rat." George Raft dances in a bit part.

  • The Crowd Roars

    The Crowd Roars

    ★★

    Cagney's a race car driver who develops a conscience after his kid brother gets involved in the sport, and it turns him into a real heel. The drama is stiff and unnatural, and there seems to be scenes missing as characters make sudden transitions. It's only 70 min long so maybe? The race car scenes are very well done and look ridiculously dangerous. There's zero safety for the drivers or the spectators, and an inevitable grisly death has pretty dark…

  • Blade Runner 2049

    Blade Runner 2049

    ★★

    Why is Ryan Gosling acting like a robot? Oh, because he is a robot. Well what about everyone else? Oh, some of them are robots too. Well what about the ones that aren't? Well, um.... Oh, thank god, Harrison Ford just arrived and is showing everyone how to act. Just look at the flood of emotions on his face. He's the only real human being in this whole film. Man, I wish he had a bigger role. Why did it…

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    ★★

    Martin McDonagh attempts to channel the Coen Brothers, and while the characters are fleshy and interesting, the story is a disaster. It's an under-developed script with lots of loose ends, pointless diversions, clumsy exposition, awkward humor that undermines the drama, and no real backbone holding everything together. It might work much better if Sam Rockwell was the protagonist and McDormand the villain, but the conflict between her and the cops is baseless anyway, and the movie keeps pointing in directions…

  • Operation: Daybreak

    Operation: Daybreak

    ★★

    An historically based account of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich that might tell the true story but doesn't offer much in the way of drama or character. It's one of those mild-mannered, tasteful, serious British films that has a bland TV movie feel - nothing to complain about, and nothing to get excited about. A couple of things kept my attention: The script was written by playwright Ron Hardwood, who also wrote The Dresser, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly…

  • Anthropoid

    Anthropoid

    ★★

    The handheld camera has become a plague on modern cinema. There might be an interesting movie here if the camera would hold still long enough to see what's going on. An entire movie filmed in handheld closeups becomes unbearably monotonous and draining. I can't care about the characters. I have trouble following the story. Everyone's acting is rendered the same. Nothing is special or meaningful. Time and place is irrelevant. There is no composition, no mise-en-scène, nothing to look at.…

  • Troll 2

    Troll 2

    ★★

    A worthy challenger to worst film ever made, and unlike most bad movies that are filled with lulls and tedium, Troll 2 keeps the horrible schlock rolling along from beginning to end. There is appalling acting, terrible special effects, an nonsensical story, and a hefty helping of 80s cheese. It does not fail to entertain, and there are actually no trolls in the movie.

  • President McKinley Taking the Oath

    President McKinley Taking the Oath

    ★★

    McKinley was the first president to be captured on film. Edison made a handful of shorts showing McKinley's inauguration and taking the oath, and following his assassination - his coffin arriving on a train in Canton, Ohio and his funeral parade. However, there's not much here outside of historical interest. More notable is that Edison also recreated the execution of McKinley's assassin using Edison's electric chair.

  • President McKinley and Escort Going to the Capitol

    President McKinley and Escort Going to the Capitol

    ★★

    McKinley was the first president to be captured on film. Edison made a handful of shorts showing McKinley's inauguration and taking the oath, and following his assassination - his coffin arriving on a train in Canton, Ohio and his funeral parade. However, there's not much here outside of historical interest. More notable is that Edison also recreated the execution of McKinley's assassin using Edison's electric chair.

  • Freakonomics

    Freakonomics

    ★★

    A surprisingly lightweight documentary that offers little in the way of factual information and tries really hard to be entertaining. It seem more excited to tout its many celebrity directors (in the documentary world, anyway) than it is in explaining anything about economics. There's only one segment here I can recommend watching, and only if you're interested in learning about corruption in sumo wrestling. Otherwise, avoid.