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Bryan has written 541 reviews for films rated ★★★ .

  • Payback: Straight Up

    Payback: Straight Up


    I knew that Payback was similar to John Boorman's Point Blank, but I didn't know it was a remake. So Brian Hegeland was fired from his directorial debut (two days after winning best screenplay for LA Confidential) and the studio reshot a third of the film and released it to a lukewarm response. Some years later Mel Gibson felt bad about all this and convinced the studio to let Hegeland release his director's cut, which by all accounts was a…

  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown

    The Unsinkable Molly Brown


    A musical about the brash Molly Brown, who got filthy rich off a Colorado gold mine, made highfalutin friends in Europe, and became the toast of Denver society. It occasionally has some spark thanks to its two plucky, energetic leads, but the lackluster direction and dull script that substitutes songs for character development keep it from being great. You can feel the classic Hollywood musical getting wheezy just watching it. Of course Molly Brown is most famous for surviving the…

  • Amazon Women on the Moon

    Amazon Women on the Moon


    A mixed bag of funny and not funny, and it's at its best when it's spoofing old Hollywood with startling good recreations (Son of the Invisible Man). Thankfully none of the skits go on for too long, so it's all fun.

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas

    How the Grinch Stole Christmas


    If you disassociate it from its source material, this is an incredibly strange, almost trippy weird movie (perhaps even more with the sound off). But if you've read the book or seen the animated short, this is just weird in the way it fails to emulate the source material. Nothing feels right and nothing quite works and the story doesn't move, but there was an honest effort put forth by everyone involved. The baroque exuberance is overwhelming. The costumes, settings,…

  • Holiday Affair

    Holiday Affair


    An amiable domestic drama centered around Christmas that has a brunette Janet Leigh choosing between the loyal but dull Wendell Corey and the manly but itinerant Robert Mitchum. It's obvious just from the casting which one she will choose, but the movie makes a terrible case for that decision. Corey is perfectly suitable for her in every way and they care for each other, but she abandons an easy life for what is likely to be misery and hardship and…

  • Dark Star

    Dark Star


    This cheapo student film has stood the test of time just by being clever and funny and well... cheap in the wake of 2001. It's spoofing 2001's ambition as much as its story, and stands on its own as an amusing look at what happens when a few people are stuck together in close quarters for too long.

  • The Master of Ballantrae

    The Master of Ballantrae


    Historical drama with Errol Flynn as a 1700s Scottish nobleman who joins the rebellion against King George and ends up hanging out with pirates. It gives you all the action and swordplay you want in an Errol Flynn movie, and it's all handled intelligently with a complex story, but it's nothing more than your routine Hollywood period film. Despite his age and illness, Flynn does a fine job.

  • Without Love

    Without Love


    This Hepburn/Tracy romantic comedy from a play by Philip Barry (The Philadelphia Story) has some excellent dialogue, but the threadbare story has no momentum. It starts out promising with some brilliant drunken comedy by a young Keenan Wynn, but there's almost no stakes to keep the plot wheels turning. Part of the problem is that Hepburn and Tracy are obviously mad for each other from the moment they meet (through a series of questionable coincidences), and there's nothing to break…

  • The Cassandra Crossing

    The Cassandra Crossing


    A man with a deadly virus boards a train in Switzerland, and it's up to Burt Lancaster to save Richard Harris, Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen, Lionel Stander, Lee Strasberg, and O. J. Simpson. It's a variation on the 70s disaster movie and has all the pros and cons of that genre's era, brutely made by brute director George Cosmatos (there's no way that guy made Tombstone!) It's better than some other disaster films of the 70s, but it's really only worth watching for Martin Sheen, and even that is iffy.

  • Quick Change

    Quick Change


    Bill Murray pulls a bank heist dressed as a clown. While the movie doesn't really work, you can tell it's trying, and it definitely has good moments. Many of those moments are in the bank itself, but the film loses lots of steam once it shifts from Clown Day Afternoon into a light-hearted and implausible variation of After Hours, and the chemistry between Murray and Geena Davis never really materializes, but it pulls everything together by the end and is entertaining.

  • Un Flic

    Un Flic


    Melville's final film is a divisive affair, and I'm not really a fan. The story is so routine and the emotions so spare that it feels more like a scrapbook of French noir memoirs. That's not to say there aren't beautiful images (Delon and Deneuve are more models than actors here) but while I've been impressed with Melville's cinematography in the past, here it just looks like they stuck a blue filter on the camera and called it a day.…

  • The Man Who Could Work Miracles

    The Man Who Could Work Miracles


    H.G. Wells might have great, visionary ideas, but he's no dramatist, which is obvious from his stilted script for Things to Come. The Man Who Could Work Miracles is the only other screenplay he wrote and is lesser known, but it works better as the scale is more modest and it adds a little comedy. Unfortunately, Wells would rather his characters talk big ideas than put them into action. The points he wants to make were handled much better in…