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Bryan has written 485 reviews for films rated ★★★ .

  • If You Could Only Cook

    If You Could Only Cook

    ★★★

    A rich auto executive poses as a butler and husband to Jean Arthur so she can get work. A short but entertaining depression era comedy that complicates the plot nicely but could use more style to make a true screwball classic.

  • Frankenweenie

    Frankenweenie

    ★★★

    All the raw materials for Tim Burton's future films are nicely encapsulated here. Unfortunately this stuff is all too familiar coming this late in his career, so it's mildly interesting rather than compelling - clearly aimed at kids. While his original short may have been foretelling, today's Tim Burton is trapped by his own quirky style.

  • Daisies

    Daisies

    ★★★

    Two teenage girls revel in hedonistic pleasure and brag about how spoiled they are in pre-Communist Czechoslovakia. It's like The Monkees meets Laverne and Shirley except it's not funny and doesn't have a story. A hodge-podge collage of cinematic playfulness, veiled metaphors, and teen rebellion that doesn't make a lot of sense but is more fun to watch than most east-European cinema.

  • Layer Cake

    Layer Cake

    ★★★

    Heavy accents, gangster slang, and a ridiculously convoluted plot make watching Layer Cake a chore. Subtitles are a necessity. It tries too hard to be a Guy Ritchie film, and although it's never quite clever, funny, or stylish enough to compare with Snatch, it's still a fairly entertaining British crime movie. The main reason to see it is watch a lithe Daniel Craig step into the role of leading man. It's also ridiculous that the first time we see Tom Hardy he's wearing a mask.

  • Blow Out

    Blow Out

    ★★★

    A mess of a movie that has some really fun ideas mixed with horrible execution, and it's ruined by an awful climax. Travolta is surprisingly solid, but Nancy Allen's blonde bimbo is painfully forced, and John Lithgow doesn't get enough screen time. This might be might be DePalma's least successful attempt at Hitchcock, although the sequence of Travolta recording sounds in the park is visually delightful. What's surprising is how naive everyone is from today's perspective. It should be all about paranoia, as it was in the far superior The Conversation.

  • Cavalcade

    Cavalcade

    ★★★

    The best picture winner of 1933 is Noel Coward's flag waving history of England from the Boer War to WWI as experienced by a single family. It's a concept which Noel Coward repeated ten years later in much more nuanced This Happy Breed, where two world wars serve as more fitting bookends.

  • The Broadway Melody

    The Broadway Melody

    ★★★

    Once cinemas were wired for sound, musicals reigned. There were dozens of musicals released in 1929 alone, and I suspect most of them were just like this - the story of a dame moving to New York to make it big on Broadway. I don't know why this got best picture because it's not especially remarkable (the formula would be repeated for decades), but it does have a carefree, youthful sexual energy to it. There are two "sisters" who are…

  • Destination: Planet Negro!

    Destination: Planet Negro!

    ★★★

    A great idea for a movie but I'm not sure Kevin Willmott knows what he wants to say with it. The early black and white scenes look fantastic for this no budget film (he said it cost $7,000) and the humor is spot on. Once we reach modern day, however, it suddenly looks like its budget and the jokes become hit and miss. Even overlooking the fact that the film was obviously pieced together, the social commentary isn't as sharp…

  • Doomsday Book

    Doomsday Book

    ★★★

    This fun trilogy of Korean sci-fi tales offers a zombie story, a robot story, and an end of the world story. It's an entertaining mix of humor, horror, and contemplation, although the third short didn't really work for me, and the first two could have easily been whole films by themselves.

  • Lady Snowblood

    Lady Snowblood

    ★★★

    An interesting revenge tale that's notable for its stylistic storytelling flourishes, blood that sprays like a busted sink, and its heavy influence on Kill Bill. I can't say the substance matches the cartoonish spectacle (which I can also say about Kill Bill), but it's a few steps above a lot of 70s Asian action movies.

  • 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…

  • 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…