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Bryan has written 103 reviews for films rated ★★★ during 2015.

  • Grey Gardens

    Grey Gardens

    ★★★

    The filmmaker essentially just turned the camera on and let it run. Thankfully his subjects are two fascinating and barely functional women who are happy to gab on and on without a clue of how cut off from the world they are. I got tired of them by the end and would have appreciated more background, but I guess they have some adoring fans.

  • In Which We Serve

    In Which We Serve

    ★★★

    Noel Coward writes, produces, directs, and stars as a stiff-upper-lip ship captain in this memory play/propaganda piece that waves the flag for England. It's pretty good for wartime rabble-rousing, with help from co-director David Lean (his first directing gig), John Mills, and a teenage Richard Attenborough, but it's oh so very British.

  • For Your Consideration

    For Your Consideration

    ★★★

    Guest and Levy's Hollywood comedy isn't as sharp as their previous films, and it feels like their mockumentary methods are getting tired. It doesn't help that they reserve their bitterest criticisms for the Hollywood press - a pretty easy target. But there are laughs and some real drama to carry things along and it's a better than average comedy.

  • Enter the Void

    Enter the Void

    ★★★

    Gaspar Noe is more dedicated to point-of-view filmmaking than any director I've seen. This film is a technical marvel that maintains a first person POV throughout, with transitions and blocking and digital effects that must have been next to impossible to work out, yet it all flows smoothly and effortlessly. And while remaining very small and dreamlike, it wants to tackle big questions - like what it even means to exist. All of that makes for a very interesting film,…

  • Easy A

    Easy A

    ★★★

    Amiable comedy with an amiable lead and several clever bits, but suffers from being too Hollywood and the story is a bit muddled.

  • Earth

    Earth

    ★★★

    What Riefenstahl's Olympia is to the Olympics, Dovzhenko's Earth is to collective farming. How much you like it depends on how interested you are in collective farming. The movie is made with real farmers instead of actors, and there's a lot of posing of people and animals, and a lot of rugged, character-rich faces. In fact, most of the movie is just closeups of faces. The story is thin and the pacing is slow, but it is poetic and beautiful…

  • Drive, He Said

    Drive, He Said

    ★★★

    Jack Nicholson's directing debut is a counter-culture film that doesn't seem too fond of the counter-culture, and sees it more as preventing people from leading "normal" lives. The biggest problem is that lead actor William Tepper has no inner life so it's hard to know what's driving him to rebel, and too much focus is given to his over-the-top counter-culture roommate. Bruce Dern does great stuff with a nothing role as a basketball coach. The best thing about the film…

  • Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

    Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

    ★★★

    A movie I've avoided for years because I knew exactly what it was going to be: Great acting with a heavy-handed message in a very stagy production. It's really hard these days to get into the mindset that this film could be shocking and progressive. The performances are stellar though, if only because they're such beloved actors. Spencer Tracy's death hangs over the film and gives it a weight that goes beyond its earnest message.

  • River's Edge

    River's Edge

    ★★★

    A fascinating look at teen culture that was very relatable to me in high school, but after a compelling start the story just meanders into nothing, and the actors are not the strongest. Keanu Reeves was a terrible actor back then, but as long as he's not given too much dialogue he pulls off portraying a disaffected teen. Crispin Glover, on the other hand, is pretty awful. He can't get beyond his quirky mannerisms. It's a grim movie but seems to say everything it needs in the first half hour.

  • Blazing Saddles

    Blazing Saddles

    ★★★

    It's surprising that it took over 70s years for movies to start making fun of itself, and Mel Brooks is to be admired for being the guy to do that, but his movies don't hold up as well 40 years later - not as much as the Zucker/Abrams movies that followed in the 80s. His jokes are just a little too obvious and sophomoric. Still, Blazing Saddles is one of his better efforts.

  • The Wolfpack

    The Wolfpack

    ★★★

    A fascinating but unevenly told and ultimately frustrating look at a clan of boys that lived their childhood locked in a New York apartment with only their mother and movies to educate them. It would be a tragic story if they weren't such smart and decent guys. The selling point though is their highly creative Sweded versions of famous movies like Batman, Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction. They may have been shut off from the outside world, but they were…

  • A King in New York

    A King in New York

    ★★★

    Chaplin's last starring role is a hit and miss affair marred by a lack of story, but when it hits you still see some of that old comedy magic. The movie wants to satire American culture, but isn't sure what the target should be - commercialism? celebrity? politics? the McCarthy hearings? But any fan of Limelight and Monsieur Verdoux should not skip this one. Chaplin's son gets a memorable co-starring role as a young communist.