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Bryan has written 974 reviews for films rated ★★★★ .

  • Oh! What a Lovely War

    Oh! What a Lovely War

    ★★★★

    Richard Attenborough's directorial debut is a brilliantly conceived musical that encompasses the entirety of World War One in theatrical setting that has the heads of Europe gathered in a surreal ballroom and England represented by a waterfront amusement park, where the old men see the war as a festive endeavor and push the young lads to join up. It's particularly clever in transitioning from the homefront to the battlefield, and doesn't really have a story as much as it's a…

  • Blue Collar

    Blue Collar

    ★★★★

    Paul Schrader's look at the working man and union corruption in an auto-assembly plant seems extremely relevant today. The tone wavers from social commentary to heist movie to character study to politics, but never so much as to disrupt the story's focus. Richard Pryor is amazing, but was reportedly a huge, drug-addicted problem on the set. I've never seen a better performance from him, and he holds his own with the always excellent Harvey Keitel. It's a solid directorial debut.

  • Isle of Dogs

    Isle of Dogs

    ★★★★

    A delightfully charming and inventive movie, although the cleverness does start to wear off by the end. No complaints from me, though.

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

    The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

    ★★★★

    Another delightfully charming and inventive movie, although it might be one story too long. The shorts are so nice in their straight-forward simplicity and matter-of-fact Americana - little nothings on their own, but together they paint a grim yet droll world-view that perfectly matches the Coen's sensibilities.

  • First Reformed

    First Reformed

    ★★★★

    As many a snooty critic has already done, it's a no brainer to compare this with Diary of a Country Priest and Winter Light (and it's been more than 50 years since those films so it's not exactly retreading a well-worn path), but it has just as many parallels with Taxi Driver, which Schrader also wrote. In fact, Taxi Driver is too often compared with The Searchers when maybe there's more Bresson and Bergman than we ever realized. Schrader makes…

  • Araya

    Araya

    ★★★★

    A documentary that catches a South American salt mining community that has existed for centuries just as it's about to be destroyed by technology. In lesser hands, this would be a lament for a lost way of life, but filmmaker Margot Benacerraf is also critical of the incredibly harsh and impoverished lives these people lead, despite the stark beauty and simplicity the film paints. A short follow-up supplement on the DVD suggests that maybe not all cultures need to be preserved and these people are better off having been broken from the chain of eternal toil thanks to the bulldozer.

  • Svengali

    Svengali

    ★★★★

    John Barrymore's an evil hypnotist that bends women to his will. At first glance it seems mired in the 19th century literature that it's based on, like a book illustration come to life, but there are some powerfully cinematic sequences that also show silent era expressionism being hampered by sound. John Barrymore is the very stereotype of the "classical actor," and he puts on a very good show here beneath the creepy makeup. At it's best it feels like a…

  • Midnight Run

    Midnight Run

    ★★★★

    Although it's not the hysterical laugh riot I remember it to be, it's a really solid gangster comedy and finds the right comedic balance without going over the top (although it threatens to do so a few times). I remembered Charles Grodin as the funny one, but he's almost a stoic straight man to DeNiro's constant grimacing and mental processing. It's a good team, and a fun movie.

  • 2010

    2010

    ★★★★

    The idea of anyone making a sequel to 2001, even Kubrick himself, is a no win situation. So Peter Hyams probably did the best thing possible and just made his own movie, one that isn't trying to be a Kubrick film but is just trying to be a realistic space adventure - something that's rare enough in film history of film to warrant appreciation. It's a great example of a mediocre filmmaking vs. great filmmaking, but the only place I…

  • Berlin Express

    Berlin Express

    ★★★★

    A fascinating Jacques Tourneur film made in the bombed out ruins of Frankfurt after World War II. A ragtag group of allied representatives (one from each nation, of course) go looking for a kidnapped German peacekeeper, and the movie gets into the nitty gritty of life in postwar Germany, with some documentary-styled narration to help explain things. Apparently is was the first Hollywood film to shoot in Germany after the war (including inside the Soviet zone), and the ruins of…

  • Easy Living

    Easy Living

    ★★★★

    Victor Mature plays football for the Kansas City Chiefs, although it's confusing because Kansas City is never mentioned, the helmets have ram's horns on them, and the credits thank the LA Rams. Chiefs logos are everywhere though (are they authentic?) so I can pretend this takes place in Kansas City. It's a good drama where Wilde learns he has a heart condition and has to consider quitting the game, and it doesn't rely on all the sports movie cliches (imagine…

  • Convoy

    Convoy

    ★★★★

    I was surprised at how good this was considering all I was expecting was some 1970s nostalgia and corny trucker comedy, but it's a Peckinpah movie, and it does a great job of weaving in blue collar political themes, anti-authoritarianism, and showing police brutality as real and menacing all while having a laugh at the same time. It's more Sugarland Express than Smokey and the Bandit, and more genuine than both. Kris Kristofferson is perfectly cast as a hunky truck…