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Bryan has written 179 reviews for films rated ★★★★ during 2015.

  • Going in Style

    Going in Style

    ★★★★

    You just can't go wrong with George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg teaming up to rob a bank just because they're bored old men. It's a movie knee-deep in charm, and George Burns does some fine acting and puts a real edge on the character – as if he wants to channel Cagney. The movie drags when they go to Vegas, but it's a surprising, touching drama by 27-year-old writer/director Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop).

  • The Godless Girl

    The Godless Girl

    ★★★★

    DeMille's last silent film is a little gem about a young Christian boy meeting a young atheist girl, but the religious debate quickly turns into a social drama about brutal youth prisons. There are some amazing set pieces in this movie, including an impressive fire rescue (apparently several actors were burned, including the lead) and a massive riot in a stairwell.

  • Dog Day Afternoon

    Dog Day Afternoon

    ★★★★

    A heist comedy-of-errors that never tries to be funny and wins enormous sympathy for its bank robbing hero. Was Al Pacino the 70's most lovable criminal?

  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

    ★★★★

    Fine actors delivering delicious dialogue in a movie that's straining to break free from the bonds of the production code. Having just seen Liz Taylor in Giant, she is truly outstanding here. Good as it is, though, the movie still feels incredibly stagebound. Perhaps it's the way the characters are forced together, the confined sets, or how perfectly the barbed zingers fly back and forth. It sits uneasily between bitterness and laughter, and I think if I saw it again it would be much funnier.

  • Food, Inc.

    Food, Inc.

    ★★★★

    Although it often feels like a commercial for organic foods, this documentary does a good job of looking at several aspects of food production and seems fairly even-handed. While it condemns the mega-farm corporations by noting that they all refuse to be interviewed for the film, it also condemns the government without really making an attempt to talk to them - which might be the film's biggest failing, since it seems the real issues the film is concerned with stem…

  • The Fighter

    The Fighter

    ★★★★

    A movie filled with great performances, esp. Christian Bale, who is really channeling the real person he's portraying. It resembles The Wrestler if the wrestler had an overbearing family, and there's a pack of women here that could scare Mickey Rourke away. I was entertained.

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop

    Exit Through the Gift Shop

    ★★★★

    Gift Shop paints a portrait of a fascinating character in a fascinating world, but I don't trust the filmmaker, who portrays himself as the mysterious great god of underground art. You're left wondering what is really to be believed, but the central character of this obsessive compulsive documenter/artist is so entertaining it doesn't much matter.

  • Escape from New York

    Escape from New York

    ★★★★

    Carpenter takes a ridiculous premise and makes it fun, colorful, and exciting, and does it cheap. There is much to be learned about how to make a high-concept action film here, and Donald Pleasance is a far better actor than he was ever given an opportunity to be. That said, the movie is much sillier than it was when I was a teen, when it was a childhood favorite. James Cameron did effects on the film. The model of the…

  • Citizenfour

    Citizenfour

    ★★★★

    It's fascinating to see the other side of the news story - the source of everything that fills the airwaves 24/7. The documentary tries a little too hard to add drama and makes a big deal about playing spy games, but Snowden is all about playing spy games - and he seems to treat it as a game even though he knows what he's up against. It's like they're just waiting for the walls to come crashing in around them. Privacy and surveillance are one of the most pressing issues of today, and this film cuts right to the very epicenter. It's only the beginning.

  • Ex Machina

    Ex Machina

    ★★★★

    A smart updating of Island of Dr. Moreau, with robotics replacing genetic experimentation. It's supposed to be a thinking piece, and while I could knock it down logically, it succeeds at being engaging its tiny self-contained way. In fact it's so contained it's nearly a stageplay.

  • The Devil's Miner

    The Devil's Miner

    ★★★★

    A 14-year-old boy works in the mines in Bolivia. It's a very good film that shows how few options this kid has, the limited world they live in, and how superstitions rule their lives.

  • The Circus

    The Circus

    ★★★★

    The Circus (1928) ****
    A charming comedy full of good humor as well as being an insightful look at show business. Chaplin's last true silent film.