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Bryan has written 255 reviews for films rated ★★★★★ .

  • The Last Emperor

    The Last Emperor

    ★★★★★

    A nice balance of historical drama and lavish spectacle concerning major events in Chinese history. The fact that it's in English and made by an Italian doesn't detract from it in any way, since it's obviously made for an international audience, although I can't imagine the audacity of any outsider trying to tell this story. It's definitely the capper to Bertolucci's varied career.

  • Psycho

    Psycho

    ★★★★★

    What can I add about Psycho? Vera Miles looks perfectly believable as Janet Leigh's sister, and despite the justly lauded shower scene, the most interesting camera direction in the whole film is when Norman cranes his neck over to look at the guest register, and he distorts from a nice, average guy into a twisted, raptor-like creature. Wow. Transitioning the story from Janet Leigh to Anthony Perkins works because Perkins' character is so much more interesting and his performance is…

  • The Wages of Fear

    The Wages of Fear

    ★★★★★

    I still remember that night long ago when I couldn't sleep and tried to find something on TV at 3:00 in the morning. AMC had a French movie called Wages of Fear, and I watched it expecting little and was stunned. I haven't seen it again since that night but it's always been etched into my memory. I also remember discovering a movie called Sorcerer, which I also knew nothing about, and realized halfway through that it was a remake…

  • City of Life and Death

    City of Life and Death

    ★★★★★

    Clearly taking its cues from Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List, this stunning, Chinese epic depicts the horrific rape of Nanking, one of greatest single atrocities of World War II. Although the characters are rather thin and it gets maudlin in places, the movie is impressive in its combat scenes, numerous crowd scenes, and general depiction of destruction, rape, and violence (all of it fairly watered down). The story follows characters on both sides, including a sympathetic Japanese soldier, and…

  • Embrace of the Serpent

    Embrace of the Serpent

    ★★★★★

    A movie that will transport you to another world. Embrace of the Serpent hearkens back to films like Aguirre: Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, Mosquito Coast, or At Play in the Fields of the Lord and is a worthy challenger to those films as a cinematic experience. This one follows two storylines of white explorers enlisting the aid of a native guide, and explores the culture clash not just between whites and natives but within the native cultures themselves. While not…

  • Le Silence de la Mer

    Le Silence de la Mer

    ★★★★★

    Jean-Pierre Melville's first film has a beautifully simple premise. A Nazi lieutenant in occupied France is given quarters in the home of a French poet and his niece and he tries to make friends with them, but they refuse to speak to him in protest. That's it in a nutshell. Basic storytelling rules are tossed in favor of adapting itself to the source material, which is a memoir based on a true incident. Howard Vernon as the soldier, who looks…

  • Casino

    Casino

    ★★★★★

    I haven't seen this since it came out, and although it doesn't break any new ground for Scorsese, it's sure-handed, masterfully stylized, and painfully funny, with a glossy Hollywood veneer he only toyed with before this. It's also a bold approach to storytelling with dueling narrators and a plotless narrative, yet the three hours just flies by. Goodfellas gets enormous praise but Casino is just as good.

  • The Westerner

    The Westerner

    ★★★★★

    A film where the sidekick is the star, and Walter Brennan gives one of his greatest performances. This film is all about his bromance with Gary Cooper, and William Wyler often lets the camera linger on their faces to give the acting its full due. A terrific film that transcends the Western genre to become an actor's showcase with a witty script and a touching ending.

  • Aguirre: The Wrath of God

    Aguirre: The Wrath of God

    ★★★★★

    I've got a soft spot for movies like this - man against nature meets early-American culture. The film seems far more allegorical now than when I first saw it. Hunchbacked Aguirre limping around on the raft is every bit Richard III as he connives to rule his tiny, floating kingdom. The conquistadors are so remarkably ignorant of the cultures they encounter, and strive so hard to retain their European culture, that it would be big joke if it all wasn't true. What's painfully obvious is the hardships the actors had to suffer just to make the film, which is why it still impresses 40 years later.

  • King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis

    King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis

    ★★★★★

    This documentary does for Martin Luther King Jr what Triumph of the Will did for Adolf Hitler. It paints a dynamic and persuasive portrait of a charismatic leader with the power to change the world. The narrationless film is almost entirely composed of historical footage of the events surrounding King's life interspersed with his speeches, telling his story visually in a way that makes you a witness to the events. The only weak spots are interludes of famous actors being…

  • Lawrence of Arabia

    Lawrence of Arabia

    ★★★★★

    All I can add about this film is that from today's perspective, all the British actors playing Arabs really stands out almost as much as the terrible putty nose on Anthony Quinn's face. The bluray restoration is beautiful though. Looks like it was filmed yesterday.

  • The Fallen Idol

    The Fallen Idol

    ★★★★★

    Another film with excellent rapport between a child and adult, in this case Ralph Richardson giving the most human performance I've seen from him. Add to that a great story and moments worthy of Hitchcock, and you've got a great, suspenseful picture.