RSS feed for John

John has written 117 reviews for films during 2018.

  • Free Solo

    Free Solo

    ★★★★

    That is possibly the strongest physical reaction I’ve had to a film. I’m a bit of an adrenaline wreck right now.

    A friend of mine characterized this film as ‘inspirational.’ I wouldn’t. What Alex Honnold accomplishes is unique to Alex Honnold. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME or anywhere else. Sure, we all have our El Capitán, but few of us are born with elite strength and quiet amygdalas.

    The story of the filmmakers and their own mental struggles is…

  • Crazy Rich Asians

    Crazy Rich Asians

    ★★★★

    I almost avoided this one because I thought I knew what it would be. I’m glad I did see it, because it exceeded all my expectations.

    This is a romantic comedy that actually delivers both romance and comedy. It is one of the most glamorous, best produced films of the modern era. I have to throw back to old Hollywood classics for comparison: Cleopatra, All About Eve, Gilda.


    It has such wild commercial success that I fear it will be…

  • First Reformed

    First Reformed

    ★★★★

    Winter Light meets Taxi Driver. I choose the hopeful interpretation of the film, but I don’t blame those who find it dark. Like Roma, this is a controlled, carefully constructed film. I like First Reformed better for its dramatic wholeness, it’s theological seriousness and it’s moral conclusion (such as it is). But I don’t blame those who would rather worship at another altar.

  • Roma

    Roma

    ★★★

    Grim. Fellini meets Antonioni. This film is made with great skill but does it ultimately subvert itself by having the rich family served by their servant’s grief?

  • Mary Poppins Returns

    Mary Poppins Returns

    ★★★

    This sequel recaptures some but not all of the magic of the original. It was some impossibly big shoes to fill, anyway.

    My heartstrings were tugged, and that ain’t nothin’. Lin Manuel is the best singer in the cast by miles, which must be a nice change for him.

    I was shocked at the risqué number in the middle, but then I remembered it was A Rob Marshall Film. It would have been cool if the color had more of…

  • Good Will Hunting

    Good Will Hunting

    ★★★

    This watch inspired by the Rewatchables podcast. Doesn’t hold up as well as I expected but there are still some great lines and moments.

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

    The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

    ★★★★

    A loving parody of Western tropes in a six-tale anthology film. In the hands of the Coen Brothers it becomes something deeper. There are meditations on fame, the futility of love, the bitter truth of show business and, of course, the transition to the hereafter.

    Containing so many themes from previous films and homages to other artists, it feels like a swan song. But I hope it isn’t. This duo is at the height of their powers, and seem to…

  • Punch-Drunk Love

    Punch-Drunk Love

    ★★★½

    I have to re-evaluate this film. It is a deeply weird movie. I realized upon this viewing that the sound design is doing some serious heavy lifting for Sandler’s performance. (I do still regard it as among his best.) The Jon Brion score remains a masterpiece.

    What struck me as especially bizarre this time is Emily Watson’s cipher of a love interest. She hard-pursues a guy who is festooned in metaphorical red flags. He’s the worst piece of dating material…

  • 45 Years

    45 Years

    ★★½

    Too subtle for its own good. This started as a short story and as far as I’m concerned finished that way. The glacial drama is almost entirely interior. Charlotte Rampling tries to help, doing the dramatists’ work with pregnant glances. It wasn’t enough for me. I wanted a bigger climax.

  • Things to Come

    Things to Come

    ★★½

    Impressive effects for 1936. Also shockingly prescient. Too much speechifying for current tastes. But still, worth a watch for sci-fi and HG Wells fans.

  • Clue

    Clue

    ★★★★

    I didn’t remember it being such a slow starter... but, dang, that ending!

  • The Wings of the Dove

    The Wings of the Dove

    ★★★★

    Turns out people other than Merchant Ivory can make handsomely-appointed costume dramas. This has a tremendously sticky plot, with a love triangle that goes into Neil LaBute territory. The entire movie drips with sexual subtext (and sometimes text).

    The class system corrupts, yet those on top are able to maintain their innocence. The film (and I presume the book) takes a complex view of human motivations. I didn’t despise the central characters, nor did I root for them without strong reservations.

    Bonus: The latter part of the movie is set in Venice, Italy — pretty much the best place to set any story.