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  • Crawl

    Crawl

    ★★★★

    Inspired by a real event, Crawl’s enviable blend of genres (survival, natural disaster, home invasion, creature feature, ticking clock) got me in the door, but I stayed for the near-perfect depiction of attacking alligators, production design and weather effects that embrace the film’s small scale, and Barry Pepper’s turn as Kaya Scodelario’s estranged dad. The filmmakers got the most important trait of the gators correct: their heft. As well as being hyper-realistic, they move and interact with their physical surroundings,…

  • It Chapter Two

    It Chapter Two

    ★★½

    Almost three hours long and yet not a word of explanation—or even a joke—about why grown-up Bill is a foot shorter than he should be. A fairly limp sequel that stays afloat due mainly to a couple of inspired set pieces (the bleachers was a stand out) and Bill Hader’s foul-mouthed shtick. And I’m not sure what to think about the decision to leave intact the various jarring, unironic slurs that reportedly appear in the book, something Brian talks about

  • Skate Kitchen

    Skate Kitchen

    ★★★★

    Coming as no surprise to anyone who’s seen The Wolfpack, Crystal Moselle’s naturalistic shooting style and ease with young performers find her equally as capable with dramatic storytelling as with documentary filmmaking. Here she expands her own prior short film—featuring an existing skate crew with no acting experience but a whole lot of Instagram followers—into a coming-of-age tale set in and around the skate parks and rental accommodations of Manhattan.

    Highlights for me: Rachelle Vinberg’s unselfconscious central performance (she’s skated…

  • The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

    The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

    ★½

    “In December 2017, it was announced Joe Johnston would direct a month of reshoots written by Tom McCarthy, with Hallström agreeing to Johnston receiving co-directing credit.” I didn’t read this till afterwards, but it’s no surprise at all. While the visual effects and production design are right up there, the rest of this endeavour is so earnest as to be completely devoid of substance and personality. Ten minutes later my kids were back to discussing Alita from two weeks prior.

  • Mortal Engines

    Mortal Engines

    ★★½

    This reportedly lost the studio $150 million, which is entirely attributable to the producers not appending A Star Wars Story to the end of its title. It’s not great, in the same way recent secondary tales from the SWU haven’t been great; a potentially interesting world full of good and evil and ships that fly and shoot, but which inevitably falls back on clichéd story points and character arcs. Most of the effects work is pretty good (i.e. not immediately…

  • Fyre

    Fyre

    ★★★

    What a mess. Definite opportunity for Seth MacFarlane to play Billy in the inevitable biopic though eh.

  • Game Night

    Game Night

    ★★½

    Brazenly steals its only visual flourishes from Edgar Wright, and struggles (for me) to balance tone. There were a couple of inspired moments and some very well delivered lines, but I spent a good deal of it wishing I was rewatching The Game, a film these characters who claim to “love movies” would surely have referenced at some point during their game night.

  • Free Solo

    Free Solo

    ★★★★★

    One of the finest performances you’ll see this year, perhaps any year. Stone cold superhero. I love how the film crew become characters in the film, and the dilemma they face about potentially filming their friend die — or worse, inadvertently causing his death — is discussed in some depth. But the film is all Honnold’s; his sense of drive to achieve the unthinkable, his bluntness regarding the stakes, and his remarkable preparation and sustained focus in the moment are nothing less than superhuman.

  • The Predator

    The Predator

    ★★

    Predator sequel as Marvel movie. Not much sign of the clever, snappy dialogue that peppered Black’s early writing career (see Lethal Weapon), but the lazy, misogynist jokes remain. No sign, either, of any meaningful level of suspense, so critical in the original and reprised to a satisfactory degree in 2010’s Predators. Instead we get a tepid, violent, imagination-free caper in a mostly urban setting that feels a lot like a third-rate superhero franchise entry. There’s some good chemistry between some…

  • First Man

    First Man

    ★★★★½

    Grainy, noisy and claustrophobic, and that’s before we even set foot inside a Gemini module. It took me a little while to warm to Linus Sandgren’s extreme close-up camerawork, but it’s a stylistic choice that serves to reframe any mundanity that was present in the Armstrongs’ home life, and to propel an otherwise traditional narrative along in an unexpected way.

    The mostly male cast is teeming with worthy character actors, many of whom are underused, but only so we can…

  • Becoming Bond

    Becoming Bond

    ★★½

    A fascinating, often unbelievable tale that helps soften Lazenby’s historically prickly persona, but also confirmed my distaste for dramatic reenactments as part of documentary filmmaking. I’d also love to have seen more real footage from his modelling days, en route to playing Bond.

  • Alien: Covenant

    Alien: Covenant

    ★★★

    I’ll happily spend two hours watching anything this series produces — and I didn’t hate Prometheus. Covenant is a competently assembled greatest hits of the franchise, The Force Awakens of Alien films, but its third act is the weakest yet.

    The first hour is remixed artfully enough (Milford Sound standing in for “paradise”) that I kept hoping it might break new ground. Fassbender is a marvel, remaining understated and occasionally menacing, even as the film around him proceeds to show too…