• To Singapore, with Love

    To Singapore, with Love

    Painful but enlightening.

    Despite my geographical distance and the gaps in my knowledge, I still found this very powerful. I will admit though that because I am coming to this as an outsider and despite my doing some cursory pre-reading, I'm still positive that a fair bit of nuance was lost on me.

    The subjects interviewed are all deeply interesting and complicated- how far they were willing to go for their beliefs is admirable even if the cost of those…

  • The Empty Man

    The Empty Man

    Novelistic and unwieldy but creepy and effective.

    Not surprised the studio didnt know how to market this one but what you're getting is really almost 3 films in 1. With the closest comparison being to the American remake of The Ring, there is a strong investigative and procedural throughline to the second half that does a good job of keeping what could have been a messy and convoluted mess on rails and easy to follow. The narrative structure is so…

  • Cronos

    Cronos

    Ambitious but messy.

    It's interesting seeing an autuer at such a developmental stage. Already Del Toro is brimming with imagination and ideas but he also clearly lacks the focus and discipline to make it all cohesive. One of the few times I would say his youthful perspective gets in the way.

    Telling a story out of his depth, he gestures towards themes of aging and decay without having the proper experience to reinforce them with nuance or impact. That's not…

  • The Curse of La Llorona

    The Curse of La Llorona

    A disposable entertainment.

    Loud, dumb and more jarring than scary the film is running on fumes from frame one.

    I feel bad.
    I think everyone here is really trying but they're also all saddled to a mediocre and disjointed script. Plot points and character moments are rushed and don't land correctly. Instead the flick is built around scare sequences ripped right out of the James Wan playbook. It honestly feels like there are ten or more minutes missing from the…

  • Judas and the Black Messiah

    Judas and the Black Messiah

    Strong. Clearheaded. Focused.

    While the film clearly stands as a stark refusal of centrism in that "not choosing a side" is impossible when inaction equates to endorsement, it also remains even-handed and honest. The dueling character studies at the center of the narrative are refreshingly frank and humanist. As much as the film is about race and groups it never forgets to treat its characters like the real people they are. An empathic heart oversees the writing, direction and performances;…

  • Killer Joe

    Killer Joe

    Sick, Depraved and Uncompromising.

    Tracy Letts and his neo-southern gothic plays (Bug) always seem to strike at some really uncomfortable tensions straining underneath America's cultural bedrock. A lot like Sarah Kane and her UK shock-plays (Blasted), his goals are clearly to provoke, confront and transgress. His dark playfullness truly shines though in his dialogue. Very musical and circular with lots of call and response. It may never seem natural but it oozes style and gives the actors a lot of…

  • Star Trek

    Star Trek

    Glittery, loud and dumb.

    A whip-fast action adventure with a capable cast; an old school crowd pleaer. But its a terrible Star Trek movie. Abandoning all but the most basic signifiers of the IP, Abrams sacrifices the series' identity in exchange for a fleeting moment of mainstream appeal.

    Though over shiny to my tatstes, the production design, costumes and effects work are all excellent. The preference for practical elements gives the dizzying camera and scrambling mise-en-scene and urgent physicality that…

  • The Godfather: Part II

    The Godfather: Part II

    All black everything.

    More stately and sadder than Part 1, Part 2 seems to want to elevate the The Corleone story to biblical proportions. And largely, it succeeds. Massive in scope, scale and ambition- this is a remarkable sequel. While maybe less "perfect" than its predecessor, Part 2 remains an essential chapter in The Godfather Saga and should be considered mandatory viewing for fans of Part 1.

    Indistinguishable on a technical level, the aesthetic experience is a seamless continuoum with…

  • The Godfather

    The Godfather

    Mature, Suspenseful and Iconic.

    One of the few films I can think of that is effectively flawless.

    Pristine editing, perfect casting and an engrossing epic narrative dripping in period atmosphere. Francis Ford Coppola's direction is intelligent and thoughtful. Favoring quieter moments and psychology without underselling the violence or the glamorous old Hollywood spectacle, Coppola's romantic vision of a nostalgic mobster fantasy played as Shakespearean tragedy is a kind of filmmaking miracle.

    Nothing here is compromised. Every single department is at…

  • Silence

    Silence

    A capstone/thesis statement on Scorsese's view of Christ and the transcendental grace of his forgiveness.

    Faith need not be strictly about ritual and fetishes. Rather it can be the feeling of spiritual presence in one's heart. It can be reflected in your actions and in the character of the vastness of your interior.

    Christ not only forgives but loves the sinner, he holds them in his cherished flock close to the chest that they might return when they inevitably wonder…

  • Breaking the Waves

    Breaking the Waves

    A masterpiece. Ties with "Dancer in the Dark" for von Trier's crowning achievement. Agonizing, physically challenging performances and stupefyingly confident direction yields a gut churning melodrama that hits with the ferocity of a tidal wave.

    Cinema Verite (and Dogma 95 by proxy) is easily one of my favorite modes of filmmaking. Those who dislike the style (and I have met several) cite it as clumsy, lazy and manipulative. To me however, it reads as a singularly specific formal approach that…

  • The House That Jack Built

    The House That Jack Built

    Lars von Trier's direction has always fascinated me. I find his directorial techniques and authorial style beguiling but I also often find his choice in subject matter and more to the point his writing to be utterly repulsive if not completely baffling.

    What is undeniable is the immersive effectiveness of his Dogma rooted Cinema Verite coverage, naturalistic blocking and jittery editing. Because of this, all of his films have moments of harrowingly uncomfortable truth in them. Carefully crafted and cultivated…