Rob has written 29 reviews for films released in 2016.

  • The Salesman

    The Salesman

    ★★★★

    Asghar Farhadi’s sensitivity to the contours of domestic conflict—in a universal sense but also as it relates to certain segments of Iranian society—is extraordinary. This was also true of A Separation, his previous film, and in the case of The Salesman, his focus on the complicated residue of assault rings true in a way that makes the film necessarily and rewardingly difficult.

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    ★★★½

    I liked this so much more the second time!

  • Paterson

    Paterson

    ★★★½

    For the small, pedantic portion of the audience I represent, the title character’s old-soul Luddite appeal is undermined by the poetry overlays’ use of a handwriting font rather than actual handwriting. Just sayin’.

  • Raw

    Raw

    ★★★★

    Lush, invasive, viscerally unsettling, and tender in every sense of the word. I was rapt for the duration.

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane

    10 Cloverfield Lane

    ★★★½

    A paranoid conspiracist (John Goodman) keeps a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) captive in his underground doomsday bunker to protect her from what he claims is some kind of nuclear fallout above. Goodman’s reliably excellent performance works in concert with a smart script to keep you guessing about the truth of the matter, and Winstead’s charisma is rooted in a persistent resourcefulness that stops just short of Macgyver. I was frequently distracted by the big orchestral score, whose expansiveness is…

  • The Void

    The Void

    ★½

    Many a movie sports a protagonist who sucks at life, and you’re like, “Hey, I suck at life, too! I am invested in seeing this character succeed, for truly their success is a success for us all.” In The Void, however, it’s more like, “This guy doesn’t seem to have any good excuse for sucking as much as he does, and this warmed-over Lovecraft nonsense is exactly the dull fate he deserves.”

  • Torrey Pines

    Torrey Pines

    ★★½

    A girl entering adolescence grapples with her emerging queer identity and tries to survive a road trip with her unstable mother. It’s a nice little coming-of-age memoir, but not little enough. I think this would have worked better as a short. The effort spent establishing environs dwarfs the loose plotting and character-building that take place there, and the commitment to non-verbal narrative further limits the film’s ability to tell a personal story. With a few exceptions, its early-’90s pop-cultural signposts…

  • My Dogs, Jinjin and Akida

    My Dogs, Jinjin and Akida

    ★★★

    A young boy tries to find his place in his adopted dysfunctional family. Plenty of subtext about the effects of Westernization and rapid economic development in South Korea in the early 1980s, but this is more about family dynamics amid alcoholism, and its observations feel true, though I wish it did more showing and less telling.

  • The Red Pill

    The Red Pill

    🙄

  • The Love Witch

    The Love Witch

    ★★

    A strange homage/parody of occult and hippie films from the ’60s and ’70s, overloaded with wishy-washy neopaganism and boneheaded musings on heterosexuality and patriarchy. My best guess is that it wants to be some kind of feminist Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but apart from offering an excuse for the wardrobe department to go for broke, I can’t really figure out why this film exists.

  • Magnus

    Magnus

    ★★½

    An interesting profile for the uninitiated, but in its cursory understanding of chess, it makes little effort to understand Magnus’s genius, which remains enigmatic as ever. While Magnus the man has had an outsize role in inspiring a new generation of young chess players, Magnus the film fails to depict the game as anything but arcane.

  • Hounds of Love

    Hounds of Love

    ★★★

    Plot-wise, Hounds of Love is in many ways a fairly by-the-numbers kidnapping / serial killer movie. But after a first act that hews uncomfortably close to crass, skin-crawling exploitation, its character development and attention to style are able to set it apart from less compelling grindhouse fare. Its success in those departments is noteworthy: Emma Booth’s fragile performance has rightly received a lot of praise, and the cinematography and score work well together to create an oppressive atmosphere of dread in…