• Greenland

    Greenland

    ★½

    This has the same formula as a The Rock movie (e.g. San Andreas, Skyscraper) in which a tenuously married couple’s reconciliation is metaphorized in some cartoonishly huge disaster. Lots of running from place to place in archetypically suburban settings anchored by a resolutely responsible and conspicuously in-shape father. The single novelty here is that the father's family, which is threatened by an impending asteroid that's expected to wipe out most of the world's population, is earmarked by the U.S. government…

  • The Silence of the Lambs

    The Silence of the Lambs

    ★★★★½

    This starts to feel askew when you start considering how hokey Anthony Hopkins’s performance is, an outlier in an enterprise in which everyone else is responsibly upgrading the mass-market paperback grade material. It's not only him, though: consider the holding cell they arrange for him midway through, which makes him seem like more an exotic bird than convicted killer. Hopkins relishes this, too, and his ensuing bloodbath is extravagant, like seeing a peacock courting another with a fan of iridescent plumage.

  • Spirited Away

    Spirited Away

    ★★★½

    The wonderment to nonwonderment ratio is so lopsided here that it's a bit too rich to fully appreciate.

  • Housekeeping

    Housekeeping

    ★★★★★

    On one hand, a film about a someone with undiagnosed schizophrenia. On the other, a film about someone liberated from material constraints, who sees possibility and wonder everywhere. I hadn't heard of this film before three days ago. A revelation.

  • In & Of Itself

    In & Of Itself

    ★★★★

    Rating is more for the live incarnation of this, which I found genuinely astonishing. Which is to say I can testify that all the images you'll see in here of gobsmacked people, some of whom cry or wriggle with emotion, is authentic. The conclusion may not translate 100% to the (for me) profoundly mystical experience of Derek DelGaudio correctly guessing what's in your head (without error, as well as what's in dozens of others’ heads) in person, but comes close enough.

  • Rosemary's Baby

    Rosemary's Baby

    ★★★★

    Notwithstanding all the stuff about Satan worship and the blatant disregard for a woman’s health, etc., this film’s foremost terror is derived from Mia Farrow’s supernaturally neurotic neighbors. I shuddered every single time they knocked on her door.

  • NXIVM - Multi-Level-Marketing

    NXIVM - Multi-Level-Marketing

    ★★★½

    [The Vow] I will watch or read anything about cults, firstly, so a multi-part slow burn about NXIVM that's at least two episodes too long is for me a must-see. But I do concede that this and other films of this sort all fail to satisfactorily document two things: one, what's so seductive about the organization in question in the first place, and two, to really explore the sorts of people lured into these things. Cults are about messianic leaders…

  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

    Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

    ★★

    Bill Maher ascertained Sacha Baron Cohen’s strengths as “originality, courage, degree of difficulty, laugh-out-loud funny.” The degree of difficulty part is apt: infiltrating a Mike Pence talk dressed as Trump in order to heckle him must require some amount of strategy and daring. But the result of this isn’t funny, nor does it yield any real insight into the Pence clan’s intolerance. It's like putting a dog and cat together in a room in order to predictably confirm their antagonism.

  • The Witch Who Came from the Sea

    The Witch Who Came from the Sea

    ★★★½

    This has all the trappings of a ’70s exploitation film: unglamorous nudity and film grain replete in scratches and dust. And yet it’s so uncharacteristically acute in its psychological focus, depicting a woman who’s sublimating the abuse she endured as a girl into the gruesome murders she may or may not be committing as an adult. This part is hard to explain: this is a film about a murderer, I think? But all the murders are depicted in such a…

  • The Hills Have Eyes

    The Hills Have Eyes

    ★½

    This is set in the spare U.S. Southwest, a setting for many visually striking films, and yet most of it occurs at night which means the background is zeroed out and the proceedings are lit only by headlights. Conceptually this emphasizes the horror of isolation, with the stranded family at the film’s center at the whim of local cannibals yelping at them from the darkness, but it flattens the film’s already makeshift visual aesthetic, illuminated in the same crude way as road maintenance at night.

  • David Byrne's American Utopia

    David Byrne's American Utopia

    ★★★½

    This is relievedly good as a concert film full of Talking Heads songs that’s not called Stop Making Sense. It even has the same structure as the previous film, starting with a minimum of personnel and accumulating midway through with an ensemble of a dozen musicians, half of which are percussionists. Even the rendition of "Burnin’ Down the House" heard here is nearly identical to its 1984 precedent. The highlights are numerous: the staging that permits all the musicians to…

  • Hellraiser

    Hellraiser

    ★★★½

    Stephen King, in his nonfiction overview of the horror genre Danse Macabre, postulates that horror may exist on three levels: terror, fear, or revulsion. He examples the third item with Jack Davis’s spectacularly lurid comic, “Foul Play,” which you can read here. Hellraiser is the same sort of thing. The plot belies what could have been a deep-seated mythology (there seem to be some hardened rules once one opens the puzzle box, the specifics of which are unclear), and the…