• Shaft

    Shaft

    ★★★½

    Shaft is super low budget - lighting is often inadequate and the audio is mixed so low that the dialogue is barely discernible. Yet, through Richard Roundtree’s ultra charismatic performance, Isaac Hayes’ gorgeous soundtrack, director & civil rights photographer Gordon Parks’ keen eye for location and atmosphere, and a kickass climax, it kickstarted a cinematic movement.

  • Official Competition

    Official Competition

    ★★★½

    An absurd and sharp satire of the European festival film industry - think Day for Night but more cynical. Official Competition focuses on the rehearsals for a film adaptation of a book that the ultrarich producer, in search of a testament to his greatness, purchased the rights to without reading. He then hires the most in-demand art house director in Spain - Lola (Penelope Cruz, playing a memorable eccentric who’s kind-of a sexy Lucretia Martel.) For the leading roles of two…

  • Rush Hour

    Rush Hour

    ★★★

    Allegedly directed by Brett Ratner but really pulled together by the great Jackie Chan, Rush Hour is a solid buddy cop movie. The infusion of Chan’s outrageous stunts and fight choreography surely must have felt like a fresh injection into the genre the year that a 4th Lethal Weapon came out. Obviously nothing here can match the extended, eye-popping, acrobatics of his Hong Kong work, but Hollywood never really knows what it has. It’s an iffy script that hinges heavily on…

  • The Black Phone

    The Black Phone

    ★★★

    Even when The Black Phone becomes silly it remains entertaining. Yet, Scott Derickson’s love for creepy, grainy super 8 stock and Ethan Hawke’s committed performance as a villain that feels well-written without being overwritten prevent it from being pure schlock. The fall-of-78 Dazed and Confused/Halloween setting taps into the paranoia of the latchkey kid generation - bringing to mind the disappearance of Etan Patz and the case of (inspiration for the original short story) John Wayne Gacy. Its jump-scares and tricks to…

  • Dolores Claiborne

    Dolores Claiborne

    ★★★½

    Gets very dark in a way that I wasn’t expecting, but is classic Stephen King. The horror of what happens in domestic spaces and the way people look away when it spills out into the public, the monsters that insecurity, alcoholism, denial can create, and the extremes women are pushed to when they need to protect themselves & their children. Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Christopher Plummet are all excellent.

  • RRR

    RRR

    ★★★★

    Maybe the only anti-colonial action melodrama musical blockbuster buddy comedy you ever need to see.

  • A Star Is Born

    A Star Is Born

    ★★★★

    A classic story of the ecstatic highs and humiliating lows of being in the public eye - big saturated colors and big emotions, and a surprisingly grim depiction of addiction for the time that never becomes cartoonish. 
    The real asset here is obviously Judy Garland. She pushes her voice to the limit in elaborate, up-to-10 minute long musical sequences (the best of which takes place in a living room & uses a home theater projector as a strobe light) and brings…

  • Crimes of the Future

    Crimes of the Future

    ★★★½

    Crimes of the Future is a movie of many ridiculous conceits stacked on top of each other - sudden evolutionary growth of new organs, performance art made from those organs, government agencies combatting that performance art, fleshy chairs that help those with new organs safely digest food etc. - but it is completely convincing the whole way through. It succeeds on two fronts. The eerie performances (from a seductive Lea Seydoux, a twitchy, creepy Kristen Stewart and a groaning, chronically pained…

  • Dheepan

    Dheepan

    ★★★½

    Audriard’s chronicle of a makeshift family of Sri Lankan refugees in a drug infested housing project refuses to treat its subjects like hapless, humorless vessels for misery. It handles its themes of PTSD, cultural adjustment and isolation with tact and honesty. Great first and third act, sags in the middle.

  • Cop Land

    Cop Land

    ★★★½

    Very good police corruption thriller. Mangold is able to both give us those classic cop movie thrills and explore the rot at the center of American policing that had become more visible post-Rodney King. All of the NYPD scumbags are perfectly cast (lots of future Sopranos alumni) but Ray Liotta goes above and beyond, giving his coke-addled cop an edge of wit and unpredictability. Stallone is best in these types of roles, lumbering and humbled and beaten down. If he…

  • Bringing Out the Dead

    Bringing Out the Dead

    ★★★½

    Scorsese’s fears about God and sin and temptation at their gnarliest and most hallucinogenic, with a typically intense Nic Cage in the lead. Similar to Taxi Driver in that they’re both about the invisible people who keep the city running and are driven mad by its wretched underbelly.

  • Manhattan

    Manhattan

    ★★★★

    Among Allen’s most controversial, most starry-eyed, and most self-deprecating works. This black and white love/hate letter to the titular borough is absolutely gorgeous, and features the sort of hectic, winkingly pretentious, thoughtful conversations that Woody is known for. Marielle Hemingway’s role will undoubtedly trouble just about anyone who watches this movie, but she’s the best and most heartbreaking performance in the film. Manhattan tackles Allen’s pet themes of narcissism, old vs. new, infidelity, insecurity in entertaining fashion.