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  • Magnolia

    Magnolia

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    (Note: this is more of a personal essay than a review, but for me, with this particular film, that’s probably unavoidable.)

    According to my 1999 journal, my entire reaction to Magnolia—my 376th theatrical screening of the year—was: “Great fucking film. Three fucking hours. Not actually sure why it’s called Magnolia.”

    I didn’t know it at the time, but the film had its hooks in me. Just over two weeks later, as 1999 rolled over into 2000 and the digital plague…

  • Atomic Blonde

    Atomic Blonde

    We see as through a CRT, darkly, the fragility and absurd dignity of the naked human form, with transiently-conscious meatsacks numbing pain with alternating ice and fire as they shamble toward arbitrary goals. Briefly, magically ambulatory, then suddenly, permanently still.

    Time-capsule plotting, endlessly and needlessly Byzantine. Betrayal leading to revelation leading fractally to a new cycle as we try to ignore that there is nothing inside the final matryoshka doll, and never was. There is no satisfying end to the…

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  • Dolemite Is My Name

    Dolemite Is My Name

    The cookie-cutter underdog biopic template and metatextual comeback element (Murphy is playing himself as much as Moore) really work here, as do the occasional scenes with a little more meat on the bone.

    Like Ed Wood, this serves nicely as an impression (not impersonation) of a cult film/director without forcing the uninitiated to relate to the actual works on their own terms. (Using the film's own analogy, this was not made for the five square blocks of people who know…

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas

    The Nightmare Before Christmas

    I have been meaning to rewatch this on a chronologically apt date (Hallowmas and/or Christmas) for years. I finally managed it this year, after burning myself out on horror movies in early October. (Medical issues didn’t help my mood, which is obvious in my last few reviews.) Rather than throwing myself, Skellington-like, into misguided busywork in the hopes of recapturing my drive, I avoided movies entirely for a while; it seems to have helped, even if hypercritical anhedonia remains a…

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  • Spider-Man: Homecoming

    Spider-Man: Homecoming

    A soulless superhero franchise film and an inept high school comedy try to make it work for the sake of the kids; the forced smiles and underlying tension permeate every moment.

    As a super-hero movie, Homecoming is exactly the glop you’d expect from two movie studios executing two competing business plans. I knew that this movie would ultimately devolve into a blur of CGI—they all do—so I could hardly be surprised or disappointed by that. My hopes and fears were…

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    Hey. Remember that thing you like? They made more, and they didn’t screw it up this time. They went back to the original recipe.

    Boy, did they ever.

    The Force Awakens doubles down on the series’ talismanic repetition of phrases and situations, to the point that it might as well be a remake of the first film. Unfortunately, it’s a sequel, and the weakest moments in the film are easily those featuring the original trilogy cast. (To be blunt, having…