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  • Hell or High Water

    Hell or High Water

    ★★★

    I love schemes in movies, but the writerly convolutions here are so schematic. The praise that enveloped the movie and drew me toward it hinted at an old-school raggedness -- antiheroes and moral swamps. But that's not the feeling I got; the movie braided together the tightrope act of Chris Pine's moral justification out of undersea cables.

    My feelings about Pine were never really conflicted; I couldn't peg him as guilty for Ben Foster's excesses. So why couldn't it have…

  • Rob Roy

    Rob Roy

    ★★★★½

    "D'you know how fine y'are to me, Mary McGregor?" Upon rewatch, an extremely formative movie for me, and still basically perfect. ROB ROY vs. BRAVEHEART in the public consciousness remains maybe my signal example of how close I can come to surging with public sentiment ("The best picture of the year is this rousing tale of a highlander forced to defend his honor!") except for that ooone tiny detail.

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  • American Hustle

    American Hustle

    ★★

    I've avoided prestige-era "Reinvention Trilogy" Russell until now, but my memory of FLIRTING WITH DISASTER and THREE KINGS is that they are such complete works, little symphonies with a million instruments in funky harmony. AMERICAN HUSTLE is just an orchestra tuning up, a movie of solid tactics and no strategy. There's a scene where all five leads are together for the first time, and it should play like the final screw-tightening to which the movie has been building, but instead…

  • Nebraska

    Nebraska

    ★★★

    Payne's movies often have supporting characters that are aggrieved because they feel they deserve something -- Church in SIDEWAYS deserves one last fling, Bridges and company in DESCENDANTS deserve their share of the land sale. There's a bunch of those characters in NEBRASKA, venal shitheels who want to either begin or continue taking advantage of Dern, at best monetizing previous kindnesses and at worst fleecing an old man. It's hard to fault a comedy its punchlines, and these characters provide…