• The Last Duel

    The Last Duel

    ★★½

    With The Last Duel, Ridley Scott attempts to shed light on the universal marginalized experience of women—an experience that, although it has changed, continues to persist to this day—and in so doing calls us to reflect on how we may be mistreating individual women in pursuit of larger goals, whether self-centered or selfless ones.

    While this is a laudable objective, Scott’s latest didn’t work for me for at least two reasons. First, while I’m not opposed to the storytelling method…

  • No Time to Die

    No Time to Die

    ★★★½

    Daniel Craig’s final appearance as James Bond. It was time, but part of me hates to see it come to an end. It’s odd that I feel as strong of an emotional connection to Craig’s Bond as I do, given the fact that I can’t remember most of what happened in the prior films—five in total.

    Craig’s tenure as Bond arguably peaked from the outset with Casino Royale. Craig’s portrayal of Bond was remarkable. His Bond carried himself in a…

  • Arrival

    Arrival

    ★★★★★

    Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival has been one of my favorite films since the time I first saw it in theaters, and it remains such. For me, it does everything I want and expect from an excellent movie: It tells an interesting story in a compelling way; it engages the mind and elicits a strong emotional response; and it delights the eyes and the ears.

    In my view, the particular genius of Arrival lies in the fact that, despite the extraordinary circumstances…

  • Being John Malkovich

    Being John Malkovich

    ★★★½

    After this first iteration, I’m wondering if consumers thoughtfully considered whether it was a good idea to continue to let Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman collaborate on making films?

    All jokes aside, Being John Malkovich, Spike Jonze’s directorial debut, is a fairly bewildering piece of storytelling to experience. I can confidently say I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

    Armed with a particularly bizarre premise (even for Kaufman), thematically, it touches on many of the same ideas that Charlie Kaufman’s…

  • The Card Counter

    The Card Counter

    ★★★½

    Paul Schrader's latest, The Card Counter, is a remarkably measured piece of filmmaking. You just get the feeling watching it that Schrader is telling the story he wants to tell in the way that he wants to tell it. I nearly always find it's a rewarding experience to meet an auteur on his or her terms, and The Card Counter is no exception.

    The film is brooding; for long stretches it is noticeably tense, but always focused; and much of…

  • CODA

    CODA

    ★★★

    Sian Heder’s CODA isn’t likely to subvert anyone’s expectations, but it is a thoughtful, moving example of how to execute well a familiar formula.

  • Midsommar

    Midsommar

    ★★★½

    Ari Aster follows up Hereditary with another markedly unsettling work: Midsommar, a reflection on how we as people deal with death specifically and the ends of things more generally.

    Are those who memorialize death in bizarre and backwards ways by our contemporary Western estimation actually less sophisticated than us, or are they simply choosing to cope in a different way? Do we become something ugly if we choose to embrace the cycle of life and death as a natural thing, refusing to fight it and instead celebrating it? Aster is glad you asked.

  • Nine Days

    Nine Days

    ★★★½

    Edson Oda's Nine Days is the sort of film that I am all too happy to support: It's an ambitious work driven by strong acting performances that aims to grapple with some aspect(s) of the human experience, whether the beautiful, the difficult, or the downright ugly.

    And yet, despite being anchored by a rock solid performance from Winston Duke, Nine Days nevertheless fails to make the jump from “good” to “great.” It doesn't offer much of a rebuttal to those…

  • The Green Knight

    The Green Knight

    ★★★★½

    The more I think about David Lowery's adaptation of this classic medieval tale involving the legendary Sir Gawain of King Arthur's Round Table, the more I like it. The Green Knight is sure to disappoint a lot of people who are expecting out of it a knight's adventure punctuated by action sequences and harrowing near-death experiences. Instead, Lowery's telling of the story takes the form of an episodic hero's quest, to be sure, but one characterized by the grueling toll…

  • Synecdoche, New York

    Synecdoche, New York

    ★★★★

    Synecdoche, New York is a remarkably ambitious film, especially for a directorial debut, but it is not likely to disappoint anyone who has a general idea of what they're getting themselves into in engaging a piece spawned from the mind of auteur Charlie Kaufman.

    Charlie Kaufman's work here is delightful, carried along perfectly by an excellent cast across the board, headlined by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman.

    I'm sure a rewatch would be rewarding and would further illuminate my…

  • Mulan

    Mulan

    ★★★½

    Mulan's premise is simple: to be a courageous, faithful person is worthy of the utmost honor—it is what counts, regardless of one's gender or worthiness in the eyes of the world, which are not the things that give a person his or her value in the first place.

    The body of this movie feels a bit thin upon a rewatch, but on the whole it remains a fun and touching experience all the same.

  • Pig

    Pig

    ★★★★

    Michael Sarnoski's Pig is a simple piece of storytelling in many ways, but the story it tells repeatedly subverts your expectations in such a way that your interest is not likely to waver, whether you resonate with the film's ending or not. It could always say more, but it always says enough.

    And in the end, Pig is content to reflect on the contention that we as people have lost something precious to the extent that we have traded attentive…