Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Another Woman

An happily married and tenured professor (Gena Rowlands) eventually elects to eavesdrop on the psychiatric sessions which can be heard through the vents of her new office and which serve as a reflection of her own impending mid-life crisis. With Another Woman, Woody Allen ventures into Bergman territory once more and even borrows his longtime cinematographer Sven Nykvist for an intellectual ride that opens and closes brilliantly (who could ask for anything more from a film really?) but is just too dry and stagy in the middle passages.
** 1/2 out of ****

Army of Shadows

As German troops march on the Champs-Elysee (in one of the great movie openings), members of the French Resistance plot, traffic in contraband, bear torture, face death, escape confinement, and smoke out informants from their own cells. Jean-Pierre Melville's tense, gripping and personal Army of Shadows is a thriller told with meaning and purpose with no delusions of happy endings, false hope, and phony heroism, dealing instead with self-sacrifice in the face of an apparent losing battle. The film is, however, almost too murky and atmospheric and with a thriller of this sort, despite its realistic intentions, i don't think it would have hurt to have been plotted a little more deeply.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Monday, January 30, 2017

Miles Ahead

A Rolling Stone writer (Ewan McGregor) forcibly insinuates himself into the life of Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) during a period of self-imposed exile and the unlikely duo schemes to retrieve one of the artist's unreleased recordings from the record company. Cheadle's rambling, unfocused jazz biopic is poorly conceived, with a dubious flashback structure, and just as badly executed with the director being the project's only asset as an actor, and even he himself looks ridiculous when attempting to portray a younger version of the musician.
** out of ****

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Grizzly Man

In 2003, after 13 summers spent living in the Grizzly Maze at Katmai National Park, Alaska, an endeavor that gained his national recognition, nature enthusiast and filmmaker Timothy Treadwell, along with his then girlfriend, were mauled and consumed by one of his beloved bears. Extensive, composed largely from hundreds of hours of Treadwell's footage, Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man is a fascinating character study of a troubled individual that makes suggestions and even leaps about his motives. The director's narration is alternately helpful and unnecessary, the same to be said for what appear to be staged interviews, though the project achieves a quality that can only be called Herzogian.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Au Revoir Les Enfants

A young French boy yearns for home while at his forested Catholic boarding school that seems a world apart from the ongoing war and the German occupation, and befriends a similarly lonely and gifted Jewish student, one of several whom the Brothers are hiding from the authorities. Drawn from director Louis Malle's own personal experience, Au Revoir Les Enfants has that feeling of acute authenticity while being told by a seasoned maestro. Funny, poignant, and sad with great youth performances and many memorable, beautifully photographed sequences.
**** out of ****

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ripley's Game

Tom Ripley (John Malkovich) living anonymously off the fruits of his crimes in an idyllic Venetian suburb involves a terminally ill man (Dougray Scott) as the centerpiece of his latest murderous financial scheme. Ripley's Game is another engrossing, sophisticated piece of nastiness from Patricia Highsmith, a quiet thriller told with twisty logic on great locations with one of those sublime, all-knowing, laconic performances from Malkovich. Ray Winstone is excellent in support as his crony but Scott is unconvincing in his complex role.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Three uninhibited, sadistic and robust women break a man's neck after a drag race and kidnap his girlfriend winding up in the company of a lusty old cripple and his mindless, muscle bound son in their desolate desert home. Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill Kill! outrageously subversive and suggestive with surprisingly sharp banter, amusingly animated performances and effective, relentless editing.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Murder in the Park

In summer 1982, stick up artist and gang member Anthony Porter murdered two teens at a Southside Chicago pool and, after being apprehended and tried with the corroboration of witnesses, was sentenced to death. Years later, his cries of blamelessness were heard by the Innocents Project of Northwestern University who took on his case and were successfully able to have the guilty party's conviction overturned and in his place, with the aid of agents from the program, have an innocent man put away behind bars. Murder in the Park is a rigorous dissection of a case that is likely to stoke ire and shows the sickening lengths some will go to in order to push their agendas.
*** 1/2 out of ****


A profile of the life of the 37th President and his tumultuous administration, starting with his humble beginnings in Stonewall, Texas and early political career leading up to two elections involving ballot-box stuffing instances, one which cost him the Senate in 1942 and another which gained him the job in 1948. From there he ascended in Washing politics through his bullish tenacity and gained the vice presidency, despite a deep rooted hatred for the Kennedys, and ultimately the unexpected Presidency which saw his massive push for his Great Society social programs but was dominated and ultimately cut short by the Vietnam War and his widely perceived mishandling of the conflict. This entry in the superb American Experience President series is a consummate look at a gruff, flawed, and human political animal.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Howards End

After her sister (Helena Bonham Carter) is jilted by the youngest son of an upper class family, Middle class Margaret Schlegel (Emma Thompson) befriends its dying matriarch (Vanessa Redgrave) who unofficially wills her family's centuries old home to her. Soon she finds herself married to stern widower (Anthony Hopkins) and affecting the lives of an intertwined lower class couple. Merchant Ivory production of E.M. Forester's class examination is beautifully designed, unfolding like a novel, and benefiting from wonderful performances (especially Thompson and Hopkins) and Richard Robbin's offbeat musical score.
*** 1/2 out of ****

O.J.: Made in America

An expansive look at the rise and fall of Orenthal James Simpson, with a focus on race, from his impoverished childhood to his phenomenal celebrity as a running back and media personality to his tumultuous marriage to Nicole Brown and the double murder acquittal and subsequent Las Vegas armed robbery conviction which truly require no more words. Ezra Edelman's in-depth documentary miniseries somehow finds balance and insight subject that just won't go away. Through the use of great footage and fruitful guests, the prolonged profile presents a tragedy in the truest sense of the word.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Samurai Rebellion

A feudal lord orders his mistress, a source of vexation, out of his house and into marriage with the son of a contented subject (Toshiro Mifune). When the lord changes his mind and orders the woman back, father and son (who is now happily married) must decide whether to accept the decision or take the deadly turn against the unjust act. Maski Kobayahi's Samurai Rebellion is a touching tale of pride, love, and loyalty,  uniquely and effectively edited, with an older, more restrained Mifune still demonstrating much power.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Hidden Figures

Three black women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spenser, Janelle Monae) in 1960s Virginia contend with Jim Crow laws and condescending white folk while doing their part to assist NASA in the Space Program as human computers. Call it The Help in Space or a Right Stuff for the politically correct age, Hidden Figures is formulaic and tepid at best, a movie made to win Oscars and live a nice long afterlife as comfort food for middle aged ladies on TNT.
* 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Oscar Nominations Reaction

In a film year as terrible as 2016 it is only natural that its Oscar representatives would be just as lacking and when I heard this year's nominees the first words to come to mind were unimpressive, overpraised, undeserving, etc etc. Here's a brief rundown:

While the Academy will certainly pat itself on the back and reward the uninspired La La Land, Manchester by the Sea is really the only film of considerable substance of the nine nominated. Lion fell apart in its second act as did Moonlight in its third, Arrival and Hidden Figures are overrated liberal fantasies, Fences was a worthwhile adaptation but only really for its source material, and the nominations for the familiar Hell or High Water and Hackneyed Ridge sorry Hacksaw Ridge left me scratching my head. And with all of their phony political correctness, the Academy showed their true prejudice by failing to nominate Silence and Scorsese, their greatest living practitioner. 

As for the actors, thankfully we should see a winner for a great performance in Casey Affleck. Denzel Washington got nominated for playing himself, Ryan Gosling for being a worse singer than Russell Crowe, Andrew Garfield for failing at playing a hillbilly (he should have been up for Silence) and Viggo Mortensen was a welcomed surprise. 

Another unexpected nod was Isabelle Huppert's for her sly turn in Elle. Natalie Portman's was expected but still blah, Emma Stone, who was just as unimpressive as Gosling, Meryl Streep because they had to, and Ruth Negga may as well have been part of the wallpaper in Loving because she was put to so little use in Jeff Nichols' bland movie. I was pleased, however, that Amy Adams was overlooked for Arrival

In a category that is usually the most lively, the male supporting actors couldn't be more dull: Lucas Hedges in a disappointing performance in a great movie, Jeff Bridges for impersonating a Jeff Bridges caricature, Michael Shannon in a performance bordering on parody in one of the worst movies of the year. Dev Patel was strong however and Mahershala Ali was excellent in a role he was written out of far too quickly. 

On the girls' side, I think I'm rooting for Viola Davis but Michelle Williams was great too. Nicole Kidman's performance was in earnest but Octavia Spenser's was obnoxious and Naomie Harris was nothing to write home about.

For the directors, it bears mentioning Scorsese's snub again in what could have been a celebration of a great career and movie. Any sane Academy would vote for Kenneth Lonergan and Manchester but right now I would say it is too close to call between Barry Jenkins and Damian Chazelle. Denis Villeneuve and Mel Gibson (in an inexplicable reversal of fortune) were given make up nominations.

Captain Fantastic

Raising his children in a self-sufficient leftist utopia where they hunt their own food, learn foreign languages and celebrate Noam Chomsky's birthday, a singular, forthright hippie must leave paradise and venture into civilization to attend his wife's funeral who has just committed suicide. Aside from an inclination towards precocious mawkishness, Matt Ross' Captain Fantastic funny, smart, and truly excellent headed by a superb Viggo lead performance.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Monday, January 23, 2017

Blue Collar

Fed up with their do-nothing, self-satisfied union, a trio of autoworkers (Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto) decide to rob the safe in their federation's local offices making off with petty cash and a mysterious ledger purporting backroom misdoings. Now, not only do they find themselves as targets, they also see forces pitting themselves against each other. Paul Schrader's Blue Collar strives for authenticity and realism which is achieved through the help of gritty Detroit location shooting, with even some slipshod, hazy elements of the story adding to the overall effect. Pryor is surprisingly exceptional in the lead, Kotto's performance is offbeat and amusing, and Keitel, though inconsistent, really delivers in the finale.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Children of Heaven

After picking up his sister's shoes from the repair shop, a young boy stops into the market on his way home, sets the pair aside, and finds they have been stolen. Under fear of his father's discovery he begins to share his own shoes with his sister while he attempts to retrieve the purloined sneakers until he learns of a footrace where the third place prize is a brand new pair of footware. Iranian based Children of Heaven is a universal film that anyone can relate to (it took me back to a terrifying incident where I broke the arm off the old man's favorite chair and had to think on my feet while repairing the break and concealing the crime). While seeming to draw from The Bicycle Thief both in set-up, simple emotions, and social awareness it is no less heart rending and contains no fewer than three exciting and uniquely drawn action sequences.
**** out of ****

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Eye in the Sky

An Army Colonel (Helen Mirren) finally has eyes on a long sought terrorist target, about to transact a gun deal in a Kenyan market district. While awaiting permission to discharge him from the face of the earth, a young girl wanders into the blast radius complicating matters and causing officials all the way up the chain of command to either shirk or pass on responsibility. Gavin Hood's Eye in the Sky is a movie that thwarts any hope for tension in favor of legal and moral debates that are about as lively as an ethics memorandum all the while patting itself on the back and basking in its unearned sentiment. Mirren is miscast with a bunch unworthy British actors filling out the supporting roles along with an insufferable Aaron Paul as the teary eyed morally conflicted drone pilot. Only Rickman delivers in one of his last screen roles.
* 1/2 out ****

The River

The eldest daughter of a British India based factory owner vies with an American for the affections of a troubled soldier while third girl struggles with her mixed ethnicity. Jean Renoir's The River is an uncomplicated coming of age tale set amid the brimming life on the Ganges, beautiful told with painterly Technicolor and graceful, poignant filmmaking.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Knight of Cups

A depressed screenwriter (Christian Bale) stumbles through L.A. meetings, studios, and parties, waxing philosophical while picking up a series of women and thinking back on mistakes and childhood traumas. Formless, aimless, plotless, and another digression, here a big step back, for Terrence Malick who essentially just reworks and recycles elements from The Tree of Life.
** out of ****

Inherit the Wind

"He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted."
-Proverbs 11:29

A dramatization of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial as a backwoods school teacher finds himself under arrest after deliberately teaching evolution and knowing the consequences. He finds himself defended by the most reputed and aggressive defense attorney in the country (Spencer Tracy) as the local religious majority rallies behind a long-winded three-time Presidential candidate (Frederic March). Made with Stanley Kramer's typically overlong progressive moralizing, Inherit the Wind is nonetheless intelligently written and just as salient today as it was when released or set, and even retains much of its edge. A smarmy Gene Kelly is badly miscast in the H.L. Mencken role and exists solely for comic relief and to push the story along but Tracy and March both have their moments of humor and power.

*** out of ****

Friday, January 20, 2017


In a metropolis overflowing with personified animals, an overachieving, small-town bunny aims to be the first hare on the city's police and finds adversity at every turn. Soon, she finds herself teaming with a conniving and equally ostracized fox in a case that has greater and more shadowy implications. I'm not really sure why the praise for this has been elevated compared to any of the other cookie cutter talking animalized CGI animated flicks of the last couple decades. Pretty run of the mill and geared exclusively to kids with a simplistic liberal message. Idris Elba shines in another animated voice performance.
** out of ****

My Fair Lady

On his way home from the opera, pompous linguistics professor Henry Henry (Rex Harrison) happens upon uncultivated, cockneyed, and uncouth flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) and wages his assistant that he can transform her into a passable member of the upper class. From George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, which drew on the Greek myth, George Cukor's My Fair Lady is an entertaining, insightful take on the battle of the sexes/classes with sleek production values, memorable and sophisticated Lerner and Loewe songs, and only a few lulls. Harrison is brilliant in an Oscar winning role and Hepburn is absolutely lovely (or loverly as you would have it) and makes her transformation almost believable.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pride and Prejudice

Popular miniseries, and one of the countless adaptations of the Jane Austen novel, is very well done, acted, mounted, etc. but doesn't do enough to elevate itself above TV period dramas. Or maybe it is the epitome of highbrow TV. But when the story was done so well in much abbreviated form with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier prior and Keira Knightley after, its sheer length begs the question of necessity. Still, its hard to imagine a better cast Elizabeth than Jennifer Ehle (an American nonetheless) and Firth is very brooding but quite good also as Mr. Darcy.
*** out of ****

American Gigolo

A vapid, worldly Beverly Hills male escort (Richard Gere) finds his ordered empty, life spiraling out of control when he forsakes his current madam in favor of freelancing and takes a job from his former pimp where his wealthy client winds up dead and himself unable to secure an alibi. Now, his only hope for redemption may lie with a beautiful politician's wife (and client) (Lauren Hutton) who seems to show genuine feelings of love and affection. Paul Schrader's American Gigolo offers a fairly tasteful presentation of its seedy material and is surprisingly well made and plotted (with obvious thriller elements) with polished direction and even strangely affecting on a certain level. Gere's performance is flat though occasionally effective and believable much of the time. The plot and especially the extremely well handled finale owe a lot to Bresson's Pickpocket.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Forbidden Games

Following their evacuation from the city, a young French girl's parents are mowed down on a country road during a German air raid. Taken in by a family of peasants, she befriends their slightly older son as the two begin to purloin religious objects in order to build a pet cemetery. Rene Clement's Forbidden Games is a distinctly filmed, darkly humored children's movie with the constant threat of war looming in the shadows and the theme of childhood innocence lost conveyed heavy handedly. The young actors are excellent.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Wheel of Time

Werner Herzog documents the annual Buddhist pilgrimage of thousands to Bhod Gaya, India, a place  where the Buddha is thought to have earned enlightenment, and where the Dalai Llama addresses the faithful and symbolically distributes the minutely constructed colored sand object of the title to the wind. Herzog does an excellent jobs documenting the voyage but things really start to drag after the destination is reached. Also, an interview between the filmmaker and the Llama seems really poorly thought out and only adds the tedium of the concluding half of the documentary.
*** out of ****

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Atlantic City

An aged mob underling (Burt Lancaster), who makes his living waiting hand and foot on his old boss's widow, is sprung back to life when he attempts to unload some stolen cocaine and serve as protector to the recently bumped off thief's card-dealing wife (Susan Sarandon). Louis Malle's Atlantic City is a brilliantly realized, European-minded character study with Lancaster perfectly suited to play the sweet, vain loser and Sarandon is just as great as one of many of the city's itinerants trying to buy a ticket out but beset on every side.
**** out of ****

Monday, January 16, 2017


As he prepares for a move to France, misanthropic cartoonist R. Crumb, best known for Fritz the Cat or the Keep on Truckin' caricatures, meets with fans and publishers, listens to records and sketches, and introduces us to his strange, intelligent, and disturbed family. Terry Zwigoff's documentary profile is a revealing, fascinating, in-depth portrait on the talented, creepy artist and his troubled family that looks inward and outward at its subject and makes wonderful use of Crumb's work.
**** out of ****

Embrace of the Serpent

In two separate expeditions with spanning the course of several decades, an Amazon jungle native leads Westerners on a search for a rare plant with healing powers, while witnessing the effects of colonization around them. Ciro Guerra's Embrace of the Serpent is probably too straightforward for the enigmatic film it purports to be, but is still powerful, often striking, with great cinematography.
*** out of ****

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Prizzi's Honor

A slow-minded hitman (Jack Nicholson), adopted into the powerful Prizzi New York crime family, catches a glimpse of a beautiful WASP (Catherine Turner) at a wedding and goes to extreme lengths to acquaint himself and start an affair, at the expense of his ill-reputed, longtime girlfriend (Anjelica Huston). The truth about the occupation and intentions of the mystery woman will, however, jeopardize the long-held standing of the family and put the hitman's life in imminent danger. Watching John Huston's Prizzi's Honor a second time through, it didn't seem to play as well in this post-Sopranos era and felt more like timeworn ganster comedy material. Still Robert Loggia and John Randolph  are really good in support and Jack is excellent playing a man who is completely sharp and capable when his brain finally catches up.
*** ou of ****

Saturday, January 14, 2017


In the Mid-17th Century,  two Portuguese Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) embark to the incredibly perilous island of Japan where Catholicism has been banned where they perform the sacraments on the furtively practicing peasants and to learn the fate of their stalwartly devout mentor (Liam Neeson) who they learned has left the priesthood and is living as a layman with a wife. From a novel by Shusaku Endo, Silence is an impassioned work of devotion, doubt, and faith by Martin Scorsese, who wrote the screenplay with longtime friend and collaborator Jay Cocks, which will serve as a challenge for modern movie-going audiences. Grueling, measured, and thoughtful with the preeminent direction, production values, and performances (especially Garfield's tortured turn) you would expect.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Dresser

The delusional star (Anthony Hopkins) of a travelling Shakespeare company begins to show signs of dementia while preparing for his latest King Lear performance as the other members of the troupe, most notably his loyal dresser (Ian McKellen), assist and tiptoe around him while coming to terms with the news. It's hard not to compare this made for TV adaptation of Ronald Harwood's play to Peter Yates excellent 1983 film version (and also the leads to the superlative performances of Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay), yet Richard Eyre's treatment is damned good and the material just as moving and sad, even tragic in its own way. Emily Watson is unsurprisingly extraordinary and Edward Fox is lovely in a smallish role.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Heaven's Gate

A privileged, gritty Harvard man (Kris Kristofferson) heads West in the late 1800s to serve as a lawman in Johnson County, Wyoming and instill decency in the still lawless territory. There, he finds himself as lead defender of the migrant workers who are being violently targeted by the cattle barons and in a personal rivalry with friend and hired gun of the organization (Christopher Walken) who is also romancing his girlfriend/bordello house madam (Isabelle Huppert). Heaven's Gate is one of the most notorious debacles in Hollywood history, one that crippled United Artists and independent movie making while, in effect, ending director Michael Cimino's career. However, the biggest tragedy may be that there was probably a decent, salvageable picture here. The performances almost work, Kristofferson is strong, Sam Waterston ok in parts playing a ludicrously evil villain, and a badly miscast Walken has his moments. Also present is some grand, intricate staging and great camerawork capturing majestic Western vistas. However, the movie is poorly edited, overlong by over a half, and contains just about the worst color hue and sound I've ever seen in an epic movie. Judging from the imprudent, ill-advised final product left on screen, Heaven's Gate infelicitous reputation (which some are now trying to lift) seems all but justified.
** out of ****

Thursday, January 12, 2017


While persistently accompanying his older brother to his night job, a young Indian boy loses steam and falls asleep at a train station, where he is left until the end of the shift. Awakened in the middle of the night, he boards an abandoned train which carries him thousands of miles away to Calcutta where he is swept up into an orphanage and, after a cursory search for his family, sent to live with an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). Twenty years later (now played by Dev Patel), living happily as a student and at the urging of his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) and with the aid of newfound online GPS technology, he desperately attempts to jog his memory and locate his birth family. Lion is extremely well-filmed and effective Oscar bait (in what is really a can't miss story), which is actually fairly involving until the introduction of the principal cast about halfway through, though Patel and Kidman's performance are in earnest.
*** out of ****


At a weekend home in Vermont, a love square develops between a despondent woman (Mia Farrow), her older, lonesome neighbor (Denholm Elliot), her lover (Sam Waterston), and her married best friend (Dianne Wiest) while the presence of her over-the-top mother (Elaine Strich) drums up those old familiar familiar feelings. Woody Allen's September tends towards soapy melodrama, some of which really doesn't come off but is very funny in bits (Strich in particular) and, at its center, it is a pleasure to watch a talented casts convey Woody's usual ideas and themes.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fat City

An aging, drunk boxer (Stacey Keach) living in a Southern Californian slum and romancing a taken, volatile lush (Susan Tyrrell) becomes inspired to get back into fighting condition after sparing with a young, green pugilist (Jeff Bridges) headed down his same path. With great performances leading the way, John Huston's Fat City begins with boxing movie cliches and takes a deeper look while also sensibly commenting on poverty, race, and exploitation in sports.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Five female Turkish teen aged siblings are caught playing on the beach with a group of boys by meddling neighbors who report it to their parents. Restricted to the home, the process of finding suitable suitors is stepped up and as the younger girls witness their older sisters married off to unworthy admirers, they decide to rebel instead of being forced to face the same fate. Mustang handles a tough subject lightly but with regard and is in turns funny, moving, and sad.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Monday, January 9, 2017


A successful video game company executive (Isabelle Huppert) is assaulted and raped by a masked intruder at her suburban Paris home which she responds to in a shockingly casual fashion as she goes about her daily life dealing with her hack writer ex-husband dating a younger woman, her debutante mother shacked up with a gigolo, a nincompoop son fathering a child that isn't his, the launch of her latest game, continual harassment from her attacker, and the potential parole of her serial killer father, whose crimes she potentially played a significant role as an adolescent. Paul Verhoeven's Elle is a dark, twisted, nihilistic thriller which surprisingly manages to ultimately humanize its main character thanks in large part to a superb, underplayed performance from the peerless Huppert.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Tribe

At a school for the deaf, a new student is initiated into a gang and begins to try his hand at thuggery, petty theft, and pimping. A version of Kids featuring deaf/mute youths, The Tribe is an overlong, sloggish piece of nastiness made with technique and craft. With a disclaimer proudly boasting "made entirely with no subtitles...," the film is so simple and drags on and on that it would have almost benefited from taking this obvious route rather than going by its daring narrative decision.
** 1/2 out of ****

The Lobster

In a dystopian present where single people unable to procure mates are turned into the animal of their choosing, an awkward and perpetually single man (Colin Farrell) competitively vies for a partner with other residents (John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw) of their last stop resort while a female-centric guerrilla unit plots in opposition and serves as prey in the woods nearby. Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster is dark, deadpan satire, offbeat, very strange, but often right on the money which boasts a challenging excellent performance from Farrell, funny supporting turns from Reilly and Whishaw, and fine work from Rachel Weisz and Lea Seydoux as members of the rebellion.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Dark City

In a futuristic world resembling the past where foreign beings of a higher intelligence control human thought, a man (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in a dingy hotel bathtub with no memory of his previous life with a dead body alongside him on the bathroom floor. A fugitive from justice, he begins to piece together the fragments of his memory while coming to the realization that he now possesses powers rivaling that of his controller. Alex Proyas' Dark City is a visionary work both inspired by the great science-fictions (and also noirs) of the past and carving out its own place as a great genre entry with mind bending sets, a serpentine, well-plotted narrative, and fine performances from Sewell and William Hurt as a dogged veteran detective.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Dead

At his aunts' annual Feast of the Epiphany Party, lecturer Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) toasts and addresses the revelers while being confronted with uneasy realities, including the unsettling revelation stirred by his wife Greta's (Angelica Huston) sudden memory of a deceased lover. In his last film of a lengthy, robust career, John Huston's The Dead is reflective and evocative, made with an acute eye for detail, and (in a screenplay by his son Tony) faithful to James Joyce's short story to a tee, especially the beautiful and starkly captured final passage. Angelica (also kin to the director) and McCann are superb.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

On the lam and masquerading as a preacher in a desolate Far West town, a bank robber's (Clint Eastwood) past finally catches up with him in the form of assassins at which point he hitches a ride with a cocky young car thief (Jeff Bridges) and decides to get the old gang back together to pull one last score. Michael Cimino's directing debut (and audition for The Deer Hunter) which he also penned is a broad comedy with a pretty dumb ending that seems ripped off from Midnight Cowboy. However, the buddy movie aspects work surprisingly well with the two game stars (particularly a lively Bridges) and the picture features tremendous Western filming locations and cinematography.
*** out of ****

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


In the midst of World War I in a barren Jordan desert, orphaned nomad boys are approached by a British officer carrying a mysterious container and tasked to lead him to an ancient Roman well. With parallels to Lawrence of Arabia in more ways the one, resplendent scenery doubles as character and carries Naji Abu Nowar's mostly involving story during lags or segments of disbelief.
*** 1/2 out of ****

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

After breaking up an international terror conference comprised of America's greatest foes, bumbling, incompetent Police Squad Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) attempts to foil an assassination plot against Queen Elizabeth II to take place at the Angels game. From the short lived though very funny Police Squad! series that still wore thin during 25 minute episodes, the first movie installment of The Naked Gun series is done about as well as can be expected for slapstick so stupid, with Nielsen and a supporting cast perfect suited to their roles.
*** out of ****

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A War

A Danish soldier's participation in the Afghan War places immense strain on his family back home, a strain that is compounded up his return when he is put on trial for war crimes. Tobias Lindholm's A War is typical of the kind of Dutch film making their way to America lately and the kind of film they submit every year for awards consideration, namely moralizing, topical, and stagnant, while this particular one doesn't even have a point and adds nothing to any of the genres it dabbles in. The only interesting element is actress Tuva Novotny who plays the role of the wife differently than one might expect.
* 1/2 out of ****

Monday, January 2, 2017

Everybody Wants Some!!

A freshman learns the hierarchy of his Texas college baseball team's house while partying and bonding with his new teammates during the first weekend before the start of school. Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some!! is too much of a Dazed and Confused rehash, this time with too many obnoxious, unlikable characters. However, there are some good observations on competition and comradery, the sole baseball sequence is worthwhile, and a romantic subplot, which in and of itself leaves something to be desired, leads an excellent penultimate scene.
** 1/2 out of ****

Hot Rod

Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) has only two purposes in life: To find success as a stuntman and to use his abilities to stage a benefit show to procure a heart transplant for his jack-ass father-in-law (Ian McShane) in order to finally whoop his ass. Hot Rod is silly fun, although the laughs roll out fast and quickly dissipate. Sandberg's charm wears thin and the goofiness of the first half lends itself to something strange and not quite as funny.
** 1/2 out of ****

Sunday, January 1, 2017

American Gangster

Learning from his predecessor and mentor, Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) expands Bumpy Johnson's Harlem drug empire through a Vietnam connection while an alcoholic, womanizing detective (Russell Crowe) concentrates the effort to see to his fall. I dismissed Ridley Scott's American Gangster upon its initial release for being too familiar (ie good cop in corrupt system vs. an intelligent, scrupulous drug dealer) but a repeat viewing revealed layers of depth and, when put up against popular drug lord sagas, Steve Zaillian's screenplay demonstrates an uncommon intelligence and patience. It also features two top actors at the top of their game leading a gifted cast.
*** 1/2 out of ****