Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Lodger

While Jack the Ripper carries out his bloodthirsty slayings in Whitechapel, a Scotland Yard inspector (George Sanders) begins to suspect a peculiar tenant (Laird Cregar) at a neighborhood boarding house as being the infamous perpetrator. Meanwhile the would be serial killer casts his sights on a beautiful fellow tenant and concert singer (Merle Oberon). A remake of Alfred Hitchcock's breakthrough 1927 silent film, The Lodger is stodgy but atmospheric and chilling with several effective, memorable scenes and fine work from Oberon and Cregar.
*** out of ****

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


An embittered cavalry officer and notorious Indian killer (Christian Bale) is commissioned against his will to escort a long imprisoned chief (Wes Studi) and his family from New Mexico to their tribal home in Montana. Along the way, they pick up a young woman (Rosamund Pike) who just saw her husband and daughters slaughtered by natives, and encounter danger from both sides of their dispute. Scott Cooper's Hostiles is historical revisionism and apologism, but incredibly well-crafted on beautiful locations with an affecting Bale lead performance and a capable supporting cast.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


A docu-investigation into the death of CIA scientist Frank Olson (Peter Sarsgaard) in 1953, whose fall from a 13th story window in a New York City hotel was ruled a suicide, as seen through the eyes of his son Eric whose own inquest, carried out at his own professional peril, reveals several conspiratorial and sinister layers. Errol Morris' mini documentary series is highly effective, sorrowful and scary but probably would have worked better if the live action bits were cut (though Sarsgaard's emotiveness is generally compelling) and the material was presented as a usual Morris production.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Iceman Cometh

Dead end drunks waste away their days at a New York saloon/boarding house, talking about their delusionary dreams and begging for free drinks while awaiting a visit from a travelling salesman  and fellow drunkard (Lee Marvin) to lift them out of their stupor. When he arrives however, they find a reformed and unhinged version of their former friend, now preaching to the gang to give up their "pipe dreams", much to their chagrin. John Frankenheimer's American Film Theatre production is a powerful, mournful, and comical adaptation, purportedly faithful to Eugene O'Neill's play, with great performances from old film veterans Robert Ryan, Marvin, and Frederic March surrounded by an excellent supporting cast.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Edge of the City

An Army deserter (John Cassavetes) gains employment as a stevedore through use of a false name and forms a tight bond with a black coworker (Sidney Poitier) while another prejudiced longshoreman (Jack Warden) blackmails, bullies, and pushes him to the end of his rope. Martin Ritt's melodramatic Edge of the City suffers from a lack of realism it clearly strives to achieve but is assuredly directed in sharp black and white and boasts strong supporting performances from Warden and Ruby Dee as Poitier's wife.
*** out ****

Sunday, June 10, 2018


An unassuming woman (Joan Fontaine) seeming destined for spinsterhood, and heir to a modest fortune, is swept off her feet by a charming layabout (Cary Grant) who soon arouses her paranoia that she is his target for murder. Light, even unplotted and silly, Hitchcock's Suspicion is made worthwhile by great direction, its stars, and Nigel Bruce in an amusing supporting role.
*** out of ****

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Naked Kiss

A prostitute (Constance Towers) beats up her abusive pimp and takes what is owed to her before relocating to a small village where she is run out of town by a local police chief (Anthony Eisley) and lured back into the life before finding peace as a nurse at a children's hospital and getting engaged to a millionaire (Michael Dante), a situation that proves too good to be true. Highly suggestive and melodramatic Sam Fuller B-movie is sensationalist and shocking, especially for its time. The low budget affair is crisply edited and features several memorable sequences including the opening and the morbid culmination of a strange musical number.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Disaster Artist/The Room

When a nervous, failing aspiring actor (Dave Franco) meets the indescribable, bizarro, and independently wealthy Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), they form a quick friendship which leads to the production of The Room, one of the most notorious and successful cult movies, which the oblivious Wiseau approaches the making of with tyrannical cruelty and reckless abandon. James Franco's The Disaster Artist is amusing and off-putting, like the movie and subject it's chronicling, with an uncanny impersonation by the director at its center. Questionable choices are made, especially in the prologue and epilogue, begging the question of whether there is enough here to support a feature film and is there too much meaning being invested in the success story of one of the worst feature films ever produced. As for the The Room itself, I didn't really understand the midnight movie cult classic so bad its good hype (although I didn't watch it in a theater) and mostly just thought it unfathomably bad though it does contain some laugh out loud moments.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Thomas Crown Affair

A stultified millionaire businessmen (Steve McQueen) concocts the perfect crime in the form of a bank heist by assembling a handful of criminals who remain anonymous to each other. Soon he is targeted by a beautiful investigator (Faye Dunaway) with the two finding their attraction to each other more than palpable. Norman Jewison's The Thomas Crown Affair is dated, aloof and dull with awful Academy Award winning music and horrendous usage of multiple split screens. The stars maintain interest but are still misused.
** out of ****

Monday, May 21, 2018

American Made

Bored airline pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) finds himself running top secret missions for the CIA, in bed with the drug cartels, and swimming in cash until a fallout proves potentially deadly. Doug Liman's American Made patterns too closely to Goodfellas and whatever knockoff that classic has spawned (Blow comes to mind here). The narrative is messy, marred by undercharacterization, and almost too fast paced but is still watchable thanks to a typically charismatic Cruise.
** 1/2 out of ****

Sunday, May 20, 2018


A rigid, hotshot detective (Steve McQueen) whose star is on the rise is tapped by a shrewd senator (Robert Vaughn) to protect a key witness before a federal mob trial. What begins as a simple, somewhat irritating task turns into a perilous chess game as the officer must chase the perpetrators through the sloping streets of San Francisco, contend with the increasingly irritated politico, and unravel the peculiarities at the heart of the plight. From Robert L. Pike's novel Mute WitnessBullitt is best known today for its esteemed car chase sequence, and rightly so, but Peter Yates' film is really just a measured, solidly made procedural. While not really functioning as a character study (Jacqueline Bissett's scenes where she tries to make McQueen come to terms with his occupation only really succeed in showing off her great beauty), the movie is absolutely dynamic as a connect the dots mystery and an actioner, even if the plot is somewhat murky. And in the role that defined his career, McQueen clearly demonstrates why he earned his King of Cool moniker.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Quiet Place

In the near future hyper aural and predatory extraterrestrials have wiped out most of humanity as a man (John Krasinski), his pregnant wife (Emily Blunt), and their two children (one of whom is hearing challenged) struggle to survive on their deserted rural farm. Krasinski's A Quiet Place is a well-made wholesome horror thriller with an interesting premise that turns silly and is littered with plot holes. The creatures are nothing more that uninspired Alien replicas.
*** out of ****

Monday, May 14, 2018


Following the 1972 Olympic Massacre which claimed the lives of eleven Israeli athletes at the hand of Black September, a PLO sect, Israel's government sanctions a Mossad agent (Eric Bana) and his heterogeneous team to carry out retaliatory hits on nine of the involved planners of the mass murder. Steven Spielberg's Munich, with a thoughtful screenplay by Eric Roth and Tony Kushner from a book by George Jonas, is intense and relevant, and unlike most thrillers doesn't settle for the easy road out.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Saturday, April 28, 2018


An occupational therapist (Matt Damon) who has taken care of his sickly mother and lived in the same house his whole life decides to undergo a new revolutionary procedure with his depressed wife (Kristen Wiig), have himself shrunk to the size of a french fry and live in opulence in a mini commune. Downsizing is a minor work and pointless satire, a real disappointment from Alexander Payne who, collaborating with his longtime work partner Jim Taylor, sadly seems to be phoning it in, with a whiny Damon, an incredibly irritating Hong Chau as the love interest, and feeble attempts at comedy and parody.
* out of ****

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Wonder Wheel

A miserable waitress (Kate Winslet) married to a drunken though loving lout (Jim Belushi) in the Coney Island home begins an affair with an aspiring writer and current lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) which is complicated when her estranged stepdaughter (Juno Temple) returns home and repairs her relationship with her father. Stiff, overly familiar and coming off like a bad play, Woody Allen's Wonder Wheel takes form somewhat in the end but is still too routine, plus it features unnatural performances from Winslet and Timberlake. I initially thought this was just another victim of the Me Too inquisition but sadly and truly is one of Allen's worst outings.
** out of ****

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Player

A narcissistic studio executive (Tim Robbins) who green-lights movie scripts finds his job jeopardized by a rival shark and his life threatened by one of the many writers he has turned down over the years, leading him to commit a dubious murder and cast into a paranoid, Kafkaesque nightmare. From Michael Tolkin's novel, Robert Altman's skewering of Hollywood is both a hilarious black comedy and effective noir showcasing the maverick director at the top of his form. With the spectacular opening tracking shot, to a perfectly cast Robbins, the endless celebrity cameos, and the insider's script, The Player is a masterful Hollywood satire on par with Sunset Blvd. and The Bad and the Beautiful

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Asphalt Jungle

Fringe types including a ruffian career criminal (Sterling Hayden), a seedy attorney (Louis Calhern), a diner cook (James Whitmore), a numbers runner (Marc Lawrence), and an ingenious safe cracker (Sam Jaffe) just released from prison converge to execute an extremely lucrative but ultimately doomed jewelry heist. John Huston's tough, gritty, and influential noir (informing both classics and cheap imitations alike) is starkly shot, exciting and lifelike with a great cast of characters, Hayden, Calhern, Lawrence, and Jean Hagen as Hayden's doting and naive girlfriend standing out among the lot. Marilyn Monroe is unforgettable too as Calhern's mistress in her breakthrough role.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Cleo from 5 to 7

A self-involved pop singer (Corrine Marchand) walks the streets of Paris in an all-consuming anticipation of her biopsy results during the afternoon hours of the title. Agnes Varda's New Wave near real-time work is smooth, free flowing, and crisply and beautifully shot, while a little light in plot though not substance. Marchand is a unique and glamorous presence.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Fountain

A doctor (Hugh Jackman) ignores his dying wife (Rachel Weisz) in an obsessive attempt to find a cure for the cancer ravaging her body by way of a life sustaining substance. Meanwhile, she is struggling to finish her novel about a conquistador (Jackman) on a quest to find the Tree of Life for his queen (Weisz) during the Inquisition while, 500 years in the future from the present day, a spaceman (Jackman) is bringing his wife's remains to a far off nebula in the hopes of renewed life. The Fountain is ill-conceived, overornate, and self-serious with artificial looking special effects. Though containing potential, writer/director Darren Aronofsky doesn't know how to culminate its lackluster stories. Jackman is strong but strained and the soundtrack is excellent.
** out of ****

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Life of Oharu

A woman in waiting (Kinuyo Tanaka) of modest respectability falls to woeful and pitiable levels after partaking in a relationship with a commoner (Toshiro Mifune). Cast out from her village, she soon finds herself bearing a son to powerful lord she is forbidden to see, widowed on another occasion, and sold into a life of prostitution by her father. Kenji Mizoguchi's The Life of Oharu is bleak and sorrowful, somewhat labored, shot in beautiful black and white, and made with precise craft. Tanaka is heartbreaking as the doomed and innocent Oharu.
*** out of ****

Monday, March 19, 2018


Three war buddies (James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass) stalk and terrorize the widow (Audrey Hepburn) of their recently murdered comrade believing she knows the location of the pilfered loot taken during their tour of duty. After involving the local Paris prefect (Walter Matthau), she now becomes unsure whether or not to trust the dashing and suspicious acquaintance (Cary Grant) just made at a Swiss ski resort. Stanley Donen's Charade is a light and breezy romantic/comedy suspenser with a fun and silly plot, second rate dialogue, and great chemistry between its stars.
*** out of ****

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

A  L.A. defense attorney (Denzel Washington) on the spectrum finds himself in dire straights when his prominent partner dies and begrudgingly accepts a job offer with a top firm and soon finds himself taking drastic, uncharacteristic measures to ensure his security. Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler follow up is a sometimes engaging but underwritten and ultimately lackluster film that is redeemed somewhat by a strong, surprisingly quirky Denzel performance.
** 1/2 out of ****

Monday, March 12, 2018

Assault on Precinct 13

At a dilapidated Detroit police station scheduled to close at midnight, a burned out sergeant (Ethan Hawke) keeps watch with a few other functionaries. When a busload of prisoners is diverted during a snowstorm and forced to unload the inmates at the precinct, they find themselves under siege by crooked cops seeking to eliminate one of their new prominent guests (Laurence Fishburne). Assualt on Precinct 13 is a satisfying if overly violent and dopey B-thriller, successfully paying tribute to John Carpenter's original while providing worthy updates. Hawk is engaging but the overall cast's acting and dialogue often feels forced.
*** out of ****

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Born Yesterday

A loutish junk tycoon (Broderick Crawford) travels to Washington D.C. to buy a Senator and hires a journalist (William Holden) to cultivate his ditsy, equally unrefined girlfriend (Judy Holliday). As the pair inevitably hit it off, she is also informed of the nature of her boyfriend’s business and his bullying personality. From Garson Kanin’s hit stage play which also starred Holliday, Born Yesterday contains often dumb, cornball humor and is occasionally amusing while much of it is an uninspired civics lesson. Holliday is the quintessential ditsy blonde (in an Oscar winning role), Holden is stiff as a foil to Crawford, the latter being entertaining as the brute.
*** out of ****

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Three Faces of Eve

A downtrodden southern housewife (Joanne Woodward) begins to exhibit strange behavior at home before a second, reckless personality manifests itself followed by a third, more normalized one. With the help of a psychiatrist (Lee J. Cobb), she seeks treatment and gradually begins to eradicate the more flawed. The Three Faces of Eve, straightforward and plainly directed, seems like a phony, shallow representation of the rare psychological condition despite the ‘true story’ touting of the opening monologue and the screenplay participation of two of the real life shrinks involved in the case. That being said, Woodward is the whole show here, impressively versatile as the three distinct personalities. Cobb is strong but hardly credible as the sensitive psych doctor.
*** out of ****

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Florida Project

A preschooler (Brooklyn Prince) and her friends are free to play and cause mischief in the low-rent motels just outside of Disneyworld while her derelict mother (Bria Vinaite) runs scams, prostitutes herself, and lays around and all are watched over by the curt but benevolent property manager (Willem Dafoe). Sean Baker's The Florida Project feels like it could have worked better as a short, with too much filler and not quite enough to sustain a two hour feature, and it also treats the issue of neglectful parenting a little too lightly but I liked the way the film gradually reveals itself and the tracking shots and colorful cinematography bring it a sort of dreamlike quality. Dafoe is in excellent, empathetic form and Prince gives an amazingly well-rounded, funny performance.
*** out of ****

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Ballad of Narayama

In a famine ravaged village, the elderly upon their 70th birthday are sent to trek up a mountain where they are to wither and die, a woman (Kinuyo Tanaka) nearing the age graciously prepares for her godforsaken journey while the rest of her family, save a grieving son, behave selfishly. Shohei Imamura's The Ballad of Narayama is a disconsolate take on self-centeredness, selflessness, and the throwaway culture regarding the elderly with the sung narration and beautiful alternately radiant, verdant, and grim artificial looking sets creating a distinctive atmosphere. Tanaka is magnificent.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Pledge

On the night of his retirement party, a Nevada detective (Jack Nicholson) tags along to the crime scene of a child murder. When a mentally handicapped suspect is swiftly arrested, coerced into confessing, and commits suicide the would be retiree is less than satisfied. Skipping his fishing trip to Florida, he conducts his own investigation while using the daughter of a new lover (Robin Wright) as bait and putting his own sanity into jeopardy. From a novel by Friedrich Durrenmatt, The Pledge is haunting, poetic, and truly tragic, offbeat and uniquely directed by Sean Penn, with a commanding and sensitive performance by Jack.
**** out of ****

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Big Sick

A Pakistani Chicagoan (Kumail Nanjiani) pursues a stand-up comedy career against the wishes of his traditionalist family. This bond is strained even further when he begins dating an American grad student (Zoe Kazan) who undergoes a sudden, life threatening illness. Written by Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon (whose relationship is loosely represented), The Big Sick is amiable enough if unspectacular and overlong. Nanjiani's deadpan approach is both likable and amusing, and Holly Hunter and Ray Romano add flavor as Kazan's parents.
** 1/2 out of ****

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I, Tonya

Growing up indigent with a browbeating, abusive mother (Allison Janney) who pushed her relentlessly to succeed before entering into a pejorative relationship with another victimizer (Sebastian Stan), Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) rose in the figure skating (often against classist opposition) before the infamous Nancy Kerrigan incident at the hands of her husband's boneheaded, rotund, and delusional best friend (Paul Walter Hauser). Craig Gillespie's I, Tonya boasts an excellent all around cast surrounding Robbie, who branches out considerably. The filming is frenetic and exciting while evoking Goodfellas a little too closely, and pulls no punches in its unforeseen, darker subject matter.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Thursday, February 15, 2018


In the not too distant future near the Texas border, a hardened and spent Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) spends his days providing a livery service in order to care for the aged and ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart). Soon he has custody of a young mutant girl with like powers being hunted by daunting forces and must escort her to a safe haven in North Dakota. James Mangold's Logan, the umpteenth entry in the X-Men series was praised in its attempts to match the vulgar, violent, and ruthless excesses of Deadpool, adult alterations that seem totally counterintuitive to the material. The movie has its moments, especially in its fleeting quieter scenes, but at the core of this needlessly brutal work, it's really just another hokey comic book movie. Stewart and Stephen Merchant are effective in supporting roles.
** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mulholland Drive

A chipper young woman (Naomi Watts) just arrived in L.A. finds an amnesiac (Laura Elena Harring) just involved in terrible car wreck living at her aunt's home. As unrelated plot developments start to cobble up (including the story of an arrogant director (Justin Theroux) being muscled by the mob), the two women's personas seem to merge or take on entirely different realities. David Lynch's Mulholland Drive is a film that has both baffled and frustrated me the first couple of times through it due to its resistance to reason and obstinance in the face of logic. Revisiting it again, and expecting those same exasperating feelings to return while not trying to find a coherent plotline, I surprisingly found it to be a fascinating, hypnotic, frightening, suspenseful, and still maddeningly frustrating exercise, with Lynch at the apex of both his form and strangeness. Watts is incredible in essentially a dual role.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Saturday, February 10, 2018


During the German reconstruction period and the miraculous economic boom of the 1950s, officials, planners, and contractors in the city of Coburg are loading their pockets through graft, chief among them a fiendish developer (Mario Adorf) who schemes to curry favor with the new, straight arrow building commisioner (Armin Mueller-Stahl) by plying him through the affections of an ambitious prostitute (Barbara Sukowa). From the same Heinrich Mann novel used to draw Sternberg's The Blue Angel, R.W. Fassbinder's Lola (the last of his BRD trilogy, the second released chronologically) depicts corruption and immorality through a beautiful, ebuillent Technicolor lens with Sukowa mesmerizing as the seductive, calculating social climber.
*** out of ****

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Monsieur Hire

While being accused of the murder of a young woman outside of his apartment complex, a well-mannered, immaculately composed peeping Tom (Michel Blanc) observes the daily rituals of his neighbor (Sandrine Bonnaire) who discovers his voyeuristic behavior and seems to return his affections. Patrice Leconte's Monsieur Hire, from a novel by Georges Simenon, is elegantly made and exactingly directed, with a wonderful score from Michael Nyman, and a plot that takes a surprising trajectory for such a simple premise.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


A poet (Javier Bardem) and his considerably younger wife (Jennifer Lawrence) live in their recently renovated house which had burned to cinders. Now they receive uninvited guests (Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer) who can’t take a hint and refuse to leave, with the crowd soon growing to mass proportions with apocalyptic implications and consequences. With absurdism akin to a Bunuel movie plus a tinge of Rosemary’s Baby, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! is an outrageous allegory on the creative process which is fascinating to see just how far the thin premise can be stretched. Lawrence delivers an overwrought, impressive performance.
 *** ½ out of ****

Monday, February 5, 2018


Evil personified in the form of a sinister clown and thriving on fear vanishes children of Derry, Maine every 27 years, its latest occurrence in 1989 when a group of misfit preadolescents are forced to confront the malevolent being. The latest update of Stephen King's novel works best when fitting in the Stand by Me mould, with the juvenile actors well cast and appealing, but loses its viability in the horror sequences which are dubious and exasperating, especially in the later stages of the film.
*** out of ****

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Veronika Voss

A once prominent movie star (Rosel Zech) who earned her start under Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry becomes romantically involved with a reporter (Hilmar Thate) who suspects her neurologist (Annemarie Durringer) of keeping the faded actress under her influence through the use of morphine. Rainer Werner Fassbinder's reimagining of the tragic demise of German actress Sybille Schmitz (his death mirroring her own not long after the release of the film) is shot in brilliant black and white in a melodramatic almost campy mood yet of course with the darker undertones evoking Wilder's Sunset Blvd or even What Ever Happpened to Baby Jane. Zech and Thate are both superb.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Friday, February 2, 2018


While waiting for his girlfriend (Tatiana Maslany) to complete the 2013 Boston Marathon, Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) lost his legs in the terrorist bombing. Struggling to rehabilitate and adjust to his now onerous and often very painful life, he finds himself unwillingly thrust into the spotlight while his ordeal wears heavily on those around him. David Gordon Green's treatment of this true to life story is all about the two excellent lead performances which get thwarted by stupid supporting characters, dumb comic relief bits, and the expected inspirational mushy fodder in the second act, all elements that would have proved completely dispensable to the story.
** 1/2 out of ****

Thursday, February 1, 2018


As war rages in Europe and the Pacific, a college graduate and inexperienced farmer (Jason Clarke) moves his new bride (Carey Mulligan) to rural Mississippi to apply the trade where, in tough times, they lean on a poor sharecropping family (headed by Rob Morgan and Mary J. Blige). When both families see members return from oversees (Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell), their friendship stokes the ire of prejudice and leads to tragic consequences. Dee Rees' Mudbound is a painterly period piece, leisurely, novelistic, somewhat elliptical and routine, with fine work from a talented cast.
*** out of ****

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Call Me by Your Name

At their summer home in Northern Italy, a precocious 17 year old musical prodigy (Timothee Chalamet) sees the arrival of his archaeologist father's (Michael Stuhlbarg) latest research assistant (Armie Hammer) and the two develop a bond that segues into a passionate physical relationship. Luca Guadagnino's realization of James Ivory's script (from a novel by Andre Aciman) is idyllically set and beautifully shot yet frustrating in an unambiguous way that never really lets you in as to what's going on and what the characters are feeling, leaving the central relationship seeming unworthy of the weight subscribed to it. Chalamet's touted performance is offbeat and unique but inconsistent and aloof.
** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Phantom Thread

A renowned, particular, and impatient London dress designer (Daniel Day-Lewis) in the 1950s grows annoyed with and dismisses his current lover before a strong willed, foreign born waitress (Vicky Krieps) catches his eye and takes her place, becoming muse and model while forging a toxic, codependent relationship and butting heads with his watchful, protective sister (Leslie Manville). P.T. Anderson's Phantom Thread, a beautifully shot, fascinating look into a sequestered world and life, is slow to start before becoming severely strange and ultimately deeply involving. It features another, (said to be his final) consummate performance from DDL and another acute, obsessive and slightly inhuman characterization. Krieps is magnetic, holding her own with her intimidating partner and Manville exhibits great control and subtle humor in an Oscar nominated performance.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Molly's Game

A skier (Jessica Chastain) with issues with her psychiatrist father (Kevin Costner), who came up just short of medalling in the Olympics due to a devastating injury, relocates to L.A. and soon finds herself assisting and then running her own high stakes poker games before becoming involved with the Russian mob, catching a RICO charge, and trying to convince a clean cut, high powered attorney (Idris Elba) to represent her in federal court. Aaron Sorkin's approach in his directorial debut never really elevates the screenplay which contains the expected witty Sorkinisms but is overly relentless and bloated, with an unfortuante climactic scene featuring Costner at a skating rink. Chastain's performance is commanding as is Elba in a supporting role, especially during a lenghthy, late arriving speech.
*** out of ****

Saturday, January 27, 2018

All the Money in the World

Oil magnate and world's richest man J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) refuses to pay the $17 million ransom of his kidnapped grandson, after he was abducted while living in Italy, instead opting to put an ex-CIA agent (Mark Wahlberg) on the case who teams up with the boy's persistent and grief stricken mother (Michelle Williams). Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World is an intelligent and solidly crafted if a little overlong thriller, unnerving in doses, with a delicious performance from Christopher Plummer who famously joined the cast in the 11th hour after Kevin Spacey was scrubbed from the picture. Wahlberg is welcomely subdued and Williams contributes another excellent, overlooked turn.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Feeling trapped by her autocratic mother and sister, a young widow (Gene Tierney) longs to be on her own and jumps at the chance to rent a seaside cottage, even after being forewarned that it is haunted by the ghost of a surly sea captain (Rex Harrison) who met an untimely demise. Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir strikes too light a tone before suddenly changing gears and turning somber. Tierney is consistent, Harrison's performance is grating at times and appealing at others, and George Sanders has a memorable supporting role. The black and white cinematography is exquisite.
** 1/2 out of ****

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Diary of a Lost Girl

The daughter (Louise Brooks) of a pharmacist is raped by her father's assistant and is sent away to a medieval reformatory and then a whorehouse before receiving her inheritance and achieving her belated redemption. Daring and still ribald, G.W. Pabst's Diary of a Lost Girl is consummately directed (the reformatory scenes are virtuosic) with impeccable black and white cinematography and a surprising lack of intertitles.A beautiful Brooks commands out sympathy.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Post

When government contractor Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) witnesses the perpetual standstill in Vietnam followed by a knowing Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) still selling the war to the public, he decides to steal a lengthy top secret document, later to be known as the Pentagon Papers, which was a study of the war that revealed a decades long awareness and deceitfulness regarding the hopelessness of the conflict. When these papers were published by the New York Times, they were hit with a temporary injunction by the Nixon White House, leaving the door open for the then regional Washington Post and their tenacious editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and his team to find the source and publish the remaining documents, just at the same time their owner Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) is taking the paper public. Steven Spielberg's The Post seems to be stretching its story farther than it wants to go with a deficient, hokey screenplay that doesn't have a whole lot to say beyond first amendment power of the press rhetoric and barely veiled references to the current administration. Its become well known how quick the movie was assembled, shot, and edited and that rushed feeling shows in the final, forgettable product. Also, Spielberg appears to be attempting an unnatural style of directing outside of his ouevre. Hanks is miscast as the hard-nosed Bradlee and only calls to memory a superior Jason Robards portrayal of the newsman in All the President's Men. Streep, however, is appealing as the softspoken, underestimated newspaper magnate. A well-recognizable cast fails to leave an impression.
** out of ****

Monday, January 22, 2018

Quantum of Solace

While trying to corner the members of the shadowy organization responsible for Vesper's death, James (Daniel Craig) crosses paths with a beautiful secret agent (Olga Kuryleko) acting as a mistress to a ruthless entrepreneur (Mathieu Amalric) seeking to corner the Bolivian water market. Dominated by overblown kinetic action sequences in vogue a decade ago a la Jason Bourne, Quantum of Solace is lazily written which lends itself to a hard to follow 007 entry that clumsily follows up on storylines from Casino Royale, its superior predecessor. However, it doesn't overstay its welcome like many films in the series and contains a malignant villain in Amalric and one of the most stunning Bond girls in Kurylenko.
** 1/2 out of ****

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Brawl in Cell Block 99

A tow truck driver (Vince Vaughn) with a vaguely explained violent past loses his job only to discover his wife (Jennifer Carpenter) is having an affair. They soon patch things up, and he begins drug running for a friend, a gig that quickly lands him a seven year stint in prison. When his now pregnant wife is kidnapped, he is extorted into fighting his way into the state maximum security unit and offing a prisoner wanted dead by her captors. Brawl in Cell Block 99 takes forever to get going and the dialogue is incredibly vacuous but the film becomes completely engrossing, in the same fashion as writer/director S. Craig Zahler's Bone Tomahawk did while sill relishing in the ever increasing, incessant violence. Vaughn delivers a commanding and empathetic performance and Don Johnson has a great walk-on role on a sadistic, no-nonsense prison warden.
** 1/2 out of ****

Saturday, January 20, 2018

La Cérémonie

A maid (Sandrine Bonnaire) concealing an illiteracy problem and a violent incident in her past goes to work for a benign, bourgeois family (headed by Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Cassel) and befriends an unstable local postal clerk (Isabelle Huppert) also with skeletons in her closet, a relationship rooted in pseudo lesbianism and class jealousy that devolves into mayhem. Claude Chabrol's La Cérémonie is a cold-blooded class conflict movie, slow-paced, involving, and ultimately harrowing. The cast, especially Bisset, is exceptional.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Friday, January 19, 2018

10 Rillington Place

From a true crime story about an achingly terrifying miscarriage of justice, middle-aged serial killer John Christie (Richard Attenborough) lives an unassuming life with his wife in their quiet London flat when he decides to rent the adjoining property to an illiterate laborer (John Hurt), along with his wife and infant child, who will soon face the hangman’s noose for one of his landlord’s unspeakable crimes. Filmed just doors down from the site of the actual killings, Richard Fleisher’s 10 Rillington Place is bleak, muted, and understated with Attenborough creepily effective and Hurt totally credible in the tragic role.
*** out of ****