Chris has written 15 reviews for films rated ★★½ .

  • Erin Brockovich

    Erin Brockovich

    ★★½

    Still feel largely ambivalent towards this one. The rags to riches meets investigative drama meets legal battle storyline is sturdily crafted, yet it too often seems like Soderbergh is consciously restricting himself in order to show that the could make something more prestigious and worthy of awards buzz (funnily, he'd do a much better job on that front with Traffic later the very same year). It's too clean and too straightfoward, which means it never manages to escape the customarily…

  • New York, New York

    New York, New York

    ★★½

    It's hard to tell what Martin Scorsese's objective was when making this film (was the culprit for its failure over ambition or the cocaine addiction? I'm inclined to blame it on the latter). I'm not sure how he could think something as wildly grandiose and excessive as New York, New York would be an ideal next step after the intensely focused and vitriolic Taxi Driver. That's not to say that this is the disaster it's occasionally made out to be,…

  • The Keep

    The Keep

    ★★½

    By far the weirdest feature Michael Mann has ever made, this supernatural horror about a group of Nazi soldiers occupying a spooky hold that contains a demonic entity is totally mystifying at virtually every level. It's hard to follow or even comprehend what is actually happening since there isn't so much a plot as the mere suggestion of one, almost like reading a book which has every other page missing, with story beats and character motivations seemingly thrown together at…

  • Akira

    Akira

    ★★½

    Akira is as fiercely provocative as you'd expect for a film that intertwines themes of nuclear anxiety, political corruption, technological mania, militarisation and youth alienation concurrently throughout its dystopian narrative. The confrontational tone sets in right from the opening scene and rarely subsides, creating this angry energy as we're thrown headlong into a sprawling and nightmarish Neo-Tokyo filled with recalcitrant individuals fighting an overwhelming system; the strikingly detailed animation and vivid worldbuilding are very effective at making the cityscape feel…

  • Peterloo

    Peterloo

    ★★½

    I really appreciate Mike Leigh's passionate determination to capture every facet surrounding the 1819 Peterloo Massacre to convey the true injustice of the event and how he manages to provide a strikingly detailed recreation of the era where the restlessness is palpable, but I just don't think his approach is the ideal one.

    The structure is the biggest hinderance since the titular incident doesn't occur until literally the final section; so we're left with 2 whole hours of build-up, most…

  • The Lady from Shanghai

    The Lady from Shanghai

    ★★½

    Starting to think that I'm just not a big fan of Orson Welles because I found this to be mildly diverting fluff in all honesty. Reading that his original vision was butchered in post-production comes as no surprise (it's basically his directorial trademark, sadly) as the entire narrative feels jumbled in a way that doesn't evoke the kind of mystery or tension that was probably intended. It's packed with the types of twists and double-crosses that you'd expect from the…

  • Train to Busan

    Train to Busan

    ★★½

    Given how well worn this type of material is, I feel that Train to Busan plays things a little too safe to leave much of an impression. I could forgive the lack of inventiveness on concepts we've seen many times before such as quick zombies or action on transportation if the characters were strong, but they're all so rigidly cliched that I struggled to get invested in their plight which deadened most of the emotional impact. It also doesn't help…

  • The Searchers

    The Searchers

    ★★½

    So I revisited this in the hope that it would finally click with me, but I still can't help but find it overly mediocre. It pains me because I can almost see why it's held in such high regard. There's no doubt that John Ford is a fantastic visual director because the manner in which he captures the vastness of the vistas is really striking and some of the shot compositions are truly remarkable (the ending in particular); the world…

  • 2046

    2046

    ★★½

    Although 2046 contains all of the visual splendour and poetic romanticism that you'd expect from a Wong Kar-wai film, I'm surprised by how hollow it left me feeling. It's effectively the spiritual companion to In the Mood for Love, presenting a sort of alternative look at Tony Leung's character as he slides into cynicism because he cannot accept anyone who doesn't live up to his idealised image of the love that he lost. It plays with the idea of living…

  • Hard Eight

    Hard Eight

    ★★½

    For a debut film it is notable how many of Paul Thomas Anderson's early career trademarks are firmly in place with the dynamic direction, vibrant cinematography, propulsive score and focus on volatile characters. There is a lot of confidence present here. The issue is that Hard Eight can't quite hide its short film origins. It starts and ends strong, but the bulk of it feels like a number of situations awkwardly strung together with oddly low stakes and PTA's wizardry…

  • A Christmas Carol

    A Christmas Carol

    ★★½

    For a story all about emotional and ideological transformation, I'm confused by how stifled this adaptation is. It's as if Zemeckis wanted to stay loyal to the source material but also give it a bombastic update which results in a lot of tonal whiplash and a lack of resonance. Every genuinely atmospheric or creepy moment is undercut by something excessively ludicrous or goofy, to the point where you're left wondering who this is even aimed at. I don't know anyone…

  • Mank

    Mank

    ★★½

    It pains me that a film by David Fincher could leave me feeling so indifferent. Mank gets by solely on its technical proficiency; the direction, photography, score and acting are all as good as you'd expect. The writing is where it really struggles because very little of it works as intended. The flashback structure undercuts momentum, the overlapping dialogue is stilted and the attempts to examine the studio politics of the time feel half-baked. It's not really about the writing…