• Machete

    Machete

    ★★½

    I haven't seen Grindhouse, but my understanding is that it works as more than the sum of its parts, crafting a fantasy B-movie universe to dive into.

    The fake Machete trailer on its own is a fun little piece that imagines an exploitation piece weaponizing the Mexican border political landscape into biting satire, with splashes of delicious religious blasphemy. Of course, it pales in scope to the subsequent feature film, but there's charm in putting the ideas in sharp relief for a 2-minute blast.

  • Spy Kids: All the Time in the World

    Spy Kids: All the Time in the World

    ★½

    There were certainly worse ideas in 2011 than rebooting the Spy Kids franchise. It's a film concept that's easy to refresh: recruit a new batch of charming kid actors, update the gadgets for the new era, weave in some family values, and spin up a kooky spy-fi premise.

    And Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (which I'll call Spy Kids 4 from here on out, even though it is indeed more of a reboot) actually gets the fundamentals…

  • Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

    Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

    Nathan Rabin's legendary My Year of Flops feature on AV Club groups bad movies into three categories: Failure ("the absence of success"; run-of-the-mill bad), Fiasco ("failure of mythic proportions"; bad in a riveting way), and Secret Success (movie that seems bad, but is actually good).

    Spy Kids 3 is, to me, a textbook example of "Fiasco." It is certainly a very bad movie, broken in nearly every way. But its relentless pursuit of its vision and adherence to its own…

  • Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams

    Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams

    ★★

    Spy Kids 1 delivered on multiple competing genre fronts: a family-bonding adventure, a kiddie spy-action thriller, a light satire, and a digital editing/CGI showcase. Overall, a precarious, well-executed balancing act.

    Spy Kids 2 immediately tips that balance almost entirely towards "digital editing/CGI showcase." In fact, Spy Kids 2 was one of the first non-George Lucas movies to film entirely on digital video.

    The opening half hour attempts to muscle in a story about competing spy families. Thematically, it represents a…

  • Spy Kids

    Spy Kids

    ★★★½

    Spy Kids is, if not quite a gold standard for family-focused action-comedies, certainly an excellent specimen. Robert Rodriguez brings together a memorable cast, a tight script, some great production design, and some fun set pieces into a satisfying whole.

    The Spy Kids series would never again take its adult characters even a little bit seriously, but the first outing gives plenty for the grown ups to do. Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino have some genuine steam and chemistry, very believable…

  • The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl

    The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl

    ★★★½

    Calling The Adevntures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl "ugly" is a grave understatement. This is a movie so ghastly that it feels like a genuine artistic achievement, like its blends of busy, discordant colors could only be conceived of in a fever dream. The CGI is busted and uncanny, but it only adds to the hallucinatory quasi-reality of the film.

    The story, on the other hand, is a Freudian nightmare of semi-comprehensibility. Sharkboy and Lavagirl are essentially competing forces of protagonist…

  • We Can Be Heroes

    We Can Be Heroes

    ★★½

    Not quite good, but far more competent and watchable than I feared.

    Robert Rodriguez takes another stab at kids-focused Crayola action pic with sci-fi flavors. It lacks the Freudian blast of energy and weirdness of its inspiration, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, but has a much more conventional and effective story.

    As a tweeny Avengers clone, the movie does a good job making each of its characters fairly distinct, and gets a lot of visual creativity out of the…

  • What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?

    What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?

    ★★★★

    Alexandre Koberidze's Georgian slice-of-life, pseudo-silent film aesthetic meets magical realism and romantic comedy in What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?, and the result is pretty magnificent.

    The film opens with a meet-cute between pharmacist Lisa and footballer Giorgi, who make plans to meet at a café the next evening. But something fantastical happens overnight that leave the two disconnected.

    Over the course of the next two and a half hours, we hear almost no words spoken…

  • The White Sheik

    The White Sheik

    ★★★

    Fellini's first solo directing effort is a light and uneven -- but still ultimately satisfying -- romantic comedy farce with undercurrents of satire.

    A new married couple honeymoons in Rome, where the groom Fernando's prestigious family has a busy social calendar planned for the couple. Meanwhile, the meek bride Wanda is excited to be near the filming spot of her favorite racy soap opera, starring the dreamy White Sheik to whom she's written numerous letters.

    The story splits into two…

  • Nights of Cabiria

    Nights of Cabiria

    ★★★★½

    Nights of Cabiria traces the romantic misadventures of the title character, played to perfection by Giulietta Masina, owner of one of the great expressive faces in the history of cinema.

    Cabiria is a prostitute, though the mechanics of her professional life are less important to the film than its thematic implications: Cabiria is constantly facing the clash of romance as a cold transaction versus romance as a gateway to transcendence.

    The film's secondary theme is Cabiria's attempt at spiritual enlightenment.…

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

    ★★★★

    If narrative momentum is your thing, whatsoever, then Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a bit of a slog to get through. The movie spends legitimately more than half of its runtime just vibing with the Snow White and the dwarfs as they mine, clean the house, eat dinner, dance, and get ready for bed one night. And that time isn't really spent on character development, it's a bunch of set pieces and gags.

    Thankfully, the dwarfs are masterpieces…

  • Kiki's Delivery Service

    Kiki's Delivery Service

    ★★★★

    Watched while the entire family recovered from a stomach bug. We needed a comfortable film.

    There is something lightweight about this movie. It feels almost like a TV pilot -- like Miyazaki hadn't pushed the story to its limits the way he could have. Then again, its airiness is part of the charm. Kiki's just a kid figuring out life for an hour and a half!

    I continue to adore how nice this movie is, and how its message is…