• Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer

    Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer

    ★½

    As gripping as a highly produced serial killer doc gets. I only wish the filmmakers had more faith in their audience instead of cobbling together something so insultingly manipulative. Any journalistic integrity here is obfuscated by schlocky B-movie frills, including horror music and CGI bloodbaths—any trick necessary to gloss it up while paying minimal lip service to the actual tragedy of it all. Pure exploitation.

  • Kajillionaire

    Kajillionaire

    ★★★★

    With three films under her belt, July has created her own stylings and flavor of cinema that can be difficult to pin down — not unlike Hal Hartley or even David Lynch before her. Her off-center, deadpan style is never arbitrary or gratuitous. Rather it's the film's best means of transmitting feelings of familial alienation, and the experience of breaking free from a pastel-drenched state of arrested development.

  • Bad Education

    Bad Education

    ★★★★½

    What's this? A sharply written, mid-budget film for adults that tells the story with the camera? And with charismatic Movie Stars to boot? Call me easy to please, but this is the only home premiere of 2020 that I've truly reveled in, in no small part due to its sheer formalism. But this could also go down as a career best for Hugh Jackman. The ultra-wide 35mm cinematography is the sweet, sweet cherry on top.

  • The Queen's Gambit

    The Queen's Gambit

    It cleverly intersperses the protagonist's chess playing with her perpetual life-scheming. The rich production design, fashion porn, and international locales give the show its sense of spectacle even if it borders on kitsch at times. Performances range from excellent to overwrought, and I question some of its depictions of substance abuse. But let's be honest, the real MVP keeping the show afloat is Anya Taylor-Joy.

  • Victory

    Victory

    ★★★½

    The genre flavors, a byproduct of the necessary abridging of Conrad’s novel, make it feel like another apparent touchstone for the Indiana Jones series. I enjoyed its pulp adventure iconography and unexpected sense of humor and whimsy.

  • The King of Staten Island

    The King of Staten Island

    ★★★★

    The recurring flaw of Apatow’s films—the undisciplined editing, scenes that meander beyond their welcome, end awkwardly so that the actors can riff, etc.—is ultimately forgivable due to a richness of texture and personality, perhaps thanks to the overtly autobiographical elements. I grew fond of these characters and their capacity for ugliness coupled with their endearing traits. They're like real human beings.

  • Ultra Low

    Ultra Low

    If you were a space alien watching this with no idea of what movies are, you'd think the making of them primarily dealt with the purchasing of shares, bank transactions, and navigating the treacherous waters of digital piracy. But in this autobiographical flick, in which the director stars as himself struggling in the all-too-relatable quest to "break in," not once are we shown anything expressing the joy, love, or exuberance of filmmaking.

    Nowhere are we made to feel like cinema…

  • Viva Las Vegas

    Viva Las Vegas

    ★★★

    Shallow and dated as hell, and yet it seems to have been conjured up from pure joy. The widescreen, technicolor format signifies from the opening frames that this is a movie solely concerned with creating a fun ride. The climactic desert race, notably the only sequence without music, seems a likely touchtone for the pod race in Star Wars Episode I.

  • The World Is Not Enough

    The World Is Not Enough

    ★★★

    Michael Apted, whom I admire, seems ill-suited to the job of action director. Revisiting this as part of a Brosnan Bond rewatch, this might've been one of the stronger entries had a director given it some kinetic energy and a pulse. The camera is noticeably locked down throughout, with dialogue scenes captured in standard coverage takes. The tone oscillates between wink-at-the-camera camp and dramatic thriller. That said, this one actually attempts to do something introspective with the Bond-M relationship, and features fully committed turns from Brosnan, Dench, and Marceau. Desmond Llewelynn's pitch perfect send-off from the series comes as a welcome bonus.

  • Moonlight

    Moonlight

    ★★★★★

    Extreme subjectivity through the camera's proximity to the lead character Chiron, showing us what he sees and hears, including the actors speaking to us through the fourth wall. The overall atmosphere, particularly through the use of sound or lack of it, evokes a feeling a nervous anxiety, making us feel Chiron's anguish, and subsequently used to subvert our expectations. The result is a sustained emotional gut-punch.

  • Scream

    Scream

    ★★★★★

    Paradoxically, the movie has a sense of realism that's a byproduct of its spoof-like quality. Like when Gale Weathers' cameraman gets his throat slashed, or when Matthew Lillard cries, "my mom and dad are going to be so mad at me." It's feels real because it's funny. The spoofiness both diffuses the horror while making it scarier.

  • Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

    Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

    ★★★½

    I revisited this one for the first time since 2005, once with the George Lucas audio commentary and again without it. Lucas insists that he was going for a "1930s vocabulary" with everything from the art direction to the acting. It could be a cop out, but the film certainly plays better with that in mind.

    For me, it justifies the retro theatricality and artifice of it all, albeit with 21st century techniques. The last hour feels operatic with characters…