• The Witches of Eastwick

    The Witches of Eastwick

    ★★★

    John Updike, chronicler of middle class woe, was not exactly known for his tales of...comedic supernatural fantasy, which may explain why "Witches of Eastwick" didn't land for me. But hey, there's plenty to savor here: Cher the same year as her iconic turn in "Moonstruck"; music by John Williams; and DP Vilmos Zsigmond's gorgeously fluid camera movement. Supposedly Bill Murray dropped out—that might have worked!

  • Death Becomes Her

    Death Becomes Her

    ★★★

    Based on the TV spots I remember from back in '92, I was anticipating a movie about a ghoulishly undead Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn trying to bash each other's brains in. That's about...ten minutes of a 104 minute movie, one that at times feels like a scripted ILM tech demo—more of an excuse for Zemeckis to play around with the growing toolbox of digital toys, less of a narrative the audience is meant to be invested in. But with Meryl Streep vamping and Dean Cundey lighting, I can't say I minded all that much.

  • Drop Dead Fred

    Drop Dead Fred

    ★★★

    A childhood favorite of mine, which is ironic only in that this is a film that should not be screened for children...! Wikipedia states, "Tim Burton and Robin Williams were offered the role of director and Fred respectively," and, yeah, it feels like the PolyGram still tried to make that movie without them. That said, English comic Rik Mayall (had no idea he passed away in 2014) has a peculiar, kind of dangerous energy—like Pee-wee's Playhouse if it had been hosted by John Lydon—that you wouldn't get from a warmer actor like Williams.

  • Sudden Death

    Sudden Death

    ★★★★

    When was the last time you saw "Sudden Death"? I ask because when I last watched it a decade ago, on a computer screen, it felt like just another in a string of 'Die Hard on a _____' derivatives. But rewatching it on an appropriately-sized screen, in the year of our lord 2021, I found it far easier to appreciate as a finely-tuned and gorgeously shot analog-action vehicle from director (and cinematographer) Peter Hyams, featuring a committed Van Damme performance.…

  • Speed 2: Cruise Control

    Speed 2: Cruise Control

    ★★★

    Don't think I'd seen this since theaters. I so wanted to go to bat for "Speed 2" as some kind of unsung, late-analog masterpiece but no: Sandra Bullock doesn't even seem to be playing the same character from "Speed," her performance pitched at the level of 'annoying sloshed woman at the Applebee's bar'; a vacant Jason Patric has more chemistry with a 14 year-old deaf girl than Bullock (and he then falls asleep to Kubrick's "Lolita"!); and the script seems…

  • Postcards from the Edge

    Postcards from the Edge

    ★★★★

    Not a film you hear referenced much these days, which makes me feel like it's ripe for rediscovery. Adapted by Carrie Fisher from her own novel, "Postcards from the Edge" wonderfully tracks the mundane reality of managing addiction and navigating a strained parent-child relationship, while avoiding the usual celluloid histrionics. I'm interested in the thread here about a woman who follows her celebrity mother into show business, not out of any passion for acting, but because she wishes life was as effortless and impactful as the movies. Meryl Streep is excellent—and very funny.

  • A Quiet Place Part II

    A Quiet Place Part II

    ★★★★

    If the Spielbergian setpiece thrives in that moment when breathless wonder gives way to unmitigated terror, "A Quiet Place Part II" is a film that seeks to hover in that liminal space as long as possible. Having dispensed with niceties like world building and character introductions in the first installment, the sequel is free to be little more than a string of hushed, emotionally intense conversations punctuated by tightly orchestrated sequences of suspense. I will watch as many of these as Krasinski wants to make.

  • Charlie's Angels

    Charlie's Angels

    ★★★★★

    "I love tickets!"

  • Mare of Easttown

    Mare of Easttown

    ★★★

    "Mare of Easttown" was working for me for the majority of its first two episodes, when it leaned into the flavors of a gritty cop procedural and character-driven family drama, but the writing ultimately undermines its own credibility by following every red herring like a bloodhound with a scent in its nose. If I'm honest, my beloved "The Killing" on AMC had the same tendency—but that show had characters I found compelling, whereas "Mare" only has Kate Winslet's star power to rely on. Oh, and a great soundtrack too: Mannequin Pussy, Julien Baker, Big Thief, Grouper...

  • The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

    The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

    ★★

    Insofar as I find "The Conjuring" movies appealing, and I'm not sure I do, it's due solely to the warmth and wholesome quality Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson bring to their roles as Bible-thumping prayer warriors, as well as James Wan's technical skill behind the camera. Well, this is the first entry without Wan at the helm—my guess is that without Farmiga and Wilson, it would have been unwatchable. I do like the idea of giving the Warrens a human…

  • The Legend of Zorro

    The Legend of Zorro

    ★★

    The gap between 1998 and 2005 might as well be a gulf of decades; the Hollywood landscape had changed too much after the likes of Neo and Spider-Man. In short, the analog magic is gone. So, "Legend of Zorro" pivots to PG in an attempt to win the family crowd, which I'm not necessarily against, but why not then follow the "Mummy Returns" mode of taking the whole family on an adventure? Instead, this script is flawed from the jump:…

  • The Mask of Zorro

    The Mask of Zorro

    ★★★★★

    The 90's was perhaps the only decade, and likely the last, in which the best superhero films weren't based on properties created by Marvel or DC, but characters derived from independent comics ("The Rocketeer"), old serials ("Dick Tracy"), and pulp novels. Case study: "Mask of Zorro" is a joyous and kinetic adventure film, full of charismatic performances (Banderas is a riot), incredible stunt work, and a lush James Horner score. And nary a digital effect in sight!