• Shadow of a Woman

    Shadow of a Woman

    I was hoping for noir, but instead I got lame soap opera. It kind of plays like a very dumb version of Rebecca where instead of peeling back layers of characters to find complex psychologies, everyone is pretty much who they present themselves to be, so it’s simply irritating to watch the protagonist fail to realize that her husband isn’t tormented but the tormentor. This felt like a long 78 minutes.

  • Trouble in Paradise

    Trouble in Paradise

    ★★★

    Apparently I had already seen this? And completely forgot about it! Using Letterboxd like a champ out here.

    Anyway, on a repeat viewing, I love Lubitsch’s direction, but it’s clear that Kay Francis is on another level than her co-stars. Every moment she’s on screen, the picture sings, but without her, I don’t think Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall are really bringing it. That’s particularly surprising because they have the “fun” roles! They’re the thieves and Francis is the mark. And yet Francis seems to be the only one who found a way to make her role delectable.

  • Hands on a Hardbody: The Documentary

    Hands on a Hardbody: The Documentary

    ★★★★

    This one has been perplexingly tough to track down until lately when it apparently been added as a purchase-only option on iTunes. I decided to buy it sight-unseen, and it was well worth the $10. It’s an entertaining doc, and while there’s a sinister underbelly about what desperate people will do for a prize in America, the directors handle it with a light touch and know how to highlight the colorful cast.

  • Oldboy

    Oldboy

    ★★

    This is a weird one. First off, you have to acknowledge that this isn't Spike Lee's cut (his version was apparently 140 minutes; the version that got released is 105, so that's a significant difference). That being said, taking on a remake of a masterpiece like Park Chan-wook's 2003 film feels like a fool's errand, and I don't know why Lee chose to be that fool. Obviously, it's a great story, but it was one already perfectly told by Park,…

  • Hollow Man

    Hollow Man

    ★★★½

    It's interesting to me that Verhoeven kind of disowned this one because he felt it was fairly anonymous, and yet I feel like everything that's interesting about it comes from Verhoeven's persuasions. Like it's telling here that when Sebastian becomes invisible, the film becomes about voyeurism and sexual assault rather than jumping straight to the violence (the film's third act is largely uninteresting when Sebastian becomes a homicidal maniac whereas it was a lot easier to believe a guy who…

  • All the Right Moves

    All the Right Moves

    ★★½

    The film itself is whatever, but it’s interesting as a road-not-taken for Cruise. All the Right Moves and Risky Business came out the same year and both feature Cruise as a high school senior worried about his future. But All the Right Moves is absolutely the wrong vehicle for Cruise because it gives him nothing to do (he’s not even the most interesting character in his own movie). While Risky Business is certainly problematic, as a character piece, it provides so many different notes that Cruise has to hit and makes for a far greater showcase.

  • Chaos Walking

    Chaos Walking

    ★½

    You can tell this thing is held together with spit and chewing gum after its reshoots because you can tell that its guiding force is "Do the bare minimum to get the characters from A to B." Everything that would have been interesting about this movie--the use of the noise, the gender politics--are largely absent, and all of the characters have the thinnest motivations.

    But I'm always intrigued by flops like this because it clearly had a tortured production (it's…

  • The Jesus Music

    The Jesus Music

    ★★★

    It may surprise you that someone with the last name “Goldberg” did not know a lot about contemporary Christian music. Thankfully, my wife provided a bit of a live commentary track that helped me understand the popularity of this music. As for the doc itself, it’s fine, but definitely feels like it’s more preaching to the converted, and designed to reinforce an existent love of songs and artists people already know. Again, that’s fine, but that makes it more of a sales tool for the genre that something that’s genuinely inquisitive.

  • The Impossible

    The Impossible

    ★★★★

    I wanted to watch this one because I'd never seen Tom Holland's breakthrough performance, and since he figures to be one of the biggest stars of the upcoming decade at least (barring some massive, unforeseeable scandal), I decided I should give it a shot. However, the main criticism I had seen of the film (and it's possible, and perhaps even likely, that these criticisms came from people who only knew the premise rather than those who had seen the movie)…

  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

    Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

    ★★

    Branagh feels like the wrong choice both as director and as a lead. As a lead, he’s simply too polished. There’s never anything unhinged or dark lurking beneath the surface. Even when he’s in the throes of madness, Branagh reads that as, “Time to show off my killer abs.” Even at the end of his journey, his beard is neatly trimmed. It seems like Branagh perceives Frankenstein as tragic hero, and the story doesn’t really support that.

    As a director,…

  • The Devil All the Time

    The Devil All the Time

    ★½

    Not good! I don't really mind that all the characters are bad people, which can be interesting in the right hands (this feels like material the Coen Brothers could have done something with), but the whole film seems like it's just about setting up a series of collisions with a sprinkling of commentary on how people use God towards vicious ends and it's the atheist character who ends up the avenging angel.

    But there's nothing particularly interesting in this construction.…

  • The Lost City of Z

    The Lost City of Z

    ★★★½

    A good adaptation, although it went in a different direction than I expected. Grann’s book is about obsession and how it consumed Fawcett, his family, and those who followed after them. Grey sees Fawcett’s story as more about the search for meaning in a meaningless world, which makes it a good companion piece for his follow-up, Ad Astra. And honestly, the film is worth watching for Darius Khondji’s cinematography alone.