• Tully

    Tully

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    The first 20 minutes or so are playful and biting in Cody's signature way, and Theron brings scarily real numbness and vulnerability to a character in need of a life raft. Once Tully arrives, the movie is enjoyable in a kind of inscrutable way, but seems rudderless. Tully helps and ok? That's it? The last act twist plays like a needless "gotcha" moment and doesn't seem to really track. Marlo appeared to be doing so well but she wasn't? And…

  • Mission: Impossible - Fallout

    Mission: Impossible - Fallout

    The first half is a marvel, filled with not just technical thrills but visual flourishes and character excavations. Things get dicier in the last act, as the story structure starts to wobble and they seem desperate to tap a thrill well already run dry. Still, this is supremely entertaining summer fun.

  • Band of Brothers

    Band of Brothers

    ★★★★★

    Seventeen (really?) years on, "Band of Brothers" is still probably the best miniseries ever made, and it perfectly illustrates the advantages of the format compared to film. You just can't cover this ground in 2 hours. From the acting, to the writing, to the photography, this is HBO at its peak. The progression that the miniseries format offers is perhaps its greatest strength: progression of characters and relationships, progression of geography, progression of combat, progression of a global, world-altering historical…

  • Good Will Hunting

    Good Will Hunting

    ★★★★½

    One man's cheese is another man's caviar (and vice versa; I'd rather have cheese than caviar, but still...). I remember watching this for the first time on VHS when I was 13 and just loving it. For me, it still holds up. You say schmaltzy; I say moving. You say dated; I say classic. "Good Will Hunting" just works for me, as scene after scene simply kills it with dialogue, acting, and resonance. It's schematic, sure, and maybe manipulative. And…

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    ★★★★★

    I've never gone through an agonizing breakup, nor have I ever been so hurt that I've wanted to completely erase all traces of someone from my memory. And still, I feel like this movie knows me and was made for me. It's not just a story of love found, love lost, and on and on. It's a story of how our experiences define us, the good and bad, and how to erase or alter our experiences is to alter who…

  • Memento

    Memento

    ★★★★½

    Much has been made of the chronological acrobatics, which are indeed impressive. But "Memento" knocks me over with its emotion, which is surprising considering how much of a literal blank-slate its protagonist is. Nolan takes what could have been a cool but empty narrative trick (an exercise in technique for its own sake) and turns it into something genuinely moving. For a director occasionally accused of being a chilly tactician, Nolan's character investment and thematic layering more than match his pure attention to craft. The resonances of this one go far beyond a mere head-game.

  • Drive

    Drive

    ★★★★½

    Style over substance? Maybe. But with a surface this shiny, I'm not overly concerned with depth. Narratively sparse and not quite original, but told with such moment-to-moment flamboyance that it doesn't matter. "Drive" is a great example of an artist's touch elevating mostly rote material from a forgettable (if enjoyable) popcorn flick to an indelible art-house crossover, from a film that you watch to a film that you experience. This is masterful, purely cinematic craft, a tribute to the moving image.

  • Zodiac

    Zodiac

    ★★★★★

    Like a fine wine, "Zodiac" improves with age. Upon first viewing (in theaters), I thought it was a long, cold procedural, impressive for its digital photography (which would soon become a calling card for Fincher) and expansive, journalistic storytelling, but without deep characterization or authorial perspective. It's an investigation, taken on with calculated precision but its "just the facts" approach left me chilly. Downey Jr. was phenomenal, and a late scene in a basement was memorably creepy. Ultimately, it was…

  • Heat

    Heat

    ★★★★★

    This has been one of my favorite movies since I was 13 (more than half my life). I watched it again a few years ago and was floored anew. Some films are such personal classics that they allude objectivity. I don't push "play" in an attempt to critique or review "Heat." I do it to enjoy it. I wouldn't change a thing about it, and if you tell me it's flawed that's OK. I recently heard this film described as…

  • The Wrestler

    The Wrestler

    The central performance is a powerhouse, and Rourke infuses every moment with authenticity. I like the behind-the-scenes wrestling material, the camaraderie between the rivals, the idea that this washed-up failure of a father seeks transcendence through the only life he knows. Rourke and Tomei have great chemistry, and Aronofsky's on-the-fly handheld camera feel leads to some insightful and surprising moments. I like the movie a lot, but subsequent viewings don't give me much to latch onto. It's a sad story…

  • Skyfall

    Skyfall

    As a Bond movie, it's aces, but being the best version of something not terribly interesting at its core still limits this entry in comparison to non-Bond films. Bond is about globetrotting, gadgets, moustache-twirling villains, cool cars, and girls. "Skyfall" knows this, and it plays on the conventions of its history in amusing, if slightly distracting, ways. It's both an example of and "deconstruction" (probably putting too fine a point on that) of what a Bond film is, satisfying and…

  • Fight Club

    Fight Club

    ★★★★½

    I'm kind of torn on this one. 4 1/2 stars feels generous, but 4 doesn't quite capture how dazzling this was upon first viewing. I first watched this when I was 16, and Tyler's anti-consumerism slogan-speak played like marching orders to me rather than the ravings of a mad terrorist. Tyler is an iconic character, played with swaggering perfection by Brad Pitt, who has never seemed this confident and relaxed in a role. It's a career-defining turn, and Norton is…