• The Card Counter

    The Card Counter

    ★★★★

    Well, it’s a Paul Schrader movie, that’s for sure. All the markings are there. Isolated man sitting alone at a table with a glass of whiskey, a journal, and a pen — he’s just discovered the potentiality for redemption in his otherwise shell-shocked, empty life through both a romantic connection and the duty of fatherly surrogacy. We end with a split between containment and freedom — too much order and too much chaos filling the screen — and a soft…

  • The Place Beyond the Pines

    The Place Beyond the Pines

    ★★★★★

    Ride like lightning, crash like thunder. About as much of an original tragedy as you get from Hollywood, with traces of the Greeks and Shakespeare and all sorts of other allusions that ring eternal. But it’s the fresh and the new that drives it home, breaking those infinite cycles of violence and anger and resentment, hearing the echoes of those that made us and trying to go in an admirably different, better direction. Love that you can read the ending…

  • The Guilty

    The Guilty

    ★★★★½

    Been a while since I was this gripped by a movie. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first — it’s got all the markings of the kind of gimmick-thriller that usually begins to unravel and lose steam as it unfolds (see: Locke). Instead, it stays its patiently tense course, plays a few legitimately unexpected beats, and ends on a note of grace that’s hardly ornamental. I certainly didn’t foresee it being anything other than a quick thrill…

  • The Mexican

    The Mexican

    ★★★★

    Verbinski is doing something super interesting with the bumbling comedic protagonist fulfilling and sustaining mythological western tropes, something I think he would really perfect with Rango and The Lone Ranger. There’s less of a hesitance toward societal progression here, but just as much fatalistic manifestation. The truth in Verbinski’s cinematic world doesn’t matter, as long as we’re upholding and acting out the stories that structure our order and create a path for the individualistic hero. It all comes together here in…

  • Blade Runner 2049

    Blade Runner 2049

    ★★★★★

    A sun of rubber was convulsed and set;
    And blood-black nothingness began to spin
    A system of cells interlinked within
    Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
    Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
    Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

    — Nabokov.

    In Blade Runner, Batty misquotes William Blake and establishes himself as a fallen angel with a Miltonic sense of injured merit. In Alien Covenant, David misattributes Shelley for Byron, and becomes his own Ozymandias. In 2049, K falters on…

  • Logan

    Logan

    ★★★★★

    Noir (B&W)

    Easily the best modern distillation of (super)hero mythology, in that it does precisely what these myths are meant to do — fold back the perceived and paramount meaninglessness of reality and manifest the symbolism of heroic suffering, transformation, and redemption, modeling and molding the shell which we’re all meant to fill. Whereas The Wolverine was Jackman and Mangold’s rippling drop into the East, Logan is so firmly rooted in a specifically Western tradition, investigating and filling the proxy…

  • Candyman

    Candyman

    ★★

    Whereas the original Candyman situated itself fascinatingly between the bounds of folklore, identity, and the various desperate ways in which we attempt to conjure meaning to create a nasty, frightening concoction of love, vengeance, tragedy, and altered perception, here we’ve got your typical reboot drowning itself in identity, losing itself despite the folklore instead of because of it, without an ounce of sensible or coherent myth-building or storytelling. First, Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele seem to have misperceived in a…

  • Showgirls

    Showgirls

    ★★★★½

    God, Paul Verhoeven hates Hollywood so much. Good for him. You know, of all the grotesqueries to arise amidst the MeToo™ Machine, one of the things that’s always stuck with me are these proclaimed “settlements” being made in court (and who knows how many have been made out of court), where victims of sexual assault get to watch their trauma convert into a specified dollar amount amidst the cold poking and prodding of lawyers, sharks, and money men. I can’t…

  • The Night House

    The Night House

    ★★★★

    Not quite up there with The Empty Man or any of its contemporary cousins (A Cure for Wellness, etc), but here’s yet another recent horror film that very wittily personifies as its evil entity the existential dread and tempting ease of the unfurling nihilistic vortex — not outright numinous dread, necessarily, but rather a particular darkness that seems to be encroaching our postmodern landscape and, in this film’s case, a fear of literal nothingness — with the added bonuses of a…

  • Nine 1/2 Weeks

    Nine 1/2 Weeks

    ★★★★

    Kind of a tragic, psychosexual spin on the Cupid and Psyche archetype that’s persisted again and again through culture and time, where the specifically female hero’s journey is reflected in an indulgence of the chaotic erotic, intensifying popularly in things like this, or for developing children in Beauty and the Beast, or for bored, thirsty soccer moms in Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s all there, and it’s always there, and there’s a reason why stories specific to this gendered divide of…

  • Natural Born Killers

    Natural Born Killers

    ★★★★★

    Bread and circuses.

  • Hollow Man

    Hollow Man

    ★★★★

    I know this caused Verhoeven’s big break with Hollywood and all, but whatever, it’s pretty rad. A contained slasher, tinged with hints of big-budget body horror and villainous comic book origins, like a Universal monster romp beefed up on early Marvel steroids with an extra dose of sci-fi sleaze injected straight into the vein. It’s so structurally sound, and for a film from the year 2000 with this much CGI, it’s mind-boggling how well the visuals hold up until you…