• Tokyo Chorus

    Tokyo Chorus

    ★★★★★

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

    CHAPLIN, KEATON, AND LLOYD IN TOKYO: Japanese Gag Master with a Heart.

    Nothing in the world is so satisfying as a well-crafted gag film like this one--and clearly, Ozu was imitating his silent comic sensei in Lloyd and Keaton--both of whom had mostly ended their film careers--and touches of Chaplin in the sentimentality and the stiff Chaplinesque Mickey Mouse walk of the protagonist.

    The first episode is a Keaton/Lloyd short, loaded with beautiful gags that are so visually simple yet…

  • A Foreign Affair

    A Foreign Affair

    ★★★★

    NINOTCHKA FROM IOWA:

    Two weeks later, I return to my Dietrich festival's last film, this edgy Billy Wilder comedy, that's a clear example of how he drew on Preston Sturges' clever farcical pieces from this same time.

    In some ways, it's a documentary, showing Berlin after the Blitz as well as the very buildings Hitler used and committed suicide in. After having watched films like Fritz Lang's "M" exploring the anxiety of rising fascism, this farce is a relief: seeing…

  • Mank

    Mank

    ★★★★★

    I'm a sucker for period film remakes to capture an era. And as such, the first half of this film is a masterpiece, and clearly a passion piece by Fincher, whose father wrote the screenplay: it's a wonder because he got so close to re-creating the WWII-era Hollywood of Orson Welles. I cheered at many points in this film, having watched and owned "Citizen Kane" for decades. My jaw was often on the floor.

    I was a bit surprised to…

  • Whimsical Illusions

    Whimsical Illusions

    ★★★★

    Another study by Melies to find magical elements for other films. Charming as a museum piece, and a wonder we can all see it.

  • Hugo

    Hugo

    ★★★★★

    In my view, Scorsese's most important contribution to the art of film is not his films themselves, but his encyclopedic of film history and his love of preserving obscure films from all over the world. That doesn't mean I don't love "Goodfellas", "The Departed" and "Taxi Driver"--though they far too often glorify bad guys. But his passion for teaching us all about film he loves is far more important.

    To that end, this delightful fairy tale that mythologizes the magic…

  • Thor: Ragnarok

    Thor: Ragnarok

    ★★★★★

    This film had every reason to be bad or lame: It's the third Thor film about the destruction of Asgard that turned a whole people into refugees forever, it has to sustain both an Avengers' Civil War and an upcoming Infinity War, has to introduce new characters on a garbage planet, and Taika wanted to make it a rollicking romp of a comedy as a palate cleanser after fairly serious films that year.

    And it's a masterpiece because Taika trusts…

  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

    The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

    ★★½

    Up to episode 3:

    Clearly, Marvel is doing basically what they did a decade ago when characters like Coulson and Peggy Carter were compelling enough to warrant a spinoff to TV--with some real success, especially compared to some of their other lame shows.

    That must be what they're again trying here with, to me, less charismatic and compelling characters they feel they owe a show. In the case of "Wandavision", the concept was so experimental that it made sense--especially because…

  • Captain America: The First Avenger

    Captain America: The First Avenger

    ★★★★★

    I think this one is the hidden masterpiece of the First Phase that deserves much more credit for the Avengers movies working because they figured out how to tell a WWII traditional Americana hero tale with all the fun aw shucks elements of a traditional Saturday matinee film, but also created a character who could have a story in the future---just as millions of people also lived into the 21st century after WWII. Like my Mom.

    Is it Flag-Wavey, patriotic,…

  • Godzilla

    Godzilla

    ★★★★

    GUILT FREE GODZILLA THAT NEVER BLAMES THE U.S.
    ---unlike how the rest of the world sees it.

    Gareth Edwards tap dances around the setup of this solid Monster film by rewriting the original Japanese history that it was American nuclear tests that CAUSED or RELEASED Godzilla, rather than this film, which claims they were trying to kill him with radiation.

    It also falls back on old school Disaster tactics by bringing in a couple handfuls of top-notch character actors to…

  • Godzilla

    Godzilla

    FERRIS BUELLER'S DINO OFF:

    This is the worst Godzilla film of all, which is odd since it had more money and resources than any ten Japanese films. Unfortunately, they only spent fifty cents on ideas for the characters and a dollar on the plot.

    And this movie is chicken shit, because the original cause for Godzilla is American testing with nuclear weapons that mutate creatures and set loose a vengeance Godzilla who mashes up Japan like the Americans did with…

  • Kong: Skull Island

    Kong: Skull Island

    ★★★★★

    KONG: THE ECO-HORROR VENGEANCE TALE

    The power of a myth is its ability to be re-interpreted for years or millennia to fit helping us see "How to Live a Life In This Time". That's why the same basic King Arthur tales that worked for the Welsh losing their land to Saxons and Romans in 500 AD still work in space for us in a post-Vietnam, post-Watergate world when America's become a kind of Evil Empire.

    The Kong myth originally was…

  • Kong: Skull Island

    Kong: Skull Island

    ★★★★

    RE-MYTHOLOGIZING KONG AS A POST-RACIAL ADOLESCENT GOD.

    In my survey of monster films, I've been amazed to realize how monsters in film--from Dr. Caligari through Nosferatu, Kong, and Godzilla--are all outward manifestations of inward human Fears.

    Kong from 1933 to 1976 was the outward monster created by white people afraid of Black Men--especially when, like Jack Johnson the boxer, they had a taste for White Ladies. Hence the black tribal dancing and drumming caricatures in the first two Kong films,…