• Drifting Clouds

    Drifting Clouds

    ★★★★½

    Despite a completely opposite filming style, this almost strikes me as something close to modern Murnau, using deceptively simple narrative frameworks and laser-precise formal touches to convey the complexity of inner havoc that economic despair wreaks. I never fully appreciated how indebted to Edward Hopper Kaurismäki is, all cool but cleanly separated color tones and stark framing that emphasizes loneliness even when people share a frame. That a happy ending emerges from this perhaps marks this as his The Last Laugh, at once jarringly dissonant from the 85 minutes that precede it and such a poetic validation of perseverance as to obliterate doubts about plausibility.

  • Gladiator

    Gladiator

    ★★★½

    From a historical accuracy standpoint, this makes Mel Gibson's anti-Brit diatribes look good; it is unbelievably funny that this film ends with the Roman Empire being formally dissolved to return to its republican roots, complete with emancipation. You might as well end with a leprechaun showing up and giving gold to all the assembled plebeians in the stands. But from a "dudes rock" perspective this is still the tits. Scott manages to thread the needle of assembling music-video style action…

  • Son of Godzilla

    Son of Godzilla

    ★★★

    The discrepancy between how great the puppets for the praying mantises and spider are and how absolutely ass-ugly the Minilla suit looks is the funniest gag in this lightly parodic entry. The extended training montage of Godzilla encouraging Minilla to be all that he can be is just icing on the cake.

  • Red Notice

    Red Notice

    ★½

    A huge part of the draw of a caper is the jet-setting sense of fun, of letting us plebes watch the rich and beautiful get a paid vacation in gorgeous hotspots and glamorous hotels and casinos and whatnot. But when the entirely of a $160 million budget is devoted to salaries and animation work to insert screensaver-level images of the world onto an Atlanta soundstage, all that's left is the chemistry of the leads, and The Rock and Ryan Reynolds…

  • Margaret

    Margaret

    ★★★★★

    "Theatrical" tends to get used (by me and everyone else) to describe movies that take place in small, carefully blocked sets with acting styles clearly derived from the stage. But Margaret feels theatrical in a way that cinematizes the sorts of things that stagecraft has to fake by insinuation, capturing the overlapping dialogue and din of being characters surrounded by an entire city of people. In fact, the true conflict of the film isn't Lisa vs. the bus driver, or…

  • Letters Home

    Letters Home

    ★★★½

    Akerman had already created the all-time greatest film about communication by letter, and this can't hope to match News from Home. Here, the brilliant, deliberately disorienting editing shows her replicating the disconnect in speaking by mail, of being forced to experience a break between speakers and of responses spiraling off into other topics on each recipient's mind. But more importantly, it acts as an attempt to overcome the limitations of that method, of finding some way to shorten the physical…

  • X-Men

    X-Men

    ★★

    In retrospect, maybe teen Buffy/Firefly obsessive me should have seen the darker side of Joss Whedon coming in the fact that he spent literal years complaining that his script-doctored quip "you know what happens to a toad that's struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else!" wasn't delivered the right way because of course the line itself was brilliant. Anyway the rest of it is the most literal-minded possible way you could approach the X-Men, in many respects more feverishly fixated on plausibility than Nolan's Batman

  • Mildred Pierce

    Mildred Pierce

    ★★★½

    The birth of r/childfree

  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife

    Ghostbusters: Afterlife

    I'm not sure if The Force Awakens was where the ball really got rolling on franchise revivals ultimately being about new characters mostly standing around talking awestruck about how great the original characters and stories were but the wave of this dead-end nostalgia that has coincided with the endlessly recycled IP era fucking sucks, it exists to infantalize you, and the fact that Ghostbusters has become a particularly brutal battlefield in the trench war of nostalgic content is grotesque. Fuck…

  • Working Girls

    Working Girls

    ★★★★½

    Cinema doesn't want for films about prostitution as perhaps the only logical profession in capitalism, the ultimate in selling one's body as labour-value. But I can't think of a depiction less weighed down by either purely political framing (hello, all you French cinéastes) or condescending pity than this. I also can't think of one that truly treats a brothel as an other workplace, complete with clients as a procession of sitcom-worthy goofs who make for great comedy. The madam who…

  • The New Mutants

    The New Mutants

    Fox leaving this turd in the bowl to deal with after Disney bought them seemingly a small amount out of spite to get the X-Men and Fantastic Four rights is the only compelling thing about this. Actually, that's not entirely true; the animators clearly had a lot of affection for how Bill Sienkiewicz drew the demon bear and do a decent job of capturing that style in CGI. The rest is so fucking dull I resent this for wasting one of my last edibles on it.

  • Fantastic Four

    Fantastic Four

    ★½

    I never cared about the Fantastic Four as a kid but have really come around on Marvel's First Family in recent years from getting an appreciation of their potential from runs by Mark Waid, Jonathan Hickman and, of course, the founding Lee/Kirby pairing. So I decided to put this on for the first time since I saw it in theaters and fair is far: one look at this and you almost have to respect how the MCU managed to wring…