• Funny Face

    Funny Face

    ★★★½

    Probably just a Fred Astaire de-aging formula away from capital "G" Great. Donen directs the hell out of this with the same acrobatic camera that makes Singin' in the Rain a masterpiece but also extends the playfulness into the editing starting with the electric "Think Pink!" number that opens the film. Technicolor very, very rarely looks this good outside of Powell and Pressburger and it just has this amazing classic feel to it that's personified by the magnetic Audrey Hepburn.…

  • An Angel at My Table

    An Angel at My Table

    ★★★★

    Blank Check podcast watch along:
    Jane Campion

    A drastic and welcome departure from the heightened unpleasantness of Sweetie. This feels like a director that has made ten films already and the combination of Campion's steady hand, the novelistic structure, and the content of the film itself made for a calming watch that I thoroughly enjoyed. That's not to say it's all sunshine- your heart just absolutely breaks for Janet as she tries her best to live life in a society…

  • Flee

    Flee

    ★★★★

    Great doc with an unusual approach to its material, transforming a simple one on one interview into a journey through memory. The animated interview "footage" serves as narration while we bounce to different points in the subject's incredibly difficult life. It's broadly covering historical events but zoomed in to the perspective of just this one man, an Afghanistan native forced out of his country and into a tumultuous existence as a refugee. The film has time for the small and…

  • Parallel Mothers

    Parallel Mothers

    ★★★★

    Almodóvar is back in theaters with, stop me if you've heard this before, a brightly colored soapy melodrama starring Penélope Cruz. Like most of his films it's messy, ambitious, and wholly absorbing. Without getting into the soapy surprises the setup is simple enough with two single mothers in very different places in their lives giving birth simultaneously. The film expands over the runtime both in plot complexity and in thematic interests, only some of which feel inextricably tied to the…

  • Collateral

    Collateral

    ★★★★½

    Compulsively watchable Michael Mann crime movie aka cinematic comfort food. Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise star as cabbie and hit man respectively, with Foxx unwittingly getting himself tangled up in a series of murders over the course of one night. Like all great crime dramas it has both the surface-level pleasures of shoot-outs and chase scenes but also something more, in this case digging into the psychology of these lonely men and the bizzarre connection they've formed. Sometimes it's so…

  • The Tragedy of Macbeth

    The Tragedy of Macbeth

    ★★★½

    Shakespeare adaptations are not really my thing but Joel Coen's solo directing effort was worth a look for its visuals and performances. Filmed in letterboxed black and white, the film takes the eerie visual approach Kurosawa used in Throne of Blood and pushes it further into the abstract. The stark, bizzarre set design and precise use of light and shadows feels like it belongs to German Expressionism and the otherworldly result is a perfect fit for the stilted dialogue. Denzel is inspired casting and makes the most of it but it's Kathryn Hunter that leaves the strongest impression playing all three witches to creepy perfection.

  • Sweetie

    Sweetie

    ★★★½

    Blank Check podcast watch along:
    Jane Campion

    With Two Friends being made for Australian television Sweetie is technically Campion's film debut. It's a major step forward in technique and production value but with knowledge of what Campion is capable of it still feels like an artist figuring things out. It's the type of dysfunctional family drama that you can find anywhere but with a specificity to their social class and environment that sets it apart. The story revolves primarily around…

  • Scream

    Scream

    ★★★½

    An excellent reboot that addresses the obvious new genre targets (legacy sequels, elevated horror) but also the increasingly toxic online fandom that seems to drive Hollywood decision making these days. Once again it benefits from the very formula it's playfully mocking, bringing back characters from the series and replicating many story beats that audiences loved in the first film. Doesn't pack quite the same deliriously over-the-top punch when it comes to humor but makes up for it with a more gruesome approach to violence that has you alternately laughing or covering your eyes. Let's do this again every decade or so.

  • Scream

    Scream

    ★★★★

    The reboot seemed like a great excuse to take care of this major blindspot for me and I ended up loving it. Knew it was meta but didn't realize just how much Craven has fun with the formula. Beyond just neat little easter eggs like naming a character Loomis the characters are constantly discussing slasher conventions and how to survive one. The big third act setpiece even has Halloween playing in the background while they deal with the same situations,…

  • Broadcast News

    Broadcast News

    ★★★★½

    Incredible screenplay with a trio of performances in Hunter, Brooks, and Hurt that are worthy of the material. It's a romantic comedy of sorts that uses the shared workplace of a news network as a launching point for its central love triangle but also a broader examination of trends in media. Jane (Holly Hunter) and Aaron (Albert Brooks) are the veterans of the station and purists when it comes to ethics in journalism but also in the content of news.…

  • Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar

    Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar

    ★★★★½

    Had me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe at like five different points. Absolutely love how completely ridiculous this is and just how quickly it gets there. The first five or so minutes (which I would not dream of spoiling) set up a plotline so utterly ridiculous that you tell yourself it has to be a dream sequence or a movie within movie. Then it's made clear that this is actually going to be real in the film's universe and…

  • Asako I & II

    Asako I & II

    ★★★★

    Had to check out at least one Hamaguchi film before his two 2021 releases hit Atlanta. This was excellent, a really unique and powerful romantic drama that has moments so important they will define these character's lives forever but thrives in the mundane. In a brief pre-title card introduction we see a whirlwind romance between Asako and the elusive Baku. Somewhat predictably, and without even bothering to depict it on screen, Baku walks out one night and never comes back.…