Vadim has written 32 reviews for films rated ★★ .

  • Dune

    Dune

    ★★

    The biggest problem, though, is Hans Zimmer, whose score is incredibly loud and unremittingly the dominant sound for more of the movie’s 155 minutes than not. Zimmer’s approach to musical cultural appropriation has been blithe since at least 1994’s The Lion King, while his subsequent rise to Coachella fame has accelerated improbably. Both worlds collide in Dune’s score, a nightmare barrage of field-filling drums punctuated by the odd muezzin-ish call to prayer—given how fraught the material already is (brown-skinned desert…

  • The Blazing World

    The Blazing World

    ★★

    At this point The Blazing World starts to resemble Ready Player One if the latter hadn’t, Overlook Hotel sequence aside, rendered its references as avatars and characters within an original (relatively, anyway) visual world of its own construction and instead made every single shot full-on pastiche. In a production design-minded way, Blazing is impressive, but to no end worth pursuing. On her quest, Margaret’s first dropped into a fantasy desert world to face off against her mom as a mask-wearing…

  • Won't You Be My Neighbor?

    Won't You Be My Neighbor?

    ★★

    (Excerpted/slightly modified from an email I sent a friend, best I can do.)

    With the caveat that we all have things as viewers that we get disproportionately mad about and dilate on, I'm being unfair etc.: this is totally not the kind of movie I normally watch. I'm on a jury, so it came up, so it's almost unfair to the movie to watch it. [IT WAS PULLED FROM THE SLATE, I WATCHED IT FOR NAUGHT.] I was annoyed by…

  • Masterminds

    Masterminds

    ★★

    "The atemporality is usual for Hess, whose consistent aesthetic is poised somewhere between trailer-park chic and lower-middle-class tackiness: Though Masterminds ostensibly takes place in 1997, hard-working production designers have assembled a nightmare hellscape of leftover detritus from the last century. There are a variety of old Bell telephone booths scattered throughout, and everyone dresses as if they went to a 'best of 1985' anti-vintage sale. Frames are often symmetrical, with each prop placed for maximum visibility, like a junkyard parody…

  • Benji

    Benji

    ★★

    "'People like Lassie, they liked Rin Tin Tin, but people love Benji,' director Joe Camp said in 1977. 'Everyone who sees him wants to touch him, to hug him, everyone wants to love him. Why is everyone crazy about Farrah Fawcett-Majors?' The comparison hasn’t aged well (women, dogs, etc.), but the general point abides: Benji was a limited-duration pop-culture phenomenon whose fiscal earnings in the first five years of action, according to trainer Frank Inn, totaled $75 million (close to…

  • Child 44

    Child 44

    ★★

    "As Moscow-based agent MGB (the KGB’s predecessor) agent Leo Demidov, Tom Hardy struggles even more with his Russian accent than he did with Bane’s mask: His voice is pitched somewhere between Carlito’s Way-era Al Pacino, and Boris Badenov."

    Garbage, yup yup.

  • Serena

    Serena

    ★★

    "Played as a kind of constant wake, grimly marching on to tragedy, Serena is hurt by relentless applications of Johan Söderqvist’s unimaginatively somber score and DP Morten Søborg’s reliance on lots of over-the-shoulder handheld shots, the camera swinging close to and around people’s faces and shoulders. There’s simply not that much to see in the performances. The Czech Republic stands in for the South, which isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. But Pemberton’s estate never seems like more than a few laboriously aged constructions populated by anonymous, largely silent extras—in other words, something like McCabe & Mrs. Miller's Vancouver-built mining town, only it never comes to convincing life."

    Meh.

  • The World Made Straight
  • The Liberator

    The Liberator

    ★★

    "The makers behind the Spanish-Venezuelan biopic The Liberator plausibly claim that their $50 million film is the biggest Latin American production of all time. If it’s meant to educate or entertain non-Spanish-speaking audiences, that doesn’t come across. Its specific assignment is to rouse those vaguely or intimately familiar with Simón Bolívar. Nor is Alberto Arvelo’s film formally compelling enough to demand the attention of viewers with no previous historical stake in Bolívar’s historical significance, or his present-day relevance as a…

  • The Last of Robin Hood

    The Last of Robin Hood

    ★★

    Reviewed for The AV Club. As far as Killer Films biopics about 20th century figures not directed by Todd Haynes go, it's no The Notorious Bettie Page.

  • To Be Takei

    To Be Takei

    ★★

    There’s nothing actively off-putting about To Be Takei, an innocuous fans-only-and-even-that’s-pushing-it profile of George Takei, the Star Trek icon now equally known as an out-and-proud actor. Jennifer M. Kroot’s portrait takes its title from a 2011 highlight in the performer’s career as a gay-rights activist, when he combated the Tennessee legislature prohibiting teachers from using the word “gay” by offering his own name as a replacement (“it’s okay to be Takei”). The documentary’s other activist focus is Takei’s ongoing lectures…

  • Video Games: The Movie