TIFF 2017 Racer and the Jailbird (2017, Michaël R. Roskam)

Categories: 2017 and Movies.

This is an entertaining, albeit slight, amalgam of the bank heist genre with one of those romances where the two alpha leads, who do risky things in their professional lives, fall in love with each other, but which is pretty much entirely ruined by an absolutely bonkers left turn (well, a series of left turns) into Crazy with a capital C. MASSIVE SPOILERS! Read More

Cold in July (2014, Jim Mickle)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

I’m not sure exactly what to say about this bizarre film that offers a new twist (or several) on the age old “redemption through violence” theme in American cinema. The plot goes a very different way than I would have ever expected which is to the novel’s credit, I guess. But that big left turn (which becomes significantly bigger) is hard for me to reconcile for reasons I cannot quite identify. I often like movies like this, but something about this left turn didn’t sit well with me for the whole film. Read More

Coherence (2013, James Ward Byrkit)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is one of those super talky, high concept science fiction films which feels like it was written for the stage. (Many of these have been written for the stage, but this one apparently was not.) There are a lot of these by this point and it’s sort of become its own sub genre. I’m not sure that’s a good thing necessarily. It’s a genre that’s heavy on ideas and a little too weak on much of what most of us love about science fiction (imagining a different future). SPOILERS Read More

Passengers (2016, Morten Tyldum)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

I feel like every single time I watch one of these legendary blockbuster bombs I find myself asking the same question: did I watch the same movie as everyone else? Make no mistake: this is not a good film. But once you’ve been told something is The Worst over and over again, your expectations get so low that you end up seeing positives, I guess. Passengers is a mediocre sci fi film – really it’s two sci fi films stuck together – but it is not the worst movie of the year. If you think it is, I suggest you go Read More

Triple 9 (2016, John Hillcoat)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

I am always flabbergasted by movies with huge, all-star casts that somehow suck. I am particularly flabbergasted when it seems obvious to me that these actors could have easily figured out the movie was going to suck. Such a movie is Triple 9, a film which somehow includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet, Norman Reedus, Michael K. Williams, Gal Gadot and Clifton Collins Jr. SPOILERS Read More

71 (2014, Yann Demange)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

This is a mostly stellar thriller set in Belfast in 1971. I think this would have been an exceptional movie had a surer hand with more experience directed it. Though tense, I can imagine a better (or more experienced) director making a more tense film. While I’m at my nit-pikcing, the framing device of the child feels incredibly inauthentic for 1971. (Were their single parent British privates serving in Belfast then? Maybe, but I doubt it. There might have been one.) But otherwise this is a pretty great first film and I look forward to seeing what the director does Read More

A Most Violent Year (2014, JC Chandor)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

Chandor’s skill is that he can take realistic situations that seem like might not have enough drama for film and turn them into gripping films. Like the best filmmakers of the American Renaissance, Chandor can take wrest drama and suspense from something like minor corruption. This is a film that unwinds slowly, so slowly that it is hard to see the descent at times, much like in real life. And instead of having a romanticized mob world of ’80s New York, we get a vision of the moral costs of doing business as usual. This is a fine film and Read More

Stonehenge Apocalypse (2010, Paul Ziller)

Categories: 2010, Movies, and TV.

How do I put into words how monumentally dumb this movie is? I’m not really sure. It’s one of those films that you want to live blog o live tweet because of the inane/insane lines, the utter ignorance of scientific facts and the budget (and what is forces the characters to do/say). It’s just awful. There’s stuff about Stonehenge detonating volcanoes and destroying the world. There’s stuff about a map that is among the most poorly drawn maps I think I’ve seen in a movie. There’s a hilarious (willful?) ignorance about how governments work. There’s the totally awful CGI (though Read More

Non-Stop (2014, Jaume Collet-Serra)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

This is one of those Liam Neeson action movies. It’s also one of those thrillers set on a plane. And like so many of both of these types of movies, if you think about it for a moment, everything falls apart. I can’t tell you how many things are wrong with the plot of this movie because there are so very many. It’s one of those films where so much doesn’t make sense, from the plot, to the motivations of everyone beyond a couple of the characters, to the response to the absurd plot, which is equally absurd. But the Read More

A Case of Need (1968) by Michael Crichton writing as Jeffery Hudson

Categories: 1968, Books, and Fiction.

This is a real page turner and it’s easy to see why it’s the book that properly launched Crichton’s career: it’s full of detailed information about contemporary medicine but Crichton uses that detail to drive the plot, not to overwhelm the reader in minutiae (as some “techno thriller” writers do). Though this type of thriller has become a cilche now, I bet that it was rather refreshing at the time. Crichton’s protagonist is a bit like the Dashiell Hammett version of a doctor. Yes, that’s implausible, but Crichton makes it work well enough. The biggest issue with the novel is Read More

Black Sheep aka Oveja Negra (2009, Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is a movie that tries to tell a relatively simple story using complicated narrative techniques. The movie is told in flashback, almost entirely, but the reason for use of flashback is not revealed until the film’s reveal and, until that moment, it’s hard to know why exactly the film is told in flashback because it’s handled rather clumsily both in the way it’s done – at points with, essentially, flashbacks within the flashback – and because the flashback device is forgotten at times and suffers from a Saving Private Ryan problem, where the narrator was not present for much Read More

Case 39 (2009, Christian Alvart)

Categories: 2009.

Renee Zellwegger, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper and Callum Keith Cennie star in this film. Why have you never heard of it? Well, the reason is because this film is awwwful and my guess is that it was dropped at some point when nobody would pay attention to it. It is awful in so many ways: the characterizations are awful (Zellwegger is the world’s worst social worker, or close to it, McShane is supposedly competent until he is utterly incompetent, Cooper is a better social worker than Zellwegger but that is damning with faint praise); the script is awful (it’s transparent, Read More

Angels & Demons (2009, Ron Howard)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is one of those movies where even a little bit of a thought unravels everything. Tom Hanks’ character makes insane “deductions” and everyone (rightly) thinks he’s insane, yet somehow the plot machinations always bear him out. It’s utterly ridiculous stuff, especially the climatic scenes where there’s literally no way that anyone could have possibly set up such elaborate clues or interpreted them. Frankly, the high production values are literally the only thing that saves this from being an utter disaster. 3/1o Read More

The Departed (2006, Martin Scorsese)

Categories: 2006 and Movies.

Note: I haven’t seen the original film. Many years ago, I watched Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear and hated it. I have no idea if that teenaged opinion is valid, but I think the experience scarred me for a long time, and so I avoided this remake. (Also, I didn’t like the previous two films he made.) But, if Hollywood is going to remake a film, this is probably how to do it. (Though I say this in ignorance.) Scorsese’s rather incredible skill as a director is fully on hand here, as he deftly handles the two competing stars and Read More

Bastards (2013, Claire Denis)

Categories: 2013 and Music.

Denis takes your typical revenge thriller plot – solitary man’s loved one(s) is wronged and he seeks revenge – and flips it on itself. The solitary man is solitary because he works on tankers. His family is hurt by a suicide – not, on its face, a wrong inflicted upon them. And the world he enters and tries to bring justice to – an extremely multicultural France where all the authority figures are immigrants and all the villains and victims are white – is one he doesn’t understand. SPOILERS!!! Read More

The Purge (2013, James DeMonaco)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

The opening text this movie displays, explaining what ‘the purge’ is, is basically the pitch meeting for this movie. The filmmaker likely walked into an office, said those exact words, mentioned some actors for the key roles, and got this green-lit. This film is a perfect symbol of what is wrong with “high concept” films that are just a pitch: it’s underwritten (in so many ways – it’s not actually 85 minutes, folks, that includes the credits), it resorts to cliches once the premise is established, it is not entertaining, it’s not smart – it’s just a steaming pile of Read More

Awaken aka A Perfect Vacation (2015, Mark Atkins)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

Is this where B-movie (and C-movie) actors go to die? This movie features Darryl Hannah (though she has few lines) Edward Furlong (!!!!!!!!!!!!) Vinnie Jones (but of course) Jason London (!!!) The Robert Davi (seriously!) David Keith (!) and Christa Campbell (you’d know her to see her) And some other familiar faces, all surrounding one “Natalie Burn,” the star, who also co-wrote (with four other people), co-produced and cast the film and is responsible for the auto-tuned voice during the theme song over the closing credits. Here is the first paragraph of her imdb biography: Natalie Burn is a fast-rising Read More

TIFF 2015: Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier, 2015) (14/15)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

This is the second straight excellent thriller from Saulnier, featuring “real people” in movie thriller situations. Much like his classic Blue Ruin – which I strongly, strongly suggest you see if you haven’t seen yet – this film combines an incredibly tense thriller with elements of (very) dark comedy, to great effect. I had such high hopes for this film that I was initially disappointed by the first act. However, things really kick into gear later and it’s liable to be the tensest film you see this year. It’s not Blue Ruin. It’s obviously not as original, it’s not as Read More

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015, Christopher McQuarrie)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

This is an entertaining film – and another one of the successful sequels in what has to be one of the more surprising franchises of the last few years – and it is continuing the recent trend of having real stunts in blockbusters. Unfortunately, too many of these otherwise good stunts go too far and arrive in the realm of supreme (sublime?) ridiculousness. Also, at this point, the number of lines directed at praising Cruise’s character – including an utterly ridiculous speech by Alec Baldwin’s character near the end of the film  – is really, really trying. But as these Read More

Jackie Brown (1997, Quentin Tarantino)

Categories: 1997 and Movies.

I saw this years and years ago, and I didn’t like it. I don’t know why. I guess it was just the stubborn thing for me to do. I didn’t like Pulp Fiction the first time, either. I guess I can see why people thought of this as some kind of misstep from the wonder boy, because it’s certainly way less ambitious than his last film. But I think it’s certainly underrated. It may be his weakest feature – and that’s debatable – but it has held up much better than True Romance, the film that launched his career and Read More

Nightcrawler (2014, Dan Gilroy)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

Is this Gyllenhaal’s best performance? I don’t know any sociopaths but I feel like this has to be one of the best portrayals – or more accurate, I should say – that I have seen, at least in terms of believability. Certainly this is much more believable than a serial killer. It’s also a pretty riveting portrait of those aspects of humanity that would enable sociopathy/psychopathy. This could have been told with all sorts of modern narrative tricks, but instead Gyllenhaal’s character’s insanity, though always somewhat visible, is revealed slowly. 9/10 Read More

Pandorum (2009, Chrstian Alvart)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

Pandorum has a neat concept to start, but unfortunately it is undercut by overly explanatory title cards – better the movie open with Bower coming out of his chamber, I think. But, that being said, otherwise the movie seems quite strong at first. The reveal is way too early, but otherwise it’s good. There are some silly science fiction cliche set pieces – for example a reactor that is impossible to get to – but otherwise the movie is a fairly good science fiction horror movie, with enough interest and jumps until SPOILERS!!! Two unnecessary and dumb twists ruin the Read More

Shutter Island (2010, Martin Scorsese)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

This is an excellent crime thriller / psychological thriller that once again shows off Scorsese’s ability to handle any kind of material and make it convincing. (This is a plot that is really outside his typical wheelhouse.) It also features one of the best performances of DiCaprio’s career (which is really saying something), a performance so convincing that even when all your instincts are telling you one thing, you want to…well, I won’t say anything else. This is one of the movies, you know, where learning much about it ruins it for you. You should just see it, if you Read More