Critic’s Mind


Best Performances of the Decade: Yun Jung-hee (“Poetry”); Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”); Natalie Portman (“Vox Lux”); Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Nymphomaniac”); Bria Vinaite (“The Florida Project”); Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”); Woody Harrelson (“Rampart”); Adam Sandler (“Uncut Gems”); Tom Hanks (“Sully”); Michael Fassbender (“Shame”). — 12-26-19

Worst Films of the Decade: The Snowman; Bachelorette; Trespass; Americano; The Bounty Hunter; The Dinner; Alice Through the Looking Glass; Isle of Dogs; Zama; The Man Who Killed Don Quixote; The Haunting of Sharon Tate; Movie 43; I Melt With You; Winter’s Tale; Killers; A Thousand Words; Gotti; Welcome to Marwen; A Good Day to Die Hard. — 12-23-19

Parasite” is my first 5-star film off the 2019 roster. — 10-25-19

Movies I Saw Fall 2019: “Sorcerer” (1977), A+. “The Wages of Fear” (1953, France), A+. “Uncut Gems,” A+. “The Squid and the Whale” (2005), A. “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941), A. “Parasite” (South Korea), A. “Dark Waters,” A. “The Game” (1997), A. “The Irishman,” A. “Wag the Dog” (1997), A. “Mean Streets” (1973), A. “Marriage Story,” A. “Angst” (1983, Austria), A. “Badlands” (1973), A-. “Contempt” (1963, France), A-. “House” (1977, Japan), A-. “Ford v Ferrari,” A-. “Bombshell,” B+. “1917,” B+. “Halloween” (1978), B+. “Your Friends & Neighbors” (1998), B+. “Normal Life” (1996), B+. “After Dark, My Sweet” (1990), B+. “Frozen II,” B+. “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964, France), B+. “Knives Out,” B+. “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” (1988), B. “Synedoche, New York” (2008), B. “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001), B. “The Report,” B. “The Lighthouse,” B. “Dolemite is My Name,” B. “The Laundromat,” B. “Richard Jewell,” B. “Gangs of New York” (2002), B. “Child’s Play,” B. “Dead Man” (1995), B. “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967, France), B-. “Blackhat” (2015), C+. “Little Women,” C+. “Joker,” C+. “Queen & Slim,” C+. “Q: The Winged Serpent” (1982), C+. “Colette,” C+. “Cradle Will Rock” (1999), C+. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” C. “Pain and Glory” (Spain), C. “These Final Hours” (2015), C. “A Hidden Life,” C. “Dark Star” (1974), C. “Europa Report” (2013), C. “A Promise” (2013, France), C. “The Underneath” (1995), C. “Fading Gigolo” (2013), C. “The Naked Kiss” (1964), C. “The Art of Self Defense,” C. “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1982), C-. “Stardust” (2007), C-. “In the Mouth of Madness” (1994), C-. “L’Eclisse” (1962, Italy), C-. “Hoffa” (1992), D+. “Red Riding Trilogy” (2010), D+. “Judy,” D+. “Ice Station Zebra” (1968), D+. “Her Smell,” D. “The Kitchen,” D. “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” F. — 10-10-2019

Movies I Saw Summer 2019: “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1969), A+. “sex, lies & videotape” (1989), A. “That Obscure Object of Desire” (1977, France), A. “Dumbo” (1941), A. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” A. “Ad Astra,” A. “The Farewell,” A. “The Perfume of Yvonne” (1994, France), A-. “Lilya 4-Ever” (2003, Sweden), A-. “Midsommar,” A-. “Hustlers,” B+. “Drugstore Cowboy” (1989), B+. “Christiane F.” (1981, Germany), B+. “Harakiri” (1962, Japan), B+. “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1962), B+. “American Movie” (1999), B+. “They Shall Not Grow Old,” B+. “The New World” (2005), B. “Yesterday,” B. “Duck You Sucker!” (1971), B. “Gloria Bell,” B. “The Ballad of Narayama” (1958, Japan), B. “The Mustang,” B. “Kwaidan” (1964, Japan), B. “Toy Story 4,” B. “Ready or Not,” B. “Holiday” (Netherlands), B. “Barney’s Version” (2010), B. “Where Eagles Down” (1968), B. “Quadrophenia” (1979), B. “Lady Snowblood” (1973, Japan), B-. “Isn’t It Romantic,” B-. “Hobson’s Choice” (1954), B-. “Under the Silver Lake,” C+. “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” C+. “Cold Souls” (2008), C+. “Dumbo” (2019), C+. “Streets of Fire” (1984), C+. “Southern Comfort” (1981), C+. “The Scent of Green Papaya” (1993, Vietnam), C. “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” C-. “Perfect Blue” (1997), C-. “The Wandering Earth,” C-. “The Intruder,” D+. “The Aftermath,” D+. “Cold Pursuit,” D. “Mommy” (2014), D. “What Men Want,” D. “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” F. — 6-24-19

John Singleton RIP, January 6, 1968 – April 29, 2019 known for directing the seminal “Boyz N in the Hood” (1991) at age 23, and being the youngest director and first African-American director nominated. His best, though?  Not quite. Imagine Spielberg made “Schindler’s List” and it was buried by the studio, reviewed dismissively, publicly ignored, labeled a failure on specious merits? That’s what happened to Singleton with “Rosewood” (1997), a docudrama on the burning of a Florida town in 1923 that should be regarded his magnum opus. – 4-29-19

Movies I Saw Spring 2019: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), A. “High Life,” A. “Interstellar” (2014), A. “Us,” A. “Climax” (France), A-. “Vagabond” (1986, France), A-. “In the Shadow of the Moon” (2007), A-. “Dragged Across Concrete,” A-. “Wake in Fright” (1971), A-. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” B+. “Ash is Purest White” (China), B+. “The Beach Bum,” B+. “Boy Erased,” B+. “Keanu” (2016), B+. “Apollo 11,” B+. “White Hunter Black Heart” (1990), B+. “The Virgin Suicides” (2000), B+. “The Last of the Mohicans” (1992), B+. “Mustang” (2015, Turkey), B+. “The Act of Killing” (2013), B+. “Winchester ’73” (1950), B+. “Suspiria” (1977, Italy), B+. “Winter Light” (1963, Sweden), B+. “The Death of Stalin,” B. “Vivre Sa Vie” (1962, France), B. “Rebecca” (1940), B. “The American Friend” (1977, Germany), B. “Destroyer,” B. “A Vigilante,” B. “Sing Street” (2016), B. “On the Basis of Sex,” B. “Rollerball” (1977), B. ‘The Old Man and the Gun,” B. “35 Shots of Rum” (2010, France), B. “Chocolat” (1988, France), B. “Arctic,” B. “Kill, Baby… Kill!” (1966, Italy), B. “The Mule,” B. “Booksmart,” B. “Long Shot,” B-. “Household Saints” (1993), B-. “Thunder Road,” B-. “Rocketman,” C+. “Dancer in the Dark” (2000, Denmark), C+. “Children of a Lesser God” (1986), C+. “Get on the Bus” (1996), C+. “Domino,” C. “The Sisters Brothers,” C.  “The Front Runner,” C. “Polytechnique” (2009), C. “City of Hope” (1991), C. “Red Planet” (2000), C. “Let the Sunshine In” (France), C. “Johnny English Strikes Again,” C. “Kings of the Road” (1976, Germany), C. “The Hustle,” C-. “Cold War” (Poland), C-. “Serenity,” C-. “Suspiria” (2018), D+. “Glass,” D+. “The Dead Don’t Die,” D. “Welcome to Marwen,” D-. “Rollerball” (2002), F. — 3-22-19

I caught up with two hard to track down and highly reputable Wim Wenders films from the 1970’s, the black & white “Kings of the Road” (1976) and the Patricia Highsmith adaptation “The American Friend” (1977). Neither met my expectations, but one was certainly more enjoyable than the other. “Kings” was the one I had higher anticipation for because Roger Ebert named it one of the ten best films of the 1970’s. But it’s a shaggy, unshaped movie with long pit stops that don’t propel much thought, and much thought won’t happen when it’s about two layabout guys who keep their emotions inward and only sporadically share. Some beautiful b&w, and I love one scene where the men put on a sihlouette show in a movie theater. But it’s largely inert. “The American Friend” has Bruno Ganz as an art framer dying of a blood disease who gets talked into performing a mob hit so the payoff would help his surviving family. A spaced out Dennis Hopper in a cowboy hat plays middle man Tom Ripley, the most famous sociopath of Highsmith’s characters, but that’s not the loopiest thing. The deliberate withholding of plot details is what’s nuts. We don’t know a thing about the targets or what they represent or why do a hit in daylight on a train? But Wenders would probably say that’s not the point. Still, there’s a strange romanticism about Ganz in the way the new chaos in his life lights him up, and the cinematography is equally radiant. “Kings of the Road,” C. “The American Friend,” B. — 3-21-19

Best Black & White Cinematography Ever: 1. “Raging Bull” (1980); 2. “Citizen Kane” (1941); 3. “Schindler’s List” (1993); 4. “The Third Man” (1949); 5. The Elephant Man” (1980); 6. “Persona” (1966, Sweden); 7. “Woman in the Dunes” (1964, Japan); 8. “Dr. Strangelove” (1964); 9. “Ed Wood” (1994); 10. “The Lady from Shanghai” (1948); 11. “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946); 12. “Eraserhead” (1977); 13. “Repulsion” (1965); 14. “Paths of Glory” (1957); 15. “Lenny” (1974); 16. “Metropolis” (1927, Germany); 17. “The Man with a Movie Camera” (1929, Russia); 18. “Manhattan” (1979); 19. “8 1/2” (1963, Italy); 20. “The Last Picture Show” (1971); 21. “The Scarlett Empress” (1934); 22. “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955); 23. “Sunrise” (1927); 24. “Pleasantville” (1998); 25. “Night of the Hunter” (1955). No, “Roma” does not make the list nor would it make the next five. — 3-19-19

Best films directed by women ever: 1. “Testament” (1983, Lynne Littman); 2. “The Piano” (1993, Jane Campion); 3. “Detroit” (2017, Kathryn Bigelow); 4. “Monster” (2003, Patty Jenkins); 5. “Take This Waltz” (2012, Sarah Polley); 6. Half Nelson” (2006, Anna Boden co-directed with Ryan Fleck); 7. “Orlando” (1993, Sally Potter); 8. “The Hurt Locker” (2009, Kathryn Bigelow); 9. “True Love” (1989, Nancy Savoca); 10. “Battle of the Sexes” (2017, Valerie Faris co-directed with Jonathan Dayton); 11. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (2011, Lynne Ramsay); 12. “High Life” (2019, France, Claire Denis); 13. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” (2005, Jane Anderson); 14. “13th” (2016, Ava DuVernay); 15. “Waitress” (2007, Adrienne Shelley); 16. “Lost in Translation” (2003, Sofia Coppola); 17. “Big” (1988, Penny Marshall); 18. “Polisse” (2011, France, Maiwenn); 19. “Seven Beauties” (1976, Italy, Lina Wertmuller); 20. “Home” (2010, France, Ursula Meier). — Last Updated 4-16-19

Julianne Moore bemoaned that she was fired by Nicole Holofcener who was to be director, before she dropped out of, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (Holofcener retained credit as screenwriter.) I’m sure this is just an offhand remark that irks Moore deep inside. She’s one of this generation’s best actresses with “Safe,” “Far From Heaven” and “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” that are among the best performances I’ve ever seen. But if she had remained the lead, one of last year’s most enjoyable throwbacks of an era would have lost something definitive without Melissa McCarthy.  Feelings get hurt in this industry (how ’bout those who get a shot, lose a job, and never get another shot?), so again… McCarthy rules that movie. It had to be her. 3-8-19

Oscars. No one bothered to foresee that voting for “Green Book” would outrage a lot of people and set up a controversy when there is Spike Lee and “BlacKkKlansman,” a true virtuoso and intellectual odyssey, was the one to honor if we’re talking about doing the right thing.

Nothing has ever reeked of fake sophistication than the adoration bestowed unto “Roma.” When Alfonso Cuaron won for Best Director, he spoke of “his duty to raise awareness worker’s rights throughout the world” in a way he implied his film. Nowhere in “Roma” does it say anything in regards to that, not that the film says anything interesting at all. Cleo the maid gets pregnant by a young bad guy and that rotten ordeal of carrying his baby will probably extinguish sex from her the rest of her life, and that’s sad. But Cleo works for a good family, not a bad one. What should the matriarch do, banish her and leave her severance package and say to her, hey leave and go do something else on your own?

What was more lyrical and romantic than the music score for “If Beale Street Could Talk?” Nothing in many years was as aching, tragic, luminous, bittersweet as that score. It not winning might prove Academy voters did not actually see previous Oscar winner Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk.” And last, “Bohemian Rhapsody” winning for Best Film Editing means that Academy voters at large do not actually know what good editing is. I could name twenty-five films in under a minute that had better editing last year. — 2-25-19

Film Recommendation: “I Am Not Your Negro.” I’ve always wanted to know more about novelist, film & arts critic and social critic James Baldwin, so when I finally buckled down to see what I was expecting to be a “heavy” and “lecturing” documentary, instead I got mind-expanding enlightenment. This is not just an old clips archival construction of Baldwin and his when’s and where’s, this is an excavation through his mind. Early Point: “Negro” is the other N-word, not as ugly but just as debasing. Baldwin, a great intellectual more than I knew, had a dissecting, influential analysis on racial matters that speak of not just then in the 1960’s and 70’s, but seemingly his past voice seems to speak to the now.

“People in general cannot bear very much reality… they prefer fantasy to a truthful recreation of their experience. People have quite enough reality to bear, by simply getting through their lives, raising their children, dealing with the eternal conundrums of birth, taxes and death.” — James Baldwin, “I Am Not Your Negro.” — 2-10-19

Movies I Saw Winter 2019: “Vox Lux,” A. “Mary Poppins” (1964), A. “Zodiac” (2007), A. “13th” (2016), A. “Burning” (South Korea), A. “I Am Not Your Negro,” A-. “Fahrenheit 11/9,” A-. “Saturday Night Fever” (1977), A-. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), B+. “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (1988), B+. “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” B+. “At Eternity’s Gate,” B+. “Big Fish” (2003), B+. “Vice,” B. “Bird Box,” B. “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), B. “The House That Jack Built,” B. “A Simple Favor,” B. “The Wife,” B. “Don’t Think Twice,” B. “Greta,” B. “Mary Poppins Returns,” B-. “Escape Room,” B-. “Three Frontiers,” B-. “Oculus” (2013), B-. “Private Life,” B-. “Devil in a Blue Dress” (1995), C+. “High Flying Bird,” C+. “Bad Times at the El Royale,” C+. “Gringo,” C+. “The Changeover,” C+. “Captain Marvel,” C. “Support the Girls,” C. “Letters to Juliet” (2010), C. “Mouse Hunt” (1997), C. “Miss Bala” (2019), C. “Burnt” (2015), C. “The Pelican Brief” (1993), C. “Velvet Buzzsaw,” C-. “Miss Bala” (2011, Mexico), D+. “Winchester,” D+. “The Portrait of a Lady” (1996), D+. “Destination Wedding,” D. “Christopher Robin,” D. “Trespass Against Us,” D-. “One On One” (2014, South Korea), F. It took time to process, but “Vox Lux” became the most lacerating and unforgettable film of recent times. A masterpiece it takes time reckoning with. — 1-24-19

Ten Best Films 2018: 1. Annihilation; 2. A Star is Born; 3. Mission: Impossible — Fallout; 4. BlacKkKlansman; 5. Vox Lux; 6. The Favourite; 7. Hereditary; 8. Eighth Grade; 9. Loveless (Russia); 10. If Beale Street Could Talk. Read the comprehensive recap.

Walkabout” (1971). I will repeatedly watch it and find myself spellbound every time. A brother and sister are lost in the Australian Outback with little chance for survival but are saved by a Aborigine boy on his yearlong exodus, he’s supposed to be alone so he mature from childhood to manhood. It was just filmed in the most strangely beautiful places I’ve ever seen that could never be repeated, and it had such abstract imagery too that made you draw up themes on your head on modernism vs. primalism, it had this free association quality, and for a hundred other reasons it was my favorite film. Nicolas Roeg, the director, has died at age 90. I also admired his horror film “Don’t Look Now” which had an ending that made you gasp like “The Sixth Sense,” the David Bowie sci-fi mindbender “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” and the Roald Dahl adaptation of “The Witches.” Roeg, RIP. — 11-25-18

“Black Mirror” is the best TV series ever made and it’s not even close. More than just episodes, they are films. Nineteen so far as of October 2018 (more are being made), and they are greatest pieces of cinema than what’s at the multiplex for the most part. With no theatrical projections to worry about, writer Charlie Brooker can go as dark and cerebral as he wants with endings that don’t have to cater to some demographic. What is “Black Mirror?” It’s like waking up in the year 2080, turning on the TV and asking, “I wonder if anybody has made anything better than The Twilight Zone by now?” And the answer is, Yes! They have! But with a technology consuming us spin and where it’s leading us. “Play Test” is the weakest of the nineteen, and even that has merits and is worth a look.

Top Ten Black Mirror films: 1. “San Junipero.” 2. “Be Right Back.” 3. “Hated in the Nation.” 4. “White Bear.” 5. “Crocodile.” 6. “The National Anthem.” 7. “The Entire History of You.” 8. “Fifteen Million Merits.” 9. “Arkangel.” 10. “Nosedive.” Observe my number one, but, this is important: Do not make that the first episode you ever see. See a handful of others first to get accustomed to “Black Mirror” rudiments first. Find them on Netflix streaming. — 10-25-18

Movies I Saw Fall 2018: “A Star is Born” (2018), A+. “The Favourite,” A. “Eighth Grade,” A. “If Beale Street Could Talk,” A. “First Reformed,” A. “To Live and Die in L.A.” (1985), A-. “Papillon” (1973), A-. “In the Shadow of the Moon” (2007), A-. “Green Book,” B+. “Whitney,” B+. “Widows,” B+. “Ransom” (1996), B+. “Sorry To Bother You,” B+. “Chunhyang” (2000, South Korea), B+. “Oceans” (2009), B+. “The Hate U Give,” B. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” B. “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” B. “The Children Act,” B. “Set It Off” (1996), B. “Marty” (1955), B. “The Witch” (2016), B. “For All Mankind” (1989), B. “Cache” (2005, France), B-. “Blindspotting,” B-. “Shoplifters” (Japan), B-. “First They Killed My Father,” B-. “American Graffiti” (1973), B-. “Gerald’s Game,” B-. “Lifeforce” (1985), B-. “Ringu” (1998, Japan), B-. “Miles Ahead,” B-. “Leave No Trace,” C+. “Under the Skin” (2013), C+. “Roma,” C+. “The Blob” (1988), C+. “Backbeat” (1994), C+. “Life of the Party,” C+. “Maudie,” C+. “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” C+. “The Sting” (1973), C+. “First Man,” C. “Papillon” (2018), C. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” C. “Eating Raoul” (1982), C. “Adrift,” C. “Train to Busan” (2016, South Korea), C. “Goya’s Ghosts” (2006), C-. “Vanity Fair” (2004), C-. “Mandy,” D. “Into the Woods” (2014), D. “The Fire Within” (1963, France), D. “Gotti,” D-. When I saw “First Reformed” last May I gave it a B+. After a second viewing, which gives way to enhanced appreciation, stirring ever deepening complexities, I now give it a A and think its one of the year’s standouts. 10-2-18, Updated Frequently

I learned there is a three-hour plus cut of an all-time favorite movie of mine just released on home video, Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.” Yet it’s not really a director’s cut, just a longer cut doodle. Supposedly it fills in the gaps of the narrative, by doing so, losing that amorphous mysterious quality. Tempting, but I honestly don’t think I’m pursuing it. I see myself re-watching the 139 minute original as it was first intended before anything else. — 9-28-18

Movies I Saw Summer 2018: “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” A. “BlacKkKlansman,” A. “The Ballad of Narayama” (1983, Japan), A.  “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” A. “Loveless” (Russia), A. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,A.”Get Me Roger Stone,” A. “Oklahoma City,” A-. “The Rider,” A-. “Seven Beauties” (1976, Italy), A-. “White Heat” (1949), A-. “Vengeance is Mine” (1979, Japan), A-. “El Norte” (1983), A-. “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” B+. “Chappaquiddick,” B+. “The Doctor” (1991), B+. “The Bleeding Edge,” B+. “Filmworker,” B+. “Crazy Rich Asians,” B+. “Tomb Raider,” B. “Unsane,” B. “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” (2003), B. “Elena” (2012, Russia), B. “Searching,” B. “The B-Side: Else Dorfman’s Portrait Photography,” B. “Black Rain” (1990, Japan), B. “Bad Match,” B. “Tully,” B. “A Room with a View” (1986), B. “Mudbound,” B-. “Mamma Mia!” (2008), B-. “Man in the Moon” (1999), B-. “Ocean’s 8,” B-. “The Meyerowitz Stories,” B-. “The Day After” (1983), B-. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938), B-. “The Predator,” C+. “Upgrade,” C+. “Breaker Morant” (Australia, 1980), C+. “The Other Boleyn Girl” (2008), C+. “Lean on Pete,” C+. “American Animals,” C+. “Borg vs. McEnroe,” C. “I Feel Pretty,” C. “My Life” (1993), C. “Revenge” (France), C-. “Looker” (1981), C-. “A Wrinkle in Time,” D+. “Gosford Park” (2001), D. “Color of Night” (1994), D-. “Zama” (Argentina), D-. “Isle of Dogs,” D-. There is nothing more addictive to me right now than the repeat viewings I’ve had with “Get Me Roger Stone,” which may have the best angle on documenting Trump’s ascent into politics… Yes, “Bringing Up Baby” is really a B-. If it were in color and came out in 2018 instead of 1938, we’d call it patched together storytelling, we’d call many of the characters bird-brained, slightly annoying and not nearly as brilliant as we’d like it to be; what it’s got going for it is Cary Grant’s star power and a calling card on Katherine Hepburn’s trademark shtick, and overall, a few chuckles. “BlacKkKlansman” is one of Spike Lee’s three best films ever. — 6-26-18, Updated Frequently

I place “BlacKkKlansman” among Spike Lee’s three best films of his career, just behind “Malcolm X” (1992) and “Do the Right Thing” (1989). What I didn’t have space in my review is to talk about Lee’s bravado, and hindsight wisdom, in criticizing “Gone with the Wind” (1939) and “Birth of a Nation” (1915). Those are films I’ve always felt icky over, and I’ve always brushed them off with no desire to revisit them, not even mentally revisit them. With the former, he actually starts his own film with “GWTW” footage (see right pic), and we see a racist figure played by Alec Baldwin slavering over its “importance” for segregation and a White America. More uncanny is Lee’s use of the latter, “BOTN” as a bedrock for KKK ideology, all its members fired up while watching it — and it was right there I saw how much damage D.W. Griffith has done with influencing white aggressors to inflict harm on “doltish” or “simpleton” or “trouble-making” blacks, and it found a way to permeate into the DNA hate of society. Lee’s inclusion of these “classics” that are really hogwash, was an important feat by the filmmaker. By the way, “BlacKkKlansman” is one of the best film editing jobs of the year, in every facet of what makes great film editing. Final admission, his documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” (2006) is my fourth favorite Lee work. — 8-15-18

Grading the Mission: Impossible movies: “Mission: Impossible” (1996), B+. “Mission: Impossible II” (2000), C. “Mission: Impossible III” (2006), B-. “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” (2011), A. “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” (2015), A. “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” (2018), A. — 7-30-18

“My Life” (1993), a comedy-drama (mostly drama) about a dying man leaving videos to his unborn son, is not a good movie IMO. But what’s amazing is that it was a box office success in its time when today it would be D.O.A. Michael Keaton as a badass cynical advertising exec is in full unlikeable mode for fifty-five minutes until he starts reconciling his life, and Nicole Kidman is just fine but isn’t called upon to be a method actress or anything. I like the film only for an abstract reason: It wouldn’t get a greenlight in today’s times. It exists at a particular point in time when Hollywood said what the heck, we’ll make this. — 6-25-18

It was nearly thirty years since I first saw “El Norte” (1983). Its’ flaws were ever more apparent (couldn’t director Gregory Nava shown the border crossing from Guatemala into Mexico? couldn’t Nava have gotten a better camera angle on the final flash cut? not to mention, there’s a little bit too much protagonist naivete at times). Yet it has incomparable scope for an immigration epic as the brother and sister hustle their way up north and go through excruciating circumstances to illegally cross the U.S. border. The film is both a time capsule and a reflection of lives in the current times of now, and anybody with empathy for those who have nothing and looking to survive even if it means crossing borders into what is supposed to be the Land of Dreams, has to see this at some time or another. The bottom line is the film gets very personal, and we witness struggle and humility close up, and that’s why it’s great. Grade: A-. — 6-16-18

The movie news around the world right now is that “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (see review) took in a very disappointing $84.4 million at the domestic box office and is considered a failure, or to some, a bomb. Sorry, but when is eighty-four million dollars not eighty-four million dollars? Wake up, that’s a ton of money! The eighty-four million take does not mean it’s going to close next week. It has also made more money than my three favorite movies last year combined. What’s worrisome, though, is that it is supposedly the ninth most expensive movie ever made on record ($250 million production budget). I hate these news mongers saying eighty-four is a low take, since we still have a couple weekends for it to haul in more. These news stories (“It’s a disappointment!”) will probably do more damage in dissuading people from going than if no news stories ever existed around the movie. But let me offer some advice to the studio even though my advice will probably just drift out into the vacuum of space without being heard: If you’re worried about recouping $250 million on a movie, don’t waste millions filming an idiotic scene where a giant space lizard that’s too big to fit the screen eats spaceships and flotsam — and really, what else? how does this thing even survive? — when it should have been cut from the script. — 5-30-18

Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson (“Rain Man”) now makes better movies on HBO than he makes theatrical ones. On HBO, “Paterno” has smart, taut directing and features Al Pacino in one of his best performances as a coach who loved wins, loved his players accomplishing their academics off the field, but put up blinders to a terrible ongoing years crime because he could not confront bad news. “You Don’t Know Jack” also with Pacino was Levinson’s other remarkable HBO movie. You have to go back to 1997’s “Wag the Dog” for Levinson’s last great theatrical movie which still holds up to excellence. UPDATE: I caught up later with Levinson’s made for HBO “The Wizard of Lies,” the bio on Bernie Madoff, the biggest Ponzi schemer in U.S. history, and was even more impressed. More than just a summation of events of 2008, it gets deeper as it goes and seals all the cracks of what was still not widely known. This is also the most accomplished, thicketed performance by Robert DeNiro in ages. — 5-16-18

What I Saw Spring 2018: “The Greatest Showman,” A. “Hereditary,” A. “First Reformed,” A. “Children of Men” (2006), A-. “The Wizard of Lies,” A-. “You Were Never Really Here,” B+. “Paterno,” B+. “2 Days in the Valley (1996), B+. “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” (2010), B+. “Bone Tomahawk,” B+. “All The Money In The World,” B. “Personal Shopper” (France), B. “My Friend Dahmer,” B. “Dahmer” (2002), B. “Ready Player One,” B. “Fear” (1996), B. “Freeway” (1997), B.”The Big Sick,” B. “Glory Road” (2006), B. “A Quiet Place,” B. “Scarecrow” (1973), B. “Kate & Leopold (2001), B. “Faces Places” (France), B. “Police Story” (1985, China), B. “Romance & Cigarettes” (2007), B. “Paddington 2,” B. “Disclosure” (1994), B-. “Masquerade” (1988), B-. “Ruby in Paradise” (1993), B-. “Deadpool 2,” B-. “Blaze” (1989), C+. “The Infiltrator,” C+. “The 15:17 to Paris,” C+. “Paddington,” (2014), C+. “Fahrenheit 451,” C+. “Jane Got a Gun,” C+. “Coco,” C+. “Looking for Richard” (1996), C+. “Clean” (2004, France), C. “Art School Confidential” (2006), C. “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” C. “Overboard,” C. “Proud Mary,” C. “The Yards” (2000), C. “Hesher” (2010), C-. “Box of Moonlight” (1997), C-. “Den of Thieves,” D+. “Age of Consent” (1969), D+. “Bobby Deerfield” (1977), D. “Vanya on 42nd Street” (1994), D. “Wonderstruck,” D. I saw “The Greatest Showman” twice in two days; it’s a terrific family movie and the music gets addictive after repeat viewings (I keep bumping up its value, I’m falling in love with it)… I last saw it in 1996 and I liked it then, but in hindsight, “2 Days in the Valley” is better than just good and seems to be to me the best of the “Pulp Fiction” imitations during the rest of the 1990’s when knock-offs had become inundated when laboriously copying a Quentin Tarantino masterpiece had become an indie circle obsession. I update this blog regularly as I see more movies. — 4-5-18

Fiftieth anniversary of the granddaddy of science fiction, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I saw “2001” before I was ten years old and I hold on to the belief that it shaped my intelligence and formed the way I think around abstract ideas. For many years it was my “all-time” favorite movie. Years later, the 1971 “Walkabout” and the 2003 Korean film “Spring Summer Fall Winter… and Spring” became to me what I feel are the two greatest films ever made. That’s not to say “2001” doesn’t remain powerful and revolutionary, as well as evolutionary in my thinking, to this day. In modern times, there’s always a couple handful of great movies every year if you look hard enough. But there’s almost never a film that pushes the envelope in such a transcendental way as “2001” which still remains, outlandishly, so very artistically ahead of our time now. Terrence Malick accomplished something transcendental with “The Tree of Life” in 2011. But my God, so rare. — 4-2-18

There’s one on-going box office behemoth in 2018 and it’s “Black Panther.” I’d be lying if I didn’t say that annoyed the hell out of me, since “Annihilation” (pic right) has had nowhere near any of that good fortune even though it’s one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made. “Annihilation” contains images and ideas that have never been seen before (it’s also the most genuinely scared I’ve been at a movie in ten years), while “Black Panther” is no different from the hundred or more other Marvel comic book movies or CGI-laden blockbusters that have come before it. Audiences would rather see a new coat of paint on an inartistic dead horse rather than have their minds blown. Whatever. — 3-16-18

Hollywood decided to vote on “The Shape of Water” as Best Picture and Best Director because they knew somewhere in the world that would piss me off. So I disliked the movie, I mean, every time it does come up with a beautiful shot it’s held for about two and a half seconds. I admired forty or forty-five other movies way more last year. But the one consolation out of it is Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar speech was a beauty. – 3-5-18

Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) wins the Oscar in what was the lamest Best Actor race since 1977. — 3-4-18

Annihilation” is my first 5-star masterpiece review off the 2018 roster. — 2-28-18

I imagine an irate reader out there wondering how I could give “The Commuter” 3-stars and “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” 2 stars. My reasoning is that “The Commuter” on its own terms is an unpretentious genre piece, very watchable with a relatable Liam Neeson, is something I honestly had a good time at, while “Star Wars Episode VIII” is another entry I’m expected to write a bunch of excuses for, that has only a few moments that got my heart thumping, and inevitably soured me because I feel like the series betrayed what Luke Skywalker is supposed to stand for. Do you really want a jaded, mentally deteriorated Skywalker? And yeah, the series is soap opera deep while being pretentious at the same time. On its own terms, “The Last Jedi” is a declination to the series. — 1-21-18

Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit” tops my list as the Best Film of 2017. Read my year-end round up here. The best lead performances I saw this year were Colin Farrell in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and the best supporting performances I saw were Willem Dafoe in “The Florida Project” and Kirsten Dunst in “The Beguiled.”  — 1-5-18

Best Films 1973: 1. The Exorcist; 2. The Last Detail; 3. Don’t Look Now; 4. Mean Streets; 5. Cries and Whispers (Sweden); 6. Badlands; 7. Papillon; 8. Paper Moon; 9. The Emigrants (Sweden); 10. Day for Night (France). Admittedly, I need to give American Graffiti another chance. Update: I find early sections of AG soporific but there are later portions I admire. Far outside of my top ten for that year, though. — 1-4-18

What I Saw Winter 2018: “Annihilation,” A+. “Battle of the Sexes,” A. “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” A-. “The Post,” A-. “The Bridges of Madison County” (1995), A-. “Phantom Thread,” B+. “Leviathan” (2014, Russia), B+. “The Arrival” (1996), B+. “The Square” (2017, Sweden), B+. “I, Daniel Blake,” B+. “Marshall,” B+. “Brad’s Status,” B. “Game Night,” B. “Happy Death Day,” B. “Red Sparrow,” B. “Lucky,” B. “The Invitation” (2015), B. “Good Time,” B. “Wonder,” B. “Son of Saul” (2015, Hungary), B-. “Last Flag Flying,” B-. “The Light Between Oceans,” B-. “Shadow of the Vampire” (2000), B-. “Roman J Israel, Esq.,” B-. “The Commuter,” B-. “Darkest Hour,” C+. “The Bad Batch,” C+. “Star Wars Episode XIII: The Last Jedi,” C. “The Shape of Water,” C. “Call Me By Your Name,” C. “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House,” C. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” C. “Home Again,” D+. “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” D+. “It,” D. “CHIPS,” F. “The Snowman,” F. Caught up to it late, but “Battle of the Sexes” now takes the crown as the most underrated movie of 2017. “It” became for me the WTF how-did-that-garbage-become-a-blockbuster-!?! movie of this past year; let it be known though I love Stephen King. I wish someone would adapt his best book, “The Long Walk.” Oh, and after several weeks of mulling over it, I’ve now decided “The Bad Batch” is one of the most interesting bad movies I’ve ever seen. It’s pickled in flaws, but if you’re curious enough, just see it. I update this blog regularly as I see more movies. — 1-2-2018

Hollywood decided to vote on “The Shape of Water” as Best Picture and Best Director because they knew somewhere in the world that would piss me off. So I disliked the movie, I mean, every time it does come up with a beautiful shot it’s held for about two and a half seconds. I admired forty or forty-five other movies way more last year. But the one consolation out of it is Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar speech was a beauty. –3-5-18

Annihilation” is my first 5-star masterpiece review off the 2018 roster. — 2-28-18

I imagine an irate reader out there wondering how I could give “The Commuter” 3-stars and “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” 2 stars. My reasoning is that “The Commuter” on its own terms is an unpretentious genre piece, very watchable with a relatable Liam Neeson, is something I honestly had a good time at, while “Star Wars Episode VIII” is another entry I’m expected to write a bunch of excuses for, that has only a few moments that got my heart thumping, and inevitably soured me because I feel like the series betrayed what Luke Skywalker is supposed to stand for. Do you really want a jaded, mentally deteriorated Skywalker? And yeah, the series is soap opera deep while being pretentious at the same time. On its own terms, “The Last Jedi” is a declination to the series. — 1-21-18

Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit” tops my list as the Best Film of 2017. Read my year-end round up here. The best lead performances I saw this year were Colin Farrell in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and the best supporting performances I saw were Willem Dafoe in “The Florida Project” and Kirsten Dunst in “The Beguiled.”  — 1-5-1

In “Downsizing,” the leading expert in the human being shrinkage crusade says discontentedly that only 3% of the world’s population has participated in the lifestyle. The movie was barely over, and I already wanted a remake where 97% the population has participated, and there’s social and political pressure for two or three of the remaining percent to join the small world in the evolution. That would make for great sci-fi horror. –12-24-17

Really enjoyed “The Disaster Artist,” the biopic on the astoundingly strange Tommy Wiseau and the making of the worst movie of modern times, “The Room.” Here are some infamously technically inept movies that are fun in their criacked gotta-laugh-at-them way: “Reefer Madness” (1936), “Plan 9 From Outer Space” (1959), “Myra Breckinridge” (1970), “Ishtar” (1987), “Jaws: The Revenge” (1987), “Sidekicks” (1994), “North” (1994), “The Island of Dr. Moreau” (1996),”Town & Country” (2001), “Freddy Got Fingered” (2001), “Glitter” (2001), Wiseau’s “The Room” (2003), “Envy” (2004), “Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus” (2006), “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” (2010), “Jack and Jill” (2011). — 12-10-17

What I saw Fall 2017: “The Florida Project,” A+. “Blade Runner” (1982), A. “Paris, Texas” (1984), A. “The Lobster,” A. “Moneyball” (2011), A. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” A. “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” (2005), A. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” A-. “Molly’s Game,” A-. “I, Tonya,” A-. “Beatriz at Dinner,” A-. “Blade Runner 2049,” A-. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974), A-. “Lady Bird,” B+. “Raw” (France), B+. “Erin Brockovich” (2000), B+. “The Pledge” (2001), B+. “The Lion King” (1994), B+. “The Disaster Artist,” B+. “Baby Driver,” B+. “Passion Fish” (1992), B+. “Logan Lucky,” B. “The Beguiled,” B. “Dogtooth” (2010, Greece), B. “Coco Before Chanel” (2009, France), B. “High Art” (1998), B. “The Entity” (1981), B. “Wind River,” B-. “Moon Over Parador,” B-. “The House,” B-. “Landline,” B-. “Going in Style,” B-. “Charley Varrick” (1973), B-. “Pusher” (1996, Denmark), B-. “Murder on the Orient Express,” C+. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” C+. “War for the Planet of the Apes,” C+. “It Comes At Night,” C+. “Certain Women,” C+. “Lone Star” (1996), C+. “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” C+. “Downsizing,” C. “Snatched,” C. “mother!,” C. “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” C. “Toni Erdmann” (Germany), C. “Class of 1984” (1982), C. “Class of 1999” (1990), C. “Desert Bloom” (1986), C. “Wakefield,” C. “Just Like Heaven” (2005), C. “Mr. Woodcock” (2007), C. “Gung Ho” (1986), C. “Passengers” (2008), C. “Cell,” C. “Suburbicon,” C-. “T2: Trainspotting,” C-. “The Neon Demon,” C-. “L’Argent” (1983, France), C-. “Rumble Fish” (1983), C-. “Fandango” (1985), C-. “The Dark Tower,” D+. “Baywatch,” D+. “Atomic Blonde,” D+. “The Sea of Trees,” D. “Live By Night,” D. “The Book of Henry,” D-. “Youth Without Youth” (2007), D-. “Tango & Cash” (1989), F. I update this regularly as I see more movies. — 9-28-17

I just wrote a three-and-a-half star review for the French film “Raw” (it’s out now on DVD). While I have always generally enjoyed the star-rating process as a general guidelight, hence the written part of the review is the meat of the interpretation (duh), I want to add that a star rating for this particular film does it no justice in gauging its worth. It is a squirmy, stomach-turning movie that I was anxious to escape from. Yet there is not much wrong with director Julia Ducournau’s artistic method when it comes to her dogmatism, other than it is a rare case where the film could too potent for its own good. You can make it argument that it’s too galling anyway and two stars is apt. But that would deny the fact the film is loaded with cerebral ideas. The creation of the weird cerebral horror film is so rare in the first place, so why not close to five stars? I’m filled with admiration and disgust. I’ve only been so torn twice before, with 1994’s “Natural Born Killers” and 2002’s “Irreversible.” — 9-16-17





R.I.P. Harry Dean Stanton (July 14, 1926 – September 15, 2017), the homespun, working man actor. Five to see: “Paris, Texas” (1984); “Straight Time” (1978); “Alien” (1979); “Wild at Heart” (1990); “Repo Man” (1984). Wim Wender’s piece on the strange melting pot of America, that would be “Paris, Texas,” is Stanton’s greatest and most heartbreaking work. There was “Amadeus” in 1984, and then there was “Paris, Texas” although it is a masterpiece, it has for some reason become increasingly obscure. Time for all admirers of Stanton to stand up for it. — 9-15-17





What I Saw Summer 2017: “Detroit,” A+. “The Founder,” A. “Dunkirk,” A. “The Bounty” (1984), A-. “A Ghost Story,” B+. “Patriots Day,” B+. “The World’s Fastest Indian” (2005), B+. “Fences,” B. “45 Years,” (2015), B. “Logan,” B. “The Hot Spot” (1990), B. “A Kiss Before Dying” (1991), B. “Guilty as Sin” (1993), B. “The Circle,” B. “The Lost City of Z,” B. “Pete’s Dragon,” B. “Footnote” (2011, Israel), B. “Southside with You,” B. “Blue Ruin” (2014), B. “Colossal,” B. “Kong: Skull Island,” B. “The Dog” (2014), B. “Florence Foster Jenkins,” B. “Beauty and the Beast,” B-. “American Honey,” B-. “Hacksaw Ridge,” B-. “Wonder Woman,” B-. “The Girl On The Train,” B-. “Rules Don’t Apply,” C+. “The Lovers,” C+. Lion,” C+. “Split,” C+. “Green Room,” C+. “Wilson,” C. “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” C. “Alien: Covenant,” C. “Song to Song,” C. “The Edge of Seventeen,” C. “Twentieth Century Women,” C. “Little Voice” (1998), C. “Opening Night” (1977), C. “The Handmaiden” (South Korea), C-. “War Dogs,” C-. “The Boxer” (1997), C-. “A Cure for Wellness,” D+. “Prick Up Your Ears” (1987), D+. “Ghost in the Shell,” D. “The Dinner,” F. I will continue to update this as I see more films.

If there’s anything that struck me to make note to what I’ve seen lately, it’s that I really, really liked the 1990’s film noirs that I caught up with, “The Hot Spot,” “A Kiss Before Dying,” and “Guilty as Sin.” We’re talking about movies that got lukewarm to bad reviews in their time, even slammed for having no character (!), but they’re exactly the kind of character-driven, steamy and torrid type of genre pictures that don’t get made now. That I obviously wish they made more of. It’s also ridiculous that “The Bounty” (1984) was called “vague” and “lifeless” by critic Vincent Canby, which is opposite of what found of it. Simply, it was impassioned, exotic, and easily one of the best movies I’ve seen in months. “The Circle” with its audacious material is the most unfairly maligned of recent titles. It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 17%, and it’s way better than that. It’s a cerebral drama of how “cyber connectiveness” is all corrupting us, and it’s quite a daring piece of acting, writing and directing.

— Updated 8-31-17″

R.I.P. Tobe Hooper (January 25, 1943 – August 26, 2017), director. This is a tough one for me write because he is not the usual person I write a tribute about. It’s not the best horror film ever made, I don’t think, but I think it is the most terrifying movie ever made: “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974). I saw it once and only once ten years ago (it has never leapt from memory), and it was skin-crawling and hair-raising for me to get through the rest of the day, I recall, it just so turned me into jelly. It’s a film that I never wrote about because I didn’t want to endorse a film that is too much for most people to handle. This movie, I kid you not, can wreck a person’s soul. Yet it’s no small thing to terrify one so effectively, and I do see it as art. In a weird way, it starts out kind of junky, in a way that only a crude low-budget movie could be junky, and yet ironically, by exploiting that junky aesthetic chord, the film erupts into raw, seemingly documentary-like fury, as its trapped remaining survivors in a charnel house of horror try to run out — but to where? to the deadliness of nightly nowhere. The perpetrators of evil are mentally warped mutations out of touch with law and sanctity, they live in filth and conduct themselves as uncultivated scavengers and scalpers, because their world, is one without education, without a moral compass, without God, one that is an abyss of degradation. It is all these freaks have. I cannot deny it, the original and original only, of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” is visionary art. Don’t ever see it though unless you’re the type of person to push the envelope. — 8-30-17





Detroit” is my first 5-star masterpiece review off the 2017 roster. — 8-4-17

It was of my melancholic discovery that Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring from acting and that his last performance is “Phantom Thread” coming out in December (I can’t wait to see it). My five favorite performances by him: 1. There Will Be Blood (2007); 2. My Left Foot (1989); 3. The Age of Innocence (1993); 4. In the Name of the Father (1993); 5. Gangs of New York (2002). Let’s make clear Day-Lewis, the most transformative chameleon of actors, never gave a bad performance (though “Nine” might be the most why did he do that toss off oddity since he was normally the choosiest of actors). Day-Lewis is even more ridiculously good when you start contrasting all of his performances. This is the same guy who did “A Room with a View” and “The Last of the Mohicans?” See what I mean? — 6-25-17





What last night means is no comedy or musical will ever really win Best Picture again. It has become the Serious Pet Social Issue Picture of the year award. This year it is “Moonlight.” Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fine film, but I feel like after I saw it once I was done with it. So sometimes they are good and they last, sometimes they have momentary admiration, sometimes its forgotten by next month. Best Picture can also be said to be the award of Winter of Despair and Discontent. If that’s the case, I would vote for “Manchester by the Sea” which is a masterpiece — has there ever been a film about a man who ruins his life as dramatically as that? “Manchester” is no “La La Land” which is the most sublime and enchanting film in ages, that goes beyond the “Oh My God, I love that film” adoration, it does more by exhuming a lost passion within the viewer by resurrecting everything that was great about Old Hollywood. And who wants to award that? — 2-27-17

R.I.P. John Hurt, an actor who always looked like he was on the brink of death, yet he delivered forty years of memorable character work. (January 22, 1940 – January 25, 2017). Five to see: “The Elephant Man” (1980); “Midnight Express” (1978); “Owning Mahowny” (2003); “1984” (1984); “Rob Roy” (1995). Hurt’s brief performances in “Alien” (1979) and “Contact” (1997) essentially lent power to the story. Since his departure, I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about one I’ve never seen, “Love and Death on Long Island” (1996) which I plan to get to soon (UPDATE: I’ve now seen it, and it is indeed great). Nothing is more moving than Hurt in “The Elephant Man,” yet what an impossible performance he gave, invisible but staggering in its power. There was always something different in Hurt’s voice during his portrayal, I always wondered since Hurt was muffled under gobs of makeup if it somehow made him have to bellow under all that suffocation. It was a tour de force. — 1-23-17





la-la-land_ryan-gosling_great-musicalsTen Best Musicals Ever Made: 1. All That Jazz (1979), not the most commercial, it’s sexed up, for subversive tastes and I love it; 2. The Band Wagon (1953), Fred Astaire. Cyd Charisse. Class acts. Vividly decorated set pieces. I’ve seen it more than my next pick…; 3. Singin’ in the Rain (1952), iconic; 4. La La Land (2016, see pic), director Damien Chazelle in some ways updates “The Band Wagon” in the classiest way possible, apes yet improves upon “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “New York New York”; 5. The Doors (1991), jaded but electrifying numbers; 6. Mary Poppins (1964), a delight in live-action meets animation and musical genres;  7. Funny Face (1957), Paris and Audrey Hepburn as old-school cool as they’ve ever been. 8. The Greatest Showman (2017), Hugh Jackman headlines a delirious, romantic musical that some people have a problem because it’s historically loose, yet aren’t we all in it for the joy and pageantry of it all? 9. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984), a wacko pick nobody else ever chooses, and I love the footwork, the dance-offs, the eccentricity of it; 10. The Beauty and the Beast (1991), I have other animated favorites but this is tip-top the best animated musical; 11. The Sound of Music (1965), take away the Nazis and the whole plot, or keep it, whatever, I love the Von Trapp family and the deliciously music numbers; 12. Dames (1934), old and corny as hell but the last half hour is fantastically a giant leap ahead of its time and a Busby Berkeley choreographed tour de force.

Notes: I omitted The Wizard of Oz (1939) for not being a complete musical; The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964, France) is a masterpiece only in theory, it eventually sags, but it is very nice and worth seeing; old timers like “On the Town” (1949) and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954) just missed the cut; I like “Moulin Rouge” (2001) a little more each new time I see it, but I’m still mystified why it’s loved. — 1-10-17

malcolm-x_best-films-1990sFlashback, Ten Best Films of 1992: 1. Malcolm X, 2. Damage, 3. Unforgiven, 4. Raise the Red Lantern (China), 5. The Player, 6. The Crying Game, 7. Scent of a Woman, 8. One False Move, 9. The Hairdresser’s Husband (France), 10. Bad Lieutenant. Also: Baraka, Under Siege, Leolo (French-Canadian), Husbands and Wives, My Cousin Vinny.

silence-of-the-lambs jonathan demme directs hannibal lector anthony hopkinsFlashback, Ten Best Films of 1991: 1. The Silence of the Lambs, 2. JFK, 3. Cape Fear, 4. The Doors, 5. Grand Canyon, 6. Beauty and the Beast, 7. Barton Fink, 8. Dead Again, 9. Thelma & Louise, 10. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse. Also: The Man in the Moon, Point Break, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Defending Your Life, L.A. Story.

full-metal-jacket_best-film_1987Flashback, Ten Best Films of 1987: 1. Full Metal Jacket, 2. House of Games, 3. Angel Heart, 4. Moonstruck, 5. Wall Street, 6. Radio Days, 7. Empire of the Sun, 8. Au Revoir les Enfants (France), 9. Raising Arizona, 10. My Life as a Dog (Sweden). Also: The Princess Bride, No Way Out, Planes Trains & Automobiles, Broadcast News, Roxanne.

Blue Velvet - best films 1980sFlashback, Ten Best Films of 1986: 1. Blue Velvet, 2. The Fly, 3. Platoon, 4. Aliens, 5. Down and Out in Beverly Hills, 6. Something Wild, 7. Ruthless People, 8. Vagabond (France), 9. Manhunter, 10. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Also: Hannah and Her Sisters, Children of a Lesser God, The Color of Money, 9 1/2 Weeks, Peggy Sue Got Married. And Gary Oldman’s harrowing performance in the tough to watch “Sid & Nancy.” — 1-25-16

My ten favorite Clint Eastwood directed films in order: “Unforgiven” (1992), “Sully” (2016), “Million Dollar Baby” (2004), “American Sniper” (2014), “Mystic River” (2003), “Invictus” (2009), “Gran Torino” (2008), “Changeling” (2008), “The Bridges of Madison County” (1995), “A Perfect World” (1993). — 10-6-16

“Awake” (2007) is as critically reviled at large a movie as there is that I happened to like. I only discovered it recently, but it has stuck with me. It’s a terrific genre movie that skews its medical conspiracy plot, sparking into an unpredictable direction. Why was it likely hated (probably before the movie even began rolling)? I think it’s because a knee-jerk desire to slam Hayden Christensen and Jessica Alba, as the couple in love, even though both actors had never been better. Alba is so naturally beautiful that she’s not supposed to be able to act, right? Well, here she’s beautiful and meek, before turning demanding when she needs to be and it’s a complex and believable transitional piece of acting. It’s also not fair to Joby Harold, the writer-director, who put out a much better film than most freshmen filmmakers. He takes a bold chance shooting in out of body experience and makes it visually imaginative. At a time when Hollywood is at its most creatively bankrupt, it’s nice to discover a treasure that’s from not too long ago. — 8-8-16





Days-of-Heaven _Review_Masterpiece-ObscureFlashback, Ten Best Films of 1978: 1. Days of Heaven, 2. Straight Time, 3. Stroszek (Germany), 4. The Deer Hunter, 5. Superman, 6. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 7. Midnight Express,  8. An Unmarried Woman, 9. Pretty Baby, 10. National Lampoon’s Animal House. Honorable Mentions: Interiors, Coming Home, Coma, Fingers, The Fury. — 7-5-16

R.I.P. Michael Cimino (February 3, 1939 – July 2, 2016), director. Cimino made one great film, but one for the ages it is. “The Deer Hunter” (1978) won 5 Oscars, was almost the first to tackle Vietnam, yet vividly captured blue collar America and the after effects robbed the soul of combat soldiers coming home better than any film up to that point. Also, Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken (an Oscar winner for the film) were unimprovable as heartbroken victims of war. Cimino’s follow-up “Heaven’s Gate” (1981) is a turkey (with occasional shavings of brilliance, i.e., it’s not your everyday cinematic turkey), notoriously, it bankrupted United Artists — and worse — the $42 million price tag killed the big budget personal film. Could it have been an eccentric western/tragedy classic had the 3 hour 39 minute movie been pared down to a decent two and a half hours? Cimino never recovered from his rep as a destructively overly-indulgent filmmaker; I love big directors with complete creative control, but Cimino might have been one of the great directors had he just been reigned in. Four more modest movies followed by him, all forgettable. But his one true hit is an essential classic, the Great American Movie. — 7-3-16





Here’s an odd reaction. Only recently did I ever catch up to “The Last Boy Scout” (1991), which at the time had a record-breaking sold script of $1.75 million to writer Shane Black. Admittedly, if I saw it the year it came out I probably would have not liked it (maybe hated it) for its macho ostentatiousness, its flagrant mistreatment of women and cynical worldview. But we’re in 2016, and now I appreciate its crisp hard-boiled dialogue; its rather shrewd and resonate noir plot; for its action scenes that are performed not by a computer but by rugged action stars. Grade: B. — 6-25-16

This past weekend I had a blast with the buddy team detective pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in “The Nice Guys” (click to see review). Here are some older classic unlikely pairings that I am fond of from not so recent times: James Caan and Alan Arkin in “Freebie and the Bean” (1974); Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in “Silver Streak” (1976); John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in “The Blues Brothers” (1980); Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in “48 Hours” (1982); Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines in “Running Scared” (1986); Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in “Lethal Weapon” (1987) and “Lethal Weapon 2” (1989); Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin in “Midnight Run” (1988); Michael J. Fox and James Woods in “The Hard Way” (1991); Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson in “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992); Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid in “Kingpin” (1997). I hope at least a few were obscure, not so widely seen choices so that you have something to hunt down now on home video. Click each link to find on Amazon. — 5-24-16

Tilda Swinton_Best Actress Today“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (2011) is among the toughest movies to watch, in terms of queasy and grueling, dealing with a mother’s adaptation to life after her son commits a school campus mass murder. It took five years in-between my first and second viewing but I now think Tilda Swinton gives one of the ten best performances of all-time — after an accumulation of work I simply think she’s the greatest actress alive, I’m more excited by her projects than Meryl Streep’s. I gave this particular film four stars out of five in my original review, and just off my year’s ten best list, but it’s kind of an odd masterpiece that stands outside of judgment of ranks (it’s not for all people). To me, it is as masterful of anything I’ve seen on the mind shattered post-traumatic stress disorder phenomenon, and Swinton is really teetering on the brinks of despair, living on only for some shred of catharsis in the form of human kindness from someone and from somewhere brought her way, alas, it crushingly eludes her. She gets only a shred of consolation of disclosure from her son in their final scene together. — 5-6-16





If Owen Gleiberman’s frankly told memoir “Movie Freak” isn’t quite the best book I’ve ever read, it’s the most essential to me. For all his stupendous talent I don’t think anymore I wouuld want to trade places with him. That doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s the copious critical wit of our age. But at a cost, he soaked up a lot of personal and professional sludge in his time. An aside, I do appreciate Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” (1986), I give it an A- (find that Michael Mann flick on Amazon). But I’d never watch it forty times. I do admit to times of my life, like Owen, to overwatching too many movie titles as a substitute and extention to my own life. That’s bad, in retrospect. You lose focus, you forfeit connection to real people. I love movies, but when it’s too much, too many titles in one month, I regret it. — 3-10-16





How taboo-smashing was that Oscar’s opening monologue with Chris Rock… and how goddamn inconsistent and scattershot were the rest of the loaded topic race jokes that happened the rest of the night! I’ll say this for the effect on the award show: Sylvester Stallone didn’t win Best Supporting Oscar for “Creed” because of political reasons. If he’d won, the [spurious] race card backlash would have just hurt him for years. — 3-1-16

My ten favorite Robert DeNiro performances in order: 1. Raging Bull (1980); 2. Taxi Driver (1976); 3. The Deer Hunter (1978); 4. Cape Fear (1991); 5. The King of Comedy (1983); 6. Heat (1995); 7. GoodFellas (1990); 8. This Boy’s Life (1993); 9. Casino (1995); 10. The Godfather Part II (1974). Putting this list together reminds me of why I love DeNiro despite his sell-outs. I could have come up with twenty titles. — 1-28-16

Didn’t see “Dirty Grandpa.” I do know I was super pissed-off at Robert DeNiro for his half-assed work in the crummy “Grudge Match.” The vitriol is so heated against DeNiro though for his latest that some say he should retire. I’m disappointed in DeNiro for his tasteless choices, but unlike many who has said he’s been lousy for a long time, I’ve at least noticed that he’s done some fine work in recent years. Those titles would be “The Intern,” “American Hustle,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Being Flynn,” “Limitless” and the very underrated “Stone.” DeNiro will bounce back. But admittedly, he’s no longer my favorite actor. UPDATE: I finally did see “Dirty Grandpa” (click review) and it’s one of the dogs of the year.  — 1-22-16

Tangerine Kiki RodriguezI’ve come to hate commenting on the Oscars, yet I’m compelled to say something again this year. Now they’re saying there’s a lack of diversity in the list of nominees. Now they’re saying this?? Samuel L. Jackson is just about the greatest actor of our time and hasn’t been nominated since 1994. Not for 1997’s “Jackie Brown,” a role that I think no one else could have done, in 2012’s “Django Unchained” white actor Christoph Waltz wins even though Jackson single-handedly made me re-think everything I ever thought I knew about racism in this country — I’m not even sure the movie would have had the substance to justify the overdone violence in the movie if not for him. No one has ever apologized to Spike Lee for not nominating “Malcolm X,” an epic far more stupendous than “Lawrence of Arabia.” Never a Korean actor nominated. And if you’re looking for me to say something totally irreverent about 2015, one of the three most jaw-dropping, dazzling performances of the year was transgendered Kitana Kiki Rodriguez for a little movie called “Tangerine” that’s simply too subversive a pick for anybody except the critics to have noticed. — 1-14-16





R.I.P. Alan Rickman, actor who was a master at the art of droll (February 21, 1946 – January 14, 2016). Five to see: “Die Hard” (1988); “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” (2006); “Love Actually” (2003); “Galaxy Quest” (1999); “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” (2013). — 1-14-16





Ten best films of 2015 (read complete article): 1. Ex Machina, 2. Mad Max: Fury Road, 3. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, 4. Bridge of Spies, 5. Inside Out, 6. The Big Short, 7. Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, 8. The Walk, 9. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, 10. Spotlight. — 1-6-16

R.I.P. Vilmos Zsigmond, cinematographer (June 16, 1930 – January 1, 2016). One of the masters when it came to visions and light. Five to see: “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (1971); “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977); “The Deer Hunter” (1978); “The Black Dahlia” (2006); “The Witches of Eastwick” (1987). — 1-5-16

Annie Hall_ Best-1977-FilmsFlashback, Ten Best Films of 1977: 1. Annie Hall, 2. That Obscure Object of Desire (France), 3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 4. Eraserhead, 5. Star Wars, 6. Sorcerer, 7. Slap Shot, 8. Three Women, 9. The Spy Who Loved Me, 10. Saturday Night Fever. Honorable Mentions: New York New York, The Hills Have Eyes, In the Realm of the Senses (Japan), Suspiria (Italy), High Anxiety. — 1-2-16

Come and See_1985Flashback, Ten Best Films of 1985: 1. Come and See (Russia), 2. The Falcon and the Snowman, 3. Out of Africa, 4. Witness, 5. Brazil, 6. The Purple Rose of Cairo, 7. Back to the Future, 8. Lost in America, 9. After Hours, 10. Runaway Train. Honorable Mentions: Mask, Blood Simple, Streetwise, Re-Animator, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. — 12-30-15

I am going to be late a couple weeks posting my 2015 year’s ten best and worst list, due to urgent family obligations. I am still catching up on some titles. This I can say, I only gave 5-stars to a single film this year: Ex Machina. — 12-30-15





Grading the Hunger Games movies: “The Hunger Games” (2012), grade B+. “Catching Fire” (2013), B+. “Mockingjay – Part I” (2014), C. “Mockingjay – Part II (2015), C+. Just like the books, by the time it got to the revolution portion with its vapid conflicts (Julianne Moore as the new self-anointed power of the freed districts is especially inane), the saga just petered out. It’s not satisfying, it’s not dissatisfying, but you just sort of resign yourself to its half-baked imagination. Jennifer Lawrence works as hard as ever, but she too often resorts into screeching indignation. You lose a little love for her the more you feel the movie grind on. — 12-6-15

Grading the Rocky movies: “Rocky” (1976), grade A-. “Rocky II” (1979), B-. “Rocky III” (1983), C+. “Rocky IV” (1985), B-. “Rocky V” (1990), C-. “Rocky Balboa” (2006), B. “Creed” (2015), B. The original is something of a small miracle that taps into ground level realism, and the rest are mixed bag guilty pleasures. Especially “Rocky IV” which is so shamelessly ridiculous that it’s hysterically watchable. The formula in the ring is mostly the same: Rocky wins Round 2 but it gets smacked around in most of the other ones, usually showing vitality again in Round 8 and 12. — 12-2-15

As we approach halfway through the decade, I want to confess to six films that I originally underrated. Cloud Atlas, original grade 2.5 stars | now 5 stars. I had never been so wrong about a film in my entire life. Here’s a profound sci-fi film not bound by conventions, single time periods, or simple themes. Flight, original 3.5 stars | now 4 stars. The humor to off-set the dark themes sometimes feels misplaced. But now I’m over that, and see this is one of the most ingenious screenplays of recent years. Denzel Washington is electrifying. Silver Linings Playbook, original 3.5 stars | now 4 stars. A well-crafted Hollywood romance programmer. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are infectious, however, and their charms and foibles are something that have made a lasting imprint on my mind. Django Unchained, original 3 stars | now 4 stars. I simply didn’t understand Quentin Tarantino’s subversive approach to showing how truly ugly and hopeless the age of slavery was. Most mind-altering are the survival tactics of Samuel L. Jackson’s Uncle Tom, which is easily one of the best performances of the decade. Inside Llewyn Davis, original 3 stars | now 4 stars. I really judged the Coen Brothers’ screenplay of this Greenwich Village period piece as meandering, but when I saw it again everything fit inevitably, and necessarily, and it’s just so damn haunting. Get On Up, original 3 stars | now 4 stars. I don’t know what made me think at first why I thought it was too commercial. But this radical James Brown biopic is quite unconventional, and the scenes of the 1940’s poor South are indelible. 11-24-15

My seven favorite James Bond movies in order: “Casino Royale” (2006), “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977), “Goldfinger” (1964), “Moonraker” (1979), “Octopussy” (1983), “You Only Live Twice” (1967), “Never Say Never Again” (1983). Keep in mind, fun is fun. Click here for Underrated James Bond article that I wrote three years ago. –11-3-15

Dont Look Now-Flick-1973Film Recommendation: “Don’t Look Now” (1973). I’ve always said if you loved M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t love this one, too. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play a British married couple who begin couples rekindling in Venice following the death of their daughter. They have sex (famously “unsimulated” according to legend), they meet a psychic, and they start noticing a figure in a red raincoat recurring in the canals. The husband is a skeptic, the wife develops a keen belief. Edited with a fragmented design, you watch it as if it is in puzzle assembly mode. Director Nicolas Roeg is one of cinema’s most underrated stylists. — 10-25-15





My five favorite Ridley Scott films in order: “Blade Runner” (1982), ” Black Hawk Down” (2001), “Alien” (1979), “Matchstick Men” (2003), “Thelma & Louise” (1991). — 10-22-15

Here is a list of the five best shoestring budget films that come out in the last five years: 1. Monsters (2010, $500,000 budget. The only intellectual monster movie that comes off the top of my head, it’s also radiantly shot); 2. Tangerine (2015, $100,000. Transgender prostitutes on Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland, and other assorted lowlifes. Wow, these are some of the daily problems for the likes of them! 3. Compliance (2012, $270,000. Working class people cower to mindless authority, based on an upsetting true incident); 4. Coherence (2013, $50,000. After neighborhood power goes out, a dinner party enters a Twilight Zone-inspired fifth dimension); 5. Room 237 (2012, N/A. Wacko theories on Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “The Shining,” but the more you listen, the more you believe some of them might likely have deliberately stemmed from Kubrick’s abstract genius). — 10-21-15





A list of my 15 favorite directors of all-time with one essential title per each. I’ve chosen their most essential film that reflects their range of skill, sometimes the case it’s their best film. Favorites listed in order: 1. Stanley Kubrick (“Barry Lyndon”); 2. Martin Scorsese (“Taxi Driver”); 3. Joel & Ethan Coen (“The Hudsucker Proxy”); 4. Steven Spielberg (“Minority Report”); 5. Kim Ki-Duk (“3-Iron”); 6. Quentin Tarantino (“Jackie Brown”); 7. Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”); 8. Alfred Hitchcock (“Vertigo”); 9. Luis Bunuel (“The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”); 10. Woody Allen (“Annie Hall”); 11. Billy Wilder (“Sunset Blvd.”); 12. David Lynch (“Blue Velvet”); 13. Brian DePalma (“Carrie”); 14. Clint Eastwood (“Unforgiven”); 15. Preston Sturges (“Sullivan’s Travels”). Just missing this list is Paul Thomas Anderson whose last film was the impenetrable “Inherent Vice,” thus, a demerit. — 9-10-15

Grading the Mission: Impossible movies: “Mission: Impossible” (1996), grade: B+. “Mission: Impossible II” (2000), C. “Mission: Impossible III” (2006), B-. “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” (2011), A. “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” (2015), A. It’s too close a call which of the last two is best. Gut instinct, “Rogue Nation” might be the best one in my opinion, time will tell. — 8-6-2015





Grading the Terminator movies. The original that jump started James Cameron’s career is still the best in my opinion: “The Terminator” (1984), grade: A-. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991), A-. “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003), C. “Terminator Salvation” (2009), C-. “Terminator Genisys” (2015), D. — 7-12-15

Here is a list of 15 films that got good to lukewarm reviews in their day but really have had a resurgent cinephile following in contemporary years. Or another way to put it, they’re major classics now even when they weren’t given respect then: “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968); “The Gambler” (1974); “Sorcerer” (1977); “Slap Shot” (1977); “The Shining” (1980); “The Thing” (1982); “Runaway Train” (1985); “Joe vs. the Volcano” (1990); “Point Break” (1991); “Groundhog Day” (1993); “Seven” (1995); “Gattaca” (1997); “Jackie Brown” (1997); “The Grey Zone” (2002); “Burn After Reading” (2008). Click here for full article. — 6-30-15

Five extraordinary Samuel L. Jackson performances nobody talks about: “Jackie Brown” (1997); “Django Unchained” (2012); “Unbreakable” (2000); “Lakeview Terrace” (2008); “Jungle Fever” (1991). Jackson gets way under the skin with these roles, he is utterly possessed by them. — 6-14-15

This weekend Cameron Crowe has taken a critical drubbing of his latest “Aloha,” which many critics are calling the worst of this career. Yeah, it’s bad. But is it really worse than his last, “We Bought A Zoo” with the always reliable Matt Damon who came out bland, with a film itself that left me barren memories of actual animals? Or the gooey “Elizabethtown” with an insipid Orlando Bloom? Whatever the case, Crowe has struck out three times in a row. His case is now a more embarrassing fall from grace than James L. Brooks. — 5-31-15

Grading the Mad Max movies. “Mad Max” (1979), grade: C. “The Road Warrior” (1982), A-. “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” (1985), B. “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), A. — 5-24-15

Point-Break_1991 Underrated Summer-Thriller_Flick MinuteFilm Recommendation: “Point Break.” Bank robbers masked as the ex-Presidents versus a FBI agent fresh out of the academy, or, Patrick Swayze vs. Keanu Reeves. What seemed silly in 1991 is now seriously awesome to me now. No computerized special effects. Punchy dialogue, a plot that holds water, dazzling camerawork, the most astonishing skydiving sequence ever shot. They don’t make them like this anymore; today’s action movies are far too fake for me to get excited about. — 5-8-15





Ex Machina” is my first 5-star film off the 2015 roster. — 4-30-15

Recently I’ve been glued to the A.V. Club poll of the top 100 films of the first half of the decade, click here it’s a great article. I want to add ten titles that failed to be mentioned, not my ten best but ten that aren’t obvious and have been generally overlooked: the feel-good music drama “Begin Again” (director John Carney); the South Korean race against the clock thriller to takedown a serial killer “The Chaser” (Na Hong-jin); the diabolical murder plot that’s the French film “Love Crime” (Alain Corneau); Woody Harrelson as a chilling sociopathic cop in “Rampart” (Oren Moverman); the wordless trance documentary “Samsara” (Ron Fricke); the beguiling sex-crazed documentary “Tabloid” (Errol Morris); the multi-narrative French film preoccupied with child protection case studies that is “Polisse” (Maiwenn); the grown-up German sex and food comedy “Soul Kitchen” (Fatih Akin); the brainteasing Hitchcockian thriller “Source Code” (Duncan Jones); and the fine South Korean drama of Alzheimer’s and the shame of covering up a death that is “Poetry” (Lee Chang-dong), which truly should be ranked among the very best films of the decade. — 4-28-15

Larry Clark’s riveting true crime story “Bully” (2001), with Brad Renfro and Nick Stahl, is the best film I’ve seen in the last several weeks (grade: A-), so excuse me if I could say I flipped out when I saw the 54% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave it four stars, calling it “a masterpiece on its own terms, a frightening indictment of a society that offers absolutely nothing to some of its children… and an indictment of the children, who lack the imagination and courage to try to escape.” Every critic who disliked it seemed to have gotten up on their soapboxes and over-emphasized the sex scenes between minors as obscene, which is distortion. This is a circumstance of legal adults playing teen characters having sex in a seamy unvirtuous environment, not salacious voyeurism of actors being made to have sex for useless titillation. Or, this is about that subject, yes the subject, of teens indulging in debased activities and not an exploitation of it. Critics seem to have punished Clark for making “Kids” (1995) previously, and chose not to see the fascinating sociological horror here of kids without conscience hatching an incompetent murder scheme. — 4-15-15





I finally caught up to “The Theory of Everything” (2014) and then “A Brief History of Time” (1992) a week later. Funny how “The Theory” is inadequate with expressing Stephen Hawking’s work and ideas but succeeds with putting a human face on the man, while “Brief History” is inadequate with rounding him out as a complete person to emotionally connect with but yet outlines his genius astrophysicist work comprehensively enough. I suppose I liked “Brief History” better because I had “The Theory” as a warm-up. “The Theory of Everything,” grade: C. “Brief History of Time,” grade: B-. Neither would satisfy on their own, but weirdly, I give the whole experience of watching them both a grade B. — 3-31-15

My five favorite David Cronenberg films in order: “eXistenZ” (1999), “A History of Violence” (2005), “The Fly” (1986), “A Dangerous Method” (2011), “Crash” (1996). — 3-8-15

Widow-of-St-Pierre_French film (2001)Film Recommendation: “The Widow of St. Pierre” (2001, France). On an island off Newfoundland in 1849, a man is condemned to death after a drunken murder. In the time it takes for a guillotine to be transported from Paris, the police captain and his wife of the small village befriend their prisoner and persuades the townsfolk that while his actions were senseless, he is not a monster. Bigwig politicians are insulted by the townfolks’ budding compassion. I’ll go out on a limb and proclaim it as one of the ten best French films ever made. — 3-1-15





It won’t take five years with “Boyhood” before editorials, television criticism and internet rants collectively shame the Academy for making one of the all-time worst mistakes by not honoring the film and director Richard Linklater, whom has a brilliant career, one perpetually unappreciated however. — 2-23-15

Ten best films of 1989: 1. Do the Right Thing, 2. Born on the 4th of July, 3. The War of the Roses, 4. The Fabulous Baker Boys, 5. True Love, 6. Glory, 7. Casualties of War,  8. sex, lies & videotape, 9. My Left Foot, 10. Parenthood. What won the Best Picture Oscar? The reserved and safe racial relations picture “Driving Miss Daisy” redeemed mostly by Morgan Freeman’s careful performance of a black man living harmoniously among racist white communities by having mastered his tone and courteousness over the course of a lifetime. — 2-22-15

Ten best films of 1982: 1. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, 2. Tootsie, 3. The Verdict, 4. Blade Runner, 5. Gandhi, 6. The Thing, 7. Das Boot (Germany), 8. The Road Warrior, 9. Diner, 10. An Officer and a Gentleman. This was a rare year where the first six titles would have been worthy of a Best Picture winner, though E.T. to me is obviously the best, but alas, there can only be one winner. “Gandhi” is now considered overrated because it trumped other titles for the top Oscar, but it’s really one of the great sprawling, meaningful epics that recreates history as well as provides a manifest of what the man stood for. When it comes down to it, any new film buff should catch up with all of these titles. — 2-12-15

Ten films I once thought were great, during my young pretentious phase, that I can now surely live without: “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930), “The Lady Vanishes” (1938), “Children of Paradise” (1945, France), “The Big Sleep” (1946), “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), “Shane” (1953), “Rififi” (1955, France), “Juliet of the Spirits” (1965, Italy), “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1974, Germany), “Diva” (1982, France). I mean, take the first title: Is it really comparable to, say, the poetry of Malick’s “The Thin Red Line?” The second title: I love Hitchcock, but let’s admit it, this one’s excitement is nil and the black & white is blah. Why watch some German kitchen sink drabness that is “Ali” when you can re-watch the lush and impassioned Todd Haynes’ film “Far From Heaven” with Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid? — 2-10-15

I revised my 2014 year’s ten best list to include new titles that I was late with catching up on. Click for article here. — 2-3-15

Nymphomaniac_Lars von Trier_Review_Charlotte-GainsbourgGreat female performances that Oscar failed to nominate: Salma Hayek in “Beatriz at Dinner” (2017), Jessica Chastain in “Molly’s Game” (2017), Amy Adams in “Arrival” (2016), Taraji P. Henson in “Hidden Figures” (2016), Charlotte Gainsbourg in “Nymphomaniac” (Denmark, 2014, pic left), Jessica Chastain in “The Tree of Life” (2011), Yun Jung-hee in Poetry (2011, South Korea), So-Ri Moon in Oasis (2004, South Korea), Naomi Watts in “Mulholland Dr.” (2001), Reese Witherspoon in “Election” (1999), Uma Thurman in “Gattaca” (1997), Julianne Moore in “Safe” (1995), Tilda Swinton in “Orlando” (1993), Juliette Binoche in “Damage” (1992), Gong Li in “Raise the Red Lantern” (1992, China), Jessica Lange in “Men Don’t Leave” (1990), Annabella Sciorra in “True Love” (1989), Shelley Duvall in “The Shining” (1980), Susan Sarandon in “Pretty Baby” (1978), Mia Farrow in “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), Catherine Denueve in “Repulsion” (1965), Marilyn Monroe in “The Misfits” (1961), Tatyana Samojlova in The Cranes are Flying (1957, Russia), Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), Beulah Bondi in “Make Way for Tomorrow” (1937), Barbara Stanwyck in “Baby Face” (1933).

Nightcrawler_Great Un-Nominated PerformancesGreat male performances that Oscar failed to nominate: Colin Farrell in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (2017), Michael Keaton in “The Founder” (2017), Tom Hanks in “Sully” (2016), Jake Gyllenhaal in “Nightcrawler” (2014, pic left), Woody Harrelson in “Rampart” (2012), Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (2007), Bruno Ganz in “Downfall” (2005, Germany), Ewan McGregor in “Young Adam” (2004), Matt Damon in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999), Samuel L. Jackson in “Jackie Brown” (1997), Russell Crowe in “L.A. Confidential” (1997), Al Pacino in “Heat” (1995), Johnny Depp in “Ed Wood” (1994), Jeremy Irons in “Damage” (1992), Val Kilmer in “The Doors” (1991), Jeff Bridges in “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (1989), Tom Cruise in “Rain Man” (1988), Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly” (1986), Sean Penn in “The Falcon and the Snowman” (1985), Harry Dean Stanton in “Paris, Texas” (1984), Eric Roberts in “Star 80” (1983), Robert DeNiro in “The King of Comedy” (1983), Dustin Hoffman in “Straight Time” (1978), James Stewart in “Vertigo” (1958), Kirk Douglas in “Paths of Glory” (1957). — 1-31-15

My Picks Best of the Best Performances 2014: Female: Charlotte Gainsbourg in “Nymphomaniac” (Denmark), Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl.” Male: Jake Gyllenhaal in “Nightcrawler,” Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher.”

Supporting female: Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood,” Tilda Swinton in “Snowpiercer.” Supporting male: J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash,” Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher.” — 12-20-14

This is 40_Poster FilmFlip-flop: I was wrong with my original review of “This is 40” (2012). Sure, I gave it a 3-star recommendation, but it should have been a 4. I now think that it’s Judd Apatow’s best film, and his “40-Year Old Virgin” is just as addicting. With his 2012 film I can watch over and over, at any spot, whenever it plays on HBO. After I consulted my original review I honestly don’t know what I was irked with, there seems to be countless classic lines and true to life situations. Like the best of Woody Allen comedies, it is sheer observation of the human condition. Every supporting player sparkles. There’s no other way to say this: “This is 40” is compulsively watchable. — 12-15-14





“The Graduate” (1967) has always been an estimable classic. In retrospect, the ending meant something different to me at 12-years old than it did when I saw it again at 25. You get this happy ending where love prevails. Then you see it again with newfound maturity and it’s a sad one. These people have nothing to say to each other, yet they’re going to end up together out of rebellious impulse to stick their noses up at their families, and go down a long black sound of silence hole together with no excitement left to be shared. It is a genius ending, really. — 11-26-14

R.I.P. Mike Nichols, director (November 6, 1931 – November 19, 2014). Nichols’ reputation will eternally endure because of “The Graduate” (1967), and sure, it’s terrific. Nichols’ best film however, to me, is “Carnal Knowledge” (1971) with Jack Nicholson which was Rated X at the time for extreme adult material (nudity, sexual innuendo, raw domestic fighting) about an immature man whose life quest is beaver-chasing, who holds no regard for intelligent women. Mid-section focuses in on the longest relationship of his life, there’s no way this guy is capable of having a longer one. The girl is played by Ann-Margret as a buxom bunny with feelings. He doesn’t love her, he destroys her even without intention. This film is the Nichols classic you’ve never heard of, and is a companion piece with his later film “Closer” (2004). Click for review here. — 11-21-14





I give the original “Dumb & Dumber” (1994) a grade of A-. It’s a cruddy and sloppy movie so why do I revere it? Because every scene has laughs, and the damn thing just flows so well. W.C. Fields and the Marx Bros. made sloppy movies eighty years ago that get much more revered in film history, and they’re not half as funny as the classic (yes, classic) Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels yuk-fest. Note: The sequel is not nearly as good. 11-12-14

The movie “Halloween” is synonymous with Halloween. It’s the most famous of John Carpenter’s movies. I’m only okay on it. See “The Thing” (1982) and “They Live” (1988) by Carpenter instead, both ridiculously entertaining. — 10-29-14

“Birdman” is likely to be my choice for worst movie of the year. Yes, you heard me. It has the most annoying ensemble of a-holes since Robert Altman’s “Gosford Park.” Click for review here. — 10-28-14

I think it’s about time Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” (1998) becomes a candidate for Best War Film Ever Made. Sure, “Apocalypse Now” (1979) is as iconic as any war movie and its impressions are infinite. But come on, in truth, I haven’t turned that movie on in ten years nor do I need to (I already know it in my mind and heart too well, it’s thoroughly digested). “Paths of Glory” (1957) is so powerful that it continues to upset me every time I watch it, which is maybe once every five or six years. But when it comes to Malick’s film, it is compulsively watchable, visually fascinating, poetic in multiple interpretations, evocative of so many different feelings and ideas at once. And it juxtaposes the horrors of war with natural beauty better than any film made. Period. You can click for review here that I wrote three years ago. But I don’t even think my review is solid enough to do it justice. I almost want to start over in the future I write yet another review of it. — 10-12-14

Cloud-Atlas_Ben WhishawFavorite Quote: “I understand now, that boundaries between noise and sound are conventions. All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so. Moments like this, I can feel your heart beating as clearly as I feel my own, and I know that separation is an illusion. My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.” Robert Frobisher in “Cloud Atlas” (2012). — 9-25-14

Cloud Atlas” music by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil is my new favorite CD soundtrack. — 9-24-14





R.I.P. Robin Williams, actor (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014). Even if he made “License to Wed,” one of the very worst movies I’ve ever seen, I still liked him. Five to see: “One Hour Photo” (2002); “What Dreams May Come” (1998); “The Fisher King” (1991); “Awakenings” (1990); and the criminally overlooked “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984). — 8-11-14

After it seemed like I saw fifty crappy, inelegant, shaky-cam heavy, incoherent action films in a row, I’ve finally seen three good ones this summer: “Lucy,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” and “Edge of Tomorrow.” — 7-24-14

Boyhood” is my second 5-star film off the 2014 roster and the one to beat for best film of the year. — 7-18-14

R.I.P. Paul Mazursky, writer-director (April 25, 1930 – June 30, 2014). Rambunctious intellect and social observations ran through his films, but in a life-affirming and funny way. Five to see: “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (1986), an unsung masterpiece; “An Unmarried Woman” (1978); “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984); “Enemies: A Love Story” (1989); “Harry and Tonto” (1974). — 7-8-14

Inside-Llewyn-Davis_ Cat-Motif_Coen BrosFlip-flop: I now admit I was wrong with my original review of “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Sure, I gave it a 3-star recommendation, but it should have been a 4. The Coen Brothers only seem like they’re meandering and hitting the same repetitive notes, but on second viewing, the big ideas all fit together compacted. Llewyn’s Karma is terribly unkind, but the descent into failure for him has a lot to do with the hexing of Carey Mulligan’s Jean Berkey, a Beatnik Lady Macbeth. Llewyn is not a nice guy anyway, but she’s the worst human being here. Yet Llewyn is a brilliant folk artist, and when he does a song performances he steps out of his miserly facade. But nobody likes the way he actually looks, so no one in the world around him thinks he deserves a bigger audience than the one he’s getting. The Coens’ have weaved a disturbing, haunting parable of success denied and occupational dreams sullied. I love thinking about this film now. New grade: A-. — 6-30-14

The more Roger became a prisoner of his body, the more he seemed to escape into his rich and sophisticated mind. By the agreement of almost everyone I know, his writing in these last years was among the best he’d ever done, more personal and expansive, marked by a still-astonishing rate of productivity.” – Film Critic Scott Foundas (April 5, 2013).              — 6-15-14

I saw the Roger Ebert documentary “Life Itself” nearly a month before it comes out on July 4, and while I should normally wait until then to state my opinion in the opening day review, I can’t help but say it’s a tremendous documentary of not just a trailblazing critic but a great man. Even as an Ebert disciple, I learned things about him (and Gene Siskel) that I didn’t previously know. Update: Published review.  — 6-12-14

I don’t think I ever truly appreciated the rascally comic genius of Walter Matthau until I just saw “Cactus Flower” (1969). Goldie Hawn won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her film debut, Ingrid Bergman is actually great with her middle-aged spinster breaking open her shell, but Matthau is wickedly fantastic as a womanizer always twisting his words and twisting the words of others for his own convenience. Genius. — 5-30-14

After you see “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” here are five more brilliantly silly movies that lampoon history to check out: “Duck Soup” (1933), “Blazing Saddles” (1974), “Love and Death” (1975), “Monty Python & the Holy Grail” (1975), “Top Secret” (1984). — 5-29-14

Ten monster movies that are better than “Godzilla” found within the last 10 years, listed in order of preference: “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006, Mexico), ”King Kong” (2005), “Monsters” (2010), “The Mist” (2007), “REC” (2007, Spain), “Cabin in the Woods” (2012), “Slither” (2006, pic right), “The Descent” (2005), “Pacific Rim” (2013), “Cloverfield” (2008).

Note: I originally had “28 Days Later” (2002) and “28 Weeks Later” (2007) on the list and decided they qualify more as zombie movies than monster movies, so I replaced them with two different titles. — 5-22-14

I wrote my review of “Godzilla” at 6 in the morning without morning coffee, and as a result, it was littered with grammatical errors. I have since revised it. — 5-18-14

I wondered if I made a mistake by placing “Her” off last year’s ten best list (I had it at #11) to include “All is Lost” and “The Place Beyond the Pines” ahead of it instead. I was right on. “Her” does not hold up well as entertainment the second time around. It’s such an original concept that’s significant, but the second half is mopey and stuck in a perpetual forlorn mood. I think Joaquin Phoenix is great, he is comically daft in ways that keep us pitying him, but tickled by his foolishness. Other actors would have bored us. “All is Lost” is actually riveting a second time, a tumble of obstacles and predicaments, and the sounds of the ocean storms are immersive! — 5-10-14

Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” and accompaniment “Vol. 2” (Denmark) are my first 5-star films off the 2014 roster. — 4-16-14

Just found out my favorite living critic Owen Gleiberman has been laid-off from Entertainment Weekly. He’s too good for them, my once turn-to magazine has been declining in literary merit in recent years. Owen’s vocabulary and elucidations not only made movies an essential subject, but just the conducted words themselves were fun and exciting to read. Dare I say that, exciting. From the archives (somewhere online, hopefully) my five favorite Owen reviews are “Cape Fear,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Boogie Nights,” “Run Lola Run,” and “Requiem for a Dream.” — 4-5-14

One year ago Roger Ebert passed away. Lately I’ve been watching Ebert recommendations that were otherwise critically trashed. And Ebert was right, I’ve recently enjoyed “Matinee” (1993), “Guilty as Sin” (1993), “Chances Are” (1989), “Frequency” (2000), “Down Periscope” (1996), “Conan the Destroyer” (1984), “Goon” (2011). The only Ebert pick I’ve disliked was “Only You” (1994), the pretty to look at but harebrained European-set rom-com with Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey, Jr. But really, I’ve had some good times with these silly movies lately. — 4-4-14

The first disappointing music score by Clint Mansell is “Noah.” Flat. Tinkle. Echo. Screech. Blare. Without harmony, or notes that flicker or resonate. — 3-29-14

Citizen-Kane_Obituary-Scene-News-on-the-MarchThe first time I saw “Citizen Kane” at 14-years old, I thought, this newsreel scene is an interesting way to tell a story but how can this kind of storytelling technique be sustainable for an entire running length? Thankfully, it is a limited 9-minutes long and it turns into a “normal” movie after that. A second viewing only makes the newsreel scene more fascinating, especially with cutaways to a pet octopus and a soiree with Adolph Hitler. It took a few years for me to realize the trail-blazing audacity of Orson Welles’ vision. — 3-28-14

Shining_1980_Best-Horror-Film-Ever _Jack-Nicholson-Shelley-DuvallFilm Recommendation: “The Shining” (1980). The best horror film ever made and probably the best one there will ever be. Many devotees over the years have revered it for its supernatural elements, its haunted symbolism, its hypnotic camerawork that spells delirium and claustrophobia. I see something else: A parable of the world’s most loveless marriage. This is the one Stanley Kubrick film that scrambles the brain the longest. You can watch it several times over the course of a decade and find you are still working at unlocking its secrets. — 3-16-14

I just wrote about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s best performance, click on “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (2007). If you get the DVD, there is lots to learn about the art and practice of directing from the feature length commentary by the late director Sidney Lumet, Ethan Hawke, and Hoffman as well as the supplemental doc “Directed by Lumet: How the Devil Was Made.” These are the best DVD extras I’ve come across in awhile, and I reassure you I watched the film with commentary again complete. — 2-24-14

R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman (July 23, 1967 – February 2, 2014). Two weeks later I’m still devastated by the loss of Hoffman. He was featured in 5 of 6 Paul Thomas Anderson films, and starred in a dozen or so more that were intelligent enough to be an Anderson film. Even a cash-grab like “Mission: Impossible III” he contributed intelligent menace. Click to read my full tribute. — 2-18-14

Map of the Human Heart_Best-Films-1990(s)Film Recommendation: “Map of the Human Heart” (1993). Spans four decades and spreads three continents, Avik is an Eskimo in the 1930’s who follows his childhood love Albertine around the world. Their first love is in a Canadian orphanage as pre-teens, then she is whisked away, grows up and marries another, when he traces her whereabouts he joins the Air Force so he can travel to her. BTW, I’ve long tired of hearing how great “Casablanca” is. “Map” is probably the most romantic movie ever made. Dreamy, passionate and sexy, it connotes those qualities for the entire length of the film and builds to a heartrending conclusion. I will reveal, though, this is the kind of love story that lasts a lifetime for these two, that in their hearts they never give up on one another. Jason Scott Lee is Avik, Anne Parillaud is Albertine, the director is Vincent Ward who boldly goes for high altitude aerial photography and the film entire is full of extraordinary shots. Grade: A+. — 2-9-14





Skyfall_ Flip-Flop _Macau China_Casino- Daniel-CraigFlip-flop: I now admit I was wrong with my original negative review of “Skyfall.” I’ve seen it twice now on Blu-Ray, and now think it’s a good one that, in hindsight, I probably overreacted to three or four things I didn’t like when I saw it in my theatrical review. I now see it’s virtues, the radiant cinematography for one, the idea of an attack on the ministry of defense as another, the brisk and crisp finale at Bond’s homecoming. I still think Javier Bardem doesn’t have enough insightful layers to his villain, Naomie Harris lacks charisma as the new Moneypenny, and Bond’s love connections continue to lack sizzle two films in a row (go ravage a new world-class hottie again, already!). “Skyfall” remains a minor entry, but there are legitimate indelible moments that add to the 007 legacy. New grade: B-. — 1-20-14

My Picks Best of the Best Performances 2013: Female: Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine,” Amy Adams in “American Hustle.” Male: Mads Mikkelsen in “The Hunt” (Denmark), Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave.”

Supporting female: Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle,” Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave. Supporting male: Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave,” James Franco in “Spring Breakers.” — 12-26-13

Biggest Disappointments 2013: “Before Midnight,” “The Counselor,” “The Fifth Estate,” “Oldboy,” “Oz The Great and Powerful,” “Trance.” — 12-20-13

R.I.P. Peter O’Toole (August 2, 1932 – December 14, 2013), actor of the immortal 1962 epic “Lawrence of Arabia” and recipient of 8 Oscar nominations. His most underrated role, I feel, is of the Scottish tutor Reginald Johnston in the 1987 Best Picture winner “The Last Emperor,” his character educates the emperor in ways of the world that are unknown to his hermetic existence. — 12-18-13

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013), one of the great men to walk the Earth. I am providing a link of my review of “Invictus” (2009) which featured the fine Morgan Freeman portraying Mandela. Also, take note, he appears in the epilogue documentary segment at the end of Spike Lee’s masterpiece “Malcolm X” (1992), time to see that one if you haven’t. — 12-6-13

Lana Wood_ Diamonds are Forever (Boobage)I got the Blu-Ray 50 Years Bond 23 film collection as an early Christmas gift. Fired up, I first put on, of all movies, “The Living Daylights” (1987) just to watch the opening and the end scene with Bond fighting on a cargo net falling out of plane. Then I put on the underrated “Diamonds are Forever” (1971), which is not only exciting, but might showcase more beautiful boobs than any other entry (I might have to vote it as the sexiest Bond ever). Next, I slipped in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) with one-time George Lazenby as 007, a tad overrated yet has sensational scenes I’ve always remembered, but I had to turn it off because it could be the one Bond movie you need your brain to watch, you actually have to pay attention. “A View to a Kill” (1985) is mindless, “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) has a cool motorcycle chase. When you own a set like this, you play the titles you recall the least first. See pic of Lana Wood, secondary Bond girl in “Diamonds.” — 12-5-13

R.I.P. Paul Walker (September 12, 1973 – November 30, 2013), good-looking carefree actor. Most underrated film in his entire repertoire is “Joy Ride” (2001), a film I don’t have a review for but I remember fondly as being a tense, queasy thriller. Sort of a more tormenting update of Steven Spielberg’s “Duel” (1971). — 12-1-13

Love Actually” (2003) has proved itself to be the most beloved romantic comedy of the last ten years, and I love it, too. Richard Curtis’ latest follow-up “About Time” (2013) is a charmer but not quite in the same league. Here is a list of five other great romantic comedies that I think you should see: “Crazy Stupid Love” (2011), “Soul Kitchen” (2010, Germany), “Flipped” (2010), “Waitress” (2007), “Big Fish” (2003). — 11-6-13

Re-Animator_1985 _Critics Mind Horror PickMy Halloween horror viewing pick for this year off of Netflix Instant is the gooey and gross, hysterical and wacko feature “Re-Animator” (1985, 91 Minutes, R) in which a scientist revives corpses to become the walking dead. Features a talking head, deadly-threshing intestines, teeth-gnashing by lots of mauling living dead, and lots of boob shots of a B-actress. Director Stuart Gordon somehow got away with doing a shrewd remix of the Hitchcockian “Psycho” soundtrack. Jeffrey Combs is the mad Dr. Herbert West; Barbara Crampton is the screaming babe with lots of boobage. This flick is so outrageous, you will be s#*%ing bricks. It’s like, totally underrated. — 10-30-13





Carrie” is so insipid and inconsequential that my immediate reaction was worst remake of a classic film ever. After calming down, I think that’s going too far. But here are some other horrible remakes: “Arthur” (2011), “The Thing” (2011), “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008), “The Invasion” (2007), “The Wicker Man” (2006), “Swept Away” (2002), “Rollerball” (2002), “Planet of the Apes” (2001), “Psycho” (1998), and now that I’m done with my internet research, I only now recall the worst remake ever has to be “Get Carter” (2000) with Sylvester Stallone replacing the venerable Michael Caine. — 10-19-13

My ten favorite Tom Hanks films in order: “Cloud Atlas” (2012),”Sully” (2016), “Toy Story 3” (2010), “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), “Joe versus the Volcano” (1990), “Cast Away” (2000); “Toy Story” (1995), “Forrest Gump” (1994), “Apollo 13” (1995), “Big” (1988). — 10-10-13 (Updated)

The only resistance I’ve heard from others about seeing “Gravity” is doubting Sandra Bullock. But if you had never ever seen Sandra before in a movie (theoretically), it wouldn’t be an issue. She’s new unto herself in what is the masterpiece of the year so far. — 10-8-13

Ron Howard has become a dependable hand in classical Hollywood craftsmanship as demonstrated by his latest film “Rush” (2013), “Frost/Nixon” (2008), “Cinderella Man” (2005), “A Beautiful Mind” (2001) and “Apollo 13” (1995). I want to make it clear I think he’s a terrific mainstream director, actually I’ll add my love “Parenthood” (1989) which could be my favorite film of his. But his worst entries in failed or awful craftsmanship are “The Missing” (2003) and “EdTV” (1999). I’ve never quite forgiven him for those. — 9-26-13

Best Sex Addiction films: “Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” (2014); “Nymphomaniac Vol. 2” (2014); “Shame” (2011); “Carnal Knowledge” (1971), “Auto Focus” (2002); “Crash” (1996), “Lies” (1999, South Korea), “Don Jon” (2013), “Exotica” (1995). — 9-18-13

Gummo 1997 Notorious Harmony KorineI was wrong about Harmony Korine. I had to see for myself rather than rely on the orthodox grandstanders who denounced him as a wallower in exploitation. I resisted “Gummo” (1997) for 15 years because haters created this portrait in my head of how sick and diseased it was supposed to be (drug abuse, mental illness sex, sexual abuse, prostitution, suicide, animal cruelty, euthanasia, depression are topics), but it was nothing to fear at all. I wouldn’t call his non-narrative avante-garde film flawless since it has its draggy torrents, but it is extraordinary in effort. Whatever his intent, I found it to be a warts-honest portrait of poor-white trash in America, a sub-culture of way lesser means much separated from the rest of Big America. And while I would never want to hang out with them, I found them as people. Sometimes ignorant, sometimes belligerent, sometimes pathetic, but all the while I see some of the characters seeking solace in their lives. The notorious dirty-water bathtub scene? The kid hasn’t grown up with a sane or competent mother, and nobody has taught him there is a cleaner way to have a bath. I’m sure this has happened sadly somewhere in America to kids too ignorant and deprived to know any better. Back to Korine, I haven’t seen all of his work. Not the first film he wrote “Kids” (1995), because I admit I’m still afraid of it. I didn’t like “Julien Donkey-Boy” but admired the effort. I do think his latest film “Spring Breakers” is his best film yet. “Gummo” is available on Amazon. — 9-12-13

List of Harmony Korine’s ten favorite films as shared in a 1999 print interview: “Pixote” (1981, Brazil); “Badlands” (1973); “Days of Heaven” (1978); “Fat City” (1972); “Stroszek” (1978, Germany); “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” (1976); “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974); “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (1971); “Out of the Blue” (1980); “Hail Mary” (1986, France). I’ve seen them all except the last two. The aforementioned eight would make for some great home viewing throughout the Fall season. — 9-12-13

I don’t really care about a basic narrative. I don’t see a narrative in life. I see stories and I love stories, but I don’t ever see anything ever beginning or finishing, and I don’t feel like there is a middle to anything in my life. I just rather show scenes, and things that exist, and go on and on and on. I could care less about narrative. I think story is essential and characters are essential. As far as putting something in order, I think that is something that has been done for the past hundred years and been accepted. And I’m just not interested.” Director Harmony Korine — 9-10-13

I finally caught up with Stanley Kubrick’s first film “Fear and Desire” (1953), which is hard-to-find, if nearly impossible, because Kubrick wanted it sealed away and never shown again out of embarrassment. It can’t be mistaken for a good film, but every few minutes, you do notice a glimmer of greatness in his penchant for shot composition. The talent was recognizable even then, which makes it relevant enough to watch, if you ever happen to find it in obscure bootleg video stores. — 9-5-13

Butler_2013 Critics MindLook at the list of name actors in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler.” Wow, if you paid them all by their regular salary, the film budget would be over $70 million at least and I know damn well the movie didn’t cost a quarter of that to make. All the actors on roll call must have worked this time for scale, or below scale. Particularly the actors who played former U.S. Presidents: Robin Williams, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, John Cusack, Alan Rickman. Because it wasn’t about getting paid this time. This is an instance of a labor of love for these actors. Not just because they believed in the story, although, that’s certainly a reason. But for the reward of doing a project with Daniels (“Precious” fame) is what must have drew them in. — 8-15-13

Once you have seen “Elysium” you might want to check out “Soylent Green” (1973). That film is one of the more depressing science fiction dystopias, it certainly isn’t for mass consumer tastes, but if you are open to pessimistic fables it might intrigue you. — 8-8-13

Don’t Look Now” (1973) and “Casino Royale” (2006) are the two that best implement Venice, Italy as a filming location. — 8-1-13

The Hunt” (Denmark) is my first 5-star film off the 2013 roster. — 7-28-13

Contact_1997 _Jodie-FosterFilm Recommendation: “Contact” (1997). Evidence I get things wrong once or twice. At the time when it first came out, I found the Robert Zemeckis space exploration picture well-crafted but lost in yakkety yak. Seeing it now, it’s visionary and perception-expanding, intellectually fascinating and beyond conventional. I would rank it among 1997’s ten best features. — 7-24-13

Contact_ Matthew-McConaghey SpeechFavorite Quote: “Are we happier as a human race? Is the world a better place because of science and technology? We shop at home, we surf the web… but at the same time we feel emptier, lonelier, and more cut off from each other than at any other time in human history. We’re becoming a synthesized society…” and continuing, “We’re looking for meaning. We have mindless jobs, take frantic vacations. Deficit finance trip to the mall to buy more things that we think will fill these holes in our lives. Is it any wonder we’ve lost our sense of direction?” Palmer Joss in “Contact” (1997). — 7-24-13

My Top Ten Films of All-Time: 1. Spring Summer Fall Winter… and Spring (2003, South Korea), 2. Walkabout (1971), 3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), 4. GoodFellas (1990), 5. All That Jazz (1979), 6. Citizen Kane (1941), 7. No Country for Old Men (2007), 8. Aguirre the Wrath of God (1972, Germany), 9. The Wizard of Oz (1939), 10. Schindler’s List (1993). Detailed article and synopses: Click here. — 7-15-13





I never understood Jay Baruchel until “This is the End.” He’s been a dweeb from low-brow dweeb comedies. But he finally embraces his dweebiness playing himself at a gut level in the new apocalypse comedy hit. He’s the guy who really wants the approval of one best friend (no one else), and doesn’t really want to hang-out with anybody outside his comfort zone. We’re looking at a guy content with his marginal success, he’s grabbed it, and has now taken the low road. Or at least that’s what his movie’s alter ego is projecting. Somehow, Jay the dweeb sneering at others with contempt is… absolutely hilarious. I’m still in love with this movie. — 7-3-13

Jim Carrey says he no longer supports the upcoming “Kick-Ass 2” because it is too violent. I agree with him, but shouldn’t he have figured that out after watching the first “Kick-Ass?” He says he filmed it a month before the Sandy Hook tragedy and now in “all good conscience [I] cannot support that level of violence.” — 6-25-13

R.I.P. Richard Matheson (1926-2013), sci-fi novelist and screenwriter. My five favorite Matheson adaptations in order: “The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957), “What Dreams May Come” (1998), “Duel” (1971), “The Box” (2009), “I Am Legend” (2007). — 6-24-13

Grading the Superman movies. “Superman” (1978), grade: A. “Superman II” (1980), A-. “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (1980), B+. “Superman III” (1983), C. “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” (1987), D. “Superman Returns” (2006), C. “Man of Steel” (2013), C+. — 6-24-13

Film Recommendation: “A Prophet” (2009, France). The harmless, ineffectual 18-year old French-Arab named Malik (Tahar Rahim) is caught for a petty offense, and his six-year prison stint schools him into becoming a hardened, adept crime boss who runs illegal rackets by the time he’s released back into the world. This story feels universal, it could happen anywhere. It’s in the pipeline at Sony Pictures for an American remake. — 6-20-13

R.I.P. Picking the best performance by James Gandolfini (1961-2013), I would choose an unlikely one. His supporting role as a blue collar worker being manipulated by attorneys in “A Civil Action” (1998). He was never more different than he was in that one. — 6-19-13

Seth Rogen is often accused of being the same guy in every movie. One definite exception where he daringly stretched himself was when he played the dangerous bi-polar disorder mall cop in “Observe and Report,” a character completely unaware of his abnormal behavior. It’s a performance that I say is worthy of DeNiro. And you might be unaware that he has played serious drama once, very effectively, in the masterpiece “Take This Waltz.” — 6-14-13

Grading Richard Linklater’s Jesse and Celeste trilogy. “Before Sunrise” (1995), grade: A. “Before Sunset” (2004), A. “Before Midnight” (2013), C. — 6-10-13

The weekend must have been exhilarating for Universal execs and writer-director James DeMonaco following their #1 hit “The Purge,” but frantic times they must be having, too. For I bet they are all in a rage to brainstorm sequel and multiple sequel ideas. It’s not hard to imagine we likely have another over-extended horror franchise on the horizon. — 6-10-13

You might have recently noticed my recommendation of the 1979 “Zombie” but in your search it might come up as “Zombie 2.” Ironically, it happens to not be a sequel to anything. In Italy at the time, the producers wanted to cash in on the success of George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” (now a horror classic), so the moniker 2 was a deliberate attempt at exploiting consumers. — 6-4-13

Will Smith has played lucky, persevering characters before who have battled depression. And yet he has made them work. I’m behind “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006), “I Am Legend” (2007) and “Seven Pounds” (2008). But you see a trend. He’s trying to dig deeper with each film, but he really sinks “After Earth” beyond all reason with his dour, dreary demeanor. Son Jaden (pic left) is slandered for his nepotism, but he has a fighter’s spark and is far from the worst element. So besides Will, it’s the lumpish direction by M. Night Shyamalan and listless screenplay by Shyamalan and Gary Whitta that makes “After Earth” fail. — 6-3-13

I’m all about telling people to skip “After Earth,” saving them from boredom. But the media reports stink. By Saturday morning, reports said the movie only pulled in $9.8 million (oh no, the horrors! the bomb!). By Sunday morning, the reports said it was Will Smith’s lowest grossing summer movie in 20 years. Hey, it’s not like he has had one summer movie for twenty consecutive years. Also, that the film crashed at $27 million. Sure, it cost $130 million. But this is hardly in league with “John Carter” economic catastrophe. “After Earth” is simply a dud, not among the worst movies ever. Yet the worst thing that happened over the weekend was this horrible Hollywood reporting. — 6-2-13

Favorite Quote: “Ivan is a philistine.” / “What’s a philistine?” / “It’s a guy who doesn’t care about books or interesting films and things. Your mother’s brother Ned is also a philistine.” / “Then I’m a philistine.” / “No. You’re interested in books and things. You liked ‘The Wild Child’ when we saw it.” / “Lots of people liked that movie. No, I’m a philistine.” Dad and son conversation in “The Squid and the Whale” (2005). — 5-17-13

“Plan 9 From Outer Space” (1959) and “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” (2008), in terms of technical incompetence, are candidates for the worst theatrical films ever made. Grade F would in theory be appropriate. But those two are delightfully awful, delightfully tacky. I’ve had many laughs resulting in geysers of laugh-tears from viewing them. Much more fun than technically proficient, machine-made and personality-free blockbusters. — 5-17-13

As if we didn’t see enough bombings on the TV news at home we now get them incorporated into the plots of our movies like “Star Trek Into Darkness,” stamped as relevant. Uh, no thanks. — 5-16-13

Ray Harryhausen died today at age 92. I know he’s famous for “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963) and “Clash of the Titans” (1981), which is indeed great hands-on special effects work. But please go out of the way to see his work on the marvelously gaga “Mighty Joe Young” (1949) if you’re a Kong fan. — 5-7-13

I don’t know what kind of phony, pseudo-intellectual dips@&# era we are living in where that scratchy and decomposing-before-your-eyes “Rules of the Game” (1938) is regarded as a masterpiece while the underseen “Walkabout” (1971) is not. I feel the cataracts crust over my eyes during Jean “austere” Renoir’s so-called cinematic genius. My thoughts and feelings are in a cascade of awe during Roegs’ film. Film history should start over so we can establish givens correctly. Available on Amazon. — 5-4-13

Isn’t Robert Downey Jr. freakin’ great in “Tropic Thunder” (2008)? He should have been that year’s Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor. I mean, Heath Ledger painted the Joker into a sociopathic radical who terrorized an entire city with a white-hot rage in “TDK.” But I felt voters bent over backwards to honor his name posthumously, as if Ledger were to be denied a proper legacy or something. Downey molds into two characters at once, the actor Kirk Lazarus and the character he’s playing. Or as he says, “I know who I am! I’m a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude!” The Downey genius is unmistakable and the laughs are never-ending, dozens of viewings later. — 5-3-13

I can’t listen to The Lumineers song “Ho Hey” anymore. Feels like a warmed-over Cameron Crowe movie when I hear it. Reluctantly, I think of a Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst schmaltzathon. That would be Crowe’s crappiest film, “Elizabethtown” (2005). — 5-1-13

Great cinematic mind-benders: “Metropolis” (1927, Germany), “Un Chien Andalou” (1929, France); “Last Year at Marienbad” (1961, France), “Woman in the Dunes” (1964, Japan), “Persona” (1966, Sweden), “Weekend” (1967, France), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972, France), “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (1976), “That Obscure Object of Desire” (1977, France), “Eraserhead” (1977), “Three Women” (1977), “Blade Runner” (1982), “Body Double” (1984), “Brazil” (1985), “Blue Velvet” (1986), “Jacob’s Ladder” (1990), “Santa Sangre” (1990, Mexico), “Orlando” (1993), “12 Monkeys” (1995), “Crash” (1996), “Dark City” (1998), “eXistenZ” (1999), “Being John Malkovich” (1999), “The Isle” (2000, South Korea), “The Cell” (2000), “Mulholland Dr.” (2001, see pic), “Memento” (2001), “Waking Life” (2001), “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004), “Time” (2006, South Korea), “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” (2006, Britain), “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006, Spain), “Enter the Void” (2009, France), “Inception” (2010), “Black Swan” (2010), “Source Code” (2011), “The Tree of Life” (2011), “The Skin I Live In” (2011, Spain), “Cloud Atlas” (2012), “Her” (2013), “The Congress” (2013). — 4-29-13, UPDATED

I wasted and damaged many hours of my life watching/studying Jean Renoir, Robert Bresson, Robert Rossellini movies; letting “L’Atalante” (1934), “Il Bidone” (1955), “Au Hasard Balthazar” (1966), “Death in Venice” (1971), “Yi Yi” (2000) suck the life out of me and turn me into a bore. Those movies have long been hailed by many highfaluting snobs. But they won’t get you laid. Movies like “Lenny” (1974) and “Small Change” (1976), the joyous-optimistic comedies of Woody Allen, the suave Cary Grant, Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman and Denzel Washington movies, oh, and of course “All That Jazz” (1979, pic right)… those are the movies that taught me how to talk to girls, the ones that opened up my mind to the possibilities of life, enhancing and sharpening me in the social world. Movies are a reflective time or a diverting time. But bogging the mind on depressing pseudo-intellectual bores was a waste. — 4-28-13

Films I would be willing to watch on a Friday night: “Paths of Glory” (1957), “Sunset Boulevard” (1950), “Unforgiven” (1992), “The Fountain” (2006) and “Fellini’s Roma” (1972, pic left) in place of the others previously mentioned. But if I’m in a light mood I’m going “Groundhog Day” (1993) or anything Bill Murray. I talk movies with friends on Fridays. When inebriated I rant on this mural scene. Chapter 10 on the “Roma” DVD. — 4-27-13

When I was young and nerdy-pretentious, I went with the herd in believing “Grand Illusion” (1938), “All About Eve” (1950), “Seven Samurai” (1954), “The Seventh Seal” (1957) and “Andre Rublev” (1966) — as examples — were great films. Today, no way. I would never spend my precious Friday night watching one of those misanthropic snoozers. It’s hard enough to get through life. I want a pick-me-up comedy, or some inspirational story, or some cool mind-bender on a night like this. — 4-26-13

For years I got “Beyond Rangoon” (1995), “Return to Paradise” (1998) and “Brokedown Palace” (1999) mixed up. Avoid the first one. “Paradise” with Vince Vaughn as an American who is propositioned to serve Malaysia prison time in exchange for friend Joaquin Phoenix’s pardon from a death sentence, is the best one and is well worth seeking out. Phoenix does some of the best crying acting I’ve seen. Rest of the cast is surprisingly exemplary. — 4-25-13

If I were to supply a list of the ten weirdest movies ever made, “Zardoz” (1974) with Sean Connery would be one of them. Click link to read. — 4-22-13

You might have noticed I’m giving a lot of 3-star reviews lately. All that indicates is that there’s been a lot of middle-of-the-road movies in 2013 that are watchable but stop short of approaching anything special. I nearly gave “42” a 3.5 star rating (I flirted with 4 until the realization it was going to cover only one pro season in Jackie Robinson’s career). Main point: There’s good concepts, good sequences, good distractions so far this year. But I am starving however to get films that are more ambitious. Very few outside of “The Place Beyond the Pines” and “Side Effects” demonstrate that powerful follow-through.  — 4-19-13

Best Films of the Decade 2000-2009 written three years ago, with “Spring Summer Fall Winter… and Spring” (2003, South Korea) ranked at the top. Click link to read. — 4-17-13

Spring Summer Fall Winter… and Spring” (2003, South Korea). Every time I see it I want to live inside the film. Living on a floating pagoda immersed in peace and quite, that would be wonderful. But I couldn’t do it for a lifetime like the Master does in the film. I am too addicted to modern technology and conditioned by fast city life. But it’s true my wish is to live inside this film as a meditation retreat for two weeks every year. Then sadly get back to my dependent reality. — 4-14-13

My original review of Terrence Malick’s magnificent, fierce, impressionistic head-trip that is “The Tree of Life.” Click here.

A film is, or should be, more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” – Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). — 4-12-13

It’s amazing how the masterpiece “Aguirre the Wrath of God” (1972) would have vanquished away into ancient history had Roger Ebert not have written compellingly about it, had he not venerated Werner Herzog. It’s known today as one of the best films ever made, and that’s all due to Ebert since no other critic bothered backing it up before him. Now we’re all behind it. 4-10-13

One of Roger Ebert’s final pieces was his retrospect review of “The Ballad of Narayama” (1983, Japan), an old-century period piece where the villagers enforce a tradition of throwing elders past age 70 off the mountain or once they’ve become of no use. I always remembered the film being “very good” in my memory, but it now takes on a new poignancy since it’s one of Ebert’s last pieces. See it when you can. — 4-8-13

I hand it to Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes that it has a terrific, grand entrance of James Bond when he enters the Macau, China casino on a dragon-boat with fired lanterns lighting the way. –12-22-12

Hitchcock” is such a paint-by-numbers biopic of Alfred Hitchcock that if you were a newbie and wanted to learn something about him, I’d advise you to watch one of his films instead. Start with “Strangers on a Train” (1951), “Rear Window” (1954), “Vertigo” (1958) or “The Birds” (1963). — 12-20-12

Watching “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) on cable. I am reminded again that it has some of the best shot composition that I’ve ever seen.” — 12-19-12

Most bastardized films that play on network cable TV are “Scarface” (1983), “Carlito’s Way” (1993), “Casino” (1995) and “25th Hour” (2002) because of the way they are mercilessly edited and censored. Better to always see them on DVD/Blu-Ray formats or at least no-commercial movie channels. — 12-17-12

It took me a few years to recognize it but I believe I was very emotionally moved by Woody Harrelson’s performance in “Seven Pounds.” — 12-5-12

Mychael Danna’s music for “Life of Pi” is the first soundtrack of the last couple of years that I’m enjoying listening to.” — 12-2-12

Life of Pi” is Ang Lee’s fourth masterpiece. The others are, listing in both ascending year of release and in order of preference,  “The Ice Storm” (1997), “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). — 11-30-12

Take this Waltz” is available on Instant Netflix but is wrongly cataloged under Comedy when it should be filed under Romantic Movies or Drama. — 11-29-12

Anyone that hits the ad to the right of the page helps me get recognized by Google, even if you X out of it immediately that’s okay! — 11-24-12

This space is where I will write quips about my personal life and on random critical observations. — November 21, 

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Uncut Gems

I’m not even sure at what point did I realize that I did not like Sandler’s New York Diamond District jeweler Howard Ratner. I had realized the film was self-aware when his wife (Idina Menzel) called him annoying. Uncut Gems is not about a decent individual […]



Director Bong Joon Ho has made a diverse set of films from the true police procedural saga “Memories of Murder” to the sci-fi premise of people smooshed in on a futuristic train after the world freezes over in “Snowpiercer,” and in-between his most subtle and compelling “Mother” about an elder […]


sex, lies & videotape (1989)

The camera runs over concrete scored to frenzied guitar plucks, assuming its attached to a car moving somewhere fast and urgent. Then that man who steps out uses extra time […]


Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)

Sergio Leone often goes for pure visual storytelling without dialogue, but everything indeed is a sophisticated puzzle piece. At the time in 1969, Once Upon a Time in the West was thought of as an overblown western […]


Dumbo (1941)

The 1941 Dumbo was the fourth Walt Disney film and a rush job for the studio, it is lean in the storytelling department running at a nimble 64-minutes […]


Best Films 2018 Revised

When it comes to the list, I have no proclivity to win popular tastes. I have a few hits, a few misunderstood titles I want to defend, a few obscure titles and a few I am predicting will be discovered with cult devotion decades down the line […]


Vox Lux

There’s a riveting dread that’s laced throughout the picture, as we fear that even the victim is heading somewhere into a morally lost descent that is a no good place. Vox Lux opens with the kind of ripped from the headlines horror that we want to turn our eyes away from […]



Spike Lee is spurred to make an important but little known historical movie about 1970’s police infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs and tying it to the actions and behaviors of the fateful Charlottesville, Virginia riots of August 2017. You can feel Lee’s year-long passion and drive to getting BlacKkKlansman made […]


Mission: Impossible — Fallout

The idea of the Big Summer Blockbuster exists so that once in awhile we will see one that blows all the other competition out of the water. Mission: Impossible – Fallout continues the uptick trend in the series to become more sophisticated in its plotting. But in resemblance to a powerful drumbeat […]


The Ballad of Narayama (1983, Japan)

A despairing masterpiece, but with a keenness for sociology one watches with morbid fascination. The Ballad of Narayama (1983, Japan) appears to be a roughhewn but tranquil depiction of nineteenth century life in the mountains of Japan where families adhere to duties to keep the community functioning […]


Best Films of 2017 Revised

I won’t remind you what inexplicably won Best Picture at the Oscars. There were 25 excellent to very good films in 2017, and so that means 25 films did not win the top prize. Whatever. Seven months into July I felt compelled to revise my year’s ten best list […]



So frightening it pains only to turn your eyes away. Annihilation is hard science fiction that is a crossbreed of horror, too, and it has enough ideas to fill a dozen movies. It does not hurl constant action movie type of Roland Emmerich moments at you because it’s strategy is to build anticipation and dread a la Kubrick and Cronenberg […]