Thursday, October 6, 2011


4 out of 5. Maybe recommending Nicolas Winding Refn's film DRIVE is a bit out of character for me but I'd hate for this to be missed. This is an excellent example of deliberate control in filmmaking. This is an iconic tone poem about the 80s. A love for Michael Mann Thief and Collateral...and an excellent blend of holding on shots. Waiting for the right moments. Film school is open!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011


4 out of 5. Don Bluth's THE SECRET OF NIMH is one of the first films that proved that animation could be taken so much more seriously. Go ahead, rewatch it and you'll be taken with the lushness of it. The animation...the backgrounds, direction, character development. This film has so much going on that it's endlessly rewatchable. So much to learn about staging and light. Anyway, check out what Pixar got hip to early on: STORY. If it's not bullet-proof then you're just building on a bad foundation.


Monday, May 30, 2011


4 out of 5. The stark timelessness of Andrew Dominik's THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD is both artful and refreshing. Thankfully Andrew Dominik has a way of showing us a well-worn genre that offers a meditative view of a legendary figure. The acting is quite compelling, especially that of Casey Affleck. Knowing the ending ahead of time certainly doesn't get in the way of the journey. This is perfect Sunday movie watching. Contemplative and open.


Saturday, May 21, 2011


4 out of 5. Writing the previous review made me think of this other easily forgotten gem by David Fincher, ZODIAC. The sound design was rich, the film was dark and punishing. The characters were almost as scary in their intensity as the killer they were chasing. You can see how the tidal wave of mysterious terror overtakes their lives slowly and pulls them under before it's too late. Probably not an easy one to rewatch but a great reminder of how compelling Fincher continues to be as a filmmaker.


Sunday, May 8, 2011


3 out of 5. John Hillcoat's THE PROPOSITION expands on the Western even though it was filmed in The Outback. The landscape of Australia is brutal hell on Earth and it's characters are tied to it by their deeds. Even the innocent is guilty of something and no foul deed goes unpunished by man or element. All this comes across in a fairly poetic manner with nods to Peckinpah other directors of great Westerns.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011


4 out of 5. Speaking of musicals, Baz Luhrmann's MOULIN ROUGE! knocked my socks off when it first came out over decade ago. The fantasy world built by him and the two leads was quite mesmerizing. I really dig high-production values used in small ways. His earlier film STRICTLY BALLROOM was another favorite of mine. But this film showed a sense of style, composition and the ability to make a fun film. Also: JIM BROADBENT whom I cannot get enough of.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


4 out of 5. It's hard to be objective about Terry Gilliam's TIME BANDITS as it was the first of his films I'd ever seen. The production design alone is what makes this film so rich. I'm also a huge fan of time-travel and history so as a kid and an adult this really entertains. Part of Gilliam's trilogy of man, this film has the same imaginative and dangerous underpinnings as Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The characters are splendid and the acting with various cameos is a lot of fun. Easily the second-most quotable movie for me next to Spinal Tap.


Monday, February 28, 2011


5 out of 5. I'm sure mostly everyone has seen this by now but Fernando Meirelles has a goldmine in CITY OF GOD. Everything about this film is high-voltage energy. I'm not one to watch too many films more than once, but especially hard-biting dramas like this but man, I have to see it again. Maybe it's because the soundtrack comes up no my Ipod quite a bit and I start thinking about the editing and shots and story...and before I know it I'm feeling the vibe of Brazil. If you ever liked the grit and rawness of THE WIRE...this one is a dynamo.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


3 out 5. John Boorman's POINT BLANK with Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson is a bad-ass flick. If you like the era of tough no-nonsense guys who take care of business and don't take lip from a woman. This is exactly that kind of film. Watch this back-to-back with Lee Marvin's remake of THE KILLERS and you'll need to send your loved-one away on vacation just so you can man-out. Solid filmmaking, nothing fancy and it delivers the goods with sand in your teeth. Also Steven Soderburgh and John Boorman are on the commentary track. Fascinating stuff!


Thursday, February 10, 2011


3 out of 5. You might have missed this little gem by director Paul McGuigan, but if I were you I'd put down my money on LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN. Everything is not what it seems here and the fun opportunity of mistaken identity goes awry. Killer performances all around. Smart writing and stylish directing make for a rollicking good time. So if you want a good Friday movie and something with the energy of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels check it out.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011


3 out of 5. Lone Scherfig's AN EDUCATION was a tour de force of writing and acting. The directing was really quite good too with some excellent shots that seemingly try to sneak by. Overall a very positive film about family matters being taken down a notch with the entrance of an acceptable gentleman caller. Some nice plot twists and some really great dialogue throughout. The lead, Carey Mulligan is believable in her arc of an isolated teenager to one who grows a backbone through harrowing circumstances to become a sound young woman. I would have scored this higher but while the story and dialogue was quite good the structure of the script toward the end felt a little too satisfying and quick. Definitely memorable regardless and worth a watch.


Monday, January 24, 2011


3 out of 5. THE LIMEY with Terence Stamp and Directed by Steven Soderburgh rises to the occasion through the simplicity of plot and style. It avoids the cliches of the genre and feels fresh and appealing throughout. Stamp owns the picture and maybe that's why I gave it a 3 instead of a 4. It's not groundbreaking cinema but it's still cool, stylish and worthy a watch. If you like your revenge quiet and cool...this is the movie for you.


Friday, January 21, 2011


4 out 5. The original SOLYARIS by the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky is almost what you'd call a space race of a film. Even though Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey eclipsed it by a few years it should be just as recognized as a winning film. The creativity and design of Solyaris is memorable if not familiar with the "high tech" of the time, yet it also has a timeless quality. It's creepy and cool like only the isolation of space can provide. If you like the recent indy film MOON, you will really like this. Great score too, and that ending...not much different than the weirdness of Kubrick...makes you wonder.


Thursday, January 20, 2011


4 out of 5. Ben Affleck's GONE BABY GONE is another one of those films that sneaks passed you and you wonder why you missed it. Casey Affleck is easily likable in this role but it's the very real people they use for extras that ground this film. It feels "salt of the earth" and when you're talking about a girl's kidnapping you want to feel the grit in every frame. There's a voracious energy that seers through this film as we get closer to the answer. The power is in the performances and the relationships and the direction doesn't get in the way one bit. Finally, Ben can affect us in ways his acting sometimes falls short of. If you liked Mystic River you'll surely enjoy this.


Monday, January 17, 2011


4 out of 5. Andrew Niccol and his Production Designer for GATTACA get high praise for capturing sci-fi using the strength of great architecture and simple design. GATTACA is a great achievement on many levels especially the power to evoke so much with so little without cheapening the moment. All the elements of a good cinematic experience are present and before you know it, it's over leaving you wanting more. Luckily this wasn't burdened with "franchise" possibilities. It's rare these days and movies as good as this are rarer still. If you like smartly done sci-fi you'll dig this.


Friday, January 14, 2011


3 out of 5. Mario Bava is known for horror but DANGER DIABOLIK is a very cool flick. I don't know what to say, the color the production design, the soundtrack (Ennio Morricone) is all super-spy and even superhero. It's based on an Italian comic by two sisters. The lead, John Phillip Law is a great match for Marisa Mell...beautiful people doing extraordinary things. If you like James Bond and a little Euro-camp to wash it down with you will dig this groovy spectacle.


Thursday, January 6, 2011


4 out of 5. Billy Wilder is one of the few directors whose work always has strong characterization and fresh-sounding dialogue an ACE IN THE HOLE is no different. This is a rare treat as Kirk Douglas eats up the scenery with his loud and boisterous unlikeable charm. He plays a real man's man reporter who has the world on a dangerous tether that's pulled tight to the point of snapping. There's a great undercurrent of America's love of sensationalism and his character serves it up with brace of hard liquor. There were two very surprising moments. A real joy watch. If you liked Sunset Boulevard I have no doubt you will enjoy this.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011


3 out of 5. In MAN ON WIRE James Marsh delivers an exhilarating spectacle that holds your attention from the first frame. Despite it's simple subject matter and some re-staging elements this was a really well-made documentary. It builds up the same tension of a heist movie. With its colorful characters and ample beautiful footage from the central character, Philippe Petit's youth it builds to an amazing finish but not nearly as amazing as the journey there. Some touching moments are offered by friends of Philippe. Great pacing and very enjoyable.


Monday, January 3, 2011


4 out of 5. Duncan Jones' deceptively simple MOON shows a real sincerity to filmmaking. Really smart well-done sci-fi flick. The story is rich and the attention to details respects the audiences intelligence. Sam Rockwell does a great job in this difficult role. With possible nods to Tarkovsky's Solyaris and Syd Mead the production design was a real treat. There was still something about it that held it back from being a GREAT film. It might have been the lack of deep emotional ties to other characters. For fans of movies like Sunshine and Solyaris you will revel in the sights and sounds of this well-crafted film.


Sunday, January 2, 2011


5 out of 5. Juan José Campanella's Academy Award Winning THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES is a very smart and masterfully shot film. Again, actor Ricardo Darin, pulls you right into the story of an unsolved crime that he's started writing about. Like any good mystery the closer he gets to the truth, the more danger he puts himself in. The directing and cinematography is stunning and sharp. And the ending is deliciously satisfying while leaving a pit in the bottom of your stomach.