Film Reviews

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  1. All the President’s Men 1976

    Watched 15 February 2019

    I wasn’t quite expecting this to be The Post 2: Watergate, but man this was different. In a sharp contrast to Spielberg’s heavy-handedness, Pakula didn’t make an easy movie to follow. It’s incredibly dense with information, seemingly disinterested in simplifying to get to the point. Not knowing much about Watergate beforehand, I wasn’t able to follow every fizzling plot thread, but the emotional through-line was so well put together that it never lost me. I was struck by how realistic it feels — the events unfolding naturally and the camera just happening to be rolling nearby, capturing the dizziness and unease, warts and all. Loved the split diopter shots very much.

    Sidenote: Now I get the final scene in The Post — it’s close to a shot-for-shot replica of this film’s opening. That only makes it more of a wink-wink tacky addition, though.

  2. The Post 2017

    Watched 14 February 2019

    Does an amazing job at projecting emotion and conveying historical heft, knowing full well how much the present day amplifies its message. It’s just a shame that Spielberg felt the need to go “belt and suspenders” and make sure to have some characters spell out the implications of what you’re seeing, just in case the extremely powerful acting and imagery don’t do the trick.

    Also: the Watergate bit at the end was just silly. It reminded me of the final warehouse shot in Raiders of the Lost Ark, except bad and tacked on.

  3. Burning 2018

    Watched 12 February 2019

    Three people watch a sunset in rural South Korea.

    Wow. Whenever a filmmaker can find so much beauty and excitement in being deliberately mundane I sit up and pay attention.

    It’s slow. The smallest of details are just as carefully pondered as the grandiose gestures, all vividly blending together. The quiet moments compel the subjective experience of seeing rather than the objectivity of just looking, only to then make you question what you really saw. The mystery itself felt novel because it feeds off this slowness — instead of being built on plot twists or needless complexity, it’s challenging through imperfection by forcing you to see for yourself. Really great.

  4. Eighth Grade 2018

    Watched 2 February 2019

    A powerful reminder of the absurdities of being 14, and how becoming an adult seems to rob us of the ability to understand them. How strong and valid the experiences, yet how quickly we want to forget them, and grow up, because that’s the only escape. I can’t think of any other film that captures that feeling so well, both the good and bad of it.

    The insight into how kids deal with recent technology and social media was fascinating to me as well — the script seems intent on documenting what that’s like, with genuine earnestness. Parts that initially read as comedic exaggeration are, in retrospect, no stranger than reality. Things have changed a lot since I was 14, but somehow stayed the same. I think the kids will be alright.

  5. Fyre 2019

    Watched 30 January 2019

    I try to avoid schadenfreude as much as I can, but this was too good to pass up. Not a brilliant documentary, but seemingly does a good job of talking to the right people and painting a full picture of what happened.

  6. Paddington 2 2017

    Watched 27 January 2019

    Really great, improves on the original in every way.

    Hugh Grant’s character was brilliant as the antagonist. Well written, both captivating and funny. Unlike Nicole Kidman’s character in Paddington 1, he adds to the story instead of just existing in it as an archetypal, irredeemable villain.

    I like how Paddington isn’t framed as a can-do-no-wrong saint just getting caught up in bad situations. Some scenes (like the barbershop one) show him messing up and struggling to come up with excuses instead of admitting his fault. It’s subtle, but is a nice touch that makes him more sympathetic.

    The writing and editing were once again economical and effective. Art direction was even sharper. The pop-up book fantasy scene that takes place early on stands out — it’s especially memorable and affecting, doing so much emotional work with so few ingredients.

    I can see now why this has received such high praise. It’s well deserved.

  7. A Simple Favor 2018

    Watched 25 January 2019

    Kind of fun, but weird. And not weird in a good way — weird in a “not sure what it wants to be” way. It tries to be a thriller, but the plot is way too messy and clichéd to be interesting. It tries to be a comedy, but there is no real intent to the humor; just a residual layer of silliness, no courage about it. I guess this tone was intentional, but it simply did not work for me. The longer it went on, the less satisfying it became.

  8. Fyre Fraud 2019

    Watched 30 January 2019

    Felt rushed and incomplete. The interview with Billy McFarland did not really add much depth, and several of the more interesting people featured in the Netflix documentary were missing altogether. The poorly-edited-in internet memes and patronizing attitude detracted from the experience and eroded the point being made. Meh.

  9. Paddington 2014

    Watched 24 January 2019

    I expected the charm and fuzzy feelings, but not the nuanced, topical take on immigration, delivered with the utmost efficacy. Bravo!

    It’s all very wholesome and hard to criticize, though I think it could have benefited from some more Spirited Away-style bittersweetness, and a more complex antagonist. But hey, it works.

    Sidenote: the wonderful art direction somehow reminded me of Spielberg’s Tintin and, in contrast, how much of a disappointment that was.

  10. Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle 2018

    Watched 2 December 2018

    These films are very awkwardly put together. They feel shallow and soulless in a way that is hard to describe. In terms of epic narrative scale, they seem to be the most ambitious Godzilla films to date. Yet that ambition comes at the cost of detail and emotional tangibility. All characters look the same, animation is robotic, individual moments have no emotional heft. No part of it even got me to go “that’s cool”.

    Sure, I would love to learn about the heroic future humans fighting to reclaim the Earth from Godzilla. But please, make me care about it.

  11. The Predator 2018

    Watched 29 November 2018

    No new take, just a patchwork of rehashed tropes. Every scene feels like something you’ve seen before, and the paper-thin “I have backstory!” characters don’t help either.

  12. The Meg 2018

    Watched 5 November 2018

    I was expecting this shark movie to be more of a boat movie. But it turned out it was actually more of a submarine movie, and also a Jason Statham dating simulation movie. So yeah, it was fun.

  13. Incredibles 2 2018

    Rewatched 4 November 2018

    While riding her motorcycle, Elastigirl smiles at a girl in a nearby car before speeding away.

    I just wanted to rewatch the Elastigirl bike chase… Ended up doing that, rewinding, then watching the whole thing. I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last time that happens, so it’s going in the 5-star bin.

  14. Upgrade 2018

    Watched 13 September 2018

    Cool and exciting, but the low budget/high ambition combo leaves it stuck in a sort of uncanny valley — the kind of sci-fi that never quite manages to hide its seams. Still, very enjoyable and made me wish for more cyberpunk movies. I’ll probably go watch Ghost in the Shell for the fiftieth time now.

  15. Deadpool 2 2018

    Watched 15 August 2018

    As fun and cringe-worthy as the first one. Somehow more enjoyable because Infinity War was such a downer.