Thursday, June 30, 2016

Beauty isn't everything, it's the only thing


Something this ravishing can be just as superficial as it wants—especially when superficiality is its whole damned point.

Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn
Written by Mary Laws, Polly Stenham, and Nicholas Winding Refn
With Elle Fanning (Jesse), Charles Baker (Mikey), Keanu Reeves (Hank), Karl Glusman (Dean), Bella Heathcote (Gigi), Abbey Lee (Sarah), and Jena Malone (Ruby)

Spoiler alert: mild

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What goes up, must come down


It resurges, all right, and then just slides slowly away...

Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Dean Devlin, Nicholas Wright, James A. Woods, James Vanderbilt, and Roland Emmerich
With Jeff Goldblum (David Levinson), Bill Pullman (Thomas J. Whitmore), Brent Spiner (Dr. Brakish Okun), Deobia Oparei (Dikembe Umbutu), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Catherine Marceaux), Maika Monroe (Patricia Whitmore), Liam Hemsworth (Jake Morrison), Jessie T. Usher (Dylan Hiller), Angelababy (Rain Lao), Travis Tope (Charlie Miller), Nicolas Wright (Floyd Rosenberg), Judd Hirsch (Julius Levinson), Vivica Fox (Jasmine Hiller), William Fichtner (Gen. Adams), and Sela Ward (Pres. Lanford)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, June 27, 2016

Welcome to Earth


Probably the best straight-up alien invasion film we've ever gotten—or, at the least, the most excessive—Independence Day will live forever.

Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich
With Jeff Goldblum (David Levinson), Judd Hirsch (Julius Levinson), Bill Pullman (Pres. Thomas Whitmore), Mary McDonnell (First Lady Marilyn Whitmore), Robert Loggia (Gen. Grey), James Rebhorn (Sec. Def. Albert Nimziki), Mae Whitman (Patricia Whitmore), Margaret Colin (Constance Spano), Brent Spiner (Dr. Brakish Okun), Adam Baldwin (Maj. Mitchell), Randy Quaid (Russell Casse), Vivica Fox (Jasmine Dubrow), and Will Smith (Capt. Steven Hiller)

Spoiler alert: high

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Steven Spielberg, part XXXV: Everyone will hate me, but at least I'll lose


The story itself is just a little dull, so instead of talking about that, roughly half of this review is dedicated to the great/terrible cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, Kaminski's undiagnosed compulsive disorder, and Spielberg's morally-unsound enabling behavior toward his poor DP.

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen
With Tom Hanks (James Donovan), Amy Ryan (Mary Donovan), Alan Alda (Thomas Watters, Jr.), Austin Stowell (Francis Gary Powers), Will Rogers (Frederic Pryor), and Mark Rylance (Rudolf Abel)

Spoiler alert: N/A
Note: this is a re-edited and slightly expanded version of a review written in February 2016, the major difference being that I've mildly softened in my visceral reaction to Kaminski's body of work—it helps that I've seen practically all of it condensed into a couple of months; but, never fear, my disgust has certainly not softened when it comes to his work in this film

Friday, June 24, 2016

Water, the source of all life


The Shallows wears the skin of one of my favorite movies, while feinting toward the substance of another, and if it doesn't reach the heights of either one, well, that's not its problem, because it's still the best treat of the season so far.

Directed by Jaume Colett-Serra
Written by Anthony Jaswinski
With Blake Lively (Nancy) and Sully (Steven Seagull)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, June 23, 2016

When they say, "The sun sucks," you just go, "Yeah, fuck the sun"


I realize I have no actual right to be disappointed—I was warned, repeatedly, by everyone—but here we are, and disappointed I am.

Directed by Alex Proyas
Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless
With Brenton Thwaites (Bek), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Horus), Elodie Yung (Hathor), Chadwick Boseman (Thoth), Rachel Blake (Isis), Bryan Brown (Osiris), Geoffrey Rush (Ra), Emma Booth (Nephthys), Courtney Eaton (Zaya), Rufus Sewell (Urshu), Yaya Deng (Astarte), Abbey Lee (Anat), and Gerard Butler (Set)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Cardboard Science: Take that, George Washington!


Ray Harryhausen codifies alien invasion cinema with this sub-classic from the middle of the 1950s, tying in everything you thought you knew about UFOs into one spectacular package, gifted with some of the very best special effects of the whole era—though you routinely wish there were a whole lot more of them.

Directed by Fred F. Sears
Written by Curt Siodmak, George Worthing Yates, and Bernard Gordon (based on the book Flying Saucers From Outer Space by Donald Keyhoe)
With Hugh Marlowe (Dr. Russell Marvin), Joan Taylor (Carol Marvin nee Hanley), Donald Curtis (Maj. Huglin), Morris Ankum (Brig. Gen. John Hanley), and Paul Frees (The Voice of the Saucermen)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hello, I'm Sigourney Weaver


Pixar's back!  Yay?  Yes!  Yay!

Directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus McClane
Written by Victoria Strouse, Bob Peterson, Angus McClane, and Andrew Stanton
With Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), Albert Brooks (Marlin), Hayden Rolence (Nemo), Ed O'Neil (Hank), Kaitlin Olson (Destiny), Ty Burrell (Bailey), Idris Elba (Fluke), Dominic West (Rudder), Diane Keaton (Jenny), and Eugene Levy (Charlie)

Spoiler alert: somewhere between moderate and high

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Steven Spielberg, part XXXIV: For example, to prepare for the role of Abraham Lincoln, Day-Lewis was actually elected President of the United States


As a history lesson, Lincoln is a worthwhile sit, even though it's a long one.  As a cinematic object, however, Lincoln is a decidedly flat experience.  It is elevated by its rarefied acting and interesting character work, but not to the point that you'll find me wholeheartedly recommending it; but then, movies about the political process are just about my least favorite thing in the world—so, please, consider that a disclosure of my bias.

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Tony Kushner (based on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin)
With Daniel Day-Lewis (Pres. Abraham Lincoln), Tommy Lee Jones (Rep. Thaddeus Stevens), David Strathairn (Sec. State William Seward), Sally Field (Mary Todd Lincoln), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Robert Lincoln), Gulliver McGrath (Tad Lincoln), James Spader (W.N. Bilbo), Lee Pace (Rep. Fernando Wood), and much, much more

Spoiler alert: he went to go see a nice play

Friday, June 17, 2016

Steven Spielberg, part XXXIII: Fantastic beasts and where to find them


Spielberg once again goes to war, and this time he brings a horse named Joey, whom you do slowly grow to love (even if you aren't very likely to love any of the hardly-glimpsed character sketches that surround him).

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis (based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo)
With Jeremy Irvine (Albert "Albie" Narracott), Emily Watson (Rose Narracott), Peter Mullan (Ted Narracott), Lyons (David Thewlis), Tom Hiddleston (Capt. James Nicholls), Benedict Cumberbatch (Maj. Jamie Stewart), and so on and so forth, there are an awful lot of people in the film, and also many horses

Spoiler alert: somewhere between moderate and high

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Steven Spielberg, part XXXII: Blistering barnacles!


Spielberg teams up with Peter Jackson for a throwback adventure into the past, rendered with all the tools of the future, and the film they made together is truly something to behold.

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish (based on the comics by Herge)
With Jamie Bell (Tintin), Andy Serkis (Capt. Haddock), Nick Frost (Thompson), Simon Pegg (Thompson), Toby Jones (Mr. Silk), and Daniel Craig (Sakharine)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, June 11, 2016

There's not enough garlic butter in the world


Is it possible that 2016 might be an even worse year than 2015?  The Lobster affectlessly argues, "Yes."

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by Efthymis Fillipou and Yorgos Lanthimos
With Colin Farrell (David), Rachel Weisz (Short-Sighted Woman), Ben Whishaw (Limping Man), John C. Reilly (Lisping Man), Angeliki Papoulia (Heartless Woman), and Lea Seydoux (Loner Leader)

Spoiler alert: mild

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Give my regards to King Tut, asshole


For preserving space opera between Return of the Jedi and The Fifth Element, Stargate absolutely deserves its cult.

Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich
With James Spader (Dr. Daniel Jackson), Kurt Russell (Col. Jack O'Neill), Viveca Lindfors (Catherine Langford), John Diels (Lt. Kawalsky), French Stewart, for some reason (Lt. Ferretti), Mili Avital (Sha'uri), Alexis Cruz (Skaara), Erick Avari (Kasuf), Djimon Hounsou (Horus), Carlos Lauchu (Anubis), and Jaye Davidson (Ra)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Steven Spielberg, part XXXI: The Old Indiana Jones Chronicles


Hardly the travesty of the holy Original Trilogy that crybabies constantly say it is, the fourth Indy film is actually a rather fine adventure movie that does almost everything it does pretty damned well—but, unfortunately, does very little perfectly, which I'm afraid does set it decisively apart from its predecessors.

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson, and George Lucas
With Harrison Ford (Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr.), Shia LaBeouf (Henry "Mutt" Williams), Karen Allen (Marion Williams nee Ravenwood), John Hurt (Dr. Harold Oxley), Ray Winstone (George "Mac" McHale), and Cate Blanchett (Col. Dr. Irina Spalko)

Spoiler alert: you saw it, and you probably hated it

Monday, June 6, 2016

Cardboard Science: Do you think you'll be able to respect a husband that probably pulled the scientific boner of all time?


As we briefly pause in our retrospective on the science fiction of George Pal, let's instead take a glance at something a little lower-fi: namely, Kronos, the 1957 sub-classic that must be counted as one of its decade's most successful attempts at depicting a full-scale alien apocalypse.

Directed by Kurt Neumann
Written by Lawrence Goldman and Irving Block
With Jeff Morrow (Dr. Leslie Gaskell), Barbara Lawrence (Vera Hunter), George O'Hanlon (Dr. Arnold Culver), and John Emery (Dr. Hubbell Eliot)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Friday, June 3, 2016

Steven Spielberg, part XXX: But killing Palestinians isn't exactly cheap


Munich was its director's last masterpiece for a good long while, but a masterpiece it was nonetheless.  Whatever else, you still have to admit that taking on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict represented a somewhat braver thing than simply suggesting that the Holocaust was bad.  Plus, do you know how many cool explosions Schindler's List has?  That's right.  It has none.

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth (based on the book Vengeance by George Jonas)
With Eric Bana (Avner Kaufman), Daniel Craig (Steve), Ciaran Hinds (Carl), Matthieu Kassowitz (Robert), Hanns Zischler (Hans), Matthieu Amalric (Louis), Michael Lonsdale (Papa), Geoffrey Rush (Ephraim), Omar Metwally (Ali), and Ayelet Zurer (Daphna Kaufman)

Spoiler alert: to the best of my knowledge, Israel never faced another terrorist attack again