10 Things I Hate About You (1999) – A smart teen comedy buoyed by the strong performances from the two leads. It will make you want to watch more teen comedies like it, which will just lead to disappointment by comparison in most cases.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999) – Smartly written and well put together, this deftly avoids every possible pitfall that might stand in the way of making a silly teenage Shakespearean adaptation. It is also helped by the impressive screen presence of Ledger and Stiles, both of whom really shine.
12 Rounds (2009) – The action is decent, though never epic enough and Cena isn’t as bad as you might have heard–wooden but not completely lost. Which is about what you would expect from a movie I would describe as a shittier version of the slightly above average Die Hard 3.
127 Hours (2010) – I suppose my vote is still out since this is pretty much a music video styled film where you wait around for 90 minutes for a horrifying arm amputation scene. Of course, Danny Boyle is pretty creative for a flashy director, and I guess the story is fairly compelling for something that I have no desire to watch again.
13 Assassins (2010) – Very well done samurai bloodbath that is essentially a remake of 7 Samurai despite whatever the movie it is actually remaking might have been about. Of course, for all its nice touches, the final 60-minute bloodbath (after the slow burn of the first half) ends up becoming rather tiresome.
13 Going on 30: Fun and Flirty Edition (2004) – Jennifer Garner’s undeniable charisma makes this far more entertaining that it probably should be. Which is not to say it is a weak film otherwise, there are plenty of fun and flirty moments rather deftly incorporated throughout!
17 Again (2009) – A body-switching movie made mostly watchable by an agreeable performance from Zach Effron. Also, Thomas Lennon’s nerd character is pretty annoying since whoever wrote the script was too lazy to look up and write factual nerd jokes.
1941 (1979) – The production design is impressive, but goddamn if this isn’t about the biggest waste of celluloid I’ve ever seen. I have to marvel at the amount of hubris necessary to get a film like 1941 made.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – The middle “trip to Jupiter” section with Hal 9000 is undeniably gripping cinema. It’s just too bad that the space ballet and final laser light show do not have nearly as much to say about the “big” questions as Kubrick thinks they do.
2046 (2004) – Though full of much of the same magic as In the Mood For Love, 2046 is less impressive due to its relative lack of focus. Great stuff, but I suspect that (in this case at least) it might have been a bit better if Kar Wai had used a script.
21 Jump Street (2012) – Again, really only worth it for the two leads who manage to carry the film based on their fine comic performances. None of the jokes totally bomb (most are actually quite funny), but a great many of them, like Ice Cube’s performance, try a little too hard.
21 Jump Street (2012) – The rambling script is a little too self-aware for its own good, but there are enough scattered bits of cleverness to outweigh the parts that try too hard. Actually, it is the leads more than anything else that save this film–Tatum especially is pretty great.
22 Jump Street (2014) – This got a fair amount of praise on its release, which is confusing considering the dearth of real laughs to be found here. And all the wink wink/nudge nudge “we’re making a sequel” stuff is way too obvious to come off as anything more than lowest common denominator audience-service.
24 Hour Party People (2002) – As a chronicle of a music scene I don’t know much about (except that Joy Division is awesome) a lot of the details from this one are lost on me. Still, this is a fresh take on the biopic/”rise and fall of a scene” type of movie that is pretty enjoyable despite also being a bit of a mess in parts.
27 Dresses (2008) – Considering the fact that they fully embrace their status as genre fare, it’s not really the most insightful criticism to call rom-coms like this “formulaic and predictable.” And honestly, this one moves right along, Heigl displays her usual impeccable comic timing, and the script was pretty funny–overall one of the better ones if you are into this kind of thing.
27 Dresses (2008) – Possible lack of chemistry between the two leads aside, this really is one of the better romantic comedies. Too bad Heigl became the box office whipping girl, because she really is fantastic in this.
27 Dresses (2008) – To watch this is to be reminded of the state of the modern romantic comedy. Cliché, by the numbers, without an original idea in its head, but with enough clever jokes, archetypical romantic elements and strong performances (from Heigel especially) that it is quite a lot of fun anyway.
28 Days (2000) – “Comedy Dramas” are my least favorite type of “comedies” and “dramas” and this one was nowhere nearly competent enough to put across the heavy subject matter. Bullock is always interesting to watch, but overall I can’t say this movie is an enjoyable experience.
3:10 to Yuma (1957) – A stronger film than the 2007 remake with none of the overbearing tacked-on action sequences and a bit more psychological complexity. On the other hand the film still has no idea what makes a real hero or a real Western and I couldn’t help but think how Rio Bravo is ten times the “Western” this revisionist shit is–despite its technical and artistic merits.
3:10 to Yuma (2007) – Managed to (barely) draw me in despite trying a little too hard with the action scenes and not hard enough with anything else (though the performances were good). The climactic scene (and in some ways the whole premise of the movie) is also severely flawed as the film seems to be saying that Bale’s laughably idiotic motivations are to be commended.
30 Minutes or Less (2011) – The premise is decent, but unfortunately, the scriptwriters have no idea how to work with it while also maintaining the slightest modicum of plausibility. Still worth watching to some degree for the scattered amusing bits.
35 Shots of Rum (2008) – A bold film in its refusal to elaborate on any of the details of the relationships that unfold within it. Rather stunning actually, and with a fantastic soundtrack–I was still thinking about it the next day, though, I’m afraid it is still missing that something that will keep it in my mind the day after that.
The 39 Steps (1935) – Fantastic Hitchcock chase film that throws in everything from the kitchen sink to the farmer’s wife. That the overall plot hardly matters, well, hardly matters, because films like this are what cinema is all about.
The 39 Steps (1935) – Impossible to state the sheer entertainment of this early North by Northwestish Hitchcock film. Not only is it a damn good story that moves like a freight train, but the entire thing is constructed with enough creativity to rival Orson Welles on his best day.
50/50 (2011) – Like most of the Apatow style bromedies, this is really quite funny and is done well enough that it isn’t even so bad that the script follows the “Very Important Movie About Cancer” playbook a bit too closely for my taste. Also, Anna Kendrick is once again quite excellent, and makes up for the fact that Seth Rogen’s pig of a character is not nearly as deep-down loveable as the movie wants you to believe.
7th Heaven (1927) – It feels a little primitive considering the year it was made, but there is no denying the beauty of the fairy tale atmosphere of the story. It’s just too bad it has to almost ruin things by throwing in all that Christian bullshit!
About a Boy (2002) – Reminded me of Notting Hill in that it was pretty slick…almost too slick. But, the script is a cut above the usual kind of stuff like this–which makes the calculated and sentimental elements of the plot much more tolerable.
About Last Night (2014) – Really quite hilarious romantic comedy about a year in the life of two couples. All four leads are excellent, and the script keeps the jokes flowing nicely, what more could I ask for?
Abraham Lincoln (1930) – The plot is merely an episodic collection of stagnant vignettes while Huston over delivers his lines in W.C. Fields mode. A pretty big disappointment considering the talent involved…also, it makes me wonder what Griffith had against Mary Lincoln, who, according to this film, was the queen bitch of all bitches.
Accepted (2006) – Not the best college humor comedy, but far from the worst. Justin Long remains quite charming and there is enough fun to be had here that I’d even recommend it to the kind of person that in’t sorry they watched Van Wilder.
The Accidental Husband (2008) – One of those rom coms where the motivation for the two main characters to get together remains a mystery to me. In theory, I like all the leads, but things have a really tough time gelling in this one.
Ace in the Hole (1951) – As sour and cynical a movie as the work of Clouzot, this film holds its own with the rest Wilder’s fine films. I’m not entirely sure about the ending, but most of the film is so pessimistic as to the true nature of humans that you will find yourself chortling in disbelief that this film even got made in Hollywood.
The Ace of Hearts (1921) – Minor Lon Chaney silent film that follows a secret organization of humanitarian assassins. The implausible plot and bland costar opposite Chaney (who was great as usual despite his silly hair) bring this one down a few notches.
Act of Valor (2012) – One of those movies that appeals to that strange male fantasy where getting beaten and abused is the ultimate wish-fulfillment adventure. Ideologically reprehensible, but rather a good time nonetheless.
Adam’s Rib (1949) – I haven’t seen them all, but I think it’s probably a safe bet that this might be the best of the Hepburn/Tracy matchups. Cukor is one of the old Hollywood masters, and while the film isn’t quite full of nonstop hilarity, it’s nonetheless very well done.
Adaptation (2002) – Kaufman is a smart guy, so just because his movie is based on the same premise that thousands of high school kids “discover” on their English essays each year doesn’t necessarily mean it is guaranteed to end up as vapid as you would expect. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have anywhere to go with it (aside from a forced third act) and all the clever meta commentary in the world can’t disguise the fact that this is a movie written by a guy who didn’t have anything of import to say–if you want to watch a real movie about writer’s block, go rent Barton Fink instead.
Adventureland (2009) – Turned out to have more romantic drama than comedy, but this is still a nice portrait of nostalgia for both the good and bad parts of our youth. The plot points are routine, but the acting and direction are well done and the characters and motivations feel pretty real.
The Adventures of Dollie (1908) – I’ve heard this dismissed as barely watchable Griffith, but the dismissers are wrong. This is a pretty entertaining little story of Gypsy kidnapping and a child in a barrel that is well worth checking out.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – This giddily bright Technicolor bit of fantasy fluff is one of the great adventure films. No one ever made wearing bright green tights look quite as cool as Flynn makes it look here.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – Superlative classic adventure film that could never get away with its dialog in today’s cynical world. The final sword fight alone remains unmatched to this day in both its earnestness and its thrills.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) – One of the period Sherlock Holmes films, but still one of the good ones. The guy playing Moriarty makes an excellent foil for Holmes as they run around London in the usual battle of the wits.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) – Second (and last) of the non-modern Sherlock Holmes films finds Moriarty showing up to distract Holmes while attempting to steal the Crown Jewels. Stylishly filmed, and with a nicely chilling minor key flute melody throughout as well.
Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924) – Pretty minor silent film, of note for being an early science fiction film (though not the first by any means, Meles was doing “sci fi in funny hats” 2 decades earlier) and because of the hilarious workers revolution that was instigated among the martians. Otherwise this is cinematically almost a decade behind the times, which, I suppose, makes the Russian films of the next few years that much more impressive considering the late start Soviet cinema had (as evidenced here).
An Affair to Remember (1957) – I like a good romantic comedy as much as (probably more than) the next guy, but I can’t get into this one. The drama is too much, I don’t buy the central obstacle to them getting together after the halfway point, and every time those kids start singing it makes me want to retch.
The African Queen (1951) – This is a pretty straight ahead movie for John Huston without much of his trademark cynicism (except for the great opening “choir” scene). Still, that isn’t to say it isn’t a lot of fun–even if Bogart plays kind of a goober.
Airplane! (1980) – An early attempt at a new style of humor, and still one of the best examples. You’ll groan at yourself for laughing at the such shit jokes, but it won’t stop you from laughing anyway.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) – I’m sure in anyone else’s hands this tale of the ugliness of racism would have annoyed me as much as The Blind Side. Yet Fassbinder implicates everyone; thus, by making it a tale of the ugliness of humanity, he manages to transcend simple moralizing–and somehow makes it all very sweet too!
Alice Adams (1935) – A bit over-dramatic and not quite up to its ambitions in parts, but Hepburn’s performance carries the film anyway. The big party/dance scene alone is one of the most achingly realistic things I’ve seen in an early 30s movie.
Alice in Wonderland (2010) – I’m not super familiar with Alice in Wonderland, but I’d guess the surreal imagery of the source material is where what little strength this film has comes from. Nice imagery aside, I’d guess this film will be remembered about as well as Burton’s Willy Wonka Movie in about five years–which is to say, not remembered much at all and for good reason.
Alice (1990) – Pretty “cute,” though Woody Allen being too “cute” is my least favorite kind of Woody Allen. It is still pretty entertaining even though the central storyline about a woman reevaluating her life is fairly weak.
Alien³ (1992) – This has some nice touches but the weak script makes it pretty unmemorable. Weaver is as commanding a presence as always, but this has nothing on the first two.
Aliens (1986) – Classic action movie that takes its siege premise from Hawk’s Rio Bravo and The Thing. It is dumbed down and machoed up for the blockbuster crowd of course, but it is still pretty thrilling (and gets bonus points for including a “child in distress” character that you somehow don’t want to strangle).
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) – A definite all time classic war film (with an utterly jaw dropping central battle scene) that manages to have a pretty strong message without totally turning me off. There are a lot of reasons this works for me where so many other “message” movies fail, but the fine performances and uncompromising artistry of its structure are high among them.
All That Heaven Allows (1955) – A melodrama with plenty to say (and not much of it good) about the American society of its time, there is a master’s hand at work behind every scene. I’ve also never seen such a harrowing shot of a TV set–I can definitely see why Fassbinder loved Sirk’s films.
Almost Famous (2000) – A high school kid gets the best job ever in this alternately sweet and dramatic (but never cloyingly so) film. Lots of great moments, and I finally understand why Kate Hudson is so highly thought of.
Amadeus (1984) – Utterly engrossing, it never makes its three hours felt and is masterfully directed. I still have my nitpicky issues (the analysis of the music was overly expository, and the overall theme of “not having the talent you wish you had” is a bit slight as an idea) but overall it is hard to say it does not deserve its considerable reputation.
Amazing Spider Man 2 (2014) – Garfield and Stone are still pretty cute, but otherwise the lazy, stupid, and completely unbelievable script completely kills this one. Also, I really don’t think that’s quite how magnets work.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – More of the same quickly forgotten superhero multiplex fare. At least the two leads are actors I like, which makes the rom com elements the best parts.
America’s Sweethearts (2001) – Everything is a bit too knowingly precious in this featherweight commentary on the Hollywood star factory that stars a rather unlikable John Cusack. Consequently, I found myself not caring if he gets together with Julia Roberts, who, for some reason, I don’t much like either.
American Hustle (2013) – I suppose it is fun enough (Lawrence is great, even Cooper’s unhinged cop works well enough), but there isn’t much of a story here–which is surprising considering all the plot machinations. It really seems to care more about putting its characters in silly wigs rather than paying attention to story and plot.
An American in Paris (1951) – This brilliant musical impressively manages to live up to all the hype. I still slightly prefer Fred and Ginger, but these “second wave” musicals are very well done–especially with someone like Minelli at the helm.
American Pie 2 (2001) – Honestly, the American Pie films are enjoyable teen comedy fare (aside from the retch inducing soundtracks) that are really a cut above most of what passes for teen comedy fare. Part of this is due to competent writing and filmmaking, but most of it is probably just because the character of Stiffler is pure genius.
American Pie (1999) – Still one of the better teen comedies…somehow. And I can’t for the life of me figure out if the whole glee club thing is something the viewer is supposed to take seriously.
American Psycho (2000) – The film only really has one one idea and one thing to say, and thus, probably never needed a full-length film with which to say it. Which is not to say it is a bad movie; it’s finely constructed and Bale does a great job pulling off the strange tone of the main character–all of which helps keep it quite watchable.
American Reunion (2012) – The American Pie series continues its track record of above-average teen comedy fodder with this fourth outing. You see some tits, Stiffler is back, someone gets his hand covered in shit, all in all, there’s not much more you can ask for.
American Wedding (2003) – Stiffler overplays it a bit in this final American Pie movie, but still remains one of the main reasons to watch these films. Otherwise this is more of the same and really about as good as the first two (which is to say: actually not too bad!)
The American (2010) – Nice and restrained assassin movie about a very closed-off man who wants a bit of human closeness nonetheless. If I have a complaint it is that the final sequence has been done so many times that it feels a little stale.
Among Those Present (1921) – Cute Harold Lloyd 3 reeler is a cut above the usual stuff of the day but not one of the greats. There are plenty of decent gags though (especially after he loses his pants) so I’d say it’s worth checking out.
Amour (2012) – Haneke knocks another one out of the park while proving that he is probably the best living director in the world right now. Somehow (considering the gut punch subject matter), this doesn’t feel quite as pessimistic as many of his earlier films, but it is just as intelligent and rewarding of an experience.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) – I suppose you could think of this film as an interesting experiment in taking the comedic idea of spouting ridiculous one liners about “whore island” to a feature length extreme, but that doesn’t make it any less painful to get through. This is one of those movies where those “in the know” assure you it really is funny, but when evaluated objectively it reveals itself to be pretty weak.
Angel and the Badman (1947) – A strange Western where Wayne tries to turn pacifist for his Quaker girlfriend. It plays like an A list production of one of Wayne’s earlier B list movies from the 30’s which is to say it is nothing super special but still great fun (and the girl is super-hot).
Angel Face (1952) – Interesting spin on the femme fatale noir story, this film puts a lot more psychological depth into its characters and their motivations. I especially like how Preminger toys with our sympathies as the story unravels.
Anna Karenina (2012) – The script is a kind of mix of realism and stylized theatrical devices that actually works very well and keeps the whole movie full of creative and interesting surprises. Story is a bit of a bummer (says the guy who didn’t know anything about it going in to the movie), but it is otherwise a very well done adaptation.
Another Thin Man (1939) – The Thin Man series manages to only slip a few notches for this, its third outing. It might all be getting a bit rote (and slightly silly), but there are still enough of the moments you come to one of these movies for to keep it pretty highly recommended.
Another Woman (1988) – Quite good, with Rowlands very convincing as a woman at a crossroads. There is more insight than usual to be had here, and damn does Sven Nykvist know how to film a movie!
Antichrist (2009) – One of the few movies of the last decade that actually distinguishes itself as something unique and cinematic, yet by the time the cringe inducing the horrors of the final act play out, you’ll find yourself wondering if it is more shock than substance. There is an interesting message buried beneath the brutality, but it is far too thinly sketched out and poorly developed to really justify the unpleasantness of the experience, no matter how well filmed and acted that experience is.
Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008) – Cute documentary about an aging metal band that never quite hit the big time. Heavily influenced by Spinal Tap–which is a good thing aside from the minor problem of some of the situations feeling a bit staged.
Argo (2012) – This has a nice (though perhaps overly affected) period feel and some well mounted set pieces. It’s just too bad the last half devolves into a series of increasingly implausible last second escapes that completely shatter suspension of disbelief for a “based on true events” movie.
Ariel (1988) – I’ve never seen anything by this Aki Kaurismaki guy before and this turned out to be a quite finely constructed portrait of alienation, disconnect, and the need for companionship. It is not entirely my thing with some of its more stylized, almost farcical elements, but it is still fine cinema.
The Aristocrats (2005) – This is just a bunch of comedians trying pretend that one can learn something about comedy based on the “different” deliveries of one in-joke that is pretty obviously made up just for this movie. One gets the distinct sense that 90% of the people involved in this project kind of wished that they’d never let Penn Jillette talk them into it in the first place, and for good reason as the flashes of humor were few and far between.
The Arizonian (1935) – Interesting OK Corral B-movie variant with a snappy pace and some well-mounted action scenes. I’ve never been much of a Richard Dix fan, but the Doc Holiday character is pretty good.
Armored Car Robbery (1950) – Tough and taut, this B film is a brilliant prototype heist movie that traps its criminals in a dense web of chiaroscuro camerawork as their escape becomes more and more improbable. The strong performance from the vengeance-seeking cop out to take down the criminals is appreciated as well.
Army of Shadows (1969) – Melville’s French resistance epic is stylistically indistinguishable from his gangster masterpieces, and equally brilliant. Also, I always call Clouzot the most nihilistic French director, but, I’m honestly considering giving the crown to Melville.
Arson Inc. (1949) – Low budget noirish film about a fireman who goes undercover to take down an arson ring. It “wasn’t bad” actually, though it also “wasn’t great”.
The Artist (2011) – All the hype around this one still can’t hide the fact that the story is pretty basic and the script can’t resist throwing in a few obvious references to the main character’s plight. A perfectly likable movie otherwise.
The Artist (2011) – A fine film that manages to tell a simple story in a compelling way that against all odds never seems too sentimental. Of course, the biggest problem with the film is the simplicity of the story, and by the end of the movie I will probably feel like you have just watched a whole lot of nothing.
The Asphalt Jungle (1950) – The cops are evil, the doublecrossers pathetic and the criminal hooligans the heroes in Huston’s twisted vision of doomed gangsters trying to pull one last job. This may be Huston’s best movie–which should tell you all you need to know about how superlative this film is.
The Asphalt Jungle (1950) – One of the all-time masterpieces, a cold, relentless, perfect movie about those who live apart from society. One of the first, and still the best heist movie of all time.
Asphalt (1929) – Pretty awesome late period silent film full of expressionist shadows and a great Louis Brooks wannabe. The simple story of a straight dude getting mixed up with (or in this case, raped by) a bad girl is well done and stays interesting throughout.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) – This may be a bit inflated with pretensions of making an art film, but is entirely successful as a psychological character study if nothing else. Pitt gives a fine performance as Jesse James, but the film is all about Casey Afflek’s portrayal of Robert Ford, who he manages to turn into a very complex, deep, and interesting character.
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) – Though set in occupied France and dealing with the holocaust, thankfully (films about such horrors are never much fun to watch for me) the interaction of teenage boys forms most the backbone of the narrative. The characters are completely believable, and this is one of those films offering more insight than is immediately apparent.
Austenland (2013) – Really quite delightful modern day take on Austenian romance. There is scenery chewing aplenty from the supporting cast, but, for some reason, it provokes more giggles than eye rolls.
Autobiography of a Jeep (1943) – Honestly this works better than most intelligence insulting propaganda films because the light-hearted tone never makes you try to take it too seriously. Fairly informative too as you see the titular jeep do quite a few impressive stunts that I didn’t realize it was capable of.
Avatar (2009) – The plot and dialog are only about average for a Hollywood action movie (which isn’t saying much), but the special effects are easily the best I’ve ever seen making this at least worth checking out if that’s your thing. Unfortunately the 3D, in addition to feeling distracting and gimmicky, constrains the depth of field to such a narrow range that it ends up feeling more 2D than a “normal” movie.
The Avengers (2012) – Pretty slick, with Downey and Ruffallo carrying most of the film through sheer force of their one-liners and smashing alone. Still, it’s quite a battle with suspension of disbelief to keep from scoffing at the outfits.
The Avengers (2012) – The script doesn’t do anything other than connect the big setpiece scenes and shoehorn in the one liners, but it does it well at least. Glossy, empty, and at the end of the day, kind of a lot of fun too.
The Avengers (2012) – They finally get the whole gang together and it thankfully proves to live up to most of the hype with a nice quip filled ensemble script by Whedon (Downey Jr. and Ruffallo as the new Hulk are probably the standouts). Still just an overproduced Hollywood action movie, but an enjoyable one if you are in to that kind of thing.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – Some nice effects, a few good one liners and a few decently epic moments make this pretty enjoyable, even if the whole Marvel touch has been feeling pretty lifeless for a while now. Still, the plot manages to stay reasonably focused, and my Paul Bettaney man-crush is given plenty of fodder, so I had a good time.
The Aviator’s Wife (1981) – Man that main character is a pussy, but this is a fine example of vintage Rohmer, which is to say it is nothing less than a masterpiece. Essentially four or five long conversations (some lasting almost half the movie), to watch this is to realize just how vapid the dialog from someone like Quentin Tarantino is in comparison.
Away We Go (2009) – A couple has a series of encounters with friends from around the country who all turn out to be pretty batshit crazy. Overall, it is amusing enough, though it veers into dialog that is too pleased with itself for its own good a few too many times for my taste.
The Awful Truth (1937) – Sullied only by the unaddressed potential infidelity of the husband, this is still one of the all-time great comedies. At its core it is just a series of hilarious scenes, but they are all so well done that the film can survive multiple viewings per year and remain eternally fresh (something that few movies are able to do).
Baby Mama (2008) – Some of the jokes are more miss than hit, but the winning performances help carry the film. Also, the decision to never stray far from formula works in its favor.
Bachelorette (2012) – Apparently this got panned on release, but as long as you go into it expecting an Always Sunny in Philadelphia style story about horrible people, you might actually end up enjoying it. Of course, it is hard to tell how good it really is since I like everyone in the cast so much.
Back Stage (1919) – One of the better Arbuckle/Keaton shorts, this has Fatty and Buster working behind the scenes on a set…hijinx ensue. Some good stuff inspired by Chaplins shorts on the subject and refined in Keaton’s later The Playhouse (also featuring perhaps the first use of the “side of a house falls on someone while they stand under the spot the window hits the ground” gag that Keaton made famous in Steamboat Bill Jr).
The Back-up Plan (2010) – As long time readers have probably figured out, I don’t tend to give bad reviews to romantic comedies, and this one has enough of the good parts of the formula to forgive the execrable soundtrack and frequent lapses into eye rolling territory. Also, J-Lo is looking good as usual and there are even a few decent laughs (the delivery scene especially was a gory highlight…and gave me a few ideas for Jock Blog 5).
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) – Great performances, great cinematography, and a decent job of creating plenty of claustrophobic tension are the high points of this well-made film. Personally, however, the movie is a little too close for comfort to that genre of “bad town” liberal westerns that always rub me the wrong way with their self-righteous messages.
Bad Lieutenant (1992) – A disgustingly seedy gem of a movie, I must admit I was rather blown away by this one. And I’m not just talking about Keitel’s jaw dropping performance; as a film this is as daring a narrative as I have seen in recent years–helped to no small degree by the masterstroke ending that elevated the movie above mere voyeurism.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009) – This plays like a Herzog directed episode of The Shield as dreamt by David Lynch and starring a mugging Nicholas Cage, which is to say it is a bit of a thematic mess. I have to admit I was pretty entertained anyway–there are some admirably bold moves, but unfortunately Herzog has lost too much of the narrative brilliance he once had to pull it all into a completely coherent whole.
Bad Santa (2003) – That unusual Hollywood movie about a “bad” Santa that actually is a pretty bad dude. So, kudos to the filmmakers for finding a way to make this such a sweet (and hilarious) movie without cutting back on Bad Santa’s penchant for anal with plus sized women.
Bad Teacher (2011) – Sure, like Bad Santa (which, due to the title, this film will forever suffer in comparison to), the main character here is simply irredeemable as opposed to lovingly irredeemable, but there are some scattered amusing moments and performances throughout. The bigger problem is the script which is episodic in a lazy rather than laid back way.
Badlands (1973) – One of the more masterful debuts on record–a complex film with real poetry in it. I just never liked these “crime spree” movies with protagonists that are just too dumb/far-gone to really give a shit about.
Baghead (2008) – Clever little riff on genre that is helped immensely by nice naturalistic performances and a very funny script. So good that I can even forgive the kind of hipster pretension that births stuff like this.
Ball of Fire (1941) – Classic romantic comedy about a bunch of cute old men (and Gary Cooper) who get their lives livened up by a hot ‘n sassy gangster’s moll. Holds up to yearly viewings better than about any film short of Dazed and Confused.
Ball of Fire (1941) – Fucking classic and fucking adorable story of a hot young nerdy professor (living with 7 old, less hot, professors) who falls for a gangster’s girlfriend. Plenty of classic scenes, and Stanwyck positively glows throughout.
Ballad of the Little Soldier (1984) – Fascinating (if a bit overlong) look at the children soldiers of a Central American indian ethnic group. I thought a more objective tone would have served the film better–the assistant director’s story about how the child soldiers were just like the Hitler youth, while spot on, brought an unwelcome moralization to the narrative.
Ballet Mécanique (1924) – Kind of a big jumbled mess of random images and shapes (with an overuse of kaleidoscope). It has some good ideas (I like the segment with the title cards) but not really something I feel like raving about–or maybe I just don’t like Dadaism.
Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach (2009) – Absolutely wretched “underdog” gross out comedy. I would say this is maybe partly just overly high expectations from me liking Stiffler and Harold and Kumar so much, but, no, this movie just plain sucks.
Bananas (1971) – I’d watch Woody Allen do his thing in about anything and thoroughly enjoy it, but this is probably the weakest of his early “broad humor” comedies. I just don’t find myself giggling quite as much during Bananas as I normally do during one of his “funny” movies.
The Bandwagon (1953) – It’s the usual “let’s put on a show story”, but with expert direction from Minelli and tons of great song and dance numbers. I have no idea how the song and dance numbers fit together for the show they were putting on, but that hardly matters once the film pulls you in.
Barbarella (1968) – Ridiculously over the top “sci-fi” tale full of all manner of 60s psychedelic nonsense. I have to admit it actually has a few redeeming qualities, but at the end of the day the main draw is still just Jane Fonda’s ass.
Barbie Fairytopia (2005) – All the elements of pre-teen straight to DVD trash are there: the requisite cute baby-talking side kick, the affected obnoxious teenage attitudes that only serve to reinforce such behavior at a later age, computer animation that is a bit too close to the uncanny valley for comfort and a shit ton of fairies and rainbows. While barbie is not rewarded at the end of her quest with the obligatory prince to complete her life, she is instead given wings to make her “just like everyone else” in fairytopia (thus giving kids everywhere the message that being different is something to be overcome)–this is in no way recommended and I will not be watching the Mermaidia sequel.
Bardelys the Magnificent (1926) – This swashbuckler (though light on the buckled swashes till the end) isn’t Vidor’s best work but it is still skillfully made entertainment. John Gilbert handles the romance far more adeptly than Fairbanks would have–though, this is offset by him handling the action scenes far more ineptly than Fairbanks would have.
Barnum and Ringling Inc. (1928) – Ok Little Rascals short that spends too much time with the animals running around a hotel. The sociopathic cute little rich girl that goes around stabbing people is a novel inclusion at least.
Battle Los Angeles (2011) – This strictly adheres to the tropes of the war film genre, and is a better film because of it. Don’t get me wrong, the shaky cam makes 50% of it incomprehensible, the script is laughably cliched in both plotting and dialog and the science is ridiculous…but as the kind of armed forces propaganda that all good war films are, it really works pretty well.
Battleship Potemkin (1925) – Basically three long set pieces (mutiny of the ship, Odessa steps, confrontation with the navy), this is every bit the masterpiece you have always heard, but also a bit too cold to really stay in the highest ranks of silent film. The Odessa steps sequence might be one of the greatest scenes ever filmed (even more amazing considering how the over the top dramatics should normally be laughed off the screen but Eisenstein somehow pulls it off anyway), it’s just too bad there isn’t more of a movie behind it.
Battleship (2012) – Every now and then a Hollywood movie comes along that makes me rethink the normal aspersions that I cast the way of “dumb action movies,” and Battleship is that movie. An absolutely thrilling script that masterfully integrates the intricate set pieces, exposition and some plenty of razor sharp comedic touches is just the icing on the cake of this finely acted film that features the most jaw dropping special effects I’ve ever seen–quite simply, a masterpiece. [Original April Fool’s Day review–basically just imagine the opposite of all that for the real review]
The Beastmaster (1982) – Because I grew up without cable tv, I had actually never seen this before and was surprised that it wasn’t as bad I as assumed it would be. It is no Conan the Barbarian (which is itself no masterpiece despite my continual praise of it), but it is better than Red Sonja at least (which is to say, watchable)–also, I like that Charlie’s Angels chick.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) – There are some nice images and the child actor is indeed a marvel, but overall this reeks of pretension. It’s the kind of stuff you are impressed by but at the same time a nagging feeling lingers that it could be done so much more honestly by someone like Malick.
Beat the Devil (1953) – Don’t get your hopes up too much after seeing the talent involved, this movie is still a major let down. The plotting is kind of a mess and despite its best efforts the story just fails to suck you in.
Beerfest (2006) – Nowhere near as funny as Supertroopers, with only a few scattered moments of humor to be found. I had to take off before I was able to finish watching the movie and I don’t really think I’ll be missing out on too much if I never see that last half hour.
Beetlejuice (1988) – This is tonally all over the place, and too much of the weirdness is more random than inspired. Then, halfway through, Keaton’s character shows up and mugs his way through the rest of the movie to off-puttingly unsuccessful effect.
Before Midnight (2013) – If the first half seems like it may wander in places, the stellar second half more than makes up for it. Bottom line, this is another brilliant movie in a trilogy that is easily some of the best film making work of the last couple decades–it’s just too bad Ethan Hawke’s character is such a douche.
Behind the Screen (1916) – The usual polished Mutal-era Chaplin, full of great gags as Chaplin works on a movie set. He’s less of an asshole here than in The Property Man, but still a total dick…and you love him for it!
Behind the Screen (1916) – Minor Chaplin mutual about backstage hijinx at a film shoot. Plenty of funny jokes, though even here Chaplin’s penchant for recycling gags begins to show through.
Being There (1979) – Thanks to a deliciously opaque performance from Sellers, this is much more tolerable than something like Forrest Gump. However, I still don’t find the central concept quite as precious as the director obviously does.
Bell, Book and Candle (1958) – Along with I Married a Witch, further proof that classic Hollywood’s attempts at making witch-themed rom-coms are pretty dire, unfunny, and just plain weird affairs. By far the worst movie that James Stewart and Kim Novak made together in 1958.
Bells from the Deep (1995) – Really fantastic Herzog documentary full of fascinating images of superstition in Russia. Such is the power of the images that you will find yourself not really caring what is fabricated and what isn’t.
Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens (1979) – This is the usual softcore nonsense of male need/fear of nymphos, but the ridonkulously over the top script by Roger Ebert makes this probably the best of the Vixen trilogy. It’s just too bad Meyers cast that one chick with the fake boobs…I always figured he wasn’t down with that.
Berlin, Symphony of a City (1927) – Sure, it’s just another city symphony film, but this is one of the good ones. Also, this is thankfully message free unlike more modern variants on the genre like Koyaanisqatsi.
Bernie (2012) – Great “true story” that actually quite ingeniously integrates interviews with some of the real people who lived in the town into the film. Jack Black does a great job, but Mcconaughey, though hilarious, is a little too self-parodic to really blend into the movie as seamlessly as the rest of the cast.
Best Night Ever (2013) – Someone at a pitch somewhere described this as “a found footage Hangover except with ladies” and someone else must have thought that sounded like a great idea. And, I can’t really claim I was not entertained…I did see one of the actresses taser a mugger and then poop on his face after all.
Best Worst Movie (2009) – Kind of a “where are they now” for a group of people who acted in Troll 2, a film that has attained a sort of bad movie cult status. Unfortunately, aside from a few colorful personalities, the documentary is pretty superficial.
The Best Years of our Lives (1946) – Fine movie about the trials three soldiers experience upon returning from WWII to a life that doesn’t seem to have a place for them. The three hours never seem to drag, but still, this kind of weepy drama stuff isn’t really my thing unless it’s leavened by a dose of cynicism, which this one, for the most part, wasn’t.
Better off Dead (1985) – I should have known to avoid a film directed by someone called “Savage Steve Holland” and this mess of amateur hour fantasy comedy sequences had me closer to bailing on a movie than I had been in a long time. I will say that the bizarre mood becomes slightly less grating by the end (I can even begin to understand the fans of this film), but that doesn’t change the fact that I still rather fucking hated it.
Between the Folds (2008) – Nice documentary on origami that really seems to capture the main movements in the “art”. Some of the subjects are playing to the camera a bit much, but I suppose it is to be forgiven as this is their chance at a bit of recognition for devoting their lives to such a seemingly pointless hobby.
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971) – A completely “inside” movie, full of stories that only the cast would fully understand, and yet as a parable of unrequited love and longing it is a complete success nonetheless. The fact that a 26-year-old director could make a film like this is one of the greatest testaments to Fassbinder’s genius.
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971) – Immediately following his production of Whity, Fassbinder made a film that told the story of making Whity (with various members of his commune playing each other). I want to call this the greatest film about making a film ever, but that would sell it short since it is about far more than that.
The Bible: In the Beginning (1966) – Really not fair to call this biblical epic bloated and ponderous considering the source material, honestly, I it is all rather entertaining. Of course, the excellent cinematography and huge budget help things immensely.
The Big Combo (1955) – Fantastic noir with Wilde’s cop going up against Conte’s hilariously awesome (never makes eye contact or talks directly to Wilde) gangster. A dark and twisted film, made ever more by John Alton’s brilliant (as usual) camerawork.
The Big Country (1958) – Wyler continues to prove his brilliance, here by making one of the great Westerns. The scenery could not have been used better, the performances are top notch and it is full of all the interesting (though conflicted-in the end as they always quit being a pussy) insight into what it takes to make a man that all Westerns with a “pacifist” protagonist have.
Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958) – One of the early “wacky” heist movies, and really quiet well done. Still, comedy-wise it feels a little underwhelming next to something like The Lavender Hill Mob (despite a couple of very funny gags).
The Big Heat (1953) – Lang’s direction is usually a bit cold for me, but this no-punch-pulled film delivers in all areas anyway. I would accuse it of manufacturing drama, but the tragedies aren’t played for drama, but rather to paint the portrait of a world that is a few shades darker than the average noir film.
Big Jake (1971) – Wayne is getting on in years in this one, but his timeless appeal singlehandedly makes what would otherwise be a very average western quite a fun romp. He’s made better movies (and plenty of them), but it’s still the Duke, and unless we’re talking about that Ghengis Khan one, that’s all you need to know.
The Big Lebowski (1998) – Classic 90s noir “about nothing” with Bridges’ title character desperately out of his depth without even knowing it. Unlike Point Blank and Night Moves, this one feels completely effortless–and boasts one of the funniest and most quotable scripts of all time to boot!
The Big Lebowski (1998) – One of the all-time great screenplays, which is made even more impressive when you consider how rambling and ultimately inconsequential the whole thing is. But, like its main character, the movie abides, and I mean that in the best way possible.
The Big Lebowski (1998) – Tough to really evaluate when you watch it in a giant theater of superfans drunk on white russians shouting at the screen (as I recently did), but it was obviously still a great movie. Rambling, hilarious and full of more quotable lines than pretty much any other movie ever, this is one of those films that just doesn’t get old no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
The Big Shot (1942) – Bogart’s last gangster film, and still a good one even if it is more of a B movie. Nothing groundbreaking, but Bogart nails it as usual.
The Big Sky (1952) – A nice, laid back, rambling “Lewis and Clark” style Western, this one really is a lot of fun. Not quite in the top tier of Hawks movies, but I’m still looking forward to revisiting this one many times in the coming years now that I’ve found a copy.
The Big Sleep (1946) – Utterly incomprehensible private eye film that almost plays like an abstract vision of an archetypal private eye wandering through a world constructed with dream logic and hot chicks. That it is such an unqualified masterpiece as well has always astounded me considering how lost I get trying to follow the plot even halfway through the film.
The Big Trail (1930) – This big budget wagon train movie might just be the best of the pre-Stagecoach westerns. Spotty acting (including a somewhat less than gripping performance from John Wayne in his first big starring role) and questionable politics are quickly forgotten due to Walsh’s energetic direction and the jaw-dropping super wide screen 70mm cinematography.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986) – As a kid I remember this one being more fun than going to the movies. As an adult, I’m happy to report it holds up just fine and that the flying sword fights and lipstick on Russel’s lips are just as awesome/hilarious as they were when I first saw it at age 10 or so.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) – For as dumb as it is this holds up very well due mostly to the good-natured performances, snappy direction, and a script that is wittier than it seems. Also, according to imdb, one of only 3 films that feature both Abraham Lincoln and Ghengis Khan as characters, so it has that going for it…which is nice.
The Birds (1963) – Luridly shot in over-saturated color, this inscrutable masterpiece from Hitchcock can easily be counted among his best work. Breathtaking set-pieces abound, while an utterly apocalyptic air hangs over the whole proceedings.
The Birds (1963) – Rio Bravo with birds and almost as good…which, if you know my feelings about Rio Bravo, is superlative praise. It is impressive how well the special effects are incorporated into the film, probably due in large part to the heavy use of rear screen projection in the non-bird scenes as well.
The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933) – A really strange, beautiful and surprisingly transgressive pre-code Capra film. It is unfortunate that the lead was played by a Caucasian (though the yellowface makeup is pretty good), but it is a testament to the film’s power that it is so affecting anyway.
The Black Cat (1934) – A very bizarre film that seems to primarily exist to put Karloff and Legosi on screen together. There are a lot of nice touches, but it pales in comparison to The Old Dark House.
The Black Cauldron (1985) – Really, a pretty decent bit of dark fantasy from Disney. That fuzzy Golem thing is a bit precious, but overall the grim atmosphere is appreciated.
Black Hawk Down (2001) – About as visceral as they come for war films, once this gets going, the 2 hour long fire fight never lets up (and, crucially, never gets boring). There is a bit of a dubious ra-ra undercurrent to the killing of faceless black enemies for the spectator’s enjoyment, but I think overall the film plays fair and doesn’t have an agenda other than to show a thrilling real life “few standing against many” situation.
Black Metal (2013) – Short film about a thirty-something black metal singer with a family who is shaken by news of an atrocity committed by one of his fans. Quite well done and even a little insightful, though no black metal fan/nihilist worth their salt would be that visibly upset at the news of a violent crime.
Black Narcissus (1947) – Definitely the best movie about nuns that I’ve ever seen–though it helps that these nuns happen to be super hot and full of repressed sexual desires. This film is also proof that filming on a set can be even more visually astounding than location footage as the visuals and colors are quite literally breathtaking.
Black Orpheus (1959) – This film transports the Orpheus myth to a magical place called “Brazil” where everyone is constantly dancing to non-stop bossa nova music. The atmosphere is brilliantly infectious, but I have some nagging suspicions that there isn’t a lot of movie beyond that.
Black Sunday (1960) – A complete triumph of atmosphere and cinematography, the visuals really are something to see. And the movie itself isn’t half bad either!
The Black Swan (2010) – Well made, but ultimately rather underwhelming and obvious. As portraits of artistic obsession go, it doesn’t hold a candle to The Red Shoes.
Blackmail (1929) – Hitchcock’s first sound film but it sure doesn’t show as he adopted the new medium with his usual unbridled creativity instead of just tacking it on to a film that was originally shot as a silent. I’m not sure what is up with the initial silent sequence that (while quite good) didn’t have anything to do with the movie, but after that it’s all your favorite Hitchcock tropes–and even if it isn’t quite the masterpiece The 39 Steps is, it is still pretty great.
Blade Runner (1982) – Brilliant fusion of noir and Science Fiction, the production design alone lays the groundwork for most of the Science fiction (in literature and film) of the last 30 years. I can think of few films where mood and setting dominate to such impressive effect.
Blade Runner (1982) – Some like to claim that this film is merely a triumph of production design with little substance beyond that. And, even though the ending is just kind of a boring action chase, I don’t think you can so easily write off a movie that has so firmly embedded the images of cyberpunk in the modern collective unconscious the way Blade Runner has.
Blind Date (1987) – The premise is fairly problematic: guy basically roofies girl, guy gets pissed that roofied girl is acting crazy, guy roofies himself to “show her”, girl feels bad so becomes a lawyer’s sex slave to help out guy, girl leaves lawyer and marries guy. Add in one of Blake Edwards’ signature hide and seek chase scenes and you have a movie that I probably won’t be watching again any time soon.
The Blind Side (2009) – Though it is true that a homeless black boy from the inner city taken in by a rich white family will have a better chance at success in life, that doesn’t make this supremely patronizing film any less infuriating. Bullock carries the movie, but why anyone would identify with her self-righteous, ivory tower, judgmental character (who doesn’t realize the selfish root of her actions) is beyond me.
Blood Simple (1984) – Excellent film that details the usual chaotic aftermath of a supposedly perfect crime. Firmly rooted in noir stylistics (with forays into horror territory), this is every bit as brilliant a film as you would expect from the Coen brother’s first cinematic outing.
Blood Simple (1984) – One of the great directorial debuts, this is the usual Coen Brothers tale of a crime that just spins out of control. M. Emmett Walsh steals the show as the slimiest private eye of all time.
Blow (2001) – Pretty standard biopic fare, with Depp’s oddly robotic perfomance doing the film no favors. Penelope Cruz attempts to inject some life into the third act with her scenery chewing performance, but by then it is too little, too late.
Blue Collar (1978) – Pryor, despite being given his head a bit too much, is pretty magnetic in this well-made, but overwritten movie. Despite being a bit too on the nose in places, it is still a gritty, hard-hitting film.
The Boat (1921) – A very impressive short film from Keaton where he shows that all he needs to make a masterpiece of comedy is one (big) prop. There is also a certain degree of existential despair running through this film as everything in Keaton’s life slowly turns into splinters.
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) – Pretty great film about two couples’ paths towards sexual liberation and a possible foursome. The long, often insightful scenes and naturalistic dialog really carry a movie that could have easily come off as ponderous and dated.
The Book of Eli (2010) – Pretty good post apocalyptic visuals sporadically interrupted by stupid kung fu fights and shootouts. Unfortunately, the decent premise is almost completely unexplored and ends up being wasted in (what was to me) a thoroughly depressing ending.
Borat (2006) – Ridiculously crude (and verging on mean) this is also pretty staggeringly hilarious too. It’s very impressive to see Borat’s improvisational skills, and the storyline framework upon which they hang the set piece verite confrontations isn’t too bad either.
Born Yesterday (1950) – Billie Holiday brings her so dumb she’s smart blond shtick to the big screen and absolutely kills it in this classic romantic comedy. Maybe a bit heavy handed towards the end, but she deserved the Oscar that year, even with the competition.
Born Yesterday (1950) – This might lay the whole starry-eyed for the stars and stripes thing on a bit thick, but it hardly matters since Judy Holliday’s central dumb blond performance is so damn good. I haven’t seen an actress steal a movie like this since Louis Brooks–Judy is so good in this that she just might have actually deserved her Oscar win over Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson!
The Bourne Identity (2002) – A really excellent spy film (far superior to the book), with stellar work coming in at all levels of the production. I especially love the European flavor of the atmosphere, it fits the film quite well.
Bourne Legacy (2012) – I didn’t remember enough of the earlier movies, or the Bourne universe to really care about the interstitial bits, but as a spy actioneer, this hits the right buttons. Some of the science seems a bit implausible, but the strong central performances will keep your interest.
The Bourne Supremacy (2004) – Still a fine spy film, but the constant quick cutting (and not just during the fight scenes) is exhausting. Still, it’s always nice to see Bourne effortlessly outwit the helpless people who are tracking him.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) – Better than all the Pierce Brosnan Bonds put together, the Bourne series is solid spy entertainment. That said, this one basically boils down to just three extended chase scenes filmed in a camera style that makes my Senior Float of doom footage look like it was shot by Ozu.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) – By this point in the series, everything is feeling a bit formulaic. At least this film has quite a bit of Julia Stiles in it, so obviously it comes highly recommended.
The Boxtrolls (2014) – Weird, dark animated film about cowardly trolls that live in boxes and the human child they take in. Not bad, it is just a shame that with all the work spent on the beautiful animation, there wasn’t a tad more effort put into the script.
Boyhood (2014) – What could have been a simple gimmick movie in any other director’s hands, becomes something far more under Linklatter’s capable guidance. Like Dazed and Confused, this is a master class in showing, rather than telling, and is so much richer because of that.
Brave (2012) – I actually liked this one quite a bit better than Frozen. Sure, it is still aimed at a younger audience than I would have liked, but the story is novel enough and the lead is a better character.
Breadcrumbs (2011) – I watched this one with the sound off at a party and still was able to understand everything. Everything that is except for where the villains in these slasher films seem to get their super powers.
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) – I’m not sure what to think about this bizarre mixture of humor, horror, and compelling pathos. The toned down humor of The Old Dark House would have probably been more suited to the movie, but overall the film is quite brilliant in its own right (the final brief appearance of “The Bride” is totally worth it too).
Bridesmaids (2011) – It is just what you have heard, a Judd Apatow comedy with women playing the male roles (Kristin Wiig is actually quite phenomenal as the lead). As with a lot of Judd Apatow style films, it is also quite hilarious, hurt only by the uneven pacing that tends to make things drag between the more memorable set pieces.
Bridesmaids (2011) – Though it falls victim to the usual Apatow-improvisational-style trap of overlength and spotty pacing, it hardly matters, as it is so often so completely hilarious. The food poisoning scene alone is a masterpiece of scatological brilliance.
A Bridge Too Far (1977) – One of those fancy “well made” war movies, this is pretty good and covers all the high points of Operation Market Garden. Still, it suffers from the usual “script paralysis” (for lack of a better abstract phrase) that tends to annoy me about most biopic and “based on a true story” stuff.
Bridget Jones Diary (2001) – Perfectly fine romantic comedy, though even at only a decade old it already has not aged very well. Part of the problem is that too many films since have copied its style of oh so “clevar” humor, and part of the problem is that that oh so “clevar” style of humor is just kind of grating.
Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Madcap and fast-talking as they come, but Grant (to some degree) and Hepburn (to a large degree) are pretty insufferable. At least the madness helps pick things up as the movie progresses.
Brokeback Mountain (2005) – It is easy to suspect foul play (ie, cheap manufactured “gut punch” drama) whenever a movie affects you this deeply on an emotional level, but I feel like Ang Lee by and large plays fair here. The photography is beautiful, the 20-year narrative is handled well and the love story is one of the great portrayals of longing and doomed romance–with a truly heartbreaking performance from Ledger.
Broken Blossoms (1919) – Beautiful Bitzer cinematography and great acting round out one of Griffith’s most lyrical films. Surprisingly forward thinking about racism as well–given the time, source, and amount of yellowface.
Bronson (2008) – Tom Hardy really gives a compelling performance in this story of Britain’s most violent criminal. The artsy narration segments between the very well done set pieces are a bit of a turn-off, but this is still a fascinating film about a semi-fascinating character.
Brüno (2009) – Almost exactly like Borat, which is to say, filthy lowbrow humor done very intelligently (and hilariously). There are pangs of guilt at laughing at the humiliation of people who might not be all that bad, but thus are the perils of signing a waiver in an attempt to get on TV I guess.
Brute Force (1947) – Basically spectacular prison escape movie only slightly marred by the unnecessary flashbacks and occasionally heavy handed attempts at social commentary. But damn if that escape set piece isn’t one of the most exciting action sequences I’ve ever seen (also, Cronyn was great as the “bad guy”)!
Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) – This Scott/Boetticher Western reminds me a lot of Decision at Sundown–in that it is a preposterous story somehow saved by Scott’s square jaw. It moves right along, and has a lot of good stuff, but it is sorely missing the snap of a good Burt Kennedy script.
Bull Durham (1988) – Nice baseball romance movie anchored around a strong performance by Costner. It succumbs to a bit of Saranden’s character’s tediously overblown reverence for baseball, but overall it is really pretty good.
Bullet to the Head (2012) – Supposedly a “good old fashioned” buddy cop movie, only they forget to bring the sense of fun. Still, worth it to see a dude in his 60s with a body like Stallone’s axe fight Khal Drogo.
Bullets or Ballots (1936) – Typically fast-paced and tautly constructed gangster vehicle from Keighley. As it was made in 1936, the focus has shifted to the “good guy,” but fear not, things are just as bloody and gangsterrific as usual.
The ‘burbs (1989) – One of those movies that is just a lot of fun–like the neighbor kid Cory Feldman, who doesn’t love watching normal people lose their thin veneer of humanity as they descend into tribal anarchy? Strong performances and a clever script more than make up for the lulls and sillier bits.
Bus Stop (1956) – Monroe finally gets a chance to prove herself as a serious actress and knocks it out of the park. It’s just too bad the dude she is stuckc with here is so fucking obnoxious.
By the Law (1926) – Really fantastic Soviet silent film that abandons the more frenetic editing excesses of the big names in favor of a more stylized approach. The brilliant ambient soundtrack on the Film Archives version makes it even better.
C.S.A. (2004) – I felt like the overly broad Saturday Night Live style commercials are out of place next to the (more effective) parts of the film that play it straight. It is also pervaded by an air of didactic condescension (starting with the opening quote), but these kinds of “message” movies are never my thing, so take that with a grain of salt.
Cabin in the Sky (1943) – I’ve always been fascinated by the Faust legend (live it up, get forgiven in the end), and this brilliantly directed film (Minelli crafting a debut equal to John Huston’s) is one of my favorite versions. Full of great performance and musical numbers throughout, especially the Busby Berkeley directed Shine sequence.
Cabin in the Sky (1943) – Basically spectacular all black musical variation on the Faust legend. Minelli makes his mark in the all time great directing debuts list, and, for the most part (with a few exceptions), there is a refreshing absence of the usual Hollywood Step’n Fetchit caricatures.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – I am not super well versed in all the horror tropes this pokes fun at, but I don’t think that would stop anyone from appreciating the humor (for instance, never having seen a modern Japanese horror film, I still found the clips of the Japan branch hilarious). This is that rare Hollywood action/horror release that actually has a bit more going on in its head than just how to get to the next set piece.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Maybe not the great metafictional feat that the reviews are claiming it is, but an undeniably crowd pleasing and entertaining film nonetheless. Absolutely hilarious, you’ll leave this one wishing they made ’em like this more often.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Not really so scary as much as it is a very Whedonesque “hip” commentary on the genre tropes of the modern horror film. Thankfully, it isn’t nearly as insufferable as all that sounds, in fact, it is easily one of the most entertaining big Hollywood releases this year.
Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Totally crowd-pleasing commentary on horror movie tropes that will keep you entertained from beginning to end. Also, it is rather hilarious.
Cache (2005) – Haneke walks a dangerous path between great director and merely a provocateur, however, (unlike Trier) he seems to end up on the side of great director every time (though I haven’t and don’t care to see Funny Games). The suspense is very real and the story is the most impressive Macguffin since Hitchcock–allowing Haneke to focus on the interactions and self-deceptions of his characters instead of mere plot.
Caddyshack (1980) – A rambling episodic comedy that shares the sloppy charm of its protagonists. Ted Knight turns mugging into a good thing, Bill Murray is a riot and that “Smails kid” Spalding steals the show.
Caddyshack (1980) – There really is something to be said for a bunch of gifted improvisers getting together and smashing out a movie of pure silliness. Of course, Ted Knight apparently hated improvisation and he is the best thing in this movie, so what do I know?
Caligula (1979) – Shitty, yes, but not as bad as some might claim–it is basically just a long series of big, well-shot and ill-conceived set pieces. Excellent production design and fine actors without much of anything else to back them up aside from a few tame cut-ins of hardcore porn.
Camille (1921) – Not a bad film, especially considering how relatively early in the silent era it was made, there still isn’t a lot that stands out about it. Its biggest problems are that there doesn’t seem to be much reason for Armand to like Maguerite, and that the death bed scenes at the end occupy far too much of the movie.
Camille (1936) – Cukor’s direction is as drolly sparkling as ever in this adaptation of Camille that adds (when compared to the silent version) much appreciated layers of complexity to the Marguerite character. Garbo was made for a role like this with her tragically haunted soul never more visible through her facade of beauty and nonchalance.
Can’t Buy Me Love (1987) – This seems to be pretty highly thought of as a piece of 80s fluff, but the whole tone (and especially the ending) just feels a little too pat. The leads are appealing at least, but John Hughes on his worst day could do a lot better than this.
Can’t Hardly Wait (1998) – Not a bad last day of high school party movie, helped by a script that is a bit more clever than you usually find in this stuff. Still, I’m not sure I really buy the whole stalkeresque premise of the main guy expecting JLH to hook up with him the whole movie.
A Canine Sherlock Holmes (1912) – Short film about an unusually perceptive dog who tends to solve all his detective master’s cases. The dog is pretty funny, and, importantly, his master holds his own in his scenes, so it is really a pretty amusing little short.
Cannonball Run (1981) – You’d think the premise of a bunch of wackos competing in a car race across the United States would have been more fun than this incoherent and mostly boring mess turns out to be. You’d also think it would be less rapey.
The Canyons (2013) – Honestly, pretty much the total mess you would guess this would be, the chief complaint being a script that really just kind of goes nowhere in the least coherent manner possible. Lohan is barely passable, and Deen is pretty wooden, though he at least has impressive screen presence.
Cape Fear (1962) – There is a lot of good stuff about this film, but it feels a little too slick and exposition-heavy to really have the impact it desperately wants to have. Still, nice performances (Mitchum especially) and plenty of chilling (and anachronistically brutal) scenes make it worth watching anyway.
Cape Fear (1991) – Scorsese pulls out all the stops and crafts a real “face punch” of a thriller here. I don’t know that I like Deniro’s Cady kind of turning into a “Jason” style indestructible force of evil, but otherwise, this is pretty much an all-around improvement over the original from a filmmaking standpoint.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – As expected, the second watch through was a bit of a chore. There are still good bits (mostly the skinny Steve Rogers stuff), but my end impression this time was of a film that is a bit collection of loud fights involving guys in silly costumes.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – Pretty fun bit of popcorn entertainment bolstered by some fine special effects (especially “skinny” Chris Evans), Nazi (no matter what they are called in the movie) bad guys and Hugo Weaving doing his best Werner Herzog impression. It occasionally goes over the top with the laser fights and red-face silliness (not to mention the somewhat out of place Avengers stuff), but overall it works pretty well really.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – Though it is a stronger film than the first movie (mostly because it is able to dispense with the origin story), this is still just the usual bit of Marvel light amusement. It is almost there, but the fact that it feels like it is written by a committee rather than an actual human knocks it out of the running for being considered as a real movie.
Captains Courageous (1937) – Sure, we’ve all seen the story before, but the “by the numbers” plot wasn’t a problem–that would be like complaining about a big fight scene at the end of a kung fu movie. Besides, the story does resonate, the acting is good and there are some finely shot scenes on the high seas–as “family fare” goes, this is really pretty good.
Careful (1992) – Guy Maddin never seems to be able to sustain interest on his full-length films, but this one probably comes as close as he ever has to doing just that. A bizzare dream of repression and time warped imagery, he definitely gets full points for atmosphere.
Carolina (2003) – Julia Stiles tries to juggle a love life and the kooky (read: fucking awful) grandmother/family that dominates her life. At the point in which her friend seems to guilt trip her into dating him because he always liked her so much I began to question if even Julia Stiles’ boundless charms were a reason to keep watching this dud.
Carrie (1974) – The premise might be a bit simple, but that’s part of the power of this film. The simple juxtaposition of the horrors of the climax with Carrie’s dreams for how things could be really turns out to be powerful cinema.
Cars (2006) – You know the drill with these movies: I complain about all the juvenile characters and shoehorned in jokes for “the parents,” while ignoring the fact that the movie is entertaining anyway. And really, it is fine, but if I’m going to waste my time with a movie, I’d just as soon do it with a rom com.
Casablanca (1942) – About as perfect of a movie as one can make, with just about every member of the dream team cast and crew turning in career best work. It’s just too bad about the ending–I know it couldn’t go any other way, but I still wouldn’t want her to fly off without me were I Bogie (which, is maybe why I’m not Bogie).
Casablanca (1942) – Deserving every bit of its reputation as one of the all-time greats, everything from the iconic performances to the sparkling dialog absolutely sings in this film. My only complaint is that I still don’t agree with the ending.
Casablanca (1942) – Impressive that what is essentially a propaganda film can so universally speak to the big questions in life and love. Maybe more a moving on story than a love story, but whatever the message, this is undeniably one of the all-time greats, no matter how many times you watch it in a month.
Cast Away (2000) – Excellent desert island film that takes place largely in silence. Though, as affecting as the ending stuff is, I really would have preferred to have the focus of the movie to be more on a The Martian style “making the best of his situation” rather than all the feelz upon returning home.
Catch and Release (2006) – I like the two leads a lot, but it isn’t enough to save this movie from the worst kind of melodramatic impulses. Of course, romantic comedy/dramas like this always take themselves too seriously and, like this one, find themselves not up to the task of being a real movie.
Caught (1949) – Melodrama about a woman who marries an absolute monster. Ophuls’ camera is as delightful as ever, though the ending is lessened a bit by jumping through about ten too many hoops to please the censors.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) – The 30,000 year old cave paintings really are pretty amazing, but I still don’t see how the “3D” somehow magically lets us understand their relationship to their environment any more than a 2D depiction of the 3D surface. Also, Herzog is verging on self-parody…I rolled my eyes all the way to the back of my head when he asked “what would this crocodile think if he could see the pictures?”
Cedar Rapids (2011) – This is a nice low-key comedy with a smart script and a lot of great performances. Nothing ground shattering, but solid and refreshingly different from most of the other comedies out there.
The Celebration (1998) – Rather brilliant portrait of a severely dysfunctional family. At its core, beyond the sensational subject matter, this is a thoughtful study on the interactions of a group–one of my favorite cinematic subjects.
Celebrity (1998) – As a pastiche of loosely connected scenes riffing on the same concept (in this case,”celebrity”) this works better for me than Radio Days. The only real flaw for me is that, while I find Woody Allen’s screen persona oddly loveable, I don’t enjoy seeing other people adopt all of his inflections and mannerisms.
Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012) – By starting with the couple already broken up, this avoids over-sentimentalizing the relationship and is actually a reasonably insightful film about moving on. Rashida Jones turns in a pretty great performance too.
Centurion (2010) – One of those “one big chase” movies, but nowhere nearly as compelling as something like The Naked Prey. This is probably because the script seems more concerned with cramming as many decapitations into the proceedings as humanly possible than it does with telling a compelling story.
Chances Are (1989) – A nice turn from Robert Downey Jr. can’t save this one from the creepy premise of a dude who gets reincarnated and dates his daughter. The 80’s B-movie amateur hour factor is also a little high for my liking.
Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (1927) – Pretty awesome docudrama with some really astounding wildlife footage. Highlights include all the sweet traps and the baby elephant stampede.
Charlotte et Véronique (1959) – Really very good–Rohmer’s influence as writer is clearly felt. The pick-up artist is a bit awful, but I suppose that is the point.
Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (1980) – Just as packed full of excellent gags as the first film, only a bit sillier overall. I think my only complaint is that Cheech is a lot more fun to watch than his “Red” character–who dominates a lot of the film and can be a bit much at times.
Chess Fever (1925) – This Russian silent comedy has some decent gags and is pretty well done but isn’t even close to Keaton or Chaplin on their worst days. Part of it is probably the superlative quality of American silent comedy, part of it is that Russia is right up there with Germany and Scandinavia on the list of countries that shouldn’t make comedies.
Cheyenne Autumn (1964) – Impressively, this features some of Colthier’s career best cinematography. Unfortunately, it is coupled with John Ford at his most sentimental and preachy and thus the film tanks rather direly.
Chiefs (1968) – A bunch of good ol boys (who happen to also be police chiefs) discuss weapons of crowd control at a convention. Really quite fascinating, and thankfully presented earnestly and without a hint of anti-cop bias.
Child’s Play (1988) – Not bad for such a silly premise, though it isn’t all that scary despite the potential inherent in a small child having an evil doll for a best friend. I’m not sure it merited this first viewing, let alone a repeat viewing.
The Children of Paradise (1945) – Completely fantastic film that is genuinely heart wrenching without once descending into melodrama–and never once makes you feel like you are watching a 3+ hour period piece about a French mime. To watch this is to be reminded of what a real movie is capable.
China Seas (1935) – Fun little South China Seas romp full of big storms, pirates and another slutty Jean Harlow, rakish Clark Gable pairing. Not one of the best films of the 30s, but a lot of fun anyway.
Chinatown (1974) – The script positively sings, Nicholson is perfect, and Huston is even better. Up there with the best the private eye genre has to offer.
Chloe in the Afternoon (1972) – A simple story of a man’s urge to stray from his wife becomes a tale of what it is to be human and remain true to yourself. Rohmer films inadvertently inspire morality more than any work of art I can think of, and they are superlative cinema to boot.
Choose Me (1984) – There are some nice creative touches to the direction but the performances are a bit too “theatrical” (if that’s the word I’m looking for) and the script a bit too implausible to really work. Which was too bad as this is a movie that not only has something to say but also has an honest creative voice to say it with too.
Christmas Vacation (1989) – An episodic collection of great gags and endlessly quotable dialog, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without this. Cousin Eddie alone is worth the price of admission.
Christmas Vacation (1989) – Even when you already know all the lines, this movie still doesn’t fail to entertain. Cousin Eddie steals the show of course, but the incredibly funny script deserves most of the credit.
Christmas Vacation (1989) – Great episodic Christmas film with more gags and quotable lines crammed into its runtime than any 10 other films. What more can I say other than that this is one of those rare movies that is good enough to watch year after year without ever overstaying its welcome.
Christmas Vacation (1989) – A strange movie, full of episodic and supremely quotable comedy set pieces and dominated by Randy Quaid’s cousin Eddie. The fact that it holds up to so many repeat viewings year after year is just a testament to how well it works.
Cimmaron (1931) – There are a couple decent scenes, but the episodic storytelling is as stilted as the lead’s performance. This is a good example of the kind of stagey and unimaginative filmmaking that briefly infected Hollywood with the coming of sound.
The Circus (1928) – This probably only feels like a minor Chaplin because of its relatively short length, but otherwise it is full of his usual assortment of brilliant gags. Even the pathos is only delivered with a tack hammer rather than his usual sledgehammer.
Citizen Kane (1941) – The more I watch this, the more powerful the story of a man’s life slowly slipping away down the wrong track seems. As brilliant as they all say, even if it isn’t exactly MY favorite movie of all time.
City Girl (1930) – This really brilliant late period Murnau silent film might not be quite as poetic as Sunrise, but the more compelling story makes it almost as good. This is by no means “lesser Murnau” (which is the high praise it sounds like), and it really hits its stride during the rural scenes of the second half.
City Island (2009) – This is pretty damn good for an “outsider teaches troubled family how to live and love again” movie. Parts of it are a bit too precious, but otherwise it is mostly pretty clever and quite a lot of fun.
City of God (2002) – Goodfellas comparisons will abound, but the simple thematic shift to a world of overarching poverty where everyone is helpless to the allure of crime makes this a quite different beast. The script is a real powerhouse of narrative devices, the non-actor performances were amazing, and even the flashy editing and visual pyrotechnics don’t seem too out of place in this very impressive movie.
City of Gold (1957) – Despite a bit of sentimentality, this is a nice little documentary that provides a bit of history about the mining boomtown of Dawson. I would guess it is also where Ken Burns got all his stuff.
Clash of the Titans (1981) – Really not so bad as dated fantasy fare goes, some of the effects hold up rather well really. It’s just too bad the leading actor is so bland.
Clash of the Titans (1981) – The special effects range from fairly laughable to pretty cool, but as a whole I think I like Jason and the Argonauts better. There is still a lot of good mythological fantasy in Clash of the Titans, but it isn’t quite all there as far as the Saturday Morning Matinee fun factor goes.
Clash of the Titans (2010) – This new version actually has a nice look to the visual design and cinematography (and I’m not referring to the “make the Gods look shiny!” thing), but the story is just a weak excuse to go fight a bunch of monsters and shit (I didn’t find the “I don’t want to be a god” whining that convincing). Also, Sam Worthington is even more bland as a leading man than Paul Walker and I’m getting tired of seeing him in so many movies.
The Clinging Vine (1926) – The bizarrely butch protagonist is tough to get used to at first, but she cleans up pretty well and ends up being quite intelligently likable despite a somewhat problematic storyline. Even better is the supporting cast, full of great character actors all almost stealing the show from each other.
Cloud Atlas (2012) – Some story about interconnected generations of people in the past, present and future that is confusingly plotted enough that I’m not sure I really feel the need to finish the last hour that I didn’t get to. Also, the yellowface is probably just as much of an abomination aesthetically speaking as it is ideologically speaking.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013) – A prime example of the modern animated film trend of cramming a bunch of clever little “for the adults” jokes into a film that has little else to say. Of course, I’ve never seen the first one, so maybe this was all bound to be lost on me.
Cobra (1925) – A “bromance” in the vein of Flesh and the Devil where poor Rudolf Valentino just can’t help but jump from woman to woman (who he likens to cobras the way they mesmerize and then strike him) including his best friend’s girl. Lays it on a bit thick in parts but it is overall pretty good, I’ll have to check out some more Valentino.
Coffee Town (2013) – About half of this is decent jokes; the rest is slightly mean-spirited www.collegehumor.com material. Still, the cast is game, and I’ve seen worse movies that weren’t direct to DVD.
Collateral (2004) – Despite the third act feeling a little rote, this is still a fantastic and very stylishly made thriller. What more can I say about this film other than that it’s enough to make a person not hate Tom Cruise.
College (1927) – One of Keaton’s weaker films, and still an absolute delight. A bit less story than usual, but Keaton makes excellent use of his athleticism in the film’s repeated sports try-out disasters.
Colorado Territory (1949) – Walsh does an almost scene for scene remake of his High Sierra as a western and achieves almost equally brilliant results. Really, the only flaw is that Joel McCrea doesn’t quite have the inner menace that Bogart could so convincingly bring to a role when necessary.
Columbiana (2011) – This has a bunch of idiotic exposition between some reasonably well done Saldana assassin set pieces. Unfortunately, like most modern action movies, it is a rather soulless affair that will be forgotten soon after its release.
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011) – Tough to know how candid a vanity project like this really is, though I must admit, Conan doesn’t seem to be holding back to maintain his “nice guy” image. It is fascinating really to attempt to find the real Conan behind the megalomaniacal guy who is well aware the camera is on him.
Conan: The Barbarian (2011) – The near fetus decapitation from the beginning and the following 20 minutes or so is really pretty chortlingly entertaining, unfortunately, the last 90 minutes of nonstop sword fights quickly grows tiresome to watch. Momoa is decent as Conan, but the director Nispel needs to learn how to make a movie that actually has a story instead of an endless sequence of unconnected action scenes.
Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009) – This turned out to have a much broader sense of humor than I was expecting, which, when you combine it with the all-around horribleness of the main character, there isn’t much to like. Luckily, Isla Fischer’s impressive charisma makes the whole thing just barely worth watching anyway.
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004) – Nonsensical teen movie aimed at preteens that is about as grating as one of those same preteens trying to explain why it is the best movie ever. Not even Lohan’s usual strong teen movie charisma can make this bullshit even remotely watchable.
Contagion (2011) – A disease breaks out and the world attempts to deal with it in this multi-narrative film from Soderbergh. Which, if that sounds totally fascinating to you, by all means go see it, but don’t expect much beyond that.
The Conversation (1974) – Brilliant, moody, slow burn of a movie that is definitely going to warrant repeat viewings. I especially love that long, quiet, increasingly frantic final sequence.
Conversations with Other Women (2005) – I was initially irritated by the dialog (I prefer something more naturalistic in these movies about couples talking) and characters, but as the movie revealed what it was really about (an attempt to return to a past relationship) it drew me in. The dialog still feels a bit too cute at times, but the film was overall compelling.
Cowboys & Aliens (2011) – While this is a poorly plotted mess, it isn’t quite as bad as everyone said it is. Some of the western elements are kind of cool, but, they are, of course, not enough to save this film from being completely forgotten by this time next year.
Crank 2: HIGH VOLTAGE (2009) – Even more ludicrous, stupid, misogynistic and violent than the first Crank, which are all debits despite the filmmaker’s obvious assumption to the contrary. That said there is still a small amount of the original’s baffling over the top charm buried under all the overly bad taste and unnecessarily “hip” camerawork…and at least the public sex appeared to be consensual this time.
Crazy to Act (1927) – The usual Sennett nonsense, this time revolving around a production team trying to shoot a movie. Scattered amusing moments, but overall nothing too special.
Crazy, Stupid Love (2011) – The performances in this one are all quite good (even ANTM Cycle 11 alum Analeigh does an amazing job) which, when paired with the more clever and funny than not script makes for a nice little rom com. It is good enough that I can probably forgive a rather suspect message about soulmates and “not giving up”–to the point that no one seems concerned about the 13-year-old stalker in the making with a complete lack of boundaries.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011) – A strong cast and funny script really help what would have otherwise been a typical rom com with delusions that it was transcending its roots via overly slick plot machinations and obvious messages. And, I continue to be impressed that former America’s Next Top Model candidate Analeigh Tipton turning in just as convincing a performance as the heavyweight actors she shares the screen with.
Crime Wave (1954) – Sterling Hayden sneers his way through this superior B movie in epic fashion stealing the film from everyone else (including a young Charles Bronson). The story seems a little routine (and familiar), but it is told with style and a real sense of pacing.
Crimes of Fashion (2004) – Let’s get it out of the way that this is not a good movie, it is, in fact, a pile of shit. Still, Penny from The Big Bang Theory manages to hold things together with her charm (and, her legitimately excellent comic timing) despite the pratfalls, weak script, and a male romantic interest that is really trying to be John Cusack.
The Curious Case of Benjamen Button (2008) – I didn’t hate this nearly as much as Forrest Gump, but it is still as by-the-numbers Hollywood as it gets. A cute idea is not a reason to make a movie if a cute idea is all you have.
Cyclo (1995) – Much more daring than the director’s first film, this is kind of like The Bicycle Thief on crack. Which is to say, it is a bit of a bummer, breathtakingly filmed, and still not really my thing.
Cyrus (2010) – A romantic comedy with “something to say” beyond the dictums of formula. Of course, Hill’s sociopath doesn’t exactly make for a very enjoyable experience in a film that is ostensibly a comedy.
Cyrus (2010) – This is pretty great, though also awfully uncomfortable–primarily because of Jonah Hill’s chilling performance (though all the leads are pretty brilliant, especially Reilly). Best of all, you feel like you learn something about human interaction by the time it was over, which is far more than most movies can say.
D.O.A. (1950) – Excellent noir about a man trying to untangle the tangled conspiracy of who fatally poisoned him and why. My only complaint is that the dude is kind of a shitty philanderer, but I guess we’re supposed to give him a “you’ve been poisoned” sympathy pass on that one.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013) – I suppose Mcconaughey and Leto are good in this, but it is otherwise yet another Hollywood hero-making biopic, this time lionizing a straight dude who got aids and then went on to rule all the dying gay men around by charging exorbitant rates for cheap untested Mexican drugs. The message about how the FDA and drug testing is the ultimate evil is completely confused and routinely undercut throughout the film as well.
Dames (1934) – Kind of a strange setup, and not in the same league as Berkely’s strongest films, but the final dance numbers are some of his all time best. Thoroughly enjoyable until the final twenty minutes where it switches to “jaw-droppingly awesome”.
Damsels in Distress (2011) – The odd tone is offputting at first, and even though you end up getting used to it, the film still fails to engage. It is satire I suppose, but not exactly successful satire.
Dancer in the Dark (2000) – Von Trier is once again going for the cheap shot gut punch of telling a brutal story of an innocent who gets ground to pieces by those around her (only this time it is sprinkled with happy go lucky song and dance numbers). A brilliant film (and surprisingly powerful performance from Bjork), but part of me has to wonder if using stuff like this to provoke a reaction isn’t a little too easy (and I have to wonder what kind of person wants to make movies about this kind of stuff anyway).
Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) – Pretty preciously O’Irish, but I have to admit the special effects are quite impressive. Still, I guess this is a decent enough way to get your Irish stereotype fix in when you just don’t feel like watching The Quiet Man again.
Dark City (1998) – This maybe isn’t quite the masterpiece that some claim it is, but it’s a lot closer to that than the bomb others have claimed it is. The most effective science fiction noir since Bladerunner.
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985) – Amazing documentary about extreme mountain climbers that is a real eye-opener as to just how dangerous their “hobby” is. The photography is amazing, and the film as a whole does a fantastic job of getting the viewer as close of a look at this kind of mountain climbing as any normal person is likely to get.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – The poorly stitched together script creaks more than Batman’s “supposedly” cartilageless knees, ensuring that this supposedly “serious” movie isn’t going to be remembered any more than the Avengers will in ten years. Still, as a collection of random moments of varying levels of epicness, it isn’t half bad–and Bane’s voice is a hoot to.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Upon second viewing it is astounding how amateurish the script is–it will even make you wish for the soulless Hollywood polish of something like the Avengers. On the other hand, I remained more entertained through my second viewing of this mess than I did with Inception, so it has to have something going for it I guess.
Dark Passage (1947) – Stylishly made noir that actually makes decent use of the subjective camera. The main flaw is the fairly ludicrous plot full of too many coincidental meetings necessary to the framework of the story to support suspension of disbelief.
Dark Star (1974) – Pretty clever (and actually rather restrained and subtle) low-budget spoof of 2001. The beach ball alien stuff went on a bit long, but the final showdown with the “smart bomb” is pretty masterfully done.
Darkon (2006) – Competently made documentary about LARPers–yet the whole thing seems to be trying too hard to give the subject matter some type of deeper import. They at least afforded the subjects the proper amount of slightly bemused respect and got at their motivations for doing something so ridiculous.
Date Night (2010) – Holds up fairly well on the second viewing as a sort of popcorn/fluff version of After Hours. Still has a lot of good laughs, including the running shirtless Markie Mark gag.
Date Night (2010) – The script is as lazy as the trailer suggests, but it is also actually quite funny in many parts as well. Really pretty entertaining overall; it even picks up a bit of steam for the second half.
David Blaine – Real or Magic (2013) – David Blaine mostly seems to just know two tricks: the ability to stick things through his body without bleeding, and the ability to guess cards that people pick in their heads. Still, his obvious expertise with card manipulation, and the fact that I have no idea (though plenty of guesses) how he does those two tricks, both make this a lot of fun to watch.
Dawn of the Dead (1978) – Some of the anti-consumerism stuff gets laid on pretty thick, but there’s no denying that this is a movie with a vision. The violence is over the top, but that’s not all that sticks in your mind for days after with this one.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – A better movie than I expected it to be–pretty much just the tale of two warring factions in a post-apocalyptic world. That said, I found I was having a hard time getting invested in either side’s cause, and I suspect this will be as quickly forgotten as the last one was.
The Dawn Patrol (Flight Commander) (1930) – Impressive early Hawks film that tentatively explores the themes of his later Only Angels Have Wings (which, of course, includes many of the same themes he always explores: professionalism and men being men). The dialog isn’t quite there, but this is still quite engrossing–and the air battles are very well done (especially when compared to Hell’s Angels insomnia curing flying scenes).
A Day in the Country (1936) – A laid-back Sunday day trip of a movie centered around one of Renoir’s beloved rivers. That the bittersweet ending is as affecting as it is is a testament to the power of this unassuming masterpiece.
The Day of the Outlaw (1959) – Great western that uses its town-held-hostage premise to excellent suspenseful effect. The location shooting in 3 feet of snow is especially well incorporated into the film.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – Nicely done, if a bit simplistic (war bad!) sci-fi message movie. Overall, the most interesting part is the alien among the humans bit in the middle, and even that is a bit too obvious to really hold my interest.
Daybreakers (2009) – The narrative is an all over the place mess, but the premise is pretty cool and actually handled well. Also, the production design and visuals are often pretty creative, enough to keep me entertained through all the obvious political allegory and lulls in the story.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – The best “one crazy night” movie since Smiles of a Summer Night (and even with that it’s a toss up). Small town high school has never seemed so real in all its wonderful, horrible glory.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – Even though I’ve seen this around 20 times, it is still an utterly engrossing piece of film making. Amazingly, I’m still catching little details–like the Abe Lincoln poster in Tony’s class, the fact that Shavonne was talking about Jodi in the car, and the revelation that Pink’s belt is a pipe.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – The impulse is to write this off as a mere high school coming of age movie, but it’s far more than that as countless rewatchings have attested to. Excellent acting from the cast of non-actors as well.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – No film ever has been as successful at capturing the part of our collective American unconscious that is “small town high school”. If this sounds like lofty praise, it is, and the film deserves every word of it.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – No matter how many times I watch this, it never wears out its welcome. Great soundtrack, superb acting from a cast of largely non-actors, and a script that manages to paint high school in tones that are both nostalgic and horrifying. (Original April’s Fools Day review: Honestly, I am sad to report, that this one has finally worn out its welcome with me. An overbearing way too “on the nose” soundtrack (guess when they play “School’s Out for Summer”?), woefully inept acting (unless pinching your nose a whole bunch counts as acting), and a script that tries to say high school was both the best and worst of times and fails on both accounts–pretty weak all around.)
Dazed and Confused (1993) – Not just a good high school movie, but rather one of the all-time great works of cinema. A truly brilliant portrayal of what it is to be a high school student in a small town, be it 1976 or 1996, and the soundtrack kicks ass too (amazingly, without being overbearing).
Dazed and Confused (1993) – Probably the real brilliance in this film is the way it shows every single aspect of high school life while never feeling like either a celebration or condemnation of that life. Also, Mathew Mcconaughey (probably playing himself) is a revelation in this film.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – Really one of the greatest films in modern times, the perfect script effortlessly moving between a large cast of characters over the course of one long night. Career best performances from Mcconaughey and Affleck are matched by a more than capable cast of non-actors in a truly perfect film.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – This movie is good enough that I long ago realized I better get used to writing repeated reviews of it (luckily I started writing these reviews after the great Unruh family D&C heyday of 2006). It always impresses me with the ease with which the film moves between unpleasant viciousness and laid back and nostalgia while avoiding both of their drawbacks.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – Timeless, completely realistic movie about every small town high school ever. What is perhaps most impressive (in movie full of impressive things) is the way the film manages to portray high school just as it really was: an awful, glorious, unendurable, wonderful place that you remember fondly and would never want to repeat again.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – Whether it is 74, 98 or 07 (as my dad, myself and my brother can tell you), this is the most accurate and insightful portrait of small town American high school there will likely ever be. You can come back to this one repeatedly and still find new things to appreciate.
Dazed and Confused (1993) – I had a bit too much to drink when I rewatched this one for the umpteenth time, and yet it’s still amazing how many of the classic scenes stand out the next day. Total masterpiece, that scene of Wooderson entering the Emporium alone will stick out through any alcohol haze.
Dead Man (1995) – This tale of Johnny Depp wandering around a surreal western dream world is probably a striking allegory for something. But, unfortunately the string of quirky guest stars and encounters make it inevitable that you will end up checking your watch by the end.
Dead Reckoning (1947) – This plays kind of like a poor man’s The Maltese Falcon, which means it is actually pretty hugely enjoyable despite its flaws. The lead actress on the other hand plays kind of like a poor man’s Lauren Bacall and does not fare as well in the comparison.
Dear John (2010) – There is a nice 20 minutes of “young people falling in love” before the usual manufactured drama takes over. I’ve never understood the desire to put country over love, but apparently sacrifices like that really take Nicholas Sparks from 6 to midnight.
Death at a Funeral (2007) – Not exactly bursting with energy, but in its own safe (if a movie where an old man shits on a dude’s hand can be called safe) way, this is still quite entertaining. Competently made all around, and highly recommended if your expectations don’t go too far beyond a few droll British poop jokes.
Death at a Funeral (2010) – Maybe it is an interesting thought experiment to exactly remake a movie changing only the cast, but it really takes a lot of the oomph out of the film for it to be such a carbon copy affair. However, even though things are a bit stupider and some of the key performances don’t bring much to the table (Rock and Martin especially), this version actually feels a bit more alive than the polished but workmanlike original.
The Death of Pinochet (2011) – Lackluster Chilean documentary about the various reactions to the death of Pinochet, from his closest supporters, to the many who hated him. It does this thing where it films the interviewee’s mouths in extreme close-up–which is nowhere near as cool as the director must have thought it was.
Death Proof (2007) – Tarantino’s dialogue is way too cloyingly self-aware to sustain an entire movie, but that is just what he tries to do with this one. The film only really takes off for the two action scenes, but they are, unfortunately, too sadistically immature to really work (of course this kind of slasher stuff just isn’t really my thing anyway).
December 7 (1943) – This is the short version of Ford’s recreation of the Pearl Harbor attack. While there is a lot of good stuff on display, the reenactments felt like just that, which didn’t help to dull the heavy handedness of the presentation any.
Decision at Sundown (1957) – Pretty good Western even though it doesn’t have the crackle of a Burt Kennedy script like the other Boetticher/Scott collaborations. Still, not without its faults, primarily the complete implausibility of the script.
The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) – Brilliant documentary of the 1980 LA punk scene that thankfully (in most cases) doesn’t skimp on the music. Watching this is like viewing a film about a ruined post apocalyptic earth, only it’s real.
Decline of Western Civilization (1981) – Fascinating look at a seemingly indefensible counterculture scene. And yet, through all the wasted youth, drug abuse, filth, lack of talent, and general degradation, there is a real charm to the scene that makes it easy to see why it took off.
The Decoy Bride (2011) – Tennant’s character isn’t really all that likable, but his love interest Macdonald is so great that it hardly matters. All in all a nice little rom com that I was glad didn’t slip past my radar (as if a rom com could slip past my radar).
Definitely, Maybe (2008) – It walks a dangerous line with the whole “telling a story to my daughter” setup, but manages to avoid being excessively sappy. It’s not as deep as it probably wants to be but is still a compelling story with an above average script.
Deliverance (1972) – Really brilliant nightmarish story of what it is to be a helpless human in the face of forces beyond one’s control, be they the natural world or inbred hillbillies. Harrowing and thoroughly unpleasant, but a masterpiece anyway.
The Descendants (2011) – A bit more sentimental (if such a word could be applied to Payne) than Payne’s normal work, but still with a dark edge that makes it all hold together. Not a masterpiece, but still a solid film with more insight into human interaction than you usually get in theaters these days.
The Descent (2005) – I don’t think it is quite as intelligent as some have said since I feel like the parts that aren’t in the cave are fairly weak. Still, most of the movie is in the cave, and it is pretty edge of your seat terrifying (if only for the trapped in the dark feeling…I appreciate them not making the monsters invincible…but it does take some tension away) with compelling, un-cliched leads.
The Descent: Part 2 (2009) – I’m still not sold on the original’s complete brilliance, but my issues with the first seem much more pronounced in this retread. While it still has a few decent suspense scenes and the same cool sets, the caves are too suspiciously lit, the monster’s “hearing” that much more stupid, and the gore and deaths are that much more contrived.
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) – I don’t care if it uses the oldest setup in the book (amnesia!), this is pretty fun. The main story has some nice fish out of water moments, while Madonna proves that any rumors of her acting shortcomings are greatly exaggerated.
Despicable Me (2010) – The premise of cute kids melting a curmudgeon’s heart is as old as the hills but still pretty fun. Unfortunately this is yet another modern animated film that tries to be hip for the adults and cloyingly juvenile for the kids and ends up losing me in the process.
Destry Rides Again (1939) – Classic Western that ends up basically being a blueprint for all the genre’s most pure elements. Every element fires on all cylinders, reminding you that Stagecoach isn’t the only western masterpiece of 1939.
Destry Rides Again (1939) – Not just a cute movie, but one of the great Westerns and a perfect example of the rule that “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to”. The film is perfectly pitched between action and comedy, and really barrels along all the way to the fiery (though a bit overdone) ending.
Detour (1945) – The coincidences of the script don’t really matter when you consider that this film is really just one long horrifying nightmare for its pathetic protagonist. One of the most sour films of all time.
Detour (1945) – This low budget film was supposedly shot in 6 days, but you sure can’t tell as this holds its own with the noir heavyweights. The bleak storyline is one long downward spiral into despair and features one of the greatest unhinged femme fatale performances ever from Ann Savage.
The Devil Horse (1926) – This unusual horse-centric Western (the eponymous horse hates indians so much that he runs around wild trampling them) is a great, fast-paced film that really brings the entertainment. Yakima Canutt is the real star, showing a surprising amount of screen presence in “front” of the camera.
Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) – Well done private eye film that is a lot of fun if not quite up there with the best of the genre (though, to be fair, I can think of few movies from any genre that equal the greatness of The Long Goodbye, The Big Sleep and Chinatown). It is appreciated that the racial elements, while central to the plot and constantly present, are cleverly integrated with the conventions of the genre and never come off as overbearing or heavy-handed.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006) – Streep is very good, Hathaway is very spunky, but I can’t help but be disgusted by the whole premise. I’m fairly certain we are supposed to come away and kind of like the time Hathaway spent working with Streep, which makes me suspect the creators of this film are pretty severe masochists (or, at the very least, pretty spineless).
Dial M for Murder (1954) – The single set isn’t used as creatively as in Rope, but this is still a lot of fun, mostly because of the elaborately set up mystery with the keys. The boyfriend is rather bland, but the husband is an amusingly blasé villian.
Diamonds are Forever (1971) – Sean Connery’s final (official) outing as James Bond is a good one even if he is starting to look a bit old. Just barely staying on the right side of the “too silly” line, this one is a lot of fun (and better than You Only Live Twice).
The Dictator (2012) – For as funny a guy as Sacha Baron Cohen is, when he tries to do anything other than his usual improvisational ambush comedy his jokes fall woefully short of funny. This is a colossally amateurish disaster that ends up being one of the stupidest and least funny movies since Ali G: Indahouse.
Did You Hear About the Morgans? (2009) – Harmless film about an estranged couple forced to spend time together in rural America. Possibly enjoyable if you can turn off that part of your brain that notices just how manufactured the stereotypes they are mine here are.
Die Another Day (2002) – Sure, this is yet another diamond studded space-laser story, and sure I loathe Brosnan as Bond, but this actually starts out well enough. But, by the time they get to the ice base (and Bond kite surfs away from the space laser) you will realize that this is actually the silliest Bond movie yet (and that is saying a lot when you think about the Roger Moore years).
Die Hard (1988) – Classic action movie that effortlessly puts all other action movies to shame. If you don’t get goosebumps during the final “Haaaans!” scene, there’s something wrong with you!
Die Hard (1988) – Great lead and bad guy combined with breathless pacing and badass set pieces–this may very well be the best action movie of all time. Making the action hero more of an everyman “one man army” than invincible super soldier is a welcome addition too.
Dillinger (1945) – B-movie (that I assume is highly historically inaccurate) about the famous bank robber handles the action scenes quite well, making for a fairly rip roaring good time. Incredibly violent too, what a difference a world war made with the censors I guess.
Diner (1982) – The performances are all quite good and it is put together well, but the underlying current of misogyny seems even more worrisome than Porky’s (perhaps because here the characters are not “just teenagers”). Sometimes I don’t give a director enough credit for being subversive, but I think the viewer is supposed to come away finding these characters mostly lovable in this one–which they most assuredly are not.
District 9 (2009) – There are flaws, most notably a few too many implausible coincidences and a rather heavy-handed portrayal of the “evil” humans (though the apartheid parable was thankfully not as strong as the reviews would have you believe). However, those are really fairly minor gripes about a movie that is a whole hell of a lot of fun and even manages to stay interesting when it switches to “blowing shit up” mode in the second half.
Django Unchained (2012) – Overlong and full of superfluous bits, but still quite a bit of fun. Also, Tarantino, thankfully, seems to be attempting to (at least partially) restrain his worst impulses when it comes to excessive dialog.
The Docks of New York (1928) – Brilliant cinematography and two riveting leads mark this as one of the great late period silent films. Anyone who thinks silent film is of merely historical interest should see this movie.
Doctor Bull (1933) – Pretty weak early John Ford film, which is surprising considering it was made at the same time as the far more assured Judge Priest. The sound track is especially bad–I had to resort to watching it with subtitles just to hear half of what they were saying.
Dodsworth (1936) – If there are two things I know, they are that Walter Huston has never turned in a bad performance, and that William Wyler is a fine director. Because of these two things this is a pretty enjoyable film–even though it hasn’t aged quite as gracefully as some of my favorites from the 30’s.
Don Jon (2013) – Gordon-Levitt impressively manages to make a real douchey scumbag of a main character pretty sympathetic despite the overbearing editing. A real crowdpleaser of a film–even if I suspect it is ultimately nowhere near as insightful as it thinks it is.
The Doorway to Hell (1930) – Not a bad early gangster film, though completely overshadowed by the landmark films that would come the following year. Though, I think my real problem is that the tough guy lead is too much a pretty boy and desperately needs Cagney’s intensity to really sell it.
Double Indemnity (1944) – Masterpiece of film noir that really is as good as everyone says. Still, though a master and a genius, there is something about Billy Wilder that doesn’t quite click with me, though, I’m not sure what it is–he’s definitely cynical enough.
Double Indemnity (1944) – This flawless noir film is just further proof that no one anywhere in the world before or since could match the Hollywood output during its peak years. If I have to find a flaw, it would be that that Fred Macmurray fellow always rubs me the wrong way….that and Stanwyck looks horrible as a blond.
Doubling for Romeo (1921) – Will Rogers is a great screen presence, and there are plenty of good gags (even working in a few meta references from back when being meta wasn’t so played out) in this silly “western.” Unfortunately, it plays out as more of a feature length short film that is more content to jump all over the place than tell a coherent story.
Down to You (2000) – This plays like a movie that explains the secrets of relationships as written by a 12 year old. Even the brilliant Julia Stiles can’t save this mess.
Down With Love (2003) – Ostensibly this is a return to the old school Rock and Doris style of 60s screwball comedies, and I suppose it is pleasant enough in parts. However, it makes the fatal error of not playing it straight (not to mention the fact that all the blatant double entendre’s are more at home in an Austin Powers movie than in something like Pillowtalk) and thus, this one mostly loses me from the get go.
Downfall (2004) – Fascinating portrait of not just Hitler’s complete departure from reality, but also the extremes of denial of his entire staff as well. The moments of compassion and lucidity from Hitler make the film that much more realistic (and terrifying) as a depiction of the all too real dangers of ultimate power in the hands of a madman.
Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922) – Rather than the usual sporadically entertaining Fritz Lang silent-era messes, this is actually quite entertaining and manages to sustain interest for almost the entire 4 and a half hours. Mabuse is great, the quality of the print is phenomenal, all in all it is a like a shorter more polished Les Vampires with most of the boring parts taken out.
Dr. No (1962) – The set pieces might not be as impressive as later entries in the series, but Connery’s Bond was never more cool than he is in this first outing. Sets a high water mark for the series that is only equaled by the following 3 movies.
Dr. Strangelove (1964) – Brilliant black comedy about that blackest of subjects: the total annihilation of the human race. Full of classic scenes, no matter what you think of Kubrick’s cold stylistics, this one will stick with you til the end of the world, however soon that may be.
Dredd 3D (2012) – Karl Urban scowls his way through a futuristic dystopia and sells the one liners better than Arnold in his prime. The decision to just make it a “day in the life of” film rather than the usual origin story superhero flick really helps this one stand heads and shoulders above its competition.
Dredd 3D (2012) – This is a no nonsense, hyper-violent day in the life of everyone’s favorite dystopian fascist cop. The slow motion sequences look pretty cool (though they would have looked better, like the rest of the film, without being in 3D), the action is pretty much totally badass and/or sweet, and Eomer has a fucking EPIC scowl.
Dressed to Kill (1946) – Holmes battles a female criminal mastermind in this last film of the series. A lot of great stuff (including the debut of Watson’s old school buddy “Stinky”) even if Holmes is a little behind in the race this time around.
Drive (2011) – Brilliant “contract driving” film in the style of Le Samourai or Walter Hill’s Driver. It is a slow-paced exercise in cold noir style punctuated by brief bursts of incredible violence and car chases (not to mention the completely enthralling synthpop soundtrack).
Drive (2011) – Super-cool update of the old heist gone wrong story that also happens to have the best soundtrack of the year. Very stylishly done without succumbing to pretension as it alternates between ultraviolence and long stretches of inaction.
The Driver (1978) – Possibly even better than Hill’s follow-up, The Warriors, and the closest any American film has come to matching the existentially doomed atmosphere Melville’s crime films. The car chases are superb and Ryan O’Neil plays a surprisingly convincing Melvillian hero.
Drunken Angel (1948) – Very well done Japanese film that is stylistically a nice combination of Hollywood and Asian cinema. If it wasn’t for the typical Kurosawa moralizing tone it would be even better.
Duck Soup (1933) – Probably the most anarchic Marx Brothers film, which is really saying something–it also happens to be one of their best. Watching the brothers run around like feral animals really is something special.
Due Date (2010) – I liked it better than the reviewers seemed to, but I’ll admit I was hoping for it to be funnier. A lot of good scenes, but none of the set pieces feel quite as deliriously out of control as they by all rights should have been.
Duel in the Sun (1946) – Totally overblown and totally overdramatic, I nonetheless (or perhaps, because of those qualities) pretty much completely enjoyed it. Though her acting was suspect that girl sure is hot, the all star cast is great (I’ve never seen Peck play someone that nasty before) and the torrid melodrama that infuses every scene is really pure entertainment.
The Eagle (1925) – Clarence Brown is one of the great American silent film directors and this is one of his better films. Great sets and camerawork with Valentino perfect in the lead role this movie is, quite simply, a whole lot of fun.
Earth (1930) – Some undeniably striking images, but I wish a bit more care had been taken with providing a compelling narrative since this is a narrative film at heart. Not that there are not plenty of powerful scenes, most notably the final sequence at the funeral.
East of Eden (1955) – Some nice touches but the DRAMA is all a bit overblown at the end of the day. Still, James Dean’s acting really is as mesmerizing as Brando’s and would make this film worth watching were everything else even half as good.
Eastern Promises (2007) – Something about Cronenberg doesn’t quite gel with me–maybe it is the almost Lynchian (or that could just be Watts channelling her Mulholland Drive performance) surreality of his scenes depicting “normal life” that ends up seeming just a little off. Still that is just nitpicking and this really is a pretty great movie; wonderfully photographed and with an especially brilliant performance by Viggo (not to mention the fight scene to end all fight scenes).
Easy A (2010) – One of the good smart teen rom-coms like Clueless or 10 Things I Hate About You. Lots of stuff to like in this one, from the great lead and often quite funny script to the very satisfying Christianity bashing.
Easy A (2010) – There are definitely parts that try too hard (the “cool” teacher for one), but the clever script and Emma Stone’s undeniable screen presence make a second watch through as easy as the first. And, once again, all the delightful Christian bashing is A-OK in my book.
Easy Rider (1969) – If not quite a masterpiece, this is at least one of the great inadvertent triumphs of independent filmmaking. The “let’s film ourselves on the road and turn the footage into a movie” idea has never been done so well.
Easy Street (1917) – Not as funny as the other Chaplin Mutuals, yet this seems to get most of the publicity due to its social conscience elements. Still, it’s a good site better than the latter day “batting his eyes at blind girls” Chaplin persona.
Ed TV (1999) – This is one of those rom coms that desperately wants you to believe it is a better movie–a type of hubris that is thoroughly unbecoming in this kind of film. Still Mcconaughey’s easy himbo charm carries the movie–allowing you to forgive most of its more calculated faults.
Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894) – A (spoiler alert) 5 second clip of a guy pretending to sneeze spiced up with a long sequence of Bambie vs Godzillaesque satirical title cards leading up to it. As sneezes go it isn’t even that spectacular, thus the whole thing is pretty much a letdown.
An Education (2009) – The lead actress really is as amazing as all the reviews say. To bad this kind of “indie” coming of age story just isn’t my thing, especially once the drama sets in in the second half.
El Alamein (2002) – Fairly standard war film, though it captures the feel (or at least what I assume is the feel) of the desert front from an Italian perspective quite well. The day to day on the front lines stuff is actually more compelling than the actual battles which too often descend into incoherent chaos and explosions: realistic maybe, but not especially cinematic.
The Elephant Man (1980) – Lynch plays it straight, but the absurd spectacle of the Elephant Man (dominating every frame he inhabits) ensures that this film is just as surreal as the rest of Lynch’s oeuvre. Basically the same story as Herzog’s Kasper Hauser, this is a masterful depiction of a sensitive soul doomed to exploitation and frustrated longings by a world in which he has no place.
Ella Cinders (1926) – Coleen Moore is an able lead (her hilarious and possibly filthy cigar smoking routine alone is worth the price of admission) in this minor silent comedy. The narrative is pretty fractured, but considering a good 20 minutes of the original has been lost, I don’t know if that is really a fault of the script.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – Compared to episode IV, the effects are much better, the story much tighter, and all in all this really is the series high point everyone says it is. Lots of great stuff, and the fact that they make a Muppet one of the main characters and actually pull it off is really pretty impressive.
Enchanted (2007) – Pretty cute “family” movie that admirably spoofs all the typical Disney conventions to pretty amusing effect. Amy Adams plays Giselle with just the right amount of ridiculousness and James Marsden is pretty great as the doofus prince as well.
Encounters at the End of the World (2007) – The more I watch Herzog’s recent documentaries, the more I feel like he’s begun to implode in on his own ridiculous persona. Still plenty of great imagery and bits of scattered hilarity, but I’m not sure this film is testament to a genius at work.
Encounters at the End of the World (2008) – Herzog interviews the strange people he meets at the bottom of the world in Antarctica. Along the way he (probably?) fakes the most soul crushing penguin scene I have ever seen and captures tons of beautiful footage of a place I knew very little about.
The End of St. Petersburg (1927) – Possessing ample amounts of the two opposing hallmarks of Russian silent film (heavy-handedness and pure visual poetry) this deserves its place up there with the best work from the 20’s. It’s a shame that this style of montage editing fell out of fashion so quickly, it was often used to genuinely stirring effect, and this movie is no exception on that count either.
End of Watch (2012) – I don’t think this is really about cops so much as it is about bro-love. And, as a study of masculinity, it is actually pretty compelling–implausible plot and awkward found-footage framing device aside.
Ender’s Game (2013) – This is pretty decent, my only real complaint is that they cut short most of the training room stuff, which is, as everyone knows, the best part of the book. And, unfortunately, like most megaplex fodder, I’d completely forgotten about this film within a week of seeing it.
The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain (1995) – As these things go, this is pretty harmless entertainment. Still, it undeniably comes down a bit too far on the wrong side of the precious line as a group of quaint Welshfolk do something precious due to their precious life outlook.
Enter the Dragon (1973) – The story is pretty meh, but that’s hardly the reason one goes to a “kung fu” movie. Unfortunately, the fight choreography is pretty bland as well, leading one to wonder just where this movie got its hallowed reputation.
Enthusiasm (1931) – We got Jolson singing mammy in the United States, but Vertov made sure that the first Russian foray into the sound film was quite a different beast. It’s easy to see why the Soviet montage style of filmmaking died out soon after this film as I can’t imagine the general public filled up the seats for this one–which is a damn shame since this is almost as brilliant as Man with a Movie Camera.
Escape from L.A. (1996) – Time does not treat this mid-90s curio (that was already pretty middling when I saw it in the theater back then) very well. Moments of entertainment are trapped within a clunking script that must have been through about 20 too many rewrites.
Escape Plan (2013) – Stiff and stilted dialog, and an eye-rolling plot don’t help get the creaking carcasses of Arnold and Sly through this underwhelming film. I might have forgiven some of that had the big escape been cool, but unfortunately it ends up being about as underwhelming as this movie is.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Another modern film whose serpentine script and flashy visuals make one suspicious of it all being “smoke and mirrors”. However, the fact that this one actually has something to say about relationships makes all the difference–a real standout from the past decade.
Eurotrip (2004) – Sure, it reduces every country in Europe into a single stereotype of its inhabitants, but hell, we’re Americans, and nuanced understandings of cultural differences are not our strong point. Also, as teen road trip movies go, this is actually pretty funny in its own over the top silly way.
Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998) – This is how to do a rom com version of a fairy tale and get it right. I’d like to give most of the credit to Barrymore, who is delightful, but honestly this is all around strong work right down to Da Vinci as the fairy godmother.
Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (1972) – 7 short films about sex that are, for the most part, pretty clever and well done (especially the ones that Woody shows up in–mostly because he’s Woody). Not that it doesn’t have its fair share of lame jokes and stuff that just doesn’t work, but I’d say this is one of Woody’s best “early funny ones”.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (1972) – Possibly the best of Woody’s “early funny stuff,” this consistently inventive set of short films is really quite hilarious throughout (especially the final one). Also, they all happen to be fine examples of filmmaking as well.
The Evil Dead (1981) – Grossout (with strong special effects) low budget horror film that, admittedly, has a certain charm. However, though I realize they are going for different things, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still a much stronger film.
Evil Dead (2013) – While the script is in way too big of a rush to get to its string of lazily connected set pieces, perhaps it is in a rush for a reason, because they really make the movie come alive. One of the more visceral horror experiences I’ve had in a while, too bad the script isn’t quite up to the same level of brilliance as the deftly handled carnage.
Excalibur (1981) – If you can cut through the ridiculous dialog (not that I see it as a negative) and convoluted plot, this is one hell of a swords and sorcery film. In fact, it’s the greatest swords and sorcery film of all time…not that there is a lot of competition in that category.
Expendables 2 (2012) – The action scenes are just as well mounted as the first one, and the in-between parts even seem a touch better. All in all a pretty enjoyable collection of fan-service cameos and mindless slaughter.
Expendables 3 (2014) – More of the same from the Expendables franchise, though this one may even top the previous entries for the sheer amount of bro-moments and overall body count. Still a pretty good time, and it is good to see Snipes back in action.
The Expendables (2010) – Laughable dialog and obvious plotting abound in this overt attempt to be the “event” action movie of 2010. And somehow, Stallone proves to have a surprisingly deft hand at the action sequences and makes it watchable anyway.
The Expendables (2010) – You know you are in trouble when you catch yourself marveling at the acting prowess of Jason Statham more than once in comparison to his costars. Of course the film’s real flaw is the wretched script that serves as a constant source of painful embarrassment between some admittedly pretty well done action sequences.
Extreme Prejudice (1987) – Half of this is a team of professionals doing a job, half is Nolte being angry and vainly attempting to get you to root for him. Good action, but Nolte playing the most unlikeable protagonist ever (in a long string of unlikeable protagonists) really sinks this one.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) – Tough for me to fairly evaluate a movie that constantly screams “I am a very important movie about 9-11!!!” Factor in the most annoying kid of all time and you’ve got a movie that was easily the biggest waste of my life this month.
Failure to Launch (2006) – MM is pretty charming without being smarmy and the supporting characters are all pretty good. Unfortunately, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character as the romantic interest is unappealing and the plot is pretty implausible.
The Fall of Sam Axe (2011) – Is it really a “movie” if it is full of commercial break cliffhangers? Either way, amusing enough, but I’ve seen better episodes of Burn Notice, so it really can’t be considered much of a success.
Fallen Angel (1945) – Great Preminger noir that is full of dark shadows and darker characters. I’m not sure who is better, Andrews as the no-good man, Darnell as the no-good woman or Bickford as the no-good cop.
Fallen Angels (1995) – Kar-wai is really probably the only director that cad get away with this kind of explosion of style and not seem like a wannabe music video director. I wasn’t super impressed with the quirky storyline about the mute, but it hardly matters since the filmmaking is so breathlessly inventive.
The Falls (1980) – This was an incredibly impressive achievement that is like a hundred (well, 92 at least) movies crammed into one movie, with more than enough ideas to keep them all interesting. While it is kind of a chore getting through such a surfeit of information all at once, this will definitely stick with you.
The Family Entrance (1925) – I’m not sure the exact title of this one but it is a pretty hilarious Charlie Chase short whatever it is called. As a comedian he doesn’t have quite the unique genius of Chaplin or Keaton, but he makes up for it here with great gags.
Fando y Lis (1968) – Like the rest of Jodorowsky’s work that I’ve seen, this is a pretentious collection of over-obvious symbolism masquerading as “some deep shit.” The only difference is that this time the production values are almost non-existent.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – The stop motion animation is very nice, and when combined with the art design, it really gives the film a unique look that matches the feel of Roald Dahl’s work. While the father/son stuff is superfluous (and beginning to seem a bit rote from Anderson by now), overall this is quite an entertaining film that seems to have less of the affected self-awareness that annoys me about much of Anderson’s work (or perhaps I find it more forgivable here because it was ”just a cartoon”).
Fantastic Planet (1973) – Crammed full of trippy visuals and science fiction ideas, but the overall message seems a little trite to me. Also, it feels like the last third is pretty rushed, maybe they ran out of money?
The Far Country (1954) – Anthony Mann western with all the usual moral complications. Sherriff Gannon is a fresh take on the bad guy, Brennan is great as usual, Stewart does his thing, and overall it is one of Mann’s better films (though the ending felt like it laid it on a bit thick).
Fargo (1996) – Classic, elegiac ode to the failures of criminals, there is no doubt you are watching something special with this one. Brilliant cinema, everything works together so smoothly it will bum you out that other movies can’t be this good.
Farmageddon (2011) – I’m sure there is a good message here, and the film probably isn’t as dishonest and one-sided as it seems, but it still manages to raise my bullshit-meter induced heckles. Pro tip: try not to use the word “toxins” when you want to pretend you are making a point based on hard science.
Fast & Furious Six (2013) – This maybe isn’t quite as novel as the initial blast of ridiculous over the top bromance and testosterone oozing excess of the last film, but it is damn close. Sit back and let the over-muscled arms of Vin Diesel and The Rock envelope you in the throbbing embrace of another mindless physics-defying masterpiece.
Fast & Furious (2009) – Vin Diesel is getting older, but he’s still hitting the weights and delivering ridiculous lines in a deep voice with aplomb. The story is the same old shit, Paul Walker is still as wooden as ever, but there are still some decent car stunts, and, you know, Vin Diesel.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) – Though this is undoubtedly a stupid, crass film with a very dislikeable lead–it also happens to be pretty endlessly amusing. If nothing else, this film should get props for adding the phrase “Tokyo Drifting” (as in: “I had to bust out some major TOKYO DRIFTING to get that parking spot”) to the American lexicon.
Fast Five (2011) – Eschewing physics and plausibility for a sweat and testosterone drenched orgy of brograbs, swaggering displays of physical prowess, and general face-punching awesomeness, this may be the manliest movie ever made. Even better than Tokyo Drift!
Fast Five (2011) – This heist movie is full of a bunch of musclebound dudes sweating and hugging each other in between ridiculous car stunts and fistfights. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, then watch this as soon as possible.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) – Interesting early Meyer film that finds his superhuman editing powers in top form even at such an early stage of his career (especially in the opening strip club credit sequence). The plot, though silly as hell, is thankfully a bit more coherent than some of Ebert’s more indulgent late-period scripts.
Fat Girl (2001) – A cruel, frank, insightful and brilliantly filmed account of teenage sexuality. However, while I can see the reasoning, I question whether or not resorting to a certain plot point was necessary since the film is quite powerful enough without it.
Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916) – A really well done silent comedy short. It might not be the most hilarious film ever, but the excellent performances and film making make this a delight anyway.
Fear of Fear (1975) – Typical Fassbinder themes of alienation are at play in that typical artsy-fartsy European story of a descent into madness, however, the film is far from typical. This is Fassbinder working at the peak of his unmatched directing powers–it always astounds me that movies of this quality were made for TV in Germany in the 70’s.
Felix in Hollywood (1923) – Felix the cat wanders around Hollywood getting into trouble and meeting the stars. There are a lot of clever sequences even if it is overall mostly just a slight bit of Hollywood star fan service.
Fever Pitch (2005) – A decent rom com hurt by the simple fact that Jimmy Fallon is a playing a fucking idiot–of course sports obsession is the premise, so maybe I can’t complain. Also, the more I see of her, the more I think Barrymore’s career is carried more by her screen presence and natural charm than any kind of acting ability.
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) – For all its bluster, the “naughty bits” (spoiler alert) amount to a bit of light spanking and a blindfold. As for the rest of the movie, she has screen presence, he has a bit more acting chops, but neither is able to do much with a script that feels far too rushed to be effective.
The Fight for Life (1940) – It is surprising how compelling this is for a dramatized educational film. The soundtrack is pretty great too.
The Fighter (2010) – Aside from the interesting family dynamic, there is nothing here that hasn’t been seen a hundred times before. Not that I was expecting anything else, and the performances are all quite good, so as by the numbers boxing biopics go, this one is watchable enough.
The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) – Very minor John Wayne B-film about early frontier shenanigans. Aside from some nice cinematography (and The Duke), there’s not much to recommend here in a movie that had me checking my watch to see when it was going to be over after only about 10 minutes into it.
Fighting (2009) – Much grittier (and better) than I assumed it would be, this isn’t a half bad fight movie. Really, my biggest complaint is that it doesn’t appear that Tatum knows how to fight at all and wins all his matches by dumb luck–which makes his rise through the “underground fighting ranks” pretty hard to swallow.
A Film Johnny (1914) – Minor Keystone film where Charlie wanders onto a movie set. Best gag is the recurring bit where Charlie thinks the actress playing the dramatic scene is really in trouble and rushes to save her.
Finding Nemo (2003) – It’s the usual kid’s movie stuff that somehow finds a way to pander to both adults and children alike. All the underwater denizens are dutifully visited, but it never seems to have much to say on its long journey through the sea.
The Fireman’s Ball (1967) – A frantic, tightly constructed masterpiece; this is never less than completely engrossing and hilarious. And, if you really must analyze it as a political commentary I think it is best not to get bogged down in the details, and rather, marvel at the brilliant portrayal of how attempts at imposing order on a chaotic world can oftentimes be as futile as herding cats.
The Firemen’s Ball (1967) – Brilliant comedy about a Firemen’s ball/raffle/beauty pageant that slowly descends into chaos. The nice understated sense of humor really works for this very funny movie.
First Blood (1982) – A much stronger movie than you might have remembered. Lots of nice action set pieces and a good central performance from Stallone (aside from his indecipherable final monologue) really help this one stand the test of time.
The Five-Year Engagement (2012) – Another rambling improvisational style movie that seems to be all over the place as it tracks the very long engagement of its central couple. Still, it is amusing and the leads are likable which makes it a pleasant enough diversion.
Flaming Fathers (1927) – Lots of fun, with plenty of very funny (though hardly original) gags. It is just too bad that the film is so mean-spirited with its Jewish stereotyping of the lead.
A Flash of Light (1910) – Over dramatic as all hell, but Griffith still manages to show that the art of crosscutting scenes hasn’t progressed much at all in the past 100 years. He has better shorts but they are all worth watching for the thrill of seeing a new medium take shape in the hands of a true trailblazer.
Fluttering Hearts (1927) – Charlie Chase doesn’t usually do much for me, but this really has some pretty funny bits in it. Eugene Palate was great in his silent role–proving he was more than just a funny voice.
The Fog (1980) – A really brilliant followup to the brilliant Halloween, this time with the supernatural brought to the forefront. All around a great horror film with plenty of siege like elements (much to my delight).
Follow the Fleet (1936) – Not the best Fred and Ginger film, mostly because of the boring B plot about Randolph Scott’s bimbo sailor and Ginger’s “good girl” sister. The songs and the dance numbers are great at least; it’s just too bad the script isn’t a bit more focused.
Fool’s Gold (2008) – If some of the more slapsticky pratfalls miss their mark, the light-hearted Caribbean adventure of the rest of the film is a direct hit. Rarely has being shirtless and tan in a blue-skied paradise looked so fun.
Fool’s Gold (2008) – A pretty fun little adventure movie if you don’t mind greasy male bimbos and a bit of stupid slapstick. And really, this viewing was my second time through it and I still rather loved it, so it can’t be all bad.
Fool’s Gold (2008) – A silly bit of fluff about a greasy himbo searching for sunken treasure in the Caribbean that is far more fun than it has any right to be. What more can I say but that this is the third time I’ve watched this, and it is just as enjoyable as the first.
Fool’s Gold (2008) – There is no denying that this movie is pretty much just a big dumb cartoon that has all the grace of stillborn water buffalo. However, it also has a strange good-natured charm and I have to admit it is really rather delightful.
Foolish Wives (1922) – With a monumental (and monstrous) performance by Stroheim himself as the lead, this level of cinematic misanthropy has yet to be equaled even to this day. Also, with its huge budget, this has to be one of the best looking silent films of the early 1920s.
Fools Rush In (1997) – Hayek and Perry are pretty good and the premise of this quite pleasant rom com has plenty of promise. It is just too bad that religion and serendipity have to keep creeping into the mix.
The Foot Fist Way (2006) – Danny McBride really is pretty great, but I felt like this film wants him to be the hero despite making him into a huge loser douche. Some funny moments but they are mostly based on McBride’s unique delivery rather than any real cleverness from the script.
Footlight Parade (1933) – The three concluding Busby Berkeley musical numbers are as jaw dropping as you have always heard, but there also happens to be a fine, frenetically paced film leading up to it. Cagney is more than a match for the breakneck pacing and proves that he is as capable of a song and dance guy as he is a tough guy–which is no mean feat.
Footloose (1984) – This should not work as well as it does, but in the end is really quite a lot of fun. I think the key is that everyone in the production, for some reason, decided to take the entire thing very seriously–and playing it straight is exactly what a movie this silly needs.
For a Few Dollars More (1965) – Great neo-western, full of plenty of nihilistic violence and stylized closeups. A little draggy in parts, but still highly recommended.
For Heaven’s Sake (1926) – Despite being about establishing a mission to cram religion down the throats of the local poor people, this is a pretty great Harold Lloyd film. Full of ingenious gags and polished direction, I laughed a lot–and I don’t know when Lloyd first decided to end all his films with a madcap race against the clock, but this has a great one of those too!
For Your Eyes Only (1981) – Roger Moore tries to get serious, and perhaps goes a bit too far as the film often verges on being boring. Also, his advanced age is finally catching up to him as the nubile young Bond girls seemed awfully mismatched as love interests.
Force of Evil (1948) – Great noir with a brutally bleak outlook and some truly virtuoso camerawork. Really seems ahead of its time both thematically and in the way it mounts its set pieces.
A Foreign Affair (1948) – Well-done “sequel” to The Blue Angel that has a lot of good moments. I think the real problem is that the main guy is just too unlikeable to root for him to find love like you are supposed to.
Foreign Correspondent (1940) – Pretty awesome collection of Hitchcock set pieces as Joel McCrea tries to figure out just what the hell is going on in Europe. I can’t even complain about the tacked on propaganda of the ending, we’re talking about a 1940 American movie about the war after all.
Forest of Bliss (1986) – Really jawdropping wordless (at least no english words or subtitles) film about some kind of rituals in India. It is fascinating trying to decipher what they are doing as the film progresses, and the cinematography and images captured are really breathtaking.
The Fountainhead (1949) – If you thought Rand’s prose was already intelligence insultingly didactic, just wait till you hear her stuff spoken out loud in a movie. Scattered nice moments and images but overall about as infuriatingly self-righteous as you would expect…also I’m starting to think I’m not much of a fan of Gary Cooper’s acting.
Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987) – This is hyper-Rohmer territory, full of holidays, chance meetings, mystical encounters with nature, and a fascination with mundane events. I’d only recommend it to Rohmer die-hards, but I would also highly recommend it to Rohmer die-hards.
Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days (2007) – Harrowing account of an illegal black market abortion in 1980’s Romania is about as fun as it sounds. The insight is deep, the craft and performances flawless, but it’s yet another unpleasant movie that I can’t see myself wanting to watch again anytime soon.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) – Like much of Hugh Grant’s best romantic comedy work, this feels a bit manufactured/”too slick”. But that would ignore how clever, funny and polished the script and performances are–honestly, as far as modern romantic comedies go, this is one of the better ones.
Fox and His Friends (1975) – One of Fassbinder’s best (and gayest) films, unassuming at first, but deceptively perfectly constructed under close examination. Fassbinder himself gives a real powerhouse of a performance (and totally hangs dong too).
Frankenhooker (1990) – This film tries a little too hard to be “so bad it’s good.” You can catch glimpses of the movie it wanted to be, but it just never quite gets there and in the end doesn’t even end up an entertaining waste of your life.
Frankenstein (1931) – Another of Whale’s great horror films, this really stands up well 80 years after its release. Karloff does wonders with only a few grunts, and the atmosphere is perfectly suited to the grim story.
The French Connection (1976) – Gritty and well made “cop” movie that would sure be a whole hell of a lot more likable if its main character were not such a dick. Which wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s also not clear that the director realizes Popeye is a piece of shit.
Friday the 13th (1980) – One of those slasher “classics” that reveals itself as unable to live up to its reputation. Not a bad film, it just feels awfully uninspired when compared to a “real” classic like Halloween.
Friends with Benefits (2011) – All the reviewers love to bitch about how “of course it’s Hollywood, so they can’t have sex without falling in love”–correction–it’s a rom com, so they can’t MEET without falling in love–that’s the whole point no matter what the title is. All in all, it is better than No Strings Attached, and careful readers will remember I even gave that one a positive review, so, there is that.
From Here to Eternity (1953) – Fine performances (from Clift especially) help elevate what would have otherwise merely been a nicely crafted but over-long and over-melodramatic film. Entertaining and with a dark edge, but it seems to pull the wrong punches and play melodrama for the sake of melodrama at times.
From One Second to the Next (2013) – just a collection of people telling their sad texting and driving stories, with predictable results. If I hadn’t known it was Herzog I probably wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow at this, as it was, my forehead barely furrowed anyway.
From Russia With Love (1963) – If not the most action packed Bond film (Connery doesn’t even show up until well into the movie!), definitely the most cinematic. This is the kind of movie those Daniel Craig movies wish they could be–the train fight alone has yet to be equaled in terms of visceral brutality in the 50 years since this film came out.
From Russia With Love (1963) – Probably the best Bond film of all time, this classic never fails to entertain. Great Bond girl, great theme song, great train fight, and another great Connery performance that is at once cruel and charming.
From Soup to Nuts (1928) – Laurel and Hardy are kind of like silent comedians for illiterates…still funny at times, but kind of obvious and stupid too. This is no different…overall decent but rather unexceptional.
Frost VS Nixon (2008) – Though it has its strengths (Nixon is good, the interview showdowns are handled well), overall I have my reservations about this film. Frost’s portrayal as a bit of a hero (rather than just an idiot in the right place at the right time) seems like a Hollywoodization that lessens the impact of an otherwise decent movie.
Frozen (2013) – I know I don’t like these films anyway, but I didn’t really get all the fuss about this one. The big problem (aside from a few too many songs), is that the story and the stakes really seemed pretty slight.
Full Frontal (2002) – I’m not entirely sure everything Soderbergh is going for here (whatever that might be) is successful. There are scattered intriguing scenes, and I think I had an idea how it was all fitting together, but it still failed to really draw me in.
Full Moon in Paris (1984) – Supposedly Rohmer’s worst film, and while that may be true, this is still about as brilliant and breathtaking as cinema gets. Nobody but Rohmer could imbue a simple tale like this with such complexity and insight into human interaction.
Fun Size (2012) – This was marketed as “Superbad for girls!” and the trailer actually makes it seem like it might be ok. Sadly, it isn’t–in fact, it is about the worst piece of shit I’ve seen in quite a while.
Funny People (2009) – Overlong, but I suppose I don’t go see a Judd Apatow movie for tightly constructed filmmaking but rather for all the amusing jokes. And there are enough funny bits in this one to keep things enjoyable–even though (and I realize this is part of the point) Sandler’s character isn’t the most likeable chap.
Furious 7 (2015) – If not the best FF movie, probably the most ridiculous–which is no small praise. Against all odds it manages to deliver every single thing I wanted it too, the scene of The Rock fixing his broken arm by flexing his way through his cast was worth the price of admission alone.
Galloping Bungalows (1924) – Typical keystone wackiness, but fun enough (if a bit antiquated for 1924). Quite a bit of running about without much sense to any of the going ons.
The Gangster (1947) – Odd B-movie about a gangster who is a bit past his prime and trying to hang on to his old territory. Well done, but it has a bit too much of a focus on gangsters moping around instead of just accepting their doom for my taste.
The Gangster (1947) – Well-done B movie that is one of the early “sympathetic” gangster films. There are a lot of nice touches, though the side stories that are meant to contrast and intersect with the gangster’s life feel a bit out of place.
Gaslight (1944) – Cruel classic that piles on just the right amount of sadism and suspense in one of those effortlessly economical Hollywood scripts that doesn’t put a false foot forward. Boyer is menacingly effective playing against type, while Cotton is charmingly effective playing with type.
Gaslight (1944) – Great psychological drama where the villainous Boyer attempts to drive his wife insane to steal jewels hidden in her house. I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t give up the game so soon, but part of the fun is rooting against the evil scoundrel that Bergman’s character married.
Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) – Not only does this prefer to “tell” rather than “show”, it also fails to address the problematic and potentially insulting nature of the central premise that living as another race for a month will tell you all you need to know about racism. I understand that, like The Lost Weekend, this was ideologically ahead of its time and thus felt like it needed to lay it on thick to make the public understand its message, but that sure doesn’t help it age very well.
George Washington (2000) – As a loose story built around improvised performances by nonactors, I don’t feel like this really quite comes together. As a piece of outside the box filmmaking, Gummo is far better, and as David Gordon Green films go, Pineapple Express is far better.
Get Him to the Greek (2010) – The leads (including, surprisingly, P. Diddy) are all pretty amusing, but the jokes only worked half the time. Though, to be fair, I can remember a lot more funny parts than eye rolling parts, so maybe I’m being a little harsh on it.
Getting Straight (1970) – This movie accomplishes the rare feat of making me desperately want to punch both the director and the screenwriter in their respective stomachs in order to dislodge their respective heads from their respective pretentious asses. Gould’s scenery chewing is the LEAST offensive thing about this shite film that is really just a vanity project for a screenwriter who massively overestimates his own intelligence.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) – At times it seems almost too fluffy, but it really isn’t (even though, by all rights, it should have be). It really is pretty adorable, with some nice camerawork to boot.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) – Somehow this film works as serious entertainment despite being full of comedy that never manages to undercut the heavy themes. Indebted to better films like Le Samourai, but in the best way possible–and the soundtrack kicks ass too.
Ghostbusters (1984) – Bill Murray’s asshole you hate to love (and company) wisecrack their way through one of the best comedies of the 1980s. Full of memorable set pieces and memorable lines, this one really doesn’t get old no matter how many times you rewatch it.
The Ghostwriter (2010) – A really masterfully done slow burn thriller that is about as close as we are likely to get to Hitchcock this day and age. If I have a complaint it is that the big reveal didn’t really seem all that shocking and I just ended up wishing it had all added up to just a little be more (or that the MacGuffin would have been more compelling).
Gigi (1958) – Excellent Minelli musical with great performances and a rather adult storyline. It is really quite charming, even during the parts when old man Chevalier is singing about loving little girls.
Gigli (2003) – Not the worst movie ever made, but it definitely makes some of the worst choices of all time with regards to subject matter and characterization. Almost worth it for J-Lo’s ass and Ben Affleck’s “worst O-face ever.”
Gilda (1946) – Pretty twisted noir (with some really creative camerawork) that follows two ex-lovers as they recross paths. Lines like “I hate you so much that I would destroy myself to take you down with me” only scratch at the surface of the scummy waters within which this film treads.
Ginger Snaps (2000) – I only got halfway through this before I had to leave, and I can’t say I was upset that I was going to miss the end. I know this kind of film isn’t my thing, but the whole thing just feels rather stupid and lazy– while the attempts at “artsy” camera stylistics and what I’m sure the filmmaker thought was a very clever “commentary” on puberty only make it more annoying.
The Girl Hunters (1963) – My dad sums it up best: “This movie is like Spillane’s writing: good fun, a bit of style, but he’s still a hack.” That said, Spillane is surprisingly mostly competent at playing his own literary creation.
A Girl in Every Port (1928) – Really awesome Hawks film about the importance of keeping bros before hos…even if that ho is the amazing Louise Brooks. Hawks always walks a thin line between manly and kind of gay, and this is no exception to that as it has more near dude-kisses than the end of The Lord of the Rings.
The Girl Next Door (2004) – While it stays in fairy tale male wish-fulfillment mode during its first half it has a certain halfhearted charm, but then the script throws in about a dozen plot elements too many, which, coupled with Cuthbert’s wildly uneven performance really sinks this one. I should mention that Timothy Olyphant really steals the film, even if his character is as out of place as the rest of the second half’s developments.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2009) – The series ends with a protracted courtroom whimper here in this overlong movie that doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with its rather weak story. Some of the nice Scandinavian atmosphere is still there, but it’s still nasty, rape-obsessed stuff just like the first two movies.
The Girl Who Played With Fire (2009) – The central story is less tightly structured than the first one, though the more focused beginning and ending make them about equal narrative-wise. Any hopes for a less rape heavy plot are banished pretty quickly as I have come to realize that these movies are going to be all about evil men who hate women–which prompts the question as to whether or not a film full of rape scenes and lesbian softcore is really the best way to present the subject.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) – Honestly, for as unpleasant as this movie is, it is also really pretty entertaining, thanks in no small part to the interesting protagonist. Still, I hope the sequels will be a bit less fixated on rape.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – A much tighter (and better directed) film than the original, though it still suffers from the big flaw of the hour long anal rape “character development” section of the beginning that has nothing to do with the rest of the film. At its heart, this is just a standard pulp mystery film–a pulp mystery film that is utterly obsessed with rape, that is.
The Girl at the Monceau Bakery (1963) – This short is one of Rohmer’s earliest films, but all the hallmarks are there: naturalistic performances, intriguing relationship dilemmas, and astute commentary on human motivations. Rohmer really is one of the all-time greats and the only thing that kept me from making it a Rohmer film fest after watching this one was work in the morning.
The Girlfriend Experience (2009) – Typically creative editing and construction from Soderberg, this nonetheless comes off as rather boring. This fails not so much because the lead actress fails to convince that she could make anyone feel like she actually cares what they had to say (though the self deception of her “Johns” could have been the point), but rather because the commentary on her career and personal life is so banal that it provides no real insight past what one would assume a “high class” escort has to deal with.
The Giver (2014) – Apparently the start of yet another Young Adult movie franchise, only this one is pretty dreadfully subpar in every way, from the plodding script to the plodding performances. The kind of movie that you forget you saw minutes after leaving the theater.
The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) – Doris Day vehicle that is really just a little too silly for me (and the main guy is kind of skeevy). Some good moments though, and I have to admit Doris, as usual, is looking good in this one.
The Glass Key (1942) – Not the most compelling Hammett adaptation (though, admittedly, there is some fierce competition as far as those go), but a nice proto noir nonetheless. Alan Ladd really takes some punishment in some especially brutal torture scenes too.
Glumov’s Diary (1923) – This plays like an art student’s project that took 3 wrong turns into the land of self-indulgence (which I guess it, technically, is). Not a complete failure, but I cringe even thinking about Eisenstein excitedly explaining to his peer what the clowns symbolized.
G-Men (1935) – Cagney is a real powerhouse in every movie he’s in, and this is one of the better ones–despite being about the good guys instead of the gangsters. Violent, full of machismo and cut to move, this one doesn’t let up until the dust from the final shootout has cleared.
Go West (1925) – Supposedly one of Buster’s minor features (it’s not) this is just further evidence of the genius of Keaton. Perhaps a bit more low key than usual (aside from the great finale) but the creativity and wit of the jokes remains unmatched to this day.
The Godfather II (1974) – As good as everyone says (which is saying something) this really is fine filmmaking. I don’t know that the inclusion of the flashback story is really necessary (as I found the modern story more compelling) but this is as fine (and dark) of a mafia film as one is likely to see.
The Godfather Part III (1990) – A fine film, though everything except for the cinematography seems to be a slight step down from the first two. Really, I guess the biggest problem is that it all seems familiar to the point that it just feels kind of redundant.
Godfather (1972) – Perfectly constructed film, it’s just too bad the material is so sensational and, honestly, fairly immature. I’m also not certain Brando’s performance is, you know, good.
Going the Distance (2010) – Barrymore’s performance seems dodgy at first, but she grows on you, and they really do make a cute couple. More importantly, the movie is really quite funny, and has a lot of nice work from the supporting cast as well.
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) – Not quite as snappy as Footlight Parade, but definitely still one of the great musicals (the naughty pre-code outfits don’t hurt either). Odd to see the girls turn into actual gold diggers after being offended at being called “gold diggers”; but I’m going to assume it is played for irony.
Goldeneye (1995) – Brosnan’s first outing probably shows him in as good a form as he would ever be in, and he really does have a nice mixture of cocky humor and dark, cruel charm–it’s just too bad he looks like he has perpetual coffee breath and the body of a 12-year-old girl. A couple of great set pieces and a nice finale round out a movie that ultimately is just a bit too unfocused to care much about.
Goldfinger (1964) – One of the best Bond films (along with From Russia with Love and Thunderball), Goldfinger is pure 60’s entertainment. They don’t make them like this anymore and it’s amazing how well it holds up to repeated viewings.
Goldfinger (1964) – Classic Bond film that shows the series operating in peak form, with only a minor gun battle lull towards the end. Completely a product of its time, and yet it remains a timeless gem nonetheless.
Goldfinger (1964) – The gadgets and silliness are beginning to creep into the series by this point, but not so much that they detract from the film like in You Only Live Twice. If this isn’t the best Bond film, it is at least one of the three best.
Gomorra (2008) – Very original mafia movie that is told from a couple of different bottom-up perspectives. It definitely has a style all its own, but the fractured, frantic narrative, while breathtaking, is at times a bit perplexing, and the characters are painted with such cold brush strokes that at times it is hard to be drawn in.
Gone Girl (2014) – Pretty entertaining and very slick: about what you’d expect from Fincher these days. Overall enjoyable, but I think some of the finer points of the story kind of come apart under closer examination.
A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) – The suspension of disbelief crushing implausibility has been a part of the series for a while and is something I can grudgingly accept. Unfortunately, the laziness with which the script was written is new to the series, as is Willis sleepwalking through the role.
The Good Dinosaur (2015) – A dinosaur western that works well enough even if the plot doesn’t really go much further than a few storms and joining up with some T-Rex cattle drivers for a day. Also, can kids movies really not find any better inciting incident than to just kill off a parent?
The Good Fairy (1935) – Quite a cute movie helped by appealing performances from the leads and a fairly witty Preston Sturges script. Not the best work from either Wyler or Sturges, but as modern fairy tales go it does a pretty good job.
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) – Well-made and beautifully shot movie that, unfortunately, feels a little too on the nose to really get behind. One gets the idea that we are supposed to think that Murrow is a saint to end all saints, and aint nobody got shit that smells that nice.
Good Night, Nurse! (1918) – Not my favorite Arbuckle/Keaton, though it does have a bit of the bizarreness that characterized many of their collaborations. Fatty manages to finds himself in a dress at some point, as usual.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) – The ultimate expression of Leone’s style, it’s staggering to witness the sheer volume and quality of the set pieces in this film. Every single scene is memorable, the soundtrack one of the all-time greats, and Eli Wallach’s performance even manages to steal the show.
Goon (2011) – Stiffler plays against type as a slow-witted, kind-hearted guy who likes to punch people. Pretty well done actually, with a lot of nice jokes and a healthy smattering of hockey brutality.
The Graduate (1967) – Classic disaffected youth/coming of age film that never falls for the easy answer. The direction makes itself felt, but works nonetheless.
Gran Torino (2008) – Yet another by the numbers Clint Eastwood drama that pushes all the usual buttons and shamelessly takes its gravitas from a central manufactured tragedy. He does this stuff well, but it’s not enjoyable for me to watch and I’ll be avoiding his next movie despite his amusing (yet scenery chewing) performance.
Grandma’s Boy (1970) – Charming Lloyd film about a cowardly man learning to stand up for himself. Maybe the story is pretty slight, but there is no denying how funny the gags are in Lloyd’s first “full length.”
Grandma’s Boy (2006) – As is typical for an Adam Sandler project, this is only sporadically funny, and is mostly just kind of juvenile, racist, sexist and all around mean-spirited. The saddest thing is the sight of Linda Cardinelli desperately wishing she were in a better movie.
Granton Trawler (1934) – Quick document of a fishing boat heading out and catching some fish. Watching the fishing is interesting, but the real draw is the beautiful camerawork on board the Trawler in the choppy seas.
Gravity (2013) – Sure, Bullock’s character’s back story might be laid on a little thick in places, but it hardly matters since this is really just a collection of superbly mounted (and spectacularly filmed) set pieces about the terrifying prospect of getting lost in the black void of space. I don’t think I’ve clenched my fists this much while watching a film since Wages of Fear.
The Great K&A Train Robbery (1926) – As a B movie plot in an A list framework this is pretty enjoyable and moves at a good pace. Lots of cool stunts and Tom Mix really does have a certain charisma.
Great Train Robbery (1903) – There may be earlier examples of many of the modern techniques seen here (though not much earlier), but, this really does feel leaps and bounds ahead of even such early narrative greats like the previous year’s The Trip to the Moon. Quite a lot of excitement is packed into this film, with the location shooting a superb stylistic choice.
The Green Berets (1968) – On the surface this is just a below average and disjointed war movie with a lead who is far too old for his part. However, when you add in the way it uses WW2 war film tropes to propagandize the Vietnam War, it becomes a much more unsettling experience.
The Green Hornet (2011) – The plot is pretty haphazard, but people don’t watch Judd Apatow style films (which, with the Rogen script, this definitely was) for the plot, but rather the low-key buddy buddy charm. There are problems (Rogen needs to bring it down a bit) but overall it is quite funny and a lot of fun (Kato practically steals the movie too).
Green Lantern (2011) – Not as bad as I’d heard (I mean, this was nowhere nearly as shitty as Daredevil) though not, by any means, good. Part of the problem is that making live action films about Asgard and Oa are going to look as silly as you’d expect, part of the problem is that the script is entirely unsuccessful at making me give a shit about Hal Jordan.
Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) – Sure the second half drags, and it is tough to watch Lambert’s monkey impressions with a straight face (especially during the sex scene), but this is actually a pretty strong film. The ape costumes are very well done, there is a lot of great photography and choosing to “play it straight” honestly works better than I ever expected it would.
Grosse Point Blank (1997) – Though there’s not much to really write home about here, I can’t deny this one is quite a lot of fun. Nothing wrong with a movie just being cute and amusing every now and then I guess.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – On second viewing, this does not hold up nearly as well as the first. The problem lies mostly with the paint by numbers script that is lacking anything even resembling a soul.
Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957) – Fine Tombstone story that focuses on the relationship between the self-righteous Wyatt Earp and the amoral Doc Holiday with a great performance from Kirk Douglas as Doc. It’s no My Darling Clementine (but then again, few things are), but I still thoroughly enjoyed it (though the rest of the Earp brothers look like pussies…Dr. McCoy…srsly?)
The Gunfighter (1950) – Nice psychological western that still manages to hold on to a bit of classic atmosphere. Peck is in fine form, and the cinematography is spectacular!
Gunga Din (1939) – A boy’s own adventure story of a couple of arrested development case studies romping through Hollywood’s version of colonial India. Incredibly offensive and in poor taste…but a good deal of fun is to be had in this one if you can get past the more offensive moments.
Hackers (1995) – Along with Bladerunner, perhaps the best cinematic representation of the essence of “cyberpunk” ever. Yes there are plenty of weak (and just plain fucking stupid) moments, but when looked at as a whole, the atmosphere (and epic electronica soundtrack) saves the day.
Hackers (1995) – Sure some of the dialog is pretty lame, and sure the hacking is utterly unrealistic, but damn if this one doesn’t have style in spades. Only Blade Runner rivals it for pure cyberpunk atmosphere.
Hackers (1995) – What should have ended up as typical multiplex fodder manages to tap into a rather impressive amount of cyberpunk atmosphere that catapults it past its populist origins. Also, young Angelina Jolie is quite breathtakingly beautiful.
Halloween (1978) – Brilliant bit of audience manipulation that actually made me reconsider my lifelong anti-slasher movie stance upon first viewing. Really flawless film craft is on display at all times–this is the kind of stuff that would have made Hitchcock proud.
Hamlet (2000) – This isn’t quite the impressive spectacle that Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet is, but as modern updates of Shakespeare go, this is still a success. Plenty of nice touches (without ever seeming gimmicky), with a lot of strong performances as well (Ethan Hawke is especially good as Hamlet).
Hands Up! (1926) – Really pretty hilarious comedy farce, with the main character acting kind of like a silly James Bond prototype. The ratio of funny gags to misfires is uncommonly high.
The Hangover Part II (2011) – On the one hand, I don’t mind a movie that has no aspirations beyond giving the audience exactly what it expects. On the other, this scene for scene rehash of the first film was a lazy, unfunny mess that shows about as much respect for its audience as it does its protagonists.
The Hangover Part III (2013) – Thankfully we have an actual plot this time around instead of the scene for scene retread of the second film. Still a little stale and mean-spirited, but a decent way to kill an afternoon watching if watching men abuse each other if your idea of a good time.
The Hangover (2009) – The jokes seem more hit and miss the second time around, but this is still a pretty great comedy of men behaving badly. The director might be an ex fratboy, but I suppose frat boys and scholarship hallers share a common primordial ancestor which would explain my enthusiasm for his movies.
The Hangover (2009) – Total male wish fulfillment fantasy…which I guess means that males wish they could get roofied and abused for three days straight in Vegas. None of the characters are all that likeable, but the three leads do a great job, and the movie is actually quite funny.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) – One of Woody Allen’s best, this is also one of his best attempts at incorporating humor into a deadly serious movie. The screenplay really is a marvel of interconnected stories and human insight.
Happiness (1998) – A powerful bit of filmmaking that hides deliciously a sordid drama in an almost comedic veneer. It’s like a Rhomer film, if Rohmer could only see the worst in people, and yet it somehow never feels like it’s taking cheap shots either.
Happy Together (1997) – A nice bridge between the stylistic pyrotechnics of Fallen Angels and the elegant mastery of In the Mood for Love. Easily one of Kar Wai’s best, though yet another in a long line of excellent soundtracks stacks the odds in its favor.
Hard Luck (1921) – The plot is perfunctory, even for a short silent comedy, but the gags are really quite clever. Nothing really special compared to Keaton’s best work, just a lot of things that will make you giggle (including one of my favorites, a hilarious version of the old “necktie mustache” trick).
Harmony and Me (2009) – A zero budget film that compensates by having a generally excellent cast. And while it is a bit too rambling and episodic (and not every gag worked), there is no denying the unusually high amount of very clever jokes that fill the movie.
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) – One of the greatest stoner comedies of recent times–and it gets by on selling its absurdity through the two leads playing things straight no matter how ridiculous the situation. It’s also, importantly, rather hilarious.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) – A stoner comedy up there with Pineapple Express and Up in Smoke (ie, one of the good ones), this movie definitely surprised me with how much I enjoyed it despite the “plot” just being a bunch of random scenes strung together. I think the key is that Harold and Kumar are unique, likeable characters that play it straight…that and the fact that the director manages to make the Cheetah scene actually seem nearly brilliant.
Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008) – Still pretty funny but lacking the freshness of the first with many of the jokes and scenes being simply callbacks to the first movie or less subtle versions of the already not so subtle racial commentary. I enjoyed it anyway, it just doesn’t have quite the magic of the first one.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) – Granted this isn’t much of a movie narrative wise, and is most likely incomprehensible to those not familiar with the books, but I still have to count it a success. Yates has proven a great fit for the series, and the atmosphere of the last few movies has been about as pitch perfect as the casting.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) – Yates and the production team keep up the high quality of the last few entries in the series, but this whole 7 movie, 2-part series thing is starting to feel like it would have been more suited to the longform television format than the film format. Of course, the high budget leads to some really badass special effects (though the giants are a little computery) so I guess I should quit nitpicking and just plan an 8 movie marathon one of these days.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) – I like Yates on the Harry Potter movies, he establishes a nice dark tone and keeps things moving right along after the “all over the place” Goblet of Fire. Like The Order of the Phoenix, they do an admirable job of cutting the excess out of the book in order to make a (reasonably) tight movie.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) – Agreeable enough as these things go, though the child acting and CGI seem a bit dodgy in places. Still, it really only suffers when compared to the improved quality of the later movies in the series (except The Goblet of Fire of course).
Harvest of Shame (1960) – Television documentary of the plight of migrant workers just before the civil rights movement. Pretty powerful, though many of the questions and responses seem rather leading which gives the whole thing an air of trying a bit too hard to present its point.
Haywire (2012) – The lead just barely manages to hold her own with the real actors, but she does well enough I was able to buy it. The story itself is not very compelling, but the main girl believably kicking ass got me through the movie anyway.
He Did and He Didn’t (1916) – Quite entertaining Arbuckle short even if it doesn’t seem quite as funny as his best work. Good direction, and Al Saint John falling over every obstacle on the set is always good for a few chuckles.
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (2002) – This starts out slow, but the second half at least offers a bit more to chew on in a “so that’s what is going on” sense. Still, aside from answering its own questions there isn’t much there for me to really recommend (though I’ll admit Tautou’s bracing “cuteness” actually works quite well within the context of her character here).
The Heat (2013) – Despite the unlikability of the leads, Bullock’s charisma and McCarthy’s gift for improvisation will end up winning you over. Nothing too impressive to be found here, but it is satisfying enough, and there are a few scattered laughs to be gotten out of it.
Heathers (1988) – Though finally watching this one did not cause it to rocket to the top of my list of teen comedies (not that it can really be counted as the same kind of film as Ten Things I Hate About You and the like), I can still see the cause for all the praise. Something about the ending/last half still feels off (and not just the compromised “upbeat” ending), but maybe that is just because I secretly wish it would be more like the films that it is skewering.
Heavenly Creatures (1994) – True story of an intense friendship/love affair between two teenage girls in Australia. I tend to dislike films that use this many crane shots, but the excessive stylistics and bold directorial choices end up working in this oddly charming film’s favor.
Hell’s Angels (1930) – The dramatic elements are as hamfisted as the aerial battles are overlong. Harlow isn’t too bad, but otherwise it is a lot to sit through for very little payoff.
Hell’s Heroes (1930) – The story lulls in a few places, and the Christ imagery could stand to be toned down, but otherwise this is a pretty great little film. The desert feels as hot as the end of Greed and the imagination apparent in the film making shows that Wyler knew what he was doing from the beginning.
The Help (2011) – Honestly, this is a fairly entertaining story about a plucky white girl helping the poor black folk of her home town. It’s just too bad that nothing can keep the white guilt pandering from showing through the seams of this one.
Henry V (1944) – I have mixed feelings about performed Shakespeare (maybe because I hate feeling stupid when I can’t keep up with the dialog) but this is an undeniable classic. I really like how Olivier takes some chances with how he tells the story, moving with ease between an actual performance of the play, to a stylized fantastic version with painted backdrops, to actual location shooting for the battle.
Her Sister from Paris (1925) – Cute romantic comedy from the implausible (yet popular) story of a wife tricking her husband into cheating on her with…herself. The husband is a bit of a scumball, but the leading lady is very good and the whole thing is a nice bit of entertaining fluff.
Her (2013) – Sure, the rather obvious commentary about how we are divorced from the real world by being glued to our technology is there, but this is thankfully about more than that. In fact, the nature of the relationship with the AI provides a lot of fertile ground to delve into all kinds of issues about love, loneliness and everything in between.
Here Comes the Groom (1951) – This veers dangerously close to the worse kind of Capracorn territory with the cute orphan set-up–but once the romantic games start it thankfully settles into more of a screwball comedy mode. Not bad, if some kind of second rate Philadelphia Story is your kind of thing.
Hescher (2010) – Gordon-Levit is pretty good as the title metalhead psycho with a heart of gold. It is just too bad that the film wants the final feel good message as much as it wants you to find Hescher’s antics endearing–neither of which are easy to swallow.
High Fidelity (2000) – Fairly astute commentary on pretentious snobs and the relationships that consume their lives. Pretty entertaining if that’s your thing–even if it isn’t quite as insightful as it thinks it is (not even close to Rohmer on his worst day).
High Noon (1952) – A finely crafted Western that really gives a nice feeling of helplessness as Cooper increasingly comes to realize he will have to face the bad guys alone. Still it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth by twisting the notion of the western hero into something false and then pretending that’s what a western hero always was.
High School (2010) – Not quite as dire of a mess as the reviews would have you believe, but it almost is. Most of the “wacky” characterizations come off as more offputting and weird, and legitimately funny jokes are unfortunately rather uncommon.
High Sierra (1941) – Walsh had created one of the definitive 30’s gangster movies a few years earlier with The Roaring Twenties, and here he creates one of the first true “doomed gangster” (in the existentially nihilistic sense) films. Bogart is fantastic, Walsh’s direction is as crisp as ever, and all around this is one of the classics of the gangster genre.
High Society (1956) – Musical remake of The Philadelphia Story that is inferior to the original in every way aside from some nice songs. Sure, that’s a tough act to follow, but I prefer a remake to have something new to say and High Society doesn’t (not to mention Bing Crosby being a very poor Cary Grant substitute).
His Girl Friday (1940) – The cinematic equivalent of sensory overload: the dialogue is so fast and the plot so torturous that you almost feel exhausted when it is over. Which is not to say it is anything less than a complete work of genius–when they say they don’t make em like they used to, this is what they are talking about.
His Girl Friday (1940) – Mile a minute dialog, an amazingly serpentine plot, and Grant and Bellamy doing what they do best create the perfect storm of Hollywood brilliance in this, one of Howard Hawks’ best films. And if you know the high esteem in which I hold his films, you’ll know what a compliment that is.
History is Made at Night (1937) – Charming screwball drama that has aged pretty well for as old fashioned as it is. Some of the dramatics get a little dark for what seems to want to be a lighter movie, but overall it is all quite enjoyable.
Hit and Run (2012) – Dax Sheppard is kind of like a less douchey Dane Cook, and he brings a bit of his unlikely charm to this rom comesque film he made with his real life wife Kristin Bell. It perhaps bites off a bit more than it can chew in places, but overall the good stuff smooths out the rough spots (of which there are more than a few).
Hitch (2005) – Though this has a bit of trouble juggling the multiple story lines without the seams showing, Smith and James are charming enough it hardly matters. Lots of funny moments, and it manages to be crowd pleasing with only a bit of pandering.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) – There might have been scattered good bits, but overall this is just as cartoonishly stupid as I feared it would be. Suspension of disbelief (and the maintenance thereof) is a concept that Peter Jackson does not seem to be able to understand.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) – It seems like it’s more fashionable to hate on this film now that the afterglow of the original trilogy’s praise has faded a bit. But it’s better than you might have heard–I mean, it’s still full of superfluous bloated Hollywood excess, but no worse than the original trilogy at the end of the day.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) – This actually holds up better to a second viewing than I thought it would. Maybe it is because I didn’t have to suffer through 3D, or maybe because it really isn’t all that bad, you know, for a bloated Hollywood blockbuster.
Holiday Affair (1949) – Great holiday romance with a sparkling script and excellent performances all around. Of course it is another movie about a wise man who fixes a crazy woman right up by telling her how silly she is, but if you can overlook that, there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
Hollywood Ending (2002) – Woody’s “late funny stuff” is mostly just broadly stupid as opposed to his “early funny stuff” which is broadly stupid *and* brilliant. Still, Woody’s character is as oddly lovable as ever, enough so that you don’t mind forgiving him a few too many obvious jokes.
Hollywood Rhythm Vol. 01 (1929) – 11 musical short films (some with narrative segments, some with just music) produced in the early sound years to play before features in theaters. The early jazz performances are pretty great (with Cab Calloway really impressing me with his frontman antics) with a lot of fancy dancing too.
Hollywood Shuffle (1987) – Loosely plotted story (full of fantasy sequences, most of them actually quite funny) about a black actor wishing the roles for black actors weren’t so stereotypical. There is a nice genuineness to the overall tone of this film that was obviously a labor of love for Townsend.
Home (2015) – Decent enough animated film about a naive alien going on a road trip with Rihanna. I’ve seen worse, but it does seem a bit lazy that the main character is basically just a carbon copy of the Big Bang Theory dude.
Hondo (1953) – Wayne gives a nice understated performance (as he plays the stuff from which men are made) in this very satisfying Western that puts few feet wrong. Hell, if you want the truth, I even like it better than Shane.
Hoop Dreams (1994) – This epic portrait of growing up black in America (if you think that isn’t the main issue, imagine how pointless it would be with white protagonists) manages to live up to the all the massive hype. I was so drawn in to the narrative that I kept finding myself forgetting it was a documentary.
Hooper (1978) – This kind of plays like a shittier version of something like Donovan’s Reef. The cast and crew are obviously having a good time, but there really isn’t much to recommend this beyond a few good stunts.
The Host (2006) – Though it has excellent special effects and is really quite competently made, it still fails to draw the viewer in. Nothing I can put my finger on, maybe it is just that identifying with a main character that might have some kind of serious brain trauma isn’t easy.
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) – More of a “hey look, the 80s!” jaunt than something legitimately interesting and creative, but I guess it is still sporadically funny enough to be vaguely entertain. Lazily directed and scripted, but I suppose some could consider that part of its laid back charm.
Hot Water (1924) – Pleasant and funny, but it still feels more like an extended short than a real Harold Lloyd full length. I really don’t have any major complaints, just none of the set pieces really stand out and I would have to say this might be the weakest of Lloyd’s full lengths that I have seen.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) – The first Rathbone Sherlock Holmes is a good film that only suffers from leaving Holmes out of the action for the middle third of the film. When will they learn that, just like no one wants to see throwaway romantic subplots in Marx Brother’s Films, and they sure as shit don’t want to see them in Holmes movies.
Hour of the Gun (1967) – Quite good follow up to Sturges’ previous Gunfight at the OK Corral that focuses on the grey rather than the black and white. Garner and Robards aren’t quite Lancaster and Douglas, but this is a Western with something to say on moral ambiguity that manages to do so without straying too far from its classic roots.
The House Bunny (2008) – This movie is kind of shitty, but, also, it is kind of not shitty too. Anna Faris gets most of the credit here for getting her undeniable screen presence to shine through the, at times, staggeringly bad script and performances.
A House Divided (1913) – Guy Blanche’s version of The Awful Truth, and as such, this has to be one of the first “screwball comedies”. As with Matrimony’s Speed Limit, this is a strong early teens film–which makes me want to check out some of her other very early films.
The Housemaid (1960) – Deliciously over the top (and misanthropic) melodrama about a man who lets one moment of weakness with the demonic women he is surrounded by destroy his life. Almost risibly overblown, but created with such a master’s touch that you can’t help but be wildly entertained the entire time anyway.
How Do You Know (2010) – A refreshingly uncliched romantic comedy, unfortunately, you are forced to choose between a stalker, a pig and whatever Reese Witherspoon’s character is going for as your romantic subjects. Admittedly, there are flashes of good stuff; for example, the rather brilliant hospital proposal scene.
How Men Propose (1913) – A short about three men who unwittingly propose to the same woman. The humor is a little broad, but the over the top mugging from the leads is pretty hilarious (intentionally so I suspect).
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) – Dire attempt to capture that Dr. Seuss style that succeeds only in capturing an object lesson in the dangers of letting your rubber faced star mug his way through the movie for 90 minutes. Or, however long this one is…I didn’t finish it and have no desire to do so.
How to be a Serial Killer (2008) – This plays like a shittier version of American Psycho, and I already have my issues with American Psycho stretching a thin premise into a feature length film. The performances are all right, but otherwise there wasn’t much in this low budget film to impress even the most forgiving viewer.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) – What seems like a good idea for a romantic comedy (one party wants to drive the other away, the other wants to make the first fall in love) doesn’t really work since Kate Hudson acts so awful in the beginning that you can’t imagine how the requisite “we love each other after all” ending could possibly happen. Not horrible, but the general laziness and implausibility of the script take it down quite a few notches.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) – Seems like there are maybe slightly fewer “here’s a joke for the parents’” moments than usual, but still pretty by the numbers plot-wise. And maybe I missed something, but how exactly is the bad guy controlling the Alpha-dragon?
Hud (1963) – The great cinematography and cast (including Newman in a magnificent performance as a villain so charismatic you catch yourself rooting for him half the time anyway) are just a few reasons to like this excellent film. Still, the uniformly fine performances aren’t quite enough to completely hide the slight stink of pretension.
Hugo (2011) – Not necessarily a bad film, but I really don’t see what the fuss is all about. Had this been directed by a no-name I suspect it would have been received for what it is: a kid’s film that most kids will be bored with.
Humoresque (1946) – It’s the old “art or romance?” story with some magnificent camerawork, strong performances and a sharp script (not to mention a lot of great violin music). It isn’t as good as The Red Shoes, but then again, not much else is.
The Hunger Games (2012) – A strong cast and competent direction makes this a fine cinematic adaptation of the popular series. It could even be argued that the tight closeup/shaky cam approach to filming this one actually works pretty well.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – These Hunger Games films are really quite good, with excellent acting and filmmaking all around. Of course by the second movie, some of the weaknesses in the overall narrative of the books are starting to make themselves known, not that that should keep you from checking these movies out anyway.
The Hunt for Gollum (2009) – It really does look pretty good, but the script is a pretty pathetic mess that seemed designed to throw a bunch of scenes together with little regard to the overall narrative. Also, while the actors are fine in this fan film, the seriousness with which they deliver their lines is pretty laughable (and makes me appreciate the Lord of the Rings movies more since I seem to remember them making the dialog actually almost work when spoken out loud).
The Hurt Locker (2009) – Quite well-done, it almost reminds me of a more serious Three Kings (in that it was an intelligent and suspenseful movie built around a series of entertaining set pieces). I don’t think it is all that deep, but I’m not really complaining: films don’t always have to be profoundly thought provoking especially when they are as full of white knuckle suspense as this one is.
I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) – A well-directed and thoroughly unpleasant experience. Movies designed solely to evoke pathos through a depiction of humanity’s all too obvious capacity for savagery are my least favorite kind of movies and I won’t be sitting through this one again any time soon.
I Am Britney Jean (2013) – Ostensibly this is supposed to show viewers a glimpse of the “real” Britney, but it is really just an extended commercial for her Vegas residency. Still, there are flashes of honesty, and on a reality show level, the “gotta get ready for the show in time” premise works well enough.
I Claudius (1976) – Long, detailed and uniformly excellent masterpiece theater miniseries about several generations of Roman Rulers. The acting is especially impressive and more than makes up for the minuscule budget.
I Confess (1953) – What a great premise for a film, executed perfectly by Hitchcock’s direction and Clift’s acting. I didn’t even mind Karl Malden this time around since he is actually playing a douche instead of just making me think he is one.
I Give it a Year (2013) – This plays more like a string of mostly funny ideas that someone tried to string a movie around. Unfortunately, they are only mostly funny ideas, and the leads are far too unlikable to carry the movie, let along make you root for them.
I Hate Valentine’s Day (2009) – Abysmally wretched rom com that starts with a totally implausible premise and then goes downhill from there. You know a rom com is bad when you are actively rooting for the leads not to get together by the end (or, in this case, about ten minutes in).
I Know Where I’m Going (1945) – Unassuming and assured love story that is quite finely done. It’s also quite British which I don’t mean as an insult–but I don’t mean it as a compliment either.
I Love You, Man (2009) – I overall enjoyed it, but the more I think about it, I really think this was one of the weaker Judd Apatow film clones out there. The comic timing felt off and none of it felt super professional–I’m going to go ahead and blame the director.
I Married a Witch (1942) – Sleight tale of witchcraft and curses with a thoroughly unconvincing love story. Still, Veronica Lake is as mesmerizing as the male lead is bland, so it is at least partly watchable I guess.
I Shot Jesse James (1949) – Fuller’s first film, and you can already tell he was going to be destined for great things. The first half is much stronger as Robert Ford deals with the fallout of a very bad life decision, but the final act weakens when the story moves to Colorado for a silver mining interlude that isn’t as compelling as the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
I Was a Male War Bride (1949) – Though it is more an extended (and rather uptight) riff on coitus interruptus than a real comedy classic, this minor Hawks film is still agreeable enough. Though, I don’t know whose bright idea it was to have Cary Grant play a Frenchman.
Ice Princess (2005) – Dawn from Buffy ice skates her way to typical sports movie results. Nothing offensive about any of it, but nothing remotely exceptional about any of it either.
Idiocracy (2006) – Silly movie, but quite disarmingly charming as well. If you like the Mike Judge style of humor, there is plenty to be found here–and now I finally know where all those quotes I’ve been hearing the last 8 years have been coming from.
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952) – Despite (somewhat founded) accusations of stodgy direction from Asquith, this is actually quite good and has a rather unique style to it (though the impressive feat of the actors pulling off that dialog helped in no small measure). The most annoying part to me is that for all of Oscar Wilde’s vaunted wit, it really seems like he is just filling in variations on the following Mad Lib: “To (love/hate) _____ is (never/always) exceedingly not un _____ for those who (hate/love) (always/never) being _____.”
In a Lonely Place (1950) – I love cynical movies about alienation and they don’t usually get me too down, but here Bogart plays the alienated hero (with major issues) so well that this is brutal to the point of being tough to watch. Still, it is so masterfully done (and with an ending that doesn’t pull any punches) that I’d rewatch this one anytime!
In Bruges (2008) – It’s too bad that this was mostly overlooked when it came out, because the script is really very clever. The performances are also pretty great, with Colin Farrel’s childlike hitman being particularly amusing.
In the Cut (2003) – As a whole, the story and motivations of the characters don’t make a lot of sense. However, as a piece of assured film making and strong acting (especially from Ruffalo), this is well worth the time anyway.
In the Loop (2009) – Kind of like those frantic newsroom comedies (and almost as cynical as His Girl Friday), this is a pretty great send up of our political system. The dialog is very clever if you are quick enough to catch it, and the film never stumbles once as it races through the fast and furious conversations.
In the Loop (2009) – Though the rest of the cast is great, this is, like the tv show it is based on, all about Peter Capaldi’s performance. As bleak as the cynical take on politics is, there is still some kind of feral thrill in watching Capaldi give someone a good bollocking.
In the Mood for Love (2000) – One of the most achingly heartwrenching love stories ever, this might just be Kar Wai’s best work. The film’s restraint generates an almost unbearable aura of longing while the cinematography and stylistic choices distinguish Kar Wai as the most brilliantly (and creatively) cinematic director working today.
In the Realm of the Senses (1976) – An erotica film that, against all odds, succeeds both as a master class in filmmaking and as actual erotica. Extra points for finding actors willing to fuck on camera that also actually know how to act.
In the Street (1948) – Great silent document of a city street in Harlem in the 1940s. The message seems to be “just cause you’re poor, doesn’t mean you can’t be happy”, which is as brilliantly delivered as it is naive (not that I disagree with it).
Inception (2010) – I don’t know that it’s fair to criticize this film for how “undreamlike” its dreams were, since the “dreams” are really just an excuse for a few zero gravity/fractured narrative set pieces. It is overlong (with a few too many protracted gunfights) and occasionally labored in its setups, but overall quite entertaining if you don’t expect too much out of it.
Inception (2010) – The second time around confirmed my suspicions: overlong and not nearly as brilliant as it thinks it is. Still a fair amount of cool stuff, but I found myself checking the run time more than I was ooing and ahing.
Incident at Loch Ness (2004) – The bald guy isn’t the best actor, but it hardly matters as this one is all about Herzog. The “screenplay” is actually pretty good and only occasionally veered into anything that seemed too silly.
Incident at Loch Ness (2004) – Herzog gives a powerhouse performance as “himself” in this quite successful mockumentary. It maybe gets a bit silly towards the end, but overall the quality of the jokes is really quite high.
The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Not bad for an action movie, I appreciate it breaking the usual superhero mold and starting with the Hulk on the run and dealing with suppressing his inner beast rather than wasting half the film on yet another origin story. Still, it ends up being pretty by the numbers, the special effects are fairly unimpressive, and the action scenes overstay their welcome more often than not.
Industrial Britain (1933) – Flaherty’s focus on hand-crafted artistry seems out of place in a documentary that is supposed to be about “industrial” Britain. Still both sets of images (craftsmen and the factories) are beautifully filmed and compelling in their own right.
The Informant (2009) – Pretty solid but still underwhelming (probably in part due to the fact that the truth is usually NOT actually stranger than fiction despite the claims to the contrary). The portrayal of the main character seems a bit uneven as he bounces between moronicly imbecilic and fairly competent even more than Michael Scott does in the Office.
Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Though it feels a 2 hour movie in a 3 hour body, the interminable scenes of setup before each violent denouement are at least quite well done. Even if it isn’t the tightest film it is at least thankfully less self-indulgent than Kill Bill (despite having its fair share of film geek “homages”/references) and the dialog is a bit less gratingly self-aware this time as well.
Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Its weaknesses overtake its strengths on the second viewing as the sloppiness of the story becomes far more apparent. Not only that, but the dialog is some of his most irritatingly superfluous (though still thankfully less self-aware than previous films).
Inkheart (2008) – Though it was somewhat panned on release, I think this is one of the best kid’s fantasy movies since the last Harry Potter (which, granted, wasn’t released all that long before this one). It cut/changed plenty of parts from the book while keeping the same spirit and over all is mostly entertaining despite Brendan Fraser being his usual self (and probably partly because of Paul Bettany being his usual self).
Inland Empire (2006) – A three-hour nightmare, Lynch’s dream logic has never been more clear while his narrative has never been more incomprehensible. Trying to figure out the plot isn’t the point though, and the fact that the film has stayed with me so strongly since watching it has led me to suspect that there actually is something to it after all.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) – Excellent study of what it is to be an artist and the futility of attempting to “make it” with one’s art. Or at least maybe that is what this one is about…it is just as enigmatic as A Serious Man, and just as brilliant as well.
International House (1933) – There are pluses (every scene WC Fields is in, Cab Calloway, the “you’re sitting on a pussy” joke, boobies) and minuses (every scene WC Fields wasn’t in, George and Gracie, lazy script, lazy film making). When the final score is tallied it is pretty much a wash.
Interstellar (2014) – Like most/all of Nolan’s films, this has some good stuff shoehorned into a clunky monstrosity of a narrative. There are some moments of great power, and a lot of cool ideas, it’s just too bad Nolan can’t find a someone to write his scripts who knows how to edit–also, the stuff inside the black hole at the end is just plain silly.
Into the Wild (2007) – Expertly paced and beautifully shot film about a naive kid who makes a lot of poor decisions. Unfortunately, the director doesn’t see him that way and paints him as some kind of infallible messiah instead, which detracts from the film a bit.
The Intruder (1962) – Shatner is actually pretty fantastic as the evil pretty boy title character who heads down South to stir up the local racists. Low budget, but stylishly shot and expertly paced, this one is definitely worth checking out.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – Terrifying horror film that milks the “last sane man left on earth” premise for all it’s worth. It’s a shame they have to tack on the happy ending–the original ending is easily one of the all time greats.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – This genuinely unsettling science fiction film ratchets up the tension in an unrelenting slow burn of nihilistically horrifying revelations. The end result is a white knuckle portrait of helpless hopelessness that is far more terrifying than watching coeds being chased by a chainsaw wielding maniac.
The Invisible Man (1933) – Whale knocks another one out of the park here with his signature blend of humor, horror and a generous helping of atmosphere. The effects are especially impressive, I don’t think I was able to see the attached strings once!
Iron Man 2 (2010) – The Avenger’s stuff feels shoehorned in, and the second half is kind of a mess structure-wise. Still, you don’t come to this movie to see a masterpiece, and as far as Downey being amusing between a few cool robot fights, you’ll find this movie delivers.
Iron Man 3 (2013) – The more of these films I watch, the more I think the main draw is just Downey’s performance–he really does have a way to make an asshole likable. Otherwise, it’s the usual Marvel stuff, entertaining, but I doubt it will be up to a repeat viewing.
Iron Man (2008) – Aside from some suspiciously jingoistic scenes in Afghanistan, there really isn’t a lot to complain about with this big budget superhero movie. Downey pulls off the difficult task of portraying a “lovable dick” with aplomb (as usual), which leaves a lot of cute jokes and badass robot battles as icing on the cake.
Isle of Flowers (1989) – Pretty creative way to present the subject matter, that somehow makes an approach that would be insufferably twee under most other circumstances actually work. It is a little preachy, but it is short enough and full of enough ideas that I suppose I forgive it.
It Follows (2014) – Pretty well made horror film, but the central premise (a demon chases you at a very slow walking pace forever) just doesn’t really seem like the worst thing in the world considering one can come up with gas money. It plays out kind of like a zombie apocalypse movie with only a single very slow indestructible zombie.
It Happened One Night (1934) – This grandfather of all rom coms hasn’t lost a bit of its charm 80 years later as a mismatched pair of potential lovers learn how much fun slumming it with the poor can be. They don’t make ‘em like they used to, and, apparently that goes for rom coms too.
It Happened One Night (1934) – Classic mismatched couple road trip movie pretty much sets the rules for all romantic comedies that would follow. A magical film full of moonlit near kisses and that special fantasy of how magically happy one can be when one is poor.
It Happened One Night (1934) – Classic rom com “slumming it” road trip movie that is probably the best work from everyone involved (which is high praise considering the cast and filmmaker). Every scene positively glows, literally in the case of the almost “fantasy” night lighting.
It Happened One Night (1934) – There are plenty of earlier examples, but this probably has had the most influence on the blueprint of the “romantic comedy” (guy and girl thrown together, don’t like each other, realize they like each other, split up because of a mix-up, get back together at the end). And, to this day, they still haven’t made a better one.
It Should Happen to You (1954) – One problem with these dumb blond movies is the blond is usually so oblivious to her intended love interest that you could give a shit when they finally get together. Not that it is all Judy Holliday’s fault; Jack Lemmon isn’t exactly bad in his debut, he just makes it obvious why, after this film, he was usually cast as the bridesmaid, but never the bride.
It’s a Gift (1934) – More a series of set pieces than a real movie, this is nonetheless mounted with a master’s touch by McCleod, and the routines are among Field’s best. It is also the most pure example of the central Fields concept of a man ground beneath the heel of the world at every step who carries on despite it all–this may well be W.C. Field’s best film and you will never feel so forlornly hopeless being amused.
It’s a Gift (1934) – Probably W.C. Field’s best and funniest movie, an effortlessly wince inducing survey of the trials and misfortunes of little man in a big world. Not really much more than a series of set pieces, but it is pure genius nonetheless.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – A brilliant depiction of all the despair and joy that is an inseparable part of the human experience. Uplifting but never sentimental–an astounding feat for a movie about a motherfucking prayer-sent angel.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – Capra’s film about angels, do-gooding and the power of prayer defies all expectations and ends up as one of the greatest films ever made. The secret, as I have said before, is that Capra plays it straight and presents George Bailey as a real person and not some cookie cutter ideal to live up to.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – God, angels, and trying to save the world, against all odds, add up to one of my favorite movies. Maybe it’s the real human darkness in Stewart’s performance, or maybe, it’s just that, despite all the christian bullshit, Capra captures something quintessentially human in the story of George Bailey’s life.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – Kind of a reverse Citizen Kane–this time the guy whose life doesn’t turn out the way he had hoped doesn’t let it get him down (or, he does, but he gets over it). One of those movies that will make you a little misty no matter how many times you see it.
It’s Complicated (2009) – Everyone loves him, but Alex Baldwin’s acting is a bit too close to mugging for my tastes. Streep on the other hand is great, and there are enough well-done bits to round out the family sap and Steve Martin’s pathetic “nice guy” character.
Jack Reacher (2012) – Sure, Cruise is smarmy and half the size the protagonist should have been–which makes it even more impressive that he manages to win me over in the title role. Overall, a far better film than I thought it would be: slow paced, smart, surprisingly faithful to the book and the character, and with some nice supporting actors, especially Herzog as the villain.
Jackass 2.5 (2007) – This is made up of leftover jokes from Jackass 2, and it mostly shows. Still, if you are unsure if this kind of thing will be up your alley, I think the IMDB plot summary should clarify things for you: “The crew have now set off to finish what is left over from Jackass 2.0, and in this version they have Wee Man use a ‘pee’ gun on themselves, having a mini motor bike fracas in the grocery mall, a sperm test, a portly crew member disguised as King Kong, as well as include three episodes of their hilarious adventures in India, namely drinking beer off of Shridhar Chillai’s several feet long fingernails; having one of the crew lie on a bed of nails with two snakes – one on his chest and one between the legs, as well as a decorated elephant in the background; and finally having a half-naked Indian Sadhu drink one of the crew’s urine.”
Jackass 3D (2010) – The Jackass guys really manage to capture the horrifying S&M homoerotic fecal splendor of being a jock in more entertaining fashion than anyone would expect. I wasn’t super impressed with the 3D, but the high speed cameras and super slow motion are really masterfully incorporated into what was, once again, a disgustingly entertaining (and often quite creative) film.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013) – Pretty good if you are in the mood for a second rate Borat/Bruno clone. Not to sell it too short, Knoxville and the kid does a great job and there are plenty of inspired sequences, just overall it doesn’t quite gel the way Borat/Bruno do.
Jackie Brown (1997) – Tarantino should probably try more adaptations, as this really feels pretty lean and focused compared to his other work. Or, as lean and focused as the convoluted Elmor Leonard short story it is based on can be anyway.
Jamaica Inn (1939) – Undoubtedly a failure if you view it in comparison to the earlier The Lady Vanishes and The Thirty Nine Steps (of course, matching either of those is quite a tall order), but still not as bad as some would have you believe. Off-putting and odd, but Laughton’s scenery chewing and eyebrows are a hoot at least.
Jane Eyre (2011) – I wasn’t familiar with the story, but this seems to deliver the fancy prose without a hint of stuffiness, thanks in large part to the excellent leads. The cinematography is also quite breathtaking and fits the gloomy atmosphere perfectly.
The Jazz Singer (1927) – The storyline is pretty slight, but to hear Jolson say ”you ain’t heard nothin yet” is as breathtaking as the Lumiere films. It’s not often you have a document of history being made like this, and the thrill of watching it makes it clear why silent films didn’t have a chance after its release.
The Jerk (1979) – Some (most) of the jokes are so stupid that I felt ashamed for laughing at them, and Steve Martin’s bizarre earnestness really shouldn’t work either, but it does and I found myself laughing more often than not. I can’t say all the jokes work, but the film is unique enough that it would almost be acceptable to call it avante garde.
Jezebel (1938) – Bette Davis shows why she was so amazing in the really quite brilliant story of a woman who is more Lulu than Scarlett O’Hara. Her selfishness is not as fascinating as the fact that the men around her are so threatened by someone who is that much woman.
John Carter (2012) – A bunch of CGI aliens and stuff shoot fantasy guns at each other in fantasy airships to the tune of an endless chatter of exposition. It maybe isn’t quite as bad as that sounds, but it has little to distinguish it from the endless stream of gormless feature-length cartoons like Avatar and Phantom Menace.
Johnny Guitar (1954) – The dialog is so stylized that it goes beyond camp into the realm of abstract art. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a western (or even a movie) like this and I can see why it is on Fassbinder’s top five movies of all-time list (even if it wouldn’t be on mine).
Johnny Guitar (1954) – One of the most ridiculously baroque pieces of stylized melodrama ever. Like they say in Ghostbusters, Nicholas Ray is either a ”certified genius or an authentic wacko” …in this case I’m going with both.
Jubilee (1978) – I can definitely see the charm of this strange movie about Elizabeth I visiting an Anarchist English matriarchy of the near future. However, while it captures the punk vibe with flying colors, it also kind of feels like an amateurish mess that is a bit of a chore to get through.
Judge Priest (1934) – Stepin Fetchit is almost as painful to watch as the finale with all the black folk singing Dixie. Of course, that said, this is a superb movie with a great central performance from Will Rogers: corny sentimentalism has never been so poetic.
Juno (2007) – That cutesy dialog and cutesy music almost made me bail in the first ten minutes. Still, I either got used to it, or they toned it down, because, the movie seemed more bearable (and even a tad insightful) by the end.
Just Friends (2005) – Some of the humor is a bit broad, but I don’t think they are trying for a naturalistic tone anyway. Overall pretty decent for what it is, and it makes me want to check out some more Anna Faris.
Just Like Heaven (2005) – Ruffalo and Witherspoon are great as always, and the film’s sly sense of dark humor helps keep it consistently strong from beginning to end. Also, thankfully, the movie has nothing at all to do with Heaven!
Just Wright (2010) – Common and Queen Latifah (when she isn’t being a crazy sports fan/stalker) are so endearing it is kind of hard to fault this for actually using lines like “you are just Wright for me.” If nothing else, it thankfully abandons the ham-handed commentary on race that was found in the director’s previous film Something New.
Justice League: Doom (2012) – These Justice League cartoons can be kind of fun really, especially since they play things pretty straight. It’s just too bad pretty much everything that happens in this is so lazily unbelievable that it never really manages to pull you in.
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (2011) – On the surface this is just a chronicle of the weeks before Justin Bieber’s big show in Madison Square Garden. Thankfully it is actually pretty well done, and shows enough of the “real” soulless and spoiled Bieber (along with the frightening fans) that it makes up for all the horrible music.
Kansas City Confidential (1952) – A step below the all-time classic Noirs, but far better than most, I enjoyed this quite a lot. The opening heist is over in the first 10 minutes or so, and the rest is all watching things unravel with the usual twists and turns.
Kate and Leopold (2001) – This is manufactured Hollywood fluff, but there are enough scenes that capitalized on the fish out of water premise to make it enjoyable anyway. Also, I think Meg Ryan did something to her lips.
Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012) – As is usually the case with a film like this, I only feel like I got the vaguest picture of what the real Katy Perry is like. Still, overall, this merely surface-deep chronicle of a yearlong tour by someone whose music I generally dislike [editor’s update: generally like] is pretty entertaining.
Key Largo (1948) – Though it doesn’t have Bogart’s feral Duke Mantee, this at least improves on The Petrified Forest by getting rid of Leslie Howard’s poet character and offering twice the insight with half the philosophizing. I feel like the ending sequence loses a little steam, but it is still an undeniable classic.
Kick-Ass (2010) – Most of the leads do a good job, and the direction has some energy, but this film is still a mildly boring and unpleasant story that turns majorly stupid and unpleasant when Hit Girl shows up. Less racist, but just as dumb as the comic.
Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914) – This is basically just Chaplin trolling some people who are trying to shoot some races by wandering in front of the camera over and over again. That said, it’s still pretty damn funny.
Kiddin’ Katie (1923) – Lame and unfunny short about a dude who finds out his blind engagement is to a fat chick. Luckily (spoiler alert) he has a fat brother to pawn off on her and thus he manages to hook up with the hot skinny sister by the end.
The Kids are All Right (2010) – This film feels a little manufactured and has some possibly dubious politics (lesbians need some “deep dicking” every now and then), but that might just be me knee jerking away from yet another indie darling. And, honestly, the script is quite funny and the performances are very good (Ruffalo and Moore especially)–I really rather enjoyed it.
Kids (1995) – Really impressive naturalistic performances do a lot to sell this sensationalized story of kids gone wild that is sure to leave a bad taste in your mouth. An impressive bit of filmmaking even with the suspicion of more than a few cheap gut punches from the script.
Killer Elite (2011) – Supposedly a “true story” which only means that there is a bunch of confusing exposition between the usual Statham fight set pieces. It might make more sense on repeat viewings, but it sure as hell isn’t worth watching twice to find out.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) – This is really nothing more than a collection of ridiculous murderous clown based skits. That said, I can’t say any of the set pieces really bored me, so, if nothing else, this is at least an entertaining waste of your life.
Killer of Sheep (1977) – A laid back rambling movie full of beautiful black and white photography and a bleakly good-natured depiction of poverty and social troubles in the ghettos of LA. The whole ends up being even greater than the sum of its parts–this film stays with you long after you watch it.
Killer’s Kiss (1955) – The story isn’t anything special, but the cinematography and action scenes are impressively mounted. The final mannequin factory fight is especially brilliant.
The Killers (1946) – Excellent noir film that tells the story of Lancaster’s dumb lug in flashback. Highlights are the great opening and a nice early “one take” heist, but the rest of the film is pretty brilliant as well.
The Killers (1948) – Pretty great little bit of fatalistic film making, though the fantastic opening isn’t quite matched by the rest of the film. Still, Lancaster and Gardener are about as watchable (and the film was about as noirish) as it is possible to get.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) – This first version of Cassavetes’ classic understated crime film fleshes out the conversations a lot more, mostly in a way that underlines the fallibility of Gazzara’s character. It’s a subtle yet quite different tone from the 78 version, and while I don’t like it as much, it’s definitely worth the time to check it out separately.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1978) – I prefer this version of Cassavetes’ classic understated crime film as it feels much tighter (and has fewer scenes of Mr Sophistication droning on and on). And, painting Gazzara’s character as more of a victim of fate than his own hubris also tracks with my taste in these kinds of films.
Killing Them Softly (2012) – Excellent gangster movie that revolves around a handful of losers and the fallout of their poor life choices at the hands of Brad Pitt’s professional hitman. If I have a complaint, it is that the script is a bit too heavy-handed with the whole “no, see, we’re drawing parallels to the current economic crisis” thing for my taste.
Killing Them Softly (2012) – Well done modern gangster film about C level gangster shenanigans and the fallout from their fuckups. The whole 2008 economy tie-in stuff is maybe hit a little hard, but overall the strong performances and script keeps things on track.
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) – Classic Ealing black comedy that deals with murder in the most sophisticated and gentlemanly manner possible. Guinness is spectacular in 8 different roles, but I think the main character’s elegant sociopath is an equally impressive a performance.
King of Jazz (1930) – A couple good songs and vaudeville performances can’t save this from all the lame songs and lamer “comic” (in the loosest sense of the word) interludes. Also, the great sets really could have used a bit of Berkeley’s flair to make the whole thing come to life–as it was I was checking the clock long before it was over.
King of Kings (1961) – Though the characters are as one note as their bible counterparts, with few displaying much humanity, the narrative is thankfully free of the overbearing self-importance of most biblical epics. What is left is still a rather engrossing movie filmed with style (a great soundtrack too).
King Solomon’s Mines (1950) – Maybe it is a bit slight as a movie, but it hardly matters with the really excellent location photography. Deboarah Kerr looks a lot hotter here than she does in that nun movie too.
The King’s Speech (2010) – I’d say it is a triumph on some level if only because it is such a blatant Oscar bait story about something I have zero interest in and I still found myself drawn into it. Also, I find it a bit rich that everyone gives rom coms shit for being formulaic, but I’ve heard few similar complaints about this enjoyably predictable movie.
The Kingdom (1994) – Really fantastic horror-psychodrama that is perhaps the best use of Von Trier’s trademark cynicism. Disgusting and hilarious, the parade of misanthropy never fails to consistently entertain for the entire four-hour run time.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) – Kind of plays like a cross between James Bond and a superhero comic, this actually turns out better than I thought it would. I think the key is that everyone involved (except for maybe Samuel L. Jackson) plays it straight.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – It walks a thin line between too clever for its own good and just clever enough, but succeeds thanks in no small part to Downey Jr. Overall quite a fun slice of pulp noir entertainment.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955) – Brilliant “private eye” film that follows all the conventions of then genre and still feels 20 years ahead of its time anyway. Meeker is perfect as the brutal asshole you hate to admire, Mike Hammer.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955) – What a strange strange take on the noir/private eye film–this film was years ahead of its time in 1955. Brutal, cynical, transgressive, and about as much fun as you can have going to the movies.
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) – It kind of plays like a B movie White Heat–which isn’t such a bad thing. However, Cagney really steals the show to such a degree (along with a nice turn from Ward Bond) that it makes the rest of the film suffer in comparison.
A Knight’s Tale (2001) – “That jousting movie with the rock soundtrack” really has no right to be this enjoyable, but this really is a pretty fun movie. Ledger and the oddly hot Sossamon’s anime hair help, but the real credit goes to a script that knows exactly what it needs to be, no more, no less.
Koyaanisqatsi (1982) – Some very nice images and a cool (though overcopied) score, but the message has all the subtlety of a nitroglycerin truck in a china shop. For movies about the intersection of technology and nature, Louisiana Story is a better bet if you would like to avoid detaching your retinas by rolling your eyes too far back in your head.
Koyaanisqatsi (1982) – Lots of pretty time-lapse photography, just too bad it’s all assembled in such a way that drives home a pretty obvious message about how, like, pollution or something is bad. I’m also not entirely convinced the soundtrack is much more than someone getting way too carried away with their arpeggios.
Koyaanisqatsi (1982) – Maybe because this has been done so many times since its release, or maybe it is just because the environmental message sure seems awfully heavy handed, or maybe it is because every wanna be college musician thinks Phillip Glass’s arpeggios are so fucking brilliant, but this film remains a bit of a chore to get through. Lots of good stuff, especially the reaction shots from the people, it’s just too bad the agenda makes itself so obviously felt like it does.
L’Eclisse (1962) – The final part of Antonioni’s “alienation” trilogy is perhaps his best and most infuriating at the same time. No matter what your thoughts, there is still a really brilliant representation of the difficulties of human connection beneath all the heavy handed symbolism…to say nothing of his absolute pictorial mastery of the film medium.
La Captive (2000) – What a strange movie: a man and a woman who both seem to have borderline mental illnesses shuffle through a bizarre, disconcerting relationship. It is interesting, good points are raised about possession, trust and love, but overall it still kind of fails to draw you in.
La Collectionneuse (1967) – Rohmer’s first full length is definitely one of the all-time great debuts as he effortlessly tells the story of two intellectuals who discover they are in over their heads with the “easy” nymph they share their house with. The story was fascinating, the naturalistic performances amazing, and the girl absolutely mesmerizing.
La Jetee (1962) – Novel in concept and execution, but I still found myself wishing it were actually filmed instead of just a photo slideshow. Also, if I must admit it, it is a little hard to follow as well.
La Notte (1961) – A “one long night” movie where a man and his wife who no longer love each other wander from encounter to encounter at one of those ubiquitous Italian parties. Full of fantastic scenes and every bit the equal of L’avventura and L’eclisse.
La Ronde (1950) – A well-mounted and unique film about couplings in 19th century Paris, and, like all of Ophuls’ work, it has some of the most fluid camerawork one will ever see. Though, while the whole thing is brimming with invention, I’m not convinced it really has all that much to say at the end of the day.
La Roue (1923) – It’s amazing this downer of a movie is not more depressing, but I think this is largely due to the fact that it never plays the sorrows of its characters for simple pathos. I can’t think of many other early silent films that were this far ahead of their time (though Birth of a Nation and Nosferatu come to mind): not only is Gance’s use of setting unequivocally brilliant, his editing is the missing link between the work of Griffith and the Russian masters like Eisenstein and Pudovkin.
The Lady Eve (1941) – Henry Fonda’s near halfwit goes up against Barbara Stanwyk’s grifter and gets pwned over and over again for the length of the film. Probably Sturges’ best film (which, obviously, is saying a lot); the script positively crackles with energy.
The Lady From Shanghai (1947) – A rather flawed film (and I’m not just talking about the blond hair and that accent) that makes you think it might just be a masterpiece anyway. It is full of lots of great weirdness and a few of Welles’ best set pieces (including the jaw dropping fun house finale!)
The Lady from Shanghai (1947) – This very strange Orson Welles film is not quite a masterpiece, but still has plenty of things to recommend it. Several fine set pieces (the courtroom and funhouse scenes being my favorites), a storyline full of bizarre characters, and plenty of twists and turns all make sure you never get bored.
The Lady in Cement (1968) – About as good as the first Tony Rome movie, which is to say, actually rather entertaining. Despite a slight undercurrent of homophobia, it was a nice laid back swinging sixties style private eye movie with Sinatra proving a master of cracking wise and Hoss from Bonanza providing some amusement as well.
The Lady Vanishes (1938) – Fantastic early Hitchcock, probably second only to The Thirty Nine Steps out of his British work. The story pushes plausibility at times (even though it all adds up at the end), but it’s never less than a rip roaring good time as Hitchcock effortlessly weaves together his brilliant set pieces and scintillating dialog.
The Ladykillers (2004) – Funnier than I expected it to be, I’d say the Coen Brothers overall do a fine job putting their own spin on this story. And, for connoisseurs of renaissance music and bathroom humor (like myself), this also has the best Sacbut joke I’ve ever heard!
The Lamp (1959) – Simple and somewhat impenetrable short film from Roman Polanski, this is, if nothing else, quite beautifully filmed. I actually think it worked better than some of his other short films whose surreality seems a bit more forced.
The Land Before Time (1986) – Great animation and a semi-serious script pushes this one forward a few steps when compared to similar movies. Still, what’s with all these kids movies starting out by brutally killing the protagonist’s parents?
The Land Before Time (1988) – Even though it has a cheap (and cutesy) look, the animation is decent, and, thankfully, it is from a time before animated movies had to be full of hip jokes for the parents. Passably entertaining despite all the shrill screaming from that baby triceratops.
The Last Boyscout (1991) – I remember the few boys in my 6th grade class that saw this when it came out did nothing but talk about how awesome it was. As an adult, I have just enough 11 year old still in me to still somewhat enjoy it, but it is still pretty fucking juvenile…and rather mean spirited too.
The Last Command (1928) – Another of Sternberg’s silent masterpieces of light, shadow and emotional manipulation, this is the usual “torture Jannings into a nervous breakdown” story. Unusually political for Sternberg too, as it carries a rather strong underlying anti-communism message.
The Last Frontier (1955) – Strange take on the Fort Apache theme that is helped by Victor Mature being a bizarrely interesting performer. Nothing really remarkable about the movie but it is oddly compelling anyway.
Last Holiday (2006) – Latifah is her usual charming self in this bit of wish fulfillment fluff. Predictable, but competently made, which is about all I really demand out of a movie like this (along with a likable lead of course).
Last Man Standing (1996) – I’ve always been a little iffy about remakes that add nothing except a setting change to the original, so this feels even more “been there, done that” than usual for a genre movie. Still, Hill and Willis know what they are doing, and there are enough ridiculous gunfights to keep you at least entertained for most of the film.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992) – Pretty epic old school romance/adventure with nice performances, soundtrack and photography. The action scenes were particularly well done with some great large-scale battles and smaller skirmishes.
The Last Stand (2013) – As routine action movies go, I guess this is ok, and Arnold proves that there still isn’t anyone who one can deliver a forced one-liner and make it sound almost natural like he can. I remain less enthusiastic about the odd supporting characters like Johnnie Knoxville’s brain damage victim that acts like the comic relief from a samurai movie.
The Last Sunset (1961) – Excellent western with a top notch cast, some excellent cinematography, and plenty of bizarre melodrama. While the cattle drive sequences don’t quite match the immensity of Red River‘s sequences, there is still more than enough here to delight those who appreciate quality westerns.
Laugh Clown Laugh (1928) – Despite the creepy premise (Lon Chaney falls in love with his foundling “daughter” when she grows up), this is a pretty great silent film. The central irony of a sad clown might be obvious, but Chaney’s performance actually makes it quite powerful.
Laws of Attraction (2004) – The strange screwball atmosphere and wandering script are ultimately rather off-putting despite some nice bits. Still, Moore and Brosnan are quite good and there are some amusing supporting performances from Posey and Sheen.
Le Boucher (1970) – Masterfully constructed “serial killer movie that isn’t a serial killer movie” that displays a surprising warmth from Chabrol. The focus is on the relationship of the two main characters, and even Rohmer couldn’t have done it better (well, maybe he could, but it would be close).
Le Deuxième Souffle (1966) – Another brilliant Melville portrait of a doomed gangster. Nihilistic, stylish, superbly crafted and all together brilliant: proof the French can be pretty hardcore when they want to be.
Le Jour se Leve (1939) – A murder is committed and then the murderer flashes back to how it all happened as the noose of cops surrounds his apartment. Pretty depressingly fatalistic stuff, and if I’m going to have to have “depressingly fatalistic” I’d prefer the heist films this movie influenced rather than the more street level crime depicted here.
Le Samourai (1967) – A truly unique film, this pushes Melville’s obsession with the rituals of gangsters to an almost abstract level. Every action and routine is recorded in minute, almost wordless, detail to create a true masterpiece of methodical professionalism (both from the main character and the director himself).
League of Gentlemen (1960) – One of the great heist films, and a nice bridge between the bleak nihilistic fare of the 50s and the more lighthearted farces of the 60s. The two heist set pieces are superb, and, most importantly, the comedy bits are played straight which helps sell the whole thing much more realistically.
Leap Year (2010) – Since this isn’t even as good as New in Town, I won’t even begin to compare it to I Know Where I’m Going, the film it is loosely remaking. The formula isn’t the problem (I wanted to bail on the beginning and end, but the main road trip works well enough) and the leads are fine, so I guess the real problem is that the whole thing is just so bland and patronizing.
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde (2003) – Like Miss Congeniality 2, this recycles the plot from the original, brings in Regina King for some color and has the undeniable screen presence of the lead as its only saving grace. Unfortunately, this film is a lot more fucking stupid and preachy than Miss Congeniality 2, so I’m afraid it comes in second in the “shitty sequels to marginally decent movies” contest.
Legally Blonde (2001) – A bit too silly and obvious to really recommend it, but Witherspoon is impressive as she single handedly keeps the whole film together. I can’t really say this is exactly a big win for feminism either since pretty much every intellectual victory for the main character involves her knowledge of hair or shoes.
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) – A strange combination of Shaw brothers’ kung fu and Hammer horror, this actually works pretty well. I wasn’t much impressed with the martial arts battles, but the film is fun enough.
Legion (2010) – This movie about Paul Bettany as a gun toting martial artist Archangel who fights a horde demonic angels sent by God to destroy humanity is just as bad-ass and fucking stupid as it sounds. After being assaulted by unending nighttime gunfights, implausible exposition, dudes crying, angel fights, and Bettany’s undeniable charisma I was unsure to what extent I had just wasted 90 minutes of my life…and that is probably as high as my praise for this film can go.
The Lego Movie (2014) – Legos are such a culturally embedded property that this latest kid/teen/adult cartoon was bound to feel even more “written by committee” than usual. Scattered nice moments, cool animation, but in the end, it is just another collection of cheap pop culture references and scattered zingers that every one of these animated films has been since Toy Story.
The Leopard (1963) – This is undoubtedly a masterpiece, but this kind of historical epic stuff really struggles to hold my attention no matter how well it is made. Still, there is no denying the brilliance of the performances (Lancaster especially), the set design, the direction, and Claudia Cardinale.
Les Diaboliques (1955) – Going for more of a suspense slow burn (compared to Wages of Fear’s testicle roasting bonfire), this is a great Hitchcockian mystery. The over the top misanthropy of Clouzot’s films can leave a sour taste in the mouth post viewing, but his films are undeniably effective.
Les Escargots (1965) – Pretty wild bit of 60s French animation that never loses its ability to surprise. Some of the segments don’t seem as entertaining as others, but it is still consistently inventive throughout.
Les Miserables (2012) – Filmed with some style, it is almost enough to counteract the annoying way everyone talk-sings their lines. Also, I’ve heard the score for this is great, but after listening through it I must say that such reports were greatly exaggerated.
Les Vampires (1915) – 6.66 hour 10 part serial from way back, this is neither quite as boring nor as exciting as you may have heard. There are a lot of cool ideas and stunts but the whole thing is pretty long winded so I’d call it a wash…still probably only Griffith could beat filmmaking of this caliber in 1915.
Let Me In (2010) – The cinematography and atmosphere are really stunning in this brilliant story of vampire love and subconscious manipulation. It is just as good, if not better than the original, but having been remade so soon after the Swedish version it feels a bit redundant nonetheless.
Let the Right One In (2008) – A great vampire film that goes beyond the usual vampire themes to explore the duality between the human need for companionship and the subconscious desire toward selfish manipulation. The Vampire in this film, as a beast in human clothing (one of the most important tenets of the vampire genre in my opinion), has never presented a darker mirror into our own human psyches.
Let the Right One In (2008) – A masterfully made, sweet story that provides all the primal delights of Twilight without shying from the horrific implications of its central relationship. The child actors are amazing, the gore restrained and the storytelling superb–you’ll never feel so comfortable rooting for such a monster.
Let Us Be Gay (1930) – Pretty strange relationship drama about a woman out to show her ex-husband she is better off without his cheating (and mediocre acting ability) ass. Unfortunately, the ending goes right where you expect it to, which, was a real bummer.
The Letter (1940) – Davis and Wyler do what they do best in this gem from the good ol’ days. It’s just too bad they end it the way they do, it would have been a lot more powerful had they taken a different approach.
Libeled Lady (1936) – At first glance it’s easy to write this one off as a minor screwball comedy, until you realize just how effortlessly the perfect cast makes this thing run. Also, it’s odd how “man who doesn’t know how to fish must pretend he does” is a non-unique plot point for classic Hollywood.
Life of an American Fireman (1903) – Supposedly the first American narrative film, this is a fascinating document of the time before crosscutting (or at least before it was a commonly used film tool). A scene of a fire is shown from inside a house and then the same scene is shown from outside the house–you can almost feel the idea of cutting between the two scenes flitting just beyond the edge of Porter’s consciousness as he experiments with a new art form.
The Life of Brian (1979) – Hilarious romp through the time of Jesus, this is easily one of Monty Python’s best films. Honestly, if this were also set in medieval times, I’d probably even like it better than Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The Life of Emile Zola (1937) – Heavy handed biopic about a self-righteous champion of the people and a trial he underwent to make himself feel good about himself. Well made, but still just Oscar-bait bullshit at the end of the day.
Life of Pi (2012) – Bullshit movie where the most sycophantically cloying interviewer in the world questions the grown-up protagonist about his bullshit religious propaganda story, that, in the bullshit ending, is supposed to make you believe a bunch of bullshit. At least the lifeboat scenes are pretty.
Life or Something Like It (2002) – Jolie tries to struggle through this contrived mess on the strength of her bizarre beauty alone, and unfortunately doesn’t quite make it. Besides, any story that depends on magic to set up the plot is already on thin ice in my book, thus there is no way a film this weak could have possibly worked anyway.
Lifeboat (1944) – Excellent Hitchcock study of the group dynamic of a lifeboat full of shipwreck survivors and their Nazi prisoner/companion. It goes without saying that the master easily overcomes any possible obstacles in making a single set movie.
Like Water for Elephants (2011) – Fairly standard Rom-dram, with the Twilight guy seeming a little lost, but Witherspoon holding everything together admirably. The villainy of the bad guy is a bit over the top, but overall this pushes enough of the basic buttons for this type of movie to be a good time anyway.
Limits of Control (2009) – I’ll admit I probably didn’t get everything Jarmusch is going for here, but, even with that in mind, the narrative still feels rather thin. There is some magnificent camerawork, and the film really does have a very nice dreamlike quality, I’m just not sure it needs two hours to get its point across.
Lincoln (2012) – DDL is, as you may have guessed, quite brilliant, and the central story of the political battle to pass the 13th amendment is actually pretty entertaining. Still, I have to admit, I find the hero worship and constant speeches a little suspect, with more than bit of the reek of right wing totalitarian apologism.
The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (1998) – I only watched The Lion King for the first time a couple years ago and remember liking it. This made me question my memory as the juvenile plotting and antics completely justify its straight to video status.
The Lion King (1994) – This still has songs you will want to fast forward through (or maybe it was just me) and a few too many juvenile comedic asides, but overall I really can’t find anything to complain about. The beautiful animation, strong story, and particularly well done villain all help things immensely.
Little Caeser (1931) – Great early talky that creates the foundation for all the gangster films to follow. Edward G. Robinson is brilliant as the amoral sociopath in this film that holds up well despite some shaky pacing.
The Little Foxes (1941) – Really pretty great film about the cynical machinations of a family of leeches in the old South. The icing on the cake is Bette Davis proving once again that no one can play a better bitch than her.
The Little Prince (1974) – I want to give this more credit for trying to pull off such a daring production, but I don’t think any of it actually “works”. Sadly, after finally getting all the way through it, I’m pretty sure that in the years to come I’ll only remember this one as a long interminable mess with shitty songs.
Live and Let Die (1973) – Moore takes over the role of Bond and heads to Harlem and then the Louisiana bayou. This isn’t as bad as I remembered it, but the wacky boat chases and voodoo shenanigans definitely let you know that the Moore years are going to be more You Only Live Twice than From Russia With Love.
The Lives of Others (2006) – Though it has a cruel exterior there is a sweet heart to this well-made tale of redemption. The real trick for a film like this is to find a good middle ground between the two, and I feel like this one mostly does.
Loan Shark (1952) – An aging George Raft, proving a bit wooden to carry a picture by himself, goes undercover to take out a gang of…LOAN SHARKS. Not horrible, but the premise is pretty full of holes and not terribly compelling.
Lockout (2012) – Never quite manages to live up to its premise as there somehow aren’t really any memorable set pieces in a movie set on a fucking space station full of psychotic criminals. Still, Pearce’s wisecracking hero is enjoyable enough to make the whole thing rather watchable anyway.
Lone Survivor (2014) – I feel like calling this jingoistic and manipulative is like calling a rom-com forumulaic–ie, it is a lazy and unfair way to review it. However, despite a few tense action sequences, most of the rest is far too unbelievable (and eye rollingly jingoistic and manipulative) to really recommend.
The Long Goodbye (1973) – Though set in the modern day and featuring the bizarre choice of Elliot Gould as Philip Marlowe, this may be the most pure expression of what a private eye film should be. A masterpiece despite the single flaw of the totally out of character final scene.
The Long Voyage Home (1940) – That opening scene is so gloriously, and artfully shot that I thought I was about to watch a masterpiece that had slipped under my radar all these years. Unfortunately, Greg Toland’s cinematography is the only thing that I can really recommend about this inconsequential and episodic film, not even the spectacle of John Wayne playing a retarded Swede is enough to elevate this beyond ho-hum status.
Looper (2012) – Pretty slick (in an entertaining way) Sci-Fi time travel flick that has enough interesting stuff to maintain interest. Still, I can’t help feeling like it is a bit too impressed with its own time travel shenanigans for its own good.
The Lorax (2012) – The usual cartoon bullshit full of wink wink jokes, simplistic message and over the top characterization. The five year old I was with apparently liked it, but I was having none of it.
Lord of the Flies (1963) – I can’t imagine any other adaptation of the book being able to equal this harrowingly realistic version. The director apparently just let his kids act on instinct and it shows in the performances (which are actually quite good despite what you might have heard).
The Lord of the Rings (1978) – This condenses the first two books into a run time that is less than a third of the first two Peter Jackson films, and is, honestly, probably a tighter narrative. The low budget shows through in many places, but really only adds to the charm.
The Losers (2010) – Finally, an action movie that takes itself seriously enough, but not too seriously–with strong leads and reasonably tight direction to boot. You wouldn’t think it would be too hard to make a “good” big dumb action movie, but apparently it is because it’s been a while since I’ve seen one this entertaining.
The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1975) – An at times overly obvious condemnation of the press’s ability to destroy lives, the direction and central performance make this really compelling stuff anyway. This feels much less precious than the more famous The Tin Drum.
Lost in Translation (2003) – It might seem like the sillier stuff (like Bill Murray on a runaway elliptical machine) is a bit much, but those scenes quickly blend into the sweet framework of the story and manage to fit as well as every other part of this stunning film. Each frame resonates with the loneliness of being a stranger in a strange land coupled with the melancholic happiness of finding one’s soul mate 30 years too late.
The Lost Weekend (1945) – Wilder doesn’t make bad movies and while this was no exception, the “social conscience” elements and implausible ending are enough to turn me off of it. I mostly have issues with the general heavy-handedness of its depiction of alcoholism–which I realize isn’t entirely fair as there really weren’t any portraits of alcoholism before this so it probably had to be “laid on a bit thick” to get the message across (which is part of my problem with “social conscience films” in the first place).
Louis C. K.: Oh My God (2013) – Louis is a very clever guy, and I know he’s capable of brilliant work, but this really only seems to hit home about half the time. Not to say this isn’t any good, but I’ve seen guest appearances from him on talk shows that are more consistently funny.
Louisiana Story (1948) – Flaherty has always walked a fine line between documentary and fiction and here, in his last film, he at least calls it what it is: a fictional documentary. Magnificent photography, the refreshing lack of a message about the encroachment of industry, and the insightful glimpse into a child’s world all make this one of his best films.
Love and Death (1975) – This is one of the better ones as far as early Woody Allen comedies go. It starts to lag towards the end, but over all there is plenty to make one giggle here.
Love and Other Drugs (2010) – Don’t get tricked into thinking this is a romantic comedy with a brain, it takes a severe lack of intelligence to try to cram three different films into one script this crudely. At every turn the tone jarringly shifts or a completely unnecessary character (the brother?) pops up–I will at least admit that Hathaway has a fine rack.
Love Me Tonight (1932) – As fine of an early Hollywood sound film as I have ever seen, this is an unparalleled display of cinematic creativity. Add in the impossibly adorable Chevalier and a great supporting cast and you have an all-time classic on your hands.
Love Me Tonight (1932) – One of the great musicals, this movie has enough invention and creativity for ten movies. The songs will stick with you long after it’s over, the cast is uniformly great and Chevalier is more adorable than he had any right to be.
Love Me Tonight (1932) – One of the most perfect musicals ever made, thanks largely to Mamoulian’s scintillating direction and the very clever script (not to mention the uncommonly catchy songs). The two leads are quite adorable too (despite rumors that they hated each other in real life).
The Love Nest (1923) – Not one of Keaton’s all-time best shorts, but gag for gag this one is still quite memorable. The ending especially makes you appreciate Buster’s genius.
Love on the Run (1936) – Pretty shitty take on the It Happened One Night premise only with none of the magic and charm. Gable and Crawford wander around Europe from one ill-conceived set piece to another while the viewer wonders how long until it’s over.
Love Potion #9 (1992) – The lazy screenplay is unfortunately also pretty light on real laughs as well. However, the main character does date rape an entire sorority house, so maybe it isn’t supposed to be a comedy?
The Lovely Bones (2009) – I suppose this movie never had a chance with me since both “child murder/rape” and “the afterlife” are equally abhorrent subjects in my book. At least a lot of the reviewer’s complaints seemed a bit exaggerated, about the worst I can say about it is that the tone was pretty uneven (not that it isn’t a bit over-indulgent too…but no worse than most big budget movies really).
Lover Come Back (1961) – Classic Day/Hudson vehicle that finds Rock trying to market a product that doesn’t exist and, as usual, tricking Doris into wanting to do him. Also as usual, the only flaw is that he really doesn’t give the viewer much reason to want Doris to like him aside from his excellent comic timing.
Loves of a Blonde (1965) – This movie isn’t as much of an uproarious farce as Fireman’s Ball, but it isn’t trying to be. It is still very funny in its laid back way (with some very well mounted gag sequences)–another great early film from Forman.
The Lucky One (2012) – Zac Effron, even though he seems to have butched up for the role, is ultimately somewhat unconvincing as a taciturn marine of few words. It’s the usual Sparks shit, but this time it thankfully confines the manufactured tragedy into a more conventional romantic storyline which makes things a bit more watchable (unlike the last act of Dear John).
Lucy (2014) – There is some fun to be had in the more stylish set pieces, but overall this is so flagrantly idiotic that it is tough to maintain suspension of disbelief. I’m not sure what else I can say other than “That’s not how brains work, and no amount of copious exposition will convince me otherwise.”
M (1931) – More of a procedural than a real movie (there really isn’t much of a main character), this is the first film that really enabled Lang to move beyond the bloated and overlong silent epics he had been so famous for in the 20s.
Machete (2010) – After the train wreck of a script that was Planet Terror, this at least fulfills the most basic requirements of story and quality that I expect from a big dumb action movie. The dialog is maybe too cute in places and the attempts at political commentary are a bit rich amidst the stereotyping, but overall there is a decent amount of amusement to be had here.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – I left Avengers moderately entertained, then I saw this film and was reminded what a real movie looks like. Awesome in every way, but I especially appreciate how well paced it is–never letting the ridiculously BADASS set pieces overstay their welcome.
Madagascar 2 (2008) – Plotting on these animated movies is always pretty paint by numbers, and this series suffers from it more than normal. Once again, King Julian steals the show in what is otherwise perfectly average filmmaking.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012) – The Madagascar movies are kind of second stringers to the big Pixar stuff, but they are fun enough, and this one might even be the strongest. I just wish I could figure out how the fuck that tiger kept jumping through those rings.
Madagascar (2005) – Standard animated fare with surprisingly little actually happening on Madagascar itself. Ali G’s lemur king is probably the highlight–I can see why the character got a spin-off tv show.
The Magic Clock (1928) – Amazing stop motion animation full of real fairy tale wonder. The narrative is a bit lazy with how it connects its various elements, but that is only a minor complaint about a very major work of animation.
Magic Mike XXL (2015) – Pretty great road movie that has to be one of the more bro-centric films of the last decade while still coming off as, possibly, almost feminist at the same time. My only real complaints are that the “WILD AND CRAZY DUDE-BRO ADVENTURES” the dude-bros get into aren’t really all that crazy, and that the final dance number section is way too long and not all that impressive due to the increasingly high bar set by the Step Up franchise.
Magic Mike (2012) – This was basically what Showgirls could have been with good acting and without the misanthropy. Sleazy and predictable, but well directed and enjoyable, not to mention Mcconaughey in the role that he was born to play.
Magic Mike (2012) – A rom com/drama directed by an art director, and, thanks to the earnest performances, it all actually turns out about as well as something like this can. Plenty of D&A (well, not much dick actually), but this movie has more heart than you might expect based on the trailers.
Magic Mike (2012) – Sure, there’s a lot of skeevy dance sequences, but at its heart this is really just a sweet, expertly made romance film. For all the ups and downs in Soderbergh’s career, this is one of the good ones.
The Magician (1927) – Bizarre animated short that leaves me wanting more. Even aside from the crudity of the animation, the story and gags are not particularly clever.
The Magician (1958) – Very strange early Bergman film about a group of travelling magicians who try to prove that they aren’t charlatans. I’m sure it has something to do with Bergman as “magician,” but I can’t say for sure…overall it ends up just being kind of off-putting.
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) – Beautifully shot, and at every moment it reminds you of the unquestionable genius and creativity of Orson Welles. Which makes it almost as heartbreaking as the story itself when it flies wildly off the rails in the final 20 minutes as the editing (at the hands of the studio attempting to cut 70 minutes from the movie) begins to move like it is at the whim of a two year old intermittently pushing a fast forward button.
Magnificent Obsession (1954) – Really a bit too silly to be in the top tier of Sirk’s movies despite some excellent filmcraft. Still, definitely worth a few viewings for the bravura display of cheesetastic melodrama.
The Magnificent Seven (1960) – Even though the story is as old as they come this one is still a lot of fun, mostly due to the great cast and nice direction. I still don’t know how I feel about straight up remakes like this (especially since I have no problem with adaptations), but that is only a minor complaint about a pretty enjoyable movie.
Maid in Manhattan (2002) – Classic modern rom com that proves J-Lo has the chops to carry a movie without breaking a sweat. I prefer this one to The Wedding Planner mostly because it plays things a bit straighter.
Maid in Manhattan (2002) – Entirely fluff, but I suppose it is moderately enjoyable fluff. Lopez is always an appealing lead, and while nothing super funny happens (not to mention the morally dubious ending), I must admit it is at least a likeable enough film.
Major League (1989) – Pretty enjoyable take on the “team of misfits” sports film genre. Silly at times, but thankfully the characters all land on the entertaining side of over the top.
Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) – For a Hollywood social conscience film this is surprisingly hard-hitting and uncompromising. That it also happens to be so sweet and affecting really helps it pull off the surprising feat of me giving a rave review to a “tearjerker”.
The Makeover (2013) – Sure, I couldn’t tell if the trailer was a parody trailer or not, but thankfully this reverse Pygmallion turns out to be a real movie (if Hallmark made for tv movies can be considered real movies). Julia Stiles’ character is unfortunately kind of unlikable, but otherwise, this is just good old fashioned rom com fun.
The Maltese Falcon (1941) – One of the all-time great directorial debuts (from the legendary John Huston), movies don’t get any better than this. As fine of a private eye film as you will see, complete with a cynical heart of darkness that signaled the approach of film noir a half decade early.
The Maltese Falcon (1941) – This sets the high water mark for every private eye and noir film to follow in its impressive footsteps. Huston makes the direction seem effortless, and Bogart proves why they just don’t make em like they used to with his iconic performance as Sam Spade.
Mama (2013) – Though this is a bit episodic (which tends to undercut the suspense–only so many “it was only a dream” segments before the first confrontation loses its power) and doesn’t really know what to do with the ending, this is still solid multiplex horror fodder. The premise is cool enough, the child actors great, and the jump scares, while cheap, are well executed.
The Man from Laramie (1955) – One of the better Anthony Mann westerns–all of which are highly thought of “revisionist” westerns. Some of the dramatic family stuff seems a bit overblown, but this is still a finely crafted movie that is worth watching.
The Man from the Alamo (1953) – Boetticher is kind of like a more classical Mann; his films are quite psychological without deviating too far from the traditional hero cycle (a good thing in my book). Ford gets himself in quite a reputation pickle, and is then forced to shoot, ride and chase his way out in a string of great action set pieces.
Man of Steel (2013) – This doesn’t really seem all that gritty (aside from Superman’s new-found penchant for collateral damage), rather, it is the same old origin story + small bit of plot development + last half of punching and explosions. Hell, it doesn’t even have one of director Zach Snyder’s signature doggy style sex scenes to liven things up.
Man of the West (1958) – Cooper is looking pretty hoary in this one, but he does a good job portraying a reformed bad man who is helplessly forced back to his old ways. I’d call this one of the better Anthony Mann Westerns, but the plot is so bleak and hopeless that the movie really kind of just ends up leaving a bad taste in your mouth.
Man on a Wire (2008) – I have to give this movie major props for managing to suck me in despite initially having no interest in watching it. I don’t know that I really buy into the conceptual art stuff, but that’s ok because, at its heart, this is really a heist movie with a charismatic lead–and it actually happened!
The Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935) – This would be a pretty minor comedy were the material not so great. Fields is in top henpecked, booze soaked form in a film full of very funny scenes.
Man Push Cart (2005) – Quite well done, this really makes you feel the day to day loneliness and struggle to make ends meet as a foreigner in the biggest city in America. However, I wasn’t completely drawn in for some reason, probably because the indie subject matter held very little interest for me.
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) – The titular “man” is one of the most horrifying assholes ever seen on screen, but you’ll end up wanting to cut him some slack as he indulges the inner misanthrope hiding within us all. Pretty cynical stuff, with a lot of really sparkling dialog and a nice performance from Betty Davis as about the only redeemable character in the whole menagerie.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – Hitchcock is in “ripping good yarn” mode here, and even if we’ve seen it all before, it is still a ripping good yarn that starts slow and builds the tension until the great concert hall climax (after which, the obligatory stair scene seemed lacking). There are also some interesting things going on with the strain placed on Stewart and Day’s marriage, but that aspect is fairly minor when compared to Hitchcock’s best psychological work.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) – I don’t know why people shit on this one so much. It’s pretty dumb and inconsequential, but so are the rest of the Moore years, and this one at least has a cool “mini me” villain that is actually fairly menacing.
The Man with the Movie Camera (1929) – Vertov really pulls out all the stops with this “city symphony” as he runs the gamut from stop motion to slow motion in his chronicle of a day in the life of a Soviet city. The energy on display is enough for ten movies and, impressively, Vertov has the artistic genius to assemble it all into something even greater than its parts.
The Man with the Punch (1920) – Somewhat inconsequential silent western short. The homely lead is pretty charismatic, even if he doesn’t really punch all that many people.
Man’s Favorite Sport (1964) – Classic mid-sixties rom-com with Hudson in top form as a sham fishing expert. Like most late-period Hawks, this is about as laid back and enjoyable as cinema can get.
Man’s Favorite Sport (1964) – Hawks tries his hand at the Day/Hudson style romantic comedy (which are really just screwball variants in the first place) here with masterful results. Lots of great stuff (you even forgive the bear on a motorcycle scene) with more than a few nods to Bringing Up Baby, including (in my only possible complaint) the “just on the wrong side of adorably batty” leading lady.
Man’s Favorite Sport (1964) – Late period Hawks, drawing on elements from his earlier screwball comedies (especially Bringing Up Baby), and showing that the master has lost none of his touch. Hudson is perfect as usual, the direction is effortless, and there are more than enough whacky mishaps to keep any screwball comedy fan thoroughly satisfied.
Management (2008) – A very strange movie considering the protagonist is a brain-dead stalker. Thus it is an impressive feat that it actually feels sweet when it all works out in the end (even if it does take a few too many wandering digressions on the way there).
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) – Nice dreamlike study of a woman who has recently escaped from a cult. The nice photography and strong performances help smooth out some of the more obvious attempts at drawing metaphorical parallels between her old life and her new.
The Martian (2015) – Really fun film that celebrates humanity’s love of solving puzzles. Some of the “rah rah we are all one world” stuff gets laid on a bit thick, but there is no denying the appeal of watching someone science the shit out of a movie.
MASH (1970) – A masterfully done and extremely episodic account of life in a Vietna…Korean war Army hospital. Classic Altman, marred only by the casual undercurrent of extreme misogyny that persists throughout.
The Masquerader (1914) – Great Keystone Chaplin (the most dickish version of Chaplin) film about shenanigans at a film studio with Chaplin wreaking havoc every chance he gets. He even finds a chance to wear lady clothes (the hottest version of Chaplin).
Master and Commander (2003) – Sure, I’ve seen it all plenty of times before, but goddamn if this isn’t one of the most badass high seas adventures yet. The strong sense of realism and detail really helps to deliver the big set piece battles.
The Master (2012) – I don’t think this is as opaque as some have claimed, and even if it is, it is still first rate opaque film making. The performances are spectacular (especially Phoenix), and as a portrait of one damaged man’s search for meaning, it is really quite compelling.
Mata Hari (1931) – Not bad for an early talky though most of the drama is a bit overblown. Barrymore hams it up as usual, Navarro acts like an eight year old with a sex drive, so it is left to the amazing Greta Garbo to elevate the whole thing into something that I’d have to say was ”worth watching”.
The Match Factory Girl (1990) – Working in the realm of Fassbinder (and even Bresson), Kaurismaki amazingly manages to hold his own. I’ve seen fewer things more heart-wrenching in cinema than the girl crying while watching the Marx brothers.
The Matchmaker (1997) – This is a decent rom com, even though it pretty much falls right into all the precious “O’Irish” cliches I’m sure the screenwriter thought he was cleverly sidestepping. Also, Garafolo is a bit too bitchy in this to really be likeable–not that I blame her considering the people she has to interact with.
Mathew Hopkins: Witchfinder General (1968) – Low budget, though the director is so talented you really can’t tell (great score too). It’s just too bad all the cinematic brilliance went into such a vicious, unpleasant movie (a precursor to the current torture porn movement of modern horror).
The Matrimaniac (1916) – Not as funny as the usual silent comedies, nor as exciting as the best Harold Lloyd chase scenes, but still pretty damn entertaining. Fairbanks does his usual “climb everything in sight” routine, and the movie really doesn’t slow down once–a lot of fun.
Matrimony’s Speed Limit (1913) – Guy Blanche’s version of Seven Chances. There are some decent jokes and overall it is pretty sophisticated for its time.
A Matter of Life and Death (1946) – Classic P&P story of love, heaven, and everything in between. The script especially shines–expertly balancing a complicated plot with a whole bunch of heaven stuff that, somehow, never once feels preachy.
McLuhan’s Wake (2002) – Decent documentary about Marshall McLuhan that comes off as a bit static and dated. Still, I guess it has just enough information about him that the viewer will come away knowing a bit more than “he’s that guy from Annie Hall.”
Me and My Gal (1932) – A truly unique gem from Raoul Walsh, this film really takes some chances and features scenes that were not to be seen again in film for decades afterwards (including the Annie Hall style voice overs and what was possibly the first true “heist” scene). I don’t have to tell you the direction is snappy (considering Walsh’s track record), but the script proves itself to be no slouch either…a shame this one isn’t easier to get a hold of.
Mean Girls (2004) – The clever script and spirited performance from Lohan mostly back up this film’s reputation as one of the classic teen comedies. Maybe it’s not quite as deep as it wants to be, but that’s fine, it’s still pretty damn funny.
Melancholia (2011) – Both sections of this two part (a wedding and then a small group of people coping with the end of the world) film are equally brilliant in their own way. Though a few parts wander dangerously close to pretension, as “art” films go, this is a much more coherent film than Tree of Life (the truly cinematic ending is especially brilliant).
Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival (1997) – A lot of great performances (who knew Emmerson Lake and Palmer would be the highlight?) in the last of the hippy music documentaries. And, the side story of that strange time in the past where people were still shocked that the would have to pay for concerts is as compelling as the music.
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004) – Pretty hilarious look at Metallica hiring a therapist so the band can talk about their feelings while recording their soulless new album. Highlight is Dave Mustaine crying about being #2 and telling Lars he misses his little Danish friend while James is in rehab and Kirk is off using bits and pieces of whatever Eastern philosophies that drift through his transom.
Midnight in Paris (2011) – Woody sure seems to be using the “Magic!” plot device a lot lately, but this one works pretty well really. Owen Wilson makes a surprisingly effective Allen surrogate in what I could call “one of Woody’s better ones of the last decade or so” (which, granted, is faint praise).
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982) – Woody is in nostalgic mode, but keeps the sap to a minimum here thankfully. This really does create an excellent midsummer atmosphere that captures the feel of the movies he is trying to emulate perfectly.
Mildred Pierce (1945) – Curtiz really knows how to move his camera and Joan Crawford is pretty great in this strange tale that veers in tone from noir to melodrama (and back). I want to say it is all a bit overblown that that wouldn’t do justice to how bizarrely entertaining everything is.
Minions (2015) – The emphasis on simple sight gags works pretty well in this slapsticky children’s movie. Unfortunately, the mundane plot, as usual, periodically feels the need to assert itself to disappointing effect.
Minority Report (2002) – There are some cool bits of future gadgetry to be found, but ultimately this is just one long chase movie hiding inside a very fancy suit. Also, Tom Cruise’s face just really makes you want to punch it for most of this film.
The Misfits (1961) – Marilyn (in her last film) is in top form in this bizarre story of her meeting up with some no-hopers trying to hang on to the long gone past. The final horse-catching sequence is especially fine cinema.
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous (2005) – Moving the formula into “buddy cop” territory, this film is let down by a weak performance from the “buddy cop” and a rambling script. Bullock still keeps you interested, but just barely.
Miss Congeniality (2000) – This is the standard “fish out of water” story, but it is competently done and owes no small part of its success to Bullock’s usual strong screen presence. You won’t catch yourself laughing all that much, but it consistently entertains anyway.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) – The usual heist film full of ridiculously convoluted heist machinations. That said, the set pieces are better than most, and really pretty fun to watch.
Mister Lonely (2007) – Harmony Korine has always walked a thin line between brilliant and shite, and am afraid he may have fallen over into the brown side with this one. Herzog’s scenes feel gratuitous, the story holds little interest, the good scenes are outweighed by far too many scenes that are trying way too hard: in short, Korine’s attempt at a more straight ahead narrative is pretty much a pretentious mess.
Modeling (1921) – Entertaining short film about a clown that comes to life in an artist’s drawing. Nice animation, and the interactions with a lump of clay are fun too.
Modern Times (1936) – It might be full of that pathos that always annoys me about Chaplin, but at least it is tempered with a bit of bleak realism this time. Really a brilliant, inventive film, and a fitting swan song for silent comedy.
Mon Oncle (1958) – Not quite as funny as the previous film Mr. Hulot’s Holiday and not quite as completely infused with abstract intricate sight gags as the subsequent film Playtime, Mon Oncle still holds up quite well on its own as a mixture of the two. Though he’s working in the realm of the silent comedians, Tati is well on his way to taking their style to its intellectual extreme, in this, another of his masterpieces.
The Money Pit (1986) – The premise is pretty obvious (and none too clever) but it handles the destruction with an adept touch making the whole thing pretty damn enjoyable despite my best efforts to roll my eyes. There are also some nice bizarre touches with the supporting cast to further distinguish this film from the 1980s comedy chaff.
Moneyball (2011) – I could give a shit about baseball, but this actually managed to draw me in and make me interested in what could have been a very dry story. Though, I wonder why they (according to the internet) made up Jonah Hill’s character, since it ends up looking like Brad Pitt’s character steals all the dude’s ideas.
Monkey Business (1931) – Quite a few classic bits as the Marx brothers are turned loose on a passenger ship, but this still isn’t up there with their best work. Groucho’s lines are as sharp as they get, Harpo is as feral as he gets, Chico’s puns are as groanworthy as they get, and Zeppo is as superfluous as he gets.
Monkey Business (1952) – Fountain of youth screwball comedy is great fun as Grant and Rogers run around acting like teenagers. And, Monroe proves she had it from the beginning as she steals just about every scene she’s in.
Monsieur Verdoux (1947) – I am assuming Chaplin made this black comedy in a fit of post-war cynicism, because his celebrated pathos is mercifully minimized–which is only one of many reasons I find this to be quite a fine film. It is also interesting to compare this to American Psycho as I felt this has much more to say with its “plastic ladykiller” premise.
Monster High – Ghoul’s Rule (2012) – Abbey gets to use a fair amount of her ice powers, proving that she is no Frozen clone in this decent Monster High outing that predates Frozen by a year. Story isn’t bad, though the bad girl’s face turn was more than a little unbelievable and convenient.
Monster High – Haunted (2015) – This latest Monster High movie suffers a bit from trying to shoehorn a way too convoluted back story around the villain. Still, there is a lot of Clawdeen action, so, it is fun enough.
Monster High: Boo York, Boo York (2015) – The script takes quite a while to find its footing with all the plot machinations and requisite introductions of the new Monster High merchandise. However, once it finally gets all its pieces in order, it moves along pretty well, and the songs are actually pretty good for C-level pop clones.
Monster High: Freaky Fusion (2014) – Toralei is up to her usual tricks, which, through a long series of mishaps, transports the monsters back in time and back again causing body mixing/new doll tie-in shenanigans in the process. The “hybrids” get a small amount of screen time, but overall there feels like a few too many things going on at the same time to really gel in this one.
Monster High: Friday Night Frights (2013) – The girls prove that the school’s rollerblading team doesn’t have to be just guys as they take over to win Monster High’s “spirit trophy” back. Plotwise, this leaves a lot to be desired, but at least some of the training stuff is fun.
Monster High: Haunted (2015) – Definitely sticks to the formula (right down to the ghost powers training scene), but it’s still one of the better ones. All that stuff with the chains might not make a whole lot of sense, but it hardly matters in a movie like this.
Monster High: Scaris, City of Frights (2012) – Nice to see my ghoul Claudia getting some time in the spotlight, and her winning personality carries a somewhat straight-forward and boring Monster High outing. The post-film mini-adventure is a good deal more entertaining and creative as the girls take the long way home.
Monsters University (2013) – I know people go crazy for these animated movies, but they all seem to have plots so formulaic that they amount to little more than a typical episode of a typical tv program. Of course, I also watch a lot of TV, so maybe that’s not even that much of a complaint.
Monte Cristo (1922) – Pretty sluggish version of the Count of Monte Cristo. Nothing in particular is poorly done, but you will still find yourself waiting for it to be over long before the third act.
Monterey Pop (1968) – Fantastic music film that captures more immortal performances than just about any other movie of this type has ever done. I might have liked to have seen a few more interviews with the hippies (ala Woodstock), but I have a feeling that focusing on the music is the right choice for this one.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – Crammed full of more clever jokes than possibly any movie ever, this also happens to be quite a triumph of low budget production design. Atmospheric, hilarious, and more than a little silly, it hardly matters that the plot is little more than a series of barely connected skits.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – It really is just a scattered collection of skits and nonsensical jokes. However, the production design, and genuinely medieval atmosphere unites the film into a completely coherent whole that turns it into almost as brilliant a piece of filmmaking as it is funny.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – Maybe it is the strength of the child leads (or maybe Anderson’s affected dialog and performances work better with young subjects) but ends up rather delightful as twee Anderson outings go. Beautiful locations, funny and genuinely moving moments, and a script that manages to only sort of go off the rails in the final act make this possibly one of my favorite Wes Anderson films (which, for me, isn’t really saying that much I suppose).
Moonstruck (1987) – Cher’s performance and a script populated with unique characters elevate this above your usual romantic comedy fare. I’m not entirely sure that Cage hamming it up is entirely successful, but I suppose it does add to the general environment of “unusual” characters.
The Moony Mariner (1927) – No great film, but amusing enough. The “hero” is an odd fellow even by silent comedy standards, which lends the film a great deal of its interest.
Morning Glory (2010) – I was on board for the by the numbers premise, and the leads had potential, so I was surprised by how much I hated this one. The main culprit is the treacly script that insults your intelligence at every turn (along with the dubious message that bullshit morning shows have something worthwhile to say).
Morocco (1930) – As is typical of Sternberg, this is a visually stunning film (nobody has matched his mastery of lighting to this day) with a very slight story. Also, as is typical of Sternberg, it is a masterpiece of cinema full of sexual power games between the leads.
Mother (1926) – Not quite as polished as The End of Saint Petersburg, but with plenty of striking scenes nonetheless. I like how Pudovkin’s narratives always rise above their propagandistic roots and are capable of sustaining interest on their own–something his peers are not quite as successful at.
Move Over, Darling (1963) – The set up and premise seem a little forced…or at the very least in poor taste for a wacky comedy. However, when the second half’s full on screwball war starts, things definitely pick up.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) – There are some interesting social interactions in this film, but it is still a screwball comedy at heart. And, as such, it is unfortunately quite painfully unfunny and doesn’t hold a candle to something like The Awful Truth.
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) – Cooper leaves his simple town life to run with the rich folk and teach them a few good old-fashioned lessons about what it is to be a hardworking, head thumping, honest American. Quite enjoyable, though, while this isn’t nearly as preachy as Meet John Doe, it definitely pushes it.
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953) – Even though it doesn’t quite approach the brilliant heights of Playtime, this is still probably the funniest of Tati’s films. Still, as usual, the gags will more often leave you appreciatively nodding your head at how clever they are rather than actually laughing.
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953) – If there was ever a quintessential movie about going on holiday in Europe, this is it (and there is some stiff competition out there!) Not exactly funny in the usual way, but undoubtedly brilliant nonetheless.
Mud (2012) – Unassuming Mark Twain type story that actually seems to have some smart things to say about love, heroes, honesty, and moving on. Mcconaughey and the child actors are great in this refreshingly pretension-free film.
Mulan (1998) – For a “big Disney movie”, this seems especially juvenile and lazy with some fairly unimpressive animation. Also, I really doubt anyone appreciates it when they go into those song and dance numbers.
Murder, My Sweet (1944) – Straight arrow Powell roughened up just enough since his song and dance days to play a pretty convincing Marlow in this very creative and well done private eye movie. It’s not just one of the good private eye films; it’s one of the great private eye films.
Music and Lyrics (2007) – You’ve seen Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore play these roles before, but the above average script (full of plenty of clever one liners) kicks this into the “one of the good ones” rank. The opening “Pop Goes My Heart” music video is particularly great.
Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) – One of the all-time great Griffith shorts that was light years ahead of its contemporaries. It’s always amazing to watch the birth of narrative cinema take place before your very eyes.
Must Love Dogs (2005) – The script is a little too impressed with its own dialog for my tastes, but luckily Cusack is there to rise above the smarm and hold everything together. Not that Diane Lane is completely without her own charms of course.
Mutiny on the bounty (1935) – You have to suffer through Laughton (magnificently) portraying an evil douche the whole movie and then what happens when they finally get to the titular mutiny? …they don’t even fuck him up! Despite that, and a far too simple message at the end, this is a fine film helped immensely by the performances and obvious big budget.
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) – The leading man is totally bland, Julia Roberts is pretty unlikeable, and the whole thing is a bit too mean spirited to really be much fun. I suppose Cameron Diaz should get some props for being such a likeable screen presence that she makes you root for her even though I don’t think that is the filmmaker’s intention.
My Brother’s Wedding (1983) – Not the masterpiece that Killer of Sheep is (the amateur performances are more obvious here), this is still completely engrossing. The director really has a way with his visuals, and you will find yourself drawn in despite your best efforts if you stick with it.
My Darling Clementine (1946) – Perhaps the purest and most poetic expression of what the mythological American West was all about. This may well be John Ford’s best Western, which is superlative praise to say the least.
My Darling Clementine (1946) – Superlative Ford film that doesn’t put a single foot wrong. It is episodic, doesn’t care a whit for historical accuracy and is easily the best of the many versions of the OK Corral out there.
My Fair Lady (1964) – At least with Pygmalion there seems to be more of a commentary on a world where a fairly irredeemable dick like professor Henry Higgins can get the girl. All My Fair Lady seems to have to say is that sometimes women just need to fetch the slippers and like it.
My Left Foot (1989) – DDL knocks it out of the park as usual, but you know my thoughts on biopics: they are almost always too constrained by the story they are trying to tell to really feel alive. And this one, the facial cramp inducing performance aside, is no different.
My Little Pony: The Movie (1986) – Honestly, not the worst bit of toy advertising I’ve ever seen. Most of it is fairly risible, but the ooze stuff that is taking over pony-land is kind of cool.
My Little Pony: Rescue at Midnight Castle (1984) – Surprisingly metal as far as pink baby pony cartoons go–the rather dark atmosphere that lurks at the edges of this tv movie is quite impressive. As a side note, I noticed that some of the ponies have vastly superior powers and abilities than the other ponies, which doesn’t seem quite fair.
My Week With Marilyn (2011) – Williams actually does an excellent job, even if the normally beautiful actress seems a bit fugly throughout this movie due to being subjected to a constant comparison with Monroe in the viewer’s mind. Otherwise, the rest of this is a pretty forgettable story of a good-natured young dude that, twist, ends up having a thing for Marilyn Monroe.
The Naked City (1948) – The focus on realism is a bad fit for the somewhat stilted “wise old lieutenant” and “eager rookie” duo of this police procedural. Still, I gotta admit that the “naked city” looks pretty good…and it’s not like it isn’t a well-crafted bit of cinema to boot.
The Naked Prey (1966) – Fantastic, almost wordless film that will almost make you feel the exhaustion of its protagonist. The landscape and animal photography, excellent soundtrack, and physicality of the leads all add up to create a quite brilliant suspense film.
Nanook of the North (1922) – Fascinating early documentary of a people from a far off cold place. My only complaint is that I feel the purpose of the film is undercut a bit by the obvious fabrications leaving me unsure as to what to accept as truth.
The Narrow Trail (1917) – This William S. Hart vehicle is all right, though it mostly suffers from too many long stretches of inactivity. Still, the location shooting is always nice on these early westerns.
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007) – This film is a complete retread of the first one, with all the same leaps in logic and implausibilities. Still, I was half hoping for a retread anyway–and, shared deficiencies with the first aside, this still provides enough of a quick Indiana Jones fix that I wouldn’t even mind hearing they were making a National Treasure 3 (who am I kidding, I’d love that news!)
National Treasure (2004) – Sure it is a ridiculous premise and the story is full of eye rolling plot holes, but this film is also a whole heck of a lot of fun. Maybe I’m just a sucker for Indiana Jones rip-offs (see: Sahara), but hell, I’m even kind of hyped to watch National Treasure 2 now.
The Navigator (1924) – Buster gets ahold of an entire ocean liner and no gag is left unexplored. This is every bit as brilliant as his best work, which is to say, it’s yet another Keaton masterpiece.
Neighbors (1952) – “Classic” experimental stop motion short film about two neighbors making a very heavy-handed statement about how, like, war is bad. The animation is cool and all, but the ultra-simplistic and obvious message kind of kills the whole project.
Never Been Kissed (1999) – Barrymore overplays the klutzy dweeb bit, and the love interest turns out to be a creepy dude who the movie tries way too hard to present as Mister Awesome. I was hoping for a cute rom com, but didn’t find much at all to recommend in this one.
Never Let Me Go (2010) – The film’s biggest strength is its fascinating (though potentially plausibility-pushing) premise, one that is utilized to the utmost. Which is not to discount the other strengths of the film, there are scattered scenes of great emotional impact among the more standard elements.
New in Town (2009) – As formulaic fluff films go this is lazy enough that it just barely eeks its way into “still entertaining” territory. Also (and I still think she’s pretty hot), what is wrong with Renee Zellweger’s face?
The New World (2005) – A complet success both as a portrayal of the wonders of discovery in a new world and as a love story. If the narrative lacks focus (and I’m not convinced this is the case) it is a minor quibble since “the narrative” is hardly what this film is about.
The New World (2005) – I’m always a little wary of “extended editions” as extra footage was usually cut for a reason, but the fact that I was engrossed for the entire 3 hours after just having seen this movie a few weeks ago means they must have done something right with this one. Probably the finest cinematic portrait of the wonder of discovery that I have ever seen–and with a great love story to boot!
New Year’s Eve (2011) – I really can’t tell if this is better than Valentine’s Day or not, which is to say, this movie sucks a sack of dicks. Totally manufactured and sentimental, it makes things even worse by taking itself far too seriously.
Night Mail (1936) – Very informative documentary about the huge task of delivering England’s Mail. It isn’t my favorite documentary of all time, but it is still a fascinating look behind the scenes of something that one rarely thinks about.
Night Moves (1975) – This movie makes fun of Rohmer for being too “arty” but I think it might be the bigger offender. A lot of good stuff (especially as a character study), but I’m not sure that sacrificing a coherent story really is the best choice–The Big Lebowski did the “PI movie that isn’t a PI movie” thing better.
Night of the Creeps (1986) – This is one of those shitty horror movies where everyone involved is sure that something can be so bad it’s good and thus set out to make a movie like that instead of something actually good. Which, actually, it fails even on that front as it ends up being mildly watchable despite its pitiful ambitions.
Night of the Demon (1957) – One of those A list B movies, full of atmosphere and a nice pervading sense of demonic dread. I know it was against the director’s wishes (for good reason) but the demon effects are even pretty good (until it gets too close of course).
Night on Earth (1991) – An intriguing film consisting of five stories about cab drivers in five different cities around the world. I’m vacillating between whether or not the stories were meaningful or trite, but I can’t deny the success of the overall movie that is yet another great film from Jarmusch.
Nine Queens (2000) – This take on the “con artist” movie is overall quite a bit of fun. I can’t say there is anything original about it, but the script never pauses for a breath and always keeps you guessing.
Ninja Assassin (2009) – This failure of an attempt to revive the ninja craze in Hollywood is at least helped a great deal by the charismatic presence of the lead (who is apparently in some Korean boy band) and a whole shit ton of throwing stars. The story of ninja who leaves his clan and then is subjected to wave after wave of “Ninjas ATTACK!” is passably entertaining, however, the side story of the “Europol” agency that is trying to figure out the secrets behind the ninja clan is very poorly executed on all fronts and turns a mediocre movie into something “fairly crappy”.
No Man’s Land (2001) – This is the old “soldiers from opposite sides take shelter in a shell hole” story fleshed out to feature length format. The script develops nicely and manages to handle the Bosnian/Serbian commentary with a [mostly] light hand–both of which make it at least worth checking out.
No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009) – Heavy-handed look at “underground” music in Iran. While the subject matter is legitimately interesting, for the most part, neither the filmmaking nor the music is quite up to the reverent tone of the film.
No Reservations (2007) – Yet another story of a “total B” that just needs a good man to break through her ice shell. If you are into these things, there are better options: the woman here is just too unlikable to root for (as is usually the case in these films), and, this time, the “fun loving good guy” male character is just as annoying with his dumb pants and insistence on bringing an opera blaring boom box with him everywhere.
No Strings Attached (2011) – I was pleasantly surprised to find that Kutcher can play someone who is a rather likable nice guy and not a horrible “host of punked” douche. Some of the jokes fall flat and Kline’s father character is entirely unnecessary, but it is otherwise rather enjoyable.
North to Alaska (1960) – As “fun” John Wayne movies go, McLintock(!) and Donovan’s Reef are better, but this has its moments too. Still, it is awfully silly at times (bird sounds when someone gets punched? srsly?) and makes its two hours felt.
Nosferatu (1922) – A man and his wife squirm under the dark shadow of the animalistic Count Orlock in this high point (yes, in 1922) of the horror genre. For anyone complaining about a lack of naturalism in silent film, direct them to this movie.
Nosferatu, Phantom of the Night (1979) – Herzog puts his command of landscape to good use in this remake of the foundational silent film. Kinksi is amazing as usual and brings an element of pathos to the role of Dracula while the overall feel of the film (much like the first) is one of helplessness (and hopelessness) before the Count’s evil.
Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922) – One of the all-time great silent films, masterfully shot and constructed. Schreck as the vampire elevates the role to something that is both beyond human and beyond evil, and infuses the movie with an overwhelming sense of dread.
The Notebook (2004) – I could have done with a few less manufactured tragedies to keep the central couple apart, but the strength of the leads really carry this further than it should be able to go. And, as it turns out, the old people leads are even better.
Notting Hill (1999) – A fairy tale male wish-fulfillment story that is admittedly fairly entertaining. It sure feels pretty calculated to push all the right buttons, but hell, I guess sometimes a well done “pop song” can be as fun as something with more artistic merit too.
A nous la liberté (1931) – One of the greatest unions of silent and sound film (even though it is not really a silent film) ever thanks to Clair’s creative and daring direction. You might think you’ve seen it all before in Modern Times—but just remind yourself that this was made 5 years earlier.
O (2001) – Modern take on Othello (except in a high school, and with basketball) that plays everything very straight to excellent effect. Stiles is wonderful, as always, but Hartnett’s Iago is the real MVP here.
Observe and Report (2009) – Definitely a strange movie, but also one that, despite the sloppy direction and writing, is much less thematically confused that Hill’s previous film, The Foot Fist Way. It turns out director Hill really does want to portray the idea of a complete mentally deranged sociopath as the hero–which I can’t say makes for a pleasant movie experience, but is at least an interesting concept.
Obvious Child (2014) – The sweetest, funniest, and most charming abortion rom com of all time. The leads are great, nothing feels too heavy-handed, and the standup routines are actually really goddamn funny.
Octopussy (1983) – I’ve always kind of liked this Roger Moore Bond better than his other outings. I can’t quite put my finger on it, probably it’s just that the action scenes actually have some life to them, and the silliness is toned down a bit.
Office Space (1999) – Revisited ten years after I last watched it, this reminded me why it is so quoteable: simply put, the script is full of great (and hilarious) quotes. I think this is made somewhat obsolete by the more sophisticated The Office, but I still wouldn’t have a problem calling it a modern comedy classic.
The Old Dark House (1932) – Probably the finest “travelers stranded at an old dark house” movie ever made, and also one of the first. The inhabitants of the house are deliciously twisted, and director Whale fills his images with flickering, grotesque terror to create a truly unique (and creative) horror film.
The Old Dark House (1932) – A triumph of creepy atmosphere with a nice darkly comic touch. Movies about old houses full of dark shadows and darker secrets have yet to equal this film.
The Old Fashioned Way (1934) – Probably the closest thing to a “real movie” I’ve seen from Fields yet. Of course that means that there are more boring parts than normal in this one, but the gags are still great, and overall this is one of his best films (with some amazing juggling at the end too!)
Oldboy (2003) – Like Kill Bill, this is a well-made, stylish, energetic and visually impressive film that lacks any real depth or substance. By the time it is over any initial thrill with the audacity of the filmmaking is replaced with annoyance at having sat through the equivalent of letting a hormonal (and disturbed) teenage boy film his darkest fantasies for 2+ hours.
The Omen (1976) – This movie comes out far better than the tired “my child is evil” premise might make you think thanks to the freight train script that never pauses to catch its breath once. Lots of fun stuff, the Satanic nanny is a highlight as well.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – It’s a shame Lazenby didn’t stick around, because this film is easily up there with the all-time best Bond films. He’s missing Connery’s cruel edge, but otherwise, he nails the role in a really excellently constructed film to boot.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) – Leone’s final western in the increasingly inaccurately named Dollars Trilogy, this seems like it could be the best of the bunch, but ultimately falls a bit short. Maybe it’s the slow middle section, maybe it bites off more thematically than it could chew, or maybe it’s just that it is never quite able to top the brilliance of the two jaw-dropping set pieces that open the film.
One for the Money (2012) – I really don’t see what all the complaints are about. Sure, maybe it only plays like a slightly better and longer episode of Monk or something, but it is not at all deserving of its 3% rotten rating.
One Man Metal (2012) – A collection of interviews with three modern underground black metal bands (all of which are actually excellent bands). The production values are top notch, though the interviews don’t do much to make me like any of the musicians all that much.
One, Two, Three (1961) – Really great, madcap comedy about the fast-talking (and, typically for Wilder, quite cynical) shenanigans at a West German Coca-Cola plant. Cagney is in top form in one of his last roles, and Wilder keeps the whole production moving right along at a pace that almost matches the machine-gun dialog.
Only God Forgives (2013) – I really loved Drive, but this one takes the wordless responses and stylized camera-work to such an extreme that I’m starting to wonder if there is really much behind the mask of Refn’s direction. Some good sequences, but I’m calling it now that this will turn out to be pretty hollow on a rewatch.
Only You (1994) – The script thankfully plays with the serendipity premise rather than caters to it, and Robert Downey Jr. somehow makes stalking adorable. If I have a complaint, it is that Tomei is a bit dense with the fate stuff through most of this for you to really root for her, not that she could ever be unlikeable.
Open Range (2003) – Beautiful cinematography, great acting (Duval especially), and a spectacular final gunfight really sell this modern “classic style” western. Hell, there is even an age appropriate love interest for Costner!
Operation Endgame (2010) – This tries way too hard to work all the clever one liners into a movie that ends up being just kind of painfully awkward half the time. I guess the screenplay won some kind of contest, but I’m not sure how that happened since the screenplay (and its assumption that over-delivered jokes can carry a movie) is actually the biggest weakness of this film.
Ordet (1955) – A brilliant film about the power and folly of faith that never lets the viewer settle on a simple explanation for its mysteries. Perhaps one of the most audacious bits of storytelling I have ever seen.
Orphans of the Storm (1921) – Though one might be tempted to call this “behind the times” when compared to such early 1920’s masterpieces as Nosferatu, that is really more due to the occasional wince-worthy moment–the film as a whole is pretty great. The set design alone is worth the price of admission while the trademark Griffith crosscutting is as thrilling as always, especially in the hilariously over the top final race to save the heroine.
Ossessione (1943) – Interesting to compare this to the American version (The Postman Always Rings Twice) where the lack of Hollywood gloss creates a much different (and quite Italian) movie from basically the same story (albeit with significant plot changes in the second half). The drifter seems a much more sympathetic character (more helpless prey than knowing creator of his own demise), while the lack of production code restrictions on the sex scenes are a plus as well.
The Other Guys (2010) – There are some genuinely clever jokes, but like many Will Ferrell vehicles, there is a lot of nonsense masquerading as clever jokes as well. Good stuff, but not quite up there in the top tier of dude comedies.
Our Hitler (1977) – As far as the masterful way with which it treats “the Hitler problem” for Germany, it makes a complex film like Downfall seem shallow in comparison. However, this is also 8 hours long and more pretentious than “Bach” pronounced without a hard K, which is to say, I doubt I’ll be sitting through it again any time soon.
Our Hospitality (1923) – Still one of my all-time favorite Buster Keaton films, I love how hard he works to actually add a real story to back up the gags. The period detail is expertly done as well, but not nearly so well done as the ingenius gags that the film is full of!
Our Hospitality (1923) – Unquestionably one of Keaton’s gems, if not his finest hour. More endlessly amusing than uproarious, it is one long stream of brilliant gags effortlessly incorporated into the “family feud” storyline.
Our Idiot Brother (2011) – I have to hand it to Paul Rudd’s likability–anyone else in the lead role and I would have immediately called their character irredeemably idiotic. The supporting actors are unfortunately pretty one dimensional, but it is still an enjoyable (and intermittently funny) film.
Out of the Past (1947) – I’ve never seen such a serpentine script executed so effortlessly as every part of this film’s production brings their “A” game for this one. It’s not just one of the great noirs; it’s the greatest noir.
Out of the Past (1947) – Technically a “B-movie,” but you sure can’t tell. The perfect script, brilliant camerawork, intricate plotting and overall sense of doom ensure this one will never age.
Outland (1981) – Pretty cool “space western” (with good special effects), though it is a bit overly dank and depressing. Also, since it is basically a remake, it has the same thematic issues that trouble me in High Noon–and yet it is only half the movie quality-wise.
Over the Edge (1979) – I haven’t seen a portrait of the anarchist instinct in youth this brilliant since Zero for Conduct. Neither as simplistic as Lord of the Flies, nor as heavy handed as Rebel Without a Cause, this is a fantastic film that treats its subject(s) respectfully and intelligently–and I’d never even heard of it before!
Overboard (1987) – The premise seems a bit problematic skirting kidnapping, rape and enslavement, which makes the sweetness of the movie all the more surprising. It all plays out exactly as you would suspect, but the appealing leads and a clever script really make it shine.
The Ox-bow Incident (1943) – Not really fair for me to criticize this one too much since I don’t tend to enjoy movies that seem to only care about drawing attention to humanity’s obvious capacity for brutality. It is tautly constructed and well done, but not what I would call an enjoyable experience.
Pacific Rim (2013) – I’m not sure the solution to 1000 foot tall monsters is to make something to punch them, but whatever, this is pretty wildly entertaining for the first 75% of the movie due to the excellently mounted set pieces. The last quarter slightly overstays its welcome, but it remains entertaining, if also exhausting.
The Pajama Game (1957) – Sparkling musical that shows the 1950s Hollywood musical machine at the peak of its game. Unfortunately, the male lead just kind of seems like a tool and the pajama factory isn’t exactly the most exciting setting for a movie.
Pakeezah (1972) – My first Bollywood film, and once I got past the low budget and almost campy level of drama, I really quite enjoyed it. Pakeezah has an almost mythological feel to it, and the overly dramatic tone works quite well for it–it’s also nice seeing a musical set to traditional Indian music.
Palm Beach Story (1942) – Another brilliant script full of wacky characters and scintillating one liners, this is one of Sturges’ (many) good ones. The supporting characters practically steal the show too, from the Weenie King to Mary Astor and her boy toy Toto.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – Though he raids the fairytale archetype playbook to good effect and the whole thing is mounted quite well, the film still fails to impress. I can’t put my finger on exactly where Del Toro missteps, but I suspect the problem is really just that it is a decent film made by a decent director, but it is no masterpiece.
Pandora’s Box (1929) – Brooks is mesmerizing as the unknowing (or at least uncaring) siren who lures every man and woman she comes into contact with to their lust-bidden doom. Couple her performance with Pabst’s masterful direction and mise en scene and you get one of the greatest films of all time.
Paperback Hero (1999) – Solid rom com with an early (starmaking?) turn from Hugh Jackman. It would have been nice to see a bit more fallout from the revelation of his secret identity, but overall it is really quite charming.
Papillion (1973) – Pretty well done and with nice performances from McQueen and Hoffman, but, like The Shawshank Redemption, watching this is a revolting enough experience that I don’t see myself willingly doing so again anytime soon. Of course, as far as prison escape movies go, I haven’t seen many that I’d rewatch anyway–aside from Le Trou, Brute Force and maybe a few others.
The Paradine Case (1947) – This film has too many flaws to really be counted a success, most notably the overbearing soundtrack and improbability of Peck’s falling in love with Valli’s ice queen. Overall, it is a decent courtroom melodrama with some nice camera flourishes, but sadly not even as good as something like Witness for the Prosecution.
The Parallax View (1974) – I came into this halfway through, and was impressed by how little it seemed to care about adhering to traditional ideas about pacing and how long to hold a shot. Though, I have a feeling that it would have been just as opaque of a film had I seen the first half.
Paris Texas (1984) – An insightful film that is not so much concerned with the end result but rather what you learn about the characters and human relationships on the way there. One of the greatest films of the 1980s, with some magnificent cinematography to boot.
Party Girl (1958) – The melodramatic script doesn’t quite drag me in the way it should, but the film has a definite melodramatic power anyway. I suspect a lot of this is thanks to Ray’s masterful handling of the visuals.
Paths of Glory (1957) – Kubrick just as assured as ever in his second-ish film, and also just as cold as ever. A few thrilling battle segments aside, this is really just a courtroom drama, and one hell of a cynical one at that.
The Patsy (1928) – I’de never seen a Marion Davies movie, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that she was so funny, hot, and all around captivating. Based on this, I’d say Citizen Kane is massively unfair to her.
Paul (2011) – British nerds meet Seth Rogan’s voice in an alien’s body and the hilarity and hijinx ensue. There are a few moments that are a bit too precious, but overall this is pretty funny from beginning to end.
Pauline at the Beach (1983) – Possibly Rohmer’s most accessible film, but no less challenging than anything else from his brilliant career. Never has a filmmaker so astutely captured the messy business of human interaction than Eric Rohmer.
Pauline at the Beach (1983) – Probably Rohmer’s most accessible film (though European attitudes towards teenage sexuality will undoubtedly be offputting to American viewers), this is a supremely entertaining look at the games people play with their relationships. My only complaint is that the insight is not quite as deep as in some of his other movies, but since no other director really comes close anyway, I suppose I can’t complain too much.
The Pawnshop (1916) – Chaplin works at a pawnshop and the hilarity ensues. This probably has the highest concentration of funny gags out of all of Chaplin’s mutual films, many of them quite delightfully assholish as well.
Pearl of Death (1944) – Pretty entertaining Sherlock Holmes film, with the hideously deformed Creeper as a villainous highlight. While the jokes are funny, this is also a bit sillier than the rest of the series.
Peeping Tom (1960) – A seedy unsettling movie that gets the viewer a little too close to a very “not well” dude. It really is quite unique (both for its place in film history and in Michael Powell’s career) and powerfully constructed, but I don’t know that I’d be super excited about watching it again.
People on Sunday (1930) – Really fantastic documentary/”improvisational city symphony”/”countryside frolic” film that is shockingly light on its toes to have come out of Germany. The story is rather poorly fleshed out, but that isn’t really the point in a film that will consistently surprise you with the brilliant moments it captures.
People Will Talk (1951) – Grant plays (quite well I might add) the kind of noble paragon of humanity that would have been a great protagonist for Capra on his worst day. The movie is quite well done, but is sadly unable to rise above the righteous stink that pervades the whole affair.
Pépé le Moko (1936) – A French gangster movie from before they went all hardcore, thus, it is slightly different from the usual Melvilleian stuff (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing). Also, the Algiers atmosphere (at least what I like to imagine Algiers was like back in the day) is captured with impressive effect.
Perceval le Gallois (1978) – Such a seemingly oddball choice makes a great deal more sense when evaluated against Rohmer’s full body of work. By portraying Perceval as a young “innocent fool” searching for a moral code, this film is the bridge between the moral conflict of his earlier films and the comedies of errors of his subsequent comedies and proverbs series.
Persona (1966) – An obvious all time classic, it’s just too bad this is such a chore to watch. Pretension reeks out of every cinematic orifice, and, it only pisses you off more to realize this this movie is probably actually as good as the director thought it was while making it.
The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006) – Philosopher and psychoanalyst Zizek takes the viewer on an expertly crafted journey into (literally) a whole slew of famous films to see what they really mean. A bit eye rolling in places (and, like most things that try to read films this way, a bit too heavy on the Hitchcock and Lynch to make a compelling case for ALL films), but there are some impressive insights to be found here as well.
Peter and the Wolf (2006) – Great stop motion animation, this movie looks amazing. But the addition of the political elements seems tacked on in an attempt to give it “a message” (though I suppose I didn’t try all that hard to figure out the message).
The Petrified Forest (1936) – The film that made Bogart a star, and rightly so as his ferocious gangster steals the film. It is just too bad that the overwritten script (and Leslie Howard’s whiny poet) are so insufferable throughout.
Peyton Place (1957) – Despite some dodgy acting from a few key players, this is really great melodramatic stuff. The drama (complete with overblown musical cues) is more in your face than a Sirk movie, and yet it never feels sentimental or cheap–which is quite a feat to pull off for a movie this overblown.
The Phantom Carriage (1921) – Wonderfully shot and put together, this film really produces an amazing atmosphere. It’s even enough to tolerate the insufferable Christian and drunken asshole main characters.
Phenomena (1985) – Beautifully shot, and with the usual nice Goblin soundtrack (with Iron Maiden and Motorhead support!), but damn, would it kill Argento to tell a coherent story? Two hours is a bit much for such poorly structured material.
Philadelphia Story (1940) – This could be Cukor’s best film; sparkling doesn’t even begin to describe the dialog, direction and acting. This is one of those films that just gets better the more times you see it.
The Piano Teacher (2001) – This walks a thin line between intriguing and excessive in its portrayal of a seriously repressed (and unwell) woman, but I think the ends justify the means (just barely). There really are some interesting things at play here as Haneke riffs on his usual themes of emotional disconnect and the power struggles constantly at play in human interactions.
Pickpocket (1959) – Bresson once again manages to create a genuinely moving story from performances stylized to the point of abstraction. He may claim this isn’t a suspense film, but the act of pickpocketing being the most ballsy form of thievery that it is (and with it being filmed so well in this movie) you can’t help but be on the edge of your seat for fear of the main character’s incarceration at every second–great soundtrack too.
Pickpocket (1959) – Ostensibly a crime and punishment tale, but somehow it avoids even a hint of moralizing. The most convincing anti-thievery argument in the film is the adrenaline-fueled rush of terror that accompanies every perfectly constructed scene of pickpocketing.
Picnic (1955) – Big drama, and lots of histrionics are on the menu at a labor day picnic thrown all aflutter by Holden’s deshirted (and dislikeable) drifter. Good fun, but not on par with other, superior stage to film adaptations of the time.
Pigs is Pigs (1914) – Really pretty decent silent comedy short from an actor (John Bunny) I wasn’t familiar with. The unique use of mailed letters as intertitles works pretty well all things considered.
Pillow Talk (1959) – The 1960s look their most “1960ish” in the Doris Day screwball comedies, and this, one that starts the cycle, is no exception. The love story is a little off since Rock acts like a huge dick and then changes his mind and Doris is supposed to just fall in love with him, but everything else is right on the button.
Pitch Perfect (2012) – Pretty funny a cappella fighting movie about the usual team of misfits making it to the “finals.” Anna Kendrick is great as usual, but so are most all of the supporting characters–it’s just too bad I hate this kind of music so much.
Pixie Hollow Games (2011) – Fairy short film which focuses on the Pixie Hollow Olympics, with all the usual charming “naturepunk” inventions. Rose, thankfully, is finally given a bit of room to expand beyond her one-note prissy southern belle schtick, and the character really benefits from it.
A Place in the Sun (1951) – Clift is great as usual, Elizabeth Taylor is looking good as usual, and the film is well made…but this still fails to really hold my interest. Mostly I guess this is because this kind of story just isn’t my thing, so I really can’t hold it against the film I suppose.
Planet of the Apes (1968) – On the surface this is a well-made science fiction film that tells a nice little prison escape story of sorts. Look too closely however, and all you’ll see is Charleton Heston overacting.
Planet Terror (2007) – As if I needed any more proof that Robert Rodriguez is a hack, this amateurish (it might have been the point, but he makes “looking amateurish” look amateurish), staggeringly stupid film whose machine gun leg pièce de résistance even ends up being a disappointment drives the final nail in the hack coffin. It makes me suspect that Grindhouse didn’t fail because audiences weren’t ready for a 4 hour double feature, but rather because both the movies are shit.
Play Dirty (1969) – Obviously an attempt to cash in on The Dirty Dozen‘s success, with Michael Caine’s stiff upper lip replacing Lee Marvin. Still, no fair claiming a WW2 genre flick is derivative–besides, this one has more than enough excellent North African front based set pieces to satisfy even the pickiest WW2 buff.
The Play House (1921) – This revisitation of the “working on a set” theme is one of the better Keaton shorts–though his shorts (unlike his features) could never quite surpass Chaplin’s shorts for me. More a collection of (ingenious) gags and camera tricks than actual story, but it’s still great.
Play it Again Sam (1972) – Though Woody’s assured hand behind the camera is missed, this might just be the funniest of his early funny stuff. The Bogart impersonator is pretty good too.
Playtime (1967) – Though they might not actually be “funny,” the sight gags are as astounding as they are numerous in this film that plays like an OCD madman’s fever dream. Say what you want about this masterpiece, but I think it’s safe to say that no one has ever made a movie quite like this (or most likely ever will again).
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960) – This starts out as a somewhat strange, but lightly enjoyable family comedy. Sadly, the film then decides to focus on Doris Day’s relationship with her douchebag husband David Niven and just gets preachier and preachier until the end.
Point Blank (1967) – Classic 60s noir “about nothing,” with the Martin’s title character desperately out of his depth without even knowing it. Like Night Moves, I can appreciate what they are doing, but it all seems to be trying too hard to be intellectual and artsy for my tastes.
Point Blank (1967) – I know this is very highly thought of, but I honestly felt like it tries a little too hard with the artsy fartsy stuff. There are still a lot of good scenes (like that fight in the club), but it doesn’t do a lot for me in a genre (crime) that I’m normally a pretty big fan of.
Polar Express (2004) – I can’t help but feel like 90% of the set pieces in this film are pretty superfluous. Of course, I guess, without them you would be left with a pretty short movie about kids riding a train to the North Pole.
Porky’s (1982) – It’s a good thing I hadn’t seen this before now or I never would have written Jock Blog for fear of plagiarism. It is actually fairly well done for what it is, but the relentless focus on sex obsession makes it seem like more than just “a movie about horny teenage boys” and instead something that at the end of the day is (unintentionally on the director’s part) actually rather disturbing.
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) – It’s the same old noir story, but with enough twists and turns after it gets where you know it is going to make the whole thing actually quite fresh. Definitely in the top tier of film noir, and, like much other top tier noire, a sympathetic character might be a bit hard to find.
Power and the Land (1940) – Ivens has a very nice visual style that serves this propagandistic documentary quite well. The heavy-handed approach kind of reminds me (in a good way) of some of those Soviet films about the farmers getting a tractor.
Powers of Ten (1968) – Apparently there are a couple different versions of this one, I saw the ones that started in Illinois and Florida. Pretty cool stuff, and actually the animation is very smooth and well done in the Illinois version by Eames–I’d like to see a new version that has incorporated the advances in the field in the last 40 years.
Precautions Against Fanatics (1969) – I’ve said it before, Germans should really stay out of “Komedy”. There are a few grand Herzogian ideas coming from the cast’s monologues, but overall this attempt at humor was pretty much just plain awkward and incomprehensible.
Precious (2009) – Not as bad as I thought, but maybe that is just when compared to The Blind Side. Either way, good performances taken down a few notches by over the top characterizations and an excess of thoroughly unpleasant horrors for the heroine to go through.
Predators (2010) – Not a bad film considering it is a Robert Rodriguez script. Some amusing character actors and a few decent set pieces…not a patch on the original though.
Premium Rush (2012) – Gordon-Levitt’s character is kind of a douche who never gets his comeuppance, but, character development isn’t really the point of this white knuckle chase film. It is rather surprising how exciting a movie about people chasing each other on bicycles can be.
Pride and Prejudice (1995) – Mostly excellent casting (though a few of the minor characters are a bit broad) in this very faithful (and yet, at 5 hours, still engrossing) adaptation. It also does a great job of realistically depicting the slow turnaround in the feelings of the two leads (perhaps because, with 5 hours to play with, it is able to take its time).
Pride and Prejudice (2005) – Parts of this version feel a bit rushed/crammed in and I wonder how clear things would be were I not familiar with the book. Still, it is a handsomely filmed movie that, to my delight, focuses a bit more on the romance side of the story…though it still apparently can’t move away from the hallowed text enough to work an actual kiss into the proceedings.
Primary (1960) – Fascinating look at the 1960 presidential primary that does a great job of giving the viewer an honest picture of how the two politicians presented themselves to the public. Nice black and white handheld camerawork too.
Primer (2004) – Inspiring to see how much movie can be made on such a small budget, this really makes your head hurt trying to figure it out (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). That said, I’m not quite sure that the film is masterful enough to warrant the repeat viewings (and note-taking, diagrams, flowcharts, etc) necessary to figure out everything that goes on in the third act.
The Prince and Me (2004) – There are really two parts to this movie: a well done (though implausible) romantic comedy, and an overlong pretty princess final third. Still, the leads are great (not that Stiles needs any more praise here), and the message is thankfully a bit more forward thinking than usual.
The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) – Not as lame as some would have you believe, almost entirely due to Marilyn’s superb performance. When she is onscreen, it’s easy to forget what drivel the rest of the film is.
Prince of Darkness (1987) – Fun bit of low budget horror from John Carpenter, though it is too much of a mess to really be much more than a passing amusement. Also, the script doesn’t seem to understand quantum physics any more than that “Buddhist” dude down at the community garden that tried to give you that flyer about magnets that one time.
The Princess Diaries (2001) – This one feels too slick and manufactured to really work for me…but I guess “slick and manufactured” is what you should expect from “the guy who brought you Pretty Woman“. Anne Hatheway might win you over, but the movie will not.
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) – Holmes may be a tad too make-upped up, but this really is a rather brilliant late period Billy Wilder film. The script is delightfully wild, but it has real emotion to keep the movie grounded in reality–beautiful cinematography too.
The Professionals (1966) – Good cast, sharp dialog and a nice Hawksian premise make this one a lot of fun. But hell, I would have recommended it anyway just for Claudia Cardinale.
Project X (2012) – One of those movies that appeals to that strange male fantasy where getting beaten and abused is the ultimate wish-fulfillment adventure. Ideologically reprehensible, but rather a good time nonetheless.
Prometheus (2012) – Visually, and on the strength of a few brilliant set pieces, this is impressive stuff. Just don’t try to think to hard about the script, which only answers its “big” questions in the most superficial and unconvincing ways possible.
The Property Man (1914) – Classic Keystone Chaplin featuring further hijinx on a movie set. Good gags and I’d say about 60% of the short involves Charlie kicking an old man in the face repeatedly to remind you he wasn’t always all about batting his eyes at blind girls.
The Proposal (2009) – Reynolds and Bullock make appealing leads in this above average bedroom farce. A few parts faltered (like Oscar from The Office‘s vaguely racist supporting character) but for the most part this is great rom com material.
The Proposal (2009) – Bullock could maybe tone down the makeup, but otherwise is pretty great and has real chemistry with Reynolds in a movie that is really quite funny. Of course, maybe I’m just a sucker for this kind of mismatched couple farce stuff.
The Prowler (1951) – Nasty little film about a bad dude and the woman he has in his clutches. Tight direction and a nice little script that builds to a great climax out in the desert give it a considerable boost.
Pumping Iron (1977) – Classic documentary that establishes Arnold Schwarzenegger as a shoo-in for the next decade’s biggest movie star. Arnold’s ridiculously charismatic screen presence aside, the world of male bodybuilding is more than interesting enough to carry a movie by itself.
Punch Drunk Love (2002) – Really brilliant movie about a severely repressed dude finding love with a fellow societal reject. Everything about this film is evidence of some seriously brilliant work both behind and in front of the camera.
Punisher: War Zone (2008) – Though this thankfully eschews the hour-long setup of the Punisher losing his family from the last movie before the killings start, this is otherwise pretty fucking stupid. Stevenson makes a decent Punisher, but almost everything else in this film is straight to video amateur hour punctuated by ridiculous (and, I suppose, occasionally amusing) violence.
Queen Christina (1933) – Creative direction and nice performances from the leads elevate this above your typical ”costume melodrama”. The only thing that doesn’t work for me is how in the hell Gilbert’s character thought Garbo was a man for so long at that hotel!
The Quick and the Dead (1995) – A simple and done to death premise, but a good one, and with a nice Western twist. The characters have a good time chewing the scenery, there are plenty of amusing visuals and the whole thing is really pretty damn entertaining.
Rachel Getting Married (2008) – Though the central character is a bit much, the seemingly improvised, almost verite style in which it is filmed (though I have a feeling it is all scripted) delights anyway. For all the overblown dramatics of the plot it is still a remarkably restrained portrait of a family dealing with their problems as they try to get through a wedding.
Rad (1986) – Ok, so this movie was as crappy as you might expect, but as a silly nostalgic trip to a land of big bangs and shitty music it is somewhat endearing too. Some of the bike stunts are pretty good, and the lead guy even has a bit of charisma (though without the acting chops to back it up).
Radio Days (1987) – And interesting jumble of mostly harmless stories centered around Woody’s nostalgic memories of his radio-dominated childhood. The device of linking each memory to the radio comes off as a bit forced at times and the stories occasionally cross over into “too cute” territory, but overall it is pretty enjoyable.
Raging Bull (1980) – Fully deserving of its “all-time best reputation”, Raging Bull is one of the few biopics I truly enjoy. However, it is no more the story of Jake LaMotta’s life than it is a boxing movie–instead the dark depths of the male psyche are plumbed deeper than ever before as De Niro gives one of the “all-time best” performances of a man who is slowly destroying himself with machismo.
The Raid: Redemption (2011) – There is some good visceral action to be found here, though a plot to back it up wouldn’t have hurt things. My real complaint is that there are a few too many endless kung fu fights that kill the realism of an action movie that desperately needs that realism to deliver the suspense.
Rain Fall (2009) – I know Oldman has done good work before, but here his delivery is 90% over the top shouting. And, unfortunately, his minor character from the book dominates half the film (based on his star power I assume)…not that it really matters since the guy that plays John Rain is so unfortunately bland.
Rain (1929) – Beautiful experimental film that documents a rainstorm in a city. For pure nostalgic recollection of rainstorms some of the images are really quite astonishingly breathtaking.
Rain (1929) – Though this is a short film, there are enough brilliant images of a city rainstorm here to keep one mesmerized no matter how many times it is viewed. Though seemingly something that anyone with a camera could film, I doubt many could match the genius of the finished project.
Rambo (2008) – The appeal of any of the Rambo films is watching what happens when someone who is not to be fucked with…gets fucked with. And while that is definitely present for this movie, you also get the idea that viewer is supposed to derive an equal amount of pleasure from watching bodies being exploded with a .50 cal machine gun (since about a third of the film involves just that)…which is really pretty twisted.
Rambo: First Blood (1982) – I’m a sucker for a good “one man army” action movie, and this is a good one. Sure it has its problems–mostly the heavy handed message (ham-handedly driven home by Stallone in his hilarious closing speech) and implausibilities of the plot, but the action is good and Stallone holds it all together nicely with his screen presence.
Rancho Notorious (1952) – Bizarre western with a revenge crazed man running into Dietrich who owns a ranch haven for outlaws (when she’s not busy racing through bars on the backs of men). Lots to like in this film–the sung ballad interludes between the sections of the film are especially impressive.
Rango (2011) – It’s the usual bit of modern animation hipster winking for the parents, but I do at least dig the western vibe. And I have to admit the banjo ride of the Valkyries sequence is rather inspired.
Ratatouille (2007) – A pleasant enough diversion though the storyline was quite ludicrous (yes, I know, but still, hair doesn’t work that way). To be fair to this review I only got halfway through before the kid I was babysitting lost interest, but I also am not really worrying about finishing it either.
Raw Deal (1948) – Excellent film noir about an escaped prisoner out to get revenge before the cops catch him. Fantastic cinematography by John Alton, and the fiery finale is pretty impressive as well.
The Reader (2008) – Pretty good “love” story that goes against the usual grain and even has a bit to say but ultimately I didn’t find myself all that invested. Bonus points for being about the holocaust without being too overbearing with the pathos.
Rear Window (1954) – The mystery is finely done, but what makes the movie a masterpiece is the hidden cruelty and weakness to Stewart’s hero. Not to mention the truly brilliant premise of a man watching so many different stories unfold from the screens of his neighbor’s apartment windows.
Rebecca (1940) – Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film, and it is an absolutely fantastic one. The twists and turns of the plot are natural (and genuinely surprising), the performances and cinematography brilliant, and Hitchcock’s twisted view on male/female relationships is just as articulated here as it is in his later work.
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) – I actually wasn’t super into this and even liked East of Eden better as far as James Dean as troubled youth films go–and I thought East of Eden was pretty overblown. Nothing really seriously wrong with the movie, just not something I’ll be rushing to watch again.
Red Desert (1964) – A woman’s alienation from the world causes her decent into madness…you know the drill. I’d say take a pass if that kind of thing doesn’t get you too excited were it not for the fact that this contains some jaw-droppingly amazing images and some of Antonioni’s best scenes of alienation.
Red River (1948) – As pure an example of the classic American western (and the classic American west) as they come, to watch Red River is to watch mythology being made. Perhaps slightly flawed in that John Wayne’s tyrant is so convincing that the happy ending seems a bit out of nowhere, but I’m not sure I’d want a darker ending anyway.
Red River (1948) – Easily one of the “best ever” Hollywood movies (let alone Westerns), this movie has it all and can stand up to countless viewings. I’ve even finally reconciled myself with Joanne Dru’s character and her necessity to bring the plot full circle–though she still talks too much.
Red River (1948) – I finally watched the rare “theatrical” version of this movie (perhaps the greatest of all westerns) and didn’t find the film to benefit from either of the changes. Brennan’s voiceover is too on the nose, while the truncated ending makes an already too neat resolution to the central conflict even more problematic–this might have been Hawks’ preferred version of the film…but “he was wrong.”
The Red Shoes (1948) – This film is like an American “let’s put on a show” movie crossed with a European art film and it manages to combine the best of both in a delirious technicolor stream of images. Not the least of its wonders is that the central wordless dance number that is even better than Minelli’s superb final sequence in An American in Paris.
Red Sun (1971) – This is the original “Shanghai Noon,” and, as such, is pretty damn entertaining. Bronson and Mifune (with Delon as the bad guy) play the whole east meets west buddy thing and mostly fulfill the promise of the premise.
Red (2010) – There is a fair amount of good fun to be had here, but, while the comic was a bit overly simplistic and one dimensional, this adds a bunch of plot and character elements for ultimately no gain. Cute but surprisingly tame.
Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) – Utterly unique film about some very repressed people with some major issues on a military base. Brando is brilliant as usual, but the rest of the great cast are more than capable in their own right, making this bizarre film last in your mind long after it is over.
Reign of Terror (1949) – A French Revolution adventure/chase film in the style of something like The 39 Steps. The film moves like a freight train, and the John Alton expressionist cinematography is a wonder to behold.
The Relic (1997) – I saw this back when it came out, and, unfortunately, my fond memories of it didn’t hold up that well on a repeat viewing. Nothing really wrong with it, just a fairly typical monster/horror film in a cool setting (a natural history museum).
Religulous (2008) – For some reason Bill Maher comes off as a slightly more likable militant atheist (despite his smirking attitude), so that helps sell this attack on religion better than you would expect. Still, the targets are way too easy which makes me think maybe it would have been better to just leave them all alone in their own deluded worlds.
Repo Man (1984) – It’s a mess, but a fun one that really builds a surreal and bizarre world for the unlikeable hero to progress through. While probably not as meaningful as the director envisioned it, there is at least an interesting commentary on punks and “joining the man” threaded throughout the story.
The Return of the Jedi (1983) – Howard Hawks once said a great movie is three good scenes and no bad ones–unfortunately, this installment has three good scenes (rescue of Hans from Jabba, the assault on the empire shield generator, and Luke’s confrontation with Vader) and no other ones (and it still somehow manages to feel disjointed). Still great fun, just a bit overlong for what it is.
Return to Me (2000) – I always think I don’t like Minnie Driver until I see her in a movie and am won over by the natural intelligence that hides behind all her characters. Wildly sappy in places, this actually works fairly well based mostly on her charisma alone.
Revenge of the Nerds (1984) – Not a great movie but it is helped by the nerds having a bit of actual humanity in addition to being the usual caricatures. Worth checking out, but its no Animal House.
Rhythmus 21 (1921) – Though it’s the kind of thing you could probably do in about 20 minutes of messing around with Final Cut, I enjoyed this short experimental film. Nothing too special, just an interesting exercise in minimalist black and white geometry.
Riddick (2013) – An attempt to return to the more personal badassery of the first Riddick film, and it is almost successful. Vin Diesel is definitely up to the challenge, unfortunately the atrocious dialog and misogynistic script never let you forget how much better this could have been.
Rien que les Heures (1926) – The camerawork is pretty unremarkable, and the editing is fairly stagnant in this sub-par “city symphony” film. The inclusion of a social conscience storyline complete with plenty of staged scenes doesn’t help things.
Rififi (1955) – One of the few heist films that can approach The Asphalt Jungle in terms of sheer nihilistic cinematic power. This one has some especially ugly male/female relationships that makes its heist film world-view that much more unpleasant.
The Right Kind of Wrong (2013) – Confusingly creepy rom com about a dude that stalks a married woman into true love with him instead of her husband. I suppose I should give some credit to the True Blood guy for making his stalker character actually fairly likable.
The Rink (1916) – Chaplin continues to prove that his Mutual era was his most comedically brilliant with this great short that shows off his mastery of roller skates and kicking people in the ass. Lots of great waiter jokes in the beginning with one of my favorite “duck when the dude punches you and make him accidentally hit the fat lady in the face” shots for those who are in to that kind of thing.
Rio Bravo (1959) – Howard Hawks and company prove that you don’t need anything more than waist level camera set-ups and a song or two to make what is, perhaps, the greatest western of all time. Effortlessly charming, this is what filmmaking is all about.
Rio das Muertes (1971) – Early Fassbinder ”komedy” about two friends obsessed with a plan that everyone but them knows is doomed to failure. Doesn’t seem to have quite the import of his best work, but even Fassbinder’s minor films are creative gems.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – Surprisingly strong for a movie about CGI apes, I guess thanks goes to the (mostly) very impressive special effects. It gets silly every now and then, but the central ape story is fairly compelling.
The River (1938) – This narration-heavy portrait of the Mississippi has some nice river shots and creative touches as it tries to deliver its “river conservation” message. However, the borderline pompous narration at times feels like it is trying a bit too hard.
Road House (1989) – Really kind of awesome and a lot more fun than an over the top cheesy movie like this should be. That it doesn’t really have anywhere to go other than the obligatory shootout is too bad, but while it is at its ass kicking, philosophizing, spin-kicking, Sam Elliot peak, it’s really pretty tough to criticize.
Road Trip (2000) – A gang of college buddies hit the road for a bit of Todd Philip’s signature brand of male bonding and immaturity while Tom Green stays home and orgiastically tries to feed a mouse to a snake. None of the scenes have any real connection to each other, but many of them are quite hilarious–add in the undeniable charm of everyone’s favorite asshole Stiffler and you have a minor college comedy masterpiece on your hands.
The Road (2009) – “Relentlessly bleak” doesn’t even begin to describe this post-apocalyptic movie, but at least it manages to handle the despair with an even hand and never really feels like it is trying to go for too cheap of a gut punch. Still, for all its impressive craft, it remains a movie about a father trying to decide if life is so unbearable that he should just kill himself and his son to end their misery–so if that sounds like your idea of a good time then I highly recommend this one!
Robin Hood (2010) – This movie is really quite good once you realize that this isn’t a story about the Robin Hood we all know and love (despite the rather misleading title…), but is instead a solid historical action movie with great cinematography and acting. The convoluted plot even holds together well enough, though by the time they shoehorn in the Magna Carta stuff it does start to bulge at the seams a bit.
Rocket Science (2007) – Finally a high school movie for kids that did debate! I can’t attest to its accuracy, as I was not one of those kids, but a good 90% of this film is really quite insightful, clever, and all around excellently conceived.
RocknRolla (2008) – Sure, these Guy Ritchie caper movies might be a little to self-consciously stylish for their own good. However, as testosterone injected guy movies go, there really aren’t many better options these days–may as well quit bitching and sit back and enjoy the ride with this one.
Rocky Balboa (2008) – Even though the plot kind of meandered around random scenes of Rocky feeling down with too many dramatic speeches sprinkled in before the big fight at the end, this is still the best Rocky movie since Rocky III. This does at least offer the most realistic boxing of the franchise (which isn’t saying much), and the Rocky character remains as improbably appealing as always.
Rollerball (1975) – I guess some of the Rollerball scenes are all right, but most of the in-between exposition is pretty forced. Not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but probably doesn’t deserve its cult status either.
The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007) – Rohmer is very much in Smiles of a Summer Night (or Midsummer Night Sex Comedy) mode here–not so much in story, but mood. Of course, that’s right down my alley, and this turned out to be one of his best “historical” pieces–proving that at 87, the old dog still has it.
Romancing the Stone (1984) – Very entertaining adventure story that follows the fish out of water playbook to good effect. There are some silly bits and it is no great masterpiece, but it delivers exactly what you want it to, and thus, must be counted a success.
Romeo + Juliet (1996) – Even though it is probably a bit too flashy, it is hard not to be impressed by the energy and daring of the filmmaking–the production design especially is such a complete success that the only recent film I can think of that might rival it would be Bladerunner. It’s just too bad it is stuck with the cliche story and that dialog (which works about as well as any recited Shakespeare I guess).
The Room (2003) – Possible contender for the “worst movie ever made” title, a feat made even more impressive by the reasonably competent production values. Worth watching for the train-wreck spectacle of it all, but I’m not sure that anyone really needs to see more than 10 minutes of this to really get the picture.
Rope (1948) – Another Hitchcock tour de force that effortlessly confines its clever narrative to a single room. The long takes work very well; if I have a complaint it would be that I kind of feel like both sides of the film’s philosophical core (the motive and the final speech from Stewart) seem a bit simplistic.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – Wonderful slow burn horror film that nails the paranoia and subtle dread of suspecting you are being used as the carrier of Satan’s child. Farrow’s wide-eyed frailty is perfect for the title role too.
Rosewater (2014) – This does a fine job of attempting to understand all sides of the Iranian kidnapping of a Western journalist while at the same time being a perfectly watchable film. Unfortunately it also happens to be two things I hate: a film based on a true story, and a film about politics, so, in the end I have to say: Pppppbbbbbtththhthhth.
Rowdy Ann (1919) – Above average short about a girl who just wants to be one of the guys. Nothing special but still pretty entertaining every time she pulls her guns out and starts blastin’.
A Royal Affair (2012) – Beautifully shot and well acted, but I still can’t find a way to give a shit about historical biopics like this. I was basically counting the minutes until it was over as soon as it started.
Rumor Has It (2005) – Despite the scattered good moments, no one in this film really seems to command much sympathy from the audience. In the end it is all a little too self-aware of its own premise to really work.
Run for Cover (1955) – Nice psychological Nicholas Ray western with an aged, but still totally intense Cagney as the lead. This one has a lot going for it, from the nice cinematography to the interesting script.
Run Ronnie Run (2002) – A very earnest performance from David Cross manages to carry this movie at least to the halfway mark, but it still sputters out long before the finish line. Sporadically funny, but more often about as half-baked as any of Ronnie’s ill-fated schemes.
Running Scared (2006) – Paul Walker strains his limited abilities to their breaking point in this wildly disjointed and nonsensical violence-fest. And yet, even though I’m usually off-put by hyper-stylish Tarantino fanboy stuff like this, I have to admit it is a rather exciting ride anyway.
Sabotage (1936) – Not as much non-stop excitement as The 39 Steps, but still a fine movie with great set pieces and some genuine surprises in the narrative. I just wish those early British movies had better sound tracks–the dialog was pretty muddy.
Saboteur (1942) – Hitchcock sure does this story a lot, but I suppose that is because it tends to make such a ripping good yarn. The film is about average for him; the lead isn’t super compelling, but the set pieces (especially the Statue of Liberty finale) are mostly quite good.
The Sacrifice (1986) – While I’ve never seen more technically impressive long shots (though, Nkvist filming Faro is bound to be amazing), the long scenes of interminable dialog surrounding a preposterous example of Tarkovsky’s idea of the power of symbolic gestures make this a tough film to get through. Still, this works much better than his previous Nostalgia, and by the time the final shot has ended it is clear the film is operating upon that level of dreamlike brilliance that only Tarkovsky is able to inhabit.
Sadie Thompson (1928) – Really fantastic silent film with Swanson and (especially) Barrymore in top form as they square off inside a claustrophobic south seas hovel. The final real is sadly lost, but what is left of the film is a brilliant piece of nasty business.
Safe (2012) – Statham action vehicle which really throws plausibility out the window for some utterly ridiculous story about cops, Russians, and Chinese shooting up New York to capture Statham and a cute little girl. That said, it sure moves along at a nice pace, and isn’t really a bad bit of visceral testosterone-laced cinema.
Safety Last (1923) – While the first half is funny, it is definitely not Lloyd’s strongest material. However, the famous building climb of the second half definitely delivers and elevates this film a few notches in Lloyd’s oeuvre.
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) – Though it is awfully quirky and indie, this rises above its ilk by having the heart to stand behind its characters. Really quite pleasantly enjoyable.
Sahara (2005) – I know this got panned on its release, and there are some problems with tone (not to mention a few ridiculous plot elements…like how the Sahara was supposedly lush river farmlands 150 years ago), but damn if it isn’t immensely enjoyable anyway. Zahn is a great sidekick, the action scenes are all mounted well, and, even if McConaughey has never equaled the brilliance of his role in Dazed and Confused, he is at least a serviceable leading bimbo.
Sahara (2005) – It would be easy to write this one off as a wannabe Indiana Jones rip-off starring a bimbo-doofus. And, while, that may be an entirely accurate assessment of this film, that would vastly underplay just how entertaining the whole thing is anyway.
Salt (2010) – The action is decent and Jolie is moderately convincing, but I still found myself resisting the urge to roll my eyes throughout most of it. Probably because the plot is a few orders of magnitude too preciously convoluted for pedestrian action fare like this movie ultimately is.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) – Excellent gritty and realistic British drama about a hard drinking factory worker and the trouble his “fuck it” lifestyle gets him in. The excellent central performance really helps anchor this naturalistic (and, thankfully, never preachy) film.
Save the Last Dance (2001) – Aside from occasional lapses into too obvious drama territory (I was a little worried about what I had gotten myself into during the opening sequence) this really is a pretty great teen romance movie, helped immensely by intelligent, believable characters and fine performances (from Stiles especially). I was also very impressed how the film used race for plot conflict and insightful commentary but never devolves into simplistic “can’t we all just get along” moralizing.
Save the Last Dance (2001) – If you can get past the sappy beginning and a few over-emphasized points, this is actually a pretty smart and complex film that doesn’t take the easy way out on any of its tough issues. Julia Stiles, is, of course, simply phenomenal (as always).
Say Anything (1989) – Insightful teen comedy that thankfully treats its leads like real people. It is not surprising that it is written by the guy who wrote Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Scarface (1932) – Seminal, violent and fast paced (we’re talking about Howard Hawks after all) gangster film, Scarface is still pretty spectacular 80 years later. Muni does a nice job as the brutal thug on his way up and the shootouts and chases are as exciting as they come.
The Scarlet Empress (1934) – One of Sternberg’s most visually impressive films (which is high praise indeed), but don’t for a second think the appeal lies solely in the visuals. Sternberg takes what is, on the surface, merely a historical drama and then twists his usual tale of sexual power games and the men they destroy into the narrative to powerful effect.
Scarlet Street (1945) – A very mean spirited woman and her meaner boyfriend pull a Blue Angel on Robinson’s helpless artist. It has all the usual Lang style obsession with guilt, paranoia and suicide throughout, and, like the rest of his sound work, it is also quite brilliant.
School of Rock (2003) – Two hours of Jack Black can be a bit much (I kind of prefer him in supporting roles like in High Fidelity), but he really kind of grows on you in this above average (but still routine) “teacher and kids help each other find themselves” movie. And don’t take the “routine” comment as a knock: aside from a few scattered shaky moments, this one really is a pretty good time.
Scoop (2006) – I suppose this film really isn’t that great, but I was still glad to see Woody back in front of the camera for one last movie. Scarlett continues her string of underwhelming performances, so it is up Woody’s familiar nebbish to keep the film’s head above the water, which he (barely) manages to do.
Scott Pilgrim VS. the World (2010) – I think the biggest problem with this film is that the basic premise is pretty shallow and contrived and thus it makes me suspect that all the flash was just flash. Of course this also isn’t giving enough credit to just how entertaining this extremely enjoyable piece of fluff is.
The Searchers (1956) – I’ve seen this plenty of times and part of me always holds back a little, I think because I am unsure about how well the Fordian touches of broad humor mesh with the heavy themes. Otherwise, it really is an amazing movie–even if it’s not my favorite Ford western.
The Secret of My Success (1987) – This story of getting filthy rich by your own ingenuity and bootstraps is undoubtedly every douchebag yuppie’s favorite movie of all time. I guess it’s a testament to Michael J. Fox’s performance that he actually comes off as fairly likable in this one.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) – This plays kind of like a quirky indie version of Melancholia. It actually isn’t bad, if a quirky indie version of Melancholia sounds like a lot of fun to you, but I found the relentlessly depressing subject matter to be a bit too unpleasant (perhaps BECAUSE of the light romantic atmosphere of the rest of the movie).
Send Me No Flowers (1964) – The clever script (with touches of dark comedy) makes this easily the best (and funniest) of the 3 Day/Hudson films. You still have to get past some over-emphatic soundtrack cues, but if these kinds of movies are your thing, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Sense and Sensibility (1995) – Very engaging and well done, I suspect movies like this (rather than the source material) are a lot of the reason for Jane Austin’s continued popularity. If I have a complaint it is that I don’t really buy a lot of the love connections, but maybe that is part of the point.
September (1987) – This seems the most like Interiors out of all of Woody’s “later serious stuff”. Which is not a bad thing, I very much like that style from Woody Allen, my only complaint is the very stagy dialogue–I’ve always preferred something more naturalistic.
Serendipity (2001) – I knew from the ridiculous premise that this one was going to fucking suck, but, of course, because it was a rom com I watched it anyway. Cusack is dependable as always, but there is no getting past the bullshit plot–Eric Rohmer’s A Winter’s Tale is the only movie to ever pull off the fate thing for me.[Original April Fool’s Day review: This is a masterpiece that transcends its potential genre limitations to become a beautiful meditation on life, love and the inexorable power of fate. Kate Beckinsale’s flawless performance alongside John Cusack helps to convincingly deliver one of the great screen romances of all time–Eric Rohmer’s A Winter’s Tale has nothing on this one!]
A Serious Man (2009) – At first this comes off as rather one note in that it is pretty much just a movie about a spineless man watching his life slowly unravel. But there are some actually some really interesting things going on with the Job story, the uncertainty principle and a truly cinematic final shot–that, or I could just be saying all this because I hate admitting that I didn’t really ”get” a movie.
Seven Beauties (1975) – The, at times, annoyingly stylish filmmaking makes it tough to tell exactly how “good” this film actually is. Ultimately, I think it is a worthwhile artistic endeavor, if you enjoy artistic endeavors that sadistically wallow in the basest instincts of the human race.
Seven Men from Now (1956) – Nice tense revenge western with one of Lee Marvin’s best performances. The desert landscape is beautifully photographed, and Scott makes for an impressively square-jawed stoic hero.
The Seventh Seal (1957) – The whole idea of despairing over whether or not there is a god might seem a little silly and obvious, but it still works within the plague stricken medieval setting. Quintessential Bergman, and not just for the existential despair, for the affirmation of life as well.
Sex Drive: Theatrical Version (2008) – The theatrical version really is much better (and less misogynistic) than the unrated version (as the video disclaimer before the unrated version accurately states). Still not one of the all-time teen grossout sex comedy classics, but pretty amusing nonetheless.
Sex Drive: Unrated Version (2008) – A cut above the usual teen comedy fare, there are actually quite a few clever moments scattered throughout. Though (and perhaps this is because I watched the unrated version with 20 minutes of random gross-out and sex jokes added) the humor had a bit of a nasty misogynistic streak despite the “it’s good to be a nice guy” message.
Shack Out On 101 (1955) – Pretty minor anti-commie curiosity from McCarthy era Hollywood with Lee Marvin delightfully chewing the scenery as a commie agent disguised as a lecherous burger flipper. The “hero” is as lame as they come, but this movie is worth it for the shirtless weightlifting scene alone.
Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – This unassuming film is really quite creepy as you slowly learn what lurks beneath the surface of some people. The psychology of the relationship between uncle Charlie and his niece Charlie takes center stage and proves as mesmerizing as Hitchcock’s effortless direction.
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) – Traditional wisdom says that after the first two, the Thin Man series rapidly goes downhill. However, while this doesn’t have quite the charm and polish of the first, it is still quite a lot of fun–I think I even like it a bit better than the last one!
Shadows and Fog (1991) – Though each part holds up fairly well, the whole thing reeks of pretension. As an excuse to shoot a bunch of “shadows,” “fog,” and Kafkaesque situations, I suppose it works about as well as it has any right to.
Shadows in Paradise (1986) – Fassbinder is still the only one I can completely accept this kind of stylized acting delivery from, but Kaurismaki’s stuff is growing on my with each film. The camerawork, restrained storytelling and construction are flawless as usual.
Shame (2011) – Pretty brutal movie about a severely unhappy man who has a lot of sex but enjoys none of it. The muted direction that is full of long takes perfectly complements Fassbender’s searing performance.
Shanghai Express (1932) – I’m not sure which is more luminous, the cinematography or Dietrich in this Sternberg masterpiece. Only Hitchcock could match Sternberg’s twisted portrayal of love and power, and no one has since matched his mastery of Mise-en-scene.
The Shanghai Gesture (1941) – There is no other Hollywood director like Sternberg whether we are talking about his mastery of Mise-en-scene or his ability to transform the “battle of the sexes” into something far more insidious. There are head scratching areas of the plot, but that hardly matters since the power games the characters play with each other in the surreal gambling den are so fascinating.
Shaun of the Dead (2004) – Quite funny, thought I suspect a “zombie movie” fan will appreciate this a lot more than myself. Still, the fart jokes alone are worth the price of admission.
Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015) – Perhaps ultimately a bit inconsequential, but there is no denying the craft with which it is constructed. Also, though it is a wordless movie full of throwaway sight gags, it still manages to outshine most of the soulless humor that is found in most modern animated fare.
She Done Him Wrong (1933) – If you’ve never seen a Mae West films, the sheer audacity of this brilliant pre-code film will leave you reeling. Not that the quality of the filmmaking really matters a whit here since West packs it with enough razor sharp one-liners to put a Groucho/Woody love child to shame.
She’s All That (1999) – Never having seen Freddy Prinz Jr. in a film before, I was amazed that Paul Walker ends up seeming to exude charisma and screen presence in comparison. The insipid leading man aside, this a slight cut above most of its ilk–though the story is pretty recycled, even for a teen romantic comedy.
She’s Out of My League (2010) – A copycat of the Judd Apatow formula with somewhat below average results. Still, the lead and his Disney-obsessed buddy are interesting enough to save the film from its more uninspired moments.
She’s the Man (2006) – For all the praise she seems to get, Amanda Bynes WAY overplays things in this. Which makes the ridiculous premise and weak script that much harder to swallow.
Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942) – First of the Roy William Neill movies, and it is a step up from the previous Voice of Terror. It helps having Moriarty back, but the more dynamic plot and atmospheric direction share much of the credit as well.
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942) – The first Holmes film to update the setting to modern times, this ends up being dominated a bit too much by the propaganda as Holmes ends up getting pushed to the edge of the spotlight. Still great fun, but not as strong as the rest of the Basil Rathbone Holmes films.
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942) – The Holmes series gets updated to modern England and works just as well. Though, the heavy-handed war-time plot brings everything down a few notches.
Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Downey was good, the Watson characterization was a lot more measured than the trailer suggested and the fight scenes at least didn’t *completely* dominate things. Still “just an action movie”, but an entertaining one at least.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) – A stronger film than the first Sherlock Holmes, though still rather disjointed (and the screenplay has no idea what to do with Noomi Rapace’s character). And, while he’s basically MTV/Music Video bullshit, some of Guy Ritchie’s slow mo touches are actually rather cinematic (especially the artillery bombing of the forest scene).
Shoot to Kill (1947) – Quickie noir that at least moves right along (in its sloppy and often just plain lazy way). Aside from that, everything from the performances to the writing is just plain sub-par.
The Shooting (1968) – One of those “existential” westerns with an overbearing modern soundtrack, a metaphorical journey across a wasteland, and an ending that, while I think I figured it out after a rewind and internet lookup, really could have been filmed a bit more clearly. Nothing really wrong with it, but a filmmaker like Boetticher manages to do this kind of thing and make it twice as good without hitting you over the head with his metaphors like this one does.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940) – Great, restrained Lubitsch romantic comedy. With tons of wonderful and witty moments from the ensemble cast, this is a classic that lives up to the hype.
Short Cuts (1993) – Flawlessly crafted, Altman is working at the top of his game here. Still, the overly dramatic nature of some of the stories brings this down a notch compared to the more thematically restrained (and much better) Nashville.
Showgirls (1995) – This slickly produced take on All About Eve is not nearly as bad (aside from Berkley’s central performance) as you might have been led to believe. Which is not to say it is good, but it does have a definite sleazy atmosphere that works for it in a certain mean-spirited kind of way.
Shutter Island (2010) – The nice dark images of the mental institution island and Scorsese’s usual visceral editing really elevated this above the usual Hollywood fare. Still, it felt like a film that was trying to stretch an already overbloated premise about 45 minutes too long.
The Sign of Four (1987) – Brett’s histrionics make for a strange Sherlock Holmes if you are used to Basil Rathbone’s more measured arrogance like I am. Still, he is kind of growing on me, it is just too bad that this particular story doesn’t afford him more time to jump to awesome deductions.
Silent Light (2007) – I was kind of hoping it would stay in “Rohmer with ugly people” territory, but it is apparent by the end that the director had higher aspirations (well, you can’t have higher aspirations than Rohmer, but different at least). It is quite problematic that climax of this movie has already been done (and in my opinion should only be done once…I stay vague for fear of spoilers), but it is an undeniably unique masterpiece nonetheless.
Silent Light (2007) – It is rare to see naturalism like this in a modern film, let alone the restrained (some might call it “tedious”) camerawork–I can even see the comparisons to Tarkovsky, Bresson and Dreyer (which is high praise indeed). The only thing that really kept it out of masterpiece category for me was the ending that I feel is not incorporated nearly as well as the movie that originally did it and suspect it is more of an homage than the actual best possible ending for this film.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Fun, crowd-pleasing movie about two insane people who fall in love. If I have an issue with this, it is that it seems to suggest that true love makes you not be crazy anymore, which would be fine in a dumb rom com, but not in a movie that is pretending to be better than that.
Silver Lode (1954) – Another “bad town” western like High Noon, yet it comes off a tad less righteous and a bit more psychologically interesting. The obvious anti-McCarthy “message” (the antagonist was even named “McCarty”) is laid on too thick, but there is still a lot of movie to be enjoyed past that.
Sin City (2005) – The scattered decent moments fail to cover up what a steaming pile of shit this movie is. Part of the fault is due to that hack Robert Rodriguez, the rest of it is due to the fact that Frank Miller’s ludicrous source material should never have been spoken out loud (which does shine a bit of light onto the idea that Miller might just be a bit of a hack himself).
Six Days, Seven Nights (1998) – Grizzled Harrison Ford and the strikingly pretty Anne Heche get themselves stuck in his desert island fantasy to amusing effect. A pretty light piece of fluff–not that that is a bad thing.
Sixteen Candles (1984) – Despite some uncomfortable racism, homophobia, and date rape, this is still one of the great teen movies. Half the credit goes towards the intelligent, believable script; the other half of the credit goes towards Molly Ringwald’s facial expression of shocked teenage horror as she endures one angsty trial after another.
A Skater’s Debut (1905) – I am curious if this really was made in 1905, as this Max Linder short is sophisticated enough to have been created in the teens. American Silent Comedy might have reigned during the teens and 20’s but this proves that France probably had the edge until then.
Skyfall (2012) – If I want to complain, this isn’t exactly going to win any awards for tight plotting (not that other Bond films do much better) and Craig is still too serious for Bond. However, this is still the best Bond film I’ve seen in a long time–great villain, nice restrained stunts, excellent new cast additions and some really brilliant cinematography courtesy of Deakins.
Slap Shot (1977) – This is as homophobic and misogynistic as you’ve always heard, but honestly that’s a fairly realistic portrayal of jock behavior and I suppose it isn’t much different from modern male wish fulfillment fare like The Hangover. In all, it is reasonably fun, with “The Hanson Brothers” practically stealing the show.
Sleeping Beauty (1959) – I haven’t seen these old Disney movies forever, and they really do seem to have a special something the newer films lack. Not perfect, but still great entertainment–also, Maleficent is pretty hot.
Sleeping With the Enemy (1991) – There was a bit of decent suspense and mystery I suppose, but it’s not easy figuring out what tone they are going for. Based on more than a few scenes, I guess the word I’m looking for is “risible”.
A Slight Case of Murder (1938) – Pretty agreeable farce about a group of cons having trouble adapting to the straight life. I want to say it isn’t as funny and doesn’t quite accelerate into as madcap of a finale as something like Bringing up Baby, but most films tend to suffer in comparison to Hawks’ work, so I suppose I really can’t complain.
Slomo (2013) – Short film about a guy who tunes in and drops out to pursue his love of in-line skating all day long in sunny California. Well made, though the message is undercut a bit by the fact that the dude used to be a high paid doctor who didn’t so much “leave it all behind” as “retire early.”
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – Even though he’s one of those “hip”, “flashy” directors, Danny Boyle guy is really quite talented. Like a modern fairy tale without being overly sentimental, I really quite enjoyed this one (despite the overbearing soundtrack).
Smiley Face (2007) – A stoner comedy about the trials and tribulations of getting from point A to point B…on weed. It isn’t really all that funny (more frustratingly realistic), but it is worth it for Anna Faris alone.
Smilin’ Through (1922) – Apparently this is the first of several adaptations of this story, which is surprising since this is such a turgid and unoriginal melodrama. The final message also manages to push one of the most unpleasant (life-denying) aspects of religion.
The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923) – Though the story is fairly risible, the extraordinarily creative direction more than makes up for it. I especially like the use of pure black that foregrounds the characters in so many shots.
Smokin’ Aces (2006) – Hard to mess up a premise of “lots of wacky assassins kill each other trying to get to a target,” and for the most part this is good dumb fun. It’s just too bad they try to go for something more–the convoluted plot and big “twist” are alternately incoherent and preposterous.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) – While the script is a mess of barely linked set pieces, the visuals almost make up for the laziness. The fairy tale vibe is surprisingly strong throughout–the dark forest and the air freshener ad fairy forest are especially cool.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) – Snow White and the prince are fairly bland, but the evil queen and the dwarfs at least provide some life to their characterizations in this, this first of the Disney full-length animated films. A worthy seed for the Disney legacy if you don’t mind sitting through the Snow White and the cute forest animals while waiting for the dwarfs and the scary parts.
So Undercover (2012) – Miley Cyrus goes undercover at a sorority to catch, like, some kind of Eastern European bad guy or something. Honestly, pretty much everything is just on the wrong side of barely even worth watching, and Miley Cyrus is in over her head playing the tough girl–of course I watched the whole thing and didn’t hate it anyway.
The Social Network (2010) – I’d say it lives up to the hype since I remained very engrossed throughout despite my lukewarm feelings about biopics. The clever script and stylish direction pull off the impressive feat of making a somewhat boring story almost fascinating.
Solaris (1972) – Excellent dreamlike “sci-fi” film that is really a psychodrama a heart. If I have a complaint, it is that some of the philosophy is a bit hoary, but this is still a hundred times more human than anything by Kubrik.
Soldier Blue (1970) – This is a little disjointed as it bounces between light-hearted frontier romping and shocking scenes of violence. Still, worth a watch, and you get to see a lot of scantily clad Candice Bergen too.
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) – The love triangle is pretty lopsided which made the ending seem a little off. Still, it is another superior story of teen angst from Hughes and team and is definitely worth watching.
Some Like it Hot (1959) – One of the all-time great comedies, and the rare movie that actually manages to equal Monroe’s performance. The pregnant and “overweight” Monroe has never looked better either.
Some Like it Hot (1959) – Thirty pounds “overweight” (supposedly pregnant during shooting) and Monroe is still about the hottest (and thanks to the genuineness of her delivery, in my opinion, also the best) actress of all time. There also aren’t many comedies funnier than Some Like it Hot and it holds up to repeat viewings amazingly well.
Someone Like You (2001) – Pretty slick, but the appealing/attractive leads carry the day. Still pretty standard, but probably better than average if formulaic romantic comedies are your thing.
Something Borrowed (2011) – This is the story of a guy stringing some girl along for so long that by the end (or even the first third) of the movie you don’t want either of them to get together–him because he’s a dick, her because she’s so spineless. Jim from The Office, doing a slightly more catty version of his shtick is fairly amusing at least, but not enough to save this film from itself.
Something New (2006) – By casting the white guy in the “I’ll fix you” role it automatically marginalizes the black woman’s legitimate reservations, a problem that is all too obvious in the bullshit ending that conveniently sweeps the issue of race under the rug–where the white guy has been suggesting it belongs the whole movie. Sledgehammer obvious, this painfully simplistic movie never attempts to approach its main issue of race with even the slightest modicum of complexity–Save the Last Dance handles this subject so much better.
Something Wild (1986) – This kind of plays like a sweeter version of Scorsese’s After Hours, and is similarly well done. The narrative might wander a bit, but it never fails to be consistently entertaining.
Song of the South (1946) – This isn’t nearly as racist as you might have heard: there are Uncle Tomish moments to be sure, but for a movie about the reconstruction era made in the 40’s it is positively forward thinking (though obviously over idealized). As a film, the live action stuff is just ok, but the animated Brer Rabbit bits are really pretty great.
The Song of the Thin Man (1947) – There is only so much you can say about the later Thin Man movies in two sentences; like the previous entry in the series, this is “not as good as the first, but a lot better than you’ve been told”. Honestly, it is a perfectly fine entry for a consistently entertaining series to go out on.
The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) – Quite fascinating document of the aftermath of a nation’s occupation. Makes plenty of good points, but the personal account method of understanding history is obviously going to be as biased as some of the interviewer’s questions, thus it suffers a bit from an objectivity standpoint.
Souls for Sale (1923) – Possessing more than a mere historical interest (even though the shots of Chaplin and Stroheim at work are great) this is actually pretty entertaining too. There is no great thematic or technical prowess on display, merely solid, unpretentious filmmaking that makes for an immensely watchable film that never feels like merely a vehicle for its celebrity cameos.
Southern Comfort (1981) – A group of dudes in the middle of nowhere being picked off by an unstoppable foe is as old of a story as gunmen protecting innocent townsfolk. Still, Hill does a good job and this is worth checking out if that is your kind of thing.
Southpaw (2015) – Some decent boxing stuff in here, even if this kind of thing is awful familiar. My biggest complaint is that the script probably could have used a trim of about 40 pages.
Soylent Green (1973) – Heston’s acting does it no favors, and the big reveal is either too telegraphed or too spoiled by pop culture, but, otherwise, this is a surprisingly dark and gritty dystopian film. Better and more thoughtful than you would guess it would be.
Speedy (1927) – Don’t let the naysayers (including myself) convince you otherwise, this is one of Lloyd’s good ones. Granted, there is no story, just a string of gags, but they are, for the most part, quite high quality!
Spies (1928) – This ended up having about an hour cut out of it compared to the last version of this film that I saw. And, even at 80 minutes, it still drags–though maybe I’m just pissed because almost all of Fritz Rasp’s parts were cut out.
Spirited Away (2001) – I was quite surprised to find that at least half of the superlative praise that has been heaped on this is actually true. The spirit world only rarely feels like a cheap excuse to draw a bunch of bizarre creatures, and the storyline holds up far better as a complex whole than most modern animated films (and with a minimum of the cutesy characters and one liners that plague American animated films of recent years).
Spring Breakers (2013) – It would be easy to laugh this off as exploitative trash, and easier still to laugh it off as pretentious trash, but I think it manages to walk a fine line between both and actually live up to its ambitions. And James Franco practically steals the neon colored show as soon as his ridiculous rapper Alien shows up.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) – A lot of people call this one the best Roger Moore Bond, but I wonder if they aren’t just swayed by the memorable set design and cool Egypt locations. Because otherwise, with the introduction of the indestructible Jaws (who admittedly has a considerable amount of screen presence), Moore’s run in the series turns from silly to cartoonish.
Stage Door (1937) – As far as shots of estrogen go, this one does the trick. A lot of good stuff, but the melodrama kind of makes it suffer in my eyes when compared to something a little less heavy handed like The Women.
Stagecoach (1939) – The film that sets the standard for all Westerns to come, Stagecoach is a shining example of American filmmaking at its finest. The ensemble cast is magnificent as the titular stagecoach winds its way through monument valley under the ever present danger of indian attack until the final chase and shootout.
Stagecoach (1939) – The film that made John Wayne a true star and proved once and for all that the western needed to be taken seriously. Just a “mismatched traveller” tale at heart, but, due to its choice of genre, it takes on an aura of mythic grandeur that remains unmatched to this day.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) – This really doesn’t seem to hold up as well as most Trek fans claim it does. The storytelling is lean and focused, and it has some great scenes (especially the ending), but the script, especially Khan’s dialog, is about as overwritten as it comes.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) – An unfortunately under-rated film that I suspect only gets so much hate to make the “even numbered Trek films” theory work. Really just a lot of fun (especially the Enterprise heist), for my money it is just as good (if not better) than Wrath of Khan.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) – The script kind of falls apart to constant niggling questions of “yeah, but why didn’t they…”, but that hardly matters since the game cast and snappy one-liners are the real focus. Maybe more of an action movie than a Star Trek film, but I’m still looking forward to the next one.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) – The setup might be a bit far-fetched (and I’m pretty sure time travel doesn’t work that way), and there might be a few too many wacky chase scenes set to wacky music, but overall this movie is a real delight. The fish out of water scenes in San Francisco are still genuinely funny, which is saying something considering I’ve watched this probably close to 50 times.
Star Trek (2009) – So, sure the plot had some lazy implausibilities, and even a layman knows black holes don’t work like that, but damn if this isn’t pretty sweet anyway. It is a basically just a big budget action movie full of fan service to the original, but it is well made, has a great cast and is pretty much just a whole lot of fun.
Star Trek (2009) – Still pretty entertaining the second time, but the plot holes were even more annoying. It astounds me that whoever wrote the script would take so little effort to make it even remotely plausible.
Star Wars – The Force Awakens (2015) – Pretty damn fun, with plenty of mindless (and well-paced) action and great new characters to make this one a blast to watch. But, seriously, couldn’t they have tried just a tiny bit harder to do something other than blow up another fucking Death Star?
Star Wars Prequels (reviewed on Youtube) – Some dude in Wisconsin painstakingly makes an epic (and well-edited) nerd rant about why the Star Wars prequels suck so much. He makes some good points, and then repeats them on end for 4 hours in one of the most annoying voices of all time…so, by all means, check this out if that sounds like your kind of thing.
Star Wars (1977) – While the humor is a bit broader than I prefer, the effects a bit rusty, and the dialogue rather cheesy, there is still no denying the sheer entertainment value of the whole thing. There is a real thrill to watching this first ever (as far as I know) combination of fantasy, western and science fiction–it’s easy to see how this single-handedly created a new film genre overnight.
Stardust Memories (1980) – Impossible to describe “Woody’s 8 and a half” without using the words “self-indulgent”, but hell, the jokes about “I love your work, especially the early funny stuff” really are pretty funny. Full of witty dialog and a lot of great one liners, I’d call this Woody Allen in top form.
The Stars are Beautiful (1974) – I am no expert (and have my reservations about) experimental art films, but I honestly think this one tries too hard to attach meaning to the images (and the cutesy creation stories about the stars are only sporadically “not lame”). Something like Herzog’s Fata Morgana works better for what this is trying to do, and I overall prefer Brakhage’s more abstract stuff to this film.
State and Main (2000) – There is a lot to like about this screwballish story of a film production, but the theatrical dialog seems a little too cute for its own good. Still, it is worth watching, and not just because Julia Stiles is in it.
State of the Union (1948) – A Capra film in the vein of Meet John Doe and You Can’t Take it With You, which is to say: overly didactic, sentimental and politically simple to the point of insulting the viewer’s intelligence. Knowing where a movie is going is fine with me as long as I have fun getting there, and that was not the case with this one.
The Station Agent (2003) – Sure it’s calculated to be heartwarming, but it thankfully doesn’t lay it on too thick. Lots of nice restrained scenes with only a small amount of manufactured drama.
The Steel Helmet (1951) – Early Fuller war film full of the usual ballsy direction that is better than The Iron Cross but not as good as The Big Red One. The racial elements, while intriguing and not too overbearing, end up feeling a little tacked on.
Stella Dallas (1937) – This highly regarded story of a working class mother who marries above her is really just not my thing to start with, though maybe my real complaint is the remarkable job they do of making Stanwyck look like a late period Shelly Winters (which is unforgivable). Admittedly, I could be selling Vidor short as to the subversivenes of his message (ie, are we really supposed to like the “respected” family?), so it could be a much deeper movie than it initially appears despite my urge to roll my eyes through most of it.
Step Up 2: The Streets (2008) – Channing Tatum shows up in the beginning just to show us how much the new guy’s admittedly charming smile is no match for his absence. And yet, despite that, this is a highly enjoyable movie full of teen romance, dance fighting, and plucky kids from the wrong side of the tracks (if that stuff is your kind of thing).
Step Up 3D (2010) – Though it’s tough to beat Channing Tatum, the male leads in this series are getting worse and worse at an exponential rate. Thankfully the charismatic Moose returns from part 2 to anchor his half of the movie, while the dance sequences are probably a series high (though they continued to suffer from the usual Step Up problem where the other teams usually looking like they got robbed out of the win in the various dance fights).
Step Up 4: Revolution: Miami Heat (2012) – While the Step Up movies have gone downhill since the first (legitimately good) movie (thanks largely to a parade of increasingly charmless pretty boy/girl leads), this marks a slight step forward from 3 (thanks to a slightly less charmless pair of pretty boy/girl leads). The dance sequences are just as well mounted and brilliant as the rest of the series, even if the set ups are as utterly ridiculous as the plot.
Step Up (2006) – Pretty sweet teen dance movie. This would make a great double feature with Save the Last Dance, and I mean that as the highest praise.
Step Up (2006) – Though it goes through all the usual plot machinations, the strong leads (especially, of course, Tatum) and competent script go a long way to making this quite a lot of fun. Out of the great dance movies, only Save the Last Dance improves on this one.
Stepbrothers (2008) – I only caught the last half of this but I figured I’d review it anyway as I’m pretty sure I got the idea. I wanted to laugh at the nice performances of two 40 year olds in a state of arrested development more than I did, but the whole thing is too mean-spirited to be of much amusement.
Stepford Wives (1975) – Goes for the slow burn, rather than a more in your face approach, and largely works. Still, for an “uneventful” horror film, it’s all too obvious how dreadfully slow this movie is when compared to something like Rosemary’s Baby.
Still Waiting… (2009) – Just like Waiting… except lazier and without all the characters that made the first one watchable. Unfunny, and to make matters worse, the “unrated” version only has one shot of boobs.
Stork Mad (1926) – Pretty unimpressive silent comedy about a couple adopting a baby. I think the problem (aside from a lazy script and a dearth of laughs) is that the lead can’t pull off stupidity without just seeming stupid.
Storm over Asia (1928) – Pudovkin’s editing seems less suited to this tale of wide-open steppes, but there is no denying the power of the action scenes, especially the thunderous finale. And, I’d still pick him over Eisenstein any day since his narratives actually have a bit of soul to them at least.
Stormy Weather (1943) – This one has a lot of great musical numbers that are unfortunately sandwiched between a pretty bland story. Also, Bill Robinson’s acting was pretty weak to me–and he was a bit too old to really impress with his dancing).
Storytelling (2001) – Two short films about the usual Solondz cadre of miserable humans. Still good stuff, though I feel like the second film wanders a bit and doesn’t quite match the first one in terms of quality.
Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) – Strange expressionist film about a man who looks deep within himself and finds his mind is a dark place. Peter Lorre is great as always, unfortunately none of the other actors are quite up to par.
The Stranger (1946) – It says something about the quality of Welles’ work that many consider this great movie his “worst” film. Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt might beat this for psychological complexity, performances, and suspense, but as a piece of creative filmmaking The Stranger wins hands down.
Strangers on a Train (1951) – One of Hitchcock’s best, with enough brilliant set pieces to fill twice as many normal movies. The merry go round finale alone is one of the finest pieces of cinema one will ever see.
The Strawberry Statement (1970) – This is a film about privileged college kids getting swept up in the joy of taking a stand for something–and as such, I appreciate the honesty of the message. The movie is just ok: a little disjointed, and a little too happy to show an extended violent riot sequence at the end.
Street of Crocodiles (1986) – Classic stop motion short film that is both mesmerizing and completely incomprehensible. Also, it is undeniably beautiful, if you find eastern bloc decay beautiful.
Street of Crocodiles (1987) – Brilliant bit of stop motion animation that is full of creepy dolls, urban decay and Freudian sexual references. Like all good experimental narrative filmmaking, the plot defies explanation, but remains remarkably coherent anyway.
Street of Shadows (1953) – Competent, but minor noir. Nice touches but nothing to really distinguish it from the classics of the genre.
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) – If it were not for Brando’s amazing performance I’d say this wouldn’t be nearly as impressive of a film. It also doesn’t help that Brando is so good that he steals every scene he is in, essentially turning the film into a “wait for Brando’s brutish, cruel and undeniably charismatic character to show up” game.
Suddenly Last Summer (1959) – If anyone could manage to capture the screenwriting hat trick of (spoiler alert) incest, lobotomies and cannibalism, it would have to be Tennessee Williams. Not that it is a successful film, but it certainly is audacious (and Hepburn puts in a great performance–I can’t say as much for the rest of the cast).
Sugar Daddies (1927) – As Laurel and Hardy films go, this is pretty par for the course. Which is to say, there are funny bits, the leads are fine, but none of it is nearly as clever as Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd on their worst days.
A Sunday in the Country (1984) – After getting past the initial hurdle of that ridiculous cover with all the quotes about how tender and humane the film was, it is refreshing to find out the film actually has something to say about human interaction rather than being a simple nostalgic sapfest. Tavernier’s camera is more mobile than I usually like, but it works well in capturing the natural beauty surrounding the countryside as the familial tensions unfold during the warm fall day.
Super 8 (2011) – This is really kind of fun and even works as a Goonies-style throwback. Unfortunately, the screenwriter forgot to come up with a third act and ends up making the last 20 minutes about as effective as I heard the final episode of Lost was.
Superbad (2007) – I think it would be fair to say this is the best comedy of the last decade. It is the usual Apatow style bromance, but it uses the “one wild night” routine perfectly while nailing just about every joke in the film.
Supervixens (1975) – More of the same from Meyer (by which I mean, mostly, tits) and still filmed with a lot more style than the material deserves. Other than that, there isn’t a lot to recommend this one–the ending especially grows tiresome.
Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) – Very funny comedy western about a laid back badass sheriff who turns a wild town around. Honestly, the silly soundtrack is really the only strike against this gem.
The Sure Thing (1985) – Cute road trip movie that finds the strangely likable Cusack doing his usual thing. It kind of reeks of the 80s, but still has plenty of entertaining moments.
Suspicion (1941) – The ending left me confused as to Hitchcock’s intentions for a number of reasons, but overall this film is enjoyable enough. It’s too bad that there weren’t more directors who took advantage of Grant’s dark edge, he is pretty great on the dark side in this one.
Suspiria (1977) – This really shouldn’t be even remotely good, but Argento really isn’t afraid to take major creative chances with every formal element of the film. The dialog is weak, the gore unnecessary and the plot barely holds together, but it hardly matters as Argento’s directorial chutzpah makes this a wildly entertaining (and memorable) horror film nonetheless.
Suzanne’s Career (1963) – It always amazes me how much Rohmer’s films have to say on the subject of human interaction. This film about a user, a follower, and the “victim” provokes far more thought than is first apparent and sticks with you long after it is over.
Sweet Home Alabama (2002) – Another run of the mill rom com that is buoyed by its two charismatic leads. Provided you can get past an implausibly precious picture of Southern life, this is pretty fun really.
The Sweetest Thing (2002) – A weird cross between rom com and gross-out comedy, there isn’t much to like from either side in this mess. I’ve got a thing for road trip movies, and I still found myself thinking that even Leap Year is better than this.
Sweetwater (2013) – January Jones works well enough as the lead, it’s just too bad the movie she finds herself in is such an amateurish piece of shit. If watching an incoherent, wanna-be stylish revenge western written by hipster assholes sounds like a good time, then, by all means, check this one out!
Swept Away (2002) – Bizarre story about a horrible rich bitch who has the tables turned on her in a pretty fucked-up master/slave desert island “fantasy” come true. I’m not sure anyone really knows what they are trying to say, and Madonna proves here that the rumors of her acting shortcomings might not have been so greatly exaggerated after all.
The Switch (2010) – Nothing really wrong with the film except for the fact that no one could possibly root for the leads to end up together (there were actually shouts of “noo…why would you kiss!” at the end of my screening). However, I totally wanted Bateman and the little kid to end up together, so I guess at least it nails the father-mance part of the script.
The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) – Pretty weak stuff really, from the convoluted script to the nitpicky complaints about just how that three bladed sword shoots its blades out. I guess the hero is slightly more interesting than the Clash of the Titans guy, but that’s pretty faint praise.
Take Aim at the Police Van (1960) – Not as stylistically daring as Suzuki’s best work, but this is still a fine Japanese Noir with a lot of nice stylistic touches. Interesting to see such a relaxed attitude towards portraying the seedier side of noir, which is also surprising since it is coming from a Japanese film.
Take Me Home Tonight (2011) – All the elements are there: “one wild night,” “hijinx,” “Anna Faris,” but sadly this is just plain dull. It doesn’t help that the Belushi wannabe comic relief best friend is quite spectacularly annoying either.
Take Shelter (2011) – At times, the “this is about America, RIGHT NOW” references seem a bit obvious, but that is really my only complaint. Otherwise, fine performances all around, along with the very palpable sense of dread, makes this a film that really sticks with you.
Taken (2008) – On the one hand, I kind of want to give Taken props because it does do the “here’s what happens when you fuck with someone who should not be fucked with” thing rather well. On the other hand, behind the seams it feels rather shallow, contrived, and in the end, forgettable.
Taking Woodstock (2009) – True story of how Woodstock happened based on the book by the title character. Really quite a charming film that manages to be all about the Woodstock Festival without ever actually seeing anyone play.
A Tale of Winter (1992) – It is strange that some of my favorite Rohmer films feature some of his most annoying female protagonists. Even more astonishing is the fact that this one theoretically has a storyline as ludicrous as Serendipity–and yet it is another of his many masterpieces nonetheless.
Talk to Her (2002) – Quite a complex story of love, friendship, obsession and loss. The script is especially brilliant at weaving the myriad elements of the film into a unified whole.
Tall in the Saddle (1944) – Like Angel and the Badman, this is another A-list Western playing in the B-movie waters of Wayne’s early career. The plot roars right along, Gabby Hayes makes a great sidekick, and there are more great scenes crammed in here than you could shake a sixshooter at.
The Tall T (1957) – Great western with a snappy script and a bad guy to match Scott’s effortless poise. Definitely one to check out if you are wondering what all the fuss about this Boetticher guy is.
Tangerine (2015) – Popping with energy and style to spare, this film is far more than just a “filmed entirely on an iphone 5” gimmick. The story doesn’t break much new ground, but you will never be bored, that’s for sure.
Tanner Hall (2009) – Apparently this only got made because someone’s rich parents paid for it to get made (and then the lead actress got famous and it got released). Which explains a lot considering how fucking terrible the script is.
Tape (2001) – Spectacular piece of ”guerrilla” film making set entirely in one motel room with three actors. This is one of those rare scripts that is actually far deeper and has far more to say than is immediately apparent.
Tapeheads (1988) – Bizarre comedy that seems to be going for some kind of tone between strange and off-putting. I only got an hour in before I decided I really would rather do about anything else than finish this movie.
Target for Tonight (1941) – The Royal Air Force takes time out from holding off the German menace to make a movie going over every facet of a bombing run in great detail. It really is pretty cool if you are a WW2 buff; the non-actor performances really aren’t bad either (and give a nice authenticity to the whole thing).
The Tarnished Angels (1958) – Fantastic Sirk film with the Written on the Wind cast that loses nothing with the change to black and white. Pretty heavy stuff, with some great aerial footage–easily one of Sirk’s best.
Taste of Cherry (1997) – I won’t deny that Kiarostami possesses impressive filmcraft (and a way with actors), but something left me a little cold with this one–maybe just that I personally don’t find a suicide storyline very interesting. The ending also has some issues, but as I think about it more I can see some possible justifications for it.
Teacher’s Pet (1958) – Sure, Gable is way too old and Doris’ butch ducktail haircut is a travesty, but they are both quite good here. Honestly, aside from those two drawbacks, this is one of the better Doris Day vehicles.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) – I hear this get talked up as “dark” quite a lot, but it seems like just another movie aimed at a preteen audience to me. Maybe that isn’t fair, at the very least this is (to borrow from something I read in the Time Out film guide once) a movie aimed at European preteens instead of American ones.
Temple Grandin (2010) – I suppose Claire Danes is quite good in this even if her role calls for an annoying amount of mugging. Otherwise, this is standard biopic fare: of mild interest, unadventurously structured, and ultimately rather forgettable.
The Ten Commandments (1956) – Pretty awesome biblical spectacle that is as tacky and overwritten as it is genuinely fun and exciting. It’s just too bad Moses turns into a self-righteous douche-bag once he talks to god and gets skunk hair.
Ten Things I Hate About You (1999) – I have to wonder how much I’d really like this film were it not for the commanding performances from the leads. It’s a smart teen film, with a bit of actual emotion and angsty honesty, but, at the end of the day, this is all about Julia Stiles’ certain je ne sais quoi and Heath Ledger’s devil may care grin.
Ten (2002) – A bold cinematic experiment that mostly works because the performances meet the demands of the film (the kid especially is unsettlingly amazing). My only complaint is that there are a few times where the attempt to provide commentary on women’s rights in Iran becomes a little too obvious–which is a drawback for such a naturalistic movie.
Ten (2002) – Brilliant film set entirely inside a single car as an Iranian divorcee runs some errands around Tehran. Despite that setup, it is really quite engrossing, and even manages to be pretty subtle about a topic (women’s rights in Iran) that could have easily ended up hitting the viewer over their head with a message.
Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny (2006) – Awfully stupid, but I have to say its earnest humor ended up charming me anyway, and not just because it had a Dio cameo. Though, there sure is a lot of acoustic guitar for a movie about “metal.”
Terminator Salvation (2009) – Apparently this McG fellow is an overwrought 14 year old boy who likes to draw pictures of guns, robots, skulls and shit. Which is really the film’s main saving grace since everything is so implausible, haphazard and soulless (Bale was a particularly lame leading man) that the ridonkulously over the top action scenes at least provide some juvenile amusement.
The Terminator (1984) – I tend to hate slasher horror films, so it is a testament to how well Cameron handles the action scenes in this one that I like this as much as I do. Of course, the ridiculously charismatic Arnold doesn’t hurt either.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) – It’s tough to fault anything in the craft of this really viceral, astonishingly well made “art house” horror film. Light on the gore, but it will still make you sick to your stomach, which might be high praise for the filmmaking, but it doesn’t exactly make me want to watch it again any time soon.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) – This isn’t my usual cup of tea, but it is actually quite well done–not at all the low budget gorefest I assumed it would be. At the end of the day it is just as ideologically reprehensible as the music I listen to, and thus of debatable merit, but the filmmaking is undeniably compelling.
Thanks for Sharing (2012) – This is basically just the afterschool special version of Shame, with a rom-com tacked into the middle somewhere. Ruffallo is good as usual, but the complete lack of chemistry with Paltrow makes every one of their scenes (from the meet-cute to the beginning of the 3rd act breakup) pretty intensely awkward and uncomfortable.
That Daughter’s Crazy (2015) – Documentary/concert film documenting Richard Pryor’s daughter’s one-woman off-Broadway show. Interesting and sporadically funny material, but it mostly serves to remind me that Broadway style shows are really not my cup of tea.
That’s my Wife (1929) – Laurel has to pretend to be Hardy’s wife and the hilarity ensues. Aside from the brilliant short where they built a house together, most of the Laurel and Hardy films I’ve seen have only been sporadically funny at best and this proves to be no exception.
Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988) – Really fascinating portrait of a very strange man built around some great black and white footage from the 60s. I went into the documentary not knowing much at all about Monk, and left with a pretty clear understanding of both the man and what made his music so brilliant…all by being shown and not told I might add.
There Will Be Blood (2007) – Daniel Day Lewis lives up to his formidable reputation in this character study of a very “driven” misanthrope. This is definitely the best movie of 2007 (and indeed in a long time) and I still agree with everything I said in the post I wrote about it last year.
There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954) – Pretty dire and tacky musical about a family that apparently has the most shrill and annoying stage act of all time but gets famous anyway. Not even Monroe’s minimal screen time can save this clunker.
A Thief Catcher (1914) – This minor keystone is primarily known for being one of the first screen appearances of Chaplin–where he shows that he was a violent asshole from the beginning. Ford Sterling’s mugging is amusing as usual too.
The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) – Nick quits drinking in this 5th Thin Man outing and it is still pretty good which says a lot for the resiliency of the series. You’ve seen it all before, but that shouldn’t matter.
The Thing from Another World (1951) – Apparently who actually directed this is unknown, but I’ll call it an honorary Hawks film anyway since all my favorite Hawks touches are in full effect in this great (and suspenseful) “Rio Bravo with an Alien” film. The usual focus on group dynamics is even more complex this time around as there are two competing groups (one of “professionals” and one of “experts”) who are forced to confront both the monster and the failings of their outlooks (one guess which group Hawks puts on top by the end though).
The Thing (1982) – Pretty solid action romp through a (body stealing) monster infested Antarctic science base. Sure, the characterization is obviously lacking, and it isn’t a patch on the original version, but I can’t deny it is pretty fun.
Things to Come (1936) – A real triumph of set design and special effects, this also has the distinction of being the first ever post-apocalyptic sci fi movie a half decade before Mad Max (not to mention first ever zombie movie as well). The dialog is overly expository, but otherwise the silliness mostly manages to be equaled by the sheer spectacle of the whole thing.
Third Avenue: Only the Strong Survive (1980) – Six mostly honest and objective cinema verite stories of New Yorkers in the late 1970s. The filmmaker’s voices are occasionally a bit loud as they tried to make you feel the misery of their character’s plight, but overall, the tough subjects are handled pretty well.
This Gun for Hire (1942) – This film doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to be and feels a little schizophrenic because if it. Lad’s nihilism occasionally shines through the shoehorned “do something for your country” subplot, but, brutal as the film is, it still can’t escape the feeling that it is holding back.
This is 40 (2012) – This kind of feels like a lazy collection of jokes about couples pooping in front of each other. That would have been ok, but the jokes aren’t all that funny and the two leads are way too similar to the self-absorbed yuppies Tod and Margo from Christmas Vacation to really work as protagonists.
This is Spinal Tap (1984) – All the proof one will ever need that to be a metalhead, one must really take oneself with a grain of salt–because that shit is ridiculous! The cast are all improvisational geniuses working with bountifully rich material, so, of course this is a comedy masterpiece.
This is Spinal Tap (1984) – Legendary metal “mockumentary” proves what the silent film comedians already knew: that a healthy dose of improvisation creates much funnier comedies. Almost every segment is a classic of heavy metal humor–also, check out the commentary (done in character by the band) for plenty of extra laughs.
This is Spinal Tap (1984) – Metalheads finally get a movie just for them, and I suppose it’s only fitting it’s a blisteringly funny satire of all our silliest impulses. The improvisational nature of the jokes really pays off as this has to be one of the funniest films ever made.
This is Spinal Tap (1984) – The movie that cemented the mockumentary’s place in modern comedy, and it’s still the funniest example. Every time I rewatch it I marvel at the impressive improv skills of the brilliant cast.
This is Spinal Tap (1984) – The power of genius level improv and playing things perfectly straight is on display in every scene here. Makes one both proud and ashamed to be a metalhead…which is as it should be, probably.
This is the End (2013) – The cast does a good job sending up their images without making the film into a vanity project, while the jokes are deliciously crass, crude, and clever. If you liked Pineapple Express, well, this isn’t as good, but you’ll still probably love it.
This is the End (2013) – Some of the novelty of the extended conversations about jizzing everywhere had worn off by the time I got to a second viewing. Still, there is enough inspired comedy to make this episodic vanity project worth watching a second time–but probably not a third.
Thor (2011) – Though the Asgard stuff is kind of silly, and Portman’s character is reduced to a one dimensional ohmygoshheissohot character, the fish out of water “Thor in Oklahoma” stuff is pretty entertaining. Decent, but still one of the weaker Marvel entries.
Thor: Dark World (2013) – It is the usual mish-mash of gods in silly costumes doing very important things with only Loki to keep things entertaining. Unlike Hitchcock, these Marvel movies don’t seem to understand that MacGuffins like “Aether” aren’t actually interesting enough to be the focus of a film.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) – Pretty well done, but I didn’t really find myself drawn in. Some interesting characters and situations are presented but mostly left undeveloped in favor of the less interesting “journey of redemption” storyline.
Three Kings (1999) – This really deserves all the massive praise that has been heaped upon it. An action packed, wildly entertaining, darkly funny war/heist movie with something to say about the Gulf War that somehow manages to avoid coming off as preachy–it will reaffirm your faith in Hollywood movies.
The Thrill of It All (1963) – Another solid Doris Day romantic comedy marred only by the patriarchal ending that ruins a potentially forward-thinking feminist message. Still, this is full of many great scenes, the truckloads of foam scene alone is almost Herzogian with its imagery.
Thunderball (1965) – The last truly great Bond film, this is archetypal Bond from beginning to end. Anyone who tries to say that Connery wasn’t the best Bond of all time needs to watch this film again.
Thundering Fleas (1926) – Very good Little Rascals short with a lot of great gags and nice cameo turns from random silent comedy stars. While it obviously still takes place in a very different time, within the mixed group of children the racial interactions are surprisingly enlightened as well.
Tin Cup (1996) – If you’ve seen one sports romantic comedy, you’ve probably seen them all, but this one is of high enough quality it should at least moderately stand out from the pack. I can’t say Costner’s character is exactly likable, but the film is pleasant enough anyway.
Tinker Bell and the Secret of the Wings (2012) – The central premise of fairy twins and sparkling wings is a little ho hum, but the look into the winter section of the lands around Pixie Hollow does not disappoint. Though, I’m still not sure Tink’s cheese grater ice machine is capable of making it cold enough to permafrost all of Pixie Hollow.
Tinker Bell (2008) – First entry in the Tinker Bell series sets the tone: a laid-back tale of a magical place full of all kinds of cute shit. Something about these movies just seems a bit more down to earth than some of the bigger name animated fare getting cranked out to rave reviews at the megaplexes.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) – The production design is almost as impressive as the seriousness with which the actors work their way through this confusing (and ultimately rather boring) mess of “real life” spy material. Watching this a few days after Thunderball can only be described as “a total boner-killer.”
Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast (2014) – Surprisingly good straight to video animated film, both in the quality of the animation, and in the story (which is nothing special, but still plays things pretty straight instead of pandering to adults and children alike). Tinkerbell seems to be the least interesting fairy (and a bit more of a goody two-shoes than I remembered from Peter Pan), but she also seems to take a back seat in this one.
Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue (2010) – Great entry in the series finds the fairies in the real world where Tink hangs with an overly precocious fairy loving little girl and the rest of the fairies work on a miniature sized rescue mission. Plenty of fun is had with the tiny fairy sizes in the real world!
Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure (2009) – Another nice entry in an excellent series that finds Tinkerbell heading out to explore uncharted lands in a sweet airship. Hell, even the romance comes off as charming and innocent as the lands of Pixie Hollow.
Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy (2014) – This attempt to work more Peter Pan mythos into the Tinkerbell movies does little to advance Tink’s character development towards her jealous murdering self from the film, but it is still an amusing little story nonetheless. The power switching thing adds a lot of novelty to the usual story of the fairies rescuing another fairy.
To Have and Have Not (1944) – It may seem like not much really happens in this Hawks classic, but that would ignore the electric interactions of the characters. Honestly, this is a more convincing case for selflessness than Casablanca.
Too Wise Wives (1921) – This tale of suspected cheating is heavy on the moralizing, but impressively manages to hold interest anyway. Nice naturalistic acting too.
Topkapi (1964) – As a film, it is really pretty standard, but the long central heist is one of the all-time greats. There is something to be said for sticking to ropes and suction cups rather than computers and gadgets, and here Dassin shows what a great filmmaker can do with the basics of a heist set piece.
Topper (1937) – With this cast and director, this film should have been much better. I suppose the problem is with the script, which really just exists to show off a bunch of nice trick photography–and to give Grant a chance to mug.
Torch Song (1953) – As I say with a lot of Crawford films: what strange, strange movie. The story is a bizarre melodrama about a megabitch and her blind redeemer, but what is most interesting is how much Crawford seemed to identify with such an irredeemable character.
A Touch of Evil (1958) – A bizarre nightmare of a noir film full of Welles’ usual unbridled creativity (not to mention a monumental performance from the man himself). Watching the grotesque menagerie of characters leering through the shadows really makes you realize how influential this film must have been to someone like David Lynch.
Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954) – In addition to being an incredibly detailed examination of the mechanisms and inner workings of the mythical land of the gangster, this is also a quite gripping story of a bunch of old dudes saddling up and kicking ass one last time. Cool, exciting, funny and all around brilliant, this is one of the true crime film masterpieces.
The Tower Heist (2011) – Pretty average multiplex fare that is at least inoffensively watchable (if that counts as a good thing). Things pick up for the heist segment, but for a semi-comedy I only counted a couple actual laughs.
The Town (2010) – This is pretty standard stuff, but well done and with some quite good set-piece action sequences. The acting is good too even though something about Affleck just kind of makes you want to roll your eyes.
Toy Story 2 (1999) – The Toy Story movies all seem to have about the same basic plot, but I figure that’s ok–the “toy gets captured leading to epic jailbreak” thing is pretty entertaining. I might have liked 3 a bit better, but maybe it is just because even at only 10 years old the animation seems a little rough in this installment.
Toy Story 3 (2010) – One of the more enjoyable animated films I’ve seen in a while (Lion King was sweet, but it had singing). It is no masterpiece of cinema, but it is still very well done, entertaining, and even fairly epic.
Toy Story (1995) – Cool story idea, and the animation holds up fairly well, but a lot of it feels like it is screaming for both the adult and child audiences to pay attention to how clever it is. I far prefer the more subtle Tinkerbell movies.
Toy Story (1995) – It is a fun story that is sure to capture the imagination of children and adults alike. However, it suffers from the same pitfall I see in most animated films of the past 30 years or so–it is half movie, half collection of one-liners, catchphrases, and cutesy jokes for the grownups–which, as usual, makes it hard to take the whole thing seriously.
Trailer Park Boys (1999) – Excellent acting (especially from Ricky, the master of playing it straight) really elevates this pilot movie above its budget. Darker in tone than the following series, but just as funny.
Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day (2009) – This is perhaps a bit more focused than the last movie, but still more of the same from Canada’s favorite TV show. Also, I think they are way too nice to Lahey considering the way things turn out in this one.
Trailer Park Boys: The Movie (2006) – This is like an extended episode from late period Trailer Park Boys: silly, a bit over the top, and very funny. If I have a complaint, it is with the soundtrack, which really clashes with the documentary aspect of the film.
Trainspotting (1996) – Danny Boyle has always been one of the few directors that I feel can get away with this kind of overly stylized filmmaking. A bummer of a movie as you watch a group of characters unable to keep from perpetually circling the drain, but an exhilarating bit of filmmaking nonetheless.
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) – The reviews would have you believe that this is way shittier than the first one, but rest assured, they are both pretty shitty. An overlong mess of a film, I probably would have preferred it if they would have done a bit more of the National Treasure style stuff instead of the wall-to-wall CGI robot fights.
Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (2011) – The reviews would have you believe that this is a marginal improvement on the second one, and while they thankfully allow a bit of story to sneak in between the robot fights, I can’t really say it is much of an improvement otherwise. Shia is a whiny, idiotic protagonist, the film is probably 90 minutes (literally) too long, and, in what is the biggest problem with this whole series, the Transformers themselves are, conceptually, rather ridiculously stupid.
Trash Humpers (2009) – For a movie I considered bailing on repeated times as I watched it, I actually ended up rather liking it. It is nowhere nearly as great as Korine’s (already flawed) debut Gummo, but there are some nice scattered images throughout and there is no denying that the man knows how to edit.
The Tree of Life (2011) – The childhood scenes (and, to a lesser extent, the cosmic stuff) are some of the most brilliant bits of cinema I’ve ever seen. The mopey Sean Penn stuff and (especially) the bullshit afterlife ending, however, are most decidedly not the most brilliant bits of cinema I’ve ever seen.
Trip to the Moon (1902) – The new color print of this classic is really very impressive in that it makes the surreal dreamlike quality of the story even more pronounced. As populist a choice as it is, this is still one of my favorite Melies films.
A Trip to the Moon (1902) – A simple succession of scenes, and yet the story they tell is as fantastic and creative as any movie could hope to be. There is a real dreamlike quality to the images that is beyond mere documentation of actors on a set that ensures this film’s place as one of the earliest artistic triumphs of narrative film.
The Trip (2010) – Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon hit the road to sample really fancy restaurants in this 6 part British miniseries. Not exactly laugh out loud funny, but quite uncomfortably well-done as the two leads effortlessly (and naturalistically) riff off of each other.
Triumph of the Will (1935) – A lot of masterfully edited sequences, even though it can get draggy as the many speeches get a bit samey at times. Still, this undeniably cinematic documentary is obviously made by a filmmaker who knows her filmmaking.
Triumph of the Will (1935) – Upon deeper reflection, aside from the mythic spectacle and imagery of the Third Reich’s production design, this isn’t all that convincing as a pure propaganda piece. Still, you gotta hand it to Reifenstahl, I don’t think anyone else could make a movie that was 2 hours of speeches and marching and make it as utterly engrossing as she did.
Troll 2 (1990) – I don’t really get why people love to watch bad movies, so I guess I am not really the target audience here. For me this was a complete waste of time that could have been spent spent watching a shitty rom com instead.
Troll Hunter (2010) – A fake documentary more in the tradition of Spinal Tap than The Blair Witch Project. Which is a good thing, the Trolls are just goofy looking enough to match the expertly timed humor.
Tron Legacy (2010) – As long as you don’t try to make sense of things (the script wisely avoids getting too detailed with the nonsense), and don’t mind a random collection of shoehorned in set pieces, this is kind of awesome. The soundtrack by Daft Punk really adds to the excellent cyberpunk atmospherics as well.
Tron (1982) – Granted, the story is stupid bordering on ridiculous, but the primitive computer graphics actually create a fairly compelling visual experience. Probably a waste of your time, but worth checking out anyway for the atmosphere and cybercharm.
Tron: Legacy (2010) – Thankfully it eschews attempting to make sense of the nonsense of the story and explains just enough to keep the viewer from completely losing suspension of disbelief. What is left is a rather impressive bit of epic cyperpunk atmosphere…with an equally badass soundtrack.
Trouble with Harry (1955) – Really pretty interesting experiment with a lighthearted misanthropic murder romp, even if it is ultimately a failure. The comedy elements never really reach a level of realism sufficient to achieve suspension of disbelief.
True Grit (2010) – This is a massive improvement on the flawed original in pretty much every way. The Coen Brothers have been playing it straight more often these days, and it is thrilling to see them use their considerable talents to make this film that is, in every sense, a classic western.
Turtles Can Fly (2004) – If watching SERIOUS films about REAL LIFE atrocities sounds like your cup of tea, then you are going to love this one. Myself, I’d stick with fantasy any day over wallowing in this kind of socially conscious “hey, guess what, bad things happen in war” shit any day.
Twilight (2008) – On the debit side the dialog is occasionally wince inducing, the bad guys are underdeveloped, the climax is fumbled, you’ll hear the “jizz in my pants” song every time Edward “glowers”/“makes funny faces at” Bella, as a commentary on teen sex it goes a bit far in the direction of fetishizing it into something dangerously forbidden (in addition to being an unsettling depiction of the ease with which teenagers can be taken advantage of–even to the point of throwing their lives away) and, finally, no self-respecting vampire blow dries and mousses their hair that much. That said, the introduction into a world of super powered protectors provides the expected fantasy entertainment and, as a plot device, “unending state of coitus interruptus” remains as intoxicating as ever.
Twilight: Eclipse (2010) – This made me question my marginally un-negative impressions of the first two films since I thought this lazy episodic mess was really pretty terrible on all counts. Also, regarding Pattinson’s “performance”, I haven’t seen that much ridiculous perma-wincing from a main character in a fantasy series since The Return of the King…I so hope she dumps him for Jacob in the next movie.
Twilight: New Moon (2009) – The important plot element of ”establishing why you care about Bella and Edward in the first place” is almost completely ignored as Edward is quickly whisked away to an eye rolling facepunch-obvious Romeo and Juliet “homage” (cheap ripoff) finale, thus making all the interim whining even more grating than you would think. About the only parts I much care for are Bella’s interactions with Jacob, and even those are riddled with some of the film’s worst dialog and most ridiculous female fanservice moments.
Two days, One Night (2014) – Simply structured, but the script manages to shake up the repetition in a way that never makes it feel too repetitive. Cotillard proves yet again that she is far more than just a pretty face in this rather bleak tale of financial desperation.
Two Lane Blacktop (1971) – As much of a fan of existentialism as I am, I’m starting to suspect that I may not be as much of a fan of existential movies as I like to think. Though this really distinguishes itself as an intriguing, creative movie (even when compared to the high level of American film making that was coming out of the 70s), I still can’t help but think that I might not have minded actually seeing the cross country car race of the premise.
Two Weeks Notice (2002) – An excellent example of the appeal of the romantic comedy at its most formulaic and mindless. Just don’t think too hard or you’ll realize just how soulless Hugh Grant’s one-liner spouting love interest actually is.
Two Weeks Notice (2002) – Kind of silly, but also quite funny and really one of the better rom coms out there. I’ve also never seen a romantic comedy that featured a scene where the male lead had to find a bathroom for the female lead who had a case of the shits.
Umberto D (1952) – No denying that this is a masterpiece of film making by just about any account. Unfortunately, it’s about a suicidal old man and his cute dog, neither of which are my cup of tea when it comes to plot.
Un Flic (1972) – Melville’s last film is built around two set piece robberies as Delon’s thoroughly unlikeable cop chases Crenna’s marginally more sympathetic criminal around Paris. The in between stuff is stripped down to the bone leaving a “policier” that is more a fascinating abstract collection of the archetypes than actual plot.
Un Flic (1972) – Odd Melville film which splits its criminals and cops plot threads into almost two separate movies. It all works well enough as an abstract statement on the heist film, even if the heists themselves begin to approach the ludicrous.
The Unchanging Sea (1910) – Griffith really does have a photographer’s eye–there are some beautiful shots in this early short. There is quite a bit of sophistication in the narrative structure as well (though the actual storyline is rather trite).
Under Capricorn (1949) – Supposedly the French love this film, but I can’t find much that would make me want to recommend it to anyone. A woefully mundane script is the primary culprit.
Under Siege (1992) – A lot of good action and an impressive cast, but it is let down by some stupid dialog and camera work that makes the whole thing look like it is filmed on video for some reason. The cake scene at least holds up pretty well.
Underworld – Rise of the Lycans (2008) – I saw the first two Underworlds and remembered thinking they were “ok”, but looking back I realized I didn’t remember anything about them. Thus, while watching it, I had no idea how this “prequel” fit in with the storyline–still, it is about as mildly-entertaining-yet-forgettable as the first two so in another month or two it will all be a wash.
The Unforgiven (1960) – Nice John Huston western that deals with some heavy issues from The Searchers playbook. It is all quite well done but the ending leaves way too many of the questions that are raised unaddressed (I’m sure Huston knows what he’s doing, it made me wonder if he really made the right choice this time).
The Unknown (1927) – The plot had plenty of implausibilities, but the film manages to easily shrug them off with its deliciously twisted entertainment. Also, I take back everything I said about Joan Crawford looking scary…she is looking good here!
Until the Light Takes Us (2008) – Decent documentary about the Norwegian black metal scene. It really doesn’t have much to say, but Fenriz’s “nice guy” and Count Grishnakh’s frighteningly insane nationalist cult leader personality manage to carry the film.
Up in Smoke (1978) – Archetypal stoner comedy that is a far better film than you would expect it to be. The escalating pace works well, the jokes are hilarious and the soundtrack is pretty kick-ass.
Up in the Air (2009) – Really quite good, a mainstream movie that never looks for an easy out to any of the questions of human interaction that it addresses. If I have a complaint, it is that there are a number of minor climaxes towards the end that make the narrative seem to wander a bit.
Up the River (1930) – Pleasant enough fare about hijinx in the friendliest, most laid back prison ever (where the warden’s daughter routinely plays with the inmates). Cute stuff, but nothing to really write home about I suppose.
Up (2009) – Pretty entertaining, though I must qualify any further praise with “for a children’s movie”. Still, the bittersweet love story really is quite affecting…and the dogs have some funny bits.
Up! (1976) – A typical Meyer’s/Ebert collaboration of titties and silly dialog. Sadly, the script is more than a few shades too ridiculous to let the movie be anything more than a well-edited curiosity.
Used Cars (1980) – The broad humor is just as often stupid as it is clever, but I can’t deny the movie moves along at a nice snappy pace. And it really does have a uniquely scuzzy atmosphere that ties the whole production together quite nicely.
Valentine’s Day (2010) – A bullshit manufactured attempt at making a rom com Shortcuts. Whenever a rom com tries to elevate itself out of its genre and into respectability like this it only serves to show how vapid and mindless the genre is in the first place–though the complete lack of a soul doesn’t help things in Valentine’s Day’s case.
Vamps (2012) – The team that brought you Clueless brings you a movie about cutesy vampires. I don’t feel like anything really gells in this film except for Silverstone’s charming screen presence, though I’ll admit I became slightly more invested (from “not at all” during the first half) by the end of the film.
Van Wilder (2002) – Not so good, unfortunately this one had a bit more dumb than fun. Still kudos on somehow making the main character (who would be a huge douche in real life) reasonably likeable.
Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj (2006) – I watch a lot of movies, and I can’t think of many that are bigger wastes of my time than this one–even Still Waiting was better. You would think ripping off Revenge of the Nerds would make a more redeemable movie than this one, but it is all just too lazy and stupid to even be worth it for the topless scenes.
The Vanishing (1988) – Genuinely creepy film that derives much of its unease from how utterly sane the villain seems–so much so that the possible horror of what his act could have been is nearly forgotten at parts. You will stay riveted as the mystery unravels, and you will stay sickened long after the film is over.
Vera Cruz (1954) – A mesmerizing Lancaster, and slightly less wooden Cooper reluctantly team up to get some gold through a revolutionary Mexico. Lots of backstabbing, shootings, adventure and general fun ensues.
The Verdict (1982) – A good old-fashioned courtroom drama full of the usual surprise witnesses and “how can a jury forget what they’ve heard” moments. It is good fun, but it kind of has the stink of a “Very Important Performance” vehicle for Newman.
The Verdict (1982) – Rather perfect movie, if anything, a bit too perfect, but that would just be nitpicking. Just a standard courtroom drama behind all the earnest performances, but a good one for sure.
Veronica Mars (2014) – The production values are a bit improved, but there really isn’t much else that distinguishes this as anything other than a double episode of the television show. Still, fan service, depending on a few seasons of narrative, and follow the dotted line case solving aside, this works surprisingly well, and as two hours of tv goes, is really quite hard to beat for sheer entertainment.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (2011) – Thankfully, the series does not continue the downward slide of the second film–this third installment is even slightly better than the second. I doubt they will ever approach the brilliance of the first, but for what it is, this is a very acceptable substitute.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) – Woody’s newer films (of the last twenty years) are pretty hit or miss for me, but, hell, I’d say this is his best film since Deconstructing Harry (not that that is saying that much). I sometimes think the insights found in his movies are not quite as deep as they first appear, but this is great fun anyway.
Victory through Airpower (1943) – Straight up propaganda, which would be fine, but it twists the facts to support its “importance of airpower” message and thus invalidates every other claim it makes. Also, I’m unsure who the target audience is since the 3 year old I watched it with couldn’t seem to grasp (thankfully) the concept of strategic bombing.
View from the Top (2003) – Supposedly inspirational tale of how a woman can be anything if she puts her mind to it, yes, even a stewardess for the really good airline and not just the shitty one. A mugging Austin Powers era Mike Myers does NOT help things either.
A View to a Kill (1985) – Supposedly the worst Moore Bond (this or The Spy Who Loved Me), but it’s actually not as bad as you might remember. Plenty of silliness, but Grace Jones makes a memorably charismatic villain, and the Golden Gate Bridge finale is actually kind of cool.
Viridiana (1961) – Very deserving of its “all time best” status (they really don’t make em like this anymore), this is also one of the most cynical movies from a very cynical director. You will find yourself constantly snorting in impressed disbelief at Bunuel’s thematic chutzpah.
Vision (2009) – It is set in medieval times but feels like just another biopic, except this time about a zealot that we are supposed to identify with. Also, while the soundtrack is fine, it really could have used more actual chant.
The Visitor (2007) – Though there is a bit more drama and the slight reek of a “social conscience film” in Thomas McCarthy’s follow up to The Station Agent, it shares many of the previous movie’s strengths (specifically, the understated commentary on human interaction) as well. Not many directors can make a film like this (alternately heart-warming and heart wrenching) that holds my interest, so McCarthy must be doing something right.
The Visitors (1993) – Two medieval knights get transported to modern day France and the hilarity ensues. A premise like this should have been at least dumb fun, but most of the jokes are far too labored to merit much more than a few wincing smiles.
Vixen (1968) – The editing isn’t quite as insane as in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but you can tell it is getting there. For a B-movie pseudo softcore porn this is actually made with quite a bit of style–I guess there is a reason Russ Meyer is sometimes so highly thought of.
The Vow (2012) – While the script addresses some interesting issues with suddenly not remembering the last seven years of your life, I feel like something more could have been done with this premise. At its heart this wants to be a sappy romance film, and that is tough to do when the female lead seems to want nothing to do with the male lead for most of the film.
Wag the Dog (1997) – I suppose there is nothing majorly wrong with this one, but its smarmy attitude really rubbed me the wrong way. Also, I was having trouble maintaining suspension of disbelief: fake a war…sure (look at Iraq), get that many people involved in the plot and keep it a secret…no way.
Wages of Fear (1953) – I can’t think of many movies that are more suspenseful than this one, which is perhaps Clouzot’s most nihilistically cynical film (which is saying a lot). The only complaint I have is that the white-knuckle-brilliant final 2/3rds of the movie tends to overshadow the comparatively slow intro.
The Wages of Fear (1953) – The first hour is a brilliant portrait of misanthropic poverty, but it still comes off lacking when compared to the final 90 minutes which consist of one genius white knuckle set piece after another. Thus, no matter how good the film is I always question whether it needs to have such a long intro before they “go ahead and put the guys in the trucks full of nitroglycerin already.”
Waiting… (2005) – Really quite funny comedy about waiters doing gross stuff and showing their cocks to each other. If that sounds like a good premise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that there is actually a bit more to it than that, not that you need more than that in the first place.
Waiting… (2005) – Sure, it’s just a bunch of spitting in food/dick jokes, but the male urge for genital display has never been so fully explored. Also, it’s pretty funny and Ryan Renolds has a real knack for taking an unlikeable character and making him likeable.
Waitress (2007) – This is a little too precious and indie for my taste, but that is mostly just me. The feminist ending is refreshing at least–though I don’t come to these movies to see refreshing, I come to see true love conquer all and trying to turn a rom com into a semi “real” movie is just never as satisfying as its creators hope it will be.
Waking Life (2001) – Linklater’s talky, disorientingly animated film needs a bit of patience and the right mood to get past the pretentiousness. I’d never want to be on the receiving end of one of these conversations, but it is quite fascinating when watching from the outside.
Walk of Shame (2014) – I love “one crazy night” movies like this, unfortunately, this one has a few too many misfires to be considered even a moderate success. The performers (all of whom I like) are up to the task, but all too often the script is not.
WALL-E (2008) – Visually very impressive (though the relatively cartoonish humans seemed out of place), this is pretty well done despite a somewhat simplistic theme. However, it shares the same problem that most other modern animated fare seems to have: the slapstick of the second half is too often meant to appeal to the instincts of juveniles, as opposed to the slapstick of someone like Chaplin (for instance) who appeals to the juvenile instinct.
Waltzes from Vienna (1934) – Though this is an “ok” story of 19th century shenanigans, it is probably the worst Hitchcock movie I’ve seen yet. Even the creative flourishes feel more like flailing than a master’s touch.
Wanderlust (2012) – This “yuppies join a commune” film is far funnier than you would expect thanks to a genuinely clever screenplay. Just too bad there isn’t someone with more charisma than Jennifer Aniston to work opposite the always likable Paul Rudd.
Warhorse (2011) – Spielberg goes for Oscar glory with this movie about a horse and the slow-witted man-child who loves it. If sentimental pathos-laden bullshit like that is your cup of tea, you’ll love Warhorse.
Warlock (1959) – Nice version of the OK Corral story with a focus on the psychological aspects of the old west. At times condensed from the excellent book almost too much to retain the same power, it is still quite well done with Fonda and Quinn (Wyatt and Doc) immensely watchable every time they come on screen.
Warning Shadows (1923) – A titleless silent film loosely plotted around the mayhem wreaked by a shadow puppet master during a Smiles of a Summer Night-style dinner party. A lot of great stuff, included another awesome Fritz Rasp role as the butler, and the best handshake scene in all of cinema.
Warrior (2011) – Just your typical sports/martial arts film, though it is expertly mounted (and thankfully doesn’t have any aspirations beyond being a good typical sports/martial arts film). Thus, I’d recommend this far more than last year’s well-done, but Oscar baity The Fighter.
The Warriors (1979) – Fantastic slab of visceral non-stop action, propelled by a script that has trimmed every last bit of fat from an already lean movie. Hill is really underrated as a director, and this is probably his best film.
The Warriors (1979) – Fantastic, super tense chase film about a bunch of dudes being forced to “bop” their way across three burroughs of rival gangs. Dripping with machismo, Hills lean direction makes this one of the great action films–a real classic.
Watchmen (2009) – I overall enjoyed this movie as I feel like the great (Rorschach & Doc Manhattan’s performances, the opening scenes, the skill with which the flashbacks were incorporated, the production design, etc) outweighs the not so great (obtrusive musical score, Ozymandius & Silk Spectre’s performances, that sex scene, the fact that somehow all the human heroes seem to have super strength, etc). Though, while watching it, the thinness of the “whodunit” story became apparent to me–which I don’t think is so much a fault of the film as much as the possibly over-hyped (by many, myself included) source material.
Watchmen (Fan edit) (2009) – This is a fan edit that, like the comic, breaks the film up into chapters with in between backstory segments. They work well enough, but, like the comic, I think I would prefer to just skip to the next chapter (The film itself is the same old 3+ hour bloated opus of cool scenes resting tenuously upon a rather slim murder mystery).
Way Down East (1920) – One of Griffith’s finest films about a naive girl who is rather laboriously tricked into getting knocked up out of wedlock. All these years later and the final ice flow sequence still astonishes.
The Wedding Date (2005) – That Will and Grace chick is pretty strong though the guy is pretty bland (and looks like he’d be better suited as the kind of asshole boyfriend that needs to get dumped by the end of these kind of films). As a film it has all the requisite story elements that one would expect from “the female Pretty Woman” so I consider it a success overall.
The Wedding Planner (2001) – Nothing entirely clever in the script but nothing dislikeable either. At least it plays things fairly straight which is more my type of comedy than the more overly silly/implausible romantic comedies.
The Wedding Planner (2001) – Though Mcconaughey and Lopez are pretty charming, the skeevy meet-cute (coupled with the frustratingly imbecilic romantic competition from the Italian guy) really takes this down a few notches. Not the great rom-com everyone says it is, but not without its merits either.
The Wedding Video (2012) – Lucy Punch is great, and the script actually has some pretty good gags if you don’t mind a complete lack of subtlety. Really, my only issue (aside from using the tired found footage framing device) is that the main dude is kind of a douche.
Weird Science (1985) – Pretty stupid as a pair of unlikable teens get taught life lessons by a sex slave they created on their computer. One of those 80s movies that is perhaps best left to unrealistically fond memories without actually revisiting it.
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995) – About as brutal of a portrait of the horrors of junior high as has ever been committed to film. Still, impressive stuff (despite a script that wanders a bit in the final act) and I did appreciate it not going too far (ala the end of Fat Girl) with some of the more unpleasant parts of the script.
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) – What a strange, dreamlike movie. I’m not convinced that Tarr needs to hold some of the scenes as long as he does (I’m not convinced he doesn’t either), but I can’t deny that he fills this film full of some powerful images.
Westbound (1959) – Not quite as good as the other Boetticher/Scott collaborations, mostly because of Kennedy’s scriptwriting absence. Still the nice action and always clean direction make up most of the difference.
The Westerner (1940) – As usual with Wyler, great camerawork, but the script is so conflicted the movie can’t be called anything but a disaster. No one can seem to decide what movie they are in and you are left with having to settle for watching Walter Brennan trying to make a sociopathic murder into a loveable old coot.
The Westerner (1940) – Brennan is indeed great, but I feel like the portrayal of Judge Roy Bean is far too sympathetic in a movie that seems unsure what tone it wants to take. A lot of good stuff made by a team of masters, but too thematically conflicted to really rise to the top for me.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001) – Pretty funny overall–though some of the humor borders dangerously on coming off like “hey, look how funny this is because it is just like X movie!” Still, the script is intelligent enough that it largely avoids such pitfalls even if I wish some of it would have been played a bit straighter–but that’s not the movie they are trying to make here.
What’s Your Number (2011) – I like everyone involved, it is just too bad the script isn’t more clever. Not that there aren’t good jokes to be found, but too many seem to be trying too hard to be “edgy and raunchy” to really work.
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) – Though the concept of a “hostess” is probably pretty alien to most western viewers (myself included), this is nonetheless a quite engrossing study of a woman in a man’s world. The crisp photography and great central performance are just the icing on the cake.
When Harry Met Sally (1989) – The script is full of good one-liners, though it isn’t quite as deep and insightful as it thinks it is. Still, the leads are charismatic enough that it remains unusually watchable anyway.
When in Rome (2010) – I absolutely hated this film, and this is coming from a guy who kind of liked New in Town. My daily movie review actually got liveblogged in a sense, so you can go HERE if you need more reasons not to subject yourself to this one.
While You Were Sleeping (1995) – Bullock gives an affecting “nice girl” performance and the movie is quite likeable, though a bit sappy for me. Still, I guess as far as sappy light comedies go this one doesn’t put many feet wrong.
White Heat (1949) – Cagney started the whole Gangster film genre with The Public Enemy and he ends it here with explosive style in what (along with Scarface–no, not the Pacino one) is probably the best film of the whole genre. If you can forgive the screenplay’s fascination with the Fed’s gadgets this is nothing less than a straight up masterpiece from the twilight of the brilliant careers of Walsh and Cagney.
The White Ribbon (2009) – The culprit(s) might be a bit more obvious (in the loosest sense of the word) than they are in Cache, but the mystery is a great deal more layered and complex here. Perfectly crafted, this is one of the few films that can legitimately be considered a modern masterpiece.
The White Ribbon (2009) – Haneke finishes his string of unsettling 00’s masterpieces by putting his cold magnifying glass to similar themes as were explored in Cache. It’s odd to call such a brutally cruel film “restrained” and “mature”, but it is undeniably that as well.
White Zombie (1932) – Excellent and atmospheric early zombie (zombii) film. Lugosi is fun, but the real star is the great camerawork that is backed up by a myriad of brilliant stylistic flourishes throughout the film.
Who’s That Knocking At My Door (1967) – An interesting film that is full of promise, but perhaps a bit too ambitious for its own good. Thankfully, Scorcese reigned in his style for his subsequent films.
Who’s that Knocking at my Door? (1967) – Unrestrained Scorsese is not exactly the best Scorsese, and this, his first feature, seems way too concerned with showing off rather than showing the audience something with a bit of heart to it. Lots of good scenes, but also plenty of sub-Godardian filler.
The Whole Nine Yards (2000) – It is very rare to find a modern comedy that does pratfalls and slapstick well, but I have to admit this one does. The snappy script keeps things moving right along despite the almost too cute turn from Bruce Willis as a sociopath you hate to love.
Why Worry? (1923) – Cute Harold Lloyd full length about a hypochondriac who goes to a peaceful island in the Pacific for rest only to find out it is undergoing a revolution. A nice polished film with plenty of clever gags, but it feels a little forced plotwise, and I don’t think it is quite as funny as his best work.
Wicked (1998) – Awful psychodrama mystery film about the incesty relationship between a teenaged Julia Stiles and her dad. The minor matter of the identity of the serial killer turns out to be about as important as the pointless final reveal confirms.
The Wickerman (1973) – This isn’t quite as campy and silly as I remembered, which is a good thing. Still not a story of great depth, but some amusingly anti-Christian sentiments along with a fair amount of “tatties” are to be found here if that sounds like your kind of thing.
Wild Child (2008) – These kinds of shitty teen comedies can be kind of fun sometimes if the lead actress is capable of carrying a movie. This lead actress is not.
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (1991) – It’s the usual story of a plucky headstrong girl who runs off to join the circus, but it isn’t without its charms. While I could do without the doofus boyfriend and the manufactured drama of the third act, the Burn Notice girl’s charismatic performance manages to carry the movie.
Winter’s Bone (2010) – This hillbilly noir succeeds almost entirely on the strength of the production design that turns the Ozark backwoods into a nightmarish mythical land of rednecks and flipper babies. The great performances and strong script don’t hurt either.
Winter’s Bone (2010) – This takes the classic private eye structure and sets it in backwoods Missouri with a teenage girl protagonist. As these things go it actually works very well (better than Brick even imo), thanks in large part to the excellent performances and production design.
Wise Blood (1979) – I wouldn’t have thought that Huston could have made a weirder movie than Reflections in a Golden Eye, but this just might be it. Really fantastic (and unsettling) filmmaking with a great central performance by Douriff…and don’t let the comedy descriptors fool you…you won’t be laughing that much.
The Wishing Ring (1914) – Simple story about a silly delinquent college kid and the girl he falls for. This would be a rather slight affair except Tourneur fills it with very nice visual touches.
Within Our Gates (1920) – Though it looks a bit primitive (about five years behind the times), the structure is actually quite ahead of its time. Still, with all the cutting back and forth (in time and place) it is more of a mess than not, with the final lynching segment was the only part that has any real power to it for me.
Witness for the Prosecution (1957) – It had an air of “trying to hard to be a classic”, but it ends up being basically that anyway. Dietrich is looking good in her 50s, Laughton is as compelling a screen presence as always and the twist is impressively clever enough to almost warrant all the “don’t give away the ending” hubbub.
Wives Under Suspicion (1938) – This late period Whale film unfortunately has little to recommend it. The plot is not only kind of silly, it is also a lot boring.
The Wizards (1977) – Really bizarre combination of trippy hippy messages, futuristic dystopias, rotoscoping, wizards, fairies and other such shit. I wouldn’t call it good, but I suppose I wouldn’t call it bad either.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – Apparently Scorsese is the only director who can make biopics I enjoy. Of course, it helps that by playing the life story of the ultimate douchebag as a comedy it doesn’t seem like a biopic–though, on the other hand, playing things for laughs does have the unfortunate effect of making the ultimate douchebag seem a lot more sympathetic than he should have been.
The Wolfman (1941) – Nice little horror film that, according to imdb, pretty much single-handedly invented the idea of the werewolf as we know it today. It is just too bad Lon Chaney Jr. is such a doofus of a leading man.
The Wolverine (2013) – Typical superhero fare, but at least Jackman is a compelling lead (with able support from that red haired chick). Still ends up being a collection of haphazardly plotted character intersections, but at least it is better than Wolverine Origins.
The Woman in the Window (1944) – A meek man gets caught up with a woman out of his league which begins a downward spiral that gets quite dark indeed before it is all over. I want to say the ending ruins it, but given the nightmarish quality of the film, maybe it works better than I think.
A Woman is a Woman (1961) – The usual Godard nonsense, only more so (though at least the political commentary is absent). Sure, it is daring and unique, but it is also a goddamn chore to sit through (and not in a good way).
Working Girl (1988) – This is a very well done (and well-acted) 80s romantic comedy (with the romance pushed to the background). Joan Cusack, as always, is pretty great too.
World on a Wire (1973) – Fassbinder is at his stylistic peak in this odd science fiction outing (with all the usual faces). Interesting to think about how novel this (currently) tired story must have been to 1973 audiences.
The World’s End (2013) – This is a real chore to get through: unfunny, and with way too many extended robot fights. There is heart to be found, and it is for the most part well-acted and well made, there just isn’t anything in the far-fetched story to hold my interest.
The Wrestler (2008) – This is a great character study marred only by the overly cliche plot devices of the script. Rourke really does a great job playing a man that the world has no place for any more and I’d probably recommend this based on that alone.
Wuthering Heights (1939) – Though Wyler is a bit out of fashion these days, this was filmed with style to spare (though Toland’s cinematography is probably partly to blame). Very dark, which is nice, but I found I didn’t care much for the characters (which, not having read the book, was probably part of the point).
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – I’ve seen worse action films, and there are some ok moments but overall this is fairly shitty. There are just far too many “yeah, but why…” moments–not to mention: how the hell did that dude fit those swords in his arms?
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – It’s nice to see the X-Men franchise continues to hang on to the new life it found with First Class, this is another entertaining and overall smartly made film. It even makes the time travel/alternate futures stuff somewhat plausible, so, well done on that!
X-Men: First Class (2011) – Really a pretty decent X-movie, with good performances and interesting mutant choices (though the Darwin shit is frustrating on a a few fanboy levels) for the X-team. On the villain front Kevin Bacon is pretty great, and January Jones actually isn’t as horrible as you heard, but maybe that is just in comparison to the other two cardboard cutouts in the “Hellfire Club.”
X-Men: First Class (2011) – The X series gets back on track here with this prequel story. Lots of great mutant action, and the cold war setting is used to good effect.
The Yankee Clipper (1927) – All the standard seafaring genre tent-poles make an appearance (storm, mutiny, “give her more canvas!”, etc) in this pleasantly entertaining “sea race” movie. Not one of the silent greats, but still pretty enjoyable.
Yankee Doodle Dandee (1942) – A very well done film that totally surprised me to find out Cagney could dance like that! The ra ra patriotism gets tiresome pretty fast, but luckily Curtiz’s fine direction and Cagney’s incomparably intense acting more than make up for it (though I still doubt I’ll be rewatching it any time soon).
Year One (2009) – There are scattered funny bits, but in retrospect they are mostly just from Black and Cera doing their thing. The rest of the film ranges from barely amusing to just plain stupid and unfunny.
Yi Yi (2000) – I often have a hard time really being drawn into Asian films because the culture is so different than what I am used to that I am unable to completely connect with the characters without the benefit of a common starting point. That Yi Yi managed to overcome this without compromising its cultural setting makes it all the more impressive as a realistic portrait of an extended family and their issues over the course of a year.
You Again (2010) – Utterly stupid, and with random life lessons breaking up the idiotic set pieces as it lurches its way towards the conclusion. Still, Kristin Bell somehow manages to keep it from being completely unwatchable, which, I suppose, means I am that much closer to finally watching When in Rome one of these days.
You Only Live Twice (1967) – Not a bad Bond film, but the first one in which the gadgets and silliness finally overtake the story. This film is proof that it was Roald Dahl (who wrote the screenplay), not Roger Moore, who ruined the Bond franchise.
You’re Telling Me (1934) – Sporadically funny, but overall this Fields film feels rather labored. It could be the recycled and sometimes weak gags, but it also doesn’t help that Fields isn’t really as much of a glorious bastard as he normally is in this one.
You’ve Got Mail (1998) – Decent update of The Shop Around the Corner, even if it is a bit heavy on the sap. The final act is a bit suspect however–where the guy discovers everything and then plays mind games with the woman until they fall in love.
Young Adult (2011) – Strange film about a horrible (and mentally deranged) person who doesn’t learn a damn thing through the course of the story. Maybe it is just a petty revenge film at the high school preps that screenwriter Diablo Cody hated, but I actually think there is something more to it than that (and the script is thankfully not nearly as full of cute dialog as Juno).
Young and Innocent (1937) – If you’ve seen much Hitchcock, you won’t find many surprises here in yet another wrong man on the run story. It might not be his best British film, but there is still a lot going for it and I found it to be quite a lot of fun.
Young at Heart (1954) – Weird and largely unsuccessful attempt at combining light-hearted romantic comedy and heavy melodrama. Day and Sinatra are game leads, but unfortunately lack in any real romantic chemistry.
Young Guns (1988) – There probably aren’t many better options out there if you are trying to give someone a crash course on 1980s pop culture and only have one movie to do it with. Pretty shitty, eye-rollingly stupid, intelligence insultingly a-historical, and, really, kind of sort of in a way entertaining too.
Young Man with a Horn (1950) – It’s the old story of a musician who just wants to play his own thing struggling to make it big. The film is a bit heavy on the telling rather than showing, but still pretty good for such a by the numbers movie.
Your Highness (2011) – The director and stars of Pineapple Express team up again for this medieval stoner comedy but forget to bring the funny. None of it is really all that “bad” per se, there is just a painfully obvious lack of real laughs.
Z (1969) – I don’t like political movies, but this one (while as heavy handed as they come) lives up to its reputation as one of the great films. The incredibly energetic (though not overly so) direction, amazing score and fine performances elevate it beyond a simple attempt to shove a message down the viewer’s throat and into the realm of cinematic art.
Zeitgeist (2007) – One of the most infuriating things I have ever seen, with so many twisted truths, distorted truths, decontextualized truths and just plain un-truths hidden among the easily verifiable information to make the whole thing about as full of bullshit as a fundamentalist explaining how Adam and Even used to ride Raptors. Because of this I was only able to make it about ten minutes in to the religious segment (the good points of which were nullified by the deceitful filmmaking) before I turned it off: I was no expert but if it was already so obviously bullshit, then there was no way I was going to make it through two more hours of the director insulting my intelligence.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) – Excellent, almost documentary style, story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. It doesn’t seem to take sides on any of the controversial issues, rather just presents the details as they supposedly happened and lets the viewer decide for themselves whether treating other humans like animals is justified.
Zero for Conduct (1933) – The “narrative” is quite “free” (if it were a movie by a less hallowed director I might even call it a bit of a mess), but that is hardly an issue for such an anarchist film. I can think of few films that so brilliantly (and cinematically) capture the primal urge to manufacture a little chaos.
Zombieland (2009) – Considering I could give a shit about zombie movies, the fact that I really rather enjoyed this says something I guess. The script is pretty clever, and the quirky interactions of the cast are actually quite heartwarming.