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2257 reviews in total 
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Split (2016/IX)
Movie Overall Could Have Been So Much Better, But McAvoy is Astounding, 7 August 2017

James McAvoy gives what could have potentially been an award-worthy performance if it had appeared in a different film.

He plays a man with multiple personalities who kidnaps three young girls as a part of a plot two of the personalities have hatched to unleash a powerful and unstoppable identity. Betty Buckley, in a better performance than the role necessarily needed, plays a therapist working with him and who begins to unravel the alarming plot. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, who hasn't made a movie I've wanted to see since "Signs," crafts a nifty and effective thriller with three fourths of his film, and then sort of if not completely ruins it by taking his idea too far and pushing the supernatural elements to the point where we realize we're not even watching the same kind of movie we were at the beginning. This particular story, and especially McAvoy's performance, would have been compelling enough without Shyamalan's characteristic inability to understand when he's ruining his own premise.

Grade: B

Harold Lloyd Among the High Brows, 7 August 2017

Harold Lloyd pretends to be a hoity-toity Englishman among a bunch of aristocrats in this really funny short comedy.

Lloyd's comedies were always funny in direct proportion to the amount of physical slapstick he built into them, and this one has loads to spare. Most notable is an extended gag that finds Lloyd without pants, freaking out every proper English lady he comes across while trying to save his ass from being bitten off by a grumpy dog. All of this craziness is of course for a girl (what other reason could there possibly be?) and all ends happily enough.

Grade: A-

Mediocre Harold Lloyd Comedy, 7 August 2017

Amusing Harold Lloyd short about a bumbling man (guess who) who is stuck taking care of a little girl on a long train ride. Of course he doesn't know the first thing about how to take care of children, so you can imagine the kind of hijinks that ensue.

This is fairly mediocre Harold Lloyd. The jokes when they come aren't that funny, and he gets little opportunity to showcase his knack for physical comedy. But paired with a couple of other Lloyd shorts, it's not a bad way to spend an evening.

Grade: B-

Lady Macbeth (2016/I)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Too Restrained for the Kind of Story It Tells, 7 August 2017

"Lady Macbeth" is like a Charlotte Bronte novel if the main heroine were a psychopath.

Florence Pugh plays a young woman saddled with a marriage and an estate that she did not choose for herself, who gets a taste of what it is to give in to her own passionate urges when she shacks up with a hunky stable boy and then decides that she will have a life with him no matter what or who she has to eliminate to make it happen.

"Lady Macbeth" sounds dark and juicy on paper, and it could have been a fabulously lurid spin on the Victorian Gothic template, but as treated here it's far too restrained to take advantage of the pulpy subject matter. The whole film, from the direction to the performances, really needed to go for it and not hold back. Instead, it's too quiet and slow by half, and though Pugh does an admirable job, one can't help but wonder how much more memorable a character she might have been able to create had she been allowed to really go off the rails. Maybe an odd and random thought, but the whole time I was watching this movie I was thinking what a younger Naomi Watts could have done with it.

Not a total misfire, but nowhere nearly as good as it could have been.

Grade: B

Lesser Harold Lloyd Is Still Entertaining, 7 August 2017

A pretty unremarkable Harold Lloyd comedy that finds our scrappy hero unwittingly signing on with the U.S. Navy in order to impress a girl. You can probably guess the physical and sight gags that go along with life on a Navy vessel, and then a large portion of the latter half of the film finds Harold in an unnamed Arabian country single-handedly fighting hordes of sword-wielding goons in order to rescue his fair love, who's been kidnapped by a wealthy sultan. There isn't a whole lot to remember about this film -- I had to look it up just to remind myself of what the plot was about -- but Harold Lloyd fans know that even his lesser films provide a good deal of entertainment.

Grade: B

Moana (2016/I)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fairly Generic Disney, 31 July 2017

It's nice to see a spunky female heroine of color at the center of a Disney film, and it's also nice that the story doesn't remotely involve her falling in love with anyone by the film's end, but this movie still couldn't completely shake off its patina of generic Disney message.

The animation is pretty, the music is forgettable (with the exception of the rousing Oscar-nominated anthem "How Far I'll Go"), and the story is moderately engrossing. This was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2016 Academy Awards, but it's no where nearly at the same level as some of its co-nominees, namely "Kubo and the Two Strings" and my personal favorite, "The Red Turtle."

Grade: B

Men in War (1957)
Men Trying to Survive, 31 July 2017

A muscular, no nonsense combat movie set during the Korean War.

Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray play two officers who engage in a pissing contest during an attempt to lead a platoon of soldiers through enemy terrain to safety. Both actors are terrific, as are the ones who make up the supporting cast, and the film has an authentic and unapologetic look and feel to it that help it to stand out from the other histrionic war movies of the period that focus on highlighting heroism and bravery. This one is about guys who are just trying to survive, and who are going to be scarred one way or another by their experience, whether those scars are physical or emotional.

"Men in War" is a really good film, and it has the added distinction of being about the Korean War, a conflict that American cinema hasn't examined nearly as much as others.

Grade: A

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Another Slow Burn, 31 July 2017

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi delivers another slow-burn domestic drama in this movie about patriarchal insecurity and helplessness.

The film isn't as gripping as "A Separation," but it's still a fascinating character study of a middle aged actor whose wife is assaulted (the details of her assault remain vague, both to him and to the audience) and sets off on a grim mission to seek vengeance on the attacker in whatever way it presents itself. Juxtaposed to these scenes are ones showing him perform in an Iranian production of "Death of a Salesman," the ultimate male mid-life crisis story. Like watching a car accident in slow motion, we see him move closer and closer to his goal even as his wife wants him to quit and we gain some sympathy, however slight, for the attacker. As in "A Separation," Farhadi constructs a complicated set of characters with complicated emotions, not interested in good vs. bad or even right vs. wrong, suggesting instead that perhaps everything is to a greater or lesser degree a shade of gray. But the story he builds around these events isn't as compelling as "A Separation," so the film doesn't have that earlier one's dramatic punch.

Winner of the 2016 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, though the excellent German film "Toni Erdmann" really should have won.

Grade: A-

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Terrible Title But Very Good Movie, 26 July 2017

"The Big Sick" is packaged like a rom-com, and it has a low-key, no- big-deal vibe to it, but it slowly emerges while watching it as something a little bit special.

It's certainly a welcome antidote to the glut of other films currently playing in summer movie theaters, if for no other reason that it's made for adults. Kumail Nanjiani is utterly winning as a man trying to navigate falling in love with a white woman and his traditional family's expectations for him, which include an arranged marriage with a Pakistani girl. Holly Hunter and, of all people, Ray Romano are standouts in supporting roles as parents of the girlfriend. The best thing about "The Big Sick" is that it manages to lampoon stereotypes while at the same time acknowledging that stereotypes are frequently, if not 100% representative of the people being stereotyped, at least partially justified. But mostly it reinforces the idea that people transcend labels and can be many things at the same time.

One of the better movies I've seen this year.

Grade: A

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Style Will Only Get a Movie So Far, 25 July 2017

One of the more disappointing films I've seen recently, because it starts out so promisingly and so its eventual down-hill trajectory seems all the more steep in comparison.

"Baby Driver" has one of the best opening credits sequences I've ever seen, some kinetic and whiplash car chases, and an awesome soundtrack. In its main protagonist, played pretty winningly by Ansel Elgort, it also has an engaging and sympathetic character -- or at least, he starts out that way, until he becomes an empty cipher for director Edgar Wright's fetishistic preoccupations, a problem that plagues the entire movie.

The early scenes of Baby finishing his life of crime and meeting a cute girl are the film's best. But the energetic pop and fizz of the movie quickly curdles after that into a tedious and juvenile barrage of non- stop violence and implausibility. If Wright had established a satiric tone like he did in movies like "Hot Fuzz" and "Shaun of the Dead," I might have been able to tolerate the film's descent into stupidity. But he doesn't, instead playing things straight, so that characters like the ones played by Jamie Foxx and John Hamm (who's badly miscast by the way) become so obnoxious and irritating that I groaned every time they reentered the film. We're supposed to believe that Baby has a heart of gold and is a victim of circumstance, but by the end of the film he's as ruthless as anyone else and can kill with the same casual ease as the bad guys, so we kind of stop caring about him. And the movie can never be forgiven for what it does with his love interest, a completely disposable character who blindly follows Baby even after she's seen him kill a man and who exists for the sole purpose of being rescued. I haven't seen such a worthless female character in a film in a long time.

The only other bright spot aside from the ones I've already mentioned is Kevin Spacey, who knows how to play a bad guy as someone who you know is only going to bring grief to the characters you care about but who you want in the movie anyway because he knows how to be sinister and likable at the same time.

Style will only get you so far.

Grade: C-

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