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  • Birds of Passage

    Birds of Passage

    ★★★

    After enjoying the formal invention of Embrace of the Serpent, I was interested to see Guerra and Gallego's spin on a well-worn genre like crime. So I was surprised to see how conventional Birds of Passage was. The indigenous Colombian rituals provide some color and grandeur, but otherwise this is a rise and fall that I've seen before, complete with a hothead character that threatens the whole operation. Perhaps my favorite part of crime movies, the alluring sinful fun that ropes the viewer in and makes him complicit, is nowhere to be found.

  • Stuber

    Stuber

    ★★

    The critical community has been pretty forgiving of Stuber; I guess because it's a type of studio film that used to be common but now is not. Judged on its own merits, however, it's labored. The screenplay circles around questions of masculinity, but not in a way that hasn't been done better in other recent comedies. Perhaps most disappointing of all, I've seen Iko Uwais and Bautista fight before, and it looked a whole lot cooler than the way they're sliced and diced here. The ending's sweet at least.

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  • Gone Girl

    Gone Girl

    ★★★★

    In a particularly tense scene of Gone Girl, Affleck's character is sipping on Singani 63, a Bolivian brandy obscure enough that I can't get it from the Dorignac's liquor aisles. The character owns a bar--so I guess he's up on his clear brandy made with specific grapes from the mountains of South America--but he's probably drinking it because Singani 63 is Steven Soderbergh's side hustle. And Gone Girl, in its obsession with process, its narrative left-turns, its respect/contempt for the…

  • American Honey

    American Honey

    ★★★★

    I'm still digesting it*, but American Honey is a good example of the difference between story and plot. There's a lot of the former even without much of the latter. It's sprawling, with an adagio tempo that recalls the shifts of the road, and it's unclear how much of the film was written to begin with--I don't know how someone could write something that feels so lived in and spontaneous. It's of-a-piece with Andrea Arnold's other work, (We get a…