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  • Trade


    When Kevin Kline's character is introduced the film pretty much dies. The brother character who is in desperate pursuit of his kidnapped sister is reduced to making jokes about Kline's taste in music and the tension goes away. Meanwhile in the other narrative line with the kidnapped girls - there's no control in the images, which verge on the mawkish and then the suggestive and then the exploitative. It takes a lot of control and thought to make something like…

  • The Hate U Give

    The Hate U Give


    Undeniably moving, but the didactic nature overwhelms most moments. The climax where Starr, on the top of the car, delivers her words is great, but it is followed up with frankly terrible story developments which rob everything of complexity - you can feel the prosaic, heavy hand of scriptwriting - with a need to deliver lessons to the audience instead of relying on the rich interior world developed through Amandla Stenberg's fantastic performance. It's a shame, but there are quite a few worthy moments throughout.

  • Jason's Lyric

    Jason's Lyric


    I have a certain weakness for this finely-textured, somewhat slow and sluggish, thoroughly fatalistic sort of thing, but it ultimately never quite convinces. The brutality of the ending is remarkable, but to get this point the film uses mainly broad strokes to do its heavy lifting. Still, it packs a punch.

  • Toy Story 4

    Toy Story 4


    The crisis of usefulness and masculinity is the text. This registers forcefully of course in the Forky scenes where everyone is secure in their place except Woody. So, sure. My usual problem is then that there's just no room, nothing beyond the forward momentum of the film's trajectory, which dazzles and moves but never quite surprises - is there one truly revelatory sequence here? I would say not.

  • The Week Of

    The Week Of


    What got me isn't the final heart-to-heart between Sandler and his daughter (I mean it's perfect, but no), but rather the quick shot of the two dogs together at the edge of the dance. It's not just the payoff to the narrative set-up, but rather the generosity of spirit - one which seeps into every single character, every single interaction, never betraying or looking down at anyone. Who compared this to Renoir? Everyone has their reasons - there is no…

  • Wine Country

    Wine Country


    Whenever an actor-comedian directs a movie I always secretly hope for some kind of Lewisian-Chow-Chaplin auteurist personality to reveal themselves in some sort of misunderstood masterpiece. Wine Country is not that. It's a Netflix film. There's some stray interest in the way that the film is clearly a self-portrait of these women and their relationships (all of them were involved in Saturday Night Live around the same time) and it speaks to their concerns truthfully. However, it's also revealing of…

  • Someone Great

    Someone Great


    Thoroughly unconvincing - the idealized lighting in the flashback scenes with Lakeith Stanfield, the Rolling Stone job across the country, really all of it. The conception of the friendship is a strong one, but only a few moments are really funny and, frankly, moving. The first is the visit to the rich kid played by Jaboukie Young-White, ratcheting up the absurdity. The second is the Selena song in the bodega - now that's real. The rest plays as you'd expect it with each character getting their own moments, most of them unconvincing.

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


    I wrote this about GATCHAMAN CROWDS, the 2013 anime series, a few years ago:

    "Memories of the original Gatchaman soon fade away as soon as the main character, Hajime, starts talking. Ostensibly a reimagining of the franchise, Crowds treats the original as a source of iconography and ideas to sift through while working through its own thematic concerns. The idea (and the need) for a superhero is questioned in the age of social media, and the vigilante aspect of it…

  • Hoodlum



    Not as politically potent or daring as Deep Cover (not much is!), but still resonates due to the overarching narrative of the black gangster staking out what's his, what belongs to his community, and making sure it stays there. But it's still a gangster narrative - rival factions fueled by racist divisions (Tim Roth and Richard Bradford in a competition of who can say the N-word the most), the hero dooming his soul and losing everything along the way. But it's done with force and conviction and all the players are pretty charming, held together by a great Fishburne performance.

  • Mrs. Doubtfire

    Mrs. Doubtfire


    If there is an object of fascination here it is of course the Robin Williams performance style - a barrage of jokes, unfiltered, a mania which dominates the film. If the sentimental aspect, the father trying desperately to remain with this kids, overwhelms the film it does not quite ever tamp down Williams' performance which remains fascinating throughout. It's only at film's end, during the courtroom sequence, where the clown's need for acceptance, for tears, where this mania is truly…

  • Set It Off

    Set It Off


    Watching Set It Off put into relief the issues I had with the Netflix Limited Series When They See Us - it is about emphasis and direction. Because it is genre, Gray and his cast are able to attack directly and without compromise the systems which punish the women and the world around them. This is done with humor, and often without taste (the Jada Pinkett / Blair Underwood sex scene!) - the politics emerge through the engagement in genre,…

  • Murder Mystery

    Murder Mystery


    Going on vacation is as good a reason to make a movie as any other so I do not begrudge Sandler and company's desire to go to Monaco and hang out (I love Hatari! with no reservations after all) but there is almost no energy to the film's conceptions. Baked into the concept there is the idea of fantasy taking over the everyday banal reality of Sandler and Aniston's couple (the mysterious millionaire vs. the tour on a bus), fiction…