Then Playing — Zombieland: Double Tap; Hale County This Morning, This Evening; A Separation

Zombieland: Double Tap (Ruben Fleischer, 2019). This sequel to Ruben Fleischer’s winning horror-comedy of a decade earlier isn’t good, but its pedestrian nature is almost charming. It calls to mind a bygone era, when new installments of film series were … Continue reading Then Playing — Zombieland: Double Tap; Hale County This Morning, This Evening; A Separation

Bernstein with Hooker, Chaplin, Friedkin, Lowery, Taylor

Terminator: Genisys (Alan Taylor, 2015). The reeling lesson of the just completed summer box office season is that the recycled repetition of brand-driven moviemaking may finally be sputtering its last. The ideal case study as to why arrived one year earlier. Arriving six years after the previous attempt at franchise revivification, Terminator: Genisys shows precisely how hollow the endeavor can be. The film trots out a procession of touchstones — familiar lines, restaged scenes, echoed character beats — without a hint of a central vision or an ounce of soul. Director Alan Taylor brings that same sluggish blandness that made … Continue reading Bernstein with Hooker, Chaplin, Friedkin, Lowery, Taylor

Banks, Bergman, Hamilton, Limon, Polanski

1971 (Johanna Hamilton, 2014). Clearly positioned as a history lesson for those who venerate Edward Snowden for his digital freedom fighting in bringing to light information about the U.S. government’s shady spying on its own citizens, 1971 focuses in on a break-in at a Pennsylvania FBI office in the year of the title. Those who are shocked by the modern transgressions against privacy can watch this documentary for a bracing reminder that federal crime-fighting agencies are in full-scale same-as-it-ever-was territory, Patriot Act or not. Of course, that doesn’t make current abuses acceptable, but the indignation is best shaped as part of … Continue reading Banks, Bergman, Hamilton, Limon, Polanski

Greatish Performances #20

#20 — Linda Cardellini as Kelli in Return (Liza Johnson, 2011) In modern cinematic considerations of war, there is a broad agreement that the emotional aftermath when a soldier reached the homeland is just a brutal and devastating as anything that might have happened when they were deployed. Even a film as supposedly jingoistic and fully enamored with battlefield conquest as the ultimate in heroism as American Sniper needs to acknowledge that the military man whose prowess with a rifle is a such that he get deadly superlatives affixed to his name is going to win up staring blankly at a … Continue reading Greatish Performances #20

Ford, Hancock, Huston, McDonagh, Robespierre

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948). Huston’s famed exploration of greed tainting a slapdash partnership of aspiration gold miners in the Mexican mountains is so deviously ingenious that the director booming cackle virtually echoes through the most feverish scenes. The best Tim Holt can do as the most upstanding, straightforward member of the trio is stay upright against the buffeting winds of Humphrey Bogart, all sweaty paranoia and flash fire intensity, and Walter Huston, delivering a just Oscar-awarded turn as the weather-beaten old-timer whose the one member of the party who’s not a neophyte. The film is … Continue reading Ford, Hancock, Huston, McDonagh, Robespierre

Faxon and Rash, Kasdan, Lloyd, Lord and Miller, Snyder

Darling Companion (Lawrence Kasdan, 2012). I’ve got loads of residual affection for writer-director Lawrence Kasdan, but he sure doesn’t make it easy to be one of his defenders these days. Darling Companion was his first film in nearly decade, following the appallingly bad Stephen King adaptation Dreamcatcher. It doesn’t make an argument that he used his creative downtime wisely. As wispy of a film concept as anyone’s likely to come across, Kasdan’s story (co-written with his wife, Meg Kasdan) concerns an older couple who adopt a stray dog and then lose that new furry family member in the woods around … Continue reading Faxon and Rash, Kasdan, Lloyd, Lord and Miller, Snyder

Jones, Kubrick, LeRoy, Park, Tourneur

Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933). This big musical from the tail end of the Pre-Code Hollywood era is fascinating for its many contradictions, beginning with the framing of Great Depression challenges with a notably defeatist cheer. The production numbers are the handiwork of Busby Berkeley (the songs are by Harry Warren and Al Dubin) and they show off his skill at mesmerizing vastness. “We’re in the Money” is probably the most famous, but others are more interesting, especially the lengthy “Pettin’ the Park,” which includes a strikingly sexy moment involving a bevy of beauties changing behind a sheer … Continue reading Jones, Kubrick, LeRoy, Park, Tourneur