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