I was going to post these around the New Year, but apparently I got hung up on a sort of micro-procrastination. Now seems like as good a time as any. I've been doing these for three years now, and it seems I watch fewer movies each year. This sounds like a narrative of decline, but I prefer to think of it as a temporary shift.
As always: all reviews, including the movie title and date, are exactly 140 characters. I give myself some flexibility on words like AND (vs &) and on ending punctuation.
Gravity (2013) - A film of silences & oscillations: warm to cold, expansive to claustrophobic. Beautifully shot; simply & effectively acted.
Spring Breakers (2013) - Exploitation's compulsive sexuality and violence, unhinged, channeled into an acid gonzo bubblegum pop fever dream.
Conan the Destroyer (1984) - Maybe deserves an award for clumsiest, awkwardest, most creepy and uncomfortable big-budget fantasy movie ever.
Night Tide (1961) - A calm meditation on being an outsider, ripe with shy obsessions and repressed sexuality; almost magical-realist in tone
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) - Alternately whispering & soaring, delivering on the promise of its vast landscapes & eccentric characters.
The Road (2009) - A decent take on the hopelessness in the novel, and "Son" has a vibrant and evolving emotional life; but maybe too polite?
Black Death (2010) - A grimy, mean-spirited anti-morality tale, blessed with compelling characters & jarring shifts in attitude & credulity.
The Europa Report (2013) - Quiet, wide-eyed & enigmatic, endearing for how sweeping & hypnotic a story it assembles from such a limited palette.
(NOTE: Realize I somehow used the adjective "ballistic" in both of the next two reviews. For the record, I think it applies better to Elysium.)
Elysium (2013) - A ballistic, richly textured journey of heroes and anti-heroes, humane and hard-working, hampered by some tone-deaf writing
Thor: The Dark World (2013) - A ballistic romp of a movie, whose charming asides successfully mediate the (intentionally) overpowering pomp.
The Hobbit (2013) - A Disneyesque need for broad emotional cues doesn't entirely ruin Tolkien's love of majesty and archaic language
Deadly Blessing (1981) - A weird, shuttered, otherworldly ballet of messed up characters: some shamelessly, and others who barely conceal it
Grandmaster (2013) - Full Wong Kar Wai atmosphere, plus killer fight scenes -- some done the same way "In the Mood for Love" did sex scenes.
Dredd (2012) - Fun, sloppy action film, highly preoccupied with hypersubjective experiences, despite the title character's robotic blankness
Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) - Vivid, tactile, & intimate; a compelling portrait of young love. An achievement of craft, if not concept.
Lovers on the Bridge (1991) - Stormy, vivid, impetuous; an irreducibly beautiful chronicle of love surviving cycles of abuse and abandonment
Unforgiven (1992) - Eastwood's stern meta-Western, a pinpoint-precise portrayal of the insecurity of manhood trapped in a cultural narrative
Dangerous Game (1993) - A bold, semi-successful attempt at gritty experimentalism from Abel Ferrara, seething with barely-contained violence
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) - Serene, meditative... also frigid & tense. The visuals add a studied richness to a desolate narrative.
Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) - A twisted, unsettling little creeper with some of the most vivid characters I've met in cinema.
Bleeding House (2011) - This tale of psychos colliding is tense and restrained, but sometimes a bit too rushed for its slow-burn aspirations
Dead Presidents (1995) - If 90's reviewers had forseen today's banal pseudo-edginess, they would have welcomed DP's hard-nosed eccentricity.
Only God Forgivess (2013) - Nicolas Winding Refn's deconstruction of the white savior trope, wrapped in a bilious torture chamber of a movie.
Before Sunrise (1995) - Proof that in the absence of suspense, a whole story can coast on earnestness and still feel gratifying and complete
Sabrina (1954) - Props to Wilder for this classic black & white charmer, starring two of the most attractive people in the history of people
Holy Motors (2012) - A wild, sexy tantrum of a movie, seething with all those violent emotions that we keep so buried in our everyday lives.
Everything Must Go (2010) - An anxious indie film with a sort of lukewarm realism. Not a masterpiece, but endearing in its humor and wisdom.
The Eclipse (2009) - A melancholy movie with a tenuous mood, like a creepy old photograph where the shutter stayed open just a bit too long.
Red (2010) - A fun, insubstantial pop collision of Hollywood personalities relieved of their dignity & allowed to wallow in cartoon violence
Eve's Bayou (1997) - Steamy, enigmatic, and twisted, a smart and heartfelt film that weaves us into a vivid setting and emotional ecosystem.
Upstream Color (2013) - Dreamy, abstract, and surprisingly tense tribute to the power of love and unseen forces; best for patient audiences.
Magnolia (1999) - Ambitious omnibus, suffering mildly from lack of focus, but elevated by its brave performances, both intimate & expansive.
30 Days of Night (2007) - Vicious, terrifying neo-vampire survival horror, perhaps held back because it doesn't push its extremes far enough
Irreversible (2002) - Depraved postmodern trash, redeemed by an amazing formal unity and thematic cohesion, and four courageous performances
Cold Mountain (2003) - Sometimes overwrought, but touched with flashes of brilliance in its depictions of war, hardship, & human connection.
Secret of Kells (2009) - Vivid and enchanting, handcrafted with a soft touch, like a Miyazaki movie smoothed over by a calligrapher's hands.
A Town Called Panic (2009) - A hilarious, flippant manic stop motion buddy movie for the ages. The polar opposite of the last one I reviewed
Valhalla Rising (2009) - An abstraction of grit & violence, brutal and glacially paced that toes the line between hypnotic and mind-numbing.
Hidden Blade (2004) - A wise and intimate cinematic sonata, rich in relationships; one of the most patient & tender samurai films I've seen.
Ashura (2005) - A wildly melodramatic kabuki-style kaidan, whose bad special effects give it a sort of charm, if you're in a forgiving mood.