M*A*S*H

(Robert Altman, 1970)

with Jess de Martine, on Netflix at 115 Fourth Place, 11/9/14

6

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Shaggy, formless, amiable comedy – less a coherent movie than a series of droll, anarchic vignettes.  Young Donald Sutherland has got to be the most charming son-of-a-bitch on record, and as cheerfully defiant antiheroes go, his Hawkeye Pierce is one for the books.  M*A*S*H doesn’t really go anywhere, but it sure has a lot of fun getting there – and I guess that’s probably enough.

Published in: on November 29, 2014 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Don Juan Demarco

(Jeremy Leven, 1995)

with Devin and Mom, Barn Screening Room, 11/6/14

7

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Spry and soulful, jaunty and romantic, possessed of a gentle, playful, innocent spirit that very rarely seeps onto movie screens, Don Juan Demarco is an endearing, life-affirming gem of a movie.  Johnny Depp is note-perfect as the titular lover/legend/mental patient, and Marlon Brando brings warmth and humor to the role of the kindly, skeptical psychiatrist.  Each man plays his part with a twinkle in his eye, and their scenes together are full of unforced affection and easy chemistry.  Don Juan Demarco might be said to ask the question: Is grand passion possible in our cynical age?  And it might be said to answer: Let’s give it a try.

Published in: on November 29, 2014 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

(David Mirkin, 1997)

with Devin, Lake House Screening Room, 11/3/14

3

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Thin and scattered, and not nearly clever enough to justify its own determined zaniness.  The first third of the movie is riddled with overlong flashbacks; these are followed by an endless fantasy sequence that’s barely discernible from the movie’s “real-life” scenes.  Who are these characters?  How are we supposed to feel about them?  Is the movie laughing with them, or at them?  It’s never clear.  Mira Sorvino is deeply charming, and Romy and Michele hints at the glittering career she might have had, but the script isn’t nearly strong enough to support her talent.  A shame.

Published in: on November 29, 2014 at 1:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rebecca

(Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

with Darcy, Theo Meneau, and Jess de Martine, Barn Screening Room, 11/1/14

7

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More dated than I had remembered, but still a pretty delicious melodrama.  The film is neatly divided into three segments – a glamorous love story (set in Monte Carlo, no less!), an ominous thriller, and a courtroom drama.  This makes for a somewhat schizoid viewing experience, but there’s plenty of pleasure to be had along the way, especially from Laurence Olivier’s sneering, brooding, magnetic portrayal of the tragic Max de Winter.

Published in: on November 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

John Wick

(David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, 2014)

with James Fauvell, Union Square Regal, 10/27/14

4

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There’s a chance I’m getting too old for this shit.  A decade ago, I probably would have been thrilled – or at least entertained – by this stylish piece of smarter-than-average trash, but at the ripe old age of thirty-two, I found it mindless and vaguely depressing.  I still enjoy a good fight scene, and there’s something viscerally gratifying about watching Keanu Reeves shoot people at close range – which he does a lot in this movie – but I just couldn’t convince myself that there was any resonance – any purpose – to what I was watching.  I left feeling more unsettled than amused.  What has happened to me?

Published in: on November 4, 2014 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Birdman

(Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014)

with Jess de Martine and Diana Kemppainen, BAM Rose Cinema, 10/26/14

4

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If Birdman lived up to the promise of its first act, it would be a phenomenal achievement.  Building its world, establishing its characters, ratcheting up tension – all of these are tasks the movie performs admirably.  The acting is strong, the characters vivid, the dialogue sharp and alive.  Unfortunately, Birdman has no idea what to do with all these promising elements, so it begins to repeat itself, and then to indulge itself, and then to betray itself, so that by the end most of the characters – and most of the plot threads – have been summarily dismissed, and we’re left with nothing but a sad-sack protagonist and a cheap, phoney “ambiguous” ending.  In the final analysis, Birdman is a hollow exercise, with no sincere animating impulse beyond the desire to do a lot of long tracking shots.  Too bad.

Published in: on November 4, 2014 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Edge of Tomorrow

(Doug Liman, 2014)

with Darcy and Theo Meneau, 149 West 12th St., 10/25/14

8

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Fast-paced and clever, with some laugh-out-loud moments, and some real pathos thrown in for good measure.  Tom Cruise in in fine form, and it’s great fun to watch him go from feckless and clueless to ass-kicking hero in the space of one oft-repeated day.  Although it’s build around the premise of a potentially endless time loop, Edge of Tomorrow rarely repeats itself; it always seems to come up with some new twist on its own formula, so that it moves inexorably – but not predictably – forward, even as it loops back again and again.  Someone described this movie (accurately) as “Groundhog Day with violence.”  In other words: awesome.

Published in: on November 4, 2014 at 11:57 am  Comments (2)