• Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse

    Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse


    I somehow ended up watching this while trapped at home with COVID, which was its own kind of torturous experience.

    Having never paid much attention to Apocalypse Now growing up despite it being one of my dad's favorites (which usually turns me against films), there's something grimly fascinating about seeing the madness captured on both sides of that camera - the sheer amount of hubris, blind luck and dogged perseverance that went into a movie which not only defined a…

  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

    Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves


    Being a Dungeons & Dragons neophyte, I have no doubt a lot of things went clean over my head. But that doesn't stop this being far and away the most accessible adaptation we were probably going to get.

    The whole cast, particularly Chris Pine and Regé-Jean Page, is on point, knowing exactly what kind of movie they're in and finding the right semi-serious notes to play. Cinematography is fantastic, particularly an early chase scene that nearly convinces you it was done…

  • The Man Who Wasn't There

    The Man Who Wasn't There


    The Coen brothers' take on classic noir retrains their droll sensibilities while also being one of the most emotionally nuanced things they've ever done. Sure, there are still touches of their absurdist humor now and again (one pivotal scene feels like it was directed by David Lynch), but otherwise the tragedy of the man who would have been just fine being the barber is wonderfully understated, buoyed by an excellent cast and characteristically brilliant cinematography by Roger Deakins. Every genre…

  • Mission: Impossible II

    Mission: Impossible II


    Is it possible to be nostalgic for a film you hadn't actually seen?

    When I was in fourth grade my best friend at the time and I loved role-playing as Ethan Hunt and one of his sidekicks (whose name we couldn't remember). Of particular interest was who would fly the helicopter and who got to sit in the back with ❤️Nyah❤️.

    Turns out that was more memorable than the actual film.

    After the biggest (arguably only) success of his Hollywood…

  • The Princess Bride

    The Princess Bride


    Now this is a Christmas tradition I could get behind, with a film that is truly timeless. Ceaselessly witty, brilliantly crafted and endlessly imaginative, it is a fantastic reminder that some of history's best films aspire merely to entertain, and in doing so put everything they have into that goal. One of the great comfort movies.

    But Buttercup, you useless B.

  • A Chorus Line

    A Chorus Line


    And now for something a little less of a holiday tradition, yet still a childhood staple. Its reputation as a bastardized shadow of the original play is lost on me, but even then my aversion to musicals is such that I can't give much of a damn, especially when the plot feels so flimsily constructed and the direction (by Richard Attenborough of all people) is largely indifferent. Still, the tunes are catchy enough, the performers are passionate, and through them it maintains a reasonably high level of energy across most of its runtime. For some people, that'll be enough.

  • The Polar Express

    The Polar Express


    One of those movies that's only considered a holiday film because it's explicitly about one. Otherwise I'm not sure how much I can make a tradition of a film whose heart, while in the right place, is nearly buried beneath a lot of whiz-bang spectacle and falls face-first into the uncanny valley. Having Tom Hanks do quintuple duty can only carry this so far, but darn if America's dad doesn't give it his all. For holiday traditional viewings, you certainly could do worse.

  • The Snowman

    The Snowman


    A staple of my childhood somehow hits harder now that I'm an adult. The kind of pure emotion and beauty that literally requires no words.

    Merry Christmas.

  • The Big Chill

    The Big Chill


    Gave this to my dad for his birthday because...well, he's always spoken of it as a classic.

    It could be said that every generation has "our movie," that definitive cinematic portrait of a specific point in their lives, universal in its relatability. Which also means there's rarely ever a plot so much as a lot of freewheeling vignettes tied together with crying and romantic tension.

    An anthem for boomers just a couple years before their kids got The Breakfast Club,…

  • The Boys from Brazil

    The Boys from Brazil


    I can see how Atticus Finch goosestepping and heiling might have been off-putting to contemporary audiences. But while Gregory Peck can't exactly be called an actor with range, he does make one hell of an impression as the fanatical Josef Mengele.

    Or maybe he's just enjoying the opportunity to let loose. Everyone else seems to be.

    Mengele's plan to birth clones of Hitler is a beyond loopy premise, but director Franklin Schaffner - several years removed from the similarly heightened…

  • Ace in the Hole

    Ace in the Hole


    If His Girl Friday is the quintessential screwball satire of the media, one that gives you permission to laugh with as much as at it, Ace in the Hole couldn't be more its polar opposite, a fierce, borderline hateful parable that rubs your face in its lurid sensationalism and dares you to be amused.

    Chuck Tatum's quest for the fame he's long deserved plays right into Kirk Douglas's wheelhouse of compelling bastards (not unlike son Michael, really), his magnetic charisma…

  • The Dead Zone

    The Dead Zone


    For some reason I'm experiencing a resurgence in my love for Stephen King, having dedicated most of my late teens and twenties to his books before falling off for several years. Not that there's ever a bad time to get (back) into King, but it feels just a bit random. Then again, so is life, which is probably how we got the most normal film David Cronenberg ever made until he went more or less mainstream with A History of…