Monday, February 26, 2018

2017 in the Teens pt. 1

The Accountant - Gavin O'Connor - A bit torn on this one. Almost too dumb for words, but had some pretty respectable violent bits. Wasn't fun like John Wick or Baby Driver or Atomic Blonde, but the same level of unbelievability in main character's skill set, organization and focus... Superhero movies usually need to feel like superhero movies to work and this one doesn't (feel like a superhero movie or work), but there are sequences that do so it's not a complete waste.

Allied Robert Zemeckis - Must've been in just the right mood, 'cause I really enjoyed this romantic-suspense throwback vehicle. Sexy sometimes, effectively violent and suspenseful - why won't the world just let these beautiful people be happy together? I'm a sap.

American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson - Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski - As passively familiar as anybody who lived through the time period is with the story of O.J. Simpson's murder trial, this one was a hard sell for me. Yeah, I know what happened and why do I want to spend many hours watching people in wigs and 90s clothes remind me? But you guys all said it would be great and here's where I bow to your collective wisdom and admit that it was. Still took a couple episodes for me to feel like I needed to keep going, but kudos to the writers and the cast for dramatizing a familiar and tabloid-exploited story so effectively. Hell, based on the success of this season, I'll be tuning in to The Assassination of Gianni Versace - a story I know nothing about - automatically. A lot great work in the cast, but I'll call out Sarah Paulson and David Schwimmer in particular. Solid.

American Ultra - Nima Nourizadeh - Okay this stoner comedy/conspiracy action movie wasn't as bad as it looked, though it surely would've been better at both aspects had it been an Edgar Wright picture. Still, I'm not sure I want my chocolate and my peanut butter to mix often and I doubt I'll be revisiting... Instead, I'll just watch The Big Lebowski or The Bourne Identity again.

The Americans season 4 - Joseph Weisberg - I think FX is committed to giving us the full and righteous send-off the series deserves, but I'm still a little confused by how little I see it getting talked about. Damn good show whose far-fetched series finale we seem to be living out in real time.

Archer season 7 - Adam Reed - What a hilariously vulgar, strange trip it's been. So Glad for the excuse for the team to shuffle the deck a few times in these final seasons to try new angles on the golden formulas. I love this show.

The Assignment - Walter Hill - As all the elements are right there in the trailer I'm not going to feel guilty about spoilers here. Frank is a hitman who has killed many a man for money. One previous victim has a grieving sister who's also a wack-ass doctor who sets out for revenge on Frank. She kidnaps the killer and performs a forced sex-change operation on him, turning the macho killer into a butch bitch who comes back for her own revenge. That... that's a fucking great set up. Attach Walter Hill's name as writer and director, cast Michelle Rodiguez as Frank and strap on the popcorn trough... but what the hell went wrong? How does the legend of heightened genre film take a premise that pulpy and deliver a product so dull? Seems like half the film is Rodriguez keeping a video diary and the other half is Sigourney Weaver in a straight jacket talking to Tony Shaloub (did I mention it squanders a hell of a supporting cast too?). The action we get is pretty chintzy and jumbled and not over the top enough to forgive. The best scenes are between Rodriguez and Caitlin Gerard as a new potential love interest for Frank. They manage to produce a couple recognizable emotions, but they're not nearly enough to salvage this dud. Apparently there's now a comic book  version too and I have to believe it's better than the film on which it's based.

The Bad Batch Ana Lily Amirpour - Director Ana Lily Amirpour's debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was a fever dream feature length music video without a song (a genre I can certainly love - Nicolas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising or Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man qualify) - so I was interested in her next project, but still unprepared for how hard I'd fall for her post-apocalyptic cannibalism revenge western. Like its predecessor The Bad Batch is pure style, but it's also got unexpected moments of emotional resonance. Suki Waterhouse is an outland wanderer falling victim to, coming to the aid of or exploring the kingdoms erected by Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves and Jayda Fink. Along the way our road warrior encounters more human detritus including Jim Carrey giving his best performance in many years. It's ugly, gorgeous, vulnerable, trippy and not a little badass.

Bad Santa 2 - Mark Waters - I love Bad Santa unreservedly. It is balm to my cracked and parched retail-veteran's soul. What could I possibly want from a sequel? There isn't anything new or fresh here. It takes the same strategy so many sequels take - same formula, same jokes, just bigger, grosser, blacker - and predictably yields diminishing returns. Which is to say I laughed less frequently, but still a lot more often than most comedies I watch. Liked it, didn't love it. Kathy Bates was admirably game to join the gang.

Belko Experiment Greg McLean - The employees of an American corporation are locked inside their Bogota headquarters and commanded via intercom to begin murdering each other or be killed themselves. A social experiment as the basis of a film neither as satirically sharp as The Purge series, nor as bleakly hilarious as Duane Swierczynski'Severance Package, but still a worthwhile exercise in bloodletting.

Better Call Saul season 2 - Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould  - What an amazing job this show has done of re-framing the Saul Goodman character from Breaking BadCould Vince Gilligan and company turn him into an even bigger tragic figure than Walter White? Might they even pull it off whilst maintaining a tonally compelling mix of humor and pathos? Will it eclipse its origin? All possible.

Bloodline season 2 -  Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman - The Rayburn family continue to dig themselves deeper rather than out of the shit and we alternately root for and against their struggle to remain wealthy and socially well regarded. Black sheep Danny continues to be a presence both in flashbacks and imaginary exchanges, but maybe the lessons for the future should just be along the lines of - don't kill off the most interesting character early on.
BMF: Rise and Fall of a Hip-Hop Drug Empire - Don Sikorski - Interesting documentary about the Black Mafia Family's simultaneous rise in the worlds of music and crime and the symbiotic relationship both identities had. Familiar trajectories from countless fictions played out for reals.

Bridge of Spies Steven Spielberg - Attracted to this one because of the Coens' work on the script and happy to announce I enjoyed the whole affair more than I expected to. Those Coen flavors and touches bleed through nicely a handful of times. Mostly though, it's just a sturdily constructed picture.

Bright David Ayer - I'm pretty certain there was a brief moment in my life that I'd have been pretty stoked for this film. A hard-R, big budget treatment of fairy tale street crime, but that time is long past. Not to say I don't ever get down with fantasy crime mash ups- I enjoy books by Chris Holm, Stephen Blackmoore, Victor Gischler, Duane Swierczynski etc., but... I dunno, I can't really imagine it being better-executed, so I'm just gonna have to go with I don't want a movie like this. Three pictures in a row for Ayer straying from his straight up street crime film maker calling and he hasn't yet made the really great picture I think he's capable of. Back to basics please, sir.

Brighton Rock -Rowan Joffe - Another take on the novel by Graham Greene with no standout changes - it's a remake I'm fine with if it exposes a new audience to the story - 'cause shit... it's a good one. A Brighton tough sees an opportunity to distinguish himself and rise in amongst the gangster circles he runs in and takes it. As means toward his ends he pretends to fall in love with a waitress who may or may not be able to finger his gang for a murder. The relationship that progresses toward marriage is two-sided, but not shared as she feels swept off her feet and he a seething contempt and resentment - the affair ends in a fashion that satisfies both parties in the most Greene-esque fashion.

Chance season 1 - Alexandra Cunningham, Kem Nunn - I'm up to try anything based on Kem Nunn source material and got through the first season of Chance in a quick. Not really sure how it's going to hold up as a continuing series - I hope it resists getting deep into melodrama and instead really lets Ethan Suplee off the chain for some full-dark violence. Maybe that's just me. Holy crap though, what a great character.

The Dinner - Oren Moverman - Fucking loved Moverman's James Ellroy scripted Rampart, and mostly dig the cast in this one, but holy crap what a waste. Just a drag and a drip of information and endless bummer of an experience. Dull. Drab. Downbeat. Decent turn by Richard Gere who I can't seem to figure how he has such a string of films I really like (and like him in), but never think of him as one of my favorite performers. Too good a performance from Steve Coogan who is too unpleasant to want to spend a second more of onscreen time with. Laura Linney('s character) is just irritating, Rebecca Hall and Chloe Sevigny are wasted.

The Dog - Allison Berg, Frank Keraudren - Pervert, activist, serial-husband, bank robber John Wojtowicz was immortalized in Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon, but he's got at least as much on screen charisma as Al Pacino playing a more sympathetic version of himself. This documentary lets the man tell his own story that includes plenty of material on both ends of his disastrous attempt to raise money for his wife's sex change.

Dope - Rick Famuyiwa - Man, I wanted to like this one a lot, but couldn't help feeling this one wanted me to like it a lot a lot more than I wanted to. Kudos for a drug/crime drama/comedy that isn't super dark and depressing, that portrays people of color in positive lights and avoids the stereotypes that make the average urban street flick seem rote and bland, but I kinda felt like the pitch for this one must have been something along the lines of 'black people that white people will like' - going for positive, but instead came across as toothless. Despite the likable cast and upbeat rhythms, I resisted every telegraphed ploy for my affections. I think this must be how some of you feel about Wes Anderson movies. I dunno, maybe I'll revisit it in a few years and feel differently.

Monday, February 19, 2018

2017 in the Aughts pt. 3

Revanche - Götz Spielmann - Holy shit this will break your heart if you've got one. And if you do you know that a proper breaking once in a while is in order to keep it from getting too calloused to function - after all vulnerability and risk are prerequisites to real human experience.

Road to Perdition - Sam Mendes - Before he and Daniel Craig made James Bond their long term project Mendes (and Craig) made this adaptation of Max Allan Collins's prohibition era gangster graphic novel as a follow-up to his Oscar winning American Beauty. Like Skyfall and Spectre this is a good-looking violent picture, but there's little to praise outside of the presentation. The emotions never land, the action doesn't thrill and the performances are adequate, but not engaging - Jude Law's creepy crime scene photographer comes the closest to making a lasting impression. I revisit once in a while to see what I might've missed, but it doesn't really improve. Notable cast includes Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Dylan Baker, Ciarán Hinds and Stanley Tucci.

Robbery Hommicide Division season 1 - Barry Schindel - One and done season of police procedure produced by Michael Mann and starring the under-utilized Tom Sizemore. Shit, I wish it'd lasted long enough to get better. It's got a lot of the Mann-ish touches and interests that I love to dig into and more heavy weaponry shootouts than your averaged prime-time network TVs, but after finally catching up with it I have to say I'm not really surprised it got the axe - just not enough personality to distinguish itself from the glut of network procedurals. Never one to waste an idea Mann recycled the plot of episode eight for the Miami Vice movie... so, not for nothing.
Savage Grace - Tom Kalin - God bless Julian Moore. As a performer she's fucking fearless and can be the single saving grace in otherwise forgettable pictures... I don't think she quite saves this take on the sensational true tragedy of the Baekeland family, but she sure gives a big ol' swing for the fences. Eddie Redmayne and Stephen Dillane round out the oedipal ingredients.

Secuestro Express - Jonathan Jakubowicz - When kidnapping is your day job you've probably got a decent movie to make out of your life. Are all days on the grab as eventful as this one? Surely not or you'd quit your job. Bleak little movie set in Caracas where Mia Maestro gets snatched off the street by a trio of workaday abductors and daddy Rubén Blades has to raise enough money to buy her back. All kinds of games of escape and psychological warfare are engaged in and brutal threats made and a few made good upon until the end credits roll and nobody is better off than before the beginning ones.

Sexy Beast - Jonathan Glazer - Never gets old, never not great - in fact each repeat viewing gives me the chance to focus on some other performance or aspect of sick perfection. This time around - editing. Holy shit, but you could've had the performances and the script and not half of the swagger and piss without the editing. Fucking great job, John Scott and Sam Sneade.

Shoot 'Em Up - Michael Davis - After my initial disappointment when it first came out, I was happy to see it'd improved in the subsequent decade. Mostly due to tempered expectations both of the film and the particular genre of slapstick, gun violence movies. Sheeeit, how refreshing was it to go back and watch this thing that's not all green-screens and bullet-time tricks. In the end it's just a dumb fun, sleazy, violent Looney Tunes episode (though Clive Owen as Bugs Bunny isn't half as charismatic and charming as Bruce Willis in Hudson Hawk - even with a perpetual carrot in his mouth). Not great, but better than it used to be.

The Square - Nash Edgerton - One of those terrific movie watching experiences where the weight drops in your stomach and just keeps sinking and applying pressure throughout. Never a break-neck pace, or o sexed-up premise, just a slowly accelerating spiral down the drain. Hopes not particularly high for Gringo, but you'd better believe I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt as the feature film follow up from Edgerton.

Street Kings - David Ayer - So all the stuff I said about Dark Blue could pretty much be said here. In the end the harsh portrait of a bad man trying to do a good job is undercut by more splashy action movie shit we've seen before. Say what you like about Keanu Reeves, I'm not hanging any blame on him for the short comings this time around. If the opening moments of Street Kings are any indication, age - gray up top, a few extra pounds around the middle - may eventually lend Reeves the extra umph his onscreen presence sometimes lacks. I'm not even sending Chris Evans any shit here, but fuckin Cedric The Entertainer does not belong in this picture. And John Corbett? Too many years as a dreamy, sensitive type are working against you, sir. Terry Crewes, Common and Jay Mohr don't step up to Forrest Whitaker's game though he's stuck in an unfortunately transparent role and Hugh Laurie just doesn't have anything to do (though somebody like Noel Gugliemi doesn't have to do anything to make a picture better - that guy is screen presence). A big disappointment considering Ayer's obvious yen for Ellroy's vibe. Anybody who saw Training Day and Dark Blue back to back would be hard pressed to ignore the effect that working on Ellroy's script must have had on his own. Plus, Ayer's directorial debut Harsh Times showed showcased a knack for slipping some serious hard-edged emotional impact up under your flack jacket... Everything that came before was written years ago, but upon rewatch, I've warmed considerably to Street Kings while I stick by my gut reaction that it could've been so much better. It's got a helluva first half, but mostly falls apart in the final act. Not as good as Dark Blue, but it's growing on me.

The Take - David Drury - This four-part television adaptation of Martina Cole's novel follows fresh outta prison Freddy (all-snarl and sneer Tom Hardy) on his violent ascent and subsequent fall from the top of the underground. Affairs of family, both blood and criminal, take center stage and every character loves and hates every other character with equal commitment leaving lines betwixt passion and savagery blurry at best. By the end everybody's been beaten, stabbed, screwed or shot by everybody else and if that doesn't sound like a recommendation you haven't been paying attention. Nasty fun.

Training Day - Antoine Fuqua - Slightly diminishing enthusiasm for this one probably mostly due to screenwriter David Ayer's endless recycling of some elements without ever improving them (as opposed to Michael Mann's recycling results). Still a sharp-looking, big-personality violent cop movie, so there's a lot to continue enjoying. Brooklyn's Finest has officially eclipsed this one in Fuqua's body of work for me, but what a collection of faces in here: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Peter Greene, Tom Berenger, Harris Yulin, Raymond J. Barry, Cliff Curtis, Eva Mendes, Noel Gugliemi, Terry Crews, Snoop Dog and Macy Gray. Oh, forgot about Dre.

25th Hour - Spike Lee - Adapted from the first novel by David Benioff which was released on September 11, 2001. Initially a bad thing for the book's sales, but the prize for making lemonade goes to Lee for injecting the film with so much still raw post 9-11 hometown emotion it still manages to affect - especially the 'fuck' monologue. It's also a great looking picture and easily my favorite of Lee's genre pictures (see also Clockers, Inside Man, Oldboy... or don't). The old-NYC sadness somewhat replaced this time around with Philip Seymour Hoffman sadness. Also a great reminder that Barry Pepper is capable of terrific work and should be given more opportunities to prove it. Cast includes Edward Norton, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Tony Siragusa, Patrice O'Neal, Aaron Stanford and Isiah Whitlock Jr. Sheeeeit.

Undertow - David Gordon Green - Slightly diminished appreciation for this one in what's become a glut of rural noirs - mostly of the cheap (super pulpy and trashy - not always a bad thing) or exploitation variety (bad versions of good books, prestige pictures, Oscar bait, poverty porn). This one is still head, shoulders and torso above water level, but the pond is less appealing than it was fifteen years ago.

Undisputed - Walter Hill - When you can't decide whether you want to watch a prison movie or a sports flick, you can sometimes successfully split the difference - Jericho Mile, The Longest Yard - but it's rare. Undisputed doesn't really scratch either itch terribly successfully - little is at stake outside of egos involved - Wesley Snipes's underground prison league champ and Ving Rhames's newcomer legit outside world heavyweight champ - and no real investment in either character's story outside of... they'd rather not be in prison. But as a Walter Hill film it's pretty watchable - the heightened not-quite reality, the macho posturing he's really good at... I won't be rushing out to check out the sequels, but I'll admit it's a sturdy enough platform to build an action franchise around... ooh, you say Scott Adkins is the star of part III? Well...

Way of the Gun - Christopher McQuarrie - While remaining one of my favorite crime films of the new century this latest viewing's chief takeaways were a couple suggestions for improving it - cut the Sarah Silverman opening scene and the voice over. Yeah, I still laugh at Sarah's acidic tongue and the brio with which Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe take their beating, but that opening followed by the voice over smacks of trying too hard to be cool. And it doesn't need to. It's super cool. Terrific cast includes Juliette Lewis, James Caan, Taye Diggs, Nicky Katt, Geoffrey Lewis and Scott Wilson. I hope the years of working for Tom Cruise pay off for McQuarrie in the form of at least one more crime flick along these lines.

What's the Worst That Could Happen? - Sam Weisman - Martin Lawrence stepping into Donald Westlake's Dortmunder role and Danny DeVito as the sleazy, rich guy he gets into a personal game of one-up-man-ship with are an occasionally successful pairing and I can more or less recommend it if you too have any affection for either performer and a low-bar for comedic payoff. I've noticed my standards for comedies don't generally match up to those of my friends and peers which is probably why I watch films almost exclusively alone.

Wonderland - James Cox - Honestly, I can't really tell how good this one is. It hits so many salacious beats and covers a variety of interests of mine with a cast I'm partial to, it seems like I should remember it better. The story of post-porn career John Holmes getting caught up in drug dealing and winding up as a person of interest in a brutal crime is less a  fascinating unsolved true crime than a fairly standard tale of awfulness elevated to legend by its nexus with celebrity, but hey, cast Val Kilmer as king dong and you've secured my interest and good will. I've seen it a couple of times and will most likely see it again. It holds my interest, but doesn't keep stay with me afterward.
You Kill Me - John Dahl - Ben Kingsley as an alcoholic hit man who needs help getting his personal life and professional one back on track finds that striking up a romantic relationship Téa Leoni might solve his problems. If that description doesn't make you staple your eyeballs shut I don't even know what to tell you. So why the hell did I even give it a shot? Fucking John Dahl, that's why. Fucking John Kill Me Again, Red Rock West, The Last Seduction Dahl makes a movie I pay attention. And oh man every once in a while some bit about the killer for hire shit, the mob stuff or a face like Dennis Farina, Philip Baker Hall or Bill Pullman's would pop up and I'd be ready to forgive it all, but oh no. Nope, John Dahl, you kill me.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

2017 in the Aughts pt. 2

A History of Violence David Cronenberg - The first of three collaborations between Cronenberg and leading man Viggo Mortensen came at a critical point in both careers. Cronenberg, having take a harder art-house leaning in the 90s and early part of the new century, this was a juicy return to violent pulp fiction that was still a departure of sorts - no sci-fi elements - the horror elements more psychological and grounded in a recognizable reality. This was also the time Mortensen was king of the world if he wanted to be. After twenty years as a supporting player in big movies he had the heroic lead in the Lord of the Rings films and seemed a probable bankable action hero who could've easily parlayed that prominence into a latter career's worth of big movie-star vehicles, but God bless him, he's still using that bankability to get small, (often foreign language) pictures financed. Neither gave us what we thought we wanted, but have consistently given us what we needed. Don't get me wrong - they gave us a bloody thriller and a hero picture, but was it any studio exec's wet dream? I think not. It's downbeat and not in a romantic standing over the grave of a loved one in the rain way. It's got a a palatable revenge climax, but it ain't really sexy and nobody gets out of the situation redeemed. Plenty of small moments reward multiple viewings. Extra credit if watched on VHS. Notable cast includes Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt and Greg Bryk. Biggest takeaway may be wanting to always order coffee like Stephen McHattie though.

The Horseman Steven Kastrissios - Dad-revenge flick of impressively awful violence. Well-trod territory and not exactly necessary, but hoo-eee did it make me squirm. Took me two tries to get through it in fact. Nasty stuff.

Inside Man - Spike Lee - Denzel Washington's cop squares off against Clive Owen's bank robber for a tricksy game of hostage negotiation. Motives ulterior and positions interior set this one apart from the average smash and grab thriller. Y'know what? Liked this better the second time I saw it. First time I spotted the trick immediately and the title bugged me, as did Jodie Foster's accent, but repeat viewing - it's a fun heist picture that stays out of its own way just enough to work.

Kill Bill vol. 1 - Quentin Tarantino - The superior.

Kill Bill vol. 2 Quentin Tarantino - Still worthwhile, but that 'emotional core of the story' that QT promised Vol. 2 would deliver - doesn't really resonate on any level worth comparing to the thrills Vol. 1's Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves sequence did. Daryl Hannah's Elle Driver gets a hell of a great pair of scenes that are easily the highlight of this half.

Killshot - John Madden - Not anywhere near the top of the heap of adaptations of Elmore Leonard novels, but nowhere near the bottom either. This plays it straight like the Leonard films of yore and I suspect its reputation may improve in time as it will be included in lists of not-terrible-movies-of-latter-career-Mickey Rourke or

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang - Shane Black - I pretty much have the following exchange in the back of my mind all the time.,,

Well, maybe you should try to get in touch with him. I got 5 bucks says you could still get him.

Really? That's funny. I got a 10 says pass the pepper. I got two quarters sing harmony on "Moonlight in Vermont".


Talking money.

A talking monkey?

A talking monkey, yeah, yeah. Came here from the future. Ugly sucker. Only says "ficus".

Last Great Wilderness - David McKenzie - Caught up with this one on the strength of Starred Up, Young Adam and Hell or High Water and it's not really in the same league as his best work, but it is pleasingly strange and unpredictable. A slow burn I thought was worthwhile. We can still be friends if you don't.

The Lookout - Scott Frank - Similar to the way Reservoir Dogs sparked a slew of lesser imitations in the 90s, Memento inspired a string of crime flicks with weird plot gimmicks. This one even has a protagonist with memory/cognitive function problems who writes himself notes he relies upon to get through his daily life. It's not bad though. I mean, you ought to give it a chance based on Scott Frank's name alone, but upon re-watch it held my interest better than I feared it would. Jeff Daniels should've had more opportunities to do crime flicks is my main takeaway and for the involved talent's standing against Elmore Leonard adaptations I'd say for Joseph Gordon Levitt: The Lookout > Killshot , Scott Frank: Out of Sight > Get Shorty > The Lookout > Karen SiscoIsla Fisher: Life of Crime > The LookoutCarla Gugino: Justified > The Lookout > Karen Sisco.

Miami Vice - Michael Mann - I'm at the point where I pretty much watch this one once a year and it gets better every time. By now it's just one of my favorite American crime movies of the decade. As with Heat this one is basically a remake of another Michael Mann property with plot, characters and scenes lifted whole-cloth out of previous material (with Heat see L.A. Takedown and the Dennis Farina TV show Crime Story). Yeah, I'm not even talking about the Miami Vice TV show either. Nope - Robbery Homicide Division. Watch Miami Vice and then episode eight of RHD's one and only season and tell me he wasn't just warming up. It's okay by me though - obviously the dude has stories stuck in his head that he needs to get out and keeps telling 'em 'till he's satisfied.

Narc - Joe Carnahan - How Ray Liotta didn't wind up with a best supporting actor nomination for his turn as Henry Oak, the most Ellroy-esque non-Ellroy cop ever on screen is beyond me. This is a towering performance without ever going over the top, he's got your attention without having to shout and hey, Jason Patric you gave your career best here too, but Liotta's presence fucking made this picture. He just kept layering the character till your loyalties were nice 'n mixed. Ever so slightly came undone in the sequence involving Busta Rhymes, but totally forgiven for the rest of the picture.

No Country For Old Men - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen - The story of a man who thinks he can take the money, run and hold onto his soul - knowing he's tainted just by association. It's a terrific companion piece to Ridley Scott's The Counselor - about a man taking a slightly more pro-active, but equally cautious toe-dip into iniquitous waters and paying an awful price. Hasn't lost a step.

Novocaine - David Atkins - For years I wondered why this little domestic noir wasn't more talked about - Steve Martin plays a dentist who begins cheating on his fiance (Laura Dern) with a patient he knows is scamming him for drugs (Helena Bonham Carter). He just can't help himself. When her unbalanced brother (or is he really her lover?Scott Caan shows up causing trouble and threatening violence he's further sure his little tryst is going to ruin him, but again - he can't help himself. And when he becomes a murder suspect he knows it's too late to help himself. It's a classic noir set up and it's fun to see Martin in this kind or role, but on revisit I realized it's just not very ambitious and that's both why I enjoy it so much and why it's not better remembered - just a plain ol' crime flick not trying to re-invent anything, just giving the genre fans what they want.

Ocean's Twelve Steven Soderbergh - Gleefully dumb. Surprisingly pleasant re-watch though. Soderbergh is at his best when he's just screwing around and this, while hardly his best, has just enough of that 'fuck it' spirit to enjoy.

Ocean's Thirteen - Steven Soderbergh - Not nearly as stupid as Twelve, so less reason to enjoy. Barely worth getting off the couch for.

Open Range Kevin Costner - I'd be perfectly happy for Costner to spend the rest of his career on projects like this. Nothing subversive or tricky going on, just a straight-forward, handsomely shot, violent western.
Oxford Murders - Alex de la Iglesia - Outside of some nifty overlapping, long tracking shots, there's nothing exciting on the level I'd expect from the dude who made Perdita Durango, The Last Circus, Witching and Bitching etc. on display here. I dunno how the project came together, but I hope Iglesia gets the opportunity to make another English-language project that shows off his nutso energy and chops.

Paranoid Park - Gus Van Sant - A teenager who hangs out in a notorious skate park tries to cover up his involvement in the death of a security guard. Once in a while an older director has a proven track record with "youth culture" movies and casting young and inexperienced actors that they have no real business nailing so well - Penelope Spheeris, Larry Clark, Harmony Korine and Andrea Arnold come to mind... whether they make anything narratively engaging out of their access is another question, but with Elephant and Paranoid Park, I'd say Van Sant has found his niche... unless he turns out to be a real pervert I'd say he oughtta keep mining this vein.

Pride & Glory - Gavin O'Connor - Talented cast, a script by Joe Carnahan, my sweet spot type of subject matter and a director with the ability to coax honest and engaging performances out of performers even in silly fare (have you seen Warrior?) still don't quite make this one a winner. I'm sure I'll revisit it again, but for now I just wish it'd been a James Gray movie. Check out the cast though: Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, John Voight, Noah Emmerich, Shea Wiggham, Lake Bell, John Ortiz... shit, I feel like giving it another go right now.

Public Enemies Michael Mann - I stand by this one as my pick for Mann's best of the decade. I don't care if you hate Johnny Depp - it's a beautiful picture - just terrifically shot with that appropriately pixelated digital photography that makes a period-piece feel immediate and vital, which of course wouldn't work if it weren't a Mann picture with the attention to detail given before cameras rolled. Not the character piece that John Milius's Dillinger was, not quite the procedural wonder of Thief or Heat, but an awfully effective portrait of an important time and snapshot of the characters involved in creating the future of big business crime and federal law enforcement. I don't get tired of revisiting this one.

Red Riding: 1974 - Julian Jarrold - Andrew Garfield, David Morrissey, Michelle Dockery, Eddie Marsan, Peter Mullan, Sean Harris and Sean Bean lead the cast in this Michael Winterbottom produced and Tony Grisoni written adaptation of three novels by David Peace based on the a series of  child murders and political cover up and institutional corruption. Holy shit, is it grim stuff, but I loved this revisit (watched all three films in a day rather than a week) so much I'm sure I'll continue to come back around.

Red Riding: 1980 - James Marsh - Paddy Considine takes center stage this time. Fucking hell.

Red Riding: 1983 - Anand Tucker - If you really wanna see the conclusion, and if you've come this far you really should, this final chapter will fuck you up proper.