The Seven Five

In an era when dash cams and citizens with cell phones record the worst kind of police brutality and abuse of power, this story may seem like a quaint piece of history, but in his day… there was police corruption, and then there was Michael Dowd. Wow. This guy was epic, with his cash grabs and protection of dealers, etc.

However, in his testimony, as well as in the filmed interviews, he comes across as a pretty stand-up guy. And the fact that he refused to implicate any other of his fellow officers raises him in my estimation. I don’t think he ever shot anybody without justifiable cause…

La La Land

What I liked about this movie was that it was so unabashedly its own thing. Quirky without being in your face about it, still, this was bold, inventive, fun, and colorful.

I don’t always go see musical fantasies, but when I do, I like them to star Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone… Not sure I want to see them win Oscars for this film, given some of the other performances this year, but this casting was inspired. It also should not win best picture over Moonlight, but given that it’s sort of all about LA and the industry, it just might…

Moonlight

The most quietly powerful film you are likely to see this year. Very, very well done. There is nothing fancy here, and the director has restrained himself at all the right times. And yet this movie sears itself into your memory.

The three actors who play Chiron at various ages need to be jointly nominated for Best Actor, and this film is my choice for Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year…

Byzantium

I had no idea that this was a vampire movie. Sorry if I just spoiled it for you…

Yet another bloodsucker story, updated to the present, with flashbacks going back a couple of hundred years. There’s no pretense at explaining the how or the why, and the ritual for actually becoming a vampire is one I haven’t seen before – it’s not a matter of simply being bitten and thereby “infected”…

Sort of an interesting slant – a coming of age, “I don’t want to be a vampire, this whole thing sucks!” (pun intended) sort of thing. But then love intervenes… and they’ll live undead happily ever, ever, ever after?

High-Rise

Kafka meets the cast of Brazil in a skyscraper, where they re-enact Mad Max, if it were cast mainly with stewardesses from 1960s-era Pan Am, and some soccer hooligans.

I spent most of the movie thinking that Tom Hiddleston was Michael Fassbender…

Café Society

I really wish that the leading men in Woody Allen’s new films, now that he feels too old to be on-screen (yet present via narration, at least) would stop playing Woody Allen. It grates.

Jesse Eisenberg is a fine actor. But the Woody schtick is unnecessary. On the plus side, I think this is the second film of Kristen Stewart’s that I’ve seen, and the second time that I’ve thought she’s pretty good.

Great sets and costumes and casting. The production this time seemed so stylized at times that I thought I was looking at a film by the Coen brothers…

Cold in July

The first third of this was way too fast, but also pretty lame. Everyone seemed flat, and while it’s nice to see something that doesn’t go for any cheap thrills or cinematography that’s too in-your-face, this was a little lacking. All set-up, but was the payoff worth it?

Sure, the twist was a good one, and there was more energy in the middle third. But then, but then… really? We’re going to have the scene of the dudes loading their guns? Slo-mo of them walking to the car? Leaving no doubt that the movie’s going to end in a gun battle.

Ho-hum.

Frozen

Far and away the least engaging Pixar movie I’ve ever seen. Disney dilution? Okay, I’m not very into musicals, so that’s part of it, but this just seemed so very unoriginal and even trite, with nary a nod to Emeryville throughout…

Hocus Pocus

Bette Midler is fabulous… The movie, not so much. But a fun little Halloween diversion…

The Invitation

This tried to be a slow-burn mind-fuck, rather than a crazy slasher film, for the first 3/4, and basically it succeeded. I like when it’s a cast of unknowns, except for maybe one (John Carroll Lynch), who do a respectable job. But then of course it went a bit off the rails, and I found myself yelling at the screen, as usual.

Still, watchable, for sure.