Bright

Magic is so unsatisfying. When anything is possible, the screenwriter can be so lazy. Just wave a wand at it. So while the premise of an alternate society that evolved with fairies and orcs alongside humans is sort of intriguing, and makes the race relations story somewhat fresh (?), I just can’t commit my full attention to this kind of movie. I spend too much time complaining out loud…

Jackie

I think I read that there is archival footage interspersed with the scenes of this movie, but if so, it is done so well that it’s almost seamless.

The accent is a bit off-putting at first, but I’m guessing it’s pretty accurate. Natalie Portman is a tour de force here, present as she is in nearly every scene. By the end, I’d almost forgotten it wasn’t really Jackie O.

Citizen Four

Watch. This. Movie.

If you have any interest in protecting your civil liberties, in particular your privacy, it is well worth your while to see this film and to learn how far the government surveillance program has gone and will continue to go.

Edward Snowden is a brave man, and a man of principle. Whatever “damage” you may think he has done in exposing government secrets, however you may think of him as a “traitor,” there is no denying that his actions have exposed a vast government conspiracy. It is a conspiracy of all the major spy groups – the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, that is taking this country ever closer to a totalitarian regime in which individual rights will cease to exist.

Do you care?

The Gunman

Sean Penn wants to make a statement about covert operations taking place in third-world countries under the guise of humanitarian aid or various NGOs? To point up America’s behind the scenes machinations and political manipulations? Well it all gets a little muddled in this clichéd “thriller” in which he really just wants to take off his shirt and sleep with the hot aid worker. Javier Bardem breathes a bit of life into it as the slimeball who steals the girl, but it’s just not very good…

Code Black

Wow. Just wow. This is intense, and not for the squeamish.

But that does not mean that this doc is about shock value. Anything but. If you want to learn something about the way ERs – and emergency medicine in general – work, and the way our healthcare system in many ways does not work, this will be illuminating. Learn from the original, and the best.

The Big Short

What’s the saying? “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” Well a lot of people were not paying attention to the mortgage crisis of 2007-08, brought about by the packaging by the big banks of mortgage-backed securities that were anything but secure…

This is a deft telling of that tale, made palatable by the cast and the screenplay. Definitely worth a watch.

Spotlight

This year’s Oscar winner is a throwback to an “All the President’s Men” kind of film. Well done. Praise for the script, for the casting (although I’ll never be able to think of John Slattery as anyone other than Roger Sterling), for the acting, for the editing…

Hateful Eight

Sam Jackson.

You have to sort of think that Tarantino is fucking with us here, rubbing it in the faces of those critics who say he has a problem with race, that he overuses the term “nigger,” that he needs to give it a break. Um, if you are offended by the term, stay far, far away from this film.

If, on the other hand, you like Sam Jackson, run to the theater now. This is Jackson at his best,

Tarantino is known for referencing – some would say ripping off – films from that past that he admires. That is as true as ever here, notably any number of zombie films with characters projectile vomiting blood. Not to mention his own Reservoir Dogs, with Tim Roth here reprising his gut-shot dude writhing on the floor.

And did Tarantino ask Kurt Russell to do a John Wayne imitation? This I found irritating.

Yes, the film could have been at least a half-hour shorter. A few too many long shots of horses and carriages cutting through the snow… and the narration felt unnecessary. So no, not a perfect film. But a decent film from Tarantino is like 2 or 3 good films from anybody else.

Beasts of No Nation

A really, really well-done cliche of a movie. It hits all the expected notes, has all the expected scenes, is very well written and acted, and is impossible to take one’s eyes from. Did I like it? Not so much. Did I admire it? Despite its flaws, yes. Plus, Idris Elba.

 

The Imitation Game

Competently done, but not very exciting. Yes, it’s interesting from an historical perspective, but I knew most of this stuff already. This treatment of the material had the whiff of Hollywood, particularly in the casting of Keira Knightly as the female lead…