Eli Taylor's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Money Monster
½

If James Patterson directed a movie.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
½

One would likely find the paradoxical title of Assassination to be confusing at the least. Upon further contemplation, it is a sort of psychoanalytical point of view on the mob mentality and idolization that lead to Robert Ford's unfortunate downfall. Andrew Dominik has crafted a great period piece with some glaring flaws, but which overall does more good than bad. Cinematography is truthfully self-absorbed at times - Dominik has proclaimed himself a modernist pioneer of filmmaking, and utilizes several amateurish techniques as banal proof - but nonetheless attractive, and the soundtrack is hauntingly gorgeous. Additionally, impressive performances from both Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck (along with a host of supporting characters played by an all-star cast) elevate the film's status respectably. Not everything is perfect by far, and the over-long runtime certainly kills things somewhat, but all in all Assassination is an intricate, if disappointingly shallow study of a paranoiac outlaw driven by distrust.

Spring Breakers
½

Blending vibrant neon decadence with harsh social commentary, Spring Breakers is Harmony Korine's first solid film. The violently psychedelic surrealism of the movie is hypnotic and fantastic to watch, including an excellent performance by James Franco. Gorgeously shot and narcotically edited, Spring Breakers is one of the most interesting movies to come out this year. The deliriously multicolored decadence in Spring Breakers is both hypnotic and psychotic; a paradoxical mishmash of manic thoughtlessness and desperate intention. Like bittersweet chocolate, it melts in the mouth most deliciously, and despite its short-lived nature it offers more than enough twisted beauty to warrant admiration. Franco's "Alien" is a marvelously realized character, infused with gold plated guns and ferocious charm. The lite-brite world of Spring Breakers couldn't survive without him; he's the closest thing to a main character the movie supplies. Gucci Mane, astonishingly, delivers a performance that isn't half bad. Watching his puffy eyes survey a smoke-caked stripclub lit by cigarettes and fluorescent red lights simply adds more cultural cheesecake to the film, another glimpse of the magniloquent lifestyle. An intimate and riveting look at the girls' backgrounds and intents, mixing intense aquas of pool water with pink bikinis and dreamy voiceovers, essentially completes the success. Watching this film is like being taken hostage and force-fed drugs - and for once, Harmony Korine made me love the feeling.

The Thing
The Thing(2011)

Pretty poor stuff. Filled with characters so phenomenally moronic that a toddler could have slaughtered them; a shoddy script with doze-worthy dialogue; and truly horrendous CGI. The only redeeming factor was the tension the film produced, albeit relatively poorly and rarely. Boredom and irritation prevail.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Sitting down in the theater for a viewing of Max Max: Fury Road I had little to go on save for the terrific preview I had seen about two weeks previously. I was born far too late for the 1980's craze around the Mel Gibson trilogy of movies, and I haven't yet bothered to go back and sit down for them like I did for The Godfather, However, I was instantly intrigued, especially considering it was the same director, and he was working with one of my absolute favorite actors, Tom Hardy. Having seen practically all of Hardy's previous work, I knew this was not one to be missed. How right I was.
One of my favorite things about Mad Max was how effective it was at delivering exposition without any tired expository dialogue or over-the-top explanation. It did something I've never quite seen before or since - thrust us into a totally foreign world and let us discover it for ourselves. Miller included just enough information and visual aids to allow the audience to decipher almost all important aspects of his potent setting without making it seem too obvious. The effectiveness in which he completed this task can not be overstated. Our hero, Max, barely even talks, nor does he need to. Throughout the 120-minute runtime we witness magnificently meteroic explosions by the dozen, breathtakingly precise cinematography, and a dark streak of humor that never lets up. The story, while uncomplicated, is utterly satisfying and precise in its introduction and development of the characters. Yes, Fury Road is an action movie: this is undeniable. But it is not Transformers, all flash and no substance. It is, at its core, a thrilling movie about a persecuted hero who will stop at nothing to bring goodness back into the world. Such a simple, threadbare story, but one that is excellently woven and perfectly relatable, is more than enough to hoist the eye candy of the film on its shoulders. And oh, is there eye candy! Extensive use of practical effects has heart-stopping sequences transpiring without ugly greenscreens, and the eye-popping explosions are relentless, overwhelming, and positively gorgeous. Tom Hardy essentially reprises his role as Forrest Bondurant with an apocalyptic twist on him, and I couldn't be more satisfied.

God's Not Dead

Sitting down to stream "God's Not Dead" on Netflix I knew I was in for a treat. I make no attempt to claim I know the origin of life, or even if there is necessarily a god or not; I am a pretty laid-back agnostic. No matter your religion or lack thereof, though, nobody should walk out of this movie thinking it was intelligent or made any good points whatsoever.
One highlight of "God's Not Dead" is the protagonist's (Josh) deranged girlfriend (Kara), who threatens him with the end of their relationship if he refuses to write the words "God's Not Dead" on a piece of paper to assuage his philosophy professor: the very liberal, very atheist Professor Radisson. This is a pathetically lucid attempt at thrusting persecution towards the viewers - see? Christians are reviled! They are hated for standing up for their beliefs! Not even his girlfriend understands! God is more important than completing college!
This is a common problem with movies created by and targeted towards Christians: the horrifically one-dimensional characters. Josh's girlfriend exists to challenge his faith, Josh's overly arrogant professor exists to challenge his faith, and Josh's classmates exist to challenge his faith. Even more insulting, it is revealed that Professor Radisson isn't even atheist - of course. He just hates God because God killed his mom or something. This is yet another crushing blow to the movie's authenticity: assuming that atheists are only nonbelievers because God offended them. The movie makes no room for allowing that maybe some people are atheists because it's logical to them and there are no convulted emotions behind the belief. The notion that everyone believes in God, but some just won't admit it, is hilarious and preposterous.
Nonsensical side plots litter the movie to extend its runtime to a tortuous 1 hour and 53 minutes, but when all is said and done I can't even remember the names of the characters or their purpose. God's Not Dead is yet another attempt to shunt logic and intelligence aside in favor of an idiotic worldview that you can convince everyone to believe in God if you just debate them in front of a philosophy class. It's one step above Kirk Cameron, but that's about it.

Whiplash
Whiplash(2014)
½

I had never heard of Damien Chazelle before seeing Whiplash, but after watching the movie I'll be sure to keep my eyes open in the future. Whiplash is an excellently crafted drama centered around Andrew (Miles Teller) and an astonishingly effective J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher, the verbally abusive music teacher. Teller's disharming performances have always given him a likeable air in movies like The Spectacular Now and Two Night Stand, but in Whiplash he adds another layer of intrigue to his likeable persona. Teller plays Andrew Neyman, an ambitious young jazz drummer who desires nothing more than to rise to the top of the east cost jazz scene. Chazelle wastes minimal time with exposition and introductions, thrusting us right into the cutthroat world of Terence Fletcher, a harsh jazz instructor. The story is uncluttered with unnecessary side plots, which is a welcome change from many dramas in recent memory. it merely focuses on Andrew's frustration, determination and eventual obsession as Fletcher pushes him to his breaking point. Andrew's slow-burning mental breakdown is completely engrossing opposite the austere, possibly manic Fletcher. It all comes to a head in a climax fraught with betrayal and venom, and as the credits rolled I could still see the blood oozing from Andrew's fingers as he fought savagely to prove himself to his diabolical mentor. Whiplash is a film that tells a story precisely, wastting not a single line of dialogue, and is probably the most enthralling drama this year.

The Babadook
The Babadook(2014)

I went in to watch The Babadook blind, knowing nothing about it besides its shockingly high consensus on RottenTomatoes.com. My main thought about the film is that it earned its 98%. It shouldn't be so difficult for a horror movie to earn its stars, but this is probably only the 3rd or 4th "scary movie" I've ever given more than 2 stars. Simply put, it is chillingly well-made and utterly effective in creating a thick atmosphere of paraylzing dread. There is nothing particularly special about the characters - although they are far from standard cardboard-cutcout cliches - but the performances are so convincing it's hard to complain. Essie Davis is bleak and depressed as Amelia, with an errant Noah Wiseman complimenting her perfectly as the obnoxious, troubled Samuel. When the movie isn't drowning us in its sorrow, it's crafting a positively eerie story about a monster who bears a passing resemblance to the urban legend Slender Man: elongated limbs, a mysterious origin and a top hat to complete the spectacle. What many horror movies rely on is "it's coming to get you" - a somewhat vague, generalized fear that almost everyone is eligible for. The Babadook pulls this phenomenon off flawlessly. Seconds tick by in scenes as the tension mounts to become practically unbearable, and it's much more effective to put us in the position of Amelia, incapacitated with horror as she listens to something evil bang around her house. There is a minimum of creaking doors and whispered omens, here. The Babadook offers a much more direct approach, bursting through doors with a bang, moving furniture with an ear-splitting screech, impossible to barricade, resolute on abduction. Even the ending of the Babadook is more effective than standard horror-movie fare, presenting us with a somewhat absurd conclusion that is neither realistic nor forced. As a whole, The Babadook is an effective, 90 minute analogy on dealing with grief and moving on, as well as a thrilling burst of adrenaline that never quite lets up.

Under the Skin

A cross between Lars Von Trier's direction and Gordon Willis' interminably dim cinematography, Under The Skin is an incomprehensible mess that manages to look pretty about 10% of the time and has absolutely no other redeeming factors. In his pretentious quest to say something - anything - Glazer seems to take pride in the fact that he has produced a 2 hour clip of jumbled images, improvised dialogue and irrelevant scenes strung together haphazardly. The film's esotericism crosses well into the territory of "absolutely infuriating." It makes "Mulholland Drive" look like an easy-to-follow Sunday matinee. While its visuals are striking, the movie proves itself over and over to be hollow; echoing, dizzying, increasingly nonsensical. With direction this random you'd expect an ending designed to confirm your suspicion that you just wasted your time - and you'd be correct in that assumption. Under The Skin may have a cozy little spot in the Museum of Modern Art, and it may make Richard Roeper breathless with admiration, but the overwhelming feeling remains that this is one of the most pointless, pathetic excuses for a story I have ever viewed.

Pineapple Express

At best, a chuckle. At worst, full-blown idiocy. James Franco as Saul Silver easily has the best performance here, but apart from his notable acting there isn't much to see. Fake sets are easily discernible, distracting from the plot and giving the movie a low-budget feel. The story is trash, but no surprise there. The biggest problem with this movie is Seth Rogen's performance. High-strung, pot-worshipping Dale Denton is not a likeable character, and the fact that he is one of the two main characters does not make the movie fun to watch. Runtime is overly long as the script runs itself into the ground and jokes get staler, and the increasingly ridiculous plot simply exacerbates this problem. Mediocre.

Gravity
Gravity(2013)

full review later nagers

Frankenstein
Frankenstein(1931)
½

as overrated as The Beatles.

The Italian Job
½

What may have passed for explosive popcorn entertainment back in 2003 seems somewhat dull by comparison now, but The Italian Job's well-matched cast breathes some life into an otherwise lifeless action flick.

Vanishing On 7th Street

One of the worst movies in the history of film. Utterly horrendous garbage.

The Iceman
The Iceman(2013)

3 stars are for Shannon. Without him this movie would be Texas Killing Fields. That's not a good thing.

Memento
Memento(2000)

A solid success as a neo-noir experiment, but Memento's utter failure to convey a story with characters worth investing in shows. The empty climax left not only a terrible taste in my mouth, but a sardonically exasperated conclusion as well; nothing in Memento really matters. It's the ride that counts. Since the ride was particularly unfulfilling anyway, this showcase of humanity's utter cruelty outweighs even its excellent coherency. Nihilism at its most refined.

Super
Super(2011)

Startlingly mean-spirited and featuring exactly one amusing moment, Super is a "comedy" which is not only a failure to the genre, but to all cinema.

Aroused
Aroused(2013)

Deborah Anderson's pathetic attempt to humanize pornstars is unfathomably vapid and pretentious. Forced-artsy shots are apparently Anderson's speciality - if I ever saw more than one-fourth of the speaker's face I certainly can't recall. This brings to mind a significant problem: forgetability. Aroused is horrifically self-indulgent, desperately feminist, practically amnesia-inducing tripe. As sixteen pornstars undress and roll around naked on a king-size bed whilst giving "candid" interviews addressing how they are far more than pornstars who roll around naked on a king-size bed, the real agitation begins. Rather than being a compelling and clear-eyed look at feminine independence or worth - the documentary I hoped for - Aroused succeeds only at visibly discomforting the models as they, one by one, seem to come to the realization that being pornstars don't make them divine beings. There's a football field of difference between women revealing different sides of themselves and tackling intimacy in a different way for the camera; and women desperately claiming they're interesting and intelligent and not just a naked body, literally while being photographed as a naked body. If there was supposed to be some sort of post-modern irony associated with this paradoxical setting, I failed to appreciate it.
Perhaps the worst drivel perpetuating this documentary is the bold proclamations defying the objectification of women. As if claims of literature and finances weren't enough, now women chastise the viewer and complain about how they are objectified. Too many drugs, not enough schooling, or a devilish hybrid of the two must be the culprit here, as none of the 16 women seem to realize that the definition of being a pornstar - whatever faux-cultured cases they make for themselves - is becoming an object of sexual gratification for the camera. Women - AND men - are on the set not to revolutionize art, not to lead an enlightening movement, but to have sex entirely based on what the yahoo users are watching that week. Porn is a cold business, and once someone surrenders themselves to prostitution (oh, but with a camera) I utterly fail to recognize how a woman can have the audacity to demand respect from the same people who pleasure themselves to a two-minute gonzo hammering of her body parts, close the laptop and flip on the light. Anderson's overly sympathetic treatment of the girls is aggravating as well. The ending features herself "bravely" posing naked in front of the camera. Being proud of one's body is excellent, but the disconnect between what these confused girls claim and what Deborah Anderson was apparently trying to reveal is as evident as a bullet to the head.

The Bling Ring
½

It's provocatively filmed and undeniably stylish, but Sofia Coppola's latest directing attempt feels as frustratingly superficial as the characters it portrays. This is by no means an insult; the movie simply feels like Coppola realized too late what a thin story she had to work with. As it stands, the film is never boring; the actors all competent, the narcissism evident, the robberies intimately documented. It's high-class fluff, technical prowess weighed down by incomplete assertions and meandering narration. Some have compared Bling Ring to Spring Breakers. While both are attractively organized and efficient portholes into modern youth culture, Spring Breakers wallowed in its pointlessness as a combination drug-hazed voyeurism and subtly didactic plotline. The Bling Ring begins similarly, strafes wildly to insert some recognizable moral, and finally accepts its place as a glossy, somewhat forgettable display of unsympathetic rich kids who - well, kind of - get what they deserve - somewhat. Well, I don't know, did they? It ends with a self-indulgent and Machiavellian monologue. Is that the point? We're left to wonder.

The Wolf of Wall Street

At age 71, Martin Scorsese has run the gamut in the movie industry. The esteemed director has produced some of the most iconic gangster movies in American cinematic history. That being said, The Wolf of Wall Street is somewhat of a departure. Contrary to other presumptions, Wolf is emphatically not a retread of Goodfellas. While Scorsese's signature style is bolder than ever, employing voice-over narration, on-screen excess and no less than the best actors in the business, Wolf is a completely different gem than Goodfellas or Casino. Instead of graphic, bloody violence, there's piles of cocaine. Instead of hits, there's whores. In fact, one would rightfully argue that Casino, although a masterpiece by any measure, is much more of a "Goodfellas" exercise than any part of TWOWS. The latter's giddy, psychotic study of Wall Street with a cocaine IV firmly embedded in its arm is some of the most fun we've had from Scorsese in a few years. Di Caprio is in top form as legendary scumbag Jordan Belfort, transforming utterly into a positively unhinged, drug fueled maniac bent on conquering New York. Again, Scorsese's complementary camera work and sublime, stylish cinematography enhances the effect that much more, but there is no denying Di Caprio is long overdue for his Oscar. In a shocking turn of events, Jonah Hill temporarily eschews hit-or-miss comedy and meta humor in a charismatic and completely captivating performance for the ages; another Academy-worthy achievement. As if this all weren't enough, the 23 year-old newcomer Margot Robbie, as Belfort's excessively attractive and luxurious wife, instills a formerly unheard-of sexiness into Scorsese's deluge of debauchery. The director's skill for taking us in can't be underestimated. Even now there are still naysayers claiming the film has no message, failing to realize Scorsese and Terence Winter's acidic wit all points to a definite conclusion. Though it is definitely subtle, and can be confused with a lack of morality, Wolf packs an assured array of messages sprinkled throughout the entire movie, most unwittingly dismissed by the layman. The tortoise and the hare, this is not. Film critics looking for cut-and-dry novellas should look elsewhere; Wolf flips an invisible middle finger right at the audience, takes quite a bit of time to analyze, and is the most vicariously, unapologetically entertaining piece of cinema of the year.

Her
Her(2013)

Spike Jonze's sci-fi/comedy hybrid "Her" is quite possibly one of the best, most satisfyingly original concoctions ever committed to celluloid. As others have mentioned, I went into this film with low expectations. Jonze's quirkiness is certainly endearing, but I couldn't stop thinking about how the last time I saw the famed actor/director he was pranking civilians as a grandma with poor clothing choices in "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa." Such low-brow comedy doesn't begin to touch the potential Jonze has, and thankfully he capitalized on it with "Her." Joaquin Phoenix, fresh off of last year's excellent "The Master," steals the screen as Theodore Twombly, a misanthropic introvert who finds himself falling in love with a sophisticated operating system. An oscar nom for Best Production Design is well-deserved here; every single scene is painstakingly composed, perfectly displayed and subverting expectations at every turn. Scenery, sets, costumes - all are hypnotizing, their unassuming peculiarity instilling a sort of slow-burning heartbreak. And what a heartbreak it is. Breathtakingly gorgeous cinematography, as well as a sincere, intelligent script punctuated in equal measure with swift comedy and melancholy musing, combine for an absolutely riveting experience. The stunning photography simply cannot be overstated here; flawlessly shot, intimate views of intimacy, rolled in splendid sound mixing and the most poignant and affecting soundtrack of a lifetime. The two hours of Her is something you will not forget; Spike Jonze makes sure of that. Scarlett Johansson, with one of the best performances of her career, was actually a replacement for the former OS voice actress Samantha Morton after principal photography had wrapped. The change was a godsend. While we'll never hear how Morton would have handled the admittedly strange role, Johansson fiercely dives into it - I never would have dreamed the final monologue from a computer would bring tears to my eyes. Phoenix and Johansson have undeniable chemistry, and Jonze could not have picked a better cast for the supporting characters as well. Chris Pratt (embodying the iconic Andy Dwyer) even makes ripples as the whimsical security guard Paul. It is this attention to the delicate balance between comedy and drama that really makes Her succeed. Neither feels forced in the slightest, and it is simply a delight to take a ride on the gentle rollercoaster. In the end, that is what Her amounts to: gentleness. It's profane, but it's pure. It's comedic, yet heartbreaking. It's a real, genuine look at the nature of human relationships, existentialism, and the melancholy state. As compelling a paradox as can be, Her's heartfelt examinations of love which transcends the three dimensions is the most wonderful, magnificently heart-rending romance I have ever seen.

Sunshine
Sunshine(2007)
½

Sunshine's plot is compelling enough, but, as a basic fact of filmmaking, a movie must boast more than an intrinsically fascinating plot to succeed. This one just happens to deliver. Combining a terrifically liquescent story with dazzlingly beautiful visuals, it does everything in its power to keep the viewer occupied. Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans are particular standouts, with a sizzling rivalry that feels neither shoehorned in nor cheap and ineffectual. The whole cast ably performs, and each turns of events is suitably fascinating. Sunshine's real achievement comes in its cinematography. The subtlest effect is nonetheless powerful in the life-giving oxygen farm near the center of the ship - a richly green garden, abounding in emerald foliage, in powerfully stark contrast to the metallic silver of the remainder of the vessel. The ambience is so startling it's impossible to believe Boyle did not intend it. Better still is his representation of the sun - a glowingly powerful, terrifyingly luminous, brilliantly imagined, almost celestial object that is undeniably hypnotizing throughout the film. Gorgeous wide-angle shots of the exterior of the ship, framed by the golden bloom, produce a jaw-dropping effect worthy of commendation. In short, this feels like the Sun that we're looking at, nothing less, and that, perhaps, is the movie's biggest selling point. Unconvincing visuals make for an unconvincing cinematic experience, and Sunshine not only sidesteps that trap but obliterates it from memory. The narcotizing effect of this magnificent film cannot be overstated.

Sin City
Sin City(2005)
½

Ultra-slick, ultra-violent, and intensely stylized, Sin City tells an intriguing tale enhanced by its all-star cast and effective storytelling. More like a few films bunched together, loosely connected at the seams; rather than a straight narrative, the film follows an engaging and action-packed series of encounters between characters ripped straight out of the graphic novel. Sin City's greatest achievement is easily its cinematography. Startlingly contrasting black and white tones dominate the screen most of the time, while the frequent bloodshed spatters the screen with deep, crimson red. The shots are so gorgeous it's impossible to look away; every great angle is achieved in beautiful colorless style, dripping noir tones and lusting after the grungy underbelly of Sin City. It succeeds as both an adaption and a standalone motion picture.

Minority Report

Future-noir, coupled with Steven Spielberg, can't really go wrong. Minority Report readily proves this.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Startlingly terrible, Anchorman 2's only laughs come abruptly and flee as quickly as they arrive. Bloated with a reprehensible amount of celebrity cameos and continually relying on "hilarious gags" that always seem to have Will Ferrell either having a problem with someone's skin color or gender (or both), Anchorman 2 makes gargling paint thinner look like a good time.

Detention
Detention(2012)

Detention is, at its core, an oddball. The plot haphazardly flops around, spewing out ultra meta romanticized 90's and pop culture references in a blur of double conversations and dizzying jump cuts. The ironic, wannabe hipster film employs such a determined use of exploitative psychosis that it doesn't even come across as pretentious - in fact, it can be quite fun to watch. Twisting and turning, ever-unfocused, and often disappointingly vapid, Detention nonetheless fails to be the cult horror-comedy it aspires to be. With an obvious lack of plot, including a closing voice-over that sardonically complains about the soundtrack being played too loud, it hits the sweet spot of obfuscated chaos and barely tolerable pacing. Extremely frustrating in some points, wildly entertaining in others, and blithely retrograde the whole way through, Detention's relentlessly esoteric quirkiness succeeds in transcending its low budget, creating a film that actually isn't half bad.

Cosmopolis
Cosmopolis(2012)

Pretentious. Vapid, nihilistic, faux-philosophical garbage served with an absolutely wretched performance from Robert Pattinson as the hollow man-child comprised entirely of paradoxes. Cosmopolis is an extraordinary failure, a pompous exercise in self-indulgent flashiness with none of the flash. Cinematography is practically nonexistent, characters are literally talking heads almost the entire runtime, and most notably, the script is as though a juvenile attempted to mash The Social Network screenplay with the Primer screenplay. Completely pointless trash.

American Hustle
½

David O. Russel is an accomplished director, having already churned out the two Oscar nominated greats "Silver Linings Playbook" and "The Fighter." With "American Hustle," Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper return to starring roles, this time sharing the silver screen. Joining them is a plethora of other talent - Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence in an Academy Award - deserving role, Jeremy Renner as a charismatic mayor, and even Robert De Niro as a (surprise) gangster. The story is interesting and complex, centered around the ABSCAM event of the 70's. While not much can be said without giving away spoilers, the narrative is riveting and extremely well-directed. Dialogue is fantastic - every conversation is hypnotizing, particularly with the all-star cast delivering the lines. Jennifer Lawrence shines in her second breakthrough role (the first being in Silver Linings), and she is simply captivating. Bale, in typical method acting fashion, dutifully broke ribs and vertebrae to get his character's eternally hunched demeanor. It's all wildly vibrant and chromatic. Cinematography and costume design are breathtaking, as well. The dry humor is biting and clever, and launches American Hustle from a good drama to a phenomenal one with elements of comedy. In all its glitz and glam it's easy to love American Hustle, and it's a top contender for best picture of the year.

Dredd
Dredd(2012)

Dredd's appeal lies in its vision, which is simple and clear-eyed: Make a badass action film, have it teeter between seriousness and satire, and conjure up some of the best special effects in cinema. It's not meant to be an oscar-winner, but what it is meant to be is an intense, adrenaline pumping thrill, splashed with bloody reds and stark, icy blues. The film looks beautiful. Slow-mo (a drug which has become a pandemic in Mega City One) may just be a plot device shoehorned in to show incredible, glittering shots of bullets puncturing flesh, but if it doesn't astonish. Cinematography could hardly be better - a barrage of jaw-dropping shots are presented along with the carnage. Karl Urban is surprisingly effective as Dredd, and Olivia Thirlby provides a nice distraction as a character with a bit of humanity to her. Ultimately, the plot is not really the point, although it's easy to follow and fairly well-written. Dredd is the highest quality B-movie that can be made, melding good acting with fantastic set pieces and jaw-dropping sound design. It's home theater richness at its finest, and the most effective, straightforward action movie I've seen.

Saw
Saw(2004)
½

In Saw, James Wan crafted a thriller-horror film that actually wasn't bottom of the barrel muck. Unfortunately this film spawned the series of sequels that removed all good aspects and replaced them with terrible ones.

InAPPropriate Comedy

The highest praise I can give InAPPropriate Comedy is that it is better than Movie 43. Directed by Vince Offer, the man who starred in the Scorsese masterpiece, "Goodfellas" - oh wait, he was in a few infomercials and then got into an altercation with a prostitute. What's Vince up to now? Apparently, making horrifically bad movies. Wielding an incomprehensibly bad script, Adrien Brody is first up at bat with an unending barrage of stupid, stupid, stupid gay jokes. Reading my review, one might think I am a prude or simply not a "fun" person. This could not be farther from the truth. Coarse and crass humor is some of the absolute funniest humor, and when it is pulled off correctly it is beautiful. Bearing that in mind, there is an astronomical difference between intelligent jokes that happen to be crass - and an Oscar-nominated actor making homosexual puns about 40 times in a 3 minute scene. Moving on from the tiresome slop, we come to a jackass parody starring five black men. I don't even need to tell you what the title is but I will anyway - "Blackass." They do hilarious stuff and the movie is great. The End.

This movie is repugnant.

Movie 43
Movie 43(2013)

Yes, it's as bad as they say.

Movie 43 is an absolutely bewildering trainwreck. Stubbornly refusing to rise above humor we all left back in middle school, it shoves one overdone "joke" in our face after another, painfully stretching the often mean-spirited skits into 10 minutes or more when 10 seconds would have been too much. We are treated to crass, overly offensive attempts at comedy involving literally nothing besides bodily functions, body parts and long-winded, poorly acted monologues. After 55 minutes in, I turned it off, because if this was all the movie had to show me for the first bulk of the run time the rest of it was likely just as worthless.
One of my questions about this piece of garbage will eternally be, how did they get these people to be in this film? Did Hugh Jackman really think it was that inspired, original and hilarious to film a horrifically stupid scene revolving completely around his genitals being on his neck? In case we didn't see your balls dip into the gravy the first time, Hugh, luckily the directors zoomed close up several times so we could witness every moment of rib-cracking hilarity. I, for one, have never seen a finer sequence in a movie than when a pubic hair fell into your bowl and you (did he actually do that?! OMG) accidentally ate it! Hilarious.

Movie 43 is the epitome of everything that is wrong with Hollywood, and Brett Ratner is the Tommy Wiseau of comedy. This is six million dollars of money that literally would have been put to better use being thrown randomly off of rooftops. When someone asks me why the stereotype of fat, stupid americans exists, all I have to do is point them to this movie. With an absolute plethora of completely moronic skits and a stupid underlying plot that doesn't even attempt to tie the stupid skits together, one has to wonder what comedy geniuses such as Seth MacFarlane are doing in this garbage. Although the skits are drawn out 10 minutes or oftentimes longer, they wouldn't be funny even in the shortest Family Guy cutaway gag, and Seth, I'm sure, is well aware of this. His constant look of consternation implies an ulterior motive that begins with Pay and ends with Check. Others, like McLovin, simply flail around wildly, their career speeding down the drain with every passing, painful second.

If you just can't get enough of entire segments revolving around Anna Faris begging Chris Pratt to defecate on her, if you burst into hysterical laughter every time you hear the words "poop," or "balls," or if you guffaw even at the thought of a young girl having her first period at a friend's house, Movie 43 is the perfect movie for you. The rest of us would rather keep our brain cells. It is with great honor that I officially declare Movie 43 The Worst Movie of 2013.

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy

They actually have a fucking orgy. Enough said.

Heat
Heat(1995)
½

Nothing short of a masterpiece. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are absolutely riveting; the cinematography is gorgeous and the story never fails to satisfy. With great dialogue, compelling performances, an incredible soundtrack, and one of the best failed bank heists in history, this is every inch a success. It absolutely bursts with beautiful personality. Although I'm partial to Scorsese this is an excellent example of how another director can do it differently, but still succeed on a massive scale. Featuring one of the best endings in cinema history, Heat is an enduring, riveting crime film for the ages.

Red State
Red State(2011)

Preachy and incessant. Full fuck later balls

Cashback
Cashback(2007)
½

Partial review earlier

Don Jon
Don Jon(2013)
½

full review later niggers

The Lost World
½

The 1920s brought many innovations, chief among them being advances in special effects for film. The Lost World, in that regard, was practically today's Avatar, boasting "incredible" stop motion technology. Regardless, its tired stereotypes and incredibly sloppy storytelling drag it down into laughable territory. It's mildly entertaining but ultimately a piece of sentimental cinema fluff beheld only for its novelty.

Insidious: Chapter 2
½

The best horror movie of the year, Insidious: Chapter 2 veers wildly between genuinely funny meta-comedy and truly horrific scares. The story is satisfactorily expounded upon, and by the end of the film you'll find most if not all of your questions answered. Director James Wan took a smart move in going a different direction from the first movie - the red demon is nowhere to be found, and although this could have been catastrophic the different focus works wonders for the film. It's infinitely more complex, fascinatingly organic and stiflingly claustrophobic. Even the performances are stellar - with a mix of hammy lines and horrified expressions, Insidious 2 truly manages the impossible and makes you laugh while your heart draws close to exploding out of your chest. The terror cannot be overstated and the direction is just as chilling as one could hope. Despite the decidedly poor RT consensus, this reviewer found Insidious 2 to be miles ahead of the first one and an excellent exercise in unadulterated, thrillingly enjoyable fear.

True Grit
True Grit(2010)
½

Not quite as enthralling as the original but nonetheless an entertaining watch.

Red Dawn
Red Dawn(2012)

The best thing about Red Dawn is its mercifully short runtime, in which we are treated to a gratingly abject combination of music video camera work, an absolute abomination of a script, and a flailing lack of character development. The idea, which starts out rather implausible but could be possibly justified, proposes that North Korea somehow parachuted their entire army into America without anyone noticing, especially not our comparably vast military. Absurdity aside, forced patriotism and hilariously overwrought sequences designed to evoke emotion end up cementing this mess firmly in the realm of ultra-zealous proselytism and hackneyed filmmaking. It's impossible to tell whether the cast is well-chosen or not, because the script is such a morose failure it's almost like they just didn't care. The actors wield a comically ineffective arsenal which includes such techniques as plastering vacant "thoughtful" expressions on their faces, injecting rigid moodiness into boring "tense and dramatic" conversations, and displaying a hideously stupid and improbable decision-making process at every turn. They can't really be blamed, and in fact, they do a pretty good job of at least attempting to give this atrocious excuse of a film some credibility. The effort was just doomed from the start, with a director more intent on creating conspicuously bloodless shootouts featuring 16 year olds hefting MK-42s with ease than focusing on developing a coherent story. The failure is so flatly massive that one has to wonder how Red Dawn is, in fact, THIS flabbergastingly bad. Even with low expectations you'll be disappointed, as what could have been an implausible but enjoyable romp with guerilla pubescents never takes off of the extremely low ground it sets itself upon, choosing instead to delve into boorish whitewashing of serious topics such as war and propaganda. It's actually staggering that a film like this was allowed to be made.

The Truman Show

lel jim carrey is so sexy

Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas(2012)

lel tom hanks is so sexy

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder has one very obvious advantage and one very obvious failure. Starting with the good news first, the movie is extremely effective in its spine-tingling creepiness. Not only is the oppressive atmosphere perfectly executed, most of the special effects are also similarly unsettling, such as the debut of the disturbing head rolling of asylum prisoners and hell's inmates. Jacob's Ladder's very obvious failure, and its ultimate downfall, is the horrendous ending. It completely dismantles the entire movie, discrediting and dismissing everything which came before. There really isn't anything else to say. It's a well-crafted movie with mostly good performances that is completely disqualified by its moronic denouement.

The Dreamers
The Dreamers(2004)

An irritating movie about three saps who adore cinema and disregard everything else. The trio of unlikeable characters engage in weird, sexually deviant games and talk grandly of cinema like elitist teenagers (which they are). The point of this one-note film is indecipherable, as Bernardo Bertolucci apparently can't seem to decide whether he wants to portray a daring romance or make a social commentary. It's just as well, as the mixture of both fails so miserably anyway.

DMT: The Spirit Molecule

A documentary powered by musing hippies and wispy-haired eccentrics spewing mystic buzzwords rather than any actual science. As a result, boredom prevails.

Happiness
Happiness(1998)
½

What the fuck did I just watch

Watchmen
Watchmen(2009)
½

Watchmen, as cinema, shouldn't succeed. Alan Moore's groundbreaking graphic novel is packed with so much rich narrative that to simply adapt it into a movie is nearly impossible; and yet Zack Snyder's fantastic effort pays off. Pacing can be uneven, some of the acting is spotty, but the detailed, multilayered world is effectively achieved and glorious to behold. The actual movie, in traditional Snyder vein, is breathtakingly gorgeous, combining beautiful shots with stunning color enhancement techniques. Each scene expertly roots the gritty alternate universe deeper into the viewer's consciousness, and the unflinchingly brutal violence is a visual treat. Rorschach's narration grabs and never lets go. His lust for true justice never gets obscured, never compromised, and in a blood-spattered world he viciously eradicates that which is evil. Rorschach's character, brooding and determined, is so delightfully recreated from the graphic novel - complete with several word-for-word journal entries - that one has to admire Snyder's enthusiasm for the source material. Of course, Watchmen, some have said, is inherently unfilmable, and while that is not exactly the case here, there are some glaring missteps that were practically inevitable. Most notably, the movie fluctuates wildly between focusing on Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach - huge stretches of time are devoted to exposition of the two characters and their exploits, but often the same amount of time passes without seeing one of the two characters onscreen. While Dr. Manhattan's past is explored in haunting detail, perfectly recreated, Rorschach is unfortunately absent during the entire sequence (close to an hour long) despite being one of the main characters. Arguably, Rorschach is THE main character, and so this portion of the movie left me dissatisfied. However, the morbid world of alternate New York is plumbed extensively, to our delight, and Rorschach's ever-moving, emotionless mask is an iconic reminder of the city's edgy unrest. Credit must be given to Snyder for not shying away from onscreen brutality - during a particularly masterful sequence Rorschach wheedles a confession out of a child rapist and murderer. Thinking he'll be turned in to the police, the rapist visibly settles, expecting mercy. His voice turns to a terrified scream as the masked vigilante advances on him with a butcher's knife, hacking the horrified criminal to pieces with enraged force. Lighting, cinematography, and audio are used in a perfect symphony throughout this and other sequences, combining murderousness with absolutely sublime cinematography, the latter of which is so impressive it completely captures the viewer. When the colors are popping, the blood is flowing, and the images coalescing, Watchmen is undeniably a masterpiece. As a narrative, the story leaves some to be desired and the character development is rather uneven, and ultimately we aren't left with much to take away from the experience - the film's most glaring flaw. Yet Snyder more than makes up for it with the most magnificent cinematography I've ever seen. Taken solely as the cinematic adaption to an excellent graphic novel, Watchmen simply could not have been better.

The Score
The Score(2001)
½

2 and a half stars is actually pretty generous for The Score. It has a terrifically awful script, dreary storytelling and tired cliches, right down to its laughably predictable "twist" ending. Undoubtedly the movie would have received infinitely lower scores if not for the incredible actors headlining the film. As it stands, Norton, De Niro and Brando make the film watchable, and nothing more. It's tired and plodding, seemingly self-aware of its own pretentiousness, although director Frank Oz contradicted this directly when he stated that "The Score" was his attempt to take risks in filmmaking. There at least isn't an influx of plot holes, but the almost total lack of exposition, or even fleshed out characters, is unwelcome. Nobody seems too happy in their role - not even Robert De Niro can make a script this bad sound good. Still, it's a way to kill 2 hours, and certainly more worthwhile than many other films out there. There is one essential word to describe this movie - forgettable.

End of Watch
End of Watch(2012)

End of Watch, quite frankly, starts out extremely poorly. With a bigheaded, pretentious monologue about justice and the law, Gyllenhaal sets the tone of the movie perfectly - if it were a recruitment commercial. Those chiding Act of Valor for the same crime are hypocritical sheep - nothing in the latter tops the horror that is End of Watch's opening lines. Fortunately, it does recover quickly, perhaps embarrassed by its metricious demeanor, and introduces the two main characters, played by Michael Pena and Jake Gyllanhaal, without further ado. The pair do have shockingly good chemistry, but again, the movie abandons their relationship too often for absurd outside conflicts and developments that either aren't interesting, aren't relevant, or seem gimmicky. The film's worst crime is its utter inability to decide whether to succumb entirely to the dreaded found-footage format or simply make do with impossible gonzo angles, thereby contradicting itself frustratingly. The reason for the terrible technique is hastily explained that Officer Taylor (Gyllenhaal) is shooting film for his film class. I can't even begin to explain how many questions appear from this poor explanation, so I won't bother delving into it, but it's shoddy at best and insultingly stupid at worst. Still, despite all this, these incorrigible filmmaking crimes, the actors and the script are the central parts of movies, and this one does deliver. Anna Kendrick delivers a fantastic performance as the love interest (like, really fantastic), and as stated before the two officers seem to have been good friends for years - an essential part of crafting a believable relationship. The movie is never boring and does a fine job documenting the lives of two police officers, right down to their blase dismissals of death threats, but by the end we're left wondering if we were supposed to be seeing a story or a vague social commentary. Of course, the two aren't mutually exclusive, but in this case maybe they should have been.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If there's one thing David Fincher excels at, it is creating a movie that captivates audiences no matter the (often brutal) subject matter. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is his latest success, coming just one year after the masterpiece bio-drama The Social Network. The only echoes of the latter we see are Fincher's customarily razor-sharp imagery and steady plot advancement, complimented by absorbing performances out of the entire cast. Rooney Mara is phenomenal as Lisbeth Salander, bringing her complex personality to life onscreen. My only regret is that Fincher neglected to delve deeper into the fascinating character and instead mostly stays on the surface, a glossy exterior that is nevertheless so expertly crafted it is irresistible. Daniel Craig compliments perfectly as a suave, handsome journalist. While he may play the same character every movie (James Bond, Layer Cake, and this latest title) the performance continues to satisfy, as nobody plays the determined, attractive, blue-eyed character quite like Daniel Craig. A fantastic supporting cast rounds out the mix. While some criticize the film for its grating brutality, I would argue in favor of it. Just as Se7en showed grisly murders for what they are rather than dressing them up a la Hollywood, Dragon Tattoo dives into a concept like rape honestly and simply. I have to admire everyone involved; the scenes must have been difficult to film, but they turned out wonderfully. Getting so emotionally invested in a film that is more concerned with story than characters is not easily won. Finally, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is simply a gorgeous film. From the slick, hauntingly beautiful opening sequence to the last scene, the breathtaking cinematography adds an entire level of sophistication, realism, and even sexuality that pulls at the mind, completely engulfing the viewer in a stream of vivid images, some horrific, some nostalgic, all wonderful to behold. Even at 2 hours and 37 minutes, the movie never feels overly long, and with total commitment from the entire cast there is no doubt this is one of the finest films of 2011.

There Will Be Blood
½

Paul Thomas Anderson's previous works, for me, have suffered from a lack of context or focus, occasionally meandering off into an irrelevant vacuum where he fails to show character motivation, important exposition, smooth transitioning, and other staples of film. The result is a technically magnificent movie filled with mystifying metaphors and, most noticeably, emotional detachment. Nevertheless, PTA's unique style boasts incredible talent, and There Will Be Blood is the quintessential Anderson at his best. Most pleasing is the incredible originality of the film - set in 1898 - early 1930s, it acquaints the viewer with Daniel Plainview, a man driven by an insatiable greed and boiling with hatred. Daniel Day-Lewis' oscar for this role was well-deserved. Plainview is both terrifying and utterly charming, a peculiar craft of man who confides in no one and lives a life of grinning manipulation and pseudo philanthropy. He is magnificent to watch, from beginning to end, and Anderson's particular breed of machinations gels so well in this instance that we are left simultaneously astonished at Plainview's unraveling brutality and utterly unsurprised at his inhumanity. Further increasing the movie's score is the breathtakingly gorgeous cinematography - it provides a sense of decidedly personal perspective in the time period, moving with the characters instead of rooted in one spot like other films, lingering on filthy hands straining to lift up coarse, coiled ropes. The effect is so pervasive that it feels like a novel is unfolding in visual format onscreen - also impressive are the short bursts of intense violence, neither exaggerated nor sugarcoated, but exactly true to the event. Contextually, it's all flawless. The film has the most uncanny ability to seize you and positively nail you to your seat. Everything just works, and I personally never thought such a long, slow movie about oil could be remotely interesting. And yet it is. You can smell the coveted black gold; you can catch the subtle glint of triumph in Daniel's eye as he makes his modest speeches, and likewise the fiery glare, almost ethereal in its atomity, but undeniably present. All the supporting cast is top-notch, too; while this is ultimately a film about Daniel, and Daniel alone, Paul Dano delivers two terrific performances as Paul Sunday and Eli Sunday, identical twins. Anderson clearly knew what he was doing this time around. The casting, acting, storytelling, cinematography, and sound mixing are all phenomenal. There Will Be Blood can do something not many movies can ever do: it fully has my permission to call itself an instant classic. Rarely ever do films mix such a starkly demoniac combination of emotional turbulence and slow-paced storytelling.

Inside Man
Inside Man(2006)
½

Spike Lee's effective bank-heist thriller combines strong performances from Owen, Foster, and Washington, but many of the supporting roles fall flat on their faces. Jarring as this is, the story never fails to entertain, barring a plot twist that can be seen a mile away. Washington's part is the best of the movie, with his clipped tone and instantly recognizable enunciation. It fails to inspire greater responses than that of Dog Day Afternoon or The Town, but Spike Lee has created one of the more effective bank heist thrillers of the last few years, packing an intriguing punch to boot.

The Master
The Master(2012)

It's accented by terrific performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams - which makes Paul Thomas Anderson's latest effort that much more depressing. The Master boasts beautiful cinematography and captivating performances from the trio of talented actors. It seems grandiose and the world it creates is engrossing. It's visually striking without a doubt, but juxtaposed against its own emptiness we're ultimately left hollow. The Master's main problem is not in its storytelling, as any compelling story can and will take some patience to absorb. It's the dead payoff that quickly unravels in a most unsatisfactory way. Tears are shed and words are exchanged, and by the end of it all the characters of Freddie Quell, and to a lesser extent, Lancaster Dodd, are in exactly the same place that they were in the beginning of the movie. To accentuate this, P.T.A. even ends the movie on a final shot precisely mirroring Freddie's state in the opening sequence. Like other works from the director (Magnolia and Boogie Nights), The Master is beautifully shot and terrifically acted, but suffers from a lack of closure, or at least explanation. While others undoubtedly feel different from me, it's difficult to accept the film simultaneously feeling its acute sadness, which seems to have no beginning and no end, but more importantly, no hope.

Leaving Las Vegas
½

Leaving Las Vegas is an example of terrific acting almost completely wasted. Nicolas Cage goes all-out in this film detailing the last days of a suicidally alcoholic man as he drinks himself to death. His performance is perhaps the best of his career, so to see it in a movie with as little impact as this is disappointing. There's nothing to relate to in Cage's character - he constantly drinks, of course, but as scene after scene passes, hope dwindles that his character will make any changes. The ugly outcome of this movie couldn't really be more of a letdown. Yes, Mike Figgis, we understand that alcoholics often kill themselves drinking. We also understand that prostitutes fall haplessly into terrible situations. Most importantly, we understand fully that when misanthropes choose to spiral deeper into their pit of self-loathing, refusing to correct any of their behavior or even cry for help, they usually get screwed. We know. We didn't need a half-baked movie with a trudging plot and hackneyed script to convey this utterly depressing, obvious message. Thanks anyway.

The Boondock Saints
½

The Boondock Saints has some very compelling ideas at its core. Too bad these ideals are completely compromised by the movie's utter asininity. It is simply unbelievable that this film has a 93% approval rating by aggregated audience reviews. Overacted, cartoonishly violent, and obscenely caricatured, it appears that director Troy Duffy has lovingly crafted something which he obviously believes to be much deeper, stylish and meaningful than it actually is. Even as a brainless shoot-em-up Saints is pretty bad - think the ridiculously over-the-top Kill Bill, only Saints is even worse if for no other reason that it actually takes itself dead seriously. It's a shame that a movie with a pretty decent philosophy at its core was handled this poorly, amounting to nothing more than a shallowly entertaining waste of time.

Transformers
Transformers(2007)
½

Transformers is big, loud, long, and fantastic. LaBeouf gets his big break as Sam Witwicky, a high-schooler who unwittingly buys a transformer named Bumblebee masquerading as a vintage car. The movie is loveable for its true sincerity and bombastic action sequences. Underrated in my opinion. It may not be the most groundbreaking action flick ever, but it has a fantastic soundtrack, strong acting, and a compelling presence all around. This is one movie I could not take my eyes off of. It had heart, and I loved it for that. People say that Michael Bay ruined Transformers. I say he refined it and turned it into an experience accessible to a wider audience. Overshadowing its two predecessors, Transformers is a widely-scoped reminder of what makes an excellent film.

Brothers
Brothers(2009)
½

A better movie than it gets credit for. The trifecta of talent here includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire as Sam and Natalie Portman. Cliches nonwithstanding, the tale is evenly paced, focuses on characters more than events, and sometimes shocks. Maguire is completely dedicated as the marine ridden with paranoia and distrust after a traumatic war experience. When he finally reaches his breaking point the emotion is so powerful it takes one's breath away. Not a half bad movie.

The Killer Inside Me

Casey Affleck's measured performance never falters, a trademark of the terrific actor, and just like in other movies such as The Assassination of Jesse James or Gone Baby Gone, his wry mannerisms and sharp delivery make for a compelling character. It's a shame that he isn't better explored. Although Affleck delivers a terrific exterior of the psychopath, the villan is hardly studied beyond brief flashbacks to a childhood obviously riddled with incestuous tendencies and abuse. Whether or not Winterbottom thinks this is sufficient is curious, seeing as how it's undeniably shallow. Of course, that could be the point, but nevertheless a character study, if done correctly, can be done on the most demented people without devolving into an inhumane, unfleshed portrait of muddied past and mysterious psyche without any real curiosity. The film's strengths do show, however - cinematography is crisp and effective, and the film's murderous psychosexuality is hardly drab. Affleck and Alba's chemistry shines in a series of intensely erotic encounters. Though heralded as violent and misogynistic by some, with some definite grounds in logic, excellent performances and completely believable passion dominate the screen. The Killer Inside Me is completely uneven, and although it absolutely outstrips the disappointing Texas Killing Fields, one can't help but feel that Winterbottom could have crafted something much more polished.

The Man With the Iron Fists

The Man With The Iron Fists is a bad movie. The story is bad, (most of) the acting is bad, the choreography is bad, the effects are bad, the cinematography is bad, the editing is bad, and the script is bad. I'm not entirely certain if this is supposed to be a B-movie or not, but either way that's not a compliment. This slapdash mess of kung-fu movie cliches quickly tires as we are treated to scene after scene of cartoonishly bloody violence, incomprehensible plot, and wildly varying editing. Everything just doesn't work - maybe in another film Russell Crowe's performance as a smarmy opium addict would gel, but juxtaposed against RZA's inexplicably bleary-eyed character obsessed with pounding his fists together? It's laughable, but not enough to be taken as a light-hearted throwback to bad martial arts movies. The film comes across as obnoxious and glaring, movie-theater fluff that is about as substantial as cotton candy in a hurricane. Even the action scenes go wrong, despite RZA's insisting that he didn't include a fight scene if it didn't further the story or introduce a new fighting technique. The problem isn't his philosophy, it's how he executed it. No matter how many awesome choreography stunts are pulled together for one movie, it'll never actually make any positive effect if the director is so determined to absolutely pile on the absurd sound effects, inane dialogue and an inundation of whirlwind cuts and camera angles that positively obscure the action. Nothing about The Man With The Iron Fists went right, but at least it was better than Kill Bill.

American Beauty

American Beauty's strength comes not in its relatively boring teenage characters, but in Spacey and Bening's performances; their utterly convincing portrayal of an unhappy suburban marriage is punctuated by excellent black comedy, using acidity, cynicism, and sarcasm to startle the viewer from the first few minutes. Lester Burnham's transformation is easily the most fun development of American Beauty, utilizing his great script to convey a total metamorphosis. Sadly, the rest of the movie is not so compelling. Teenager Jane Burnham (an irritatingly wooden Thora Birch) and her torrid, halting love affair with Ricky Fitts, her next door neighbor, fail to interest. The film's theme of beauty is heavily explored in the parallel storylines, though, so we're never truly bored. A strong effort from Sam Mendes.

The Dark Knight

Morbid. Bleak. Cheerless. Prodigious. Unparalleled. Christoper Nolan's masterpiece The Dark Knight is one of the best movies of all time. Heath Ledger's singularly magnificent performance as The Joker cannot be overstated. His maniacal disregard for human life, demented psychotic mindset, and gleefully masochistic temperament culminate in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest performances from any actor, ever. He twists people's words just as his face is twisted in cackling rage. He is genius, utterly unstable, dangerously violent, and the best villain in the history of cinema. The signature deep purple suit burns a vicious hole in the rest of the movie's visuals, iconic of his arrival, dreadful in his nihilism, fascinating in his malevolent mind. Ledger's muttering dialogue and random outbursts only serve to deepen the terrifying character. Christian Bale as Batman is strong as well, powerful, and yet not nearly as compelling as The Joker. Exuberantly depraved and comfortably despised, The Joker's goal is to show Gotham City how bleak humanity really is. The 2 and a half hour long journey is enthralling through every minute. The entire cast is superior and excellent, and just a glimpse into the Joker's next nefarious plan is enough to give one chills. Succeeding not only as a comic book adaption but also a mesmerizing crime drama, The Dark Knight is one of the greatest achievements in the history of film. It surpasses its predecessor, blends multiple genres together, and presents a richly unrestrained, disturbed, transcendent film with breath-taking performances. Nolan, with The Dark Knight, has created a magnanimously, unflinchingly, violently brutal look at human nature and the essence of sanity. One of the most compelling movies since the inception of film and one of the greatest of all time. Magniloquence at its monochrome zenith.

LOL
LOL(2012)

Predictably shallow and insipid. Nothing unexpected here whatsoever. Demi Moore, Ashley Greene and Miley Cyrus are all phenomenally bad actresses. The story is pretentious. The "quirky" gimmicks are tired and have all been done before, in better ways ("Detention"). Just as useless as one would imagine. And yes, I watched the whole thing. Laughably bad.

Match Point
Match Point(2005)

With a shocking lack of talent, Woody Allen has crafted a wooden, vapid look into an ensemble of unlikeable characters and their lives. Perhaps the only good thing to say about this movie is that the acting is mediocre, saving it from the dreaded half-star rating. Apart from that, there is literally nothing good I can write. The soundtrack is dreadful and unfitting, clearly attempting to display some sort of desperate poetic prose but instead compelling aggravation. The plot, if it can be called that, is practically nihilistic, dully and egotistically ranting that luck and greed are the main factors in life. It's a despicable philosophy that makes for a dreadfully boring and downright stupid film.

The Town
The Town(2010)

The Town is simply an amazing film. Fresh off his success of the excellent thriller Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck continues to show his directorial talent in this superbly scripted, perfectly cast drama. The chromatic narrative dazzles in its intricacies, delights with its impeccable depiction of seemingly callous people, and mashes together - with beautifully vibrant results - the pulpy mix of brilliantly brutal violence and romanticized tragedy present in many great examples of cinema. The best part of all this is none of it feels like a rehash. We certainly have never seen this before, and that's because Affleck's snappy style pervades every aspect of his films. Wonderful.

Chronicle
Chronicle(2012)

This is probably the one found footage movie I've ever been able to stand. It neither crams too-shaky camerawork down your throat nor satirizes teenagers in alternately horrible and raunchy situations. It tells a serious story complimented by wonderful special effects and incredible acting by the cast of relative novices. Chronicle, above anything else, is splendidly thrilling. It's a truly wild ride characterized by the decidedly neurotic tendencies of Andrew, the protagonist who deems himself the Apex Predator of highschool, and subsequently goes on a wild rampage. Almost arthouse in nature with its aberrant themes, but losing nothing in its decision to use the notorious gimmick, Chronicle is the sole example in cinema history, thus far, of a found footage film that actually works.

Gone Baby Gone
½

Clocking in with markedly less raw kinetic quality and gripping fierceness than Affleck's phenomenal film The Town, Gone Baby Gone is nonetheless an extremely solid debut from the director. He draws us in with genuine fondness for the Boston underworld and never lets go, inspiring a serpentine labyrinth of excellent, snappy scriptwriting and interesting twists to boot. Affleck's affection for penetrating, emotional filmmaking cannot be understated, neither can it be over appreciated.

Stone
Stone(2010)
½

Symbolism and interpretation. Stone relies heavily on these two concepts with fantastic results. The morally ambiguous characters, coarse language, and heavy themes by no means make this an easy movie to watch. That, however, doesn't mean it has no value. Incredible performances from De Niro, Norton, and Jovovich took me by surprise, considering the panning this movie's received. An unexpected ghetto accent from Norton was an interesting surprise, not a cringe-inducing gimmick or failure. The eerie soundtrack pervaded the film, chilling, digging its claws into your psyche at every frigid outburst or calmly destructive decision. Permeating into every scene with unnervingly soothing malice, it casts a shadow over proceedings that can hardly be overstated. The atmosphere is excellent, and one can scarcely accuse it of tedium in its theology. Venerated by Stone's plot, I felt no slowing of time, eagerly awaiting the next advancement. The religious metaphors, in addition, are endless. Tiring to some? Absolutely, but I found them neither preachy nor heavy-handed, as some have suggested. Deeply depressing or insightful and renewing, you can choose which way you want to have Stone. No matter what, you'll find yourself deep in thought by the end of it.

Changing Lanes
½

An interesting cat-and-mouse drama. With a healthy suspension of disbelief one can greatly enjoy this ethical drama. Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck are suitably terrific, delivering emotion well beyond what they're paid for. Compelling discussions of morality and goodness are noticeably absent from many movies today, and although it can seem a little absurd at points, it's never heavy-handed. We even get to dip into some religious philosophy without having it either condemned or shoved it our faces; it's simply there for us to process and ponder, which is Changing Lanes' biggest strength. There is no good guy and bad guy per se. While Gavin Banek no doubt started the whole escapade, Doyle Gipson struck back with equal menace when confronted with the decision. It's something most people would do, and it's presented with uncompromising neutrality. That's not to say it's droll or tedious. Certain characters get their comeuppance at certain times, sans preachy circumstances, and the lack of soapbox mentality pervades throughout.

The Hurt Locker

I saw Zero Dark Thirty before The Hurt Locker, and I would have to choose the latter as my favorite. Where Zero Dark Thirty was definitely an adequate epic of sorts, the stagnant story - forgettable almost in its entirety - was a shockingly large letdown. The Hurt Locker is shorter, sweeter, and commands a much superior direction. Interestingly, almost all of the photography is stunningly kinetic - flaming with an undeniably awe-inspiring energy, captivating the viewer, carving intense images into the conscious. The shots are gorgeous. Slow-motion technique is used sparingly, to great success, and eye-popping HD shots of half-second events extend the phenomena to powerfully vivid proportions. Also worth realizing is Renner's terrific performance as James, the blithely flippant IED defuser. Thought-provoking and fiercely tensioned, The Hurt Locker is an instant success and the best dramatization of the Iraq War to date.

The Collection
½

The collection's absurd gruesomeness is neither entertaining nor well done. A hoe-hum story and stupid characters round out the inadequacy, including sleep-inducing "tension" and moronically gory deathtraps. The two seconds of nudity is laughably unnecessary, and one would wonder whether most people will even catch it. It's a subliminal message of sorts, one that fits the movie very well; "we're putting this stuff in because we have nothing better to show you."

Traffic
Traffic(2000)
½

Probably the best Soderberg film I've scene so far, with the director's characteristic missteps marring the whole experience but terrific acting and a plot with actual substance dominate most of the screen time. The three-narrative arc is handled smoothly, but what's most impressive is the stellar cast. They portray morally grey characters without coming across as preachy or pretentious, and, what's more, the storyline surprisingly holds deep meaning. Unlike more recent Soderberg works (Side Effects and Magic Mike, to name a couple) with glaringly inadequate flaws, Traffic is an excellently woven drama with compelling characters and some wise insights.

Body of Lies
Body of Lies(2008)
½

Morgan Freeman's narration is masturbatory and densely erection-seeking. His sensually layered voice, dripping with lush overtones of silky eroticism, pervades the viewer's consciousness like a brownie dipped in chocolate. Ok film.

Cyrus
Cyrus(2010)
½

Cyrus is an extraordinary example of an unbelievably bad movie garnering excellent reviews. If it's not the horrendously grating cinematography, it's the atrocious editing and mixing. If it's not the uninspired genre-blend of rom-com and paradoxically whimsical drama, it's the utter flaccidity of the script. And even if it wasn't all of this - this horrible melting pot of movie failures all thrashing around in self-satisfied ignorance - what will really get you is the mind-numbingly stupid plot. Cyrus has less personality than a World War II era propaganda film - at least those had a point to make. It reminds of Garden State in its determined state of perpetual almost-quirkiness, but duplicates none of the former's excellent development, photography, conversation, or even soundtrack. Cyrus is actually stupefyingly bad. How anyone, especially the Duplass brothers, thought that determinedly shaky cameras and a lack of content would amount to anything is actually beyond me. At least it's earnest.

Mulholland Drive

Lynch's darkly noir juxtaposition of archetypes and nonlinear storytelling compels, captivates, but never satisfies. The director's choice to maintain the film as heavily interpretable apparently juices some film critics, but not this one. Even conceding that the painfully sonorous performances during the first third of the movie are purposely contrived (at least, one would hope so; if that is not the case, they simply become embarrassingly neophyte), Lynch's impenetrable narrative includes countless vignettes. Intrinsically poor they are not, but while they add colorful neo-noir visuals they hardly add up to more than the sum of their parts. It's interesting and experimental, but also frustratingly vague and not nearly as erotic as it wants to be. Furthermore, the perpetual avant-garde symbolism isn't titillating so much as tiring. It's a bit of a disappointment.

21 Grams
21 Grams(2003)
½

Complex, absorbing, but overall a little heavy-handed and even nihilistic. The multi-time narration actually does work well, incorporating excellent performances from Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts, and a phenomenal Sean Penn, and the drama is suitably engrossing, but 21 Grams' greatest fault is its inability to present an ending. We're left with an ambiguous and arbitrary monologue by Penn to pass as an ending, prompting a feeling of wasted time. The last line, clearly conceived as a suitable question to haunt the viewer for days after, merely comes off as a vague catechism that drips depressingly into lonely silence instead of succeeding in hitting its emotional mark. Undeniably a well-made film, with some unfortunate flaws.

A History of Violence

Brutal, bloody, and criminally underdeveloped, A History of Violence is a classic example of a story with nuances extending far beyond its ambitious, yet short source material. Even the title almost suggests a pondering epic worthy of 2 hours or more. Tom Stall's intriguing backstory is ridiculously unexplained to the point of mediocrity, and one has to wonder why an obviously gifted director like Cronenberg failed to expand upon the rich opportunity provided by the graphic novel.

Splice
Splice(2010)

An extremely poor hybridization of excellent CGI, unabashedly stupid script, and meandering plot. Splice does far from rewriting the genetic genome of horror movies; it sloppily attempts to dump a morality angle into the boredom with disastrous results. Characters are predictably moronic, and although Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley give technically terrific performances, the awful lines are so grating that it's hard to focus on the good. Self-satisfied and dreadfully dull, Splice is an original idea completely beat to death and then beaten some more, including such highlights as weird alien sex, you've-got-to-be-kidding-me alien rape with an exorcist-like vocalization, practically bipolar characters, an obligatory disgruntled brother, and shockingly bad editing.

The Game
The Game(1997)

Jarring, suspenseful, and deliciously deceiving, The Game is another successful Fincher enterprise. Nicholas Van Orton is a comfortably abrasive, yet conspicuously joyless millionaire who pays no attention to others nor shows any compassion. When his son, Conrad, gives him a peculiar birthday present, Nicholas reluctantly promises to follow through on the experience. Scoffing and grumbling through the initial interview, skepticism overpowers Nicholas until he finds a mysterious clown lying in his driveway - a key imprinted with the company's initials protruding from its gullet. The Game has begun. What follows is a wildly entertaining ride of twists and turns, some believable, some absurd, all heaps of fun. This is one thriller that will keep you guessing right until the end, and mostly guessing wrong - a pleasant surprise. Somewhat morbid, accentuated with atmospheric film noir photography, and, most importantly, unpredictable, The Game is another solid entry into the film world from Fincher. He has proved his merit once again.

Casino
Casino(1995)

Another Scorsese masterpiece. Ultra-romanticized and kinetic, the film follows the luxurious lives of gangsters and their inevitable downfall, calling to mind Goodfellas. Of course, nothing will ever top the latter, but Casino easily holds its own as one of the director's best. Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci are a dream together, as Scorsese clearly knows, and every bit of dialogue and every scene appear to be written exactly for them. One might experience a kind of delirious joy at seeing how good this movie actually is, and in traditional vein, portraying the glamorous and dirty lives of the mob. Furiously profane, multi-narrational, and featuring plenty of gloriously gritty violence, Casino fulfills all expectations and somehow surpasses them. Those who enjoyed Goodfellas will find much to love here. Scorsese holds incredible talent for directing epics with themes of greed, deception, and power; a sort of modern-day Coppola. Casino is brilliantly inky and lurid, boasts an incredible cast, and astounds at every turn. The 3 hour watch literally flies by as the viewer is captivated by the phenomenal performances. A gorgeously cinematized, wholly arresting piece of cinema. Scorsese never disappoints.

Sucker Punch
Sucker Punch(2011)

An expertly stylized, highly original take on the fantasy genre. The phenomenal choreographing and intriguing landscapes more than make up for the few missteps caused by spotty acting. Browning, however, extends a graceful and sensual presence on screen, exhibiting an air of confidence and incorruptibility that is felt through the credits. The result is magnificent. Beautiful film and fantastically realized by the talented Zack Snyder, who both wrote and directed it. Snyder's biggest strength is unquestionably his uncanny ability to direct cinematography. His ensemble of lovely women slash and stab their way with angelic abandon through technical accomplishment and phenomenally realized fantasy landscapes. It is here that Sucker Punch earns the ticket price. The cinematography's total opulence is undeniable. Resplendently mesmeric shots tell an emotional story of darkness and courage. The opening sequence, sublimely told with Snyder's signature color-correction operating firmly in place, is superb, awe-inspiringly beautiful, twisted, and kinetic all at the same time. Babydoll's gorgeous looks and graceful innocence are radiantly sexualized, unrestrained beauty complimented by a refusal to objectify or exploit her. The lustrous cinematics captivate with their nebulous delicateness, their morbid magnificence, their svelte and spellbinding style kaleidoscopically prismatic and unquenchably grand. What a success!

GoodFellas
GoodFellas(1990)

23 years later, Goodfellas remains the best American crime film ever made, and represents the apex of Martin Scorsese's career. Exploring mobster Henry Hill's life, documenting everything from rise to fall, Scorsese draws us in with meticulously painted characters. Ray Liotta astonishes in his best performance of all time as the tenacious Henry Hill. The gritty portrait of mob life is blown away by an inhumane performance by Joe Pesci as the exceedingly profane Tommy DeVito, and an indomitable Robert De Niro as the fearless Jimmy Conway. Scorsese astounds with his semi-autobiographical work, enamoring the viewer with his expertly weaved look at both the light and dark sides of such a treacherous life. Goodfellas really does succeed from every possible angle. Messy, bloody, kinetic, paranoiac, grimy, stylish, and classy, it leads an all-star cast to an inevitable close, and even those who know the full story will be hypnotized by its stunning intricacies all the way through. Beautifully romanticizing the gangster vitality, the film is a testament to gorgeously shot filmmaking, and will likely never be surpassed.

A Clockwork Orange
½

Oddly enough, A Clockwork Orange succeeds so well in embodying the heart and soul of its literary predecessor that it becomes rather unappealing, like the book. The setting is exactly as expected; bleakly bizarre alternate history, outlandish language, and at the center of it all, charismatically psychotic Alex. The story is undeniably well-crafted and strong performances move it along, but many scenes are prolonged for far too much time. It's disturbing, yes, and rather brutal, but the absurdity of Kubrick's generalized allegory is off-putting. The Orwellian imagery is lost amongst Alex's inscrutably immoral antics, leading one to wonder what unhinged him in the first place, rather than speculate about the paranoiac world around him. Shaky at best, but the narration ripped straight from the book is delivered just as you would imagine in your head it would sound. Indeed, Malcolm McDowell provides the best acting of the movie by far.

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction(1994)
½

Pulp Fiction is an oddball of a film. Full of nonlinear storytelling and extraneous dialogue, the film really could have turned out quite badly. Instead, it delivers in every single aspect. Easily one of its strengths, however, is the transcendent script. Slickly idiosyncratic and loaded with strangely hypnotizing monologues, Pulp Fiction's dialogue is some of the best cinema has to offer. Without delving too deep into the world of eccentric banter, it deftly weaves between plot-central exposition and hilariously overwrought, mostly irrelevant discussion. These seemingly inconsequential exchanges, however, are where the film really shines. Each and every conversation uncovers another layer behind one of the characters, gives them context, epitomizes them, adds connotation to the already deliriously excellent cinematography. This, as well, is where the film finds its true footing. Samuel L. Jackson is a particularly strong standout, delivering a phenomenal mix of profanity-laden soliloquies and theological ponderings. The rest of the casting is similarly excellent, and despite a few misguided attempts to copy neo-noir films of days gone by, Pulp Fiction's raucous romanticization of the grimy, blood-spattered and chromatically psychedelic criminal underworld is irresistible. The first of its kind to effectively meld pitch-black humor with quixotically exaggerated violence, every minute of this movie is essential to its loveably pulpy core. Without making a completely jumbled mess in his attempts to pay homage to a dozen different genres at once (Kill Bill, anyone?), Tarantino has crafted what is easily one of the most influential and accomplished films of the 1990's.

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)

Haunting, ethereal, viscerally brutal and starkly colored, Black Swan is an intense exercise in one woman's fragile psyche. Lead by Aronofosky's terrific direction and Portman's Oscar-worthy performance, the film is terrifying, gripping, and, although laden with hallucinations and effects, surprisingly realistic. The descent into the rabbit hole is portrayed absolutely perfectly, and eventually one begins to question everything onscreen. Much like the elegant dancing it showcases, the psychological film dazzles and strikes with blinding ferocity as Nina's graceful fall from sanity plays out.

Identity
Identity(2003)
½

Identity rockets off to a terrific start with gripping suspense. The end, unfortunately, meanders down to a dull frustration as a tired old plot device is utilized in an attempt to enhance the story's obvious cliches. What the screenwriter obviously didn't realize was the needlessness of this final twist; everything leading up to this point had been bloody, slightly campy fun. As it is, Identity has the fortune to escape being bogged down too much by its anticlimactic ending, earning it a solid spot in the horror/thriller genre.

Reefer Madness (Tell Your Children) (Doped Youth)

So bad it's good? No. Unintentionally hilarious? No. Campy fun? No. It's just monotonously bad, combining terrible acting with total stupidity and ignorance. Propaganda saturates the "plot," and while it's not comedic it is laughable. Moronic and a waste of time.

District 9
District 9(2009)

District 9 is bloody. It's horrific. The apartheid allegory is executed impressively, portraying a complete disregard for the value of life - first alien, then human. Sharlto Copley is incredible in his feature film debut as the blasà (C) scientist enthusiastic about getting an opportunity to evict aliens from their slums. The filming, using a combination of documentary, found footage and omniscient hand held techniques, is excellently gritty, sparing none of the appalling details and quickly obliterating the fourth wall. Despite its modest $30 million budget, CGI and special effects is handled admirably, and nothing seems unrealistic. Political crime and unquenchable greed are smeared across the lens of the camera; during the first half of the movie we feel as dirty as the helpless aliens, as horrified as the slum-dwellers. While the movie experiences a slight devolution near the end, becoming less than satisfactory, the brilliant execution of such a fascinating idea is undeniable. Prepare to reevaluate yourself after watching this film.

The Wrestler
The Wrestler(2008)
½

Extremely well-acted, highly personal, and anything but predictable, The Wrestler is terrifically directed considering its tight budget, but a decidedly colorless conclusion - masquerading as a triumphant redemption of sorts - falls flat. Definitely not Aronofsky's best work.

Your Highness

To give Your Highness a full review would be awarding it more attention than it deserves.

21
21(2008)
½

sloppy, boorish, hideously self-indulgent filmmaking that clearly believes it's exceptionally perspicacious. Saddled with an obnoxious, imbecile main character who acts like he's Jesus Christ but comes across as a Tobey Maguire wannabe with no acting talent and no likable qualities to speak of, 21 succeeds only when Kevin Spacey rips everything out of the hands of the pretentious Ben Campell. In fact, Spacey's impressive presence is the only compelling part about this entire terrible, terrible movie. Absolutely plastered with witless cliches and weighed mightily down by the entire cast's unbearable delivery, the painfully asinine plot and wholly illogical character development rounds out the whole horrific catastrophe. 21 could have been absolutely gripping had it actually concentrated on intelligence instead of insipid melodrama. In the end, the film's literally endless banality drives it farther and farther down the scale until I had to stupefyingly award it nothing more than one and a half stars.

Side Effects
Side Effects(2013)
½

Side Effects turns from a promising neo-noir thriller with a psychosomatic portrait of nightmarish proportions to an utterly disappointing denouement. Whether or not we're supposed to empathize with the detestable ensemble of characters is unclear. Overlooking this glaring flaw is something even worse-while the leads offer terrific performances (the source of my two star review), almost every supporting character is irritatingly brittle, woodenly structured, and caricatured to the point of non-dimensionality. It's clear that while Soderberg can ably assemble an excellent cast, he inexplicably flounders when attempting to craft a rewarding narrative with the talent he has at his disposal. However, the calm, focused cinematography cooly sets the atmosphere quite admirably. This compliments the jarringly violent murder scene in a way that must be credited. Overall, Side Effects had unbelievable potential, and fell short in almost every category.

Kinsey
Kinsey(2004)

The chemistry between Neeson and Linney is palpable in this charming period piece. Although some of the philosophies are certainly debatable, some even detestable, the film depicts the sex doctor's studies in an unwaveringly valid way, refusing to dress things up in pleasant euphemisms or dodgy, harmless bilge.

Rendition
Rendition(2007)
½

Those shouting this movie down for its supposedly slanted political stance are whining; this is a political film, sure, but it never presents things in a biased way-in fact, it's embarrassingly plausible.

The Amazing Spider-Man
½

Despite previous iterations of the Spider-Man adaptions, all starring Tobey Maguire rather than Andrew Garfield, this reboot manages to web-sling some new life right into the series. Wisely choosing to branch off into a completely different route than its predecessor, the movie is based more on the old comics, and so bears a smart, modernized face over an interior of nostalgia and 10-cent editions. Even the film's previously signature line spoken by Uncle Ben-you know the one-is interestingly not uttered during the entire movie. Originality and freshness are clearly meant, and it succeeds to a certain point. The main story of Peter Parker can only be told so many times, and while Spider-Man's relationship with Gwen Stacy is at least a new take on things, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst had much more chemistry. Trying not to compare the two too much, the romantic aspect is passable, but nevertheless fails to be interesting, providing one of the worst lines of the entire movie; when Emma Stone softly christens Peter "Bug Boy" while staring longingly into his eyes, we're left utterly dumbfounded and the entire scene is ruined by an uncertainty of whether to be comedic or earnest. It mixes both, and falls flat. Similarly, the villian is both uninteresting and played by a British archetype who gives the dull role the best he has, with unsatisfying results. However, there's never exactly a dull moment, whether we're watching Peter Parker wrestle a giant mutant or watching him swing across New York, gleefully shouting a curiously included Midnight Cowboy reference. Little details like the latter will be missed by most, but help the movie retain a sense of continued spark of life. While I don't believe I prefer the new over the old, this latest iteration stands on its own two feet.

The Machinist
½

Bale's performance in this atmospheric thriller is horrifically convincing, and the pale-blue tint dominating the film conveys a sense of bleached desperation quietly apparent in the little details. Uncomfortable and powerfully sad, The Machinist is a one trick pony, but the ride is so unnerving it's worth a watch.

Compliance
Compliance(2012)
½

Horrific, disgusting, and filled with excruciatingly moronic people, the only way Compliance could be less enjoyable would be if the atrocious acts committed didn't actually take place. As it stands, the shocking events portrayed in the film are all directly based on completely true events, and therefore change the movie quickly from loathsome exploitative experiment to well-made, eye-opening indie wake up call.

Miss March
Miss March(2009)

Moronically contrived and carelessly executed, Miss March is a sloppy, uninspired, detestable entry into the already reprehensible teen sex comedy genre.

Moon
Moon(2009)
½

While slow in parts, Moon's effective performance by Sam Rockwell and terrific soundtrack make it worth a watch.

A Serbian Film

A putrid, vile film that attempts to use inhumane imagery to convey a political agenda. The disgusting images which plague the viewer through the film offer no intelligent metaphor; and anyway whether they do is actually irrelevant. This horrific piece of cinema is so repulsive that nobody should watch it, ever, for any reason. An absolutely worthless, evil disgrace to film.

Primer
Primer(2004)

Laden with abstrusely dense lexicon and shot on a shoestring budget of just $7,000, Primer is purposefully devoid of exposition, peppered with curiously bare music pieces, and developed with a delightfully hackneyed, uncompromising demeanor. With a refusal to be straightforward and a fondness for comfortingly debilitated cinematography, we're pulled in and forced to pay attention, open-mouthed, as this incredibly original and complex sci-fi film draws to a quietly bewildering end. Phenomenal talent in Shane Carruth, and an excellent debut.

Magic Mike
Magic Mike(2012)

Soderberg's vapid portrayal of a stripper trying to make something of himself starts off promising - not unlike his other recent efforts, specifically Haywire and Contagion. Unfortunately, Magic Mike - just like Soderberg's other offerings - takes an intriguing premise and runs it into a brick wall. Channing Tatum makes for the only relatively interesting character, but he struggles when placed alongside dull Alex Pettyfer, who is shunted into the limelight with a laughably underdeveloped personality. Dragging the cast down even more is obnoxious and one-dimensional Olivia Munn, whose stony features and perpetual PMS effectively render the character whiny, insufferable, and completely unsuitable as a love interest to Tatum. What's more, the supposed boy-meets-girl "love" story so enthusiastically advertised falls completely flat, shoehorned into the movie in literally the last 15 minutes. But what about the conversations leading up to the dirty deed? Some critics apparently think Soderberg is a master at developing romantic and sexual tension through subtle mood and undeveloped characters. To me it was simply an exercise in pointless drivel. With multiple subplots so horrifically unactualized they may as well have been left out entirely, Magic Mike dives into the shallows of maturity, romance, and even eccentricity but quickly retreats before reaching the deeper water as if afraid to evoke too much thought. Is the movie supposed to be fun? Is it supposed to be serious? Mindless? Metaphorical? Ensemble? We never know. What a startlingly poor film from a supposedly talented director.

The Cabin in the Woods
½

A dumb parody of an already tired subgenre, but at least the meta angle is new.

Donnie Brasco

Excellent mafia crime film. Johnny Depp and Al Pacino are incredible.

50/50
50/50(2011)
½

50/50 has nice poignancy and strong performances. The only problem? It's just not that interesting until the denouement. However, in this case the end justifies the means.

The Expendables 2
½

Explosive, frenetic, and light on plot, this second Expendables movie packs even more testosterone and bullet casings into frame than its predecessor. Choppy machine gun fire and roaring engines compliment the legendary cast admirably, and while The Expendables 2 won't win any Oscars it's the best the genre has to offer.

Reservoir Dogs

Five star cast, one star directing.

Burn After Reading

What an utterly unenjoyable, aggravating, completely worthless movie. There's black comedy, and then there's mindless comedy, and finally this pile of complete garbage shamefully milling around at the bottom.

Public Enemies
½

Strong performances by its extremely talented cast, but the awful filmography and editing drags the movie down considerably. Nonetheless, a solid effort from Michael Mann. Style, performances, and script of Heat? Absolutely not, but it does well enough on its own.

Moneyball
Moneyball(2011)

Expansive cinematography and beautiful lighting. Smart script, terrific cast, engaging story, and excellent performances all around. Even the editing is worth noting for its hypnotic reverence to baseball and for pure intrinsic value. A treat for the eyes and a fond movie that even baseball revilers can enjoy.

Law Abiding Citizen

Combining gripping set pieces with surprising levels of poignancy, the film deftly weaves between the intelligent and the preposterous. The secret? Suspension of disbelief. Practice it, and the movie could hardly be better. Despite its consistent implausibility, Gerard Butler's character and the emotion he injects into its essence are absolutely gripping, and a solid piece of filmmaking.

28 Days Later

Technically, 28 Days later didn't reinvent the zombie genre, but it sure did bring several desperately needed concepts to light in the dying subgenre. Unfortunately, the worst digital photography in decades and awful
cinematography weigh the film down. Despite this, Cillian Murphy's first big performance is fun to watch and the story is tolerable. A truly mediocre movie.

Ted
Ted(2012)

Starts out mediocre and quickly careens into the terrible. Seth MacFarlane's brand of humor is hilarious in Family Guy; yet here he lazily slaps together an accent directly derived from Brian and Peter, the main characters of the show and also played by MacFarlane. The result feels like a sloppily executed cash-in. Ted could have been so much more, but its idiotic plot and endless immature jokes - more reminiscent of The Hangover or Due Date than McFarlane's usual work - drag the movie down to be nothing more than a bore. Almost nothing is done well, to the point where you have to wonder if dear old Seth even tried. The usual comedic genius found traditionally in Family Guy is woefully absent here: enough so that it's impossible to recommend this movie, for anyone. Shameless, exploitative garbage.

Mr. Brooks
Mr. Brooks(2007)

Kevin Costner is intriguing, Demi Moore is insufferable. Wasted potential, considering this movie's extremely interesting plot lines all had terrible bolted-on finales. Unsatisfying but a fun ride.

Machete
Machete(2010)

Outlandish, grindhouse, B movie, gallons of blood - these are all terms usually detrimental to a movie's reputation. Machete incorporates all of them and is a hell of a lot more fun than it has any right to be. It's glutinous, messy, and thickly spattered with buckets of gore, foregoing its right to call itself a serious film. But Machete's true accomplishment lies in its ability to act as a perfect throwback to grindhouse films of old, complete with gonzo filmography, cheesy yet perfectly fitting one-liners, and an entirely original soundtrack that thumps merrily along the whole way through. Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, and Danny Trejo all give flawless performances - the corrupt, the vixen, and the antihero, respectively - and while Machete will never amount to more than the sum of its parts, it is still a ton of fun and easily the best Grindhouse film I've had the fortune to see.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim, led by the effeminate Michael Cera, punctuates its quirky visuals with moderately funny one-liners. The end result is an 8-bit smackdown with a story that isn't half bad, and never loses its light-hearted attitude.

Project X
Project X(2012)
½

For all its juvenile spectacle, misogynistic attitude and gratuitous nudity, Project X sure doesn't amount to anything memorable or funny.

Due Date
Due Date(2010)

Downey Jr works with what he has, but Due Date's poor script and its dramatically unfunny co-star Zach Galifianakis weighs the movie down beyond the boundaries of funny into the dull territory of tired cliches and monotonous archetypes. I want to like Zach Galifianakis. I really do. But his character from The Hangover was literally cloned and shoved right back into this movie, rendering it useless. If I didn't like the character the first time around, this time immediately got under my skin. The chemistry is practically nonexistent, mainly because the old stuffy-guy-forced-to-travel-with-blundering-chubby-moron brings absolutely nothing new to the table, having been done a hundred times before in films like Tommy Boy and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. The script is uninspired and the jokes mostly fall flat. Due Date is a comedy that should have been much better than it was, and it actually has a decently satisfying ending, but the journey was not close to worth it. Give this one a miss.

The Untouchables

The cinematography has withstood the test of time. Everything else? No such luck.

Haywire
Haywire(2012)

Lacking any memorable characters whatsoever. Poorly executed and poorly represented.

The Tree of Life
½

Arthouse magnificence. Subtle, hard-hitting, boasting incredible visuals and a haunting soundtrack. The engrossing story is more a cinematic portrait than a short-lived and easily digestible experience, provoking sadness and wonder with evenly-paced maturity throughout.

Gangster Squad

Highly stylized noir fiction/period biopic. Boosted by excellent performances by Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling, but a one-dimensional Josh Brolin weighs down the pace. Ultimately, the plot winds down to a mediocre finale. As pure entertainment value goes, this is stylish and (almost) satisfying pulp at its finest. Note the word almost. With a lack of any real depth, the film feels like a bit of a missed opportunity; stellar cast, oozing style, and maniacal antagonist, all clumsily wrapped up in an average script and lackluster story-telling. The snore-worthy narration from Brolin's character could have been left out entirely, and too much focus was set on trying to develop the boring character into someone worth listening to and investing in. Despite these unfortunate and glaring missteps, the movie's slick violence and cinematography is definitely worth a look, and there are some truly strong performances to be found. Four Stars.

Sleeping Beauty

Absolutely horrendous. The dreadfully uninspired camera work and clunky dialogue further mar an already weak piece of cinema.

A Bronx Tale
A Bronx Tale(1993)

Riddled with wooden acting.

Natural Born Killers

A moronic, psychopathic exercise in pointlessness.

The Social Network

Riveting biopic with magnificent performances and a top-notch script. The phenomenal cast shines just as brightly as the expertly arranged cinematography, with Justin Timberlake exhibiting an impressive portrayal as the arrogant, womanizing founder of Napster; Jessie Eisenberg absolutely nailing the fast-talking caricature of Zuckerberg; and Andrew Garfield in his strongest performance yet. Fast-paced and beautifully directed, this Facebook drama simply could not have turned out better.

I Spit On Your Grave
½

Gut-wrenchingly violent and savage, I Spit On Your Grave offers no more variety than its predecessor, but the brutal violence comes well-deserved.

Lawless
Lawless(2012)
½

Lawless is gritty, brutal, and a wholly outstanding movie. It tells the story of 3 bootleggers in "The Wettest County in the World" - Franklin County, capital of the illegal Moonshine movement. When nearly the whole town submits to Charlie Rakes' (Guy Pearce) corrupt deal with the Moonshiners - splitting the profits mostly to himself in exchange for letting them continue their illegal activities - Forrest, Howard and Jack are pressured by numerous legal and communal sources to give in as well. What follows is a ruthless battle of pride and blood as the brothers refuse outright to kneel. The tension is fantastic throughout the movie, stealing your breath, viciously serving up equal helpings of squirm-in-your-seat violence and grandiose, captivating looks at the Western days of life. Tom Hardy is a significant, fantastic standout as Forrest Bondurant, the head of the family and the protector of all their estate. His grumpy demeanor, myriad of unintelligible grunts, and oft-bloodied brass knuckles make him an extremely interesting character to watch. Forrest is not a loaded gun - he is a carefully cocked and aimed gun. Hardy's portrayal of a serious, ever-focused, reserved man concerned with his own affairs and no one else's makes for a phenomenal cinematic experience. Whether I was watching him murderously castrate two criminals, show polite bewilderment at the sight of a woman, or survive several serious wounds, Forrest was one of my favorite characters to watch this entire year at the theater. If nothing else, go to see Hardy's incredible performance.

Seven (Se7en)
½

The depressing ending is a turnoff for me, but the undeniably skilled filmmaking exceeds expectations in this perpetually rainy thriller.

Killing Them Softly
½

Even moments of grotesquely poetic violence are welcome in this directionless, emotionless bore.

I, Robot
I, Robot(2004)
½

Wildly deviating from its source material non withstanding, I, robot isn't a half bad sci-if flick.

Inception
Inception(2010)

Rarely does a movie require multiple viewings, offering new perspectives each time, like Inception does. The movie is like an eloquent brain teaser; Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy round out the all-star cast. Dressed in its best suit with its hair neatly slicked back, Inception offers up mind-blowing visuals while maintaining a focused and effective narration. While it doesnt offer up easy explanations on a platter, it's sure to hook you enough to watch it again. The end result? Original, awe-inspiring, emotional, and utterly satisfying vigilance for intelligent film making.

Kill Bill: Volume 1

My unadulterated contemptuousness for Quenton Tarantino's movies surfaced as soon as the credits rolled for Kill Bill. As a pompous, self-glorifying director with zero talent and laughable attempts at style, Tarantino feigns arthouse mastery and critics eat it up. I see plotless, tasteless garbage. Worthless, despicable trash. Nothing about this movie is good. The moronic sound effects, the supposedly "stylized" fight scenes which actually look like something out of a tv karate infomercial, and the geysers of blood spewing cartoonishly out of chopped-off limbs make for a total failure at art, direction, or interest. Tarantino's movies are brainless muck, mashing many different genres together at mere whims to create a cacophony of repulsive noise and mess. Truly an abhorrent excuse for a film.

Battleship
Battleship(2012)
½

Seeing Battleship was more of a novelty for me - I didn't expect anything transforming the future of movies. I didn't expect much of anything. What I was hoping for, at least, was a popcorn-friendly, loud thrill ride. I didn't even get that. Battleship is an awful movie. Liam Neeson's hilariously serious role as Admiral Shane was foresaw when I first viewed the trailer ("Which guns, sir?" All of them."), but I did not expect this movie to actually be such garbage. Offensively stupid, it tries to tie together a tired slacker-turned-marine story with an unintentionally boring story about aliens attacking the earth. Shockingly, nothing much actually happened for much of the movie. Granted, when the aliens did start to attack, the visuals were fairly decent. However, any hope of enjoyment was lost by the end. Boring, riddled with plot holes, over-serious acting - these are just a few of the characteristics you don't want to see in any movie, and Battleship has every one of them. The last sequence, in which elderly men practically on their deathbeds somehow manage to run a rusty old naval ship just as well as they did 70 years ago, is particularly laughable to the point where the cynical grin on your face melts in a moment. Battle LA easily eclipses this movie in terms of entertainment and story, and I should not have to say that. Dreadful movie.

Looper
Looper(2012)
½

A visceral and completely arresting experience. Gordon-Levitt is phenomenal as a younger Bruce Willis, displaying quiet meticulousness and a detached attitude toward his inherently illegal life. The narration is riveting; the glimpse into the futuristic world conjured by the movie is absolutely hypnotizing. Driven by a fast-paced story that doesn't skimp on mind-bending visuals, Looper is a supremely intelligent, refreshing sci-fi adventure, and one of the most compelling cinematic entries in recent years.

Hard Candy
Hard Candy(2006)

One of the more brain-dead movies I've seen in recent memory. Page is strong in her role - unfortunately. The 14 year old spends the entire movie acting like a pretentious, obnoxious 30 year old, and the monotonous monologues she spews out in almost every conceivable moment literally do not end until the credits roll. Wilson works with what he has, which is unfortunately not much, and the end result is extremely weak. After Jeff Kohlver (Wilson) invites Hayley Stark (Page) into his home, things start to look a little creepy. After all, he is a 30 year old who is hitting on a 14 year old. Oddly, though, we, the audience, never see for sure his intentions with Page. She assumes throughout the duration of the movie that he kidnapped, raped and killed a girl who has been missing for a long time, when there is no evidence to prove it. He continues to protest his innocence throughout the whole film. Eventually I didn't care if he was a child predator or not - anyone is more likeable than Page's irritating, self-righteous character who thinks she knows everything. Her cruelty to Jeff is hard to watch, as he begs her to stop and she mercilessly breaks him. Morality aside, Hard Candy is simply a dreadful, bitter movie that is neither thought-provoking nor insightful nor even hard-hitting. Simply, it is a useless film, providing no interesting developments whatsoever and a tasteless story to boot.