mborshuk's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

The Ruthless Four (Ognuno per sť) (The Goldseekers ) (Sam Cooper's Gold )

Watchable second-tier spaghetti western available streaming online for free at AMCtv.com. George Hilton is his usual hammy self, but Klaus Kinski stands out as the creepy villain. One of the innumerable films in this genre that Quentin Tarantino has ripped off--er, paid homage to over the course of his career.

Richard Pryor---Live in Concert

Outstanding concert film that showcases Pryor doing what he did best: making an audience laugh through his virtuoso mix of raw humor and tragic vulnerability.

American Grindhouse

Informative and wildly entertaining history of American B-movies with a number of engaging clips and much great commentary from its various talking heads. Right up my alley.

Pi
Pi(1998)
½

A noteworthy contribution to the Math Genius As Troubled Mind genre. A gritty, compelling low-budget from Aronofsky, who went on, of course, to become a major movie-making player. Narrative-wise this is a bit rough around the edges and drags in the second half but showed a lot of early talent, for sure.

Blood Mania
Blood Mania(1970)

A deliciously fun bit of B-movie schlock from Crown Pictures International, legendary purveyor of gorehouse fare. The poster and title suggest it'll be a gorefest, but it isn't. More delightfully, it's a really overwrought Hitchcock imitation with surreal period-inspired psychedelic touches and swank music. Outrageously bad and wonderful if, like me, you love this stuff.

The Black Six

Awkward, overt rip-off of Melvin Van Peebles's SWEET SWEETBACK, right up to the warning title card that flashes before the closing credit. Amusing to see so many 1970s African American NFL stars in the title roles, and even funnier for the advertisement of their current team ("Starring Joe Greene of the Pittsburgh Steelers") in the opening montage. Passable if, like me, you're into cult cinema of the period.

Intolerable Cruelty

Whimsical, minor Coen Brothers' effort satirizing American views on marriage and its inherent materialistic expectations. The supporting cast lights this one up but not one of the CB's greater movies.

La belva col mitra (Beast With A Gun) (Ferocious) (Mad Dog Killer) (Street Killers) (The Human Beast)
½

Indulging my love for 1970s cult movies, I had to give this one a look, especially since it's so cult-ish it comes in at least three different titles. It's standard Italian crime movie fare of the period, with some funky music, a sadistic bad guy (played with hammy glee by Helmut Berger), and some jump cuts so abrupt you feel dizzy. A fun diversion nevertheless.

Game of Death

Hilariously bad bit of cinematic necrophilia. That is, a film that cobbles together a narrative to capitalize on about 30 minutes (at most) of footage Bruce Lee filmed before his early death. Doesn't even attempt to hide the fact that other actors (who don't look much like Lee) are playing his character for the bulk of the story. Still, the fight with Kareem is one for the ages, and that yellow jumpsuit is pretty iconic.

I Spit on Your Grave (Day of the Woman)

Unrelenting in its sadism, the film is a curiosity piece in its ambivalent brutal narration of gender relations in flux after the sexual revolution. That's about the best I can say about this stomach-turning gorefest.

Snow White and the Huntsman

Of minor interest for its dark tone and investigation of the fairy tale's sexual politics, but this plays out tediously with its fake British accents and heavy-handed tone. Think Braveheart meets Twilight meets Lord of the Rings meets...

Moonrise Kingdom

Quintessential Wes Anderson coming of age narrative, full of whimsy and visual delights. A masterpiece of art design and quirky performances from one of my favorite auteurs. Gilman and Hayward in the lead roles are priceless.

Don't Look Now

Brilliantly creepy suspense yarn that thrives on implication and tone. Roeg is masterful at unsettling the audience with quick edits and elliptical scenes, and Sutherland's haunted demeanor throughout is a nice reference point for the viewer's disorientation.

The Iron Lady
½

A humanizing depiction of a political figure who seemed, well, a bit inhuman at times in her political life. Indeed, Streep does for Thatcher what Frank Langella did for Nixon, though the film's structure is, overall, a bit too impressionistic to generate much narrative momentum.

Drive
Drive(2011)

Stylish thriller that plays like Vanishing Point might if it were conceptualized by the bastard child of Sam Peckinpah and Michael Mann. Atmospheric and violent, with a Giorgio Moroder-ish soundtrack. First-rate, moody pulp.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Revisited this for the first time in years, to close this semester's crime fiction course, and was stunned by how well it holds up. The technological innovations still seem fresh, nearly a quarter century later, and the story is wonderfully entertaining in a raucous send-up of hard-boiled narrative and film noir.

Krush Groove
Krush Groove(1985)
½

A barely discernible plot holds this historical piece together (I mean, there is little difference between it and a lot of rushed rock-n-roll movies of the 1950s) but so worth watching for all of the early hip-hop stars in performance: Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J. Some really electric moments from a generation of music artists we should work harder to remember.

Damsels in Distress
½

Another charming Whit Stillman venture (I'm a long-time fan) about preppy angst and quirky neurotics. Some slow moments, and if you're not a fan of his overly literary dialogue then this isn't for you. But made me want to start my own "international dance craze," and that's saying something.

Michael Moore Hates America

A tedious bit of hokum that decries Michael Moore's influence as it awkwardly adopts every one of the director's signature techniques. I was especially impressed by its use of a loudmouth magician as the film's talking head moral center. Yawn.

The Weather Underground

A potent reminder--for the multitudes who've forgotten--of just how volatile a period the late 60s and early 70s were in American life. The piece is balanced in showing us differing opinions of radicalism in the period, and this reconsideration is especially aided by the sometimes regretful interviews by former Weather Underground activists. Still, watching, say, the aftermath of Fred Hampton's murder, or seeing film of police attacking citizens in the street, allows us to see the seething frustrations among a lost generation of youth and why they would be moved to violence against their country.

The Descendants

Moving, quirky drama about love, family, and loss. Payne sets a splendidly uneven tone to capture the absurdity of all three of those things, and Clooney is winning, as always.

Safe House
Safe House(2012)

Compelling, WikiLeaks-era thriller. Appropriately paranoid and merciless as it explores governmental corruption. Denzel Washington carries the film with his charisma, compensating at times for some predictable developments, both plot-wise and thematically.

Alfie
Alfie(1966)
½

Disturbing "comedy" about the moral underside of Swingin' London's sexual free-for-all in the 1960s. Michael Caine is great, the Sonny Rollins score is sublime, and Burt Bacharach contributes his greatest song here, but wow, that this could be marketed as a whimsical farce is, well, beyond me.

In a Lonely Place

Perfect example of how the Hays Code took the bite out of any cinematic adaptation of the best hard-boiled crime of the era. Dorothy B. Hughes's brilliant and brutal critique of misogyny loses all its legs in this tepid melodrama, replacing a startling exploration of sociopathy with a tedious innocent-man-wronged-by-his-own-violent-temper narrative. So disappointing.

College
College(1927)
½

Mostly funny farce with Keaton as booksmart nebbish trying to impress a girl amidst the campus jockocracy. Some good gags along the way--minus the disturbing blackface scene.

Inside Job
Inside Job(2010)

Infuriating, if not altogether surprising. Ferguson is a wonderful interview and everyman-Damon's narration strikes the right emotional tone in a call to action for people to take notice of the various conflicts of interest that allow economic inequality to grow and grow and grow. Of particular interest to me was the willful and irresponsible financial self-advancement that runs rampant among prominent academic economists in the U.S.A. Disturbing, but not likely enough to be seen by enough indifferent citizens to precipitate meaningful change.

The Postman Always Rings Twice
½

A classic of film noir? I suppose. But, if you're familiar with James M. Cain's stunning, sadistic novel of twelve years earlier, this adaptation inevitably seems woefully watered-down and ham-fisted. Lana Turner is striking, and paradigmatic as the dangerous blonde, but it's not enough to give this the punch it needs.

Fellini's Roma
½

Impressionistic narrative of Rome's history told through the shared lenses of collective and personal history. It's Fellini, so there are some strikingly surreal images and oddball characters, but this is, overall, a spectacular valentine to the director's adopted city. The finale--quiet, without explanatory context--was particularly moving, and the Gore Vidal scene was a splendid treat.

Watermelon Man
½

Surreal, 1970 studio satire by the famed maverick black director Melvin Van Peebles. The first half meanders in some shticky comedy before settling into a march sharper criticism of American attitudes about race in the final acts. Godfrey Cambridge is outstanding in whiteface and out.

The Help
The Help(2011)
½

A winning cast and straight-up acting all around, but this film had every problem I anticipated it would: an overly sentimental and forgiving narrative arc, and irresponsible amnesia regarding the violence and volatility of the CIvil Rights Era, and a rhetorical positioning of black and white thematic triumphs as being equal, when they obviously aren't, given American inequality.

Alice
Alice(1990)

Amusing bit of Woody Allen Orientalism. I've never liked the Farrow-films as much as the Keaton-films, but this one is enjoyable enough. If nothing else, it reminds me that a lesser Woody Allen film is better than most films by most writer-directors.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It might be heretical for me to say, but I much prefer the American remake. Fincher is better at creating fast-paced suspense, and telescoping an array of narrative details, unlike the Swedish filmmakers who left us with a plodding adaptation here.

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29
½

An engrossing documentary not just for its dramatic retelling of perhaps the greatest game in Ivy League football history, but also for its evocation of the late 1960s. Some engaging cameos along the way, too, from famous people all tied to that fateful game: a Hollywood actor, a future president, a future vice-president, a future Oscar-winning actress, a future Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist...

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Resolutely creepy, with some pretty memorable characters. I enjoyed this immensely, but likely benefited from having not read the book or seen the original European film adaptation.

Imitation of Life
½

Visually compelling, emotionally difficult Douglas Sirk melodrama about the economics of race and gender in late 1950s America. Stand-out performances all around even if the drama is a bit overwrought at times.

Up in the Air

An excellent, entertaining film. Clooney, as always, is charming as all get-out. Vera Farmiga deserves any accolades she received. A splendidly clever and, ultimately, heartwarming commentary on the inherent emptiness of American life in this early part of the new century. Wonderfully life-affirming in the end.

The Switch
The Switch(2010)
½

Was enticed by the fact that this one is based on a short story by one of my favorite contemporary writers, Jeffrey Eugenides. Needless to say, this film is likely remarkably different from the Eugenides piece. A likable cast, and a few winnings moments, but it descends into pretty formulaic territory as it progresses, and my man Eugenides is rarely formulaic.

Mo' Better Blues
½

Re-watched this again for the first time in a few years. Still grimace at the awkward script and problematic character relations, but never get tired of the visual lushness and the fine music from Terence Blanchard and the Branford Marsalis Quartet.

Brown Sugar
Brown Sugar(2002)

Enjoyable for the hip-hop context, even though the love story devolves into pretty predictable melodrama in the second half. Chock full of great cameos from actual hip-hop stars, ranging from Mos Def in a big role, to Talib Kweili, De La Soul, Russell Simmons, and others.

High Tension (Switchblade Romance)
½

Taut, stylish French homage to the American slasher genre. Delightfully terrifying for the most part, though it turns on a twist that borders on preposterous. Enjoyable if you're a horror fan, nevertheless.

Small Time Crooks

Passable late-Woody Allen. Some genuinely big laughs along the way in a very 1940s-esque tale of a couple of long-time married hustlers on the make. Entertaining if not among Woody's best.

Girl 6
Girl 6(1996)

I'd avoided this one for years, because I was wary about how Spike Lee might handle a film about a phone sex operator. When I realized that Suzan-Lori Parks wrote the screenplay, I gave it a look. Not surprised it did so poorly with audiences as it is surreal and fragmented as the most interesting of Parks's work is. Theresa Randle is excellent in the lead. Not consistently good as a satire of gender expectations, but has its compelling moments.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

Moving documentary about the brightest star of the 1980s art world. Thrives on Tamra Davis's original interviews with Basquiat, and cavalcade of compelling talking heads to help contextualize his greatness.

Black Christmas

Can;'t believe it took me so long to see this one. A splendidly creepy early slasher film that thrives on tone and implication, rather than buckets of fake blood. Loved its ambiguities and open-endedness.

The Ides of March

Clooney continues his run of cynical 1970s-esque dramas with this gripping, paranoid account of American presidential politics' nasty inside game. Amazing cast.

Moneyball
Moneyball(2011)

Turns Michael Lewis's highly readable book about baseball's sabermetric revolution into a compelling, character-driven showcase for Brad Pitt as the game's rogue GM, washed-up one-time prospect BIlly Beane.