These are my most recent movie reviews. Read more on Letterboxd.
Barbie (2023) ***
A messy but entertaining movie that keeps the cynical humor and sight gags going despite the heavy-handed, simplistic and muddled feminist message. It's like Baumbach and Gerwig wanted to spoof Hollywood commercialism but found out crafting a good story out of a toy is actually a challenge. For example, it doesn't know what to do with Michael Cera's character and a subplot with Mattel executives goes nowhere. Thanks to Robbie and Gosling and a lot of charm the sloppy storytelling isn't a deal breaker, but it's not as tight or as fun as that other toy movie with Will Farrell.
May December (2023) ****
I've been sitting on this one for a while because I don't have much to say about it. Can you underplay melodrama? Todd Field tries, giving us a tawdry situation that simmers without ever coming to a full boil, but then comically blasting sweeping music like a bad after-school special. Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman give strong performances.
Since You Went Away (1944) **
I don't know why I keep watching David O. Selznick movies because they're all over-the-top, over-dramatic, and full of themselves. Since You Went Away is no exception. This wartime melodrama about the women left behind while the men go off to fight the war simply didn't need to be three hours long. Jennifer Jones courtship with Robert Walker just goes on forever, and you can see where the story is going from the beginning. The best parts are showing how the world had changed due to the war, but there's not nearly enough of that, and they mostly just complain about food rationing. At least Mrs. Miniver had the threat of being bombed. Perhaps this all rang differently with audiences in 1944, but it's no Best Years of Our Lives, which is still powerful today.
Idiocracy (2006) ****
The prophetic parable of the Trump administration, although I'd have to say the technology that keeps working and keeps their society afloat wasn't made by idiots. This is the real robot future.
Four Lions (2010) ****
I rewatched this jihad comedy because now I know who Riz Ahmed and Kayvan Novak are. It's funny but meanders in places and the documentary style is annoying, esp. when it's not even presented as a mockumentary.
The Harvey Girls (1946) **
MGM musical that tries to hide its non-existent storyline behind garish Technicolor, which basically means a bitchy Angela Lansbury in a parade of impractical dresses. Unfortunately she doesn't get to do her own singing. "The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe" number is the only memorable song, and Ray Bolger's big dance number near the end is worth seeing, but it's otherwise forgettable. John Hodiak is a boring lead for this kind of film, and Judy Garland's physical comedy is terrible.
and a few films from the Kansas Silent Film Festival in Topeka...
The Navigator (1924) ****
Delightful Buster Keaton feature where he uses a ship set adrift as just another comic prop for endlessly inventive sight gags.
Paths to Paradise (1925) ****
Two master swindlers meet and fall in love. A charming con artist movie that ends with a massive and innovative car chase similar to The Blues Brothers that, unfortunately, is missing the final reel. Beautifully restored.
Duck Soup (1927) ***
Early pairing of Laurel and Hardy before they fully developed their characters, about two vagabonds who take up residence in an empty mansion. Their chemistry is all there and it's full of energetic chases, falls, and sight gags.
Paths to Paradise (1925)

Paths to Paradise (1925)

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