Unfriended (2015)

Horror with purpose! While it spasmodically drifts to tackiness the innovation in storytelling is undeniable. Tremendous achievement for an ostensibly anemic crew.
April 17, 2015

Whiplash (2014)

A pregnant meditation on perfection that's as good as you've heard. Doesn't feel right filing Simmons under Best Supporting Actor. He dominates that much.
April 14, 2015

Freedomland (2006)

Never very surprising, but I still feel like it had the bones to be good if it tried harder. The actors are great but never properly harnessed. The editing ranges from embarrassing to inexorable. And if it would just lose that sandy aesthetic I hate...
April 6, 2015

It Follows (2015)

You'll be left with some questions in a way that is neither bad nor good. For what is good, IF delivers deeply permeating psychological horror founded on latent and seldom addressed anxieties. It also boasts a thoughtful ending that is sadly all too absent from its genre.
April 4, 2015

Still Alice (2014)

I found this neither slow nor dull. In fact, I can't remember the last time I became this invested in a character or so absorbed by their story. Alice is its own animal. Moore is implacably amazing but there's also no one to upstage her. Weak (or perfect) supporting performances.
March 16, 2015

The Chameleon (2010)

Its strokes are broad but Chameleon entreats us to virtually no emotional insight or introspection which you'd imagine would be the just about the entire point as it doesn't portend to be a thriller either. Pretty embarrassing to bungle a story like this one.
February 11, 2015

The Guest (2014)

No attempt at subversion here, just good fun. On paper it's a third rate rag you'd find at a rec centre. Highlights how impressive the filmmaking is.
February 7, 2015

I Am Sam (2001)

I'll probably have my critic card revoked, but I just can't rain on this movie. The script's good, Penn's great, and I can see why this was a star-making performance for Fanning. It's all very dubious and other elements aren't as strong, but I think that ought to count for less.
January 30, 2015

Cake (2014)

Jennifer Caniston! Disarming and beautiful, Cake is every bit well performed as it is written. True a story doesn't stack quickly, but the flow is perfection. Without gimmick.
January 28, 2015

St. Vincent (2014)

A slightly above average comedy, but decidedly overhyped. Painted by numbers with skill. Murray's Murray and Melissa McCarthy shines in a refreshingly different role.
January 26, 2015

All Is Lost (2013)

Nothing short of technical perfection, but spartan enough to turn some away. Expect a spellbinding show from Redford who at almost eighty dominates in a highly physical performance. A mammoth achievement for Bob and a touching tale of Our Man.
January 19, 2015

The Imitation Game (2014)

Game is good, but it falls short of greatness, which is a shame. There's a lot being juggled and it just isn't plotted or pulled together in a satisfying way. Additionally, BC is melodramatic and actually a bit caricaturish.
January 11, 2015

Safe House (2012)

So bad. So very bad. Between its stunningly awful aesthetics and boring, poorly delivered dialogue, Safe House is a shitheap you will not be encouraged to follow. Highly disappointing given the cast (bar Reynolds).
December 31, 2014

In Bruges (2008)

Tour de force. However silly the filler bits were (karate, dwarves), their juxtaposition with Bruges and the solemnity of the film's themes figures well into the final product.
December 28, 2014

Tusk (2014)

Parks is unimpeachable but without him Tusk doesn't have a leg to stand on, premise included. It all feels like an overly long joke that never arrives at a punchline.
December 26, 2014

White God (2014)

Having watched this in Hungarian with Dutch subtitles I can't much speak for the writing. Luckily the visual storytelling is strong, as is the acting. Luke the dog is deserving of distinction.
December 21, 2014

Prisoners (2013)

You should see Prisoners. It is an extremely well-plotted and satisfying film. The only thing keeping it in the troposphere is that it isn't *as* well-conceived. A very good twist falls short of greatness because its prosaic foundations fail to support it.
November 25, 2014

Starry Eyes (2014)

Ugh. Great individual elements (visual effects, music, perfs), but bad storytelling. Really didn't feel like it was carried to term. And stop showing me body horror involving fingernails, I get it.
November 20, 2014

Interstellar (2014)

Oh Interstellar. You've got interest one minute and then maudlin mediocrity the next ten. Ultimately there are more faults than successes. Despite your touted veracity, the science as you presented it was so intolerably quack. And you're not as striking as your trailer suggests.
November 17, 2014

Insidious (2010)

A rare totters-on-the-fence. So-so spooks and nauseating clichés abound and attempts at humour only thwart the atmosphere. But there is a redemptive ending (however obviously contrived.)
November 10, 2014

Sinister (2012)

First off, I feel the reception here was largely reductive. Cohesive, original, and guttingly scary, Sinister is outstanding horror. The found footage is great but this film is a distance runner. (Points are lost, yes, with the gloomy dead kids, though not much.) Grade A.
November 10, 2014

Camp X-Ray (2014)

Stale story criticism can definitely be levelled but with execution this good, I'm not complaining. With its relevant backdrop and stunning verisimilitude, Camp X-Ray is an important reminder of moral intelligence.
October 27, 2014

Gone Girl (2014)

Crawlingly compelling. Clichés with Pike's character are avoided with considerable command and Affleck actually pulls off the villain. Far out, Fincher.
October 9, 2014

The Beaver (2011)

Interesting, though not as much as I'd hoped. Just sort of shallow weird. Admittedly Gibson is very good but storywise I felt a lot of untapped potential.
September 16, 2014

Man on Fire (2004)

A1. There's no surprises here, but you do get an exceedingly watchable thriller that maintains its speed throughout (despite being a little on the longer side.) Really enjoyed the chemistry with Creasy and the kid too.
September 11, 2014

Let the Right One In (2008)

A lot to be said for this. For one, as a film privileging both children and vampires, it's remarkably absent of turn-off tropes. A real less-is-more winner, and this extends to the stellar performances of both young leads. Felt uneasily sad and then uneasily happy.
August 21, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Indeed very good. Compelling, thorough, and full of great performances. It did feel a little long though. To start, the pace was great but control is all but gone in the second half. Still nice to see Vallée's star on the rise.
July 14, 2014

Before Midnight (2013)

It might have been as insightful as the first two, but I just couldn't relate. For the same reason it wasn't as enjoyable. Still just as engaging though. Maybe I'll change my tune when I'm forty.
July 12, 2014

Before Sunrise (1995)

Beautiful. Even if you're sour grapes about the characters or the discussion, you can't not swoon at the possibilities presented here. For once I'm so excited there are two sequels waiting for me.
July 10, 2014

The Next Three Days (2010)

Peevishly ill-conceived and overwritten in the wrong parts. Crowe doesn't whoa. Nonetheless, the action was sustained and for the better part entertaining. Hard to go wrong with a prison break.
July 1, 2014

Where the Heart Is (2000)

So this is review 300. Natalie Portman plays her run-down role with impossible dignity and is definitely the saving grace of this otherwise pulsating ball of puerility. One of, if not the worst, book-to-movie adaptations this Reeler can recall.
June 20, 2014

Face/Off (1997)

Remember when years later Nicky Cage is describing his screenplay "The Three" in Adaptation? This is basically that, although I will say that Nic and John played the other commendably well here.
June 11, 2014

Neighbors (2014)

A few winning moments. The rest is pretty much as you'd expect - I feel that if I hadn't seen this in a multiplex the score would have been significantly lower.
May 17, 2014

A Teacher (2013)

Delphic, delicate, and not much of a narrative. I'm not sure whether I pity the protagonist or the film, but I will commend it for eliciting a rare reaction.
May 8, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

It was fun, but I wasn't really impressed. The seven seconds of Fran Lebowitz notwithstanding, I have to say I didn't see Scorsese in this at all. Grievances of note are the weird soundtrack and the weird fact that Matthew McConaughey gives the best performance in the film.
May 4, 2014

The United States of Leland (2003)

Drippy and petulant. I saw a glimmer of redemption towards the end (at least enough for a pass) but for the most part it's amazing to me that Kevin Spacey had anything to do with this. Shout out to referring to your film's flagship troubled character as "fascinating" within.
May 2, 2014

World War Z (2013)

Good escapist fun but way too frantic for its own good. I don't think I can point to even one element that was worth its salt here. Writing, editing, and acting all felt pretty below average. Ambitious, but ultimately a flop.
May 1, 2014

Take This Waltz (2011)

It looked good. At times I liked the writing, but other times it was just the worst. Felt like there were a lot of latent ideas that never got developed. Or they were obscured by the most unbearable protagonist since Greenberg's Greenberg.
April 28, 2014

Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)

Didn't mind the runtime here. Unfortunately a couple of parts just didn't make a lot of sense and the editing could have been stronger even allowing the huge length. The main thing though is that characters are wholly believable and the conclusion made me feel genuine sadness.
April 25, 2014

Lakeview Terrace (2008)

Very shit to start. Plot is poorly assembled and the characters are just so weird. Jackson is (predictably) strong, but I can't even understand this brand of racism. At least it was something new?
April 23, 2014

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Pretty incontestably great. My only real qualm was with the writing - while good, it wasn't always well-conceived. Had Damon and Affleck done this later in their careers I'm sure it could have been better.
April 19, 2014

Gran Torino (2008)

I would have liked to have rated this higher. Eastwood continues to rule as the redemptive curmudgeon but the script is overwritten (the vigilantism felt especially far-flung) and it seems confused in its ideas on a better nature. Disappointingly clichéd.
April 14, 2014

The Guard (2011)

A very solid buddy-copper that only gets better as it moves forward. Take out the exotic locale and the story's rather thin, but, on the whole, a very enjoyable (and lighthearted!) bit of Irish cinema.
April 11, 2014

Take Shelter (2011)

First rate, there's no doubt. Watching Take Shelter is like entering a Wyeth painting. It's easy to see how carefully Nichols concocts his films but I just can't shake my negative-to-not-so-sure feelings on the ending. Pacing, acting, and concept are definite strengths.
April 7, 2014

Veronica Guerin (2003)

Likely the best thing Schumacher has ever done, but we all know that's not saying much. Mawkish beginning and awful end. Cate's good but even she's down on her game here. Everyone's a little queer.
March 14, 2014

Breakfast on Pluto (2005)

I was waiting for Cillian Murphy to pop up in my Irish Film class and I'm so glad it was as a lady. Just as a road movie/coming of ager this was pretty formulaic, but there are more than enough interesting touches to make it worth your while. Fun in the same vein as Hedwig.
March 7, 2014

God Loves Uganda (2013)

Powerful and eye-opening. By a mile, this is the best documentary I've seen this (school) year. The word 'inspiring' gets thrown around a lot these days, but God Loves Uganda embodies it deftly. Hits every right note.
February 26, 2014

Watchmen (2009)

Despite having dressed as Silk Spectre for Halloween three years ago, I don't feel qualified to review this. My impressions, in such an order, were "wow, Snyder's got some skills," to "Manhattan is really moody" to "what is Ozymandias doing here" to "this movie is too long."
February 22, 2014

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

I'm convinced Coppola's got her finger on something here, but I'm not sure what it is. All the same, the atmosphere, implications, and overall beauty of it is too much to ignore. (Guilty viewing, because I always feel like a whiney-wino for enjoying it).
February 13, 2014

Paradise Now (2005)

Finely crafted and deeply empathetic. This is a pretty great film for anyone with an interest in Israel/Palestine. The funniest you'll ever see about suicide bombing.
February 11, 2014

Nebraska (2013)

Viva Payne. The man knows what he's talking about. In terms of pace, this moved as fast as I could have expected it to and at times it was hilarious. I actually liked Will Forte. Literally, it's been years since I found such restitution watching a movie.
February 6, 2014

Hunger (2008)

McQueen and Fassbender's skill in this debut is bewildering. One of the strongest biographical dramas I've ever seen, and worth seeing for the 17-minute take alone. Unreal transformation with Mike.
February 1, 2014

Monster's Ball (2001)

Engrossing and quite well-acted. The race issue was handled superbly and never once felt baiting or oversold. However, I want to believe the ending (a lot of this actually) was deliberate but it didn't feel that way at all.
January 27, 2014

Blue Valentine (2010)

Told with rare depth. I was truly impressed with its believability and progression of emotions; it really felt surrendered. Blue's not completely free of melodrama but the acting is always top tier. I was riveted.
January 23, 2014

The Field (1990)

Are you Irish enough? This rose above a classroom, which rarely happens. The story stays chewy throughout and characters are so crazy they just have to be real. Well done, I says.
January 22, 2014

Her (2013)

A real emotional odyssey. My thoughts on Her are a jumbled mess, but Jonze always has that effect on me. What matters is that I was captivated from start to finish and while at times this read like an iPhone commercial, I still came out of it feeling six feet off the ground.
January 12, 2014

Amour (2012)

It's long, it's slow, and yet, it's totally distilled. Knowing now Haneke's game I can look on this more favourably but while I was watching I was rather dismayed at how coolly the characters were portrayed. No emotional crescendos here (except the one that's too big to see.)
January 7, 2014

About a Boy (2002)

I'm not sure if this has gotten better with age, but it's certainly gotten better as I've aged. Hornby is a great chemist of a writer - characters, ideas, and story all synthesize perfectly, and in ways you might not expect. Frequently funny and occasionally profound.
January 4, 2014

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Funny yes, clever yes, scary not really, unique no. It's enjoyable, but I feel like the meta-treatment of genre is often given way more credit than it's owed. This might as well have been an extra long Community Halloween special.
January 3, 2014

The Machinist (2004)

It's not good, although Bale does save it from being bad. The Hitchcock nods were cool but overhyped what ended up being a pretty lame conclusion. Less than thrilling thriller.
January 3, 2014

This Is the End (2013)

I see I'm alone in hating this. Guess that makes me the Jay Baruchel of Burnreel? Nah though, I don't care how self-deprecating the humour was. 100 minutes of celebrity in-jokes is not something I feel comfortable validating.
December 24, 2013

127 Hours (2010)

Liked this more than I expected. Franco fits in the role and Boyle spices up the story a lot (maybe a little too much). It's hard to get into a movie knowing the whole story beforehand, but I'm sure anyone going into this cold, save the title, would give it a ringing endorsement.
December 23, 2013

An Education (2009)

The trouble with many coming-of-age films is that they're never focused enough to be of any real value. Although at times aloof, this one stays on point throughout. I can't be omnipotent, but I'm inclined to say this tale is among the genre's best in recent years.
December 21, 2013

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

I knew I would be disappointed, but not quite to this extent. What explains this drop in quality? The laughs were something scarce. Neither notable nor quotable. And so much could have been done with the subject. All the makings of an Adam Sandler movie, without Adam Sandler.
December 19, 2013

Mud (2013)

Magic. Nichols' has penned a story that would do Twain proud. Provocative, beautiful... Hands down McConaughey's finest turn. Even the kid actors are at the top of their game. It's bizarre, but Mud's imperfections only seem to strengthen it. I would recommend this universally.
December 18, 2013

Trance (2013)

Wildly stylish, and for the most part tensely gripping. What holds this back most is an irritating amount of false awakenings. Thinner and more confusing than I'd been expecting, but I did, as I'm sure you will, enjoy the ride.
December 15, 2013

Behind the Candelabra (2013)

Obviously, Douglas and Damon are both blessed by good material but it's Douglas who deserves the real props for not playing Liberace like some nuance-less caricature. Clearly also some sharp directing from Soderbergh.
December 14, 2013

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

For most people it's a sweet enough story. I get the sense it might have been a decent book, but it just wasn't a very good film. Performances are overdone, there are way too many peaks and valleys, and the precociousness verges on intolerable. An ehn, ultimately.
December 12, 2013

Afterschool (2008)

Pretty groundbreaking. Compellingly shot and full of ideas, Afterschool isn't so much about the content of its images as it is their proliferation. A kind of modern day prep school Vertigo.
December 7, 2013

Night on Earth (1991)

I might call this a minor masterpiece. The writing is among Jarmusch's best and the stories are enthrallingly hysterical throughout. You may find your soulmate in this movie.
December 2, 2013

The Truman Show (1998)

Just awesome. A hearty and well-seasoned thematic stew with such broad appeal that even Carrey isn't polarizing. Psychiatrists liked it enough to name a syndrome after it.
December 1, 2013

Last Days (2005)

Lacks real insight and will probably have the effect of making you like Cobain less. A poor follow-up to Elephant, but Van Sant can still keep it real.
November 30, 2013

Carnage (2011)

Semi-interesting study on marriage and temper. Substantive, but it escalates awkwardly and I was expecting better acting, especially from Waltz. Probably much better as a play.
November 25, 2013