All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) the definitive WWI experience

The greatest film experience finds a mix of immersion, thought provocation and engagement through the senses. All Quiet on the Western Front, through the use of magnificent sound design, production design, and the rawness of the actors and writing, combines all these elements to give a taste of war that’s incredibly powerful. Adapted from Erich Maria Remarque novel, Lewis Milestone bombards the audience with the mortar fire that could collapse the bunker at any second, exploring the idealism sold to prospective soldiers to sacrifice their lives. The sound design is that of a shell-shocked soldier, trying and failing to cope with the horrifying nature of this singular experience. Every second is hell for these soldiers and All Quiet on the Western Front expresses this terror. … More All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) the definitive WWI experience

Dodes’ka-den (1970) one of Akira Kurosawa’s most endearing films

The boy conductor, riding around the junkyard on his imaginary train, is the centerpiece to all the pains, grief, and highs of living in poverty. Kurosawa shows this world in wonderfully vivid colors, painting the unfortunate with humanity and grace, while also showing the dark side. The entire ensemble delivers idiosyncratic performances and helps build the culture and ideologies of this place. One of Kurosawa’s most original and endearing films. … More Dodes’ka-den (1970) one of Akira Kurosawa’s most endearing films

The Roaring Twenties (1939) a perfect summation of how the 1930s perceived the decade

 A decade long recount of the highs and lows of a raucous era, following it all through the eyes of the archetypal young man entering adulthood in James Cagney’s portrayal. It follows him from coming home from a war to the inability to get work and how that transition often led to organized crime formulating. Especially in a time of prohibition. Cagney is fantastic, showing a real emotional side not normally associated with mobsters, and how one coped with the viscosity of the roaring twenties. Priscilla Lane and Humprhey Bogart are also great in smaller roles, as they add higher stakes to the explosive lifestyle of the 20s. The dynamics between these characters brings out the radicalism in one … More The Roaring Twenties (1939) a perfect summation of how the 1930s perceived the decade

Hsiao-Hsien Hou conveys the haunting silence of the KMT in A City of Sadness (1989)

The film communicates emotion and repression masterfully, living under a psychotic, militaristic, and violent regime. It’s a film that spans generations of family characters, who all, one-by-one, get picked off by the military with no reason given – senseless violence and a provocative look at life under oppression of this nature. The craft of the production design and blocking makes each scene feel crucial and that urgency is felt through every scene and performance. And Tony Leung is excellent here, taking a vulnerable stance against a vicious, fascist government that’s unafraid of its citizens. It’s the film at the birth of a nation and shows the messy fallout from an occupying government leaving citizens out for ransom. It’s a horrifying realization and perspective on how large-scale cultural change can impact people. Hsiao-Hsien Hou conveys this through embittered personal memory, and the threatening atmosphere. … More Hsiao-Hsien Hou conveys the haunting silence of the KMT in A City of Sadness (1989)

Cyrano is unmemorable cinema headlined by sterling performances

First time I saw the trailer in theaters for Cyrano was back in late September or early October. FOUR months later and (I kid you not) 40 to 50 viewings of the trailer later, I basically understood the plot beat for beat going into the film without having seen it. And to my faux surprise, it played out exactly how I imagined. Based on a tragedy of unconsummated love, Cyrano is a traditional romance narrative where all the story beats are laid out fairly early, relying on the musical numbers and the liveliness of Joe Wright’s direction to carry it home. This approach leaves the onus on the music and while the pieces and dances are good, they’re not enough to satisfy our craving for juicier melodrama. … More Cyrano is unmemorable cinema headlined by sterling performances

No Time To Die (2021) a beautifully shot blockbuster lacking a purpose

The last time seeing Daniel Craig helm the Bond moniker and a nice send-off for this era of Bond. Admittedly, the Craig portrayal is one of my least favorite of the Bond actors, mainly due to the eccentricities of the other Bond’s, but he’s suave with far more intensity than say Pierce Brosnan. That said, the self-serious tone of these films is a major turnoff for me personally, as I watch Bond films for the zany villains with overstuffed evil lairs and laser weapons. The Craig era leans into the more cerebral style of storytelling, and while it worked for most, it loses all the charm it once held. … More No Time To Die (2021) a beautifully shot blockbuster lacking a purpose

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) is Mel Gibson relying on his worst instincts

Directed by Mel Gibson, it’s the same type of bombast that makes his other films feel all over the place, but in Hacksaw Ridge is distilled down to one character. Thankfully, Gibson got the casting right with Garfield, but the direction becomes nonsensical and they make this brave medic into a symbol rather than a person. Even his motivations are handled weirdly in the script, as his motivations are incredibly shallow and it’s hard to buy into his convictions. … More Hacksaw Ridge (2016) is Mel Gibson relying on his worst instincts

The Towering Inferno – a senseless, stupid return to the time of 1970 disaster movies

The pinnacle of awful 1970s spectacle films where the one and only attraction being the large scale cast where 95% of the budget went to the talent. It’s the awful disaster films where producers thought it was entertaining to kill off a bunch of celebrities en masse. Even if that bit of horrific black comedy appeals to you, the comedy is done in a non-specific way that doesn’t accentuate the massacre. The tone is so flat that it earnestly feels like they’re trying to tell a serious story and not one half-baked in mediocre ideas born out of the A-list cast. … More The Towering Inferno – a senseless, stupid return to the time of 1970 disaster movies

Shang-Chi a shallow pandering Marvel entry

ion and fighting set pieces stand out amongst the Marvel films in Shang-Chi and the visual effects are groundbreaking. Tony Leung getting cast in a Marvel film is pretty surreal and nice to see a great actor get recognized on a global Disney scale. However, the writing is painfully bad, mainly the characterizations and how they fit into the worldbuilding. There’s a level of cheesiness to the characterizations and humor here that’s laid on thicker than most Marvel films. Its unbearable joke structures feel more akin to Cartoon television, but with an earnestness that makes it all appear as a big practical, corporate size joke with everyone laughing at me. … More Shang-Chi a shallow pandering Marvel entry