Capsule Reviews

A ★★½ review of The Simple Things (1953)
The Simple Things is mediocre, only really notable for being the final theatrical short featuring Mickey Mouse. But by this time he had already receded (or transcended) to the status of pure icon, so it’s a historical landmark behind history. It’s interesting then that it’s been put amongst the fair…
24/10/22 — The Simple Things (1953, Charles A. Nichols)
A ★★★★½ review of Alphaville (1965)
I watched Alphaville to challenge myself. I found Godard’s death so distressing that apart from the searing, painful clarity of watching In The Darkness of Time (2001) on the day, I have hidden from him. I have also been too busy writing to watch a difficult film for anything other than that, and wi…
09/10/22 — Alphaville (1965, Jean-Luc Godard)
A ★★★★ review of Warriors Two (1978)
I tend to think of Sammo Hung as a very generous action director—he has given Jackie Chan or Yuen Biao as many of their best scenes as he has given to himself—but this early on, Warriors Two (1978) is only his third film, I guess he still had a lot to prove. He gives himself an unbelievable amount o…
05/10/22 — Warriors Two (1978, Sammo Hung)
A ★★★ review of Peter Pan (1953)
The pleasures of Peter Pan (1953) are obvious, from the beautiful backgrounds, to the ever-amusing relationship between Captain Hook and Smee, to the way Pan is animated. Flying quickly and perfectly smoothly between relaxed poses; he feels lighter than air. But there’s a lot you have to look past t…
15/09/22 — Peter Pan (1953, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson & Clyde Geronimi)
A ★★★★ review of Pinocchio (1940)
I’m afraid to say that watching Pinocchio (1940) at age twenty-five, I found myself relating to Geppetto, someone who surrounds themselves with their own little creations, an imperfect but personally designed and curated world. It’s true of any writer, anyone whose hobbies involve creating something…
05/09/22 — Pinocchio (1940, Ben Sharpsteen & Hamilton Luske)
A ★★½ review of Once Upon a Time in China III (1992)
Once Upon a Time in China III has all the pieces to be a fun, if not great, continuation of Tsui Hark’s Wong Fei-hung series. It shakes things up the way a television show does a few seasons in, as the popularity starts to ail—even though there were still three more movies and a television series to…
02/09/22 — Once Upon a Time in China III (1992, Tsui Hark)
A ★★★★ review of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978)
Kind of a dry run for Yuen Woo-Ping & Jackie Chan’s follow-up, and the full breakout for both of them, Drunken Master (1979) which is a little bit better in basically every way. But a little bit worse than Drunken Master is still very good, great even. The biggest loss is actually the story, Snake i…
28/08/22 — Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (1978, Yuen Woo-ping)
A ★★★★½ review of Drunken Master (1978)
“Body is reality” — Saul Tenser, Crimes of the Future Influence of Yuen Woo-ping on Jackie Chan is unquestionable, but Drunken Master (1978) doesn’t have the focus on props that Jackie would bring to his own films, the climactic fight takes place in some dusty field and many others take place in emp…
25/08/22 — Drunken Master (1978, Yuen Woo-ping)
A ★★★★ review of Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)
An actor is someone who must become someone else. Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas) played a version of his director Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson) many years ago—we see scenes from The Bad and The Beautiful (1950), an earlier collaboration between Douglas and Vincente Minelli—when he lost that, he lo…
24/08/22 — Two Weeks in Another Town (1962, Vincente Minelli)
A ★★★ review of Dragons Forever (1988)
Dragons Forever is the last film the three dragons would make together, and they spend most of it fighting one another. Maybe that’s why it was a box office disappointment. Or maybe it was the misjudged rom-com elements though genre blending and bad sexual politics never damaged a Sammo Hung directe…
21/08/22 — Dragons Forever (1988, Sammo Hung & Corey Yuen)
A ★★★★ review of Election Campaign 1932 (Last Election) (1933)
It’s easy to look at Election Campaign 1932 as just a historical object since director Ella Bergmann-Michel wasn’t able to finish it, she describes it as a fragment. But it’s clearly a great artistic achievement, she knows she’s sitting on the edge of something very dark. She shows all these differe…
13/08/22 — Election Campaign 1932 (1933, Ella Bergmann-Michel)
A ★★★ review of How to score 10 runs in the first inning and lose (2022)
Hard not to feel disappointing next to Section 1 (2022) which came out hardly a month before—I wrote about it extensively here—and was titled “a short film” instead of something exactly like any other Youtube video. It hits on a lot of Jon Bois’ major themes, the way that stats “don’t see the ghosts…
09/08/22 — How to score 10 runs in the first inning and lose (2022, Jon Bois)
A ★★★ review of Kismet (1955)
A fairly uninspired Minelli effort, it’s the fifth adaptation of this story, although the first in musical form. Like any Hollywood film of its time set in the Middle East, and I’m sure all the previous versions, it’s racist in some ways that I recognise and some ways that I don’t. But the farcical…
09/08/22 — Kismet (1955, Vincente Minelli)
A ★★★½ review of Yolanda and the Thief (1945)
Yolanda and the Thief (1945) is one of Vincente Minelli’s first self-reflexive films, though I wonder if he sees himself more as the neurotic and self-absorbed aunt () parading around this huge house with rooms like sets—different spaces implied on the walls, the bath runs down from a painted stream…
03/08/22 — Yolanda and the Thief (1945, Vincente Minelli)
A ★★★ review of The Holy Man (1965)
This is my second Satyajit Ray comedy, and I can’t say either has impressed me much, though The Holy Man (1965) looks a lot slicker than the sloppy Philosopher’s Stone (1958)—which was made on a break in the production of The Music Room (1958)—the flat, artificial zooms onto the titular phoney Holy…
30/07/22 — The Holy Man (1965, Satyajit Ray)
A ★★★½ review of The Bob Emergency (2019)
For the first time Bois has an answer to the absurdity that so fascinates him, in this case trying to create a story from athletes who happen to be called Bob. In Pretty Good (2015-2017) he tended to shrug it off, as if looking down at the follies of man with an amused eyes, but here he somewhat clu…
30/07/22 — The Bob Emergency (2019, Jon Bois)
A ★★½ review of Puss Gets the Boot (1940)
A movie of hierarchy, the mouse not yet known as Jerry runs in place, cutting out we see he’s being held down by the cat Jasper—later Tom—then, after he breaks some ornate column and vase in chase, Jasper is grabbed, held up by the neck by the racist ‘Mammy Two-Shoes’ character. Their power relation…
13/07/22 — Puss Gets the Boot (1940, William Hanna, Joseph Barbera & Rudolf Ising)
A ★★★ review of Experiment in Terror (1962)
A film thats weakness as a whole really undersells the strength of its parts, muck like Bunny Lake is Missing (1963)—which has the opposite problem, the weakness of its parts (the ending) really undersells its strengths as a whole—it’s an absolutely gorgeously shot black and white neo-noir; even the…
10/07/22 — Experiment in Terror (1962, Blake Edwards)
A ½ review of Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
Despite being about an immigrant family, being lead by a famous Chinese movie star and referencing many of her (and other) Chinese movies, Everything Everywhere All At Once is deeply American in the worst possible way. Beyond all the intentionally pointless guff—much of it as Reddit as anything ever…
19/06/22 — Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022, Daniel Scheinert & Daniel Kwan)
A ★★★★ review of The Harvey Girls (1946)
In an MGM musical directed by Vincent Minelli it feels like you’re seeing the best of the best, the most rich, gorgeous songs and the most virtuosic dancing—the most obvious example being the eleven-minute daydream ballet at the end of An American in Paris (1951)—whereas in The Harvey Girls (1946) b…
01/06/22 — The Harvey Girls (1946, George Sidney)
A ★★★★ review of The Doll (1919)
Lubitsch hasn’t quite found that mix between the classy and the bawdy that so defines his Hollywood work yet, The Doll (1919) feels a little more Punch & Judy, more purely vulgar and for the lower classes. The first scene shows the man himself building the set from pieces pulled from a toy box, he’s…
26/05/22 — The Doll (1919, Ernst Lubitsch)
A ★★★★ review of Cabaret (1972)
Cabaret is known as a musical for people who don’t like musicals, partly because the songs are all diegetic so people don’t have to deal with any bleed between the literal and the fantastical—which has always seemed to me a limit of imagination, especially considering how heightened most musicals ar…
24/05/22 — Cabaret (1972, Bob Fosse)
A ★★★★½ review of Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
As Songlian (Gong Li) is married into this hermetically sealed household, becoming its fourth mistress, she finds it driven by rituals clearly brittle and absurd—mostly surrounding sex, when the master (Ma Jingwu) chooses to spend the night with one of his concubines, he gets their feet messaged and…
09/05/22 — Raise the Red Lantern (1991, Zhang Yimou)
A ★★★★ review of A Quiet Passion (2016)
Structured like many of Davies’ films but without their aching, woozy, emotional texture that pours through every frame, it makes A Quiet Passion’s first half feel a little dry, but that’s only because it’s about someone who found so little in the world outside. The only scene where that style slips…
06/05/22 — A Quiet Passion (2016, Terence Davies)
A ★★½ review of Millennium Actress (2001)
Very brisk and entertaining, it goes by awfully quick, and has some masterful animation sprinkled healthily throughout, but fundamentally this is a lightweight work. I’m not sure the premise really reveals much, or at least, the film isn’t interesting in interrogating what it means for someone to ma…
04/05/22 — Millennium Actress (2001, Satoshi Kon)
A ★★★★ review of The Big Snooze (1946)
Bob Clampett left Warner Bros right after making some of their best work, Draftee Daffy, Book Revue and of course The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, in fact he was already gone before most of them were released. His final completely cartoon, The Big Snooze, has some of his roughest and wildest imagery, t…
29/04/22 — The Big Snooze (1946, Robert Clampett)
A ★ review of Transylvania 6-5000 (1963)
This is only five years out from some of Chuck Jones’ best work, but theatrical cartoons had a long way to fall and at this points they’re near-impossible to distinguish from anything made for television. Compared to any half decent Looney Tunes short the pace here is monstrously slow, every awkward…
22/04/22 — Transylvania 6-5000 (1963, Chuck Jones)
A ★★★½ review of Tale of Tales (1979)
Tale of Tales (1979) is Yuri Norstein’s longest complete film—although his adaption of Gogol’s The Overcoat, which he has been working on since this, would be about sixty minutes if it’s ever finished (Norstein turned 80 last year)—a collection of fragments loosely connected by the wandering of a li…
02/04/22 — Tale of Tales (1979, Yuri Norstein)
A ★★½ review of The Game (1997)
This review may contain spoilers. Visit the page to bypass this warning and read the review.
15/03/22 — The Game (1997, David Fincher)
A ★★★ review of Porky’s Hare Hunt (1938)
The first appearance of Happy Rabbit who would later evolve into Bugs Bunny but here is much closer to a character director Ben Hardaway would later create with Walter Lantz: Woody Woodpecker. And like Woody, Happy is annoying, intentionally so, and Porky is such a non-entity that he’s obviously onl…
22/02/22 — Porky's Hare Hunt (1938, Ben Hardaway)

2021

A ★★★★ review of Screen Test: Bob Dylan (1965)
dylan’s a great subject for a screen test because of his lack of presence; he’s a very distant, ironic person - he’s given some of the strangest, worst live performances without blinking, and even his outbursts in don’t look back don’t feel very revealing. warhol casts his eyes, and just about only…
06/11/21 — Screen Test: Bob Dylan (1965, Andy Warhol)