Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson – 1995) B+

The first film by Wes Anderson is a delight. It has his signature quirkiness and some of the perfectly setup scenes but it really succeeds based on the charm of the leading character, Dignan, played by Owen Wilson. He is a screw up, a nutty dreamer but you love him and go along with the crazy plan to pull off a robbery. You know it’s probably going to blow up in everyone’s face but what the heck…he’s your buddy. There’s a sweet love story in there too between Luke Wilson’s character and the motel room cleaning lady. Sh speaks no English and the busboy has to be the go-between interpreter…it’s much funnier than it sounds.

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Moonlight (Barry Jenkins – 2016) A-

I’ve got no proof but i just know that Moonlight can be equally good with no dialogue. It would be great to watch with just the excellent soundtrack playing and nothing else. This one has one hell of an awesome score. It’s told in three chapters and is the story of Chiron, a gay black kid in Miami growing up with a junkie mom in a tough neighborhood. We see him as a kid in elementary school, a high schooler and then as a grown man. My favorite chapter is probably the first one with the perfectly portrayed relationship that grows between him and a gangster who becomes a father figure to him.

It (Andy Muschietti – 2017) A-

I grew up reading Stephen King and if i had to pick a favorite American author it would be him. I love his writing style and distinctly American characters with few exceptions (Dreamcatcher? Cell? oh boy…). The movies based on King’s novels though can be divided into 2 camps: garbage or really damn good. No real in-between. Too bad the majority fall in that first camp. So, i was very happy to see how good this adaptation of It turned out. The film gets it. It’s about the interaction of the characters, their friendship and childhood.

It’s an interesting decision to focus only on the children portion of the story as opposed to switching back and forth between the children and adults the way the book does. So, I am looking forward to Chapter II of It that will surely be done next year. Since it is only the first “half” of the huge novel, with the characters as children in Derry, Maine the actors have to be good. They are, all of them do a fantastic job here and they are all age-appropriate. We do not have any weird 20 somethings playing high schoolers. The demon-clown, Pennywise, is perfectly portrayed. His design, the drooling, his eyes and his shifting between menace and creepy friendly tone are all excellent. It’s really well made, with great direction and script and is a fantastic looking movie. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a good Salem’s Lot adaptation from Muschietti at some point too.

Burnt (John Wells – 2015) C

Over the top scenes and a real uneven character development in this one. It tries to be both a serious film about the obsession of the high-end cooking craft while also making a limp attempt at building a character with some background in substance abuse. Our anti-hero chef played by Bradley Cooper (doing a good job when not overacting) crashed, then shucked 1 million oysters as penance and now he is back to take the 3 stars. He is a hot head obviously but but very talented. His ex-dealer shows up twice for some money he owes him still. He takes digs at modernist cooking. Then he is convinced to start sous vide-ing some stuff, then not…He has a couple of blowups at the kitchen staff. He even has an archenemy played not so well by Mathew Rhys who runs his kitchen like a lab…which is bad I suppose. Still, I obviously like the topic and setting. It also has some good scenes in the restaurant kitchen and on the line.

Get Out (Jordan Peele – 2017) B+

What a good surprise from director Jordan Peele, half the comedy duo “Key and Peele”! Chris, an African American, is on his way with his white girlfriend to meet her parents for the first time. They are affluent, the own a lovely big house in the woods, they seem overly nice and her mom is a psychotherapist who practices hypnosis. What could possibly go wrong? What happens next is a mix of well-made thriller and social commentary. The plot might be preposterous but it works very well on both levels. Peele’s a good director, develops smart characters and creates an atmosphere that keeps us on edge from the moment the couple get on the road to the parents’ house till the crazy finale.

The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman – 1973) B-

Elliott Gould plays Marlowe as a chain-smoking, mumbling but very cool gum shoe detective. There is a case he is on involving his missing actor friend, a rich lady and her husband, a conspiracy with a psychiatrist but that’s besides the point. Altman’s film is all about the meandering detective, his hippie neighbors and his cat. It’s a coooool movie.

Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan – 2017) A-

On an IMAX screen this looks formidable and all-immersive as we follow three timelines leading up to the evacuations of British soldiers from Dunkirk during the early years of WWII. It opens with a spectacular shot of pamphlets falling from the sky letting the soldiers know that they are surrounded. That’s all we need to know. It ends with another great shot of a plane gently gliding and landing on a beach…yes this was made for a huge screen and it is worth it. We have a soldier on the beach, a fighter pilot providing some air cover in amazing dogfights and a small boat with a father and his son heading to help with the evacuations. War really sucks and we feel it in every moment here. Dialogue is sparse and the plot is very simple. The Germans bomb the beach, sink the ships from the air and from u-boats and there seems to be no way off.