My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.


The Survivor (2022)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

It feels like Barry Levinson hasn’t been in top form for a while, though I missed his Al Pacino collaborations and cannot speak to those. With The Survivor, we get glimpses of the director who made some unforgettable movies from the 80s and 90s, like an old fighter getting back in the ring who still has some good moves.

Levinson thankfully handles most of the Harry Haft story with a subtle touch. All of the scenes set in America are superbly crafted, beautiful to look at, and perfectly acted by well-picked cast. Ben Foster, an actor who gets a lot of praise but always seems showy to me, reins it in here and gives the best work I’ve seen him do. His tortured Holocaust survivor is a complicated character and Foster carefully weaves between guilt, grief, and moments of levity. Vicky Krieps, who broke out in Phantom Thread, continues to impress. She’s on track to be one of the finest performers in today’s cinema.

Unfortunately, I do not care for the way Levinson handles the Holocaust sequences. They’re shot in a stereotypical B&W, immediately recalling other (and better) depictions of this terrible period in history. But the real problem is that he loses that subtle touch, prefering a more stylized and over-dramaticized approach. The film would be stronger if these scenes didn’t exist at all or if they were just brief glimpses. As is, they take away from the masterful moments that recall Levinson’s best work.

Watched on HBO Max.


Salem’s Lot (1979)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

More than Poltergeist, Salem’s Lot shows that Tope Hooper wasn’t just a one-trick pony with Texas Chainsaw and that he was quite versatile within the horror genre.

This has been on my list for a while. The runtime was a little daunting and obviously it wasn’t originally intended to be watched as a feature film but it plays quite well as one. Recently programmed by Shudder, Hooper’s film is one of the better King adaptations, a slow building creepy tale that places more emphasis on characters than scares. There are, however, a few freaky moments that have stood the test of time. Others are unintentionally laughable but it doesn’t spoil the film which is anchored by a series of good performances, specifically James Mason, Bonnie Bedelia, and lead David Soul. It’s also nice to see some cameo roles by Hollywood veterans like Elisha Cook Jr. and Marie Windsor

It’s a true ensemble piece that Hooper handles with subtlety. This doesn’t at all feel like the same man who made Texas Chainsaw and that’s what is so impressive.

Watched on Shudder.


The River Wild (1994)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

We just didn’t realize how good we had it. In the 80s and early 90s, films like this were coming out all the time: solidly-written thrillers cast with actors who were better than the material and elevated it to another level, directed by craftsmen who still haven’t gotten the assessment they deserve. Films like this truly don’t exist today. The comparable modern versions have preposterous scripts, uneven or bland actors, and are directed by men/women who don’t seem to understand that filmmaking is a true craft.

There’s a lot to admire about Curtis Hanson’s The River Wild: a steady Streep, a fun and crazy Kevin Bacon, an impressive turn from David Strathairn, a good entertaining pace, striking location photography, and some incredible stunt work. That’s another big difference between films of that era and most of today, we can tell they’re actually going down the rapids and the creators do a near perfect job of switching between the actual cast and their stunt doubles.

Unfortunately, it gets a little too silly in the last third, abandoning the otherwise plausible plot for some unbelievable theatrics. However, it’s still as watchable as it was when I first saw it. In fact, I put it on right before I was about to go to sleep and stayed up an extra two hours because I couldn’t shut it off.

Watched on HBO Max.