Scarface (1983, Directed by Brian De Palma) English 8

Starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, F. Murray Abraham

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Antonio Montana (Pacino), a Cuban refugee arrives in 1980s Miami committed to making a name for himself. And, with loyal companion, Manolo (Bauer) always at his side, the epic rise and fall of Tony Montana is chronicled in lavish, often explicit detail. Pacino’s Tony swaggers through the picture, snorting cocaine, making threats, spouting ridiculously quotable maxims at every turn, and his demise is as glorious as his road to power. Tony is an iconic and classic character that many will see as too much. Pacino eschews the less is more model he employed to perfection with his earlier characters like Michael Corleone, and instead devours the scenery. Director Brian De Palma is a wizard with a camera and manages to fill each frame with scenery that is suitably big enough for Tony to occupy and not overshadow. The supporting cast is good too, notably Pfieffer looking beautiful, unobtainable, and perennially bored.

Psychokinesis (2018, Directed by Yeon Sang-ho) Korean 5

Starring Ryu Seung-ryo, Jung Yu-mi, Park Jung-min, Shim Eun-kyung

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A thoroughly average man (Seung-ryo) working as a security guard mysteriously gains telepathic powers just as he’s reunited with the daughter he abandoned years ago. Initially, he uses the powers to make a quick buck as an illusionist, but he soon pushes his ability to the limit once he finds his daughter wrapped up in a serious battle against a corrupt corporation. It’s a unique take on the superhero genre, but ultimately lacks a compelling protagonist to make the action exciting. The average middle aged man hero is a nice idea, but here, he really is too average. He never comes across as a unique personality. There are some memorable moments, and the over-arching villain, or villainess, Director Hong (Yu-mi), steals the show. Unfortunately, she’s not in it more, and gets no significant closure in the story.

The Snowman (2017, Directed by Tomas Alfredson) English 4

Starring Michael Fassbender, J.K Simmons, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rebecca Ferguson, Val Kilmer

Something about me: A murder mystery has to be extremely bad for me not to enjoy, and so, full disclosure: I was entertained for much of this 8% on Rotten Tomatoes travesty. Michael Fassbender stars as Harry Hole, the lead detective from a series of novels by Jo Nesbo, this time out chasing a serial killer who stalks wanton women and leaves snowmen as his calling card. The tone is lifeless, Val Kilmer’s brief role is bizarre (his dialogue is dubbed over), the mystery reveal is contrived, as all mysteries are, but generally with more skill, and there is a whole segment of the film (a side-plot, I guess) that’s left completely unanswered. I believe the director when he says that a large chunk of the film’s script was unshot due to budget concerns and lack of time. The Snowman is, at times, skillfully made, but the lack of coherence makes the central gimmick come off as silly rather than scary. Overall, I’d say The Snowman is in need of a director’s cut that unfortunately will never come.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017, Directed by Kenneth Branagh) English 6

Starring Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley

A man, who turns out to be a violent and repulsive criminal, is found dead in his locked room aboard the Orient Express, a train travelling from Turkey to Europe. Unfortunately for the killer, Hercule Poirot is also on the train, and, in his own words, he is probably the greatest detective ever. It’s a classic whodunit scenario: everyone’s a suspect, lots of red herrings. As the second major adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, after Sidney Lumet’s star-studded take on the material, Branagh’s film follows much of the same formula: a cast full of A-listers with luxuriant art direction and beautiful visuals to bolster Christie’s incredibly clever murder mystery. This film succeeds on many of those same notes: it is truly a gorgeous film, the cast is well-matched to their roles, and the technical skill of the production team is plainly on display at every turn. The main issue here is that it is a whodunit in which I already know the solution (from reading the novel and seeing the previous film adaptation). Branagh does his best to alter the material just enough to feel fresh without being unfaithful to the material. He adds some depth to his understated take on Christie’s greatest detective. I liked his performance. He also adds two red herrings to the story, to some effect, but mainly this film feels too much like a cover band. It’s fine, but not completely necessary.

American Made (2017, Directed by Doug Liman) English 6

Starring Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domnhall Gleeson, Lola Kirke, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones

Barry Seal, a TWA pilot in the ’70s, spirals into the ’80s as a gun and drug runner for the CIA, Pablo Escobar, and much of Central America. I knew none of this, and as a story, apparently true, I found it fascinating. As a movie, I found it competently done, but rather safe. Tom Cruise plays Seal, and he still has enough star power and charisma to guide us along the course of the film. I feel American Made aimed for some of that Wolf of Wall Street chaotic, stranger-than-fiction true story energy and it only partly comes off. It’s a good film, but not one you need to see twice.