Her

The first thing that must be clear about Her is that it is not satirical: its future is a believable take on a theme of hipster consumerism. Its people are realistically quirky. They are surrounded by fakery but they are not fake. They are peculiar and humane, rediscovering their spirits in a backwards world. Jonze excels at telling a story of us exaggerated into its essentials.

The Cloverfield Paradox

I have not in recent memory seen a film whose concept is more divergent from its filmmaking than The Cloverfield Paradox. It is a movie so dumbfoundingly predictable and yet so incomprehensible that it becomes meaningless even as an average film, a paradox only in the sense that its grand pretensions cannot occupy the same space as the need to connect a franchise that was never intended to be cohesive.

The Wailing (Gokseong)

Every frame of The Wailing wades into dream space and out again. Nature in it becomes a backdrop not just to a murder investigation but to the primordial evils of human emotion that would make such an investigation necessary to begin with. We never know if people murder each other because of the anger pent up in a demonic spirit or just the anger pent up in themselves.

Face/Off

The transition is over pretty quickly. Face/Off is not about change, but about how the face we have and the role we are given dictates how we act. As soon as the act of transferring one actor’s soul to the other’s body is complete in the mind of the audience, the only task remaining is all performance.

The African Queen

Movies of this kind had a habit of staging an adventure but keeping emotions safe and detached, with characters that went through the bother of dressing in jungle wear but without the bother of acting beyond their British parlors. But here Huston aims at unprecedented realism in confecting a gritty jungle for his two stars to get entangled in, particularly in the unsightly pairing of the two leads themselves, who at first seem no more compatible than they really would be.

Full Metal Jacket

It’s a film whose un-tempered acidity towards masculine hero types reads like the very bumper sticker philosophy it decries in every foul-tasting second of undeveloped action and bullet fragments of narrative. “God has a hard-on for marines,” the drill sergeant says. Kubrick has one for montages.

La Belle et La Bête (2014)

Christophe Gans admirably refers to Jean Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et La Bête while presenting a version of the fairytale that should read as authentic even to those who have only seen the Disney one. What he does not do is capture the original’s symbolic poetry or frame the old pieces in such a way that their retelling is a revelation.

Kubo and the Two Strings

By remaining outside after dark, Kubo invokes the inevitable quest for three sacred pieces of armor so that he may defeat the Moon King. Kubo weaves its story with the mythologist Joseph Campbell’s pattern, which he called the “monomyth,” by telling a story about a boy and his Mother as though it represented all boys and all Mothers.