Predator (John McTiernan, tktk) (v) (r) ** - Truly, a strange movie: the sci-fi actioner that pares itself down as it goes along, so that the last act - far from being an fx-extravaganza - is a nearly naked Schwarzenegger playing boy scout in the jungle.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Gavin Hood, 2009) (v) * - I really like the second string Marvel movies, especially when I catch them on cable TV: they tend to keep things simple and have the easy-going feel of solid B-movies. From that angle, the problem with Wolverine is that it tries to hard and too many moving parts (all those characters, all that mythology). From another angle, though, it doesn't try hard enough: more visually imaginative filmmakers could have gotten a lot out of Frank Miller's Lone Wolf and Cub-inspired take on the character as a modern samurai. The movie ends up being enjoyable to watch, but disappointing and depressing to think about afterwards (not unlike the recent Star Trek thing).
Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009) (v) (r) ***
Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson, 1945) (v) (r) ***
Return of the Living Dead (Dan O'Bannon, 1985) (v) (r) **** - My favorite 1980s splatterstick movie.
The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963) (v) (r) ** - Big-budget, big-production version of a Val Lewton movie shows that Wise hadn't forgotten everything that he learned. Cinephile that I am, I prefer the more subtle touch of the Lewton films, but appreciate that this one towers over most of the ghost movies that have come after.
Man in the Shadows (Kent Jones, 2007) (v) *** - A lot of the time, these filmmaker-centric documentaries will be informative, without ever really seeming necessary, but Kent Jones' look at Val Lewton's horror films is a great piece of criticism and a very good movie in its own right, particularly in the way Jones builds his argument more through how he orchestrates images from Lewton's films than through the voice-over narration.
(v) = Seen on home video (dvd, dvr, etc.).
(r) = Not my first viewing.
(s) = Short film.
Star system ("borrowed" from the Chicago Reader)
No stars = Not recommended
* = Redeeming feature(s)
** = Recommended
*** = Highly recommended
**** = "Masterpiece"
***** = A place in my personal pantheon