Kaboom (2010, Gregg Araki) [NO]
This farcical college sci-fi about cults and sex and roommates is dreadful stuff that really feels like the fantasy ravings of an out-of-touch Gen X guy trying to be “with it” among the Youths. It’s badly acted, horribly written, incompetently plotted, full of smug, self-congratulatory “comedy,” basically has no redeeming qualities apart from being supposedly progressive.
Kelly’s Heroes (1970, Brian G. Hutton) [NO]
* If I had Clint Eastwood, Carroll O’Connor, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, and Donald Sutherland at my disposal to make a World War II action film, even without a script I can tell you mine would be a lot more fun than this. Do you know how fucking long this movie is? You don’t want to.
The Kennel Murder Case (1933, Michael Curtiz) [r]
William Powell as Philo Vance injects a bizarrely wonderful performance into this charming but fairly routine whodunit. Curtiz does deliver the thing with considerable style, but even he had to know how much his lead actor was carrying the film.
Kentucky (1938, David Butler) [r]
Entertaining but extremely predictable Technicolor horse racing movie from Fox about a long-running feud between two families dating back to the Civil War and how politics and romance in their periphery gets swept into the Kentucky Derby. Walter Brennan won the supporting actor Oscar but he’s really the star, channeling Lionel Barrymore as a crotchety old man who knows horses back to front. Loretta Young is MVP, sublime and believable throughout, managing to even get a sensual first kiss out of the impossibly bland Richard Greene.
The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977, John Landis) [hr]
* It’s just a bunch of random vignettes, yes, but most of them are wonderful. They range in length from a few seconds to half an hour or so and manage a surprisingly high batting average, higher even than Woody Allen’s similar Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.
Key Largo (1948, John Huston) [hr]
The stars play themselves, the storm does its thing, there are slow spots and everything is a little clumsily staged but this is nevertheless lots of fun, with Edward G. Robinson (truly menacing) and his gang of cronies holding a handful of innocents captive inside a Keys hotel during a hurricane. Huston’s great appeal as a director is that he doesn’t flinch before extremes, and this film takes several violent turns that are unnerving and gripping even seen with modern eyes. It’s not top caliber film noir but it’s compelling and ferocious.
The Kid (1921, Charles Chaplin) [hr]
Chaplin’s proper debut feature, wherein he’s still thinking in two-reeler logic, is the sentimentalist predecessor to the likes of The Champ. It peaks with a chase sequence that’s undoubtedly one of the most suspenseful pieces of film ever edited together, culminating in a cathartic reunion that will affect you. The suspicion toward institutions is remarkably subversive, the Tramp and Jackie Coogan are a great criminal team, and I don’t have to tell you it’s very funny and sad — for the most part, without overreaching.
The Kids Are All Right (2010, Lisa Cholodenko)
On the basis of its premise (two children of a lesbian couple set out to find their biological sperm donor dad and try to include him in the family goings-on) this should be an appealingly progressive American film, but in fact it’s a relatively conventional romcom with a bit of a mean streak, creating uneven sympathies and counter-intuitively lumpy characterizations. Performances are uniformly great, though.
The Kid with a Bike (2011, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne) [r]
A beautifully acted, enveloping Paris movie doing its best (and failing) to be about childhood more than it’s about Paris. Many found its heart-tugging sentiment deeply affecting; it all just seems so minimal and simple to me, with some TV special moralizing — but look, I don’t have children, and I think Bicycle Thieves is overrated, so listen to that 87 on Metacritic before you listen to me.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003, Quentin Tarantino) [NO]
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004, Quentin Tarantino) [NO]
Oh, I could complain, but this is about what you’d expect. It’s not for me, and in fact I find it bafflingly annoying, but any capsule I could write wouldn’t be particularly helpful. I had an opinion of these films after seeing a couple of minutes of Vol. 2 and it turns out I was right before ever having seen the rest. Not my scene. I’m gonna go take a shower.
Killer Joe (2011, William Friedkin) [NO]
For people who don’t find reality television nearly trashy and soul-crushing enough, this deplorable life-hating nonsense.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988, Stephen Chiodo) [c]
* I like the theme song and some of the designs are fun, but you already know the plot before you see it, and I have this suspicion that whatever ingenuity there may be in the device, it could find a better outlet.
Killer’s Kiss (1955, Stanley Kubrick)
The first movie Kubrick admitted to making, this bizarre, cheap, poorly acted, awkward B-grade noir achieves some success as a series of striking shots that could just as well be stills. You can’t look at this side by side with, for instance, Sweet Smell of Success and doubt its authenticity. But plainly, the visuals have almost nothing to do with Kubrick’s story (boxer / woman / jealous manager / ruffians / train tickets / cops).
The Killing (1956, Stanley Kubrick) [A+]
Even Kubrick-haters admit this is a fun movie. His first major project follows various characters (crooks) through the story of a scam at a racetrack. Full of inventive ideas and deliciously weird characters, this remains a unique film that deservedly kick-started the director’s career.
The Killing Fields (1984, Roland Joffé) [r]
Sociopolitically sound, busy, complicated odyssey of Cambodia in the 1970s follows two journalists covering the Khmer Rouge massacre for the New York Times, one portrayed by Haing S. Ngor and the other by Sam Waterston. Both actors are excellent. The film is immaculately directed and harrowingly realistic, and stark and unsentimental enough to have aged quite well, though your response will vary based on how you feel about Mike Oldfield’s extremely conspicuous score.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017, Yorgos Lanthimos) [r]
Lanthimos’ skewed look at modern dating in The Lobster is now joined by his take on parenthood, with Colin Farrell leading a deliberately frozen, awkward cast as a doctor whose attempts to make amends for a botched surgery have put a curse upon his family. Funny and uncomfortable, though a lot of its story threads feel like dead ends. Barry Keoghan is perfect as the world’s most unsettlingly mundane supervillain.
Killing Them Softly (2012, Andrew Dominik) [r]
A mountain of organized crime clichés (with both Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini in the cast!) set against sledgehammer sociopolitical messaging and a painfully earnest level of forced irony (you see, America is actually… a business!), all dumb to the point that it’s kind of delightful, in a premium cable 4:00am sort of way, with clumsy but occasionally inspired direction and an almost Ed Wood-like sense of budget-imposed isolation.
Kindergarten Cop (1990, Ivan Reitman) [NO]
* Yet another attempt by Ahnuld to craft a winning comedy with director Reitman, but how much can you say about a film in which the star is upstaged by a bunch of six year-olds? This might have worked with a different cast and a lot of retooling, but as it stands it’s cynical, contemptuous junk.
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949, Robert Hamer) [A+]
Dennis Price is a sweet-natured young man who, avenging the death of his mother, decides to murder every member of the D’Ascoyne family (all eight of them played by Alec Guinness) that has denied him the title of Duke. This is the way black comedy should be and indeed the way movies should be. The exhaustively well-crafted, hilarious screenplay is layered with true character depth, story sophistication and emotional intricacy.
The King (2017, Eugene Jarecki) [r]
A touching, unfocused by its own admission, and ultimately very fair-minded look at Elvis Presley’s long-term effects on American culture. Lots of interviews, some OK, a few exceptional (Chuck D above all), and a sweeping look at a deeply troubled nation.
The King and I (1956, Walter Lang)
Deborah Kerr has trouble dealing with Yul Brynner while she teaches his kids even though he makes her hot like only Yul Brynner can so she sings about it. Like most Fox musicals from the period, a dull film that tries to compensate with lavish production design, its staid romantics so subtle as to scarcely exist. Jerome Robbins, credited prominently for his choreography, only gets to exhibit his talents in two all-too-brief sequences.
King Kong (1933, Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack) [hr]
A big loud emphatic “yes!”; American mythology of the best variety. Fabulously visceral, eclectic, and exciting, this Frankenstein variation is among the few Hollywood films completely aware of the fact that you simply can’t go too far. Violent, wonderfully violent, and as fun and devastating as they come. Genuinely grand entertainment that has aged incredibly well despite cardboard characters and a more than slightly racist premise. You’re well aware that the ape is stop motion, but it doesn’t fucking matter.
King Kong (2005, Peter Jackson) [r]
Remarkably enough, Jackson creates a solid remake here that doesn’t ruin or taint the original, nor does it even try to compare itself to it much less match it. The wonder of the original Kong — and it still is among the few films that really can evoke sheer wonder — will never be duplicated, but Jackson can certainly make a massive, evocative Hollywood movie that approaches the tirelessly inventive spirit of the original film. At over three hours, this is basically just Jackson having the time of his life, but luckily, we do too.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007, Seth Gordon) [hr]
A perpetual second-place near-misser like Daniel Johnston with better counseling and a hot sauce-peddling arrogant asshole vie for the completely worthless title of Donkey Kong World Champion at and in between a number of conventions and gatherings (theoretically, at least), and the result has the astounding surreal-life insanity of P.T. Barnum crossed with the Coen brothers and Sinclair Lewis, except it’s all true. However you feel about the thirtysomething guys who still hang out in the arcade around the corner, you will never look at them the same way.
The King of Marvin Gardens (1972, Bob Rafelson)
Disappointing rehash of Five Easy Pieces with the same director and lead actor, unfortunately cluttered here by the presence of Bruce Dern as radio personality Jack Nicholson’s screwed up scam-artist brother. What should be an absorbing dynamic leads to a series of disconnected scenes that are stilted and curiously muted. It’s beautifully photographed by Laszlo Kovacs and Nicholson’s performance is admirably restrained but the film takes low-key to such a Robert Altman-like extreme that it quickly grows dull and ineffective. Not even Ellen Burstyn, going for Karen Black but hitting her broad Requiem for a Dream note, can rescue it.
King of the Hill (1993, Steven Soderbergh) [hr]
* If you know Soderbergh only for his indie triumphs or his sassy Hollywood films, you’re in for quite a treat with this spectacularly rich, detailed document of Depression coping. A young boy is left alone in the depths of the crisis, and this incredibly powerful movie documents his survival. Stunning, disturbing at times, but completely fascinating.
King Ralph (1991, David S. Ward) [NO]
* Poor John Goodman is stuck in a boring movie about an extremely distant relative of the royal family ascending to the throne when they all die. Every single miserable joke (“spotted dick”?) in this awful movie is almost scientifically flat. The title sequence is amusing, though.
King Solomon’s Mines (1950, Andrew Marton & Compton Bennett) [r]
The usual flagrantly racist Trader Horn African safari nonsense, but with above-par performances by Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr, and the MGM production team delivering some remarkable images of not just wild animals cavorting gorgeously in the African plains but of genuine indigenous dances and culture seldom captured on film (though far be it from me to make claim that it was ethical for MGM to be the ones to package all this for American consumption). Plus its adventure episodes are consistently exciting and look flawless thanks to cinematographer Robert Surtees. Problematic as all get-out, no question, but solidly entertaining in its fashion.
Kings Row (1942, Sam Wood) [r]
Batshit Warner Bros. soaper is a forerunner to lurid suburban dramas like Peyton Place. It opens with the carousing of a quintet of heavily emotional children, but Wood rapidly steers away from sentimentality and ramps up the interpersonal hypocrisy with a pair of tragedies anchored by the violent actions of insane doctors. No, really. With a wacky star-studded cast, William Cameron Menzies’ production design and Bob Burks’ photography, and a completely unpredictable multi-conflict structure, you can interpret it as terrible kitchen-sink stuff or as a grand yarn-spin, and either way you’re basically correct.
The King’s Speech (2010, Tom Hooper) [r]
Myopic bit of Oscar-beloved history boasts credible performances (especially by Helena Bonham Carter as the future Queen Mum) and an appealingly streamlined, simple plot. Tracking King George VI’s overcoming of a speech impediment just in time to announce a whole bunch of people were about to be killed in yet another war, it’s a “triumph,” I guess. As period films and biopics go, though, this is cotton candy — focused and expressive.
Kinsey (2004, Bill Condon) [r]
The story of Alfred J. Kinsey, father of the sexual revolution, as portrayed with zest and nuance by Liam Neeson. With this cast and this subject matter, this could hardly have sucked (and nobody minds seeing Peter Sarsgaard making out with another man), but it’s a bit too clinical (!), and not as exploitative of the storytelling possibilities here as one might have hoped. It’s sort of biopic-by-numbers.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005, Shane Black) [hr]
Superb modern noir comedy is largely a showcase for Robert Downey Jr. at his wisecracking best. Plotty but delicious.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955, Robert Aldrich) [hr]
A film noir from 1955 directed by Robert Aldrich. You’ll love it. Try not to read anything else about it, not that I’m suggesting there’s any more to it than that; there’s not. That’s really all it is, just your everyday run-of-the-mill film noir. Just fun, I promise. Nothing else to it. Enjoy!
Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985, Hector Babenco) [r]
Intriguing melodrama about a gay man (William Hurt) and a political prisoner (Raul Julia) living as cellmates in South America, building mutual trust despite potentially damaging secrets between them, makes an ideal antidote to the hatred and homophobia of Midnight Express, even if Hurt’s performance falls back too often on stereotypes, while Julia delivers dignity, enigma and compassion in a far more nuanced role. A low-budget, mostly forgotten oddity with shreds of majesty.
Kiss the Girls (1997, Gary Felder) [c]
* I’m not going to try and tell you that James Patterson’s work is ripe for cinematic interpretation, but at least someone could have worked out a more convincing film than this, particularly with Morgan Freeman onboard as Patterson’s hot detective Alex Cross. This is a great idea for a popcorn movie that just sits there, remaining almost mysteriously unignited.
Kitty Foyle (1940, Sam Wood) [r]
Dalton Trumbo-scripted portrait of an independent “white collar girl,” from Christopher Morley’s unusually frank novel, comes down mostly to watching Ginger Rogers wisecrack winningly while choosing between a couple of absolute cads, one of whom may respect her slightly more than the other. There’s the occasional wisp of heartbreak and depth, but all of the minor female characters — Kitty’s roommates and the woman whose home she eventually considers wrecking — are more engaging than the love interests.
Klute (1971, Alan J. Pakula)
Gorgeously photographed (by Gordon Willis) neo-noir attempts a portrait of urban discontent: working girl Jane Fonda is being spied on by a private detective (Donald Sutherland, in an inexcusably zombielike performance) who’s on the trail of a disappeared friend, once apparently a customer of hers. The story is too poorly set up (and wound down) to do anything with the potential of this basic idea thanks to an idiotic script and bad performances.
The Knack, and How to Get It (1965, Richard Lester) [hr]
One thing’s for sure: no one will ever complain about the pacing in this film. Rapid-fire, half-insane comedy with ample visual ingenuity offers more thrills for those who love Lester’s two Beatles movies (he made it between them). The story of a young man’s jealousy of his womanizing neighbor doesn’t really have anywhere to go, but you will have the time of your life getting there anyway.
Knife in the Water (1962, Roman Polanski) [r]
A quarreling bourgeois couple go on a weekend trip in a sailboat; just beforehand, they pick up an idealistic hitchhiker who is constantly wielding a knife. Thereafter, Polanski — in his directorial debut — spends an hour and a half holding that knife over the viewer, preparing them for the worst, for that which seems inevitable. It never drops. Instead, the movie is not actually a thriller but a heady drama about masculine identity. Proceed at your own risk.
Knight of Cups (2015, Terrence Malick) [NO]
This insulting display of Hallmark card platitudes overlaying hazy cinematography of nothing much seems to intimate that there’s no bottom to how cheap and insipid a once-great filmmaker’s work can come to be if he approaches it with sufficient laziness.
Knives Out (2019, Rian Johnson) [r]
Crafty, frothy if excessively talky whodunit takes the bold structural leap of showing all its cards early on and allowing the suspense of the given scenario to play out, with a few handy plot devices sufficiently original that their contrivances don’t really hurt. As with so many stories in this genre, there are too many characters for any of them to make a huge impression, even the nurse Marta so compellingly played by Ana de Armas who’s the prime reason this isn’t a straight comedy. Only Christopher Plummer is given a lot to bite into with the aged author whose death sets the plot into motion; you come away wishing for more of him.
Knocked Up (2007, Judd Apatow) [r]
A pretty depressing step down from The 40 Year Old Virgin with all its hyperdumb, sweaty “bro” masculinity — but also a perceptive and telling, not to mention well-acted, comedy that does a decent job of getting across the ache that can accompany overgrown adolescence sometimes (but not often enough).
Komeda, Komeda… (2012, Natasza Ziólkowska-Kurczuk)
Competent but rudimentary talking-head documentary about the composer Krzysztof Komeda is included on Criterion’s release of Rosemary’s Baby, and — shot on video with out-of-place bits of animation — it just feels like a lengthy DVD extra, though it apparently did play a couple of film festivals. You do get a decent snapshot of the Polish jazz scene of the late ’50s and early ’60s, and some fine clips of work he did with the likes of Wajda and Polanski, but overall there’s surprisingly little music, and not much that feels sensory or that makes a strong enough case for its subject, who died very early in his career scoring films.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979, Robert Benton) [r]
Dustin Hoffman is heartbreaking in this beautifully shot, funny but sappy and sporadically resonant drama about a divorced dad taking care of his young son while attempting to straighten out his own life. Likable enough film is marred considerably by the poor characterization of the estranged wife played by Meryl Streep; her one-note performance is knee-deep in pop psychology, to the end that this is a merely decent film that must be seen for Hoffman’s revelatory work.
Kung-Fu Master! (1988, Agnès Varda)
When this really leans into the uncomfortable absurdity of its premise — Jane Birkin is a divorced MILF who attempts an affair with gum-chewing, cigaratte-smoking prepubescent Mathieu Demy who prefers playing video games — it’s great, as close as Varda made to a Todd Solondz movie. But I can’t figure out for the life of me why she turns it into L’Avventura during the last third, or why anyone within the film’s narrative thinks that particular turn is a good idea. The kids, hired on essentially for their family connections, effortlessly upstage Birkin who doesn’t have much of a handle on the character, but to be fair, neither does the script.
Kung Fu Panda (2008, Mark Osborne & John Stevenson) [r]
I’m not normally big on DreamWorks’ animated films, but even I have to admit I laughed more at this than I did at WALL-E — and felt far less manipulated.
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002, Steve Oedekirk) [NO]
Oh my god, this guy isn’t funny, and it’s not even as bad as some of his other work. God help us if he now decides to bring us his revision of Annie Hall.