Film Reviews : 2007

On the Aisle  Better than average
December 13, 2007

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

I left the movie musical Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street singing "I'm Bleedin' in the Rain." Times certainly have changed. ... more

I'm Not There  Very Good
December 6, 2007

Every once in a while a film comes along that puts a critic to the test. It reminds him that his usual approach may not always suffice. He'd better be open to new things -- otherwise he may perfunctorily dismiss anything that is beyond his usu ... more

Beowulf  Very Good
November 29, 2007

700 A.D. is now 21st Century American 3-D. It's a hell of a transformation.

As a would-be litterateur, I should be aghast at what has become of Beowulf, which was once the bane of English majors. At least some of us. But as a film fan ... more

Lions for Lambs  Awful
November 21, 2007

If Robert Redford had made Lions for Lambs 30 years ago, it would have been a sharper, smarter film.

But it's 2007, and Redford has turned 71. He is a businessman; he oversees the Sundance corporation -- "Get your t-shirt here." H ... more

American Gangster  Better than average
November 15, 2007

When American Gangster was announced, with actors Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott, it seemed like a can't miss project.

It missed.

It wasn't the fault of the cast. Denzel has two Oscars a ... more

No Country for Old Men  Classic
November 8, 2007

When you see No Country for Old Men, leave your preconceptions at home.

But bring your Alfred Hitchcock lenses. They're useful.

The viewer of No Country for Old Men has to fight through a potentially disconcerting end ... more

Michael Clayton  Better than average
October 25, 2007

George Clooney is Kentucky's answer to Cary Grant.

A George Clooney film is an exercise in style. It may be pungent style as in Good Night and Good Luck, splashy style as in Ocean's Pick-a-Number, or lame style as in The Good German. ... more

Into the Wild  Great
October 18, 2007

"Into The Wild" is a staggering motion picture.

Based on actual events, captured in book form by Jon Krakauer, "Into The Wild" has been made into a prayer of a motion picture by Sean Penn.

It may not touch everybody, but those whom it does ... more

In the Valley of Elah  Very Good
October 11, 2007

Going to a showing of In the Valley of Elah transports one back to the theaters of the 1970's or even 1960's.

The previews I saw before the feature were reminiscent of another time. They were previews of three movies that looked a ... more

On the Aisle  Watchable
October 4, 2007

Terrence Howard has starred in two major releases so far in 2007 -- The Brave One and The Hunting Party. Unfortunately the films are not as good as the performances he gave in them.

There are a lot of movies that don't deliver ... more

Feast of Love  Badly flawed
September 27, 2007

Sometimes I wish I were Pete Hammond of Maxim magazine. Well, not really. But gushing over everything has served PH splendidly. When you open your newspaper or watch TV, in the ads, Hammond is hysterically positive about six or seven movies ... more

Rush Hour 3  Watchable
September 23, 2007

This has been a great summer for movies -- one of the best ever.

Some movies that have excelled in one way or another are The Bourne Identity, Ratatouille, Live Free or Die Hard, The Transformers, and Harry Potter

and the Order of th ... more

Eastern Promises  Very Good
September 20, 2007

Violence has always been a popular staple of the movies. When violence starts to lose its potency, there always seems to be a creative director to bring it back to vibrant life. Arthur Penn in Bonnie & Clyde (1967), Sam Peckinpah in The Wild Bun ... more

3:10 to Yuma  Exemplary
September 13, 2007

When It first was announced that there was going to be a remake of 3:10 to Yuma, it seemed like a really bad idea. 3:10 to Yuma was a very good western... in 1957. But in 2007 the western genre seemed comatose.

There were a few ... more

Resurrecting the Champ  Watchable
September 6, 2007

Resurrecting the Champ is a movie I was going to recommend. It was contrived and dopey, but it seemed like pleasant entertainment. Then came the terrible last ten minutes when it casts itself on the rancid junk heap of hokum.

Resur ... more

Hairspray  Watchable
August 30, 2007

I don't know what all the fuss is about. Lots of folks are raving about Hairspray. It received a 93 percent favorable rating from critics, compiled on Rottentomatoes.com. And audiences are dancing up to the candy counter for Mashed Potatoes. ... more

Short Takes  Very Good
August 16, 2007

La Vie en Rose is a film for lovers. Despite focusing on French singer Edith Piaf’s tortured life, the biopic has a romantic heart. We see Edith evolve from a street singer who is discovered by a club owner to her debut in a music hall. Unti ... more

Ratatouille  Great
August 9, 2007

When is a rat a lark? When he's created by Brad Bird. Brad Bird, the animation maestro from Pixar, invents a spunky, gourmet rodent in the lively, spicy romp Ratatouille.

Bird, who wrote and directed The Incredibles, is in savory command in th ... more

On the Aisle  Great
August 2, 2007

Jason Bourne is so cool.

In The Bourne Ultimatum, the intrepid rogue agent continues on his heady spree of action and intrigue. He's always on the run, and always in trouble.

Jason Bourne makes a motorcycle dance, drives a car off ... more

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  Exemplary
July 26, 2007

Who is David Yates? If you don't know, don't worry, nobody does. He's a director. He directed the unabashedly liberal movie, The Girl in the Cafe (2005) with Bill Nighy, which was on HBO. It's a charming pie-in-the-sky movie.

So?

Until ... more

Transformers  Very Good
July 19, 2007

Usually summer brings disappointments at the movies -- overhyped underachievements, such as Bad Boys II or Poseidon or Miami Vice.

But in 2007, one week has restored summer fun to the movies. Two movies -- released within a week of one another ... more

Live Free or Die Hard  Very Good
July 13, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard is an over-the-top, fun rampage.

Moviegoers often have to suspend their disbelief to relate to a movie. They have to accept the unbelievable, even, at times, the ridiculous, to enjoy themselves. But the movie has to e ... more

Evening  Badly flawed
July 5, 2007

What's the difference between slasher films and chick flicks? In slasher films they suffer less, and they die quicker. Evening, bless its banal heart, is a chick flick in all its fatuous glory.

Evening has a stellar cast, which includes some o ... more

The Sopranos
June 21, 2007

David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, is my hero. He is under attack for his controversial final episode of the HBO series. Like a politician who tells the truth, he is being savaged by those who have simpler agendas.

They want easy answers; t ... more

Knocked Up  Watchable
June 14, 2007

Knocked Up is like a Hallmark Greeting Card with crude verse.

Knocked Up is an uneasy mix of ethnic humor, slacker humor, and human drama -- some is amusing, some is indulgent, and some is strained.

It has been immensely well-received ... more

CineVegas question and answer sessions  Badly flawed
June 14, 2007

So far I've attended Q&A sessions after three movies. They may be instructive.

The small theater was about half-filled for the showing of Bad Habits. The same theater had more of an audience for Loren Cass.

A la ... more

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End  Better than average
June 7, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: at World's End is a hearty, bumpy sea marathon. For some, it will be a fun ride; for others, it will be an ordeal. I'm somewhere in between.

It's surely an endurance test. At the length of two hours and 47 minutes, it ... more

CineVegas Blowout!  Badly flawed
June 4, 2007

Bad Habits

In Bad Habits (Malos Habitos), a reporter on TV says, “Mexico is drowning.” It rains relentlessly throughout the film, creating a mood of gloom and helplessness. The characters are also d ... more

Shred the Third  Watchable
June 1, 2007

Shrek the Third has the curse of the third in a bankable series. It is too often sappy, tiresome, and overblown.

A franchise such as Shrek, with all the money it has accumulated, should be able to buy a little freshness and originality. But in ... more

Fracture  Watchable
May 17, 2007

When you see a lot of movies, you fervently hope they won't blow it at the end. There's a legion of movies that are fine until the moment of truth, and then they collapse or turn mediocre. Sometimes they just end.

One of my favorite movies tha ... more

Lucky You  Better than average
May 10, 2007

I don't think I believed the movie Lucky You, but I sort of enjoyed it.

A caveat: I enjoy watching poker on ESPN. If you don't, this movie will bore you.

Set in Las Vegas, Lucky You is a relationship movie, but that damned poker keeps gett ... more

Spider-Man 3  Very Good
May 3, 2007

You know that the third Spider-Man had to be bigger. The third movie in a franchise goes for broke.

And Spider-Man 3 is bigger, if not better. It's overdone, overlong, and overplotted. It's all over the place.

This does not mean Spider-Man 3 ... more

Disturbia  Very Good
April 26, 2007

"Disturbia" is a well-made, very entertaining thriller.

It shouldn't be. Reflecting Alfred Hitchcock, it should be just another in a long line of Hitch wannabe retreads.

But it's much better than that. "Disturbia" -- a contrivance ... more

The Hoax  Very Good
April 12, 2007

The Hoax is the real thing.

It's a breezy, engaging caper. It's like a heist film of the 1970s, but the pilferers are literary men not bank robbers.

Set in the early '70s, The Hoax rediscovers one of the essential themes of that era -- it ... more
The Lookout  Exemplary
April 5, 2007

The best young actor in movies today may well be Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

A few people may remember him from his five-year stint (1996-2001) as adolescent Tommy Solomon on the television situation comedy Third Rock from the Sun.

A few ... more

Reign Over Me  Watchable
March 29, 2007

Reign Over Me is like spending two hours with a shrink.

Self-absorbed and repetitive, it has an occasional moment of truth, and a lot of hot air.

Actors Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler provide the occasional moments of truth and writer-di ... more

300  Watchable
March 22, 2007

300 is a fun-fest of blood, mayhem, and absurdity.

At its best, it is entertaining; when it's not at its best, it's pretty dumb. It's pretty dumb much of the time.

300's best qualities are the CGI -- vivid, imaginative, monumental batt ... more

Zodiac  Great
March 15, 2007

Zodiac is a thinking person's film. It isn't a mass audience movie.

Although it received an 85 from critics as compiled by Rottentomatoes, Zodiac opened weaker than expected at the box office.

Audiences expecting Zodiac to be a cacklin ... more

The Astronaut Farmer  Watchable
March 8, 2007

The Astronaut Farmer is one of those movies that you don't believe for a moment while you're watching it, but you leave with a warm glow. But by the time you've driven home, you realize you've been conned.

It's one of those synthetic-looki ... more

Ghost Rider  Better than average
March 1, 2007

Seeing Ghost Rider is like going to Saturday matinee serials at the Rialto eons ago.

It's a fanciful, puerile experience -- a fun day out for 9-year olds. Ghost Rider is a ridiculous melange of cheesy effects, talentless extras, corny plot a ... more

Because I Said So  Awful
February 15, 2007

There are chick flicks and upchuck flicks. The movie Because I Said So is an upchuck chick flick.

In Because I Said So, Diane Keaton gives the worst performance of her storied career. She goes to the head of the line as contender for a Razzie ... more

Catch and Release  Watchable
February 8, 2007

Don't worry, Ben. Your marriage to Jennifer is still safe.

"Catch and Release," Jennifer Garner's latest film, will not cause Ben Affleck any husband-envy. It's a harmless romantic comedy that will garner Garner no awards and middling succ ... more

Pan's Labyrinth  Better than average
February 1, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth is a punishing, evocative poem. It is part ferocious reality and part fearful fantasy.

Endangered children is a staple of television, but it's still somewhat of a rarity in major movies. But three successful movies in 2006 ... more

Letters from Iwo Jima  Great
January 25, 2007

Letters from Iwo Jima Destined to Become a Classic

The most important film of 2006 was Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima."

The year 2006 will enable director Marty Scorsese to win his first Oscar (for directing "The Depart ... more

Children of Men  Better than average
January 11, 2007

Children of Men is a glorious mess. It's a Frankenstein monster of a movie. Part sci-fi, part thriller, part action genre, part religious allegory, it flays and lumbers after meaning-- sending off occasional sparks of style.

Concocted by direc ... more

The Good German  Awful
January 4, 2007

The Good German is the bad movie.

Except for the ambience -- the look of the film -- it stumbles awkwardly on every level.

In The Good German, director Steven Soderbergh tries to pay homage to the old black-and-white movies of the ... more


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