Film Reviews : 2010

The Company Men  Better than average
December 28, 2010

The Company Men could well be the poster movie of 2010.

Like so many movies this year, it has great possibilities, but ultimately falters and coasts into easy commerciality. The Company Men is better acted than directed, and ... more

Winter's Bone  Exemplary
December 16, 2010

Winter's Bone is as quiet as a snake.

As it slithers into our consciousness, we are not sure what danger it embodies. What is hidden in the rural Ozarks of Missouri?

Winter's Bone is a chilling and challenging ... more

The Fighter  Badly flawed
December 13, 2010

A 3-ring circus goes to Lowell, Massachusetts, in The Fighter. Based on actual events, this circus is mayhem.

In the main ring are the daredevils, led by junior welterweight boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg).

... more

True Grit  Watchable
December 11, 2010

The Dude ain't no Duke.

In the Coen Brothers' True Grit, Jeff Bridges portrays Rooster Cogburn -- a role for which John Wayne won his sole acting Oscar for his perform ... more

The Black Swan  Watchable
December 6, 2010

The Black Swan is balletic and bombastic. It soars and bumbles, pirouettes and postures. It fights a featherweight war with heavyweight pretensions.

The war is in the mind and body of a young prima ballerina Nina (the not-so-young 2 ... more

The King's Speech  Exemplary
December 5, 2010

This year wit has been in short supply at the movies. Actually it's been in short supply in the whole country.

From England comes some replenishment. The King's Speech offers a much-needed dose of wit. It's a clever and ... more

Four Lions  Badly flawed
December 4, 2010

Four Lions is a wayward, fitful attempt at incisive comedy.

Finding humor in Four Lions is like searching for a weapon of destruction in Iraq -- where is it? Relating Four Lions to the brilliant Dr. Strangelove ... more

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1  Better than average
November 27, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 plunges into a very dark, foreboding, disorienting vision.

It furiously teleports us to various bleak and alienating mise-en-scenes, to prepare us for the big finale of Part 2 next summer ... more

127 Hours  Great
November 23, 2010

127 Hours is a phenomenal battle between man and nature. In one corner we have wily hiker/explorer Aron Ralston (James Franco); in the other we have massive Blue John Canyon. It's a fight that goes the punishing, bloody distance.

< ... more
Unstoppable  Very Good
November 17, 2010

Two questions a critic asks himself are, "Does the movie deliver what it sets out to do?" And "Is it worth doing?"

Unstoppable provides positive answers to both these questions if you want an exciting movie about a r ... more

Nowhere Boy  Badly flawed
November 11, 2010

Imagine. Imagine if they made a film about John Lennon that wasn't safe and conventional.

We can only imagine. Nowhere Boy isn't it. It's no Hard Day's Night (1964); it's more soft-boiled coming-of-age. Th ... more

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1  Very Good
November 8, 2010

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 is part 2 of the gangster saga based on an actual French bank robber. It follows the notorious exploits of the Gallic outlaw who was introduced in Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008).

It's not you ... more

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest  Better than average
October 27, 2010

The late Swedish author Stieg Larsson is the literary darling of 2010. His Millennium trilogy -- three novels published posthumously -- has caused an international sensation. I admit that I am among the smitten.

Larsson's novels are en ... more

Hereafter  Badly flawed
October 20, 2010

Alfred Hitchcock should not have made musicals. He didn't.

Probably Clint Eastwood should not make sentimentalized, epical films about wish fulfillment. But there's Hereafter.

It's a film that might make Clint ... more

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger  Very Good
October 16, 2010

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is made by a short, gray celebrity.

He's also aging.

Woody Allen was born on December 1, 1935, so he's 74 slouching toward 75.

Many viewers want Woody Allen still to be a fu ... more

Secretariat  Watchable
October 15, 2010

Secretariat is the Galloping Gospel According to a Horse. Granted the horse is the equine king of kings.

Secretariat was directed by Randall Wallace who majored in religion at Duke. He was born in Tennessee, raised in the Sou ... more

The Social Network  Exemplary
October 8, 2010

Most information today comes to us with absolutely no concern for the sloppy, lazy language in which it is expressed.

We live in a world of "you know," "I mean," and "I'll tell you what." Listen to any interview ... more

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps  Better than average
September 29, 2010

Director Oliver Stone based some of his film Nixon (1995) -- an underrated movie -- on Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941). It added to the vision and scope.

With Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Stone may be follow ... more

The Town  Watchable
September 22, 2010

I know director Clint Eastwood, and Ben Affleck is no Clint. I knew director Sam Peckinpah, and Ben Affleck is no Peckinpah.

As director, Affleck is more Clint Howard and Yosemite Sam.

Affleck has been getting raves for his directi ... more

Animal Kingdom  Exemplary
September 16, 2010

Australian film -- which had a boom during the 1970s and 1980s -- is ending the present decade with a bang in the form of the brilliant Animal Kingdom. Actually several bangs and a whimper.

Not only does Animal Kingdom keep ... more

I'm Still Here  Badly flawed
September 11, 2010

There has been a lot of discussion by reviewers whether or not I'm Still Here is a put-on.

Casey Affleck has made a "documentary" about his addled brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix and JP's announcement that he is not g ... more

Lebanon  Very Good
September 5, 2010

The first hour of Lebanon is some of the most excruciating footage you will ever see in a movie theater.

It's a punishing, disturbing experience. Samuel Maoz, the writer/director of Lebanon, was a tank gunner in the June ... more

The American  Badly flawed
September 1, 2010

In the first five minutes of The American, popular movie star George Clooney shatters his image.

I like actors who shatter their image, -- e.g., Paul Newman in Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill & the Indians (1976) -- but most ... more

Wild Grass  Very Good
August 29, 2010

In Wild Grass 87-year old director Alain Resnais sows his wild oatmeal.

Born in 1922 (now 88), Resnais was a paragon of the French New Wave (La Nouvelle Vague) in the late 1950s and 1960s.

His latest film Wild Grass i ... more

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World  Badly flawed
August 19, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film full of sound and fury signifying WTF. It's slick shtik.

It begins with 22-year old Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) dating a high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), as he's trying ... more

Get Low  Very Good
August 14, 2010

Robert Duvall is an acting treasure.

The 79-year old actor has had some of the most memorable roles in American movie history -- often as a supporting actor.

He played Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Major Frank ... more

Dinner for Schmucks  Better than average
August 7, 2010

Rodents have often been the stuff of comedy. From Mickey and Minnie to Mighty Mouse to Remy the Rat to Despereaux, they've made us smile.

In Dinner for Schmucks they're the stuff that dreams are made of.

Barry (Steve ... more

Salt  Better than average
July 28, 2010

Movies manipulate.

They can get you to identify with a character or root for an action.

Alfred Hitchcock, with stylistic aplomb, was the master of manipulation. Hitch could play on his audience's expectations. He could even get ... more

Inception  Better than average
July 20, 2010

Inception is a slick, spasmodic, rambunctious ordeal. It's a convoluted wild-goose-dream chase.

It's stylistically audacious, but the content lags far behind. Even though it's been promoted as a movie for the brain. I ... more

The Kids are All Right  Better than average
July 16, 2010

The Kids Are All Right is a sudsy soap opera. It's a concoction of lilac water and spermatozoa -- with lots of wine and whine.

The Kids Are All Right is the story of a contemporary lesbian family. When the two children -- ... more

The Mini  Watchable
July 15, 2010

When a critic reviews an independent movie, he realizes it has the creator's heart and soul in it. He may cut it some slack.

Ron Beck wrote and directed the indie The Mini on a budget of $25,000. It has some stylistic grace, and ... more

The Girl Who Played with Fire  Better than average
July 7, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire is the follow-up to the very popular The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's the second film adaptation from the Millennium trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson.

The Girl ... more

Melvin and Howard  Exemplary
July 6, 2010

The most engaging portrayal of Howard Hughes on film is not by Howard Hughes -- it's by Jason Robards, Jr. in Melvin and Howard (1980). As Las Vegas' most mythic figure, Robards delivers a memorable, powerhouse performance as the ag ... more

Micmacs  Badly flawed
July 4, 2010

Micmacs is a Gallic mishmash.

It's a sloppy souffle that falls more than it rises. It's airless whimsy.

Micmacs is the sporadic story of Bazil (Dany Boon), whose father was killed by a landmine in north Africa. Bazil ... more

Toy Story 3  Very Good
June 29, 2010

Toy Story 3 is a Mr. Potato Heady assemblage of nostalgia, excitement, and danger. It flies in all directions, but Woody keeps it pleasurably intact.

17-year old Andy is heading for college, and he has to put away childish things. E ... more

Knight and Day  Very Good
June 27, 2010

Knight and Day is a hoot.

It's a doozy. It's Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote teamed up. By the end, Wile E. has become wily Wonder Woman.

If you think Road Runner cartoons are silly, you probably won't like Kni ... more

The Killer Inside Me  Watchable
June 25, 2010

When a screenplay of a movie does not serve its literary source well, it's a major problem.

When a movie is directed tentatively, it's a major problem. When a movie is miscast, it's a major problem.

The Killer Inside ... more

Please Give  Very Good
June 17, 2010

Go East 50-year old woman. Go East.

Director/writer Nicole Holofcener goes back east for Please Give. It is an auspicious move.

Her last two movies were set in Los Angeles. Friends with Money (2006) was dreadful, even ... more

Sex and the City 2  Badly flawed
June 9, 2010

Films that are aimed at a particular target audience can cause a critic dyspepsia.

The latest Target movie -- actually more Saks Fifth Avenue or Bergdorf Goodman -- is Sex and the City 2, which is erratically slung toward middle-age ... more

The Secret in Their Eyes  Very Good
June 3, 2010

It's very rare when a movie's ending surprises me. No Way Out (1987) is my barometer for a movie whose credible ending surprised -- and therefore delighted -- me. Also, I never figured out The Sixth Sense (1999) as I was seei ... more

Kites  Better than average
May 29, 2010

Kites is an aromatic, cinematic Indian mutton stew -- if that sounds different from usual movie fare, it is.

It's a Bollywood mixture of romance, violence, action, music, and differing cultures and languages. Sometimes it's ... more

Robin Hood  Better than average
May 20, 2010

Prequel, prequel, prequel.

After remakes and sequels, what is left? Originality. Hell, no.

Let's go back and back, ad nauseum. We want our genre back! Unfortunately for those who yearn for a 3-color past -- just red, white, and ... more

City Island  Better than average
May 14, 2010

In City Island, actor Andy Garcia reveals a range and humanity he's seldom, if ever, exhibited.

Usually Garcia is a bit mannered as an actor, but as New York Corrections Officer Vince Rizzo, he gives what well may be his best pe ... more

Racing Dreams  Watchable
May 13, 2010

Racing Dreams -- or Chariots of Tire -- is a niche documentary about three young Kart race drivers who aspire to some day be NASCAR champions.

The more addicted you are to going round and round, the more you'll relate to Raci ... more

Iron Man 2  Watchable
May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2 is a raucous, mediocre movie. It's a loud, inarticulate shout to greet the summer.

Iron Man 2 introduces the summer movies with generic noise and patented chaos. It's as summery as a Slurpee. Summer is the ... more

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)  Great
April 30, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a brutal movie. It's also compelling and absorbing.

It takes one on a journey down the icy roads to hell, with a dogged, investigative journalist and an avenging punk angel -- an odd couple par ... more

Date Night  Badly flawed
April 23, 2010

In today's movie comedies, wit is as rare as Angostura bitters.

If movie comedies were stored at the supermarket, most would be in the day-old section. They certainly aren't fresh.

Comedy doesn't have to be raw, but it ... more

A Prophet  Exemplary
April 16, 2010

A Prophet begins as a gritty prison film and becomes an arresting gangster saga.

Michael Corleone has nothing on Malik El Djebena. Michael only had to deal with the Italian families and the Jewish mafia. Malik (Tahar Rahim) has to c ... more

Mother  Very Good
April 8, 2010

Mother is a mother of a movie.

It's a unique, convoluted journey along the bland surfaces and into the dark recesses of mother love.

For those that believe in justice, this movie probably is not for you.

When her ... more

The Runaways  Watchable
April 2, 2010

The Runaways is not a potent cherry bomb. It's more a sputtering candle.

While not quite a dud, it's not the movie it should be. It's a packaged cake with vanilla icing and a Cherie on top. A maraschino Cherie, at that. ... more

How to Train Your Dragon  Very Good
April 1, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon is blue skies and dragons. Lots of blue skies. And lots of dragons.

The latest film from DreamWorks received an incredible 97% favorable rating by national reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes. That's 97%. That ... more

The White Ribbon  Very Good
March 26, 2010

The White Ribbon is an austere allegory about a farming village and its inhabitants in Germany that can be interpreted as portending their future. In fact, it invites that interpretation.

The White Ribbon is set in 1913-1914; ... more

Chloe  Badly flawed
March 23, 2010

Chloe is an atrocious movie. It's artsy-fartsy-tartsy.

A female voice-over at the beginning says, "I can become your unflinching dream."

I flinched.

Pretension does that to me.

Chloe is con ... more

Green Zone  Better than average
March 19, 2010

Green Zone is one depressing movie.

It's well-acted, well-directed, and well-written. So what's the problem?

The problem is that it's a political film about the snipe hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, ... more

Alice In Wonderland  Very Good
March 14, 2010

Maybe I'm not as jaded as I should be. Maybe I'm still too wide-eyed. But I found Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland to be a treasure trove full of delight and near-amazement. The imagery is bold and ravishing. Alice in Wonderl ... more

The Ghost Writer  Exemplary
March 4, 2010

The Ghost Writer could be the companion piece to Shutter Island.

Actually, Shutter Island should be the companion piece to The Ghost Writer, since The Ghost Writer is the better film.

Both movies ... more

Shutter Island  Better than average
February 27, 2010

About halfway through writing a review of Shutter Island, I was caught by an undertow.

I originally thought that the movie was stylistic nonsense. But then I realized that beneath the nonsense were intriguing swirls and tides.

... more
The Wolfman  Better than average
February 19, 2010

To mix monsters -- The Wolfman is one of those films that was put together like Frankenstein.

It's a patchwork mess, but it lives!

The Wolfman had severe problems -- delays, reshoots, a change of director, new edi ... more

A Single Man  Very Good
February 13, 2010

There's still a place in movies for small, literate, well-acted niche movies that focus on character.

In the cinema of explosions and rampant CGI, occasionally character still matters. A Single Man has character.

Based o ... more

The Last Station  Better than average
February 13, 2010

The Last Station is a tale of venerable conflict, deception, and love.

It's an age-old, old age power struggle. But it's not just in the room down the hall of the retirement home; it's in Mother Russia.

Based on ... more

Edge of Darkness  Better than average
February 4, 2010

Edge of Darkness gives Mel Gibson's career a needed jolt, actually several jolts.

Every time the movie threatens to lag, there's a startling shock of violence -- and Gibson is usually right in the middle of it.

Mel l ... more

From Paris with Love  Watchable
February 3, 2010

From Paris with Love is a raucous cartoon.

You have to decide whether or not you want to take this wild ride. It's dippy, dopey, and dizzying.

The Tasmanian Devil and the Road Runner have nothing on Charlie Max, played w ... more

The Messenger  Very Good
January 24, 2010

The Messenger is a film about shock and healing. Forget awe.

In a world that avoids the realities of war [the U.S. government didn't allow photographs of coffins], The Messenger casts a flickering light on some of the hum ... more

Crazy Heart  Very Good
January 19, 2010

At the end of every year, there's a rampage to open movies in LA and NY to make them eligible for Oscar voting consideration.

In 2008 Mickey Rourke leaped out in The Wrestler in the waning days of December to get a nomination la ... more

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