|The Company Men |
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 |
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 |
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).
|True Grit |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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
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 |
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 |
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 |
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
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 |
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
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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
July 28, 2010
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
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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) |
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 |
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 |
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
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 |
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 |
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 |
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
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."
Pretension does that to me.
Chloe is con ... more
|Green Zone |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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 |
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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