December 27, 2012
50 years ago, Tom Courtenay starred in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) as a gaunt-cheeked, anti-Establishment rebel. Courtenay was one of the major, intriguing faces of the "Angry Young Men" of British film.< ... more
|Not Fade Away |
December 26, 2012
Not Fade Away is one of those films that really depend on what you bring to it.
It's a personal experience - both for the writer/director David Chase and maybe for scattered audience members. It may leave the average audienc ... more
|Zero Dark Thirty |
December 21, 2012
Zero Dark Thirty is a skillful - and somewhat cautious - look at military bureaucracy and power.
It's both hampered and elevated by its dependence on authenticity.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark ... more
|The Impossible |
December 18, 2012
The Impossible is like a big budget Lifetime saga. It's a mixture of screams and violins.
The movie is relentless punishment and relentless music. You'd better have a tolerance for both. One might leave the theater wondering ... more
|The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey |
December 13, 2012
Seeing The Hobbit is like going to a timeshare presentation. First you have to sit through the boring stuff before you can take advantage of the spectacular benefits.
"This is the shire here. Please sign on the dotted line, and ... more
|Les Misérables |
December 11, 2012
Les Misérables is a long, slow, musical slog. It's a dreary piece of work. It has its moments, but it seldom if ever takes flight.
The stage play soared.
The movie has a mostly appealing cast, but the director spars ... more
|The Long Green Line |
December 10, 2012
The Long Green Line is a high-spirited celebration of life on a high school cross country team in Illinois.
It's not your average cross country team. It's the York Dukes in Elmhurst, Illinois, who had won 24 state titles, an ... more
|Silver Linings Playbook |
November 26, 2012
Philadelphians are a breed apart. Nobody understands us.
Most people think we booed Santa Claus. We didn't boo Santa Claus.
We booed a 19-year old, 5' 6" kid with a fake beard who subbed, when the real Santa was str ... more
|Life of Pi |
November 23, 2012
A film's ending matters.
A lot of movies sputter or fade at the end, but occasionally a surprising denouement raises a movie to another level. It reverberates back through the work and lifts it to a new sensibility.
Life of ... more
November 18, 2012
Lincoln is like a course taught by a competent teacher. It's informative, but it's neither inspiring nor fascinating.
Director Steven Spielberg as teacher is glib. He's stagy. His is not a course that soars; it stays gro ... more
|The Sessions |
November 13, 2012
The Sessions is another movie about a man on a journey. Destination: Ejaculation Junction.
In 1990 Mark O'Brien, journalist and poet, had his article, "On Seeing a Sexual Surrogate" published in Sun Magazine.
November 8, 2012
Hitchcock is a film for which I am very grateful.
It restores Hitchcock's humanity.
In the wake of HBO's atrocious The Girl, which portrays Hitchcock as a creep, his reputation seemed at risk. He was being tra ... more
November 4, 2012
Flight is a bumpy ride. It swoops and sputters.
Denzel Washington has to hold it together as it dives and spirals. The one constant in the film is the provocative performance of Denzel as pilot Whip Whitaker, who is severely addicte ... more
October 26, 2012
Here I go again.
Wanting better and unwilling to settle for less. It's a curse. Why can't I just sit on the edge of my seat or stand up and cheer?
At the end of the screening of Skyfall for critics and reviewers, the ... more
October 18, 2012
Shifty is low-key, low budget, but high grade. It's a film about sitting and talking. And drug dealing.
It builds slowly - some may want more action, but it has a surprisingly satisfying conclusion.
Shifty is ... more
October 13, 2012
Argo is a skillful, dramatic entertainment. It's slick.
Argo will be very popular. Why wouldn't it be? It hits all the right harmonious notes, without any dissonance, It's Ben Affleck channeling Hallmark. Greeting ... more
|End of Watch |
September 29, 2012
If you leave before the end of End of Watch - about 3/4 of the way through - you'll see a much better movie.
For much of its length, End of Watch is one of the stronger movies of the year. It's a taut, human d ... more
|The Master |
September 26, 2012
Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master baits the audience.
One notable reviewer, in a major magazine, ended his rave: "He [Anderson] clarifies nothing, but leaves us brooding on our own confusion."
WTF ... more
September 25, 2012
Looper is stylish mayhem.
It careens along the edge of silliness. It stalls and starts and spins out. It's a spastic attack on its audience's suspension of disbelief.
Who knew the future could contain so much hokum? ... more
|Trouble with the Curve |
September 24, 2012
Trouble with the Curve should be titled Trouble with the Cliche.
It was not written by a hitter; it was written by a hacker.
It's depressing to think that Clint Eastwood's final screen appearance may be in thi ... more
September 16, 2012
Arbitrage is the latest in a long line of movies with touches of Alfred Hitchcock's DNA.
Nicholas Jarecki, the 33-year old writer/director of Arbitrage, is a graduate of the New York University Film School, so he knows hi ... more
|Robot & Frank |
September 8, 2012
Robot & Frank is an airy, engaging flight of fancy.
It's also part caper film, part character study, and part allegory about aging. Robot & Frank shouldn't work, but it does.
It has the potential to be ... more
September 2, 2012
It's rare to have a good movie made from a novel by an artistic American author. Extremely rare.
For every successful No Country for Old Men (2007), there are legions of duds, e.g., Updike's Rabbit, Run (1970), Mailer ... more
August 28, 2012
Where has the western gone?
It's gone to Virginia.
Lawless is about bootleggers during Prohibition in the early 1930s, but it has all the staples of a western. Instead of the five Earp brothers, Lawless is about t ... more
|Side by Side |
August 26, 2012
In Side by Side, editor Walter Murch states, "In a way, film was the church of the 20th century."
But the church of film is shutting its doors. Stained glass is being replaced by digital imagery. A new religion is on its rel ... more
|Ruby Sparks |
August 16, 2012
Most men have been bewitched by a female in their lives.
Many of these intoxicating vixens have been created in their imaginations - or at least idealized and romanticized.
Until we woke up.
Gidget is gone. Desdemona is ... more
|The Bourne Legacy |
August 12, 2012
When a very successful movie franchise makes some major changes, it is likely that it will face a deluge of rejection and preconception.
"They changed it. OMG, they made changes!"
The Bourne Legacy comes with a lot o ... more
|Neil Young Journeys |
August 9, 2012
Neil Young shambles across the dim stage. He's garbed in black t-shirt, jeans, whitish jacket and wearing a straw hat that has seen better days.
The man's gotten old. He's grizzled and jowly. He's no longer the yearning you ... more
|The Deep Blue Sea |
July 30, 2012
The Deep Blue Sea is a fitful, poignant film about failed love. It's a movie that casts a harrowing spell.
Adapted from the play written by Terence Rattigan, The Deep Blue (1952) is set "around 1950."
It focus ... more
|The Monitor |
July 28, 2012
The Monitor [originally titled Babycall] is a morose sturdy of morose behavior with an actress giving a morose performance. It's all pretty morose.
The Monitor is the story of Anna (Noomi Rapace) who has come to Os ... more
|The Dark Knight Rises |
July 18, 2012
The Dark Knight Rises is a brawl of a movie.
In IMAX, it's a magnificent brawl of a movie. At times it careens into unwieldy mayhem, but at other, crucial times, it's brilliantly thrilling.
The Dark Knight Rises ... more
|Stella Days |
July 17, 2012
Move over Scientologists.
Who says there aren't movies for 60-year old Roman Catholics? Stella Days is making room for a pewful of moviegoers.
Stella Days - set in Tipperary, Ireland - in 1956 and 1957, is ... more
|Beasts of the Southern Wild |
July 11, 2012
The contemporary world is smitten with "Reality Shows."
The new indie movie phenomenon Beasts of the Southern Wild should fit right in. It could be called "Louisiana Shore." It has a crowd of noisy people, who swill ... more
|The Amazing Spider-Man |
July 6, 2012
The Amazing Spider-Man shouldn't work. It's a reprise of a movie that was released only ten years ago. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst couldn't be replaced, could they? There was a lasting charm to their relationship. And Maguir ... more
|Monsieur Lazhar |
July 5, 2012
Maybe the best thing about Monsieur Lazhar is that the school children in it really seem to care about education.
Of course, it's in Canada.
Set in a middle school in Montreal, the French-language Canadian film is the st ... more
July 2, 2012
I'm taking over for Macklin - he can't handle the truth about bears.
But I can. I'm a bear named Teddy. I live with Tony and his honeypot Judy. They named me - clever name, huh?
So this review of Ted is a ... more
|Rock of Ages |
June 26, 2012
Were Ken and Barbie rockers?
Rock of Ages seems to think so. Its version doesn't have a speck of dirt or an iota of grit. It makes the dancing gangs in West Side Story (1961) authentic in comparison.
I knew we wer ... more
|Safety Not Guaranteed |
June 25, 2012
Safety Not Guaranteed is an indie flight of fancy.
As an indie, it might crash on the shoals of self-indulgence, but it doesn't. It's fresh and imaginative. It doesn't reach the stars (the creators obviously are fans of ... more
|To Rome with Love |
June 20, 2012
In his latest endeavor, To Rome with Love, Woody Allen goes on a scooter, weaving his way through Rome on a sputtering vehicle.
His bumpy trip hits some potholes on a well-worn road. He's certainly not in the fast lane. To Ro ... more
June 14, 2012
Headhunters (Hodejegerne) is a roiling Norwegian mix of Hitchcock and Wile E. Coyote, with a generous dose of feces and blood.
If that sounds like a strange, absurd concoction, it is.
Headhunters starts slowly ... more
June 9, 2012
Prometheus is no odyssey. It's more a slog through space glop.
The characters are sketchy, and the plot is scrawny. It goes where a lot of filmmakers have gone before.
However, despite the lack of originality in Prome ... more
|Snow White and the Huntsman |
June 7, 2012
What's next - Bambizilla?
Snow White and the Huntsman turns the once Disneyfied fairy tale upside down. In fact, in one scene, Snow White (Kristen Stewart) and the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) are literally hanging upside down ... more
|Men in Black 3 |
June 2, 2012
1968 was the year both Will Smith and Josh Brolin were born.
Now Smith and Brolin get together on screen for about an hour in Men in Black 3 - set when? 1969.
It's a serendipitous uniting. Smith again plays Agent ... more
|The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel |
May 29, 2012
Old folks like familiarity. For most of them, familiarity breeds comfort.
Seniors are a major reason why NCIS stays #1 in the tv ratings. They're also probably the reason that NCIS recently recruited Jamie Lee Curtis as a "romantic ... more
May 21, 2012
Someone told me I'd have to suspend my disbelief when I saw Battleship.
Not true. After a while you have no brain left with which to disbelieve.
Battleship is a loud lobotomy.
Based loosely - slackly & ... more
|The Pirates! Band of Misfits |
May 16, 2012
Question: When is a pirate a lark?
Answer: When he's composed by the Aardman Animations production company and voiced by Hugh Grant.
When Grant is at his best - as he was in About a Boy (2002) - there's nobod ... more
|Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story |
May 12, 2012
It drives me nuts when an interviewer doesn't follow up.
If Charlie Rose on tv was interviewing someone who said, "I have the secret of life," Charlie would look at his notes and say, "I see you were born in the Midwest. ... more
|The Avengers |
May 5, 2012
Although it takes a while to hit its stride, once it does Marvel's The Avengers is a razzle-dazzle, rip-roaring entertainment.
It introduces its various characters without much panache, then they bicker, and one begins to wonder ... more
May 4, 2012
Cellmates is an indie film that shouldn't work. And at times it doesn't, but at other times it has an offbeat integrity that engages.
The plot is threadbare, and many of the allusions seem dated and forgotten.
Cel ... more
April 28, 2012
Marley is a terrific documentary. It goes beyond one figure, and captures the essence of life itself.
Despite its wayward, checkered history - first Marty Scorsese was to direct, then Jonathan Demme - Marley seems to ... more
April 24, 2012
Unraveled is a con job.
It has the clammy hands of its crooked main figure all over it.
Unraveled is a documentary, directed by entertainment attorney and filmmaker Marc H. Simon, about Marc Dreier, who bilked hedge f ... more
|Sleepless Night |
April 20, 2012
Sleepless Night (Nuit blanche) is one frenetic French dream. It's slam-bang mayhem - with an active intelligence.
Smartly directed and stylishly composed by Frederic Jardin, it is both claustrophobic and in nearly-con ... more
|We Have a Pope |
April 16, 2012
Although We Have a Pope is a heady concoction, it may not have mass appeal.
It is part romp, part pratfall, part hymn. It's difficult to get a grasp on the sensibility of We Have a Pope. Where is it going, and how is it g ... more
April 8, 2012
Goon is based on chutzpah.
At the beginning of the movie, it says, "Based on a true story." That's usually the kiss of inauthenticity.
The movie Goon has a connection, often frayed, with the nonfiction ... more
April 1, 2012
Education is under attack. It always has been.
If the essence of education is independent thinking, it's in free fall these days.
Most homeschooling offers just a single, limited, often anti-social view; corporations don't ... more
|The Hunger Games |
March 26, 2012
The Hunger Games is nourishing entertainment. It's a riveting adaptation of the first of Suzanne Collins' trio of celebrated novels.
The plot of Collins' brilliant novel is perverse and direly fatalistic, but it has a fo ... more
|21 Jump Street |
March 20, 2012
21 Jump Street is a cockamamie movie.
It's as rowdy as a dick joke. And another dick joke. And another dick joke. After the 21st dick joke, I wanted to jump off.
And after the dick jokes there's a load of excrement joke ... more
|Thin Ice |
March 15, 2012
Thin Ice is in the tradition of movies that were filched from their directors, recut, changed, and then released in a different, more "commercial" version from what their creative directors intended.
Probably the most notorious case ... more
|Game Change |
March 11, 2012
Game Change, in a way, is more potent than its political sources. Based on the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann (who has one line of dialogue as a reporter in the movie), Game Change was adapted for HBO by Danny Strong.... more
|The Forgiveness of Blood |
March 7, 2012
The Forgiveness of Blood ends with the image of the expressionless face of a young woman. If audiences demand resolution, this does not provide it.
Is she stuck in the past or looking forward to the future? It is open to interpretat ... more
|In the Land of Blood and Honey |
March 3, 2012
It's hard to recommend a movie such as In the Land of Blood and Honey. It's more than two hours of misery and despair.
In the Land of Blood and Honey is a relentless, disturbing chronicle of cruelty. It is bleak and b ... more
February 24, 2012
Roadie shows the gulf that at times separates critics and general viewers.
The audience User Rating of Roadie on Rotten Tomatoes is a feeble 28% positive. Critics have been much more tolerant. Amidst the movie's liabiliti ... more
|Safe House |
February 18, 2012
Why would you cast Denzel Washington, and then cut his performance to ribbons?
Daniel Espinosa, director of Safe House, either has a severe, spasmodic problem or a huge ego - or both. He slices and dices like a crazed butcher. ... more
February 15, 2012
The other day I was at the Doughnut Shop having a cup of coffee.
I was trying to decide what film to review. Which Hollywood conveyer belt was I going to take it from - the jerky, handheld conveyor belt of Safe House, the spongy convey ... more
|A Separation |
February 13, 2012
Separation is an active international phenomenon. Cultures and societies are at war with themselves.
A Separation is about one of these cultures and societies.
A Separation was written and directed by Iranian Asghar F ... more
February 5, 2012
What does a director do when the star of his movie is not an accomplished actress?
Director Steven Soderbergh faces that obstacle in Haywire, which stars Gia Carano, the Mixed Martial Arts star. He goes to great lengths to protect h ... more
February 5, 2012
Ralph Fiennes has created a slashing, sprawling version of Shakespere's Coriolanus.
It's muscular Shakespeare. It's trimmed down - but has themes and a sensibility that fit into today's society and world.
February 4, 2012
At its best, Undefeated is a Hail Mary TD pass. It recently received an Oscar nomination as Best Documentary feature. Other times, it's a routine punt.
Undefeated is an anthem of decency and empathy. It's also about l ... more
|Albert Nobbs |
January 25, 2012
2011 was the year of the actress.
At least five or six female performances perhaps were superior to any male performance last year.
These were Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn, Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia, R ... more
|A Dangerous Method |
January 21, 2012
A Dangerous Method is a lustreless squabble.
Much of the essence of drama is conflict - often verbal. A Dangerous Method, based on actual figures was a book, then a play, and now it's a film, but somewhere in the long ... more
|Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows |
January 14, 2012
Dear Guy Ritchie:
My name is Robin Hood.
I desperately need your help. I need you as a director to do for me what you did for Sherlock Holmes.
I need to be brought into today's world of short attention spans, nonreading ... more
|War Horse |
January 8, 2012
Every once in a while, one needs unbridled sentimentality.
Director Steven Spielberg and War Horse fill that need. War Horse is a combination of The Wizard of Oats and Gone with the Whinny.
Sentimentality is ... more
|We Need to Talk About Kevin |
January 5, 2012
Watching the movie We Need to Talk About Kevin will make you feel like hell.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is a raw, gruelling, disturbing nightmare. I dare you to try to forget it.
If one goes to ... more
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