|12 Years a Slave (2013) |
November 3, 2013
12 Years a Slave is not a game.
A television ad promoting it declares, "Critics are calling 12 Years a Slave a 'Game-Changing Movie Event.'"
Critics never said that. One guy -who the studio has pro ... more
|28 Days Later (2002)|
|42 (2013) |
April 15, 2013
There are no violins in baseball.
At least that's what I thought.
In the movie 42, there are more violins than baseball bats. I never realized Jackie Robinson played baseball in the middle of an orchestra.
In sce ... more
|50/50 (2011) |
October 1, 2011
50/50 is a movie in which the protagonist is very human, and his best friend is obnoxious.
It's also an apt study in acting. One actor is human; the other is obnoxious.
50/50 is the story of 27-year old Ad ... more
|Albert Nobbs (2011) |
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
|All Fall Down (1962)|
|American Gangster (2007)|
|American Hustle (2013) |
December 15, 2013
American Hustle is Saturday Night Bluster.
Where's Tony Manero when we need him?
Set in the late 1970s - somewhat based on Abscam - American Hustle is the long con. It's 2 1/2 hours long. ... more
|Apostle, The (1997)|
|Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, The (1974)|
|Bad Seed, The (1956)|
|Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The (2012) |
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
|Big Lebowski, The (1998)|
|Big Shave, The (1967)|
|Biutiful (2010) |
January 30, 2011
Biutiful is a harrowing, battering experience at the movies. Although titled with a word scrawled by a child on her drawing, the movie is steeped in ugliness.
In Biutiful, Mexican director/writer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ( ... more
|Blood Work (2002)|
|Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story (2012) |
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
|Boys are Back, The (2009) |
October 9, 2009
The Boys Are Back is a poignant and rowdy celebration of a broken family dealing with grief and drastic change.
It has a lame title and a rambling story, but it also has an outstanding performance by Clive Owen and beautiful Austral ... more
|Bridges at Toko-Ri, The (1954)|
|Bridges of Madison County, The (1995)|
|Buck (2011) |
July 4, 2011
If I were a young colt, I'd sure try to keep my distance from Buck Brannaman.
Brannaman is the main figure in the documentary Buck, about a horse teacher who is able to accomplish wonders with difficult young horses.
|Bucket List, The (2007)|
|Calvary (2014) |
August 25, 2014
Calvary is not your father's Calvary.
Set in a small community in Ireland, the film follows Father James (Brendan Gleeson), whose faith becomes frayed as he tries to help others. This priest is a shepherd to wolves. He doesn' ... more
|Carlito's Way (1993)|
|Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011) |
August 5, 2011
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a 30,000-year leap of faith.
Written, directed, and narrated by Werner Herzog, the intriguing documentary explores the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave in Southern France, which contains the oldest cave art ev ... more
|Charlie Wilson's War (2007) |
January 3, 2008
Few people know how our government works. Even fewer know how it is supposed to work.
Over the years I've received countless phone calls promoting a political candidate. I ask the caller: "Who is the Secretary of Agriculture?"
No o ... more
|Children of Men (2007) |
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
|City Island (2010)|
|Clear and Present Danger (1994)|
|Coco Before Chanel (2009) |
October 29, 2009
French biographical dramas are a mixed bag. Coco Before Chanel is a mixed Chanel bag.
French films of its ilk usually emphasize character, evocative settings, substantial performances, and often a sense of predestined foreboding. Th ... more
|Company Men, The (2010)|
|Da Vinci Code, The (2006)|
|Darling (1965) |
April 1, 1966
John Schlesinger's Darling is a film of excessive and self-defeating brilliance. Schlesinger is intelligent, but his approach is one-dimensional. His characters are fashionable types, his symbols are too often gimmicks; and Darling b ... more
|Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) |
July 16, 2014
The National Rifle Apes organization loves Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
The members are giddy that even the apes now know they must be armed. No damned gun restrictions for them. CEO Wayne LaKoba is one happy ape.
Daw ... more
|Dear Ruth (1947)|
|Defiance (2008) |
January 5, 2009
Defiance runs for 137 minutes, but that doesn't make it an epic. It just makes it long.
Near the beginning, we are informed on screen that Defiance is "a true story." It may be a true story, but it is not truly told.... more
|Departed, The (2006)|
|Dinner for Schmucks (2010) |
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
|Duck, You Sucker (1971)|
|Edge of Darkness (2010) |
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
|End of Watch (2012) |
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
|Enforcer, The (1976)|
|Father of the Bride (1991)|
|Fifth Estate, The (2013) |
October 19, 2013
The Fifth Estate is a film about audacity made without audacity.
In trying to show the different sides of Julian Assange - the audacious founder of WikiLeaks - it doesn't take a side. It's muddled, uncertain, and som ... more
|Fistful of Dollars, A (1964)|
|Flight (2012) |
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
|Fortune, The (1975)|
|Frozen River (2008)|
|Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)|
|Ghost Rider (2007) |
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
|Ghost Town (2008) |
October 2, 2008
Ricky Gervais has become a major international star. The British comic created and was the lead actor in the original British TV version of The Office (2006) and Extras (2007). He has won two Emmys and a Golden Globe. Now after a few bit parts h ... more
|Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, The (2010)|
|Girl Who Played with Fire, The (2010)|
|Godfather, Part III, The (1990)|
|Great Debaters, The (2007)|
|Green Zone (2010) |
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
|Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)|
|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) |
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
|Haywire (2011) |
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
|Headhunters (2012) |
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
|Help, The (2011) |
August 11, 2011
The Help is Mississippi-lite. It's certainly not Mississippi Burning (1988); it's Mississippi on Low Heat.
This doesn't mean it's not an entertaining movie: it is quite enjoyable. It just means it avoids authe ... more
|Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The (2012) |
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
|Horse Whisperer, The (1998)|
|In a Better World (2010) |
May 2, 2011
How does a pacifist prevail in an ugly, hostile world? How do children grow up in a world of isolation, alienation, grief, and bullying?
The Danish film In a Better World won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film dealing ... more
|Incendies (2011) |
June 7, 2011
Incendies is a grueling, harrowing trek in search of identity.
In French and Arabic, it was a Canadian nominee for the Best Foreign-Language Oscar. Director Denis Villaneuve based the movie on a play by Wajdi Mouawad.
Inc ... more
|Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The (2013) |
March 21, 2013
At one point in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Jim Carrey (street and web magician Steve Gray) says, "Sorry. Guilty pleasure."
Those three words capture the fitful, sometimes engaging entertainment.
Jay Mohr (anoth ... more
|Incredible Hulk, The (2008)|
|Incredibles, The (2004)|
|Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)|
|Inglourious Basterds (2009)|
|Iron Man 3 (2013) |
May 5, 2013
I want my 4D.
I'm an American, and I should have 4D.
I've got 3D, but I want 4D. And 5D when it is concocted.
Who do the Asians think they are?
Iron Man 3 is in 4D only in Japan, China , and South Kor ... more
|It Should Happen to You (1954)|
|Jersey Boys (2014)|
|Jimmy P. (2014) |
February 26, 2014
Jimmy P. is one of those movies that is elevated by its acting. An otherwise lackluster film is given impact and quality by the humanizing performances of its leading actors.
Jimmy P. - based on the nonfiction book Rea ... more
|Joshua Then and Now (1985)|
|Kids are All Right, The (2010) |
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
|King of Kings (1961)|
|Kites (2010) |
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
|L.A. Confidential (1997)|
|La Camioneta (2013) |
August 11, 2013
La Camioneta is an earnest film about earnest folk.
Its major assets are the people of Guatemala and the symbolism of a bus. The problem that documentarian Mark Kendall faces is that he tries to drive down different roads at the sam ... more
|Lady in the Box (2001) |
May 17, 2001
Lady in the Box debuted at CineVegas last December, then became a hit on the festival circuit
When a film has its world premiere in Las Vegas, what then happens to it?
If the film is the independent Lady in the Box, it goes from Las ... more
|Last Detail, The (1973)|
|Last Picture Show, The (1971)|
|Last Station, The (2009) |
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
|Last Vegas (2013) |
November 6, 2013
Last Vegas is more old coots than hoots. Fortunately, it has a saving grace.
With a quartet of aging male acting pros - Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline - is a female that saves the day and th ... more
|Lawless (2012) |
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
|Le Diner de Cons (1998)|
|Life, Above All (2010) |
September 9, 2011
Life, Above All is 100 minutes of grief and courage.
We share an arduous trek with 12-year old Chanda (Khomotso Manyaka) in rural South Africa, as she tries to fathom fatal illness around her. She has multiple, heavy burdens on her ... more
|Light of Day (1987)|
|Lilo and Stitch (2002)|
|Lincoln Lawyer, The (2011)|
|Lone Survivor (2013) |
January 8, 2014
In an age in which everyone who wears a uniform is called a "hero," it may be jarring to see a movie that is based on an actual heroic event. Lone Survivor is such a movie.
Of course, the difficulty in telling a "true ... more
|Long Green Line, The (2008) |
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
|Lost Weekend, The (1945)|
|Lovely Bones, The (2009)|
|Lucky You (2007) |
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
|Lucy (2014) |
July 29, 2014
Lucy takes us on giddy flights of fancy.
It's a taut, wild 89 minutes. Lucy is a lark. And a rhino, a chimp, and a star-computer.
In Taiwan, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) becomes a drug mule, the package breaks inside ... more
|Manhattan Melodrama (1934)|
|Mechanic, The (1972)|
|Michael Clayton (2007)|
|Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, A (1982)|
|Million Dollar Arm (2014) |
May 19, 2014
Million Dollar Arm could be subtitled The Best Exotic Marigold Pitching Mound.
It's a genial - in this case, Disneyfied - human interest tale that is loosely based on an actual occurrence.
Facts are not a ... more
|Minority Report (2002)|
|Moneyball (2011) |
September 26, 2011
Moneyball is an impelling triple. It's smart, agile, and effective.
But it's anti-climactic, as though the runner is stranded on third base.
Moneyball is the story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manag ... more
|Moon is Blue, The (1953)|
|Must Read After My Death (2009) |
February 5, 2009
Playwright Luigi Pirandello once wrote Six Characters in Search of an Author.
Filmmaker Morgan Dews has concocted a movie that could be called Six Family Members in Search of a Way Out.
Dews's film is titled Mu ... more
|National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)|
|Natural, The (1984)|
|Nebraska (2013) |
December 11, 2013
Nebraska is The Last Picture Show (1971) without the picture show.
Photographed in black and white, it's mostly set in fictional Hawthorne, Nebraska, which lacks even tumbleweeds. I suppose the bleak town has seen better ... more
|New World, The (2005)|
|Not Fade Away (2012) |
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
|Pan's Labyrinth (2007)|
|Patriot Games (1992)|
|Paul (2011) |
April 2, 2011
Paul is E.T.'s crude twin.
Paul smokes, jokes, and pokes. He's the antithesis of naivete.
Paul has a terrific concept -- an affectionate send-up of the sci-fi genre. Paul has it ups, but it also has unfortuna ... more
|Pete Kell's Blues (1955)|
|Philomena (2013) |
December 9, 2013
Philomena is cinematic titanium.
Like the character Phenomena's hip replacement, the movie is serviceable. As she says titanium is "anti-rust," which means the past won't mar the present.
Since Philomena ... more
|Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) |
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
|Play Misty for Me (1971)|
|Prairie Home Companion, A (2006)|
|Quantum of Solace (2008)|
|Red Dragon (2002)|
|River Runs Through It, A (1992)|
|Roadie (2011) |
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
|Robin Hood (2010) |
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
|Rosemary's Baby (1968)|
|Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) |
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
|Salt (2010) |
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
|Sarah's Key (2011) |
September 2, 2011
Sarah's Key is elevated by luminous performances by two actresses -- veteran Kristin Scott Thomas and 10-year old Melusine Mayance.
Fortunately their talent often is able to transcend the contrivances that mar the plot.
|Savages, The (2008)|
|Saving Mr. Banks (2013) |
December 23, 2013
Authoress P.L. Travers would greet Saving Mr. Banks with her patented frown. But it will please audiences.
Such is the world of Disneyfication.
Saving Mr. Banks - based on actual events - is the story of Trave ... more
|Serious Man, A (2009)|
|Sessions, The (2012) |
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.
|Shutter Island (2010)|
|Slumdog Millionaire (2008)|
|Smokey and the Bandit (1977)|
|Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) |
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
|Some Came Running (1958)|
|Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) |
May 19, 2013
At its best, Star Trek Into Darkness is majestic and thrilling. At its worst, it is conventional and repetitive.
Director J.J. Abrams takes us on a rowdy thrill ride through bumpy space.
At its best, Star Trek Into Darkne ... more
|Starship Troopers (1997)|
|Starting out in the Evening (2008)|
|State and Main (2001) |
December 17, 2001
David Mamet tones it down a second time in the relaxed State and Main
When one has proven himself, he has earned his right to go his own way -- even if its less adventuresome than his past route. Director/screenwriter David Mamet has ... more
|State of Play (2009)|
|Stella Days (2012) |
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
|Step Brothers (2008) |
August 7, 2008
“Step Brothers” is a rowdy, rambunctious, fitful, against-the-wall comedy. Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and director writer Adam McKay heave comedy, like spaghetti, against the wall. About half sticks; the other half makes a real mess.
|Super 8 (2011) |
June 14, 2011
Like Silly Putty, Super 8 is silly fun.
It stretches, snaps, and bounces. It's as elastic as pubescent imagination.
It may be something of a metaphor for the younger days of the two major filmmakers involved in S ... more
|Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)|
|Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, The (2009)|
|Talk to Me (2007)|
|Ten Commandments, The (1956)|
|The Girl from Monaco (2008)|
|There's Something About Mary (1998)|
|Thin Ice (2012) |
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
|Thin Red Line, The (1998)|
|To Be or Not to Be (1983)|
|Transporter 2 (2005)|
|Transporter, The (2002)|
|Truth About Charlie, The (2002)|
|Up in the Air (2009)|
|Wag the Dog (1997)|
|Waking Ned (1998)|
|Walk the Line (2005)|
|Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) |
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
|Watchmen (2009) |
March 13, 2009
Duck, here comes the kitchen sink -- from Mars!
Author Alan Moore kept the sink secure in his graphic novel Watchmen; director Zack Snyder throws it clattering erratically across the screen in his screen version.
Watchme ... more
|We Have a Pope (2012) |
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
|What Happens in Vegas (2008)|
|White Heat (1949)|
|White Hunter Black Heart (1990)|
|Winter in Wartime (2008) |
May 4, 2011
Winter in Wartime (2008) is an evocative Dutch movie about a youthful adolescent coming of age in Nazi-occupied Holland in January 1945.
It smacks of familiarity, but has a few surprises that invest it with life, if not originality. ... more
|Wolfman, The (2010) |
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
|Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)|
|...Around (2008) |
February 25, 2009
For much of its length ...Around seems like a companion piece to Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). It could be titled Doyle Simms's 4 Years Off.
It's not only that the leading character Doyle Simms is glib a ... more
|21 Jump Street (2012) |
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
|500 Days of Summer (2009)|
|About Schmidt (2003) |
February 1, 2003
Payne capsized an actor and a novel in this misfire
About Schmidt drives another nail in the coffin of irony. About Schmidt is as lacking in irony as its blatant crayon drawing ending. It's a synthetic antidote to a ... more
|Adjustment Bureau, The (2011) |
March 10, 2011
The Adjustment Bureau should be titled The Demolition Bureau. It takes Philip K. Dick's story and blows it up.
One of course realizes that in Hollywood literature is passe. The late Philip K. Dick was a popular and renown ... more
|Adventureland (2009) |
April 9, 2009
Was young actor Jesse Eisenberg in the latest Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden? He should have been. He's as cute as a puppy.
Eisenberg's doggone precious looks are in evidence all over his latest movie ... more
|Adventures of Tintin, The (2011)|
|Agent Cody Banks (2003)|
|All God's Children Can Dance (2007)|
|All Is Lost (2013)|
|American Wedding (2003)|
|Angels and Demons (2009) |
May 11, 2009
Angels and Demons performs a miracle. It makes 2 hours seem like 4 hours.
Angels and Demons should thrill, but director Ron Howard's suspense has no edge or vitality. Most of it is running, panting, doggy-paddling. And si ... more
|Another Year (2010)|
|Astronaut Farmer, The (2007) |
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
|Away from Her (2008)|
|Bad Teacher (2011) |
June 27, 2011
Bad Teacher should be held back for bad comedy.
It's probably better just to see the previews than see the entire tired movie in a theater. It's the kind of movie that after the first ten minutes, one decides whether to leav ... more
|Barney's Version (2010)|
|Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)|
|Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)|
|Birdman (2014) |
October 29, 2014
Birdman is molted and motley. It coos and screeches. It's one of those films that keeps prattling about the truth, but it deals with it falsely.
It smacks of pretension throughout.
It reminds me of the political ads on t ... more
|Black Swan, The (2010) |
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
|Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) |
November 11, 2013
Hitchcock would like what director Abdellatif Kechiche did in Blue Is the Warmest Color.
He made all his audience into voyeurs.
Kechiche's two main actresses say they "simulated" the most intimate moments. Hitch ... more
|Body of Lies (2008)|
|Boyhood (2014) |
January 15, 2015
I've tried to avoid reviewing Boyhood, but the raves - like locusts - keep coming.
Since it's awards season, I guess I should step up.
Boyhood didn't move me. In fact, it seemed inert.
B ... more
|Brave One, The (2007)|
|Brothers Bloom, The (2009) |
May 27, 2009
The Brothers Bloom is a movie about con men that winds up conning itself.
It is one of those films that should be better than it is. The Brothers Bloom has a first-rate cast, a good basic plot, and great locales.
But ... more
|Bullet to the Head (2013) |
February 4, 2013
"Let's go see a movie based on the compelling fiction of a French writer."
"No, Bullet to the Head."
"It's much shorter, and has more behea ... more
|Casino Jack (2010) |
January 4, 2011
Casino Jack is as erratic as a floating craps game.
Part comedy, part character study, part satire, part fantasy, part violence, it has a heady run before crapping out.
Based loosely on the career and downfall of mega-lobbyi ... more
|Catch and Release (2007) |
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
|Cellmates (2012) |
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
|Closed Circuit (2013) |
August 27, 2013
In one way, tv has trumped the movies.
Spooks - with its 86 episodes on BBC television from 2002 to 2011 - set the bar so high that it's unlikely a contemporary film can match it.
Spooks - titled MI ... more
|Coin Toss (2012) |
July 29, 2013
Coin Toss is a good-natured - if disjointed - indie.
It has enough genuineness for one to root for it, but it struggles to transcend being stilted.
The movie's two best assets are director Satya Kharkar and actor ... more
|Cosmopolis (2012) |
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
|Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)|
|Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The (2008)|
|Debt, The (2011)|
|Deja Vu (2006)|
|Descendants, The (2011)|
|Devil Wears Prada, The (2006)|
|Don't Look Now (1973)|
|Down to Earth (2001) |
February 22, 2001
Chris Rocks plays it safe and clean in Down to Earth
It had all the signs of being a disaster -- two directors, four writers, a duration of under 90 minutes and negative pre-release buzz. But despite the warning signs, Down to Earth is ... more
|Draft Day (2014) |
April 12, 2014
Draft Day suffers from illegal procedure.
It punts from the other team's 10-yard line. It's a good punt, but it's still a nonsensical punt.
The moral of the story is that if you're stupid, good luck can save ... more
|Eiger Sanction, The (1975)|
|Elysium (2013) |
August 7, 2013
Elysium is loud, boisterous nonsense. But it is entertaining.
Elysium is the Elysium of expensive "blockbusters." That's because it's only an hour and 49 minutes. That means the normal redundancy of effects is ... more
|Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)|
|Everybody's Fine (2009) |
November 12, 2009
Film historian and critic Tony Macklin joins Josh to talk about Roland Emmerich's latest disaster movie 2012, plus three movies set in Britain in the 1960s and '70s (Pirate Radio, The Damned United, An Education ... more
|Everything Must Go (2011) |
May 20, 2011
Everything Must Go is not a bad movie, but saying in the credits that it's "based on" a story by Raymond Carver is a blunder. It may even be a fraud.
I suppose this is a way for a novice writer/director (Dan Rush) to try ... more
|Express, The (2008)|
|Facts of Life, The (1960)|
|Fairhaven (2012) |
January 30, 2013
Fairhaven is one of those indie films that veer between credibility and nonsense.
It breaks into various parts. Its opening scenes stumble, but as it develops it has its partially-redeeming moments.
An early scene, in which ... more
|Fame (2009) |
September 27, 2009
It's a party. Fame rocks!
At least part of the time.
At its best.
It also sputters.
Fame is not as bad as I feared -- given the deluge of negative reviews. If you're a tolerant viewer, you' ... more
|Father of the Bride 2 (1995)|
|Finnigan's War (2013) |
February 7, 2014
Finnigan's War is a 21st century documentary about a 20th century war.
Begun in 2010 on the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, Finnigan's War is director/writer/producer Conor Timmis' tribute to ... more
|Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) |
May 1, 2008
Ok, I give up. The Slackers win.
In the last ten years, the Republican Party has had its revenge, the Nerds have had their revenge, and now the Slackers stand sloppy and tall.
I stand poleaxed.
The latest beating inflicted ... more
|Fracture (2007) |
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
|Friday Night Lights (2004)|
|From Paris with Love (2010) |
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
|Funny People (2009)|
|G-Force (2009) |
August 1, 2009
G-Force stands for Gross-Force.
The first gross is the money G-Force has made. When it was released, it went to #1 at the box office, knocking off Harry Potter.
G-Force is a whirlwind movie for family audience ... more
|Glory Road (2006) |
May 1, 2006
Glory Road? Make that Dead End.
The first time I knew race was more of an influence than a seven-foot center was when I went to support the Villanova basketball team in a game against West Virginia at Morgantown. I was a ... more
|Godzilla (2014) |
May 13, 2014
Godzilla is primordial pap.
It is teeming with special effects, but everything else is unspecial. Godzilla probably originally was titled Goddrivel, written by Max Borenstein. It is crammed with a bevy of weary coincid ... more
|Gone Girl (2014) |
September 30, 2014
Something is amiss in Gone Girl.
And it's not just the title character.
Based on Gillian Flynn's tremendously successful, best-selling novel, the transfer to film offered challenges.
In 2014, Gone Girl ... more
|Good Shepherd, The (2006)|
|Great Gatsby, The (2013) |
May 11, 2013
I went into a dark tavern after I saw Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. I wanted to get over the stilted, garish glitz - the 1920s embalmed in bloated bronze.
Slumped over the bar was a familiar figure - I did a double ta ... more
|Hairspray (2007) |
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
|Hangover Part 2, The (2011) |
May 26, 2011
Some movies try to solve the mystery of life. The Hangover Part 2 only tries to solve the mystery of the binge. It reaches that easily reachable bar.
The Hangover Part 2 is a ballsy, balls-up trip to nether regions that will ... more
|Hangover, The (2009)|
|Happy Feet (2006)|
|Her (2013) |
December 4, 2013
Her is a romantic computer comedy.
It's a rom-com.com.
Love is never having to say you're offline. At least in 2013.
In the 1980s, "Greed is good." In the 2010s, gibberish is good.
Her ... more
|History Boys (2006)|
|Honkytonk Man (1982)|
|How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)|
|Hunting Party, The (2007)|
|Ides of March, The (2011) |
October 6, 2011
The Ides of March is like the Obama administration -- it doesn't deliver.
Movies about politics should have power and, perhaps, even sting. When they're diluted, because of attempts to reach the mainstream, they often lose t ... more
|Imitation Game, The (2014) |
November 27, 2014
2014 may go down as the year the music kidnapped the movies.
Film after film this year is awash in music that tries to lead the audience by their ears.
It's as though directors - maybe the producers - don't trust th ... more
|Impossible, The (2012) |
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
|In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011) |
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
|Informant!, The (2009)|
|Iron Man 2 (2010) |
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
|J. Edgar (2011)|
|Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) |
January 22, 2014
In Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, actor/director Kenneth Branagh comes up with a new form: IMAX-EGO.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a film that reels, stumbles, slides, and jerks. Behind the curtain - and in front of it - ... more
|Joe (2014) |
April 28, 2014
Joe is a shaggy killer-dog story.
It has the trappings of reality, but it fakes it.
Joe is the tale of struggling Southerner Joe (Nicolas Cage), who bonds with 15-year old Gary (Tye Sheridan), who wants to work with h ... more
|Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (2009) |
March 19, 2009
I went to see the movie called Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.
Not The Who. Certainly not The Who. The Jonas Brothers. They're more The What?
The Jonas Brothers are a contemporary phenomenon - ... more
|Judge, The (2014) |
October 11, 2014
Writing matters. It really does.
It becomes painfully apparent in The Judge, which has a weak, plodding screenplay that dulls its actors and wastes its possibilities. The Judge is not the film it could be and should be. It ... more
|Jurassic Park III (2001)|
|Killer Inside Me, The (2010) |
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
|Kingdom, The (2007) |
June 22, 2009
The box office success of The Hangover puts into interesting context another movie about a bachelor party that goes wrong in Las Vegas. The other brutal bachelor blast is 1998's Very Bad Things.
The Hangover is an ... more
|Knocked Up (2007) |
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
|Larry Crowne (2011)|
|Last Hurrah, The (1958)|
|Les Misérables (2012)|
|Little Miss Sunshine (2006)|
|Looper (2012) |
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
|Mamma Mia! (2008)|
|Man of Steel (2013) |
June 15, 2013
Man of Steel is clutter and clatter. It's racket and rumpus.
It soars, but it also flounders.
The main clutterer is writer David S. Goyer [Christopher Nolan also contributed to the story.] The clatterer is director Zack ... more
|Master, The (2012) |
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
|Men Who Stare at Goats, The (2009)|
|Mighty Macs, The (2011)|
|Mini, The (2007) |
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
|Missouri Breaks, The (1976)|
|Monitor, The (2012) |
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
|Monuments Men, The (2014) |
February 9, 2014
George Clooney is a man of many talents. He's an engaging movie star.
But at times his glibness takes over. His geniality gets in the way.
The Monuments Men is a project that should make a serious - if not profound & ... more
|Most Wanted Man, A (2014) |
July 23, 2014
A Most Wanted Man is The Spy Who Came in from the Tepid.
For much of its length, the adaptation by Aussie screenwriter Andrew Bovell, of a John le Carre novel, is espionage ennui.
Le Carre's writing has spirit, depth, an ... more
|Motherland (2009) |
July 17, 2009
I'm afraid criticizing a movie such as Motherland is like booing at a funeral.
It's almost out of place to have doubts about a movie that so earnestly wants to offer healing. Almost.
I have a soft spot for an endeavo ... more
|My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)|
|Nanny McPhee (2005)|
|Non-Stop (2014) |
March 1, 2014
Non-Stop is Mistakes on a Plane.
It's not Taken: it's Mistaken.
If you're satisfied to see Liam Neeson, playing Atlas of the air, trying to carry a movie on his wide shoulders, you should enj ... more
|Once in a Lifetime (2006)|
|Prince and the Showgirl, The (1957)|
|Prisoners (2013) |
September 21, 2013
Prisoners is a con job.
It's a gloomy, rumbling torture chamber.
The film's best quality - mostly created by the masterly cinematographer Roger Deakins -is the atmosphere.
But style isn't enough. ... more
|Prometheus (2012) |
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
|Promised Land (2012) |
January 2, 2013
Promised Land is no Good Will Hunting (1997).
It brings back director Gus Van Sant and actor Matt Damon, but it's another example of you can't go home again.
Who knew Ben Affleck was so crucial? He's missi ... more
|Proof of Life (2000) |
December 14, 2000
The unconvincing Proof of Life is a missed opportunity
There is something major missing in Proof of Life. When Director Taylor Hackford decided to cut a steamy sex scene out of the film, he emasculated it. What is left of the romantic r ... more
|Pursuit of Happyness (2006)|
|Rabbit, Run (1970)|
|Racing Dreams (2010) |
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
|Reign Over Me (2007) |
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
|Requiem for a Dream (2000)|
|Resurrecting the Champ (2007) |
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
|Rock of Ages (2012) |
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
|Royal Tenenbaums, The (2001)|
|Runaways, The (2010) |
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
|Rundown, The (2003) |
June 22, 2009
The box office success of The Hangover puts into interesting context another movie about a bachelor party that goes wrong in Las Vegas. The other brutal bachelor blast is 1998's Very Bad Things.
The Hangover is an ... more
|Rush Hour 3 (2007) |
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
|Safe House (2012) |
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
|Samson and Delilah (1949)|
|Secretariat (2010) |
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
|Semi-Pro (2008) |
March 12, 2008
Will Ferrell's Semi-Pro is a dreadful comedy. It's lazy and slipshod. On RottenTomatoes, it received 24 percent favorable from critics, and, even more notable, 49 percent of viewers thought it was rotten.
If Semi-Pro is so la ... more
|Sergeant York (1941)|
|Sex and the City (2008) |
June 13, 2008
There are some places men just don't belong:
1) In a pink Cadillac going to a shopping shindig -- yes, I know Clint was in a movie called "Pink Cadillac," but there was no Mary Kay decal in the window.
2) At Girls' Night Out at Thunder F ... more
|Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) |
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
|Shrek the Third (2007)|
|Side Effects (2013) |
February 11, 2013
Several reviewers have mentioned Hitchcock in their reviews of Side Effects, as though somehow Stephen Soderbergh has successfully channeled the master in his direction of Side Effects.
This is bunk.
Hitch used illogi ... more
|Skyfall (2012) |
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
|Soloist, The (2009) |
May 1, 2009
Just because The Soloist is about a homeless person doesn't mean it should have pedestrian direction. But it does -- pedestrian and clodhopping.
When it was announced that Steve Lopez's book The Soloist was going to b ... more
|Spectacular Now, The (2013) |
August 20, 2013
Writers matter. Words matter.
Except in screenplays.
Screenwriters can't be trusted with novels. A recent blatant example is what Sundance-darling hacks Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter did to Tim Tharp's fine, articul ... more
|Straw Dogs (2011) |
September 21, 2011
If Sam Peckinpah were alive today and read that director Ron Lurie had remade his Straw Dogs, he would have scowled his famous scowl.
When he heard that Lurie had supposedly tweeted, "one of the reasons for remaking was to turn ... more
|Sun Also Rises, The (1957)|
|The Humbling (2014) |
January 26, 2015
The Humbling begins like a Master Class in acting, with Al Pacino emoting grandly.
About 1/2 hour into the film, actress Greta Gerwig arrives straight from her senior class play.
King Lear becomes Glee.
|The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) |
March 30, 2013
The Place Beyond the Pines is ten pounds of film stuffed into a five-pound movie.
It's an action film. No, it's a police corruption film. No, it's a political film. No, it's a broken-family film. No, it's a teen druggie film.< ... more
|Theory of Everything, The (2014)|
|Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)|
|To Rome with Love (2012) |
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
|Tomcats (2001) |
March 29, 2001
The zipper, the apple pie -- and now, Tomcats' runaway testicle
Tomcats is a raunchy, rambunctious, crowd-pleasing film. It has a scene with our hero chasing after a bouncing, runaway testicle through a hospital that will define the ... more
|Town, The (2010)|
|Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) |
July 1, 2009
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a popular mixture of absorbing adventure and clattering claptrap. Unfortunately, the latter dominates way too much.
It's machines on Viagra. I'm happy for the machines -- less so for th ... more
|True Grit (2010)|
|Unbroken (2014) |
December 26, 2014
Released in the U.S. on December 25, Unbroken is a Jolie, Jolie Christmas.
It's also an ordeal.
Director Angelina Jolie has made a film that is part genus, part adventure, and part religious tract. Jolie tries to walk in ... more
|Unfinished Song (2013) |
July 2, 2013
Unfinished Song is shameless hokum, but it should please its target audience.
It's about Arthur (Terence Stamp), a grumpy pensioner in London, whose beloved wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) has cancer. She has an incredibly sunny ... more
|Unknown (2011) |
February 25, 2011
Unknown turns Hitchcock into Hitchschlock.
The movie is purring along nicely relying on character and suspense, until suddenly it takes a U-turn and goes on a violent car chase, which shatters credibility. From then on it never reco ... more
|We Are Marshall (2006)|
|What Goes Up (2009) |
June 4, 2009
Usually I'm the naysayer, going against the preposterous flackery of such venal arbiters as Pete Hammond and Rex Reed.
But I find myself giving faint praise to a movie that 20 out of 20 reviewers on Rottentomatoes rated "rotten."... more
|What Just Happened (2008)|
|White Bird in a Blizzard (2014) |
October 16, 2014
Gregg Araki has lost his sting.
It's a sad loss.
Director Araki's latest film White Bird in a Blizzard is a floundering satire. It's American Beauty (1999) revisited in a flaky, snowy glaze.
It has ... more
|White House Down (2013) |
June 29, 2013
After seeing White House Down, you could well leave the theater as I did, saying, "God, that was an awful movie."
But you could have a smile on your face, as I did, because of the sheer amount of nonsense which you've su ... more
|World Trade Center (2006)|
|You Kill Me (2007)|
|Zabriskie Point (1970)|
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