Films by Rating : 2.5 - 2 Stars

12 Years a Slave (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
42 (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
American Gangster (2007)  Better than average
American Hustle (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, The (1974)  Better than average
Arbitrage (2012)  Better than average
Argo (2012)  Better than average
Bad Seed, The (1956)  Better than average
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The (2012)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Big Shave, The (1967)  Better than average
Biutiful (2010)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story (2012)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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

Brick (2006)  Better than average
Bridges at Toko-Ri, The (1954)  Better than average
Bridges of Madison County, The (1995)  Better than average
Buck (2011)  Better than average
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.

... more
Bucket List, The (2007)  Better than average
Bulworth (1998)  Better than average
Carlito's Way (1993)  Better than average
Cars (2006)  Better than average
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
January 11, 2007

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

Concocted by direc ... more

City Island (2010)  Better than average
Clear and Present Danger (1994)  Better than average
Coco Before Chanel (2009)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Crank (2006)  Better than average
Da Vinci Code, The (2006)  Better than average
Darling (1965)  Better than average
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

Dear Ruth (1947)  Better than average
Defiance (2008)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Dinner for Schmucks (2010)  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

Duck, You Sucker (1971)  Better than average
Edge of Darkness (2010)  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

End of Watch (2012)  Better than average
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

Father of the Bride (1991)  Better than average
Fifth Estate, The (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Flight (2012)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Frozen River (2008)  Better than average
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)  Better than average
Ghost Rider (2007)  Better than average
March 1, 2007

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

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

Ghost Town (2008)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Girl Who Played with Fire, The (2010)  Better than average
Godfather, Part III, The (1990)  Better than average
GoldenEye (1995)  Better than average
Grease (1978)  Better than average
Great Debaters, The (2007)  Better than average
Green Zone (2010)  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

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)  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

Haywire (2011)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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

Hidalgo (2004)  Better than average
Ho-Hav (2007)  Better than average
Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The (2012)  Better than average
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

Hoffa (1992)  Better than average
Horse Whisperer, The (1998)  Better than average
Hunger (2008)  Better than average
In a Better World (2010)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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

Inception (2010)  Better than average
Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Incredibles, The (2004)  Better than average
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)  Better than average
Inglourious Basterds (2009)  Better than average
Iris (2001)  Better than average
Iron Man 3 (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Jimmy P. (2014)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Kids are All Right, The (2010)  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

King of Kings (1961)  Better than average
Kites (2010)  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

L.A. Confidential (1997)  Better than average
La Camioneta (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Last Picture Show, The (1971)  Better than average
Last Station, The (2009)  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

Last Vegas (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Life, Above All (2010)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Lilo and Stitch (2002)  Better than average
Lincoln (2012)  Better than average
Lincoln Lawyer, The (2011)  Better than average
Lone Survivor (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Lovely Bones, The (2009)  Better than average
Lucky You (2007)  Better than average
May 10, 2007

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

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

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

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)  Better than average
Mechanic, The (1972)  Better than average
Michael Clayton (2007)  Better than average
Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, A (1982)  Better than average
Minority Report (2002)  Better than average
Moneyball (2011)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Must Read After My Death (2009)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Natural, The (1984)  Better than average
Nebraska (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Not Fade Away (2012)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Patriot Games (1992)  Better than average
Paul (2011)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Philomena (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
June 7, 2007

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

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

Play Misty for Me (1971)  Better than average
Prairie Home Companion, A (2006)  Better than average
Quantum of Solace (2008)  Better than average
Red Dragon (2002)  Better than average
Redbelt (2008)  Better than average
River Runs Through It, A (1992)  Better than average
Roadie (2011)  Better than average
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)  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

Rosemary's Baby (1968)  Better than average
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)  Better than average
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)  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

Sarah's Key (2011)  Better than average
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.

... more

Savages, The (2008)  Better than average
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Sessions, The (2012)  Better than average
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.

... more

Shine (1996)  Better than average
Shutter Island (2010)  Better than average
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)  Better than average
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)  Better than average
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Spider (2002)  Better than average
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Starting out in the Evening (2008)  Better than average
State and Main (2001)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Stella Days (2012)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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.

... more

Super 8 (2011)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Sylvia (2006)  Better than average
Syriana (2005)  Better than average
Taken (2009)  Better than average
Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, The (2009)  Better than average
Talk to Me (2007)  Better than average
Ten Commandments, The (1956)  Better than average
The Girl from Monaco (2008)  Better than average
There's Something About Mary (1998)  Better than average
Thin Ice (2012)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
Thor (2011)  Better than average
To Be or Not to Be (1983)  Better than average
Transporter 2 (2005)  Better than average
Transporter, The (2002)  Better than average
Truth About Charlie, The (2002)  Better than average
Up in the Air (2009)  Better than average
Wag the Dog (1997)  Better than average
Waking Ned (1998)  Better than average
Walk the Line (2005)  Better than average
Walkabout (1971)  Better than average
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)  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

WALL-E (2008)  Better than average
Watchmen (2009)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
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)  Better than average
White Heat (1949)  Better than average
White Hunter Black Heart (1990)  Better than average
Winter in Wartime (2008)  Better than average
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)  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

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)  Better than average
...Around (2008)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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

300 (2007)  Watchable
500 Days of Summer (2009)  Watchable
About Schmidt (2003)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Agent Cody Banks (2003)  Watchable
All God's Children Can Dance (2007)  Watchable
All Is Lost (2013)  Watchable
October 22, 2013

Where has irony gone?

In the Golden Age of American cinema in the 1970s, irony was a crucial, edifying staple. Movies had substance and bite.

All Is Lost is tellingly representative of what movies have become today.

... more

American Wedding (2003)  Watchable
Angels and Demons (2009)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Apocalypto (2006)  Watchable
Astronaut Farmer, The (2007)  Watchable
March 8, 2007

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

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

Atonement (2007)  Watchable
Away from Her (2008)  Watchable
Bad Teacher (2011)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)  Watchable
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)  Watchable
Black Swan, The (2010)  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

Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)  Watchable
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

Bobby (2006)  Watchable
Body of Lies (2008)  Watchable
Brave One, The (2007)  Watchable
Brothers Bloom, The (2009)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
February 4, 2013

"Let's go see a movie based on the compelling fiction of a French writer."

"Les Mis?"

"No, Bullet to the Head."

"Huh?"

"It's much shorter, and has more behea ... more

Casino Jack (2010)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
February 8, 2007

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

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

Cellmates (2012)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Criminal (2004)  Watchable
Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The (2008)  Watchable
Debt, The (2011)  WatchableDebt, The (2011)  Watchable
Deja Vu (2006)  Watchable
Descendants, The (2011)  Watchable
Devil Wears Prada, The (2006)  Watchable
Don't Look Now (1973)  Watchable
Doubt (2008)  Watchable
Down to Earth (2001)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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

Duplicity (2009)  Watchable
Earthquake (1974)  Watchable
Eiger Sanction, The (1975)  Watchable
Elysium (2013)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Everybody's Fine (2009)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Facts of Life, The (1960)  Watchable
Fairhaven (2012)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Finnigan's War (2013)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
May 17, 2007

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

One of my favorite movies tha ... more

Frankenstein (1994)  Watchable
Friday Night Lights (2004)  Watchable
From Paris with Love (2010)  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

Funny People (2009)  Watchable
G-Force (2009)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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

Good Shepherd, The (2006)  Watchable
Great Gatsby, The (2013)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
August 30, 2007

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

Hangover Part 2, The (2011)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Happy Feet (2006)  Watchable
Her (2013)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)  Watchable
Hunting Party, The (2007)  Watchable
Ides of March, The (2011)  Watchable
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

Impossible, The (2012)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Invictus (2009)  Watchable
Iron Man 2 (2010)  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

J. Edgar (2011)  Watchable
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)  Watchable
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

Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (2009)  Watchable
March 19, 2009

I went to see the movie called Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.

The who?

Not The Who. Certainly not The Who. The Jonas Brothers. They're more The What?

The Jonas Brothers are a contemporary phenomenon - ... more

Jumper (2008)  Watchable
Jurassic Park III (2001)  Watchable
Killer Inside Me, The (2010)  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

Kingdom, The (2007)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
June 14, 2007

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

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

It has been immensely well-received ... more

Larry Crowne (2011)  WatchableLarry Crowne (2011)  Watchable
Last Hurrah, The (1958)  Watchable
Leatherheads (2008)  Watchable
Les Misérables (2012)  Watchable
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)  Watchable
Looper (2012)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Man of Steel (2013)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Mighty Macs, The (2011)  Watchable
Mini, The (2007)  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

Missouri Breaks, The (1976)  Watchable
Monitor, The (2012)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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

Motherland (2009)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Nanny McPhee (2005)  Watchable
Non-Stop (2014)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Payback (1999)  Watchable
Performance (1970)  Watchable
Prince and the Showgirl, The (1957)  Watchable
Prisoners (2013)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Rabbit, Run (1970)  Watchable
Racing Dreams (2010)  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

Reign Over Me (2007)  Watchable
March 29, 2007

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

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

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

Requiem for a Dream (2000)  Watchable
Resurrecting the Champ (2007)  Watchable
September 6, 2007

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

Resur ... more

Rock of Ages (2012)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Runaways, The (2010)  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

Rundown, The (2003)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
September 23, 2007

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

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

and the Order of th ... more

Rushmore (1998)  Watchable
Safe House (2012)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Seabiscuit (2003)  Watchable
Secretariat (2010)  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

Semi-Pro (2008)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Sex and the City (2008)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Side Effects (2013)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Superbad (2007)  Watchable
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)  Watchable
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
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)  Watchable
To Rome with Love (2012)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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

Topaz (1969)  Watchable
Town, The (2010)  Watchable
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
Unfinished Song (2013)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
What Goes Up (2009)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
White House Down (2013)  Watchable
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)  Watchable
You Kill Me (2007)  Watchable
Zabriskie Point (1970)  Watchable

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