Films by Rating : 3.5 - 3 Stars

3:10 to Yuma (2007)  Exemplary
Almost Famous (2000)  Exemplary
Amour (2012)  Exemplary
Animal House (1978)  Exemplary
Animal Kingdom (2010)  Exemplary
Apartment, The (1960)  Exemplary
Artist and the Model, The (2013)  Exemplary
February 18, 2014

Four months ago, on October 9, 2013, film critic Stanley Kauffmann died in New York City. He was 97.

A month later on November 8, The New Republic published Kauffmann's three final reviews. One was his positive assessment of ... more

Artist, The (2011)  Exemplary
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The (2007)  Exemplary
Avatar (2009)  Exemplary
Ballonatic, The (1923)  Exemplary
Berberian Sound Studio (2013)  Exemplary
Blue Jasmine (2013)  Exemplary
Breaking Away (1979)  ExemplaryBreaking Away (1979)  Exemplary
Brokeback Mountain (2005)  Exemplary
Broken (2013)  Exemplary
Captain Phillips (2013)  Exemplary
Cinderella Man (2005)  Exemplary
Color of Money, The (1986)  Exemplary
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)  Exemplary
Dear Frankie (2004)  Exemplary
Deep Blue Sea, The (2012)  Exemplary
July 30, 2012

The Deep Blue Sea is a fitful, poignant film about failed love. It's a movie that casts a harrowing spell.

Adapted from the play written by Terence Rattigan, The Deep Blue (1952) is set "around 1950."

It focus ... more

Deer Hunter, The (1978)  Exemplary
Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The (1972)  Exemplary
Django Unchained (2012)  Exemplary
Don't Pave Main Street: Carmel's Heritage (1994)  Exemplary
Downhill Racer (1969)  ExemplaryDownhill Racer (1969)  ExemplaryDownhill Racer (1969)  Exemplary
English Patient, The (1996)  Exemplary
Erin Brockovich (2000)  Exemplary
Fahrenheit 451 (1966)  Exemplary
Far from Men (Loin des hommes) (2015)  Exemplary
April 18, 2015

A movie based on an Albert Camus story. Now that's existential.

In Far from Men (Loin des hommes), French writer/director David Oelhoffen enhances a spare Camus short story originally titled "The Guest," published ... more

Fargo (1996)  Exemplary
Fly, The (1986)  Exemplary
Foxcatcher (2014)  Exemplary
G.I. Jesus (2006)  Exemplary
Game Change (2011)  Exemplary
March 11, 2012

Game Change, in a way, is more potent than its political sources. Based on the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann (who has one line of dialogue as a reporter in the movie), Game Change was adapted for HBO by Danny Strong.

... more
Gangs of New York (2002)  Exemplary
Ghost Writer, The (2010)  Exemplary
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)  Exemplary
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)  Exemplary
Harvey (1950)  Exemplary
Heaven Can Wait (1978)  Exemplary
History of Violence, A (2005)  Exemplary
Hitchcock (2012)  Exemplary
Hot Fuzz (2007)  Exemplary
Hunger Games, The (2012)  Exemplary
Italianamerican (1974)  Exemplary
Khartoum (1966)  Exemplary
King's Speech, The (2010)  Exemplary
L'Avventura (1960)  Exemplary
Lambert & Stamp (2015)  Exemplary
May 17, 2015

In contemporary film, there's a genre that is original, bracing and memorable. It's also vastly underappreciated. Most people miss it.

In recent years, the documentary about modern music and musicians has offered a wonderful bounty ... more

Locke (2014)  Exemplary
Lookout, The (2007)  Exemplary
Magnificent Ambersons, The (1942)  Exemplary
March of the Penguins (2005)  Exemplary
Marty (1955)  Exemplary
Mean Streets (1973)  Exemplary
Melvin and Howard (1980)  Exemplary
Men in Black 3 (2012)  Exemplary
June 2, 2012

1968 was the year both Will Smith and Josh Brolin were born.

Now Smith and Brolin get together on screen for about an hour in Men in Black 3 - set when? 1969.

It's a serendipitous uniting. Smith again plays Agent ... more

Miss Potter (2006)  Exemplary
Mission, The (1986)  Exemplary
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)  Exemplary
August 5, 2015

So much entertainment in movies and television so far this year has been harrowing, crude, or clumsy.

It's time to escape.

Mr. Hunt, here's your assignment. Help me escape. If you accept, I'll be very grateful.

... more

Motorcycle Diaries (2004)  Exemplary
Muppets, The (2011)  Exemplary
December 26, 2011

The "Rainbow Connection" is reconnected in 2011. It's a dazzling reunion.

The Muppets is a joyful mix of the nostalgic past and a vibrant present. It tops the list of family movies for the holidays.

If you're ... more

Neil Young Journeys (2012)  Exemplary
Of Gods and Men (2010)  Exemplary
Pirate Radio (2009)  Exemplary
Prime Suspect (1995)  Exemplary
Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The (1970)  ExemplaryPrivate Life of Sherlock Holmes, The (1970)  Exemplary
Prophet, A (2009)  Exemplary
Reuben, Reuben (1983)  Exemplary
Road to Perdition (2002)  Exemplary
Roman Holiday (1953)  Exemplary
Rookie, The (2002)  Exemplary
Save the Tiger (1973)  Exemplary
Shakespeare in Love (1998)  Exemplary
Short Cuts (1993)  Exemplary
Shut Up and Sing (2006)  Exemplary
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)  Exemplary
Social Network, The (2010)  Exemplary
Stanno tutti bene (1990)  Exemplary
Station Agent, The (2003)  Exemplary
Stuey (aka High Roller: The Stu Unger Story) (2003)  Exemplary
Take Shelter (2011)  Exemplary
Tender Mercies (1983)  Exemplary
Thank You For Smoking (2006)  Exemplary
Time of Thier Lives, The (1946)  Exemplary
Toy Story (1995)  Exemplary
Transsiberian (2008)  Exemplary
Venus (2006)  Exemplary
W (2008)  Exemplary
War of the Worlds (2005)  Exemplary
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)  Exemplary
Winter Light (1962)  Exemplary
Winter's Bone (2010)  Exemplary
Wolf of Wall Street, The (2013)  Exemplary
20 Feet from Stardom (2013)  Very Good
3 Women (1977)  Very Good
40 Year Old Virgin, The (2005)  Very Good
Ace in the Hole (1951)  Very Good
Aladdin (1992)  Very Good
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)  Very Good
Alice In Wonderland (2010)  Very Good
March 14, 2010

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

Amazing Spider-Man, The (2012)  Very Good
July 6, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man shouldn't work. It's a reprise of a movie that was released only ten years ago. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst couldn't be replaced, could they? There was a lasting charm to their relationship. And Maguir ... more

Appaloosa (2008)  Very Good
November 27, 2008

I give thanks for westerns.

Every time they seem to be about to gasp their last, dusty breath, one comes along to give them a bit of renewed life. Bless it, the western genre will not die. Last year it was the excellent remake 3:10 to Yuma< ... more

Avengers, The (2012)  Very Good
May 5, 2012

Although it takes a while to hit its stride, once it does Marvel's The Avengers is a razzle-dazzle, rip-roaring entertainment.

It introduces its various characters without much panache, then they bicker, and one begins to wonder ... more

Bad Habits (2007)  Very Good
Bad Words (2013)  Very Good
April 3, 2014

After seeing Bad Words, I'm trying to set up a swearing bee between Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Bateman.

Louis-Dreyfus (Selina Meyer in HBO's Veep) and Bateman (Guy Trilby in Bad Words) both take cursing to a ... more

Bank Job, The (2008)  Very Good
Beauty and the Beast (1991)  Very Good
Beowulf (2007)  Very Good
November 29, 2007

700 A.D. is now 21st Century American 3-D. It's a hell of a transformation.

As a would-be litterateur, I should be aghast at what has become of Beowulf, which was once the bane of English majors. At least some of us. But as a film fan ... more

Best Man, The (1964)  Very Good
Best Offer, The (2014)  Very Good
February 3, 2014

In The Best Offer, director/writer Giuseppe Tornatore feasts at the Hitchcock table.

It's intriguing to see how directors still channel Hitchcock. Tornatore's first English-language feature The Best Offer could be tit ... more

Better Life, A (2011)  Very Good
July 16, 2011

A Better Life is steeped in decency.

But how does decency survive in an indecent world?

Carlos Galindo (Demian Bichir) is an undocumented, Mexican day laborer, who works as a gardener in the posh neighborhoods of Los Angeles ... more

Big Red One, The (1980)  Very Good
Blade Runner (1982)  Very Good
Bliss (2007)  Very Good
July 14, 2009

Bliss is a provocative voyage across the exotic landscape and placid waterways of Turkey.

Set in an intriguing locale, based on an important novel, Bliss is the tale of diverse culture and sharp -- sometimes brutal -- confli ... more

Blood and Wine (1996)  Very Good
Bob Roberts (1992)  Very Good
Born to be Wild (2011)  Very Good
April 23, 2011

Born to be Wild is a 40-minute return to innocence.

The documentary is so engaging and affirmative, the viewer may have a smile on his or her face for the entire showing.

Unfortunately many potential viewers probably will mi ... more

Bottle Shock (2008)  Very Good
September 4, 2008

Movie ads in the newspapers are a great barometer of … nothing. Except perhaps gullibility.

Studios often get pseudo-reviewers who are their lackeys to trumpet praise over the least deserving of movies. These dupers get their names in ... more

Bourne Legacy, The (2012)  Very Good
August 12, 2012

When a very successful movie franchise makes some major changes, it is likely that it will face a deluge of rejection and preconception.

"They changed it. OMG, they made changes!"

The Bourne Legacy comes with a lot o ... more

Braveheart (1995)  Very Good
Broken Arrow (1950)  Very Good
Bugsy (1991)  Very Good
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)  Very Good
Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)  Very Good
September 25, 2009

Michael Moore titled his most recent film Capitalism: A Love Story, probably because in Capitalism you never have to say you're sorry.

And Moore never says he's sorry as he trashes Capitalism in America.

An assault o ... more

Capote (2005)  Very Good
Casino Royale (2006)  Very Good
Catch Me If You Can (2002)  Very Good
Catch-22 (1970)  Very Good
Cement Suitcase (2014)  Very Good
May 3, 2014

Cement Suitcase is an indie with flair and heart.

It probably shouldn't work as well as it does, but writer/director J. Rick Castaneda also has an active intelligence. He is a smart, imaginative filmmaker.

What separates ... more

Changeling (2008)  Very Good
Citizenfour (2014)  Very Good
Clueless (1995)  Very Good
Compliance (2012)  Very Good
January 8, 2013

We live in a world of spam and religion.

Once the seed is planted, it may take root. Whom do you trust?

It's not implausible that one might give credence to a phone call from someone who says he is a policeman and has the voice ... more

Conspirator, The (2001)  Very Good
April 12, 2011

The Conspirator marks a return for Robert Redford as a director. If not triumphant, at least serious.

Like director Clint Eastwood -- who made several important movies in his 70s -- Redford has made a significant one in The Consp ... more

Contagion (2011)  Very Good
September 15, 2011

Don't touch that computer screen!

You don't know where it's been -- or who has coughed on it. Or who has made contact with it.

In Contagion, plain surfaces are deadly. And -- like governments -- computers lie. < ... more

Conversation, The (1974)  Very Good
Cool Hand Luke (1967)  Very Good
Copenhagen (2014)  Very Good
Coraline (2009)  Very Good
February 19, 2009

Coraline is a mesmerizing tale with macabre stitching.

There's no blood, but Coraline is a haunting horrorfest located in a weird wonderland.

Coraline is the animated story of Coraline Jones (winningly voic ... more

Coriolanus (2011)  Very Good
February 5, 2012

Ralph Fiennes has created a slashing, sprawling version of Shakespere's Coriolanus.

It's muscular Shakespeare. It's trimmed down - but has themes and a sensibility that fit into today's society and world.

... more
Cove, The (2009)  Very Good
Cover Girl (1944)  Very Good
Crazy Heart (2009)  Very Good
Crimson Tide (1995)  Very Good
Croods, The (2013)  Very Good
March 26, 2013

DreamWorks' The Croods is like an animated Reality TV show about a dysfunctional cave family. It's cartoon mayhem.

It's Croods in Stone - the Stoned Kardashians. It's Honey Crood Crood. It's prehistoric Snook ... more

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)  Very Good
Damned United, The (2009)  Very Good
Danny Collins (2015)  Very Good
April 1, 2015

For much of the film Danny Collins, Al Pacino - as the title character - sails along at his effervescent best, cracking wise. He's vibrant and engaging.

Pacino plays an aging rock star who is doggy-paddling through the s ... more

Dark Knight, The (2008)  Very Good
Days of Heaven (1978)  Very Good
Dick Tracy (1990)  Very Good
Dirty Dancing (1987)  Very Good
Dirty Dozen, The (1967)  Very Good
District 9 (2009)  Very Good
District B13 (2004)  Very Good
Disturbia (2007)  Very Good
April 26, 2007

"Disturbia" is a well-made, very entertaining thriller.

It shouldn't be. Reflecting Alfred Hitchcock, it should be just another in a long line of Hitch wannabe retreads.

But it's much better than that. "Disturbia" -- a contrivance ... more

Duel (1971)  Very Good
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)  Very Good
Eagle, The (2011)  Very Good
February 9, 2011

The Eagle is what an action-adventure should be -- gripping, literate, and entertaining.

It's a volatile tale that transports us to a faraway place and a faraway time. Although rooted in tradition, it avoids most of the cliches, ... more

Eastern Promises (2007)  Very Good
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)  Very Good
June 8, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow is an ebullient melee of an action film.

And, beneath the surface it percolates. It has evocative layers.

Basically, Edge of Tomorrow is the story of Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), a callow publicis ... more

El Cid (1961)  Very Good
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2014)  Very Good
March 9, 2014

In the marvelous documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, the title figure is a pistol.

She has some misfires, a few blanks, but she's still a straight shooter. She has a canny sense of her target audience, developed over more than ... more

Elf (2003)  Very Good
Emperor of the North Pole (1973)  Very Good
Europa Report (2013)  Very Good
August 6, 2013

Europa Report is one of those films that may not meet some expectations.

There are some allusions to Alien (1979) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - including the Strauss waltz - but there's no belly buster ... more

Exorcist, The (1973)  Very Good
Exterminating Angel, The (1962)  Very Good
Family Plot (1976)  Very Good
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)  Very Good
November 22, 2009

Everybody's Fine is a nice picture about a dysfunctional family which keeps secrets. It should appeal to nice, dysfunctional, secretive people in the audience -- which probably is the majority.

One wonders why Robert De Niro wou ... more

Felony (2014)  Very Good
September 20, 2014

Australia has been an unending source of major movie stars.

Hugh Jackman, Mel Gibson, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Toni Collette, Geoffrey Rush, Jacki Weaver, Guy Pearce, Chris Hemsworth, et al., have called Australia home.

The m ... more

Finding Vivian Maier (2014)  Very Good
April 19, 2014

Recently I was reminded of the value a critic can have when I received a passionate email from critic David Elliott.

David spent his career in Chicago and San Diego writing film reviews for major papers. He was with the San Diego Un ... more

Force Majeure (2014)  Very Good
January 5, 2015

Force Majeure is the film that probably caused more intense discussion by viewers leaving the theater in 2014.

Not just Swedish viewers - universal viewers.

Force Majeure is a battle of the sexes, and a battle be ... more

Forgiveness of Blood, The (2012)  Very Good
March 7, 2012

The Forgiveness of Blood ends with the image of the expressionless face of a young woman. If audiences demand resolution, this does not provide it.

Is she stuck in the past or looking forward to the future? It is open to interpretat ... more

Gambler, The (1974)  Very Good
Get Low (2010)  Very Good
August 14, 2010

Robert Duvall is an acting treasure.

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

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

Getaway, The (1972)  Very Good
Ghost Catchers (1944)  Very Good
Girl in the Cafe, The (2005)  Very Good
Gone Baby Gone (2007)  Very Good
Good the Bad and the Ugly, The (1966)  Very Good
Goodfellas (1990)  Very Good
Goon (2012)  Very Good
April 8, 2012

Goon is based on chutzpah.

At the beginning of the movie, it says, "Based on a true story." That's usually the kiss of inauthenticity.

The movie Goon has a connection, often frayed, with the nonfiction ... more

Grand Budapest Hotel, The (2014)  Very Good
April 23, 2015

Most people go to a movie with preconceptions. Expectations.

Sometimes critics go to a movie with only dire preconceptions. A director or actor has burned him or her badly in the past.

I have been avoiding writer/director Noah Baum ... more

Grand Hotel (1932)  Very Good
Gravity (2013)  Very Good
Greatest Show on Earth, The (1952)  Very Good
Guard, The (2011)  Very Good
September 5, 2011

The Guard is a vulgar, Irish treat.

You may not understand Gaelic, but if you understand Familiar-Usage-Concerning-Kilkarney, you'll at least understand every other word in The Guard.

The Guard is the bo ... more

Guns of Navarone, The (1961)  Very Good
Hair (1979)  Very Good
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)  Very Good
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011)  Very Good
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)  Very Good
July 22, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an intoxicating potion of teenage hormones and evil spirits. Both are raging.

In the sixth movie in the Potter series -- one of the best -- about Harry's exploits at Hogwarts School of W ... more

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)  Very Good
Heiress, The (1949)  Very Good
Hesher (2011)  Very Good
Hoax, The (2007)  Very Good
April 12, 2007

The Hoax is the real thing.

It's a breezy, engaging caper. It's like a heist film of the 1970s, but the pilferers are literary men not bank robbers.

Set in the early '70s, The Hoax rediscovers one of the essential themes of that era -- it ... more
Home at the End of the World, A (2004)  Very Good
Homicide (1991)  Very Good
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)  Very Good
Hugo (2011)  Very Good
Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The (2013)  Very Good
December 1, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire probably shouldn't work. It's a sequel - the second of four films adapted from Suzanne Collins' literary trilogy.

The film is padded to a length of two hours and 26 minutes. It adds a ... more

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (2015)  Very Good
May 21, 2015

In the present contemporary era of video games and an increasingly militarized society, gentleness is going the way of humility. It's hard to find. But Big Bird still has it. He's an 8-foot tall, yellow bundle of joyful sweetness; he alway ... more

I'm Not There (2007)  Very Good
Iceman Cometh, The (1973)  Very Good
In the House (2013)  Very Good
May 31, 2013

In the House is a clever, cluttered, and transcendent film.

Director/scriptwriter Francois Ozon knows his Hitchcock well. He employs him effectively, but the clutter is his own.

Many of the French have always exalted Hitchc ... more

In the Valley of Elah (2007)  Very Good
Infamous (2006)  Very Good
Inherent Vice (2014)  Very Good
Inside Out (2015)  Very Good
June 22, 2015

Film Critics can be like Riley in Inside Out.

Our core memories are precious.

When a character in Pixar's Inside Out makes an allusion to "Jake," it jogs the Chinatown core with aplomb.

I ... more

Invincible (2006)  Very Good
Iron Man (2008)  Very Good
Jarhead (2005)  Very Good
Joan of Arc (1948)  Very Good
Julie & Julia (2009)  Very Good
Jungle Book, The (1967)  Very Good
Juno (2007)  Very Good
Knight and Day (2010)  Very Good
June 27, 2010

Knight and Day is a hoot.

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

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

La Femme Nikita (1990)  Very Good
La Vie en Rose (2007)  Very Good
Last Chance Harvey (2008)  Very Good
January 29, 2009

Last Chance Harvey is an easygoing trip abroad.

It features two relaxed pros playing acting tennis -- hitting graceful lobs to each other, and then artful returns.

The two acting aces are Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, wh ... more

Last King of Scotland, The (2006)  Very Good
Last Temptation of Christ, The (1988)  Very Good
Laurel Canyon (2002)  Very Good
Layer Cake (2004)  Very Good
League of Their Own, A (1992)  Very Good
Lebanon (2010)  Very Good
Left Handed Gun, The (1958)  Very Good
Leon the Professional (1994)  Very Good
Life Itself (2014)  Very Good
July 11, 2014

Life Itself is a profile in criticism. It's a profile in courage. And it's a profile in ego.

Movie reviewer Roger Ebert plays the lead role of the courageous, driven egotist in the documentary of his own life [now on VOD]. ... more

Life of Pi (2012)  Very Good
Limitless (2011)  Very Good
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)  Very Good
July 13, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard is an over-the-top, fun rampage.

Moviegoers often have to suspend their disbelief to relate to a movie. They have to accept the unbelievable, even, at times, the ridiculous, to enjoy themselves. But the movie has to e ... more

Lost in Translation (2003)  Very Good
Love Crime (2011)  Very Good
October 9, 2011

Love Crime is a slick French cinema croissant filled with sweet and sour revenge.

Part way through, you wonder what is going on. You simply aren't sure where it's going.

It all falls into place at the end -- perhaps ... more

Magic in the Moonlight (2014)  Very Good
Man on Wire (2008)  Very Good
Margin Call (2011)  Very Good
Marnie (1964)  Very Good
Medora (2013)  Very Good
April 8, 2014

Medora is a poignant gasp at the devastation of small town America.

The sometimes-fascinating documentary - ably shot by cinematographer Rachael Counce - is a bleakly elegiac glance at a disappearing rural Indiana small town ... more

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (2010)  Very Good
October 27, 2010

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

Larsson's novels are en ... more

Messenger, The (2009)  Very Good
Midnight Cowboy (1969)  Very Good
Milk (2008)  Very Good
Miracle (2004)  Very Good
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)  Very Good
March 27, 2008

People often complain, "they don't make movies like they used to." But on occasion a film is made for that audience.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is such a film. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a well-acted comedy with en ... more

Mission Impossible II (2000)  Very Good
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)  Very Good
December 18, 2011

Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol was was made for IMAX. Be sure to see it on the huge screen.

It's MI - Maximum. It blows up the Mission Impossible Force's stature. It also blows up part of of the Kremlin. As well as reason and l ... more

Mississippi Burning (1988)  Very Good
Mongol (2008)  Very Good
Monsieur Lazhar (2012)  Very Good
July 5, 2012

Maybe the best thing about Monsieur Lazhar is that the school children in it really seem to care about education.

Of course, it's in Canada.

Set in a middle school in Montreal, the French-language Canadian film is the st ... more

Monster (2003)  Very Good
Most Violent Year, A (2014)  Very Good
November 29, 2014

A Most Violent Year is the American Dream in winter.

Long ago the American Dream lost its spirituality and turned into the American Success Story.

In A Most Violent Year, set in 1981, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is try ... more

Mother (2010)  Very Good
Mr. Holmes (2015)  Very Good
July 13, 2015

It's been a long time since I had dinner with Basil Rathbone. We argued about modern theatre. To my eternal regret, we didn't talk about Sherlock Holmes.

Now, decades later, in Mr. Holmes, Sherlock is in his dotage. It's ... more

My Week with Marilyn (2011)  Very Good
National Treasure (2004)  Very Good
Ordinary People (1980)  Very Good
Outlaw Josey Wales, The (1976)  Very Good
Pacific Rim (2013)  Very Good
July 16, 2013

Pacific Rim vaults our 12-year old selves into two universes. It's a vigorous ride into the past -- and the future.

Once again we sit with our Raisinettes and Tootsie Rolls in front of the magical screen, awaiting adventure and exci ... more

Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011)  Very Good
July 22, 2011

Page One: Inside the New York Times is a sometimes fascinating, unsettling, and informative look at a venerable institution that has to cope with a rapidly changing world.

Can it survive a brave, new world in which information and ... more

Paranormal Activity (2009)  Very Good
Please Give (2010)  Very Good
June 17, 2010

Go East 50-year old woman. Go East.

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

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

Precious (2009)  Very Good
Pulp Fiction (1994)  Very Good
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)  Very Good
Quartet (2012)  Very Good
Queen Kelly (1929)  Very Good
Queen, The (2006)  Very Good
Quiet Man, The (1952)  Very Good
Raising Arizona (1987)  Very Good
Recount (2008)  Very Good
June 5, 2008

The first five months of 2008 at the movies have been a distressing period. Iron Man had its moments as did The Bank Job and Street Kings, but only The Visitor will make my ten best list. It's been a tepid time for ... more

Reds (1981)  Very Good
Return of Martin Guerre, The (1982)  Very Good
Rewrite, The (2015)  Very Good
February 16, 2015

Hugh Grant has the best facial expression of bemusement in films. Probably ever.

Even in negligible comedies, such as The Rewrite, that expression is gold. What makes it special is the intelligence behind it. Despite being baffled, ... more

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)  Very Good
August 7, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a gripping test of anxiety.

Those who have seen the previews know that the apes launch an attack on the Golden Gate Bridge in California. How far will they go? What will set them off? When is it al ... more

Robot & Frank (2012)  Very Good
September 8, 2012

Robot & Frank is an airy, engaging flight of fancy.

It's also part caper film, part character study, and part allegory about aging. Robot & Frank shouldn't work, but it does.

It has the potential to be ... more

Rocky Balboa (2006)  Very Good
Roger Dodger (2002)  Very Good
Ruby Sparks (2012)  Very Good
Rudo y Cursi (2009)  Very Good
May 31, 2009

Rudo y Cursi is a kicky movie about the giddy heights and crushing lows of the sporting life.

It's the tale of two half-brothers -- Tato (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Beto (Diego Luna) -- from a village in Mexico, who work on a banan ... more

Rush (2013)  Very Good
September 29, 2013

Rush is a slick movie based on an actual rivalry in Formula One racing in the 1970s.

The two fierce competitors were England's James Hunt and Austria's Niki Lauda.

Director Ron Howard, screenwriter Peter Morgan, and ... more

Rust and Bone (2012)  Very Good
January 15, 2013

What makes us identify with characters in a movie? Do they have to be likeable? Or are they flawed beings caught in a human condition which in some way we share?

How much does plot matter?

The French-Belgian film Rust and Bone ... more

Sabrina (1954)  Very Good
Saving Private Ryan (1998)  Very Good
Scarface (1932)  Very Good
Scent of a Woman (1992)  Very Good
Secret in Their Eyes, The (2009)  Very Good
June 3, 2010

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

Separation, A (2011)  Very Good
February 13, 2012

Separation is an active international phenomenon. Cultures and societies are at war with themselves.

A Separation is about one of these cultures and societies.

A Separation was written and directed by Iranian Asghar F ... more

September Issue, The (2009)  Very Good
September 17, 2009

Film can transport you into a world where you are an alien. It can enchant, bewilder, and inform.

The documentary film The September Issue is enchanting, bewildering, and informing.

My fashion sense begins and ends with the ... more

Seven Pounds (2008)  Very Good
Shampoo (1975)  Very Good
Shaun of the Dead (2004)  Very Good
Shifty (2008)  Very Good
October 18, 2012

Shifty is low-key, low budget, but high grade. It's a film about sitting and talking. And drug dealing.

It builds slowly - some may want more action, but it has a surprisingly satisfying conclusion.

Shifty is ... more

Side by Side (2012)  Very Good
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)  Very Good
Single Man, A (2009)  Very Good
February 13, 2010

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

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

Based o ... more

Sleepless Night (2012)  Very Good
Sling Blade (1996)  Very Good
Smart People (2008)  Very Good
Snake Pit, The (1948)  Very Good
Song of the South (1946)  Very Good
Sophie's Choice (1982)  Very Good
Source Code (2011)  Very Good
April 6, 2011

Ah, product placement.

It's obviously a reason to take a train ride over and over.

At first upon seeing the movie, I thought Source Code might be some new kind of doughnut at Dunkin' Donuts. There's a well-placed ... more

Southpaw (2015)  Very Good
July 29, 2015

Southpaw is MMA.

Mixed Movie Arts, with the emphasis on mixed.

It goes from the highs of Eminem's music to the lows of Jim Lampley's and Roy Jones's boxing analysis.

Southpaw breaks into two parts ... more

Space Cowboys (2000)  Very Good
Spider-Man 3 (2007)  Very Good
May 3, 2007

You know that the third Spider-Man had to be bigger. The third movie in a franchise goes for broke.

And Spider-Man 3 is bigger, if not better. It's overdone, overlong, and overplotted. It's all over the place.

This does not mean Spider-Man 3 ... more

Stand by Me (1986)  Very Good
Starman (1984)  Very Good
Stay Hungry (1976)  Very Good
Straight Outta Compton (2015)  Very Good
August 16, 2015

When one goes to see Straight Outta Compton, he knows he's going to experience violence, police harassment, gang conflict, vicious hostility, and appalling destruction.

What is surprising - despite the galling downbeats - ... more

Street Kings (2008)  Very Good
Subject Was Roses, The (1968)  Very Good
Sunshine Cleaning (2009)  Very Good
April 17, 2009

Independent films are the stepchildren of cinema.

They often lack the sustenance of normality. They are hit-or-miss offspring.

Because they are outside the immediate family of Hollywood, they lack conventional discipline. But they ... more

Superman Returns (2006)  Very Good
Swing Time (1936)  Very Good
Taking of Pelham One Two Three, The (1974)  Very Good
Talledega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)  Very Good
Tangled (2010)  Very Good
Taxi Driver (1976)  Very Good
Ted (2012)  Very Good
Tell No One (2008)  Very Good
April 3, 2009

A lot of people have stopped going to movie theaters. Going out to the movies is a habit. It's a great habit, but it's a habit.

Today many people wait until a movie comes out on DVD, so then they can watch it at home.

On oc ... more

Terminal, The (2004)  Very Good
That Guy... Who Was in That Thing (2012)  Very Good
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)  Very Good
May 16, 2012

Question: When is a pirate a lark?

Answer: When he's composed by the Aardman Animations production company and voiced by Hugh Grant.

When Grant is at his best - as he was in About a Boy (2002) - there's nobod ... more

Thelma & Louise (1991)  Very Good
There Will be Blood (2008)  Very Good
Thieves Like Us (1974)  Very Good
Three Caballeros, The (1944)  Very Good
Through a Glass Darkly (1961)  Very Good
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)  Very Good
Time to Kill, A (1996)  Very Good
Toy Story 3 (2010)  Very Good
Train, The (1965)  Very Good
Transformers (2007)  Very Good
Two Faces of January, The (2014)  Very Good
Two Women (1961)  Very Good
Tyson (2009)  Very Good
May 8, 2009

Mike Tyson is thoughtful.


The documentary movie Tyson reveals a Mike Tyson I can almost guarantee you haven't seen before.

Hardly anyone thinks of former boxer Tyson as articulate and sincere. But director J ... more

U2-3D (2008)  Very Good
Undefeated (2011)  Very Good
February 4, 2012

At its best, Undefeated is a Hail Mary TD pass. It recently received an Oscar nomination as Best Documentary feature. Other times, it's a routine punt.

Undefeated is an anthem of decency and empathy. It's also about l ... more

Under the Same Moon (2008)  Very Good
April 3, 2008

Lou Dobbs will hate Under the Same Moon (la Misma Luna). In the past Dobbs has debunked his roots.

He said, "I have no idea who in the heck or where in the heck my grandparents came from. I don't even care."

Some who are not so dismi ... more

Unstoppable (2010)  Very Good
V for Vendetta (2006)  Very Good
Venus in Fur (2014)  Very Good
Very Bad Things (1998)  Very Good
Vincent and Theo (1990)  Very Good
Waltz with Bashir (2008)  Very Good
March 5, 2009

The Israeli film Waltz with Bashir looked like a sure thing to win the Oscar as Best Foreign Film.

It had received raves; it had garnered more than 90% favorable reviews. It had better distribution than any of the other candidates. ... more

War Horse (2011)  Very Good
January 8, 2012

Every once in a while, one needs unbridled sentimentality.

Director Steven Spielberg and War Horse fill that need. War Horse is a combination of The Wizard of Oats and Gone with the Whinny.

Sentimentality is ... more

Way We Were, The (1973)  Very Good
Way, The (2011)  Very Good
We Are the Best! (2014)  Very Good
October 24, 2014

We Are the Best! is as unique as chips and chocolate sauce. It's also as universal as cosmic pubescence.

Set in Stockholm and environs in 1982, We Are the Best! is the story of three girls who join together to create a pu ... more

West Side Story (1961)  Very Good
What's Up, Doc? (1972)  Very Good
Where Eagles Dare (1968)  Very Good
While We're Young (2015)  Very Good
April 23, 2015

Most people go to a movie with preconceptions. Expectations.

Sometimes critics go to a movie with only dire preconceptions. A director or actor has burned him or her badly in the past.

I have been avoiding writer/director Noah Baum ... more

White Ribbon, The (2009)  Very Good
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)  Very Good
Wild Grass (2010)  Very Good
August 29, 2010

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

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

His latest film Wild Grass i ... more

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)  Very Good
Win Win (2011)  Very Good
World War Z (2013)  Very Good
Wrecking Crew, The (2015)  Very Good
June 15, 2015

And the beat goes on.

One of the latest in an auspicious line of recent documentaries about music that are informative and extraordinary is The Wrecking Crew.

The Wrecking Crew is kind of a home movie - not cinema ... more

Wrestler, The (2008)  Very Good
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)  Very Good
May 25, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the best movies of the year - until it Xs out.

In its climactic last 1/4, it loses its nerve and settles for blowing everything apart. At that point, it becomes just another action movie. It& ... more

X-Men: First Class (2011)  Very Good
June 3, 2011

On the surface, prequels may seem to be the final attempt to drain the last dregs from a franchise.

But, on occasion, a prequel can not only revive a franchise; in some cases, it can enhance it.

X-Men: First Class brings fre ... more

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)  Very Good
Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)  Very Good
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)  Very Good
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)  Very Good

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