Films by Title : F - J

Fabulous Baker Boys, The (1989)  Great
Facts of Life, The (1960)  Watchable
Fahrenheit 451 (1966)  Exemplary
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

Family Plot (1976)  Very Good
Fantasia (1940)  Great
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

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
Fat City (1972)  Great
Father of the Bride (1991)  Better than average
Father of the Bride 2 (1995)  Watchable
Feast of Love (2007)  Badly flawed
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

Few Good Men, A (1992)  Great
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

Fighter, The (2010)  Badly flawed
December 13, 2010

A 3-ring circus goes to Lowell, Massachusetts, in The Fighter. Based on actual events, this circus is mayhem.

In the main ring are the daredevils, led by junior welterweight boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg).

... more

Finding Nemo (2003)  GreatFinding Nemo (2003)  Great
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 Union- ... more

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

Firemen's Ball, The (1968)  Classic
Fistful of Dollars, A (1964)  Better than average
Five Easy Pieces (1970)  ClassicFive Easy Pieces (1970)  Classic
Flags of Our Fathers (2006)  Great
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

Fly, The (1986)  Exemplary
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

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

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

Fortune, The (1975)  Better than average
Fountain, The (2006)  Badly flawed
Four Lions (2010)  Badly flawed
December 4, 2010

Four Lions is a wayward, fitful attempt at incisive comedy.

Finding humor in Four Lions is like searching for a weapon of destruction in Iraq -- where is it? Relating Four Lions to the brilliant Dr. Strangelove ... more

Foxcatcher (2014)  Exemplary
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 ... more

Frankenstein (1994)  Watchable
French Connection, The (1971)  Classic
Frenzy (1972)  Great
Friday Night Lights (2004)  Watchable
Friends with Money (2006)  Awful
From Here to Eternity (1953)  Great
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

From Russia With Love (1963)  Great
Frost/Nixon (2008)  Great
Frozen River (2008)  Better than average
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

G.I. Jesus (2006)  Exemplary
Gambler, The (1974)  Very Good
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
Gandhi (1982)  Great
Gandhi (1982)  Great
Gangs of New York (2002)  Exemplary
General, The (1927)  Classic
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)  Better than average
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

Get Smart (2008)  Badly flawed
Getaway, The (1972)  Very Good
Ghost Catchers (1944)  Very Good
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 pl ... 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

Ghost Writer, The (2010)  Exemplary
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009)  Badly flawed
Girl in the Cafe, The (2005)  Very Good
Girl Most Likely (2013)  Awful
July 25, 2013

Girl Most Likely is phony from beginning to end. It's disingenuous tripe.

When I first heard much of it was set in Ocean City, New Jersey, I had some faint hopes that the fresh setting might stimulate a little life into the woul ... more

Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, The (2010)  Better than average
Girl Who Played with Fire, The (2010)  Better than average
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor), The (2010)  Great
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The (2011)  Great
Gladiator (2000)  Great
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

Godfather, Part II, The (1974)  Classic
Godfather, Part III, The (1990)  Better than average
Godfather, The (1972)  Classic
Godzilla (2014)  Watchable
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

Gold Rush, The (1925)  Classic
GoldenEye (1995)  Better than average
Gone Baby Gone (2007)  Very Good
Gone Girl (2014)  Watchable
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 Day to Die Hard, A (2013)  Badly flawed
February 13, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard might be titled Rocky and Bullwinkle Die Hard. Except it's not that subtle. Or that good.

Those going to see the latest John McClane movie (the 5th) expecting another smart and sassy Die Hard, inste ... more

Good German, The (2007)  Awful
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)  Exemplary
Good Shepherd, The (2006)  Watchable
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 boo ... more

Graduate, The (1967)  Great
Gran Torino (2008)  Great
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
Grapes of Wrath, The (1940)  Great
Gravity (2013)  Very Good
Grease (1978)  Better than average
Great Debaters, The (2007)  Better than average
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

Greatest Show on Earth, The (1952)  Very Good
Green Hornet, The (2011)  Awful
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

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

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)  Better than average
Guns of Navarone, The (1961)  Very Good
Hair (1979)  Very Good
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 And audiences are dancing up to the candy counter for Mashed Potatoes. ... more

Hancock (2008)  Badly flawed
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
Happening, The (2008)  Badly flawed
Happy Feet (2006)  Watchable
Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)  Badly flawed
February 16, 2009

Happy-Go-Lucky is flibbertigibbet cinema.

Mike Leigh directed Sally Hawkins in this paean to a peahen.

Sally Hawkins plays Sappy -- I mean Poppy. Poppy is a primary school teacher in London; she's on a journey to see the ... more

Hard Day's Night, A (1964)  Great
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 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

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 Order of the Phoenix (2007)  Exemplary
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)  Very Good
Harvey (1950)  Exemplary
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

Heaven Can Wait (1978)  Exemplary
Heiress, The (1949)  Very Good
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

Her (2013)  Watchable
Hereafter (2010)  Badly flawed
Hesher (2011)  Very Good
Hidalgo (2004)  Better than average
History Boys (2006)  Watchable
History of the Eagles (2013)  Great
History of Violence, A (2005)  Exemplary
Hitchcock (2012)  Exemplary
Ho-Hav (2007)  Better than average
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
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
Home at the End of the World, A (2004)  Very Good
Homicide (1991)  Very Good
Honkytonk Man (1982)  Watchable
Hoosiers (1986)  Classic
Horse Whisperer, The (1998)  Better than average
Hot Fuzz (2007)  Exemplary
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)  Watchable
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)  Very Good
Hud (1963)  Great
Hugo (2011)  Very Good
Hunger (2008)  Better than average
Hunger Games, The (2012)  Exemplary
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

Hunting Party, The (2007)  Watchable
Hurt Locker, The (2009)  
Hustler, The (1961)  Great
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 Confess (1953)  Great
I'm Not There (2007)  Very Good
I'm Still Here (2010)  Badly flawed
September 11, 2010

There has been a lot of discussion by reviewers whether or not I'm Still Here is a put-on.

Casey Affleck has made a "documentary" about his addled brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix and JP's announcement that he is not g ... more

Iceman Cometh, The (1973)  Very Good
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

Images (1972)  Great
Imitation Game, The (2014)  Watchable
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)  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 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

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 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

In the Line of Fire (1993)  Great
In the Valley of Elah (2007)  Very Good
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
Infamous (2006)  Very Good
Infinitely Polar Bear (2015)  Watchable
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

Informant!, The (2009)  Watchable
Inglourious Basterds (2009)  Better than average
Inherent Vice (2014)  Very Good
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)  Great
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

Insider, The (1999)  Classic
Interstellar (2014)  Better than average
Into the Wild (2007)  Great
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)  Badly flawed
Invictus (2009)  Watchable
Invincible (2006)  Very Good
Iris (2001)  Better than average
Iron Lady, The (2011)  Badly flawed
Iron Man (2008)  Very Good
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

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

Irrational Man (2014)  Watchable
July 31, 2015

What did Kierkegaard think of contrivance?

Woody Allen must have missed that chapter.

In his new film Irrational Man, Woody substitutes Off-the-Cliff Notes. Irrational Man is a rigged, contrived film about a philosoph ... more

It Should Happen to You (1954)  Better than average
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)  Classic
Italianamerican (1974)  Exemplary
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

Jarhead (2005)  Very Good
Jersey Boys (2014)  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

Joan of Arc (1948)  Very Good
Joe (2014)  Watchable
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)  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

Joshua Then and Now (1985)  Better than average
Judge, The (2014)  Watchable
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

Jules and Jim (1962)  Classic
Julie & Julia (2009)  Very Good
Jumper (2008)  Watchable
Jungle Book, The (1967)  Very Good
Juno (2007)  Very Good
Jurassic Park III (2001)  Watchable

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