J. Don Birnam

J. Don Birnam
Tomatometer-approved critic
Biography:
I am a lifelong fan of all forms of cinema from historical epics to classics from the 1940s through the 1970s. I am a voting member of the New York Film Critics Online group and of the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association. I love attending film festivals over the world, travelling, and I sometimes moonlight as a lawyer. I am a fan of international and LGBT films. I was born and raised mostly in Mexico.

Movie Reviews Only

T-Meter Title | Year
B- 91% A Quiet Place Part II (2021) Not nearly as tantalizing as the amazing original, the only relevant question for this movie is not whether it is good, but whether it will bring some noise back to movie theaters - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted May 27, 2021
B 74% Cruella (2021) Too much of "The Devil Wears Prada" and a script that goes on for too long, but enough laughs courtesy of Ms. Thompson and a surprisingly nuanced performance by Ms. Stone make it an overall acceptable villain origin story - Below the Line EDIT
Read More | Posted May 26, 2021
A- 96% In the Heights (2021) A lively adaptation of the hit Broadway musical that hits all the right notes about the beauty, challenges, and rewards of multi-cultural Latinx culture in America - Below the Line EDIT
Read More | Posted May 24, 2021
C 66% Wrath of Man (2021) Ritchie and Statham team up for the fourth time, but perhaps the third was the charm. This revenge fantasy does nothing new or even clever (as Ritchie is well capable of) and even the bloodiest of revenges feels unsatisfying - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted May 6, 2021
B- 55% Mortal Kombat (2021) The violence and gore that made the video game subversive and interesting in 1992 seem quaint and even boring in 2021, but the reboot entertains you enough to be passably acceptable - Below the Line EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 24, 2021
C- 65% Crisis (2021) Tries to be "Traffic" but instead gets trafficked into non-sense plot lines and unbelievable scenarios even for a drug film - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 24, 2021
B+ 56% The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021) Andra Day's astonishing performance as the troubled singer rescues a movie that is well made but that at times seems to gratuitously sink into despair mode. - Below the Line EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 20, 2021
A 96% Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Daniel Kaluuya's riveting performance as a Black Panther leader punctuates this compelling, timely, and ultimately tragic picture by Shaka King - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 13, 2021
B 70% Land (2021) This straight-forward but beautifully shot film about a woman finding a will to live is a promising debut by director Robin Wright - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 13, 2021
A 93% Mass (2021) A disturbing but effective imagining of what survivors of these sort of tragedies must experience, punctuated by powerful acting by all four stars - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 3, 2021
A- 85% Passing (2021) Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga deliver authoritative and powerful performances in this emotional and timely first feature by Rebecca Hall - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 2, 2021
B+ 95% CODA (2021) A traditional coming of age story with a twist about overcoming adversity while following a dream, with a touching performance by young Emilia Jones - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 2, 2021
B- 58% Malcolm & Marie (2020) Zendaya gives an astounding performance as the troubled young muse of a movie director whose ruminations about the cinematic industry nearly ruin the entire picture - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 27, 2021
C- 45% The Little Things (2021) Though it likens itself to crime thrillers in the mood of "Seven" or even "Gone Girl," and though it features decent performances by the three leads, the film lacks oomph and its story fails to deliver on lofty promises and expectations - Below the Line EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 26, 2021
B- 77% Greenland (2020) Though there is no chemistry between the two parents struggling to survive the end of the world, the film presents a plausible enough doomsday scenario to transfix you while you see some behave well, some poorly, and everything become terrifying - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 16, 2020
C+ 50% The Midnight Sky (2020) There is a powerful philosophical undercurrent to this story, but it does not translate well from the contemplative page to the more demanding screen. Awesome visuals and dedicated performances do not rescue it from this wormhole. - Below the Line EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 10, 2020
D 26% Wild Mountain Thyme (2020) Clever spice-related allegories don't make this messy rom-com any less insipid and even wacky. A cute them song also is not enough to save it from it's own strange script. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 10, 2020
A- 97% Sound of Metal (2020) Featuring a strong performance by Riz Ahmed, the various sound techniques used to emulate hearing loss and recovery, lift the already effective story about coping with illness and even tragedy - Below the Line EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 9, 2020
D 3% Love, Weddings & Other Disasters (2020) A joyless, senseless film - as clumsy as its protagonists - whose title ("Disaster") says it all - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 1, 2020
A- 55% The Prom (2020) With uplifting songs, impressive performances, and just enough wit, THE PROM shows that sometimes breaking out into song and dance - as kitschy as it may seems - is just what the doctor ordered in these bleak times. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 1, 2020
A- 98% Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020) This solid adaptation of the August Wilson play features excellent costumes, score, and makeup, but the show belongs to Chadwick Boseman's heart-breaking performance - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 20, 2020
B+ 69% Ammonite (2020) Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan give quiet but passionate life to the two protagonists of this Francis Lee period drama, in the filmmaker's solid sophomore outing - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 12, 2020
A- 92% The Life Ahead (2020) Sophia Loren's moving portrayal of an aging, stern woman who nurtures the lost soul of an orphan immigrant boy turns a formulaic story into an emotionally beautiful film - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 12, 2020
B+ 84% Freaky (2020) Inventive kills and humorous moments stemming from the film's body swap premise make "Freaky" a standout among its teen slasher companions, with plenty of tributes to classics from "Halloween" to "Scream" thrown in for good measure - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 11, 2020
B 26% Hillbilly Elegy (2020) The narrative is sloppy but the story has, at its core, invaluable insight (about fealty to family) that makes it more honest and therefore more effective than prior attempts to understand rural America. Close and Adams give stunning performances. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 10, 2020
B+ 82% Mank (2020) Fincher's flashy look back at Hollywood through the eyes of a boozy writer struggling to find his place is at times mesmerizing in both its technical and acting marvels - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 6, 2020
C 85% Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm (2020) The "Borat" sequel is audacious and entertaining and satire, but unpersuasive (and, as stereotypical as the stereotypes it derides) as what the film really wants to be -- political commentary - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 23, 2020
B+ 63% French Exit (2021) A film about a strange set of self-involved socialites , for whom you'd care little if it weren't for Michelle Pfeiffer's tour-de-force performance and an avalanche of clever turns-of-phrase - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 21, 2020
C- 39% Honest Thief (2020) Entertaining if you get past the contrived plot of corrupt FBI officials--until you realize it is all half-baked and inconsistent political dog whistles - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 16, 2020
D 29% The War with Grandpa (2020) The worst part about a movie with this questionable a premise - that a young kid is going to terrorize his grandfather to get his room back - is when it is not even funny, and this film will not make you laugh - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 9, 2020
B 89% The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) The truth of this sad episode in American history is a tad too strange and bloated to lend itself to a compelling theatrical adaptation, but Sorkin and his talented stars do the best they can with the material - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 5, 2020
A- 93% I Carry You with Me (2021) A beautifully rendered and heartfelt, true-to-life tale of two young gay Mexican lovers and the emotional and physical toll they pay to achieve their dreams. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 5, 2020
B+ 67% The Glorias (2020) A timely, satisfying, well-acted film (with the usual rambles mixed into insightful tidbits that characterize biopics) about the iconic feminist leader Gloria Steinem. Must watch in these urgent times. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 28, 2020
A- 94% Nomadland (2021) An emotive, lyrical picture about a woman who finds stability in impermanence, "Nomadland" cements Chloe Zhao's as one of the defining young voices in modern cinema - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 25, 2020
B+ 72% Mulan (2020) Dazzling vistas, costumes, and effect, together with solid performances make up for a mostly straight-forward and not risky story, but one that sends good messages to kids nevertheless - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 3, 2020
B+ 88% The Eight Hundred (2020) A film with ambitions as wide as the screen it should be seen on, it uses expert craftsmanship to tell a story of war heroism and patriotism that is both intimately familiar and somehow foreign to U.S. audiences - Box Office Prophets EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 28, 2020
B+ 59% Fatima (2020) An inspirational story about the power of faith and compassion in a seemingly hopeless world. It requires us to suspend our disbelief no more than your typical god-like superhero movie does and in that way is surprisingly conventional - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 27, 2020
2.5/4 48% Unhinged (2020) Wildly entertaining story with a lead actor maybe playing himself, if you're into gratuitous violence and lazy social commentary. - AwardsCircuit.com EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 20, 2020
B- 66% The Burnt Orange Heresy (2020) Stylish and moody, this noir-like film about art, art criticism, and their relationships to reality, is saved by superb performances by the impressive cast and an amusing enough plot, used to overcome the film's central message's shortcomings - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 6, 2020
B 77% Summerland (2020) Gemma Arterton grabs hold in this at times uneven but satisfying, escapist story about an author living in the British countryside during WWII--really about nostalgia and (importantly) hope for a better time - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 30, 2020
B- 48% My Spy (2020) "My Spy" breaks no new ground in the tried and true big spy meets clever kid genre, but amusing gags and cute supporting performances bring out enough laughs to make it worth it - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 22, 2020
C- 57% The Hunt (2020) Though a supposed commentary on the sad state of affairs in politics today, this ill-conceived, ultimately uninteresting film is more a reflection on the sad state of cinema, if anything - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 11, 2020
D+ 83% The Way Back (2020) Ben Affleck does his best not to channel brother Casey in this unsubtle re-thread of Casey's Oscar winning performance, dressed up as a sports comeback movie - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 4, 2020
B+ 91% The Invisible Man (2020) Elizabeth Moss elevates a simplified version of H.G. Wells' classic tale into a higher level of thrills and scares - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 25, 2020
D 19% Cats (2019) Perhaps I missed what all the purring is about, but the spectacle is more farcical than anything else - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 18, 2019
B+ 51% Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Don't blame the beloved and still entertaining characters for falling further and further into the grip of the Dark Side of Corporate Sith Overlords who insist on sucking the life force out of them. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 18, 2019
B 78% Frozen II (2019) Great new tunes, a hilarious Olaf, and already beloved characters are powerful enough to elevate an otherwise clunky and frankly uninteresting story - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 14, 2019
B+ 52% Charlie's Angels (2019) In the age of remakes meets #TimesUp, what better than a reloaded Charlie's Angels? Elizabeth Banks and Kristen Stewart bring oodles of talent to otherwise predictable but entertaining new film - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 12, 2019
3/4 41% Midway (2019) "Midway" may be conventional and even cliche, but, in this case, conventional is good - heroism and improbability are the stuff of great movies, and this remarkable story is told with awesome effects and acceptable-enough dialogue - AwardsCircuit.com EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 6, 2019
B- 70% Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) With plenty of throwbacks to the brilliant two originals and an endless cascade of exciting if convoluted action sequences, Terminator: Dark Fate mostly rises above its otherwise clunky and unemotional story - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 30, 2019