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 79% Captain Marvel (2019) And entertaining and visually dazzling story that is weighed down by being both an origin tale as well as the appetizer to a highly-anticipated film finale - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 5, 2019
C+ 91% How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) Sporting another marvelous score and exquisitely animated, the film's plot is thin and the stakes non-existent, with a story the stunted shadow of its brilliant predecessors - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 19, 2019
B- 60% Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Alita Battle Angel has just enough cool special effects and unique world intrigue to overcome its sloppy script and clunky story - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 13, 2019
D- 67% Happy Death Day 2U (2019) Though it likens itself to Back to the Future II, Happy Death Day 2U is what Back to the Future would have looked had it been made by the Biff from the alternate 1985 - bad. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 12, 2019
4/4 100% The Disappearance of My Mother (2019) An intimate, beautiful and evocative documentary about the life and thoughts of an inherently fascinating, cantankerous, and progressive woman who, in her old age, just wants to disappear... - AwardsCircuit.com EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 8, 2019
B 47% What Men Want (2019) A showcase of Taraji P. Henson's vast comedic talent, What Men Want effectively turns the tables on the male-centered "why can't we get along" narrative, into an entertaining and refreshing perspective on the question - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 7, 2019
D- 45% The Prodigy (2019) The Prodigy is unremarkable compared to standouts like The Exorcist or even The Omen or Child's Play; its pace, dialogue, and 'twists' are all problematic even standing alone - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 6, 2019
B 93% The Mustang (2019) The Mustang distinguishes itself just enough from its horse-riding brethren with a sincere emotional sensitivity in its interesting take on toxic male masculinity and violence - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 5, 2019
B+ 65% Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) Jake Gyllenhaal and Renee Russo are deliciously wicked in this devastating mockery of the high-powered art world meets cheap slasher; it does not always hit the right notes but when it does, it is too amusing to pass up - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 31, 2019
D 23% Miss Bala (2019) The emotional oomph of the original is stripped away in this sanitized version of the story of a woman caught in the web of violence of drug cartel. Gina Rodriguez is good, but for naught - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 31, 2019
B+ 88% Arctic (2019) A well made, quasi lone survivor tale that will chill your bones with hyper-realistic sequences and at times terrifying dilemmas that cut to the core of the human sole - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 30, 2019
A 94% The Report (2019) A thought-provoking, digestible drama about the tension between truth and politics, and between adhering to idealistic virtues and doing what one believes is right. Annette Bening and Adam Driver elevate the film to the next level - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 28, 2019
C+ 64% Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) Extremely callous treatment of source material, hopelessly confused between presenting Bundy's or another's perspective, wasting incredible performances by Zac Efron and Lily Collins - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 27, 2019
B+ 100% Honey Boy (2019) Shia LaBeouf's autobiographical 'Honey Boy,' despite some narrative creases, ends up a memorable if raw confessional about growing up with alcoholism and abuse - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 26, 2019
B 85% I Am Mother (2019) 'I Am Mother' is a must-see, thrilling, and even terrifying film for fans of dystopian future sci-fi flicks, even though it trips over itself in expounding its philosophical and ethical conceits - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 26, 2019
A- 76% Late Night (2019) In Late Night, Mindy Kaling adds a comedic, timely, and refreshing political touch to the light workplace dramedy of 'The Devil Wears Prada,' which she updates with the help of an excellent Emma Thompson as a fading host - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 26, 2019
B+ 100% The Biggest Little Farm (2019) The Biggest Little Farm is an inspiring celebration of the complex relationships between organisms and the Earth and of what a strong conviction to tackle a challenging project can net for its adventurers - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 25, 2019
A- 99% Apollo 11 (2019) 'Apollo 11' is a stunning documentary composed entirely of remastered original footage from the moon-landing mission, effectively taking you back in time to relive the adventure - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 25, 2019
B 89% The Kid Who Would Be King (2019) Though the varied life lessons of the film are repetitive and unpersuasive, there is something infectiously funny and sarcastically endearing about this adolescent re-imagining of the Arthurian legend - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 12, 2019
3/4 83% Perfectos Desconocidos (2019) This Mexican remake of the Italian film of the same name is clever, entertaining, and highly persuasive, even if the ultimate message or analysis is not as profound as it thinks. A delectable little piece of dinner theater. - AwardsCircuit.com EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 10, 2019
B- 62% A Dog's Way Home (2019) Though at times sloppy and a bit corny, A Dog's Way Home is an adorable, heart-warming story for kids and dogs and nature lovers alike, a big, warm, therapy blanket, like a comfort dog itself. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 10, 2019
C+ 37% Glass (2019) M. Night Shyamalan gives in to his worst instincts again - to shatter an otherwise promising movie with thousands of jagged pieces made up of overarching theories and obvious plot-twist setups. Great acting and some funny moments can't save it. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 9, 2019
C 32% Welcome to Marwen (2018) Welcome to Marwen neuters what could have been a profoundly touching story about triumph over adversity. All that is left is a plasticized version of itself. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 19, 2018
B 66% Vice (2018) Vice is an amusing movie with two brilliant, award-worthy performances, but it bites off more political topics that I can chew in its constant struggle between satire and serious political biopic - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 17, 2018
B 93% Bumblebee (2018) Bumblebee is a welcome reboot for a troubled franchise. Hailee Steinfeld is charming and the story entertaining enough, even if conventional. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 17, 2018
A- 79% Mary Poppins Returns (2018) Mary Poppins Returns is like an extended commercial for Disney's own brand, but between a brilliant Emily Blunt and catchy tunes, the spoons are again full of sugar. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 12, 2018
B 65% Aquaman (2018) Aquaman swims more often than it sinks, buoyed by stunning visuals and an inherently compelling world that should be further developed beyond this origin film. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 11, 2018
D 26% Mortal Engines (2018) A dystopian film that invites you to ask: "How could humanity screw it all up so badly?," Mortal Engines will leave you wondering only: "How could the filmmakers screw up this amazing world so badly?" - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 10, 2018
C+ 59% Vox Lux (2018) Though Natalie Portman is captivating, Vox Lux bites off more topics than it can chew in attempting to dissect modern obsession with celebrity -- and violence - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 5, 2018
B- 30% Elliot The Littlest Reindeer (2018) Samantha Bee's performance as a hungry goat turned sidekick is enough to make this otherwise uneven story enjoyable to kids and adults alike - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 28, 2018
B+ 97% Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) Richly textured animation, eye-popping effects, and hilarious slapstick humor courtesy of six new Spider-Men and Women, make what should be a stale story unexpectedly refreshing and interesting. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 28, 2018
B 62% Outlaw King (2018) It is one of those rare gruesome medieval battle movies that does not push your gaze away with excess, but rather captures it with normalcy and determination. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 27, 2018
C 84% Creed II (2018) Creed II is much like the annoying boxing match announcer that infects most of the movie: trying too hard to sound exciting while not telling you anything new or interesting - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 16, 2018
B+ 63% Mary Queen of Scots (2018) In telling the story of Elizabeth's ill-fated cousin, Mary Queen of Scots sheds the bonds of the old costume drama by adding a modernist/feminist twist into the mix. Features outstanding work by Margot Robbie. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 16, 2018
B+ 88% Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) A tale as old as time: The House of Mouse does not believe in bad filmmaking and in the Wreck-It Ralph sequel they tap into their own vault of pop culture and produce a mélange of pure, unadulterated fun - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 14, 2018
B 78% Green Book (2018) Although it traffics in endless and uninspiring racial and class stereotypes, Green Book has two pitch-perfect performances and enough laughs to make you forgive its clichéd transgressions - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 14, 2018
B+ 82% Instant Family (2018) Provides a stunningly sincere and touchingly funny perspective on the joys, challenges, and pitfalls of foster parenting and adoption. A perfect family film about the power of dedication, mixed in with easy physical humor - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 14, 2018
D+ 37% Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) The new Harry Potter prequel feels more like a history lesson in our favorite magical scoundrels than anything new or entertaining, and still manages to have little plot or even the secretive mysteries that normally characterize these films - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 13, 2018
A- 73% On the Basis of Sex (2019) Felicity Jones dazzles as the iconic Justice Ginsburg during a compelling and inspirational chapter in the life of an inspiring woman. If prompting us to be better and work harder is cinematic cliche, then, yes, On The Basis of Sex is full of them. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 12, 2018
A- 58% The Grinch (2018) This faithful adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss story is perhaps Illumination's best achievement to date, with amazing visuals and great voice acting. The hilarious jokes and positive messages add to make this the perfect Holiday film for the family - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 7, 2018
B+ 91% The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) The Coen Bros. are back to familiar landscapes (the Old West), familiar themes (death, nostalgia, cruelty), and familiar styles (self-indulgent, self-congratulatory humor) in the six-short-story film. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 7, 2018
B+ 91% Widows (2018) Widows' stellar cast offers a refreshing take on old gangster/heist stories. Davis and Debicki are particularly stunning, even if the script does not convince you that an unholy alliance could form between their respective characters. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 7, 2018
A 95% If Beale Street Could Talk (2019) If Beale Street Could Talk is a beautiful film about two particular individuals in love, that simultaneously reaches successfully to be about each and every one of us as well. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 2, 2018
A 87% First Man (2018) With its effective combination of a moving personal story with a stunning human triumph, achieved through dedicated filmmaking, one could fairly and respectably call First Man a 'perfect' movie. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 2, 2018
A 89% A Star Is Born (2018) Lady Gaga's singing talents are majestically showcased in this familiar but nevertheless moving film, an amazing directorial debut for Bradley Cooper - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 2, 2018
D- 12% Fifty Shades Freed (2018) Fifty Shades Freed clearly wants to be abused, mocked and ridiculed by the audience. The difference between that an real S&M is that there is no safe word that can get the pain of the movie on your eyes to stop - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 2, 2018
A+ 94% Arrival (2016) Arrival is genius technical filmmaking combined with a profound message -- that we are happy because we choose to live life despite its inevitability and predictability - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 2, 2018
D+ 36% Hunter Killer (2018) Hunter Killer fails to bring anything new into a genre that is uninterested in novelty and cares only about mindless explosions. Not even cool special effects can save the movie from sinking. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 2, 2018
8/10 74% Trumbo (2015) Movie and history buffs will be immersed in this pointed and reference-filled exploration of one of the most infamous chapters in Hollywood and American history, while Cranston fans will be delighted to see the actor's immense talents translate so well - ComingSoon.net EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 2, 2018
9/10 100% Ixcanul (2016) The greatest success of Ixcanul, about a Maya woman living in the Guatemalan mountains, is that it makes you feel as though you have come to deeply understand a culture that is so deeply unfamiliar to us - ComingSoon.net EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 2, 2018