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
C- 54% 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 20% 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+ 52% 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 77% 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 43% 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
B- 40% Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019) Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer shine as they square off as evil queens in a visually effective but messy and convoluted sequel to the revisiting of the classic story - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 15, 2019
A 96% The Irishman (2019) Scorsese and his lifelong collaborators deliver a clever & interesting return to the mob genre that looks back at American history, reflects on old age, and feels like a tender swan song. Three riveting performances - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 29, 2019
B+ 84% Downton Abbey (2019) Good luck trying to resist this impeccably constructed, charming extended TV episode of the different intrigues and goings-on of Edwardian aristocrats and their servants, as contrived as it all may seem - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 18, 2019
C+ 84% Ad Astra (2019) A visually stunning film with a great, nuanced performance by Brad Pitt, nevertheless feels distant and cold. If the central character is so keen on being even-keeled that he cannot bring himself to care about anything that happens, why should we? - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 15, 2019
B+ 92% Uncut Gems (2019) Adam Sandler's stunning performance and an effective finale are enough to forgive the Safdie Bros. for making a movie aimed at purposefully annoying you and making you want to cover your ears - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 11, 2019
1/4 42% The Laundromat (2019) This film is what happens when you over stuff the washer's basket and the thing becomes unbalanced and breaks down before you can get to the spin cycle--a soggy lumpen mess - AwardsCircuit.com EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 11, 2019
A- 73% Harriet (2019) Cynthia Erivo's nuanced performance elevates this straightforward but compelling biopic of a great American hero - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 10, 2019
B- 80% Jojo Rabbit (2019) While the movie and its cast are undoubtedly funny and this film is entertaining, the story lacks depth beyond a couple of silly skits - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 10, 2019
B+ 68% Joker (2019) Joaquin Phoenix's phenomenal performance elevates this creepy, somber, and disturbing origin story that excels when it focuses on its titular character and stumbles when it tries to be a civics lesson - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 10, 2019
A- 97% Knives Out (2019) A deliciously wicked murder mystery procedural that uses its superb cast to bring Agatha Christie to 2019 in a fun-filled, intriguing drama - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 9, 2019
B+ 96% A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) Tom Hanks glows as Mr. Rogers, in this fictionalized account of the man's virtues through the eyes of a reporter whose life he touches. The movie sneaks up on you in its effectiveness - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 9, 2019
C- 24% The Goldfinch (2019) The adaptation commits one critical mistake from which it cannot recover: telling the story non-linearly, robbing the characters and the plot of all emotional motivation and sympathy. A disappointing adaptation to say the least - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 8, 2019
A- 87% Hustlers (2019) Move over "Wolf of Wall Street," these girls can be just as bad as the guys, and infinitely more charming, in this film with a knock-out performance by Jennifer Lopez - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 8, 2019
C+ 83% Just Mercy (2020) The characters, the story, and the subject matter of the film demand to be discussed and lauded, but the movie itself is not only conventional but openly uninterested in doing much more than getting you to the crying finale, like in a dry legal brief - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 7, 2019
B 79% Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (2020) An interesting, folksy doc about a folksy rock band for the uninitiated, and a political apologia for those familiar with the controversies surrounding Robbie Robertson and "The Band" - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 6, 2019
4/4 98% Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) (2020) French director Celine Sciamma gives us a beautiful allegory of love as portrait-painting, in this emotionally compelling, lyrical story of two women who fall in love by gazing into each other's eyes - AwardsCircuit.com EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 6, 2019
3.5/4 97% Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria) (2019) Antonio Banderas is compelling in Almodovar's best work of late, full of the physical pain of life and the spiritual glory of film-making, in this deeply personal and at times heart-breaking tale - AwardsCircuit.com EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 6, 2019
B 63% Radioactive (2020) Rosamund Pike is radiant as the important and cinematically forgotten but influential Marie Curie, in an interesting if not always effective biopic - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 6, 2019
A- 62% Motherless Brooklyn (2019) Film noir will enjoy this unassuming little mystery about New York development corruption, in Ed Norton's adaptation of the Jonathan Lethem novel, equal parts Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, and Rain Man - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Sep 1, 2019
A 95% Marriage Story (2019) Adam Driver is captivating and Laura Dern is hysterical in Noah Baumbach's tragically true to life tale of the brutal consequences of the end of love in this must-see festival favorite - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 31, 2019
B+ 89% The Two Popes (2019) Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins engage in a theological joust, equal parts levity, humor, and spiritual exploration. There is no resolution of millennia-old debates, just amusing exposition and proselytizing - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 31, 2019
B 82% Judy (2019) Renee Zellweger's career-best performance as the troubled star helps erase the blemishes of the stage play turned film, to harrowing and at times tragic effect - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 31, 2019
B+ 92% Ford v Ferrari (2019) Mangold once more takes straightforward studio fare and shifts it into a higher gear via heart-pounding sound effects and music, and drivers' seat tracking shots that will keep you gripping the wheel - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 31, 2019
2/5 78% Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) The visuals are memorable and scary and worth the price of admission despite a story surprisingly lacking in life or originality - AwardsCircuit.com EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 8, 2019
C+ 67% Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) Hobbs and Shaw is one hour of fun and exciting action, and another hour of over-the-top sequences that reflect excessive confidence in the film's own humor and talent - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2019
D+ 85% Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (2019) Quentin Tarantino's supposed love story to Hollywood's Golden Age feels more like a tribute to himself, becoming flatly uninteresting despite great performances by a star-studded cast - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 24, 2019
B+ 83% Crawl (2019) Crawl succeeds as much for what it does not do - which is fall into all the awful, obnoxious animal horror cliches - as much as it does for its taut story, surprising performances, and genuinely terrifying sequences - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 11, 2019
A 53% The Lion King (2019) Ask not "Why?" a studio must remake a classic film, but "Why Not?" The Lion King is a great, classic tale, and that can't change based on whether a computer or a hand drew the graphics. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 11, 2019
B- 41% Stuber (2019) Stuber is funny enough to overcome some of the bumps on the road and reach its destination safely - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 9, 2019
C+ 83% Midsommar (2019) Ari Aster's second feature debut is hurt by the inherent lack of originality in the story now that we know his style, obsessions, and interests, despite a strong performance by Florence Pugh and appealing visuals - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 3, 2019
B+ 91% Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) Tom Holland continues to hit the right note as the teenager turned superhero, the effects are great, and the story just sufficiently interesting (if predictable) to keep you entertained for two hours - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 27, 2019
B- 60% The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) That "The Secret Life of Pets 2" is not bad does not mean that it is good either. It is perfectly passable for adults, with a non-working three-story structure, if admittedly very enjoyable for the young audience it is aimed at - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 5, 2019
C 42% Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) Despite jaw-dropping and entertaining visuals, the film's script and plot is, by its own admission, drawn from fortune cookie aphorisms. Being crushed by Godzilla is probably less painful. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted May 30, 2019
C- 55% Ma (2019) Octavia Spencer expands her range yet again, but Tate Taylor's suspense/horror pastiche is as messed up as its titular character. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted May 29, 2019
A- 57% Aladdin (2019) There is enough new to this world to make it a worthwhile revisiting of what is now a timeless Disney classic. Will Smith is funny as the Genie and the story has a deeper emotional appeal than the original. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted May 22, 2019
A- 94% Avengers: Endgame (2019) The longer run-time and bloated cast are surprising strengths, permitting this grand finale to be more than just a superhero flick. A fitting, over-arching conclusion by a studio that knows how to get this genre spot on. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 23, 2019
B+ 89% Missing Link (2019) Sophisticated, sarcastic humor and dazzling animation turn a decent plot into visual and comedic merriment - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 11, 2019
B- 47% Little (2019) Little gives you big laughs and little plot or believable life lessons. But the starring trio of comediennes is talented and rescue an otherwise questionable project. - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 10, 2019
B 58% Pet Sematary (2019) There is just enough left of the core Stephen King story, of its disturbing and threatening themes, to justify unearthing this particular cadaver, even if the resurrected creature is a slightly-off version of itself - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 4, 2019
B+ 90% Shazam! (2019) Zach Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer steal the show in this superhero film that turns the usual weaknesses of origin stories into a fun time with a good message about family - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 2, 2019
A- 82% High Life (2019) Robert Pattinson delivers in Claire Denis' stylized, at times prurient, but always imaginative dystopian future film - Splash Report EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 1, 2019