Joe Baltake

Joe Baltake
Tomatometer-approved critic
Biography:
Growing up, I wiled away my time at the movies. I'd sit through a movie two, three times and, at night, my dreams invariably would be about movies and the people in them. While other kids were out in the sun, I'd be committing movie dialogue to memory. A fair amount of time was spent either at the local theater (called the Liberty, which, in my case, was apt, as it liberated my mind) or reading about movies, talking about movies, analyzing them. Every school essay somehow was twisted into a movie review. Life, as far as I was concerned, was simply a grand excuse to go to the movies and then sit around and just think about them. When you're 10, no one bothers you if you stare at the ceiling all day, connecting the cracks. My personality was shaped largely on my parents' living room floor. Later, when I became a professional movie critic (for Gannett, Knight-Ridder and McClatchy Newspapers), I realized that making a living out of looking at movies in the afternoon is another way of connecting the cracks in the ceiling. Everyone does it and I've a hunch that the way a person connects the lines, the way he or she analyzes a movie, says a lot about them. My passion now is those films that have been neglected, overlooked, underrated, hastily dismissed, unfairly maligned and generally forgotten -- and that are just about impossible to see anymore. In short, definitely not the usual suspects. Check out http://thepassionatemoviegoer.blogspot.com/ for assorted observations, pronouncements and viewpoints on such films.
Favorites:
Billy Wilder's The Apartment and Ave in a Hole, Mervyn LeRoy's Gypsy, Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway, Jean Renoir's Le Grand Illusion/The Grand Illusion, Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Vertigo and Marnie, Charles Chaplin's City Lights, Jean-Luc Godard's A Bout de Souffle/Breathless, Peter Bogdanovich's At Long Last Love, Richard Quine's Bell Book & Candle and The Notorious Landlady, Fritz Lang's Der Mude Tod/Destiny, Morton DaCosta's Auntie Mame, John Ford's The Searchers, Brian DePalma's Blow Out, Hal Ashby's The Landlord and Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running

Movie Reviews Only

T-Meter Title | Year
89% Testament (1983) The dichotomy of continuing life when death is certain is the powerful theme of [Lynne] Littman's Testament, a film that drags the subject of a nuclear holocaust front and center and humanizes it by considering it through the eyes of one person. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted May 10, 2021
100% Sugar Cane Alley (Rue Cases Negres) (1984) The boy's own desire to validify his roots, through writing, through the mastery of his language, gives his story the feelings of growth and liberation. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted May 6, 2021
98% The French Connection (1971) The rousing, screeching car chase which comes towards the end of The French Connection is almost too good to be true. Up to this point, it seems almost impossible for this extraordinary crime film to top itself. But top itself it does! - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 15, 2021
4/4 98% Schindler's List (1993) With his brave new film, Steven Spielberg not only tackles a subject that's largely been ignored by mainstream Hollywood but manages to handle it in an accessible, pulpy way that doesn't detract from the gravity of the material. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 14, 2021
2/5 68% A Shock to the System (1990) Early on the film has some novel observant moments, but they stop coming once the bodies start mounting. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 9, 2021
96% The Godfather, Part II (1974) Coppola's ambitious The Godfather Part Two is a slow, aimless and annoyingly restless movie which purports to be about gangsterism but is, in fact, about the boredom of waiting. So much so that it eventually evolves into the very thing it's about. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 6, 2021
97% The Godfather (1972) The Godfather runs a full-bodied 175 minutes, but fear not, you'll be mesmerized for every one of those minutes. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 29, 2021
3/4 82% Near Dark (1987) Bigelow's visual compositions are crisp and eerie, wonderfully pictorial - we see this night life through the eyes of its maniacs - and she directs her actors as if they truly were performing in a garret production of a Shepard play. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 25, 2021
100% The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) It's a stunner. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 23, 2021
4/4 93% Daughters of the Dust (1991) Julie Dash's absolutely singular Daughters of the Dust... will prove to be an important, seminal work in film history. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 22, 2021
87% Born in Flames (1983) "Born in Flames" is often a frightening, downbeat, cautionary tale, but it has absolutely no place to go. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 19, 2021
3/4 87% Bhaji On the Beach (1995) This is another all-woman intergenerational cross-cultural comedy-drama cut from the same bolt of cloth as Herbert Ross' "Steel Magnolias" (1989) and Wayne Wang's "The Joy Luck Club" (1993) only one that's less exacting and silky than its predecessors. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 18, 2021
3/4 78% Wayne's World (1992) Wayne's World is fizzy and loose with clean, quick cutting and lots of nimble jokes and stunts. And blessedly it's stupid -- and proud of it. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 10, 2021
62% Out of Africa (1985) Director Sydney Pollack has filmed some lovely and exciting animal/survival footage, and writer Kurt Luedtke has given Streep and Redford the most literate of dialogue to read. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Jan 12, 2021
73% The Blues Brothers (1980) The Blues Brothers is unlike anything you've ever seen before, at once touching and far-far out -- and most of all, best of all, it is hugely entertaining. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 21, 2020
3.5/4 86% The Joy Luck Club (1993) This lovely movie encourages us to see the power that we all have over one another. And that power it says doesn't always have to be destructive. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 16, 2020
71% Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song is bitter tasting and excessive simply for the sake of being bitter tasting and excessive. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 16, 2020
2/4 No Score Yet Stacking (1987) Anything of any import seems to happen offscreen in this movie. Its opening scenes are particularly tentative; you'll feels as if you've walked into the middle of the movie. - McClatchy News Service EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 14, 2019
3/4 50% Made in Heaven (1987) The setup in Made in Heaven is stunning, with one intricate, memorable moment following another. It is unabashedly romantic, dangerously romantic, devastatingly romantic. It's a valentine to that great adventure -- life. - McClatchy News Service EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 4, 2019
3/4 88% The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! a gift from the crew that gave us the original Airplane! is a charmingly unstable comedy whose "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" approach to shtick is downright surreal. - McClatchy News Service EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 22, 2019
4/4 98% Broadcast News (1987) The film has savvy and it has an edge, but there s not a trace of cruelty or cheap-shot, easy humor in it. Much of it, in fact, is startlingly warm and heartfelt. This is important; it's what makes this movie so easy to watch. - McClatchy News Service EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 22, 2019
36% Under the Cherry Moon (1986) Word leaked out a few weeks ago that Under the Cherry Moon was something of a stinker. Horsefeathers! It's unique, by far the boldest film of the summer. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 22, 2016
1/4 10% Revolution (1985) Mixed in with the film's graphic action sequences -- which are as beautifully shot as they are unwatchable -- are a lot of feverish, feeble, inch-deep platitudes about freedom and justice. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 17, 2014
11% Club Paradise (1986) Club Paradise has a few good running gags, but it isn't everything that the brochures crack it up to be. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 26, 2014
13% Howard the Duck (1986) In duck talk, it's a quacker -- noisy and shrill. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 9, 2014
74% Pretty in Pink (1986) Its deceptively soft title is a mask for a fairly powerful and pointed commentary on social standards, class differences and facades. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 9, 2014
No Score Yet American Anthem (1986) It's another example of how our most popular art form has been taken possession by what appear to be extraterrestrial moviemakers from the planet Stallone. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted May 5, 2014
79% Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) This is a lark that I think you'll respond to and cheer on, a lark about one young man who goes to exaggerated lengths, fighting massive odds and disapproving, fearful people, to take a day off. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 23, 2014
84% Flight of the Navigator (1986) The brain-assaulting sci-fi second half of Flight of the Navigator is made palpable by Cramer, who deftly conveys anguish during the first half. Now, he wants to go home and his gung-ho attitude makes every dumb effect exciting. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 1, 2014
61% About Last Night (1986) Odious. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 13, 2014
91% Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) This gifted ensemble works hard to make Hannah and Her Sisters the best movie of the year so far, perhaps the best that Allen has ever made. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Feb 10, 2014
92% The Fly (1986) It is a fright film, a morality play about being devoured by one's work and, most powerfully, a sad, sad love story of doomed partners. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 4, 2013
86% Back to School (1986) Back to School is furious fun. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 1, 2013
93% Ruthless People (1986) The people who made Ruthless People probably expect us to laugh... at the pushy people who populate their story. And they're right: We will laugh -- not because we have lousy taste (and wicked thoughts) ourselves, but because their film is genuinely funny. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 31, 2013
97% Aliens (1986) The idea behind Aliens remains the scariest, dirtiest, most perversely funny one for a monster film, and the Rambo action further gooses us. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 30, 2013
91% Stand by Me (1986) It is about the evolution of a writer, his relationship with his three closest friends and a situation that formed his talent -- and morbid fascination. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 26, 2013
3/4 42% Beyond the Sea (2004) You have to hand it to Spacey. He gets by on sheer willfulness. He believes so much in his cockeyed dream that we come to believe in it, too. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 30, 2004
3/4 86% The Aviator (2004) A film that's extremely well-made but tantalizingly or clumsily (take your pick) oblique. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 24, 2004
3/4 56% The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) This movie is so odd, so uncommercial and so unformulaic, particularly for something produced by a major studio (Disney, in this case), that I can't imagine how Anderson got his idea for it past the front office and in front of cameras. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 24, 2004
2.5/4 38% Meet the Fockers (2004) Meet the Fockers is not much of a movie -- just a lot of comic situations barely held together by the semblance of a plot -- but it is genuinely funny in a crass way. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 22, 2004
3.5/4 78% A Very Long Engagement (2004) War, it says, is what separates love from hate, life from death and the beautiful from the ugly -- and Jeunet's film says it with great invention and artistry. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 22, 2004
3/4 33% The Phantom of the Opera (2005) Given the overall weakness of the material, director Joel Schumacher works beyond the call of duty to pull us into his musical fable. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 22, 2004
3/4 56% Rosenstrasse (2004) The film is anchored in particular by the dual performances of Schade as the 90-year-old Lena and the magnificent Riemann as her younger counterpart. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 17, 2004
2/4 30% Flight of the Phoenix (2004) Loud, noisy, chaotic and overall unpleasant. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 17, 2004
4/4 53% Spanglish (2004) An unusually observant film marked by dry, acerbic humor. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 17, 2004
3.5/4 54% Ocean's Twelve (2004) Rarely has crime seemed so glamorous, what with these mostly well-dressed, largely attractive, immature scamps languishing in posh surroundings. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 10, 2004
4/4 84% Gloomy Sunday (2003) A superior soap opera not unlike what Douglas Sirk might have churned out in the 1950s. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Dec 3, 2004
3/4 77% The Machinist (2004) It would be easy to accuse Bale of a warped kind of egomania if his performance wasn't so mesmerizing. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 29, 2004
4/4 90% Kinsey (2004) The remarkable Liam Neeson does an affectingly self-effacing turn in the title role. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 24, 2004
1/4 5% Christmas With the Kranks (2004) This one is a veritable celebration of intolerance, disguised as a joyous holiday film. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 24, 2004