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
3/4 87% 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
34% 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
15% Howard the Duck (1986) In duck talk, it's a quacker -- noisy and shrill. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 9, 2014
79% 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
80% 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
83% 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
85% Back to School (1986) Back to School is furious fun. - Philadelphia Daily News EDIT
Read More | Posted Aug 1, 2013
94% 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
99% 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 39% 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 55% 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 55% 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 No Score Yet 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
2.5/4 16% Alexander (2004) Ultimately stumbles and falls, much like the horses in the battle scenes. But it is an interesting failure, always brimming with life. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 24, 2004
4/4 82% Finding Neverland (2004) Guided by Depp's gentle performance, Winslet's wistfulness and Macdonald's intense Pan, Finding Neverland will send you out of the theater crying and saying, 'I do believe!' - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 19, 2004
3/4 76% Being Julia (2004) This is a choice role, and Bening tears into it with the broadest smile and widest eyes you ever saw. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 19, 2004
3.5/4 46% National Treasure (2004) Plays a lot better than it sounds. Trust me. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 19, 2004
4/4 97% Sideways (2004) The film's Cassavetes-style aimlessness (think of it as a West Coast Husbands) gets a jolt when each of the guys pairs up with a willing woman. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 12, 2004
3/4 55% Undertow (2004) A crackling good, low-down noir thriller. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 12, 2004
2.5/4 27% Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) The film is a narrative mess, a cut-and-paste job of random ideas and pointless incidents that are barely related to each other, but this messiness is very much in keeping with the scattered personality of Bridget. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 12, 2004
2.5/4 56% The Polar Express (2004) It's too mechanical in its perfection and too driven and premeditated in its attempts to impress us to muster the warmth and good cheer for which it's also striving. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 10, 2004
3/4 64% Stage Beauty (2004) Has a lot to say and manages to say most of it in an unexpectedly entertaining way -- and also with no small amount of poignancy. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 5, 2004
3.5/4 97% The Incredibles (2004) An exceptional film in many ways. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 5, 2004
3/4 48% Alfie (2004) It lacks the harsh, biting punch of its memorable 1966 predecessor. And perhaps there was no other way to do it. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Nov 5, 2004
3/4 72% Primer (2004) It's different, that's all, and it's good because it's different. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 29, 2004
4/4 92% Vera Drake (2004) Mike Leigh, who seemingly has single-handedly revived kitchen-sink realism in modern British movies, hits something of a career high with the marvelous Vera Drake. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 29, 2004
2/4 29% Around the Bend (2004) This is the male equivalent of the chick flick. It could have been titled Divine Secrets of the Da-Da Brotherhood. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 29, 2004
4/4 80% Ray (2004) Let's just give him his Oscar now and be done with it. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 29, 2004
2.5/4 38% Birth (2004) Its ridiculousness is exacerbated by how seriously it takes itself and also by its highfalutin pretensions. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 29, 2004
4/4 83% Red Lights (2004) Brings with it everything a movie goer would want in a bracingly adult film. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 22, 2004
1.5/4 7% Surviving Christmas (2004) There's a desperation to Ben Affleck's mugging in Surviving Christmas that, depending on how you look at it, is either endearing or embarrassing. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 22, 2004
2.5/4 39% The Grudge (2004) This material tries to camouflage its nagging repetitiveness with a lot of confusing flashbacks. - Sacramento Bee EDIT
Read More | Posted Oct 22, 2004