Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)
"A trilogy sinks under the middle-weight of its sheer desolation, becoming baggy, boggy, saggy and smaugy. Scenes aren't just predictable but chiselled in triplicate--with stony dialogue, soaring muzak and restless, blatant visuals. A slogging quest-opera."
Escape From Tomorrow (2013)
"Mainly a one-trick Goofy-show, connecting a famous family-fun park with adult voyeurism, paranoid delusions and sexual obsession. There's a tedium to Jim's sex-obsession, some Freudian 101 symbolism, and the shrewishness of Jim's wife is too much."
"A Flash Gordon-meets-Oz kitsch-fest stripping women's sexual revolution down to voyeuristic spectacle, flimsily dressed in cheap, see-through, psychedelic B-movie garb. Vadim imbues most scenes with a faux-arty lethargy that slumps into stiltedness. "
Godzilla 2000 (2000)
"After all the humans' blathering about studying him or killing him or why's-he-keep-saving-us-after-we-created-him-but-now-try-to-destroy-him?, the big scaly brute's got the best idea for taking the piss out of this movie--keep roaring unintelligibly."
Last Vegas (2013)
"All the glitzing-up and trading-off of Vegas's allure blinds and bleaches out what isn't nearly as bad as it could've been. Has a relaxed, let's-have-some-laughs feel but tries too hard to be so cool and sappy-ever-after for all those 'zoomers' out there."
Heima (Sigur Ros: Heima) (2007)
"Reverberates a sense not only of Iceland's people, places and history but a sense of natural intimacy and intimacy with nature. Capping it all is the band's best-ever, 'Popplagið,' a stunning 12 minutes that DeBlois matches with a shiver-inducing sequence"
She Monkeys (Apflickorna) (2011)
"Lisa Aschan's remarkable debut shows girls aping adult sexuality and power-plays. Female adolescence becomes a gasping for air and grasping for achievement, getting ahead of a rival or friend (the distinction blurs) however one can."
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
"Grotesque and macabre thrills here, but not a fantasy-masterpiece. There's a drawn-out-ness to the plot that extends to the time-period being overdrawn. Captain Vidal's an overstated fatherland fascist; the political history becomes morbid melodrama."
Batman Returns (1992)
"Among the 1990s' most fruitful marriages of high-brow auteurist style and pulp source material. A Burtonesque layer cake: at bottom, his take on German Expressionism; then the Gotham grotesquerie; topping it all off is a fissuring, fracturing fairytale."
The Hunt (2013)
"It's a maddening, strangely riveting cinematic experience to follow a man wrongly accused of a crime that could stain his name forever ... but there's still something one-note about this near-tragedy. The script, too, seems programmatic."
Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)
"A more grandiose version of The Help, The Butler stands at the ready, eager to offer an after-dinner mint of simplified, sweetened history to make us--especially white Americans--feel good about how that whole racism thing turned out in the end."
"Beyond its feral glances, whipping pace, and unlikeable but hypnotically watchable anti-hero (much like the Dardennes' protagonists), The Little Thief's greatest ingenuity is its view of crime as hard work."
Chicken with Plums (2012)
"Suffused with longing and whimsy, Chicken with Plum's tone can get a little stretched; it can be a touch twee, even cautious. But mostly this adaptation retains a sad dreaminess and a melancholy comic-ness without ever getting cartoonish."
The Wolverine (2013)
"Preferring to stay broody and small-time, this minimalist noir, with little dialogue and no world-threatening schemes, intriguingly sustains its culture clash and blurring lines between man, beast and monster."
Not Fade Away (2012)
"There's a nice, pop-in-and-see rhythm to the storytelling. Gandolfini's Pat descends into a rich sadness. There's wry humour to be had with Douglas and his idealizing buddies. Loneliness and longing lounge around together."
White House Down (2013)
Monsters University (2013)
"Mostly takes the old college tropes and doesn't sneak, crawl or run too far with them. There's a bravura scene near the end that's far and away the film's best 10 minutes. Most spark, spontaneity and character complexity is left for the sideline monsters."
Man of Steel (2013)
"Super-duper-overStatement. A cataclysm-caravan of speeches, doomed and desolate landscapes, proclamations of glorious destiny or rebirth, and sprawling, stone-faced seriousness. Can't save itself from self-suffocating grandiosity."
The Purge (2013)
"A workable blueprint for a movie that falls apart in its shoddy construction. Hammers home its concept, then smashes down the doors of horror-movie clichés. Its beaten-to-a-pulp idea leaves the 'hood and sublets to some weakly shot home-invasion B-horror."
The Manor (2013)
"What keeps Cohen's doc from slipping into comic stereotypes or reality-TV programming is his long, worried, head-on stare at his troubled parents. His pained, poignant gaze at them, trapped together but apart in a tawdry business's shadow, fascinates."
After Earth (2013)
"As the story moves along with an almost medicating dullness, so antiseptic and square and insulated from any fun or spark or non-self-seriousness, the entire movie has that plastic-wrap feel of a hermetically-sealed Hollywood vanity project."
The Sapphires (2013)
"Tries to dazzle itself but the shine comes off quickly, as this weakly structured story flees at the sight of any lingering dramatic conflict, preferring to turn history into a pleasant song-and-dance routine."
The Hangover Part III (2013)
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
"This Formula 6 racing flick's tire-spinning in a vacuum: the plausible's passed early on, the ludicrous is smoked down the stretch, and any lingering basic law of action-film gravitas is shredded by the finish line."
The Beguiled (1971)
"Southern Gothic that sinks too deep into the bayous of sexploitation and horror towards the end, Don Siegel's adaptation of Thomas P Cullinan's 1966 novel is still ripe and pungent enough to intermittently fascinate."
"Walks a taut, high rope between doubles and split selves, docu-realism and surrealism, brutality and naïveté, sacred and profane, and history and myth, without falling into the safety net of childish fantasy. (It only falters in its final half-hour.)"
"Such odd hopefulness, flitting around a child, mixed with the overwhelmingly sad, pervades Isao Takahata's film. And all around Seita and Setsuko, nature, in the face of human destruction and tragedy, persists in its beauty."
My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)
"There's a crabby, gleeful spirit to the whole thing, carried along by animated bursts of imagination, snippets of haiku, and spirited song. Amid all the disgruntlement and dismay, there's a sweet we're-all-in-this-life-togetherness."
From Up On Poppy Hill (2013)
"Ghibli's latest is its most local and historical, like a gorgeous-looking manuscript plucked from a town's archives. A school-film about personal space and preserving place in a Japan on the cusp of a new era. But it'll lack spark for any non-Ghibli fan."
The Great Gatsby (2013)
"This take, pimped out in 3D spectacle and one woozy romance, renders the '20s as backdrop and swerves around the book's period-politics. A surreal slice-of-a-1922-summer overbaked into maximalist fantasia. The narrative frame is silly; the pacing is off."
A Cat in Paris (2012)
"In this chase film, children's love of pursuit, of running and jumping and hiding and seeking, transforms the City of Lights into a playground where even a mother bounds along car roofs to reach her daughter. The story, though, lags behind the animation."
Iron Man 3 (2013)
"It's Iron Man 3's sneaky exposé of superhero cool--on the outside, a wisecracking warrior; on the inside, an anxiety-attacked guy who tries to insulate himself with arrogance--that brings this blockbuster down to sympathetic size. "
"Apart from arousing fitful curiosity, this stretch of surrealism yawns into an arid expanse of flat quirkiness. Meanders between torquing noir clichés and drifting through a funhouse-mirror-maze of SoCal conventions. Little strange poetry emerges."
The Big Wedding (2013)
"Behold the unholy matrimony of hack-job romance and whack-job comedy. Witness the blindingly bleached marriage of house-porn and cocky Caucasian privilege. Suffer the union of former A-list stars and express-cashed paycheques."
Only Yesterday (2016)
"Moves with barely a ripple along a woman's memories of her girlhood in 1966. Here, as love blossoms (blooming in one of cinema's most touching end-credit sequences), the environment's imbued with memories of families and workers."
Battle for Brooklyn (2011)
"Battle for Brooklyn earns its epic-sounding title, building, block by block, a sturdy, gritty little film about the impassioned fight to ensure development's directed by the local people and for the local people, not by a few overlords above all."
The Host (2013)
"Beyond Meyer's trite-and-untrue formula (supernatural love triangle, exotic locale, family values and kisses as daring and transgressive), corpse-stiff dialogue, flat action sequences and a confused allegory make this movie particularly stultifying piffle"
Samson and Delilah (2010)
"One of the great political films, masked as one of the best personal films, of 21st-century cinema. For all its unsparing, quietly condemning look at Australia's treatment of Aborigines today, it ends on a grace note of devotion and tender care."
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
"A fiery pile of turdy dialogue, turgid action, and xenophobic boosterism for the frequently 'God bless!'-ed US of A. This movie's so stupid, the only suspense it offers is if your brain can avoid falling into a coma before the screen finally goes to black"
"More action-packed and manga-style, but its predictable plot points (punch-ups and air-battles) are secondary to Miyazaki-esque scenes of women's work, the indifferent beauty of nature and war as nightmare."
The Cat Returns (2002)
"The story whisks gracefully along with little saunters and pitter-patters of humour. A Princess-and-the-Cat tale that also coolly reflects the arrogant aloofness, suave superciliousness and intriguing independence of man's best-when-convenient friend."
"There's the boys' close friendship and the very Japanese dilemma of individuality versus social cohesion. This wistful meditation on maturity echoes and eddies around a trip to Tokyo in the past and a chance moment on a Tokyo train platform in the present"
The Call (2013)
"A 911 flick that's actually 341--3 movies 4 the price of a bad 1. The psychological thriller rushes; the psycho-horror scrapes the bottom of the barrel of titillation; the quick ending burner-phones in any remaining character development and plausibility."
"Vengeance here's a clever, evolving beast. Dae-su's guardian-like enemy stokes his bloodlust, embittering the free man's returning love of life. The climax is a scarlet swelling into Greek tragedy as truth, reprisal and justice smear."
A Royal Affair (2012)
"Out of some dry lines, Shakespearean allusions, and its playing with statecraft as stagecraft, this slowly emerges as more than just some ruffle-collared, frilly-cuffed throne-porn-there's a sharp quill and glinting eye behind the gilt-edged curtain."
"A chilly noir about the beaten paths and icy ruts of Russian life in the capital, post-Communism. In a land of schemers, Elena suggests, the urban cloisters of Moscow's elite are as self-sealing as the lowly masses' stifling Soviet-era flats."
Dark Skies (2013)