State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
"Len Wiseman's movie charges hard and crunches bones with an old-school ethos of hellacious stunts and thrills. John McClane doesn't verbalize it as he has, but the yippie-ki-yay is alive in what will be hard to beat as 2007's best action film."
Evan Almighty (2007)
"Evan asks people to repent. You might ask for a refund. At least "Speed 2: Cruise Control" is no longer the worst over-budgeted summer sequel to feature a huge boat taking a torturously long time to crash onto land."
Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
"Acknowledging that service employees and factory workers make casinos tick - and factoring them into the plan - is a welcome wrinkle in pressed-suit professionalism that's on display in this thrillingly exciting franchise revival."
Mr. Brooks (2007)
"There's an unsettling exhilaration in the way "Mr. Brooks" plows through dark waters and damns every torpedo ... except for the one that sinks it. (Its name is Demi Moore. There's the germ of a great movie, but the disease of many stupid ones."
Knocked Up (2007)
"At an unwieldy 132 minutes, the movie eventually turns into what to expect when someone's expecting onscreen. Still, though not quite as polished as "Virgin," "Knocked Up" is 2007's funniest, and most sincere, comedy so far."
"Sprawling and as in need of Venn diagrams for every sextuple cross as it is, "At World's End" has subtleties amid its cattywampus craziness. It's also 2007's first blockbuster worth the constantly turned crank of big-budget moviemaking."
Shrek the Third (2007)
"It jumps the Shrek. No wonder Donkey and Puss in Boots get pushed aside. They have to make way for big bull in this disengenous, lifeless sequel that preaches individual destiny but behaves just like the cashcow it's been groomed to be."
28 Weeks Later... (2007)
"This sequel has more-fluid action and harder, meaner punches but never works our nerves like a speed bag in the way of its predecessor. Plus, it's too dumb to make its topical allegories any more than cursory coincidence."
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
"A browbeating domino effect of more, more, more with special effects that make things easier to see but harder to care about. With great filmmaking power has come great filmmaking laziness that turned a good franchise into candy-colored crud."
The Condemned (2007)
"If WWE overlord Vince McMahon can extract anything good from "The Condemned," it's that the XFL no longer is his greatest creative failure."
Hot Fuzz (2007)
"Any movie that so tightly and sincerely loves "Point Break" can't be bad. Riotously funny and righteously explosive on its own terms, "Hot Fuzz" is the sharpest, cheekiest, most rollicking action-comedy since "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.""
"Anthony Hopkins again confuses villainy for vaudeville and Ryan Gosling's so-so work isn't worth riding in the rumble seat with him over a career pothole. "Fracture" makes "My Cousin Vinny" look like a masterpiece of legal suspense."
"If not perfection, "Disturbia" achieves something more than most modern thrillers - the right to describe itself in that genre and a few others. This hodgepodge homage becomes stupid and shrill in its final reel, but it's a nifty good time."
"A timed challenge for five directors to remove, impale, explode or gorily drip to the floor every body part possible. Even if Tarantino eviscerates too much momentum at the midway point, it's still a giddy, ghastly blast."
Blades of Glory (2007)
"It isn't terrible, just terribly lazy. How many comedians would play two different sex-addicted lunkheads named Chazz in two different movies? Some funny bits here and there, but Will Ferrell's sports shtick is badly glazed over."
"It has one triple-super sudden-death revenge overtime too many. But inhale this meaty, juicy thriller like you would a Thickburger - before the dripping grease congeals on your fingers and you start thinking about what you're eating."
""Seven Days to Live" is an OK country song, packed with faith, family and fighting for what's important. Oh, wait, that's what "Premonition" should have been, instead of a preposterous thriller that wastes Sandra Bullock's time, and ours."
"To hell with historical accuracy. What's required, but lacking, is the invocation of a butt-kicking right to continuously top itself. Artful decapitations, but a too-serious head on its shoulders."
Black Snake Moan (2007)
"A tale of emotion somewhat dubiously sold as exploitation. What sounds like an uncomfortable tale of skanky, racially charged sex is instead a weirdly wonderful story about spirituality and sexuality."
The Number 23 (2007)
"If long-winded Wikipedia writers or "Lost" bloggers wrote a thriller, it would turn out something like this. It starts as a dark variant on "Stranger Than Fiction" and ends with a melodramatic flood of embarrassing exposition."
"A sweatier hell than the fat suit in which Murphy spends much of the movie. It's official - our children will die never knowing the sensation of laughing at Eddie Murphy."
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
"Employing elegance, tension, fright and invention, Pan's Labyrinth holds court with rapture and awe from start to finish, with an invigorating conclusion solidifying it as the stuff of stories-turned-legends. It's one of the best films of 2006."
Notes on a Scandal (2006)
"A mental slasher movie with strong lead performances, but too many literary pretenses to mask that it's little more than an 80-minute buildup to a throwdown to a throwdown between Oscar-winning actresses with no real sense of the story's leverage and lust"
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
"Forest Whitaker's performance isn't worth the greatest-of-all-time hyperbole, but the actor is so evil, afraid and human in the role that he turns even a fart joke into nuance. His unpredictable, unstoppable force prevents the film from failing."
Freedom Writers (2007)
"On its face, it looks like "Dangerous Minds 2" without a Coolio song. It's not so good that it can't wait until it shows up on CBS, but it scribbles sensibly in the margins of the well-worn inspirational-teacher drama notebook."
Alpha Dog (2007)
"Week-old weed smoke practically wafts from the screen in a film that's most engaging once it's handed over to Justin Timberlake's excellent performance. But where it thinks it's delivering gut-punches, it's too often feigning with caricatures."
"It's a laugh-out-loud moment when a hot R&B song is forever entombed as Pat Boone-style fluff. But that same sort of sanitization and sterilization has been applied to this film. Scrubbed clean for a shiny glow, most of the soul is gone from the story."
Night at the Museum (2006)
"Rarely entertaining, the movie is at least instructive. The statute of limitations on loud, dumb movies with Robin Williams and computer-generated animals is 11 years. It bypasses brand-name coattails right to the level of a straight-to-DVD sequel."
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
"Will Smith's acting earnestness, coupled with the mental hell of maintaining a time-and-money chain that's essential to survival, provides unique inspiration for this inspired-by-a-true-story tale. It's certainly not the garish Hollywood gloss."
Déjà Vu (2006)
"Basically entertaining, but it disappointingly drops off from a promising start of spiritually poignant, popular-science fun and whiz-bang action to an autopilot conclusion."
The Nativity Story (2006)
"For a film about the birth of Jesus, there's nothing particularly joyous or inspiring - just dull, disinteresting details that too strongly disconnect from the human frailty and folly that is hinted at in the story."
Casino Royale (2006)
"A Bond that's more hard-charging and unhinged than we're used to seeing, Craig is violent, but vulnerable, and still suave. And the filmmakers seem invigorated by the challenge of a stripped-down gadget-free action film."
"Being diplomatic because of Inarritu and Arriaga's past success isn't worth it, given the irony that a story about communication breakdown so woefully fails to connect. "Babel" is a bore."
"Bigotry never will go away. So when its temporary takedown is as savagely witty and wise as Sacha Baron Cohen's mad-scientist creation, even those of us with the best intentions might as well furiously laugh at man's inhumanity to man."
Catch a Fire (2006)
"Noyce surprisingly prefers slick surface treatment to cutting into the bones-deep legacy of South Africa's racial division. Nuanced performances and gripping laments are wasted on a sleek, empty action climax."
Man of the Year (2006)
"Robin Williams proves to topical comedy what Lawrence Welk is to smoking jazz, and a marketing bait-and-switch leads to a ludicrously dumb paranoid thriller. It lazily hopes its conceit and comedian work. Neither does."
The Departed (2006)
"DiCaprio is outstanding, as is the film's first hour. But Scorsese's tale of rats and the rat race gets its neck snapped in traps set by Nicholson's relapse into Just Jack, a flabby finish and a tonally wrong final wink."
All The King's Men (2006)
"The actors don't spar, but jab and feint into the stale air that comes with such stuffy, fossilized movies as this. Put together again more for new Oscars than new audiences, it's a handsomely shot disaster."
The Guardian (2006)
"Ashton Kutcher's Adam's apple bobs, therefore it emotes, in this stupefyingly awful checklist of cliches that only leaves out the Mentor's Daughter and Overbearing Father. Without Kevin Costner's delta-male charm, it would be unwatchable."
Gridiron Gang (2006)
"The movie constantly teeters on becoming a filmed version of a Successories calendar. But The Rock's charismatic performance and Phil Joanou's sturdy direction yank hard against heart-tugging dialogue to pull the movie back with gravity and grit."
The Black Dahlia (2006)
"If only the story could have the same grimy buildup as the windows through which Brian De Palma looks with voyeuristic glee. He makes the final act a graphic tumble into mayhem that focuses only on the tragedy's sex and blood, not its mental anguish."
"Say all you want about Ben Affleck's bad movies. They at least give him the screen time he deserves. Here, his best performance in a long time is wasted in a well-acted, beautifully shot and wildly unfocused mystery-drama."
"No one can do that cool running knee drop like Tony Jaa, but he'd better start flexing his smiling muscles more if he wants to be the next Jackie Chan. All the bone crunching makes Steven Seagal look like a restrained kitty."
"Friends don't let friends drive a great comedy premise into the ground by making it too long, humorless and flat. The drinking stories you tell your friends are funnier."
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
"A road-trip tale with a much stronger point to make than B from A, and not just in the third act. It's the genre's greatest blend of slapstick, sincerity and satire since Albert Brooks' Lost in America."
"Will Ferrell's subversive middle finger at NASCAR is tall and occasionally hilarious, but only intermittently smarter than what that gesture implies."
World Trade Center (2006)
"A different, and more focal, jumping-off point for the sort of spiritualism Stone has tackled in past films. It's occasionally voyeuristic and ineloquent at its conclusion, but it's an honest story of human connection with great performances."
Miami Vice (2006)
"Even as a strictly superficial survey of Michael Mann's world, there's still an electric charge from all its nabs, jumps and gets. It's not Mann's usual poetry of pushing the existential envelope, but it's a skillful action film."
Monster House (2006)
"One of the best puberty-peril films since the 1980s boom, "Monster House" balances out its elements of Burton and boyhood to make a movie more alive with the magic of Halloween than "The Polar Express" was with the spirit of Christmas."
Superman Returns (2006)
"Love triangles, maternal and paternal instincts and overcoming vulnerability are given graphic-novel seriousness. But the film never detours into something so solemn so as not to be a good time. A bit shy of great, but another fine modern superhero movie."