James on screenS
James on screenS is not a Tomatometer-approved publication. Reviews from this publication only count toward the Tomatometer when written by the following Tomatometer-approved critic(s): Caryn James
Eye-opening but never didactic, Sissako's beautifully shot film immerses us in a reality we usually experience as no more than a headline.
Posted Jan 26, 2015
The Better Angels (2014)
On paper, this lyrical, black-and-white rendering of Lincoln's backwoods boyhood may seem pompous, but it is beautiful, poetic and graceful, with its own flowing rhythm.
Posted Nov 7, 2014
The Zero Theorem (2014)
Terry Gilliam's listless and shallow futuristic fantasy lands like a pale evocation of his classic "Brazil."
Posted Sep 15, 2014
The film resembles a genius' workshop filled with old-fashioned toys.Gondry's visual imagination is so sparkling,it hardly matters that the whimsy overhwhelms the characters.
Posted Jul 15, 2014
Third Person (2014)
Does Haggis actually believe that this pretentious, simplistic film has any substance? An overwrought, vapid three-strand story, each thread more banal than the last.
Posted Jun 20, 2014
The Rover (2014)
Michod's arresting and tense film -- part thriller, part warning of dystopia -- is played with ferocious restraint by Guy Pearce.
Posted Jun 13, 2014
'Groundhog Day Meets Alien.' Relatively good compared to Cruise's recent, unwatchable movies because Liman orchestrates spectacular action; the talking scenes are tiresome.
Posted Jun 2, 2014
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Bold and entertaining, this is not as sleek or clever as X-Men:First Class, but makes up for those lapses with McAvoy's fiercely emotional performance and dazzling set pieces.
Posted May 22, 2014
Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)
A brilliant, magical combination: pure Jarmusch and entirely new. It's visually sumptuous, but his droll attitude remains in this wry story of perfectly cast vampires in love.
Posted Apr 10, 2014
Finding Vivian Maier (2014)
Was she the Emily Dickinson of photos or the anti-Mary Poppins? This fascinating film reveals a lot about Maier's rich photos & glimpses at her bizarre, hidden personality.
Posted Mar 26, 2014
The Missing Picture (2014)
A survivor's story,a political statement and an eloquent meditation on images and memory. The miniatures and the film are exquisite works of art infused with living memory
Posted Mar 20, 2014
Gyllenhaal is eloquently subtle, but this muddled identity-thriller relies on misdirection and leaves you feeling not stunned, just cheated.
Posted Mar 13, 2014
'Taken' meets 'Speed' on a plane, with a dash of Agatha Christie, but as breezily entertaining as a commercial action thriller is supposed to be. Neeson and cast make it work.
Posted Feb 26, 2014
Winter's Tale (2014)
Is it a Valentine's Day prank? Gives magic and realism a bad name; doesn't make romance seem so hot either. So dull it feels like a vanity project with a Hollywood budget.
Posted Feb 14, 2014
The Monuments Men (2014)
Part 'Oceans 11' with Nazis, part Clooney lecturing us about art and culture. Blissfully acted but strangely flat, it shifts uncomfortably between caper and classroom lesson.
Posted Feb 6, 2014
Tim's Vermeer (2014)
Jenison's obsession is the basis for a playful,entertaining film. I wasn't convinced for a millisecond by his wackadoodle theory, but I enjoyed every minute of Tim's Vermeer.
Posted Jan 31, 2014
Lone Survivor (2014)
With a conventional style,the film puts us in the center of a relentless, fatal battle in Afghanistan. Lone Survivor will make you squirm, but earns every wrenching minute.
Posted Jan 10, 2014
There is something hilarious about a journalistic doofus like Ron Burgundy creating cable news. Ferrell & McKay are silly-smart. Not pointed satire but ridiculously funny.
Posted Dec 17, 2013
American Hustle (2013)
Never quite lets you forget you're watching bravura acting but that acting is deliriously funny. The film is just enough over the top so the artifice becomes part of the joke.
Posted Dec 11, 2013
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Thompson is so delightfully acerbic and convincing that she makes Saving Mr. Banks safe for people who find Disney films too saccharine. Not adventurous, but entertaining.
Posted Dec 9, 2013
Out of the Furnace (2013)
Bale is nuanced & affecting in an overloaded, overcalculated film that doesn't deserve him. The characters' problems seem orchestrated by Screenwriting 101 rather than fate.
Posted Dec 4, 2013
If you're going to tell a heart-warming story about a sweet wronged little old lady,it helps to have a witty,cynical journalist along. Dench & Coogan create a perfect balance.
Posted Nov 20, 2013
The Broken Circle Breakdown (2013)
An amazing film, at once happy, sad and exhilarating to watch. Told in an elegant pattern of present-day and flashbacks,full of music that suits every graceful shift in tone.
Posted Nov 1, 2013
The Square (Al Midan) (2013)
A galvanizing documentary with rare first-hand perspectives. With great immediacy, Noujaim provides a smart eye-opening view as activists maneuver toward an uncertain future.
Posted Oct 24, 2013
All Is Bright (2013)
All is Bright is unsugary, a small out-of-season miracle.
Posted Oct 7, 2013
Gravity comes loaded with technical wizardry, but Cuaron's visceral, dynamic story-telling is the film's most magical special effect. He makes outer space seem intimate.
Posted Oct 2, 2013
Child Of God (2014)
Franco's powerful adaptation, directed with discipline and intelligence, captures McCarthy's mordant darkness. It reveals the humanity buried beneath animalistic behavior.
Posted Sep 26, 2013
So sharply directed, tautly edited, rich and believably acted by Jackman and Gyllenhaal that you quickly forgive its tired story. An intense, satisfying thriller.
Posted Sep 16, 2013
The Grandmaster (2013)
Poetic, operatic, historically sweeping, as lush and seductive as Wong's previous films. Don't think of it as a kung fu movie; think of it as the work of a master filmmaker.
Posted Aug 22, 2013
Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)
Audience-pandering History Lite. Whitaker is dazzling, but Daniels' self-congratulatory film spoon-feeds us a civil rights lesson without adding nuance to the conversation.
Posted Aug 12, 2013
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Witty about social pretensions, eloquent about failure & loss, acerbic about family, Allen's light-handed tragedy is a major work. Blanchett is dazzling as the fragile heroine.
Posted Jul 22, 2013
Only God Forgives (2013)
Gosling and Scott Thomas elevate this stylish midnight movie but not enough to overcome its emptiness. More camp and cult than art; sometimes silly and gross but never boring.
Posted Jul 16, 2013
Fruitvale Station (2013)
Galvanizing, tense gritty-indie, brilliantly acted by Jordan and Spencer. Very much worth watching even though the too-neat, manipulative screenplay undercuts it artistically.
Posted Jul 12, 2013
The Way Way Back (2013)
Warm, engaging, and thoroughly charming even though we can predict every turn in this old-fashioned coming of age story. Carell is terrific as an unlikable bully.
Posted Jul 5, 2013
World War Z (2013)
Sounds unlikely, but Brad Pitt + Zombies = Dull in this self-defeating, formulaic action film.
Posted Jun 21, 2013
Man of Steel (2013)
Predictable action crushes character & story. If all you want is blockbuster action it's there and Cavill wins Best Looking Superman. If you want more revisit a Dark Knight.
Posted Jun 13, 2013
Behind the Candelabra (2013)
Hugely entertaining, the film walks the line between hilarious kitsch & character study. Douglas' performance is brilliant, sympathetic, an act of impeccable mimicry & depth.
Posted May 22, 2013
The Great Gatsby (2013)
DiCaprio is wonderful but can't save this misbegotten film, which is tethered to Fitzgerald's words while failing to approach "Gatsby"'s romantic, heartbreaking soul.
Posted May 7, 2013
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2013)
This beautifully textured drama about a man caught between two cultures reflects the distrust, misunderstanding and harsh political reality of Pakistan-American relations.
Posted Apr 26, 2013
In the House (2013)
A sharp, enticing psychological cat-and-mouse game. Its gleeful dark wit comes from manipulations, voyeurism, the idea that we all invade each other's lives and thoughts.
Posted Apr 19, 2013
A slick, vapid thriller. Cronenberg has style and flair, but his all-too-obvious ideas about fame leave us with caricatures, not characters.
Posted Apr 15, 2013
To The Wonder (2013)
This may be Malick's most diasppointing film. Art at its purest, but with hollow characters and cliched images, not the best example of an art or Malick film you'll ever see.
Posted Apr 11, 2013
It's a Disaster (2013)
An offbeat little gem of a black-comedy that plays much better than it sounds. The deft screenplay and straight-faced comic actors make a familar premise feel fresh.
Posted Apr 10, 2013
Boyle is always worth paying attention to, and McAvoy is captivting, but this twisty film is a stylish disappoint with a long, dull middle section.
Posted Apr 4, 2013
The Place Beyond The Pines (2013)
This triptych about fathers, sons and the determinism of class is two-thirds of a terrific film. The last part is a letdown because the first are so powerfully believable.
Posted Mar 28, 2013
Room 237 (2013)
The rapturous responses seem over-the-top for this modest, entertaining,visually clever film. The fun is arguing with its subjects' looney theories; rewatch The Shining first.
Posted Mar 27, 2013
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
This Oz doesn't have much heart or wonder, but with appealing characters, terrific actors and colorful action, it's an entertaining fantasy for the moment.
Posted Mar 6, 2013
Beautiful Creatures (2013)
Sumptuous-looking, crisply directed, wonderfully cast and far wittier than the drippy, earnest Twilight Saga. A captivating tale with a tongue-in-cheek sense of play.
Posted Feb 14, 2013
The Gatekeepers (2013)
Totally fascinating and unexpected. No bravura filmmaking here, but rich, often startling observations about anti-terrorism, torture and the amorality of it all.
Posted Jan 30, 2013