David Card's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Hidden Figures
½

As inspiring as it is corny. Langley Research Center and mechanical pencils FTW.

Raw
Raw(2017)
½

The body horror is suitably squirm-inducing, and the sisters are very good, but the metaphor - if there ever really was one - went right over my head.

Kong: Skull Island

Though it's nice to look at, the CGI inspires no awe. While it doesn't take itself seriously, it's also not very funny.

Logan
Logan(2017)

Some critics compare it to Unforgiven, but Logan doesn't handle those themes as gracefully. Instead, it's as melodramatic as Shane, which it explicitly calls out. The usual X-metaphor has shifted from alt-teens to refugees, with an equally timely grim outlook. Still, it has one great scene of ultraviolence, some touching moments - Stewart is particularly good as an Xavier on the brink of dementia - and the feral kid has screen presence. If you have any feelings for these characters, you might just get a little teary.

Get Out
Get Out(2017)
½

Wildly overrated, though it has wit and delivers some nervous chuckles. Howery is a riot, but he's in the wrong movie.

A Cure For Wellness
½

Visually arresting; weirdly nutty storytelling. Creepy feeling of dread, but only occasionally. Eels. Malfoy's dad makes a great villain; while our "hero" is a paler young Leo.

The Great Wall
½

Watch it in 3D and just let the spectacle wash over you. The coolest bits come early: the war drums, the giant scissors, and the Crane Corps.

Moonlight
Moonlight(2016)

This small - in a good way - movie gracefully tuns stereotypes on their ear. Superb cast.

John Wick: Chapter 2

Not as taut as the original, but still highly crafted ultra-violence.

Split
Split(2017)
½

Clearly, McAvoy was having a lot of fun. But spare me the closeups and endless exposition.

The Red Turtle (La tortue rouge)

Well, the colors are pretty. Lost me after the first third, which started very engagingly, then got all mystical-muzzy and, worse, dull.

The Founder
The Founder(2017)

Doesn't really pull off its tone shifts, but it give Keaton his best role since Beetlejuice. Painfully timely.

Live By Night

Inert, while it looks good. Stick to modern gangsters, Ben: period-accurate suits aren't flattering.

Silence
Silence(2017)

Eloquent. Thoughtful. Marty's Jesuit teachers should be proud.

Patriots Day
Patriots Day(2017)
½

I dunno, it didn't work for me. Maybe should have played it either more harshly realistic or more corny.

Fences
Fences(2016)
½

Very, very good cast, but never really takes flight. I hadn't seen the play; it reminded me a lot of O'Neill, who wrote 50 years earlier.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
½

Slow start and flat characters bailed out by slam-bang ending.

La La Land
La La Land(2016)
½

Charmingly un-ironic, yet self-aware. Bravura opening and closing scenes. Will win many awards and will deserve the ones for art direction and Emma Stone.

Manchester by the Sea
½

You can't go home again. Stunningly good cast.

Allied
Allied(2016)

Movie stars looking fabulous in snazzy faux-period dress, but precious little evidence of illicit off-screen heat.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Aside from one brilliant scene that justifies the high-def 3D - it's the halftime show, not any of the battle scenes - this is a mess. It has even worse tone problems than the novel, complete with heavy-handed speechifying directly to the camera. Trust me, that's even worse at 120 fps.

Arrival
Arrival(2016)
½

More cerebral than most of what passes for sci-fi at the movies - in fact, it's a little dull - Arrival, like Villeneuve's Sicario and Prisoners, starts very well but can't close.

Doctor Strange

Kaleidoscopes, Escher, Inception, and even a dash of Ditko inspire the - for once in a Marvel movie! - fun special effects, and Cummerbund is just fine as the hero.

Hacksaw Ridge
½

Old-school corny and cliche'd....and then they hit Okinawa. Mel does violence and faith and heroism well, is he redeemable?

Godzilla Resurgence (Shin Godzilla)
½

Believe it or not, the rubber suit style approach can still shock and awe. Make no mistake, this is not goofy Godzilla, but an often chilling Gojira with some political satire around the edges.

The Accountant

A pleasant surprise. Its nutty mood swings and plot-twist reveals make it feel fresh compared with most recent thrillers.

The Birth of a Nation
½

Parker channels a young Denzel and thanks Mel Gibson. As well he should, as this one is equal parts Passion of the Christ and Braveheart. Savannah is a sorry stand-in for Virginia, but the costumes and sets are great. Some powerful scenes, but why dumb down the mythology to a standard revenge drama?

Deepwater Horizon

Highly competent disaster flick. Intense.

The Magnificent Seven
½

I'm disappointed that director Fuqua didn't add even a touch of modern edge to an old oater. Chris Pratt seemed the only one having any fun. Well, and Vincent D'Onofrio.

Snowden
Snowden(2016)
½

Hey, Ollie, since you decided to go all straight and serious instead of full-on paranoid outrage, why not add a little ambiguity? I so miss the old Oliver Stone.

Sully
Sully(2016)

Right Stuff. Suitably heroic.

Train to Busan (Busanhaeng)
½

Zombies on a Train FTW. Everything World War Z wasn't: exquisite tension, likable heroes, hissable villains, good stunts, minimal CGI.

Don't Breathe

Well-crafted, but nothing new.

Imperium
Imperium(2016)

Some tense scenes and scary white supremacists, but has nothing to say.

War Dogs
War Dogs(2016)

Chickened out, played it too straight, shoulda gone for the jugular.

Hell or High Water

Sad, funny, tense, twisted valentine to West Texas. Very, very good cast, terrific script, and killer soundtrack and score. First 4-star rating I've given in years, so it's easily the best movie released this year.

Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud)

Gonzo noir plotting, but beautifully shot and with the coolest score ever, courtesy of Miles Davis.

Suicide Squad
½

Incompetent storytelling. Director/writer Ayer, this one's on you. Stick with cops and war movies.

The Big Risk (Classe tous risques)

Ah, the French can make those gangster movies laden with Fate, failed loyalties, and - well before the Godfather and the Sopranos - family.

Jason Bourne
Jason Bourne(2016)

Just going through the motions.

Star Trek Beyond
½

Plays like a bigger version of a TV episode. One of the funny ones - neither the awful Space Nazi types, nor Great Science Fiction. The cast is settling in comfortably.

The Neon Demon
½

Some stunning visuals, a throbbing score, and a few shocks. See it as a double feature with Black Swan, a similarly shallow, lurid, good-looking melodrama. But this one's an actual horror movie.

Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters(2016)
½

Wasted cast. But then, they don't have any chemistry, either.

Café Society
½

It's gorgeous to look at - the color, costumes, sets - but the wistful script drags and lacks much wit. K-Stew makes a fetching '30s ingenue, justifying the director's infatuation.

The Shallows
The Shallows(2016)

Exploits the premise just about as well as it possibly could, but it's not really suspenseful.

The Legend of Tarzan

Broody Tarzan's abs take on King Leopold's CGI Congo. Did they even go on location? Nope.

The BFG
The BFG(2016)
½

Slight and a little sugary, but it's a real live fairy tale. Rylance is charming but Spielberg usually gets better performances out of child actors than he does here. PS, kids still dig whizzpopper jokes.

The Conjuring 2
½

It's way too long, and overstuffed with bits stolen from every other horror movie you've ever seen. But the cast is solid, and oh, man, the last 20 minutes are something.

The Wailing (Goksung)

The genre mash-up seems weird to Western eyes, but perhaps that should be "Weird" as in Fate or the Uncanny. Anyway, a very good cast and cinematography add atmosphere to a double-handful of unforgettable scenes.

Weiner
Weiner(2016)

"Because I lied to them, I have a funny name, and the media don't do nuance." Well, two out of three. Very compelling.

Money Monster
½

Fast-paced and slick, helped a lot by presence of real Movie Stars.

X-Men: Apocalypse
½

Very comic book-y, with some nice moments for fans. I wish they'd left in the rumored mall scene.

The Nice Guys

Good '70s seediness, but disappointing lack of wit or chemistry.

The Lobster
The Lobster(2016)
½

Though it has some striking moments - both funny-absurd and shocking - by the end the deadpan wears thin.

A Bigger Splash

Sexy, sensuous, sensual - and I'm just talking about the scenery and SWINTON's couture. I'm becoming a big fan of director Guadagnino, even if he lets Fiennes steal most of the scenes. He's remaking Suspira with this same cast - can't wait.

Captain America: Civil War

"Underoos!" And why do the Cap movies have the best fight scenes? Beware of creeping continuity-dependence.

Green Room
Green Room(2016)
½

Way more critical love than it deserves. Starts punk, ends mainstream.

The Jungle Book
½

More thrills than chuckles. Wishing they could have made the photorealistic CGI beasts look more like Murray and Walken. Why make King Louie into King Kong? At least he can sing.

Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti)
½

I suppose this makes me evil, but I would have liked a little more cruelty and perversion. Very pretty to look at, though.

April and the Extraordinary World (Avril et le monde truqué)

The steampunkery is gorgeous and witty. The story loses control in the third act, or it might have been a classic. Inspired me to buy some Tardi collections.

Miles Ahead
Miles Ahead(2016)

Cheadle convincingly channels Davis, but does himself a disservice as co-writer. While the story, per fictional Miles' advice, isn't corny and brings plenty of attitude, it spends far too much time with a made-up caper that illuminates nothing and isn't particularly well done. But then there's a near-transcendent performance over the end credits from real all-stars and fake Davis that hints at what might have been...

Born To Be Blue
½

The movie's kind of a mess, but Hawke nails "My Funny Valentine."

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Not quite the train wreck everyone's expecting, but close. Lousy storytelling; crummy script. Wonder Woman's entrance almost justifies the previous 2-hour slog. She even gets the best theme music!

10 Cloverfield Lane
½

I dunno. Felt like a padded Twilight Zone episode to me.

The Witch
The Witch(2016)

Who knew the Salem witchhunters got it right? Moments of real horror - not terror or suspense, but actual horror. It's a little dull in between, but it sticks to its vision almost to a fault.

Embrace Of The Serpent (El Abrazo De La Serpiente)
½

Some of the critical gushing must be white guilt, though this one has some ravishing scenery and Torres is, literally, a force of nature. Not hallucinogenic enough for me, and I do love those Civilization vs. Nature head-trips like Valhalla Rising and Jauja. Serpent is not in their league, let alone The Last Wave or Apocalypse Now.

Deadpool
Deadpool(2016)
½

While its wit probably peaks with the opening credits, the "if you shoot enough gags, some of 'em will be funny" and attitude-to-spare mostly overcomes the ADD stunts and cheesy CGI ending. Gotta say I'm shocked by the $135M opening, but somebody at FOX earned his bonus.

Hail, Caesar!
½

Has some fun bits - the musical numbers, Alden Ehrenreich's scenes - but I'm not sure the whole thing hangs together.

45 Years
45 Years(2015)

Two exceptional performances. Devastatingly sad.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi

Pointless mayhem, but I suppose that's the point.

Chimes at Midnight
½

Welles was born to play Falstaff.

Daddy's Home
Daddy's Home(2015)

Goes easy on the schmaltz and delivers a few laughs, but none of the usual Will Ferrell tears-streaming-down-your-face ones.

The Hateful Eight
½

The glorious 70mm Ultra Panavision offers depth and rich colors in a movie that spends 2.5 hours inside a stagecoach or a cabin. Yeah, that about sums it up. Entertaining hammy performances in service of a slow-burn build with little payoff..

The Revenant
The Revenant(2015)

A word of advice: Leo, Tom, next time you consider signing up for a man vs. Nature, suffer the elements for the art, Epic Folly, check to see if it actually means anything. This one's no Fitzcarraldo or Aguirre, let alone Apocalypse Now. Nice scenery and cinematography; I'm torn over the score. Inarritu continues to show he has an eye if not a brain.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
½

It's plenty of fun, but far too many scenes stumble from homage into outright remake. Rey is fresh; our villain is not, and the movie botches what could have been his tragic backstory badly.

Macbeth
Macbeth(2015)
½

Visually striking, condensed smartly, and with a great score, the leads - perhaps fearing sounding too theatrical - hold too much back, to the detriment of the poetry.

The Big Short

So close. Righteous anger and daring approach just falls short of satirically nailing the greedy b@stards properly.

In the Heart of the Sea

Master and Commander set the bar too high. If only Peter Weir - or John Huston - had been available.

Chi-Raq
Chi-Raq(2015)
½

Spike Lee doesn't lack hubris. Man, I wish he'd pulled this off. Some bits work: Jackson, the choreography, Parris. But then there's the Confederate general(?), Cusack's boringly obvious sermon, the mayor who should be Rahm Emanuel, not a Daley. Oh well, no one else would have had the b@lls to try.

Carol
Carol(2015)
½

Languid. Gauzy. Cate looking glamorous in blond mink and cashmere, but with only a hint of Humbert Humbert.

Creed
Creed(2015)

It's probably a bad idea to do a feel-good boxing movie in 2015, but what the hey, this is a really good one. Sly is amazing - touchingly so - and Jordan should be a huge movie star based on charisma alone. And then there's the shadow boxing with YouTube scene and the the mid-movie single-take fight scene.....

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
½

Like the book, I wish this were more allegory than explicitly about war and propaganda, etc. Still, it has Katniss - yay! - and youthful rebellion.

Legend
Legend(2015)

Sloppy storytelling - the black humor works, the tragedy doesn't, and come on, a voice over? - betrays the mostly solid cast. Hardy is half good, half ham. And for a movie called "Legend," it leaves out some of the best Kray mythology.

Goodnight Mommy

I'm going to assume telegraphing the big twist in the first reel was intentional, but it works against any potential suspense and who-should-you-root-for tension. And then the creepiness turns downright nasty, without any real psychology or metaphor.

Spotlight
Spotlight(2015)
½

Shamelessly hits all the newsroom cliches and features some mannered performances - I'm looking at you Ruffalo, Keaton - but the riveting script builds to a big, emotional payoff. Best of the year. And why we'd better save a few #$%@ newspapers.

Spectre
Spectre(2015)
½

Serviceable. This time there's too many nods to 007's greatest hits and too few showstoppers. Craig was a breath of fresh air but it's time for Idris Elba.

Bridge of Spies
½

Hanks is subtly solid, and - no surprise - Rylance steals most scenes. They're pretty good together, and, every now and then, the Coens peek through, but aren't spy movies supposed to be suspenseful?

Crimson Peak
Crimson Peak(2015)

Reminiscent of Corman-Poe, including the stilted dialog, snoozy pacing, and lack of scares. Nice to look at, but in desperate need of Vincent Price.

The Martian
The Martian(2015)

Science heroes FTW! Go, NASA!

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs(2015)

In Hollywood, genius @ssholes get happy endings. Sorkin's three-act structure is daring but not completely successful: it's stagey and a bit static, and Fassbender is the slightly too-cold center of a stellar cast. Way better than Isaacson's biography, Steve Jobs at least has a theory of why he was who he was.

Black Mass
Black Mass(2015)

The score, cinematography, and everyone's dead-seriousness scream "epic gangster tragedy," but in the end Whitey's just a small-time hood. Ice blue contact-lensed Depp looks like a lizard, which is sort of a good thing.

Sicario
Sicario(2015)

Until the script loses its cojones and the third act turns it into just another revenge thriller, this is a tense, visually stunning, action flick that also has something serious to say about the ambiguity and futility of the War on Drugs. The slightly over-the-top score heightens the sense of dread, Del Toro and Brolin are solid, but Blunt is underwritten and wasted.

The Visit
The Visit(2015)
½

Suspense- and scare-free. And though there are some clever tricks to get around the found-footage gimmick, that didn't make me hate the 2 kids any less.

Dragon Blade (Tian jiang xiong shi)

Jackie Chan subdues the twinkle in his eye too often, and when the Romans break out in a Latinate tear-jerking anthem to the Fatherland, you've just got to shake your head and be thankful that this huge hit in China is about turning "foes into friends." Brody basically twirls his mustache, and Cusack grimaces, but there are some good sword fights, though I'm mystified what the titular dragon blade refers to.

Straight Outta Compton

Very well cast, and the original album holds up, but who can dispute "timing is everything" and "history's written by the winners?"

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
½

A very cool soundtrack and plenty of style aren't enough to salvage a rotten script that, for instance, makes Ilya into a psychopath. Effective swoopy-screen car chases, though....

The Gift
The Gift(2015)
½

Good cast but doesn't go anywhere we haven't been before.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

This is one franchise that keeps delivering the goods. Maybe there's no super-spectacular stunt, but there's a great motorcycle chase, some actual wit, and Rebecca Ferguson, who should be an action hero franchise of her own.

Phoenix
Phoenix(2015)

A little noir, a little Hitchcock, solid performances, a gut-punch last scene.

Ant-Man
Ant-Man(2015)

Marvel lite - the gags are more effective than the uninspired CGI and fights. And really, Ant-Man has just about the dumbest collection of powers ever.

Memories of Murder

Crazy, effective mood swings across dread, suspense, and outright slapstick. Not your average serial killer buddy movie.

Mr. Holmes
Mr. Holmes(2015)

Yes, the pace is stately, but Sir Ian adds a marvelous interpretation to the Canon. True fans will be forgiven for getting a little weepy.

Ex Machina
Ex Machina(2015)

Not quite as smart as it should be, it's still several cuts above the usual SF thriller, and has a few real ideas in play. Isaac is pretty great as the modern Silicon Valley version of mad scientist. Nice score, camera, and set design.

Terminator Genisys
½

Not quite obsolete. Welcome back, Ahnohld. And Oracle is well-cast as Cyberdyne.

The Tribe
The Tribe(2015)

I'm torn on this one. Beautiful formalism, shot composition, good blend of still and mobile camera, pretty darn good unprofessional cast. Yet the central gimmick is more effective at alienating the viewer than re-framing our perspectives. I'm not convinced the form fits the function here.

Inside Out
Inside Out(2015)

Deftly blends gags and themes for grownups and for kids. At the risk of sounding like a complete nerd, the "world building" of the human personality is very clever indeed. But the animation is fairly uninspired, except for one art-gag that will be waaaayyy over the heads of the target audience. Overall, may be more fun for grownups than for kids, and that's a mistake the great ones don't make.

Love & Mercy
Love & Mercy(2015)

Cusack has his moments but it's Dano's movie, and he's pretty convincing as the budding genius about to crack up. The scenes in the studio - creating and obsessing - are the best of this uneven biopic.

Jurassic World

Since the director, writers, and special effects aren't up to awe or shock, we should have had a few more cool kill shots and self-aware winks.

Mad Max: Fury Road
½

Oh yeah, Miller still has it. Totally metal.

Avengers: Age of Ultron
½

Too. Much. CGI. In fact, too much everything. Whedon and Downey try their best, but you can see why Whedon bailed out, exhausted.

Far From the Madding Crowd
½

I kinda liked Mulligan's perky proto-feminist interpretation, but this speedy take cowers in the shadow of the sexy hippie 1967 version. Schoenaerts smoulders every now and then but Alan Bates practically defines Hardy, and Sturridge is no Terence Stamp.

Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck
½

Makes creative and enlightening use of rich archival material. Should be seen on a big screen with the volume turned up. God, I miss troubled-genius rockstars.

Last Knights
Last Knights(2015)

Mangled mashup of samurai movie, western (Czech) settings, multiculti cast. It looks good, but the cast is far better than the script, which flops on pacing and what should be good, stock characters.

Lambert & Stamp

Generous, funny, even touching, and it's quite a tale, at least until the inevitable falling out. Possibly could have used more concert footage, but there's always The Kids Are Alright for that.

A Most Violent Year

This one could have used a little more Coppola (or Scorcese) and less Lumet. Atop an overall great cast, Isaac channels Michael Corleone convincingly, but in the end, we're needing more heart or soul from the story.

Jauja
Jauja(2015)

Please remember I have a very high tolerance for slow-moving, so naturalistic they're surreal, trippy head movies that take place on the Edge of the Great Unknown, where Civilization loses its way.

It Follows
It Follows(2015)

Might be a little overrated by all of us raised on 80s slashers. But solid cast and some genuinely creepy moments.

Cymbeline
Cymbeline(2015)
½

Ethan Hawke and Ed Harris and, believe it or not, Milla Jovovich can do the ol' iambic pentameter. But most of the modernizing gimmicks are, well, just gimmicks.

'71
'71(2015)
½

Great first act falters into a mechanical cliche-fest. Mis-uses a pretty good cast and score.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Not nearly funny enough; wastes the charm of its stars.

Jupiter Ascending

Not loopy enough to be so-bad-it's-good. We've seen all these CGImosphere designs before; only the gravity skates are cool.

Mr. Turner
Mr. Turner(2014)
½

One wonders if the eccentric bloke really grunted that much, but some of the vignettes are brilliant, most of the cast is terrific, and the cinematography really does hint at the sublime.

Into the Woods
½

In the end, I'm just not a Sondheim fan. The themes are deadly-obvious, though the princes are funny and Streep pulls off the showstopper.

Blackhat
Blackhat(2015)

It's preposterous nonsense, but it is very good looking preposterous nonsense. Exotic locales, supporting cast, and a couple of ultraviolent shootouts don't overcome Hemsworth doing a bad Val Kilmer.

Selma
Selma(2015)
½

The story can't help but be affecting - especially this year - but the film is barely a cut above "Movie-of-the-Week." Some scenes are effective, but it's wildly uneven, the script's a mess, and the performances are not nearly as good as guilt-ridden critics are saying. No doubt it will score beaucoup awards.

American Sniper
½

Largely apolitical and super-patriotic, it's still gripping and troubling. Cooper's superb, un-flashy performance will no doubt be ignored by by the major awards. Glad he was on our side, hoohyah.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
½

Sure, it's pretty obvious to say, "If only they took the best bits from all 3 and made one great movie..." (or even 2 pretty fun ones). Is there such a thing as too much action in part 3 of an almost-tedious trilogy?

Unbroken
Unbroken(2014)

Highly competent, but soulless. Aims for triumph but whiffs on redemption, and we never get inside our hero's head. Miyavi should be a movie star.

Inherent Vice

Shambolic. In a good way. Phoenix totally convincing as a confused, paranoid '70s stoner. Why am I surprised?

The Babadook
The Babadook(2014)
½

The best classic horror movie in years, and one of the best movies of the year. Two great performances (Davis and Wiseman), look, and sound design, and just as scary thematically as "literally." Can't wait to see what Jennifer Kent does next.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
½

Has its moments, but is a little dull. And I seem to remember Katniss having legitimate qualms about becoming the propaganda star.

Foxcatcher
Foxcatcher(2014)

The feel-bad movie of the season. Has unpleasant things to say about Amuhrica, sports, jock-sniffers, familial relationships, and one-percenters.

Interstellar
Interstellar(2014)

I'm being generous in rewarding a real sf movie - more ideas, less fun, than Gravity - in spite of its lousy script. So many visual & verbal shoutouts to better movies, but offers some astonishing sights of its own. Chris, lose your typewriter, dump your brother, and get a real screenwriter next time.

Birdman
Birdman(2014)

Overheated, with very little to say. The faked single-take tracking shot is impressive but exhausting, the drum score annoying, and please, even actors don't bellow at each other this much. Get a script and turn it down from 11 to 7 or 8.

John Wick
John Wick(2014)

Lean and mean. Exciting choreographed violence shot coherently FTW.

Fury
Fury(2014)

Old-fashioned nearly to the point of cliche, but delivers some powerful scenes. Pitt is charismatic and the tanks look authentic, even if the tracers don't.

Whiplash
Whiplash(2014)
½

DI meets the drummer. The 2 leads are terrific, it's superbly shot and edited, exciting, and will actually provoke discussion. Whiplash has little to do with jazz - it's more like a corny sports movie - but I love corny sports movies. Among the best of the year.

Gone Girl
Gone Girl(2014)
½

Uneven. It's too long, lacks suspense, and has serious pacing issues. The cast isn't diabolical enough to pull off the tone changes. Big disappointment.

The Drop
The Drop(2014)

Fine, slow build with a solid cast and sharp Lehane dialog - even if it's Brooklyn rather than Dorchester.

Get On Up
Get On Up(2014)

Chadwick Boseman has the funk. The non-linear scene-staging worked for me - it hid some of the biopic cliches, and highlighted some of the good moments. Ellis is very good, btw.

Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Doesn't look as good, hit as hard, or make you chuckle as well as the original. Eva Green, however, is a noir femme fatale to kill for.

Boyhood
Boyhood(2014)
½

This exercise in Texas slackerealism is a stunt, but an effective one. Just about the entire cast is so good - esp the chemistry between Hawke and Coltrane - you actually care what happens to them. Why is that so rare?

Calvary
Calvary(2014)

The script isn't up to it - the black comedy is far more effective than the alternating nihilistic and sentimental tragedy; and come on, does everyone in Sligo have the gift of gab? - but Brendan Gleeson is.

Guardians of the Galaxy

There are just enough funny gags to overcome the tedious CGI and fight scenes. Why is Nebula sexier than Gamora? And who makes a mix tape with Pina Colada and Cherry Bomb?

A Most Wanted Man

Smart, morally challenging - if only it were a little more suspenseful. Hoffman is completely convincing as a classic, weary le Carre master everyspy, and the rest of the cast just about keeps up.

Lucy
Lucy(2014)
½

Plenty of flashy fun, and only 90 minutes long - a blessing compared to modern summer popcorn bloat. Luc, I'm a huge fan of Milla, but ScarJo can actually, you know, act.

The River King

Thoughtful, engaging character study wrapped in a pretty solid mystery story. Nice cinematography and score, and the cast is excellent.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Possibly the stoopidest movie ever filmed. Did I mention it runs well over 2 and a half hours?

Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow

Less "Groundhog Day" than videogame reset. I'm baffled by the critical love for this one - it's competent and it's actually pretty funny in places, but that distracts from any suspense, let alone serious sci-fi.

Cold in July
Cold in July(2014)
½

That this East Texas noir was shot in upstate NY and isn't remotely plausible shouldn't bother me as much as it does, given the fun twists and solid cast - esp Don Johnson's much-appreciated dose of gonzo anarchy.

Night Moves
Night Moves(2014)

This green noir is tense and discomforting, with a convincing, hyper-realist portrait of its setting and communities.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Surprisingly emotional, and a little less fun for it. Quicksilver has the best scene and gets the best lines, and McAvoy is a great troubled Xavier.

Under the Skin
½

Has its moments but it's no "Man Who Fell to Earth." (Flixster lost my review)

Only Lovers Left Alive
½

Hiddleston and SWINTON are the coolest vampire couple since Bowie and Deneuve. (Flixster lost my review)

Godzilla
Godzilla(2014)

"Let them fight!"

The Immigrant
½

You know those old silent melodramas that depended entirely on the face of the actress? The concept doesn't age well.

Palo Alto
Palo Alto(2014)

Beautiful, vapid teenagers don't have much to say. I suppose that's the point, but it's been made before and better in "Kids" and "River's Edge," not to mention "Rebel without a Cause."

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Sure, it's a little bloated, but it pretty much nails the spy meets superhero mix, esp. in the action scenes (the CGI-lite ones, anyway). More Black Widow, please.

Noah
Noah(2014)

It's Noah - the fundamentalist, vegan action hero. Now with rock-monster Nephilim. Yeah, just a *little* over the top, and though Crowe's actually pretty good, I found myself agreeing with Tubal-Cain.

Sabotage
Sabotage(2014)

Not a great idea to play it pretty much completely straight.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

For once, Anderson's fussy art direction works wonders, Fiennes is a marvel, and there's even a hint of heart. A sad and nostalgic one.

Divergent
Divergent(2014)
½

Serviceable enough. Well-cast, nails the inside-the-head scenes but whiffs at the ziplines. You were expecting originality?

300: Rise of an Empire
½

Any movie where Eva Green, in leather and spikes, gets to say "You fight much harder than you eft" can't be all bad.

Stalingrad
Stalingrad(2014)
½

Old-fashioned, sentimental, propagandistic? But also epic. Great cast overcomes under-written parts and matches 3D spectacle.

Non-Stop
Non-Stop(2014)
½

Who cares if it's implausible? Entirely competent thrills with Liam.

The Wind Rises

Slightly sketchy storytelling, but who cares? Gorgeous, three-dimensional without 3D, epic scale. And, oh, those planes...

Tim's Vermeer
½

Fun and pretty convincing, but says more about nerd obsessiveness than about art.

Europa Report
½

This smarter-than-average, ultra-low budget, hard-sci-fi mostly works.

The Monuments Men
½

This throwback is old-fashioned enough to be stodgy, and doesn't do enough with its cast. But the good guys are good guys, for once.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
½

More Mission Impossible than Tom Clancy, but this one races along and doesn't overstay its welcome.

Her
Her(2013)
½

Impressive UI and game design, but, Spike, humans don't actually talk that way or that much. And did we really want to watch Joaquin Phoenix mostly alone onscreen for 2 draggy hours in truly awful clothes?

Lone Survivor
½

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't win?

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
½

Of course it's padded. But @ss-kicking elves! orcs with body-mod armor! and a pretty great dragon.

The Wolf of Wall Street
½

While Luhrmann was seduced by - and seductive on - the romance of Amuhrican capitalism, I'm pretty sure Scorsese was not. But consider the source material. At least a half an hour too long to justify its 2-3 great scenes. But do compare the effectiveness of its narration vs. American Hustle's.

Inside Llewyn Davis
½

Actually has a heart, and all the better for it. One of the best of the year.

American Hustle

Audacious, but only partly successful. You've got to be Scorsese to pull off voice-over narration, the pacing's inconsistent, and the comedy and satire are, uh, uneven. Lots of great performances, but what is Russell's point? American Bullsh!t was the original title....

12 Years a Slave
½

OK, it's beautifully shot, and mostly well-acted, but it's about as subtle and thoughtful as Mandingo. Worse, it's oddly unfeeling.

Thor: The Dark World

Good cast wasted - except for a few funny lines, the script is awful and the art direction and pacing misguided.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
½

Predictable sophomore slump but improves the pace of the sloppy 2nd novel. More jabberjays and Sutherland-Hoffman!

Ender's Game
Ender's Game(2013)
½

Pretty provocative for kids' sci-fi. But it's no Starship Troopers.

The Counselor

If only they could have got Mamet to do a re-write....

Carrie
Carrie(2013)
½

Limp. And Chloe, you've got some star wattage, but you're a pretty lousy actor.

Captain Phillips

Taut and thoughtful. Hanks and Abdi are terrific and I'll forgive the shakycam because Greengrass is one of the few active directors that shoot action scenes where you always know what's going on. Ends with a real kick in the chest.

Gravity
Gravity(2013)
½

It's uncharitable to wish Gravity were about something. Its visuals inspire awe and panic, its physics is totally convincing, it's superbly cast, and the creators apparently invented some new movie technology. By all means, see it in 3D.

Prisoners
Prisoners(2013)

For about its first third, Prisoners almost achieves Seven-like tension and dread. It looks good and Gyllenhaal is twitchily watchable. Then the plot takes 3 turns into looney-land and you start to notice everyone is *acting.*

Rush
Rush(2013)

Cliched? Macho? Hans Zimmer? Well, yeah, it's a Formula 1 movie. And it may be the most fun you have this summer. The leads radiate charisma and it's got a great '70s look. See it on a big screen.

Riddick
Riddick(2013)
½

Serviceable bad-assery.

The Grandmaster

Kung fu isn't better in rain, smoke, snow, or slowmo, but it sure is prettier. This one actually takes off when it turns into a romance, but, oh, man, that fight scene by the train....

Kick-Ass 2
Kick-Ass 2(2013)
½

No longer fresh, or remotely subversive, the sequel still delivers a few chuckles and one or two good fight scenes.

Elysium
Elysium(2013)
½

Visually spectacular, and there are hints of satire and political outrage. But the story's contrived and dumb, the sci/tech maddeningly inconsistent, the shakycam overdone, and what's up with Jodie Foster - did she re-dub herself with 3 accents?

Drug War
Drug War(2013)
½

Did setting this hybrid Mission Impossible-policier-Hong Kong gangster flick in mainland China result in its nihilism? The usual themes - fatalism, loyalty, two-fisted gunplay - are just a little grimmer and grimier. And Buicks are cool in China.

Blue Jasmine
Blue Jasmine(2013)
½

Blanchett out-Blanches Blanche, but the class and wealth commentary loses its sting because it's set in some timeless, out-of-touch Woodyland where Brooklyn is an undesirable place to live, people take computer classes to learn about "operating systems," and mooks from Queens comprise the San Francisco working class.

The Act Of Killing

What a #$%@ed up world we live in where deathsquad leaders get to play to the camera. That is, if they really are deathsquad leaders. No evidence here. I was ready to say, "if you weren't convinced of the banality of evil, and its likely recurrence, you will be" but then I thought, you know, this isn't really convincing.

The Conjuring
½

Earns its scares through tension and sound effects, with no gore or humiliation, and precious few special effects. It's set in 1971, so you haven't seen The Exorcist or Amityville yet ;->

Fruitvale Station

This week I wanted more outrage, but in the long run maybe this almost too low-key approach was the way to go. Superb cast empowered by the very assured first-time director and screenwriter.

Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim(2013)
½

"Smarter than Transformers" is a shamefully low bar. You've seen all these designs and the overall look before, and you still can't figure out what's going on in the CGI fight scenes.

The East
The East(2013)
½

Hardly "morally ambiguous" - it's more subtle, and interesting, on group dynamics than it is on eco-terrorism - but it's suspenseful in a low-key way, and just twisted enough to qualify as "indie thriller."

The Lone Ranger

So overstuffed - okay, bloated - that Depp's deadpan, Keaton-esque Tonto and the half-hour-of-madness finale can't save it.

White House Down

Preposterous, corny, patriotic summer blockbuster that's almost as fun as Independence Day. President Obama - er, Sawyer - with an RPG! Top that, Michael Bay!

Much Ado About Nothing
½

A bit precious, but it trips along lightly enough.

World War Z
World War Z(2013)

If you're going to make a PG-13 zombie movie - not that anyone should do such a thing - you must replace the gore with suspense. CGI "spectacle" just won't do.

Man of Steel
Man of Steel(2013)
½

I am so, so tired of CGI. Well-cast, and with a handful of real Superman moments, maybe this reboot will be improved by the sequel.

Stories We Tell

I'm puzzled by all the critical love for this. Over-artificed and a little dull; it's a family of actors, remember?

Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3(2013)
½

Needs a serious dose of AC/DC; only the funny bits worked.

Mud
Mud(2013)

An endearing, meandering, Southern shaggy dog story. Tremendous cast and atmosphere. It's "triple-six real-deal," and it's the first good movie of the year.

Oblivion
Oblivion(2013)

The bubbleship is the real star of this hopelessly derivative, aurally oppressive sci-fi-lite. The visuals are polished but unimaginative.

Evil Dead
Evil Dead(2013)
½

Thank goodness. For a minute there, I thought they weren't going to get to the chainsaw.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation
½

Stuff blows up pretty good. Embraces its corniness and delivers, hallelujah, competent action scenes.

Heaven's Gate

This is no lost masterpiece. Though it has some spectacular, even epic scenes, it's a real mess, with obvious politics yet no sympathetic (or even recognizable) underdogs, truly awful dialog, horrific sexism, and truth in the conventional wisdom that every single scene runs too long.

Beyond The Hills
½

The (very) slow build does add to the impact of this more-ambiguous-than-you'd-think morality fable, but it's really, really slow. The found sound is pretty cool, as is the near-amateur casting.

Le moine (The Monk)

Played way too straight. And no bleeding nun!

Lore
Lore(2013)

Wants to be an inside-out "Painted Bird" but can't touch Kosinski's realist-fabulist mix. Saskia Rosendahl is pretty terrific, though.

A Good Day To Die Hard

Smirks and loads of CGI can't overcome lame supporting cast and car chases where you can't tell who's chasing whom.

Side Effects
Side Effects(2013)
½

Competent twist-thriller, but feels longer than its 106 minutes and is way more fun when we're not sure who's doing what to whom. Does nothing to un-convince me Soderbergh is hugely over-rated by critic fanboys.

A Royal Affair
½

Gloomy Mikkelsen and crew are only a little more convincing as libertines than liberators - Enlightenment dilettantes? - and to call the movie's pace "stately" is kind. They and their settings all do look good.

Parker
Parker(2013)
½

Competent little thriller with nicely done bookend capers and some convincingly brutal fights.

Gangster Squad
½

Good cast, good look, good hats...great cars. Cr@p script.

Les Misérables

I really, really wanted Anne Hathaway to whip out the spiked heels and leather catsuit for the curtain call.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
½

In hi-def, Cheesorama Narniavision the tiny model sets have great depth! Seriously, though, why all the hate? It's fun to be back in Middle Earth and as indulgent prequels go, this is no Star Wars.

Django Unchained
½

Jamie Foxx makes a credible 21st Century version of the 70's Western Super Fly. Not that we needed one.

Zero Dark Thirty
½

Among the best of the year; way more relevant than the feel-good Argo. It's hardly morally ambiguous: it takes fascists to beat terrorists. But did it really take a lone Ahab to get this whale?

Anna Karenina

The stage business was mostly distracting or distancing, though the ballroom scene worked.

Killing Them Softly

Stylish, cynical, very flawed but fascinating. More effective when it's funny than when it's grim.

Skyfall
Skyfall(2012)

Some good bits - esp. the knowing ones that acknowledge the tradition - but this uneven mixing of le Carre and Freud with Fleming has third-act problems.

Silver Linings Playbook

Starts out with some edge, but in the end it's just a slightly screwy rom-com. Very good cast.

Lincoln
Lincoln(2012)
½

Sure, it's manipulative, but if you don't get a few lumps in your throat watching, you're no true Amuhrican. Day-Lewis is utterly convincing. Too much to hope Lincoln will inspire modern Congressional compromise.

Flight
Flight(2012)

This only-slightly more ambiguous than usual morality/addiction fable is redeemed by a spectacular opening sequence and Denzel's best flawed cool guy since Training Day.

Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas(2012)

Holds your attention and - remarkably - doesn't drag, but the clever editing and aural tricks to tie the stories don't make up for the awful stunt casting and makeup. And it's about as deep as the Matrix sequels.

Argo
Argo(2012)

Very well made and highly entertaining. But Argo feels oddly disconnected from current affairs - does that come from its feel-good vibe, or perhaps from its 70s-fetish production design?

Wuthering Heights

Effectively taps the cruelty and pagan energy of the novel, though I'm pretty sure there weren't any racist skinheads in 18th century Yorkshire. The kids smolder more convincingly than the adults.

Men in Black III

Not half bad. Signs of actual wit and heart. (Viewed on JetBlue cross-country flight)

The Master
The Master(2012)

What a setup! Amuhrica via Scientology by way of father/son belief/doubt individualist/groupthink. Sadly, great cinematography and production design can't save a static script that does nothing after the setup. Hoffman is spectacular; critics will disagree on Phoenix, who I thought went over the top.

Lawless
Lawless(2012)

This shaggy dog fable meanders along and then hammers you with ultraviolence. 2/3rds of the cast is terrific, Georgia stands in beautifully for Franklin County VA, and the eclectic score is top-notch.

The Expendables 2

Metaphorically speaking, more 'roids than Botox.

The Bourne Legacy
½

Competent, with a good cast. I actually liked the slow build intro, but the big chase was edited to incomprehension, as per most modern action flicks. None of the sequels touch the first Bourne.

Total Recall
Total Recall(2012)
½

More video game than movie. Not in a good way.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

There's a little North Eastern liberal white guy (both parents are folklore scholars) precious, noble-savage voyeurism here - okay, there's a lot of it - but there's also plenty to think about in this beautifully-shot, no-budget fable. Hushpuppy is ferocious, but her dad - also a non-actor - deservers the Oscar talk.

The Dark Knight Rises
½

With Inception, and now DK2, Nolan proves he's no thinker, and can only tease Big Ideas amidst the Big Set Piece scenes. Hathaway's good, and at least the fight scenes are actually comprehensible in this ponderous, almost-sentimental follow-up to the far-superior anarcho-nihilist-meets-fascist Dark Knight.

Headhunters
Headhunters(2012)
½

Go easy on the Hitchcock and Coen Brothers references, but this Norwegian noir offers plenty of witty and well-paced fun.

Savages
Savages(2012)
½

I need to go watch Natural Born Killers or The Doors to remind myself that Oliver Stone used to have some lunatic edge.

Max Manus: Man of War

There are your cynical war movies and your warts-and-all heroes, but then there's a "this guy might have been self-aware and sensitive, but he was barely competent" story. Yet without nearly enough "Bridge too Far" irony. I guess Norwegians qualify as (extremely) gloomy Scandinavians.

Snow White and the Huntsman
½

Potentially interesting re-imagining is gorgeous to look at (scenery, costumes, production design, cast) but undone by a wretched script and uneven direction. K-Stew's unfortunate tendency to adopt a pornstar's dreamy gaze doesn't help, though she's feisty at times.

The Amazing Spider-Man
½

But only for the cast. Garfield and Stone are solid; the villain, script, special effects, and need to re-do so soon are less than inspirational. Still, there are worse ways to escape the summer heat.

Brave
Brave(2012)

You'll be less disappointed if, instead of calling this Disneyfied Pixar, you think of this as a princess movie with its game upgraded. A little. It's actually kind of a mess, with too many directors and scriptwriters wrecking any consistent vision. I wanted Pixar's first femme to be so much better.

Bernie
Bernie(2012)
½

A restrained Black and - surprise! - McConaughey - are very good, but the black comedy veers too near condescension when the East Texas townies play Greek chorus.

Prometheus
Prometheus(2012)
½

Visually sumptuous, but very nearly brain-dead. Tries to split the difference between the horror/suspense of the original and the seriously thoughtful sci-fi of Blade Runner and misses both, widely. Can we blame the script on Lost's Lindelof?

Battleship
Battleship(2012)
½

Loud and corny, but with a flash or two of wit, this poor man's "Independence Day" ends up being more fun than it has any right to be.

Elena
Elena(2012)

Class-ridden, alienated, nihilistic 21st century Russian parable - and not even filmed in winter! A bit too static - it's one of those movies I liked better afterwards than when I was watching it.

Dark Shadows
Dark Shadows(2012)
½

More homage than spoof, and more interesting for it. But come on, did the original deserve either?

The Cabin in the Woods
½

A little too meta for its own good, this one wants its cake but can't eat it too - it's neither scary nor as funny as it should be. But it is very clever.

The Hunger Games
½

Nailed the emotional if not visceral impact of the book. Great cast led by a spectacular Jennifer Lawrence. Shakycam effective during games, over-used elsewhere, but overall look worked. This is how to do a franchise.

John Carter
John Carter(2012)
½

Okay, argue over whether it's more Ishtar (mundane folly) than Dune (brilliant folly), but it's still a lot more fun than your standard-issue, way too much CGI, stoopidly green-lighted and marketed big-budget Big Miss. Or is that Big Mess?

Let the Bullets Fly
½

Three charismatic stars, but the mix of black humor, slapstick and screwball via Eastern Western blended a little roughly to these Western eyes. Whew, those subtitles flew by fast.

Rampart
Rampart(2012)
½

It's nothing you haven't seen before - in fact, a few of the bad-cop cliches grate - but the veins on Harrelson's forehead pulse convincingly and his character is right at home in Ellroy-wood. The flashy camerawork and color scheme are mostly effective.

Kill List
Kill List(2012)

The Brits still know how to make those low-budget horror flicks where the occult leaks into the real world in a most disturbing fashion. Director Wheatley doesn't seem to be related to Dennis.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
½

Though it's drenched in atmosphere and mood, le Carre's masterpiece remains unfilmable. (I don't love the BBC miniseries either, though Alec Guinness is marvelous.) His lesser works make better movies. Admirably nuanced, still the script is too condensed and a fine cast remains under-developed.

War Horse
War Horse(2011)
½

More sentimental than stirring. Straight from the dawn of Technicolor - think John Ford, but in The Quiet Man mode.

The Artist
The Artist(2011)

Baffled by all the critical love, I thought the gimmick wore thin fast. Starts and ends well, but drags interminably between; he's charming, she's grating.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
½

Quite disappointing. I'm a big Fincher fan but the only thing better in this surprisingly bland re-make than in the Swedish version is the credits sequence. Rooney is no Noomi.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
½

Non-stop action - and even some suspense - with some amazing stunts. But a lousy script peaks way too early.

The Adventures of Tintin

Haddock and the sets work, and there are a couple of chases and action scenes you couldn't do with live action. But this kind of creepy CGI might be even creepier in 3D.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
½

Highly entertaining, with a fine Moriarty, some funny bits, and action scenes that work better this time round. Invigorating score by Hans Zimmer, too.

Hugo
Hugo(2011)
½

There's real magic here. The 3D isn't remotely realistic. It looks like a pop-up book: a deep series of flats, and that's all to the good. The movie isn't a masterpiece -- It's too long, and so old-fashioned, er, timeless, that I wonder if modern kids will take to it. But I can barely imagine it *not* in 3D, and I mean that as high praise.

Take Shelter
Take Shelter(2011)
½

Hey, I'm more than susceptible to apocalypse anxiety, but our hero's slip into insanity broke the metaphor for me. Quite a good supporting cast, and Michael Shannon is intense and restrained, but we already know he's nuts.

The Descendants

Very human but disappointingly sentimental. Superb cast.

Contagion
Contagion(2011)
½

Creepy and efficient, but ultimately a little too cool.

Moneyball
Moneyball(2011)
½

Lots of smart reviewers like this movie, but they vary widely on what it's actually about. That's a sign of high art in pop culture. Best of the year so far - witty script and great cast. Pitt has now been terrific in two very different roles this year. Oh yeah, it's about men at work, as is all Sorkin.

Drive
Drive(2011)

Stop and go pacing that builds tension, great look, and shocking jolts of violence earned Refn a deserved best director nod at Cannes. Takes its cues from 70's noir as well as Collateral and Heat. Gosling's very good - though he's no Steve McQueen - Brooks is even better. It's just a genre flick but it's a good one

Shaolin
Shaolin(2011)
½

A little somber in tone and hue, but Jackie Chan has one scene where he "stir-fries them like vegetables."

Higher Ground
½

Farmiga is very, very good, as usual, and gets solid performances out of her cast. But ultimately, the movie rambles a bit and is uncomfortable in its tonal shifts. And the script is too stacked against the evangelicals for us to believe Farmigaâ(TM)s risking anything with her crisis of faith. Except the music, which is surprisingly affective.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Wanted to love this. Wanted to be another critic saying, Hong Kong makes better Amuhrican summer blockbusters than Hollywood. But you know, even with a great cast and some solid set pieces, this one's a bit talky.

Point Blank
Point Blank(2011)
½

Wildly implausible but plenty of fun as a humble nurse's aid makes like a an amateur Bourne at top speed.

The Last Circus

Pointlessly nutso melodrama. Beware of movies critics say are "sure to be cult favorites" before they are. But if clowns didn't give you nightmares before this, they will after.

Conan the Barbarian

Has its moments - the cast look the parts and the villains are solid - but half the fight scenes are so incompetently shot and edited you can't tell who's who.

Bellflower
Bellflower(2011)

This very twisted take on the indie romance has the courage of its own nutty, nihilist convictions. Beautifully shot, occasionally funny, ultimately disturbing.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
½

Races along, with a handful of welcome nods to the original series and uneven but occasionally spectacular CGI. But I remember "Conquest" having an early-70s anti-repression vibe, while this one is anti-.....science?

Cowboys & Aliens

You might think a summer movie called "Cowboys & Aliens" would have a light touch, but nooooo, this one's played almost completely straight. Bad idea.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Funnest superhero flick of the season nails the period details but fizzles a little in the third act.

Rapt
Rapt(2011)

More Polanski than Hitchcock - or perhaps the Hitch of "Frenzy" - this thriller is suspenseful and sardonic, smoothly shot and paced, and re-aligns your sympathies at least twice.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

It was a mistake to break this one up. The action and payoff would have seemed even bigger with the slow, sad build of Part I.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Almost coherent this time. Probably 'cause there's less dialogue.

Midnight in Paris

"Charming" say all the critics. I suppose so - Owen Wilson is pretty good and Paris is pretty - but very, very slight. "I'm having an insight. It's a minor one..."

The Tree of Life

Malick sets out to justify the ways of God to men, but he has more to say - and more touching nostalgia - about boy/brother/Dad dynamics. Docked half a star bcs my mind wandered a little during the cosmic stuff (response to Kubrick?). Pitt and McCracken are terrific, and of course the trees look beautiful.

Green Lantern

Some of the visuals work, and are even witty, and the cast is up for it. But the story's a mess. Why, oh why didn't they just hire a good comic book writer for the script?

Super 8
Super 8(2011)
½

Critics of a certain age are way too kind to this Spielberg wannabe that offers a dose of nostalgia and a terrific kid cast, but no magic or thrills.

X-Men: First Class
½

Well-cast reboot is fun enough, but if I'm being picky, it drags in the middle and gets its 60's references all wrong. Think Austin Powers, not James Bond: but no one said "groovy" or wore miniskirts in 1962.

Excalibur
Excalibur(1981)

Brilliant pre-Raphaelite visualization of Mallory's Arthur blends Christian/pagan, medieval/Romantic, etc. etc. Great hammy Williamson Merlin and supporting cast of soon-to-be stars. Sadly, our 3 heros (Arthur, Lancelot, Guenevere) were not. When Boorman mucks with the myth, it's in the service of great storytelling. Soundtrack wasn't a cliche back then. One of my favorite failed classics - some scenes bring tears to the eyes.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
½

It's chic to hate this one but it has its moments: the opening chase is as good as anything in the series, and the mermaids are creepy. But Captain Jack is better in smaller doses.

Source Code
Source Code(2011)

No dumber than Inception, and ten times the heart. Actual suspense and characters you care for help a lot. Twice the fun at one fifth the budget.

13 Assassins
13 Assassins(2011)

Slow-burn buildup to maximum carnage. Stately and stylish, with a handful of stars and a great villain - won't be shamed by comparisons with the classics.

Thor
Thor(2011)
½

Odd blend of Langridge/Samnee bits that work better than the Lee/Kirby parts is mostly effective. Design is beyond the reach of slightly cheesy spfx, but it's just about perfectly cast.

Meek's Cutoff

"Chaotic" women and "destructive" men face off against the Other. If you can handle the slow pace and cryptic characters, this is a thoughtful look at alienation, leadership, and faith, with the landscape-as-character smarts of Malick and Weir.

Hanna
Hanna(2011)

If only the fairy tale motifs, camera tricks - though I confess the single-shot fight scene impresses - and oddball moments (5 minutes of gypsy flamenco?) were subtler. Because Saoirse Ronan can kick @ss.

Super
Super(2011)

Uneasy laughs, as director Gunn can't decide what kind of movie he's making. Turns out Dwight and Juno are seriously disturbed individuals.

Black Death
Black Death(2011)

Brutal and cynical to no real purpose. Good leads and interesting locations, with a whiff Wicker Man but also, unintentionally, Monty Python.

Sucker Punch
Sucker Punch(2011)

It's too bad Zack Snyder has no wit or irony, or even a sense of humor, because he sure can direct fight scenes (if not actors). He's got good, if slightly obvious, taste in cover songs, too.

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre(2011)
½

Beautifully shot and I kinda liked the flashback trick - the movie sometimes slows to a crawl at Thornfield Manor. Wasikowska is terrific as a feisty but period-apropriate Jane, and the supporting cast is excellent. I'll leave it to other reviewers to determine if Fassbender is swoony enough; he does tragic, but not Byronic. And I'll always like Hardy movies better than Bronte ones.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
½

This one does not age well. 1963 beat-to-hippie transitionary visionary filtered through 1975 Hollywood feels incredibly obvious. Also embarrassingly misogynist. Now that we know Jack was playing himself for the 1st of what would be 27 times, we're almost glad to see him lobotomized.

The Eagle
The Eagle(2011)

Like Centurion, the other recent movie about Romans in Britain, this one's old-fashioned - in a good way. But I don't remember Rosemary Sutcliff ever being this slow.

Red Riding Trilogy

Actually sustains its bleak theme and mood of dread via sense of place, rather than its recurring characters, or, really, the plot. Three distinct looks, all effective; mostly excellent cast (esp Seans Bean and Harris). Like a really good Mystery! arc; not The Godfather, for pete's sake.

The King's Speech

Just the kind of well-made hokum that wins Oscars. Three good leads; takes no risks.

Season of the Witch
½

Mistakenly played straight; seriously lacking fun.

True Grit
True Grit(2010)
½

Surprisingly similar to the original in a much lower key. Excellent cast and look.

The Fighter
The Fighter(2010)

Aren't all boxer-family-class movies exactly like this one?

The Tourist
The Tourist(2010)

Strives to be a 60's glamor-thriller but a bit too slow for modern tastes.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
½

Serviceable adaptation, though it plods a bit. Nice job on Eustace and the Dufflepuds, and, of course, Reepicheep. Christian bits toned way down.

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)
½

This lurid, campy melodrama has its moments, but most of them are stolen shamelessly from Argento, Polanski, Cronenberg, or The Red Shoes. Gorgeous Natalie Portman works hard in the service of really obvious, unconvincing themes.

127 Hours
127 Hours(2010)

Wow, I'm really in the minority here. Way too cheerful, and as "journeys of self-discovery" go, this one lacks payoff. He looked into the abyss and saw...Scooby-Doo?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

If you love our three heroes, you'll love this installment, otherwise it may seem long and a little lonely.

Unstoppable
Unstoppable(2010)

Hits all the runaway-train-loaded-with-toxic-chemicals-heading-for-Hometown, USA cliches with great style. Two big stars with big smiles and Tony Scott's skills applied properly, for once.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
½

Rapace smolders as Salander again, but can't save this crushingly talky, tension-free drag.

Red
Red(2010)

Can an explosive action-comedy graphic novel adaptation be "frothy?" Malkovich and Mirren are fun; everybody else mails it in.

The Social Network
½

Exciting and surprisingly tragic and emotional (Fincher? human feelings?); unsurprisingly high craft (Fincher, Sorkin). Eisenberg is spectacular yet Timberlake's Miltonic Satan steals his scenes. It's not really about Facebook except in a very offhand ironic way, but about obsession, class, loyalty and betrayal. And if you think it's anti-Zuck, well, this movie will launch a thousand start-ups.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Lousy story has zero tension in any of its 5 conflicts. But Gordon Gekko is still fun, and this Wall Street is a little more morally nuanced than the original. The design is very slick: New York looks absolutely gorgeous, but there's a weird out-of-time vibe - spread collars? double-breasted suits?? - that makes this one much less of its era than it should be. Was Stone going for fable rather than jeremiad?

Catfish
Catfish(2010)
½

If I thought this was totally real, I'd give it a higher rating while cringing at its exploitation. Because of that, unfortunately, you'll end up talking about its authenticity, rather than about its themes of identity and art.

The Town
The Town(2010)
½

Nothing particularly original here, and not as gritty as Gone Baby Gone, but Affleck is generous with his cast and shoots some tense action. The secondary characters steal all the scenes.

The Last Exorcism
½

Creepily effective little horror flick that shows what clever people can do with zero budget. Solid cast presents believable characters - though why doesn't anybody speak Southern, let alone Cajun? - and the faux-doc approach succeeds about 80% of the time.

The American
The American(2010)

Euro-style thriller. Which is not to say it's slow...aw, what the heck, it *is* slow. Beautifully shot and set in the gorgeous hill towns of Abruzzo, the script doesn't give Clooney enough to pull off the existentially angsty assassin thing.

Centurion
Centurion(2010)
½

For all its gory ultraviolence and modern-grunt cursing, Centurion is pleasantly old-fashioned. A bit too much strobe-cam and quick cutting - not to mention too many LOTR-like scenes of men running, running, running - but spectacular Scottish scenery compensates.

Animal Kingdom
½

You've seen this blood is thicker than whatever crime family before, but rarely presented as bleakly. Spectacular cast delivers some moments of tension and dread. But the movie's too long and the script collapses in the third act.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
½

I wanted to like this but couldn't get over Michael Cera's lack of chin (or any discernible charisma). It's colorful, but noisy and repetitive, and not very funny. I guess the metaphor's over my head.

The Expendables

Things get blowed up fair to middling. Has a few moments, but add Stallone to the long list of directors that can't shoot action coherently. And those geezers are no Evelyn Salt.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

There are moments when master of all genres Hawks achieves a hybrid musical screwball, but the script just isn't up to it. Great chemistry between Monroe and Russell, but I don't think this one's as subversive as its fans want it to be.

Limelight
Limelight(1952)

Self-indulgent and a bit static, but even if he cut back Keaton's bits, Chaplin is brutally honest about the ambiguous relationship between artist and audience. Great score (also by Chaplin!).

Salt
Salt(2010)
½

Best actioner of the summer? A few pacing problems (fits and starts), but, finally: a director who can actually shoot fight and chase scenes so you know what's going on. And Angelina is a force of nature.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Delivers on modest expectations. Cage and Molina are amusing; Baruchel is simply awful.

Valhalla Rising

Stoner Christian Vikings meet the heathen on the fringe of the world. Is One-Eye Odin? Undoubtedly awesome if on drugs.

Inception
Inception(2010)
½

Well, itâ??s shot and edited very well, has some nifty gravity-defying, CGI-free visuals, and doesnâ??t feel its two and a half hours. But â??cerebral?â?? â??Brainy?â?? Give me a break. The plot advances via the cheap device of explaining â?? literally, to the designated newbie character â?? each new law of dreamland, then doing it. Thereâ??s no subconscious, no â??dreaminess,â?? and certainly no big idea. This isnâ??t science fiction; itâ??s videogame design.

The Kids Are All Right

Iâ??m puzzled by all the critical love for this one. Yes, itâ??s extremely well cast and acted, but its laughs are too easy and itâ??s not particularly insightful. Itâ??s painfully conventional - whoa, get the irony? - yet excruciatingly, though un-ironically, Californian.

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)
½

Sophomore slump, just like the book. But Salander is still unstoppable, and Stockholm looks good.

Get Him to the Greek

About as funny as you'd expect - ie not as funny as it should be - carried along by Russell Brand's charisma (?!). Some cute cameos.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
½

Had to see what all the swooning was about. They're all very pretty, I suppose, but only one can act. And I seem to remember vampires being way cooler in the 80's-90's.

I Am Love
I Am Love(2010)

Boy, those rich Milanese know how to live. And make sensuous (food sex!), operatically over-the-top melodramas. Swinton's almost as good as the spectacularly lush photography.

Cyrus
Cyrus(2010)

Some genuine creepy-funny, awkward laughs. The ad-libbing worked for me but I can't take all the close-ups. And those smart, sexy women would never fall for John C. Reilly.

The Killer Inside Me

Oddly, auteur-wannabe Winterbottom is afraid to commit to the (unreliable) narrator, and wastes a solid performance by Casey Affleck and some nice photography, not to mention the source novel. We're left with a well-filmed noir with no suspense, tension, bizarre humor or sex, or psychological insight.

Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3(2010)
½

Big heart. Some of the gags are a little cheap, but the emotions aren't. Wonderful action sequences, great new villains, and a bittersweet ending. Up there with the best of Pixar.

Winter's Bone

Ozark neo-realist gothic- if that's possible - with a big heart. Spectacular cast and beautiful sense of place.

Agora
Agora(2010)

Oh, to be in Alexandria before those d@mn Christians showed up! Malta, great sets, and CGI recreate 400 AD fabulously, but the script's pretty ham-handed.

Splice
Splice(2010)
½

This smarter-than-average Canadian horror flick with psychological and satirical elements makes the most of its lowish budget and solid lead performances and inspires memories of early Cronenberg. Quirky, but not quite disturbing enough.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
½

Fellas, parkour and swordfights are better the *less* they're edited. Lousy script and storytelling. Minimal twinkle in Jake's eye.

The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)
½

Mystery-romance weaves in threads of fascist politics, sexual (macho) politics, memory, loss, regret, even slapstick, etc. etc. It's all a bit much, and a little slow, but it looks great and the cast - especially the leads - is very good indeed. Oddly, Buenos Aires feels empty and lifeless - not what I've experienced....

Robin Hood
Robin Hood(2010)
½

It's grimmer than you want your Robin Hood to be, but I'm a sucker for English mythology, even when it's completely re-written. A little too much plot, but great looking and with a solid - stolid? - cast.

Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2(2010)
½

Cluttered. RDjr's still lots of fun, and so is villain Sam Rockwell, but Gwyneth, Scarlett, Cheadle, Rourke, etc etc etc - eh. The pacing's uneven but the pseudo-screwball dialogue works about half the time.

Warlords (Tau ming chong)
½

A bit more realistic than your usual big-battle Asian heroic tragedy. Lots of rain. No CGI. In a showdown between blood brotherhood, idealism, and villainous politics, guess which wins?

Shock Corridor

"Lurid" just doesn't capture it. I have a tough time making up my mind about this alleged auteur masterpiece that alternates ludicrous camp with truly horrifying scenes of existential and societal collapse. Come on, even in 1963 those voice overs and hammy acting were over the top. Failed masterpiece?

Scandal Sheet

Taut newspaper noir with Broderick Crawford growlingly great as the managing editor of â??a disgusting tabloid pandering to the passions of the base moron," as one of his gray lady stockholders complains. Excellent supporting cast.

How to Train Your Dragon

Gorgeous animation and nice 3D support a fully realized world (loved the barnacles and sea slime on the longboats). Big hearted story, even if the dragons were a bit too cute for my taste.

The Losers
The Losers(2010)

The kind of thing that could give comic book movies a bad name. C-list cast delivers witless one-liners in front of cheap, see-through sfx undisguised by the usual shakycam photography and ADD editing.

When You're Strange
½

Great Doors footage, but lame narration and obligatory cliche 60's images. For fans only.

Stranger on the Third Floor

In transit between expressionism and noir (as another reviewer says), but it's a pretty hokey melodrama. Great ending and Peter Lorre cameo.

While the City Sleeps
½

Solid cast and occasionally snappy patter. It's plenty cynical but not top-drawer Lang. Needed more George Sanders and Ida Lupino.

Kick-Ass
Kick-Ass(2010)

Silly, silly critics, it's not a satire, it's po-mo fanboy superheroics taken to their logical conclusion. Far more of its time than the Watchmen movie. Garish colors, ultraviolence that really does kick ass, and two charismatic kid stars.

Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival)

Supremely cynical comedy-melodrama still bites. Kirk chews the scenery magnificently, the script's full of howlers (sharp & cheesy, both), and it's a rare sun-drenched noir.

Clash of the Titans

Not sure where all the professional critical hate is coming from. Nostalgia for that crap 1981 version? Serviceable Saturday matinee material - played perhaps too straight - even if actors are sadly charisma-free. Saw it in 2D: Pegasus sfx pretty cool.

Greenberg
Greenberg(2010)

Two brave performances and lots of midlife angst - generated by LA and otherwise - but this is one where it's not just the best gags that were in the trailer; *all* the gags were in the trailer.

The Runaways
The Runaways(2010)

Great mid-70's look and feel but the script's pretty awful, esp the 3rd act. Kristen Stewart is very good, Dakota Fanning isn't, and I can't make up my mind about Michael Shannon, who's way over the top as their Svengali. 1st-time director Sigismondi has skillz, though.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Quite possibly better than the book (though it's ridiculously faithful - it plods a bit). Nyqvist replaces the original's smugness with welcome warmth, but Noomi Rapace is absolutely captivating as Salander. Is she a legitimate feminist heroine or an exploited revenge-chick that gives nerds h@rd-ons? Who cares? They'd better cast her in the American remake, is all I can say.

Green Zone
Green Zone(2010)
½

Finally! The anti-Bush Iraq movie the vast right-wing conspiracy always expected from Hollywood! Sadly, effective war movie beginning dissolves into suspense-free political thriller in the 2nd half. No amount of whip-panning shakycam will convince me Greengrass can do modern war better than Bigelow or Scott.

Brooklyn's Finest
½

Wretched script ruins a movie that has atmosphere to spare, tension, and some good performances (though maybe just a little too much Method from the white guys).

A Prophet (Un prophete)

I prefer my gangster movies to be tragedies, rather than bildungsroman, and this one's more Scarface than Godfather, or even Scorsese. But it's very well-made and brutally effective, with a stellar cast.

Alice in Wonderland
½

Welcome to Alice in Burtonland: The Videogame. Disappointingly, its only wit is in its visuals. Helena Bonham Carter is inspired as the Red Queen, and Mia Wasikowska makes a passable girl-power action heroine, but Johnny Depp's schtick is tiresome.

The Ghost Writer

Wildly overrated. Old-fashioned, literate, but largely thrill-free thriller. Apes Hitchcock to a fault, including Bernard Herrmann-wannabe score. Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams are terrific, while other casting choices are dubious. Still, there's lots of craft going on here.

Cop Out
Cop Out(2010)
½

Just enough hints of a real Kevin Smith movie to end up pretty funny. Loves all the buddy movie cliches even as it parodies them. Morgan & Willis pair up nicely, and Morgan shows flashes of brilliance.

Shutter Island

I'd give it another half-star if it weren't Scorsese - and the book worked better, too. Telegraphs its every move, and the solid cast and photography can't disguise that it's more silly than suspenseful. And oh gawd is it long.

Red Riding: 1974

Actually sustains its bleak theme and mood of dread via sense of place, rather than its recurring characters, or, really, the plot. Three distinct looks, all effective; mostly excellent cast (esp Seans Bean and Harris). Like a really good Mystery! arc; not The Godfather, for pete's sake.

The Wolfman
The Wolfman(2010)

Gorgeous art direction clashes with entertainingly camp performances by Weaving and Hopkins (tho what's up with that accent?), boo!-style scares, and Del Toro dully channeling Lon Chaney, Jr.

From Paris with Love
½

Competent action scenes but too serious to be silly and vice versa, with buddy movie aspirations where stars have no chemistry. Witless.

North Face (Nordwand)
½

Mountain scenes are edge-of-the-seat harrowing, but we don't know or care much about our heroes, even though we've spent an hour with backstory. Because it's there? And spare the cowbell-pitons.

Edge of Darkness

Mel can still do the slow burn that explodes in rage, and Ray Winstone adds some tangles to the knotty plotting, but this one goes no place special.

The Road
The Road(2009)
½

Oddly un-affecting, given the excellent cast, but, yeah, this is probably how the end of the world looks.

Crazy Heart
Crazy Heart(2009)

Hits a lot of cliches, in a rambling way, but, heck, it is a movie about country music. Great score, mediocre script. Bridges leads a stellar cast, and he and Farrell even sing purty good.

The Book of Eli
½

Surprisingly effective, but of course Denzel makes a great avenging angel. Could have used more George & Martha moments.

The Blind Side

Sure, it's sappy. And possibly patronizing. But it's a great true story and it hints a little at some serious themes around privilege and white - certainly not "liberal" - guilt. OK, it just hints, and it's Hollywood so it can't *really* be Christian. But Sandra Bullock is charming.

Sherlock Holmes
½

Steampunk Sherlock. Overwritten, but fun enough.

Up in the Air
½

Sweet and sad and funny. Snappy patter from a tremendous cast. Best movie for grown-ups I've seen this year.

Avatar
Avatar(2009)
½

Spectacular visuals. Corny, but mostly good corny. Still not as fun as Star Trek.

Invictus
Invictus(2009)

I'm usually a sucker for this kind of thing but I've got to say this one was relentlessly conventional and even a little, yeah, dull. But Morgan Freeman has the proper twinkle in his eye.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
½

Not even remotely a remake. Nic Cage goes over the top - is that redundant? - make that "way over the top." It works most of the time and the movie has its own, weird rhythm, not to mention reptile-cam. N'awlins looks very, uh, seedy. Great supporting cast.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Way too pleased with its own "quirkiness" and "whimsy." Replacing Roald Dahl's edgy British wit with American hipster irony - not an improvement.

2012
2012(2009)

Perhaps surprisingly, played mostly for laughs, which doesn't exactly heighten the peril scenes.

Red Cliff (Chi Bi)
½

Big battles, loyalty, betrayal, friendship, romance, scenery, and great kill scenes - this one's got 'em all. But seriously, LOTR-class battle scenes. Epic.

Paranormal Activity

Scariest movie in years. Lots of nervous laughter in the theater.

Where the Wild Things Are

Very, very smart re-imagining: captures the spirit of the original, gives the wild things dialogue that Sendak would recognize, and really feels like you're seeing things thru the eyes of a young boy. Good score, visuals, and sfx. Kids in the audience were hypnotized.

An Education
An Education(2009)

Slight. Your parents will like it. And what's the big deal about Carey Mulligan? Audrey Hepburn? Hardly. Peter Sarsgaard, on the other hand, is very good.

Zombieland
Zombieland(2009)

Likable cast but not nearly enough laughs, and, even at 82 minutes, a little too long.

The Informant!

OK, I get the subversiveness. I get the quirky cynicism. I even get why it's a comedy. But somebody's going to have to explain to me why the whole thing is filmed with a 60's vibe.

We Live in Public
½

Director can't make up her mind whether Josh Harris is a fraud or an artist. One way or another, he was definitely of his era

Inglourious Basterds

Some great scenes - when Tarantino's good, he's very, very good - but the whole thing barely hangs together. And it's not nearly funny enough to justify its indulgences.

It Might Get Loud
½

Jimmy Page is still god, or rather, the devil.

District 9
District 9(2009)

Now there's a summer movie. Killer premise and technical execution - did that really cost only $30M? - doesn't quite deliver on the morality play. Or was that satire? Great fun.

A Perfect Getaway

Competent thriller. Cast better than average.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

*Might* hold the attention of 7-yr-old boys. But not a singls cool scene! Attention, all hack CGI action directors: Your homework assignment is to re-watch the Mad Max and Matrix movies, and throw in some old James Bonds, too.

In the Loop
In the Loop(2009)

Didja notice that most of the laffs came from the swearing, not from the satire? The solid cast is way better than the material, which is loaded down with British self-loathing. Depressingly, this is probably how it really happened.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
½

A pleasant surprise; should have been a sleeper hit. It's tight, the two leads are comfortable in their starpower, and the silly swooshing camera work actually serves the story every now and then.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

A little disappointing - yes it's even a bit dull - but we knew this one has to set up the finale(s). Comic moments don't compensate for lost sense of wonder. Beautiful sets & cinematography, and Slughorn and Dumbledore are so good they steal it from Snape.

Public Enemies

Amazing look and Depp's native charisma kept me watching, but the 2 leads remained ciphers and ultimately, despite epic pretensions, it didn't really mean anything. Cotillard is very good; Bale very dull.

The Hurt Locker

Beautifully shot and edited, with several scenes of gripping suspense. But the script is thin, and ends predictably. Cut all the scenes with the locals - which ring false anyway - and you'd have a really taught, heroic though still ambiguous, classic.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
½

Dear Michael Bay: Do us all a favor and just make the next one without "dialogue." Or "actors."

Up
Up(2009)
½

I dunno, the whimsy seemed pretty contrived. 3D doesn't add anything, and half they time they're dragging the balloon house from the ground. And let me get this straight: The message, "cherish real life over High Adventure," is delivered...right after a High Adventure!

Drag Me to Hell
½

Very old-fashioned, in a good way. Remember Amicus, the poor man's Hammer with more humor? "Drag Me" is way more like that than like Evil Dead...

Terminator Salvation

Fast-paced and loud, but no heart. I didn't think I would, but I missed the humor.

Angels & Demons

A lot of craft. Fast-paced, nice sets, good supporting cast. But it's still pretty silly.

Star Trek
Star Trek(2009)
½

I doubt any of the other summer blockbusters will be as much fun. Fast-paced and funny, and with some great action scenes. Yes, some purist fanboys will howl at the "re-imagining." You know who you are.

X-Men Origins - Wolverine

Marvel heroes just work better with a lighter touch. And it's "snikt," not "zingg."

State of Play
½

Stalls in the third act. The last newspaper movie? Regardless, Helen Mirren makes a great E-in-C.

Knowing
Knowing(2009)
½

Smarter than average, but in the end equal parts creepy and corny.

Let the Right One In

Haunting, with moments of real horror and tenderness. But a bit static, and I must have missed the metaphor.

Watchmen
Watchmen(2009)
½

Moments of real brilliance alternate with striking ineptitude. And Iâm not just talking about the acting. Far too respectful of the originalâs overheated dialogue and nihilism, Snyder misplaces its anarchic deconstruction, amping the violence instead. Still, there are some impressive bits (the credits sequence is a narrative gem) and Rorschach is pretty great.

Frost/Nixon
Frost/Nixon(2008)

Two fine performances, but Nixon's over-written and Frost's under.

Coraline
Coraline(2009)

Crushingly disappointing. Visually fascinating - see it in 3D - but fussily so. And why is the "real" world almost as weird as the other world? Charmless.

The Reader
The Reader(2008)
½

Though it's adapted, it's very much a David Hare script: the characters are way more interesting than the debate about Big Events that surround them. Kate's very good, Lena Olin has a sharp bit at the end, but it's all pretty ponderous.

Milk
Milk(2008)
½

Who knew Sean Penn could do cheerful? Van Sant in mainstream heart-tugger biopic mode can still make a good-looking movie.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Treads a little too close to a brainier Forrest Gump, but this is a Big Hollywood Production with way more heart than Fincher usually shows. Art directed within an inch of its life, great supporting roles, nice score.

Revolutionary Road

So, so serious as it veers toward camp. Themes don't age well at all, and Kate gives some odd line readings. Mad Men does this much better for modern sensibilities.

The Spirit
The Spirit(2008)
½

A couple of real Eisner references, and hot babes, but Miller pretty much totally fails to channel the original

Slumdog Millionaire
½

Likable cast and colorful cinematography can't achieve 21st Century Dickens aspirations of script & director. Starts, ends well.

Australia
Australia(2008)

A few near-epic scenes can't save this showy mess. Re-making GWTW in Oz might have *seemed* like a good idea...

Quantum of Solace

Loud and furious, largely charmless.

Body of Lies
Body of Lies(2008)

Dull. Mark Strong is great as suave-devil head of Jordanian intelligence, but Crowe and Leo mail it in.

Rachel Getting Married

Altmanesque chick flick that feels very real. Tremendous cast; handheld camera work that actually works.

Miracle at St. Anna

It's kind of a mess, but it's an ambitious, sentimental, polemical, fabulous mess. Gorgeous score.

Appaloosa
Appaloosa(2008)

Moseys along without getting anywhere. Quirky performances and dialogue.

Ne le Dis à Personne (Tell No One)
½

Starts off as a twisty thriller with a Gallic dose of Hitchcock. Then it goes on and on and on, and wheezes to a close.

Tropic Thunder
½

I must not have got the joke.

The Dark Knight

Relentless. Grim. Relentlessly grim. I loved it. If Nolan could shoot fight scenes this might have been 5 stars.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Hellboy 2)

A little sluggish. del Toro's monsters, not Mignola's, except for the giant plant critter.

The Sword of Doom

Shoulda been great. Bleak, existentialist samurai flick open to rich interpretation. Marvelous anti-heroic performance by Nakadai. Sharp editing and b&w cinematography. But regardless of whether it was supposed to be part of a trilogy, or Japanese auds knew the familiar story, there are huge gaps in the storytelling. Psycho ending worked for me, though.

Hancock
Hancock(2008)
½

Bizarre mood swings, nutty closeups, shakycam, and 2002-era special effects outweigh surprisingly serious performances.

WALL-E
WALL-E(2008)
½

Pixar's best since Toy Story. The scenes on earth prove CGI can have heart and vision. Loses half a star for preachiness.

Wanted
Wanted(2008)
½

I really wanted to like this one more. But the violence is a bit too realistic to be funny, and the movie's internal morals shift and then fizzle. Angelina is perfect - she alone winks properly at the the whole nonsense - but she's not onscreen enough.

The Incredible Hulk
½

Pretty abominable. Everything Iron Man got right, this one gets wrong.

The Happening

Several creepy moments, an intriguing air of dread, even some comedy, but very oddly acted and virtually suspense-free. It's official: Shyamalan's lost it.

Mongol
Mongol(2008)
½

Spectacular scenery and battle scenes and a growling score, but the performances are a bit stoic and the narrative needed more drive.

You Don't Mess With the Zohan

Does throwing in stereotypes of Israelis and Palestinians and American Jews make it daring? Make it funny? Maybe a little.

Speed Racer
Speed Racer(2008)

Sure it's silly and a little incoherent. But it looks like nothing you've ever seen before.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Gets an extra half star for nostalgia. And the snake.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Good spectacle, but lacked a little charm. But I over-enjoy - & over-rate - the Narnia movies out of nostalgia.

The Forbidden Kingdom
½

Lots of fun. Probably too old-fashioned for teens, but kids of all other ages should get a kick.

The Bank Job
The Bank Job(2008)

Tight, twisty, old-school caper flick with nice characterizations and a solid cast.

Funny Games
Funny Games(2008)

They just don't make Euro arthouse anti-American bourgeois polemical torture porn like they used to. So much talent wasted. If you want to get intellectually and viscerally creeped out, rent Hard Candy.

10,000 B.C.
10,000 B.C.(2008)
½

Not bad enough to be really entertaining.

The Other Boleyn Girl

Combination of Scarlett and Natalie, costumes, real settings and HD video make for a good-looking bodice-ripper that should have ripped way more bodices. Would have been more fun if more trashy. As it is, the movie loses what little steam it generates halfway through.

The Signal
The Signal(2008)
½

Annoying, gimmicky, indie horror flick. That's what I get for trusting the Village Voice.

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Why do all Nickelodeon movies feel a little cheesier than they have to?

Juno
Juno(2007)

A bit too precious. Does *everybody* have to be quirky & "witty"?

Clerks II
Clerks II(2006)
½

The gang is still funny, until they go all mushy and sentimental at the end. Dante still can't act.

Cloverfield
Cloverfield(2008)
½

Yeah, it's a gimmick, but the gimmick is lots of fun. Strums all the cliches with perfect pitch, and doesn't succumb to camp or wink-wink nudge-nudge irony.

The Golden Compass

Inevitably, a great book remains unfilmable. For once, they should have made more cuts. Some nice detailing and it looked right, but awful script and hit-or-miss casting.

Shooter
Shooter(2007)
½

Competent thriller. Made me go out and read some of the books, which are great fun.

Zodiac
Zodiac(2007)
½

So, so disappointing. I want to like Fincher, but this one dragged. Restrained violence is very effective, though; whoulda thunk?

Amazing Grace

Weak Masterpiece Theatre. Shoulda been powerful stuff.

Grindhouse
Grindhouse(2007)
½

1.5 stars for Rodgriquez part, 4 stars for trailers, 3.5 stars for Tarantino's bit. Maybe even 4...

The Lives of Others

Strong start but cops out at the end. No way should there have been any redemption...

Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider(2007)

Yeah, it's pretty silly. Nic Cage IS Johnny Blaze, however.

Hot Fuzz
Hot Fuzz(2007)

One joke. But it's funny.

Breach
Breach(2007)
½

Should have been way better. Great cast, problematic script.

Fracture
Fracture(2007)
½

Gosling holds his own against Hopkins.

Charlie Wilson's War

Wasn't this supposed to be a satire? Should have been absurd, instead of light and implausible. That way it might have covered up the dubious politics. And been funny.

There Will Be Blood

People will use the term "great" around director Anderson and star Day-Lewis. They'll be wrong. Day-Lewis goes over the top as Citizen Kane via John Huston and Anderson, while he can do great scenes, continues to show he can't pull them together. Excellent score and cinematography, and it has its moments.

Hairspray
Hairspray(2007)
½

Kinda fun, if not very fresh. All the big production numbers sort of blur together. (Seen on DVD)

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Beautifully filmed and nicely played, the polemical script is a bit heavy. War is hell, but civil war is worse.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I am pretty amazed they pulled this off, esp. as I was getting ready to give up on Tim Burton. Very well sung, dramatic, gorgeous-looking, and captures the soul of the original.

Ratatouille
Ratatouille(2007)
½

Only saw it on DVD. Paris looked great, but, you know, I think this one needed songs.

I Am Legend
I Am Legend(2007)

The abandoned NYC street scenes were kinda creepy.

Atonement
Atonement(2007)

For all its big soppy love story, typewriter-percussion score, and 10-minute tracking shot, it left me cold.

Beowulf
Beowulf(2007)

The human-animation freaks me out -- might as well do this one in live-action; the fight scenes and monsters didn't work anyway. Minimal evidence of Neil Gaiman's sure hand with mythology. Do see it in 3D, though, and the ending is very exciting.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

For all the po-mo time-shifting, this one had a real 70s feel. In a good way. Another great cast, about the fifth I've seen this year.

The Simpsons Movie
½

Saw it on an airplane. But it still sucked. "Why would you pay to see something you can see for free on teevee?"

No Country for Old Men
½

I almost wish I'd seen the movie before reading the book, to better appreciate the tension, and the hammering nihilism. The wit actually works better on film. Beautifully shot, acted, and edited. A lot of folks won't like the ending, but the Coens stay true to the material.

American Gangster

Strives to split the difference between the Godfather and Scarface -- not a good idea. Well-crafted, but soul-less.

Gone Baby Gone

Sorry, brother Casey is miscast. Tremendous supporting cast overcomes a sketchy script. Nice directing debut for brother Ben.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner(1982)

Real science fiction. Things were better before CGI. Still, upon re-seeing it on the big screen, I hadn't realized how much it lifted from Star Wars...

Michael Clayton

Critics are falling all over themselves because it's literate, but, frankly, the flash forwards, etc. got in the way of the storytelling for me. Clooney is a movie star, but Sydney Pollack is fabulous.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Sure it's a little slow and very self-indulgent, but it's the best movie of the year so far. Gorgeous epic tragedy, with tremendous performances by Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck.

Eastern Promises

I think Cronenberg has some genius, but neither Promises nor History of Violence completely worked for me. Odd mix of fable and realism, kind of like a poor man's Russian Godfather. And it's a Christmas story...

Into the Wild
½

Epic, thoughtful Amuhrican road movie that slightly, just slightly, dumbs down the complexities of the book. (Alex should be harder to like.) Tremendous cast and cinematography.

Fong juk (Exiled)
½

More Leone than Peckinpah.

3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma(2007)

Good old-fashioned Western. Everybody in the solid cast is better than good.

Superbad
Superbad(2007)
½

Lots o laffs but misses classic status due to fairly unlikeable main characters. But McLovin...

Halloween
Halloween(2007)

Completely unnecessary remake. Pointlessly brutal.

8 Mile
8 Mile(2002)

Like Rocky. But with a lot of swearing and sex.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Compares quite well with the original. Scary squirrels.

Sin City
Sin City(2005)

I laughed, but I was the only one in the theater doing so.

The Matrix
The Matrix(1999)
½

Innovative at the time. What have the Brothers W done lately?

Pretty Woman
Pretty Woman(1990)
½

Unbelievably sexist. I can't believe my sister likes this movie. Must be Richard Gere. To quote Bongwater: "sucking and shopping..."

War of the Worlds

Some good scenes, like in the basement.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
½

Ralph Fiennes was the perfect you-know-who.

Spider-Man
Spider-Man(2002)
½

Colorful and full of high spirits. Oddly violent.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
½

Pretty respectable adaptation. Tumnus rocked.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
½

Great ending to great series. First was still freshest.

Stardust
Stardust(2007)
½

Fairly charming though, like the source material, it had trouble with pacing and tone. Gotta agree that Claire Danes was mis-cast.

You Kill Me
You Kill Me(2007)
½

Too self-consciously quirky for its own good. Very good cast.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
½

Best of the summer blockbusters so far. More Snape!

1408
1408(2007)
½

What scares Stephen King.

Joshua
Joshua(2007)

What scares Yuppies.

Transformers
Transformers(2007)

There is the dumbing down of America, and then there is Michael Bay. Loud, hyperkinetic & over-edited to the point where only fanboys can tell the good 'bots from the bad. The usual noxious "heart-tugging" moments, cued by bombastic score. We get what we pay for, I guess.

Fight Club
Fight Club(1999)
½

I suspect those that didn't like it didn't get the joke.

Live Free or Die Hard

Yippee Ki Yay. Lots o fun. No CGI, my @ss.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

No worse than the other summer fare, and way less pretentious. Yeah, some of the sfx were cheesy, but the Surfer looked great. Not enough Ben Grimm.

The Big Sleep

More Hawks. This time with Bogart & Bacall. Never bettered.

King Kong
King Kong(1933)

Way, way ahead of its time. Ages remarkably well.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Classic holiday fun - great animation, imagination, & score.

Rio Bravo
Rio Bravo(1959)

Hawks is the master of so many genres.

His Girl Friday

Dare you to keep up with the snappy patter.

Mad Max
Mad Max(1979)

If not the best sustained action flick ever, damn close.

Duck Soup
Duck Soup(1933)

Simply the best comedy every. Sheer anarchy.

A Clockwork Orange

Remember, this was before punk.

Ocean's Thirteen

Smug and not particularly funny, but oh, is it pretty to look at.

28 Weeks Later...
½

High craft. Will scare the kiddies.

Bug
Bug(2006)
½

Pretty creepy. Lost it at the end.

Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man 3(2007)

Actually managed 3 plots well, and they were necessary to the theme. Yeah, it had a theme.

Mr. Brooks
Mr. Brooks(2007)

Not half bad. Critics who hated it didn't get the joke.