BrotherReed's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Spring Breakers

It's hilarious, it's off-putting, it's cringe-inducing, and it's just plain weird. But you won't quickly forget it.

Drive
Drive(2011)

Refreshingly different, assuredly directed and surprisingly violent; Drive plays like a late 60's movie and sounds like an 80's movie but holds its own among today's flicks - it was the best movie I saw in 2011. Until I caught up with A Separation.

Scarface
Scarface(1983)
½

Pacino - great as always. This is a long but involving rise-and-fall tale of a hard-up, ambitious Cuban immigrant who becomes a drug-dealing hit man and mobster. Tony Montana is a guy we root for despite being a selfish, arrogant jerk all the way through. It's no Godfather or even Goodfellas; it's probably the upstart, flamboyant half-brother of those movies. It's mostly famous for its ending and a few good one-liners, and of course Pacino at the center. Without him there would be no film.

Tootsie
Tootsie(1982)

Tootsie is just all around a very good movie. It has laughs that you won't see coming ("that's a corncob"), comments on the treatment of women and the importance of beauty, features a very impressive nuanced Hoffman performance with strong supporting turns from Pollack, Bill Murray, Teri Garr, Charles Durning and others, and it delivers a few sharp social observations. It's about as clever and appealing as comedies come - a film that enters into the tradition of Some Like it Hot and stands alongside that classic.

What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath is not a great movie, but it does have one great scene - a suspenseful set piece that arrives more than 90 minutes in. It's an edge-of-your-seat bit that, for a few breathless moments, will make you forget the everything else - including how mundane the film has been up to this point.

Ted
Ted(2012)
½

If you've seen the previews you pretty much know what you're getting into.

Sound City
Sound City(2013)

Foo Fighters is a pretty cool guy, eh plays teh rock music and doesn't afraid of nething. This is a bit of a dry doc, a little amateur and overlong, but it's worth the ride to hear from some great musicians, most notably a segment where we see Paul McCartney performing in the studio.

Pleasantville

What a subversive little movie. In some way I think what Pleasantville wants to say is that freedom, education and expression are fundamentally good, and that we must accept them rather than stifle them even if the results are not what we would consider ideal. If that is their message I agree with it, but I find the road to get there is fraught with preachiness, thorny symbols and needless references. It's more of a conversation piece than it is an entertainment. It is art, though, and an ambitious piece at that.

Little Shop of Horrors

This is definitely a silly, campy movie that is amusing but not often very funny. Thank God for Steve Martin, whose appearance injects some much needed verve into a movie that's lagging just a bit. Frank Oz's effects are great, reminiscent of movies like Gremlins. Indeed, this film shares that movie's taste for the macabre, though I don't find it nearly as light on its feet and the songs aren't too memorable.

Side Effects
Side Effects(2013)
½

This is a brooding, morally complex tale about the doctor/patient relationship, big pharmaceutical companies and drug advertising, deception and gaming the system. It gets a tad pulpy and there's a shift in focus midway through the film that might disappoint some and is sure to catch most viewers off guard. No doubt some of the twists and turns will delight some viewers and frustrate others who wonder how this film might have played out if it had stuck to one thing from the get go. I sympathize but personally enjoyed the where the ride took me even if intellectually I find it somewhat less compelling. Side Effects is my favorite Soderbergh film so far, and probably the first that I would not be hesitant to recommend.

The Breakfast Club
½

A small, commendably earnest, early Hughes film with its own unique place in history.

Sullivan's Travels
½

Sullivan's Travels is a film about a big Hollywood comedy director who wants to make a more substantive work about the hardships of the common man. The only problem? He doesn't know anything about them. There were one or two scenes of real power here; it's a bit broad in places and could be funnier/punchier but it's worth seeing.

Cabaret
Cabaret(1972)
½

This is an odd sort of musical - or perhaps it isn't nowadays since it influenced other popular shows like Chicago, but compared to something like The Sound of Music it's almost totally antithetical. Everything that was simple, family-oriented, wholesome and sprawling about that film is complex, adult, salacious and cramped here. I wouldn't say I loved this film but it was definitely very good, largely because of the honest handling of the Sally character.

Oblivion
Oblivion(2013)
½

Oblivion tells a very familiar sci-fi story that has been refurbished with a glossy new finish. It's mostly serviceable more than revelatory. But even if it's occasionally clunky, it's enough for us to care for the characters and want to know the whole story so we stick around and have the constructed universe peeled away one secret at a time. Maybe I'm just a sucker for this genre no matter how derivative it is.

The Place Beyond The Pines

So far nothing else in 2013 approaches the maturity and ambition of this downbeat drama. The Place Beyond the Pines is an almost Shakespearean lower-class family epic. It deals with themes of fatherhood, poverty, crime, honor, ambition, politics, abuse of power, institutionalized corruption, and more. Whether it has anything in particular to say about these themes, or whether it merely brings them up in conjunction with its characters, is up for debate. This is far from a perfect film but it does so much so well and it eschews popular gimmicks, trusting the material and the audience. It's occasionally obvious, occasionally meandering, but mostly compelling.

Amour
Amour(2012)
½

On many levels I admire this movie but I don't like it all.

Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è bella)
½

Alternate titles: Bicycle Thieves For Idiots; I Can't Believe It's The HolocaustI was going to leave it at the sarcastic blip above, but after thinking I've decided to write some more. The problem with Life is Beautiful is that it treats us the way Guido treats his son - as people who only want to play a game, who can't handle the reality of the situation. I realize the film is told from the boy's perspective (looking back as an adult), but I really think the way to play this was by giving it some gravity in the second half. Let us see Guido not only when he's trying to protect his son's innocence, but also when he himself is coming to grips with what's happening. Of course, as far as we can tell, he never does - right up to the end. And the contrivances of the script are such that his facade never breaks, that the harsh reality of being in a Nazi death camp somehow never becomes so uncompromising that he can't continue to pretend that it's an elaborate game. I'm sorry, but if you just can't get away with that - especially if your audience has seen Schindler's List. I understand it's supposed to be a fable, but what's the aesop? Benigni's performance starts out as too much to take, but gets gradually better as he lets the writing do some of the work for him, at least up until the middle point of the movie where the plot actually starts and, ironically, the film goes off the rails. Once I realized the film was going for laughs I started warming up to his style of broad comedy and there were some classic gags going on. The very first instance of Guido shielding his child from the truth - when he improvs an explanation for a "No Jews or Dogs" notice - is the funniest bit in the movie and shows you how interesting the film could have been had it stayed light on its feet (light is the only tone it's good at). The title could have been shatteringly ironic and still been hopeful. As is, it's so hopeful that it reads fake. It approaches heartwarming but never achieves the opposite extreme.

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction(1994)
½

I think I like this more every time I watch it. It's not my favorite Tarantino flick (that honor goes to his recent masterpiece Inglourious Basterds) but it's easily one of the most influential movies in all of modern cinema, and on top of that it's consistently colorful, witty, gritty, creative and original.

Pet Sematary
Pet Sematary(1989)

This is a bad movie, but it's enjoyably bad. I mean it's at times hilarious how earnestly bad it is. There are definitely seeds of a good horror story in it, but the way it comes across on screen doesn't manage to terrify. It never transcends the pulpy luridness of its subject matter (is this the original Indian burial ground movie?). If I had time I would have watched some of the commentary to see if Mary Lambert had any idea what a tonal mess she directed with this thing (probably due to no small amount of meddling by King if I had to guess). I actually recommend you watch it just to see the spectacle. The best thing about it is a supporting turn by Herman Munster himself. This movie might have worked as a 45 minute X-Files episode if the entire family were secondary characters and Mulder and Scully solved their mystery.

Hellraiser
Hellraiser(1987)

I watched this movie. It was okay. Kind of disjointed and weird with lots of cheesy 80's gore and some big resident evil type bug thing being pushed on a cart. I was not frightened, although there was this one part where the girl was trying to get the cube and I was sort of on the edge of my seat like "is she going to get the cube?" *SPOILERS* She got the cube.

The Hunger Games
½

I suppose there's nothing much in this movie that's really more than passable, but I had a good time so I'm being forgiving. The film is well paced - at almost 2 and a half hours it doesn't feel too long. Jennifer Lawrence is one of our best young actresses and she's better than the material. Woody Harrelson has an entertaining small but important part. For the most part the dramatic scenes translate rather well; I found myself occasionally emotional even in scenes where I felt the film hadn't really earned it. However, where The Hunger Games falters is in the action. The shaky cam is so horrendous it makes Batman Begins' fight scenes look clean. The exciting moment when the tributes are first released is rendered almost completely incoherent - you can't tell who's getting what or attacking whom, and even in later scenes when there are fewer characters it's hard to get an idea of the layout of the action. I'm sure some of this was done to avoid an R rating thanks to characters stabbing and bludgeoning one another, but there's so many times when the camera is jerking around even when nothing much is happening. It's a critical misstep. There are also plenty of moments where you can tell information is missing that you would have received in the book - it's a lean adaptation even at its length and I was left with questions about aspects of the backstory and the mechanics of the games, not to mention Katniss family and boyfriend being little more than props. Nevertheless, the film does a good job of following Katniss and telling her story - she's a likeable protagonist and we don't mind spending time with her. And yes, it did leave me primarily wanting to watch Battle Royale again. Thankfully they just released the Blu Ray stateside. Might be worth picking up.

The Informant!
½

It's like a Coen brothers character starring in Catch Me If You Can. Becomes more and more fascinating as we see just how deep the deception goes.

The Wild Bunch
½

Sylvester Stallone must've taken a few machine gun lessons from Sam Peckinpah.

The 40 Year Old Virgin
½

Funny with likable characters, a LOT of comic talent, and some of the worst dating advice of all time.

Harakiri
Harakiri(1962)

Now this is a badass Samurai movie, and the best one I've seen. It's like Rashomon meets Yojimbo but more intense, like Kurosawa channeling Hitchcock. There are more mind games than there is swordplay and it's all carried out wonderfully. Beautiful black and white cinematography, a clear and focused narrative, sympathetic characters - and it lacks the almost comical overacting that some similar movies have (I'm looking at you, Rashomon). The characters' actions and motivations make sense within the time period and Kobayashi lays out the important elements for us so that we understand. As stories by turns brutal and sympathetic are told in flash back, we gain a better understanding of the "present" portion of the movie which finally collapses into a violent struggle. Excellent film.

Total Recall
Total Recall(1990)
½

So much about this film has been cemented into the popular consciousness that watching it for the first time it seemed really familiar, like I remembered it from somewhere. But did I? Bad jokes aside, Total Recall is a fun, pulpy movie with a good sci-fi concept somewhere behind all the Arnie one-liners and twisty-but-predictable is-it-real-or-isn't-it story. It's so colorful with so many unique characters (even if they are basically just set dressing) and the runtime just flies by. This is effortless entertainment, if violent and somewhat strange. It isn't quite up to Robocop or Starship Troopers but it's a worthy Verhoeven entry anyway. The effects, particularly the green screen, don't really hold up but by now that's almost part of its charm.

Headhunters
Headhunters(2012)
½

Ultimately a very silly movie but the first 40 minutes or so build genuine Hitchcockian suspense. Once it turns into a chase movie motivations and plausibility fly out the window in favor of tractors with dog-corpse hood ornaments and surviving impossibly fatal situations. This at times surprisingly violent little thriller could just as easily play as a comedy most of the way, but it succeeds in twisting your stomach anyway. If you can laugh along with it you'll have a good time.

Gandhi
Gandhi(1982)
½

It's a 3 hour biopic about Gandhi. If that doesn't sound exciting to you, this movie is unlikely to change your mind. Personally I felt the most interesting scenes were the first 45 minutes or so when the young lawyer first insinuates himself into the fight for justice and he still has a full head of hair. There are a lot of good moments and Kingsley is certainly an admirable Gandhi, but it also comes off as basically hero worship. In only one scene does he come across as a human being with shortcomings. This is treated briefly and literally and then forgotten. Clearly the subject matter is too sacred to take many risks, so you're left with a fairly standard biopic. At least this is clear, consistent and linear, unlike Attenborough's Chaplin.

Snow White and the Huntsman

Weak scripting and plotting leave this lackluster fairy re-tailing feeling bloated yet empty. The only reason to watch this is for Charlize Theron going full-evil as the Queen, and for some actually very pretty special effects. Every reference this makes to other movies reminds us that it isn't as good as they were. Stewart is not a bad actress but she can't do anything with her badly underwritten role. Hemsworth is turning out to be solid time after time regardless of his projects. Occasionally perplexing but mostly anti-climactic and dull.

Prometheus
Prometheus(2012)

Thrilling, beautiful, frustrating and ambitious, Ridley Scott's new space sci-fi is the best of its kind in a decade and worth seeing in IMAX 3D.

Stand by Me
Stand by Me(1986)

This movie feels true despite the fact that it's nothing like my childhood. Maybe it's the way I wish it could have been. Kinda cheesy but it's sincere without taking itself too seriously, and has a hell of a script. A film full of child actors has no business being this good.

The Boondock Saints

Tarantino by way of Guy Ritchie but without the panache, character dimension and lyrical dialog those films possessed. The Boondock Saints is a mashup of 90's crime movie ideas sloppily edited together. It has scenes that work, but these mostly fail to build to anything more than each could alone. Duffy's decision to cut to the aftermath of an assassination each time one is about to take place takes the wind out of these scenes so there is never any tension. For all this griping, the movie isn't terrible. It has enough going on to keep us entertained, if only because of Willem Dafoe's overacting and Rocco's joke-telling. Mostly the problem is it feels flat, and the more I think about it the less I like it.

My Neighbor Totoro
½

There's a certain magic and whimsy very specific to Miyazaki's films. There's always a point where you feel like a kid again, and there's usually also a point where you wonder if you're on shrooms (for me this was when the catbus arrived). Totoro is a little low key in comparison to some of this director's other films, but there are some truly outstanding moments, and I loved the overall warm and trusting tone of it. The mother, however, has one of the most mysterious and convenient of movie diseases; hospital bound with no apparent symptoms.

Safe House
Safe House(2012)

Good action/espionage movie. The film boasts some tense action sequences, shoot-outs and hand-to-hand combat scenes that will at times recall the Bourne series, although the editing occasionally obscures the choreography. Washington is good as always and Reynolds is starting to feel more at home in these grown-up roles. Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson, though, are actors who deserve better roles than these cookie-cutter agent types. An extremely predictable plot doesn't offer any surprises but it's a fun movie that most people can enjoy. 6.5/10

Marvel's The Avengers
½

I almost don't feel comfortable reviewing this until I've seen it again. I saw it at a drive-in which a cool experience but not the best way to immerse yourself in a movie. My initial impression is that it was an above-average superhero film in the league of Iron Man and Spider-Man, better than X-Men but not as good as Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. I liked the humor, though it was oversold to me. After seeing Whedon unleashed on The Cabin in the Woods, seeing him reined in by the necessities of a huge property like this was a little anticlimactic - but he shows an impressive eye for clean, clear action scenes (such a blessing after the blurry Hunger Games and to a lesser extent Transformers) and obviously has good characters to work with. Downey Jr, Ruffalo and Hiddleston lead the cast as its finest actors though no one is bad. Hemsworth's character is so big he can play it without needing subtlety and even Johansson manages to look like a capable actor (which she usually is though rarely more than that). The Avengers isn't as successful as an entertainment as it has been as a money-maker for Marvel/Disney, but then, what is? We'll see how it stacks up once Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises have had their say.

Love Actually
½

How the heck did this ever get made? The film is just overflowing with amazing talent - Nighy, Rickman, Thompson, Firth, Neeson, Linney, Atkinson, Knightly, Freeman, Thornton, etc. Even if the film isn't a masterpiece (and it isn't) it's so much fun watching all these different threads as they interact, and many of the stories are so entertaining on their own (Nighy's aging sellout pop star being a highlight). Since it's a rom-com, you don't go into it expecting realism; you expect maudlin emotion and contrived situations. Granted, it is all extremely contrived and far too tidy, and the interconnecting stories have less reason to interconnect than in, say, Traffic. Furthermore, the third act goes on too long tying up a few loose ends and descends into utter nonsense a few times. The winning factor is that the movie is genuinely funny and (perhaps naively) good-hearted, and loves all its characters, even the ones making questionable decisions (i.e., pretty much everyone). A few little plot turns managed to surprise me along the way, too. It may not be the ultimate romantic comedy, but it's near the top of its class.

Million Dollar Baby

Eastwood's style may be subtle, but this script is anything but. Everyone is pretty much a caricature, especially the supporting characters of Maggie's mother, Danger, the priest, and whoever Anthony Mackie was supposed to be. The movie intentionally kills its upward momentum with about 40 minutes to go in order to keep the dirge-like feeling of this heavy film. Obviously Swank and Freeman are good, and Clint is, well, Clint. The movie is pretty enough to look at though it can be a tad dull at times - the same can be said of the story. There's nothing really awful here but not much to get excited about either. Decent drama.

Platoon
Platoon(1986)

An intense war movie that shows the chaos and disorientation of battle as well as the moral ambiguities that arise in men so frightened, angry, confused, and cut off from most forms of civil order. It doesn't attempt to set up elaborate back stories but instead throws you right into the thick of the jungle and plays out in a series of incidents cut from day-to-day infantry life in Vietnam. Of the major 'nam movies I've seen recently (Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket) this might be the best. At very least it's the most pure.

Ran
Ran(1985)

This movie is three of my least favorite genres - war, western, epic - at their most laborious. It's a garish looking movie, resembling DeMille as much as Kurosawa visually. Lady Kaede was the most interesting character and almost saved the film for me a few times, but alas, it was too little too late. Slow and tedious.

The Deer Hunter

A film that rarely seems pushy about its emotional scenes, The Deer Hunter has a naturalistic understated quality that serves its more sensational scenes well. Yes, it's long, but filled with great actors - the best bit being a scene shared with DeNiro and Walken. Sometimes the naturalism goes too far, and I found the constant overlapping conversations frustrating. Originally wrought from a story about Russian Roulette, the film was made into a Vietnam piece later on and that shows through. Further, I think the ending is the biggest misstep, feeling both overly cynical and sentimental at once. Yet for all these shortcomings The Deer Hunter is still a powerful film that rewards a patient viewer with three dimensional characters in an almost mythic story arc.

Rookie of the Year

Completely inoffensive family fare. It's like the marshmallow creme of movies - a little bit every now and then reminds you that you liked it as a kid, but it's really easy to get sick of it and it has no nutritional value. I don't know if this is supposed to be a comedy - the only funny thing in it is Daniel Stern. Props to John Candy and Dan Hedaya for making a good go of it. Thomas Ian Nicholas was not as bratty as I remembered him, though he still makes me want to punch his face. There were times in this film where I recognized a decent joke or funny moment in the writing, but all the performers are too obvious and over-the-top to sell it. Another in the pantheon of nostalgic movies that has nothing to offer for adults.

The Cabin in the Woods
½

I feel like there's nothing I can say about this that won't lessen the impact of viewing it, so I'll just say I loved it. Don't watch trailers or read reviews. If you like horror go see it.

Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies)
½

A movie so average that it's really, really average. It isn't shocking (with the exception of one unexpectedly violent image), and while it certainly deals with sad and tragic events it didn't manage to convey that to me in any kind of experiential way. Granted the movie should be taken on its own merits but it's hard to get past the hype as the saddest movie of all time, an emotionally devastating cartoon. I felt nothing when it ended, except glad that I could send it back to Netflix. What's with like 4 lines of narration the whole time? Shouldn't the main character be a little more realistic and take the necessary measures to prevent tragedy in his life? Why don't we ever find out how the scene at the beginning comes about?

The Tree of Life

I can't believe I'm about to say this: I liked a Terrence Malick film. After The New World emerged as the movie I hate most out of every movie ever, I made it a point to avoid this director's sparse filmography. The Thin Red Line was better, but the distinctive style was still there and his penchant for lingering nature shots and not-so-insightful voice-over made a good war film tedious. Now there's the Tree of Life, which I freely admit I would have skipped if not for its Oscar nominations and presence on so many major critics' top 10 lists. Does it still have pseudo-poetic first person narration instead of real dialog? Yes. Does it still have gratuitous shots of nature throughout? Yes. Is it still really slow and overlong? Yes. So why did I like this in spite of myself? First of all, the first 30 minutes of this movie contain some of the most beautiful imagery I have ever seen on film, bar none. This movie speaks in visuals, not in words. Every few moments it seemed like there was another striking composition for me to admire. Whereas the New World's monochrome grass fields and log houses seemed like a dull subject for the admittedly good cinematography, in this film Malick has wisely chosen more interesting and diverse subjects to capture. He paints his film in elemental symbols, rich with vivid colors, vast in depth and scale. It seems reductive to compare it to a planetarium, but at times that's what it felt like. The obvious comparisons are to 2001, but this film I feel is more universal and accessible to different worldviews. To me, the cosmic sequence that takes us through the birth of the universe is by far the highlight of the movie (except the dinosaurs, the only things in the movie that don't look amazing) and it's worth seeing just for that. Second, I understood what kind of a film going experience I was getting into and so prepared the best I could for what I was about to see. I set my expectations pretty low and my patience level as high as I could ratchet it. I let the gorgeous images wash over me. Whenever the story began to sag as it tends to do in the middle, another scene would come along and add more interest.Third, the eye-rolling voice-overs finally seem more at home when they approach prayer, as they do in the film's opening. The internal monologues are often characters talking to God and wrestling with their questions about Him and what He allows to happen in their lives. To me, this is one of the best possible uses of this particular narrative device that Malick uses. It at least made me hate it less.Finally, the family life that makes up so much of the movie is keenly observed. In a year where so many kids don't act like kids, the family at the center of The Tree of Life seems very plausible. They do the types of things we remember from growing up. Maybe Jessica Chastain's mother character is a tad too saintly, but it's a minor quibble. So... do I want to watch this over and over? Probably not. It's not the most purely enjoyable film of the year, but it's so ambitious and has so much to offer. If you learn to relax your desire to be stimulated by plot points and simply let the movie massage your eyes, you may find it a refreshing change of pace.

21 Jump Street

Very funny. The fact that it's so self-aware doesn't make it less derivative, but it does add to the general good humor of the thing. In fact, Hill and Tatum are such a charming mix it almost caught me off guard that the movie was as raunchy and at times even violent as it is. I liked it much more than I expected to, and maybe that has something to do with the fact that it shares a writer and two cast members with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

The Town
The Town(2010)

Pretty tight crime thriller - Ben Affleck does it again, and this time both behind and in front of the camera. The likes of Renner and Postlethwaite outshine him but this is really his element so nothing feels out of place. Nothing too surprising, except that the trailer didn't ruin the movie as I was afraid it might. I prefer Gone Baby Gone, but this is good viewing.

Doubt
Doubt(2008)
½

Fantastic acting from the main players brings to life a layered, complex, challenging film that I recommend you see even if only for the conversations you will have when it's over (and Amy Adams in a bonnet). It's not terribly subtle (a literal cat and mouse? really?) but it does a good job of creating fleshed-out characters whose presuppositions frame the way they approach the film's central question.

I liked this even more the second time. I enjoyed all the characters, all fleshed out and played so wonderfully. I was engaged in every moment, every verbal parry, every glance. Truly great film I'm glad I grabbed on DVD.

Gone
Gone(2012)

It's bad, yes, but not nearly the travesty I was expecting with such harsh reviews. It's affably, watchably bad, with Seyfried doing a good job throughout. At least one twist surprised me and there were enough predictable cheesy one-liners to keep me satisfied (Seyfried utters her final quip like a tiny, adorably rebellious John Matrix). Not really worth a full price theater ticket but nothing you'll regret you saw.

The Iron Lady

Alternate title: A Politician's Guide to Aging. Another biopic that has what biopics almost always have: a talented actor doing an impression of a historical figure (Streep), a series of flashbacks or vignettes that highlight episodes from a life mixed with some historical context, dramatized details about personal life that may or may not have any basis in reality, and nothing much to say about the person in question. This film is a showcase for Streep to play Thatcher and has no other reason to exist. It's not particularly insightful about the public figure; and, despite its common attempts to dress things up by summing up aspects of Thatcher's life in a few big moments, the film still plays like an educational dramatization you'd show in a classroom. Streep is excellent, of course, and her makeup is just as good. Jim Broadbent is likable as the film's only comedic character. There just isn't anything here you haven't seen countless times before.

Das Boot
Das Boot(1981)

Do you want the feeling of being trapped in the crowded corridors of a submarine for 3 1/2 hours? If you're like me you answer was probably "no thank you," but Das Boot while it starts slow becomes a riveting war film that sweats buckets of suspense and has a few genuine and well-earned shocks. We don't a lot of overt character building moments (I'm speaking after viewing the 209 minute director's cut) but for much of the crew it happens subtly throughout. Mostly we have the captain's hard-set face to thank for guiding us through this sometimes difficult tale. For many viewers it may be something of an endurance test, but don't be afraid to break it up into smaller segments, since it was once shown as a miniseries. Probably not something you'll watch often, but definitely worth seeing.

The Guard
The Guard(2011)
½

Yup. I liked it. That's...about all I have to say. If you loved In-Bruges style Gleeson, you'll probably like this. He's the most likable unlikable guy.

The Ides of March
½

Great actors talking about politics. Like Moneyball, this is more of a movie about the behind-the-scenes aspects of a presidential campaign, and a bit of a thriller as one analyst begins to try and work situations to his advantage. Also, I know it's hard to write an ending to a movie, but have we all just given up trying? I'm seeing more and more movies these days that seem to just stop once they reach an acceptable feature length without really tying up their story threads. Not every movie can be No Country for Old Men (which had an ending, just an unexpected one).

My Week with Marilyn

Michelle Williams takes on the difficult and unenviable task of playing Monroe. She's a much better actress than girl she's portraying. However, the real Monroe had a special something that made her into such a huge star; and Williams makes that clear by how much she doesn't have it. Her performance, good as it is, serves first to remind us of just what an inimitable figure Marilyn Monroe was. The rest of the movie, save entertaining turns by Branagh and Dench, is inconsequential. It's a light, inoffensive package promoting Michelle Williams' Oscar-nominated role.

Warrior
Warrior(2011)

Warrior continues the tradition that movies about fighting will always be better than movies about other sports. It compares favorably to boxing films like Rocky and Cinderella Man. What it lacks in originality (which is a lot) it makes up in charisma with sympathetic performances from Joel Egerton, Nick Nolte, and Tom Hardy. The movie rarely makes clear the details about the family's past, isn't always believable in its setup, and is occasionally overwrought in its presentation - especially the climactic scene. Yet I found myself involved in the fight scenes in spite of all that. The movie tries not to take sides, but for me it was easy to root for the likable and stable Brendan over the brooding Tommy. He even calls himself the underdog to his father; we know what it is we're about to see. I suppose cliches exist because at one point they worked, and Warrior makes them work still.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol

The best in the series since the 1996 original, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is possibly THE movie to see in theaters right now. Tom Cruise is charismatic, Renner is intense, Pegg is funny, Patton is beautiful. The quality and quantity of death-defying action make this worth the watch. The falls, hits and shocks made me gasp and grimace in my seat. It lacks a strong villain but makes up for it with sheer bravado and gutsy style. The film is a spectacle, and while every movie shouldn't aspire to it (very few could afford to), it's really fun to see pure spectacle every once in a while. If fun is what you want from your movie, you could hardly do better than this.

50/50
50/50(2011)

500 Days of Cancer

The Help
The Help(2011)
½

The prequel to Mean Girls is set in the 60's.

Shame
Shame(2011)

I'm tempted to apologize for this movie, and to everyone who knows me and finds out I went to see it. But I need not to do that. Shame is a difficult, uncomfortable and - despite being full of sex - non-erotic drama about the misery of a character for whom sex has become an addiction that holds him in its grip without ever giving him his high, and who cannot seem to form an intimate relationship with anyone. It's full of quiet power, riveting performances from Fassbender and Mulligan, strong use of music and evocative compositions. The serious discussion of sexual addiction is for those mature enough to have it, which would seem to indicate the film's NC-17 rating is appropriate. It's difficult to judge a film that has so many good qualities but is so hard to enjoy; yet the refusal to glamorize its characters' central demons is part of what makes it work. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was misadvertised: Shame is the feel-bad movie of the season.

In Time
In Time(2011)
½

The biggest problem with prescient, high-concept sci-fi these days is attention span. It's not so much that the pacing or editing is too fast; rather, like the flawed-but-underrated Surrogates a couple of years ago, In Time has a fascinating premise but is a little too distracted by chases and gunfights to fully explore it. Essentially the movie is its idea. Once you've established a world in which people only age to 25 and must then either acquire more time to use as currency or perish, the script almost writes itself. Part Robin Hood, part Bonnie and Clyde, In Time plays like a critique of class struggles and capitalism gone awry. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is the 99% who inherits 100 years from a suicidal patrician and sets out to overthrow the oppressive system - er, that is, stay in fancy hotels, gamble in upscale casinos and cavort with rich moguls' daughters. It's only when he's wrongly accused of stealing the century he was given that he becomes a fugitive along with Sylvia Weis, who never wanted for anything but suddenly finds herself with mere minutes on her life clock. A quick Stockholm Syndrome later, they are working together to extract horded time from the wealthy and spread it among the lower class. It's consistently entertaining, but I can't help but wish the writers had let us in on more back story. How did this system get implemented? Are people born with a clock on their arm, or is this done at birth through institutions? If so, are there children born in the wild, free from this constraint? It's stated that the cost of living is artificially raised. Is time subject to inflation? Why can there only be so much of it? Why is the system of transferring time from one person to another so sloppy? Is it just to bolster the world of competitive wrist-wrestling? The film is at its best when it gives us space to ponder its central questions rather than trying to relate its fictional world to our real one. Something about hearing on-screen millionaires lecture on watching people die all around you rings also false. If nothing else it does give you something to talk about on the way out of the theater, and that alone puts it above most of the movies playing at any given time.

Bellflower
Bellflower(2011)

Well this is a strange movie, though perhaps not strange enough for some. It's all about a romance gone wrong, despite how much it claims to be about flamethrowers. It's sort of interesting/endearing that these two men have apparently no jobs or any real responsibility but still manage to outfit old muscle cars with pyrotechnics and go out for drinks with women, all while chasing a fantasy of being marauders in a post-apocalyptic Mad-Max-style future. The acting is serviceable for amateurs and the human interaction at the start of the film has a ring of unrehearsed realism. As things get going, though, it becomes increasingly unclear what is happening and sometimes when. There's no rhythm or pattern to the film's jumping back and forth in time, and the clues that everything is not as it seems don't show up until late in the game. It's hard to hate it for being different from anything else this year, but it certainly doesn't resonate with the average person the way its filmmakers seem to think it will. Yes, I've been through a tough breakup before; no, it didn't involve the kind of violence in this movie's third act. Not even in my imagination.

Margin Call
Margin Call(2011)
½

The first thing you're likely to notice is that this film has a great cast. Spacey, Irons, Bettany, Quinto, Moore, Tucci - and they all turn in solid-to-great performances. There is an understated atmosphere and there's not much shouting but a good deal of seething. Having no idea how true to life the story is or even starting to grasp any of the financial concepts being discussed, I was pretty lost on the details which made it hard to understand how the decisions being made over the course of the evening were going to affect people. The movie never shows the consequences, or anything really outside of the firm, so it's hard to really be invested when you don't know the stakes. Keeping the film small works in individual scenes when great actors are playing off one another. The movie starts out with a cool sense of dread that made me think it would escalate into one of the year's most exciting thrillers. Alas, this was not to be. It stayed good but never really took off from its starting point. The intensity level remains more or less static throughout. Also the screenplay is pretty repetitive especially during the first third, when it's just one person explaining the problem to another person, who then goes to find someone else to explain the same thing to them (which still never really gets explained in a way a lay person can understand despite it feeling dumbed down for the execs who incredibly don't understand their own business). It gets a bit better afterwards but I can't help but wish there was a little more. The whole thing kind of feels like a long second act. Nevertheless the acting and tone of the movie are strong enough to earn it a recommendation, especially if you like topical movies. It's not this year's Up in the Air, but it's pretty good.

The Descendants
½

It's good - much better than Sideways - primarily because it doesn't try to be a comedy. It just deals with the grief these characters are going through. And to that end it's fairly poignant. Not my favorite kind of movie but a solid piece of work. Also Judy Greer is really good during her limited screen time.

Rango
Rango(2011)
½

While not as funny as Shrek or Kung Fu Panda or as endearing as a Pixar film, Rango inhabits its own space in the 3D animated world as a smart, savvy, visually creative homage to westerns that's sort of loopy except when it comes to the plotting, which is oddly routine. It ranks with the best of Dreamworks' catalog and features a rogue's gallery of unkempt desert critters trying to save their parched town from a water crisis. The fact that you won't laugh or cry may leave you slightly unimpressed in the end, but throughout I was drinking in (irony noted) the rich look and design of the picture, chuckling knowingly at its quick-witted throwaways and references, and bemused by the off-the-wall touches (such as the narration by a band of mariachi owls who predict the hero's death). A very good movie that is - irony once again noted - refreshing.

Moneyball
Moneyball(2011)

Excellent understated drama that brings out the excitement in management - phone calls, statistics, sticking up for beliefs that your colleagues don't share. I like that there are very few bombastic sports moments, that we see Beane lifting or driving instead of watching the game. Pitt and Hill are a great duo and this is a mature, well-written movie. In an underperforming year, this is a standout.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
½

It almost breaks my heart to hate this starring vehicle for the great Gary Oldman, backed up by a fantastic parade of thespians including Colin Firth, John Hurt, Mark Strong, and Tom Hardy - to name only a few. But it's straight boring, and the reason is that this is the most incomprehensible movie I've ever seen. It makes Mulholland Drive seem straightforward. I feel like I know almost as little about it having seen it as I did before going in. Who are these people? What are their relationships to one another? What are they feeling? Who suspects what, who holds what cards, and most importantly, why should I, the viewer, give a damn? There's no emotional connection to anything or anyone and no driving mystery to pull you through the story. Maybe these secrets are important to the characters, but if you don't give the audience a reason to care you've failed as an entertainment. Even poor Gary Oldman who finally got his moment in the spotlight is reduced almost entirely to interviewing more interesting people, saying "And what happened then?" like he's on 60 Minutes. What a waste. If you told me I had to watch this movie again or you'd kick me in the balls, I'd ask how hard you were going to kick. Biggest disappointment of the year.

Attack the Block
½

May be the most purely entertaining movie of the year. Attack the Block is a blast - but turn on your subtitles if you're west of the pond.

Everything Must Go

Ferrell and the supporting cast are fine, but the movie is boring, silly, and doesn't go anywhere.

Thor
Thor(2011)
½

Pretty much exactly what it looks like: Big, loud, meat-headed entertainment passable mostly due to its budget. The most interesting character is played by Tom Hiddleston as Thor's jealous younger brother - no one else has any believable motivation or depth of any kind. Why is Kat Dennings even in this movie? Talented people like Natalie Portman show up in parts any actor could fill. The whole thing just feels really undercooked. If seeing cool-looking things and hearing people shout is enough to convince you you're watching a great movie, look no farther. If you were hoping for a solid hero origin tale along the lines of Iron Man, keep moving. Also, as with any movie not called Avatar, the 3-D is completely dispensable. Save your 3 dollars and see it in 2-D.

Kingdom of Heaven

Boring, anachronistic mess of a movie. Though beautifully photographed and competently acted, the theatrical cut gives you no reason to care about anything that happens.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Okay film but oddly murky. It's hard to tell what the motivations are and who's learning what. The "mystery" isn't complicated, it's just that the plot unwinds with about as much grace as the awkwardly-edited fight scenes, of which there are far too many. Simply too many things blowing up and people hitting each other, especially early on in the film before those things have any resonance. As with the first film, the heart is the relationship between Holmes and Watson, which continues to be fun and playful though certainly very bromancy (intentional). The villain is also very interesting but doesn't get to do a whole lot. Harris' Moriarty doesn't make as much of an impression as Mark Strong did, and the chess game between them is oddly less fascinating than the magic-vs-science angle from the 2009 film. If these films were less enthralled with their own style and more interested in the minds of their characters (I mean you're dealing with Sherlock Holmes here - the mind is everything) they would be all the better for it. Though I suppose from the director of Snatch this is about as much as you'd expect. Downey Jr is such a good actor, it's rare to find a role or even a movie equal to his talents. In recent years only a few examples come to mind - Zodiac, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Tropic Thunder. In other hands, Sherlock Holmes might have been such a role. Alas, we'll have to be content watching him perform choreography while lots of things go boom.

21 Grams
21 Grams(2003)

Possibly the most fragmented narrative I've ever seen, at least in the beginning. It's aggressively depressing and the ending doesn't wow, but all the performances are top notch.

Big Trouble in Little China
½

The perfect Saturday afternoon movie. A spiritual sequel to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Assault on Precinct 13

Passingly amusing for its one clever character and stark violence (how many movies can you name in which a little girl gets shot in the chest in cold blood?), Assault on Precinct 13 is nevertheless somewhat dull and tame by today's standards, not to mention utterly ridiculous at every last plot point. It does a decent job getting us to care for and like the characters in the station so that we root for them to succeed, but it occasionally pulls its punches and offers nothing like an explanation for why faceless interracial gang members would form a mass suicide pact and go for broke. It's often been called Night of the Living Dead in a police station, which is a pretty apt description - except NotLD was more novel with more memorable imagery and a better ending.

Apollo 13
Apollo 13(1995)
½

Likable drama with a great cast.

The Asphalt Jungle
½

Not as tense or engaging as some other classic film noir, but notable for its use of the criminals' perspective and its influence on other films. For a similar (but better) picture inspired in part by this one, check out Kubrick's The Killing.

C.H.U.D. (Chud)
½

This was a huge waste of time. You almost never see the creature and there aren't any cool or interesting kills. The characters just talk about the same things over and over again. Boring.

Kung Pow! Enter the Fist
½

Kung Pow: the last great parody movie?

Crazy, Stupid, Love.
½

This movie is not aimed at me but is smart and colorful enough to be watchable despite being totally absurd (and having three increasingly poor endings). Talented cast.

Despicable Me

Cute but forgettable.

Bridesmaids
Bridesmaids(2011)

Like a mediocre SNL sketch that goes on for two hours.

Once Upon a Time in America
½

This is a hard movie to like. The characters are mostly nasty people, their motivations and even the consequences of their actions are frequently unclear (yes, I saw the 4 hour version), and...dear heavens, it's 4 hours long! There are individual scenes of spellbinding power, immediateness and even fantasy. The best part of the movie by far are the scenes in 1921 during which a ragtag bunch of street kids come together to form the beginnings of a partnership that will last the next 10 years. These had a real resonance, like something that might have actually happened. Once we make the skip to the 1930's, it becomes Goodfellas and we start to hate the people that the somewhat likable kids from the last era have become. Also I have a very difficult time with rape being portrayed on screen for entertainment, even if the desired reaction is repulsion. I'm just not sure how I feel about this movie as a whole. On some levels it's exceedingly well done, but when the credits rolled I thought that maybe I didn't care about any of it. It's certainly not as good as Leone's westerns, even Once Upon a Time in the West (to which it is most similar). I'm giving it a "good" score because the scenes that worked - the 1920's material, baby switching, the reunion with Carol - really worked.

The Green Mile

Didn't expect to like this, but it held me under its spell for 3 stinking hours. Who would have thought? There aren't too many movies that genuinely earn that privilege, but this is one of them. I think it's the performances more than anything. This movie is filled to the brim with fine actors and they make each moment count. Hanks, Morse, Duncan, Cromwell, Jeter, DeMunn, Rockwell, Hutchison, Pepper, Sinise...they're all great. Glad I took the time to sit down with it.

Patton
Patton(1970)
½

Hangs on the powerhouse performance of George C. Scott in the title role. Unfortunately beyond that it's yet another war movie that's way too long and thinks it's more important than it is. The very first scene - a monologue by Scott - is the best thing in the movie.

Shrek 2
Shrek 2(2004)
½

Nearly as funny as the first but the novelty is gone, replaced mostly by densely packed pop culture references.

Spider-Man
Spider-Man(2002)

Fun to watch and the best of the three. Willem Dafoe is the perfect Goblin, and Aunt Mae and Jameson are amazingly cast. Spiderman has never looked better. It's a high-flying adventure with a heart and a conscience.

Austin Powers in Goldmember

The opening credits are fantastic, and Myers exudes an inexplicable charm, but the movie is more hammy than hilarious.

Braveheart
Braveheart(1995)

Freedom + kilts. What more could you ask for?

Rocky
Rocky(1976)
½

The classic tale of indomitable spirit, Rocky is actually fairly low-key and anti-climactic. Stallone embodies the title character and gives us some iconic scenes as well as his own unique style of dialog which alternates between endearing and grating.

Mean Girls
Mean Girls(2004)

Everyone who told me this was funny and original was apparently on crack. Mean Girls is one stupid high school cliche after another, amounting to an occasionally diverting but mostly empty experience.

Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo(2003)

It has that Pixar sheen that could make anything palatable, but it doesn't have the rewatchability of classics like Toy Story or modern marvels like The Incredibles. Maybe I just don't care for stories about fish that much.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

If you hate this movie, you have no soul.

The Incredibles
½

Undoubtedly Disney/Pixar's best offering since Toy Story (at least until Bird's Ratatouille came along) The Incredibles is smart, funny, fast-paced action that also has a strong sense of morality and family values.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
½

What a surprise. Full of wit, danger, and colorful characters, Pirates turned out to be one of my favorite movies of the year. It's unfortunate that it spawned these less-worthy sequels, but the orignal is quite fresh. Depp and Rush give us more than the script could ever have promised.

Secret Window
½

Credit goes to Depp and Turturro for what interest there is here, but after one watch it really loses any potency it once possessed. More eccentric than suspenseful. "You stole my story."

The Bourne Supremacy

A very nice, clean action movie that isn't very involving.

Red Eye
Red Eye(2005)
½

Tense but also awkward, and starts to fall apart near the end.

Rush Hour
Rush Hour(1998)
½

Woooo you know he dead.

Beethoven
Beethoven(1992)

Liked it as a kid but it's really pretty bad.

Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa(2006)

Captures a lot of the same feel as the original, including the blandness.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Probably my most anticipated movie of 2007, Burton's recreation of the macabre musical is a sight to behold. I was impressed with Helena Bonham Carter and of course Depp and Rickman are always good. The surprise of the day was probably Sacha Baron Cohen in a side-splitting cameo. The suspense is as thick as the fog in London, and the blood squirts and sprays with sickening enthusiasm. Full of the darkest possible comedy, Sweeney Todd was a movie that made me grin as often as wince, but I'm not sure it's the kind of thing I would see over and over. The blood looks fake, but it's still very gruesome. I'm frightened of straight razors forever.

The Mist
The Mist(2007)
½

I hated this movie. It was ugly and cruel, and not in a good way. I like movies that make me feel strong emotions. However, in between the sometimes legitimately funny and sometimes unintentionally funny moments, the welling feeling inside me was one of utter disgust. The film had contempt for its audience as much as it did for its characters, who were for the most part archetypes anyway. The constant, overt philosophizing about the evils of organized religion and politics was heavy-handed and obnoxious, almost as obnoxious as the foul Jim Jones lady who is like no person - and certainly no Christian - who exists on earth. The CGI was completely unbelievable. Not for a moment did I ever think any of the creatures was actually in the same room with an actor, and only a few actors were actually any good. And the ending, while certainly uncompromising, is far too sadistic and depressing to be enjoyed even for its originality. I'll give it a few points for a conservative use of music and jump scares and for the fact that the ending sticks with you. But I did not enjoy it, and I honestly was tempted to walk out.

I Am Legend
I Am Legend(2007)

The best quality that I Am Legend possesses, other than Will Smith, is silence. It takes a cue from another apocalyptic thriller, 28 Days Later, in immersing us in an abandoned city after an outbreak and evacuation. Some of the events are wonderfully tense and there's a terrific twilight sequence with a narrowing beam of light that should have your heart pounding. However, the movie is full of the kind of plot holes that bother you once you leave the theater and the ending is pretty lame, changing the entire meaning of the title from what the book intended.

Disturbia
Disturbia(2007)
½

Shia LaBeouf does Rear Window? No, no it just isn't right. It's not terrible but it really does nothing for me.

Ace Ventura - When Nature Calls

Some great moments (Cliffhanger parody, Rhino birth scene), but inconsistent.

Home Alone
Home Alone(1990)

One of those movies you have to watch on TV every Christmas.

Lady and the Tramp
½

Rat! There's a rat in the baby's room!

300
300(2007)

Packed with enough style and testosterone to be entertaining, the end result is not too remarkable. I loved it at first but my opinion of it decreases steadily with time. I guess as I get older I tire of movies without any depth.

Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime)
½

As a rule I don't watch Anime, and so, not really understanding the general style and conventions, I think I was a bit alienated by the strangeness of this film. It is creative, though, and quite beautiful in places. Perhaps I should have watched the subtitled version without all the big names.

Superman
Superman(1978)

Seemed okay, though I don't remember it being gripping either.

Mighty Joe Young
½

It's been a while but I don't remember anything good about it.

Déjà Vu
Déjà Vu(2006)
½

I love movies that mess with time, and Deja Vu is no exception. Not nearly up to par with another Jim Caviezel movie, Frequency, which dealt with time manipulation (though not actually time travel), but thankfully Tony Scott's directing tics were kept to a minimum so we could enjoy Denzel doing what he does best. Plot holes? You bet. It comes with the territory, and I maintain there's no way the ending makes senes. But it's entertaining and made me think while watching it. That's always worth something.

101 Dalmatians
½

I saw this in the theater back in the day. Melody first, my dear, then the lyrics.

Across the Universe

Give me the trippy scenes like "I Am The Walrus" and "I Want You." The recontextualization of other songs made for some awkward moments, e.g., the horrid "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Bland characters and no real plot. Maybe I could enjoy this more if I did drugs.

Waiting
Waiting(2005)
½

Sophomoric, gross, and crappy, but anyone who has ever worked in food service might want to check it out anyway because they will know what the characters are going through.

The Godfather, Part II
½

Longer than part one and missing the wonder of Brando's character. There are some powerful scenes still, but I found the current story confusing and the back and forth between the two time lines tried my patience.

You've Got Mail

I'm sure I've seen this, but I can tell you it is not memorable, fresh or original.

Richie Rich
Richie Rich(1994)
½

I saw this too and I remember it being poor.

Godzilla
Godzilla(1998)

*sigh* I miss real Godzilla.

Father of the Bride
½

Seen it. It's probably okay.

Volcano
Volcano(1997)

You've seen disaster flicks. You've seen Tommy Lee Jones. You've seen this movie. Dante's Peak is a better volcano film.

Dumbo
Dumbo(1941)

Hasn't aged all that well.

Arachnophobia

Splendidly creepy movie that makes my skin crawl every time, peppered with plenty of comic relief.

Ratatouille
Ratatouille(2007)
½

That rare film that had me smiling the whole time I was in the theater (except when I nearly cried). Brad Bird and the Pixar team have done it again. Ratatouille is a breathtakingly beautiful movie, with flourishes of heart and humor everywhere. I don't like rats, and I don't like cooking, and I don't even care much about Paris - but I LOVED Ratatouille. It should have won an Oscar for best original screenplay if not best picture (but it was relegated to the animated film category and completely destroyed all competition). It even touched on synesthesia, a phenomenon that interests me greatly. Not anyone can be a great cook, but a great cook can come from anywhere. Lovely movie.

Gone With the Wind

Ugh. One of the most popular and respected American movies of all time is basically a three hour soap opera.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Saw part of it on TV and it seemed interesting.

The Legend of Zorro

I don't even know what I just saw.

Homeward Bound - The Incredible Journey
½

I can't believe how many times I watched this as a child.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Another winsome movie from the growing up days. Anty was the best!

Blazing Saddles

I might get hanged (and my horse as well) for this, but Blazing Saddles may have been funny once. It is not funny now, save for a few scenes featuring the always reliable Gene Wilder. It's amusing at best and downright boring at worst.

The Goonies
The Goonies(1985)

I didn't see this as a child and so, not being blinded by the nostalgia, it seems an overlong thrill-free adventure with annoying characters.

While You Were Sleeping
½

My mom and my sister love this movie, and so I've learned to tolerate it, even like it. It's filled with funny human characters and is one of the better rom coms I've seen, even if it does fall prey to one of my most hated conventions near the end.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
½

Touching and moving. Jack Nicholson has never been better. Of all the movies made about people in mental institutions, this is surely the best. Extra points for seeing actors like Christopher Lloyd and Brad Dourif in early roles.

Starship Troopers
½

I'll watch this any time it is on TV. Funny and gory.

Dante's Peak
Dante's Peak(1997)
½

Pretty good volcano movie.

Tommy Boy
Tommy Boy(1995)
½

Often heralded as a great comedy but mostly fell flat. Of course I might be the only one on the planet who doesn't think Chris Farley has ever been funny.

L.A. Confidential
½

A compelling cop/crime thriller that is fiendishly well written and acted and featuring a lot of star power. Guy Pierce's Lieutenant Exley steals the show as the principled detective who wants to provide justice in a city full of corruption, and he becomes the movie's guide to its moral conundrums - his dynamic against Crowe's Bud White is electrifying. The supporting cast is all great and it adds up to a sensational and satisfying movie experience.

The Host
The Host(2007)

Decent monster flick but it is too long and not enough happens.

The Mothman Prophecies
½

An underrated horror/thriller that relies more on atmosphere and ambiguity than violence or jump scenes - it slowly builds an unsettling dread. Set in my home state of West Virginia and based on actual reports and events.

RocketMan
RocketMan(1997)
½

Wacky comedy starring Harland Williams. It's a bit juvenile but it's a lot of fun.

Enchanted
Enchanted(2007)

Successful at being exactly the kind of movie that it spoofs, Enchanted is the feel-good, sing-a-long movie of the year. Amy Adams was born to play the role of Giselle, an animated princess who winds up in the real world of New York. It has kind of a weak ending, but it's mostly funny and charming throughout. I loved the Happy Working Song!

Live Free or Die Hard

I actually appreciate this movie more after seeing the original Die Hard. Willis' McClane is still the same bad dude and Mary Elizabeth Windstead actually looks like she could be that little daughter from the first.

Die Hard 4 is a loud, bombastic, rip-roaring good time at the movies. I don't care one bit that most of the stunts are ridiculous (although I admit the jet scene punched a hole in my suspended disbelief for a moment) they are great fun and Willis just kicks butt all over the eastern seaboard. It's funny and tense and exciting, everything a great action movie should be.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

I never knew a documentary could be so much fun! The King of Kong is a very interesting story about two men who face off (well, sort of) to be the Donkey Kong champion of the world. It's a unique look into a small, quirky niche of the population, and truth is stranger than fiction. If you wrote characters like this, no one would believe you, but these people endear and condemn themselves by their own words (though selective editing is used to accentuate some things). Endearing, engaging and often hilarious, The King of Kong was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the year for me.

The Bourne Ultimatum
½

I enjoyed the first Bourne movie and they are all passable but for some reason I just don't find them overly interesting. Matt Damon is a bland action hero, and while that may fit the particulars of the story, it doesn't make it any more fun to watch. Every movie has at least one really good fight scene, so that's always something to look forward to. However the continuity is confusing and the shaky cam gets annoying quick. What I will say for it is that it keeps up the intensity of a chase for nearly the entire film, and that gives it enough momentum to glide on.

Bee Movie
Bee Movie(2007)

It's a pun. The whole movie is a pun. Expect no more and you will not be disappointed. I'm not sure what this movie's audience is - probably Seinfeld fans. For what it is I thought it was amusing.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
½

Instead of correcting the problems of Dead Man's Chest, this self-indulgent sequel magnifies them, continuing the downward slide of the series that was probably a little bloated to begin with (especially considering it's based on a rather inert theme park ride). By now almost every character is unlikeable. The double, triple, and quadruple-crosses no longer have any weight. There are some grand set pieces but that's not enough to warrant three seemingly endless hours. I give them points for a bittersweet ending, but I really did not enjoy this movie.

Transformers
Transformers(2007)
½

Even if I had been a huge fan of Transformers as a kid, I don't think I could have been more disappointed in this movie. Yes, the special effects are fantastic, and yes they were shafted at the Oscars. But I would have liked to SEE the effects! There is about 30 minutes of robot fighting in this movie, and what is there is obscured by stupid camera work. It doesn't start to get exciting until fully 1 hour and 45 minutes in. That is unacceptable! The Transformers are caricatures instead of characters - only Optimus Prime and Bumblebee receive any real development. The rest of the time is devoted to the stupid teenagers that nobody gives a rip about. Optimus Prime's voice was amazing - everything he said commanded attention. There will moments of brilliance but it was mostly brought down by silly human characters and sophomoric, immature humor. A fumbled opportunity.

The Godfather
½

I'm actually surprised I liked this as much as I did. Mob movies as a genre don't do much for me, but it's hard to deny the quality of the acting and the characters here. Brando in his iconic role is nothing short of superb, and watching the rise (or descent, depending on your view of it) of Michael Corleone is chilling. I found some of it overwrought and confusing, but there are some scenes of admirable suspense and power. The Godfather doesn't just present a story, it presents a world and a way of life.

Die Hard
Die Hard(1988)
½

Easily one of the greatest action movies of all time, up there with Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Matrix. I laughed as often as a gasped at McClane's one-liners and stunts. Hans Gruber makes an intelligent villain, endowed with wit and subtlety by Alan Rickman. It's forumla, maybe, but it's the best at what it does.

Three
Three(2007)

Pretty terrible. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The book was an interesting page turner. The film is disjointed, intolerably cast and acted, poorly paced, and, if it weren't for significant emotional improvement during the big reveal, I would have said completely worthless. The screenplay is deplorable - it's like it went out of its way to make the clever ideas and phrases in the book seem as juvenile and stupid as possible. Were they afraid of plagiarizing a work they are adapting for the screen? Avoid this.

All Dogs Go To Heaven
½

Colorful, creepy, and emotional, All Dogs Go to Heaven is an odd, almost surreal experience that I didn't appreciate when I was younger but now enjoy. The songs aren't too great but at least they feel authentic. Voice acting is good across the board.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

I didn't see the 3D version, but this movie impressed me. There are some interesting moral themes, great music by Danny Elfman, and of course, a one-of-a-kind look.

The Machinist

Everyone talks about Bale's enormous devotion to his craft as evidenced in this role. And they should be talking about that, because it's the most impressive thing about the movie.

Armageddon
Armageddon(1998)
½

It's at once better and worse than I expected. The likes of Bruce Willis and Steve Buscemi make this entertaining at times but Affleck and Tyler are annoying and unbelievable. Speaking of unbelievable, how about the plot?

Rear Window
Rear Window(1954)

A classic, claustrophobic suspense film. I easily related to Jeffries.

Rebecca
Rebecca(1940)

Hitch's early masterpiece, Rebecca is a triumph. The unseen title character holds such a powerful presence.

Insomnia
Insomnia(2002)
½

Nolan does "brooding" quite well. Insomnia is a perfectly acceptable thriller but it doesn't hold up to his other work.

The Birds
The Birds(1963)
½

Still scary and effective in places, but also drags in others. It might one of Hitchcock's more bizarre scenarios, but it doesn't feature his most interesting characters.

The Shawshank Redemption
½

Everyone likes this movie, and with good reason. It's compelling and inspirational.

The Boys Next Door

One of the only Hallmark movies worth watching. An excellent cast gives endearing, funny and tragic performances.

Oliver & Company

One of my favorite Disney musicals for its spunk and energy, plus great songs by Huey Lewis, Billy Joel and Bette Midler.

The Great Mouse Detective

Great, underrated Disney take on the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes that culminates with a nail-biting showdown atop the Tower of London.

Billy Madison
½

I laughed at least once.

Juno
Juno(2007)
½

For all the criticism I could level against Juno, I found I enjoyed it and laughed quite a bit too. It's no best picture contender, but it's pretty good.

The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure
½

Bad. But not as bad as a lot of the other sequels.

Deep Shock
Deep Shock(2003)

Awful, nearly to the point of hilarity. For 2003, the special effects are truly horrid. The eels look like 2-dimensional paper cut-outs, which is more than can be said of the characters.

Blast From the Past
½

"Bless my lucky stars, a negro!" Enjoyable comedy and I don't even like Alicia Silverstone.

Mission to Mars

For a movie filled with good actors and a director that has made good movies in the past (The Untouchables, Mission:Impossible) it's almost amazing how unbearably stupid this is.

The Straight Story

I won't call it pointless, but it certainly felt that way. Extremely tedious. if watching an elderly man drive a riding mower for two hours is your idea of riveting entertainment, get this immediately.

The Pursuit of Happyness
½

Not bad at all. This isn't my type of movie but it's a quality effort from everyone involved.

Cinderella Man

Surprisingly potent story with the best boxing scenes I've ever witnessed.

GoldenEye
GoldenEye(1995)

Maybe there was just no way this could live up to the game.

Sabrina
Sabrina(1995)

Decent, funny rom-com.

Black Sheep
Black Sheep(1996)
½

Fails to meet its already low aspirations.

Face/Off
Face/Off(1997)
½

Entertaining, over-the-top, high-concept action extravaganza. Nic Cage should play a bad guy more often (and for more of this movie, too).

K-19: The Widowmaker

Pretty good claustrophobic drama.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

A few movies make me want to punch everyone involved. This is one of them.

Secondhand Lions
½

Surprisingly good! I was expecting to hate it, but it turned out to be so good natured and imaginative that it won me over.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
½

It's the kind of movie that I enjoyed in the theater but have no interest in seeing again.

Bulletproof Monk

Kind of cliche and unmemorable, but not without its entertaining moments.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
½

It was interesting at first, but the unique visuals are really all the film has going for it - and even those can be pretty bad at times.

Man on Fire
Man on Fire(2004)
½

Terribly disappointing. The direction and editing completely derailed what could have been a solid revenge film. All the needless flashing and motion literally gave me a headache (and I have endured films like Cloverfield with no ill effects) and on top of that the story wasn't that compelling. Worst of all, the music video feel dilutes the impact of the violence. Somehow even a guy getting tortured and blown up manages to seem tame here. Once the revenge plotline finally starts, it isn't nearly as tense on screen as it sounds on paper. Glad I rented this instead of blind-buying.

Hidalgo
Hidalgo(2004)

I believe Viggo Mortensen as a cowboy more easily than Aragorn, king of men. However, the Lord of the Rings films are great and this movie is not. At all.

Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss
½

This is a really fun sequel to A Christmas Story featuring the return of Jean Shepherd as the narrator. It's a road trip movie with a new cast that, surprisingly, is very believable as being the same family from the old one. It's just mishap after amusing mishap, as these types of movies tend to be, but just like A Christmas Story tapped into those childhood Christmas experiences, there's something about this that is eerily familiar. Check it out if you ever get the chance.

Big Fish
Big Fish(2003)

A touching, magical yarn with a great imagination.

It Runs in the Family

Not bad. I don't remember it that well but I recall someone walking out a door where a porch had been removed and falling face first in the mud. At the time it made me giggle. And actually I just realized I quote this all the time - the Asian candystore owner's "You want? I not got all day!" is a staple of my everyday conversation.

Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves!
½

Not as bad as "I blew up the kid," but not nearly the classic that "shrunk the kids" is.

Honey, I Blew Up the Kid
½

Stupid sequel to cash on the success of a great kids' movie.

Cast Away
Cast Away(2000)

Good performance by Hanks but the plot by necessity makes the scenery kind of repetative. Not to mention I found the ending depressing. It's technically good but not all that likeable.

RV
RV(2006)
½

Terrible. If you're Robin Williams, and you're doing a movie in which a gag requires your character to be showered by a geyser of sewage, you start to contemplate the state of your career.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Decent fantasy/adventure fare, but it doesn't live up to the first. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had many poignant, emotional moments and a good deal of character development. In Caspian, we are given a lot of battle scenes, elaborate set pieces and (thankfully good quality) CGI effects. Unfortunately I just couldn't connect with it. The screenplay is muddled and unfocused, the plot-oriented developments unclear, and the acting painfully average. Caspian himself was particularly bland, a crippling flaw in a film that needs a charismatic lead to anchor it. The last 15 minutes, at least up until the complete misfire of an ending, are by far the most satisfying and entertaining. It ends up being too little too late. The Narnia series honestly deserves better - this adaptation comes off as diverting but not engrossing.

The Untouchables
½

It's like the world of The Godfather meets the dead-pan one-liners of James Bond. Somewhere in that odd valley is where The Untouchables sits. I liked the score right off the bat, and I enjoyed De Niro (completely effortless in this role), Connery and Garcia. Costner as always is kind of bland, but never terrible - he's almost believable as the film's moral center caught in the midst of evil and corruption. The writing and pacing is not up to the task of making this a truly gripping story. It's merely entertaining with a few memorable scenes and a little bit of cheese and melodrama thrown in for good measure.

Lady in the Water
½

Bryce Dallas Howard + M. Night Shyamalan = win. I enjoyed this film for the bizarre fantasy that it was. I didn't love it but I certainly didn't hate it, and on a second viewing I appreciate it even more. The creative, lingering shots and hues as well as the quiet conversations make it a feel a bit like Unbreakable at times, which in my opinion is a good thing. The cinematography, the acting, and the original story and characters are all above average. See this movie with an open mind before your buy into the trendy criticism.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (The X Files 2)

I think I'm having a crisis of belief. I wanted to believe Carter's revisiting of my favorite television show would be the most exciting film of the summer for me. Yet I think if I had to choose, it's easier to believe in, say, Harvey Dent.

However, comparisons are going to do this film no favors, including comparisons to the hit TV series. There are some things in the movie that only real fans of the show will get and appreciate, and I had a lot of fun picking out the various in-jokes and easter eggs. But I also think that being a huge fan of the show makes it harder to enjoy I Want To Believe on its own terms as a thriller, divorcing it from the expectations that we bring to it. As an X-Files movie, Fight the Future succeeds more readily. It took the show and made it bigger than it could have been in the weekly format - grander set pieces, big explosions, revelations. In contrast, I Want to Believe feels small, dark, gritty. The paranormal aspects are not as important as Mulder and Scully's individual crises and the effect on their relationship. I suppose shippers will be head-over-heels for that, but I felt in some ways it was a little too soapish. There were some pretty weird and silly scenes, and aside from the main characters, the rest of the cast felt pretty faceless and one-dimensional.

For all these problems, there are some good things to be said. It's nice seeing our friends back on the screen, and fortunately they allow Mulder some of his signature humor, though Scully is still pretty dour. The actual plot, while seeming muddled and unimportant during the first half, comes together in an interesting way and I found I got a boost when I figured out what the criminals were up to. That part makes it enjoyable from a science fiction standpoint. The X-Files is worth seeing, but it just feels a bit lackluster and I was hoping for more.

The Sixth Sense
½

It loses something on subsequent viewings, but it's still a gripping story even when you know what's coming. Mostly low-key with provocative use of color and lighting, Shyamalan takes us through a dark mystery that's both thrilling and emotional.

The Dark Knight
½

The Dark Knight is a sprawling, enthralling, and exhausting film that is fantastically living up to its ridiculous hype and inspiring my confidence in its continued success. Great acting from Ledger and Eckhart especially though the cast is solid all around. Soundly written and directed (though probably not as quotable as Batman Begins), it's a thoughtful moral expose as much as it is a crime thriller. At 2 1/2 hours it's not a moment too long - I sat in the theater ready to receive every last frame. I doubt it can really be digested in a single viewing, and I certainly intend to see it again (though maybe not in theaters). It's neither a perfect film nor the greatest of all time, but it's certainly the best action movie you'll see this summer.

The Fugitive
The Fugitive(1993)

"I didn't kill my wife!"
"I don't care!"

Thrilling chase movie.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Runs a little long and a little sappy, but it's a bombastic action picture with lots of memorable set pieces and revolutionary effects.

The Ladykillers

Tom Hanks is a scream in this but on the whole it's forgettable.

Predator
Predator(1987)

Not sure what to say about this. I guess it's good. I laughed pretty hard at the beginning when Arnold and Carl were being all uber-manly in a slightly homoerotic, cheesy, Top-Gun type way. The special effects have come a long way since 1987. Despite what you might think, the jungle wasn't an easy place to hide their effects deficiencies. It's notable how dated this looks compared to something like Aliens that is so fresh even today. There are some great lines and it's a fun action movie that is decidedly well-paced. It gets right into the story and leaves when it's done. It almost feels too short! I wish the final battle had been a little more climactic, but overall it's still pretty entertaining.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

It was good, but not great. Too long, too convoluted, and generally too weird. I was having a "what the heck" moment all the way through. It made more sense on a second viewing, but with all the useless action scenes and recycled jokes, this one looks great but fails to capture the thrill of the first.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Gene Wilder is the freaking man. Plus that boat scene is creepy. "We are the music makers. We are the dreamers of dreams."

Collateral
Collateral(2004)
½

The club shootout is one of the more memorable scenes in a while. The music is perfect, and Tom Cruise does well with his suave bad guy role.

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear

Nearly as funny as the original! The dialog is snappy and silly and Nielsen is in good form. Unlike the dismal Airplane! sequel, this one is written and directed by the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team who basically created these kinds of movies and know how to make the silliness work. I laughed a lot, and what more can you ask from a comedy?

Airplane 2 - The Sequel
½

Extremely lame compared to the first. It's basically a rehash of what the original did (surprisingly enough with most of the original cast returning) but this time around it's predictable and labored. The only fresh face is William Shatner who is great in his role.

Iron Man
Iron Man(2008)

Of all the recent comic book movies, this one is might be the coolest. It's slick as snot with good-looking CG, a strong script, and a centerpiece in Robert Downey Jr. who IS this movie. I don't even want to know how this would have gone down with anyone else playing Tony Stark. He takes already good dialog and makes it sharp and hilarious. He's doesn't show a whole lot of heart here, though - actually the film as a whole feels just the least bit cold (how did they deal with the icing problem?). It spends a long time getting up to speed, sort of like a Batman Begins with more buildup and less payoff. Also the science is pretty unbelievable even for a superhero movie. The fact that Stark talks to his computers like he would to a human (or at least to a dog) and they understand and respond is pretty out there. Even if we can imagine him being capable of producing things that the rest of science hasn't caught up to, in my mind I was asking logistical questions about a lot of it. I had an easier time buying the new Batman. Still, though, it's definitely a strong film that's very enjoyable and Gwyneth Paltrow has never looked better. Ever.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner(1982)

Greatest movie title in history. Blade Runner: how cool is that? This movie has almost everything going for it. It has Harrison Ford (one of my favorite actors), it is directed by Ridley Scott who made the fantastic Alien just a few years before, it comes from a story by Philip K. Dick who inspired other sci-fi greats like Minority Report and Total Recall, it's a dystopian sci-fi with noir sensibilities... basically this movie has everything I like and so it's kind of disappointing that I just can't fall in love with it. For all its visual flare, the story never seems to fully explore its themes. What's worse is that we never come to know or care about Deckart, which dulls the impact of the last 20 minutes or so. I do think this is a great movie and you can't deny it is influential, but it's almost painful to think what it could have been with a little more depth.

Journey to the Center of the Earth
½

I'm sure this would have been much more entertaining to see in the theater in 3-D. However, unless that version also had a completely different script, actors, and effects, I'm pretty sure it was still awful.

War of the Worlds
½

Why did I hate all the characters in this movie? I didn't care if they lived or died. It might have been better if I weren't rooting for the aliens.

Up
Up(2009)

Up is more touching than funny. That isn't to say there are more tears than there is humor, but rather that the pathos feels genuine whereas the humor is occasionally hit-and-miss. It's awfully strange having such bizarre circumstances surround a central character who is so down-to-earth (no pun intended). However, the movie is always fun and if can you slip into the unique world (which is easy to do thanks to the brilliant short film that precedes the feature) you should enjoy it. As these films are concerned, I'd call it middle tier Pixar - which means it will still probably be better than almost every other movie released this year.

Good Burger
Good Burger(1997)
½

One of my favorite comedies of all time. I watch this over and over again and never tire of it. So it's stupid - it's hilarious!

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
½

Great cast, interesting storytelling - I'm not sure if the use of multiple perspectives is as necessary or interesting here as it has been in other films, but sometimes it's illuminating to see where one character was while something else was happening. There's an unusual tone to this movie that is serious but still just the least bit tongue-in-cheek. I get the feeling that the robbery was supposed to be funny - and it was, a little. The movie displays life's downs so vividly that it's almost necessary to laugh just to handle it.

Rachel Getting Married

Superbly made film with great, naturalistic acting by a strong ensemble cast and a standout performance by Anne Hathaway. Constant drama and drawn-out wedding proceedings bog it down and make it kind of unlikeable. The characters feel real and provoke authentic emotions. This is a movie that is easy to admire but difficult to enjoy.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Decent entertainment but with some glaring problems and not on par with the previous installments.

Valkyrie
Valkyrie(2008)

*Spoilers* They don't kill Hitler.

Almost Famous
½

Watching this movie was like taking a vacation. It's not perfect but it speaks to something special in me. I don't know if the technical aspects impress because I was too busy being swept up by the story - seeing the world of early 70's rock and roll culture through the eyes of a guileless, hopeful teen was the genius angle this movie needed to succeed, and succeed it does.

Cidade de Deus (City of God)
½

It's honest and unflinching but somehow cold. I didn't find much to connect with.

Lord of War
Lord of War(2005)
½

A slick-looking production (especially the intro that everyone is raving about) about a slick character. The style of the film clashes intentionally with some tense moments designed to make you uncomfortable. The message seems a little unsure. It's probably meant more to raise awareness of the arms issue than anything else. Thankfully it manages to be entertaining on the way, although I'm not sure if telling the story through constant narration was the best choice. Still a solid feature.

Ever After: A Cinderella Story
½

Tepid. This movie is one big anachronism. It's not funny enough to be a full-blown comedy, but doesn't have the chops to be a serious drama or period piece. I guess it's just romantic fluff - completely predictable, sentimental, and poorly acted.

Planet Terror (Grindhouse Presents: Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror)

The excess! The sheer gory campy joyful excess! This movie is awfully great and greatly awful to the point of being a hilarious example of the B-movies it loves.

In Bruges
In Bruges(2008)

Very entertaining, clever and occasionally absurd, but also surprisingly introspective.

Death Proof
Death Proof(2007)
½

An enjoyable ride with a slick 70's groove that's also a bit schizo and fragmented. It's Tarantino's weakest film but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

La Belle Noiseuse
½

There may not be a better movie about the creation of art. Frenhofer is looking for truth in his paintings, and I think this film finds truth in its own canvas. The human emotions and relationships are subtle but very authentic and while the movie is taxing (I split it over two days) it does have a certain suspense. If you fall in step with its pacing you'll find yourself wanting to see the rest.

Office Space
Office Space(1999)
½

Not a great movie but will easily relate to anyone who's ever had a 9-to-5 job that they loathe. Some classic quotes and amusing dialog, especially in the first half.

An American Carol

I was interested to see this movie because it's rare that something comes out that isn't completely opposed to conservative American values. Unfortunately, this film completely fails as a comedy and it's not much better as a satire. You're a long way from Airplane!, David Zucker. Anyone hoping this will be The Naked Gun 4 1/44 will sorely disappointed - and Leslie Nielson is barely in it. In the very first scene, they make a funny joke. Then they explain their funny joke and the humor dissolves. It's all downhill from there.

Surrogates
Surrogates(2009)
½

I love high concept sci-fi, and Surrogates is certainly that. The opening sequence throws ideas at you so fast it gets your head spinning. What you want is some time to slow down and digest them, to ponder the consequences of living in the world as portrayed. I'm not saying it needs to slow down as much as, say, Blade Runner, but adding 20 minutes or so to this film would have been within a perfectly reasonable running time and allowed them a chance to reflect on the radical and relevant ideas they are dealing with. It's like the Matrix meets iRobot, and while it's not as stubbornly mediocre as iRobot, I kept waiting for the moments that would make it stand out like The Matrix does. Alas, those never came. However it's still a pretty entertaining movie and with the time it had it did manage to touch on a lot of issues and leave me mulling it over in my mind.

Shadowheart
Shadowheart(2009)

I would say don't watch this, but there's no reason why you would. You would take one look at it and realize it's not worth your time. When the best actor in your movie is William Sadler, and he dies in the first five minutes, the outlook is grim. Movie only gets worse as it goes along. It's not the worst kind of bad movie, but it's pretty messy with unconvincing acting, no character motivation and a plot that says absolutely nothing.

Rushmore
Rushmore(1998)

I could have liked this a lot more if the main character wasn't such a jerk. I laughed quite a bit ("With friends like you, who needs friends?" being probably the best such moment) but also felt the whole thing was kind of pointless and wildly unrealistic. There were drastic jabs of darkness introduced without breaking the comic tone which led to conflicting emotions. So I guess I don't really know how to feel about this yet.

Friday the 13th

It's definitely not scary anymore, and honestly these are the worst camp counselors in history. I can't help but kind of like the movie, though. It's a pretty easy-going horror film and the cast of characters, while shallow, are fun. I would have loved to hang out at a camp with them for the weekend (minus the whole getting murdered thing). I didn't expect much and I got only a few telegraphed scares, but for what it is it's pretty enjoyable. Not as thrilling as Halloween but the acting is better.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Depressing as hell but genuinely moving. The inventive camera work and visual style put us where we fear to be - behind the eye of a paralyzed man trapped in his own body. It's claustrophobic and frightening, yet dares to be "inspirational" without pouring on the syrup. Definitely makes you want to go live your life. You will get very tired of hearing the French alphabet by frequency of use. Just a warning.

The Thing
The Thing(1982)

YAY

This is the horror/creature movie I've been waiting to see. The only real letdown is I wanted more Thing. Still, can't complain. Reminded me a little bit of Alien, which is a very good thing.

Sleepy Hollow

Depp is good but not outstanding except when next to Christina Ricci who seems very much out of place - not because she's awkward as a blonde in a period costume but because she's trying to act. Sleepy Hollow is a very okay totally serviceable gothic horror-thriller-mystery with some great visual atmosphere and frequent violence. It never really seems to rise above that with story or character. Best bit? Christopher Walken as the (usually) headless horseman.

Hotel Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda(2004)

Extremely moving, powerful film with a great performance by Don Cheadle.

[Rec]
[Rec](2007)
½

Not as scary as people say, though the ending is very intense. Too bad about half of it is kind of boring and disorienting. There's a certain type of fright that can only be achieved through this medium (the first-person hand-held style) but there's also a ceiling, I think, on how complete that type of film can feel. I enjoyed REC, but it doesn't leave a lasting impression.

Poltergeist
Poltergeist(1982)
½

Pretty good ghost story though it's kind of overblown all the way through. There's only one rightly scary moment and the cast needs to be developed. It's amusing enough with interesting effects and liberal use of quiet still shots.

The Orphanage

Gorgeous photography and convincing acting sell this low-key gothic ghost story. It's pretty predictable but very well done and even moving.

Misery
Misery(1990)

Effective, nail-biting horror/thriller from Stephen King and Rob Reiner. Kathy Bates is stupendous and you want to kill her before the film is over. This would be anyone's nightmares but for writers it's particularly jarring. Well shot and acted all around with smart characters and a strong ending. It will make you uncomfortable.

Twilight
Twilight(2008)

Mom and sis sat down to watch this so I thought I'd see what it was all about. Honestly the movie seems relatively harmless - it's just a bland, melodramatic teen romance with enough supernatural elements to fill a Smallville episode and sfx on the same level. Not interesting enough to be really offensive, not pretty or moving enough to be memorable. Some odd editing and sound cue choices as well; did this director come straight from doing music videos? The story just doesn't seem developed and the characters fail to have anything approaching genuine affection for each other. I blame the script more than Stewart and Pattinson, but what can you do? Except not bother with New Moon, of course.

I'm Not There
½

I have no idea what I think of this movie. Kind of enjoyed it, especially Cate Blanchett who is just phenomenal. It's the kind of movie that's impossible to sum up, a rollercoaster ride of ideas and images that don't add up to any cohesive narrative. The film is intentionally fragmented to break down Bob Dylan into moods, phases or personalities. They're all him in different ways, and they aren't. Some will find such evasiveness frustrating. I found it mostly fascinating but not necessarily involving. I don't think it's something that will connect with most people. That said, I'm also not a Dylan fan.

Requiem for a Dream

Extremely successful film but not exactly the kind of thing you want on repeat. Surprisingly little character development, too, given the strength of the acting and emotional pull that it elicits. Ellen Burstyn is shocking here. I don't relate to any of the characters, but I should be glad about that, right?

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
½

Oppressive, visceral tale of two young women in communist Romania. Expertly shot and acted but a depressing, frustrating story. I loved the movie as it started but liked it less and less as it wore on, especially a particular dinner scene which reminded me of the endless toasts in Rachel Getting Married. Wanted to love it, ended up admiring it at a distance.

Doomsday
Doomsday(2008)

Bizarre, hyperviolent, cheesy yet sort of depressing. In short, it's B-movie shlock but I was in the mood for just this sort of thing at the time.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
½

It's nice to see Sam Rockwell playing a lead and he seems well suited for this part. The movie isn't as delightfully whimsical as others based on Kaufman's scripts, but it has plenty of flare. So many films have tried to make us wonder whether certain experiences of a character are genuine or not that I no longer care about the question enough to ponder it. Fortunately the movie remains light on its feet, deftly carrying us from one exploit to the next.

Adaptation
Adaptation(2002)

Nicholas Cage is really good in this! With Adaptation and Matchstick Men he proves he can act. Just needs some talent behind the camera and in the script. Here we have both in spades. Charlie Kaufman, one of the most dazzling and original screenwriters of our era collaborates again with Spike Jonze (their previous film was Being John Malkovich) and the results are stunning. Adaptation is sweet, daring, insightful and very clever.

Public Enemies

A completely competent, all right gangster picture with a good Johnny Depp, a bland Bale, and a great Marion Cotillard. This is possibly the best-looking digital movie I've ever seen, but the story and characters are less than compelling. That said, we did watch this with the drone of the generator in the background obscuring some dialog and breaking the mood a bit, so it probably deserves another watch under better conditions.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
½

Good movie but certainly not spellbinding. Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell are great which is no surprise from either of them. The film is a portrait of an insecure scoundrel whose only notable accomplishment was taking down another, more respected scoundrel. The movie looks fantastic but there's not enough happening to justify its run time. Even the filmmakers apparently realized you can only gaze at grain for so long before they gave in and added some narration which again is only partially successful. Starts good (with the last Jesse brothers train job) and ends even better (with the titular assassination and its aftermath) but wanders in between.

Synecdoche, New York
½

As a writer, I am not clever enough to describe this movie. It is told in so many layers that by the end you've given up trying to make sense of its symbols or even its timeline. Instead you just pay attention to the emotional strokes, the parallels in Caden's life to that of ours and everyone around him. Even though I can't very well explain this movie after one viewing (and feel I probably wouldn't even after several) I have to recommend its audacious creativity. Writer Kaufman's directorial debut is probably his least entertaining film to date, but might also be his most complex and personal.

The Royal Tenenbaums

Eh. It's alright. Sometimes funny, more often tragic, always stilted. Occasionally Anderson's penchant for having actors under-act betrays the sense of held-back emotion that I assume he's going for. Usually it just serves to alienate us from the characters as much as they are alienated from each other.

A History of Violence

Builds an unsettling feeling all the way through. A thriller that deserves some contemplation.

There Will Be Blood

The panoramic character-driven tale of despicable oil prospector Daniel Plainview, played with magnetic gusto by Daniel Day Lewis, a role for which his Oscar was very much deserved. It's long and deliberate but it pays off. I DRINK IT UP.

Terminator Salvation

Pretty average action movie with an above average sequence in the last act. Effects are pretty good, though the overall visual look - while crisp - is kind of uninteresting. Just like the story, characters, and performances. Honestly I was pretty entertained throughout but never more than diverted. The attempts at tying into the rest of the series were futile before it started given the convoluted nature of the plot already, though I do have a soft spot for recurring character lines. It would have been nice if we'd have some actual character enriching moments, some heart and soul. The first two movies had a virile, spunky heroine in Sarah Connor. Here we have good actors given nothing of note to do. Decent summer fare but I think everyone was hoping for more.

Watchmen
Watchmen(2009)
½

It isn't the best movie I've seen from last year but it's certainly one of the most unusual. Watchmen is a film I don't love but can't help but be intrigued by. Even as long as it is there's always some new colorful development with unique characters doing things their own (messed up) way to keep things interesting. There's a lot to think about and a lot of visuals to marvel at. Also Rorschach: I'm not locked in here with you... you're locked in here with me! How epic is that?

Spirited Away

Oozing with creativity (and believe me there's a lot of oozing on this movie), Spirited Away is a gorgeous and far-out fantasy.

V for Vendetta

Great visuals, though not as deep or nuanced as it would like to be. The symbolism comes across pretty heavy-handed, but the Wachowskis manage to drench it in enough style to save it.

The Silence of the Lambs

Finally saw this all the through. Definitely effective in its acting and characterizations, but at times it seems a little uninspired. Perhaps that's because so many films in the last 20 years have tried to be this movie...

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
½

Funny, colorful, quirky take on the Wonka tale. It's not quite on par with the original, but it's quite watchable just the same.

San daikaijû: Chikyû saidai no kessen (Ghidrah the Three Headed Monster)
½

It's fun to have so many monsters together at the end of the movie and the subplot involving the princess was more interesting that most of the Godzilla movie human stories. However, it's getting harder and harder for me to appreciate these films the way I did when I was a child. I had quite a few laughs at the movie's expense - during the Mothra song (I hope the subtitles are wrong or else the lyrics are totally absurd), all the monsters having a conference, etc. I mean really - who needs to see Mothra and Godzilla debating whether to fight off Ghidrah? We know they are going to do it, so get on with it already. And the less said about Rodan the better. It was nice having the twins back from Infant Island, though, and the ties to previous movies were appreciated.

Inglourious Basterds
½

"I think this just might be my masterpiece."

So it is, Mr. Tarantino. So it is.

The Hurt Locker

Intense and very suspenseful. Thankfully not political - focuses on three men and their duties as they try to stay alive for 39 days in hostile Iraq disarming bombs and collecting ordnance. Visuals and audio is excellent: the sound especially keeps you in the moment. Some scenes drag a bit and the film as a whole is longer than it needs to be for the sparse story. Not sure how well it'll stand up to repeats but on the first viewing I was impressed.

A Serious Man
½

A movie that makes you think, and is actually worth thinking about.

District 9
District 9(2009)
½

There is a moment in District 9 when a man who is becoming part alien uses a biologically controlled mech suit to pick up a pig and hurl into an enemy solider. I could watch that over and over.

Snatch
Snatch(2001)

Empty calories. Snatch is a movie about nothing, so wrapped up in its own style that it gives us caricatures but never characters. There are some good performances (Pitt is good, as usual) and a lot of flare but despite its hyperactive pace I found it a bit dull.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
½

Very depressing; a harsh movie that plumbs the depths of depravity but comes up with (at least a little) hope. Makes you want to hope that no one out there is really in Precious' situation, and make something more of your own life if you have more opportunity than she does. It's a bit by the numbers but the acting, rather than overcooked audio and visual cues, is what sells it.

Not Another Teen Movie
½

In a sense it's nice that the movie lets you know what you're in for right up front. There are some clever gags and I laughed at this more than most comedies I've seen lately. However, there is so much gross-out humor that it really wears on you, as well as jokes that are too obvious and drawn-out. The conventions of movies like "She's All That" are ripe for the thrashing, so I can't be too hard on a film that points out the ridiculousness of those. It also picks on movies that are a lot funnier than it is. Let's face it - Airplane! and The Naked Gun set the standard for gag-a-minute spoof movies and they have never been surpassed. The farther away we get, the worse the imitations are becoming. This is a smarter movie than the Friedberg and Seltzer junk, but not enough to recommend it.

Heat
Heat(1995)

Involving crime drama from director Michael Mann. The cast is incredible (seriously, you won't believe how many great actors are in this) and the story is always interesting, even as long as it is. The final hour is probably the best - it's where the characters we've come to sympathize with have to make their most difficult choices. There are problems with the movie: some cheesy music, convenient set-ups, the ending could be stronger, and we still feel a little distant from the characters despite spending so much time with them. Yet with all this it manages to feel somewhat realistic, which helps us to care what's going down until the final frame.

The Island
The Island(2005)
½

Pretty good, solid action flick. Now if you're looking for thought-provoking sci-fi, this ain't Gattaca or A.I. Yet for what it is it's fairly entertaining. Ewan McGregor is fun to watch (as is Scarlett Johansson, though for a different reason) and the first 45 minutes or so are intriguing. They credit the audience with intelligence by showing us more than we're told. The rest of the movie certainly falls from where it began - it's a good idea but a modest-at-best execution.

2001: A Space Odyssey

I neither love nor hate 2001. I can see what people love about it, but can't seem to share their enthusiasm. Slowly, I'm discovering why this is.

I think I just straight up disagree with the ideas put forth. Everyone who loves this movie, as far as I can tell, loves it because it makes them think. Now I may have this wrong, and I certainly understand praising it for its visual artistry, being ahead of its time, etc. But all that is in service of causing you to ponder man's relationship to technology, the role it plays in our evolution, where we came from and where we're going, etc. The movie ends with

*spoilers*
A man in a new form, the next step forward for the species in a sense, guided by some force from beyond - most likely extraterrestrial life. I call bs.
*/end spoilers*

Now, maybe I'm just not curious enough, and I know I will be put down for being intellectually barren, dishonest, and/or arrogant. That's usually the one that gets thrown around: I'm just really arrogant to assume I can know truths about the universe. But honestly I don't find this line of thought compelling. Now if the movie was about something other than this and just happened to hold that viewpoint as well, kind of a side conversation to the main plot, I think I'd be okay. After all, I differ ideologically with practically every well-known filmmaker. Kubrick isn't alone, he's just more prominent than some. Yet a lot of the joy that people seem to derive from the deliberate parade of images (aesthetically pleasing though they be) is in pondering these questions, guided by the film's perspective.

I don't believe in alien life - particularly super intelligent life - beyond our planet. I don't discount the possibility but personally I don't think it likely. I don't believe mankind emerged from a common ancestry with apes, etc nor do I think the way we learned to build and communicate is a mystery. In my view man began as complex and intelligent as he ever would be, and has only deteriorated over time. And I don't feel that any hope for our kind has to do with ascending to another plane, or gaining a better consciousness, or evolving into something better. Perhaps by coming into contact with a higher intelligence we would indeed be advanced, but that's as far as the film's speculation mirrors my own.

So while I appreciate the scientific rigidity that some of the film holds to, and while I think the HAL segment is wonderfully tense movie-making, and while I think some of the shots are beautiful - I can't bring myself to find it intellectually enriching or anything deeper than simple mastery of craft. I don't fault the author of the book or Kubrick necessarily. I think if you start from their viewpoint they did a pretty good job of making something of value out of it. It just isn't for me.

Also I wish this would show up in paragraphs, the way I wrote it.

The Hudsucker Proxy

An okay Coen Brothers movie that never seems to quite find its footing. I enjoyed some of the surreal touches, the ending included, and of course it has that great look and sound that we come to expect. However, when it veers into funny sometimes we're so taken aback we aren't sure we can laugh, and even the jokes that are there sometimes only get a chuckle because they're so dumb. Jennifer Jason Leigh, for all the fun she probably had making this, has two voices - and neither of them are convincing in the slightest. The whole thing just fails to impress, squeezed between marvels like Barton Fink and Fargo.

Without a Paddle
½

This movie is almost completely unoriginal and has very few amusing moments. Its characters emotional developments come out of nowhere, totally anti-climactic, and nothing anyone does makes much sense. I can easily eschew sense in a comedy if the result is funny but here it is tired and rote. Nothing to see here but lame physical gags and forced sex jokes.

Edward Scissorhands

A dark comedy that is more tragic than its creators seem to realize. There's a satirical, light comic tone throughout much of the movie that failed to distract me from the eternal distress of its central character, the good-hearted synthetic boy Edward. A prisoner in his own body, I often felt more like I was watching something akin to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, only without the seriousness. As Scissorhands, Edward can never have a moment's peace. How can he enjoy a romantic relationship, or, heck, even a good night's sleep? It's amazing he hasn't bled to death in his bed by the time we meet him. The character isn't "quirky": he's a victim of circumstance who longs for connection but is doomed from the get-go. The ending of the film is surprisingly dark given the pastel tones of the first half but there's honestly no other direction it could go. I feel like key scenes are mishandled and opportunities are missed - so Edward Scissorhands to me is a curiosity but one that I'll keep at a distance.

Amadeus
Amadeus(1984)

I identified closely with Salieri and some of his scenes were truly moving. He is the heart of the film and his struggles are what make this film worth experiencing. Mozart on the other hand feels like he is not from that time period - neither Tom Hulce nor Jeffery Jones looks like they belong in those period wigs. It's a much more irreverent take than I would have expected, but perhaps now on a second viewing I would appreciate it more.

Children of Men

A great dystopian chase thriller. If you expect a cerebral sci-fi film you'll be disappointed (I was the first time around) but there are passages here of great emotional beauty as well as virtuoso camera/production work.

Super Troopers
½

You ever been with a group of friends watching a video of them cutting up and being generally as immature as possible? You ever notice how those things are only really funny to the people involved?

Fargo
Fargo(1996)
½

This movie made me want to see anything and everything with Frances McDormand in it. Her officer Marge is sensationally likable and sensible - a stark contrast to just about everyone else who is caught up in a web of selfish violence, greed, deception and desperation. Fargo is a smart, observant movie and the more I watch it more funny/tragic it seems. With a talented cast of character actors (among whom Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare are king) and filmsmiths as good as the Coens, it's hard to go wrong. Perfect score as well!

Magnolia
Magnolia(1999)
½

Acting and camera work is top-notch. The characters are miserable and so was sitting through much of this movie, even if it did have a refreshing (though tonally inconsistent) climax. There are touches of subtle humor and humanity that are really wonderful, but the movie gets bogged down with its melodrama and relentless gloominess. Paul Thomas Anderson is an amazing director whose films are falling just short of greatness. This is his fourth movie that I have seen (Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood) and I'm still waiting for the one that works on every level.

Walk the Line

Convincing performances by Phoenix and Witherspoon, but otherwise the movie does absolutely nothing to stand out from other cookie-cutter biopics. It's slow, humorless, and has almost no memorable scenes or lines. There are lots of cliche moments which, if taken verbatim from Cash's biography, then I will forgive as being examples of (admittedly sad) truth - however if this is simply the best the screenwriters could do to paraphrase key events in Cash's life they needed to do a few re-writes. The record producer telling him to believe in himself? His wife saying "I want you, John?" These are generic drama scenes that practically write themselves. To the extent that this movie accurately accounts Cash's life, it's tragic. To the extent that it doesn't, it's dead formula.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

I hadn't seen this movie since I was younger, so I gave it another try - this time in a theater (and I believe it was an updated version with new scenes). I liked the movie more this time around, but I still don't think it totally works. The family scenes are completely irritating and full of irrational behavior not caused by aliens. The conclusion still drags and the whole movie lacks a real sense of direction or urgency. However the effects are still marvelous and in fact the appearance of the mothership almost made me gasp, seeing it on the big screen like that. A sense of scale is needed to really appreciate this film. Also some early encounters, particularly Roy in the truck and Barry's abduction, are creepy and otherworldly in just the right way. The cast is good, helmed by Dreyfuss who is nevertheless one of the less memorable Spielberg protagonists - Hooper in Jaws seemed to have more personality. It's a mixed bag but I don't regret going back to this one.

The Blair Witch Project
½

There's nothing scarier than being lost in the woods at night. Nothing. This movie basically bluffs its way through with a handful of nothing and I highly doubt it would be as effective on a second viewing, but on a first watch it's terrifying. Seeing a forest at night through a camera lens, the nearest trees too starkly white in the limited-range light and the areas beyond falling into darkness, anything could show up out of the black. Anything at all. This movie wisely knows that our imaginations will take this scenario and run with it, once again proving that what is not seen is scarier than what is shown. The most intense parts of movies like [rec] and 28 Weeks Later have followed the example set here. Is it a good movie? I'm not sure. Characters are broadly drawn, do stupid things and argue like idiots. But does it scare? Absolutely. I'm actually surprised I don't see more love for this film.

In the Mouth of Madness
½

The problem with In the Mouth of Madness is the same that afflicts many horror offerings. It's best when it's creepy and mysterious, but if it doesn't build to some kind of confrontation or climax, we feel let down and the film has no sense of direction. However, if it does, it inevitably loses the evasive, nightmarish quality that attracted us in the first place. I appreciated the Lovecraftian, Eternal Darkness-esque nature of this movie and felt it tried valiantly to put on screen the kind of psychological terror that, unfortunately, seems to work best through the written word. To see that, one need look no further than the film itself. When John Trent (Sam Neill) finds himself staring through a hole in space-time (or something like that), we hear Julie Carmen's Stiles reading an excerpt from the latest pulp horror novel by fictional writer Sutter Cain. The morose language coaxed the mind into dredging up unspeakable atrocities against the very fabric of reality as we know it. The visual representations we see in the next scene simply can't measure up. Carpenter has some good special effects in this movie but also many that feel more dated than they should. On more than one occasion I laughed when I knew I was supposed to be creeped out. Some scares absolutely work and on the whole I didn't mind that the movie was disconnected since I felt disorientation was part of its intent. Sam Neill is great at this type of role. Julie Carmen is not great at all. It's an interesting idea but it just doesn't quite work, except for some of the sequences in the middle, particularly the hotel scenes. The ending is wacky but I admit I don't get it.

The Innocents
½

Being an older black and white movie from an era where modern horror was just getting started with the likes of Psycho the year before, I was expecting a fairly tame experience with this. Boy was I wrong! This movie is creepy as heck. Its visuals are gorgeous and the camera movement and shot composition are impeccable, constantly ratcheting up the tension and mystery. Chilling isn't the word - I've been watching horror movies all month and this is the first one to set me on edge. With a big creaky mansion, two enigmatic children and one riveting central performance, The Innocents reminded me of The Others only 40 years older and still thrilling. It's a haunted house classic.

Robin Hood
Robin Hood(2010)
½

Well-made, pretty, with a strong cast, and dull dull dull. This movie seems to have no identity of its own. It's like a mishmash of Gladiator, Braveheart, Troy, and other big-for-their-britches epics, only there are very few rousing set pieces or emotional moments. Russell Crowe speaks in a whisper the whole time. This one of the only English movies where I needed subtitles on for the entire running length just to understand what the characters are on about. Remember when Robin Hood was about fun and adventure? Now it's about... what, a former soldier who turns into an anachronistic voice for democracy, but ultimately ends up happy as an outlaw communist? Blanchett is practically wasted as Marion, a spunky working-class girl who does shades of Eowyn by the end, although comparisons to The Lord of the Rings movies are unfavorable. Remember when those battles meant something because we cared about the characters and had an idea of what was at stake? What happened to the humor in these epics? People who lived before 1900 had personalities, too. I think the best we got was Max Von Sydow making a joke about morning wood. No thanks.

Red
Red(2010)

Amazing cast for a barely-there story hung on action movie tropes. Everyone in this movie is great and clearly having fun with what is honestly very silly. Red doesn't try to be more than that which kills the chance that you'll feel any of the scenes emotionally, but it also means that it's light and goes down easy. I have never read the graphic novel this is based on, but there are scenes I can imagine as dynamic panels, such as when Moses (Bruce Willis) creates a diversion by cooking some bullets on his stove. The shots in that scene are creatively composed to, I think, give the feel of the comic. That style seems less assured as the movie goes on, though. John Malkovich is hilarious as he often is, Mary Louise-Parker is sweet and one of only two characters who reveals any growth or change throughout the film. The other is Karl Urban's ambitious CIA operative who starts out as a faceless Agent-Smith type but ends up a bit more interesting than that. Not much, but a little. And then it's always good seeing Helen Mirren still looking sexy at 65 (!) years old. The story is totally forgettable, Morgan Freeman doesn't get to do much, and there are a lot of cliches and impossible stunts going around - not the least of which is John Malkovich shooting a rocket out of the air with a hand gun. As far as old Bruce Willis starring in action movies, this isn't as viscerally exciting as Die Hard 4 or as thought provoking as Surrogates, but it's still a passably entertaining romp.

500 Days of Summer
½

It's like Annie Hall but not as good. Still a very observant film that breaks rom-com conventions and should be popular with people my age because most of us can identify with Gordon-Levitt's character in some way. Maybe some of us even identify with Summer, although the movie isn't set up to allow us that easily. The leads are good and while the dialog doesn't sparkle, it isn't meant to. It's supposed to be pretty real, including the awkwardness and lack of cleverness that often invades our daily conversations. Best moment: Seeing your reflection as Han Solo. This has happened at least once in every young man's life. Worst moment: The ending is a cop-out AND a poor joke.

Moon
Moon(2009)

Liked it. Great looking movie that was not at all what I expected but once I warmed up to what it was doing I enjoyed the ride. Comparisons to 2001 are inevitable, though this film is pretty lightweight by that measure and reminds me more of Gattica or Blade Runner. That Moon is in the company of such films is to its credit. Rockwell is great, story glued me to the screen even if I spent a good deal of time shaking my head and saying "what??". This is a movie that treats its audience as intelligent and trusts us to fill in any gaps.

Also, did you notice that "Luke" is written over one of Sam's consoles, but it is scribbled out and he has written "Judas" next to it. I imagine there are lots of these little details in the film.

Sixteen Candles
½

Surprisingly funny and sweet teen comedy/fantasy. Most wouldn't classify it as fantasy but this movie engages in high school escapades that, let's face it, only happen in the movies. Still I laughed a lot at the general nuttiness and reasonably funny script. The movie absolutely soars through its first 40 minutes during which we meet young Molly Ringwald, a sweet if self-centered teen who is the heart and soul of the film. Once we leave the school dance and move later into the evening's revelries, the movie starts to lose touch with the bit of reality that made it so endearing initially. However it's still funny and Anthony Michael Hall emerges as an unlikely hero. Plus it's one of the better uses of a PG movie's one F-bomb. God bless the 80's - Sixteen Candles is almost better as a look back at an era than I imagine it would have been to a contemporary. On its way to being a classic.

Session 9
Session 9(2001)

The abandoned asylum in which most of Session 9 takes place is a wonderfully creepy, foreboding location. Basically it is the movie, and really deserved a better film to take place there. Unfortunately, I hear it's since been removed so there will never be another chance.

This movie is moody and tense in spots, but it's not nearly consistent enough. Just when the suspense is about to ratchet up for one character, they switch to another shot or three of other characters running around somewhere else, breaking the spell. Eventually you can see this is done to cover up the movie's secrets until its messy and unsatisfying reveal. Session 9, despite apparently having a talented crew and all the atmosphere they could ask for, resorts to gimmick sound effects during transitions and random footage including a spider attacking a bug when what the actors are doing should be enough to hold our attention.

The cast is actually pretty good overall, even Mr. Sunglasses himself, David Caruso. He has one hilarious line reading exacerbated by the cheesy camera angle but otherwise not bad. It would be nice to see some characters in a horror movie who work together for once, although depending on how you interpret the story there could be a good reason why these guys don't.

I couldn't help but think there was a world of untapped potential here. Only one scene I felt truly stood out as utilizing the setting for maximum effect - when Hank goes back at night for his treasure. But what about the signature chair? The dark subterranean tunnels? The wings reserved for extreme cases? The place where Hank finds his stash? There was just so much that could have been done with this the result feels tepid compared to what I would have imagined.

Audition (Ôdishon)

The film's not completely without value but it's rather punishing to the audience. Also this may have no bearing but from the DVD extras Director Takashi Miike seems like a huge tool and his very pretentious movie swings between dull, hateful, and just plain incomprehensible. Perhaps by ending his story a little differently Miike could have opened up doors to broader interpretations, but even that wouldn't excuse the reason for this movie's existence, which seems to be its sadistic third-act torture sequence. By the time I was finished watching I was asking myself why I bothered.

Let the Right One In

Add this to the pantheon of most disgusting screen kisses.

Really liked the movie, though. By far the best vampire flick I've ever seen, with a really sweet and conflicting young budding romance plus bursts of violence and a very satisfying finale. Extremely slow paced and quiet. Though once again I feel bad for not understanding whole plot points that maybe should have been obvious. Also: CGI cats? That's one laughable wtf scene in the movie that feels rather out of place.

Due Date
Due Date(2010)
½

The hilarious trailers for this film unfortunately give a lot of the best gags. Robert Downey Jr could make a root canal entertaining so no problems there - even his opening speech had me giggling. The man is something else. Although his presence along with that of Michelle Monaghan recalls the uproarious Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a movie whose humor is a shade darker but much funnier. Galifianakis is also funny, though there's a hint of negativity in what he does that grates me a little bit. He doesn't have Downey's gift for being likable even when he's being a jerk (or Steve Carell's, or Bill Murray's).

Together they are consistently entertaining to watch and I chuckled frequently - sometimes even spat (apologies to the young people sitting in front of me) - but rarely if ever laughed out loud. Like Dinner for Schmucks earlier this year, Due Date has a little of what I'm calling Dr. Leo Marvin Syndrome. By the end of the movie Downey's character has suffered so much that we almost want him to kill his bumbling partner. Also what's with the lapses in logic? This movie takes place mostly in what might be considered the real world, but then they randomly ditch the cops after running the Mexican border and dropping a huge effing trailer in the road? The physical gags rarely work - it's the more subtle banter and its delivery that brings the laughs. And Danny McBride I don't think can be funny unless he's not really trying (see: Hot Rod).

I liked the movie. It's amusing and breezy but skews too dark and offensive at times, and it doesn't know how to deal with the tender moments its actors are capable of providing.

The Social Network

Very well written drama, engaging all the way through.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
½

It had its troubling moments but also its truly moving ones. Uneven pacing, excessive CGI and some cringe-worthy dialog get in the way of what should have been a masterpiece. As it is, it's still a harrowing conclusion to the prequels and by far the best of the three.

The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy
½

If you're a fan, this is a must-see. Who cares what anyone else thinks?

The Ghost Writer
½

Enjoyable drama/suspense. Sparse, deliberate, with good acting and a kind of European feel despite taking place mostly in America. Politics aren't my thing and the mystery seems thread-bear, but I guess that makes it more believable than most. Liked the ending and the music, but thought the rest of this movie was better than a couple of glaring cliches it employs.

The Book of Eli

This mostly sombre, washed-out tale of a world after an unspecified apocalypse gets points for Washington and Oldman and for being that rare Hollywood movie that treats the Bible with a little respect. Its messages are mixed and its ending is preposterous, but it's a serviceable genre entry until then. The fights are cool, there's a nice tracking shot during a shootout, and this is the second movie I've seen this year in which the front part of a house collapses from extreme bullet fire. Otherwise it drags its feet a bit and the setting becomes oppressive.

The Runaways
The Runaways(2010)

As much as I love movies about music - and make no mistake, this one makes me want to rock - the film itself is too often raunchy and embarrassing. Some of that can't be helped. The Runaways music was a bit of both. It's just the film seems abrupt. It's more like an outline of the Runaways' career than it is a movie about any actual people. Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning put on the costumes and do a fine job but the script and the direction is at best run-of-the-mill. I didn't believe the way things happened, none of the other girls in the band got a chance to do anything, especially Alia Shawkat who completely disappears. Some of the concert scenes are fun and it's always great listening to the primal rock sounds the Jett and co put forward, but there's no real narrative drive or depth of character. We just see a bunch of things happening. As Cherie Currie, Fanning has the most characterization (the film is based on Currie's book) but Jett is, imo, more interesting and I would have liked to learn more about her. Disappointed.

Disney's A Christmas Carol
½

I had no interest in this but after seeing it, it gets a lot right. The story has been done a thousand times and it's been done better (even by Disney! Mickey's Christmas Carol, anyone?) - but not so much better as to make this superfluous. The motion capture and animation is at times astounding, voice acting is generally good (though headliner Carrey is maybe not the best of the pack), and, perhaps surprisingly, despite the newfangled look Disney's 2009 update has a traditional core. The dialog is very faithful to Dickens and the scenes that should have emotional resonance still do. I liked that it wasn't afraid to be a little dark and the least bit frightening. Good watch around the holidays.

The Kids Are All Right
½

Oppressively awkward, which has very little to do with the premise and everything to do with the fact that no scene can pass in this movie without at least one character being extremely embarrassing. Reminds me of Little Miss Sunshine which I also hated, though by the end this has a bit more going for it.

True Grit
True Grit(2010)
½

For the Coens this is an awfully standard genre exercise, and ends up as a middle-tier effort from them but as a simple western it's spectacular. As with No Country for Old Men, somehow the novel's dialog blends perfectly with the brothers' quirky sensibilities to create a movie that is fun to listen to. Hailee Steinfeld is wonderful as Mattie Ross, the little girl who hires Jeff Bridges' Marshall Cogburn to avenge the death of her father. Matt Damon is less convincing and is maybe a bit of a casting flub but he does well enough. Rock solid but maybe less than memorable.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Well, Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning are in two movies together this year and both are pretty terrible. Eclipse is no worse than the first Twilight, but it isn't much of an improvement either. The film still feels tedious and self-serious, a tone which clashes with the obvious ridiculousness of the central "love" triangle (two supernatural beings fighting over a personality-free girl-next-door? Please). The violence is still tame and bloodless, further bastardizing the already tenuous legacy of vampires and werewolves in media. At least this year's tepid The Wolfman had some balls.

During long stretches nothing interesting happens, only to be interrupted by short bursts of action that are still uninteresting, only less so. Call me surprised, but Edward emerges as the hero of this one. He's the only sympathetic character. Bella is too busy being a two-faced slime and Jacob is self-satisfied and can't leave well enough alone. I think the real reason Edward is putting off biting Bella is because he doesn't want to be stuck with her for eternity. If this movie needed anything, it was more Bryce Dallas Howard who is still beautiful despite being pale and scary. Oh and the talented Anna Kendrick shows up giving the worst high school graduation speech ever invented.

His Girl Friday
½

What it lacks in humor in makes up in pure speed.

Winter's Bone
½

Maybe the best portrayal of poor mountain life I've ever seen on film. The setting is Mississippi but it could just as easily be West Virginia. The sights and sounds are right down to the smallest detail. Even Jennifer Lawrence's accent sounds legitimate and I can usually tell fake southern accents a mile away. The story itself is not likely, and I feel like on the whole the characters are too quiet - if they were really in these situations I'd expect things to become more boisterous. Not the most exciting film of the year but very well crafted and it's worth seeing for that.

The Grapes of Wrath

Great cinematography - from the opening shot you can tell that the composition is purposeful and artistic. Loved the character of John Carradine as the confused former preacher. Characters speak in an interesting way. There are lots of great scenes and plenty of emotional power. The last 15 minutes are, in my opinion, the weakest, giving way to some nonsense about a collective soul and waxing poetic about the people of the land, etc. The message is given by the film without needing the characters to speak it outright. Still, a much better movie than I expected.

Exit Through The Gift Shop
½

Fascinating, captivating, thought-provoking, and occasionally very funny. Doesn't look like much but tells a ripping good yarn.

Kind Hearts and Coronets
½

Love how black and occasionally subtle the humor is. I definitely admire the movie although it is so restrained and the circumstances so silly and logic-defying that it isn't something I'd say I love. Alec Guinness is of course great as every (expendable) member of the D'Ascoyne clan, and the lead is a perfect sociopath. Sort of flounders in places and is a bit uneven, with a terrible sham of a court scene near the end (and a very obvious conclusion). Nevertheless one to be enjoyed.

Edge of Darkness
½

Better than I expected. Martin Campbell is now making great action pictures pretty regularly. This is no Casino Royale but it's better than Taken or even Gibson's previous Payback. The detective story/revenge fantasy is suspenseful and full of strong performances even in small supporting roles. Gibson was born to play roles like this and has been doing it for quite a while, so the fact that he's right at home here is no surprise. Jettisoning any Bourne-esque hand-to-hand combat and going for a more reeled-in, punctuated momentum, Edge of Darkness wastes no time getting things moving but then pushes dutifully to its (admittedly foregone) conclusion. Just a very well done movie all around.

The Lady Vanishes
½

Lots of fun - more than a little silly but has that whodunnit feel and turns into a nice action picture in the last act.

Brief Encounter

Exemplary drama about a woman's affair with a doctor she meets while waiting for a train. The exceptional thing about the movie is that it describes human emotion so well. I can't help but think a version without narration could have been better, but it gave it a little noir feel and I'm a sucker for that. It's well written and acted and if you've ever done a bad thing in your life the feelings that these characters experience will seem authentic. A heartbreaking story, in more than one way.

The King's Speech
½

Fine, fine performances from Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Firth will get most of the attention because he's playing both a historical figure AND someone with a disability. Usually either one of those is enough to get someone an Oscar, but do both and you're basically a shoe-in. However Rush is extraordinarily fun to watch as well, and it's nice to see Guy Pearce here if only for a little while (and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill). The story itself is nothing too special but it showed that something as ordinary as reading a speech can generate a very good movie and inspire Rocky-like cheers. I'm not big on period pieces or stuffy aristocratic dramas but this one is engaging and visually interesting.

Also I should mention it's a crime this is rated R. It would be PG without one particular scene (the funniest in the film as well), and I think PG-13 would be more appropriate. Though I guess that would just get people's panties in a bunch...

Knight & Day
Knight & Day(2010)

Very watchable. Completely vapid, stupid, sort of wannabe Bond that never quite wants to be a parody of action movies but can't be taken remotely seriously either. Yet the easy charisma of its actors and its pleasant disposition make it hard to hate.

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)

The best Aronofsky film I've seen to date. Black Swan is a discomforting, occasionally ugly but also graceful, assured, and layered movie. As far as I'm concerned Natalie Portman has never given a better performance and should be Oscar nominated for her role. This seems like a film that will reward multiple viewings. There is so much symbolism I can't really make out what everything means yet. Probably I'm not meant to.

All About Eve
½

A sharp, smart script glows through an incandescent cast in All About Eve, a wonderful drama about an aging stage actress and the adoring fan who will do anything to be her. Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, and particularly George Sanders all give top notch performances. The film has elements of noir (it's the same year as Sunset Blvd and has some overlapping themes) but is a more buoyant drama. The screenplay is full of little gems - double meaning, foreshadowing, euphemism. I suspect multiple viewings will reveal more nuances. That's not to say the picture is particularly subtle - it's just broadly entertaining and satisfying with great characters.

The American
The American(2010)

Surprised how much I liked this. It's a very slow, quiet movie with assured direction and a subtle performance from Clooney. Tense and beautiful.

Animal Kingdom

This Australian thriller will probably be little seen in the US. It's a shame too because it's very good. The story is about a 17 year old boy whose mother dies of an overdose and he goes to live with his extended family, all of whom are involved in crime and wanted by the armed robbery squad. It deftly deals with his commitment to them versus the effects on his life and how the police attempt to extricate him from a situation that could ruin him. It's no-frills, matter-of-fact direction and low-key suspense with great acting all around. Jacki Weaver was Oscar-nominated for her role as the doting but influential matriarch.

Devil
Devil(2010)
½

Devil has an interested premise but is flawed from the very start. The characters are not well-written and don't act like real people would. They get suspicious, snappy, and out of control far more easily than most people do in the company of strangers, even under duress. The descent into paranoia isn't natural or gradual. Then comes the fact that the film lacks a strong narrative pull - it's fragmented in too many ways. We never get enough time stuck in the elevator to build claustrophobia or focus on a taut set scene before cutting away to people running everywhere. There is little tension and almost no scares. Since we're told from the very beginning what kind of story this is, none of the red herrings are attractive. We don't take the bait. It ends up coming off as just silly. Big missed opportunity.

Valhalla Rising

Not one of these again. This movie is a like a hyper-violent version of The New World, shot through a cheap filter and using terrible, fake CG blood. Meaning it's mostly silent and static, lingering on grimy faces staring who knows where. For a while the mood holds, and you can get a lot of thinking done while the characters aren't speaking (the main character says no words and the entire script must be about a page long) but eventually it gives way to tedium and the movie is not that long. I could construct a meaning for this plotless drudgery but it would be almost pure arbitration as few real clues can be found. An unpleasant experience at best.

The Other Guys
½

To me there were three big must-see comedies this year. Dinner for Schmucks with Carell and Rudd, Due Date with Downey Jr. and Gallifianakis, and The Other Guys, with Ferrell and Wahlberg. The Other Guys is easily the best of the three. It's no Anchorman or Hot Fuzz, but it's the most I've laughed at a film this year. Runs too long, and the plot doesn't even begin to make sense, but who cares? If it's funny it works, and thankfully The Other Guys is most of the time.

Cyrus
Cyrus(2010)

I'm getting really tired of this awkward indie dramedy genre. It's never done anything for me, though this is one of the best I've seen. The actors are good in their parts and about halfway through it hits its stride as Reilly's character becomes more confident and Jonah Hill's character becomes more pronounced in his intentions. Very weird in a lot of spots, and don't be fooled by the advertising; this is not a comedy movie, at least in the modern sense of the word. If you expect to laugh, you will likely be let down. Cringing, on the other hand, is definitely on the menu.

Buried
Buried(2010)

Exhausting thriller that left me completely drained, yet thankful for every gasp of air and drop of cold water. I love these high concept thrillers, especially those that take place in limited spaces (Rope, Reservoir Dogs) and this one does not disappoint. It's scary, stylish and completely committed. A theater viewing would be ideal but since most people are going to catch it on DVD, force yourself to watch it in one sitting and not take any breaks. If you're in the dark, all the better.

The Wages of Fear

Wonderfully tense and gritty but seems to go on and on. The ending is likely to provoke a whole range of reactions: mine was laughter.

Stalag 17
Stalag 17(1953)
½

Good movie, but a lot of the comic elements don't really work. They're a clash of tone with the more sober aspects of the story. It's a similar problem to the one that plagued The Great Escape, though this movie is shorter and William Holden plays a much better and more believable character than Steve McQueen. Stalag 17 is well paced and has some exciting "ah-ha!" moments, especially near the end.

Ikiru
Ikiru(1956)
½

The third Kurosawa I've seen and I think I'm finally starting to understand his films (at least a little bit). I almost think of this as a Japanese "It's a Wonderful Life." A melodramatic tale about a dying man who decides he has to do something with his life before his disease takes it. Indulgent partying and a young girlfriend fail to satisfy before he decides he will use the soul-sucking job he's wasted away at for 30 years to do his last good deed. There are some big surprises in the story structure and sympathetic performances, not to mention strong visuals and reflections on life, family and bureaucracy. Unfortunately the film drags at points, mostly in the final act when there isn't enough story to fill the hour. Still, the universal themes make this a fairly accessible movie and it's my favorite Kurosawa so far.

The Road (La Strada)

Wasn't a big fan of this one. Giulietta Masina is great - she IS this movie. Every emotion is clearly conveyed on her expressive, doll-like face. She's like a silent film star born after her time, and finds a place here in this somewhat solemn road movie. Basically a girl is sold into slavery and develops Stockholm Syndrome. There are moments of joy and sorrow but not much that really sticks out.

Castle in the Sky

I feel like this is an underrated effort from Miyazaki and his team. It's a grand adventure story with his signature creativity and visual style. Not as weird as Princess Mononoke or even Spirited Away, this might be a little more accessible to someone unfamiliar with the style. Even the English dub is pretty good.

The Killing
The Killing(1956)

I've always been a little cold on Kubrick - I'm impartial to some of his career defining works (2001, Dr Strangelove) and hold others in contempt (A Clockwork Orange). This one, though, I liked. A great noir/heist film with jumpy chronology and startling violence for its time - an obvious influence on a slew of other more modern genre pieces. Like a robbery, it's well-planned, gets in and out fast, and has a foregone yet somehow surprising (and sudden) ending.

A Streetcar Named Desire
½

Not sure how I feel about this movie, except to say that it's been censored almost to the point of

High Noon
High Noon(1952)
½

One of the best westerns (no pun inntended) I've seen. Brisk, tense, to-the-point, with a great cast and a signature look. Never succumbs to talkiness and the stark cinematography is a perfect compliment to this man-against-the-world story.

Gladiator
Gladiator(2000)
½

Not brilliant but a good epic anchored by Crowe and Phoenix.

Witness for the Prosecution

What a third act! What has to this point been a relatively straightforward (though very good) mystery/courtroom drama spins out of control towards a conclusion that you'll never believe. In all actuality I kind of wish it had ended one twist earlier, which would have led to perhaps a more sobering ending, but I can't complain too much. I loved Laughton in this from the first scene and he's great all the way through, though the film wouldn't have worked without Marlene Dietrich as the titular witness. This movie still looks beautiful today and thrills almost every bit as much as imagine it did in 1957. In the top half of Billy Wilder's exceptional filmography.

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Great movie, long but exceptionally well-paced with class performances by Alec Guinness and William Holden (along with supporters). I have to admit I was worried about this after thinking Lawrence of Arabia was not very interesting but it seems to be the exception for Lean rather than the rule.

Paths of Glory

One of the greatest of all war movies and my favorite Kubrick film of those I've seen. Kirk Douglas gives a stirring performance and the whole thing is pretty much pitch perfect. Nothing is wasted, and the way it is shot puts you right in the action, whether that be on the battlefield, in the courtroom, or in front of a firing squad.

Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3(2010)
½

It's not just good, it's Pixar good. Might be the darkest and funniest in the series. It's a lesser movie than the first two installments only insofar as it needs them to exist. Parallels to things that happened before and familiar lines of dialog make up a few too many of the jokes. Other than that, it's supremely pleasing, tender, funny, and satisfying experience. 3D effect is unobtrusive but you'd enjoy the movie just as much in 2D so don't sweat it if your theater only has that version. Pure joy and pathos from beginning to end.

Hanna
Hanna(2011)
½

Looks and sounds spectacular, with the perfect actress at its center. I think people aren't going to know what to make of this - for a coming of age drama its light on character and insight. For an action movie it drags its feet a bit. You could see these things as flaws, and maybe they are. But it's kind of an unusual mix of spy movie tropes and art movie style - a bit European road trip movie, a bit Bourne Identity - that it's a fun curiosity. Actually I think Saoirse Ronan is a more interesting heroine than Matt Damon. She easily conveys both wonder and indignation, fear and ferocity. Occasionally the film's style overwhelms it and it gives into cliche, but in other ways it feels very fresh. Its feet are planted in action/thriller territory but its head is in a more experimental stratum. Whether you will like it or not just depends on your tolerance for that kind of occasionally uneven mix. Personally I found it very likable.

Wild Strawberries

Not awful but pretty dull and not nearly as interesting as The Seventh Seal. There are a lot of good things about the movie: symbolism that isn't too heavy-handed, a feuding couple that works it out like real people do, a subtle and sincere performance from the lead, etc. None of them added up to a really compelling experience for me, though. I found myself indifferent to the flashback sequences and wanting to know more about the daughter-in-law.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Maybe not as crazy as advertised, but a very fun and unusual cop movie.

The Apartment

Another hit from Billy Wilder. Acting, script, cinematography, pacing: all top notch. It's not overly funny or overly touching but in some weird way that's exactly why it works. It walks a sometimes uneasy line between an unlikely, farcical situation and treating its characters like real people. The result is strangely compelling and memorable.

Touch of Evil

Brilliantly shot and directed - no surprise from the talent behind Citizen Kane. The opening sequence, done in a single crane shot, is masterful and sets the anticipation high for the rest of the film. The winding plot is a little hard to pull out of all the curious, overlapping dialog which gets a bit tiring as the film goes on. The overall pacing, though, is excellent. I didn't care about all the pieces but the two leads' (Heston and Welles) rivalry and divergent methods for justice are interesting enough to pull us through.

The Room
The Room(2003)

It would be hard to make a worse movie than this.

The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups)
½

Technically it's just about perfect. I love the way the camera moves, and the way the boy is flawed by sympathetic. We start out by looking at him much the way the teacher does, but as we start to see how things unfold we grow to realize his predicament is partially his fault but is exacerbated by his circumstances. Nothing particularly exciting happens - it's a bit low key for me to get really enthused about it - but the ending, while initially baffling, makes more sense as I think about it. Still, this is the kind of movie I respect but don't love.

The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet)
½

Rich movie, very influential, and fairly heavy. Not nearly as off-putting as you'd imagine it to be, The Seventh Seal has interesting characters who hold different views on life, death and God. Some wish to believe, some have faded into cynicism, some follow rote religion, and others just try to get by - but all are followed by the one eventuality they can't escape: death. Early in the movie it seemed very staged, and I wasn't sure about the quality of the production. As it went on those concerns faded and the careful photography and script took center stage. Not probably something I'll be running back to see again any time soon, but with all its symbols and layers this movie will likely deserve another viewing.

Judgment at Nuremberg

Incredible that a film this long without anything that would normally be called "action" is so involving. Great acting all around, skillful direction and pacing, and of course a true storyline that is emotional to almost everyone.

127 Hours
127 Hours(2010)
½

Enthusiastically directed by Danny Boyle, who makes this a very watchable 90 minute movie composed of very few actual events. It's a lot of (very pretty) filler which sometimes succeeds at getting us inside Ralston's experience and other times serves to distance us from his situation.

The Hustler
The Hustler(1961)

Beautiful black and white cinematography, with just the right angles for everything and just the right performers as well. Pool is, imo, not that interesting a subject but these guys make it look ridiculously cool. Paul Newman has never been better, and co-stars Gleason and Scott shine as well. A little long and a little slow but curiously involving even if you're not a big pool shark.

Sherlock Jr.
Sherlock Jr.(1924)
½

Great stunts, very compact - a better place to start with Keaton than The General.

Source Code
Source Code(2011)
½

Sort of a lightweight compared to some of its genre brothers, but an amicable and diverting film that doesn't overstay its welcome. The main cast is solid, even giving us a bit of pathos near the end. I'm also not sure that it actually makes any sense. If you can forgive the movie for not playing by the rules, you should have a good time.

Yojimbo
Yojimbo(1961)

I feel like I can't really give this film its due, since I couldn't get through it all at once. It took me four separate days to make it through a movie that's less than two hours long. Maybe I just started at a bad time each day, but that doesn't say anything particularly flattering about this film. There are great scenes and then there are stretches where it's too quiet for too long and my mind starts to wander. This is probably my favorite Mifune role that I've seen so far, but in terms of Kurasawa I prefer Ikiru.

X-Men: First Class
½

What is there to say about this? It's a mess: funny when it's trying to be touching, full of mostly good actors who are mostly miscast... basically everything you expect after seeing the trailer. It's better than Wolverine: Origins but that isn't saying a whole lot.

8 1/2
8 1/2(1963)

Hard to know what to make of this. The "story" is either very simple or very complex - more likely it's simple but the way in which it is told is complex. It mirrors in many cases the mental state of its central character, a stressed film director with writer's block. He's surrounded by critics, self-important puzzle pieces, distractions of every kind, and women with whom he has tumultuous relationships. There are more than a few brilliant moments and the film feels sort of chopped up into them, but this seems appropriate since we are often lapsing in and out of his memories and his current life, both of which inform his fantasies. This is a beautiful, complicated, messy, bold movie. If you can enjoy sifting through it without demanding hard explanations, there's much to be enjoyed.

Rosemary's Baby
½

I like the style and tone of this 60's drama/horror/thriller. It's nicely restrained for the most part, with some effective dream sequences and a lot of paranoia. At some points we feel the protagonist might really be crazy, though the film never goes for an "is she or isn't she" Beautiful-Mind-style plot. I feel like the ending of the movie doesn't really have the kick that it should - it actually made me laugh at how goofy it all suddenly was. But up until that point the spare clues and general unrest were all very well done.

Unknown
Unknown(2011)

Nothing you haven't seen before.

Event Horizon
½

It scared me less the second time but I liked it more.

Midnight in Paris

I may have been too tired or too illiterate to give this its due. This a sleepily paced, beautiful-looking and understatedly funny romantic fantasy in which a man seemingly born after his time comes across his literary heroes while wandering the streets of Paris at night. Many of the supporting players are very amusing in that sly academic way, not the least of which being Ernest Hemingway, the author who (in this film anyway) is obsessed with courage and truth. He speaks some oddly observant lines among his babblings. The central story between Owen Wilson's character and that of his wife played by Rachel McAdams is not that interesting and they seem to have no chemistry or believability together. The film is worth a look for its setting and script, or for anyone who likes early 20th century art and literature.

Insidious
Insidious(2011)

Has its problems but it will creep you out and make you jump.

Once Upon a Time in the West
½

Intense and impressive, Leone's directorial style doesn't disappoint; however, the at times painstaking Once Upon A Time in the West is decidedly less colorful and less fun than the Dollars trilogy - the sounds and the musical motifs at times border on annoying. Jason Robards as the wrongly accused outlaw emerges as the most sympathetic character. There's nothing wrong with the fact that the film takes its time, and has a low words-to-minutes ratio - you just have to sit down and be willing to take the scenic route.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
½

Powerful, abrasive, difficult to sit through. This move will wring reactions out of you. Though it's far from a pleasant experience, it is an interesting milestone in American cinema and the performances (which are top notch, especially from Richard Burton) as well as the story hold up today.

Super 8
Super 8(2011)
½

J.J. Abrams directs a Spielberg movie. It's The Goonies, Close Enounters, E.T., Jaws, Cloverfield and a bunch of other things mashed together and it mostly works. The principal cast of unknown children do a great job being both believable and funny and not super annoying. The film also does a great job of keeping its secrets well into the second hour so that the mystery builds slowly and the reveal has some kind of impact. The ending was the least bit lackluster and predictable but not without the touch of awe that the best Spielberg films provide. A solid effort.

Pandorum
Pandorum(2009)
½

Several wicked plot twists near the end were almost enough to redeem Pandorum, a sci-fi/horror flick with an intriguing concept that it just isn't competent enough to put over. Between the manic editing, whispered dialog, overacting and the sloppy way the film trickles information to the audience about what is happening, Pandorum is at times almost maddening; but more because you don't know what's going on than because of being alone in space. It has more in common with something like Doomsday than it does with its idols Alien and Event Horizon. Still, the ideas in the final act made me glad I saw it, even if I wish they had been in better hands.

The Ward
The Ward(2011)
½

I had a great time with this chiller from director John Carpenter. Is it drawing from a very familiar bag of tricks? Absolutely. Can you generally predict when scares are going to happen? Yes. Has the ending been done before? Most certainly. That said, none of this prevented me from really enjoying the ride. Amber Heard is excellent in this, and the combination of her casting and her character are what make this movie a step above. She's a likeable, plucky, smart, resourceful protagonist and she really wins us to her side so that we are constantly rooting for her to escape and find her answers. Because of that, the chase scenes feel thrilling in a very classic, satisfying way. While the ending is not particularly creative it does tie up a lot of the loose ends and for the most part everything starts to make sense. I feel like this is being underrated by people expecting the next Halloween. While it certainly lacks the distinctive and innovative feel of Carpenter's best films, The Ward is an effective and enjoyable horror/thriller.

Trainspotting
½

One of the best McGregor performances, this grimy, often straight-up nasty movie is a visually striking portrait of drug addiction. When it wants to be violent or disgusting it's exuberantly so; it definitely never transcends being pulpy. Better than Boyle's recent crowd-pleasers although I prefer his genre movies Sunshine and 28 Days Later.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Witty, fun, and tragic - a kind of strange and very specifically 1960's take on the western, Bonnie-and-Clyde style, with a couple of Graduate-esque musical interludes. It's the kind of movie that could only have been made at exactly the time it came about. Paul Newman, one of the most likable people in cinema, plays another anti-hero two years after his career-defining turn in Cool Hand Luke. His casting along with Redford and the light tone of the film suggest very little in the way of moral ambiguity. We are supposed to like and sympathize with these people - and like them we do, at least Butch. Sundance, the pessimist, is a harder case but is necessary to the pairing. The panoramic locations are great to look at even when the action slumps a bit in the middle.

Horrible Bosses
½

Funniest new comedy I've seen in a while. Laughed out loud multiple times, and of course I think Jason Bateman is always great. Tries too hard to find humor in obscenity but the timing and interaction of the leads mostly overcome.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

An ultimately unsatisfying behind-the-scenes look at Conan's road show. If you're a huge Conan fan you'll probably enjoy it (unless you think he comes off as rude), and while there are certain things here to treasure on the whole it just meanders. Actually seeing a performance of The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour is sure to be much more entertaining for all but the hardcore Team Coco card-carriers.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

A relatively poor comedy from legend Mel Brooks. It's a shame this Robin Hood parody falls so flat. Maybe it's the inevitable result of the way comedy changed in the 80's with joke-a-minute romps like Airplane! and The Naked Gun, and Brooks didn't know how to keep up. Brooks has some clever stuff here with word play and sight gags, but he lingers on his jokes too long. The pacing is way too slow for a comedy. It's like his actors just decided to stand around until someone felt like saying the next line. It's languid. This feels like a comedy that might have been funny about the same time as The Life of Brian (another terribly dated comedy) and it might have been edgy then, too. There are some laughs here but they're not consistent and a lot of the jokes feel forced. There's a guy who's name is Achoo. Get it? It's a funny name, cause it sounds like a sneeze. And also Dave Chappelle is black. Hilarious! Seriously, skip this one and watch one of the Naked Gun sequels instead.

Léon: The Professional

European drama collides with American crime thriller in this nutty mash-up with a breakout performance by Natalie Portman, a quietly vulnerable Jean Reno and a spastic Gary Oldman. Can't say I've seen anything quite like it.

Scream
Scream(1996)

The fun of Scream is in the way it sends up horror conventions. For a movie buff, it's fun to hear all the references to the classics. This film, made by the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street (but not the sequels which, according to Scream, sucked), references Halloween, Prom Night, The Exorcist, Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie, and other genre giants in a tone both reverential and playful. Scream starts out legitimately frightening (and surprisingly violent) but becomes more of a black comedy as it goes on. While that isn't necessarily bad and it keeps Scream from becoming simply another copy of its heroes, it's hard to know how to feel about it. For me, my reaction was muted.

Step Brothers
½

Like most comedies, it loses its way once it starts trying to have a plot. As long as it's just one scene of silliness after another, you could do much worse. It's not Anchorman but it's at least in the league of Talladega Nights.

Downfall (Der Untergang)
½

Dull, dull, dull. This movie drags on and on and, despite some good performances, is utterly unremarkable for about the first 95 minutes. First of all, we know basically what is going to happen. Secondly, even if we didn't, we never really get to know any of the characters which are already hard to distinguish in their matching uniforms. Third, even if we did get to know them, they're all Nazis, so we don't give a damn what happens to them anyway. It's all drab bunker interior with nothing in the script or cinematography to make it stand out. It's like a reenactment of someone's memoirs. Then, *SPOILERS FOR LIFE* after Hitler commits suicide *END LIFE SPOILERS* you'd think the movie is finally going to end - but it goes on for another 40 minutes! The good part is, the movie actually picks up at this point and becomes much more interesting. It starts to establish a real sense of the dread and despair as the regime falling apart around these people's heads. Unfortunately it's too little too late. Downfall collapses under its own solemn weight.

Clerks
Clerks(1994)
½

Not as awful as I originally thought, but Clerks is extremely episodic, feels longer than it is, and contains the sort of bracing vulgarity that will likely surprise even those who've heard it all. I don't really fault it for its acting and production values - they're about as good as they could be given the budget and level of experience of the people involved. The biggest problem is that it just isn't that funny, something I chalk up more to the performances than the script. I actually wondered during one scene how the actors were able to recite their dialog without laughing - the words had a humorous quality to them - yet this acknowledgement didn't translate into actual enjoyment for me. Perhaps a cast of talented comedians could have elevated this casually brash material.

Martha Marcy May Marlene
½

I'm writing this review to see if I can put together my thoughts on the film. The subject matter is dark and unsettling, so much so that my opinion of the film hinges largely on whether it's being trotted out merely for our entertainment or if there is something deeper to be said about identity and social constructs. The movie certainly isn't interested in giving us a surplus of information; and its storytelling style, while clever (and intentionally disorienting), seems designed to ratchet up tension and give us startling revelations more than to help us really understand the character of Marcy, played with gravitas by newcomer Elizabeth Olsen. The movie is drawing lots of comparisons to last year's Winter's Bone (they share John Hawkes as a scrawny but commanding country figure), and while Olsen doesn't get as juicy a part as Jennifer Lawrence, she's certainly up to the role of the confused and troubled Marcy. The 2010 movie was a triumph of setting and a decent modern noir story. Martha Marcy May Marlene's structure places it very much into the thriller genre, but its characters and themes are of a somewhat quieter, softer disposition. I suppose I liked the film, as much as anything else, for being so different from the sleek Hollywood movies I've been watching all year. This small-budget movie at least looks and feels mature, even if it takes a somewhat lurid interest in the abuse it never quite rails against.

Dog Day Afternoon
½

Thank you Lumet and Pacino for this exceptional movie, the best film I've ever seen about a botched bank robbery along with Reservoir Dogs (both films, coincidentally, have "dog" in the title). Al Pacino gives a wonderful performance as the complex, vulnerable, passionate and ultimately inept Sonny, whose well-intentioned heist is doomed from frame one. The opening scene is brilliantly fresh, funny, and tense - and while the rest of the movie can't match the magic of that first 20 minutes, it stays mostly moving and interesting (the exception being one expository scene that brings things to a halt). My favorite Lumet so far.

Contagion
Contagion(2011)
½

It's unemotional, even clinical, but not cynical, and extremely well-made. The only real problem is that there is virtually nothing new to do with the disaster movie formula. Soderbergh does everything we expect him to do and little we don't, but he does it with understated excellence.

The Skulls
The Skulls(2000)
½

A bad movie, but affably bad, like a mediocre episode of Smallville. Not one moment of it feels genuine, and there are no real surprises or convincing emotions. It's somewhat interesting to see actors like Joshua Jackson (Fringe), Paul Walker (Running Scared, The Fast and the Furious) and Leslie Bibb (Talladega Nights) in early roles. Very much a relic of its time.

Howl's Moving Castle

Beautiful and imaginative, like all Miyazaki's wonderful films. I wish that plot had been explained a bit more (even a line or two about what Sophie's curse actually was would have been nice) but the real joys of this film are nearly all visual. You can just see the art bursting to life on the screen.

The Iron Giant
½

The animation is crisp and very enjoyable to look at. The dialog is at times very smart and also decidedly more grown up than most. You can see the seeds of greatness here that director Bird would eventually mine at the helm of two of Pixar's finest films, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. The biggest issue for me is that the film feels rushed, especially the ending. At least one major plot point is quickly and almost unceremoniously introduced and then dealt with very quickly, as if it weren't the main thrust of the movie's ideas (but it clearly is). I obviously didn't build a connection to these characters as quickly as they did to each other; when Hogarth tells the robot "I love you" it was all I could do to keep from laughing. This is closer to the level of something like How to Train Your Dragon than it is to, say, Beauty and the Beast or Wall-E. However, just because it doesn't rise to the same level as the films to which it invites comparison doesn't mean The Iron Giant isn't a pleasant movie worth your time.

Limitless
Limitless(2011)
½

An entertaining thriller with a fun visual conceit, Limitless would do better with a bit of focus. It has so many ideas about the possibilities arising from its premise that it doesn't know which ones to chase, so it tries for all of them and ends up leaving plot threads lying around and just generally messing up the place. Nevertheless I found myself interested in how the experience of NZT was rendered even if it's occasionally preposterous. Also, for some reason I envisioned that a young Jeff Goldblum might be better in the lead role than Bradley Cooper; but that's neither here nor there. 6.5/10

Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting is a familiar story but it succeeds because of its insight and occasionally its toughness. Movies involving therapy, especially those in which the counselor needs to break through to someone tough and closed off, have a tendency to feel forced and contrived when change finally happens. Good Will Hunting fends off this problem with a strong script and the ability of its actors. The movie is full of smart people who mostly act and talk like smart people - when they clash, it's believable and interesting. However, these people are also hurting. The relationship between Lambeau and Will rings of Salieri and Mozart in Amadeus (a talented man befriends a prodigy despite intense jealousy), and Minnie Driver is good fun as Skylar even if she doesn't get as much screen time. One of my biggest questions is why she wasn't more irritated or intimidated by Will. Overall a worthwhile drama.

Ip Man
Ip Man(2010)
½

Good fight scenes, strong cinematography and great differentiation among characters. No surprises, just a straight quasi-biopic about a revered teacher. 6.5/10

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
½

More sound and fury (or I suppose the first installment) from director Guy Ritchie who gives us more likable characters than in his follow-up, Snatch, but whose story is every bit as contrived and ridiculous and whose characters are every bit as forgettable. Heck, I've forgotten most of them already and I just finished the film. The dialog is funny (though everyone speaks as if they are alternate personalities of the same character) and the violence is mostly implied rather than shown. Oh and another thing. This movie is not in English.

Arlington Road
½

Supremely suspenseful thriller that had me sweating all the way up to the final act. Then the ending comes along and destroys everything. I'd recommend the movie because it's so good for such a long time - and if you could convince me that the plot is even remotely plausible, I'd gladly add a star to my rating.

Frequency
Frequency(2000)
½

I saw this film in theatres almost on a whim, with no real expectations going in. I was blown away. I sat for the last 20 minutes squirming in my chair because I had to go to the bathroom really badly, but I couldn't pull myself away from the proceedings. My friend and I were having discussions based on this movie for at least two weeks after seeing it. The plot is simple. John Sullivan is a cop going through a failing marriage. He stumbles on an old ham radio, and thanks to some unexplained phenomenon brought on by the aurora borealis, he begins talking with Frank, a firefighter from Queens who just happens to be John's long-dead father 30 years in the past. Impossible? Sure. But the plot is easily pulled off by the earnest, heartfelt performances of Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid who are both excellent in their respective roles. Their relationship is so real and aimiable that it grounds the fantastic premise and allows us to move forward, or backward as the case may be. What the Sullivans discover is that it's tough messing with the past. They change something and it affects something else, until they are in over their heads trying to stop a serial murderer in the past from John's vantage point in the future. The result is a tense, emotional, and mesmerizing thriller that sucks you in and doesn't let go until the final scene. If you're a fan of high-concept films in general or time-travel movies in particularly, you'll have a lot to think about there. I did. The plot is pretty tight given the time-bending theme which is always difficult to pull off. The creators take a few cinematic liberties but the story still makes a lot of sense if you follow it correctly and stands up to a lot of scrutiny. This is one of my favorite movies, and I think it is vastly overlooked and underrated. Check it out, suspend your disbelief a little, and enjoy the ride.

Fight Club
Fight Club(1999)

Fight Club is a brazen film that dares you not to like it knowing that you will anyway. I gave it 3 1/2 stars because the movie looks fantastic, it's full of artistic flourishes, the acting is of a high caliber, and it's simply saturated with style. It's hip in a very Pulp Fiction/V for Vendetta kind of way. Actually, I think the violence in this movie is over-hyped. It's violent, sure, but I didn't think it was that bad when I saw it. I've certainly seen worse. And those who say the movie has a message are correct. Figuring out exactly what that message is can be a bit more difficult, and I share the sympathies of many reviewers who doubt that a large portion of the film's target fan base will view it in the desired way. Those who say it's unpretentious and not preachy must have seen a different film than I did. Fight Club is not a bit subtle about its philosophizing which makes it all the more apparent that it doesn't have anything really deep to say. I'm well aware that I'm not my effing khakis, and it took me out of the moment to hear Brad Pitt criticizing materialism and the gym rat male model image. I know, it's supposed to be Tyler, not Brad, but the irony cuts through. Maybe I would have liked this movie more had the twist not been spoiled for me ages ago. Since I already knew the pivotal narrative truth, my first viewing was somewhat like a second as I was already examining the proceedings in light of the revelation that occurs in the third act. For the most part it works, but I often found myself questioning how certain scenes could possibly hold up under scrutiny. I guess it can all be delegated to the unreliable narrator, played by a convincingly pathetic Edward Norton. Sure, it's an enjoyable guy's movie, but it's also maddeningly unbelievable and frequently disgusting. Sitting through it is in some ways the kind of cathartic self-punishment that the members of Fight Club display. It's like watching a car wreck - it's morbid, but you can't look away