Marc Rivers's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Heat
Heat(1995)
½

A crime epic of exceptional virtuosity and depth, Mann gives an almost greek arc to this story of the hunter and the prey and their almost symbiotic relationship. And then of course there are the wonderfully staged action sequences and games of cat and mouse, given added potency by how much you'll come to care about the characters, which are all well acted. Cool and arresting cinematography by Dante Spinotti deserved award recognition. Sadly, it seems Robert De Niro would provide his last great performance in this film.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller
½

I admire the mood of the film, wrought so well thanks to the chilly, evocative cinematography, its measured pace, and sad performances. It is a western for those (like myself) averse to most westerns, one that manages to dissemble most western tropes while making somber statements on capitalism, life's cruelties, and changing times. It's a lyrical anti-western that rewards another viewing.

Moonlight
Moonlight(2016)

Jenkins's second film may be a masterpiece, but such a heavy label threatens to upend the delicate wonders of this film, which reveals its pleasures with a quiet elegance. Its lush colors and images, vivid performances and musical score, wash over you like ocean waves gently splashing ashore. You breathe in this film. Jenkins's lyricism draws you into Chiron's story with such clarity and poetry that it becomes your story. In a year which saw the rise of hatred and ignorance, this film fills you up with love and understanding.

Medicine for Melancholy

Depicts black people who are actually normal; a real miracle of filmmaking these days. Its perceptive views on race and class, charismatic performances, and beautiful, desaturated photography are just icing on the cake. Sad that a film like this gets no audience, but Tyler Perry continues to make millions off utter nonsense, from mostly black people's wallets no less. Something is clearly wrong there.

The Witch
The Witch(2016)

A serious-minded horror film. The mood wrought by this film leaves you feeling exposed, vulnerable to something wicked. Its sense of authenticity makes for an easier pathway to supernatural dread and terror.

Sicario
Sicario(2015)

The moody cinematography and Del Toro's storm cloud of a gaze do most of the work

What Women Want

Gibson is as great as the premise, which is explored to often amusing results. I liked it for what it was.

Repulsion
Repulsion(1965)

A disturbing, claustrophobic thriller with a fantastic performance by Catherine Deneuve and eerily effective sound design and camerawork

Independence Day

Pretty wonderful compared to today's blockbuster dribble. There's quirk and quiet here and effective visual effects. The camera isn't erratic. But forget all that. It's all about Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum.

Barry Lyndon
Barry Lyndon(1975)

Once again a showcase for the way Kubrick takes a subject and creates a unique prism through which we observe it, one of cold detachment and idle onlookers, rendering the character of Lyndon but a simple, lowly speck on the grand, tragic stage of life. The film's arresting, painterly beauty, lovely score, and sumptuous production design merge strikingly with Kubrick's satiric, uncompromising tone. The ways in which the film reveals Kubrick's thematic concerns and philosophies so absolutely simply through its mise-en-scene make it one of his defining, and greatest, works.

Moneyball
Moneyball(2011)

A surprisingly dense, well acted, and intelligent work w/ distinct direction by Bennet Miller and interesting and artful editing and photography. All of which combines to turn what should have been a by-the-numbers sports movie into one of the best films of 2011. You'll like this movie even if you don't like baseball, for baseball merely acts as an entry-point into ideas about how we interact w/ and exploit each-other. But the film is also about moving forward, and redemption, the type that is rarely offered to people.

Jurassic World
½

A diverting watch when on TV.

In a Lonely Place
½

Arguably Bogart's best performance

Only Angels Have Wings

drama, action, comedy, and romance all wrapped up in a pristine package, with both Grant and Arthur at their very best. An early Rita Hayworth performance also delights. One of Hawks's very best entertainments

Chimes at Midnight

A muscular and impassioned adaptation of Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest ever made. Welles composes and orchestrates his scenes with typically expressive mastery of light, shadow and framing. The battle sequence is as good as the cinema has ever produced.

White Men Can't Jump
½

The best basketball movie ever.

The Wood
The Wood(1999)

Another rare film that seeks to depict normal black people, and it does so quite well. All the adult stuff is pointless though

Sweet Smell of Success

This movie conjures such a precise time and place you can smell it, and it's intoxicating. Impossibly cool and cynical dialogue that both sings and bruises, melded to pitch-perfect performances and a rich, sweet and sour evocation of '50s Manhattan that's both venal and hypnotic. A brilliant film with maybe no equals of its kind.

Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Chappelle's attempt to regain some of his roots in leu of his increasing fame is funny, assured, and features great performances from some of the great hip hop and soul artists. I wanted to be there

Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver(1976)

Scorsese brilliantly visualizes and evokes the inner workings of a damaged outcast, turning a psyche and its increasing madness into one of great, sustained nightmares in the cinema. De Niro is haunting and intense as Travis Bickle, one of the great film characters, who guides us through a hallucinatory vision of personal and societal decay. Its depiction of a certain sort of whiteness and masculinity maintains its dirty, toxic resonance even in the face of a cleaner New York. Schrader's poignant screenplay reaches the outcast in us all. It's a Great American Movie.

Ali
Ali(2001)

Will Smith is fantastic, and the opening montage is a supreme filmmaking achievement, a virtuoso act of directing, writing, and editing. Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn't delve deep enough into the character and is in dire need of an editor.

Children of Men

"Children of Men" is a triumph of living and breathing dystopia propelled by amazing cinematography and directing (two single-take action scenes are breathtaking in their virtuosity and intensity) and an excellent cast. The texture and immediacy of the filmmaking channel past and present atrocities in rendering a powerful fable of hope and despair.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Great chemistry and a subtly nuanced script give weight and substance to this funny clash between two conflicting personalities. Like John Hughes' other great work, 'The Breakfast Club,' it is above all else a film about empathy.

Groundhog Day
½

A slyly profound comedy of choice and fate. Murray finds perfect pitch while the script adds more laughs, wit and depth with each repeating day. An essential comedy.

American Gangster

A very entertaining crime film with a New York vibe that's palpable. The cast is also excellent

The Martian
The Martian(2015)

Scott's best movie in quite some time, and his most purely enjoyable. It's Damon's show, but everyone in the cast is a delight.

Double Indemnity

A dark and twisting noir that revels in the darkest aspects of human nature. Wilder spins his tale with typical efficiency and nuance, benefiting greatly from brilliant performances from MacMurray, Stanwyck, and Robinson and richly evocative cinematography and dialogue. One of the definitive examples of the sub-genre and one of Wilder's sparkling gems

Sunset Boulevard

The definitive movie about Hollywood, this darkly comic, cynical masterpiece features Gloria Swanson's most iconic performance, but its real pleasures lie in the way Wilder considers every aspect of his tale, from the actions and feelings of Holden's character to the knife edged insights into Hollywood's poisonous promises and nature. Everyone is a victim of Hollywood here.

Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2(2004)

A brilliant, fully-realized human drama that also happens to be an exciting comic-book film. Action scenes are energetic and thrilling and they're seamlessly woven into the moving and grounded struggles of Peter Parker. Alfred Molina is a fantastic Doc Ock. It was the best comic book film until "The Dark Knight" came along... Oh and casting J.K. Simmons as Jonah Jameson was a stroke of true genius.

Cidade de Deus (City of God)

"City of God" is probably the best film about crime since "Goodfellas," whose style it evokes. Like that film, it plunges headfirst into a criminal-run world w/ the same urgency, confidence, and energy. This film is alive the way so few films are these days, aggressively edited, strikingly photographed, and powerfully acted. Meirelles' camera probes, dances, and whirls, capturing the slums of Rio de Janeiro in all its color, danger, and tragedy. The script is also masterfully constructed, comprising of parallel stories and vignettes, going back and forth in time, and creating a large number of vividly drawn characters (some based on real people). The film is deeply disturbing, but it is never less than compelling. In the end, its craft cannot be denied. To watch this film is to see a director at the peak of his powers

Lost In Translation

Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson are remarkable in a film about two lonely people who find temporary solace spending time together. "Lost in Translation" captures the feeling of being adrift, both in a foreign land and in life, better than any movie I've ever seen. Those who would complain that "nothing happens" fail to see the film's intent. This film is about a feeling, a mood, a composition that says more than a thousand words could. It is about a tender whisper between the two characters unheard by us, for it is for them only

Million Dollar Baby
½

A prime example of a film that--- through moving and layered performances, confident direction, and a wonderuful screenplay--- transcends the cliches of its genre. This film will move you at every turn.

Unforgiven
Unforgiven(1992)
½

A ruthless and thoughtful subversion of western tropes. The nature of violence is examined here w/ a clarity and quiet intensity that seems to make up for every rudimentary take on good and evil in western cinema's history. Add to that a brilliant cast, and you have one of the only westerns really worth a damn in my book

Three Kings
Three Kings(1999)
½

The last movie Russell made that could really excite. One of the best modern war films.

Platoon
Platoon(1986)

A powerful and intimate war film that gets to the heart of how it felt to be a soldier in Vietnam. The cast, headed by Dafoe and Berenger, is excellent, although I dislike Charlie Sheen as a dramatic actor. No matter, it's one of the great war films.

Antichrist
Antichrist(2009)

This is a memorable, extreme piece of horror cinema. Some of the most arresting, immaculate cinematography of the '00s and two very committed performances propel this saturnine, twisted parable of cruelty, grief, and misery. Von Trier's images are uncompromising and provocative. It won't be remembered as his best work, but as a testament to his filmmaking bravado and formal adroitness, "Antichrist" stands brazenly and gleefully tall.

Beyond the Lights
½

Bythewood is operating with cliches here, but she does not depend on them. Like her debut "Love & Basketball," she puts all her efforts and attention towards the characters. She cares for them and is sincere with them. Gugu, Parker and especially Driver all do good work. The film's scenario is silly, but its navigation of the effects of the music industry on female artists is quite serious.

Ida
Ida(2014)

Piercing performances guide us through a somber and intense portrait of a nation still reeling from atrocity.

Under the Skin
½

Scarlett Johansson's remarkably understated and controlled turn is front and center in this masterful piece of cinema. Glazer uses color, light, composition, and sound to conjure a hypnotic, shadowy investigation of humanity. Stripped bare of exposition, the film's implications swim hazily around in the mind even as they linger with a blunt force. Only the ending slightly disappoints

Birdman
Birdman(2014)
½

Perhaps Inarritu's best film to date. A self-consciously dazzling technical feat with themes that bounce off each other in vibrant ways. A brilliant cast is headed by Emma Stone, Edward Norton, and a never better Michael Keaton

Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet(1986)

The tone of this film is too much for me overall. A few great moments, but mostly too silly and over the top.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner(1982)
½

Scott's magnum opus takes from so much and is so fully realized from a technical standpoint that its slight storytelling and lack of depth found in the characters is almost forgivable & virtually inconsequential for most. The stunningly detailed dystopia provides the text and weight. Its influence on sci-fi cinema is immense

Do the Right Thing

A supreme triumph in American cinema, Lee's vivid and passionate film is filled w/ lush photography, vibrant characters, and powerful emotion. 25 years later, it still might be the most unflinching and honest exploration of racial tensions in America. It not only pops off the screen. It speaks to us. And we should listen.

Leaving Las Vegas

Cage and Shue give astonishing performances in this bleak but touching story about suffering and love's power. Figgis captures Las Vegas in a way that evokes a glittering, restless and dreary place unaware of its inhabitants, giving these 2 characters a sense of quiet and detachment from the rest of the world. Through love, they find temporary solace from their tragic existence. It's intimately made, but it covers a wide terrain of human emotion w/ raw sensibilities and an unflinching approach. It's a small triumph.

Zodiac
Zodiac(2007)

Fincher's most accomplished film; haunting, evocative, well-acted, and meticulous. It's a classically directed, technically advanced, sprawling police procedural that puts nuance of character and evocation of the mood of its time over gore. It pours out an abundance of loose threads, coincidences, intriguing bits of information, and strong character moments w/ an astounding command of craft and tone, making the film as engaging as it is maddening. In many ways, Fincher wants you to become as obsessed about the case as his characters, and he succeeds.

12 Years a Slave
½

The best film yet made about American slavery. Steve McQueen's long, unwavering takes see directly into the heart of cruelty and depravity, but he finds also the resilience and strength of the human spirit. A brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofer heads an astonishing cast that also includes devastating turns from Michael Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o. The film's brutality is staggering, but so too is its thematic reach, beauty, and emotional power, which all comes without false dramatics. I wanted just a bit more from it (a longer run time for one), and Brad Pitt's presence is just-- wrong, but this is a vital achievement from a newly vital filmmaker.

Psycho
Psycho(1960)

The standard that all horror/thriller films should reach for. Sure it is a masterpiece of directing, pacing, and cinematography, but the film also trembles with bold, resonant psychological textures. Like w/ any Hitchcock film, the dialogue and imagery drips in precision and symbolism. The film's many ideas are there for the viewer to ponder (voyeurism, guilt, madness) but Hitchcock is of course mostly concerned with putting the viewer on edge, which he does w/ typical mastery. Anthony Perkin's performance was criminally overlooked by the Oscars.

Vertigo
Vertigo(1958)

I prefer this to 'Psycho' (by a hair); for the way its dark implications penetrate into the psyche and seem to reveal the inner workings and obsessions of Hitchcock himself, for the psychological and complex textures of its artistry, and for the way color, composition, camera movement, performance, and score combine to make an intoxicating, mysterious, and dense exploration of pain and longing

Apocalypse Now

Would easily make my list of top ten greatest films ever made. This is the type of magnificent, grand filmmaking that has sadly withered away from the landscape of cinema. Coppola combines moments of operatic grandeur and haunting quiet. He pushes his art to its breaking point, merging images and sound into a delirious, haunted encapsulation of the savagery and ecstasy of combat, capturing in moment after moment the complex, contradictory emotions of the war and era that birthed it. This film is a surreal, headfirst descent into the madness of Vietnam and the darkest, most primal parts of the soul. Vitorrio Stararo's cinematography is some of the greatest in cinema history

Malcolm X
Malcolm X(1992)
½

One of the great biopics, featuring one of the great film performances. Only some heavy-handedness, particularly in the final minutes, keep this from being a full five stars (much like Schindler's List). As it stands,it's still one of the most powerful films of the nineties, a sweeping, richly photographed, and thoughtful exploration of one of America's most fascinating and influential modern figures.

Some Like It Hot

"Nobody's perfect," Joe Brown says at the end. This classic comedy, however, very much is. The camera never swooned harder for Monroe than it did here. Curtis and Lemmon are equally sublime. An inspired romp of knowing cynicism, quirky comedy, and tender romance. Wilder just does no wrong.

The Apartment

Wilder ended his "Some Like it Hot" with the line, "Nobody's perfect," but this film may just be. A film whose melancholy, cynical strokes are balanced out by sweet, delicate emotion and tenderness so skillfully rendered that it earns that big smile on your face when MacLaine delivers that perfect coda. Lemmon is wonderful but it's MacLaine who shines brightest

Out of the Past

Stakes a claim to being the greatest of all film noirs. The archetypes of the sub-genre reach a breathless and coiled psychological and aesthetic pitch.

Paris, Texas
Paris, Texas(1984)

An elegiac poem of the sad and lonely and the equally lonely landscapes of the American west. This film is refreshingly direct in its focus, fascinated by the singular characters at its center, which always seem to drive the narrative rather than some term paper thesis or contrivance. But belying this narrow focus is a wide-eyed camera that takes in all it sees, which leaves infinite room for quiet contemplation, even as silences are filled by that iconic score.

Metropolis
Metropolis(1927)

A mad-genius masterpiece of imposing, aggressive imagination. Lang's astounding, epic vision of an industrialized society descending into anarchy is as furious and as immediate today as it was when it was first released. Its vision of a dystopian future, technology, and the divide between the rich and poor is such that it spawned a legion of imitators and successors, none of which measure up to this singular beast of silent cinema.

Raging Bull
Raging Bull(1980)

The visuals, sound design, rigorous editing by the master Thelma Schoonmaker, and searing performances combine to make one of the greatest and most powerful of all films and one of the definitive cinematic explorations of an unsympathetic and damaged protagonist

Walkabout
Walkabout(1971)

Perhaps Roeg's best film. A rich and mysterious meditation on communication, as well as the social barriers that divide and entrap them.

A Most Violent Year
½

Isaac continues to impress, while DP Bradford Young delivers moody tableaus reminiscent of Gordon Willis.

Killing Them Softly
½

Gandolfini is the only spark in this blunt, rather empty flatline of a film.

Sophie's Choice
½

The cliche is the truth: Meryl Streep gives one of the great film performances. If the film has aged, she has not.

Dog Day Afternoon
½

Terrifically acted and perceptively satirical. Lumet's direction is as assured and textured as ever, and Pacino creates one of the most memorable of modern film characters.

The Godfather, Part II

Slightly inferior to Part 1. Part 2's momentum is slightly hindered by the time jumps, but the dense screenplay is structured in a way that is as thematically driven as Coppola and Willis' compositions. Al Pacino's performance is one of the all time greats: cool, calculating, seething fury underneath a facade of control. De Niro is also great as a young Vito. Together, Godfather 1 and 2 is one of the great achievements in cinema history, a grand statement on power, family, and the contradictions of the American Dream

Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane(1941)

A dense and dazzling landmark whose visual and thematic depths reward every repeat viewing. An epic of Americana that's also tons of fun.

Boyz n the Hood
½

Powerful, well-acted, and vital.

Memento
Memento(2000)
½

Nolan's least flawed film. His most devilishly ingenious, and structurally sound film, even as he dispenses w/ a normal film structure. Both the dialogue and direction drip w/ thematic and psychological intent. Guy Pierce is fantastic.

Schindler's List
½

Overall, it'a masterful right up until the last few minutes. Spielberg (once again) uses a hammer when a chisel would've been more effective. The scene where Schindler laments about the people he could've saved was awkwardly written and acted, and the sequence with the descendants of the saved Jews defines over-kill and tries too hard for tears. Still, it's a harrowing and powerful biopic, w/ a beautiful score by John Williams and brilliant, vivid performances by Neeson, Kinsgley and, particularly, Ralph Fiennes.

The Thin Red Line
½

A war epic of grand thematic and formal ambition, bereft of typical narrative and most war cliches. It depicts scenes of brutal and chaotic warfare with skill and coherency, but its heart lies w/ the questions asked by the soldiers, or perhaps more accurately, asked by Malick himself, questions concerning the relationship between nature and humanity, man's capacity for compassion as well as violence, and our need to understand the trajectory and meaning of our lives. Its lush, stunning cinematography and rigorous editing combine to say as much, if not more, than the many narrations (which sometimes overreach). There are fine performances throughout the large cast (of which there is no true star). If you allow yourself to be absorbed by Malick's abstract direction, you will see that he has made one of the most philosophical, and greatest, of all war films.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Yes, I've had a change of heart. This is indeed a perfect film. Magical. Wondrous. Darker and stranger than one might remember. Everything in its right place.

JFK
JFK(1991)

Stone assembles a collage of conspiracy theories, powerful images and moments, using multiple film stocks as masterfully as his large and brilliant cast. 100% factual not in the details of Kennedy's death and the subsequent investigation, but in reflecting the mindset of a country shell shocked by his assassination and looking for answers. The film editing, a dazzling, audacious landmark that should be studied in film schools, greatly accentuates the brilliant and varied photography (the film justly won Oscars for both). It's Stone's grandest, and best, piece of work, an adrenaline shot in the courtroom drama and period pic genres

25th Hour
25th Hour(2003)
½

Very well acted, visually inventive, and cliche free, this film's power and appreciation for it has only grown. Spike Lee and writer David Benioff have woven the '00's most poignant depiction of a post 9/11 society into a story about tragedy, guilt and loss.

Samurai Jack - The Premiere Movie

Samurai Jack is one of the most compelling, original, and artistically adventurous shows ever made. Tartakovsky evokes Tarantino in his ability to draw from multiple works in pop culture (samurai films, film noir, spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, etc) and fuse it with his own imagination and craft to create a show that can pour out episodes that look and feel different (but not jarringly so). Beautiful art direction and fight choreography is matched by a spare, introspective tone, right down to the novelistic pacing of an episode and lack of dialogue. This is not a show for those who revel in superfluous dialogue ( and the dialogue that is there is often funny and always entertaining). Tartakovsky understands the benefits of silences, of letting images or scenes speak for themselves. He'll then augment certain sounds in an episode (like in the masterwork, "3 blind Archers") making Samurai Jack an aural as well as visual treat. More than any other show, Samurai Jack opened me up to the cinematic potential of television. This show moves from funny, to dark, to epic and tragic, then back again without missing a beat.

Mandatory episodes: 3 Blind Archers, Tale of X9, Seasons of Death, Jack and the assassins.

The Dark Knight
½

Mainstream entertainment blending w/ genuine artistry and vision. A somewhat bloated 3rd act does little to hurt this layered super-hero epic that tackles themes of topical importance, while at the same time providing tense, elegant, and brilliant set-piece after set-piece. Heath Ledger provides his second performance of the 00s that enters the history books. This is one of the cinema's greatest sequels and a defining film of the '00s

Brokeback Mountain
½

Arguably the most devastating romance to come along in quite some time. Heath Ledger gives one of the great modern performances in this beautifully shot, empathetic and tragic love story. Director Ang Lee realizes, with vivid clarity, novelistic integrity, and dramatic intensity, the idyllic passages of a love newly formed, and then love later thwarted.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
½

An exhilarating, beautifully photographed and acted fairy tale and action flick

It's a Wonderful Life

One of those films that reminds us of the immeasurable effect an individual can have on others. It is an appeal to our best selves in moments of doubt. The sentiments could be cheap, but Capra and a peak Jimmy Stewart give a purity and raw feeling to the proceedings as enduring as our favorite Christmas songs.

All About Eve

A classic. Perceptive and knowing in its handling of the female characters and the world they inhabit. And note Marilyn Monroe in an early role, already averting the camera's gaze away from the others. Bette Davis gives one of the iconic Hollywood performances.

Gone With the Wind
½

An awesome spectacle still. Gable is cool and Vivien Leigh towers in one of the all-time Hollywood performances. But the film's gross romanticizing of the antebellum south and slavery is almost unforgivable.

2001: A Space Odyssey

The cinema as aesthetic purity and intellectual provocation, taking full advantage of cinema's power to enthrall through images and sound. Kubrick shows a sublimely exacting control that paradoxically results in a film that seems to break free from control. This is visual poetry at its most profound, evoking the mysteries of space and life. It is one of the few films ever made to truly inspire awe, a transcendent meditation on the evolution, danger, and potential of human intelligence

GoodFellas
GoodFellas(1990)

The best mob movie ever. Scorsese (and many of the cast members) is in peak form as he puts you into the world of organized crime better than any other film before or since. His technique, a manipulation of film speed, rapid cuts, and fluid, erratic, and searching camerawork is as intoxicating as the narrative, which depicts scenes of startling violence and acute characterization w/ precision, energy, and an almost natural insight into the characters and the world they inhabit. Its loss to "Dances with Wolves" for the best picture and director Oscars are two of the great blunders in Oscar history

Manhattan
Manhattan(1979)

This film grows on me with each viewing, from the transcendent use of George Gershwin's music, to the peerless, twinkly cinematography by Gordon Willis. Allen's usual clash of cynicism and romanticism reached sublime heights in this tough ode to love and loss in his favorite city. Perceptive and poignant, 'Manhattan' understands how the heart-- often so selfish and in need-- wants what it wants, and how often we try to mask this want through uncertainty, pride, pessimism, and our own pointless logic. It understands how we, often knowingly, fight for times that have already passed. It understands how behavior when a relationship fails is more interesting than when it succeeds. Both the opening and closing scenes are sheer perfection.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc)

Carl Th. Dreyor's "Passion of Joan of Arc" has emotion so powerful and artistry so richly visceral that it seems to directly translate to the screen the very soul and pain of its doomed protagonist, who is bought to life in what may be the most intensely affecting performance ever committed to celluloid. The intimacy of its striking and spatially experimental direction, and always the face of Falconetti, will be enough to make any thoughtful viewer shrink from this staggeringly moving work of tragedy and sacrifice. This is one of the great works of art, in any medium.

In Cold Blood
½

The performances and cinematography elevate this harsh, somber docudrama to art.

Dressed to Kill

A Hitchcock hard-on, "Psycho's" wet dream. De Palma lays it on thick here, and it's both ridiculously self-aware and cinematically accomplished.

Safe
Safe(1995)

Julianne Moore has rarely been better than she is here as she slowly but surely crumbles to pieces. "Safe" contains many possible interpretations, none of them alleviate the film's terrifying ambiguity and trenchant observations on class, paranoia and the "women's role."

Miracle at St. Anna

A colossal disappointment. I'd say i enjoyed maybe 4mins of it.

Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo(2003)

Pixar's leanest bit of storytelling and the most beautifully animated. 'Nemo' doesn't struggle to appeal to both kids and adults. Its pertinent themes flow easily out of its accessible and touching narrative. Ellen Degenerous gives perhaps the best voice-over performance ever in one of the best Pixar casts (Albert Brooks, William Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush, nuff said).

Days of Heaven

Shorter and more concise in its narrative than his later films, this is Malick's most satisfying feature. Malick and his great cinematographer create moments and images of intimacy, quiet contemplation and biblical power. This is a visually rich and spare story of loss and humanity. There is a feeling of ephemerality here captured on a level that few films have met, and Malick seems to revel in. On a more abstract level, it is a melancholy, dreamy evocation of the intensity, mystery, and sadness that permeates existence, and these moods seem to be reflected in nature itself.

Mulholland Drive

I may be coming around to the greatness of this film's insane, silly, scary narrative. Lynch's full on descent into dream logic is beautiful, disturbing, and heavily symbolic. His film does better to evoke the seedy underbelly and dark side of the city of angels than a straight drama could. Naomi Watt's dual-pronged performance deserved an Oscar nomination.

The Exorcist
The Exorcist(1973)
½

Perhaps the greatest horror film. Some of the effects have aged, but the craft and seriousness of its vision can still shake you. This movie feels like it's wrestling with evil, the kind that exists all around us. The performances all carry the weight of coming face to face with it.

Skyfall
Skyfall(2012)
½

The expected thrills benefit from gorgeous, Oscar worthy cinematography by Roger Deakins, a menacing and quirky villain by Javier Bardem, and more character driven storytelling and themes. Judi Dench also shines. One of the best Bond films

Lee Daniels' The Butler

A broadly stroked encapsulation of the Civil Rights movement is ultimately a commendable attempt to place black ppl back at the center of their own story, yet it is also a finely etched family drama with stand out work from Whitaker and Oprah. The result is an affecting crowd-pleaser

300
300(2007)

Lot of muscle. No pulse

28 Days Later

Bleak and relentless, but also strangely beautiful at times. A film as much about societal collapse as it is about flesh eating zombies, this is easily one of best horror films of the '00s even though the ending slightly disappoints

Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead is cruel and unforgiving in its horror, presenting stark, gruesome decay both physical and moral shocking for its political poignancy and influential in its aesthetic. It's a blunt powerhouse.

Halloween
Halloween(1978)
½

Quality filmmaking equates to quality scares. Too bad its successors (sequel or otherwise) didn't understand this

Rosemary's Baby
½

Polanski gets effective and believable performances from his cast (Farrow is peerless here), which help give greater potency to this disturbing and brilliantly directed psychological horror film. Gets better with each viewing as you notice Polanski's attention to detail, crafty nuances, and acute establishing of mood and dread. Is it all in her head? Decide for yourself.

Project X
Project X(2012)
½

Don't even know how to rate this movie. It has been unfairly criticized for its depictions of teen partying, i think, because of the potential influence it might have on teens, but the film itself is so joyfully crude and insane and ridiculous, one can't help but enjoy it at least on a visceral level if you're of the age. It represents the liberation of the teenager, the wish to make the absolute most of time before responsibility really kicks in. Is it a good movie? I don't know. It's well shot and the actors are believable (but not necessarily likable, which is the cliche thing to say), but I don't know if 90minutes of partying accounts for a good movie, or even a movie at all.

Charlie's Angels

Just innocent fun with a lovable, sexy trio.. and Bill Murray of course

The Killers
The Killers(1946)

One of the great, labyrinthine noirs, with a peak Ava Gardner

The Killers
The Killers(1964)
½

Works as a tough, compelling and bleak thriller out in the daylight, though it still exists in the shadow of the '46 version.

Hiroshima Mon Amour

The burden of social and and personal trauma affects the very breathing of this musical, poetic landmark.

Odd Man Out
Odd Man Out(1947)

Part noir, part psychological thriller. Expressive chiaroscuro illuminates and darkens this physical and spiritual journey to the depths of a divided city and a divided soul

Händler der vier Jahreszeiten (The Merchant of Four Seasons)

A harshly unsentimental portrait of failure and resentment. Fassbinder's theatrical sensibilities and staging make the proceedings exaggerated as usual, but the exaggeration leaves a scar

Five Easy Pieces
½

An essential work of the American vernacular, retaining the vividness of its era thanks to the great performances and screenplay and steady direction

The Innocents

A supreme ghost story with chills that creep in slowly and steadily, aided by a patient and judicious sense of storytelling and its rich cinematography

Anatomy of a Murder

Preminger has fun examining the ambiguity of the courtroom milieu, and he's helped by great performances from Stewart and Scott. The Duke gives the film added kick w/ his sexy, seductive score.

The Hustler
The Hustler(1961)

A wonderful film not about pool but about, yes, character. Newman, Gleeson, Scott and Laurie all deliver indelible performances, seeping complex psychology and humanity into wonderful style.

Boyhood
Boyhood(2014)
½

Simply remarkable; a wonder of a film that is so clearly a labor of love for all involved that it plants a smile on your face that stays throughout its run time. With microscopic and tender clarity, "Boyhood" captures life in all its messy, banal, fluctuating and fleeting beauty. It has the feel of something not written, but seen and heard. Oscars be damned, this is destined to live on as a major cinematic achievement

Training Day
Training Day(2001)

Ethan Hawk is good and Denzel Washington chews up the scenery until he swallows it whole.

Argo
Argo(2012)
½

A smart, tense, well-acted entertainment that gets the period right and further establishes Ben Affleck as a maker of refined thrillers. Engaging from beginning to end and poignant in its subtext

Elephant
Elephant(2003)
½

A somber, transfixing depiction of tragedy on a very intimate, disturbingly blunt level. The long takes hold bleak power and lyricism

Punch-Drunk Love
½

Sandler's comic persona is seen here in a deeper, angrier, and more poignant light in this most peculiar and unconventional of romantic comedies. Paul T. Anderson finds his singular aesthetic here, pulling off this oddly touching exploration of this lonely guy w/ glorious and inspired formal flourishes and an distinct tone, helped by John Brion's tension-holding score and Robert Elswit's fluid, vibrant photography. It is a feverish, gleeful command of the medium pushed to surprising, sometimes untidy, but always rewarding results, a potential classic of the genre if more people see it.

Selma
Selma(2015)

A film alive to the here and now and beyond. Timelines and timelessness converge, chillingly and powerfully. Oyelowo is brilliant. Black (and humanity) is beautiful. History is repossessed and electrified here.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I may be coming around to its greatness. Max Von Sydow gives a shattering performance in two key scenes

The Best Man Holiday
½

Great characters. Great fun

Jurassic Park

A fun, tense blockbuster with likable characters and special effects that are still effective today.

Toy Story
Toy Story(1995)

A landmark. Great characters and a fun, witty story made with invention and love.

Make Way for Tomorrow

This is a masterpiece, and one of the best films ever made about the transience of life and the indignities and trials of old age. It sees clearly its characters and its story, which builds to a beautiful and heartbreaking final movement

Ex Machina
Ex Machina(2015)

Oscar Isaac is a treasure

The Lady Eve
The Lady Eve(1941)

One of the great comedies, with arguably Stanwyck's greatest performance. The hilarity of the screwball antics are matched by a delightfully sly wit. As another exercise in female empowerment, man's powerlessness to the opposite sex, and the delirious pursuit for love, "The Lady Eve" has few peers.

Hunger
Hunger(2009)

Mcqueen's remarkable first feature stares so clearly and intensely at its subject matter that one can almost smell the feces on the walls of the cells. But the harrowing images of violence and debasement are granted an ethereal and abstract beauty by Mcqueen and his cinematographer. Pristine and textured compositions drive this nearly silent feature, resorting to dialogue sparingly, most effectively in a riveting one take sequence between rebel Bobby Sands and a clergyman. The film's focus is narrow, but its craft and power is considerable.

Nashville
Nashville(1975)

A bustling, panoramic view of Americana with as rich an ensemble cast as the '70s have given us.

Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant (The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant)
½

I loved how elegantly mannered and psychologically bustling it is. It's a chamber piece w/ big emotions.

The Palm Beach Story
½

Not as thematically resonant as say "Sullivan's Travels," or as sublimely entertaining as "The Lady Eve," yet still another screwball gem.

Don't Look Now
½

This is less a horror film (it's not very scary) than an elegantly constructed and atmospheric examination of grief and paranoia. The film editing, particularly in the opening and sex scene, are a masterclass in conception, theme, and execution.

The Immigrant

A staggeringly beautiful and thoughtful rendering of a bygone era. Cotillard is a wonder.

Hoop Dreams
Hoop Dreams(1994)

Arguably the greatest American documentary ever made, and certainly one of the most ambitious; a work of astonishing literary depth and breadth, covering a multitude of subjects and themes with insight and care while also working as riveting entertainment.

Jackie Brown
Jackie Brown(1997)

Probably Tarantino's most understated and briskest film. The same wonderful Tarantino dialogue is here without some of the more self-concious flourishes Tarantino's prone too. It's textured and grounded. Jackie Brown also doesn't depend as much on cinematic and pop-culture allusions like some of his more popular films, perhaps due to its source material. The film has a brilliantly structured and unpredictable narrative that benefits from a wonderful slew of characters that hold your attention just from their interactions with each other. Pam Grier is fantastic in a great role that celebrates her tough girl movie history while also standing on its own, while Sam Jackson and Robert Forster also shine. To top it all off, Tarantino provides another stellar soundtrack.

The Babadook
The Babadook(2014)
½

The most accomplished horror film since "Let the Right One In." Here the themes are given full weight, while the thrills and chills are artfully and psychologically at fever pitch. Essie Davis is brilliant.

Whiplash
Whiplash(2014)
½

A scintillating display of rising talent from director Damien Chazelle and actor Miles Teller. Silly, yet provocative in its treatise on greatness and its costs.

The Birth of a Nation

How to rate a film like this? It is blatantly racist, but it is a landmark of technique. Its influence cannot be denied, and it perfectly captures a time in American History, even if it does so using falsehoods and myth-making.

Public Enemies

It's technically impressive, and Depp is in peak form. But nothing compelling or engaging really happens. Dillinger robs banks. He dies. The end.

Die Hard
Die Hard(1988)

The perfect action film, with relentless tension, fine pacing and fantastic action scenes, a great (human) hero, and an even greater villain. But it is also the perfect holiday film, with redemption, family problems, Christmas spirit, wry sense of humor, and wonderful characters. The guns and explosions and swears every minute simply add more Yuletide flavor. I watch "Die Hard" every Christmas Eve

Y Tu Mama Tambien

One of two Alfonso Cuaron masterworks from the '00s. On one level, this road movie is about as frank, intelligent, and as honest a depiction of sexuality and adolescence as any in recent memory, with rich, naturalistic performances given by its leads. On another level, it is a searching study of the thin line between the Mexico of peasants and the disenfranchised, and the Mexico of the upper-class. On an even deeper level, it is a heartbreaking look at living and dying, and the beautiful tragedy in both. How these levels inform, enrich, and weave through each other gives the film a vitality and texture that makes each viewing rewarding. Once again, Lubezki's cinematography is restless and assured, each long take capturing Cuaron's dense tapestry with a gritty lyricism.

Rambo (Rambo IV)
½

i grinned when Rambo shot an arrow through the neck of a soldier who then landed on a mine and exploded. That's all the entertainment I got from the film

Looper
Looper(2012)
½

A fresh, intelligent, and stylistic sci fil film with strong performances and ideas that help drive an assured and engaging story. Great entertainment

Superbad
Superbad(2007)
½

My pick out of the Apatow productions

Foxcatcher
Foxcatcher(2014)

A chilly, curious psychological study of need, desire and ambition.

Dawn of the Dead
½

Probably the best zombie movie ever made.... And the black guy lives

Michael Clayton

A brilliant, taut screenplay that harkens back to the morally ambivalent and paranoid films of the '70s and pitch-perfect performances are what make this film great.

Fight Club
Fight Club(1999)

underrated in its time, but now overrated

Beverly Hills Cop

Murphy and the soundtrack are both excellent. 28 years later, it's still a fun ride

Seven (Se7en)
½

A relentlessly bleak and surprisingly thoughtful thriller. Fincher, the cinematographer, and editor give stark and haunting visual clarity and richness to Andrew Kevin Walker's screenplay, which touches on morality, depravity and apathy. Great performances by Freeman and Pitt further elevate the film above its genre trappings. Each crime scene is a unique and disturbing tableau, and many compositions or scenes pulsate w/ palpable terror and atmosphere. This is confident filmmaking.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Fincher's on autopilot here, particularly when compared to the masterful "Zodiac," but his craft is unmistakable on the screen (playing around w/ sound, effective compositions). It's crisply edited, moody, w/ a great score. But the highlight, of course, is Rooney Mara in the title role, who is equal parts ferocity and quiet vulnerability. She remains compelling even when the story and direction aren't

Prometheus
Prometheus(2012)

Elba (underused), and particularly Fassbender as an enigmatic android, are standouts in Scott's visually spectacular but shakily scripted sci-fi epic. The first hr is grand and wondrous; there's a real sense of discovery and palpable atmosphere at work. But once the story actually starts, we realize just how poor it actually is and the lack of a firm grasp the film has on its themes. The film goes nowhere particularly interesting and its connection to "Alien" holds it back. It's the type of serious science fiction we rarely get lately, and it's tense and entertaining, but it could've been so much more.

Saving Private Ryan
½

Features the greatest battle sequence ever filmed and very effective performances. That the script's disingenuous framing device and heavy-handedness seem like minor flaws only speak to the immersive power of the filmmaking on display. This film puts you in the middle of the battlefield in a way never seen before or, arguably, since. That being the case, one can forgive the slight narrative and typical Spielberg sentiment. There is an achingly human center here that will carry you to the film's intense climax. Take away that, and you still have a vital technical accomplishment in cinema. Arguably best ever sound design, masterfully edited, shot, and choreographed action scenes, and stunning production values make this a singular and vital achievement in war cinema

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
½

Something to admire more than love. The themes aren't as well explored a they could've been, but the film has a hypnotic pull, the lead performances are excellent, and the cinematography is the best of the '00s. There's certainly more on its mind than most westerns, and as someone who doesn't like westerns, that is something to appreciate, that and the film's poetic filmmaking. We'll see if this film grows on me

The Mummy
The Mummy(1999)

Fun. Love Jerry Goldsmith's score

There Will Be Blood

Day-Lewis's performance enters the history books after the first half hr. After the conclusion, the film follows suit. The camerawork here is thematically driven and hypnotic in a way that evokes Kubrick or Coppola. Any minor flaws in the script are dwarfed by haunting and grand beauty and physical craftsmanship, poignant exploration of timeless themes, and Day-Lewis's mammoth performance. Relentless, strange, and sad, Anderson's opus depicts human nature in all its contradictions, while also showing an America that, even a century later, has not changed how it operates.

No Country for Old Men

Immaculately crafted from top to bottom, unbearably tense, subtly complex, and hauntingly acted. Anton Chigurh is one of cinema's great villains. The Coens have crafted a work of pure, muscular cinema. The subsequent viewings only reveal more nuances, both in the story and the filmmaking

The Iron Giant

Probably still my favorite animated film. As someone who wasn't a big fan of E.T., this was a suitable substitute in my childhood. 15 years later, I still find it to be a sweet, intelligent, and enthralling film that I can't help but revisit now and then.

The Help
The Help(2011)
½

Like many of these tiresome feel- good movies, this one glosses over the cruelty and struggle of the times, and once again, presents a story where the black ppl wouldn't get anywhere w/o the help of white people. Because hey, not all white people are bad. Hollywood loves these types of films a lot more than I do, sadly. Still, this is a well executed film, and Viola Davis heads a great ensemble.

Gravity
Gravity(2013)
½

A technical marvel and breathtaking ride, this wonder of a film puts you up in space and makes you feel the emotions of the the protagonist in a way that's thrilling and visceral. It is experience as theme, a dazzling space thriller that brings awe back to both outer space and the movies. Sandra Bullock is excellent, but the true stars are the visual effects wizards, the integral sound design, and the impossibly fluid and rhythmic camerawork by the great Emmanuel Lubezki, all driven by the ever expanding virtuosity of Cuaron. Only some predictable narrative beats and a superfluous back-story bring this film back to earth.

Margaret
Margaret(2011)

This film surely rewards repeat viewings, for it is one of the most raw, textured works of precise character study and operatic drama I've ever seen, a jagged yet profound construction whose messiness adds thematic and exhilarating momentum to what is a searching and uncommonly honest exploration and depiction of the complexities and difficulties of communication and shared experience. Lonargan's writing and amazing performances by his cast combine for the creation of some of the most fully realized and realistic characters in all of cinema, who guide the viewer through expertly distilled and internalized ideas of guilt, grief, adolescence, and the minutiae of human behavior. It may also be the most potent post 9/11 film yet made, dealing both pointedly and atmospherically with the uncertainty, anger, and trauma that event provoked

Up in the Air
½

Deserves to become a classic in the vein of the timely Frank Capra dramedies of the '30s. At times it is a painful look into a country betrayed by its economy, but Reitman finds comedy at almost every turn, made effective because it comes out of wry understanding of human nature. But the film is also about the connections we form w/ others that make life worth living. Clooney, Farmiga, and Kendrick are all excellent.

M
M(1931)

Lang's textured evocation of a morally unsound society is given haunting immediacy by revolving around the search for a serial killer, whose presence incites fear and disarray for citizens, cops, and petty criminals. The killer is played by Peter Lorre, in a career-best performance, defined by compulsions, disgust, and pitiable mental unbalance. Lang's first sound picture uses it sparingly and effectively ( marking distance, innovative for its time) and marries this formal economy w/ an expressive, striking mise-en-scene, creating dread and palpable mood out of the simplest of compositions, camera movements, and montages. It is as seamless, precise, and as artful a joining of sound and visuals that one will see in the cinema. In a film w/ little violence or action, this landmark thriller and social statement is more powerful and chilling than many of its modern successors.

Sansho the Bailiff (Sanshô dayû)

A moving masterpiece of narrative and theme. Mizoguchi's calm, poetic filmmaking caries the weight of time itself, links between fathers and sons, kindness and cruelty, ruin and redemption landing with stirring heft.

Sunshine
Sunshine(2007)

Narrative should've been as strong as the visuals

Defiance
Defiance(2009)
½

Zwick manages to empty out any possible weight or artistry from this rather remarkable true story. If it were as good as the beautiful score, we'd have something here. What we do have is merely competent and not particularly memorable.

Eyes Wide Shut
½

Kubrick's last great enigma. An erotic thriller that vibrates with intensity and psychological force. It's about what's behind the curtain, beneath the skin

Rear Window
Rear Window(1954)

A masterclass in direction and suspense. Underneath its artistic, tense thrills is an investigation into voyeurism --seeing, (mis)interpreting what we see-- and of the cinema itself. Grace Kelly and James Stewart are great

Up
Up(2009)

Problems similar to those in "The Incredibles" keep it from reaching the heights of "Ratatouille." The film seems to give up on its potent subject matter in the third act (especially once the dogs start flying planes), and the villain isn't used well. But that marriage montage is a thing of beauty, and it's one of Pixar's funniest and most touching films. You certainly won't be bored throughout its running time, and very few films are capable of having you cry within the first 15 minutes

Ratatouille
Ratatouille(2007)

This film breathes intelligence, craft, and artistry, whether it's the way Bird visualizes taste, the economy and grace of the camerawork, the way Michael Giacchino's lovely score caresses every scene, or how even the supporting characters are fully realized and distinct. Add to that such intriguing themes like finding one's place in society, shaping one's own identity, and the defense of the unique in a world of mediocrity, and you have a film that kids will probably enjoy more when they become adults, the promise of those films made during the golden days of Hollywood. Bird's greatest accomplishment is that, unlike other Pixar films which struggle to please both adults and kids, he loses neither audience here for even a moment as he starts on a high note and builds to a touching and earned finale, keeping us laughing and engaged throughout. Remy's journey to find acceptance in two worlds made for one of the most enjoyable times I've had at the movies. This is one of the best films of the '00s and Pixar's greatest achievement to date.

The Incredibles

The intriguing subtext isn't allowed enough room to breathe amidst a slam-bang final 2/3rds, but this is still an intelligent and entertaining classic from Pixar. Bird evokes James Bond as well as the days when entertaining stories like these were told on the radio. HIs ear for dialogue both in the superhero and particularly the suburban realm is funny and almost inspired, (as biting and precise as a scene from 'Revolutionary Road" or Little Children") and the "performances" and action scenes outdo most of the ones in present day blockbusters.

Monsters, Inc.

'Monster's Inc' is funny, very sweet, and clever, w/ intriguing ideas at its center; namely, the power of laughter and our over-reliance on energy sources, though it lacks the depth and artistry of Pixar's very best films... Love Billy Crystal though

Collateral
Collateral(2004)

Deserves to become a classic of its kind. Mann and writer Stuart Beattle have made a thoughtful character study that reverberates beneath the moody and efficient thrills. Foxx and Cruise are both superb.

I Married a Witch
½

A charmingly quirky and cute screwball comedy with Lake in ditzy, delightful form. Clair has fun with this one.

Bus Stop
Bus Stop(1956)
½

Monroe's performance is truly the only thing worth noting about it, and even that's not enough to watch this more than once.

The Battle of Algiers (La Battaglia di Algeri)

Pontecorvo's timeless, blistering masterpiece is one of the most important and seminal political films ever made, a heart-wrenching and level eyed depiction of rebellion, terrorism, and compromised humanity. This war film asks important questions through the vividness of the action and clarity of its characters, but it takes no sides. It asks the viewer simply to observe how a nation can descend into war, and how a person or people can turn to violence to achieve liberation

Strangers on a Train

One of Hitchcock's best and most sinister thrillers, with an eerily compelling and complex performance by Robert Walker

Big
Big(1988)

Just as harmless as Forrest Gump but 10 times better and more affecting (and funnier). Hanks is a lot more convincing as a kid trapped in an adult's body than he is as a mentally challenged guy from the South.

Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump(1994)

Silly, overly sentimental, simplistic, worthless. Hank's performance is bafflingly shallow and unconvincing. He does more poignant work in "Big." America"s (and Oscar's) love affair with this facile, thematically naive film is one of the great puzzles in cinema history. That it beat out films like "Pulp Fiction" and "Shawshank Redemption" for Best Picture only adds further incredulity.

Charade
Charade(1963)
½

A stylish, quick footed thriller with Grant still as appealing as ever and an equally entertaining turn from Hepburn

Duck Soup
Duck Soup(1933)

A comedic masterwork. it just never lets up

Breaking the Waves
½

Emily Watson gives one of the greatest performances in the cinema.

Chungking Express

It's taken relationship failures of my own for this bouncing, melancholy style piece to grow on me. Its swirling depiction of lonely, lost lovers ricocheting off each other finds simple, endearing ways to connect with one's own feelings of romance, heartbreak, and the unpredictability of any given day.

When Harry Met Sally

This might be my favorite romantic comedy. Once you get past the perceptive and seminal brilliance of the hilarious and touching screenplay, you come to appreciate the truly amazing chemistry between Crystal and Ryan, chemistry we don't really see anymore. Supporting performances by Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby are also pitch-perfect. I'll go further: Meg Ryan deserved an Oscar. Just amazing.

This Is the End

A sharply edged, gloriously self deprecating comedy that gets rather serious about its themes as stuff gets crazier

Badlands
Badlands(1974)

Contemplative, solemn, and beautifully shot, w/ a stellar performance by Martin Sheen. Plays like a sad dream

Persona
Persona(1966)

"Persona" is a true masterpiece of art house cinema. A film like a Rorschach ink blot, taking different shapes and forms as you experience its hypnotic rhythms and poetic, austere images. Bergman reached psychological and emotional depths so rich and mysterious that it almost defies the endless analysis and debate that the film has provoked. Ullmann and Andersson are mesmerizing

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
½

The admittedly brilliant performances (particularly by Nicholson and Fletcher) don't overshadow what, for me, is a simplistic and tonally inconsistent handling of the tricky subject matter. Is the movie satire? Is it farce? Is it drama? Sometimes it seems the film doesn't even know

The Maltese Falcon

Amazing dialogue, graceful camerawork, and brilliant performances (particularly by Bogart and Greenstreet) make this film an instant classic. Don't worry about the story; it's all mood and character here

On the Waterfront
½

Still holds up as a moving and powerfully acted drama, given immortality by Marlon Brando's legendary performance, which never fails to burn through the melodrama and grasp something human and wounded.

The Godfather

I happen to enjoy this one more than part 2. It's leaner, and the narrative has a tighter, more hypnotic pull. Not to mention, so many moments are examples of a filmmaker in peak form: the opening wedding, the murders at the restaurant, the baptism massacre; all these moments, along w/ a peerless cast and rich subtext, solidify its status as an absolute masterpiece.... The iconic score, however, while evocative, is merely a really good thing in a film of masterful things.

Godzilla
Godzilla(2014)

Plenty of tired and familiar trademarks of the typical blockbuster narrative, a talented cast is mostly wasted, and the lead is terribly bland. But Edwards has a knack and feel for suspense and staging that sets this movie apart. And he handles showing the monster w/ Spielberg like patience. There's much Spielberg evoking here, and it shows promise for this talented director

Requiem for a Dream

Harrowing and disturbing from beginning to end.

The Searchers

Beautifully shot and more thoughtful than other westerns of its time.

Synecdoche, New York
½

Reaches a startling profundity in the ways in which we live our lives. Dense, elliptical, and confounding on levels only Kaufman can reach.

The Bourne Supremacy

A big improvement on the original thanks to a stronger performance by Damon, surprising moments of emotion, and effective action.

Aliens
Aliens(1986)

Ignore some of the wooden dialogue and delivery. Ignore even the film's thick subtext. Take it at face value and you have one of the most effective action thrillers ever made.

The Insider
The Insider(1999)

Mann's best film. He turns what could've been an average muckraker drama into riveting and sleek filmmaking. 2 and a half hrs whiz by thanks to a rigorously researched and smart screenplay by Eric Roth, powerful performances by Pacino, Crowe (his best), and Plummer, and Mann's own directorial stylings and instincts. It's a masterpiece of the genre and one of the best films of '90s, a blistering and engaging story about the price of truth.

The Defiant Ones

Brilliant performances by Poitier and Curtis propel this drama

Chinatown
Chinatown(1974)

Arguably the greatest film noir, and certainly my favorite. This film is filled w/ riches, from Towne's dense, twisting screenplay (one of cinema's best) to the evocative, sun-baked cinematography, to the wounded performances by Nicholson and Dunaway. Polanski's masterpiece evokes the cynicism and anger of the '70s as effortlessly as it channels the stylings of past film noirs, while at the same time transcending them, becoming a compelling statement on the dangers of flawed vision, as well as greed, corruption, and living in a world that seems to depend on them

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The quintessential action adventure film, filled w/ everything one would want and done in a way that reaffirms Spielberg's status as a supreme filmmaker. Here the set-pieces retain their potency for their inventiveness, editing, elaborate and practical staging, and sly wit. And of course the wonderful characters (always churning out great dialogue) make us fully invest in every scene. Action, romance, smarts, comedy; this is virtually a perfect film.

Jaws
Jaws(1975)

One of the greatest of all thrillers. Spielberg's seminal entertainment towers above its many imitators for having well-drawn and engaging characters, showing the shark as little as possible, and caring as much about storytelling as it does scaring the audience, both aspects handled with economic and acute sensibilities and visual virtuosity. Along with E.T., it remains Spielberg's peak

The Silence of the Lambs
½

Pulsating with psychological intrigue and relentless tension, this film knows horror and fear the way "Psycho" does. Foster and Hopkin's verbal duel here is legendary. There are a number of underlying ideas at work here, whether it is the role of women in society or the effect of past traumas on a person. But taken at face value, this is as thrilling as a thriller can get, taut and scary. And of course, Hannibal Lector is one of the great screen villains, as chilling and sickening as he is intelligent and articulate.

Blue Jasmine
Blue Jasmine(2013)
½

Allen's most resonant and sharp work in years is put to greater heights by Cate Blanchett's astonishing balancing act of a performance.

Hannah and Her Sisters

In many ways Woody Allen's most complete feature, bringing the philosophical ruminations and existential concerns of his past films to a warm, tragicomic, but also life affirming head. Allen sees his wonderful characters with a clarity and acuity of a great novelist, yet his signature voice seems more invisible here, standing back perhaps with sad amusement at a group of people whose logic and hopes are at the mercies of their emotions and life's tumultuous rhythms. What Allen seems to be saying this time is that life offers just enough for us to have to just roll with it, if only we stopped and looked. A brilliant cast and Allen's most assured direction are just icing on what may be his last masterpiece.

The Matrix
The Matrix(1999)

Opened me up to the possibilities of film. A spectacular fusion of distinct and iconic works of fiction, pop-culture, and religion tethered to soaring invention and vision to create an influential action masterpiece and thought-provoking, thrilling science fiction film

Fargo
Fargo(1996)

A wonderfully original and darkly comic crime story w/ one of the great film characters at its center, Marge Gunderson, played by Frances Mcdormand. Contributions from William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi are also considerable. The Coens explore thematic terrain similar to what one will see in their later masterwork, "No Country for Old Men", albeit w/ less biblical fury. It's a triumph of writing and directing

Monster's Ball
½

Halle Berry's work is one of raw intensity, as is the film.

4 Little Girls

A powerful and heartbreaking doc

The Tree of Life
½

After seeing it multiple times, my adoration for this film only grows. It's a challenging, ambitious piece of cinema that might not satisfy completely on first viewing, but multiple viewings reveal the sensual and economic poetry of the direction and the film's profound and thoughtful themes. It concerns itself w/ the intense drama of everyday life and juxtaposes that w/ the expansiveness of time and space, reducing life to but a spec. It asks, like many of us do, the point of living a virtuous life when misfortune will inevitably strike. It explores the very nature, mystery, and beauty of life's experience, particularly when shared w/ others, and it does this w/ such astonishing cinematography and clarity that it forces us to consider the beauty in our lives as well. The film supplies stunning and intriguing image after image as well as achingly effective performances (particularly by Brad Pitt), making the overreaching the film is guilty of seem almost inconsequential. More Sean Penn scenes might've made the film seem totally complete and the after life scene isn't very satisfying. As it stands, It's a near-masterpiece.

The Hunger Games

Deals with the subject matter with an appropriate tone, dramatic weight, and emotion. Lawrence is very good (if a little steely) in the lead role. It avoids any interesting insights, or discussions about its dystopia, character depth is lacking, and, for its lengthy running time, seems inappropriately unambitious. In these ways it fails as a great piece of science fiction. But clearly care was put into this adaptation and, mostly, it feels like a solid stepping stone for bigger and better things. Let's hope that's true

Mother Of George
½

DP Bradford Young is the star here, with some of the most gorgeously textured and sensual lensing I've seen since "In the Mood for Love." It's so ornate and heavily saturated, it almost distracts from the delicately handled narrative and strong, sensitive performances.

All Is Lost
All Is Lost(2013)

Chandor proves a master of space and detail, presenting an intimate canvas of behavioral minutiae. It's the thinking man's action film, thick with metaphor and carried by arguably a career best performance from Robert Redford

Spring Breakers

A sort of boozy wonder, a feverish, candy-colored dream (or nightmare) of hedonistic insanity and razor-edged social commentary, James Franco is simply fantastic.

Captain Phillips

Another masterful and meticulous adrenaline shot to the thriller genre from the British maestro. Laying out the narrative and its players with uncommon control and intensity, Greengrass manages to take a moral and political stance simply through the rigorously detailed and steady handling of the material. It's Us vs Them, alright, but who exactly qualifies as Us and Them is made complicated. Hanks' final scene is one of the finest of his career, but best in show may be newcomer Barkhad Abdi.

Rush
Rush(2013)
½

A workmanlike, rather empty and blunt tale of rivalry with merely serviceable performances by its leads. Robust photography, editing and sound design only occasionally grant life to this stillborn effort.

Prisoners
Prisoners(2013)
½

Unsettles and engages through a provocative exploration of compromised morality and psychological trauma. This riveting thriller is granted a bleak poetry through the cinematography, score, and strong performances.

Fruitvale Station
½

A delicate and persuasive portrait of a life senselessly and abruptly snatched.

The Conjuring
½

Terror that simmers and boils, with fine work by its female leads. it's the best work of its kind sine "The Exorcist."

3 Women
3 Women(1977)

An elliptical, strange, and surreal descent into a distinctly American nightmare of shifting personalities and psychological damage. After multiple viewings, I still don't know exactly what it's about, nor can I explain how or why things happen. But that's the point. It defies synopsis. Here the images, symbolism, and characterizations are more important than actual narrative.

The Conversation
½

Coppola is working on a smaller canvas, but with a similar care and craft found in his epics. Gene Hackman gives arguably his best performance to date in this subtle and tense character study

The Night of the Hunter

Campy, yet surreal and sinister, Charles Laughton's solo feature is one of the most distinctly haunting films, a singular work of Americana in its Southern gothic milieu and sexual and biblical motifs. Its beautiful, expressionistic imagery and fantastical textures result in a grim(m) fable on religion, purity vs depravity, and threatened childhood. Robert Litchum's preacher is one of cinema's iconic representations of deranged evil.

The Red Shoes

Powell and Pressburger's gorgeous and well acted backstage drama is one of cinema's most beautiful technicolor creations, a gloriously sensual and passionate ode to the artist and the transformative power of art.

The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet)

Bergman's stark, uncompromising masterpiece may seem a tad too blunt, or even silly, to modern audiences, particularly those more accustomed to his more subtle and textured explorations of similar themes in his later films, but 'The Seventh Seal' retains its power through its immortal imagery and depth of feeling.

Rashômon
Rashômon(1951)

Seen more than half a century from its initial release, ' Rashomon's' brilliantly radical structure will look tame to some, but its ruminations on the nature of truth and perception are still powerfully resonant, and its strong, organic cast and striking, eloquent visuals are the mark of a filmmaker at his most immaculate.

Devil in a Blue Dress

A serviceable adaptation to a masterful work of fiction. Cheadle steals the show

Kagemusha
Kagemusha(1980)

Bleak and cynical like many of Kurosawa's pictures, Kagemusha is a simply told, sometimes slow, yet thoughtful epic of great painterly beauty and powerful images about the illusions used to control men.

Paranormal Activity 4
½

The series has long overstayed its welcome

The Count of Monte Cristo

A well acted and entertaining action flick

Out of Sight
Out of Sight(1998)
½

The best of the Leonard adaptations. Soderbergh's seamless merging of artistry and commerce is on full display here. The structure of the film is a showcase for editing ingenuity, while Soderbergh gives the film a sleek and vibrant hue. The dialogue is smart, witty, and layered, while the impeccable cast is headed by the dynamite pairing of George Clooney and a never better Jennifer Lopez.

Lawrence of Arabia

The epic that all other epics are judged by. The sweeping scope almost hides the complex character study at work. It is one of the most stunningly photographed films of all time with an equally brilliant score and cast

The Passion of the Christ

The production values are first rate, but what little I got from Gibson's vision is neither illuminating nor very interesting, and at worse, dangerously misguided. Ultimately anything he is trying to say is drowned out by the ridiculously graphic and sustained sequences of violence. This is one of the cruelest movies ever made.

Fanny & Alexander

Dickensian in its scope, vibrancy, and wealth of distinct, colorful characters. Bergman's sprawling, semi-autobiographical drama is a beautiful, magical, and moving story of family, faith, and death.

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)

Aronofsky crafts an uncompromising fairy tale of fluidity, camp, intensity, and fervor, making its pleasures very akin to ballet. It refuses to be classified as one thing and goes for entertaining thematic and aesthetic extremes when playing it safe would've resulted in a duller movie. For all its narrative tricks and freudian imagery, this is quite simply a fable about an artist's price for perfection. Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career, and the great supporting cast gets plenty to chew on. Whether you fully embrace the movie or not, "Black Swan's" psychological thrills will linger in the mind long after the end credits. Its third act is as glorious, insane, and as fitting a finale as one could imagine for this material. It felt like a crescendo to a great and eclectic orchestral piece.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

First time director Sean Durkin merges flashback sequences into the present in a deft and unsettling way that effectively puts you in the paranoid state of mind of Martha, played by Elizabeth Olsen in a stunning and intense debut. The film chills all the way to the ambiguous conclusion

Silver Linings Playbook

Russell finds wonderfully idiosyncratic and eccentric rhythms in what could have been a predictable rom-com, while also providing eloquently realized characters, all given life by a superb cast headed by a never better Bradley Cooper and an equally good Jennifer Lawrence. Also, let us raise a glass to De Niro, who finally finds himself acting once more.

Zero Dark Thirty

Mark Boal's dense, thorny screenplay matches brilliantly with Kathryn Bigelow's muscular, surgical direction, resulting in a visceral and exacting procedural that stands as the defining film on the War on Terror so far. Bigelow's handling of certain aspects of the hunt for bin Laden, primarily its depiction of torture and its efficacy, are hazy as fact, but provocative as cinema. The film is neither didactic nor patriotic; it is a stark, uncompromising thriller that captures the national mood, one of anger, fatigue, moral compromise, and the need for closure, conveyed and internalized by Jessica Chastain's intense and prickly lead performance.

The Grey
The Grey(2012)

Liam Neeson's pained, affecting work was the under recognized performance of the year. So too was this thoughtful and stark survival story, which pits man against nature, the wild, and himself with pitiless intensity and philosophical intent. The themes of this film are etched into the face of Neeson and in the atmosphere itself.

The Blair Witch Project

A considerably skilled and influential horror film. It's all about what's not seen

Yojimbo
Yojimbo(1961)

Kurosawa is a master behind the camera w/ this expertly staged and executed take on the western, with Toshiro Mifune's great presence carrying the film. It's an influential action flick

The French Connection
½

A smart, wonderfully paced and hart hitting cop thriller of the kind we rarely see anymore. Freidkin's tough genre film is bolstered by strong performances from Hackmen and Schieder and the grittiness of its craft, which gives the film a palpable sense of time and place. The thrilling car chase is a landmark, but it is the tone and artistry of the film that has influenced countless copycats in both television and cinema.

Pain & Gain
Pain & Gain(2013)

A coked out, adrenaline fueled, blunt as a bat to the face, dark comedy about stupidity and the silly perversion of the American Dream. Sometimes I can't separate the ridiculousness of its filmmaking from the ridiculousness of the characters. But maybe that's the point.

Cries and Whispers

Unflinching in its depiction of the deep emotional scars of its characters, brought to life in searing performances. Yet it is also staggeringly beautiful filmmaking, its rich compositions and exacting direction penetrating the depths of human suffering, as well as the wavering of faith and the capability for tenderness.

Pan's Labyrinth

One of the greatest and most uncompromising of all fantasy films; a supreme example of visionary and humanistic storytelling, empowered by affecting performances and masterful craft. It is about so much and uses so many filmmaking tools that the film seems to become multiple things at once. Del Toro's masterpiece is part war film, part fable, part social commentary, all blended together in one grand stroke

The Conformist
½

Bertolucci has crafted a provocative indictment of fascism and conformity w/ a tricky fusion of sexual politics and upper-class decadence. But the true stars are Tritingnant, who gives a coiled, tense performance, and DP Vittorio Storaro, who conjures images of great visual beauty and dynamic textures.

Mystery Men
Mystery Men(1999)
½

Gets by largely on the strength of its engaging cast

Death Proof
Death Proof(2007)
½

Some enjoyable dialogue

Inglourious Basterds
½

Pretty self-indulgent and hallow. Only two suspenseful scenes, as well as Christoph Waltz's performance, make this film worth seeing. Tarantino was having so much fun w/ his pop-culture and film references that he forgot to make the movie or any of the other characters interesting or engaging.

8 1/2
8 1/2(1963)

Fellini's seminal masterwork is an exuberant, surreal, and ultimately honest depiction of creative blocks and how personal conflicts (past and present) will constantly plague a person, interfering with work and with day to day life (wonderfully depicted in Marcello Mastroianni's performance). Fellini has never seemed to be more in love with the camera as he is here, caressing and weaving around his actors, framing them in unique ways, giving the whole thing the exuberance of a mad dance, which is what life often is. He also gleefully blends dream with reality. It all comes together to make for one of those films that seems alive.

Mean Streets
Mean Streets(1973)
½

Announces Scorsese's singular gifts and cinematic vernacular with fury, energy, and raw emotion. Intense performances by De Niro and Keitel. It's a seminal American classic

Hot Tub Time Machine

Even if you don't love the 80s as much as the film does, you'll still find it hilarious thanks to a great cast.

Due Date
Due Date(2010)
½

Occasionally provides some laughs. See 'Planes, Trains, and Automobiles' instead.

The Breakfast Club

Its quotable dialogue and embracement of archetypes almost distract from what is, at its heart, an exercise in empathy, in seeing through the surface and the stereotypes to reveal real and hurting individuals struggling with adolescence and the adults who don't understand them.

Legally Blonde

Witherspoon makes the movie

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God

Gripping and likely to inspire anger at such wicked injustice

Forget Paris
Forget Paris(1995)
½

Saw it on a plane ride a while ago. Wasn't bad at the time. Crystal does his thing

Black Dynamite

A very funny and faithful send-up of blaxploitation. How Michael Jai White managed to become less of a star than a Statham or Li is beyond me.

Men in Black II

Very disappointing. Doesn't try to do anything new or move the story in interesting directions

Men in Black III

Better than the 2nd one, with a wonderful Josh Brolin as a young Agent K, great makeup work, and some nice emotional resonance at the end. Still, I can't say it's good enough to warrant its existence

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

An improvement thanks to better action scenes.

The Day After Tomorrow
½

Cool disaster scenes. Quaid and Gyllenhaal are likable

In Time
In Time(2011)

Good premise, banal execution. And Timberlake and Seyfried are quite stale.

Grown Ups
Grown Ups(2010)

The bloopers were probably funnier

The Rundown
The Rundown(2003)
½

Great fun. This needs a sequel

Knight & Day
Knight & Day(2010)
½

If made with a more classical approach, this could've been a lot more memorable. Everyone knows action scenes mean little if you don't care about the people involved. Still, Tom Cruise is as committed as ever, and Cameron Diaz can never not be likable.

Inception
Inception(2010)
½

Without the benefits of a movie theater experience, one can feel the heavy exposition weigh down the film. I also don't think the dream world is a place for Nolan's cold, realist approach. As it stands, it's a technical tour-de-force w/ interesting ideas at its center. Nolan should be commended for bringing some innovation and originality back to blockbuster filmmaking

The Rookie
The Rookie(2002)

The consensus says it well enough. You'll enjoy it

Django Unchained

This darkly comic, entertaining, and tasteless genre styling, one of the black man's vengeance and the white man's comeuppance, may be a landmark. Through its gratuitous violence and giddy profanity is a serious examination and depiction of the horror and insanity of slavery and the casual racism that defined America. Tarantino channels and transcends the spaghetti western genre while also starting a discussion on depictions of race relations, hero and revenge archetypes, and myth-making in cinema. I can only imagine what a tighter, more thoughtful script might have added, but this is probably as close to a serious film as Tarantino will ever make. Performances by Dicaprio and Waltz are wonderful, while Foxx makes for an engaging hero.

Casablanca
Casablanca(1942)

The quintessential Hollywood romance, full of cynicism, realists, sacrifice, and rekindled spirits. The iconic screenplay has some of the jazziest, most poetic dialogue you'll ever hear, and the characters, particularly that of Rick Blaine (the incomparable Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (the beautiful Ingrid Bergman) all inhabit their world in a way that's tragic, but dignified, to the point where one can't help but root for everyone to get their way (except the Nazis of course). Forget "Gone With The Wind" or "Wizard of Oz", if any film from the golden age deserves to live on forever, it is this one. And most likely, it will.

Street Kings
Street Kings(2008)
½

Just a flat cop film.

Scream 4
Scream 4(2011)
½

Some fun meta humor with a reasonably fun cast

Jet Li's Fearless (Huo Yuan Jia) (Legend of a Fighter)

Thrilling action scenes. And Jet Li shows his acting chops

Bonnie and Clyde

Arthur Penn's film is an American landmark, capturing the social and political angst of the 60s with a savage, funny, and tragic depiction of two foolish, lost individuals who go on a path that will lead to infamy and self-destruction

Annie Hall
Annie Hall(1977)

The peak of Woody Allen's inventiveness and wit and his major artistic breakthrough. This is one of the greatest films ever made, simple as that. The film blends great comedy with poignant insight on the rhythms of relationships, arguably better than any other film.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence
½

Still trying to decide how i completely feel about this movie. Kubrick and Spielberg's marks are all over this ambitious sci-fi fairy tale, and not always in a way that feels whole or complete, which in a way makes it more fascinating. The ending still doesn't quite work for me. But this a technically wondrous and thematically rich piece of work that demands multiple viewings. It might grow on me down the road

Juno
Juno(2007)

Let me just make a point of saying that Jennifer Garner was robbed of an Oscar nomination... But yea this is a funny, smart, and quirky film w/ characters intricately and lovingly drawn and great emotional payoffs. Ellen Page gives one of the best performances of 2007

Olympus Has Fallen
½

Gratuitously violent with stale acting, recycled plot points, a nonsensical narrative, and superficial attempts to appear timely or serious that ultimately come across as superficial and occasionally even racially insensitive. Gerard Butler has yet to give a performance I admire

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

A relentlessly campy, but sometimes fun action flick with an always game Dwayne Johnson. It's for the fans more the anyone else, who will be hard-pressed to care about the numerous amount of characters and their silly names.

Moonrise Kingdom

Perhaps Wes Anderson's best film. His rigorously designed, quirky storybook world merges brilliantly with a sweet and poignant evocation of the tenderness of youth and the joys of budding romance. Anderson assembles another wonderful cast.

The Other Guys
½

Ferrell seems to become less funny with each movie

Swordfish
Swordfish(2001)
½

Well...there is Halle Berry

A Clockwork Orange

Raises powerful, timeless questions about the morality of society and the methods a government might take to control its people, all w/ a twisted and darkly humorous tone. There is so much to unpack here. While commenting on human nature, control, art, barbarism, media, and ethical compromise, the film also explores subjectivity versus objectivity, and whether one can discern the two. The viewer is faced with one's own view of violence on screen and is forced to distance oneself from the violence Kubrick depicts, which is done through the eyes of the protagonist, appearing joyful and balletic. It is this aspect of the film that makes it one of the most challenging works in cinema. Kubrick's mise-en-scene is as hypnotic, deft, and as thematically driven as Malcolm Mcdowell's career-defining performance. It's a perfect fusion of subject matter and director

Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Stanley Kubrick directs his actors, most notably Petter Sellers and George C. Scott, to comedic perfection in the key cinematic political satire of our time. Few films (maybe none) have so effortlessly fused a masterful command of the medium with such scathing wit and glorious comedy. The script, by Kubrick, Peter George, and Terry Southern, is clearly one of the cinema's treasures.

The Last Temptation of Christ
½

Thoughtful, well made, and deeply felt to be sure, but as someone who cares little for religion, ultimately the film did little for me. It's better than Mel Gibson''s Passion of the Christ" of course.

The Talented Mr. Ripley
½

Law and especially Damon are terrific in this suspenseful and insidious study of a sympathetic psychopath. By caring as much about the psychology of the characters as it does the plot, Minchella crafts a thriller that has you constantly thinking about it as you watch it.

Being John Malkovich

A wacky, dense collage of psychological and social ideas, subversions, metaphors, and all around zaniness. Kaufman once again blends quirky human behavior and sinuous storytelling with strange gravitas and almost dark truths about celebrity, want, and human frailty.

Friends With Benefits
½

Kunis and Timberlake are very charming and likable.

The Social Network

Everything in this film--- from the rhythmic editing to the unconventional score to the brilliant cast to the rapid-fire dialogue that they churn out--- seems to be working in perfect unison with each other, making for a fast-paced drama that has the tone of a thriller thanks to a rich screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and Fincher's chilly but restraIned direction. This is a timely film with a timely subject, and it breezes by like a summer entertainment. After it's over, one will get the feeling that the filmmakers are making some sad statements about this generation. In a cast full of vibrant performances, I was particularly impressed by Justin Timberlake, who struck the right tone of unchecked narcissism, wry intelligence, and jittery paranoia

Drive
Drive(2011)

This is an artsy action film with the sensibilities and mood of European crime films or noir, with extreme sequences of violence and lengthy moments w/o dialogue that will entertain some and turn off others. Some will see style and craft that is inspired, while others will see excess. Refn evokes Michael Mann in how well he captures L.A. Its merging of B-movie stylings, neo-noir, and crime films results in a genre hybrid that evokes "Pulp Fiction." The more i think on it, the more i love this unconventional genre piece. It's the charged, sensual antithesis to films like "The Transporter." Gosling, Brooks, and the cinematographer deserved Oscar consideration.

Shame
Shame(2011)

Mcqueen (w/ the help of his brilliant cinematographer) shows a masterful command of composition and camerawork; every take and frame seems to suggest the mindset of Brandon, played by Michael Fassbender in one of the year's very best performances. Carey Mulligan is also superb. This is a raw and refined character study. The camera's unwavering gaze allows the performers to lay emotions, explicit and implicit, completely bare.

Hustle & Flow
½

Howard is a revelation

Tokyo Drifter
½

A colorful, jazzy yakuza film

Magnolia
Magnolia(1999)
½

An ambitious, brilliant acted, sprawling mosaic of flawed humans. Tom Cruise gives his best performance to date.

Network
Network(1976)
½

Chayefsky's iconic script is a scathing, live-wire work of prescience and insight, a timeless exploration of the growing decadence of popular entertainment and culture. Fireball performances from Dunaway, Finch, Duvall, and Holden, and Lumet's assured direction ground this sometimes nutty, sometimes messy, but always witty satire that looks at corporate greed, the influence of the media, and the way the gap between entertainment and debasement has grown narrower and narrower. It says that the society that allows such trash to fester and permeate is one worthy of condemnation.

Once Upon a Time in the West
½

Sergio's style makes for an undeniably awesome opening, and Ennio Morricone once again proves his musical genius, but like most westerns, it did little for me.

A Serious Man
½

The Coens at their most thoughtful, humorous, and personal. This film will only get better w/ age.

X-Men: First Class
½

Exchanges between McAvoy and Fassbender are all I got out of it. It's a silly, superficial origin story bereft of much dramatic weight or nuance. The dialogue is often corny and on the nose, while the supporting cast is stale.

Superman Returns

Perhaps a little unfairly maligned. It's a perfectly admirable, if uninspired and dramatically stilted, appreciation of the iconic hero.

Gandhi
Gandhi(1982)

Overlong and sometimes bland, Ben Kingsley's performance makes it watchable

Rocky
Rocky(1976)

Strong performances and an uplifting story. Not a sports movie, but a movie about the underdog

Crash
Crash(2004)
½

Deeply manipulative and heavy-handed, reducing the complexities of racism to chance encounters, broad but narrow statements, and ironies. Some strong performances save it from total irrelevance. The film seems to say every one is racist on the inside. How wonderful and profound. But of course the Academy awards this film best picture but doesn't even nominate the searing "Do the Right Thing."

Munich
Munich(2005)
½

Spielberg's visual storytelling and command of action and suspense rise above the rather episodic script, and he benefits from dazzling work by DP Janusz Kaminski and editor Michael Kahn. Above all, this is his most severe and provocative film, using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to explore the compromising of ideals and the psychological toll that the circular act of reprisals takes on a person and a nation. That the script is not too sure-handed or as eloquent as it seeks to be is of disheartening, but ultimately small concern; it's a riveting and thoughtful thriller nonetheless.

Man on Fire
Man on Fire(2004)
½

Denzel is better than the movie

The Bourne Ultimatum

The best action film of the 21st century so far, one of the best threequels of all time, and the best action thriller in quite some time, this one moving at a mile per minute. Exhilarating action sequences are propelled by powerhouse editing and camerawork (which might be too shaky for some) and a weathered performance by Matt Damon, who makes a super assassin human and almost tragic. That the script leaves room for any gravitas at all (all of it well earned and effective) is a testament to Greengrass's and writer Tony Gilroy's understanding of the character and quality storytelling. As Hollywood action films get worse, this film will only get better.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Just as fun as its predecessor, if a little darker.

Shoot 'Em Up
Shoot 'Em Up(2007)

Ridiculous fun. Clive Owen sells the action wonderfully

Signs
Signs(2002)

All build-up and no payoff, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when the build-up is this masterfully handled. In a sense, the film is all about buildup, about the potential for something to happen-- about 'signs.'

Unbreakable
Unbreakable(2000)
½

The ending is not meant to be a twist, though it does make you rethink what came before. Shyamalan's direction is quite exquisite, with interesting camerawork and compositions, and the performances are strong. This quietly intriguing and moody thriller points to a true filmmaker. One wonders how the director of this film also made 'Lady in the Water' and 'The Happening.'

Amour
Amour(2012)
½

Time may reveal this to be a masterwork, and it already has the feeling of an enduring exploration of its subject matter. Two brilliantly subtle performances by Riva and Trintignant are at the center of this unblinking and heartbreaking portrait of a couple devastated by illness. Haneke's cruel lack of sentiment and immaculate direction are both in evidence here, but so too is s surprising tenderness, capturing with each frame and piece of dialogue an entirety of a long and beautiful relationship, making the tragedy that unfolds all the more painful.

Three Colors: Blue (Trois Couleurs: Bleu)

The most sensual and visually lush entry in the trilogy. Julliete Binoche's remarkably restrained performance is aided by Kieslowski's acute tonal and audiovisual sensibilities, suggesting and underlying Binoche's state of mind as well as the central themes of the film through delicate, precise, and quite beautiful cinematographic techniques, editing, and sound. It is a modest canvas that Kieslowski paints with immense feeling, range, and artistry

The Hangover Part II

A rather tired rehash of the first one.

The Hangover
The Hangover(2009)
½

A clever set up carried out to silly and often hilarious results, with wonderful interplay among a talented cast.

North by Northwest

A brisk, supple, impeccably directed thriller with an eye for scope and an even better ear for dialogue, with Cary Grant's wonderful star power front and center. Witty, romantic, and unendingly tense, It's Hitchcock's most purely enjoyable film, an iconic romp of the innocent man on the run.

Minority Report
½

The finale (expository, then abrupt and cliche) marginally detracts from what is otherwise masterful science fiction and one of Spielberg's most accomplished and tonally sound films. This is supreme and energetic filmmaking, in which the film's intriguing and bustling ideas serve as the bass to the melody of the film's brilliant set pieces. Cruise and others give excellent performances, and the screenplay, which blends futuristic and thriller sensibilities with a humanistic center, makes for an engaging and thoughtful ride. Cinematography (striking and desaturated), editing, score, and art direction are all uniformly impressive

The Master
The Master(2012)

A hauntingly beautiful and elliptical work of cinematic ambition and craft. Amazing performances by Joaqin Pheonix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams are matched by a commanding, delicately wrought visual and sonic experience, helped by cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., art director Jack Fisk, and composer Jonny Greenwood. Anderson is getting better and better even as his films push further into a realm of enigmas and puzzles. "The Master's" ideas are many, but those that stand out--- the need for man to follow and believe in something greater, the folly of that need, and the duality of man---make the film endlessly compelling even as it often defies comprehension. On a second viewing, the film does seem to stall and twiddle its thumbs in its middle section.

Black Hawk Down

No amount of character development here, and the films gives just as little room for understanding both the Somalians or the conflict, but technical virtuosity and a timely subtext put it above the standard action film. Its depictions of warfare are the most visceral put on screen since "Saving Private Ryan" (to which it owes much). You certainly won't fall asleep to it.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

One of Spielberg's most refined, thoughtful, and spectacular entertainments. An awe-inspiring experience and technical marvel, with one of John Williams' most transcendent scores. Dreyfuss also gives a great performance

Beasts of the Southern Wild
½

This film has slightly grown on me. Its patchwork script and shaky subtext can be forgiven in the face of such vibrant idiosyncrasy and stirring feeling. Wallis's naturalistic intensity and emotion carries the film. I can''t wait to see what director Ben Zeitlin does next.

Les Misérables

A rushed narrative and Tom Hooper's intrusive, counter intuitive direction severely take away from the fine cast and the emotional sweep of the story. Only Anne Hathaway's searing rendition of 'I Dreamed a 'Dream' survives the heavy bombardment of the filmmaking. It doesn't help that the other songs just aren't very good.

The Descent
The Descent(2006)

Marshal creates a rich aesthetic and palpable sense of mood and terror. Its chills, pacing, subtext, and mise-en-scene evoke Ridley Scott's seminal film 'Alien'

Flight
Flight(2012)
½

One of Denzel's best performances heads this thoughtful and wonderfully casted character study. The opening plane sequence is one of the most intense and harrowing sequences of its kind ever made.

Magic Mike
Magic Mike(2012)
½

Soderbergh's typically sleek and brisk direction is complimented by one of McConaughey's most accomplished, devilish performances and a surprisingly strong turn by Channing Tatum.

The Lovely Bones
½

Gravely misunderstood. For every moment of blatancy or heavy handedness, there are moments of striking invention and uncompromising vision, as well as scenes of great potency and beauty. Jackson is capable of nuance as well as flair. Ronan is superb while Tucci is chilling. It's an admirable film, one that often goes for an abstract approach. Not all the pieces come together cohesively, and it lacks a lot of the delicacy that the story required. But don't dismiss it after one viewing.

Erin Brockovich
½

Robert's best performance

The Cell
The Cell(2000)
½

An interesting failure

De rouille et d'os (Rust and Bone)
½

Audiard's intuitive sensibilities, the raw intensity of the performances, and the textured mise-en-scene give heft to the cliched and sentimental story

The Departed
The Departed(2006)
½

A Shakespearean crime tragedy about identity and deceit that also works as crackling entertainment, this is easily Scorsese's best film since "Goodfellas." He uses a wonderfully layered screenplay by William Monahan and infuses it w/ his signature feel for authenticity, use of location, and electric direction. The cast is fantastic, the drama is endlessly compelling, and the dialogue is some of the best I heard from the 00s.

Kingdom of Heaven

I might have to see the extended edition, which I here supplied a lot more depth and intrigue to the story and characters.

Jingle All the Way

This movie's incredibly stupid. But what can i say, i enjoy it every time i watch it during the Christmas season. And it does capture a bit of the crazed rush of the holiday season

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

This is by far one of the most important, far reaching, and eloquent documents of an American tragedy that has ever been made

End of Watch
End of Watch(2012)
½

Ayer's best film yet and one of the better cop films in recent year. Gyllenhaal and Pena give two of their best performances, striking an engaging and natural chemistry that leads the viewer through its intense narrative. The handheld format is tiresome at times, but the direction and acting by a strong cast overcome its sometimes distracting artifice.

Letters from Iwo Jima

Often a powerful and affecting war film that feels important for its sympathetic and heartbreaking depiction of japanese soldiers during WWII, encapsulating the obvious, but mostly unexplored, notion that war was more of a hell for the losers than for the victors

Gladiator
Gladiator(2000)
½

Well acted and well told with great action scenes and production values. Russell Crowe makes for a great, compelling action hero. The story, more about revenge than Roman society (though it does come into play), allows for considerable emotional investment. You'll want Joaquin Phoenix's vile character dead well before the end of the first act.

Life of Pi
Life of Pi(2012)

There are visual wonders to behold in this film, and the score is lovely, but I was often distracted by how fake a lot of it looked, particularly the animals, and the story was weighed down by a poor structure. Ultimately, the film is too facile and simplistic to be the deep, spiritual experience it wants to be. Ang Lee uses 3-D effectively, giving wonderful layers to his images, but I still found myself thinking I needlessly spent an extra 4$. My praying for the end of this 3-D fad continues.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Frankly, they all sucked after the first one.

Three Colors: Red (Trois couleurs: Rouge)

Maybe the strongest film of the three, "Red" is a deeply philosophical exploration of chance and the inter-connectivity of life. It's searching ideas, stirring beauty, and almost humble formal virtuosity present a director at the zenith of his powers and thematic concerns.

In the Mood for Love
½

A masterfully composed and delicately wrought tone poem about repressed desire, fleeting moments, and unrequited love. Wong Kar Wai uses saturated colors, purposeful framing, and slow motion to perfectly convey the tangled, constricted feelings of two leads, played with great nuance and sensitivity by Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung.

Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas(2012)
½

Not all together cohesive, but gloriously crafted and deeply felt in its thematic concerns. Every actor is effective in their multiple roles, and each story is engaging. It's an ambitious (though not complex) and emotional ride that will provoke discussion. A truly beautiful score adds heft to the proceedings

La Double Vie de Véronique (The Double Life of Veronique)
½

A truly metaphysical work. It can only be described as a mesmeric evocation of the mysteries and nature of existence. The stunningly beautiful cinematography and hauntingly emotive and subtle work by Irene Jacob command your attention even without the luxury of an actual narrative.

Lincoln
Lincoln(2012)

Some of Spielberg's most restrained direction and his best film in a decade, "Lincoln" is a supremely crafted and literate portrait of one of American history's most celebrated and elusive figures. An impeccable cast highlighted by Day-Lewis's warm, lived in portrayal and Jones's scene stealing verve is matched by Kushner's idiomatic, intelligent screenplay, making for an engaging story of politics that also captures a bit of the current state of America. Like many films of its kind, it pushes black characters to the sidelines, and it fails to completely capture the humanity and moral complexity of the times (Lincoln's moral complexities most especially). But as a treatise on the mechanics and compromises of democracy and great men, it is a stirring biopic.

Notorious
Notorious(1946)

A masterful fusion of romance and suspense. The brisk script by Ben Hecht is rich with wonderful dialogue that is made into tense verbal sparring, flirtation, and evasion by the great performances, namely by the incomparable Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. All is held together by Hitchcock's unsurpassed virtuosity with the camera, providing subtle punctuation and visual elegance to every scene. It's one of the master's best.

The Shining
The Shining(1980)

One of the greatest, endlessly enigmatic, and disturbing horror films ever made, a hypnotic tale of madness and ambiguity almost as unhinged as Jack Nicholson's unforgettable Jack Torrence. It stands alongside such horror classics like 'Alien,' 'Psycho,' and 'Repulsion' as a work of striking and rigorous directorial command. Every time I see it, the "All work and no play" reveal still runs a chill up my spine.

Ted
Ted(2012)

Macfarlane imbues the buddy film with his signature brand of potty mouthed, pop culture comedy, to mostly good results

12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men)

Lumet's terse, simmering debut is a masterwork of vivid characterizations and rich writing. Its virtually real time unfolding and spare direction give this the spark and grit of reality. It's a powerful and timeless exploration of the legal system (particularly on the eve of social change in America) and the desire for justice

Snow White and the Huntsman

There is a sequence involving a magical forest that is a visual feast full of invention and beauty. Sadly, you have to also endure stale acting, lazy screenwriting, and a hallow center.

Breach
Breach(2007)

Tense. Cooper delivers a compelling performance. It's the thinking man's thriller

Love and Other Drugs
½

I like seeing Anne Hathaway naked as much as anyone, but I wasn't engaged here

Kill Bill: Volume 1
½

A brilliant concoction of all that Tarantino loves, with glorious, inventive, and ultimately transcendent style and a natural command of storytelling. The performances (particularly Uma Thurman's) are grand and entertaining w/o succumbing to parody or farce, much like Tarantino's dialogue. If not for the lesser sequel, this might be considered a classic already

Safe House
Safe House(2012)
½

Better than I expected, mostly thanks to Denzel and, surprisingly, Ryan Reynold's performances

The Town
The Town(2010)

A very efficient action film, filled with well-drawn characters and tension. Ben Affleck is as good behind the camera as he is in front of it, but it is Jeremy Renner who provides the film's best reason to see it, giving an intense, compelling performance. He reminded me of Mouse from Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins novels... If you haven't read them, then shame on you

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
½

A couple good performances and stunning production values are not enough to save a film that seems to be on autopilot. Much like the choice of bookending the film w/ Hurricane Katrina, the film goes nowhere. Its lengthy running time is made even more unwieldy by the cold, distant feeling of the storytelling, which lacks any insight or depth. Deeply disappointing.

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie

Just deliriously goofy and sometimes almost brazenly quirky. It's relentless fun

Wreck-it Ralph

Wonderful invention, brilliant animation, great voice over work, and a moving narrative with surprising thematic resilience and depth.

Pariah
Pariah(2011)
½

A vibrantly photographed and grounded coming- of- age film with a wonderful lead performance by Adepero Oduye. Its cinematographer and writer/director Dees Rees are two people to watch.

Traffic
Traffic(2000)

Ambitious and thoughtful filmmaking pulled off in grand and precise strokes. The use of different color palettes make the mutiple storylines easy to follow and give the film a unique and vibrant look. Despite its artsy sensibilities, this is gritty filmmaking that pulls no punches, exploring the drug trade w/ a scope and objectivity befitting of a broad subject that doesn't have easy answers. The cast (one of the decade's best) features a number of hard-hitting performances, and the score by Cliff Martinez is beautiful and unconventional for the film's subject matter. It reflects Soderbergh's intent, which isn't for us to judge, but to think, observe, and regard. This film will remain relevant for as long as drugs remain a problem in America, which is looking like forever.

Almost Famous
½

A joyful, intelligent, and lovingly crafted story of adolescence that also perfectly captures a place and time. Performances by Kate Hudson and Frances Mcdormand are fantastic

Let the Right One In

The best vampire movie in nearly three decades. It's the antidote to "Twilight."

The Interrupters

A powerful and vital exploration of inner city crime.

Melancholia
Melancholia(2011)
½

Beautifully shot with strong performances by the lead actresses, but it's bogged down by its own heavily somber mood and a dragging, hallow script.

Sinister
Sinister(2012)
½

I admired the sound and look of the film. It's a better than average horror film

The Haunting
The Haunting(1999)

Horror at its most asinine

Red Dragon
Red Dragon(2002)
½

An improvement on "Hannibal," with a fine performance by Edward Norton

Gone Baby Gone
½

a compelling drama with a strong cast and thoughtful themes

Batman & Robin
½

Really really awful. But some of the lines given to Schwarzenegger are so corny that they provide entertainment all by themselves

The Waterboy
The Waterboy(1998)

One of the most unbearably stupid movies in the history of cinema.

King Kong
King Kong(2005)
½

Improves upon the original in virtually every way. Of course the effects are more effective, but the relationship between girl and ape is more touchingly realized, losing much of the weirdness from the original, and the New York and sailing scenes are fleshed out and better serve the characters (a grounded, but colorful bunch), so that once we get to the thrilling set pieces, we care about those involved. This is one of the great modern adventure epics.

I Am Legend
I Am Legend(2007)

The first half (including the brilliant opening with Emma Watson and cut to a ravaged NY) is the superior half, focusing on Smith's loneliness and life of routines. And there is a suspenseful set-piece that takes place mostly in darkness. The effects of a deserted NYC are also great. However, the second half is a mediocre action film, and the effects on the creatures are pretty awful.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
½

The director of the great films "Y tu Mama Tambien" and "Children of Men" puts his mark on the franchise, to distinct and satisfying results. It's not a great adaptation of the novel, but it's a good stand alone movie that influenced the tone of the sequels.

The Dark Knight Rises
½

Nolan accomplishes quite a feat here. He overcomes some structural, narrative, and thematic messiness and some rushed plot points through sheer spectacle and emotional potency alone. It is undoubtedly the film of the summer, and It is an epic and reasonably satisfying conclusion to a great trilogy, one that proves that ideas and entertainment need not be separate. Composer Hans Zimmer deserves special mention for his work here, expanding wonderfully on his previous two scores (which he collaborated on with James Newton Howard) and completing one of modern cinema's most iconic and effective scores with a grand flourish.

Titanic
Titanic(1997)

Brilliant production values cannot hide the wooden acting (except by Winslet), ridiculous length, corny dialogue, and heavy-handed storytelling; not a hint of subtlety or depth in this film. Celine Dion's song is almost as unbearable as the movie's length. Those looking for great romance can find it in much better, and shorter, films.

Beauty and The Beast (La Belle et la bête)

A mysterious and magical fairy tale with astounding practical effects that still hold up, wonderful costumes and sets, and a surrealist tone and texture that captures the sexual and primal undercurrents and oddness of the story that Disney's film could never explore. Lead performances are wonderful

Heathers
Heathers(1988)

I don't know, I thought it was more stupid and frivolous than subversive and clever.

King Kong
King Kong(1933)
½

Hasn't aged well. Peter jackson's remake is superior in almost every way

Paths of Glory

It is here that Kubrick announced himself as one of the great directors, and it is the most humorless movie he ever made. It is also arguably the definitive anti-war film, bereft of exhilarating action or thrilling sequences, leaving only death, despair, and hypocrisy in its wake. This terse, stark war film makes powerful statements on institutional failings and the absurdity of war. Trench combat is depicted in vivid images and deft, fluid tracking shots, and Kirk Douglas is intense but restrained as Col. Dax, a man searching for reason in a world that seems empty of it. This is one of the great war films.

Savages
Savages(2012)

Messy, gratuitous, formulaic, and pretty uninspired. Only a wonderful supporting cast saves this film from a one star rating

Enemy of the State

One of the better movies of its kind. It's probably my favorite film by the late Tony Scott

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
½

Experiencing Tony Scott's filmmaking here is equivalent to standing next to a jackhammer. Add to that a ridiculous and grating performance by Travolta, and I hated this movie 5 minutes in

The Hunt for Red October

One of my grandfather's favorites.

Vantage Point

its storytelling technique gets very tiresome very quickly. By the time everything comes together, I was ready for it to be over. And the performances are stale.

Just Wright
Just Wright(2010)
½

One of the better recent movies of its kind, but too formulaic and simple for me to sit through more than once.

Colombiana
Colombiana(2011)

Even w/o the luxury of having Liam Neeson, this is a better film than 'Taken'

Red Desert
Red Desert(1964)

A meditative, existential tapestry of painterly and sorrowful images. Monica Vitti gives a contained and compelling performance in this quiet, but fierce exploration of ennui and the beauty and ugliness of modernism.

The Losers
The Losers(2010)
½

A better film than "The A-Team" thanks to the cast and style.

Cop Out
Cop Out(2010)

Awful jokes and no sense of energy

Changeling
Changeling(2008)

Jolie is very good here.

Take Shelter
Take Shelter(2011)

I thought Michael Fassbender gave the best performance of 2011 until I saw the towering work Michael Shannon does here, which drives this tense and delicately crafted psychological drama.

We Need to Talk About Kevin
½

Tilda Swinton's peerless performance is matched by a remarkable and unnerving display of sensorily motivated, fragmented storytelling. This art-house wonder is essentially a horror film of the highest order, though relying less on gore than it does pointed symbolism and an associative collage of brazen, striking visuals and disturbingly effective sound work. It's as masterful and as haunting an exploration of a haunted state of mind as any that I've seen.

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)
½

As thoughtful, well acted, and as beautifully shot as the other colors, but more playful in tone. Still, don't be fooled by its lighter story. The social and political subtext lurking underneath reward second viewings. It's an affecting "anti-comedy"

Cradle 2 the Grave

Jet Li is always engaging. The rest of the cast is not.

The New World
½

Malick's film is an assemblage of the ephemeral and the eternal, and these ideas are in every image and scene, which are granted an ethereal but grounded beauty by the quietly stirring performances by Farrell and Kilcher and the stunning, naturally lit cinematography by the great Emmanuel Lubezki. Those who don't embrace it will see a slow, meandering film w/ little momentum. Others will see what it looks like when film becomes art. Malick's take on the story of Pocohantas is a tone poem of considerable feeling and rich meditation

Brave
Brave(2012)

A heartfelt, beautifully animated fairy tale and mother- daughter story, but some rushed plotting, a conservative approach, and formula keep it from the heights of Pixar's best

L.A. Confidential
½

You're not always sure where it's going, but that's part of the fun of this labyrinthine noir. A brilliant cast, steady pace, excellent writing, and perfect sense of time and place make every scene compelling and engaging. Comparisons to "Chinatown" are not out of bounds

The Expendables

pretty stupid, but in a reasonably fun way

Spirited Away

A masterful modern fairy tale that manages to fill each frame w/ thoughtful, poignant ideas and wondrous imagination. There is a complexity to this film that makes many live action films seem simple and juvenile. And where some animated films drown in superfluous dialogue, Miyazaki understands the benefits of silences, letting images or scenes speak for themselves. But the film is also silly, fun, and visually dazzling, making it easy for kids to enjoy the film as well.

Galaxy Quest
Galaxy Quest(1999)
½

smart, clever spoof of Star Trek and its fanatics

The Cabin in the Woods
½

An unexpectedly fun and clever ride that addresses every horror cliche and formula, and subverts and attacks them. It serves as a cry for better things in the horror genre, and a critique on the makers of these bad horror films, and even us for supporting them. Don't let anyone spoil the ridiculous but bold plot.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
½

Simply the best thing Cameron has ever done, the only one of his films where the screenplay can be seen as a highlight rather than a detriment. The performances, and particularly the Oscar nominated cinematography, are also as impressive as I've seen in one of Cameron's films. And of course, the action is fantastic. Special effects on the T-1000 (played by an eerie Robert Patrick) still look great today. This is one of my favorite action films as well as one of the great sequels.

X2: X-Men United

One of the best sequels ever, improving on the original in every department. The opening set-piece is a show-stopper and it never loses focus from there, leading to a satisfying climax

Marvel's The Avengers
½

Better than all the movies that lead up to it. Whedon's lucrative endeavor is also an assured crowd-pleaser. He understands exactly what his audience wants, and he gives it to them; he allows his super-heroes to clash and bicker, letting their distinct personalities drive most of the action of the first 2 acts. When they finally do team-up for the final battle, it is very satisfying. It doesn't represent some major evolution in super-hero films, and, like others, is stuck in a similar thematic and structural rut, but I don't usually see super-hero films for any type of artistic ambition (unless they're made by Christopher Nolan). I see them to be thoroughly entertained. And I was... Scarlet Johansson is awesome

Hancock
Hancock(2008)
½

Could've been so much better. Smith seemed more committed than the writer and the director, who fashion a film of awkward pacing and poor storytelling

Pleasantville

This is one of the best films of 1998. Gary Ross takes what could've been an easy cash-in on the nostalgia for 1950s sitcoms and instead makes a smart, wonderfully acted and photographed film that, while serving as a fully-realized ode to those shows, also imbues the film w/ deep and thoughtful themes that reflect a decade not nearly as picture-perfect as its television shows would have you believe, and a society that has changed considerably. This is a film memorable for its great production values as well as for the ideas on screen

Shoah
Shoah(1985)

It takes real patience to sit through this epic, but if you do, you will be rewarded with one of the most powerful, and essential, viewing experiences in TV or film; the most essential and devastating of all Holocaust films. Shoah probably comes as close as any show or movie can in "changing" the viewer after it is over. Watch it straight through or watch it in sections. Either way, it should be watched.

Saw IV
Saw IV(2007)

They should've stopped after two.

Dude, Where's My Car?

Takes stupid to another level

Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider(2007)
½

So dumb and corny it's almost funny

The King's Speech

Despite the great chemistry between Rush and Firth, this is a rather ordinary biopic that would've worked just as well as an HBO movie

8 Mile
8 Mile(2002)

Not a cash-in on Eminem's popularity; this is a real movie and Eminem gives a real performance.

Boys Don't Cry
½

Great performances and a powerful story

A History of Violence
½

Beneath this taut and well acted thriller lies a parable heavy on ideas about violence.

The Pianist
The Pianist(2002)

Tells its harrowing story with an immersive economy, restraint, and clarity that makes it arguably a more vital depiction of the Holocaust than Spielberg's "Schindler's List." Adrien Brody gives a lived in performance he has yet to surpass.

Kill Bill: Volume 2
½

Not as much fun, though it certainly has it's moments. The final confrontation between the bride and Bill is wonderful filmmaking

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction(1994)

Arguably the best film from the 90s. With this film one gets the sense that Tarantino had a filmmaking cauldron in front of him. In it, he put neo-noir, black comedy, gangster films, pop-culture, a non-linear structure, fantastic, fanciful, literate dialogue, and whatever else was going on in his head, and out came this seminal, genre defying masterpiece.

Lady in the Water

When I first saw it in theaters I had thought that it was one of the worst films I had ever seen. I haven't seen it since, but I doubt that opinion will change too much for me.

The Happening

If marketed as a black comedy, it might've gotten rave reviews.

Contagion
Contagion(2011)

A fast, efficient, well-acted thriller

Live Free or Die Hard

Does the Die Hard franchise proud. Willis is as comfortable and as engaging as ever in the lead role.

The Killing
The Killing(1956)
½

A wonderful cast churns out snappy dialogue by novelist Jim Thompson in this darkly ironic and twisting noir. Kubrick's film is as assured in its storytelling and camerawork as his later successes and makes for a notable entry in the genre.

Breathless
Breathless(1961)
½

Its style, tone, confidence, editing, and camerawork influenced everything from "Bonnie and Clyde" to "City of God." It is a vital piece of cinema from the French New Wave.

Four Brothers
½

Entertaining but rote

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Has the best cinematography of the franchise. The score, bits of dialogue, and direction give the film some added weight and sense of impending doom and high stakes

Shutter Island

Gravely misunderstood. Repeat viewings are necessary to appreciate this expressive piece of cinema. From the use of music to the editing to the performances to the photography, Scorsese evokes the workings of an unreliable narrator and his mind, which slowly begins to crumble. Dicaprio's performance, intense and layered, ranks as one of his best as he must suggest a person whose calm (and identity) begins to erode and crumble. Those who complain about the "twist" miss the point, for it wasn't meant to be particularly shocking. The entire film, from the first frame, builds up to that reveal. The film's point is brought home in Dicaprio's last line. Years from now, ppl will look back on this and view it as Scorsese's "Shining;" a haunting, and uncompromising vision of madness

Hugo
Hugo(2011)

Dazzling photography, brilliant art direction, and a real passion are the takeaways from "Hugo". The film is slow at times, but it has a lovely fairy-tale like aesthetic and tone. The film reaches its peak once it gets to its point, which is the importance of preserving the work of great artists. Ultimately, it's lower- tier work from the great Martin Scorsese

The Fighter
The Fighter(2010)
½

Christian Bale and Amy Adams are both brilliant. This film is predictable of course, but its gritty tone and focus on the family more than the ring make the film stand out

The Mask of Zorro
½

Smart, exciting, action-packed, well-acted, and well-paced. What more can u ask for? It's one entertaining movie and one of my favorites from my childhood

Serenity
Serenity(2005)
½

A lot better than it had any right to be. Chiwetel Ejiofer makes a great villain

Forbidden Planet

impressive special effects and a fine story to boot.

Undercover Brother
½

a hilarious send-up of blaxploitation films that manages to wryly poke fun at both black and white cultures w/o really offending anybody. It's a safe, fun satire

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

A clever, funny, and colorful detective yarn that seamlessly combines action with animation to make for an inventive and engaging film. This is my favorite Zemeckis film

Late Spring
Late Spring(1949)

A showcase for Ozu's unique, retrained and subtle style as well as for his beautiful and delicate handling and depiction of regular people going through considerable emotional struggle. He doesn't go for easy sentiment or drama. Ozu never asks for theatrics. The actors are understated in their acting. Emotions are often implicit rather than explicit, and one can tell that the happiness or calm the two lead actors show is merely a facade, making the moments when that facade does break all the more heartbreaking. This is a sad film

Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3(2010)
½

A near perfect conclusion to one of the great movie trilogies. Laughter, thrills, tears, and thematic potency come in equal measure here.

Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2(1999)

Expands on the original in glorious and unexpected ways, providing true depth to a story about toys. This film, one of the great sequels, tackles themes as thoughtful as the fear of one's own mortality and putting others above yourself at the same time that it provides a hilarious and fun ride for moviegoers of all ages.

The Usual Suspects
½

Kevin Spacey's unforgettable performance heads a brilliant cast in this diabolically twisting crime story. Singer and McQuarrie weave a taut and entertaining mystery that will leave you hanging onto every scene and word. And the ending, one of cinema's best, will have you re-thinking everything that has come before.

Casino Royale

Craig deserved awards recognition. For me, it's easily in the top 3 best bond films. It's truly everything you'd want out of a bond film, albeit w/ a more serious tone. It's also just a great action film

Speed
Speed(1994)

Great fun, even if the subway action sequence pales next to all that came before it

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
½

Has the same sense of exuberance, joy, and technical mastery of an Indiana Jones film

Miami Vice
Miami Vice(2006)

Well shot like all Michael Mann films, but lacking the depth, compelling narrative, and strong characters of his best work

Insidious
Insidious(2011)

First two-thirds are quite exceptional, w/ a good use of red herrings, effective lighting and camerawork, and some genuine scares. And despite a hokey final act, there is startling imagery throughout

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
½

Lighter in tone than "Temple of Doom." Sean Connery and Harrison Ford are great together

X-Men: The Last Stand

Like "Spiderman 3," i pretend this rushed, hollow sequel doesn't exist. After the rich and weighty direction and writing of its predecessor, this is a huge step down. Can't say there's much of anything in the movie that i really enjoyed. I wasn't bored, but i wasn't thrilled either

Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man 3(2007)

Too many villains, too many plot threads, too many silly moments. After the tightly scripted and eloquent handling of Peter Parker's juggling of an everyday life and being a superhero in the last one, this is a colossal disappointment. I pretend it doesn't exist. As far as I'm concerned, the story ended in Spiderman 2

Daredevil
Daredevil(2003)

colin farrell is the only thing watchable about this

I Know What You Did Last Summer

not an entertaining moment in the entire running time

American History X

Norton gives a great performance

The Sixth Sense

What happened, Shayamalan?

Arsenic and Old Lace

hilarious all the way through

The Triplets of Belleville

Stylish, inventive, and hilariously strange.

Alien
Alien(1979)

A stark, seminal achievement in science fiction and horror cinema. Like Jaws, "Alien" is a master-class of pacing and building tension. It understands the importance of building character first and it takes a novelistic approach to building to payoffs, slowly but surely, w/ precise bits of dialogue and ominous reveals. It's rougher edged than other sci-fi films. It presents a world of working class and shady governments. This, as well as the use of older actors, do well to give the film layers. The score by the great Johnny Greenwood is as spare and as haunting as the visuals and the alien creature is a vital film creation; a relentless, shape-changing predator w/ sexual undertones. "Blade Runner" might be his magnum opus, but it is the taut and foreboding "Alien" that remains his most accessible work.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

I actually enjoyed the moody stylings and deliberate pacing of the first half more. At times this film was thrilling and striking, but it would also feel pretty uninspired and simple. The epic battle had little dramatic heft and scenes like Neville's speech fell very flat. Overall, it's still a satisfying conclusion to a critically and financially successful franchise. I do wonder if it's getting all this praise for precisely that reason. It's really not that much better than some of the other films in the franchise

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

the best of the trilogy. Stupid, but not insultingly so.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Goofy comedy that works better if you're a fan of the Bond movies it's spoofing

Lethal Weapon

Great action and engaging plot are propelled by the wonderful duo of Glover and Gibson, who give us two very different but immensely likable heroes.

District 9
District 9(2009)
½

Don't like it as much as I did when I first saw it. Still, it's a thoughtful and engrossing sci-fi flick with a surprisingly compelling lead performance by Sharlto Copley

The Fugitive
The Fugitive(1993)

One of the great action thrillers; it is smart and impeccably paced and scripted, filled w/ tension and wonderfully staged close calls, keeping the viewer on the edge of his seat. Tommy Lee Jones and Harrioson Ford are both excellent and engaging. "The Fugitive" still works today (and always will) because, like all great thrillers, the characters and the dialogue are given as much thought and care as the action. It's simply masterful entertainment

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
½

Perhaps THE comedy of the 21st century so far; gross, audacious, smart, and almost painfully perceptive, and Cohen gives nothing less than a fully committed performance.

Misery
Misery(1990)
½

I don't know, it's just kind of pointless. Kathy Bates is great of course, but I see no reason to ever see the film again. It doesn't have the thematic richness or artistry of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Shining," the two best King adaptations

Adaptation
Adaptation(2002)

Kaufman's most intense and personal creation, it is also one of his funniest. And make no mistake, this is Kaufman's creation on screen. One of the most original films of the 00s, "Adaptation" is a poignant study not only of creative blocks, but of carving a place for yourself in the world. Performances by Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper are wonderful

28 Weeks Later...

Quite simply not as good as its predecessor

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Less spark than the first and a lot messier, but still plenty of fun

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

Captain Jack Sparrow is a vital creation in recent cinema

Rango
Rango(2011)

Verninski shows a real reverence for cinema, infusing his film w/ wonderful allusions to westerns, "Chinatown" and "Apocalypse Now." Deserves to stand alongside Pixar's work for its startling invention, beautiful animation, and assured storytelling. Johnny Depp's work is fantastic

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Gondry's fanciful, visual stylings merge perfectly with Kaufman's loopy and philosophical screenplay. Together, they conjure up moments of wonderful invention and emotional depth. For anyone who has been in a relationship or in love, this narratively knotty, quirky, and sad dramedy will speak more volumes than the greatest of romantic comedies. Carrey and Winslet have never been better, giving us imperfect, but sympathetic characters who seek to have their memories erased of their failed relationship. Scenes and bits of dialogue (often accompanied by a spare, but beautiful score) may cause many a tear to fall or heart to melt, as they ring with such truth and insight. Many of these scenes are accompanied by brilliant use of practical effects and expressive photography, highlighting emotions or themes. In the end, this film is a profound and deeply emotional work about the memories that, good or bad, make us who we are. This film will be cherished for as long as humans can feel.

The Descendants
½

The only thing more beautiful than the photography of Hawaii locales is Alexander Payne's skill at bringing nuance and naturalism to his storytelling and portraits of regular people. His film is capable of making you laugh one moment, then tear up the next without feeling forced or contrived. Overall his depiction of how a family deals with a tragedy feels very real, though he once again shows a problem of being overly judgmental on his characters. George Clooney gives his best performance to date.

Friday the 13th

Like it needs to be said, but i'll say it anyway; completely pointless

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

A labyrinthine narrative will lose those who try to understand every twist and turn, but the film's pleasures come from the brilliant ensemble and the meticulous and artful craft. It is as much about the chilly atmosphere as it is the twisting screenplay. Another viewing will no doubt bring more appreciation

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)
½

Impressively shot and designed, and an intriguing, moody, and twisting story to boot. Jackman and Bale are both very good. The final scene gave me chills the first time

Van Helsing
Van Helsing(2004)
½

I thought it was fun. Music was good. Liked all the monster stuff.

Gangs of New York

D-Day Lewis alone almost makes the film great. He owns scenes just by standing there. The production design is also masterful

Hero
Hero(2004)
½

An epic of astonishing beauty and dance like action scenes. The film's structure and occasional bluntness robs the story of much emotional resonance, but it'll be hard to notice as the film's lush visuals sweep you up out of your seat

Red Tails
Red Tails(2012)
½

This story deserved a much better movie. The dialogue is awfully corny and the delivery almost as bad. One can see that the filmmakers were more concerned w/ making an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser rather than a blistering and powerful drama. But the characters are likable (albeit one-note) and the action is cool.

Watchmen
Watchmen(2009)
½

I never thought Snyder would do Moore's work justice, but some of what he does here is admirable. He certainly stays close to the novel, arguably to a fault. There are a few bad performances here as well.

Doubt
Doubt(2008)

Powerful acting and a thoughtful story. Viola Davis elevates the whole movie in just 10 minutes of screen time

The Artist
The Artist(2011)

Don't really know what all the fuss is about. The performances are truly lovely, and it's a clever and charming call back to the silent film era, but that's really all it is. It will entertain, but it is unlikely to linger too long in the mind.

The Hurt Locker

An intimate, intense, and expertly directed and acted action film that just happens to be set during the Iraq War. Bigelow constructs action scenes of suspense and coherency while also exploring the psychology of soldiers, those who can't wait to leave the battlefield, and those that seem to depend on it.

Remember the Titans
½

A rousing, well-acted sports film w/ considerable depth of feeling and intelligence. You'll really come to root for these characters. Love the cast, love the soundtrack

The Hurricane
½

Despite some glaring inaccuracies, it tugs at the heart strings and Denzel gives another powerful performance.

Slumdog Millionaire
½

Can't imagine a person not enjoying this film

War Horse
War Horse(2011)

Exactly what's being advertised. If it looks appealing to you, most likely you'll like it. I can safely say I wasn't bored, though I did roll my eyes a few times. It comes nowhere near Spielberg's best films, but it's a well shot and sweeping drama that wears its sentiment on its sleeve w/ pride. John Williams provides his talents to integral effect once again.

The Great Debaters
½

Predictable of course, but the intelligent screenplay and strong performances overshadow any formula. There is powerful emotion here and it's well earned.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

A sequel of great passion and intensity, providing epic moments of warfare and emotion. The characters deepen and the stakes rise, all to affecting results. It is technically superb as always. The battle for Helm's Deep is one of cinema's greatest battle sequences

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Starts the masterful trilogy off in grand fashion, introducing wonderful characters, depicting thrilling battle sequences, and filling each scene with an almost mythic beauty. In Jackson and his collaborator's hands, the world of middle earth is one of cinema's most fully realized creations. Howard Shore's score is one for all time

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Powerful, thrilling, and lyrical, "The Return of the King" ends this epic trilogy in grand fashion and cements its status as a landmark in American cinema. A lengthy epilogue might prove off-putting for some, but even then, one will be swept away by Jackson's vision. He combines the epic w/ the intimate in a way not done in modern cinema, moving from a colossal fight w/ beasts and soldiers to tender words between characters we've come to know and love. With this trilogy Jackson has solidified the fantasy genre as a fine place to explore the complexities of human emotion and tell poignant stories about sacrifice and heroism.

WALL-E
WALL-E(2008)

An ambitious, and ultimately perfect, first haif hour or so and a more predictable but effective final hr ultimately add up to a great work of science fiction. I marveled at its stark but beautiful portrait of a ravaged Earth set against the innocence and curiosity of WALL-E. The romantic dance between he and Eve (both the figurative and literal one) is more emotive and lovely than most live action romances. Though the final two thirds are sadly more formulaic, the themes that reveal themselves have real impact and relevance, making even the formula appear new and involving. It's more than just mankind becoming fat. It is about our mortality and apathy. Ultimately, WALL-E is timely, bleak, poetic, and touching all in one grand stroke.

The Adventures of Tintin
½

A visually inventive and crisp adventure flick w/ all the Spielberg trademarks. Besides Andy Serkis' character, there aren't a lot of interesting people here. Same for the story, which is an excuse for the action scenes (one of which is one of the great set-pieces in Spielberg's filmography). I was hoping for a little more, but what I got was perfectly fine. It's an energetic, family friendly thrill ride. Don't see it in a tired state. It will drain you

The Reader
The Reader(2008)
½

Despite the always great Kate Winslet, this film is deeply problematic on both a thematic and storytelling level.

The Informant!
½

Matt Damon once again proves his versatility (and frankly, deserved an Oscar nomination) in this silly but sharp satire

Open Water
Open Water(2004)

a few scary moments, but mostly I was bored

The Lion King

I can forgive some of the musical like elements, for this is a quite powerful, funny, and beautiful film. This stands above all of Disney's classics for me. I still get chills when the film smash cuts to the title after the singing of "Circle of Life." The score by Hans Zimmer is one of his best

Epic Movie
Epic Movie(2007)

not even a little funny

Troy
Troy(2004)
½

Brad Pitt's pretty cool here. I liked the music too

Bullitt
Bullitt(1968)
½

a landmark for its chase scene, but also just a fun time

Hitch
Hitch(2005)
½

Love Smith and James in this movie. They carry this film. This could've been a new classic in the genre; a little more bite and insight would've gone a long a way. As it stands, it's clever and a lot of fun. I enjoy watching it every time it comes on TBS

Atonement
Atonement(2007)

Smaller in scope than one would expect, this is nevertheless a much much better film than Titanic (which it was compared to often); better performances, rich cinematography, a poignant narrative, dynamic score and strong direction. Captures the pain of love interrupted and the pain of past mistakes. This is truly a sad film, w/ emotion well earned and an ending that you won't expect, but will hit pretty hard

United 93
United 93(2006)
½

This is vital and immersive filmmaking that will shake your core. It resorts to neither easy sentiment, formula, or star power. It exists in the moment w/ a haunting and objective clarity and precision. It's a triumph of technique and purpose.

The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups)

depicts adolescence w/ tenderness, exuberance, and honesty.

A Single Man
A Single Man(2009)
½

Beautiful art direction and costumes, lovely (if a little overbearing) music, and a wonderfully internalized performance by Colin Firth. Ford's direction is interesting here as he uses color, slow motion, and flashbacks mingled w/ reality to suggest a person in a heightened state of awareness. The result is a stimulating experience.

Mystic River
Mystic River(2003)
½

Tim Robbin's performance is truly bad in my opinion. Don't know what Oscar was thinking

Faster
Faster(2010)

cool look, but pretty dumb

Rampart
Rampart(2012)

A visually striking and visceral character study. Woody Harrelson gives perhaps his best performance to date

The Truman Show
½

I give it a lot of props for its prescience and for Carrey's performance

Another Year
Another Year(2010)
½

In many ways, this is a better film than "The Descendants" (a similar film), but the drama in that movie engaged me a lot more. Lesley Manville, however, gives one of the best performances of 2010

Drag Me to Hell

Gross and over- the- top fun, w/ startling sequences.

The Italian Job

a lot of fun. Actors have great chemistry. Charlize Theron is gorgeous

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

the only musical i actually love. what does that say about me?

Once upon a Time in Mexico

Johnny Depp is just too freaking awesome in this movie

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
½

The most consistently entertaining film of the year, full of creative and electric action scenes. Bird shows the same style and confidence here that he showed in "The Incredibles," just w/o the substance. Paula Patton is gorgeous and Tom Cruise is insane; two obvious statements of course, but they must be restated.

Miracle on 34th Street

May be the best christmas film

The Cove
The Cove(2009)
½

A masterful and unique entry into the genre and a triumph of investigative journalism. To call it one-sided is beside the point. It is a film made to incite change.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Features Intense, moving performances and eclectic direction. But the film almost goes overboard in how much suffering Precious endures. For her to have her head held high at the film's conclusion, not to mention other details, make this film into a ghetto fairy tale. Even still, this is often a powerful drama

Young Adult
Young Adult(2011)

Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman boldly stay true to their unsympathetic character, played impeccably by the great Charlize Theron. The film makes brazen tonal choices and refuses to sugarcoat the darkness of the story (though there is comedy). Reitman's direction (spare but alive) hits a new high and Cody shows real nuance and substance exploring a character trapped by her own loathsome personality and fixation on her high school glory. It casually plays around w/ and subverts expectations.

The Island
The Island(2005)
½

Starts out well, but then becomes another rote action film by Bay (despite one cool chase scene).

Bridesmaids
Bridesmaids(2011)

Has more lasting appeal than "The Hangover." I laughed a lot more at this movie and cared more about the characters. And when the emotion comes, it's genuine and earned. It depicts female friendships w/ intelligence and wit

Blade: Trinity

Has its moments (and a great RZA song), but ultimately, it's pretty bad. But hey, it's better than all the twilight movies.

Blade
Blade(1998)

Please bring Blade back. Anything over these dumb twilight movies

Blade II
Blade II(2002)
½

A gloriously stylized, gory, and relentless action flick. I enjoyed every minute that wasn't bogged down by boring characters. Blade is one badass mofo.

Underworld
Underworld(2003)

has a cool look and a cool scene here and there

Reign of Fire
½

Has its moments. McConaughey's pretty badass