Movie Reviews

The Ruling Class

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Movies don’t get any better than Peter Medak’s film version (1972) of Peter Barnes’ play (1968) The Ruling Class. In fact, if I had to name the five best films ever made, this would be on that list. Unfortunately, while The Ruling Class held considerable cult status in the 1970s (I have seen 300-plus seat […]

The History Boys

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There is a moment in Nicholas Hytner’s film of Alan Bennett’s 2004 play, The History Boys, where the boys’ eccentric (to put it mildly) mentor and teacher, Hector (Richard Griffiths), talks about those rare and wonderful — even essential — moments when one encounters a thought, a way of looking at the world through art, […]

Rocky Balboa

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As the sixth film in a rather uninspired series, Rocky Balboa has every reason to be a catastrophe. Sixty-year-old Sylvester Stallone attempts once more to be an action star in a film that he both wrote and directed. When you take into account the other films in which he’s done at least one of those […]

The Good Shepherd

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It’s difficult not to admire the attempt of The Good Shepherd. It’s even difficult — at least in my case — not to want to like it. I certainly have no quibble with its politics or with the intentions behind it. Similarly, the fragmented nature of the presentation is adroitly handled and adds to the […]

Night at the Museum

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While I could never make a case for Night at the Museum as a good film, it deserves some kind of recognition for the amazing demographic range it aims to snare. It’s an effects-centered fantasy with an ambulatory T. Rex skeleton for the kids. It has the Ben Stiller appeal for the Generation X audience […]

Eragon

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With Eragon, visual-effects wizard Stefen Fangmeier turns director and proves himself the logical successor to Uwe Boll. Not since Dr. Boll’s idiot masterpiece BloodRayne (2005) have so many good actors been so utterly subjected to this degree of humiliation in search of a paycheck. Oh, sure, the actors have only themselves to blame (can it […]

We Are Marshall

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Not content with the usual “based on real events” approach, McG’s (I can’t help the name, that’s how he signs his films) We Are Marshall opens by boldly proclaiming, “This is a true story.” I have no doubt that the essential facts in the case are true. And I have no doubt that the resulting […]

The Pursuit of Happyness

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I’ll start off by answering the obvious question: Yes, the word “happiness” in the title is misspelled on purpose. However, this is surprisingly not the most interesting thing in a film that could have easily been generic pap. While the film itself is excruciatingly predictable (I bet you can’t guess if the odds are overcome […]

Last Life in the Universe

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I put as much time between seeing Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s Last Life in the Universe (2004) and writing about it as I could. I even slept on it. I still don’t quite know what to make of it. Except for the fact that I’m hardly an expert on Thai Cinema (having seen The Protector probably isn’t […]

Jesus Camp

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In the opening scenes of Mark Waters’ Mean Girls (2004), there’s a clip where we see what are described as “weirdly religious” home-schooled children with one of the kids telling us, “And on the third day, God created the Remington bolt-action rifle, so that man could protect himself against the dinosaurs — and the homosexuals.” […]

It’s a Wonderful Life

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I’ll admit it upfront — I am not an admirer of Frank Capra’s Christmas perennial It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). No, I’m inclined to agree with the critics who savaged it at the time of its original release and the audiences who stayed away from it en masse. It’s one of those movies that only […]

Charlotte’s Web

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I should confess straight off that somehow or other E.B. White’s 1952 book Charlotte’s Web is not a part of my childhood, though I’m certainly from exactly the right era. I don’t really know why. Maybe I thought it was a “girl’s book.” Well, OK, I preferred Nancy Drew to the Hardy Boys (wanna make […]

Unaccompanied Minors

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If I were 10 years old, I would have honestly enjoyed — maybe even loved — Unaccompanied Minors. However, since 10 came and went awhile ago, the best I can say about this movie is that there are certainly worse options when it comes to family entertainment this holiday season. Sure, it’s basically Home Alone […]

The Holiday

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Saying that Nancy Meyers’ The Holiday is the best of the year’s Christmas movies to date isn’t saying very much, since the competition so far consists of The Santa Clause 3, Deck the Halls, The Nativity Story and Christmas at Maxwell’s. It doesn’t take much to beat those. The problem is that what it’s really […]

Breathless (A Bout de Souffle)

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Breathless (1960) marks the start of French New Wave cinema, and regardless of how one feels about Jean-Luc Godard’s later, less accessible works, it would be hard to find a more audacious debut feature. The problem with it today is that so much of what was fresh and revolutionary in 1960 has been assimilated into […]

Apocalypto

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So here it is — Mel Gibson’s supposedly visionary Apocalypto, and, truth to tell, it’s about as visionary as a 1940s Republic Pictures serial with the glossy sheen of an Indiana Jones picture lacquered over it. (In fact, with a little script doctoring, it might have been serviceable as Indiana Jones and the Temple of […]

Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj

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Apparently the folks at National Lampoon decided that the world needed yet another wild sex romp set in the halls of academia, and therefore brought us Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj. No, Ryan Reynolds’ Van Wilder never makes an appearance (I suppose the same man who wore a fat suit in Just Friends […]

Turtles Can Fly

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The first thing you notice about Iranian filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi’s Turtles Can Fly (2004) is how much more technically accomplished it is than most films we see from this part of the world. The colors are bright and vivid, the images are sharp and detailed, the compositions are elegant and striking, the camerawork as slick […]

Turistas

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After being subjected to both Christmas at Maxwell’s and The Nativity Story, I figured that a movie where a bunch of pretty B-list actors get carved up by a mad — or at least extremely annoyed — surgeon might be a nice break. I hadn’t reckoned on the incompetence of director John Stockwell. Having spent […]

The Nativity Story

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There’s a reason why Christmas pageants tend to clock in at about 20 minutes — a reason that Catherine Hardwicke’s 100-minute The Nativity Story demonstrates with tedious tenacity. The problem is simple: There’s just not all that much story, plus the story is so well known and has been told so often that a straightforward […]

Blood Diamond

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The biggest problem with Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond — apart from getting used to Leonardo DiCaprio’s accent — is that it’s an Edward Zwick film. Zwick’s penchant for wanting to make “important” films keeps threatening to bog down an otherwise entertaining adventure story with messages that often seem slightly at odds with the material. Zwick […]