Movie Reviews

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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As with Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Mike Newell’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is not afraid of frightening the horses. It will be interesting to see whether more objections will be raised over the film’s dark and even violent tone, or its decidedly upped quotient of sexuality. Both […]

Zathura

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As I settled in and found myself subjected to an ersatz Tim Burton opening-credit sequence (albeit a pretty neat one) backed by an ersatz Danny Elfman score (not so neat, but not disgraceful), it was impossible not to believe that there were some pretty rough seas ahead. Thankfully, director Jon Favreau almost immediately dropped the […]

The Shanghai Cobra

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When 20th Century Fox decided that their long-running Charlie Chan series was no longer a viable commodity after 11 years, their Charlie Chan, Sidney Toler, bought the rights to the character and proceeded to shop the property around. What looked like small potatoes to Fox looked pretty appealing to little Monogram Pictures, which was just […]

The Scarlet Empress

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Josef von Sternberg belongs in the very top ranks of any list of the greatest filmmakers of all time — and nowhere is this more apparent than in his self-described “relentless excursion into style,” The Scarlet Empress. Bearing the improbable credit that the film is “based on a diary of Catherine II” that was “arranged […]

Grizzly Man

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Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it’s not stranger than Werner Herzog, whose documentary on grizzly bear expert Timothy Treadwell is both real and strange — and far more central to Herzog’s overall work than might at first be assumed. Grizzly Man, a look at self-styled expert Treadwell, is as quirky and ironic as […]

Get Rich or Die Tryin’

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Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was better than I thought it would be, but don’t mistake that for a ringing endorsement. I was firmly convinced it was going to be just plain awful, and it’s not — at least as filmmaking, thanks to director Jim Sheridan. Parts of it are pretty bad — and at […]

Derailed

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There seems to be a tendency to want blame the ultimate failure of this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell — even if you don’t have a pet rabbit) on the screenplay and the miscasting of Jennifer Aniston as a femme fatale — while letting Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom off […]

Capote

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Chilly, downbeat, thought-provoking, flawed and anchored to a wholly remarkable performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote is a hard movie to like — and an even harder one to ignore. It’s also possibly too ambitious for its own good. While the film simplifies matters by limiting itself to a specific six-year period in writer Truman […]

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

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Just as he did with Outfoxed, documentarian Robert Greenwald takes aim in his latest effort at a corporate giant — this time, Wal-Mart. And as before, his approach presents more facts than opinions, a tactic that separates Greenwald from Michael Moore, whose documentaries, built around the filmmaker as star, might better be called “essay films.” […]

The Avengers

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Having finally been forced to watch Jeremiah Chechik’s much detested big screen version of the classic ’60s British TV series, I have to confess that I thought it was a lot of well-intended fun. That sentence will get me branded a traitor by Avengers fans — and, yes, I’m a major fan of the show. […]

Shopgirl

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I doubt it’s necessary by this time to point out that this isn’t your average Steve Martin movie. It isn’t aimed at the same audience who can’t wait for Cheaper by the Dozen 2. It’s not even aimed at the five or six people who actually went to see the agreeably quirky Novocaine. And it […]

Separate Lies

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Walking out of the Fine Arts on Friday night after seeing Julian Fellowes’ Separate Lies, I overheard a woman tell a friend, who was on her way in, that the film was “very dry, but marvelously acted.” Once on the sidewalk, I turned to my companion and said, “I think ‘dry’ is about the last […]

Jarhead

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When a Marine speaks, it doesn’t have to be either pro-war or anti-war — it can be just the voice of a Marine. This fact is hard for some people to accept, which is why Jarhead may end up as the most misunderstood movie of the year. In this irreverent, lyrical, disturbing, mesmerizing and multilayered […]

Good Night, and Good Luck

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We live in an age where people — Ann Coulter, in particular — are trying to rehabilitate or re-invent or re-imagine the long-disgraced Sen. Joseph McCarthy as some kind of misunderstood American hero. Tom Sawyer and Aunt Polly’s fence had nothing on this line of thought when it comes to whitewash, so it’s more than […]

Everything is Illuminated

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Actor Liev Schreiber makes a very audacious debut as a writer/director with Everything Is Illuminated, a strange film that starts out as one thing and transforms into something quite different before it’s done. I haven’t read the source novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, which is apparently something of a fantasticated memoir (the main character of […]

Chicken Little

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Even if you aren’t already burned out by the incessant ad campaign for Disney’s desperate bid to turn itself into Pixar or Dreamworks, you’re apt to find Chicken Little pretty tough slogging — assuming you’re beyond the age of 10. Granting the fact that Disney’s last-gasp hand-drawn animation efforts have been — with the exception […]

Charlie Chan at Treasure Island

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When Warner Oland died in 1938, 20th Century Fox wasn’t about to lose one of its most lucrative products, so they quickly replaced him with Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan – and, like Charlie himself had done, “carried on.” Their first effort — Charlie Chan in Honolulu — was rather weak, in part because director […]

The Weather Man

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Artistically, this may be Gore Verbinski’s best film — certainly it’s his most ambitious and daring. And that in itself works against it in a twisted way with many film snobs crying out, “How dare this commercial filmmaker presume to tackle something weighty?” After this, they conclude that it’s not weighty at all, thereby proving […]

The Legend of Zorro

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Nothing’s sexier than a guy who knows how to handle a cape. If he also wears a black hat and high boots with silver spurs and rides a maniac black stallion that thinks it’s a gazelle — well, viva El Zorro! Antonio Banderas was born to play “The Fox,” the California folk hero who hides […]

Saw II

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I had the pleasant experience of seeing Saw II in pretty distinguished company, which included Don Mancini (the creator of the homicidal Chucky doll and writer-director of Seed of Chucky) and Barry Sandler (the writer-producer of the Ken Russell film Crimes of Passion). We tried to get Ken Russell to go with us, but he […]

Prime

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Everyone in Prime is in therapy, so they’re always chirping, “What are you feeling?” I’ll tell you what I’m feeling: I hate this movie. It’s pointless, self-absorbed, puerile and witless. Worse, this so-called romantic comedy is about as sexy as snoring. Climaxing its sins, it is so-o-o boring that a hapless critic has to perform […]