Movie Reviews

Starring: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, Emmanuelle Seigner, Barbara Jefford

The Ninth Gate

In Brief: High on the list of underrated — perhaps even misunderstood — Roman Polanski films is his 1999 diabolical thriller, The Ninth Gate. When it appeared 16 years ago, most critics seemed to want to dismiss the film out of hand with the typical (and wrongheaded) outcry of it being inferior to his Rosemary’s Baby (1968). In…
Starring: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsy, Mamie Gummer, Joan Cusack

The End of the Tour

The Story: Fact-based story covering the five days David Lipsky spent with author David Foster Wallace at the end of his 1996 tour for Infinite Jest.  The Lowdown: Not really a biopic, but more a compelling — and surprisingly entertaining — slice of time spent with a famous writer, and the tensions and evasions and…
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell

Fantastic Four

The Story: Four mild-mannered youngsters gain superpowers after a science experiment gone wrong. The Lowdown: A disjointed, joyless addition to the saturated world of comic book movies.
Starring: Kevin Bacon, James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford, Shea Whigham, Camryn Manheim

Cop Car

The Story: Two kids make off with a seemingly abandoned police car that happens to belong to a corrupt sheriff, who was off disposing of a body. The Lowdown: Spare, unadorned and unsentimental crime thriller. Well done modern B-picture stuff that may be too cold-blooded for some viewers.
8 and a half
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee, Barbara Steele

8 1/2

In Brief: If you only see one Federico Fellini film, 8 1/2 is the one to see. It's the film where Fellini emerged as the fully-formed fantasist he's most identified as. It's a beguiling fantasy about a filmmaker trying to come to terms with his life, his spirituality, his love life and the big movie already in…
Starring: Paul Wegener, Alice Terry, Iván Petrovich, Firmin Gémier, Gladys Hamer, Henry Wilson

The Magician

In Brief: Rex Ingram’s The Magician (1926) takes place of pride as being the first American horror film that doesn’t feel the need to offer up a rational explanation for its supernatural content. It also happens to be one of Ingram’s best films — and the film that had perhaps more direct influence on the Universal horror…
Starring: Fred Allen, Binnie Barnes, Jack Benny, Robert Benchley, Sidney Toler, Jerry Colonna, John Carradine

It’s in the Bag!

In Brief: Whatever else can be said about the 1940s, it was not an era that produced much that could truly be described as "off-the-wall." Bing and Bob in their various "Road" pictures was about as wild as it got. One of the few exceptions to this rule is It's in the Bag! — the only starring…
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Allison Tolman, Tim Griffin, Busy Philipps

The Gift

The Story:  A couple's life is thrown into increasing disarray and dread by the arrival of someone from the husband's increasingly murky past. The Lowdown: A well-judged, slickly-made thriller that mostly eschews the trappings of the genre for more psychological unease and a disturbingly dark vision of the world.
Starring: Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald

Ricki and the Flash

The Story: Facing a family crisis, an aging low-rent "rock star" returns to the family she abandoned years earlier. The Lowdown: Though it seems to strike a chord as "Boomer-bait" and capitalizes on Meryl Streep's name, this is a flat-footed comedy-drama with music — but the comedy is almost nonexistent, the drama heavy-handed and the…
Starring: (Voices) Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili, Richard Webber

Shaun the Sheep Movie

The Story: Shaun the Sheep leads the flock on an adventure in the city that turns out to be more than he bargained for. The Lowdown: Moderately successful attempt to capture the spirit of silent movie comedy with claymation sheep. More clever than outright funny, but invariably pleasant — and ought to appeal to younger…
Starring: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins, Susan Fleetwood, Freddie Jones

Young Sherlock Holmes

In Brief: It's too big, too loud, too over-produced. Hey, Barry Levinson made it, Chris Columbus wrote it and Spielberg produced it. What did you expect? Young Sherlock Holmes was largely dismissed in 1985, and, of course, riled up a few Sherlockians (the literary equivalent of comic book fanboys). However, the latter have turned their…
Starring: Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Stéphane Audran, Paul Frankeur, Bulle Ogier

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

In Brief: If you’ve never seen a Luis Buñuel film, it’s high time you did, and this 1972 Oscar winner about six middle-class people and their interrupted efforts to have a meal together is a good place to start. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is more accessible than some of Buñuel’s work and might just…
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Sterling Jerins, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Chloë Grace Moretz

Dark Places

The Story: The sole survivor of a mass murder 25 years ago is forced by circumstances to confront the truth of what happened. The Lowdown: It may be little more than a convoluted — and fairly unpleasant — mystery thriller, but it's largely effective and holds the interest.
Starring: Karl Malden, James Franciscus, Catherine Spaak, Pier Paolo Capponi

The Cat o’ Nine Tails

In Brief: An early Dario Argento film (his second), The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971) is more mystery than outright horror — and its PG (originally GP) rating should clue you in on the fact that it doesn't really qualify as a giallo. In fact, it's closer to a German krimi than anything. But that…
Kitten (Cillian Murphy) leaning against wall
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Ruth Negga, Stephen Rea, Gavin Friday, Brendan Gleeson

Breakfast on Pluto

In Brief: Back before our current "information overload" era — which is to say 2005 — it was quite possible to walk into an awards-season critics' screening and encounter a movie you'd never heard of and knew nothing about. Such a film was Neil Jordan's Breakfast on Pluto — which I didn't even know was…
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Jamie Blackley, Sophie von Hasselberg, Ethan Phillips, Betsy Aidem

Irrational Man

The Story: A burned-out philosophy professor gets a new lease on life when he decides to commit the "perfect murder" as a kind of twisted good deed. The Lowdown: Though it just misses being one of Woody Allen's great films, this is still a worthwhile addition to his filmography and a must-see for admirers of…
Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth


The Story: A de facto sequel/reboot to 1983’s Vacation, one that finds a father on a similar roadtrip with his family — and one with equally disastrous results. The Lowdown: Despite the over-reliance on body humor and general crassness running through the entirety of the film, the end result is a generally harmless (though wholly…
Starring: Rosalind Russell, Forrest Tucker, Coral Browne, Fred Clark, Roger Smith, Patric Knowles, Peggy Cass

Auntie Mame

In Brief: First of all, it's too long. Second, Auntie Mame is adapted from a play and it marked the film debut of theater director Morton DaCosta — both of which conspire to make it feel like canned theater. (The fact that it was made in the 1950s and in Cinemascope — or Technirama, which is the…
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Alec Badwin

Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation

The Story: The fifth installment in the Mission: Impossible series — is pretty much what you probably expect. The Lowdown: It's certainly slick and often clever, but it's also too long, and the spectacle of Cruise trying to prove that age has not dimmed his physical prowess gets pretty silly.
Starring: Kyle Catlett, Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis, Callum Keith Rennie, Niamh Wilson, Jakob Davis, Dominique Pinon, Rick Mercer

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet

The Story: An unusual, lonely 10-year-old runs away from home — and across the country — to accept a prize from the Smithsonian for inventing a perpetual motion machine. The Lowdown: Make all possible haste to catch this magical film because it will be gone by Friday. Everything about it is special.
Starring: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O'Brien, Woody Strode

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

In Brief: Few films are as deeply flawed yet so wonderful or so essential to a great director’s filmography as John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). I suppose Josef von Sternberg’s The Devil Is a Woman (1935) runs a close second, and for a lot of the same reasons. Both films contain all the…