Movie Reviews



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 […]



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 […]



I’ve no clue why anyone thought of turning F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby into something that might better be called Hip Hop in the Hamptons. Perhaps director and co-writer Christopher Scott Cherot thought that since no one had made a really successful film of the novel by approaching it in a straight manner (though […]

Charlie Chan in Paris


When Fox Films ran out of novels to adapt for their immensely profitable series of relatively inexpensive mysteries featuring the Chinese detective, the studio hit upon the idea of sending the supposedly Honolulu-based sleuth on a run of globe-trotting adventures where he could solve murders in exotic locales — even if those locales actually never […]

Charlie Chan at the Opera


Far and away the most popular of the Warner Oland Charlie Chan films, Charlie Chan at the Opera owes much of its success to the presence of guest star Boris Karloff (given special billing with “Warner Oland versus Boris Karloff”) as a deranged opera star and the undeniable horror element this adds, combined with atmospheric […]

Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams


This late-in-the-day offering from Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa — with its compendium of stories drawn from the director’s own dreams — is undeniably uneven, owing to the fragmented structure. As is often the case with “portmanteau” films, it’s simply a case of some episodes being more interesting than others. Even that can be a subjective […]



I thought the phrase “inspired by a true story” consisted of the most horrifying words I would encounter this weekend. That’s only because no one told me that “Music performed by the Polyphonic Spree” would be emblazoned on the opening credits of Thumbsucker. I know a lot of people hold a different point of view, […]

The Devil and Daniel Webster


Perhaps the last great filmmaker of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” yet to be fully recognized, William Dieterle was a master stylist with an intensely personal style. He hit Hollywood in 1931 and immediately turned out the brilliant — and far too little known — The Last Flight, and followed it up with Her Majesty, Love, a […]



It’s not surprising that Marc Forster’s Stay has taken a drubbing from many critics (though by no means all), nor that it has been less than enthusiastically greeted by audiences, who are not flocking to see it. The fact that Stay has been gathering dust on the shelves for some time, of course, indicated a […]

North Country


The very fact that there’s nothing wrong with North Country may be what’s wrong with it. The film is so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called “Crafting the Message Picture 101” (as well as a supplementary teaching aid for […]



Everybody’s talking about it. It’s won numerous awards and will probably get nominated for an Oscar, but this is the kind of movie that no one wants to see. We don’t really want to remember how fragile the human body is. Let’s pretend there’s no such thing as the statistical inevitability caused by sports, accidents, […]

Mardi Gras: Made in China


First-time documentarian David Redmon takes an unusually cinema verite (well, with the addition of rather non-verite subtitles on occasion) approach to what would otherwise have been yet another dry-as-dirt, dull-as-ditchwater tract on the evils of globalization. Rather than preach on the topic, he allows his footage to speak for itself — crosscutting footage of Mardi […]

Kids in America


Like North Country, which also opened this week, Kids in America is a fact-“inspired” picture with a message — but of a much more modest scale. Kids is low-budget, low-profile and a bit ragged, and it unfortunately trades on the fortunately very limited presence of Paris Hilton nemesis Nicole Richie in its cast. But I’d […]

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story


While you’re watching this movie and wiping the wayward tear, the full title keeps nagging — inspired by a true story, not based on a true story. You can’t help but wonder: Which parts of this movie should you pay attention to because their truths have meaning for your life and the lives of all […]