Movie Reviews

Stomp the Yard


I suppose if the cliched, uplifting sports drama had a little cousin, it would be the cliched, uplifting dance drama. The latest entry is Stomp the Yard, or as I like to call it You Got Served the Last Step Up Footloose Dirty Flashdance 2: Electric Boogaloo (or Y.G.S.L.S.U.F.D.F.2.E.B for short). Actually, the best description […]



Made in 1978, but not released in the U.S. till 1981 (it was thought there wasn’t a market for a film about British poet Stevie Smith), Stevie is most assuredly a movie for specialized tastes. It’s essentially a two-woman show — with occasional appearances by Trevor Howard and Alec McCowen — and theatrical to the […]



I knew this was going to be a stinker when I saw the trailer for it. The people who cut the trailer also knew it, bending over backwards to try not to tell the viewer that Primeval was about a giant crocodile. (It’s the same approach the folks who make trailers employ on 99 percent […]

The Painted Veil


I admit to having approached this third film version of Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil with reservations. I’d disliked John Curran’s previous film, We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004), and the trailer for this one looked too much like ersatz Merchant-Ivory for its own good. However, as a huge admirer of the writings of once […]

The Last King of Scotland


There’s no denying that Forest Whitaker’s portrayal of the blood-soaked Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in Kevin McDonald’s The Last King of Scotland is mesmerizingly brilliant (even if I think Peter O’Toole’s turn in Venus edges him out of the year’s top spot). It’s gripping in that it catches the charisma, the self-delusion, the madness and […]



Bill Condon’s Dreamgirls poses an interesting problem for me. I think it’s wonderful filmmaking. I think it has some very fine performances. Its story is engaging (if a little — OK, a lot — on the standard backstage bio side) and its characters are interesting and generally sympathetic. I find its musical numbers very nicely […]

Curse of the Golden Flower


Curse of the Golden Flower is easily the most visually sumptuous film around. It’s also the most sublimely silly one. That’s not to say that it isn’t entertaining, or that it isn’t well made. It is both. It is also one of the most jaw-droppingly spectacular things you’re likely to see. It’s “art fu” filmmaking […]



Back in 1985, Ray Lawrence’s Bliss was the art house sensation. It had created quite a stir at Cannes — as much for the fact that about 400 viewers walked out of the movie in disgust (mostly at the same moment — the film’s notorious “sardine scene”) as from the accolades it drew. No Australian […]

Alpha Dog


I’m convinced that there is a good movie — a fast-paced, tense crime drama rife with social commentary that examines the consequences behind the glamorization of violence and crime — buried somewhere underneath the mess that is Alpha Dog. The only problem is that director Nick Cassavettes didn’t make that movie. Instead, he made this […]



When I first heard that the fledgling religious arm of 20th Century Fox, Fox Faith, was bringing out a faith-based horror picture, I thought, “Well, why not?” After all, a lot of horror movies are faith-based. Every time someone whips out a crucifix to back down a vampire, it’s faith-based. And what are The Exorcist […]

Sleeping Dogs Lie


Back in 1992, manic comedian Bobcat Goldthwait made a pretty odd — but not unimpressive — debut as a writer-director with a little movie called Shakes the Clown, in which he also starred (joined by a pre-stardom Adam Sandler and a few surprising guests like Robin Williams and Florence Henderson). This singularly twisted look at […]

Nosferatu the Vampyre


F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) has been likened — not inaptly — to a chilly blast of doomsday, but that’s a description that could as easily be applied to Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake of that classic of horror cinema. Calling Herzog’s film a remake, while technically correct, does it a grave disservice. Yes, it follows the […]

Le Bal


It’s hard to tell if this conceptually fascinating 1983 film is much more than a curio, simply because it’s impossible to get away from the sense that a nearly two-hour film told entirely in mime and dance (not a word is spoken) is something of a stunt picture. Also, there’s the question of the music, […]

Happily N’Ever After


Computers have given us many modern day conveniences — from the Internet to calculator watches — for which I for one am pleased. But technology has also given us one nuisance that we may never rid ourselves of: the unbearably horrible animated movie. Sure, computer animation is cheaper and faster and, in some cases, better […]

Freedom Writers


Years ago there was a cartoon in a magazine showing two of Pavlov’s dogs conversing about the ringing bell they’re supposed to associate with food. One dog says to the other, “They want me to salivate, but I’ll be damned if I’ll give them the satisfaction.” Watching Freedom Writers, I knew exactly how that dog […]

Code Name: The Cleaner


Every so often, you come across a movie so downright terrible, so mind-numbingly dim-witted, that you leave the theater feeling physically exhausted. Code Name: The Cleaner is exactly one of those movies. It’s a film so densely packed with horribleness that it almost seemingly collapses upon itself into a black hole of suckitude from which […]

Children of Men


I remarked just last week that Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men was one of the few 2006 films I had yet to see that might have altered the face of my ten-best list — and that turned out to be true. Had I been able to see it (thank you, Universal), I would have regretfully […]

84 Charing Cross Road


By all rights this 1987 film version of the play version of Helene Hanff’s book shouldn’t work. After all, it’s essentially an exchange of letters between two characters — Hanff (Anne Bancroft) and bookseller Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins) — who never meet. Worse, a great deal of it involves a discussion of (dear Lord!) literature. […]

The Horse’s Mouth


Not as well known as it ought to be — perhaps because director Ronald Neame isn’t exactly a major figure in film history — The Horse’s Mouth (1958) is quite probably the best film ever made about a painter. For that matter, it’s certainly in the top 20 films made about any kind of artist, […]

Black Christmas


I kind of like the concept of opening a horror picture on Christmas day — in theory at least. It adds to the mix and the choices. (Not everyone feels the need to be cinematically uplifted.). Plus, it tends to make for some ancillary amusement when it incites a faction of the public into a […]