Movie Reviews

Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enza Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda

The Bicycle Thieves

In Brief:  It helps to understand the realities of life in post-War Italy to understand the birth of Italian Neo-Realism — something born as much from economic necessity as an artistic movement. Films like Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves (1948) were partly made simply because they were possible in a country where money was scarce…
Starring: Finn Wittrock, Aaron Eckhart, Sarah Bolger, Robin Tunney

My All American

The Story: The true-life story of a perpetual underdog with aspirations of playing college football who ends up facing an even bigger challenge. The Lowdown: A paint-by-numbers inspirational sports flick that does exactly what you expect it to — with that being its biggest problem.
Starring: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, John Halliday, William Frawley, Ernest Cossart, Alan Mowbray


In Brief: Marlene Dietrich’s first film following the departure of her mentor, Josef von Sternberg, Desire (1936) is a stylish, glossy romantic comedy co-starring Gary Cooper. Dietrich — in a nonstop procession of those Travis Banton costumes — plays a member of a ring of jewel thieves who slips a string of stolen pearls in vacationing…
Starring: Sergi Lopez, Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdu, Doug Jones

Pan’s Labyrinth

In Brief: Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) (2006) is one of the most remarkable films of the 21st century — something I was not prepared for when I first saw it. Even while recognizing del Toro’s talent in his previous films (sometimes more obvious than other times), there was little in his work…
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Tom McCamus, Sean Bridgers, William H. Macy


The Story: A woman held captive for seven years and her five-year-old son escape to the outside world and try to adapt. The Lowdown: Highly-acclaimed — and admittedly unusual — tale that doesn't live up to its premise or its reception. Others will disagree with that assessment.
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips

The 33

The Story: Film version of the real-life event of the Chilean miners trapped in a cave-in. The Lowdown: It's well-made. It's well-intentioned, well-acted — and inclined to be on the slow side. The film seems less the problem than the idea that the story could, and should, be dramatized.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris


The Story: James Bond is back and out to save the world and his position in it, while uncovering his own past. The Lowdown: Lighter than the recent Bond movies, this is either a return to form, a winking homage to the whole series, or a dumbing down of the angsty, introspective Bond of the…
Starring: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim, Godfrey Tearle, Peggy Ashcroft, Wylie Watson

The 39 Steps

In Brief:  It's the picture where Alfred Hitchcock introduced the concept of an innocent man on the run from both the police and the bad guys while trying to prove his innocence. It's also the movie with the very first of Hitchcock's ice-blonde leading ladies. And The 39 Steps (1935) can still hold its own with…
Starring: Laurie Anderson, Lolabelle

Heart of a Dog

The Story: Performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson examines her relationship with her pet rat terrier against the backdrop of death and post-9/11 paranoia. The Lowdown: A beguiling little film that’s either brilliant or hogwash, but most likely lives somewhere in between.
Starring: Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Dan Aykroyd, John Heard, Wilford Brimley, Lauren Bacall

My Fellow Americans

In Brief: My Fellow Americans (1996) is a likable, if undistinguished, political action comedy — not a political satire. Though vaguely left-leaning, it is way too careful at being inoffensive to ever pass as satire. Certainly, it's agreeable entertainment, especially in the teaming of Jack Lemmon and James Garner as a pair of ex-presidents (of…
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw


The Story:  History and fiction collide in this story of the suffrage movement in early 20th century Britain. The Lowdown: Well-intentioned and full of noble sentiments, but curiously inert as drama. It's perhaps too concerned with being prestigious to work.
Starring: Will Hay, Claude Hulbert, Mervyn Johns, Laurence Hanray, Ernest Thesiger

My Learned Friend

In Brief: Many consider My Learned Friend (1943) to be British comedian (and astronomer and airplane pilot) Will Hay's best film. I'm not sure I can go that far. His obvious failing health (it was his last movie, though he lived for several more years) is a bit of downer, and the absence his earlier co-stars, Moore…
Starring: (Voices) Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller, Anastasia Bredikhina, Alexander Garfin

The Peanuts Movie

The Story: Charlie Brown battles his inherently inept nature as he tries to catch the attention of a little red-haired girl. The Lowdown: A totally harmless little family film that’s a bit too manic for its seemingly quaint nature.
Starring: Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang, Manuel Tallafé, Alejandro Tejerías

The Last Circus

In Brief: Calling this complex and disturbing work a horror film doesn’t do it justice — at the very least it’s art-house horror — but that’s as near as you’re likely to get to pinning it down. It is neither practical, nor particularly advisable, to try to offer a detailed plot synopsis of The Last Circus. It…
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Halston Sage, Cloris Leachman

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

The Story: Three scouts and a stripper battle a zombie plague. The Lowdown: Raunchy without being terribly funny (or daring) and gory without being horrific, there's just not much here. Yeah, I've seen worse, but that could be said of many things without suggesting anyone else should.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd

Our Brand Is Crisis

The Story: A retired campaign strategist is brought in to revive the struggling campaign of a Bolivian presidential candidate — and to square off against an old rival. The Lowdown: An entertaining, solid film buoyed by good performances, but far too predictable, and it doesn’t have as much to say as it thinks it does.
Starring: Carol Dempster, Neil Hamilton, Erville Alderson, Helen Lowell, Marcia Harris, Frank Puglia, Lupino Lane

Isn’t Life Wonderful

In Brief: Frequently cited as D.W. Griffith's last masterpiece, Isn't Life Wonderful (1924) does mark a break in his career, since it is his last independent film. But its status as a masterpiece strikes me as an overstatement of some note. It showcases nearly every one of Griffith's weaknesses and very few of his strengths.…
Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, Guy Decomble

The 400 Blows

In Brief: World Cinema is revisiting François Truffaut's first feature, The 400 Blows (1959), which struck a blow of its own as the first of the New Wave films — movies that came as a reaction to what was perceived as the stodginess of classical French filmmaking (and filmmaking around the world for that matter). It was a…
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette, Dominic Cooper, Paddy Considine, Jacqueline Bisset, Tyson Ritter, Frances de la Tour

Miss You Already

The Story: Film about the friendship of two women from childhood to marriage and to one of them battling cancer. The Lowdown: Much more than a "disease of the week" movie, this is a sharply written, beautifully acted work that edges into the must-see realm.
Starring: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Desi Arnaz, Jr., John Carradine, Julie Peasgood, Sheila Keith

House of the Long Shadows

In Brief: The sixth and (to date) last film version of the George M. Cohan play of Earl Derr Biggers' novel Seven Keys to Baldpate also marked the final film for Brit horror director Pete Walker. (There's no big drama here, he just decided to get out of filmmaking.) House of the Long Shadows (1983) is…
Starring: Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Kerr Logan, Dylan Moran, Liam Cunningham

Good Vibrations

In Brief: Good Vibrations is one of those British productions that simply never got picked up for U.S. distribution, and that's a shame, because this is a truly remarkable little film. Also, it's remarkable in a few ways — one of which is unexpected. It tells the story of music-obsessed Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer, '71),…