Reviews

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Eat Pray Love (2010)

D | ** | -3| Adults

Americans have an abiding affinity for consumerist self-indulgence and for pop spirituality, and a marriage of the two is a winning combination. “God never slams a door in your face,” Gilbert writes, “without opening a box of Girl Scout cookies.” Yep, there’ll be no shortage of people eating that one up. Read More >

Get Low (2010)

A | ***½ | +3| Teens & Up

Funerals are not for the dead, but for the living. The idea that this or that arrangement is what the deceased “would have wanted” may be consoling, but the consolation is ours, not theirs. Even if we console ourselves in view of our own eventual death by preplanning our funeral down to the last detail, the whole business of working out and documenting our wishes and preferences remains our endeavor just so long as we remain among the living. Once the funeral is actually upon us, it no longer belongs to us, but to our survivors. They may or may not follow our wishes, but whether they do or don’t, they do it for themselves, not us. Read More >

The Apostle (1997)

A- | ***½ | +3-2| Adults*

A sensitive cultural ethnography of the exotic, much-maligned world of Southern Pentecostalism; a complex study of a character whose many contradictions startlingly combine sacred and profane dimensions; a spiritual exploration of the inscrutable workings of guilt and grace: The Apostle—long labored over by writer, director, producer, and star Robert Duvall—is all of these. Read More >

Salt (2010)

B- | *** | -2| Teens & Up*

Salt is tasty in moderation, though you wouldn’t want to make it a big part of your diet. Read More >

Ramona and Beezus (2010)

B+ | *** | +2| Kids & Up

Faithful to the spirit if not the letter of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books, Ramona and Beezus borrows eclectically from multiple books rather than sticking to one, but gets right what most matters, above all Ramona herself. Read More >

Night Train to Munich (1940)

B+ | *** | +1| Teens & Up

If the two British twits on the titular train in Carol Reed’s overlooked, entertaining Night Train to Munich seem to have wandered in from another movie, it’s because they have. Read More >

Inception (2010)

A | **** | +2-2| Adults

Inception is the most audacious and multifaceted Hollywood entertainment for grown-ups I’ve seen in years: a brainy, bravura achievement inviting comparison to the most inspired work of Hollywood visionaries from Michael Mann and Charlie Kaufman to Ridley Scott and the Wachowskis. Read More >

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

B | *** | +0| Kids & Up*

The first good thing about The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is that it isn’t called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Oath of the Dragon Ring or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Nesting Dolls of Doom. Read More >

Despicable Me (2010)

B | *** | +2| Kids & Up

To his suburban neighbors, Gru is a grumpy bald guy whose house looks like the Haunted Mansion and whose ride makes the Dark Knight’s Batmobile look like a Prius. He’s the one who makes tasteless “jokes” about killing your dog if it goes on his lawn again and pretends not to be home when girls come around selling cookies. You know the type. Read More >

Knight and Day (2010)

C- | ** | -2| Adults

Little things like plot holes and leaps in logic shouldn’t matter that much when a movie like this is working. Watching Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Charade is a lot of fun even if you’re not completely sure afterward exactly what happened. If True Lies works for you, it’s because of how Arnold and Jamie Lee Curtis sell it, not because the story makes so much sense. When you find yourself nit-picking plot points and character motivations, it’s a sign the movie isn’t working. Read More >

Toy Story 3 (2010)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

At times Toy Story 3 feels a bit less fleet-footed than its predecessors, though there’s nothing that doesn’t work. Lee Unkrich, who co-directed Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo, directs with a sure hand. The story is stuffed with wit and invention, such as a couple of premise-bending applications of the Potato Heads’ modular body parts and some hilarious riffing on Ken and Barbie. Read More >

The A-Team (2010)

C- | ** | -2| Adults

The new movie, alas, is basically what you’d expect, by which I mean it’s a mess: chaotic, loud, overwrought, mindless, violent, visually incoherent — pretty much an archetypal example of everything that’s wrong with Hollywood today. Was the show this dumb? Does it matter? A movie’s job is not to live down to its source material. Read More >

The Karate Kid (2010)

B- | **½ | +1| Teens & Up

This Karate Kid may not be competing at the same level as the original, but it respects the tradition, and if it doesn’t really have anything new to say, it still says it in a reasonably engaging way. Read More >

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

C- | | +0| Kids & Up*

Are there five less inspiring words in the English language than “based on a video game”? Read More >

Shrek Forever After (2010)

B | *** | +2| Kids & Up*

After three Shrek films aimed squarely at adolescents, I’m mildly surprised to find that DreamWorks has made a final chapter aimed more or less at middle-aged men, and specifically husbands and fathers. You know, undemanding middle-aged men going to a Shrek movie. But still. Read More >

Robin Hood (2010)

C- | **½ | +1-2| Teens & Up*

Once again a peasant hero reminds us that no man is a knight or peasant but thinking makes him so, and a blacksmith or a stonemason can, and in all likelihood will, shape the destiny of nations. Would you be astonished to learn that there is a proto-feminist heroine who dons armor for the climactic battle? That not only is Richard the Lionheart’s brother John a degenerate, perfidious schemer, Richard himself (briefly seen at the end of Kingdom of Heaven at the outset of his crusade) is a cruel and venal marauder, as bereft of honor as of funds? Read More >

Iron Man 2 (2010)

B+ | *** | +1| Teens & Up

His suit may be iron, but he’s still got feet of clay. Tony Stark may not be the same narcissistic jerk he was at the beginning of Iron Man two years ago, but that doesn’t mean he’s someone completely different either. The road to redemption is seldom so straight as that. Read More >

Babies (2010)

A | ***½ | +3| Kids & Up

Everyone should see Babies. Even people who have cats instead of children should see Babies. There are a number of cats in this movie, and some feline moments that must be seen to be believed, especially for cat lovers. Read More >

Oceans (2009)

A- | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up

Nature docs thrive on firsts, though, and Oceans has some eye-poppers. The unprecedented spectacle of a blue whale feeding on krill, its ventral pouch inflated with water, is breathtaking (you never see blue whales in these things; humpbacks get all the glory). The colorful silken splendor of the blanket octopus and the ribbon eel were a surprise to me (nicely complemented by the Spanish dancer sea slug). And my new favorite freaky thing, supplanting the anatomical absurdity of the leafy seadragon, is the wack-eyed mantis shrimp, a testy little fellow who gets violently territorial with crabs loitering around his front door — as one learns to its grief. Get off my lawn, punk. Read More >

The Perfect Game (2009)

C+ | ** | +2| Kids & Up

Perhaps as much as we love underdog stories, America is just too big and powerful in too many ways to fully appreciate what a 1957 Little League championship could mean to Mexicans even in 1957, let alone 2010. The Perfect Game is a reminder of what a game can mean. Read More >

Clash of the Titans (2010)

D | | -2| Adults

The gods of classical mythology have always been selfish and capricious, but in a tempestuous, grand, passionate style, sort of like “Dallas” in heaven. In the new Clash of the Titans, the gods are about as grand and passionate as “The Simpsons,” and not a tenth as interesting. The original 1981 Clash of the Titans gave us Zeus portrayed by Laurence Olivier with a sort of dissolute patrician dignity. As played by Liam Neeson in the remake, he’s merely grumpy and vacillating. No wonder his half-human son Perseus (Sam Worthington) keeps telling anyone who will listen that he’s a man, not a god. Read More >

The Secret of Kells (2009)

B+ | ***½ | +1-2| Kids & Up*

I love that Brother Aidan’s cat in The Secret of Kells is called Pangur Bán. The unknown eighth or ninth-century Irish monk who, in a playful respite from his normal work, penned in the margins of a Latin New Testament manuscript an affectionate ode in his native tongue to the mouse-catching prowess of his white cat would surely be astounded to find Pangur Bán again commemorated in pen and ink over a millenium later, romping across backgrounds that look at times like the decorative work of the monks themselves brought to life. Read More >

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

B+ | *** | +0| Kids & Up*

“Vikings versus dragons” is definitely one of the cooler premises for a computer-animated tale to come along in a while. Differentiate the dragons into half a dozen distinct species, each with unique traits, from the roly-poly Gronkle to the two-headed Hideous Zippleback and the stealthy, jet-black Night Fury, and it’s even cooler — especially if the dragons are ordinary beasties rather than anthropomorphized talking monsters. Read More >

The African Queen (1951)

A- | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up*

Crocodiles, tsetse flies, mechanical difficulties, African rains and burning sun, sickness, an erratic helmer — all these and more plagued the shooting of The African Queen, no less than the onscreen journey of the African Queen down the Ulonga–Bora River during the first World War. Read More >

The Blind Side (2009)

B+ | *** | +2| Teens & Up

Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) is a red-state, family-values, guns-and-religion Erin Brockovich. Righteous, indomitable, unflappable, glamorous in plunging necklines and thigh-hugging skirts, she’s also a pistol-packing mama, a happily married homemaker and mother of two, a Bible-belt Evangelical and a dyed-in-the-wool gridiron junkie. She isn’t crass like Julia Roberts’ Oscar-winning part, but she’s as blunt and direct as an offensive tackle, and about as apt to be cowed by other people’s crass or intimidating behavior. Read More >

Green Zone (2010)

C | ** | +1-2| Teens & Up*

It’s tidy, comforting revisionism, like sending Rambo back into Vietnam so we can win this time. Instead of a morass in which the search for WMDs simply peters out, we get the closure of a smoking gun, a scapegoat whom Miller can buttonhole with righteous fury like Harrison Ford lacing into the president at the end of Clear and Present Danger. Read More >

Porco Rosso (1992)

B+ | *** | +1| Teens & Up

Seaplanes combine Miyazaki’s twin gravity-defying loves of water and sky, flying and floating, as well as his affinity for vintage technology — and the movie’s haphazard, kitchen-sink style suggests that the director just wanted to kick back and have fun with this one. There are aerial dogfights, star-crossed romance, gorgeous scenery, a hat tip Fleischer-style vintage animation, a rip-roaring escape sequence set in Milan, a nightclub where enemies sit at adjacent tables like Rick’s in Casablanca and the proprietress sings torch songs, and a showdown between the titular hero and an American antagonist that plays like the ultimate Humphrey Bogart / Errol Flynn smackdown that never was. Read More >

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

D | | -1| Teens & Up

The film is actually a joint evisceration not only of Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but also of “Jabberwocky,” with Alice recast as (so help me) a messianic warrior-hero destined to claim the fabled “Vorpal Sword,” don shining armor, and wage an epic battle on the fated “Frabjous Day” against the forces of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and the dragon-like Jabberwocky. Read More >

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)

A- | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up

From the Leonardo-like engineering illustrations of the opening credit sequence to the hauntingly surreal final image on the edge of space, Hayao Miyazaki’s Laputa, or Castle in the Sky as it’s been dubbed for English-speaking audiences, displays the filmmaker’s visionary brilliance as a shaper of worlds as compellingly as any film he has made. Read More >

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

B- | **½ | -1| Teens & Up

Harry Potter meets Clash of the Titans in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, the first installment of Rick Riordan’s fantasy pentalogy, directed by Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). The target audience for Percy Jackson & The Olympians has never seen Clash of the Titans, of course (I mean the original Clash of the Titans, of course, not the coming remake). That they have seen Harry Potter goes without saying. Read More >

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