Reviews

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Burn After Reading (2008)

C+ | **½ | -2| Adults

Burn After Reading reminds me a little of the Darwin Awards. It’s morbidly absurdist, thoroughly pointless, and can certainly be funny at times, even acutely so, with a freakish bathos that can be hard to look away from. But if you don’t feel a little queasy for laughing, and perhaps you should, you might at least feel bothered that someone wanted to put the whole thing together for your amusement. Read More >

Mr. Bean’s Holiday (2007)

B+ | *** | +1| Kids & Up

Longtime Bean aficionados may find some of the gags familiar from the TV show and the earlier film. Others may feel (what seems plausible to me) that Atkinson has refined his act and given us “Bean’s Greatest Hits” in their ideal form, culminating in a delightful climax approaching feckless transcendence. Read More >

Bee Movie (2008)

C | ** | +0| Kids & Up

As bright-hued as it is dim-witted, Bee Movie is a scattered oddity of a film, combining warm, candy-colored computer-animated visuals, occasionally laugh-out-loud absurdist humor and such profound stupidity about birds and bees — and flowers and trees — that kids watching it will actually lose “facts-of-life” IQ points. Which, for the record, is not a good thing. Read More >

Henry Poole is Here (2008)

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

Like M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, Henry Poole simply divides the world into two groups of people: those who see signs and miracles, and those who see only coincidence. How either group arrives at or explains particular conclusions, not to mention how people decide which group they belong to in the first place, isn’t explored. We just get Henry with his arms folded defiantly across he chest intoning “Coincidence,” and everyone else serenely shrugging their shoulders saying “Faith.” Read More >

The Terminal (2004)

B- | **½ | +0| Teens & Up

The story wobbles between plotlines and characters that make emotional sense and ones that don’t. And the climax (hastily rewritten and reshot mere weeks before opening day) is pretty much unsalvageable. In Spielberg and Hanks’s professional hands the whole package remains passably entertaining, but much of it doesn’t bear thinking about afterwards — not because the premise is implausible, but because, granted the premise, characters do things that no one would, or should, do under those circumstances. Read More >

Brideshead Revisited (2008)

C- | ** | +1-2| Adults

Yet this Brideshead Revisited ultimately subverts Waugh’s subtlest and most subversive achievement: It offers all the foibles and puzzlement of the Flytes’ religious world, while all but obliterating the threads of grace running through their lives. Read More >

Witness (1985)

A | **** | +2| Teens & Up*

A compelling thriller, a smoldering love story, a thoughtful study in comparative cultures, and a respectful exploration of religious community and nonviolence, Witness is one of the high points of 1980s American cinema, and remains one of Australian director Peter Weir’s best films as well as his first American film. Read More >

The Train (1964)

A | **** | +1| Teens & Up

How do you weigh the cultural heritage of a nation against the value of human life? That’s the subtext of The Train, a wholly persuasive, intelligent thiller crisply directed by John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) with documentary-like realism and emphasis on action and problem-solving. Read More >

The Wicker Man (2006)

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

What do you get if you take Robin Hardy’s cult classic The Wicker Man, and then take out religion and sex? And folk music? That’s the question writer-director Neil LaBute (Nurse Betty) sets out to answer in his 2006 remake of The Wicker Man. After watching the film, I’m still unsure of the answer. Read More >

The Wicker Man (1973)

B- | *** | +1-2| Adults*

Is The Wicker Man anti-Christian? Anti-pagan? Anti-religion? Where are its sympathies? Does it have any? Like baffled, blustering Sergeant Howie, blundering about the clannish Summerisle community trying to investigate a missing child, we are asking the wrong questions, assuming the wrong rules, wandering ever further off course, walking into a trap. Read More >

The Dark Knight (2008)

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

So deeply does The Dark Knight delve into the darkness that lurks in the hearts of men that it comes almost as a shock, bordering on euphoria, to find that it maintains a tenacious grip onto hope in the human potential for good. Read More >

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

B | *** | -1| Teens & Up*

Bigger effects and badder creatures make Del Toro’s second take on Hellboy more entertaining than the original, but something’s still missing in the story of the super hero from hell. Read More >

WALL•E (2008)

A | **** | +1| Kids & Up

Even Pixar has never attempted anything on a canvas of this scale. From Monsters, Inc.’s corporate culture to Finding Nemo’s submarine suburbia, previous Pixar films have never strayed too far from the rhythms of real life. … WALL‑E creates a world that, despite clear connections to contemporary culture, looks and feels nothing like life as we know it, with unprecedented dramatic and philosophical scope. Read More >

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a smart, scary fantasy family thriller that offers depth and meaning in a genre littered with mere competent entertainment. Where films like Zathura and Night at the Museum offer roller-coaster excitement but little more, The Spiderwick Chronicles is actually about something. Read More >

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008)

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

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is worth seeing in the company of any American girl young enough to watch a G-rated movie in which the protagonist wants to be a reporter rather than get a makeover, become a pop princess or get the cute boy. If you can get away without shelling out for the matching dress, so much the better. Read More >

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

B- | **½ | +0| Teens & Up

Although most viewers will probably find The Incredible Hulk diverting but — after a strong first act — forgettable entertainment, for Hulk fans smarting from the limitations of the Ang film, it may just be balm for the soul. Read More >

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

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

The action, though no more realistic than the most cartoony chop-socky movies, is really intense — too intense for sensitive youngsters. For kids up for rolling with the punches, though, Kung Fu Panda may just be DreamWorks Animation’s most entertaining and endearing CGI cartoon to date. Read More >

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

B | *** | +0| Teens & Up

Raiders of the Lost Ark is such a tour de force homage to the serial adventures of yesteryear that viewers who know nothing of those old cliffhangers are swept up in its nostalgia. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull plays to nostalgia for the earlier Indiana Jones films. In that capacity, it delivers more or less what one would expect, disposable popcorn entertainment and a reunion with a few old friends. Enjoy it for what it is, but don’t hope for more. Read More >

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

B+ | *** | +1| Kids & Up*

If the first Narnia film got perhaps two-thirds of Lewis’s intended meaning, Caspian is lucky if it gets a quarter. … The upshot is that Caspian is a good-looking fantasy film with some appealing eye candy and comparatively little to do with the book, beyond basic themes of good versus evil and rather generic faith. On that level, if you can put Lewis out of your mind, it’s a pretty good ride. Read More >

Son of Rambow (2008)

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

After making his feature debut with the rather inspiration-challenged big-screen Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, director Garth Jennings wisely shifts to a more intimate and personal canvas with Son of Rambow, a quirky British indie, set in the early 1980s, that made a splash at Sundance. Although somewhat scattered and uneven, Rambow has enough heart and wit to sustain its 96-minute running time. Read More >

Iron Man (2008)

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

Smart, sardonic and more than a little silly, Iron Man is a successful super-hero movie that never takes itself too seriously. Read More >

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

B+ | *** | +3| Kids & Up

And yet, compared with most Hollywood biblical epics, The Greatest Story Ever Told manages to sustain a spirit of genuine reverence and religiosity over showmanship and pageantry. Its deliberate pacing and dreamlike, otherworldly ambiance offer neither the entertainment value of The Ten Commandments nor the comparative psychological realism of Zeffirelli’s subsequent Jesus of Nazareth, yet it is arguably more evocative than either of the spirit of biblical literature. Read More >

Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! (2008)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

One book can’t contain Horton’s dogged heroics!
His stoical pluck shows up all other stoics! …
And it gets even better! I’m pleased to relate
That Horton’s the very best Blue Sky to date. Read More >

Once (2007)

A- | *** | +1-1| Teens & Up*

At once delicate and gritty, wistful and deeply satisfying, John Carney’s Once is a intimate little film that, like a favorite song, you would rather play for someone than try to describe. Read More >

Be Kind Rewind (2008)

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

If I had to put Be Kind Rewind in a box, which is emphatically not where any Gondry film belongs, I might be tempted to call it Lars and the Real Girl by way of Bowfinger — the latter for its comic guerrilla filmmaking, but the former for its similarity of spirit, its gentle absurdism in an ode to benevolence and community togetherness. Read More >

In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)

A | **** | +2| Kids & Up

Man’s own shadow, as much as the moon’s, lies across In the Shadow of the Moon, David Sington’s moving documentary of the U.S. Apollo program. An eloquent testament to the grandeur of creation as well as man’s unique place in it, In the Shadow of the Moon offers a remarkable look at the history and technology of the Apollo program, but an even more extraordinary glimpse of the men who lived it and made it happen. Read More >

Caramel (2007)

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

As the name implies, Caramel is a gooey, insubstantial confection, often sweet, occasionally cloying, sometimes sticky — in many respects about on a par with the likes of Beauty Shop. The humor is broad, characters stereotypical, the situations formulaic. Yet there’s no good–bad character divide, no requisite A‑story conflict, and few tidy resolutions. Read More >

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

A- | **** | +3-2| Adults*

4 Months, like previous Romanian export The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, compels us not to avert our eyes. Even though the actual events remain out of sight — apart from a single, indelible shot not unlike images seen in some types of pro-life materials — its confrontation of the unmentionable is no less devastating. Read More >

Juno (2007)

A- | ***½ | +3-2| Teens & Up*

Yet it’s right around this point that Juno, which has been clever and insightful, unexpectedly reveals hidden layers of complexity and depth. Read More >

Enchanted (2007)

C+ | ** | -1| Kids & Up*

(Written by Suzanne E. Greydanus) Where is the real man here? Giselle’s rapport with Morgan and sweet naiveté are endearing; are we supposed to find Edward’s incompetence and arrogance equally so? Do our female hearts swoon when he checks his teeth in his sword, or boorishly flails it about at everything that moves? Why can’t the prince be an idealized example of chivalry, bravery, strength and honor, as Giselle is of sweetness and goodness? Read More >

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