Reviews

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Roman Holiday (1953)

A- | ***½ | +1| Teens & Up

Audrey Hepburn is utterly beguiling in her star-making role opposite Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, a delightful romantic comedy about a poised young princess of an unspecified European country who spends a magical day with an American reporter (Gregory Peck) in the Eternal City, playing hooky from her official duties. Read More >

Iron Monkey (2001)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

Miramax execs would like you to think of Iron Monkey as this year’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It might be more accurate, though, to call it this year’s The Legend of Drunken Master. Read More >

Freaky Friday (2003)

C | **½ | -1| Teens & Up

(Co-written with Suzanne E. Greydanus) In the very end there’s a scene in which Anna’s grandfather (thrown into the movie as a hard-of-hearing joke) is lamenting that “youth is wasted on the young.” Too bad the makers of this new Freaky Friday forgot that. Read More >

Northfork (2003)

D+ | **½ | -2| Teens & Up*

With its surreal, dreamlike ambiance, juxtaposition of transcendent and mundane elements, lyrical imagery, and contemplative pacing, Northfork alternately evokes comparisons to such films as Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, Malick’s Days of Heaven, and certain films of Tarkovsky, Bergman, David Lynch, and Carl Dreyer. Read More >

Road to Morocco (1942)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

This time out the boys take their Road act to Arabian Nights territory, where, as usual, they sing (especially Bing), crack wise (especially Bob), and vie over Lamour, who again has an agenda of her own. The story, which is taken about as seriously as the plot of a typical Looney Tunes cartoon, has Bing and Bob shipwrecked and washed up on the road to Morocco. Read More >

Monsieur Beaucaire (1946)

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

Beaucaire (Hope) is barber to Louis XV of France — until the former’s romantic altercations with a chambermaid named Mimi (Joan Caulfield) inadvertently result in banishment for both Mimi and himself. At the same time, the king finds it expedient to rid the court of the Duc le Chandre, a renowned swordsman and celebrated ladies’ man, by making a political marriage between le Chandre and Princess Maria of Spain (Marjorie Reynolds). Read More >

My Favorite Blonde (1942)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

One of Bob Hope’s best comic-thriller vehicles, My Favorite Blonde benefits from its semi-serious spy-thriller ambiance, tolerably cogent plot, scene-stealing penguin, and above all one of the more human, less caricatured, less one-dimensionally narcissistic characters in Hope’s movie oeuvre. Read More >

Atlantis (1991)

A- | ***½ | +0| Kids & Up

Loosely structured into thematic "chapters" such as "light," "rhythm," and "grace," accompanied by an ecclectic Eric Serra score, Atlantis is a documentary Fantasia, a poetic marriage of image and music (though the score, apart from an aria from Bellini’s La Sonnambula, lacks the pedigree of Disney’s masterpiece). Marred only by a brief opening voiceover, which muses pretentiously about man’s evolutionary origins in the ocean, Besson’s otherwise wordless film lets the beauty of the undersea world speak for itself. Read More >

The Emperor’s Club (2002)

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

He’s overly pedantic: Instead of merely urging a student to stay off the grass, he exhorts, "Walk where the great men who have gone before you have walked" — not just because it’s good for the grass, but "because it’s good for you." Read More >

Seabiscuit (2003)

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

Seabiscuit canters handsomely around the track less like a scrappy race horse than a slightly overfed show horse, playing to the crowd, confident that there’s no real competition breathing down its neck. It is right. Read More >

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)

C | ** | +0| Kids & Up*

If Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over were consistent, that protest would become Juni’s mantra, repeated every thirty seconds or so from that point on until the end of the film. Then again, if Spy Kids 3-D were consistent — about anything at all — it might actually start making some kind of sense. Read More >

Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968)

C+ | **½ | +0| Kids & Up

Highlights include an ominous retelling of the story of Blackbeard’s curse and a slapstick scene pitting the heroes against the gangsters. Undeniably silly and somewhat dated, Blackbeard’s Ghost remains harmless, modestly entertaining family fare. Read More >

Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002)

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

In the original Spy Kids, dashing spy parents Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Guigino) exchanged the glamorous world of espionage for the even greater adventure of raising a family. Their children Carmen and Juni (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) weren’t actually "Spy Kids" — a term that in the movie actually applied to a line of robotic child warriors designed by the only somewhat sinister Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming) — but became entangled in their parents’ exotic former life when the latter were captured by Floop’s forces. Read More >

Spy Kids (2001)

A | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up*

The press kit calls it "James Bond for kids," but this over-the-top fantasy romp might be more accurately described as a family-friendly True Lies: The Next Generation, or even a married-with-children Austin Powers — all with Willy Wonka-style wonkiness and inspired set design straight out of Dr. Seuss. Read More >

Quest for the True Cross (2002)

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

In particular, his investigation focuses, not on any of the relics of the True Cross itself, but on a wooden relic purported to be a fragment of the titulus crucis — the placard placed over the head of the crucified man bearing the charge against him, in this case "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." For centuries this relic has been housed at the Santa Croce Church in Rome, where tradition holds it was brought by the mother of Constantine, St. Helena, following her pilgrimage to the Holy Land in search of Christian artifacts. However, these claims had not been critically investigated prior to Thiede’s research. Read More >

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

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

Like the heroines of The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday, Katherine Hepburn plays a divorcée caught between flawed ex-husband Cary Grant and a respectable but somehow unsuitable fiancé (John Howard). But The Philadelphia Story goes beyond the formula by throwing in surprise contender Jimmy Stewart as a disgruntled novelist-reporter — an unexpected source of conflict and uncertainty that eliminates the need for Grant to resort to the underhanded tricks he needed to show up his rivals in Awful Truth and Girl Friday. Read More >

The Song of Bernadette (1943)

A+ | ***½ | +4| Kids & Up

Based on the historical novel by Jewish author Franz Werfel, the beloved classic The Song of Bernadette stands head and shoulders over most religiously themed fare from Hollywood’s golden age. Read More >

Destry Rides Again (1939)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

A classic satirical action-comedy Western, Destry Rides Again pits mild-mannered sheriff’s deputy Jimmy Stewart — a reverse type of the typical John-Wayne two-fisted straight-shooting cowboy hero — against a lawless town full of swindlers and murderers where sheriffs tend to wind up dead. Read More >

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

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

From a moral-spiritual perspective, the film has two flaws: It takes an indulgent view of the couple’s premarital intimacy, and it depicts the groom-to-be’s Greek Orthodox baptism in purely cultural, non-religious terms ("I’m Greek now," he says afterwards). Fortunately, these isolated lapses are more than overshadowed by the film’s redemptive pro-family themes, memorably summed up by Toula’s father in a final speech full of genuine warmth. Read More >

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

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

Regarding Punch-Drunk Love, much has been made of the sense of not knowing what’s going to happen next. Anderson’s opening scene is like a manifesto of unpredictability. Opening with a phone conversation in a stark warehouse space, the scene follows Barry Egan (Sandler) outdoors, where the morning waits in expectant silence for the day to begin, as the audience waits for the movie to begin. What kind of day will it be? What sort of movie are we watching? Read More >

An American in Paris (1953)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

In a conceit both touching and surreal, Kelly plays an American ex-G.I. in Paris who’s never wanted anything but to paint, though he’s obviously the best hoofer in France. Read More >

The Animal (2001)

D- | * | -2| Adults*

Funnier, perhaps, than anything in The Animal - which isn’t saying much - are the opportunities for critics to make "Survivor" jokes inspired by the presence of costar Colleen Haskell, the elfin-faced young thing who became a celebrity during the course of the CBS monster hit. Read More >

Casablanca (1942)

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

The result of this somewhat haphazard collaboration is a breathtaking creative synergy, a perfect storm in which everything happened to come together with magical rightness. The sparkling script balances wittily cynical dialogue, weepy sentimentalism and clear-eyed idealism. The characters that matter are credibly, even seriously flawed, yet remain deeply sympathetic and open to redemption. The tightly crafted plot is at once intricate and elegant, at turns rollicking and stirring, and the snappy storytelling doesn’t come at the expense of rich, moody atmosphere. The top-notch cast are at the top of their games, and the timeless score accents a classic wartime melodrama that hasn’t lost a thing as time goes by. Read More >

Charade (1963)

A- | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

Often described as "the best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made," Charade stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in a sparkling thriller with overtones of screwball romantic comedy — or is it the other way around? Read More >

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up*

The Emperor’s New Groove is really about another new groove — Disney animation’s. By 2000, the old Disney-as-usual wasn’t selling any more, and Disney was ready to begin trying new things. Read More >

The Fugitive (1947)

A- | ***½ | +3| Teens & Up

Not to be confused with any version of the story of Dr. Kimble and the one-armed man, this Fugitive is director John Ford’s underrated adaptation of Catholic novelist Graham Greene’s masterpiece The Power and the Glory. Read More >

Gangs of New York (2002)

D- | **½ | -3| Adults*

That book, with its breathless vignettes of the 19th-century lower Manhattan underworld, has no central plot or unifying storyline. Similarly, the most striking moments in Scorsese’s film come as glimpses into that time and place. When we see hordes of immigrants milling about in the unguessed catacombs beneath the Old Brewery of the Five Points neighborhood, or rival fire brigades brawling in the streets rather than fighting the fire, it’s easy to feel that here, surely, is a dark and strange world that would be interesting to explore, a world in which memorable stories must have taken place. Read More >

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

C+ | **½ | +1-1| Adults*

Damning with faint praise? More like praising with faint damns. Moulin Rouge! is a failure: a towering monument of wasted potential, of lost opportunity, of good ideas gone bad and bad ideas gone amok. It’s got the same attention-grabbing take-no-prisoners style (though on a far larger scale) as Luhrmann’s first film, the sublime Strictly Ballroom; but that film had something Moulin Rouge! can’t be bothered with: characters who emerged from their situations as real and likeable people. Moulin Rouge! even recycles plot elements from the earlier film: A naive but talented young outsider falls for a driven, unattainable professional whose Svengali-like handlers oppose the relationship for self-interested reasons. There’s even a climactic scene that mirrors the grand finale of Ballroom in such specific detail that Luhrmann could sue himself for plagiarism; but what he can’t replicate is the first film’s heart appeal. Read More >

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1951)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

Unlike the similarly titled Capra comedies Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town — which centered on simple, honest rural folk colliding with urban disingenuity — Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is about the foibles and woes of an urban family whose disjointed lifestyle leads them to fumblingly seek a better life in the countryside. Read More >

Out of Ireland: The Story of Irish Emigration to America (1995)

B+ | ***½ | +1-1| Teens & Up

Period letters and songs, archival and modern photography, and illustrative anecdotes as well as broad analysis are all deployed to convey the flavor as well as the sequence of historical events. We learn how Irishmen came to America expecting streets paved with gold, and wound up not only paving the streets themselves but building the bridges, skyscrapers, and railroads. Read More >

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