Reviews

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Beauty and the Beast (1991)

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

At the intersection of great animated films, great filmed stage musicals, and great fairy-tale romances, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast stands alone. Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, it is simply the quintessential Disney masterpiece, the perfection of everything that Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid aspired to. Read More >

The Social Network (2010)

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

“Every creation myth needs a devil,” a sympathetic attorney tells Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, in the last scene of David Fincher’s dazzling, engrossing The Social Network. It’s a slyly subversive line, simultaneously summing up and calling into question much of the interpretation of events we’ve seen over the last two hours — and it gains another twist when you know that the line was neither dreamed up by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin nor copied from life, but was first uttered by a Facebook executive after reading the screenplay. It’s a mashup of art and criticism — a fortuitously collaborative, revisionistic coda to a fictionalized account of the social media age. Read More >

Waiting For Superman (2010)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

American public school students have fallen far behind other developed countries in basic skills: reading, math science. In one respect, though, we’re still number one: American students have the most confidence in their scholastic abilities. Johnny can’t read or add, but he has boundless self-esteem. Is the glass one-third full or three-quarters empty? Would Johnny know the difference? Read More >

Alpha and Omega (2010)

C- | | +0| Kids & Up

Boy meets girl. Girl is totally out of boy’s league. Girl meets other boy who is not out of her league. But he can’t sing. But she has to marry him anyway to keep peace between their families. Girl and first boy are shot with tranquilizer darts and relocated to Idaho to repopulate. Girl and boy embark (bark! ha ha!) on road trip back home. Girl falls for boy on the way. Back home, other boy falls for other girl. Cue climactic action scene and end with musical number. The end. Read More >

Winter’s Bone (2010)

A | **** | +2| Adults

In a backwoods world in the Missouri Ozarks so harsh and unforgiving that it takes one’s breath away, Winter’s Bone finds a heroine who could not exist anywhere else. Read More >

Tales From Earthsea (2006)

B- | **½ | +2-2| Teens & Up

Does Tales From Earthsea, the latest Studio Ghibli release brought to North American theaters by Disney, have the Miyazaki touch? Well, yes and no. Read More >

The Switch (2010)

D- | **½ | -3| Adults*

The Switch is about an attractive woman in her early 40’s with a history of unfortunate relationships and a gnawing concern that she’s been hitting the snooze button on her biological alarm clock for too long. I can’t imagine why they cast Jennifer Aniston. Read More >

Flipped (2010)

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

Juli Baker and Bryce Loski live in different worlds. She lives on one side of the street, he on the other. Bryce, whose family is the picture of Eisenhower-era suburban respectability, learns from his father’s disdain that the Bakers aren’t; Juli is blissfully unaware either of the Loskis’ well-to-do-ness or of her own family’s hardships. They see each other every day from the time they are seven without ever really seeing each other. Read More >

Nanny McPhee Returns (2010)

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

The second time is the charm with Nanny McPhee Returns, a sequel that improves on the original 2005 Nanny McPhee by more than a nose — even if it’s the bulbous nose of Nanny McPhee herself. Read More >

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

C- | **½ | -2| Adults

Among the least inspiring phrases in the English language, I wrote in my review of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, is “based on a video game.” Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is not based on a video game, but video games are part of its artistic DNA, along with comic books, anime, kung fu movies and music videos. Big difference. Read More >

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 >

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