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The Tree of Life (Review)

The poetics of nature vs. grace dominate Terrence Malick’s latest opus

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 22, 2011
'The Tree of Life' opens with a bit of Scripture: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation ... while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" Where were we, indeed? That's the question that Terrence Malick's latest dares to pose and better still seeks to answer, but neither the question nor the answer matter much in the overall scheme of things. The effort is the point and purpose of the exercise, the meaning of life itself. The effort is the point and purpose of the exercise, the meaning of life itself. Grade: A.  

Green Lantern (Review)

CGI-driven adaptation is a lame mash-up that treads well-worn ground

0 Comments · Friday, June 17, 2011
Director Martin Campbell forgoes the urban realism of Christopher Nolan’s 'Batman' reboots and the romantic/heroic ideal of 'Superman' for the CG rendering of the otherworldly power of the Lantern and the Ring in his introduction to the origin story behind how a recklessly daring pilot named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) became the first human member of the Green Lantern Corp. Grade: D-plus.  

The Art of Getting By (Review)

Formulaic coming-of-age romance doesn't quite get by

0 Comments · Friday, June 17, 2011
Writer/director Gavin Wiesen's formulaic romantic comedy attempts some familiar indie-pic variations on the comeing-of-age theme but ignores the most fundamental need of the genre: Somewhere, there better be somebody you actually want to root for. Grade: C.  

Mr. Popper's Penguins (Review)

Jim Carrey delivers comic physicality in flawed adaptation of children's book

0 Comments · Friday, June 17, 2011
Loosely based on Florence Atwater's 1938 children's book, 'Mr. Popper's Penguins' never completely gels. But that doesn't stop Jim Carrey from using everything in his arsenal of comic physicality. Grade: B-.  

Bicycle Dreams (Review)

An inspiring human Race Across America makes a pit-stop in Ohio

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 15, 2011
This year marks the 30th anniversary run of the Race Across America (RAAM), a grueling bicycle endurance race that finds only the toughest and the craziest cyclists eager to risk their physical health and their psychological stamina on this 3,000-plus mile trek from California to a destination somewhere along the East Coast (generally somewhere between Maryland and New York).  

Super 8 (Review)

J.J. Abrams' crafty thriller channels Steven Spielberg

1 Comment · Thursday, June 9, 2011
Give J.J. Abrams credit for stones the size of bowling balls, because he practically gift-wraps the pike on which his science-fiction thriller 'Super 8' could be skewered. Early in the film, aspiring middle-school filmmaker Charles (Riley Griffiths) explains to his pal, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), why he has added new scenes to the zombie movie they're shooting with Charles' Super-8 camera. It can't be just about the creatures, Charles quotes from the screenwriting books he's been brushing up on; you have to care about the characters, so that you want them to live. Grade: B.  

Midnight in Paris

Owen Wilson headlines Woody Allen’s most engaging film in years

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Midnight in Paris is a love letter to the city at night and the nostalgia for bygone days, but it realizes, even as it celebrates these elements, especially the past, that there is a trap in falling for the romance and old-fashioned romantic notions. Nostalgia, we are told, is denial of the present, the harsh realities, the swift movement forward that actually obliterates the now and seeks to erase everything that has come before.  

Incendies (Review)

Oscar-nominted drama is a powerful tale of a fracture family

0 Comments · Thursday, June 2, 2011
Brilliantly constructed from the bountiful narrative fabric of Wajdi Mouawad's complex stage play about a familial legacy passed down from a mother to her fraternal twins, 'Incendies' is one of the most powerful dramas ever conceived. Grade: A.  

The First Grader (Review)

True-life story weirdly mutes its dramatic possibilites

0 Comments · Thursday, June 2, 2011
There are, to be sure, foregone conclusions in any kind of inspirational true-life story of this ilk, but British filmmaker Justin Chadwick is weirdly keen on deflecting all drama. Grade: C-plus.  

X-Men: First Class (Review)

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 1, 2011
"Best. Comic Book Movie. Evah!” So my inner fangirl is screaming at the moment as she does a little happy Snoopy dance. “X-Men: First Class is totally awesome!” The cooler, more rational part of my brain is looking upon that inner fangirl with something like indulgent, affectionate pity.  

Meek's Cutoff (Review)

Kelly Reichardt and Michelle Williams rewire the western genre

0 Comments · Thursday, May 26, 2011
You might have seen various re-creations of pioneer journeys, but chances are you’ve never seen the stark realities of that kind of journey given the existential weight of Kelly Reichardt’s 'Meek’s Cutoff.' Screenwriter Jon Raymond draws from a real-life historical tale: an Oregon-bound wagon train led by guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) in 1845 that took an alternate route to the well-traveled Oregon Trail. Dissent soon begins to simmer, however, as the pioneers begin to suspect that Meek doesn’t really know where he’s going. Grade: A-.   

Kung Fu Panda 2 (Review)

Jack Black is back for another round of animated mayhem

0 Comments · Thursday, May 26, 2011
Grand-scale animated spectacle in an atmosphere of China's exotic natural beauty is part and parcel to DreamWorks Animation's winning sequel to the 2008 original. Although the filmmakers only take full advantage of the film's 3-D aspect once to allow Jack Black's panda character Po to discharge dumplings across the fourth wall, the animation is gorgeous. Grade: B.  

The Hangover Part II (Review)

Half-assed sequel fails to reach its potential

0 Comments · Thursday, May 26, 2011
The comedic premise of the 2009 original was pure genius, executed with minimal imagination; it was like teenagers blessed with the power of invisibility who could only think to sneak into the girls’ locker room. This version copies the formula, to the same effect. Grade: C-plus.  

The Double Hour (Review)

French thriller melds mystery and romanticism

0 Comments · Thursday, May 26, 2011
Although not as witty in plot design as debut director Giuseppe Capotondi imagines, The Double Hour is an atmospheric suspense thriller that succeeds on the strength of its two leading actors. Grade: B-.  

No Ordinary Western

Filmmaker Kelly Reichardt discusses Meek's Cutoff

0 Comments · Wednesday, May 25, 2011
On the Oregon Trail in 1845, a wagon train of three families led by the mountain man Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) is perilously lost, even though none are yet fully aware of that fact. It’s here that director Kelly Reichardt’s film begins. Actually, Meek’s Cutoff opens in silence, or, more accurately, with the sounds that become prominent in the absence of conversation.