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V for Vendetta (2006)

F | ***½ | -4|

Fans and philosophy students endlessly debate whether the world of The Matrix is most influenced by Eastern mysticism or Cartesian philosophy, Christianity or gnosticism, humanism or post-humanism. No such debates will be occurring over V for Vendetta, which weighs down what could have been a thought-provoking dystopian scenario with leaden specificity and sanctimonious ideo-political commentary. Read More >

Crash (2005)

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

Crash is a provocation, an insistent manifesto that filters every scene and almost every line of dialogue through the prism of race, but keeps turning the prism around and around until the colors no longer matter and we see only what the characters do. Read More >

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005)

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

The ongoing Hollywood deconstruction of Eisenhower-era American values hits a speed bump of sorts in The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, a whimsical, stylish tribute to the wit and inner strength of a Donna Reed–esque housewife and mother of ten (Julianne Moore) whose bouyancy and creative flair holds her family together in spite of little help and indeed much resistance from her alcoholic, bullying husband (Woody Harrelson). Read More >

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

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

In Kind Hearts and Coronets, the driest, darkest, and arguably the best of Ealing Studio’s acclaimed British crime comedies, murder itself is a trivial offense compared to punctilious observance of the highest standards of Edwardian social rectitude, at least for the aristocratic protagonist, Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), or Lord d’Ascoyne as he is styled after ensuring the deaths of each of the eight relations who once stood between himself and the peerage. Read More >

Tsotsi (2005)

A- | ***½ | +3| Adults*

Tsotsi seems almost entirely severed from human values, and his seemingly total moral apathy rattles the conscience-stricken Boston. “Decency, Tsosti,” Boston harangues. “Do you know the word?” Read More >

Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (2005)

A+ | **** | +4| Teens & Up

Sophie Scholl is one of a very few films that accomplishes one of the rarest and most valuable of cinematic achievements: It makes heroic goodness not just admirable, but attractive and interesting. Read More >

Eight Below (2006)

C+ | **½ | +0| Kids & Up*

If Snow Dogs is a fairly typical example of the conventional Hollywood idea of a live-action family film, Eight Below is a typical example of a new trend in family films that includes National Treasure, Hidalgo, Two Brothers, Fantastic Four and The Legend of Zorro. This is a good thing, but not yet good enough. Read More >

Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

B+ | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up

Henry Fonda’s best-known performance as a legendary historical character in a John Ford film is, of course, as Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine. Yet Fonda was more aptly cast, and gives a more vivid performance, five years earlier in their lesser-known first collaboration, Young Mr. Lincoln. Read More >

The Awful Truth (1937)

C+ | **½ | -1| Teens & Up

One should be rooting for Cary Grant to get the girl, which means he ought to deserve her — and if that’s more or less the case here, well, it’s only because the girl turns out to be no great shakes either. Read More >

His Girl Friday (1940)

C | **½ | -1| Teens & Up

Call me an Albany-living mama’s boy, but when Hildy tells her male colleagues in an early scene that she’s going to be a woman, not a news-getting machine, and have babies and take care of them, and give them cod-liver oil and watch their teeth grow, and not have to worry any more about crawling up fire escapes, getting kicked out of front doors, or eating Christmas dinners in one-armed joints — well, I for one think that sounds kind of nice. Read More >

The New World (2006)

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

Up to a point, there is a level of artistic kinship between The New World, Terence Malick’s dreamlike origin myth of the American colonies, and another recent, visually poetic meditation on a foundation story: Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Read More >

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2005)

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

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is the third intriguing nature documentary of 2005, a charming sleeper hit that focuses like March of the Penguins on the life challenges faced by a population of exotic birds, and also, like Grizzly Man, on an eccentric California man’s intimate involvement in their lives. Read More >

March of the Penguins (2005)

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

To human observers, the ways in which animal behavior variously resembles or contrasts with human behavior is an inexhausible source of fascination. Catch animals behaving one way, and we can’t help marveling at how “almost human” they seem. Catch them behaving another way, and we’re struck by the unbridgeable gulf between the animal and human worlds. Read More >

Grizzly Man (2005)

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

Who was Timothy Treadwell, the “grizzly man” whose thirteen-year love affair with Alaska’s brown bears came to a tragic end in the fall of 2003 when a hungry brown killed and partially ate him and his girlfriend? Read More >

Match Point (2005)

D | *** | -3| Adults*

The first shot in Woody Allen’s Match Point is meant to serve as a metaphorical master-image for the film as a whole: a freeze-frame shot of a tennis ball suspended in space over the net after striking it, poised between falling on one side of the net or the other. Read More >

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

F | ***½ | -4|

In the end, in its easygoing, nonpolemical way, Brokeback Mountain is nothing less than an indictment not just of heterosexism but of masculinity itself. Read More >

King Kong (2005)

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

Peter Jackson’s King Kong is one of those mad movies, like Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! or Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, that fully justifies and deserves all the best and worst that can be said for or against them. Read More >

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

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

One of the most magical effects in Andrew Adamson’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe isn’t rippling computer-generated fur, ice castles, or battle scenes. It’s the wide-eyed wonder and delight on the face of young Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) as she passes beyond the wardrobe for the first time into the winter wonderland of the Narnian wood. Read More >

Witness to Hope: The Life of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II (2002)

A | ***½ | +3| Kids & Up*

In the crowd of TV documentaries on the life of Pope John Paul II, there is Witness to Hope, and there is everything else. Read More >

Pope John Paul II (2005)

B+ | *** | +3| Teens & Up

Not to be confused with the identically named 1984 Herbert Wise film starring Albert Finney, Pope John Paul II is the first — so far the only — dramatic presentation to do anything like justice to the life and reign of the 20th century’s most popular pope. Read More >

Confession (2005)

C+ | **½ | +2| Teens & Up

Reverent, well directed, and well acted by a respectable cast including Bruce Davison, Tom Bosley and Peter Green, Confession’s weakness is also its promotional gimmick: Meyers directed the film at 24, but wrote the screenplay ten years earlier as a student in a Catholic boarding school. Read More >

Walk the Line (2005)

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

More than other recent biopics such as Ray and Kinsey, which made a show of “warts and all” even-handedness even as they softened the reality, Walk the Line dares to allow its protagonist to be genuinely unsympathetic. Read More >

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

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

The fourth of seven projected films based on J. K. Rowling’s ongoing adventures of the boy wizard, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire represents the midpoint of the series and of Harry’s schooling at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. Read More >

Zathura (2005)

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

Light on plot and story logic but strong on narrative thrust and fantastic imagery, it’s the most effective of the three films… Alas, Zathura is also a family film of the contemporary family as well as for it. Read More >

Pickpocket (1959)

B+ | ***½ | +2| Teens & Up

Does Michel want to be caught? Does he taunt the inspector because he feels untouchable, or is there another reason? As always, Bresson examines actions but offers little attention to motives, an approach that here seems to suggest that Michel’s choices may be a mystery even to himself, his threadbare theorizing only rationalization. Read More >

Wind in the Willows [Hall/Taylor] (1983)

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

For atmosphere, for style, for the best evocation of the spirit and feel of The Wind in the Willows, you can’t do better than the Hall/Taylor version. Read More >

The Gold Rush (1925)

A | **** | +0| Kids & Up

New from the Criterion Collection, Charlie Chaplinís comedy classic The Gold Rush is now available on Blu-ray and DVD in a single edition that includes both the original 1925 silent film and Chaplin’s 1942 reworking of the film in a quasi-sound edition, with humorous, documentary-like narration replacing the intertitles. Read More >

Apollo 13 (1995)

A | **** | +0| Teens & Up

In an age when we rely on computerized directions and GPS devices to drive to the next town, it seems an almost mythic scenario: brilliant men calculating outer-space trajectories on the fly with pencils and slide rules, keeping life and limb together literally with duct tape, flying to the moon and back simply because they could. Read More >

Jaws (1975)

A | **** | +0| Teens & Up*

Steven Spielberg’s breakout hit is a perfect storm of primal fears (man-eating predators, the unseen, the ocean), shrewd, emotionally riveting direction combined with sympathetic lead performances, and that classic two-note theme from John Williams’ edgy score. Read More >

A Night to Remember (1958)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

Based on the 1955 bestseller by Walter Lord, Roy Ward Baker’s 1958 British-made docudrama A Night to Remember remains the clearest, most honorable cinematic depiction of the Titanic disaster, easily eclipsing the earlier 1953 Hollywood melodrama Titanic as well as the much later blockbuster of that same name by James Cameron. Read More >

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