Reviews

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Twentieth Century (1934)

B+ | ***½ | -1| Teens & Up

Often credited as the first screwball comedy, Howard Hawks’s Twentieth Century is an acerbic satire of show-business ego and superficiality starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. Read More >

The Legend of Zorro (2005)

D+ | | +1-1| Teens & Up

More precisely, it’s a “funny family action film” in the Fantastic Four mold — that is, a movie whose key qualification as kid entertainment is that it isn’t good enough for grown‑ups. Too bad. Our kids deserve better. For that matter, so do we. Read More >

The Mask of Zorro (1998)

A- | ***½ | +2| Teens & Up

Thrilling, heartbreaking, witty, romantic, and largely family-friendly, The Mask of Zorro is possibly the best swashbuckler of its decade, a film at once true to the spirit of the classic period actioners and also thoroughly of its own time. Read More >

Batman (1989)

C | **½ | -2| Teens & Up

Critics adored Batman for its eccentric, Burtonesque take on a pop-culture icon, for its moody, noirish gothic art-deco Gotham City, and of course for Jack Nicholson’s showy performance as the Joker. Comic-book fans, meanwhile, appreciated the film for rescuing the Dark Knight from the over-the-top camp comedy of the 1960s series and making him suitably dark and brooding. For all that, though, the film’s flaws are hard to overlook. Read More >

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1965)

B+ | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up

There may be no dethroning the Disney cartoon as the definitive musical retelling of the story of Cinderella in the popular imagination; but for my money Rodgers & Hammerstein’s made-for-TV musical is a better take on the timeless fairy tale set in stone by Charles Perrault, and a better introduction to the story for children. Read More >

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1957)

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

Despite the formidable star power of no less than Julie Andrews, this original version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s made-for-TV musical Cinderella has been astonishingly neglected, overshadowed by the 1965 version starring Lesley Ann Warren. Read More >

Cinderella (1950)

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

Coming in the wake of a string of early classics — Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi — Disney’s Cinderella represents, alas, the early stages of Disney-itis. Read More >

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

B+ | ***½ | -1| Kids & Up*

Stop-motion animation cult heroes Wallace & Gromit, the brainchildren of British animator Nick Park of Aardman Animations, may not be unchanged in the transition from their charmingly dotty, wildly funny shorts to their first feature-length film, but they’re still recognizably themselves. Read More >

The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)

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

The Greatest Game Ever Played is perhaps the most visually and emotionally dynamic film ever made about a game of golf — perhaps the most visually and emotionally dynamic possible film about a game of golf. Read More >

Serenity (2005)

B+ | ***½ | +1-2| Adults

For long-suffering “Firefly” fans, Serenity is at last a precious opportunity to find out what happens next, not to mention to learn the answers to nagging questions left hanging by the series’ abrupt demise — a journey that is at once thrilling, rewarding, heartbreaking, and wistful. For non-fans, Serenity is a delirious excursion into a world whose setting, characters and relationships are richer and more elaborate than any one-shot movie is likely to be. Read More >

The Three Musketeers (1921)

B- | **½ | -1| Kids & Up*

Danny Kaye in that classic swashbuckling satire The Court Jester may well have been thinking of the great Douglas Fairbanks when he described his own character with the words: “He never walks when he can leap, he never flees when he can fight. He lives for a sigh, he dies for a kiss, he lusts for a laugh!” Read More >

Forbidden Planet (1956)

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

At once intelligent and campy, Forbidden Planet is an intriguing, perhaps overrated sci-fi classic that borrows plot points from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and strongly anticipates “Star Trek” in its sci-fi milieu — but its driving fears are the “monsters from the id,” the wayward, concupiscent passions of our own hearts. Read More >

Corpse Bride (2005)

B+ | ***½ | +2-2| Teens & Up

As imagined by Tim Burton in stunning, wildly stylized stop-motion animation overtly reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas yet technically far beyond it, this macabre fairy tale becomes, variously, a poignant meditation on the daunting weightiness of the vows of marriage, a raucous danse macabre in jumping jazz rhythms and florid colors, a visually rich celebration of Edward Gorey Gothic-Victorian and Charles Addams grotesque, and, perhaps most surprisingly, a touching portrait of tragedy, doomed love, empathy, and sacrifice. Read More >

Back to the Future (1985)

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

Brilliantly constructed and virtually universal in its appeal, Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future blends equal parts hilarity, nostalgia, science fiction, screwball comedy, and white-knuckle suspense in a complex storyline wound tighter than a yo-yo in a centrifuge. Read More >

The Karate Kid (1984)

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

Ralph Macchio stars in what is still his signature role as Daniel LaRusso, a sensitive lad reared in the nurturing enclaves of Newark, New Jersey who finds the harsh realities of life in southern California a bit overwhelming after he move across country with his single mother (Randee Heller), who’s just taken a new job. Read More >

The Exorcist (1973)

C+ | ***½ | +2-3| Adults*

“You just take your pills and you’ll be fine, really,” Chris (Ellen Burstyn) promises her daughter Regan (Linda Blair), but part of the film’s brief is that pills aren’t the answer to everything, and faith and religion may have answers science doesn’t. Read More >

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

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

As deadpan as its affectless protagonist, breakout indie phenomenon Napoleon Dynamite is like a Roschach test of viewer empathy. Read More >

The Truman Show (1998)

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

Peter Weir’s The Truman Show is a remarkably layered achievement: a deceptively simple fairy tale; a hilariously subversive satire of media excess and the erosion of privacy; a sly exploration of the paranoid, solipsistic fear that the world around one is somehow staged for one’s benefit and everyone else is in on it; and finally an elegant parable about truth and happiness with evocative religious resonances. Read More >

The Miracle Worker (1962)

A- | ***½ | +3| Kids & Up*

Beautiful black-and-white cinematography, startling performances, and harrowing physicality make The Miracle Worker an extraordinary experience. Read More >

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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

The Night of the Hunter pits two that are pure in heart, two of the little children to whom the Lord says belongs the kingdom of heaven, against one who is a false prophet, a ravening wolf in sheep’s clothing. Read More >

Ben-Hur [A Tale of the Christ] (1925)

A | **** | +3| Kids & Up*

At nearly 2½ hours long, the 1925 version is still an hour shorter than the 1959 version, yet the story is essentially the same, and the scale similarly impressive. Read More >

Ben-Hur [A Tale of the Christ] (2003)

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

In 2003, Charlton Heston reprised his greatest role, if in voice only, in an animated made-for-TV version of Ben-Hur from the director and producers of the animated “Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible” series. Read More >

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

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

A line in the trailer for The Exorcism of Emily Rose, felicitously cut from the final film, observes that “There’s no pill for the devil.” More to the point, there’s no diagnostic test or scan for him, either. Read More >

Sky High (2005)

B- | **½ | +0| Kids & Up*

Less than a month after Fox’s dumb, trashy Fantastic Four somehow passed itself off as a family-friendly superhero comedy comes Disney’s Sky High, a film that actually fits the bill. Read More >

Just Like Heaven (2005)

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

Just Like Heaven is the first Hollywood film since Return to Me that I would put in the same league as that earlier film, and that’s saying something. Read More >

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

The Search for Spock may be the unappreciated middle child of the Trek franchise, but it’s still one of better and more indispensable episodes. Read More >

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

A- | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

The original Trek crew’s real last hurrah, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is a rousing sendoff for Kirk, Spock, and Bones, and a fitting transition from the original series’ Cold-War milieu to the Next-Generation age of engagement. Read More >

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

A | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

With its time-traveling setting in the familiar milieu of the mid-1980s and its crowd-pleasing celebration of whales and conservationism, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the most successful and widely appealing of the Star Trek films, and also the most idiosyncratic. Read More >

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

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

One of the strongest and most popular entries in the Star Trek film franchise, The Wrath of Khan has everything you could ask for in a good sci‑fi action-adventure film: sympathetic, well-drawn heroes, a terrific villain (Ricardo Montalban as Khan), exciting outer-space showdowns, sci‑fi wow factor (the Genesis effect), and a touch of reflective depth (the Enterprise crew finally faces up to age and mortality, and questions about the wisdom and consequences of playing God are hinted at). Read More >

Sometimes in April (2005)

B+ | ***½ | +2| Teens & Up*

Compared to the theatrically released Hotel Rwanda, Sometimes in April is grimmer, less focused, and more uncompromising. Both films focus on a connected, successful Hutu family man with a Tutsi wife and a number of children, but this man’s story, in which the past of 1994 and the present are intercut, is more ambiguous and tragic. Read More >

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