Reviews

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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 >

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 >

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