Reviews

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Good Morning (1959)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

Formality and courtesy attend adult interactions, but beneath the surface lurk petty misunderstandings, resentments, suspicions. A boy complains that adult conversation is bloated with meaningless, empty pleasantries, while his friends prefer to engage each other with an amusement that appears to be an Asian equivalent of “Pull my finger.” Read More >

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is the original inspirational-teacher story, and a beloved valentine to classical education, tradition, and the English public boarding schools of a bygone era. Read More >

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (2002)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

Not a remake of the 1939 classic but a new adaptation of James Hilton’s sentimental novella, Masterpiece Theater’s engrossing Goodbye Mr. Chips couldn’t be more different from the 1939 film — and that’s all to the good. Read More >

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

B | ***½ | +2-2| Adults*

Obviously, a Kaufman film called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind isn’t going to be as cheerful and wholesome as the title might suggest. Despair, isolation, and loneliness continue to hang like a fog across his world. Eternal Sunshine also resembles his other films in its characters’ milieu of general dissipation, casual sex, drug use, and so on. Read More >

The General (1927)

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

Arguably the greatest of Buster Keaton’s silent comedies, The General begins with a single, brilliantly sustained premise and works it into an engaging story that combines edge-of-your-seat excitement, stunningly conceived stunts and sight gags, spectacular set pieces, touching sentiment, and a rousing finale. Read More >

Shattered Glass (2003)

A- | ***½ | +2| Teens & Up

With unsettling plausibility, first-time director Billy Ray depicts Glass’s uncanny ability to insinuate himself to his coworkers while ingeniously covering his tracks, mounting a deception on such a scale his peers and superiors can scarcely comprehend it even when he’s practically caught red-handed. Read More >

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004)

D | | +0| Kids & Up*

Unfortunately, while this sequel is the least morally problematic of Muniz’s three big-screen outings, it’s also far and away the lamest, lacking utterly its predecessors’ fitful humor and excitement. When the high point of your movie involves a Queen Elizabeth lookalike getting down to a youth-orchestra Euro-pop version of Edwin Starr’s "War," something has gone disastrously wrong. Read More >

Best in Show (2000)

C- | *** | -2| Adults*

The good news about Best in Show, the latest film from mockumentary veteran Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman), is that it’s funny — sometimes very funny. Guest is a sort of purist who creates the impromptu feel and immediacy of documentary by working from a short outline rather than a finished script; so his players really are ad-libbing to a significant degree. Read More >

My Architect (2004)

B | ***½ | -1| Teens & Up*

Nathaniel was 11 when his father died in 1974 at the age of 73. Nathaniel’s film, made nearly 30 years later, represents both an instrument and a chronicle of his efforts to explore who his father really was, what legacy he left behind, and what it might mean for his son. Part travelogue, part interview documentary, part home movie, My Architect surveys the elder Kahn’s most important buildings, from La Jolla’s Salk Institute to the Exeter Library to the Bangadeshi capital, along the way interviewing colleagues, peers, family members, even chance acquaintances — anyone who might have light to shed on the mystery of his father’s character and personality. Read More >

The Missing (2003)

D+ | ** | -2| Adults*

In place of Ford’s iconic but Indian-hating cowboy hero, Howard gives us two white protagonists who are each, in their own ways, the antitheses of the John Wayne character. Read More >

A Night at the Opera (1935)

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

The fact is, A Night at the Opera is one of a kind, for which we can all be grateful. But it’s also something more. The most successful Marx Brothers film in their day both critically and popularly, A Night at the Opera is one of the two front-runners — along with Duck Soup, which was not successful at the time — for the best and funniest Marx Brothers feature ever. Opera was also reportedly Groucho’s favorite. Read More >

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

A- | ***½ | +2| Teens & Up

The brief story is as simple as it is tragic. Recent incidents of cattle rustling have a small Nevada town jumpy, and news that a popular local rancher has been murdered has the townsfolk up in arms. In the absence of the sheriff, a self-appointed posse forms under the leadership of an ambiguously disreputable ex-Confederate officer, despite the ineffectual protests of some, including the town judge. Read More >

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up*

Like director John Huston’s similarly themed The African Queen, the film finds conflict mixed with romantic tension in a tale of a demure religious woman thrown together with a rugged male loner. Here, though, the complicating factor is not fastidiousness on the part of the religious woman, but the woman’s vocation. Read More >

Spellbound (2003)

A- | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up

Spellbound, Jeffrey Blitz’s endearing, heartbreaking, deeply rewarding documentary about eight brainy middle-school kids competing with nearly 250 other spellers in front of the ESPN-watching world, is full of such unforgettable moments. Not just a documentary of a contest, Spellbound is a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of contestants of various regional and socioeconomic backgrounds whose only common bond is a facility with putting words together. Read More >

The Court Jester (1956)

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

Not only does it terrifically succeed where movies like Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights miserably fail, The Court Jester also as merry, high-spirited, and wholesome as the adventures it parodies, with none of the cynical, anarchic spirit (or content issues) of the likes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Read More >

Hulk (2003)

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

Not the best or most exciting of comic-book movies to date, but the most thoughtful and arguably one of the most interesting, Ang Lee’s Hulk offers a new look at Marvel Comics’s green-skinned Jekyll-and-Hyde pulp anti-hero through the director’s poetic, psychologically attuned sensibilities. Read More >

Microcosmos (1996)

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

What Winged Migration did for birds and Atlantis did for life under the sea, Microcosmos does for the insect world. It’s an astonishingly up-close and personal look at an infinitesimal world as alien as anything captured by the Hubble telescope or the Mars rovers — but also a world of strange fascination and unexpected beauty. Read More >

Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)

A- | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

Despite numerous cinematic adaptations — including Steve Martin’s cute romantic-comedy update Roxanne — the definitive Cyrano is probably Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s boisterous, full-blooded film, with France’s greatest actor, Gérard Depardieu, making the part forever his own. Read More >

Holiday (1938)

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

Why is The Philadelphia Story so well known, while the equally unforgettable Holiday, from the same director, writers, and leads, suffers comparative neglect? Read More >

The Road Home (2001)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Kids & Up*

The film knows that to a young girl hopelessly in love, this race is no grandly romantic gesture, but a matter of desperate necessity. She must, must catch the wagon; he must have the dumplings. Her future happiness depends upon it; all is lost if she fails. Read More >

The Navigator (1924)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Kids & Up

Buster Keaton’s most popular vehicle in his own day, and said to be Keaton’s favorite of his own films, The Navigator isn’t as sophisticated and satisfying as his best work (e.g., The General), but it’s still brilliant slapstick comedy, with a rousing third act and a slam-bang climax. Read More >

Bringing Down the House (2003)

D | ** | -3| Adults

"Everything he ever needed to know," blurbs the tagline, "she learned in prison." More accurately, everything he ever needed to know, she learned in the ghetto; the larger point is that she has everything to teach and nothing to learn, and he has everything to learn and nothing to teach. Read More >

A Christmas Story (1983)

A- | ***½ | +0| Kids & Up*

Like many Christmas-themed movies, it offers no insight into the true meaning of Christmas, but it brims with insight into the human condition — particularly the condition of boys at Christmastime. Read More >

Holiday Inn (1942)

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

True to type, Crosby plays nice and Astaire shallow: Jim (Crosby) loves his dance partner and wants to marry her and settle down, but Ted (Astaire) wants to dance with her, and steals her away from Jim. Heartbroken, Jim retires to the Connecticut farm where he had hoped to settle down, but soon finds that show business is in his blood, and hits on the novel idea of turning his farmhouse into a dinner theater that operates only on holidays. Read More >

Oklahoma! (1955)

A- | ***½ | +1-1| Teens & Up

Oklahoma! was the first of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical collaborations, and it changed the face of musical theater. Read More >

One Man’s Hero (1999)

C+ | **½ | +2-2| Teens & Up*

Who is right? The issues are complex, and historians and faithful Catholics disagree (see related article). One Man’s Hero is sympathetic to the St. Pats and critical of American "Manifest Destiny" expansionism and anti-Catholicism. Read More >

Piglet’s Big Movie (2003)

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

With Piglet’s Big Movie, Pooh finally returns to his roots, bringing three of Milne’s original tales to the screen for the first time in an anthology-style story. Framed as a series of flashbacks in a story with Pooh and his friends searching for the missing Piglet, the movie recalls the tales of Christopher Robin’s expedition to the North Pole, the house at Pooh Corner, and the arrival of Kanga and Roo in the Hundred Acre Wood. Running through all three episodes as well as the framing story is the film’s unifying theme, little Piglet’s big heart and heroism. Read More >

Teacher’s Pet (2004)

C+ | **½ | -1| Kids & Up*

(Review by Jimmy Akin) Teacher’s Pet is the story of a boy and his dog. It’s not the usual boy and his dog story, though. In this case, the dog wants to be a boy. And in this movie, he gets his wish. Read More >

Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)

A- | ***½ | +0| Kids & Up*

James Garner brings a variation on his "Maverick" persona to this classic satirical Western that, even more than Destry Rides Again, does for Westerns what The Princess Bride did for fairy-tale fantasy, at once spoofing and honoring the genre’s conventions and clichés. Read More >

Father Goose (1964)

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

Cary Grant cheerfully plays against a lifetime of typecasting in this modestly entertaining romantic comedy with comic echoes of The African Queen and Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, directed by Ralph Nelson (The Lilies of the Field). Read More >

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