Reviews

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World Trade Center (2006)

B- | **½ | +2| Teens & Up

Where Paul Greengrass’s brilliant United 93 crafted a documentary-like anatomy of events without presuming to get inside people’s heads or explain actions or motivations, World Trade Center is a more conventional Hollywood film, with dramatic dialogue, characters following clearly plotted arcs, and a swelling soundtrack to reinforce the mood. Read More >

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

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

How can I describe the inexplicable power of My Neighbor Totoro, Hayao Miyazaki’s timeless, ageless family film? It is like how childhood memories feel, if you had a happy childhood — wide-eyed and blissful, matter-of-factly magical and entrancingly prosaic, a world with discovery lurking around every corner and an inexhaustible universe in one’s backyard. Read More >

Monster House (2006)

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

In a way, Monster House is a bracingly icy breath of fresh air, a tween-oriented family film that is unabashedly out to frighten. Read More >

Key Largo (1948)

A- | ***½ | +1| Teens & Up

Like the similarly sweaty, claustrophobic 12 Angry Men nine years later, John Huston’s Key Largo is a rare adaptation of a stage play in which the physical constraints of the stagebound source material are a strength rather than a weakness. Read More >

To Have and Have Not (1944)

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

Howard Hawks’s more or less in-name-only adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s “worst novel,” has more in common with Casablanca (including nearly half a dozen players) than with its ostensible source material. Its real claim to fame, though, is the first pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who appeared together in only three other films but remained ever after linked off the screen. Read More >

Lady in the Water (2006)

D | * | +0| Teens & Up

Why, I haven’t come across a fairy-tale premise calling for such childlike wonder and acceptance since the taxation of trade routes was in dispute and the greedy Trade Federation set up a blockade around the planet Naboo. Read More >

The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)

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

Gregory Peck’s star-making turn as Father Francis Chisom in John M. Stahl’s The Keys of the Kingdom earned him a Best Actor nod and established his screen persona as a ruggedly decent, dignified underdog. Read More >

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

A- | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

The Raiders comparison is more apt here than in the original, where the swordplay and such was more energetic and well-done than inspired. The sequel takes the slapstick swashbuckling to a completely new level, evoking the ingenuity and physical comedy of a Buster Keaton or Jackie Chan set piece, crossed with the Rube Goldberg logic of a Chuck Jones cartoon. Read More >

Superman Returns (2006)

A- | ***½ | +2-1| Teens & Up

From the rousing fanfare of the classic John Williams score to the comic book–inspired opening credits, it’s clear that Superman Returns means to be nothing less than the film that Superman III could have and should have been, but wasn’t. Except it’s actually better than that. Read More >

Superman II (1981)

B+ | ***½ | +1-1| Teens & Up

Superman II isn’t perfect, but in the annals of comic-book movies it remains an indispensable touchstone. Read More >

Mother Teresa (2003)

B | **½ | +3| Kids & Up

Almost thirty years ago Olivia Hussey played the most venerated woman of all time, the Virgin Mary, in Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth.” Now she portrays the most revered woman of the twentieth century in the reverential, Italian-made English-language production Mother Teresa. Read More >

Cars (2006)

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

Cars is Pixar’s most improbable success to date, a film that could easily have misfired, but somehow does not. Read More >

Dumbo (1941)

C+ | **½ | -1| Kids & Up*

Somebody has to say it: Made at the height of Disney’s early brilliance alongside Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Pinocchio, and Bambi, Dumbo is the odd weak link in the chain. Read More >

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

C+ | **½ | +0| Teens & Up

Expressions like “Good things come in threes” and “Third time’s the charm” may have their place in the world, but when it comes to comic-book movies, so far at least, anything after two is all downhill. Read More >

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

F | | -4|

Is The Da Vinci Code anti-Catholic? Well, if it isn’t, then we must simply conclude that no such thing as anti-Catholicism exists, or at least that no anti-Catholic movie has ever been made. Read More >

Over the Hedge (2006)

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

Over the Hedge may satirize suburban foibles, but that doesn’t mean family audiences need to see themselves as the target. Who really likes plastic flamingos, anyway? Read More >

Nanny McPhee (2005)

C+ | **½ | +1| Kids & Up

Mary Poppins meets Lemony Snicket in Nanny McPhee, adapted by star Emma Thompson from Christianna Brands’s Nurse Matilda stories about a magical nanny who knows just the medicine for a family of exceedingly naughty children, and doesn’t bother about the spoonful of sugar to help it go down. Read More >

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

C+ | **½ | +1-1| Teens & Up*

Despite its flaws, M:I‑III is competent, disposable entertainment. There’s nothing here that really grabs you like the first film’s CIA break-in, but it doesn’t leave a sour taste like Woo’s M:I‑II. Even so, in the post-007 world of Jason Bourne, that may not be enough. Read More >

Hoot (2006)

C- | ** | -2| Kids & Up*

Alas, lightning has not struck twice. The similarities between Holes and Hoot only serve to underscore how far short the latter falls from the high standard set by the former. Read More >

United 93 (2006)

A | **** | +3| Teens & Up*

Whatever monument is eventually built at Ground Zero or anywhere else, United 93 is as fitting and worthy a memorial to the victims and heroes of September 11 as one could hope for. Read More >

The Passion of Bernadette (1989)

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

Given the inherently less dramatic structure, The Passion of Bernadette doesn’t “tell a story” the way the original film does, but the portrait of Bernadette’s unassuming heroic sanctity and occasional tart rejoinders remains moving and worthwhile. Read More >

Apparitions at Fatima (1992)

A- | *** | +4| Kids & Up

Warner Bros’ The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima may be better known, but Daniel Costelle’s 1992 Portuguese production Apparitions at Fatima is a more historically accurate and spiritually sensitive account of the visionary experiences of three young Portuguese children in 1917, culminating in the miracle of the sun witnessed by thousands. Read More >

The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968)

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

Fascinating despite flaws, The Shoes of the Fisherman is impossible to watch first of all as a movie. By a strange twist of chance or fate, it demands to be viewed as a curious, at times almost prescient anticipation of the reign of John Paul II, filtered partly through the lens of the Silly Sixties. Read More >

The Nun’s Story (1959)

B | ***½ | +2-1| Adults

The Nun’s Story certainly doesn’t offer the positive depiction of religious life common in 1950s Hollywood, but it’s not an anti-religious or anti-Catholic depiction either. Read More >

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952)

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

Old-fashioned, reverent, basically faithful to the facts, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima never quite emerges from the shadow of the earlier, superior The Song of Bernadette, but it ups the ante with sterner opposition (militant Marxists rather than freethinking civil authorities) and a more dramatic climax. Read More >

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (2006)

C+ | **½ | +0| Kids & Up

Ice Age 2 isn’t really a meltdown, but it’s no bolt from a Blue Sky. Read More >

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up*

This is no slight to the BBC miniseries; its glory is precisely its wonderfully literary quality. By contrast, the 2005 film is wonderfully non-literary. The BBC miniseries is peopled with living, breathing characters; the 2005 film is peopled with living breathing human beings. This is not to diminish the definitive achievement of the BBC miniseries, but to appreciate the freshness of a retelling that does something new. Read More >

C. S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia (2005)

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

Starring Anton Rodgers as an avuncular Lewis at home in Oxford in 1963, the year that he died, the short film cuts between Lewis’s running commentary on the events of his life and flashback dramatizations of those events. Read More >

Inside Man (2006)

B | *** | -1| Adults

Inside Man opens with a challenge from criminal mastermind Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) to the viewer to try to keep up as he lays out the labyrinthine details of his perfect crime. “Pay strict attention to what I say, because I choose my words carefully, and I never repeat myself,” he warns with smug complacency. Read More >

The Ten Commandments (1956)

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

For good and for ill, it’s as much a testament and a fixture of traditional American ideals and affections as a courthouse display of the stone tablets, and as weighty and solid. Read More >

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