Reviews

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We Are Marshall (2006)

B+ | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up*

More than most films of its ilk, We Are Marshall rises above the clichés that define the genre, connecting sport to larger issues in an emotionally satisfying way. Read More >

Charlotte’s Web (2006)

B- | **½ | +1| Kids & Up

Competently directed by Gary Winick (13 Going on 30), the film basically sticks to the plot of the book, and the story’s essential charm is echoed in the film. At the same time, the film also dumbs down White with excursions into gimmicky broad humor and bestiary slapstick — something the makers of Babe found unnecessary to do. Read More >

Apocalypto (2006)

C+ | ***½ | +1-2| Adults*

Gibson is a consummate filmmaker, and the action is never less than riveting. Yet as the film repeatedly ratchets up the wince factor beyond what seems necessary or appropriate, it’s hard not to feel that suffering has been reduced to spectacle. Read More >

The Nativity Story (2006)

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

From It’s a Wonderful Life to A Christmas Carol, from Miracle on 34th Street to Tim Allen’s Santa Clause films, there are more Christmas movies than you could watch in all twelve days. Yet even at the height of Hollywood biblical epics, the real meaning of Christmas was essentially ignored (a few brief scenes in Ben-Hur notwithstanding). The Nativity Story goes a long way toward redressing this historic omission. Read More >

Déjà Vu (2006)

B | *** | -1| Adults

If it isn’t the brilliant film it could have been, Déjà Vu still contains enough flashes of that film to make it entertaining while you’re watching it. On reflection, though, it feels a bit like a shell game in which the conjurer himself has lost track of where the pea is supposed to be. Read More >

Flushed Away (2006)

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

If Flushed Away doesn’t reach the heights of demented genius of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit or even the lesser charms of Chicken Run, it’s still got a goofy inventiveness that puts it in the better half of this year’s crop of CGI films. Read More >

Mission: Impossible (1996)

C+ | **½ | -2| Teens & Up*

As he did with The Untouchables, in Mission: Impossible De Palma borrows the marquee value of an earlier franchise as a pretext for a series of loosely strung-together set pieces, highlighted by a single dazzling sequence that’s better than the rest of the movie put together. Read More >

Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

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

Even today, the iconic, Pulitzer-winning 1945 photograph of five US Marines and a Navy corpman raising the American flag on Iwo Jima retains an extraordinary power. Like a Norman Rockwell painting, Joe Rosenthal’s famous photograph tells a story, creates a mood, evokes an ethos, and elicits a metaphorical or allegorical response, all at the same time. Read More >

The Prestige (2006)

B | *** | -1| Adults

The Illusionist is essentially a rationalized fairy tale with a hero, a villain, a princess, and true love. The Prestige — like Nolan’s earlier puzzle movie, the celebrated Memento — is a brilliantly interconnected but chilly mechanism in which each element is a carefully integrated part of the whole, but the effect of the whole is somewhat alienating. Read More >

One Night with the King (2006)

C | ** | +2| Teens & Up

Christians lamenting the state of Hollywood sometimes flippantly comment that this or that Bible story “would make a great movie — intrigue, sex, violence, spectacle, etc.” This, though, is not a recipe for a great movie, but for a mediocre one. The story of Esther could certainly be made into a great film. One Night with the King is not that film. In some ways, it’s not even that story. Read More >

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

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

Riveting, downbeat, and full of surprises, John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is both a gripping adventure and one of Hollywood’s best and most resonant morality tales, a smart and remorseless story of gold, greed, guns, and guile in the mountains of Mexico. Read More >

Facing the Giants (2006)

C+ | **½ | +1| Kids & Up*

With fans of its two genres, especially in the Bible Belt, Facing the Giants will doubtless be a success. To reach a broader audience, though, the filmmakers will have to scrap their playbook and learn a whole new set of rules. Read More >

Everyone’s Hero (2006)

B- | **½ | +1| Kids & Up

As a memorial, Everyone’s Hero is a little, well, forgettable — old-fashioned, sweet, but ultimately disposable family fare with echoes of better films from Toy Story to The Iron Giant. Read More >

Lassie (2006)

A- | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up*

Lassie is a rare family film that knows that kids live in a grown-up world, that they are not isolated from such realities as unemployment or war, and can relate to the problems of adult characters as well as those of children and animals. Read More >

Titanic (1997)

C- | *** | -2| Adults

It kills me to say it, but give the devil his due: James Cameron is the king of the world. Read More >

How to Eat Fried Worms (2006)

D+ | | -2| Kids & Up*

Thomas Rockwell’s beloved novella How to Eat Fried Worms is a cheerfully disgusting tale of boyhood bravado and rivalry among friends that winds up going too far. The new film version, by writer-director Bob Dolman (The Banger Sisters), transmogrifies this minor classic into an unpleasant endurance test about coping with bullying by humiliating and degrading yourself before the bullies can do it for you, with a trite, tacked-on message of solidarity that’s about as realistic as a package of Gummi Worms. Read More >

The Illusionist (2006)

B | *** | -1| Adults

A moody, atmospheric fairy tale, The Illusionist is the story of one illusionist — Eisenheim, a fictional turn-of-the-last-century magician — being told by another, writer-director Neil Burger ( Interview with the Assassin). Read More >

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 >

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