Reviews

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Spy Kids (2001)

A | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up*

The press kit calls it "James Bond for kids," but this over-the-top fantasy romp might be more accurately described as a family-friendly True Lies: The Next Generation, or even a married-with-children Austin Powers — all with Willy Wonka-style wonkiness and inspired set design straight out of Dr. Seuss. Read More >

Quest for the True Cross (2002)

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

In particular, his investigation focuses, not on any of the relics of the True Cross itself, but on a wooden relic purported to be a fragment of the titulus crucis — the placard placed over the head of the crucified man bearing the charge against him, in this case "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." For centuries this relic has been housed at the Santa Croce Church in Rome, where tradition holds it was brought by the mother of Constantine, St. Helena, following her pilgrimage to the Holy Land in search of Christian artifacts. However, these claims had not been critically investigated prior to Thiede’s research. Read More >

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

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

Like the heroines of The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday, Katherine Hepburn plays a divorcée caught between flawed ex-husband Cary Grant and a respectable but somehow unsuitable fiancé (John Howard). But The Philadelphia Story goes beyond the formula by throwing in surprise contender Jimmy Stewart as a disgruntled novelist-reporter — an unexpected source of conflict and uncertainty that eliminates the need for Grant to resort to the underhanded tricks he needed to show up his rivals in Awful Truth and Girl Friday. Read More >

The Song of Bernadette (1943)

A+ | ***½ | +4| Kids & Up

Based on the historical novel by Jewish author Franz Werfel, the beloved classic The Song of Bernadette stands head and shoulders over most religiously themed fare from Hollywood’s golden age. Read More >

Destry Rides Again (1939)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

A classic satirical action-comedy Western, Destry Rides Again pits mild-mannered sheriff’s deputy Jimmy Stewart — a reverse type of the typical John-Wayne two-fisted straight-shooting cowboy hero — against a lawless town full of swindlers and murderers where sheriffs tend to wind up dead. Read More >

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

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

From a moral-spiritual perspective, the film has two flaws: It takes an indulgent view of the couple’s premarital intimacy, and it depicts the groom-to-be’s Greek Orthodox baptism in purely cultural, non-religious terms ("I’m Greek now," he says afterwards). Fortunately, these isolated lapses are more than overshadowed by the film’s redemptive pro-family themes, memorably summed up by Toula’s father in a final speech full of genuine warmth. Read More >

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

C+ | *** | +1-2| Adults*

Regarding Punch-Drunk Love, much has been made of the sense of not knowing what’s going to happen next. Anderson’s opening scene is like a manifesto of unpredictability. Opening with a phone conversation in a stark warehouse space, the scene follows Barry Egan (Sandler) outdoors, where the morning waits in expectant silence for the day to begin, as the audience waits for the movie to begin. What kind of day will it be? What sort of movie are we watching? Read More >

An American in Paris (1953)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

In a conceit both touching and surreal, Kelly plays an American ex-G.I. in Paris who’s never wanted anything but to paint, though he’s obviously the best hoofer in France. Read More >

The Animal (2001)

D- | * | -2| Adults*

Funnier, perhaps, than anything in The Animal - which isn’t saying much - are the opportunities for critics to make "Survivor" jokes inspired by the presence of costar Colleen Haskell, the elfin-faced young thing who became a celebrity during the course of the CBS monster hit. Read More >

Casablanca (1942)

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

The result of this somewhat haphazard collaboration is a breathtaking creative synergy, a perfect storm in which everything happened to come together with magical rightness. The sparkling script balances wittily cynical dialogue, weepy sentimentalism and clear-eyed idealism. The characters that matter are credibly, even seriously flawed, yet remain deeply sympathetic and open to redemption. The tightly crafted plot is at once intricate and elegant, at turns rollicking and stirring, and the snappy storytelling doesn’t come at the expense of rich, moody atmosphere. The top-notch cast are at the top of their games, and the timeless score accents a classic wartime melodrama that hasn’t lost a thing as time goes by. Read More >

Charade (1963)

A- | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

Often described as "the best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made," Charade stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in a sparkling thriller with overtones of screwball romantic comedy — or is it the other way around? Read More >

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up*

The Emperor’s New Groove is really about another new groove — Disney animation’s. By 2000, the old Disney-as-usual wasn’t selling any more, and Disney was ready to begin trying new things. Read More >

The Fugitive (1947)

A- | ***½ | +3| Teens & Up

Not to be confused with any version of the story of Dr. Kimble and the one-armed man, this Fugitive is director John Ford’s underrated adaptation of Catholic novelist Graham Greene’s masterpiece The Power and the Glory. Read More >

Gangs of New York (2002)

D- | **½ | -3| Adults*

That book, with its breathless vignettes of the 19th-century lower Manhattan underworld, has no central plot or unifying storyline. Similarly, the most striking moments in Scorsese’s film come as glimpses into that time and place. When we see hordes of immigrants milling about in the unguessed catacombs beneath the Old Brewery of the Five Points neighborhood, or rival fire brigades brawling in the streets rather than fighting the fire, it’s easy to feel that here, surely, is a dark and strange world that would be interesting to explore, a world in which memorable stories must have taken place. Read More >

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

C+ | **½ | +1-1| Adults*

Damning with faint praise? More like praising with faint damns. Moulin Rouge! is a failure: a towering monument of wasted potential, of lost opportunity, of good ideas gone bad and bad ideas gone amok. It’s got the same attention-grabbing take-no-prisoners style (though on a far larger scale) as Luhrmann’s first film, the sublime Strictly Ballroom; but that film had something Moulin Rouge! can’t be bothered with: characters who emerged from their situations as real and likeable people. Moulin Rouge! even recycles plot elements from the earlier film: A naive but talented young outsider falls for a driven, unattainable professional whose Svengali-like handlers oppose the relationship for self-interested reasons. There’s even a climactic scene that mirrors the grand finale of Ballroom in such specific detail that Luhrmann could sue himself for plagiarism; but what he can’t replicate is the first film’s heart appeal. Read More >

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1951)

B+ | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up

Unlike the similarly titled Capra comedies Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town — which centered on simple, honest rural folk colliding with urban disingenuity — Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is about the foibles and woes of an urban family whose disjointed lifestyle leads them to fumblingly seek a better life in the countryside. Read More >

Out of Ireland: The Story of Irish Emigration to America (1995)

B+ | ***½ | +1-1| Teens & Up

Period letters and songs, archival and modern photography, and illustrative anecdotes as well as broad analysis are all deployed to convey the flavor as well as the sequence of historical events. We learn how Irishmen came to America expecting streets paved with gold, and wound up not only paving the streets themselves but building the bridges, skyscrapers, and railroads. Read More >

Phone Booth (2003)

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

Phone Booth takes the formula of Die Hard and Speed, in which the protagonist is trapped in a confined space by a wily psychopath with whom he communicates only by phone (or walkie-talkie), to its narrowest physical dimensions yet. Read More >

Sahara (1943)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up*

One of the best WWII-era WWII movies, Sahara is a thoroughly entertaining war actioner starring Humphrey Bogart as a tough American sergeant commanding a tank crew in the Libyan desert. Read More >

8 Mile (2002)

D- | *** | +2-3| Adults*

(Written by Robert Jackson) 8 Mile is the story of a cast of characters who were dealt a lousy set of cards by life and who then proceed to tear most of their cards in half. Read More >

Alex and Emma (2003)

D+ | | -2| Adults

Take Two: The big problem: Neither set of romantic entanglements is actually romantic, and neither set of characters is interesting. Nonmarital affairs in both storylines include an energetic though non-explicit bedroom scene played for laughs. Read More >

Final Solution (2002)

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

It’s a melancholy truth that religion is often a key ingredient in long-standing conflicts festering in certain troubled regions around the globe: the Middle East, Northern Ireland, the Balkans. Final Solution depicts the way religion has been involved in the racial strife in South Africa — but it also points to the role that faith can and should play in reconciliation and healing as well. Read More >

The Game (1997)

D | **½ | -3| Adults*

(Written by Robert Jackson) What do you get for the man who has everything? Read More >

Gods and Generals (2002)

C- | ** | +0| Teens & Up*

(Written by Robert Jackson) Gods and Generals is an extremely one-sided account of the first half of the Civil War. Read More >

Hey Arnold! The Movie (2002)

D | | +0| Kids & Up*

(Written by Jimmy Akin) Nickelodeon’s animated "Hey Arnold!" TV series, created by the Snee-Oosh animation house, is one of the better cartoon shows around. Read More >

The Hunted (2003)

C+ | **½ | -1| Adults

(Written by Jimmy Akin) The Hunted is the story of two superheroes. Not the Superman / Spider-Man / X-Men kind of superheroes, with x-ray vision, webshooters, and the ability to control the weather. The Batman kind. You know, no actual superhuman powers, just the superhuman skill levels that are de rigueur for big screen action heroes these days. Read More >

Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie (2002)

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

(Review by Mark Shea) I know. It sounds uninspiring on paper, if you haven’t seen them. But — you gotta trust me on this — these guys are really funny, a sort of strange brew mixing Monty Python, MTV, your third grade Sunday School teacher and a tiny bit of Robin Williams — all with a G rating. Read More >

The Powerpuff Girls Movie (2002)

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

(Review by Jimmy Akin) The City of Townsville… is in desperate need of heroes! Read More >

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)

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

(Written by Jimmy Akin) Scooby-Doo was born in 1969. He was reborn almost thirty years later, in 1998. Read More >

Treasure Planet (2002)

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

(Written by Jimmy Akin) Treasure Planet is Robert Louis Stevenson meets George Lucas. More specifically, it’s Treasure Island meets The Phantom Menace. Read More >

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