Calvary by John Michael McDonagh (Sat Aug 9, 2014)
Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Calvary is a a powerful, thought provocative and intense story about faith, forgiveness, doing the right thing, and coping with the evil within ourselves and all around us. A priest in a small town in Ireland is threatened anonymously to be killed in a week by one of his parishioners. He spends the next 7 days talking with his flock about their troubles, trying to determine who is threatening him and what to do about it. The dialog and acting are very well done. I enjoyed the film quite a bit.
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Guardians of the Galaxy by James Gunn (Sat Aug 2, 2014)
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Guardians of the Galaxy is a good-natured and humorous action-adventure-space film based upon a Marvel comic book. It tells about a motley group (3 actors and 2 computer animations) of characters who get possession of an infinitely-powerful and valuable energy orb. They battle a variety of unsavory villains to protect the orb and deliver it to the authorities to prevent destruction of the galaxy. The acting, special effects and witty script are very good. I cared about the characters, became engaged in the story, and enjoyed the film quite a bit.
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Snowpiercer by Bong Joon-ho (Sat July 12, 2014)
Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Snowpiercer is based-on-a-graphic-novel about a post-apocalyptic world where all of mankind rides endlessly on a train around the world. Set 17 years after a failed attempt to stop global warming causes an ice age, people live in cars based on a rigid class system. The film tells of the car-by-car battle of the suffering underclass to reach the front of the train, where the rich and pampered people live. The filming and special effects are excellent and the story is imaginative. I cared about the characters, became engaged in the story and enjoyed the film.
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Obvious Child by Gillian Robespierre (Sun Jun 22, 2014)
Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffman, Gabe Liedman, Polly Draper
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Obvious Child is a comedy about an awkward, insecure and vulnerable standup comedian who integrates all of her life experiences into her routine and shares them with her audience. The story explores her reactions to a breakup with her boyfriend, a rebound-sex one-night-stand, her resulting pregrancy and her relationship with the young man she slept with. The acting is excellent and the humor is often awkward and painful. In spite of my discomfort with the script, I was drawn into the story, cared about the characters and enjoyed the film.
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Edge of Tomorrow by Doug Liman (Sat Jun 7, 2014)
Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Noah Taylor
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Edge of Tomorrow is a science fiction thriller about powerful aliens who invade earth and correct their battle mistakes by traveling back in time. An inexperienced officer is killed by an alien and unexpectedly gets the ability to relive the past each time he dies. He repeats his battle over and over -- each time improving his ability, correcting his mistakes, and eventually finding the alien leader to fight. The acting, IMAX 3-D filming, and special effects are very good. I cared about the characters, was drawn into the complex story, and enjoyed the film.
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Chef by Jon Favreau (Sat May 24, 2014)
Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson
RogerEbert.com (3-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Chef is feel-good dramedy about a master chef who is stifled by his trendy restaurant's owner. The owner directs him to serve a famous food critic a conventional menu. The resulting unfavorable review leads to a flame war on Twitter, which gets him fired. His ex-wife and her ex-husband help him return to his roots with a food truck and a road trip with his neglected son. The filming of the cooking was excellent, and the chemistry of the actors was very good. I cared about the characters, enjoyed the good-natured humor, and liked the film a lot.
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Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski (Sat May 17, 2014)
Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza, Joanna Kulig, Dawid Ogrodnik
RogerEbert.com (4-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Ida is a Polish language film set in postwar Poland about an orphan who has lived her whole life in a convent and is soon to take her vows as a nun. She is told to return home, visit her aunt, and find out about her past. The young woman meets her troubled aunt, finds out she is a Jew, learns her family's tragic holocaust history, and experiences her first sexual attraction. Having experienced life outside the convent, she must decide whether to return. The black-and-white filming is powerful, and the script is intense and thought-provoking. I enjoyed the film.
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Fading Gigolo by John Turturro (Sat Apr 26, 2014)
John Turturro, Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis, Sharon Stone
Variety
RogerEbert.com (2.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Fading Gigolo is a quirky good-natured comedy -- set in New York City -- about two old friends whose retail businesses are floundering. The nerdy outgoing one proposes to find wealthy, lonely women and persuade them to meet with his friend -- for a very high fee. The unusual script involves three beautiful women -- a dermatologist, her wealthy Hispanic friend, and an Orthodox Jewish widow. There are unexpected plot twists and quite a few laughing-out-loud lines. The acting was good and the story was witty and funny. I enjoyed the film.
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Finding Vivian Maier by John Maloof (Sat Apr 19, 2014)
Vivian Maier, John Maloof
NY Times
Variety
The Hollywood Reporter
Film Trailer
Finding Vivian Maier is a documentary about an enigmatic and secretive street photographer whose world-class work was discovered by accident late in her life. She was a spinster and worked for 50-years in multiple cities as a nanny, while recording the essence of life around her with tens of thousands of striking photographs. Many of the families that she worked for were interviewed. All found her extremely private and a bit odd. The storytelling was excellent and the filming of her photographs was very compelling. I enjoyed the film very much.
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The Lunchbox by Ritesh Batra (Sat Mar 29, 2014)
Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith
NY Times
Variety
The Hollywood Reporter
Film Trailer
The Lunchbox is a film set in over-crowded Mumbai India that explores the loneliness of a government accountant nearing retirement and a young neglected housewife. One day the woman's carefully prepared lunch for her always-working husband is delivered by mistake to the widowed accountant by the service they both use. This starts a relationship that grows intimate over time -- driven by their exchange of daily lunch notes. The acting and filming are very good. I was drawn into the story and cared about the characters. I enjoyed the film.
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Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson (Sat Mar 22, 2014)
Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Ed Norton
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a quirky action-adventure-comedy caper mostly set in 1930s Eastern Europe. It tells the unlikely story of a suave hotel concierge, his lobby boy apprentice, and various distinctive characters who cross their paths at the hotel, a prison and a local mansion. All of the characters are eccentric and serious-minded, while at the same time delivering humorous dialog and action. The acting and filming are first-rate. The imaginative story-telling is fast paced, unpredictable and very well done. I enjoyed the film.
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Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me Chiemi Karasawa (Sat Mar 1, 2014)
Elaine Stritch
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is a documentary film about the legendary Emmy- and Tony-Award-Winning entertainer who is still performing at the age of 89. Current-day interviews and new and old film clips -- she first appeared on Broadway in 1944 -- paint a vivid picture of the feisty, indominable, and charismatic performer who is now struggling with memory loss, diabetes and alcoholism. Her love of performing and her bond with audiences drive her to continue performing despite her challenges. I was very engaged with her story and liked the film a lot.
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The Lady in Number 6 Malcolm Clarke (Thurs Feb 20, 2014)
Alice Herz-Sommer
Nick Reed
Jerusalem Post
Film Trailer
The Lady in Number 6 is an Academy Award nominated documentary short that tells the inspirational story of 109-year-old pianist Alice Herz-Sommer who has survived the holocaust's greatest atrocities and retains her positive outlook and joy of life with her music. She tells of her childhood in Prague, her early career as a concert pianist, her experiences in Nazi captivity, and her current life in a small flat in London playing the piano for 4-hours each day. Her exceptional story is heartwarming, life-affirming and inspirational. I loved the film.
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The Cavedigger by Jeffrey Karoff (Thurs Feb 20, 2014)
Ra Paulette
Karoff Films
Mahvash Mossaed
Film Trailer
The Cavedigger is an Academy Award nominated documentary short that tells about 65-year-old sculptor Ra Paulette who uses hand-tools to create opulent and beautiful cave dwellings in the sandstone hills of New Mexico. He talks about his artistic goals, his unique projects, and the obstacles he faces from his artistic benefactors and his lack of money. We see the great pleasure and satisfaction that he gets from his extremely strenuous work. The story is fascinating and the cave sculptures are remarkable. I enjoyed the film very much.
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Facing Fear by Jason Cohen (Thurs Feb 20, 2014)
Matthew Boger, Tim Zaal
Jason Cohen
Jared Mobarak
Film Trailer
Facing Fear is an Academy Award nominated documentary short that explores the ramifications of a violent encounter between a homeless gay man and a white supremicist skinhead that seemingly leaves the gay man dead. The gay man survives and the two men's lives intersect again 25-years later. Each man tells of the effects of the past violence and how they have moved on with their lives to a more healthy track. They begin a relationship that is based upon forgiveness and tolerance. The story is very powerful and I enjoyed the film very much.
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Gloria by Sebastián Lelio (Sat Feb 8, 2014)
Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez, Marcial Tagle, Diego Fontecilla
RogerEbert.com (4-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Gloria is Spanish-language film set in Chile about a passionate 50-ish divorcee whose loneliness takes her to singles dances to meet men. Even with an active family, work and social life, she is lonely being a low priority in the lives of those around her. Anxious for romance, she takes chances with men she meets and gets burnt. Multiple times she exhibits great resilience, recovering from her setbacks and moving forward with her life. The acting is very good, but I didn't engage with the story or the characters. I was mostly bored by the film.
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The Past by Asghar Farhadi (Sat Feb 1, 2014)
Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet
RogerEbert.com (4-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
The Past is a French language melodrama about a French woman who is divorcing her Iranian husband to marry her Arab lover. The story involves these three, their three children, and the Arab's wife who has attempted suicide. Due to their difficult emotional transitions, each of the characters has a tense relationship and hurt feelings from another. As the story progresses, we learn more about the characters and what has caused their emotional struggles. The acting is very good. I was drawn into the story, cared about the characters, and enjoyed the film.
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The Invisible Woman by Ralph Fiennes (Sat Jan 25, 2014)
Felicity Jones, Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
The Invisible Womoan is a based-on-a-true-story film about the secret love affair of 45-year-old married Charles Dickens and the 18-year-old actress-daughter of his actress-friend. Set in prudish Victorian Era England, the relationship develops at a glacial pace -- sustained by their mutual love of plays and books. Suppressed emotions and subtle dialog always maintain propriety. The story is told with flashbacks from the woman's married life after Dickens' death. The acting is excellent and the slow-moving story is engrossing. I enjoyed the film.
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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Ken Branagh (Sat Jan 18, 2014)
Chris Pine, Kiera Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (3-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the 5th action-thriller based upon the popular Tom Clancy novels. Jack is recruited as a CIA analyst, based upon his military achievements in Afghanistan. While working on Wall Street, he uncovers evidence of Russian financial improprieties designed to collapse the U.S. financial system. The story quickens and the tension mounts after Jack goes to Russia. He must steal evidence and deal with the evil and dangerous Russians. The acting is good and the fast-paced story is realistic and engrossing. I enjoyed the film.
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The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorcese (Sun Dec 29, 2013)
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler
James Berardinelli (4-stars)
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
The Wolf of Wall Street is a based-on-a-true-story comedic film about the rise and fall of a charismatic salesman with extraordinary skills and huge ambition. He builds a large and successful stock brokerage using very aggressive unethical means and a culture of drugs, sex, adrenaline and profanity. The acting is very good and Dicaprio gives an academy-award-worthy performance. The script is overly long, but effective in its story-telling. I appreciated the film-making, but didn't engage with the characters or the story. My enjoyment was limited.
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Her by Spike Jonze (Sat Dec 28, 2013)
Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Her is an exploration of the effects of technology on relationships of the future. A young man has broken up with his wife and feels isolated and lonely. He tries out an artificial-intelligence operating system for his computer -- and is surprised and pleased that he can speak with this learning-technology named Samantha in a natural and intimate way. In a short time, he falls in love with Samantha and experiences the ups-and-downs of a typical human relationship. The acting is good and the script is very thought-provoking and insightful. I enjoyed the film.
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American Hustle by David O. Russell (Thurs Dec 26, 2013)
Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
American Hustle is a screwball-comedy -- based-on-a-true-story -- about a small-time con artist, his lover accomplice, and the FBI agent who uncovers their scam -- and then forces them to con and sting government officials to advance his career. As the story progresses, the ambition and complexity of the various deceptions increase dramatically. Each of the characters changes loyalty multiple times and it is never clear who is deceiving whom and what will happen next. The acting is excellent and the story is very well-written. I enjoyed the film.
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Inside LLewyn Davis Ethan & Joel Coen (Sun Dec 22, 2013)
Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Inside Llewyn Davis is set in the early 1960s and tells about a talented -- but marginally successful -- folk singer whose carelessness with his life causes him to bounce from one failure to the next. He has no place to live, no friends, and barely enough money to feed himself. We learn about his Greenwich Village surroundings and the unique characters in his life. The acting, singing, and portrayal of the times are very good, and the humor works, but I didn't engage with the unconventional story or identify with the characters. I found the film to be just OK.
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Dallas Buyers Club by Jean-Marc Vallee (Sat Dec 7, 2013)
Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Dallas Buyers Club is based-upon-the-true-story of a heterosexual Texas redneck who contracts AIDS in its early years. Victims are desperately seeking treatment, medical professionals are helpless and the FDA can't cope. With limited treatments in the U.S., the man finds drugs in Mexico and elsewhere. Then, he and a transvestite partner sell these unlicensed drugs to other AIDS victims. The business thrives and attracts the wrath of the medical establishment and the government. The acting is very good, the story is compelling and I enjoyed the film.
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Philomena by Stephen Frears (Sat Nov 30, 2013)
Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Michelle Fairley, Mare Winningham
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Philomena is a buddy-movie-mystery about religious doctrine, faith and forgiveness. It tells about a working-class girl who had a baby out-of-wedlock in 1950s Ireland and decided after 50 years of hiding her sin to try to find her child. Her search is lead by an Oxford-trained journalist with little faith in god. The film follows the odd-couple from the convent of her youth to America and back again. A very powerful ending ties up the story's loose ends. The acting is excellent. I cared about the characters, was drawn into the story, and liked the film a lot.
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The Hunger Games 2 by Francis Lawrence (Sat Nov 23, 2013)
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Don Sutherland
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the 2nd film of a 4-part series about a dystopian future, based upon 3 highly-successful teen-targeted novels. It continues the story of a resourceful heroine who lives in impoverished and government-oppressed District 12. In this iteration, rebellion is afoot and a battle-to-the-death of former Hunger Games victors provides the excitement. The IMAX, special effects and unique well-acted characters are very good, but this time I didn't engage with the familiar story and characters, so I found the film just OK.
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12 Years a Slave by Steve McQueen (Sat Oct 26, 2013)
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbander, Lupita Nyong'o
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
12 Years a Slave is a film -- based upon a true story -- about a free African-American family-man who is kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery on Louisiana plantations. Without overly dramatizing -- in spite of the routine violence portrayed -- the film-maker shows the evils of slavery to be deeply-embedded in American culture. The crushing life of a slave is shown with great realism -- along with slave owners' cruel treatment of them as purchased property. The acting is excellent and the disturbing script is very powerful. I enjoyed the film very much.
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Rush by Ron Howard (Sun Oct 13, 2013)
Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
NY Times
Rolling Stone
Film Trailer
Rush is an action-adventure film based upon the true story of the two best Formula One race car drivers who competed for the 1976 championship. One was a hunky devil-may-care playboy with great skill, passion and reckless competitiveness. The other was a controlled and serious mechanical genius with great skill, tactics and intense competitivemess. In 1976, they battled each other in most of the tense 200 mph races. The acting, filming of the highly-dangerous races, and character studies of the two men are excellent. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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Don Jon by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Sat Sept 28, 2013)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Don Jon is a film about a young macho-lothario bartender who is obsessed with masterbating to porn videos and enjoys this experience more than having sex with his many one-night-stands. He meets a beautiful sexy girl and tries to give up porn to build a relationship with her. His porn obsession and her unrealistic expections contribute to their breakup. His next unexpected relationship teaches him some important life lessons. The acting is very good and the humorous script is quite unusual and good. I enjoyed the film.
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Prisoners by Denis Villeneuve (Sat Sept 21, 2013)
Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Prisoners is a mystery-thriller about serial kidnapping of children. It focuses on the kidnapping of 2 close friends and the attempts of the police and their families to find them. As the story unfolds and the tension mounts, we watch the experiences of the families, the police, a priest, and numerous suspicious characters. The film explores good and evil, guilt and innocence, religion and mental illness, and retribution and justice. The complex script and acting are excellent. I was drawn into the suspenseful story and enjoyed the film very much.
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The Spectacular Now by James Ponsoldt (Sat Aug 31, 2013)
Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
RogerEbert.com (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
The Spectacular Now is a coming-of-age film about a popular high school boy and a shy female classmate. The boy has a drinking issue and meets the girl accidentally after passing out on her newspaper route. Their unlikely relationship transitions from her helping him with math to a genuine romance. There's a crisis at graduation, as she's going to college and he's satisfied with a retail sales job. The script and acting are very good, but I didn't identify with the characters and wasn't drawn into the story. I was frequently bored by the film.
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The Wolverine by James Mangold (Sat Aug 24, 2013)
Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
The Wolverine is another action-adventure film about the ageless metal-clawed mutant-superhero of the Marvel Comics series X-men. It tells of Wolverine's trip to Japan to say goodbye to a dying billionaire whose life he saved during Word War II. He meets family members, samurai, politicians and gangsters -- most of whom seek to unjustly benefit from the man's death. There are many plot twists and endless fight scenes with the competing factions. I was drawn into the well-written story and I cared about the characters. I enjoyed the film.
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The Butler by Lee Daniels (Sat Aug 17, 2013)
Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding, Jr., David Oyelowo
NY Times
RogerEbert.com (3-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
The Butler tells the story of an African-American man from his 1923 experiences as a slave to his 2008 meeting with Barack Obama. Over time, he becomes a butler and serves 8 White House administrations. The story chronicles racism in America and the evolution of the Civil Rights movement. White House scenes remind us of civil rights milestones. Scenes with the butler's wife and 2 sons show highly-emotional direct responses to their living with racism. The acting is excellent and the family scenes are very powerful. I liked the film a lot.
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When Comedy Went to School  (Sat Aug 10, 2013)
Jerry Lewis, Jackie Mason, Sid Caesar, Mort Sahl, Jerry Stiller
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
When Comedy Went to School is a documentary film about the 700 Catskill Mountain resort hotels -- affectionately known as the Borscht Belt -- that provided a training ground in the mid-20th century for Jewish comedians to learn their craft. The film interviews aging comedians and shows wonderful film clips of their past performances. It also shows the atmosphere that was so attractive to Jewish families living in the summer heat of the City. The sentimental feeling and nostalgia for a bygone era was very strong. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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This is the End by Seth Rogen (Sat Jul 20, 2013)
Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
This is the End is a gross-out sophomoric comedy where the main actors play their real-life selves in a parody of their film personas. Most of the action takes place in a mansion after a wild party. The story revolves around a religious end-of-the-world Apocalypse and the actors' reactions to it. The characters get many opportunities to dialog with and lampoon each other. The humor is very physical, vulgar and profane -- and mimics the actors' many films. Not all of the comedy worked for me, but I enjoyed a lot of it and also the unorthodox story.
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The Attack by Ziad Doueiri (Fri Jul 5, 2013)
Ali Suliman, Reymond Amsellem, Yevgenya Dodina, Uri Gavriel
NY Times
Salon
Variety
Film Trailer
The Attack is a Hebrew- and Arabic-language film set in Tel Aviv and Nablus about a suicide bombing by the wife of a rich Palestinian surgeon who lives and works in Tel Aviv. When the Israeli police question the surgeon, he is dumbfounded and in complete disbelief. He embarks on a tortured journey to understand why his loving wife did such a horrible thing. He visits his Arab family in Nablus, sees what life is like, and learns his wife's secrets. The film is very powerful. I cared about the characters, was drawn into the story, and enjoyed the film.
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20 Feet from Stardom by Morgan Neville (Thurs Jul 4, 2013)
Merry Clayton, Darlene Love, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill
NY Times
RogerEbert.com (4-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
20 Feet from Stardom is a documentary film about the musical contributions and careers of a hand-full of backup singers to famous groups over the last 50 years. The film explores the temperament, talent and skills required to succeed as a backup singer -- and in some cases move up to solo performer. The music, singing, industry stories and superstar interviews are very good. As I got to know the individual performers and their personalities, I was drawn into the telling of their experiences and cared about them. I enjoyed the film.
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Fill the Void by Rama Burshtein (Sat Jun 29, 2013)
Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg, Chaim Sharir, Razia Israely
NY Times
RogerEbert.com (3-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
Fill the Void is a Hebrew-language coming-of-age film set in Tel Aviv about an 18-year-old ultra-Orthodox woman. In an intimate and beautifully photographed story, the Orthodox film-maker tells of the young woman's life in her structured, ritualized, and tradition-filled community -- including the stressful and uncertain process of her arranged marriage. The woman's sister dies leaving an infant and great upheaval in the family. The acting was good, the filming was excellent, and I cared about the characters. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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Hannah Arendt by Margarethe von Trotta (Sun Jun 23, 2013)
Barbara Sukowa, Axel Milberg, Klaus Pohl, Janet McTeer
NY Times
Salon
Variety
Film Trailer
Hannah Arendt explores the coverage of Nazi Adolf Eichmann's trial in Israel by a world-famous German-Jewish intellectual and philosopher. Set in 1961 New York City where Arendt lives after escaping the Nazi Holocaust, her articles in New Yorker magazine and her subsequent book prove very controversial. Her critical and emotionless analysis of the "dark days of evil" conclude that Eichmann is just a banal pawn and Jewish leaders helped facilitate atrocities. The story and the ideas are very powerful and the acting is good. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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Man of Steel by Zack Snyder (Sat Jun 15, 2013)
Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Man of Steel is a re-telling of the classic Superman comic origin story with a few new twists. It covers his birth on Krypton, his escape to earth, and his struggles dealing with extraordinary powers and assimilating into an alien planet. The acting is good and the IMAX 3-D and special effects are excellent. The early story involving the death of the planet Krypton and the escape of infant Kal-El engaged me, but the computer generated battle scenes at the end are very much overdone. I enjoyed the 1st half of the movie, but found the 2nd half quite boring.
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The East by Zal Batmanglij (Sat Jun 8, 2013)
Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
The East is a spy thriller about a former FBI agent who takes a high-level job with an industrial security firm that protects giant corporations against external threats. She takes an assignment to infiltrate and neutralize a group of young anarchists who are attacking corporations who do harm to the public. After finding the group and joining them, she comes under their influence and develops ambivalence about her assignment. The acting is very good, I was engaged in the story, and I cared about the chraracters. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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Frances Ha by Noah Baumbach (Sun May 26, 2013)
Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver, Grace Gummer, Mickey Sumner
NY Times
RogerEbert.com (2.5-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
Frances Ha is a dramedy character-study of a 27-year-old quirky good-natured woman who lives in present-day New York City. She has very little money, a stagnant dancing career, and no romantic relationship. She is realizing that her time for drifting between apartments and platonic relationships needs to end -- and she must enter a new mature phase of her life. The acting is good and the portrayal of single life in the City is well done, but I didn't care about the characters and I wasn't engaged in the very light story. I was mostly bored by the film.
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Star Trek into Darkness by J.J. Abrams (Sat May 18, 2013)
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (2.5-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
Star Trek into Darkness is another prequel to the classic action-adventure science-fiction TV and movie series. Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise crew are young, talented, inexperienced and have excellent chemistry. They must track down and capture an extremely powerful terrorist who has attacked the Starfleet. There are distant worlds, lots of plot twists, and many high-power battles with futuristic weapons. The IMAX 3-D filming, sets and special effects are excellent and the acting is very good. I cared about the characters and enjoyed the film.
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The Company You Keep by Robert Redford (Sat May 11, 2013)
Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon
NY Times
RogerEbert.com (2.5-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
The Company You Keep is a melodrama based upon the 1960s activities of violent left-wing radical group Weather Underground. When a member of the idealistic group surrenders 30-years after a fatal bank robbery, it precipitates a search for the other missing members. As the FBI and an aggessive reporter pursue an accomplice, he tracks down the other group members -- who have moved on with their lives -- in an attempt to vindicate himself. The story is interesting, the acting is very good, and I cared about the characters. I enjoyed the film.
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Mud by Jeff Nichols (Sat Apr 27, 2013)
Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
RogerEbert.com (3.5-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
Mud is a coming-of-age story about two 14-year-old boys. It is set in a small Mississippi River town in Arkansas and involves people who are poor, uneducated and struggling. The title character is a fugitive who meets and befriends the two boys on a deserted island in the river. The character-driven story follows the developing relationship between the three and explores issues of love, loyalty, family, truth-telling, doomed relationships and revenge. The acting is very good, I was drawn into the story, and I cared about the characters. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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Renoir by Gilles Bourdos (Sat Apr 6, 2013)
Michel Bouquet, Christa Théret, Vincent Rottiers, Thomas Doret
NY Times
Variety
Roger Ebert (Eulogy)
Film Trailer
Renoir is a French-language film set in war-time 1915 that explores the relationships that develop between the aging and infirm impressionist grand-master, his 21-year-old son, and a young woman who is a muse and model to one and a lover to the other. The cinematography is excellent and the acting is very good. The simple, slow-moving and well-written script allowed me to think about the themes that were presented by the film-maker, including beauty, art, work, inspiration, family, ambition, war, loyalty and love. I enjoyed the film quite a bit.
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Ginger & Rosa by Sally Potter (Sat Mar 23, 2013)
Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Ginger & Rosa is a coming-of-age film set in 1962 London about two 17-year-old girls who are lifelong very close friends. In seeking their own identities, the girls are very much influenced by their less-than-supportive families and the constant media coverage of the threat of nuclear war. As they share their experiences with boys, sex, smoking and drinking, family, and protest movements, they begin to grow apart. The filming and acting were very good, but I was not engaged with the story or the characters, so I found the film mostly boring.
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Oz the Great & Powerful by Sam Raimi (Sun Mar 17, 2013)
James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
Oz the Great and Powerful is a fairy tale -- loosely based on The Wizard of Oz -- about a con-man circus magician who is swept away to the magical Land of Oz. The IMAX 3D filming and special effects are excellent. At the outset -- as we meet characters in the circus and then in the Land of Oz -- the story is less engaging. But once the Good Witch is introduced and the Magician Oz executes his plan to save the Land of Oz from the 2 Bad Witches, I was drawn into the story and cared about the characters. I enjoyed the 2nd half of the film a lot.
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Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Sun Feb 24, 2013)
Simpson Daycare, Adam&Dog, Paperman, Guacamole, Head-Ovr-Heels
Variety
Film School Rejects
Film Trailer
Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts is a series of five 10-minute animated films nominated for 2013 Academy Awards. The films are a mix of clever, witty, sweet and heart-warming stories. Generally, they explore relationships and learning experiences. In each case, the stories are engaging and I cared about the characters. I enjoyed watching this diverse group of feel-good animated short films.
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Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts (Sat Feb 23, 2013)
Death of a Shadow, Henry, Curfew, Buzkashi Boys, Asad
Variety
Film School Rejects
Film Trailer
Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts is a series of five 20-minute films nominated for 2013 Academy Awards. Each of these films -- from Belgium, Canada, U.S., Afghanistan and South Africa -- are powerful and thought-provoking. They explore life-after-death, memory-loss in old age, dysfunctional siblings, and coming-of-age in dirt-poor Afghanistan and Somalia. In each case, the filming is very well done and the serious subjects were generally upsetting. I enjoyed watching this diverse group of unusual short films.
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Les Miserables by Tom Hooper (Sat Dec 29, 2012)
Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Les Miserables is a film-opera adapted from the widely acclaimed French novel by Victor Hugo. Set during the French Revolution, it tells a number of inter-related stories about a policeman, a thief, a prostitute and young revolutionaries. The story spans about 17-years and addresses universal issues of justice, duty, redemption, love and freedom. Most of the dialog is sung. The story, songs, sets, costumes, and filming were excellent. I loved the film and was very much affected by its powerful themes and scenes.
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Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino (Tues Dec 25, 2012)
Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Django Unchained is another original and complex film by Quentin Tarantino. It explores slavery and bounty hunting in 1858 America with his typical tension, violence and humor. A slave is freed by a bounty hunter to help find and kill 3 men wanted "dead-or-alive." The two men have great success and team up to free the slave's wife from a cruel and greedy plantation owner. The film has powerful scenes of racial injustice, western-style vengence and elements of a buddy-movie. The script, acting and filming are excellent. I enjoyed the film very much.
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Barbara by Christian Petzold (Sat Dec 22, 2012)
Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Mark Waschke
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Barbara is a German-language film that tells of life in police-state East Germany in 1980, as experienced by a female doctor who has been banished to live in a remote small town for a minor infraction. The woman is under constant surveillance and is very bitter. She yearns to escape her bleak existence and live in a western country. As the story unfolds very slowly, we see her subdued reactions to her new surroundings and her new life -- and gradually learn about a secret she harbors. The acting and filming are excellent. I enjoyed the film.
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Fitzgerald Family Christmas by Ed Burns (Sat Dec 8, 2012)
Edward Burns, Heather Burns, Kerry Bishé, Connie Britton
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is a drama-comedy that explores the lives and family relationships of 9 members of an Irish-American Long Island family in the few days leading up to Christmas. As the story unfolds, we learn that each of the family members has some unresolved drama in their lives. Their strong family bonds and willingness to forgive are tested by their 20-year estranged father's request to join them for Christmas dinner. The script and acting are very good and I cared about the characters. I enjoyed the film.
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Silver Linings Playbook by David Russell (Sat Dec 1, 2012)
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
Silver Linings Playbook is a quirky romantic comedy about a man with bipolar disorder and a woman with depression. The man returns home from a mental hospital to live with his obsessive-compulsive sports-fan father and plans to reconcile with his estranged wife. He soon meets a woman whose husband has died. They develop an unorthodox relationship with many ups-and-downs and much erratic behavior. The acting is very good and I cared about the characters. Some of the comedy didn't work for me, but I enjoyed the film nonetheless.
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Lincoln by Steven Spielberg (Sun Nov 18, 2012)
Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
Lincoln is a film about the 2-months before and just after the end of the Civil War. It centers on Lincoln's intense efforts to end the war, and to abolish slavery by passing the 13th Amendment. Many aspects of the great man are shown through interactions with his wife, sons, cabinet, congressmen and soldiers. The film also paints a very realistic picture of the workings of 1865 government and politics. Daniel Day-Lewis gives an Academy Award-worthy performance as Lincoln. The script, acting, costumes, sets and filming were excellent. I loved the film.
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Skyfall by Sam Mendes (Sat Nov 10, 2012)
Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
Skyfall is the 23rd film -- over a 50-year period -- in the hugely successful 007 Bond movie franchise. The film's story tells how an aging James Bond -- and his near-retirement boss M -- battle the tech-genius former agent who is commmitted to destroying them. The requisite chases, fights and love scenes take place in exotic locations in European cities. The IMAX filming of the action sequences, the special effects, and the music were excellent, but the story and acting were uneven. I am disappointed to say that I found the film just OK.
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Flight by Roger Zemeckis (Sat Nov 3, 2012)
Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Flight is a film about an alcoholic airline pilot whose exceptional skill miraculously lands a disabled airplane and saves the lives of most of its passengers. As the story unfolds -- and the NTSB investigation proceeds -- there is a growing tension that the pilot's heroism will be trumped by the discovery that he was drunk while flying the plane. Denzel Washington gives an Academy Award-worthy performance and the filming is very good. I cared about the characters, I was drawn into the compelling story, and I enjoyed the film very much.
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Cloud Atlas by Tom Tykwer (Sat Oct 27, 2012)
Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Cloud Atlas is a unique, fascinating and complex film -- based upon a bestselling novel -- that expounds the theory that humans throughout time are connected by spirituality, freedom, art and love. Six varied-genre episodic stories are told involving a lawyer, a composer, a publisher, a reporter, a humanoid and a goat-herder that span the years 1849 through 2346. Each actor plays several roles, appearing as different races, genders and ages. The acting, sets, makeup, costumes and IMAX filming are excellent. I enjoyed the film very much.
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Perks of Being a Wallflower by Chbosky (Sat Oct 20, 2012)
Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Kate Walsh
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Perks of Being a Wallflower is a sensitive coming-of-age film about the awkwardness, uncertainty, low self-esteem and angst experienced by a shy high school freshman and four outsider seniors who welcome him into their group. The story covers many familiar school experiences, including new friends, budding romances, drugs, bullying, and parties. The acting and the script are excellent and -- as the story unfolds -- the characters are well-developed. I cared about the characters, was drawn into their difficult experiences, and enjoyed the film.
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End of Watch by David Ayer (Sat Oct 6, 2012)
Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Annna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
End of Watch is an action-drama-buddy movie about two adventure-seeking patrol cops in the LAPD, who also have hearts of gold and loving family lives. The film provides an extremely realistic episodic portrayal of their daily on-the-job experiences with gangs, drugs, guns, chases and violence - - as well as their close family relationships. The acting and script are excellent. I cared about the characters and was drawn into the action-filled story. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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Looper by Rian Johnson (Sun Sept 30, 2012)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels
James Berardinelli (4-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Looper is a science-fiction suspense-thriller about time travel and an assassin in 2044 who meets his future self from 2074. Gangs control much of the world in 2074. When they want to eliminate someone, they use a recently developed time travel machine to send him back in time to be killed by the assassin. When the gang sends the assassin of the future to be killed by himself in the past, a tense thriller ensues. The acting is very good and the script is excellent. I was drawn into the unpredictable and exciting story and I enjoyed the film.
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Arbitrage by Nicholas Jarecki (Sat Sept 15, 2012)
Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Arbitrage is a suspense-thriller about a ruthless billionaire financial magnate who must sell his business immediately to prevent discovery of a fraud he has perpetrated to hide a huge trading loss. His path to closing the deal is repeatedly blocked by a tough-negotiating buyer, the accidental death of his lover, and his CFO daughter's discovery of altered financial records. This results in continuously rising tension. The filming and acting are good, but I was not drawn into the story and I didn't care about the characters. I found the film just OK.
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The Bourne Legacy by Tony Gilroy (Sat Sept 1, 2012)
Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
The Bourne Legacy is an action-adventure film about a super-secret government program and one of its agents whose genes have been altered to give him superior mental and physical skills. A discovery threatens to expose the program, so all of its participants must be eliminated. Most of the story tells of the government's use of massive resources to find and kill the agent -- and his skillful and exciting escapes. The story is complex and difficult to follow, but the lead actors are very good and I cared about their characters. I enjoyed the film.
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Premium Rush by David Koepp (Sat Aug 25, 2012)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Diana Ramirez, Wole Parks
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Premium Rush is an action-adventure-chase film about New York City's most talented bike messenger who has to deliver a very valuable package within 90-minutes. He encounters many challenging obstacles, including streets crowded with traffic, a competitor messenger, traffic cops, and a brutal and corrupt rogue cop. Numerous interesting characters participate in the non-stop fast-paced action. The breathless chase scenes and the unusual story are very well done. I cared about the characters, was drawn into the story, and enjoyed the film a lot.
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The Intouchables by Olivier Nakache (Sun Aug 19, 2012)
Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
The Intouchables is a French-language film set in Paris about a wealthy quadraplegic who hires a young charismatic streetwise African to be his live-in aid. The two men slowly develop a close personal relationship, in spite of their vastly different experiences and backgrounds. Through his persistance and upbeat demeanor, the young aid connects with the rich invalid and motivates him to enjoy his life more fully. They share many humorous and poignant experiences together. The acting is excellent and I cared about the characters. I enjoyed the film.
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Ruby Sparks by Jonathan Dayton (Sat Aug 11, 2012)
Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliot Gould
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Ruby Sparks is a romantic-comedy-fantasy about a successful young writer who overcomes second-book writer's block by writing about himself and the girl he has been dreaming about. As the story unfolds, the girl he created in his book comes to life and becomes his girlfriend. At the outset, the girl of his dreams is perfect in their relationship. But as time passes, unexpected complications arise from his control of their relationship with his writing. I was drawn into the unusual story and cared about the characters. I enjoyed the film very much.
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The Dark Knight Rises by Chris Nolan (Sat Aug 4, 2012)
Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
The Dark Knight Rises ia the final episode of an action-adventure good-versus-evil film trilogy, based upon the DC Comics Batman classic. The story tells how Batman is lured out of a 7-year retirement to fight the mortal threat to Gotham City by a monstrously evil man who plans to destroy it with a nuclear bomb. Numerous characters take part in the complex plot and many battle scenes lead to a climactic finale. The filming, special effects and IMAX are excellent and the story is very good. I cared about the characters and enjoyed the film a lot.
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Beasts of the Southern Wild (Sat July 21, 2012)
Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Lowell Landes
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Beasts of the Southern Wild tells of a dirt-poor 6-year-old girl and her father who live on an oft-flooded desolate island near New Orleans. They and their neighbors struggle day-to-day to survive. The story is told through the eyes of the girl and expresses many fundamental human emotions -- father-daughter love, closeness to nature, support of neighbors, fierce independence. and fighting for survival. There are numerous scenes of fantasy and spirituality. The acting and filming are very good, I cared about the characters, and I enjoyed the film.
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To Rome with Love by Woody Allen (Sat July 7, 2012)
Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
To Rome with Love is a light, wacky and good-natured Woody Allen comedy that explores romantic relationships, sex, family, fame and Rome. Four stories set in Rome are told with alternating vignettes that overlap only tangentially. The stories involve an American girl, her Italian fiance and their families; a boy, his girlfriend and her girlfriend; Italian newlyweds and his family; and a simple Italian everyman. The filming and acting are good, the stories are creative, and the humor is clever. I enjoyed the film.
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Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson (Sat Jun 23, 2012)
Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Moonrise Kingdom is a humorous, quirky and sweet film set in 1965 at a boy scout camp and told from the perspective of a group of 12-year-olds. An orphan boy resigns from camp and runs away into the woods with his girlfriend. The film chronicles the development of their pre-teen relationship and their unusual adventures while on the run from the authorities and the girl's parents. The acting by each of the unique characters is uniformly very good. I was drawn into the story, cared about the characters, and enjoyed the film a lot.
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Peace, Love & Misunderstanding (Sat Jun 16, 2012)
Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Olsen, Nat Wolff
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Washington Post
Film Trailer
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding is a heartwarming comedy-drama about a woman, her 2 children, and their grandmother who reconnect after a 20-year estrangement. The reunion is precipitated by the husband's divorce request. The grandmother lives in Woodstock and has never changed her hippie ways. During their stay in Woodstock, the visitors learn much about themselves, experience personal growth and find new love. The story is quite predictable, but the acting is very good and I cared about the characters. I enjoyed the film quite a bit.
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Headhunters by Morten Tyldum (Sat May 26, 2012)
Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Synnove Macody Lund
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Headhunters is a Norwegian-language mystery-thriller about an executive recruiter who uses his job to assist him in his secondary work as an art thief. Anxiety rises as one of his job candidates -- who is the target of his next art heist -- reveals a deadly secret that threatens his life. As the plot twists and turns and surprises appear, the pace of the film quickens and the tension builds rapidly. During a long chase, it is never clear who is a betrayer or who can be trusted. The acting is good and the story is very compelling. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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The Avengers by Joss Whedon (Sat May 12, 2012)
Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel Jackson
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
The Avengers is a comic-book-superhero action-adventure movie about the team-up of Ironman, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, and Black Widow to battle powerful invaders from another universe. As the story unfolds, each of the superheroes shows off their powers individually, until they are brought together to prevent the destruction of earth. The story is a bit long and comic-book light, but the special effects, 3-D, IMAX surround-sound, and acting are excellent. The final battle is quite amazing to watch. I enjoyed the film.
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Footnote by Joseph Cedar (Sat Apr 7, 2012)
Shlomo Bar Aba, Lior Ashkenazi, Alisa Rosen, Micah Lewesohn
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Footnote is an Israeli film that explores academic research, father-son rivalry, the importance of pure truth, and doing the right thing. As the story unfolds with satire, farce and intense gravity, we learn about father and son Talmudic scholars who compete for a prestigious prize. An unexpected event causes an extremely knotty dilemma for all involved. Solving the problem reveals a lot about the true nature of each of the protagonists. The story is engrossing, the acting is very good, and I cared about the characters. I enjoyed the film quite a bit.
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The Hunger Games by Gary Ross (Thurs Mar 29, 2012)
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
The Hunger Games tells the post-apocalyptic story of a girl who is selected to compete in a tournament in which 24 teenagers from 12 districts of the country fight to the death. The entire competition is televised live for the entertainment of the powerful elite and the miserable masses. Most of the action takes place in a jungle where the contestants kill each other until only one is left to honor a district. The filming and acting are good and I cared about the characters. I was drawn into the fast-paced engrossing story and I enjoyed the film.
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The Deep Blue Sea by Terence Davies (Sat Mar 24, 2012)
Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Barbara Jefford
NY Times
Entertainment Weekly
Film Trailer
The Deep Blue Sea is a flim about a very melodramatic love triangle set in England just after WWII. A married woman is overwhelmed by her passionate feelings for an unemployed war hero and irrationally abandons her wealthy older husband to be with the younger man -- in spite of her awareness of their incompatibilities. The story and filming are generally slow and moody and the music ranges from operatic to soothing. The acting is excellent and I was eventually drawn into empathizing with the three tormented protagonists. I enjoyed the film.
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Shame by Steve McQueen (Sat Feb 25, 2012)
Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Shame is a film about a handsome and fit 35-ish successful New York City bachelor who is addicted to sex. He spends all of his waking hours thinking about and pursuing his next orgasm. He has no meaninful relationships and does not connect emotionally with his sex partners. He deals with this problem relatively well, until his homeless dysfunctional sister come to live with him. The lead performance is excellent and the fliming is very good, but the viewing experience is disturbing and unpleasant. I did not enjoy this film at all.
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A Separation by Asghar Farhadi (Sat Feb 11, 2012)
Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Sarina Farhadi
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
A Separation is an Iranian-language film about two families whose lives dramatically intersect around a grandfather with Alzheimer's. The film provides an intimate portrait of a society deeply divided by gender, religion, class and generation. Conflicts occur and tensions build. Lies are told by family members, employer and employee, and parties in the rigid legal system. The acting and cinematography are very good and the film paints a compelling picture of Iranian life and culture. I was uncomfortably engaged in the story and enjoyed the film.
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Haywire by Steven Soderbergh (Sun Jan 29, 2012)
Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Haywire is an action-adventure film, set mostly in Barcelona and Dublin, about agents-for-hire and a secret project that goes awry.
A female superagent -- played by a former mixed martial-arts professional -- is betrayed by her boss, framed for murder, and targeted to be killed. The story tells of her search to get revenge with those responsible. The superagent's fights and chase scenes were realistic and well done, but I wasn't engaged in the story and I didn't care a lot about the characters. I didn't enjoy the movie very much.
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War Horse by Steven Spielberg (Sat Jan 7, 2012)
Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
War Horse is a drama-adventure about a thoroughbred horse, set in rural England and Europe before and during the First World War. The story follows the horse and its owners -- an Englilsh boy, an English Soldier, a German soldier, a French soldier, and the English boy again
-- as they experience the horrors of the war years together. The film artistically portrays rural England and the chaos, hell and cruelty of face-to-face war. The cinematography and sets were excellent, I cared about the extraordinary horse, and I enjoyed the film.
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Mission Impossible by Brad Bird (Sun Jan 1, 2012)
Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Mission Impossible is a hyper-action-adventure film set in Moscow, Dubai and Mumbai. The 4th in the 15-year franchise, it tells the story of a four-person team's efforts to thwart the plot of a genius madman to start a nuclear world-war. Its non-stop fighting, chasing, climbing, shooting and explosions is very exciting and reminiscent of James Bond and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Enhanced by the large-screen and surround-sound of IMAX, the cinematography, script and acting were excellent and I enjoyed the film very much.
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A Dangerous Method by David Cronenberg (Fri Dec 30, 2011)
Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Sarah Gadon
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
A Dangerous Method is a film set in 1904 about psychoanalysis pioneers Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and a woman who is a patient, a lover and a colleague. It tells about the development of the "talking cure," analysis of dreams, and sexual causes of behavioral problems. It also explores the characters' relationships with each other, their motivations, and how their personal lives interact with their professional lives. The acting and insights into the development of psychoanalysis were excellent and I enjoyed the film.
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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by T Alfredson (Tues Dec 27, 2011)
Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a thinking man's spy-thriller, based upon a Le Carre novel set in 1973 England and Europe. At a slow and steady pace -- with constant tension, uncertainty and suspicion -- the complex story tells of a retired British Intelligence Agent who is trying to learn the identity of a Russian mole at the highest level of his organization. It is nearly impossible to know what is true or false or who can be trusted or not. The film's cold war setting, characters and atmosphere are very authentic. I was drawn into the story and enjoyed the film quite a bit.
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Mon Dec 26, 2011)
Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a mystery-thriller set in Sweden and involving an investigative reporter, a goth-girl computer-genius investigator and many members of a large wealthy family. The reporter loses a libel lawsuit and takes a job investigating a 40-year-old murder of a member of the wealthy family. The investigation slowly reveals many layers of a complex plot and builds great tension as the mystery unfolds. The story was tense and compelling, and the acting and chemistry of the leads was excellent. I loved the film.
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Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie (Sun Dec 25, 2011)
Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris
James Berardinelli (3.0-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Sherlock Holmes is an action-adventure murder-mystery, based on the classic English detective and his assistant Watson. Set in 1895, the story pits Holmes against his genius arch-enemy, whose bombings and murders remain unsolved. The story moves forward at a breathless pace, with endless hand-to-hand fights and battles with countless adversaries. At each step, Holmes and his enemy analyze moves and deduce countermoves. The acting is good and the film is exciting, witty and humorous. I was drawn into the story and enjoyed the movie a lot.
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The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius (Fri Dec 23, 2011)
Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
The Artist is a black-and-white silent film set at the dawn of talking pictures. It tells the story of a silent film star who refuses to adapt to the introduction of talking films and sees his career and his life decline rapidly. He will not accept good advice or help, including that offered by a female rising star in talkies that idolizes him. The filming was very authentic for the period and the acting was quite good, but I was not engaged by the story at all. On balance, I found the film mostly boring.
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Margin Call by J.C. Chandor (Sat Dec 3, 2011)
Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Margin Call is a financial thriller set in 2008, just before the meltdown of Wall Street institutions. It covers a 24-hour period after a risk analyst predicts a rapid and catastrophic decline in the value of the investment firm's mortgage-backed assets. The crisis quickly reaches the CEO, who convenes his team at 3:00 AM to discuss their options. As the plot advances, tension rises dramatically and the characters reveal their fear, greed and cold-hearted decision-making. The script felt very authentic and the acting was excellent. I enjoyed the film.
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Hugo by Martin Scorcese (Sat Nov 26, 2011)
Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Hugo is a fable about a 12-year-old orphan boy who lives and works in the clocktower of the train station in 1930s Paris and yearns to learn about his clockmaker father and his own purpose in life. The boy meets a young girl with yearnings of her own and together they unravel a series of related mysteries involving a mechanical man and the girl's storekeeper godfather. The sets, the cinematography, the characters and the acting are excellent. I was drawn into the enchanting story and loved the film.
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The Descendants by Alexander Payne (Fri Nov 25, 2011)
George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Beau Bridges
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
The Descendants is a film about a wealthy 4th generation Hawaiian land owner whose wife has an accident that leaves her in a coma. He must learn to deal with the stress of her declining health, the parenting of his 2 teenage daughters, and the pressure from his extended family to sell a vast track of valuable land. The film shows how he deals with these issues and grows from the experience. The acting is good and the photography is beautiful, but I found the characters passive and dull, so I wasn't drawn into the story. The movie was just OK.
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In Time by Andrew Niccol (Sat Nov 19, 2011)
Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Vincent Kartheiser, Cillian Murphy
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
In Time is an action-adventure film set in the future, where people live until age 25 and then get a "time remaining" clock set to 365-days. Their bodies never age again, but to live longer, they must buy time. Everything revolves around time -- work for time, pay with time, and die when time runs out. A young man and his girlfriend are chased by the Timekeeper Police as they steal time from the rich and give it to the poor -- in Robin Hood meets Bonnie and Clyde fashion. I cared about the characters, was involved in the story, and enjoyed the film.
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J. Edgar by Clint Eastwood (Sat Nov 12, 2011)
Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
J. Edgar is a based-on-a-true-story film about J. Edgar Hoover's rise to power -- and clinging to power -- as he creates and sustains the Federal Bureau of Investigation over a 48-year period, overlapping eight presidents. The film covers many historic events and period detail in a very realistic way and Leonardo DiCaprio gives an Oscar-worthy performance in the lead role. The film's portrayal of this intensely driven, idiosyncratic and very talented figure is quite compelling.
I enjoyed the film's good performances and history-biopic storytelling.
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Take Shelter by Jeff Nichols (Sat Oct 22, 2011)
Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Tova Stewart
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Take Shelter is a suspense-thriller that tells of a happy father in a rural Ohio family who is experiencing the slow onset of inherited paranoid schizophrenia. He has very intense nightmares involving fierce storms, tornadoes and his close family members. His feeling of foreboding and dread carries over into his waking hours and he starts to act erratically and builds an underground storm shelter to protect his family. The acting in the fim is excellent, but I wasn't drawn into the very slow-moving story, so I didn't enjoy the film very much.
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The Ides of March by George Clooney (Sun Oct 9, 2011)
Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
The Ides of March is a political suspense-thriller about a Democratic primary campaign in a state that's critical for the nomination. It tells of a talented political consultant and how his idealism -- and that of his candidate -- is abandoned to win the primary. The strategies and tactics of the two campaigns and the media are the main thread of the well-written script. The film's cynical feeling rings very true and is enhanced by six excellent performances. I was drawn into the compelling story, I cared about the characters and I loved the film.
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Contagion by Steven Soderbergh (Sat Oct 1, 2011)
Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Contagion is a medical thriller about a world-wide pandemic that is started by the random transmittal of a virus from a bird, to a bat, to a pig, and then to a chef. The virus is contagious and deadly, requiring only a touch to be transmitted and a few days to kill. The film tracks the rapid spread of the epidemic, the growing concern of government agencies, and the eventual public panic. Tension builds exponentially as the virus spreads and a vaccine is elusive. The acting is good and, except for a few scenes, the story is gripping. I enjoyed the film.
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Drive by Nicolas Winding Refn (Sun Sept 25, 2011)
Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Drive is a dark action-thriller about a mysterious unnamed driver who works for films as a stuntman and for robbers as a getaway driver. We learn nothing about his past and little about what he thinks or feels. All we know is what we see and the little that he says as the tense story unfolds. He helps a neighbor-friend's ex-con husband and unexpected events spiral out of control. The tension builds greatly as the film progresses and surprises follow. The acting is good, I cared about the characters and I was engaged in the story. I liked the film a lot.
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Moneyball by Bennett Miller (Sat Sept 24, 2011)
Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Moneyball is a based-upon a true story baseball film about the Oakland Athletic's surprisingly successful 2002 season -- including a 20-game win streak -- with a team of very low-salary players. The team's General Manager and his Economist Assistant achieve their against-tradition success by using endless baseball data and mathematical analysis for the first time in Major League Baseball history. I found the story to be a bit slow and the baseball environment inauthentic. Except for a few dramatic scenes, the film was mostly boring to me.
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Sarah's Key by Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Sat Sept 17, 2011)
Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Aidan Quinn
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Sarah's Key is a Holocaust film about the roundup and extermination of Jews in 1942 France by French authorities. It powerfully tells of Sarah and her family and how they are taken from their apartment. A second thread tells of a modern-day reporter whose family later lived in the apartment. In the first half of the film, I was often jarred and distracted when the story abruptly shifted from Sarah to the reporter and back. The two threads differ radically in tone and pace. The acting is good, but I didn't get drawn into the story, so my enjoyment was limited.
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Warrior by Gavin O'Connor (Sat Sept 10, 2011)
Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Warrior is a movie about a father and his 2 sons, who are estranged from each other, whose lives intersect in training and competing for a $5 million prize in a Mixed Martial Arts tournament. The father is a recovering alcoholic, one son is a Marine home from Iraq, and the other son is a financially struggling teacher. The story of their troubled lives is revealed as the plot unfolds and they prepare for the ultimate fight. The acting is very good, I cared about the characters, and the fight scenes in the cage are realistic and exciting. I enjoyed the film.
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The Debt by John Madden (Sat Sept 3, 2011)
Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
The Debt is a classic suspense spy-thriller. In 1966, three Israeli Massad agents go to East Berlin to find a Nazi war criminal and bring him back for trial. Suspense builds as they stalk and capture the Nazi, but their plan goes awry. In 1997, we see that the 3 agents have been treated as heroes for 30 years -- and that they have kept a secret and must return to Europe to fix a problem. The acting is very good and there are many suspenseful scenes, but I didn't get drawn into the story or care about the characters. On balance, the film was just OK.
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Captain America by Joe Johnston (Sat Aug 27, 2011)
Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Hayley Atwell
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Captain America is an action-adventure superhero film that describes the origin of the Marvel Comics character Captain America. The good-natured and sometimes humorous script and the excellent computer graphics provide a light comic book environment that is set in the 1940s during World War II. The film tells of the creation of a super-soldier using an experimental serum and his adventures battling a power hungry Hitler subordinate. I was drawn into the story, cared about the characters and enjoyed the film.
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The Help by Tate Taylor (Sat Aug 13, 2011)
Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Allison Janney
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
The Help is a film about African-American women who serve as maids, housekeepers and nannies for white families in 1960s Mississippi. Their story is told as they are interviewed by a young woman who returns home from school to write a controversial book about their lives. Some of the roles are caricatures and much of the bigotry and violence of the time is downplayed, but the acting is very good, many scenes are powerful and upsetting, and humor is used to good effect. I was drawn into the story and enjoyed it very much.
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Cowboys & Aliens by Jon Favreau (Sun Aug 7, 2011)
Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Cowboys & Aliens is an action-adventure film set in a small town in the Old West in 1873. It delivers heavy doses of good and evil, and power struggles between the leading characters. The story takes a surprising turn when the town's people are attacked and abducted by alien creatures in advanced flying machines who are searching for gold. The common enemy eventually causes all the conflicting parties to cooperate. The film is well-written as a classic western tale, the acting is very good, and I was drawn into the story. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
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Crazy Stupid Love by Glenn Ficarra (Sat July 30, 2011)
Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Crazy Stupid Love is a romantic comedy about unsuccessful relationships and unrequited love. It tells about a separating couple, their son, their babysitter, the man's lady-killer friend, the woman's boyfriend -- and others involved with them. The film interweaves comedic scenes about middle-aged, young-adult and teenage relationships. Althought the acting was quite good and there were some very funny scenes, I found the story to be unevenly told with too many characters. On balance, I didn't enjoy the film very much.
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Sholem Aleichem by Joseph Dorman (Sat July 23, 2011)
Dan Miron, Hillel Halkin, Bel Kaufman, David Roskies, Ruth Wisse
NY Times
Variety
Film Trailer
Sholem Aleichem is a documentary film about the legendary Jewish writer who chronicled the life and times of his people during the late-19th and early-20th century in their every-day language of Yiddish. His weekly stories over 25-years -- with vividly memorable characters -- captured the unique culture and experience of Russian Jews from the Shtetl to large cities to emigrating to America. The film provides a rich and well-illustrated history of Eastern-European Jewry, shown through the life and work of the author. I enjoyed it very much.
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The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick (Sat July 9, 2011)
Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
The Tree of Life is a very ambitious and intensely spiritual film that explores the wonders and mysteries of creation and life, and man's relationship to man and god.  Using languorously filmed dramatic and sensitive images and very little dialog, the film traverses all of time and evokes many emotions from endless scenes in the lives of an average 1950s family -- including the relative importance of nature and spiritual grace.  The film was thought-provoking and beautifully presented, but I didn't find it very entertaining.
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Super 8 by J.J. Abrams (Sun Jun 12, 2011)
Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Super 8 is a homage to Steven Spielberg's films and it contains familiar elements from many of them. Six teenage close-friends are filming an 8mm zombie movie in 1979. At a shoot near a train station, they witness a horrendous train crash that sets in motion mysterious events that follow. The young friends become immersed in disappearances of machines, dogs and people; a military investigation; and many scary situations. The characters are appealing, the story is well-written and the special effects are excellent. I enjoyed it very much.
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X-Men: First Class by Matthew Vaughn (Sat Jun 4, 2011)
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
X-Men: First Class is a prequal film about the origin of the X-Men, based upon the popular comic book series. It tells the story of isolated mutant humans who begin to discover each other and the diversity of their super-powers. As the story unfolds, we see the bad mutants threaten to start a world-war and the good mutants team up to stop them. The special effects and super-power demontrations are well done, but the characters are generally superficial and the story's momentum drags in some places. On balance, the film is entertaining.
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Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen (Sat May 28, 2011)
Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Adrian Brody
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Midnight in Paris is a Woody Allen comedy-fantasy about a young writer who travels to Paris with his fiancee and future in-laws. During the visit he discovers major differences between him and his fiancee. He also fantasizes about living in romantic Paris, where many famous writers and artists have lived. The music and photography are very good. The comedy scenes with his future family didn't work for me, but I very much enjoyed the gently humorous fantasy scenes, when he meets famous characters, and thinks about himself and his dreams.
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The Double Hour by Giuseppe Capotondi (Sat May 21, 2011)
Ksenia Rappoport and Filippo Timi
NY Times
LA Times
Film Trailer
The Double Hour is an Italian-language suspense-thriller-romance about a security guard and an immigrant hotel maid. They meet at a speed-dating event and a romance blossoms quickly. The tone of the story shifts suddenly when the couple is attacked by thieves and the man is forced to help them rob the lavish home that he is guarding. When the security guard is shot, the plot twists and turns and introduces characters that create an intricate mystery. The acting is good and the story is suspenseful and engrossing. I enjoyed the film.
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Bridesmaids by Paul Feig (Sun May 15, 2011)
Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Bridesmaids is a female-buddy comedy by SNL veteran Kristen Wiig about a woman with low self-esteem and her 5 girl-friends, one of whom is getting married. It tells the story of their preparation for the wedding and includes various boyfriends, dress shopping, a bachelorette party, roommates, and assorted adventures. The humor runs the gamut from gross-out to heart warming. The extreme physical comedy didn't work for me, but I liked the characters and many of the good-natured humorous scenes. On balance, I enjoyed the film.
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Thor by Kenneth Branagh (Sat May 7, 2011)
Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Entertainment Weekly
Film Trailer
Thor is a story about a comic book superhero from Norse mythology. Thor and his brother compete for their father's throne in their godly realm, while they are threatened by a powerful adversary. After nearly starting a war, Thor is shorn of his powers and banished to the earthly realm. On earth, he meets and falls for an attractive astrophysicist. The story and acting are very light-weight, but I cared about the characters and the resolution of the superhero conflicts provided lots of battles and special effects. On balance, I enjoyed the film.
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Source Code by Duncan Jones (Sat Apr 23, 2011)
Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Source Code is a science-fiction mystery-thriller about a soldier whose brain is connected by advanced technology to the brain of a terrorist train bombing victim. In repeated visits to the train, the soldier inhabits the mind and body of the victim during his final 8-minutes of life -- attempting to find the bomber and stop his attack on a major city. The mystery unfolds as the soldier slowly gets to know the passengers and finds clues to the bomber's identity. The acting is good, the characters are appealing, and the story is engrossing. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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Hanna by Joe Wright (Sat Apr 16, 2011)
Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Hanna is a mystery-suspense-thriller about a renegade spy who trains his teenage daughter to be an assassin to survive the wrath of his betrayed handler. They work very hard to give her great physical and mental skills to prepare for an eventual clash with the CIA spy handler. The exciting chase of the teenage girl by the CIA, which is enhanced by excellent photography, is the heart of the story. I cared about the characters, and wanted to find out their mysterious relationship and what had happened in a violent clash in the past. I enjoyed the film.
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Potiche by François Ozon (Sat Apr 9, 2011)
Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Potiche is a French language romantic comedy set in the 1970s with a women's liberation theme thrown in. It tells the story of a wealthy submissive wife who is reluctantly forced by circumstances to take over for her husband as CEO of the family business. The story is very light and reminiscent of a Doris Day film -- with a French cultural flavor of extramarital affairs and ambiguous paternity. Catherine Deneuve is very good in the leading role, but the story and the humor didn't draw me in. I found the film mostly boring.
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Win Win by Tom McCarthy (Sat Apr 2, 2011)
Paul Giamatti, Alex Shaffer, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Win Win is a good-natured comedy about a New Jersey attorney who is under financial pressure and struggles to maintain a feeling of normalcy in his family. He makes an ill-advised decision for financial gain and suffers many unintended consequences. The story involves his family, an elderly client who he is legal guardian of, the runaway wrestler-grandson of the client, and two of his assistant wrestling coaches. The acting is excellent, the humor is low key, and the characters are sympathetic. I enjoyed the film.
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Certified Copy by Abbas Kiarostami (Sat Mar 26, 2011)
Juliette Binoche, William Shimell
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Certified Copy tells a story about an antique dealer and an art historian who meet in Italy. They talk endlessly with great wit and emotion about the value of original art and copies, and about marriage and family. They are mistaken for a married couple and then take on that role. Juliettte Binoche gives a wonderful performance and the photography is excellent. Unfortunately, I felt like the film-maker was playing artful mind-games with me, so I couldn't identify with the characters. I found the story impenetrable and I was mostly bored by the film.
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The Lincoln Lawyer by Brad Furman (Sat Mar 19, 2011)
Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William Macy James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
The Lincoln Lawyer is a murder-mystery-thriller about a street-wise money-hungry criminal defense attorney who works from his chaffeur-driven Lincoln Continental. The story starts slowly, but once the lawyer takes on a challenging case the well-written script takes over and the suspense and tension build continuously. The story involves the arrest and trial of a wealthy playboy and includes lots of detective work. The acting is good and the story's complexity kept me engaged. I enjoyed the film.
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Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Sat Mar 12, 2011)
NY Times
LA Times
Film Trailer
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a unique and strange Thai film about the time leading up to and just after the death of a sick rural beekeeper. The story integrates past and present, the living and dead, reality and dreams, and reincarnated men and animals. It unfolds in a series of vignettes at an ultra-slow and serene pace with a minimum of dialog. I felt as if I was watching and experiencing a Buddhist meditation. I can't say that I enjoyed the film, but I did find it intriguing and thought provoking.
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The Adjustment Bureau by George Nolfi (Sun Mar 6, 2011)
Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Tony Mackie, John Slattery, Terence Stamp
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
The Adjustment Bureau is a science-fiction-thriller love story that explores free will and fate. An agency run by an all-powerful being oversees everyone's lives to ensure that things go according to plan.
A couple's chance meeting leads to a romance that is not in the plan. Agents of the Bureau try to make an adjustment to the lover's lives and the lovers exercise free will to stay together. The story is intriguing and there is good chemistry between the leads. In spite of some problems with the script and some uneven acting, I enjoyed the film.
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Whatever Works by Woody Allen (Sat Feb 26, 2011)
Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood. Patricia Clarkson, Ed Begley Jr.
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Whatever Works is a farcical comedy about a 60ish cynical misanthrope, his 20ish naive paramour, his friends and her parents. It's a typical Woody Allen comedy with lots of dialog and quirky interactions among the characters -- along with Larry David's offbeat shtick. The characters make many unexpected adjustments in their ongoing search for happiness. I found that there was too much talking and I did not identify with the characters. I appreciated the creativity and cleverness of the story, but I was mostly bored.
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Barney's Version by Richard J. Lewis (Sat Feb 19, 2011)
Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Barney's Version tells the life story of an impulsive and incorrigible schlemiel who follows his heart into 3 marriages, in spite of the logical negative consequences of his actions. Through the lens of these marriages, the film explores friendship, loyalty, family relationships, creative expression, drunkenness, and spousal love. Giamatti gives an academy award-worthy performance and his costars are generally excellent. I found the film a bit long and the storytelling slow and uneven in spots, but on balance I enjoyed the flim.
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Another Year by Mike Leigh (Sat Jan 29, 2011)
Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville, Oliver Maltman
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Another Year is a slice-of-life film about a long-married professional couple in England and some of their family and friends. Through many conversations over a one-year period, we learn about their lives -- the couple's happiness and their friends lack of it. Although I appreciated the high-quality of the fiming and the acting, I found the movie had too much talking, moved at a very slow pace, and was mostly boring.
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The Company Men by John Wells (Sat Jan 22, 2011)
Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
The Company Men tells the story of the impact of multiple layoffs at a large corporation on the careers and personal lives of 3 high-level executives. It accurately portrays the tense corporate layoff process and the frustration and stress of outplacement and job search. The executives deal with the crushing of dreams and careers, and question the value of their company dedication and loyalty. This movie will have a powerful impact on anyone who has been affected by a corporate layoff. I was drawn into the well-told story and enjoyed the film.
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True Grit by Ethan and Joel Coen (Sun Jan 2, 2011)
Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
True Grit is set in the Old West in the 1890s and tells a story of vengeance. A 14-year-old girl hires a U.S. Marshall to track down and bring to justice the murderer of her father. She insists on joining him in the hunt and along the way they have many encounters with "bad-guys" in Indian country. The acting is excellent and the filmmakers capture the distinctive dialog, the pace, and the brutal atmosphere of life in the Old West. I appreciated these aspects of the film, but except for a few dramatic scenes, I found it mostly boring.
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Rabbit Hole by John Cameron Mitchell (Thurs Dec 30, 2010)
Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Sandra Oh
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Rabbit Hole tells the story of a young couple who struggle with their grief, 8-months after their 4-year-old son dies in a car accident. Each follows their own distinctive path to handling the tragedy, regaining some emotional footing, and moving on with their life. Painful raw emotions are on full-display and healing is extremely difficult. The woman's mother and sister and a therapy group all try to help, with limited success. I found the story very slow and the acting just average. I didn't enjoy the film very much.
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The King's Speech by Tom Hooper (Tues Dec 28, 2010)
Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
The King's Speech is set in England, just before the onset of WWII. It tells the story of the 2nd heir to the thrown, who struggles to overcome his lifelong stammering to fulfill the speechmaking obligations of British Royalty. He enlists the help of an unorthodox speech therapist and becomes his close friend. The King dies, his oldest son succeeds him, and then abdicates the throne to his brother. The script is witty and humorous, and the acting is excellent. I cared about the characters, was immersed in the story, and enjoyed the film very much.
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Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky (Sat Dec 18, 2010)
Natalie Portman, Vin Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barb Hershey, Winona Ryder
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Black Swan tells the story of an ambitious and dedicated ballerina who is training for the lead role in Swan Lake -- and must master the innocence and grace of the white swan, as well as the passion and abandon of the black swan. The ballerina is under the immense pressure of her physical training, as well as from her director, her mother and her understudy. She slowly descends into madness. The film's ambiguity between reality and madness builds great tension. Natalie Portman gives an Academy Award-worthy performance and the camera-work and music are excellent. I cared very much about the ballerina; I became immersed in her experiences; and I loved the film.
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The Fighter by David O. Russell (Fri Dec 17, 2010)
Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
The Fighter is a "based-on-a-true-story" film about a working-class Boston-area dysfunctional family who are all involved in professional boxing. The 2 sons fight and the parents manage them. The younger boxer is being held back by his mother's and brother's selfishness and ineptitude. Things begin to change when he meets and falls for a young female bartender. The acting is generally very good, but I didn't get drawn into the story or care about the characters. Except for the climactic scenes in the last 20-minutes, I found the film mostly boring.
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The Tourist by Florian von Donnersmarck (Fri Dec 10, 2010)
Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton
Roger Ebert (2-stars)
New York Times
Film Trailer
The Tourist is a romantic mystery-thriller set in Paris, London and Venice. It tells the story of a mysterious beautiful woman who is followed by government agents and gangsters to find her lover and recover the millions of dollars that he has stolen. The woman engages a math teacher tourist -- who looks like her lover -- to throw off her followers. The script is not well-written and there is not much chemistry between the leads. Except for the gorgeous scenary in Venice and a dramatic finale, I found the film mostly boring.
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Tangled by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard (Sat Dec 4, 2010)
Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
New York Times
Film Trailer
Tangled is a 3-D Disney-animated romantic-musical-fairytale, based upon the classic Rapunzel. Princess Rapunzel is imprisoned in a remote castle tower by a wicked woman, so her magic powers can keep the woman young forever. She is visited by a charming rascal thief who travels with her through the forest to fulfill her dream. They encounter quirky characters and have many adventures along the way to the predictable happy ending. The storytelling and animation are excellent, and the characters, songs and 3-D are good. I enjoyed the film.
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Love and Other Drugs by Edward Zwick (Fri Nov 26, 2010)
Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Love and Other Drugs is a romantic comedy and a love story about a slick and ambitious pharmaceutical salesman who meets an early onset Parkinson's patient at a doctor's office. They begin a relationship that dramatically changes them both. The tone and mood of the story shifts significantly multiple times as their worlds of pharmaceutical sales and degenerative disease overlap and their relationship progresses. The acting and chemistry of the leads is excellent and the script is very well-written. I enjoyed the film very much.
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Inside Job by Charles Ferguson (Sat Nov 20, 2010)
Narrrated by Matt Damon
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
New York Times
Film Trailer
Inside Job is a documentary about the financial industry's power and greed that caused the 2008 worldwide economic crisis. Interviews with high-profile experts show how Federal Regulatory Agencies allowed a significant industry expansion into high-risk mortgage loans and complex financial instruments with little oversight or accountability. Complicit -- either directly or through conflict of interests -- in causing the real estate bubble that burst were Insurance Companies, Securities Rating Agencies, Mortgage Brokers, and Academic Economists. The film is very powerful. It makes a broad and compelling case for stronger industry regulation. I enjoyed the film very much.
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Morning Glory by Roger Michell (Fri Nov 19, 2010)
Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Jeff Goldblum
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Morning Glory is a light situation comedy about a bumbling, but very energetic, young TV producer who tries to resuscitate a dying morning news show. The film has many good-naturedly funny scenes involving bad programming, TV ratings, personality conflicts, staff morale, and awkward romantic situations. In spite of some flaws in the acting and script, I enjoyed the likeable characters and the humorous story -- and I rooted for them to overcome their obstacles.
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Unstoppable by Tony Scott (Sat Nov 13, 2010)
Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Dunn
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Unstoppable is an action-adventure film about an unmanned half-mile long runaway freight train that's moving at high speed towards a dangerous curve in a large town. The compelling story is told from the viewpoint of a rookie conductor and a veteran engineer who try to stop the train. Tension mounts steadily as awareness of the dangerous situation expands and attempts to stop the train fail. The acting is good, the story is exciting, and the photography and special effects are excellent. I enjoyed watching the film.
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RED by Robert Schwentke (Sat Oct 30, 2010)
Bruce Willis, ML Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (2-stars)
Film Trailer
RED is a spoof of an action-adventure spy-thriller, based upon a DC Comics graphic novel. It tells the story of a CIA operative who is forced to come out of retirement and team up with his old partners to defend himself from attack by powerful unknown assailants. The story is compelling; the action is exciting; the tongue-in-cheek humor is dry; and the acting is excellent. I enjoyed the film very much.
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Hereafter by Clint Eastwood (Sat Oct 23, 2010)
Matt Damon, Cecile De France, Frankie McLaren
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Hereafter is a film that explores 3 after-life experiences . . psychic communications, coming back-from-the-dead, and responding to the death of a close relative. The stories are told in parallel by the film-maker with great care and sensitivity. He shows the heavy burden of communicating with the dead, the distraction of remembering your own death, and the paralysis of losing a twin brother. I found the film quite interesting, but a bit slow-moving. I would have preferred that only one of the 3 stories be developed with greater depth.
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Never Let Me Go by Mark Romanek (Sat Oct 16, 2010)
Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Never Let Me Go is a science fiction love story set in the 20th century. It explores the lives of 3 young people who are raised by an institution since birth to donate their organs to extend the lives of others in society. We follow the 3 protagonists through boarding school and entry into the limited society that they will experience -- and we watch their complex relationship grow. The story is powerful, but very sad and upsetting -- and it's told at a very slow pace. I wasn't engaged by the story or the characters and I didn't enjoy the film.
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Secretariat by Randall Wallace (Sat Oct 9, 2010)
Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Scott Glenn, James Cromwell
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Secretariat is a Disney-produced light-drama, based upon the true story of the greatest racehorse of all time. The film tells of the female owner's stubborn determination to fulfill the well-bred horse's potential -- a trait she shares with her recently deceased horseman father. It also shows the comeback and redemption of their unorthodox trainer, who had numerous recent failures. The filming of the triple-crown races is excellent, but the acting and script are average. Nonetheless, the inspirational and compelling story drew me in and I enjoyed the film.
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The Social Network by DFincher & ASorkin (Sat Oct 2, 2010)
Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
The Social Network tells the fictionalized story of the early years and meteoric growth of Facebook, including its founding by the socially awkward -- but brilliant -- software developer Mark Zuckerberg. His seminal idea for the online social networking phenomenon occurs at Harvard, after a breakup with his girlfriend. The story is told from the persectives of various key contributors, all of whom were eventually controversially forced out of Facebook. Even though I was very familiar with the story, I enjoyed the film's excellent dialog and acting.
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The Town by Ben Affleck (Sun Sept 19, 2010)
Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
The Town is a story about a bank-robbing son of a bank-robbing family in an Irish Boston neighborhood with many bank-robbing families. The film graphically and realistically portrays what life is like for these people. There is bank-robbing, neighborhood loyalty, police-car chases, romance, FBI interrogations and local character. The acting is excellent, the characters are engaging, and the story is dramatic, tense and compelling. I enjoyed the film very much.
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The American by Anton Corbijn (Sat Sept 4, 2010)
George Clooney, Johan Leysen, Violante Placido
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
The American is a cerebral mystery thriller set in small-town Italy. It tells the story of an American assassin who has a violent encounter in Sweden and travels to Italy to hide from mysterious attackers. While in Italy, he befriends a priest and a prostitute and develops relationships with them that cause him to question his lifestyle. With little dialog, the dramatic tension builds at a very slow pace, after his whereabouts are discovered. I found the acting excellent, the photography beautiful, and the story compelling. I enjoyed the film quite a bit.
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Get Low by Aaron Schneider (Sat Aug 21, 2010)
Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
New York Times
Film Trailer
Get Low is mystery set in the 1930s about an eccentric and cranky hermit who has lived by himself for 40-years in the forest. The town's people share many rumors about his violent past. When he comes to town to plan a funeral party for himself, while he is still alive, everyone is mystified as to his motives and plan. As the story unfolds we learn about his terrible secret and how it affected those around him. Robert Duvall gives an academy award-worthy performance and Bill Murray is great. I enjoyed watching the actors perform and the mystery unfold.
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The Other Guys by Adam McKay (Sat Aug 7, 2010)
Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Samuel Jackson, Dwayne Johnson
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Entertainment Weekly
Film Trailer
The Other Guys is an action-comedy buddy-movie spoof about two dysfunctional police detectives who try to prove that they are as effective as two flamboyant detectives who have died. This fast-paced film is full of wild chases and shoot-em-ups -- and almost every scene has jokes and humorous shtick involving the bumbling cops. Will Ferrell gives an excellent performance. The movie is quite funny and has many laughing-out-loud moments. Even though some of the humor didn't work for me, on balance I found the film very entertaining.
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The Kids Are All Right by Lisa Cholodenko (Wed July 28,2010)
Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
The Kids Are All Right is a comedy about a family with two lesbian mothers and two natural-born teenage children -- who seek out and find their common sperm-donor father. The performances by Moore and Benning are excellent. They portray the ups and downs of family life in a humorous and natural, if unconventional, way. Unfortunately, I found many of the scenes with the sperm-donor father to be awkward and unconvincing, and this limited my enjoyment of the film.
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Salt by Phillip Noyce (Sat July 24, 2010)
Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Salt is a spy-thriller about Russian and American double agents. A Russian spy accuses the female CIA agent interrogating him of being a Russian spy. This sets in motion a long series of escapes, fights, chases and battles. The action is very fast-paced and "Bond-like." To prove her innocence, the CIA agent must thwart a well-crafted Russian plot to murder the President and start a nuclear war. The acting is very good and the story is compelling. I suspended my disbelief at the outset, became engrossed in the story, and enjoyed it very much.
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Inception by Christopher Nolan (Sat July 17, 2010)
Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Inception is an action thriller set in the future, where technology allows sharing of dreams -- for entertainment and for stealing secrets. The protagonists attempt the highly risky task of implanting a suggestion in the deep subconscous of a wealthy industrialist. To do so, they create a dream, within a dream, within a dream. At first, the complex story requires rapt attention, but as the plot unfolds, it's easier to keep track of the lively and intricate plot. The acting is very good, the story is quite interesting and the characters are likable. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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Cyrus by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass (Sat July 10, 2010)
John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Cyrus is a quirky comedy about a lonely divorced man with an unhealthy attachment to his engaged ex-wife (7-years after they divorced) and a single mother with an unhealthy atttachment to her
21-year-old son. The film explores their budding romantic relationship and provides scenes that cover the spectrum of funny, sweet, awkward, heartwarming and discomforting. The acting is uniformly excellent and I enoyed the film.
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The Girl Who Played with Fire (Fri July 9, 2010)
Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
The Girl Who Played with Fire is the 2nd in a trilogy of Swedish language mystery thrillers. The same actors play the journalist and the troubled goth-girl computer genius. Since there is evidence implicating the girl in a series of murders, they work separately to clear her name. The story unfolds with lots of surprises, violence and tension. I didn't enjoy this film as much as the first, because I was already familiar with the unique lead characters and they spent little time on screen together displaying their unorthodox chemistry.
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I Am Love by Luca Guadagnino (Sat July 3, 2010)
Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Edoardo Gabbriellini
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
I Am Love is an Italian-language subtitled film that explores transitions in the lives of 3-generations of an extremely wealthy textile business family. The patriarch gives up company control to his son and grandson. The son's wife and daughter embark on unconventional love affairs. Tilda Swinton's performance and the sumptuous photography are excellent. Even though the film is very slow as it reveals the story and I felt emotionally distant, I enjoyed watching the characters and reacting to their circumstances.
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Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Sat June 26, 2010)
Joan Rivers
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is a documentary film that explores a year in the life of Joan Rivers. It skillfully reveals many details of her life and creates a multi-dimensional portrait of this insecure, obsessively driven, outrageous and talented iconic comedienne. The story-telling and interviews are excellent, but I was left with a feeling of sadness -- despite the abundant edgy comedy.
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Solitary Man by Brian Koppelman (Sat June 5, 2010)
Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary-Louise Parker
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Solitary Man tells the story of a charismatic and successful business owner who loses everything because of his arrogance, selfishness and hunger for power and recognition. His reckless and self-destructive behavior cause his life to crumble around him. Michael Douglas gives an excellent performance in the lead role. Even though the film is clever and humorous in many parts, I didn't like the characters or get drawn into the story, so I didn't enjoy it very much.
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Please Give by Nicole Holofcener (Fri May 14, 2010)
Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Please Give is a character-driven comedy drama about a New York City couple, their teenage daughter, their 92-year-old obnoxious next-door neighbor, and her two granddaughters. It explores their daily lives and the typical emotional ups-and-downs that we all encounter. Even though it had some scenes that were quite funny, I didn't care about the characters and found the film to be bland and boring.
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Oceans by Jacques Perrin & Jacques Cluzaud (Sun May 2, 2010)
Pierce Brosnan (narrator)
Variety
Box Office
Film Trailer
Oceans is a Disney documentary film about the world's oceans and the diverse inhabitants that live in them. With spectacular filming in closeup and panoramic views, Oceans explores many remarkable locations in the world's five oceans -- and shows both well-known and obscure creatures in their survival cycle of eat and be eaten. Many of the undersea images are quite unique and breathtaking. I enjoyed the film very much.
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City Island by Raymond De Felitta (Sat Apr 17, 2010)
Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Emily Mortimer
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
City Island is a good-natured comedy about a family of four, each of whom has secrets from the other family members. The acting is very good and the well-written script delivers many surprises, awkward situations and laugh-out-loud moments. As the family secrets were revealed, I was drawn into the story and cared about the characters. The film is light and funny and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Mother by Joon-ho Bong (Sat Apr 10, 2010)
Hye-ja Kim, Bin Won, Goo Jin
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
NY Times
Film Trailer
Mother is a Korean language murder mystery about a single mother and her mentally challenged son. After getting to know the characters a bit through the misadventures of the simpleminded son, a young girl is murdered and the son is implicated circumstantially. Most of the film involves the mother's efforts to find the killer and exonerate her son. The story is told with many unexpected plot elements and much culturally interesting material. The acting and cinematography are excellent, and I was engrossed in watching the unusual story unfold.
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sat Mar 27, 2010)
Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a Swedish language mystery thriller that tells the story of how a journalist and a troubled goth-girl computer genius investigate the mystery of the 40-year-old disappearance of a young woman from a large wealthy business family. As the plot unfolds, the two leads develop an unorthodox -- but appealing -- chemistry. In spite of some very disturbing scenes, the story is quite compelling and the characters are appealing. On balance, I enjoyed the film.
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A Prophet by Jacques Audiard (Sat Mar 20, 2010)
Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
A Prophet is a French language coming-of-age prison gangster movie. It tells the story of a 19-year-old inexperienced French Arab who is forced to learn the hard way how to survive and acquire power in his deadly prison environment. The filming, acting and storytelling do an excellent job of communicating what life is like in this violent world of French guards and Italian and Arab prisoners. Unfortunately, the film is much too long and the story unfolded too slowly to maintain my interest. Even though it is well-made, I enjoyed only the first half of the film.
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The Ghost Writer by Roman Polanski (Sat Mar 13, 2010)
Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
The Ghost Writer is a mystery thriller about a former British prime minister's ghost writer, who takes over for his drowned predecessor. The film tells the suspenseful story of the ghost writer's discoveries about the prime minister and his past, as he researches the autobiography he's writing. The story includes numerous references to recent events and political figures. It unfolds at a steady pace, as facts are revealed and tension builds. The acting is good and I was drawn into the story. I enjoyed the film a lot.
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Julie & Julia by Nora Ephron (Sun Mar 7, 2010)
Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Julie & Julia tells parallel stories about Julia Child. In the first story, Julia learns to cook in Paris and writes her groundbreaking English language book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." In the second, a young woman starts a blog to chronicle her project to cook all 524 Julia Child recipes in 365 days. Meryl Streep's performance as Julia Child is uncanny and Oscar-worthy. The story is light and a bit too long, but the characters are good-natured and appealing. I was drawn into the story and enjoyed the film.
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The Book of Eli by Albert and Allen Hughes (Sat Feb 13, 2010)
Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
The Book of Eli tells the post-apocalyptic story of a lone road warrior's trek West across a decimated America with the last remaining Bible on earth. The landscape is bleak and very dangerous, but his faith and fighting skills drive him toward his destination. I was engaged and enjoying the western-road-superhero aspects of the film, until the story took a dramatic and preposterous turn near the end. For me, this did much to spoil everything that came before it.
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The Last Station by Michael Hoffman (Fri Feb 5, 2010)
Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, Paul Giamatti, James McAvoy
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
The Last Station tells the story of the final months of author Leo Tolstoy's life in 1910, when he had achieved extreme levels of wealth, fame and adulation in Russia. The film uses Tolstoy, his family, and the leaders of the utopian Tolstoyian Movement to explore the timeless conflicts of universal love & romantic love; idealism & practicality; personal freedom & family responsibility; intellect & emotions; and ambition & humility. The acting and filming are excellent and I enjoyed the movie very much.
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Crazy Heart by Scott Cooper (Sat Jan 30, 2010)
Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Crazy Heart tells the story of a 57-year-old country singer-songwriter who has fallen on hard times and become an alcoholic -- far from his previous wealth and fame. He travels from one small town to the next, playing unmemorable gigs just to pay for his food. He has no family and no future. Not surprisingly for this formulaic story, he meets a women, falls in love, and tries to rebuild his life. Jeff Bridges gives an Oscar-worthy performance and the music, acting and singing are quite good. I liked the characters and enjoyed the film.
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Broken Embraces by Pedro Almodovar (Sun Jan 3, 2010)
Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Jose Luis Gomez, Blanca Portillo
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
New York Times
Film Trailer
Broken Embraces tells the story of a film-maker who becomes a script-writer, due to an auto accident that blinds him. Director Almodovar explores powerful themes of family, love, sex, passionate abandon, obsession, jealousy, revenge, death, and moving past tragedy. Using flashbacks, the script weaves an intricate and enigmatic story -- enhanced by excellent acting and cinematography. I appreciated the technical competence of the film, but I didn't connect emotionally with the characters or the story, so my enjoyment was curtailed.
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Up in the Air by Jason Reitman (Thurs Dec 31, 2009)
George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Up in the Air is a comedy-drama-satire about a man with no material possessions or relationships with people. He is on the road traveling on business for 322 days per year and takes comfort in the familiarity and routine of his airports, plane rides, hotels and restaurants. His ordered existence is threatened by the adoption of video conferencing technology and an attractive woman that he meets in a bar. He begins to have positive feelings about relationships. The acting is uniformly excellent. I was drawn into the story and enjoyed it very much.
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Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie (Wed Dec 30, 2009)
Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Sherlock Holmes is an action-adventure murder-mystery with elements of classic Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Da Vinci Code, and TV's CSI and House. This Sherlock is a swashbuckling, brilliant, troubled and charismatic figure who's extremely proficient at martial arts, witty banter and deductive reasoning. The story involves foiling a satanic member of a secret occult society who seeks world domination. The story is a bit far-fetched and long, but I found the acting very good, the action scenes exciting, and I enjoyed the film quite a bit.
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It's Complicated by Nancy Meyers (Sat Dec 26, 2009)
Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
It's Complicated is a romantic comedy about a middle-aged woman who has an affair with her married ex-husband. The script is smartly written by the female film director and includes lots of screen time for their 3 children, the new boyfriend, the daughter's fiance, and the current wife. The acting is excellent, the characters have good chemistry, and the banter is entertaining. I found the film witty, sensitive, good-natured, and quite funny. I enjoyed it very much.
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Nine by Rob Marshall (Fri Dec 25, 2009)
Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, Fergie
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (2-stars)
Film Trailer
Nine is a musical film about a world-famous director who struggles to make his ninth film while in the midst of a personal and professional crisis. His creativity is blocked by guilt feelings relating to his many relationships with women. Individual songs are performed by his wife, mistress, actress muse, costume designer, his mother, a prostitute, and a reporter. The acting is good and the singing by famous actresses is better than expected, but the story is disjointed and the music is not integrated well with the dialog. I didn't enjoy the movie at all.
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Avatar by James Cameron (Thurs Dec 24, 2009)
Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang
James Berardinelli (4-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Avatar is a 3-D animated and live-action science-fiction film set on an alien planet in the year 2154. It tells the story of military and scientific earthlings who try to get access to a very valuable mineral that is buried beneath the forest home of the local inhabitants. A great tension exists between the scientists who employ native look-alike avatars to befriend the locals and the military who want to destroy them. The 3-D animation and special effects are extraordinarily well-done and the story captures the spiritual harmony of the forest's exotic creatures.
I was totally engrossed in the film and enjoyed it very much.
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Invictus by Clint Eastwood (Sat Dec 12, 2009)
Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Tshabalala
James Berardinelli (3.0-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Invictus tells the story of the early months of Nelson Mandela's Presidency of South Africa, just after apartheid had been abolished. He sees an opportunity to unify blacks and whites in the pursuit of the rugby World Cup and works to inspire the team on behalf of their country. The film examines Mandella's challenges in dealing with racial politics and discrimination and tells the true story of how sports was used to bring the races together. The characters are not well-developed, but the movie is inspirational and I enjoyed it.
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Brothers by Jim Sheridan (Sun Dec 6, 2009)
Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire, Sam Shepard
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Brothers is a story about 2 sons of a war veteran, one an army officer in Afghanistan and the other an ex-convict. It explores the influence of war on the family members. When the family is notified that the officer has been killed, the tragedy causes the ex-con to help his sister-in-law and nieces cope with their loss. When the officer is found alive, after being captured and tortured, his changed behavior causes deep stress in the family. The story is very powerful, but some of the actors did not deliver the performances to make it most effective.
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Changeling by Clint Eastwood (Sat Dec 5, 2009)
Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kelly
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Changling is set in 1928 Los Angeles and concurrently tells three true stories whose overlap increases as the film progresses. A single mother's son is kidnapped. An aggressive and corrupt police force dominates the city. And a serial killer secretly does his work. Performances are generally good and I was drawn into the unsettling story. The film builds tension to an almost unbearable level as it moves forward. There is some release during the 2nd half, but not enough. I found the film very upsetting, but riveting at the same time.
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The Blind Side by John Lee Hancock (Sat Nov 28, 2009)
Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Jae Head
James Berardinelli (3.0-stars)
Variety
Film Trailer
The Blind Side tells the true story of how a wealthy white woman from Tennessee follows her Christian instincts, takes in a homeless black boy, and facilitates the fulfillment of his great potential as a football player -- and as a student, as well. Sandra Bullock gives an academy award-worthy performance in the lead role. In spite of its almost all-positive fairy-tale nature, the inspirational, heart-warming and humorous story drew me in and I thoroughly enjoyed the film.
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Precious by Lee Daniels (Sat Nov 14, 2009)
Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Lenny Kravitz
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Precious tells the story of a 16-year old obese and illiterate black girl who lives with her abusive mother in Harlem. Her life is hell, since her every action is tightly controlled by her domineering mother and she is pregnant with a second child by her father. Many of the scenes are very raw and extremely disturbing. With a teacher's help, she slowly emerges from her passive state and begins to take control of her life. The acting is excellent, but I wasn't drawn into the story. I appreciated the fine quality of the film-making, but didn't enjoy it very much.
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A Serious Man by Joel & Ethan Coen (Sat Oct 31, 2009)
Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, Sari Lennick
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
A Serious Man is a Coen brothers dark comedy about the many trials and tribulations that befall an earnest nebbish physics professor, as he struggles to be a mensch and do the right thing. All the while, he maintains his faith that God is delivering meaning to his life, if only he could find it. The movie's humor is clever and the acting is quite good. The story is a bit more abstract and quirky than I am usuallly comfortable with, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
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Bright Star by Jane Campion (Fri Sept 25, 2009)
Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Schneider
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Bright Star is a lovingly filmed period piece set in 1820 England about romantic poet John Keats and his next-door neighbor love Fanny Brawne. The story, the costumes, the beautiful scenary, and the music accurately portray life in that time and the romance that slowly grows to great chaste intensity. And the word slow describes perfectly the lives of this aspiring dreamer poet and intelligent single woman. Once I adjusted to the slow pace, I enjoyed the acting, the story, the costumes, and the beautiful filming.
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Tetro by Francis Ford Coppola (Sat Sept 12, 2009)
Vincent Gallo, Alden Ehrenreich, Maribel Verdu
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
New York Times
Film Trailer
Tetro is an intimate and very personal film written, directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola. It tells the story of a highly talented -- but quite dysfunctional -- family and how they deal with their strained relationships. The oldest son of a domineering father has run away and his younger brother visits him unexpectedly to reestablish the relationship. The filming and acting are excellent and I was drawn into the dramatic story -- which was a bit long and at times too avant garde. All in all, it was a very unusual film that I enjoyed quite a bit.
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My One and Only by Richard Loncraine (Sat Sept 5, 2009)
Renee Zellweger, Logan Lerman, Mark Rendall, Kevin Bacon
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
New York Times
Film Trailer
My One and Only is a quirky good-natured road movie comedy set in the 1950s. It tells the story of a southern-belle stereotype who takes her 2 sons cross country in search of a new husband, after catching her philandering husband in-the-act one too many times. The humor is hit and miss, but the numerous characters are interesting and likeable. After a slow start, I began to engage with the story and care about the characters. I enjoyed the film.
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Taking Woodstock by Ang Lee (Fri Aug 28, 2009)
Demetri Martin, Imelda Staunton, Eugene Levy, Liev Schreiber
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Taking Woodstock is an unusual film about the production of the 1969 music festival in Bethel NY. It focuses on the people that were involved and the feelings that were generated. There is no concert music in the film. With humor and sensitivity, Director Ang Lee goes to great lengths in scene after scene to convey the pervasive atmosphere of peace, love, and drugs -- and the transformative effect that they have on those that were there. The story is thin and the acting is just OK, but I was drawn into the experience and enjoyed the film.
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Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino (Sun Aug 23, 2009)
Bradd Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth
James Berardinelli (4-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Inglourious Basterds is a film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, and set in Nazi-occupied World War II France. The excellent script -- written in 5-chapters -- tells about a Jew-hunting Nazi soldier and a group of Nazi-hunting Jewish American soldiers. The story moves forward at a compelling pace, with alternating sequences of Tarantino's trademark tension, violence and humor. Each are appropriate for his very unconventional and engrossing script. The movie's story, acting and filming are excellent and I enjoyed it very much.
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The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (Sat Aug 15, 2009)
By Neal Brennan with Jeremy Piven, Ving Rhames, James Brolin
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
New York Times
Film Trailer
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard is a high-energy, good-natured, rude and offensive comedy. The film tells the story of a troubled car dealership that hires a team of unorthodox and hard driving professionals to help them sell cars. Most of the characters have some depth and the script delivers a non-stop series of mostly clever laugh lines. The characters are more sensitive and appealing than I expected -- and I enjoyed much of the film.
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The Hurt Locker by Kathryn Bigelow (Sat Aug 8, 2009)
Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
The Hurt Locker is a powerful and intense film that follows the activities of a 3-man team of bomb technicians as they defuse improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq -- while continuously being threatened with sniper fire. The film communicates the extremely tense atmosphere in 2004 Iraq in a very realistic way. Since the characters are appealing and I cared about them, my stomach was in a knot for most of the movie. I found the film quite compelling and I enjoyed it very much.
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500 Days of Summer by Marc Webb (Sat Aug 1, 2009)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
500 Days of Summer is a romantic comedy set in today's Los Angeles. It tells the story of 500 days in the relationship of a young man who falls in love with the woman he knows is "the one." Unfortunately for him, the woman does not feel the same way. She wavers between being friends and being friends with privileges. He sees none of this reality. I found the performances to be just OK and the story to be only mildly funny. Mostly, I didn't find the characters appealing and I was bored by the film.
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Cheri by Stephen Frears (Sun July 26, 2009)
Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend, Kathy Bates
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Cheri is a period piece film set in Paris in the early 1900s. It tells the story of a high-society courtesan who has retired to an opulent and idle life and takes as her lover the much younger son of her courtesan friend. The film explores the unexpected ways that their relationship develops. The acting is excellent and the filming is lavish, but it was hard for me to engage with the characters and their circumstances. This made me feel like a distant observer of their intense relationship and curtailed my enjoyment of the film.
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The Hangover by Todd Phillips (Sat July 25, 2009)
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
The Hangover is a comedy that tells the story of 3 men and their engaged friend who go to Las Vegas to celebrate the end of his bachelorhood. They wake up the next morning to find many things have changed and they have no memory of what happened. The film plots their journey to find the missing groom-to-be and to discover what transpired the night before. The movie got good reviews and the acting is good, but the humor is so sophomoric that I didn't enjoy it.
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Yoo-Hoo, Mrs Goldberg (Sat July 18,, 2009)
By Aviva Kempner with Gertrude Berg, Ed Asner, Norman Lear
New York Times
Box Office (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Yoo-Hoo, Mrs Goldberg is a lovingly filmed documentary about the life and times of Gertrude Berg, the writer, actor and producer of the pioneering radio and TV comedy show The Goldbergs. Between 1929 and 1955, Berg wrote 12,000 scripts that chronicled the Jewish immigrant experience in a way that appealed to all Americans. Using interviews and original film, the documentary includes depression-era radio, early TV, and McCarthyism that claimed her TV husband. It was a bit slow at times, but generally an enjoyable sentimental experience.
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Seraphine by Martin Provost (Sat July 11,, 2009)
Yolande Moreau and Ulrich Tukur
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
New York Times
Film Trailer
Seraphine is a French film with English subtitles that is both unusual and thought provoking. It tells the true story of a poor housecleaner living in the early 20th century who works very hard during the day to feed herself and paints at night for pleasure. Her great talent is eventually discovered by an art dealer who sponsors her and sells her paintings. In an engrossing way, the movie explores themes of class structure, religious devotion, god-given talent, fate, and mental illness. I enjoyed watching the film and thinking about the subject it explores.
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Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight (Thurs July 9,, 2009)
By Wendy Keys with Milton Glaser
New York Times
FilmCritic.com (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight was very interesting and quite enjoyable. The documentary delivers an in-depth portrait of the man and his iconic work as a pervasive New York City graphic designer. Glaser is very articulate in numerous interviews and he talks extensively about his philosophy of art as public service and his endless learning and teaching. There are countless examples of his wonderful work, including his founding of New York Magazine, his I Love NY logo, and graphic designs for every conceivable application.
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Public Enemies by Michael Mann (Thurs July 2,, 2009)
Johnny Depp and Christian Bale
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Public Enemies got excellent reviews and the performances were quite good, but it was a disappointment for me. I didn't care about any of the characters and the thin story didn't engage me. John Dillinger robs banks and his FBI agent nemesis tracks him down. The story is told in a business-like unemotional manner with little drama. There are lots of shootouts, good period detail, and some attempts at character development, but not enough to make me enjoy the film very much.
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Terminator Salvation by McG (Sat June 13, 2009)
Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (2-stars)
Film Trailer
Terminator Salvation is the fourth in a series of action adventure films set in the future, after sentient machines have taken over the earth and killed most of its inhabitants. The story is about the struggle of the few remaining resistance fighters against the terminator robots that have been built to destroy them. It took me a while to follow the story line, but once I did I enjoyed the fast-paced man-machine battles and the dramatic special effects. I found the action exciting and the characters appealing -- including a robot with human heart and brain.
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Up by Pete Docter (Sat May 30, 2009)
Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai, Christopher Plummer
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Up is a good-natured fantasy-adventure animated film about an old man and his unlikely Explorer Scout young companion. It begins with a bitter-sweet flashback of the life the old man shared with his soulmate. When she dies, he decides to fulfill their dream of exploration and travel adventure. The young boy inadvertently joins him in his travels by balloon and they experience many adventures -- some positive and some very scary -- as their relationship grows. I found the characters appealing and I enjoyed the film.
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Summer Hours by Olivier Assayas (Sat May 23, 2009)
Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jeremie Renier
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Summer Hours is a French film with English subtitles that explores the meaning and importance of possessions and memories in our lives. A family matriarch dies and the movie chronicles the experiences of her children while settling her valuable estate. It illustrates how it is almost impossible to pass along feelings about material things to the next generation -- and how the status quo cannot be preserved. I found the film a bit slow, but interesting and thought provocative nonetheless.
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Star Trek by J.J. Abrams (Sat May 16, 2009)
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Star Trek is a prequel to the action adventure science fiction TV series and movies of the same name. It has all the expected ingredients: great special effects, spectacular battles, time travel, molecular transport, and a complicated story. Not being an experienced Trekkie, it took me a while to get into the story, learn about the characters, and suspend my disbelief. But, by mid-film the engaging characters and the non-stop action hooked me -- and I found it quite entertaining.
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State of Play by Kevin Macdonald (Sat May 2, 2009)
Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
State of Play is a well made murder-mystery-thriller, told in the context of an investigative reporting assignment. The complex plot unfolds for the viewer as the print and blog journalists uncover facts for their big story. Russel Crowe is excellent as the ace reporter and the rest of the cast is generally good. The story involves a big city newspaper, politicians, a mercenary corporation, the police, and numerous personal relationships. It held my interest from start to finish and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
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The Soloist by Joe Wright (Sat Apr 25, 2009)
Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
The Soloist delivers uneven storytelling with excellent performances by Foxx and Downey. It tells about an unlikely relationship that develops between a homeless and mentally ill music prodigy and a newspaper reporter who writes about him. The bonding between the musician and the reporter is told in a powerful way. And the life of homeless people in Los Angeles is also strongly depicted. But mixing both together, and adding muliple flashbacks, disrupts the flow of the story. I enjoyed many scenes, but didn't engage with the story in an emotional way.
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Sugar by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (Sat Apr 18, 2009)
Algenis Perez Soto
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
New York Times
Film Trailer
Sugar is a wonderful coming-of-age baseball and immigrant movie. It tells the story of a talented 20-year old Dominican baseball player who yearns to escape his poor country to the glamour and financial payoff of U.S. baseball. In an affectionate and realistic way, the film portrays the experiences and trials of a baseball recruit and his immigrant journey in the U.S. It is rich in Dominican culture, baseball rituals, and immigrant uncertainty. I enjoyed Sugar very much.
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Adventureland by Greg Mottola (Sat Apr 11, 2009)
Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Adventureland didn't quite live up to its very good reviews. The film tells the story of a college graduate who is forced by economic necessity to work for the summer at an amusement park. He is portrayed as so smart, sensitive, and confident that I had trouble believing he is so inexperienced with women. And I wished there was more emotion amid the reserved and witty dialog. On the positive side, there were many charming scenes and plenty of good natured humor.
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Lymelife by Derick Martini (Fri Apr 10, 2009)
Rory Culkin, Alec Baldwin, Timothy Hutton, Jill Hennessy
Variety
New York Times
Film Trailer
Lymelife is very well done. The acting in this autobiographical story of coming of age on Long Island is particularly good. In parallel with the awkward and painful experiences of the adolescent boy, we see the crumbling marriages of his parents and those of the girl next-door that he has a crush on. The intense emotional scenes did not prevent me from being drawn into the story and caring about the characters. I enjoyed the film, despite my own discomfort.
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Synecdoche by Charlie Kaufman (Sun Mar 22, 2009)
Philip Seymour Hoffman
James Berardinelli (2-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Synecdoche is so abstract and dream-like that I found it very difficult to follow. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives an excellent performance as a troubled theatre director who wins a genius award and then spends decades creating a play about his life. For much of the film, I couldn't tell what was real and what was part of the play. I felt like I was looking at an abstract painting and struggling to find meaning. In the end, there was no meaning for me and little enjoyment.
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Duplicity by Tony Gilroy (Sat Mar 21, 2009)
Julia Roberts and Clive Owen
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Duplicity makes a valiant attempt to be a corporate spy-thriller-romance-spoof, but doesn't quite pull it off. The acting is good and the script has all the requisite twists and turns. As you would expect, it is impossible to tell what is the truth and who can be trusted. Owen is convincing as a duplicitous spy, but Roberts less so. The nonlinear plot and the limited chemistry between the leads prevented me from being drawn into the story. And this remote feeling restricted my enjoyment.
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Two Lovers by James Gray (Sat Mar 14, 2009)
Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Two Lovers is a very well made film. The acting by all the characters is superb and the story is very compelling. An emotionally troubled young man becomes involved with two women at the same time. His heart chooses a woman equally as troubled as himself, who likes him as a friend. His head -- and his loving parents -- choose a caring well-adjusted woman that loves him. I was drawn into the story and cared about all the characters. This caused me to suffer along with the young man, as his passionate feelings are not reciprocated.
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Gomorrah by Matteo Garrone (Sat Mar 7, 2009)
Toni Servillo and Gianfelice Imparato
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Reel Review (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Gomorrah is a very unpleasant film. It got excellent reviews, but it was too grim and upsetting for me. Set in Naples, Italy, the film depicts
-- in a docu-drama-reality style -- what life is like in a city completely controlled by warring criminal gangs. Everyone lives in mortal fear for their lives -- with pervasive hopelessness and a numbness to the incessant corruption and violence. A permanent sense of foreboding increasingly weighs upon the viewer. It was not a fun picture to watch.
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The Class by Laurent Cantet (Fri Feb 27, 2009)
Francois Begaudeau
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
I didn't enjoy The Class at all. It got excellent reviews, but it was too slow moving and frustrating for me. Set in a lower class, multi-ethnic middle school in Paris, this docu-drama-reality film shows the challenges and frustrations endured by the teacher and his students during their year of studying French together. The performances are generally good and I appreciated the quality of the filming, but I didn't care about the story or the characters.
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Coraline by Henry Selick (Sat Feb 14, 2009)
Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher (voices)
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3-stars)
Film Trailer
Coraline is an interesting and disturbing film, with elements of a fairy tale and a nightmare -- each enhanced by excellent 3-D animation. The story picks up steam from a slow start as young Coraline dreams of visits to a parallel world where all her wishes are granted. Soon enough, the action gets intense as her dream world turns nightmarish. Coraline transisitions from a bratty young girl into a courageous and caring one, as she deals with her terrifying plight. I was surprised to find that I became absorbed in the story and enjoyed it.
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Revolutionary Road by Sam Mendes (Sat Feb 7, 2009)
Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
I didn't enjoy Revolutionary Road very much. Even though Kate Winslet gives a wonderful performance and Leonardo DiCaprio is quite good, I found the film at various points depressing, boring, and shallow. The problem for me is the script didn't let me get to know the characters much, before introducing the incompatibilities and problems that beset the suburban married couple. I did not care enough about the characters to feel their pain as their marriage deteriorates.
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Defiance by Edward Zwick (Sat Jan 24, 2009)
Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
Defiance is a very powerful and well made film. It tells the inspirational story of the Bielski brothers of Belarus, who help 1200 Jews fight back and escape the Nazis and -- against all odds -- survive for 3-years in the forest with little food or shelter. The performances and the story show vividly how they deal with their fear, anger and hopelessness under the Nazi occupation, without going overboard with violence and morbidity. The Bielski's courage and leadership drive the story.
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The Wrestler by Darren Aronofsky (Sun Jan 18, 2009)
Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
I didn't enjoy The Wrestler at all. It was too sad, upsetting and tragic for me. The reviews are uniformly excellent, but I didn't care about the characters and I wasn't drawn into the story. Mickey Rourke gives an exceptional performance as a professional wrestler whose best days are behind him -- and who has nothing in his life except his wrestling and his past fame. The film's graphic scenes of wrestling violence are very upsetting.
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Frost/Nixon by Ron Howard (Sun Jan 4, 2009)
Frank Langella and Michael Sheen
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
I didn't enjoy Frost/Nixon as much as I had expected. The reviews are uniformly excellent, but I didn't like nor identify with either of the lead characters -- and the story didn't draw me in. I do acknowledge that Frank Langella gives a tour-de-force performance as Richard Nixon. And I was moved by the 2 very powerful scenes near the end.
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The Reader by Stephen Daldry (Tues Dec 30, 2008)
Kate Winslett and Ralph Fiennes
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
I didn't enjoy The Reader as much as I had hoped. Kate Winslet's performance is excellent, but the story is confusing and nonlinear. I couldn't understand the motivation of the Nazi holocaust-era lead characters and I wasn't able to identify with any of it.
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Doubt by John Patrick Shanley (Sat Dec 27, 2008)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep
James Berardinelli (4-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
I enjoyed Doubt very much. It's a powerful superbly acted drama, set in a church school in the Bronx. The story involves an unproven suspicion of misconduct by the nun school principal about the priest of the parish. There is a power struggle between the two and many issues are addressed, including the effects of rumors and suspicion, certainty without evidence, right and wrong, black and white adherence to rules in the face of gray area facts, compassion, and forgiveness. Complex moral issues are left unresolved for the audience to think about.
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Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fri Dec 26, 2008)
By David Fincher with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (2.5-stars)
Film Trailer
I enjoyed Benjamin Button quite a lot. The performances are good, not great. But, the story is excellent. I accepted the fairy tale premise of living a life in reverse time and found myself responding to the events on the screen that depict the full scope of two lives. The film reinforced for me how our lives are influenced by random events; how relationships are so important to us; and how opportunities are fleeting and can be lost in a moment. I found the film to be life affirming, romantic and bitter sweet.
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Gran Torino by Clint Eastwood (Sun Dec 21, 2008)
Clint Eastwood
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
I enjoyed Gran Torino very much. Clint Eastwood gives an excellent performance reminiscent of his "Dirty Harry" fims. The story is simple and light, but delivers a strong message about how people live their lives based upon their values and their experiences.
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Milk by Gus Van Sant (Sat Dec 13, 2008)
Sean Penn
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Rolling Stone (4-stars)
Film Trailer
I enjoyed Milk very much. Sean Penn gives an Academy Award-worthy performance. The story is quite compelling as it follows his personal life and his gay rights activism -- until his untimely assassination by a fellow San Francisco Supervisor. Many of the scenes show his passion for politics -- and for men -- in a vivid way.
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Slumdog Millionaire by Danny Boyle (Fri Dec 5, 2008)
Dev Patel and Freida Pinto
James Berardinelli (3.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (4-stars)
Film Trailer
Slumdog Millionaire was excellent. It's a very distinctive film that chronicles in flashbacks the life of a very poor boy in Mumbai -- and how, because of his life experiences, he was able to provide the unlikely answers to very difficult questions, as he progresses toward winning 10 million rupees on an Indian TV program.
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I've Loved You So Long (Sat Nov 29, 2008 )
By Philippe Claudel with Kristen Scott Thomas
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
I've Loved You So Long was excellent. Kristen Scott Thomas gives an Academy Award-worthy performance as a woman who gets out of prison after 15-years and is reunited with her sister. The film explores the difficulty of her adjustment to normal life -- complicated by the fact that her crime is quite horrendous and her sister has never been given any explanation of what happened. The film is upsetting, but ultimately life affirming.
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A Christmas Tale by Arnaud Desplechin (Sat Nov 22, 2008)
Catherine Deneuve and Jean-Paul Roussillon
James Berardinelli (3-stars)
Roger Ebert (3.5-stars)
Film Trailer
I enjoyed A Christmas Tale very much. The acting is generally good, but not great. The film uses a Christmas reunion setting to explore, in a very revealing way, the relationships among the members of a large extended family -- many of them dysfunctional. I found the film good natured and generally heartwarming. The film's message is that the bonds of family are usually quite strong, in spite of the many difficulties that often exist among family members.
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Quantum of Solace by Marc Forster (Sat Nov 15, 2008)
Daniel Craig
James Berardinelli (2.5-stars)
Roger Ebert (2-stars)
Film Trailer
I didn't enjoy Quantum of Solace at all. After seeing the wonderful performance by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, I was eagerly anticipating Quantum of Solace. What a disappointment! The film had no subtlety, no clever dialog, no fancy gadgets -- only non-stop fights and chases.
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Table of Contents
top

|  A  |  D  |  I  |  M  |  Q  |  T  |

12 Years a Slave toc
500 Days of Summer
The Adjustment Bureau
Adventureland
The American
American Hustle
Another Year
Arbitrage
The Artist
The Attack
Avatar
The Avengers
Barbara
Barney's Version
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Benjamin Button
Black Swan
The Blind Side
The Book of Eli
The Bourne Legacy
Bridesmaids
Bright Star
Broken Embraces
Brothers
The Butler
Calvary
Captain America
The Cavedigger
Certified Copy
Changeling
Chef
Cheri
A Christmans Tale
City Island
The Class
Cloud Atlas
The Company Men
The Company You Keep
Contagion
Coraline
Cowboys & Aliens
Crazy Heart
Crazy Stupid Love
Cyrus
Dallas Buyers Club toc
A Dangerous Method The Dark Knight Rises
The Debt
The Deep Blue Sea
The Descendants
Defiance
Django Unchained
Don Jon
The Double Hour
Doubt
Drive
Duplicity
The East
Edge of Tomorrow
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
End of Watch
Facing Fear
Fading Gigolo
Fitzgerald Family Christmas
The Fighter
Fill the Void
Finding Vivian Maier
Flight
Footnote
Frances Ha
Frost/Nixon
Get Low
The Ghost Writer
Ginger & Rosa
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2
Gloria
Gomorrah
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
Gran Torino
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hangover
Hanna
Hannah Arendt
Haywire
Headhunters
The Help
Her
Hereafter
Hugo
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Hurt Locker
I Am Love toc
Ida
The Ides of March
In Time
Inception
Inglourious Basterds
Inside Job
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Intouchables
Invictus
The Invisible Woman
It's Complicated
I've Loved You So Long
J. Edgar
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Julie & Julia
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Lady in Number 6
The Last Station
Les Miserables
Limelife
Lincoln
The Lincoln Lawyer
Looper
Love and Other Drugs
The Lunchbox
Man of Steel
Margin Call toc
Midnight in Paris
Milk
Milton Glaser
Mission Impossible
Moneyball
Moonrise Kingdom
Morning Glory
Mother
Mud
My One and Only
Never Let Me Go
Nine
Obvious Child
Oceans
Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts
Oscar Nominated Live Shorts
The Other Guys
Oz the Great and Powerful
The Past
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding
Perks of Being a Wallflower
Philomena
Please Give
Potiche
Precious
Premium Rush
Prisoners
A Prophet
Public Enemies
Quantum of Solace toc
Rabbit Hole
The Reader
RED
Renoir
Revolutionary Road
To Rome with Love
Ruby Sparks
Rush
Salt
Sarah's Key
Secretariat
A Separation
Seraphine
A Serious Man
Shame
Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes 2
Sholem Aleichem
Silver Linings Playbook
Skyfall
Slumdog Millionaire
Snowpiercer
The Social Network
Solitary Man
The Soloist
Source Code
The Spectacular Now
Star Trek
Star Trek into Darkness
State of Play
Sugar
Summer Hours
Super 8
Synecdoche
Take Shelter toc
Taking Woodstock
Tangled
Terminator Salvation
Tetro
This is the End
Thor
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Tourist
The Town
The Tree of Life
True Grit
Twenty Feet from Stardom
Two Lovers
Uncle Boonmee Who Can . .
Unstoppable
Up
Up in the Air
War Horse
Warrior
Whatever Works
When Comedy Went to School
Win Win
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolverine
The Wrestler
X-Men: First Class
Yoo-Hoo, Mrs Goldberg
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