David Riedel

Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky takes a violent approach to tell the epic story of Noah, starring Russell Crowe.

Russell Crowe’s woeful heroism can’t save Noah

Forget all of the hype surrounding Noah. What really matters is whether the movie is any good. It isn’t. To paraphrase Edward Burns, it is dull, dreary, dry and a bore. Noah—and by implication its director and co-screenwriter Darren Aronofsky—can’t decide whether it’s a big head trip (an Aronofsky specialty) or an action picture or […]

Divergent, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo Jones, tries to capture the young dystopian movie audience, but never quite catches fire.

Film review: Society is divided in Divergent’s thin premise

It’s the distant future. The citizens of what was once Chicago live in a dystopian society—is there any other kind of post-apocalypse?—that is divided into five factions. Members of Erudite are intelligent. Amity are peaceful farmers. Candor speaks truthfully and handles the law. Abnegation is selfless and runs the government. And then there’s Dauntless, the […]

Fans revive the canceled “Veronica Mars” series through a crowdfunded campaign to give the teen sleuth new life on the big screen.

The Veronica Mars movie plots a new direction

During the closing credits in Veronica Mars, there’s a text crawl that reads: “This movie would never have been possible without the endless faith and support of our fans around the world, and especially the 91,585 backers who pledged on Kickstarter to bring Veronica back to life. Thank you for never giving up, and for […]

The Gods must be bloodthirsty in 300: Rise of an Empire, the sequel to the fantasy action thriller 300.

Film review: The 300 sequel is an epic blood bath

Is there any way to appropriately review 300: Rise of an Empire? This is a movie that has—whether it knows it or not—no ideology or purpose or ambition to be anything but a blood-and-guts spectacle on a massive scale. In fact, the blood and guts are so prevalent and unsparing they grow monotonous. Sure, there are […]

Jennifer Lawrence, Channing Tatum, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin Spacey, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong'o, Peter Nyong'o, and Angelina Jolie. Courtesy Instagram.

A grump’s review of the 2014 Oscars

There’s a line in the song “So Lonely” by The Police that seems relevant when discussing the Academy Awards: “No surprise, no mystery.” Was anyone surprised that Chiwetel Ejiofor, who gave the best performance in the most important movie of 2013 (that’s 12 Years a Slave), lost out to Matthew McConaughey, who gave a nearly-as-good […]

Kevin Costner’s days are numbered in 3 Days to Kill, Luc Besson’s latest older-white-guy-as-killing-machine screenplay.

Film review: 3 Days to Kill may be three too many

By now we’re all familiar with Luc Besson’s oeuvre, right? You may remember him as the writer responsible for resurrecting Liam Neeson’s career with Taken, a movie in which young women can do nothing for themselves while older men beat the shit out of other men who would do the women harm. With Taken, Besson sort […]

Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde star in a remake of Endless Love. The modern update does little to improve the silly plot.

Film review: Endless Love is predictable and audience-friendly

We’ve reached a point in the movie business when we’re so devoid of new and good ideas we’re recycling old and bad ideas. Such is the case with Endless Love, a remake of a 1981 Brooke Shields-starring soapfest that is remembered for making a decent amount of money, for an early appearance by Tom Cruise, […]

George Clooney (left) stars in and directs The Monuments Men, in which aging military recruits go on a mission to rescue cultural artifacts from the Nazis.

Film review: The Monuments Men is slow to tell a compelling story

The poster for George Clooney’s The Monuments Men has that wow factor. Not the poster itself—a bunch of guys standing next to each other smirking or stony-faced is kind of dull. But look at the names on the left. Clooney. Matt Damon. Bill Murray. John Goodman. Jean Dujardin. Bob Balaban. Hugh Bonneville. Cate Blanchett. Now, […]

It’s a quest to find the Piece of Resistance when creative play comes to life on the big screen in The Lego Movie.

Film review: Everything is awesome in The Lego Movie

It’s too early in the year to be making predictions about next year’s Academy Award nominations for Best Animated Feature, but let’s go ahead and put The Lego Movie at the top of the list. In a time of lackluster animated films (see—or don’t: The Nut Job) it’s refreshing to watch animation that works on […]

Ride Along stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube in a buddy cop movie that searches for a comedy angle.

Film review: Ride Along is heavy on plot and light on laughs

The buddy cop movie is a familiar trope with many variations. You could have a cop and a crook (48 Hrs.); two cops and a fish-out-of-water cop (Beverly Hills Cop); a straight-and-narrow cop and a by-the-book cop (Lethal Weapon); the villain-is-the-sidekick-in-spirit gag (Die Hard); and the send-up/homage flick (Hot Fuzz). What do the first four […]

Mark Wahlberg (second from left) stars as a Navy SEAL who becomes the only survivor of a precarious mission in Afghanistan.

Film review: Lone Survivor

Mark Wahlberg is a bad actor. There are movies when he’s passable (Date Night; Ted), but most of the time he’s inexplicably praised (his wretchedly unbelievable performance in The Departed) or he makes bad movies worse (The Happening; Broken City; The Lovely Bones; I Heart Huckabees). It’s particularly distressing that he’s no better than usual […]

Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix co-star in Her, a movie about the plausibility of a user falling in love with his operating system.

Film review: Her

It’s the sort of utopian, not-too-distant future. Men wear high-waisted pants and mustaches without irony. Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his operating system. It sounds crazy. And creepy. Though how far are we from that reality? We’re already in love with our gadgets. Why shouldn’t it be plausible that someone invents an operating system […]

Ben Stiller directs, stars in, and dilutes the most recent adaptation of James Thurber’s short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Film review: Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty is a meandering mess

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is terrible. Just terrible. It’s wrongheaded, silly, and worse, confused. The story—about Walter (Ben Stiller), who works as a negative asset manager at Life magazine—is pretty straightforward. Walter doesn’t have much of a life, so he fantasizes. But then something happens to a 35mm film negative that’s going to […]

Hollywood’s leading funny men return to take on the 24-hour news cycle and the ’80s in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Film review: Anchorman 2

Good news. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is not as bad as the following comedy sequels: Caddyshack II. Analyze That. Teen Wolf Too. Dumb and Dumberer. Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise. Fletch Lives. The Hangover Part II. In fact, Anchorman 2 is not bad. The sheer volume of jokes guarantees some will […]

Director David O. Russell reunites with Bradley Cooper (left) and Christian Bale for the ’70s con artist flick, American Hustle.

Film review: Despite an A-list cast, American Hustle stumbles

American Hustle is, in some circles, being touted as a masterpiece. It’s easy to see why. Good cast (Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner). Respected director (David O. Russell, who had a major hit with Cooper and Lawrence and Silver Linings Playbook). And crime in the 1970s: Wide ties! Bad hair! Good music! […]

From left, Michael Fassbender as Epps, Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in "12 Years a Slave." Photo by Francois Duhamel.

The best movies of 2013! Yowza!

Each year when I put together a list of the best movies—whether for work or for fun—it usually doesn’t take much effort. There are, generally, five or six movies that stand out above the rest, whether they’re huge Hollywood blockbusters or tiny indie gems. This year the story is a little different. When going back […]

Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) directs Christian Bale (above) as he treads through economic and familial struggles in Out of the Furnace.

Film review: A hard luck story goes bust in Out of the Furnace

Out of the Furnace is so dark, gritty, and earnest, it’s a wonder it was made in a film world where irony rules. The movie’s inhabitants—mostly blue collar factory workers, cops and their families in dying Braddock, Pennsylvania—take their lives seriously, and so does their director and co-writer Scott Cooper. Unfortunately, Out of the Furnace […]

Film reviews: The rundown on holiday films worth your dough

Film reviews: The rundown on holiday films worth your dough

It’s December, and that means the awards-fodder movies are out. And guess what. Some of them are good! Here’s a list of five movies that range from near-great to head-scratching (but worth seeing) to one guilty pleasure. The Book Thief If Life is Beautiful is absolutely the wrong way to make a non-military World War […]

Jennifer Lawrence returns to the arena for another go at the Hunger Games in the nail biting sequel Catching Fire. Image: Lionsgate

Film review: The Hunger Games Catching Fire

A quick rack of the brain and I come to this conclusion: I cannot remember a major, big budget action film that is at once so emotionally draining, deeply dramatic, and incredibly bleak. Thought the death of Rue was difficult in The Hunger Games? Just wait to see what happens when Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta […]

Chris Helmsworth stars as a savior without substance in Thor: The Dark World, the latest installment of a Marvel Comics character on the silver screen.

Film review: Thor: The Dark World lacks the superhero glow

Mere mortals, just who is Thor? Norse god? Superhero created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby? Bastard stepchild of the Marvel Avengers series? At this point, it’s not clear that anyone knows, least of all the filmmakers behind Thor: The Dark World. Is Thor a funny guy? Fear not, he’ll be beating someone […]

Robert Redford gives a triumphant performance as a man adrift on the ocean, fighting for survival (and an Oscar) in All is Lost.

Film review: Robert Redford reclaims his acting cred on the open sea

Robert Redford has long been one of our greatest movie stars. He’s never been one of our greatest actors. For every compelling performance he gives—Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969); All the President’s Men (1976)—he gives several bordering on narcolepsy. Just look at him in The Company You Keep (2013); this is a man […]