David Riedel

Chadwick Boseman (center) plays Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, in the hero biopic 42.

Film review: 42

Thankfully, 42 isn’t sanctimonious and Jackie isn’t sage-like. From the movie’s perspective, he’s just a boring guy who wants to play baseball. Jackie also knows that he has to be the coolest head on the field; Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) tells him as much.

The Evil Dead—modern horror from the ’80s—gets a bloody update, a backstory, and retains a sense of humor.

Film Review: Evil Dead

Gory resurrection If you see only one bodily dismemberment movie this year, see Evil Dead. If you see only one demon resurrection movie this year, see Evil Dead. Whew! Those opening sentences are a stretch, kind of like Evil Dead itself. It’s two-thirds of a great horror movie. Even though it loses steam during the […]

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in "Moneyball," a baseball movie without much baseball. Photo courtesy Sony Pictures.

Play ball! (On screen, that is!)

It’s spring, and you know what that means: A young man’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of love. Tennyson doesn’t appear to have thought of the old men or women at all, so let’s assume they’re all thinking about baseball, or as I call it at home, love. Normally I wouldn’t put together a post […]

Jake Abel and Saoirse Ronan choose love over alien invasion in the big screen version of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host. Image: Open Road Films

Film review: The Host

Forget that this story recalls not only Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but also Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters and John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There?—better known to most people as Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World or John Carpenter’s The Thing. Because, really, this story is about liking boys. And Jesus, sort of.

Steve Carell turns a few magic tricks as an aging Vegas performer in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Image: Warner Bros.

Film review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Magically funny: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone exceeds low expectations The advertisements for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone make it seem like it will be the least funny, most egregious, and patience-trying movie of Steve Carell’s career. A movie comedy about Las Vegas performers and street magicians? News flash: The David Blaine jokes stopped being funny the moment […]

James Franco stars as the savior of a pre-Dorothy, Wicked Witch-ruled land in Oz the Great and Powerful.

Film review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Behind the curtain: Oz the Great and Powerful is a playful take on the wizard’s rise In this day and age, when everything in life—movies, television, sporting events, you name it—seems rooted in money, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz feels like, perhaps, the most cynical of moneymaking schemes. Is there a more surefire […]

Jack played by Nicholas Hoult seek adventure in the 3D fantasy feature Jack and the Giant Killer. Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Film review: Jack the Giant Slayer

There’s a story about “Jack and the Beanstalk” in which Jack trades a cow for some magic beans. He gets the beans wet, they grow into a beanstalk that reaches into the sky, and Jack and a rabbit battle a giant with a speech impediment who wants to grind their bones to make bread.

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva give moving performances in the critically-praised Amour.

Film Review: Amour

A loving married couple, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges, (Jean-Louis Trintignant), both retired music teachers in their 80s, find their marriage taking a markedly different turn when Anne suffers a stroke. At first, Anne is able to retain something of her former self. She’s confined to a wheelchair, but has control of one side of her body.

Ben Affleck and Bryan Cranston in "Argo," which somehow won Best Picture at the 2013 Academy Awards instead of "Amour," which got the consolation "Best Foreign Film" prize. Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

Worst. Oscars. Ever.

Each year we think the Oscars can’t possibly be worse than the year before. And then each year, it’s so much worse than the year before (except last year; nothing will ever out-worse Billy Crystal and his non-eyebrows). Straight up: I will pay for the next Academy Awards ceremony if they bring back Franco and […]

Nicholas Hoult plays a zombie in conflict with his urge to binge on brains and the stirring in his dead heart.

Film Review: Warm Bodies

What Warm Bodies has that most other zombie flicks don’t is the zombie’s story. Our narrator, R (Nicholas Hoult), is a zombie. He doesn’t know why he’s a zombie. He just knows he is. He also knows he’s different from most other zombies. He collects things, like vinyl records. He tries to make friends, and has one in M (Rob Corddry).

Rodriguez from "Searching for Sugar Man," photo by Hal Wilson, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Film review: Music documentaries to get lost in

Non-sequitur alert: Now that the wretched Super Bowl is over, let’s discuss music documentaries. There are two reasons I’m thinking about music documentaries. First, 2012 was a great year for them. Searching for Sugar Man—which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature—gets my vote for the best nonfiction narrative film of last […]

Jeremy Renner finds himself in a fairy tale nightmare and loaded for bear on a hunt for witches and dignity.

Film review: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Is this movie a comedy? Horror? A—gasp!—drama? Why does Jeremy Renner play Hansel for laughs? Why does Gemma Arterton play Gretel straight, but occasionally for laughs? Why is Famke Janssen so, so, so serious? For that matter, why is she covered in hideous make-up for the most of the movie when she has such an exquisite face?

Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg star in the dog eat dog corruption thriller Broken City.

Film review: Broken City

Here’s the deal. There are three key pieces of information that roll up in Broken City’s first three scenes: Billy Taggart (Wahlberg), a New York cop, shoots and kills a suspect he’s chasing; a judge decides the district attorney’s office doesn’t have sufficient evidence to bring charges against Taggart; Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Crowe) and the police commissioner congratulate Taggart on beating the rap, and he’s forced to resign.

Best picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty compels, repulses, and carries out its mission to hold audiences captive through the well-known ending. (Sony Pictures)

Film review: Zero Dark Thirty

The torture debate detracts from a different critical narrative; imagine how we’d howl if the movie whitewashed that part of America’s recent past. But forget the politics. This is a movie. As a piece of drama, Zero Dark Thirty is a marvel.

Anne Hathaway's affecting performance aside, "Les Misérables" is terrible, but it still won Best Picture, Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. Credit: Universal Pictures.

Film review: The Golden Globes

In the awards show canon, the Golden Globes have secured themselves a lofty place just below Oscar. How is it that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which once called Pia Zadora “New Female Star of the Year” for her role in the soft-porny Butterfly, is now arbiter of taste and soothsayer of the Academy Awards? […]

Hugh Jackman's Jean Valjean pushes a little too hard in director Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables.

Film Review: Les Misérables

I mention all this to give Les Misérables context in the annals of film history. Unlike Playing for Keeps, Les Misérables features a solid cast. Hugh Jackman, a man known for his acting and singing chops, is Jean Valjean, the hero we love.

Jamie Foxx (left) stars as a pre-Civil War bounty hunter angling for Candyland plantation owner “Candie” played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. (Publicity image)

Film review: Django Unchained

Spaghetti southern: Django Unchained is a lawless, violent romp marked by stellar performances First, the cynical: One wonders whether making a movie that takes place in the pre-Civil War American South is Quentin Tarantino’s way of getting around criticism for using the n-word. Second, the straight-up: Django Unchained is loads of fun. For years, I’ve railed […]

Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd navigate domestic harmony in the comedy drama This is 40. Universal Pictures.

Film review: This is 40

There’s a lot going on in writer-director Judd Apatow’s This is 40, including bickering siblings, failing businesses, grand theft, and one or two big surprises. Perhaps this is Apatow’s achievement: He’s made a watchable movie in which the emotional content mirrors real life so closely he doesn’t need a conventional narrative. The ups and downs of human existence are plenty.

Brad Pitt plots a stealthy revenge in Killing Them Softly, his second collaboration with director Andrew Dominik. Image: The Weinstein Company

Film review: Killing Them Softly

Director Andrew Dominik returns with Brad Pitt in tow after the debacle of their leaden-paced, underwritten, overproduced, and preposterously long The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Suraj Sharma play opposite a tiger in the fantasy adventure adaptation of Yann Martel's novel, Life of Pi.

Film review: Life of Pi

How Pi survives without killing Richard Parker, himself, or dying of starvation is a fascinating allegory on faith and primal instincts. None of the allegory feels overwhelming or forced, and viewers will probably find themselves taken in by the story and forget they’re wearing bulky 3D glasses.

John Hawkes plays a physically impaired mand determined to score with an assist from Helen Hunt. (Publicity photo)

Film review: The Sessions

It’s that time of year again when transparent Oscar fodder makes its way to the local theater. Generally speaking, that means the ratio of able-bodied actors playing physically disabled real-life figures increases, and we get movies such as The Sessions.

Current "Bondsman" Daniel Craig fits into a sleeker, wiser version of Agent 007.

Film review: Skyfall

Let’s face it: A James Bond movie is good for what it is, and Bond is good at what he does. Namely, he kills a lot of people, saves countries (his own and a few others), beds women, drinks vodka martinis. He allows us to escape for a couple hours. No more, no less.