David Riedel

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.

Discover the local connection to Life of Pi when Charlottesville-based film consultant Kho Wong discusses her role as assistant to the producer in the Makers Series on Thursday.

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.

John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman lend a voice to the title roles in Disney's Wreck-It Ralph.  Photo: Disney Studios

Film review: Wreck-It Ralph rises above the arcade fray

Maybe it’s the 1980s and 1990s nostalgia for vintage video games. Maybe it’s John C. Reilly’s and Sarah Silverman’s terrific performances as Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz. Maybe it’s because so many animated movies lately have been just O.K. (Frankenweenie) or downright mediocre (Brave). But something about Wreck-It Ralph made my cold critic’s heart grow three sizes.

Ben Affleck directs and stars in Argo, an action thriller based on the declassified true story of a CIA rescue mission. Photo: Warner Bros.

Film review: Argo

The most noticeable thing about Argo —and this can’t entirely be the point —is that Ben Affleck, as a director, continues to grow into a confident helmsman. He trusts his actors (there’s not a weak supporting performance in the bunch), trusts the story, and doesn’t rush anything.

Liam Neeson employs his very special set of tough guy acting skills in Taken 2.

Film review: Taken 2

Just how bad is Taken 2? Bad enough to make a re-examination of Taken seem in order. Sure, Taken has its moments of near parody, including (but not limited to) Liam Neeson’s “very special set of skills” speech; the nameless bad guys who are so plentiful that they exist only to be killed; the clueless […]

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as Joe at two different ages in Looper. Photo: Alan Markfield.

Film review: Looper

In 2072, living bodies can be tracked. When they’re no longer living, the authorities are alerted. Pity the mafia, which faces the prospect of not killing anyone it wants killed. Luckily for future bad guys, there’s time travel. The mafia sends the poor souls it wants dispatched to the past. Disappearances don’t raise hackles—presumably because […]

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s post-war drama, The Master. Photo: The Weinstein Company

Film review: The Master

With all the hype and brouhaha surrounding the release of The Master, it’s easy to overlook one important consideration: Whether the movie is good. So let’s get that out of the way. The Master is good. Grand photography, lush production design, and big, appropriately showy performances make it somewhat captivating. At a certain point, though, […]