David Riedel

Transformers: Age of Extinction is a battle of good versus evil in which robots try to extinguish the human race. Image: Paramount Pictures

Film review: The fourth Transformer movie fails to dazzle

There are so many bad movies out there that it’s not reasonable to suggest Transformers: Age of Extinction is the worst movie ever made. It’s entirely reasonable, however, to suggest it’s the dumbest movie ever made. It’s also criminally dull, but designed to feel exciting. Here are five examples that make the latest Transformers flick […]

Jenny Slate plays a single woman dealing with a complicated personal life in the real world romantic comedy Obvious Child. Photo credit: Rooks Nest Entertainment

Film review: Obvious Child reflects a woman flawed and whole

Let’s answer your most pressing question about Obvious Child: Yes, Paul Simon’s song “Obvious Child” appears in the movie. Twice. Unless you’ve been avoiding press about movies since January, you know Obvious Child is a romantic comedy in which the main character, Donna (Jenny Slate), has an abortion. But that’s not entirely what the movie […]

Agata Trzebuchowska delivers a strong performance in the powerful story of Ida, a woman searching the past for details of her true identity. Publicity photo

Film review: Style and substance combine forcefully in Ida

The most beguiling thing about Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida is its look. Its cinematography, by Ryszard Lenczewksi and Lukasz Zal, is so beautiful that it’s easy to forget you’re watching a challenging drama about faith, love, loss, and the ravages of war on identity. Each shot is so artfully composed, in fact, that the photographic artistry […]

Tom Cruise makes a solid rebound and Emily Blunt holds her own when they team up to fight an alien invasion in Edge of Tomorrow. Publicity photo

Edge of Tomorrow succeeds on teamwork and smarts

It’s not unreasonable to imagine that Tom Cruise, perhaps the last of the old school movie stars, had lost it. He hasn’t had a bona fide hit since 2011 with Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, and as good as some of that movie is, it certainly coasts on the strength of being part of a big franchise. […]

Jon Favreau (shown here alongside Sofia Vergara) wrote, directed, and stars in Chef, a foodie friendly big screen comedy about restaurant career navigation. Publicity photo

Jon Favreau’s Chef is predictable and pleasing

Sometimes it’s nice to see a nice movie. “Nice” is a bad word—it’s usually reserved for people who are inoffensive but undatable or your grandmother’s ruminations on her flower garden—but occasionally the word just works. “Nice” is a good description of Chef, writer-director Jon Favreau’s return to smaller stories after the gargantuan (and flat, and […]

Frequent co-stars Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler take another shot at comic coupling in Blended.

Film review: Blended relies on clichés to stay afloat

It just so happens that Adam Sandler once made good movies. More than once, even. There’s Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. And on the odd occasion he acts in a drama, he gives good performances in the so-so Punch-Drunk Love, the flawed Reign Over Me and the highly flawed but watchable Funny People. But whatever. There […]

Godzilla leads the summer movie onslaught in an attempt to recapture the style and seriousness of the Japanese film monster’s legacy. Publicity photo

Live action dominates the summer blockbuster season

It’s mid-May: The crushing tide of summer movies is just around the corner. Gear up. Actually, we don’t really have a summer movie season anymore. Of all the traditions Star Wars ushered in—it was released on May 25, 1977, just in time for Memorial Day—summer release dates have largely gone kerblooey. To wit: Captain America: […]

Zac Ephron leads a house full of frat boys into a new neighborhood where they set up a 24/7 party scene in Neighbors. Image: Universal Pictures

Film review: Neighbors hits it hard with frat humor

By this point, we’ve all seen the ads for Neighbors. Family vs. frat. Thirtysomethings vs. drunk 20somethings. Seth Rogen and gross-out humor. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Plus, the last movie Rogen starred in, This is the End, is so bad that any reasonable adult could be forgiven for thinking Rogen had jumped the […]

Hell hath no fury like Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz, and Kate Upton, who bond as jilted lovers in The Other Woman.
Publicity photo

No surprises in the lazy plot of The Other Woman

The Other Woman has approximately 1 million things working against it. First, we’re expected to believe Kate (Leslie Mann) is some sort of undesirable fuddy-duddy. Mann has played this role before, mostly in her husband Judd Apatow’s movies, but at least here she has a chance to use her goofy muscles instead of just reacting […]

Johnny Depp defies death via artificial intelligence in order to save the human race in Transcendence.
Photo: Warner Brothers.

Transcendence descends into a tech quagmire

One of these days someone is going to have to write a movie that explores—purposely—the irony of making a film that uses cutting edge technology to tell an anti-technology story. Transcendence is not that movie. Its storyline, character arcs, and politics are so hopelessly muddled, it’s unclear what its makers were thinking. In fact, there’s […]

Draft Day, starring Kevin Costner, follows the administrative wheeling and dealing required to build a competitive team in the NFL.

Film review: Kevin Costner plays ball with the NFL

What’s with all the Kevin Costner movies lately? In the past 12 months he’s appeared in Man of Steel, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and 3 Days to Kill. Given the quality of these movies, maybe he should have stayed semi-retired. It’s not like the movies he made beforehand were much better, but at least his […]

Captain America: The Winter Soldier combines a solid plot with action in a thrilling addition to the modern Marvel franchise.

Film review: The latest from Marvel Comics is the best yet

One of the surprises about the glut of movies based on Marvel comics is their consistency. All of the movies are at least watchable—there are no duds like the Marvel movies from the 1980s (anyone remember 1989’s The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren?). Even the movies that aren’t great (Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 2 […]

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 […]