Critic’s Mind


I finally caught up to “The Theory of Everything” (2014) and then “A Brief History of Time” (1992) a week later. Funny how “The Theory” is inadequate with expressing Stephen Hawking’s work and ideas but succeeds with putting a human face on the man, while “Brief History” is inadequate with rounding him out as a complete person to emotionally connect with but yet outlines his genius astrophysicist work comprehensively enough. I suppose I liked “Brief History” better because I had “The Theory” as a warm-up. “The Theory of Everything,” grade: C. “Brief History of Time,” grade: B-. Neither would satisfy on their own, but weirdly, I give the whole experience of watching them both a grade B. — 3-31-15

My five favorite David Cronenberg films in order: “eXistenZ” (1999), “A History of Violence” (2005), “The Fly” (1986), “A Dangerous Method” (2011), “Crash” (1996). — 3-8-15

Widow-of-St-Pierre_French film (2001)Film Recommendation: “The Widow of St. Pierre” (2001, France). On an island off Newfoundland in 1849, a man is condemned to death after a drunken murder. In the time it takes for a guillotine to be transported from Paris, the police captain and his wife of the small village befriend their prisoner and persuades the townsfolk that while his actions were senseless, he is not a monster. Bigwig politicians are insulted by the townfolks’ budding compassion. I’ll go out on a limb and proclaim it as one of the ten best French films ever made. — 3-1-15

It won’t take five years with “Boyhood” before editorials, television criticism and internet rants collectively shame the Academy for making one of the all-time worst mistakes by not honoring the film and director Richard Linklater, whom has a brilliant career, one perpetually unappreciated however. — 2-23-15

Ten best films of 1989: 1. Do the Right Thing, 2. Born on the 4th of July, 3. The War of the Roses, 4. The Fabulous Baker Boys, 5. True Love, 6. Glory, 7. Casualties of War,  8. sex, lies & videotape, 9. My Left Foot, 10. Parenthood. What won the Best Picture Oscar? The reserved, but lugubrious and dawdling “Driving Miss Daisy” which is redeemed mostly by Morgan Freeman’s performance and integrity. — 2-22-15

Ten best films of 1982: 1. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, 2. Tootsie, 3. The Verdict, 4. Blade Runner, 5. Gandhi, 6. The Thing, 7. Das Boot (Germany), 8. The Road Warrior, 9. Diner, 10. An Officer and a Gentleman. This was a rare year where the first six titles would have been worthy of a Best Picture winner, though E.T. to me is obviously the best, but alas, there can only be one winner. “Gandhi” is now considered overrated because it trumped other titles for the top Oscar, but it’s really one of the great sprawling, meaningful epics that recreates history as well as provides a manifest of what the man stood for. When it comes down to it, any new film buff should catch up with all of these titles. — 2-12-15

Ten films I once thought were great, during my young pretentious phase, that I can now surely live without: “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930), “The Lady Vanishes” (1938), “Children of Paradise” (1945, France), “The Big Sleep” (1946), “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), “Shane” (1953), “Rififi” (1955, France), “Juliet of the Spirits” (1965, Italy), “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1974, Germany), “Diva” (1982, France). I mean, take the first title: Is it really comparable to, say, the poetry of Malick’s “The Thin Red Line?” The second title: I love Hitchcock, but let’s admit it, this one’s excitement is nil and the black & white is blah. Why watch some German kitchen sink drabness that is “Ali” when you can re-watch the lush and impassioned Todd Haynes’ film “Far From Heaven” with Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid? — 2-10-15

I revised my 2014 year’s ten best list to include new titles that I was late with catching up on. Click for article here. — 2-3-15

Nymphomaniac_Lars von Trier_Review_Charlotte-GainsbourgGreat female performances that Oscar failed to nominate: Charlotte Gainsbourg in “Nymphomaniac” (Denmark, 2014, pic left), Jessica Chastain in “The Tree of Life” (2011), Yun Jung-hee in Poetry (2011, South Korea), So-Ri Moon in Oasis (2004, South Korea), Naomi Watts in “Mulholland Dr.” (2001), Reese Witherspoon in “Election” (1999), Uma Thurman in “Gattaca” (1997), Julianne Moore in “Safe” (1995), Tilda Swinton in “Orlando” (1993), Juliette Binoche in “Damage” (1992), Gong Li in “Raise the Red Lantern” (1992, China), Jessica Lange in “Men Don’t Leave” (1990), Annabella Sciorra in “True Love” (1989), Shelley Duvall in “The Shining” (1980), Susan Sarandon in “Pretty Baby” (1978), Mia Farrow in “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), Catherine Denueve in “Repulsion” (1965), Marilyn Monroe in “The Misfits” (1961), Tatyana Samojlova in The Cranes are Flying (1957, Russia), Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), Beulah Bondi in “Make Way for Tomorrow” (1937), Barbara Stanwyck in “Baby Face” (1933).

Nightcrawler_Great Un-Nominated PerformancesGreat male performances that Oscar failed to nominate: Jake Gyllenhaal in “Nightcrawler” (2014, pic left), Woody Harrelson in “Rampart” (2012), Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (2007), Bruno Ganz in “Downfall” (2005, Germany), Ewan McGregor in “Young Adam” (2004), Matt Damon in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999), Russell Crowe in “L.A. Confidential” (1997), Al Pacino in “Heat” (1995), Johnny Depp in “Ed Wood” (1994), Jeremy Irons in “Damage” (1992), Val Kilmer in “The Doors” (1991), Jeff Bridges in “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (1989), Tom Cruise in “Rain Man” (1988), Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly” (1986), Sean Penn in “The Falcon and the Snowman” (1985), Harry Dean Stanton in “Paris, Texas” (1984), Eric Roberts in “Star 80″ (1983), Robert DeNiro in “The King of Comedy” (1983), Dustin Hoffman in “Straight Time” (1978), Henry Fonda in “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1969), James Stewart in “Vertigo” (1958), Kirk Douglas in “Paths of Glory” (1957).    — 1-31-15

My Picks Best of the Best Performances 2014: Female: Charlotte Gainsbourg in “Nymphomaniac” (Denmark), Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl.” Male: Jake Gyllenhaal in “Nightcrawler,” Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher.”

Supporting female: Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood,” Tilda Swinton in “Snowpiercer.” Supporting male: J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash,” Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher.” — 12-20-14

This is 40_Poster FilmFlip-flop: I was wrong with my original review of “This is 40” (2012). Sure, I gave it a 3-star recommendation, but it should have been a 4. I now think that it’s Judd Apatow’s best film, and his “40-Year Old Virgin” is just as addicting. With his 2012 film I can watch over and over, at any spot, whenever it plays on HBO. After I consulted my original review I honestly don’t know what I was irked with, there seems to be countless classic lines and true to life situations. Like the best of Woody Allen comedies, it is sheer observation of the human condition. Every supporting player sparkles. There’s no other way to say this: “This is 40″ is compulsively watchable. — 12-15-14

“The Graduate” (1967) has always been an estimable classic. In retrospect, the ending meant something different to me at 12-years old than it did when I saw it again at 25. You get this happy ending where love prevails. Then you see it again with newfound maturity and it’s a sad one. These people have nothing to say to each other, yet they’re going to end up together out of rebellious impulse to stick their noses up at their families, and go down a long black sound of silence hole together with no excitement left to be shared. It is a genius ending, really. — 11-26-14

R.I.P. Mike Nichols, director (November 6, 1931 – November 19, 2014). Nichols’ reputation will eternally endure because of “The Graduate” (1967), and sure, it’s terrific. Nichols’ best film however is “Carnal Knowledge” (1971) with Jack Nicholson which was Rated X at the time for extreme adult material (nudity, sexual innuendo, raw domestic fighting) about an immature man whose life quest is beaver-chasing, who holds no regard for intelligent women. Mid-section focuses in on the longest relationship of his life, there’s no way this guy is capable of having a longer one. The girl is played by Ann-Margret as a buxom bunny with feelings. He doesn’t love her, he destroys her even without intention. This film is the Nichols classic you’ve never heard of, and is a companion piece with his later film “Closer” (2004). Click for review here. — 11-21-14

I give the original “Dumb & Dumber” (1994) a grade of A-. It’s a cruddy and sloppy movie so why do I revere it? Because every scene has laughs, and the damn thing just flows so well. W.C. Fields and the Marx Bros. made sloppy movies eighty years ago that get much more revered in film history, and they’re not half as funny as the classic (yes, classic) Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels yuk-fest. Note: The sequel is not nearly as good. 11-12-14

The movie “Halloween” is synonymous with Halloween. It’s the most famous of John Carpenter’s movies. I’m only okay on it. See “The Thing” (1982) and “They Live” (1988) by Carpenter instead, both ridiculously entertaining. — 10-29-14

“Birdman” is likely to be my choice for worst movie of the year. Yes, you heard me. It has the most annoying ensemble of a-holes since Robert Altman’s “Gosford Park.” Click for review here. — 10-28-14

I think it’s about time Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” (1998) becomes a candidate for Best War Film Ever Made. Sure, “Apocalypse Now” (1979) is as iconic as any war movie and its impressions are infinite. But come on, in truth, I haven’t turned that movie on in ten years nor do I need to (I already know it in my mind and heart too well, it’s thoroughly digested). “Paths of Glory” (1957) is so powerful that it continues to upset me every time I watch it, which is maybe once every five or six years. But when it comes to Malick’s film, it is compulsively watchable, visually fascinating, poetic in multiple interpretations, evocative of so many different feelings and ideas at once. And it juxtaposes the horrors of war with natural beauty better than any film made. Period. You can click for review here that I wrote three years ago. But I don’t even think my review is solid enough to do it justice. I almost want to start over in the future I write yet another review of it. — 10-12-14

Cloud-Atlas_Ben WhishawFavorite Quote: “I understand now, that boundaries between noise and sound are conventions. All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so. Moments like this, I can feel your heart beating as clearly as I feel my own, and I know that separation is an illusion. My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.” Robert Frobisher in “Cloud Atlas” (2012). — 9-25-14

Cloud Atlas” music by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil is my new favorite CD soundtrack. — 9-24-14

R.I.P. Robin Williams, actor (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014). Even if he made “License to Wed,” one of the very worst movies I’ve ever seen, I still liked him. Five to see: “One Hour Photo” (2002); “What Dreams May Come” (1998); “The Fisher King” (1991); “Awakenings” (1990); and the criminally overlooked “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984). — 8-11-14

After it seemed like I saw fifty crappy, inelegant, shaky-cam heavy, incoherent action films in a row, I’ve finally seen three good ones this summer: “Lucy,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” and “Edge of Tomorrow.” — 7-24-14

Boyhood” is my second 5-star film off the 2014 roster and the one to beat for best film of the year. — 7-18-14

R.I.P. Paul Mazursky, writer-director (April 25, 1930 – June 30, 2014). Rambunctious intellect and social observations ran through his films, but in a life-affirming and funny way. Five to see: “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (1986), an unsung masterpiece; “An Unmarried Woman” (1978); “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984); “Enemies: A Love Story” (1989); “Harry and Tonto” (1974). — 7-8-14

Inside-Llewyn-Davis_ Cat-Motif_Coen BrosFlip-flop: I now admit I was wrong with my original review of “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Sure, I gave it a 3-star recommendation, but it should have been a 4. The Coen Brothers only seem like they’re meandering and hitting the same repetitive notes, but on second viewing, the big ideas all fit together compacted. Llewyn’s Karma is terribly unkind, but the descent into failure for him has a lot to do with the hexing of Carey Mulligan’s Jean Berkey, a Beatnik Lady Macbeth. Llewyn is not a nice guy anyway, but she’s the worst human being here. Yet Llewyn is a brilliant folk artist, and when he does a song performances he steps out of his miserly facade. But nobody likes the way he actually looks, so no one in the world around him thinks he deserves a bigger audience than the one he’s getting. The Coens’ have weaved a disturbing, haunting parable of success denied and occupational dreams sullied. I love thinking about this film now. New grade: A-. — 6-30-14

The more Roger became a prisoner of his body, the more he seemed to escape into his rich and sophisticated mind. By the agreement of almost everyone I know, his writing in these last years was among the best he’d ever done, more personal and expansive, marked by a still-astonishing rate of productivity.” – Film Critic Scott Foundas (April 5, 2013).              — 6-15-14

I saw the Roger Ebert documentary “Life Itself” nearly a month before it comes out on July 4, and while I should normally wait until then to state my opinion in the opening day review, I can’t help but say it’s a tremendous documentary of not just a trailblazing critic but a great man. Even as an Ebert disciple, I learned things about him (and Gene Siskel) that I didn’t previously know. Update: Published review.  — 6-12-14

I don’t think I ever truly appreciated the rascally comic genius of Walter Matthau until I just saw “Cactus Flower” (1969). Goldie Hawn won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her film debut, Ingrid Bergman is actually great with her middle-aged spinster breaking open her shell, but Matthau is wickedly fantastic as a womanizer always twisting his words and twisting the words of others for his own convenience. Genius. — 5-30-14

After you see “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” here are five more brilliantly silly movies that lampoon history to check out: “Duck Soup” (1933), “Blazing Saddles” (1974), “Love and Death” (1975), “Monty Python & the Holy Grail” (1975), “Top Secret” (1984). — 5-29-14

Ten monster movies that are better than “Godzilla” found within the last 10 years, listed in order of preference: “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006, Mexico), ”King Kong” (2005), “Monsters” (2010), “The Mist” (2007), “REC” (2007, Spain), “Cabin in the Woods” (2012), “Slither” (2006, pic right), “The Descent” (2005), “Pacific Rim” (2013), “Cloverfield” (2008).

Note: I originally had “28 Days Later” (2002) and “28 Weeks Later” (2007) on the list and decided they qualify more as zombie movies than monster movies, so I replaced them with two different titles. — 5-22-14

I wrote my review of “Godzilla” at 6 in the morning without morning coffee, and as a result, it was littered with grammatical errors. I have since revised it. — 5-18-14

I wondered if I made a mistake by placing “Her” off last year’s ten best list (I had it at #11) to include “All is Lost” and “The Place Beyond the Pines” ahead of it instead. I was right on. “Her” does not hold up well as entertainment the second time around. It’s such an original concept that’s significant, but the second half is mopey and stuck in a perpetual forlorn mood. I think Joaquin Phoenix is great, he is comically daft in ways that keep us pitying him, but tickled by his foolishness. Other actors would have bored us. “All is Lost” is actually riveting a second time, a tumble of obstacles and predicaments, and the sounds of the ocean storms are immersive! — 5-10-14

Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” and accompaniment “Vol. 2” (Denmark) are my first 5-star films off the 2014 roster. — 4-16-14

Just found out my favorite living critic Owen Gleiberman has been laid-off from Entertainment Weekly. He’s too good for them, my once turn-to magazine has been declining in literary merit in recent years. Owen’s vocabulary and elucidations not only made movies an essential subject, but just the conducted words themselves were fun and exciting to read. Dare I say that, exciting. From the archives (somewhere online, hopefully) my five favorite Owen reviews are “Cape Fear,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Boogie Nights,” “Run Lola Run,” and “Requiem for a Dream.” — 4-5-14

One year ago Roger Ebert passed away. Lately I’ve been watching Ebert recommendations that were otherwise critically trashed. And Ebert was right, I’ve recently enjoyed “Matinee” (1993), “Guilty as Sin” (1993), “Chances Are” (1989), “Frequency” (2000), “Down Periscope” (1996), “Conan the Destroyer” (1984), “Goon” (2011). The only Ebert pick I’ve disliked was “Only You” (1994), the pretty to look at but harebrained European-set rom-com with Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey, Jr. But really, I’ve had some good times with these silly movies lately. — 4-4-14

The first disappointing music score by Clint Mansell is “Noah.” Flat. Tinkle. Echo. Screech. Blare. Without harmony, or notes that flicker or resonate. — 3-29-14

Citizen-Kane_Obituary-Scene-News-on-the-MarchThe first time I saw “Citizen Kane” at 14-years old, I thought, this newsreel scene is an interesting way to tell a story but how can this kind of storytelling technique be sustainable for an entire running length? Thankfully, it is a limited 9-minutes long and it turns into a “normal” movie after that. A second viewing only makes the newsreel scene more fascinating, especially with cutaways to a pet octopus and a soiree with Adolph Hitler. It took a few years for me to realize the trail-blazing audacity of Orson Welles’ vision. — 3-28-14

Shining_1980_Best-Horror-Film-Ever _Jack-Nicholson-Shelley-DuvallFilm Recommendation: “The Shining” (1980). The best horror film ever made and probably the best one there will ever be. Many devotees over the years have revered it for its supernatural elements, its haunted symbolism, its hypnotic camerawork that spells delirium and claustrophobia. I see something else: A parable of the world’s most loveless marriage. This is the one Stanley Kubrick film that scrambles the brain the longest. You can watch it several times over the course of a decade and find you are still working at unlocking its secrets. — 3-16-14

If I picked the winners with my votes: Best Picture “Gravity,” Best Director Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity,” Best Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave,” Best Actress Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine,” Best Supporting Actor Michael Fassbender for “12 Years a Slave,” Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle,” Best Cinematography “Gravity,” Best Costume Design “American Hustle,” Best Film Editing “American Hustle,” Best Original Score “Gravity,” Best Production Design “The Great Gatsby,” Best Adapted Screenplay “12 Years a Slave,” Best Original Screenplay “American Hustle.” Update: “12 Years a Slave” won Best Picture, “Gravity” won a number of technical awards, and “American Hustle” got shut-out for being too cool. –2-26-14

I just wrote about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s best performance, click on “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (2007). If you get the DVD, there is lots to learn about the art and practice of directing from the feature length commentary by the late director Sidney Lumet, Ethan Hawke, and Hoffman as well as the supplemental doc “Directed by Lumet: How the Devil Was Made.” These are the best DVD extras I’ve come across in awhile, and I reassure you I watched the film with commentary again complete. — 2-24-14

R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman (July 23, 1967 – February 2, 2014). Two weeks later I’m still devastated by the loss of Hoffman. He was featured in 5 of 6 Paul Thomas Anderson films, and starred in a dozen or so more that were intelligent enough to be an Anderson film. Even a cash-grab like “Mission: Impossible III” he contributed intelligent menace. Click to read my full tribute. — 2-18-14

Map of the Human Heart_Best-Films-1990(s)Film Recommendation: “Map of the Human Heart” (1993). Spans four decades and spreads three continents, Avik is an Eskimo in the 1930’s who follows his childhood love Albertine around the world. Their first love is in a Canadian orphanage as pre-teens, then she is whisked away, grows up and marries another, when he traces her whereabouts he joins the Air Force so he can travel to her. I’ve long tired of hearing how great “Casablanca” is. “Map” is probably the most romantic movie ever made. Dreamy, passionate and sexy, it connotes those qualities for the entire length of the film and builds to a heartrending revelation. But I will reveal, this is the kind of love story that lasts a lifetime for these two. Jason Scott Lee is Avik, Anne Parillaud is Albertine, the director is Vincent Ward who boldly goes for high altitude aerial photography and the film entire is full of extraordinary shots. Grade: A+. — 2-9-14

Skyfall_ Flip-Flop _Macau China_Casino- Daniel-CraigFlip-flop: I now admit I was wrong with my original negative review of “Skyfall.” I’ve seen it twice now on Blu-Ray, and now think it’s a good one that, in hindsight, I probably overreacted to three or four things I didn’t like when I saw it in my theatrical review. I now see it’s virtues, the radiant cinematography for one, the idea of an attack on the ministry of defense as another, the brisk and crisp finale at Bond’s homecoming. I still think Javier Bardem doesn’t have enough insightful layers to his villain, Naomie Harris lacks charisma as the new Moneypenny, and Bond’s love connections continue to lack sizzle two films in a row (go ravage a new world-class hottie again, already!). “Skyfall” remains a minor entry, but there are legitimate indelible moments that add to the 007 legacy. New grade: B-. — 1-20-14

Oscar nominations 2014 announced. My Picks for Top 5 most shocking omissions: Robert Redford (Best Actor, “All is Lost”), Joaquin Phoenix (Best Actor, “Her”), Hoyte Van Hoytema (Cinematography, “Her”), Philip Messina (Production Design, “Catching Fire”), Jeff Nichols (Original Screenplay, “Mud”). — 1-14-14

My Picks Best of the Best Performances 2013: Female: Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine,” Amy Adams in “American Hustle.” Male: Mads Mikkelsen in “The Hunt” (Denmark), Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave.”

Supporting female: Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle,” Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave. Supporting male: Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave,” James Franco in “Spring Breakers.” — 12-26-13

Biggest Disappointments 2013: “Before Midnight,” “The Counselor,” “The Fifth Estate,” “Oldboy,” “Oz The Great and Powerful,” “Trance.” — 12-20-13

R.I.P. Peter O’Toole (August 2, 1932 – December 14, 2013), actor of the immortal 1962 epic “Lawrence of Arabia” and recipient of 8 Oscar nominations. His most underrated role, I feel, is of the Scottish tutor Reginald Johnston in the 1987 Best Picture winner “The Last Emperor,” his character educates the emperor in ways of the world that are unknown to his hermetic existence. — 12-18-13

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013), one of the great men to walk the Earth. I am providing a link of my review of “Invictus” (2009) which featured the fine Morgan Freeman portraying Mandela. Also, take note, he appears in the epilogue documentary segment at the end of Spike Lee’s masterpiece “Malcolm X” (1992), time to see that one if you haven’t. — 12-6-13

Lana Wood_ Diamonds are Forever (Boobage)I got the Blu-Ray 50 Years Bond 23 film collection as an early Christmas gift. Fired up, I first put on, of all movies, “The Living Daylights” (1987) just to watch the opening and the end scene with Bond fighting on a cargo net falling out of plane. Then I put on the underrated “Diamonds are Forever” (1971), which is not only exciting, but might showcase more beautiful boobs than any other entry (I might have to vote it as the sexiest Bond ever). Next, I slipped in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) with one-time George Lazenby as 007, a tad overrated yet has sensational scenes I’ve always remembered, but I had to turn it off because it could be the one Bond movie you need your brain to watch, you actually have to pay attention. “A View to a Kill” (1985) is mindless, “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) has a cool motorcycle chase. When you own a set like this, you play the titles you recall the least first. See pic of Lana Wood, secondary Bond girl in “Diamonds.” — 12-5-13

R.I.P. Paul Walker (September 12, 1973 – November 30, 2013), good-looking carefree actor. Most underrated film in his entire repertoire is “Joy Ride” (2001), a film I don’t have a review for but I remember fondly as being a tense, queasy thriller. Sort of a more tormenting update of Steven Spielberg’s “Duel” (1971). — 12-1-13

After you see “Catching Fire” this weekend, I advise you to hit the library and read the following: “The Long Walk” (1979) by Stephen King, “The Running Man” (1982) by Stephen King, “1984” (1948) by George Orwell, “The Crimson Labyrinth” (2006) by Yusuke Kishi, “Battle Royale” (1999) by Koushun Takami, and of course, if you haven’t already, “The Hunger Games” trilogy (2008) by Suzanne Collins. — 11-21-13

Love Actually” (2003) has proved itself to be the most beloved romantic comedy of the last ten years, and I love it, too. Richard Curtis’ latest follow-up “About Time” (2013) is a charmer but not quite in the same league. Here is a list of five other great romantic comedies that I think you should see: “Crazy Stupid Love” (2011), “Soul Kitchen” (2010, Germany), “Flipped” (2010), “Waitress” (2007), “Big Fish” (2003). — 11-6-13

Re-Animator_1985 _Critics Mind Horror PickMy Halloween horror viewing pick for this year off of Netflix Instant is the gooey and gross, hysterical and wacko feature “Re-Animator” (1985, 91 Minutes, R) in which a scientist revives corpses to become the walking dead. Features a talking head, deadly-threshing intestines, teeth-gnashing by lots of mauling living dead, and lots of boob shots of a B-actress. Director Stuart Gordon somehow got away with doing a shrewd remix of the Hitchcockian “Psycho” soundtrack. Jeffrey Combs is the mad Dr. Herbert West; Barbara Crampton is the screaming babe with lots of boobage. This flick is so outrageous, you will be s#*%ing bricks. It’s like, totally underrated. — 10-30-13

Carrie” is so insipid and inconsequential that my immediate reaction was worst remake of a classic film ever. After calming down, I think that’s going too far. But here are some other horrible remakes: “Arthur” (2011), “The Thing” (2011), “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008), “The Invasion” (2007), “The Wicker Man” (2006), “Swept Away” (2002), “Rollerball” (2002), “Planet of the Apes” (2001), “Psycho” (1998), and now that I’m done with my internet research, I only now recall the worst remake ever has to be “Get Carter” (2000) with Sylvester Stallone replacing the venerable Michael Caine. — 10-19-13

My ten favorite Tom Hanks films in order: “Cloud Atlas” (2012), “Toy Story 3″ (2010), “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), “Joe versus the Volcano” (1990), “Cast Away” (2010), “Toy Story” (1995), “Forrest Gump” (1994), “Apollo 13″ (1995), “Big” (1988), “Catch Me If You Can” (2002). — 10-10-13

The only resistance I’ve heard from others about seeing “Gravity” is doubting Sandra Bullock. But if you had never ever seen Sandra before in a movie (theoretically), it wouldn’t be an issue. She’s new unto herself in what is the masterpiece of the year so far. — 10-8-13

Ron Howard has become a dependable hand in classical Hollywood craftsmanship as demonstrated by his latest film “Rush” (2013), “Frost/Nixon” (2008), “Cinderella Man” (2005), “A Beautiful Mind” (2001) and “Apollo 13″ (1995). I want to make it clear I think he’s a terrific mainstream director, actually I’ll add my love “Parenthood” (1989) which could be my favorite film of his. But his worst entries in failed or awful craftsmanship are “The Missing” (2003) and “EdTV” (1999). I’ve never quite forgiven him for those. — 9-26-13

Best Sex Addiction films: “Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” (2014); “Nymphomaniac Vol. 2” (2014); “Shame” (2011); “Carnal Knowledge” (1971), “Auto Focus” (2002); “Crash” (1996), “Lies” (1999, South Korea), “Don Jon” (2013), “Exotica” (1995). — 9-18-13

Gummo 1997 Notorious Harmony KorineI was wrong about Harmony Korine. I had to see for myself rather than rely on the orthodox grandstanders who denounced him as a wallower in exploitation. I resisted “Gummo” (1997) for 15 years because haters created this portrait in my head of how sick and diseased it was supposed to be (drug abuse, mental illness sex, sexual abuse, prostitution, suicide, animal cruelty, euthanasia, depression are topics), but it was nothing to fear at all. I wouldn’t call his non-narrative avante-garde film flawless since it has its draggy torrents, but it is extraordinary in effort. Whatever his intent, I found it to be a warts-honest portrait of poor-white trash in America, a sub-culture of way lesser means much separated from the rest of Big America. And while I would never want to hang out with them, I found them as people. Sometimes ignorant, sometimes belligerent, sometimes pathetic, but all the while I see some of the characters seeking solace in their lives. The notorious dirty-water bathtub scene? The kid hasn’t grown up with a sane or competent mother, and nobody has taught him there is a cleaner way to have a bath. I’m sure this has happened sadly somewhere in America to kids too ignorant and deprived to know any better. Back to Korine, I haven’t seen all of his work. Not the first film he wrote “Kids” (1995), because I admit I’m still afraid of it. I didn’t like “Julien Donkey-Boy” but admired the effort. I do think his latest film “Spring Breakers” is his best film yet. — 9-12-13

List of Harmony Korine’s ten favorite films as shared in a 1999 print interview: “Pixote” (1981, Brazil); “Badlands” (1973); “Days of Heaven” (1978); “Fat City” (1972); “Stroszek” (1978, Germany); “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” (1976); “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974); “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (1971); “Out of the Blue” (1980); “Hail Mary” (1986, France). I’ve seen them all except the last two. The aforementioned eight would make for some great home viewing throughout the Fall season. — 9-12-13

I don’t really care about a basic narrative. I don’t see a narrative in life. I see stories and I love stories, but I don’t ever see anything ever beginning or finishing, and I don’t feel like there is a middle to anything in my life. I just rather show scenes, and things that exist, and go on and on and on. I could care less about narrative. I think story is essential and characters are essential. As far as putting something in order, I think that is something that has been done for the past hundred years and been accepted. And I’m just not interested.” Director Harmony Korine — 9-10-13

I finally caught up with Stanley Kubrick’s first film “Fear and Desire” (1953), which is hard-to-find, if nearly impossible, because Kubrick wanted it sealed away and never shown again out of embarrassment. It can’t be mistaken for a good film, but every few minutes, you do notice a glimmer of greatness in his penchant for shot composition. The talent was recognizable even then, which makes it relevant enough to watch, if you ever happen to find it in obscure bootleg video stores. — 9-5-13

Two French crime sagas have come out in recent years, one good, one bad: “Mesrine” and “Carlos.” The one you want to see is “Mesrine” with a badass sociopathic performance by Vincent Cassel who plays France’s most tabloid famous gangster of the 20th century. The “Mesrine” title is divided into two parts, “Part I: Killer Instinct” and “Part II: Public Enemy #1.” Now for “Carlos,” it has a strong reputation, but I declare it long, clanging, and often jarring in story swings. — 8-27-13

Butler_2013 Critics MindLook at the list of name actors in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler.” Wow, if you paid them all by their regular salary, the film budget would be over $70 million at least and I know damn well the movie didn’t cost a quarter of that to make. All the actors on roll call must have worked this time for scale, or below scale. Particularly the actors who played former U.S. Presidents: Robin Williams, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, John Cusack, Alan Rickman. Because it wasn’t about getting paid this time. This is an instance of a labor of love for these actors. Not just because they believed in the story, although, that’s certainly a reason. But for the reward of doing a project with Daniels (“Precious” fame) is what must have drew them in. — 8-15-13

My five favorite Woody Allen films in order: “Annie Hall” (1977), “Manhattan” (1979), “Midnight in Paris” (2011), “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985), “Radio Days” (1987). I rank his newest “Blue Jasmine” at number six. — 8-12-13

Once you have seen “Elysium” you might want to check out “Soylent Green” (1973). That film is one of the more depressing science fiction dystopias, it certainly isn’t for mass consumer tastes, but if you are open to pessimistic fables it might intrigue you. — 8-8-13

Don’t Look Now” (1973) and “Casino Royale” (2006) are the two that best implement Venice, Italy as a filming location. — 8-1-13

The Hunt” (Denmark) is my first 5-star film off the 2013 roster. — 7-28-13

Contact_1997 _Jodie-FosterFilm Recommendation: “Contact” (1997). Evidence I get things wrong once or twice. At the time when it first came out, I found the Robert Zemeckis space exploration picture well-crafted but lost in yakkety yak. Seeing it now, it’s visionary and perception-expanding, intellectually fascinating and beyond conventional. I would rank it among 1997’s ten best features. — 7-24-13

Contact_ Matthew-McConaghey SpeechFavorite Quote: “Are we happier as a human race? Is the world a better place because of science and technology? We shop at home, we surf the web… but at the same time we feel emptier, lonelier, and more cut off from each other than at any other time in human history. We’re becoming a synthesized society…” and continuing, “We’re looking for meaning. We have mindless jobs, take frantic vacations. Deficit finance trip to the mall to buy more things that we think will fill these holes in our lives. Is it any wonder we’ve lost our sense of direction?” Palmer Joss in “Contact” (1997). — 7-24-13

My Top Ten Films of All-Time: 1. Spring Summer Fall Winter… and Spring (2003, South Korea), 2. Walkabout (1971), 3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), 4. GoodFellas (1990), 5. All That Jazz (1979), 6. Citizen Kane (1941), 7. No Country for Old Men (2007), 8. Aguirre the Wrath of God (1972, Germany), 9. The Wizard of Oz (1939), 10. Schindler’s List (1993). Detailed article and synopses: Click here. — 7-15-13

In regards to the new EW 10 All-Time Greatest Movies, Cousin Bleh on the comment board said, “Just posting the same 10 movies that everyone else posts is boring and sheep-like.” Agreed. Next Friday I decided right here on this page I will finally list my all-time top ten, and promise you they won’t be the same predictable choices you see everywhere else. Listing the obvious is rudimentary. Isn’t the point providing you new titles for you to discover? There should be something new you haven’t seen that’s on my list. — 7-4-13

I never understood Jay Baruchel until “This is the End.” He’s been a dweeb from low-brow dweeb comedies. But he finally embraces his dweebiness playing himself at a gut level in the new apocalypse comedy hit. He’s the guy who really wants the approval of one best friend (no one else), and doesn’t really want to hang-out with anybody outside his comfort zone. We’re looking at a guy content with his marginal success, he’s grabbed it, and has now taken the low road. Or at least that’s what his movie’s alter ego is projecting. Somehow, Jay the dweeb sneering at others with contempt is… absolutely hilarious. I’m still in love with this movie. — 7-3-13

Jim Carrey says he no longer supports the upcoming “Kick-Ass 2″ because it is too violent. I agree with him, but shouldn’t he have figured that out after watching the first “Kick-Ass?” He says he filmed it a month before the Sandy Hook tragedy and now in “all good conscience [I] cannot support that level of violence.” — 6-25-13

R.I.P. Richard Matheson (1926-2013), sci-fi novelist and screenwriter. My five favorite Matheson adaptations in order: “The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957), “What Dreams May Come” (1998), “Duel” (1971), “The Box” (2009), “I Am Legend” (2007). — 6-24-13

Grading the Superman movies. “Superman” (1978), grade: A. “Superman II” (1980), A-. “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (1980), B+. “Superman III” (1983), C. “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” (1987), D. “Superman Returns” (2006), C. “Man of Steel” (2013), B-. — 6-24-13

The 6-minute short film “The Blue Umbrella,” a lush fable of a blue male umbrella getting wind-blown deliberately to be closer to an attractive red female umbrella, is better than the feature main attraction “Monsters University.” If it looks half-way real it’s because it was shot by a technique called photorealism. Real objects were photographed and then painted over. The 1956 short “The Red Balloon” appears to have been an influence. — 6-21-13

Film Recommendation: “A Prophet” (2009, France). The harmless, ineffectual 18-year old French-Arab named Malik (Tahar Rahim) is caught for a petty offense, and his six-year prison stint schools him into becoming a hardened, adept crime boss who runs illegal rackets by the time he’s released back into the world. This story feels universal, it could happen anywhere. It’s in the pipeline at Sony Pictures for an American remake. — 6-20-13

R.I.P. Picking the best performance by James Gandolfini (1961-2013), I would choose an unlikely one. His supporting role as a blue collar worker being manipulated by attorneys in “A Civil Action” (1998). He was never more different than he was in that one. — 6-19-13

Finally caught up with completing the Griswold family saga “Vegas Vacation” (1997) after all these years. It’s no good, but I kept thinking scene after scene that if they just punched it up a little bit with smarter lines and plausible gambling they might have at least made something worth watching. Each scene is more dumbed down than it had to be. My dad slept through it. — 6-18-13

Seth Rogen is often accused of being the same guy in every movie. One definite exception where he daringly stretched himself was when he played the dangerous bi-polar disorder mall cop in “Observe and Report,” a character completely unaware of his abnormal behavior. It’s a performance that I say is worthy of DeNiro. And you might be unaware that he has played serious drama once, very effectively, in the masterpiece “Take This Waltz.” — 6-14-13

Grading Richard Linklater’s Jesse and Celeste trilogy. “Before Sunrise” (1995), grade: A. “Before Sunset” (2004), A. “Before Midnight” (2013), C. — 6-10-13

The weekend must have been exhilarating for Universal execs and writer-director James DeMonaco following their #1 hit “The Purge,” but frantic times they must be having, too. For I bet they are all in a rage to brainstorm sequel and multiple sequel ideas. It’s not hard to imagine we likely have another over-extended horror franchise on the horizon. — 6-10-13

Arija Bareikis is just a bad enough actress that we know, while appearing normal in her first scene, that she had to have been cast as one of the crazy purgers in “The Purge.” — 6-8-13

You might have recently noticed my recommendation of the 1979 “Zombie” but in your search it might come up as “Zombie 2.” Ironically, it happens to not be a sequel to anything. In Italy at the time, the producers wanted to cash in on the success of George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” (now a horror classic), so the moniker 2 was a deliberate attempt at exploiting consumers. — 6-4-13

Will Smith has played lucky, persevering characters before who have battled depression. And yet he has made them work. I’m behind “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006), “I Am Legend” (2007) and “Seven Pounds” (2008). But you see a trend. He’s trying to dig deeper with each film, but he really sinks “After Earth” beyond all reason with his dour, dreary demeanor. Son Jaden (pic left) is slandered for his nepotism, but he has a fighter’s spark and is far from the worst element. So besides Will, it’s the lumpish direction by M. Night Shyamalan and listless screenplay by Shyamalan and Gary Whitta that makes “After Earth” fail. — 6-3-13

I’m all about telling people to skip “After Earth,” saving them from boredom. But the media reports stink. By Saturday morning, reports said the movie only pulled in $9.8 million (oh no, the horrors! the bomb!). By Sunday morning, the reports said it was Will Smith’s lowest grossing summer movie in 20 years. Hey, it’s not like he has had one summer movie for twenty consecutive years. Also, that the film crashed at $27 million. Sure, it cost $130 million. But this is hardly in league with “John Carter” economic catastrophe. “After Earth” is simply a dud, not among the worst movies ever. Yet the worst thing that happened over the weekend was this horrible Hollywood reporting. — 6-2-13

The most important director contribution of 2013 is this speech/manifesto/rant by Steven Soderbergh at the San Francisco Film Festival last month. This is as no holds barred a critique and vivisection of Hollywood and the politics that drive the business as you are likely to hear from anyone. A riveting 40-minutes. Watch it also as a preparation for Soderbergh’s terrific, rules-breaking “Side Effects” which came out on DVD/Blu-Ray. Video:

                      State of Cinema: Steven Soderbergh from San Francisco Film Society courtesy of Vimeo.

Favorite Quote: “Ivan is a philistine.” / “What’s a philistine?” / “It’s a guy who doesn’t care about books or interesting films and things. Your mother’s brother Ned is also a philistine.” / “Then I’m a philistine.” / “No. You’re interested in books and things. You liked ‘The Wild Child’ when we saw it.” / “Lots of people liked that movie. No, I’m a philistine.” Dad and son conversation in “The Squid and the Whale” (2005). — 5-17-13

“Plan 9 From Outer Space” (1959) and “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” (2008), in terms of technical incompetence, are candidates for the worst theatrical films ever made. Grade F would in theory be appropriate. But those two are delightfully awful, delightfully tacky. I’ve had many laughs resulting in geysers of laugh-tears from viewing them. Much more fun than technically proficient, machine-made and personality-free blockbusters. — 5-17-13

As if we didn’t see enough bombings on the TV news at home we now get them incorporated into the plots of our movies like “Star Trek Into Darkness,” stamped as relevant. Uh, no thanks. — 5-16-13

The Social Network” is the great film of twenty-first century capitalism and society just as “Citizen Kane” was of the twentieth. — 5-16-13

I don’t care what People Magazine says. FlickMinute says Olga Kurylenko (actress of “To the Wonder,” “Oblivion,” “Erased”) is the true 2013 World’s Most Beautiful Woman. I have spoken. — 5-15-13

I tend to think of “To the Wonder” as an Olga Kurylenko movie first, and a Terrence Malick film second. Even though I know it should be the other way around. Can’t help it. Her physical presence is artistic beauty on par with a Malick painting on planetary birth. Or a Malick painting on dandelion fields. Or a Malick painting on spiritual levitation… Malick or someone should just make paintings devoted entirely of Olga Kurylenko. — 5-14-13

With “The Great Gatsby,” I think we have this year’s winner for Best Art Direction. It’s too splashy not to be admired from even the film’s detractors. It’s $51 million opening weekend and counting won’t hurt its rep, either. — 5-13-13

Ray Harryhausen died today at age 92. I know he’s famous for “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963) and “Clash of the Titans” (1981), which is indeed great hands-on special effects work. But please go out of the way to see his work on the marvelously gaga “Mighty Joe Young” (1949) if you’re a Kong fan. — 5-7-13

I don’t know what kind of phony, pseudo-intellectual dips@&# era we are living in where that scratchy and decomposing-before-your-eyes “Rules of the Game” (1938) is regarded as a masterpiece while the underseen “Walkabout” (1971) is not. I feel the cataracts crust over my eyes during Jean “austere” Renoir’s so-called cinematic genius. My thoughts and feelings are in a cascade of awe during Roegs’ film. Film history should start over so we can establish givens correctly. — 5-4-13

Isn’t Robert Downey Jr. freakin’ great in “Tropic Thunder” (2008)? He should have been that year’s Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor. I mean, Heath Ledger painted the Joker into a sociopathic radical who terrorized an entire city with a white-hot rage in “TDK.” But I felt voters bent over backwards to honor his name posthumously, as if Ledger were to be denied a proper legacy or something. Downey molds into two characters at once, the actor Kirk Lazarus and the character he’s playing. Or as he says, “I know who I am! I’m a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude!” The Downey genius is unmistakable and the laughs are never-ending, dozens of viewings later. — 5-3-13

I can’t listen to The Lumineers song “Ho Hey” anymore. Feels like a warmed-over Cameron Crowe movie when I hear it. Reluctantly, I think of a Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst schmaltzathon. That would be Crowe’s crappiest film, “Elizabethtown” (2005). — 5-1-13

I didn’t think about it until director Ramin Bahrani brought it up, but his protagonist in his new film played by Dennis Quaid is inspired by Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman.” But come to think of it, I’ve never seen any version (stage or film) of “Salesman” that is as good as Bahrani’s “At Any Price.” — 4-30-13

Great cinematic mind-benders: “Metropolis” (1927, Germany), “Un Chien Andalou” (1929, France); “Last Year at Marienbad” (1961, France), “Woman in the Dunes” (1964, Japan), “Persona” (1966, Sweden), “Weekend” (1967, France), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972, France), “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (1976), “That Obscure Object of Desire” (1977, France), “Eraserhead” (1977), “Three Women” (1977), “Blade Runner” (1982), “Body Double” (1984), “Brazil” (1985), “Blue Velvet” (1986), “Jacob’s Ladder” (1990), “Santa Sangre” (1990, Mexico), “Orlando” (1993), “12 Monkeys” (1995), “Crash” (1996), “Dark City” (1998), “eXistenZ” (1999), “Being John Malkovich” (1999), “The Isle” (2000, South Korea), “The Cell” (2000), “Mulholland Dr.” (2001, see pic), “Memento” (2001), “Waking Life” (2001), “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004), “Time” (2006, South Korea), “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” (2006, Britain), “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006, Spain), “Enter the Void” (2009, France), “Inception” (2010), “Black Swan” (2010), “Source Code” (2011), “The Tree of Life” (2011), “The Skin I Live In” (2011, Spain). — 4-29-13

I wasted and damaged many hours of my life watching/studying Jean Renoir, Robert Bresson, Robert Rossellini movies; letting “L’Atalante” (1934), “Il Bidone” (1955), “Au Hasard Balthazar” (1966), “Death in Venice” (1971), “Yi Yi” (2000) suck the life out of me and turn me into a bore. Those movies have long been hailed by many highfaluting snobs. But they won’t get you laid. Movies like “Lenny” (1974) and “Small Change” (1976), the joyous-optimistic comedies of Woody Allen, the suave Cary Grant, Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman and Denzel Washington movies, oh, and of course “All That Jazz” (1979, pic right)… those are the movies that taught me how to talk to girls, the ones that opened up my mind to the possibilities of life, enhancing and sharpening me in the social world. Movies are a reflective time or a diverting time. But bogging the mind on depressing pseudo-intellectual bores was a waste. — 4-28-13

Films I would be willing to watch on a Friday night: “Paths of Glory” (1957), “Sunset Boulevard” (1950), “Unforgiven” (1992), “The Fountain” (2006) and “Fellini’s Roma” (1972, pic left) in place of the others previously mentioned. But if I’m in a light mood I’m going “Groundhog Day” (1993) or anything Bill Murray. I talk movies with friends on Fridays. When inebriated I rant on this mural scene. Chapter 10 on the “Roma” DVD. — 4-27-13

When I was young and nerdy-pretentious, I went with the herd in believing “Grand Illusion” (1938), “All About Eve” (1950), “Seven Samurai” (1954), “The Seventh Seal” (1957) and “Andre Rublev” (1966) — as examples — were great films. Today, no way. I would never spend my precious Friday night watching one of those misanthropic snoozers. It’s hard enough to get through life. I want a pick-me-up comedy, or some inspirational story, or some cool mind-bender on a night like this. — 4-26-13

When I was 10-years old I would get Paul Newman and Richard Dreyfuss mixed up. Glad I saw enough movies to sort that one out. Once I saw “The Hustler” (1961), “Slap Shot” (1977), “The Verdict” (1982) Newman was unmistakable from that point on. — 4-25-13

For years I got “Beyond Rangoon” (1995), “Return to Paradise” (1998) and “Brokedown Palace” (1999) mixed up. Avoid the first one. “Paradise” with Vince Vaughn as an American who is propositioned to serve Malaysia prison time in exchange for friend Joaquin Phoenix’s pardon from a death sentence, is the best one and is well worth seeking out. Phoenix does some of the best crying acting I’ve seen. Rest of the cast is surprisingly exemplary. — 4-25-13

If I were to supply a list of the ten weirdest movies ever made, “Zardoz” (1974) with Sean Connery would be one of them. Click link to read. — 4-22-13

You might have noticed I’m giving a lot of 3-star reviews lately. All that indicates is that there’s been a lot of middle-of-the-road movies in 2013 that are watchable but stop short of approaching anything special. I nearly gave “42” a 3.5 star rating (I flirted with 4 until the realization it was going to cover only one pro season in Jackie Robinson’s career). Main point: There’s good concepts, good sequences, good distractions so far this year. But I am starving however to get films that are more ambitious. Very few outside of “The Place Beyond the Pines” and “Side Effects” demonstrate that powerful follow-through.  — 4-19-13

Best Films of the Decade 2000-2009 written three years ago, with “Spring Summer Fall Winter… and Spring” (2003, South Korea) ranked at the top. Click link to read. — 4-17-13

Spring Summer Fall Winter… and Spring” (2003, South Korea). Every time I see it I want to live inside the film. Living on a floating pagoda immersed in peace and quite, that would be wonderful. But I couldn’t do it for a lifetime like the Master does in the film. I am too addicted to modern technology and conditioned by fast city life. But it’s true my wish is to live inside this film as a meditation retreat for two weeks every year. Then sadly get back to my dependent reality. — 4-14-13

My original review of Terrence Malick’s magnificent, fierce, impressionistic head-trip that is “The Tree of Life.” Click here.

A film is, or should be, more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” – Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). — 4-12-13

I was at the review screening for “42” the Jackie Robinson story and all I could think about is how much I wanted a Virgil’s Cream Soda. No reason. I just mused that in 1947 people drank more cream sodas than they do today. I was thirsty. I tracked one down at Whole Foods after the movie. Update: “42” has the highest opening weekend gross ever for a baseball movie at $27.3 million. Also, my Cream Soda cravings are over. — 4-10-13

It’s amazing how the masterpiece “Aguirre the Wrath of God” (1972) would have vanquished away into ancient history had Roger Ebert not have written compellingly about it, had he not venerated Werner Herzog. It’s known today as one of the best films ever made, and that’s all due to Ebert since no other critic bothered backing it up before him. Now we’re all behind it.             — 4-8-13

One of Roger Ebert’s final pieces was his retrospect review of “The Ballad of Narayama” (1983, Japan), an old-century period piece where the villagers enforce a tradition of throwing elders past age 70 off the mountain or once they’ve become of no use. I always remembered the film being “very good” in my memory, but it now takes on a new poignancy since it’s one of Ebert’s last pieces. See it when you can. — 3-8-13

I would like to remind those who plan on attending “Jurassic Park 3D” this week to go out of their way not for the 3D, but for the IMAX experience, an occasion where the surcharge is worth the splurge. — 4-5-13

Mentor Roger Ebert has passed away. The way I am and THE WAY I WRITE is in large part due to him. We met in 2006, we talked favorite movies but wish I had made more of it. Ironically, I’m in Chicago now and cannot write a tribute while on the road. He is the one who will still be on my mind thirty years from now.– 4-4-13

“The Place Beyond the Pines” has 75% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I can’t believe those ungrateful ones who reviewed it ungratefully. To dislike it you must have a conceited mental devise of things specifically required, and “Pines” must have failed a convoluted and winded test for them. Plus, to review it negatively is irresponsible. Derek Cianfrance is exactly the kind of director that gives me hope for the future of film, and his “Pines” is exactly the kind of film we need more of. If we don’t embrace films like “Pines” then we are asking for a dumbing down of the entertainment industry, and a dumbing down of society as whole. — 4-3-13

This has been the year of Bruce Willis sell-out roles (“A Good Day to Die Hard,” “G.I. Joe 2,” upcoming “Red 2″). Looking back at better times, my five favorite Willis films in order: “Pulp Fiction” (1994), “The Sixth Sense” (1999), “12 Monkeys” (1995), “Die Hard” (1988), “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” (1990). — 3-26-13

On second viewing, “Drive” (2011) is superb, better than my original memory. Polished, dreamy, trancelike noir. I only think the very ending is fatally flawed in Nicolas Winding Refn’s film. You have to have a metaphysical gift in getting around and forgetting the final shots so you can appreciate the rest of it. — 3-23-13

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” is greenlit for a much gratuitous sequel. It barely crossed $50 million at the American box office, but unfortunately it made $200 million internationally. So thanks to undiscerning and unshaped minds worldwide, we are going to get another unnecessary eyesore. This can only tarnish the reputation of Jeremy Renner, but I’m sure Gemma Arterton needs the work. — 3-21-13

I enjoyed “Hugo” (2011) much more the second time around on home video, surprisingly loved it, without the intrusion of theatrical 3D. Now I’m able to admit that the 3D gave the movie a kind of glaucoma that impeded my appreciation of the color, lighting and scope of the images. Seeing it at home, I was really able to not just love, but savor, the visual beauty of Martin Scorsese’s period picture. Standing out is the Paris train station which is the best I’ve ever seen it in the movies. “Hugo” is no longer a 3D blotch, I’ve got a better renewed perception of this near sublime work now. Original review: B. New grade: B+. — 3-21-13

The great underrated performance in Michael Caine’s career is “A Shock to the System” (1990). As Graham Marshall, he is a cutthroat executive who commits third-degree homicide, then first-degree, to get ahead on the corporate ladder. Oscar should have beckoned, look at the nominees that year and you will see they screwed up. — 3-19-13

“I’m just a lowly, lowly cook” says Steven Seagal at his last modest moment. “Under Siege” (1992), the best of the “Die Hard” knock-offs using a Navy battleship setting, delivers laughs and thrills both smart and low-brow. Zippy, bursting camera movement gives the movie a sensational flow. Pop-in Playboy Playmate Erika Eleniak and you’ve got a terrific token babe. Tommy Lee Jones was rarely more manic outside of an Oliver Stone picture. Terrific times. Better than the last three “Die Hards” themselves. — 3-19-13

Last night I recommended to friends “Cabin in the Woods” if they want to see last year’s best horror movie. I want to add that once you’ve seen that to check out other essential film cousins “Evil Dead 2″ (1987); “Cube” (1997); “Dark City” (1998); “Cabin Fever” (2002). Horror fans should see all five, it all connects. — 3-18-13

Film Recommendation: “Oslo, August 31st” (2012, Norway). This drug addict picture might actually be useful to some. Anders is a 34-year old who has cleaned up in rehab for ten months. On a one-day release to the city to attend a job interview you can see him developing excuses to relapse into his old ways. Oslo is a city of reminders to his previous failures and self-abasement. He would be best to escape his hometown permanently, since everything there is a trigger to his old self-destructive routine. I revise my original grade of B+ to A-. — 3-18-13

It’s hard to make-out with your wife during “Blue Valentine” but at least I thought about it while it played on Instant Netflix. You get started with the nookie but every few minutes Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams do something to turn you off again. — 3-16-13

Steve Buscemi (in this weekend’s “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone“) is underrated in comedy. Even in non-comedies he’s funny. See “New York Stories” (1989), “Fargo” (1996), “Con Air” (1997). Yes, I’m serious about “Con Air.” He’s really funny in that, an antidote to the action overdrive. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. — 3-15-13

Oz the Great and Powerful” could be the first movie that depressed me that wasn’t horrible. It’s just that I was hoping it would recapture the purity of the original without the amped up special effects and doomsday plot. I gave it a positive review for good qualities, concerned more for newbies to Oz culture than what I liike for myself. But I just wish that it didn’t have to have the plot amount to Armageddon for the Land of Oz. That’s so cynical 21st century storytelling. — 3-11-13

Director Victor Fleming on why he made “The Wizard of Oz“: “I wanted my two little girls to see a picture that searched for beauty and decency, and sweetness and love in the world.” — 3-11-13

Favorite Quote: “Child, you’re talking to a man who’s laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom, and chuckled at catastrophe… I was petrified,” says Oz, “The Wizard of Oz” (1939). — 3-10-13

I insist that the Alicia Keys song “Girl on Fire” absolutely applies to Jennifer Lawrence, whom I picture (whether it’s “Hunger Games” or simply her celebrity) when I hear that song. If Lawrence never existed I don’t think Keys’ song would have the same viability. — 3-7-13

Curd Jurgens as the villain in “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) is probably among the biggest a$$hole villains I’ve seen in the movies. He’s one of the most memorable villains even though he’s just sitting back in his power chair most of the time. — 2-3-4-13

Korean film director Chan-Wook Park’s five best films in order: “Oldboy” (2005, pic right); “Lady Vengeance” (2006); “Thirst” (2009); “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” (2005);  “Joint Security Area” (2000). If you are looking for a great foreign thriller, all of those would be a good idea for a goosebumpy night. But the first one (Warning) is transgressive in its willingness to shock. — 2-28-13

Happiest to see “Life of Pi” win 4 Oscars and Jennifer Lawrence win. I’m going to fantasize that Jennifer wins again in the future. And that Ang Lee wins another one, too. — 2-25-13

Going to an Oscar party tonight with an prediction contest. My friends want to handicap my score because I’m a film critic. Hey, do your homework people. Starting with, if you can’t get right who is going to win Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway) then you don’t deserve to win. — 2-24-13

Oscar prediction: “Argo” wins only two Academy Awards but one of them is Best Picture. Steven Spielberg wins Best Director for “Lincoln.” Here are some classic titles that Spielberg wasn’t even nominated for: “Jaws” (1975); “Empire of the Sun” (1987); “A.I.” (2001); “Minority Report” (2002). And while he was deservedly nominated for “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind” (1977); “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981); and “E.T.” (1982, pic right) he didn’t win. Update: Spielberg didn’t win, and I’m glad about it. I want to see Spielberg win again for something reflective of his true personality and style. — 2-23-13

In what will be a very predictable Oscar night, in terms of winners, I have only one prediction that will come as a “shock.” John Gatins wins Best Original Screenplay for “Flight” because I think a large bloc of Academy voters have a closet admiration for it because they have a familiarity with drinking and drug excess, and Gatins work holds a mirror to them. This win upsets the leading contenders in this category, “Django Unchained” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” Update: I was wrong. — 2-23-13

Time Magazine’s original review of Spike Lee’s masterpiece “Malcolm X” (1992) is one of the most thoughtless, rudest and unappreciative reviews ever. Click Times review.  — 2-21-13

Critic Lisa Schwarzbaum to exit Entertainment Weekly after 22 years, leaving film criticism behind entirely. What I’ll remember about her is how she gave an A- grade to just about every other art house film, foreign import, indie pic. —2-20-13

A Good Day to Day Hard.” In relation to worst sequels ever, I think I actually had more fun at “Jaws IV: The Revenge” (1987). — 2-16-13

Grading the Die Hard movies. “Die Hard” (1988), grade: A. “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” (1990), A-. “Die Hard with a Vengeance” (1995), B. “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007), B-. “A Good Day to Die Hard” (2013), D. — 2-14-13

Rude film critic Rex Reed was an actor in “Myra Breckinridge” (1970), one of the worst movies ever made. It’s one of the few movies that made my eyeballs want to puke. Mostly the shots of Rex. — 2-12-13

Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void” (France) is a brilliant esoteric film. It’s an acquired taste, but if you’re the kind of person who digs “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Eraserhead,” “Mulholland Dr.” and “The Tree of Life” then it might very well be up your alley. Update Note: To best describe it, “Enter the Void” is like the grunge version of “The Tree of Life.” — 2-11-13

My five favorite Steven Soderbergh films in order are “King of the Hill” (1993, pic right), “sex, lies & videotape” (1989), “Traffic” (2000), “Side Effects” (2013), “Haywire” (2012). — 2-8-13

One of the dependable pseudonyms that gives me the giggles regularly is that Steven Soderbergh uses Peter Andrews as his cinematographer for all of his films. Soderbergh is Peter Andrews. — 2-7-13

Side Effects” is a brilliant, complex character-driven film that miraculously comes all together at the end, literately and coherently. And yet the moviegoers who declare themselves as smart consumers have practically been trained (by society!) to expect only intelligent films to be released October, November and December. Soderbergh’s (final!) film comes out in the month of February which has become representative unfortunately of the dumbed-down movie season. — 2-6-13

It’s kind of endearing that Roger Ebert is so naively fond of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” But in truth, because I have been to India several times now, last year’s “Trishna” with Freida Pinto is a far more accurate portrait of how India really is. — 2-5-13

How did “Argo” manage to win the SAG ensemble award? Was it the only movie last year that SAG saw? –1-28-13

CASES MOVIE BETTER THAN THE BOOK: “Woman in the Dunes” (1964, Japan); “Jaws” (1975); “Barry Lyndon” (1975); “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (1976); “The Shining” (1980); “Orlando” (1993, pic below); “This Boy’s Life” (1993); “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994); “Minority Report’ (2002); “Perfume” (2006); “The Namesake” (2007); “Winter’s Bone” (2010); “Life of Pi” (2012). — 1-22-13

Django Unchained” starts out with a brilliant first half, but Q.T. goes way over-the-top with excess violence and revenge fantasy. Samuel L. Jackson might be the best part as house slave Stephen. Bringing substance to the part he saves the movie. –1-15-23

Disgrace” (2008) with John Malkovich has to be one of the most un-commercial movies of the last several years. It’s not bad, but it’s not life-enhancing either. Only got made because Malkovich wanted to do it, and because it could be made on a modest budget. –1-8-13

I’m becoming convinced that “Amour” (Austria) is a young person’s movie. Really. Not too young. Like ages 17 and up. When you talk to the older crowd, the elders, they are angry and bummed out. Dispirited. It’s not content they want to deal with. We young persons though develop a greater empathy though of aging, and the anger that goes with it, by viewing it. –1-5-13

“The Main Event” (1976) with Ryan O’Neal and Barbara Streisand is the last movie I would expect on New Year’s at 4 in the morning on foreign television. This has to be one of the suckiest movies ever. –1-1-13

“Speed” (1994) is a terrific family movie. Really. Especially ’round the holidays. Everybody gets revved up as a group, cheering. Especially the women in the family. They’ve rarely seen a movie more exciting. Observing them is half the fun. –12-30-12

In India, they really like Tom Cruise movies on television. The exception is “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999). You won’t see that film here. –12-30-12

In India, the baby-talking picture “Look Who’s Talking” (1989) with breast milk fixation jokes is more censored than the sex trafficking rampage-revenge picture “Taken” (2009) with Liam Neeson. — 12-29-12

I can’t believe “Samsara” isn’t on more critics year’s ten best lists. I don’t blame you if you haven’t heard of it, but if you’ve seen it you would know too it deserves the reverence. To see it is to know it belongs as a piece of history. –12-27-12. ‘Samsara’ trailer:

Most overrated 2012 movies: “Lincoln,” “Skyfall,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “End of Watch,” “Easy Money.” Of those, at least “Lincoln” is worth a look. –12-26-12

I hand it to Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes that it has a terrific, grand entrance of James Bond when he enters the Macau, China casino on a dragon-boat with fired lanterns lighting the way. It would have been totally mesmerizing had I liked the movie up to that point. –12-22-12

I keep hearing that “Skyfall” is the best James Bond ever and that it is enriched by being the first 007 entry to dig deep into his childhood. Yet besides stepping inside the manor he grew up in and meeting an inconsequential caretaker, I don’t see it. What insight?? We came into his orphan background already when discussed in “Casino Royale” (2006) which provided far more shades of character. –12-22-12

Hitchcock” is such a paint-by-numbers biopic of Alfred Hitchcock that if you were a newbie and wanted to learn something about him, I’d advise you to watch one of his films instead. Start with “Strangers on a Train” (1951), “Rear Window” (1954), “Vertigo” (1958) or “The Birds” (1963). — 12-20-12

Watching “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) on cable. I am reminded again that it has some of the best shot composition that I’ve ever seen.” — 12-19-12

Most bastardized films that play on network cable TV are “Scarface” (1983), “Carlito’s Way” (1993), “Casino” (1995) and “25th Hour” (2002) because of the way they are mercilessly edited and censored. Better to always see them on DVD/Blu-Ray formats or at least no-commercial movie channels. — 12-17-12

It took me a few years to recognize it but I believe I was very emotionally moved by Woody Harrelson’s performance in “Seven Pounds.” — 12-5-12

Mychael Danna’s music for “Life of Pi” is the first soundtrack of the last couple of years that I’m enjoying listening to.” — 12-2-12

Life of Pi” is Ang Lee’s fourth masterpiece. The others are, listing in both ascending year of release and in order of preference,  “The Ice Storm” (1997), “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). — 11-30-12

Take this Waltz” is available on Instant Netflix but is wrongly cataloged under Comedy when it should be filed under Romantic Movies or Drama. — 11-29-12

It’s true. I regret not having given “Rampart” at least 4-stars (damn my 3.5). I embrace the ambiguous ending now which I can already foresee my own projection of what will happen next to Dave Brown. No rebounds for him. — 11-27-12

I wonder how many people who have seen all “Twilight” movies have bothered to see a vampire movie that matters, like “Let the Right One In” (Sweden) or “Thirst” (South Korea)? Probably few. Subtitled movies are tough for tweens. — 11-26-12

Is it me or does Elle Goulding’s “Lights” the only modern pop song that could have been successfully integrated into Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz?” — 11-25-12

Anyone that hits the ad to the right of the page helps me get recognized by Google, even if you X out of it immediately that’s okay! — 11-24-12

This space is where I will write quips about my personal life and on random critical observations. — November 21, 2012

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