The real artistic challenge for 42 writer-director Brian Helgeland was to avoid merely coasting on the obvious sentimental opportunities inherent in this true story and to capture the reality of a time when a certain American goodness and a peculiar American evil clashed with a gratifying outcome.
What’s odd about Spring Breakers is how director Harmony Korine’s filmmaking evokes the mystical.
Jennifer Lawrence makes Silver Linings Playbook special, while shifts in genre make Side Effects frustrating.
Quentin Tarantino’s new film at first seems content to be a deluxe version of the old spaghetti westerns of the 1960s and ’70s. But it ends up as what may be the most crazed movie about race and slavery since Birth of a Nation.
'Argo' & 'Zero Dark Thirty'
The latest cinematic adaptation of Anna Karenina is at its best when it is most stylized, while Les Misérables is the cinema of dermatology.
In the foreground of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is the thrust and parry of politics. But behind the noisy congressional squabbling you can hear a muffled death knell.
Faithful to the book’s events, despite a few tweaks, but unfaithful to its narrative technique and subtleties of characterization, Cloud Atlas will mystify viewers who haven’t read the book and frustrate those who have.
Paul Thomas Anderson's sixth feature is neither veiled biography nor journalism. Rather, it’s an imaginative depiction of a mentor-disciple relationship that demonstrates that while opposites may attract, they don’t necessarily harmonize.
The protagonist of David Cronenberg's take on Don DeLillio's novel is so inwardly frozen that only by doing something drastic can he jar himself into full consciousness.
This summer at the movies was the season of franchises. But the desire to keep a lucrative thing going isn’t enough to pump life into a new movie, and the question persists: Is there a real story here?
Without abandoning his old tricks, Wes Anderson has now made a moving, utterly humane work. A method has found its matter.
It was a stroke of genius for Nanni Moretti to realize that there is still one supreme, nondemocratic sovereign living in palatial splendor, surrounded by courtiers and obsequious ministers—a ruler we could still imagine walking in disguise among common folk. The pope.
When the film adaptation of an immensely popular novel preserves those elements that made the book a success, it is bound to become a classic. So assured is this film's box-office success that it seems almost beside the point to ask if it is truly good entertainment. But let’s ask the question anyway.
Among the five live-action short films nominated for the 2012 Oscars, there is no masterpiece like last year’s Na Wewe from Belgium, and there are two duds. But the three others are of high quality. While the '11 nominees had in common a concern with the spiritual life, the current ones share only a dramatic device: the surprise ending.
Ralph Fiennes updates the Bard's sublime numbskull; and Meryl Streep gives Margaret Thatcher Shakespearean size
Two remakes of novel adaptations miss the mark.
In Hugo, Martin Scorsese offers an entertaining, if uneven tribute to Georges Méliès in the guise of a film for children. And My Week with Marilyn, which chronicles an unlikely, and brief friendship between Marilyn Monroe and a young man, is about half-good.
The first thing to be said about J. Edgar, the biopic about the late FBI director, is that it is an unexpectedly forbearing, even pitying look at J. Edgar Hoover. The second: With pity like this, who needs calumny? Written by Dustin Lance Black and directed by Clint Eastwood, this movie turns out to be the negative complement of another biopic, Milk, also written by Black.
George Clooney's The Ides of March offers a clinical look at the political machinations that take place before the public can vote, and Moneyball, based on Michael Lewis’s nonfiction bestseller, shows how baseball teams get assembled prior to, and sometimes during, the playing season.
If you find it all too easy to sneer at Protestant fundamentalist sects whose members display an enthusiasm during worship that resembles hysteria, you have to be grateful for such films as Tender Mercies, The Apostle, and now Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut, Higher Ground.
Many moviemakers have dedicated themselves to living large, but John Huston was downright baronial not only in his acquisitiveness but his generosity, and it is to the credit of Jeffery Meyers’s new biography that the graciousness gets just as much attention as the self-indulgences.
'The Tree of Life'
I should have been the ideal viewer for Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. I had been writing a love letter to Paris in my heart years before I visited the city. Yet the movie ended up barely holding my attention.
Jane Eyre & Meek's Cutoff
If you’re a fan of the History Channel, you’ll feel right at home watching Robert Redford’s recreation of Abraham Lincoln’s murder near the beginning of The Conspirator.
The latest demonic possession movie, The Rite, is The Exorcist for sissies.
A review of the Cohen brothers' True Grit
'Black Swan,' 'The Fighter' & 'The King's Speech'
Driving home from a college class every Wednesday in 1969, I would listen to an eight-track of the Beatles’ White Album. Whenever “Julia” came on, I felt bemused by its daringly monotonous tempo, the seesawing melody, and the lyrics, “Julia, Julia, ocean child, calls me / So I sing a song of love, Julia / Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me...” Was this an earthly lover whom John Lennon mourned or a daydream, a mermaid?
Clint Eastwood's Hereafter
‘Wall Street 2’ & ‘The Social Network’
'The Last Exorcism' & 'Devil'
A review of Get Low
‘Winter's Bone’ & ‘The Kids Are All Right’
You’ve probably taken one of those “time release” capsules that administer medicine at intervals. Please Give is a time-release movie that provides information about its characters in stages, thus ensuring your complicated interest in them.
Reviews of Shutter Island and The Ghost Writer
The highest praise I can pay Michael Hoffmann’s film The Last Station (based on a novel about Tolstoy by Jay Parini) is to say that it fulfills some of the excruciatingly tragic and excruciatingly comic possibilities of the subject.
A review of The Lovely Bones and A Single Man
For more than a year trailers have been promising that James Cameron’s Avatar would change the way we look at movies. No wonder the picture has broken all box-office records by earning more than a billion dollars within three weeks of its release. But has the promise been kept?
I bah-humbugged on the way to the box office but was surprised and conquered by the flexible faithfulness of Robert Zemeckis’s adaptation. Quite a bit of the Dickensian magic is preserved. Carrey’s vocal performance is at least serviceable, but it is Zemeckis’s visual brio that carries the day.
A review of Steven Soderbergh's film 'The Informant!'
A review of the films 'A Serious Man' and 'An Education'
A review of the Oscar-contender ’The Hurt Locker’
A review of Michael Mann’s new film, ’Public Enemies’
A review of Mike Leigh’s film ’Happy-Go-Lucky’
A review of two summer sequels: Indiana Jones & Prince Caspian.
A review of the films ’Married Life’ and ’21’
The real auteur of the Coens’ new film is the novelist Cormac McCarthy.
Will ’Michael Clayton’ bring Oscar nods for the first-time director and the star George Clooney?
Angelina Jolie shines in Michael Winterbottom’s ’A Mighty Heart.’
Reviews of the independent films ’Once’ and ’La Vie en Rose’
When a movie about Alzheimer’s isn’t all about Alzheimer’s.
Is ’Amazing Grace’ too tidy a rendering of a complex chapter of England’s history?
Two Oscar contenders provide unexpected perspectives on historical events.
With Oscar season upon us, it’s time, once again, to feel Mel Gibson’s pain.
Two very different movies from the other side of the pond: Borat & The Queen.
Is Clint Eastwood’s ’Flags of Our Fathers’ good? Yes. A masterpiece? Not so much.
Why everything to love about Martin Scorsese’s latest film, ’The Departed,’ is just too much.
Do murder- mystery flicks ’Hollywoodland’ and ’The Black Dahlia’ soar or wilt?
Are we ready for another 9/11 movie? We have been since 9/12.
What happens when National Public Radio goes to the movies?
A failed movie that doesn’t even have the courage of its own scandal.
Viewing the Holocaust through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old.
Brokeback Mountain will win the best-picture Oscar this year but for the wrong reason. Academy members will vote for it because they regard it as a gay movie that did great box office. But Brokeback Mountain is not a gay movie. This superb work of art is about the tragedy of emotional apartheid, and none of us, no matter our sexual orientation, is ever safe from the way life conspires to make us put our hearts on ice. Richard Alleva reviews.
If nothing else, Andrew Adamson’s adaption gets the pictures right. Richard Alleva reviews.
"Arrow shirts, furrowed brows, steely replies, and the Hemingway ethos of coolness-under-fire abound in Good Night, and Good Luck, George Clooney’s depiction of the televised joust between the newscaster Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy. Photographed by Robert Elswit in black-and-white so stark that realism crosses over into Andy Warholian pop realism, this movie presents the CBS news bureau of 1953 as the epitome of buttoned-down Eisenhower-era sobriety, though fired up by patriotism and liberal machismo." Richard Alleva reviews.
Just my luck. I’m trying to come to grips with the most unsettling American film produced in several years, while circumstances dictate a deadline that nearly keeps me from thinking about the movie-much less writing about it. So please regard all that follows, not as a formal critique, but as “Notes toward the Definition of A History of Violence,” a film written by Josh Olson and directed by David Cronenberg.
Bill Murray was the first movie comedian since W. C. Fields to make cold contempt hip and attractive. For both performers the world was enemy. Fields squinted at it suspiciously but Murray’s gaze never concealed its open contempt. The Murray stare said, “Yes, if you feel you have just made an utter and eternal ass of yourself, trust that intuition completely.”
How Tim Burton’s ’Charlie’ is true to Dahl’s vision, and Spielberg’s ’War of the World’ doesn’t stay true to his own. Reviewed by Richard Alleva.
How does a low-budget indie flick like ’Crash’ manage the same level of superficiality as a blockbuster like Ridley Scott’s ’Kingdom of Heaven’? Richard Alleva reviews.
Downfall takes us into Hitler’s bunker, a circle of hell Dante would have relished. Richard Alleva reviews.
We all know which movies to watch for Christmas, but what about Easter? Richard Alleva recommends the films of Danish director Carl Dreyer.
Is there such a thing as a Dostoyevskian movie blockbuster? Richard Alleva reviews Martin Scorsese’s latest.
Ray revives the biopic in all its raciness; Kinsey harks back to the “good films-good citizenship” screen biographies of the 1930s.
"What caught me off guard about The Incredibles is how much beauty there is in this movie." Richard Alleva reviews.
"The Motorcycle Diaries is about a sensitive, intelligent, and doomed youth named Ernesto Guevara, and the movie itself is sensitive, intelligent, and doomed."
The Chinese movie epic, Hero, is more than spectacular; it is elemental.
"Director Jonathan Demme has transformed the classic cold-war pulp thriller into a fictional sibling of Fahrenheit 9/11."
What could possibly be wrong with a movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks? Plenty.
Now that the cycle is finished, how do the films hold up?
That war is hell must always be a profounder fact than war is romance; nevertheless, war goes on being romance.
"Strictly speaking, Troy isn’t an adaptation of The Iliad." What is it then?
"Has Mel Gibson’s passion resulted in a truly dramatic work of art? I think not."