Movie Review Articles

The Long Con

How much longer for pleasant, diversionary cinema?
Mar 16, 2015

There should be movies like Focus every week. It’s a stylish and amusing film with glamorous actors, memorable supporting players, lush settings, and lots of twists and turns. Will Smith plays a successful con artist who chisels people all over the world. He’s amused when a two-bit newbie played by Margot Robbie tries to run a hustle on him—amused and also powerfully attracted, because Margot Robbie may be the most beautiful woman to grace the screen since the 1960s heyday of Natalie Wood and Julie Christie.

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Virtue Rewarded

Including the virtue of keeping a straight face
Mar 02, 2015

When I tell you that, in my opinion, the three novels now known as the Fifty Shades Trilogy are the worst books I have ever read all the way through, I am not telling you anything interesting. To criticize E. L. James’s publishing version of winning the Irish Sweepstakes is to attack a cultural phenomenon entirely beyond the reach of criticism. These three books, originally published as a series of posts on a fan-fiction website, ended up earning their author $95 million in a single year.

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Movie Magic

A musical love story finds its medium
Feb 23, 2015

I don’t remember when I have been more deeply affected by a film than I was by The Last Five Years, a jewel box of a movie-musical that is unquestionably the best of its kind since Chicago was released in 2003. It is at once a tiny slip of a thing and an emotional blockbuster. Over the course of a brisk 90 minutes, The Last Five Years provides an exhilarating and devastating account of the relationship between a successful young writer and an unsuccessful young actress.

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Crime of Punishment

A grim, epic allegory of Putin’s Russia
Feb 09, 2015

The director of the new Russian movie Leviathan now lives in Canada. This was a wise decision on Andrey Zvyagintsev’s part—because even though Leviathan received grants from the Russian government and was officially selected to represent the country in this year’s Oscar race, at some point in the near future, Zvyagintsev’s career and maybe his life won’t be worth a plugged kopek in his homeland.

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Ennobled, Unnerving

One man, one war, and the cost of service
Feb 02, 2015

The overwhelming American Sniper is cast in shadow from start to finish by two real-world tragedies, one very broad and one very precise. The first is the irresolution of the Iraq war, the conflict to which the film’s titular character—Navy SEAL Christopher Kyle—was deployed four times. The second is the 2013 murder of Kyle at the hands of a disturbed veteran he was trying to help. As a result of these tragedies, the movie that tells their stories is haunted and grave.

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Podcast: American Sniper a Powerful Portrayal of America at War

Hosted by Michael Graham.
2:45 PM, Jan 27, 2015

THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with contributing editor John Podhoretz on his review of American Sniper.

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Hero as Victim

Is the Alan Turing seen here the Alan Turing who was?
Jan 26, 2015

The Imitation Game is the fanciest ABC Afterschool Special ever made: It takes the inspiring, mystifying, and upsetting life story of a great genius and turns it into a didactic and banal lesson about how people who are “different” are also very, very special.

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King in Stone

When a historical drama is devoid of drama
Jan 19, 2015

The marketing genius of movies like Selma, the highly praised docudrama about the march in Alabama that triggered the 1965 Voting Rights Act, is that they simultaneously confuse and intimidate critics and audiences by making them feel as though it would be an act of disrespect to speak anything but words of praise for the way they depict life-and-death historical events of great moral moment.

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Exodus, Stage Left

The biblical saga gets an up-to-the-minute adaptation
Dec 29, 2014

Raise your hand if you want to see Moses portrayed as an insurgent lunatic terrorist with a bad conscience, the pharaoh who sought the murder of all first-born Hebrew slaves as a nice and reasonable fellow, and God as a foul-tempered 11-year-old boy with an English accent.

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Wrestlers and Brothers

A weird, tragic, compelling tale tainted by politics
Dec 15, 2014

Foxcatcher is a slow, gripping, fact-based movie about a bizarre and lonely heir to the Du Pont fortune whose obsession with the sport of wrestling eventually led him to commit a pointless and vicious murder. What makes Foxcatcher compelling is that its story, its setting, and its characters are so odd, so singular, so unlike anything we’ve seen before.

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My Dinner with Riggan

I’m OK, you’re OK, and you’re entitled to your opinion
Nov 03, 2014

If you go see the universally praised Birdman, the story of an over-the-hill film star trying to make a comeback by starring in a Broadway play, I hope you enjoy yourself. I really do. That’s what movies are for—to provide enjoyment, a few hours of diversion. Genuine art transcends that shallow goal.

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Who Done What

Feckless men, reckless women, flawed casting
Oct 20, 2014

In the universe according to Gone Girl, men are no great shakes: They’re inconstant and weak and foolish. But women .  .  . ah, women. They’re smart, resourceful, infinitely clever—and profoundly dangerous.

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Real Time Passing

Not so mad about the boy, but the premise is promising
Sep 01, 2014

If you know that Boyhood has been rapturously received as a revolutionary work in the annals of American filmmaking, it is almost sure to disappoint you. I know this, because I saw it two weeks after it opened and it disappointed me, even though I knew I was seeing something no other filmmaker had ever really tried before and that the experiment was an undoubted success.

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Edge of Oblivion

For Tom Cruise, from top gun to second fiddle?
Jun 23, 2014

Movie stars go cold. It’s part of the way popular culture works. For a long time, people just love watching them. People can’t get enough of them. And then, after they go to the well once too often with a formula that has gone flat, or after their messy personal lives get all mixed up in the characters they’re playing, stars become even slightly distasteful.

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‘Saddles’ Revisited

A parody of a spoof of a well-worn formula.
Jun 16, 2014

The much-maligned new comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West is actually pretty funny in spots. But it’s very strange. It’s an affectionate western homage, a mash-up western, a western pastiche. That’s not odd. What’s odd is that it’s an homage to a parody, and paying tribute to a spoof is just weird.

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Godzilla sans Giggles

‘Less is more’ works for atomic monsters, too.
Jun 02, 2014

Why does it feel like a modest triumph that the new version of Godzilla is actually not bad? This is really the best thing to say about Godzilla—if said in a surprised, huh, who’da thunk it? kind of way: Hey, not bad! It’s an achievement of a kind when a film about a rubber-suited character featured in some of the most infamously ridiculous pablum ever made (Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla) doesn’t make you giggle.

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Girl, Uninterrupted

A landmark in cinematic self-love.
Jun 03, 2013

Not once, not twice, but three times in the course of the 86-minute running time of the extravagantly praised Frances Ha is the title character shown running through Manhattan. Once, we see her running with her best friend. Another time we see her running to find an ATM. Then we see her running while improvising dance moves. 

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A Greater Gatsby

This cinematic version works, old sport.
May 27, 2013

The new film version of The Great Gatsby is, shockingly, terrific—opulent, powerful, and thrillingly gorgeous. Baz Luhrmann, the director and co-writer, plays it as high melodrama, operatic both in intensity and the lushness of its settings and costumes. This turns out to be the best possible approach. After a dreadful first five minutes, Luhrmann’s Gatsby is never less than immensely entertaining, and it moves splendidly. The re-creation of prewar New York and the bacchanalian revelry of the Jazz Age are on a scale I’ve only seen attempted once (in, of all things, Peter Jackson’s wildly underrated 2005 remake of King Kong), and the cinematic results are jaw-droppingly spectacular.

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Jackie, Oh

A great story yields a not-so-great film version.
May 06, 2013

The new movie about Jackie Robinson’s entry into major league baseball paints its characters with such an unmitigatedly saintly brush that Parson Weems himself might come back from the grave to say, “Speaking as the man who invented the story about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, fellas, that was a bit much.” Writer-director Brian Helgeland, who seems to have studied Barry Levinson’s fussy and romanticized direction of The Natural (1984) the way a forger studies a dollar bill, is a hamfisted scenarist whose didactic dialogue sounds like the script for one of those 15-minute plays they stage at history museums.

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Epic Lite

Impressive intentions yield less-than-impressive results
Apr 29, 2013

What does it mean to say a movie is an “epic”? An epic uses its characters and plot to illuminate a place, an era, an entire society. We are constantly being reminded, through camera work and art direction, that what we’re watching is something larger and more socially significant than its plot. The action is always placed within a wider context, historically and geographically, and the characters we’re watching move through the story as though they are actors on a grand stage.

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Diamonds in the Rough

A sweet sideshow in South Vietnam.
Apr 15, 2013

The surprise of The Sapphires is how unpretentious and unportentous it is, considering that its plot hinges not only on racist Australian policy but also the Vietnam war. Based loosely on a true story, The Sapphires is about four aboriginal girls (ranging in age from 15 to mid-20s) who turn themselves into a girl group and go on tour in Vietnam in 1968 entertaining the troops.

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Getting to No

Why ‘Win Win’ Fails.
May 23, 2011

Win Win

Directed by Thomas McCarthy

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'Hanna' Rests on Ronan's Narrow Shoulders

5:00 PM, Apr 11, 2011

Kelly Jane Torrance reviews Joe Wright's new movie, Hanna:

Films are sometimes described as "vehicles" for the big names that headline them. "Arthur," the remake of the 1981 film that opened this weekend, was made simply to showcase the outsize personality of Russell Brand. It's not often a film looks like a vehicle for a young, relatively new talent -- let alone one with a name few Americans can even pronounce.

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Program for Love

It’s not the usual obstacle in the way of romance.
Mar 21, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Directed by George Nolfi

The Adjustment Bureau is the most surprising movie I’ve seen in ages, a full-fledged, unabashed, swoony romance in the guise of a paranoid science-fiction thriller. Every romance is about a couple meant to be together that must navigate and overcome the obstacles the movie strews in their path. The Adjustment Bureau turns this on its head. It’s a movie about two people who are not supposed to be together. The force pulling Matt Damon and Emily Blunt apart isn’t family, or career, or an inconvenient partner. It’s God. God Himself doesn’t want them to be together. How can two people overcome that? And should they?

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Unit Cohesion

How one Roman legion held together against the common enemy.
Feb 28, 2011

The Eagle

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

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