2010 (These reviews are pretty bad, too. Read at your own risk.)

127 Hours

The A-Team

Alice in Wonderland

Beginners — Just not a big fan of this one. It’s too self-consciously quirky, to the extent that the artifice makes it difficult to fully understand or empathize with these characters, and I don’t think it ever quite figures out its tone. Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent don’t have any particular chemistry here; every exchange they have, even after their characters are in a serious relationship, is awkward like a teenage boy trying to talk to a girl for the first time. The whole thing is just a little too arbitrarily strange for me.

Biutiful — Eh, kind of the same as most other Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu movies to me — basically gets the job done where it counts but is overburdened by its grasps at significance and meaning.

Black Swan — Even knowing what it is and who made it, I was unprepared for how…visceral this was. Darren Aronofsky seems to enjoy a good movie about paranoid obsession; it’s like he finished The Wrestler and thought it was too sweet and humane. Black Swan doesn’t move you; it grabs you by the throat and forces you to watch. What I like about Aronofsky, which separates him from other prototypically auteur directors, is that he’s able to go abstract and develop a rich metaphorical dimension while tying it to something more literal, the end result being a film that’s gripping when you first see it and rewards repeat viewings. There’s a lot about Black Swan that’s impossible to grasp on the first viewing, but it’s anchored by the more immediate story of obsession — more specifically, the way a mother’s vicarious dreams completely unravel her daughter. It’s a rare thing indeed: a movie that’s able to speak to different audiences in different ways without feeling fractured and uncertain of its purpose. Black Swan is truly one of a kind. It took me far too long to get around to it.

The Book of Eli

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Clash of the Titans

Despicable Me


Dinner for Schmucks

Easy A — I think maybe I should give this another chance, because I wasn’t as familiar with or as into John Hughes-style movies when I last saw it. But then again, my objection wasn’t so much that I thought it was terrible or boring. I just think, even as someone who agrees with nearly every word of its message, that it’s a little self-righteous and self-congratulatory, and no matter how in the right they are, I don’t think anybody needs much of that. And I just got a bit annoyed with its ego.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within — A solid action movie. I actually didn’t realize it was a sequel when I first saw it. It feels a lot more self-contained than that. I can’t imagine what the main character’s arc must have been in the first one. Anyway, this is solid filmmaking. Better yet, it’s actually self-critical and, unlike a lot of other action movies I see in a year, it doesn’t spend its time wringing its hands trying to justify the awful things its heroes do. Instead, it challenges it. Nevertheless, I’d never attach the word “spectacular” to it.

The Expendables — Was it just something about the letter E in 201o? Anyway, this was probably supposed to be dumb fun, but it comes across as dumb serious. There just isn’t any imagination or spirit in it.

The Fighter

Four Lions — I went into it expecting a more grounded satire. I think I’ve decided I like what I got even better. Its characters are a band of cartoonish idiots, and I’m all right with that. I think we need that, in all honesty, something that takes the edge off the fear while also lampooning the worldviews that create it. And despite largely being the sort of comedy that encourages you to laugh at its characters — something I’m all right with here, given that said characters are, you know, terrorists — it manages to arrive at some subtle pathos toward the end. It does that surprisingly organically, too. You start to feel a sort of sadness as the insanity of the world its characters inhabit begins to sink in, around the same time it hits them, too. It’s a very unfairly overlooked comedy.

Get Low

Gulliver’s Travels

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

How to Train Your Dragon

I Saw the Devil — If I were rating this based solely on entertainment value, I’d probably give it positive marks. It’s of compelling make, particularly on the visual level, and there are a few good-to-excellent performances on display. However, I don’t want to evaluate a movie that contains the near-rape and murder of a teenage girl by its entertainment value. I Saw the Devil ultimately crossed too many lines for me. It struck me as a schlocky exploitation film that thinks it’s serious art. It tries too hard to have it both ways. It says “revenge is bad” (albeit not in a compelling way, in that the protagonist starts out ruthless and terrifying rather than evolving in that direction over the course of the film) but luxuriates in every lurid detail, capturing every centimeter of the blood and gore. Honestly, I think it’s an artsy torture porn movie. It undeniably took talent to make this, but I can’t say I took anything of value from it.

The Illusionist

Incendies — I saw someone describe this as “well-crafted misery porn,” and that fairly well describes my reaction to it. It’s well-made and engrossing, but it teeters awkwardly between being a humane take on the fallout of religious war and being a messed-up, twist-driven genre film.


Ip Man — The story’s a bit paint-by-numbers, and you couldn’t ask for a flatter, more boring protagonist, but it’s got it where it counts — ridiculously awesome martial arts scenes and an adventurous spirit.

Iron Man 2

Jonah Hex

The Karate Kid

The Kids Are All Right — It’s decent; it inhabits that space where it’s good enough that I wish it were better. I think I mostly understood what it was on about, but its thematic endgame doesn’t really become clear until the last 15 minutes, and that’s only because it just throws its hands up in the air and says it out loud. It works mainly on the level of performances; everyone in this is on their A-game.

The King’s Speech

Knight and Day

The Last Airbender

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole


Paranormal Activity 2 — This one doesn’t even have its predecessor’s novelty going for it, so it feels like the “spend thousands to make millions” barely-a-movie it is. Far too much of its run-time is a sit and wait game that culminates in nothing interesting happening (and the presence of more cameras in the house, while it ought to give the movie more tools to work with, just takes away the need to do a lot with a little that led to the first one’s strongest moments).

Predators — I don’t know. Probably rescued by my love for cool sci-fi nonsense and Dirty Dozen-style casts. There’s a germ of an interesting idea somewhere in here, if only the movie could find it, some test of our basic humanity and affirmation of our compassion as something that makes us strong rather than weak. The movie doesn’t seem to realize that elements of the ending completely undercut that. Also, the characters make fundamentally no sense to me — these guys are rapists, murderers, hitmen, plus one or two legitimate soldiers, and it’s bizarre how many of them not belonging to the last category suddenly find a soul and start sacrificing themselves for each other in the last third. Anyway, something kinda basically entertaining about it, despite being largely skin-deep and brainless.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time


Robin Hood


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Shrek Forever After

Shutter Island — A solid and entertaining thriller. The deeper levels don’t work as well as in other Martin Scorsese films. It’s definitely one of the lesser films in his oeuvre, but if nothing else, it’s proof he can tackle the “fun” stuff with almost equal aplomb.


The Social Network

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice


To Save a Life

The Town — It’s very compelling and well made, but it’s very strangely calibrated. I’m not entirely sure what it thinks it’s about, but that probably isn’t what it actually is. Opening title: Charlestown produces the most bank and armored car robbers in the world. Plot of movie: Bank and armored car robbers doing their thing. End title: While Charlestown produces the most bank and armored car robbers in the world, there are also good people there; this film, which is exclusively about the bad ones, is dedicated to them for some reason. Not the most convincing love letter. As sort of a broad tale of a criminal who wants out of the game, it’s fine, but its preoccupation with the inevitable consequences of our actions is kind of undercut by the fact that the protagonist sort of gets away with everything. The movie feels like the product of too many hedged bets, each of the hero’s immoral actions being robbed of their worst-case consequences so we don’t hate him too much. And I’m generally not a fan of the love story where a man screws with a woman’s mind in truly insidious ways and she just forgives him because love is irrational or whatever. It’s solid entertainment but probably doesn’t warrant much deeper thought.

Toy Story 3

TRON: Legacy

True Grit

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil — I am so bummed I waited so many years to watch this. It’s smart and hilarious. It’s weird that such an over-the-top, violent movie can have such a sweet, gooey center. I actually cared about the characters and wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Seriously, this movie might actually be great.


The Ward — Somewhere in here, there’s a germ of a halfway decent idea, but the movie doesn’t even introduce it as an element until the last five minutes and only as a dumb “gotcha” twist. This really isn’t up to the John Carpenter standard of smart, original genre movies. It’s nothing more than a collection of eye-rolling cliches and lazy jump scares.

Winter’s Bone

2011 (These reviews are “meh.” Read them if you must.)

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adventures of Tintin

The Artist

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1

Attack the Block — Sort of a mildly more serious Shaun of the Dead with alien monsters instead of zombies. It’s a genre flick through and through, but despite its silliness and heavy bent toward action, it’s got a surprisingly intelligent script that deals with some surprisingly meaningful concepts. I wouldn’t say that it’s always as subtle about those concepts as I’d like for it to be. Still, it’s got an involving cast, rising stakes, a plot that builds and unfurls perfectly, interesting brain food underneath the surface, and plenty of awesome alien monster fights to go around.

Battle: Los Angeles


A Better Life

Captain America: The First Avenger

Cars 2

Cowboys and Aliens

The Descendants

Drive — Refn’s gorgeous, compelling direction elevates a simple but effective story and simple but somewhat less effective characters.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Green Hornet

Green Lantern

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Happy Feet Two

The Help


The Ides of March

In Time

The Iron Lady

J. Edgar

Jack and Jill

Kung Fu Panda 2

Margin Call

Midnight in Paris

Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol


The Muppets

My Week with Marilyn — Slightly better than I thought it was going to be. The contrast between the light, fluffy tone and the darkness of Marilyn Monroe’s inner life may or may not be intentional, but there’s something very compelling about it. The movie is always hovering over potentially interesting ideas but never dives quite deeply enough to find anything particularly insightful. It’s undercut, I think, by its decision to end on such an unambiguously uplifting note — I don’t think it properly wrestles with the questions it raises. Still, it offers a suitably complex portrait of fame and identity and agency, and I was surprised how enjoyable I found it. Also, Kenneth Branagh is the man.

Paranormal Activity 3 — It feels like they aren’t even trying to expand the mythology anymore. I don’t like any of these movies, and I especially didn’t like Paranormal Activity 2, but at least that movie was clever enough to add new dimensions to the first one’s story. This one just jumps back in time and depicts something we already knew, more or less, and without any particular imagination. It has a few clever ideas for scares but never does anything clever with them. At this point, it’s clear I’m not in the target audience for this. There’s only so long I can stare at a stationary image before I decide that a light briefly flicking on and off isn’t payoff enough for my patience.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Puss in Boots


Real Steel


Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Scream 4 — Kind of the same problem I have with all of these movies — too much self-referencing, not enough actual parody. Four movies in, the formula is starting to get tiresome. Wes Craven is still good enough to make some of the most visceral stuff work, and there’s something charmingly 90s about it, but it’s not enough to save it.

A Separation

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Soul Surfer

Source Code

Super 8

Take Shelter


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy — It might be easier to make a list of the veteran British actors who aren’t in this movie; it’s the Harry Potter of Cold War thrillers. There’s a lot to like about it; I particularly enjoyed its precise, methodical direction, where every shot is immaculately framed and has a clear narrative purpose. Still, something about it is just a little too distant for my taste — for the most part, it stays well outside its characters’ heads, making it difficult to empathize with and be particularly invested in them. Plus, I think the themes of Cold War paranoia have been done better elsewhere. It’s still good, but I had trouble really getting into it.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The Tree of Life

War Horse


Win Win

We Bought a Zoo

We Need to Talk About Kevin — Well, I’m officially dead inside. I honestly don’t even know how to begin talking about this movie. My stomach was in knots by the time it ended. Absolutely one of the most crushing films I’ve ever seen.

X-Men: First Class

You’re Next — I liked this quite a bit more than I expected to. It’s not perfect, but it works very well within the confines of the prototypical gory horror movie. I especially like how strong the comedy is. It tends to get classified as a straight horror movie, but honestly, there are enough laughs here that I think horror comedy is actually the more appropriate description. Not only is it overtly funny, there’s also a sly, winking quality lying underneath nearly every beat of the story. It successfully has its cake and eat it, too — it works in an immediate, emotional sense, but it never takes itself too seriously or takes its tongue out of its cheek.

2012 (Not the greatest, but from here on out, I’m pretty comfortable with most of what I’ve written. Date stamp: 2014, will think these are terrible in minimum of three-year period, but must cease qualifying everything.)

21 Jump Street — Okay, I admit it: actually pretty funny. I think it stumbles dramatically, too many peripheral characters that have nothing to do, lots of setups without payoffs. I love this movie’s courage, though. It explicitly mocks not only itself but the producers who greenlit it. I’m amazed it got away with that.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter — I could definitely see how it might be a guilty pleasure for someone. Admittedly, it’s kind of fun when Honest Abe gets down to the vampire slaying; the action sequences are over-the-top but benefit from being played with an incredibly knowing self-seriousness. The scenes in between are flat, though, and there are way too many of them.

Act of Valor

The Amazing Spider-Man


Anna Karenina



The Avengers


Beasts of the Southern Wild

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Blue Like Jazz

The Bourne Legacy


The Cabin in the Woods — I don’t know if this is the sort of statement that gains me fans or loses me fans, but I think The Cabin in the Woods is the movie Scream wanted to be. It’s an effective and cutting — albeit loving — parody of horror films that pokes its fun in the way everything is presented and arranged rather than having the characters simply vocalize the tropes and show off their encyclopedic knowledge of horror movies constantly. The whole movie is a satirical metaphor — the college kids in the cabin are the movie itself, the guys in the office are the filmmakers, and, depending on your interpretation, the angry gods are either horror fans or studio executives. You can see the fun the filmmakers had in tearing down that dynamic. I don’t know how infinitely rewatchable I think this movie is; it’s the metaphor that drives the plot rather than the characters or the story, so it’s not exactly emotional. It’s also not super interested in working as a horror movie either; it doesn’t try particularly hard to be scary. But it is smart and funny, and what more do you want?


Cloud Atlas


The Dark Knight Rises

Dark Shadows

Django Unchained


End of Watch

The Expendables 2



Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

The Grey



The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Hope Springs

Hotel Transylvania

The Hunger Games

Hyde Park on Hudson

Ice Age: Continental Drift

The Impossible

The Intouchables

Jack Reacher

John Carter

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Killing Them Softly


Les Miserables

Life of Pi




The Lorax

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

The Master — It would take an in-depth analysis not well suited to this page to lend any definition to my feelings about this film, so I’ll keep it short and to the point: It’s really good and maybe even great.

Men in Black 3

Mirror Mirror

Moonrise Kingdom


The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Paranormal Activity 4 — “Hey, boyfriend, I think there’s a ghost in my house. Could you rig all my computers so they record everything?” “Sure, no problem.” “Okay, thanks! This will be very helpful to my investigation.” * proceeds to never watch recordings* Agh, all of these are bad in exactly the same way.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

The Place Beyond the Pines

Premium Rush


Promised Land


Red Dawn

Red Tails

Rise of the Guardians

Robot & Frank

Ruby Sparks

Safety Not Guaranteed

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Silver Linings Playbook

Sinister — A fairly creepy and effective horror film, and it’s actually trying to do some interesting things on a narrative level, too. It suffers primarily from the absolutely astonishing idiocy of its protagonist.


Sleepwalk with Me

Snow White and the Huntsman

Taken 2

The Three Stooges

To Rome with Love

Total Recall

Trouble with the Curve

The Woman in Black

Wrath of the Titans

Wreck-It Ralph

Zero Dark Thirty


12 Years a Slave


47 Ronin


After Earth

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

All Is Lost

American Hustle

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

August: Osage County

Beautiful Creatures

The Bling Ring

Before Midnight

Blue Caprice

Blue Jasmine

The Book Thief

Captain Phillips

Carrie — It’s kind of exactly the same movie as the original, so I’m not sure why it was remade. It doesn’t even start doing anything noticeably different until the last five minutes or so. And the minor changes it does make, mainly in the minute details, demonstrate a total lack of understanding of what this story is about. It removes all ambiguity from Tommy and Sue’s situation, significantly reducing the stress about their motives. It softens the anti-religion element and tries to make Carrie less of a victim and in so doing misses exactly how disturbed she is. And by reveling in the violence of the climax in the way that it does, it totally misses the sense of horror that, in the original, made clear why repression is something to be feared. It’s just a mess all around.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

The Conjuring

The Counselor

The Croods

Dallas Buyers Club

Despicable Me 2

The East


Ender’s Game

Enough Said


The Fifth Estate

Frances Ha


Fruitvale Station

Gangster Squad

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

A Good Day to Die Hard


The Great Gatsby


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Host

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunt

In a World…

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Inside Llewyn Davis

Iron Man 3

Jack the Giant Slayer


The Kings of Summer

The Last Stand

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

The Lone Ranger

Lone Survivor


Man of Steel

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Monsters University

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones



Now You See Me


Olympus Has Fallen

Out of the Furnace

Oz the Great and Powerful

Pacific Rim

The Past



The Purge — I more or less agree with what appears to be the critical consensus: It’s an ordinary home invasion thriller that wastes a potentially interesting high-concept premise. It’s biggest problem is its tone. It’s a little sillier than it realizes and should have either dialed that down or embraced those darkly comic undercurrents a little more whole-heartedly. The effect is that it’s cheesy as hell and occasionally grates as a result. Still, it can be entertaining in a “fine enough waste of 90 minutes sort of way.” If nothing else, it breezes by fairly quickly.


Red 2


Saving Mr. Banks

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Short Term 12


The Spectacular Now

Star Trek Into Darkness

The Starving Games

This Is Martin Bonner

This Is the End — I kind of wish it wasn’t as crass and vulgar as it is, because there is some funny stuff here. Good energy and an impressive attention to detail, combined with weird, almost inexplicable dabs of heart. But my line between what’s funny and what’s disgusting is apparently way different than everyone else’s, and there’s only so many ways people can reference sex before I start to wonder what the joke is. Too often, I feel like these movies get made for 12-year-olds.

Thor: The Dark World


Upstream Color


Warm Bodies

The Way Way Back

White House Down

The Wind Rises

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolverine

World War Z

The World’s End


22 Jump Street

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

American Sniper

Annabelle — Mostly struck me as a big-budget episode of A Haunting. Very generic characters, mediocre performances, bland dialogue, predictable scares, limited sense of structure and pacing. Not a fan.

The Babadook


Beyond the Lights

Big Eyes

Big Hero 6


Blue Ruin

The Book of Life

The Boxtrolls



Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Dear White People

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Deliver Us from Evil

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby


The Drop

Dumb and Dumber To

Earth to Echo

Edge of Tomorrow

Exodus: Gods and Kings

The Expendables 3

The Fault in Our Stars

Force Majeure




Get on Up

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

The Giver

God’s Not Dead


Gone Girl

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Guest

Heaven Is for Real


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Homesman

How to Train Your Dragon 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1

I, Frankenstein


The Imitation Game

The Immigrant

Inherent Vice


The Interview

Into the Woods

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Jersey Boys


John Wick

Journey to the West

The Judge

Left Behind

The Legend of Hercules

The LEGO Movie


Love Is Strange


Magic in the Moonlight


The Maze Runner

A Million Ways to Die in the West

The Monuments Men

A Most Wanted Man

A Most Violent Year

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Mr. Turner

Muppets Most Wanted

Need for Speed

Neighbors — It’s amusing, I guess. Rose Byrne is one of my new favorite people. Still don’t completely get it.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Night Moves




Obvious Child


The One I Love

Only Lovers Left Alive



The Purge: Anarchy — There’s something inherently compelling about the premise, and I enjoyed the way it sketched its world (especially by comparison to its predecessor), but its storytelling instinct is pure form over function. Action sequence, everyone awkwardly attempts to talk about their feelings, repeat from step one. The satire doesn’t fare much better. The moment it appears, you get it in its entirety; the rest of the movie does nothing to deepen it.

Ride Along

Rio 2



The Rover



The Skeleton Twins


Song of the Sea

St. Vincent

Still Alice

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Theory of Everything



Transformers: Age of Extinction

Two Days, One Night

The Two Faces of January


Under the Skin

Vampire Academy

Veronica Mars

We Are the Best!



Wild Tales — It’s like a Twilight Zone of darkly comic dramas. As with a lot of movies that function as collections of short films, some of the segments are stronger than others; “Wild Tales” in particular suffers from all of its stories having seemingly the same point. Still, it’s very fun in a demented sort of way — it’s enjoyable to see exactly how far it goes sometimes. The twists are almost always darker than you expect, and the movie usually pushes them to their most extreme points. It’s a strange piece of work but a consistently entertaining one.

Winter’s Tale

X-Men: Days of Future Past


45 Years — I enjoyed it. I declined to review it because something about it evaded me in the time after first seeing it. I was unable to quite articulate what worked on me and what didn’t. I’ve spent some time reading up on it and thinking about it, and it’s allowed me to see some of what I missed on the first viewing. It’s a very subtle and detailed film; you have to pay full attention at all times. I’m beginning to suspect that it may, after all, be great.



Avengers: Age of Ultron

Beasts of No Nation

The Big Short

Black Mass

Bridge of Spies






Clouds of Sils Maria

The Cobbler


Cop Car


Crimson Peak

Daddy’s Home

The Danish Girl

The Divergent Series: Insurgent


The End of the Tour


Ex Machina

Fantastic Four



The Gift

The Good Dinosaur


The Hateful Eight


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

In the Heart of the Sea

Inside Out

Irrational Man

It Follows

Jupiter Ascending

Jurassic World


Kingsman: The Secret Service


Love & Mercy

Mad Max: Fury Road


The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Martian

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Mistress America


Mr. Holmes



Paper Towns

The Peanuts Movie



The Revenant

Ricki and the Flash

The Ridiculous 6


Run All Night

San Andreas

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Seventh Son

Shaun the Sheep Movie



Slow West

Son of Saul



The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water



Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Steve Jobs

Straight Outta Compton


Taken 3


Terminator Genisys



True Story




The Visit

The Walk

The Water Diviner

Welcome to Me

What We Do in the Shadows

When Marnie Was There

While We’re Young

White God

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

Z for Zachariah

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