Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader

  1. C.O.G. 2013 Writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez blends pointed satire with gallows humor, much like Sedaris himself. full review
  2. Cutie And The Boxer 2013 Intriguing as their present lives may be, without enough background to appreciate, for instance, Ushio's associations with Rauschenberg and Warhol, we can't gauge the full extent of the couple's regrets and losses. full review
  3. Good Ol' Freda 2013 Although this music documentary has some historic value, it aims to entertain -- and succeeds, largely because its subject is a natural on camera. full review
  4. Hannah Arendt 2013 Barbara Sukowa delivers a beautifully modulated performance, showing the rigor of Arendt's thought and convictions while revealing the contours of a passionate woman with complex relationships. full review
  5. Lovelace 2013 This drama from codirectors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman is so respectful of 70s porn sensation Linda Lovelace that instead of humanizing the Deep Throat star, it reduces her to one dimension: victim. full review
  6. Paranoia 2013 In a movie about a new generation's hunger to topple the old guard, pretty boy Hemsworth is outclassed by his veteran costars, who get more mileage from baring their teeth than he does baring his chest. full review
  7. Populaire 2013 [A] sweet but slight homage to the 50s and 60s. full review
  8. Friends With Benefits 2011 The jokes don't all work and the topical references can be irritably hipper-than-thou, but at least director and cowriter Will Gluck aims high: this is patterned on the Tracy and Hepburn comedies, albeit with a lot more skin. full review
  9. The Interrupters 2011 Searing in its depiction of at-risk children in poor communities, the film is also the bracing, life-affirming story of residents who are beginning to reclaim their streets, one corner at a time. full review
  10. Pina 2011 Crane and steadycam allow Wenders to get so close to the action that in the minimalist Cafe Muller, one's illusion of being on stage is uncanny. full review
  11. Biutiful 2010 Javier Bardem cuts a tragic figure as a dying Barcelona lowlife who traffics in illegal immigrants and communes with the dead. full review
  12. Night Catches Us 2010 Tanya Hamilton directed her own script, and though her ending leaves loose ends dangling, the movie is refreshing for its seriousness and originality. full review
  13. The Proposal 2009 [A] buoyant vehicle for Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, whose chemistry is a happy surprise. full review
  14. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest 2009 Since the heroine spends half her screen time recovering from brain surgery, Rapace has less to do than in the first two movies, but she's striking in full punk regalia during a tense courtroom sequence. full review
  15. Bottle Shock 2008 Rickman adds a welcome astringency. full review
  16. The Burning Plain 2008 The result is confusion, not catharsis. full review
  17. Eldorado 2008 Avoids a formulaic ending, reflecting instead on the impermanence of human connections and the inescapable baggage of the self. full review
  18. Elegy 2008 Elegy gives Ben Kingsley one of the best roles of his career. full review
  19. Never Back Down 2008 Jeff Wadlow directed this exploitation flick, which seems designed for students on spring break. full review
  20. New York, I Love You 2008 The project is lush and seductive as a whole, though some segments are especially vibrant. full review
  21. Our City Dreams 2008 Chiara Clemente, a documentarian for Italian TV, gets in close enough to record her subjects' techniques but not close enough to reveal what makes the women tick. full review
  22. The Tale of Despereaux 2008 The imagery is colorful and artfully rendered, but the filmmakers, favoring technological wizardry over story, have beefed up the narrative with teeming rodent civilizations, a seafaring sequence, and gladiatorial action pieces. full review
  23. Theater of War 2008 Engrossing and timely, this crackles with ideas about art, politics, religion, and the terrible costs of war. full review
  24. Beaufort 2007 [A] blistering antiwar film. full review
  25. The Pool 2007 Reality and fiction fuse like watercolors in this quietly compelling narrative feature. full review
  26. Puccini for Beginners 2007 Fresh Manhattan locations prove as photogenic as the leads, and the supporting actors -- especially Tina Benko as a glacial, impeccably dressed amazon -- don't miss a beat of Maggenti's snappy dialogue. full review
  27. Surfwise 2007 The fallout decades later provides the drama in this documentary by Doug Pray, who lets his eccentric octogenarian subject off a little too easy. full review
  28. Penelope 2006 More tart than sweet, this contemporary fairy tale provides a worthy vehicle for the fearless Christina Ricci. full review
  29. The Fog 2005 The production values are above par, but as in Carpenter's original, seeing ghosts is less scary than imagining them. full review
  30. Forgiving Dr. Mengele 2005 Pugh and her codirector, Bob Hercules, are remarkably evenhanded in their treatment of the situation; people who recoiled from Kor's statement are given ample screen time and presented with equal sympathy. full review
  31. Serenity 2005 Joss Whedon makes a rousing feature-directing debut, exploiting the cult status of his short-lived series Firefly to continue it on the big screen. full review

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