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Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

  1. The Rape of Europa 2007 Filmmakers Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen, and Nicole Newnham do a superb job of telling this neglected story in vivid detail. full review
  2. United 93 2006 Greengrass takes pains to keep events believable and relatively unrhetorical, rejecting entertainment for the sake of sober reflection, though one has to ask how edifying this is apart from its reduction of the standard myths. full review
  3. The Wind That Shakes the Barley 2006 As frequently happens in both Loach films and history, the betrayal of ideals, socialist and otherwise, leaves a harsh aftertaste, which made me feel sadder but not much wiser. full review
  4. The Passion of the Christ 2004 If I were a Christian, I'd be appalled to have this primitive and pornographic bloodbath presume to speak for me. full review
  5. Gigli 2003 Brief but flamboyant cameos by Christopher Walken and Al Pacino helped keep me distracted from the noble intentions and the silliness. full review
  6. The Italian Job 2003 This one offers some agreeably mindless fun in which the villains (including Norton) are truly villainous, the payback is satisfying in a purely infantile way, and the familiarity of everything is oddly comforting. full review
  7. Kill Bill: Volume 1 2003 Even more gory and adolescent than its models, which explains both the fun and the unpleasantness of this globe-trotting romp. full review
  8. The Believer 2002 An exploration of what it means to be Jewish and what it means to hate - two separate subjects that happen to overlap in this case. full review
  9. The Hours 2002 David Hare's screen adaptation reduces Woolf and her art to a set of feminist stances and a few plot points, without reference to style or form. full review
  10. Irreversible 2002 So formally and stylistically aggressive that this aspect overpowers what it has to say, which isn't much. full review
  11. Lost in La Mancha 2002 I'd like Lost in La Mancha more if it didn't take the easy but misleading route of dovetailing Gilliam's frustrations into Welles's, and then dovetailing both into Quixote's. full review
  12. The Master of Disguise 2002 George W. Bush in the flesh would have been much funnier than this movie's impersonation. full review
  13. The New Guy 2002 It isn't very good, but it doesn't seem to care, which turns out to be rather refreshing. full review
  14. Russian Ark 2002 Part pageant and museum tour, part theme-park ride and historical meditation. full review
  15. America's Sweethearts 2001 A clunky ribbing of the movie industry. full review
  16. The Score 2001 full review
  17. Lara Croft - Tomb Raider 2001 [A] movie based on a video game that's unafraid to look absurd but lacks the self-conviction needed to come off as camp. full review
  18. Diamond Men 2000 full review
  19. Gladiator 2000 Though the digital effects lack the weight and conviction of their equivalents in old Cecil B. De Mille movies, Ridley Scott's sword-and-sandal epic has some of the intensity of old Hollywood in terms of storytelling, spectacle, and violence. full review
  20. The Blair Witch Project 1999 What gives the film much of its force and its mounting sense of queasy uncertainty is its narrative method, which ensures that we know no more about the proceedings than the characters do. full review
  21. Boys Don't Cry 1999 full review
  22. An Ideal Husband 1999 Much of the four acts of An Ideal Husband, a serious comedy, is constructed out of flip one-liners, most of which remain, though Parker has added a few, all unworthy of the master. full review
  23. The Virgin Suicides 1999 A very curious and eclectic piece of work. full review
  24. Chasing Amy 1997 Neither PC nor crudely anti-PC, this tough and tender movie, like its characters, is prepared to take emotional risks, and the comic book milieu is deftly sketched in. full review
  25. Inventing the Abbotts 1997 full review
  26. Jackie Brown 1997 Quentin Tarantino puts together a fairly intricate and relatively uninvolving money-smuggling plot, but his cast is so good that you probably won't feel cheated. full review
  27. She's So Lovely 1997 full review
  28. Smilla's Sense of Snow 1997 full review
  29. Basquiat 1996 There isn't a boring shot anywhere, and writer-director Schnabel is clearly enjoying himself as he plays with expressionist sound, neo-Eisensteinian edits, and all sorts of other filmic ideas. full review
  30. Citizen Ruth 1996 full review
  31. The English Patient 1996 For all the film's effectiveness as a love story, I often felt I was being hurried through a busy itinerary. full review
  32. Fargo 1996 Whether these characters are lovable or detestable, they're lovable or detestable in a TV way -- defined by a minimal set of traits that are endlessly reiterated and incapable of expansion or alteration, a fixed loop. full review
  33. From Dusk Till Dawn 1996 On a mindless exploitation level this is pretty good, but on other levels it seems to make promises that it fails to deliver on. full review
  34. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1996 Surely one of Disney's ugliest and least imaginative efforts. full review
  35. Pocahontas 1996 Overall this seems like a reasonable stab at an impossible agenda. full review
  36. Scream 1996 Craven has expressed a desire to get out of the horror business. Maybe that's why he's set out to make more than a horror movie. He's contributing to a long tradition of reflexive films, going back as far as the turn of the century. full review
  37. Stealing Beauty 1996 A civilized, mellow, and generally graceful chamber piece. full review
  38. Trainspotting 1996 It would be pushing it to call Trainspotting a serious work of art or a major statement about anything, but as an edgy, artful piece of entertainment it beats any Hollywood release of the summer by miles. full review
  39. Bad Boys 1995 The cops never seem to know what they're doing, but then neither do the filmmakers, though I can't imagine that casual audiences will care since there are plenty of big explosions at the end to reward them. full review
  40. The Brady Bunch Movie 1995 A curiously sour movie in its amused contempt for this fatuous family. full review
  41. Clueless 1995 Though this drifts at times as storytelling, it's mainly lightweight but personable fun. full review
  42. Dead Man 1995 full review
  43. Four Rooms 1995 The results are mainly awful, and even Roth got saddled with a mannered part that he can't comfortably play. full review
  44. Sense and Sensibility 1995 I can't say I remembered this 1995 feature too clearly a couple of days later; but I certainly had a good time as I watched it. full review
  45. The Usual Suspects 1995 I didn't believe this story for a minute, even in movie terms -- though it's less offensive than a piece of junk like Apt Pupil, Singer's subsequent feature. full review
  46. While You Were Sleeping 1995 The film's casual warmth may make you tolerate some of the shortcomings -- especially since Bullock seems to be having such a fine time with her first starring role. full review
  47. Forrest Gump 1994 Judging by the the movie's enduring popularity, the message that stupidity is redemption is clearly what a lot of Americans want to hear. full review
  48. Heavenly Creatures 1994 Unlike the campy excess of Jackson's earlier Dead Alive, deliberate overkill ltimately points toward a dearth of ideas rather than a surfeit. full review
  49. The Legend of Drunken Master (Jui kuen II) (Drunken Fist II) 1994 A fleet, enjoyable Jackie Chan romp. full review
  50. Pulp Fiction 1994 The overall project is evident: to evict real life and real people from the art film and replace them with generic teases and assorted hommages. Don't expect any of the life experiences of the old movie sources to leak through. full review
  51. El Mariachi 1993 Juicy, adroit, and likable. full review
  52. The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993 The set designs are ingenious and the songs (music and lyrics by Danny Elfman) are fairly good. full review
  53. The Snapper 1993 Better-than-average sitcom stuff, enhanced by the lively performances, Doyle's own adaptation, and the able direction of Stephen Frears. full review
  54. What's Eating Gilbert Grape 1993 Even if you have a taste as I do for movies about dysfunctional families, you may be a little put off by the Grapes. full review
  55. Basic Instinct 1992 Despite (or maybe because of) his obligatory nods to Hitchcock, this is slick and entertaining enough to work as thriller porn, even with two contradictory denouements to its mystery. full review
  56. Boomerang 1992 The general idea is to exploit a certain amount of role reversal, and Reginald Hudlin, who directed House Party, does a fairly good job of making this fun. full review
  57. Reservoir Dogs 1992 It's unclear whether this macho thriller does anything to improve the state of the world or our understanding of it, but it certainly sets off enough rockets to hold and shake us for every one of its 99 minutes. full review
  58. A River Runs Through It 1992 This may work for you if you settle at the outset for a nostalgic, all-American mood piece. full review
  59. Supercop (Police Story 3) (Ging chaat goo si 3: Chiu kap ging chaat) 1992 Supercop's biggest flaw is what its producers probably saw as its greatest strength: it's very American. full review
  60. Wayne's World 1992 Very silly but enjoyable. full review
  61. All I Want for Christmas 1991 This 1991 feature is not for diabetics or connoisseurs of real people, but everyone else should have a ball. full review
  62. Backdraft 1991 Visually speaking, the film does pretty well with fire-as-spectacle, less well with everything else (Howard tends to trot out fuzzy-toned Spielbergian backlighting on any pretext). full review
  63. Barton Fink 1991 This creepy satire is full of laughs and flaky twists, but by the end you may still be scratching your head. full review
  64. Boyz n the Hood 1991 Shows some genuine talent in handling character and action, and equal amounts of confusion and attitude when it comes to matters of gender and ghetto politics. full review
  65. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear 1991 A feeble sequel. full review
  66. The Silence of the Lambs 1991 An accomplished, effective, grisly, and exceptionally sick slasher film that I can't with any conscience recommend, because the purposes to which it places its considerable ingenuity are ultimately rather foul. full review
  67. Soapdish 1991 This movie certainly has its dopey moments, but if you're feeling indulgent you're likely to have a good time with it. full review
  68. Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991 As a fancy mechanism fueled by the pleasure of watching legions of people and equipment being summarily destroyed, this is pretty hot stuff. full review
  69. The Grifters 1990 A mannerist thriller that doesn't begin to work despite the number of talented hands involved. full review
  70. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen 1989 Terry Gilliam's third fantasy feature may not achieve all it reaches for, but it goes beyond Time Bandits and Brazil in its play with space and time. full review
  71. My Left Foot 1989 For all his character's travails the film as a whole winds up surprisingly upbeat. full review
  72. The Last Temptation of Christ 1988 Concentrating on the humanity and fallibility of Jesus in continual conflict with his divinity, the film falters as a contemporary statement mainly in its primitive view of women. full review
  73. The Naked Gun - From the Files of Police Squad! 1988 Not quite up to Airplane! or Top Secret!, but there are still laughs aplenty. full review
  74. Scrooged 1988 Tacky in the extreme, this self-congratulatory 1988 film is an exercise in hypocrisy, indulging every form of Christmas exploitation that it pretends to attack, and many of the laughs are forced. full review
  75. Who Framed Roger Rabbit 1988 A Hollywood entertainment that lived up to its hype. full review
  76. Hellraiser 1987 Minor grisly fun, but don't expect the movie to linger when it's over. full review
  77. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 1986 Certainly not for everyone, but if slasher movies are your cup of tea this is a lot better than most, and the use of Chicago locations is especially effective. full review
  78. Flashdance 1983 Silly but energetic. full review
  79. High Anxiety 1978 full review
  80. Terror of Mechagodzilla 1975 full review
  81. M*A*S*H 1970 This is still watchable for the verve of the ensemble acting and dovetailing direction, but some of the crassness leaves a sour aftertaste. full review
  82. The Graduate 1967 What I don't enjoy is the cruelty, the glib mindlessness, and the insulated, pampered narcissism that makes the whole thing possible. full review
  83. From the Terrace 1960 A tolerable (if interminable) piece of mediocrity from 1960. full review
  84. Anatomy of a Murder 1959 As an entertaining look at legal process, this is spellbinding all the way, infused by an ambiguity about human personality and motivation that is Preminger's trademark, and the location shooting is superb. full review
  85. House On Haunted Hill 1958 If one had to pick the best of the campy horror films that made [Castle's] reputation, this 1958 feature would probably be it. full review
  86. The Robe 1953 Pious claptrap. full review
  87. Twelve O'Clock High 1949 Sincere, square, and interminable. full review
  88. Faust 1926 This extraordinary piece of artistry and craftsmanship integrates its dazzling special effects so seamlessly that they're indistinguishable from the film's narrative, poetry, and, above all, metaphysics. full review
  89. Seven Chances 1925 full review
  90. /titles/198215 The comedy has moved into high gear and become one of the funniest, most mean-spirited satirical assaults on sunny American values since the salad days of W.C. Fields. full review
  91. /titles/197444 An extended collection of one-liners and not much more. full review
  92. /titles/197738 full review
  93. /titles/197846 The movie offers an insulting 'let them eat cake' gesture toward the 1982 audience, but the pacing is so ragged and the characters so lifeless that few will be able to stay awake long enough to feel offended. full review
  94. /titles/198226 I was bored well before the end, but found the first half hour pretty funny. full review
  95. /titles/198371 The conceptual side of the movie--two rather sick two-sided antagonists having it out in a black and sordid context -- lingers. full review
  96. /titles/198372 More of the same, but nowhere near as good (funny, disturbing, obsessive) as the uneven original, revealing arrested development on every level. full review
  97. /titles/197153 This isn't the supreme masterpiece it might have been, but Nichols's direction is very polished and some of the lines and details are awfully funny. full review
  98. /titles/198256 In the latter part of the film, [Kitano] exhibits an urge to liberate Zatoichi and himself from the action-movie template completely. full review
  99. /titles/197463 The cast is so charming and assured that it puts across most of this with a reasonable amount of conviction. full review
  100. /titles/198217 A somewhat dispersed and overcrowded story line that remains fascinating and often affecting thanks to all its visual and conceptual energy. full review
  101. /titles/198212 full review
  102. /titles/199309 This is more than just a textbook classic; the narrative frame creates ambiguities that hold certain elements of the story in disturbing suspension. A one-of-a-kind masterpiece. full review
  103. /titles/197147 It's a fairly interesting effort -- much more ambitious than most Carrey vehicles. full review
  104. /titles/199351 Ravishing to the eye but less than fully satisfying to the mind. full review
  105. /titles/197208 Narrative incoherence continues to reign supreme. full review
  106. /titles/197642 In 1990 the people who brought you Top Gun -- Tom Cruise, director Tony Scott, and producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer -- figured out a way to take more of your money, and it involved stock-car racing. full review
  107. /titles/198363 This is a long way from the social comedy of Jerry Lewis. The characters here are ultimately turned into punching bags or punch-line dispensers. full review
  108. /titles/197164 A dizzying, beautiful ride. full review
  109. /titles/198237 While billed as a romance and a thriller, the film strictly qualifies as neither, appealing to our prurience, guilt, hatred, and dread. full review
  110. /titles/197819 If director Gus Van Sant had always been a hack it wouldn't matter so much, but personally I find this form of licking the audience's cheeks like an obsequious puppy deeply offensive. full review
  111. /titles/197460 While Kusama champions masculinity in women, she offsets it with a range of gender identities and a keen sense of milieu. full review
  112. /titles/197449 Despite some early indications from the two Cusacks and Arkin that it's going to be funny, it winds up an unholy mess that becomes steadily more incoherent -- morally, dramatically, and conceptually. full review
  113. /titles/198260 full review
  114. /titles/197643 Some of the results ring false, but the memorable theme song and some equally memorable character acting (by Thomas Mitchell and Lon Chaney Jr. more than Lloyd Bridges and Katy Jurado) help things along. full review
  115. /titles/197729 A heady dose of the American dream and the American nightmare combined -- a numbing investigation of how one point on an exam or one basket or turnover in a game can make all the difference in a family's fortunes. full review
  116. /titles/198268 full review
  117. /titles/197479 Cameron Crowe, Tom Cruise, and Cuba Gooding Jr. are salesmen, and we're consumers, buying emotional truth. That's a brave message for a commercial film to have. Too bad it's unintentional. full review
  118. /titles/197823 Misogynistic claptrap. full review
  119. /titles/198458 Absorbing and revelatory, this is film criticism of the highest order. full review
  120. /titles/197436 full review
  121. /titles/197158 full review
  122. /titles/197795 This masterpiece still packs a wallop, though nothing in it is as simple as it may first appear; audiences are still arguing about the final sequence, which has been characterized as everything from a sentimental cop-out to the ultimate cynical twist. full review
  123. /titles/198279 full review
  124. /titles/198247 The recut American version is truly awful, but a good 75 percent of the awfulness is attributable to Miramax, the film's distributor. full review
  125. /titles/198206 Valeria Golino is appealing as Cruise's girlfriend; Hoffman makes his character pretty believable without milking the part for pathos and tears, and it's nice to see Cruise working for a change in a context that isn't determined by hard sell and hype. full review
  126. /titles/198220 The whole thing is good-natured enough, but increasingly mechanical. full review
  127. /titles/197182 The dramatic moves are so obvious and shopworn that not even the star's mournful basset-hound expressions can redeem them. full review
  128. /titles/197167 Gretchen Mol, Edward Norton, John Turturro, Martin Landau, and Famke Janssen costar; they're all pretty good, but not good enough to make this 1998 feature worth seeing. full review
  129. /titles/198364 The filmmakers stick to their vision with such dedication and persistence that something indelible comes across -- something ethically and artistically superior to The Silence of the Lambs that refuses to exploit suffering for fun or entertainment. full review
  130. /titles/197817 This stupid and demeaning fantasy about the shooting of F.W. Murnau's 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu is a piece of postmodernist kitsch whose only redeeming quality is an enjoyably over-the-top, eye-rolling performance by Willem Dafoe. full review
  131. /titles/197801 If one can ignore all the straining for lightness here, this is watchable enough, though hardly anything resembling a tearjerker. full review
  132. /titles/197447 full review
  133. /titles/197744 [The] special effects, despite the hefty budget, look strictly bargain basement. full review
  134. /titles/197733 full review
  135. /titles/197834 full review
  136. /titles/197837 A lot of care and attention were obviously devoted to selecting locations, designing sets, and grooming handlebar mustaches. Much less attention went to making one believe that any of the events took place circa 1879. full review
  137. /titles/198223 A worthy entry in the dystopian cycle launched by Blade Runner, this seems less derivative than most of its predecessors yet equally accomplished in its straight-ahead storytelling, with plenty of provocative satiric undertones and scenic details. full review
  138. /titles/197822 full review

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