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Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

  1. Day Watch 2007 Narrative incoherence continues to reign supreme. full review
  2. Paranoid Park 2007 Elephant said much more about teenagers and said it better. full review
  3. 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
  4. Klimt 2006 [It's] an eyeful. full review
  5. This Is England 2006 Masterfully charted and acted, as are the boy's early forays into sex. full review
  6. The Treatment 2006 Chris Eigeman finally gets to show his range in this romantic comedy. full review
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. Capote 2005 Skillfully and economically put together. full review
  10. The Constant Gardener 2005 Fernando Meirelles, codirector of City of God, stresses old-fashioned storytelling and takes full advantage of his cast, including Danny Huston. full review
  11. Right at Your Door 2005 Nightmarish. full review
  12. 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
  13. Spanglish 2004 Sometimes Brooks's ideas are legitimate, but his way of putting them across is dishonest. Sometimes the ideas are dishonest, but his way of putting them across is legitimate. full review
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. Irreversible 2002 So formally and stylistically aggressive that this aspect overpowers what it has to say, which isn't much. full review
  18. 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
  19. The Master of Disguise 2002 George W. Bush in the flesh would have been much funnier than this movie's impersonation. full review
  20. Men in Black II 2002 The down-home satire of how we cope with cultural difference has evaporated, replaced by jazzy effects that wear out their welcome by the halfway mark. full review
  21. 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
  22. Pumpkin 2002 By presenting an impossible romance in an impossible world, Pumpkin dares us to say why either is impossible -- which forces us to confront what's possible and what we might do to make it so. full review
  23. Russian Ark 2002 Part pageant and museum tour, part theme-park ride and historical meditation. full review
  24. America's Sweethearts 2001 A clunky ribbing of the movie industry. full review
  25. The Bank 2001 A hokey but highly entertaining tale of corporate greed that should be especially satisfying if you're pissed off at big business. full review
  26. The Deep End 2001 full review
  27. The Score 2001 full review
  28. 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
  29. Diamond Men 2000 full review
  30. Memento 2000 More a puzzle than a meaningful story, it reminds me of how Edmund Wilson compared reading a mystery to eagerly unpacking a box of excelsior, only to find a few rusty nails at the bottom. full review
  31. Traffic 2000 I don't see this slightly better-than-average drug thriller, with slightly better-than-average direction by Steven Soderbergh, as anything more than a routine rubber-stamping of genre reflexes. full review
  32. 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
  33. 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
  34. The Talented Mr. Ripley 1999 Familiarity is the watchword of this overblown opus, which neglects holes in the plot to play up its postmodern theme of identity as pastiche -- a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black. full review
  35. The Thomas Crown Affair 1999 full review
  36. The Virgin Suicides 1999 A very curious and eclectic piece of work. full review
  37. Wild Things 1998 What I'm supposed to find 'satisfying' is predicated on the idea that almost everyone in the world is trash. full review
  38. The Apostle 1997 full review
  39. As Good As It Gets 1997 How [Brooks] emerged an abler artist is worth puzzling over; I suspect it has something to do with sheer instinct triumphing over industry machinery. full review
  40. Breakdown 1997 Breakdown has plenty of deft action sequences, and what they add up to is nifty garbage disposal, with all of us -- characters, filmmakers, viewers -- ultimately spiraling down the same drain. full review
  41. 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
  42. Inventing the Abbotts 1997 full review
  43. 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
  44. The Rainmaker 1997 full review
  45. She's So Lovely 1997 full review
  46. 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
  47. Citizen Ruth 1996 full review
  48. 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
  49. Escape from L.A. 1996 A poetic pulp movie made with joy. full review
  50. 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
  51. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1996 Surely one of Disney's ugliest and least imaginative efforts. full review
  52. Looking for Richard 1996 This runs 118 minutes, but it felt like six or seven hours. full review
  53. Pocahontas 1996 Overall this seems like a reasonable stab at an impossible agenda. full review
  54. 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
  55. Stealing Beauty 1996 A civilized, mellow, and generally graceful chamber piece. full review
  56. 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
  57. 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
  58. The Brady Bunch Movie 1995 A curiously sour movie in its amused contempt for this fatuous family. full review
  59. Clockers 1995 The performances are strong, but the spectator often feels adrift in an overly busy intrigue. full review
  60. Clueless 1995 Though this drifts at times as storytelling, it's mainly lightweight but personable fun. full review
  61. Dead Man 1995 full review
  62. The Doom Generation 1995 Striking to look at, though often offensively opportunistic, this mainly comes across as a throwaway shocker with energy to spare. There's not much thought in evidence though. full review
  63. 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
  64. 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
  65. Stuart Saves His Family 1995 Even if you find Franken hard to bear, as I do, the movie's take on how he functions in the world is both authoritative and compelling, and the movie steadily grows in stature. full review
  66. 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
  67. 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
  68. 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
  69. Hoop Dreams 1994 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
  70. Intersection 1994 Stone deserves some points for playing a recognizable human being while Davidovich fares less well in an underscripted part, but what sabotages the story altogether is Gere's boundless narcissism. full review
  71. Nobody's Fool 1994 For better and for worse, it's still a Hollywood movie (and a white boys' movie to boot), but one with a more alert eye and feeling for American life than most of its competitors. full review
  72. 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
  73. El Mariachi 1993 Juicy, adroit, and likable. full review
  74. The Good Son 1993 There's wonderful use made of a Maine port town, and Ruben gets a dizzying thrill or two out of overhead shots, but the conceptual overload finally prevents this from coming together. full review
  75. The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993 The set designs are ingenious and the songs (music and lyrics by Danny Elfman) are fairly good. full review
  76. The Piano 1993 Sweetie and An Angel at My Table have taught us to expect startling as well as beautiful things from Jane Campion, and this assured and provocative third feature (1993) offers yet another lush parable. full review
  77. 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
  78. 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
  79. Bad Lieutenant 1992 There's an undeniable formal elegance in the way Ferrara, who coauthored the script with Zoe Lund, frames and holds certain shots, and Keitel certainly gives his all. full review
  80. 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
  81. A League of Their Own 1992 Deftly structured by director Penny Marshall and writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel to resemble a 40s musical (albeit, somewhat anachronistically, one in 'Scope); the rest is mainly streamlined and spirited teamwork. full review
  82. 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
  83. 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
  84. The Addams Family 1991 An extended collection of one-liners and not much more. full review
  85. 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
  86. 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
  87. The Doors 1991 The movie does a pretty good job with period ambience. But it's a long haul waiting for the hero to keel over. full review
  88. The Fisher King 1991 Visually impressive, frequently pretentious, and extremely fluid as narrative (the 137 minutes sail by effortlessly), this mythic comedy-drama presents Gilliam as half seer, half snake-oil salesman and defies you to sort out which is which. full review
  89. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear 1991 A feeble sequel. full review
  90. 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
  91. 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
  92. 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
  93. Days of Thunder 1990 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
  94. Ghost 1990 There's something offensive about the movie's chintzy view of death and the way it periodically flirts with promising conceits only to back away from them in as cowardly a manner as possible. full review
  95. The Grifters 1990 A mannerist thriller that doesn't begin to work despite the number of talented hands involved. full review
  96. Rocky V 1990 The dramatic moves are so obvious and shopworn that not even the star's mournful basset-hound expressions can redeem them. full review
  97. Ghostbusters 2 1989 There's very little energy in the follow-through, and this time Murray's listlessness seems more anemic than comic. full review
  98. Look Who's Talking 1989 full review
  99. My Left Foot 1989 For all his character's travails the film as a whole winds up surprisingly upbeat. full review
  100. Say Anything... 1989 At last, a teenage love story with real characters instead of cliches, poses, and attitudes. full review
  101. Bull Durham 1988 There's a lot of laughter and enjoyment on the way to the lockers. full review
  102. Colors 1988 full review
  103. A Fish Called Wanda 1988 Like many of the best English comedies, much of the humor here is based on character, good-natured high spirits, and fairly uninhibited vulgarity. full review
  104. 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
  105. 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
  106. 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
  107. Who Framed Roger Rabbit 1988 A Hollywood entertainment that lived up to its hype. full review
  108. Broadcast News 1987 One of the best entertainments of 1987. full review
  109. Dirty Dancing 1987 While the music on the soundtrack is predictably overloud, the period detail is refreshingly soft-pedaled. full review
  110. Fatal Attraction 1987 While billed as a romance and a thriller, the film strictly qualifies as neither, appealing to our prurience, guilt, hatred, and dread. full review
  111. Hellraiser 1987 Minor grisly fun, but don't expect the movie to linger when it's over. full review
  112. Less Than Zero 1987 Ed Lachman's cinematography is letter perfect as always in its handling of light and color (assisted here by Barbara Ling's flashy production design), but it's a pity to see it wasted on such claptrap. full review
  113. The Serpent and the Rainbow 1987 Genuinely frightening. full review
  114. The Untouchables 1987 The results are watchable enough, with a particularly adept use of Sean Connery, Chicago locations, and period details. full review
  115. 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
  116. Flashdance 1983 Silly but energetic. full review
  117. High Anxiety 1978 full review
  118. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 1978 Indescribably awful. full review
  119. Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977 This is dopey Hollywood mysticism all right, but thanks to considerable craft and showmanship, it packs an undeniable punch. full review
  120. Harry and Tonto 1974 full review
  121. The Paper Chase 1973 James Bridges manages to do a fair job with the semihokey material. full review
  122. Cotton Comes to Harlem 1970 full review
  123. 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
  124. 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
  125. Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 1964 Like most of his work, Stanley Kubrick's deadly black satirical comedy-thriller on cold war madness and its possible effects (1964) has aged well. full review
  126. The Apartment 1960 I wouldn't call this 1960 picture one of Billy Wilder's best comedies -- it's drab, sappy, and overlong at 125 minutes. full review
  127. From the Terrace 1960 A tolerable (if interminable) piece of mediocrity from 1960. full review
  128. 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
  129. The Seven Year Itch 1955 Although it was directed by Billy Wilder, this 1955 CinemaScope classic sometimes seems presided over by Frank Tashlin, with its satire of 50s puritanism and its use of wimpy Tom Ewell. full review
  130. The Robe 1953 Pious claptrap. full review
  131. Twelve O'Clock High 1949 Sincere, square, and interminable. full review
  132. 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
  133. Seven Chances 1925 full review

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