Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

  1. 20 Feet From Stardom 2013 I have rarely seen a movie that better expressed the revivifying nature of music. full review
  2. The Act Of Killing 2013 Oppenheimer allows murderous thugs free rein to preen their atrocities, and then fobs it all off as some kind of exalted art thing. This is more than an aesthetic crime; it's a moral crime. full review
  3. The Angels' Share 2013 The film itself vaporizes before your eyes, but it's likable. Given its unstable mishmash of thuggery and whimsy, that's something of an achievement. full review
  4. Arthur Newman 2013 They embark on one of those maundering, life-lessony odysseys that filmmakers love but audiences rarely do. full review
  5. The Attack 2013 As this film demonstrates in so many ways, the intractability of the Arab-Israeli political situation is, to put it mildly, not easily resolved, least of all onscreen. full review
  6. Birders: The Central Park Effect 2013 In Birders, by contrast, nature is one big entrancing show; a world of tweets without "tweets." full review
  7. Blackfish 2013 Blackfish, a documentary by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, puts the "killer" back into killer whales by indicting those sea parks that, in her well-chronicled estimation, place profit above safety. full review
  8. Blue Is The Warmest Color 2013 The two actresses, seen up close or from far away, are extraordinary. The emotional trajectory of their passion is entirely believable and ultimately heartbreaking. full review
  9. Caesar Must Die 2013 Prison theatricals are nothing new in the movies, but Caesar Must Die, a quasi-documentary featuring hardened convicts acting out Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, is in a class by itself. full review
  10. Cutie And The Boxer 2013 Their 40-year marriage seems like more of a trial than this overweening, lightly likable movie acknowledges. full review
  11. Dirty Wars 2013 An expose of practices that need -- demand -- exposing. full review
  12. The English Teacher 2013 Greg Kinnear does a nice supporting job as Jason's dad. full review
  13. Frances Ha 2013 It's a skimpy, overextended riff, but some of the seemingly tossed-off moments are lovely. full review
  14. The Grandmaster 2013 I've never been a big fan of Wong's phantasmagoric prettiness, but at least here it provides a welcome corrective to the usual martial-arts mayhem. full review
  15. A Hijacking 2013 Lindholm doesn't present the film as a procedural for hostage negotiations because he knows too well that there are too many movable parts, too many things that can go wrong. full review
  16. Inequality For All 2013 It's unseemly, I know, to praise a movie like this for the stand-up-comic affability of its host. But Reich's engagingness also gives credence to the seriousness of his message. full review
  17. Linsanity 2013 As a piece of filmmaking, Linsanity is scattershot and too reliant on newsreels. And the interviews, most of all with the religiously devout Lin are, alas, fairly unrevealing. full review
  18. Narco Cultura 2013 Photojournalist Shaul Schwarz's powerful documentary Narco Cultura gets inside the world of two men who, in very different ways, inhabit this horror. full review
  19. Our Nixon 2013 We get to see film of daughter Tricia's wedding (her father is a surprisingly agile ballroom dancer) and other oddities. full review
  20. Peeples 2013 The slapstick is often clunky, but Robinson has a sweet jester's disposition that keeps many of the gags from collapsing. full review
  21. A Place at the Table 2013 One thing is clear from "A Place at the Table": You cannot answer the question "Why are people hungry?," without also asking "Why are people poor?" full review
  22. Room 237 2013 Their imaginings are not far removed from the deconstuctionist gobbledygook that has hammerlocked academic film and literary scholarship. But here at least the gobbledygook is entertaining. full review
  23. Safe Haven 2013 The latest Nicholas Sparks-derived weepfest, Safe Haven, is being marketed as a Valentine's Day special, but the plot line is closer to a stalker thriller. It's sudsy-scary. It's also not very good. full review
  24. Salinger 2013 By turns fascinating and infuriating. full review
  25. Side Effects 2013 Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns maintain a tone of taut creepiness, but the plot's double and triple crosses are more ingenious than believable. full review
  26. Something in the Air 2013 Assayas doesn't bring out the fiery best in this material, but he's smart enough to know that revolutionaries like their comforts as much as the ruling class does. full review
  27. The Square 2013 A powerhouse documentary that takes us into the eyes of several storms. full review
  28. The Summit 2013 Nick Ryan's documentary The Summit pieces together the fateful expedition utilizing newsreel footage, new and old interviews with the climbers and their associates, and, regrettably, re-enactments. full review
  29. Unfinished Song 2013 The director, Paul Andrew Williams, at least had the good sense to cast Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave as his leads. Who can possibly look away from those two whenever they're on screen? full review
  30. Venus And Serena 2013 The movie offers up much fascinating then-and-now footage. full review
  31. War Witch 2013 War Witch is most effective not when we are looking in on Komona but when we are inside her head. full review
  32. We Steal Secrets: The Story Of Wikileaks 2013 The results are far more exciting than most Hollywood espionage thrillers. full review
  33. What Maisie Knew 2013 We experience her upsets without the leavening of outside interferences. And because Aprile is such an intuitive performer, we are always searching her face for the imprint of her suffering. full review
  34. 360 2012 360 is a classic example of how you can't always judge a movie by its credits. full review
  35. 56 Up 2012 What gives the series its force is not just its universality but also its particularity. These grown-ups may be Everyman, but they are also singular. full review
  36. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry 2012 Though he has paid the price, Ai is a pathfinder in this new phenomenon in tactical insurrection. Never Sorry is a new-style profile in 21st-century courage. full review
  37. Marvel's The Avengers 2012 The film is good enough to keep all the Marvel Comics crazed audiences out there deliriously happy while keeping the rest of us earthbound types in moderate thralldom. full review
  38. Bachelorette 2012 I don't see why women being as slobby and gross as the guys is such a feminist breakthrough -- especially since, as in Bachelorette, the slobbiness and grossness is witless. full review
  39. Brooklyn Castle 2012 As inspirational academic stories go, it doesn't get much better than this. full review
  40. The Central Park Five 2012 What she and her father and husband have drawn from this material is a combustible amalgam: a movie about justice violated, rectified, and denied. full review
  41. Chasing Ice 2012 The rapid disappearance of ice mountains, filmed over a period of years, is compressed through time-lapse technology into minutes and seconds. The speeded-up effect is harrowing and also, disturbingly, eerily beautiful. full review
  42. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel 2012 Vreeland comes across in the movie as something of a cross between Auntie Mame and Godzilla. She was a true original in a world where knock-offs abounded. full review
  43. The Dictator 2012 On the laughmeter The Dictator is closer to Borat than to the misfired Bruno, which is to say it's funny for about half of its brisk 83 minutes. full review
  44. End of Watch 2012 Both actors are marvelous -- this may be the most nuanced and far-ranging performance Gyllenhaal has ever given -- and writer-director David Ayer is unapologetically frank about the dangers these men face. full review
  45. The Flat 2012 The Flat is about the persistence of denial, and of hope. full review
  46. Flight 2012 A straightforward morality play crossed with a pretty good nail-biter. full review
  47. The Forgiveness of Blood 2012 The film's director, Joshua Marston, is American, but, as in his previous film, Maria Full of Grace, about a Colombian girl who accepts a job as a drug smuggler, he does a commendable job of immersing himself in a foreign culture. full review
  48. Friends With Kids 2012 It's the kind of cutesy idea that doesn't ring remotely true. full review
  49. The Guilt Trip 2012 The Guilt Trip pairs Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand in the hope, no doubt, that sparks will fly. They don't. full review
  50. Holy Motors 2012 This is the kind of it-can-mean-whatever-you-want-it-to-mean art film that I usually run from, but Carax is such a prodigiously gifted mesmerist that, if you give way, you're likely to be enfolded in the film's phantasmagoria. full review
  51. The House I Live In 2012 [Jarecki's] analysis is far too simplistic. full review
  52. The Hunger Games 2012 Ross manages to keep the pacing remarkably swift, given that the games themselves don't start until halfway through the 144-minute running time. full review
  53. I Wish 2012 It's an adult movie about children that feels made from the inside out. full review
  54. The Imposter 2012 This is one creepy mystery. full review
  55. The Intouchables 2012 Movies in which black characters, however nuanced or well meaning, act in subservience to whites, often raise hackles. For me, it all depends on how it's done. full review
  56. The Island President 2012 What makes Nasheed's whirligig tactics so urgent is that, unlike most other countries participating in the summit, his own nation is actually in danger of being annihilated by climate change. full review
  57. Jack Reacher 2012 Werner Herzog, better known as one of the finest living directors, plays a bad guy with Teutonic relish. If he doesn't watch it, he'll have a whole other career for himself playing dead-eyed villains. full review
  58. A Late Quartet 2012 Of the cast, the standout is Walken, who gives a performance of superlative grace amid all the hectoring. full review
  59. The Loneliest Planet 2012 The Loneliest Planet is not a perfect work of art, but it gets at something powerful: the way that life can turn us around in a flash, without warning. full review
  60. Lore 2012 Saskia Rosendahl is a highly expressive actress within the limited confines of her character, and the film is studded with memorable scenes. full review
  61. The Magic of Belle Isle 2012 Madsen, a strong actress who might have matched Freeman, is portrayed in varying shades of blandness. Even Freeman, good as his is, is held back here. full review
  62. Monsieur Lazhar 2012 The French-Canadian film Monsieur Lazhar has one of the most powerful openings I've ever seen in a movie. full review
  63. Not Fade Away 2012 It's a "personal" movie that, in some ways, seems impersonal. Everything seems a bit too varnished and staged and overly familiar. full review
  64. One Day On Earth 2012 It all flies by, nothing sinks in, but the cumulative effect is somewhat overwhelming. How could it not be? full review
  65. Orchestra Of Exiles 2012 It's a great, too-little-known piece of history. full review
  66. Samsara 2012 I'm not convinced that Fricke's movies are much more than exalted travelogues, but you certainly feel as if you've been somewhere after you've seen one of them. full review
  67. Seeking Justice 2012 A dumb-dumb variant on the Death Wish vigilante justice genre. full review
  68. Side by Side 2012 There is great flux in this world, as Side by Side so entertainingly demonstrates, and where it's all headed is both discomforting and exhilarating. Stay tuned. full review
  69. Skyfall 2012 Daniel Craig, in his third outing as 007, has taken over the role in a way that makes it his as distinctively as it was Sean Connery's all those years ago. full review
  70. Take This Waltz 2012 Margot comes across as such an elusive and unsympathetic twit that you wonder why we should care about her. full review
  71. Union Square 2012 Mira Sorvino is very good -- too good -- at playing a very annoying person in Nancy Savoca's Union Square. full review
  72. We Have a Pope 2012 Melville (an excellent Michel Piccoli), not being the front-runner, is caught so completely unawares that he goes into meltdown mode while the world waits. full review
  73. What to Expect When You're Expecting 2012 Babies are cute and expectant parents often aren't. That kind of sums up What to Expect When You're Expecting. full review
  74. The Adventures of Tintin 2011 The main achievement of Tintin is that at least the cartoon people and pets come across as characters and not hollow, humanoid entities. full review
  75. Angels Crest 2011 A garbled melodrama striving to be tragic drama. full review
  76. Another Happy Day 2011 Dislikable movie characters don't always result in dislikable movies but that's certainly the case with Sam Levinson's Another Happy Day. full review
  77. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey 2011 Who can fail to be moved by this? full review
  78. Brighton Rock 2011 Brighton Rock is still compelling, which proves yet again that Greene is such a cinematic storyteller that his books are nearly damageproof. full review
  79. Buck 2011 It celebrates a communion between man and animal that runs deeper than any division. full review
  80. The Eagle 2011 However you slice it, The Eagle is hokum, but modern-day Scots may get a kick out of the film's depiction of their ancestors as mud-caked hellions. Modern-day Romans will have to settle for less. full review
  81. First Position 2011 I've become weary of documentaries about winning prizes, but this one is special because the kids are. They are ardent and amazingly accomplished, but they are also... kids. full review
  82. Flypaper 2011 One thought that occurred to me while pacing myself through Flypaper: With the economy being what it is, will there be a rash of bank robbery movies? full review
  83. Footloose 2011 It seems more pandering (and dated) than ever. full review
  84. Free Men 2011 The film benefits greatly from Rahim's subtle, effective performance; and it's inevitably heartening to see Jewish and Muslim Algerians identify themselves in national, not ethnic or religious, terms, while fighting a common enemy. full review
  85. Friends With Benefits 2011 Timberlake and Kunis try hard to keep this charm machine purring, and they do indeed have traces of chemistry... But their chemistry is at the service of a science project we've all seen before. full review
  86. Hugo 2011 Hugo is a mixed bag but one well worth rummaging through. full review
  87. The Interrupters 2011 In the end, statistics are of less moment to this movie than the case-by-case personal successes that, in some cases, are emotionally overwhelming. full review
  88. Into The Abyss 2011 Into the Abyss does what too few documentaries these days do - it gives ample play to all sides of the argument. Herzog allows us to think things through on our own. full review
  89. The Kid with a Bike 2011 It's minor, but powerfully so. full review
  90. The Ledge 2011 Chapman coaxes good performances from his cast, especially Wilson, who makes Joe's immense conflicts a matter of empathy as much as abhorrence. But Chapman doesn't have the filmmaking skills to conceal the talky, formulaic narrative. full review
  91. Like Crazy 2011 The emotional honesty of Like Crazy, which is comparable to Richard Linklater's great Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, is far removed from most of what passes in these goony movie days as youthful romance. full review
  92. Magic Trip 2011 The result may have value to '60s sociologists, ethnologists, superannuated hippies, and Kesey fanatics, but for the most part what is on view is a jumble of scenes featuring pranksters getting high on grass and LSD. full review
  93. My Week with Marilyn 2011 [Williams] captures not only Monroe's fragility but also the guile and gumption beneath it. What she can't capture, of course, is Monroe's aura, and without it, the performance comes across as something more than mimicry but less than incandescence. full review
  94. Our Idiot Brother 2011 The cast members, beginning with Rudd, have an improvisatory ease, and the director, Jesse Peretz, working from a script by Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall, doesn't indulge in the sort of nail-on-the-head comedy that currently reigns. full review
  95. Page One: Inside the New York Times 2011 Carr is a marvelous camera subject and the only newspaperman in the movie who provides a temperamental link to the old "Front Page" days. full review
  96. Polisse 2011 Over the film's more-than-two-hour running time we are immersed in the lives of these cops as they attempt both to see justice done and to preserve their sanity. full review
  97. Seven Days In Utopia 2011 Seven Days in Utopia, of course, like most sports movies with higher aspirations, tries to position itself as more than a sports movie. And lo and behold, it is -- sort of. full review
  98. Sympathy for Delicious 2011 Mark Ruffalo is one of the best actors of his generation, and I'd like to be able to say that, with his directorial debut, Sympathy for Delicious, he's one of its best filmmakers, too. Alas, this semiexpressionist fantasia is a botch. full review
  99. This Must Be The Place 2011 This Must Be the Place gives Penn a chance to vamp and camp in ways that are sometimes touching and mostly annoying. full review
  100. Tomboy 2011 There are nevertheless some marvelous moments. full review
  101. Trishna 2011 Winterbottom uses the Indian locations with a documentarian's eye and a dramatist's mind. full review
  102. Undefeated 2011 I wish the directors had emphasized more of the players' personal lives apart from the football field. But, in the end, this is a documentary about Courtney and the transformative powers of caring. He works wonders on his players and they reciprocate. full review
  103. Young Adult 2011 Theron does a fairly convincing job. It's the movie surrounding her that isn't quite so convincing. full review
  104. The American 2010 At some point in their careers, most male actors want to play (a) Hamlet, and (b) a hit man. I hope that Clooney has gotten "b" out of his system. full review
  105. Biutiful 2010 Inarritu is far from untalented -- Amores Perros had sequences as powerful as anything in the films of Luis Bunuel -- but misery has become his shtick. full review
  106. Blue Valentine 2010 The film's time structure is splintered into shards of past and present, which is probably just as well -- a strictly narrative chronology would make this wallow seem even sloggier. full review
  107. Casino Jack 2010 Kevin Spacey gives a bravura performance as superlobbyist Jack Abramoff in George Hickenlooper's uneven but often loopily entertaining Casino Jack. full review
  108. Casino Jack And The United States Of Money 2010 Superlobbyist, Republican wheeler-dealer, and convicted felon Jack Abramoff may seem like old news right now -- he's been trumped by Bernie Madoff et al. -- but what he represents, alas, is all too evergreen. full review
  109. Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2010 Herzog is reaching for ways to comprehend what he imagines to be the emblems of the birth of the modern soul. full review
  110. City of Life and Death 2010 Here, in bloodless miniature, is the true obscenity of war. full review
  111. The Kids Are All Right 2010 Cholodenko understands that the family, any family, remains a primal source for drama that is both mirthful and maddening. full review
  112. The King's Speech 2010 Among many other good things, The King's Speech, directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler, is a meditation on a transitional time when royalty was expected to speak to the nation and not just pose commandingly before it. full review
  113. Last Night 2010 Will Michael succumb and prove Joanna correct in her suspicions? Will Alex's French accent conquer all? Do you care? I didn't. full review
  114. Love Ranch 2010 The only vaguely interesting aspect to this film is the subplot involving a past-his-prime Argentinian heavyweight owned by Charlie. full review
  115. Nowhere Boy 2010 Johnson does a terrific job of capturing Lennon's mannerisms without coming across like a puppet. full review
  116. Senna 2010 There are some thrilling you-are-there sequences shot inside the racing car from his POV as he zooms around the tracks. It's like watching a video game made real. full review
  117. Somewhere 2010 Sometimes empty is just empty. full review
  118. The Switch 2010 Aside from the fact that it's all too entirely predictable, The Switch is a pleasant enough end-of-the-summer time killer. full review
  119. Tabloid 2010 Morris is clearly fascinated by her mega eccentricities and lets her go on at great length telling her side of the story. full review
  120. Tiny Furniture 2010 Dunham has a sharp eye for visual composition and a sharp ear, too. full review
  121. Waste Land 2010 [Muniz's] intention to have them re-create photographic images of themselves out of garbage, while it may not pass muster as high art, has the effect of raising their spirits. At least for a while, their lives, and ours, have been transformed. full review
  122. The Whistleblower 2010 The Whistleblower is frustratingly uneven, but at least it affords us the rare opportunity these days to meet up with a movie hero who isn't wearing jammies and a cape. full review
  123. Antichrist 2009 Allegorical in the worst ways, Antichrist is about as profound as a slasher movie. full review
  124. Bruno 2009 There's good bad taste and then there's just plain bad bad, which is what describes most of Bruno. full review
  125. Cairo Time 2009 The lovely twilit moments in this movie stay with one, and that summoning them up in your mind is like slowing down time. full review
  126. Extract 2009 The result doesn't seem as fresh as Office Space, but Judge still comes up with enough laughs to deserve our attention. full review
  127. Five Minutes of Heaven 2009 So many movies set in Northern Ireland are about the Troubles that we might justifiably ask, why another? Five Minutes of Heaven is far from the best of the breed, but it does at least take a new tack. full review
  128. Great Directors 2009 Great Directors is not a great film, but in moments like these we feel as though we're eavesdropping on genius. full review
  129. The Limits of Control 2009 The eerie displacement of being at large in alien territory is the guiding emotion in Jarmusch's movies, and in none more so than this one. full review
  130. Ondine 2009 This movie is a one-of-a-kind experience -- blarney carried to rhapsodic heights. full review
  131. The Perfect Game 2009 Notable only for being a catalog of just about every kid-pic cliche' ever committed to film. full review
  132. Serious Moonlight 2009 full review
  133. Happy-Go-Lucky 2008 It's a small, radiant gem in a movie season cluttered with rhinestones. You leave the theater feeling both clearheaded and buoyant. full review
  134. Man on Wire 2008 By any rational gauge, Petit's WTC obsession was flat-out crazy, but Marsh takes a limpid, nonjudgmental view of it all. full review
  135. Management 2008 Sometimes a movie thinks it's one thing (charming) when it's really something else (creepy). full review
  136. New York, I Love You 2008 full review
  137. Star Wars: The Clone Wars 2008 George Lucas's fixation on this saga has gone past commercial smarts into full-blown monomania. With all the money and power he has at his disposal, here he is once again fobbing the same leaden dialogue and nonvisionary visuals at us. full review
  138. Valkyrie 2008 Surely there is some middle ground between a history lesson and mindless action-adventure. The people who made Valkyrie not only didn't find that ground; they weren't even looking for it. full review
  139. Crazy Love 2007 Dan Klores's astonishing film is about a subject so bizarre it could only work as a documentary -- as a drama, it would be dismissed as being too far-fetched. full review
  140. Freedom Writers 2007 Engaging but cliched inspirational drama set during the time of the 1992 race riots in Los Angeles. On some level, just about any movie featuring never-say-die teachers is effective. full review
  141. There Will Be Blood 2007 Sprawling yet cramped, There Will Be Blood may not be the best movie of the year, but it's certainly the strangest. It evokes passing comparisons to everything from Giant to Citizen Kane but it's impossible to pigeonhole. full review
  142. Trumbo 2007 Family home movies and photos and archival clips round out the film, which holds its hero-worshiping to fairly tolerable levels. full review
  143. Akeelah and the Bee 2006 ... a slight but winning heart-tugger ... full review
  144. Penelope 2006 This half-baked fairy tale always seems to be on the verge of becoming charming but despite a good cast it never quite succeeds. full review
  145. Saint of 9/11 2006 Saint of 9/11 is more of a testimonial than a documentary, but it weaves together a portrait of a remarkable Irish-American friar, who was gay and a recovering alcoholic, and the many lives he inspired. full review
  146. Casanova 2005 Although Casanova is far from a stinker, I can't join in the chorus of praise for what is essentially a coy farce replete with arch performances and even archer dialogue. full review
  147. The Constant Gardener 2005 Rises to a pitch of terror and outrage that leaves one shaken. full review
  148. Get Rich or Die Tryin' 2005 This thinly autobiographical gangsta odyssey never achieves liftoff, and Jackson is unconvincing. full review
  149. The Ice Harvest 2005 The Ice Harvest isn't a subversive piece of work; it's not making some grand statement about the dark side of the holiday spirit. But what it is saying in its grimly funny way is that we can't always control the timing of our disasters. full review
  150. Neil Young: Heart of Gold 2005 All in all, a visual and musical feast. full review
  151. Rent 2005 As directed by Columbus, Jonathan Larson's East Village reworking of 'La Boheme' in the age of AIDS retains its calisthenic pathos, as well as most of its original cast, but you'd have to be a real Rent-Head to envisage Academy Awards in its future. full review
  152. The World's Fastest Indian 2005 Parts of it are enjoyably shaggy, and Hopkins is very endearing. full review
  153. A Good Woman 2004 [Tom] Wilkinson artfully deepens a character who in Wilde's original play was rather boobish. It's a marvelous performance in a pretty good film. full review
  154. Becket 1964 Burton is extraordinary in one of his rare good movie roles and O'Toole is regally madcap and larger than life. full review

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