On Cable Archives

40 Days and 40 Nights by Mark Dujsik – February 4, 2011
Matt’s (Josh Hartnett) idea is to take sex off the table in observation of Lent (but mainly to get over an ex-girlfriend) and — surprise — ends up spending the entire forty days discussing why he isn’t having sex, what else he can do besides having sex, and, generally, sex (in the same way he says he’s over the girl but keeps bringing up how he’s so over her). Screenwriter Rob Perez tries to excuse it as the elephant in the room a person can’t stop thinking about because they’re purposefully trying to avoid it, but 40 Days and 40 Nights is all the more tedious for its one-track mind.

8 Heads in a Duffel Bag by Mark Dujsik – January 21, 2011
The middle and late 1990s saw a decent number of dark comedies — or, at least, an increase in critics using the terms “dark comedy” or “black comedy” whenever a movie tackled a serious subject with any bit of bite. Then there’s something like 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, which revolves around — you guessed it — a duffel bag full of eight decapitated heads and figures that alone is enough.

National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze by Hanna Soltys – January 14, 2011
Dorm Daze is equivalent to taking some of your favorite 1990s stars and making them fifth-year seniors who live in a dorm that looks like a frat house. It’s completely unrealistic in every sense, from the stereotyping of characters to the dorm rooms to the laundry room to the kitchen.

About Last Night… by Matt Wedge – January 21, 2011
After forty-five minutes, watching the film begins to feel like channel surfing between a challenging indie drama and a bad ’80s sitcom. The incongruity is painfully obvious and jarring.

Accidental Tourist, The by Hanna Soltys – September 24, 2010
It’s no accident how entertaining, awkward, confusing, and funny The Accidental Tourist is. With quirky characters and bizarre relationships, it’s hard to walk away from despite the weak script.

Adventures of Ford Fairlane, The by D. B. Bates – February 4, 2011
Silver made a valiant effort, hiring director Renny Harlin (who helmed Silver’s incomparably silly Die Hard 2 the same year) and trenchant satirist Daniel Waters (Heathers, Hudson Hawk) to salvage a script about a “rock ‘n’ roll detective.” They attempted to turn it into a sublimely silly action-comedy, and at some points they succeed, but they’re consistently held back by Andrew “Dice” Clay.

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The by Andrew Good – October 8, 2010
Gene Wilder seems destined to be defined by Willy Wonka. That’s no great sin, but it’s a shame people forget just how ripe the ’70s were for him, when he appeared in a succession of smart comedies that played off his type, freakish as it was (and is) among Hollywood leading men. Nervy, cartoonish, yet doe-eyed and vulnerable, he cut a figure that really hasn’t been replicated since.

Air America by Matt Wedge – September 24, 2010
What that good movie will not be is what Air America became: a film that wants to be a Looney Tunes cartoon featuring rebellious pilot hijinks that also scolds the U.S. government in a self-righteous manner for its ethical shortcomings in a questionable war. With one foot in each style of filmmaking, director Roger Spottiswoode never commits to either tone and the film fails to make an impact as either one.

All the Right Moves by D. B. Bates – August 6, 2010
All the Right Moves has all the earmarks of a sports movie, but it isn’t one. It’s telling that the epic football game usually saved for the climactic sequence occurs in the middle of the film. The ragtag, diverse students populating the team have already learned to work together and support each other. Although it falls into some of the trappings of the teen-angst genre, All the Right Moves defies clichés at almost every turn.

American Me by Mark Dujsik – July 9, 2010
This is a curt film about the appeal of the criminal life — the familial, if delicate, bond amongst the gang and the lure of power and respect — and the unending cycle of violence to which it inherently contributes. American Me loses its sureness when it leaves jail, but it is, nonetheless, effective overall.

American Rhapsody, An by Hanna Soltys – September 3, 2010
Growing up is hard. Then, throw in the Cold War, new parents, a foreign land (and language), and teen years. An American Rhapsody documents the life of a baby, Suzanne (Scarlett Johansson), after her parents flee Hungary upon the arrival of the Cold War. Suzanne’s sister Maria (played at various stages by Mae Whitman, Emmy Rossum, and Larisa Oleynik) escapes with their parents, as well, but since Suzanne is a newborn, her parents arrange for a different route to get her to America.

Angel Heart by Kyle Kogan – November 19, 2010
Angel Heart kept me up late last night. Not many films have this effect on me, but this is a stark exception. The film is both mysterious and horrific, pairing a winding detective tale with underlying themes of religion, dark magic, and the power of evil.

Antibody by Mark Dujsik – October 29, 2010
In terms of the slew of low-budget, direct-to-video or basic cable science-fiction rip-offs (a.k.a., homages), the script for Antibody isn’t too mind-numbingly dumb. The special effects aren’t that shoddy. And its star Lance Henriksen isn’t showing an abundance of disdain for the material by making a face in every scene that says,”I’m only here for the paycheck.”

Armed and Dangerous by D. B. Bates – June 25, 2010
Armed and Dangerous opens with two very funny sequences that it never quite lives up to. In the first, beat cop Frank Dooley (John Candy) catches some LAPD detectives robbing an electronics store. When he refuses to cooperate with the theft, they arrest him as the fall guy for their crimes. In the second, inept public defender Norman Kane (Eugene Levy) tries to get out of defending a Manson-like psychopath with the world’s worst plea bargain (“In exchange for a guilty plea, we will accept a life sentence with no opportunity for parole”).

Article 99 by Kyle Kogan – February 18, 2011
Article 99 is a really bad movie, but it can be enjoyed under the pretense that inherent within is a truly ludicrous story with outlandish situations, zero note characters, shoddy sets, and bleeding-heart moralism sappy enough to send you into a shudder.

Audrey Rose by Kyle Kogan – September 24, 2010
While this story lacks the oomph that The Exorcist had, it only becomes worse when the proceedings devolve into a court case about the preeminence of philosophy and reincarnation in law.

Author! Author! by Andrew Good – August 20, 2010
The Brady Bunch this is not. Still, Author! Author! is surprisingly sentimental. It’s a story that acknowledges the orphans of divorce, kids abandoned by adults acting like kids. That’s not to say that its lead, played by Al Pacino, is a paragon of maturity. On the contrary, he’s a misfit like them, determined to shield them further from the disaster areas of the grown-up world, while fighting to keep his own head above water.

Babette’s Feast by Kyle Kogan – October 15, 2010
The human spirit, while unbreakable, is endlessly pliable. Though often we may remain obstinate on the surface and stay true to our mind’s narrow focus, our hearts often paint in much broader strokes. The film Babette’s Feast examines this concept, shedding light on the enigma that is pious asceticism and how this way of life can alter when faced with the reality that life is very different outside one’s own manifested shells.

Bachelor Party by Kyle Kogan – July 16, 2010
Bachelor Party is the epitome of schlock-cinema. It is chock full of continuity errors, shoddy match frames, club-inspired beats, and truly god-awful wardrobe. This film was released in 1984 and it exudes all the qualities that make cheesy ’80s films so enjoyable to watch (including these previously mentioned shortcomings).

Bad Medicine by D. B. Bates – November 19, 2010
Aside from having deceptively strong, believable characters played by a cast of ringers, Bad Medicine finds another major strength in its portrayal of medical school. Obviously, things at M.U.M. are patently absurd, but Miller gets the finer details right: A small group of students spending the majority of their time together, developing trust and deeper relationships than is typically portrayed in raucous “college” movies.

Beautiful Girls by Hanna Soltys – February 11, 2011
Beautiful Girls is more than just girls to gawk at on the screen. It’s a look inside the lives of friends, and the way girls shape their lives, from helping the boys figure out their life’s worth and purpose to keeping them warm during the winter months. It’s touching, and most importantly, it’s real.

Before and After by Matt Wedge – February 4, 2011
How well do you know your child? If they did something awful, how far would you go to protect them, not only from outside forces, but from themselves? These are the intriguing questions that the gripping first act of Before and After sets up. Unfortunately, with a muddled second act, the film loses sight of these questions and quickly sinks into overwrought territory that’s marred by maudlin speeches and silly handwringing.

Beguiled, The by Matt Wedge – December 10, 2010
From 1968-1980, legendary director Don Siegel averaged one film per year. When you look at even the busiest of current studio directors, that’s a pace that no one seems up to matching. That so many of those films were quite good speaks volumes about Siegel’s no-frills style of filmmaking. In 1971, he made two very different films with Clint Eastwood: Dirty Harry and The Beguiled. For both director and star, Dirty Harry was a film in their comfort zone. But The Beguiled may go down as the oddest vehicle either of them took on.

Believer, The by Hanna Soltys – December 10, 2010
It’s hard not to like Ryan Gosling. Even as a drugged-up teacher in Half Nelson, you still felt a pull toward him. The Believer is no exception. Had another actor assumed the role of neo-Nazi Danny Balint, you might not enjoy the movie. The fact that Gosling captivates you from the beginning makes you intrigued throughout the film, which at times is a bit hard to watch.

Benny & Joon by Hanna Soltys – August 13, 2010
When a movie leaves you feeling content, full and warm, you know you just saw a fantastic film. Benny & Joon does all of the above — plus, it leaves you with songs stuck in your head and a laugh-out-loud Johnny Depp performance.

Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even by Hanna Soltys – December 3, 2010
If Ferris Bueller had been a girl and four years younger, he would have starred in Big Girls Don’t Cry…They Get Even. Along with other stylistic quirks, the characters talking to the camera is oddly reminiscent of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Unlike that teen classic, this film is a bit hokey, suffering from stereotypical characters and a script with little depth, but it’s still surprisingly enjoyable.

Big Kahuna, The by Mark Dujsik – August 20, 2010
The Big Kahuna is little more than a filmed stage play, with a few flashes of the characters’ imaginations, some dialogue-free cuts away to what the characters are talking about, and a lot of extras for a party scene, but there is nothing inherently wrong with that.

Bird on a Wire by Matt Wedge – July 2, 2010
Roughly seventy minutes into Bird on a Wire, a helicopter crashes into a mess of shrieking metal but doesn’t explode. For one second, I was congratulating the film on avoiding at least one cliché. Then the helicopter exploded. A better capsule of what went wrong with the film would be hard to find. Given every opportunity to do something different with a familiar genre, the filmmakers tease the audience with the promise of something fresh and then settle for the routine.

Black Christmas by Kyle Kogan – December 24, 2010
Director Bob Clark really ratchets up the tension by disallowing the viewer any insight into the killer’s motives or physical characteristics. He just exists, killing off girls, one by one.

Black Christmas by Josh Medcalf – December 24, 2010
In Black Christmas, dimwitted victims impale themselves on sharpened candy canes, ornaments, and icicles, thankfully purging themselves from the human gene pool, all to a traditional holiday playlist. I have a sneaking suspicion that the movie was designed with the idea that its viewers would take bets on which characters bit it, and in which order.

Black Irish by Matt Wedge – July 30, 2010
I have long suspected that the only reason independent American films about unhappy, working-class families are set in places like Long Island, South Boston, and the Southside of Chicago is so they can attract actors who really want to do an accent, but can’t pull off playing a Brit. Black Irish is just more evidence to confirm my suspicions.

Blind Fury by Matt Wedge – February 4, 2011
It’s only through the benefit of distance that we’re allowed to see what a nutty time the late ’80s were when it comes to movies. How else to explain the collision of incompatible elements that make up the curiosity piece known as Blind Fury?

Bloody Mama by Kyle Kogan – September 3, 2010
What could have been a grotesquely fascinating foray into the depths of insanity instead turns out to be a toneless, motionless series of anti-climactic vignettes. Fortunately, the off-the-wall performances stand out as the film’s saving grace.

Blue Steel by Hanna Soltys – July 9, 2010
Thanks to The Hurt Locker cleaning up at the 2010 Academy Awards, director Kathryn Bigelow has become a household name. Naturally, one would be excited to see one of Bigelow’s earliest films. Unfortunately, Blue Steel didn’t live up to my expectations. The script drags and stalls, and Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a heroine I had trouble feeling sorry for.

Body Snatchers by Kyle Kogan – October 29, 2010
These scenes are very strong and have a very Lynchian-vibe to them. There seems to be some psychosexual motif inherent in these scenes, and it has to be seen to be believed. It shows a side of Ferrera that is mostly absent from his other features. Scary, eclectic, and awesome in equal measures.

Boston Strangler, The by Kyle Kogan – January 28, 2011
The film was made in 1968 but it shows no signs of aging. The story is often told in split screen, or better yet, multi-screen. Often, we as an audience get to witness a scene or a sequence of scenes from two to six points of view, so I truly mean it when I say if you look away you might miss something.

Breaker! Breaker! by Kyle Kogan – November 12, 2010
Breaker! Breaker! is the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It’s one of those films that’s so bad that it transcends reality, breaching a level of terrible rarely achieved by accident. I think the crew tried to make this film stupid, because something this phenomenally awful had to take serious thought.

Broadcast News by Josh Medcalf – January 14, 2011
At its most basic level, it’s an in-depth exploration into how a fast-paced network newsroom operates. Writer, director, and producer James L. Brooks perfectly captures the rush of developing and delivering a great news story.

Brubaker by Andrew Good – August 6, 2010
Brubaker aims to bring the story to wider audiences while also serving as an “issues” movie. It’s a sickening depiction of what happens when foxes mind a henhouse, but is often too preoccupied with delivering its prison reform message to offer characters that are more than archetypes.

CQ by Mark Dujsik – January 28, 2011
It’s almost impossible to discuss writer/director Roman Coppola’s first and — at this point — only feature without bringing up at least three other films. CQ wears its influences and homage on its sleeve.

Candyman by Kyle Kogan – October 29, 2010
This makes for a very interesting concept: Like the gods and demons that many people believe in, these urban legends are entities that are made real by collectively concentrated thought. Is Candyman a true phantom that scours the greater Chicago area, killing with his hook, or is he merely a mix of blind faith and tall tale? No one can know for sure, as those who have “seen” him lay dead on the floor in pieces of bone and gore.

Capricorn One by Mark Dujsik – July 2, 2010
Just after the “Mars landing,” the camera pulls back from a close-up of the glare of the astronaut’s helmet, so we can see the lander, casting an odd shadow against the Martian sky, and then the stage lights and a crew member of the set. It would have been a great reveal shot, except Capricorn One has already informed us that the event belongs in quotation marks. Perhaps the most influential bearer of bringing the moon landing hoax conspiracies into the relative mainstream, the movie tells the tale of a faked expedition to Mars by NASA, which has been watching its ratings drop after the moon started to bore people who wrote to complain that I Love Lucy reruns were canceled.

Casualties of War by D. B. Bates – December 10, 2010
What could possibly make the police action in Vietnam more unpalatable? How about the kidnap, repeated rape, and eventual murder of an innocent Vietnamese girl? Inspired by “the incident on hill 192,” Brian De Palma’s great film Casualties of War dramatizes one such stomach-churning story.

Cemetery Man by Matt Wedge – October 1, 2010
Cemetery Man is a mess of a movie; a sprawling, overreaching, glorious mess of a movie. A black-comic meditation on love, mortality, loneliness, and desperation masquerading as a zombie film, it’s by turns poetic, laugh-out-loud funny, insightful, and flat-out pretentious.

Chase, The by Josh Medcalf – February 11, 2011
It’s “light-bulb” entertainment, flies buzzing around one, that is — the kind of movie that comes on as you’re flipping channels and you can’t help but watch, until it cuts to commercial and you move on to something else. The kind of movie that holds your attention only while it’s right in front of you.

Cherish by Hanna Soltys – July 16, 2010
Every one of us imagines a better life: with a certain significant other, a job or other material possession (cars, apartments, clothes, etc.). In Cherish, we follow Zoe (Robin Tunney) who consistently daydreams about such things. Often these, daydreams mesh with her reality, leaving the viewer a bit confused about if what’s happening is in Zoe’s head or the real world. This will leave you daydreaming about the ending of this movie and hoping it will be quick and swift.

Cheyenne Autumn by Matt Wedge – November 26, 2010
In 1962, Ford delivered The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, arguably the first revisionist western. On the surface, it was a classic western with John Wayne as the hardened gunslinger and James Stewart as the naïve lawyer seeking to bring law and order to the wild west. In reality, it was a startling subversion of the gunslinger myths and clichés that Ford had used in countless films. Like many of his other westerns, it also stands as a classic of the genre. Just two years later, Ford tried to do the same thing to the Cavalry/Indian film with Cheyenne Autumn. It turned out to be his last western. Sadly, what should have been the culmination of a great career ended up a muddled, cumbersome mess.

Christmas Story [Joulutarina] by D. B. Bates – December 17, 2010
Europe has no such problems traumatizing its children with memorably upsetting kids’ fare. The unimaginatively titled Christmas Story contains a depressing sequence matched only by Up: During a harsh winter storm, Nikolas (played as a child by Jonas Rinne) is left to care for his baby sister, Aada, while his parents venture out in search of medicine for ill Aada. They die in the storm, and Aada succumbs to her illness.

Christmas Tale [Un Conte de Noël], A by Kyle Kogan – December 17, 2010
Alas, a film that has almost nothing to do with its title. Relevant still, though, as an ironic nod to the audience which I assume will either love of loathe this film. I found it to be, in equal measures, both astoundingly brilliant and frustrating. It’s shot with such a lax style but tells a tale so profoundly layered and immersive, the contradiction becomes somewhat startling. It’s like being thrust into the dead of winter with nothing but your drawers on: Harsh and cold, but absolutely unforgettable.

Christmas in Connecticut by Josh Medcalf – December 17, 2010
Christmas in Connecticut, starring the lovely Barbara Stanwyck, is a charming, enjoyable little comedy that’s not quite Frank Capra and not quite Billy Wilder, but ventures into either territory on more than one occasion and is welcomed with open arms.

Class Action by Andrew Good – August 6, 2010
Class Action is a case where one great actor can make a movie look bad. It plays like a made-for-TV script, with a mediocre A-story about the shark-like legal world and a class-action lawsuit brought against an unscrupulous car manufacturer. But it’s the B-story, about a father and daughter who are equally cutthroat counselors that you find yourself looking forward to, and you realize it’s largely because Gene Hackman is featured more prominently in those scenes.

Clean and Sober by Mark Dujsik – September 3, 2010
Stopping short just as it’s about to delve beneath the obvious surface of addiction, Clean and Sober holsters its characters’ messy lives for a tidy, step-by-step process of recovery.

Clockers by Mark Dujsik – December 10, 2010
Until a perhaps too hopeful and pat finale, Clockers does not soften its view of young men trapped in a world of dealing out drugs and violence, prompted by a need for financial success and family.

Coffy by Kyle Kogan – September 17, 2010
It’s simple, mindless stuff, but blaxploitation is all about audience awareness, and director Jack Hill never looses sight of this main goal. All the while, he tells a compelling story with some subtle messages.

Combat Shock by Matt Wedge – January 21, 2011
Combat Shock is the type of film that makes the viewer feel the need to take a shower. The fact that that reaction is probably what writer/editor/producer/director Buddy Giovinazzo intended makes it a successful film. But just because the film succeeds at what the filmmaker is attempting doesn’t mean that I can necessarily recommend it.

Corrina, Corrina by Mark Dujsik – September 24, 2010
Writer/director Jessie Nelson tries entirely too hard to infuse her main characters with difficult hurdles to jump. It’s not enough that the potentially but certain-to-be romantic leads of Corrina, Corrina are employer and employee. There’s also the fact that Manny (Ray Liotta) is still grieving over the loss of his wife. That’s why he hires Corrina (Whoopi Goldberg) as his maid and nanny to his daughter, Molly (Tina Majorino), who has taken to not speaking since her mother’s death.

If the obstacles ended there, their relationship might have seemed more plausible, but they don’t.

CrissCross by Kyle Kogan – August 20, 2010
Without delving too deeply into pretentious digression, I hoped that the Goldie Hawn film CrissCross at least alluded to the excitement and mystery of my minds eye. Instead, I got a film so terribly stale and lacking in substance that it came as no surprise that this film marked the beginning of the end of her career.

Croupier by Mark Dujsik – December 3, 2010
It’s tempting to put too much weight on the way screenwriter Paul Mayersberg lays out the intricate rules, shows off the particular lingo, and creates a feeling of being a fly on the wall of a casino in London. With Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) — sometimes “Jake” when he imagines himself as the protagonist of the novel he’s writing, but always the pragmatist — as our guide, Croupier is always digging deeper into the shady world of professional gambling, even as its story flounders with double-crosses and backstabs and stretches to tie it to a lofty theme of chance.

Cruising by D. B. Bates – December 3, 2010
Although Cruising isn’t quite as bad as its reputation, it’s still awfully difficult to sit through. Friedkin relies on tawdry shock moments (including a bizarre, never-explained police interrogation in which detectives bring in a burly African-American man in nothing but a G-string and a Stetson to beat on the suspects) and the comically stereotypical behavior of the gay characters. It’s not as insensitive as the activists probably thought it would be, but come on — the prime suspect is a musical theatre major, for crying out loud.

Culpepper Cattle Company, The by D. B. Bates – October 1, 2010
The Culpepper Cattle Company is a cinematic curiosity that I’m not sure has occurred before or since: a coming-of-age revisionist western. It seems like an odd combination of genres, but it’s not so surprising, especially considering the time of its making.

Dallas 362 by Mark Dujsik – August 27, 2010
Even if one spreads one’s suspension of disbelief thin to buy into Caan’s loaded setup, the movie remains dramatically inert, with the characters’ destinies numbered from the beginning. Caan’s script merely fills in the appropriate colors.

Dark Half, The by Matt Wedge – July 16, 2010
The Dark Half could almost be seen as George A. Romero’s forgotten film. It’s not a part of his well-known Dead series, nor is it one of his engrossing, cheaply made indies like Martin, Knightriders, or The Crazies. Like Creepshow, another of his collaborations with Stephen King, it’s a slick effort to court mainstream success. While that plan didn’t pan out for Romero, he still wound up with a very solid genre picture buoyed by some strong performances.

Darkness Falls by D. B. Bates – October 29, 2010
It’s obvious something went horribly wrong with Darkness Falls based on its opening sequence. Most horror movies try to build a bit of a mystery about what’s really going on, but Darkness Falls doesn’t want you to ask any questions.

Dead & Breakfast by Matt Wedge – December 10, 2010
That’s why I see horror-comedies as such a tricky proposition. The best (Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead 2) of the sub-genre send up the conventions and clichés of the horror film while also respecting it, working as both horror films and comedies. The worst horror-comedies are the ones that spoof those same conventions and clichés with a tone that comes across as smug superiority to an inferior genre. These films show a lack of respect for the genre that is galling and turns them into hollow, snobby affairs. For this reason — and many more that I will dissect — Dead & Breakfast is one of the worst horror-comedies I have ever seen.

Dead Heat by Matt Wedge – June 25, 2010
Playing like a slapdash combination of Lethal Weapon and Re-Animator, Dead Heat is an incredibly derivative film that turns on one good gimmick: zombie cop. But this isn’t the evil kind of zombie cop seen in such trash classics as Maniac Cop and, er, Maniac Cop 2. This zombie cop retains his living personality while violently seeking justice for his own murder. This could have been an interesting, if ridiculous, film. At the very least, it should have achieved trash classic status as being so bad that it cries out to be seen. Instead, it settles for occupying a purgatory between total mediocrity and silly camp.

Dead Ringers by Matt Wedge – September 17, 2010
No filmmaker currently working manages to maintain such a meticulously cold, clinical feel to their films as David Cronenberg. The fact that he creates an icy tone that keeps the audience at arm’s length, while managing to draw out such strong emotions of horror, disgust, and anger, makes him not only a divisive figure among audiences and critics, but also one of the most controversial directors of the past 35 years. While I understand if someone hates his work, I personally find his films to be consistently compelling. If you disagree with that opinion, you will probably disagree violently when I say that Dead Ringers is one of the finest films ever made.

Death Hunt by D. B. Bates – August 20, 2010
The early parts of the film revel in the characters and environment. I went into the experience knowing nothing about the plot or its real-life basis, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way it established characters, setting, and tone without tipping its hand about the plot’s direction. When the plot finally gets going, though, it’s a disappointment.

Demolition Man by Josh Medcalf – January 21, 2011
I’m not going to delve too deep into Demolition Man. You know all about this movie already, and even if you haven’t seen it, you know exactly what it is.

Detective, The by D. B. Bates – August 27, 2010
The Detective drops an ethical, tough-as-nails film noir antihero into a mystery story designed to tackle every conceivable issue plaguing late-’60s New York City: police/political corruption, corporate greed, racism, sexism, homophobia, divorce, psychiatry, hippies, casual sex, and even-more-casual drug use. It’s a good but not great film that earns some bonus points for not biting off more than it can chew, despite its expansive social agenda.

Down Periscope by Andrew Good – October 8, 2010
How funny is a man with a tattooed dick? It’s kind of a barometer question for enjoying Down Periscope, because it’s the film’s most persistent gag.

Dream Team, The by Matt Wedge – August 20, 2010
I understand that audiences don’t want to see a realistic depiction of the pain and suffering that comes with a person’s mind turning against them. I understand that there’s no financial incentive in making that movie, but do they have to trot out the subject as fodder for mediocre comedies? Apparently, the answer is yes.

Dust Factory, The by Hanna Soltys – September 17, 2010
Taking a children’s movie into a fantasy world has returned staples such as Peter Pan; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Where the Wild Things Are; The NeverEnding Story; and Alice in Wonderland. One that will never make the list: The Dust Factory.

Easy by Hanna Soltys – August 10, 2010
You know a movie’s concept is spot-on when the film feels like a documentary. While Easy tends to take these concepts to an extreme (the suicide scene comes to mind), overall the film is relatable, enhancing the movie watching experience. We’ve all fallen for the wrong people (or at the wrong time), dealt with liars, had life throw disappointments at us while we try to overcome everyday obstacles.

Easy Money by Andrew Good – October 15, 2010
You wouldn’t have a Rodney Dangerfield movie without one-liners. Considering he shares a screenwriting credit on Easy Money, it’s no surprise he spends the running time firing off one after another when he’s not chain-smoking joints.

Entity, The by Kyle Kogan – August 27, 2010
The film sticks with you, for better or worse, but it’s a striking testament to the power of raw horror. This is a film you do not want to watch alone.

Executive Decision by Kyle Kogan – February 25, 2011
Specifics don’t matter because the surprises and suspense are what make the film so enthralling. Sure, you can see the end coming from a mile away and there is nothing here that you haven’t seen before, but it’s handled with such deft care that it left me breathless. I knew the good guys were going to win in the end, but I nonetheless couldn’t wait to see it happen.

Explorers by Mark Dujsik – November 12, 2010
A trio of young outcasts learns the (literal) universality of their condition in Explorers. It begins with the science-fiction fantasies of kids and slowly but surely goes off the rails into realm of social satire. “We don’t kill people,” dreamer-turned-intergalactic explorer Ben Crandall (Ethan Hawke) implores a slimy, green friendly alien. “Well, we do, but not aliens, ‘cause we haven’t met any.”

Eyewitness by Andrew Good – July 23, 2010
When a script is fleshed out enough, you feel as if you could follow even minor characters into the next room, away from the camera’s eye, and watch them live out their quirky little lives sequestered away from the main plot.

Fabulous Baker Boys, The by Kyle Kogan – November 19, 2010
These first simple, delicate minutes play out beautifully, simply observing from a distance the bottom of an act that grew stale long ago. When juxtaposed to the glimmering lights of the city, their saddened faces look only more sincere.

Fantasticks, The by Hanna Soltys – November 12, 2010
Two teenagers, Matt Hucklebee (Joey McIntyre) and Luisa Bellamy (Jean Louisa Kelly), live on neighboring farms, the children of fathers who bicker constantly at one another. As expected, the two fall in love with each other, but must keep their relationship under wraps so as not to offend their fathers.

Farewell to the King by Kyle Kogan – November 5, 2010
While the action is well shot, it is too often visited with slow motion embellishments and melodramatic deaths. What was once organic and raw becomes glossy with a fresh coat of Hollywood paint, and I must say the color doesn’t suit me.

Final Analysis by Hanna Soltys – January 28, 2011
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but what about judging a movie by the movie poster? One glance at Final Analysis would clue you in on what happens in the movie’s 2+ hours length: a steamy sex scene and nothing else much.

Flirting with Disaster by Mark Dujsik – February 18, 2011
David O. Russell’s Flirting with Disaster finds the farcical in the emotionally fragile events surrounding a man’s search for his biological parents. At a crossroads in his life — new son (for whom he can’t decide upon a name), a fading sex life with his wife, and the culmination of a lifelong identity crisis arising from his adoption as a baby — Mel Coplin (Ben Stiller) or his need to feel a part of something he’s felt he has been missing is never the butt of any of the film’s jokes.

Freaked by Josh Medcalf – February 25, 2011
When you reflect back on what you’ve seen, it’s like stringing together the random, bizarre segments of a half-remembered dream from the night before. Nothing makes sense; what seemed to work in dreamland is now utterly absurd in hindsight.

Freejack by D. B. Bates – June 25, 2010
Like the best sci-fi, Freejack uses genre tropes to tackle weightier themes of mortality, greed, corruption, and social decay. Like the worst sci-fi, it relies far too much on trippy, 2001-esque visual effects and melodramatic monologues.

Friday by D. B. Bates – December 10, 2010
Much of the comedy comes from the interaction between straight-man Craig and clownish sidekick Smokey, whose obsession with getting high and passing along neighborhood lore effectively distracts Craig from his disastrous life.

Fright Night by Matt Wedge – October 29, 2010
In a major way, Fright Night is a film that was ahead of its time. Released more than ten years before Scream kicked off the self-aware horror craze, writer/director Tom Holland delivered a horror-comedy that found its characters turning to horror films of old to learn how to survive their current horror movie dangers. That it doesn’t fully exploit that idea doesn’t really detract from the fun, but it does keep it from being a true genre classic.

Frighteners, The by D. B. Bates – October 29, 2010
When The Frighteners debuted in 1996, American moviegoers responded with thunderous indifference. Admittedly, it’s a tough sell: a big studio film with a tone that toes the uneasy line between goofy and suspenseful, a baffling R rating, and Michael J. Fox, the king of likability, cast as a grieving, emotionally distant psychic.

Full Grown Men by D. B. Bates – October 22, 2010
Another weekend, another indie road movie about emotionally stunted characters going on a quirky adventure populated by a cavalcade of weirdos who teach life lessons. Full Grown Men gets bonus points for being funnier and less uneven than other examples of its ilk, but it still suffers from many of the frustrating clichés that have plagued the independent film scene for years.

Funny Farm by Matt Wedge – February 18, 2011
Funny Farm boasts a surprisingly impressive pedigree for a light Chevy Chase comedy. It was directed by George Roy Hill, a man who delivered two certifiable masterpieces in The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid among other very good films (Slap Shot, Slaughterhouse-Five). It boasts a screenplay by Jeffrey Boam, ace screenwriter of such films as The Dead Zone, Innerspace, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Lethal Weapon 2. With this collection of unusually talented people behind the scenes, it’s not terribly surprising that the film turned out as well as it did. That praise isn’t to confuse it as a great film, but it’s an enjoyable comedy with a few big laughs.

Gardens of Stone by Matt Wedge – July 2, 2010
In the ’80s and the ’90s, Francis Ford Coppola made several movies that he freely admitted were strictly for the money. That so many of those films (Peggy Sue Got Married, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Bram Stoker’s Dracula) turned out to be solid pieces of entertainment, is to his credit as a skilled director. Gardens of Stone is not one of those films.

Gattaca by Mark Dujsik – February 11, 2011
Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca seems a bit quainter than it did upon the film’s release fourteen years ago. What was a revolutionary premise about chiseling away the façade of a false utopia based upon the structured discrimination of people deemed genetically inferior (the passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 appears almost a direct, if belated, response to the film’s scenario) is now simply the basis for an intelligent display of plotting an intricate con.

Ghoulies II by D. B. Bates – October 29, 2010
Obviously, Ghoulies II is a crass, awful cash-in that should have been a lot more fun than it is. After all, it’s a movie where the dorky hero is dating a burlesque dancer (Kerry Remsen), and a diminutive stage actor (Phil Fondacaro) laments that he’s not performing King Lear while going in and out of a British accent, depending on the scene. This is the sort of material that’s too bizarre not to entertain, yet the movie lays there like a ghoulie in a toilet.

Gift, The by Hanna Soltys – July 9, 2010
After seeing the The Gift’s cast list, one would expect this film to be great. It’s not. It’s superb — nay, exquisite. The Gift captures the independent film spirit perfectly, from the cinematography to the musical score to the acting, all while maintaining true thriller traits.

Golden Child, The by Hanna Soltys – July 23, 2010
It seems like in every 1980s movie starring Eddie Murphy (Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop), he plays the same character over and over again. The Golden Child is no exception.

Golden Gate by D. B. Bates – November 19, 2010
I’d like to believe a movie can only get as bad as Golden Gate on purpose. Sometimes, a bad film is simply a result of amateurish ineptitude or wild miscalculations. This is a different case.

Good Son, The by Kyle Kogan – October 8, 2010
The Good Son is as misleading a title as any, as none of the children in the film are particularly good. The film works in one sense because it does instill the viewer with some edging creepiness, but unfortunately this comes not at the skill of the semi-gifted cast but instead the director’s awry motives.

Great Waldo Pepper, The by Mark Dujsik – November 19, 2010
The film is the story of a series of missed opportunities and tragic mistakes but told with the improbable gusto of a showman. The crowd, bored by the now-commonplace sights of loops and a 3,000-foot “death spiral,” wants more. Luckily for them, the pilots need the money — but, more importantly, the attention.

Hamburger Hill by Andrew Good – October 1, 2010
Needless to say, Hamburger Hill is a bleak film, one that attempts to recreate the sheer horror of the war along with the desperate, quiet moments in between fighting.

Hard Cash by Matt Wedge – September 10, 2010
We’ve all been there. You can’t sleep, so you turn on the TV to see what kind of garbage is being shown at three in the morning. You happen on a movie you’ve never heard of with some big names. You decide it might be watchable; after all, it stars Christian Slater, Val Kilmer, and Daryl Hannah. You can remember a time when they were movie stars and you have fond memories of Heathers, Real Genius, and Splash. Congratulations, you just fell into the trap that the producers of a piece of straight-to-DVD crap have set for you. After thirty minutes of lazy dialogue, over-the-top performances, and incoherent plot twists, you realize your mistake. But it’s too late; a plot that promises thrills, action, and sexy women already sucks you in. When the films ends, you realize that none of those promises were filled and you’re left with ninety minutes subtracted from your lifespan. You cannot find a more apt example of this type of film than Hard Cash.

Harry and Tonto by Kyle Kogan – February 18, 2011
Not for one moment did I feel I was watching a film, but rather a manifestation of a real man’s memoir onto celluloid. It’s a rare treat that I get to witness such a fun, tender, and rapturous film.

Heartbreak Ridge by Kyle Kogan – August 6, 2010
Heartbreak Ridge, the 1986 war film by Clint Eastwood, boasts a plot so familiar that it’s not difficult to understand why this film’s been overlooked in the vast canon that is his directing career. The film wastes no time indulging in a moralistic foray about the cost of war and violence (as war films to tend to exhibit) but instead glamorizes it, turning what could be a serious piece of work into more light accessible entertainment. The film never tries to be more than what you’ll find on the surface and it is on this exercise that the film mostly succeeds.

High Plains Drifter by Josh Medcalf – February 25, 2011
This is an early example of the “Weird West” subgenre, a fusing of the Western with, in this case, the occult or supernatural. Eastwood plays the Stranger, a rugged gunfighter appearing out of the haze of the desert and stumbling into the town of Lago, where he may or may not have unfinished business — left over from another lifetime. If that premise doesn’t do it for you, I don’t know what will.

High Spirits by D. B. Bates – January 14, 2011
High Spirits is an odd, uneven misfire that, like a handful of movies (most recently, Morning Glory), suffers from a serious identity crisis. At times, it’s a wacky special effects comedy, but it’s not very funny and never seems like it much wants to be, and the special effects are fairly awful for the time. Sometimes, it’s a haunted-house mystery, only it’s not all that mysterious. At other times, it wants to be a raucous sex comedy, but its PG-13 rating prevents it from getting any sexier than silhouettes and innuendo. Some films can handle the balancing act of genre-bending craziness, but this isn’t one of them.

Higher Learning by Matt Wedge – December 3, 2010
Higher Learning is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. This would be high praise if writer/director John Singleton hadn’t intended it to be a heavy drama. Overwrought, overstuffed, and just plain over-the-top, it’s a melodramatic message movie with more plot threads going on than the average daytime soap opera. If only one of those threads had been remotely interesting.

Hoffa by Josh Medcalf – January 21, 2011
Hoffa is less the story of a man, and more the story of an entire American working class that became swept up in his influence, enchanted by his power.

Hombre by Kyle Kogan – December 3, 2010
This film is as relevant today as it was in the late 60’s because it portrays society’s inherent xenophobia, a deficiency that plagues each and every one of us in some shape or form. It elucidates the divide cast between different cultures and offers loose suggestions that if this divide were shattered, those weapons that seemingly trump all might not be as necessary.

Home Alone by Mark Dujsik – December 17, 2010
Parts of Home Alone are so ingrained in my memory that I noticed my brain filling in lines of dialogue before they were spoken on screen. Take into consideration that I didn’t watch this movie repeatedly as a child, either, and honestly, I don’t recall the last time I saw it. It’s simply that the script by John Hughes is either memorable or predictable, and I’d rather not make such a sweeping judgment one way or the other.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York by Kyle Kogan – December 24, 2010
It’s a silly, cute, and comical experience from start to finish, with only a few hiccups along the way. Some of these hiccups are greater than others, but I must note that these setbacks only became noticeable upon a critical viewing.

Hot Dog… The Movie by Mark Dujsik – July 23, 2010
When it’s not too busy with a skiing montage (and it’s almost never too busy for that), Hot Dog… The Movie has its fun degrading women and giving the audience a bit more exposition every so often. Twenty minutes in, and we have received about three minutes of necessary plot. Ten minutes after that, there’s maybe another few seconds. Five minutes after that, we get a full minute or so of expository dialogue, finally establishing the nuances of a young kid entering a ski competition in which the Europeans are favored.

House of Games by Andrew Good – July 2, 2010
Swindlers are nothing new in David Mamet’s world. They’re seducers by nature, and everyone — from the characters on screen to the audience watching them — hungers for seduction. We may tell ourselves we know better, that we would remain stoically grim in the face of a hypnotist or could spot the hidden ace in the sleeve of a magician. But in the end, every mark has a spider web of fears and lusts to exploit, and it’s a con man’s job to take them for a ride.

House on Carroll Street, The by Josh Medcalf – December 10, 2010
If the Hitchcock thriller is the golden child of the family, this movie is the attention-starved, amateur younger brother trying to follow in its footsteps, but who just hasn’t yet discovered his true calling in life.

House on Skull Mountain, The by D. B. Bates – January 21, 2011
Its very ’70s-ness is perhaps its most dominant feature, and it threatens to overwhelm and destroy an otherwise solid (if slightly goofy) horror film. Look past the surface, and you might find something resembling actual suspense, and occasional shock moments that actually shock.

I Love You to Death by Matt Wedge – July 9, 2010
I Love You to Death opens with the bold proclamation that it’s based on a true story. Long ago, I learned to take those kind of claims with a huge grain of salt. In this case, while the filmmakers did take quite a few liberties when it came to the supporting characters and the actual outcome, the most unbelievable elements of the story turn out to be the most based-in-fact. If only one wayward performance and a flat ending had been avoided, this could have been a very funny movie. Instead, it settles for being just a little better than mediocre.

I’ll Be There by Hanna Soltys – November 24, 2010
The only thing I’ll Be There had going for it was Charlotte Church’s voice; otherwise, the film falls flat.

Impromptu by Hanna Soltys – July 14, 2010
Impromptu feels like Pride & Prejudice with a little bit of sass and crass thrown in… The film boasts an incredible cast, but it lacks a script worthy of their talents. Most of the time, I sat in confusion, wondering how much time could have passed when literally nothing happened.

Into the Night by Josh Medcalf – December 3, 2010
Fairly often while watching a movie, I’m wanting it to be something I just know it’s going to end up falling short of. This one was no exception. Like most ’80s everyman thrust into cloak-and-dagger-type movies, John Landis’s Into the Night starts out strong, but never rises out of mediocrity.

It’s Alive by D. B. Bates – October 29, 2010
That reaction is what makes It’s Alive more than a campy horror flick. Cohen roots the story firmly in the most primitive instincts of any parent, unconditional love of a child and the desire to do anything possible to protect it. That foundation allows for his metaphoric exploration of persecution and protection, and the moral gray area of a parent protecting a beast they know is a killer.

Jack by D. B. Bates – February 18, 2011
Director Francis Ford Coppola realizes Jack leads a life of deep sadness and loneliness, despite having loving parents. Because of his freakish qualities, they keep him indoors most of the time. He stares longingly out the window at the normal ten-year-olds, wishing he could live that life without having the intellectual or emotional capacity to understand why he can’t. Coppola’s not afraid to express that darkness, but he’s also not afraid to throw it all away for the sake of kids farting in a coffee can.

Jingle All the Way by D. B. Bates – December 24, 2010
The fact that Jingle All the Way plays like a live-action cartoon aimed at children should have surprised nobody upon its release in 1996. However, it’s a film of such crass cynicism, I wish it had gone to even darker extremes with its ideas, some of which are actually pretty interesting.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash by Hanna Soltys – August 20, 2010
Jumpin’ Jack Flash is a typical ’80s movie: loud clothing, hi-tops, someone with an accent, terrible haircuts and off-colored language. But poor Jumpin’ Jack Flash put this lass to sleep on three occasions during the double viewing. One sits there wondering, Okay, when is this going to turn into a plot? Now…nope. Yet…negative. It’s tiring to spend a movie trying to figure out what’s already happened, let alone contemplate what’s about to go down.

Just One of the Guys by Andrew Good – August 13, 2010
Needless to say, the film’s premise is a little dubious. If Terry’s such a freethinking girl, why does she need to become a guy in order to get ahead? Ostensibly it’s to understand the male mindset, but she never plumbs gender politics that deeply. It’d be a more interesting film if it did, but put those ideas out of mind, popcorn in your mouth, and chew, chew, chew.

Killer Elite, The by Andrew Good – October 15, 2010
You’d think a Sam Peckinpah film about amoral government agents battling ninja couldn’t go wrong. There’s so much potential in The Killer Elite: Gun fights and car chases in San Francisco! James Caan and Robert Duvall together post-Godfather! Mid-’70s Peckinpah!

L.A. Streetfighters by Matt Wedge – November 5, 2010
When it comes to a low-budget martial arts film, I’m willing to overlook just about any problem with the script, acting, and overall lack of filmmaking craft as long as the fight scenes are exciting and well-choreographed. Unfortunately, L.A. Streetfighters has worse than usual problems when it comes to the factors I’m usually willing to turn a blind eye to. On top of that, the fight scenes range from awkward to competent to only occasionally exciting.

Legend of Hell House, The by Josh Medcalf – January 28, 2011
My problem with the film isn’t that it has a crappy premise. My problem is that it has a decent premise that just isn’t handled well enough — wasted by a combination of missing exposition, spotty characterization, and a lack of dramatic material.

Less Than Zero by Josh Medcalf – February 11, 2011
Director Marek Kanievska seems to take the scared-straight approach, and of course a lot of that has to do with the studio’s efforts to clean up much of the X-rated, meandering existentialism of Ellis’s novel, in an attempt to put together a marketable package with three-act structure, an identifiable protagonist and a clear moral doggie bag to leave the theater with.

Leviathan by Kyle Kogan – November 26, 2010
Leviathan is good at what it does, no doubt, which is simply a creature feature sporting some impressive technical achievements and assured cinematography. When compared to the likes of Alien, The Fly, and The Abyss (which was released the same year), its candle is all but extinguished. As a result, Leviathan just feels stale and hollow, but I feel its reputation as a shameless knockoff is unwarranted.

Liberty Heights by D. B. Bates – June 25, 2010
Barry Levinson never gets better than his slice-of-life Baltimore films. Don’t get me wrong — he’s made some amazing studio films (Sleepers, The Natural) and some ambitious misfires that suggest a born filmmaker (Toys, Jimmy Hollywood), but nobody does wry, observational slice-of-life like he does. Liberty Heights stands out from his other work (Diner, Tin Men, and Avalon) because it brings the race component into it. It finally shows the darkness brimming under the typically idealized façade of Levinson’s other Baltimore films.

Life Less Ordinary, A by Andrew Good – July 9, 2010
It’s really too bad that the movie doesn’t congeal, because on paper, Danny Boyle’s follow-up feature to Trainspotting, his 1996 breakthrough, could be heavenly fun, despite its inherent preciousness. But the script is a mess, presumably because the filmmakers were chasing a manic, screwball tone that leaves the audience confused.

Loose Cannons by D. B. Bates – October 8, 2010
What the hell happened? I’ve never seen a movie so full of fresh comedic ideas so poorly rendered.

Lucas by Kyle Kogan – August 20, 2010
David Seltzer’s feature debut Lucas is remarkable in its portrayal of a lonely boy who finds his first love. It chooses to depict the gracelessness of the protagonist in a revealing and true-to-life way, turning what could have been another run-of-the-mill sex romp into an uplifting, funny, and tender character study.

Man From Snowy River, The by Kyle Kogan – July 9, 2010
The men from The Man From Snowy River sit in wicker chairs warming wallaby stew over an open fire. They reminisce about their day breaking wild horses, gazing longingly into an auburn sunset. In this part of the Australian outback, these men handle most of their qualms with words and only exchange blows under strikingly rare circumstances. One of these men states, “This is a hard country, and it makes for hard men”.

Man With One Red Shoe, The by Andrew Good – August 27, 2010
Before “Oscar-winner” was a modifier synonymous with his name, Tom Hanks was just a really funny comedic actor. The ’80s were a golden age for him, where he crafted a screen image that balanced down-to-earthiness with being a slightly off-kilter goofball, an awkward adult that can’t help but stand out in a crowd.

Man of the Century by Mark Dujsik – January 14, 2011
The joke — and it’s the movie’s only joke — is that Johnny Twennies (Gibson Frazier) is stuck in the movie vision of the 1920s (see, even his name is part of that gag), while the rest of the world has progressed into (or remained, if you’re a realist) a loud, hurtful, dangerous, foul-mouthed place where people don’t give a good gosh-darn about the opening of some public library, guys get fresh with a lady riding her bike to work, and dolls are looking for more than a kiss on the cheek after 27 days of courting. He doesn’t realize any of his modes of thought, dress, and speech are outdated, and that makes it an effective joke — to a point.

Manhattan Project, The by Josh Medcalf – December 10, 2010
The key ingredient for a film to be considered “cult,” in my humble opinion, is soul. And The Manhattan Project has it in droves. It starts off innocently enough, with some cheesy one-liners, painfully awkward expositional beats, and noticeable ’80s stamps, before rapidly evolving into something much more significant.

Marked for Death by D. B. Bates – November 26, 2010
In many ways, Marked for Death is Seagal’s strangest studio film. It touches on the usual Seagal themes but takes them into new, unexpected directions. The mystical seriousness with which it takes Jamaican voodoo magic, for instance, lends a bizarre, verging-on-surreal quality to the proceedings. It also boasts, thanks to the terrific direction by Dwight H. Little, some of his most varied, wildly imaginative action sequences.

Max Dugan Returns by Kyle Kogan – October 8, 2010
It is all insubstantial and excruciatingly shallow, especially when you consider that Max is a deadbeat who spent years in prison yet still carries with him stolen casino money. Fortunately, scribe Neil Simon never delves too deeply into it, instead allowing Max’s shortcomings to act as impetus for his reasons to return in the first place.

Me Without You by Hanna Soltys – July 14, 2010
Every best friend relationship crosses the same tribulations: jealousy, back-stabbing, secrets, causing deliberate hurt and pain, curtness, sadness and most importantly, confusion. Every person out there will be able to identify with either Marina (Anna Friel) or Holly (Michelle Williams), or maybe both of them from time to time.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man by Hanna Soltys – November 27, 2010
Like most Chevy Chase movies from the ’90s, Memoirs of an Invisible Man is insanely entertaining, solely thanks to Mr. Chase. While we may not always see Chase, we always hear his voice and can imagine those infamous facial expressions we’ve all come to know and love over the years.

Metropolis by Matt Wedge – August 6, 2010
I have decided that it’s just me. I have watched nearly every anime considered essential viewing for American audiences by fans of the art form. I have watched Akira, Ninja Scroll, and most of the films of Hayao Miyazaki. And when each of these films has come to an end, I have the same reaction every time: very pretty to look at, but ultimately, they’re nothing but a boring exercise in style. Metropolis fits right in that category.

Miami Blues by Kyle Kogan – December 10, 2010
I always love these carefree, suave criminal types. They are an overused archetype, but Alec Baldwin really invigorates the character with his bare approach to it. He is the type of bad guy we can root for because, despite the swaths of damage he cuts across the city, he’s just much cooler than everyone else.

Missouri Breaks, The by Andrew Good – July 23, 2010
The Missouri Breaks is no Heaven’s Gate, but it is still an uneven film. Like Gate, remembered largely as the biggest boondoggle of its decade, it’s an ambitious western about authority, greed and how both fuel and corrupt the American spirit.

Mobsters by Josh Medcalf – February 4, 2011
It’s also many different movies, all rolled into one — a collage of mob clichés, as if the filmmakers slid a tray down a cafeteria lunch line and picked scenes out, a la carte, from other films.

Modern Problems by D. B. Bates – August 13, 2010
This is a great setup for a sly (if slightly cartoonish) comedy about, well…modern problems. Unfortunately, Max develops telekinesis, which ruins everything.

Money Pit, The by Matt Wedge – January 28, 2011
There is a reason the sketch comedy format exists. Certain concepts are strictly a one-joke premise and don’t need to be stretched past the five-minute mark. Hence, the need for sketch comedy — get in, set up the joke, hit the punch line, get the laugh, get out. The very talented people in front of and behind the camera of The Money Pit are apparently unfamiliar with this idea, because the movie is a labored attempt to stretch its one-joke premise to an impossible ninety minutes.

Money Train by Matt Wedge – November 19, 2010
As a vehicle to capitalize on the chemistry that Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson displayed in White Men Can’t Jump, Money Train works. The duo display an uncanny ability to play off the other’s performance that is energizing with perfect comic timing. As an action-comedy, it’s a mess. By the time the chaotic, noisy third act rolls around, not even Snipes and Harrelson are able to rescue the film from its scattered story, lazy dialogue, and boring action scenes.

Monster Dog by D. B. Bates – September 3, 2010
Camp stems naturally from a combination the filmmakers’ utter seriousness and incredible incompetence. I say this to justify giving Monster Dog a three-star review: it’s a poorly made, remarkably stupid movie that manages to entertain through laughable attempts at scares and gore.

Motel Hell by D. B. Bates – November 12, 2010
Coming in the middle of the cannibal craze of the ’70s and ’80s, Motel Hell has less interest in graphic exploitation than in a grim portrait of crazy people. Yes, it’s billed as a horror-comedy, and it does contain a few legitimate laughs, but this is a real horror film. It’s more disturbing than traditionally scary, but frankly, that’s the way I like ‘em.

Mr. Majestyk by Kyle Kogan – January 14, 2011
Charles Bronson, a name that carries considerable weight, is an actor who has starred in countless action classics. I consider myself a movie fanatic, so I presume I’ve committed some form of blasphemy by admitting that this is my very first Charles Bronson film. I know; it’s pretty ludicrous that I haven’t seen these timeless classics. If Richard Fleischer’s Mr. Majestyk is any indication of Bronson’s existing canon, I can safely say that I am altogether hooked. Bronson truly deserves his iconic status as an action hero.

Much Ado About Nothing by Kyle Kogan – July 30, 2010
When I popped Kenneth Branagh’s seminal Much Ado About Nothing adaptation into my DVD player, I predicted my next two hours panning out as an exercise in patience. Mind you, I happen to love Shakespeare but the scribe has a way with words so profound that it’s often hard to follow when performed. I was worried, therefore, that inclusion of “Olde English” could potentially act as a distraction, withdrawing its viewers from the film. I was pleased to discover quite the contrary.

Nadine by Matt Wedge – June 25, 2010
Equal parts gentle character comedy and ramshackle film noir, Nadine is an easy film to like for its relaxed tone and frequent touches of oddball humor. If that were enough to recommend a film, this would be a four star review, unfortunately, writer/director Robert Benton lets that relaxed tone become a little too laid back and the film eventually sputters to a conclusion that is only partially satisfying.

Naked Lunch by Kyle Kogan – January 14, 2011
The novel seems so convoluted and abstract that I’m equal parts surprised and impressed that Cronenberg even managed to put a film together. What he did put together I appreciate solely on a visceral, enigmatic front. It’s so altogether complex that I found it impossible to resist. It’s not a film I will be running back to see anytime soon, but if you’re looking for a mind-bending trip into the mind of William S. Burroughs, look no further.

Navy SEALS by Josh Medcalf – February 18, 2011
The premise is simple. We see both “sides” of the lives of the men on a rough-and-tumble Navy SEALs team: one side when they’re on mission, the other when they’re off, with a few highlighted dramatic subplots interspersed between. The various attempts at endearing us to the characters are painfully obvious, first-date awkward. It really is Top Gun all over again, without the planes, and with Charlie Sheen standing in for Tom Cruise.

Newsfront by Mark Dujsik – August 13, 2010
Set in post-World War II Australia, Newsfront chronicles the zenith of the newsreel industry and its subsequent fade away into cultural memory. It also, more tellingly, recalls a time when journalists felt the human story was always more worthwhile than angling for sensationalism.

Nicholas Nickleby by Mark Dujsik – October 22, 2010
I have not seen Nicholas Nickleby since it was first released, and so it’s a pleasure to report the film still has the ability to wash over you with its expansive cast of characters, its broad themes, and a charming storybook visual and editorial sensibility (longer takes, picture-frame compositions, and theatrical blocking). In taking Charles Dickens’s original 952-page novel and condensing it to a mere 132 minutes, writer/director Douglas McGrath has maintained that incomparable spirit of Dickens’s worldview — one of a heightened Victorian England and the makeup of its populace.

Nothing Like the Holidays by Josh Medcalf – December 17, 2010
Taken at face value, it’s a gripping, voyeuristic portrait of a dysfunctional American family during what may be their last Christmas together under one roof. As that, it’s a near-perfect success for director Alfredo De Villa, who has rendered some of the most realistic sibling rivalry since Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko.

Nothing to Lose by Josh Medcalf – December 3, 2010
There’s nothing particularly original about the movie itself, but the plot throws just enough surprises at you to keep you invested throughout, even after it loses steam late in the second act. It goes down some unexpected avenues, some random, some a little awkward. Other than that, it’s perfectly formulaic. Which isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, I found most of this unlikely pair’s antics riotously funny.

Nurse Betty by Hanna Soltys – July 30, 2010
Nurse Betty feels like a script the Farrelly brothers could have penned. It’s absurd, intriguing, uncomfortable, awkward, yet satisfying. Meet Betty Sizemore (Renée Zellweger), a waitress in a small Kansas town married to a two-timing husband, Del (Aaron Eckhart). Betty’s pleasant, kind, warm, and obsessed with the soap opera A Reason to Love.

Once Bitten by Matt Wedge – August 27, 2010
After the extinction of the human race, when aliens are sifting through the remains of our civilizations, I hope they come across a DVD of Once Bitten. It’s the perfect example of cheesy ’80s comedy for an alien race to view and gain understanding of how often the decade was culturally bankrupt.

Only the Lonely by D. B. Bates – November 26, 2010
For people of my generation, John Hughes’s oeuvre — as writer, director, and/or producer — is widely regarded as classic fare. Superior films like The Breakfast Club and Planes, Trains and Automobiles stand side by side with charming but iffy fare like Uncle Buck and Dutch as comforting, thoughtful entertainment that has withstood the test of time (despite heaping dollops of ’80s cheese permeating each film). How did the great romantic comedy Only the Lonely fall through the cracks and drift into obscurity?

Opportunity Knocks by Matt Wedge – February 11, 2011
For an innocuous vehicle to capitalize on Dana Carvey’s popularity during his Saturday Night Live heyday, there’s something slightly distasteful about Opportunity Knocks. This lack of taste has nothing to do with Carvey, but with using his talents for mimicry and improvisation to tell a story about a con man seeking to rip off a wealthy Chicago businessman by getting his daughter to fall in love with him. Comedies about con artists work best when the person being conned is someone who deserves to be ripped off (The Sting). Here, I just found the premise so off-putting, it was hard to appreciate the minimal amount of actual comedic entertainment on display.

Out for Justice by Andrew Good – August 20, 2010
That’s what most Seagal movies are about: watching the jerks of the world get their comeuppance, usually in a brutally over-the-top fashion. The movie’s called Out For Justice, after all, and it offers a pretty satisfying serving of vengeance. The only thing standing in its way is the story.

PCU by Hanna Soltys – July 2, 2010
Maybe it is completely un-PC to sit here and tell the truth about PCU. For his directorial debut, Hart Bochner unleashed PCU, the annoying little brother of Animal House who grew up in the ’90s.

Package, The by D. B. Bates – July 2, 2010
Davis’s directorial restraint is the film’s biggest strength. From a story standpoint, The Package could have easily starred Seagal and featured long gunfights, big explosions, and trademark aikido beatings. Everything about the story screams, “Big, ballsy action movie.” Instead, Davis eschews the big spectacle in favor of quiet character moments.

Paper Chase, The by Kyle Kogan – September 24, 2010
The Paper Chase tells a story that will resonate with anyone who has endured the hardships of graduate school and to those who have considered it. While the advancement of intellect is important for a prosperous future in the field of law, at what cost does it come?

Paradise Road by Kyle Kogan – November 12, 2010
Director Bruce Beresford directs with a strict outline, spoon feeding us each and every turn. The film lacks any surprise as a result, diminishing in emotional investments. Subsequently, the characters lose their credibility as the film chugs along. It’s unfortunate that Bruce Beresford didn’t support his fine cast with a stronger script and a leaner production. Underneath the heavy-handed polish lies a grittier, more organic version of this film.

Perfect World, A by Matt Wedge – November 19, 2010
There is a pivotal scene in A Perfect World that finds escaped convict Butch Haynes (Kevin Costner) responding to a woman’s assertion that he is a good man: “No, I ain’t a good man. I ain’t the worst, neither.” As a piece of dialogue, it may be a little too on-the-nose, but as a summation of the tricky drama at the heart of John Lee Hancock’s very good script, it works beautifully.

Pick-Up Artist, The by Kyle Kogan – September 3, 2010
Why did ’80s films always have to be about a player getting played? It’s about the most overused rom-com staple on the market, and though it generally works, here it seems so rushed.

Pope of Greenwich Village, The by Mark Dujsik – August 6, 2010
All the important characters (and one who only appears in two scenes but is vital to the plot) of The Pope of Greenwich Village have dreams. They are simple ones — nothing fancy.

Posse by Andrew Good – July 16, 2010
But Posse fails on all counts. Not only is it a fairly generic and boring action flick, it wastes a genuinely interesting concept by soaking every scene in camp. It often pays lip service to the notion of social commentary, but its messages are so throwaway that they might as well have focused on making a better western.

Powder by Matt Wedge – February 25, 2011
Let’s just get this out of the way, right up front: Powder is a mess of a film. But it wouldn’t be such a mess if there weren’t some interesting ideas and promising plot developments buried beneath a ton of pretentious metaphysical conceits and obvious manipulations on the part of writer/director Victor Salva.

Prancer by D. B. Bates – December 24, 2010
If you spend the holidays weary and depressed, wishing you could take a sucker-punch to the gut that might make you feel a little bit better about your own life, do I have the movie for you! Prancer is a staggeringly great film on its own merits, but it’s impossible to imagine happy families gathering together to watch it. It’s not really a film that exists to be enjoyed so much as endured, like a marathon of domestic abuse and mind-bending sadness.

Predator 2 by D. B. Bates – February 11, 2011
Unfortunately, every time the film threatens to veer toward a big-budget variation of a Cannon or Dino De Laurentiis film, the detectives hold it back. The ensemble is topnotch, with Glover leading Rubén Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, and Bill Paxton on the hunt for a Predator. It’s just that the detective-procedural aspects of the film lack the fun and craziness of its many action sequences.

Prizzi’s Honor by Matt Wedge – August 13, 2010
Prizzi’s Honor is a movie about a conflicted hitman. But unlike so many movies with similar descriptions, the protagonist in this case is not concerned with the morality of his job, but his duties to his crime family and to his wife. When those duties conflict with each other, should he choose love or honor? Like so many other things in this subversive film, the answer to that question is stickier than it seems.

Professionals, The by D. B. Bates – July 23, 2010
The Professionals has all the elements of a classic western: an all-star cast, excellent production values, interesting characters, sweat-inducing location shooting in Death Valley, and a plot with a few genuine surprises. All these elements, while solid individually, just don’t hang together as well as they should.

Quick and the Dead, The by Kyle Kogan – February 4, 2011
There really isn’t a plot, as the movie mostly just moves from one shootout to the next, but all of the confrontations are rendered intriguing because of the breathless pacing and the idiosyncratic characters.

Quigley Down Under by D. B. Bates – July 16, 2010
Director Simon Wincer does a great job showing off his native Australia. Despite the story’s somewhat unsavory, anti-Aussie bent, he makes every shot look like an inviting, panoramic postcard. Although he does a fine job with the banter-laden romantic scenes between Quigley and Cora, Wincer struggles — as I imagine any director would — to make the action sequences truly exciting.

Quintet by Kyle Kogan – September 10, 2010
In 1979, Robert Altman set out to create his passion project. This passion project was entitled Quintet, A sci-fi flick set in a post-apocalyptic world coated in ice and blustery snow. It starred Paul Newman as Essex, a seal hunter who is thrust into the violent world of quintet, a game about life and death. Altman creates a world so convincingly cold, bleak, and harsh I must commend him on his efforts. He surely saw this film through to its end, but by golly, it should have been the end of him too. This film is so bad it makes Battlefield Earth a masterpiece by comparison. At the very least, Battlefield contained a few laughs. Quintet contains as much life as its barren tundra setting.

Racing with the Moon by Mark Dujsik – September 17, 2010
Racing with the Moon is about the inevitable and the unforeseeable, set against the promise of young love, the picturesque California coast, and an era ripe for nostalgia seen without the rose-tinted glasses.

Regarding Henry by Mark Dujsik – February 25, 2011
Regarding Henry’s sincerity is at once the movie’s crutch and its downfall. It is the story of a man of loose moral sensibilities who awakens to the recognition of treating his fellow human beings with decency, and all that has to happen to him to come to this realization is that he’s shot in the head.

Rising Sun by Kyle Kogan – October 22, 2010
Ultimately, the crime gets solved but not without a few hiccups along the way. As interesting as the proceedings may be, the film is a little too ponderous and pretentious for its own good. It tries too hard to add depth, and at times, redemption to characters who we care little about.

Rocketeer, The by D. B. Bates – December 10, 2010
The film is a glorious paean to not just the ’30s, but the ’30s of cinema and comic-books — the gee-whiz sense that anything can happen. The film constructs a plot that entwines history and legend into one crazy, fantastical hodgepodge.

Rolling Thunder by Matt Wedge – June 25, 2010
For the first twenty minutes of its running time, the audience could be forgiven for thinking that Rolling Thunder was another painful, dreadfully high-minded movie about shell-shocked Vietnam veterans struggling to return to civilian life. But with a shocking act of violence to end its first act, the film reveals itself to be a brutal revenge tale that will leave as many psychological scars as physical ones.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead by Kyle Kogan – November 5, 2010
The true matter is that they are pawns in a much greater scheme, one that involves the death of Lord Hamlet himself.  As simple this plot seems, it isn’t that easy to follow.  This is partly due to writer/director Tom Stoppard’s use of the Bard’s language. It doesn’t contain the same eloquence and beauty of Shakespeare, and at times becomes so ambiguous it’s difficult to interpret.

Running Scared by Andrew Good – August 13, 2010
Throughout all this, Crystal and Hines seem to be having a genuine blast. Their rapid-fire comebacks aren’t always that funny, but they play off one another like friends who have known each other so long, they’ve started to share vocal tics. For at least the first half of the film, the energy is infectious.

Rush by Matt Wedge – December 3, 2010
Nearly twenty years since its release, if Rush is remembered for anything, it’s as the film that first featured Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.” That’s a shame. Not because the Clapton song isn’t a touching ballad, but because the film itself features some very good acting and a story that delves into addiction and the ethics of the “war on drugs” with an unflinching attitude.

S.F.W. by Matt Wedge – July 23, 2010
Is there anything worse than a satire made by people who don’t know how to make a satire? This is, of course, a rhetorical question. War, famine, disease, and the Fox News Channel all continue to be terrible evils that are far more destructive than a bad attempt at satire. But for the sake of my argument, let’s pretend that bad satire was the worst of all possible evils. In this world of evil, poorly conceived and executed satires, not to give in to too much hyperbole, S.F.W. would be Hitler.

Sandlot, The by Andrew Good – October 1, 2010
Plenty of people who grew up in the ’90s have fond memories of The Sandlot. Truthfully, if they want to keep those memories, they ought to avoid re-watching it. The appreciation seems mostly fueled by nostalgia, which is ironic, seeing as the film itself is a condensed shot of gauzy reminiscence, like The Wonder Years without the very important lessons and sense of humor.

Scout, The by Andrew Good – July 30, 2010
The Scout is proof that Albert Brooks needs to come back to the big screen. Despite his voice being featured in Little Nemo and a recent stint on Weeds, Brooks has been largely absent in recent years. This is a shame because he is a true pleasure in the film industry, a comic genius who can make light, pop entertainment that’s also quirky and clever.

Scrooged by D. B. Bates – December 3, 2010
At the height of his star power, Bill Murray used his well-cultivated smartass persona to great effect in a string of cynical, brutal, punishing, hilarious comedies. Scrooged was the first in this series of minor masterpieces (which continued with Quick Change, What About Bob?, Groundhog Day, and Mad Dog and Glory), brilliantly exploiting Murray’s position as the world’s most likable asshole.

Serendipity by Hanna Soltys – December 17, 2010
It’s sappy. It’s predictable. It’s completely unrealistic, yet you can’t seem to change the channel. Much like The Notebook and Titanic, Serendipity has become a movie that turning off seems like the greatest sin one could commit. There’s not much character development, yet you still sit there naming friends who embody the twisted soul of Jonathan Trager (John Cusack), the optimistic and live-by-the-seat-of-her-pants Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) and the self-indulgent hippie Lars Hammond (John Corbett).

Shadows and Fog by D. B. Bates – September 10, 2010
I don’t want to spoil the developments, so I’ll just say this: imagine Love and Death, You Only Live Once, and Kafka’s The Trial had a freaky three-way. Shadows and Fog would be their lovechild.

Shootist, The by Kyle Kogan – September 10, 2010
It’s this vulnerability that makes the film so human. The longer the story plays out, the more emotional the man becomes. He never overtly shows it, but his growing connections with Gillom and Bond speak for themselves. These scenes are poignant in their patience, played out masterfully by the trio.

Shortcut to Happiness by D. B. Bates – July 9, 2010
Buried within the mediocre end result is a fairly compelling comedy about the meaning of success — should one sell out for money and fame or commit to a more spiritually rewarding but less lucrative path?

Shout at the Devil by Matt Wedge – October 8, 2010
There is a point where a filmmaker can become too ambitious when telling a story. The inclusion of too much plot, too many characters, and a tone that veers wildly from scene to scene can be seen as healthy ambition — an attempt to tell an epic story that feels no need to adhere to mainstream conventions. But often, the disparate elements at play fail to form a coherent whole and the film reaches a tipping point that pushes it into confused absurdity. Such is the case with Shout at the Devil.

Silent Movie by Kyle Kogan – October 1, 2010
The idea behind the film is flagrantly Mel Brooks: Riding on the success of his two smash hits, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, he decides to make a literal silent movie about making a silent movie.

Sleeping with the Enemy by Kyle Kogan – January 28, 2011
Sleeping with the Enemy is by no means a good movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s unwatchable. It begins promisingly enough, but then it rapidly heads for the hills that call themselves mundane. Simply put, I was kind of bored during this film, but I never found myself looking at the time. I was too busy rolling my eyes.

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Kyle Kogan – December 3, 2010
Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, as Sense of Snow does host a fantastic atmosphere hindered only by its increasingly absurd plotting. So absurd, in fact, that the film comes to an obliterating crash in the final act.

SnakeEater by D. B. Bates – June 25, 2010
SnakeEater is a schlocky action movie gone bad. Great examples of the genre (Die Hard, Speed) manage to combine genuine, visceral thrills permeated by an overall sense of fun, despite the terrorist acts, murder, and rampant disregard for police protocol. Even middling examples of the genre usually retain the sense of fun, creating forgettable but eminently watchable movies. So what happens when the whimsy is creepily misguided, the action sequences are inept, and the acting is comically awful? SnakeEater.

Sneakers by Hanna Soltys – July 16, 2010
All-star male cast, token trophy girl, thieves, driving vans and a geek who knows way too much about computers and hacking systems… No, it’s not an Ocean’s movie with George, Brad, and Matt. Sneakers is a film that came more than 30 years after Frank, Dean, and Sammy pulled their heist on Las Vegas (later reenacted by George, Brad, and Matt). Instead of Las Vegas or some other glamorous city, Martin Bishop & Associates do their work on cases in their backyards. Because of this, Sneakers seems more realistic, and the superb acting from the cast sells that realism.

Somewhere in Time by Hanna Soltys – January 21, 2011
Imagine taking The Time Traveler’s Wife and Kate & Leopold, adding some turn-of-the-century ambiance and Superman himself, and you’ll be watching Somewhere in Time. You’ll also most likely fall asleep a few times throughout the whole thing, wondering where your time has gone.

Sommersby by Matt Wedge – October 22, 2010
Sommersby wants to be a sweeping romantic epic set during the immediate months following the American Civil War. Watching it, I imagined I could hear the producers selling it to the studio as the next Gone with the Wind. The cast, crew, and approach to the material practically screams: Romance! Adventure! Intrigue! All done in a perfectly tasteful manner, of course. The film goes overboard on the tasteful part of the equation and the results are as bland as cold oatmeal.

Specialist, The by Kyle Kogan – July 23, 2010
This is your standard Sylvester Stallone vehicle, fraught with gratuitous violence and objectified women. It will certainly leave a sour taste in your mouth.

Steel and Lace by D. B. Bates – June 25, 2010
Steel and Lace is a curiosity from a glorious time when every action/horror movie had a cyborg in it. About half the movie seems like campy exploitation, particularly those scenes that focus on rapist/mobster Danny Emerson (Michael Cerveris) and his mullet-adorned pals. From the sleazy wink he gives Gaily (Clare Wren) after a jury acquits him of raping her to the blood-red “clawed fist clutching the earth” logo of his company, Danny is portrayed as so cartoonishly evil, it’s impossible to take him seriously.

Stigmata by Hanna Soltys – September 10, 2010
In Stigmata, Frankie (the stigmatic) receives the wounds after coming in contact with a dead priest’s rosary. And apparently her wounds make her Exorcist-like, as she talks in various voices and becomes quite possessed and satanic. To recap, stigmata doesn’t occur because you come in possession of an item; it comes from within you. It also doesn’t make you the spawn of Satan.

Straight Out of Brooklyn by Kyle Kogan – August 13, 2010
Although the film was released in the same year as New Jack City and Boyz in the Hood, Straight out of Brooklyn distinguished itself because it was made on a bare-bones budget by a relatively inexperienced cast and crew (Matty Rich also wrote, produced, and starred in the film).

Strange Brew by Mark Dujsik – November 5, 2010
The very few funny bits are far between (Claude stating to a police inspector (Tom Harvey) that he has a photographic memory and proving he doesn’t immediately after the fact), random (another bit with Claude on the witness stand saying that his ignorance doesn’t equal a lie), and typically have little to do with Bob and Doug (one instance that does has Bob and Doug displaying the odd driving habits of people in movies).

Strange Invaders by D. B. Bates – October 15, 2010
Strange Invaders tries to serve up something resembling an homage to the cheesy, low-budget sci-fi films playing at 1950s drive-ins. On that level, it’s hard to judge if it was a conscious choice on director Michael Laughlin’s part to make nearly every scene much longer than it needs to be and give it the lugubrious pace of a Bert I. Gordon film.

Summer Rental by Kyle Kogan – January 21, 2011
Summer Rental is a John Candy film. Do I really need to write more? It’s as if this man was created for the hypothetical “Visual Dictionary” and next to the words “Affable, Gargantuan, Lovable, Clumsy, Innocuous, and Clueless” was a picture of Candy, clad in distasteful clothing, smiling with a pair of thumbs to frame his face.

Surviving Christmas by Josh Medcalf – December 24, 2010
Surviving Christmas belongs in the same category of Yuletide traditions as standing in line with screaming kids to see Santa, cooking for three dozen people, donning an ugly sweater, and pretending to laugh at your lousy relatives’ same puns over and over again. It’s a truly headache-inducing experience that does a thorough job of sucking the Christmas spirit right out of you.

Suspiria by Matt Wedge – October 29, 2010
The only reason the plot exists is to act as a hook on which Argento can hang an intense mood of paranoia and doom. He backs this atmosphere up with stunningly violent and terrifying set-pieces that takes the audience past the point of no return, sadistically focusing his camera on even the smallest moments in the deaths of the characters.

Talk Radio by D. B. Bates – July 2, 2010
Why does Talk Radio feel so bland and lifeless? Eric Bogosian anchors the film with a great performance as Barry Champlain, a Tom Leykis/Howard Stern-style shock jock. Oliver Stone, an energetic filmmaker who never shies away from going a few hundred degrees over the top, directed. Yet the film itself is oddly hollow.

Teachers by Josh Medcalf – January 14, 2011
It may be marketed as a comedy, but there’s also a lot of truth here. It’s not a “sensitive but noble teacher has to shape up an unruly but talented class” movie (although that stock character is featured, with a twist) — it’s more political commentary. It’s not even really about any one teacher; it’s about the system.

Thirteen Days by D. B. Bates – July 16, 2010
The story wisely presents itself as a talky political thriller. It avoids melodramatic pitfalls by emphasizing the work, not the personal lives of the people doing the job. It defines the characters by how they react to the discovery of incomplete Soviet missiles on Cuban soil, rather than showing their family lives.

This Christmas by Matt Wedge – December 24, 2010
I was very surprised by This Christmas, a fairly under-the-radar Christmas movie, despite being a solid sleeper hit of the holiday season just three years ago. It’s not a perfect film, and it definitely doesn’t come close to ranking on my list of all-time favorite holiday movies, but it’s consistently entertaining with a warm tone that makes some of the more melodramatic moments go down smoother than they should.

Three O’Clock High by D. B. Bates – July 9, 2010
Three O’Clock High seeks to answer a question that has plagued moviegoers for generations: what would happen if John Hughes made a movie out of Franz Kafka’s The Trial? The answer is alternately funny, surreal, surprising, and suspenseful.

Thunderheart by Andrew Good – July 9, 2010
Ask yourself seriously: Would you believe Val Kilmer if he told you he was a quarter Sioux? It’s possible. It was probably more plausible in 1992, when he starred in the crime thriller Thunderheart, and his face was less bound to the blockbuster roles he’s known for.

Timecop by Mark Dujsik – October 1, 2010
Of all the unlikely means of time travel the movies have given us, the way developed in Timecop is easily one of the stupidest. Please grant me some leeway in describing it before getting to the movie itself (trust me, you’re not missing anything).

Touch by D. B. Bates – June 25, 2010
“It’s all a matter of tone,” says ex-revivalist/low-grade con artist Bill Hill (Christopher Walken) midway through Touch. If only writer-director Paul Schrader had taken this statement to heart. The screenplay, adapted from Elmore Leonard’s 1987 novel, has the witty dialogue and inconceivable plot twists of a screwball comedy. In his direction, however, Schrader plays everything at a lugubrious tempo, eschewing the frenetic pace of a typical screwball comedy for something solemn and dignified. “Solemn and dignified,” in this case, are polite euphemisms for “dull.”

Toy Soldiers by D. B. Bates – June 25, 2010
What happens when film executives decide to combine a teen-angst dramedy with over-the-top action? If we’re lucky, it’ll turn out like Red Dawn, a grim, paranoia-inducing thriller that allows goony teens to embody the American spirit. If we’re unlucky… Well, you’ll just have to wait for us to tackle Demolition High to know the true horrors of the teen action flick. Toy Soldiers doesn’t quite reach Red Dawn’s heights, but it’s a solid thriller.

Trapped in Paradise by Kyle Kogan – November 28, 2010
Trapped in Paradise aims for the lowest common denominator and clears it. Christmas films are supposed to be about altruism, cheer, and the unfaltering power of the human spirit. Instead, we find a film that pokes fun at people with down syndrome, three-legged dogs, violent car crashes, and speech impediments. I cannot possibly fathom a person finding this schtick funny.

Turning Point, The by D. B. Bates – September 17, 2010
Although The Turning Point is largely remembered for its ballet sequences, the heart of this incredibly depressing story has little to do with dance.

Undercover Blues by Kyle Kogan – July 23, 2010
The throwaway plot is about as deep as a kiddie pool with no water in it. The film works solely because of its on-screen talent, which it has in spades.

Vanishing, The by Hanna Soltys – October 1, 2010
Remakes are always a crapshoot. You’re bound to upset some people while gaining some new fans (hopefully). But remakes within five years and with the same director and writers? And for a film that has been critically acclaimed and continues to garner attention today? It leaves you wondering why this remake even happened.

Verdict, The by Kyle Kogan – February 4, 2011
The Verdict, only weak by title, is a spectacular film. It is an amalgamation of many forms, in one respect an action feature and in another a thriller. Throw in a little bit of romance and maybe even a dash of noir and you have yet to scratch the surface. Above all, though, it conveys a deeply embedded belief that with trial and perseverance, redemption is a powerful deterrent to desperation and sadness.

Vital Signs by Kyle Kogan – August 27, 2010
Soap operas are a popular television staple because they are accessible, mindless, and are forgotten by the time tomorrow’s episode airs. Vital Signs, Marisa Silver’s sappy medical drama, mimics many of the qualities one could find in a generic soap opera.

Von Ryan’s Express by Kyle Kogan – October 1, 2010
Express is a prime example of this type of war film, as its boiler pot approach to the story adds the right amount of tension before bursting into an all out, teeth-clenching bullet-fest.

War of the Roses, The by D. B. Bates – February 25, 2011
The second hour of the film wouldn’t work at all without those reaction shots — moments that show us both Oliver and Barbara are still recognizably human. Their faces express the guilt and embarrassment anyone would feel with those early, accidental dust-ups. Once things have escalated, they vacillate between genuine anger at one another and the sort of wondering look of a person questioning whether or not he or she has gone too far.

Washington Square by Hanna Soltys – July 30, 2010
It’s hard not to feel sorry for Catherine Sloper (Jennifer Jason Leigh). After all, her mother died giving birth to her, leaving her with her father, Dr. Austin Sloper (Albert Finney), who only seems to have interest in the girl when chastising or pointing out her character flaws. She rarely leaves her house, making her seem like a Rapunzel waiting for her Prince Charming to come and rescue her.

Wedding, A by Kyle Kogan – January 21, 2011
The Robert Altman-directed A Wedding is tricky. I enjoyed the film while it lasted, but I have no intention of ever watching it again.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen? by Andrew Good – July 16, 2010
This is a pretty stock vehicle for Martin Lawrence to star in, but it’s surprising to see the long list of veteran character actors in the cast, including co-star Danny DeVito, Larry Miller, Glenn Headley, and William Fichtner. They’re the ones who keep this flick afloat, but when humor this broad is employed, there’s not much you can do to save the script.

Where God Left His Shoes by Kyle Kogan – December 17, 2010
This is one of those films that intends to showcase great actors and utilize them to send an important message: Don’t take anything for granted. Director Salvatore Stabile entirely succeeds at this, using John Leguizamo to his almost limitless potential and simultaneously hits the right moral notes. It’s unfortunate that his screenplay, while certainly raw and real, is just too heartbreaking to be fully enjoyed.

While She Was Out by Matt Wedge – December 17, 2010
Roughly seventy minutes into While She Was Out, I was prepared to shrug my shoulders, give it a two-star rating and move on with my life. Then, writer/director Susan Montford makes such a monumentally bad choice during the climax that I had to sit and ponder whether the error was so egregious that it deserved to knock the film all the way down to zero stars or just one star. Since it’s the holiday season, a time of peace and forgiveness, I decided to go with one star.

White Sands by Mark Dujsik – July 16, 2010
There’s a dead body in the desert. In one of the corpse’s hands is a briefcase filled with half a million dollars in cash. In the other is a pistol.

Noir like White Sands works best when the material is at its simplest — body, money, gun. For awhile, director Roger Donaldson and screenwriter Daniel Pyne follow that age-old rule and keep it simple.

With a Friend Like Harry by Mark Dujsik – September 10, 2010
This is the classic setup of a thriller, one where new characters appear and we can sense that at a certain point some terrible fate will befall them. Co-writer/director Dominik Moll seems to know that we know, so the script (written with Gilles Marchand) holds off on that promise as long as it can, showing us that we might be wrong about Harry. After all, he is, as the original French title assures us, “a friend who wishes you well.”

Without a Trace by Kyle Kogan – August 13, 2010
The most horrific and unimaginable thing a mother or father could face is the disappearance of their child. Whether it is an untimely death, kidnapping, or an act of desertion, the impact it has on the immediate family is absolutely devastating. Without a Trace is director Stanley R. Jaffe’s interpretation of such an event, and although it tells a familiar story, it incorporates some unique elements and powerfully keen acting that help raise this tale above the generic.

Wolf by Matt Wedge – September 3, 2010
I had hopes that Wolf would be better than I remembered and make up for the dearth in worthwhile werewolf cinema. But it turns out that my reaction to the film today is exactly the same as it was 16 years ago: good first hour, increasingly inane second hour.

Woman in Red, The by Josh Medcalf – February 18, 2011
I would say it runs out of steam at that point — but for a movie to run out of steam, it has to at least have some in the first place. The way the narrative is set up only distanced me from the comedy. Characters are hard to read and events that are critical to the central plotline are sometimes totally ambiguous.

Worth Winning by Hanna Soltys – July 23, 2010
The perfect romantic comedy mixes a leading man with one hell of a leading lady, then gets peppered with a few laughs, a fantastic make-out song and/or session, and tops it off with a happy ending. A terrible romantic comedy casts a leading man viewers despise, a plot line full of unrealistic happenings, and ugly clothes. Guess which Worth Winning falls into…

Zardoz by Kyle Kogan – October 22, 2010
There is much to say about a film like Zardoz. It is less a plot driven narrative and more an homage to likes of Sergei Eisenstein and his seminal method of dialectical montages, the pairing of two seemingly disparate images into one. In the case of this film, it’s Sean Connery standing in red latex underwear and suspenders pointing a gun at the camera, followed by perplexing imagery of a stone head proclaiming violence and vomiting guns. Yes, I am dead serious.

Zero Effect by D. B. Bates – July 30, 2010
In Zero Effect, writer/producer/director Jake Kasdan accomplishes the fairly monumental task of bringing Holmes into the modern era through the character of Daryl Zero.