Best Song

[7.0] I can’t imagine a harder franchise to revive than The Muppets. They’re so innocent, so low-fi, so much a product of the 70s and 80s… is it possible for them to garner new fans, or are kids today just too busy and cynical to give felt a chance? The verdict is out (at least until the weekend box office results are in), but as …

[8.0] It’s so refreshing to watch heroes and villains who are over the age of 40. Skyfall repeatedly suggests that sometimes older is better, and I couldn’t agree more. Daniel Craig’s third turn as James Bond is at least as good as his first, Casino Royale. Javier Bardem makes an excellent villain and we also get to enjoy Judi Dench in a full co-starring role …

[8.0] Dreamworks Animation’s maiden voyage is a stunning achievement of sight and sound. Impressionistic background paintings blend with sexy, angular character designs, all set to a brilliant soundtrack by composer Hans Zimmer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. It kills me that stories from The Bible still pass as family entertainment, but I’m glad they do — how else am I going to find a mature, animated …

[8.0] The Disney Animation Studios took Shakespeare’s Hamlet and transplanted it to the African savanna with an all-animal cast. Buoyed by a hit soundtrack, lush visuals, memorable characters, and a daring blend of intense drama and whacky humor, the film became the critical and financial climax of the late ’80s/early ’90s Disney renaissance. For me, the truly exceptional elements of the film are the music, …

[6.5] Richard Gere plays a navy cadet who falls in love with a factory worker played by Debra Winger. The romance part of the story doesn’t work as well as Gere’s combative relationship with his drill instructor, played by Louis Gossett Jr.  Director Taylor Hackford (Dolores Claiborne, Ray) does a remarkable job grounding the melodrama, especially in the tragic third act, but I have a …

[8.0] Steve McQueen plays a millionaire who robs a bank just for shits and giggles, and Faye Dunaway plays the insurance investigator who will either turn him in… or fall in love with him. Director Norman Jewison embraces the French New Wave to give the film a unique tone that favors style slightly higher than substance, and I’m okay with that. The result is a …

[4.0] For its racist stereotypes and sugar-coated depiction of plantation life in the post-Civil War South, Disney has locked away Song of the South from the public since its last re-release in 1986. I don’t think the film is any more offensive than countless others made before desegregation (Gone with the Wind among them). In fact, putting its social infractions in historical context is probably …

[3.0] What a shitty Best Picture winner Gigi is. It’s a musical about an unhappy playboy (Louis Jourdan) and an unhappy debutante (Leslie Caron) who fall in love, but then out of love, and back in love, and out, and finally in again. Apparently neither one feels right playing by the rules of Parisian upper-crust society and doing what is expected of them, so they …

[10] Peter Jackson (Dead Alive, The Frighteners) embraces the Herculean task of bringing Tolkien’s supreme fantasy to the silver screen, and hits a home run. The Fellowship of the Ring gets the trilogy off to a strong start, as Frodo Baggins and his companions set off to destroy the One Ring.  Jackson is faithful to the source material while masterfully balancing action, horror, heart, and …

[9.0] Michael Douglas gives a career highlight performance as a fifty-year-old college professor worried about following up a sensational debut novel in this warm, character-driven comedy from Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile) and author Michael Chabon. I was quickly hooked on each of the movie’s ensemble of anxious, quirky characters, all grappling with their own life-changing dilemmas. Tobey Maguire is excellent as the sullen …

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