The debt

New drama from Focus Features brings back dark era
Jessica Chastain, Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson
Directed by John Madden

Split between two settings, two time periods, and two casts, it’s no wonder that John Madden’s The Debt divides so easily into two levels of quality. There’s one part that I like to call a classy, sexy Cold War spy thriller. There’s another part that I like to call “the ending.” Three Mossad agents share an apartment in East Berlin in 1966; two men and a young woman. The cramped quarters in a ... more >

Midnight in Paris

Grand cru from Allen should charm for sure
Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates
Directed by Woody Allen

Yes, you can believe what you’ve been reading – "Midnight in Paris" really is the best Woody Allen film in a long time. It’s a love letter to Paris, an ode to the Jazz age and the writers of the Lost Generation, and a romance with the past. It’s also the handoff of the baton of cinematic neurosis between Woody Allen and the film’s star, Owen Wilson. Allen and Wilson have both formed their ... more >

Kung Fu Panda 2

Sequel genre is becoming lazy we think
Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan
Directed by Jennifer Yuh

"Kung Fu Panda 2" breaks new ground in the history of cinema.  Everyone knows you can’t use 3-D in the second movie in a series. You have to wait until the third one. Then again the second movie strategy makes sense. All the better to hold up helpless parents at the box office, I suppose. Breaking the 3- D sequel custom appears to be "Panda"’s lone innovation. Otherwise this is one of the ... more >

No strings attached

Rom-com right out of the Big Ten
With Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline and Cary Elwes
Directed by Ivan Reitman

When does “No Strings Attached” lose all credibility? When its second scene allegedly takes place at a frat house at the University of Michigan and the frat house is loaded with pretty California girls. I went to Michigan. There’s a longstanding saying at Michigan. Nine out of ten girls in the Big Ten are attractive. And the tenth goes to Michigan. How do I account for Lucy Liu? I suspect she’s ... more >

The Green Hornet

Michel Gondry is back in full effect
With Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz and Cameron Diaz
Directed by Michel Gondry

When small children lay their head on the pillow each night, do they dream of running into a phone booth to change into Seth Rogen? A more popular figure in raunchy comedies than little boys’ daydreams, Rogen is one of the least-likely Hollywood stars to play a superhero. Nevertheless, that’s what we get in "The Green Hornet," played by Rogen as his typical directionless man-child. Accompanied by ... more >

The Illusionist

Full of charm but not as inventive
With Jean-Claude Donda and Eilidh Rankin
Directed by Sylvain Chaumet

"The Illusionist" by Sylvain Chaumet is a bit of a disappointment.The French-born screenwriter and graphic artist gave us “The Triplets of Belleville” in 2003 (nominated for Oscars and Cesars). Remember the namesake tune and the frenetic storytelling around those three sisters in a Paris that everybody knows but no one has seen? Seven years later, anticipation was at an all-time high for us ... more >

Vanishing on 7th Street

Tapping into our most primal anxiety: fear of the dark
With Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo and Jacob Latimor
Directed by Brad Anderson

I would’ve expected more from Brad Anderson. The director of the overrated but effective “Session 9” (2001) and “The Machinist” (2004), Christian Bale’s most impressive vehicle since “American Psycho,” knows how to create a creepy mood and ratchet up the tension bit by bit. But the premise of his new film, “Vanishing on 7th Street,” doesn’t lend itself well to subtlety or sophistication: people ... more >