For 625 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 47% higher than the average critic
  • 1% same as the average critic
  • 52% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 6.2 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

David Denby's Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average review score: 66
Highest review score: 100 Ida
Lowest review score: 10 Dogville
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 47 out of 625
625 movie reviews
    • 66 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    May be the most exquisitely crafted movie ever made about a bunch of nitwits. [10 & 17 June 2013, p. 110]
    • The New Yorker
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    The Spectacular Now goes a little soft at the end, but most of it has the melancholy sense of life just passing by — until, that is, someone has the courage to grab it and make it take some meaning and form.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    One of the most eloquent records we have of a tragedy that brought out some of the most impressively alive men and women in New Orleans.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Still, it's le Carre's material; it was shot in dark, lurid, vital Hamburg; Hoffman is the star; and I was completely held. [28 July 2014, p.79]
    • The New Yorker
    • 62 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Bright and crisp and funny, the movie turns dish into art--or, if not quite into art, then at least into the kind of dazzling commercial entertainment that Hollywood, in the days of George Cukor or Stanley Donen, used to turn out.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    A film that cannot, in the normal sense of the word, be enjoyed, but it can be endured in a spirit of tempered anticipation -- The movie becomes an anguished demand that the dream be fulfilled. [26 Nov 2001, p. 122]
    • The New Yorker
    • 87 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Statistics and their alleged true meaning are at the heart of Moneyball, but it's also one of the most soulful of baseball movies - it confronts the anguish of a tough game.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Allen can be literal-minded about his thematic polarities, but, in this movie, he has put actors with first-class temperament on the screen, and his writing is both crisp and ambivalent: he works everything out with a stringent thoroughness that still allows room for surprise.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Along with “No End in Sight,” this movie is one of the essential documentaries of the ongoing war.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Cate Blanchett, who played Blanche on Broadway only a few years ago, gives the most complicated and demanding performance of her movie career. The actress, like her character, is out on a limb much of the time, but there’s humor in Blanchett’s work, and a touch of self-mockery as well as an eloquent sadness.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    A raffishly ironic and insinuating movie--and probably the most sheerly enjoyable film of the year so far.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Fish tank may begin as a patch of lower-class chaos, but it turns into a commanding, emotionally satisfying movie, comparable to such youth-in-trouble classics as "The 400 Blows." [18 Jan. 2010, p. 83]
    • The New Yorker
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    The movie’s story is conventional in shape, but it has passages of crazy exhilaration and brilliant invention.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    When the movie was over, a young boy sitting behind me said, "That was great!" He was satisfied, and rightly so.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Revved by the stage performances, the cast courses through the material with disciplined exuberance--especially the eight young actors at the center of the drama, many of whom have never appeared in a film before.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    If you don't mind the gore, you can enjoy Snowpiercer as a brutal and imaginative piece of science-fiction filmmaking. [7 & 14 July 2014, p.94]
    • The New Yorker
    • 63 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    World War Z is the most gratifying action spectacle in years, and one reason for its success if the Pitt doesn't play a superhero. [1 July 2013, p.76]
    • The New Yorker
    • 64 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    The movie is a moralized historical fantasy, mixing love and politics in Old Hollywood style. Yet I can’t bring myself to be indignant about its inventions. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who was born in Oxford and has acted since she was a child, speaks her lines with tremulous emotion and, finally, radiant authority. Austen, I think, would have been thrilled.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Scott may always have had an eye on the box office, but from "Alien" and "Thelma & Louise" on, he has made women into heroines. In that regard, he's still ahead of the curve. Rapace's scene is a classic of its kind; it tops John Hurt's notorious misfortunes in "Alien."
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Sex is the subtext of everything that happens, yet this may be one of the least erotic movies ever made. It's stern and noble, very much in the Rattigan spirit. [26 March 2012, p.108]
    • The New Yorker
    • 66 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Abe is blustery and self-pitying, but, with Solondz's new tender mercies fully engaged, Gelber makes you feel close to a guy for whom nothing was ever meant to go right.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    The Farrelly brothers, who directed, take physical comedy to levels of intricacy not seen since silent movies.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Apatow’s richest, most complicated movie yet--a summing up of his feelings about comedy and its relation to the rest of existence.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Friends with Benefits is fast, allusive, urban, glamorous - clearly the Zeitgeist winner of the summer.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Vignettish and offhand, but it’s extremely pleasant, and it suggests what can be done with lightweight equipment and a loose-limbed approach to the right subject. [19 May 2003, p. 94]
    • The New Yorker
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Flags of Our Fathers is an accomplished, stirring, but, all in all, rather strange movie
    • 87 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Unimaginable as anything but a movie. It’s largely wordless, sombrely spectacular, vast and intimate at the same time, with a commitment to detailed physical reality that commands amazed attention for a tight hundred minutes.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    With the screenwriters Alice Arlen and Victor Levin, Hunt adapted the story from a 1990 novel by Elinor Lipman, and has turned the material into a fine, tense, unpredictable comedy of mixed-up emotions and sudden illuminations.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    We get tired of watching Whip fail, and we're caught between dismayed pity and a longing to see him punished. Only a great actor could have pulled off this balancing act. [12 Nov. 2012, p.94]
    • The New Yorker
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    It's an expertly made, intentionally minor movie, though when Monroe, doping herself with everything available, lies in bed, confused and hapless, there are depressing intimations of the end to come.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Noah may not make much sense, but only an artist could have made it. [7 April 2014, p.74]
    • The New Yorker
    • 55 Metascore
    • 80 David Denby
    Jude Law, saying farewell once again to his youthful good looks (Dom has scars and a little too much weight), makes this hyper-articulate ruffian the most intricately soulful character in current movies. [7 April 2014, p.75]
    • The New Yorker
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Allen's new movie, Match Point, devoted to lust, adultery, and murder, is the most vigorous thing he's done in years.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Black holes, relativity, singularity, the fifth dimension! The talk is grand. There’s a problem, however. Delivered in rushed colloquial style, much of this fabulous arcana, central to the plot, is hard to understand, and some of it is hard to hear. The composer Hans Zimmer produces monstrous swells of organ music that occasionally smother the words like lava. The actors seem overmatched by the production.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    For all the beauty and power of Road to Perdition, there's not much spontaneity in it, and the movie's flawless surface puts a stranglehold on meaning. [15 July 2002. p. 90]
    • The New Yorker
    • 69 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    One may be horrified by these two, or laugh at them, but both horror and laughter give way to amazement at the human talent for survival.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Midnight has one big problem: Allen hardly gives Gil a perceptive moment. He's awestruck and fumbling - he doesn't possess, to our eyes, the conviction of a writer. But who knows? He's young.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    These small-scale, intelligent movies can fall into a trap: it’s hard to achieve a satisfactory dramatic climax when observation is your principal dramatic mode.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    It's only at the end of Blue Ruin that my pleasure drained away. [28 April 2014, p.86]
    • The New Yorker
    • 64 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    A dramatic failure, but, at its best, it offers a frightening suggestion of the way terror can alter reality so thoroughly that, step by step, the fantastic becomes accepted as the mere commonplace. [5 May 2003, p. 104]
    • The New Yorker
    • 68 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    No more than a shallow, style-mad entertainment, but it never flags or loses its balance, and, despite the theatricality of the staging and the acting, it’s precisely the materiality of the cinema--that makes us devour it with pleasure. [29 March 2004, p. 103]
    • The New Yorker
    • 60 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The story of Fernandez and Beck may be grotesque comedy, but Todd Robinson tells it straight, without flinching from its piteousness, horror, or banality.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    At its best when the characters sit around, dither, and ruminate. Moviemaking seems to have become almost magically easy for this independent writer-director. He builds a detailed atmosphere, brings his good people and his bad together, and lets them jabber at one another; the virtuosity is rhetorical rather than visual.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    In all, Appaloosa is good as far as it goes--everything in it feels true--but I wish that Harris had pushed his ideas further.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Challenged by Downey’s energy, Jude Law, who often seems aimless in his movies, comes fully up to speed. He’s virile and quick-witted, and his Watson, if not Holmes’s equal in brainpower, comes close to him in daring. Their repartee evokes the banter of lovers in a screwball comedy; they flirt outrageously but chastely.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Russian Dolls offers touristic views of London, Paris, and St. Petersburg, where Wendy and Xavier both go for the wedding of another former roommate, and many pretty faces and bodies; it's froth with a sprinkling of earnest reflection.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    It’s party time, and the movie is wild and crude without being mean--it’s a comedy of infantile regression, “Animal House” for grownups. [17 March 2003, p. 154]
    • The New Yorker
    • 84 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The movie is not an argument for chaos; it's an argument for making one's way through life with a relaxed will and an open heart.
    • 42 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The movie is amiable enough: the young Australian actress Teresa Palmer is lovely and crisp, and the Canadian writer-director Michael Dowse manages the party traffic well. [14 March 2011, p.79]
    • The New Yorker
    • 71 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Citing Chekhov at this early time in Swanberg's career may be unfair, but an amiable movie like Drinking Buddies cried out for the revelations that a great dramatist--or even a talented screenwriter and director working together--can give us. [9 Sept. 2013, p.90]
    • The New Yorker
    • 85 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The movie is about preservation and restoration and the power of art. But with what gain in knowledge? It's as if Szpilman had no soul, and no will, apart from an endless desire to tickle the keys. [13 January 2003, p. 90]
    • The New Yorker
    • 56 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The movie is successful -- harsh, serious, and both exhilarating and tragic, the right tonal combination for Homer. [17 May 2004, p. 107]
    • The New Yorker
    • 73 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    A superb martial discipline has ended in a commercial movie genre--not the worst fate in the world, but the comic irony of it is of little interest to a director bent on glorification. [9 Sept. 2013, p.90]
    • The New Yorker
    • 82 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    In all, Steve McQueen is a master of fascination rather than of drama--he creates stunning shots rather than an intricate story.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Tears of the Sun may be a flattering myth, but it’s not a bad myth to be flattered by. [17 March 2003, p. 154]
    • The New Yorker
    • 53 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    As broad and obvious as Wanderlust is, it's often very funny. [5 March 2012, p. 87]
    • The New Yorker
    • 46 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Ryder is devious and witchy, her eyes flashing, her crinkly voice developing knife edges. She gives an acidly brilliant performance as a desperate, lying woman. [24 Jan. 2011, p. 83]
    • The New Yorker
    • 60 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Watching the antic inventions of Go for Zucker, I was moved by the thought that Jews have achieved a kind of Germanness again, and even more moved by the thought that Germans have achieved a kind of Jewishness again.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    In all, these men and women don't seem to have the seething ambitions and the restlessness of so many Americans. They don't expect to get rich, somehow, next year. They may be happier than we are but they're also less colorful. [28 Jan. 2012, p.80]
    • The New Yorker
    • 51 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    In brief, The Brown Bunny, however antagonistic and borderline tedious, is an art work of sorts, and Gallo himself, though an egomaniac of staggering solemnity-a priest of art longing for a cult-is not a fake.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The director, Gore Verbinski, would seem to be an odd man for this material, but he and Steven Conrad hold their ground, sticking to their conviction that Dave's story should play as a belated-coming-of-age movie.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Whitaker, in the performance of a lifetime, makes him (Idi Amin) a charismatic madman.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The Armstrong Lie goes on forever, perhaps because Gibney can’t believe that, like everyone else, he’s been had. Again and again, he looks for elements of moral clarity (never mind remorse) in Armstrong, and the cyclist looks back at Gibney (and at us) as if he were a fool.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Chronicle becomes a cautionary tale: power corrupts. Yes, and digital power corrupts absolutely. Andrew's sense of decency disappears, and so does the filmmakers' sense of humor. [13 & 20 Feb. 2012, p. 120]
    • The New Yorker
    • 75 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Téchiné is unusually adroit at manipulating a complex set of relations within a very mixed group of people. This movie is easy to take--chatty and sociable, with a brightly lit, even sunshiny gloss and an open sensuality.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    A Prairie Home Companion has many lovely and funny moments, but there's not a lot going on. Dramatically, it's mellow to the point of inertia. There may not be any sweat, but there isn't any heat, either.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Who are these men, so eager for asceticism, violence, and martyrdom? At first, we think that’s what we’ll learn from The Oath, a fascinating documentary directed, produced, and shot by Laura Poitras. We don’t really, but what we do find out is of equal interest, and oddly reassuring.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Bean's touch is unsteady, and Noise is certainly odd, but the movie is alive with the creative madness of New York.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Love and Other Drugs has many weak spots, but what it delivers at its core is as indelible as (and a lot more explicit than) the work of such legendary teams as Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Ends with a burst of movie-ish mayhem, and then a burst of sentiment, but when Brewer, Howard, and Ludacris stick to the bitter texture of South Memphis failure and success they produce a modest regional portrait that could become a classic of its kind.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Just when this sunshiny and affectionate comedy is beginning to bloom, the inevitable, tear-jerking conclusion closes off the fun like a Venetian blind blocking the light. (29 Oct 2001, p.93)
    • The New Yorker
    • 81 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Despite all this desolation and depression, however, Still Life is an extremely beautiful movie.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The Help is, in some way, crude and obvious, but it opens up a broad new swath of experience on the screen, and parts of it are so moving and well acted that any objections to what's second-rate seem to matter less as the movie goes on. [15 & 22 August 2011, p. 96]
    • The New Yorker
    • 63 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    A rudimentary but thoroughly enjoyable step musical.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    In the end, Assayas, shooting the film with relaxed, flowing camera movements, gives his love not to beautiful objects but to the disorderly life out of which art is made.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    It's emotionally more alive than anything Allen has done since "Sweet and Lowdown," in 1999. I was absorbed in it, and I liked parts of it. And I wish to God it were better.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The movie is not a bore, exactly, but it’s certainly a stunt and a disappointment, for at first the situation is provocative. [16 & 23 June 2003, p. 200]
    • The New Yorker
    • 61 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Yet, even if the movie is a fake as a fight picture, it's still a decent commercial entertainment.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The comedy is brutal and paper thin, but that is less bothersome than the ending of the movie, which abruptly changes its tone.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The movie has an air of momentousness, yet most of it is conventional, though well-directed, pop mayhem.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Bob Nelson wrote the script, which Payne has been mulling over for nine years, and some of it, enhanced by the deliberate pacing of his direction, is funny in a deadpan, black-comedy way. But the absurdist atmosphere feels thin: the movie is like a Beckett play without the metaphysical unease, the flickering blasphemies and revelations.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Eastwood is a more forceful actor than he was twenty years ago--less opaque, less stylized, and altogether more idiosyncratic. He's too old and unsuited by temperament to play the tough city newspaper reporter in this film, but he still has an authority that few younger actors could match.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Redacted is hell to sit through, but I think De Palma is bravely trying to imagine his way inside an atrocity, and that he’s onto something powerful with his multisided approach.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    An amiable family comedy one step above a TV sitcom (and several steps below “Moonstruck.”
    • 85 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    An Education is perceptive and entertaining, but it doesn’t have the jolting vitality of, say, “Notes on a Scandal,” which dramatized an even more unconventional liaison--older woman, fifteen-year-old boy.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    22 Jump Street is hardly fresh, but the picture has enough energy to get by.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Hackman works with a joyous authority that seems to come out of the experience of the character he's playing. He liberates David Mamet from David Mamet. [12 Nov 2001, p. 139]
    • The New Yorker
    • 56 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The movie has a gentle, bemused intelligence, the tone of British liberalism at its most open-minded.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Shadow Recruit is fun in a minor, winter-season way. If the producers stick with Chris Pine as he ages, they may end up with something worth caring about. [20 Jan.2014, p.78]
    • The New Yorker
    • 50 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Bullock shades what she normally does into something more interesting -- the angriest and sexiest work she's done. [6 May 2002, p. 138]
    • The New Yorker
    • 63 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Changeling is beautifully wrought, but it has the abiding fault of righteously indignant filmmaking: it congratulates us for feeling what we already feel.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Nothing very important happens, but, moment by moment, the movie is alive with the play of gesture and glances, aggression and withdrawal. [31 March 2003, p.106]
    • The New Yorker
    • 84 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    This movie, however incomplete and frustrating, is also fully alive and extraordinarily intelligent.
    • 50 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    An extremely well-crafted exercise in physical invention and fear. Yet within those limits--the limits of a pop-digital survival drama--Poseidon is an exciting show.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Cronenberg has made an eccentric and beautiful-looking movie - a languid, deadpan, conceptualist joke.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    It has a gentle, unforced rhythm, and what’s there is good and true. But there’s not enough of it--the movie needs more plot, more complication, more conflict.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    In Side Effects, the working out of the thriller plot is accomplished with too much verbal explanation. [11 & 18 Feb. 2013, p.114]
    • The New Yorker
    • 60 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    The movie is a lucid and comprehensive picture of a rotten system, but it’s a relief to know that some people in the midst of disaster were doing their jobs.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    Fahrenheit 9/11 offers the thrill of a coherent explanation for everything, but parts of the movie are no better than a wild, lunging grab at a supposed master plan. [28 June 2004, p. 108]
    • The New Yorker
    • 69 Metascore
    • 70 David Denby
    There's a sourness, a relentlessness about the movie which borders on misanthropy. In both the social and the personal scenes, the conversational tone veers between idiotic pleasantries and fathomless bile, with nothing in between.

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