Ian Buckwalter
Select another critic »
NPR
For 117 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 52% higher than the average critic
  • 5% same as the average critic
  • 43% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 0.5 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Ian Buckwalter's Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average review score: 60
Highest review score: 95 Tabu
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 55 out of 117
  2. Negative: 13 out of 117
117 movie reviews
    • 92 Metascore
    • 95 Ian Buckwalter
    In a movie set up to trap us within Llewyn's repetitive loop of failure, baiting us with hope before quashing it with quiet desperation again and again, something more than comic relief is needed to soften the blow a little, and the film's musical interludes are that pillow.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 95 Ian Buckwalter
    In Tabu, Portuguese writer-director Miguel Gomes spins a two-part tale examining love, loneliness and the power of memory.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 91 Ian Buckwalter
    If John Cassavetes had directed a jazz musical by Jacques Demy, it might have looked something like this.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 90 Ian Buckwalter
    A horror-movie attic sale is, in essence, exactly what Cabin in the Woods is, an attempt to exorcise the genre of its formulaic possession by stuffing the movie full of its most overused and predictable elements - and then dumping them through clever skewering.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 90 Ian Buckwalter
    Boyega is absolutely riveting, leading with a stern glower, and constantly trying to prove himself. Yet Moses has a deep well of tenderness and honor beneath the façade, and Boyega almost single-handedly makes you care not just about his character, but about everyone in any gang that would align itself with him. He's that magnetic.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Ian Buckwalter
    In a story built on ugly secrets and lifetimes of terrible events, small moments of beauty and redemption sneak through - proving that sometimes utilizing those bitter remnants of charred memories can prove more fruitful than Earl Gray thought.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 90 Ian Buckwalter
    Resolution is really a less self-conscious cousin to last year's "Cabin in the Woods"; both are hugely satisfying exercises in examining the way in which stories are told. Cabin succeeded by deconstructing horror without ever intending to be scary itself. Resolution takes the opposite path: When Benson and Moorhead voyeuristically suggest that someone or something is watching Mike and Chris, the chilling effect is marrow-deep.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 90 Ian Buckwalter
    Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio is one horror film that opts to skip the usual frolic among those metaphorical monsters in favor of a deeply unsettling dive into the subconscious.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 89 Ian Buckwalter
    Anderson has the ability to control our emotions just as expertly as his camera.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 85 Ian Buckwalter
    The truth may not be quite that simple, but Kapadia's slightly ecstatic version of it makes for gripping viewing.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 85 Ian Buckwalter
    Mickle and co-writer Nick Damici gutted Grau's story to the bone. And they not only built something entirely new on that skeleton — they managed to equal and in many ways surpass the dark, bloody beauty of their source material.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 85 Ian Buckwalter
    Nathan's film gets at a difficult and sobering fact: Pug's world is one that often rewards only hard detachment and distrust. That's a cultural tradition perhaps even more entrenched than the dirt bikes, and one from which it's more difficult to find release.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 Ian Buckwalter
    The director wants him to engage his "audience," but Rebney -- as misanthropic as one would expect of a man who lives alone in a remote rural cabin -- only wants to talk about politics.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Ian Buckwalter
    Soderbergh imposes a shape until the film begins to feel less like puzzle pieces in search of their place and more like one seamless picture: It's almost as if, with this collage of the artist's past work, he's created an entirely new final monologue for Gray.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 Ian Buckwalter
    This is a film built around its star, just as surely as any of its cheesier '80s forebears.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 80 Ian Buckwalter
    Promoting understanding and appreciation of the beauty of the bees and our intertwined relationship with them is also presented as a vital part of the equation.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 Ian Buckwalter
    This Lincoln isn't an abstracted, infallible ideal, but rather a deeply conflicted, often lonely leader simply trying to do the right thing - even if that means few wrong things along on the way.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 80 Ian Buckwalter
    A hilarious meta-comedy in which Karpovsky, playing a version of himself, goes on a roadshow tour for a movie he's directed.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Ian Buckwalter
    Moors' film is at its best when it worries at notions of how evil is born, fostered and brought to bloom.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 80 Ian Buckwalter
    (Marsh) downplays political questions of ideological rights and wrongs. Rather than making a film about terrorism, or about war, Marsh looks at how they affect the people caught up in their machinery.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 79 Ian Buckwalter
    Everything that felt clumsy in The Hunger Games has been improved upon here. That's most apparent in the clarity of the action, but it also extends to how efficiently the film establishes so many new ensemble members.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 79 Ian Buckwalter
    In one of the film's most fascinating moments, Klosterman asks Murphy what his biggest failure was. After uncomfortably dodging the question at first, Murphy admits that the only thing he thinks he might regret is quitting.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 78 Ian Buckwalter
    The film plays by genre rules - explicit gore included - even as it turns them on their severed head.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 78 Ian Buckwalter
    Stylistically unremarkable, playing it safe with structure, the film is still quietly revelatory.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    This film exists purely to dazzle and thrill, and by that measure, it delivers expertly, never lagging despite a lengthy 133-minute running time.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    What sets Dupieux's film apart is its unexpected secondary dimension: an absurdist meta-commentary on cinema itself that hilariously articulates the notion that the movies stop existing the moment we stop watching, like the sound of an unobserved tree falling in the forest.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    Both Jeff and the film have a way of sneaking up on you.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    Wain's brand of humor thrives on stepping over the line - and then sprinting a few hundred yards past it.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    Like zombie auteur George Romero at his best, Grau locks his sights on his social commentary of choice and goes after it with the zeal of a 19-year-old cannibal girl sinking an ax into the skull of her next meal. The result is messy, but it makes more than a meal.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    Barely a moment goes by without a well-orchestrated joke (or three), and it's paced as briskly as a clipper in front of a stiff tailwind.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    Director Guillermo del Toro knows that the charm in the clash of scale - or armor-plated titans isn't necessarily tied to the low budgets and laughable production design of those guilty-pleasure TV shows. And with Pacific Rim, he cracks the code.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    A film in which everyone is lusting after the wrong person, and consummating those desires tends to lead to awkward - but not funny, unlike Dunham's usual projects - disasters of various scales.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    There's no denying its status as a rousing and thoroughly enjoyable Old Hollywood-style adventure.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    Unmade in China is nominally about filmmaking, but what Kofman and Barklow do well is to use their unusual position within the Chinese state machine to make a thinly veiled movie about politics.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 75 Ian Buckwalter
    For those with any interest in cult cinema or just the bizarre behind-the-scenes stories of any film production, Jodorowsky's Dune is a fascinating document of one of the most legendary films ever not made.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 74 Ian Buckwalter
    The narrative trots all over the globe, including stops for labor exploitation in the Marianas Islands, dealings with Russian mobsters, ripping off Indian tribes in the desert southwest, and jetting to Scotland for rounds of golf with impressionable politicians.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 72 Ian Buckwalter
    Machete works because at no time does it ever ask the audience to take any of this too seriously, yet the nudges and winks are never so forceful that it feels like it's begging for your laughter.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    He's hardly a cuddly figure, but neither does he come across as an intimidating presence. After all, it's hard to think of anyone in cantankerous terms after they've just lovingly described the history of the beloved old hand-knitted stuffed animal that is their oldest possession.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    Lemmy gives the filmmakers enough time and candid access to create a profile of the man that goes deeper than just the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll - even though in Lemmy's case, there's enough of a surplus of all three to power multiple documentaries.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    The lack of chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman, plain enough in the first Thor movie, is still a problem here, but at least they've largely ditched the starry-eyed schoolgirl routine.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    Leigh, a novelist making her cinematic debut here, directs with a cold and distancing eye. Sleeping Beauty has the deliberate grace of Kubrick, and while comparisons to the sex parties of "Eyes Wide Shut" are inevitable, Leigh's approach is even more sexless and sterile than the master's.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    It's also a testament to the strength of Claude-Michel Schonberg's music that everything after the show-stopping lament of Fantine's "I Dreamed a Dream" doesn't come across as so much padding.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    Effective scares, respectful nods to its inspiration and a few new twists make the question of whether this new Evil Dead succeeds in matching its inspiration superfluous. This is one remake that succeeds on its own blood-soaked terms.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    There's an undeniable sweetness here, evident in the vulnerability that peeks through Alma's disaffected facade, and in the unconventional grand romantic gesture that turns the film's climax into a playfully dirty spin on "Say Anything's" boombox scene.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    Just as Ulysses illustrates the reflective nature of his journey by constantly turning back the hands of the house's clocks, each film of Maddin's is a reset button for the past. The director operates like a ghost himself, going back over his personal history and the history of cinema in an endless loop until he gets them right.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    It's impossible for all of them to work, but the sheer volume of material, delivered by a cast dedicated to the absolute absurdity of the setups — Fantana's new career as a kitten photographer, Kind's side business running a fast-food chain with a specialty in fried bat, Burgundy nursing and training a live shark while blind and living in a lighthouse — is a kind of comedy carpet-bombing. All it takes is a certain percentage of hits for things to detonate.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    Grohl's jovial presence is the hook; playing interviewer and emcee as well as director, he's the catchy bit you welcome every time it returns. The star-studded interview list provides much of the personality and attitude, as does a fantastically tense behind-the-scenes video of Petty and his band laboring long hours to craft their breakthrough record.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 Ian Buckwalter
    The film portrays Plimpton as someone devoted to illuminating how talent and creativity work — both for himself, and for the rest of us.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 65 Ian Buckwalter
    The movie might not be a vengeance-driven wolf-man cage fight, but in subverting those escapist expectations, it sinks its teeth far deeper and more memorably.
    • 40 Metascore
    • 65 Ian Buckwalter
    If these experiments in shock comedy don't always work, there's a certain courageousness in the way Tim and Eric refuse to back down from them, as well as the gusto with which guest stars like Reilly, Robert Loggia, Will Ferrell, and Jeff Goldblum throw themselves into the film's gonzo aesthetic.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 65 Ian Buckwalter
    As obvious and expected as this turn of events is, the filmmakers and Hollyman create such an endearing character in Sarah that one still wants to see her get there.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 65 Ian Buckwalter
    For all its obsession with the past, Photographic Memory ends in a simple, genuinely moving interaction between father and son that illustrates McElwee's discovery that memories are nice, but can't be touched and embraced as we can the present.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 65 Ian Buckwalter
    What emerges as the film goes on is that the things military service provided for many of these individuals - family, friends, camaraderie, a support network of other like-minded individuals willing to lay down their lives for them - is the exact thing that has been taken away by their injuries, leaving them feeling particularly isolated. The climb provides them with that sense of community once again.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 65 Ian Buckwalter
    There's black comedy, and then, in the darkest corner of an airtight box buried deep underground, there's the humor of Big Bad Wolves.
    • 37 Metascore
    • 64 Ian Buckwalter
    Aided by subtly wounded performances by Daniels and Stone, and a surprisingly affecting comic turn from Reynolds, Paper Man makes up for many of its shortcomings with an abundance of heart.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    A skilled cast is Blakeson's greatest asset in his attempt to elevate his material above its pulpy limitations. All three are better actors than this sort of movie might call for.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    The film's main problem — apart from its predictability and the sometimes unconvincing and cartoonish CGI for the army of giants — is that it never entirely commits to what kind of fantasy movie it wants to be.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    It's well made, polished, and hits every mark — but is it crazy to want a futuristic sci-fi action flick about a motorcycle-riding metal supercop to be just a little more fun?
    • 36 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    Genre aficionados are likely to revel in every crunched bone, gratuitous decapitation and slow-motion iron-maiden impaling.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    At times Francine feels like a documentary as well, an intimate observational work in the mode of Frederick Wiseman or the Maysles brothers, where the omnipresence of the camera puts the characters so at ease that they reveal subtle moments of character that they might otherwise hide out of self-consciousness.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    Loki is a skilled creation, but lacking that sense of why, it's hard not to think of him as an artistic construct rather than a character. The same goes for Prisoners, a work of impressive craftsmanship that winds up making us think too much about how it was fashioned rather than what it has to say.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    Sweet and well-intentioned, Sassy Pants is difficult to dislike, despite its missteps.
    • 41 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    The Purge is mostly a genre picture trying to layer on some prestige by way of social commentary. The latter falls flat; the film is actually stronger when it just goes for our baser instincts.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    Neil Jordan seems well aware that audiences may be feeling deep fatigue about vampires. So with his latest, the director of Interview With the Vampire makes a vampire film that seeks to reinvent the species, while harking back to a more classical — read: less sparkly — take on the genre.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    It's Liam Neeson at his Neesoniest, and yet another entry in his expanding late-career bloom into gruff and commanding action hero.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 60 Ian Buckwalter
    The documentary is at its best when it eases up on the adoration a little and turns to a serious discussion of the state of comics these days, what with newspapers on the decline and digital media scattering an art form that was once centralized on pages delivered to everyone's door.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 59 Ian Buckwalter
    Tron: Legacy revels in its over-the-top nature: the sharp contrast of inky blacks against vibrant neons, the bombastic clash of orchestral and synthetic elements in the soundtrack (by French electronic musicians Daft Punk), the trippy, sometimes incoherent ideas it presents.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 59 Ian Buckwalter
    But the McManuses' skill with character detail does hold promise for future efforts. The boys in the film are on the verge of maturity; while there appears to be very little grace in their interactions with their church, they are just beginning to find some within their own characters. Perhaps that's appropriate for two directors who seem on the threshold of an artistic maturity hinted at by this first effort.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 58 Ian Buckwalter
    There's a great deal of promise and potential in the idea of a documentary study of Hicks. Unfortunately, American falls short of anything beyond the ordinary. Part of the problem is the difficulty in resisting the temptation to squeeze the comic's story into the familiar confines of a VH1 Behind the Music-style template.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 58 Ian Buckwalter
    Sfar's imaginative direction and the film's lush visual sense, along with a hugely charismatic performance by Eric Elmosnino in the title role, do manage to elevate much of the formula elements.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 58 Ian Buckwalter
    What more often sinks Mama is, well, Mama herself. Much like another recent homage to a spookier era of horror, 2011's "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" - which, like Mama, was executive-produced by Guillermo del Toro - Muschietti's film shows its monster too early and too often.
    • 43 Metascore
    • 55 Ian Buckwalter
    Ultimately, in a film that highlights the physical barriers - walls, roadblocks, armed guards - that keep Palestinians where the Israelis want them, the film's biggest barrier is the one Jacir erects between Soraya and the viewer.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 55 Ian Buckwalter
    Eventually, too little is left to the imagination to do what it does best: fill in the gaps with visions far more frightening than anything a filmmaker could put onscreen.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 55 Ian Buckwalter
    Watching these two actors move from being sweetly flirtatious to doing real emotional battle may not entirely compensate for the movie's other failings, but it goes a long way toward making amends.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 55 Ian Buckwalter
    When Stanton lets the film be pure popcorn entertainment, with swashbuckling set pieces and lovably corny romanticism, it's a great ride in the Indiana Jones tradition.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 55 Ian Buckwalter
    These fleeting moments never quite overcome the sense that Earthwork's narrative follows too-familiar templates, and that its characters lack the careful detail of Herd's own art.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 55 Ian Buckwalter
    This all essentially serves to distract from the fact that all that really happens in the film is that the company manages to eventually reach the mountain.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 55 Ian Buckwalter
    It may seem odd for a teen-focused action movie to feel so glum, but that's actually something that the director gets right, even if it threatens to make this a dull affair: Ender's Game is a dark story of a children's crusade built on the crushed psyches of damaged youths, and too much uplift would undermine it.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 55 Ian Buckwalter
    The comic relief, an attempt to buoy the sinking feeling of Dolly and Joseph's difficulties, steals away the emotional weight of their story. The dominance of the madcap side of the film's split personality lays an airy veneer over Dolly and Joseph's woes, making them seem inconsequential - as unsubstantial as an observation about wedding-day weather.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 55 Ian Buckwalter
    If The Counselor is a failure, it's at least a fascinating one. Much of the reason for that is time spent in the theater examining why the film isn't working.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 55 Ian Buckwalter
    The thriller elements of the plot — which Karpovsky delivers quite ably, with an electric tension that carries through much of the film — aren't really balanced by the personal revelations on which Karpovsky eventually hangs Paul's problems. Both the mystery and the character piece wind up feeling incomplete.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 50 Ian Buckwalter
    The film is too frenetically paced and clean to quite recreate the magic of their source material, but it does often face these issues in the same admirably head-on fashion.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 50 Ian Buckwalter
    It's Rush who makes these characters push one another toward healing, and that feels forced. There are moments of poignancy, but mostly the film feels inert and unremarkable, an off-the-shelf indie-spiration fable that employs a manipulatively cruel twist to move the story away from its inherent darkness and toward an uplifting climactic montage.
    • 48 Metascore
    • 50 Ian Buckwalter
    A slideshow of actual photographs by the Bang Bang Club during the end credits packs more emotional punch than anything that precedes them, displaying in their still frames the singular focus that the movie lacks.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 50 Ian Buckwalter
    I'd like to credit Mangold, along with writers Christopher McQuarrie, Mark Bomback and Scott Frank for their good intentions; the smaller scope and lighter tone of their film is a tonic after bloated doom and gloom of "Man of Steel."
    • 47 Metascore
    • 50 Ian Buckwalter
    That makes the latter portion of the film much more successful than what precedes it, an improvement aided by the fact that the POV device eventually feels less like the director trying to show off and more like an integral part of the story. But it's still not enough to save a remake that, rather than trying to fix the deep flaws of its source, just covers them in a shinier coat of paint.
    • 40 Metascore
    • 46 Ian Buckwalter
    The movie's two bright spots are Cox and Dano, who perform excellently despite the dull inevitabilities the script forces on them.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 45 Ian Buckwalter
    But more often, the film jumps around in dizzying disorganization, illustrating the fact that part of what a director provides to a film is not just vision and leadership, but also, as the word suggests, a narrative direction.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 45 Ian Buckwalter
    Director Salim Akil deserves credit for keeping the film from falling apart completely. He sets a the brisk pace, and uses the picturesque oceanside setting to give the movie an inviting gloss even as the overstuffed narrative threatens to push viewers away.
    • 44 Metascore
    • 45 Ian Buckwalter
    It's not that Part II is bad, exactly. If "The Hangover" had never existed, this movie might feel funnier than it does, if not quite as freshly hilarious.
    • 50 Metascore
    • 45 Ian Buckwalter
    Based on a graphic novel, Cowboys & Aliens never quite transcends the flat dimensions of its source material.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 45 Ian Buckwalter
    When faced with the choice of which gag to go for, Horrible Bosses generally selects the raunchiest laugh possible, all other considerations be damned.
    • 40 Metascore
    • 45 Ian Buckwalter
    Renton's approach is, to its benefit, fair and never strident. But it's also gentle and cautious, often to a fault.
    • 41 Metascore
    • 45 Ian Buckwalter
    At times, to be blunt, he (Trejo) comes off like a silent film star who's accidentally lumbered onto the set of a bloody, violent, thoroughly ridiculous talkie: reluctant to speak, sometimes a little confused by his surroundings.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 45 Ian Buckwalter
    The shoddy attention to character, plausibility and detail is particularly surprising coming from Anderson, a director of smart indie thrillers like "The Machinist," "Session 9" and "Transsiberian." He's been a gifted filmmaker with a talent for creating chilling tension through meticulous control of just these elements.
    • 41 Metascore
    • 45 Ian Buckwalter
    The entertainment value of the violence trumps most of the larger meaning, and the film exploits its characters just as they do their prisoners.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 42 Ian Buckwalter
    What's most surprising, given the latitude provided by all that conjecture, is that the Durst - "David Marks" for the purposes of the film - who emerges is less a character study than a thumbnail sketch.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 40 Ian Buckwalter
    This is a film about people who are lost, and the filmmakers draw a direct line between their characters' existential wanderings and the religious obsessions they find for themselves.
    • 43 Metascore
    • 40 Ian Buckwalter
    Will Tom choose the woman before him, or the maid of honor just a few feet behind? Unfortunately, given barely any idea of who these people are beyond their contrived literary inclinations and impeccable fashion sense, it's hard to muster much emotional investment in the decision.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 40 Ian Buckwalter
    It was only a matter of time before someone made a Tony Scott movie without Tony Scott.