Charlotte Observer's Scores

  • Movies
For 1,430 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 56% higher than the average critic
  • 3% same as the average critic
  • 41% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 2.4 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 64
Highest review score: 100 Coraline
Lowest review score: 0 Little Nicky
Score distribution:
1,430 movie reviews
  1. We don't find out until the last scene how reality and fantasy intersect, when the meaning of the first shot of the film gets driven home. How many movies have you seen with a payoff like that?
  2. It makes "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" and "12:08 East of Bucharest," the last glum Romanian movies about life under dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, seem merry.
  3. Most nations, ours included, still tolerate some form of slavery or indentured servitude. And 12 Years shows the cruelty of denying not only someone’s freedom but his identity. Take away the essence of a human being – whether he’s in fetters or not – and you destroy him.
  4. The most difficult task in Pixar's 20-year history: to make an un-Mickey-like rodent appealing enough to admire.
  5. The songs are pure joy, for them and for us.
    • Charlotte Observer
  6. You can’t exactly call Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity the best film of its kind, because it has no kind: It stands alone as an extraordinary balance of 3-D effects, heroes-in-jeopardy storytelling and emotional depth.
  7. David Fincher obsesses about obsessive people.
  8. Zero Dark Thirty, like the mission that inspired it, commands respect, admiration, even awe in places for the logistical nightmares that had to be overcome to get it done. But it's a hard movie to love.
  9. Every time it starts to feel like something we have known, we realize how unlike us these Iranian characters are.
  10. I think the trilogy has come to its natural conclusion: However you interpret the ending, we’ve spent enough time with these two people.
  11. Yet its visual surrealism, identity-bending and strong social/ecological message make it as much an allegory as a fable.
  12. Just as moving, uplifting and funny as ever in its slightly modified form.
  13. A potent environmental message wrapped up in an irresistibly cute romance between robots.
  14. The film's proudest boast is that nary a frame comes from documentary footage...Every riot, every explosion, every seemingly spontaneous gundown in the streets of Algiers was staged, then shot in black-and-white stock that intentionally echoes newsreel footage.
  15. U.S. geography doesn't matter to Payne. He always charts the terrain of the human heart, and he's among the wisest of mapmakers.
  16. Jackson had the vision, persistence, insight and patience for this mighty job, plus the smarts to shape stage veterans and overlooked film actors into a seamless cast. He's made himself as immortal as a movie director can be.
  17. The superb Trintignant and the Oscar-nominated Riva – who would win, in a just world – embody once-vigorous people in inevitable decline. Yet as another critic has said, the film is sad without being depressing.
  18. Yi Yi is an intimate movie, for all its length and complexity.
  19. Moviegoers are turned off by depressing topics, yet "Diving Bell" supplies something film fans claim they want: pure escapism, the chance to experience extreme sensations virtually none of us will ever have.
  20. It's mostly a disturbingly believable portrait of a psychopath whose true depths of rage are buried where none but he can see. The ironically named Plainview does not come into plain view until the last scene, and the lupine, scowling Day-Lewis is mesmerizing in the role.
  21. Jackson surpasses the expectations anyone might have had for him with The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment of his trilogy devoted to J.R.R. Tolkien's masterwork.
  22. It’s the first Pixar effort that feels less like a creative outpouring and more like an obligation met to satisfy a distribution schedule.
  23. If you're put off by deliberate filmmaking (or subtitles, though the movie doesn't have much dialogue), you're in the wrong spot. If not, you'll see why voters gave "Atanarjuat," as it's officially called, a 2002 Oscar nomination for best foreign film.
  24. It's encouraging to see a nation so aware of its public image and defensive about its military decisions examine a dark day in its history.
  25. The Coen brothers have never really accepted the idea that a movie has to have a plot. Offbeat characters, sure. Oblique dialogue that sounds meaningful and occasionally is so, absolutely. Eye-catching cinematography and a subtle, mood-reinforcing soundtrack, no question. Irony layered on thickly as cheese in good lasagna, yes. But a narrative that makes sense from end to end? Well, one doesn't have room for everything.
  26. A spruced-up version has been re-released after 22 years, and the addition of 43 minutes means the story really has room to breathe.
  27. Her
    Phoenix gives a performance as convincing as he did in “The Master,” and in exactly the opposite direction: gentle, meditative and cerebral, instead of angry, closed-minded and baffled.
  28. Pixar's employees, masters of computer-generated animation, capture the look of the ocean like no artists before.
  29. A tribute to anyone who ever picked up a score, a pen, a paintbrush or a grease pencil - or a movie camera.
  30. It's among the most inventive, screwily funny and consistently surprising movies I've seen in years.
  31. The ex-lovers' new conversation is stimulating and banal, selfish and broad-minded, affectionate and recriminatory, insightful and obtuse - in short, the kind of dialogue two people might have while pouring out their hearts and poring over their pasts.
  32. Among the handsome explosions, wacky effects, slapstick comedy and zooming action sequences of The Incredibles, writer-director Brad Bird is attempting to start a revolution.
  33. Crowe gave Kate Hudson one pointer while making Almost Famous: Her character simply had to light up every room as soon as she walked into it.
  34. A feature film as odd, personal and sometimes mundane as his (Pekar) comics.
  35. Qualifies as a solid double, maybe a triple.
  36. This isn’t a history lesson. It’s pure entertainment, an excuse for good actors to romp through a twisting, well-told tale.
  37. Coppola lacks a firm grip on this material, and it starts to get away from her midway through.
  38. He's (Yimou) like a painter combining bloody reds, sunshine yellows and pale blues in the harmony of a masterpiece.
  39. Wallenda once said, "Life is being on the wire; everything else is just waiting." This film makes that motto ring true.
  40. Cohen and his gang are smart enough to know when to quit. Like a loud but amusing guest at a dinner party, Borat collects his coat and goes home just as his hosts are starting to fidget.
  41. Talkies may have killed silent movies, the way TV serials and soap operas wiped out radio dramas. But there are stories most effectively told in the old style, and The Artist is proof.
  42. For all the silliness, Kaufman is posing a serious question: Are we better off forgetting things that brought us pain, especially if we didn't change or grow as a result? You may not agree with his conclusion, but who else in Hollywood would pose this query at all, or explore it in such a daffy, gratifyingly inventive way?
  43. Letters covers less emotional ground than its predecessor, because Eastwood and first-time writer Iris Yamashita (who shares a story credit with Paul Haggis) allow Japanese soldiers only three modes of behavior.
  44. Whatever you feel about Truman Capote, you won't be able to turn away from him here.
  45. A director needs to know how to pace the tale, where to place the camera, how to draw out a shy actor or get out of the way of a strong one. Those skills are rarer than you'd think. Sarah Polley, who never wrote or directed a feature film before Away From Her, has them all.
  46. Seeing Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is like having a second date with the woman who made you fall in love at first sight.
  47. The longer film makes Donnie's intentions clearer, explains the time-travel theme better and also leaves us in no doubt as to Frank's identity.
  48. Polished, thoughtful and touching.
  49. Anderson leavens the lunacy with a few acts of sudden and extreme violence or avert-your-face sex, which seem as extravagant as the rest of his notions. Perhaps they’re in there to change the flavor of the humor, the way Mendl might put a bitter coffee bean in a chocolate torte to keep it from cloying us.
  50. The sequel is faster, funnier and wilder, with more cunningly contrived computer effects.
  51. You won't forget Nobody Knows, the quietly harrowing tale of four abandoned Japanese children.
  52. The giddiest and funniest animated film of the year.
  53. The presence of Robert Redford gives the character weight, if not depth, because we bring to the film everything we know about the actor from other movies. Redford’s characters have seemed unflappable for more than 40 years: sometimes cool, sometimes cocky, but almost always master of a situation. To see him beginning to flounder is to see a new Redford, one who catches us off guard.
  54. Marston doesn't develop the characters, except for the strong-willed and quick-witted Maria.
  55. McNamara's too mentally adroit to let Morris pin blame or guilt on him, and the director's not interested in shaming him.
  56. An experience as tender and troubling as any you're likely to get - or not likely, if this subject puts you off.
  57. Writer Steve Kloves, who adapted all of J.K. Rowling's novels except "Order of the Phoenix" over the last 11 years, neither wastes a word nor leaves out any essentials.
  58. One of those documentaries about a family train wreck that makes you wonder how people consented to have their tawdry laundry washed so publicly.
  59. Almodovar still populates his work with characters you'll see nowhere else in movies.
  60. It's tense, strangely funny in a lot of spots and – if you grew up loving old-fashioned, seat-of-the-pants baseball, as I did – the most depressing movie of the year.
  61. The first movie I'd have enjoyed more asleep. That's not because it put me to sleep, but because it may be the most dreamlike film I've ever seen.
  62. Spielberg has never made a more sophisticated and less sentimental picture. He and writer Tony Kushner craft it like a historical thriller.
  63. The most atmospheric thing in the movie is Farnsworth's face.
  64. Reveals the drama and degredation so powerfully that it ranks among the all-time heavyweights of sports movies.
  65. I spent The Kids are All Right wondering whether director Lisa Cholodenko was affectionate toward her self-absorbed characters or gently mocking them. In the end, I thought she was both and liked the film more.
  66. For a movie that ends in the profoundest depths of sadness, Boys Don't Cry contains one of the year's purest moments of joy.
  67. Field does what most American directors don't: He shows people at work, in the day-to-day activity unmarked by excitement.
  68. I can't recall the last film that so wholly, honestly and movingly explained what it means to be a Christian.
  69. Among many things that make the taut thriller Argo remarkable is this one: It depicts a 1980 rescue of American hostages from Iran yet begins by pointing out that the United States was partly responsible for the situation.
  70. He's (Soderbergh) among the few directors working today who makes me wonder what he'll do next - and draws me into the movie house, whatever it may be.
  71. I do wonder why a gay director's best-known movies about straight guys, Talk to Her and "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!," suggest that satisfying relationships with women are most easily achieved if they're 1) unconscious or 2) in bondage.
  72. Anderson tells this story slowly, inexorably, with a sense of control I've never felt from him before. This is the least violent of his five dramas, the first where nobody dies. It's also the bleakest.
  73. Scorsese in his prime might've made better use of this hamming, but this picture feels like an exercise by a Scorsese clone who has tackled the master's themes - without his energy and economy of style.
  74. (Mendes') film debut shows he can shock not only with noise and nakedness but with subtle observations.
  75. Perhaps Zeitlin isn't really making an issue of class distinctions. Maybe he's just suggesting that we don't know these people very well, and our lives would be richer if we did.
  76. For once, I didn't feel cheated by an unresolved ending, but let's hope this is the end. Robert Ludlum wrote three Bourne novels, and this is one series that ought not to be dishonored by inferior sequels.
  77. After an hour, The Pianist stops being the Holocaust movie and becomes a Holocaust movie.
  78. The Tony-winning Bosco, one of the great stage actors of the last 50 years, does a lot with a little in his restricted role; he's haughty, almost dignified by his angry silence. Linney and Hoffman stay pitch-perfect in their noisy desperation and sullen withdrawal.
  79. Most of the movie feels like a loose, sometimes improvised lark among friends.
  80. One of the most heartbreaking, unforgettable dramas in years.
  81. This meditation on spirituality, loneliness and accountability could touch your heart's core.
  82. The film requires close attention, especially while it jumps back and forth in time for the first half-hour, but all the pieces lock into place tightly by the end.
  83. The movie is not credible, even in an inner-city setting. At the same time, it's touching.
  84. A dark comedy that's as emotionally honest as any picture of 2002.
  85. The film could hardly be less American in tone: It has no villains. It provides complete and comfortable closure for none of its relationships.
  86. Keeps its sense of humor while dealing with serious issues.
  87. The result is a film that has "Masterpiece Theatre" production values but not an ounce of dust upon it.
  88. I never thought I'd crack up watching a family mourn the death of a beloved daughter. But I've never seen a film quite like The Host, and that's far from the most bizarre thing in it.
  89. It gives such a down-to-Earth view of the joys, terrors, boredom, anxieties and camaraderie in a war zone.
  90. Like all his movies except "Badlands," a taut 1973 debut, "Tree" looks gorgeous, has philosophic ambitions, meanders wherever Malick's imagination takes him and stays dramatically inert.
  91. A Kafkaesque series of interwoven stories that depict the hopeless lives half the populace there (Iran) must lead.
  92. It depicts a world close enough to our own to be terrifying, yet different enough to rouse curiosity.
  93. Whatever you think of gay people (or politicians), you may find the movie compelling viewing.
  94. Begins and ends quietly, like stirrings of thunder from a distant storm. In between comes a tragedy that rolls over us like a compact hurricane.
  95. A wild, self-indulgent but completely captivating extravagance.
  96. A handsome tribute to an era as quaintly distant as tail-fin Chevrolets and A-bomb scares.
  97. The grandest presence here is Eastwood. His directing, like his acting, is minimal: unhurried, spare, unforced, rather somber.
  98. The leads blend as seamlessly as any young-old character coupling I've seen. The prosthetically altered Gordon-Levitt, unrecognizable at first, really resembles Willis.
  99. It's possible to groan, chuckle, wince and be moist-eyed, sometimes in a span of seven or eight minutes.
  100. As usual, Almodovar finds unusual camera angles to break up the straightforward storytelling. But for the first time I recall, not a single male character is crucial to his story, and no actor has a leading role. You won't miss them.

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