Chicago Reader's Scores

  • Movies
For 4,911 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 42% higher than the average critic
  • 2% same as the average critic
  • 56% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 3.9 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 58
Highest review score: 100 Enter the Void
Lowest review score: 0 Event Horizon
Score distribution:
4911 movie reviews
  1. The scenes between husband and wife are spectacularly awkward and arresting, though the movie grows more dubious the nearer the guys get to their shooting session in a local hotel room.
  2. Dumb but harmless live-action comedy for kids.
  3. The problem is that only a fan would be inclined to tolerate this dunderheaded mystery.
  4. By the end Smilla has become a formulaic action hero--equally at home in an evening dress and blue jeans--not a marginalized victim seeking to uncover the source of her wound, and the film collapses around her like glaciers of melting ice.
  5. This is a smart departure for Chan, who's been wasting his talent in mediocre comedies; the other actors don't fare as well. The plot takes forever to get rolling, and the movie is hamstrung by numerous tourism sequences.
  6. This is a killer idea for a political satire, and screenwriters Jason Richman and Joshua Michael Stern come close to realizing its farcical potential.
  7. The performances, especially of Penn and Robbins, are so powerful and detailed (down to the Boston accents) that they often persuade one to overlook the narrative contrivances (particularly the incessant crosscutting), the arty trimmings (including Eastwood's own score), and the dubious social philosophy.
  8. Adults won't find much to enjoy here, though the dog's high-octane action series serves as a perverse parody of Jerry Bruckheimer-style summer blockbusters.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    Tries to break free of formula but finally succumbs to the warm glow of predictability.
  9. A talking bulldog named Frank steals the show.
  10. Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen is now serving a life sentence for his long career as a Russian and Soviet spy, but this rote thriller implies he should have done prison time just for being Catholic. As played by Chris Cooper, Hanssen is a humorless asshole who commits treason because the bureau won't give him an office with a window, and the screenplay scores countless easy points off his religiosity, which masks a weakness for sex tapes and sleazy chat rooms.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    Very much a matter of shared taste and attitude, but cultural outsiders had best beware.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    Peter Weir's 1986 adaptation of Paul Theroux's best-selling novel is literally that - an adaptation without much character of its own.
  11. 3
    Tykwer manages to negotiate this incredible coincidence without much trouble, though the movie slows to a crawl in its second half.
  12. I was bored well before the end, but found the first half hour pretty funny.
  13. The gilt-and-grime setting is eerily atmospheric, and screenwriter Dan Madigan has a nicely sick sense of humor.
  14. The coincidences that make the destined lovers' paths cross aren't contrived with much finesse, but the characters get in some decidedly clever lines.
  15. Grim, phantasmagoric view of recent and not-so-recent Russian history.
    • 37 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    Ineptly realized in everything but its chase scenes (which are, I'll admit, pretty good), the movie is rich in moments of inadvertent surrealism.
  16. Another giggly gross-out comedy for teenagers.
  17. Whereas the 1987 horror hit The Stepfather was top-notch drive-in fare, this perfunctory retread had a tame, made-for-TV feel.
  18. This spiritual thriller is too wooden to be taken as seriously as was clearly intended.
  19. It runs like a Swiss watch, though the plot continuously turns on Cage's liberal interpretation of ridiculously cryptic clues.
  20. This sounds like a slender premise on which to hang a feature, but director Ning Hao is more interested in ethnography and landscapes than narrative and often holds our interest by concentrating on how folklore, technology--motorbikes, cars, trucks, films, TV--and imagination affect a nomadic way of life.
  21. Director Zak Tucker is a bit too fond of jump cuts as signifiers of edginess. Still, when the material doesn't get in the way he's pretty good at getting across the emotional content.
  22. Tiresome, blood-filled comedy.
  23. It's ultimately a losing battle when the audience's lack of interest in eastern Europeans is assumed at the outset.
  24. This thriller largely succeeds in putting quotation marks around its use of genre conventions, mixing subtlety and overkill to create a pensive mood that transcends the plot.
  25. What's most conspicuously missing is the kind of background information needed to assess many of Eichmann's statements.
  26. This moves back and forth between slightly clever and dopey or silly, kept vaguely watchable by the charming leads.
  27. This romantic comedy turns stereotypes inside out as the main character, whose sense of commitment is represented by a tattoo on her finger instead of a wedding ring.
  28. It has been called both detached and loaded, unfairly slanted as well as balanced by some of its critics--I can only testify that I found the film both troubling and absorbing over two separate viewings.
  29. Most of the humor is of the kick-daddy-in-the-shins variety, though Anjelica Huston has a few choice moments as "Ms. Harridan."
    • 56 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    Aspiring fashion designer Jay McCarroll, who triumphed in season one of the Bravo reality show Project Runway, tries to "make that leap from reality-TV designer to real-life designer" in this irreverent documentary.
  30. Scenes in which Ford meets with record-industry honchos and a manipulative producer suggest that the music business is almost as exploitative as the porn business.
  31. Carell and Apatow collaborated on the script; it does manage a few laughs, but the characters seldom progress beyond the two-dimensional.
  32. This screen adaptation never quite jells, veering from family drama to stale 50s consumer kitsch, but it's anchored by strong performances from Julianne Moore.
  33. John Zorn wrote the percussive score, which is compelling throughout.
  34. The facts of their grim treatment, often exacerbated by their estrangement from their countries of origin, sometimes recall the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
  35. The first positive portrayal of homosexuality in Russian cinema, a distinction that carries it only so far.
  36. The consistency with which the plot turns on characterization instead of contrivance makes this movie better than many of its supposedly grown-up competitors.
  37. In this lavish adaptation of Lisa See's novel, the complex chronologies of the parallel narratives are skillfully handled by director Wayne Wang, which makes his reliance on unbridled sentimentality all the more irritating.
  38. The true story of Kimani N'gan'ga Maruge, an 84-year-old Kenyan who entered primary school in hope of learning to read, inspired this pleasant but routine exercise in third-world uplift.
  39. The film is all but crushed by Tom Cruise's screen-hogging demand that everything collapse and swoon around him. If the star gave us more of a rest, we might have more of a movie.
  40. Sluggish comedy drama.
  41. Like so many secular, big-studio Christmas comedies, this isn't naughty enough to be funny or nice enough to be uplifting; it's just an ugly sweater from a distant relative, thoughtlessly sent and destined to be thrown away.
  42. The movie is notable for its perceptive take on issues facing immigrants, and atmospherically photographed by Robbie Ryan (Red Road), but its flat, static quality belies the novel's richness.
  43. Paul Giamatti plays himself in a dark indie comedy that's distinguished by a sci-fi theme and surrealistic touches but ends without a payoff.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    This is eye-catching and forgettable in the patented Bruckheimer manner, which means you should be entertained if you're not expecting anything new.
  44. The real drama is the city itself, steeped in history yet undergoing a Western face-lift.
  45. The violence is suggested in a way that's neither overwhelming nor insulting to a child's intelligence as this crafty fairy tale ultimately finds a way for human and vampire characters to live and let live.
  46. Alexander Payne has won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay (Sideways), but you'd never guess that from this clumsily written drama: characters keep explaining things that their listeners would already know, and the first couple reels are so thick with expository voice-over that you may think you're listening to a museum tour on a set of headphones.
  47. An innocuous, passably entertaining effects extravaganza.
  48. For the grown-ups there are sweet, sincere performances by Ginnifer Goodwin, Sandra Oh, and, as Ramona's endlessly game father, the likable John Corbett, relieved for once of his drippy rom-com duties.
  49. Ray
    Differs from other authorized Hollywood musical biopics in one striking detail: its subject, still alive when most of this was made, is almost never shown as a likable person.
  50. This is mildly entertaining for its cheery sacrilege (crucifixes that turn into throwing stars, etc), but once the premise has been rolled out, the movie is about as surprising to watch as the Stations of the Cross.
  51. The punchy, nonstop visual effects (including an animation segment and stylized subtitles that sometimes suggest an online chat) crowd out coherent storytelling.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    Unfortunately the complicated thriller plot--with the regulation suitcase full of illicit cash--hinders the characters' emotional interactions without ever becoming credible on its own terms.
  52. Elf
    The film is soon bogged down by fake hugs and a faker climax.
  53. "The Illusionist" also centers on a 19th-century magician, and the elegant contours of its story are even more impressive compared with Nolan's clutter of double and triple crosses.
  54. An effects vehicle disguised as a metaphysical meditation (or a metaphysical meditation disguised as an effects vehicle?), this strikingly unimaginative 1998 movie contains visuals that can barely assert their niftiness amid the vacuous themes.
  55. This documentary tells this story reasonably well, though one might question whether director Eric Bricker's jazzy montages, collages, and rapid camera movements are appropriate to the contemplation of still photographs.
  56. Newly updated but shamelessly hokey, Steven Spielberg's version of the 1898 H.G. Wells yarn about murderous invaders from outer space starts off as a nimble scare show like "Jaws."
    • 57 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    A story that's reminiscent of the seminal "Panic in Needle Park."
  57. The vile sadism of the Saw movies has been replaced by decorative references to Saint Augustine and Immanuel Kant, and there's a beautiful but brainy police profiler (Waddell) on hand to dispense a thick layer of psychobabble.
  58. Though the climax of the story is a little forced and sloppy, with both lovers behaving way out of character, this movie is aware enough of the conventions it's using that it's more moving than cloying.
  59. The modeling of human figures and the sense of depth are both impressive; the characters themselves are mainly idiotic.
  60. By the time Herzog tried to pass off jellyfish as Dourif's old pals, my indulgence was nearing its end--but then so was the movie.
  61. This manages to make the real seem generic, rather than the other way around.
  62. Poor execution sometimes points up the difference between the telling of a story and the story itself--in this case, without diminishing the power of the latter.
  63. Sometimes it's hard to tell what's mere overreaching and what's nostalgia for Hollywood's former grandiloquence.
  64. With its flashy, pretentious visual effects, this is really a 98-minute dream sequence--though it's worth recalling that the most effective dream sequences tend to be only a few minutes long.
  65. Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) pelts the viewer with so many factoids and allegations about the early Catholic church, goddess worship, the Crusades, painting, cartography, and code-breaking that the movie's big revelation turns out to be neither grand nor shocking.
  66. The movie seems unusually honest in portraying the no-option existence of the working poor, but the story slips into melodrama in the last reel.
  67. It preserves the peculiar machismo of Ayer's earlier projects: the alpha male dominates not only because he's the most powerful, but because he's the most jaded.
  68. Given the talent on board, there's an undeniable flair and effectiveness in certain scenes (such as Pacino dancing the tango with a stranger in a posh restaurant), but the meretricious calculation finally sticks in one's throat.
  69. This sort of thing was considered high art not so long ago; now it seems forced and ponderously symbolic.
  70. This singing-along-to-the-radio effect has a dingy charm that honors the blue-collar Italian setting, yet Turturro spoils it by turning the movie into a hip star party, with a cast of indie-acting royalty.
  71. I love Franken and wish there were more funny liberals in the chattering class, but his crushing sarcasm wouldn't exactly elevate the national debate.
  72. Jay Craven's stilted adaptation of a novel by Howard Frank Mosher lacks the urgency, the poetry, or the feeling for period that might have brought the material to life, while the cast seems to be largely squandered.
  73. Agreeable but overlong.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    First-time director Penny Panayotopoulou's approach to the delicate subject matter is commendably tactful and tasteful--it's also underdramatized, monotonous, and short on humor.
  74. Even though it's scripted by a woman (Kelly Masterson), this tale of buried family resentments rising to the surface as the brothers plot to rob their parents' jewelry store is concerned only with the guys, and it's marred by an uncharacteristically mannered performance by Albert Finney as the father.
  75. A macabre comedy of manners with the sting of dry ice, this 2007 ensemble piece captures the social climate of America in the late 40s, when a new anxiety and restlessness began to undermine the postwar optimism.
  76. Surrounding and ultimately subsuming this ethical struggle is a fair amount of pediatric-cancer horror and mush, though Cassavetes is frequently bailed out by his cast (Diaz is admirably unpleasant as the controlling mother, and Joan Cusack is unusually tough and restrained as the presiding judge).
  77. The whole thing's so worthy that I wish I liked it more. It makes time pass agreeably, but Square John still seems about as innocent of fresh ideas (aesthetically and otherwise) as most of his characters, and for this kind of leftist multiplot I found his "City of Hope" more engaging.
  78. A lot of superwimp gags executed by Luke Wilson grow out of this premise, as do some tacky 50s-style special effects. The movie's too slapdash to keep its characters consistent, but this has its moments.
  79. Though the basic brains-versus-beauty tension suggests a female variation on "The Nutty Professor", this is a softer version of the dilemma than Jerry Lewis offers -- easier to take and easier to forget.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    Unlike Stanton's memorable animation features, this is surprisingly devoid of humor or winning characterization, though the special effects are fantastic.
  80. This story of a girl growing up in the occupied territories never finds its footing.
  81. Like many sequels this is actually a remake, and it suffers from the law of diminishing returns.
  82. Both actors work hard to give this disturbing crime story some flavor and substance, but the narrative is overextended and poorly organized.
  83. Director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and cowriters Andrew Birkin and Bernd Eichinger preserve some of the novel's storytelling flair, and Dustin Hoffman does a swell turn as the antihero's Italian mentor. But despite a fairly spectacular climax, the material's generic limitations eventually catch up with the plot.
  84. This is pretty thin soup, but the players are spirited and the jokes generally offbeat.
  85. No movie with access to the Cole Porter songbook could be a complete waste of time, but this biopic of the great tunesmith by producer-director Irwin Winkler is all upholstery and no chair.
  86. Writer-director Robert Shallcross believes in it so passionately that he came close to convincing me too.
  87. It's hard to be diverted by a tale whose emblematic romances and terminal cuteness serve an agenda that seems particularly dated today.
  88. One of the film's most poignant moments comes when he and his father discuss his compulsive attraction to young boys.
    • 31 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    Plays a bit better than it sounds. I miss the show's mangy, minimalist sets, but the slapdash narrative construction and good-hearted schmaltz survive intact.
  89. This revisionist western by writer-director Andrew Dominik makes a wan attempt to present the Jesse James legend as the dawn of celebrity culture in America.

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