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 3.7 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 58
Highest review score: 100 Howl's Moving Castle
Lowest review score: 0 Repo Men
Score distribution:
4,911 movie reviews
  1. What promises to be a standard postmortem on 60s ideology becomes a thoughtful essay on the choices we all make between work, family, and personal freedom.
  2. The extraordinary child actress Ana Torrent (Cria) made her debut here at the age of five. Much in the film is derivative, but Erice excels in precise evocations of childhood feelings.
  3. Given what Young charges for concert tickets, all his organs could be gold. So I was even more grateful for this documentary of his August 2005 shows at the fabled Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, expertly directed by Jonathan Demme.
  4. Def and Willis are both good, but Donner's lethal weapon here is Morse, a chronically overlooked character actor whose combined tenderness and ruthlessness make him the most fascinating heavy since Robert Ryan.
  5. The immersive quality of 3-D is particularly well suited to undersea documentaries, and this one, directed by Howard Hall ("Into the Deep"), offers a close-up look at such fantastic creatures as the fried egg jellyfish, the mantis shrimp, the sand tiger shark, and the thuggish wolf eel.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    This suspenseful, beautifully acted Dickensian drama forces us to confront our own bloodlust: do we root for the teen to win a moral victory or to beat the bad guy to a pulp?
  6. None of the moral ramifications of this dilemma is avoided, and to the film’s credit the behavior of the American press seems more questionable than the machinations of third-world justice.
  7. Equally impressive is Duncan's stylish handling of decor, dialogue, narrative ellipsis, and pacing, all of which call to mind the Hollywood master Ernst Lubitsch.
  8. There isn't an ounce of flab or hype, and the story it tells is profoundly affecting.
  9. Though Hanks keeps the satirical and critical aspects of this look at show biz fairly light, there's a lot of conviction and savvy behind the steadiness of his gaze, and his economy in evoking the flavor of the period at the beginning of the picture is priceless.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    A powerful indictment of the horrendous treatment of children who toil in hellish Bolivian silver mines. The filmmakers are better at fashioning haunting images than offering hard-nosed analysis, yet they never sentimentalize their young protagonists' plight.
  10. 4
    Puzzling, intriguing, and often compelling, apparently set in the present but magical and futuristic in tone.
  11. This beautifully understated feature (2004) revolves around sex, but it's neither erotic nor puritanical; its young characters are governed by their urges, but the experience itself seems as neutral and mysterious as sleep.
  12. Roman Polanski's first film in English (1965, 105 min.) is still his scariest and most disturbing--not only for its evocations of sexual panic, but also because his masterful employment of sound puts the audience's imagination to work in numerous ways...As narrative this works only part of the time, and as case study it may occasionally seem too pat, but as subjective nightmare it's a stunning piece of filmmaking.
  13. Greengrass takes pains to keep events believable and relatively unrhetorical, rejecting entertainment for the sake of sober reflection, though one has to ask how edifying this is apart from its reduction of the standard myths.
  14. This small gem about a South Central LA girl with a gift for spelling restores luster to the family genre.
  15. Chan-wook Park completes his "revenge trilogy" with this ravishing black comedy about a notorious child killer.
  16. Critics, clients, and colleagues all weigh in on the architect, but Pollack is more interested in the mysteries of the creative process, and his studies of Gehry's buildings, deftly edited by Karen Schmeer, capture their dramatic sense of movement and resolution.
  17. Brilliantly conceived and competently executed.
  18. Cuesta directs the lead actors with such feeling that their misery seems authentic.
    • 38 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Directed by George Bamber from a witty screenplay by David Vernon, it veers between screwball farce and feel-good sitcom.
  19. This comic fantasy is the best vehicle he's (Sandler) ever had, a high-concept goof that gradually darkens into an emotional nightmare reminiscent of Capra.
  20. Volatile and sometimes daring performances by Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Gilbert Melki, Malik Zidi, and Lubna Azabal (as twins) contribute to the highly charged and novelistic experience.
  21. As scripted by Michael Arndt, this isn't much more than a glorified sitcom, but it deftly dramatizes our conflicting desires for individuality and an audience to applaud it.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    One of Bujalski's gifts is his ability to give every part, no matter how big or small, a sense of intelligence and life that extends beyond the frame and running time, and in this his work recalls the best of both Mike Leigh and Richard Linklater.
  22. Screenwriter Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) has turned the Italian romantic comedy "L'Ultimo Bacio" (2001) into something smarter, funnier, and more penetrating.
  23. Just when I'm ready to write off the mockumentary as an exhausted form, along comes this delightful and hilarious improv comedy from the UK in which a bridal magazine sets up a promotional contest for the best offbeat wedding.
  24. It's become a critical cliche to say that everyone in the U.S. should see a particular war documentary, but even the most selfish citizen might want to check out The Ground Truth, because unlike the Iraqi victims of the war, the American ones are all around us.
  25. Gondry is a soft surrealist without much of a sociopolitical agenda, closer to Dr. Seuss than Luis Buñuel,
  26. The characters are drawn with such compassion their follies become our own and their desires seem as vast as the night sky.
  27. Writer-director Deepa Mehta fuses the soap-opera elements of her plot -- which reveals one sexual secret after another of the variously betrayed, selfish, and self-actualizing members of the two couples' New Delhi household--into profound drama.
  28. What's most memorable about it is the period flavor, including a detailed and precise account of the jim crow complications blacks had to contend with.
  29. Although most of the elements are familiar and virtually all of the characters are unpleasant, this is a better than average melodrama--mainly because of the volcanic power of Kathy Bates in the title role.
  30. The movie endorses the liberal conception of the Chicks as free-speech heroes, which doesn't quite wash: Maines shot her mouth off to a receptive overseas crowd, then issued an apology as soon as the backlash began back home.
  31. Many reviews have suggested that this is as politically mild as a John Sayles movie, but Linklater clearly agrees with the frustrated kid who says, "Right now, I can't think of anything more patriotic than violating the Patriot Act."
  32. An amiable demonstration of how two charismatic actors and a relaxed writer-director (Brad Silberling) can squeeze an enjoyable movie out of practically nothing.
  33. This comedy drama is an exercise in self-indulgence for O'Toole, but an enjoyable and touching one.
  34. I can't think of a better portrait of contemporary Paris or the zeitgeist of 2001-'04 than Chris Marker's wise and whimsical 58-minute 2004 one can film people in the street better than Marker or combine images with more grace and finesse.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    A more visually conscious stylist than most Italian commercial directors of the period, Lattuada remains largely unknown in the U.S., though in Europe he's been touted as the great eclectic talent of the postwar Italian cinema.
  35. After decades of revisionist westerns, this drama by TV veteran David Von Ancken is impressive for its stubborn classicism.
  36. This 2005 feature is demanding to say the least, but its pulse-slowing rhythms leave a real sense of peace.
  37. After trying her hand at Thackeray with "Vanity Fair," director Mira Nair has found a literary property much closer to her heart: Jhumpa Lahiri's best-selling novel about a Bengali couple and their children trying to find their place in American culture.
  38. Bernardo Bertolucci's visually ravishing spectacle about the life of Pu Yi is a genuine rarity: a blockbuster that manages to be historically instructive and intensely personal at the same time.
  39. The virtues on display are very much those of the heroine: generosity, imagination, charm, and the capacity to keep an audience mesmerized with a good story.
  40. If the relatively prosaic Minghella, making his movie debut, lacks the suggestive poetic sensibility of Lewton, he does a fine job in capturing the contemporary everyday textures of London life, and coaxes a strong performance out of Stevenson, a longtime collaborator. Full of richly realized secondary characters and witty oddball details, this is a beguiling film in more ways than one.
  41. An awesomely, stiflingly professional piece of work, with a fleet, superficial visual style, perfectly placed climaxes, and a screenplay (by Douglas Day Stewart) that doesn't waste a single character or situation - everything is functional, and nothing but functional.
  42. It's 88 minutes of solid, inventive music, filmed in a straightforward manner that neither deifies the performers nor encourages an illusory intimacy, but presents the musicians simply as people doing their job and enjoying it.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Jonathan Demme's picaresque joyride across the American landscape is still arguably the best thing he's ever done.
  43. A singular and essential figure of the Argentinean new wave; [Alonso] is not quite the minimalist some claim, but he can make the simple act of filming feel so monumental that storytelling seems secondary.
  44. Francis Coppola's stylish and heartfelt tribute to the innovative automobile designer Preston Thomas Tucker turns out to be one of his most personal and successful movies.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Gene Hackman excels in Francis Ford Coppola's tasteful, incisive 1974 study of the awakening of conscience in an "electronic surveillance technician."
  45. This David Cronenberg masterpiece (1991) breaks every rule in adapting a literary classic - maybe On Naked Lunch would be a more accurate title - but justifies every transgression with its artistry and audacity.
  46. The main interest here is the juxtaposing of Gosling's Method acting with Hopkins's more classical style, a spectacle even more mesmerizing than the settings.
  47. This sublime French farce reminded me most of Billy Wilder.
  48. The results are high-spirited, with nice ensemble work from Almodovar's team of regulars, but the playlike structure (originally derived from Cocteau's The Human Voice but drastically reworked) is disappointingly conventional.
  49. Adapted by Van Sant and Daniel Yost from an unpublished autobiographical novel by James Fogle, this 1989 feature has the kind of stylistic conviction that immediately wins one over.
  50. Lawrence Kasdan's 1981 noir fable is highly derivative in its overall conception, but it finds some freshness in its details. All in all, this evokes the spirit of James M. Cain more effectively than the 1981 remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice did.
  51. Thanks to a remarkable script by Bruce Joel Rubin and the directorial skills of Adrian Lyne, this works as both a highly effective stream-of-consciousness puzzle thriller offering the viewer not one but many "solutions" and an emotionally persuasive statement about the plight of many American vets who fought in Vietnam.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Johnny To is considered one of the best action filmmakers in Hong Kong, and in this smart, stylized gangland thriller (2005) he looks at the messy inner workings of a triad.
  52. John Zorn's ethnically tinged score is effectively minimalist without succumbing to Philip Glass-style monotony, and Harris Yulin is effective as the hero's semi-estranged father.
  53. Quirky and nuanced, this movie has a lot to say about sibling rivalry and the current music scene.
  54. This sequel to the apocalyptic splatter flick "28 Days Later" . . . (2002) is still well equipped to rip your face off.
  55. Enhanced by Jason Staczek's superb score, this is characteristically intense and, unlike most of Maddin's silent-movie models, frenetically edited.
  56. Bug
    Steppenwolf alumnus Tracy Letts adapted his play into this fearsome horror movie, directed with single-minded claustrophobia by William Friedkin.
  57. Italian writer-director Emanuele Crialese is best known for the art-house piffle "Respiro" (2002), a sun-kissed fairy tale that didn't prepare me for the weight and solidity of this historical drama about a Sicilian peasant family immigrating to the U.S.
  58. The movie overall may be routine, but Donner gives it some spark and polish.
  59. Franklin and Murray manages to live up to the demands of a thriller without sacrificing character to frenetic pacing, and the film exudes a kind of sweetness that never threatens to become either sticky or synthetic.
  60. This is a worthy successor to Chinatown - full of ecological and geological insights into Los Angeles history that recall Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald and give a view of southern California that could have been conceived only by a native.
  61. Among the pleasures to be found here are some amusing sidelong glances at how movies get made and the singing talent of Streep as well as MacLaine. There's not much depth here, but Nichols does a fine job with the surface effects, and the wisecracks keep coming.
  62. The concept itself is so strong - particularly as a revenge fantasy for anyone who's ever resented hypocritical exploitative shrinks - that it winds up working pretty well anyway.
  63. Inspired by anthropologist Donald Thomson's early-20th-century photographs, this collaboration between a Western filmmaker and the native people of Ramingining is an impressive achievement of ethnographic cinema.
  64. This movie has its share of laughs, but it's also Ron Howard's most personal film, and clearly his most ambitious--a multifaceted essay in fictional form about the diverse snares of child rearing.
  65. The cast - including Derek Jacobi as the modern-dress chorus, Paul Scofield, Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Emma Thompson, and Robbie Coltrane in an effective cameo as Falstaff - is uniformly fine without any grandstanding.
  66. The film has a fresh and imaginative feel for period detail that the talented cast - which also features Gabriel Byrne, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz, John Neville, and Mary Wickes - obviously benefits from.
  67. The film is full of relevant insights into the kinds of compromises, trade-offs, and combinations of skills and personalities that produce media, and the personal stories are deftly integrated.
  68. This is a fairly accomplished first feature -perky, visually inventive, and unusually nast
  69. In many respects this is a black counterpart to The Naked Gun, and very nearly as funny; the bounty of antimacho gags is both unexpected and refreshing.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Rick Moranis is properly nerdish as the flower-shop attendant who keeps his carnivorous charge supplied with a steady stream of human plasma, and Ellen Greene makes a good scatterbrained innocent in the ersatz Broadway mold, but the best moments in this 1987 release belong to Dr. Steve Martin as a dentist with a professional yen for pain.
  70. Terry Gilliam's third fantasy feature (1989) may not achieve all it reaches for, but it goes beyond Time Bandits and Brazil in its play with space and time, and as a children's picture offers a fresh and exciting alternative to the Disney stranglehold on the market.
  71. But like much of Herzog's work, it's essentially apolitical, focusing on a man at war with his environment -- and no one plunges into the foliage like he does.
  72. Ferguson is admirably tenacious in assigning blame for the boneheaded mistakes that have doomed Iraqi reconstruction. Paul Bremer, former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, is hung out to dry.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Eschewing special effects, Moreau and Palud reinvigorate the classic haunted house premise by paring the plot down to its essentials.
    • 50 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Actor Justin Theroux makes an impressive directorial debut, aided by David Bromberg's mordantly funny dialogue.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    An exquisitely structured drama.
  73. An entertaining product that presents a powerful artistic vision.
  74. Period westerns are so unfashionable and costly that they usually require a top-drawer script to get off the ground -- and this one, adapted from an Elmore Leonard story and its 1957 movie version, travels with an arrow's clean arc.
  75. The astronaut interviews are fun and occasionally moving, but the real reason to see this is the remastered archival footage, some of it previously unseen and all of it spectacular.
  76. Not only delightfully funny but unaffectedly romantic.
  77. You may not leave the theater having switched sides, but you'll probably respect the other side more, and that in itself would be a victory for human life.
  78. The mystery has never been resolved, but to his credit Bar-Lev acknowledges that he himself has become part of the story, torn between sympathy and suspicion.
  79. What this movie has going for itself in spite of its cloying pleas for indulgence is a playful and interesting narrative structure that precludes much development and comes to the fore only toward the end. The whole thing may drive you batty, but as with "Rushmore," the melancholy aftertaste lingers.
  80. Ben Affleck directed and cowrote the script; his biggest gamble was casting his irksome little brother as a pistol-whipping tough guy, but the picture is so superbly executed in every other respect that Casey seems more quirky than miscast.
  81. A powerful Christian parable, painful but illuminating, about crime and redemption.
  82. The portrait of Carter has been described as hagiography, but it isn't a stretch to view his quiet integrity as saintly next to the track records of his successors.
  83. Both hilarious and poignant, with a Capraesque humanity that caught me completely off guard.
  84. Disney goes meta in this witty, exuberant musical comedy whose parody and nostalgia serve a sweet and affecting romance.
  85. Disappointment, delusion, dementia, death--did I mention this is a comedy?
  86. Hysterically hyperbolic and unpleasant if still witty dissection of family traumas.
  87. Danny Glover, as hard-rock reliable as Spencer Tracy in his prime, plays onetime pianist Tyrone "Pine Top" Purvis.
  88. Despite a few bloodcurdling shocks, this handsome Spanish ghost story from producer Guillermo del Toro follows in the suggestive, richly romantic tradition of the old Val Lewton chillers.

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