Chicago Reader's Scores

  • Movies
For 4,910 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 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 58
Highest review score: 100 This Is England
Lowest review score: 0 My Life in Ruins
Score distribution:
4,910 movie reviews
  1. "Heathers" may view teenagers more caustically, but this movie, incomparably better, actually delivers the goods.
  2. An enduring masterpiece--dark, deep, beautiful, aglow.
  3. Huston's performance is spellbinding. And the naturally lit digital cinematography (by Rose and Ron Forsythe) is both poetic and harrowingly intimate in depicting Ivan's impending death.
  4. Frightening, funny, profound, and mysterious.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    A rapturously beautiful, lyrically dazzling work.
  5. It's hard to think of many more galvanizing definitions of what it means to be an American than Cho's volcanic self-assessments.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Every frame is dense with life, with children and animals running in and out, yet it's not messy. Instead it's highly focused--and something of a small masterpiece.
  6. An early voice-over segment about the Casbah itself, before Gabin makes an appearance, is so pungent you can almost taste the place, even though the filming was clearly done in a studio.
  7. The juxtaposition of liberal Jewish attorney Dershowitz (Silver) and von Bulow working together on the latter's defense makes for some engagingly offbeat drama, with some interesting insights into the legal process.
  8. The stylized physiques and movements of the characters in this exciting animated musical-romance-adventure are at once realist and fantastic.
  9. Maddin takes on his first commissioned feature--an adaptation of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's production of Dracula--and succeeds brilliantly, making it his own while offering what may be the most faithful screen version to date of Bram Stoker's novel.
  10. Combines live-action and animation with breathtaking wizardry... Alternately hilarious, frightening, and awesome.
  11. This 2002 German documentary (in English) by Marta Kudlacek is the best portrait of an experimental filmmaker that I know.
  12. Masterpiece.
  13. Watts and Harring even turn out to be the hottest Hollywood couple of 2001. The plot slides along agreeably as a tantalizing mystery before becoming almost completely inexplicable, though no less thrilling, in the closing stretches--but that's what Lynch is famous for. It looks great too.
  14. Sharp, entertaining, and convincing--discursive, but with a sense of structure and control that Coppola hasn't achieved since.
  15. A film that might make you cry watching it is just as likely to give you the creeps thinking about it afterward, which is as it should be.
  16. This is truly a great film, recently celebrated at length in "My Voyage to Italy," Martin Scorsese's documentary about Italian cinema.
  17. Tarantino's mock-tough narrative--which derives most of its titillation from farcical mayhem, drugs, deadpan macho monologues, evocations of anal penetration, and terms of racial abuse--resembles a wet dream for 14-year-old male closet queens (or, perhaps more accurately, the 14-year-old male closet queen in each of us), and his command of this smart-alecky mode is so sure that this nervy movie sparkles throughout with canny twists and turns.
  18. The grafting of 40s hard-boiled detective story with SF thriller creates some dysfunctional overlaps, and the movie loses some force whenever violence takes over, yet this remains a truly extraordinary, densely imagined version of both the future and the present, with a look and taste all its own.
  19. Stylistically fresh and full of sweetness that never cloys, this is contemporary Hollywood filmmaking at its near best.
  20. Elliptical, full of subtle inner rhymes...and profoundly moving, this is the most tightly crafted Kubrick film since "Dr. Strangelove," as well as the most horrific; the first section alone accomplishes most of what "The Shining" failed to do.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki perfects his trademark formula of deadpan humor and arctic circle pathos in this brilliantly ironic 2002 comedy.
  21. Smart, poignant, and utterly beguiling.
  22. Though ordained from the beginning, the three-way showdown that climaxes the film is tense and thoroughly astonishing.
  23. This brilliantly and comprehensively captures the look, feel, and sound of glamorous 50s tearjerkers like All That Heaven Allows, not to mock or feel superior to them but to say new things with their vocabulary.
  24. A ferociously creative 1985 black comedy filled with wild tonal contrasts, swarming details, and unfettered visual invention--every shot carries a charge of surprise and delight.
  25. Perhaps the greatest and most revolutionary of Bresson's films, Balthazar is a difficult but transcendently rewarding experience, never to be missed.
  26. The effect is riveting and telling--not always realistic (none of the characters carry cell phones) but often enlightening.
  27. Ties everything together with a dazzling synthesis of pagan animism, heroic quest mythology, orientalism, Pre-Raphaelite imagery, 1950s sci-fi creature features, and Hollywood war epics.
  28. Charlie Chaplin finally got around to acknowledging the 20th century in this 1936 film, which substitutes machine-age gags for the fading Victoriana of his other work. Consequently, it's the coldest of his major features, though no less brilliant for it.
  29. It's one of the best movies about revolutionary and anticolonial activism ever made, convincing, balanced, passionate, and compulsively watchable as storytelling.
  30. A heartfelt, passionate, tragic musical suite made up of these formulas, which the film both celebrates and wryly examines to discover their inner logic: how they actually work, what they do and don't do.
  31. An exhilarating update of "Flash Gordon," very much in the same half-jokey, half-earnest mood, but backed by special effects that, for once, really work and are intelligently integrated with the story.
  32. A highly emotional epic about what it means to be both Chinese and American.
  33. A Chayefsky movie isn't hard to identify, but I think it's safe to say that these days a Charlie Kaufman movie is even more recognizable.
  34. Duvall’s direction of a mix of professional and nonprofessional actors, especially in the extended church sessions, is never less than masterful.
  35. Guy Maddin has reached a new expressive plateau with The Saddest Music in the World.
  36. The result was one of Bergman's most haunting and suggestive films.
  37. All-expert cast.
  38. A veritable salad of mixed genres and emotional textures, this exciting black-and-white cold war thriller runs more than two hours and never flags for an instant...A powerful experience, alternately corrosive with dark parodic humor, suspenseful, moving, and terrifying.
  39. Riveting cinematic essay.
  40. One of the most perfect endings of any film that comes to mind.
  41. Mesmerizing.
  42. The film's superb first two hours, which weave social and historical themes into rich personal drama, turn out to be only a prelude to the magnificent final hour--an extended ballroom sequence that leaves history behind to become one of the most moving meditations on individual mortality in the history of the cinema. (Review of 1983 Release)
  43. The result is both thrilling and thoughtful.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    It's something of a masterpiece: a confessional experimental documentary with echoes, both conscious and unconscious, of filmmakers from Andy Warhol to John Cassavetes, Stan Brakhage to David Lynch.
  44. This is a masterwork by Ousmane Sembene, the 81-year-old father of African cinema and one of Senegal's greatest novelists.
  45. A grand-style, idiosyncratic war epic, with wonderful poetic ideas, intense emotions, and haunting images rich in metaphysical portent.
  46. Wong Kar-wai's idiosyncratic style first became apparent in this gorgeously moody second feature.
  47. Zhang weaves in both thrilling martial-arts set pieces and stunning studies of period silk tapestry and costume.
  48. Haggis's dialogue is worthy of Hemingway, and the three leads border on perfection.
  49. The overall mood is stately and melancholy, the selective use of color is ravishing, and some of the natural views are breathtaking.
  50. Throughout the film cause and effect, the mainspring of most narratives, is replaced by a sense of spiritual synchronicity.
  51. Its special effects are used so seamlessly as part of an overall artistic strategy that, as critic Annette Michelson has pointed out, they don't even register as such, and thus are almost impossible to trivialize, a feat unmatched in movies.
  52. Possibly the most daring and honest drama about sexuality I've ever seen.
  53. At the very least, it's more honest and involved in its portraiture of American soldiers in Iraq than anything TV news of any political persuasion has given us.
  54. Most comedies start with a straight story and hang jokes on it; Solondz begins with a cosmic joke and takes his characters by the hand as they suffer through it.
  55. The movie's dreamlike spaces and characters are sometimes worthy of Lewis Carroll.
  56. Hou's best film since "The Puppetmaster" (1993). It's also his most minimalist effort to date, slow to reveal its depths and beauties, and it marks a rejuvenation of his art.
  57. Yes
    Beautifully composed and deftly delivered, it becomes the libretto to Potter's visual music, creating a remarkable lyricism and emotional directness.
  58. The title of Jia Zhang-ke's 2004 masterpiece, The World -- a film that's hilarious and upsetting, epic and dystopian -- is an ironic pun and a metaphor.
  59. This masterpiece, an art film deftly masquerading as a thriller, seems to celebrate small-town pastoralism and critique big-city violence, but this position turns out to be double-edged.
  60. Leone brought back a masterpiece, a film that expands his baroque, cartoonish style into genuine grandeur, weaving dozens of thematic variations and narrative arabesques around a classical western foundation myth.(Review of Original Release)
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    A masterpiece, one of Michelangelo Antonioni's finest works. (Review of Original Release)
  61. Jarmusch has said that the film's odd, generally slow rhythm -- hypnotic if you're captivated by it, as I am, and probably unendurable if you're not--was influenced by classical Japanese period movies by Kenji Mizoguchi and Akira Kurosawa.
  62. All this edginess, combined with the grandeur and sweep of a classic western, demonstrates that Jones clearly knows how to tell a story -- and how to confound us at the same time.
  63. This powerful South African drama turns on the debut performance of young Presley Chweneyagae as the hood, and it's magnificent: a stone-faced killer in the opening scenes, he becomes an open book as the story progresses, as frightened, confused, and needy as the baby he drags around town in a shopping bag.
  64. Whether the title refers to the baby or the thief remains an open question, and the viewer is left to decide whether the theme of redemption should be perceived in Christian terms. This builds to a suspenseful climax, and as in Hitchcock's best work, that suspense is morally inflected.
  65. The result is a film that hovers just beyond our grasp--mysterious, beautiful, and, very possibly, a masterpiece.
  66. Both sad and darkly funny, the film is so sharply conceived and richly populated that it often registers like a Frederick Wiseman documentary, even though everything is scripted and every part played by a professional... This is only the second feature of Cristi Puiu, who claims to have been inspired by his own hypochondria, but he's already clearly a master.
  67. Three Times, one of the peaks of his (Hou Hsiao-hsien) career, may be your last chance to see his work inside a movie theater.
  68. A great film but also one of the most upsetting films I know.
  69. Directed by John Hillcoat, this Aussie feature perfectly re-creates the charbroiled landscapes and cruel psychodrama of the old Sergio Leone westerns, with John Hurt particularly fine as a raging old mountain goat.
  70. The best documentary to date about the military occupation of Iraq.
  71. With his perfect pacing, elegant narrative design, and depth of characterization, Richard Lester has made as good a matinee movie as could be imagined: it's a big, generous, beautifully crafted piece of entertainment, with the distinctive Lester touch in the busy backgrounds and the throwaway dialogue.
  72. The casting of Reeves in the lead role is inspired: who better than the star of "The Matrix" and its sequels, a trilogy that borrows heavily from Dick's sensibility and obsessions, to play a personality split through overindulgence in drugs and manipulation by outside forces he barely recognizes?
  73. A dedicated, charismatic, crack-addicted history teacher is the most believable protagonist in an American movie this year.
  74. A lush piece of romanticism.
  75. The period details and performances are uniformly superb (Bob Hoskins is especially good as MGM executive Eddie Mannix), and the major characters are even more complex than those in "Chinatown."
  76. Of course no Western director can make a movie about Africa without being accused of colonialism himself, and some critics have faulted The Last King of Scotland for focusing on its white hero as black corpses pile up around him. But although the movie takes place on an international political stage, it's still a drama of individual allegiance.
  77. This seventh installment is utterly fascinating.
  78. As clever as he is crude, Cohen alchemizes bad-taste comedy into Strangelovean satire.
  79. An excellent introduction to the singular vision of avant-garde stage director Robert Wilson.
  80. Much as Emile de Antonio's neglected "In the Year of the Pig" (1968) may be the only major documentary about Vietnam that actually considers the Vietnamese, this film allows the people of Iraq to speak, and what they say is fascinating throughout.
  81. The production design is superb, and the actors deliver their dialogue in subtitled Yucatecan Maya, but despite all the anthropological drag, this is really just a crackerjack Saturday-afternoon serial.
  82. David Lynch's first digital video, almost three hours long, resists synopsizing more than anything else he's done. Some viewers have complained, understandably, that it's incomprehensible, but it's never boring, and the emotions Lynch is expressing are never in doubt.
  83. It has few stars familiar to Americans, and it shares with "Pan's Labyrinth" the rare distinction of being a mainstream commercial movie with subtitles.
  84. Unlike most horror movies, this chiller gives equal prominence to reality and fantasy, though the reality is far more frightening. The only precedent that comes to mind in terms of a lyrical treatment of a child's experience of terror is "The Night of the Hunter."
  85. Through it all Nader, as ruefully funny as ever, comments on his adventures.
  86. One reason Bamako feels like a blast of sanity is that the theoretical debates about the state of the world, particularly Africa and more particularly Mali, are only half of its agenda. The other half, broadly speaking, is the life of everyday Africans.
  87. The mix of dark humor, creeping suspense, and a sort of apocalyptic tenderness makes this the best horror flick in years.
  88. So accessible and entertaining.
  89. Shot on a year's worth of weekends on a minuscule budget (less than $20,000), this remarkable work--conceivably the best single feature about ghetto life that we have--was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry as one of the key works of the American cinema, an ironic and belated form of recognition for a film that has had virtually no distribution. It shouldn't be missed.
  90. Like much of Verhoeven's best work, it's shamelessly melodramatic, but in its dark moral complexities it puts "Schindler's List" to shame. Van Houten and Sebastian Koch (The Lives of Others) are only two of the standouts in an exceptional cast.
  91. Zwigoff not only presents a complex human being and the range of his art but also guides us through a profound and unsettling consideration of what it means to be an American artist. Essential viewing.
  92. Alain Resnais' 2006 adaptation of a British play by Alan Ayckbourn is a world apart from his earlier Ayckbourn adaptation, "Smoking/No Smoking"; that film tried to be as "English" as possible. But this time Resnais looks for precise French equivalents to British culture, and what emerges is one of his most personal works, intermittently recalling the melancholy "Muriel" and "Providence."
  93. The good humor bubbles up from a deep reservoir of affection for Hollywood schlock.
  94. For a movie about the importance of memory, Away From Her is appropriately sophisticated in its treatment of time. Polley has broken the chronological story into three sections of unequal length and woven them together, approximating our own mercurial journeys through the past.
  95. The songs don't advance the narrative lyrically so much as follow the two characters' uncertain relationship through the slow realization of their themes; in particular a scene in which they first jam together in the back room of a music store is a gem.

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