New York Observer's Scores

  • Movies
For 681 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 47% higher than the average critic
  • 1% same as the average critic
  • 52% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 5.5 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 56
Highest review score: 100 The Railway Man
Lowest review score: 0 Rock of Ages
Score distribution:
681 movie reviews
  1. Some people might blindly and inaccurately accuse this movie of attacking family values, but it has exactly the opposite effect. Touching and funny in their upheaval, the people in The Kids Are All Right open the door to a brand new examination of family values that leaves you charged and cheering.
  2. Don’t miss Tom at the Farm, the latest controversy in the oeuvre of acclaimed French-Canadian actor-writer-director Xavier Dolan, who has been labeled the “enfant terrible of queer cinema.”
  3. I tend to forget how marvelous Ellen Barkin can be until she gets the rare chance to pull out all the stops in a movie like this.
  4. Sensitively acted, carefully written and directed with heartfelt compassion, Bringing Up Bobby is an engrossing little independent film made on an austere budget in 22 days.
  5. Bryan Cranston brings the complex personality of Trumbo to life with substance and humor.
  6. It's a film that deserves to be seen, savored, debated and given serious attention.
  7. The kids make stunning debuts, but their accents are thicker than porridge, rendering a good 90 percent of the dialogue so unintelligible that it might as well be in Swahili. Some subtitles are provided out of necessity, but not enough.
  8. This film transcends its trendy, obvious limitations with enough vitality and vitriol to make it as informative and breathless as it is entertaining.
  9. Like "Moneyball," this is real movie making that packs a solid entertainment punch.
  10. Neither another bland biopic about a self-destructive artist nor an historical scrapbook about a country in the grip of slavery, Black Butterflies is a dark, moving depiction of the life and death of a brave rebellious, idiosyncratic woman who made significant strides toward changing the world around her and paid a heavy toll for her passion.
  11. Unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. What the bloodsuckers in this frolic actually do, in or out of the shadows, is make you laugh.
  12. The story behind Touching Home is more inspiring than the film itself, but don't let that deter you. It's the kind of can-do miracle that reminds us all that anything can happen and everything is possible.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    It doesn’t happen all at once, nor does the film imply that coming to terms with one’s past is any kind of panacea. Grace’s problems are long term, but, like her adolescent charges, one has the sense she’ll get by.
  13. La Mission, carefully directed by Peter Bratt and beautifully photographed by award-winning cinematographer Hiro Narita (Never Cry Wolf), explores the human side of a culture we know almost nothing about, in a world usually exploited on film to depict drugs and danger.
  14. It keeps you creeped out and fascinated.
  15. True originality is so rare that it’s a treat to welcome a movie as completely different and provocative as Upside Down. It’s unlike anything you have ever seen.
  16. Based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe, directed with style and imagination by Brad Anderson (The Machinist), filmed in the creepy darkness of Bulgaria (you hardly get this kind of movie anymore), and starring an illustrious cast solid and dedicated enough to craft to make you believe they’re in a depraved version of Hamlet staged in Elsinore Castle, this is a movie that is several cuts above your usual straitjacket thriller. Enter at your own risk.
  17. Kristin Scott Thomas breathes new life into a woman who was invented by Flaubert and copied by Francoise Sagan.
  18. Force Majeure is a good movie, but as thought provoking as the ending is, it peters out ineffectually, while the actual staging of the avalanche to the crashing movements of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” seems vaguely comedic and disappointingly corny, if you ask me.
  19. It might prove to be too insular to appeal to a wider movie audience, but to a passionate Anglophile like me, Queen and Country is a funny and nostalgic portrait of a bleak, rationed postwar England still digging its way out of the rubble.
  20. Flawed but bittersweet and enjoyable, this film may be the final chapter in a colorful and illustrious life.
  21. The Vow is not exactly a woman's picture. It's more about how a man falls in love, loses his love and gives up everything in life to focus on regaining his love. Maybe it's a woman's picture from a male point of view. However you slice it, it's a welcome loaf-far from perfect, but as filling as a home-cooked meal.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    It has a seedy underbelly that will appeal to hard-core Mickle fans; it’s more deranged than it initially seems.
  22. Some of the on-camera bitchery between Mr. Ford and Ms. Keaton is laugh-out-loud witty. For the most part, Morning Glory is a delicious movie that will make you jump for joy.
  23. There is plenty of excitement and pulse in Hereafter, as well as a reluctance to provide easy answers to life's great mysteries. I'm happy to see a great director take on the challenge of new and different material with his customary grace and impressive two-fisted technique intact.
  24. Filled with nuance, intricate emotion and a refreshing absence of melodramatics, Conviction is a moving exploration of light and love shining through the darkness of despair. Its impact cannot easily be shaken.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Words and Pictures doesn’t possess the tender grace of "Enough Said," Nicole Holofcener’s wonderful film about middle-aged love. Nor does it have the kinetic energy of a high school movie like "The History Boys", adapted from Alan Bennett’s play. But it’s a winning effort from a director whose varied oeuvre has consistently charmed viewers.
  25. Richard Gere gives his most uncompromising three-dimensional performance in 20 years.
  26. It’s beautifully photographed and entertaining, with charming performances by Will Smith and newcomer Margot Robbie that tease and tantalize. You won’t be bored.
  27. It’s a riveting film and I understood every word.
  28. Heading toward his destination as a decent man facing ruin by doing the right thing, Mr. Hardy does a great job acting out the phases of anxiety frustration, confusion, exasperation and ultimate resolve — while working overtime to save a movie that takes place entirely on a cell phone from getting boring.
  29. The film is a deeply heartfelt experience that addresses the struggles of everyday people in a strange land most of us know nothing about. You will not go away unmoved. See it, and learn something.
  30. You go away slack-jawed with shock and sated with the chilling bedtime-story elements of a great unsolved mystery novel you can't put down.
  31. Wonderful, honest and low-key performances inform and enhance The Yellow Handkerchief, an otherwise unexceptional little drama.
  32. It’s a metaphorical stretch for a simple movie title, but never mind. Closer to the Moon still manages to be a strange blend of history, black humor and art.
  33. Bond is back, and so is high-octane entertainment.
  34. It’s far superior to what usually comes out of the British slums in the genre of gangland thrillers.
  35. Ms. Bening does a touching, masterful job of conveying real emotional pain.
  36. For sure, it’s another example of style over substance — a richly deserved accusation that is always leveled at this kindergarten cop of a director, but I confess it’s a lot of scattered and disjointed fun.
  37. Sleep Tight is a creepy - but highly effective and superbly made - horror movie from Spain in which the monster is spine-tinglingly human.
  38. Nothing in it comes close to the magic, the originality or the everlasting entertainment value of the original, which only cost $2.777 million and didn’t use a single computer-generated graphic. This says more about how much better movies were in 1939 than they are today. Still, I had enough fun to predict that history (or at least a tiny piece of it) seems destined to repeat itself. People just can’t get enough of this stuff.
  39. Leonie is a rich tapestry of cross-cultural revelations, released to the public at last, and a welcome addition to an otherwise dreary movie season.
  40. From this less than enchanting excuse for a feature-length movie comes 5 to 7, featuring delicious performances, extremely witty dialogue without the customary Hollywood television punch lines, a convincing believability quotient, and some beautiful cameos, especially by Glenn Close and Frank Langella as Mr. Yelchin’s disapproving but modern, adaptable parents.
  41. The real star of the film is the magnetic, forceful and charismatic Matthew Fox, who steals the entire film as easily as if he were pitching a softball.
  42. We know about Anne Frank's diary and Paul Verhoeven's masterpiece "Black Book," but director Martin Koolhoven has shed new light on what happened in Holland with a powerful and touching film.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Mr. Rudd imbues Ned with an easy, charming sweetness and unpatronizing wisdom that make him seem simply guileless, not stupid. Indeed, the greatest flaw of Our Idiot Brother is in making Ned too saintly - despite the title, it's clearly the sisters who are the morons.
  43. The brilliant screenplay by Mr. Letts sets up the narrative story of the Weston clan in a carefully constructed series of episodes in which the family history is finally revealed. There’s great acting in every frame, but by the end of the ordeal, the viewer may be too exhausted to care.
  44. Mr. Fiennes admirably humanizes the characters while exploring their contradictions and emphasizing their feelings. But his no-frills direction is a bit stodgy for my taste, and although this is not the Dickens you’d ever pay to hear read "Little Dorrit," there’s more vitality in his performance than the film itself.
  45. Every generation gets a new one, and this time, replete with computer graphics and singing mice, Kenneth Branagh has created a live-action fairy tale that pulls out every stop and spares no expense.
  46. Although the going is so sluggish at times that the film often looks like it needs artificial respiration, stick it out. The end result is oddly entertaining.
  47. Paddington is a harmless delight that blends live action with animated technology in the manner of "Ted," but without the raunch.
  48. A thoughtful coming-of-age story with bracing performances, solid writing and direction by John Gray and inescapable take-home values that give you a feel-good lift.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    The psychological payoffs outweigh any implausibilities. And what's the harm in logging off your network for a few hours to indulge in some good old-fashioned science fiction?
  49. Walking With the Enemy is a powerful piece of filmmaking that examines history and heroism with big-screen artistry, imagination and thrills.
  50. Seeking Justice is an intense thriller so full of shocks it keeps you wired from start to finish.
  51. Ms. Deneuve has been directed by everyone from François Truffaut to Roman Polanski, but she has gone on the record saying she has a special rapport with Mr. Ozon (the 2002 film "8 Women" remains a classic). He brings out such a loopy delicacy in her that she shines-a charming, witty centerpiece from start to finish.
  52. It’s so elegant and dreamlike — such a departure from most vampire epics — that you won’t be bored. It also has a wicked sense of humor you usually don’t find in the genre.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    You will take pleasure in the performances of three top-notch actors — Dakota Fanning, who has matured into a fine young film star, Jesse Eisenberg, frighteningly brooding, and the always excellent Peter Sarsgaard.
  53. A lot of the information in The Martian will be incomprehensible to the lay audience and the climax is…well, not exactly original. But it makes for one hell of an entertaining ride.
  54. There is a lot to admire here. Writer-director Alejandro Monteverde (Bella) is not afraid to take his time letting you get to know the characters or moving things along, but the movie never seems ponderous.
  55. Another war biopic opening on Christmas day, with tight, two-fisted direction by Clint Eastwood, and a compelling centerpiece performance by Bradley Cooper.
  56. Fruitvale Station lacks the same global impact as Milk, but it’s still a harrowing film worth seeing and honoring for boldness and insight. It’s one of the most sobering must-see movies of the summer.
  57. The question is: how much should one talented but sensitive individual be willing to suffer for his art at the hands of one brilliant but terrifying bully? The two stars are fully committed to the concept that the pursuit of perfection doesn’t always triumph, and the film pounds in the temples with the feverish tempo of a jazz riff.
  58. As vital as it is, racial strife is a subject that cries out for a more volatile treatment than this. The Alabama marching sequences and resulting violence, filmed in Selma, where they actually happened, are too understated for my taste. And the home life of King and his vacillating wife Coretta are muted.
  59. Whatever you think of Mr. Gibson, whatever he has lost, he still has talent, and here displays acting of power and resonance. It's a pleasure, for a change, to see the best side of his split personality at work.
  60. The movie often seems too good to be true, but by the end I wanted a dolphin just like Winter for my own swimming pool.
  61. You go away exhilarated. The movie has been through as many hurdles getting here as dear, sweet Jolene, but sometimes the most engaging movies are the ones worth waiting for.
  62. Entertaining dialogue and a collection of tightly knit performances — especially a wonderful, unexpectedly funny star turn by Andy Garcia — make At Middleton a nice surprise.
    • 33 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Starts out as though it’s gearing up for romantic comedy terrain, but quickly confounds your expectations.
  63. Linus Sandgren’s lush camerawork and the glittering, throbbing musical score by A. R. Rahman contribute a distinctive flavor of their own. The performances are superb.
  64. Nimble, off the beaten track and very entertaining, it’s the cinematic equivalent of a lava lamp.
  65. It’s to the star’s immense credit that his spellbinding appeal provides a tension that the script’s funereal pace often lacks.
  66. The intelligence and unhackneyed humor of the believable, unself-conscious screenplay by fledgling director Mr. Zwick (son of veteran director Edward Zwick) deserves special praise. It never hits a false note.
  67. Creepy and serenely suspenseful, Martha Marcy May Marlene is a riveting study in what it's like to escape from a physically, psychologically abusive cult, and how hard it is to return to normal life after being brainwashed.
  68. The result is a somewhat reserved but sensual and gratifying movie that finds and polishes connections between literature and the screen while further catapulting the wonderful British actress Gemma Arterton several notches up the ladder toward international stardom.
  69. The awesome effects take over where the plot used to be, and although this is the end, my guess is that it will fire the imagination for years to come. What fun to feel like a kid again. I had a marvelous time.
  70. These are characters so repulsive that it's hard to care what happens to them, but it's to the credit of a superb cast that you do end up caring.
  71. Unfinished Song moves too slowly for its own good (mourning is doubly taxing in a country where it’s always raining), but it’s a great showcase for Terence Stamp.
  72. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner has done an elegant job of reducing a complex piece with many components into a riveting narrative that grabs you by the lapels and refuses to loosen its grip.
  73. Another example of concept over coherence, but the entertainment value is considerable.
  74. As an epic of awesome achievement, it never bores.
  75. A film of maturity and courage, one that kept me consistently engaged. Quite an accomplishment, really, for a new filmmaker on her first date with a camera.
  76. Intelligent, dignified and emotionally satisfying.
  77. Although Enough Said never really surmounts its TV sitcom style and structure, the director provides a nuanced entertainment that is enjoyable. She is aided beyond measure by the charisma of her two stars — especially Mr. Gandolfini, who reveals a side of himself we’ve never seen before.
  78. It's one of those revolting, raunch-fueled movies churned out in their sleep by the Farrelly brothers and Judd Apatow that I usually hate, but with real cleverness, off-center wit and edgy imagination. Imagine an X-rated Three Stooges farce, and you get the picture.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    There is much violence in The Devil’s Backbone , but there is also catharsis and redemption. As ghost movies go, The Devil’s Backbone is much less self-indulgent than the wildly overrated The Others.
  79. The physical abuse and emotional anguish sometimes borders on overkill, but the final outcome is overwhelming.
  80. The movie is about how he learns to show what's in his heart even when he can't find the spoken words to express his feelings aloud. Under the careful guidance of Mr. Nunez, Mr. Becker does both, in ways that reminded me of a Hispanic James Dean.
  81. A grim, toxic, psychological British thriller, brimming with surprises, that always manages to be quite a bit more than it appears on the surface.
  82. I can tell you only that this is a film unlike anything I've seen before-harrowing, haunting and sordid. Be forewarned, it is not for the squeamish. But take a chance and you will be rewarded with a work of nightmarish force that is unforgettable.
  83. What emerges is time pleasantly spent with a slice of life that examines a romantic détente between two cultures. Like smoke from an Egyptian hookah, the melancholia lingers.
  84. Solitary Man comes on the heels of last year's "A Serious Man" and "A Single Man," so it's small wonder that confusion reigns. But this film, co-directed by David Levien and Brian Koppelman (who also wrote the screenplay), is the best of the three.
  85. We Bought a Zoo has more soul than substance, but I'll be darned if it didn't put a smile on my face and keep it there.
  86. The best kind of horror film, about innocent people plunged into mind-boggling circumstances beyond their control.
  87. While the folks back at the Pentagon say stuff like “Where are our Navy Seals?” the audience is treated to jaw-dropping action sequences, enhanced by awesome special effects and staggering cinematography.
  88. The film investigates a gallery of kinks, fetishes, oddball turn-ons, and pent up sexual repressions like somnophilia (sex with someone who is asleep), dacryphilia (tears and sobbing), unconventional role-playing, and worse. The results are sad and often laugh-out-loud funny.
  89. Unpredictable, with a twisted surprise around each corner, Big Bad Wolves is a clever and arresting shocker from a country where blood and gore on the screen are least expected.
  90. A sweet, honest, well-acted and carefully constructed little film that truly lives up to its title.
  91. You won't find yourself yawning. It's a great double stretch for an actor and Mr. Cooper plays both the smoldering Latif and the bombastic Uday with combustible energy.
  92. Good Neighbors is a hotbed of twisted ideas with a straightforward yet novel approach to the Gothic horror in the hearts of mistakenly everyday people. Stressful and disconcerting but highly recommended, it gave me nightmares.

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