New York Observer's Scores

  • Movies
For 812 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 6 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 56
Highest review score: 100 Made in Dagenham
Lowest review score: 0 Oldboy
Score distribution:
812 movie reviews
  1. Don't miss this one. A brave and inspired antidote to time-wasting mainstream movies, it is unlike anything you've seen before or will likely ever see again. In short, it is unforgettable.
  2. The heart of the film derives from the fact that the more they all get to know each other, the more they all mature and their differences blend. The title comes from a lesson in Huckleberry Finn—that a lie is good if it helps others, the way Huck lied to save Jim from the slave traders.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 88 Critic Score
    Lovelace may be a movie about a porn star, but it’s not pornographic. At least, not sexually.
  3. It's a delectable slice of Southern Gothic humor, a side show of rednecks and Bubbas and Aunt Tooties.
  4. This meticulously nuanced, sensitively acted film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire gives Nicole Kidman her best role in years, and she chews it like raw steak.
  5. The tender magnetism of Blythe Danner turns an intelligent, sensitive story of love among the not so young into a work of art.
  6. Carefully directed and gorgeous to look at, with haunting performances and maximum suspense.
  7. A joyous, well-researched and liberating film in the feel-good spirit of "Billy Elliot," "The Full Monty" and "Calendar Girls."
  8. American Hustle is an essay on the brilliance of corruption.
  9. Handsomely mounted, skillfully acted, exquisitely photographed and genuinely touching, Testament of Youth is one of those rare film experiences that is just about perfect.
  10. Directed with polish and restraint by Ritesh Batra, this is a gripping film that seizes your focus and never lets go. If this one fails to move you, then you don’t really care much about the power of movies.
  11. The result is a movie of enormous intelligence.
  12. An upscale, high-concept $40 million futuristic epic by the visionary South Korean director Bong Joon-ho. It’s too gruesome to recommend to everyone without reservation, but if you love movies, you can’t afford to miss it.
  13. It is without question the best dog movie since "Lassie Come Home."
  14. Mr. Hanks, in yet another in a long line of diverse character studies, does a beautiful job as the voice of reason and logic, trying to inspire bravery and maintain order amid the noise and panic. In the big emotional scenes, as well as the small, nerve-jangling scenes, he is an artist at the top of his skill.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 88 Critic Score
    Despite extremely unpleasant material, he (Schwimmer) coaxes subtle, incredible performances from his cast and builds a tense, arresting narrative.
  15. Charming, insightful and funny, The Meddler takes familiar material (the mother from Hell and the daughter from Hunger) and infuses it with affectionate, slap-your-thigh humor. It also crowns Susan Sarandon with one of her most endearingly irresistible roles in years.
  16. Deadfall is an above-average genre piece with a terrific cast that builds to a bloody Thanksgiving dinner shoot-out I found pretty close to unforgettable.
  17. For the most part, this is a film with a pulse that wastes no time—a highly invigorating crowd pleaser that does nothing momentous but packs a big entertainment wallop doing it.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.”
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. Bryan Cranston brings the complex personality of Trumbo to life with substance and humor.
  23. It's a film that deserves to be seen, savored, debated and given serious attention.
  24. 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.
  25. This film transcends its trendy, obvious limitations with enough vitality and vitriol to make it as informative and breathless as it is entertaining.
  26. Like "Moneyball," this is real movie making that packs a solid entertainment punch.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    The stunning visuals and beautifully conceived milieu distract the viewer from the fact that the quest structure of the story is McGuffin-like and the conclusion emotionally muddled.
  31. I found it flawed but fascinating, and a no-fail showcase for Tina Fey’s real talents as a serious actress. Best of all, this movie is never boring for a single minute.
  32. It keeps you creeped out and fascinated.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. Kristin Scott Thomas breathes new life into a woman who was invented by Flaubert and copied by Francoise Sagan.
  36. 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.
  37. 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.
  38. It’s as exhilarating as any epic American thriller, and better than most. Racing pulses and a state of awe and terror are guaranteed.
  39. Flawed but bittersweet and enjoyable, this film may be the final chapter in a colorful and illustrious life.
  40. As valiant and important as the film is, Alone in Berlin is not perfect. The director is the French actor Vincent Perez, whose commitment to the material is obvious, but whose lack of experience (it’s only his third effort behind the camera) shows badly.
  41. 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.
  42. 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.
  43. 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.
  44. 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.
  45. It’s in the music that I Saw the Light best demonstrates how a tormented man named Hank Williams revolutionized the essence of country songs into a joy embraced by millions.
    • 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.
  46. Richard Gere gives his most uncompromising three-dimensional performance in 20 years.
  47. 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.
  48. It’s a riveting film and I understood every word.
  49. 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.
  50. 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.
  51. 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.
  52. A charming, beautifully photographed modern fairy tale about love and gardening, This Beautiful Fantastic is worth seeing in spite of its dumb deterrent of a title.
  53. Wonderful, honest and low-key performances inform and enhance The Yellow Handkerchief, an otherwise unexceptional little drama.
  54. 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.
  55. Bond is back, and so is high-octane entertainment.
  56. It’s far superior to what usually comes out of the British slums in the genre of gangland thrillers.
  57. Ms. Bening does a touching, masterful job of conveying real emotional pain.
  58. 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.
  59. A tender showcase for a different kind of Jerry Lewis that utilizes the strengths and frailties of a 90-year-old show business survivor as few films have ever done.
  60. Sleep Tight is a creepy - but highly effective and superbly made - horror movie from Spain in which the monster is spine-tinglingly human.
  61. 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.
  62. 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.
  63. 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.
  64. 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.
  65. 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.
  66. 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.
  67. The theme is nothing new, and the film has no shortage of clumsy biopic clichés, but sometimes we need to see the simplicity of humanity at its best. On that score, this movie delivers in spades.
  68. 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.
  69. It doesn’t eventually add up to much, but the acting is deeply sincere, and I was touched in unexpected places.
  70. 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.
  71. The question is, How big an audience is ready to relive the horror of a tragedy so close to home, especially in the light of the terrorist attacks that continue to assault our senses daily?
    • 75 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    The show, however, belongs to Batman and Will Arnett. This is a movie that will be enjoyed heartily and repeatedly.
  72. 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.
  73. Paddington is a harmless delight that blends live action with animated technology in the manner of "Ted," but without the raunch.
  74. 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?
  75. The actors are superb. The nuanced writing and direction have insight. The three-dimensional portrayals of women in the rural South during the war are praiseworthy.
  76. Walking With the Enemy is a powerful piece of filmmaking that examines history and heroism with big-screen artistry, imagination and thrills.
  77. Seeking Justice is an intense thriller so full of shocks it keeps you wired from start to finish.
  78. 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.
  79. Kate Beckinsale is marvelous as a ruthless baddie in a bustier, and in summation, Love & Friendship gives off a lovely, restrained glow at a time in films when almost everything else has the subtlety of headlights.
  80. 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.
  81. 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.
  82. 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.
  83. Another war biopic opening on Christmas day, with tight, two-fisted direction by Clint Eastwood, and a compelling centerpiece performance by Bradley Cooper.
  84. 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.
  85. 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.
  86. 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.
  87. 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.
  88. 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.
  89. 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.
  90. 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.

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