New York Observer's Scores

  • Movies
For 800 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 5.7 points lower than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 56
Highest review score: 100 Café Society
Lowest review score: 0 The 5th Wave
Score distribution:
800 movie reviews
  1. It’s to the star’s immense credit that his spellbinding appeal provides a tension that the script’s funereal pace often lacks.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Another example of concept over coherence, but the entertainment value is considerable.
  10. As an epic of awesome achievement, it never bores.
  11. 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.
  12. Intelligent, dignified and emotionally satisfying.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Perhaps even more powerfully, the film informs us of stories we don’t know but should.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    While the film plays lip service (perhaps one too many times) to the healing power of music, it is really about how self-deception fuels and sustains. It may not keep us alive, but it will keep us going while we here.
  15. The physical abuse and emotional anguish sometimes borders on overkill, but the final outcome is overwhelming.
  16. Another riff on the aftermath of tragedy, Tumbledown is the meaningless title of a tender but clumsy romantic comedy.
  17. Bring plenty of Kleenex. A nickel pack won’t do.
  18. 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.
  19. A grim, toxic, psychological British thriller, brimming with surprises, that always manages to be quite a bit more than it appears on the surface.
  20. 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.
  21. It’s too twisted and implausible to be everybody’s cup of tea, but it keeps you glued to the screen from beginning to end. Boredom and bathroom breaks are not an option.
  22. 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.
  23. Nothing much revelatory here, but what makes the movie a keeper is the energy of director Ben Younger (Boiler Room) and the charisma of Miles Teller, the sensational young actor from "Whiplash," who invests the role of a prizefighter with the same intensity he brought to the role of an obsessively driven drummer in that film.
  24. A saucy, twinkling star performance by Michael Keaton make this one of the must-see entertainments of the year.
  25. The most moving moments in Sully occur in a coda that introduces the actual passengers and crew who lived through the experience and Sully himself. No movie defines heroism with the same impact as reality itself.
  26. As a movie, it lacks the unlimited manpower to equal Hacksaw Ridge, but as a dramatic postscript to the factors that led to Japanese surrender, its power and importance are undeniable.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. The best kind of horror film, about innocent people plunged into mind-boggling circumstances beyond their control.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    A head-spinning, whirling dervish of an action movie.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. A sweet, honest, well-acted and carefully constructed little film that truly lives up to its title.
  34. 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.
  35. Diary of a Chambermaid doesn’t quite add up to the chronicle of decadent abuse endured by the servant class in turn of the century France that it hopes to be, but it’s still worth seeing as another entry in the rise of Léa Seydoux, a star of Gallic charisma if ever I’ve seen one.
  36. 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.
  37. Downbeat, depressing and heavy as lead, Calvary is nevertheless an unusual film that never bores. Impeccable performances by Chris O’Dowd, Aiden Gillen, M. Emmett Walsh and Kelly Reilly are riveting. And Mr. Gleeson is a bear-like centerpiece of conflicts and contradictions who anchors the floating pieces of the Irish puzzle in faith and doctrine, while mercifully refusing to sermonize.
  38. Accept Gravity as pure, popcorn-munching show business fun and nothing else, and you won’t go away disappointed.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    In the hands of these two talented and well-matched actors, Into the Forest proves that this bond is powerful enough to sustain us.
  39. It’s one of the most powerful films about the Arab-Israeli conflict that has ever been attempted on the screen.
  40. It overcomes inescapable boxing and martial arts clichés and leaves you thoroughly sated, energized and wanting more.
  41. A sobering, documentary-style film commemorating eyewitness accounts of what happened in the aftermath of the tragedy, some of them fresh as a new wound, all of them painful but vital to a deeper understanding of one of the darkest chapters in American history.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    The film effectively explores nature of identity, celebrity, and the creative process in a way that is satisfying, even if many of the questions it raises don’t go entirely answered.
  42. A documentary so real and unflinching (and at times deeply frightening) that it's hard to watch, but it is one of those film experiences that you'll feel glad about getting through.
  43. Soberly and responsibly, a small but significant film called Inhale, starring the underrated, charismatic and terrifically accomplished Dermot Mulroney, has arrived without fanfare or big-budget ad campaigns to capture some well-deserved attention.
  44. Come What May is not exactly a new idea but a sensitive, polished and carefully executed film anyway, extremely thoughtful and well worth seeing.
  45. 42
    It’s a perfectly unexceptional but slickly made, sincerely acted, often entertaining, sometimes manipulative and always watchable blend of action on the diamond and bravery behind the scenes that will please baseball fanatics more than movie historians. It’s a good enough biopic to make you wish it were a better motion picture.
  46. Despite occasional flaws, Disconnect is filled with fine performances, informed by an often sophisticated script and directed with passion.
  47. All told, Equals is a feast for the eye that leaves you with a troubling contemplation of the future.
  48. Five Star Day is a respectable and intelligent little film.
  49. Equally touching and disturbing, the French film Standing Tall is an outstanding work of social realism by actress and writer-turned-director Emmanuelle Bercot.
  50. This film is too long for a documentary, and only a true Sidney Lumet fan is likely to sit through nearly two hours of it undistracted. Still, it’s a fascinating exploration of how a great mind worked by allowing the quality of his scripts to determine the style of each film—including not only the inner life but the camera, the clothes, the entire visual approach.
  51. So in spite of its flaws, La La Land has moments of pleasure and satisfaction that are worth the price of admission. It’s not that it’s a bad movie; it’s just not an outstanding entertainment, the way great movies (especially musicals) should be.
  52. The effect is genuinely creepy, but do not even think of seeing Buried if you suffer from claustrophobia.
  53. The case is revisited with painstaking detail, and a riveting picture emerges once again about misunderstood outsiders.
  54. The result is the kind of harrowing suspense that doesn’t come around very often, charged and informed by another powerful, galvanizing performance by the great Christopher Plummer.
  55. The actors are so exemplary that it is difficult to imagine this is not a documentary. They might not be household names, but they will be.
  56. In the avalanche of junk about aliens, alternate universes, digital effects and comic-book superheroes, it is a rare treat to see a sweet, low-budget film about real people that is as ingratiating as Lebanon, Pa.
  57. As much as I liked it, I have to admit Run & Jump is a work of no action — of love unrequited, feelings unexpressed and goals never reached. Sitting through it requires great patience. I don’t think this is an Ireland that would interest John Ford.
  58. Written and directed by Mike Pavone, with a fine, understated, atypical performance by Ed Harris, it may be a feel-good family picture centered on kids, but it offers talismans to live by for people of all ages.
  59. Special praise goes to Alex Wolff as Jamie and Stefania Owen as his sympathetic, agreeable girlfriend Dee Dee, and veteran actor Chris Cooper makes a complex but astonishingly convincing cameo as the great Jerome David Salinger himself. I went to Coming Through the Rye expecting nothing and left feeling enriched, enlightened and warm all over.
  60. It is all very-very-very entertaining.
  61. It’s not for the squeamish, but thanks to a riveting central performance by Vanessa Hudgens and a compassionate screenplay by Ron Krauss, who also directed, this is a far more sobering and substantial exposé of homeless teenage girls on the dangerous edge of society than you might expect.
  62. Fair Game is an important exposé of corrupt political power gone toxic. It's good enough that it deserves to be better.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Despite a too-long third act, dragging action sequences and an epilogue that would have been better left on the cutting room floor, the wordy wit and ingenuity of The World’s End is a sloppy triumph over this summer’s other alien/robot hybrid flick, "Pacific Rim."
  63. It has warmth, humor and an understated sweetness that is not to be taken for granted.
  64. Okay, The Prey is ridiculous hokum that proves the French can make overwrought Hollywood thrillers with the same indefatigable energy and implausible realism as anyone else. It is also a slick, suspenseful adrenalin rush disguised as unexpected, nerve-wracking fun.
  65. The power in this movie is the way Chris Weitz trusts us to discover the facts for ourselves.
  66. Desierto is an action thriller that delivers unforgettable punches at a feverish pace. You won’t doze through this one.
  67. It’s a tormented Tony Perkins at the Bates Motel, re-imagined by "Saturday Night Live," with all the risks implied.
  68. Director Dolan gets the feeling of emptiness so right that anyone who has ever known the heartbreak of a crushing affair can easily identify, even with subtitles.
  69. No contemporary film that promotes love instead of war should be overlooked. Private Romeo will undoubtedly be regarded by some as a curio, but it's a sweet, sympathetic and surprising one, highly recommended to the adventurous spirit in an enlightened and changing world.
  70. A rewarding family film indeed, at a time when we badly need one.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    David Lowery’s quietly beautiful new film, his most ambitious to date, is at first glance a standard love story, set in the American West of what appears to be the early 1970s. Over time, however, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints transcends its plot, revealing itself as a cinematic meditation on the daunting power of loneliness.
  71. The best thing about Beginners is the way it accepts every character in a nonjudgmental way.
  72. Aiysha Hart delivers a mesmerizing performance.
  73. It's still worth seeing for its two dazzling centerpieces.
  74. Under Craig Zisk’s frisky direction, the entire cast is superb and wrinkle-free. The screenplay, by husband-wife team Dan and Stacy Chariton, is thin as a poker chip but as clever as it is contrived.
  75. Has more charm and wit than most of its J.D. Salinger-inspired cousins in the same genre, and is undeniably engaging.
  76. The film, written and directed by Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz, is slow as Christmas, but the two protagonists grow on you, like a Virginia creeper vine climbing a garden wall.
  77. Ted
    Most of Ted eludes description, analysis and explanation. You just have to hold onto your own certifiable sense of humor and let Mr. MacFarlane take you where he wants to go. Then get out of the way and enjoy it.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Blue Caprice, a disturbingly intimate look at the Beltway sniper attacks of 2002, isn’t a horror film, but it certainly feels like one.
  78. This is a rare feel-good treat that nudges the heartstrings and makes you feel optimistic about the human race.
  79. A first film by theater director Thea Sharrock, it goes down smooth as sherry.
  80. You get compassion and intelligence instead of cracker-barrel homilies. And you get mesmerizing performances.
  81. It's a fascinating film that I enjoyed thoroughly.
  82. Hey, Boo solves the mystery of Boo, and also, to some degree, the mystery of Harper Lee. It's a fine film, well worth seeing.
  83. The May-December romance is an overworked genre, but steady hands guide this one with intelligence to a sad but satisfactory conclusion.
  84. Mr. Baumbach has a knack for capturing real-life dialogue--particularly and hilariously how people tend not to listen to the person on the other side of the conversation.
  85. Pop songs, beautiful bucolic scenery and the joy of watching Jane Fonda fizz in a fun role that looks like a no-brainer are elements that a skilled director like Australia's polished Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) blends with perfection.
  86. This movie will undoubtedly be compared to the Brangelina mashup Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and with good reason-it has the same combo of quips and physical tricks, the same somewhat overwhelming chemistry between its two leads.
  87. Jane Fonda's first French-speaking film in 40 years finds her leading a joyous ensemble of septuagenarians in a sweet, thoughtful and spirited examination of how to grow old with dignity and pride in a regrettable era when senior citizens have been reduced to the status of a political agenda.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    As much as May in the Summer is a comedy — May and her mischievous sisters may remind you of The Three Stooges — it is also an intimate and demystifying look at life in Amman, where the movie was actually filmed.
  88. The result is a film of great humanity that reveals Albania as a primitive region struggling to bridge the gap between medieval European customs and the tide of progress.
  89. The point of The Iceman is “Even monsters are human,” but it takes a great actor to make a dubious theme convincing.
  90. So it’s less bloody and gruesome than "12 Years a Slave." But make no mistake about it; the legion of protestors with no plans to see The Birth of a Nation is growing.

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