New York Observer's Scores

  • Movies
For 803 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 12 Years a Slave
Lowest review score: 0 The Divide
Score distribution:
803 movie reviews
    • 100 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    You have to see all 10 not because they add up to a coherent whole, but because each is excellent in a distinctive way. I don’t want to go into each of the plots in any detail because one of the joys of Decalogue is its flair for storytelling in the most enjoyable way imaginable.
  1. If the best films hold you in a captive vise, entertain you, keep you spellbound and teach you something at the same time, then 12 Years a Slave is outstanding — brave, courageous and unforgettable.
  2. Manchester by the Sea is the best movie of the year.
  3. Accept Gravity as pure, popcorn-munching show business fun and nothing else, and you won’t go away disappointed.
  4. Gorgeously photographed, sensitively written and directed, flawlessly acted, and deeply, intensely important, Carol is Todd Haynes’ most brilliant film since Far From Heaven and one of the triumphs of 2015.
  5. This film transcends its trendy, obvious limitations with enough vitality and vitriol to make it as informative and breathless as it is entertaining.
  6. As a realistic political thriller about Americans in harm's way it is not half as suspenseful or entertaining as "Argo." We may never know the truth about how we found bin Laden, but I still believe what we do know makes a strong enough story on its own without Wonder Woman.
  7. Mr. Spall, winner of the Cannes and New York Film Critics Circle best-actor awards, does his best to bring an unpleasant character to life — grunting and snorting like a boar ready to charge, spitting on his canvases and dragging around with a constant wince like a fat baby with colic. With all due respect, he’s too repulsive to watch for 150 minutes.
  8. Don't let Amour join the legion of "Best Films You Never Saw." I urge you to share its sweetness and wisdom, and learn something.
  9. The year is not over, but I’ve already seen my favorite film of 2015. It’s Thomas McCarthy’s brilliant, responsible, galvanizing and unforgettable Spotlight.
  10. 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.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Perhaps even more powerfully, the film informs us of stories we don’t know but should.
  11. American Hustle is an essay on the brilliance of corruption.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Get ready for a smash hit. Gimmicky but delicious, this is a valentine to the movies I promise you will cherish.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. As the actor of the year in the film of the year, I can't think of enough adjectives to praise Firth properly. The King's Speech has left me speechless.
  18. Wake in Fright is the closest a movie can get to a primal scream.
  19. An unrecognizable Michael Keaton seems to have aged 40 years since the last time he appeared on the screen, but he’s still the best (i.e., only) reason to suffer through a miserable load of deranged, deluded crap masquerading as a black comedy called Birdman.
  20. A sensitive, dewy-eyed yet mature performance by Saoirse Ronan is the appealing centerpiece of Brooklyn.
  21. All Is Lost is movie magic on many levels but most importantly as the rare opportunity to watch a seasoned actor at the pinnacle of his power.
  22. 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.
  23. This is a subtle, elegant and altogether triumphant film about a subject I thought I was tired of, told with an artistry and freshness that is positively thrilling.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. Lincoln is also a colossal bore. It is so pedantic, slow-moving, sanitized and sentimental that I kept pinching myself to stay awake - which, like the film itself, didn't always work.
  27. Too grim and heartbreaking for some viewers, Room is nevertheless an extraordinary film so powerful and unforgettable that it must be seen.
  28. The movie is wrenchingly slow — you know from the start that nothing is ever going to happen — but Nebraska has a charm that grows on you like a lichen, a wicked sense of humor that makes you laugh in spite of yourself, a concealed heart soft as a Hostess Twinkie, and a generous, welcome respect for the basic decency of the human race, more valuable than any lottery ticket.
  29. It doesn’t eventually add up to much, but the acting is deeply sincere, and I was touched in unexpected places.
  30. 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.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Both Hosseini and Alidoosti underplay their parts with an apparent naturalism. And, yet, Farhadi constantly reminds the audience that they are watching a movie, that these handsome folks are actors playing actors in a film.
  31. Argo is a triumph. It has tension, sincerity, mystery, artistic responsibility, entertainment value, technical expertise, a narrative arc and a thrilling respect for the tradition of how to tell a story with minimum frills and maximum impact. It's a great footnote to history, one of the best films of 2012 and a sure-fire contender on Oscar night.
  32. Call The Master whatever you want, but lobotomized catatonia from what I call the New Hacks can never take the place of well-made narrative films about real people that tell profound stories for a broader and more sophisticated audience. Fads come and go, but as Walter Kerr used to say, "I'll yell tripe whenever tripe is served."
  33. 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.
  34. Amy
    Never failed to hold me spellbound, even when I saw obvious spots where easy cutting would reduce the agony to a much more comfortable running time.
  35. Content to make movies for himself (Malick) that nobody else wants to see as long as he can find someone to foot the bill, he's also an iconoclast searching for significance. So am I, but not 138 minutes worth. Anyone seeking symmetry in this cinematic taffy pull risks emerging from it with a pretzel for a brain.
  36. 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.
  37. Who goes to the movies for 104 minutes of punishment? Where is John Wayne, now that we need him?
  38. 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.
  39. The result, in the case of Moonrise Kingdom, is what I call transcendentally brainless - an after school special aimed at asinine adolescents over the age of 40.
    • 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.
  40. The Descendants is a soap opera with Hawaiian shirts.
  41. 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.
  42. Dallas Buyers Club represents the best of what independent film on a limited budget can achieve — powerful, enlightening and not to be missed.
  43. Despite the title, which relates to a song by Van Halen, it is never clear what everybody wants some of, but the film does feature a cast of obviously talented, charismatic unknowns.
  44. Among the most gripping, well-paced, acted and directed, and generally thrilling of anything that I've seen (yet) this year.
  45. 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.
  46. For a story about a man who cannot move, the ordeal unfolds at a pace that keeps you breathless.
  47. A true masterpiece of visual enchantment. One of the most original and unique geniuses in cinema today, Mr. Chomet directed, wrote, illustrated and composed the music for this holiday jewel, an homage to the sweet, sad melancholia of the legendary French comic Jacques Tati.
  48. It is quirky, dark, much maligned by feminists and too slow for some tastes, but it's a work worth seeing again, and Ms. Weisz is wonderful in it.
    • 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.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Thankfully, refreshingly, The Spectacular Now never once feels like a cautionary tale.
  49. There’s no humanity in this grave disappointment that justifies the passion his fans feel for the father of the iMac. Steve Jobs and all of the characters around him fail to come to life in any absorbing fashion. They’re not real people; they’re all hashtags.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    The most striking thing about the love between Ben and George, the two men the movie focuses on, is how natural it seems.
  50. "Enemy" and "Sicario" were unspeakable disasters, and Arrival, the director’s latest exercise in pretentious poopery, gives me every reason to believe I have parted company with Denis Villeneuve for good.
  51. Blue Valentine is about real life, warts and all, over narrative conventions like action and plot mechanics. It is brutal, compassionate, beautiful in its ugliness and one of the bravest films of the year.
  52. Elegant and wrenching, Coming Home is a quiet, haunting masterpiece.
  53. Comprising three separate, unrelated and thoroughly inconsequential short stories about lonely, miserable women in the isolated landscape of Montana, Certain Women is the latest thumping bore from Kelly Reichardt, a writer-director-editor who makes bland, low-budget films about various hidden aspects of women’s lives they are reluctant to reveal, then take forever to do so.
  54. 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.
  55. It’s a riveting film and I understood every word.
  56. It’s an amalgam of dramatic all-American themes including ambition, paranoia, greed and the ice cubes in the blood that fuel the ruthless pursuit of success in the competitive world of sports. Color it hair-raising.
  57. The best thing about Beginners is the way it accepts every character in a nonjudgmental way.
  58. Never embroidered or rehearsed, the way so many biopics are, this is a wonderful movie that feels freshly observed, like an uninvited peek through some forbidden White House keyhole, at the woman we called Jackie.
  59. Exactly what you might expect from the fearless, controversial director of "Pulp Fiction" - it's overlong, raunchy, shocking, grim, exaggerated, self-indulgently over-the-top and so politically incorrect it demands a new definition of the term. It is also bold, original, mesmerizing, stylish and one hell of a piece of entertainment.
  60. Bond is back, and so is high-octane entertainment.
  61. Overwhelmed by bad country-western ballads, Two Step is flawed but it makes you laugh and cringe at the same time, and passes 90 minutes painlessly.
  62. In a film so ripe with temptations for posturing, exaggeration and satirical overacting, nobody is anything less than natural, unpretentious and funny as hell.
    • 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's a slow, repetitive, meandering, mostly overacted little picture - perfectly agreeable but nothing special, and directed with a steamroller by David O. Russell. Go figure.
  64. At 88, after nearly seven decades in show business, Ms. Stritch is sharp, funny, brittle, caustic, demanding, exaggerated, critical (especially of herself) and infuriating. She is also elaborately unique and awesomely brilliant.
  65. 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.
  66. Melancholia is his latest pile of undiluted drivel, nauseatingly filmed by a wonky hand-held camera and featuring a crazy, mismatched ensemble headed by Kirsten Dunst, who won an acting award in Cannes last year for looking totally catatonic.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 100 Critic Score
    That Bond so convincingly retains his composure and sang-froid throughout all the horrors that ensue is a testament to Mr. Craig’s abilities as an actor, and to Mr. Campbell’s astuteness as a director.
  67. The original western won John Wayne a puzzling and undeserved Oscar for finally falling off his horse. Don't expect the same miracle for Jeff Bridges. In the numbing hands of pretentious filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, history does not repeat itself in any way whatsoever.
  68. In one of the most wrenching performances I have seen on the screen in some time, it’s thrilling to watch a young actor with passion and charisma explore so many avenues of damage control with so much depth, allowing the viewer to grapple with an unsettling variety of personal emotions.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 50 Critic Score
    Senna's accomplishments are impressive, but his story seems more suited to an ESPN special than a feature-length film.
  69. The Sessions is fascinating, informative, engaging and heartbreaking stuff. Its easygoing, matter-of-fact tone makes it subtle and rewarding, not weird. Roses all around to all and sundry for one of the year's most captivating films.
  70. A joyous, well-researched and liberating film in the feel-good spirit of "Billy Elliot," "The Full Monty" and "Calendar Girls."
  71. It's all about personality and Joan's inimitable style, which fills every second of its 84 minutes.
  72. Preposterous, illogical, senselessly over-plotted and artificial as a ceramic artichoke, David Fincher’s Gone Girl is another splatterfest disguised as a psychological thriller about the disintegration of a murderous marriage that I find one of the year’s grossest disappointments.
  73. 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.
  74. Before the carnage ends, the entire cast has been tortured, mutilated and murdered by so many weapons it’s hard to keep them straight. When the shotguns, box cutters and machetes run out, it’s time to cue the flesh-eating attack dogs.
  75. 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.
  76. The best ensemble work of the year
  77. I Am Love fuses the past with the changing future in a marvelous traditional narrative without a shred of the sloppy trends of contemporary filmmaking.
  78. This exercise in hysteria is so over the top that you don't know whether to scream or laugh. Despite an emotionally gripping performance by Natalie Portman, it's nothing more than a lavishly staged "Repulsion" in toe shoes.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 88 Critic Score
    In the process, Schamus creates not only a meaningful and moving snapshot of an America on the cusp of redefining itself, but also a cinematic hybrid few of us thought possible: the literary college sex comedy.
  79. 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.
  80. The movie moves as slowly as the oncoming fog, but Juliette Binoche is always a pleasure to watch, despite an awkward coda set in London that I found jarring.
  81. Richly chronicled characters, sharp dialogue and that stupendous centerpiece performance by Cate Blanchett are contributing factors in the best summer movie of 2013 and one of the most memorable Woody Allen movies ever.
  82. At a time when every penny counts, where do they come up with the money to finance a movie this boring?
  83. I certainly wish Ms. Johansson hadn’t shown up at all. She’s never less than interesting to watch, but Under the Skin is a big waste of her time.
  84. Halfheartedly, I give The Dark Knight Rises - the third and final Batflick in the Nolan trilogy - one star for eardrum-busting sound effects and glaucoma-inducing computerized images in blinding Imax, but talk about stretching things.
    • 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.
  85. When it finally ended, I felt like I had traveled the distance in the next sleeping bag. It’s exhausting but exhilarating.
  86. Paddington is a harmless delight that blends live action with animated technology in the manner of "Ted," but without the raunch.
  87. Has moments of heart-pounding suspense and brief glimmers of greatness, thanks to fine performances by Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams, but overall feels uneven, sprawling and strangely incomplete.
  88. A dreary bummer.

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