NPR's Scores

  • Movies
For 1,039 reviews, this publication has graded:
  • 60% higher than the average critic
  • 3% same as the average critic
  • 37% lower than the average critic
On average, this publication grades 4.5 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 66
Highest review score: 100 Stories We Tell
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
1,039 movie reviews
  1. W.
    A surprisingly unsurprising film.
  2. The plot fails to deliver a single surprise, however, and the characterizations are thin even by the standards of the tough-guy genre.
  3. A documentary that focuses rigorously on process and atmosphere at the expense of context and engagement.
  4. It's as if everyone involved in the film figured they could keep Hereafter from turning ghost-story hokey by making it grounded, beautiful and matter-of-fact. And it sort of works. There are no inadvertent giggles here; it just doesn't add up to enough, after.
  5. Doubt cast a long moral shadow on Broadway but seems blunter on screen, largely because Shanley's fussy directorial notions ... are less nuanced than the religious and moral arguments he's given his principal characters.
  6. For all their brutality, the fights are so seductive and exciting that their consequences - the physical and mental toll exacted from the men and their families - sometimes fail to register.
  7. Here and There has been compared to such Jim Jarmusch films as "Stranger Than Paradise," and "Lungulov" does emulate Jarmusch's deliberate pace, minimal dialogue, deadpan humor and strong sense of place. In fact, Belgrade is the movie's most compelling character, its tattered charm underscored by back-street New York locations that oddly evoke Eastern Europe.
  8. Though the film's simple story is squarely aimed at tots, DreamWorks' digitizers have referenced Eastern visual styles -- everything from delicate Chinese screens to flashy Japanese anime -- to enliven the look of the film.
  9. Kaplan keeps the story breezy and brisk, and provides his down-to-earthily modern fairy tale with an appropriately other-worldly visual style.
  10. The movie is crisp and contemporary enough to inaugurate another franchise for Statham.
  11. In short, Ritchie's come up with precisely what you'd expect of him — a pumped-up, anachronistically modern Sherlock Holmes designed for the ADD crowd. Expect a sequel. Or six.
  12. War of the Buttons deftly folds France's unsavory collusions into a rather more rousing tale of resistance. I don't doubt that some of these heroics happened. But the way they're framed conveniently takes the edge off saying sorry.
  13. The broad comedy clashes with the movie's final message: that 6,000 girls face genital mutilation every day.
  14. Spectacularly self-absorbed protagonists step on each other, jockeying first for position, and ultimately for survival.
  15. There are better special effects than last time, and Bella gets to be brave when it counts. All of which should be like a freshly opened vein for fans -- especially as it results in Eclipse ending up almost exactly where it started, with weddings still to come. Can you wait?
  16. As an investigation into American municipal corruption, Broken City is, well, damaged. But as an opportunity for hard-boiled types to trade threats, blows and caustic banter, this modern-day noir works reasonably well.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    So it's nice that, despite some cliched rhythms, the flawed-ex-con-makes-good drama LUV gets the details of childhood-cut-short heartbreakingly right.
  17. Director Saul Dibb, presumably knowing that this is pretty standard stuff for a costume epic, occupies us not just with the usual visuals -- of his star drifting through exquisitely furnished estates, draped in rich silks and brocades -- but also with some intriguingly offbeat sights.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    The director does pull off a pretty magnificent cornfield car chase - two sleek vehicles cut through a thick, shaggy carpet of maize like souped-up harvesters, the movie's way of saying that the simple country life needn't be devoid of thrills. But Jee-woon takes too long to wrap things up, fumbling repeatedly on his way to an ending.
  18. Historical records being what they are, the filmmakers are forced to speculate about certain things, but where facts are known they generally adhere to them.
  19. Triumph seems the wrong note for a feature film about mass murder. Yet Gallenberger insists on an old-school historical melodrama, with the darkest of terrors leavened by humor, tenderness and even romance. It's only the terror that rings true.
  20. Thanks to his major role in songwriting, Krieger is credited repeatedly, but the other two players recede as the band increasingly becomes The Jim Morrison Show.
  21. The protagonists of Late Bloomers have a problem, but it's not that they're getting older. Their dilemma is that they're reacting so differently to aging.
    • 37 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Given the feel-good themes of the average kids' movie — be yourself, follow the golden rule, love each other, blah blah blah — it's refreshing to see an animated comedy chuck that guck and focus on a real jerk.
    • 43 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    The Brass Teapot too often devolves into stale slapstick.
  22. The film never coheres. Trying to carve out a space between black comedy and straight evocation of a difficult but rewarding marriage, the movie never settles on a tone.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Rise of the Guardians is adapted from Joyce's book series The Guardians of Childhood. But the occasional Joycean touch aside, it bears so little resemblance to the look and feel of its source material that it ought to be considered an entirely different beast.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Coyle's vulnerable performance as Frank undermines the film's goal. Coyle expresses the weight of his exhaustion and the incredible debt hanging over him with a closed-off physicality and haunted eyes that prevent him from becoming a flat character.
  23. Sweet and well-intentioned, Sassy Pants is difficult to dislike, despite its missteps.
  24. Evincing more visible intelligence than any of his human co-stars aside from Lithgow, Caesar is disquietingly lifelike.
  25. Teresa's doggedness parallels the movie's own. Paradise: Love would be more compelling if it had a second act in which either its protagonist or one of her boy toys came to some sort of realization. Instead, Seidl's strategy is to reiterate and escalate, which is finally more exhausting than illuminating.
  26. The Purge is mostly a genre picture trying to layer on some prestige by way of social commentary. The latter falls flat; the film is actually stronger when it just goes for our baser instincts.
  27. Like most of LaBute's work, Some Velvet Morning ends as it begins, more clever than wise.
  28. The deliberate pace may suggest that the film is being thoughtful, but Let Me In is really just an exploitation movie with the confidence to take it slow.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    It's a simple and lovely movie, and particularly for people who haven't seen "Spellbound," it's a great introduction to the intriguing mix of parents - neurotic, loving, pressuring, calming - who raise great kids who do great things.
  29. Hysteria, a disappointingly limp ode to the invention of the vibrator, plays like a Merchant Ivory Production of "Portnoy's Complaint."
  30. Freakonomics' commercial success reflected the once-fashionable notion that economics could explain, well, everything.
  31. Genre aficionados are likely to revel in every crunched bone, gratuitous decapitation and slow-motion iron-maiden impaling.
    • 60 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    The film presents a stark choice: seek escape in vengeance and blame, or gamble on the freedom gained by embracing a new world, however scarred it may be.
  32. Based on its thrillingly fractured first half - not to mention "Moon" in its entirety - Jones seems much smarter than he allows the film to be in the end. It wriggles out of its own intriguing puzzle.
  33. Moore is always watchable, Ruffalo and Bernal get a nice rivalry going without ever establishing eye contact (as it were), and Danny Glover has some nice moments in an underdeveloped part as an older man who finds, to his benefit, that love is blind.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    The result is a self-conscious tone poem concocted from oblique camera angles, shots held longer than it takes a tadpole to reach maturity and nighttime images enhanced with a psychedelic glow. An alternate title for it might be "David Lynch, Gone Fishin'."
  34. Like the decent B-movie director that he is, Hyams tosses in two gripping car chases and blows up a few more vehicles for good measure. But otherwise, there's little in this pointless rehash to distract audiences from the pleasure of watching Tamblyn.
  35. The film's main problem — apart from its predictability and the sometimes unconvincing and cartoonish CGI for the army of giants — is that it never entirely commits to what kind of fantasy movie it wants to be.
  36. At times Francine feels like a documentary as well, an intimate observational work in the mode of Frederick Wiseman or the Maysles brothers, where the omnipresence of the camera puts the characters so at ease that they reveal subtle moments of character that they might otherwise hide out of self-consciousness.
  37. Following up his acclaimed debut feature "Down Terrace," a gangster drama that also mixed genre shocks with dark comedy and explosive family spats, Wheatley gives Kill List a discordant tone that makes it feel like a horror film even when it isn't.
  38. One Day ends up fatally compromised by its glib recourse to death and cancer as moral wake-up calls.
  39. The only character who stands out is a relentlessly clowning man-child named Taloche (James Thierree), but only as a symbol for the irrepressible spirit of an entire people.
  40. It's glorious while it lasts, but then the film goes back to figuring out how to keep its oversized vessel from taking on water.
  41. Rickman is too theatrical, and too British, to vanish entirely into the person of Hilly Kristal. But he's entertaining to watch, and ultimately one of the more persuasive actors in a movie that suffers from as many odd casting decisions as Lee Daniels' The Butler.
  42. After nearly 90 minutes of human folly, though, Surviving Progress can't very well conclude with a tribute to mankind. So, to end on a hopeful note, the movie turns to a chimp.
  43. The movie is, as these things go, enjoyably trashy.
  44. For a hymn to panic and hostility, the movie is curiously artful. But only the most sympathetic viewers will find that its poetry outweighs its belligerence.
  45. Loki is a skilled creation, but lacking that sense of why, it's hard not to think of him as an artistic construct rather than a character. The same goes for Prisoners, a work of impressive craftsmanship that winds up making us think too much about how it was fashioned rather than what it has to say.
  46. Oddly, Countdown to Zero ends by suggesting that viewers get those nukes abolished by texting their disapproval to a phone number listed in the credits -- as if the governments of China or North Korea (or the United States, for that matter) are just waiting for a gentle rebuke from civic-minded documentary viewers.
  47. A skilled cast is Blakeson's greatest asset in his attempt to elevate his material above its pulpy limitations. All three are better actors than this sort of movie might call for.
  48. The dude with the blond mane and bulging biceps clearly owns that hammer. And when the screenplay gives him something besides arrogance to work with, he owns the movie too.
  49. By movie's end, director Marcos Carnevale has made it possible for you to see Elsa through Fred's eyes. Love has bloomed late -- but with sweet exuberance -- in this romantic charmer.
  50. A preachy parable of suburban discontent, Shorts probably has enough kid-oriented slapstick to please the under-12 set. But it's not likely to rival writer-director Robert Rodriguez's "Spy Kids" series in long-term appeal.
  51. It's a cold-blooded business — and all sentiment aside, it's clear that Pineda is as replaceable as anyone.
  52. An entertaining concert film, but not an incisive character study.
  53. Oz the Great and Powerful tells the story of how the Wizard came to Oz, answering a question I suspect no one was asking, but with considerable digital wizardry.
  54. It's Liam Neeson at his Neesoniest, and yet another entry in his expanding late-career bloom into gruff and commanding action hero.
  55. Puzzle has some gentle fun with the clash of staid and hip.
  56. Ultimately, this intriguing but scattershot movie turns on the incompatibility of two worldviews - the corporate-financial vs. the environmental-spiritual.
  57. Long on hero worship and woefully short on insight, Lula: Son of Brazil oozes good intentions, but it wouldn't look out of place in a retrospective of early Soviet workerist cinema.
  58. The good news about Outrage, his grisly return to the genre, is that Kitano doesn't have to shake the rust off - his impeccable compositions and clean, minimalist sound design are still calibrated for maximum impact. Even as dozens of bodies pile up, each act of violence feels as bracing as the sound of a gunshot ripping through the night air.
  59. It was frantic sex that earned Shame an NC-17 rating, but this arty drama is mostly slow and methodical. And thoroughly unsexy.
  60. This China/Hong Kong co-production flips the formula: The fantastic images are solid, but the action is less substantial.
  61. German history and culture are among Sokurov's concerns in this visually compelling, intellectually scattershot movie.
  62. The documentary is at its best when it eases up on the adoration a little and turns to a serious discussion of the state of comics these days, what with newspapers on the decline and digital media scattering an art form that was once centralized on pages delivered to everyone's door.
  63. Behind the Burly Q traces that history all the way back to the early part of the 20th century, but doesn't really come into its own until Zemeckis can interview the stars themselves rather than their children.
  64. Best of all is the half-surreal, half-touching scene of the couple ordering Chinese delivery - needless to say, the tip is sizable - and inviting the courier to Skype his family one last time and share in a moment of common humanity.
  65. The effect is weirdly lulling. Viewers with a special connection to this story, or a weakness for little boys and single dads, may find The Boys Are Back moving. For everyone else, the movie is merely picturesque.
    • 28 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    The moody picture even swings toward hopeful in its final minutes, as it tries to celebrate Charles as the man he is, faults and all. It's enough to leave you wondering whether even a glimpse inside this mind is too much.
  66. By concentrating so intently on the psychically unattached Joby, Kim hinders dramatic and character development. Her "Treeless Mountain," the Korea-set saga of two young sisters, was also quiet and open-ended. But the interplay between the two girls provided warmth and depth. For Ellen feels both colder and slighter.
  67. The Words founders on a spurious dichotomy between love and art. Which is a pity, because the movie is smart and persuasive on the casually incremental way in which plagiarism becomes an option for people like Rory - and perhaps for anyone.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Although parts of Spring Breakers are very funny, there's also something tsk-tsking and superior about it, as if Korine had thought a lot about young middle America's idea of midsemester fun and decided he doesn't like it one tiny bit.
  68. As "Blood Simple" fans should expect, Noodle Shop is a comedy of presumed deaths and unexpected revivals, with some victims flat out refusing to stay in their shallow graves.
  69. Despite some very welcome black comedy — Jimmi Simpson appears delightfully, but too briefly, as a passive-aggressive co-worker who threatens to unravel the cocoon of delusion in which Emanuel has wrapped herself — the movie, trapped in the weeds of self-pity and skin-deep badassery, never quite earns the sympathy it so strenuously solicits.
  70. It's well made, polished, and hits every mark — but is it crazy to want a futuristic sci-fi action flick about a motorcycle-riding metal supercop to be just a little more fun?
  71. An incestuous payoff might be expected, given the casting of Green; she first attracted widespread attention in Bertolucci's "The Dreamers," as a young woman who is unusually close to her brother. But whatever happens, Womb is more melancholy than erotic.
    • 46 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Don't expect more than a passing summer breeze.
  72. It's an inspiring story, if one that doesn't need quite as much poetic inspiration as Ed Zwick's movie insists on giving it, with dialogue that's too often ornate and parable-inflected.
    • 47 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Zombies are a versatile source for metaphor, whether they represent a deadened consumerist society, a victimized minority or a worldwide medical disaster. In The Returned, they serve best as an unseen peril, one that's growing inside Alex and threatening to undo his and Kate's enviable existence.
  73. The movie has more sensibility than sense, but it seems cunning next to such silly tough-girl fare as "Kick-Ass" and "Sucker Punch."
    • 55 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    What it fails to supply much of — surprisingly, it must be said — is fun. This is serious business, Snyder seems always to be saying. This is badass. And given the sheer logistical size of the spectacle on display, it's a position that's hard to argue with.
  74. Winterbottom's 2004 film "9 Songs" is the most sexually explicit picture ever to get general release in Britain. Oddly, given its subject matter, The Look of Love turns out to be much tamer; as Raymond's shows and magazines become raunchier, the director sidesteps or actively censors the steamiest material.
  75. Circumstance is best during its simpler, more naturalistic moments. In one, Mehran rebuffs a junkie who stumbles into the mosque, only to see that an Islamic hardliner is more compassionate.
  76. In a rare bit of explication, the movie notes that "buffalo" has two connotations in Thailand. For rural folks, it refers to the strength and perseverance of the large animals, called "kwai" in Thai. To urbanites, however, a buffalo is a hick.
  77. Neil Jordan seems well aware that audiences may be feeling deep fatigue about vampires. So with his latest, the director of Interview With the Vampire makes a vampire film that seeks to reinvent the species, while harking back to a more classical — read: less sparkly — take on the genre.
  78. Almodovar is in party mode here, and if you liked his 1990 comedy "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" you'll probably love I'm So Excited! for its candied pastels and its impishly clever design, which transforms the plane into a theater and its galley into a staging area for those three theatrical stewards.
  79. The House I Live In shows Nannie Jeter as she hopefully watches Barack Obama's 2008 electoral victory, but doesn't analyze the current president's apparent reluctance to significantly alter anti-drug policies.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Each event's inherent banality is skewed slightly by the actors' matter-of-fact delivery and an external sense of dread amplified by the playfully ominous score, composed by Dupieux.
  80. The trouble with A Cat in Paris lies not in its orchestration, which is mostly impeccable, but with what little is being orchestrated. It's well plotted but a little rote, clever but a far cry from ingenious, attractive but not particularly evocative. When it ends, it leaves behind the faintest of paw prints.
  81. Provocative yet far from definitive, Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a critique of "breast-cancer culture." It could even be called a blitz on pink-ribbon charities and their corporate partners - though to use that term would be to emulate the war and sports metaphors the documentary rejects.
  82. The "casi" in Casi Divas translates to "almost," and it's an appropriate word for the film as a whole.
  83. Tron: Legacy revels in its over-the-top nature: the sharp contrast of inky blacks against vibrant neons, the bombastic clash of orchestral and synthetic elements in the soundtrack (by French electronic musicians Daft Punk), the trippy, sometimes incoherent ideas it presents.
  84. But the McManuses' skill with character detail does hold promise for future efforts. The boys in the film are on the verge of maturity; while there appears to be very little grace in their interactions with their church, they are just beginning to find some within their own characters. Perhaps that's appropriate for two directors who seem on the threshold of an artistic maturity hinted at by this first effort.
  85. Sfar's imaginative direction and the film's lush visual sense, along with a hugely charismatic performance by Eric Elmosnino in the title role, do manage to elevate much of the formula elements.

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