NPR's Scores

  • Movies
For 1,028 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 4.4 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 66
Highest review score: 100 A Separation
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
1,028 movie reviews
    • 68 Metascore
    • 80 Critic Score
    Whether or not you agree with its underlying critique of existing drug policy, How To Make Money Selling Drugs is an ambitious, creative attempt to talk in a single film about everything from the disparate treatment of black and white dealers to the influence of asset forfeiture on law-enforcement strategies to the devastation of Mexico's drug war.
  1. I'm guessing Humpday will make its natural, easygoing leading men -- Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard -- much sought after.
  2. By the end of Somewhere, all I could summon up was a fervent wish-you-well - not for him, but for his beguiling elf of a child.
  3. Everything that felt clumsy in The Hunger Games has been improved upon here. That's most apparent in the clarity of the action, but it also extends to how efficiently the film establishes so many new ensemble members.
  4. In one of the film's most fascinating moments, Klosterman asks Murphy what his biggest failure was. After uncomfortably dodging the question at first, Murphy admits that the only thing he thinks he might regret is quitting.
  5. The film plays by genre rules - explicit gore included - even as it turns them on their severed head.
  6. Stylistically unremarkable, playing it safe with structure, the film is still quietly revelatory.
  7. Cloud 9 is most moving when it steps quietly into the gap between physical decline and the persistence, at full blast, of unfulfilled longing and desire.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Neil Barsky's documentary Koch captures the essence of this very big personality - though if the film were even two minutes longer, it might constitute Koch overload. Luckily, Barsky knows when enough is enough, even if his subject doesn't.
  8. An intriguingly complex portrait of both of its characters and of the time of flux they live in.
  9. But lo! Isn't that Owen Wilson, blond and goyische to the gills, yet faithfully replicating the put-upon slump of the Allen shoulders, the quavering stammers about art vs. success, literature vs. Hollywood?
  10. Both Jeff and the film have a way of sneaking up on you.
  11. The movie's principal liability is that most of the music is highly derivative. Ghobadi spends a lot of time on songs that are more interesting sociologically than musically.
  12. Like zombie auteur George Romero at his best, Grau locks his sights on his social commentary of choice and goes after it with the zeal of a 19-year-old cannibal girl sinking an ax into the skull of her next meal. The result is messy, but it makes more than a meal.
  13. Director P.T. Anderson isn't generally a guy you go to if you're looking for answers. Questions are more his game, and that's as true here as it was in his far more serious pictures "The Master" and "There Will Be Blood." He is a terrific stylist, though, and the scattershot pleasures he's peddling in Inherent Vice may well satisfy those who like style more than substance, or maybe who like their style with substances.
  14. The sexual tension in Venus in Fur acquires a few specifically Polanski-esque layers.
  15. So it makes sense that Young Adult feels at times like a mashup of styles and genres - part curdled rom-com, part psycho-prom-queen flick, with a little "Revenge of the Nerds" thrown in.
  16. Director Guillermo del Toro knows that the charm in the clash of scale - or armor-plated titans isn't necessarily tied to the low budgets and laughable production design of those guilty-pleasure TV shows. And with Pacific Rim, he cracks the code.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    A quietly appalled we-really-oughta-do something documentary in the mode of "Food, Inc." or "An Inconvenient Truth."
  17. 17 Girls has a powerful and loving sense of place.
  18. Likable as this full-hearted and uplifting movie is, though, I wish that Beresford had not fallen into the familiar trap of dividing Chinese characters into two roles: brutal, ideology-spouting apparatchiki; or parable-spouting, salt-of-the-earth proletarians, the better to show off by contrast the open society of the West.
  19. Not until the film's surprisingly touching finale do we learn the source of that friction, in a delicately handled sequence that retroactively floods the story with satisfying context.
  20. Police, Adjective has considerable power, and the issues it raises linger in the mind.
  21. All these characters make a beautiful mess together, even if McCarthy spends too much time tidying it up.
  22. This was an era when international travel was not yet common, and in 16mm home movies from the trip, you can see the excitement as 1940s cities burst into gaudy state welcomes for the creator of El Raton Mickey.
  23. The truthfulness of Winstead's performance - and those of her co-stars, too - has a steadying influence on James Ponsoldt's modest drama, which at times seems in danger of failing a sobriety test.
  24. Ends with a big action sequence, turning into Raiders of the Lost Arby's when you wish it would serve up something less conventional. But by that time, the filmmakers have also served up a little food for thought, along with a lot of laughs.
  25. Probably the most artful of the Apatow Factory comedies so far, but that's not to suggest it doesn't take being sweetly dumb just as seriously as the rest.
  26. Freeman's Mandela, however, is pretty marvelous -- so persuasive in gesture, in bearing, in that signature mix of gravitas and twinkle, even in accent -- that when a shot of the real Mandela appears over the final credits, it's momentarily jarring to realize you've been watching an impersonation.
  27. By and large, the tone is gentle, the music French, and the food shot so delectably that you can all but smell the freshly baked bread.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    When you're young, there's just so much to misunderstand about the world. And isn't that kind of what makes it such fun?
  28. For Soldini, even bleakness has a poetic side, and his imagery is occasionally breathtaking here -- never more so than in the film's final tableau, which elegantly connects a Renaissance fresco Elsa had been working on before the couple's fall from grace with a strikingly similar real-life image suggesting the possibility of a renaissance in their marriage.
  29. The visual jokes -- one standout is an army of ogres condemned by the Pied Piper to perpetual line-dancing -- are pretty irresistible.
  30. Flashy and fun, and a nifty showcase for Yen.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    De Palma is such a dazzling stylist that for most of Passion, you'll find it perfectly acceptable to let the visuals wash over you, paying only passing attention to the plot.
  31. As a satire of the insurance industry, and more implicitly of religious hypocrisy, Cedar Rapids is mild stuff. But the movie has a nice lived-in feel, and a sense that its comedy has been earned.
  32. Unmade in China is nominally about filmmaking, but what Kofman and Barklow do well is to use their unusual position within the Chinese state machine to make a thinly veiled movie about politics.
  33. Disconnect is naturally gripping. Using unforgiving closeups, Rubin pokes into unexpected corners— not least the different ways in which men and women respond to calamity — and never forces his story's social-media scares to improbable heights.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Trance really belongs to Dawson and Cassel. When Dawson's Elizabeth steps onto the scene, you may be instantly convinced — without the aid of hypnosis, even — that she's surely the most effective hypnotist on the planet.
  34. Using de Chabannes as the film's conscience and moral fulcrum, Tavernier - just as he did in his 1996 film "Captain Conan" - exposes the shame of a meaningless war and the psychological damage borne by those fighting it.
  35. After sitting at his elbow that day, I can tell you how he manages the tricks I saw really close-up. Not mysterious at all: It's magic, pure and simple.
  36. With most of its voices hailing from Broadway, it's a good bet the composers have one eye fixed on a future stage incarnation; makes sense, then, that there'd be references to a couple of Disney's Broadway hits. The opening number sounds a lot like "The Lion King"; then there's a "Beauty and the Beast"-style tour of the town.
  37. At its best, The Punk Singer tells the story of one pivotal life in a whole movement. Both Anderson and Hanna are at pains to avoid giving the impression that one singer carried the movement single-handedly.
  38. Epstein and Friedman's doc-like approach also results in a certain dramatic stasis; Howl is a film aimed more for the head than the gut.
  39. Though most will visit R.J. Cutler's subtle, supple documentary hoping to peek beneath the formidable bangs of Vogue editor Anna Wintour, they will be disappointed: This is a movie whose ambitions range wider than the contents of her guarded psyche.
  40. Edwards is a wizard with his laptop's effects program. The squiddy things he conjures up look like the real deal - thoroughly creepy and a gazillion feet tall. Too bad his screenwriting software didn't have an equivalently impressive plot-twisting algorithm to get him to the final fade.
  41. Like many neglected offspring, Gregory comes across as an eternal child himself, hooked on his capacity to enchant but rarely able to listen to anyone other than the actors over whom he has such power.
  42. Illness, death, bad fathers and bad marriages, suppressed old loves — there's nothing new here, yet we are held by the way ordinary suffering has hardened into an emotional prison for three old friends.
  43. Berg is relentlessly unsparing.
  44. Leaving this improbably feel-good movie, you'll wish Robbie all the luck in the world, and the mentors to go with it.
  45. Jaoui's insights into the human struggle to find meaningful ways to live may not be especially profound, but she brings a warm particularity and a tough but tender compassion to her studies of congenital human discontent and the crazy, often self-defeating ways in which we strive to complete ourselves. If that's bourgeois, we might all plead guilty.
  46. Nair likes to have fun even when her material is somber, and for this movie she deploys a rich palette and a multi-culti but mostly kitsch-free score that fuses old and new with a lovely Sufi devotional piece, and is peppered with Pakistani pop.
  47. Sentimental? Certainly, but in a part of the world where hope and optimism haven't shown their faces in a long time, it's hard not to feel carried along by the generously conciliatory spirit that warms The Other Son, as it did "The Band's Visit." Movies have rarely been known to change the world, but you never know.
  48. The resulting documentary, Finding Vivian Maier, might better have been titled Constructing Vivian Maier — not because the filmmakers came up empty-handed, but because what they found out sheds too neat and tidy a light on her unsparing, yet warmly sympathetic portraits of the denizens of Chicago's seamy underside.
  49. The cast is more than game. DeWitt's Abby is earnest and searching and a little bit nuts, but we're never encouraged to see her as dumb, credulous or pathetic.
  50. A film in which everyone is lusting after the wrong person, and consummating those desires tends to lead to awkward - but not funny, unlike Dunham's usual projects - disasters of various scales.
  51. Cross may not earn the broad recognition he deserves for his performance in It's a Disaster, a droll apocalypse comedy of exceedingly modest scale and even more modest commercial appeal. But it's still a master class in how to play the straight man right.
  52. There's no denying its status as a rousing and thoroughly enjoyable Old Hollywood-style adventure.
  53. The banter has zip, the effects are fun, the climactic battle is decently spectacular, and if the 3-D is mostly expendable, there are a few scenes where it adds a nice kick.
  54. A splendidly plotted if thematically unsurprising comedy. The pleasure comes not from fresh insights, but from a droll script and expertly timed performances.
  55. The Secret World of Arrietty may be too gentle and meditative to be the studio's breakout hit in this country, but it's another sweet advance, and further evidence that the Ghibli secret must soon out.
  56. Looper, a cocky sci-fi tale with more brass than substance, is rife with these "Say what?" moments.
  57. What sets Dupieux's film apart is its unexpected secondary dimension: an absurdist meta-commentary on cinema itself that hilariously articulates the notion that the movies stop existing the moment we stop watching, like the sound of an unobserved tree falling in the forest.
  58. A bit abrupt about its mood-changing revelations and a bit sketchy about its put-out-to-pasture characters. But it's a warmly engaging romp nonetheless.
  59. This film exists purely to dazzle and thrill, and by that measure, it delivers expertly, never lagging despite a lengthy 133-minute running time.
  60. An evocative overview of anti-gay hysteria in the 1960s, a period when homosexuality was illegal in every state except Illinois.
  61. Big Miracle is a family movie fitted with the usual appeals to multiple audiences, and though tots, teens and younger parents might find the action a little slow until the rescue pressure builds, the grandparents will enjoy it as a trip down media memory lane.
  62. Mozart's Sister is consequently gorgeous, with candlelit shots looking like old master paintings - a fine match for music that takes your breath away.
  63. For those with any interest in cult cinema or just the bizarre behind-the-scenes stories of any film production, Jodorowsky's Dune is a fascinating document of one of the most legendary films ever not made.
  64. Gordon-Levitt keeps things riotous for the film's first hour, and if he eases into an ending that's a little Hollywood-standard, after having so much fun tweaking form and content, I'm guessing audiences will cut him some slack.
  65. If the sum of Enough Said is less than its parts — and really, the midlife challenges here are pretty small potatoes — the movie does have some lovely grace notes that add up to an astute observation of the symbiosis of single mothers and their daughters.
  66. Oddly though, the most shocking thing about the film is that it often prompts laughs.
  67. It's a more mature magic than in previous Potter movies.
  68. Watching Lorna's attempt to balance self-interest and empathy can be heartbreaking. If Lorna's Silence as a whole doesn't rank among the Dardennes's best, it does follow the money to moments and characters that are unforgettable.
  69. Yet Patrik, Age 1.5 does go further than "The Kids Are All Right" in its willingness to test the limits of mainstream tolerance for emerging family forms.
  70. Unlike say, "Monsters Vs. Aliens," which would have been nothing at all without its special-effects spectacle, this is a sweet little comedy, both family-friendly and centered on a nontraditional family, and so suitable for pretty much everyone.
  71. Perrin and Cluzaud mainly emphasize the sea's beauty and power as its best argument, finding exquisite choreography between those florid stretches of narration.
  72. There's heroism and an escape of sorts in Out in the Dark — but in Mayer's despairing vision, there are no winners.
  73. Director Sam Mendes makes '50s suburbia a persuasively suffocating place — he did the same for '90s suburbia in "American Beauty," remember.
  74. The Beaver is at its core a classically Oedipal tale. While one son angles in all the wrong ways for his abject father's attention, another engages in a heroic struggle with his abusive bully of a dad.
  75. The moments when the guitarists teach the others their best-known riffs are fascinating.
  76. The lady was - and remains - a pro, still glowin', crowin', goin' strong.
  77. The Hunger Games' pacing is brisk, its stakes as high as stakes get, and its leading lady engaging enough that the odds - at the box office at least - will be ever in its favor.
  78. Wain's brand of humor thrives on stepping over the line - and then sprinting a few hundred yards past it.
  79. Ruby Sparks is far from a landmark in the rickety pantheon of romantic comedy, and under the direction of Dayton and Faris it gnaws a little too hard on its magical-realist trickery. But it's great to see them help an emerging young writing talent like Kazan make her mark by by sweeping away male fantasies of pliant girls and replacing them with a desirable, flesh-and-blood woman.
  80. Engaging enough as polemics go, but unlikely to change many minds.
  81. I went to school in Aberdeen and know the region well. It's a place of unforgiving winds and magnificent sunsets, harsh farmland and deserted beaches. The people are hardy, hardworking and fiercely self-sufficient, asking little of their government except the will to do the right thing. They weren't Trumped; they were betrayed.
  82. Lisbeth, pierced, tattooed and played by Rapace with a sometimes uncontrolled ferocity, qualifies as both a victim of male violence and a violent avenger of it. This makes her a lot more compelling than her comparatively passive partner -- something that Hollywood will doubtless find it necessary to "remedy" when Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is remade in English.
  83. Richly photographed by Rob Hardy (who gave Red Riding: 1974 its almost surreal bleakness), this meticulously researched story (Marston spent a month interviewing families trapped in these vendettas) reveals a culture dominated by male pride and patriarchal selfishness.
  84. Two Lives makes a decent thriller, though it does seem a touch overloaded with grainy flashbacks and plotty flourishes retrieved from Sergei Eisenstein (or perhaps Brian De Palma). Not that these faults matter much: The most ham-fisted filmmaker couldn't ruin the incendiary material on which this tale is built.
  85. Barely a moment goes by without a well-orchestrated joke (or three), and it's paced as briskly as a clipper in front of a stiff tailwind.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 75 Critic Score
    Like "Sherrybaby," Sunlight Jr. explores the troubling gap that can open up between a person's aspirations and his or her reality. But Collyer never looks down on her characters; instead, her films have the quality of a good Springsteen song.
  86. Makes fascinating viewing despite its clumsy bombast.
  87. If Marshall is an unrepentant Tory on some issues -- Valentine's Day stumps for teen abstinence and marrying your best friend, and warns that career women may end up alone -- he is open-hearted and generously conciliatory on gay rights, and he implies quite casually that multi-culti coupling may be the surest way to dispose of racism.
  88. Celebrity's tough to let go of, apparently, even when you know it's undeserved. Best Worst Movie doesn't plumb that thought very deeply. It doesn't do anything very deeply, really -- it's content to skate across the surface of the so-bad-it's-good phenomenon that gave it birth. The filmmakers are too close perhaps; probably don't want to kill the troll that laid the golden egg.
  89. That she continues to invite not just Beyoncé and Katy Perry but millions of adoring men and women along for the ride is icing on the cake.
  90. As written, Jasmine is a hopeless neurotic, trapped in a perpetual panic. As played, she has a wicked hint of Scarlett O'Hara.
  91. Brimming over with sadism and the occasional touch of kink, Blancanieves piles on the pathology that's the birthright of any fairy tale worth its salt. Yet it's still a tale of lost innocence, and Berger keeps faith with a prototype revered by the Disneys and the Grimms alike: the resilient, enterprising girl who overcomes wave after wave of adversity.
  92. Unless this disingenuous creep of an agent actually believes his own propaganda, you have to wonder what possessed him to open himself to scrutiny by two filmmakers who are well-known for expose docs like "Mardi Gras: Made in China" and "Camp Katrina."
  93. Page One is an insider's view, but if it isn't raking up any muck, it's not a love letter either.

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