NPR's Scores

  • Movies
For 1,016 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 4.2 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 66
Highest review score: 100 The Social Network
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
1,016 movie reviews
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Oddly though, the most shocking thing about the film is that it often prompts laughs.
  4. 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.
  5. Any slack, though is picked up by Shep Gordon, who seems every inch the "supermensch" of the title — splendid company, a sterling storyteller, and yeah, a real mensch.
  6. Filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who are themselves impressive partners at this point) know enough not to mess with a successful formula.
  7. The sexual tension in Venus in Fur acquires a few specifically Polanski-esque layers.
  8. The narrative trots all over the globe, including stops for labor exploitation in the Marianas Islands, dealings with Russian mobsters, ripping off Indian tribes in the desert southwest, and jetting to Scotland for rounds of golf with impressionable politicians.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 73 Critic Score
    There's a quiet audaciousness about it. Schepisi still seems to believe that if you tell a good story in an artful, straightforward way, people will come to it. He may be wrong, but thank goodness he's still in there pitching.
  9. Machete works because at no time does it ever ask the audience to take any of this too seriously, yet the nudges and winks are never so forceful that it feels like it's begging for your laughter.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 72 Critic Score
    And yet: Thanks for Sharing is such a relaxed, good-humored movie that it's tough to complain about its tendency to ... well, overshare.
  10. This is a world of dinner jackets and evening gowns, casual jaunts to Venice and Morocco; it's about elegance, style, money and perhaps too heady a mix of drink, religion and intrigue.
  11. It all contributes to making the story breathless and nerve-jangling.
  12. Claude Miller's ravishingly shot drama A Secret gives up its titular mystery early, so it may seem odd to speak of the suspense it generates.
  13. Good demonstrates the surprising power of character flaws in drama. How else to explain that the portrayal of a good man who does nothing in Good should prove more dramatically compelling than the stories in "Valkyrie" and "Defiance" of good men who did good?
  14. You'd think the weakest link in Fanboys would be that it's all in-jokes, but they're actually not so "in" that a casual fan won't get them.
  15. Tykwer being something of an architecture freak, controlling Third World debt also requires a trip to the rooftops of Istanbul, to Zaha Hadid's BMW factory, and to Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin. All great fun in a story that's more kinetic than compelling.
  16. A Woman in Berlin doesn't justify retribution, but in such moments it does clarify the horrible logic of vengeance.
  17. The movie's storytelling can be as old-fashioned as its appearance. Some sequences are quick and messy, but others are grand and theatrical.
  18. It's even harder being the semi-supportive wife, which is what generates most of the electricity in this slight but entertaining documentary.
  19. Good Hair isn't selling anything but a good time.
  20. On balance, though, Turning Green is more fresh than stale. Gallery holds his own impressively with the better-known supporting players, and the script -- a Project Greenlight runner-up -- is solidly constructed.
  21. Photographed with bare-bones simplicity by longtime Herzog collaborator Peter Zeitlinger, My Son presents yet another Herzogian hero who views insanity as the only logical response to an insane world.
  22. Redmayne is hugely persuasive as a redneck geek -- you'd never guess he's a Brit with credits in classical theater.
  23. Admirably turns a potentially one-note joke into a consistently funny package.
  24. The semi-autobiographical, microbudgeted Breaking Upwards is indeed precious. But it's also smart, witty and less self-absorbed than you might reasonably expect.
  25. Don McKay is a curious hybrid of warring tones that occasionally make peace. When they do, it's quite magical.
  26. A tight, anxious little film that plays like a call to arms for senior citizens, Harry Brown could be "Gran Torino" reimagined as a subdued episode of "Prime Suspect."
    • 63 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    Of course, there's no need to overthink it: If you just want to watch a baby respond to the arrival of a rooster in his bed with perfect comic timing, Babies is the movie to see.
  27. Quietly, the film makes the case that "enhanced interrogation techniques" were no enhancement. Interviewing jihadis "by the book," one interrogator testifies, yielded better information than violence and deprivation.
  28. It would be charitable to say Lost In Rio picks up right where "Cairo, Nest Of Spies" left off; in reality all it does is rinse and repeat. Hazanavicius does, however, get the most out of the new backdrop.
  29. Eisenberg lets us see Sam's growing distress, and also the fortitude with which he faces down his fears -- few young actors are as adept at simultaneously conveying panic and bravado.
  30. The filmmakers tried to get him to tell his side of the story, but he's unwilling to appear on camera. Which leaves them in documentary limbo, since they've gone to great lengths to raise questions in the audience's mind about the case. The answers they've found are questions, their conclusion, inconclusive.
  31. Cairo Time is the kind of quietly romantic chamber piece one wants to speak up for, in part to support the small but growing band of Arab women making their mark on national cinemas both East and West.
  32. The movie ends powerfully, with a sudden pileup of fright, death and a disconcerting glimpse of beauty. If Lebanon's goal is to keep the viewer on edge and off balance, its final minutes are exemplary.
  33. Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin isn't exactly known for slapstick, so Soul Kitchen has the feel of a palate cleanser. After the hard-edged drama of "Head-On" and "The Edge of Heaven," this boisterous comedy milling with scruffy misfits goes down more easily than an oyster on the half shell.
  34. A fine overview, with enough new material to please Gould buffs. But the film fails to demonstrate that conventional biography is the best path to its subject's inner life.
  35. Confrontational and hyperactive, Enter the Void is a difficult film to experience. That's not because Noe is somehow inept. The Argentina-born French writer-director knows exactly what he's doing and what effect his swirling camera, exuberant colors and strobelike effects will have.
  36. So it's no surprise that this stately but inert biopic wakes up only when von Bingen becomes less of a singing-nun superstar and more of a human unglued by her own flaws.
  37. Back in Canada, Dallaire tells a psychiatrist that he remembers Rwanda in flashbacks that are "not like memories at all." Shake Hands with the Devil captures something of that sensation; it's a depiction of events that are too painful to remember, too essential to forget.
  38. A creaky, sometimes forced drama that burrows under your skin if you let it, Welcome to the Rileys lurches along like Lois' car as she tries to exit her garage for the first time in years.
  39. He's hardly a cuddly figure, but neither does he come across as an intimidating presence. After all, it's hard to think of anyone in cantankerous terms after they've just lovingly described the history of the beloved old hand-knitted stuffed animal that is their oldest possession.
  40. Bhutto is smart and thorough on the inflamed history of Pakistan. But as a portrait of the first woman elected head of state in an Islamic nation, it comes closer to hero-worship than to considered biography.
  41. The movie evokes its time and place so potently that it almost doesn't matter that Hamilton's script proves unequal to her vision.
  42. Deathly Hallows I actually manages to be involving and kind of artful about the boredom and loneliness of heroism, while sounding a long throbbing drumroll for next summer's grand finale.
  43. Even by my super-wimp standards, Aron's exit is surprisingly coy, coming from a filmmaker who gets his kicks from goosing the hell out of his audiences.
  44. The film, while unfailingly entertaining, feels a little small for its subject.
  45. Kawasaki's Rose is the first Czech or Slovak film to address the issue of collaboration with the former Czechoslovakia's bygone secret police. That history must still be raw for some who survived the era, as it is in "The Lives of Others."
  46. To devotees of Al Gore's prophecy of a soon-to-be-parboiled Earth, "Skeptical Environmentalist" author Bjorn Lomborg is the devil. So what does an ecologically incorrect demon look like? Like an aging Danish surfer dude, it turns out.
  47. Their friendship in Due Date is hard-won, and the audience is right there with them.
  48. The kiddie set can chortle at Megamind's slapstick and its goofy one-upmanship while adults get a kick out of all the smart spatial tricks that highlight the 3-D effects.
  49. Kaboom's one-liners are snappy, knowing, and unexpected.
  50. Canner's eye-opening, entertaining account of the search for the little pill that supplies the Big O is looney-tunes enough without the cartoon asides.
  51. Though cinematographer Flavio Labiano turns the city into an alien maze of steel and glass, his chilling work is undercut by a script with more logical craters than Martin's.
  52. The movie is a sharply observed if formally bloated addition to the canon of visceral tales from the Baltimore city - if "tale" is the right word for a movie that puts so much energy into the avoidance of plot.
  53. A highly respectable piece of genre entertainment, one with a little more class than most.
  54. Lemmy gives the filmmakers enough time and candid access to create a profile of the man that goes deeper than just the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll - even though in Lemmy's case, there's enough of a surplus of all three to power multiple documentaries.
  55. Everybody loves a do-over, but this could become tedious were it not for the undeniable chemistry of the two leads, whose dialogue crackles like cellophane.
  56. Relaxed and goofy in "Dave," "A Fish Called Wanda" and a host of other comedies, Kevin Kline has an endearing way of subverting his own grandee impulses when he's being funny. Give the actor a dramatic role, though, and he comes on all Shakespeare in the Park.
  57. A good-hearted, perfectly watchable bonbon.
  58. With its whispery conversations, sepulchral atmosphere and soothing play of light and shadow, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is probably best enjoyed in a chemically enhanced state of mind.
  59. There's something pure about the crude pleasures of Hobo with a Shotgun, a pre-fab cult film that aspires to nothing more (or less) than the red-meat feeding of a feral midnight-movie audience.
  60. Film Socialisme, his (Godard) latest intellectual assault, includes grating noise, scruffy camera-phone video and subtitles in fractured "Navajo English."
  61. Succeeds as a character study, while gently raising questions about human use and misuse of animals.
  62. Tabloid spins a heck of a yarn, while implicitly warning viewers not to be so entertained that they believe every gamy detail.
  63. Quietly astonishing documentary.
  64. Grant the filmmakers the efficiency of their plotting, even if it reduces characters to types. And credit them with having assembled a cast capable of making the film's craziness and stupidity appealing, even if hitching actors of the caliber of Moore and Gosling (and to a lesser extent Carell and Stone) to material this thin is a little like hitching a Saturn rocket to a go-cart.
  65. Credit Kondracki and Kirwan with having endowed their picture with considerable, if blunt, force. Their filmmaking suits the real-life atrocities they're exposing.
  66. The rhythms are gentle, the smiles plentiful, the chuckles frequent, with the overall effect about as pleasantly innocuous as the film's hero.
  67. His sorry tale is worth re-telling, if only to piece together the connective tissue between government, big business and, to a lesser degree, the media institutions that propped up what most insiders knew or suspected was a massive fraud for years before Madoff got his comeuppance.
  68. You can't accuse the new Brighton Rock of being untrue to the book - it actually reinstates the novel's climax, placing violent events back atop a cliff as Greene had originally, rather than on the Brighton Pier, as he had in his screenplay.
  69. Would be more satisfying if it were a more definitive look at Guantanamo's workings. All Cote and Henriquez can provide is some glimmers of insight about just one of the men held there. But that's enough to make their movie enlightening, compelling and, finally, heartbreaking.
  70. The film rests firmly on the shoulders of its central icon, and Williams, though she doesn't really resemble Monroe in either voice or visage, is pretty splendid at conjuring her.
  71. The clinical style doesn't play to the director's strengths. A Dangerous Method didn't have to be another "Naked Lunch," but Freud plus Jung plus Cronenburg should have equaled something a little more dissonant and troubling.
  72. Leigh, a novelist making her cinematic debut here, directs with a cold and distancing eye. Sleeping Beauty has the deliberate grace of Kubrick, and while comparisons to the sex parties of "Eyes Wide Shut" are inevitable, Leigh's approach is even more sexless and sterile than the master's.
  73. The film's bluntness doesn't diminish the power of the nature-versus-nurture questions Eva's asking herself. Or of Swinton's harrowing portrait of parental guilt.
  74. Klapisch is a master of the half-biting, half-soothing farce, and he usually keeps the divergent tones in harmony.
  75. DeNoble aside, Addiction Incorporated finds most of its heroes in Congress, the White House and federal agencies.
  76. The stories are horrific, if laced with Tarantino-style humor.
  77. West's throwback style and disdain for excess allows his characters to shine.
  78. There's not a lot that's new about the terrors he faces - the director uses time-honored techniques to keep you on edge, every one of which graced Hammer films of yore. But happily for the picture, there's a reason they're time-honored. And keep you on edge, they definitely do.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    Perfect Sense shines best outside of the bedroom, in sequences that show the human race adjusting to tragedy after tragedy.
  79. A veteran film editor making her first feature, Israel emphasizes the area's low-key beauty.
  80. The Salt of Life is easygoing and naturalistic, but clearly a work of imagination.
  81. The movie's first word is oishi, Japanese for "delicious," and what follows is a treat for sushi veterans. First-timers, however, may wish for a little more context.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    The devil-may-care attitude is what makes 21 Jump Street so entertaining.
  82. Scott has made an art - or at least a career - out of playing the affable dimwit. And with Goon, a salty Canadian comedy about the rise of a minor league hockey enforcer, Scott finally has his Hamlet, a role that calls for every blank, uncomprehending look in his toolbox while accessing the cuddly puppy within.
  83. There's an undeniable sweetness here, evident in the vulnerability that peeks through Alma's disaffected facade, and in the unconventional grand romantic gesture that turns the film's climax into a playfully dirty spin on "Say Anything's" boombox scene.
    • 46 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    The performance that lingers after the film like a fizzy champagne buzz is Hammer's. He remains at all times deeply and persuasively sexy, but he also commits utterly to sequences that require a level of silliness that not all traditionally gorgeous young actors can give themselves over to so completely.
  84. Just as Ulysses illustrates the reflective nature of his journey by constantly turning back the hands of the house's clocks, each film of Maddin's is a reset button for the past. The director operates like a ghost himself, going back over his personal history and the history of cinema in an endless loop until he gets them right.
  85. Yet Elles has contemporary pertinence. As the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair showed, feminism hasn't significantly mellowed France's macho culture. And sexual predation on young women from Eastern Europe remains a timely topic.
  86. It's a sweet-tempered folly in which all's well that ends well.
  87. Not even the presence of a goth-chick hotel clerk could turn Nobody Else But You into "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The movie may teeter on the edge of Switzerland, but its playful sensibility is entirely French.
  88. Sonnenfeld's best movies function like elaborate Rube Goldberg contraptions, with visual gags popping out on a precise calibration of gears and springs, and Cohen's script, however derivative, is a stable apparatus.
  89. The movie falls somewhere between the austere and the playful.
  90. Hara-Kiri is formal, deliberate, leisurely almost to a fault. It features the sort of slow-gliding camera movements favored by Kenji Mizoguchi, one of the greatest 20th century Japanese filmmakers - and the one least like Miike.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    It's a highly imperfect movie - many of the gags are strained, a bit too pleased with their own finger-on-the-pulse zinginess - but it still represents a breakthrough of sorts, a way of looking at marriage that resists portraying a "failed" marriage as a failure.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    The characters in Bachelorette are most human when they're behaving badly. They break the spell when they turn into women we can merely relate to.
    • 44 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    Satisfies as a standalone experience.
  91. Knuckleball! looks and feels like a standard ESPN documentary, slickly packaged and a little bloodless, and Stern and Sundberg lean a little heavily on music to goose up the excitement.

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