NPR's Scores

  • Movies
For 1,017 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 4.3 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:
1,017 movie reviews
  1. 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.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    The picture is frustrating not because it's bad, but because of how almost-good it is.
  2. Sister offers several reasons why the boy can't or won't return to ski-resort robbery next winter. But the movie also quietly suggests that, whatever he does, Simon will always be the boy from down below, boldly impersonating someone born to the heights.
  3. The Big Picture has been compared to "The Talented Mr. Ripley," the twice-filmed Patricia Highsmith novel about a sociopath who kills and then impersonates a rich acquaintance. But in spirit it's closer to Michelangelo Antonioni's 1975 "The Passenger," with Jack Nicholson as an existential adventurer who poses as a dead stranger.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    There's something overtly mechanical about McDonagh's approach that keeps it all from being as outrageously fun as it's pretending to be.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    It's Pierre Richard, however, who anchors All Together, portraying Albert as stubbornly happy-go-lucky, a man bent on retaining his jovial disposition even as he's frustrated by what he's forgotten.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    There's a compulsion to describe a film with such a slow and unusual pace as poetic - it already has a Netflix blurb calling it "lyrical" - but Bestiaire's best quality is its unpretentiousness.
  4. The story is carefully constructed, with moments that seem offhand initially, but are later revealed as crucial.
  5. This mashup of genres and themes doesn't entirely succeed, but it is warm, funny and ably crafted.
  6. It's rare these days to see an old-fashioned, elegant chamber-piece movie about life and art - let alone one with Christopher Walken as, of all things, a steadying influence.
  7. Posey dominates Price Check, mostly for the better: Whatever observations Walker's film makes about the perils of ambition or women in the workplace register entirely through her. She's simply funnier and more interesting than anyone else, and Walker has written her a complex character whose immediate wants are clearer than her long-term ones.
  8. Even with its strong supporting cast, I doubt this small, finely observed movie would have seen the commercial light of day without Carlyle in the lead. Amid the deafening roar of big Oscar-bait pictures, I'm glad it's there.
  9. Dragon is partly an homage to "One Armed Swordsman," a 1967 kung fu classic whose star, Jimmy Wang Yu, plays the new movie's arch-villain. But there's much Western influence: Jinxi's plight recalls David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence," and Baijiu's cerebral and flashy style of detection - complete with animated glimpses of victims' innards - suggests Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes series. Dragon is also one of several recent Chinese crime movies that borrow from CSI-style TV dramas.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is extremely perceptive about certain angles on life in a big family.
  10. Personally, I'd show up for Maggie Smith's top-drawer basilisk stare if she were guesting on "Sesame Street."
  11. Calling it a mess would be both accurate and pointless, because a tidier comedy would squeeze the life out of this vital, generous blob of a film.
  12. It's also a testament to the strength of Claude-Michel Schonberg's music that everything after the show-stopping lament of Fantine's "I Dreamed a Dream" doesn't come across as so much padding.
  13. Strange and uncompromisingly personal. It's also vivid and unforgettable.
  14. The Pirogue spends only about an hour on open water, but that's enough to convey the risks that make the trip foolish, and the desperation that makes it inevitable.
  15. There's not a lot of gore - or even suspense - in Warm Bodies, and the script plays fast and loose with the zombie rules invented by "Night of the Living Dead" creator George Romero. But director Jonathan Levine's area of expertise is confused-young-men comedies like "The Wackness" and "50/50," so he really gets this hero's predicament.
  16. Grohl's jovial presence is the hook; playing interviewer and emcee as well as director, he's the catchy bit you welcome every time it returns. The star-studded interview list provides much of the personality and attitude, as does a fantastically tense behind-the-scenes video of Petty and his band laboring long hours to craft their breakthrough record.
  17. Inescapable is Nadda's first foray into thriller territory, and her inexperience shows in awkwardly mounted fight scenes and clumsy car chases, not to mention an almost fatally explanatory script.
  18. Ultimately, the bleak universe conjured by Beyond the Hills is more compelling than what happens in it.
  19. As family viewing, it's pleasant enough: primitive, yes, but in a digitally sophisticated way that's boisterous, funny and will no doubt sell a lot of toys.
  20. Shot entirely in Hackney — a mostly ungentrified London borough — My Brother the Devil has a strong odor of authenticity.
  21. Renoir doesn't present a particularly dynamic tale, and its attempts at stage-like drama — notably the sometimes epigrammatic dialogue — can seem overdone. But the performances are assured, the ambiance impeccable and the themes resonant.
  22. Effective scares, respectful nods to its inspiration and a few new twists make the question of whether this new Evil Dead succeeds in matching its inspiration superfluous. This is one remake that succeeds on its own blood-soaked terms.
  23. Before settling into such comfortable territory, however, the movie is propulsive and involving. If The Company You Keep is far from radical, it's pretty audacious by the standards of counterrevolutionary Hollywood.
  24. Me, I wanted to know what these two remarkable young women will obsess about once the whole world has stopped watching, whether they will always be together — and what it would really feel like to be one of their much less famous siblings. We'll probably never know, except in someone else's future fiction feature.
  25. Ultimately, Winocour does stage an instance of what could be called love. It's unconvincing narratively, alas, and an odd disruption of the tone in a film that is otherwise bracingly clinical.
  26. The film portrays Plimpton as someone devoted to illuminating how talent and creativity work — both for himself, and for the rest of us.
  27. The East makes for a passable thriller, as 1 percenters get theirs in satisfying, if incrementally implausible ways.
  28. The result is complex yet lighthearted, as diverting as it is meditative. Resnais uses contrapuntal editing — one of his trademarks — as well as artificial settings, special effects, split screens, cinematic references and anachronistic devices to keep viewers tipsily off-balance.
  29. The movie has made it to theaters not dead on arrival, but walking dead, running dead, and — when it's really working — swarming dead.
  30. Those who don't savor Cohen's leisurely rhythms will probably not respond to Museum Hours, and even the movie's admirers will admit that it could be a little tighter. One scene that might be trimmed is the one where museum-goers pose, naked as the people on the canvases around them. The interlude certainly isn't dull, but it is a little brazen for a film that encourages its viewers to find the beauty in more commonplace sights.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    The film, it should be said, does not blame Tilikum for his actions. It posits instead that, like a disenfranchised youth driven to a life of crime, Tilikum is a product of his upbringing.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 70 Critic Score
    If it aims to be an inside story of life in Georgia, a kind of people's history of Georgian youth, this documentary sometimes feels like scattershot vox-pop journalism. Its individual threads resonate strongly, but the larger pattern never comes together; the social tapestry meant to be on display seems, to the end, to have holes in it.
  31. The lack of chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman, plain enough in the first Thor movie, is still a problem here, but at least they've largely ditched the starry-eyed schoolgirl routine.
  32. If Gibney was looking for contrition, though, he didn't find it. Armstrong is candid about his doping and his legendary belligerence with the press. But he's confessing, not apologizing. And that "maybe not," mumbled to Oprah, is about as equivocal as he gets — on or off camera.
  33. Over the nine months the movie chronicles, about half the refugees leave the school building. Many return to the Fukushima area, but none to Futaba, which is still radioactive and officially off-limits.
  34. It's impossible for all of them to work, but the sheer volume of material, delivered by a cast dedicated to the absolute absurdity of the setups — Fantana's new career as a kitten photographer, Kind's side business running a fast-food chain with a specialty in fried bat, Burgundy nursing and training a live shark while blind and living in a lighthouse — is a kind of comedy carpet-bombing. All it takes is a certain percentage of hits for things to detonate.
  35. Yes, The Rocket is a sports movie, with an outcome that's easily foreseen. The cultural specifics of this Laos-set tale, however, are far less predictable.
  36. Kore-eda is himself a father now, which may explain why his work has gotten sunnier.
  37. Though it's fun to watch Garcia let out his inner goofball, the jewels in the crown of At Middleton are the dynamic sisters Farmiga.
  38. That the same performers keep returning in different roles, playing Peruvian and Japanese flyers as well as American ones, only adds to the sense of man as machine. Everything, and everyone, must run like clockwork. Yet no apparatus is foolproof.
  39. All of which makes the film Noah psychologically credible — his behavior is very much what you might expect of a man who has just condemned millions of screaming souls to watery graves. And it makes the film unpredictably suspenseful, which is dramatically the most welcome thing you could ask of a biblical epic.
  40. This is a special Jersey Boys universe crafted specifically for fans — among whom you can pretty clearly count Clint Eastwood.
  41. The filmmakers wanted to broaden the formula a little, make it more inclusive, do something a little adventurous. Kinda like Earth to Echo's tween heroes.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 68 Critic Score
    Date Night isn't great; it's not really going for "great." But it's a well-executed comedy with a warm but not cloying center.
  42. The film on the whole feels unusually labored and conventional by Tarantino standards. Reducing World War II to juvenilia isn't the problem; the problem is that juvenilia needs to pop.
  43. Bandslam works best when it's focused on young, adorably neurotic creative types putting on a show.
  44. What comes through is the freshness and innocence of a generation's passion for the infant rock 'n' roll.
  45. Stuart Gordon's inventions -- vivid, gruesome and occasionally quite funny -- offer a just-deserts ending and make both characters surprisingly active participants in their fates.
  46. Allowed remarkable access, presumably because of the familial connections, Rademacher comes up with compellingly unfamiliar documentary footage.
  47. The actor proves capable of embodying all sorts of contradictory impulses as his character becomes tragically self-aware. But he can't overcome a plot that goes slack at precisely the moment it should be soaring, or a corporate-villainy premise that practically begs not to be looked at too closely.
  48. Director Larry Charles has made Bruno a tighter, better-looking film than "Borat," which is not necessarily a good thing on those occasions when you suspect it of scripting rather than just observing.
  49. Delightfully, Kinshasa's streets are alive with music, and snippets of sidewalk performances are integrated into the movie. The musicians are unidentified, alas, but then after 35 years, the filmmakers probably don't know who they are.
  50. In fact, given its subject matter, Creation should arguably be bolder and more shocking if it wants to survive among the fittest at the multiplex. Audiences with so many flashier pictures available may not regard a straightforward period biopic as a natural selection.
    • 27 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    You don't have to be a fan of Sex and the City to appreciate the kitsch humor here. Part TV-series sequel, part Hollywood sendup, SATC 2 is all satire. It's hard to miss that this film is making gentle fun of itself, of the franchise's materialism, even of its own cinematic allusions.
  51. When it comes to family togetherness, love and quality time are thicker than blood, water or just about any other social glue you can think of. That's the admirable if hardly news-breaking message of Rodrigo Garcia's domestic drama Mother and Child, whose official thread is the impact of adoption on three different women.
  52. The best scenes in Solitary Man find Douglas at his most charming, dispensing nuggets of wisdom to whomever will listen. His may not be an altogether honorable life, but it's a life in full.
  53. The movie poignantly demonstrates that, 41 years after Stonewall, there are still places in this country where gay people cannot simply be themselves.
  54. Despite the contrived climax, I Am Love has emotional power. The contrast between duty and passion is well-drawn, and Swinton's transition from winter matriarch to springtime lover is compelling, even if the circumstances are implausible.
  55. Slight but engaging, and considerably energized by its two young leads, Daly's Kisses gives several fresh spins to one of Irish cinema's most common recent subjects: troubled working-class children on the lam.
  56. Hardly a laff riot, but then that's been true of Allen's movies for a while. It is, however, briskly cynical about human nature, graciously forgiving about human foibles, and situationally amusing about the spectacles otherwise sane people make of themselves when they trust their fates to the stars.
  57. Ideally, The Taqwacores should be seen with "Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam," a new documentary that provides a better sense of the scene's aims and motivations. Zahra's jumpy feature film captures much of taqwacore's energy, but less of its meaning.
  58. For all its dazzling allure, Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, a feverishly psycho thriller set in the hermetic world of classical ballet, proves a meaningless exercise in Grand Guignol exhibitionism.
  59. It's silly and often laughable, but it's a sweet fantasy, too, produced in loving homage to the frothiest traditions of stage and screen.
  60. An awkward jumble of half-assed thriller and lumbering romantic comedy, less competent by a wide margin than "The Lives of Others." It's also a whole lot sillier, though not in a good way.
  61. When it comes to the emotional state of those being laid off, of their families and even of those doing the laying off, it gets things right enough to make audiences squirm.
  62. Theatrically inclined parents will also appreciate a passing reference to the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Moving Co.
  63. This is the story of two young people whose aspirations are of absolutely no interest to their elders. Zero Bridge is a fitting found title for the movie, but Tapa could also have called it No Exit.
  64. Still, the Farrellys have a distinct touch that carries their dubious premise across. They bring back the toilet humor of yore and make it shocking and funny again.
  65. It's all still pretty silly, though. So it makes sense that the director approaches the story through a period lens, encouraging his cast to behave as if they were in a frothy '70s confection like "Cousin Cousine" or "Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe."
  66. After a few queasy moments at its midpoint, the trajectory of In a Better World becomes so relentlessly platitudinous that an audience that ought to feel seriously rattled will be settling back, feeling comfortably reassured.
  67. Though it has plenty of shocks, the film creates a wasteland that would be compellingly deranged even without vampires pressing insistently at every border. Horror is just the half of it.
  68. There's nothing unexpected in this well-made picture, aside from the name of the director: Takeshi Miike.
  69. Somber and insubstantial, October nevertheless suggests that the Vega brothers are developing a careful, painterly style. Whether they will be able to match it with narrative depth remains to be seen.
  70. A surpassingly silly monster movie with a side helping of satire, Trollhunter beckons mainly for its stunning Norwegian scenery and slyly effective government-bashing.
  71. Perhaps because he's an actor, Rapaport prefers drama to analysis. And this story has plenty of conflict.
  72. Big hair, fine period frocks and interior design lend The Help a pleasingly retro look. Yet for someone who grew up in Mississippi, the director has little sense of place.
  73. Neither innovative nor profound, but it is kinetic, visceral and sometimes moving.
  74. Perhaps the ending worked better in the book, Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which sold more than a million copies in France. Certainly this adaptation, Mona Achache's directorial debut, is a very bookish movie.
  75. But it does mean you're always aware that you're watching filmed theater - a scripted pressure-cooker where playability is being allowed to trump plausibility as theoretically cultivated adults morph into savages - going from civility to carnage in 80 minutes flat.
  76. The movie might not be a vengeance-driven wolf-man cage fight, but in subverting those escapist expectations, it sinks its teeth far deeper and more memorably.
  77. Though it's certainly moving, it suffers from a frantically overproduced desperation to hold what the filmmakers seem to fear will be our wavering attention.
  78. In most respects, On the Ice is the kind of straight-ahead, underprivileged-teen drama beloved of Sundance audiences.
  79. Deeply silly in a classic mode, The Fairy continues the French new wave of near-silent cinema.
  80. If these experiments in shock comedy don't always work, there's a certain courageousness in the way Tim and Eric refuse to back down from them, as well as the gusto with which guest stars like Reilly, Robert Loggia, Will Ferrell, and Jeff Goldblum throw themselves into the film's gonzo aesthetic.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    The film feels ultimately hollow, perhaps because mocking soap operas is the comic's equivalent of shooting fish tacos in a barrel. In fact, the concept for Casa de mi Padre seems born out of one too many tequila-infused evenings in the Funny or Die writers' room.
  81. The accomplished actress Michelle Yeoh, who brought the project to Besson, is a regal beauty who brings off an uncanny resemblance to Suu Kyi largely through posture and the trademark flowers the activist wore in her hair.
  82. Post Mortem is - intentionally - not an engaging movie. And Larrain sometimes overplays the existential anguish, notably during a few scenes of joyless, mechanical sexual release.
  83. The director doesn't require - and doesn't really get - distinctive acting from his cast, but every once in a while, the company manages to wink broadly at the film's genre.
  84. As obvious and expected as this turn of events is, the filmmakers and Hollyman create such an endearing character in Sarah that one still wants to see her get there.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    Yet as viewers, we may instinctively crave more than what Clayman alone can offer us. Segments where he cedes screen time to others, including the bipolar General Hospital actor and mental-health advocate Maurice Benard, are a relief.
  85. 360
    Meirelles, who made the exciting "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener," has visual flair to burn. But he's less comfortable with inner lives than he is with feverish physical motion, and though the film is meant as a meditation on love and the post-modern psyche, it's shot like a thriller.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    The Global Catch may be one-sided in its argument, but it's a persuasive one - and the next time you eat sushi, you may think twice about ordering bluefin.
  86. Predictable but appealing, Trouble with the Curve is the latest of Clint Eastwood's odes to old-fashioned attitudes and virtues.
  87. Reportedly, the movie's humor relies heavily on Cantonese slang and profanity, which will be lost on most American viewers. But Quin's rapid-fire bilingualism gives some sense of the movie's verbal dexterity.
    • 40 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    Butter thrives on skewering characters whose self-importance isolates them completely from the consequences of their actions. And while the film's perspective is distinctly liberal, providing several thinly veiled criticisms of conservative politicians, nearly everyone (except Destiny) is guilty of something.

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