NPR's Scores

  • Movies
For 1,031 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 Mr. Turner
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
1,031 movie reviews
    • 55 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    With his debut picture, Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg, son of David, has made a movie that's decidedly, resolutely unjunky — and more's the pity. This is a sleek, willfully elegant exercise, high on style even if it's conspicuously low on ideas.
  1. In most respects, On the Ice is the kind of straight-ahead, underprivileged-teen drama beloved of Sundance audiences.
  2. Scahill is right to focus on the price American security efforts have cost in human rights — and human life. Yet there are difficult questions hovering just outside the frame of Dirty Wars. Short of pacifism, and given that there is no such thing as a truly clean war, what would count as an "acceptable" level of collateral damage?
  3. The dialogue is merely functional, and not always delivered convincingly.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    In The Details' finest moments, writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes exerts a precise control over tone using sound and performance; in its worst moments, the score and actors overcompensate for weak material. Those elements let Estes get away with often-indulgent writing, throwing up whole scenes that don't add texture or conflict.
  9. Neither innovative nor profound, but it is kinetic, visceral and sometimes moving.
    • 71 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    Focusing on this tumultuous period of adjustment, Run & Jump is uneven but admirably authentic in its observation of a family trying to retain something of their past lives while confronting an uncertain future.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. The French Minister boasts robust pacing, screwball-comedy banter and an exuberant central performance. For most American viewers, though, the movie could use footnotes to go with its subtitles.
  14. 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."
    • 50 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    The bigger problem is that Cruise, as Reacher, has no wit and no style, other than the studiously applied kind. He's so desperate to do everything right that nearly everything he does comes off all wrong.
  15. Starring flying debris and surging walls of water, The Impossible takes the template of the old-timey disaster movie, strips it to the bone and pumps what's left up to 11.
  16. A surpassingly silly monster movie with a side helping of satire, Trollhunter beckons mainly for its stunning Norwegian scenery and slyly effective government-bashing.
  17. 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.
  18. Relocating Dangerous Liaisons, the 18th-century French erotic intrigue, to 1930s Shanghai is a bold move. And yet it's not especially surprising. In Chinese movies, that city in that decade frequently serves as shorthand for decadence.
  19. 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.
  20. Perhaps because he's an actor, Rapaport prefers drama to analysis. And this story has plenty of conflict.
  21. 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.
  22. What emerges as the film goes on is that the things military service provided for many of these individuals - family, friends, camaraderie, a support network of other like-minded individuals willing to lay down their lives for them - is the exact thing that has been taken away by their injuries, leaving them feeling particularly isolated. The climb provides them with that sense of community once again.
  23. 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.
  24. Deeply silly in a classic mode, The Fairy continues the French new wave of near-silent cinema.
  25. 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.
    • 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.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    Turbo is harmless good fun — and impressionable kids could take worse lessons away from the multiplex.
  26. A likable but warmed-over comedy.
  27. What hasn't advanced is the plotting, which was nothing special last time and is so formulaic now that it's basically surprise-free.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. Where "About a Boy" was both funny and wise about urban alienation, Admission settles for skin deep.
  31. 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.
  32. Although the story is told with narration rather than dialogue, Tobias relies too much on reconstruction. A more inventive melding of documentary and docudrama would have benefited the film, whose most moving scenes all involve real members of the families. A bit more historical and geographic context would also be useful.
  33. The film is frequently masterful, suggesting the turbulent inner state of an American sociopath who believes himself to be a good guy.
  34. What's refreshing, though, is Coffey's skeptical but affectionate feel for the tenacious strivers who cling like limpets to the margins of every arts scene, often for precious years of their impoverished lives.
  35. Like the (far superior) recent Russian film "Elena," Child's Pose paints a compelling portrait of post-Soviet capitalism in all its uncorked appetites, its brash cronyism and graft, its pretensions, its clueless philistinism.
  36. The documentary's most memorable vignette is suitably unnerving: a visit to northern China, where the threatened disappearance of bees has already come to pass, leaving workers to pollinate fruit trees ... by hand.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    It's when Coppola lets the beautiful, gorgeous things retain their sparkle that The Bling Ring shines most brightly.
  37. Bethlehem qualifies as a promising debut for its first-time actors and director, but it's slack at first, and the thriller tricks it uses to ratchet up the tension later — musical underscoring, careening vehicles, threatening crowds — keep it from sneaking past your defenses.
  38. We're here to see the film's leading lizard, who is pretty gorgeously realized by an army of digitizers, even if he seems just a bit-player in his own movie for the first hour or so.
  39. There's nothing unexpected in this well-made picture, aside from the name of the director: Takeshi Miike.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    A heartfelt and well-intentioned love letter to an already deeply beloved star, and for anyone who's still not convinced, the picture works hard to make the case for Monroe's gifts as an actress.
  40. 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.
  41. Inner life comes hard to Knightley, and she never gets a grip on the mounting emotional turmoil that threatens to crush Anna as she progresses from stylish young hipster-about-town to kept woman to bereft mother to paranoid social pariah.
    • 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.
    • 47 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    The diminishing returns in part are due to Burdge's performance, which too often settles for the same look of fraught anxiety. But they also result from Fidell's decision to pare her film down to the barest elements.
  42. While Populaire would still have suffered from being overlong and overfamiliar, a smoother leading man could have done much to boost the intended Cary Grant vibe.
  43. Aided by subtly wounded performances by Daniels and Stone, and a surprisingly affecting comic turn from Reynolds, Paper Man makes up for many of its shortcomings with an abundance of heart.
  44. The movie drowns the deeper questions it raises in a sadistic procedural, an endless circular motion of fight scenes whose only justification is themselves.
  45. W.
    A surprisingly unsurprising film.
  46. The plot fails to deliver a single surprise, however, and the characterizations are thin even by the standards of the tough-guy genre.
  47. A documentary that focuses rigorously on process and atmosphere at the expense of context and engagement.
  48. 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.
  49. 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.
  50. 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.
  51. 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.
  52. 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.
  53. Kaplan keeps the story breezy and brisk, and provides his down-to-earthily modern fairy tale with an appropriately other-worldly visual style.
  54. The movie is crisp and contemporary enough to inaugurate another franchise for Statham.
  55. 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.
  56. 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.
  57. The broad comedy clashes with the movie's final message: that 6,000 girls face genital mutilation every day.
  58. Spectacularly self-absorbed protagonists step on each other, jockeying first for position, and ultimately for survival.
  59. 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?
  60. 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
    LUV
    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.
  61. 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.
  62. 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.
  63. 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.
  64. 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.
  65. 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.
  66. 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.
  67. Sweet and well-intentioned, Sassy Pants is difficult to dislike, despite its missteps.
  68. Evincing more visible intelligence than any of his human co-stars aside from Lithgow, Caesar is disquietingly lifelike.
  69. 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.
  70. 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.
  71. Like most of LaBute's work, Some Velvet Morning ends as it begins, more clever than wise.
  72. 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.
  73. Hysteria, a disappointingly limp ode to the invention of the vibrator, plays like a Merchant Ivory Production of "Portnoy's Complaint."
  74. Freakonomics' commercial success reflected the once-fashionable notion that economics could explain, well, everything.
  75. 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.
  76. 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.
  77. 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'."
  78. 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.
  79. 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.
  80. 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.

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