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 4.3 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)
Average Movie review score: 66
Highest review score: 100 12 Years a Slave
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
1,016 movie reviews
  1. The dialogue is merely functional, and not always delivered convincingly.
    • 37 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    Bear in mind that Fun Size is the only comedy in recent memory to feature a Ruth Bader Ginsburg joke. You won't find any of those in the "Hangover" movies' bag of tricks.
    • 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  5. 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.
  6. It's the warm tenor of the film that ultimately rescues it.
  7. Where "About a Boy" was both funny and wise about urban alienation, Admission settles for skin deep.
  8. 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.
  9. The film is frequently masterful, suggesting the turbulent inner state of an American sociopath who believes himself to be a good guy.
  10. 42
    A profile in real-life courage that would be stronger as a movie if it weren't quite so intent on underlining teachable moments.
    • 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.
  11. Oblivion occupies an awkward no-man's-land between escapist space adventure and heady science fiction, but it's neither thrilling enough nor intellectually stimulating enough to satisfy devotees of either.
  12. Herman's House would benefit from more background material on Wallace, notably about the alleged weakness of the murder rap against him. In the end, though, neither Sumell nor the film is concerned with that. Their goal is to make palpable — and palpably horrific — the fact of living 23 hours a day in caged isolation.
  13. 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?
  14. 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.
  15. What hasn't advanced is the plotting, which was nothing special last time and is so formulaic now that it's basically surprise-free.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    Turbo is harmless good fun — and impressionable kids could take worse lessons away from the multiplex.
  16. A likable but warmed-over comedy.
  17. For the charming but skin-deep documentary When Comedy Went to School, filmmakers Mevlut Akkaya and Ron Frank gained enviable access to pioneer stars of Borscht Belt standup.
  18. A waka is a traditional Japanese style of poetry, and this documentary does take a lyrical approach. Although barely an hour long, Tokyo Waka leaves room for offhand observations and humorous asides.
    • 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.
  19. 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.
  20. As The Fifth Estate excitedly illustrates, in the Internet age no one can ever really have the last word.
  21. Because it serves up Armageddon with a side order of teen romance, How I Live Now is not always credible. But as a portrait of a surly 16-year-old whose internal crisis is overtaken by an external one, the movie is persuasive.
  22. Like "Eve's Bayou," her best-known movie, Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity presents a child's view of a troubled family. The latter film is sweeter and slenderer, but that's only to be expected.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 65 Critic Score
    Where the film excels is in capturing the quiet revelations in Marie's life over the few days it chronicles — revelations that represent the aftermath of choices made years before, when expectations were higher.
  23. There's black comedy, and then, in the darkest corner of an airtight box buried deep underground, there's the humor of Big Bad Wolves.
    • 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. The movie drowns the deeper questions it raises in a sadistic procedural, an endless circular motion of fight scenes whose only justification is themselves.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. Spectacularly self-absorbed protagonists step on each other, jockeying first for position, and ultimately for survival.
  34. W.
    A surprisingly unsurprising film.
  35. 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.
  36. Kaplan keeps the story breezy and brisk, and provides his down-to-earthily modern fairy tale with an appropriately other-worldly visual style.
  37. 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.
  38. 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.
  39. 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.
  40. 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.
  41. 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.
  42. The movie is, as these things go, enjoyably trashy.
  43. 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.
  44. The "casi" in Casi Divas translates to "almost," and it's an appropriate word for the film as a whole.
  45. 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.
  46. 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.
  47. 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.
  48. 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.
  49. 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.
  50. 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.
  51. 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?
  52. 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.
  53. 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.
  54. 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.
  55. 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.
  56. Freakonomics' commercial success reflected the once-fashionable notion that economics could explain, well, everything.
  57. 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.
  58. The movie is crisp and contemporary enough to inaugurate another franchise for Statham.
  59. The broad comedy clashes with the movie's final message: that 6,000 girls face genital mutilation every day.
  60. 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.
  61. 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.
  62. The movie has more sensibility than sense, but it seems cunning next to such silly tough-girl fare as "Kick-Ass" and "Sucker Punch."
  63. 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.
  64. 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.
  65. An entertaining concert film, but not an incisive character study.
  66. Puzzle has some gentle fun with the clash of staid and hip.
  67. Evincing more visible intelligence than any of his human co-stars aside from Lithgow, Caesar is disquietingly lifelike.
  68. A documentary that focuses rigorously on process and atmosphere at the expense of context and engagement.
  69. One Day ends up fatally compromised by its glib recourse to death and cancer as moral wake-up calls.
  70. 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.
  71. 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.
  72. It was frantic sex that earned Shame an NC-17 rating, but this arty drama is mostly slow and methodical. And thoroughly unsexy.
  73. 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.
  74. 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.
  75. 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.
  76. 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.
  77. 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.
  78. 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.
  79. 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.
  80. Ultimately, this intriguing but scattershot movie turns on the incompatibility of two worldviews - the corporate-financial vs. the environmental-spiritual.
    • 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.
  81. Hysteria, a disappointingly limp ode to the invention of the vibrator, plays like a Merchant Ivory Production of "Portnoy's Complaint."
  82. 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.
  83. 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.
  84. 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.
  85. 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.
  86. 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.
  87. 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.
  88. 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.
    • 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.

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