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 Mr. Turner
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
1,028 movie reviews
  1. It's glorious while it lasts, but then the film goes back to figuring out how to keep its oversized vessel from taking on water.
  2. Rickman is too theatrical, and too British, to vanish entirely into the person of Hilly Kristal. But he's entertaining to watch, and ultimately one of the more persuasive actors in a movie that suffers from as many odd casting decisions as Lee Daniels' The Butler.
  3. 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.
  4. The movie is, as these things go, enjoyably trashy.
  5. 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.
  6. Loki is a skilled creation, but lacking that sense of why, it's hard not to think of him as an artistic construct rather than a character. The same goes for Prisoners, a work of impressive craftsmanship that winds up making us think too much about how it was fashioned rather than what it has to say.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. It's a cold-blooded business — and all sentiment aside, it's clear that Pineda is as replaceable as anyone.
  13. An entertaining concert film, but not an incisive character study.
  14. Oz the Great and Powerful tells the story of how the Wizard came to Oz, answering a question I suspect no one was asking, but with considerable digital wizardry.
  15. It's Liam Neeson at his Neesoniest, and yet another entry in his expanding late-career bloom into gruff and commanding action hero.
  16. Puzzle has some gentle fun with the clash of staid and hip.
  17. Ultimately, this intriguing but scattershot movie turns on the incompatibility of two worldviews - the corporate-financial vs. the environmental-spiritual.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. It was frantic sex that earned Shame an NC-17 rating, but this arty drama is mostly slow and methodical. And thoroughly unsexy.
  21. This China/Hong Kong co-production flips the formula: The fantastic images are solid, but the action is less substantial.
  22. German history and culture are among Sokurov's concerns in this visually compelling, intellectually scattershot movie.
  23. The documentary is at its best when it eases up on the adoration a little and turns to a serious discussion of the state of comics these days, what with newspapers on the decline and digital media scattering an art form that was once centralized on pages delivered to everyone's door.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
    • 28 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    The moody picture even swings toward hopeful in its final minutes, as it tries to celebrate Charles as the man he is, faults and all. It's enough to leave you wondering whether even a glimpse inside this mind is too much.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
    • 63 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Although parts of Spring Breakers are very funny, there's also something tsk-tsking and superior about it, as if Korine had thought a lot about young middle America's idea of midsemester fun and decided he doesn't like it one tiny bit.
  29. 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.
  30. Despite some very welcome black comedy — Jimmi Simpson appears delightfully, but too briefly, as a passive-aggressive co-worker who threatens to unravel the cocoon of delusion in which Emanuel has wrapped herself — the movie, trapped in the weeds of self-pity and skin-deep badassery, never quite earns the sympathy it so strenuously solicits.
  31. It's well made, polished, and hits every mark — but is it crazy to want a futuristic sci-fi action flick about a motorcycle-riding metal supercop to be just a little more fun?
  32. 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.
    • 46 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Don't expect more than a passing summer breeze.
  33. 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.
    • 47 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Zombies are a versatile source for metaphor, whether they represent a deadened consumerist society, a victimized minority or a worldwide medical disaster. In The Returned, they serve best as an unseen peril, one that's growing inside Alex and threatening to undo his and Kate's enviable existence.
  34. The movie has more sensibility than sense, but it seems cunning next to such silly tough-girl fare as "Kick-Ass" and "Sucker Punch."
    • 55 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    What it fails to supply much of — surprisingly, it must be said — is fun. This is serious business, Snyder seems always to be saying. This is badass. And given the sheer logistical size of the spectacle on display, it's a position that's hard to argue with.
  35. Winterbottom's 2004 film "9 Songs" is the most sexually explicit picture ever to get general release in Britain. Oddly, given its subject matter, The Look of Love turns out to be much tamer; as Raymond's shows and magazines become raunchier, the director sidesteps or actively censors the steamiest material.
  36. 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.
  37. In a rare bit of explication, the movie notes that "buffalo" has two connotations in Thailand. For rural folks, it refers to the strength and perseverance of the large animals, called "kwai" in Thai. To urbanites, however, a buffalo is a hick.
  38. Neil Jordan seems well aware that audiences may be feeling deep fatigue about vampires. So with his latest, the director of Interview With the Vampire makes a vampire film that seeks to reinvent the species, while harking back to a more classical — read: less sparkly — take on the genre.
  39. Almodovar is in party mode here, and if you liked his 1990 comedy "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" you'll probably love I'm So Excited! for its candied pastels and its impishly clever design, which transforms the plane into a theater and its galley into a staging area for those three theatrical stewards.
  40. 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.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Each event's inherent banality is skewed slightly by the actors' matter-of-fact delivery and an external sense of dread amplified by the playfully ominous score, composed by Dupieux.
  41. 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.
  42. 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.
  43. The "casi" in Casi Divas translates to "almost," and it's an appropriate word for the film as a whole.
  44. Tron: Legacy revels in its over-the-top nature: the sharp contrast of inky blacks against vibrant neons, the bombastic clash of orchestral and synthetic elements in the soundtrack (by French electronic musicians Daft Punk), the trippy, sometimes incoherent ideas it presents.
  45. But the McManuses' skill with character detail does hold promise for future efforts. The boys in the film are on the verge of maturity; while there appears to be very little grace in their interactions with their church, they are just beginning to find some within their own characters. Perhaps that's appropriate for two directors who seem on the threshold of an artistic maturity hinted at by this first effort.
  46. Sfar's imaginative direction and the film's lush visual sense, along with a hugely charismatic performance by Eric Elmosnino in the title role, do manage to elevate much of the formula elements.
  47. What more often sinks Mama is, well, Mama herself. Much like another recent homage to a spookier era of horror, 2011's "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" - which, like Mama, was executive-produced by Guillermo del Toro - Muschietti's film shows its monster too early and too often.
  48. There's a great deal of promise and potential in the idea of a documentary study of Hicks. Unfortunately, American falls short of anything beyond the ordinary. Part of the problem is the difficulty in resisting the temptation to squeeze the comic's story into the familiar confines of a VH1 Behind the Music-style template.
  49. Heartless seems eternally at war with its own genre, unwilling to succumb to bloody mayhem yet neither smart nor coherent enough to transcend horror convention.
  50. DeChristopher's primary concern is climate change, which is no small issue. But Bidder 70 would be more compelling if it had used the U.S. government's assault on the ad hoc activist to also discuss threats to the American political environment.
  51. On a technical level, The Tree marks a significant advance over the humble utility of Bertuccelli's previous film, drinking in Australia's pastoral majesty with an abundant eye for beauty that falls just short of the intended poetry. Yet the characters aren't nearly as resonant.
  52. It's populated by characters who are just too good to be plausible.
  53. A Good Old Fashioned Orgy deserves credit for not entirely wimping out.
  54. It's a campy rampage that runs a few minutes shy of four hours, dooming what otherwise would likely be a bright future as a midnight movie.
  55. The glib story and hectoring structure undermine the filmmakers' best intentions.
  56. Watching these two actors move from being sweetly flirtatious to doing real emotional battle may not entirely compensate for the movie's other failings, but it goes a long way toward making amends.
  57. Directed by Neil Burger, whose "The Illusionist" also pulled an upbeat coda out of a hat, Limitless is entertaining for much of its running time. It's glib, and it's overly fond of hyperdrive pans, psychedelic montages and swift rack-focus shifts.
  58. If Drinking Buddies is meant to be his ticket into mainstream comedy, it feels mumblecore-ishly vague and rambling in its construction, like "Hannah Takes the Stairs" without the raffish charm.
  59. It's the sort of well-meaning fable that's ultimately more admirable than persuasive.
  60. Unlike the tale told in "Precious", however, The Blind Side's story is contrived, storybook sweet, credulity-straining and ... um, true.
    • 59 Metascore
    • 55 Critic Score
    There are few enough directors with either Sayles' independent streak or his ability to parse the U.S.'s social and political divisions. In the best cases, the combination of the two makes his films vital. Go For Sisters, unfortunately, isn't the best case, even for itself.
  61. When Stanton lets the film be pure popcorn entertainment, with swashbuckling set pieces and lovably corny romanticism, it's a great ride in the Indiana Jones tradition.
  62. Ultimately, in a film that highlights the physical barriers - walls, roadblocks, armed guards - that keep Palestinians where the Israelis want them, the film's biggest barrier is the one Jacir erects between Soraya and the viewer.
  63. The thriller elements of the plot — which Karpovsky delivers quite ably, with an electric tension that carries through much of the film — aren't really balanced by the personal revelations on which Karpovsky eventually hangs Paul's problems. Both the mystery and the character piece wind up feeling incomplete.
  64. Whatever lizard-brain fun might have been had in watching Johnson do battle against a drug cartel is weakened by the occasional hard tug at the social conscience. The film winds up divided against itself.
  65. It may seem odd for a teen-focused action movie to feel so glum, but that's actually something that the director gets right, even if it threatens to make this a dull affair: Ender's Game is a dark story of a children's crusade built on the crushed psyches of damaged youths, and too much uplift would undermine it.
  66. Cooper does slow the action and set it in the least glamorous of circumstances, which drains the pleasure from the thriller conventions. But just because Out of the Furnace isn't much fun doesn't make it profound.
  67. Basically the anti-"Kill Bill." Both movies are quilted together from their auteurs' favorite Asian action flicks, but where Tarantino's was overheated, Reeves' is elegantly iced.
  68. The film was shot entirely in South Africa, and revels in golden light on dry yellow grasslands. But it's still a very British movie, a respectful view from a suitable distance.
  69. Rio
    Name the first things that come to anyone's mind about Rio de Janeiro - samba, soccer, sunbathing, Carnival - and those are the building blocks of this movie. Expect the expected.
  70. Once the colorful anecdotes sprawl out into an actual narrative, the film gets convoluted and loud, amplifying the weirdness without doing much to clarify it.
  71. There's a better documentary to be carved out of Hit So Hard, but not necessarily a great one, because the gossip and drug-fueled capers offered up by Love are simply more compelling than the tremulous course of Schemel's life. Here, as then, Schemel plays backup to history.
  72. While Europa Report recalls such small-ensemble stuck-in-space flicks as "Moon" and "Sunshine," it's basically "The Blair Witch Project" relocated to the vicinity of Jupiter.
  73. Orchestra of Exiles will interest anyone who's concerned with European Jewry or classical music in the first half of the 20th century. But it provides mostly the facts of Huberman's legacy and little of the flavor.
  74. For those already somewhat familiar with the subject, the directors' distillation of these 40 hours of film will expand their knowledge - if not their consciousness. But other viewers may spend the whole movie wondering exactly when the merry magic is going to kick in.
  75. Shot in New Mexico on a limited budget, Boys of Abu Ghraib is a credible depiction of the tedium, frustration and humiliation of wartime service. (Jack gets coated in human excrement not once but twice.) Naturalistic scenes of boxing, bantering and masturbation, set to a rap and hard-rock score, emphasize that these boys are young American everymen.
  76. There's something centrally pat and predictable about the coincidence-laden story, and by the time they get to Vegas, The Lucky Ones has been all but done in by a surfeit of serendipity.
  77. An overwrought, undercooked tale of crazy love and crazier revenge.
  78. Even in a film that clocks in at a quasi-epic 2 hours and 40 minutes, that's just too much narrative. And matters aren't helped by the fact that Lee, who has never staged battle sequences before, hasn't quite got the rhythms or camera angles right.
  79. So the principal point of controversy involved here is not Jobs himself, but Ashton Kutcher, who plays him. The actor's approach is to ape Jobs' speech and movements, which he does quite well. Whether mimicry qualifies as characterization is a question for Jobs' viewers to answer for themselves.
  80. Many of the White House scenes are jarringly motley, as Whitaker maintains Gaines' dignity against a series of performances that range from bland (James Marsden's JFK) to cartoonish (Liev Schreiber's LBJ). It comes as a relief when Daniels reduces Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford to TV clips — though that strategy makes the film even more of a stylistic jumble.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 55 Critic Score
    By the end, Macy's presence is just one part of what makes A Single Shot recall the Coen brothers' "Fargo." That film's now-famous wood-chipper scene can seem strangely tame a decade and a half on, but it still has a lesson to teach: When you show violence in a story that's not really about violence, there'd better be more of a point than just making us squirm.
  81. Zaytoun is different: This time, the director allows his characters to cross the frontier. That makes for a story that's sweeter, but also less convincing.
  82. But a few mild misgivings aside, Spurlock has made, in essence, a 90-minute promo reel for the convention, a paean to fanboy (and fangirl) enthusiasm that could double as an orientation video, if such a thing were necessary. It's a brisk and cheery overview, sweet but superfluous.
  83. The City of Your Final Destination does eventually prove intelligent enough about how we all become prisoners of dependency and obsession. Yet for a movie that argues for free agency and following your bliss rather than your career, it's awfully torpid.
  84. J.H. Wyman's script is grim and fairly audacious, without anything so goofy as the silliest stuff in "Dragon Tattoo." The story involves some Grand Guignol violence, but its wildest notion is that a suicide-mission plot might somehow yield a happy ending.
  85. Nothing about it lingers, not even the sulfuric stench of a bum scene or a particularly hammy performance.
  86. The original was a little sharper, with actual satirical swipes at modern British life. The remake replaces some of that material with lazy pop-culture gags, most of them specifically African-American.
  87. If you're only going to see one film about the Battle of Stalingrad — and there are many — Stalingrad would be the wrong choice. Russian director Fedor Bondarchuk's treatment of the World War II turning point is shallow and contrived, if sometimes impressively staged.
  88. The comic relief, an attempt to buoy the sinking feeling of Dolly and Joseph's difficulties, steals away the emotional weight of their story. The dominance of the madcap side of the film's split personality lays an airy veneer over Dolly and Joseph's woes, making them seem inconsequential - as unsubstantial as an observation about wedding-day weather.
  89. The movie's violence, although gruesome, flirts with slapstick, and the story appears bound for domestic comedy when all the major characters sit down for Thanksgiving dinner at June and Chet's grand Victorian farmhouse. But the meal becomes more freak show than satire.
  90. The performances are nicely calibrated, even when the director isn't meshing them into a persuasive whole. Summer Bishil makes Jasira an appealing naif -- smart, precocious and curious, if too easily led by hormones.
    • 42 Metascore
    • 55 Critic Score
    Even though Hogan has some terrific actors to work with — Toni Collette and Liev Schreiber among them — it's never clear what he's trying to say or do with Mental.
  91. This all essentially serves to distract from the fact that all that really happens in the film is that the company manages to eventually reach the mountain.

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