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 Incendies
Lowest review score: 0 This Means War
Score distribution:
1,016 movie reviews
  1. Sweet and well-intentioned, Sassy Pants is difficult to dislike, despite its missteps.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
    • 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.
  6. The plot fails to deliver a single surprise, however, and the characterizations are thin even by the standards of the tough-guy genre.
  7. This China/Hong Kong co-production flips the formula: The fantastic images are solid, but the action is less substantial.
    • 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.
    • 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'."
  8. 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.
  9. It's a cold-blooded business — and all sentiment aside, it's clear that Pineda is as replaceable as anyone.
  10. 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.
    • 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.
    • 46 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    Don't expect more than a passing summer breeze.
    • 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.
    • 39 Metascore
    • 60 Critic Score
    The Brass Teapot too often devolves into stale slapstick.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
    • 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. German history and culture are among Sokurov's concerns in this visually compelling, intellectually scattershot movie.
  20. 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.
  21. Like most of LaBute's work, Some Velvet Morning ends as it begins, more clever than wise.
  22. 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.
    • 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.
  23. 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?
    • 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.
  24. It's Liam Neeson at his Neesoniest, and yet another entry in his expanding late-career bloom into gruff and commanding action hero.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. If this fabulously decked-out foursome is self-absorbed enough to be inadvertently cruel on occasion, they also suffer lots of guilt -- though their angst is rendered somewhat less angsty for viewers by the zingers, the designers, and the cheerfully objectified men on display.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. 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.
  34. After a while, you can see the setups happening -- and once you do, the careening gets predictable. Which gets old, really fast.
  35. Unlike the tale told in "Precious", however, The Blind Side's story is contrived, storybook sweet, credulity-straining and ... um, true.
  36. (Untitled) does have great moments, particularly in its technical execution -- the director began his career as a musician, and his command of sound design is particularly imaginative.
  37. 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.
  38. 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.
  39. Brand's character, who combines Bono's moral sanctimony with Keith Richards' supernatural hedonism, ultimately doesn't add up.
  40. 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.
  41. Frothy, frantic and inescapably unromantic - the two leads have less chemistry than an American high-school curriculum - Heartbreaker marks the uneven feature debut of television director Pascal Chaumeil.
  42. An overwrought, undercooked tale of crazy love and crazier revenge.
  43. 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.
  44. This is among the better Allen knockoffs of recent years, even if a few of its riffs seem hazardously off-key.
  45. 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.
  46. 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.
  47. So long as Exporting Raymond sticks to the headaches of adapting Everybody Loves Raymond into Everybody Loves Kostya, it's a funny and revealing look at the immense chasm between the two cultures.
  48. These fleeting moments never quite overcome the sense that Earthwork's narrative follows too-familiar templates, and that its characters lack the careful detail of Herd's own art.
  49. 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.
  50. The glib story and hectoring structure undermine the filmmakers' best intentions.
  51. 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.
  52. 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.
  53. Eventually, too little is left to the imagination to do what it does best: fill in the gaps with visions far more frightening than anything a filmmaker could put onscreen.
  54. A Good Old Fashioned Orgy deserves credit for not entirely wimping out.
  55. 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.
  56. Nothing about it lingers, not even the sulfuric stench of a bum scene or a particularly hammy performance.
  57. 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.
  58. Delicacy is phony in ways that might seem drearily familiar to audiences weaned on American romantic comedies.
  59. 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.
  60. 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.
  61. It's the sort of well-meaning fable that's ultimately more admirable than persuasive.
    • 41 Metascore
    • 55 Critic Score
    Grassroots is a movie where bad ideas, because they're the ones championed by the "correct" side, are king. It never acknowledges that sometimes idealism is just another kind of manipulation.
  62. It's populated by characters who are just too good to be plausible.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 55 Critic Score
    On the plus side, the action sequences - desaturated, chopped up and herky-jerky as they are - are mildly thrilling.
  63. 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.
  64. 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.
  65. 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.
  66. Cumming always gives good value, and his regular bursts into cabaret numbers are certainly an added bonus. Yet this instinctively ironic actor doesn't seem best suited to play the movie's most sentimental creation. A mouthy, heart-of-gold construct, Rudy dresses like Ratso Rizzo and comes on like The Fonz.
  67. 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.
  68. 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.
  69. 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.
  70. 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.
    • 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.
  71. 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.
  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. 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.
  74. 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.
  75. 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.
    • 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.
  76. 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.
  77. If The Counselor is a failure, it's at least a fascinating one. Much of the reason for that is time spent in the theater examining why the film isn't working.
  78. 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.
  79. 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.
    • 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.
  80. 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.
  81. 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.
  82. 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.

Top Trailers