Oscar Contenders: Weeping camel + Howard Zinn + slain Civil Rights activist remain in the running, but polemical Iraq War features have been bypassed.
Menahem Golan’s Oscar-nominated flag-waving drama Operation Thunderbolt is a dismal failure as both cinema and propaganda.
Alexander Payne’s road movie comedy Sideways suffers from a much too ardent desire to pander to its audience - to the detriment of its characters.
Foreign Language Film Oscar: Entries from 49 countries, but 2 internationally acclaimed Gael García Bernal movies have turned out to be Academy Award orphans.
Imelda Staunton delivers a superb performance as a mid-1950s abortionist in Mike Leigh’s family + socially conscious drama Vera Drake.
Starring Liam Neeson as the polemical sex researcher, Bill Condon’s otherwise well-made Kinsey movie biopic suffers from an excess of scruples.
Robert Siodmak’s 1957 political drama The Devil Strikes at Night asks whether serial killers are any worse than socially sanctioned mass murderers.
John Frankenheimer and Dalton Trumbo’s anti-Semitism drama The Fixer is ruined by a preachy and simplistic script, and by a badly miscast Alan Bates.
Valerie Perrine overshadows a miscast Dustin Hoffman in Bob Fosse’s unfocused biopic Lenny (1974), about polemical standup comedian Lenny Bruce.
Fred Zinnemann’s drug addiction drama A Hatful of Rain is spoiled by its screenplay and the acting of 3 of its 4 leads. Eva Marie Saint is the sole standout.
Best Actor Oscar nominee Johnny Depp is excellent in Gore Verbinski’s surprisingly entertaining Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Paul Schrader’s well-made + great-looking psychological drama Affliction (1997) is marred by implausible situations + Nick Nolte’s overwrought performance.
In a difficult role, Joan Allen delivers a masterful performance in Rod Lurie’s engrossing but unconvincing political drama The Contender.
The Oscar-nominated The Grandfather works as a Fernando Fernán Gómez showcase while conveying an irresistible message of tolerance.
Oliver Stone chooses to ignore the facts in his dishonest yet engrossing political thriller JFK, an account of the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination.
The Oscar-nominated Gena Rowlands + John Cassavetes collaboration A Woman Under the Influence (1974) is seriously marred by its own inauthentic ‘rawness.’
Gaping narrative issues hinder Sam Mendes’ gangster drama Road to Perdition, otherwise a great showcase for Tom Hanks + Paul Newman.
Alejandro González Iñárritu + Guillermo Arriaga’s overreaching psychological drama 21 Grams is immensely helped by 5 excellent performances.
Naomi Watts delivers an exceptional performance - or rather, two of them - in David Lynch’s unsettling Hollywood horror tale Mulholland Dr..
War-related movies have topped the San Sebastian Film Festival, where Woody Allen, Annette Bening, and Jeff Bridges received Lifetime Achievement honors.
Chris and Paul Weitz’s reactionary audience-pandering comedy About a Boy (2002) stars Hugh Grant as a man who tragically discovers his inner dad.
In a less showy role, Ethan Hawke steals Antoine Fuqua’s mediocre cop thriller Training Day (2001) from Best Actor Oscar winner Denzel Washington.
Venice Festival: The Golden Lion victory of Mike Leigh’s abortion drama at the snafu-plagued Biennale has infuriated Italian nativists rooting for local father-son tale.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) adaptation proves that CGI isn’t enough for the creation of movie magic.
Michael Moore’s blockbuster documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 incinerates the warmongering George W. Bush administration + the complicit U.S. media.
The last of the Romanovs is the focus of Franklin J. Schaffner’s Oscar-nominated Nicholas and Alexandra, a lavish but conventional historical drama.
A first-rate Tom Hanks learns no one is indispensable in Cast Away, Robert Zemeckis’ adventure flick exalting the Triumph of the Human Spirit nonsense.
Personable stars Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks can’t save Nora Ephron’s unromantic and unfunny 1993 romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle.
Miscast cast (Michael Douglas et al) + heavy directorial hand hinder Curtis Hanson and Steve Kloves’ Wonder Boys movie adaptation.
Starring Halle Berry + Billy Bob Thornton, Marc Forster’s drama Monster’s Ball features quality moments that fail to amount to a satisfying whole.
John Cassavetes’ landmark and widely admired 1968 independent drama Faces is a narrative wreck and a long-winded cinematic chore.
Walsh + Cummings’ 1928 Pre-Code Western In Old Arizona is of historical interest as the first talkie shot outdoors and for its risqué sensibility.