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Stories by David Elliott

David Elliott's Final Column

This is my farewell column, but not a whine about leaving the Reader. The problems of movie critics don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. And it would be bad form ...

Prometheus: A Lurching Carnival of Budget Blasts

Years in development, Ridley Scott’s Aliens prequel Prometheus flaunts many roots, from epic themes sucked out of 2001: A Space Odyssey to the inevitable, awful ick-with-teeth (Aliens and its progeny). There is a dull nod ...

Snow White and the Huntsman: Less for Fairy Tale Fans Than Action Buffs

As Queen Ravenna, the vicious usurper in Snow White and the Huntsman, Charlize Theron looks so fabulous that her Oscar-winner, Aileen Wuornos in Monster, seems almost another species. An empress of narcissism, Ravenna insists on ...

This Is the One with the Most Supple Flow: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom opens with Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” The tactic, like the music, is inspired. The kids of the Bishop family listen to the vinyl LP, and their imaginations ...

The Intouchables, A Less Sentimental Driving Miss Daisy

Through his career, François Cluzet has been chased by a resemblance to Dustin Hoffman. In a restrained French way, he might be as talented. I would rather view again his quadriplegic Philippe in The Intouchables ...

Battleship Is Bullship

Let’s be honest: Battleship is Bullship. That honor is soon justified, when Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) steals a burrito to impress the va-voom daughter (Brooklyn Decker) of an admiral (Liam Neeson). A boozing screw-up ...

Bernie: Jack Black Is the Most Likeable Man in Carthage, Texas

Jack Black, a likeable actor, simply had to play the most likeable man in Carthage, Texas. He is Bernhardt Tiede II, currently in prison yet still loved in Carthage for having been a funeral director ...

Men in Black III Takes a Final Run at the Bank

In what must be a final run at the bank, Men in Black III arrives a decade after the last installment. The first two MiB shows grossed over a billion worldwide, providing rich justification for ...

The Moth Diaries: Moonstruck Walks, Erotic Rivalry, Repressive Authority, Nocturnal Blood

Early reviews have argued that director Mary Harron has fallen below her previous level (American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page) with The Moth Diaries. They might better have emphasized the intelligent skill that Harron, who ...

The Third World of Restless City's Brooklyn

The Third World is somewhere in almost every great city. It fills much of the Brooklyn of Restless City. This movie has a zip chance in the big market but will still be worth viewing ...

Dark Shadows: Dark Secrets, Grave Mistakes

Director Tim Burton might never equal his early pinnacle Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, with its tight budget and its design in splendid sync with weird little Pee-wee Herman. Burton came close with Beetlejuice and Ed Wood, ...

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Hums and Bustles in a Fine Sari

The pieces of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel fit together enjoyably. Here is something for those who love Downton Abbey (and Upstairs Downstairs) and something for those who love Slumdog Millionaire. Add elements of Merchant ...

Goodbye First Love: No Sugar Bun of Goo-Goo

Paris, 1999: Camille is besotted by Sullivan. He besots back, but she cannot understand why he wants to go to South America with two pals, minus her, on a long adventure. Maybe from fear of ...

Sound of My Voice: Like Sci-fi Deprived of Science

As Maggie, leader of an obscure cult in Sound of My Voice, Brit Marling has the radiant, unlined purity of a dream angel. Her beauty is so sexy but virginal, she could become a New ...

Elles, Another French Triumph for Juliette Binoche

No doubt it is better to be a young, pretty prostitute for moneyed Parisians than, say, an aging gutter slut in Tampico. But the human complications are not much reduced. Facing those complications in Elles, ...

The Raven Is Fun to Watch (but Would Leak Like a Busted Cask If Really Examined)

The trailer for The Raven made me fear that it would relate to Edgar Allan Poe about as much as a cement mixer does to Michelangelo. But the film is entertaining as author Poe (John ...

The Five-Year Engagement, a Spinning but Aimless Turnstile of Gags

Emily Blunt is so sanely appealing that her honest touches rescue parts of The Five-Year Engagement, but not the movie. What could? Director Nicholas Stoller wrote it with actor Jason Segel, who gave himself a ...

Movie Reviews: Monsieur Lazhar, Marley, The Hunter, Lockout, The Lady

Last year, Inspector Bellamy. This year, Monsieur Lazhar. Both spiritually French, with an excellent central performance: Gerárd Depardieu as Bellamy, Mohamed Fellag as Lazhar. Philippe Falardeau’s French-Canadian movie dramatizes a teacher and students with exemplary ...

Seen on Screen: Titanic, The Kid with a Bike, Bully, American Reunion

My most surreal preview was in December, 1997. I sat alone in San Diego’s single-screen Cinema 21 in Mission Valley, surrounded by what seemed like 10,000 empty seats. The vast Titanic rolled over me, on ...

Movie Reviews: The Deep Blue Sea, The Raid: Redemption, The Salt of Life, Detachment

By the storm-surge law of openings, the weekly buzz of blab, this week’s column should lead with Wrath of the Titans or Mirror Mirror. They previewed too late for my use, but Matthew Lickona will ...

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Norwegian Wood, Being Flynn, Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Salmon and sushi this week, also poor sex and De Niro on the skids: Sheikh Muhammed of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen must have seen Lawrence of Arabia and then never forgot the Bedouin chief ...

Coriolanus, Crazy Horse, Friends with Kids, We Need to Talk About Kevin: Movie Reviews

’Tis a pity he’s a bore. That idea might creep up as you view the creepy Shakespearean “hero” of Coriolanus. Ralph Fiennes directed and stars as Rome’s General Caius Martius Coriolanus. A killing machine who ...

Movie Reviews: In Darkness, Chico & Rita, Rampart

Time to get out the good word a little early about In Darkness. It opens March 2, and serious, challenging movies such as this often have difficulty staying in theaters. It is no blockbuster, but ...

Pina, W./E., and Safe House Reviews

The first era of 3-D gave us flying lances and tomahawks, but the thrill (like the fad) faded. The process was revived creatively by Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. A ...

Movies: The Grey, Declaration of War, and the Jewish Film Festival

Another buzz-kill week at the movies: wolves, cancer, thoughts of Oscar. Oy vey (yes, let us prepare for the Jewish film festival). Joe Carnahan’s The Grey, about men pursued by Alaskan wolves, will not be ...

This Week in Movies: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Albert Nobbs, A Separation

Hollywood spends too much time and money turning tragedies into buckets of custard. In The Descendants, a coma crisis is sweetened by Hawaiian scenery and George Clooney’s breeze-along charm. In We Bought a Zoo, the ...

A Dozen Roses: The Best Movies of 2011

A regular Top Ten feels skimpy for 2011. It was a good year at the movies, if you knew where to look. I offer 12 roses, some laurels, and a weed patch. Roses 1) Buck. ...

Reviews of War Horse, We Bought a Zoo, Pariah

The ritual Top Ten ceremony waits until next week, as we look at the last movie glimmers of 2011: There is a hellish episode in War Horse. The English stallion Joey, having endured over three ...

Movie Reviews: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Adventures of Tintin, A Dangerous Method

Playing George Smiley in the new film of John le Carré’s most famous book, Gary Oldman is a long, gentlemanly way from his punky Sid Vicious in 1986’s Sid and Nancy. At times he is ...

Movie Reviews: The Artist and Carnage

Glad tidings, of coming holiday gifts: “I won’t talk!” silently mouths an actor in the silent movie being made inside The Artist, a film that is itself almost entirely silent in speech. Soon after, a ...

Movie Review: Hugo, Le Havre, The Women on the 6th Floor, Young Goethe in Love

As the year starts to fade, we find time for some three-star entertainments: Martin Scorsese, our national auteur and No. 1 movie fan, converts his status into both commercial and emotional terms with Hugo. Without ...

Movie Review: My Week with Marilyn, The Descendants, Into the Abyss, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Marilyn Monroe in England, Werner Herzog in Texas, George Clooney in Hawaii, Serge Gainsbourg in Paris (and next week, Scorsese’s Hugo in Paris). Off we go: Hardly anyone recalls that Marilyn Monroe won major French ...

Movie Review: J. Edgar, Melancholia

Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar needs a livelier title. May I suggest Anal-Retention Serenade? In this movie, a young American discovers his anti-Red obsession by finding Bolshevik propaganda flyers on the street and is soon proudly ...

Movie Review: Anonymous, Oranges and Sunshine, Toast

William Shakespeare is virtually illiterate in Anonymous, but since the movie seems to have been made for (and by) illiterates, why worry? The film is mainly about Edward de Vere, the highly educated, modestly talented ...

Movie Review: The Skin I Live In, We Were Here, Margin Call, The Way, Footloose, Take Shelter, Trespass

As Dr. Robert Ledgard in Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In, Antonio Banderas has a John Boehner tan and a rather Republican attitude (cut, cut, cut). Experimenting in his luxurious home surgery near Toledo, ...

Movie Review: Blackthorn, The Ides of March, The Mill and the Cross, Margaret, Thunder Soul

O happy column: three very good movies and two close enough. Blackthorn A real Western is riding our way from (surprise) South America. Up in the high Andes, Blackthorn is much more than an exotic ...

Movie Review: Moneyball, I Don't Know How She Does It, and Mysteries of Lisbon

The one baseball game given serious time in Moneyball is the Sept. 4, 2002, showdown in Oakland. Over 55,000 fans saw the Athletics blow a huge lead over Kansas City, then win on Scott Hatteberg’s ...

Reviews: Drive, Contagion, Mozart's Sister

We drive through a plague, past dear Mozart, and on to pretty Coronado: Ryan Gosling, once a Mouseketeer on TV, will never be one of the big, terse dominators (Mitchum, Marvin, Bronson, Eastwood). But his ...

A Tribute to Pauline Kael; The Debt Reviewed

Amid the 9/11 memorials, another salute is needed. This Saturday, September 3, marks a decade since Pauline Kael died at 82. She retired in 1991, ending 24 years as movie critic of The New Yorker. ...

Reviews: Our Idiot Brother, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Higher Ground, Senna

Into commercial territory, then on to higher ground and a fast, hot track: Sometimes a movie needs lines such as “Not in front of the chickens” and “He does pottery at the U.N.” The pleasing ...

Reviews: The Whistleblower, One Day, Salvation Boulevard, Crime After Crime, The Future, Point Blank

The summer harvest, mid-August — we reap what we can: Rachel Weisz was excellent in Agora, one of the few movies to deal smartly with the cultural collapse of classical antiquity. Not many Americans paid ...

Reviews: The Tree, Cowboys & Aliens, The Guard, Another Earth

The Tree Sometimes a “small” film eclipses a big one that wins the limelight. As a life statement, The Tree of Life implodes from its cosmic Texan gas. Far more modestly, The Tree sends out ...

A Little Help from Jenna Fischer

I regret missing A Little Help, which last fall won Best Narrative Feature at downtown’s San Diego Film Festival. Still, a pleasure deferred is not always lost, and the revelation of the picture is Jenna ...

So Long, Harry Potter

The great deed is done. Seven novels published, selling 450 million copies. Eight movies made for over $1 billion, their income over $6 billion and soon rising to over $7 billion as the last film ...

No Siren Call

Piping from countless multiplexes, the siren of summer buzz calls us to mull Green Lantern’s grosses, to decipher the Jim Carrey–comeback potential of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, to dwell on the Comic-Con dimensions of Transformers: Dark ...

Buck, the Equine Hero

I see no point in holding back good news, so let’s get right to: Buck There are precious few real heroes in movies. John Wayne was not a hero, he was more a stellar commodity ...

The Tree of Life: Malick Wraps Big Images

Clutching a chainsaw, we visit a big, beautiful tree: The Tree of Life In 38 years, Terrence Malick has directed only five feature films. Even Stanley Kubrick, the Great Oz of take-it-slow cinema, achieved eight ...

Pirates, Woody, and Keira

We sail into the Sargasso Sea of summer, where movie sequels trawl for box-office kelp. But then, off to Paris! Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Having taken in way over two billion, even ...

And Mel Gibson as the Beaver

Partly from choice, more because of preview timing, we leave Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides to cruise at sea until next week. But we hurry over to the pond for: The Beaver Jodie ...

Depths, Hollows: Circo, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Meek's Cutoff, and Poetry

Sometimes a little movie is a big movie. Sometimes a little movie offers riches, and I am happy to spill the news one week early for: Circo The Ken Cinema, a one-screen theater, will rightly ...

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