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Heaven Is for Real

Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

The Moth Diaries: Young hearts aflutter

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"The Moth Diaries" is now available via IFC On Demand, Sundance Now, iTunes and other outlets. It opens in theaters April 20th.

A secret co-star of "The Moth Diaries" is cinematographer Declan Quinn. He brings to this tale of supernatural incidents at a girl's boarding school a palette of navy, teal and black to match the school uniforms, and pale flesh tones out of Vermeer. No great innovation there, but quite striking in the service of the story. Director Mary Harron makes sure these images don't overwhelm the drama by casting young ladies with powerful presences.

Model-actress Lily Cole's broad face and wide set eyes are terrifyingly beautiful, or maybe just terrifying. Either way, her turn as Ernessa, the mysterious new girl on campus, gives the "The Moth Diaries" a more solid reason for being than its familiar, "Twilight"-tinged plot. She's a head taller than the rest of the girls, striking an improbable balance between willowy and robust. Her famously red hair is dyed a deep brown (or covered in a masterfully applied wig), providing a stark frame for that porcelain doll face. In one scene, without the aid of special effects, her fleshy yet spindly arms seem to stretch out of proportion, like some Tim Burton creation. (It's easy to imagine Burton tripping over himself to add her to his gallery of living 19th century humanoids, alongside Lisa Marie, Christina Ricci and Helena Bonham-Carter.) The mystery: Is Ernessa some kind of vampire, witch, ghost or... what?

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Salvation by Slugfest

May Contain Spoilers

Religion takes you from darkness into light, and David Fincher's deeply religious "Fight Club" grows darker and darker still. Here, piety is anarchy; anarchy is destruction; self-destruction is ecstasy. It plays whimsical department store music while its broken shark teeth chew at you. Its sound, consistent plot leads straight to an abrasive, perhaps annoying schizophrenia. It is the Bodhisattva, Satyagraha, and the Masnavi mashed up and played backwards with the wrong device. This movie is the anti-movie, and it enjoys every moment of it.

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Which is the monster? The creature, or the creator?

May Contain Spoilers

Raging Bull, Henry V and Heat are primary examples of films acclaimed on their releases and steadily more since then. But this is far from being the case with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: slaughtered by the majority of critics in 1994, when it was released, the movie by British director Kenneth Branagh didn't please the audience either, becoming an embarrassing box office flop in the career of its director, which had so far been in ascension.

Even the surprising casting of Robert De Niro in the role of the "monster" wasn't enough to attract the attention of the audience, which therefore lost the opportunity to witness yet another immensely sensitive performance by the actor - and I use the word "monster" in quotes because DeNiro may have played many in his brilliant career (Louis Cyphre, Al Capone, Max Cady and even Jake La Motta come to mind), but the creature conceived by British writer Mary Shelley certainly isn't one of them. At least, not in Branagh's beautiful version.

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Oscars: The king vs. the nerds vs. the Rooster

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The 2011 Oscar race seems to be shaping up among the King of England, two nerds, and Rooster Cogburn. "The King's Speech," about George VI's struggle to overcome a stammer, led all nominations with 12. The nerds won eight nominations each for "The Social Network," the story of the founder of Facebook, and "Inception," about a man who hacks into other people's dreams. "The Fighter" followed with seven.

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Who'll be nominated?

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Although the 2011 Oscar nominations are announced at the crack of dawn Tuesday, many of the names on the list have been foreordained for weeks. Ever since its opening in September, “The Social Network” has been the front-runner for Best Picture — although when the Producers' Guild gave its prize to “The King's Speech” on Saturday night, all the predictions were somewhat shaken.

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The best feature films of 2010

David Fincher's "The Social Network"is emerging as the consensus choice as best film of 2010. Most of the critics' groups have sanctified it, and after its initial impact it has only grown it stature. I think it is an early observer of a trend in our society, where we have learned new ways of thinking of ourselves: As members of a demographic group, as part of a database, as figures in...a social network.

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"King's" takes the crown in Toronto

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"The King's Speech," a story of Britain's King George VI, won the coveted Cadillac People's Choice Audience Award Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival -- and an audience member won a new Cadillac. The film -- which stars Colin Firth as the King and Helena Bonham-Carter as Elizabeth, his wife and mother of Elizabeth II -- is considered a sure thing for Academy nominations.

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Ebert's 2006 summer/fall round-up

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Film festivals allow you to get way ahead on your movie viewing. At Sundance, Cannes, Telluride and Toronto you can see movies that will be released throughout the coming year and into the next. That's what Roger Ebert does every year, and here are some of the movies he's already written about for the next few months, into November....

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Cannes #8: Sex, awards & film

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CANNES, France – It probably won’t happen this way, but wouldn’t everyone be pleased if Gerard Depardieu won the best actor award at Cannes this year. The festival’s awards are given out Sunday night (12:30 p.m. CDT), and Depardieu received a tumultuous ovation Friday as the star of “Quand j’etais Chanteur,” or “The Singer.” Depardieu’s character reminded many audience members of the actor himself: A beefy middle-aged artist still slugging away at a job he loves, smoking too much, adamantly on the wagon, given new hope by his feelings for a much younger woman (Cecile De France). “I’ve been written off a lot of times,” he tells her, “but I always bounce back.”

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Telluride #4: A cleansing rain of films

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TELLURIDE, Colo. -- Like the rains after a dusty season, the movies of September wash and refresh. You walk out of a screening here and think you have surely seen an Oscar nominee. You leave a second and third, and think the same thing. The 2006 Academy Awards could be populated from this festival, with Toronto still to begin on Thursday. And that doesn’t even account for the riches of the foreign films, and the revived classics, and the program called “Made on a Mac,” of films by such as Laurie Anderson.

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Movie Answer Man (10/20/2002)

Q. Last week the Tomatometer at RottenTomatoes.com read 98% favorable for Miyazaki's "Spirited Away," because of a single negative review by someone whose name I can't recall now. Today I see that the green splatter is gone, and the meter is pegged out at a solid 100% "fresh." If there's one film that I've seen recently which deserves a 100% tomato rating, it's this one, so I have no objection to the removal of that negative link. But I am wondering how often RT adjusts its ratings in this way. Do they do it according to some standard, or in response to user complaints? (Joe Lippl, Minneapolis)

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Traditions do still count for something

TORONTO--Seventy-five of his old friends turned up for lunch Saturday with George Christy. Many of them had logged 10 years or more at his annual soiree at the Four Seasons, where the top stars and directors at the Toronto Film Festival mix with Canadian tycoons and political leaders.

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A seat in the balcony with Bill Clinton

WASHINGTON, D.C. He was an only child until he was 10, and both his parents worked. But you could go to the movies for a dime, he remembers, and he went to a lot of them. "I saw every movie that came my way when I was a child," President Clinton said, "and they fired my imagination - they inspired me. I think it's interesting that I'm 53 years old, and my favorite movie is 'High Noon,' a movie I saw when I was 6."

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Best films stand out at festival

TORONTOWaiting in the lobby of the Elgin theater Friday night, I talked to a guy who had seen 45 films in this year's Toronto Film Festival: "Yesterday I saw a $60 million movie I can hardly remember, and a $40,000 film I'll never forget."

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Grant takes place in the sun

America will be having a Hugh Grant festival this spring. The boyish British actor with the apologetic shrug is the star of three films being released almost simultaneously: "Sirens," "Four Weddings And A Funeral" and "Bitter Moon." All three are well-suited to his strengths as a likeable, diffident, chap who backs into situations apologetically, but usually prevails.

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