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The November Man

In this excitingly nasty but ultimately confused action picture, Pierce Brosnan plays a retired government hitman drawn out of retirement to untangle a global political…

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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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The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

All movies toy with us, but the best ones have the nerve to admit it. Most movies pretend their stories are real and that we must take them seriously. Comedies are allowed to break the rules. Most of the films…

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8 1/2

8 1/2

The conventional wisdom is that Federico Fellini went wrong when he abandoned realism for personal fantasy; that starting with "La Dolce Vita" (1959), his work ran wild through jungles of Freudian, Christian, sexual and autobiographical images. The precise observation in…

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Un Chien Andalou

Un Chien Andalou

Luis Bunuel said that if he were told he had 20 years to live and was asked how he wanted to live them, his reply would be: "Give me two hours a day of activity, and I'll take the other…

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The Decalogue

The Decalogue

Ten commandments, 10 films. Krzysztof Kieslowski sat for months in his small, smoke-filled room in Warsaw writing the scripts with a lawyer he’d met in the early 1980s, during the Solidarity trials. Krzysztof Piesiewicz didn’t know how to write, the…

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Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies

In the waning days of World War II, American bombers drop napalm canisters on Japanese cities, creating fire storms. These bombs, longer than a tin can but about as big around, fall to earth trailing cloth tails that flutter behind…

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Chinatown

Chinatown

“Are you alone?” the private eye is asked in Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown.” “Isn’t everybody?” he replies. That loneliness is central to a lot of noir heroes, who plunder other people’s secrets while running from their own. The tone was set…

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Some Like It Hot

Some Like It Hot

What a work of art and nature is Marilyn Monroe. She hasn't aged into an icon, some citizen of the past, but still seems to be inventing herself as we watch her. She has the gift of appearing to hit…

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Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola's film "Apocalypse Now" was inspired by Heart of Darkness, a novel by Joseph Conrad about a European named Kurtz who penetrated to the farthest reaches of the Congo and established himself like a god. A boat sets…

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McCabe and Mrs. Miller

McCabe and Mrs. Miller

It is not often given to a director to make a perfect film. Some spend their lives trying, but always fall short. Robert Altman has made a dozen films that can be called great in one way or another, but…

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House of Games

House of Games

Almost all of David Mamet's movies involve some kind of con game. Sometimes it is a literal con, as in "House of Games," where a character is deliberately deceived by fraudsters. Sometimes it is an inadvertent con, as in "Things…

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The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption

It is a strange comment to make about a film set inside a prison, but "The Shawshank Redemption" creates a warm hold on our feelings because it makes us a member of a family. Many movies offer us vicarious experiences…

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Yellow Submarine

Yellow Submarine

Once upon a time, or maybe twice, there was a land called Pepperland. Eighty thousand leagues beneath the sea it lay, or lie (I'm not too sure).

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