Universal released Dream House without advance screenings, so critics weren't inclined to treat it seriously. The studio interfered with the movie so much that the director, Jim Sheridan, wanted to take his name off it. But though the movie is confused, it contains beautifully conceived sequences that suggest a genuine vision.
Sarah's Key is culled from a popular novel (by Tatiana de Rosnay)
set during the Holocaust and the Nazi occupation of France. The main
character, an American magazine writer (Kristin Scott Thomas) living
in Paris, discovers that her husband's family acquired their home after
the Jews who once lived there were sent to an abandoned stadium, where
they endured three hellish days before the Nazis transported them to the
In The Help, set during the civil rights era, an aspiring
journalist decides to write a book about the African-American domestics
in the small Mississippi town where she grew up. The movie, adapted by
Tate Taylor from Kathryn Stockett's best seller, is a glossy Hollywood
potboiler that uses a serious theme and historical context as cover.
Horse trainer Buck Brannaman is the sweet-souled star of Buck. Cindy Meehl's documentary begins as the portrait of a remarkable professional and turns unexpectedly into a Dickensian tale about the consequences of a turbulent childhood.
In The Trip, culled from a British TV miniseries, comedian Steve Coogan, ostensibly playing himself, is sent by a newspaper to tour England's finest restaurants, accompanied by his friend and fellow comic Rob Brydon.
Woody Allen fans were in a rough spot for nearly a decade and a half.
But now, with his sexy, sun-drenched
Mediterranean comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the enchanting new Midnight in Paris, Allen seems to have a new lease on life.
Werner Herzog's hypnotic documentary—which
takes us into the Chauvet Cave, where the oldest paintings known to
humankind were discovered in 1994—is the first movie to suggest a
convincing reason for the invention of 3D cinema.
This invigorating documentary offers a
poignant portrait of a life devoted to the pursuit of beauty. Cunningham, a photographer who documents fashion in his
long-running New York Times column, is both an artist and a social commentator, though far too modest to describe himself as either.
Dramatic adaptations of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre tend to go
for romantic embroidery and Gothic grandiloquence. But the new movie
version feels pared down in all respects
except the emotional. It has a piercing ferocity.
True Grit is the last thing you'd expect from the movies' most resolutely ironic brother act, the writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen: a labor of love. They set out to adapt Charles Portis's charming novel faithfully, correcting the errors of the 1969 Henry Hathaway version, a stock western memorable only for John Wayne's performance as the tippling marshal Rooster Cogburn.
Two of this season's movies, both based on true stories, remind us of the underrated pleasures of conventional filmmaking. Conviction, an account of how Betty Anne Waters sprang her wrongly imprisoned brother Kenny, and Secretariat, the tale of the legendary racehorse, are the most engrossing and emotionally engaging of the recent crop of releases.
David Fincher's The Social Network, with a script by the monarch of machine-gun banter, Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), is a smart, funny film that tells the story of how Facebook came into being. It's a comedy of manners about a desperately uncool Harvard undergrad who creates the most popular club in the world and declares himself president.
The French spy picture Farewell is literate, complex and thoughtful. It's based on the true story of the Russian spy Sergei Gregoriev, code name "Farewell," whose activities in the early 1980s laid the groundwork for the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The movie is both a gripping thriller and a witty exploration of the intricacies and implications of living a lie.