Report Card

Staff Critic's Takes On The Top Movies

October 09, 2008

Appaloosa

What it's about : A taciturn marshal (Ed Harris) and only slightly more talkative deputy (Viggo Mortensen, above) tame the title town and rule supreme - until the love of an elusive gal (Renee Zellweger) complicates law and order.

Rated : R

The scoop : Harris and Mortensen deliver delicious, virtuoso understatement, and as a director, Harris makes this old-fashioned Western go down like a single malt aged for 25 years.

Grade: *** 1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS)

Burn After Reading

What it's about: Espionage gets mixed up with a gym worker's desire to get a Hollywood body, a CIA wife's move to get a divorce, and a U.S. Treasury agent's propensity to get some thrills whenever his current flame flicks him the wrong way.

Rated: R

The scoop : You can't fault the ensemble (George Clooney, above, and Frances McDormand are especially spirited), but the movie lacks internal combustion. It's more willfully silly than peppy.

Grade : ** 1/2 (2 1/2 STARS)

Eagle Eye

What it's about : A mysterious woman who seems able to control any electronic device coerces an aimless slacker (Shia LaBeouf) and a single mother (Michelle Monaghan, above) into implementing a plot that may bring down the U.S. as we know it.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : It's moderately gripping, but, too often, watching this movie is like seeing someone else crack a jigsaw puzzle.

Grade * * 1/2 (2 1/2 STARS)

Flash of Genius

What it's about : The real story of how Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear, above) invented the intermittent windshield wiper and took on Ford Motor Co. for stealing his device.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : The whole movie is haunting and memorable, and it's exhilarating in an authentic, pathos-streaked way to see Kearns, through Kinnear's inspired characterization, represent himself during his trial.

Grade: **** (4 STARS)

Miracle at St. Anna

What it's about: Four Buffalo Soldiers (including Derek Luke, above) wind up behind German lines in Tuscany and forge relationships with Italian partisans and villagers.

Rated: R

The scoop: The movie is overlong and unsubtle, but Omar Benson Miller as a bighearted soldier and Matteo Sciabordi as a traumatized child achieve a magical rapport. The film has a cumulative emotional power that's hard to shake.

Grade: *** ( 3 STARS)

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

What it's about : Two high school seniors (Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, above), who are meant for each other but don't know it, spend a long night searching for a cult band and stumbling into romance.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : It contains some intelligent humor and high-SAT comedy as well as hijinks so crude they're really low jinks; the movie's attitude veers between hipper- and more-sensitive-than-thou.

Grade: ** 1/2 (2 1/2 STARS)

Nights in Rodanthe

What it's about: Based on a Nicholas Sparks best-seller, an emotionally bruised woman (Diane Lane, above) finds love while running a hotel in a coastal North Carolina town.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: It should be a surefire weepie, but not even Lane can push this soggy mass uphill.

Grade: * 1/2 ( 1 1/2 STARS)

Religulous

What it's about : Bill Maher (above) brings his disarmingly direct humor to the topic of religion in this bracing and funny documentary.

Rated: R

The scoop : Maher's central subject is religion as it is practiced in the suburbs, the country and the streets; until the heavy-handed ending, he manages to debunk blind faith with a twinkle in his eye.

Grade: *** 1/2 (3 1/2 STARS)

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