The Girlfriend Experience (2009)

a review by Jeffrey Overstreet • Magnolia Pictures. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Sasha Grey, Chris Santos,Peter Zizzo, Glenn Kenny. Written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien. 77 minutes. Rated R (for sexual content, nudity and language). •No, I can’t say I found it fun to watch a real porn star (Sasha Grey) dramatize an expensive call-girl’s tedious, humiliating, self-destructive work.But I can say I found it, um, "revealing" to watch The Girlfriend Experience — Steven Sod … [Read more...]

Avatar (2009)

This review of Avatar was originally published at Image. Also recommended: Steven Greydanus's review at Decent Films.-If you didn’t have one, you had a friend who did: The Big Toybox.You know the one I mean: A wooden crate like the Ark of the Covenant, full of mystery and revelation. Opened and overturned, it set loose a tidal wave of miscellaneous pieces from a hundred different worlds spilled across the floor. Building blocks, LEGOs, Tinkertoys, adventure sets, action figures, pie … [Read more...]

Up in the Air (2009) – Looking Closer’s Film Forum

I'm not allowed to post my review of this film before its release date, due to studio policies.So I'll wait. In the meantime, here are some reviews that have been online for a while now...1. Amiable and innocuous, Up in the Air offers a disingenuously smooth flight over choppy waters and rugged terrain. ... Up in the Air is neither funny enough to be a straight comedy nor serious enough to be a telling drama about the human toll wrought by economic crisis. Instead, the film is merely a … [Read more...]

A Serious Man (2009)

This review was originally published at Good Letters, the blog hosted by Image.-There’s an envelope full of cash on Larry Gopnik’s desk.He didn’t put it there. But he can guess who did. A student in Larry’s physics class has been begging him for a good grade. This money looks like a bribe. Nevertheless, when Larry goes seeking a confession, he’s given a confounding answer....“Accept the mystery!”Larry is a play-by-the-rules kind of guy. He cares about precise measurements; he … [Read more...]

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

eternal sunshine poster

2009 UPDATE: It's been more than five years since I wrote this review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and my appreciation for this film has only deepened since then. It went on to become quite an important film to many of my colleagues, so important, in fact, that when the team of a dozen or so film critics at Christianity Today voted on the films that were most important to them in 2004, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind took the #1 spot on the list. Remarkable, considering how … [Read more...]

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)


This review was originally published at the Image blog, Good Letters.-By the time Max shouted “Let the wild rumpus start!” on opening day ofWhere the Wild Things Are, a rumpus was already raging among the film’s critics.Reviewers have been roaring and beating their chests in debate. Were director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers faithful enough to author Maurice Sendak’s lavishly illustrated pages? Should they be treated like kings? Or sent to their rooms without dinner? … [Read more...]

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

I've turned in my my thoughts on Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds for publication at Image.They're included in "Volume Two" of my commentary on Tarantino's work and style. You can read Volume One here. … [Read more...]

Gladiator (2000)


[Update January 2013: This review was originally published when the film opened in May 2000, at The Phantom Tollbooth. I remember watching in dismay as my prediction at the end of this review came true. I've seen the film a couple of times since then, and my opinion of it has not changed. I explored it further, with less snark, in Through a Screen Darkly.]-Gladiator, one of the summer's surefire blockbusters, has arrived. And people are going to love it. It's big, noisy, violent, and so s … [Read more...]

Departures (2008)


This review, which also covers the film The Song of Sparrows, was originally published at Christianity Today Movies. For further exploration of this film, read Jeffrey's essay "Departures: Journeys with Asian Filmmakers," published in Image.-Layoffs, bankruptcy, skyrocketing unemployment. Tough times, busy days for job hunters, and everybody's got an opinion about what went wrong and how to fix it.Movies about employment tend to give us rags-to-riches success stories: Young people wi … [Read more...]

Terminator Salvation (2009)

This review was originally published at Filmwell.-When Arnold Schwarzeneggar first uttered the words "Ahl be bach!", people laughed and cheered. James Cameron's The Terminator was suspenseful,  exciting, and funny in a way that only the best B-movies can be. We loved the idea of an android assassin from the future hunting down a pregnant SWF who had no idea that her son would grow up to be humankind's savior during an onslaught of rebel machines. Arnie's wicked killing machine quickly … [Read more...]