There are movies whose feel-good sentiments and slick craft annoy me so deeply that I know they will become box-office successes or top prizewinners. I call this internal mechanism my Built-In Hit Detector.
'Divergent,' directed by Neil Burger, displayed an admirable seriousness and some grim verve in laying out the boundaries of novelist Veronica Roth's dystopia - six segregated but ostensibly harmonious regions defined by their inhabitants' skills.
For 82 minutes, 'The Little Mermaid' reclaims the movie house as a dream palace and the big screen as a window into enchantment. Live-action filmmakers, see this and try to top it. Go on and try.
The exact meaning of irony is so narrow that the word is hardly worth using; in its broad, current definition, it's a euphemism for sarcasm. 'I'm not being sarcastic; I'm being ironic.' No, you're not. You're evading the responsibility for being sarcastic.
At heart, 'Chef' is a daddy-daycare fable about an overextended man who teaches his 10-year-old son the family business and learns to love him.
I came of baseball age (isn't it always around first grade?) in the last sputtering years of the A's Philadelphia tenancy. I probably plighted my fated troth in 1949, when the A's fluked into a winning season and introduced a pintsize southpaw named Bobby Shantz.
In 'Se7en' and 'Fight Club,' Fincher proved his suave mastery of film violence; in Zodiac, his way of clarifying the many clues in a murder thriller. As he showed in 'The Social Network,' the director also knows that no wound is more toxic than a friend's betrayal.
Big-time directors and the studios that bankroll them prefer to dwell in the comfortable, familiar center, where mammon is God and the only divine word comes from focus groups.
Soviet moviegoers gazed enviously on the jalopy that took the Joads from Oklahoma to California. The message Russians took from 'The Grapes of Wrath': even the poorest capitalists have cars!
In his musicals with Garland, Rooney was the sparkplug for prodigious entrepreneurship - that era's predecessor of the garage band, but with Gershwin tunes and an all-star cast.
To transport picturegoers to a unique place in the glare of the earth, in the darkness of the heart - this, you realize with a gasp of joy, is what movies can do.
We lived a lovely, middle-class, suburban life in Philadelphia. And I really thought that the TV programs of the '50s, like 'Father Knows Best' and 'The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet' Nelson were documentaries filmed with hidden cameras in our neighborhood.
A movie like 'Selma' should be a relic in a time capsule from 1965, a clue to how well we heeded King's words and how far we have advanced. Instead, it is a reminder that the 'American problem' has yet to be solved.
As the idealized mother, I might choose Irene Dunne as the mother in 'I Remember Mama' who strives and not just cooks and scrubs for her children, but who also acts as her daughter's literary agent.
In some ways, 'The Little Mermaid' was old-fashioned. Rendered in the hand-drawn style, it was the last Disney animated feature to use cels and Xeroxing. Pixar and its CGI imitators soon made that rigorous process obsolete.
Jimmy Stewart lived for movies, fought for his country, and died for love. Now isn't that a wonderful life?
'Blade Runner' was one of several dystopian science-fiction films to tank in the early and middle '80s. 'Tron,' 'The Dark Crystal,' 'The Keep,' 'Labyrinth': none found a large audience.
'Noah' is about a man whose mission is to obliterate Earth's past and godfather its future. Replacing the word 'God' with 'Creator' and taking other scriptural liberties, the movie risks confusing those who don't take the Bible literally and alienating those who do.
A movie like 'Transcendence' may be pertinent in its political reverberations of all computer data held in a cloud and monitored by the NSA, but it also rails against the tools its makers so artfully employ.
In their plush melodies and plummy platitudes, many Rodgers-and-Hammerstein songs were secular hymns, which so insinuated themselves into the ear of the Eisenhower-era listener that they became the liturgical music for the American mid-century.