Peter Howell

From left

All swish and no sword

“There are no grand causes left,” righteous Aramis (Luke Evans) moans in The Three Musketeers, and weary viewers can sympathize. The very existence of this film illustrates barrel-scraping desperation of the Hollywood kind.

  • Oct 24, 2011
From left
Owen Wilson

Three cuckoos in search of themselves

“Who doesn’t love birds?” Jack Black says via narrative intro to The Big Year, a comedy about competitive birding and male bonding. The assertion depends on where you stand, or maybe roost.

  • Oct 17, 2011
Owen Wilson
Flanked by a staffer (Yuriy Sardarov

White house, black hearts

If talk is cheap in current American politics, so too is the huffing and puffing that makes The Ides of March less of an eye opener than it aspires to be.

  • Oct 13, 2011
Flanked by a staffer (Yuriy Sardarov
Veteran actors like Jason Stratham

Killer Elite just a collection of brain-dead clichés

On paper, Killer Elite promises “action thrills of the highest order,” as breathlessly proclaimed by the TIFF program guide for its recent festival debut.

  • Sep 29, 2011
Veteran actors like Jason Stratham
Brad Pitt

Getting inside baseball – and the people who changed it

Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Oscar-pitching roles, gloriously gets baseball’s essential contest: instinct vs. intellect.

  • Sep 23, 2011
Brad Pitt
Ryan Gosling’s performance in Drive recalls a young Steve McQueen or Robert De Niro

Drive revives the sweet smell of burning rubber

An early scene in the propulsive Drive finds Ryan Gosling’s mobile character securing a new set of wheels for an underworld getaway he’s planning.

  • Sep 23, 2011
Ryan Gosling’s performance in Drive recalls a young Steve McQueen or Robert De Niro
Layer upon layer of tension coats Contagion

Contagion will have you reaching for disinfectant

Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion is the feel-bad movie of the year and on more than one level. A star-studded thriller, it’s reminiscent of 1970s disaster movies, yet much more grounded in reality.

  • Sep 15, 2011
Layer upon layer of tension coats Contagion
Previews of Apollo 18 were never released and five public release dates later

Apollo 18: one giant leap for mediocrity

Houston, we have a problem. The virulent cinematic contagion known as “found-footage-itis,” spawned from the Blair Witch virus, has left Earth and is now infecting another body in the solar system: the moon.

  • Sep 8, 2011
Previews of Apollo 18 were never released and five public release dates later
Zoe Saldana is "Cataleya" in TriStar Pictures' Colombiana.

Preposterous on every level

This week’s poster child for Hollywood humiliation is Zoe Saldana. She’s co-star of history’s highest-grossing film (Avatar), and part of a successful franchise reboot (Star Trek). Yet that’s apparently not sufficient star power to prevent the embarrassment of her latest movie dodging critics and slinking into theatres as a Friday Dreadful.

  • Sep 2, 2011
Zoe Saldana is "Cataleya" in TriStar Pictures' Colombiana.
Bailee Madison gives a good performance as Sally

Don’t be afraid, and try not to be stupid while you’re at it

A certain amount of stupidity is required for a horror movie to succeed. I mean, who walks around a darkened house, especially into a musty basement, without turning on the lights as you go?

  • Sep 1, 2011
Bailee Madison gives a good performance as Sally
Array

A remake with bite

Fright Night was never about being subtle. When the 1985 Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) spotted his new neighbour hauling a coffin into the basement and painting windows black, he quickly twigged that the population of Transylvania had suddenly dropped.

  • Aug 24, 2011
Array
Aziz Ansari

30 Minutes or Less: decades late, still fresh enough not to bomb

Don’t let the cheesy (with ham) title fool you. 30 Minutes or Less sounds like cinematic fast food, with its pizza-delivery connotations, but it actually serves something more substantial.

  • Aug 12, 2011
Aziz Ansari
Steve Carell (left) has been down this road too many times before.

Too crazy and stupid to love

Here’s the nutty thing about Crazy, Stupid Love. How could a comedy so alert to details, such as the Velcro rasp of a nerd’s cheap wallet or a rake’s surprising affection for Dirty Dancing, be so tone deaf about the bigger picture?

  • Aug 8, 2011
Steve Carell (left) has been down this road too many times before.
Caesar the chimp

Smart monkeys, dumb humans

The world needs another Planet of the Apes movie like a circus acrobat needs a banana peel.

  • Aug 4, 2011
Caesar the chimp
(L to R

Cowboys don’t quite reach orbit

Cowboys & Aliens, a mash-up of western and sci-fi clichés, never fully saddles up or reaches for the stars. Still, it ropes you in.

  • Jul 29, 2011
(L to R
Character actors Jason Bateman

Murder most fouled up

The summer’s most killer comedy would be sinister if it wasn’t so ridiculous So much scenery is chewed during the course of Horrible Bosses, it’s almost as if director Seth Gordon unleashed a plague of locusts while filming.

  • Jul 18, 2011
Character actors Jason Bateman
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort come to their final explosive confrontation

Potter series ends with a thrill

Ten years and eight films after the boy wand-twirler’s cinematic adventures began, the saga resolves in ways suspenseful, romantic and thrilling.

  • Jul 14, 2011
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort come to their final explosive confrontation
Bad Teacher star Cameron Diaz does something she’s normally very good at

Bad Teacher needs some schooling in comedy

As film school assignments go, Bad Teacher is a potentially “A” topic with a “C” result that would require considerable remedial writing to upgrade.

  • Jul 8, 2011
Bad Teacher star Cameron Diaz does something she’s normally very good at
Transformers: Dark of the moon is the summer 2011 blockbuster that is supposed to be the saviour for 3-D

More senseless overload

Those pesky robots and their human enablers are back to fight over Earth and trash another city.

  • Jun 30, 2011
Transformers: Dark of the moon is the summer 2011 blockbuster that is supposed to be the saviour for 3-D
Michael

A summer blockbuster with real brains

We interrupt this summer of blah sequels and pointless remakes for some astonishing news. It turns out even cash cows can moo intelligently.

  • Jun 9, 2011
Michael