Peter Howell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smart monkeys, dumb humans

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

  • Aug 4, 2011

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

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

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

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

More senseless overload

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

  • Jun 30, 2011

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