Critical Quips

The Portable Manohla Dargis Reader


“Non-Stop” doesn’t make any sense, but that’s expected, uninteresting and incidental to the pleasures of a slow-season Liam Neeson release as diverting as this one.

- 2/27/2014

Big Bad Wolves

One stays, the other leaves; one dies; the other, well, who knows, much less cares, what happens to her? Certainly not the writers and directors, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, for whom murdered children are just an easy, conveniently blunt and effectively faceless (and headless) means to a self-satisfied, jokey and blood-slicked end.

- 1/22/2014


If only it were less easy to laugh at “Oblivion,” a lackluster science-fiction adventure with Tom Cruise that, even before its opening, was groaning under the weight of its hard-working, slowly fading star and a title that invites mockery of him and it both


Dead Man Down

Yet while Colin Farrell and his sensitive, hardworking eyebrows help keep it from becoming a full-bore lampoon, the gangland clichés, nutty plot and seemingly random casting choices (F. Murray Abraham, Armand Assante, Isabelle Huppert) stoke your hopes that true movie madness may rise out of the darkening shadows and pessimism.


Oz the Great and Powerful

When another woman’s lover chases him, Oz hops in a hot-air balloon and, after riding out a storm, arrives in a garishly hued, digitally rendered land that brings to mind the (bad) cover of a prog rock album and announces that, while we aren’t in Kansas anymore, neither are we in movie dreamland.


Oz the Great and Powerful

…maybe they could have jabbed some sense into the director Sam Raimi, best known for the first “Spider-Man” movies, and his five male producers, and then used those needles to shred Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire’s script.


Oz the Great and Powerful

The bigger bummer, though, is that the studio that has enchanted generations with Tinker Bell and at least a few plucky princesses has backed a movie that has such backward ideas about female characters that it makes the 1939 “Wizard of Oz” look like a suffragist classic.


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2

Heads pop like Champagne corks in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” the final chapter in the megamillion-dollar series about love, war and franchise immortality.


The Man With the Iron Fists

But RZA, with his sleepy eyes and an affect so laid-back it’s a wonder he can remain standing for minutes at a time, is too recessive a screen presence to make the character pop, much less hold your interest.

- 11/1/12

The Man With the Iron Fists

Directed by the hip-hop impresario turned would-be auteur RZA (a k a Robert Diggs), of the group Wu-Tang Clan, ”Iron Fists” is a sweetly sincere, lightly cheeky gloss on the film genre wuxia (“martial chivalry”) and those entertainments known for their flying swordsmen (and women), crouching tigers, hidden dragons and often fabulous hair, gowns and wirework.

- 11/1/12