Critic-at-Large Jeff Koch gives a speed-dating version of the movie review for 14 movies.

For me, the holidays are about family, food, relaxation, games…and movies.  Lots and lots of movies.  Fourteen, to be precise. 

Sherlock Holmes: Turning Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary sleuth into a mumbling action hero might not be the best idea, but luckily the two leads (Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson) are magnetic and have great on-screen chemistry, and the plot and action has just enough going for it, making this movie quite enjoyable. 

Grade: 8.0 / 10

It’s Complicated: A romantic comedy for the baby-boomer set.  Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep bring intelligence, humor, and sympathy to characters that might not otherwise have it.  It’s just plain fun watching those two share the screen.

Grade: 7.5 / 10

 Up in the Air:  An enjoyable movie, but something left me unsatisfied afterwards.  Two weeks later, I still can’t put my finger on it.  Maybe it’s the incongruity of the two stories the movie is trying to tell.  Maybe it’s that nothing is ever really resolved.  Who knows.  Either way, the acting is dynamic, and the story is engrossing while watching.  Afterwards?  Let the hole-poking begin.

Grade: 7.5 / 10

Avatar:  Don’t worry about what meanings might lie beneath the story, or the stilted dialogue, or the absurdity of it all.  See this movie, and see it in 3-D.  It’s unlike any other visual experience, ever.

Grade: 9.5 / 10

Star Trek:  This is what a summer blockbuster should be.  It’s fun, smart, quick-paced, and just a touch cheeky.  Everyone involved with the movie is clearly enjoying themselves; so should you.

Grade: 9.0 / 10

Extract:  Another comedy from Mike Judge, who brought us Beavis and Butthead and Office Space.  To my mind, this is his best and funniest movie yet.  Jason Bateman is having a deserved career resurgence that started with the criminally underrated TV show Arrested Development, and he shines here.  But Ben Affleck steals the movie as a long-haired, drug-guzzling, half-idiot/half-genius bartender.

Grade: 8.5 / 10

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: There’s a reason why movies go straight to DVD.  The story isn’t bad, and the twist at the end, while somewhat predictable, is good.  But the actors aren’t up to the task, and it’s almost embarrassing to watch.

Grade: 5.5 / 10

Jennifer’s Body:  Megan Fox stars.  Diablo Cody writes.  Vampires…kind of.  Hot girls kiss!  What couldn’t there be to like?  Sadly, the movie misses on almost all fronts, and it doesn’t know what it wants to be.  I think they think they know, but they fail.  Did that make sense?  No?  Well, neither did the movie, which is more concerned with clever and witty lines (that are neither clever nor witty) than actually being entertaining or meaningful.

Grade: 5.5 / 10

District 9:  Aliens have landed in South Africa, and we’ve put them into internment camps.  After years of uneasy tensions, a multinational conglomerate (Halliburton, anyone?) is charged with moving them even farther out of the way so that they are out of sight, out of mind.  Obvious allegories are abundant, but the movie succeeds on a visceral level, and will leave you reeling.

Grade: 8.5 / 10

Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace: The first two James Bond movies starring Daniel Craig reboot the whole franchise, picking up in Royale right after Bond has obtained ‘00’ status.  Breaking from the conventions of the past (and often turning them on their head), Craig plays Bond as a brash, hardened bulldozer of a man, destroying everything and everyone in his path.  The first movie is great and holds up; Solace is better upon second viewing, and acquits itself well in relationship to Royale.  I can’t wait for the third one.

Grade: 9.0 / 10 for Casino Royale, 8.0 / 10 for Quantum of Solace;

Combined Grade: 8.5 / 10

Transformers:  Expectations play a huge role in movie enjoyment.  Being a Michael Bay movie, I had zero expectations for Transformers.  So I was pleasantly surprised when the movie didn’t totally suck.  Shia LaBeouf is fun as the human lead and brought some needed light-heartedness to the movie.  Only 5 transformers per side is lame, and the action is typically mindless and dumb.  But like I said, it didn’t totally suck.

Grade: 6.0 / 10

Where the Wild Things Are:  And by ‘wild’ they mean childish, insecure, manipulative, angry, violent, dumb, and mean.  The feat to turn this into a live-action movie is a marvel.  And the movie is moving and gripping.  But I had a hard time really caring about any of the characters, including Max, the human lead.  Maybe it’s because I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a boy; maybe it’s because I have no kids of my own.  One note of caution: while this is a movie about a young boy, it is most certainly not geared for young audiences.

 Grade: 7.0 / 10

The Men Who Stare at Goats:  It’s hard not to have fun with Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, and Kevin Spacey playing “Jedis”, soldiers trained to be psychological and spiritual warriors, with Ewan McGregor (who played a real Jedi, wink wink) playing the journalist unveiling their story.  The flashbacks are great; the present story is hit-or-miss.  It’s fun, it’s silly, and it’s ultimately forgettable.

Grade: 7.5 / 10


About bensten

Teacher, writer, blogger and spiritual practitioner. Managing editor of

One response »

  1. Richard says:

    Well I think Sherlock Holmes should definetly have a higher rating. It was amazingly good, even thought I was really sceptical at first. it suprised me how good it was.

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