William Teitler

William Teitler

William Teitler Quick Links

Film Comments RSS

What Maisie Knew Review


Extraordinary

Even though this drama is based on a 115-year-old novel, it feels powerfully timely today in the way it recounts events surrounding a particularly grim divorce. As we see the story through the eyes of a young girl caught between her self-involved parents, we are emotionally drawn right to the heart of the matter. Of course, it takes skilled filmmakers and a far-above-average cast to make this work.

Maisie (Aprile) is the 6-year-old daughter of fading rocker Susanna (Moore) and art dealer Beale (Coogan), whose marriage isn't dissolving quietly. As fiery arguments echo around their New York apartment, Maisie can't quite understand their anger but feels her hope fading. Sure enough, they separate, and when she goes to visit Daddy she's unnerved to discover her nanny Margo (Vanderham) is now living with him. Then Mommy marries nice-guy barman Lincoln (Skarsgard), who becomes Maisie's most reliable friend as her parents use her as a weapon in their bitter custody battle.

Directors McGeehee and Siegel (Bee Season) cleverly maintain Maisie's point of view all the way through the film, so we only see and hear things as she would. Much of what happens is never explained to her, but we get it and we understand that she probably does too. This includes the shocking irresponsibility displayed by both Susanna and Beale, who continually dump Maisie on each other as a kind of assault. And because they're preoccupied with their work, it's up to Margo and Lincoln to pick up the slack.

Continue reading: What Maisie Knew Review

The Polar Express Review


Grim
The first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of Robert Zemeckis' digital banquet The Polar Express draw inspiration from Chris Van Allsburg's wonderful Christmas novel of the same name. Beginning with the late-night arrival of the pinch-me-I'm-dreaming locomotive and ending with the narrator's ringing of a symbolic bell, these whimsical bookend scenes find the perfect holiday ambiance that wraps us in a cozy blanket of adolescent wonder.

Bridging the film's beautiful opening and closing, though, are 77 minutes of exhaustive, roller coaster-worthy action sequences, death-defying skids across frozen lakes and approximately 15 harrowing occasions where the beloved Polar Express is inches away from jumping its tracks and killing everybody on board. It's Van Allsburg by way of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it just doesn't fit the initial warm-and-fuzzy mood.

Continue reading: The Polar Express Review

Zathura Review


Terrible
In Zathura, a board game magically comes alive when played, thrusting its participants into a wild adventure through outer space. Based on a children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, Zathura shares a striking resemblance to another Van Allsburg book turned movie called Jumanji. Each film centers on kids who get sucked into oddly-titled-board games gone wild. While the concept works magically on paper, the translation to film has not been so successful. Marginal special effects and a heavy-handed dead-end plot crippled Jumanji. And unfortunately, Zathura suffers from the same problems as its predecessor.

In the film, pre-teen brothers Danny and Walter (Jonah Bobo and Josh Hutcherson) are always at odds with each other. Because Walter is a few years older and more independent, he wants nothing to do with Danny. But Danny is full of energy and desperate for some attention. Yet, everyone else in his broken family is sadly unavailable. Danny's older sister (Kristen Stewart) is too consumed with teenage boys; his dad (Tim Robbins) is too wrapped up with this work; and his mom is only available for selected visitation periods. What Danny wants most is to play with his brother.

Continue reading: Zathura Review

How to Deal Review


Unbearable
You could take a camcorder to the mall, videotape strangers at random, and end up with a better movie than Mandy Moore's How to Deal. Soggy and melodramatic, this mess aims to address the obstacles we encounter en route to romance. But a pessimistic mood causes the picture to drag its feet. Staged without an ounce of genuine sentiment, Deal makes Britney Spears' dismal Crossroads look like Casablanca.

Screenwriter Neena Beber draws inspiration from two separate Sarah Dessen novels, but can't squeeze one decent movie out of the material. In only her second starring role, Moore plays Halley Martin, a disillusioned high schooler learning how to deal with a lifetime's worth of problems. Halley's divorced dad (Peter Gallagher) has a new fiancée, while her mom (Allison Janney) is still coping with the split. Her best friend, Scarlett (Alexandra Holden), is pregnant, and her older sister's pending nuptials appear doomed from the start. Out of the blue, Halley is falling for a detached hunk (Trent Ford) who might be able to convince her that true love exists.

Continue reading: How to Deal Review

The Polar Express Review


Grim
The first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of Robert Zemeckis' digital banquet The Polar Express draw inspiration from Chris Van Allsburg's wonderful Christmas novel of the same name. Beginning with the late-night arrival of the pinch-me-I'm-dreaming locomotive and ending with the narrator's ringing of a symbolic bell, these whimsical bookend scenes find the perfect holiday ambiance that wraps us in a cozy blanket of adolescent wonder.

Bridging the film's beautiful opening and closing, though, are 77 minutes of exhaustive, roller coaster-worthy action sequences, death-defying skids across frozen lakes and approximately 15 harrowing occasions where the beloved Polar Express is inches away from jumping its tracks and killing everybody on board. It's Van Allsburg by way of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it just doesn't fit the initial warm-and-fuzzy mood.

Continue reading: The Polar Express Review

Jumanji Review


Weak
If nothing else, Jumanji is the most unfortunately titled film of the year. And if you haven't turned on your television in the last month you may still be among the few who don't know what it means. For the uninitiated, Jumanji is an ancient board game set in the spooky jungle. When the game is played, it causes supernatural things to happen, including the creation of a horde of monkeys, earthquakes, a monsoon (indoors), and a stampede through the suburbs of the New England town in which Jumanji is set.

The story begins some 26 years earlier, when young Alan (Robin Williams) and Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) unearth the game and start playing. On Alan's first move, he finds himself sucked into the game as a prisoner, only to be released when the game is continued in 1995 by Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Michael Pierce). Unfortunately, the ill effects of the game disappear only when it is finished, so the three track down Sarah, who, after years of therapy, has finally come to grips with the shock of seeing Alan vanish, and they continue where they left off.

Continue reading: Jumanji Review

William Teitler

William Teitler Quick Links

Film Comments RSS
Advertisement

Suggested

The Lobster - Trailer

The Lobster - Trailer

'The Lobster' is a peculiar black comedy exploring romance in the most abstract way possible.

Awards Season Kicks Off With Venice Film Festival 2015

Awards Season Kicks Off With Venice Film Festival 2015

Get ready for the likes of 'Everest', 'The Danish Girl' and 'Black Mass'.

Swim Deep - Namaste Video

Swim Deep - Namaste Video

Paul Daniels stars as a quiz show host in the video for Swim Deep's new song 'Namaste', taken from their second album 'Mothers'.

The 5th Wave - Trailer

The 5th Wave - Trailer

This sci-fi disaster movie is based on the bestselling 2013 novel of the same name by Rick Yancey.

Advertisement
A Walk In The Woods Gives Robert Redford A New Old Friend

A Walk In The Woods Gives Robert Redford A New Old Friend

He loved the 'undisciplined' side to co-star Nick Nolte.

The Transporter Refuelled Puts Ed Skrein In The Spotlight

The Transporter Refuelled Puts Ed Skrein In The Spotlight

The actor insists he felt comfortable in his new role.

Nickelodeon Planning On Reviving Some Of Their 90s Classics, Could ‘The Rugrats’ Or ‘Hey Arnold’ Return To Our Screens?

Nickelodeon Planning On Reviving Some Of Their 90s Classics, Could ‘The Rugrats’ Or ‘Hey Arnold’ Return To Our Screens?

Nickelodeon has announced it is planning on reviving some of its popular 1990s shows in “a fresh new way”.

Spielberg Believes Superhero Movies Have A Shelf Life

Spielberg Believes Superhero Movies Have A Shelf Life

The director thinks that the superhero style will go the "way of the Western".

Advertisement