The Chicago Reader Review-O-Mat

Want to see what Jonathan Rosenbaum thinks of the latest flicks, but don't have time to flip through all that newsprint? You've come to the right place. Just find the right category below, choosing one from each set of alternatives in parentheses, sniff, sneer, and voilà! Instant Rosenbaum.

Any Hollywood movie
An (inflated, elephantine, offensive) (feature, failure, piece of total mush)-- the best argument yet for the abolition of the star system. Filled with (soggy caricatures, strident obviousness, manufactured emotions, shameless mugging), it's no more than a ninety-minute advertisement for the inevitable (movie tie-ins, sequel). The subtext is alarmingly and violently (sexist, fascist, misanthropic), and it's directed the way a cop directs traffic. I left (halfway through, feeling rotten, cursing the influence of Quentin Tarantino).

But if a six-sided die comes up 1, write:
I expected to hate this piece of typical Hollywood hokum, but found it (surprisingly effective, reasonably flavorsome, not devoid of interest). Obvious and (frenetic, derivative, squalid, rambling), it's nonetheless (never dull, satisfying in broad terms, undeniably effective, cheerfully fast-paced), and it kept me (fairly, mostly) entertained.

First feature by an independent
The début feature of an undeniable talent. It starts out (lively, frenetic, densely imagined, promisingly irreverent, better than average), and though the (cinematography, script, acting, animation, mise en scène) is (spotty, ultimately unsatisfying, noted mostly by its absence, mostly pilfered from other directors), it's still (rich, stirring, subversive), (poetic, quirky), and sometimes hilarious-- (more like a European movie than an American one, ten times more worthwhile than the usual Hollywood fluff).

Second feature by an independent
The (sad, ugly, repulsive) results of wasting money on a formerly promising filmic voice-- technically adroit but (aesthetically offensive, philosophically dubious, revealing unexpectedly creepy recesses of the director's mind). The acting is as (histrionic, intolerable) as the narrative is (clumsy, incoherent, unfocussed, ruthlessly violent).

Any foreign movie by a director you've heard of
A (beautifully contrived, neglected, interesting and unexpected) film, this picture, though never reaching the level of the director's earliest work, is (not devoid of interest, a masterpiece of sorts). The (filmmaking, cinematography, performance) is predictably (punchy, breathtaking, masterful, abstract), but the film is (overlong, pedestrian in spots, unfocussed, thoroughly cynical). (Gérard Depardieu, Cathérine Deneuve, Kenneth Branagh, Chow Yun-Fat) turns in a (fitfully effective, energetic, galvanizing, embarrassing) performance.

Any foreign movie by a director nobody's heard of
Probably the (most accessible, least interesting) of the director's six movies, none of which has been screened in this country-- beautiful but difficult, this movie's (stunning, stirring, disturbing, powerful, masterful) exploration of an existential dilemma is executed (by unknown non-actors, with panache, with craft and patience, without a breath of sentimentality, using only puppets). A (breakthrough feature, essential piece of filmmaking, masterpiece) from one of our greatest living filmmakers.