About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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  • “The Bourne Insufficiency”: Kurt Loder

    By kyle | March 17, 2010

    MTV’s dead-on film critic Kurt Loder puts his finger on exactly what’s wrong with “Green Zone” — no matter what your politics. It’s an “action movie with no sense of adventure.” The shaky-camming never stops — even two guys sitting at a table are “filmed as if there’s a riot going on.” That’s just on the superficial level. On a more thinky level, as Kurt astutely points out, the Special Forces dude played by Jason Isaacs is very much supposed to be the bad guy — whereas the good guy, the Sunni general, was presumably complicit in Saddam’s reign of torture and political murder. Well done, Mr. Loder. This is exactly what I mean when I call the film “anti-American” — the whole point of it is to rile up people who hate American actions in the mideast, logic be damned. You could make a much more interesting movie out of Iraq if you actually stuck to the complexities of the truth and the real reasons things went wrong. For instance, the de-Baathification program may have turned out badly (compared to what, though?) but it was not obvious at the time that it was a stupid decision. (“Saddam’s Generals Now Receiving US Paychecks, Training”–How’s that for a Times headline? Subhed: “US in Startling Shift from De-Nazification Policy of German Reconstruction”) There must have been a lot of smart people debating a lot of angles. What were they? That could be a movie. The problem with the standard liberal view of war is, there is no “compared to what?” Any casualty count above a couple hundred is unacceptable. Any occupation that lasts longer than a year is unacceptable. Any friendly fire casualties, strategic cockups, any profits winding up in the pockets of any companies are unacceptable. This is not a serious frame of mind with which to approach the messy business of war.

    In a way I think “In the Loop,” which is a sort of oblique black-comic-absurdist take on war in general, gets closer to the truth than the would-be documentary-ish “Green Zone.”

    Topics: Iraq, Movies, Politics | 8 Comments »

    “Green Zone” a $230 Million Bomb: Time Magazine

    By kyle | March 16, 2010

    Looks like “Green Zone” is “a bit of a disaster,” says Time’s amiable Richard Corliss. “A smidge of a calamity.” (Link courtesy of John Nolte at Big Hollywood, which ought to be your go-to site for all things “Green Zone.”) The movie cost, all told, some $230 million and looks like it could lose well over $100 million, making it one of the most epic flops of all time. Universal was already reeling from a long string of flops and disappointments. I wonder if anyone at the studio is about to get fired. I also wonder to what degree Working Title, one of my favorite production companies, is on the hook. I hope they’re not financially imperilled as I greatly enjoy their Brit romcoms.

    Topics: Business, Iraq, Movies, Politics | 10 Comments »

    “Green Zone” “Legitimately Great, No Matter What Your Politics”

    By kyle | March 16, 2010

    My friend Steve Zeitchik is making a rather laughable case over at the LA Times movie blog:

    It’s dispiriting to sit back today and soak in just how poorly “Green Zone” performed over the weekend, earning a meager $14.3 million. Depression sets in because the Paul Greengrass movie is legitimately great, a potent thriller and action picture that entertains no matter your politics (we’re not the only ones who feel this way — the movie is the second best-reviewed wide release of the year according to meta-review site Movie Review Intelligence).

    Come on, Steve. Did you think I wouldn’t call you on this? A movie may be, to you, great. But don’t pretend that everyone else thinks it’s great. They don’t. (I don’t pretend that everyone hates “The Hurt Locker.” Almost everyone thinks it’s great. I don’t hate it either, by the way, I just think it’s overrated.) “Green Zone” is rated Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes, with (the last time I checked) 61 negative reviews against 62 positive. Did you choose Movie Review Intelligence because it’s the only site you could find that came up with a positive spin? “Second-best-reviewed wide release of the year?” Tsk, tsk. Talk about grading on a scale. The year is not even three months old. What if every wide-release movie this year stinks? “Best of the stinkers” does not equate to “great film.” And according to Rotten Tomatoes, “She’s Out of My League,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Shutter Island” and “The Crazies” all polled higher — all of them wide releases, all released this year.

    And “no matter what your politics” the film is great? Uh-uh. Actually, those of us who have a pro-American mindset pretty much all hate the movie, don’t we? Please show me where I’m wrong, Steve. Please give me a list of conservative critics who loved it.

    As for “dispiriting” and “depression sets in,” hooboy, Steve, you’ve got it quite backwards, haven’t you? The whole point of this movie is to dispirit and depress the audience about how American malevolence led us into an unnecessary war and then caused the insurgency to occur with treachery. (The movie, of course, doesn’t point out that despite everything, a semblance of a fragile democracy was the result, at least as of today.) If anything is dispiriting, it’s the idea of all that carnage being for no purpose. You know what isn’t particularly dispiriting or depressing? That a movie studio lost millions of bucks making a movie that is, according to box office and overall critical metrics, bad.

    Feel free to link to this post at the LA Times site, if you want. Or you can just pretend that I haven’t completely refuted your case and hide in a room of like-minded souls.

    Topics: Iraq, Movies, Politics | 95 Comments »

    Douthat on “Green Zone”

    By kyle | March 15, 2010

    A temperate response to “Green Zone” by Ross Douthat, who is disappointed by the naive, grossly oversimplified story (based on a far more nuanced book).

    Topics: Iraq, Movies, Politics | No Comments »

    “Green Zone” in the Red

    By kyle | March 14, 2010

    “Green Zone” is a flop. It opened with an abysmal $14 million weekend and is likely to plummet in its second weekend due to word of mouth, for a final gross of maybe $35 million. It’s a $100 million movie that will wind up many millions in red ink.

    Topics: Iraq, Movies, Politics | 20 Comments »

    The Reluctant Spy

    By kyle | March 14, 2010

    John Kiriakou, a 14-year CIA veteran and outspoken liberal who denounced harsh interrogation techniques used against some Gitmo prisoners, has a fast and funny memoir out, “The Reluctant Spy,” that affords startling and sometimes thrilling glimpses into CIA work. In my Sunday column, I wonder whether this liberal winds up grudgingly confirming some key conservative points about the war on terrror. Kiriakou’s story would make a far more interesting movie than “Green Zone.”

    Topics: Books, Iraq, Politics | 1 Comment »

    Get Me a Straitjacket. Disliking “Green Zone” Is Crazy

    By kyle | March 9, 2010

    It is a bit of a bore when bloggers say that someone who disagrees with them is “frothing at the mouth” or “crazy mad.” It’s a way to say: I don’t have to deal with your arguments because I rule them beyond the bounds of rational discussion. Really, this is rhetorical weak sauce. It would be dismissed at any eighth-grade debate. If Patrick Goldstein wants to refute my arguments, let him. Calling someone as measured as I am “frothing at the mouth” is sophomoric.

    And guess what? I’m right. The movie really is astonishingly anti-American, as you’ll see from reading other (liberal) reviewers who have been admitting that “Green Zone” is biased. And Goldstein’s point that the movie originally portrayed the Judith Miller character as a New York Times scribe — then chickened out and moved her to the Wall Street Journal — kinda proves my point. Hollywood is afraid of annoying the New York Times but not so much the Journal. (As for the legal fig leaf, please. The character is so obviously based on Miller that most of the American reviews I’ve seen have mentioned it. Changing her affiliation doesn’t provide the slightest legal cover in the event of a lawsuit.) Miller has little cause to sue, though, because the movie portrays her (as played by Amy Ryan) as simply a dupe.

    Topics: Blogs, Iraq, Movies, Politics | 90 Comments »

    More on that Weapon of Matt Destruction

    By kyle | March 9, 2010

    I have an op-ed in today’s New York Post outlining my objections to the new, unbelievably slanted leftist movie “Green Zone,” starring Matt Damon and directed by Paul Greengrass.

    Topics: Iraq, Movies, Politics | 6 Comments »

    Hollywood’s Weapon of Matt Destruction

    By kyle | March 3, 2010

    I can’t believe what I just saw, so I’ll think about it some more before I go into detail. But if I were the kind of excitable guy who believes in boycotts, I’d say “Boycott NBC-Universal” for its appalling new anti-American flick “Green Zone,” an absurdly awful would-be actioner that stars Matt Damon as a US warrant officer in 2003 Baghdad.

    I would never have accused director Paul Greengrass, who made the astonishingly powerful “United 93,” of being simplistic. But he has made a $100 million war film in which American troops are the bad guys. There are moments that we’re supposed to cheer because our soldiers are getting shot down- but it’s okay because they’re evildoers at worst or stooges at best who are trying to kill the one guy in the country who can prevent an insurgency from taking root. The movie also makes it look as though the flawed intelligence about the war was traceable to a single smarmy jackass (played by Greg Kinnear) working in Pentagon intel who fabricated WMD intelligence, said it came from a mysterious source (a general in Saddam’s army code-named “Magellan”), planted that intel with a Judith Miller-like reporter (Amy Ryan — who, hilariously, is shown working for The Wall Street Journal rather than The New York Times because Hollywood liberals can’t accept that The Times ever gets anything wrong) and then, when his ruse began to be suspected, sent his henchmen out to kill the general, who was willing to deal with the Americans but who vowed to launch an insurgency campaign if the Americans didn’t live up to their promises. In other words, the U.S. wasn’t merely incompetent — it caused the insurgency to occur.

    Topics: History, Iraq, Movies, Politics | 60 Comments »

    Iraq Embed on “The Hurt Locker” and Its Flaws

    By kyle | March 2, 2010

    Jonathan Foreman, my predecessor as a film critic for The Post, was embedded with the allied invasion force in Iraq in 2003 and 2005. He brings up some of the things I brought up in my original review of “The Hurt Locker,” such as the unlikeliness that a couple of enlisted men would sneak off-base and go roaming through Baghdad neighborhoods on their own initiative. By the way, I note that my review touched off a hotheaded little debate among commenters on Rotten Tomatoes. (I spend almost zero time looking up what people have said about me on the Internets, not because I have no vanity but because I have no time, what with all the movies I see and review and all the columns and book reviews I write. I’ve seen six movies since Monday at 10 a.m. and I’m about to watch another.) Thanks for defending me, Kit Ramsey.

    Topics: Iraq, Movies, Politics | 2 Comments »

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