an Online Journal of Sorts

By Alyce Wilson


Movies Seen - Mini Reviews

Ratings are out of five stars (*****)


9 ****
Director: Shane Acker, 2009
Starring: Elijah Wood (voice), Christopher Plummer (voice), Martin Landau (voice), John C. Reilly (voice), Crispin Glover (voice), and Jennifer Connelly (voice).

An Oscar-nominated feature CGI-animated film based on Acker's college senior project. Tells the story of a rag doll determined to save a post-apocalyptic world. Striking steampunk visuals and creative storytelling.

28 Days Later ***
Director: Danny Boyle, 2002
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns.

Like a zombie movie on speed, at least it's a little scarier than move zombie movies, though not as funny. An infection causing uncontrollable rage sweeps across Britain, and a small group, a makeshift family of sorts, works together to fend them off.

28 Weeks Later ***
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Imogen Poots, Mackintosh Muggleton.

Danny Boyle, director of the original produced this film, which makes use of hand-held cameras for a feeling of immediacy. This time we follow a family's struggles for survival after a period of rebuilding turns into another outbreak.

3:10 to Yuma
Director: James Mangold, 2007
Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale.

A remake of a classic western, this was a very quiet movie with lots of subtle acting. It's a thinking man's western, without all the gun battles and excitement.

42 Up ****
Director: Michael Apted, 1998
Starring: Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, John Brisby, Suzanne Dewey, Charles Furneaux, Nicholas Hitchon, Neil Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Paul Kligerman, Susan Sullivan, Tony Walker.

Director Michael Apted has been documenting the same group of British-born adults since they were 7 years old, catching up with them every seven years for an update on their lives. The documentary provides a fascinating look at how they are facing the challenges of life.

50 First Dates
Director: Peter Segal, 2003
Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Sean Astin.

A wonderfully funny romance, with Drew Barrymore as a woman with short-term memory loss due to a car accident. Adam Sandler's Henry Roth must make her fall in love again each day. While the premise seems over the top, it's handled with tender affection for a sweet result.

300 ***
Director: Zack Snyder, 2006
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan.

A visually stunning film about how 300 Spartans held off an entire army of Persians long enough to move the rest of the Army to resist. Melodramatic and lofty but worth seeing for the impressive special effects.


Across the Universe *****
Director: Julie Taymor, 2007.
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther, T.V. Carpio.

A rich, visual poem that follows the lives of several young people in the '60s, this is a musical that uses only Beatles songs, brilliantly rearranged. A poetic masterpiece filled with beautiful music.

Adieu, Galaxy Express 999
Director: Taro Rin, 1981
Starring: Masako Nozawa (voice), Masako Ikeda (voice).

A sequel to Galaxy Express, this movie fails to capture the magic of the original, also written by Leiji Matsumoto. Instead of the mythical quality of the first movie, it falls back on a traditional story of man versus machine.

Æon Flux ***
Director: Karyn Kusama, 2005
Starring: Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okenedo.

An adaptation of the 1990s MTV animated series, this film does a decent job of translating the story of a secret operative in a futuristic society to the big screen. However, it lacks the excitement and visual flair of the original. Charlize gets high marks for her portrayal of the title character.

All the King's Men ***
Director: Robert Rossen, 1949
Starring: Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Mercedes McCambridge.

Loosely based on a real Louisiana senator and governor's rise to power and corruption. The 1949 Best Picture winner is plodding and pedantic with moments of rhetorical brilliance.

All the King's Men **
Director: Steven Zaillian, 2006
Starring: Sean Penn, Jude Law, Patricia Clarkson, James Gandolfini.

Sean Penn's accent is nearly unintelligible in this remake of the Oscar-winning 1949 picture. At times the film drags and at others it jumps around, becoming almost impossible to understand.

All Quiet on the Western Front *****
Director: Lewis Milestone, 1930
Starring: Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres, John Wray, Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk, Owen Davis Jr., Walter Rogers.

This faithful adaptation of the Erich Maria Remarque novel vividly portrays the horrors of war through the experiences of a group of German volunteers during World War I. Outstanding cinematography, impressive battle scenes and fairly well-controlled acting combine in this early Best Picture winner.

Director: Milos Forman, 1984
Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce.

A biopic following the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, primarily told from the perspective of his competitor, Antonio Salieri. The film is a vivid depiction of life in that time, providing fascinating insights into the man. Won Oscar for Best Picture.

American Fork
Director: Chris Bowman, 2007
Starring: Hubbel Palmer, William Baldwin, Kathleen Quinlan, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Bruce McGill, Vincent Caso.

The makers of Napoleon Dynamite bring us the story of an obese grocery clerk who strives to find meaning in life. At times funny and at times moving, the film makes great use of a terrific ensemble cast.

An American in Paris *****
Director: Vincent Minnelli, 1951
Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Nina Foch and Georges Guétary.

A Technicolor explosion of sound and movement, full of joy and playfulness. The movie follows artist Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly), who unknowingly falls for the same girl (Leslie Caron) as singer Henri Baurel (Georges Guétar). A feast for the ears and eyes.

American Splendor
Directors: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, 2003
Starring: Paul Giametti, Harvey Pekar, Hope Davis, Judah Friedlander.

An intriguing view of the work of biographical comic book writer Harvey Pekar, alternating from a fictionalized movie account to documentary style interviews, along with animation and still drawings. Deftly captures the insightful way Harvey has turned his own life story into art.

Director: Adam McKay, 2004
Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner.

A tepid comedy that relies on low humor but doesn't take it far enough to actually be funny. While comic talent in this movie, through cameos alone, promised great things, Anchorman is a ratings loser.

Anger Management
Director: Peter Segal, 2002
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei.

Picture this: Jack as an anger management counselor. You're lghing already, aren't you? Jack and Adam work well together, and the supporting cast is fantastic.

Director: Wayne Lytle, 2001

An animated music video combining original electronic music with 3D animated instruments. A master feat of animation that must be seen to be believed.

Anne of the Thousand Days
Director: Charles Jarrott, 1969
Starring: Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, Irene Papas, Anthony Quayle.

A historical film about Henry VIII and the measures he went to, all to marry Anne Boleyn and seek a male heir. Great acting, great attention to detail in costuming and sets.

Annie Hall
Director: Woody Allen, 1977
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton.

A thoughtful and funny look at relationships, exploring why sometimes, even love isn't enough to save a romance. Even today, the film's unconventional narrative style is fresh and interesting.

The Apartment *****
Director: Billy Wilder, 1960
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray.

C.C. Baxter (Lemmon), a nebbishy office worker, lends his apartment out to co-workers as a love nest. This becomes less convenient as he himself falls in love. A simple, compact movie that deserves its Oscar for Best Picture.

The Aristocrats ***
Director: Paul Provenza, 2005
Starring: Jason Alexander, Drew Carey, Whoopi Goldberg, Penn Jillette, Kevin Pollak, Bob Saget, Robin Williams and many more.

A hundred comedians share their versions of the same very filthy joke, which has been a backstage tradition for years in comedy clubs and theaters. It's a documentary about a joke, and some of the twists are wildly hilarious, but it's hard to watch the whole thing in one sitting.

Around the World in 80 Days
Director: Michael Anderson, 1956
Starring: David Niven, Cantiflas, Shirley MacLaine.

This Best Picture-winning colorful extravaganza hasn't aged well. To modern audiences, it feels dated and slow-moving. Still, it's perhaps David Niven's best-known role.

Avatar ****
Director: James Cameron, 2009
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana (voice), Sigourney Weaver.

A visually stunning movie shot partly in 3D animation, focusing on the clash of cultures that arise when a multinational corporation attempts to mine materials from a rainforest planet inhabited with a spiritual people.

The Aviator *****
Director: Martin Scorsese, 2004
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale.

A visually lush biopic about Howard Hughes (DiCaprio), following him through him early days as an aviation entrepreneur to his struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder and political battles. Great acting, writing, and cinematography.

Away from Her *****
Director: Sarah Polley, 2006
Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Grace Lynn Kung, Michael Murphy.

A moving, dreamlike depiction of the struggles a husband (Gordon Pinsent) goes through, watching his wife fall victim to Alzheimer's Disease. Julie Christie is heartbreakingly realistic in her portrayal of a wife who's losing her memory but not her personality.


The Band's Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret)
Director: Eran Kolirin, 2007
Starring: Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri.

An Egyptian police orchestra arrives to play a concert in Israel and gets lost, reluctantly relying on the locals for help. A quiet, charming film about cross-cultural connections.

Barbershop ****

Director: Tim Story, 2002
Starring: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve.

That most rare of things: a funny comedy with a message, about respecting your roots and each other.

Batman Begins
Director: Christopher Nolan, 2005
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman.

Finally, a movie worth of the Batman franchise! This film returns us to the dark, broody and visually stunning films we first loved, as it follows the origins of Batman. Depending on how well it does, this may also be Batman's rebirth as a franchise.

Before the Fall (Tres días) *****
Director: F. Javier Gutiérrez, 2008
Starring: Victor Clavijo, Mariana Cordero, Eduard Fernández.

A Spanish apocalyptic thriller. The cynical, underachieving Alejandro must rise to the occasion and protect his family from a psycho killer in the days before a huge asteroid is due to hit earth. Tightly-wounded, well-acted and rich with subtext.

Bend it Like Beckham ***
Director: Gurinder Chadha, 2002
Starring: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.

Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra (Gurinder Chadha) goes against her parents' wishes to play soccer on a girls' team. But when her talent is discovered, she must figure out how to bridge the differences between her traditional Punjab Indian family and the British soccer world. A fun, light movie.

Ben Hur ***
Director: William Wyler, 1959
Starring: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet.

A grand epic set in biblical times, following the wealthy Jewish landowner Ben Hur, who suffers under the Roman regime. There's nothing subtle about this Best Picture winner.

The Best Years of Our Lives ****
Director: William Wyler, 1946
Starring: Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Harold Russell.

Three WWII veterans adjust to civilian life. An honest portrayal of the issues faced by veterans. Best Picture winner for 1946.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Director: Russ Meyer, 1970
Starring: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom, John Lazar, Michael Blodgett.

A campy, groovy visual spectacle about a group of female rockers who fall into a sleazy world of drugs, casual sex and betrayal. Penned by respected critic Roger Ebert, who befriended Russ Meyer after writing some favorable reviews on his movies.

Big Fish
Director: Tim Burton, 2003
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman.

A dreamlike movie about the life of a storyteller and his son's desire to learn the real truth about his father, dying of cancer. Beautifully acted, artfully directed.

Black Snake Moan *****
Director: Craig Brewer, 2006
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake.

A surprisingly redemptive movie about a older African-American man, Lazarus (Jackson), who chains the self-destructive Rae (Christina Ricci) to a radiator in order to cure her of her evil ways. Great acting, terrific dialogue, and a great use of subtext.

Boogie Nights *****
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, William H. Macy.

So many great things: great acting, great script, great editing. Great date movie...

Book of the Dead (Shisha no sho)
Director: Kihachiro Kawamoto, 2005
Starring: Kyoko Kishida (narrator), Tetsuko Kuroyanagi (voice) Rie Miyazawa (voice).

This stop motion animated feature about an 8th century young noble woman torn between religious devotion and longing for a ghostly warrior would have made a better short. Endless repetition of religious devotions interrupts the ghostly remnants of a plot.

Bottle Shock ***
Director: Randall Miller, 2008
Starring: Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez.

A film about the early days of California wine making and the events that led up to the famous blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 that paved a way for California wines. Pleasant but forgettable, although interesting to foodies.

The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Bear
Director: Jannik Hastrup, 2002
Starring: Marlon Vilstrup (voice), Joachim Boje Helvang (voice), Paprika Steen (voice), Tommy Kenter (voice), Thomas Bo Larsen (voice), Sidse Babett Knudsen (voice), Carla Docherty (voice).

An award-winning animated feature, using traditional animation techniques, the story follows a boy who is kidnapped by bears and raised by them, leading to a crisis of identity. While it strives for a folk tale quality, the movie lacks a mythic feel. Instead, it comes across as merely unrealistic and sappy.

Breakfast at Tiffany's *****
Blake Edwards, 1961
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, José Luis de Villalonga

Based on a Truman Capote novel, the film follows New York socialite Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), as she elbows her way into posh society, befriending a a young writer, Paul Varjak (Peppard) who lives in her building. Hepburn is at times effervescent, at times heartbreakingly vulnerable in this timeless classic.

Breakfast with Hunter
Director: Wayne Ewing, 2003
Starring: Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp, Ralph Steadman.

This fly-on-the-wall documentary captures two years in the life of Hunter S. Thompson, from the 25th anniversary celebrations of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to the premiere of the movie based on the book. While it reveals some fascinating behind-the-scenes nuggets, the lack of any sort of framework makes it difficult for non-HST fans to follow.

Bride and Prejudice ****
Director: Gurinder Chadha, 2004
Starring: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Daniel Gillies, Naveen Andrews.

A colorful Bollywood film inspired by "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen. The musical numbers are inspired and fun, and the romance plays out with the twists and turns of a comic romance. A delight.

The Bridge on the River Kwai
Director: David Lean, 1957
Starring: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Sessue Hayakawa.

A World War II prison camp movie, the film pits British resolve against Japanese honor. At heart, though, the film is a critique of war in general and what it does to the men involved. Won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Bright Leaves **
Director: Ross McElwee, 2003.
Starring: Ross McElwee.

Filmmaker Ross McElwee returns to his hometown to trace his family's connection to the tobacco industry. Well-meaning but unfocused, not able to determine whether to concentrate on the effects of tobacco or the fate of his ancestors.

Bringing Down the House ***
Director: Adam Shankman, 2003
Starring: Steve Martin, Queen Latifa, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright, Jean Smart.

Plenty of wackiness, a few plot twists, and thankfully light on the sap. The race-based jokes, though, sometimes make viewers squirm.

Broadcast News
Director: James L. Brooks, 1987
Starring: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, Joan Cusack.

After all these years, this film still stands up as a witty criticism of broadcast news and the personalities behind it. The ensemble cast does a terrific job of blending comedy with drama, and the writing is exceptional. You'll be quoting this movie for years.

The Broadway Melody of 1929
Director: Harry Beaumont, 1929
Starring: Charles King, Anita Page, Bessie Love.

An early Oscar winner for best picture, the acting is overblown and the singing and dancing rough by today's standards. Still, as a ground-breaking film for its time, it deserved acclaim.

Brokeback Mountain
Director: Ang Lee, 2005
Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams.

A period piece set in the 1960s through the 1980s, telling the heartbreaking story of two cowboys who meet while herding sheep, fall in love and then try to return to the outside world. There were no easy choices for gays in those days, and the inability of one of them, Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) to express his emotions does not make things easier. A powerful movie that explores the highs and lows of falling into a forbidden love.

Bruce Almighty
Director: Tom Shadyac, 2003
Starring: Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Baker Hall.

An ordinary guy gets heavenly powers. So what does he do? Mundane things, unfortunately. A lesser comic would have failed miserably; Carrey does well, and Freeman and Aniston despite mediocre writing.

Bubba Ho-Tep ***
Director: Don Coscarelli, 2002
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Bob Ivy.

A colorful premise: Elvis and John F. Kennedy (now black) try to save a retirement home from a reincarnated Southern-fried mummy. Based on a short story, the film feels padded. Still, far more creative than many films, and it's worth it if only to see Bruce Campbell attacking a mummy while wearing a sequined suit, in a motorized wheelchair.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer **
Director: Fran Rubel Kuzui, 1992.
Starring: Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry.

Watching this movie, you wonder why anyone chose to make a TV series. Good thing they did, though, or this weak offering would be the only Buffy the vampire slayer we'd know.

Bulletproof Monk
Director: Paul Hunter, 2003
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Seann William Scott, Jaime King.

Believe it or not, Seann William Scott holds his own against Chow Yun-Fat, who plays a mysterious monk with an important mission. Chow Yun-Fat is mesmerizing.

Bullets Over Broadway *****
Director: Woody Allen, 1994
Starring: John Cusack, Jennifer Tilly, Dianne Wiest, Chazz Palminteri, Tracey Ullman.

Playwright John Cusack gets in over his head when he agrees to let a Mobster finance his latest work. Great blend of characterization, humor and dialogue, with a wry look at the nature of art and show business.

Burn After Reading ****
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen, 2008
Starring: John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton.

Two gym employees discover a disk they believe is top secret but is really the memoirs of a former CIA agent. Hilarity — and dark comedy — ensues. Excellent cast, witty script.


Calendar Girls
Director: Nigel Cole, 2003
Starring: Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, John Alderton, Linda Bassett, Annette Crosbie, Celia Imrie, Geraldine James, Penelope Wilton.

Although it might seem like today's Full Monty, this movie is a quieter, more introspective movie, yet still contains powerful messages about friendship and empowerment, as well as some laughs.

Canadian Bacon
Director: Michael Moore, 1995
Starring: John Candy, Rhea Perlman, Alan Alda, Kevin Pollak, Rip Torn.

In a remarkably prescient movie, an American president starts a war to fuel his poll numbers. Predictably, it gets out of control as regular Americans take things into their own hands. While there are plenty of funny moments, the movie as a whole is too slow moving.

Capote *****
Director: Bennett Miller, 2005
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Chris Cooper, Clifton Collins Jr.

A powerful film about the project that both made and unmade author Truman Capote. Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant as Capote, who in the process of delving into a killer's brain, delves into his own personality, as well.

Chariots of Fire ***
Director: Hugh Hudson, 1981
Starring: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Nicholas Farrell.

A sports epic about the British track athletes in the 1924 Olympics. The movie uses cinematography, music and editing techniques to try to show their internal struggles and triumphs. Somestimes heavy-handed but visually interesting. Won Oscar for Best Picture.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Director: Tim Burton, 2005
Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, Deep Roy, Christopher Lee, Annasophia Robb, Julia Winter, Jordan Fry.

A magical retelling of the original book, with plenty of dark humor and a rich visual look. Freddie Highmore is perfectly cast as the optimistic Charlie, and he works well with Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, perhaps because they'd previously starred together in Finding Neverland. Great for both children and adults.

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle ***
Director: McG, 2003
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, Demi Moore.

Action-packed and deliberately cheesey, the sequel carries on the playful spirit of the original, with just as many impossibly high-octane scenes and campy costumes. A good popcorn movie.

Charlie Wilson's War *****
Director: Mike Nichols, 2007
Starring: Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymore Hoffman.

Based on the true story of a Texas congressman (Tom Hanks), a socialite (Julia Roberts) and a CIA operative (Philip Seymore Hoffman) who helped Afghanistan defeat the Soviets. Fascinating and brilliantly written by West Wing's Aaron Sorkin.

Chicken Little ***
Director: Mark Dindal, 2005
Starring: Zach Braff (voice), Garry Marshall (voice), Don Knotts (voice), Patrick Stewart (voice), Amy Sedaris (voice), Steve Zahn (voice), Joan Cusack (voice).

Sadly, despite the talent involved in this project, it falls flat primarily because the story is weak. No amount of brilliant voice acting can rescue a film that essentially has no second act.

Children of Men *****
Director: Alfonso Cuaron, 2006
Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Pam Ferris.

A pulse-pounding apocalyptic thriller, where Theo Faron (Clive Owen) gets drawn into a quest to save a young woman, the first woman to carry to full-term pregnancy since a mysterious plague of sterility hit the planet. This film will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you think.

Children on Their Birthdays
Director: Mark Medoff, 2002
Starring: Sheryl Lee, Joe Pichler, Jesse Plemons, Tania Raymonde, Christopher McDonald, Brazhal Brewer, Tom Arnold.

Despite being based on a Truman Capote short story, this movie is sweetly sappy with little edge or style. Tania Raymonde is the sparkling center of a dull film.

Director: Don McKellar, 2004
Starring: Don McKellar, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mark Rendall.

A dark comedy about the reality of life for a childstar. Director Don McKellar plays an aspiring director who gets hired as an on-set driver for childstar Mark Rendall and becomes involved in his life. Funny, moving and thought provoking.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Director: Andrew Adamson, 2005
Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Stilton, James McAvoy.

Four British children escape the realities of World War II to enter a magical world where they must decide whether to fight their own war against evil. Tilda Swinton is deliciously malevolent as the White Witch, and the children are all convincing in their parts. This film offers adventure, intrigue, magic and, yes, a touch of moralism. Though much of the violence is off-screen, not suited for younger viewers.

Cimarron **
Director: Wesley Ruggles, 1931
Starring: Richard Dix, Irene Dunne.

A sprawling epic about the settling of Oklahoma, as told through one family's story. Much of the action is implausible and poorly acted, and the plot jumps forward incomprehensibly, trying to stick to key aspects from the Edna Ferber novel.

The Circle of Iron (The Silent Flute)
Director: Richard Moore, 1978
Starring: David Carradine, Jeff Cooper.

A young martial artist seeks the Book of All Knowledge and learns some Zen lessons along the way. The script is based on a Bruce Lee idea, but the movie lacks his characteristic transcendent fight signs.

City Hunter (Cheng shi lie ren)
Director: Jing Wong, 1992
Starring: Jackie Chan.

Jackie is best when he gets to use stunt work and fight choreography for humor. Instead, this movie relies heavily on visual jokes. But in every Jackie Chan film, there's one scene you can't forget: in this movie, it's a "Game of Death" homage, with Jackie fighting two Kareem Abdul-Jabbar look-alikes.

Clerks II ****
Director: Kevin Smith, 2006
Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Trevor Fehrman.

Kevin Smith revisits the snarky clerks from his breakthrough movie. Filled with witty dialogue and raunchy humor, the movie also boasts an actual story. More reflective and wiser, just like the director himself.

Coffee and Cigarettes
Director: Jim Jarmusch, 2003
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Steve Wright, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray.

Shot over a period of about 20 years, this film comprises a series of conversations over, naturally, coffee and cigarettes, some amusing, some sublime. The conversation between Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, which has Iggy acting like an over eager fan to Waits' pretentious posing, is a gem. Watch it, then talk about it over coffee (and cigarettes, if you smoke).

The Constant Gardener **
Director: Fernando Meirelles, 2006.
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Hubert Koundé.

A tedious, melodramatic movie about an ambassador trying to figure out what happened in the last day's of his wife's life. Please, please stop casting Ralph Fiennes in romantic movies.

The Cooler
Director: Wayne Kramer, 2003
Starring: William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello, Shawn Hatosy, Paul Sorvino.

William H. Macy is a "cooler," a guy with such bad luck he's hired to "cool" down winning tables at a casino. When he meets his Lady Luck, things change. Great script, great acting, with plenty of surprises.

Director: Henry Selick, 2009
Starring: Dakota Fanning (voice), Teri Hatcher (voice), Jennifer Saunders (voice), Dawn French (voice), John Hodgman (voice).

An imaginative stop-motion animation based on a Neil Gaiman novella. A little girl, Coraline, discovers a magical world where she experiences amazing delights and terrifying dangers. Well-crafted; destined to become a classic.

The Corpse Bride
Director: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson, 2005
Starring: Johnny Depp (voice), Helena Bonham Carter (voice), Emily Watson (voice), Tracey Ullman (voice), Paul Whitehouse (voice), Joanna Lumley (voice), Albert Finney (voice), Christopher Lee (voice).

If you were expecting something as magical as The Nightmare Before Christmas, this movie will disappoint. The story centers around Victor Van Dort (Depp), who runs off from the wedding rehearsal of his arranged marriage and accidentally finds himself wedded to the corpse bride, a tragic ghostly figure who was cheated out of her own wedding. Unfortunately, the script isn't nearly as good as Nightmare's, and the musical numbers, as well as much of the humor, fall flat. Tim Burton fans should still see it to enjoy his distinctive visual style of stop motion animation.

Crash *****
Director: Paul Haggis, 2004
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Michael Pena, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Shaun Toub.

It's easy to see why this ensemble drama won the Oscar for best picture for 2005. The film depicts the intersecting lives of the multicultural denizens of L.A., pointing out the complicated ways that Americans view race and yet how common, human moments unite us all.


Dangerous Liaisons
Director: Stephen Frears, 1988
Starring: Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeifer, Keanu Reeves, Uma Thurman.

A wickedly delicious movie where bored aristocrats, played by Glenn Close and John Malkovich, play a game of seduction. When emotions get involved, it's hard to say who wins. Are happiness and vanity truly incompatible?

Dan in Real Life *****
Director: Peter Hedges, 2007
Starring: Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, Alison Pill, Brittany Robertson, Marlene Lawston.

With its fresh, interesting writing, unpredictable plot and adept acting by a talented cast, this film is a modern Disney classic. Fun, sweet, touching and definitely family friendly, as a single father (Steve Carell) copes with the complications of finding unexpected love.

The Darjeeling Limited *****
Director: Wes Anderson, 2007
Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman.

Three estranged brothers go on a spiritual journey across India, drawn together by the oldest brother (Owen Wilson), who recently survived a traumatic car accident. Wryly observant, this film explores the nature of grief and of family relationships.

The Dark Knight *****
Director: Christopher Nolan, 2008
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

A dark revisiting of the Batman story, with Heath Ledger as a psychopathic, though strangely pathetic, Joker and Christian Bale as the taciturn caped crusader. Aaron Eckhart is brilliant as Harvey Dent, an ambitious D.A. who shares Batman's goals.

Das Boot *****
Director: Wolfgang Peterson, 1981
Starring: Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann, Hubertus Bengsch, Martin Semmelrogge.

A sometimes claustrophobic, sometimes terrifying depiction of the trials of a German U-boat during World War II. The director's cut is nearly four hours but deserves the length.

Da Vinci Code ***
Director: Ron Howard, 2006
Starring: Tom Hanks, Audre Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina.

Director Ron Howard struggles to convert an exposition-heavy book into an action movie. Despite noble efforts, a superb cast and beautiful cinematography, the movie is ponderous. Still, his struggles to remain faithful to the book will no doubt be appreciate by fans of the international best seller.

Dawn of the Dead
Director: Zack Snyder, 2004
Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly.

An artfully done remake of the classic horror film, Dawn of the Dead keeps you on the edge of your seat while still making time for some interesting comments on society and human resilience in the face of hopelessness.

The Deer Hunter
*** 1/2
Director: Michael Cimino, 1978
Starring: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep.

A dark drama about a group of friends from an Ohio steel town and how the Vietenam War impacts their lives. This film can be difficult to watch because of its unflinching look at the brutality of war.

District 9 *****
Director: Neill Blomkamp, 2009
Starring: Sharlto Copley.

An everyman copes with the political and social implications of trying to relocate interned aliens. A thoughtful examination of our treatment of people who are different.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly *****
Director: Julian Schnabel, 2007
Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Consigny

Based on a book written by a man with locked-in syndrome, narrated through blinking his eyelid to an assistant, this film is a compelling look at what his life was like.

Don't Mess with the Zohan
Director: Dennis Dugan, 2008
Starring: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chirqui.

This is Adam Sandler in locker room mode, in a movie packed with crude sight gags and lacking the charm he's show in movies like The Wedding Singer or 50 First Dates. In it, he's a former Israeli special ops member who moves to the U.S. to become an oversexed hairstylist. Even Warren Beatty would blush!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ****
Director: John S. Robertson, 1920
Starring: John Barrymore, Charles Lane, Brandon Hurst, Martha Mansfield.

The silent film stars John Barrymore as the titular doctor, who does an astounding job of transforming himself, initially from facial expressions alone. The film drags in the beginning, but the second half is full of both shock and suspense.

Down with Love
Director: Peyton Reed, 2003

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Sarah Paulson, David Hyde Pierce.

A colorful, stylish movie in the tradition of the 1960s "sex comedies." Playful, tongue-in-cheek fun with a delightful cast who clearly enjoy themselves.

Dreamgirls *****
Director: Bill Condon, 2006
Starring: Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose.

A musical loosely based on the backstage history of Diana Ross and the Supremes, but really about the way black singers were shaped and exploited in the '50s and '60s. Beautifully directed, heartbreakingly acted and gorgeously sung.


Eleven Minutes
Director: Michael Selditch, Robert Tate, 2008
Starring: Jay McCarroll.

A documentary chronicling the process Jay McCarroll went through to produce his first runway show following his win on Bravo's Project Runway. The process was often frustrating, but Jay greeted it with characteristic humor, making for an entertaining journey.

Elizabethtown ****
Director: Cameron Crowe, 2005
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin.

Imagine Almost Famous without the rock band, and you've got Elizabethtown, a sweetly romantic movie about a young sneaker designer (Orlando Bloom) coping with failure and death, finding love unexpectedly. While not as magical as AF, the movie has it's moments. Worth checking out.

Enchanted ****
Director: Kevin Lima, 2007
Starring: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon.

A light-hearted, clever tribute to the classic Disney animated films. Giselle (Amy Adams) is forced to leave her animated world and enter New York City, where she gets help from single dad Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) and waits for her prince to come.

The Equation of Love and Death
(Li mi de cai xiang)
Director: Cao Baoping, 2008
Starring: Xun Zhou, Chao Deng, Hanyu Zhang, Baoqiang Wang.

A slow-paced thriller that vacillates between being dull and melodramatic. The film follows a female cabbie obsessed with the boyfriend who abandoned her four years ago, along with two inept drug smugglers and a baffled policeman.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Director: Michel Gondry, 2004
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson.

A masterpiece of sound and vision tackling issues of reality, memory and relationships. When a couple played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet decide to erase their memories of each other, we go on a surreal journey of their lives together and the desire to hold on.

Evan Almighty ****
Director: Tom Shadyac, 2007.
Starring: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, Johnny Simmons, Graham Phillips, Jimmy Bennett, Wanda Sykes.

In this light-hearted sequel to Bruce Almighty, his former newsroom colleague, Evan, has won a seat in Congress. When he asks God's help to "change the world," the Almighty asks him to build an ark. Funny, refreshing and with a great environmental message.

Everyone ***
Director: Bill Marchant, 2004
Starring: Matt Fentiman, Mark Hildreth, Brendan Fletcher, Bill Marchant, Katherine Billings, Michael Chase, Suzanne Hepburn, Cara McDowell.

A low budget comedy about the interweaving lives of a gay couple and their family, as everyone gathers to celebrate a commitment ceremony for the couple, one of whom gets cold feet. Starts slow but has some funny moments and even some touching ones.


Fahrenheit 9/11
Director: Michael Moore, 2004
Starring: Michael Moore, George W. Bush

Michael Moore takes an irreverent look at the Bush family and the presidency George W. Bush, from the controversial 2000 election to the war in Iraq. Go in with an open mind and be prepared to learn something new. At times amusing and at times moving, this movie achieves its aim: to make people think.

The Fantastic Four
Director: Tim Story, 2005.
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon.

Despite the hype, this movie is more mediocre than fantastic. Most of the main characters are TV transplants, and only Michael Chiklis manages any emotional intensity. Ironic, given he's encased in a polystyrene costume as The Thing for much of the movie.

Director: Ronny Yu, 2006.
Starring: Jet Li, Shido Nakamura, Betty Sun.

A thoughtful end to Jet Li's on-screen martial arts career, where the main character, historical martial artist Huo Yuanjia, learns the importance of redemption over revenge.

Festival in Cannes
Director: Henry Jaglom, 2001
Starring: Anouk Aimee, Greta Scacci, Maximillian Schell, Ron Silver, Zack Norman, Peter Bogdanovich.

An independent film about three actresses at the Cannes film festival who discover everything is negotiated, including love.

Finding Nemo *****
Director: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, 2003
Starring: Albert Brooks (voice), Ellen DeGeneres (voice), Alexander Gould (voice), Willem Dafoe (voice), Brad Garrett (voice), Allison Janney (voice).

A family friendly film with terrific voice work, amazing animation and a plot about finding, and trusting, friends.

Finding Neverland ****
Director: Marc Forster, 2004
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Freddie Highmore, Joe Prospero, Nick Roud, Luke Spill.

Based on true events, this quiet but imaginative period piece tells the tale of how J.M. Barrie was inspired to write Peter Pan. He befriends a widow and her four boys, serving as a surrogate father and helping them enter their imaginations. A carefully crafted movie which gets at larger issues of family, creativity and social propriety through small moments.

Flyboys ***
Director: Tony Bill, 2006
Starring: James Franco, William Jensen, David Ellison, Jeane Reno, Martin Henderson.

The true story of World War I fighter pilots who bonded as they fought a relentless German enemy. Entertaining but doesn't pack the powerful punch of some of the classic war movies.

The Forbidden Kingdom
Director: Rob Minkoff, 2008
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano, Collin Chou.

Drawing from classic Kung Fu elements as well as Chinese mythology, this is the journey of a young teen (Michael Angarano) to return a magic staff to its proper owner. Humorous at times and beautiful at others, this is a martial arts film for the whole family.

The Fountain ****
Director: Darren Aronofsky, 2006
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Mark Margolis.

An introspective film that uses a cyclical narrative and eye-catching special effects to chronicle a man's inner journey to come to terms with his wife's death. While it is certainly not the adventure movie the trailers promised, it's something better: an artistic, thoughtful and beautiful film.

Freaky Friday ****
Director: Mark S. Waters, 2003
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Mark Harmon.

This movie is great fun, with Jamie Lee Curtis at the top of her comedy game and with newcomer Lindsay Lohan meeting the comedy bar set by Curtis.

The French Connection ***
Director: William Friedkin, 1971
Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider.

Two narcotics officers track down leads they hope will bring them a major bust. Aside from some famous chase scenes, the movie is understated for a police film. Based on a true story. Won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Frida *****
Director: Julie Taymor, 2002
Starring: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Mia Maestro, Ashley Judd.

A beautifully crafted biopic that tells the story of artist Frida Kahlo. Stellar acting combines with innovative visuals to provide insight into Kahlo's life and career.

From Here to Eternity ****
Director: Fred Zinnemann, 1953
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra.

The Best Picture Oscar winner of 1953, this film follows several members of an Army unit stationed in Hawaii just before Pearl Harbor. Features one of the best love scenes ever filmed.

Funny Face **
Director: Stanley Donen, 1957
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire.

On paper it sounds great: a Technicolor comedy starring ingenue Audrey Hepburn and dance master Fred Astaire. But despite some opening scenes with a fashion magazine that could rival that of The Devil Wears Prada, the film is sadly predictable. Also, casting Astaire, who was 58 at the time, as the romantic interest of then 28-year-old Hepburn feels creepy.

Fun with Dick and Jane ***
Director: Dean Parisot, 2005
Starring: Jim Carrey, Téa Leoni, Alec Baldwin.

While initially it feels like a send-up of the old children's books from the '50s, the movie quickly becomes a yawner about the perils of working in corporate America. The mid-section of the movie, where the couple tries to maintain their yuppie lifestyle on dwindling income, is the funniest part of a formulaic film.


Galaxy Express
Director: Taro Rin, 1979
Starring: Masako Nozawa (voice), Masako Ikeda (voice).

A boy, Tetsuro, boards the Galaxy Express 999 with a mysterious traveling companion, Maetel, in order to avenge his mother. Great storytelling and beautiful art combine for a timeless tale, created by master Leiji Matsumoto.

Gandhi *****
Director: Richard Attenborough, 1982
Starring: Ben Kingsley.

An epic biopic, telling the story of the famous inspirational leader and how he used nonviolent techniques to bring independence to India. Kingsley's tour de force performance turns this into a compelling, intimate movie as well as a film about important world events. Won Oscar for Best Picture

Garden State
Director: Zach Braff, 2004
Starring: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Ian Holm.

A well-written film about Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff), who rebels against his psychiatrist father, who has him on a stunning array of mind-numbing drugs, and decides to reclaim his emotions, with the help of a quirky girl, Sam (Natalie Portman). Has the same dreamy, ironic feel as The Graduate.

Director: Claude Nuridsany, Marie Pérennou, 2004
Starring: Sotigui Kouyaté

A poetic documentary that looks at the origins of life and the interconnectedness of different beings, using phenomenal nature imagery, narrative and music.

Gentleman's Agreement ***
Director: Elia Kazan, 1947
Starring: Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Celeste Holm

A reporter (Gregory Peck) goes undercover as a Jew in order to research a series on anti-Semitism. This movie helped reshape societal attitudes and was the Best Picture winner for 1947.

Ghost in the Shell (Kôkaku kidôtai) ****
Director: Mamoru Oshii, 1995

Starring: Atsuko Tanaka (voice), Akio Ôtsuka (voice).

All the classic underpinnings of cyberpunk, from wetware to hackers to AI. The Major, Motoko Kusanagi, is a tough cyborg cop who has begun to question whether any part of her is still human. She and her partner, Bateau, track the Puppet Master, blamed for hacking into devices in people's brains and causing them to commit crimes. At times visually poetic, this movie raises interesting questions about the nature of being.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence *****
Director: Mamoru Oshii, 2004
Starring: Akio Ôtsuka (voice), Atsuko Tanaka (voice), Kôichi Yamadera (voice).

Bateau and his human partner, Togusa, try to find out why sex droids are killing their owners. A dreamlike movie blending CGI with traditional animation, Innocence continues the cyberpunk themes of alienation and computerization, along with the overriding theme: what makes something alive?

Gigi ***
Director: Vincente Minnelli, 1958
Starring: Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan

A musical following Gigi as she grows to womanhood and finds romance with a family friend. Lacks big dance numbers, but Leslie Caron is fantastic. Won 9 Oscars, including Best Picture.

The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai ***
Director: Mitsuru Meike, 2003
Starring: Emi Kuroda, Takeshi Ito, Yukijiro Hotaru.

A strange blend of politics and sex, this film started as a Japanese "pink film", or soft corn porn movie, and the director invested it with political commentary. The original one-hour sex romp was expanded into a full-length feature which follows prostitute Sachiko through a life-changing encounter with a yakuza and a world of political and intellectual awakenings.

The Godfather *****
Director: Francis Ford Coppola, 1972
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan

A drama about the inner working of the Corleone crime family, as power is transferred from the patriarch, Vito (Brando), to his son, Michael (Pacino). With its rich dialogue and stark violence, The Godfather set the standard for all mafia films to follow. Won Oscar for Best Picture.

The Godfather Part II **** 1/2
Director: Francis Ford Coppola, 1974
Starring: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro

Picks up where the original film leaves off, following the Corleone crime family and focusing on Michael as he takes over. While this installment is not as well known or widely quoted, it's as good or better in many ways..

Going My Way ***
Director: Leo McCarey, 1944
Starring: Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald

A kind-hearted, musically-talented priest, Father O'Malley (Bing Crosby) saves a troubled parish through charm and music. Surprisingly thoughtful, with great musical numbers. Won the 1944 Oscar for Best Picture.

The Golden Compass
Director: Chris Weitz, 2007
Starring: Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Ben Walker.

While Dakota Blue Richards did a good job in her role as Lyra Belacqua, this movie felt unfinished. Clearly the first in a series, it left off at an unsatisfactory conclusion and spent too much time establishing the world. Still, the armored bears were great!

Gone Baby Gone ****
Director: Ben Affleck, 2007.
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan.

A private eye (Casey Affleck) and his girlfriend (Michelle Monaghan) delve into the twisted mystery of a missing girl. Big brother Ben's directing debut serves younger brother Casey well in this modern film noir.

Gone With the Wind *****
Director: Victor Fleming, 1939
Starring: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel.

A faithful adaptation of the 1936 epic novel by Margaret Mitchell, this film captures the spirit and essence of the book. Brilliantly cast, with sweeping Technicolor landscapes and superb acting. It's no wonder this film is considered a classic.

Good Night, and Good Luck
Director: George Clooney, 2005
Starring: David Strathairn, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise, George Clooney.

A docudrama about the days when Edward R. Murrow took on Senator Joseph McCarthy and revolutionized American journalism. Shot in crisp black and white with a cinema verite feel, the movie concentrates on facts, just like Murrow, rather than getting polemical.

Grand Hotel
Director: Edmund Goulding, 1932
Starring: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore.

In this Best Picture winner, the stories of several guests at a posh hotel interweave. A must-see for film buffs, complete with some oft-quoted lines.

The Great New Wonderful ****
Director: Danny Leiner, 2005
Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tony Shalhoub, Jim Gaffigan, Olympia Dukakis, Stephen Colbert, Naseeruddin Shah.

Billed as a comedy, this movie is more like a drama with some comic elements. It follows five stories of New Yorkers, all dealing with personal crises. While these quiet stories of despair, ennui and anxiety progress, the viewer wonders how they're all connected. When the revelation comes, everything makes sense and you realize this is a well crafted film.

The Greatest Show on Earth **
Director: Cecil B. DeMille, 1952
Starring: Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Gloria Grahame.

The 1952 Best Picture Oscar winner is a Technicolor blending of documentary, drama and music as it blends real circus performances with a fictional story of some of the circus performers.

The Great Ziegfeld **
Director: Robert Z. Leonard, 1936
Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Luise Rainer, Frank Morgan, Virginia Bruce.

Part bio of the great showman, Florenz Ziegfeld (of Ziegfeld's Follies), and part musical, this movie is slow-paced and unremarkable, overloaded with splashy, yet dull, musical numbers.


Hair High
Director: Bill Plympton, 2004
Starring: Ed Begley Jr. (voice), David Carradine (voice), Keith Carradine (voice), Beverly D'Angelo (voice), Matt Groening (voice), Dermot Mulroney (voice), Martha Plimpton (voice), Eric Gilliland (voice), Sarah Silverman (voice).

An animated parody of the teen 1950s movies, with newcomer Spud falling on the bad side of the football captain Rod. Rod makes Spud serve as a slave to his girlfriend, Cherri, and naturally, Spud and Cherri fall in love. Raunchy fun combines with Plympton's characteristically surreal drawings for an entertaining tale.

Hamlet *****
Director: Laurence Olivier, 1948
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Basil Sydney, Eileen Herlie, Jean Simmons.

A must-see version of the Shakespeare play, with Olivier turning in a subdued yet powerful performance and Jean Simmons heartbreaking as Ophelia.

Hanging Garden (Kûchû teien) *****
Director: Toshiaki Toyoda, 2005
Starring: Kyôko Koizumi, Itsuji Katsuji, Masahiro Hirota, Anne Suzuki, Michiyo Ookusu.

Exquisite family drama about a cheerful, seemingly perfect family but who harbors secrets. As the plot develops, their lives teeter towards disaster. Will familial love offer a chance for redemption?

Hard Candy *****
Director: David Slade, 2005
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Ellen Page.

A visually stunning psychological thriller that deals with the issues of pedophilia and vigilantism. The movie is anchored by strong acting performances from Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page.

Hard Eight (Sydney) ***
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, 1996
Starring: Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson.

This twisted tale, set in Vegas, brings together three seemingly disconnected strangers: the mysterious, hard-bitten Sydney, young gambler John Finnegan and waitress/hooker Clementine. As their stories tangle together, their significance to each other becomes clear.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle ****
Director: Danny Leiner, 2004

Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Paula Garcés, Neil Patrick Harris.

A wacky teen comedy in the tradition of the 1980s films you loved, like Ferris Buehler's Day Off. The movie combines visual jokes with an emphasis on character development that makes the characters more believable. Lots of drug and sex humor, so not a kid film, but fun for adults.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Director: Mike Newell, 2005
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, David Tennant.

A darker Harry Potter, but with plenty of humorous moments to break the tension. Beautiful special effects, and the acting continues to get better. While it is a much condensed version of the book, it builds tension until the final revelation of the evil Lord Voldemort.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ***
Director: David Yates, 2007.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Ralph Fiennes.

This was one of the more difficult books to adapt, since so much of it was internal as Harry wrestles with personal issues. Still, the main important elements are present, with a little bit of levity, as well. The director's use of SFX made the final magical battle exciting if hard to follow.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ****
Director: Alfonso Cuaron, 2004
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, David Thewlis, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman.

Although this movie has the most creative plot yet, the film employs the least humor of the series to date, possibly because of the new director, who took over from Christopher Columbus, but possibly also because from this point on the books become increasingly darker. Still, a rich adaptation, faithful to the book.

Happy Feet ****
Director: George Miller and Warren Coleman, 2006
Starring: Robin Williams (voice), Elijah Wood (voice), Brittany Murphy (voice), Hugh Jackman (voice), Nicole Kidman (voice).

Combine 3D animation with a musical and an environmental message and you get the quitessential family movie. The movie manages to blend a conservation message with an entertaining good time, and the dancing, even if it is by animated penguins, is loads of fun.

Head Space
Director: Marc Erlbaum, 2005

Starring: John Lumia, Janice Rowland, Teddy Goldstein.

A mockumentary about a company that decides to sell tattoo forehead advertisements. Brilliantly cast, this entertaining film is to the marketing world what This is Spinal Tap was to the music world.

Hero *****
Director: Yimou Zhang, 2002
Starring: Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang, Daoming Chen, Donnie Yen.

A masterful film, where martial arts become a poetry extension of the emotions of the characters. The story, set in ancient China, has a mythical quality, with alternate versions of the tale being told until the truth is at last discovered.

High Art ****
Director: Lisa Cholodenko, 1998

Starring: Radha Mitchell, Ally Sheedy, Patricia Clarkson.

Considered Ally Sheedy's comeback, though actually, she never stopped working. Her portrayal of a drug-addicted photographer who reluctantly takes a second chance at fame and love, feels like a return to the actress who showed such promise 20 years ago.

High Fidelity
Director: Stephen Frears, 2000
Starring: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Todd Louiso, Jack Black.

Brilliant movie with a terrific script that takes a fun yet poignant look at love and facing your faults. John Cusack is at his best with an excellent supporting cast, including Jack Black in high form.

Director: Andy Tennant, 2005
Starring: Will Smith, Kevin James, Eva Mendes, Amber Valletta.

A great date movie, because it portrays the foolish things we do when we fall in love and how, somehow, we manage to do the right thing anyway. Will Smith, as the date doctor, Hitch, does well as the straight man for Kevin James, a CPA who desperately wants to make a celebrity client fall in love with him. Eva Mendes plays her roll as Hitch's love interest with easy grace.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ****
Director: Garth Jennings, 2005
Starring: Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell.

The film version captures the fun and the magic of both the books and the original radio series. Brilliantly cast with a fresh look that matches the spirit of the show. Author Douglas Adams worked on the screenplay. This was one of his last projects and well worth seeing.

The Holiday ****
Director: Nancy Meyers, 2006
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach.

Two women, both tired of their troubled lives, swap homes to get away for the Christmas holiday. While there, they meet people who renew their sense of personal empowerment and help them enjoy life and find love.

Hot Fuzz *****
Director: Edgar Wright, 2007
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton.

An affectionate send-up of the buddy cop flick, the story follows big-city cop Nicholas Angel, who faces a series of strange events once transferred to a small town. Brilliant editing and witty use of genre conventions by the people who brought you Shaun of the Dead.

House of Flying Daggers ****
Director: Yimou Zhang, 2004
Starring: Ziyi Zhang, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau.

What begins as a big politial intrigue becomes an intimate movie about love and trust. Beautifully enacted with poetic fight scenes. A true feast for the eyes and the heart.

How Green Was My Valley ***
Director: John Ford, 1941.
Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall.

A sometimes saccharine, sometimes melodramatic story of a poor Welsh mining family who faces a series of hardships. Beautifully shot, this Best Picture winner introduced America to Roddy McDowall, who plays the young Huw, heart of the film.

Hula Girls
Director: Sang-il Lee, 2006
Starring: Yasuko Matsuyuki, Etsushi Toyokawa, Yû Aoi, Shizuyo Yamazaki.

At times sentimental and at others joyous, this movie chronicles the efforts of a group of young women to save their mining town by mastering hula dancing for a new Hawaiian cultural center.

Hysterical Blindness
Director: Mira Nair, 2002
Starring: Uma Thurman, Gena Rowlands, Juliette Lewis.

This is what we usually call a "Mom" movie: a family drama focusing on women. But it's one of the edgier ones you'll see, with true to life scripting and great "Jersey girl" portrayals by Uma and Juliette.


I Am Legend ****
Director: Francis Lawrence, 2007
Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Salli Richardson, Willow Smith.

An adaptation of the book by Richard Matheson, this movie follows Robert Neville, a scientist who survived a deadly virus that turns people into vampire-like creatures, as he struggles to find a cure. The acting is great, but the CGI effects distracting.

Ice Age
Director: Carlos Saldanha, Chris Wedge, 2002
Starring: Ray Romano (voice), John Leguizamo (voice), Denis Leary (voice).

An animated adventure movie where an unlikely trio works together to return a human baby to his people. While many of the plot twists are predictable, the animation is masterfully done and the voice acting is excellent.

The Ice Harvest
Director: Harold Ramos, 2005
Starring: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Platt, Connie Nielsen.

While it's been marketed as a dark comedy, this film is closer to a bad film noir. Rather than humorous, most of the time it is simply bleak and brutal. There are far too many good people involved with this film for it to be this uninteresting. The script writers must be blamed for their lack of character development, plot and even dialogue.

Igby Goes Down **
Director: Burr Steers, 2002
Starring: Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Jared Harris, Amanda Peet, Ryan Philippe, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman.

Igby is an unsympathetic Holden Caufield wannabe caught between a domineering mother (Sarandon) and psychotic father (Pullman). Based on the theory that angst equals depth, this is a shallow, meandering waste of time.

I Know Where I'm Going
Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1945
Starring: Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey.

A romantic comedy about a gold-digger trying to get to an offshore Scottish island to marry her rich boss but unexpectedly falls for a young Scottish land owner. Breathtaking landscapes and great use of humor.

I Married a Strange Person ***
Director: Bill Plympton, 1997
Starring: Charis Michelsen (voice), Tom Larson (voice).

An animated feature about a newlywed who develops a strange lump on his neck that allows him to transform objects and people at will. While the premise is promising, the movie transforms from whimsical scenes into excessive violence as the newlyweds fight off an evil corporation attempting to steal his newfound abilities.

The Importance of Being Earnest
Director: Oliver Parker, 2002
Starring: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon.

A light comedy based on the Oscar Wilde play. Like a tea cake, it's a fun trifle but not terribly filling.

In a Dream *****
Director: Jeremiah Zagar, 2008
Starring: Isaiah Zagar, Julia Zagar, Ezekiel Zagar.

This documentary examines the art and life of Philadelphia mosaic artist Isaiah Zager, in the process revealing startling truths. A breathtakingly beautiful exploration of family life and artistic inspiration.

The Incredibles

Director: Brad Bird, 2004
Starring: Craig T. Nelson (voice), Holly Hunter (voice), Samuel L. Jackson (voice), Jason Lee (voice), Spencer Fox (voice), Sarah Vowell (voice).

An incredibly inventive, incredibly fun movie about a superhero family who come back into action to stop a new nemesis. Blends the best of the superhero genre and family adventure genre. Great fun for all ages!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull

Director: Steven Spielberg, 2008
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LeBeouf.

Formulaic Indiana Jones movie, complete with mysterious, powerful artifacts and fights on moving vehicles. Thrilling but predictable, with plenty of inside jokes and references.

Inglourious Basterds
Director: Quentin Tarantino, 2009
Starring: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, and Christopher Waltz.

Genre-busting film blending the World War II/Holocaust movie with a western. Follows Jewish antiheroes as they seek vengeance. Striking narrative, characterization and dialogue. A return of Tarantino to peak form.

In the Heat of the Night *****
Director: Norman Jewison, 1967
Starring: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger.

Murder mystery meets message movie in this Best Picture winner. Poitier and Steiger turn in great acting performances in an undersated masterpiece.

Inside Man ****
Director: Spike Lee, 2006
Starring: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe.

A brilliant blend of heist movie and detective drama, with plot twists you never see coming, subtle characterization and an entertaining visual style. Spike proves that he can make a big budget movie with the same flair as his smaller dramas.

In Bruges ****
Director: Martin McDonagh, 2008
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes.

A dark comedy about two hit men sent to Bruges, Belgium, to hide out after a job. While one enjoys sight-seeing, the other is bored out of his skull as they wait for orders. Witty and fresh but definitely dark, with plenty of salty language.

In the Valley of Elah
Director: Paul Haggis, 2007
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Jason Patric, Susan Sarandon.

A father, Hank Deerfield, tries to track down what happened to his missing son, just back from Iraq. In the process, he finds disturbing truths about wartime brutality and posttraumatic stress disorder. Tommy Lee Jones got an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance.

Intolerable Cruelt
y ****
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen, 2003
Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Using a non-traditional narrative structure, the Coen Brothers surprise and delight with a new genre: the con romance. The ending lacks a sense of finality, but the overall experience is a fun verbal sparring match.

Into the Wild
Director: Sean Penn, 2007
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Vince Vaughn, Hal Holbrook.

The true story of a top student who abandons his possessions and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness in a sometimes mystifying and sometimes heartbreaking search for meaning.

Iron Man
Director: Jon Favreau, 2008
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow.

A sleek, witty tour de force that hits all the right buttons and manages to combine a pulse-pounding super hero movie with an anti-war message. Robert Downey is outstanding as the complex Iron Man.


Japanese Story ****
Director: Sue Brooks, 2003
Starring: Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima.

Sandy, a geologist, finds an unlikely connection with a quiet Japanese businessman she's guiding around Australia. A tear jerker with an unexpected twist that explores themes of human versus nature and love across cultures.

Jersey Girl
Director: Kevin Smith, 2004

Starring: Ben Affleck, Raquel Castro, George Carlin, Liv Tyler.

Without a doubt the sweetest, most family friendly offering from the director of Clerks, Chasing Amy and Dogma. Ben Affleck plays a single father struggling to find a balance between his family and his career. Likewise, this film finds a balance between wry human observation (Smith's forte) and sentiment.

Johnny English ***
Director: Peter Howitt
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Tasha de Vasconcelos, Ben Miller, John Malkovitch.

This film can't decide whether it wants to be a parody or an affectionate tribute to spy movies. Rowan Atkinson is subdued as a bumbling British agent, and John Malkovitch is well cast as the evil French nemesis. The film is best when the two play off each other.

Josee, the Tiger and the Fish
Director: Isshin Inudo, 2003
Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Chizuru Ikewaki.

A Japanese drama about a college student who falls in love with a disabled girl. This charming, hip film avoids the pitfalls of oversentimentality and easy Hollywood endings for a more genuine and more moving experience.

Joyeux Noel ****
Director: Christian Caron, 2005
Starring: Anna Sorensen, Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, Gary Lewis, Dany Boon, Daniel Brühl.

A moving film that depicts true stories of Christmas fraternization between enemies during World War I. Often humorous and inspiring, the movie questions what drives us to war and itself is an elegant argument for peace.

Judy Toll: The Funniest Woman
You've Never Heard Of
Director: Gary Toll, 2007
Starring: Judy Toll, Tim Bagley, Wendy Goldman, Kathy Griffin, Michael Patrick King, George McGrath, Taylor Negron, Thomas Wilson.

An affectionate documentary by Gary Toll about his sister, Judy, a Philadelphia native whose love for comedy, writing and performing took her to California. Sadly, she lost her battle with melanoma, but not before making an impression on family and co-workers alike.

Julie & Julia ****
Director: Nora Ephron, 2009
Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina.

Entertaining and inspiring, this movie follows both Julie Powell, a blogger trying to cook all of Julia Child's recipes, and Julia Child as she wrote her seminal book.

Juno *****
Director: Jason Reitman, 2007

Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons.

When 16-year-old Juno (Ellen Page) gets pregnant, she makes an arrangement with a 30-something couple to adopt the baby. A punk rock tomboy, she turns her wry view on the situation, learning some tough lessons but ultimately coming out on top. Funny and beautifully written.

Jury Duty ***
Director: Edouard Niemans, 2008
Starring: Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Isabelle Habiague, Pascal Elso.

A carefully controlled drama with some dark comic elements, about a pharmacist who kills a young woman and then is picked to serve on the jury at a trial for the young Algerian accused.


Keeping Mum ***
Director: Niall Johnson, 2005
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Patrick Swayze, Tamsin Egerton.

Despite a stellar cast, this film is a somewhat predictable film which is part dark comedy, part family drama. Rowan Atkinson is subdued as a country preacher whose flawed family gets unexpected help from a released ax murderer (yes, really!), Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith).

The Kid
Director: Charlie Chaplin, 1921
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan, Edna Purviance.

This film was Chaplin's first attempt to make a feature film, and in it you can see him finding his legs as a director, learning to blend comedy and pathos. Jackie Coogan, as the kid, is a great foil for Chaplin: funny in the comic scenes and moving in the emotional ones.

Kill Bill: Vol. I ****
Director: Quentin Tarantino, 2003
Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine.

A master work of action, starring Uma Thurman as the Bride, a woman seeking to avenge the massacre of her wedding rehearsal. Quentin pays homage to his favoriate genre films with a fresh take on everything from Kung Fu films to spaghetti westerns.

Kill Bill: Vol. II ****
Director: Quentin Tarantino, 2004
Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Michael Madsen.

The story continues, but this time lighter on the action sequences as we learn more about the characters and what brought them to this point. As always, Quentin does a skillful job of interweaving dialogue with action and taking creative narrative jumps.

The Kingdom
Director: Peter Berg, 2007
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhorn.

A police procedural set in Saudi Arabia, as FBI agents strive to solve the case of a massive bombing. Addresses concerns of international politics and human nature in a believable, thought-provoking way.

King Arthur
Director: Antoine Fuqua. 2004
Starring: Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton, Hugh Dancy, Ray Winstone, Ray Stevenson, Keira Knightley.

Both historians and folklorists are likely to be disappointed with this movie that fails to meet the demands of either, imagining Arthur as a half-Roman Third Century commander. Still, the battle scenes are dramatic and the story line engaging in this extremely well-cast epic.

King Kong *****
Director: Peter Jackson, 2005
Starring: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis.

Anyone simply expecting a monster movie will be pleasantly surprised with an eye-pleasing epic that touches all the emotions, from laughter to sympathy to tragedy. As much credit goes to Naomi Watts for acting convincingly against a green screen as to the CGI masters who brought the great ape to life.

Kramer vs. Kramer
Director: Robert Benton, 1979
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Henry.

A family drama focusing on a father forced to become a single dad and then, during his divorce, fights for custody. Although divorce is as common today, the film feels dated. Best Picture winner.

Kung Fu Hustle
Director: Stephen Chow, 2004
Starring: Stephen Chow, Wah Yuen, Zhi Hua Dong, Kwok Kuen Chan, Qui Yuen, Xiaogang Feng.

A remarkable visual treat, this is like a live action Warner Brothers cartoon meets a Kung Fu movie. The movie pits the members of a poor neighborhood against the powerful Axe Gang. At first apparently vastly outnumbered, the neighborhood residents discover their inner strengths to defend their homes and their lives.

Kung Fu Panda ****
Director: Mark Osbourne, John Stevenson, 2008
Starring: Jack Black (voice), Dustin Hoffman (voice), Angelina Jolie (voice), Seth Rogen (voice), Jackie Chan (voice), Lucy Liu (voice), David Cross (voice).

An animated feature about the efforts of a panda named Po (Jack Black) to realize his destiny as the Dragon Warrior, despite a skeptical Kung Fu master, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). Fun for both kids and adults, with humor, excitement and even a lesson or two.


L.A. Blues ****
Director: Ian Gurvitz, 2007
Starring: Kevin Rahm, William Ragsdale, Dave Foley, Sean Maguire, Anthony Michael Hall, Nicholas D'Agosto, Marsha Thomason.

A whodunnit of sorts, as a bartender recounts the story of six friends over the course of a year, leading to a shooting that landed one in an ambulance. A funny and moving exploration of communication among men.

The Ladykillers
Director: Joe and Ethan Coen, 2004
Starring: Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons, Tzi Ma, Ryan Hurst.

An uproarious comedy with that patented Coen penchant for rhythmic, timeless dialogue. Despite leaning towards caricature, this wacky ensemble comedy about a group of bumbling thieves who take up residence in an elderly Southern church-going woman's home is, as MasterCard would say, priceless.

The Last Emperor ****
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci, 1987
Starring: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole.

An historical epic about the last emperor of China. The movie pays careful attention to detail and does a good job of portraying the last days of the imperial system of China, as contrasted with the modern communist republic.Won Oscar for Best Picture.

The Last King of Scotland ****
Director: Kevin Macdonald, 2007
Starring: James McAvoy, Forrest Whitaker, Kerry Washington.

Forrest Whitaker gives an Oscar-winning performance as Idi Amin, a man both charming and terrifying as he descends into paranoia. James McAvoy plays the doctor who finds himself drawn into Idi's administration, as a witness to the downward spiral.

Last of the Mohicans
Director: Clarence Brown, Maurice Tourneur, 1920
Starring: Barbara Bedford, Alan Roscoe, Wallace Beery.

A faithful adaptation of the book by James Fenimore Cooper, this silent film manages to convey a story of unrequited love despite distracting stereotypes of Native Americans and poor acting by the female lead (Barbara Bedford.

The Last Samurai *****
Director: Edward Zwick, 2003
Starring: Ken Watanabe, Tom Cruise, Hiroyuki Sanada, Koyuki.

A moving epic about the last stand of the Samurai tradition and a Westerner (Cruise) who learns to value the ways of the Samurai. Subtle performances and excellent battle scenes.

The Lathe of Heaven ****
Director: Philip Haas, 2002
Starring: Lukas Haas, James Caan, David Strathairn, Lisa Bonet.

What if your dreams changed the world each night? That is the fate of George Orr, who must come to terms with his strange ability. Lisa Bonet is luminous as his mysterious dreamgirl, and James Caan outstanding as a psychiatrist of questionable morals.

Laurel Canyon ****
Director: Lisa Cholodenko, 2002
Starring: Frances McDormand, Christian Bale, Kate Bekinsale, Natascha McElhone, Alessandro Nivola.

Director Lisa Cholodenko (High Art) was striving for a feel to match The Graduate, an existential journey of sorts. She succeeds, with subtle script writing, poetic camera work and an ambiguous ending.

Lawrence of Arabia **** 1/2
Director: David Lean, 1962.
Starring: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif.

A beautifully-shot epic about the British officer, T.E. Lawrence, who worked with Arab allies in the Middle East during World War I. The movie shows the political machinations that underlay military decisions. Sometimes, it's politically dense, but it is always a visual treat. Best Picture winner.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Director: Wes Anderson, 2004
Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Houston, Willem Dafoe.

Although it is sometimes uneven, this film about an American Jacques Cousteau, Steve Zissou, is a visual treat with great writing, a great cast and great music. At times funny, at times touching, The Life Aquatic explores the deep seas of heroism, love, family and dreams.

The Life of Emile Zola **
Director: William Dieterle, 1937
Starring: Paul Muni, Gale Sondergaard, Joseph Schildkraut, Gloria Holden.

A tedious biography of French author and political thinker Emile Zola, who risked his career to stand up for a wrongfully imprisoned man. The movie drags and lacks a sense of urgency, suffering from a lack of focus. Won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

A Life Less Ordinary
Director: Danny Boyle, 1997
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, Holly Hunter, Delroy Lindo.

The director of "Trainspotting" turns his sharp visual style and adept handling of narrative to a twisted story of kidnapping and romance. There's nothing ordinary about this film. Holly Hunter is unforgettable in a supporting role as an angel with unconventional means.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King *****
Director: Peter Jackson, 2003
Starring: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Jonathan Rhys-Davis, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto.

A rare combination of terrific acting, exciting fight scenes and an excellent story. This movie has something for everyone; even a happy ending.

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
Director: Larry Blamire, 2001
Starring: Fay Masterson, Andrew Parks, Susan McConnell, Brian Howe, Jennifer Blaire, Larry Blamire.

A parody of the 1950's horror films where the best defense against an alien was science! Stilted dialogue, bad acting, atrocious special effects, laughable sets, all evoke the desired time period. Nicely done.

Lost in Translation
Director: Sofia Coppola, 2003
Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson.

Can you say Oscar? Bill Murray gives a subtle yet endearing performance as a businessman who connects with a young writer. Their friendship gives them both the ability to deal with the strangeness of a foreign culture and their estrangement from their love relationships.

The Lost Weekend ****
Director: Billy Wilder, 1945
Starring: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman.

A sometimes melodramatic yet stark portrayal of an alcoholic's (Ray Milland) four-day bender. As he sinks to new lows, his girlfriend (Jane Wyman) struggles to save him. Best Picture winner of 1945.

Love Actually *****
Director: Richard Curtis, 2003
Starring: Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Rory MacGregor, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Kris Marshall, Heike Makatsch, Laura Linney.

A terrific holiday film with several interweaving stories, each of them defty told. You get everything from a Hollywood ending to more realistic portrayals of love. Love, actually, is all around.

Lucky Number Slevin *****
Director: Paul McGuigan, 2006
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley.

A stylish, sleek action packed movie best described as a hit man con film. The script is tight, and the cast does a terrific job handling the frequent twists and turns.


Madagascar ***
Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, 2005
Starring: Ben Stiller (voice), Chris Rock (voice), David Schwimmer (voice), Jada Pinkett Smith (voice), Sacha Baron Cohen (voice).

A fun animated movie from the studio who gave you Shrek. There are inspired moments, such as nearly every scene involving King Julian the Lemur, but the film doesn't have the rich subtext of Shrek. Still, it's a great summer movie for adults and children alike.

A Man for All Seasons
*** 1/2
Director: Fred Zinnemann, 1966
Starring: Paul Scofield, Leo McKern, Robert Shaw, Susannah York.

A historical film that takes an intimate look at the religious and political factors at play during the reign of Henry VIII, in particular as it affected Sir Thomas More. While the first half of the film seems dry, it sets up the events of the second half. Won Best Picture Oscar.

March of the Penguins
Director: Luc Jacquet, 2005.

Starring: Morgan Freeman (voice).

The most amazing aspect of this documentary is the incredible documentary footage captured of penguins as they endure the elements in their annual nesting ritual. The narration sometimes is a bit overwrought, but the footage speaks for itself. A marvelous nature film for all ages.

Margot at the Wedding ***
Director: Noah Baumbauch, 2007
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, Zane Pais.

A family drama about two quarreling sisters who come together for the wedding of one (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to an unemployed musician (Jack Black). While there are moments of humor, the film concentrates on unraveling the tapestry of a dysfunctional family.

Martian Child ****
Director: Menno Meyjes, 2007
Starring: John Cusack, Bobby Coleman, Amanda Peet, Joan Cusack.

Single guy David (John Cusack), still mourning his wife, adopts a quirky boy, Dennis (Bobby Coleman) who escapes into Martian fantasies. Alternately heart-warming and gently funny, this is a great feel-good movie.

Mary Poppins ****
Director: Robert Stevenson, 1964.
Starring: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber.

A charming film about an apple-cheeked, cheery, propper British nanny who has something magic about her. Dick Van Dyke is equally winning in this Disney musical classic.

Marty ****
Director: Delbert Mann, 1955.
Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair.

Ernest Borgnine plays a shy butcher, still living with his mom and hoping for love. When he meets plain-Jane Clara (Betsy Blair), he finally envisions a future filled with love and a family. Won the Oscar for Best Picture for telling a simple story well.

Matchstick Men
Director: Ridley Scott, 2003
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman.

A great con movie, starring Nicolas Cage as a phobic con artist, Sam Rockwell as his partner and Alison Lohman as his long lost daughter, who helps him to find meaning and to get beyond his fears. But treacly is not. Just wait until the second act.

The Matrix: Reloaded
Director: Andy Wachowki, Larry Wachowski, 2003
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Breathtaking action, beautifully choreographed fight sequences, fantastic special effects and philosophy. It doesn't get better than this.

The Matrix: Revolutions ***
Director: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, 2003
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Whereas the second movie in the series was action packed, the final movie in the trilogy delves more into the spiritual side, which may disappoint many fans, even though it does bring a logical close to the series.

The Medallion
Director: Gordon Chan, 2003
Starring: Jackie Chan, Lee Evans, Claire Forlani, Julian Sands.

Sammo Hung choreographed the fight scenes, and this is an atypical Jackie Chan movie, without the athletic fight scenes we've come to expect. Instead, there's lots of cable work and a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon magical kung fu feel.

Michael Clayton ***
Director: Tony Gilroy, 2007
Starring: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton.

An attorney known as the Fixer, Michael Clayton (George Clooney) gets drawn into the most complicated case of his career, involving a massive corporate cover-up. The plot, though, can be difficult to follow. Tilda Swinton won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role.

Midnight Cowboy
Director: John Schlesinger, 1969
Starring: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman.

A drama that makes use of experimental editing techniques to tell the story of a would-be gigolo in New York and his down-on-his-luck friend. The story is told primarily through visuals and flashbacks, rather than dialogue. Best Picture winner.

A Mighty Wind
Director: Christopher Guest, 2003
Starring: Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKeon, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Fred Willard.

The old crew is together again, in another slice of life documentary with an improvisational feel. This effort doesn't have as many laugh out loud moments as Best in Show or Waiting for Guffman, but it does touch on some poignant moments that seem so real you almost forget to laugh.

Million Dollar Baby
Director: Clint Eastwood, 2004

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman.

The many awards this film received at the 2005 Oscars were all deserved, for a film that is both inspiring and heartwrenching. Clint Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, a trainer fallen on rough times and dealing with past regrets. Reluctantly, he takes on a new boxer, Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), and the two begin a journey that will bring them both closer and raise questions of fighting and redemption.

Monty Python's Life of Brian
Director: Terry Jones, 1979
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam.

The most brilliant parody of all Monty Python's films, the movie satires religion, radicalism and politics while telling the story of hapless Brian, born next door to Jesus. The rerelease of the film in 2004, however, left something to be desired, as they just released old prints.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith ****
Director: Doug Lima, 2005
Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn.

Looking for an action movie? Looking for a romantic comedy? How about both at once? This movie brilliantly combines the genres, using the "spy v. spy" nature of the plot as a metaphor for a relationship on the cusp of a breakdown.

Mrs. Henderson Presents ****
Director: Stephen Frears, 2005
Starring: Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young, Christopher Guest.

A widow opens a theater in London and features all-nude revues. Subtle humor transforms into unity and strength as the performers unit during the World War II blitz of London.

Mrs. Miniver ****
Director: William Wyler, 1942
Starring: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, Dame May Whitty, Henry Travers, Richard Ney.

An evocative tale of a British family and their small village, as they endure the challenges of the World War II German Blitz. Won six Oscars, including Best Picture. Greer Garson is mesmerizing in the title role.

Murderball ***
Director: Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro, 2005.
Starring: Joe Bishop, Keith Cavill, Andy Cohn, Scott Hogsett.

A documentary about the world of paraplegics who play full-contact rugby, including the personal stories of many of the players. Could have benefitted from some editing for time, as much of it becomes repetitive.

Mutiny on the Bounty ***
Director: Frank Lloyd, 1935
Starring: Charles Laughton, Clark Gable.

Based on an historic tale of seabound treachery, this movie recounts what happened to the strict Captain Bligh when he crew rebelled. The film is very slow-paced, in between the well-worn famous clips.

My Fair Lady ****
Director: George Cukor, 1964
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison

My Fair Lady is a musical version of the classic tale of Pygmalion, where a man transforms a woman of humble origins into a refined lady. Contains some unforgettable moments, as well as some classic songs. Won the Oscar for Best Picture

My Super Ex-Girlfriend *****
Director: Ivan Reitman, 2006
Starring: Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, Rainn Wilson, Anna Faris, Eddie Izzard.

Brilliantly cast movie about Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson), who unknowingly begins dating a superhero and then must face her wrath when they break up. Director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Stripes, Meatballs) is the master of making a ridiculous plot seem believable and bringing out the best in his actors. Super fun!


Nacho Libre
Director: Jared Hess, 2006
Starring: Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Héctor Jiménez.

A clumsy, poorly written movie about a monk who becomes a Mexican wrestler. Funnyman Jack Black is hampered by bad editing and pinned down by wretchedly predictable dialogue.

The Nanny Diaries
Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, 2007
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Nicholas Art, Alicia Keys, Chris Evans, Paul Giamatti.

Annie Bradley (Scarlett Johansson), a recent NYU graduate, takes a job as a nanny while she decides what to do with her life. She learns more than she'd cared to about the life of upper class New Yorkers and family dynamics. More so, she learns about herself. The acting is great, the script fresh, and the visual style entertaining.

Napoleon Dynamite *****
Director: Jared Hess, 2004
Starring: Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez, Aaron Ruell, Tina Majorino.

A wry look at the perils of popularity and dating in high school. Offbeat outcast Napoleon Dynamite marches — and dances — to his own drummer, finding a place with some other square pegs.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation **
Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1989
Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, Randy Quaid.

If you like jokes about cats being electrocuted and sewer gas being set on fire, this is the holiday movie for you. Otherwise, wait until you can see it for free on TV.

*Next ****
Director: Lee Tamahori, 2007
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel.

Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) is gifted with the ability to see the future, but only his future and only for two minutes at a time. Nevertheless, the feds want him to help find a nuclear missile, and he is torn between national security interests and a new love. A refreshing movie with inventive use of narrative.

Night at the Museum ****
Director: Shawn Levy, 2006
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Owen Wilson.

A silly movie that does exactly what it's supposed to do. It involves lots of gentle, silly fun, and Ben Stiller and Robin Williams shine, along with a great cast.

Nine Souls
Director: Toshiaki Toyoda, 2003
Starring: Yoshio Harada, Ryuhei Matsuda, Koji Chihara, Takuji Suzuki, Onimaru, Mame Yamada, Kee, Genta Dairaku, Itsuji Itao, Kazuki Kitamura.

An inventive, risk-taking story of nine convicts who escape from prison, each of them coming into contact with his past and meeting a karmic fate. Alternately funny, crude, violent and ultimately moving.

No Country for Old Men *****
Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 2007
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin.

When Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds money at a drug deal gone bad, he starts off a movie-long chase between himself, a ruthless murderer (Javier Bardem) and a Texas lawman (Tommy Lee Jones). Riveting, at times sad and at others darkly funny.

Noises Off *****
Director: Peter Bogdanovich, 1992
Starring: Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Denholm Elliott, Julie Hagerty, Marilu Henner, Mark Linn-Baker, Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, Nicolette Sheridan.

A fast-paced farce about the actors and director of a farce. Personal conflicts and romances begin to interfere with their onstage performance, leading to hilarious consequences. John Ritter and Christopher Reeve are in top form.

No Reservations **
Director: Scott Hicks, 2007
Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson.

A tightly-wound chef (Catherine Zeta-Jones) changes when she becomes guardian for her niece. At the same time, an unconventional sous chef (Aaron Eckhart) turns her kitchen upside-down. This film wasted a lot of opportunities, making it pleasant, but forgettable.


Old School ***
Director: Todd Phillips, 2003
Starring: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Jeremy Piven.

Think "Animal House" meets a mid-life crisis. Fun in moments and lackluster in others. Will, Vince and Luke compliment each other well on screen.

Director: Carol Reed, 1968
Starring: Mark Lester, Ron Moody, Shani Wallis, Jack Wild and Oliver Reed

Oliver! is a musical based on the Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist. Most of the story is told through song, with lavish dance numbers that depict the dark side of many social problems, such as homelessness, and social institutions. Best Picture winner.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Director: Robert Rodriguez, 2003
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp.

A rousing movie that both parodies and pays tribute to Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, "Once Upon a Time" continues the El Mariachi saga with a decidedly legendary feel, as if this installment had been passed down over the years, embellished in each retelling.

One Buccaneer ****
Directors: Jerry Greiner, Paul Hunt, Julie Kauffman, 2006.
Starring: Robert, Mary Lou and Bob Brock.

An inspiring and entertaining documentary about a family-owned puppet theater in Lancaster, as puppet master Robert Brock follows his dream to create a puppet production of Treasure Island, with the support — and good-natured ribbing — of his loving family.

Ordinary People *****
Director: Robert Redford, 1980
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, Judd Hirsch.

A heartbreaking yet ultimately hopeful story of a family dealing with the loss of a son, this film is an amazing achivement in the power of realism.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest *****
Director: Milos Forman, 1975
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson.

A compelling drama based on the book by Ken Kesey. Through both humor and serious moments, the movie critiques both the mental health system and our society.

Out of Africa ****
Director: Sydney Pollack, 1985
Starring: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford.

A romantic epic based on the memoirs of Karen Blixen, who owned a farm in Africa in the early part of the 20th Century. Makes superb use of cinematography to show the grandeur of the landscape and the unique culture. While grand, it is also personal and moving. Won Best Picture Oscar.

Over the Hedge ***
Director: Tim Johnson & Karey Kirkpatrick, 2006
Starring: Bruce Willis (voice), Garry Shandling (voice), Steve Carell (voice), Wanda Sykes (voice), William Shatner (voice), Nick Nolte (voice), Thomas Haden Church (voice), Allison Janney (voice), Eugene Levy (voice), Catherine O'Hara (voice), Avril Lavigne (voice).

There are a lot of brilliant moments in this movie funny enough to have you quoting them for days, but overall, it's not a great animated movie, mostly due to a weak plot. Still, there's fantastic voice work in here, especially by Steve Carell, and some unforgettable characters.


Paprika ****
Director: Satoshi Kon, 2006
Starring: Megumi Hayashibara (voice), Toru Furuya (voice), Akio Otsuka (voice).

This Japanese animated feature is a cautionary tale about the dangers of supplanting human interaction with technology. A micro unit used to analyze and record dreams is stolen, leading to a growing rift between dreams and reality.

Paris Je T'Aime *****
Multiple directors, 2006
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Miranda Richardson, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Nick Nolte, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Elijah Wood, Natalie Portman, Gérard Depardieu, Gene Rowlands.

World-renowned directors each produced a 5-minute film about romance, set in different neighborhoods of Paris. Ranging from sweet to heartbreaking, from silly to inspiring, these different views of Paris show why the city is known as "The City of Love."

The Park
Director: Wai Keung Lau, 2003
Starring: Matthew Paul Dean, Bo Bo Chan, Jonathan Cheung, Kara Hui Ying-hung, Derek Tsang, Tifanny Lee, Lila Boonyasak, Phubes Makanid.

A 3D Hong Kong schlock-fest with few scares (even in 3D) and even less of a plot. A group of teens explores a haunted fun park in an effort to rescue the brother of one of the teens.

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner, 1970
Starring: George C. Scott, Karl Malden

A biopic about the famous World War II American general, George S. Patton Jr., showing high and low points from the war. In part because of the acting and in part because of the script, the film is a fascinating exploration of his character. Won Best Picture Oscar.

Penelope ****
Director: Mark Palansky, 2006
Starring: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O'Hara, Reese Witherspoon, Peter Dinklage.

A magical tale of acceptance and being different. Penelope (Christina Ricci) is victim of a family curse, born with a pig's nose. Can she still find love and acceptance? Witty, sweet, colorful fun.

Persepolis *****
Director: Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi, 2007
Starring: Chiara Mastroianni (voice), Catherine Deneuve (voice), Danielle Darrieux (voice).

Both political and funny, this animated feature recounts the trials of growing up a young, rebellious woman during the Iranian Revolution. Nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2008.

Peter Pan
Director: P.J. Hogan, 2003
Starring: Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lynn Redgrave, Harry Newell, Freddie Popplewell.

A magical adventure that captures the classic children's tale beautifully, with just enough psychological subtext to keep adults riveted.

Phoebe in Wonderland *****
Director: Daniel Barnz, 2008
Starring: Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Pullman.

A richly textured film about 10-year-old Phoebe (Elle Fanning) who escapes to a fantasy land based on Alice in Wonderland and finds release from troubling personal difficulties by playing Alice in a school production.

The Pianist ****
Director: Roman Polanski, 2002.
Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann.

A moving biographical movie based on the World War II experiences of Polish pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, who survived thanks to the help of fellow Poles and Germans. Polanski strives for accuracy, and the movie achieves it.

Director: Ewald Andre Dupont, 1929
Starring: Gilda Gray, Anna May Wong, Jameson Thomas, Cyril Ritchard, Hannah Jones.

In this recently restored silent film classic, Anna May Wong shines as the scullery maid whose dancing steals the heart of Piccadilly club owner Valentine Wilmot (Thomas), naturally leading to complications with his formerly favored dancer, Mabel (Gilda Gray).

The Pink Panther **
Director: Shawn Levy, 2006
Starring: Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Jean Reno.

So, you might ask, how did a film starring two comic talents (Steve Martin and Kevin Kline) go so horribly wrong? Blame director Shawn Levy, who in the extra featurettes on the DVD reveals that he allowed his actors to practically direct the film themselves. And it shows. The movie lacks, might we say, direction.

Pirates of the Caribbean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl
Director: Gore Verbinski, 2003

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley.

Not exactly Oscar material, but a terrific film offering something for everyone: action, romance, humor, intrigue, suspense. A cut above your typical summer blockbuster, with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom's swashbuckling performances reminding us what pirate movies are all about.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2:
Dead Man's Chest
Director: Gore Verbinski, 2006
Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce.

Something of a disappointment, this movie doesn't contain as much excitement as the first movie. It's almost angst-ridden and seems to be just a setup for the third movie.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3:
At World's End
Director: Gore Verbinski, 2007
Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley.

The third installment of the Pirates franchise delivers excitement, humor, romance, and deliciously tangled plot twists. What a ride!

The Pixar Story *****
Director: Leslie Iwerks, 2007
Starring: Stacy Keach, John Lasseter, George Lucas, Steve Jobs, Loren Carpenter, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird, Bob Iger.

A documentary about the rise of Pixar from a small production house to a major force in animated film. Based on interviews, archival footage, and film clips, the film provides a complete overview of the creative process and the business decisions that led to Pixar's success.

Platoon *****
Director: Oliver Stone, 1986
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley, Mark Moses.

A Vietnam War drama that follows one unit from the viewpoint of new recruit Chris (Sheen). The film shows the human side of warfare, for better and worse. Based on Stone's Vietnam experiences. Won Oscar for Best Picture.

Director: Robert Downey Sr., 1970
Starring: Lawrence Wolf, Marshall Efron, Antonio Fargas, Stan Gottlieb.

Eighteen dogs await their fate in a dog pound in this wildly experimental absurdist film. Long considered lost, a print recently surfaced, thanks to the film's cinematographer, and a restored version was screened at the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival.

Princess Mononoke *****
Director: Hayao Miyazaki, 1997
Starring: (voice) Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton, Jada Pinkett Smith.

A magical movie with an environmental message, following the adventures of a young man trying to mediate between the forces of nature and of humanity. The English dub is excellent. Miyazaki would later win a well-deserved Oscar for Spirited Away.

Punch Drunk Love ****
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002
Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson.

A quirky romance about an emotionally stunted man and his first forays into the world of love. Is it all a dream? Or is love simply dreamlike?

The Pursuit of Happyness ****
Director: Gabriele Muccino, 2006
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton.

The inspiring true-life story of a father who faced difficult challenges to make a better life for his son. A great family movie.



Rain Man
Director: Barry Levinson, 1988
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman.

Part family drama, part road movie. It follows a young entrepreneur (Cruise) who discovers he has an older, autistic brother. The story follows their journey — both literal and figurative — from strangers to forming brotherly bonds. Won Best Picture Oscar.

Ratatouille *****
Director: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, 2007
Starring: Patton Oswalt (voice), Ian Holm (voice), Lou Romano (voice), Janeane Garofalo (voice).

This delightful animated film follows Remy, a rat with a gift for cooking, as he makes his skills known through kitchen helper Linguini. A sweet film about following your dreams with plenty of humorous culinary references.

Read My Lips (Sur mes levres)
Director: Jacques Audiard, 2001
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Emmanuelle Devos.

A deaf woman who can read lips falls in with a thief who wants her to rob a mobster. Sounds fascinating, but the movie is too slow moving.

Rebecca ****
Director: Alfred Hitchcock, 1940
Starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson.

Best Picture winner and little known Hitchcock masterpiece, focusing on the psychological turmoil of a young bride who fears she cannot compete with the memory of her husband's late wife.

Rent ***
Director: Chris Columbus, 2005
Starring: Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Rosario Dawson, Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Tracie Thorns, Taye Diggs.

Maybe it's just me, but for most of this musical I couldn't help thinking what a bunch of whiny self-important artist-wannabes. The true heart of the movie, Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia), is the only reason worth watching.

Rize *****
Director: David LaChapelle, 2005
Starring: Lil C, Tommy the Clown, Dragon, Tight Eyez, La Niña, Miss Prissy.

A documentary about a dance movement that grew in South Central L.A. as an alternative to gang violence. Inspiring, with powerful visuals and mind-blowing dancing.

The Returner
Director: Takashi Yamakazi, 2002
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Anne Suzuki, Kiri Kiki, Goro Kishitani.

The best way to summarize this movie is "E.T. with guns." It combines the sweetness and hopefulness of '80s movies like E.T. with fantastically choreographed action sequences. While there is some violence, the bulk of the story concentrates on the growing friendship between outlaw Miyamoto (Kaneshiro) and time traveler Milly (Suzuki), who team up to prevent intergalactic war.

Robot Stories

Director: Greg Pak, 2003
Starring: Tamlyn Tomita, James Saito, Vin Knight, Gina Quintos, Karen Tse Lee, Glenn Kubota, Wai Ching Ho, Greg Pak.

Four short pieces, each having something to do with robots or artificial intelligence. But really, each one of them is about human relationships and the levels of reality within those relationships. Beautifully done.

Robots ***
Director: Chris Wedge, 2005
Starring: Ewan McGregor (voice), Robin Williams (voice), Drew Carey (voice), Jennifer Coolidge (voice), Mel Brooks (voice).

A family friendly computer animated piece which follows inventor Rodney Copperbottom on his quest to make his fortune in the big city. This movie is more fun when it's introducing the city and its denizens, as the plot itself is not too engaging and ultimately, easily resolved.

Director: John G. Avildsen, 1976
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith

The first movie in the profitable franchise features a down-on-his luck fighter in Philadelphia who gets the unlikely chance to fight the heavyweight champion. A down-to-earth drama that focuses on the humanity of its characters.

Run, Fatboy, Run ***
Director: David Schimmer, 2007
Starring: Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria, Dylan Moran, Harish Patel.

For a movie written by Michael Ian Black and Simon Pegg, it's a surprisingly typical romantic comedy, perhaps because it was helmed by fledgling feature director David Schwimmer. Dennis Doyle (Simon Pegg) decides to run a marathon to win back his ex, played by Thandie Newton.

Rush Hour 3 **
Director: Brett Ratner, 2007
Starring: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Max Von Sydow, Noémie Lenoir.

This sequel finds Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) tracking down Japanese gangsters in Paris. The fight scenes are lackluster, the dialogue hackneyed and many of the jokes cartoonish. This is the weakest of the series.


Sabrina ***
Director: Billy Wilder, 1954
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden.

Audrey Hepburn plays a chauffeur's daughter who, finding culture in Europe, manages to interest the two rich sons of her father's employer. Audrey is charming, as always, but Bogie seems awkwardly out of place as her suitor.

Savages **
Director: James Ivory, 1972
Starring: Susan Blakely, Sam Waterston, Ultra Violet, Margaret Brewster.

An experimental film by Merchant and Ivory, tracing the surreal experiences of a primitive tribe who finds an abandoned mansion and transforms into British upper class for one weekend. The fractured story-telling and absurdist dialogue are difficult to follow, and the message, about the savagery of modern culture, is therefore blunted.

A Scanner Darkly *****
Director: Richard Linklater, 2006
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane, Winona Ryder.

A masterpiece by the king of rotoscope animation, Richard Linklater. Based on the marvelously twisted novel by Philip K. Dick about an undercover narcotics officer who becomes embroiled in the world he's investigating. Funny, thoughtful, engaging and surprising!

Scary Movie 2 *
Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans, 2001
Starring: Anna Faris, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Tim Curry.

Even Tim Curry can't save this movie, which depends on over-the-top sight gags and bathroom humor.

School of Rock *****
Director: Richard Linklater, 2003
Starring: Jack Black, Joan Cusak, Joey Gaydos, Kevin Clark, Mirando Cosgrove.

This movie rocks!!! Jack Black is in top form as a musician who decides to turn a classroom of kids into a rock band. And the kids can really play, too.

Screaming Masterpiece
(Gargandi Snilld)
Director: Ari Alexander Ergis Magnússon, 2005.
Starring: Björk, Sigur Rós, Mugison, Bang Gang, Ghostigital, Mínus, Múm, Quarashi, Nilfisk, Slowblow.

A poetic documentary on the Icelandic music scene, allowing the music and the musicians to speak for themselves, interspersed with beautiful, sweeping landscape shots. This film provides insight into the sometimes quirky, ethereal world of Icelandic pop music.

Director: Steven Shainberg, 2002
Starring: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

A delicious wicked movie about finding a love connection, and personal fulfillment, through bondage play. The thinking person's "9 1/2 Weeks."

Secret Window
Director: David Koepp
Starring: Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton.

Based on a short story by Stephen King, this is a tight, very focused story with only a few main characters. There is suspense, but no edge-of-your-seat thrills. This movie does have a plot twist which is, unfortunately fairly easy to figure out. Still, it's a short, sweet thriller like you rarely see nowadays.

See What I'm Saying *****
Director: Hilari Scarl, 2008
Starring: C.J. Jones, Robert De Mayo, T. L. Forsberg and Bob Hiltermann.

A documentary about four deaf entertainers, their struggles and triumphs. A highly entertaining and often moving movie, it highlights four talented individuals and demonstrates the issues involved.

I Sell The Dead ****
Director: Glen McQuaid, 2008
Starring: Dominic Monaghan, Larry Fessenden, Ron Perlman.

A horror/comedy about two body snatchers and their encounters with the supernatural. It has the feel and look of a classic Hammer horror film and will appeal to those who love genre movies.

Serenity ****
Director: Joss Whedon, 2005
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass.

While its a continuation of the canceled TV series Firefly, this movie stands on its own as one of the best action movies in recent days: with great characterization, acting, dialogue and plot. The action sequences are well done, which should be no surprise to those familiar with Whedon's other work, namely the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Shanghai Nights ***
Director: David Dobkin, 2003
Starring: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Donnie Yen, Fann Wong.

A fun romp but not as funny as the original. Still, Jackie and Owen work well together and it's funnier than either of the "Rush Hour" movies.

Shaolin Soccer (Siu lam juk kau) *****
Director: Stephen Chow, 2001
Starring: Stephen Chow, Vicki Zhao, Man Tat Ng.

This martial arts comedy makes fantastic use of special effects and visual humor to spoof both martial arts and sports movies.

Shark Tale
Director: Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jensen, Rob Letterman, 2004.
Starring: Will Smith (voice), Robert DeNiro (voice), Renee Zellweger (voice), Angelina Jolie (voice), Jack Black (voice).

By the makers of Shrek, this film is an urban animated tale about a fish, Oscar (Will Smith) who takes credit for killing a shark and finds himself in for a whale of trouble. Many of the jokes would sail over a child's head, but this movie is fun for older children, teens or adults, with a great soundtrack, too.

Shrek 2 *****
Director: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon, 2004
Starring: Mike Myers (voice), Eddie Murphy (voice), Cameron Diaz (voice), Julie Andrews (voice), Antonio Banderas (voice), John Cleese (voice), Rupert Everett (voice), Jennifer Saunders (voice).

A fresh revisiting of the original characters, with more original storytelling, a great script and bright, fun animation. New additions Jennifer Saunders as the fairy godmother and Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots add to the fun.

Shrek the Third
Director: Chris Miller and Raman Hui, 2007
Starring: Mike Myers (voice), Eddie Murphy (voice), Cameron Diaz (voice), Julie Andrews (voice), Antonio Banderas (voice), John Cleese (voice), Rupert Everett (voice), Larry King (voice).

Prince Charming enlists an army of fairytale baddies to fight for their own "happily ever afters," while Shrek battles his own anxiety over becoming a father. Fresh and fun but not the strongest in the series.

The Shutka Book of Records *****
Director: Aleksandar Manic, 2005

This documentary about a small village populated by Gypsies is told through the eyes of town residents, each a champion of sorts, in fields ranging from training fighter geese to collecting Turkish pop music. A playful portrait of a community, this film demonstrates how, even in extreme poverty, culture and interconnection makes their lives rich and fulfilling.

Sideways ******
Director: Alexander Payne, 2004

Starring: Paula Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh.

For once, a movie that is better than its premise. When Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a trip to wine country to celebrate Jack's coming wedding, the two get sidetracked with wine and women. At times funny, at times emotionally moving, this movie has it all.

The Simpsons Movie
Director: David Silverman, 2007
Starring: Dan Castellaneta (voice), Julie Kavner (voice), Nancy Cartwright (voice), Yeardley Smith (voice), Harry Shearer (voice), Hank Azaria (voice).

A comic romp through the universe of the sit-com we all know and love, with plenty of pop cultural references, satirical jokes and silliness. It will keep you laughing!

Sky Captain and the World of the Future ****
Director: Kerry Conran, 2004
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Giovanni Ribisi, Angelina Jolie.

A visual treat: the future as envisioned by the '30s. This movie is a loving tribute to the 1930s serials, down to the heroic title character (Jude Law) and his sparring relationship with a witty, headstrong reporter (Gwyneth Paltrow).

The Soloist ****
Director: Joe Wright, 2009
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx.

Based on a true story of a Los Angeles reporter (Robert Downey) who tries to make a difference in the life of a mentally-ill homeless man (Jamie Foxx) who is musically talented. Uses sound and imagery well to convey the mood of the main characters. Terrific acting. Sometimes a bit slow-paced.

Something's Gotta Give
Director: Nancy Meyers, 2003
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet.

Great acting, great writing. Funny and sweet without being sappy. I can't say it more clearly: see this movie.

Somewhere in Time ****
Director: Jeannot Szwarc, 1980
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer.

A bittersweet movie about a young playwright who becomes obsessed with a turn-of-the century actress and decides to find a way to go back in time to visit her. Can their love outlast the bounds of time?

The Sound of Music *****
Director: Robert Wise, 1965
Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer.

The classic musical tale of the Von Trapp story and their quirky, lovable nanny, Maria. Based on a true story. Best Picture Winner of 1965. Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted.

Director: James L. Brooks, 2004
Starring: Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman.

This movie mixes family drama, a growing up tale and comedy, with gentle humor and stellar writing and acting. Adam Sandler is genuine and sweet. Paz Vega, who plays a Mexican immigrant hired by a white suburban family, is incredible, considering she spends much of the movie speaking only Spanish. This movie touch you, inspire you and make you laugh.

Spider-Man 2
Director: Sam Raimi, 2004
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris.

Not just a great super hero movie, but a great movie. Great plot, great acting, great action, great editing even! A treat for the eyes and a little brain candy, too.

Spider-Man 3
Director: Sam Raimi, 2007
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard.

Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) battles with his darker side as he faces a new nemesis, the Sandman. Thoughtful for a super hero movie, with an exploration of the polarity between forgiveness and vengeance.

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie
Director: Stephen Hillenburg, 2004
Starring: Tom Kenny (voice), Clancy Brown (voice), Bill Fagerbakke (voice), Rodger Bumpass (voice), Mr. Lawrence (voice).

A very silly movie based on the undersea denizens everyone loves. The plot was surprisingly strong for a full-length movie, and there are plenty of silly sight gags to satisfy Spongebob fans.

Director: Matthew Vaughn, 2007
Starring: Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes.

A magical tale based on the Neil Gaiman novel, where a young man tries to retrieve a star for his beloved, only to discover the star is actually a young woman. A fun adventure with distinct fairytale qualities.

Stargate ***
Director: Roland Emmerich, 1994.
Starring: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Mili Avital.

An interstellar transportation device is decoded by a scientist and used to travel to a distant land, where they encounter a mysterious civilization. This movie was the genesis for the TV series that followed.

Starsky & Hutch
Director: Todd Phillips, 2003
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Vince Vaughn.

An affectionately cheesy send-up of the 1970s TV series, this movie is a laugh-out-loud riot. Stiller and Wilson, who are best friends in real life, work extremely well together, and the movie achieves a 1970s feel while lovingly spoofing the buddy cop movie.

Star Trek
Director: J.J. Abrams, 2009
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana.

A prequel that is actually an alternate reality, where the past has been altered and the original Star Trek crew must nonetheless face challenges and unite to form a team. Visually stunning. An intriguing re-imagining of the Star Trek universe.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones **
Director: George Lucas, 2002
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson.

A Jedi shall not know anger. Nor hatred. Nor love. Nor how to get away from excessive exposition. Nor how to make the movie sparkle with humor and wit. Nor how to make action scenes shine. Nor how to be better than the original three "Star Wars" movies.

The Station Agent ***
Director: Thomas McCarthy, 2003
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale, Patricia Clarkson.

A quiet independent film about three people coming together in a small New Jersey town. Peter Dinklage is Finn, a hermit-like little person who reluctantly gets to know his more outgoing neighbors and ends up finding connection.

The Stepford Wives*****
Director: Frank Oz, 2004
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, Roger Bart, Jon Lovitz.

With his brilliant eye for humor, Frank Oz reinvigorates the 1972 classic and finally gives it an ending that's both witty and satisfying. The all-star cast recreates the pastel terror of Stepford, just this side of parody.

Stranger Than Fiction *****
Director: Marc Forster, 2006
Starring: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah, Dustin Hoffman.

IRS worker Harold Crick, who lives a rigidly monotonous life, suddenly discovers he's the character in a book by a best-selling author who plans to kill him. Superb writing, along with a sweetly subdued performance from Will Ferrell, make this film a charmer.

Sunshine **** 1/2
Director: Danny Boyle, 2007
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Rose Byrne, and Chris Evans.

A thoughtful SF movie with striking visuals, following a crew sent to the sun to drop a bomb to restart the dying star. They encounter unanticipated problems and face questions about their purpose and their place in the universe.

Super Size Me
Director: Morgan Spurlock, 2004
Starring: Morgan Spurlock

In this documentary about fast food and its effects on American health, film maker Morgan Spurlock goes on a 30-day McDonald's diet, making some shocking discoveries. Fun and informative.

Survive Style 5+
Director: Gen Sekiguchi, 2004

Starring: Shihori Kanjiya, Ittoku Kishibe, Kyoko Koizumi, Yosiyoshi Arakawa, Vinnie Jones.

A visually imaginative dark comedy about the intersecting lives of a husband trying to kill his indestructible wife; an Australian hit man and his interpreter; a drive ad executive and her self-involved hynpotist lover; three bungling burglars; and a nuclear family. At times hilarious, at times moving, this film will have you talking for days.

Sweeney Todd
Director: Tim Burton, 2007
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Jamie Campbell Bower, Jayne Wisener.

Whereas in the stage version, the brutality of the tale of Sweeney Todd is muted, here it is vivid. Still, the music resonates in this dark tale of a barber back to wreak revenge at the judge who wrongfully imprisoned him, shattering his family. Johnny Depp has a surprisingly pure tenor, while Helena Bonham Carter turns Mrs. Lovett into a heartsick, broken doll, which suits this lurid adaptation.

Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song **
Director: Melvin Van Peebles, 1971
Starring: Melvin Van Peebles, Simon Chuckster, Hubert Scales, John Dullaghan.

After saving a Black Panther from the police, a male sex worker goes on the run from The Man. This independent film, produced on a shoestring with little attention to technical detail, was Van Peebles' effort to shake up the system. Often incomprehensible, the best moments are where an unseen chorus of voices sings along with the action.


The Terminal
Director: Steven Spielberg, 2004
Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci.

Heartwarming without being sappy, this movie tells the story of Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks), trapped in an airport for bureaucratic reasons. He befriends the terminal employees and woos a stewardess (Catherine Zeta-Jones), finding strength and heroism within himself.

Terminator Salvation
*** 1/2
Director: McG, 2009
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin, Jadagrace, Bryce Dallas Howard.

A natural progression of the series, with John Connor as a man, beginning to lead the resistance against Skynet and the machines. Great special effects, stunt, and action. A fun ride.

Terms of Endearment ****
Director: James L. Brooks, 1983
Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Bridges.

A family drama focusing on the relationship of a mother and daughter. While it ends with a tragedy, the movie is neither saccharine nor overplayed. Won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Thank You for Smoking *****
Director: Jason Reitman, 2005
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, David Koechner, Cameron Bright.

A satirical look at the intersection between pop culture and politics, the film follows a tobacco lobbyist as he makes his case for "freedom of choice." Witty, well-acted and beautifully crafted, this movie is a great conversation starter.

The Thin Red Line *****
Director: Terrence Malick, 1998
Starring: James Caviezel, Simon Billig, George Clooney, John Cusack, Matt Doran, Paul Gleeson, Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas.

A powerful, poetic look at the realities of war, as told through the eyes of World War II soldiers involved in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Striking visuals, powerful characters and masterful editing make for a masterpiece.

Director: Catherine Hardwicke, 2003
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Holly Hunter.

At times heartbreaking and at times shocking, the emotional impact of this movie will stay with you. Penned by Nikki Reed when she was 14 herself, the movie has a realistic voice. Parents and teenagers should watch this film together.

Throw Down
Director: Johnny To, 2004
Starring: Aaron Kwok, Louis Koo, Jordan Chan, Cherrie Ying.

A surprisingly moving martial arts film where the style is Judo and the story is complex, layered, funny and touching, as three characters find strength from each other.

THX 1138 ****
Director: George Lucas, 1971 (2004 director's cut)
Starring: Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, Maggie McOmie, Don Pedro Colley.

A visually stark dystopia, where computers control drugged up humans. Robert Duvall, the title character, comes out of his stupor and decides to escape. A classic film that ages well.

The Toe Tactic **
Director: Emily Hubley, 2008
Starring: Lily Rabe, Daniel London, Sakina Jaffrey, Andrea Martin, Eli Wallach.

An independent film combining live action with animation by first-time director Hubley. The storyline is fractured, with many unanswered questions, making this film forgettable, despite the wealth of acting talent.

Tokyo Zombie (Tôkyô Zonbi)
Director: Sakichi Satô, 2005

Starring: Sho Aikawa, Tadanobu Asano, Arata Furuta, Satoshi Hashimoto.

A genre-blending movie combining martial arts, zombie movie and comedy, this film keeps the audience guessing, and the laughs coming, with slapstick and unexpected plot twists.

Tom Jones
Director: Tony Richardson, 1963
Starring: Albert Finney, Susannah York, Diane Cilento and Hugh Griffith.

A campy period romp following the titular hero as he beds women, flaunts authority, and finds trouble. It's lightweight, bawdy fun. Best Picture winner.

A Touch of Greatness ****
Director: Leslie Sullivan, 2005
Starring: Albert Cullum.

A TV documentary, this film chronicles the teaching methods of the innovative teacher Albert Cullum, who used hands-on teaching activities in the early '60s to excite his students about geography, Shakespeare and literature. These classroom activities were documented by director Robert Downey Sr. in his first three short films, and the 2005 documentary makes plentiful use of Downey's footage. The DVD includes the short films in their entirety.

The Tour (Turneja) *****
Director: Goran Markovic, 2008
Starring: Tihomir Stanic, Jelena Djokic, Dragan Nikolic, Mira Furlan, Josif Tatic, Gordan Kicic.

A troupe of Belgrade actors make an ill-fated tour along the front lines of wartorn Bosnia. A marvelously-acted dark comedy that exposes the senselessness of war.

Transamerica ****
Director: Duncan Hunter, 2005
Starring: Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers.

The movie follows a transgender female who learns that, in her past, she'd fathered a son. At the advice of her counselor, she enters the troubled teen's life to try to give him some family support. Rather than a message movie, though, the film combines a road movie with a very personal story of getting to know somebody and of becoming comfortable with yourself. Felicity Huffman's work is astounding.

Tropic Thunder
Director: Ben Stiller, 2008
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson.

A hilarious send-up of action movies and the celebrity culture, with humor for every taste, ranging from lowbrow to satire to character-driven comedy. Five actors are stranded in a Southeast Asian jungle to film a guerrilla-style action film and encounter real-life baddies.

Director: Wolfgang Petersen, 2004
Starring: Brad Pitt, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, Diane Kruger, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Peter O'Toole, Rose Byrne.

Based on Homer's The Iliad, this film distills the story into key issues about war, loyalty and honor, while walking a fine line between reality and mythology. Strong performances by Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and the vast, talented cast bring these ancient tales to vivid life. Attention to detail in the production design, such as sculptures which truly look ancient, aid in the portrayal of a mythical yet historical time.

The Tune ****
Director: Bill Plympton, 1992
Starring: Daniel Nieden (voice), Maureen McElheron (voice), Marty Nelson (voice).

Animator Bill Plympton's first feature length film was this musical romp which also contains some of his wittier early shorts. the movie follows song-writer Del (Daniel Nieden), struggling to finish a song so he can keep his job with Mega Music. He stumbles upon a magical town where the citizens break into song. The songs are fun, the animation is inventive, but it's not as fully realized as his more recent feature, Hair High.

Tuvalu ****
Director: Veit Helmer, 1999
Starring: Denis Lavant, Chulpan Khamatova.

This surreal experiment is aptly described as "Metropolis meets City of Lost Children." Shot in tinted black and white with only a suggestion of dialogue, this playful film recaptures the magic of the golden days of silent film.

The Tuxedo ***
Director: Kevin Donovan, 2002
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs.

Not enough of either action or humor to make for a great Jackie Chan movie. Interesting set-up (Jackie Chan becomes a secret agent through a high-tech suit), but not enough follow-through.


Undercover Brother ****
Director: Malcolm D. Lee, 2002
Starring: Eddie Griffin, Chris Kattan, Denise Richards, Aunjanue Ellis, David Chappelle.

An affectionate take-off on the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s. Eddie Griffin is hilarious as the leather-clad, oversexed Undercover Brother, who sports a funkadelic afro.

Up ****
Director: Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, 2009
Starring: Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, Christopher Plummer.

Another Pixar classic, this time following a grumpy old man and a young stowaway as they fly a house, using thousands of balloons, in search of adventure. Offers some great laugh-out-loud moments.

Up the Academy **
Director: Robert Downey Sr., 1980
Starring: Wendell Brown, Tommy Citera, Hutch Parker, Ralph Macchio, Harry Teinowitz, Ron Leibman.

In the tradition of Porky's or Police Academy, this early '80s Mad Magazine movie follows the exploits of several new students to military school who have the inevitable run-ins with Major Liceman. Director Robert Downey Sr. plays with visual and musical motifs that add a creative spark to an otherwise forgettable film.


Vexille ****
Director: Fumihoko Sori, 2007
Starring: Meisa Kuroki (voice), Shosuke Tanihara (voice), Yasuko Matsuyuki (voice).

A ground-breaking use of computer animation techniques that imitate the artistry of traditional hand-drawn animation, this film tells the story of a society struggling with the ethics of creating life-like androids.

Voices from a Distant Star *****
Director: Makoto Shinkai, 2003
Starring: Cynthia Martinez (voice, English version), Adam Conlon (voice, English version).

Director Makoto Shinkai produced this short film independently on a very low budget, but the exquisit artwork and the deeply emotional story are poetically beautiful.


Walk the Line ****
Director: James Mangold, 2005
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin.

Who would have thought that the back story of Johnny Cash was so, well, dangerous, and sexy? This biopic, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a young Cash, is definitely all of the above, with some humor thrown in, and terrific musical performances, too.

Wallace & Gromit in
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Director: Steve Box, Nick Park, 2005
Starring: Peter Sallis (voice), Ralph Fiennes (voice), Helena Bonham Carter (voice).

Like the Wallace & Gromit films and Chicken Run, this film combines great story telling, playful fun and entertaining characters for a charming tale that's perfect for children and adults. Much like The Muppets at their best, this movie blends a playful innocence that works well at the level of the child with wry visual jokes and pop cultural references that adults will enjoy.

WALL·E *****
Director: Andrew Stanton, 2008
Starring: Ben Burtt (voice), Elissa Knight (voice), Jeff Garlin (voice), Fred Willard.

A sweet film hearkening back to the silent masterworks of Charlie Chaplin, where a garbage management robot falls for a new, sleek model and his love inspires him to heroism. Desinted to become a classic.

Wanted ***
Director: Timur Bekmembetov, 2008
Starring: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie.

A frustrated office worker learns he's the son of a hit man and is trained to follow his footsteps. Impressive special effects and editing but a convoluted, unbelievable plot.

The Watchmen
Director: Zack Snyder, 2009
Starring: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson.

A faithful adaptation of the beloved graphic novel, with a few key changes to streamline the plot. Lovingly detailed but graphically violent with sexual content. Explores the "real story" of superheros and their intersection with societal forces.

West Side Story *****
Director: Robbins and Robert Wise, 1961
Starring: Natlie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakris.

A musical retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, this is a colorful, evocative, and moving film. It deserves its Oscar for Best Picture.

Whale Rider ****
Director: Niki Caro, 2002

Starring: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton, Cliff Curtis, Grant Roa.

With the simple, direct storytelling characteristic of myth, this story tackles issues of family, acceptance, and cultral pride. Keisha Castle-Hughes gives a luminous performance beyond her years and was nominated for a 2004 Best Actress Oscar.

What We Do Is Secret
Director: Rodger Grossman, 2007
Starring: Shane West, Bijou Phillips, Rick Gonzalez, Noah Segan, Ashton Holmes.

A fictionalized documentary about punk legend Darby Crash of the germs that tries to blend comedy and tragedy but falls short. Shane West's performance as Darby, however, is noteworthy.

Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? ***
Director: Morgan Spurlock, 2008
Starring: Morgan Spurlock, Alexandra Jamieson.

Morgan Spurlock tours the Middle East, on bin Laden's trail, talking to those he meets about the terror war. An eye-opening, light-hearted view of how everyday people see the conflict.

Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? ****
Director: Harry Moses, 2006
Starring: Teri Horton, Tod M. Volpe, Ben Heller, Peter Paul Biro.

When trucker Teri Horton buys a painting in a thrift store, she discovers she could hold an unknown Jackson Pollock painting. This documentary traces her attempts to get the art world to accept it as an authenticated work.

The Wrestler ****
Director: Darren Aronofsky, 2008.
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood.

A tale of a broken-down wrestler, forced to retire, still longing for his glory days. His attention on his career has cost him everything: a personal life, even financial security. Mickey Rourke turns in a heartwrenching performance and got an Oscar nod.


Director: Bryan Singer, 2003
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Alan Cumming, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Anna Paquin.

I'm told this movie is better than the original, and I believe it. High-flying action, humor and pathos, please. A bit high-handed, though, in the obvious analogy of mutants (i.e. X-Men) as outsiders.

X-Men **
Director: Bryan Singer, 2000
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin.

Now I understand why people say the sequel is better. Mostly exposition, not enough action sequences or character development. Still, a fascinating fictional world.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand ***
Director: Brett Ratner, 2006
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Patrick Stewart.

Somehow, the director manages to make a popcorn flick that's also a message movie, as the X-Men deal with the latest threat, a serum that can permanently supress the gene that makes them different.


You Can't Take it With You
Director: Frank Capra, 1938
Starring: Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Edward Arnold.

A charming version of the stage farce, where a quirky family lives out their dreams, in stark contrast to the rich, stuffy family of the daughter's fiance (James Stewart). Enduring, warm-hearted fun.


Director: Takeshi Kitano, 2003
Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Michiyo Ookusu, Gadarukanaru Taka, Daigorô Tachibana, Yuuko Daike.

Combining a samurai tale with comedy, musical elements and a fresh visual style, master director Takeshi Kitano creates a modern masterpiece of visual and plot surprises.

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