Movies Seen - Mini Reviews
Ratings are out of five stars (*****)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An animated music video combining original electronic music with 3D animated instruments. A master feat of animation that must be seen to be believed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That most rare of things: a funny comedy with a message, about respecting your roots and each other.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Three WWII veterans adjust to civilian life. An honest portrayal of the issues faced by veterans. Best Picture winner for 1946.
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.
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.
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.
So many great things: great acting, great script, great editing. Great date movie...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
and Prejudice ****
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.
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.
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.
Plenty of wackiness, a few plot twists, and thankfully light on the sap. The race-based jokes, though, sometimes make viewers squirm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
An independent film about three actresses at the Cannes film festival who discover everything is negotiated, including love.
A family friendly film with terrific voice work, amazing animation and a plot about finding, and trusting, friends.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
A poetic documentary that looks at the origins of life and the interconnectedness of different beings, using phenomenal nature imagery, narrative and music.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
A must-see version of the Shakespeare play, with Olivier turning in a subdued yet powerful performance and Jean Simmons heartbreaking as Ophelia.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
A light comedy based on the Oscar Wilde play. Like a tea cake, it's a fun trifle but not terribly filling.
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.
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!
Formulaic Indiana Jones movie, complete with mysterious, powerful artifacts and fights on moving vehicles. Thrilling but predictable, with plenty of inside jokes and references.
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.
Murder mystery meets message movie in this Best Picture winner. Poitier and Steiger turn in great acting performances in an undersated masterpiece.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A rare combination of terrific acting, exciting fight scenes and an excellent story. This movie has something for everyone; even a happy ending.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Breathtaking action, beautifully choreographed fight sequences, fantastic special effects and philosophy. It doesn't get better than this.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
& Mrs. Smith ****
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
A magical adventure that captures the classic children's tale beautifully, with just enough psychological subtext to keep adults riveted.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The third installment of the Pirates franchise delivers excitement, humor, romance, and deliciously tangled plot twists. What a ride!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 inspiring true-life story of a father who faced difficult challenges to make a better life for his son. A great family movie.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
Even Tim Curry can't save this movie, which depends on over-the-top sight gags and bathroom humor.
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.
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.
A delicious wicked movie about finding a love connection, and personal fulfillment, through bondage play. The thinking person's "9 1/2 Weeks."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This martial arts comedy makes fantastic use of special effects and visual humor to spoof both martial arts and sports movies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
Great acting, great writing. Funny and sweet without being sappy. I can't say it more clearly: see this movie.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones **
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A musical retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, this is a colorful, evocative, and moving film. It deserves its Oscar for Best Picture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now I understand why people say the sequel is better. Mostly exposition, not enough action sequences or character development. Still, a fascinating fictional world.
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.
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.
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.