Year Director Running Time MPAA Rating Title Comments
2000 Hallström, Lasse 121 PG-13 Chocolat A small village in France tries to protect its conservative traditions against an outsider who sets up a chocolate shop. (Note: despite the title and locale this film is in English). Very good comedy and you will quite likely develop a craving for chocolate.
1999 Taymor, Julie 162 R Titus Perhaps this is supposed to be “Shakespeare for generation-x” but it’s not for my generation. Granted that “The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus” is one of Shakespeare’s least liked and least known plays, and liking the play would go a long way towards liking this movie, this is a very radical interpretation of Shakespeare. The original story however remains mostly intact. The graphic violence and shocking story are Shakespeare’s own.
2000 Ratner, Brett 126 PG-13 Family Man, The Nicholas Cage plays a man who thinks he has everything but is given a chance to see what his life would have been like if he had made different choices 13 years before. It’s an enjoyable romantic comedy which also stars Téa Leoni, though it never explains anything about the guy who grants him this supernatural experience.
1999 Leigh, Mike 160 R Topsy-Turvy I found this boring but I suppose if you are a serious fan of Gilbert & Sullivan then you might appreciate it more. It did win Academy Awards for best costumes and make up.
2000 Van Sant, Gus 136 PG-13 Finding Forrester Sean Connery stars as a reclusive author whose life crosses paths with an underprivileged but talented black high school student. Engaging original story though it runs a bit long.
1919 Hurley, Frank 81 NR South: Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition Silent documentary footage of Shackleton's 1914 Antarctic expedition that failed in its mission but became a most astonishing story of survival against incredible odds.
2000 Lonergan, Kenneth 109 R You Can Count On Me A good small town drama about an uneasy reunion of a long separated brother and sister. He’s a drifter and she’s a divorced mom struggling to meet the demands of her personal life and the demands of her boss (a terrific supporting role by Matthew Broderick).
2000 Coen, Joel 107 PG-13 O Brother, Where Art Thou? Offbeat comedy in which George Clooney heads a trio of chain-gang escapees in 1937 Mississippi. As they attempt to stay ahead of the law they have a variety of preposterous experiences, some quite hilarious.
2000 Ritchie, Guy 102 R Snatch Disappointing followup to “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” For the most part it involves the same type of characters in very similar situations. The earlier film used this formula to better effect. Very violent.
2000 Soderbergh, Steven 147 R Traffic Very good dramatic action. A fast paced film about the war on drugs in this country and Mexico. The film cuts back and forth through several parallel stories. Contains some violent and disturbing scenes.
2000 Donaldson, Roger 145 PG-13 Thirteen Days Average drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis. When a film tells a story that most people already know, it has to make an extra effort to entertain the audience and I don’t think this one succeeded. May prove more interesting to younger people who did not live through this incident.
2001 Herzfeld, John 120 R 15 Minutes Very violent drama with a warped sense of humor. Two immigrants from eastern Europe arrive in New York City and proceed to create a crime wave that has police baffled. Robert De Niro plays the investigator. The main element of humor derives from the videotaping of all the crimes by one of the criminals (stealing the camera was the first crime) who is a big fan of American movies. Not a lot to recommend here.
2001 Verbinski, Gore 123 R Mexican, The A B+ comedy featuring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt. Interestingly the scenes featuring both stars are not the best part of the film and fortunately constitute only a small part of it. It really comes down to two parallel stories in which Julia is kidnapped while Brad gets into a lot of trouble in Mexico. The story involving Julia’s character is probably the best part of the movie.
1998 Tucker, Anand 120 R Hilary and Jackie True but tragic story about the musically talented sisters Jacqueline and Hilary du Pré. Jackie became the wife of conductor Daniel Barenboim, and after she left him her behavior became very weird and later she developed Multiple Sclerosis. I heard a lot of praise for this film but did not enjoy it as much as I had expected.
2000 Hudson, Hugh 114 PG-13 I Dreamed of Africa True story of wildlife conservationist Kuki Gallmann (Kim Basinger) and her husband who relocate to Kenya so that he can enjoy the rush of facing death in wild animal hunts. This is one of those films where the magnificent setting overshadows the story, leaving me unsatisfied.
2001 Annaud, Jean-Jacques 131 R Enemy at the Gates A very good war drama set in the battle of Stalingrad, 1942. Many scenes are quite brutal after the fashion of “Saving Private Ryan,” so keep that in mind when considering your tolerance for movie violence.
2001 Tamahori, Lee 103 R Along Came a Spider A good kidnapping thriller starring Morgan Freeman with good plot twists. Somewhat violent.
2000 IĖárritu, Alejandro González 154 R Amores Perros Mexican. Literally, “Loves Dogs” but the English subtitles translated it as “Love’s a bitch,” which is definitely a more fitting translation. It’s a film with three loosely connected stories best classified as tragedies. These are good gritty stories without any sugar-coated Hollywood endings. The only down side is a subplot involving dog fighting which is quite disturbing.
2001 Boorman, John 109 R Tailor of Panama, The Disappointing spy thriller. A waste of time. I know the critics liked it but it simply didn’t impress me.
2000 Nolan, Christopher 113 R Memento You’ve got to be on your toes to follow this one because it tells its story backwards. Every new scene takes place before the previous scene. So each time you get tantalizingly closer to understanding the opening sequence which of course is chronologically the end of the story. Are you still with me? And to really make it interesting, the central character is a man who has lost his short-term memory and must trust his own written notes to keep track of everything. Some violence and strong language.
1963 Donen, Stanley 113 NR Charade Very funny comedy-thriller starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.
2001 Maguire, Sharon 98 R Bridget Jones’s Diary Quirky romantic comedy starring Renee Zellweger & Hugh Grant, based on the novel by Helen Fielding. Renee is unlucky in love and her mother is having a fling with a shopping-channel host. The only down side I found in this was a pointless excess of 4-letter words.
2000 von Trier, Lars 141 R Dancer in the Dark A bizarre musical about a woman who is going blind while trying to save enough money for an operation that will prevent her son from suffering the same fate. The star is Icelandic singer "Björk” who also wrote and sings all the musical numbers. Unfortunately, I can’t stand her singing. The movie ends up being a Björk music video. Not recommended.
2001 Bay, Michael 182 PG-13 Pearl Harbor Like “Saving Private Ryan,” this recreation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is engineered to make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the battle with all the horrors of war thrown right in your face (and ears). The effects are impressively realistic but as such may be too intense for some viewers. A love triangle is constructed around the war story but it is clearly a secondary effort to the war action sequences.
2001
90 PG Shrek Delightful cartoon. An old story but creatively retold.
1998 Kapur, Shekhar 123 R Elizabeth Good historical drama about Queen Elizabeth I of England.
2000 Moll, Dominik 116 R With a Friend Like Harry French: Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien. The French title translates as “Harry, a friend who means you well.” A very good psychological thriller. Former classmates Harry and Michel have a chance meeting and though Michel doesn’t remember Harry, Harry seems to know a little too much about Michel. Some reviewers have compared this to Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” which is similar but I don’t know if it was a direct influence or not.
2001 Spielberg, Steven 145 PG-13 A.I. Artificial Intelligence You might like this and you might not. I went to see this a 2nd time because the 1st time I had been totally unprepared for the sharply contrasting middle of the story. Thus the 2nd time I was not dealing with such a jolt to my expectations. The key to being “prepared” for this film is to know that it was made by two directors, Steven Spielberg and the late Stanley Kubrick. The fun “E.T.”-style Spielberg episode that starts the film is thrown a big curve when the darkly contrasting Kubrick episode takes over the middle of the story. Then the story ends in a more Spielberg style. The two styles are a strong clash and each director expresses completely different messages. I would have preferred an all-Spielberg version. Although I liked it better the second time around it still wasn’t completely satisfying.
2000 Ka Leung, Lau (IMDB says Chia-Liang Lu and Jackie Chan) 102 R Legend of Drunken Master, The Chinese: “Jui kuen II.” American release dubbed in English. Original Chinese release was in 1994 with a different musical score. Embarrassingly dumb story but the martial arts action is of the highest caliber, so if you want to see Jackie Chan’s best “kung-fu” moves you won’t be disappointed, but don’t expect a great movie beyond that.
2000 Harris, Ed 123 R Pollock This is what I call a “difficult” film. Ed Harris directs himself as artist Jackson Pollock in a generally true story of his career as a 20th century painter. The acting is very good, the photography, the direction and so forth, but I still didn’t like it. I think the problem is that there wasn’t a single character I could relate to or develop any sympathy for. I guess true stories are like that sometimes. Pollock was an unstable alcoholic “starving artist” whose art I don’t relate to either.
2000 Mamet, David 106 R State and Main Very good comedy (except I don’t like Sarah Jessica Parker) that pokes fun at film makers . A small-budget film crew is trying to make their film on location in a small New England town and all manner of things go wrong. I wouldn’t say it’s primarily a “romantic” comedy but there is a romantic subplot that is good. Lots of throw-away jokes and sight gags sprinkled throughout, some of which I only caught on the second viewing. There are even some jokes in the closing credits. Did you spot the continuity error?
1993 Schepisi, Fred 112 R Six Degrees of Separation Not recommended. I draw the line at movies that show homosexual sex acts and this is one of them. It was fairly interesting up to that point but that ruined the whole thing for me.
2001 Burton, Tim 120 PG-13 Planet of the Apes As a fan of the 1968 original, I can only review this remake in contrast to that. The new one is based on the same novel, so the general story line is the same but they have made some interesting changes to allow for a different ending (I won’t reveal the 1968 or 2001 ending but they knew they’d be ridiculed if they attempted to repeat that aspect of the original). The new ape makeup is generally superior to 1968 but some of it is just as bad. There are 2 lines of dialog that acknowledge the 1968 film but I’ll let you find them. Believe it or not, Charlton Heston is in both versions though not in the same role. It’s an OK action picture for modern audiences but there were more memorable characters in the original and the original ending made more sense.
1971 Stuart, Mel 100 G Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Imaginative story about a contest to gain admittance to a mysterious chocolate factory. Probably more suited to children than adult audiences. The young boy who plays the lead was not a very good actor. I looked him up and found that this was his only appearance in a film. He became a veterinarian. I rest my case. Original distributor believed to be Paramount even though the new release on DVD features the WB logo.
1998 Campbell, Martin 138 PG-13 Mask of Zorro, The Highly entertaining action adventure the way they used to make them. The opening scene is a real crowd-pleaser. This version of the story has Anthony Hopkins as Zorro, who trains a younger man to succeed him in the role. Beautifully photographed. Lots of sword fighting violence but nothing too extreme.
2000 Segal, Peter 107 PG-13 Nutty Professor II: The Klumps Disappointing sequel. While it is truly amazing how Eddie Murphy can appear as five different people in the same scene, that just isn’t enough. Much very vulgar humor.
2000 Raimi, Sam 112 R Gift, The Very good scary thriller of the whodunit variety. The title refers to the psychic gift of the central character. Not everyone in town appreciates the advice she doles out.
2001 Luhrmann, Baz 127 PG-13 Moulin Rouge Highly entertaining musical of operatic proportions, music-video energy and tongue-in-cheek humor. An unusual mix of a 19th-century setting and familiar 20th-century songs in the telling of a romantic-triangle story using 21st-century movie magic. While the Moulin Rouge may suggest a very decadent context for this story, that place’s reputation is well in the background, permitting the PG-13 rating.
2001 Luketic, Robert 96 PG-13 Legally Blonde Light-comedy about a blonde sorority girl who fights the stereotype by entering Harvard Law School to impress her ex-boyfriend in hopes of winning him back. A bit top-heavy with characters who are dumb blondes (and other colors), but the 2nd-half of the film is a lot of fun.
1958 Wyler, William 167 NR Big Country, The Good western epic but often very slow paced.
2001 Johnston, Joe 92 PG-13 Jurassic Park III The way they bring those dinosaurs to life on the big screen is still amazing but this installment doesn’t really add much if you saw the first two in what is now a trilogy. A very basic plot puts half a dozen people in the middle of an island full of dinosaurs and they have to figure out how to get out alive (and it should be no surprise that some of them don’t). Young dinosaur fans will probably enjoy it but adults will probably only find it an average action flick.
2001 Carr, Steve 87 PG Dr. Doolittle 2 Not a great movie but the animal characters do have a lot of funny lines.
2001 Oz, Frank 124 R Score, The Good suspense drama in which Robert DeNiro plays a professional jewel thief working for Marlon Brando (who is still as enormous as Orson Welles) and assisted by Edward Norton. Norton’s performance is the most impressive as he spends much of the time pretending to be retarded while employed at the site of their next score. I did, however, second-guess the ending, and you might too. The R rating is primarily for strong language; it’s not a violent film.
2001 Amenábar, Alejandro 104 PG-13 Others, The Disappointing ghost story starring Nicole Kidman. Though it does have an unusual twist ending. It’s like a joke that takes too long to get to the punch line. Filmed in Spain.
2001 Cristofer, Michael 116 R Original Sin This film has good elements but they are not put together well. The story is from a Cornell Woolrich novel (Waltz Into Darkness) but I cannot offer a comparison. The lead actors are Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie who perform well and are nicely photographed. Perhaps there are too many plot twists; and perhaps the gullibility of the Banderas character is too unbelieveable. The same novel was filmed in 1969 by Franćois Truffaut, but I haven’t seen that version. ‘R’ rating for graphic sex scenes and some violence.
2001 Ratner, Brett 90 PG-13 Rush Hour 2 Better and funnier than the original, though still not up to Chan’s best. Plenty of action, mostly of the “kung fu” variety featuring Jackie Chan; though again this film does not put Chan’s fighting skills on display as well as his earlier all-Chinese films. He has to share part of the screen time with his martial-arts-challenged African-American partner, Chris Tucker, who, unfortunately, can be quite annoying at times. Don’t forget to watch the “bloopers reel” during the trailing credits in which Tucker commits the ultimate faux pas during a take.
2001 Madden, John 129 R Captain Corelli’s Mandolin WW-II love story set on the Greek island of Cephallonia during occupation first by the Italians and then the Germans. Story drags out too long. Some war violence is extremely graphic and brutal. Partial nudity.
2000 Gorris, Marleen 109 PG-13 Luzhin Defence, The Unusual but good love story set in the 1920s at a lavish resort on Lake Como in Italy. A young lady (Emily Watson) vacationing there with her mother falls in love with a socially-challenged chess genius (John Turturro) much to the chagrin of her mother. Beautifully photographed on location in Italy and Hungary. There’s always the risk of boring the audience with chess scenes but the director has done a pretty good job to avoid that in most cases.
2000 Glazer, Jonathan 88 R Sexy Beast Not recommended. Although the critics gave it high marks (probably for style and originality), the two things that I have to complain about are the very extreme use of foul language, which at times hits you like a jackhammer; and it was frequently difficult to understand what the actors were saying. Most had strong British accents, but this was combined with a very poor job by the sound engineer (though it could have been the theater sound system at fault). There is also some very graphic violence. Ben Kingsley’s performance as the bad guy is incredible but just too offensive. However, if I still haven’t turned you off, it is a funny movie and uses an interesting way of editing together the scenes.
2001 Allen, Woody 101 PG-13 Curse of the Jade Scorpion, The Maybe not Woody Allen at his best, but still pretty funny. Definitely better than the last one. Also stars Helen Hunt and Dan Aykroyd. Woody plays an insurance company investigator and manages to become a suspect in his own case.
2000 Sitch, Rob 101 PG-13 Dish, The If you were old enough to watch the moon landing on TV in 1969, you probably don’t realize how close you came to not seeing it at all. The broadcast from the moon was received on earth by a radio telescope in Parkes, Australia, and this movie is based on true events that conspired to prevent that facility from receiving the signal. As a movie, the story is a comical look at the small town in Australia that was thrust into the spotlight on account of the key southern-hemisphere location of this telescope. It’s a “small” film without much action or big-name actors (though you will recognize one from the Jurassic Park films). Don’t expect big laughs, but there are some amusing characters, plus you’ll learn about a little known bit of history. If I’m not as enthusiastic about it as the Australians were, perhaps it was too finely “tuned” to the Australian audience. But on the whole it’s still a decent choice as a rental.
2001 Zwigoff, Terry 111 R Ghost World I found this to be a very funny movie but I suspect it is the sort that if you don’t “get the joke” you may feel like walking out (and I have to admit that several people did — all of them much younger than myself). Don’t let the title fool you; this movie has nothing to do with ghosts. The title is the name of a comic strip which was the inspiration for this movie. Beyond that I can’t account for the name. There are some excellent acting performances in this film, especially Steve Buscemi as “Seymour” (you will recognize him if you saw “Fargo” or “The Big Lebowski”) and Thora Birch as “Enid” (she was Kevin Spacey’s daughter in “American Beauty”). There are also many hysterical bit parts. Enid and her girlfriend are recent high school graduates who are underachievers with a cynical view of life. But once again, don’t let this fool you; this is not your typical teen film. The main plot sets off when Enid plays a cruel joke on unsuspecting shy bachelor, Seymour, and it turns into a very unusual relationship. The R rating is primarily for language. And don’t press stop when the credits roll; there is an extra scene at the very end. I don’t always agree with Roger Ebert, but I do on this one; you can look it up at http://www.rogerebert.com . A curious side note, the very start of the film may make you think you grabbed the wrong movie because it shows an excerpt from an Indian movie called “Gumnaam” (1965). Because it is so unique the entire uncut excerpt is included as an extra on the DVD edition. It is a hilarious dance number.
1999 Whaley, Frank 100 R Joe the King A good drama about a boy from a very poor family who gets into a lot of trouble. The boy’s life is a very sad situation and the young actor (Noah Fleiss) brings the character to life with surprising skill. Val Kilmer gives a very good, if atypical, performance as the boy’s drunken father. My only complaint is that they went overboard with the swearing in the dialog for the children in this film. The story is loosely based on the director’s childhood, so maybe he and his friends did talk that way. On the other hand maybe it’s just for shock value.
2001 Nelson, Tim Blake 94 R O “O” as in Othello, the Shakespeare play from which this screenplay was derived. While the story is Shakespearean, the film’s setting and dialog are completely modern. The story has been transplanted to a boarding high school in the American south. The characters’ names have clear counterparts in the original play: Odin = Othello, Desi = Desdemona etc. You don’t have to know the play to appreciate this strong drama, which, just as Shakespeare intended, is a tragedy, with a violent ending. The R rating covers the violence and sexual situations. The original military context of the story is converted to a high school basketball team. I have since seen Orson Welles’ film of this play and I must say that although it may be more true to Shakespeare, this new film would probably appeal to a wider audience than Welles’ version.
2001 Rodriguez, Robert 88 PG Spy Kids A delightful fantasy about two kids who discover that their parents are former secret agents. When the parents decide to tackle one last assignment they are taken prisoners by a maniacal producer of a children’s TV program. The rest of the movie is the children’s adventure to rescue their parents.
2001 Sackheim, Daniel 106 PG-13 Glass House, The A pretty good suspense thriller about two kids who are orphaned to the custody of a couple who may not be what they seem. OK, sure, some of it doesn’t make any sense but I was entertained and often reminded of such Hitchcock films as Suspicion, Rear Window, North By Northwest and Family Plot (the appearance of Bruce Dern added a real-life connection to Hitchcock). I’m sure Hitchcock would have done it better but as long as you don’t try too hard to second guess the plot it works pretty well.
2001 Fleder, Gary 113 R Don’t Say a Word Another good Michael Douglas action thriller (though he has done better). This time his daughter is kidnapped by a jewel thief who has an inexplicably urgent need to obtain a six-digit number known only by a mental patient that Douglas happens to be treating. The kidnapper’s ability to conduct surveillance on Douglas and his wife may at first seem implausible but given today’s technology it is scaringly believable (even if some parts of the movie aren’t).
1998 Nutley, Colin 121 NR Under the Sun Swedish: Under Solen. Excellent love story which starts when a lonely farmer places an ad for a housekeeper. The stunning blonde who applies for the position is actually the director’s wife. Set in 1956, it is beautifully photographed and the performances are very convincing. You could almost say it is a relaxing movie; at times it is quite erotic. You will see some “natural” farm activities that may shock some “city folk.” Although the film is unrated, it probably would get ‘R’ for the aforementioned activities and the sexual situations (though there is very little nudity). Originally produced in 1998 but not released in the USA until August, 2001. It received a nomination as Best Foreign Film in the 2000 Academy Awards.
2001 Columbus, Chris 152 PG Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Very long for a children’s movie but I’m sure that kids who read the book will be well entertained. I can’t compare it to the book but I found the story somewhat routine. It is very imaginative and uses many elaborate special effects, but as an adult viewer I found it to be little more than an “Introduction to Harry Potter.”
2001 Docter, Pete 92 G Monsters, Inc. Very cute animated feature that puts forth a clever theory about those monsters in your closet. Highly recommended. Excellent computer animation after the fashion of Toy Story.
1952 Welles, Orson 91 NR Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice, The Orson Welles directs himself as Othello with a script that uses the original Shakespearean dialog. Reportedly done on a tight budget, this black & white production makes up for that with dramatic camera angles, lighting and calculated editing. Not one of my favorite Shakespeare plays but I guess I’d have to say this is a pretty good film adaptation.
2000 Thornton, Billy Bob 117 PG-13 All the Pretty Horses I was not impressed by this one. Two farm hands in Texas ride off on their horses to seek work in Mexico. One of them finds a love interest that doesn’t pan out and they both become victims of unscrupulous legal authorities.
2001 Coen, Joel 116 R Man Who Wasn’t There, The Very good recreation of the “film noir” genre movies of the ‘40s. Billy Bob Thornton stars as a quiet small-town barber who perpetrates a crime that has a series of unexpected consequences. Filmed in black and white to complete the effect.
2001 Lynch, David 146 R Mulholland Dr. If you want a very weird movie that is confusing and features lesbian sex then this is your movie. The film is divided into two stories that seem to be related but explaining that relationship is the major challenge of this movie. The director has stated that one of the stories represents reality and the other is a dream but he wouldn’t say which is which.
2001 Soderberch, Steven 116 PG-13 Ocean’s Eleven Flashy, star-studded “crime of the century” movie. Eleven men consipire to rob a major casino complex in Las Vegas. Pretty basic plot but the director manages to make it quite entertaining. However the subplot featuring Julia Roberts was not the highlight of her career. This is a remake of a 1960 film starring Frank Sinatra.
2001 Crowe, Cameron 135 R Vanilla Sky This movie will make your head spin as you try to sort out the dreams, flashbacks and realities. An unusual role for Tom Cruise, an actor whose career is built on his good looks, as his character appears disfigured or masked for a large portion of the film. When he becomes enchanted by Penélope Cruz (how ‘bout that: Cruise and Cruz) his life undergoes a radical change at the hands of his jealous girlfriend, Cameron Diaz. There are a lot of surprises I won’t even hint at here. It’s a bit long, but I enjoyed “the ride.”
2001 Jackson, Peter 178 PG-13 Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The A grand spectacle based on the first of the three “Lord of the Rings” books by J. R. R. Tolkien. I can’t provide a comparison to the novel but it was quite entertaining. Very impressive visual effects. Some fairly intense violence but apparently within the limits of PG-13.