Year Director Running Time MPAA Rating Title Comments
2001 Chelsom, Peter 90 PG-13 Serendipity So-so romantic comedy. It suffers primarily from a too-obvious plot.
2001 Jeunet, Jean-Pierre 122 R Amelie French: “Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain.” Superb comedy. A young woman in Paris gets her greatest pleasure from secretly doing kind things for other people, and in the process of pursing this “hobby,” finds a romantic interest. Fast-paced, very original and full of surprises. The star of the film, Audrey Tautou, is quite charming. The R-rating is for “sexual content” only (including a fleeting close-up glimpse of a childbirth).
1926 Beaudine, William 107 NR Sparrows Silent movie star Mary Pickford saves a group of orphans from a “baby farm.” Supposedly one of her best films but I was not as impressed with this as I have been with the silent films of Lillian Gish. Leonard Maltin’s guide lists the running time as only 84 minutes, so the current DVD version (the Milestone Collection edition) appears to be a significant restoration. On the other hand, there is no standard projection speed for silent films, and perhaps the DVD version was transferred at less than 24fps.
2001 Sakaguchi, Hironobu 106 PG-13 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within This animated feature from Japan takes the art of digital animation to the point where you sometimes actually forget it is animation. The human characters have an astonishingly life-like appearance. The story is science fiction mixed in with some Japanese mythology and it is confusing at times because the dialogue doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. The extra features on the DVD edition help fill in the gaps. It is impressive as a work of art even if the story doesn’t grab you.
1999 Polanski, Roman 133 R Ninth Gate, The Johnny Depp is a somewhat unethical rare-book dealer who is hired to authenticate a 17th century book supposedly written by the Devil himself. His search for the answers draws him into some very suspicious situations and a bizarre occult climax. It makes for a pretty good mystery as he tracks down other copies of the rare book (titled The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of the Shadows) but if occult themes turn you off then you probably won’t like this. I wasn’t really satisfied with the ending but it did engage me for a good while.
2000 Gibby, Gwyneth 83 R Nightfall Based on a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. It is about a civilization living on a planet where night is so infrequent that it is forgotten from one occurrence to the next and drives the population to madness when it happens. I like Asimov’s stories but this is a poor movie, and definitely more violent than I expected.
1999 Zhang, Yimou 89 G Road Home, The Chinese: “Wo de fu qin mu qin.” A very pleasant love story told in flashback. The photography is beautiful, with black and white film for the present-day scenes and color for the flashback scenes. The featured actress, Zhang Ziyi, was also in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Rush Hour 2”, but this was her first film when she was about 19, though it was not released in America until 2001.
2001 Howard, Ron 135 PG-13 Beautiful Mind, A An excellent drama about mathematical genius and Nobel Prize winner, John Nash. Although the film takes many liberties with the details of this “true story,” Ron Howard has made a very entertaining film. There are some significant surprises in this, so the less you know about it in advance, the better. And in case you didn’t know, Nash is still alive (at least as of the Academy Awards ceremony in March, 2002).
2000 Thomas, Betty 104 PG-13 28 Days Sandra Bullock stars as an alcoholic sentenced to 28 days in a rehab facility. Although billed as a comedy, it has some surprisingly serious moments regarding the whole substance abuse issue, but the comedic moments are generally quite good and create a good balance. Some people have criticized the film for this clash of serious and comedic elements I admit being confused at first by this combination but in the end it worked for me.
2001 Scott, Ridley 143 R Black Hawk Down Intense war film about the 1993 war in Somalia. Too much nonstop in-your-face graphic violence to be entertaining. And not enough story and character development.
2001 Field, Todd 131 R In the Bedroom Maybe I’m losing my attention span but I found much of this to be boring. It took too long to get interesting.
2002 Wallace, Randall 138 R We Were Soldiers A very good Viet Nam war film about a single battle in 1965. The violence is intense but there are breaks in the action and cuts to the parallel story of the wives back home. Stars Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott.
2002 Wells, Simon 96 PG-13 Time Machine, The It was a nice touch to have a descendant of H.G. Wells as the director of this remake but it didn’t help. Most of the original plot is still there, but I did not feel that the changes were for the better.
2001 Ripoll, Maria 103 PG-13 Tortilla Soup An American remake of the Taiwanese film, “Eat Drink Man Woman” (1994). This new version moves the story to a Latino neigborhood but otherwise keeps pretty much the same story of a master chef with three daughters on the threshold of moving out for careers or marriage. Both versions are good but I thought the use of Raquel Welch somewhat spoiled this one.
2001 Mamet, David 109 R Heist Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito star in what you might call a crime brain-twister. It’s bad guy vs. bad guy and you just can’t beleive anyone could possibly have so thoroughly planned for every possible contingency the way Hackman’s character does. But I guess to some extent that is a hallmark of director Mamet’s films, most of which I have enjoyed, but either this one is missing something or is too much of the same thing.
2001 Eyre, Richard 91 R Iris A good, true, love story about the late Iris Murdoch and her husband John Baley. Starring Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent who won the Oscar for his role as Baley. Kate Winslet stars as the young Iris in the flashback sequences. Some nudity and sex.
2000 Redford, Robert 126 PG-13 Legend of Bagger Vance, The A golfer (Matt Damon) who lost his will to play during the war is coached back to winning form by a mysterious stranger (Will Smith) who acts as his caddy for an important tournament. It was OK, but not great.
2000 Soldini, Silvio 116 PG-13 Bread and Tulips Italian: “Pane e tulipani.” A good comedy about a woman who gets separated from her family on a vacation and instead of trying to reconnect with them she goes off on a vacation of her own to Venice.
2001 Forster, Marc 111 R Monster’s Ball With an Oscar-winning performance by Halle Berry this is a strong drama but not one that will appeal to everyone. Billy Bob Thornton is also quite good in this. There is some violence but the biggest contributors to the R rating are the very graphic sex scenes and the explicit racism of some of the characters. It’s not a ‘pretty’ picture but does provide stimulating drama.
2001 Softley, Iain 120 PG-13 K-PAX Kevin Spacey plays a man who claims to be a visitor from the planet K-PAX but his strange behavior lands him in a psychiatric hospital where Jeff Bridges tries to determine if he is an alien or just a disturbed human. What makes this interesting is that the audience is given evidence for both conclusions but in the end leaves the question unanswered. Spacey goes through an amazing transformation when the doctor puts him under hypnosis in an attempt to find the truth. In a loose sense you could call this a cross between “Starman” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” with the nice touch that Bridges was the alien in “Starman.”
1999 Smith, Chris 107 R American Movie: The Making of Northwestern A strange documentary about a guy in Milwaukee who has been making amateur short films since he was 14 and now is trying to make a feature film titled “Northwestern.” The movie follows his efforts over the course of about three years during which time he never obtains adequate funding for “Northwestern” but does manage to complete a 35 minute short film, “Coven,” that he had started years before. “Coven” appears as a special feature on the DVD edition. In a way this guy’s story is rather pathetic and “Coven” is not very good. It’s fair to say that “American Movie” does a good job of telling this story but it wasn’t that great of a story.
2001 Anderson, Wes 109 R Royal Tenenbaums, The I should know better than to go to a Ben Stiller film but it also stars Gene Hackman and Bill Murray so I thought I’d give it a chance. There are some individual parts that are good in this wacky comedy but overall it was a bit of a mess. And I still don’t like Ben Stiller.
2001 Nair, Mira 114 R Monsoon Wedding A comedy from India. I suppose you could say this is India’s answer to “Father of the Bride,” though there are of course many cultural differences as well as a dark subplot that makes it altogether different. Although mostly in English, there are some subtitles (actually there should have been subtitles even for the English because of the strong accents). There are a lot of characters and relationships not always clearly explained. It has its amusing moments but don’t expect the kind of hilarity found in the Steve Martin movie.
2002 Raimi, Sam 121 PG-13 Spider-Man The comic-book super-hero brought to the big screen. The Spider-Man character was not part of my childhood the way Superman was, so I didn’t have any personal history to bring with me to the theater. I guess it went over big with younger audiences but it didn’t do much for me. It was surprisingly violent at times for a film marketed to young people.
2002 Lucas, George 113 PG Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones If you haven’t seen this installment yet I won’t give anything away but I will give one hint: Yoda doesn’t really need that cane! The saga continues with an older version of Anakin Skywalker, though I was not impressed with the actor placed in this role. Plenty of action and adventure for Star Wars fans and now there is only one episode to go. This episode was the first to be filmed totally with digital cameras and was projected digitally in some theaters during the first run and the resulting image was very good.
2001 Linklater, Richard 101 R Waking Life A fascinating experiment in filmmaking. Although it appears to be an animated feature, the secret is that it was shot as live action with a digital camcorder and then with the help of a Macintosh computer, each frame was electronically painted over to give the appearance of an animated film. Each scene was given to a different artist and so you can see the different styles from scene to scene. The DVD edition includes an abbreviated version of the original live action footage for comparison as well as a very detailed demonstration of how they painted the frames on the computer. As a piece of storytelling this film may in fact bore some people because the main thread of it consists of a central character who doesn’t say much but visits a lot of people who go on and on about their philosophy of life. The title comes from the question, “is my waking life actually somebody else’s dream?” And the film challenges the audience to determine which scenes are dreams and which are ‘real.’
2000 Firode, Laurent 97 R Happenstance French: “Le Battement D’ailes Du Papillon.” Translation: The beating of the butterfly’s wings. The title refers to the theory of chaos which suggests that the beating of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world could be the unpredictable variable that triggers a major change in the weather in another part of the world. This is a light comedy which attempts to show how an apparently random series of events all converge to an important moment for two people, who, in the absence of just one of those events, would never have met. The star of this film is Audrey Tautou, who is now better known for her starring role in “Amelie.” This is a mildly amusing film but definitely not in the same league as “Amelie.”
2001 Mangold, James 118 (123 d/c) PG-13 Kate & Leopold A fun time-travel romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan as Kate. Her ex-boyfriend has discovered a ‘portal’ to 19th century New York and unintentionally brings a man (‘Duke Leopold’) from that time back with him to the present. The result is a “fish out of water” story, during which this 19th century aristocrat falls in love with 21st century Kate. The DVD of this film contains two versions. I recommend the “Director’s Cut” because it adds some details about who this Duke is, which I think is important to the story, and also establishes the basis for an additional paradox regarding the relationship between Kate and her ex-boyfriend. This paradox is only implied but it was omitted from the theatrical version because somebody thought it might be offensive. Actually, even the director’s cut leaves out a scene which would have revealed this paradox more directly, but as it stands you have to put 2 and 2 together yourself.
2001 Lahti, Christine 109 R My First Mister This is a gem. If you’re a fan of comedian Albert Brooks you will probably enjoy his performance in this film very much. However do not be misled into thinking this film is all comedy because by the end of it you may be in tears. His costar is LeeLee Sobieski (“The Glass House” ) whose performance often reminded me of a young Jodie Foster or Helen Hunt. She plays a rebellious teenager who is hired by Brooks to work in his clothing store and a unique friendship develops. The R rating is for repeated use of the ‘F’ word (though I must admit there are a couple times where it is used to good comic effect) and other sexually graphic dialog, but no nudity or violence.
2002 Parker, Oliver 97 PG Importance Of Being Ernest A 19th Century romantic comedy based on the play by Oscar Wilde. There are at least 7 film versions of this story; this is the one starring Rupert Everett and Reese Witherspoon. A pleasant light comedy but nothing remarkable. I haven’t seen the 1952 version but I hear it is much better.
2002 Spielberg, Steven 145 PG-13 Minority Report Good action Sci-Fi thriller set in the year 2054 and starring Tom Cruise and Max von Sydow. They have developed a way to predict murders and Tom is the officer in charge of locating and capturing the would-be murderers before they commit the crime. The tables are turned, however, when the system points the finger at Tom as the next murderer, and thus begins the chase. The film shows some very interesting predictions of future technology, some of which aren’t all that far fetched. Based on a story by Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) who is also the author behind “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall.”
2002 Schachter, Steven 91 TV-PG-L Door To Door Fairly good true-story TV drama about a man afflicted with cerebral palsy who manages to succeed as a door-to-door salesman. William H. Macey stars as Bill Porter.
2002 Bigelow, Kathryn 137 PG-13 K-19 The Widowmaker Very good Cold War drama starring Harrison Ford as the captain of a new Soviet nuclear submarine pressed into service under less than ideal circumstances. And that is an understatement as you will see. This is based on a true but long-suppressed story. On a technical note, the film implies that the problem with the boat’s nuclear reactor could turn it into a nuclear bomb, but in reality it would have been more like an underwater Chernobyl disaster, though it still had the potential to cause World War III.
2002 Fincher, David 112 R Panic Room Very good suspense thriller starring Jodie Foster. She and her daughter have just moved into their new home which is equipped with a specially built room designed as a shelter in the event of a home invasion or similar threat. On their first night the home is invaded by three men who thought the house was empty. Most people don’t come away from a movie remembering the design of the opening credits but in rare cases such as “Star Wars” or “Psycho” they make a striking visual impression and such is the case here but I will leave the surprise of this original design for you to experience.
2000 Ichaso, Leon 102 R Hendrix Cheaply and poorly done drama about the life of Jimi Hendrix. They couldn’t even afford to get the rights to include any of his original compositions. Rated R for nudity, language and drug usage. Originally a made-for-TV movie.
1989 Zhang, Yimou + Yang Fengliang 95 PG-13 Ju Dou Chinese. Very good romantic tragedy set in China in the 1920’s. Ju Dou is a beautiful young woman who has just been purchased as a wife by a much older man who wants a son to continue the family line. However, he is a wife beater and Ju Dou ends up seeking comfort in the arms of her husband’s nephew. This film was banned in China and was not released in the US until 1991.
2001 Darabont, Frank 152 PG Majestic, The Although the star of this movie is Jim Carrey, it is not one of his usual laugh riots. Here he plays it straight as a screenwriter who, following an accident, finds himself suffering from amnesia in a small town whose citizens mistake him for the son of the owner of the Majestic Theater and who had been believed “missing in action” in WW2. In a way this film is one long stretch of suspense as the audience hangs on to find out when and how the man’s amnesia will clear and the people discover his true identity. I thought the movie was OK but I guess I had expected it to be funnier because of Jim Carrey. The director has intentionally followed in the footsteps of Frank Capra’s “small town hero” films and so if the ending reminds you of “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” then he has succeeded.
2002 Shyamalan, M. Night 106 PG-13 Signs Science fiction thriller in which a new outbreak of “crop circles” proves to be the work of unfriendly aliens. The director effectively makes the audience jump in fright a number of times and the two child actors do an excellent job of delivering well-written lines, but ultimately I came away disappointed. This is the same director who successfully surprised viewers with “The Sixth Sense” and although you may also fail to second-guess the outcome of “Signs” it will not jar you the way the earlier film did. In some ways this story has parallels in Hitchcock’s “The Birds” but with the addition of a religious theme. Also, like Hitchcock, the director makes an appearance in the film, though in a larger role than any of Hitchcock’s cameos. I felt that the trailer gave the impression this was much more of an alien-encounter action film than it really is. Here’s a thought for after the movie: how could the aliens not have known about all the water on this planet?
2002 Michell, Roger 98 R Changing Lanes Two men, both en route to critical appointments, collide on a busy highway. What follows is a dramatic point-counterpoint as each man tries to seek satisfaction from the other in an attempt to undo the disruption of their lives which resulted from the accident. Unfortunately this is a case where I think the trailer for the film revealed too much of the story, and thus a large portion of the film was already old-hat before I even bought my ticket. It’s a pretty good story but I suspect I would be more enthusiastic about it had I not seen the trailer first. The R rating is only for a few strong words but nothing gratuitous.
2000 Haneke, Michael 112 NR Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales Of Several Journeys French: “Code Inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages.” Confusing and unsatisfying. No plot and no conclusion (as the subtitle says, incomplete). Reading about it after viewing, I have a better idea of who the characters were and what was going on, but I guess I missed some of the details when I watched it. Early in the film, four characters, only two of whom already know each other, have an encounter on a street in Paris. The rest of the film separately follows each character’s life from that time forward. At the end you are left hanging on all four threads. Some individual scenes are quite good on their own, but this is a difficult film to accept as a whole. The Mexican film, “Amores Perros” did a much better job with a similar premise. Not rated but has a few strong words in the English subtitles.
2001 Mann, Michael 157 R Ali This may not be “the greatest,” but there are two good performances in this film that could make it worthwhile for some. Will Smith as Ali, and Jon Voight as Howard Cosell. Though in the case of Voight you should overlook the poor makeup. Smith’s recreation of Muhammad Ali is very impressive. He may not look exactly like Ali but there are times when you could close your eyes and swear it was The Champ himself. I did feel that the film was a bit long, and since I am not a boxing fan, the extended fight scenes were too much for me, though no doubt will please the true fan. Rated R for language and some strong violence outside the boxing ring (e.g., the assassination of Malcolm X).
2001 Hallstrõm, Lasse 111 R Shipping News, The Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by E. Annie Proulx, this film has a lot of good elements but was not so great overall (though not as bad as some people would have you think). A great cast with stars Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench, Julianne Moore, Scott Glenn, Pete Postlethwaite and Cate Blanchett. A great scenic location: Newfoundland. And a good sense of humor. I think the main disappointment here was Kevin Spacey; I feel he was miscast in the lead role of Quoyle. Quoyle is a downtrodden man from upstate New York who attempts to start over in his ancestral home of Newfoundland. It is a complex story with many characters and mostly good performances with the exception of Spacey (not that he wasn’t trying).
2002 Zwick, Joel 95 PG My Big Fat Greek Wedding A crazy romantic comedy built around a culture clash between a large Greek Orthodox family and a small American Protestant family. The Greek girl falls in love with the American boy and what an uproar that causes! There is a lot of very funny material here but at times I felt they were trying too hard. A bit of trivia: the actress who plays the lead role also wrote the screenplay.
2000 Yang, Edward 173 NR Yi Yi Taiwanese. Literal translation of “Yi Yi” is “one one” or “individually” but the English language marketing of this film changed it to “A One and a Two” (though you will find the video under ‘Yi Yi’). Although long and slow paced, there are so many characters and so many things going on that the length did not seem excessive. This is a very good story that looks ‘individually’ at the lives of each member of an extended Chinese family in present-day Taipei over the course of about a year. Experienced actors are hard to come by in Taiwan so many in this film are first-timers, including the excellent child actors who play ‘Ting-Ting’ and ‘Yang-Yang.’ Although not rated, it probably would have been given an ‘R’ for some strong language. There is one problem with the video release of this film and that is the poor legibility of the subtitles. Sometimes they contrast so poorly with the picture that you can’t read them. So if you understand Mandarin you’ll have no problem.
1962 Kurosawa, Akira 96 NR Sanjuro Japanese. Humorous story about a wise but unorthodox samuri who helps a group of less experienced samuri rescue their leader’s uncle from the hands of a political enemy. This is a sequel to Kurosawa’s previous film “Yojimbo” (1961).
2002 Mendes, Sam 117 R Road To Perdition At the core of this movie is a very good father-son story played as only Tom Hanks can. It is, however, the core of a very violent gangster film set in 1931 and Hanks plays one of the bad guys for a change. If you can handle the violence you will probably find this to be one of the better gangster movies. As a reference, I would compare the violence in this to that in “L.A. Confidential (1997).” Graphic, but not as revolting as something like “Casino (1995).” Also starring Paul Newman. Filmed in Chicago and other towns in Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.
2002 Liman, Doug 118 PG-13 Bourne Identity, The A very good spy thriller. Matt Damon stars as a CIA agent who is suffering from amnesia and trying to figure out who he is and why everybody is trying to kill him. His costar is Franka Potente of “Run, Lola, Run” fame. Based on the Robert Ludlum novel. This was previously filmed as a TV miniseries in 1988 and reviewers of that version claim it is more true to the book (it is 56% longer). But not having seen that I would still recommend this new version for its entertainment value. There is a terrific chase scene in Paris.
1961 Kurosawa, Akira 109 NR Yojimbo Japanese. ‘Yojimbo’ means bodyguard. In reality, the main character is more of an assassin-for-hire than what Americans think of as a bodyguard. He is Sanjuro, a lone Samurai looking for work. He finds a small dusty village with two equally despicable clans on the verge of a local civil war. With his exceptional swordsmanship and cleverness he cleans up the town for a profit. This is sort of a comic parody of American Westerns and is very famous among Japanese films. It has been remade 7 times, most notably as “A Fistful Of Dollars” (1964). And the director even made his own sequel, “Sanjuro” (1962).
2000 Leconte, Patrice 112 R Widow of Saint-Pierre, The French: “La Veuve de Saint-Pierre.” A most unusual story of love and compassion set on the French islands of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon (off the coast of Newfoundland) in the year 1849. Beautifully photographed, often in very extreme winter conditions. The screenplay is based on a true story of a man who was convicted of murder and then given the opportunity to perform community service under the direction of the wife of the prison warden. He is redeemed in the eyes of the local population but the government officials still look forward to the arrival of the guillotine. Rated R for sex/nudity and brief violence.
1965 Kurosawa, Akir 180 NR Red Beard Japanese: “Akahige.” Very good period drama set in 19th Century Japan. “Red Beard” is the director of a financially strapped public clinic. The main story thread is about a new young intern who initially hates the place but learns much during his internship, both about treating patients and about himself. Within that thread are a series of stories, each centered on one of his patients. One of those I thought was excessively long but, other than that, the length of the film was quite tolerable. And it has a great sense of humor. There is a most unusual operating-room scene you are not likely to forget.
1985 Itami, Juzo 114 NR Tampopo Japanese. “Tampopo” is a young widow, whose name means ‘dandelion.’ This is a very funny comedy about food. In the main story, a truck driver who happens upon Tampopo’s noodle shop, stays to help her business become successful. This story is interrupted periodically with brief episodes, also involving food, but with characters who have no relation to the main characters. Although not rated, it would probably qualify as an ‘R’ due to a most unusual love-making scene which, of course, also involves food. Trust me, you won’t forget that scene! There is also a scene in which one of the side characters meets a rather violent end, but this turns into a hilarious death scene. Be forewarned that there are a couple of food-preparation scenes which may not be conducive to eating during the movie. Trivia: the actress playing Tampopo was the late director’s wife.
88 PG-13 Men In Black II A very disappointing sequel. A lame rehash of elements from the original film. Go rent or buy the DVD of the original rather than waste your time on this.
2001 Altman, Robert 137 R Gosford Park Overly complicated, overly long “whodunit” that ends before anyone is even charged with the murder. It is easy to miss the revelation of who did it. There are so many characters that I was totally lost as to who many of them were. Even the director, in his commentary included on the DVD, admits that a single viewing of the film is insufficient to understand it all. It takes place in 1932 at a large country estate in rural England. The attention to period authenticity is impressive. Adding to the confusion in the film is a custom I did not understand until later which is that when guests arrived with their own servant, the servant was addressed by the name of their employer rather than their own name. The film’s ‘R’ rating is the result of the repeated unnecessary use of the F-word, which it turns out, was a deliberate ploy by the director to ensure the R rating because he didn’t want young people to see the movie, based on his assumption that they wouldn’t like it anyway. Amazing what you learn from these DVD editions of movies.
1989 Spottiswoode, Roger 99 PG Turner and Hooch How could you go wrong with Tom Hanks and a big slobbering dog? Although somewhat predictable this is a fun comedy that Tom really put his heart into.
2002 Romanek, Mark 96 R One Hour Photo Robin Williams is the star but this is not a comedy. He creates a very scary character who is a little too interested in one of his customers at the photo lab. Overall I was disappointed.
2001 Miyazaki, Hayao 125 PG Spirited Away The soundtrack to this animated feature is in English, so don’t be put off by the fact that it was made in Japan under the title “Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi.” This is a very imaginative story steeped in Japanese mythology. A young girl and her parents follow an unfamiliar road and end up trapped in a strange world of spirits. The parents get turned into pigs and the rest of the story involves the girl’s attempt to escape back to the real world.
1997 Eastwood, Clint 121 R Absolute Power Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this crime drama. Clint’s dilemma is that he witnessed a high-profile murder but was committing a burglary at the time. And just to make things more complicated, the President was also present at the scene of the crime.
1999 Wilson, Hugh 112 PG-13 Blast From the Past Good comedy starring Brendan Fraser and Christopher Walken. During the Cuban Missile Crisis a couple locks themselves in a bomb shelter and stay there for 35 years. Their son is born down there and he emerges as an adult to see the world for the first time. Sort of a “fish out of water” story. Walken is quite funny as the father.
1993 Ping, Yuen Woo 86 PG-13 Iron Monkey Chinese(Cantonese): “Siunin Wong Fei-hung tsi titmalau.” Brilliant martial arts “Robin Hood.” If you enjoy “kung fu” action you won’t be disappointed by this movie. The version I have is supposedly the original Hong Kong release (no longer available) and I have read that there may be some differences in the American release but I haven’t verified that.
2002 Kapur, Shekhar 130 PG-13 Four Feathers, The The novel by A.E.W. Mason has been filmed at least 6 times before going all the way back to 1915. I haven’t seen the acclaimed 1939 version but I’m sure it is better than this one. It is about a British soldier who resigns rather than participate in a battle in Africa. He is sent 4 feathers representing his cowardice and subsequently he secretly tries to help his former unit on his own.
2001 Cuarón, Alfonso 100 R/NR Y tu Mamá También Mexican. English translation: “And your mother too.” I have no idea what the title means relative to the story. Two teenage boys go on a road trip with a married woman, hoping to seduce her along the way. The boys discover they don’t know each other as well as they thought and the woman finds a new life at the end of the trip. The version I saw was rated R for sex, drugs, language and full frontal male and female nudity. So what did they cut from the ‘unrated’ version? I don’t know but that version is now also available on DVD and is 5 minutes longer. I wasn’t completely enthralled with this, perhaps because it was so raw and frank but I may watch it again to get another sense of it.
1972 Bergman, Ingmar 91 R Cries and Whispers Swedish: “Viskningar och Rop.” Not recommended; too weird and at times quite disturbing. The first 8 minutes is completely without dialogue and there isn’t very much in the rest of the film.
1994 Coen, Joel 110 PG Hudsucker Proxy, The High energy comedy that is sort of a parody of the business world. Tim Robbins and Paul Newman star in this eccentric story about a corporate board trying to drive their stock price down by putting somebody in charge whom they perceive to be an idiot. Unfortunately this new CEO invents the hoola-hoop.
2001 Schepisi, Fred 110 R Last Orders British drama. A group of old friends remember the past on their way to scatter the ashes of one of their drinking buddies. Michael Caine, in flashbacks, plays the recently deceased. Some flashbacks go even further back so as to need another actor to play Caine’s character as a young man. Also stars Bob Hoskins whose character has an interesting agenda. Rated R for sex and language.
1993 Kurosawa, Akira 134 NR Madadayo Japanese comedy. The title means “Not yet.” This was Akira Kurosawa’s last film. It is a very good story about a retired professor. His former students continue to adore him and celebrate his birthday every year, mockingly asking if he is ready to die yet, to which he always replies, “Not yet.”
2001 Low, Adam 116 NR Kurosawa Interesting documentary about the late Japanese director Akria Kurosawa. Includes many interviews with people who knew him and highlights from many, though not all of his films. Also includes some reunions of actors from some of the films. If you are a fan of his films you will probably enjoy this.
2002 Moore, Michael 119 R Bowling For Columbine Very funny documentary that looks at the gun ownership issue with particular attention to the incident at Columbine High School. The director doesn’t really try to provide any answers to the problem but poses the question of why America has such a high proportion of gun murders compared to other countries with equally high rates of gun ownership. I think he went a little overboard when he cornered Charlton Heston but otherwise it was quite entertaining.
2002 Ratner, Brett 124 R Red Dragon Anthony Hopkins reprises his Hannibal Lecter character with much relish. This is actually a prequel to “Silence of the Lambs” and gives only the tiniest foreshadowing of the Jodie Foster character of that film. Edward Norton is the investigator in this new story. This is mostly quite entertaining and scary if you can handle the more gruesome scenes that are typical in this film series (I didn’t see the 2nd one). Strongly R-rated for all possible reasons.
2001 Nettelbeck, Sandra 105 PG Mostly Martha German: “Bella Martha” (‘bella’ isn’t German but Italy was one of the countries involved). A romantic comedy with an ongoing theme of food preparation. It was well received by the critics but I was not as impressed. It wasn’t all that funny. When her sister dies suddenly, Martha gets stuck having to care for her niece and attempts to track down the father, while still trying to hold her job as head chef. Martha has a low tolerance for criticism and competition.
1958 Kurosawa, Akira 138 NR Hidden Fortress, The Japanese: “Kakushi Toride no San-Akunin.” An interesting period adventure by Kurosawa. The most fascinating thing about this film now is the knowledge that it was the inspiration for “Star Wars.” If you didn’t know that it is quite likely you would never make the connection, but now that you do it is interesting to watch for the elements that are similar. It is also a pretty good bit of storytelling in its own right.
1958 Ford, John 121 NR Last Hurrah, The Spencer Tracy stars in this political drama. I found it to be too dated to be very entertaining.
1957 Kurosawa, Akira 109 NR Throne of Blood Japanese: “Kumonosu-jo.” Kurosawa has taken Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and transplanted it very effectively into the “samurai era” of Japan. Very good period drama.
2002 Soderbergh, Steven 98 PG-13 Solaris Remake of a Soviet film (1972) based on the same novel by Stanislaw Lem. I haven’t seen the original so I cannot compare them. This is a psychological drama in a science fiction setting. It generally down plays the science fiction aspects of the story so if you’re expecting a big space adventure, look elsewhere. It is about a group of scientists in a remote space station who are plagued by difficult-to-ignore recreations of people they were close to back on Earth but who can’t possibly be there. George Clooney is sent to investigate what is going on and falls victim to the same phenomenon. I found it somewhat interesting but it probably will not have a real wide audience. The 1972 version is nearly twice as long so I am curious to see how it differs.
2002 Eisner, Breck + Félix Enríquez Alcalá + John Fawcett + Tobe Hooper + Jeremy Kagan + Michael Katleman + Sergio Mimica-Gezzan + Bryan Spicer + Jeff Woolnough + Thomas J. Wright 877
Taken Steven Spielberg was the executive producer of this TV miniseries that weaves together all the alien abduction stories you’ve ever heard into a big multigenerational epic. I enjoyed it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my passion for science fiction. I like very long stories that are of consistent quality across every episode and I like stories that span succeeding generations of the initial characters. I also think it was well casted. One of the most important characters is played by child actress Dakota Fanning, a particularly good choice. She also serves as the narrator since it is all from her point of view, even though her character doesn’t appear until the third generation.
1974 Kurosawa, Akira 141 G Dersu Uzala Russian(Soviet): “Dersou Ouzala.” Very good drama by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and funded by the Soviets at a time when he could not get financing in Japan. The story takes place in Siberia in the period 1902-1910. The title is the name of a local tracker who aides and befriends a military survey team.
2002 De Palma, Brian 114 R Femme Fatale A bizarre crime thriller that steals an idea for a surprise from “Run, Lola, Run.” The director deliberately makes it complicated and sometimes uses a split-screen to further bend your mind. It doesn’t all make sense and some may find the “surprise” to be too much of a cheap trick. Stars Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
2002 Tamahori, Lee 132 PG-13 Die Another Day Yet another James Bond action adventure. This one is a long overblown mess. Plenty of action, explosions etc. but not all that interesting.
2002 Schroeder, Barbet 120 R Murder By Numbers Crime thriller. There are at least 3 films with this title; this is the version starring Sandra Bullock. Although it is based on the same true murder case as Hitchcock’s “Rope” this film puts the story in a completely different setting and adds the police investigation. Sandy (who also produced the film) plays the police investigator on the case and I don’t think she was quite right for the role, nor was the role a very good creation. I strongly urge you to rent “Rope” before you give any consideration to this new version of the story. Interestingly, part of the film’s climax involves a scene that will remind you of Hitchcock’s “Saboteur” if you know that one.
2002 Hoffman, Michael 109 PG-13 Emperor’s Club, The Kevin Kline stars as a teacher in a private boys school. The film follows his career there and in relation to one particular class of boys who keep in touch with him even after he retires. This type of story has been done better before.
2002 Baird, Stuart 116 PG-13 Star Trek - Nemesis The 10th Star Trek movie is somewhat of a disappointment. It was marketed as the final film featuring the “Next Generation” cast, and the story line leads in that direction but not without a little bit of setup for a possible continuation. In some respects it is better than the previous film in the series but in other ways it is not. They have yet to do better than “Star Trek First Contact” with this cast. They should have hired the writers of the final TV episode and truly made it a ‘final’ story with a more satisfying conclusion. There are some surprises in this new film that I won’t give away and true Star Trek fans will want to see the film for those reasons but regular moviegoers may not be very impressed. It’s not bad Star Trek, it’s just not up to the money they spent on it. Some of the popular main characters were not given very much to do.
2002 Woo, John 134 R Windtalkers This film tells the story of how Navajo Indians were crucial to the success of many battles in World War II because they were able to use their unwritten language as code.
However it didn’t do a very good job at telling that story. The director put his biggest effort into huge prolonged battle scenes that make for thrilling surround-sound action in your home theater but between battles the human drama is a little weak. Stars Nicolas Cage. Intense graphic violence.
2002 Jackson, Peter

Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers Part two of three; follow up to 2001’s episode. Spectacular special effects including a fully animated character (Golum) that is light-years beyond “Jar Jar Binks.” If you enjoyed the first movie in this trilogy you will undoubtedly enjoy this one equally if not more so. I still have not read the books so I cannot relate to that connection. There is a lot of violence.
2002 Beresford, Bruce

Evelyn A nice happy-ending true story about a father in 1940’s Ireland fighting the government for custody of his children who have been taken from him under a long-standing law.