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List of "A" Movies

Abandon (2002) PG-13 thriller

It's glossy, but this thriller ultimately lacks thrills. The uneasy pacing of the film might have worked better had the story been more engaging -- or at least I'd seen plenty of other films that made excellent use of this same technique. In this case, key plot developments come in only fits and bursts with almost no tension in between. I also don't find the main character intriguing. She is a graduate student named Katie (Katie Holmes) who suddenly starts to see her ex-boyfriend Embry show up in unexpected places. He'd disappeared without a trace two years prior to that. A cop (Benjamin Bratt), a recovering alcoholic, doesn't see any grounds for Embry to resurface and stalk her of all people. Nonetheless, after falling asleep while studying in the library, not only does she spot him again, he appears to be playing games with her. The "twist ending," by the time I get there, I am completely uninterested in. And it only turned out to be barely more sophisticated than it was all just a dream. Starring: Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt, Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Hunnam, Zooey Deschanel, Gabriel Mann, Gabrielle Union, Mark Feuerstein, Melanie Lynskey, Will McCormack, Philip Bosco, Tony Goldwyn, Fred Ward, Jack Warden. Directed by: Stephen Gaghan. D+

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) NR comedy

This entertaining Abbott and Costello film is considered by fans to be their best. In this film, Count Dracula wants to remove Costello's brain and transplant it into the Frankenstein Monster, but the duo manages to get in the way. This film is funny, but it is dated. Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange, Lenore Aubert, Jane Randolph, Frank Ferguson, Charles Bradstreet, Howard Negley. Directed by: Charles Barton. B+

About a Boy (2002) PG-13 comedy

This film is high on charm and laughs. Hugh Grant plays a do-nothing who lives on the royalties from his late fatherís widely loved pop song. He tries his hardest to get by life without becoming emotionally attached to anybody, but that plan is thwarted when a peculiar teenaged boy (Nicholas Hoult) shows up at his door. Grant turns in a spectacular performance, which makes this film among the most delightful of the decade. Directors Weitz are forgiven for American Pie and Down to Earth. Starring: Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz, Isabell Brooke, Victoria Smurfit. Directed by: Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz. A

About Schmidt (2002) R drama

This touching film is about an average guy (Jack Nicholson in a non-typical role) whose life is turned upside down when his wife dies and his daughter decides to get married to a freak in a mullet. The end of the film is unconventional but perfect. The only complaint is the pacing is a bit slow. Also, Kathy Bates' nakedness should be left to the imagination. Starring: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates, Len Cariou, Howard Hesseman, June Squibb, Cheryl Hamada. Directed by: Alexander Payne. A-

Absolute Beginners (1985) PG musical

Movies that have a good eye for style are those I like to seek out. This one is enormously dazzling, colorful and detailed, and there is never a lack for anything to look at. But in this case maybe it's a little too much, getting to the point of being cluttered. The cinematography is also so hyperkinetic that it's dizzying. However, the reason for me to watch this film are phenomenal appearances from three rock legends: David Bowie, Ray Davies and Sade Adu. Also, the soundtrack is wonderful -- one that I would even argue transcends the quality of the film itself. These rock stars even provide songs to the soundtrack -- Bowie's title track being especially wonderful -- happy, catchy and a little bit weird. Bowie plays an advertising executive in late '50s London who shows the hero of this film, Colin (Eddie O'Connell), the riches and luxuries that await him in his new career as a photographer. That's a 90-degree turn from his original ambitions, being an important artist. But by setting his sights on the big-time, he hopes to impress a girl, Crepe (Patsy Kensit), who dreams of material wealth. Most musicals are romances, this one being no exception, but the problem is that it just isn't particularly romantic. That's what happens to a film aims for style over substance. But even then, these two leads never strike me like they really belong together. This is a terribly confused film, but I still find it crazy enough to like. Starring: Eddie O'Connell, Patsy Kensit, David Bowie, James Fox, Ray Davies, Eve Ferret, Steven Berkoff, Anita Morris, Lionel Blair, Mandy Rice-Davies, Tenpole Tudor, Tony Hippolyte. Directed by: Julien Temple. B-

Absolute Power (1997) R thriller

Itís not as thrilling or suspenseful as this filmís oft-compared counterpart In the Line of Fire. Nevertheless, this is an absorbing film directed by Clint Eastwood. Eastwood also stars as a jewel thief who, while on the job, witnesses the murder of a powerful political figureís wife. The thing is, the President of the United States (Gene Hackman) is responsible. Eastwood soon finds himself at ends with the police and the secret service. Eastwood is always good in his movies, and this is certainly no exception. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Judy Davis, Scott Glenn, Dennis Haysbert, Melora Hardin, Mark Margolis, Elane Kagan, Jack Stewart Taylor, Ken Welsh, E.G. Marshall. Directed by: Clint Eastwood. B

Accepted (2006) PG-13 comedy

This is an amiable movie, even if it's slight. It might even be cathartic for some kids who are in college or about to go to college. A resourceful high school senior named Bartleby (Justin Long) fails to be accepted into any college that he applies for. Not wanting to disappoint his flummoxed parents, he decides to invent his own college, even going so far as to secure and beautify a derelict, former mental institution and have a friend (Jonah Hill) create a legitimate looking website. Only, he made it too legitimate looking, as they're soon greeted by scores of students looking to attend their first day of classes. The idea is fine, but this film in the teen sex comedy tradition is betrayed by a lack of gags. The ending isn't terrible, even if it comes across scrambled together as though to find meaning out of a film that's meaningless. Starring: Justin Long, Jonah Hill, Adam Herschman, Columbus Short, Maria Thayer, Lewis Black, Blake Lively, Mark Derwin, Ann Cusack, Hanna Marks, Robin Lord Taylor. Directed by: Steve Pink. C

The Accidental Spy (2001) PG-13 martial arts

This average Jackie Chan vehicle finds him travelling all over the world in a high-profile espionage plot. Naturally, the film is far-fetched and forgettable, but thereís enough rollicking action to keep it moving. The film contains some nice sets and locations, which makes it pretty to look at. This is recommendable to fans. Starring: Jackie Chan, Eric Tsang, Eric Tsang, Vivian Hsu, Kim Min Jeong, Wu Hsing-Kuo, Alfred Cheung. Directed by: Teddy Chan. B-

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) PG-13 comedy

Jim Carrey's Ace Ventura is a complete lunatic, and the supporting characters who watch him barely react to it. He also behaves like a lunatic when he's by himself and there's nobody around to watch. I am usually amused by his spontaneous, cartoonish slapstick, but the script lets me down by not allowing the supporting cast to give realistic reactions. However, I appreciate the idea of his character having a profession as innocuous as a pet detective and him being good at it. Despite being such a whack-a-doo that it's a wonder he gets anything done. He's also a passionate lover of animals, an angle that should have been played up more to give the character more heart. The central plot of the film is an old fashioned mystery, the case of the missing mascot of the Miami Dolphins. Which is an actual bottle nosed dolphin that was stolen right out of the tank. The mystery that unravels isn't terribly intriguing. It also ought to have been given more of a mock film noir feel. It also contains some transgender jokes that don't play well to modern audiences--I didn't even find them funny back then. While Carrey deserves credit for giving a completely bonkers performance and not holding anything back, it's not quite enough to singlehandedly carry the film. Starring: Jim Carrey, Courteney Cox, Sean Young, Tone Loc, Dan Marino, Noble Willingham, Troy Evans, Randall "Tex" Cobb. Directed by: Tom Shadyac. C

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1994) PG-13 comedy

This is better than the last film but hardly by leaps and bounds. The opening sequence is a Cliffhanger parody, except Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) accidentally drops a raccoon off a mountain instead of a human being. That gag hits a hollow note, since I find a raccoon plummeting to its death about as funny as a human being. Fortunately, things get better, and there are indeed a few moments that make me guffaw. By my estimation, a handful more than the previous film. What doesn't change, however, is this is a one joke movie. The comedy continues to be limited because the only job of the supporting characters is to get out of the way while Ventura does his wacky, hyperkinetic antics. Case in point is an exception: one scene where he's inside a mechanical rhinoceros and exits it by pushing his head out of its backside, causing unsuspecting tourists to think they're witnessing a really weird live birth. Carrey's funny coming out the backside, but the relatively natural reaction from the tourists drives it home. The setting of the film is Africa where he is recruited to find a missing white bat. If nothing else, the scenery is much nicer to look at than South Florida. Starring: Jim Carrey, Ian McNiece, Simon Callow, Maynard Eziashi, Bob Gunton, Damon Standifer, Sophie Okonedo. Directed by: Steve Oedekerk. C+

Act of Love (1980) NR drama

Turgid television drama opens with a Norman Rockwellish country family eating a meal outdoors, flashing sweet smiles at one another, and talking about their summer plans on the family farm. Then the eldest son Joseph (Mickey Rourke) ruins everything when he goes on a ride on his dirt bike and crashes and gets sent to the hospital. Faced with the rest of his life as a quadriplegic, Joseph asks his brother Leon (Ron Howard) to shoot him. Which he does with a sawed-off shotgun. The film centers around the fallout of that -- Leon's subsequent arrest and trial. This movie bothers me in a big way in how it depicts quadriplegics having no quality of life whatsoever -- getting bedsores that never heal, just spending all day staring at the ceiling. While I have no real idea what it's like to be in that situation, I'd prefer watching a movie about someone like Joseph deciding that he'd like to live instead. Yes, that would likely render this into a saccharine "inspirational" story, but that's far better than this rather dangerous nihilism -- especially considering this was made for 1980 prime time television. A film much more thoughtful about this subject matter was The Sea Inside, released in 2004. Starring: Ron Howard, Robert Foxworth, Mickey Rourke, David Speilberg, Jacqueline Brooks, David Faustino. Directed by: Jud Taylor. D+

The Addams Family (1991) PG-13 comedy

This utterly delightful update of the classic '60s television series stars Raul Julia as the enthusiastically sinister Gomez Addams and Anjelica Huston as his wife Morticia. When Gomez's brother Fester (Christopher Lloyd) suddenly comes back to their spooky mansion, Gomez embraces him. However, Fester's an imposter and (clumsy) con artist. Full of over-the-top comedy and silly puns, this film is sure to produce a steady stream of laughs. The cast is fantastic! Starring: Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Dan Hedaya, Elizabeth Wilson, Judith Malina, Christina Ricci, Carel Struycken, Dana Ivey, Paul Benedict, Jimmy Workman, Jimmy Ross. Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld. B+

The Addams Family Values (1993) PG-13 comedy

This is a nicely done sequel, but it lacks the unbridled spirit that made the first one such a delight. The script isn't nearly as funny or gag-filled, but the cast returns in full force. This time, the Addams have a third child to the dismay of their existing children. They are sent to a cheesy summer camp (a very funny idea, but didn't live out its potential). Fester falls in love with a serial killer (Joan Cusack) and is seperated from the family. What does it take to bring the world's most bizarre yet totally functional family back together? Starring:Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Joan Cusack, Christina Ricci, Carol Kane, Jimmy Workman, Kaitlyn Hooper & Kristen, Carel Stuycken, David Krumholtz, Christopher Hart, Dana Ivey, Peter MacNicol, Christine Baranski. Directed by: Barry Sonenfeld. C+

Addicted to Love (1997) R comedy

A movie with the pedigree of a dark, twisted comedy but couldn't overcome one glaring obstacle: Meg Ryan. Not that I have anything against Meg Ryan. She was America's sweetheart for a time. But she's far too sweet in this to be effective for a dark comedy. And I'm betting the filmmakers encouraged that, so as to not offend filmgoers who were expecting to go to the theater for another wholesome Meg Ryan romantic comedy. Except there's nothing wholesome whatsoever about this premise. Matthew Broderick stars as Sam, an astronomer with a picture-perfect life and relationship with his childhood sweetheart Linda (Kelly Preston). He even hijacks the giant observatory telescope at certain times of the day to spy on her at her work, as a school teacher. But that's not creepy. It's cute! She knows it's coming -- she smiles and waves at him, even many of her students join in. Their happy world goes awry when she takes a temporary job in New York City and then decides to make it permanent after shacking up with cocky French restaurateur Anton (Tcheky Karyo). She rather coldly enlists her father to visit Sam to read him "Dear John Letter" out loud. Completely blindsided by this sudden breakup, Sam does what anyone in this predicament would do: Squat in the abandoned building across the street from where she lives and spy on her all day and night. He even sets up a large camera obscura, projecting images from their apartment against his wall, and he logs seemingly innocuous patterns in their behavior with the aim of predicting the precise moment they will break up. This is when he meets Maggie (Ryan), the jilted ex of Anton, who invites herself into Sam's little world of spy gadgets and data collection. Even though I find the tone of this film irreconcilably mismatched with its premise, it at least did well in highlighting the natural screen charisma of Broderick and Ryan -- even if Ryan is playing a far cruder, rougher character than we're used to seeing. Starring: Meg Ryan, Matthew Broderick, Kelly Preston, Tcheky Karyo, Maureen Stapleton, Nesbitt Blaisdell, Remak Ramsay, Dominick Dunne. Directed by: Griffin Dunne. C-

Adventures in Babysitting (1987) PG-13 comedy

Brad Anderson (Keith Coogan) can hardly believe his luck when his parents ask the prettiest girl in school Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) to babysit. His annoying friend Daryl (Anthony Rapp) quickly catches wind of this and invites himself over. But plans for a relatively uneventful evening of ice cream and movies go awry when Chris' best friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) calls, panicked, saying she's stranded in downtown Chicago. Chris has no choice but to rescue her. And despite her better judgement, she brings along these three kids. Misadventure ensues when they get a flat tire on the expressway, and they don't have money. This fish-out-of-water film is fairly engaging and enjoyable up until about halfway when their misadventures suddenly take a cartoony turn. Up until that point, the film had been more rooted in reality. Nonetheless, there's enough to enjoy about this film that it makes a decent evening's light entertainment, but if you're hoping for a sweeping 1980s comedy classic, this misses the mark. Starring: Elisabeth Shue, Maria Brewton, Keith Coogan, Anthony Rapp, Vincent D'Onofrio, Calvin Levels, Penelope Ann Miller, George Newbern, John Ford Noonan, Bradley Whitford, John Chandler, Sam Moses, Linda Sorenson. Directed by: Chris Columbus. C

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984) PG sci-fi

Peter Weller plays Buckaroo Banzai, an ultra-popular half Japaneese, half American surgeon, rock star, physicist etc. who sets out to save the world from the mean and ugly creatures of the eighth dimension. This film is neat to watch because the plot and the characters seem right out of a fun comic book. John Lithgow's performance as the alien-possessed Dr. Emilio Lazardo is fantastic fun. Some might find the plot difficult-to-follow, this is a highly enjoyable film that will appreciate upon viewings. Starring: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd. Directed by: W.D. Richter. B+

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) NR action

Cinema's finest screen treatment Robin Hood ever thanks in a large part to a boisterous performance from Errol Flynn. He makes that pointy, red feathered hat and green woolen hose look positively masculine. Even better, his sprawling swashbuckling scenes are energetic and exciting. He is one of the best. Scenes with Robin Hood behaving indignantly towards the evil Prince John (Claude Rains) make me laugh out loud, and I enjoy tremendously those early on scenes when Robin Hood meets his Merry Men -- usually through some kind of skirmish. My tiny gripe with this film is the extended romance scenes between him and Lady Marian (Olivia de Havilland) that come off anemic. Although I do like her character, and of course they found a world-class actor to play her. Marian comes from Norman nobility, and she learns to live selflessly for the first time in her life. The story arc also keeps me effortlessly engaged into the going-ons, and the dialogue is tight. Prince John holds an archery contest to goad Robin into entering -- figuring this boisterous archer would be too prideful to pass it up. Of course he was right, and Robin is arrested. That's when Marian and the Merry Men plot a daring escape. Above anything else, this is a supremely fun adventure film. I remember enjoying this film when I was a kid, and as an adult I continue to enjoy it for the very same reasons. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Una O'Connor, Patric Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale Sr., Melville Cooper, Ian Hunter. Directed by: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley. A-

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) PG comedy

Everybodyís favorite moose and squirrel hit the big screen in this remarkably bland motion picture. The first ten or twenty minutes of it are rather witty (much like the old TV show was), but the rest of the film is boring and annoying. This is strictly for the kids. Adults who enjoyed this odd duo in their childhood might find themselves taring hair out of their scalps (if there are any left). Starring: Rene Russo, Jason Alexander, Piper Perabo, Randy Quaid, Robert De Niro, June Foray, Keith Scott, Janeane Garofalo, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, John Goodman, Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, James Rebhorn, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal. Directed by: Des McAnuff. C-

Aeon Flux (2005) PG-13 sci-fi

In the future, all but one percent of humans have been wiped out by a disease. The remaining people are stuck living in one city where a corporation (that developed the vaccine) runs the government. Unfortunately, they're evil, and young martial-artist (Charlize Theron) tries to stop them. However, there's more about this government than meets the eye. This film had an especially neat idea and the sets look quite expensive, but the film comes off as convoluted and bland. This was a lot of wasted potential. Starring: Charlize Theron, Martin Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okenedo, Frances McDormand, Pete Postlethwaite, Amelia Warner, Caroline Chikezie, Nikolai Kinski. Directed by: Karyn Kusama. C-

The African Queen (1951) NR adventure

Katherine Hepburn plays an ambitious missionary residing in a remote part of the African jungle who travels down a treacherous river with a sloppy Canadian (played by Humphrey Bogart) and his broken down steamboat called 'The African Queen'. Together they suffer triumphs, tragedy and romance. This film is clearly one of the best ever made, which features excellent scenery, sharp dialogue, perfect acting and an exciting and thrilling adventure. This is Hollywood at its best. Starring: Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Morely, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel, Walter Gotell. Directed by: John Huston. A+

After Hours (1985) R comedy

Every great director ought to have at least one film that's completely loopy. This is Martin Scorsese's. Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) is a data entry analyst who goes to a cafe one evening and meets an entrancing young woman named Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). They spark a titillating rapport. She gives him her phone number and tells him he should purchase a paperweight from her artist roommate Kiki (Linda Fiorentino), which she makes in the shape of a bagel. He catches a cab over to her place but the $20 bill he'd intended to use to pay the driver flies out the window. He reaches Marcy's place, and Kiki opens the door -- Marcy had stepped out. Kiki asks him to slap some sheets of paper machete over a sculpture she'd been making of a life-sized man cowering in terror. . . Turns out, that man is him. Thereafter, no matter what this character does, he is completely unable to escape this seedy neighborhood. He would've had enough money to buy a subway ticket out of there if only the fare hadn't increased minutes ago. He finds a barkeep (John Heard) willing to gift him the money, but he'd forgot his key to the register in his apartment. He gives Paul the key to his apartment to fetch it, but he is mistaken for a burglar when he arrives. While this film comes off insubstantial on the whole and I'm unsure if any of it means anything, it nonetheless features fantastically entertaining dialogue. I also find following its twisty, seemingly arbitrary storyline quite tasty. Of course, this is a must for the art-house crowd. Starring: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Tommy Chong, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, John Heard, Cheech Marin, Catherine O'Hara, Will Patton, Robert Plunket, Bronson Pinchot. Directed by: Martin Scorsese. B+

After the Fox (1966) NR comedy

There was much going for this film: it had the great lead actor (Peter Sellers), a great screenwriter (Neil Simon) and an acclaimed director (Vittorio De Sica). But somehow, it turned out utterly insipid. Sellers stars as a master thief who poses as an Italian film director while he steals vast stocks of Egyptian gold. There were many rapid-fire jokes, but most of them arenít funny. Starring: Peter Sellers, Britt Ekland, Lydia Brazzi, Paolo Stoppa, Victor Mature, Tino Buazzelli. Directed by: Vittoro De Sica. C-

The Age of Innocence (1993) NR comedy

Set in 1870s high society New York, Daniel Day-Lewis is Newland Archer, engaged to be married to the pretty and charming but simple May Welland (Winona Ryder), member of an old-money New York family. Shortly after the engagement, he finds he's becoming enraptured with one of May's cousins, Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer). Her independent mindedness and sharp opinions of societal rules and customs he finds captivates him. But this film is as much about the love story, as it is about dissecting these rules, which are unwritten and are learned as a matter of upbringing. This is an elegant costume drama with rather stodgy source material, but the fluid camera movement brings it all to life--capturing emotion from the characters at just the perfect times and in the perfect ways. The film, otherwise destined to be a flat costume drama, becomes quite an interesting human comedy. Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Miriam Margoyles, Geraldine Chaplin, Michael Gough, Richard E. Grant, May Beth Burt, Robert Sean Leonard, Normal Lloyd, Alec McCowen. Directed by: Martin Scorsese. B+

Agnes of God (1985) PG-13 drama

Jane Fonda gives a marvellous performance as a psychologist who is hired to investigate a nun (Jennifer Tilly) who was reported to have secretly given birth to a child and then strangled it. Amazed this nun not only is mentally disturbed, but also is totally naive of everything worldly including sex, Fonda becomes obsessed with this case. Anne Bancroft, in an equally marvellous performance, is worried that Fonda might destroy her innocence. Audiences might feel betrayed by the bizarre (though appropriately ambiguous) ending, but this'll surely keep you on the edge of your seat. Starring: Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, Meg Tilly, Anne Pitoniak, Winston Rekert, Gratien Gelinas, Guy Hoffman, Gabriel Arcand. Directed by: Norman Jewison. B+

The Agony and Ecstasy (1965) NR drama

Art history lovers may rejoice with this film about Michelangelo's experience painting the Sistine Chapel, but others may not find it to be their cup of tea. Charlton Heston, a man who always does his roles justice, plays Michelangelo well and Rex Harrison plays Pope Julius II, the man who forced Michelangelo to paint the ceiling, with style. This film is interesting but not always engaging. Starring: Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison, Diane Cilento, Harry Andrews, Alberto Lupo, Adolfo Celi, Venantino Venantini, John Stacy, Fausto Tozzi. Directed by: Carol Reed. B

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001) PG-13 sci-fi

Director Steven Spielberg doesn't live up to expectations with this release about a young robot kid (Haley Joel Osment) who just wants to be loved by his adopted mother. Unfortunately, the young robot causes a series of major incidents and the mother gets rid of him in the woods. Thus, he embarks on a journey to find the Blue Fairy (of Pinocchio fame) to turn him into a real boy so that he can earn his mother's love. This film was OK until the last half hour, which seemed tacked-on. Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Sam Robards, Frances O'Connor, Jake Thomas, Brendan Gleeson, William Hunt. Voices of: Jack Angel, Ben Kingsley, Robin Williams, Meryl Streep, Chris Rock. Directed by: Steven Spielberg. B-

Air America (1990) R action

This crappy Vietnam War movie about CIA agents selling heroine to finance the war and the secret becoming uncovered is slightly redeemed by the presence of Mel Gibson (who doesn't do a particularly good job acting) and the numerous explosions. The plot thin and doesnít make sense, either. The dialogue was poorly written. Skip this nonsense. Starring: Mel Gibson, Robert Downey Jr., Nancy Travis, Lane Smith, David Marshall Grant, Ken Jenkins, Tim Thomerson, Burt Kwouk. Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode. C-

The Air Up There (1993) PG comedy

This throwaway but nonetheless entertaining film stars Kevin Bacon as a basketball scout who travels to Africa to recruit a talented native (Winston Ntshona). For a fish-out-of-the-water comedy, this film isn't bad, and Bacon is likable as always. Starring: Kevin Bacon, Winston Ntshona, Sean McCann, Dennis Patrick, Nigel Miguel, Don Finn, John Lesley, Vusi Kunene, Vitelbo Vazquez. Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser. B

Airheads (1994) PG-13 comedy

This is a dumb comedy about a heavy-metal rock band holding a radio station hostage (with squirt guns) so that they would play their demo tape. It's stupid, but it's at least notable by its relatively talented cast. Starring: Brendan Frasier, Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Michael McKean, Judd Nelson, Joe Mantegna, Michael Richards, Ernie Hudson, Amy Locane, Nina Siemaszko, John Melendez. Directed by: Michael Lehmann. C-

Airplane! (1980) PG comedy

This influential comedy marked the beginning of the spoof movement. Robert Hays stars as an airline passager who is asked to land the plane safely when the pilots get sick from food poisoning. The plot isnít important, however; it is the numerous gags and one-liners thatíll keep you rolling. Highlights include Barbara Billingsley as a jive translator and Leslie Nielsen as an air-headed doctor. Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lorna Patterson, Stephen Stucker. Directed by: Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker. A

Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) PG comedy

Itís not as funny as the original, but it still manages to produce plenty of laughs. This time, Ted Striker (Robert Hays) is aboard a space shuttle where the ship's controlling computer went berserk and killed the pilots. As the ship is traveling into the sun (at the mercy of the computer), it's up to Striker to save the passengers. Slight gags and the cast full of old television stars makes this film delightful. Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, William Shatner, Chad Everett, Stephen Stucker, Oliver Robbins, Sonny Bono, Raymond Burr, Chuck Connors, John Dehner, Rip Torn, Kent McCord, James A. Watson Jr. Directed by: Ken Finkleman. B-

Airport (1970) PG action

This is a good airplane disaster flick that launched a slew of sequels and rip-offs. This film is simply about the life of airplane workers and how they react to life-threatening emergencies. The cast is star-studded but half of the time, the script doesn't measure up. This film is interesting, entertaining and sometimes exciting. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Barry Nelson, Dana Wynter, Lloyd Nolan, Barbara Hale, Gary Collins, John Findlater, Jessie Royce Landis, Larry Gates. Directed by: George Seaton. B+

Ali (2001) R drama

It's almost hard to believe that Hollywood can make a mediocre movie about such an interesting boxer. Will Smith gives a convincing performance as Muhammad Ali, but the film focuses too much on Aliís conversion to Islam and his love life, which doesn't seem too interesting. More boxing scenes would have fixed that. Starring: Will Smith, Jaime Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright, Mykleti Williamson, Nona Gaye, Michael Michele, Joe Morton. Directed by: Michael Mann. C+

Alice (1988) NR fantasy

An experience unlike any other--a Czechoslovakian adaptation of Alice in Wonderland that is simultaneously enchanting and grotesque. It's quite faithful to the Lewis Carroll novel but the staging is constantly so bizarre and dizzyingly creative that it frequently makes me laugh in a weird combination of shock and delight. The white rabbit is a tattered taxidermy mount with weird bug eyes and moves via stop-motion animation. He stores his watch in an opening in his stomach that keeps leaking wood shavings, and he is often seen eating bowls of wood shavings in order to replenish his insides. When Alice shrinks from drinking the mysterious liquid (which here is pen ink), she turns into a rather creepy antique stop motion doll. My descriptions here merely scratch the surface of the bizarre marvels to behold within this film. Viewer beware, though, this is not for the weak of stomach, and it's certainly not for the average kid. Just for those of us who are still kids at heart but became very warped. Ultimately, I'm happy to say this earns a place on my list of favorite films. Starring: Kristyna Kohoutova. Directed by: Jan Svankmajer. A+

Alice Adams (1935) NR drama

A charming Katherine Hepburn stars as a poor socialite who works to capture the heart of a wealthy young man (Fred MacMurray). But how can the couple survive if they come from different social classes? Hepburn's family tries to impress MacMurray at their home to dinner only for it to be disastrous. This is director George Steven's first major film, and itís certainly memorable. Starring: Katherine Hepburn, Fred MacMurray, Fred Stone, Evelyn Venable, Frank Albertson, Ann Shoemaker, Charles Grapewin, Grady Sutton, Hedda Hopper. Directed by: George Stevens. A-

All About Eve (1950) NR drama

This film is probably overrated, but strong performances from a big-name cast and solid direction makes this a good one. Anne Baxter stars as the ever-innocent Eve who becomes an intricate part of the life of a well-regarded actress (Bette Davis). However, Eve may not be as innocent as she seems. The pace could have been snappier and the running length shorter, but this is one of the classics, after all. Starring: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Gregory Ratoff, Barbara Bates, Marilyn Monroe, Thelma Ritter, Walter Hampden, Randy Stuart, Craig Hill. Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. A-

All of Me (1984) PG comedy

Steve Martin stars in this refreshing comedy as a hot shot lawyer at the height of his life and career who becomes possessed by the soul of a recently deceased millionaire (Lily Tomlin). This, of course, creates ample problems and confusion (especially since Tomlin has control over half of Martin's body and they can't seem to agree on anything.) This is a great comedy with excellent performances. Starring: Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, Victoria Tennant, Madolyn Smith, Richard Libertini, Dana Eclar, Jason Bernard, Selma Diamond, Eric Christmas, Gailard Sartain, Neva Patterson, Michael Ensign. Directed by: Carl Reiner. A-

All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) NR war

Technically, this is a fine adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's anti-war novel about World War I, but it lacks character development, which robs the viewers' compassion for the characters. Nonetheless, this is good for a television movie, but see the 1930s version instead. Starring: Richard Thomas, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Patricia Neal, Ian Holm. Directed by: Delbert Mann. B-

All the President's Men (1976) PG drama

The Watergate Complex break-in even barely registered as a news story at first. However, after a little digging, up-and-coming Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) quickly realized that there was more going on than meets the eye. The Post soon assigns a senior reporter Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) to assist. They have an icy relationship at first, but it quickly develops into a cordial one out of necessity and professionalism. Woodward's and Bernstein's investigation and how it led to the resignation of a President of the United States is quite a complex story. However, this film ingeniously renders it into something quite easy to follow. Not only is the story brilliantly told, but it is utterly tense -- even when that atmosphere is supplied rather subtly. For instance, by loud, frantic typing in the newsroom, mysterious shadows cast across Deep Throat's (Hal Holbrook) face, the reporters trying to push as much information out of their sources as possible without scaring them off. This is thoroughly engrossing and proves once more that "important" films are oftentimes synonymous with entertaining ones. Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards Jr., Jane Alexander, Meredith Baxter Birney, Ned Beatty, Stephen Collins, F. Murray Abraham. Directed by: Alan J. Pakula. A

Alligator (1980) R horror

A well done Jaws rip-off replaces the shark in the ocean with an alligator in the sewer system. This alligator apparently fed on dogs that were used as test subject to experiment a formula that supposedly made the them grow twice their size within several months. As a result of his feeding habit, the formula got into the alligator's system and he then began terrorizing the city. The script has a few problems and the acting is so-so by the virtually unknown cast, but this film proves to be exciting just the same. Starring: Robert Forester, Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo, Perry Lang, Jack Carter, Henry Silva, Bart Braverman, Dean Jagger. Directed by: Lewis Teague. B

Almost Famous (2000) R comedy

This hits everything squarely on the bullseye. It's all at the same time a touching coming-of-age story, a sharp comedy, and a love letter to 1970s rock 'n' roll. Writer/director Cameron Crowe drew from his own experiences as a writer for Rolling Stone. We follow the adventures of a sheltered 15-year-old (Patrick Fugit), a budding journalist, who goes on tour with a fictional band named Stillwater--much to the dismay of his overbearing mother (Frances McDormand). He quickly befriends a handful of groupies (who call themselves by the more respectable term Band-Aids), in particular a mysterious girl named Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). This film is an unforgettable story of one kid's most incredible adventure into a universe that he had no idea existed. He gets to experience its joys but also witness the danger of it all, and yet not get caught up in it, as though to walk to the edge and look down into the abyss of self-destructive pursuits. Starring: Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Directed by: Cameron Crowe A+

Almost Heroes (1998) PG-13 comedy

This sloppy film curiously directed by the talented Christopher Guest (Waiting for Huffman) is unfortunately the final screen performance of Chris Farley. The overly silly plot involving a group of misfit explorers competing to reach the Pacific Ocean before Lewis and Clarkís expedition contains a few laughs and a few more missed opportunities. Starring: Chris Farley, Matthew Perry, Eugene Levy, Kevin Dunn, Lisa Barbuscia, Bokeem Woodbine, Steven M. Porter. Directed by: Christopher Guest. D+

Along Came Polly (2004) PG-13 romantic comedy

While Reuben Feffer (Ben Stiller) was on his Honeymoon, he caught his new wife Lisa (Debra Messing) cheating on him with the scuba instructor. Reuben returns home in emotional ruins. Of course, the marriage is over, and he'll probably never love again. But then he reconnects with Polly, who he remembered from junior high. Her freewheeling ways are in stark contrast to the Martha-Stewart-inspired lifestyle he'd been familiar with while dating Lisa. What ensues is a standard-issue romantic comedy. It's similar to There's Something About Mary except far fewer gags. (The funniest gag being being disgustingly hilarious where Stiller gets a face full of Philip Seymour Hoffman's chest sweat.) Stiller is as charming as he is usually as he plays his standard character: the self-depreciating, semi-neurotic Everyman. But it's Hoffman who steals the show as Reuben's friend Sandy. His character is a former child actor who starred in a popular film years ago and hadn't done anything of consequence since. Except for a little stint he's in currently as Judas in a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar . . . where he's also trying to usurp the role of Jesus. This is a film where I can take the good with the bad and come out in the end with an evening's worth of decent, light entertainment. I will say, though, that the movie comes up short where it really wasn't supposed to: Stiller's and Aniston's onscreen romance don't seem to create many sparks. They should have been given more to do and more time to develop it. But with that said, they still have some decent moments. Starring: Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debra Messing, Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria, Bryan Brown, Jsu Garcia, Michele Lee, Bob Dishy, Missi Pyle, Judah Friedlander, Kevin Hart. Directed by: John Hamburg. C+

Alphaville (1965) NR sci-fi

This fantastic sci-fi classic features a Dick Tracy-like character investigating within the futuristic title-city trying to figure out what they do to people. This is a truly bizarre film, and it's a good pick for the true movie buff. In French with English subtitles. Starring: Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff, Laszlo Szabo, Howard Vernon, Michel Delahaye. Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard. A-

Altered State (1980) R sci-fi

Director Ken Russell helms this sci-fi film about a scientist (William Hurt) who plays around with hallucinogenics hoping to reveal something groundbreaking about humanity. The surrealistic sequences are priceless, and the film's tone is effectively taut. This is recommended to anyone who likes unpredictable and unconventional movies. Starring: William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, Charles Haid, Drew Barrymore, Thaao Penghlis, Miguel Godreau, Dori Brenner. Directed by: Ken Russell. A-

Always (1989) PG drama

The first moments of this lesser Steven Spielberg picture are almost unbearably corny, but once it finally gets rolling, it proves to be quite lovely. Richard Dreyfuss stars as a reckless forest fireman pilot who loves his fiancťe (Holly Hunter). He goes on a fire fighting mission where he saves the life of his best friend (John Goodman) at the expense of his own life. In heaven, he is asked by an angel (Audrey Hepburn) to serve as the inspiration for an aspiring firefighter (Brad Johnson). However, he is sent to the same place that both his fiancťe and friend reside. This is slight entertainment, but it's captivating. Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, Brad Johnson, John Goodman, Audrey Hepburn, Keith David, Roberts Blossom, Ed Van Nuys, Marg Helgenberger, Doug McGrath, J.D. Souther, Alan Rachins, Taleena Ottwell, Loren Smothers, Jim Sparkman. Directed by: Steven Spielberg. B

Amadeus (1984) PG drama

This fictional account of the life and mysterious death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is American cinema at its best. Tom Hulce plays the ever-talented but rude genius Mozart to perfection, but it was F. Murray Hamiltonís portrayal of his less talented and peeved-off colleague, Salieri, that landed the Academy Award. Undeniably, this is one of the finest films ever made. Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Simon Callow, Roy Dotrice, Christine Ebersole, Jeffrey Jones, Charles Kay, Kenny Baker, Lisbeth Bartlett, Barbara Byrne. Directed by: Milos Forman. A+

Amarcord (1973) R comedy

This funny and amiable comedy from director Federico Fellini is reportedly based on his experiences growing up in the 1930s. Bruno Zanin plays a rambunctious youth growing up Mussoliniís Italy. However, the film isnít about Mussolini. Itís about growing up and moving on. Done with Felliniís great style, this is almost sure to please. Starring: Bruno Zanin, Pupella Maggio, Armando Brancia, Magali Noel, Ciccio Ingrassia, Nando Orfei, Luigi Rossi, Gianfilippo Carcano, Josiane Tanzilli, Maria Antoinetta Beluzzi, Giuseppe Brembilla. Directed by: Federico Fellini. A-

Amelie (2001) R comedy

This quirky French comedy stars the Audrey Hepburn-like Audrey Tautou as a timid young woman who marches to the beat of a different drum. The filmmaking is punchy, creative and unique. Thatís not to mention the side-splittingly funny script. This film might not be for all tastes, but many will treasure it. Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Yolande Moreau, Artus de Penguern, Urbain Cancelier, Dominique Pinon, Maurice Benichou, Claude Perron, Isabelle Nanty, Claire Maurier. Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. A

American Beauty (1999) R comedy

Kevin Spacey plays a family man on the verge of an intense mid-life crisis and personality explosion. His life gets weird when he becomes entranced by her daughterís friend. This film is highly exaggerated but fundamentally truthful look into life in suburbia. Kevin Spacey gives the performance of his career and so does Annette Benning, who plays his slightly demented wife. This is an extremely funny movie with shocking dialogue and a disturbing (but thought provoking) ending. Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Chris Cooper, Peter Gallagher, Allison Janney, Scott Bakula, Sam Robards. Directed by: Sam Mendes. A+

American Dreamz (2006) PG-13 comedy

This is a surprisingly daring farce that tries to satirize everything from American Idol to terrorist camps to the president of the United States. This movie works, because there is an underlying heart to it (though it might be somewhat difficult to see), and half of the jokes are laugh-inducing. That's a good track record for a comedy. Starring: Dennis Quaid, Hugh Grant, Mandy Moore, Willem Dafoe, Chris Klein, Jennifer Coolidge, Sam Golzari, Marcia Gay Harden, Seth Meyers, John Cho, Judy Greer. Directed by: Paul Weitz. B-

American Graffiti (1973) PG comedy

This marvelously entertaining slice-of-life is one of George Lucasís early directing efforts, and it is fun to watch because of the characters. It follows the adventures of various high school students, in 1962, who are out one night for a drive. The cast includes the able Richard Dreyfuss, pre-Happy Days Ron Howard, the energetic Charles Martin Smith, and Harrison Ford in a bit-part. This is an engaging and unforgettable motion picture. Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Christopher Pray, Mackenzie Phillips, Al Nalbandian, William M. Niven, Charles A. Murphy, Manuel Padilla, Joseph Miksak, Ron Vincent, Lynne Stewart, Johnny Weismuller, Jr., Jan Wilson, Kathleen Quinlan, Harrison Ford. Directed by: George Lucas. A

An American Pickle (2020) R comedy

The opening scenes of this film are so funny and whimsical that it's a tragedy the rest of it shares none of these qualities. Seth Rogen stars as Hershel Greenbaum, a Russian Jew who immigrates to the US in 1919 with his beloved wife Sarah (Sarah Snook). The adorable (and very silly) chronicle of how they met, which involves Hershel buying Sarah a fish that she immediately grabs and bites a chunk out of, is laugh-out-loud funny. Then they immigrate to the US, where Sarah is expecting her first child and Hershel dreams of being rich enough to afford a cup of seltzer water. However, his dreams are dashed after he gets a job at a pickle factory, and he falls into a giant vat of pickles. At that immediate moment, the factory shuts down operations, and the vat is sealed. One hundred years later, kids sneak into the condemned factory and open the vat to discover Hershel alive and well. Somehow the pickles not only preserved him but kept him alive. He makes the news as a medical miracle, and he meets his only surviving relative, his great-grandson Ben (also Seth Rogen). Of course Hershel already was set to have trouble navigating the world of 1919 New York. But what about 2019 New York? While I enjoy Rogen's dual performances and find parts of this farce chuckle-inducing, the overall story is far too uneven, and not all of its diversions are funny. While this does make OK watch, it's unfortunate how quickly it runs out of steam. Starring: Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook, Eliot Glazer, Jorma Taccone, Kalen Allen, Molly Evensen, Kevin O'Rourke. Directed by: Brandon Trost. C

American Pie (1999) R comedy

For all of its gross-out humor involving sex-obsessed adolescents, this turns out to be a fairly endearing comedy. That's thanks largely to its central four characters being high school friends, whose friendship comes off as genuine. They also have diverse, engaging personalities, which helps me get invested in their exploits, no matter how raunchy they become. Jason Biggs stars as Jim, a high school senior. He is busted by his parents watching an adult cable channel that they don't subscribe to, and so it's all scrambled. Later his father (Eugene Levy) catches Jim having untoward relations with an apple pie. His father believes this behavior indicates Jim needs to be taught the birds and the bees (which comes by way of some hilariously awkward conversations), but really what's eating him is that he's tired of being a virgin. And so are his friends. And they make a pact that by the prom, they will lose that virginity. While all these characters are funny in their own ways, Sean William Scott nearly steals the show as the incredibly ribald Stifler. While I enjoyed this film, not everything in it works for me. A few scenes leave me wanting a little more from them. Some of the gags are just gross-out little payoff. But overall, this comes off as a breezy, likable, and quite naughty film that comes with plenty of chuckles. Starring: Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Jennifer Owen, Clyde Kusatsu. Directed by: Paul Weitz. B

American Pie 2 (2001) R comedy

It's a marked improvement over the first film even though it's still stupid. This time, the characters have just ended their first year of college. They rent a summer cottage with hopes of scoring with the local ladies. Jim (Jason Biggs) learns that the hot foreign exchange student (Shannon Elizabeth) is coming for a visit, so he goes to band camp and asks Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) for sex advice. The humor continues to be gross-out, but some of it is funny. The characters have even matured (slightly). Starring: Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Jennifer Coolidge, Alson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Tomas, Eugene Levy. Directed by: J.B. Rogers. B-

American Wedding (2003) R comedy

It was off to a horrible start, but a few well-written scenes in the middle manage to save this third installment of the American Pie saga. This time, our horny hero (Jason Biggs) is getting married to his longtime girlfriend (Alyson Hannigan). But he continues to get into some embarrassing situations. This film is pretty good considering it's the second sequel of a sophomoric film series. Naturally, it's at about the same (low) level of the previous two, but these characters haven't yet grown tiresome. Starring: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, January Jones, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Seann William Scott, Eddie Kaye Tomas, Fred Willard, Eugene Levy, Deborah Rush, Eric Allen Kramer. Directed by: Jesse Dylan. C

American Pie Presents: Band Camp (2005) R comedy

Oh no! They're making direct-to-video sequels now! The younger sibling of Steve Stifler is a similar troublemaker who plays a mean trick on the school band. He is forced to attend band camp as retribution. But he sees economic potential in this; he's going to place video cameras in the women's showers and sell the footage over the Internet. Well, Matt actually comes to appreciate band camp. The plot is paper-thin and cheesy, and absolutely none of this is funny. To its credit, it's less R-rated than the previous three films. Starring: Tad Hilgenbrinck, Arielle Kebbel, Jennifer Calcott, Jun Hee Lee, Angela Little, Jason Earles, Eugene Levy. Directed by: Steven Rash. D+

American Pie Resents: The Naked Mile (2006) R comedy

Erik Stifler, younger brother of the obnoxious ladies' man Steve from the original American Pie films, doesn't live up to the family name: he is a virgin. His girlfriend isn't ready to have sex, so she lets him attend a university's "Naked Mile" and do whatever he likes there. This is the raunchiest and least funny of them all. American Pie is the new National Lampoon. Starring: Eric Lively, Erica Durace, J.R. Bourne. Directed by: John R. Leonetti. F

The American President (1995) PG-13 comedy

A somewhat overrated comedy, Michael Douglas stars as a widower President of the U.S.A., who finds a girlfriend to the controversy of the media. The irregularity of this also helps his Republican presidential opponent (Richard Dreyfuss) launch his campaign. This is certainly worth a look. Starring: Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, Anna Deavere Smith, Samantha Mathis, Shawna Waldron, David Paymer, Anne Haney, Richard Dreyfuss, Nina Siemaszko, Wendie Malick. Directed by: Rob Reiner. B

American Splendor (2003) R comedy drama

This is a highly entertaining and interesting biopic about underground comic book artist Harvey Pekar. The performances and the character-development are pitch-perfect, which makes this one heck of a movie. Even though the characters are played by professional actors, we also get to hear from the real people in documentary style. This is a stylish and highly recommendable film. Starring: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Harvey Pekar, Shari Springer Berman, James Urbaniak, Judah Friedlander, Earl Billings, Joyce Brabner, Madilyn Sweeten, Molly Shannon, Donal Logue, James McCaffrey, Danielle Batone, Maggie Moore. Directed by: Shair Springer Berman. A+

Amistad (1997) R drama

Steven Spielberg directed this usually fascinating historical film about the 1839 rebellion on an illegal Spanish slave trading ship. Eventually, the would-be slaves make it to the United States where they are captured and sent to trial. The natural leader of the group (Djimon Hounsou) who doesnít speak a lick of English is left to try to figure out who everybody is and what they need to do to gain freedom. Parts of this film are contrived and itís generally overlong, but itís genuinely captivating. Starring: Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins, Matthew McConaughey, Nigel Hawthorne, Djimon Hounsou, David Paymer, Pete Postlethwaite, Stellan Skarsgard, Anna Paquin, Tomas Milian, Austin Pendleton, Jeremy Northam, Arlis Howard. Directed by: Steven Spielberg. B+

Anaconda (1997) PG-13 action

Itís difficult to discern if the filmmakers meant this to be a legitimate monster movie or they were making a parody. Whatever the case, it didnít give much of a result. A documentary film crew goes out to the Amazon River to film a hidden Native American tribe. They run across a stranded snake hunter (Jon Voight in a hilariously tongue-in-cheek performance) who turns out to be much more evil than they thought. They run across these mean snakes (laden with strangely fake-looking special effects) who threaten to kill everybody onboard. This movie would have been better if either the script was funnier or the action sequences were improved. Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Jonathan Hyde, Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer, Vincent Castellanos. Directed by: Luis Llosa. D+

Analyze This (1998) R comedy

This film is heavily overrated, but itís still fun. Robert De Niro stars as a Mafia boss who seeks treatment from a psychologist (Billy Crystal). Crystal reluctantly gets caught up in his exciting and illegal affairs. This film is reported to be funny, but it comes up short apart from a few chuckles. The well-chosen cast is fun to watch. Starring: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Chazz Palminteri, Bill Macy, Leo Rossi, Kyle Sabihy, Rebecca Schull, Molly Shannon. Directed by: Harold Ramis. B-

Analyze That (2002) R comedy

A blander sequel to a bland movie. This time, mob boss De Niro is in jail and fakes insanity. He is released into the custody of Crystal who tries to find him a legitimate job. But what De Niro really wants to do is return to crime. The two cast members are the only redeemable features of this unfunny flick. Starring: Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Viterelli, Reg Rogers, John Finn, Kyle Sabihy, Callie Thorne, Pat Cooper, Frank Gio. Directed by: Harold Ramis. C-

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) PG-13 comedy

This is a fitfully funny comedy set in the 1970s starring the irrepressible Will Ferrell as an egomaniac news anchor (Ron Burgundy) who battles wits with a female reporter (Christina Applegate). Applegate also battles the newsroom's (extreme) sexism! Perhaps the movie is goofier than it is funny, but it still contains its fair share of laughs. Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Fred Willard, Chris Parnell, Kathryn Hahn, Fred Armisen, Seth Rogen. Directed by: Adam McKay. B

...And Justice for All (1979) R comedy

Norman Jewisonís solid directorial hand helms this wickedly satirical look into the American legal system. Al Pacino stars as a frustrated lawyer whose once-idealistic outlooks in the system are being clouded by reality. The biting script is darkly hilarious. This is essential viewing to lawyer movie buffs. Pacino delivers a fantastically strong performance, which features a fantastic screaming fit. Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Warden, John Forsythe, Lee Strasberg, Christine Lahti, Jeffrey Tambor, Sam Levene, Robert Christian, Tomas G. Waites, Larry Bryggman. Directed by: Norman Jewison. A-

And Now For Something Completely Different (1971) PG comedy

Now, youíve got to have serious sense-of-humor problems if you donít like this re-shot compilation of Monty Pythonís best skits from the first and second season of their television show. Theyíre linked together in that classic, vaguely surreal style the troupe utilized for their show. The skits range from being amusing to side-splittingly hilarious, and it is the perfect place for the Python fan wannabe to get introduced to this clan of crazies (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam) and prepare themselves for the brilliant British television series. Already christened fans will probably want to own this film because itís film-production quality as opposed to cardboard sets. Itís on my shelf of comedy classics! Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Connie Booth, Carol Cleveland. Directed by: Ian MacNaughton and Terry Gilliam. A-

And the Ship Sails On (1984) NR comedy

Federico Fellini continues to delight in one of his final films. Watching this film is like eating a fancy and very delicious gourmet dish that you never get bored of eating. You're never sure what to expect in the film, and you eagerly want to eat up this cinematic feast but not too quickly so that you can savor it. This movie follows a troupe of opera performers who are aboard a cruise ship to exhume the ashes of a beloved diva. There's no point in going into detail about the plot, because that's not the point. Just watch the vivid (and somewhat cliched) characters interact with each other. In Italian with English subtitles. Starring: Freddie Jones, Barbara Jefford, Victor Poletti, Peter Cellier, Elisa Mainardi, Paolo Paolini, Sarah Jane Varley, Florenzo Serra. Directed by: Federico Fellini. A+

And Then There Were None (1945) NR mystery

Anyone with an undying love for mysteries should be sure to scout out this film adaptation of Agatha Christie's most celebrated novel (that also goes by the name of Ten Little Indians). Ten strangers are brought together as guests in a mysterious household, but, one by one, they turn up dead. The screenplay is fantastic; it keeps the mystery going while keeping the pace lively and even humorous. Starring: Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Louis Hayward, Roland Young, June Duprez, C. Aubrey Smith, Judith Anderson, Mischa Auer, Richard Haydn, Queenie Leonard, Harry Thurston. Directed by: Rene Clair. A-

Animal Crackers (1930) NR comedy

The picture and sound quality of this Marx Brothers vehicle are vastly improved over their debut effort, The Cocoanuts. However, the films are roughly equally as funny. A wealthy socialite, Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) hosts a soiree, and the guest of honor is explorer Captain Spaulding (Groucho) who'd just returned from a stint in Africa. At the same time, an up-and-coming artist plans to switch a prestigious work of art with his copy -- not to steal it but to prove to art critics that he is a great painter. But he makes the mistake of enlisting two musicians (Chico and Harpo) to orchestrate the switch. This film contains one of the classic Groucho lines: "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know." Chico and Harpo are invited to play songs, which includes one that continually repeats its verse, because Chico forgot how the song went. Much of the merry mayhem in this movie is gut-busting -- it's just too bad so much of the screen time is taken up by the dull-as-rocks supporting cast. Starring: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Lillian Roth, Louis Sorin, Hal Thompson, Robert Greig. Directed by: Victor Heerman. B

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) R comedy

This musical about zombies begins gleefully irrelevant. One of the more charming moments is when Anna (Ella Hunt), a high school girl, sings a song called "Turning My Life Around" while being oblivious that zombies are attacking people all around her. Another chuckle occurs in a bowling alley when a zombie's head goes through the ball return machine. But then the film loses steam when it suddenly decides to take the zombie apocalypse seriously, with characters starting to expend tears over the fallen. Breezy comedy or heavy drama--trying to do both at once is a task daunting few films (should) even dare. Nevertheless, this is a fun, unique experience altogether, and I do approve of the songs, which are quite catchy. Starring: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sara Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins, Marli Sia, Mark Benton, Paul Kaye. Directed by: John McPhail. B

Anna and the King (1999) PG-13 drama

A entertaining King and I tale about Englishwoman, Anna (Jodie Foster), traveling to Siam to teach the King's numerous royal children. There, she must learn and struggle over Siam's culture. Very colorful set and cast makes watching this film worthwhile; Jodie Foster specifically does a great job in her role. Starring: Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Bai Ling, Tom Felton, Syed Alwi, Randall Duk Kim, Lim Kay Su, Melissa Campbell, Keith Chin. Directed by: Andy Tennant. B+

Annabelle (2014) R horror

Annabelle, that scratched up, unsettling porcelain doll that was shown briefly in The Conjuring, once had a more attractive past. It is the late '60s, and Mia and John (Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton) are expecting a baby daughter. At this time, she also happens to be adding a new doll to her doll collection, Annabelle -- looking clean and prim but still quite unsettling. Suddenly, Mia is awakened at night by a scream coming from next door. She looks out her window to see her neighbors being brutally murdered. This marks only the beginning of a series of fantastical terror and chases that John and Mia must endure. While this is a well-made horror film, much like the others in the Conjuring Universe, the main characters don't strike me as particularly memorable. And while the story-arc and ending are fine, they lack that mystifying and tantalizing quality that -- well -- The Conjuring had. Nonetheless, to all of our film universe completists out there, there's no reason to skip this entry. Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola, Kerry O'Malley, Brian Howe, Eric Laden, Ivar Brogger, Gabriel Bateman. Directed by: John R. Leonetti. C+

Annabelle: Creation (2017) R horror

If you thought the previous Annabelle film explained how a demon spirit got inside that porcelain doll, think again. It goes all the way back to its creation -- in the 1940s, at a doll maker's shop. The artist is Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) who has a beautiful daughter Annabelle with her wife Esther (Miranda Otto). They live inside a wind-whipped Midwestern farmhouse. But their happy existence ends abruptly when Annabelle is tragically killed. Twelve years later, the Mullins temporarily open their house to six displaced orphaned girls. During an intense game of hide-and-seek, one of the girls finds a spot underneath the stairs where she meets eye-to-eye with the infamous doll. What this horror film does pretty well is establishing likable characters who I care enough about to be invested in their fights and flights. What's done less well, however, is the outlandish, physics-defying scares start out early on -- as opposed to letting it linger in realm of deniable plausibility before unleashing the big stuff. Nonetheless, this film has a good share of adrenaline-pumping scenes, and it contributes pretty well to the mystique behind that cursed doll. Starring: Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Grace Fulton, Philippa Coulthard. Directed by: David F. Sandberg. B-

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) PG drama

This is a good film if you're one who enjoys medieval period pieces. This one stars Richard Burton as King Henry VIII (famous for separating England from the Cathloic Church) and Genevieve Bujold as Anne Bolyn (famous royal chick who gets her head cut off). The whole thing's a bit overlong and boring, but I like the performances and the set, even though Richard Burton has done better. It was enjoyable for me, though. Starring: Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, Irene Papas, Anthony Quayle, John Colicos, Michael Hordern, Katherine Blake, Peter Jeffrey, Joseph O'Conor, William Squire, Valerie Gearon. Directed by: Charles Jarrot. B

Annie Hall (1977) PG comedy

Hailed to be Woody Allen's best, this is hilarious, clever and witty comedy that stars Allen as a comedian who relates vital aspects of his life through famous one-liners and never had a descent marriage until he met the title character, played wonderfully by Diane Keaton. Together, this couple goes through a very interesting relationship with its ups and downs. Allen's intelligent jokes never fail; they're probably the funniest concentration I've ever seen packed into two hours. A film done with skill, this is a must see! Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Paul Simon, Shelly Duvall, Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst, Christopher Walken, Janet Margolin, John Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Beverly D'Angelo, Sigourney Weaver. Directed by: Woody Allen. A+

Antebellum (2020) R horror

The film doesn't reveal what it's about until the final scenes. That should work to its advantage. But unfortunately what it devolves to is a dud. At least I enjoy much of the ride, particularly the tense escape scenes. Janelle Monae stars as Veronica, a slave on a cotton plantation. There are Confederate soldiers all over the place, preparing for battle. She has an insatiable spirit that the masters see as a threat, and they try to torture it out of her. Her masters demand she answer to the name Eden. She eventually submits, or at least pretends to. Then, there's a shocking change of scenery when Veronica wakes up in a comfy bed in a modern, upper middle class home. She is a sociologist with a PhD, often appearing as a talking head on news programs--peddling her book and talking broadly about racism. While this film certainly has noble intentions and an interesting premise, I expect it to dazzle me with shocking plot twists, as my mind was terribly intrigued by its two disconnects in time and space. But it all ends up being a big fat dud. The film also suffers a dreadful, lengthy scene in the middle where Veronica and two of her friends go to dinner. Starring: Janelle Monae, Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, Gabourey Sidibe, Marque Richardson, Robert Armayo, Lily Cowles. Directed by: Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz. C

Anything Else (2003) R comedy

It would have been well advised to discourage star Jason Biggs from acting like a younger version of director Woody Allen, because Jason Biggs doesnít even remotely have the same level of comedic flare as Allen does. I spent pretty much the entire movie wishing that Allen just let himself have the lead role and hire older supporting actors Ö or at least have given the lead role to a better actor than the guy who has sex with pies. Anyway, the dialogue is very good, even though itís not very chuckle inducing (unlike most other Allen pictures released during his later career), but thatís mostly because of Jason Biggís wooden acting abilities. The best moments of the film undoubtedly are the ones in which Allen himself has a role, as a paranoid old school teacher. Overall, though, this is pretty much the same movie as Annie Hall. That film is tons better, so Iíd just watch that one again and skip this. Starring: Jason Biggs, Christina Ricci, Woody Allen, Danny DeVito, Stockard Channing, Kadee Strickland, Jimmy Fallon, Erica Leerhsen, William Hill, David Conrad, Adrian Grenier. Directed by: Woody Allen. C

The Apartment (1960) NR comedy

Jack Lemmon plays a lonely insurance agent who is in an incredible jam. Somehow, he started loaning key to his apartment to several executives who use it to keep extramarital affairs secret from their wives. In return, Lemmon gets the promise of a hefty job promotion. After a while, his apartment is almost always occupied by some sort of a boss and he soon gets sick of it. The last straw was when an elevator operator, Shirley MacLaine, attempts suicide in his apartment. Lemmon is left to take care of this woman, which he really doesn't mind because he has a secret crush on her. A superb film on all accounts. It's funny and heartwarming at the same time. Very clever film making from Billy Wilder. Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, Edie Adams, David Lewis. Directed by: Billy Wilder. A+

Apocalypse Now (1979) R war

A tremendous war flick about Martin Sheen traveling into the depths of Vietnam to find Colonel-gone-mad Marlon Brando and kill him. It's story telling and most notably it's character development is top-notch. An excellent effort from director Francis Ford Coppola. Starring: Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, Scott Glenn, G.D. Spradlin. Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola. A

The Apostle (1997) PG-13 drama

Robert Duvall starred and directed this gripping drama, but it loses momentum by the final act. Robert Duvall stars as a charismatic preacher whose life falls apart when he discovers his wife (Farrah Fawcett) has been unfaithful, and he takes a baseball bat and kills her new lover. Duvall flees to a rural Mississippi town where he begins a new church and becomes a sort of local hero. Duvall's performance makes this worth watching. Starring: Robert Duvall, Farrah Fawcett, Miranda Richardson, Todd Allen, John Beasley, June Carter Cash, Walt Goggins, Billy Bob Thornton, Rick Dial. Directed by: Robert Duvall. B

April Morning (1988) NR war

Tommy Lee Jones stars as a British colonist residing in Kentucky who becomes involved in the very beginning of the American Revolution. The historic facts are straight but the characters aren't. Parts of the script are missing logic and are cheesy. Forget the personal "human interest" subplot; the important aspect of the film is the insight to the battle tactics of the American colonists during the Revolutionary War. The acting, even by Jones, is less than adequate. Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Urich, Chad Lowe, Susan Blakely, Meredith Salenger, Rip Torn, Philip Spensley, Jon Baggaley, Vlasta Vrana. Directed by: Delbert Mann. C+

Arachnophobia (1990) PG-13 comedy

A lethally poisonous tropical spider accidentally imported from the tropical rain forests mates with a common house spider in a small town of California. These deadly spiders soon begin to invade the world. This horror/comedy is not gory in any sense, but it will still chill your spine. John Goodman, as the crazy and egotistical bug zapper provides hilarious comic relief. Overall the film is a worthwhile view, but it's a bit too far-fetched. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Harley Jane Kozack, John Goodman, Julian Sands, Stuart Pankin, Brian McNamara, Mark L. Taylor, Henry Jones, Peter Jackson, James Handy. Directed by: Frank Marshall. B-

The Arena (1974) R action

A downright filthy and sporadically thrilling exploitation film about female slaves in Ancient Rome who fight each other to the death in a Colosseum. This film, in particular the cathartic ending, is surely part of the fabric from which Tarantino drew his influences. Pam Grier and Margaret Markov had previously starred together in Black Mama White Mama, and they continue to bear that moniker proudly. A must watch for anyone who is amenable to this kind of film. Starring: Margaret Markov, Pam Grier, Lucretia Love, Paul Muller, Daniele Vargas, Marie Louise, Mary Count, Rosalba Neri, Vassili Karis. Directed by: Steve Carver. B

Around the World in 80 Days (1956) NR adventure

A boastful English aristocrat Phileas Fogg (David Niven) makes a wager that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. He and his newly hired servant, Passepartout (Cantinflas), take off almost immediately in a hot air balloon to begin their globetrotting adventure. And it isn't just hot air balloons: They also take trains, ships and even at one point an ostrich-drawn carriage. Don't expect their journey to be realistic at all -- the anglicized representations of other cultures renders the experience far more like touring Disney World than the actual world. Brace yourself for the political incorrectness. Nonetheless, I loved this movie when I was a kid, and I continue to find the experience diverting. Filmed in widescreen and vivid Technicolor, the sets are wonderful and lavish, the outdoor scenes are oftentimes stunning, and I enjoy watching the contrasting personalities between the stuck-up Fogg and the resourceful, light-on-his-feet Passepartout. Hollywood buffs know this movie for popularizing the concept of cameos -- and there's many of them, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. Starring: David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Newton. Directed by: Michael Anderson. B+

Around the World in 80 Days (2004) PG adventure

This silly Jackie Chan adaptation of Jules Verneís classic science fiction novel sports an awful leading lady (De France) and darn shoddy direction, but the winning charm of Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan makes this entertaining. A few of the jokes are stale, though, but some of the silly gags are good for a chuckle. An entertaining bit part from Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as a great scene from the Wilson brothers. Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent is always an utter delight. Lowlights include an annoying police inspector who is assigned to follow this crew. Starring: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cecile De France, Robert Fyfe, Jim Broadbent, Ian MacNeice, David Ryall, Roger Hammond, Adam Godley, Ewan Bremnar, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Macy Gray, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, John Cleese , Kathy Bates. Directed by: Frank Corcaci. C+

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) NR comedy

Devilishly morbid and a script overflowing with jokes that hit the bullseye, it's virtually impossible for a movie to be funnier than this one. Cary Grant is Mortimer Brewster, the only sane member of the Brewster family, who brings his new wife to the family stead. The caretakers are his two aunts, sweet little old ladies, but Mortimer discovers to his shock there's a dead body in the window seat. It turns out his sweet, seemingly harmless aunts put it there. You see, they have taken to luring lonely old men to their home and poisoning them, and they are convinced that is doing them a favor. Other wacky characters are Mortimer's brother (John Alexander) who is convinced he's Theodore Roosevelt, his other brother Johnny (Raymond Massey), an escaped serial killer with a botched plastic surgery job, and an extremely shifty plastic surgeon (Peter Lorre). Cary Grant's cartoonish reactions to the crazy going-ons while also trying to prevent his new wife from finding out his family's dirty secrets is much of the fun. Starring: Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Priscilla Lane, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, Jack Carson, Edward Everett Horton, Peter Lorre, James Gleason, John Alexander. Directed by: Frank Capra. A+

Arthur (1981) PG comedy

A gold standard for romantic comedies, this movie is not only remarkably charming but it cracks me up in the process. Dudley Moore plays the title character, an alcoholic billionaire forced into a loveless engagement by his family. Should he refuse to marry her, he is cast out of the family, cut off from the money. He's a happy drunk at least, prone to cracking jokes that he finds infinitely funnier than anyone else who listens. He cackles so hard that he loses his breath. He is accompanied nearly everywhere by his ailing butler Hobson (John Gielgud) who has a deadpan, sardonic remark for any occasion -- often at the expense of Arthur, who sometimes brushes it off with minor annoyance but not so deep down loves it. They are out buying clothes one afternoon -- Arthur ordering dozens of identical shirts and sweaters -- when he spots a woman, Linda (Liza Minnelli), shoplifting a tie. He is fascinated by her. He says excitedly to Hobson: "She stole that tie! It's the perfect crime. Girls don't wear ties! Although some do. It's not a perfect crime, but it's a good crime." To which Hobson replies: "Yes, if she murdered the ties it would be the perfect crime." She ends up getting caught, but Arthur intercedes, using his personal clout to get her off. They end up gelling and he wants to marry her -- but does he risk trading his wealth for love? The performances are phenomenal -- Moore is so lovable that he accomplishes what should be impossible: makes me feel sorry for a billionaire. And a drunk one at that. His relationship with Hobson is also exceedingly charming, as it is clear they care for one another deeply. I wouldn't say I feel that bond so strongly between Moore and Minnelli, but I suppose that's because they only just met each other. This is a film I've loved through the years and surely will continue to. Landmark comedy. Starring: Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Jill Eikenberry, Stephen Elliot, Ted Ross, Barney Martin, Thomas Barbour, Anne DeSalvo. Directed by: Steve Gordon. A

Article 99 (1992) R drama/comedy

This preposterous film about a band of bureaucrat-dodging doctors in a Veterans hospital in Kansas City isnít witty when it tries to be witty and isnít exciting when it tries to be exciting. The premise, in which the patients overrun a hospital and the doctors illegally operate on a man with a heart condition, demands cheers, but it gets yawns. The good cast wasnít necessarily wasted; they do the best they can. Starring: Ray Liotta, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Lea Thompson, John C. McGinley, Kathy Baker, Eli Wallach, John Mahoney, Keith David, Noble Willingham, Julie Bovasso, Troy Evans, Lynne Thigpen, Jeffrey Tambor, Leo Burmeister. Directed by: Howard Deutch. D

As Good as it Gets (1997) PG-13 comedy

This is a hilarious romantic comedy starring Jack Nicholson as the rudest man in the world. He goes to a diner everyday for breakfast demanding that only single mother, Helen Hunt, serve him. He has taken a liking to her, but his personality gets in the way of inciting a romance. This is an endearing film that is both heartwarming and funny. The two leads won well deserved acting Oscars. Starring: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding, Skeet Ulrich, Shirley Knight, Jesse James, Yeardley Smith, Lupe Ontiveros. Directed by: James L. Brooks. A

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) R action

This is a decent action film that stars Ethan Hawke as the manager of a soon-to-be-defunct police precinct. When a bus full of prisoners, including a notorious gangster (Laurence Fishburne), get stuck in a blizzard, they seek refuge in this station. As action-movie-law would dictate, a bunch of people with guns surround the building wanting to get Fishburne out of there. This is watchable popcorn fare with a high level of violence and coarse language. Sweet. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Drea de Matteo, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Ja Rule, Maria Bello, Gabriel Byrne, Courtney Cunningham, Al J. Vrkljan, Tig Fong, Brian King. Directed by: Jean-Francois Richet. B-

Asylum (2008) R horror

Horror films that are purposefully campy don't fare that well when its early scenes aren't campy at all. I started out thinking this was supposed to be taken seriously but it gradually and rather awkwardly became apparent this was all meant to be a joke. This film is about the spirit of a mental asylum doctor who feeds off dark life experiences from the living. His spirit was dormant until a nearby university repurposed his old mental asylum into a dormitory. A small class of inaugural students with skeletons in their closet move in. The star of the film, Madison (Sarah Roemer), is still reeling after having witnessed her father's and brother's suicides. Her first moments in the new dorm involve her getting mysteriously choked by her own necklace. Of course, this film adheres to horror film mechanics, and so she investigates instead of hightailing it out of there. Unfortunately the characters in this film are so flat and uninteresting that it's not especially fun watching them get terrorized and/or mutilated. At least the insane doctor is good for a laugh or two, and the deaths are sometimes disgustingly entertaining. Starring: Sarah Roemer, Jake Muxworthy, Mark Rolston, Travis Van Winkle, Ellen Hollman, Carolina Garcia, Cody Kasch, Lin Shaye, Joe Inscoe, Gabe Wood. Directed by: David R. Ellis. C-

At the Circus (1939) NR comedy

This lesser Marx Brothers effort features the trio attempting to unearth an evil plot to take over the circus. The story isn't interesting, and the Marx antics aren't a far cry from their best. Nonetheless, this is worth it to fans. Starring: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Kenny Baker, Florence Rice, Eve Arden, Margaret Dumont, Nat Pendleton, Fritz Feld, James Burke, Jerry Marenghi, Barnett Parker. Directed by: Edward Buzzell. C+

Atlantic City (1980) R drama

Burt Lancaster stars as a former mobster, now elderly, who had a reputation in his prime for being cowardly. That makes him something of a joke, which the widower of his former boss, whom he serves as a caretaker, likes to remind him about. His vice, other than waxing nostalgic over the glory days of Atlantic City, is secretly observing a beautiful young woman (Susan Sarandon) every night in the window across his apartment. This is a calmly paced, rather beautiful film about small people who struggle to find their place in the world. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Kate Reid, Robert Joy, Hollis McLaren, Michel Piccoli, Al Waxman, Sean Sullivan, Angus MacInnes. Directed by: Louis Malle. A-

The Attack of the 50-foot Woman (1958) NR sci-fi

This is a cheapie science-fiction film with a simple story, but it's effectively told. Independently wealthy Nancy Archer (Alison Hayes) hoped to have a happy marriage, but her husband Harry (William Hudson) turns out to be a gold digger who philanders on the side with another woman, Honey (Yvette Vickers). Nancy has a history of mental illness, which Harry hopes to exploit mainly through gaslighting techniques. However, Harry's work might just be done for him, when Nancy is driving in the desert and she sees a giant, glowing orb on the side of the road. She gets out to have a look when she is approached by a giant who reaches out and tries to grab her. (The cheesiest special effects of this movie come from these giant hands, which are not-too-convincingly made.) She rushes home to report what she saw, and of course her husband doesn't believe her. She insist they go back so she can prove it to him, and he acquiesces perhaps in hopes this would prove her to be insane. But of course they find it, and Nancy once again is attacked by the giant. Hoping for the worst, her faithless husband gets back in his car and hightails. But then, it seems, this exposed Nancy to radiation and she starts growing into a giant herself. While this is hardly a sensational B-movie, it makes for an entertaining 66 minutes. I admit there's something cathartic about a seeing a horribly treated woman grow into gigantic proportions and start wreaking havoc on those who mistreat her. Starring: Allison Hayes, William Hudson, Yvette Vickers, Roy Gordon, George Douglas, Ken Terrell. Directed by: Nathan Juran. B

Auntie Mame (1958) NR comedy

The eccentric Auntie Mame (Rosalind Russell) is left to take care of her nephew after her brother dies. She wants to show him the world, but the Great Depression and her marriage gets in the way. It's the funny and unusual characters, which includes a drunk actress, a strange butler, a nerdy secretary, a spoiled fiancťe and odd in-laws, that makes this film delightful. Starring: Rosalind Russell, Forrest Tucker, Coral Browne, Fred Clark, Roger Smith, Patric Knowles, Peggy Cass, Jan Handzlik, Joanna Barnes, Pippa Scott. Directed by: Morton Da Costa. A-

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) PG-13 comedy

Austin Powers (Mike Myers) is a spy. He is also a British sex symbol with bad teeth who likes to frolic around in 1967 London. His arch nemesis, Dr. Evil (also Mike Myers) decides to freeze himself into the future where he believes his nefarious evilness will have greater impact on the world. Powers also freezes himself, thus chasing him through time. They thaw in 1997 where Austin discovers to his bafflement that the rampant sexism and freewheeling ways of the '60s had become passe. Also, lest he not forget the mission, he must stop Dr. Evil's plan to nuke the earth's core. For my tastes, the jokes could have been cleverer, as they rely mainly on repetition--the theory being longer the joke goes the funnier it gets. But often, the joke starts unfunny and ends even less funny. Nonetheless, there are a few good laughs--the gag with cleverly placed props that cover up nudity being an example. Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Fabiana Udenio, Mindy Sterling, Paul Dillon, Will Ferrell. Directed by: Jay Roach. B-

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) PG-13 comedy

The film doesn't start out too promising, as it just rattles off a bunch of gags from the first film. But it isn't long before new things start to happen, such as the introduction of Dr. Evil's mute, miniature clone Mini-Me (Verne Troyer). That character makes me laugh--he is somewhere between a child and a pet, and Dr. Evil is so proud when he does something well that I find it weirdly heartwarming. Further, the chagrin reaction of his real son (Seth Green) makes it even funnier. Fat Bastard (Mike Myers) is another new character, but he is so unfunny that it practically ruins the movie. Except when he screams at Mini-Me to "Get in my belly!" But that's just me laughing again because he's interacting with Mini-Me. The storyline is pretty thin, but that's to be expected. Dr. Evil uses Fat Bastard to go back in time to steal Austin Powers' mojo, which is a liquid that fits inside a vial. The idea is that if Powers loses his mojo, he wouldn't be in much of a position to stop Evil's nefarious plots. Which is to destroy Washington DC in 1969 if they don't give him $100 billion. Powers' love interest is the stunning and vigorous Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) who he has trouble ravaging due to the lost mojo. Some cameos from Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello, Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson add to the fun. Starring: Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Rob Lowe, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Verne Trover, Will Ferrell. Directed by: Jay Roach. B-

Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) PG-13 comedy

The previous two Austin Powers films were good but only in fits and bursts. This second sequel is the only one of the trilogy that's consistently funny. The bright dancing in the opening sequence is a fine prelude to what the rest of the movie is like -- it's the same as the previous two films, except it's bigger and funnier. The film also contains several other musical sequences here that are surprisingly delightful. The comedic improvement even extends to Fat Bastard, who I found nearly intolerable in The Spy Who Shagged Me. Here he actually has a few decent moments. Keeping me on my toes are frequent bubbly cameos strewn throughout and some strange but very funny gags. For example Beyonce who plays a secret agent who wants to converse incognito with Powers, and she uses Nathan Lane to mouth her words. Maybe that doesn't sound especially funny the way I wrote it, but that scene was done so well it had me laughing hysterically. The best character of the film continues to be Mini-Me (Verne Troyer) who at one point becomes so disillusioned with being evil that he joins the good guys. And what does he do? He dresses up as a Mini-Austin Powers. Michael Caine is also a treasure as Powers' absent father. He says that giggle-inducing line: "There are only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures and the Dutch." And he has a reason to hate the Dutch, because a Dutch couple stole one of his babies. While some of the jokes do fire blanks -- for example I'm not a big fan of Mike Myers' new character Goldmember -- there's enough goodness for me to dub this film a minor comedic gem. It is however not recommended to skip the first two films and go directly to this, as there are quite a few "inside jokes" that are worth being part of. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this movie is it has an unexpectedly affecting and heartwarming ending. Starring: Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles, Michael York, Michael Caine, Robert Wagner, Rob Lowe, Seth Green, Verne Troyer, Mindy Sterling, Fred Savage, Brian Tee, Masi Oka, Clint Howard. Directed by: Jay Roach. B+

Avalon (1990) PG drama

This movie is so endearing that I want to give it a big hug. These types of heavily sentimental movies aren't even my bag, usually, and yet I fell head-over-heels in love with this. The story is a series of vignettes centering around a Jewish immigrant (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who came to America in the 1910s with wide-eyed optimism. He is a warm father and grandfather, and he watches proudly as his sons thrive in the American dream. He has a particularly strong bond with his precarious grandson (Elijah Wood). Seeing them interact is like sipping warm tomato soup. Of course this family isn't without their squabbles (their spicy banter with one another oftentimes gets hilarious). And, naturally, there's tragedy. Be sure to bring a hankie. Starring: Armin Mueller-Stahl, Aidan Quinn, Eve Gordon, Elizabeth Perkins, Lou Jacobi, Leo L. Fuchs, Joan Plowright, Elijah Wood, Israel Rubinek, Kevin Pollack, Grant Gelt, Moishe Rosenfeld. Directed by: Barry Levinson. A

The Avengers (1998) PG-13 action

This is a big flashy spy film that unfortunately lacks any sense of intrigue. That might be because its primary focus was kept on routine action sequences and knuckle-headed sight gags. There's an infamous scene during a corporate board meeting in which all its members are fully decked out in colorful teddy bear costumes. It was probably supposed to be quirky, but it only came off goofy because it didn't make any sense. Sean Connery stars as Sir August de Wynter, a mastermind villain who figured out how to control the earth's weather. What does he do with this discovery? He holds the world ransom. Something as silly as that might have made a decent premise for spoof, but this film certainly doesn't play like a spoof. The hero of the film is John Steed (Ralph Fiennes), a refined English gentleman who in addition to being an expert at hand-to-hand combat has a quick wit. His partner is Emma Peel (Uma Thurman) who is so blase that she waltzes into a gentleman's lodge, becoming the first woman to do so since the 18th Century. (You go, girl.) For all this movie's flaws, I will say at least Fiennes was perfectly cast in this role, even though his character is written so poorly that he has roughly the personality of a mannequin. Thurman is fine but underutilized. Connery is miscast -- he doesn't play his role as a villain so differently than he does in any of his other movies where he's the hero. Starring: Ralph Feinnes, Uma Thurman, Sean Connery, Jim Broadbent, Fiona Shaw, Eddie Izzard, Eileen Atkins, Carmen Ejogo. Directed by: Jeremiah S. Chechik. D+

The Aviator (1985) PG adventure

Christopher Reeve stars as a bitter mail pilot who is forced to escort the bratty daughter (Rosanna Arquette) of a millionaire from Nevada to Seattle. Unfortunately, their plane crashes in the mountains. Argument and romance ensues. This is a watchable film with a predictable script and poor acting. Starring: Christopher Reeve, Rosanna Arquette, Jack Warden, Sam Manamaker, Scott Wilson. Directed by: George Miller. C-

The Aviator (2004) PG-13 drama

This tremendous biopic from director Martin Scorsese effectively profiles the larger-than-life oil tycoon/movie director/aviation innovator/nutzo Howard Hughes. Played superbly by Leonardo DiCaprio (who came a long way from his shoddy acting talents in Titanic), this movie will hook you from the start and timelessly take you through its 170-minute running length. This is a fantastic film. Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Ian Holm, Danny Huston, Gwen Stefani, Jude Law, Adam Scott, Matt Ross, Kelli Garner. Directed by: Martin Scorsese. A

The Awful Truth (1937) NR comedy

This screwball comedy also tells a fine romance story. It opens as Cary Grant lays on a tanning bed to fake that he's been on a Florida beach for a week. He'd told his wife (Irene Dunne) he vacationed in there when really he was relaxing at the gym. When he returns home, he finds his wife had spent a fancy evening with her music teacher, a comely bachelor. When she finds out he wasn't really in Florida, they mutually suspect each other of cheating, and they file for divorce. The most chucklesome part of the divorce proceedings being who gets custody of Mr. Smith, their Wire Fox Terrier, and the terms of visiting rights for the other. This film has plenty of great lines that frequently make me laugh out loud. Legend has it most of this was ad libbed, but I would hardly have known it. Starring: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy, Alex D'Arcy, Cecil Cunningham, Molly Lamont, Esther Dale, Joyce Compton, Robert Allen, Robert Warwick, Mary Forbes, Skippy. Directed by: Leo McCarey. A-


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