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List of "S" Movies

Saboteur (1942) NR suspense

Alfred Hitchcock directed this enjoyable film about a man (Robert Cummings) wrongly accused of sabotage. He manages to escape from the police, and he tries to clear his name. As he digs, he discovers an intricate conspiracy. Along the way, he meets and falls in love with a billboard model (Priscilla Lane). The climax, which occurs on top of the Statue of Liberty, can only be topped by the Mt. Rushmore scene from North By Northwest. Starring: Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lane, Norman Lloyd, Otto Kruger, Murray Alper, Vaughan Glaser, Alma Kruger, Dorothy Peterson. Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. A-

Sabrina (1954) NR romantic comedy

This beloved classic staring screen legends Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart centers around a shy girl (Hepburn), a daughter of a chauffeur, and her radical transformation when sent to culinary school in Paris. She suddenly becomes noticed by the man she had a crush on (William Holden), but such a matching was never meant to be because Holden was scheduled to marry someone to incite an important merger with the family company. So, Bogart does everything he can to stop it Ö but he finds himself falling in love with her. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, Walter Hampden, John Williams, Francis X. Bushman, Martha Hyer, Joan Vohs, Marcel Dalio, Marcel Hillaire, Nella Walker, Ellen Corby, Bill Neff. Directed by: Billy Wilder. A

Sahara (2005) PG-13 action

This entertaining screen adaptation of a Clive Cussler novel stars Matthew McConaughey as a treasure hunter who suspects that a Civil War era iron clad ship is buried somewhere within the Sahara Desert. Meanwhile a W.H.O. operative (Penelope Cruz) investigates the source of a deadly new disease. A lot of it is absurd, but the film is exciting and beautifully shot. Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, Penelope Cruz, Lambert Wilson, Glynn E. Turman, Delroy Lindo, William H. Macy. Directed by: Breck Eisner. B-

St. Elmo's Fire (1985) R drama

A close-knit group of seven--riddled with love triangles--graduate college and embark on life in the real world. They have a rough go at it. These characters aren't so likable, but there's good reason: They're new at being adults. People (with upper middle class backgrounds) aren't likable necessarily when they enter this phase. Especially for the first time. They suddenly have to worry about things that matter like jobs, rent, and . . . marriage. While this isn't a whimsical or even pleasant film, the script is smart, and it has its fair share of chuckles. There's also something that rings true about the characters. While we never see them fully mature into adults, we do see them inch closer to it. Starring: Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Mare Winningham, Andrew McCarthy, Martin Balsam, Andie MacDowell. Directed by: Joel Schumacher. B

Salvador (1986) R drama

Oliver Stones directs this hard-hitting drama about an ambitious photojournalist (James Woods) who travels to El Salvador for freelance work. However, he witnesses some malicious going-ons and sacrifices his safety to uncover the truth about genocide in El Salvador. This is an exciting, politically charged film that's not to be taken lightly. It's also not to be missed for Stone fans even though it lacks the compelling nature of some of his later films. Starring: James Woods, James Belushi, Michael Murphy, John Savage, Elpidia Carrillo, Cynthia Gibb, Colby Chester. Directed by: Oliver Stone. B+

The Sand Pebbles (1966) NR drama

Steve McQueen stars in this entirely good film about a Navy boat stationed off the shores of China just before the Communist revolution. However, the true focus on the film is the very realistic relationship between the sailors and the locals, which provided a metaphor for the race-relations in the 1960s. Today, the film is still very relevant and entertaining with McQueen giving one of the best performances of his career. Critics sometimes overstate the power of this film, however. It's captivating, but it's not really moving. Starring: Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Richard Crenna, Candice Bergen, Marayat Andriane, Mako, Larry Gates, Charles Robinson, Simon Oakland, Ford Rainey, Joseph Turkel, Gavin Macleod, Joe DiReda, Richard Loo, Barney Phillips, Gus Trikonis. Directed by: Robert Wise. A-

The Santa Clause (1994) PG comedy

Tim Allen is Scott Calvin, a grouchy toy company executive who on Christmas Eve inadvertently causes Santa Claus to fall off the roof of his house and die. Calvin is convinced by his young son to don Santa's clothes and continue the route (thankfully the reindeer know the way). Then, they get to the North Pole where Calvin discovers that he's officially the new Santa Claus--an obligation that he cannot get out of. While one of the lesser films to find its way into Yuletide's classic film library, Tim Allen is genuinely funny as a grump who never had interest in commanding a city of elves. Starring: Tim Allen, Eric Lloyd, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, David Krumholtz, Mary Gross. Directed by: John Pasquin. B-

The Santa Clause 2 (2002) PG comedy

The original didn't have much edge but at least it had Tim Allen trapped unwillingly in a land of Christmas cheer. It's not as fun in this sequel after he'd fully embraced his fate as the big man of the North Pole. This time, Scott Calvin learns he needs to find a wife ASAP or he'll get kicked out of the North Pole. While he's off wooing the ladies, his robotic replacement back in the North Pole tries to fashion a fascist empire. This film has the appropriate amount of cutesy Christmas cheer, but most of the gags don't work. Starring: Tim Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell, David Krumholtz, Eric Lloyd, Judge Reinhold, Wendy Crewson, Spencer Breslin, Liana Mumy. Directed by: Michael Lembeck. C-

Santa Jaws (2018) TV-PG action

Intended to be so-bad-it's-good, but it forgot that it needed more than just a ridiculous premise. Seeing a shark swim around with a Santa hat on its fins and gaining powers through consuming Christmas decorations is silly, but sitting through it is a bore. Starring: Reid Miller, Courtney Lauren Cummings, Jim Klock, Carrie Lazar, Arthur Marroquin, Miles Doleac, Haviland Stillwell, Hawn Tran. Directed by: Misty Talley. D

Satisfaction (1988) PG-13 comedy

Lacking much of a premise, this film about a four-girl, one-guy rock group working a job in a club for the summer is merely notable for containing a before-she-was-famous appearance from Julia Roberts, who is an awful bass guitarist. The melodrama is poorly developed and most attempts at comedy fall flat as well. Starring: Justine Bateman, Liam Neeson, Trini Alvarado, Scott Coffey, Britta Phillips, Julia Roberts, Deborah Harry. Directed by: Joan Freeman. D

Saturday Night Fever (1977) R drama

By day, he is a blue-collar teenager with a menial job at a hardware store. By night, he's a Greek god. This is of course the John Travolta disco movie. It was sensation at the time of its release, and this is of course a must-watch for any pop culture historian. The dancing is not really focus but rather the man behind the dancing. Or rather the barely-a-man. He doesn't seem to treat people too well, particularly women, including his dance partner Annette who is infatuated with him. He unceremoniously dumps her in an upcoming dance contest and instead trains with a woman he'd been admiring at a ballet studio. This is a movie about vulgar people, and it isn't pretty. Except in those moments he gets to spend dancing it up in the club. This is a terrific, resonant film, and Travolta's finest performance . . . probably ever. Stellar soundtrack by the Bee Gees. Starring: John Travolta, Karen Gorney, Barry Miller, Joseph Cali, Paul Pape, Bruce Ornstein, Donna Pescow, Val Bisoglio, Julie Bovasso, Nina Hansen, Lisa Peluso, Sam Coppola. Directed by: John Badham. A-

Saturday the 14th (1981) PG horror comedy

If Friday the 13th is unlucky, Saturday the 14th is the worse. At least that's what's claimed in an ancient book of spells called The Book of Evil, found in an old mansion inherited by the Hyatt family. A young boy reads passages in the book and unwitting unleashing monsters and other spooky going-ons in their house--much of which happen without their parents noticing. This is a silly, cheapie send-up of monster movies (not slasher movies) that might not be so much hilarious as they are clever and humorous. For instance, Van Helsing shows up as an exterminator to get rid of a little bat problem, a swamp monster appears in a bathtub, the only channel their television set picks up is The Twilight Zone. Starring: Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, Jeffrey Tambor, Kari Michaelsen, Rosemary DeCamp, Kevin Brando, Nancy Lee Andrews, Stacy Keach Sr. Directed by: Howard R. Cohen. B

Saved! (2004) PG-13 comedy

This satirical but strangely heartfelt look at Christians and their hypocracy is highlighted by pop star Mandy Moore, who pokes fun at her good-girl image. Itís an interesting film with a few great laughs, but itís pointedly unfair to Christianity. Starring: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri. Directed by: Brian Dannelly. B-

Saving Private Ryan (1998) R war

Tom Hanks stars as an army captain who, along with a handful of other soldiers in World War II, must go beyond enemy lines to locate the title character and send him home to his mother whose other three sons have died. This is effectively a piece of satire commenting on the ridiculous beaurocracy involved in wars, but it also is an effective portrayal of the horrors of war. The gore gets a little bit over the top, but this is one of the most unforgettable film from the 1990s. Starring: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldbery, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Matt Damon, Dennis Farina, Ted Danson, Harve Presnell, Dale Dye. Directed by: Steven Spielberg. A

Saw (2004) R horror

A simply conceived film that takes place almost entirely in the confines of a single, dilapidated room. A photographer (Leigh Whannell) wakes up to find his foot chained to a pipe. A doctor (Cary Elwes) is also chained up on the other side of the room. In between them is a mysterious corpse -- a man who seemed to have shot himself in the head. They play a tape-recorded message. It's for the doctor, a deep, gravelly voice stating that he must kill the photographer by 6 o'clock or his wife and daughter will die. What ensues is a gruesome escape room, as these two -- suspicious of one another -- uncover further clues about how to get out and learn more about the Jigsaw Killer, the supposed genius who orchestrated this. In the meantime, we see flashbacks of a woman named Amanda (Shawnee Smith) who is the only known survivor of one of the killer's gruesome traps. The purpose of this movie is to be so disgusting such that it causes its viewers to retch. To that point it certainly succeeds -- this is indeed a horrifyingly violent film. Beyond that, there's a moderately engaging mystery at its core, as well as some decent plot twists. While this is undoubtedly a dreary film on the whole, it's one that successfully intrigued me more than it simply disgusted me. Starring: Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, Mike Butters, Paul Gutrecht, Tobin Bell. Directed by: James Wan. B-

Saw II (2005) R horror

The no-holds-barred gruesomeness is back. This time, the scale increased such that it's a dilapidated escape house, rather than just a room. A handful of strangers awaken having no idea who put them there and why. Thanks to a tape player recovered behind some bricks, the culprit is quickly revealed to be the dreaded "Jigsaw Killer" who tells them with his creepy, gravelly voice that they'll be able to escape as soon as they can work out what they all have in common. Seems simple enough, but the "participants" don't seem terribly interested in working together. Instead, they fight while they navigate (unsuccessfully) through the house's many deadly (and strikingly creative) booby traps. In the meantime, a cop (Donnie Wahlberg) is on the verge of arresting the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) when it is revealed that the cop's son (Erik Knudtson) is one of the victims in the house. Like the first film of the series, this is a disgustingly entertaining horror/mystery that continues to have well-orchestrated plot twists. One of the features is we get to hear more from the Jigsaw Killer who likes to sanctimoniously wax philosophy about why he likes to put people through such ordeals. His reasoning: He only picks people who he views as wasting their lives anyway. By bringing them to the brink of death, they will learn how to appreciate life more. Seems dumb, but whatever. Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Donnie Wahlberg, Erik Knudsen, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Beverly Mitchell. Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman. B

Saw III (2006) R horror

The previous two Saw films titillated my senses with the shocking violence and gore, but they also had decent storylines and nice plot twists. For sure, we get some of that here, but not nearly at the same level. Further, to satisfy those in the audience who’ve become desensitized by the violence in the first couple of films, the dial is upped here considerably with not only blood and guts but rotting things. Grossness is its reason for its being, but I felt more sick to my stomach than titillated. Give the film credit, however, for not just being a third rehash of the escape room motif. This time, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) uses his mad-genius to help a man named Jeff (Angus Macfayden) enact sweet revenge to those responsible for the man who killed his son in a drunk-driving accident getting off with a measly six-month sentence. That is, these people were kidnapped and placed in a variety of death chambers, and he gets to choose whether to save them or kill them. In the meantime, Jigsaw is dying of brain cancer and forces a surgeon named Lynn (Bahar Soomekh) to perform an unorthodox surgery on him. If she is unsuccessful and his heart stops beating, then the collar he locked around her neck will explode. The film has some good elements, some bad -- the worst part being Jigsaw becoming less of a mystifying figure (and more of an annoying figure) as we come to learn more about him. Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfayden, Bahar Soomekh, Donnie Wahlberg, Dina Meyer, Leigh Whannell, Mpho Koaho. Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman. C

Saw IV (2007) R horror

Up until now, the Saw films had fitfully absorbing storylines -- in addition of course to the stomach-churning violence and gore. In this sequel, the storyline is so convoluted such that it is incomprehensible, and thus all I'm left with is to languish with the torture scenes. Which are even more disgusting than ever. A woman gets her scalp ripped off, a man gets his eye gouged out, a couple are impaled by metal spikes. They all did something horrific to deserve these fates, at least according to the twisted logic of the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell). Who, by the way, died in the previous movie. How he's still "causing" all this mayhem was a sort of macabre Rube Goldberg device he put into motion before dying. This is certainly an interesting idea, but it isn't executed well. Ultimately, there's nothing inherently frightening about a mastermind killer who isn't around to pull the strings. Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Lyriq Bent, Athena Karkanis, Justin Louis, Donnie Wahlberg, Angus Macfadyen, Shawnee Smith. Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman. D

Saw V (2008) R horror

As Chevy Chase used to say in one of his famous SNL skits, "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead." Same thing with the Jigsaw killer. Yet, he continues to cause brutal deaths from beyond the grave. This movie opens with five people chained up in an underground lair. Jigsaw comes on video and tells the "participants" to do the opposite of whatever their instincts tell them. A somewhat tantalizing premise, but that doesn't actually happen. What we get is much closer to a gruesome version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Someone getting bumped off in every escape room. The puzzles they have to navigate are terminally uninteresting, and the characters are so bland that I don't care if they live or die. Maybe I'm even rooting for all of them to die quickly so that this tedious movie would end faster. Severed heads, arms, blood gushing out of the chest. Bring it on. Don't let the bodies get cold before Saw VI. Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Julie Benz, Meagan Good, Mark Rolston, Carlo Rota, Greg Bryk. Directed by: David Hackl. D

Saw VI (2009) R horror

The Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) is still dead. Yet, the mayhem continues. The victim this time should be cathartic to many: A health insurance executive, William (Peter Outerbridge). His sin was denying Jigsaw the experimental cancer treatment that might have saved his life. One of the better Saw films in the franchise, it went back to its roots in a way -- plopping a guy in an escape room and forcing him to perform a series of gruesome acts to get himself out. What makes this film more unique is the escape room also features other imprisoned people. William is forced to look them in the eye and decide which one lives and which one dies. That's, after all, what he does at his job anyway, except he doesn't usually watch anyone die. As expected, this film loaded with an abundance of blood and guts. The torture and death devices are inventive -- at least more so than they had been since probably the second film. The storyline also throws in a few decent twists into the mix. While I can't say this film completely gets my juices flowing, it's a decently entertaining gore-fest. Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell, Shawnee Smith, Peter Outerbridge, Athena Karkanis. Directed by: Kevin Greutert. C+

Scarface (1983) R crime

The gothic electronic soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder integrates into this film so brilliantly that it wouldn't have been as poetic without it. This is an amazing film on so many levels, and I could hardly turn my attention away from it. The most prominent being the intense performance by Al Pacino as the Cuban gangster Tony Montana. So firmly stamped he is in our pop culture lexicon that practically anyone can mimic (of varying degrees of quality) "Say hello to my little friend" before he blasts a grenade into a double door. I like this character. He can crack a joke, but you don't want him to stare menacingly at you. He knows how to get power, how to form alliances, who to betray, but he doesn't know what to do when he gets it. This film is grizzly and violent, even by today's standards, but it's also stylish and artful. The cinematography is phenomenal--the fluid camera movement, panning, zooming make every scene seem important and even beautiful. The story is a simple one, chronicling the rise and fall of this gangster. His rise shown peaking in the middle of the film with a montage. Even the montage is amazing. It features the song "Push It To the Limit." The ending of the film is sensational and exhilarating. I really can hardly think of a cooler film than this one. Starring: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, Miriam Colon, F. Murray Abraham, Paul Shenar, Harris Yulin, Angel Salazar, Arnaldo Santana, Pepe Serna, Michael P. Moran, Al Israel. Directed by: Brian De Palma. A+

Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark (2019) PG-13 horror

A group of kids explore a dilapidated mansion where they find a book of stories written by a previous occupant who had committed suicide. It isn't long before they discover that new scary stories are actively being written in the book--the contents of which are being played out in real life. This movie makes me feel like a kid laying under my covers, reading disgusting horror tales, being scared tickled. While hardly the most thrilling or psychologically affecting horror film one could watch, this is nonetheless a fun adventure about an array of spooky monsters that like to chase kids. Starring: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gill Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint. Directed by: Andre Ovredal. B

Scenes From a Mall (1990) R comedy

This is a disappointing pairing of Woody Allen and Bette Midler who play a couple celebrating their 16th wedding anniversary. While theyíre shopping for their party at the mall, Allen divulges that he had an affair. Through the course of the film, their relationship experiences a few sharp turns. The film exhibits stark few laughs (Allen didnít write the script), and some of it is utterly corny. This is only for those who are in love with either of the two stars. Starring: Bette Midler, Woody Allen, William Irwin, Daren Firestone, Rebecca Nickels, Paul Mazursky. Directed by: Paul Mazursky. C-

Schindler's List (1993) R drama

Steven Spielberg directs this almost strangely enjoyable movie about the holocost. An aspiring German businessman, Oskar Schindler, brilliantly played by Liam Neeson, uses Jews as labor making pots and pans. He hires Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley). Stern hates seeing people die because they are "useless" (i.e. one armed, too old, too slow). So, he hires them to work at Schindler's factory. At first, Oskar Schindler is hazy about this notion, but ends up being a compassionate Nazi who saves 1,000 Jews from an untimely death. This is rightfully considered one of the better movies of the 1990s. Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle, Embeth Davidtz, Andrzej Seweryn, Norbert Weisser, Elina Lowensohn. Directed by: Steven Spielberg. A+

School for Scoundrels (2006) PG-13 comedy

Jon Heder is typecasted as a nerdy dork who doesn't have much self confidence, and he can't win the love of his dream girl. So, he enrolls in the title-course, run by a Nazi-esque teacher (Billy Bob Thornton). This is an extremely uneven film with a contrived ending. Some of the laughs are OK, but that's only if you still think Heder's Napoleon Dynamite schtick packs a punch. Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Heder, Jacinda Barrett, Michael Clarke Duncan, Luis Guzman, David Cross, Horatio Sanz, Sarah Silverman, Matt Walsh, Todd Louiso. Directed by: Todd Phillips. C

The School of Rock (2003) PG-13 comedy

Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is a self-absorbed guitarist who impersonates a substitute teacher to take a long-term position at a prestigious private school. He teaches the kids precisely nil until he realizes some of them have real musical talent. Lightbulbs flash, and he decides to start a rock band. Practice is on-hours and kept secret from their neurotic principal (Joan Cusack, in a funny performance). He also gives a few lectures on rock 'n' roll history, out of interest in teaching them things that really matter. The prime story arc of this film might be predictable, but I sure had fun watching it. That's thanks largely to Black's high-energy, affable goofball persona. I also get a rather heartwarming sense that he cares deeply about his students, and his lessons which -- even as trivial as they might look -- are helping these kids grow as human beings. Even those of us relegated to the audience: No matter who you are and what you're trying to achieve in life, it can never hurt to let loose and unleash your inner Jack Black. Starring: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Jordan-Claire Green, Veronica Afflerbach, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos Jr., Robert Tsai, Angelo Massagli, Kevin Clark, Maryam Hassan, Caitlin Hale, Cole Hawkins. Directed by: Richard Linklater. B+

The Science of Sleep (2006) R comedy

From the mind of Michel Gondry (director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) comes this similarly surreal comedy about a young and intensely creative artist (Gael Garcia Bernal) who has a hard time telling his fantasies from reality. He falls madly in love with his neighbor (Charlotte Gainsbourg), but it's unrequited, which makes him even madder. This is a thoroughly weird movie, and one that would surely stick with you. It's among the more successfully creative films ever made. Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alain Chabat, Miou-Miou, Emma De Caunes. Directed by: Michel Gondry. A+

Scissors (1991) R horror

This psychological thriller is crazy enough to be interesting -- even if I find the ending quite unsatisfactory. The set-up is mystifying but it ultimately leaves far too many threads unresolved. Nonetheless I enjoy the ride with its uneasy pacing and the spooky and surreal plot twists. Sharon Stone stars as Angela, a woman suffering from sexual repression who fends off an attempted rapist in an elevator. It was a man with a red beard who she stabs with a pair of red-handled scissors. She has a peculiar habit of collecting these types of scissors, which up until that particular moment she used exclusively to restore antique dolls. She has so many of these dolls in her apartment that they've completely taken over her bedroom and she sleeps on the couch. After the attempted rape, which she confesses to her psychiatrist (Ronny Cox) is her first sexual encounter, she meets her neighbor Alex (Steve Railsback) who takes a special interest in her well-being. Alex has a wheelchair bound brother Cole (also Railsback) whose behavior towards her becomes increasingly frightening. The film features plenty of plot twists and peculiar scenes that -- even if some of them remain unexplained -- I find myself nevertheless entranced by them. Starring: Sharon Stone, Steve Railsback, Ronny Cox, Michelle Phillips, Vicki Frederick, Leonard Rogel, Carl Ciarfalio, Howie Guma, Kelly Noonan. Directed by: Frank De Felitta. B-

The Scottish Tale (1997) R comedy

Iíve never seen anything quite as painful as this independentally produced version of Macbeth. The plot is stupid, and the characters' reactions to situations isn't logical. Rent this film, and youíll be screaming at it by the time itís over. It's admirable for someone to make a low budget movie, but in this case the money would have been put to better use purchasing some Big Gulps. Starring: Ann Boehlke, Josiah Polhemus, Camilla Polhemus, Marcia Rodd, Robert Ross, Jack Betts, Joe Myles, Sandy Kenyon. Directed by: Mackinlay Polhemus. F

Scream (1996) R horror comedy

This is a tongue-in-cheek send-up of slasher movies, but it's a legitimate slasher movie in its own right. Director Wes Craven wanted to have a little fun, and it paid off. A man dressed up as Edvard Munch's title-painting is terrorizing a small town. A teenager (Neve Campbell), whose mother was tragically murdered a year beforehand, has a few particularly bad run-ins with this maniac. Will this unknown killer be caught before he can get to her? This is an excellently done thriller that can even be enjoyed by people who aren't accustomed to the genre. Starring: Neve Campbell, Liev Schreiber, Courtney Cox Arquette, Steet Ulrich, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy, Matthew Lillard, Drew Barrymore, Henry Winkler, Lawrence Hecht, Linda Blair, W. Earl Brown. Directed by: Wes Craven. B+

Screwballs (1983) R comedy

I like crass teen comedies about horny teenage boys (played by 30-year-olds) as much as the next person, but this one--about a quest to expose the bare breasts of a girl named Purity Busch--just isn't funny. Starring: Peter Keleghan, Kent Deuters, Linda Speciale, Alan Deveau, Linda Shayne, Jason Warren, James Coburn, Terrea Smith. Directed by: Rafal Zielinski. D

Scrooged (1988) PG-13 comedy

Bill Murray is Frank, a penny-pinching television executive. He forces his staff to work over Christmas to put on an extravagant live version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. All the meanwhile, he lives out his own, whacked-out version of the same tale. The Ghost of Christmas Past is an erratic, cigar-chomping taxicab driver (David Johansen) who takes Frank back to his childhood in his rough blue-collar home. The Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane) is a fairy princess with a screwy violent streak who shows him, among other things, the troubles of his secretary (Alfre Woodard), whose young son hasn't spoken a word since his father died. The Ghost of Christmas Future is faceless and silent, showing Frank's grim future if he doesn't change course. This lavish, big budget film is awfully messy, and it has lots of moving parts, but I like it. There's no one quite like Bill Murray who can carry a film like this -- prone to belting out sardonic retorts to anyone who dares reproach him. But then through it all, he falls to pieces when he realizes the extent he's passed over family, friendship and true love for the sake of his career . . . which culminates with this utterly ridiculous television special. The film flows in a surreal manner that's quite amazing -- the ghosts often plopping him in places he doesn't expect. Murray always providing a satisfying reaction whether it is blissful, shock or despair. This is a dark comedy, and not like your typical Christmas special, but I loved it when I was a kid and I continue to. Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, John Glover, Bobcat Goldthwait, David Johnansen, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Nicholas Phillips, Michael J. Pollard, Alfre Woodard, Buddy Hackett, Brian Doyle Murray. Directed by: Richard Donner. B+

The Sea Inside (2004) R drama

This is a moving account of a paraplegic man who wants nothing more than to legally commit suicide. His lawyers fight the courts and a few friends and family members try to convince him to live. Itís gorgeous and haunting, and it has a convincing message. Itís in Spanish with English subtitles. Starring: Javier Bardem, Belen Rueda, Lola Duenas, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo, Clara Segura, Joan Dalmau, Alberto Jimenez, Tamar Novas. Directed by: Alejandro Amenabar. A

Seabiscuit (2003) PG-13 drama

I like this movie because it's about horses and goodhearted people who love horses. Tobey Maguire is Red Pollard, a jockey with a ton of passion but too tall for serious horse owners. When automobile mogul Charles S. Howard (Jeff Bridges) decides to get into the business, heart is what he is looking for. Red Pollard is his man. That's also why he hired trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), despite being roundly dismissed as a crackpot, and purchased an incorrigible horse named Seabiscuit. This is an underdog story three times around, and it knows how to tug the heartstrings. Hardly a great movie, though. It's too soft around the edges, and it drags an awful lot. Forty-five minutes left on the cutting room floor would have improved things. It also could have done without the hokey narration. Nonetheless, fine film. Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Gary Stevens, William H. Macy, Eddie Jones. Directed by: Gary Ross. B

The Secret Lives of Dentists (2003) R comedy/drama

A dentist (Campbell Scott) is undergoing a mid-life-crisis and suspects that his wife (Hope Davis), also a dentist, is having an affair. Upon this mounting suspicion, he goes semi-schizophrenic, which provides some very funny scenes from his phantom, played by Denis Leary. The script, which has been criticized as being cliched, is nonetheless compelling, and the three girls (playing the couplesí kids) are great assets. Starring: Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Denis Leary, Gianna Beleno, Lydia Jordan, Cassidy Hinkle. Directed by: Alan Rudolph. B+

The Secret of My Success (1987) PG-13 comedy

Michael J. Fox stars in this comedy as a boy from Kansas who goes to New York City to make his fortune in the business world. When he gets there, he finds that New York is a dirty place with mean people, and he can't get a job anywhere without experience. That is, until he realizes that he has a powerful uncle who is the head of a large company. So, he lands a job in the mail room, but that's not where he wants to be. One day, while making his rounds delivering mail, he notices an empty office. An idea pops into his head and he soon decides to move in and start making important corporate decisions. Along the way, he becomes romantically involved with a "colleague" and has an interesting relationship with his aunt. This film is not great entertainment, but it suffices if you're a stickler for comedy. Starring: Michael J. Fox, Helen Slater, Richard Jordan, Margaret Whitton, John Pankow, Fred Gwynne, Elizabeth Franz, Christopher Durang, Mercedes Ruehl. Directed by: Herbert Ross. C+

The Secret of NIMH (1982) G animated

Animator Don Bluthís first feature film since breaking away from Disney is a dark and exciting adventure about a mouse whose home becomes threatened by a farmerís tractor. She turns to a secret society of intelligent rats living in a rose bush for guidance. This is a highly engaging animated film, and it should be seen by every child around the age of nine. Voices of: Elizabeth Hartman, Dom DeLuise, Hermione Baddeley, Arthur Mallet, Peter Strauss, Paul Shenar, Derek Jacobi, John Carradine, Shannen Doherty. Directed by: Don Bluth. A

Secret Window (2004) PG-13 suspense

Even though this film features two of my favorite actors, Johnny Depp and John Turturro, it disappoints. Based on a novella by Stephen King, this film surprisingly lacks suspense. The thinks it's clever, but the audience is merely left grumbling that we've seen it before and better. Sure, if you tend to watch films just for excellent performances by actors, then this is a good choice. The two leads prove they can still shine despite lack of material to work with. Starring: Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles S. Dutton, Len Cariou, Joan Heney. Directed by: David Koepp. D+

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) R comedy

Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder team together for the third time in this rather inept comedy. Gene Wilder plays a deaf man who communicates with other people by reading their lips and Richard Pryor is a blind man who likes to pretend he's not really blind. This film is impsssvlausible, but the unique situation between the two ends up being the only thing in this film that provides laughs. Starring: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Joan Severance, Kevin Spacey, Alan North, Anthony Zerbe, Louis Giambalvo, Kirsten Childs, Hardy Rawls, Audrie J. Neenan. Directed by: Arthur Hiller. C

Seeking a Friend For the End of the World (2012) R comedy

This film has some nice moments, particularly banter between Steve Carrell and Kiera Knightly. Where the movie loses me however is their budding romance. I don't buy it, because I don't sense sexual chemistry between them. If anything, I find it disturbing. Otherwise, there are a few good laughs and some warm-hearted moments in this high-concept film about a couple of strangers who face the apocalypse together. Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, William Petersen, Melanie Lynskey, Adam Brody, Tonita Castro, Mark Moses, Derek Luke, Connie Britton, Patton Oswalt. Directed by: Lorene Scafaria. C+

Seems Like Old Times (1980) PG comedy

A fun cast and witty script pay off in this Neil Simon film about a man (Chevy Chase) who is forced into committing a bank robbery. When finding a hide-out from the police, he turns to his ex-wife (Goldie Hawn). There, he clashes with Hawn's new hubby (Charles Grodin), the district attorney. One of Simon's better flicks, but it isn't great entertainment. His fans should love it, though. Starring: Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase, Charles Grodin, Robert Guillaume, Harold Gould, George Grizzard, Yvonne Wilder, T.K. Carter. Directed by: Jay Sandrich. B

Serendipity (2001) PG-13 romantic comedy

This is yet another boring old date movie. Kate Beckinsale stars as a superstitious woman who meets a charming man (John Cusack) while they're both buying gloves. Cusack falls immediately in love with that British hottie and he wants her number. But Beckinsale won't give it to him unless the forces of fate dictate that it's OK. So, she places her phone number in a used book and he puts his phone number on a $5 bill. If they happen to run into these phone numbers in the future, then they were meant to be. Despite the admittedly interesting plot, there is nothing about this movie that's unpredictable. The script could have used much more laughs, and the chemistry between the two, well, proves that there wasn't any serendipity working along with this movie. They don't turn in very good performances, anyway. Starring: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Molly Shannon, Jeremy Piven, Bridget Moynahan, Eugene Levy, Amita Balla, Helene Cardona, John Corbett, Leo Fitzpatrick, Tony Kaan. Directed by: Peter Chelsom. D+

Serenity (2005) PG-13 sci-fi

The TV series Firefly might have been prematurely cancelled on NBC, but creator Joss Whedon gave it some closure with this fantastic film. The ragtag crew of the title-space-ship becomes even more extreme when one of the passengers, Summer, suddenly develops telepathic powers and hand-to-hand combat capabilities. The crew must protect her from the Alliance, which has a high price tag on her head, while watching out for the violent cannibalistic men known as the Reavers. The cast is excellent, and this is a movie with not only great science fiction, but also some good laughs. This is one of the finer sci-fi movies of the decade. Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Summer Glau, Sean Maher, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ron Glass, Michael Hitchcock. Directed by: Joss Whedon. A-

Serial Mom (1994) R comedy

Twisted director John Waters delivers this wickedly funny spoof of horror movies. Kathleen Turner, in a fantastic performance, stars as a housewife who goes on a hilarious killing rampage. She feels the urge to murder people for not buckling their seat belt, wearing white shoes after Labor Day, refusing to rewind rented video tapes, etc. This is highly recommended if you like messed-up flicks. Starring: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard, Mary Jo Catlett, Justin Whalin, Patricia Dunnock, Mink Stole, Lonnie Horsey, Traci Lords, Suzanne Somers, Joan Rivers. Directed by: John Waters. B+

Series 7: The Contenders (2001) R comedy

Despite the third-rate cast, this madly funny parody of reality television (in which a group of randomly chosen people are forced in a game in which they have to murder one another) features a script that, I'm positive, was written by a mad genius. Not only are the jokes extremely funny, but the parody even leaves room for rock-solid character development and a genuinely heartwarming ending. Rent this film immediately; it's an unexpected gem. Starring: Brooke Smith, Glenn Fitzgerald, Marylouise Burke, Richard Venture, Merrit Wever, Nada Despotovich, Donna Hanover, Danton Stone, Jennifer Van Dyck, Tanny McDonald. Directed by: Daniel Minahan. A

Serpico (1973) R drama

Al Pacino is a good cop, in this utterly engaging crime drama, who is frustrated at the extreme amount of corruption in the department. He tries to fight the corruption by going to his superiors, but they act too slowly or don't act at all. Pacino, rightly considered one of America's best actors ever, is in top form. Starring: Al Pacino, Tony Roberts, Jack Kehoe, Cornelia Sharpe, Barbara Eda-Young, James Tolkan, Lewis J. Stadlen, M. Emmet Walsh. Directed by: Sidney Lument. A-

Serving Sara (2002) PG-13 comedy

The script is almost unbelievably bad. There are so many plot holes that you can strain spaghetti with it. Nevertheless, the general appeal of the two leads (Matthew Perry and the unbelievably hot Elizabeth Hurley) and the scant few humorous lines makes Serving Sara at least slightly watchable. Thatís nowhere good enough, though. And, when I say there were humorous lines, thatís at a ratio of one funny joke to 20 unfunny ones. Thatís not too good. I donít even want to outline the plot for you. Itís stupid, and it sucks. Starring: Matthew Perry, Elizabeth Hurley, Bruce Campbell, Amy Adams, Vincent Pastore, Cedric the Entertainer, Terry Crews, Jerry Stiller, Joe Viterelli. Directed by: Reginald Hudlin. D

Seven (1995) R thriller

This is a fantastically engaging detective story about a mad genius serial killer who chooses his victims based on the Seven Deadly Sins. Talented detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) has had it with his job, but he must solve this case before he retires. He teams with a brash young detective (Brad Pitt). Brilliant performances and a wonderful script make this a thoroughly recommended film. Starring: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, R. Lee Ramey, Richard Roundtree. Directed by: David Fincher. A-

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) NR musical

The eldest brother of seven backwoods Oregoners, Adam Pontabee (Howard Keel), decides he should look for a bride. Being the handsome guy he is, it's not much of a problem; he marries the ideal girl, Millie, who is strong, sturdy and pretty. When she arrives to the farm, she discovers that it's a sloppy house with six disgusting and rude brothers. Even though it's too corny to be considered one of the great musicals, it can certainly be regarded as a notable. The musical score is fine. Starring: Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall, Virginia Gibson, Julie Newmeyer, Ruta Kilmonis, Matt Mattox. Directed by: Stanley Donen. B+

Seven Days in May (1962) NR drama

This is a good film about a futuristic American society that under threat of a military invasion. This can get pretty dull for some viewers, but to those intuned to political thrillers, this can be quite an entertaining film. Great performances by the cast (Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster especially noted). Starring: Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Frederick March, Ava Gardner, Martin Balsam, Whit Bissel, George Macready, Edmond O'Brien. Directed by: John Frankenheimer. B+

The Seven Samurai (1954) NR drama

It has a very long running-length (more than three hours), but itís vastly rewarding. A town of panicky farmers in a medieval Japanese village discovers that bandits plan on pillaging the place after harvest. Afraid and penniless, several farmers travel to the city to try hiring some samurai. Luckily, some brave souls are kind enough to step up to the plate. This movie not only is compelling in its character developmentand action sequences, but it also perfectly illustrates the hypocrisy of mankind. This is an utterly brilliant cinematic masterpiece, and should be watched by everyone. In Japanese with English subtitles. Starring: Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune, Yoshio Inaba, Seiji Miyaguchi, Minoru Chiaki, Daisuke Kato, Isao Kimura, Keiko Tsushima, Yukiki Shimazaki, Kamatari Fujiwara. Directed by: Akira Kurosawa. A+

The Seven-Ups (1973) PG action

Hey, if all that's important to you in a movie is car chases and gunfights, then by all means watch this movie. But if you're looking for intelligence and an exciting plot, then skip it. People who watch it may as well read a good novel while the film is playing and when they hear some action, look up and be entertained. It is directed by the producer of The French Connection, but it's really quite terrible. Starring: Roy Scheider, Tony Lo Bianco, Larry Haines, Victor Arnold, Jerry Leon, Ken Kercheval, Richard Lynch, Bill Hickman, Ed Jordan, David Wilson. Directed by: Phillip D'Antoni. C-

The Seven Year Itch (1955) NR comedy

This is a funny comedy about an overly-imaginitive middle-aged man (Tom Ewell) whose wife and kids go away for the summer who finds out (to his delight) than an utterly gorgeous woman (Marilyn Monroe) is moving in the apartment upstairs. This is one of director Billy Wilderís more lighthearted affairs, and it is fun to watch. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell, Evelyn Keyes, Sonny Tufts, Robert Strauss, Oskar Homolka. Directed by: Billy Wilder. A-

Seven Years in Tibet (1997) PG-13 adventure

Brad Pitt gives an excellent performance as an Austrian explorer trapped seven years in Tibet due to complications from World War II. There, he meets and becomes good friends with the Dalai Lama. The film is full of so much adventure, comedy, war, politics, that I couldn't get enough of it. This is a highly entertaining film. Starring: Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, B.D. Wong, Mako, Danny Denzongpa, Jetsun Pema, Victor Wong, Ingedorga Dapkunaite. Directed by: Jean-Jacques Annaud. A-

The Seventh Coin (1993) PG-13 action

This is a decent Indiana Jones-like adventure about a wild search of an extremely rare coin by a violently dedicated collector, played by Peter O'Toole. Somehow, an American touring Israel unknowingly gains possession of this coin and finds herself being chased by O'Toole's thugs. She also manages to find the time to fall in love with an Israeli boy who stole her camera bag. Besides the sappy romance and the rather weak cast (excepting O'Toole, naturally), this is a fun adventure. Starring: Peter O'Toole, Navin Chowdhry, Alexandra Powers, John Rhys-Davies, Ally Walker, Whitman Mayo. Directed by: Dror Soref. B

Shadow in the Cloud (2020) R action

Even for a B-movie creature feature, this one is awfully silly, but I’ll take it over the majority of its big studio brethren. It's the height of World War II, and fighter pilot Maude Garret (Chloe Grace Moretz) is on assignment to deliver a parcel of top secret documents from New Zealand to Samoa. She boards an American B-17 bomber named Fool's Errand much to the protestation of its all-male crew. Nonetheless, after showing them appropriate paperwork, they reluctantly concede to take her. However, their lack of available seating forces her to sit in the ball turret, which is on the underside of the aircraft housing heavy machine guns. While there, she sees something funny crawling on the underside of the airplane. Not only that, but she spots a Japanese aircraft. This is a fun, gleefully physics-defying action film that seems perfectly comfortable with it not being "serious." It has a meandering plot that keeps throwing twist after twist and really does an excellent job keeping my attention -- even when some of it might be too off-the-wall. This is what I would call a good popcorn movie. Moretz's performance is especially engaging -- she looks delicate as a porcelain doll, but as soon as she springs into action, she's like a hurricane. Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Taylor John Smith, Beulah Koale, Nick Robinson, Callan Mulvey. Directed by: Rosanne Liang. B

Shadows and Fog (1992) PG-13 comedy

This comedy from Woody Allen has little plot and not enough of Allen's fabulous wit, but it has its moments. It's set in London where a killer is on the loose. Woody Allen is summoned to help capture the killer, but what specific task he's supposed to do, he's not sure. However, he meets the sword swallowing circus performer, Mia Farrow, who is having troubles of her own. This film doesn't come close to the solid par that Allen set for himself throughout the years, but great masters are entitled to their downfalls. It's really not all that bad; leave it for Allen fans. The cast full of cameos is fun. Starring: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, John Malkovich, Kathy Bates, Madonna, Lily Tomlin, Donald Pleasence, Jodie Foster, John Cusack, Kate Nelligan, Fred Gwynne, Julie Kavner, Kenneth Mars, David Ogden Stiers, Philip Bosco, Josef Sommer, Kurtwood Smith, Wallace Shawn, William H. Macy. Directed by: Woody Allen. C+

Shaft (1971) R action

This terrific detective flick introduces Shaft, private eye with an attitude, who survives gun shots and bad guys galore. He is hired to rescue the daughter of a rich underground boss, but is that exactly what the underground boss wants of him? Watch for director Gordon Parks in a cameo. Starring: Starring: Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi, Christopher St. John, Drew Bundini Brown, Gwenn Mitchell, Lawrence Pressman, Antonio Fargas. Directed by: Gordon Parks. A-

Shall We Dance? (2004) PG-13 comedy

This remake of an endearing Japanese film keeps the good story, but it fails to do anything exciting with it. Richard Gere stars as a bored middle aged office worker who finds a secret refuge in ballroom dancing. His wife (Susan Sarandon) hires a private detective to discover what heís up to, and she questions the future of their marriage. The melodrama is overplayed, and there arenít enough breezy dance scenes to keep this as lighthearted as it should have been. The character development is a far cry from its source material. Starring: Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Lisa Ann Walter, Richard Jenkins, Bobby Cannavale, Omar Benson Miller, Anita Gillette, Mya Harrison. Directed by: Peter Chelsom. C

Shallow Hal (2001) PG-13 comedy

Jack Black stars as a man who needs a woman, and the only woman that he'll take must be looker. Well, Black isn't exactly the attractive type, so he hasn't been having much luck with the ladies. Then, he is hypnotized to see all the inner beauty in people (which makes ugly women with good hearts look like hotties). So, he runs across Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit. She's hideously awful looking to most people, but to Jack Black, she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow without the fat suit. This is a fun comedy from the Farrelly Brothers, but the humor is laid on too thinly at times, and Paltrow really didn't seem like she wanted to be in this movie. Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Black, Jason Alexander, Joe Viterelli, Rene Kirby, Bruce McGill, Tony Robbins, Susan Ward, Zen Gesner, Brooke Burns, Rob Moran, Joshua "Li'l Boy" Shintanti, Kyle Glass, Laura Kightlinger, Nan Martin, Sasha Joseph Neulinger, John E. Jordan. Directed by: Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. C+

Shakespeare in Love (1998) R comedy

There was nothing trendier in the late '90s than William Shakespeare. But instead of yet another adaptation of one of his plays, we get an original, fictional story about The Immortal Bard himself. This is a lighthearted, funny film, and an enormous amount of thought went into the story, dialogue and characters. The dialogue in particular is smart, much like a Shakespearean play, but with a more contemporaneous style. The set design, replicating the look and atmosphere of a 16th Century theater, is amazing to behold -- just to see what it might have been like to actually attend one of his plays. The film, rather predictably, is about Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes), who falls in love. Madly in love, in fact, with Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow). She also happens to be an aspiring actor and a remarkably talented one at that. The only hitch being that she is a woman, and women were not permitted to be actors at the time. But there were ways around that, as she discovers, when she dresses up like a man and fools everyone. Even ole Willy at first. Their romance is both convincing and endearing and alone probably could have carried the film. But this film even has many more plot threads strewn about it to keep things engaging. Perhaps some threads are more engaging than others, but it all wraps up quite nicely in the end. The big-name ensemble cast is phenomenal -- even Ben Affleck who, rather appropriately at this stage of his career, portrays a hammy actor. Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench, Simon Callow, Colin Firth, Imelda Staunton, Ben Affleck, Tom Wilkinson. Directed by: John Madden. A-

Shampoo (1975) R comedy

Warren Beatty is George Roundy, a hairstylist and a womanizer. He quite appreciates that his line of work gives him easy access to women. But he's finding his life is starting to badly skid off the rails. He's in his mid 30s and popular with customers, but he has an unbearably poor relationship with his boss. So, he wants to open his own salon, but no bank will give him a loan. He takes a risky approach of cozying up to Lester Karpf (Jack Warden), a wealthy businessman who happens to be the husband of one of his lovers. But this isn't just your basic love triangle: George also happens to be lovers with Lester's mistress (Julie Christie). Not to mention a little fling with Lester's daughter (Carrie Fisher). All the while George is playing house with a young woman (Goldie Hawn) who thinks he's hers. This movie isn't particularly funny and the satirical elements--tied to these events occurring while the inauguration of Richard Nixon happens in the background--doesn't register well with me. But I do appreciate the movie regardless mainly because I find Beatty's character fascinating. Somehow, he's cinema's most extreme womanizer, and yet he's not really a scuzzball. Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant, Jack Warden, Tony Bill, Jay Robinson, George Furth, Carrie Fisher. Directed by: John Madden. B-

Shanghai Noon (2000) PG-13 martial arts/comedy

Jackie Chan stars in this martial arts flick with a western twist. He plays Chon Wang, an imperial guard of China who travels to Carson City in 1881 to rescue the kidnapped princess. This isn't easy because he's in a strange country so he teams up with a mild mannered outlaw, played by Owen Wilson. The plot is thin and dry but the ample comedy and stylish karate chops make up for it. Starring: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Brandon Merrill, Roger Yuan, Xander Berkeley, Rong Guang Yu, Cui Ya Hi, Eric Chi Cheng Chen, Walton Goggins, P. Adrien Dorval, Rafael Baez. Directed by: Tom Dey. B

Shaolin Soccer (2001) PG action/comedy

A pupil of the shaolin, a nearly forgotten form of martial arts in which its followers can deny gravity among other natural laws, decides to use his skills to help advance him in the world of soccer. So, he gathers his old, 30-something pupil-mates (all of whom had lost faith in the shaolin and were leading meaningless lives) to join the team coached by a washed-up, outcast former soccer champ. Together, they must use this form of martial arts to defeat Team Evil. Again, the humor on this movie is totally bizarre. Youíll almost not believe what you see in this tremendously offbeat import from Hong Kong. The bizarre humor displayed on this film wobbles on the fine line of the clever and the idiotic. Yet, in the end, it's a pure hoot. Starring: Stephen Chow, Zhao Wei, Ng Man Tat, Patrick Tse, Wong Yat-fei, Tin Kai Man, Vincent Kok, Li Hui, Lam Tze Chung, Chan Kwok Kwan, Mo Mei Lin, Tsui Na, Tse Chi Wah, Sun Chi Wing, Sun Chang Meng. Directed by: Stephen Chow. A-

The Shape of Water (2017) R sci-fi

Octavia Spencer and the mute Sally Hawkins make such a funny pair that I want to imagine what they're like on a normal day. But as proper storytelling conventions would dictate, we see them on an unusual day. They work as cleaners at at a secret government laboratory when Elisa (Hawkins) discovers they're keeping a man-amphibian in a tank. Further, they are badly mistreating him. Being lonely and having few friends, Elisa sparks an immediate kinship with him, and she teaches him to sign. And further, they find romance. The fact that I found the romance heartwarming and--in its own way--believable is a testament to the power of good filmmaking. This is a fairytale for adults (way too much violence and sex for kids), and it's engrossing. I particularly enjoyed Michael Shannon's truly frightening performance as the villain--not only is he sadistic, but he hates that man-amphibian because he wasn't created in the Lord's image. Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, Nick Searcy, David Hewlett, Nigel Bennett. Directed by: Guillermo del Toro. A

Shark Tale (2004) G comedy

Someone should tell Hollywood that flashy CGI animation and celebrity voices were not what made Finding Nemo so compelling; it was the film's charming and witty script. There isn't an excuse to even break a smile in this sickly underwater tale, which tries to parody The Godfather among other films. Will Smith's voice stars as a do-nothing with a charming girlfriend (Rene Zellweger) who suddenly comes under the public limelight as a 'sharkslayer.' Only, he isn't a sharkslayer, but he pretends like he is so that he'll be rich. Kids won't get the pop culture references and adults with dignity will find the script stupid. There's nothing to see in this hopelessly boring film. Voices of: Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Martin Scorsese, Ziggy Marley, Doug E. Doug, Michael Imperioli, Vincente Pastore, David Soren, Peter Falk, Katie Couric. Directed by: Bilbo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson and Rob Letterman. D

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) R drama

The reason I keep wanting to revisit this prison drama has less to do with Andy's (Tim Robbins) time in prison and how he came to master its harsh conditions (even though that is a significant reason). It's more to do with the deep friendship he cultivates with Red (Morgan Freeman). They both have extraordinary intelligence in ways that compliment one another. Andy is more of an ideas man. Red is resourceful. If Andy needs something, Red can smuggle it in. As I watch this film, as hackneyed it might sound, their loyalty to each other is something I can believe in. The magic of cinema for you. I also appreciate that these are two fundamentally good people. It seems neither of them really belongs in prison. In Andy's case, he was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. A victim of astonishing circumstantial evidence. In Red's case, it was a crime committed as a teenager, the memory of which and the person he was have long faded. There's so much more happens in this film than I've described. It's a rather lengthy film, but I hardly notice the time go by. Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, James Whitmore. Directed by: Frank Darabont. A

She (1982) NR fantasy

This is a strange one. I laughed a lot, whether the laughs were supposed to be intentional, unintentional, or somewhere in between. This film comes out of the cheapie 1980s sword-and-sorcery tradition except it takes place sometime after earth's apocalypse. People dress like medieval warriors, for the most part, but we also see modern objects and costumes littered about the sets such as broken down video game arcades. The star of this picture is Sandahl Bergman as the immortal goddess "She." Her and some muscled dudes go on an adventure through a mash-up medieval/post-apocalyptic universe. The details of their adventure is not terribly worth getting into, because my attention was spent solely on the zany characters and situations they encounter along the way--such as a fat man in a ballerina suit, a quick talking bridge troll who multiplies a la The Sorcerer's Apprentice when someone chops off one of his limbs, and cannibal intellectuals in togas who turn into werewolves. This isn't a "good" movie in how we normally define what's "good," but this is crazy enough to be fun. Starring: Sandahl Bergman, David Goss, Quin Kessler, Harrison Muller, Elena Wiedermann, Gordon Mitchell. Directed by: Avi Nesher. B-

She Done Him Wrong (1933) NR comedy

This Mae West vehicle is sometimes considered her finest. It's quite good, for sure, but I don't find the one-liners (her bread and butter) as devilishly pointed as they are in I'm No Angel. Nonetheless there are plenty of laughs--not to mention those incredibly lascivious scenes with Cary Grant who should come up and see her sometime. He plays a Salvation Army captain who in reality is an undercover agent. He infiltrates a bar that's running a counterfeiting operation. Starring: Mae West, Cary Grant, Owen Moore, Gilbert Roland, Noah Beery Sr. Directed by: Lowell Sherman. B

She-Devil (1989) PG-13 comedy

This is the first film of Meryl Streep unexpected switch to comedies, and she still manages to prove that she is one of the greatest actresses of all time. She gives an utterly hilarious performance as a snobby romance novelist who seduces a married accountant (Ed Begley, Jr). Begleyís ugly and hopeless wife (Rosanne Barr) becomes jealous and starts sketching a twisted revenge plot. I didnít care much for the story, the directing was weak, and the script itself wasnít too funny, but Streepís performance alone makes the film worth watching. Barr also delivers a funny performance in her movie debut. Starring: Meryl Streep, Rosanne Barr, Ed Begley, Jr., Linda Hunt, Sylvia Miles, Elizabeth Peters, Brian Larkin, A. Martinez, Joe Pentangelo, Manny Olmo, R. Patrick Sullivan. Directed by: Susan Seidelman. B

She's the Man (2006) PG-13 comedy

Amanda Bynes stars as a high school soccer player who dresses up like her brother so that she can prove that girls are as good as boys at soccer. But then she falls in love with her roommate (Channing Tatum) who thinks she's a guy. The script has more holes than it has jokes, and none of the jokes are funny. This is probably the worst movie ever made. Starring: Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Laura Ramsey, Vinnie Jones, Julie Hagerty, Alex Beckinridge. Directed by: Andy Fickman. D-

Shine (1995) PG-13 drama

This is an exceptional biography of the prodigy piano player, David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush), who is literally driven insane by his overly harsh and cruel father. He goes through life as an extremely abnormal person, but is respected by the public for his excellent piano playing. The lovely music of this film tends to liven up the slow pace. Rush deservedly won an Oscar for his moving performance. Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Noah Taylor, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Lynn Redgrave, John Geilgud, Googie Whithers, Chris Haywood, Sonia Scott. Directed by: Scott Hicks. A-

The Shipping News (2001) R drama

A meek man (Kevin Spacey) and his daughter move up to Canada to live in their family's old house with his aunt (Judi Dench). Even though he is wholly unqualified for the position, Spacey is offered a job as a journalist at the local newspaper. The plot is somewhat broad and unfocused, but this film manages to be wholly engaging with much thanks to the on-location cinematography and Spacey, whose presence is always appreciated. Starring: Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Pete Postlethwaite, Rhys Ifans, Gordon Pinset, Jason Behr, Scott Glenn. Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom. B+

The Shop Around the Corner (1940) NR romantic comedy

James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan star in this endearing old school date-flick as pen pals who have fallen in love with each other through their letters. However, they unknowingly meet in real life and canít stand each other! Ö This very good premise makes for a fantastically entertaining film. The same premise was used more than 50 years later in Youíve Got Mail. Starring: James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut, Sara Haden, Felix Bressart, William Tracy, Inez Courtney. Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch. A

Shopgirl (2005) R comedy

This bittersweet film adapted from comedian Steve Martin's novella is a dull and pretentious study of relationships and happiness. Itís only Jason Schwartzman's limited appearance that generates the filmís few sparks. Martin's performance was pretty awful, and I hated Claire Danes' character. This is a movie for boring old intellectuals. Starring: Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Samuel Bottoms. Directed by: Anand Tucker. C-

A Shot in the Dark (1964) NR comedy

This wonderful follow-up to the Pink Panther sees the return of Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau to the case. This time, he tries to solve the a most baffling murders whilst trying to protect its number one suspect (a very attractive young lady). This is widely considered to be the greatest of the Pink Panther films, and it probably is. Henry Mancini strikes again with a wonderful musical score. Starring: Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, Tracy Reed, Burt Kwouk, Graham Stark, Andre Maranne, Turk Thrust. Directed by: Blake Edwards. A

Show Boat (1951) NR musical

Howard Keel headlines this film version of the hit Broadway musical about the life on a Mississippi showboat in the ninteenth century. The plot: not really important important. Just care about the love story between the two lead characters, because that's why we watch musicals. Ava Gardner does a splendid job in her role as a washed up, alcoholic actress. Starring: Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, Joe E. Brown, Marge Champion, Gower Champion, Robert Sterling, Agnes Moorehead, Leif Erikson. Directed by: George Sidney. B+

Showtime (2002) PG-13 comedy

This utterly disappointing piece of poop features an excellent cast trying to lampoon police buddy flicks. Only its script is as lame as the movies they're trying to make fun of. Robert De Niro stars as a no-nonsense and well-respected cop whose anger tantrums (he shot a TV news camera) got him suspended. However, the sensation this incident created was so phenomenal that TV exec Rene Russo wants to do a reality show on him. De Niro wants nothing to do with it, but when the police chief threatens that he'll be fired if he doesn't, he has no choice but to accept. However, the partner they teamed him with (Eddie Murphy) is not really a cop but an actor, and they simply don't get along. It's too lame to be of any value on the comedy standpoint and it's not exciting enough to be a good thriller. William Shatner portraying himself easily offers the film its best moments. Starring: Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo, Pedro Damien, Mos Def, Frankie R. Faison, William Shatner, Nestor Serrano, Drena De Niro, Linda Hart, Taj "T.J." Cross, Judah Friedlander, Kadeem Harison, Peter Jacobson. Directed by: Tom Dey. D+

Shrek 2 (2004) PG comedy

I didnít like the original Shrek, but it's difficult to resist laughing at these jokes. If you donít mind a film that goes out of its way sometimes at the expense of achieving any emotional depth to get another joke in (and theyíre usually pretty good), Shrek 2 might just be your thing. I still think the whole franchise has been overrated. The disco scenes should have been cut entirely. Voices of: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Jennifer Saunders, Conrad Vernon, Joan Rivers. Directed by: Andrew Adamson, Conrad Vernon, Kelly Asbury and Rachel Falk. B

Sidekicks (1993) PG comedy

What would have been a boringly routine Karate Kid clone is a recommendable watch because itís so fun. Jonathan Brandis stars as a severely asthmatic high school kid who idolizes Chuck Norris. His overactive imagination often leads him to daydream various adventures (often ninja-ridden) with Norris by his side. Then, he decides to act on his dreams and takes up karate from a well-respected master (Mako). Joe Piscopo nearly steals the show with his hilariously tongue-in-cheek performance as the evil karate master. Starring: Jonathan Brandis, Beau Bridges, Mako, Julia Nickson, Chuck Norris, Joe Piscopo, Danica McKellar. Directed by: Aaron Norris. B

Sideways (2004) R comedy

I always like hearing from people who are passionate about something. In this case it's Paul Giamatti as Miles, a rumpled up middle school teacher who moonlights as a wine connoisseur. He will talk anybody's ear off who will listen about how unimpressed he is with Cabernet Francs or how he would never be caught dead with a Merlot. To send off his friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) in style before his wedding, Miles treats him to a tour of the Santa Barbara wine country. He carefully curates a trip to the area's premiere wineries to sample the finest wines and maybe to play a little golf. Jack reveals pretty quickly, however, that philandering is his main interest. He hooks up with a winery worker Stephanie (Sandra Oh). Miles always had a little thing for a waitress, Maya (Virginia Madsen), but he's too self-loathing to take things too quickly with her. The situations that happen in this film are incredibly funny, sometimes shocking, sometimes heartwarming. The contrast between these two characters--Miles wound-up and depressed, Jack impulsive and cool as a cucumber--leads me to wonder how these two ever became friends. Yet, I never doubt the authenticity of their friendship. All things considered, this is an amazing human comedy. Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh. Directed by: Alexander Payne. A

Signs (2002) PG-13 horror

Mel Gibson stars in this M. Night Shyamalan flick as a religiously disillusioned preacher who witnesses the beginning of a really nasty alien invasion. The strange thing about watching this movie is that it's utterly frightening and suspenseful while you're watching it in the theater, and then maybe an hour later you realize that the plot was so ridiculous that you feel like an idiot. Anyway, Shyamalan certainly had his pulse on this picture right from start to finish, which he clearly deserves credit for, and he pulled off a sweet joke. Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, M. Night Shyamalan, Patricia Kalember, Ted Sutton, Merritt Wever, Lanny Flaherty. Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan. B

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) R thriller

This is a gruesome but an incredibly exciting and suspenseful film. Jodie Foster stars as an FBI agent who tries to interview a difficult yet clever serial killer (Anthony Hopkins) to find out who's been abducting several missing women. Hopkins delivers his classic performance as the serial killer and Foster isn't too bad herself. This is highly recommended if you can stomach all the nasty gore. Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald, Brooke Smith, Diane Baker, Kasi Lemmons. Directed by: Jonathan Demme. A

Sin City (2005) R action

A movie where style is everything and substance is . . . something. This movie is a visual feast. It is adapted from a stylized graphic novel, and it looks like it was lifted directly off its pages. The men look like craggy, sometimes monstrous super-humans and the women are glossy with impossible curves. The film's color is processed such that everything is monochromatic, apart from certain objects that are vivid in color. Amazingly, this isn't an animated film. All characters are played by live-action humans -- an impressive ensemble cast. Some characters have gravity defying abilities and are usually difficult to kill. The action sequences are just as amazing and fantastical as what the mind imagines when reading a comic book. The graphic novel takes its tone from humorless 1940s film noir, and the dialogue follows suit -- oftentimes gritty, usually colorful. The violence is also quite gruesome but easy to desensitize thanks to blood and gore that appear cartoonish. Blood doesn't quite look like blood. Gore doesn't quite look like gore. This film is an amalgam of four different stories. I might have preferred a single story done powerfully over this more fragmentary approach. Not every moment is a winner, but many of the vignettes are engaging, occasionally even poignant. I watch this film seeing things I've not seen before in film, and that much alone is remarkable. Starring: Jessica Alba, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, James King, Michael Madsen, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Nick Stahl, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood. Directed by: Frank Miller. B+

Sinbad the Sailor (1947) NR fantasy

The sets are nice and colorful, but this Sinbad film ultimately doesn't provide enough to satisfy my thirst for adventure. The most obvious shortcoming being an over-abundance of murky dialogue and almost an entire lack of intriguing adventure. I watch movies like this seeking adventure -- awe-inspiring scenery, enthralling swashbuckling scenes, colorful supporting players. But unfortunately this film lacks these aspects almost entirely. Perhaps the supporting characters being the most disappointing of them all despite the talent -- particularly Maureen O'Hara as Shireen, the sultry mistress of the stoic Emir of Daibul (Anthony Quinn). These actors are far too professional to ever be caught sleepwalking through their roles, but they also seem all-too-aware that they're starring in a throwaway film. But in their defense, this film also gives them very little to work with. The major exception is the star, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who is enjoyable to watch chew the scenery -- his performance being addictively campy. The plot involves Sinbad's (Fairbanks) ship being confiscated by local Basra authorities. When it goes up for auction, he attempts to purchase it with money he doesn't have, which he steals from the auctioneer. He flees town, and his objective thereafter to locate the lost treasure of Alexander the Great. The premise is fine -- just the execution sorely lacking. Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Maureen O'Hara, Walter Slezak, Anthony Quinn, George Tobias, Mike Mazurki, Jane Greer, Shelton Leonard, Alan Napier. Directed by: Richard Wallace. C-

Singin' in the Rain (1952) NR musical

This bulls-eye classic musical/comedy is about a huge movie studio converting from silent movies to talkies. Only their most popular leading lady has an incredibly screechy voice. The songs in this musical are wonderful and the film's numerous jokes and slapstick are hardly out of date. This film sets a standard that for other movies to follow. This is one of the finest films ever made. Starring: Gene Kelley, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Jean Hagen, Cyd Charisse, Millard Mitchell, Douglas Fowley, Madge Blake, Rita Moreno. Directed by: Gene Kelley and Stanley Donen. A+

The Singing Detective (2003) R comedy

Mel Gibson might only have a supporting role and wearing a bald cap, but I'll be damned if this isn't the finest screen performance of his career. He plays a manical doctor who is caring after a seriously injured novelist (Robert Downey Jr.) who undergoes a series of surreal episodes that helps sort out his distressed past. This is sometimes a graphic and disturbing film, but it's also hilarious and unforgettable. This is recommendable to true art flick fans. Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Robin Wright Penn, Mel Gibson, Jeremy Northam, Katie Holmes, Adrien Brody, Jon Polito, Carla Gugino, Saul Rubinek. Directed by: Keith Gordon. A-

Sister Act (1992) PG comedy

Whoopi Goldberg plays a singing showgirl who witnesses her rich and powerful boyfriend shooting somebody. She promptly runs to the cops after being chased by a couple of thugs and gets on the witness protection program. She hides out in a nunnery (a role that she definitely isn't suited for) until she is ready to testify in court. She has problems fitting in with the nun crowd, but finds her place in the sun working with the rusty church choir. This is actually a silly comedy best suited for kids. Starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Maggie Smith, Kathy Najimy, Wendy Makkena, Mary Wickes, Harvey Keitel, Bill Nunn, Robert Miranda, Richard Portnow. Directed by: Emile Ardolino. B

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (2005) PG drama

This is an entirely good-natured film about four high-school aged girls and best friends who run across a "magic" pair of pants that manages to make whoever's wearing it look fabulous. They share the pants via the post while they are apart for the summer in which they experience life-altering experiences. (Apparently the two girls who develop romances with older boys don't realize that they're jailbait ... good thing they were also the only two who went outside the country.) This is a flawed and unbelievable film, but it's surprisingly nevertheless genuine-in-intention and should speak to women of all generations. Starring: Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Jenna Boyd, Bradley Whitford, Nancy Travis, Rachel Ticotin, Mike Vogel, Michael Randy. Directed by: Ken Kwapis. B+

Sixteen Candles (1984) PG comedy

A delightful film, and a pop-culture icon from the 1980s, is about a high school girl (Molly Ringwald) whose entire family is so worked up in her upcoming sister's marriage, that they completely forgot about her sixteenth birthday. Like any teenager, she feels depressed and unloved. She also wonders why she isn't popular and beautiful as some of her peers and why a computer geek (Anthony Michael Hall) is hitting on her when the high school heartthrob doesn't even know her. All this teen-angst is countered with rapid fire hit-or-miss gags; the ones that don't hit are so silly that it's hardly noticable. John Hughes rules. Starring: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Schoeffling, Paul Dooley, Justin Henry, Gedde Wantanbe, Blanche Baker, Carlin Glynn, Edward Andrews, John Cusack, Joan Cusack. Directed by: John Hughes. A-

The 6th Day (2000) PG-13 action

It doesn't have a terrible premise. In this world, human cloning is illegal, but cloning pets is as common as buying a car. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a chartered pilot who comes home to find that he's already there. That is, his clone is there living his life--his friends and family even having a birthday party for him. And it's a big tech company that's to blame, headed by a nerdy man (Tony Goldwyn) with small framed eyeglasses. So off Action Man goes to get to the bottom of this chicanery. The beginning of the film drags with the focus being on high-tech gimmicks, in particular a creepy life size doll that's all the rage with the kids. The last half contain a few nice action sequences, but some terrible one liners. Overall, a weak entry in the Schwarzenegger canon. Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, Wendy Crewson, Rod Rowland, Terry Crews, Ken Pogue, Colin Cunningham, Robert Duvall. Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode. C-

The Sixth Sense (1999) PG-13 horror

This is an incredibly chilling horror/thriller that stars Bruce Willis as a child psychologist. He is on assignment to cure a spooked boy who claims to see dead people. Not only is this movie brilliantly tense, it has a sweet twist at the end, and it really is pretty good. Though the premise is flawed, this is certainly a film that will stay with you for a while. Starring: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Trevor Morgan, Donnie Wahlberg, Peter Tambakis, Jeffrey Zubernis, Bruce Norris. Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan. A

Ski Party (1965) NR comedy

Not technically a Beach Party movie because it takes place at a ski resort, and it lacks Annette Funicello . . . apart from a cameo. It is even far removed from the beach, even though Frankie Avalon still finds opportunity to get into his red swimming trunks and dance a little bit. (The ski resort has a heated swimming pool.) They also get surprise musical guests Leslie Gore and James Brown. And The Hondells are waiting for him back at the beach when he gets home. Other than that, we have to endure a pretty dull storyline about Frankie and his friend Craig needing beginners ski lessons. The only class that offers that is for women, so they pull a Some Like it Hot and dress up like women. Hijinks ensue. Starring: Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Deborah Walley, Yvonne Craig, Robert Q. Lewis, Bobbie Shaw Chance. Directed by: Alan Rafkin. C

Skin Game (1971) PG comedy

James Garner is Quincy, a traveling pre-Civil War confidence trickster who pretends to be a down-and-out slave owner selling a slave Jason (Louis Gossett). Then, Quincy helps Jason escape, and they split the money. They'd been pulling the con for quite awhile. Figuring they're at the end of their luck, they pull it one last time. Handily, best part of the movie is watching these two buddies pull a fast one on the slave owners. Then I get crazy excited when John Brown (Royal Dano) makes a dramatic appearance (even though it was a little inconvenient to our heroes). Also, I appreciate the final observation of the film, which hit at the heart: Even though a white man and black man can be on-the-level buddies, there's no true equality in their friendship when one of them can be sold and the other can do the selling. While I appreciate the heck out of this film, I don't find the scene-for-scene storyline all that captivating. Perhaps the dialog is a mite dull, the performance from the leads too breezy. Well, that is what's to be expected from James Garner and Lou Gossett Jr. Starring: James Garner, Lou Gossett Jr., Susan Clark, Brenda Sykes, Edward Asner, Andrew Duggan, Henry Jones, Neva Patterson, Parley Baer, George Tyne, Royal Dano. Directed by: Paul Bogart. C

The Skull (1965) NR horror

The skull of Marquis de Sade has been passed down through the decades, causing gruesome deaths for those who possess it. That is why when it is stolen from a curio collector (Christopher Lee), he is relieved to be released from its influence. However, the skull is soon purchased by another curio collector (Peter Cushing). Certainly this film is a must for anyone who loves the two leads. The elaborate, macabre set pieces, filmed in crisp color, are also feasts to the eyes. While hardly a film that keeps me on the edge of my seat, its conclusion did give me a few tingles. Starring: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Jill Bennett, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Peter Woodthorpe, Michael Gough. Directed by: Freddie Francis. B

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) PG action

The story behind this film is more interesting than the film itself. It was filmmed entirely with actors standing in front of a green screen, and computers drew the entire scenery. What came out, however, was a plodding tribute to 40s sci-fi stories, which features mediocre performances despite the cast (perhaps it was because there was no scenery for them to work with). Thereís a lot of bang but little bite. Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon, Bai Ling, Omid Djalili. Directed by: Kerry Conran. C

Sky High (2005) PG comedy

This is sort of a weird cross between Harry Potter, The Incredibles, and every cliche-ridden high school comedy ever made. Despite the cutsiness and lack of originality, the script is funny and clever. Little of it seemed forced or misfired, and it's difficult to dislike it no matter how much she tries. Give it a whirl. Starring: Michael Angarano, Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Strait, Dee Jay Daniels, Nicholas Braun, Kelly Vitz, Jim Rash, Cloris Leachman, Bruce Campbell, Kevin McDonald, Dave Foley. Directed by: Mike Mitchell. B

Sleeper (1973) PG comedy

This funny futuristic satire stars Woody Allen who plays a man accidentally frozen for 200 years to wake up to a ruined society where people are ruled by a powerful and ruthless dictator. Since Allen has no "identity," he is chosen by the underground to do a couple deeds such as get rid of the deceased dictator's only remaining body part after a fatal accident: his nose. The wonderful slight gags throughout will certainly please Allen fans. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Marya Small, Bartlett Robinson, Mary Gregory, Chris Forbes, Peter Hobbs, Spencer Milligan, Stanley Ralph Ross, Whitney Rydbeck. Directed by: Woody Allen. B+

Sleepless in Seattle (1993) PG-13 romantic comedy

Sometimes movies get away with relying solely on cuteness to be entertaining. And this is the mother of cute movies. Sam (Tom Hanks), a depressed widowed father, moves to Seattle hoping that a change of scenery will lift his spirits. However, that doesn't seem to be working, as is noticed by his young son Jonah (Ross Malinger) who calls into a nationally syndicated psychiatrist radio show to talk about it. The host invites Sam on air, which he does reluctantly, and quickly becomes a national phenomenon--especially among single women. One listener in Baltimore named Annie (Meg Ryan) falls for him badly. She, being a true romantic, knows that true love is worth the long shot--even when she's already engaged to Walter (Bill Pullman), her dull, play-it-safe choice. As much as I feel bad for poor ole Walter, this is a charming movie all around, and Ryan is adorable. Also, as a Seattle dweller, it's nice to see a film about the city that is actually filmed in the city. (As opposed to Vancouver, where most are filmed.) Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Bill Pullman, Ross Malinger, Rosie O'Donnell, Gaby Hoffman, Victor Garber, Rita Wilson, Barbara Garrick, Carey Lowell, David Hyde Pierce Dana Ivey, Rob Reiner, Tom Riis Farrell. Directed by: Nora Ephron. B+

Sleepy Hollow (1999) R horror

As always, Tim Burton delivers a fantastically atmospheric and utterly chilling film about that old fairy tale involving chopped-off heads and curses and whatnot. Johnny Depp stars as an 18th Century detective who, as it would seem to have it, among the first to use scientific reasoning to deduce a crime. He travels to a small village (Sleepy Hollow) where several people have been getting their heads chopped off by a headless horseman (Christopher Walken). Ö Depp discovers that science and reason cannot explain everything! Simply put, this is another good Burton film. Itís not his best, and itís not his worst. Itís very much worth watching. Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Walken, Martin Landau. Directed by: Tim Burton. B+

Sleepy Hollow (1999) R horror

As always, Tim Burton delivers a fantastically atmospheric and utterly chilling film about that old fairy tale involving chopped-off heads and curses and whatnot. Johnny Depp stars as an 18th Century detective who, as it would seem to have it, among the first to use scientific reasoning to deduce a crime. He travels to a small village (Sleepy Hollow) where several people have been getting their heads chopped off by a headless horseman (Christopher Walken). Ö Depp discovers that science and reason cannot explain everything! Simply put, this is another good Burton film. Itís not his best, and itís not his worst. Itís very much worth watching. Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Walken, Martin Landau. Directed by: Tim Burton. B+

Slender Man (2018) R horror

Slender Man is tantalizing enough of a figure that he ought to one day make a great horror movie villain. Unfortunately, that isn't done here. The cinematography is murky, the storyline is barely comprehensible, and worst of all, it just isn't scary. The story involves four teenage girls at a vodka-enhanced sleepover who decide to go online and watch a video about a mystifying monster named Slender Man. As indicated by his nomenclature, he is slender. Also: Tall, faceless, and wears a prim suit. His skills include being able to hide in plain sight -- usually within visual recesses between trees in dense forests -- and snatching children to escort them to some undescribed realm. Slender Man doesn't just snatch kids at random, however. He snatches those who summon him. If this movie was simply about a monster snatching kids, it might have been a decent chase film. Instead, this wanted to be a psychological horror film where its characters can't tell reality from a dream. The problem with that approach, as executed here, is that nobody who watches the film is able to decipher that either. The result is a confusing, bloated mess. Starring: Lea van Acken, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair, Ananalise Basso, Alex Fitzalan, Javier Botet, Kevin Chapman, Jessica Blank, Michael Reilly Burke, Samara Lee, David Morse. Directed by: Sylvian White D-

Sliding Doors (1998) R comedy

This is a smart and entertaining independent movie that asks "what if." Gwyneth Paltrow stars as a PR woman who loses her job and her life essentially goes down the tubes in one day. But what would her life have been like had she had a great day? This movie examines both. It's a charming movie good for a date. Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah, John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Zara Turner, Douglas McFerran, Paul Brightwell, Nina Young, Virginia McKenna. Directed by: Peter Howitt. B+

Sling Blade (1996) R drama

This is surprisingly an intelligent film about a mentally retarded criminal (Billy Bob Thornton), who was released from prison several decades after murdering his mother and her boyfriend. When he reaches his hometown, he hardly recognizes it, but lands a job and makes friends quickly. He stays with a nice family where a single mother thinks that his presence will be good for her fatherless child. He becomes quite attached to this mother and child--perhaps too attached. Thornton turns in an unusual but excellent performance. Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, John Ritter, Lucas Black, Natalie Canerday, James Hampton, Robert Duvall, J.T. Walsh, Rick Dial, Brent Briscoe. Directed by: Billy Bob Thornton. B+

Slumber Party Massacre (1982) R horror

The game Clue taught us there are a variety of handheld weapons suitable for committing murder. One left out of the box was the power drill -- not only is it a perfectly menacing handheld weapon, but it's also one that leaves behind a righteous mess. This power drill slasher reveals his face almost immediately, but we don't get to learn much about who he is -- just that he's an escaped mental patient who likes to kill women. Sometimes he has a crazed look in his eyes, but otherwise, he's clean-cut, dressed in denim, looking like he'd just got home from work. My big complaint about this film is there's not a whole lot going on at the titular slumber party. There's a pillow fight, one girl goes topless, but that's about it. I read that this film was written with a feminist bent, but I find that hard to believe given how obligatory it is about incorporating bare breast shots. A scene that could be interpreted as satire could be one that shows the drill suggestively between the killer's legs as he faces a screaming victim. But that's just a dirty joke. The reason to watch movies like this are the thrills, practical effects, and B-movie campiness, but this film comes up short in all these categories. The funniest moment has to be when a girl puts a pizza box on the corpse of the delivery driver (with eyeballs gruesomely drilled out) and proceeds to grab a slice. When you're hungry, you're hungry. Starring: Michele Michaels, Robin Still, Michael Villela, Debra Deliso, Andree Honore, Gina Smika Hunter, Jennifer Meyers. Directed by: Amy Jones. C-

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) R horror

The payoff doesn't come until the final 15 minutes, which is a problem, but those minutes are so funny that I find it worth the wait. Fortunately, leading up that point also isn't terrible. It's bubbly, thanks largely to the four central characters being in a girl band, and they are prone to dancing and singing to generic '80s rock songs. Nostalgia buffs take note. The storyline is hopelessly jumbled but nonetheless contains enough weird elements to keep me on my toes. The seventeen-year-old Courtney (Crystal Bernard), survivor from the first film, suffers recurring nightmares about the killer with the power drill. Except for some reason he is reincarnated as a rockabilly singer a la Carl Perkins who wields a guitar with its neck converted into a power drill. I didn't care much for the killer in the first film, but this one is so gleefully over-the-top it can't help but stick in my memory. Not only does he go on killing sprees, he sings rockabilly while doing it. And then he might wink at the camera. The bulk of this film's length is spent mainly on Courtney's dreams, which turn into waking nightmares -- for example, she sees blood coming out of the bathtub and a severed hand appears in her hamburger. Sure enough, when her friends come around to investigate, everything is back to normal. When it comes down to it, this is an insubstantial B-movie, but I have a fun time watching it. Starring: Crystal Bernard, Jennifer Rhodes, Kimberly McArthur, Patrick Lowe, Juliette Cummins, Heidi Kozak, Cynthia Eilbacher. Directed by: Deborah Brock. B-

Small Time Crooks (2000) PG comedy

This entertaining Woody Allen film is surprisingly low on plot substance, but it is thankfully full of witty humor. A bunch of amateur criminals buy a shop so that they can use the basement to dig a tunnel to the nearby bank. To cover up their evil deeds, they start use the upper-part of the shop as a cookie business, you know, an idea that will never sell. The plot seems to completely change faces in the middle of the movie, but it's still pretty funny. Allen was going for an audience-pleaser with this one, and it worked. Starring: Woody Allen, Tracey Ullman, Michael Rapaport, Tony Darrow, Jon Lovitz, Elaine May, Elaine Stritch, Hugh Grant, George Grizzard, Brian McConnachie. Directed by: Woody Allen. B

Smokey and the Bandit (1977) PG comedy

Burt Reynolds and Sally Field star in this slight but entertaining road-trip extravaganza. Reynolds makes a bet that he can deliver a truckload of alcohol from Texas to Alabama in 28 hours having to outrun cops and other such obstacles in order to do this. Along the way, Reynolds meets the lovely Sally Field, who tags along for the ride. This was one of the most surprising box office hits in the history of cinema, and it continues to go strong to this day among rednecks. Starring: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, Mike Henry, Paul Williams, Pat McCormick, Trotter Grotter. Directed by: Hal Needham. B-

Snakes on a Plane (2006) R horror comedy

This B-movie was well-known even before it was released thanks to the blase way its title divulged the ridiculous premise. But going beyond that, this ends up being a well above-average action film. It's filled with lots of energy, silly jokes, deadly snakes that leap out of toilets. Masses of snakes falling onto people's laps along with those oxygen masks. Even though the premise is silly, I weirdly find it more plausible than many other action films I see. Of course, these days, I'm living in a post-Sharknado world, but even before that, successful B-movies had gotten away with much less. These deadly snakes go nutzoid on the airplane due to a special type of pheromone that's been sprayed on leis, which everyone on flight was mysteriously gifted. The criminal mastermind behind this even knew to secure as many varieties of snakes as he could so as to make finding a particular anti-venom nearly impossible. The reason for unleashing snakes on the plane was to stop one of the passengers, a critical witness, from testifying in Los Angeles. Escorting him on the airplane is no-nonsense FBI Agent Flynn (Jackson). Other goofy characters onboard includes world famous rapper "Three Gs" (Flex Alexander), a socialite who carries a pet chihuahua in a purse (Rachel Blanchard), and an extremely sexist co-pilot (David Koechner). Quite a fun film. Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Marguiles, Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard, Flex Alexander, Kenan Thompson, Keith Dallas, Lin Shaye, Bruce James, Sunny Mabrey. Directed by: David R. Ellis. B

So Evil, So Young (1961) NR drama

The title makes it seem like the film was going to be far gritter than it actually was, but this is nonetheless a surprisingly affecting exploitation flick about a sweet, rich girl named Ann (Jill Ireland) who was wrongly accused of stealing jewelry. The piece was planted on her by Lucy (Jocelyn Britton) who caught Ann flirting with her ex-boyfriend. Ann and Lucy are sent to the same Borstal, which is a British youth detention center, a very low-security prison where the girls sleep in pink nightgowns. Ann maintains her innocence and Lucy encourages the other girls to bully her. Which they do, but Ann doesn't let that get the better of her. She does befriend a sheepish, well-meaning girl Mary (Sheila Whittingham) who did something (non-specified) horrible to have been in there for four years, and she looks forward to being released soon. Behind the scenes, the Borstal's head Matron (Joan Haythorne) and one of the senior Wardens, Miss Smith (Ellen Pollack), disagree with one another about the proper way to treat these girls -- the Matron preferring an approach centered on love and understanding, recognizing that all these girls will be released into society, while the Warden preferring a strict disciplinarian approach. Don't expect this film to be refined enough to really delve meaningfully into these schools of thought about reform institutions. Keep in mind, the prime purpose of this movie is to titillate viewers' thirst for watching these young female inmates catfight. Anything else we get is extra. The dialogue throughout is fine but is expectedly wooden. The soundtrack is usually heavy with upbeat, generic, xylophone-heavy jazz music, which I find so distractingly mismatched with the film that it's kind of funny. Anyway, this might not be a good movie, per se, but I ended up finding it entertaining in spite of itself. Starring: Jill Ireland, Ellen Pollock, John Charlesworth, Jocelyn Britton, Joan Haythorne, Olive McFarland, John Longden, Sheila Whittingham. Directed by: Godfrey Grayson. B-

So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993) PG-13 comedy

Not as provocative or campy as it might seem from the title, this breezy and generally inoffensive vehicle from Mike Myers is nonetheless all around enjoyable. He stars as a beat poet who likes to rap about his break-ups. But one fateful day when he's out buying haggis, he meets a woman who might not be subject to one of these poems. Her name is Harriet (Nancy Travis), and she is a butcher. They hit it off wonderfully, but the more he gets to know her, the more he suspects she is Lady X -- an elusive serial killer known for marrying men and then shortly after murdering them with an axe. Myers, in dual roles, also plays his father who has a heavy Scottish accent. While this comedy lacks gut-busting laughs and while its twist ending can be sniffed out a mile away, the premise is certainly unique and Mike Myers is, as usual, fun to watch. Starring: Mike Myers, Nancy Travis, Anthony LaPaglia, Amanda Plummer, Brenda Fricker, Debi Mazar, Matt Doherty, Charles Grodin, Phil Hartman, Alan Arkin. Directed by: Thomas Schlamme. C

Soapdish (1991) PG-13 comedy

This is only a moderately funny soap opera parody starring Sally Field as an aging soap opera queen who seems to feel something's missing in life. The film's storyline isn't very good and the script is lacking, but the cast is appealing. Starring: Sally Field, Cathy Moriarty, Teri Hatcher, Robert Downey Jr. Paul Johansson, Elisabeth Shue, Whoopi Goldberg, Kevin Kline, Arne Nannestad, Tim Choate, Kathy Najimy, Carrie Fisher, Costas Mandylor, Garry Marshall, Leeza Gibbons. Directed by: Michael Hoffman. C

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) PG-13 romance

Eric Stoltz stars as Keith, an attractively disheveled high school senior and aspiring artist. He is infatuated with a pretty girl at school, Amanda (Lea Thompson), who comes from the same working class background that he does. Except she is dating a rich boy named Hardy (Craig Scheffer) who embodies the boiled-down essence of every bad movie boyfriend. He even at one point refers to her as his "property." She finally gets fed up and splits with him. Cue in Keith who takes the opportunity to ask her out. She accepts, with the ulterior motive that it might make Hardy jealous and reconcile with her as a changed person. Keith's plans however are to win her completely by treating her the way he thinks she deserves: Which is spending every cent he had earmarked for college for just a single, lavish and luxurious date. All of this to the distaste of Keith's best friend, the tomboyish Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), who is nursing her own crush on him. The film's consistently breezy dialogue wavers between flat, amusing, and tasteless--certainly not among screenwriter John Hughes' most nuanced works. I also find that it lacks a complete exposition of Keith's psychology and what exactly truly drives him to be so drastic as to blow his life savings for a girl who is clearly most interested in rekindling an old toxic relationship. Nonetheless, the film concludes thoughtfully, exploring the essence of what romantic relationships are and with whom they should be pursued. Starring: Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson, Craig Sheffer, John Ashton, Elias Koteas, Molly Hagan, Maddie Corman, Jane Elliot, Candace Cameron Bure, Chynna Phillips, Scott Coffey, Carmine Caridi. Directed by: Howard Deutch. C+

Some Like it Hot (1959) NR comedy

Oft imitated but never paralleled, this farce has as much charm as it has laughs. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are Joe and Jerry, Prohibition-era musicians who unwittingly witness the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago. The mob don't like to leave witnesses, so they chase after them. But our quick-thinking heroes escape through unconventional means: They disguise themselves as women (rechristening themselves as Josephine and Daphne) and take a job in an all-female band who are on their way to a gig in Florida by train. It turns out their disguises are the easy part. More difficult is maintaining their composure while traveling with so many attractive women. In particular the lead singer and ukulele player Honey (Marilyn Monroe) who is romantically unattached but is hoping to meet a wealthy bachelor as soon as they get to that Florida resort. Which inspires Curtis' character to take on a second fake persona: An extremely wealthy oil tycoon. He "borrows" a yacht from an actual millionaire, Osgood (Joe E. Brown), who happens to fall hard for Daphne -- of course unaware he's a man. This film hits the bullseye with a clever script, sight gags, and hilarious performances -- especially from Lemmon when he finds himself unexpectedly giggly over being serenaded by a wealthy millionaire. There's lots to love about this sprightly, wholly energetic film, even right up to the punchline -- which always makes me laugh, even when I know from having seen this film so many times exactly what's coming. A bonus are some great musical numbers from Monroe. Starring: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Joe E. Brown, George Raft, Pat OíBrien, Nehemiah Persoff, Joan Shawlee, Mike Mazurki. Directed by: Billy Wilder. A+

Somersault (2004) R drama

Don't go out of your way to see this boring import from Australia. A teenager (Abbie Cornish) leaves home when she is caught making out with her mother's boyfriend, and she must survive on her own. Nonetheless, she continues to be dependent on others, notably by inciting a few sexual relationships. She's at a crossroads in her life; this is where she chooses if she's going to live responsibly or irresponsibly. The story is good, but the pacing is slow and dull. The acting is merely so-so. Starring: Abbie Cornish, Sam Worthington, Lynette Curran, Erik Thomason, Hollie Andrew. Directed by: Cate Shortland. C-

Something's Gotta Give (2003) PG-13 comedy

A flick for the geriatric chick, Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton star in this good-natured comedy. Nicholson plays a despicable record producer (a toned down version of his character on As Good As it Gets) and Keaton plays an uptight playwright. They meet when Nicholson has a heart attack when dating Keatonís daughter. This is standard fare for romantic comedies, except the performances by the two leads (no surprise) are exceptional. There are a few good laughs and the overall sentimental, fluffy feel of it is comforting. Starring: Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Frances McDormand, Amanda Peet, Jon Favreau, Paul Michael Glaser. Directed by: Nancy Myers. B

Son in Law (1993) PG-13 comedy

If you find Pauley Shoreís humor more funny than annoying, then youíll find a lot to laugh about in this irrepressibly silly comedy. Shore stars as a college student (a major or former major in just about everything) who kindles a non-romantic friendship with an impressionable country girl (Carla Gugino). For Thanksgiving, Gugino lets Shore spend it with the family who are abhorred to find out (falsely) that the two are engaged. Starring: Pauley Shore, Carla Gugino, Lane Smith, Cindy Pickett, Mason Adams, Patrick Renna, Dennis Burkley, Tiffani Thiessen. Directed by: Steve Rash. B-

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) PG comedy

Our little blue friend from the Not-Nintendo is forced to escape his home of the land of loop-de-loops and sea views. He is given a bag of rings. Each ring he can throw in mid-air, which opens a portal to a different dimension. His first destination: Earth. He manages to remain undetected for 10 years until--in a fit of loneliness--runs around a baseball diamond at supersonic speed, which causes an electric pulse. This catches the attention of the evil Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), the mustachioed inventor of many high-tech gizmos. Sonic seeks the help of police officer Tom (James Marsden) who he'd been secretly stalking for years. This film has a few decent jokes in it, and I doubt it will do much to profoundly disappoint Sonic fans (particularly after the much-publicized character redesign). Most of all, it's nice to see Jim Carrey back in old form. But overall I find the storyline underwhelming. Voice of: Ben Schwartz. Starring: Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Neal McDonough. Directed by: Jeff Fowler. C

Sons of Katie Elder (1965) NR western

John Wayne stars in this OK western about four brothers (Wayne, Dean Martin, Michael Anderson, Jr. and Earl Holliman) who return to their hometown for the funeral of their universally beloved mother. However, when they begin poking their noses around town, inquiring about the long-since passing of their father, they might have gotten more than they bargained for. This is hardly a cheap film, and it relies neither on happy cliches or a Hollywood ending, but the severe lack of chemistry between the four leads nearly ruined this. Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Michael Anderson, Jr., Earl Holliman, Martha Hyer, Jeremy Slate, James Gregory, Paul Fix, George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, Sheldon Allman. Directed by: Henry Hathaway. B-

Sophie's Choice (1982) R drama

This solid drama follows the exploits of a young writer (Peter MacNichol) from the South who goes to New York City to write his novel. There, he meets and befriends a wild couple, an eccentric biologist (Kevin Kline) and a Polish woman with a dark history (Meryl Streep). This is an enormously heavy-hitting and resonant drama that is directed by the steady hand of Alan J. Packula. Streep won an Academy Award for her moving performance and the other two actors aren't bad, either. Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter MacNichol, Rita Karin, Stephen D. Newman, Greta Turken, Josh Mostel, Gunther Maria Halmer, Katharina Thalbach, Karlheinz Hackl, Ulli Fessl. Directed by: Alan J. Pakula. A

The Sound of Music (1965) NR musical

This is a first-rate adaptation of the Broadway musical with all its splendor intact. A troublesome nun (Julie Andrews) is sent to look after seven ill-behaved children with a difficult father (Christopher Plummer), who prefers to run his household like a Navy ship. Only this bouncy, bubbly nun can put things right. It's a cinema classic, and it can be viewed many times over. The Rogers and Hammerstien score is probably their best. Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood, Charmain Carr, Heather Menzies, Nicholas Hammond, Duane Chase, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner, Kym Karath, Anna Lee. Directed by: Robert Wise. A+

A Sound of Thunder (2004) PG-13 sci-fi

Ben Kingsley stars as a money-hungry bigwig who is making a fortune on a time machine that allows rich people to travel back in time to kill dinosaurs. Generally, the team is careful about not changing the past, but somebody makes a dreadful mistake. This low-budget sci-fi film is heavy on the cheap special effects. The poor script is a disappointment considering it was derived from a classic Ray Bradbury story. Starring: Edward Burns, Catherine McCormack, Ben Kingsley, Jemima Rooper, David Oyelowo. Directed by: Peter Hyams. D

Sounder (1972) G drama

A poor black family of sharecroppers go through difficult times harvesting sugarcane in order to afford the ridiculous, costly rent on the farm. When father of the family is sent to prison, the wife and kids find it even more difficult to survive, but they soon learn that they need to be strong until he comes home. The acting by the cast is outstanding, most notably by Paul Winfield and young Kevin Hooks. This is a splendid choice to watch with children. Starring: Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, Kevin Hooks, Carmen Mathews, Taj Mahal, James Best. Directed by: Martin Ritt. A-

Space Camp (1986) PG sci-fi

This movie is entertaining, but it sinks because the plot is too unbelievable. A group of kids in NASA's Space Camp program is accidentally launched into space when allowed to venture into a real-life rocket ship. Now they must really put themselves to the test! The end is gripping, which comes as a surprise since it was previously cheesy and somewhat dull. This seems like it was just an expensive Space Camp commercial, but it's still a good one to show to the chilluns. Starring: Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, Larry B. Scott, Leaf Phoenix, Tate Donovan, Tom Skerrit, Barry Primus, Terry O'Quinn, Mitchell Anderson, T. Scott Coffey. Directed by: Harry Winer. B-

Space Cowboys (2000) PG-13 comedy

Above all else, this movie delivers what it promises: It puts geezers in space. Back in 1958, four astronauts were slated to embark on an inaugural space mission when their manager, Bob Gerson (James Cromwell), who disapproves of their cavalier ways, unceremoniously replaces them with a monkey. Forty years later, a Soviet-era satellite that uses an antiquated navigation system engineered by Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood) is quickly decaying out of orbit. Why his system is used on a Soviet satellite is a topic much on his mind. Frank agrees to help but only on these conditions: he has to be the one going to space to fix it, and he gets to bring along his three geriatric colleagues--Hawk (Tommy Lee Jones), Tank (James Garner), and Jerry (Donald Sutherland). Of course, first they have to pass the physical, which takes up much of this film's time. Also, Frank and Hawk harbor an acerbic relationship, which often manifests in childish exploits, such as betting each other who will pass out first on the centrifuge. While the story arc is predictable and awfully contrived, and easily 40 minutes could have been cut from this without losing anything of consequence, watching these veteran actors go at it is all the entertainment. It's a nice and breezy film that's fitfully entertaining above all else, even if I don't buy the idea of NASA sending cavalier astronauts into space any more than I bought it in a dumber picture like Armageddon. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, James Cromwell, William Devane, Marcia Gay Harden, Loren Dean, Courtney B. Vance. Directed by: Clint Eastwood. B-

Space Jam (1996) PG comedy

I grew up in the '90s watching classic Looney Tunes cartoons every Saturday morning. I always thought they were consistently clever and funny, and I continue watching them to this day thoroughly amused. But in their big screen team-up with basketball legend Michael Jordan, they come off little more than hyperkinetic, doddering sugar rushes with all the cleverness and funny sucked out of them. Jordan is also hardly better here in is his acting debut, coming across roughly as animated as he does on a box of Wheaties. The story is whatever excuse the screenwriters could come up with to get Jordan and the Looney Tunes to join forces in a basketball game. Their opponents are the Nerdlucks, space aliens looking to enslave the Looney Tunes in a maniacal theme park. They at first appear scrawny and meager. Bugs Bunny & Co. trick them into leaving them alone if they can beat them at a basketball game, figuring they'll be able to play circles around these wimps. However, the Nerdlucks find a way to enhance their basketball skills by stealing the talents of certain top-tier pro NBA players, which are extracted out of a person in liquid form and fits neatly inside a vial. Jordan wasn't on the Nerdlucks' radar, because he was safely hidden away in pro-baseball. This movie, nothing more than a lazy cash-grab, doesn't even get me for nostalgic reasons. But at least Bill Murray and Wayne Knight are fun in this. I suppose. Starring: Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle, Bill Murray, Larry Bird. Voices of: Billy West, Dee Bradley Baker, Danny DeVito, Bob Bergen, Bill Farmer, Greg Burson, June Foray, Maurice LaMarche. Directed by: Joe Pytka. D+

Spaceballs (1987) PG comedy

This film features funny material from director and writer Mel Brooks, but the jokes are still rather cheap. Bill Pullman stars as The Lone Star, a man who owes 1 million spacebucks to Pizza the Hut. He is asked by the king of Druidia to find his runaway daughter, Princess Vespa. However, Dark Helmet won't have it because he's using her as ransom for all the air of Druidia. This is, obviously, a spoof of Star Wars, but other science fiction films aren't safe either. This is only for Mel Brooks fans. Starring: Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Mel Brooks, Daphne Zungia, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Michael Winslow, Lorene Yarnell, John Hurt, Ronny Graham. Voices of: Joan Rivers, Dom De Luise. Directed by: Mel Brooks. B-

Spaced Invaders (1990) PG sci-fi

This slight entertainment is about a small ship of aliens who mistake an anniversary re-broadcasting of Orson Wellesí War of the Worlds for the real thing, and they land on earth to help. However, it takes them awhile to learn that the broadcast was fictional. It also takes the townspeople awhile to figure out that aliens have landed amongst them (it was Halloween). Acting is awful and the plot wasnít executed well at all. Itís not even funny. Only kids might enjoy this. Starring: Douglas Barr, Royal Dano, Ariana Richards, Gregg Berger, Wayne Alexander, Casey Sander, Rose Parenti, Hal Riddle, Tony Pope. Directed by: Patrick Johnson. D-

Spanglish (2004) PG-13 comedy/drama

A strikingly photogenic Mexican immigrant (Paz Vega) ventures out of the Mexican portion of Los Angeles to take a job as a maid in suburbia for a hugely successful chef (Adam Sander) and his flakey wife (Tea Leoni). There, she slowly becomes an intricate and important part of their lives. Meanwhile, her daughter (Shelbie Bruce) nearly loses her identity. The films premise sounded like it might have been nice, but it comes off as a cheap soap opera. Both Sandler and Leoni were miscast (though Sandler, as always, is fun to watch when he starts screaming), and the script is shoddy at best. Nevertheless, Vega manages to capture every scene sheís in. Starring: Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Shelbie Bruce, Cloris Leachman, Sarah Steele, Ian Hyland, Cecilia Suarez, Ricardo Molina, Brenda Canela. Directed by: James L. Brooks. C

Sparkle (1976) PG drama

It's surprising that a gritty film about a '60s girl group inspired by The Supremes would ring so flat with me. But this film has a ridiculous amount of hollow melodrama, and all of its characters are miserable. Either they are miserable people themselves, or they have miserable things happen to them. At no point do I get any sense that there is anything fun or exciting about being in a girl group. I get more spiritual fulfillment tying my own shoes than these characters seem to get out of their work. This movie is all squabbling, getting beat up by boyfriends, overdosing on drugs, getting mixed up in the mob. There are a few minutes towards the end when it looks like nice things are about to happen. But then more misery happens, all just ending up sadder than before. The original music in the film is fine, but it fails to capture the spirit of '60s R&B music. This should have been rooftop-blowing stuff. Starring: Philip M. Thomas, Irene Cara, Leonette McKee, Ewan Smith, Mary Alice, Dorian Harewood, Tony King, Beatrice Winde, Paul Lambert, Armelia McQueen. Directed by: Sam O'Steen. D+

Sparkle (2012) PG-13 drama

No doubt an improved remake of the 1976 film, but it still suffers its flaws. A young woman named Sparkle (Jordan Sparks) has songwriting and singing talent, but her low confidence hinders her from seeking a musical career on her own. That's not to mention her overbearing mother (Whitney Houston), a former singer with a troubled past, doesn't want any of her three daughters to follow in her footsteps. But that doesn't stop them from sneaking out of the house and forming a Supremes-like group and playing nightclubs. An entertaining music film on the whole thanks to its above average original music, but the storyline has a generic paint-by-numbers feel to it, and the characters are woefully one-dimensional. In particular, I never felt like I got to know the main character--what makes her tick--what gives her that insatiable desire to write and perform music. Starring: Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick, Cee Lo Green, Curtis Armstrong. Directed by: Salim Akil. C

Speed (1994) R action

This is a highly exciting film about a lunatic criminal who takes a busload of prisoners hostage and threatens to blow them up if ransom money isn't delivered. This film's action sequences probably broke few Newtonian Laws, but who cares? You will probably care that the acting by practically every single cast member is bad and the dialogue is pretty awful at times, but it's so damn fun to watch. Starring: Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Daniels, Joe Morton, Alan Ruck, Glenn Plummer. Directed by: Jan De Bont. B+

Spellbound (1945) NR thriller

This intelligent and exciting Hitchcock thriller is about an amnesiac man (Gregory Peck), and for some reason, he has mentally taken the place of a world-renown psychiatrist. When the news gets out that Peck was the last man seen with the real psychiatrist before his mysterious death, he is immediately suspected for murder. Peck befriends a psychoanalyst (Ingrid Bergman) who helps Peck through this terrible mess. This Alfred Hitchcock film is so good that it's difficult to believe that it's practically forgotten. Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Jean Arcker, Donald Curtis, Rhonda Fleming, John Emery, Leo G. Carroll, Norman Lloyd, Steven Geray, Paul Harvey. Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. A-

Spellbound (2002) G documentary

This documentary chronicles eight children who have made it to the national spelling bee. The first half of the film, which focuses on how the kids study for the spelling bee, gets a little boring, but the second half is tense and exciting as they spell words that most of us never heard of. The kids documented are from starkly different backgrounds, but they all have their love of spelling in common. Starring: Harry Altman, Angela Arenivar, Ted Brigham, April DeGildeo, Neil Kadakia, Nupur Lala, Emily Stagg, Ashley White. Directed by: Jeffrey Blitz. B+

Spider-Man (2002) PG-13 action

A superhero movie crammed with the expected eye-dazzling action sequences, but it also doesn't forget good old-fashioned character development. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a nebbish high schooler with the familiar trappings of the typical teen: struggling with his self-image, an eager desire to please his elders, a hopeless crush on the girl next door (Kirsten Dunst). His humdrum world goes topsy-turvy on a school trip when he is bitten by a genetically enhanced spider. The next morning he finds he's suddenly built like a top-tier athlete and is also able to shoot super-durable, sticky webs out of his wrists. When his beloved uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) is slain by a criminal he could have stopped but didn't, Peter dedicates his life to his uncle's credo: "With great power comes great responsibility." This is a well above average origin story with a shortcoming being that Peter seems awfully quick to accept his bizarre physical transformation. Nonetheless, Maguire proves to be a great casting choice for the role -- his innocent facial expressions and cracking voice almost by themselves make his character personable. Willem Dafoe is also the pitch-perfect actor to play Norman Osborn, the industrialist who mutates after innocently (albeit recklessly) performing a genetic experiment on himself, which causes his transformation into the air-surfin', grenade lobbin' ghoul the Green Goblin. While some of this film's dramatic qualities leave me wanting, this is a roundly entertaining film that remains faithful to its comic book source material. Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Ron Perkins, Gerry Becker, Jack Betts, Joe Manganiello, Bill Nun, Ted Raimi, Elizabeth Banks. Directed by: Sam Raimi. B

Spider-Man 2 (2004) PG-13 action

This movie is unabashedly entertaining scene for scene, practically every frame filled with impeccably timed slapstick, visual gags, or bubbly lines of dialogue. Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) can glide majestically between skyscrapers with the grace of a seasoned trapeze artist. Yet, as Peter Parker, he can't even get his hands on hors d'oeurves at a charity benefit. The character development s even stronger here than in the first film, as we get to see more of who Peter really is. How he struggles to maintain his "great responsibilities" as the city's premiere superhero while also holding down a job . . . and attend college . . . and maintain a relationship from his crush Mary Ann (Kirsten Dunst). He spreads himself so thin that he has difficulties keeping up with any of it. The villain is another memorable one -- Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a brilliant, grounded scientist whose fusion power exhibition, which manifests as a mini-Sun, goes awry, causing the flexible arms he used to harness it to becomes sentient and takes over his body. This is certainly a fun comic book film, and I even appreciate its grander story arch: The first film is about how Peter became Spider-Man, this film is about why he chooses to remain so. While I don't feel this film ultimately transcends the familiar trappings of the superhero genre -- it's still easy to predict how this film is going to end -- I nonetheless have a blast watching this. Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirstin Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Donna Murphy, Daniel Gillies, Dylan Baker, Bill Nunn, Vanessa Ferlito, Aasif Mandvi, Willem Dafoe. Directed by: Sam Raimi. A-

Spider-Man 3 (2007) PG-13 action

This trilogy capper is a disappointment. I blame it on Peter Parker (Tobey Macguire) finally growing out of the teen angst and adorable awkwardness that made the previous two films so entertaining. I suppose it does wonders for a young man's confidence once he gets his dream girl (Kirsten Dunst) and being a superhero that's actually getting good press. Peter at one point even does a fully choreographed song and dance routine. The other disappointment comes with the rather limp villains. Thomas Haden Church is the oafish Sandman with a heart of gold, and Topher Grace is the doughy faced Venom out for revenge. These two actors I love in most settings, but they're not particularly frightening, especially when compared to the super-genius villains from the previous two films. The character designs are fun, though -- that is, I like their costumes. The Sandman can morph into piles of rubble, which leads to some eye-dazzling sequences. Of course with superhero movies, dazzling special effects alone only meet the baseline requirements. The film also lets me down with several uninteresting subplots, notably Mary Jane struggling to make it on Broadway and an aborted attempt by Harry Osborne (James Franco) to avenge his father's death. Despite the gripes, I still enjoy watching this popcorn movie, so warm up those griddles. The cast and characters continue to be charismatic, even though I don't feel so personally connected to them this time. Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirstin Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, James Cromwell, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons. Directed by: Sam Raimi. C+

Spies Like Us (1985) PG comedy

The cast delivers enjoyable performances, but the script needed *a lot* of work. Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd play a pair of unlikely secret agents who are on a mission. But they don't know what their mission is exactly, but it involves them traveling to the Middle East. This duo is really a decoy so two other American secret agents can uncover an evil Russian plot. Chase and Aykroyd aren't supposed to be helping with the actual mission ... or are they? This is only for the most devoted Chase and Aykroyd fans. Starring: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Forrest, Donna Dixon, Bruce Davison, William Prince, Bernie Casey, Tom Hatten, Matt Frewer, Michael Apted, Constantin Costa-Gravras, Joel Coen, Martin Brest, Bob Swaim, Terry Gilliam, Ray Harryhausen, Bob Hope. Directed by: John Landis. C-

Splash (1984) PG romantic comedy

This is a charming tale about a broken-hearted man (Tom Hanks) who recently broke up with his girlfriend. He meets and falls in love with beautiful Daryl Hannah -- who, unbenknownst to him, is actually a mermaid (her fins turn into feet when they're out of water). Eugene Levy is very funny as a highly eccentric scientist who tries to uncover the truth about Hannah to the public. Starring: Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Dody Goodman, Shecky Greene, Richard B. Shull, Bobby Di Cicco, Hoawrd Morris, Tomy DiBenedetto, Patrick Cronin. Directed by: Emile Ardolino. B+

Splendor in the Grass (1961) NR drama

It starts out a chippy romance story, but it eventually turns into a complicated tragedy. Natalie Wood stars as a high school girl who is nuts about her sweetheart, Warren Beatty. Beatty also loves Wood, but eventually feels they shouldn't see each other any longer. This literally drives Wood nuts and is sent to an institution. It's rather depressing, but very good. Movie debut for Warren Beatty as well as Sandy Dennis. Starring: Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Pat Hingle, Audrey Christie, Barbara Loden, Zohra Lampert, Fred Stewart, Joanna Roos, Jan Norris, Gary Lockwood, Sandy Dennis, Crystal Field. Directed by: Elia Kazan. B+

Splitting Heirs (1993) PG-13 comedy

Eric Idle stars as a normal joe whose new friend, Rick Moranis, just inherited a Dukedom. Idle is very happy for Moranis until he finds out that Moranis was falsely given the title --- it should have gone to him! Should he try to bump Moranis off to get the riches that are rightfully his or should he leave him alone? John Cleese makes a brief appearance as the lawyer working for Idle. Not wonderfully funny but it is worth seeing for the cast. Starring: Eric Idle, Rick Moranis, Barbara Hershey, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cleese, Sadie Frost, Stratford Johns, Brenda Bruce, William Franklin, Charubala Chokshi. Directed by: Robert Young. B-

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004) PG animated

Nickelodeonís hit cartoon show gets big-screen treatment. When Mr. Krab (the manager of an under-sea fast food restaurant) opens a brand new location (next door), SpongeBob has his hopes up that heíll be made manager. He doesnít get it. Then, when the evil Plankton, who runs the competing restaurant ďChum BucketĒ steals King Neptuneís crown and frames Mr. Crab for it, SpongeBob is left to go on an adventure to go looking for it. Itís as loud, obnoxious and as insanely funny as the television series. Highlights include a silly appearance by David Hasselhoff and an original Flaming Lips song. Voices of: Tom Kenny, Clancy Brown, Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Mr. Lawrence, Jill Talley, Carolyn Lawrence, Mary Jo Catlett, Jeffrey Tambor, Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin, David Hasslehoff. Directed by: Stephen Hillenburg. B

Spy Kids (2001) PG comedy

This is a creative spy spoof about a married couple (retired spies) who are kidnapped, and it's left up to their kids to rescue them. Most of the appeal of this film comes from the numerous spy-work gadgetry, the whacked-out sets, the humorous dialogue and the incredible special effects. This film is remarkably well-made, and it is a must-see for the family. Starring: Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin, Robert Patrick, Danny Trejo, George Clooney, Mike Judge. Directed by: Robert Rodriguez. B+

Spy Game (2001) R mystery

Robert Redford and Brad Pitt headline this perhaps too complicated mystery. Pitt plays a CIA agent who is about to be executed in a Chinese prison camp, and Redford plays a nearly-retired agent who is being questioned about what Pitt was doing in China. This film is told in a lot of flashbacks and the mystery is kind of fun to follow, but it could have been much more exciting. Starring: Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Larry Bryggman. Directed by: Tony Scott. B-

The Squid and the Whale (2005) R drama

Jeff Daniels stars as an overly intellectual (and emotionally unstable) father who divorces his wife (Laura Linney). Their two teenage sons are greatly affected by this split-up, and they pick (somewhat subconsciously) which bickering parent they want to side on. This is a well-done character study, and Daniels delivers one of the finer performances of his career. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Own Kline, William Baldwin, Halley Feifer, Anna Paquin. Directed by: Noah Baumbach. B+

Stalag 17 (1953) NR comedy

Billy Wilder directs this perfect comedy about a camp of American POWs. A small group of people in this camp attempts escapes and gains prohibited possession of useful devices, but somehow they are always getting caught. They believe that there's a German spy within their ranks, but who could it be? Wilder's character development in this film is seldom surpassed. Starring: William Holden, John Taylor, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Richard Erdman, Peter Graves, Sig Rumann, Neville Brand, Michael Moore, Peter Baldwin. Directed by: Billy Wilder. A+

The Star (1952) NR drama

Bette Davis, God bless her, turns in a first-rate performance in this woefully mediocre film. Consider this a poor-man's Sunset Boulevard. Davis is Margaret Elliot, a widely renowned actor who hasn't had an acting job in years. All her money's run out, and her struggle with alcoholism lands her in jail with a DUI. She looks for menial jobs to make ends meet, where she risks getting recognized by the sneering public. All the meanwhile, she's convinced that she will get leading roles once again. Sterling Hayden plays the love interest, but he suffers because he has zero chemistry with Davis, his acting comes across painfully wooden. Though I can hardly blame him, since the dialog doesn't give him much to work with. A teenage Natalie Wood also falls victim to the script, delivering a hilariously aw shucks performance as Margaret's daughter. I certainly enjoy Davis though, particularly when she does a screen test for a role that doesn't go so well. It must take a great actor to give a such a remarkably bad performance. Starring: Bette Davis, Sterling Hayden, Natalie Wood, Warner Anderson, Minor Watson, June Travis, Paul Frees, Robert Warwick, Barbara Lawrence, Fay Baker, Herb Vibran. Directed by: Stuart Heisler. C

The Star (2017) PG animated

A donkey named Bo longs for life outside his menial existence milling flour. With the help of his best friend Dave, a dove, he manages to escape, but he soon finds himself in the care of an expectant mother named Mary. This is a cute adaptation of the Nativity story told from the point of view of animals. The script is silly enough to please the kiddos and clever enough to please the parents--all the while remaining reverent. Voices of: Steven Yeun, Keegan-Michael Key, Aidy Bryant, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Kelly Clarkson, Anthony Anderson, Patricia Heaton, Kris Kristofferson, Kristin Chenowith, Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey. Directed by: Timothy Reckart. B

Star Chamber (1983) R thriller

This completely improbable film stars Michael Douglas as a judge who's sick of letting criminals off the hook due to technicalities, so he joins a secret committee of other disgruntled judges, who takes matters into their own hands and bumps these crooks off. This isn't a very well executed film, unfortunately, but there is a real appealing burst of energy toward the end in a well-done chase scene. Starring: Michael Douglas, Hal Holbrook, Yaphet Kotto, Sharon Gless, James B. Sikking, Joe Regalbuto. Directed by: Peter Hyams. C-

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) G sci-fi

The crew of The Enterprise hit the silver screen for the first time to fight a mysterious alien force that threatens the earth. The plot will especially appeal to Star Trek fans, but unfortunately, to no one else. It is joyous to see the Star Trek cast in a well-budgeted movie doing what they do best: travel in space. This film features great special effects (for its time), and an exceptional musical score; both picking up an Oscar nomination. The film, however, is very slow-paced and can become very tedious to some viewers, but is a recommended film to any big science fiction fan. Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Stephen Collins, Persis Khambatta, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Majel Barret, Mark Lenard. Directed by: Robert Wise. C+

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982) PG sci-fi

Star Trek returns in this improved sequel that actually picks up on an old episode where Captain Kirk exiled Kahn, an outlaw and his clan on a barren planet. Whist the Enterprise is conducting The Genesis Mission, which is capable of supplying a totally barren planet with life, they stumbles across Kahn, in which he can finally get the vengance on Kirk that he deserves. Unlike the first Star Trek movie, the plot is comprehensible, and the film can be likable to all -- not just to Star Trek fans. This still can't help being talky and slow at times. Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Ricardo Montalban, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Kirstie Alley, Bibi Besch. Directed by: Nicholas Meyer. B+

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984) PG sci-fi

Picking up where the last film left off; Spockís dead and was left to rest on Planet Genesis. Doctor McCoy suddenly begins acting peculiar, unknowingly expressing to Captain Kirk that Spock may still be alive. Captain Kirk then knows that he must try to rescue him. Even though Kirk received orders that disallowed his return to Genesis, he hijacks the Enterprise and goes anyway and they still have to worry about all the evil Klingons lurking about. It doesn't improve from Star Trek II, but remains good entertainment nevertheless. Christopher Lloyd as the Klingon leader is a nice treat. Starring: William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Christopher Lloyd, Robin Curtis, Merrit Butrick, Leonard Nimoy. Directed by: Leonard Nimoy. B-

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1984) PG sci-fi

This is my personal favorite movie featuring the original cast. Earth is being destroyed by a strange force and Kirk and the gang figure that this force is directly related to the absence of humpback whales. So, they go back in time to the 1980s (when this film was made--how convenient) to obtain one. They find a woman who works at an aquarium. Some a pair of humpback whales are scheduled to be released soon. Kirk tries to persuade the woman to let him have them. Some Trekkie nerds probably resent this installment to the series, because it concentrates on comedy more than it does nerdy stuff, but it is quite funny. Watching the ignorant Star Trek crew fumble around trying to fit in with the 80s is great. Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Keonig, Nichelle Nichols, Jane Wyatt, Catherine Hicks, Mark Lenard. Directed by: Leonard Nimoy. A-

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) PG sci-fi

This isn't quite as dismal as it's reputation, but it's still pretty darn bad. If you thought William Shatner could do worse than his acting or singing, you obviously haven't seen Star Trek V. This film is full of corny humor and the script often becomes confusing and illogical (maybe Spock should have helped). The fault of this is allegedly blamed to the film's producers who were hellbent on recreating the comedic vibe of Star Trek IV while the script of this film was much darker. Nevertheless, this is still kind of fun and it is, after all, watchable. And, yes, Trekkies certainly enjoy watching it. Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Laurence Luckinbill, David Warner, Charles Cooper, Cynthia Gouw. Directed by: William Shatner. C

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) PG sci-fi

You can't ask for much more, in the finale of the Star Trek movies that features the original cast. It's surprisingly rich with plot and excitement. The Klingons hope to make peace with the universe and they are invited to dinner with Captain Kirk and Co. However, when the Starship Enterprise shoots the Klingons' space vessel later that day, even though there was no command to do so, Kirk and Bones McCoy find themselves under trial. Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Kim Cattrall, Mark Lenard, Grace Lee Whitney. Directed by: Nicholas Meyer. B

Star Trek: Generations (1994) PG sci-fi

This is a neat cinematic addition to the Star Trek film franchise teams up both Captain Kirk and Captain Picard. Besides that, the film is fun to watch. An evil person (Malcolm McDowell) decides to blow up stars to lure the ďNemesis ribbonĒ over his way. (I really donít feel like explaining the plot; it probably wonít make sense even when you actually view the film.) The Next Generation crew must do everything in their power to stop this evil, evil man. Meanwhile, Data gets his emotion chip! Starring: Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Malcolm McDowell, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Whoopi Goldberg, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, James Doohan, Walter Keoning, Barbara March, Gwynyth Walsh, Alan Ruck, Olivia Hack. Directed by: David Carson. B

Star Trek: First Contact (1996) PG-13 sci-fi

A superior Star Trek film, the eighth in the series, has the Next Generation crew going back in time to the middle 21st Century Earth to prevent a bunch of cyborgs (part human, part machine) from interfering with mankindís first contact with alien beings. A combination of eye-candy special effects, fine performances by the cast (a butt-load more talent than the original cast, undoubtedly), and an intriguing plot makes this film the best Star Trek of them all. Itís near perfect sci-fi entertainment. Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Patti Yasutake, Alice Krige. Directed by: Jonathan Frakes. A

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) PG-13 sci-fi

A very disappointing third film featuring the Next Generation cast and the tenth in the series finds Jean-Luc Picard up at odds against a clone of himself. The idea behind the film was all right, but the overall plot was dumb and too small scale. The film fails to live up to the vast majority of the others in the franchise. Starring: Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Jude Ciccolella, Shannon Cochran, Alan Dale, Robertson Dean, Michael Dorn, Tom Hardy, J. Patrick McCormack, Gates McFadden. Directed by: Stuart Baird. C

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) PG sci-fi

Episode IV (*cue that theme music*). I don't need to say anything about this movie that you don't already know. I didn't even need to say that. (Sorry, it's 12:30 in the morning, and I'm rewriting these reviews. I'm doing a good job, aren't I?) This first-released entry of the Star Wars series is excellently thrilling and wholly entertaining. Luke Skywalker, a farm kid from a distance planet is called by Obi-Wan Kanobi to join the Rebels in resisting the all-powerful Empire. The relatively weak Rebel army has little chance against the Empire, except they have the good side of the Force on their side! Androids, R2-D2 and C3PO are the most famous and lovable robots in the world; this film turned Harrison Ford into a superstar, and everybody in the world that's not stupid loves this movie. Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guiness, James Earl Jones. Directed by: George Lucas. A+

Star Wars: The Attack of the Clones (2002) PG-13 sci-fi

While it doesn't even come close to matching the splendor of any member of the original Star Wars trilogy, this is a significant improvement over The Phantom Menace. Although, I do wish that there was more plot substance instead of an over-reliance on action and special effects. Nevertheless, there is enough substance to keep this film ticking even though it's mostly just sucking its life-force from the first trilogy. Shouldn't they get the Jedis on that? Why can't George Lucas make good movies that stand on their own feet? ... I enjoyed this film; what am I complaining about? Starring: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August, Temurera Morrison, Jimmy Smits, Jack Thompson. Directed by: George Lucas. B

Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith (2005) PG-13 sci-fi

George Lucas finally fills that gaping hole in the Star Wars saga with this addition, doing an effective job leading up to the beginning of the classic trilogy. However, Lucasís endless use of CGI animation lends the film a fakey feel. Nevertheless, this was an entertaining film, and will prove to be a lasting addition to the series. Starring: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiamid, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee. Directed by: George Lucas. B+

Stardust Memories (1980) PG comedy

I didn't care at all for this Woody Allen comedy (that appears to be an autobiography) about a famous comedian-turned-director who can't figure out what film he should make next (a la Fellini's 8 1/2). Surprisingly, unlike most other Allen vehicles, this film lacks laughs and this film's only remotely interesting; I wanted to turn off the television and do something else! Not recommended. This is especially disappointing since he did Annie Hall and Manhattan only a few years before this. Starring: Woody Allen, Charlotte Rampling, Jessica Harper, Marie-Christine Barrault, Tony Roberts, Daniel Stern, Amy Wright, Helen Hanft, John Rothman, Anne DeSalvo, Joan Neuman. Directed by: Woody Allen. C-

Stargate (1994) PG-13 sci-fi

It's totally ludicrous, but this science fiction flick is fun to watch. It's about a team of military personnel venturing through a mystical "Stargate," a gate that leads to another place in the universe, found somewhere in the ruins of ancient Egypt. When they get to the other side, they find a desolate group of people who are ruled by a terrible god called Ra. It has a good beginning, but the end needed a few more weeks of rewriting. Starring: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jayne Davidson, Viveca Lindfors, Alexis Cruz, Mili Avital, Leon Rippy, John Diehl, Carlos Lauchu, Djimon Honsou, Erick Avari, French Stewart. Directed by: Roland Emmerich. B-

Starman (1984) PG sci-fi/romance

This is a hokey but well done science fiction film about an alien (Jeff Bridges) who takes visits Earth knowing only little about Earthly ways. However, he made a mistake and landed in the wrong place, so he "floats" to the nearest house, takes the form of a widowed woman's late husband and kidnaps her so that she can bring him to Arizona. It's interesting but you shouldn't feel bad if you live your whole life without seeing this. Starring: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel. Directed by: John Carpenter. B

Starship Troopers (1997) R sci-fi

The humor is funny but a bit too self conscious. Paul Verhoven directs this enormously entertaining science fiction film about the future Earth army who goes after a bunch of giant insects from a distant planet that decided to grace Earth with an asteroid. Despite hammy acting from the cast, the human element within the script manages to be compelling. Of course, it's the incredibly graphic violence that'll keep most (male) viewers happy. And there's some breasts. Starring: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Clancy Brown, Seth Gilliam, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside, Rue McClanahan. Directed by: Paul Verhoven. B+

State and Main (2000) R comedy

Is it just me, or does David Mamet's dialogue work much better in this comedy than it does most of his dramas? Anyway, the fabulous script is the easy highlight of this utterly delightful satire of Hollywood. William H. Macy plays a movie director who chooses Waterford, VT to film his feature after being kicked out of the last town he was going to film it in (and spending much of the budget constructing a mill there). The movie's up-and-coming screenwriter (Philip Seymour Hoffman) still has to finish his script with the help of a local shop owner (Rebecca Pidgeon). Meanwhile, the film's leading man (Alec Baldwin) can't keep himself away from an underage girl (Julia Stiles), and the leading lady (Sarah Jessica Parker) won't do a nude scene that's required in her contract. There's a lot going on in this movie, and all of it's funny. This is a fantastic, upbeat film equipped with many laughs and Mamet's trademark dialogue. Starring: Alec Baldwin, Charles Durning, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Patti LuPone, William H. Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Paymer, Rebecca Pidgeon, Julia Stiles, Ricky Jay, Jim Frangione, Clark Gregg, Linda Kimbrough. Directed by: David Mamet. A

The Station Agent (2003) R comedy/drama

This endearing film is a quaint profile of a dwarf (Peter Dinklage) who inherits an abandoned train depot where he goes to live in solitude. However, some of the locals of the small town (predominately including a talkative roadside vendor and a flakey artist) soon become part of his life. This film certainly seems something of a best-kept secret of cinema; this is one film that everybody should see. The character development is as good as it gets, and everyone would surely get something out of this after watching. Starring: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale. Directed by: Thomas McCarthy. A

Staying Alive (1983) PG dance

Sylvester Stallone directs this hilariously bad film, a sequel-of-sorts to Saturday Night Fever, which stars John Travolta as a Broadway dancer waiting for his big break. Then, he becomes romantically involved with a dancing superstar (Finola Hughes) much to the dismay of his hottie girlfriend (Cynthia Rhodes). This isn't the type of film where paying attention to the plot is important -- marvel at the cheesy '80s music and horribly dated dancing. Where the climactic dance scene from Napoleon Dynamite was a joke, Staying Alive is for real. It canít be beat. Starring: John Travolta, Cynthia Rhodes, Finola Hughes, Steve Inwood, Julie Bovasso, Frank Stallone, Tony Munafo, Peter Tramm, Charles Ward, Pat Brady. Directed by: Sylvester Stallone. C-

Steel Magnolias (1989) PG comedy

A funny and touching comedy/drama about friends and family living in a small southern town coping with their strange and unique lives. This flick is sheer entertainment, with many hilarious performances and some tear-jerking scenes as well. The cast is full of stars and they all do excellent job in their roles. I can't help feeling, however, that Sally Field overplayed her role, but Shirley MacLaine's performance is the most enjoyable as the bitter widow. Starring: Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, Tom Skerritt, Sam Shepherd, Dylan McDermott, Kevin J. O'Connor. Directed by: Herbert Ross. B+

Step Lively (1944) NR comedy

Why they decided to remake the Marx Brother's 1938 film, Room Service, is beyond me, even though this version is actually better. But without the Marx Brothers' signature slapstick? Hmmm... A producer of a play must trick and conceive his way to having an entire cast staying in a hotel without paying the bill so that they can put on their big show. This movie is all-around entertaining if the songs are forgettable. Starring: Frank Sinatra, George Murphy, Adolphe Menjou, Gloria DeHaven, Walter Slezak, Eugene Pallette, Wally Brown, Alan Carney, Grant Mitchell, Anne Jeffreys. Directed by: Tim Whelan. B

The Stepford Wives (2004) PG-13 comedy

This comedic version of the camp-horror classic of the same name does not contain enough laughs or enough biting wit to really be worth much of a darn. That is a shame considering the very impressive cast! The subject matter, at least, should have made a more entertaining film, but somehow it evaded that. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, Roger Bart, David Marshall Grant, John Lovitz, Faith Hill, Lorri Bagley, Kate Shindle, Christopher Evan Welch, Robert Stanton. Directed by: Frank Oz. C-

Stir Crazy (1980) R comedy

Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in their second film together provide plenty of laughs. They decide one day to leave the big city life of New York City and head for a peaceful life in California. On the way, they are mistaken for bank robbers and are sent to jail where they meet interesting characters and have a memorable time. Starring: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Georg Stanford Brown, JoBeth Williams, Miguel Suarez, Craig T. Nelson, Barry Corbin, Vharles Weldon, Nicolas Coster, Joel Brooks, Jonathan Banks. Directed by: Sidney Poitier. B

A Stolen Life (1946) NR drama

Bette Davis stars as twin sisters in this boring melodrama. One sister is a highly agreeable woman, a loner, who excels at art. She meets a like-minded lighthouse worker (Glenn Ford) and falls in love with him. The other sister, who is evil, steals the guy. Then, thereís a boating accident and the good twin is given the opportunity to take her sisterís place. Davis is fine in her two roles, but this movie would have been nicer if it were more stylist and compelling. Starring: Bette Davis, Glenn Ford, Dance Clark, Walter Brennan, Charlie Ruggles, Bruce Bennett, Peggy Knudsen, Esther Dale, Joan Winfield, Clara Blandick. Directed by: Curtis Bernhardt. C

Stoned Age (1994) R comedy

Amateurish, sexist and homophobic. Maybe that's to be expected of a stoner comedy from the '90s, but it didn't have to be. Even back then, this was pretty offensive. The plot is simple: underaged stoners Hubbs (Bradford Tatum) and Joe (Michael Kopelow) go on a suburbia hunt for drugs, parties and women. They strike gold with Laine (Renee Ammann) who promises to let them in her house if they bring booze. Hubbs is quite cruel to Joe, which is difficult to watch, particularly since there's nothing funny about the banter. Some amusing characters, however, make brief appearances, such as Taylor Negron as a liquor store worker who likes disco, and a couple of cops who offer unsolicited reminiscing about their own wild youth every time they break up a party. Starring: Michael Kopelow, Bradford Tatum, China Kanter, Rene Griffin, Clifton Collins Jr., Kevin Kilner, David Groh, Michael Wiseman, Taylor Negron, Jake Busey, Frankie Avalon. Directed by: James Melkonian. D

Stop Making Sense (1984) PG music

This phenomenal Talking Heads concert video is sure to please fans and anybody else who is interested in seeing the dazzling musical performance of one of the most groundbreaking music acts in rock history. By the sure hand of Jonathan Demme, it captures the essence of the Talking Heads and, as it turns out, is one of the most beloved concert videos ever made. Starring: The Talking Heads. Directed by: Jonathan Demme. A+

Storytelling (2001) R comedy

This Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse) film is told in two separate tales that points out that the line between fiction and non-fiction is often blurred and even non-existent. The first section, "fiction," is dreadful. It's about a college student (Selma Blair) who has a sexual encounter with her prestigious writing professor. The acting is awful and the story isn't compelling whatsoever. The "non-fiction" section, however, is endearing, funny and delightful, and it boasts some of the finest actors in the business. Paul Giamatti stars as documentary filmmaker who attaches himself to a family (father: John Goodman, mother: Julie Hagerty) to feature their son (Noah Fleiss), who hasn't a good idea of what he wants to do with the rest of his life. I wouldn't have thought it bad for Solondz to just have axed the first part and fleshed out the second a bit more fully. Starring: Selma Blair, Leo Fitzpatrick, Aleska Palladino, Robert Wisdom, Noah Fleiss, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Julie Hagerty, Lupe Ontiveros, Franka Potente, Mike Schank, Mark Webber, Mary Lynn Rajskub. Directed by: Todd Solondz. C+

The Straight Story (1999) G drama

David Lynch directs this surprisingly TAME slice-of-life about an elderly man who needs two canes to get around. He knows that he is about to die, so he goes for a cross country journey on a lawn mower to visit his brother who he hadnít talked to in years. Itís a charming film, but it's not much more than that. Farnsworth became the oldest man nominated for an Oscar for this role. Starring: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Jane Galloway Heitz, Everett McGill, Jennifer Edwards-Hughes. Directed by: David Lynch. B

Straight Time (1978) R drama

This gritty crime drama is only a notch below its contemporaries Taxi Driver, The Godfather and Dog Day Afternoon -- and is a rather tragically under-sung gem of the genre. Dustin Hoffman stars as Max Dembo. He was released from prison and put under the guidance of scuzzy parole officer Earl (M. Emmet Walsh). Earl fronts like he's friendly, but Max sees through his smugness immediately. But despite that, Max's genuine intention is to go straight. He even has a mentor of sorts in Jerry (Harry Dean Stanton) who had not only gone straight, but he got the whole shebang -- a wife and a backyard swimming pool. But he is bored, desperate for action. When Max is caught by Earl in possession of a burnt matchbook, a common sign of heroin use, Max is handcuffed and dragged back to jail for drug testing. Even though he had no physical signs of using. Max, finally having enough of being pushed around, manages to commandeer Earl's vehicle and strands him handcuffed to a fence on the interstate, with pants and underwear pulled down. A juvenile prank that nonetheless had me giggling. At that point, Max figures the criminal life is his only place in the world -- a fact that excites Jerry who lives for being second-in-command in heists. This film works as an exciting action-crime adventure and also as a resonant human drama. Criminals of course should never be celebrated, but this film does what society ought to do -- humanizes them. That's important, because any system that doesn't treat criminals as human will always fail. The performances in this film are first-rate, delivering in spades the realism demanded by the script. Excellent film. Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Harry Dean Stanton, Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, M. Emmet Walsh, Rita Taggart, Kathy Bates, Sandy Baron, Jake Busey, Edward Bunker. Directed by: Ulu Grosbard. A-

Strange Brew (1983) PG comedy

The duo from SCTV, Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), are goofy Canadian Brothers who would like to spend their entire life drinking beer, watching hockey and calling each other names. Somehow, they manage to get jobs at a brewery, but they soon discover the heads of the brewery are up to no good. This is an extremely silly comedy that, despite the stupidity of it all, manages to produce many genuine chuckles. Moranis and Thomas are both very good in these roles that they created for themselves. Starring: Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, Max Von Sydow, Paul Dooley, Lynne Griffin, Angus Macinnes, Tom Harvey, Douglas Campbell, Mrian McConnachie, Len Doncheff. Directed by: Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. B

Stranger Than Fiction (2006) PG-13 drama

Will Ferrell stars as an IRS agent whose life is as interesting as a tax manual. Suddenly, his life is rocked when he begins hearing someone narrating his life. Either Ferrell is going crazy, or he's a character in a novel. Turns out it's the latter, and the novelist (Emma Thompson), not knowing her character is a real person, struggles to figure out how to kill him. The clever premise is marred by the script, which has a disappointing ending and tries too hard to appeal to the masses. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable film, which features Ferrell's best screen performance to this date. Starring: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson, Tony Hale, Tom Hulce, Linda Hunt. Directed by: Mark Forster. B

Strangers on a Train (1951) NR thriller

This excellent Hitchcock masterpiece is about a rather insane man who comes up with the perfect murder: to switch murders with somebody else so that their motives get mixed up with their alibis. He shares his idea with a famous tennis player he meets on a train who happens to have a grudge on his wife. Without the proper permission, the insane man kills the tennis player's wife and therefore expects the tennis player to kill the insane man's father in return. This is a very exciting Hitchcock film that also has distinction of being one of his best. Starring: Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker, Leo G. Carroll, Patricia Hitchcock, Laura Elliot, Marion Lorne, Jonathan Hale, Howard St. John. Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. A+

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) NR drama

Vivian Leigh's Blanche DuBois cloaks herself as a genteel Southern Belle. Inside, however, she's a pit viper. Also, a dumpster fire. The extent of her character's sordidness revealed by the end of the film. Until then, we get an intense character drama that begins as the recently homeless Blanche comes to stay with her pregnant sister Stella (Kim Hunter) and brother-in-law Stanley (Marlon Brando) in a dilapidated, sweltering New Orleans apartment unit. Blanche and Stella grew up on a wealthy plantation, now defunct. Her husband is the hotheaded son of immigrants -- blue collar through and through. He doesn't trust Blanche from the get-go, rifling through her belongings on the lookout for evidence she's hoarding her family's old money. She, in turn, is quick to throw condescending barbs at Stanley -- that she married someone beneath her -- intent on undermining the foundation of their marriage. Interesting to note the contrast of their two personalities. Blanche is sweet-tasting arsenic, Stanley a brute with a heart of gold. Brando's performance is rightfully considered iconic, his curdling cries of "Stella!" in the muggy New Orleans night being the film's most recognizable moment. In a fit of rage, he'd struck Stella, causing her to flee to a friend's apartment upstairs. All it took is a little screaming outside, and she takes him back. The drama is so intense at times it feels I can't breathe. The character development is stunningly vivid. No doubt, this is one of the great dramas and most amazing ensemble casts ever captured on screen. Starring: Vivian Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden, Rudy Bond, Nick Dennis, Peg Hillias, Richard Garrick, Anne Dere. Directed by: Elia Kazan. A+

Strictly Ballroom (1992) PG comedy

There are only a handful of enthusiasts in the world aware of the Australian Dancing Federation's marquee event, the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix. There are even fewer who participate in it. But to them, this event is life. Should it ever cease operations, the world might as well cease to spin. To earn its highly coveted trophy, a participant must master all approved dances. Examples: the foxtrot, the quick-step, the rhumba, or the regional favorite, the bogo-pogo. This is supposed to be the year Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) wins -- at least as fervently attested by his mother (Pat Thomson), a Federation veteran. But suddenly something comes over Scott that causes this "sure thing" to be cast into doubt. That is, his insatiable desire to improvise steps. This scandal rocks the community and causes his longtime dance partner Liz (Gia Carides) to quit, effectively flushing Scott's chances for the trophy down the toilet. But he is nevertheless keen to press on using his own steps, and he finds a dance partner in the novice Fran (Tara Morice). Even though she is an amateur and how one ascends from an amateur to the ranks of professional in this universe is roughly akin to how one in Medieval Europe might ascend from peasant to blue-blood. This film is so tongue-in-cheek that it's almost unbelievable. It also nonetheless treats its subject with enough respect that even I fantasize about dabbling in ballroom dancing as a result of watching this. This film is oftentimes hilarious, and it is also chock-full of colorful costumes, memorable characters, and excellent dancing. Such an exceptionally unique film that warrants repeat viewing. Starring: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Barry Otto, Pat Thompson, Gia Carides, Peter Whitford, John Hannan. Directed by: Baz Luhrmann. A

Stripes (1981) R comedy

Bill Murray and his funny one liners is what makes this film great (naturally). Murray plays an unfortunate man who happens to lose his car, his job and his girlfriend all in the same day. So, he does the logical thing and joins the Army. He is a smart-alecky goofball, and everybody knows that smart-alecky goofballs and the Army don't mix. It's not the greatest of scripts, but at least it's funny. The supporting cast made up of John Candy, Harold Ramis, Judge Reinhold and Warren Oates make this film even more enjoyable. Starring: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P.J. Soles, Sean Young, John Candy, John Larroquette, Judge Reinhold, John Voldstad, John Diehl, Lance Le Gault. Directed by: Ivan Reitman. B+

Stuart Little (1999) G comedy

Adorable kids' movie about a kindly WASPish couple, the Littles (Hugh Laurie, Geena Davis), adopting a child named Stuart who has one unusual attribute: He is an anthropomorphic mouse (voiced by Michael J. Fox). The movie doesn't explain how a mouse found his way into a human adoption facility that doesn't appear to cater to mice, nor why the adoption agent (Julia Sweeney) discourages humans from adopting outside their own species. All we know is there is a mouse looking to be adopted, and the Littles adopt him. When they bring Stuart home, their biological son George (Jonathan Lipnicki) is sorely disappointed. When he told them he wanted a baby brother, he didn't realize he needed to specify a human one. Also, the family cat Snowbell (voiced by Nathan Lane) is utterly humiliated that now, technically, he is the pet of a mouse. While Stuart makes inroads into the heart of his adopted brother George, Snowbell plots to get rid of Stuart . . . for good. While this is a fairly shallow film, even for a kids' movie, it's fun and colorful. Fox uses his familiar talents to talk like an innocent and mildly tortured teenager to his benefit. Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie are amusing as parents who look like they've come from the world of Leave it to Beaver. The sets and costumes are unique -- projecting an idealized, upper middle class home with an eye for vivid primary colors. I certainly enjoy watching this film, even without the presence of kids. The story engages me rather well, even if there isn't much more to it than that. Starring: Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki, Julia Sweeney, Jeffrey Jones, Connie Ray, Allyce Beadley, Brian Doyle-Murray, Dabney Coleman. Voices of: Michael J. Fox, Nathan Lane, Jennifer Tilly, Bruno Kirby. Directed by: Rob Minkoff. B

Stuart Little 2 (2002) G comedy

Take what I said about the first film, but add a notch to its brightness level. This film also makes me laugh noticeably more than its predecessor thanks to the funniest characters in these films -- the cats -- coming around to being reluctant allies of our little mouse friend, Stuart (voiced once again by Michael J. Fox). Even more importantly, his adopted brother George (Jonathan Lipnicki) even comes around to embracing him as a brother. They are on a soccer team together, which is an odd fit for Stuart after he's hit with a ball and unintentionally rides it as it scores a winning goal. Stuart does have a difficult time fitting in, which is mainly what he works out through the course of the film. That's something I find instructive to young viewers more than the anything from the first film. The villain this time is a falcon named Falcon (voiced by James Woods) who runs a con game with a canary named Margalo (voiced by Melanie Griffith). They work their way into the Little's house and set their sites on mom's (Geena Davis) wedding ring. As much as this is a predictable film, it's so cute that I find it irresistible. This is going to appeal mainly to small children. But as a grown adult, I also appreciate the chance every once in a while to laugh like a toddler. Starring: Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki, Anna and Ashley Hoelck, Marc John Jeffries, Jim Doughan, Brad Garrett. Voices of: Michael J. Fox, Nathan Lane, Melanie Griffith, James Woods, Steve Zahn. Directed by: Rob Minkoff. B+

The Stupids (1996) PG comedy

The father of the title family (Tom Arnold) investigates the weird theft of his garbage every week and unwittingly falls into a secret plot by a falling-out military colonel (Mark Metcalf). His children (Bug Hall, Alex McKenna) think their father has been kidnapped and leave an incomplete note, indicating that they have been kidnapped by the police, for their mother (Jessica Lundy). And it all escalates into a grandiose adventure of stupidity. A few good gags save this film from totally living up to its title. Starring: Tom Arnold, Jessica Lundy, Bug Hall, Alex McKenna, Mark Metcalf, Matt Kesslar, Jenny McCarthy, Bob Keeshan, Christopher Lee, Harvey Atkin, Frankie R. Faison. Directed by: John Landis. C

Suburbicon (2017) R comedy

This is adapted from a Coen Brothers script written in the '80s, and elements of it seem to be incorporated into their seminal classic Fargo. From that point of view, there's some academic interest here. But on its own, nearly everything about this movie is badly misfired. Matt Damon stars as a man who arranges to have his paraplegic wife (Julianne Moore) murdered so that he can collect insurance money. Also so that he can start fooling around with her non-paraplegic identical twin sister (also Moore). This idea is incredibly devilish, which I like, but the pacing of the film is sluggish when it should have been sprightly. Damon's performance is deadpan, which is correct, but he doesn't seem to quite capture the right energy. There's also an unrelated subplot that falls flat about a black family that moves into the neighborhood, and they meet fierce opposition from their neighbors. The script needed a rewrite badly so that these events could be connected, and doing so would hardly take a genius mind. Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Oscar Isaac, Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell, Megan Ferguson, Jack Conley, Gary Basaraba. Directed by: John Landis. C-

Sullivanís Travels (1941) NR comedy/drama

This is a life-changing movie (for the main character and maybe for yourself) about a celebrated young film director (Joel McCrea) who wants to shoot a film about the heartache of those in poverty. However, having been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he doesnít know what itís like to truly be in desparation. So, he dresses himself up like a hobo and hits the street! Along the way, he meets a seemingly streetwise failed actress (Veronica Lake) who accompanies him and Ö um Ö falls in love? Not only is this film extremely entertaining to watch and endearing, but it manages to capture a major portion humanity at its essence. Starring: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Porter Hall, Byron Foulger. Directed by: Preston Sturges. A+

Summer Rental (1985) PG comedy

John Candy, in his first starring role, plays a man who decides to bring his family on vacation that just ends up getting screwed up. Yes, this is merely the regurgitated National Lampoon's Vacation unsuccessfully reworked for a much fatter man. The plot is unbelievable, the main characters are immature and the jokes aren't funny. The plot even gets excruciatingly corny. What's wrong with these filmmakers? I thought director Carl Reiner would have known better than this. Starring: John Candy, Richard Crenna, Rip Torn, Karen Austin, Kerri Green, John Larroquette, Joey Lawrence, Aubrey Jene, Dick Anthony Williams. Directed by: Carl Reiner. C-

Summer School (1987) PG-13 comedy

An irresponsible gym teacher (Mark Harmon) is forced to teach a summer school English course, which is filled with the typical array of misfits, underachievers and weirdoes. Not wanting to do this, he pretty much blows everything off until he has a corny realization: the future of these kids is worth fighting for. Despite it all, this film actually makes an enjoyable watch. Starring: Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley, Robin Thomas, Patrick Laborteaux, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Dean Cameron, Gary Riley, Kelly Minter. Directed by: Carl Reiner. B

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) R drama

Murray Head stars as a bisexual sculptor who has blooming romantic relationship with a young British woman (Glenda Jackson) and her doctor (Peter Finch). This overly talky but engaging drama dealt with social issues relevant to the times in which it was made and probably still to this day. This isn't for the easily bored or homophones. The cast delivers uniformly excellent performances. Starring: Glenda Jackson, Peter Finch, Murray Head, Peggy Ashcroft, Maurice Denham, Vivian Pickles, Kimi Tallmadge, Cindy Burrows, Emma Schlesinger, Patrick Thornberry. Directed by: Jon Schlesinger. B

Sunday in New York (1963) NR comedy

It's only the details, but I love the ample scenes of New York City in the early '60s. Many of the landmarks are recognizable to me because of their modern incarnations, but they seem unblemished here, like they're out of a fantasy land. (Surely, the poor areas of city aren't shown here, but most of us fantasize about being upper middle class anyway.) This is also a great early role for Jane Fonda who gives a dynamite screwball comedy style performance. She is completely frantic and yet she crisply delivers the sharp, smart and frequently funny dialog. She is a music critic who is reeling from a recent breakup with her opulent fiancee (Robert Culp). She remained abstinent during their relationship, and her worry is that being a 22-year-old virgin makes her unprepared to re-enter the dating world. Her brother (Cliff Robertson) reassures her that this isn't unusual. He also swears to her that he too remains abstinent. One fine day on a bus-ride, she awkwardly meets a stranger (Rod Taylor), who also happens to be a music critic . . . Starring: Jane Fonda, Rod Taylor, Cliff Robertson, Robert Culp, Joe Morrow, Jim Backus, Peter Nero. Directed by: Peter Tewksbury. B+

Sunset Boulevard (1950) NR drama

This is easily one of the greatest films ever made. William Holden stars as a soft-talking hack playwright who becomes entangled in the dismal life and creepy home of fallen silent film star Norma Desmond (played brilliantly by Gloria Swanson). This is probably Billy Wilderís greatest masterpiece; this is so resonant that it may even bring you to tears. Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stoheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough, Jack Webb, Franklyn Farnum, Larry J. Blake, Charles Dayton, Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson, H.B. Warner. Directed by: Billy Wilder. A+

Sunset Park (1996) R drama

Rhea Perlman stars as an unlikely basketball coach of a failing inner-city team in this poorly conceived sports movie. Even though all the cliches of the genre are present, the director neglected to include proper development, rendering this an utterly worthless film. That is a shame because he had a well-performing cast. Starring: Rhea Perlman, Fredo Starr, Carol Kane, Terence Howard, Camille Saviola, DeíAundre Bonds, Shawn Michael Howard, Talent Harris, Anthony Hall. Directed by: Steve Gomer. D

The Sunshine Boys (1975) PG comedy

This hilarious and enjoyable Neil Simon film blows many of his other films right out of the water! Walter Matthau plays a has-been comedy star who reunites with his old partner, played by George Burns. These two, after forty years apart, go together like oil and water. The acting by both Matthau and Burns hit the bulls-eye. Matthau received an Academy Award nomination for best actor, and George Burns won the best supporting actor award. Truly enjoyable and a must for fans of comedies. And this relaunched Burns' acting career who hadn't appeared in a film since 1939. Starring: Walter Matthau, George Burns, Richard Benjamin, Lee Meredith, Carol Arthur, Howard Hesseman, Ron Rifkin, Fritz Feld, Jack Bernardi, F. Murray Abraham. Directed by: Herbert Ross. A-

The Sunshine Boys (1997) PG comedy

Adequate but unnecessary remake of Neil Simon's 1975 movie stars two very dependable comedians: Woody Allen and Peter Falk. They play a has-been comedy duo from the 1960s who haven't spoken to each other since they split up. When they attempt to reunite for a motion picture appearance, it's extremely difficult getting them to cooperate. The Matthau/Burns team of the predecessor worked the best by far, but this update has good points. Starring: Woody Allen, Peter Falk, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael McKean, Liev Shreiber, Edie Falco, Tyler Noyes. Directed by: John Erman. B-

The Sunshine State (2002) PG-13 drama

This is certainly a thoughtful film, but it is severely weighed down by a drab plot and an overlong running time. It is about what a small coastal community goes through when large companies come in and threaten to turn it into a commercial revenue vacuum. The characters are interesting but never engaging enough to make this a very enticing film. I'd skip it unless you find the plot outline interesting, have liked writer/director John Sayles's projects in the past, or need a good "sleeping pill." Starring: Angela Bassett, Edie Falco, James McDaniel, Ralph Waite, Richard Edson, Miguel Ferrer, Timothy Hutton, Mary Steenburger, Jane Alexander, Marc Blucas, Gordon Clapp, Alan King, Mary Alice, Bill Cobbs, Tom Wright, Alexander Lewis, McMurray, Perry Lang. Directed by: John Sayles. C

Super Cop (1992) R martial arts

This enjoyable film stars Jackie Chan as an undercover cop who is attempting to stop a powerful drug lord's illegal activities. The mesmerizing martial arts sequences alone makes this worthwhile, but its lack of plot substance stifles the effort. Although, that will hardly deter Chan's greatest fans; they're used to little plot. Starring: Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Kenneth Tsang, Andrew Kam Yeun Wah. Directed by: Stanley Tong. B-

Super Size Me (2004) PG documentary

This ambitious and delightfully entertaining documentary follows the exploits of a guy named Morgan Spurlock who goes on a McDonaldís-only diet for a month just to see what happens. Itís a bit uneasy to watch, especially if you frequent that fast food chain, because it might make you think twice before you bite into your next Big Mac. Starring: Morgan Spurlock. Directed by: Morgan Spurlock. B

Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) G comedy

James Garner plays Jason McCollough, the coolest, most laid-back gunfighter west of the Mississippi. He is passing through the prospecting town of Calendar, Colorado, on his way to Australia. This untamed town is a place where there are regular outbreaks of brawls in its muddy streets. Its citizens are at the mercy of the dreaded Danby family. McCollough ends up witnessing Joe Danby (Bruce Dern) gun down a man in cold blood. Feeling a sense of responsibility, he decides to fill the vacant position as the town's sheriff. The mayor of the town (Harry Morgan) has had trouble keeping that position filled on account of sheriffs getting run out of town or killed. This is one of the movies I grew up watching--Garner's glib performance and the psychological tricks he plays on his adversaries (and not to mention his love interest, played by Joan Hackett) is constantly amusing. Starring: James Garner, Joan Hackett, Walter Brennan, Harry Morgan, Jack Elam, Bruce Dern, Henry Jones, Walter Burke, Dick Peabody, Gene Evans, Willis Bouchey, Kathleen Freeman. Directed by: Burt Kennedy. A-

Suspicion (1941) NR thriller

This is a top-notch Alfred Hitchcock film about a woman who suspects her husband of murders and fears that she may be his next victim! This may be one of Cary Grant's best role and one of Hitchcock's most tense and thrilling film (inferior to Psycho, of course). This movie is so intense that I discovered fingernail imprints on the palm of my hand. Starring: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty, Isabel Jeans, Heather Angel, Leo G. Carroll. Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. A

Swallows and Amazons (1974) NR adventure

Endearing British film about four siblings (aged 7-12) who spend the summer at their family's lake cottage. They go on the grandest adventure that kids could possibly take, getting into a rowboat and going to a small lake island. Upon this island, they spot . . . pirates! Which are actually two other kids in a different rowboat. This is a lovely film about adventure and imagination, and the performances from the child actors seem genuine. This might be troublesome for modern audiences, however, as the children reflect the imperialist attitudes of their culture. Starring: Virginia McKenna, Ronald Fraser, Simon West, Suzanna Hamilton, Sophie Neville, Stephen Grendon, Kit Seymour, Lesley Bennett. Directed by: Claude Whatham. B+

Sweet Jesus, Preacherman (1973) R action

Blaxploitation is always fun, this being no exception. But here it's the idea I like and less so the execution. Roger E. Mosley is Holmes, a gangster and hitman who goes undercover as Reverend Jason Lee in an inner city neighborhood. His job is simply to throw support behind a local white (evil) politician who cares nothing about his black constituents. However, Holmes decides to go semi-rogue and actually take to heart the plight of this neighborhood. This movie is uneven in that Mosley's sermons are fiery, but the dialogue between characters is dull and wooden. Also unfortunately, the film doesn't explore all that well the character's internal conflicts -- being a criminal but also to some degree believing what he's preaching. It lumbers as it goes all over the place with stitched-in scenes of excessive violence, drug dealings, prostitution, and of course obligatory shots of bare breasts. Starring: Roger E. Mosley, William Smith, Michael Pataki, Tom Johnigarn, Joe Tornatore, Damu King, Marla Gibbs. Directed by: Henning Schellerup. C

Sweet Liberty (1986) PG comedy

Alan Alda directs and stars in this interesting comedy as a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, whose book involves the American Revolution, has Hollywood come to his town to film a movie based on it. However, when Alda reads the script, he finds it tasteless, historically inaccurate, and much unlike his novel. This movie provides minimal laughs, and it's much too unbelievable to be excellent. However, it's humorous enough to be likable. Starring: Alan Alda, Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lise Hilboldt, Lillian Gish, Saul Rubinek, Lois Chiles, Linda Thorson, Diane Agostini. Directed by: Alan Alda. B-

Sweet Smell of Success (1957) NR drama

The story is juicy, and it gets juicer the more it unravels. It's all very gripping, playing out like a fine Shakespearean tragedy. Tony Curtis stars as press agent Sidney Falco who is frustrated at his lack of power in the industry. He's willing to do anything, no matter how slimy, if he thinks it'll give him an inch. His business is to convince newspaper columnists to write about his clients. But he's been shedding clients recently and is on the brink of going out of business. He eyes an opportunity to get in the good graces of an extremely influential but morally corrupt columnist J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster). Hunsecker is extremely possessive of his sister Susan (Susan Harrison), and he vehemently opposes her burgeoning romance with jazz guitarist Steve Dallas (Martin Milner). Falco bribes a competing columnist to publish a fabricated story about Dallas being a pot-smoking Communist. After Dallas inevitably gets fired from the night club, the plan is for Hunsecker to use his influence to get his job back, figuring Dallas would be too proud to accept the favor and Susan subsequently seeing the light that he is too foolish for her to marry. As they find out, harebrained schemes usually don't work the way you want them to. This is a brilliant, complex film with phenomenal black and white cinematography -- the framing perfect, the New York street scenes gritty and stunning, the camera perfectly capturing the depths of actors' emotions both intense and subtle. Call this is a necessary watch for anyone with a penchant for classic cinema. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner, Sam Levene, Barbara Nichols, Jeff Donnell, Joe Frisco, Emile Meyer, Edith Atwater. Directed by: Alexander Mackendrick. A+

Swimfan (2002) PG-13 thriller

This is a stupid thriller about a mental but attractive high school babe who decides to ruin the life of swimming champ Ben Cronin, played by Jesse Bradford. Not really worth watching, although itís certainly not a tedious film. The character development sucks. Starring: Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Shiri Appleby, Kate Burton, Clayne Crawford, Jason Ritter, Kia Joy Goodwin, Dan Hedaya. Directed by: John Polson. C-

Swiss Army Man (2016) R comedy

Hank (Paul Dano) is marooned on an island and getting ready to hang himself when he spots a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) wash to shore. He discovers that the corpse's powerful and incessant flatulence behaves in the water like a jet ski motor. He mounts it and rides to the mainland. It turns out the corpse has other uses as well -- It stores drinking water, it can launch rockets out its mouth, it can even be a blowtorch. When Hank shows it a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, it grows an erection that points to civilization like a compass. Its most important use of all, though: friendship. That's right, it talks -- with labored, muffled breaths, barely able to move his stiff, contorted mouth. He introduces himself as Manny. He remembers nothing about his prior life, inquiring upon Hank's wealth of knowledge to learn about basic human traits, such as pooping. This is a flagrantly unconventional film that is oftentimes hilarious -- the stream-of-consciousness dialog is frequently hypnotic as it is coupled with flashing, bedazzling images of crafts that Hank constructs out of nearby garbage. The soundtrack is also peculiarly sirenesque, consisting mainly of sleepy songs that sound like indie-rock that are hummed by Hank and Manny including at one point even a rendition of the Jurassic Park theme. While this film's bizarro momentum occasionally stalls, particularly when the dialogue dwells a bit too much on bathroom stuff, I find this to be a luridly unique, captivatingly surreal odyssey that's not easily forgotten. Starring: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Directed by: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan. B+

Swiss Family Robinson (1960) NR adventure

This is a tremendous adventure film about a shipwrecked family on a strange tropical island and having to survive on it. They do pretty good; they build fancy tree-houses and wait for a rescue ship to come along. However, with word of pirates, the Robinsons must act quickly. This landmark Disney live-action film is a family favorite and no person should go through their childhood without seeing it. Starring: John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, James MacArthur, Janet Munro, Sessue Hayakawa, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran. Directed by: Ken Annakin. A-

Switching Channels (1988) PG comedy

This is a funny and energetic comedy starring Burt Reynolds, Kathleen Turner and Christopher Reeve. Of this trio, Kathleen Turner is the only one who's acclaimed for her acting ability, but with a great script and wise directing, this movie is a blast. This film is an update of "His Girl Friday." A love triangle is created when Turner becomes engaged with Reeve when Reynolds, a former love, becomes jealous. Reynolds conceives ways to keep Turner from moving away with Reeve. Starring: Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Henry Gibson, George Newbern, Al Waxman, Ken James, Barry Flatman, Ted Simonett, Anthony Sherwood. Directed by: Ted Kotcheff. B+

Swordfish (2001) R action

This is one of those spy movies that I find myself having trouble keeping track of whose side is on whose. Worse, the storyline is so uninteresting that I don't actually care. Nonetheless, there is a nice action sequence here with a helicopter that lifts up a bus by a cable and then crashes it into the side of a skyscraper. Gratuitous eye-candy as a consolation prize. And that isn't to mention the other eye-candy here: Halle Berry, looking great in designer outfits. Or sometimes a lack thereof. She plays an agent working for a master-criminal (John Travolta) who has long hair and a skinny soul patch. She recruits a master-hacker (Hugh Jackman) who is a cranky quasi-hermit who had once hacked the FBI. You know the dude's a serious hacker when his workstation has eight monitors. And he can type so ferociously as to make nifty gifs twirl around on the screens. Sometimes he even stands up when he hacks. That's for the intense hacking. For sure, this is not a terribly good film -- it's plagued with hackneyed dialogue, and Travolta completely phones in his performance. But at least the techno-laden soundtrack is pretty sleek (and I'm mostly not being sarcastic about that). Starring: John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Vinnie Jones, Sam Shepard. Directed by: Dominic Sena. C-

Syriana (2005) R political drama

This is a big movie! The script constantly moves from one corner of the world to another as it tries to depict the world's tragic quest for oil. Certainly, this was a bold and respectable undertaking, but it covers more ground than it was able to handle. Being a somewhat boring film driven by talk and with international political themes, this is clearly not a film for everyone. Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Amanda Peet, Christopher Plummer, Alexander Siddig, Mazhar Munir, Akbar Kurtha, Max Minghella. Directed by: Stephen Gaghan. B


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