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Scary Movie (R, 2000) ... Average: 3.25
(Shannon Elizabeth, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Carmen Electra, Cheri Oteri)

Bill DeHaven
Very Funny.

Chris Malinowski
Mildly Funny.

This movie was pretty much what I expected. Essentially 90 minutes of spoofing on "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer" - slap-stick kind of stuff.  A number of funny lines - my favorite was the one where Doofy said "I told you not to interrupt me when I'm cleaning my room!"  It's a lot of "Airplane" and "What about Mary?" type of humor which pokes fun at the silliness of the aforementioned scary movies, all done in relatively good taste and in good fun.  If you are a big fan of that type of humor, you are likely to be a big fan of this movie.

Overall, for me it was OK, but it's probably a better rental.  I can't recommend paying $15-double-date prices to see it in the theater and I can't say it equaled other movies that I've given high ratings to.  It was just OK.  Mildly funny.  Wait till it comes out at Blockbuster.

By the way, there is a seen where a penis comes through a hole in a bathroom stall.  (OK, scratch my comment about the movie being done in good taste.)  If that wasn't a REAL penis, it was a damn good replica!  Anyone else agree?  (I might add that mine would not have fit through that hole.  Hehehehe.)

 

The Score (R, 2001)  ... Average: 3.13
(Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton, Angela Bassett, Marlon Brando, Jamie Harrold)

G.P.
I give it a higher rating than the other two reviewers.  First, as to the suspense:  I saw it as more of a point/counterpoint thing.  The slowness of the planning stages contrasted nicely with the last 30 minutes.  When Rob got left hanging by Ed on that I-beam, I was sweating right along with him.  I thought the twist (which I won't reveal) was pretty good too.

Note to Sue Hohenadel:  Think you might have been a little unfair to Brando, commenting on his hair, appearance in bathrobe, etc.  Perhaps the director wanted a sleazy edge to the character.  That would fit, and if so, then we simply saw Brando playing it off perfectly.

One criticism:  I'm not sure the final ending was entirely plausible.  I don't want to give away too much here, but I'm not sure that one character's misfortune necessarily left the other character in complete safety.  I hope that is clear but does not give too much away.

Chris Mal
Yeah, what Sue said (see below.)  You would think that any movie with Robert DeNiro and Ed Norton would form an unbeatable combination, no matter what the plot.  Nope.

DeNiro plays a master safe cracking thief at the end of his thief career who wants to finally settle down into a life as a wealthy jazz club owner in Montreal.  His mentor, played by Marlon Brando, talks him into one last nearly impossible heist - which winds up being the heist of all heists, the lifting of a $30,000,000 17th-century golden scepter being stored under maximum security in the basement of the Montreal Customs House.  Brando also ropes the youthful and overly ambitious but clever burglar played by Ed Norton to form an unlikely alliance with DeNiro.

DeNiro's only prior rule was "Always work alone."  Oooooooo.  The typical tired dialog between the aging crook whose done it all and has never had a partner until now and his cocky young partner ensues.

This movie reminds me so much of "Entrapment."  Both movies are about two thieves in pursuit of the ultimate prize, overcoming one impossible obstacle after another to the point where it becomes unrealistic instead of interesting.

But, my main beef with both movies - this one and "Entrapment" - the audience is being asked to route for "bad guys."  And there are no good guys (except for maybe the bit part of the head janitor who seemed like such a sweet old man, but ends up getting screwed!)  I know, I'm a strange one, but I need to have a hero in my movies, someone overcoming odds not so that they can steal things that don't belong to them, but overcoming odds for general good.  Maybe that's not realistic, but if I wanted realistic, I wouldn't have rented a movie in the first place.

The end of the movie does have an interesting and surprising twist.  But, in a way, even that is tainted.  You knew there had to be something surprising about to happen as they closed in on the climax, since the first 90 minutes rolls along with minimal suspense.  After all, the audience can conclude immediately that they are eventually going to be successful in their heist, so if they had just gotten the scepter and then rolled the credits, the movie would have been terribly uninteresting.  But, a movie with a good surprise twist hits you blindsided.  Although I didn't know exactly what was going to happen in this movie, you didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know that there was some sort of twist about to come at you.

And a couple stupid questions.  Is there really a network of sewer system tunnels directly underneath the Montreal Customs House?  And is there really a man-shaft leading from the sewers to the basement where they would store valuables?  That seemed a little too convenient.

On the bright side, Ed Norton's character is awesome and saves this movie.  Norton pretends to be mentally retarded and gets a job in the Common's building as a night time janitor.  The man is absolutely brilliant in his acting ability.  This movie is worth a rental just to see this performance.  And, of course, DeNiro is always great.

Unfortunately, as far as heist movies go, although it's not a complete bore by any means, this one is no better than mediocre.

Bev Mal

Sue Hohenadel
Any movie with Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando in the starring roles has got to be great, right?  Not quite.

The Score is a movie about a wealthy jazz club owner (DeNiro) who pulls off big money burglary jobs just for the heck of it.  That has to be the reason because the guy's got a great business, an awesome home, and a nifty little BMW.  Marlon Brando plays the character who has "contracted" DeNiro for all the heists, and Edward Norton is the guy who has an "in" at the place where the three are planning their biggest hit.

The movie is slow and quite tedious.  There's not a lot of action and only minimal suspense.  It picks up at bit at the end, but not enough to carry the audience through the first hour and a half.

The good thing about The Score -- well, actually TWO good things -- is that Robert DeNiro is in it (that goes without saying) and Edward Norton is incredible.  During the movie, Norton plays two characters -- a normal, everyday crook and Brian, a semi-retarded, physically challenged simpleton.  Flashback to "Primal Fear" in which Norton played a stammering, stuttering country bumpkin.  The man is superb at capturing the tics, mannerisms and nuances of people who are "different."  His portrayal of Brian, the poor disfigured janitor, almost made his portrayal of the "normal" character seem mediocre.

The Score is a good rental, but not really worth the price of two tickets, popcorn, soda and Junior Mints.

And a message to Marlon Brando, in the event he cruises the yourpalchrismal website: Lose weight, lose the "flap" over your receding hairline, stop using your "Godfather" voice in every movie you've made since then, and for God's sake, don't subject us to ANY MORE SCENES in which you are sprawled out on a couch or in a silk bathrobe!  It's going to take me weeks to forget that image.

 

Sea Biscuit (PG-13, 2003) ... Average: 4.0
(Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, William H. Macy)

Drew Gallagher
I don't know how much the film embellished over the book but it was quite an amazing story.  And jockey Gary Stevens was surprisingly excellent.  Very enjoyable.
 

Shallow Hal (PG-13, 2001) ... Average: 1.5
(Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jason Alexander, Susan Ward, Joe Viterelli, Garry Shandling)

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
A very superficial young man, the eponymous Hal (Jack Black), never seems to get anywhere with women, who are all too aware of his habit of judging them only by their bodies.  One day, his luck changes after he is hypnotized by self-help guru Tony Robbins (Tony Robbins, who is really funny).  Unbeknownst to Hal, everyone he sees in this altered state appears attractive--or unattractive--based on the goodness (or lack thereof) in their personalities.  It doesn't take him long to meet a clever, caring, altruistic, and sweet woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) and fall in love, not realizing that he is the only person who doesn't know she weighs three hundred pounds.

It's a clever premise with a lot of potential, but the filmmakers and the star seem determined to waste it.  The script wants us to root for Paltrow's character, but also hypocritically insists on using her (and every other available large person) for an endless train of fat jokes that strain credibility, taste, and basic laws of physics.

Black, meanwhile, seems to forget that he's acting and not doing standup comedy, and spends too much of the movie doing and saying things that he thinks are funny but aren't (at least he's as clueless as his character).  There are some moments of really good acting--Paltrow captures the awkwardness of her character's situation, and Jason Alexander (playing Hal's equally tiresome best friend) gets a few laughs, even though he's really just playing George Costanza all over again.

I'm told that the Farrelly brothers, who also directed Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary, specialize in gross-out slapstick.  Why on Earth they were given this premise, which requires a bit of sensitivity and (what a radical concept!) the occasional bit of subtle humor, is beyond me.

Paltrow's characterization, and the sweetness of her best scenes, make this almost worth watching--but not quite.

(I should mention that I really liked the ending credits, which include stills of every crew member and an oddball coda reminiscent of Ferris Bueller's Day Off; these are clever ideas that really deserve a better use.  If you want a much better and funnier movie with the same judge-people-by-their-characters-not-their-appearances theme, I would recommend Shrek.)

 

Shanghai Knights (PG-13, 2003) ... Average: 2.0
(Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Aidan Gillen, Fan Man-Fong, Tom Fisher)

Sara (Gaughan) Austin
The hubby and I were big fans of "Shanghai Noon," but I'm afraid the sequel doesn't come close for entertainment value.  I LOVE the Wilson brothers---Owen, Luke, I don't care, bring 'em on, but enough already with Owen's nose.  I couldn't stop staring at it!  I know it was broken (twice) when he was younger.  SO what!  You've made, what, like a gazillion bucks now making mediocre movies like this one?  Get the damn thing fixed already--it's an eyesore.

Oh, and the movie--just kinda dumb.  Even Jackie Chan failed to impress.  I actually recognized many of his stunts from past movies, and I'm no Kung Fu fan.  Lame.

 

Shark Tale (PG, 2004) ... Average: 3.75
(Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Renee Zellweger,
Katie Couric, Ziggy Marley, Doug E. Doug, Martin Scorsese, Peter Falk)

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
A movie about funny talking fishes? Yeah, I know, it sounds like an underwater version of Shrek, and that's basically what it is--but what's wrong with that? While it's a tall order living up to the earlier ogre film, Shark Tale almost achieves the same level of humor and entertainment, with a similarly digestible moral.

It all revolves around Oscar (voiced by Will Smith), a young whale-washer (yeah, that's his job--it's kind of like being a car-washer) who wants to move up the "reef," never quite appreciating the good counsel of his would-be girlfriend Angie (Renee Zellweger). Meanwhile, the don of the mafia-like family of local sharks (Robert De Niro) wonders what's wrong with his son Lenny (Jack Black, cast brilliantly against type), who doesn't seem eager to hunt fish in the sea like a good shark.

The cast are all hilarious, especially Smith, and the animation is incredibly well done; I was really impressed by the facial expressions of most of the animated characters, many of whom were more expressive than some live-action actors I know (maybe Kevin Costner should see this movie). The real surprise is the mature nature of some of the themes--loss of a sibling, parental acceptance, and "selling out" versus remaining true to yourself. Fortunately, all of these are handled well without too much beating-over-the-head, mostly because the script and cast are so entertaining.

The only real problem I had with the film is that it's so noisy and brash, the way too many kid-oriented movies are these days. It's the kind of thing that makes me appreciate a low-key-but-still-aimed-at-children work like Thomas the Tank Engine (and, for all that matter, Shrek) that much more. In addition, while most of the pop-culture references are funny, I'd be surprised if many kids would understand them, although I suppose they're there mostly to entertain the adults in the audience.  All that said, I still recommend this one. (By the way, those of you who have ever read the Roger Zelazny short story "The George Business" will recognize some resemblance to the plot of this movie. Also, I strongly recommend not leaving until after the credits are over.)
Chris Mal
This is good, despite what the critics want you to believe.  Was it as good as Shrek?  Noooo, definitely not.  Not even close - but that's an unfair comparison.  Was it as good as Finding Nemo or Toy Story?  No, but it was close, and it was as good or better than Monsters Inc or Toy Story 2 which both were more than worthy.  If you love this kind of animated film and humor, no doubt that you'll love this too.  (And, by the way, overabundance of previews are any indication, there will be no shortage of this kind of movie in the next 6 months!)

This was Jolie's second movie in a theater, and the first that she sat through in its entirety.

If there was one thing Shark Tale lacks that the other movies in this genre did not, it's a solid moral and underlying feel-good bent (The sharks are the underwater mafia, and Will Smith plays a fish who lies his way to fame and fortune claiming to be a shark killer.)  I think this is what the critics are complaining about, but I don't think it distracts from the movie.  Kids just like funny animation and lovable characters, and adults like the puns and humor of which there is no shortage.  Who is going to this kind of movie to boost their morals?

Stealing the show where the two jellyfish (whose tentacles were like dreadlocks) played by Doug E. Doug and Ziggy Marley.  Hysterical.
 

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) ... Average: 4.5
(Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, James Whitmore)

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Unforgettable and idealistic. They just don't get much better than this. Morgan Freeman is great as usual, but this may be his very best performance ever. 

 

She's Gotta Have It (1986) ... Average: 4.0
(Spike Lee, Tommy Redmond Hicks, Tracy Camila Johns, Rave Dowell)

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
As many of you know, I am not a big fan of Spike Lee the person (just as I am not a big fan
of Woody Allen, the person). That said, I have to give credit where credit is due, and Spike Lee the movie director is one of the best and most challenging ones working today. This indie, his first full-length feature (1986), is a charming romantic/tragic comedy, and it established his extraordinary relationship with two important collaborators, cinematographer Ernest Dickerson and producer Monty Ross (both of whom have off-beat bit parts).

While not as dramatic as Lee's later, more didactic films, I think this movie is more consistently pleasurable. The protagonist and fulcrum of the plot is Nola (Tracy Camilla Johns). She's a young designer and single woman who simultaneously maintains relationships with three different men--earnest Jamie (Tommy Hicks), hilarious Mars (Lee himself), and infuriating Greer (John
"Canada" Terrell, who was also in The Five Heartbeats) and hints at starting one with a pretty young lesbian (Raye Dowell). The acting is a bit amateurish (Hicks may be the best; he is seen to
better advantage in Stacey Dash's Daughters of the Dust), but Lee's cinematography of his beloved home of Brooklyn, and his masterful interweaving of still and motion photography, is much more than professional. Just as importantly, Lee keeps us interested by giving everyone (even his most didactic character, the arrogant Greer) moments of insight, only getting off course near the end.

This may not be the best or the most important film Spike Lee ever made, but it is the most fun film he ever made--and that is no small thing. (As a side note, I should mention that the birthday party scene is one of my favorite scenes in any movie, ever. It is also technically unique, for reasons
that I cannot describe without giving it away.)

 

Shrek (PG, 2001)  ... Average: 4.67
(Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel)

Jamie Schlesinger
I could not agree with Chris more.  He is so smart. 

Shrek, 2001, Rated PGChris Mal
This is an animated comedy/fairy-tale for all ages about an Ogre named Shrek (voice by Mike Myers) who is sent to rescue a princess (voice by Cameron Diaz) guarded by a fire-breathing dragon.  He is accompanied by a talking blabbering donkey (voice by Eddie Murphy).

As the trailers for this movie played long before the movie hit the theaters, you might suspect, as is the case with most movies of this genre, that all of the good lines are found in the previews.  How wrong you'd be!  I saw this movie in the theater and it was the first comedy I've ever seen where everyone in the theater applauded upon its conclusion and then continued laughing as the masses filed out the doors.  I must have heard a half dozen people around me commenting just how incredibly funny it was, and I can't agree more.

Myers and Murphy steal the show - particularly Murphy who is given hysterical line after line, and hits them all brilliantly.

Making this even more fantastic, Shrek is a movie for absolutely ALL ages.  I'm not sure what the PG rating is about unless a couple innocent jokes about Ogre flatulence and a fire breathing dragon with eyes for a talking donkey are dangerous to small children.  There is a ton of aged material that would go over the heads of young kids, but the essence of the plot, the entertainment value and meaning of the story would be lost on no one.

For those of you into the animation aspect, you will see that technology has reached a point where it's almost becoming difficult to tell what is animation and what isn't.  The level of detail, particularly in the facial expressions, is truly astonishing.

This was 90 minutes that absolutely flew by.  Couldn't be more highly recommended.

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Shrek disappointed me at first, but I found myself enjoying it more and more as time went on.  It's a lot of fun because it does what many good parodies do--it makes fun of a certain style of movie (or book, or TV show, or whatever) while simultaneously giving us a solid, likable example of whatever is being made fun of.

The story revolves around a (likeably) mean ogre named Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers), who suddenly finds his beloved fetid swamp overflowing with fairly-tale characters--gnomes, elves, the three blind mice, and like critters.  They're all refugees from the land of the evil lord Farquahad (John Lithgow), who sees them as a threat to his suspiciously Disney-like kingdom.  Shrek bargains with Farquahad to get his land back, and agrees to (what else?) rescue a beautiful princess (Cameron Diaz) for the lord to marry.

Along the way, he picks up a sidekick, a rather verbose donkey named Donkey (Eddie Murphy).  The lead-up to the quest gets kind of tiresome.  I found the first half-hour or so of the movie extremely grating (the pop-culture references get overdone at that point).  The ending is kind of a turnoff too, but in between, as the actual story unfolded, I found myself rolling my eyes a lot less and laughing a lot more.

Myers and Diaz are both well-cast, but the real treat is Murphy, who hasn't been this funny since 48 Hours!  (I expected him to expand on the better acting he showed in Boomerang and The Nutty Professor, but not as a cartoon jackass!)

In addition, the animation and artwork, especially the matte paintings, are extremely well done, although I didn't find them as lifelike as everyone else.  (Personally, I don't ask that animation be lifelike; I just ask that it be good.)

Besides the beginning and ending, my largest pet peeve was that, amidst all the clever poking-fun at cartoon clichés, the film stuck fast to one of the most enduring Disney clichés by making Farquahad a menacing little dwarf.  If they had made him a strapping, handsome (but evil) gentleman, that would have been really subversive.  (By making the ugly Shrek the hero, they've already taken a step in the right direction).

Overall, however, this movie is a fun experience for children and adults, and very worth seeing in a theater if the opportunity presents itself again.

 

Sideways (2004) ... Average: 3.5
(Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh, Virginia Madsen, Marylouise Burke)

SidewaysMike Capilo
This is a love story, typical in that we root for them to get together, however it's told in a different manner.  Very funny, and twisted in parts (seeing a naked, fat man is always disturbing) but in the end I enjoyed the film.  The ending may get to some, I liked it...but not many others in the theater did.  The actors do a good job, nice script, no Chris Malinowski cameo so it's all the weaker for that.

Chris Mal
This was billed as one of the greatest comedies of the year.  I think the box even quoted a reviewer as saying "Hysterical!"  I didn't laugh.  I chuckled once, maybe twice, but generally this was just a story about two guys - two guys with issues - on a trip.  I thought it was more of a semi-humorous drama than a comedy.  Don't get me wrong - BRILLIANTLY acted.  Paul Giamatti is excellent, as is Thomas Haden Church.  But overall just felt like I was watching two guys on vacation - dysfunctional as that vacation may have been.

 

Signs (PG-13, 2002) ... Average: 2.5
(Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Cherry Jones, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin)

Chris Mal
(If you haven't seen the movie, stop reading...I'm about to give it all away.)

Was it just me, or was the entire family in this movie in slow motion much of the time.  Reactionary people these were not.  I mean, c'mon, there are aliens outside, on the roof, and upstairs trying to beat their way through the barricaded doors and windows, and now would be a time for a nice father-son chat about the day the son was born?  I'd say, "Yeah, um, I appreciate the sentiment, Dad, but - THERE ARE F*CKING ALIENS ON THE ROOF!   AAAAAA!"  And then I'd pee myself.

Signs was directed by the same guy who directed "Sixth Sense," so I had great expectations, particularly, as Sue said below, after seeing the trailer to the movie.  It all looked like really creepy, intense stuff.  And, well, it was...throughout most of the movie, in fact.  What you should do, however, is turn the movie off right after they barricade themselves into their house.  Do that.  Just assume everyone dies and aliens take over the world.  That would have been a better ending.

But...that wasn't the ending.  In the end, we find out that these aliens who came from probably millions of light-years away forgot all of their weapons, and are related to the Wicked Witch of the West.  That's right, enough technology to travel space, but they came to earth without anything but their bare hands...err, claws.  AND, they melt when water touches them.  Pa-leeze!

And, like "Sixth Sense," there had to be a clever tie-in somewhere.  Mel Gibson's wife was killed in a car accident before the movie begins.  Her last words to her husband are "Tell Merrill to swing away."  At the time he sees this as simply her mind fading away and just rehashing some old memory of his brother Merrill's days as a minor league baseball player.  But, no!  As they are having a stand-off against the final weaponless alien, and it looks like all hope is lost, Mel remembers what his wife told him!  Oh, wow!  His brother Merrill is standing right next to the bat mounted on the wall.  SWING AWAY, MERRILL!  SWING AWAY!  Merrill picks up the bat, and the alien just stands there and takes a beating.  Oh, and then the alien staggers and knocks over a glass of water, which falls on him, and melts his skin off.  Ouch.  Ouch for me for watching that embarrassing ending.

OK, OK, that's kind of harsh, because I must confess that - despite the whole family seemingly being on depressants - I was totally creeped out by the impending doom, and all of the "signs."  Up until the ending when they were forced to tie everything together - this was a decent movie.  So, I'll give it 3-stars.  4-stars for the first part of the movie, and 2-stars for the ending, and we'll split the difference.

Sue Hohenadel
I saw the first trailer for this movie in June and could barely contain myself until it hit theaters.  It looked intriguing, interesting and creepy.  I'm not a scary movie fan, but "Signs" looked too good to pass up.  Turns out, I was wrong and it was just stupid.

Signs is the story of Reverend Graham Hess (Gibson), his brother (Phoenix), and Gibson's two kids all living together in a farm house in Doylestown, PA.  Graham is having a crisis of faith and has left the church, although all the small town folk refer to him as "Father."  Phoenix is his brother -- a good guy who had star potential in minor league baseball and never really lived up to it.  And then there's the two kids -- Morgan, the son who is far too obsessed with life and Bo, the little girl who has some serious issues.

The movie starts interestingly enough with the Hess family finding the "sign" in their corn field.  The local sheriff shows up, but nobody can explain how or why it happened.  Seems the only ones who might just be heading down the "aliens did it" road are the kids.  But what do they know?

The movie goes from what could have been a really creepy premise to just plain dumb.  I was expecting a lot more, especially since M. Night Shyamalan wrote and directed the movie.  Honestly, how good was "The Sixth Sense" even if you're not a scary movie buff?  It's sad, but I think M. Night has gotten caught up in the "special effects" trap.  Instead of the implied scariness of "Sixth Sense," this movie is an homage to "the audience must be stupid, so let's spell it out for them with special effects" films.

There are a few funny scenes in the movie -- Joaquin Phoenix is a hoot as the not-so-bright brother.  Gibson is actually very unlikable as a man who is struggling with his faith, his home and his life.  And the kids -- even though they are annoying with their little quirks -- are very good.

I recommend renting this movie as opposed to seeing it on the big screen.  Take the $7.50 and rent "The Sixth Sense" again so you can appreciate how not to rest on your laurels.

 

The Sixth Sense (PG-13, 1999) ... Average: 5.0
(Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg)

Alan Giancaterino (Chris' unrehabilitatable brother-in-law)
An extraordinarily well done motion picture. The director worked very hard to make sure you don’t figure it out until the final scene. Genuinely entertaining and intriguing all the way through but, the finale takes it from a home run to a grand slam!

It’s a thriller, tear jerker, paranormal-altered states experience all rolled into one. Some of Bruce Willis’ best acting to date (no he does NOT shoot or blow up anyone.) 

Special thanks to my brother for lending his pre-release VHS copy to me to watch before the rest of the world. Unfortunately, he was not as grateful when he discovered that my kids recorded a Tele-Tubbies episode over 1/3 of the movie!

Chris Mal
I haven't been reviewing any movies that I watched "Post Web-Site", but this one is definitely worthy of being an exception to the rule.  This was THE best movie that I saw in 1999, and quite possibly one of my all-time favorite movies.  The very rare Chris-Mal-FIVE-star movie, and so far the ONLY movie that I have reviewed to get such a great honor!  :o)

The story is the best.  Never before have I been so surprised by an ending.  In fact, I thought the movie could have ended and still been a 5-star movie about 30 minutes before its actual ending.  A truly fantastic, entertaining and thought-provoking plot with tremendous acting.

Haley Joel Osment who played the young boy who could "see dead people" was just brilliant.  As Bev said to me, "He's like a little tiny man".  Very well poised, and an up and coming actor who is going to be very rich, very quickly.  And it's a good thing, too, because with a name like Haley Joel Osment, he's going to need plenty of money to keep from getting his ass kicked in school.

Mike Zalegowski
Unbelievable, this movie had me from start to finish!!! By far the best flick I have ever seen!! Two thumbs up!!

 

Sleepy Hollow (R, 1999) ... Average: 2.63
(Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci)

Chuck Barnhart
Very entertaining. Also very scary in some scenes. Director took great liberties with book of same name. (I didn't read it actually; just going on what I was told.

What can you say about a woman who made a Faustian bargain with the devil to get her fair share of inheritance that was allegedly wrongfully taken from her or something like that. The deal was that the headless horseman (HH) was to cut off the heads of all the relatives (at the woman's command) that stood in her way of inheriting everything. The HH was killed years earlier in the American Revolution, beheaded, and buried. (The HH did all his killing by slicing off opponents heads, like we do today in business, only more humanely). All he really wanted was his own head back. Guess who had the head?? The girl who made the deal with the devil. Well, he finally got it back and took her to hell with him at the tree portal entrance. Good place for them both. To add a twist to the story, a detective played by Dep was called up from the 'big city' (New York??) to see why so many people were losing their heads and other weird things going on in Sleepy Hollow. He had all the latest scientific crime solving gear.

Best scene in movie was when all people were in Church with HH outside the fence trying to figure out a way to get this one guys head. He finally speared the man through the chest at a distance of about 30 feet with a sharp fence post when the man was by a window. The HH dragged him just past the fence and, you guessed it, sliced off his head as if it were a wet noodle, or something.

Chris Barr
This is a good old fashioned scary movie. Quintessential American folklore with decapitations galore. The Brothers Grimm would have loved it for it's gore, moral undertones, and romance. The cinematography is classic Tim Burton, dark and foreboding. Chris Walken has no lines, yet you will not forget his character.

Rory Pfeifer

Lola (a.k.a. Lori Greene)
What are you people smoking? The only reason I would give this movie half of a star is because I got to watch Johnny Depp for 2 hours. Actually, not even 2 hours because I fell asleep at some point...

 

Sling Blade (R, 1997) ... Average: 4.0
(Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, Natalie Canerday, Lucas Black, John Ritter, Robert Duvall)

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Excellent Billy Bob Thornton story about retarded man released after serving time for murder, finding himself in another stressful situation; look for Robert Duvall in small-but-important role.

 

Some Girl (R, 1998) ... Average: 3.0
(Marissa Ribisi, Giovanni Ribisi, Juliette Lewis, Michael Rapaport)

Sue (a.k.a. Catgirl)
I caught this little indy film on Showtime West one Saturday morning at 5:30 a.m. when one of my darling catties woke me by making "muffins" on my head. But enough about me and my sleep deprivation.

"Some Girl" is an interesting flick about 20-somethings who like to drink, sleep around, and get into each other's business or bed. Marisa Ribisi is the main character -- a nice enough girl who is looking for "Mr. Right" and gets sucked into a relationship with "Mr. I Just Want to Get in Your Pants." Giovanni Ribisi plays her brother (some kind of casting, huh?) in his usual quirky, is-this-guy-on-dope-or-what, nerdy way. Juliette Lewis is the slutty, best friend who has a gem of a beau (Rapaport) and doesn't care, and ends up doing her best friend dirty.

It's interesting to watch how Marisa Ribisi transforms from a naive, lovesick girl to a hateful, coming undone witch. To explain further would cause me to give the plot away. Giovanni Ribisi has great lines and delivers them with a smack to the senses.

Rent the movie, buy a cat that wants to nest in your hair, and watch this movie and some un-Godly hour of the morning when you can give it your undivided attention.

 

Someone Like You (PG-13, 2001) ... Average: 2.5
(Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear, Hugh Jackman, Catherine Dent, Ellen Barkin, Marisa Tomei)

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
I didn't like Someone Like You for the first hour or so, but perseverance paid off, and I found myself actually being entertained near the end.  Why the bad first impression? An opening five minutes that have to be among the most annoying in film history, narration so sanctimonious it makes you want to scream, and a clear status as a vehicle for the cute-but-not-very-talented Ashley Judd.

The plot doesn't help much in the beginning, either. Judd goes through the usual romantic-comedy rituals with the Hunky New Guy at the Office (Greg Kinnear) and pretends to philosophize about it with the Worldly Best Friend (Marisa Tomei) and the Hunky-But-Obnoxious Womanizer (Hugh Jackman, who is the best actor in the group). Then, she begins to write a column explaining the Truth About Men and Women while pretending to be some sort of European feminist/psychologist.  Fortunately, it doesn't stay this predictable, and the ending actually makes a good point, but I'm not sure it's worth sitting through the rest of the movie to get there.

The ending saves this from a well-below-average rating. (As a side note, I should mention that Ellen Barkin does a good job as Judd's jaded boss, and it's nice to see that she's still working. Also, the soundtrack makes good use of "It Must Be Love" by Madness, one of the more innocent love songs of the 80's.)
 

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (PG, 2004) ... Average: 3.5
(Tom Kenny, Rodger Bumpass, Alec Baldwin, Bill Fagerbakke,
Carolyn Lawrence, David Hasselhoff, Scarlett Johanssen)

Tony Porco
(CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Welcome to the wonderful undersea world of SpongeBob SquarePants, in which our titular hero, everyone's favorite primitive marine invertebrate (voiced by Tom Kenny) and his buddy, the starfish Patrick (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke), have to save their crabby boss (actually, their boss is a crab!) from the wrath of his archenemy and rival restraunteur, the diminutive Plankton (voiced by Doug Lawrence)!  Yes, this movie is as fun to watch as that sentence was to write, although it's not really a better intro to the whole SpongeBob thing than just watching an episode on TV.  In fact, the movie might be a bit confusing to folks who haven't seen the TV show.  It's also a bit longer than it needs to be--my son, who is a SpongeBob fan (and who had seen the show with me before we saw the movie), seemed a bit bored and restless by the end.  Still, you could do a lot worse for a kid's movie, although it won't be good for all parents and kids (there's some cartoon beating-up, and a lot of threatening and jeopardy).

I should mention that the closing credits are absolutely gorgeous, and the coda is really funny. Also, there is a special celebrity appearance near the end that had me rolling on the floor (I can’t say anything more about it, for obvious reasons).  Chunks of the film combine live-action and cartoon footage, and the combination is creative and striking, although it's not that different from what we saw years ago in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
 

Spy Game (R, 2001) ... Average: 3.25
(Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Larry Bryggman)

Sara (Gaughan) Austin
I liked it.  Good fun fluff.  Brad Pitt takes his shirt off--pretty much worth half the ticket price right there.  If you don't go see it first run, definitely make it a rental.

Sue Hohenadel
Warning: The following movie review is clouded by the fact that the theater temperature had to be at least 1000 degrees the night we saw Spy Game.

Spy Game is the story of a soon-to-be-retired CIA agent (Redford) who is summoned on what should be his last day of work to provide information on a CIA agent he trained (Pitt) who has been captured and scheduled for execution in China for espionage.  Got it?  That's the easy part.

The movie begins with Pitt posing as a doctor in an effort to save someone from a Chinese prison.  All goes well until he and the prisoner are almost through the main gate.  Guards surround the ambulance, he gets caught, and, uh-oh... thrown into the prison.

The next two hours are a series of flashbacks of how Pitt and Redford met, how they worked, what Redford taught Pitt and how they eventually parted ways.  Interspersed with the flashbacks are real-time scenes of Redford trying desperately to find out enough information to save Pitt before he is put to death.

The movie has some very stereotypical characters -- the arrogant, moronic CIA agent who thinks Redford is past his prime and uses every opportunity to point it out, the head of the CIA who used to be a "good guy" and is now just coasting to retirement, the beautiful rebel and, (gulp!) terrorists.  Pitt does well with his role and Redford is still fun to watch.

The movie drags in places.  There are a few plot twists and some big explosions, but it just doesn't grab you and hold you for two hours.  Spy Game is definitely a rental.

Now, here comes the bitch.  What is with the newly-renovated Fairgrounds Mall movie theater?  We got there at 6:55 for a 7:15 movie start.  Plenty of time.  The line for the ticket taker was out the door, so we snagged our place in line and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  At 7:13, I said to my husband that we had not moved and we had better go to the front of the line in case we were standing in line for Monsters, Inc. or worse yet, Harry Potter.  The idiot ticket taker Spy Gameripped our stubs and sent us in. 

We found the theater where Spy Game was playing and opened the door, only to be shooed away by another idiot ticket taker who was busy cleaning the theater for the next showing.  No problem, but it's now 7:20.  We waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Finally, we were allowed in the theater.

We grabbed two primo seats and hunkered down for the movie when all of a sudden, a rush of people came in.  Apparently, they had been waiting in the non-moving ticket line (like we were SUPPOSED to) and had just been granted access.  The place was jammed.  To make matters worse, some witch asked us and the three ladies aside of us to keep moving down because her party of six needed to sit together.

7:30 and the lights are just dimming.  And, it was about 95 degrees in the theater throughout the entire movie.

Three suggestions for the people who work at the new Fairgrounds Mall movie theater:  Regulate the temperature for the surroundings, no matter what month it is; clean the theater BEFORE the next start time; and, hire ticket takers who have completed the sixth grade.

One suggestion for the ass who came late and expected to find six seats together: Buy some Jiffy Pop, rent movies and stay home with your obnoxious family.  I shouldn't have to pay $7.50 to spend two hours with your incestuous, gene-depleted relatives.

 

Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones (PG, 2002) ... Average: 4.0
(Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Frank Oz, Jimmy Smits)

Mike Capilo
The Star Wars junkie will see this no matter what I say. 

The movie is well written and kept my attention throughout.  However, the actor cast as Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) could not act his way out of an elementary school play.  He detracted from the movie, I was so busy making fun of him that I missed crucial dialog.  He sounds like he should be in a Rocky movie.  "Yo, Padme I did it, I did it."

The rest of the cast was excellent and the fight scenes well done.  Yoda's fight scene was the best.  Be prepared for the end - it left me with a lot of questions, but then again so did Bambi.  I think it's one of those movies that should be seen on the big screen.

 

Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (PG-13, 2005) ... Average: 4.0
(Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson,
Frank Oz, Jimmy Smits, Genevieve O'Reilly, Trisha Noble, James Earl Jones)

Mike Capilo
Nice special effects, worth seeing in the theater.  Mediocre acting by Christensen and Portman, good acting by most of the others.  No Jar Jar dialogue...always a plus.  The movie held my attention throughout.  The ending is well done, and ties neatly into the beginning of Star Wars IV: A New Hope.  There is even a cameo by the Milennium Falcon, but not Chris Mal...which detracts from the movie. 
 

Starsky & Hutch (PG-13, 2004) ... Average: 2.5
(Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Vince Vaughn, Fred Williamson,
Carmen Electra, Amy Smart, Jason Bateman, Will Ferrell)

Chris Mal
Another stupid 70's spoof, but as far as 70's spoofs go, it was about as good as you could ask for.  I wouldn't have rented it if Bev didn't really want to see it, but we did...and a nap would have been just as pleasing.  You know, you feel a little better afterwards, but you don't really remember anything, and it wasn't really that funny.  There were a few giggles.  Stiller and Wilson's banter was mildly amusing, Snoop Dogg was kinda funny, and Carmen Electra kissing another girl was a nice touch, but other than that it was just 2 hours of meditation.  Save your $4 Blockbuster rental fee (or $8 if you are me and forget to return just about every movie that you rent until the day after it's due), and just take a nap.

 

State and Main (R, 2000) ... Average: 3.5
(Alec Baldwin, Charles Durning, Patti Lupone, Sarah Jessica Parker,
William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Styles)

Jena Dietrich
Very amusing and well written.  Philip Seymour Hoffman is a new favorite.

 

The Station Agent (R, 2000) ... Average: 4.25
(Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams, Paul Benjamin)

Jill Porco
I loved this movie!!!  Run, do not walk, to see this movie when it comes out on video or DVD (or if you're fortunate enough to live in an area where it's still playing in the theaters.)

This is an indy movie that did very well in the theaters this year.  Peter Dinklage (Finbar McBride) turns in an understated, yet brilliant, performance as a person who loves trains and who happens to be a dwarf.  McBride inherits a train station from his best friend when he dies.   He, despite his intense desire to remain alone, is the catalyst around which the movie turns.

Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) and Joe (Bobby Cannavale) are the two people whom Fin befriends, almost by happenstance.  Fin and Olivia play off each other well in their efforts to learn how to trust again after life has turned against them.  Joe, as the third friend, serves as much-needed, wonderful, comic relief in the movie, but isn't bad for all that.

Unlike so many Hollywood movies, this gem of an indy, ends on a note that feels very much like real life--the characters' lives, while improved, aren't perfect.  One gets the sense that these 3 people will remain friends for a long time.

Incidentally, the state of New Jersey never looked more beautiful than it does in this movie, all joking aside...
Tony Porco
When an old friend dies and leaves Fin McBride (Peter Dinklage) a train station in a small New Jersey town, the longtime train buff moves there without delay.  Fin hopes for some solitude, but soon his hopes are dashed by two loquacious neighbors--Joe, an (overly) friendly young coffee vendor (Bobby Canevale) and Olivia, an artist with a troubled recent past (Patricia Clarkson).  Not everything is likable about these two, but something intangible distinguishes them:  it never occurs to them to treat Fin any differently because he is a dwarf.

Like many of the other movies that I've seen in recent years about improbable relationships--Central Station, Finding Forrester, Strawberry and Chocolate, and even In the Heat of the Night, now that I'm thinking about it--Thomas McCarthy's terrific film takes a slow and relaxed pace.  This ends up being quite wise, because it makes the connections seem much more believable (it also makes a nice break from the slam-bang, rock-video-derived camera work of many a recent Hollywood movie).  Meanwhile, Joe's wisecracks and general abrasiveness keep the movie from getting dull, as does Dinklage's great stage presence and dignity.  He seems to make it clear from the first scene that this is his movie; with a face like Costner and a bearing like Brando, he conclusively proves that one needn't be tall to be commanding on screen.

Later, the script gets a bit more melodramatic and doesn't always ring true, but the ending is truly fantastic.

I have to admit that this movie is consummately an indie film, complete with all the trimmings:  a low budget (a mere $500,000, which is chump change by Hollywood standards), excellent acting by mostly-unknown performers, a likeably real-life script, an unglamorous location (rural New Jersey), and limited distribution.  That may narrow its appeal to many, but it doesn't narrow its appeal to me. 
 

Super Size Me (PG-13, 2004) ... Average: 4.0
(Dr. Daryl Isaacs)

Tony Porco
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock was understandably suspicious when he heard McDonald's advertising claim that regular visits to the fast food giant can be part of a healthy diet.  He decided to test the claim on himself by eating nothing but Mickey D's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner--for a month!  He also traveled around the country (is it just me, or do people always travel around the country when they're doing documentaries like this?), interviewing professors, healthy-food advocates, cooks, McDonald's customers, lobbyists, nutritionists, and politicians.  The result is a remarkably entertaining documentary, both funny and a bit frightening at the same time.

It's at its most entertaining when we're hearing about Spurlock's strange adventure--when he interviews the talking heads, the things they say are often interesting, but these scenes end up being more like a TV news program than a movie.  They simply can't compete with the real story, which is Spurlock, his system, and the happy meals that don't always leave his system happy.  (Of all the talking heads, Spurlock's girlfriend, who is ironically a professional vegan cook, comes off as the worst, sounding pompous and arrogant.  Her presence is still a net positive, however, since she does such an admirable job of putting up with his eccentric project as only a loved one would.)

Like many documentaries that push a certain point, this one oversimplifies a bit, and raises some issues without really exploring them in the depth they deserve. We meet a man from Texas who has eaten Big Macs every day for years, but nevertheless remains very thin, without hearing any real insight into what makes him different.  I also wonder how much home cooking (which can be very fattening) and a lack of public transportation in most of the country influence Americans' high levels of obesity.

Another problem:  Spurlock does an admirable job questioning our culture's insistence that women's bodies conform to an impossible, fashion-model ideal (a scene in which Jared Fogel, the famous Subway weight-loss spokesperson, lectures an overweight teenager on how she has to change, since the world won't change for her, made me want to hit Fogel over the head with a hard Subway roll), but he also shows one too many close-ups of random Americans' fat behinds.

All that said, this is one of the most enjoyable documentaries I've seen in a long while (although I tend to enjoy that kind of film a lot anyway), thanks to Spurlock's unusual story and light touch.  It may end up being one of the most successful films of all time in its genre--I am really curious to see how it does when all is said and eaten. 
 

Sweet November (PG-13, 2001) ... Average: 0.5
(Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, Greg Germann, Lauren Graham, Jason Isaacs, Michael Rosenbaum)

Jena Dietrich