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The Salton Sea (2002) - **1/2
It's well made, looks good, pretty decent acting, but is about a subject matter that is a bit of a turn off to me. It starts off showing the world of crank from the users perspective and then moves into the dealers. Val Kilmer's story brings it all together, but that's probably the weakest part of the movie. It's not bad, but just nothing new. There are some things in this movie I'd venture to say have never been seen before...the scene with the badger comes to mind...or the pigeons...or Bob Hope's stuff. I'm sure there are some that like this movie more than I, but it's just not quite for me.

Saturday Night Fever (1977) - ***
I first saw this movie at the drive-in as a kid. I remember being fairly amused seeing Vinnie Barbarino on the big screen for the first time. For what it's worth, this is the quintessential disco movie. The characters are believable, if not appealing. If you're a fan of the era, you'll love this film. If not, you can't help but be amused. Personally I fall somewhere closer to the latter. This isn't just a dance movie though, it deals with the characters and the other aspects of their life...questioning religious faith, unwanted pregnancy, relationships, friends, and family. For me, it's a quality period piece from the much maligned late 70s, set in Brooklyn. I have to admit I'm somewhat thankful that I was a little too young to really be involved in the disco era.
Rank: #6 in
1977

Scooby Doo (2002) - *1/2
I was disappointed by this movie. It didn't follow that close to the original series, but instead embraced potty humor and subtle pot references. This one falls under the I don't get it category. Especially when I see how much money it's making.

Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004) - **
The only positive thing I can say for this movie is that it's slighty better than it's the first Scooby movie. I don't think either of the movies really capture the feeling of the original cartoon. While there a couple chuckles, it's chocked full of jokes, fart humor, and gags that really aren't funny.

Second Time Around (Miu haan fook wood) (2001) - **1/2
This is a little different film that I've seen from Hong Kong. This time a guy goes to Vegas to prove that he's the best card player/dealer. Things don't work as planned. But a with the help of a girl and some magic stones, he gets a second chance. It nothing new, as there are many films with this similar premise like Groundhog Day, 12:01, Run Lola Run. Those films are better, but this movie is entertaining enough to keep your interest with a nice mix of action, drama, romance, and a bit of science fiction.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1994) - ***1/2
One of the things I love about the Irish culture is it's rich legends and storytelling. This story follows Fiona (Jeni Courtney) who has returned from the city with her father to live with her grandparents. They had previously lived on the island of Roan Inish, but are now living on the mainland. The director, John Sayles, bring us a version of the legend of the selkie, a creature that is half seal-half human. I found this movie to be very heartwarming and rich in Irish culture, but not in a sappy way. Jeni Courtney turns in an excellent and completely believable performance as Fiona who learns about the legend of the selkie and uses it to find her little brother Jamie who had disappeared at sea at an infant. The Irish landscape and sea are gorgeously filmed and the music is subtle and beautiful...it's as if you are there in Ireland learning about the legends yourself through the eyes of Fiona.
Rank: #5 in
1994, #2 St. Patrick's Day Movie

The September Sessions (2000)
Last Fall (2002) I started hearing a couple Jack Johnson songs on the radio. While up in Modesto for Thanksgiving, my brother had his CD playing in the car and I really liked what I heard, so I asked for the CD for Christmas. In December I found out that Jack Johnson did a cover of Jimmy Buffett's A Pirate Looks at 40 on The September Sessions soundtrack. I decided to visit Jack's website to find out what it was. Apparently before Jack's musical career, he filmed this 16mm surfing documentary. It sounded interesting and I put it in the back of my mind to check out. I got both of the CDs for Christmas. The September Sessions soundtrack was also surprisingly good, but mostly full of intrumentals. So I made a custom CD of his regular album, Brushfire Fairytales and his two songs off the soundtrack and made one custom CD that played continually in my car for quite awhile and often since. Sometime later I found out Jack was a UCSB alum and then some of the lyrics in his songs became more meaningful, like "eating lunch at the DLG"...which is the De La Guerra dining commons on campus. Recently I was shopping in The Wherehouse and saw The September Sessions DVD on sale and picked it up. It's a half hour documentary with some of the top surfers taking a break from the tours and their normal chaotic lives to take a boat trip to Indonesia to surf some of the most perfect waves. The surfing footage is beautiful to watch with an excellent mix of mellow music to go with it. There isn't much talking during the film, just a few lines here and there. If you don't watch the special features on the DVD, you might not hear most of the story. There are some good making of moments, and two commentary tracks that fill in the story nicely. If you like to watch some good surfing and perfect waves, or you just want to see what Jack Johnson was up to before he was played on the radio, you should check this out. Jack wrote the song "F-Stop Blues" while on this trip, now that song is more meaningful...I know what he was talking about when he says he lost his shoes in quicksand.

The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet) (1957) - ***1/2
An excellent Swedish film, directed by Ingmar Bergman. A knight and his squire return from home the crusades to Sweden which is being swept by the plague. He is approached by Death who's come for him and the knight challenges Death to a game of chess to spare his life. Not knowing, I expected this movie to be focused on the game of chess, when it's really more telling the story of how people dealt with the tumultuous times dealing with the black death that is killing off the people. I'm glad this was the case as it is what really drew me into the story. So many interesting elements. Seeing how the religious officials were blaming people for their sins and telling them it was punishment from God. The most telling scene in the movie was when they were talking to the girl who was about burned alive for being involved with the devil. There was one scene that amused me, probably more than intended...when Death was cutting down the tree with a saw. I really enjoyed the lighter scenes that contrasted the serious ones in the movie. Ultimately I believe it was never the knight's intention to really try and beat Death, but to try to prolong life as long as possible in hopes of accomplishing something positive...in this case helping the couple and their child. This is my first Bergman movie, but it makes me anxious to explore more of his work. While watching, it was easy to spot many parts that have been borrowed/parodied in future films...it was good to finally see the source.
Rank: #2 in
1957, #10 in 1950s

Shallow Hal (2001) - **
I had pretty low expectations going in and was surprised that it wasn't as bad as I expected. First of all, the premise requires a HUGE suspension of disbelief. But if you get past that, it's not too bad. Being directed by the Farrelly brothers, you can be sure some of the humor is going to be over the top and fairly offensive and they don't disappoint you in that category, but the story itself seems to have good intentions.

Shanghai Knights (2003) - **1/2
This sequel picks up right where the original left off and brings us more entertainment from Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. There's a nice blend of comedy and action. The two leads work well together and this time Jackie has a sister that is thrown into the mix. A pretty typical buddy film, without a plot that matters. Just showcasing the talents of the two leads...Jackie's kung fu and subtle humor and Owen Wilson's goofiness. You know what you're getting here and as always, don't leave before the credits are over as often some of the funniest moments are the outtakes.

Shipping News (2001) - ***
I didn't really know what this movie was about going in and was pleasantly surprised. Kevin Spacey plays an oddball character (nothing new there). Set in a small town in the harsh Newfoundland coast rich with history. A facinating tale of a small town coming to terms with it's past.

Showtime (2002) - **
Showtime is a standard cop buddy movie. As usual, they pair up two totally incompatible partners. Eddie Murphy, a cop who wants to become a movie star and the older, does things his way cop, Robert DeNiro. They're matched up for a reality cop TV show. As you can guess, DeNiro is an unwilling participant and Murphy is a little too willing. The biggest negative is that the plot is very lacking and the movie is obviously just a vehicle to put the two leads on screen to entertain us. It does work on that level, but that's a pretty low level. With Will Shatner and Rene Russo thrown in, the actors interactions are often entertaining. Just a little too much fluff and not enough meat.

Signs (2002) - ***
M. Night Shyamalan delivers another winner. Much like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable it's slowly paced, but not to the point that you want to take your eyes off the screen for even a second. Mel turned in a good, somewhat non-typical, performance. If you liked M. Night Shyamalan's previous films, undoubtedly you'll like this one too.

The Sixth Sense (1999) - ***1/2
When I first saw this movie, I had my doubts. It was much hyped and starred the goofy Bruce Willis in a role not typical for him. I was really surprised how much I liked this movie. The movie lived up to it's praise and Willis turned in possibly his best ever performance. The other star of the movie, Haley Joel Osment, made this movie with his excellent and totally believable portrayal of the young boy who sees dead people. The Sixth Sense put M. Night Shyamalan on the map with his superb directing. This was my third viewing of the movie. The first time you're surprised and the second time you're looking for things you missed the first time. So I figured this was the critical viewing to see if it held up as well a third time. It passed, as I enjoyed it just as much as the previous viewings. It's a powerful movie that draws out your emotions.
Rank: #2 in
1999

Slap Her, She's French (2002) - *1/2
A pretty bad teen comedy about a French girl, Piper Perabo, who tries to take the popular girl's popularity from her. Somewhat reminiscent of Heathers, but nowhere near as good. It's a bit sloppy, the characters aren't very interesting, and doesn't really have anything positive to offer. There were a couple small laughs, but nothing consistent.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977) - ***1/2
This is a very fun movie for me. I've watched many times since that first time in the drive-in in 1977 and I enjoy it just as much today as I did 27 years ago. While some of the movie may be unrealistic, it seems believable as you're watching Sheriff Buford T. Justice chasing The Bandit, Snowman, and Frog across the country. Much of the success of this movie had to do with the fact that much of America seemed enamored with the trucker culture during the mid-late 70s. Many folks had CBs in there cars and a lot of us knew the lingo and I can't tell you how many times we cranked our arms as we'd pass a big rig on the highway in hopes of getting a blast from their airhorn. With its fine blend of action, comedy, stunts, and wonderful chemistry between the actors, Smokey in the Bandit is a very fun ride and the quintessential Trucker Movie. I'm 10-10 on the side.
Rank: #2 in
1977, #1 Trucker Movie

Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) - **
Okay, okay, this is a really bad sequel, but I can't help but get some enjoyment out of the continued adventure of the The Bandit and his crew. Unlike the original, the unrealistic stunts and story are too great to suspend your disbelief. My favorite scene is when their chase takes them through the Pittsburgh Steelers training session with cameo appearance by two of my all-time favorite players...Terry Bradshaw and Mean Joe Greene. Buford and his car didn't fair too well. Keep your expectations very low on this one.
Rank: #10
Trucker Movie

Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983) - *
The Smokey and the Bandit movies probably should have stopped after the original, but this third installment definitely should have never been made. This time it's just a complete waste of time. So many bad and unrealist gags fill this movie...like milk squirting out a car phone. I found myself groaning a lot and don't remember a single laugh. Do yourself a favor. If you find yourself needing a dose of The Bandit, stick with the original.
Rank:
Other Trucker Movie

Solaris (Solyaris) (1972) - ***
I'd guess that most won't have the patience for Tarkovsky's epic length Russian Sci-fi film. Besides being 165 minutes long, it's VERY slow paced. I admit that early into this I wasn't sure I'd make it through and 10 years ago I'm sure I wouldn't have. But if you have the patience for such a film, you will be rewarded with a solid sci-fi film. It's main theme has been seen in later films, but I'd venture to say none have covered it better. I haven't seen Soderbergh's 2002 remake yet, so the comparison will have to wait. I'm sure the 99 minute run time will appeal to the more modern audience, but I'm sure it won't have the same feeling. The length and slow pace of this earlier film was deliberate and I don't think that feeling could be duplicated in a shorter movie.
Rank: #8 in
1972

Solaris (2002) - **1/2
With remakes, there's always going to be a comparison to the original. I think I would have liked this movie a little more if I had not already seen Tarkovsky's 1972 original. The first question with remakes I suppose should be why? I can see the reason for this film being to bring a really good sci-fi story to the younger generation that probably won't be seeing the 165min Russian original. I heard some comments that this movie was too slow or too boring. Well, in that case, I'm sure they wouldn't have had the patience for the original. I've also heard some sci-fi fans who really appreciate Soderbergh's version...in those cases, I'd consider the idea of doing the remake a success. I'm sure some of them would definitely appreciate the original, but I'm sure a certain percentage wouldn't be willing to sit through the same slow-paced story when the running time is nearly twice as long in the original. Soderbergh did a fine job with this movie and did fairly well at capturing the feeling of the original in a quicker time. If that was his vision, then I think he succeeded. He didn't really add anything new to this story. This movies is pretty much an exact, but compacted, copy of the original Tarkovsky film.

Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade (1993) - ***
This is the short film that lead to the feature, Sling Blade. It covers just the opening interview of Karl before he's let out. Billy Bob Thorton and J.T. Walsh play their same roles and Molly Ringwald plays the reporter that interviews him. It was interesting to see what led to Sling Blade, especially since I never knew it existed.

Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) - ***
A good classic thriller. Barbara Stanwyck turns in an excellent performance as a sick wife who overhears a murder plot. The suspense builds as she tries to figure it all out.
Rank: #7 in
1948

Spider-Man (2002) - ***1/2
I had heard talk of a Spider-Man movie for well over a decade with different directors and actors rumored to be involved. Then it became official and it was announced that Sam Raimi would be the director, Tobey Maguire would be Spider-Man, Kirsten Dunst would be Mary Jane, and Willem Dafoe would be the Green Goblin. I have to admit I was a little worried. Would they pull it off...a movie worthy of one of my favorite superheros. What they did was simply make the best superhero movie to date. I was afraid the special effects would be cheesy, but they were highly believable and fun to watch. I was concerned that the actors wouldn't be up to their roles, but they all turned in great performances. I was worried that they wouldn't stay true to the story and though they did take some liberties, they never strayed too far. I went in with high hopes and what I got was a very enjoyable film. Good for both kids and adults. Spider-Man has set the bar high for the future of superhero movies. I hope we continue to get some high quality movies with the upcoming releases of Daredevil & The Hulk in 2003. I have a lot of the same concerns, but hopefully they'll come through like Spider-Man did.
Rank: #6 in
2002, Thanksgiving Scene

Spider-Man 2 (2004) - ***
A solid sequel to my favorite superhero movie. While I have been unimpressed with most of the recent superhero movies (The Punisher, Hulk), the Spider-Man movies have continued to remain a step or two ahead of the pack. While not staying 100% true to the original comics, they don't stray too far. The production is top-notch and give us a visual treat with out going too far beyond believability. Despite some initial reservations, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst have proven to be quality choices for the roles of Spider-Man and Mary Jane. Along with a solid supporting cast and good direction by Sam Raimi, the Spider-Man movie franchise has set the bar for superhero movies in the 2000s. I'm looking forward to the next installment. Unfortunately Spider-Man 3 isn't coming until 2007. Meanwhile, I remain hopeful for other quality additions to the genre.
Rank: #6 in
2004

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi) (2001) - ***
The things I enjoyed most about this Japanese animated feature are it's pleasing visual qualities and it's interesting characters. I've heard it compared to Alice in Wonderland which I can definitely see, but I was also reminded of The Neverending Story as I watched it...maybe because of the dragon/boy character Haku. Regardless of what you might compare it to, it's a tale of a young girl who is thrust into an alternate world full of strange, but interesting characters. If it has a flaw, I felt it ran a bit long at over 2 hours...though I admit I was a bit tired while watching it. It's quirky characters and stunning animation are pleasing to watch, but it didn't quite live up to the hype I had heard about the movie prior to watching it. One other note, I've read others say it's good for the entire family, but I think really young kids might not appreciate it that much.

St. Patrick's Day (1997) - **1/2
When I first starting watching this movie, I couldn't help but be reminded of
Home for the Holidays. Sure enough, it played out much the same with the same kind of scenarious. Whereas the actors in the other movie were able to keep us entertained, the likes of Piper Laurie and Vitamin C couldn't quite draw me in. It's not bad and if you want to see an Irish-American family reunion and all that ensues. Right from the start, the mother states that she's taken the pledge and there will be no drinking. Almost everyone is having relationship problems of some kind that would definitely drive some to drink. If you want to see how it plays out, sneaking liquor, who's sleeping with whom, then it will probably squeak by marginally holding your attention. Sometimes it's good to watch these kind of movies to make you feel better about your own family. I will warn you there is a scene that rivals the hot tub scene with Kathy Bates and Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt, though not quite so graphic.
Rank: #8 St. Patrick's Day Movie

St. Patrick: The Irish Legend (2000) - **1/2
This is a decent telling of the life of Patrick (Patrick Bergin) from an Irish slave as a teen, to Bishop of Ireland, to Patron Saint of the Irish. It gives a lot of information and background on the legend of the man who becomes the saint. It's starts off pretty good, but turns a little too unbelievable towards the end when he starts using magical powers. At one point, he chokes a man like Darth Vader using the force. It's just a little too over the top. The cinematography of the Irish countryside is beautiful.
Rank: #9
St. Patrick's Day Movie

The Sum of All Fears (2002) - ***
I was a little worried about Ben Affleck playing Jack Ryan. I think because he tends to be a bit goofy, which may lend itself better to other roles. Though I'd rank him third of the actors that have played the role, he surprised me and did a decent job. Some may have thought a movie about nuclear terrorism was out of place after the Sept 11th attacks, but I felt it an appropriate time to be reminded of what's out there. I remember being worried about nuclear war with Russia when I was a kid. But I think it's much scarier today. At least Russia and the U.S. were smart enough to know not to use them. But I fear others may not care as much about the consequences.
Rank: #4
President's Day Movie

Swimfan (2002) - *
Movies like this just make you shake your head in wonder...what were they thinking?! If you saw the trailer, that's the movie. No surprises...just a dumb plot, unenjoyable characters, and no heart. Avoid this movie!
Rank: 2002
Worst Movie

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