Thome    images    ideas    words    websites    contact    resume    links    meta    prices   DallasArtsRevue

J R's Images & Ideas

Latest Movies    Other alphabetized pages include:

A    B    C ~ D    E ~ F    G ~ I    J ~ L    M    N ~ R    T  ~ U    V ~ Z

Movies on this page start with S

S

Like most Americans, I got about a paragraph and a half about Sacco & Vanzetti*** in my history classes. I knew their trial was important, but no idea why. I did know Ben Shahn's drawings and paintings of the pair, and always wondered how they rated that and the history books mentions, where almost nothing was explained. Here, we learn. Now I understand.

I fought watching Andrei Tarkovsky's Sacrifice****. It was difficult. Slow. Strange. Surreally disjointed. Most of it in a foreign language. Subtitles annoyed me. As did not understanding. I frowned a long way into it.

In time, however, I let go, accepted and watched (although I kept pushing the time remaining display button).

I did not always — even often — understand all that I saw while I was seeing it. Eventually, though, nearly everything made sense. And thinking about it later layers even more.

Along the way, it was beautiful. Both the seeing (cinnematography by Igmar Bergman's longtime collaborator Sven Nykvist) and the seen was exquisitely beautiful. The actors, acting, motion, often choreographic movement, positioning, filmic and character transitions, story... Everything was visually amazing. Yet deceptively simple.

In color, in moody blacks and grays and whites and tones of blue and brown, and even, towards the end, brilliant orange.

Most of the way, I thought the film was so complex I would have to put it all together to 'figure it out.' But the film (the director) placed the requisite verbal and audial cues and clues just where needed, if not entirely chronological.

The story — plot, only if you insist — is deceptively simple. A Bargain with God by a Man already overflowing with Words (though his beloved son \ was not, at all) and, like Mishima, needful of action, instead. A little white magic and poof! A happy ending.

At the end, I was smiling and more than a little startled to find me tearing, not from emotions although there was certainly joy. But from pure filmic joy. This film amazed me.

Not just memorable. But haunting. 2000

 

The Saddest Music in the World**/ is silly delivered strangely via surrealism. Not as utterly weird as Gummo nor as finely plotted as Pi. Cinnematography stuck in the 30s, story well before that. Goofy way over all the edges.

Saint Ralph***/ sounded like it might be another Swimming Upriver (See below.), but it kept its quirk intact. Sweet little movie, a phlegmmer feel good about a little boy who needs a miracle to bring his mom out of a comma, hears that winning the Boston Marathon would be a miracle, so he goes at it. Lotta hope, love, impossible dreams, gentle characters.

The Salton Sea**** is a trip. Truly bleeding edge weird. Visually freaky, too. Beautiful. Vivid. Sometimes hilarious. Rich. Dense. Compelling. The trip drug is speed. It's about that, and tweakers and slammers — darkly colorful characters. Involved, involving, twisting, multidimensional plot. All that — and Val Kilmer and Vincent D'Onofrio, too. Intense. Solid Special Features. 2002

The Same River Twice*** about a float trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, then, unfortunately, those same people as they'd grown up, which all of them did not, thankfully, that had too little of the river and too much as interrelated adults, although there were poignant moments on the adult side, not so much as the naked young adults on the river. But what I always wanted was more time on the river.

The only scene I remembered from seeing The Sand Pebbles**** in its original theatrical distribution was the scene where Steve McQueen shoots Mako when the Commies are torturing him on shore. Seeing it again on DVD was fine, but the commentaries -- though they involved many of the stars, the director, etc. -- started out fascinating then quickly dwindled downhill into audio fill. For example, every single time Mailee -- the Asian character around whom much of the plot twists -- is onscreen, she is ingored entirely by the blathering idiots. I wanted to know about her, but I learned nothing, except how Candace Bergman was feeling that day. Great movie, stupid Commentary. Lots of other, mostly audio-only Special Features.

Saraband***/ is strange as an Igmar Bergman film is and should be. His last. About a father without mercy or love for his son. A malignant force, nearly tamed by returning love, a granddaughter with talent, her father's student and more, and how it all and they all are resolved, if they are. Dysfunction meets surreality. Beautiful and deft.

Saving Private Ryan**** is the most violent film I can remember. Tense, superbly acted, emotional and war-accurate. It is also full of realistic violence and honor. It's about war, and it's painful to watch. But it's superb filming, with great acting and a marvelous and truly American story, which, of course, takes place "over there" during WWII. V NS 1998

Sometimes ya just gotta see something that is utterly and dependably predictable. Such is a very young John Cusak in Say Anything***. From nearly the beginning right up into the end, and even in all the deleted and extended scenes and trailers and featurette, you know what's going to happen. Maybe not all the nuances, but certainly the romance. Young Love. I've seen this movie a dozen times in other movies all my life. Maybe more like a hundred or more. It's an invariable movie expectation met and enjoyed. Sparkles and twitters all along the rollercoaster teen angst joy disappointment and inevitable happy ending. No great shakes. No inovation anywhere in sight. Just fun for the ride. 1989

I know I've seen Say Anything*** before, just as I know I'll see it again next time I've forgot it and lost this note remembering. Something about a young John Cusack in a romantic young romance is too good to hope it's a great movie, and in most ways it is. A classic from 1989. Gentle, realistic, mostly smart.

The Science of Sleep*** shares a deeply self-indulgent underlying illogic with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, whose director made both. Where Science is funky and hand-made, Sunshine nears sophistication, albeit with the same clunky machines. In the messiest of manners, this often childish, sometimes dream-like, usually charming little movie  is about rejection, selfish love and not being able to discern dreams from reality. Its quirky characterizations, odd animations, strange interactions and extraordinarily low tech tech almost work, except that its hero is petulant and piteous.

Screamers *** is a good, dark, seamy off-world sci-fi with Peter Weller and machines becoming human. 1996

For a man who wants to live, love is life. But for a man who wants to die, it is something no one wants to give him. A quadriplegic lives 28 more years only wanting to die. The state, the church, his family, the women who say they love him all want him for themselves, what they want, not what he wants or needs. Finally, by teaching a simple woman what love is really, his prayer is granted. The Sea Inside***/ is a beautiful film with at least three marvelous flights of cinematic fancy that go on forever, or almost. Delicious visually, heart warming story and script and real people characters. I only wish two changes: I didn't have to read the subtitles and they'd translate and subtitle the lyrics of songs sung.

Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader in Secretary***/ is dark, humanely hilarious and ultimately sexual. She's a masochist. He's a serial sadist. Both extreme. Together they are an extreme example of the difficulty of any relationship. This is an unusual — okay, bizarre — romance. Strange, startling, shocking. Visually as well as verbally as well as very very smart. Forget it if you're PC.

The Secrets***/ is poignant, intelligent and romantic, all in ways that twist and turn in grace and healing, with difficulty through. It's a weeper, but a joyous one, about personal liberation.

I hardly rented any movies last year and most of this. But I just had to see Secrets & Lies***/ (lovely, largely made-up as they went along story of a dysfunctional Brit family readjusting to itself). 1998

The Secret Life of Words***/ was slow and gentle, speaking subtly funny lines and building surely to expose former horrors, then gentles out again. Superb acting, amazing little plot and a cast of memorable and quirkesque characters.

My theory is that the best movies involve a new way of telling. Not technology, but use of the tools at hand to relate what can only be related in words and moving pictures. The Secret Life of Words**** does that. Surprisingly well. The story is told in words, and they are telling, and the story is told in a deeply emotional manner. Achingly long and slow and deep.

I seriously disliked Secret Window*** until the twist was revealed almost at the end. Then I warmed to its strangeness immensely as I began to understand the self-reflexive nature of this Johnny Depp movie, although there were still gaping holes in the plot, story and characterizations. More fun that I'd thought, but less engaging.

Seeking Neverland***/ is near Johnny Depp perfection. Superb acting, marvelous story, a tad too predictable, even in its unpredictabilty, fantasy, unrequited love, wonderful children and the Peter Pan back story, what's not to love? Heart warming and melting, a phlegm fest I fell for bigtime, a charming delight.

Somehow I got the idea that The Sentinel** was some sort of powerful and exciting cable detective show whose hero had acquired telekinetic powers in the jungle of peru and used them to fight for truth and justice. Or some such malarkey. What it was was cheesy and lame. We watched most of one and got about five minutes into the next, and it was just stupid.

I kept thinking this must be fiction but isn't it amazing that a woman painter is portrayed as other than young and beautiful, and her paintings were remarkable. That's what the visiting German art critic thought when he discovered the woman who cleaned his house painted amazing work. When he could, he showed and sold her paintings, but he kept leaving, for World War I and the Depression. And he always came back. Usually kind, but always a little crazy, and driven like painters sometimes are, Séraphine*** de Senlis achieved success in her own lifetime, but it was never easy.

Seraphim Falls**/ is a movie I kept wanting to be better than it is. What it's about is revenge, and it goes on and on about that, killing a lot of people along the way. Then at the end, it loses all continuity and just stops. Neither Piers Bronson nor Liam Neeson look like themselves, but Angelica Huston does. Oh, and it's a cowboy movie, a Western.

I thought Serenity***/ was going to be a TV show. I don't have cable, or I'd probably waste all my time watching it. But I misread Netflix blurbs enough to get it wrong about 20% of the time. I knew it was science fiction, and that a lot of people thought well of it. I did, too. The central premise, the big secret, doesn't hold enough water, but the action is exciting, the sci and the fi is good enough and very good, and the characters are outstanding and lovable. I'd still like to see the next installment, but I'll settle for Firefly that actually was a TV show.

A Serious Man***/ is a fable about a man who does not know who he is or who are the people living with him whom he supposedly loves. It's not a great movie, but it is interesting, Jewish, truly Coen Brothers strange and a deeply black comedy.

Seven Years in Tibet***/is great adventure, interesting but not quite complete -- not nearly spiritual enough -- character development of an obsessed nazi mountain climber who befriends the young Dali Lama. 1997

Sex and Lucia**** is sometimes soft porn, including a few truly sexy scenes, with full frontal nudity of both sexes. But it's much more than Just Porn.

More visual than logical at first — a dreamy, time scrambler with many beautiful images, ideas and a loopback, interwoven sense of time and truth, so we never really know — till the end, what really happened and why, although we have some ideas.

Even then it's not entirely clear, but the experience along the way is mesmerizing, colorful, symbolic and surreal, with wonderful storytelling. [All in Spanish with English subtitles. And, of course, the soundtrack songs are not translated...]

top

Ben Kingsley's made a career of holding back. In Sexy Beast***/ he lets go and becomes a thoroughly despicable character, violent, mad, vicious and truly evil. Nice to watch that now, finally. Odd film, too. Not quite anything we can get our mind around. Deeply romantic, emotional, fun and funny, with a heist we dreaded all the way through. Strong women, weak men and thick English accents clarified with English subtitles. Bravo.

I've just seen a truly remarkable film released in 1943, but I hardly noticed that. It's full of light and joy and death and gloom. All mixed together with amazing dexterity. Everything nearly perfect. Symbols, intelligence, entirely credible character development and plot. It was Alfred Hitchcock's first American film, written by Thornton Wilder and starring Joseph Cotton and Teresa Wright. Called Shadow of a Doubt**** when titles meant plenty.

Shadow of the Vampire*** has a lot of "deep" moments where we're led to believe something important is going on onscreen. But it isn't. Willem Dafoe make an interesting study in vampiring, but this vampire doesn't do very much, maybe because he's old and decrepid. Although the movie plods, it is noir as hell. And that's as much as I can praise it. It doesn't go anywhere, except to the end of the movie. The characters are mildly interesting, if pat, and it's a fascinating concept -- that a famous movie about Dracula starred a real vampire. But... It's spookier than it makes any sense. And at the end, I didn't care any more than the director did who lived or died.

Shall We Dance***/ is an elegant little Japanese movie that follows a shy man's enchantment with ballroom dancing. No sex or violence, great, sharply-defined characters, sweet progression of plot. 1997

I finally got to see Shakespeare in Love****, which is an excuse to include a lot of lines from the bard's many plays and large sections of Romeo & Juliet. Everything here, except some people names, is fiction. But it's pretty smart, well filmed, moves fast and is funny. 1999

I remember being confused that Shakespeare in Love**** was so highly acclaimed. On re-viewing the DVD recently, however, I'm beginning to understand. It's a complex, likeable, beautiful rewrite of Shakespeare with Shakespearean touches all through. Romantic confusion, tragedy, comedy, real and theatric life in a delightful stew.

Shanghai Noon**/ wasn't nearly as funny as reported. Had fairly decent fight and other special effect scenes, but they were poorly filmed and/or edited. Did have plenty of stupid racial stereotypes, plodding, nonintersecting, episodic plot lines and lousy acting. Jackie Chan has often been better choreographed. 2000

Shark Tale*/ is the lamest movie I've ever seen, as Anna said, "it's just wall to wall crap." I agree. Perhaps what Disney brought to their former liaison with DreamWorks was intelligence and heart, especially heart. Hard to imagine that Disney even has a heart, but this flick is truly stupid, without anything socially redeeming.

Each new Sherlock I just know I won't like as well as the last. From Basil Rathbone to, well, Robert Downey, Jr. Wouldn't see seeing it on the big screen. Kinda glad I waited it till the littler screen, wonder now if he'll show up near midnight on Channel 13. Rousing good time, lots of the usual tricks and a couple new ones. I would like to see another and another with him, don't know how likely that. But this was darned good. Sherlock Holmes***/.

Not sure why I felt obligated to rent a Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes in Washington*. Maybe because it was short, but my god was it ever stupid and dated. Hard to believe I've doted on Sherlocks through the last couple centuries. Now see Robert Downey, Jr.'s much more recent version was so much more intelligent. This one, from 1943 was, by its own admission, "updated." Downey's much more so and up-intelligenced, too. At least it was short.

Shine***/ is not so much a great film as a great story. But I saw it at the UA Cine in Dallas, where it was consistently out of focus, the audio was out of synch, and it was freezing cold. I'd like to see it in focus and in synch before I can be sure. I did complain -- tho I was ignored. I promise never to call it my favorite theater again. 1996

Shipping News**** is offbeat, beautiful, quirky, romantic, intelligent, involving, real, serious, funny, about character and growth and the sea. 2001

A Short Film About Love*** was more about obsession and un-lovedness and Peeking Tomikas, but it held my attention — all the way till the goofy fantasy ending — with loving camerawork and perfect yet quirkly characters.

The Short Films of David Lynch**/ were too wierd even for me. Truly student work, nonsensical plots (?) and absurdist stories. For major fans only.

I like movies about persons who shoot guns good. I liked that silly Aussie flick with Burt Reynolds, The Shootist. I didn't care if the flick was bad, and it really was, I liked it. I liked Shooter***/ a lot better. Hardly an original plot. My favorite author wrote a really bad book with the exact same plot: Really good shooter hired to tell how to kill the President, so the secret service can protect him, except it isn't the secred service, and they kill the President using the shootist, er... shooter's plans, then blame it on him and hunt him down, or try to. Another kind of movie I like especially is when the hero — sometimes it's a heroine — is always a couple steps ahead of the bad guys at every turn. Is very very knowledgeable and very fast and very good. That makes it for me. Your mileage might vary. I could see how it might.

Shrek***/ was fine. A kid's movie with overtones of adult intelligence, fun, heartwarming, excellent outcome.

Shrek II***/ is wonderful, especially the first few minutes. After that it goes to town, gets glitzy and steals (homage?) from every movie we've all ever seen. Less than perfect, but smart on a couple levels and silly and entertaining on all.

Dark, suicide dark, comedy, yeah, why not? But dark and sneaky-up funny human. Shrink****
I remember thinking Shrink***/ was too depressing the first time I reviewed it. Now I dig. Much funnier and deeper and more cohesive than I at first thought. I might have to watch it again next year or the year after.

Took me nearly a week of mostly not watching Shutter Island**/ to finally finish it. With so many setups for the obvious, what happened at the end was zero surprise — twists, my foot, but it was at long last, over.

I immensely enjoyed The Siege***/. I went because Denzel Washington, Annette Benning and Bruce Willis were all in one movie. And yes, the plot is ham-handed as NY undergoes martial law under Willis (who finally gets to play out his radical Conservative personal politics), but the story flows with a fiery momentum. Beautiful cinematography, Great, fast-paced editing, good acting, high adventure and gangbusters fun. NS 1998

Sidways**** has an eminently forgettable title with not much to do with this quirky, oddball buddy road flick, big blast before the wedding, story that starts a little unevern, then gets broadly and subtly funny, and poignant and romantic and over all the tops oenophile, with tragic alcoholism in one lead and fatalistic romantic depression in the other, blended with a meandering but likeable plot, subtle visual hints and strong, memorable characters.

I expected Signs*** to be supernatural. I didn't realize it would be a hokey treatise on the inevitability of God. Early in the film, I realized it was a crisis of faith flick. For no rational reason, it reminded me of Agnes of God, which I now need to resee. Night, the writer/director/actor is risen to his level of incompetence in this alien/horror/religion story about a family fighting against the evil aliens in a boarded up basement. Night of the Living Dead revisited, and twisted, too, but without any of George Romero's sense of humor. 2002

Silence of the Lambs**** is still amazing, creepy, fierce, cunning, smart, intelligent, beautiful to watch, chilling to experience.

John Sayles' Silver City*** is a snide little flick that thinks it's a murder mystery, and is, I suppose, in enough ways to keep its real purpose alive and kicking. The kick is it's about an idiot politician (remind you of anybody yet?) who ascends to the governorship of a western state with the political I.Q. of a roasted marshmallow, while all sorts of racist and money-ist shenanigans are going on under cover of what passes for law and order. Broad enough to be tongue-in-cheek funny, but not intriguing enough for sainthood.

Simon Birch*** may not be the book, but according to my friend Phil, it's "in the spirit." A little weepy, but charming, pretty to look at, well acted and, dare I say it, inspiring. NS

A Simple Plan***/ finds one guy who thinks he's smarter, one we all know is stupider than anyone except maybe his wife, and Smarter's brother (Billy Bob Thornton), who is simple but not stupid. They find too much money, end up killing all the principles except Smarter and his wife, who stays pissed. Not a feel-good movie, at all. NS 1998

Simon Schama: Power of Art: Disc 1 may be the most beautiful, fascinating, educational and interesting movie about artists I've ever seen. Took awhile to not be offput by Simon's accent and haughty manner, but the mix of him talking about works of art we see him next to or in front of in great museums or cut into and away from recreations of the artists' lives he leads us in exploring is visually and factually fascinating. I guess there's more discs and more artists, but I learned more about Carravaggio, Gianlorenzo Bernini and Rembrndt van Rijn that I ever have before.

Singin' in the Rain**/ musta been fabulous in its day; they keep replaying that one, wet scene. I hope I remember not to watch this classic insipidity ever again.

top

Netflix gave it fewer than three stars, so I should have known better, but I rented the 2000 flick The 6th Day** about cloning and gangsters and bad guys and two Arnold Schwartzeneggers and even Robert Duvall in an incredibly stupid sci fi thriller that was not worth watching, even if I did.

Sixth Sense***/ is the story of a little boy who sees dead people (who scare the bejesus out of him) and a washed-up shrink who eventually figures out to tell the kid to listen to the dead people, and they all live happily--except, of course, the shrink is really dead. Huh? Beautifully filmed, solid (though spooky) plot. And a tear-jerker. Now, I want to see it again.. 1999

Simpatico*** should have been about a beautiful racing horse. Instead it's a shifting story of two brothers who gradually interchange through the movie and some bad stuff they instigated a long time ago. Good acting, pretty. S, V and VS. 2000

Sketches of Frank Gehry**** is a simple movie by Sydney Pollack (who actually shot a lot of the video) about an amazing architect. I had only a vague notion of who this Gehry guy was. I'd seen some shimmering museums in photos and thought I needed to know more. This was the perfect vehicle. Watching Gehry work told me more than a thousand talking heads. This is a beautiful film with many little nuances. It's about art, and it is art.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow*** is ripe with sappy dialogue in a sappy screenplay in a pretty much sappy universe. I couldn't wait to get through with it, then began liking it while watching the special features about the technology behind. It was shot in black and white on a blue screen, and everything but the actors was animated in, then colorized. It's beautiful to watch and if it weren't for all that sap, it might have been wonderful. 2004

top
  

Slaughterhouse Five**** follows a different insanity through several divergent but recurring time lines. But essentially, it's similar (to 'Map') in its essential understanding of community. It is a quintessential 70s movie, attempting to -- and succeeding remarkably well at -- blowing our collective minds.

Nothing earth-shaking about the cinematography, although it is beautiful and simply direct, but this business of chronosynclastic infidelium (author Kurt Vonnegut's word for it in the book but curiously missing in the movie) -- Billy Pilgrim being unstuck in time -- is a most effective method to carry us through to an end, without connecting the time dots in the usual chrono logical order.

As Billy explains, "On Trafalamore you learn that the world is just a collection of moments all strung together in beautiful random order. And if we're going to survive, we have to concentrate on the good moments, and ignore the bad."

This is one of my all-time most memorable movies. Watching it felt like spending a late evening reminiscing with a treasured old friend. _< @
  

Sleepers***/ is a taut, smart, violent flick that presents a moral dilemma, then takes the wrong road for all the wrong reasons, and we feel good about it? Violent and perverted. 1996

I'm always leery of a new sci fi movie I've never heard of. Sleep Dealer***/ did that to me, again. But once I settled into — and that worked quickly, lots of human emotion, feelings, a a credible sense of reality, along with fascinating technology, not out of place in an imagined near future — it, I liked it, and never once thought of pausing it or coming back later. It's a quick 90 minutes, but very well done, good everything, great tech and story. Admirable job.

Sleepy Hollow*** is scary for kids but a bit hackneyed for adults. It's Tim Burton's usual over the top presentation of the dark and gloomy with remarkably ungory gore, chopped off heads and spooky, animated forests and trees. Fun, of course, and often exciting a retelling of the classic American tale, filled with magick. The music was as heavy-handed as the story and acting. 1999

Sliding Door*** is another intelligent film. It offers an alternate universe, 'what if' way of looking at life and romance. It's funny, sad, strange. But it's put together smart, very smart. And we loved it. 1998

Sling Blade****is the simple tale of not-so simple people, told craftfully, carefully, with tension and reality. Rich and unHollywoody. Unique style. Superb. 1997

If it weren't so — odd, bizarre, full-tilt-boogie over the edge, movie maddness, mixing the flickering of sense with our perceptions of, it would be amazing. Maybe it is amazing. Lots of self-reflexive film and video gimmicks, plenty to watch and wonder about. Major good actors. Anthony Hopkins is all through it, wrote it, stars in it, if you can call it that, composed and played music, and he's usually more than, this time not quite, enough, but Christian Slater is too much. Visually strange with confusing continuity. 35 years ago, it woulda been a major LSD movie. Maybe it still is. Confusing being in a movie, making one and reality, as if that had anything to do with, but few of those obtain. Another psychotic breakdown, Slipstream***/, is a visual treat.

I'm probably one of the last people on the planet who haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire***/ but it was fun, intelligent and I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner.

I went to the theater to see Zorro, but it was out of focus, and I didn't feel like playing the focus game with the managers, so I went next door and caught The Slums of Beverly Hills***, which was in sharp focus. Good enough girl coming of age in the 70s. Funny, poignant, nice. S (finally), but no love. 1998

Small Time Crooks** is stupidly over-zany. There's a few good laughs buried in all the innane muck, but not enough story to hang onto. Woody's worst in decades.

Smilla's Sense of Snow***/ is a taut mystery/action flick featuring a woman who knows snow but not whom to trust. Chilling (!), frightening, strong plot without extraneous hollywood b.s. Smart, fast. Beautiful 1997

Smoke Signals***/ was a sweet little road trip movie about an Indian, who discovers his real father and his friend. Eloquent editing and intriguing, Indian-style story-telling, a twisting, often very funny plot and unique characters. NS 1998

top

After the end of Snake Eyes**, the credits roll while the movie sorta continues on a long, drawn-out texture shot that finally close-ups on a detail that makes little or no sense. Even though we know what DePalma is trying to do, and why, we also know that he is failing miserably at the attempt. Luckily, the rest of the movie is a lot better. It's tense, kinda mean-spirited, flamboyant, over-the-top and, ultimately, scarily entertaining. There's lots of room for improvement, and both the interminable credit-crawl ending and the light-hearted boy/girl endings suck big-time. NS 1998

The Hurricane***/ and Snow Falling on Cedars***/ are great stories. They're not spectacular movies, because they don't advance the craft or startle and amaze (like any of the four-asterisk movies listed here). But they are way more than competent, very well acted and photographed. 2000

I didn't want to like Snow Walker*** at first. Hated its main character, there for us to hate, then grow slowly to like and even admire as he changed. Not really a love interest but the Inuit woman teaches him the old ways, and yet knowing that, the plot took me by surprise. Noble and knowing, beautiful cold desert. Impetuosity meets Native understanding. Subtly at first, but uplifting, not preachy.

Seeing Sneakers***/ again, was a delight. I'll be wanting to see this Robert Redford and his goofy gang of tech wizards stealing the world from the big bad coporations every year for ever. Always a delight.

I guess it's because we've all got it in us, but most of us don't let it out. Lots of feelings actually need to be stuffed down tight, but by watching and beginning to understand why truly crazy people deal with their difficulties, we don't always have to. A lot of what movies teach us is disgusting bad for us and for our communications, but getting to watch crazy people interact and act, may help us begin to understand. Snow Angels***.

I got Snow Cake***/, because Alan Rickman's in it, and he's wonderful. So is Sigourney Weaver and her screen daughter who dies early. In many ways, the movie is very much about what she learned from her autistic mother. The joy of living totally in the present, without recourse to subtleties of meaning or motive. It's also about guilt and resurrection. A little movie, but profound and human.

I know, I know, The Sopranos**** is old hat now, and not having Cable, I missed the phenomenon almost completely. Watching the series beginning to end on VHS, without intervening weeks to compare stories with coworkers is sad but true. But wow! Pretty good dinkum. Especially noteworthy is that when they quote great thinking and philosophy, it's almost always from movies, the great art of the 20th Century.

Andrei Tarkovsky's "original" (i.e. pre Hollywood, though post Polish sci fi writer Stanislaw Lem's novel of) Solaris****, which is substantially longer, slower and much more beautiful and enigmatic than the George Clooney (who looks remarkably like the star of the Russian version) extravaganza cited somewhere below.

I'm even enjoying, slowly over days and weeks, the commentary track by two "experts" on the Mr T's movies, although they are so obviously incorrect in some of their assessments — "like the rocket to outer space" sequence which looks to the viewer a lot like a car hurtling through the highway systems of a contemporary Japanese city, complete with futuristic, "space" music

top

The commentary for Solaris**** is, essentially, full of itself, but this Hollywood redo is exquisitely filmed, marvelously lit and designed, and well acted. Even the music is right on, as strange as anything in this mind trip of a movie. Unfortunately, science fiction writer Stanislas Lem's elegant concepts are slowly and carelessly erroded in the commentaries by Idiot Hollywooders who cannot conceive that we might want either to figure it out ourselves, or — more frightening — that we could live with more than one possible interpretation. I can't decide which version I prefer...

This time when I watched Something Wicked This Way Comes**** I remember last time I watched it, soon after it first came out, and I remember before that reading it. Last time I saw it I didn't think it was all that scary, and I knew how it departed from the book.

This time I'd forgot all that and just watched but still remembered reading it the first time, delicious words, scary, spooky and dark. Ray Bradbury had ahold of my imagination like Dark's Pandemonium Carnival took the souls of small town wishers and hopers and regretters and turned it and them into something else. What frightening fun, with such a young Jonathan Pryce and old turned young Jason Robards. Wicked fun.

Songcatcher**/ is a poor excuse of a movie, but it's a fair excuse for an interesting soundtrack (although the CD looks more like greatest hits than the real music this is all about). It's supposedly about a scholar in the early 20th Century, who finds ancient, traditional songs in Appalachia. The movie, though pretty to see, is anachronistic in too many details. The characters may be endearing but the plot is just plain stupid. The music, however, is wonderful. I don't ever want to see this idiot movie again, but the soundtrack might be nice. 2003

I couldn't get over the overwhelming feeling that this is a stupid movie. Entertaining, yeah, kinda. But stupid and hackneyed and dumb in every possible way. Good vs. Evil with every trick in the Hollywood book. Stupid. I liked the first one better. Yeah, Mickey. The Sorcerer's Apprentice*/

Soul Food***/ is the saga of a family facing life, filmed through the eyes of a little boy. Sweet story, lots of plot complications, real-human people, superb acting, great scope, fine cinematography.   1997

My brother is profoundly deaf, meaning he has more than 99.9% loss of hearing. We grew up on Strategic Air Command bases where B-52s took off and landed vibrating the whole base. Feeling that vibration was as close as he got to hearing. But all his life he's been on the outside from most people, including his family, us. I believe he would have been happier and more a part of the community of everybody, if he were hearing. He had an opportunity, a few years ago, to get a cochlear implant and was evaluated as a good candidate. In the end, he was not able to have the procedure, but his community, like the deaf people in Sound and Fury*** were opposed to getting the implant. They did not want to lose their Deaf Culture. It's a vastly supportive and extensive community that would be difficult to leave after a lifetime membership. He and his non-hearing wife raised two hearing children who are still very much a part of that deaf culture. They sign, they communicate with hearing and non-hearing alike. They often interpret for their parents. I kept wanting to tell the movie's deaf people about my two nieces and their continuing acceptance and comfort in both worlds, but I'm not sure even that relative success would have tipped the scale against so much fear.

Space Cowboys**/ is good junk food. Not healthy, exactly, but crunchy, sweet, moist, absorbing, and pleasant enough. Old guys get to go into space forty years after their place in history was given to a monkey. Lots of continuity goofs and plot inconsequences, but fun, funny and almost touching. 2000

The Spanish Prisoner*** is much smarter than your average highly-rated movie. The plot switchbacks almost as brilliantly as Mamet's amazing dialog all through the film, tho it does a little Hollywood two-step at the end. Wryly humorous, bafflingly complex, filmic and intellectual. 1998

I avoided like the plague seeing Spanglish***/. Not sure what I expected. Like maybe I'd forgot that Happy Gilmore's movies for the last couple years have been heartfelt and intelligent, a major rise from the idiocy of his early work. I was sleepy, too sleepy to watch a movie, but this one caught my heart early, kept me awake and awarded me with lots of little and big bits of joy along the way. Nice.

Spartan*** is deeply flawed Val Kilmer with big ideas, budget and a lot going for it, burdened by an idiot, cop-out ending. High adventure, spy craft, decent acting, some amazing scenes and Val, by whom I am continually amazed.

Now there's a movie that did much for and against psychoanalysis: I'm surprised I had not seen it, even if it was made in 1945. I keep thinking I'd seen all of Hitchcock's movies, then I find another, and sometimes I think all his movies are great, and then I found several that clearly were not. But this one, Spellbound***/ with a very young Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman, was quite good. Dated by all manner of sophistication since then, in psychiatry as well as story-telling, but compelling.

Speed Racer is for small children without any taste or intelligence.

David Cronenberg's Spider**** is dark, spookily expressionistic, bleak, vulnerable, insular and haunting. It's a schizophrenic point-of-view exploration of memory and identity. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne and Lyn Redgrave, everything about this movie is beautifully strange and deeply disturbing.

Spider Man***/ is a good movie that gets at all of teenager Peter Parker's teen angst, tells a solid comic book story with elegant high tech special effects, a sexy damsel who pretty much stays in distress throughout the high adventure flick and still promises a sequel. Not quite as great as I'd hoped it would be, the DVD interface is clunky, and although there's plenty of high hype making of stories, there's no real How They Did Its. 2002

Spiderman II***/ is teen angst and romance, with a touching, almost human story.

We thought we wanted to watch two chronicles in one night — The Spiderwick Chronicles*** and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian*/. But that was a mistake. Spiderwick was not outstanding but it was decent enough and the fantasy almost real and the special effects plenty good enough, but Narnia II was dreadful with inane and insipid characters and filled with idiot battle scenes. Kids might like Spiderwick. It was pleasant enough after Narnia part two, but never quite all there.

Spirited Away**** is simply wonderful, as probably everybody in the world who watches movies already knows. Inscrutably Japanese in mysterious, atmospheric and spiritual ways, this movie is a delight for old and young. Disney takes inordinant credit for Anglicizing this cosmic wonder, although I am glad I didn't have to watch it with subtitles.

Neil and I are going to see Feces II* (Species II) tomorrow. We expect it to be slightly better than Feces I, which was utterly terrible, but we don't care. (It was truly stupid -- plot, characters, everything sucked.) It was sorta fun. 1998

Spy Game**** is visually scintillating, verbally intriguing, complex in plot and politics, fabulously well edited and acted, furiously paced, truly intelligent and exciting. The cinematography was often innovative and usually amazing. We wanted to see it again even before we left the theater, can't wait for the DVD, might have to see it again on the big screen way before that. One of the rare few movies that truly makes me feel like I've been thoroughly movied. Wow! 2001

Spy Kids II** was lame, mean and stupid. Then, after it was finally over, I started liking it through all the special features. Primarily interesting for the gizmos. The plot flat out sucks. But now I want to see SK-1. 2003

The Squid and the Whale***/ has almost nothing to do with squids and whales, except one denoueing scene, and a lot to do with a disintegrating marriage. By the time we tune in, that's gone, and we can all see why. But it's the family that's in jeapardy here, and we care. It's a serious movie, not a comedy in the usual sense. But it is deeply funny. I kept imagining me laughing out loud in a theatre and people turning around and wondering if I were crazy. It takes awhile to figure out that it was meant to be cuttingly, painfully hilarious.

A month later and I still haven't watched more than a few minutes of Stalker. If I don't watch it within the next few days, it's going back, so I can get a movie I will actually watch and send back quickly, so I can get more.

Both Stage Beauty**/ and Cassanova** are unstuck in time. Not in the good way that Billy Pilgrim or the guy with the spotless mind were, but in the anachronistic manner of too many movies that cram contemporary ways of speaking and thinking into what appears to be set in the long-ago past. Appears. Both thickly apply period costumery and characterizations to mindless mixes of classic and postmodern motives. They are copies of copies of copies. If you've ever made a copy of a copy of a copy, you know the genuine tonalities get lost into a crusty morass. Neither of these comedies are funny, and both comprise pseudointellectual tripe.

Stander*** is another thoroughy confused little, morally ambiguous, English speaking South African (gotta love it just for that, right? Right?) movie about a White anti-apartheid cop who turns to bankrobbing.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures*** is a great retrospective of all his movies, with lots of famous _______s for each category. Actors, directors, producers, whateverers. Fascinating introduction to some movies I hadn't seen. Intriguing backstories for the ones I had seen. Understandings for all.

The title probably fit the book and the comix, but we never see enough of star dust to make it work here. Otherwise, Stardust***/ is excellent and exciting with a dozen or so superb actors having fun and usually doing quite well, in an enjoyably complex story that keeps us involved and surprised, laughing and trying to think ahead, but it's not predictable. Marvelous a magic adventure / romance.

The Starmaker *** is an engaging if predictably Hollywoodian Italian flick about a guy posing as a screen-test filmer for the movies defrauding Italians after WWII. 1996

Starship Troopers /shoulda been an animated cartoon. Well, it was, actually, only with live action, more-or-less humans. Good space battle scenes. Insipid plot must have been scripted by a 7-year-old. Acting was worst I've seen in years. Great Satty morning movie. Robert Heinlein's novel deserved much better than this idiocy. 1997

Starting Out in the Evening***/ is about an old man who was once a literary lion who's been writing the same novel for the last ten years when a young woman who hopes to become a respected literary critic chooses to write her thesis about him. Lovely, gentle, poignant and loving.

Though incredibly stupid in many places, especially the beginning, Star Trek***/ is a good TV show pilot. I can't wait for the series.

Star Wars**/, in too much common with The Matrix, Existenz and, for that matter, The Mummy, Star Wars is full of sound and fury, signifying not very much at all. Two sequences make the sitting-in-the-theater for more than two hours experience worth it. The rest is drivel. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. Go figure. NS 1999

I was riveted by the two-disk Brit political thriller State of Play****. There's a Hollywood version coming, but the original is substantially better. Five hours worth of fascinating characters and searing interactions among them, fast action and lots of thought, twisting plots, great, involving story. Amazing. I'll watch the truncated Hollywood version, but I know they'll fuck it up.

Visually and everything else, Stay**** (2005) is about transition, beautiful, intelligent filmic ones, often and startling. I want to say the story is solid, but it's anything but. Strange, ephemeral plot line holds somehow together. Red shadows annoying, but everything else isn't. Great acting by surprising actors. Beautiful. Smart. 20 pages of visual effects bys in the credits. Haunting. Sixth Sensian in the best way.

Anna loaned me the DVD of Stay****, which I'd seen before, but didn't remember, and it still didn't help me figure it out till the end, again, when it all comes together anyway. Visually fascinating way to tell a story. True in the beginning and the end. The middle realities dream-like, slid together with beautiful, visual transitions. Elements of the story feed us details to understand what happened, as if we ever know that. More than a little Sixth Sensian, spooky shrink movie where the story is important more for the details, than the sense of it. Beautiful, haunty.

Stealing Beauty **** is a sumptuous story, beautiful people, love in its many forms, sweet, precious in the best sense 1996

top
  

Unhappily for the hapless and essentially stupid, Steal This Movie*, I actually met Abbie Hoffman at the peak of his popularity, before the government forced him underground. He was a joyous and articulate soul. A transcendendant clown of the highest political order. But this idiotic movie about him sucks big time.

Oh, the story is perfect for filming, and someday a great film will be made from this same material. But this movie's director demanded no intelligence or humanity or feeling from his actors. I'm not sure he'd recognize fine acting if he saw some. He certainly didn't see any here. This flick smarms with exposition but entirely lacks reality. Even the few historical videos that weren't recreated have more soul than this vapid flick. Steal This Book was much more on the mark than this lame scum.

  
With a name like The Steamroller and the Violin***, you'd think you'd know pretty much all about this lilting little film of friendship, but you'd be wrong, because although there is a steamroller that runs up and down flattening things, the violin does not get flattened. What the steamroller in the title refers to is the guy who drives the steamroller, and the violin is the little kid who plays it and needs protection from bullies and other viccisitudes of life. Like I say, lilting. And poignant.

Steam: The Turkish Bath**/ was a fascinating view of the inner workings of Turkish family life. Fine little story and ensemble, but nothing memorable. 1999

Step Into Liquid***/ is a luscious, wet, survey of surfing around the world — nice bit about Galvastonians surfing freighter wakes. And the makers go a ways toward talking about female surfer equality, but the money is in the water, and there are gorgeous long scenes of gnarly giant (some 66' tall) sheredders and the guys who ply them. Spectacular cinnematog makes it apparent why we humans surf.
  

I figured out at the end of my childhood that God doesn't hang out in churches, but that simple understanding is the crux of the seriously confused and confusing, yet fascinating and luridly beautiful and very active movie, Stigmata***/.

Unfortunately, the movie is too self-absorbed to do anything with that knowledge. Or it would have transcended most of its inherent idiocies. Stig is a spiritual conspiracy theory horror flick about a modern, atheistic, but of course young and beautiful, woman who is mysteriously haunted by either a devil or an excommunicated and dead priest in South America -- it's never clear which.

Turns out that priest had helped translate a newly discovered gospel from the time of Christ, which spoke in the words and long-dead language of Jesus himself. In those words, He prohibits the use of buildings and hierarchical bureaucracies. So, naturally, the Catholic Church has declared it heretical.

Gifted with a rosary stolen from the old priest, our heroine is haunted, and the gospel -- and the agonies of Jesus -- are channeled through and in her as she manifests one after another of the five, final wounds of the Crucifixion. Got that? It gets much more complicated, but fear not, the movie explains everything at least a half dozen times.

Her condition is brought to the attention of the Church, which sends out a young, idealistic investigating scientist-priest, who believes and falls in love with her. The Church's hierarchy, however, refuses to accept this truth and tries to get rid of her. The villain here is The Church, which seems plausible enough, although the movie is not.

Visually clear, sharp, strangely colorful, vividly beautiful and utterly bizarre, Stigmata is stylized like an MTVideo, with the oddly surreal special effects, logic and character development that genre often exhibits. The movie is well acted, visually enacted, and it has a sometimes subtle, often explosive soundtrack. +
  

I almost saw Stevie Ray Vaughan play twice, and I did see him without his guitar one another time. The first was in Austin when the Austin Sun's publisher invited a bunch of us staffers to go hear Jimmie Vaughan "and probably his kid brother would be there fooling around, too." We laughed, knowing about little brothers and their egoes. I didn't go. Jimmy still bores me silly. That was in 1975 or 6.

The second time was 1988 and I was in Narcotics Anonymous, and Stevie, whom I barely knew played the guitar, and his band were to play for a NA dance in the apartments behind by Glen Lakes. We got to the parking lot when my date decided she couldn't stand to be there.

So I never got to see him play live. But he was the kinda goofy looking guy who sat in the back of a NA meeting in my home meeting once. He had a long, single hair beard and said God had made him so good at what he did he didn't even have to practice. I thought he might be a lawyer, until somebody wised me up after the meeting.

After he died, I became a big fan. I bought CD after CD and listened loud and was utterly blown away by his guitar work. Still am. His Voodoo Child (Revisited) is classic. Not a bad singer or songwriter either, but that guy was the best guitarist ever. Period. But I still hadn't seen him play.

So I rented Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble at Montreux***/ and was blown away, amazed at the stupidity of the booing crowd, that only guys danced, and at Stevie's powerful, liquid guitar work. The DVD looped playing twice and we didn't care for the longest time, and the documentary part was lamish but about our hero and so wha? but I longed to see Stevie talk about his own work.


Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator** is another of those niche star rises, does several things really stupid and goes away movies. Lotta documentary footage of the early years of skateboarding, but not enough.

I rented Stone Cold*** because i had certain expectations for a movie with Tom Selleck as a police chief in a small town. All of which were realized. From the beginning it looked and felt like the first of a TV series. And it is. There wasn't a lot that wasn't entirely predictable once we knew who and what it was about, but those few minutes made the rest worthwhile. Not great. Not bad. Darkish, dry and momentarily gentle. Now it's a broadcast network TV show, and I still like it, although there's a uniformity of plot going on.

The Story of Us***/ is Rob Reiner at his best yet. Not fabulous, but deft, funny, almost even edgy, but not quite. Good date flick, it is, like all his movies are, about the romance thing. 1999

Straight, No Chaser*** is Clint Eastwood's in many ways amazing documentary on Thelonious Monk. It's also often tedious and difficult to decipher this wonder is slow cacophinic circles, staying in NYC, tourring the world, always in his own world, a straightahead b&w with a little color near the end. Fascinating, quirky and true.

The Straight Story***/ is the true story of a stubborn man who drove a lawnmower over several states to visit his ailing brother, with the help of many kind men. A perponderance of the cast is over 50, many over 70. It's about family, the ties that bind, kindness and stubbornness. 1999

Strange Days***/ couldn't have been the original title, too stupid, too Hollywood. The concept has been around science fiction for decades. Several of my fave sci fi writers have written it. Instead of drugs, a device tunes in to whole body experience recorded by someone else's whole body experience. People get hooked to it. Our anti-hero is both addict and pusher. Except for that, this is a we-got-a-video-of-cops-doing-bad and everybody wants it or wants it back movie. Vincent D'Onofrio is a murder-crazed cop. This frenetic film is nearly nonstop action, so plot implausibilities never have a mullible chance, and vicious, overt violence fits right in. Overacting is palpable, but a lot of good actors are involved. Probably should have been an hour shorter, but which excess to excise?

Somewhere perhaps a little lost among time travel movies, second-chance movies (like Sliding Door and Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind) and self-reflex movies (like Adaptation and Being John Malkovich) is a yet to be defined sub sub genre wherein the plot doesn't just intertwine with another much crazier, zanier or fantastic version but actually interacts with a bunch of them. Stranger Than Fiction**** not only has that going for it, it has wonderfully inventive visual devices almost entirely unlike those projected on the background in Natural Born Killers, except that they also further the plot. Fanciful, fantastic, of by for and comprising literary fiction, memorable characters, great actors and acting. Dark, light, funny, smooth. Like Sunshine, I want to keep seeing it every couple of months for several years.

In Striptease **/, Demi Moore as FBI agent turned stripper. Goofaloofus plot, some decent laughs, nice bodies. Lotta lousy acting, weak director. 1996

top

Stone Reader**** is a wonderful, moving movie about a book and its authors but also about people who read books and the people who write them. If you heard this movie on the radio you could make up your own visuals for it, just like we do when we read books. But the visuals this director came up with are eloquent, lyrical, beautiful and elegant.

I'd never even heard of Todd Solondz' Storytelling**** before I found it on the shelf at my favorite video store. But wow, does this guy know how to front load a movie. Deeply intelligent. Steeped in bleeding edge irony. A writer's movie, to be sure, with lots to keep thinking about. My only issue was whether to watch the R- or un- rated version. I tried both and couldn't tell the difference. But talk about shocking -- oof! -- visually and intellectually. But why do both version block out the big, nasty interracial sex (certainly not love) scene in the shorter first story, which serves as an odd foil for the longer and deeper story of an American family that's both shallow and dim. One fierce set of flicks about truth and fiction. 2002

Strong Bad's Emails* was too stupid, boring and insipid to finish.

I cannot pretend I liked Such A Long Journey*** at first. It took more than halfway into this oddly wry journey into magic and prayer, joy and anxiety, anger, friendship and idiocy to learn to appreciate its quirkily foreign sensibilities, although it was almost always beautiful to watch. Set in Bombay on the eve of war with Pakistan, we watch an angry, controlling man learn the intricate lessons of humility and letting go and consider how willing we often are to sacrifice others for what we want..

We really wanted to see Mrs. Dalloway, but that hasn't reached the inner-city yet. So we settled on Suicide Kings**/, because Cyn likes Christopher Walken. And he was really good. Except for one finger, the plot was hole-less, an amazing accomplishment these days. It's a bit grisly and a tad violent, but still lightly funny for a dark comedy. Very intelligent, and we were given to expect a final twist at the end and, of course, we got it. 1998

Sullivan's Travels*** is a fun, but either Hardly Serious or Overly Series romp through fast-talking, high-spirited pre WWII comedy with an overblown moral. It was on nearly 39 minutes before I realized it was in black and white. It was written and directed by Preston Sturges, and now, thanks to the hijinking reparte and really fine script, I have to see more.

Tom Clancy's Sum of All Fears*** brings back familiar characters and familiar scenes but all new faces. It's been disconcerting watching our hero bump from flick to flick in this series of a succession of new faces. Alec Baldwin in one of my all-time fave flicks (I've probably seen it at least three dozen times, so far), The Hunt for Red October, Harrison Ford twice — in Clear & Present Danger and Patriot Games, and now upstart (I forget his name; he's married to JLo this week) in Sum. It's the usual doubting, presidential war room, new kid making his way up rot, and I'm not so thrilled I'd want to buy it outright, but I might be willing to rent this one again sometime, and I'll see his next installment, too. There's adventure and action and the usual Tom-foolery. I especially liked the author teaming up on one of the commentaries. 2003

Sunshine*** is an old-time family saga, novelistic in scope and passion, in socially stratified Hungary from the turn of the 20th Century through World War II. It's about family, fidelity and assimilation -- always going along to get along. It's a moving and sometimes torrid story of one family's fight against anti-semitism, seriously visually confused by one fine actor playing father, grandfather and grandson. And it's three hours long. 2000

Summer of Sam*** is the Best Spike Lee ever. It's about fear and resultant paranoia; friendship and betrayal; religion as perception. It's a rock 'n roll nightmare city of hate, with lots of sex and nasty violence, mob psychology with stupidity rampant and prejudice raising its ugly head everywhere. 1999

Sunshine***/ is ambitious as a hard science fiction story. Film. And it succeeds. Ensemble crew flies a payload they hope will reignite the sun, into the sun. Will they succeed? Who's fault? Etc. The usual interplanetary project movie plot devices, and — unfortunately — one of the usual nemesis. There at the end with not much leading to it. Very good everything, especially special effects. I thought we'd learned fire in space doesn't make oxygen noises.

Sunshine Cleaning*** was an almost gruesome charmer, intelligent and humanly humorous, building to a functional family ending that satisfied without bowing to Hollywood hokum

Maybe it is that every once in awhile I need to see Suspect Zero**** again. It's a dark thriller. Ben Kingsley is amazing as the anti- anti-hero. The one who sees. Who sees remotely what no one should ever have to see. And the tracks down the ones the FBI guy should have been tracking down all that time. But they can't see what he can see, and they do not believe.

Supercop *** is sometimes fun and sort of exciting but mostly stupid and inane. 1996

Super Inframan* reads good in the description on Netflix but is incredibly lame like 50s Japanese sci fi super heroes sans heart, soul or story.

How sweet. Surrogates***/ with Bruce Wilis is a new classic science fiction story. Not a long one, but long enough to thoroughly tell an intelligent story about being human. Updating The Twilight Zone. Sharp. Solid story. Big smile on my face at the ending. Sweet.

I was trying to remember why I rented Surveillance***/ when David Lynch's name scrolled up the screen. Oh, one of those. And it was. We think it's going to be small-town psycho cops getting their comeuppance, and it is, but there's so much more. More gory than five episodes of Criminal Minds, affecting in ways I'd rather not recount, but once you know David Lynch did it, don't need much else.
 

Suspect Zero**** is seriously spooky. A serial killer killer tracks down serial killers in his head with psy ops training from the FBI (actually, the CIA) while a current agent tracks him down, meanwhile trying to sublimate his own psychic abilities. Eerie visuals all through, intriguing, fact-based story with a deeply psychological plot. Noir as hell. The plot — this movie — is strong and direct in a strangely disjointed way that will be off-putting to a lot of people not atuned to the truly weird aspects of how our minds work.

The movie amazed me, not just with the bizarre subject matter and treatment, but with its deep, intelligent script, acting (Ben Kingsley) and luscious, well composed, on-target cinematography. Also because the movie's central concept is factual, if controversial. Some people can, under the right circumstances, view people and places and acts, miles away in discontinuous space, and time.

It's called remote viewing, and the U.S. Goverernment funded millions of dollars into research and use of it for more than twenty years, so, like the best of Science Fiction, the facts it's based on, really are true, which makes it even spookier. If you liked Memento or Lars von Trier's Element of Crime, this will be a natural.

The use of drawings and paintings is integral to the twisting plot. Also phenomenal, is the director, E. Elias Merhige's Special Features commentary, where he tells his story — the same story we're seeing on the screen, but with all the nuances, physics, psychic and psychological understandings woven into this strange and dark flick.

This review is continued, extended and greately extrapolated upon in Liminal And Subliminal, an essay in J R's Summer Journal.

 

Survival Island *** is an IMAX less than thriller about an island full of ugly animals and some soaring birds. Fun effects, Saturday afternoon public tv plotless falling forward. 1996

Surviving Picasso***/ -- Someday there'll be a movie starring an historical figure not played my Hannibal Lecter. Till then he'll have to do. Here, he's a certifiable AH, truly the Spaniard he always was, not much of the genius PP was, more a glimpse into his social life than his creativity, tho he daubs paint in one scene and hunts junk in others. A new look at an old viewer. 1996

I kept hearing good things about Sweet Hereafter***, but I didn't get to see it till this year. It's a dark, quiet, gloomy, exquisitely beautiful and touching film about a schoolbus accident in which a small town loses most of its children. It features mostly unknown actors. Did I say dark? Dark cinematography and dark mood. 1998

I thought surely I'd seen it before, but now I know I hadn't. I'd remember glimpses, moment, flashing scenes. I didn't want to see it because I knew I'd been crazy, just as I collect crazy friends, and I didn't want to go there anymore. Then Sybil***/ wanted to meet her other selves. Took a long time before I could settle in with Sally Field's Sybil self, she looked so young, and this was so far ago. Once in a while, I'd remember the Joanne Woodward I've learned over so many years since. I'm sure a lot of it was psychiatric hokum, but the movie was always real to me, timid as it now seems. I'm sure it scared a lot of people in the 34 years since.

Syriana**** is brilliant, complex, tuned into the multiple and competing realities of the Mid-East, and worthy of multiple viewings. The movie centers on a CIA agent caught in the maze of conflicting interests and manages to show nearly as many sides of the war as there might really be. It had me applauding individual terrorism against the global conspiracy of too many others' more massive terrorism. But I have to see it a couple more times before I figure out all the subplots. 2005

Sweet Home Alabama*** is a stupid movie but with endearing characters and a decent (square, 50s style) story and an ending that was purty obvious from the beginin' — yet another entertaining plot to take the girl out of a growing carreer and plant her back in Alabama. 2003

Sweet Land***/ tells a long and winding story of a woman, brought to America as something close to a mail-order bride, who grows in her own independence as she grows in her love for a man. It's a gentle story, told at a slow pace and beautifully. A period piece from rural Minnesota about loyalty and love.

Swimming Upstream*** is way too much an Aussie version of Angela's Ashes, full of Father as stupid drunk, crossed with one of those Father pushes son too hard to excell at ___ (fill in the blank). It hurts to watch, and even if the kid is a national treasure, it hurts to watch too much.

Swingers ***/ has its tongue firmly in cheek. Great take-off on L.A. and the dating game. Funny and serious. Superb. Independent. 1996
  

I was hoping for lots of special effects, so I saw Swordfish**/ on the big screen. From the fritzing TV open credits, to the totally uncredible ending, this movie was fun to watch, but worthless to think about. The 360-degreen panoramic, Post-Pekinpah ka-blooey at the beginning, the big-city urban car chase scene with goofy old John Travolta shoot em upping dozens of bad-guy black vans with an over-powered machine gun, and the absurdly explosive denoument all seriously up the ante on delicious screen violence. But nothing in there progresses any intelligence whatsoever. It's a stupid stupid movie that's grand fun to watch once.

I didn't agree with my friend Rosemary's summation of it, at first, but thinking back, the on-monitor display of cyber activity was idiotic. Never once, watching it did I actually believe what I was being told was what was going on the synchronized seven ( in the movie they thought that was astounding )-screen display. Never. But then the rest of the flick was easily as uncredible, so it fit right in. Sad that the first actual movie I've seen in several months was this dumb.

Sylvia**** about Sylvia Plath, whom I'd probably identify with too much, is scintillating. Gweneth risks being plain often and is marvelous credible as a deeply depressed poet whose insecurities feed her life, work and suicide. Dark and affecting film. Beautiful imagery even when she's all down. Lush, memorable, even set in England. Now I have to read her.

top