Movie Titles: S

The Saddest Music in the World

The Saddest Music in the World

First and foremost, you must understand this: Guy Maddin makes very weird movies. In fact, he is a genuine underground filmmaker, so it's impressive that this, his latest feature, has not only gotten a US theatrical release, but is even playing on two screens at LA megamall the Beverly Center. (Though it must be said, the Cineplex Beverly Center, built… read more!

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed

This low-budget drama with a sci fi twist is by turns entertaining and enervating. A Seattle magazine writer heads out to the coast to investigate an oddball (2012's ubiquitous indie actor/filmmaker Mark Duplass) who placed a newspaper ad asking for a partner to go time traveling with. (This part was inspired by an allegedly true story.) The writer brings along… read more!

The Same River Twice

The Same River Twice

In 1978, a group of friends in their late twenties, after working for several years as river guides in the Grand Canyon, decided to spend one last summer together on the Colorado - rafting, hanging out, and mostly being naked. One of them, Robb Moss, filmed the trip and made a little-seen documentary about it called River Dogs. Twenty years… read more!

The Savages

The Savages

Troubling but realistic comedy-drama about two neurotic siblings (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) who are forced to care for their dementia-addled father (Philip Bosco) after his girlfriend dies and he is left essentially homeless. We are briefly and succinctly informed at the beginning of the film that the father was an abusive, loveless man who drove his children's mother… read more!

Save the Last Dance

Save the Last Dance

2001's first sleeper hit, this movie's box office success surprised everybody - even its own producers. I must admit, when I saw it (at a free employee screening at Paramount), even I wondered if anybody would go to it. It is, after all, a black-themed story with a white girl at the center. And it's about dancing! By the guy… read more!

A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly

There's a lot of reasons why I should've hated A Scanner Darkly: I don't normally like the cast, I find Richard Linklater a hit-and-miss director, and I definitely disliked Waking Life, his first foray into "digital rotoscoping", in which live actors are filmed and then painted over with a computer – a technique used again here. Hell, I'm not even that big a… read more!

School of Rock

School of Rock

Every once in a while, I can appreciate a formulaic Hollywood story, if it offers up enough charm to make the predictability palatable. School of Rock is such a movie - almost. I like Jack Black, but here he just plies his usual shtick: though his character's name is Dewey Finn, it might as well be Jack Black. Dewey is… read more!

The Science of Sleep

The Science of Sleep

Celebrated weirdo music video director Gondry finally makes a feature film without a script by equally celebrated weirdo screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. The results are exuberant, kooky, disarming, and for the most part, successful. Stephane (art house staple Gael García Bernal) is an inventive young dreamer who returns to Paris after his father's death. Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is his standoffish new… read more!

The Score

The Score

Tense nail-biter about a professional thief (Robert De Niro) who agrees to take on the proverbial "last job", even though it breaks his rules - partnering up with a stranger (Edward Norton, impressive as usual) and working in his home town (Montreal, a refreshing locale, well-used). But the money - a cool $6 million - is too good to pass… read more!

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

If you asked any urban hipster under 30 what movie he was going to see on August 13, 2010, he would have said Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and you might be excused for thinking the movie was thus going to be a big hit. That it wound up bombing at the US box office tells you that most Americans… read more!

Secret Sunshine

Secret Sunshine

A young widow (Jeon Do-yeon) and her little boy leave Seoul for the smaller city of Miryang, where her late husband grew up, in order to begin a new life. As the woman tries to fit in with her new neighbors, a surprise kidnapping attempt changes her life and forces her through several crises of faith. I'm cautious not to… read more!

Secretary

Secretary

Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lee, a near-suicidal masochist recently released from the mental hospital and back into the suffocating folds of her family. Determined to get her life together, she applies for a job as a secretary. James Spader plays E. Edward Grey, her new boss, an attorney with a flair for command and punishment that Lee notices - and loves… read more!

Selma

Selma

It's shocking that, despite Martin Luther King Jr.'s immense stature, he hadn't anchored his own theatrical feature until 2014. Thankfully, as the first proper MLK biopic, Selma doesn't drop the ball. In fact, it's a pretty great movie. Following the pattern of The Queen and Lincoln, Selma is not a hoary cradle-to-grave biopic, but instead locates the essence of its subject by narrowing in on one defining moment: in this case,… read more!

A Separation

A Separation

In the opening scene of A Separation, a couple makes their case for a divorce to an offscreen judge: the wife wishes to move to another country; the husband wants to stay in Iran to care for his elderly father, afflicted with Alzheimer's. In the middle is the couple's emotionally mature 11-year-old daughter. But the wife's real intentions remain cloudy… read more!

Serbis

Serbis

A documentary-style drama about the day in the life of a seedy Manila porno theater run by a frazzled family. This is the first 35mm feature by newly prolific Filipino director Mendoza, a former production designer who only directed his first feature (on video) in 2005, at the age of 45, and has since cranked out six more. (I should… read more!

Serenity

Serenity

First, let me say that I enjoyed Serenity. But I think writer-director Joss Whedon is a big baby. He originally wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a feature film, but when it fizzled at the box office, he blamed the studio for screwing up his vision and then took his creation to network TV, where it became the hit he… read more!

Series 7

Series 7

This film actually came out at the beginning of the year, and I avoided it, thinking it was just a cheap hipster bust on reality TV. Then last week it played at the local rep theatre, so I caught it - and I'm glad I did. For the record, it is a (not so) cheap hipster bust on reality TV,… read more!

A Serious Man

A Serious Man

Offbeat even for a Coen Brothers movie, A Serious Man opens in a Jewish village in 19th century Poland, with a scene in subtitled Yiddish that has a never-explained connection to the rest of the story, set in 1967 Minneapolis and centering on Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a nerdy physics professor whose finds his quiet life suddenly falling apart: his… read more!

Session 9

Session 9

I was curious about this low-budget indie horror movie specifically because it was shot in Danvers, Massachusetts - the city in which I was born. Thankfully, I wasn't born in the film's central location, the now derelict state mental institution, where five macho construction workers (led by talented Scottish actor Peter Mullan and including the once-hot David Caruso) are hired… read more!

Sexy Beast

Sexy Beast

Ray Winstone stars as Gary "Gal" Dove, a onetime London gangster who has retired to sunny Spain with his ex-porn star wife and their two friends. All is peaceful until an unwelcome face from his past comes to visit: Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), a psycho with a short fuse who has been sent by their former boss Teddy Bass (Ian… read more!