Volume 13, Issue 4 ~ January 27 - Febuary 2, 2005
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It's Groundhog Day All Over Again
Burrow in for Six More Weeks with Bay Weekly's Annual Guide to What to Watch When the Weather's Wintery.

Even creatures who wear fur coats and dwell underground shiver when the temperature dives.

Groundhogs are no exception.

So this notion that Puxatawney Phil is eagerly awaiting a venture surface-ward is a little contrived if not darn-right silly. Yes, we're all itching for warm weather and to shake cabin fever. But even with a few freak days of spring-like weather, odds are we're all going to be hunkered down for another six weeks or so.

Hoping to keep the walls of our burrow from growing too close and to entertain your colony until the spring thaw, many minds and diverse tastes conspire to choose 30 great, good or merely entertaining movies, spanning six decades. Among them, you'll find movies marking the year's cinematic headlines: the election of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California; the deaths of Marlon Brando, Christopher Reeve, Rodney Dangerfield and Jerry Orbach.

All are divided into 10 watchable categories and arranged by date, from oldest to newest.

xcept for the 11th category, Don't Bother, all bear the groundhog's seal of approval.

Add popcorn and burrow in.

Action / Adventure
This genre is high-octane, gear-ratcheting action by men, women, machines and monsters. With fast cutting, steep slopes and hard edges, it comes at you like a roller coaster. In some of the best of type, quick minds replace fast feet, fists and guns.

The Great Escape
1963 - NR - 172 mins.

Director: John Sturge

This true story of a massive escape from a World War II prisoner of war camp details the individual prisoners' planning and execution of the daring escape. The character-driven adventure stars Steve McQueen, James Gardner, Charles Bronson and James Coburn, who all deal with their own hardships as they join in the grand scheme. The storyline was the basis for 1960s comedy Hogan Heroes, and you'll notice the resemblance of characters and set, but the movie leans toward adventure. At nearly three hours, the movie is styled like a documentary in its first half, detailing the planning. The suspense and adventure of the escape play out in the second half, capturing you in the triumphs and tragedies of war.

-Carol Swanson

Superman: The Movie
1978 - PG - 144 mins.

Director: Richard Donner

Long before Spiderman, the X Men, Elektra or even Batman, there was Superman, the original comic book hero-turned-blockbuster.

By today's dark, comic noir standards, this telling of the all-American hero is bright, cheery, almost tame. But producing the movie at all was risky, as the only other full-length comic book movie was the campy Batman of 1966. Released a year after the Star Wars phenomenon, this one soared.

Superman ripples with star power: Christopher Reeve, another of the actors who've left us this year, is the Man of Steel. Gene Hackman is Superman's nemesis, Lex Luther; Margot Kidder stirs Superman's heart as Lois Lane; Ned Beatty plays Luther's dimwit sidekick. Then there's the real muscle, Marlon Brando, who generated pre-release buzz with a $4 million-deal for his 10-minute role as Jor-El, Superman's father on the dying planet Krypton.

The film begins on Krypton with the infant Superman placed in a rocket and launched to Earth. It follows the young Clark Kent through adolescence to his destiny as a doer of good, a righter of wrongs. Compressing so much into one film was no easy task for writer Mario Puzo, but under the direction of Donner (The Omen, Lethal Weapon 2), the film seldom bogs down and never takes itself too seriously.

Superman won the Oscar for Best Special Effects with elaborate scenery and, for its time, state-of-the-art flying. Watch it with the kids -company you may not want for today's comic-movie fare - they'll point out the wires you never noticed.

-J. Alex Knoll

To Live and Die in L.A.
1985 - R - 116 mins.

Director: William Friedkin

Based on a best-selling book by Gerald Petievich, a real-life Secret Service Agent, this gritty, Miami-Vice sort of a movie blurs the line between the good guys and the bad. Secret Service Agent Richard Chance (William L. Peterson, now of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation fame) is out for revenge after counterfeiter Rick Masters (Willem Dafoe) murders his partner. Chance will break any law to get Masters, but he might also destroy himself, his new partner and the young woman who is his informant. Great car chase from Friedkin, who also directed The Exorcist and The French Connection.

-Nancy Hoffmann

Chick Flicks
In the stereotype, Woman has been very good, very bad or very sorry. In the true chick flick, our heroine steps out of the stereotype. At last, she has a good time and - though she may not get everything she wants - she gets what she needs.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
1961 - NR - 115 mins.

Director: Blake Edwards

Blake Edwards' 44-year-old Breakfast at Tiffany's is a polished, elegant classic that dazzles audiences with humor and romance. Holly Golightly's (Audrey Hepburn) flight from farm to fabulous leaves her nicely niched in New York life and makes her irresistibly charming to both audiences and the persistent writer Paul Varjak. Hepburn's self-sufficient and determined character finds that romance is better than riches and fame. Quirky characters pepper the flick with fun, though stereotypical, personalities.

-Carrie Steele

Dirty Dancing
1987 - PG-13 - 100 mins.

Director: Emile Ardolino

Dirty Dancing is a chick-flick musical that brings back memories for baby boomers and evoke the topsy-turvy emotions of first love for all of us. Set in a Catskills resort in the mid-1960s, this 1987 song, dance and romance film stars handsome, talented Patrick Swayze as the dance director who captivates rich girl Jennifer Grey in her first leading role. He develops her talent; she flourishes from her fling, opening closed minds as well as doors. Among other fine actors in the cast is another we've just lost, Jerry Orbach as her protective father. The music is a fun reprise of classic rock favorites, the dancing is exciting and the story is timeless.

-Alice Snively

My Best Friend's Wedding
1997 - PG-13 - 105 mins.

Director: P.J. Hogan

This witty, human romantic comedy charms with both genuine emotion and humourous twists. You'll sympathize with best friend Julianne Potter (Julia Roberts) as she maneuvers through an exuberant bride-to-be, wedding preparation bonanzas, divided love for her best friend (and the groom) Michael O'Neal (Dermot Mulroney) and a chase scene in a bread truck. We're not telling whether she gets her man, but heroine Julianne triumphs with her smile of gold in the end.

-Carrie Steele

Classics & Epics
Whatever genre they're in, it's never been done better. After half a century, these three 50th anniversary films still set their genre's standard. If you haven't seen them, prepare to be thrilled.

The Red Badge of Courage
1951 - NR - 70 mins.

Director: John Huston

Stephen Crane's Civil War story - written in 1894 and read by school children over the years - tells of the personal battle of a soldier who yearns for his red badge of courage: a battle wound. Real-life war hero Audie Murphy stars as Henry, a teenager who fears his first battle, struggles with anxiety and shame, then lies to save his ego. Pulitzer-prize winning editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin - who knew war first hand, and modeled his famous Willie and Joe characters on real World War II soldiers - is the Loud Soldier.

The half-century-old battles do not have today's Hollywood flare - nor the gore, especially since it was shot in black and white. But director Huston is a master in a quieter form of drama.

It's a great father-son story for a chilly afternoon, with its focuses on emotion and coming to terms with internal struggles.

-Carol Swanson

To Kill A Mockingbird
1962 - NR - 131mins.

Director: Robert Mulligan

Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his portrayal of widowed lawyer Atticus Finch in this powerful movie set in the South during the Depression. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning semi-autobiographical novel by Harper Lee, much of the movie is seen through the eyes of Atticus' two young children, primarily his fearless tomboy daughter, Scout. Atticus displays tremendous personal courage in defending a black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman. Though the outcome of the trial is a foregone conclusion, its consequences on many levels give the story its weight.

-Vivian Zumstein

The Godfather: Part I
1972 - R - 175 minutes

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) says no to narcs and sparks a mob war, dragging squeaky clean youngest son Michael (Al Pacino) into the bloody underworld for filial revenge in this gold standard of Mafia films. Shocking violence (equinicide!), tragic assassinations, intensely climactic retribution and a close family dynamic give this classic real power that still transcends most gangland films that have come in its wake. The film is also a powerhouse of performances. Late legend Brando shines in one of his greatest roles, as does a young Pacino. After 33 years, its still an offer you can't refuse.

-Mark Burns

Comedy has many forms. From the smile of delight to the side-splitting wrench, all of them get inside you. Each of the trio chosen by this year's critics will grab you in a different place. After you've watched them, let us know where.

King of Hearts
1967 - NR - 1:32

Director: Philippe de Broca

As World War I ends, the Germans and Allies converge around an unknown French town. English soldier Alan Bates enters the township under orders of British Col. Adolfo Celi to find a time bomb set to explode at midnight. He enters into what he expects to be a deserted city only to find it jovial and full of life. It appears all have left except those who were residing in the insane asylum. This timeless, funny favorite of the PBS-set leaves you questioning the sanity of the insane vs. the insanity of the sane.

-Marnie Morris

Director: Harold Ramis

1980 - R 99 mins.

Comedy heavyweights Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, still fresh from their heydays at Saturday Night Live, lent this comedy enough name recognition to be a box office contender. But the knockout blow that made Caddyshack a comedy classic came from show-stealing Rodney Dangerfield, who played Al Czervik, a crude, obnoxious golfer so rich he can get away with anything.

The plot sets the rich and stuffy crowd of Bushwood Country Club, spearheaded by an ever-so-uptight Ted Knight, against the low-brow club staff. Rebels, like Chase, an I-could-care-less bachelor millionaire, and Dangerfield, the antithesis of his country-club cronies, ratchet up the laughs. Bill Murray's turf-smoking, gopher-stalking groundskeeper is unforgettable.

Through it all, trying to play both sides, is caddy Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe), hoping to win the country club scholarship as well as entrée into the elite world he waits upon.

The sophomoric humor often goes over the top, but once you give in to the laughs there's no holding them back. Dangerfield's character was so popular he leveraged the role into other films, best among them the 1986 Back to School.
-J. Alex Knoll

Don Juan De Marco
1995 - PG13 - 1:32 mins.

Director: Jeremy Levin

A quietly funny, sensual story about a mental patient (Johnny Depp) who says he is Don Juan and the psychiatrist (Marlon Brando) who is cured by him. Brando only made five other films before his death on July 1, 2004, and this is a gentle addition to the last chapter of his film career. Don Juan's undying love for the woman who will not have him reignites his psychiatrist's passion for life - and it just might put a spark in your life, too. Depp and Brando's sensitive and whimsical performances make this movie dance. Faye Dunaway as Brando's practical wife is a solid balance. Send the kids to bed and cuddle up for this one.

-Helen Beard

These are the movies that make converts. Like religion, they inspire their faithful in ways that heathens can't fathom.

Harold & Maude
1971 - PG - 91 mins.

Director: Hal Ashby

Aged Maude (Ruth Gordon) notices 19-year-old Harold (Bud Cort) at the various funerals they both attend - even though they don't know the deceased. Harold is obsessed with death and stages fake suicides for his mother and the young women she finds for him to date. But Maude loves life. In this black comedy, a quirky romance develops between them, much to the repulsion of Harold's mother, uncle, priest and therapist. Against a backdrop of song by Cat Stevens (now Yusef Ishlam), Harold learns, through death, to embrace life.

-Nancy Hoffmann

From Dusk Till Dawn
1998 - R - 1:48 mins.

Director: Frank E. Wolfe

Liked Pulp Fiction? Enjoyed Vampire Hunter? Put the two together and ride the layers of From Dusk Till Dawn. Quentin Tarantino both wrote and co-starred with George Clooney in this action-packed adventure of bad-boy kidnappers turned good-guy vampire slayers. Fleeing to Mexico after a round of robberies and murders, they take hostage a preacher (Harvey Keitel) and family for border insurance. Once all are safely across the border, rounds of drinks are enjoyed in a biker bar - until the sun goes down and wings begin flapping. At times both hilariously funny and unbelievably disturbing, this one is sure to leave you questioning what exactly just happened to your sense of right and wrong.

-Marnie Morris

FLCL (Fooly Cooly) Vol. 1-3
2000 - NR - 180 mins.

Director: Kazuya Tsurumaki

Boy is walking along a highway bridge near home when a strange girl on a yellow vespa runs him over, then wallops him in the head with a pull-start electric guitar, thus making his brain disappear. Soon giant robots are sprouting from his head and she, a rogue galactic police officer, is using him as the key to freeing astral being Atomsk, who is both pirate king and her crush, from the clutches of the mysterious Medica Mechanica company, which has an iron-shaped factory just outside town. Delightfully manic coming-of-age story with a terrific soundtrack recorded by Japanese rockers The Pillows.

-Mark Burns

Dramas give our emotions a workout, for they put us in the shoes of characters whose pathways are very different from our own. For that difference we're often fervently grateful, for the rules of drama are harsh as the Book of Job, demanding reversals of the sort we most profoundly hope to be spared in our own lives. Through pity and fear, our emotions are washed and rung out. Maybe, we come out cleaner.

The Men
1950 - NR - 85 mins.

Director: Fred Zinnemann

Marlon Brando first showed his face on the silver screen in a role that made good use of his tormented looks: He's a soldier mutilated by war. Hospitalized and in a wheelchair, the handsome 26-year-old struggles to recover what's left of his paralized body.

To fire his Method-style of acting, Brando needed look no further than his costars: four dozen real-life wounded veterans at Birmingham Veterans Administration Hospital. They knew the feel of pain firsthand, and Brando imitated them well. This first movie is ranked as one of his best.

These men fought in World War II. Half a century later, their story needs retelling as our war counts its own casualties.

-Sandra Olivetti Martin

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
1967 - R - 161 mins.

Director: Sergio Leone

In the last of the so-called Spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Leone - who created the genre - draws a world of surrealistic landscapes peopled by characters as starkly drawn as the desert setting. The movie's title characterizes the three main characters: The Good is Clint Eastwood; The Bad is Lee Van Cleef; The Ugly is Eli Wallach. The movie has a large cast, but only these characters matter; almost everyone else winds up in a fourth category: The Dead. Eastwood uses his steely eyes to good effect, while Van Cleef and Wallach try to outdo one another in their greed and ruthlessness.

-Dick Wilson

Nobody's Fool
1995 - R - 110 mins.

Director: Robert Benton

In a frigid, snowy small town in upstate New York, ne'er-do-well Sully (Paul Newman) lives in a boarding house run by his eighth grade teacher (Jessica Tandy) and works odd construction jobs for Carl (Bruce Willis), who he's suing for a knee injury. Sully is also in love with Carl's wife (Melanie Griffith). When Sully's estranged son returns, he introduces Sully to the grandson he didn't know he had. It might be time for Sully to grow up. You'll love this adolescent living in an old man's body. As Sully says, he "grows on people."

-Nancy Hoffmann

Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror
We've dubbed this The Year of the Governator, as Arnold Scwarzenegger rocketed himself from immigrant body builder to action-hero millionaire to political powerhouse and governor of California. The Austrian immigrant has come a long way from his days as Mr. Universe, and his bibliography documents that evolution.
Rumor mills theorize that the Governator is putting the thumbscrews to President George W. Bush as payback for stumping with him in the election, while his wife, Maria Schriver, works the Democratic Kennedy connection to have the 22nd Amendment overturned. So we've dedicated this category to Arnold, thinking a look at some of his filmworks could predict what sort of president the man might be.

Conan the Barbarian
1982 - R -129 mins.
Director: John Milius

Conan the Destroyer
1984 - PG - 103 mins.
Director: Richard Fleischer

Conan's come a long way. Once, in the dark years after the oceans drank Atlantis, he hacked his way unto power and glory in fur briefs. Now he's wearing a power suit and circle-dancing with Hasidic Jews in Sacramento. And who knows what days of adventure await him in national (dare we say global) politics? Perhaps these flicks offer a peak at his agenda for dealing with the Thulsa Dooms of the world. At the very least they're great entertainment, whether you prefer the violent, dour revenge questing of Barbarian or the lighter, campy heroics of Destroyer - the latter complete with Wilt Chamberlain (who claimed 20,000 conquests) ironically cast as a captain charged with protecting the purity of a chaste princess.

-Mark Burns

1987 - R - 107 mins.

Director: John McTiernan

Predator is one of actor-now-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's finest and most suspenseful films. As the leader of a special forces team on assignment in South America, Schwarzenegger shows off some of the qualities that led to his current job, including strong leadership and willingness to take risks.The cast -another and earlier actor-governor, Jesse ‘The Body' Ventura - face off with an entity so terrible and so alien that battling it means death for most of them. Ultimately, the star is alone with this monster for an ending that will leave you breathless.

-Alice Snively

Total Recall
1990 - R - 113 mins.

Director: Paul Verhoeven

They stole his mind; now he wants it back. Total Recall's is the theme of most every role the Governator has played: the besieged hero, fighting against a corrupt system for his freedom, his life, his very being.

In the year 2084, bored citizens buy memory implants of vacations, sexual fantasies and adventure scenarios. But for hero Scwarzenegger, the implant uncovers memories erased by the government, memories of having been some sort of secret agent on a Martian mining colony. At home, he tells wife Sharon Stone about it, only to have her attack and try to kill him.

From there it's an adrenaline-pumping race to stay ahead of the villains and get to the red planet for some answers. The special effects are top-notch, and the plot shifts like a roomful of mirrors, the point of reality always elusive and never clear, leaving you wondering well after the last credits have rolled.

-J. Alex Knoll

Used to be Hollywood made the movies the world watched; now, we're watching movies made round the world. Instead of settling for Hollywood's imagination of how life must be in faraway places, we can see the far corners of the world through the eyes of the people who live there. Global-village trotting movie makers and instant movie access by cable, satellite and DVD make it easier than ever before to see how similar we all are - and how different.

Grave of the Fireflies
1988 - PG - 93 mins. - animation

Japanese w/subtitleds or dubbed

This heart-wrenching drama stands out as one of the most poignant anti-war films ever crafted. Seita and his four-year-old sister are Japanese war orphans, struggling to survive famine and bombing raids during the waning days of World War II. Neighbors and family alike are either powerless to help or indifferent to the children's plight, and ultimately it's Seita alone who shoulders their burden. The children's hope, innocence and optimism in the face of cruel fate provides some uplift, but as a whole the movie serves as a jarring reminder of the consequence of war.

-Mark Burns

The Dreamlife of Angels
1998 - R - 113 mins.

Director: Erick Zonca

French w/subtitles

This naturalistic movie feels like the real thing. Contemporary young French women with no prospects are thrown together in an uneasy camaraderie. One falls into a sweet, unlikely friendship with a fat tough guy and a humiliating affair with a respectable pretty boy. The other, an optimist who drifts from town to town and job to job, becomes mesmerized by the life of a young accident victim lying in a coma. This intimate movie is a study of character, relationships and the nature of loneliness. It is both beautiful and far less than pretty. Is this what angels dream? Actresses Elodie Bouchez and Natacha Regnier both won Best Actress honors at 1998 Cannes Film Festival.

-Sonia Linebaugh

Monsoon Wedding
2001 - R - 114 mins.

Director: Mira Nair

Indian w/subtitles

A whirl of brilliant oranges and reds make Mira Nair's 2001 Monsoon Wedding a serious, yet colorful foreign film that takes whisks audiences away on a spectacular journey to India. The half-Hindi, half-English, entirely subtitled film portrays a family preparing to celebrate an arranged marriage with a fantastic wedding. As relatives descend upon the frantic family and the wedding planner falls madly in love with the maid, history - and truth - surface.

-Carrie Steele

What will happen next? You hold your breath, so wrapped up in the stories, scenes and characters unfolding on the screen that a summons from real life - barking dog, ringing phone, crying child - can so startle you that you bump your head on the ceiling of your burrow.

North By Northwest
1959 - NR - 136 mins.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

This is Alfred Hitchcock at his best. Enemy agents mistake Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant), a New York advertising man, for a spy. Thornhill makes a narrow escape, but no one, not even his mother, believes his tale. The story complicates when Thornhill is framed for murder. Now enemy agents and the police are after him. With clever twists and turns, Thornhill tries to chase the real spy's trail across country. The problem is, the spy doesn't exist. He is the creation of Washington intelligence operators fabricated to throw enemy agents off the trail of their real spy - and they've decided Thornhill is expendable. A mysterious blonde (Eva Marie Saint) enters the story. Is she friend or foe? Will Thornhill solve the mystery, or will death catch him first?

-Vivian Zumstein

Three Days of Condor
1975 - R - 117 mins.

Director: Sydney Pollack

The young Robert Redford races in Cary Grant's footsteps in this adrenalin-boosting update of the classic story, shared with North by Northwest, of an innocent fleeing enemies on every side. Redford's a low-level CIA researcher who's stepped out to pick up lunch while everybody else in his office is executed. There's greater elegance in Grant's terror-driven flight, but Redford - code name Condor - exercises more cunning as he eludes an array of professional killers. Naturally, a clueless but pretty woman, Fay Dunaway, helps in the evasion. There's even a train, though the trip is shorter and the terrain in the the New York to Washington corridor urban. Despite its age, this race against death will get your heart pumping warm these cold winter days.

-Sandra Olivetti Martin

The Formula
1980 - R - 117 mins.

Director: John G. Avildsen

The 1970s' oil crisis made The Formula timely when it came out, but even with star power the likes of Marlon Brando and George C. Scott, the film's often muddled plot couldn't light it up at the box office.

Today, with America more oil-dependent than ever, it's worth braving the dust that you might disturb pulling this box off the shelf at your video store.

Paralleling the true story of the link between World War II Germany and the U.S. Space program, the film begins with the Nazi's discovery of "the formula" for synthetic fuel. The plot resumes a few decades later as policeman Scott investigates the murder of a friend and stumbles onto the secret. Determined to unravel the mystery, Scott keeps digging. But hunter turns hunted when everyone he questions dies violently shortly afterward. The film peaks with Scott's confrontation - and shared screentime - of oil billionaire Marlon Brando, who will spare no cost or life to keep the formula secret.

-J. Alex Knoll

Not Just for Kids
This year's picks follow a common theme through the stages of youth. In each movie, a powerful force enters a young life. Following its attraction, the child encounters destiny.

The Black Stallion
1979 - G - 117 mins.

Director: Carroll Ballard

Renowned cinematographer Carroll Ballard directs this stunning adaptation of Walter Farley's children's story. Young Alec Ramsey (Kelly Reno) is shipwrecked on a barren island in the Mediterranean with only one other survivor, a wild Arabian stallion. In a series of almost wordless but charming and beautifully filmed scenes, Alec wins the stallion's trust. Once rescued, Alec convinces his mother (a very young Teri Garr) to let him keep the horse, but a backyard is hardly the place for this energetic stallion. The Black's wild antics lead Alec to Henry Dailey (Mickey Rooney), a washed-up horse trainer, but a good soul who becomes a father figure. Together Alec, Henry and The Black begin a new life chapter, culminating in a suspenseful and victorious horse race. A "must see" for young horse lovers.

-Vivian Zumstein

October Sky
1999 - PG - 108 mins.

Director: Joe Johnston

Based on the true story of Homer Hickam Jr., one of NASA's pioneering engineers of space travel, October Sky takes viewers of all ages but very young to 1950s' West Virginia when the first man-made satellite, Sputnik, has just launched the world into a new era. Here the teenage Homer (Jake Gyllenhaal) wrestles with destiny: whether to follow his father (Chris Cooper) into the coal mines or to pursue his dream of building rockets. Homer and three friends become local heroes nicknamed The Rocket Boys in their hilarious (and sometimes disastrous) attempts to build an amateur rocket that works. But reality conspires to crush their hopes.

-Betsy Kehne

The Country Bears
2002 - G - 88 mins.

Director: Peter Hastings

The Country Bears is like the Blues Brothers for kids. You'll need your kids' fascination with the life-size, Muppet-developed, autonomaton bears to help carry you past the implausibility of these creatures interacting with humans. No one onscreen notices, so sit back with the whole family and slide into the spirit of this finding-your-way comedy.

Eleven-year-old Beary Barrington, a bear cub adopted by a human family, doesn't fit in. So he finds solace in the music of The Country Bears, a folksy rock band - of all bears - that broke up after hitting the big time. Taunts from his brother Dex send Beary on a quest to find where he belongs.

At Country Bear Hall, Beary discovers that an evil developer, Christopher Walken, is foreclosing on the historic building and plans to tear it down. Beary hears destiny's call and vows to save Country Bear Hall by getting the band back together for a reunion concert.

The quest is formulaic but fun, and the non-stop foot-tapping music composed and arranged by John Hiatt keeps the movie moving, as do performances pairing the bears with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats, Krystal and more. Cameos from musicians like Elton John, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson and others lend the film a documentary feel.

-J. Alex Knoll

Don't Bother
Our universe is as rich with bad movies as the night sky with stars, so we limit or selections to current films - about which the hype might not yet have flamed out.

Devils' Playground
2003 - 77 mins.

Director: Lucy Walker

This DVD (originally an HBO movie) splices together murky scenes of Amish kids trying out the usual taboos: cigarettes, beer, drugs, tv, riding about in cars and sex (not explicit). The selling point was supposed to be that Amish parents turn a blind eye while kids try out the "English" world in Sarasota, Florida, before deciding whether to be baptized into the faith. After a few months or years of rumpringa, 90 percent of the kids typically choose community, security and church membership over being an outcast. If you're avid for a peek into this closed community, you might endure it.

-Sonia Linebaugh

Open Water
2004 - R - 81 mins.

Director: Chris Kentis

A scuba-diving couple is accidentally left behind by their dive boat and, for most of the film, they're visible only from the neck up, bobbing in the open ocean. Occasionally, a shark fin flashes by. Sharp-toothed creatures lurking below the surface aren't scary here. After all, the couple is wearing scuba gear. They can go take a look. But they just whine that something touched their legs and do nothing to defend themselves. The movie is also inaccurate. For instance, after discarding her weight belt, the woman slips easily below the surface. That's really quite a trick since wearing a wetsuit is like wearing a full-body life preserver.

-Nancy Hoffmann

Chronicles of Riddick
2004 - PG-13 - 119 mins.

Director; David Twohy

Glow-in-the-dark eyes. H. R. Giger-inspired spaceships in the style of a Gotham statuary. Goggled gimps sniffing around for prey. Lava dogs that glow red when angry. Yo-yo heroics. Stupid dialogue. Ice planet Cryogenia. Fire planet Crematoria. Angry warrior race the Furians. Outrunning a sunrise on foot. Despite a few interesting moments, this sci-fi boondoggle stumbles over its awkward footing and never surpasses disjointed heavy-metal daydream fodder. It might join the ranks of cult/camp - so bad it's good - if the filmmakers weren't trying so hard.

-Mark Burns

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.