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List of "B" Movies

Babe (1995) G comedy

An absolutely charming film about the extraordinary life of an extraordinary pig. By far the most appealing aspect of this film is the clever use of computer graphics, which makes the animal mouth-movement seem very real. It is hilarious and ideal for family viewing. Starring: James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski. Voices of: Christine Cavanaugh, Miriam Margolyes, Hugo Weaving, Danny Mann, Miriam Flynn, Evelyn Krape, Russie Taylor. Directed by: Chris Noonan. A

Babel (2006) R drama

A movie similar to 2005's Crash, the script is less annoying. All around the world, families' lives are intertwined, but they don't know it. Pair of young Morroccan brothers are given guns to shoot goat-consuming jackals. One of them, without thinking, shoots at a bus and injures an American tourist (Cate Blanchett). Her husband (Brad Pitt) tries to get her to a hospital, but political turmoil in the area prevents that. Meanwhile their children's nanny wants to go Mexico to attend her son's wedding, but she can't find anyone to look after the kids. So, she takes them with her, which turns out to be a bad idea. Meanwhile, somewhere in Japan, a frustrated deaf girl exposes herself to people. The subplots are good, but this movie wears out its welcome by the final third. Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yakusho, Adriana Barrazza, Rinko Kikuchi, Said Tarchani, Boubker Ait Et Caid. Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu. B

Baby Boom (1987) PG comedy

Diane Keaton stars as J.C. Waitt, a high-powered New York management consultant who finds out a distant cousin has died and left her an inheritance. Expecting a pile of cash, what she gets instead is a child -- a 14-month-old girl named Elizabeth. Having neither matronly instincts nor any predilection towards raising a child, she tries to get rid of it fast. But then she unexpectedly grows fond of the girl and decides to raise her as her own -- despite the subsequent fallout she suffers in her job and with her career-focused live-in boyfriend (Harold Ramis). Ultimately, while this is only a minor comedy/drama, I found myself drawn into it. Specifically the main character. She has heart. She is a high-powered woman who discovers new joys in this unexpected turn her life. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better actress for the role than Keaton. The film is also thoughtfully written to include well-put observations about gender inequality in the workplace and criticism of the cutthroat nature of Yuppie culture. While I do think some of the goofiness early on in the film could have been scrubbed, this is overall a nice picture. Starring: Diane Keaton, Harold Ramis, Sam Shepard, Sam Wanamaker, James Spader, Pat Hingle, Britt Leack, Mary Gross. Directed by: Charles Shyer. B

The Bachelor (1999) PG-13 comedy

This bizarre romantic comedy about a man (Chris O’Donnell) who doesn't want to get married, but must considering that a billion-dollar inheritance is riding on it and he only has two days to do so. He really loves his steady girlfriend (Rene Zelwegger), but she went on a business trip, so he frantically searches for another mate. The end of the film involves hundreds of mad women in wedding gowns who responded to a huge front-page news story about his frantic search. It’s a bit too silly, but it might entertain you. Starring: Chris O'Donnell, Renee Zellweger, Edward Asner, Hal Holbrook, James Cromwell, Marley Shelton, Peter Ustinov, Katherine Towne, Rebecca Cross, Stacy Edwards, Mariah Carey, Sarah Silverman, Jennifer Esposito, Brooke Shileds, Lydell M. Cheshier, Robert Kotecki. Directed by: Cary Sinyor. C

Bachelor Party (1984) R comedy

The best part of this movie is at the beginning before the namesake event occurs. Tom Hanks plays a smart-talking, authority defying eccentric who loves to antagonize his fiancee's (Tawny Kitaen) stuck-up, rich parents. I laugh at almost every obnoxious things he does. I don't know if Hanks was ad libbing or it was actually written into the script, but he puts those scenes squarely on his shoulders and runs with it. And the parents react to it exactly as they should--as stuck up rich people. They even offer him money to call off the engagement. Of course he isn't going to do that, because he loves her, and she loves him. The movie devolves as soon as the bachelor party begins, and the hijinks and shenanigans that are pulled here is largely devoid of laughs. On the brighter side, I enjoy the soundtrack abundant with excellent 1980s pop songs. Starring: Tom Hanks, Tawny Kitten, Adrian Zmed, George Gizzard, Barbara Stuart, Robert Prescott, Pat Proft, Gerard Prendergast, Arlee Reed, Hugh McPhillips, Coleen Maloney. Directed by: Neal Israel. C

Back to the Beach (1987) PG comedy

Since the 1960s, beach royalty, Frankie Avalon and Anette Funicello, have married and had children. Concerned that their daughter may be wasting her life away living with surfer dudes, they travel to the beach to check up on her. Of course, when they get there, they can't help but to relive their own adolescent years. It doesn’t sound bad, but this is an unbearable film. The numerous cameos from 60's television stars might make this worthwhile to some. Pee-Wee Herman’s 60s mix performance was awful. Starring: Frankie Avalon, Anette Funicello, Lori Loughlin, Tommy Hinckley, Connie Stevens, Demian Slade, Don Adams, Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Jerry Mathers, Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley, Edd Byrnes, Paul Reubens, Dick Dale. Directed by: Lyndall Hobbs. D

Back to the Future (1985) PG comedy

Michael J. Fox is Marty McFly, a cool-talking teenager with loser parents and loser friends. One of his friends is mad scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), who invents the time machine. Unfortunately, before he is able to use it, he's shot. Marty flees the assassins in the time machine and inadvertently triggers it. He goes to 1955, and he interferes with his parents' first meeting. Along with the help of the younger Doc, he must play matchmaker with his own parents -- or he won't exist. This classic film is full of humor and suspense. This is truly a landmark film that’s worth dozens of viewings. Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Chrispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells, Wendie Jo Sperber, Marc McClure, James Tolkan. Directed by: Robert Zemeckis. A+

Back to the Future Part 2 (1989) PG comedy

This time Marty and Doc travel to the future to prevent the arrest of Marty’s child. They easily succeed, but they soon find out they are in even deeper trouble. Not being able to live up to the original, this one's relatively stale and uneven. Nonetheless, the script is jam-packed with substance, and it's quite fun to sit through. This is a solid, if wholly imperfect, entry. Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Harry Waters Jr., Charles Fleischer, Joe Flaherty, Elisabeth Shue, James Tolkan, Casey Siemaszko. Directed by: Robert Zemeckis. B

Back to the Future Part 3 (1990) PG comedy

The series makes a significant comeback with this stellar second sequel. This time, Marty (Michael J. Fox) goes back in time to the Old West where he has to rescue Doc (Christopher Lloyd) from his imminent death. There, he also battles Biff's ancestor, Mad Dog Tannen. This is a marvellously entertaining film, full of comedy, action and romance, and it's nearly as good as the first entry. Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Harry Waters Jr., Charles Fleischer, Joe Flaherty, Elisabeth Shue, James Tolkan, Casey Siemaszko. Directed by: Robert Zemeckis. A

Bad Boys (1983) R drama

An excellent prison drama that delivers descent and suspenseful entertainment. Sean Penn is great as Mick O'Brien, a juvenile delinquent put into prison for armed robbery, which indirectly leads to the killing of an innocent little kid. This kid's older brother, some time later, commits a crime and is sent to the same prison. Now, Penn must watch out for this guy; he's angry and dangerous! A very immoral film, which accounts for the title, can sometimes be depressing but succeeds in keeping the audience engaged. There are some flares of amusement as well. Ally Sheedy's debut performance. Starring: Sean Penn, Reni Santoni, Esai Morales, Eric Gurry, Jim Moody, Ally Sheedy, Clancy Brown, Alan Ruck. Directed by: Rick Rosenthal. B+

The Bad News Bears (1976) PG comedy

Walter Matthau plays a Little League coach with a dysfunctional team. However, if he can recruit some terrific ball players (including Tatum O'Neal,) the team will strike gold! The Bad News Bears is a funny and engaging film fully illustrating the trials and triumphs of being in little league. It’s clearly one of the funniest and charming sports comedies ever made. Matthau turns in a fantastic performance and so does the entire child cast. Starring: Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal, Vic Morrow, Joyce Van Patten, Ben Piazza, Jackie Earle Haley, Alfred Lutter, Brandon Cruz, Shari Summers, Joe Brooks, Maurice Marks. Directed by: Michael Richie. A+

The Bad Seed (1956) NR horror

This movie has the right elements in place for a truly spine-tingling chiller, but it doesn't quite pull it together. It's as though the movie was too afraid of causing severe neurological damage to the audience and so it put itself in restraints. Nonetheless, this is quite an absorbing film about an eight-year-old girl Rhoda (Patty McCormack) whose mother Christine (Nancy Kelly) suspects is responsible for the death of a boy in her class. McCormack's performance is the feature here. On the outside, she's the sweetest, most adorable blond girl in a dress and pigtails. But you can just sense the little bubbles of wickedness rising to the surface. One highlight is an acrimonious relationship she has with the simple-minded gardener of her apartment complex, Leroy (Henry Jones). Their interactions are particularly fun to watch, with Leroy knowing precisely which buttons of hers to push. Overall a tastefully made horror film, except I did have a problem with a suggestion that there are "violent genes" encoded in one's DNA. Starring: Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Henry Jones, Eileen Heckart, Evelyn Varden, William Hopper, Paul Fix, Jesse White, Gage Clarke, Joan Croydon. Directed by: Mervyn LeRoy. B-

Bad Words (2013) R comedy

This is a one-joke movie, but I find the premise so funny that it sustains the film on that basis alone. Jason Bateman is Guy, a 40-year-old with a raunchy vocabulary who exploits a loophole that allows him to compete with middle school kids in the Spelling Bee. The reason he does so is explained at the end of the film, which unfortunately I find to be unsatisfying. Nevertheless what keeps me giggling is simply that this film is about a 40-year-old who is dead-determined to win the Spelling Bee, and he swears a lot, even at middle school kids. He also uses uncouth, and sometimes downright cruel, tactics to bump his opponents out of the competition. But despite his hostile behavior, he manages to reluctantly make friends with a tiny, socially awkward, eternally bubbly boy (Chaitanya Chopra). Their friendship is adorable at times, even though it certainly could have done without the racist insults. And that scene where Guy pays a prostitute to expose her bare breasts to him is embarrassing for everyone. Starring: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand, Ben Falcone, Philip Baker Hall, Allison Janney, Rachael Harris, Judith Hoag, Beth Grant. Directed by: Jason Bateman. B-

Bananas (1971) PG-13 comedy

Woody Allen stars in this hilarious satire as a man posing as the leader of a small South American country. Bananas, definitely a unique comedy, produces an abundance of laughs and brilliant cinematography. This is certainly a must for those making the Woody Allen rounds. Starring: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalban, Natividad Abascal, Jacobo Morales, Miguel Suarez, David Ortis, Rene Enriques, Jack Axelrod. Directed by: Woody Allen. A-

Bandits (2001) PG-13 comedy

A humorous crime comedy stars Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton as a pair of bank robbers who gained notoriety for sleeping over at the bank manager’s houses and then cleaning them out in the morning. Funny performances by the two leads and an enjoyably energetic performance from Cate Blanchett as their flighty female accomplice (and source of tension) keeps the film fun. Starring: Bruce Willis, Cate Blanchett, Billy Bob Thornton, Troy Garity, January Jones, Rocky LaRochelle, Jaye K. Danford, Anthony Burch, Azura Slayton, Stacey Travids. Directed by: Barry Levinson. B

The Bank Dick (1940) NR comedy

If you took 40 of today’s average comedies, put it in a pot, boiled away all the misfired jokes, unfunny pratfalls, rude humor, corny plots, poor acting, and phony character development, and you remolded that into a 72-minute film, you might just get something as funny and priceless as this … if you’re lucky. W.C. Fields stars (as he typically does) as a person who is consistently drunk. He manages to bag a robber and rescue a bank’s $25,000. So the bank offers him a job and … and … I laughed a lot! The climax is comedy in its purest form. Starring: W.C. Fields, Cora Witherspoon, Una Merkel, Evelyn Del Rio, Jessie Ralph, Franklin Pangborn, Shemp Howard, Dick Purcell. Directed by: Edward F. Cline. A+

Barbarella (1968) PG comedy

A weird trip. Definitely a product of the swingin' '60s. Essential viewing for anyone who fancies themselves a student of camp from the era. The costumes, the spaceship with shag carpeting, the free-loving attitudes, the plastic mid-century set designs. Well, I loved it. The main attraction is Jane Fonda's dedication in the role--she took it seriously, despite the role being goofy to its core, and she became a feminist icon because of it. She's a superhero who's allowed to be feminine and get it on with whomever she pleased. The music by Bob Crewe is '60s lounge at its finest--the title music in particular I can't get enough of. The one area this movie falls short is usually the most important thing about movies, which is the muddled sci-fi story, which I don't find too engaging. Starring: Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg, Milo O'Shea, David Hemmings, Talitha Pol, Marcel Marceau, Anito Sabato, Ugo Tognazzi, Joan Greenwood, Maria Theresa Orsini. Directed by: Roger Vadim. B+

The Barbarian Invasions (2003) R drama

This involving drama follows the impending death of a former liberal activist (Remy Girard) and the steps his millionaire son makes to pay off the bureaucracy to make his stay at the Canadian hospitals a comfortable one. It’s not a film pretentious enough to directly challenge our beliefs, but it’ll certainly provoke thought. It’s more of an engaging character study than anything. In Canadian French with English subtitles. Starring: Remy Girard, Stephane Rousseau, Marie-Josee Croze, Marina Hands, Dorothee Berryman, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Dominique Michel, Louise Portal, Yves Jacques. Directed by: Denys Arcand. A-

Barefoot in the Park (1967) NR comedy

Light, frothy and entertaining with a bit of gravity thrown in to keep things spicy. Paul (Robert Redford) is a burgeoning lawyer and Corie (Jane Fonda) is his gregarious wife. They are newlyweds. They spend their Honeymoon holed up for six days in the Plaza Hotel in New York City before they move into their first apartment together. Naive about domestic life, their apartment isn't much to look at. It's rather small, dingy, and outdated. It's also atop a rather difficult six-flight climb. And that's not to mention the worst part. It's the height of winter, and there's a large hole in the roof window. The script written by Neil Simon is sharp as a tack -- the characters' back-and-forth barbs and witticisms frequently elicit chuckles. The two leads have incredible chemistry and prove to be among the finest actors of their era who could handle those rapid-fire exchanges as equally as they could the tense, dramatic scenes. My one complaint about the film is it gets bogged down with a few too many uneventful scenes (particularly those overdone moments that involve an eccentric man who lives in the attic), but I still had quite a lot of fun with this. Starring: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Charles Boyer, Mildred Natwick, Herb Edelman, Mabel Albertson, Fritz Feld. Directed by: Gene Saks. B+

Barry Lyndon (1975) PG drama

This wonderfully detailed epic directed by Stanley Kubrick is about the life of Barry Lyndon, a senseless, yet ambitious Irish character who ends up becoming a wealthy landowner. Kubrick does a great job directing this film, but he could have given the film more of a meaning. It's still excellent and engaging with a good cast, and it doesn’t get boring despite the fact that it's over three hours long. Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Steven Berkoff, Gay Hamilton, Murray Melvin, Frank Middlemass, Andre Morell. Voice of: Michael Hordern. Directed by: Stanley Kubrick. A-

Barton Fink (1991) R comedy

A film marked with sharp, witty dialogue, quirky imagery and baffling symbolism. John Turturro stars as the title character, a mild-mannered drama playwright in the early '40s whose recent success on the Broadway stage led to a lucrative offer in Hollywood. He reluctantly accepts, on advice from his agent, even though Barton fears that this experience would cut him off from the "well-spring of man" that is New York. The struggles of the common man is what he most wishes to capture in his work. He has his inaugural meeting with his fast-talking, cigar-chomping Hollywood producer (Michael Lerner), and Barton looks perplexed as he is assigned to write a wrestling picture that is to star Wallace Beery. While working on the project, Barton is set up in an old, dingy hotel, where he can clearly hear his neighbor Charlie (John Goodman) through the wall. While this art-house film might be a bit too miserable and perplexing for its own good, I still frequently find it funny. The cinematography is so fantastic throughout that it actually pained me a bit to realize the next movie I was going to watch certainly wasn't going to look like this. The film also keeps us entertained through a series of minor gags like a springy bed that creaks almost perpetually and a front desk bell that doesn't stop ringing until the bellhop (Steve Buscemi) puts his finger on it. Definitely one of the hallmark early Coen Brothers films. Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, John Mahoney, Tony Shalhoub, Jon Polito, Steve Buscemi, David Warrilow, Richard Portnow. Directed by: Joel Coen. B

Basquiat (1996) R drama

This biography about the brief celebrity of New York City painter Jean Michel Basquiat (Jeffrey Wright) is both phenomenally egaging and entertaining. The title character is difficult to figure out as is his mentor, Andy Warhol (David Bowie in a very good performance), and that's just what makes watching this so fascinating. Art buffs shouldn't pass this up and others shouldn't either. Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Michael Wincott, Benicio Del Toro, Claire Forlani, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, Denise Burse, Chuck Pfeifer, Parker Posey, Frederick Weller, Ron Brice, Courtney Love, Tatum O'Neal. Directed by: Julian Schnabel. A-

Batman Begins (2005) PG-13 action

Honorable director Christopher Nolan revises the once-thought-dead franchise with this dirty, grimy, and thoroughly exhilarating film that explores Batman’s motivations for what he does! Exceedingly great actors put their signature on this version. It might have needed to grease its wheels, but this sure outdoes Tim Burton’s versions. Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Wantanbe, Mark Boone Junior, Linus Roache. Directed by: Christopher Nolan. A-

Batteries Not Included (1987) PG sci-fi

This is a charming movie about tennants of an old apartment complex in New York who are being forced to leave by an evil company. Not wanting to leave, one of them makes an aimless cry for help. Fortunately a family of extraterrestrial flying robots, who have a knack for quick and flawless repairs, heed their call. It's an entirely good natured movie that is sure to make you smile unless you're a jerk. Starring: Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Frank McRae, Elizabeth Pena, Michael Carmine, Dennis Boutsikaris, John Pankow. Directed by: Matthew Robbins. B

Bean (1997) PG-13 comedy

Rowan Atkinson, a very gifted physical comedian, brings his successful television show, Mr. Bean, to the movies. Mr. Bean goes to America, under the false title of Dr. Bean and is believed to be an ingenious art expert. He manages to get by with that false assumption even though his knowledge of art is extremely limited (despite the fact that he works in an art gallery). With an unfortunately weak plot and thin acting by the supporting cast, this film doesn’t live up to its expectations. However Atkinson's hilarious performance is stupendous and is guaranteed to supply laughs to his fans. Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Peter MacNichol, Pamela Reed, Harris Yulie, Johnny Galecki, Andrew J. Lawrence, Tricia Vessey, Burt Reynolds. Directed by: Mel Smith. B

The Beastmaster (1982) PG fantasy

At its essense this is a silly film that takes itself a bit too seriously, but it is an exhillarating watch if you're inclined to enjoy fantasies. Marc Singer stars as a young warrior who can mentally communicate with animals who goes after an evil sorcerer (Rip Torn). With competent direction by Don Coscarelli, this film turned out pretty well considering the low budget they had to work with. Starring: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn, John Amos, Josh Milrad, Roi Loomis, Linda Smith, Eddie Hice, Gary McLarty. Directed by: Don Coscarelli. B+

Beautiful Girls (1996) R drama

There's some decent dialogue early-on in this comedy-drama, but the film is never able to overcome its tiresome premise. It begins when a group of male former classmates congregate to reminisce about the old times and to revisit their favorite hobby -- looking at women. Most of them are already dating, engaged, or married to beautiful women, but they seem to spend much of this film pining for even more beautiful women. Several of these men even start to make inroads with the extraordinarily beautiful cousin (Uma Thurman) of one of their bartender friends. The casual sexism strewn throughout this film just rubs me the wrong way -- even though some it (far too little) is curbed though some tart observation courtesy of Rosie O'Donnell. But where the film gets creepy is the main protagonist (Timothy Hutton) starts to playfully flirt with a 13-year-old girl. (That's Natalie Portman getting some early practice in for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl she would perfect in later on in Garden State.) This film is mostly a waste of time, but the cast of familiar faces do handle the worthless script about as well they could have. Starring: Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon, Noah Emmerich, Annabeth Gish, Michael Rappaport, Mira Sorvino, Lauren Holly, Uma Thurman. Directed by: Ted Demme. C-

A Beautiful Mind (2001) PG-13 drama

This is a slightly fictionalized account of the life of genius and Noble Prizewinner, John Nash. Throughout much of his life, Nash (Russell Crowe) has been an antisocial with only a limited number of friends. Although he has gained the friendship of his Princeton roommate, Charles (Paul Bettany) and his niece. He does, however, manage to take a loving and thoughtful wife (Jennifer Connelly). With his, overall, limited number of friends, it opens him up for top secret government work -- because he is a master at decoding things -- but he soon learns to regret it. His life takes a turn for the worse! It might have taken a while for A Beautiful Mind to get started, but this is a highly engaging film. Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer “Hottie” Connelly, Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Anthony Rapp, Christopher Plummer, Austin Pendleton. Directed by: Ron Howard. A

Becket (1964) NR drama

This outstanding historical piece set in the Middle Ages is about the friendship between King Henry II and Becket, a man to be appointed head of the Catholic Church of England. The marvelous performances and the chemistry between Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton are seldom surpassed. Watch for the brief appearance of John Gielgud. A must for European history buffs. Starring: Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Donald Wolfit, John Gielgud, Martita Hunt, Pamela Brown, Sian Phillips, Paolo Stoppa, Gino Cervi, David Weston, Felix Aylmer. Directed by: Peter Glenville. A-

Bedazzled (1967) NR comedy

This absolutely hilarious British comedy stars the highly talented Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Moore plays a depressed man confronted by the devil and he eventually signs his soul over to him in return for seven wishes. Moore is very lonely and all he wants in life is to be with his sweetheart, Margaret. So most of his wishes are related to that, but Cook can always finds a way to louse them up. It's an update of the Faust fable, but it hasn't ever been done with so much wit and style. This is a comedy that hits the bull’s eye. Starring: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Raquel Welch, Alba, Robert Russell, Barry Humphries, Parnell McGarry, Daniele Noel, Howard Goorney, Michael Bates. Directed by: Stanley Donen. A-

Bedazzled (2000) PG-13 comedy

The original version of this film released in 1967 relied heavily on witty banter between two of Britain's top comics at the time (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore). While this remake might be forgiven for broadening the humor for a younger and less British audience, they did that far too much. I hope I'm not alone in thinking there's nothing inherently funny about characters who have small penises, "flaming homosexuals," and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. (The Lincoln Assassination being the only possible exception -- just that the joke isn't funny here.) At least Brendan Frasier looked like he was having fun in this. He plays Elliott Richard, a dullard at a San Francisco technology company who has a hard crush on a coworker, Alison (Frances O'Connor), who he barely even talks to. Just wanting to have an easier go at life, he is approached by the Devil (Elizabeth Hurley) who has a tantalizing proposition: Seven wishes in exchange for his soul. He doesn't really understand the purpose of his soul, so he agrees. Why not? But it turns out the Devil doesn't fulfill his wishes to quite the specifications he had in mind. While I found this film deeply disappointing as a whole, I at least appreciated the sultry performance from Elizabeth Hurley. (I mean, if those outfits she wears isn't fit for Maxim Magazine, nothing is.) And truly, the ending isn't too bad, as long as you can stomach a little dime-store theology and philosophizing. Starring: Brendan Frasier, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O'Connor, Miriam Shor, Orlando Jones, Paul Adelstein, Toby Huss, Gabriel Casseus, Brian Doyle-Murray, Jeff Doucette. Directed by: Harold Ramis. C-

Beetlejuice (1988) PG comedy

This Tim Burton film is a pure delight, but it's supernatural oddities downsize this potentially great film. A couple living in a happy and traditional country home meet their death when they plummet into a river after driving off a bridge. They return to their old house, but it's not the same. Quickly, they discover that they’re ghosts and spend their time trying to haunt away the strange people who moved in. They aren't very good at it, however, so they call Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a professional haunter, to do it for them. Even though he’s the film’s namesake, the title character doesn't actually seem to contribute much to the film. A good Burton movie. Starring: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, Sylvia Sidney, Robert Goulet, Glen Shadix. Directed by: Tim Burton. B

Before and After (1996) PG-13 drama

A teenage girl has been murdered, and a rural Massachusetts couple (Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson) learns their son (Edward Furlong) was the last person seen with her. Neeson discovers blood in his son's trunk and goes to great lengths to destroy the evidence before the police arrive. Streep, however, would rather be truthful. Will good or evil triumph in the end? The premise might seem too simple, but this is a film that'll keep your attention. Starring: Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, Edward Furlong, Julia Weldon, Alfred Molina, Daniel Von Bargen, John Heard, Tim Cavanaugh. Directed by: Barbet Schroeder. A-

Before Sunrise (1995) R romantic comedy

This is a thoughtful film with a simple premise: two strangers (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpey) wander around Vienna for one night and talk. It sounds boring, but this is a remarkably engaging film and a triumph for independent cinema. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Erni Mangold, Haymon Maria Buttinger, Marianne Plasteig. Directed by: Richard Linklater. A-

Behind Enemy Lines (2001) R action

This dreadful action/comedy features a meager performance from Owen Wilson as a soldier on the run. Borrowing its premise from The Fugitive, the script simply contains way too many unbelievable occurrences. Gene Hackman, however, delivers a strong performance as the admiral trying to bring Wilson to safety. Starring: Starring: Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Gabriel Macht, Charles Malik Whitfield, Joaquim de Almeida, David Keith, Olek Krupa, Vladimir Mashkov, Marko Igonda, Eyal Podell, Geoff Pierson. Directed by: John Moore. C-

Being John Malkovich (1999) R comedy

A movie that I can only describe as gleefully weird. A film that is somehow completely meaningless, and yet it seems to have a lot to say. A man named Craig (John Cusack) struggles to make ends meet as a puppeteer, so he takes a job as a file clerk. There, he immediately falls in love with a coworker Maxine (Catherine Keener), but she isn't having any of it. Her manner of brusquely rebuffing his wooing attempts frequently making me howl with laughter. Craig is married, by the way, to a pet-store worker Lotte (an astoundingly homely looking Cameron Diaz) who takes her work home with her. Their home always in chaos with a minor zoo's worth of noisy pets. While at work, Craig unwittingly discovers a portal that leads into the consciousness of John Malkovich. That is, anyone who enters the portal literally becomes John Malkovich for 15 minutes. Then they fall into a ditch off the New Jersey turnpike. And that is really only the beginning of the inspired wackiness and plot turns--let's just say you'll have to see this movie to believe it. Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Orson Bean, Mary Kay Place, Charlie Sheen, Carlos Jacott, W. Earl Brown, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Gary Sinise, James Murray. Directed by: Spike Jonze. A+

Bell, Book and Candle (1958) NR romantic comedy

A woman living secretly as a witch (Kim Novak), uses magic to seduce her neighbor (James Stewart) in order to spite his fiancee, who is a rival from college. However, a romance kept burning through artificial means surely cannot last long, with or without magic powers. While there's something intrinsically captivating about quirky witches and warlocks living as kooky hipsters in 1950s Greenwich village, the premise is unfortunately wasted with a script that--shall I say it?--lacks magic. The good news at least is the colorful cast is just about perfect. Particularly Jack Lemmon who plays an animated, bongo-pattering warlock. Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermoine Gingold, Elsa Lanchester, Janice Rule, Philippe Clay, Bek Nelson, Howard McNear. Directed by: Richard Quine. C

The Bellboy (1960) NR comedy

Not all the jokes work, but this comedic gem starring Jerry Lewis exists in the same spectrum as Jacques Tati's more critically acclaimed films. Often surreal and whimsical, Lewis plays a hapless bellhop who bumbles his way through his job and life. He is often the butt of the joke, and he usually disappoints people--but sometimes he surprises them. Lewis remains mostly speechless, allowing him to concentrate solely on physical comedy. Which let's face it, is preferable to his signature irritating babble schtick. Starring: Jerry Lewis, Alex Gerry, Bob Clayton, Sonny Sands, Eddie Shaeffer, Herkie Styles, David Landfield, Milton Berle. Directed by: Jerry Lewis. B+

Belle of the Nineties (1934) NR comedy

Mae West is a nightclub entertainer who breaks up with her prizefighter boyfriend under false pretenses (he thinks she's cheating). Jaded, she goes to New Orleans where she becomes the belle of the town. Unfortunately, the storyline isn't that well developed, and thanks to the newly enforced production code, West isn't able to get in too many salacious one-liners. Nonetheless there are a few good chuckles as well as a notable appearance from Duke Ellington. Starring: Mae West, Roger Pryor, Johnny Mack Brown, Katherine DeMille, John Miljan, Duke Ellington, James Donlan, Stuart Holmes, Harry Woods, Edward Gargan. Directed by: Leo McCarey. C+

Bells are Ringing (1960) NR musical comedy

Judy Holliday reprised her popular Broadway role in this musical, but to utterly disappointing results. The pace of this film is much slower than it should be, and the musical numbers are horrendous. The bells will only start ringing if you bang your head against something hard. Starring: Judy Holliday, Dean Martin, Fred Clark, Eddie Foy, Jr., Jean Stapleton. Directed by: Vincente Minnelli. D

Ben-Hur (1959) NR adventure

One of Hollywood’s best and grandest epics, Charlton Heston stars as the title character, a Jewish man living during Christ’s time who is blamed for the death of a Roman soldier. At nearly four hours long, this film is amazingly engaging and it contains Heston’s performance of his career (earning him an Oscar). It is a rousing, touching and spiritual masterwork. Starring: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Steven Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy O'Donnell, Sam Jaffe, Finlay Currie, Frank Thring, Terence Longdon, George Ralph, Andre Morell. Directed by: William Wyler. A+

The Benchwarmers (2006) PG-13 comedy

This film's premise, about a trio of grown men who challenge every bully-ridden little league baseball team to a game, is lame. And so are all of the jokes. Yet I laughed, though entirely in spite of myself. Rob Schneider, who keeps on landing lead roles in comedies, turns in a usually bland performance, and David Spade is only marginally funny. Jon Heder revives his Napoleon Dynamite character (sans the costume) and manages to be somewhat funny. You'd wonder why director Dennis Dugan, who is responsible for Big Daddy and National Security is always allowed to helm movies. Starring: Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, Jon Lovitz, Craig Kilborn, Molly Sims, Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Erinn Bartlett, Amaury Nolasco, Max Prado, Reggie Jackson. Directed by: Dennis Dugan. C-

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) PG sci-fi

The first sequel to The Planet of the Apes follows another group of astronauts who travel through the same time warp to land on that same monkey planet. There he meets Taylor (reprised by Charlton Heston) being held prisoners by a bunch of creepy atomic bomb-worshipping human mutants (who can speak verbally and telepathically). Still a worthy view and addition to the Planet of the Apes epic. It’s followed by an enjoyable and improved sequel: Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Starring: James Franciscus, Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, Victor Buono, Paul Richards, Thomas Gomez. Directed by: Ted Post. C+

Berlin Express (1948) NR thriller

A nice little espionage thriller about an American, a Soviet, an Englishman, and a Frenchman who discovers that Dr. Bernhardt, a leader for a post-war peace, has been kidnapped by members of the Nazi underground. They go look for him. Overall, it's good, but it could have been more exciting and less cheesy. It is notable because it was filmed using the actual ruins of Frankfurt and Berlin post WWII. Starring: Merle Oberon, Robert Ryan, Charles Korvin, Paul Lukas, Robert Coote, Reinhold Schunzel, Roman Toporow, Otto Waldis, Fritz Kortner, Michael Harvey. Directed by: Jacques Tourneur. B

Bernard and the Genie (1991) NR comedy

This BBC special had a low budget but it has big laughs. Written by Blackadder screenwriter Richard Curtis, this is an extremely funny and heartwarming comic fantasy about a nebbish loser (Alan Cumming) who's down on his luck when he runs across a bottle. Well, there's a genie inside the bottle (Lenny Henry) who once lived in New Testament times. At first, the genie is sad to have missed that 2000 years, but he quickly finds out that modern life was made for him. This show will surely put a smile on your face. Starring: Alan Cumming, Lenny Henry, Rowan Atkinson. Directed by: Paul Weiland. B+

Best Laid Plans (1999) R thriller

Alessandro Nivola stars in this pedestrian thriller as a young man who longs to get out of his town. When he finds out that his recently deceased father didn't leave him an inheritance, Nivola accepts an offer to chauffer a drug dealer (Terrence Howard). But this backfires when the dealer's rival forces him to repay what Howard stole. So, Nivola and his girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon) concoct a hare-brained scheme to get this money. This movie is told out of order to emphasize the "twists" in the plot, but this film is so non-compelling that the twists don't have a significant effect. The dialogue is distractingly mediocre. This might be perfectly fine as popcorn fare, but it's throwaway and instantly forgettable. Starring: Alessandro Nivola, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Father Terrance Sweeny, Rebecca Klinger, Kate Hendrickson, Rocky Carroll, Owen Bush, Jesse Woodrow, Michael Hagerty, Michael McCleery, Terrence Howard. Directed by: Mike Barker. C-

Best in Show (2000) PG-13 comedy

This is quite a knee-slapper! This fake documentary directed by Christopher Guest pokes its cynical little finger at dog shows… or more specifically, the strange, strange people who prepare for them. I guess we shouldn’t be making fun of them, really; dogs are their life, dude. The cast, consisting of such notables as Michael McKean, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and the man himself, Christopher Guest, among others, are quite entertaining. It’s ideal for those who like silly humor. Starring: Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean, Michael Hitchcock, Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, Patrick Cranshaw, Don lake, Ed Begley, Jr. Directed by: Christopher Guest. A-

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) NR drama

Straightforward and thoughtful story about the intertwining lives of three men who return from World War II to find very different conditions waiting for them at home. The lower ranked among them (Fredric March) has a banking job waiting for him, while the captain (Dana Andrews) can barely reclaim his job as a soda jerk. Another man (Harold Russell) lost his hands in the war and worries about how his family -- and most importantly his sweetheart -- will treat him, as he desperately wants things to just return to normal. Throw in a love triangle or two, and we get quite an engaging -- albeit a tad long and slow moving -- drama that has quite a lot to say about how society treats, or ought to treat, its returning veterans. Starring: Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O'Donnell, Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Russell, Gladys George, Roman Bohnen. Directed by: William Wyler. A-

Betsy's Wedding (1990) R comedy

Alan Alda wrote, directed and starred in this passable comedy about as a middle class dad who throws a cripplingly expensive wedding for his uncouth daughter (Molly Ringwald). The film is too uneven and corny to recommend, but there are some flashes of creativity and humor in the script, which makes it easy to watch. Starring: Alan Alda, Madeline Kahn, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Anthony LaPaglia, Joe Pesci, Joey Bishop, Dylan Walsh, Catherine O'Hara. Directed by: Alan Alda. C

The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) PG comedy

Big screen treatment for the classic sit-com about a family of hillbillies who become billionaires overnight and move to Beverly Hills. They're the ultimate fish-out-of-water family. While it isn't quite like the old show, it's faithful enough that any fan should be reasonably entertained by it. Some gags work. Others fall flat on their faces. The jokes are particularly reliant on the old "misunderstanding" trope. A character says one thing, another character thinks they mean something completely different. Hilarity ensues. Except a few too many of these involve such odd phrasing. For example, Lily Tomlin's civilized Jane Hathaway character pushes the intercom button at the closed gate of their mansion. She wants to be let in and says "I'm trapped inside the wall." As opposed to something a normal person might say "Please open the gate and let me in." But alas, the script needed the doofus hillbilly Jethro (Diedrich Bader) to pick up a bronze statute and smash a hole through the pristine mansion walls to let her out. Not only are the gags rather lame, but so is the storyline. Jed Clampett (Jim Varney) is on a mission to "get hitched." He, being a newly minted billionaire, is of course going to attract every treasure hunting woman around. One of whom is particularly nefarious (Lea Thompson). She poses as a French etiquette instructor to teach Elly May (Erika Eleniak) some manners. By far the most inspired thing about this film is the casting -- especially Cloris Leachman as Granny. Leachman was always good for taking roles well below her paygrade and still giving it 100 percent. I chortle in practically every scene she's in. Starring: Jim Varney, Dabney Coleman, Lily Tomlin, Cloris Leachman, Diedrich Bader, Erika Eleniak, Lea Thompson, Rob Schneider, Buddy Ebsen, Dolly Parton, Zsa Zsa Gabor. Directed by: Penelope Spheeris. C

Beverly Hills Cop (1984) R action

Eddie Murphy, in one of his best roles, stars as an unfortunate Detroit cop whose best friend was brutally murdered. Determined to figure out who did it, Murphy decides to go on the case, despite his boss forbidding such an act. He tracks the killer to Beverly Hills, California to a rich and powerful art buyer. Of course this rich guy isn't going to let Murphy stick his nose in his affairs, and neither is the Beverly Hills police ... yet. Farfetched yet entertaining, this film features an appealing plot, eye-popping action, wonderful suspense and a fair share of chuckles as well. Starring: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, Ronny Cox, Steven Berkoff, James Russo, Jonathan Banks, Stephen Elliot, Paul Reiser. Directed by: Martin Brest. B+

Bewitched (2005) PG-13 comedy

At least this update of the classic '60s television series is unconventional. Nicole Kidman stars as a real witch who is discovered by a big-time movie star (Will Ferrell), and she is invited to play the role of Samantha in a new Bewitched television series. While the plot had an interesting idea, there simply weren't enough jokes written in the script nor was there anything in it to make it endearing. The film's biggest laughs come from Ferrell acting like a total goof, which works if you find him funny. Likewise, the film's impressive cast doesn't go unnoticed. Jason Schwartzman is very funny as Ferrell's agent, Michael Caine is charming as always as Kidman's father, and Shirley MacLaine is also funny as the actress to play Endora. Steve Carell even has a great bit part as Uncle Arthur. Overall, this is an entertaining film that managed to succeed thanks to the cast and not the script. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Heather Burns, Jim Turner, Stephen Colbert, David Alan Grier, Steve Carell. Directed by: Nora Ephron. B-

Beyond the Sea (2004) PG-13 drama/musical

This doozie is totally off-the-wall as far as biopics go! Kevin Spacey is too old to play the role of Bobby Darin, but that’s okay … he wrote, directed and produced this movie. He can do whatever the freak he wants with it! “Beyond the Sea” is a sentimental portrait of Darrin that oftentimes breaks into surreal montages and song-and-dance. It follows the rise and fall of 50s pop singer Bobby Darin. The movie wins kudos just because how daring it is … it wins even more kudos because it’s entertaining. (But let’s not get carried away … The whole thing’s a bit too stilted to be considered any sort of masterstroke. Sorry!) This movie is yet another example that proves one of my theories: Every movie with Kevin Spacey in it is good. Even if it’s totally weird. Starring: Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, Brenda Blethyn, Greta Scacchi, Caroline Aaron. Directed by: Kevin Spacey. B

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) X comedy

In fits and bursts, this movie is a riveting and fascinating product of its era. Where it falters (for me) is the screenwriter (who was none other than film critic Roger Ebert) didn't focus nearly enough on character development and storytelling. Even a film like this whose primary directive is to shock with excessive nudity, madcap campiness and all-out-trashiness -- just a little more of a compelling narrative to tie it all together could have gone a long way. Nonetheless, this quite a movie. "The Citizen Kane of Camp," according to an IMDb reviewer. It's quite colorful, and the central characters, being members of an all girls' rock band, play really awesome rock 'n' roll music. Not to mention they are very easy to look at. Something that would fascinate me, perhaps, is learning more about how director Russ Meyer did his casting. The film is nominally about this rock band, The Carrie Nations -- their rise to fame and fortune and all the wild trappings that come with it -- drugs, wild parties, orgies. The film even brushes on more serious topics such as abortions and Nazism. Whether it needed to, that's up for discussion. Rated X at the time, which this film proudly displays as a badge of honor, ought to come off as a relatively tame R these days. Unless you're offended over depictions of women enjoying their sexuality (as I learned in the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated is a common trait among films that were awarded that X rating). While not a great movie by any means, it is certainly a landmark in exploitive cinema. I did love much of it. But overall, I lament that I found it far too clunky to be able to count myself among its most diehard supporters. Starring: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom, John LaZar, Michael Blogett, David Gurian, Edy Williams, Erica Gavin, Phyllis Davis. Directed by: Russ Meyer. B

Bicentennial Man (1999) PG sci-fi

Robin Williams stars in this overblown sci-fi/comedy/drama/romance/etc. about a robot, resembling a man, that shorts out one day and mysteriously begins to display human-like characteristics and feelings. Unlike other robots, this one (called Andrew), wants to actually become a human. Progressively, after 200 years, he goes through numerous human implants and begins to look just like one. So, now all he has to do is to go to court and to achieve humanity legally. This film is too long, and it's rather annoying to have everything in the film change around every fifteen minutes as the 200 years passes. There are some sparks of enjoyment, but overall, forget it. Based on the Issac Asimov short story Posatronic Man. Starring: Robin Williams, Sam Neill, Embeth Davidtz, Wendy Crenson, Oliver Platt, Kiersten Warren, Hallie Kate Eisenberg. Directed by: Chris Columbus. C-

Big (1988) PG comedy

Penny Marshall directs this highly enjoyable comedy about a thirteen-year-old boy who puts a quarter in a mysterious carnival machine and wishes to be big. The next morning, he turns into Tom Hanks. This is one of the most notable role-reversal comedies out there, and it’s even quite moving at the end. A great comedic performance from Hanks earned him his first Academy Award nomination. Starring: Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard, Jared Rushton, David Moscow, Jon Lovitz, Mercedes Ruehl, Josh Clark, Kimberlee M. Davis, Oliver Block, Erica Katz, Allan Wasserman, Mark Ballou, Gary Klar. Directed by: Penny Marshall. A-

Big Business (1988) PG comedy

An entertaining comedy about two pairs of mismatched twins, played by Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler, with the same names and without knowledge of each other, stay in the same hotel together creating funny confusion. One set of twins was raised in the city and the other in the country. Unlikely, but funny performances from the cast makes it work. Starring: Bette Midler, Lily Tomlin, Fred Ward, Edward Herrmann, Michele Placido, Daniel Gerroll, Barry Primus, Michael Gross, Deborah Rush, Nicolas Coster. Directed by: Jim Abrahams. B

The Big Chill (1983) R comedy

Perhaps this film is a tad bit overrated, but no one can deny that this is a genuine piece. A group of former hippie cronies are reunited when a close friend of theirs dies. Together, they catch up on the old times amidst the music and drugs of the old days. It's a movie with plenty of genuine moments, laughs and classic performances. Starring: Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, JoBeth Williams, Tom Berenger, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, Don Galloway, James Gillis, Ken Place, Meg Kasdan, Kevin Costner. Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan. B

The Big Cube (1969) PG thriller

Most of the time, this movie is unbearable. When the movie isn't unbearable, it's because I'm grooving out with the acid-rock and watching the art-school psychedelic freak out scenes. Other than that, this is a turgid story involving an actress (Lana Turner) marrying a wealthy man who promptly dies in a boating accident. His daughter tries to drive her mad with LSD for the inheritance. Starring: Lana Turner, George Chakiris, Richard Egan, Daniel O'Herlihy, Karin Mossberg, Pamela Rodgers, Carlos East. Directed by: Tito Davison. D+

Big Daddy (1999) PG-13 comedy

Adam Sandler plays a lazy 30 year old New Yorker whose roommate bore a child five years ago. His kid suddenly comes to the door one day (his father just happened to be in China at the time) and Sandler is left to look after him. At first Sandler doesn't like the child, but they bond (of course!). This film has some funny moments, but most rely on vulgarities and Hooter's jokes. The gross-out humor is a bit too extreme this time. Starring: Adam Sandler, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Stewart, Cole Sprouse, Dylan Sprouse, Josh Mostel, Leslie Mann, Allen Covert, Rob Schneider. Directed by: Dennis Dugan. C-

The Big Fix (1978) PG mystery

Neil Simon wrote the screenplay to this fun mystery/comedy about a private eye and ex-hippie (Richard Dreyfuss) who is sent looking for a former radical (F. Murray Abraham). It's an exciting and engaging film with a charming performance from Dreyfuss whose character must simultaneously solve the mystery and look after his children. It's a unique film though the actual mystery isn't too compelling. Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Anspach, Bonnie Bedelia, John Lithgow, Ofelia Medina, Nicolas Coster, F. Murray Abraham, Fritz Weaver. Directed by: Jeremy Kagan. B

The Big Lebowski (1998) R comedy

The follow-up to the Coen Brothers’ ultimate classic Fargo is, perhaps, one of the most absurd movies ever. Jeff Bridges stars as “The Dude,” a man living in the early '90s who did a lot of drugs in the '60s. He finds himself entangled in an interesting predicament when a pair of hit men mistake him for a millionaire and piddle on his rug. The non-linear plot will alienate some viewers, while its goofiness and insane characters will leave the others in stitches. I’ll certainly give the film credit where it’s due. In the end, it’s just about the funniest thing ever captured on film. Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Peter Stormare, Leon Russom, Sam Elliott, Tara Reid, John Tuturro, David Thewlis, Ben Gazzara, Aimee Mann. Directed by: Joel Coen. A-

Big Momma’s House (2000) PG-13 comedy

This good-natured comedy stars Martin Lawrence as an undercover detective who dresses as an old lady to get information about a thief (Terrence Howard). He ends up falling in love with the girl (Nia Long). The comedy is only fitfully funny, but the energy keeps it fun. Starring: Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Paul Giamatti, Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Ella Mitchell. Directed by: Raja Gosnell. C+

The Big Mouth (1967) NR comedy

This moronic Jerry Lewis picture about a fisherman who manages to catch and reel in a scuba diver who breathes his supposed last words into Lewis' ear: not to let "them" get the diamonds. Well, "them", being a rough mob, sees Lewis speaking to the scuba diver and decide to chase him (because he may know too much) after going to great lengths making sure the scuba diver is dead. Of course they rightfully believe that they'll never see of this scuba diver again, but here's the catch: Lewis is the spittin' image of him! Lewis really had some good ideas in this film and should have run away with them, but unfortunately he didn't and kept the stupid plot and the dreadful, half-witted gags. You have to be under the age of seven to enjoy this sinker whose only redeeming quality is Jerry Lewis' rubber face and the presence of chicken king, Colonel Sanders. Starring: Jerry Lewis, Harold Stone, Susan Bay, Buddy Lester, Del Moore, Paul Lambert, Frank DeVol, Colonel Sanders. Directed by: Jerry Lewis. D

The Big Red One (1980) PG war

This biographical account of Samuel Fuller's experience with World War II is smartly done and is very stylish. It's a simple war story about five soldiers surviving many near-death and life-altering experiences together in this ruthless and terrible war. Possibly a bit too simplistic for some but it's very suspenseful and there are also funny bits of humor strategically placed within. This film is believable with a wonderful cast. Starring: Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward, Siegfried Rauch, Stephane Audran. Directed by: Samuel Fuller. B+

The Big Store (1941) NR comedy

It’s always good to see the Marx Brothers, but it’s clear that they’ve run out of steam. Groucho Marx plays a cheap detective who is hired to protect the heir to a department store (Tony Martin). As usual, the plot takes a backseat to the Brothers’ gifted antics. Even though many of the gags are funny enough to produce laughs, they are surprisingly thin. That said, if for whatever reason you enjoy the Marx’s musical numbers, this film features some of their most elaborate. Starring: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Tony Martin, Virginia Grey, Margaret Dumont, Douglas Dubrille, William Tannen, Marion Martin. Directed by: Charles "Chuck" Riesner. B-

Big Trouble (2002) PG-13 comedy

It was a box-office flop, but if you like good comedy, then it will not let you down. Adapted from a hilarious novel by newspaper columnist Dave Barry, this film packs in the humor. This is a fast-paced (and somewhat confusing) film that celebrates idiocy. With appealing performances from the cast (particularly Stanley Tucci as an extremely mean-spirited rich idiot), this is sure to please those who like to chuckle. Starring: Tim Allen, Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, Tom Sizemore, Johnny Knoxville, Dennis Farina, Jack Kehler, Janeane Garofalo, Patrick Warburton, Ben Foster, Zooey Deschanel, Dwight "Heavy D" Myers, Omar Epps, Jason Lee, Andy Richter, Michael McShane. Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld. B+

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) PG comedy

Because the future of civilization rests on the successful completion Bill and Ted's history class, they are visited by a futuristic time traveler (George Carlin) who lends them a time machine. With it, they travel back in time to collect some of the most historical figures; Billy the Kid, Socrates, Joan of Arc, Beethoven, Sigmund Freud, Gengis Kahn, Napoleon and Abraham Lincoln. Bill and Ted's ignorance of history and their fun surfer dude personalities provides most of the laughs in this notable comedy. Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Bernie Casey, Amy Stock-Poynton, Tony Camilieri, Dan Shor, Ted Steedman. Directed by: Stephen Herek. B+

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) PG-13 comedy

Not something we needed, but come to think of it do we really need any movie? It's been 30 years, and Bill and Ted still hadn't composed that legendary song that was supposed to have united the world and inspire a utopian future. And it wasn't for a lack of trying. They even went so far as to compose a song that unified several unlikely instruments -- bagpipe, theremin, trumpet, and throat singing. But things are starting to get dire: the universe is unravelling, evident by historic figures and objects that pop up in random places. Those utopian dudes from the future who track such time-space anomalies are even taking notice. Even worse, Bill & Ted's marriages (to those Medieval babes they met in the first film) are starting to fizzle. (Some of the funniest scenes consist of the quartet trying to manage marriage counseling.) Desperate to find that song they're supposedly going to write to save the world, they come up with an "ingenious" idea to cheat. They dust off that old phone box and travel to the future to steal the song from none other than themselves. In the meantime, their daughters (who are Bill and Ted clones), use a more modern looking time machine to gather a variety of musicians from history in hopes of spurring on their fathers' creative juices. This is a fun film, and I chuckled consistently through it. It even makes for a tidy conclusion to the trilogy. The only misfire being the director's handling of the actresses who played the daughters. As opposed to allowing the actors to naturally develop their own characters, they're only allowed to do groan-worthy Bill and Ted impressions. And they're not even that good at it. Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Amy Stoch, Holland Taylor, Kid Cudi, William Sadler. Directed by: Dean Parisot. B

Billy Elliot (2000) R drama

This rewarding drama traces the tribulations and triumphs of a young Irish boy (Jamie Bell) who wants nothing more than to be a ballet dancer much to the alarm of his father (Gary Lewis). This formula has been done to death, but this truly is a winning drama that’ll tug at your heart. Starring: Jamie Bell, Julie Waters, Jamie Driven, Gary Lewis, Jean Heywood, Stuart Wells, Nicola Blackwell. Directed by: Stephen Daldry. A-

Billy Galvin (1986) PG drama

This is a thoughtful but hokey film about a father (Karl Malden) and son (Lenny Von Dohlen) who for some reason hold a grudge, and they both becomes employed to work on a massive construction project. Like magic, they come to terms with one another. The terrible dialogue contains major flaws. The acting is usually bad but begins to liven up toward the conclusion. A terrible musical score. Not a complete waste, but it’s not really worth seeing. Starring: Karl Malden, Lenny Von Dohlen, Lynne Charnay, Paul Guilfoyle, Barton Heyman, Toni Kalem, Alan North, Mary Ann Stackpole, Steve Sweeny, Keith Szarabajka, Joyce Van Patten. Directed by: John E. Gray. C

Billy Madison (1995) PG-13 comedy

Adam Sandler stars as a 30-year-old rich guy whose father decides that if he wants to take over his successful business he'll have to repeat grades K-12 in six weeks. It seems to make a stab at being inspirational but fails, and the romance between Sandler and his third grade teacher is slightly disturbing. Adam Sandler is a talented guy and some of that rubs off onto this film but not enough. Starring: Adam Sandler, Darren McGavin, Bridgette Wilson, Bradley Whitford, Josh Mostel, Norm MacDonald, Mark Beltzman, Larry Hankin, Theresa Merritt, Dina Platais, Hrant Alianak, Steve Buscemi. Directed by: Tamara Davi. C-

Biloxi Blues (1988) PG-13 comedy

Matthew Broderick stars as a WWII soldier-in-training, and this film follows his vast experiences at training camp. Some funny moments are present in this Neil Simon script, which highlights this otherwise pointless memoir. Simon supposedly modeled this film after his own experiences. Starring: Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Matt Mulhern, Corey Parker, Markus Flanagan, Casey Siemaszko, Michael Dolan, Penelope Ann Miller, Park Overall, Alan Pottinger, Mark Evan Jacobs, Dave Kienzle. Directed by: Mike Nichols. B-

Bio-Dome (1996) PG-13 comedy

Uh oh, you just scrolled to this review. As much as I respect the institution of film criticism, I often find my own weakness for obnoxious comedy at odds with the sensibilities of truly respectable film critics. And when it comes to Pauly Shore, I don't even think France ever came around to considering him a comic genius. Nevertheless, allow me to revel in my enjoyment of this silly little film about a pair of idiots (Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin) who unwittingly trap themselves inside of a "Bio-Dome." The "Bio-Dome" is a large greenhouse that our heroes mistake for the latest shopping mall that is supposed to be a self-sustained ecosystem. They remain unnoticed until the building is shut and sealed and cannot be opened for an entire year . . . which is amazing they remained hidden considering all they do after the building gets sealed is be noticed. They make chaos among a small group of hoity-toity scientists who are conducting important research. That's the simple premise of the film. So the question remains: How much do we enjoy Pauly Shore's fey, helium-huffing character and Stephen Baldwin's gleefully oblivious doofus? Me, I chuckle at their antics constantly. The chemistry between the two are infectious. And while the film lacks any big, hilarious moments, it's the tiny things that keep me entertained. Them playing a round of golf inside "Biodome" using plastic shower head pipes as clubs, and reappropriating a milk-goat for a caddy. Breaking into a storage closet to find laughing gas and finding the occasion to make a Blue Velvet reference. And then a quotable quote that had me burst out in laughter: "I'm no doctor, but I think he's brain dead." Sometimes I can't make excuses for what I find funny. All I'm going to do is grab the popcorn and go watch it again. Starring: Pauly Shore, Stephen Baldwin, William Atherton, Joey Adams, Teresa Hill, Rose McGowan, Denise Dowse, Kevin West, Kylie Minogue, Dara Tomanovich, Henry Gibson, Patricia Hearst, Roger Clinton, Taylor Negron. Directed by: Jason Bloom. B

Bird Box (2018) PG-13 horror

The gimmick is fun. A race of mysterious creatures roam the earth and cause anybody who gazes upon them feel compelled to commit suicide. It's never explained what these creatures are, where they come from, or what they want. And it's probably best kept that way, because it likely just would have just been disappointing. Everybody is susceptible to their power. Except for the mentally insane, who end roving the streets trying to entice the remaining holdouts to open their eyes and face their destiny. A particularly resilient holdout is played by Sandra Bullock who is expecting a baby. She finds shelter in a house with a group of strangers where her birth is successful, and she also picks up another newborn, whose mother succumbed to the invaders. Five or so years pass, and she has refused to name these children, calling one "boy" and one "girl." She's taking these children to a sanctuary that exists down river, which she must get to on a boat while herself and her children are blindfolded. While this film has its tense moments, I notice that the film is laden with too many dull, drawn-out scenes, and I also find its conclusion a bit too tidy. Nonetheless, this is a memorable horror film. Starring: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, Jacki Weaver, John Malkovich, Sarah Paulson, Rosa Salazar, Danielle Macdonald, Lil Red Howery, Tom Hollander, Machine Gun Kelly, BD Wong. Directed by: Susanne Bier. B-

Bird on a Wire (1990) R action

Mel Gibson stars in this hokey but effective thriller as a man in the witness protection program who is found out and forced to run away from bad guys with the reluctant accompaniment of a bratty Goldie Hawn. The plot is often silly and cliche but at least there's a lot of motorized vehicles running into things. The climax of the film, which takes place in a zoo, is gimmicky fun. Starring: Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, David Carradine, Jeff Corey, Bill Duke, Joan Severance, Stephen Toblowsky. Directed by: John Badham. C+

The Birdcage (1996) R comedy

This uproarious farce stars Robin Williams as a gay club owner who has to hide his gayness so that his son's soon-to-be-in-laws (Gene Hackman and Diane Wiest), big-named conservatives, would approve of the marriage. Williams must accomplish this while trying to keep his highly emotional partner (Nathan Lane) from becoming too hurt. Not only does the film touch upon some important political issues, but also it's hilarious. It keeps the laughs coming at rapid pace. Starring: Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, Diane Wiest, Hank Azaria, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Christine Baranski, Amy Powell, Tony Snow, Mary Major. Directed by: Mike Nichols. A

The Birds (1963) NR horror

Alfred Hitchcock's chilling follow-up to Psycho about a bunch of birds unexpectedly deciding to attack citizens of a small town is nothing short of a masterful horror classic. While it certainly doesn't surpass Psycho's supremacy, this remains an exciting and taut film fit for every fan of Hitchock, the horror genre, and others, too. Starring: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright, Ethel Griffies, Charles McGraw, Ruth McDevitt, Joe Mantell. Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. A-

Birdy (1984) R drama

A Vietnam soldier (Matthew Modine) is confined in a mental hospital thinking that he is a bird. His childhood friend (Nicolas Cage) is brought in to help him out of it. Flashbacks provide the bulk of the movie. An engaging story, thick atmosphere, and good performances by the cast makes this film highly recommendable. Peter Gabriel provides the musical score. Starring: Matthew Modine, Nicolas Cage, John Harkins, Sandy Baron, Karen Young, Nancy Fish, Delores Sage, Crystal Field, Bruce “Bruno” Kirby, Jr., William Clark, George “Buck” Flower. Directed by: Alan Parker. A-

Bisbee '17 (2018) PG documentary

Some events in American history are so egregious that they prefer stay hidden. But a few dozen citizens in the town of Bisbee, Arizona aren't about to let that happen when they mark the 100 year anniversary of the Bisbee Deportation, when a posse of 2,000 citizens rounded up 1,300 striking miners, many of whom were immigrants, loaded them in train cars and left them to die in the New Mexico desert. Citizens of the town give their opinions of this inhumane event--many of whom recall their grandparents talking about it. Citizens speaking in defense of the deportation claim the labor union had the ulterior motive of disrupting the World War I effort, as this mine was the U.S.'s key source of copper. Detractors say the miners were nobly striking for better wages and safer working conditions. The film culminates in a dramatic reenactment of the violent roundup. This documentary is an absolute must for history buffs. Directed by: Robert Greene. A-

Bishop’s Wife, the (1947) NR comedy

I couldn’t help but be disappointed with this old family film starring screen legends Cary Grant and David Niven. Niven plays a frustrated bishop with low-spirits who tries to raise money for a new cathedral and almost completely ignores his wife (Loretta Young) when he is visited by an uninvited angel (Cary Grant) who tries to set things right. It’s too cheesy for me, but the kids ought to find enough about it to enjoy… and there are enough good morals for the parents to want their kids to see it. The plot underwent Martin Luther’s Reformation and was remade in 1997 as The Preacher’s Wife starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. Other than the modern production and Technicolor, this version is superior in many ways. Starring: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Gladys Cooper, Elsa Lanchester, Claire Du Brey, Sarah Edwards. Directed by: Henry Koster. C+

Blade Runner (1982) R sci-fi

In this effective dark and disturbing sci-fi classic, Harrison Ford plays the title character, a man hired to destroy androids that look identical to humans that have recently rebelled against people in American colonies of outer space. Six of these androids arrived on earth to wreak havoc; only Harrison Ford can save the world. The cast and the set are flawless. A somewhat confusing plot tends to boggle down the whole effort, however. Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joseph Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong, Morgan Paull. Directed by: Ridley Scott. A-

Black Hawk Down (2001) R war

This film is based on true events, about the American 1993 Somalia scuffle. The mission was supposed to be easy, but unfortunately, it was not. An hour passes before any type of special effects-ridden action scenes take place. This time should be well spent informing the audience of the mission, developing the characters, and providing anticipation of what is to come. The film succeeded in mission telling, but failed miserably in character-development and anticipation. Considering all the hype that surrounds this film, I am quite disappointed. Starring: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Jason Isaacs, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Ewen Bremner, Sam Shepard, Kim Coates, Hugh Dancy. Directed by: Ridley Scott. C-

Black Knight (2001) PG-13 comedy

Overall an entertaining vehicle for Martin Lawrence who gives his typical performance as a man who magically is transported to the middle ages and has to make the best for himself. The plot and jokes run thin, but Lawrence's entertaining slapstick keeps the film consistently amusing. Starring: Martin Lawrence, Marsha Thomas, Tom Wilkinson, Vincent Regan, Daryl Mitchell, Michael Burgess, Isabell Monk, Kevin Stillwell, Michael Post, Tim Parati, Mark Joy. Directed by: Gil Junger. C

Black Sabbath (1963) NR horror

This is a horror anthology of three short films. Boris Karloff provides the narration. It's a little corny, but all three stories produce decent spine-tingling chills. The designs are remarkable, the colors vivid, sets ornate. The atmosphere is thick, the glum morbidity is beautiful. The first story might be the least of them, which involves a woman getting creepy phone calls. The second one, which Boris Karloff appears as a vampire, really gets under my skin on a personal level. I used to get recurring childhood nightmares of ghouls peering at me from outside my window--an occurrence that happens frequently here. Then the last one--holy moly--has the most disturbing imaginable corpse in it. She should know never, ever to do a second take of it. And then the final scene of that segment . . . brrr. With no question, this film is a must for '60s horror fans. Starring: Boris Karloff, Mark Damon, Michele Mercier, Susy Andersen, Lydia Alfonsi, Glauco Onorato, Jacqueline Pierreux. Directed by: Mario Bava. B+

Blair Witch Project (1999) R horror

Highly effective found footage horror film follows three young adults going into the Maryland woods to film a documentary about the fabled Blair Witch. They end up getting lost and discovering far more than they bargained for. In particular as they investigate a legend of a hermit in the 1940s who kidnapped children, murdering them in his basement. They make camp and hear things go bump in the night, but things really get intense when they wake up to find mysterious, ritualistic objects being erected around their campsite. The cast of unknown actors who ad libbed the lines adds to the realism of this experience. They panic and scream as the film continues to grow tenser and tenser. It all seems real. I find myself holding on to it -- gritting my teeth -- as strange and spooky things happen. The pacing is also done very well, getting under my skin instead of relying on jump scares. While I don't find this film as frightening as some of horror's finest classics, this is nonetheless an important one and it's quite entertaining, too. Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard. Directed by: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez. A-

Blame it on Rio (1984) R comedy

So-so comedy stars Michael Caine as a man in Rio separated from his wife (Valerie Harper) who is seduced by his best friend’s underage daughter (Michelle Johnson). The premise might be uncomfortable for many viewers, but Michael Caine’s performance and a few golden moments were enough to hold it together. Starring: Michael Caine, Joseph Bologna, Valerie Harper, Michelle Johnson, Jose Lewgoy, Demi Moore, Lupe Gigliotti. Directed by: Stanley Donen. C

Blame it on the Bellboy (1991) PG-13 comedy

The bellboy isn't the only one to blame for this terrible mess. The cast (with the exception of Moore, who lightens this dread up), the awful dialogue and the screwed up plot should take their brunt of the buck. It's about a bellboy who accidentally delivers three letters to the wrong three people with similar last names. Those ill-fated people become confused and conduct their business incorrectly. A nice enough idea, but it didn't turn out to be very funny at all. Starring: Dudley Moore, Bryan Brown, Richard Griffiths, Andreas Katsulas, Patsy Kensit, Alison Steadman, Bronson Pinchot. Directed by: Mark Herman. D

Blast From the Past (1998) PG-13 comedy

This film had such potential; it had a good cast and an interesting idea, but it didn't turn out to be so great. Christopher Walkin and Sissy Spacek play a couple who, back in the early 60s, was so frightened by the Cuban Missile Crisis that they take cover in a bomb shelter. At that exact moment, a crashing airplane that Walken mistakes as an atom bomb destroys their house. Walken, expecting the worst, sets the bomb shelter door remain locked for 35 years (because that's how long it takes for the radiation to go down to a safe level). They rear a child (Brendan Frazier) who embarks onto the 1990s world with blind ignorance and gee whiz mentality. The first part of the film was executed well, but the rest was laced with dumb jokes and plausibility problems. Also, Alicia Silverstone's acting is terrible, which doesn't help. Starring: Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek, Dave Foley, Joey Slotnick, Dale Raoul, Hayden Tank, Douglas Smith, Ryan Sparks, Don Yesso, Scott Thomson. Directed by: Hugh Wilson. B-

Blazing Saddles (1973) R comedy

This western spoof is insanely funny film and generally considered Mel Brooks' zenith. Cleavon Little stars as Americas first black sheriff who reigns over a town that's about to be forcefully seized by the railroad company. Gunfire can't keep these corporate elephants out of this town, so the new sheriff must come up with something that will. It's the hilarious material that makes this one work. My only regret is the slew of mediocre films this spawned. Starring: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, Slim Pickens, David Huddleston, Alex Karras, Burton Gilliam, Mel Brooks, John Hillerman, Dom De Luise, Liam Dunn. Directed by: Mel Brooks. B+

Blithe Spirit (2020) PG-13 comedy

A novelist who suffers writer's block, Charles Condomine (Dan Stevens), invites a charlatan spiritualist (Judi Dench) to host a seance at his house. Lo and behold, her magic tricks stir something genuine, and Charles starts seeing and interacting with the ghost of his first wife (Leslie Mann). Amazing, right? But only Charles is able to see and hear her, which causes expected confusion among his friends and family. Hence the main joke in the film -- he's talking to a ghost, but to anyone else, he's talking to himself. His current wife (Isla Fisher) is also not too thrilled about how her husband's been prone suddenly to reminiscing about his first wife. This film is a throwback to screwball comedies from the 1930s and 1940s (more accurately, a remake of one), and it has me wondering: Are screwball comedies a lost art? The genre requires a certain amount chemistry among its cast members to generate the requisite magic. Even punchlines that might come across humdrum on the written page could pop out given the right lubricant among cast members. While nobody can deny that the cast has talent, they don't generate any onscreen magic. Thus, all we are left with in the end, are tired, tediously paced jokes. Starring: Dan Stevens, Leslie Mann, Isla Fisher, Judi Dench, Emilia Fox, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Adil Ray, Michele Dotrice. Directed by: Edward Hall. D

Blood Diamond (2006) PG-13 action

This is an entertaining film about a South African black man whose family is uprooted from their farm, and he is forced to work in the diamond fields. He finds an immensely valuable diamond the shape of a bird's egg, and he manages to keep it hidden from the oppressors. He reluctantly teams with a diamond dealer who helps him recover this diamond so that he can set his family free. This movie is good, but it reeks with mediocrity, and it's nothing we haven't seen before. Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers, Arnold Vosloo, Anthony J. Coleman, Michael Sheen, David Harewood. Directed by: Edward Zwick. B-

Blood Simple (1984) R thriller

The Coen Brothers' first film shows them off on the dark and crazy path that they became famous for years later. Dan Hedaya stars as a bar owner who hires a private eye to murder his unfaithful wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz). However, as you can probably expect with a Coen Brothers film, things get way out of control! While this film is remarkable, it shows that they still had to perfect their game. Starring: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh, Deborah Neumann, Preston Robertson, Rev. William Shannon Sedwick. Directed by: Joel Coen. B

Bloodwork (2002) R mystery

Entertaining mystery-thriller stars Clint Eastwood as Terry McCaleb, an FBI agent who suffers a massive heart attack after failing to chase down an elusive serial killer. It destroys his heart, thus ending his career. Prospects for survival looking grim until he was able to at the last minute receive a new heart that matched his own rare blood type. Thus, he resolves himself to spending the rest of his days living the easy life on his boat. That is, until he is visited by an attractive woman, Graciela (Wanda De Jesus), who has extraordinary information for him: His new heart once belonged to her sister who was brutally murdered under mysterious circumstances. McCaleb thus feels compelled to dig deeper. . . Certainly, a frail detective carrying out an investigation to discover how he got his heart is unique, but otherwise this mystery-thriller is standard-issue. Mr. Eastwood of course gives himself ample time to scowl at people and inanimate objects, which I'm sure is why most of us watch Clint Eastwood movies. I also enjoy the performance from Paul Rodriguez as the cranky but animated local detective who resents a former Fed poking into a murder that's under his jurisdiction. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston, Wanda De Jesus, Tina Lifford, Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh, Mason Lucero. Directed by: Clint Eastwood. B

Blue Crush (2002) PG-13 sports

A beautiful looking film with beautiful surfing action shots and beautiful people in swimming suits. All of that trapped in fairly generic teen romance and story about an underdog making a comeback. But even with the tropes firmly in place, these aren't bad tropes. Further, I found much of the dialogue, as well as some of the conflict-resolution between these characters quite engaging to watch. Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) was a rising star in the world of surfing until she suffered a near-fatal accident. While that hadn't stopped her from practicing, she needed a little encouragement from her live-in friends (Michelle Rodriguez, Sanoe Lake) and her younger sister (Mika Boreem) to participate in an upcoming tournament. But can she overcome her nerves? In the meantime, she has a romantic connection with a football player (Matthew Davis). Starring: Kate Bosworth, Matthew Davis, Sanoe Lake, Mika Boorem, Chris Taloa, Kala Alexander, Ruben Tejada, Kaupena Miranda, Asa Aquino, Faison Love, George Veikoso, Shaun Robinson, Paul Hatter. Directed by: John Stockwell. B

Blue Streak (1999) PG-13 comedy

Martin Lawrence makes me laugh in this movie. He makes silly faces. He does faux karate. He spontaneously dances. Even that idiotic pizza delivery boy persona I find funny. Lawrence is obnoxious, but his dedication is infectious. . . . And with that, we have pretty much the extent of this film's appeal. Otherwise, this is a buddy cop movie (with Luke Wilson as the straight character) about a jewel thief who fakes a job at a police station to recover a lost diamond. Rather unexpectedly, he becomes an effective, albeit highly unconventional, asset to the force. Dave Chappelle also makes an amusing appearance as Lawrence's partner-in-crime who is not only baffled at why he's posing as a cop but also baffled why other cops seem to be taking him seriously. Starring: Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, Dave Chappelle, Peter Greene, Nicole Ari Parker, Graham Beckel, Robert Miranda, Olek Krupa, Saverio Guerra, Richard C. Sarafian, Tamala Jones. Directed by: Les Mayfield. B-

Blue Velvet (1986) R mystery

The idealized images of suburbia in this film's opening sequences are a facade. A man is seen watering his prim, picture perfect lawn. He has a heart attack and collapses. The camera zooms beneath the blades of grass the where insects are seen writhing in the muck. The protagonist Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan), whose father had the heart attack, is back in his hometown to visit. He stumbles onto society's underbellies when he finds a severed ear in a field. He brings it to a police station where he reconnects with the chief's daughter Sandy (Laura Dern). She believes the severed ear may have something to do with a sultry lounge singer in town, Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini), who she overhears her father talking about. Curiosity gets to the better of him, and he acts as an amateur detective to get closer to her. He finds her compelling. He becomes infatuated with her, and she him. But it isn't long before her creepy maniac boyfriend (Dennis Hopper, in a brilliantly intense performance) discovers him lurking around. This film is maniacal insanity. A dark, surrealist, stylish masterpiece that even has a compelling mystery story at its core. Jeffrey pokes into things he should never poke into, particularly when he has no personal stake in it. This is the darkness he invites into his life. He can't help himself. He struggles with the duality of his world, and this dark world. Even in his love affairs. Dorothy (the dark) and Sandy (the light). Sandy says at the beginning she can't tell if he's a detective or a pervert. He responds that he doesn't know himself. Perhaps those two things aren't so different. This is not an easy film to watch, but I find myself absorbed into every single frame it produces. The film is also notable for having probably the rosiest ending that I've ever seen. But do we really trust it? Starring: Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, Dean Stockwell, George Dickerson, Priscilla Pointer, Frances Bay, Jack Harvey. Directed by: David Lynch. A+

The Blues Brothers (1980) R comedy

Jake Blues (John Belushi) and his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) are on a mission from God. They must raise $5,000 to save their childhood orphanage from bankruptcy. And they're going to do it the only way they know how: By getting their blues band back together and put on a big gig. Along the way, they are pursued by an array of characters, including the police, a country-western band, neo-Nazis, and a crazy woman trying to blow them up with high-grade military weaponry (Carrie Fisher). They also meet plenty of colorful characters--among them James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles--and they treat us to some tremendously exciting R&B songs. This madcap film is wild and unconventional, but it's frequently hilarious, and there's never a dull moment. Starring: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Carrie Fisher, Henry Gibson, John Candy, Kathleen Freeman. Directed by: John Landis. A-

Bob Roberts (1992) R comedy

This is an enjoyable satire with a handful of good laughs and a lot of good ideas, but the film’s slow pacing keeps this from becoming a classic. Tim Robbins stars as a folk-singing conservative who runs a crooked campaign for senate. This is a good spoof of modern-day politics and the sorts of trickery some candidates will do to get their votes. I like the songs (that Robbins actually wrote). Conservatives will probably feel slighted by this effort (as Robbins is pretty much the mother of all Hollywood liberals), but Democrats are guilty of such naughty political shenanigans as well. *cough*BillClinton*cough* Starring: Tim Robbins, Giancarlo Esposito, Alan Rickman, Ray Wise, Brian Murray, Gore Vidal, Rebecca Jenkins, Harry J. Lennix, John Ottavino, Robert Stanton, Kelly Willis, Merrilee Dale, Tom Atkins, Susan Sarandon, Jack Black, Fred Ward, Fisher Stevens, John Cusack, Bob Balaban. Directed by: Tim Robbins. B-

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) PG-13 drama

The recreation of Queen's performance at Live Aid in 1985 is so on-point that it makes watching this film in theaters very much worth it. They also find a precise Freddie Mercury with Rami Malek, who got the Oscar--good for him. The music is of course fantastic, but unfortunately this biopic doesn't provide any real insight into the band. I profess to being Queen fan but hardly a devotee, and this film showed me nothing I didn't already know. This is the cinematic adaptation of their Wikipedia page, and that is regrettable. Particularly considering how controversial a person Freddie Mercury was, the film could have delved much deeper than it did. Two of the surviving Queen members head up this film. Couldn't they show us more about how this band really ticked? While I'd call this below average as far as biopics go, I nonetheless find it fun watching the band invent many of their hits. Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Aaron McCusker, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers. Directed by: Bryan Singer. C

Bon Voyage! (1962) NR comedy

Generally enjoyable Disney fluff about a family with three children who takes a luxurious trip to Paris. The mother and father (the latter of whom is played by Fred MacMurray) sure have a lot of things to worry about. For one thing, their daughter ran off with a radical young teenager and their oldest boy mingles with every girl he meets. But, this being a Disney movie, everything turns out okay and everyone learns some kind of a moral. At the very beginning of the film a nosy taxi driver says to MacMurray "I would never go through what you're about to go through for anything in the world" (or something along those lines). At the end of the film, its a wonder what he really meant because MacMurray seemed to have the time of his life! That and many other faults does not make this remotely close to a classic, even on Disney's terms, but it still remains good for the kids. Starring: Fred MacMurray, Jane Wyman, Michael Callan, Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley, Kevin Corcoran. Directed by: James Neilsen. C

Bonnie and Clyde (1967) NR crime

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway star in this groundbreaking gangster flick that combines violence, car chases, humor and tragedy in perfect combination. The acting is nothing below exquisite and the gunfights aren't anything less than exhilarating. You have probably heard of Bonnie and Clyde before, but if you don't know much about them then see this movie. It's not only an entertaining film, but also historically accurate. Gene Wilder plays a small part in his movie debut. Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Denver Pyle, Dub Taylor, Evans Evans, Gene Wilder. Directed by: Arthur Penn. A

Boomerang (1992) R comedy

Eddie Murphy is a bigwig advertising exec who can have any woman he pleases. All it takes is a little sweet talk, maybe a lie or two. His luck with the ladies is so legendary that other men in his office live vicariously through him. But just as quickly as he gets a woman, he dumps her. Usually because of some trifling flaw, like having worn off nail polish or being mildly eccentric. The tables are turned when he gets a new boss (Robin Givens), a female, who he finds incredibly attractive. They start seeing each other, but she treats him just as poorly as he is used to treating women. In the meantime, he meets a nice woman (Halle Berry) who he thinks he might like to love for realsies. The problem with this movie is I don't particularly root for Murphy's character to make it with her, because he already gets extraordinary luck. And so many of the gags involve mildly eccentric women coming out of the woodwork trying to seduce him, which is not inherently funny. An exception is an appearance from Grace Jones who takes the opportunity to wear some wild fashions. She also appears in a hilariously inappropriate commercial in which she gives violent birth to a perfume bottle. Other than that, this is a pleasantly paced film, even if it could have used more laughs. Starring: Eddie Murphy, Rob Givens, Halle Berry, David Alan Grier, Martin Lawrence, Grace Jones, Geoffrey Holder, Eartha Kitt, Chris Rock, Tisha Campbell, Lela Rochon, John Witherspoon. Directed by: Reginald Hudin. C

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) R comedy

Sacha Baron Cohen takes his familiar Kazakstani reporter from HBO's "Da Ali G Show" to the big screen. He was sent by Kazakhstan to make a feature on New York, but after watching an episode of Baywatch, he is inspired to take a road trip to California to ask for Pamela Anderson's hand in marriage. Along the way, he buys a pet bear, has a heated falling-out with his traveling companion and interacts with genuine Americans. Hardly a minute passes in this film when there is not a laugh. Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian. Directed by: Larry Charles. A

Boris and Natasha: the Movie (1991) PG comedy

Are you itching to see this movie out of morbid curiosity? I was, and I regretted that I wasted my time. It’s difficult to fathom a script with less wit. It isn’t difficult to fathom that the studio forwent releasing this in the theaters. Starring: David Thomas, Sally Kellerman, Alex Rocco, J. Jay Saunders, Anthony Newley, Christopher Neame, Andrea Martin, John Travolta, John Candy, Charles Martin Smith. Directed by: Charles Martin Smith. D-

Bottle Rocket (1996) R comedy

And the offbeat directorship of Wes Anderson begins ... This is surprisingly endearing film stars brothers Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson star as a couple of small time criminals who attempt a crime spree … of some sort. However, Luke becomes side-winded when he meets a rather good-looking hotel maid. The premise is funny, the script is funny, and the film’s pacing is just as good as all of Anderson’s later pictures. Starring: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Ned Dowd, Shea Fowler, Haley Miller, Robert Musgrave, Andrew Wilson, Brian Tenenbaum, Jenni Tooley. Directed by: Wes Anderson. A-

The Bourne Supremacy (2004) PG-13 action

They just won’t leave Jason Bourne alone. Sequel to The Bourne Identity, Matt Damon returns as the harassed spy who tries to get to the bottom of his continued assassination attempts. This is a first-rate thriller with wonderful direction from Paul Greengrass. Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Gabriel Mann, Joan Allen, Sean Smith, Jevgeni Sitochin, Karel Roden, Ethan Sandler. Directed by: Paul Greengrass. A-

Bowling for Columbine (2002) R documentary

This is certainly Michael Moore's best film to date, his previous documentary films being "The Big One" and "Roger and Me," inciting thought and sparking debate into people who don't typically like to take things sitting down. This one tackles the whole gun controversy, and tries to answer the question of why there are so many more murders in America than Canada and all other countries in the world. It's is all very interesting. As is with all of Moore's films, it will also give you plenty of things to chuckle about. Starring: Michael Moore, Denise Ames, Arthur A. Busch, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barry Glassner, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Manson, John Nichols, Chris Rock, Matt Stone. Directed by: Michael Moore. A

Boys From Brazil (1978) R thriller

Perhaps this "thriller" isn't as exciting as it should be, but I was nevertheless very captivated by the plot. It's about a fictional Nazi hunter (Laurence Olivier) who discovers that a bunch of hiding Nazis headed by Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) are murdering 65-year-old men with civil service jobs. It's up to you to figure out why. Once the movie is half over, it isn't such a labor to discover prematurely what they're up to, but the story (based on a novel by Ira Levin) was transferred to film effectively. Some implications presented are very frightening and thought-provoking, indeed. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Rosemary Harris, John Dehner, John Rubinstein, Anne Meara, Steve Gutenberg, Denholm Elliot, Jeremy Black, David Hurst, Bruno Ganz, Walter Gotell, Prunella Scales. Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner. B+

The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) PG-13 comedy

If you're going to make a movie version of The Brady Bunch, this is the way to do it. Mr. Brady's in trouble; he must pay $20,000 in property taxes or his house will be up for auction. The Brady kids get together and attempt to raise the needed money while middle-child Jan Brady pouts over her older sister's good looks and personality. This one joke premise centers around this very 60s family being placed in the 90s complete with their vocabulary, clothes, jokes, songs out-of-date. It more or less parodies the television show and is quite funny in doing it but the joke wears thin. Brady fans must look out for some of the original cast members. There is a sequel: A Very Brady Sequel. Starring: Shelley Long, Gary Cole, Michael McKean, Jean Smart, Henriette Mantel, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Christine Taylor, Paul Sutera, Jennifer Elise Cox, Jesse Lee, Olivia Hack, David Graf, Jack Noseworthy, Shane Conrad, RuPaul, Ann B. Davis, Florence Henderson, Davy Jones, Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, Michael Lookinland, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork. Directed by: Betty Thomas. B

Brain Donors (1992) PG comedy

A demented comedy and partial tribute to the Marx Brothers revolves around a trio fulfilling a dead multi-millionaire's dream to start a ballet company. Obviously, the director and screen writer wanted this film to be laugh-a-minute, but the majority of the jokes are bad, rude or tasteless. Sad to say it, but most of the acting is appalling and so is much of the set. However, there is the sporadic good joke and, surprise surprise, the ballet scene at the end is hysterical. Starring: John Tuturro, Bob Nelson, Mel Smith, Nancy Marchland, George De La Pena, John Savident, Juli Donald, Spike Alexander. Directed by: Dennis Dugan. C

Brazil (1985) R comedy

Probably Terry Gilliam's best masterpiece (and, if you want my opinion, the man had many). Jonathan Pryce stars as a dreamer living in an Orwellian future who has a high ranking government job thanks to the reputation of his deseased father. However, when he spots the woman of his dreams (Kim Griest), his beaurocratic disenchantment becomes a full-scale, one-man rebellion. Gilliam's visions are indeed a treat to watch. The cast is fantastic (particularly Ian Holm as a nebbish office boss). Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Michael Palin, Kim Greist, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan, Bob Hoskins, Derrick O'Connor, Charles McKeown, Barbara Hicks, Kathryn Pogson, Jim Broadbent, Jack Purvis, Bryan Pringle, Shelia Reed. Directed by: Terry Gilliam. A+

The Break-Up (2006) PG-13 romantic comedy

Brooke Meyers (Jennifer Aniston) wants her live-in boyfriend (Vince Vaughn) to help around the house a little more. But he’s not too cooperative, and they break up in a nasty falling out. However, neither of them are willing to leave the expensive condo. So, they continue to live in the same quarters. The premise is excellent and should have produced a funny script. Unfortunately, it's only so-so; it's the charisma of the two leads that makes this date movie enjoyable. Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Joey Lauren Adams, Ann-Margaret, Jason Bateman, Judy Davis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jon Favreau, Cole Hauser. Directed by: Peyton Reed. B

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) NR comedy

Audrey Hepburn stars as Holly Golightly, a sophisticated and senseless New Yorker who wanders around and does stuff with her new neighbor (George Peppard). Hepburn who leads a directionless life must be put on the right track for her own good and Peppard is the only one who can do this. This is a must-see because it is an enjoyable film that will keep the viewer's eyes glued to the television in interest despite the fact that this film is admittedly, disordered. Still, it's no wonder that everybody loves Breakfast at Tiffany's. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Mickey Rooney, Martin Balsam, John McGiver. Directed by: Blake Edwards. B+

Breakfast of Champions (1999) R comedy

This is a very weird movie with surprisingly wild performances coming from established action heroes Bruce Willis and Nick Nolte, and frankly I'm surprised that this film was universally panned by critics. This adaptation of the celebrated novel by Kurt Vonnegut is highly spirited and fun to watch. However, its major fault is that the director didn't know how to handle the semi-surreal, over-the-top plot and this film turned out to be merely a watered-down cake that might have been a rich dessert. It could have been much more compelling, but I still consider this top-notch for those wanting something twisted for their Friday evenings. Starring: Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, Albert Finney, Barbara Hershey, Glenne Headley, Lukas Haas, Omar Epps, Buck Henry, Vicki Lewis, Ken Campbell, Jake Johannsen, Will Patton, Chip Zen, Owen Wilson, Alison Eastwood, Shawnee Smith. Directed by: Alan Rudolph. B-

Breaking Away (1979) PG drama

Four college-aged teenagers of Bloomington, Indiana, wonder what they're going to do with the rest of their lives; are they going to be lazy "cutters" as the local college boys of the town so nicely call them, or are they going to be wonderfully successful? Each person deals with lost dreams, love, anger, humor, heroes and parental problems which the viewer should find very intriguing and entertaining. The film manages to be funny, goofy, sentimental, moralistic and intelligent with astounding success. On top of that, the cast members are all perfect for their parts; they do such an excellent job in this film that it's rather spoiling to watch other movies that aren't up to this level. Starring: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Haley, Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley, Robyn Douglass, Hart Bochner, Amy Wright, John Ashton. Directed by: Peter Yates. A

Brewster's Millions (1985) PG comedy

Richard Pryor stars as a washed-up minor league ball player who discovers that he is heir to a $300 million estate. However, in order to get this full inheritance, he must spend $30 million in 30 days. But there is a catch! At the end of this 30-day period, he cannot have any possessions to his name, and he can't tell anybody what he's up to. This film has not only been panned by critics, but even Pryor later admitted regrets for starring in this movie. It really isn't that bad. The script might be slight, it makes for a good evening’s worth of silly entertainment. Starring: Richard Pryor, John Candy, Lonette McKee, Stephen Collins, Jerry Orbach, Pat Hingle, Tovah Feldshuh, Joe Grifasi, Peter Jason, Hume Cronyn, Rick Moranis. Directed by: Walter Hill. B

Bridesmaids (2011) R comedy

There are a remarkable amount of laughs in this raunchy ensemble comedy starring women. Kristen Wiig in particular. She stars as Annie, a single woman in her mid-30s whose bakery had recently gone bankrupt. Her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married and asks Annie to be the maid of honor. But at the engagement party, one of Lillian's relatively new friends Helen (Rose Byrne) surprises them all with a trip to Las Vegas. Which Annie takes as a sleight, because all she could afford as a gift was a measly box of sentimental keepsakes. The funniest part of the film happens during that flight when Annie mixes alcohol with tranquilizers. She antagonizes that flight attendant so much that I nearly busted a gut. Another nice few moments involve Annie's budding romance with a police officer (Chris O'Dowd). They have chemistry together, and I want them to make it. While this film has plenty of laughs, not everything works, particularly the gross-out gags. The film also is a bit too long at more than two hours. Nevertheless, chalk this up as among the more memorable comedies of the early 21st Century. Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Chris O'Dowd, Jill Clayburgh, Matt Lucas, Rebel Wilson, Michael Hitchcock, Tim Heidecker, Ben Falcone. Directed by: Paul Feig. A-

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) R comedy

The winning cast in this sequel to Bridget Jones’ Diary tries desperately hard to pull off wit when that’s the one thing the script is totally devoid of. The filmmakers seemed determined to make a nauseating chick flick without doing anything heartwarming or funny. This is merely an utterly illogical retread of the title character’s (Renee Zellweger) continuing efforts to get hitched to her dream boy (Colin Firth). Starring: Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Jacinda Barrett, James Callis, Shirley Henderson, Sally Phillips, Neil Pearson. Directed by: Beeban Kidron. D+

Bright Young Things (2003) R comedy

A delightful and engaging sophisticated comedy chronicles the lives of a group of literate socialites in the 1930s and their eventual descent into nothingness by World War II. The great cast and very good script keeps this film entertaining. This marks British comedian Stephen Fry’s directorial debut, whose directing hand is unfortunately rather shaky. Starring: Emily Mortimer, Stephen Campbell Moore, James McAvoy, Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Fenella Woolgar, Dan Akyroyd, Jim Broadbent, Simon Callow, Jim Carter, Stockard Channing, Richard E. Grant, Julia McKenzie, Peter O’Toole. Directed by: Stephen Fry. B+

Bring It On (2000) PG-13 comedy

The world of cheerleading gets a skewering in this comedy that works as a satire and also just as a fun, energetic film about cheerleading. Breezy humor flows out nearly every scene and so much of it lands -- apart from the occasional embarrassingly outdated homophobic joke. Kirsten Dunst stars as Torrance, the new head cheerleader of her high school squad who discovers their award-winning routines were stolen from a nearby urban high school. Without the time or energy to come up with original material, she breaks the rules and hires a professional choreographer (a diva who teaches them all about spirit fingers). They get busted when it turns out he had sold that routine to other squads. They would have been disqualified from appearing in the Finals were it not for a provision guaranteeing a spot to last year's winners. To prepare for the Finals, they have to dig deep for inspiration in unexpected places. Torrance also develops what eventually becomes a friendly rivalry with the head of the urban school cheerleader squad (Gabrielle Union). I appreciate how this film scratches the surface at socio-economic issues -- how a predominantly black school cannot afford to send an extremely talented squad to competition, something a predominantly white school wouldn't bat an eye at doing for a mediocre squad. However, it doesn't get deep enough into it for it to be particularly meaningful. This is a movie that I enjoy watching every once in a while for the energy, the perfectly lighthearted performance from Dunst, and the light chuckles. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer, Nicole Bilderback, Tsianina Joelson, Rini Bell, Nathan West. Directed by: Peyton Reed. B+

Bring It On Again (2004) PG-13 comedy

The refreshing honesty of the title is the mildest consolation. This direct-to-video sequel shares the story arc, tone and even some of the jokes of the original. All that's different is a new cast, and the setting moved from high school to college. But while they can carbon copy all they like, what's impossible to recreate is inspiration: That consistently bubbly, fun energy is mostly dried up here. I maybe laughed once or twice. I would say at least the cast is likable, however. They're good cheerleaders in their own right, and their routines are an easy source for eye-popping energy. The plotline is almost completely uninteresting, though. A pair of talented cheerleaders Whittier (Anne-Judson-Yager) and Monica (Faune A. Chambers) try out for their varsity team and are easily accepted by the head cheerleader Tina (Bree Turner). Whittier is particularly impressive, already outshining the presumptive head for next season, Marni (Bethany Joy Lenz). Tina and Marni are pals, of course, causing Tina to work Whittier extra hard so that she quits. Instead of just giving up cheerleading altogether, however, she decides to form her own squad. And she recruits a motley crew of misfits. Starring: Anne Judson-Yager, Faune A. Chambers, Bree Turner, Bethany Joy Lenz, Richard Lee Jackson, Bryce Johnson, Felicia Day. Directed by: Damon Santostefano. C-

Bring It On: All or Nothing (2006) PG-13 comedy

To Bring It On fans, this is known as the one with Hayden Panettiere. To anyone else, this is known as They made a third one? This is a lazy, throwaway, direct-to-video movie but with one important redeeming quality: Panettiere, who is so charismatic that it's virtually impossible to detest any particular part of the film -- even when her character is supposed to be unlikeable. She plays Britney, a rich white girl and the successful captain of the cheerleading team of her rich white school. Her life is seriously upended when her father relocates to a disadvantaged neighborhood, and she starts attending a nearly all-black high school. This turns into an OK fish-out-of-water scenario, as she is taken off guard by the security and metal detectors and the gall of her underfunded-teachers who actually require their students handwrite their own notes, as opposed to just making hand-outs. Other aspects, such as conflicts she has with other students because of their socio-economic backgrounds, might have been handled in a less ham-fisted manner. The general plot-line is OK. At first Britney wasn't going to join the school's cheerleading team for fear of betraying her old team, who are rivals, but she ends up going for it anyway -- because of a dare. The teams end up battling face to face with the prize of being featured in a Rihanna music video. Once again, the cheerleading routines are fine, which helps keep the energy up, but the film is all still too vacuous. Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Solange Knowles-Smith, Marcy Ryan, Gus Carr, Jake McDorman, Giovonnie Samuels, Francia Raisa, Gary LeRoi Gray. Directed by: Steve Rash. C

Bring It On: In It to Win It (2007) PG-13 comedy

Perhaps I've been too kind to the Bring It On sequels so far, but this one I only find barely tolerable. Like its predecessors, it wants to be a goofy parody, but parodies require at least some level of smartness. While I wouldnÕt exactly call the previous direct-to-video sequels smart, there was some consolation at least in the flashy cheerleading choreography. But even I, who know nothing about the sport of cheerleading, find the ones in this movie to be sloppy, unimpressive, and poorly framed. And who does this movie think its core audience is if it's going to cut corners with the cheers? The premise of the story begins with some annoying woman who says "Lose the stick, and you will face the wrath of the cheer gods." She hands an 18-inch red, white and blue baton known as a "Spirit Stick" to a cheerleader named Carson (Ashley Benson), who is leader of a squad known as The Sharks. They are in competition at a Florida amusement park and their chief rival is the Jets. Carson hits it off with a random guy (Michael Copon) who she doesn't realize at the time is a Jet. I appreciate the West Side Story derived set-up, but these are just references. They do nothing with it beyond that other than a strange finger-snapping cheer-off scene that occurs at moonlight. Perhaps if one of the Jets had sharpened the Spirit Stick and used it to shank a Shark near the tilt-a-whirl, I might have appreciated the movie more. Starring: Ashley Benson, Cassandra Scerbo, Michael Copon, Jennifer Tisdale, Anniese Taylor Dendy, Noel Areizaga, Kierstin Koppel, Ashley Tisdale. Directed by: Steve Rash. D

Bring It On: Fight to the Finish (2009) PG-13 comedy

By the fourth Bring it On sequel, they've completely lost any semblance of satire. Which is just as well considering how awful they've been at it. This is a teen drama that happens to be about cheerleading. The best thing I can say: It isn't bad enough to cause me to lose brain cells. It's just vastly uninteresting. There's no character development, and the dialogue is so bland that it puts me to sleep. The story is more or less is a reverse of the third film, All or Nothing. Lina (Christina Milan) is a popular cheerleader at her inner-urban school. Her world becomes upended when her mother marries a wealthy man and moves into a mansion. This also means that she starts going to a wealthy school. She is persuaded by her mother to try out for the cheerleading team but finds the existing one too snobbish. So, she starts her own squad of misfits and competes for the right to represent the school at the tournament. In the meantime, she struggles to develop a meaningful relationship with her very suburban (and very eager) new step-sister who at one point almost gets in a fight because she looks at an urban girl wrong. Riveting. I suppose the dancing is fine. It doesn't really look like cheerleading to me, but what do I know? Starring: Christina Milan, Rachele Brooke Smith, Cody Longo, Vanessa Born, Gabrielle Dennis, Holland Roden, Nikki SooHoo, Meagan Holder. Directed by: Billie Woodruff. D

Bringing Up Baby (1938) NR comedy

Unabashed hilarity from beginning to end. Katherine Hepburn is Susan Vance, a heiress who unwittingly turns everything she touches into chaos. Cary Grant is David Huxley, a strait-laced paleontologist and museum director who seeks a million dollar donation from Susan's aunt. The two cross paths, and it is an endless barrage of unrelentingly laugh-inducing miscommunication and misadventure. "Baby" is the name of a tame leopard that is supposed to be in their care but keeps escaping. Starring: Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, May Robson, Charles Ruggles, Walter Catlett, Barry Fitzgerald, Fritz Feld, Virginia Walker, George Irving. Directed by: Howard Hawks. A+

Broadcast News (1987) R comedy

This excellent comedy sports an excellent plot and funny situations. Albert Brooks stars as an intelligent employee of a broadcast television station. Enter William Hurt, the remarkably dim-witted but good-looking anchorman. Colleague Hunter despises Hurt, but in spite of it all, she is in love with him . . . much to the dismay of Brooks. The movie is a conflicted love triangle that tackles very-relevant issues involving the decline of the integrity in broadcast news reporting. An excellent film! See it! Starring: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, Robert Prosky, Lois Chiles, Joan Cusack, Jack Nicholson, Peter Hakes, Christian Clemenson, Robert Katims, Ed Wheeler, Raoul Rizik, Mark Shaiman. Directed by: James L. Brooks. A-

Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) NR musical

Interesting film that celebrates Broadway pieces of 1936. Definitely worth the time of avid Broadway-philes and lovers of older comedies, but others probably won't find this much of a treat. Notable for having a young Jack Benny in the cast and a young Buddy Ebsen. Some songs in this movie are also present in the musical classic, Singin' in the Rain, interestingly enough. Starring: Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor, Una Merkel, Sid Silvers, Buddy Ebsen. Directed by: Roy Del Ruth. B

Brokeback Mountain (2005) R drama

The classic forbidden love story, except the subjects are two men and the setting is rural America. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play the couple who unexpectedly develop an intimate relationship while tending to sheep alone in the mountains. They continue secretly seeing each other (seldomly) through the course of 20 years. The film is dull at times, but the undercurrent of it all and particularly the end is heartwrenching and tragic. Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Linda Cardellini, Anna Farris, Randy Quaid, Graham Beckel, Scott Michael Campbell. Directed by: Ang Lee. A-

Broken Flowers (2005) R comedy

Bill Murray stars in this wonderful little film as an over-the-hill Don Juan who receives an anonymous letter informing him he has a son. His amateur sleuth neighbor (Jeffrey Wright) entices the reluctant Murray to find him. The ending, criticized by some as being inconclusive, is actually one of the most perfect cinematic conclusions I’ve seen. Murray’s sleepy but very funny performance is the primary reason to see this film. This is good cinema. Starring: Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, Julie Delpy, Mark Webber, Chloe Sevigny. Directed by: Jim Jarmusch. A

The Brothers Grimm (2005) PG-13 comedy

A vastly underrated gem features Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as the title characters who have spent their whole careers inventing and expelling evil spirits. However, when one village reports *actual* evil spirits, they must do it for real. A dazzling and cluttered set is a wonder to look at, the story is very fun, and the two leads are absolutely top-notch. It’s somewhat difficult to soak in, but this is a Terry Gilliam movie. It’s his most mainstream effort, but it still contains his warped visions. Starring: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Jonathan Pryce, Lena Headey, Monica Bellucci, Mackenzie Crook. Directed by: Terry Gilliam. A-

Bruce Almighty (2003) PG-13 comedy

A fine premise, but the writing could have used serious sharpening. It is so soft around the edges that it could have passed for a religious film were it not for a handful of out-of-place moments that seemed stitched in so as to secure a PG-13 rating. Nonetheless Jim Carrey is in likable form as Bruce, a Buffalo newscaster who specializes in puff pieces. He badly wants to be promoted to head anchor, but he's passed over for the brownnosing, insufferable Evan (Steve Carrell). A despondent Bruce flips out on air and gets fired, and his continued rage even causes him to get on the outs with his ever-patient girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston). He blames God for all this. Then -- lo and behold -- God (Morgan Freeman) actually appears to him. Not a great film by any means -- average even for Jim Carrey -- but it holds my attention fairly well. I also appreciate that it reinforces a serviceable moral that we'd all been taught by The Rolling Stones. That is, you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need. Starring: Jim Carrey, Jennifer Anniston, Morgan Freeman, Philip Baker Hall, Catherine Bell, Lisa Ann Walter, Steve Carell, Nora Dunn. Directed by: Tom Shadyac. C

Bubba Ho-Tep (2003) R comedy

A unique comedy follows stars Bruce Campell as a man with delusions (or not) that he is Elvis Presley who, along with a black man with delusions that he is John F. Kennedy, battles impending evil Egyptian spirits at his rest home. The sometimes shocking dialogue is fresh, memorable, and laugh-out-loud hilarious. This is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys starkly unconventional films. Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Bob Ivy, Heidi Marnhout, Harrison Young. Directed by: Don Coscarelli. A

Buck and the Preacher (1972) PG western

Sidney Poitier is a great actor, but only a so-so director in his directorial debut meant to be a tribute to fallen black settlers. In the post Civil War-era, a scout (Poitier) finds areas in the Wild West for former slaves to settle. Unfortunately, some would rather the slaves continue to work as laborers in the South. It’s a decent and watchable western, but there’s nothing at all fascinating here. Harry Belafonte turns in a good performance as the “preacher”/con man. Starring: Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Cameron Mitchell, Denny Miller, Ruby Dee, Phil Adams, Ken Maynard. Directed by: Sidney Poitier. C+

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) PG-13 comedy

This movie is much more notable for spawning the hit TV series of the same name. Unfortunately, that's about its only point of interest. Kristy Swanson stars as a preppy cheerleader who learns that she is "the chosen one" destined to spend the rest of her life slaying vampires. But she resists. Donald Sutherland, in an odd career choice, co-stars as the man who trains her. The film's premise is a neat idea (one that will be further explored in the series), but the screenwriter and director forgot to include character and plot development. The results are uneven. Starring: Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, Paul Rubens, Luke Perry, Michele Abrams, Hilary Swank, Paris Vaughan, David Arquette, Randall Batinkoff, Candy Clark, Stephen Root, Ben Affleck. Directed by: Fran Ruebel Kuzui. C

The 'Burbs (1989) PG comedy

Not getting fair treatment by many critics, this film is actually a rather crafty and delightful comedy that brings an ensemble of fine actors to the big screen. It's wholly unusual because it takes place in a little street in the suburban and the neighbors have their interestingly peculiar traits (Bruce Dern is an eccentric Vietnam Vet, Gale Gordon is an old guy with a dog that poops, Rick Ducommon is the incredibly annoying neighbor, Corey Feldman is a goofy teenager who invites his friends over to watch the neighbors). One day, they notice that Gale Gordon has disappeared and they somehow get this peculiar idea that a mysterious family who lives in a creepy old house murdered him. So they do all sorts of things in order to find out where the body is hidden. The best thing about this film is that these grown people have immature minds and the actors play it so well that it's downright enjoyable. I can see why some critics hated it, however. They probably looked at the disastrously uneven plot and found the actors more irritating than enjoyable. However, I won't change my perspective; I like it! Starring: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, Rick Ducommun, Corey Feldman, Wendy Schaal, Henry Gibson, Brother Theodore, Courtney Gains, Gale Gordon, Dick Miller, Robert Picardo. Directed by: Joe Dante. B

Bushwhacked (1995) PG-13 comedy

As gratifying as it is to see Daniel Stern getting his own starring vehicle as a character derived from the one he played in Home Alone, this film is little more than a groan-fest. Stern is "Mad" Max Grabelski, a package delivery driver who is framed for the brutal slaying of a millionaire. In his mad flight from the FBI, he finds himself unwittingly mistaken for a rugged Scout leader. His fate for the rest of the film: Leading a half-dozen kids on a hike through the mountains. The joke of course being that Max has no wilderness experience, and the FBI thinks that he took the scouts hostage. While there's nothing necessarily wrong with the humor in this film being incredibly juvenile, the gags unfortunately do nothing but hit dead notes. Not that a half dozen scouts peeing off a cliff while Stern screams "shake your lizard!" can't be funny. It just isn't here. Stern's typically maniacal performance perhaps redeems this slightly, but that's hardly enough to make me want to recommend this stinker to anyone. Starring: Daniel Stern, Jon Polito, Brad Sullivan, Ann Dowd, Anthony Herald, Thomas Wood. Directed by: Greg Beeman. D+

Butley (1974) R drama

Alan Bates is not afraid to break a sweat as he delivers an impassioned and darkly funny performance as a literature professor hellbent on feverish self-destruction. Not only does his wife leave him, but so does his male lover. Reflecting on losing his wife, he says "I am a one woman man, and I've had mine, thank God." The script effervesces with such devilish goodies as that. What seems to upset him most about losing his wife is that she left him for a middling simpleton. The bulk of this film takes place in Butley's office where he spends much his time drinking, snubbing his colleagues, and avoiding tutoring sessions with his students. One grad student does manage to slip through the cracks, and he mercilessly lambasts her work. A perturbed colleague (Jessica Tandy) comes in whinging about someone who complained about her teaching style but also announcing that she finished her book on Byron. Butley's seething jealously over it obvious, as his own much overdue book on T.S. Eliot much-overdue. It will probably never be completed. What will keep most viewers turned off about this film is simply how unlikable this character is -- he's about the nastiest human being one could imagine. More than that, there's more than two hours of him to endure. But as reprehensible as his character is, he does crumbles under his own weight, and you don't even have to feel sorry for him. Starring: Alan Bates, Jessica Tandy, Richard O'Callaghan, Susan Engel, Michael Byrne, Georgina Hale, Simon Rouse, John Savident. Directed by: Harold Pinter. B+

The Butterfly Effect (2004) R drama

Nice premise but laced with a few too many over serious and ridiculous periods of melodrama, The Butterfly Effect is nevertheless an entertaining look at why you shouldn’t want to change your past. Ashton Kutcher is no Dustin Hoffman, but he’s solid in the lead. Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, William Lee Scott, Elden Henson, Melora Walters, Eric Stoltz, Logan Lerman, Nathaniel de Veaux. Directed by: Eric Bess and J. Mackaye Gruber. B-

The Butterfly Effect 2 (2006) R sci-fi

This sequel to the 2004 surprise hit movie has the exact same premise. This time, a corporate employee (Eric Lively) is in a tragic automobile accident, which kills his girlfriend (Erica Durance). After the accident, he discovers he has the ability to look at a picture of himself and transport back in time to that moment. It's an intriguing premise, which is why the original was such a hit, but a 6-year-old could have written a better script. This is an unbelievably stupid movie with so many logical errors (given the crazy premise) that you may find yourself wishing death upon the idiots who wrote the script. Besides, if you've seen the first one, you already know how it will end. Starring: Eric Lively, Erica Durace, J.R. Bourne. Directed by: Eric Bess and J. John R. Leonetti. F

Bye Bye Birdie (1963) NR musical

A lighthearted musical/comedy made enjoyable by a likable cast. A small city is either blessed or cursed by the arrival of Elvis-like teenage heart throb Conrad Birdie before heading to the army after being drafted. Teenager Ann-Margaret has been chosen exclusively to be kissed by Birdie on the Ed Sullivan Show, which makes her utterly happy, but produces jealousy in her boyfriend and detest from her father (because of Birdie's controversial pelvis jiggling). Meanwhile songwriter Dick Van Dyke tries to get his difficult mother's approval to wed his secretary, Janet Leigh. The songs aren't great, but it should please musical lovers. Starring: Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margret, Maureen Stapleton, Bobby Rydell, Jesse Pearson, Ed Sullivan, Paul Lynde, Mary LaRoche, Michael Evans. Directed by: George Sidney. B-

Bye Bye Love (1995) PG-13 drama

Vacuous but ultimately harmless romantic comedy about the intertwining lives of three fathers (Paul Riser, Matthew Modine, Randy Quaid) as they navigate divorce-hood. The good: The cast is about as solid as Hollywood could've rounded up in the mid-'90s for a film like this. The bad: As engaging as the cast is, they don't work magic and can do nothing to elevate the incredibly dopey script. Ultimately, this film is only good for, maybe, a couple laughs. And I feel like I was being generous with those laughs. Stick with the movie till the end, and all you get is exactly the maudlin, ham-fisted conclusion that you probably saw coming anyway. Another thing: About a third of this film takes place in a very well-staged, well-lit, crowded McDonald's restaurant. Apparently McDonald's is the restaurant where divorced dads like to hang out and talk about their problems (and not just to listen to rock music, like Wesley Willis once told us). The product placement is so prevalent that it's ludicrous. But then again, that might actually be a good reason for modern audience to watch the film, this being old product placement. Does anyone remember how McDonald's restaurants used to look so . . . happy? This film remembers. Starring: Matthew Modine, Randy Quaid, Paul Reiser, Janeane Garofalo, Rob Reiner, Lindsay Crouse, Danny Masterson, Maria Pitillo, Wendell Pierce, Ross Malinger, Johnny Whitworth, Mae Whitman, Dean Williams. Directed by: Sam Weisman. C-

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