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List of "XYZ" Movies

X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes (1963) NR sci-fi

Doctor Xavier (Ray Milland) is on the cusp of breakthrough: X-Ray vision. The ability to see through solid material. The practical applications would be profound in the world of surgery. Doctors could provide instant diagnoses and take the guesswork out of surgery. However, initial trials with a monkey proved catastrophic for the monkey. What the monkey sees is beyond its comprehension, and it promptly dies. Xavier is nevertheless determined to forge ahead with the human trials, believing the human brain to be intricate enough to handle the excess stimuli. The test subject: himself, naturally. This film's practical special effects are remarkable such that we see layers and layers of an object fade as if peeling an onion as Xavier peers inside. While his principle aim is to test these powers on surgery patients, he does allow himself to indulge in a little puerile peeping at a dance . . . Not only is this a fun science fiction film, it's also a diverting adventure, as the story takes amusing turns to a circus and then to Las Vegas. Low-budget pulp through and through and yet it's remarkably effective because it treats its subject seriously. It's also filmed in crisp color, so it's pleasing to the eye. The dialog is also fantastic -- as Xavier experiences these unusual visions and interprets them, he does so with a scientific mindset and with a tinge of ruminative poetry. This might not be a film I find terribly profound, but I sure as heck enjoyed watching it. Starring: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt, Don Rickles. Directed by: Roger Corman. B+

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) PG drama

A superb political thriller. Mel Gibson stars as Guy Hamilton, an ambitious Australian journalist who thirsts for action and takes a foreign correspondent job in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1965. A hotbed for anti-Western sentiment, this was during the "30 September Movement," which an attempted coup that claimed the lives of six military generals. Guy starts out having difficulty getting out of his hotel -- a sanctuary of sorts for dignitaries, journalists, and expatriates. However, he befriends a half-European, half-Asian videographer Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt) -- an odd man with dwarfism who is nonetheless savvy and has lots of contacts. Billy also introduces Guy to an attractive British embassy official (Sigourney Weaver), and they start a tentative romance. However, Guy's attraction to danger tends to stifle it from advancing further. This film thrusts us right into the action, and the journey it takes us on is exhilarating and absorbing. This is the kind of movie that gives me goosebumps as I watch it. You can cut through the tension like butter. This is masterful storytelling -- no easy feat for a film about such an obscure (for most audiences) and complex political movement. Gibson turns in a fantastic lead performance -- not a typical action hero but rather a fully mortal journalist who's eager to get an exclusive scoop and make a name for himself. However, the casting decision that everyone talks about is Hamilton -- woman playing a man -- but she really makes the character so intensely interesting and deservedly nabbed an Academy Award for her performance. Great film -- a must-watch. Starring: Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Kerr, Michael Murphy, Linda Hunt, Noel Ferrier. Directed by: Peter Weir. A

Year of the Comet (1992) PG-13 adventure

Penelope Ann Miller stars as a wine lover who soon discovers the most incredible find of her life: A giant, 180-year-old bottle intended as a gift to Napoleon (who was disposed before it could be given to him). The bottle is potentially worth one million dollars, and she and some other dude, must guard it with care. Unfortunately, a band of bad guys are on their tail who has their own intentions for that bottle. The film is enjoyable, but the script is weak and so is the acting. Starring: Penelope Ann Miller, Tim Daly, Louis Jordan, Art Malik, Ian Richardson, Ian McNeice, Timothy Bentinck, Julia McCarthy, Jacques Mathou. Directed by: Peter Yates. C+

Yellow Submarine (1968) G animated

This psychedelic staple stars an animated Beatles who travel through Pepperland and save it from the Blue Meanies. More importantly than the plot is the weirdness throughout it (that's somewhat rambly) and the Beatles music. Even though this is generally over-the-top weird, it manages to be quite engaging. The script also features witty dialogue and political metaphors. The Beatles themselves might not have had much to do with this film (they don't even do their own voices), but this remains a celebration of the imagination. Voices of: Geoffrey Hughes, John Clive, Lance Percival, Dick Emery, Paul Angelis, Peter Batten. Directed by: George Dunning. A

You Can Count on Me (2000) R drama

This effective drama is about two siblings (Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo), orphaned as kids, who have taken extremely divergent paths in life. Linney stayed in town and worked a steady job as a banker. Ruffalo became a drifter and had a few run-ins with the law. Despite their differences, their kinship bonds them together. This is a friendly and moving piece that everyone should see sometime. (Ferris Bueller fans might become disillusioned with Matthew Broderick's character--a nebbish and hard-assed bank manager.) Starring: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Rory Culkin, Matthew Broderick, Jon Tenney, J. Smith-Cameron, Kenneth Lonergan. Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan. A-

You Canít Take it With You (1938) NR comedy/drama

James Stewart plays a young executive and son of a hugely successful industrialist who falls hopelessly in love with his middle-class secretary (Jean Arthur) in spite of their social differences. Even worse than their social differences are their family differences! As with every Capra film, the characters are endearing and the message is timeless. Itís a bit slow-going at first, but itís difficult not to love it in the end. Starring: Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Edward Arnold, Mischa Auer, Ann Miller, Spring Byington, Samuel S. Hinds, Donald Meek, H.B. Warner, Halliwell Hobbes, Dub Taylor. Directed by: Frank Capra. A

You Only Live Twice (1967) PG spy

Sean Connery stars as James Bond who's out to halt a plot to trigger war between The United States and the USSR by disguising a spaceship to look Soviet and kidnapping an American vessel with it. Lots of action makes up for the below-par script. Connery, however, is as good as ever. Starring: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Donald Pleasence, Tetsuro Tamba, Mie Hama, Tero Shimada, Karin Dor, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Lewis, Charles Gray, Tsai Chin. Directed by: Mel Stuart. B

Young Frankenstein (1974) PG comedy

This is a hilarious spoof of old horror movies from Mel Brooks. Dr. Frankenstein's grandchild (Gene Wilder) has lived to resent his grandfather's past deeds until he travels to Transylvania to his old mansion. There, he repeats his grandfather's experiment -- hopefully, nothing will go wrong this time. The acting by the cast is inspired. Marty Feldman is particularly notable as Igor (pronounced Eyegor) and Leachman is wonderfully frightening as Frau Blucher. This is an outrageously funny film, and probably the single Brooks film to get the most acclaim. Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Gene Hackman. Directed by: Mel Brooks. A-

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) PG-13 adventure

This is an utterly silly "miniaturized" version of Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective. Chris Columbus wrote the script, but he apparently can't tell a good mystery apart from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Sure, some of the action is pretty exciting and the sets are superb, but at the end, it falls short. Starring: Nicolas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins, Susan Fleetwood, Freddie Jones, Nigel Stock, Roger Ashton-Griffiths. Directed by: Barry Levinson. C

Yours, Mine, and Ours (1968) G comedy

This entirely good natured family film stars Henry Fonda as a widower Naval officer with 10 children who falls in love with a widower nurse (Lucille Ball) who has 8 children. Separately, both families are a handful. Together, they're nuts. There are enough funny jokes in the script (many of which suprisingly don't seem that dated) that keeps this film entertaining. However, the end was laying on the syrup way too thick. Starring: Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda, Van Johnson, Tom Bosley, Louise Troy, Jennifer Leak, Eric Shea, Ben Murphy, Nancy Roth, Suzanne Cupito, Tim Matheson. Directed by: Melville Shavelson. B

You've Got Mail (1998) PG romantic comedy

Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and director Nora Ephron reteam to hopefully repeat their success with Sleepless in Seattle. They hardly match it, but this is an entirely pleasant romantic comedy. This time, the two meet via the Internet. They become good virtual pals and decide to meet in real life. However, what they don't realize is that they know each other in real life, and they hate each other. This is a perfectly entertaining film, but it's a remake of a 1940 film called A Shop Around the Corner, which is vastly superior. Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Steve Zahn, Heather Burns, David Chappelle, Dabney Coleman, Deborah Rush, Hallee Hirsh. Directed by: Nora Ephron. B-

Zama (2017) R drama

The film opens as Zama, a Spanish government official in colonial Argentina, is caught spying on black women taking a nude mud bath. One chases him down, and he slaps her. Unquestionably embarrassed to have been caught, but he was also certain to uphold his class domination over the woman. Nominally, this film is about Zama's petitioning of the Spanish king to relocate him to the city of Lerma--by way of recommendation letters from the governor. What makes the film intriguing however is not really the story but rather the details put into the film. This seems about as authentic-looking as any film I've ever seen about colonial South America. People's clothes are slightly ratty, the powdered wigs slightly ill-fitting, everyone looks hot and weary. Not to mention it's beautifully filmed, such that practically every shot is a breathtaking work of art. I also appreciate observing the interactions between people of different classes and ethnicities. Neither sensationalized nor sugarcoated, I'd imagine this is probably how it really was. Starring: Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Lola Duenas, Matheus Nachtergaele, Juan Minujin. Directed by: Lucrecia Martel. B+

Zapped (1982) R comedy

Nerdy Scott Baio inadvertently creates an elixir that gives him telekinetic powers. He immediately puts his newfound powers to noble use, which frequently involves un-garbing his female classmates. A dumb but fun movie--a highlight being his mean and devoutly religious mother convinced he is possessed a la The Exorcist. The film culminates satisfactorily into a chaotic, Carrie-inspired ending with no blood but lots of skin. Don't mourn the brain cells lost watching this--we all have too many of them, anyway. Starring: Scott Baio, Willia Aames, Robert Mandan, Felice Schachter, Scatman Crothers, Roger Bowen, Mews Small. Directed by: Robert J. Rosenthal. C

Zardoz (1973) R sci-fi

There are a lot of nice ideas in this nightmarish sci-fi flick, but the execution from director John Boorman was clunky and misguided. The plot is complicated and its message is pretentious, which you can immediately gather from the opening sequence of the film featuring a monologue from a floating head. Sean Connery looks out of his element, starring as a loin-clothed clad people-exterminator living in a very bleak 23rd Century. He makes it inside a giant bubble where a clan of immortal beings live. It seemed like an oasis, but it soon becomes evident that it's a living hell. This is a daring film though awfully confusing. It is worth a peak for fans of non-space-related sci-fi, but this ultimately would have worked better as a novel. Starring: Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman, John Alderton, Sally Anne Newton, Niall Buggy, Jessica Swift, Barbre Dowling, Bosco Hogan, Christopher Casson, Reginald Jannan. Directed by: John Boorman. C+

Zathura (2005) PG sci-fi

It's basically the same thing as Jumanji except it takes place in outer space and Robin Williams isnít in it. When a young boy (Jonah Bobo) discovers an old game in their house, he begins to play it with his unwilling brother (Josh Hutcherson). However, they quickly learn that this isn't an ordinary board game. For a start, it somehow brought their house in outer space, and it's making other crazy things happen such as meteor showers and alien attacks. It's not nearly as fun as Jumanji and some of the plot points were peculiar, but it's still enjoyable and good for the kids. Starring: Jonah Bobo, Josh Hutcherson, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart, Tim Robbins, Frank Oz. Directed by: Jon Favreau. B-

A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) NR drama

Not for the faint of heart, faint of mind, faint of soul . . . or probably anyone else. That is, unless you're into bizarre, grotesque art films. Which I am, God help me. The wives of two zoologist brothers die in a car wreck. In their grief, they become obsessed with death and decay--they can often be found filming time-delayed videos of animals decomposing in their laboratory. They also become romantically enamored with the woman who was driving the car that killed their wives. Yes, both of them simultaneously. Due to the crash, she had to have a leg amputated. She wants to amputate the other apparently for the sake of symmetry. This is an unforgettable experience, to say the least. I've never seen grief and death dealt with this way on screen. And, in its own weird way, it couldn't be more blunt and honest about it. Starring: Andrea Ferreol, Brian Deacon, Eric Deacon, Frances Barber, Joss Ackland, Jim Davidson, Agnes Brulet, Guusje Van Tilborgh, Gerard Thoolen, Ken Campbell, Wolf Kahler, Geoffrey Palmer. Directed by: Peter Greenway. B+

Zombie High (1987) R horror

This movie is dead dull when it should have been funny and campy. It isn't even about zombies. Instead, it's more of a lazy Stepford Wives retread. Virginia Madsen stars as one of the inaugural female students at a formally all-boys prep school that has something odd going on with its students and faculty . . . Starring: Virginia Madsen, Paul Feig, Sherilyn Fenn, Clare Carey, Scott Coffey, Richard Cox, Kay E. Kuter. Directed by: Ron Link. D

Zoolander (2001) PG-13 comedy

Ben Stiller directs and stars in this funny film as a "ridiculously good looking" supermodel who doesn't have too many brain cells. For some reason, a fashion guru (Will Ferrell) kidnaps Stiller so that he can brainwash him via The Manchurian Candidate to assassinate the president of Malaysia. The plot is thin and the jokes are hit-and-miss, but the one-joke premise manages to keep its momentum. Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Milla Jovovich, Jerry Stiller, David Duchovny, Jon Voight, Judah Friedlander, Nathan Lee Graham, Alexander Manning, Asio Highsmith, Alexander Skarsgard, Donald Trump, Christian Slater, Tom Ford, Cuba Gooding Jr., Steve Kmetko, Natalie Portman, Fabio, Lenny Kravitz, Gwen Stefani, Keidi Klum, DJ Mark Ronson, Paris Hilton, David Bowie. Directed by: Ben Stiller. B+

Zootopia (2016) PG animated

A wholly entertaining film with a message for kids about the perils of stereotyping. Except instead of people, it's animals. Judy Hopps is a bunny who wanted her whole life to be a police officer. Only, rabbits as police officers is unheard of in this anthropomorphic universe where animals have learned to live together in peace--most especially predators who no longer hunt prey. Usually the police officer profession is reserved for larger, tougher animals than the humble rabbit. Nonetheless, she prevails, graduates the police academy and becomes an officer--albeit relegated to parking duty. But soon Judy becomes aware of a case of a missing otter that could be linked to a string of traditional predators mysteriously going feral. She enlists the reluctant help of a fox (a species that rabbits tend to be suspicious of) named Nick to investigate. While the messaging in the metaphor isn't perfect--after all, every human is the same species--it's nonetheless well received and should resonate well with kids and adults alike. Voices of: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk. Directed by: Byron Howard and Rich Moore. A-

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