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Joe Baltake, Sacramento Bee

  1. 13 Going on 30 2004 Disarming fun as it trails a little girl who almost learns too late what's important in life and tries to correct mistakes that her older self made. full review
  2. The Passion of the Christ 2004 Working with premier cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, Gibson effectively hurls us into Christ's living nightmare, creating a mesmerizing twilight zone that is creepy and utterly unforgettable. full review
  3. White Chicks 2004 As affectionate as it is witty. full review
  4. Anger Management 2003 It's the perfect mating of two of the screen's best 'bad boys.' full review
  5. Brother Bear 2003 There's a nagging sameness here that dwarfs the film's noble intentions and rather striking cinematics. full review
  6. Camp 2003 Like that summer holiday -- that vacation -- that you hope will never end. full review
  7. Control Room 2003 Offers us a fierce yet often surprisingly friendly debate about the clashing ways in which the U.S. invasion and takeover of Iraq have been portrayed by American and Arab journalists, placing matters in context. full review
  8. Dirty Pretty Things 2003 These are characters that draw you in and make you care, making it impossible to pull away. full review
  9. Gigli 2003 This is not a great movie, but it isn't a bad one, either. full review
  10. Holes 2003 It earns our attention the old-fashioned way -- by telling a solid story without such modern distractions as computerized effects, rapid-fire editing or the usual gratuitous frills that signal a bankruptcy of ideas. full review
  11. Hollywood Homicide 2003 Hollywood Homicide is one of those smooth formula jobs that always seems to attract the services of an actor of a certain age looking to extend his box-office power, and a fresh-faced newcomer who's all too willing to play protege to the vet. full review
  12. The Italian Job 2003 It took me 30 years to forget the first Italian Job but only about 30 minutes for the new one to fade from memory. But it's fun while it lasts. full review
  13. The Missing 2003 [A] fine film. full review
  14. Mona Lisa Smile 2003 May not be the personably 'serious' movie it sees itself as -- and it may miss its mark by aiming too intently at its target -- but it still manages to work on other, more simplistic levels that are nevertheless valid. full review
  15. Radio 2003 It's bad enough that the film's unimaginative narrative can barely hold our attention, but we have the added distraction of seeing the estimable Harris, Winger and Woodard frittering away their talents playing banal, cardboard characters. full review
  16. Saved! 2003 Saved! is one of those frustrating little movies that I wanted to like more than I actually did. full review
  17. The Station Agent 2003 For 88 all-too-brief minutes, we get to hang out with very companionable people, eavesdrop on their small talk and come to know them intimately, perhaps more intimately than we can get to know our own family members. full review
  18. Tears of the Sun 2003 The film may have been inspired by The Seachers, but it's worlds away from John Wayne. full review
  19. Touching the Void 2003 Touching the Void is one of those rare movies that prove that fact is indeed stranger than fiction. full review
  20. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind 2002 [Clooney] and Kaufman have crafted a truly bizarro masterpiece -- the kind made for instant cult status and midnight runs. full review
  21. The Dancer Upstairs 2002 While The Dancer Upstairs may have nothing else to remind us of [Malkovich], it does have a certain mystique itself. full review
  22. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys 2002 Works as pretty contagious fun. full review
  23. Equilibrium 2002 A dull, somnambulant exercise in pretension whose pervasive quiet is broken by frequent outbursts of violence and noise. full review
  24. The Hours 2002 The film manages to be cinematic and transporting even though we generally spend most of our time listening to people talk to one another (and themselves). full review
  25. The Importance of Being Earnest 2002 The film, despite the gratuitous cinematic distractions impressed upon it, is still good fun. full review
  26. Lost in La Mancha 2002 Plays like a doomed love story, a film about a love ultimately unfulfilled. full review
  27. Maid in Manhattan 2002 In the affable Maid in Manhattan, Jennifer Lopez's most aggressive and most sincere attempt to take movies by storm, the diva shrewdly surrounds herself with a company of strictly A-list players. full review
  28. Narc 2002 A truly great B movie. full review
  29. Punch-Drunk Love 2002 In the end, Punch-Drunk Love is one of those films that I wanted to like much more than I actually did. Sometimes, that's enough. full review
  30. Russian Ark 2002 Anyone who professes to love movies should see Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark. full review
  31. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams 2002 With Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, however, Robert Rodriguez adorns his family-film plot with an elegance and maturity that even most contemporary adult movies are lacking. full review
  32. The Sum of All Fears 2002 The film -- based on one of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novels, published in 1991 -- is excellent, both intelligent and thoughtful in its approach to a touchy subject and not the least bit exploitative or opportunistic. full review
  33. Treasure Planet 2002 A perfectly competent and often imaginative film that lacks what little Lilo & Stitch had in spades -- charisma. full review
  34. The United States of Leland 2002 The entire film is like that -- moments of good actors giving halfhearted performances. full review
  35. XXX 2002 Diesel makes poor Pierce Brosnan, the current James Bond, seem not only middle-aged (which, of course, he is) but also fussy, effete and sadly out-of-date. full review
  36. Black Hawk Down 2001 Black Hawk Down sees its job as putting us in the center of combat, and it never lets up. It remains visceral and raw until the very end, impressively so. full review
  37. Along Came a Spider 2001 Freeman makes everyone look good. full review
  38. Amelie 2001 Anyone who loves movies will have no defense against the seductions of Amelie -- either the film or the young woman. full review
  39. America's Sweethearts 2001 A film that manages the frustrating feat of being pleasant and misguided at the same time. full review
  40. The Animal 2001 full review
  41. Atlantis - The Lost Empire 2001 You've seen this film before, only not in animated form -- and not done so exquisitely. full review
  42. Dogtown and Z-Boys 2001 About nowhere kids who appropriated turfs as they found them and become self-made celebrity athletes -- a low-down version of the American dream. full review
  43. Get Over It 2001 Will make you feel like you're on spring break, whether you're in still school or not. full review
  44. The Glass House 2001 full review
  45. Not Another Teen Movie 2001 There simply isn't anything to say about it -- good or bad. Maybe that's because it isn't a movie at all, just a string of scenes. full review
  46. Novocaine 2001 Isn't nearly as delicious as it should be, thanks largely to only competent filmmaking by Atkins. full review
  47. Pootie Tang 2001 full review
  48. Riding in Cars with Boys 2001 There's the core of a good, tough movie lost under Marshall's self-indulgence. full review
  49. Scary Movie 2 2001 This outing doesn't seem to understand that any attempt to parody a parody tends to negate any potential laughs. full review
  50. The Score 2001 Has a feeble plot that gets in the way. full review
  51. The Shipping News 2001 It's a good, solid film with soulful performances, but it isn't great. full review
  52. Lara Croft - Tomb Raider 2001 The miracle is that Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is no stunt. Somehow, they made a genuine movie out of it. full review
  53. Vanilla Sky 2001 Terminally silly and pretentious. full review
  54. The Wash 2001 full review
  55. Gossip 2000 full review
  56. All the Pretty Horses 2000 Thornton and Tally aim for such fidelity to the material that they end up botching it. full review
  57. Blow Dry 2000 Blow Dry, the British comedy opening today, has a cast to die for, but that's about all that it has. full review
  58. Diamond Men 2000 ... yet another variation of the mentor-protege movie -- and one of the best. full review
  59. The Gift 2000 It's like a play that's been 'opened up' for the screen, expanded and filmed on real locations but retaining all of the carefully worded stage dialogue. It never sounds 'real,' and I suppose that's the point. full review
  60. The Golden Bowl 2000 An elegant soap. full review
  61. Hamlet 2000 It may work only in fits -- as an experiment usually does -- but you also can't deny that this is a true, fresh adaptation. full review
  62. Malena 2000 Like so many movies these days, Malena is a jumble of ideas from earlier films. full review
  63. Our Song 2000 A humbling, poignant alternative to the movies about teenagers we usually see. This one isn't about a party. It's about life. full review
  64. Reindeer Games (Deception) 2000 full review
  65. Scream 3 2000 Breathlessly inventive and hip. full review
  66. Shaft 2000 full review
  67. The Taste of Others 2000 An alert, unusually observant comedy of manners that is often very funny and cynical about human foibles but also comes with a melancholy underlay that's pensive and tender. full review
  68. The Tigger Movie 2000 full review
  69. With A Friend Like Harry 2000 It's nothing new, terribly recognizable, but, familiarity notwithstanding, it gets the job done. full review
  70. Brokedown Palace 1999 full review
  71. In Too Deep 1999 In Too Deep isn't special, but it's well done and coherent. full review
  72. Kadosh 1999 full review
  73. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels 1999 The film had me alternating between a sugar high and drowsiness. One minute, I struggled to keep awake; the next, I was jumping in my seat. Neither extreme is particularly pleasurable. full review
  74. Mansfield Park 1999 full review
  75. My Life so Far 1999 full review
  76. Teaching Mrs. Tingle 1999 A good mix of the nostalgic and the brand-new! full review
  77. A Walk on the Moon 1999 full review
  78. The Wood 1999 full review
  79. Following 1998 full review
  80. Kurt & Courtney 1998 full review
  81. Little Voice 1998 full review
  82. Nightwatch 1998 full review
  83. Shakespeare in Love 1998 Paltrow and Fiennes make an irresistible team. full review
  84. Velvet Goldmine 1998 full review
  85. Wide Awake 1998 full review
  86. Chasing Amy 1997 In-your-face with an attitude that's as tactless as it is honest. full review
  87. The Ice Storm 1997 This is one of those films in which nothing seems to be 'happening,' but in retrospect, when it's over, everything seems to have happened. full review
  88. Jackie Brown 1997 A great actor's movie. full review
  89. A Life Less Ordinary 1997 full review
  90. Mimic 1997 full review
  91. Mouse Hunt (Mousehunt) 1997 full review
  92. The Peacemaker 1997 full review
  93. She's So Lovely 1997 full review
  94. The Wings of the Dove 1997 full review
  95. Basquiat 1996 full review
  96. Big Night 1996 full review
  97. Citizen Ruth 1996 full review
  98. Fargo 1996 Funny without really trying to be, and it proves conclusively that fact is stranger than fiction. full review
  99. Flirting With Disaster 1996 full review
  100. The Pallbearer 1996 full review
  101. Trainspotting 1996 You stop cringing and start smiling, laughing even, and these kids, who seem like aliens at first, grow on you. They're weirdly likable. full review
  102. Walking and Talking 1996 full review
  103. Blue in the Face 1995 full review
  104. The Crossing Guard 1995 full review
  105. Cry, the Beloved Country 1995 full review
  106. Dead Man 1995 full review
  107. Devil in a Blue Dress 1995 The fascinating bits of racial history that director Carl Franklin has folded into the vibrant milieu of a post-World War II Los Angeles pushes his Devil in a Blue Dress somewhat beyond the usual nostalgia/noir status. full review
  108. A Month by the Lake 1995 full review
  109. Strange Days 1995 It's a wildly messed-up, unwieldy, 145-minute movie designed specifically for those audiences who the filmmakers believe haven't been brutalized or quite desensitized enough. full review
  110. Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead 1995 full review
  111. Unzipped 1995 full review
  112. The Usual Suspects 1995 Nothing is what it seems in this layered, velvety movie (which was shot in handsome wide-screen format) -- the truth keeps shifting -- and nothing matters either. full review
  113. Country Life 1994 full review
  114. Grease 1978 Grease is a great 'fun movie'. full review
  115. All About Eve 1950 The presence of All About Eve, while a relief, is also a sad reminder of how in certain ways movies have regressed in the past 50 years. full review

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