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. Beyond Borders 2003 You'll probably laugh your way through this immediate guilty pleasure, but you'll also get hooked by it. full review
  6. Brother Bear 2003 There's a nagging sameness here that dwarfs the film's noble intentions and rather striking cinematics. full review
  7. Camp 2003 Like that summer holiday -- that vacation -- that you hope will never end. full review
  8. 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
  9. Dirty Pretty Things 2003 These are characters that draw you in and make you care, making it impossible to pull away. full review
  10. Gigli 2003 This is not a great movie, but it isn't a bad one, either. full review
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. Love Actually 2003 Call me Scrooge, but I sincerely hope that this film does not become a Christmas perennial. full review
  15. The Missing 2003 [A] fine film. full review
  16. 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
  17. Party Monster 2003 It's a cinematic party, one long, strung-out bash that starts out as a novelty and turns into something resembling forced fun before morphing into a bummer. full review
  18. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 2003 Just imagine spending two hours-plus on a Pirates of the Caribbean ride and you'll get some idea of the approximate sensations that this movie creates. full review
  19. 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
  20. Saved! 2003 Saved! is one of those frustrating little movies that I wanted to like more than I actually did. full review
  21. Something's Gotta Give 2003 While there's a lot to be said for a serious deep-think piece, and a raw, independent film can be invigorating, nothing quite matches a slick, gleaming Hollywood production when it's done right -- and when it's smart. And this one twinkles with smarts. full review
  22. Stander 2003 A crackling good yarn. full review
  23. 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
  24. Swimming Pool 2003 Rampling and Sagnier play women for whom danger means different, opposing things, women who become unlikely allies in a tidy little mystery. Inspector Durvell -- and Alfred Hitchcock -- would approve. full review
  25. Tears of the Sun 2003 The film may have been inspired by The Seachers, but it's worlds away from John Wayne. full review
  26. Timeline 2003 A goofy, curious entertainment -- something of a guilty pleasure, a film that invites you to jeer and laugh in equal measure. full review
  27. Touching the Void 2003 Touching the Void is one of those rare movies that prove that fact is indeed stranger than fiction. full review
  28. Uptown Girls 2003 It's excruciating, a film of forced humor and fake, grating sentimentality, featuring two lead performances that elicit neither affection nor empathy. full review
  29. Assassination Tango 2002 Its many tiny character details make up for the ludicrous story it's telling. full review
  30. 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
  31. 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
  32. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys 2002 Works as pretty contagious fun. full review
  33. Equilibrium 2002 A dull, somnambulant exercise in pretension whose pervasive quiet is broken by frequent outbursts of violence and noise. full review
  34. A Guy Thing 2002 A Guy Thing is only a slight improvement over Down to You but is actually more of a disappointment, considering that in the ensuing years, its young stars have moved on to better things. full review
  35. 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
  36. The Importance of Being Earnest 2002 The film, despite the gratuitous cinematic distractions impressed upon it, is still good fun. full review
  37. Lost in La Mancha 2002 Plays like a doomed love story, a film about a love ultimately unfulfilled. full review
  38. 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
  39. Men in Black II 2002 MIB II is a movie that makes it possible for the viewer to doze off for a few minutes or make several runs to the concession stand and/or restroom and not feel as if he or she has missed anything. That's because relatively nothing happens. full review
  40. Narc 2002 A truly great B movie. full review
  41. Panic Room 2002 The star of this movie is Fincher, who has filmed it in a grand style that manages to avoid showy excesses. full review
  42. The Pianist 2002 This material means something to Polanski and, because of this, he brings personal details that might have evaded another filmmaker. full review
  43. 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
  44. Russian Ark 2002 Anyone who professes to love movies should see Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark. full review
  45. Spider-Man 2002 A model of what films like this should be like. full review
  46. 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
  47. 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
  48. Treasure Planet 2002 A perfectly competent and often imaginative film that lacks what little Lilo & Stitch had in spades -- charisma. full review
  49. The United States of Leland 2002 The entire film is like that -- moments of good actors giving halfhearted performances. full review
  50. 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
  51. 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
  52. Along Came a Spider 2001 Freeman makes everyone look good. full review
  53. Amelie 2001 Anyone who loves movies will have no defense against the seductions of Amelie -- either the film or the young woman. full review
  54. America's Sweethearts 2001 A film that manages the frustrating feat of being pleasant and misguided at the same time. full review
  55. The Animal 2001 full review
  56. Atlantis - The Lost Empire 2001 You've seen this film before, only not in animated form -- and not done so exquisitely. full review
  57. The Deep End 2001 Takes the quiet, nonviolent approach to conjuring up thrills. full review
  58. 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
  59. Get Over It 2001 Will make you feel like you're on spring break, whether you're in still school or not. full review
  60. The Glass House 2001 full review
  61. Hannibal 2001 The Hamlet of Freddy Krueger movies. full review
  62. Heartbreakers 2001 All I can say is that I enjoyed it -- and that I'm ashamed to admit it. full review
  63. Lost and Delirious 2001 This movie goes so far in the opposite direction of most films about teenagers that it might anger some viewers with its no-holds-barred honesty. full review
  64. Monkeybone 2001 Help me! I can feel my brain rotting. full review
  65. The Mothman Prophecies 2001 The Mothman Prophecies, which is mostly a bore, seems to exist only for its climactic setpiece. full review
  66. 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
  67. Novocaine 2001 Isn't nearly as delicious as it should be, thanks largely to only competent filmmaking by Atkins. full review
  68. Pootie Tang 2001 full review
  69. Riding in Cars with Boys 2001 There's the core of a good, tough movie lost under Marshall's self-indulgence. full review
  70. 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
  71. The Score 2001 Has a feeble plot that gets in the way. full review
  72. The Shipping News 2001 It's a good, solid film with soulful performances, but it isn't great. full review
  73. 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
  74. Tomcats 2001 full review
  75. Vanilla Sky 2001 Terminally silly and pretentious. full review
  76. The Wash 2001 full review
  77. Gossip 2000 full review
  78. 28 Days 2000 full review
  79. The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle 2000 Looms as the Howard the Duck for the new millennium. full review
  80. All the Pretty Horses 2000 Thornton and Tally aim for such fidelity to the material that they end up botching it. full review
  81. American Psycho 2000 A savagely funny feminist take on just how dangerous stupid men can be. full review
  82. 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
  83. Center Stage 2000 Both too high-minded and too low-minded. full review
  84. Diamond Men 2000 ... yet another variation of the mentor-protege movie -- and one of the best. full review
  85. 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
  86. The Golden Bowl 2000 An elegant soap. full review
  87. 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
  88. Happy Accidents 2000 Its rampant oddness is certain to polarize audiences. full review
  89. Malena 2000 Like so many movies these days, Malena is a jumble of ideas from earlier films. full review
  90. The Man Who Cried 2000 So campy and overripe that it verges on parody. full review
  91. Memento 2000 Nolan is a breath of fresh air as a filmmaker. full review
  92. 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
  93. Reindeer Games (Deception) 2000 full review
  94. Scream 3 2000 Breathlessly inventive and hip. full review
  95. Shaft 2000 full review
  96. 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
  97. The Tigger Movie 2000 full review
  98. Traffic 2000 Traffic is the kind of movie that will probably age rather quickly, but right now, in the first month of the new year and the second year of the new millennium, it resonates in the present tense. full review
  99. Vertical Limit 2000 Vertical Limit has no plot -- or, rather, just a semblance of a plot. full review
  100. With A Friend Like Harry 2000 It's nothing new, terribly recognizable, but, familiarity notwithstanding, it gets the job done. full review
  101. Brokedown Palace 1999 full review
  102. But I'm A Cheerleader 1999 full review
  103. Double Jeopardy 1999 full review
  104. The General's Daughter 1999 full review
  105. Girl, Interrupted 1999 Girl, Interrupted is Mangold's singular take on the home-front movie: The way he sees it, some women also served time. full review
  106. The Haunting 1999 All logic is deadened by the obnoxious special effects! full review
  107. In Dreams 1999 full review
  108. In Too Deep 1999 In Too Deep isn't special, but it's well done and coherent. full review
  109. Kadosh 1999 full review
  110. 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
  111. Mansfield Park 1999 full review
  112. My Life so Far 1999 full review
  113. The Ninth Gate 1999 full review
  114. Runaway Bride 1999 Immensely likable! full review
  115. Stuart Little 1999 Stuart Little betrays a beloved book. full review
  116. The Talented Mr. Ripley 1999 Anthony Minghella's terrific The Talented Mr. Ripleyoffers us the guilty seasonal pleasure of wallowing in evil in its most luxuriant form. full review
  117. Teaching Mrs. Tingle 1999 A good mix of the nostalgic and the brand-new! full review
  118. A Walk on the Moon 1999 full review
  119. The War Zone 1999 full review
  120. The Wood 1999 full review
  121. Another Day In Paradise 1998 Another Day in Paradise is one big pleasurable wallow in grunge noir as only Larry Clark could have concocted it. full review
  122. Caught Up 1998 full review
  123. Following 1998 full review
  124. God Said, Ha! 1998 full review
  125. Gods and Monsters 1998 full review
  126. Kurt & Courtney 1998 full review
  127. Little Voice 1998 full review
  128. Nightwatch 1998 full review
  129. Shakespeare in Love 1998 Paltrow and Fiennes make an irresistible team. full review
  130. Star Kid 1998 full review
  131. Velvet Goldmine 1998 full review
  132. Wide Awake 1998 full review
  133. The Apostle 1997 full review
  134. As Good As It Gets 1997 As artificial as it is, "As Good As It Gets" is a winning entertainment. full review
  135. Breakdown 1997 An example of what happens when a new filmmaker comes along with a fresh perspective and manages to squeeze some life back into a by-now formula plot. full review
  136. Chasing Amy 1997 In-your-face with an attitude that's as tactless as it is honest. full review
  137. Donnie Brasco 1997 Remains a bore for much of its running time. full review
  138. Fairy Tale - A True Story 1997 full review
  139. 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
  140. Jackie Brown 1997 A great actor's movie. full review
  141. A Life Less Ordinary 1997 full review
  142. Mimic 1997 full review
  143. Mouse Hunt (Mousehunt) 1997 full review
  144. The Peacemaker 1997 full review
  145. Private Parts 1997 The film is often as witty and articulate as its subject. full review
  146. She's So Lovely 1997 full review
  147. The Wings of the Dove 1997 full review
  148. Year of the Horse: Neil Young & Crazy Horse Live 1997 Much like the subject himself, Jarmusch's film is decidedly not smooth and mellow, but it has the kick of a mule. full review
  149. 101 Dalmatians 1996 full review
  150. Basquiat 1996 full review
  151. Big Night 1996 full review
  152. Citizen Ruth 1996 full review
  153. Escape from L.A. 1996 A hilariously unstable film and the latest apocalyptic vision to work on our nerves like a torturer extracting a confession -- or a dentist extracting a tooth. full review
  154. Fargo 1996 Funny without really trying to be, and it proves conclusively that fact is stranger than fiction. full review
  155. Flirting With Disaster 1996 full review
  156. The Ghost and the Darkness 1996 Rousing entertainment. full review
  157. The Pallbearer 1996 full review
  158. 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
  159. Walking and Talking 1996 full review
  160. Blue in the Face 1995 full review
  161. The Crossing Guard 1995 full review
  162. Cry, the Beloved Country 1995 full review
  163. Dead Man 1995 full review
  164. 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
  165. The Doom Generation 1995 In terms of filmmaking, point of view and oddball sense of humor, Araki's film is better than both [Kids and Natural Born Killers]. full review
  166. A Month by the Lake 1995 full review
  167. 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
  168. Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead 1995 full review
  169. Unzipped 1995 full review
  170. 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
  171. Country Life 1994 full review
  172. Dirty Dancing 1987 Turned out to be one of those films that had something for everyone. full review
  173. Grease 1978 Grease is a great 'fun movie'. full review
  174. 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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