Ruthe Stein, San Francisco Chronicle

  1. Elegy 2008 Spanish director Isabel Coixet displays what is almost reverence for the material. You can imagine her whispering on the set. She brings out the absolute best in her top-notch cast. full review
  2. Happy-Go-Lucky 2008 The key to enjoying the film, a minor effort by Leigh, is warming up to Poppy. Her bubbly personality may be too much for some. She's like a walking, talking smiley face. full review
  3. Never Back Down 2008 The fights are parceled out at intervals during the last half, all leading to a climactic battle. But it's hard to build suspense when you know it is coming and you know who will win. full review
  4. Cidade dos Homens (City of Men) 2007 A compelling and visually arresting drama from Brazil. full review
  5. Civic Duty 2007 The filmmakers aren't able to pull it off but deserve credit for their attempt to be thought-provoking. full review
  6. A Mighty Heart 2007 Much of A Mighty Heart plays like a documentary. It feels truthful instead of puffed up to be more commercial. full review
  7. Mr. Bean's Holiday 2007 An only intermittently funny sequel that finally livens up in the last third. But that part -- a hilarious putdown of the pretension at the Cannes Film Festival -- is worth sticking around for. full review
  8. Outsourced 2007 The problem with making a movie on topical subjects is that by the time of its release, it can seem awfully stale. full review
  9. Reign Over Me 2007 Reign Over Me isn't nearly as arresting as it should be given its powerful subject matter. full review
  10. Save Me 2007 Save Me doesn't poke fun at anyone's beliefs. It takes a more nuanced humanistic approach. full review
  11. Trumbo 2007 It's a pleasure to meet a truly moral man in a documentary that rightly heralds his name. full review
  12. Akeelah and the Bee 2006 It's the kind of movie parents will want their kids to see as opposed to much of what's playing at the multiplex. full review
  13. Charlotte's Web 2006 Charlotte's Web, a splendid new screen adaptation of White's 1952 children's book, gloriously brings the classic to life. If you've never read it, this is a perfect introduction. full review
  14. Colma: The Musical 2006 Deserves to be seen for its sheer originality and audacity. full review
  15. Harsh Times 2006 For a neophyte director, Ayer displays a lot of style. full review
  16. Maxed Out 2006 While the documentary does a credible job of pointing out the magnitude of the problem, it skirts the issue of what can be done about it and by whom. full review
  17. Sherrybaby 2006 Like its hyped-up heroine, Sherrybaby, based on a true story, explodes with manic energy that keeps you riveted through parts that might otherwise be difficult to watch. full review
  18. Unknown 2006 Unknown is far from unwatchable, just undistinguished. full review
  19. Venus 2006 The suggestion that Peter O'Toole is playing some version of his real self in Venus adds a bittersweet poignancy to this quietly affecting British drama. full review
  20. The Wind That Shakes the Barley 2006 The humanity that Loach and his compassionate screenwriter bring to their story prevents it from being another polemic about how the British screwed Ireland. full review
  21. Cowboy Del Amor 2005 Thompson is no McNamara, and Cowboy del Amor is no Fog of War. But there is something hypnotic about this self-styled romance expert expounding on the fog of love. full review
  22. My Summer of Love 2005 My Summer of Love had me at hello. full review
  23. Old Joy 2005 Slow moving but ultimately quite touching. full review
  24. Rent 2005 If nothing else, the movie reveals Jonathan Larson's musical to be an illuminating time capsule of a wild period immediately before and after the scourge of AIDS. full review
  25. After Innocence 2004 Deeply touching and overwhelmingly sad. full review
  26. Following Sean 2004 At its exhilarating best, Following Sean is reminiscent of the lauded British documentaries that began with 7 Up and continued to follow a cross-section of 7-year-olds into adulthood to see how they turned out. full review
  27. Me and You and Everyone We Know 2004 Totally original yet filled with familiar human frailties, Everyone leaps off the screen to become one of those rare movie-going experiences that linger in the part of the brain reserved for celluloid memories. full review
  28. The Battle of Shaker Heights 2003 The movie is bad in a boring way: tepidly paced, disjointed and lacking any emotional hook. full review
  29. People I Know 2003 The movie is weighted down with an excess of plot points that fail to coalesce. full review
  30. Stander 2003 Has you in its grip from the beginning. full review
  31. The Station Agent 2003 As touching and original a movie as you're likely to see this year. full review
  32. The United States of Leland 2002 Besides being puffed up with its importance, it's also inert and totally implausible -- one of those movies where nobody behaves in a way that seems remotely human. full review
  33. A Walk on the Moon 1999 full review
  34. The Parent Trap 1998 Richardson and Quaid, who is beginning to resemble Harrison Ford in his rumpled mode, have great chemistry. It's a shame it takes so long for the movie to bring them together to demonstrate it. full review
  35. Phantoms 1998 full review
  36. Shakespeare in Love 1998 The cast is near perfect. full review
  37. Picture Perfect 1997 Aniston comes across like an imitation of a movie star instead of the real thing. She gets less attractive as the film goes on. full review
  38. The Rainmaker 1997 Coppola adapted the novel himself, and he's done a good job of paring it down. full review
  39. A Smile Like Yours 1997 full review
  40. Smilla's Sense of Snow 1997 full review
  41. Love Serenade 1996 full review
  42. Unhook the Stars 1996 full review