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The Flick Chick

The Flick Chick:
Films whose titles begin with "S"

What is it about film? Even more than live theater, film has the ability to lift us away from ourselves, absorb us to the point that we forget we are in a darkened theater, sticky underfoot — while, self-forgetful, we are transported to another land, another planet, another life . . . . When the lights go on again there is a moment of dislocation as we wonder: Am I not he whose life I have just lived? (In my case, am I not she?)

Sometimes we may even learn something and apply it to our Real Lifes when they do indeed reappear.

Sahara

           This is a remarkably silly and improbable film, but we enjoyed it nevertheless. On the order of Indiana Jones, it was filled with hairbreadth escapes and astonishing escapades, although in some cases the writers evidently couldn't figure out how to get one of the characters out of the trouble he was in . . . so they just cut to some other character who was getting himself or herself into a different jam — when fortuitously the character we had last seen in trouble would miraculously appear to undertake a rescue. (Wish I could get out of trouble that easily!)
           There was a time long ago when all the bad guys were Germans. Later, they were mostly Russians. Then they became drug dealers and garden-variety terrorists. In Sahara, the perps are crazed African dictators and the cold-hearted heads of multinational corporations. (There is a virtuous African tribal leader, thrown in for balance, however.)
           Even so, and despite the fantasy elements, the flick was fun to watch and relatively harmless. Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz are both agreeable to look at, so . . . go, enjoy yourselves. We did. (5/05)

The Score

     It is always a delight to see a great professional at work, and Brando is one of the topmost, foremost, utmost professionals of our time — even in his present state of corpulence (Webster II: (n) - excessive fatness ). And it's a pleasure to see Robert De Niro looking fit and competent and vicariously doing stunts that would make a much younger man blanche. And Edward Norton is a pleasing young person, as is Angela Bassett doing a star turn as De Niro's luscious chick. And it was an enjoyably maze-like tale, and it featured plenty of dazzling gadgets and incomprehensible computer forays. There was even the now-required hysterical nut-cybermaven to supply a crucial bit of data.
      Yes, masses of good stuff, including the obligatory sting and countersting at the end. So sure, pal, see it. Absolutely great stars, swell puzzle, gadgets, computer wizardly, the necessary stings — who could ask for more?
      Well . . . I could. Despite all those lovely bells and all those shrill whistles, despite the exquisitely artistic photography, despite the intense enjoyment of watching Brando improve on Truman Capote and De Niro dally over a Harry Palmer-in-the-kitchen imitation . . . the ending had a certain up-in-the-air quality to it. It did not quite satisfy.
     Not wanting to tip over the whole pot of beans, here, but when you have seen it, ask yourself this: Would the ending have been quite the same had it been pitched to the Baby Boomers some 20 years ago? I don't refer to unformed taste, you understand, I mean when they themselves were not yet De Niro's age? Sad, friends, sad, but I think the years have taken their toll.
      Added Chicknote: You'll notice that I haven't even bothered to rail about rooting for the bad guy in this one. When will those HollyWoodenbrains give us some classy good guys to empathize with, hmmm?(8/01)

Serendipity

      I admit to loving movies. No — more than that — I love going to the movies. Not just to films, but to popcorn-greasy sticky floors, and climbing over people in the dark, and watching the teasers and nudging the person you're with and saying "Oh, I just have to SEE that!" and also, "Oh I just NEED to miss that one!" And does your theater have the here-we-go-on-the-roller-coaster intro? And did you know that if you stare fixedly at those blue tracks as they whizzzz past you, you can induce a sensation of vertigo on the second and third-from-the-last turns? At least I can. All of which is to say I am simply nuts about going to the movies!
      During the promos and the settling down silence, you begin hoping, really hoping, that this hour-and-a-half-plus will radically alter your mental weather and send you home filled and satisfied... so tonight I saw Serendipity. But alas! What an improbable premise! What a stale concept. And ugh! they meet cute. Aren't you really tired of cute meetings by now? And (yawn) this is too, too much like every romantic comedy you've ever seen, and — but wait! What's this? The dialogue is absolutely delightful. And John Cusack delivers it with perfect conviction. And he (and also by the way his never-to-be-forgotten best friend) are both utterly charming, and marvel of marvels, the stars and the dialogue doctors among them have spun the thin straw of this story into a confection of pure 24-karet gold!
      It was all I hoped. It made me happy. Made me remember how much I love going to the movies! (10/20)
     Addendum: It has been suggested to the Chick that she is "going soft" on chick-flicks! Worse, that she has always had a partiality for male actors over female ones! Now be the latter as it may, let us set the former matter straight at once: after consulting more than one gentleman viewer of this film, the consensus is that it is perfectly enjoyable for guys as well. I share with you the opinion of my neighbor, John. "I really liked it. It was a good movie!"
      There, you scoffers! Be silent!

Seven Years in Tibet

     Okay, you're right. The one is several years old, but although this review is based on the video, it was a first viewing. If you've not seen the film before — take heed and go for it, because it's far more than an opportunity to see Brad Pitt look stunning. It's an extremely interesting and well-structured story, and although some reviewers have pronounced it slow, but that's not the case. As with Meet Joe Black, it simply moves at its own pace, in this case, one that is appropriate to the great, desolate mountains of Tibet.
     The development of the central character was very much like that of a novel. It's unusual to see such an ambitious change carried through so effectively in film, and Pitt made a very good job of it. The relationships among the characters were fascinating: the restrained courtship of the two lovers, the conflict between the two men, and the growing friendship and affection between the child-lama and Pitt's character. But the film did not rest at this point, and it was exciting to see it climax — not with the tragic Chinese invasion, but how Pitt himself was eclipsed by the Lama's superior moral strength and higher calling. Impressive!

Shreck

     This is not an afterthought, I just didn't see it until it was on tape. Enjoyed it very much. Charming characters and a charming concept. Have to say I liked Monsters's Inc., better still, but that may have been because of the dif between a tape in the living room, and a full-screen film in a theater. Anyway, it was a first-rate film, and good fun for grown-ups, too! If you haven't seen it, rent and watch it with or without the kids. (2/02)

Shreck-2

       A sequel, but great anyway!
       If you see this film, I expect you will have seen Shreck-1 first. And liked it a lot. Good! Be prepared to like this one a lot, too. Your faves are still there: The Ogre himself, Donkey, Princess, Gingerbread Boy, Dragon, et al. There are also guest appearances by Fairy Godmother, Prince Charming, and a swashbuckling Pussinboots. Our hero and heroine Meet the Parents, quarrel, break one another's hearts, get Instant Makeovers, drink magic potions, play Beat the Clock, and engage in numerous feats of derring do while we fall off our chairs with laughter. (Wait — Laughing at broken hearts? Never! We do, indeed, feel real sympathy for the tribulations of our friends. Part of the film's charm is that, while the format is that of a cartoon, the characterization is warm and realistic.)
       Do see it. It deserves many gold stars! (5/04)

Sideways

          Much of SIDEWAYS was painful to watch. Our protagonist is a recently divorced wine snob, taking his sometime-TV-star airhead buddy on a last fling before marriage. Unfeelingly, they connect with two pretty girls, each parties in his own way, each trashes the budding relationship, each breaks a heart, and each finally patches up his life, according to his own tastes and needs.
           And yet, once ended, it is a satisfying film. And, to her shame, the Chick finds herself in some sympathy with these sullen, sensitive (and insensitive), self-centered, shallow, and rather silly guys. Which may go to show that she, herself, is somewhat shallow and silly as well. What can I say; we're all fallible. (12/04)

Signs

      Saw this at the picture show last night. Have you yet? It's got enough jump-factor to make you clutch hands — and you also get to feel good at the end.
      Mel Gibson is not as beautiful as in days of yore, and is still learning to act, but his repertoire of anxous/fierce/ nervous looks (he has only the three) worked pretty well here. Time was, of course, when his male gorgeousness was all that was required, but lately there has been time to notice that his in-love look is the same as his fierce look, and that while he is waiting for whatever-girl-is-in-the-current-film to love him back, he alternates his anxious and nervous looks to indicate his eagerness for her to get on with her affirmative decision. And of course the fierce look and the anxious look work in pretty much any action scene. This rather good thriller, however, gave him the opportunity to use all three looks at various times, and they fit nicely into the story line.
     There's lots of good stuff here: satisfying monsters, touching moments, some heartbreak, a good deal of suspense, and a smattering of uplift.
     Joaquin Phoenix was absolutely splendid! Now there's a young man who can act! The young kids were excellent. The cop and the aliens and the dogs were also excellent, and you'll come out exhausted when it's all over. Worth seeing even if you don't especially like scary movies . . . although it's helpful to like science fiction. (8/19/02)

Slumdog Millionaire

           I know it won all the awards, and that all those horrors actually take place on a daily basis, but it was too much for us. We left before it was over. Happy ending? Don't know. But how could there be a happy ending to so much pain, loss, and desolation! You have been warned. (3/09)

Small Time Crooks

     This is fair-to-good Woody Allen. But not vintage. He plays his usual nerdy-person/crook. Tracy Uhlmann is his vulgarian wife. I really admire her work and want her to get great roles, but this was an unappealing part. Hugh Grant, of course, did what he does well i.e. acts English & looks great. But (Whoa! Am I ever the amateur.) I never knew the dopey broad was Elaine May until I read somebody else's reviews. What a performance! What a performer!
      Overall, though, I miss the casual elegance of Mr. Allen's prime, as in Manhattan, for example, and Play it Again, Sam. (10/00)

Sin City

           Although featuring live actors, this is mere comic book violence — the stuff your mother would not have let you read, had she known. Although visually arresting, we saw nothing here to touch the mind or the heart. The gravelly voiceover is only ersatz Phillip Marlowe — but without the insight or the pathos of the original. (The VO for Bruce Willis regularly refers to him as "Old Man." Hard to envision action-hero Willis in that role.) And even the violence and gore were so over-the-wall that they hardly shocked . . . merely repelled. Makes one wonder who in the world is paying the bigbucks to make this movie a hit. Makes one uneasy to speculate about it. (4/05)

SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW (Video)

           Yes, this 1997 film is an oldie, but we were shopping for a nice thriller . . . and this is a good example. The film, set in Denmark, is handsome to see, Julia Ormand, as the title character, is also very good to look at, and Gabriel Byrne is the same. The Chick is handicapped by having read the book — which differs sharply from the film in many aspects — but this has an adequate plot, there's plenty of excitement, and the somewhat happier ending of the film made the Chick happy, too.
            Want a nice evening? Nothing you care for in the theaters? Or just don't want to dress and go out? Try this one. (7/10)

SMOKE SIGNALS *****

      Oh, this is a darling film! It's funny. It's witty. It's touching. It won a lot of awards. It's charming. Okay -- you HATE charming. If I take that back, will you see it?
      Well written dialog. Strong plot. The characters are unforgettable. Two Indian (Native-American Indian) teens get on a bus and a couple of farmers hustle them to the rear seats. One mutters, "John Wayne." (I love this part) The other says "John Wayne had steel teeth." Reply: "They were iron."
They set up a chant:
      John Wayne's Teeth, John Wayne's Teeth
      Are they false? Are they real?
      Are they iron? Are they Steel?
      John Wayne's Teeth, John Wayne's Teeth
      Well, maybe you have to experience it to get it. But you do have to experience it. It's better than you can guess. If you let this one go by . . . No. Don't.

Something's Gotta Give

       Okay, here's the skinny: Diane Keaton was fine, Keano is cute as ever (though his part was a Nothing), Frances McDormand is always super, and (ready for this) Jack Nicholson gave the first unconvincing performance of this life!
       This is a classic trash-the-guy story, a genre which, as you know, leaves the Chick massively cold. Tell me, what is the attraction of this new-style chick-flick?
        Long ago, in the twenties, say, the fad was: "Wicked-Older-Woman breaks young hero's heart and his innocent love reforms her." Think of Camille. And naturally the reverse English on that one — think of The Sheik.
        In the forties, the style was "Ruthless, mannish career woman competes with Mr. Niceguy hero and his manly love eventually softens her so we see that all she really wants in life is to wash his socks." (Think Rosalind Russell. Think Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.)
        In the fifties film lovers were watching "Too-pure-to-be-true poor-girl is not seduced by older worldly-wise Mr. Richguy so he falls in love and proposes." That one spanned everything from Gigi to Doris Day to Audrey Hepburn and from Bogart to Cary Grant to Peter O'Toole!
        Then in the sixties it was every person for him/herself.
       Greed came in during the eighties and nineties, boys loved Money first, last and always, and boy-girl films were pushed to the sidelines.
        And now . . . here we are at the Millennium, and — hoopla! — we're touched bottom: Trash-the-Guy flicks. Is this what they call progress? What gives here, socially, I ask you! Because this Chick feels . . . well, gee! She likes guys. What? You'd noticed? (12/03)

SOAPDISH (Video)

           When the picking are slim at the local flickers, seek out this oldie (1991) but hilarious goodie. Sally Field, with a comedic tour de force, and Kevin Kline who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance are stars in a soap opera . . . which is the McGuffin of this soap opera storyline. (BTW Kline should stick to comety. He's really good at that.)
           The starry cast includes a very young Robert Downey, Jr., a then-fhin and shapely Whoopie Goldberg, plus Teri Hatcher and a bit part by Carrie Fischer. The storyline is too ridiculous to recount, but — you'll find youself laughing at almost every scene. It's a great way to transform a dull, rainy night at home.(8/10)

Spanglish

          I loved it. Yes, I know it got soupy reviews, but even so . . . .
          Never thought you'd see me write that about an Adam Sandler film, did you? Yes, maybe it was moralistic. I liked that — there are already plenty of films, like Closer, that deal in cruel behavior and betrayal.
          Maybe the story-line was thin. I didn't think that either; I thought the incidents were like pearls strung on invisible fishing line — the sort of thing that passes for a really nice necklace nowadays.
          Maybe the characters were too good to be true. But I don't think so. There are plenty of people like that in the world, people who make hard, responsible choices, people who live up to their beliefs without preaching or making a fuss about it . . . even though they may not be especially popular with film producers. They are simply the kind of people you want in your life. Let's celebrate the good guys for a change, what-say?
           Honestly, I believe we live in a world that is better than we know, populated by people who are better, and wiser, and more responsible than we can guess. They may not all look like Tea Leone, but they're there. And their lives and their griefs and their choices made for fine films, too. Not one of the greatest films of all time. Not nearly. But go see Spanglish; Think about it. Maybe you'll agree with me. (1/05)

Spider-Man

     Of course we knew what was coming. Spider-Man's my nerd-hero — swooping through the city canyons, leaping the rooftops, delighting in his new-found roller coaster power. Although lacking quite the spidey expertise of some of my informants, I myself am charmed by the superstrong superman who speaks softly, who ducks instead of leading with a bone-crushing punch, and whose sense of social responsibility rises from thought and experience, instead of being "written in" by the author before the fact. He doesn't pretend to be mild mannered, he is mild mannered. Here at last is a thinking person's comic book protagonist.
     For those who attend such films solely to savor the computer pyrotechnics, there are both pros and cons. If some of the animé does not quite meet your expectations, there may be a reason. Although not a Hollywood Insider, I'd heard that this flick was due for release last December, and that by last summer's end, beaucoup bucks had already been laid out in promos (some of which I had seen). The most dazzling of the teasers was of Spidey and the Goblin playing tag around — oops! — The Twin Towers. But after 9/11 it was back to the drawing board for the hottest action scenes. Let's be realistic; this kind of film is staggeringly costly to create, and we want these guys to be able to pay their bills, and come back to make more films. I think what we have here is a darn good save.
     Sure, this is stock comic book fare we're talking about. But it was fun. And some of the characters are pulp-paper stereotypes (most of the villians and the entire newsroom, for example), nevertheless Toby McGuire is a fine actor who can do no wrong in my book. He gives a wonderully warm and appealing performance, and Cliff Robertson (yes, that's who it was!) in cameo, is a nuanced and in-depth uncle. Of course if the only cinema you enjoy is the noir, stay home. But if you ever get bored with that, come to the picture show with the rest of us and enjoy yourself. (5/12/02)

SpiderMan-2

           A cartoon movie. But more than a cartoon movie. As silly as much of the action is (Large-bodied scientist dons a metal waist-cinch with attached steel tentacles, & produces a fusion reactor which causes the tentacles to turn evil and take over his mind, causing him to want to carry off pretty girls and dominate the world by blowing it up), there is something appealing about a cartoon-based movie that also affirms social responsibility, honesty, generous-hearted true love, intellectual achievements, and the angst of self-doubt. Also I must admit to a confirmed affection for Tobey Maguire's ordinary-kid charm. Also, Spidey's innocent joie de vivre inspired by his own ability to swing from building to building just knocks me down! Really enjoyed it. (7/04)

Spy Game

     The goal: clickthrough on every link! And that's what SPY GAME provides: Redford and Pitt, excellent stars each doing an excellent job; plenty of suspense; and all the clever little gears and wheels turning with faultless ease. There are few things more irritating than stories of complex intrigue that end with some last-minute hauled-over-the-wall deus ex machina device, and few things more satisfying that the clear-in-retrospect climax of the well-made plot! Here, every little detail falls into place before the final credits roll. First-rate film! (12/01/01)

Starman ****

      This is a lovely flick, and Jeff Bridges' performance stays with you. Admittedly, this is simply E-T for grownups; he's the Alien whom you want to exist. The one you want to see again -- I mean really, in real life. He is such an innocent, such a good guy, such a victim, yet not spooky at all. He's just trying to get back home, doing the best he can . . . and that's really very, very good.
      Must admit, the Chick is a pitiful sucker for good men-from-space stories: The Man Who Fell To Earth,, The Day The Earth Stood Still, that StarTrek movie where the aliens landed at the end, and they were Vulcans! Loved them all.
      But Starman well, that was a standout.

Star Wars/Clones

     This may be one of the most splendid sights you'll ever enjoy on film — it's like all the most wonderful Galaxy Mag-covers rolled into a single visual set. Breathtaking cities literally rise through the clouds. The high-speed air traffic that whips through the urban canyons is reminscent of the chase scene in Fifth Element, but it takes place after dark, with our jedi heroes leaping from aircar to aircar. Aliens as long-legged and graceful as vicuñas stalk through the manicured halls of their city-in-the-sea. And the music, not intrusive, is excellent; the adventure scenes are full of sternum-vibrating subsonics that you'll miss if you wait for the video version.
       But alas, nobody took a single coffee break to work out a viable story-line, and the stunning-looking actors generally go through their aerobic exercises without directoral help. Ewan McGregor gives a sound performance despite inadequate dialogue and vanishing motivation, but Natalie Portman (although a constant credit to her hairdresser) never gets beyond melting sweetness, and Hayden Christensen's range is limited to bland good looks, occasionally tempered by waves of adolescent petulance.
      While carping, let me add that the clones don't actually attack. They counterattack. And the jedis casually expend the lives of gazillions of clones who march off to die fighting gazillions of robots. Robots don't bleed and die; clones, presumably do. Yoda should be ashamed.
       Nevertheless and however, the new Star Wars is a blast. Go for it! (5/25/02)

Star Wars/Revenge of the Sith

          If you wanted to see it, you've probably already seen it, so we're only comparing notes: that's understood.
          Of course, the film is exquisite to look at. Great, congested cities, immense vistas, green and blue planets hanging in the void — even the Wicked Lands are beautiful. And it brims with invention. There are BEMs so marvelous they boggle the mind. Musical subsonics that vibrate the sternum. All the familiar high-tech stuff and some new stuff to boot.
          But story-wise, it's one big morality play. Jedi beliefs are a lot like Buddhism, and Yoda and the Jedi knights preach self-control and selflessness, saying they have to separate themselves from human affection. And Anakin goes over to the Dark Side because he follows his feelings. But gee — if that's the case, you gotta feel sorry for the poor guy, because in his film universe, feelings are all he has to go on!
           The Force itself is all about feelings. And prophetic dreams. And unnamed powers (moral powers?). Time and again characters are urged to feel the Force, to feel whether something is right or wrong. But nobody ever asks: "Am I making a sensible decision, here?"
           Nope. We get love, grief, anxiety, determination, anger, fear, excitement, reckless courage, physical strength and agility . . . but nobody uses his or her head for anything except decoration! Mr Spock, where are you when we need you!
          Okay, so our hero's emotions betray him. He falls from grace, embraces evil, and meets a terrible punishment (several punishments, actually), while we, the audience, are left to meditate on the wages of sin.
           But what kind of ending is THAT! We already knew he would go bad, because this entire film was backstory, which pulled its teeth from the beginning. And when the final credits rolled, the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth. It was so pat — never mind, folks, the kids will pay the bills!
           But there you are: predestination was at work. No other ending was possible.
           And yet . . why not? I have a friend who imagined a different ending. And here it is:
           Suppose, just suppose, that at the last minute, Anakin had stopped, looked down the road he was traveling, and said, "No." Suppose he'd balked at the destiny that Lucas had already produced for him. What if he'd laughed at the Evil Emperor, rejoined the Good Guys and NOT left the mop-up to the twins. What if he'd used his heart and his head to change the future. Why not? You and I do it every day.
           Yes, we do. Every step we make, every decision, every action we take (or refuse to take) creates the future we're going to live in. And so, because we understand that, you and I stop and think. You and I resist temptation. We consider the result — the impact of our actions. We consciously choose our course and try to create a better life and a better world as we go along. So why couldn't Anakin Skywalker have done that — and changed his own future in that galaxy so far, far away? Wouldn't that have been great? For him to prove that it really is possible to change the world!
           It's not that hard. You and I manage to do it. All day. Every day.
           Makes me sad. Such a nice film. Such a sorry ending. (5/05)

OLDIE BUT GOODIE department -- STRICTLY BALLROOM

           This is an entirely charming Australian film that won the Golden Globe award for Best Picture in 1993. Never mind if you don't like ballroom dancing. Never mind if you don't ever agree with the Golden Globes. You'll like this one. I swear! The Sum of All Fears

     Maybe an impending nuclear holocaust is not the sum of all fears, but if it's not, that's a pretty good substitute. Ben Afflek makes a very effective young Jack Ryan — smart, a little brash, and massively well-informed. Morgan Freeman is his omniscient boss. (My guess: the writers have been watching West Wing, and have learned that brain-power is the foremost razzle-dazzle of all.) I expect you already know that the bad guys blow up Baltimore and that our hero saves the world, but the charm is in the details, the throwaway business, and the dialogue. (You also speak Chechen? Sure — don't you?) (Mr. President, don't over-react. Over-react — they not only blew up Baltimore, they tried to blow up me!)
     If you like this sort of thing, you'll like this a lot.
     One helpful note: my escort, who happens to be 16, commented, "You know, they do those kind of things in High School...people get together and make something up about another group and tell everybody it's true. And they cause a lot of trouble." Yeah. And some of those people never learn. (6/12/02)

Sunshine State

     Take a pack of greedy developers, add a town full of seedy landowners, mix in a family drama and spice up with a romance and an attempted suicide, stir into some singularly flat and sunny Florida landscape and . . . there you have it!
     By and large, this is well acted, but these are fairly stock ingredients, and the message (that we all lead lives of quiet desperation) is not new by a long shot. It's not bad, but it's not Altman, either. (9/8/02)

The Flick Chick Reviews New Films
More Film Reviews. Click the appropriate letter for films whose titles begin with . . .
A-B #  C-D #  E-F #  G-H #  I-J #  K-L #  M-N #  O-P #  Q-R #  S #  T-U #  V-W  #  X-Y-Z
A few choice foreign films (subtitles)


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