Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

The Amazing Pudding

Sunday, January 1 1995

Tre Fratelli (Three Brothers) (1981/2001)

Tre Fratelli serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of cherishing every moment we have on this earth.


This Is Spinal Tap (1984/2000)

Sixteen years ago, a young filmmaker named Marti DiBergi set out to capture, in his words, 'the sights, the sounds, and the smells' of a workhorse British rock band named Spinal Tap.


Toy Story 2 (1999)

Near the end of the film The Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reeves) begins to understand his own power. When he realizes that everything he is seeing is a computer program, the payoff shot for this knowledge shows the screen filled with the 1s and 0s which make up the objects and people previously seen. The shot is stunning, and lays bare not only the program within the film's narrative universe, but also the computer work necessary to create the effects in The Matrix.


Scream 3 (2000)

The Scream series has always been about movies. But unlike most movies, the Scream movies have always been smarter than commentaries about it, and in particular, smarter than the commentaries about its commentaries on movies.


Surf School (2006)

It's as though Silverman asked a group of 13-year-olds to describe a 'hippie' and then created the aging flower children based on their answers.


The Score (2001)

...it's boy-movie-making 101, a very traditional plot point indeed.


Sunshine (1999)


Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979/2001)

Ambitious, strange, and grand. Nice to have you back, Captain (or rather, Admiral) Kirk.


The Stunt Man (1980/2001)

No matter how many times one watches ['The Stunt Man', it maintains] a kind of kamikaze bravado.


Swordfish (2001)

What is most distressing about 'Swordfish' is John Travolta. More and more, Travolta is becoming a caricature of himself as action anti/hero.


Stuart Little (1999)


Shanghai Noon (2000)


Songcatcher (2001)

PULL.


Saving Grace (2000)


Sleepy Hollow (1999)

When the Burgomaster (played by still great Horror film legend Christopher Lee) sends Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) to Sleepy Hollow, you may suspect that Ichabod is being sent to the land of Hammer Horror, or perhaps the woods of Horror Movies Past.


Summer Catch (2001)

As I was watching the aseptically insipid 'Summer Catch', I confess, my mind wandered. And I got to thinking, has Freddie Prinze, Jr. ever made an unarguably good movie?"


The Story of Us (1999)

Here's a terrifying thought: each of the major turning points in your life is reducible to the hairstyle you're wearing at the time. Your graduation, your first job, your marriage, your dead goldfish, your vacation in Italy: all of it is mucked up when filtered through those misty-water-colored memory glasses. If it sounds awful in theory, it's even worse to see it acted out, on a wide screen with lots of close-ups of teary, badly-coifed movie stars backed by a treacly Eric Clapton guitar score.


Spy Kids (2001)

'Spy Kids' is all fun, sometimes obnoxious, and incessantly cheerful -- having your parents kidnapped is a minor inconvenience, leading to the chance to ride in a submarine that looks like a blowfish. How neat is that!"


Shadow Magic (2001)

To this end, Raymond brings/represents advances not only in technology, but also in romance. He and Liu start making money and inadvertently siphoning off Lord Tan's audience, but this is potential disaster Liu frets because he's actually trying to become financially worthy of marriage to Ling.


Snow Falling on Cedars (1999)


Spy Kids (2001)

In the Disney universe, it's normal to be special, and that's exactly the case with the Cortez family, kids and parents alike.


Sweet November (2001)

It's clear in that Hollywood way that Sara's charms are primarily based on the fact that she is glamour girl Charlize Theron in thrift-store drag... stunningly beautiful meets endearingly peculiar.


Scary Movie 2 (2001)

Truth be told, it's hard to call out 'Scary Movie 2' for being excessively disgusting and stupid, since that's precisely how the sequel to the most profitable R-rated movie in history is selling itself.


Someone Like You (2001)

Instead, 'Someone Like You' follows formula, which means that Jane will realize her folly and realize that Eddie is really the guy for her (this is telegraphed when the pretty couple shares their feelings and eats Chinese food while seated on the kitchen counter and dressed in their fashionable underwear).


Serendipity (2001)

'Serendipity' offers absolutely no surprises -- and therefore, no unpleasant ones.


The Son’s Room (2001)

The rest of 'The Son's Room' concerns the survivors' efforts to live with their guilt, rage, sorrow, and, perhaps especially, with each other.


Shiri (1999)

Conveys a recognizable, even sympathetic face upon the communist North, and speaks to the various divisions that have long troubled Korea.


Summer of Sam (1999)

It was a hot time in the city. The days sweltered and the nights vibrated with the latest craze, disco. In the Bronx in 1977, the Yankees were headed for a pennant, a Con Ed blackout inspired looting, assaulting, and arresting, and the .44 killer was shooting young dark-haired women and their dates as they necked in their parked cars.


Shower (1999)


The Shipping News (2001)

Quoyle is yet another of Kevin Spacey's damaged souls, but a nice one.


Sexy Beast (2001)

Granted, psycho villains per se are not news. But that's sort of the point with Don -- perversely, he's hyper-aware of his ordinariness, his conformity to expectations of the people around him who submit and look away when he's in the room, like you're told to do when a mad dog approaches.


The Skulls (2000)

There is creative genius behind The Skulls. Someone, somehow, managed to pull together a pretty intriguing trailer for this thriller.


Scream 3 (2000)

The Scream series has always been about movies. But unlike most movies, the Scream movies have always been smarter than commentaries about it, and in particular, smarter than the commentaries about its commentaries on movies.


Storytelling (2001)

In 'Storytelling', when Vi exclaims that her story 'really happened,' her professor observes, 'Once you start writing, it all becomes fiction.'"


Say It Isn’t So (2001)

The most annoying aspects of 'Say It Isn't So' have to do with its uneven tone, part ironic, wise-cracking condescension and part clueless, mean-spirited condescension.


Shrek (2001)

hy would anyone want to play a talking donkey? We might suppose that doing voices for an animated movie is less stressful than acting in live-action pictures, that actors are well-compensated, or that doing a movie 'kids can see' is appealing to many movie stars.


Swordfish (2001)

Intrigue, deception, display, betrayal. All this is what it is, typical action flick sex-play, foreplay for the big explosion or something equally prosaic.


Shrek (2001)

No longer are epic adventures the province of fair maidens and proud knights. According to 'Shrek', everyone is deserving of fair treatment and true love. Even a dragon and a talking donkey.


The St. Francisville Experiment (2000)

'The St. Francisville Experiment' is 'Blair Witch' meets 'The Haunting' (the terrible 1999 remake) meets 'Survivor' meets bad porno.


Startup.com (2001)

The office is burglarized and specific hard drives are missing -- sabotage or coincidence? Is it possible to be paranoid in a business where the stakes are so high and the egos so large?"


Space Cowboys (2000)


Show Me Love (1999)


Someone Like You (2001)

'Someone Like You''s press kit describes Eddie and Jane as a 'Hepburn and Tracy of the modern era', but its undercurrent of painful loss and compulsive grief avoidance is precisely missing from movies like 'Desk Set' and 'Adam's Rib'.


Solomon & Gaenor (1999)

As much as it's being touted as a Welsh Romeo and Juliet, Solomon & Gaenor never quite reaches the level of urgency.


Ride with the Devil (1999)

Ride with the Devil is essentially two films in one. The first is a story of loyalty - to family, community, and nation - tested in the social and political upheavals of civil war. The second is a story of male bonding and love in a homosocial order, the negotiation of male-male desire, and male domestication, all triangulated and enabled through the body of a woman.


Riding in Cars With Boys (2001)

In 'Riding in Cars', Barrymore plays to her strengths -- her ability to seem at once disarmingly open, as well as poised, ironic, and above all, delighted to be living her life.


Romeo Must Die (2000)

A car drives through a bridge and dark city streets, passing the freeway sign 'East Bay Bridge, Oakland' on the way. A blasting hip-hop soundtrack accompanies opening film credits in overlapping English and Chinese characters.


Romeo Must Die (2000)

Andrzej Bartkowiak's current film Romeo Must Die, which features the incredible martial arts skills of Jet Li, left me a little depressed.


Ran (1985/2000)

Kurosawa achieves an almost perfect fusion of storyteller and painter.


Return to Me (2000)

The narrative heart of Return to Me beats in rhythm with the tension between surface (what's on the outside) and depth (it's what's inside that counts).


Rush Hour 2 (2001)

Like most sequels, 'Rush Hour 2' does what the first film did, only louder and more extravagantly.


Romance (1999)

It might be expected that the new film by French feminist director Catherine (36 Fillette) Breillat, Romance, is generating more discussion about its shots of pricks and nipples than its narrative or themes or performances. This is a little ironic, because the movie really isn't about erotic arousal or exploitation. In fact, it is, as its title suggests, about romance. Or more precisely, it's about the expectations, disappointments, and power dynamics that shape and destroy romance.


Rat Race (2001)

A balls-out stupid summer comedy where no one cares about special effects or plots making sense or even about characters winning or losing is not a bad thing. It is, rather, a representative thing.


Ready to Rumble (2000)

Ready to Rumble is ostensibly a simple comedy of bumbling bumpkins - in this case lovers of professional wrestling - along the lines of Farrelly brothers' films like Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin.


The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

It is The Royal Tenenbaums's hyperbole that both makes the fantasy so lively and reveals the self-delusions at its foundation.


Recess: School’s Out (2001)

Perhaps Recess' most culturally savvy element is its skewering of the '60s, in a flashback showing how the ideals of the teachers (particularly Principal Prickly and Dr. Benedict) have fallen by the wayside as they were sucked into The System and traded their ideals for hard-nosed discipline.


The Road Home (2001)

It is Di's (Zang Ziyi) own absolute faith in herself, her determination to endure despite all political or social edicts, that grants 'The Road Home' unusual, and unusually moving, weight.


Rat Race (2001)

It's full of pratfalls, sight gags, and irreverence toward 'I Love Lucy', Nazis, body piercing, a very unlucky cow, and a dog. Fortunately, Zucker executes them all like a ringmaster.


Runaway Bride (1999)

I worry about Julia Roberts. I know I don't need to but still, I feel like I can't help it. It's not because she's a particularly convincing performer on or off screen, though she does look distressed or vulnerable much of the time. It's not because the promoters for her latest movie, Runaway Bride, have been running ads with the creepiest stalker song ever made, the Police's Every Breath You Take.


The Road to El Dorado (2000)

In 1519, Hernan Cortes sailed from Cuba, landed in Mexico and made his way to the Aztec capital.


Ride with the Devil (1999)

Ride With the Devil dares to bring yet another version. Directed by Ang Lee and written by Lee and his usual collaborator James Schamus (who adapted Daniel Woodrell's novel Woe to Live On, a novel inspired, says the author, by today's warfare in the Balkans), the film is rather surprising, and not only because it stars Jewel as a Southern widow. Telling stories that don't usually get told, Ride With the Devil focuses on some of the War's more disgraceful and outrageous aspects, both personal and public.


Rats (1999) - PopMatters Film Review )

In his book In Search of Melancholy Baby, Russian emigre novelist Vassily Aksyonov discusses his move to America and his various reactions to the country.


Reindeer Games (2000)

The spirit of world class schlock-horror promoter William Castle was in the theater recently, during a preview screening of Pitch Black, as flashlights were given to a number of audience members.


The Replacements (2000)

The Replacements' particular spin on the relationship between unions and management is simplistic and, more often than not, spurious.


Russian Doll (2001)

'Russian Doll' is above all an enjoyably quirky romantic comedy, and a pleasant way to spend a little vicarious time in a foreign milieu.


The Replacements (2000)

The Replacements' particular spin on the relationship between unions and management is simplistic and, more often than not, spurious.


Rules of Engagement (2000)

Two years ago, many critics praised Saving Private Ryan as a new kind of war film that brought the horrors of war home with an unprecedented, visceral intensity..


Rock Star (2001)

It's disappointing that 'Rock Star'... ends up with such a boring reassertion of straightness, not only with regard to sexual orientation, but also with regard to lifestyles and values more generally.


Romeo Must Die (2000)

Andrzej Bartkowiak's current film Romeo Must Die, which features the incredible martial arts skills of Jet Li, left me a little depressed.


Pollock (2000)

This is the tragedy and romanticized allure of Jackson Pollock, the man: he grew physically, he grew creatively, but he never grew up emotionally.


Pootie Tang (2001)

Pootie's got more than one joke, but only enough for this single layered, but thankfully brief, outing..


Proof of Life (2000)

Alice is quite visibly 'alone,' differentiated by her race and class from the folks who populate the streets, marketplaces, and televised protests against the oil company. And indeed, Alice's bond with Terry begins with the fact that he's Anglo, and she feels she can 'trust' him.


Pay It Forward (2000)

Such heavy-handed plot designing and telegraphing makes the film more tedious than rousing.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.