Titles have links to the Rotten Tomatoes website, where you can read what other critics and moviegoers thought of each film. Ratings are from * (stinker) to **** (absolutely wonderful). Theatrical release date is in parentheses, followed by whether we saw the movie in theatre or as a home rental.
***½ Galaxy Quest (1999) – Rental
Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver. Actors in a Star Trek-like program are thought to be real by an alien race who seeks their help.
She says: We saw this when it was in theatres, then rented it again. It was just as funny the second time—plus we got to see the deleted scenes, which are also definitely worth your time.
He says: I was not happy about seeing a movie twice but you know what? It’s a really good movie!
***½ Garden State (July 2004) – Rental
Zach Braff, Natalie Portman. Young man returns to his home town after his mother’s death, reunites with old friends and makes new acquaitances, and deals with the troubled relationship with his father.
She says: Certainly quirky characters, but ones you don’t mind spending time with. Funny and touching.
He says: I liked it, but I think the ending was kind of a co-op. And I thought you said Claire Danes had a nude scene in this? [To which she says, “That was Shopgirl.”]
*** Get Him to the Greek (June 2010) – Theatre
Russell Brand, Jonah Hill. Record company employee strives to get drug-addict rock star Aldous Snow to a sold-out show at the Greek Theatre in LA.
She says: I found this totally enjoyable. I have a strange affinity for Russell Brand anyway, and I loved the Aldous Snow character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The movie has a lot of hilarious scenes, and some fairly coarse ones, but none that ever stop you from rooting for the two main characters.
He says: You know, I don’t like either of those two actors at all. But I still really liked this movie. That’s a bit disturbing.
***½ Ghost Town (October 2007) – Rental
Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni. After dying and being revived during surgery, a misanthrope finds that he can communicate with ghosts. And they annoy him.
She says: Funny and zippy, with good performances all around.
He says: I liked that—it was funny. That Gervais guy didn’t bug me in this one.
** Ghost World (July 2001) – Rental
Thora Birch, Steve Buscemi. Artistic oddball Enid tries to make sense of her life at the end of high school.
She says: Great characters and some excellent dialogue, but it doesn’t add up to as much as one would hope in terms of storyline. (**½)
He says: Did you like that? (*½)
**½ Ginger Snaps (October 2001) – Rental
Mimi Rogers. Girl meets werewolf. Girl becomes werewolf. Sister tries to help.
She says: This was more violent and explicit than I would have liked, but it was also smarter than a lot of horror movies (and certainly not dull).
He says: It wasn’t a bad movie.
***½ Gone Baby Gone (October 2007) – Rental
Casey Affleck, Morgan Freeman. Private detectives investigate a missing child case in working-class Boston. Things are not what they seem…
She says: Very well done. Engrossing throughout, great performances, twists of plot, moral dilemmas. And I also appreciated the lack of dwelling on the violence.
He says: That was good. A lot of plot. Really kept my interest.
*** Good Hair (October 2009) – Rental
Documentary. Inspired by his daughters, Chris Rock explores the world of black women’s hair.
She says: As a white girl, I had no idea what black women went through to achieve the look of shiny, full, straight(ish) hair. The expense! The time! The pain! It was really interesting. (Though if expecting big laughs because it’s Chris Rock, you’ll probably be disappointed.).
He says: They spend how much on hair weaves? That’s ridiculous. I’m going to bed.
***½ Good Night, and Good Luck (October 2005) – Theatre
David Strathairn, George Clooney. Television reporter Edward R. Murrow decides to confront powerful Senator Joe McCarthy on his communist witch hunt.
She says: Very compelling and rather chilling. Substitute “terrorist” for “communist” and you could almost be speaking about today’s situation. Also great acting and some lovely cinematography.
He says: I think I’m too sick to go out to a movie.
*** Gosford Park (December 2001) – Theatre
Kirstin Scott-Thomas, Ryan Phillipe, many others. A British murder mystery with a twist.
She says: So many characters and storylines, it’s never dull. And though it seems as though it will be the typical British murder mystery, in the end it’s not that at all. (***½)
He says: It was too much for me—too many characters, too many plot lines. I couldn’t keep track. (**½)
**½ Grey Owl (1998) – Rental
Pierce Brosnan, Annie Galipeau. The story of an Englishman who pretended to be a native in order to save the Canadian wilderness.
She says: He was an interesting man, but the movie is somewhat sentimental.
He says: They certainly turned that into a schmoopy story, didn’t they?
**½ A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – Theatre
The Beatles. A hard day’s night in the life of the early Beatles.
She says: Yes, the songs are great, the Beatles are charming, and it has its funny moments, but if you look beyond the nostalgia and exceeded expectations…
He says: Boy, that was a short movie. What do you mean I was snoring?
**½ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (November 2002) – Theatre
Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Harris. The continuing adventures of Harry Potter.
She says: It was entertaining enough, and I had (as usual) forgotten enough about the events in the book that there was some suspense, but somehow, I was just underwhelmed by the whole thing.
He says: It wasn’t that good. The book was so much more magical.
*** Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (November 2010) – Theatre
Daniel Radcliffe, Ruper Grint, Emma Watson. Harry, Ron, and Hermione set off on a quest for all the Horcruxes that Voldemort has hidden in a bid for immortality.
She says: Better than I expected it to be, given that it’s mostly about setting up the next movie, and has a plot that is basically summarized as “Harry, Ron, and Hermione wander around looking for stuff”. Fortunately, their wandering is broken up with some interesting battles and arguments and clues, many of which came as a surprise to me, even though I have read the book. (I have a wonderful ability to forget plot details.) Not a good movie to jump in on, but if you’ve been following the series along all this while, no point in stopping here.
He says: Well, that wasn’t too bad at all.
*** Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (July 2011) – Theatre
Daniel Radcliffe, Ruper Grint, Emma Watson. It’s the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort.
She says: I think this one was oversold to me. It certainly wasn’t bad. It looked great (this would be the 2D version); it had the fine cast of British actors, as always; and I definitely wasn’t bored by it. But the claim that it was so much better than any other in the series? I didn’t find that.
He says: It was just OK, right? It lacked suspense and narrative drive. I’ve liked some of the other ones better.
***½ Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (November 2005) – Theatre
Daniel Radcliffe. In this fourth movie of the series, Harry enters a wizard tournament and comes face to face with Voldemort.
She says: The best of the series so far, with a masterful compression of the long novel on which it’s based. The child actors have come a long away and now bring depth to the characters’ challenges.
He says: It wasn’t as good as I expected it to be.
*** Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (July 2009) – Theatre
Daniel Radcliffe, Ruper Grint, Emma Watson. Harry helps Dumbledore unveil the secrets of Voldemort while he, Herminone, and Ron negotiate the complexities of teenage romance.
She says: It’s a beautiful looking movie, the performances are generally strong, and it’s a fairly engaging story. But ultimately it suffers from “middle movie” syndrom, as its main role is to set up the finale.
He says: There was no real point within this one. It wasn’t the strongest of these movies.
***½ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (July 2007) – Theatre
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint. It’s Harry and Dumbledore against the establishment, who won’t accept that You-know-who is back.
She says: A highly entertaining movie that continues the pattern of the movies getting better as the actors mature. The “kids” really look like young adults now, and you have to cheer their fight against evil teacher Dolores Umbridge.
He says: I like the Harry Potter movies. I find them fun.
**½ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (November 2001) – Theatre
Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Harris. 11-year-old boy discovers he’s a wizard and attends Hogwarts School.
She says: The magical scenes were, well, magical. And the acting was great, including from the children. But—and maybe this is just because I didn’t need the exposition — it did seem a bit long.
He says: That was long. It was so long. But the kids were cute, especially the one playing Ron.
*** Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (June 2004) – Theatre
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint. Another year of adventure for the now 13-year-old Harry Potter.
She says: I enjoyed this one more than either of the previous two. The shorter length, darker tone, and occasional deviations from the book all made for a much more suspensful and interesting movie.
He says: My company won’t pay for me to go see a movie on a Tuesday afternoon.
*** Heat (1995) – Rental
Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro. Driven LAPD detective pursues a talented thief.
She says: I kept getting surprised that it didn’t follow the cops and robbers clichés. The characters were surprisingly complex, and you couldn’t help having mixed feelings about them. You could probably write a whole essay on the role of women in this one, but at least they weren’t just decoration.
He says: I thought it was a good movie, full of good bad guys and bad good guys…
**½ Hedwig and the Angry Inch (July 2001) – Rental
John Cameron Mitchell. The confusingly gendered Hedwig tells her life story through rock interludes.
She says: If you love rock’n’roll, and aren’t overly disturbed by persons of confusing gender, you’ll like this movie. The musical sequences are excellent. (***½)
He says: I don’t have a problem with persons of confusing gender (some were pretty cute), but I can’t say I really love rock’n’roll. (*½)
***½ The Help (August 2011) – Theatre
Viola Davis, Emma Stone. A white woman and a black housekeeper convince a group of other black housekeepers to contribute to an anonymous book about what their lives are like in 1962-ish Mississippi.
She says: I have no idea what this movie is like for someone who hasn’t just read (and enjoyed) the book. But I had, and I really enjoyed this adaptation. I thought they did a good job of capturing the essence of the novel, even with the simplifying and condensing necessary for a movie. And it was a great job of casting.
He says: They did a good job with that, didn’t they! [He also just finished reading the book.]
*** Helvetica (April 2008) – Theatre
A documentary exploring the world and typography through the prism of this particular typeface.
She says: A surprisingly interesting movie about the prevalence of this very popular, basic typeface.
He says: You’re going to see a movie about a font?
**** A History of Violence (September 2005) – Theatre
Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello. An apparently simple, smalltown diner owner turns out to have a very dark past, come back to haunt him.
She says: A taut, well-acted, well-directed movie that stays with you, raising questions.
He says: You should have warned me that was a David Cronenberg movie. But OK, it was well-done.
**½ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (April 2005) – Theatre
Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell. After the earth is destroyed to make way for an intergallactic highway, an Englishman hitchhikes his way through the universe.
She says: Nice-looking movie, and somewhat fun and quirky, but overall underwhelming.
He says: It was somewhat disappointing.
*** Hotel Rwanda (December 2004) – Theatre
Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo. Abandoned by most of the world, a hotel manager turns his posh hotel into a refuge during the horrific Rwandan massacre.
She says: This movie hurts your heart. While not showing a lot of the violence that was occurring, you can still sense it. And feel guilty about it. And be thankful that there are men like Paul Rusesabagina in the world.
He says: That was a terrible movie.
She feels the need to add: Terrible in the sense of depicting awful events, not in an aesthetic sense.
***½ The Hours (January 2003) – Rental
Three women, decades apart, are influenced by the novel Mrs. Dalloway: one writes the novel, another reads it, and the last one relives it.
She says: I had somehow expected each story to be told one after the other, but the way they were interspersed made the film much more interesting. Considering all the action takes place in day (albeit decades apart), the story has quite a narrative thrust—I really wanted to know how it ended. The extra features on the DVD were worthwhile as well.
He says: Zzzzzzz….
** The House of Mirth (December 2000) – Theatre
Gillian Anderson, Eric Stoltz. Woman in early 1900s whose life grows ever more precarious the longer she is without a husband.
She says: Slow-paced but intriguing portrayal of the weird social mores of that time, and their consequences.
He says: I hated that movie. I wanted to leave. Everyone was acting stupid and it drove me crazy.
*** How She Move (January 2008) – Rental
Rutina Wesley, Brennan Gademans. Her family’s funds depleted, a teenage girl must leave her private school and return to her old neighborhood and school. She latches on a to step dancing competition as her way out.
She says: A fairly formulaic plot but very well-executed, and some amazing dance sequences in a genre that I’d never heard of before (though it seems somewhat related to hip-hop and krump).
He says: That was good. It worked for me. Can’t believe Tré Armstrong made a name for herself in that, though; her part was pretty small.
**½ Howl (September 2010) – Theatre
James Franco, Jon Hamm, David Strathairn. Docudrama that looks at the creation of and controversy around Allen Ginsberg’s beat poem, Howl.
She says: The movie cuts between Ginsberg’s reading of the poem (either actual reading in a cafe, or enlivened with animation of the words), the obscenity trial it was at the center of, and Ginsberg being interviewed about Howl. Not for everyone, but as someone who had heard of Howl but had never heard Howl, I found it interesting.
He says: The canoeing guys asked me about the movie. I really didn’t know what to say.
*** The Hunger Games (March 2012) – Theatre
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson. Based on the novel. Young woman volunteers for a deadly game to save her sister. 24 tributes enter the arena; they are to fight until only one is left.
She says: Well-executed action movie. I was glad I’d read the novel, though, as I think the movie might have been a little confusing otherwise. And of course the book was better, but as the novel is all first-person perspective, it was nice to see parts of the story from other character’s perspectives in the movie. The violence is presented with some subtlety, rendering it less disturbing than it could have been.
He says: Boy, even if you had read the book, it was an engrossing movie, eh? Pretty violent, though.
*** The Hurt Locker (June 2009) – Rental
Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie. Follows the end of a tour of duty for a group of American bomb dismantlers in Iraq.
She says: It was powerful, tension-filled, and therefore gripping, though not altogether enjoyable, given the subject matter. We saw it in Blu-Ray, and the sound and cinematography were excellent.
He says: OK, I wasn’t bored. But it was kind of depressing, and I didn’t understand anyone’s motivations.
*** Hysteria (May 2012) – Theatre
Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Story about the doctor who helped invent the vibrator, as treatment for female “hysteria”.
She says: “This story is based on actual events. No, really.”
Such is the tagline of Hysteria, which tells the story of young, Victorian-era doctor, Mortimer (Hugh Dancy), who treats female “hysteria”—a very broadly defined condition—by giving patients very intimate massages, until they achieve “paroxysm”. This popular treatment leads to serious hand cramping until he and a tinkerer friend (Rupert Everett) almost inadvertently invent the vibrator.
These quite strange but true facts are woven into a sort of romantic comedy between the younger doctor and the activist daughter, Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), of the older doctor who employs him. Charlotte works with the poor and thinks her father’s work frivolous; she is not shy about expressing these opinions.
I found the movie mostly fun and entertaining, with very lively performances by the actors. But the glimpses of Charlotte’s work, and even early scenes of Mortimer toiling at public hospitals, gave this movie a sort of weight that didn’t entirely sit well. It was hard to completely enjoy the story of ridiculous, yet appreciated, hysteria treatment when there was so much misery on the edges of that story.
He says: Well, that was a funny movie. And the hardest part to believe was what was actually true!
**½ Igby Goes Down (September 2002) – Theatre
Kieran Culkin, Susan Sarandon. 17-year-old Igby on the lam from his school and his family.
She says: Damaged but fascinating characters populate this movie about a 17 year old refusing to follow the rules. That I felt enormous sympathy for this obnoxious, drug-dealing kid is a testament to the script, the direction, and Culkin’s acting. (***)
He says: I didn’t get it. I kept waiting for the movie to take off, and it didn’t. (**)
*** Il y a longtemps que je t’aime (I’ve loved you so long) (October 2008) – Theatre
Kirsten Scott-Thomas. Woman is released from prison to the care of her younger sister, and both tentatively grapple with the past. French with subtitles.
She says: Very interesting how the past story is gradually told, although the final reveal gives me slight pause from a logistical perspective.
He says: Without spoiling the whole thing, I think they could have made a stronger movie with a different ending. It was good up until then, but that part disappointed me.
**½ The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (December 2009) – Theatre
Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer. Bands from a magic travelling show save a man from hanging. And then it gets really odd.
She says: It’s a fantastic-looking movie, and the “three actors replacing Heath Ledger” that became necessary after the actor’s death works remarkably well. But neither the imaginary world nor the plotline is fully thought out.
He says: It was weird. And I didn’t think it was a great movie. But it was funny, and it did hold my interest, even though I was pretty sleepy.
***½ In Bruges (February 2008) – Rental
Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell. Two hitman are dispatched to the medieval town of Bruges after a job gone wrong.
She says: Very clever script with an original premise, characters that are somehow likeable despite their sometimes appalling behavior, and a really lovely town. And funny. Very worth seeing.
He says: Well, that was cheery.
**½ The Incredibles (November 2004) – Theatre
Animated. Family of superheroes has to live “undercover” until recruited by a mysterious organization.
She says: Very entertaining movie, but what a weird message. It’s evil to create technology that would allow everyone to be “super”? And what about that baby transformation at the end?
He says: It was OK, but really not original.
? Incendies (April 2011) – Theatre
Lubna Azabal, Rémy Girard. After their mother’s death, her children (twins) are told to locate the father and the brother they knew nothing about. It leads to a tragic voyage of discovery about their mother’s past. French with subtitles.
She says: Very well-crafted, completely compelling, but a dark story with a really disturbing twist.
He says: God, that was so depressing. I’m really disturbed now. Why would anyone want to see that?
She says: I think the fact that it’s affecting you so much shows that it’s a good movie.
He says: No. It was terrible.
She says: The story is terrible. (And I’m grateful that the worst of it wasn’t actually shown.) But I still think the movie was good. It was haunting.
**** An Inconvenient Truth (May 2006) – Theatre
Al Gore. Documentary that explains global warming in a clear, compelling way—and makes you want to do something.
She says: A movie that has stayed with me the way few do. Gore makes the case that global warming is happening, that it is connected to human activity, and that we are running out of time to deal with it. I’m undecided on how wise it was to insert items about Gore’s personal life into the global warming story—does that humanize the story, make it even more compelling, or just form the basis for Gore’s critics to dismiss it as self-aggrandizing? But no matter. The core message of the movie is too big to ignore.
He says: That movie really shows how stupid people can be.
**** Les Invasion Barbares (November 2003) – Theatre
Remy Girard. A dying intellectual manages to gather his family and friends one last time. French with subtitles.
She says: An excellent blend of humour, intelligence, and pathos. It tells a pretty simple story in a new and compelling way. Just utterly engrossing.
He says: I loved that. It was fantastic. That’s the first movie I actually want to buy. It was smart, and sad, and funny. About life and death…
*** The Invention of Lying (October 2009) – Theatre
Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner. Posits a world where no one is able to state (or comprehend) anything but the absolute truth. Until it all changes one day, for one man.
She says: Subversive little comedy that perhaps could have taken it further instead of veering into romantic comedy—but I couldn’t help but enjoy the romantic comedy as well.
He says: OK, Ricky Gervais didn’t bug me in that one, either. I liked it.
***½ The Italian Job (May 2003) – Rental
Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron. Betrayal during a heist in Italy sets up a revenge heist in Los Angeles.
She says: Proves that it is possible to make an action movie that I will like. What saved this one were the interesting characters, the interesting and almost believeable plot, and action sequences that served a purpose and didn’t drag on too long.
He says: I liked that movie. It was a lot of fun.
***½ Joyeux Noël (March 2006) – Rental
Diane Kruger, Benno Furmann. French, Scottish, and German troops decide to call a truce on Christmas Eve 1914, during World War 1. French with subtitles.
She says: Very moving, and almost unbelievable, to see those who had been shooting each other hours before gingerly reach a cease fire through music, then find they have much in common. The DVD extras include an interview with the director (all in French) that shows how most of the events of the film are based on incidents that actually happened during that war.
He says: That was a really good movie. Hard to believe.