An ongoing thread for us GE contributors to give short reviews to films (old or new) that aren’t really worth creating an entirely new thread for… but are worth commenting on anyway.

(Archive I)
(Archive II)


175 responses »

  1. So I’ve been watching movies this morning as I write, and next up on Encore:


    Man, I remember liking this one a lot more when I was younger and of course it’s likely the parallels between puberty and the confusion that comes with that and the ultimate wish to come out on the other end much stronger than you were before you became a ‘man’.
    That being said, this has the strangest credit sequence in recent memory and isn’t really one of the stronger of the eighties ‘growing up’ movies.
    Of course an eighties movie will feel dated, but this one feels especially so. It’s a great ‘high concept’ and works well enough, and Michael J. Fox is uber-likable as always.
    All-in-all a nice what you might now call ‘tweener-fantasy’ that no tweener today would bother watching.

  2. The Forgiveness of Blood (2011); Joshua Marston: I think this is the first film I’ve ever seen in Albanian, and it’s a solid, if too understated, look at the dichotomy of following rules for blood feuds in an age of mobile phones and video games. A dispute over one family using a shortcut over another family’s land starts a Hatfield-McCoy thing, which seems awfully antediluvian for today, but there it is. The young son of one of the feuders rebels against authority, and pays the price. A well-made and intelligent picture, but didn’t hit me a on a gut level.

    Grade: B

  3. Speed 2:
    Very easily the most inept, poorly written script in the history of Hollywood.

  4. So as I make my way through the large library that is Xfinity Streampix, we come to: Mad Dog and Glory.
    DeNiro comes off rather well in this and Bill Murray isn’t as miscast as I thought he would be. The weakest person is by far Uma Thurman, as even David Caruso has a more fleshed out and better acted character. The story is slim and the plot somewhat threadbare but I really appreciated where it went at the end and how they brought it all together. Worth it for the discussion outside the restaurant, though it was strange to see DeNiro deferring so much screen presence to Murray.

    Absolutely the worst script I’ve ever seen. Just the things it ignores within the realm of the story are the worst I’ve ever seen. Bafflingly bad.

  5. I was referring to Speed 2. Does the handbook allow me to comment this much on this thread?

  6. I realized that and deleted by comment. So it’s a worse script than say, Plan 9 From Outer Space?

    You can comment as much as you want, but the more you call something either the greatest thing you’ve ever seen or the worst, the less seriously I take you.

  7. What did I say was the worst script before? I didn’t think I needed a lot of credibility to watch Speed 2 and think it to be the worst script I’ve ever seen put to film.

  8. You may not have used the term “worst script” before, but your reviews are certainly on the hyperbolic side. And I guess you’ve never plunged into the world of Ed Wood, or any of the zillion other bad movies made over the hundred-year history of Hollywood.

  9. Okay, on just a cursory glance at Plan 9 on YouTube, “Inspector Clay’s dead…murdered. And someone’s responsible” is far less inept than basing your entire movie around the fact that a cruise ship crashes into a pier and an entire town and you actually show a closeup of the footage marker for the draft of the ship and it says 52 feet and the ship traveled inland for at least 3 minutes and so you obviously ignored that those houses and that town had to be built over 52 feet of water.

  10. the fact that a cruise ship crashes into a pier and an entire town and you actually show a closeup of the footage marker for the draft of the ship and it says 52 feet and the ship traveled inland for at least 3 minutes and so you obviously ignored that those houses and that town had to be built over 52 feet of water.

    What does that have to do with the script? Sounds like a directorial fuckup to me.

  11. Not sure what the issue here is, but uh…I’ll concede I was wrong and it’s likely just the director. For the entire movie. So the script wasn’t that bad.

  12. So the script wasn’t that bad.

    You’re overcompensating for your earlier hyperbole. That was the movie where Willem Dafoe had to use leeches to keep him alive or something, right? God knows I’m not saying the script was good.

  13. So I’ve decided to tackle ’60’s technicolor Hollywood blockbusters (or something like that), and the first on the list was:

    “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”

    What seems like a movie that, on paper at least, should be really kinda funny simply felt like a bloated carcass of a movie where everyone just talked and talked and talked and talked. Sure, there were some funny set pieces and some of the cameos, in the day, must have been genuinely shocking and appreciated (Jerry Lewis runs over Spencer Tracy’s hat!). But all-in-all, why would a movie that would be somewhat enjoyable at 90 minutes have to be 2 hours and 41 minutes long?! How was a slapstick affair like this considered ‘epic’ enough to warrant a running time in line with Amadeus?
    So, while the cameos are enjoyable (to those who get them, I guess), the whole affair felt rather…drawn out.

    Next up: Thunderball

  14. Something’s Gotta Give (2003) – Through a series of chance events, two seemingly opposite 50+ people – a record producer regularly involved with much younger women (Jack Nicholson) and a successful but repressed playwright (Diane Keaton) – become romantically involved. But the odds of them prospering as a couple seem remote.

    There’s a couple of key reasons why this film works. Nancy Meyers won’t go down as one of the great directors, but her films have a slick old-fashioned professionalism which lift this up a notch . And Keaton and especially Nicholson are great fun in their central roles, backed up by a good supporting cast.

    It’s no classic and the finale is contrived (as these type of films usually are), but it’s a generally pleasing film. Rating: B-

  15. The Object of my Affection (1998) – A pregnant social worker (Jennifer Anniston) breaks up with her lover and begins to wonder whether her gay best friend (Paul Rudd) is the person to father her baby.

    This has many things going for it, including an interesting subject matter and an impressive cast. But it really never comes together and I think the blame for that goes to director Nicholas Hytner. Even though he’s directed some acclaimed films in his career, his film work has largely been based on stage productions and confronted with a purely cinematic based work, he seems lost. Key scenes are poorly stage, montages are put in awkward sections of the film, the pace seems usually off, etc…

    Also, when you factor in the film is somewhat superficial, you have a largely forgettable experience. Rating: C

  16. Too Big to Fail (Curtis Hanson):

    Engrossing and certainly well-made account of the 2008 financial crisis. While absorbing, not *nearly* as well-written as Margin Call or as exciting or simply as well-done…Margin Call was extremely well-made…and the ending just…ends on not the passage of TARP, but the meeting on the passage of TARP.
    I’d give it a solid C for the actors present and their performances but throughout the entire movie it felt as though I was reading a book.

  17. Along Came Polly (2004) – Ben Stiller plays (yet again) an uptight pushover (radical change of pace there) who has his wife cheat on him on the first night of their honeymoon – on the rebound who hooks up with a woman he hasn’t seen since school (Jennifer Anniston) and despite being opposites, a genuine relationship develops. But then the wife returns…

    On the surface, this looks mundane stuff with many tedious conventions of 2000s Hollywood comedies – lazy Stiller typecasting, lots of bodily function gags, gags that have no internal basis in reality, etc…

    But surprisingly, I had a good time with it. Mainly because of the engagingly breezy tone writer/director John Hamburg employs which makes the film easy to take even during it’s weaker spots. And it has a surprisingly good sense of comic timing, abetted by a strong supporting cast with Alec Baldwin and especially Phillip Seymour Hoffman notably amusing. Even Anniston is more amusing than usual.

    Inconsequential, but a pleasant surprise. Rating: B

  18. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is one of my favorites. I wish it was twice as long.

    Pretty sure it initially was released at an over 3.5 hour length film but severely cut down to its present length – don’t know whether that extended version is available today.

  19. Really liked Along Came Polly.

    And there’s an even LONGER version of ‘…World’? Sheesh.

  20. Attack the Block is good. If you’re a seventeen year old boy…or man.

  21. The Ramen Girl:

    Haters can hate. And call me a sap. But this was a genial, pleasant movie with really good performances, a breezy nature and at no time did I get bored with it. I think it’s likely one of Brittany Murphy’s final performances. She looked great and her journey from being a wastrel in Japan to the owner of her own Ramen shop in NYC thanks to her Sensei (played excellently by Toshiyuki Nishida) gave me a pleasant smile at the end.
    Nothing earth-shattering, but a pleasant way to pass an hour and a half. Now I want to watch Tampopo.

  22. The Last Detail:
    (Hal Ashby)
    How to explain early Hal Ashby? You don’t watch it, you experience it. It takes you in and makes you a part of the movie. You are not only an observer, but you experience the things the actors are experiencing.
    Amazing observation on three Navy Men and the detail of two of them taking the other to prison.
    Amazing performances, writing and direction.
    Shampoo is next.

  23. So someone mentioned Nothing But The Truth. So I watched it.
    And it was really very good. Well-written, great performances by Kate Beckinsale and , even sharper performance by Vera Farmiga, and a great performance by Matt Dillon. The weakest link was Noah Wyle. He wasn’t very good until the second half, when he wasn’t asked to express his anger as much, and could play it more understated.

    “Well, there are different levels of mistakes. There’s, like, wearing white after labor day and then there’s the really big mistakes, like invading Russia in the winter.”

  24. It’s not bad, right? Perfectly serviceable b-level drama. It was scheduled to go theatrical before the distributor went belly up.

    I like Matt Dillon, but I wasn’t that enamored with his performance. I think the dopey accent threw me.

  25. It never made it into a theater? Far more than serviceable. What a shame. Alan Alda is great. And I didn’t have an issue with Dillon. That’s funny. I thought the slight accent added to the ‘smarminess’ and they made it work in the short tracking shot when he said to turn off the tv and not make her a martyr. This is that side.
    Wow…it struck me like Margin Call did. Glad at least Margin Call got into the theater.

  26. Murderball (2005) – Not too bad MTV films documentary ostensibly about the sport of wheelchair rugby, but very little of the sport is shown when compared to the reality TV-style drama between the two “leads.” Interesting for mostly surface-level insight into the day-to-day of a quadriplegic. The last 30 seconds show one of the players actually relating a bit of strategy to another chair-bound person and I thought how interesting it would have been to know that there was more going on besides throwing the ball and ramming into other people.

  27. Expendables 2 – This quote comes courtesy of my brother-in-law who summed it up best: “It was a like a MAD Magazine parody of an action movie.”

  28. Fool For Love (1985) – One of the series of films based on stage plays Robert Altman made in the 1980s. This one is based on a Sam Shepard play with Shepard himself playing a lead role of a cowboy chasing after an ex-lover (Kim Basinger) at a surreal motel site. Meanwhile, a decrepit old man (Harry Dean Stanton) lingers around who has a pivotal role in proceedings.

    Altman tries his best to make this cinematic but in the end this feels like something that should’ve stayed on the stage. What probably felt intense and passionate as a play feels arch and mannered here and while aspects of it are impressive, it never feels compelling or convincing. Also not helped by a fairly weak performance from Basinger.

    Only for Altman fans or completists.

    Rating: C

  29. A couple of highly-regarded romantic comedies that have become iconic of their genre I got around to watching for the first time:

    When Harry Met Sally (1989) – The thought that popped up into my mind after seeing this was: what happened to Rob Reiner’s directorial career? His run of films from 1984 to 1992 is generally excellent across a range of genres. And yet his work since the dire ‘North’ has been largely considered to be dreck; one only need to compare this film with the dreck that was ‘The Story of Us’.

    This is an excellent film, especially as I had heightened expectations due to it’s high reputation. It starts off slowly but that helps establish the two main characters and their relationship over the years. And it gets better and funnier as the film progresses.

    Apart from Nora Ephron’s excellent script, kudos should go to stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan who manage to successfully convey the gradual changes in their characters over the decade span this film takes.

    Rating: A-

    Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) – In contrast, this was a big letdown. A massive success not only financially, but critically to the stage that it got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture (!!?), seeing it now it’s hard to imagine what the fuss was all about.

    To be sure, there are several laughs to be had, although they’re largely in the first half. And the way a key character’s death is handled is effectively done.

    But for a large part it’s pretty conventional stuff, falling back on many of the cliches you see in wedding-related films. And yes, this is yet another film where the pivotal plot event in the movie occurs when a Bride/Groom are interrupted when they’re about to say ‘I Do’.

    A possibly even greater weakness is the romance between Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell’s characters isn’t that compelling. From what I read many put the blame on MacDowell’s acting skills although I didn’t really have a problem with her; the blame should largely go the smug and superficial writing.

    Rating: C+

  30. My Girl:

    A sweet, affecting film of youth and loss and life and love. At no time a poor film, it is none-the-less marred by poor pacing and stilted writing. The music is great, though and the performances are all first-rate. An engaging, sad, affirming film with a great ending that deserves its place in film lore, and not only as the film after Home Alone where ***********spoilers*********** Macauley Culkin dies.
    I have to admit, I thought they got together at the end and I wasn’t expecting his death at all.
    If only I could have been paying attention to this movie when some unsuspecting parents took their kids to see Macauley Culkin and he dies a horrific ‘death by bee sting’. (I also have an issue with how bees are portrayed in this movie, but I don’t think anyone cares).

  31. The Girl:

    An HBO film about Hitchcock’s awful treatment of Tippi Hedren during the filming of Birds and Marnie.
    This type of movie is one I specifically love. Think RKO-281, Me and Orson Welles, and other fictionalized accounts of behind-the-scenes, whether with films or art or plays. But this was a pretty thinly-written, shallow, poorly-drawn film. Sure, Hitch was a little strange, I mean, what brilliant people aren’t, but the things he says in this and how he’s portrayed is kinda ridiculous. Toby Jones and his performance is amazing, but the portrayal is ridiculous.
    Sienna Miller is beautiful but I never felt like she looked like Hedren and her plight was again, so thinly drawn I never felt bad for her.
    the only character that had depth and made us feel was Hitch’s wife, played masterfully by Imelda Staunton.

  32. I’m not quite at the half-way mark, but it’s not very impressive thus far. It also appears to be one of the cheapest HBO films in recent memory.

  33. Burn Hollywood Burn:

    So I’m gonna slowly go through Joe Eszterhas’s oeuvre, and I started with this one, an ‘insider’s’ account of-yeah, no, it’s bad. So remarkably bad. I mean, it’s so bad, it’s badness is bad. And not a good bad. Honestly, Tiptoes was entertainingly bad. There was nothing about this movie that-yeah. Flashdance next.

  34. At least you started with the worst thing on his resume. I’ve never been able to get five minutes into it.

    Flashdance is fine. Basic Instinct is phenomenal.

    BTW, have you ever read Sacred Cows (his man banging a cow script)?

  35. “Joe, if you’re going to help a friend who gave you your first shot in the business, maybe best not to give her a script about the president of the United States having sex with a cow.”
    — Eszterhas’s agent

  36. The Phantom (1996) – Simon Wincer’s adventure franchise non-starter starring Billy Zane as a purple leotard wearing jungle hero. Despite receiving a cold shoulder from both audiences and critics, I’ve always felt there was a lot to like about the film (it’s enjoyably lighthearted; features practical, exciting action sequences; a fairly charismatic hero; gorgeous locations; a stunning Catherine Zeta Jones) despite some terrible casting in terms of the villain (a terrible Treat Williams) and iffy final set piece. It’s basically James Bond + Indiana Jones, but with spandex.

    I can’t help but to think that if this film had been released a little later, after audiences became comfortable seeing grown men punching people wearing ridiculous costumes, it would have been a pretty big hit.

  37. Tommy (1975) – Based on a landmark ‘The Who’ album, a British musical about a child who due to a childhood trauma can’t speak, see or hear. Despite this, he becomes a hero of the masses.

    This is the antithesis of standard Hollywood musicals until the late 1960s – broad, vulgar, erratic, almost self-consciously wild and woolly. Not surprising as the writer/director Ken Russell was one if the most controversial figures of his day.

    As it is though, this is generally pretty good entertainment. Always lively with style and flash to spare, it’s always good to look at with some good songs (although I wasn’t crazy about the overall music actually). Also helped by Ann-Margret in key role who takes her role seriously (instead of treating it as camp) plus her strong singing, is memorable.

    But there’s no letup in the intensity so that (like another Russell musical I saw ‘ The Boy Friend’) it wears you down a bit by the end.

    Still, worth a look. Rating: B

  38. Anything Else was dreadful, definitely the worst Woody Allen film I’ve seen. Even something as mediocre as ‘From Rome With Love’ was way better than it.

  39. Parental Guidance (2012, just opened in cinemas) – Comedy starring Bette Midler, Billy Crystal and Marisa Tomei about a busy, uptight married couple who entrust her parents (which she has an estranged relationship with) to take of their kids for a few days. Predictably, the grandparents concept of parenting leads to friction with the kids and parents but what happens by the end is even more predictable.

    There are a couple of funny moments and nice scenes but overall this is assembly-line Hollywood ‘family comedy’ at its worst with many standard features (constantly feels phony and plastic, much overacting on display obvious music constantly plays in background, houses seem absurdly oversized with a backyard the size of a golf course, etc…)

    You know the film is in trouble from the opening scene when Crystal (as a baseball announcer) openly mocks someone for their appearance (and he’s the good guy in this film). That’s followed by a scene which attempts to make humour out of how out of touch he is with Faceboook/Twitter that just dies.

    Midler probably makes the impression, Crystal has his moments but Tomei is pretty dire (after this and ‘Crazy, Stupid Love’ she really needs to choose better comedies). The kids are annoyingly plastic.

    Rating: C-

  40. Well, in its favour it was semi-tolerable most of the way (until a cringeworthy moment at the end showing how one of the kids overcomes his speech impediment) and Crystal and especially Midler were fun to watch and it did have a handful of amusing moments. But yeah, perhaps a D+ could be more appropriate.

  41. American Reunion:
    By no means good. Not terrible, though. If you’ve followed the characters there’s a tinge of bittersweet memory, but it doesn’t last long. Dania Ramirez is smoking and you see Jason Biggs…ALL of Jason Biggs. (I was surprised at closeup penis in a mainstream movie), and Nadia even makes an appearance. Again, by no means good, enjoyable enough.

  42. I actually like Seann William Scott, but I’m not sure I could watch another American Pie movie. Never even dug the original.

  43. Joshua Then And Now (1985) – Canadian film that looks a writer’s life (James Woods) from his childhood in pre-WW2 to his rise in 1950s London to becoming an establishment success in 1970s Canada and his family life threatening to self-destruct.

    This is an odd movie. It’s strucutred as an epic story but at no stage is it conveyed why such a structure should be based around this person, who doesn’t seem particularly significant (Woods is perhaps the wrong actor for the role) and it has relatively little interesting to say on the momentous eras the character experienced.

    But, it is a very entertaining (and amusing) film, in part because of Ted Kotcheff’s very sharp and fast-paced direction. And also by several fine supporting performances, in particular from Alan Arkin as Woods’ father. An odd film, but one worth seeking out.

    Rating: B

  44. Straight Time (1978) – Dustin Hoffman plays a person who has spent virtually his whole adult life behind bars and wants to make a fresh start. But a sleazy parole officer (M. Emmett Walsh) derails those hopes and soon it’s back to a familiar life of crime.

    This has the makings of a top-notch crime film but falls short of the mark. It starts off very well when it focusses on the battle between Hoffman and the parole officer, but that ends surprisingly early. When it drifts onto other areas like an unlikely romance between Hoffman and a naive office worker (Theresa Russell). Also, for all his talents Hoffman doesn’t really convince as a hardened crim.

    Not bad, but badly needed a director like Sidney Lumet to make this the film it should’ve been. Rating: C+

  45. Source Code – Given the reviews, I guess I would label myself as a little disappointed. But stepping back: it’s a decent, fluffy, little b-grade suspense picture.

    Excluding some (very poor) visual effects and the modern cast this could have been a release from Paramount or Warner Brothers in the 90’s. Even the overly lit action and bombastic score reminds me of the films of that era, particularly something like Nick of Time or Breakdown. B-

  46. Extraterrestre – [Nacho Vigalondo]

    Huh. Not bad. Not good. Interesting premise. Thin. A piffle. Not amounting to much. Just eh. Good acting. Unreal premise. Disbelievable actions. No real dramatic arc or curve or setup. Characters believe, accept and exist within the premise simply to further the story. No tension. Comedy seems forced. No motivations. Wonder existence or reason for making. Love conquers all, I guess. But…was it real? Or was it memorex?

    Still…better than Monsters. For some reason.

  47. Man on the Moon

    It took me two nights to watch this movie. A rather excellently well-made and superbly done biopic. What took so long is that I had to go back and forth between the movie and youtube to find the true occurrences of what happened for each scene in the movie. I can only say that Andy Kaufman may very well be one of the most brilliant performance artists who ever existed. Truth. Oh, and Courtney Love is hot and I still don’t like wrestling.

  48. Philadelphia

    Tom Hanks won the oscar, and deservedly so, but for me, this was Denzel Washington’s movie all the way. He had the arc, he had the transformation and he was aces in his role.
    This is Demme working at a pretty high level. The ‘opera scene’ is astoundingly effective and each and every role, no matter how thin, feels imbued with the proper depth regardless of lines or screen time.
    Heartbreaking ending by Demme with the song and the home movies that drag you along the floor, sobbing. (I wonder if it was really little Hanks).

    That opera scene, though. Through the use of the high angle, Demme creates two observers in the room and really takes us out of the scene to ‘experience’ this moment like Washington is, and when the scene ends, the camera cranes down and pulls back quickly and reverts to Washington’s POV. Stunningly effective.

  49. Gloria (1980) – A boy is orphaned after his family is wiped out by the mob, and the only person who can help him is a middle-aged, cynical woman (Gena Rowlands) who used to have mob connections, But she’s proves a surprisingly strong ally.

    This reminded me of ‘Finding Forrester” in that it is made in a curiously contradictory style. The basic plot is that of a feel-good Hollywood mainstream flick in many ways (crusty older women bonds with child, outsiders fighting the odds against evil opposition, etc…) but writer/director John Cassavettes makes it in a realistic, unconventional manner (as was his noted style) with many unusual and interesting touches along the way.

    It’s strange why Cassavetes would create such a conventional narrative like this, but thanks to his skill and a fine performance by Rowlands (and the kid as well) this one works as a satisfying entertainment despite its contrivances.

    Rating; B

  50. Blow Up

    My first Antonioni film. (And good chance my last)
    I have no idea the nature of the film, or the tone, but, it wasn’t horrible. I relished the camera placements on the car scenes and the aloof dickishness of the protagonist and a lot of the camera shots are simply amazing. (The scene in the beginning in the park is exactly what I do to get photos of people holding hands and kissing in central park). The sound design is aces and masterfully done.
    However, it’s punctuated by long stretches of absolutely nothing (did they have to draw-out the ‘photo-making revelation’ scene so spectacularly long?) It’s greatly effective, but…long. There’s no real dramatic tension, and it basically seems like a movie made by a European to thumb his nose at the production code, with topless teenagers playing in a photography studio. Why wasn’t the inferred sex scene between the photographer and the girls, you know, a little more to the point? And why wasn’t his revelation more succinct? How did the ‘inferred sex scene’ lead to his revelation and why wasn’t it brought forth maybe a little more quickly?
    The steps he takes with enlargements and discovery are really pretty thrilling, but dragged out to the extent they are, they become kinda ‘work-a-day’.
    So I guess I don’t really like this movie. In fact, when he goes back to the studio after seeing the woman screwing, I started to actually actively dislike it. I mean, he saw the body and simply leaves it there? Okay, that’s your biug buildup? That’s what happens when your detective work does the trick? And the body’s still there? There’s no reaction to anything that happens, there’s no real dramatic tone and it just languishes in style and doesn’t say much else.
    I see the influence on The Conversation, as Coppola said, but as close to perfection as The Conversation is, this is about as far from it.
    And the mimes? Oh, the fucking mimes…how are the mimes not ridiculed in any of the writings on this film? Suddenly there’s fucking mimes?!
    Best part of the movie? The big ‘The End’ title.

  51. Watched the PBS documentary on Woody Allen in it’s entirety for the first time and felt a little let-down that they skip over so much of his 80’s and 90’s output. We get really in-depth coverage of his early works, and then completely skip over things like Manhattan Murder Mystery, Radio Days, Alice, September, Another Woman, etc (while spending a lot of time on things like You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger)

    Given that it’s 3+ hours long, I’m not sure why they couldn’t just expand the runtime to give equal coverage.

  52. Compliance – True story about an 18-year-old fast food worker who is subjected to mental and physical abuse by her employer at the telephone instruction of man claiming to be a police officer. Well-made, but a ridiculously difficult sit. Grade: A

  53. Wow…even sitting on BlowUp for a day has made me dislike it even more. I guess understanding he would likely be pretentiously gleeful over my reaction does not temper my anger at the movie.

  54. Prince of the City:

    A straight-up NYC chamber-masterpiece. (I’m afraid to say ‘NYC Crime Tone Poem’, for fear of being ridiculed).

    “We’ll roll into Foley Square every morning at 8AM.”
    Treat Williams does his best Serpico impression and perhaps this is where the main fault in the movie lies. Lumet tread this same ground so well in the tight, concise Al Pacino vehicle and if another director had made this slowly-paced ‘Heat’-style crime thriller, it would still be the well-received movie it is, but maybe it would hold a little higher standing in popular movie circles. Why he chose to revisit this theme with an almost three hour movie is puzzling. Many of the outbursts are Pacino-like and I wish I didn’t have to view it through the haze of ‘Lumet’ being the director. Of course they’re two different movies, in tone and structure, but the underlying idea is there. And I’m not completely certain I understand the unrepentant tone in the final moment of the final shot.
    That said, however, loved every moment of this. Loved the arc of the character and though it starts to get a little ‘come on already’ near the end, this ranks pretty well up there with my favorite NYC-based movies. The end speech comparing doctors and lawyers to police is great.
    (And Michael Blomberg? LOL)

  55. Blitz
    “It’s Cop-Killer vs. Killer Cop”

    I love British crime dramas. They are, in fact, my favorite movie genre. So when I stumble upon one, it’s a treat. This is about a serial killer targeting cops, and guess who plays the cop involved with the case, whose surly visage adorns nearly every shot of the movie? That’s right, The Stath. Unfortunately, though, the “Muscles from the Midlands” is the weakest thing about the movie. The cinematography and direction are tight and concise and really well-done. I can’t believe there isn’t a director alive who has worked with Stath who can’t get him to deliver his lines like he isn’t a fifth-grader reading an adult novel. “The man said….he couldn’t get here…any sooner…than tomorrow.” He’s just his character Turkish in every movie since.
    The writing is genre-cookie cutter, the handling of homosexuality is infantile (and can’t be that bad in the British police), the police are inept morons who need journalists and junkies who die in bathrooms to do the slightest bit of police work for them and the extent of Statham’s “Bad Cop” routine in one scene is to eat someone’s food and say ‘Sorry, was you eatin’ it?’, but Paddy Considine is in it, and at least the Stath is cool as shit.
    “Are you gonna take any notes?”
    “Do I look like I carry a pencil?”

    FACE remains the watershed British crime drama for me, followed closely by Layer Cake. This is a middling, but worthy addition.

    And an interesting note: When you cast an actor like Statham, with the history he has in movies, not even a nuclear sub with ‘silent propulsion’ could get the drop on the Stath in an underwater situation, so when a scrawny serial killer stalks him like he’s gonna ‘off’ our intrepid protagonist, it’s almost laughable when the Stath does get the drop on him. …just sayin’.

  56. The Heavy (2010):

    Another British crime drama, with some familiar British faces and some very well-known British faces. What Stephen Rea and Christopher Lee are doing in a film this terrible is the only thing I want to write about this horrible, horrible entry to the genre. Vinnie Jones is not one of those actors. I understand why he’s in this. But the others? Did they read the script? Or only their lines?
    Baffling editing, no worse writing, terrible cinematography, no drama, no character development, (and a Highlander in a pear tree).

  57. ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ (1999) – Comedy where a documentary crew follows the trials and tribulations of a small-town beauty pageant where the usual backstabbing not only occurs, but murder.

    Largely overlooked on initial release, this seemed to have a growing reputation over they years since, but I found this a disappointment.

    It’s just too strident and strained in its style, with too much over-acting. It isn’t helped that the targets it goes after are pretty lazy (beauty pageants are full of phoniness and dishonesty? Gasp!).

    There are a few scattered laughs and its interesting to see then up-and-coming actresses like Kirsten Dunst and Amy Adams, but this isn’t good enough to be recommended.

    Rating: C

  58. Total Recall:

    Muddled, poorly written, illogical and derivative. Some of the scenes were so close to other specific movie scenes, it nearly looked as though those scenes were lifted from the other movies and placed into Total Recall. The bank scene from Bourne Identity (even the handling of the passports), the car scene from Minority Report (the shape and color of the cars and he even climbed on the hood-I mean…) and the ‘Clone march’ scene from one of those horrible Star Wars prequels and all of the action scenes followed no proper logical flow.

  59. Raiders of the Lost Ark:

    As perfect a popcorn movie as there is. Perfect casting, perfect characters, great music, better cinematography, and a perfectly-pitched economy of storytelling drama that few movies achieve.

  60. Ruby Sparks:

    Completely missed the point of what it is to create a character, and as you do, believe that character is real within yourself. Too esoteric by far (he’s conjuring a character and has clothing? That’s just pathological) and trades a great premise for a less interesting look at how to conjure and control a woman. Too bad.

  61. The Hard Way:

    Not sure how I missed this one, as it’s exactly the kind of NY movie that if I had seen it on initial release, I would watch each summer since release. Glad I stumbled onto it. Great performances, great writing and, as always, effortless direction from Badham.
    There wasn’t a time I was bored, I laughed consistently and rarely has Woods (or Fox) been better. There will be subsequent repeat viewings, and I guess that’s pretty good praise.

  62. Prometheus (I think this is my Brief Film Review 1.2 of this): Really, what a piece of shit.

    So you want us to credibly follow a science fiction film, you know, suspend our disbelief enough to enjoy two hours of what should be kickass science fiction from the man himself and in the first thirty minutes of this complete snooze-fest you want us to believe that a scientist a kajillion miles from earth, spelunking in an alien cave, with all the knowledge we have of the known universe and the gas and chemical compounds that exist that this scientist would simply remove his helmet? We would have no idea if it was possible, even if it was making its own atmosphere and besides, why would someone WANT to take their helmet off knowing just outside the cave it’s toxic-no. Shit.
    I gave it a shot. Again. No.

  63. In relation to the above, here’s an idea for the sequel to Prometheus: Don’t make it!

  64. Before Sunrise:
    A modern independent masterpiece. I especially like the way (in this talkfest) that the most important moments of the movie have nothing to do with talking and everything to do with stolen glances and short brushes of skin and arms across shoulders and hands held tight.

  65. Lay the Favorite:

    Rebecca Hall stars as a leggy former stripper who takes a job working for a professional gambler (Bruce Willis) in Las Vegas. Catherine Zeta Jones plays Willis’ boozy wife and Vince Vaughn has a supporting role as his professional rival. Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons) directs.

    The film bypassed domestic theaters (instead premiering on video in late 2012 and Netflix streaming in March) and it’s easy to see why. As the film’s lead: Rebecca Hall turns in one of the most grating, dated and inexplicable performances I’ve even seen from an established actress. She’s channeling Piper Perabo in a bad “girl power” film from 2000 but with an accent that was seemingly lifted from a Hee Haw episode in 1981. I don’t know what she was thinking or how Frears allowed her to continue to inflict her performance on her co-stars.

    HOWEVER, despite Hall, the film is a fairly serviceable little time waster that doesn’t take itself seriously. The stakes, sorry, are low and everyone has a nice happy ending.

    It was refreshing to see Bruce Willis actually putting in some effort into his performance. While he’s done great work in things like Moonrise Kingdom and Looper – this was probably the most energetic I’ve seen him in years.

    While Hall is terrible, her attire throughout the film (shorts and low-cut tops) made her work a little more bearable.

    Vince Vaughn shows up for a few scenes and does some weird schtick that isn’t interesting or amusing in any way – not sure what his intent was. It’s also interesting that his name is featured on the poster, but next to a picture of Joshua Jackson (who has some scenes as Hall’s boyfriend). Assuming it was some weird contractual thing where they couldn’t use Vaughn’s actual likeness to sell the film.

  66. Bachelorette (2012): This is a more naked attempt to make a distaff The Hangover, with three women having improbable adventures during one night before a fourth’s wedding. Unlike The Hangover, though, nobody is threatened with immiment death.

    The acting isn’t bad here, especially by Kirsten Dunst and Lizzie Caplan, but the characters are skimpy: Dunst is the Type-A, Caplan the slacker, Isla Fisher the ditz/drug abuser. It attempts to be a comedy, but there isn’t much funny here–this could have been the stuff of drama, as these people have heavy issues.

  67. All Good Things: an involving crime drama that goes nowhere–I did the Peggy Lee thing when it was over: “Is that all there is?” Once again Ryan Gosling mumbles his way through a role, showing little to no personality, while Kirsten Dunst shines in a thankless role.

  68. So I finally watched American History X. Not bad. Norton is the best thing in it (and has he really not had top billing in a film since The Incredible Hulk? Is he that difficult to work with?). The direction is at times amateurish and sloppy, and the script is a little too didactic and simplistic (the character of the noble black teacher seems right out of Room 222). Worthwhile, though.

  69. The War Zone (1999): Well, Tim Roth is a first class director.
    Bleak, uncompromising, excellent acting, but damn…uncompromising. Be prepared for an hour and a half of anguish.

  70. SAVAGES:

    I could have sworn Slim did a review of this movie, but who cares.
    It blows.
    Did she call him ‘caviar’?

    Does this count as a Haiku?

  71. Yeah, I searched Oliver Stone and Travolta and Savages and Review and I went and searched your author history far enough back before the movie, and I couldn’t find it.
    And you were very generous to the movie, sir…very generous.

  72. 40 Carats (1973) – A divorced, insecure 40 year-old woman (Liv Ullman) falls in love with a confident, handsome 22 year-old man (Edward Albert) while on holiday in Greece but because of the age gap and her insecurities doesn’t know if she can make it work.

    Glossy production of a Broadway play, this is agreeable entertainment with some laugh-out-loud moments and well-written dramatic scenes (especially one late in the film when Ullman meets Albert’s parents).

    There are notable flaws; it feels artificial at times and is too obviously theatrical in its style at times and that comes through in some weak performances, especially by Deborah Raffin as Ullman’s daughter.

    Gene Kelly in a fairly rare non-musical role sums up in his performance the film’s strengths and weaknesses. He gives probably the film’s most entertaining performance but is also frustratingly hammy at times (something that always plagued his acting even at its peak).

    A satisfying film overall.

    Rating: B

  73. Orange County (2002) – Colin Hanks plays a teenager desperately trying to get into higher education while being impeded at every turn by school incompetence and his oddball set of friends and family.

    This has the makings of a good film. The script has interesting and witty aspects, Hanks is appealing in the lead and the supporting cast is full of well-known and highly-regarded actors (probably too many actually).

    But it largely counts for nought due to the ham-fisted direction of Jake Kasdan. He wastes potentially good gags with crude timing, has an erratic sense of pace and is hopeless at setting a consistent mood the film desperately needs. After seeing this in ‘Bad Teacher’, I’m extremely wary of seeing any film he directs in the future.

    Rating: C


    I can’t remember if I had reviewed this here (and search really doesn’t work well for me), but I watched Ironclad again last night, and despite having a stellar cast and great cinematography and direction, the writing is so substandard it’s difficult to see any other part of the movie.
    The historical inconsistencies are baffling, when it would have been easy to present an accurate historical portrayal without inventing so many major things in the story. But, all in all, a great little historical time-waster with some great actors chewing FAR too much scenery (likely to give the poor script some more heft).
    Interesting story to the movie, also on its Wikipedia page about the funding and the road to bring the movie to the screen.
    Recommended just to watch Paul Giamatti yell while wearing a ridiculous haircut in a crown.

  75. Park Avenue (Alex Gibney):

    Alex Gibney follows the money from 740 Park Avenue to the power centers of Washington and reveals some insanely maddening common truths about the state of the state along the way.

  76. Super

    James Gunn’s (Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy) 2011 comedy. The film features Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page as bumbling amateur superheroes patrolling the streets of a nameless city.

    The film works for the most part with the chemistry between Wilson and Page being it’s strongest attribute. Unfortunately, an unexpected tonal shift in the final 15 minutes ruins everything. Gunn doesn’t just fail to make the landing, he careens off the runway and smashes into the terminal. It’s rare that I’m actually pissed off at the end of a movie, but here you go.

    First 1:15 – A- Overall: C

  77. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:

    So this was the first Harry Potter movie I actually sat down to watch, and for the first 1:45 it was just…what is this? I understand I jumped into the middle of the series and that this is a cultural phenomenon, but I didn’t get any of it until the final 30 minutes and you realize it was them doing all these things, but then-wait, it’s never good form to question time travel movies as it’s too easy. But really…how did she see herself when she hadn’t even gone back yet to see herself and then how was there something to see if they had decided earlier, and how was there ever an earlier and-never mind. Harry’s line of ‘Honestly, Ron, how could someone be in 2 places at once?” is a really kinda cheap way to give yourself an ‘out’ for having disobeyed every rule of the physical world possible (I know they’re about magic) and I feel like a sap for even picking apart Harry Potter and maybe I just don’t get it but how horrible was that final freeze-frame and I certainly never have to sit down and watch any more of these. At all.


    So it’s a loud, CGI-stuffed modern action picture starring some nameless actor as Superman. The people elevating this to something beyond any generic tentpole from the past 10 years are seeing something I’m not. It’s not terrible and infuriatingly stupid the way Star Trek into Darkness was…but it’s not that far off, either.

    The first 30 minutes are probably the strongest with the trippy visit to Krypton and impressive display of Superman’s heroism at sea. Shit starts to go downhill once Amy Adams is introduced; briefly picks back up with Zod’s fantastically creepy introduction to the people of Earth; and then…fuck, I barely remember.

    Russell Crowe delivers a shit ton of exposition….an IHOP, 7/11 and UHAUL blow up….there’s a cool terraforming spaceship…a city is destroyed….awkward humor…Hans Zimmer’s rousing score kicks in as Clark Kent, a creepy loner with no interpersonal skills, work experience or college education, gets a job as a reporter at one of the biggest newspapers in the world…go home and eat steak tacos.

    Anyway, I’m going to break from most and say that I was really unimpressed with Cavill. While he’s manlier than Brandon Routh’s obsessive twink stalker take on the character: he’s similarly dull. In fact, I’d give Routh the edge based on his Clark Kent being more likable.

    Someone elsewhere noted that Cavill makes a total of 2-3 facial expressions the entire film (the most common being: who farted?) and that’s pretty much right. He reminded me of your average soap opera actor, which is probably fine…but when we’ve been spoiled by guys like Bale, Downey Jr, etc in recent years – I can’t help but to think we could have done better. I also don’t understand why Cavill’s Superman is so socially awkward when he’s lived on Earth for his entire life. I’m assuming they told him to play it as autistic (hence the scenes of young Clark experiencing sensory issues) but he really lacks the acting ability to really pull that off.

    Despite the dialogue they’re saddled with, the supporting cast does their best at injecting a little humanity into the proceedings (with Costner and Crowe as the standouts). Michael Shannon’s Zod is ok, although he’s phoning it in a little with a super-powered take on his Boardwalk Empire character. Amy Adams is appealing and appropriately feisty.

    re: the ending – Superman and Lois Lane’s kiss at the site of Ground Zero is both offensive and out-of-character. An action movie cliche inserted by tone deaf filmmakers in a failed attempt to appeal to women. I know that if I violently leveled my entire neighborhood that my wife would want to exchange flirtatious banter and a smooch amidst the rubble.

    So it’s not awful and a suitable timekiller, I guess. If it’s to serve as the template for the DC Universe movies going forward, I can’t imagine I’ll be seeing many of them.

    Unlike Donner’s film, I’d be surprised if most people remember this picture in five years, let alone three decades.


  79. I pretty much agree with you. Half of it is pretty good, the other half sucks, and most of that are the action scenes, which are poorly edited. I’ve never liked any Superman movie (including the over-rated Superman II, which I loathed), and this one overdid the Christ imagery (if we didn’t get it, we get a shot of him with a stained glass window of Christ behind him, and he is 33).

    I’m also sick of watching cities being destroyed. The mayhem in this one isn’t any worse that others, but it’s just getting to be tiresome watching buildings crumbling as planes, spaceships, etc. crash into them. In this one we get the absurd scene of Laurence Fishburne outrunning a falling building, when we all know Fishburne couldn’t outrun a tortoise.

    Also, a question: there is a scene in which a young Clark Kent dons a red cape and pretends he’s a superhero. If he grows up to be Superman, just who is he emulating?

  80. Definitely agree that the half with the action scenes is no bueno. And thank you James for pointing out the misplaced kiss. I mean it’s Emmerich level disaster down there! I’m with Max Landis when he talks about the destruction as well:

    Re: the boy Kent imitating Superman. I’ve seen this complaint elsewhere but I don’t have a problem with it. He *is* Superman and at this time has not seen any other superheroes before. For most of the clip he is trying to get the cape off, but finally stops and, to his dog, gives the powerful pose. He made up the pose, so it’s possible he made it up when he was a child. We know it’s the Superman pose but he doesn’t know that. Neither does anyone else. Perhaps that pose always came natural for him.

  81. Kumare:

    Great documentary about a man from New Jersey who takes it upon himself to become a ‘fake guru’ and attains a group of followers and in the end, reveals himself a fraud and the reactions that elicits. Remarkably interesting study of how we need to follow someone and a little insight into why we need to.
    The reactions at the end weren’t what I was expecting. Some were easy to see coming, others were pleasantly surprising. Definitely worth the watch.

  82. Saw ‘Man Of Steel’ tonight. It held by interest but I agree with the criticisms here and the more I think about the less I regard it.

    Every Nolan-related film I’ve seen has been tediously self-serious to some degree and this was no exception. Sure, there were ‘worthy’ and clever aspects but where was the fun, the captivation that should be essential for this type of film? No wonder Cavill was so dour and humourless as he fitted in with the rest of the film.

    This had easily the weakest Perry White – actually they could’ve cut the Daily Planet angle altogether and had Adams as an independent reporter.

    Agree about the kiss scene – yikes! And as for Superman somehow spotting Lois from the exploding ship… spare me.

    On the plus side Crowe & Costner (though underused) were good; the woman who played Crowe’s wife was even better. I liked Zod’s characterisation in that what he was doing at least made some sense and wasn’t just mindless villainy.

    But overall, while it wasn’t a stinker this made me feel like watching the Reeve Supermans (the first two anyway)

    Rating: C

  83. Flashdance:
    America’s premiere misogynist art film, or: What Showgirls would have been if it had been directed by Milos Forman.
    I just LOL’d…literally out loud…in the scene where she takes her bra off with one hand under her strategically-placed wide-necked sweater while recounting a story of her father. I went back to laugh again!
    At least Verhoeven knew to treat Showgirls as satire.
    I’m trying to make correlation between her ownership of the world’s toughest dog (her Staffordshire Terrier) as being the ‘inferred male undercurrent’ of her story and how it hovers over the focus of everything that happens in the movie, whether on-screen or not.
    Wanna understand Hollywood? This is basically what got Esterhasz all of his work and huge paydays.
    Oh, look…she has to depend on a man for her self-worth…as if stripping wasn’t empowering enough. This is just horrible. I mean, really. A movie this transparent taking itself this seriously and how the producers and Hollywood treated it as this ’empowering movie about chasing your dreams’…ugh.
    Oh, look, she needs the man to do her a ‘favor’. And he calls his friend on the arts council from a payphone. What bullshit. I don’t think I’ll make it through the rest of this.
    But holy crap…Beals is gorgeous.

  84. Jiro Dreams of Sushi:

    Remarkable profile of a remarkable man.
    One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.
    The veracity of the Tsukiji fishmarket scene is remarkable, and I felt like I was right back there again.
    Listening to Jiro and the rice vendor talk about rice and how good the rice is and how it doesn’t make sense to buy the best rice if you don’t know how to cook it gave me the same feeling as listening to the tea master in ‘All In This Tea’ by Werner Herzog. It’s an elation I can’t properly quantify.

  85. The Ambassador:

    A mind-blowing documentary about a Danish journalist who goes online to buy an ambassadorship to the Central Republic of Africa, becomes a diplomat, and uncovers myriad nefarious dealings relating to governments and individuals and mineral exploitation.
    Unbelievable. But very, very good. You couldn’t make this stuff up, and if you did and put it in a fiction movie, no one would believe it. (But Lord of War came close).

  86. Agreed on both the above, Filmman.

    Did you watch Red Chapel yet? Not as well-made as The Ambassador but it’s still very good.

  87. Two if the very best documentaries I’ve ever seen. I will search for that one.

  88. The Molly Maguires:

    Neither about the Molly Maguires or Coal Mining, it’s about Richard Harris’s character. Boring, melodramatic, poorly written. No dialogue until 14 minutes in and Connery doesn’t speak until the 40 minute mark.
    I’ve been in Jim Thorpe for the past month, and the only thing I took from this movie is that both adult and child slave labor built the mansions and the very town I’m in right now. Yay for coal entrepreneurs!

  89. Red Lights:

    There seems to be a phenomenon wherein a young director wows the festival world with a movie like Buried and then I surmise studios aggressively court him and agents woo him and he signs a 3 picture deal and big stars clamor to be in his next movie (I say ‘his’ cause, well, where are the female festival winderkinds?) and they give him free reign and he says he always had something he wanted to do and then he does a movie called Red Lights. And it sucks. Bad.

  90. Disagree on RED LIGHTS. It’s a better film than BURIED for several reasons with the most obvious and fulfilling being that it nails the ending. BURIED works for a little while, but the film outlasts the premise and the script quickly flounders. RED LIGHTS is out there at times, but I think the actors make it work. And again, the ending is a fantastic bit of sleight of hand.

  91. Okay, you liked the ending. Fine.

    It was shot on 35mm. and the only two colors were blue and orange.
    The acting, by some of the best names we have, was painful.
    The writing was worse.
    He killed the only skeptic. Was Cortes trying to say be careful about being a skeptic? Was he sticking it to skeptics, or was he just trying to make a poor thriller where the ‘skeptic/psychic’ is the killer?
    That one girl who is part of the twins that isn’t a twin, that woman? Could she be any more needy? And could her world be any more crushed in blue? Her skin was a sick blue. And all she said was ‘don’t leave me!’ ‘are you alright?’ ‘What are we gonna do?’ and the other woman, Weaver, was a nasty skeptic who got her comeuppance, who could barely formulate sentences, and DeNiro’s sidekick may as well have had ‘devil’ written on her forehead.
    The movie was horrible.

    Still, it was more enjoyable than Upstream Color.

  92. Liberal Arts:

    Josh Radnor’s second movie and a rather affecting if over-earnest look at a thirty-something. It bucks convention nicely, has great performances, a good script, and keeps you engaged throughout.
    I liked the female characters, they provided more than just breasts and faces and they provide Radnor with some good interplay. The aging professor is played nicely and Zac Efron is good as a ‘is he real, is he not’ spirit guide of sorts.
    Definitely worth a watch.

  93. Expendables 2:

    Wait, THIS is Expendables? These ‘really-aging-action-stars-who-resemble-women-in-some-really-strange-way’ paired with middle-age action stars paired with young ‘he-looks-just-like-Chris-Hemsworth’ and they shoot guns that rip people in half and liquidate others and thousands of idiots with guns can’t hit a pontoon plane but some ridiculous weapon kills them all-is that JCVD?! and I can’t care anymore and this is one of the most asinine things I’ll ever see.

  94. Huh. Must say I can’t fathom why it wasn’t just a passing interest, but-I got torched in some choice messages on FB for not getting how much ‘ridiculous fun’ it is, so, there’s that.

  95. I really enjoyed Simon West’s Con Air and I thought he brought a very similar Looney Tunes vibe to The Expendables 2. The first took things a little too seriously – even the intentional humor was lousy.

    Better action, better villains (I’m a huge fan of Van Damme and Scott Adkins’ work in John Hyams’ Universal Soldier Films), better pacing…no comparison in my opinion.

  96. I’d have to agree that there is no comparison, and swing the opposite way. Better action, humor, pacing, etc…all in the first one. Everything was way too forced & manufactured in the 2nd.

  97. In no world can I fathom an instance where Expendables 2 could in any way be better than any film that may have come before it. No world.

  98. LOL…I was just going to use the ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ argument against Rob on Red Lights

  99. Beneath the Candelabra (2013) – Despite being made as a TV movie in the USA, this has been released into cinemas here in Australia; went to see it the other night despite some reservations, generally enjoyed it.

    Haven’t seen many of Soderbergh’s films, so was interested to see his directorial effort here. From virtually the opening scene you can see his skill as he knows how to make a scene more interesting than usual due to camera placement and sense of style.

    But his handling of the narrative is less assured. He seems to be trying to avoid the conventional cliches of a biopic, but his matter-of-fact treatment makes the film feel a little flat at times (e.g. when Thorson & Liberace are in a legal battle).

    Thought film’s best achievement was convincingly creating the ups and downs of a loving relationship between Liberace & Thorson.

    Cast uniformally impressive; Douglas avoids making Liberace a caricature, Damon does well with probably the most difficult role in the film. Didn’t realise Debbie Reynolds played Liberace’s mother until the credits, and only realised Dan Aykroyd played Liberace’s agent halfway through the film.

    As the film is based on Thorson’s book, the film comes from his perspective and is more about him really than about Liberace. That’s a bit of a pity as Liberace is such an interesting persona I wished it was a conventional biopic of him.

    Not a great film, but worth seeking out.

    Rating: -B

  100. I thought the law proceedings were the best part of the film-and that was a large part of my beef with the film. And since when is forcing someone to get plastic surgery to look more like you a ‘loving relationship’? I feel Soderbergh tried to play the insane aspect of Liberace’s continued preying on young men to gain as concubines that he downplayed it too much and missed pointing out how utterly insane and sick that interpersonal relationship was.
    For instance, he had Scott Bakula play the ‘omniscient sage’ for lack of a better word, and Scott Bakula had two lines, the first of which, to paraphrase, was ‘welcome to the club, don’t let the crazy scare you or get into you’, and the second was at the end when he said ‘I kinda told you, man…’. What?
    I think Soderbergh wanted to show just how insane things can get and still be glossed-over in Hollywood, but by doing that, he glossed-over it himself.

  101. Yeah, fair enough about the plastic surgery aspect, sort of forgot about that part. I suppose that Thorson was apparently only 16 and a half when he met Liberace puts a different spin on things to how the movie showed it (thought Thorson was in his early 20s going by the film). But yes, there were segments of the film where there was genuine warmth between the two characters, including in their final meeting.

  102. The Conjuring:

    I rather enjoyed this. The ’70’s vibe, the slow burn, the harkening back to films like Amityville and the like and it built to an effective climax. All-in-all, not a terrible movie.

  103. Dick (1999), a sublimely funny comedy/fantasy imagining that two giggly teenage girls are Woodward and Bernstein’s source, Deep Throat. Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams are the clueless girls, and Dan Hedaya is a trip as Nixon. A lot of SNL and Kids in the Hall performers, with Will Ferrell and Bruce McCullough hysterically funny as the preening and pompous Woodward and Bernstein. Best scene may be Leonid Brezhnev and Henry Kissinger singing Hello, Dolly. Leonard Maltin said it best: a cross between Clueless and All the President’s Men.

  104. Clear History:

    A Larry David HBO movie.

    Consistently funny, (sometimes very much so) Larry David movie, kind of like an extended Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, with some awesome performances by some big actors. Michael Keaton is amazing, especially in his initial scene (and Sydney from Hard Eight was the perfect foil for him), Jon Hamm is excellent and Liev Schreiber is really, really great as a ‘Chechen’.
    It’s not revelatory or profound or amazingly good, but it is like I said funny and a good waste of time and the first 30 minutes are pretty brilliant comedy.

  105. Wag The Dog (1997) – Political satire about political and Hollywood types working together to stage a fake TV war to divert public attention from a Presidential scandal in the leadup to the election.

    A low-budget effort, it gained some level of success and even pop-culture notoriety as being an accurate measure of politics in the then present-day. 15 years or so on, it’s interesting how in some ways it feels as relevant as ever and in other ways (technology-wise mainly) it feels incredibly dated.

    As for the film itself, I was slightly disappointed in relation to it’s reputation. It’s rather rambling in style (perhaps reflecting it’s quick production and low budget), has an irritating performance from Anne Heche (who’s role could’ve been excised from the film entirely) and doesn’t quite have the impact I expected.

    But still, it’s a pretty smart and amusing film driven by a great performance from Dustin Hoffman as a Hollywood film producer (who goes against the obvious way to play that type as a tyrant).

    Rating: B-

  106. Wag the Dog is unmitigated brilliance. Nothing less, thanks to one of DeNiro’s best performances (and onscreen with Hoffman, no less) and the fact that Mamet did a page one rewrite, from the ground-up.
    Rambling? Rambling?! Did they ever call Mozart ‘unfocused’? Did they ever say any of Picasso’s paintings ‘got away from him’?!
    I am verklempt sir, verklempt.

  107. I will grant De Niro gives a good performance – although it’s vaguely depressing that this was coming at the end of a long era of high quality, and within a couple of years (prob from ‘Meet The Parents’) he’d just go through the motions in a lot of mediocre stuff.

  108. I think Heche’s performance is pretty great. Her rant after the plane crash is one of the best moments in the film.

  109. I haven’t seen Wag the Dog since it was released, but I thought it was pretty great, one of the best films of that year.

    As for Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I thought it was a terrific film, but more than just a movie about a sushi chef. It shows that genius is sometimes a burden. Jiro as depicted in the film has no life other than sushi. I don’t think he’s ever read a book, seen a movie, or taken a walk along the beach. I kind of pitied him, and really pitied his sons. His definition of success is a little skewed, I think. But of course without these kind of people we don’t get great food, music, art, etc.

  110. Interesting viewpoint. He’s a tyrant, of course. But when isn’t genius, in some way? Perfection isn’t easy. I felt that was the point.

  111. Clear History was solid, but it really just feel like an extended, larger-budget episode of Curb. J.B. Smoove is hilarious. I talked with him at a show last year and he was probably one of the nicest celebrities I’ve met.

  112. Pitch Perfect:
    Man, are these girls good to look at. (Hope that didn’t come off too creepy).
    A modern-day Bring It On, but instead of ‘cheering’, based on today’s latest ‘in’ hobby, ‘singing’. Like an extended episode of The Voice. Still, not a complete time-waster.

  113. 28 Hotel Rooms:
    Man, does Chris Messina look good.

    This is the kind of adult, full-frontal nudity kind of movie they say they don’t make anymore. Very well paced, (introspective without becoming boring), great performances, great bodies, adult content, study of sexual and emotional relations of a couple having an affair. Takes place entirely in hotel rooms (and their balconies) and I have to say it never lost my attention once, constantly made me feel for the characters and was believable throughout.
    …just couldn’t understand why they never just got together if they loved each other so much. But then, that’s what you expect them to do, and perhaps shows that the only reason they get along is because they’re in the situation they are.
    Well done, all around.

  114. All or Nothing:

    What can you say about British working life as seen by Mike Leigh? Perfectly paced and written and toned and engaging. Sally Hawkins retains that spark (though this is about 2001) that makes her so hot (but she’s never been hotter than in Layer Cake…that accent) and all the characters work together to aces.
    Shane Meadows obviously owes a great debt to Leigh, but they are both as brilliant as the other is distinct.

  115. Win A Date With Tad Hamilton (2004) – A small-town girl (Kate Bosworth) has her dream come true when she wins a competition to have a date with her idol, film star Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel). Things become complicated when Tad flies down to her home town to get to know her better, much to the chagrin of her boss (Topher Grace) who is secretly in love with her.

    There’s plenty of interesting topics for laughs and satire here… virtually none of which the film explores. While it’s likable, the film is depressingly thin on substance; this shouldn’t surprise considering the bland standard of director Robert Luketic’s work.

    Easily the best part of the film is Gary Cole as Bosworth’s Dad and his attempts to present himself as hip to the Hollywood scene. It’s so dead-on in its comic timing compared to the rest of the film that one has to largely assume it’s the work of Cole who is always good value.

    The film is noteworthy from the career perspective of Topher Grace. After showing himself a capable comedian on ‘That 70’s Show’ (I show I liked), he seemed to have a potentially viable film career. But his limitations are on display here as he’s tediously sarcastic and cynical throughout, making it hard to see what Bosworth’s character would ever see in him. And since he was doing the shame schtick 8 years later in the dire ‘The Big Wedding’, it’s no surprise his career has stalled.

    Rating: C

  116. Now & Then (1995) – Four childhood female friends reunite after 25 years to reminisce about the summer of 1970 and how it was a life-defining period for them as individuals and as a group of friends.

    The 1970 section (which is at least 80% of the film) is no classic but is agreeably done as a coming-of-age tale, especially helped by the fact that the girls included capable actors like Thora Birch & Christina Ricci (who is especially good).

    On the other hand, the 1995 section which bookends the film, despite (or because of) having well-known actors like Demi Moore & Melanie Griffith feels flat, forced and needless; it really doesn’t have anything that justifies being in the film that voiceover narration could’ve provided (which Moore does).

    Overall, an unremarkable but decent effort: C+

  117. Modern Romance: (Albert Brooks, 1981)

    I’m still trying to think what I feel about this movie. I wasn’t really into it the entire time watching it, and then at the end, as the credits rolled, it really hit me. And for some reason, this movie I didn’t care about suddenly felt like minor masterpiece.

  118. Seduced and Abandoned (James Toback):
    Excellent, self-proclaimed non-documentary of James Toback and Alec Baldwin running around Cannes to get funding for a movie entitled Last Tango in Tikrit. Whether or not the movie was a real thing, the actors and directors they interview are nothing less than compelling, the moneymen they talk to are eerily blunt and unforgiving.
    Again, not sure how real any of it was, but it was worth it just for the conversation with Scorsese alone. Great movie.

  119. Oldboy – Spike Lee’s remake of the 2003 cult classic. I’ll give it a pass as a generic suspense thriller, but it’s utterly forgettable for the most part. From the score to the visuals: there’s little to no flair. If the original was a Louis Vuitton bag, this is a brown paper lunch sack.

    The hour and thirteen minutes cut by the studio is noticeable as the thing feels hacked up. Most notable is Brolin’s transition from being captive to free man. He acts like a dude that spent the night in the drunk tank sobering up rather than a man who hasn’t had human contact in two decades. There’s got to be some missing material there.

    There are a few minor changes that I appreciated (the backstory behind Olsen’s motivations beat the originals “hypnotism” angle and the new final scene is better than Park’s ending).

    Brolin, Olsen and Jackson are decent. Sharlto Copley’s Saturday morning cartoon-like villain is grating. I really wish the Colin Firth had remained in his role.

    For Slim: Elizabeth Olsen continues her tradition of baring all.

    Anyway, I’d love to ask Spike Lee why he made this film.


  120. Defending Your Life: (Albert Brooks)

    Once again, a movie I wasn’t very interested-in for the length, fun enough, with a good premise, just sort of ambled along and got its point across and then when the trams are leaving on that final shot and he gets to her and they let them be together, it was far more affecting than I had expected and stayed with me for a little while after.
    Interesting how each movie I’ve seen by Albert Brooks has done this. Look forward to the next, and see if I get the same impression.

  121. “The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)” – Jeff Bridges plays a bumbling college professor who enters into a non-sexual marriage based on companionship with a ‘dowdy’ fellow college professor (Barbra Streisand). As it turns out Streisand’s character soon wants more (gasp!) and turns out to have a more glamorous side (after all, she directs the film).

    A notorious vanity project for Streisand at the time; watching this now it seems one of the most bizarre mainstream Hollywood films of the 1990s. From the misjudged music score by Marvin Hamlisch, to Bridges’ baffling performance and character, to the scene of Streisand’s ‘new look’, to the inanity of how college lectures are actually conducted, it is often jaw-dropping in its content.

    To be fair, it improves in its second half and has some nice performances from Lauren Bacall and George Segal, but it’s easy to see why Streisand never directed another film after this.

    Rating: C-

  122. Window Wonderland:

    Look, if you like a film, you like it, right? A Hallmark Channel christmas movie that is smartly written, really well acted and far better than it has any right to be. It has a satisfying ending I didn’t see coming at all, it’s engaging throughout and doesn’t slip on any of its subplots.
    Sure, it is what it is, but for what it is, it’s pretty good stuff.

  123. Lost In America (Albert Brooks):

    Alright, well, this one bucked the tide of Brooks films and had me engaged from beginning to end and was quite funny in many parts. (Also astonishingly cringe-worthy). The scene with the casino director, Garry Marshall, is comic genius, and a masterclass in understated and ‘bigger than life’ acting techniques, aside from being very funny. It has a lot of heart and is rather depressing without being an over-downer.
    Enjoyed it very much. Didn’t hit me at the end the way the other two did, but I enjoyed this one much more overall than the others.
    Recommended without reservations.

  124. The Transporter:

    It’s ridiculous how ridiculous a movie I’ll watch no matter how ridiculous simply because Jason Statham is in it. Is that ridiculous? This movie sure was.

  125. Protocol (1984) – Goldie Hawn (in her usual ditzy blonde mode) plays a struggling waitress who becomes a national celebrity after foiling a political assassination attempt. But things go awry when she’s exploited by Washington political insiders for dubious purposes.

    Considering the talent in front of and behind the camera (screenplay by Buck Henry) you would think this satirical comedy couldn’t miss, but it almost entirely does. Only occasionally funny with heavy-handed satire & ethnic stereotyping galore – also it repeatedly relies on that cliches on a montage of interwoven newscasts to lazily fill in narrative detail (pet hate of mine).

    Hawn is likable but a pale version of Judy Holliday and especially hard to take when she gets serious towards the end.

    Only for those who want to see a typical example of what a mainstream mid-1980s Hollywood comedy looked like.

    Rating: D+

  126. Before Sunset (2004) – The second film of Richard Linklater’s trilogy covering the relationship between an American and Frenchwoman (Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy).

    This film concerns them meeting up 9 years after their one-night meeting where they undoubtedly fell in love. Like the first film, they spend their time just talking (and the film, like the first one, is one long duologue) through the lovely background of Paris. At first it seems they’ve moved on from that night, but eventually the truth comes out.

    I found this a step down from the first film, mainly because by repeating that film’s same structure it felt like much more of a contrivance. It’s funny how many take to this film series because it’s seen as a refreshing contrast to the actionsed films that dominate cinema, but in its own way its just as formulaic.

    Despite it’s tedious contrivances, the film still works with likable characters and some genuine drama when the characters finally open up about their regrets and disenchantment in the film’s closing stages. (Plus it has a lovely song over the opening credits sung by Delpy)

    Rating: B-

  127. Jack the Giant Slayer:

    I have no idea what happened in this movie, because all I could see was the unbelievably bad CG. Really. I don’t know the plot, who the people were, or what was happening, because I couldn’t believe this was a 2013 movie and it had CG as bad as anything in a SyFy original movie. Really.

  128. Red Eye (2005) – Wes Craven thriller with Rachel McAdams as a hotel admin terrorised by a man (Cillian Murphy) who blackmails to ensure the success of a terrorist attack.

    Refreshingly lean (85 mins) and with a fine central performance from McAdams. But despite that, it’s forgettable fare with a simple-minded plot that really falls apart in believability once the action leaves the plane. Craven’s direction is efficient but unmemorable and doesn’t make much of a protracted action finale.

    Rating: C

  129. I remember liking Red Eye quite a bit. Don’t remember a lot about it, but I remember liking it.

  130. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) – Peter Weller stars as a doctor/scientist/musician leading a group of disperse characters in preventing an alien attack from the 8th dimension.

    The film has developed a cult following since its release which isn’t surprising – indeed if feels as if it was made at the time with the concept of being a cult film. Certainly the film is unusual – even unique at times – with lots of interesting detail and a great cast.

    But for all that, it isn’t a particularly good movie. Poorly directed by W.D Richter so instead of feeling lively and animated it often feels laboured and heavy-handed. By the end of the action finale I’d pretty much tuned-out. And as a comedy, apart from one or two moments I didn’t find much amusing at all.

    But it certainly has its admirers so probably best to judge for yourself.

    Rating: C

  131. Forget Paris (1995) – Billy Crystal directs and stars as an NBA ref who meets the woman of his dreams (Debra Winger) while burying his father in Paris. But can their relationship survive the challenges of travel, work and trying to create a family?

    Slickly put together romantic comedy that is agreeable and often funny, which helps it get past some silly sections (like in a sperm bank) and Crystal’s often corny (and cornily delivered) one-liners. Winger gives a nicely understated performance and is helped by a good supporting cast.

    Rating: B-

  132. Joe Versus the Volcano: Not unwatchable. I mean, I stuck it out through the entire thing, but really not very good at all.

  133. LOL.
    I agree: the opening was great. That matte painting of New York is aces. Loved it. And the drudgery. The factory sameness. (Love that he calls-out the flourescent lights). If the movie was 15 minutes long, great, but after that-
    And that luggage scene is maybe where my main issue lies. That line is great, and the delivery, but choir voices and a childish Tom Hanks saying ‘wow’? I don’t understand the tone. If he had revealed the trunk and then Hanks shrugged and said ‘4 of them’ or whatever, now that would have been hilarious and fitting with his fate and how seriously this man is taking his luggage.

  134. I’m completely in Siskel’s camp for this one. (And the third Meg Ryan is luminous, she absolutely jumps off of the screen she’s so good).

  135. Grown Ups 2:
    A truly execrable experiences that fails even in its earnest attempt to impart what I think are a few good lessons on the kids who would watch and who would appreciate a former MTV VJ pretending he’s shitting chocolate ice cream.

  136. Mister Roberts (1955) – WW2 dramedy set on navy war cargo ship which has a relatively safe but tedious existence for its crew. Henry Fonda stars as the title character desperate to get into combat action but prevented by they tyrant captain (James Cagney), whom he tries to protect the crew against.

    The biggest hit of 1955, this film isn’t flawless. It’s style (or lack of it) and static cinematic technique makes it feel a bit like a filmed version of the play its based on as opposed to a fully-fledged film.

    But it still works marvelously well thanks to the stellar acting performances from Cagney, Fonda, William Powell and Jack Lemmon who provide great entertainment in their interactions and contrasting characterisations and propel the script. They overcome the stodgy style and rather simplistic view of the rest of the crew to make the film moving and entertaining.

    Rating: B+

  137. The Secret Garden (1993) – Based on the classic early 20th century children’s novel, a recently orphaned, snobbish young girl gets sent to her family expansive mansion in the British countryside; initially miserable, she sets path on a wonderful voyage of discovery as soon as she discovers… well, what the title says.

    A very fine work that is that most rare of films; a children’s film without a hint of condescension.. All aspects of the film are very well done, controlled by very assured direction by Agneiszka Holland; best of all is the cinematography of the famed Roger Deakins which makes this a visual treat.

    Rating: B+

  138. Dom Hemingway:

    A derivative piece done so much better recently in The Take, and not recently in Layer Cake and not, not recently in Snatch and before that Sexy Beast and before that Lock, Stock. Why anyone wanted to make this I don’t know, and while Jude Law is good, it’s nothing we haven’t seen done so much better before, even down to the gotdamn freeze picture credits and the title cards. No more title cards…I guess unless you’re Wes Anderson and it’s your thing.

  139. We’re the Millers:

    What an execrable, unfunny, manipulative, stupid, degrading, poorly-written, stunted, stilted, terrible movie.
    Still…better than its nearest spiritual equal, any Adam Sandler movie made in the late first decade, early second decade of the 2000’s.

  140. Marathon Man:
    Was only mildly impressed by it. Well done, for sure, but somewhat not well done, and I can’t exactly put my hand on why I think that.

    Did someone not tell the studio that Men In Black has been made…3 times already. Loud nonsense.

  141. Stop or My Mom Will Shoot:
    I can’t, for the life of me, understand why I enjoyed this movie, and watched it numerous times when it first came out, and on subsequent viewings in years after its release. It’s amazingly poor, its only bright spot being the lawyer from Jurassic Park.

    I hold firm to my enjoyment of Oscar, however.

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