saroz162's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Doctor Who - The Robots of Death

This is a definite triumph of style and script over directorial ability. As a murder mystery, it's inevitably a bit of a let-down (the murderer is clumsily given away far too early), but it's almost more enjoyable once you know the plot and can just settle in for the ride. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are at the absolute height of their powers here, with any number of memorable lines and an absolutely cracking guest cast.

Harold and Maude
½

It took me two viewings to "get" this one. I liked Harold from the start because I have a thoroughly morbid sense of humor, but Maude struck me as an example of the worst kind of self-obsessed, "life-affirming" girl who so routinely appears in hipster comedies (albeit at a somewhat younger age). It's only in the final scenes that the penny finally dropped and I had to re-evaluate the whole thing: which of them is *really* life-affirming, and which is obsessed by death? From that perspective, the whole movie turned on its ear, and I found myself appreciating it far more.

Doctor Who - The Claws of Axos
½

Somewhere in the middle of "Axos" is the last gasp of season 7 - arguably the best ever season of the show - as we shift from an intellectual sci-fi adventure series to something entirely more flash-bang-wallop. Jon Pertwee is at his most irascible here, and Roger Delgado may get his finest material as the Master, but they and the fantastic 1970s design of the Axos bio-ship are just about the only things holding it up after the halfway point.

The Royal Tenenbaums

I genuinely think this film shows up a problem with Anderson's high-quirk style. "Rushmore" works because it's about an individual who sees the world a different way and has the raw enthusiasm to pull other, more realistic people into his plans and schemes; "Tenenbaums" gives you a whole series of spoiled, rich freaks and, for the first hour at least, no context of reality at all. It isn't until the mid-film turning point (you'll know it when you see it) that the "quirkiness" softens up a bit around the edges and it all becomes much more enjoyable.

Rushmore
Rushmore(1998)
½

"Rushmore" is a rare American comedy that is actually more than the sum of its parts. Everything works together - directorial style, acting, color palette, and especially the British Invasion score - to pull you into Anderson's skewed vision of the world. It's an uncompromising approach, made all the better by reflecting the protagonist's own ability to pull people into his off-center worldview. Max isn't likable or nice; he just *is,* and you learn to accept him and the movie on their individual terms.

Unico: Kuroi kumo to shiroi hane (Unico: Black Cloud White Feather)
½

Stylistically, this is streets ahead of the two later feature films (and Unico is less of a drip, thankfully). For the confines of a 25-minute children's TV show, it's not bad at all.

Unico: Mah˘ no shima e (Unico: In the Magic Island)
½

Trippy as hell and twice as confusing. Small wonder this gave me nightmares at 7 years old; the "living puppets" march alone is nightmare fuel at its finest. More worthy discussion might center around why the protagonist of this sequel is so whiny and unappealing, or why Sanrio chose to build a film out of a handful of really beautiful animation set pieces (at least one of which has no bearing on the plot at all) that only take up 5% of the actual running time. The 95% of the movie that remains is cheap, flat, TV-quality cartoon work, impressive only to the 7-year-olds like me who were so terrified by the good (if utterly surreal) material that the distinct lack of characters, plot and appeal barely even registered.

Goodbye, Children (Au Revoir Les Enfants)

A deceptively simple story in which the ending is obvious almost from the start. The point of the journey isn't what happens, but the slow discovery of it by the protagonist, Julien. Just as Julien slowly works out deceptive his first impressions have been, director Louis Malle appears to be working through something he experienced (from the periphery) as a child but was never fully able to understand - or forget.

Dracula A.D. 1972
½

Here's a movie even Peter Cushing can't save, but man - he sure does give it his all. Limited screen time for top-billed Lee (of course) and a high-camp Christopher Neame means that Cushing has to carry the film alone for large, large portions, and he isn't given any material to help things along. The nutty prologue and ending are the best parts, with a thoroughly dull, talky second act. So bad, it's not even ironically good for about 80 of 96 minutes.

Horror of Dracula
½

It is *indescribably* stiff-upper-lip British and takes some very peculiar license with the original story, but there's a reason this one is remembered as a classic. The formidable screen presences of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee just can't be denied, and with Michael Gough added in, that's three consummate professionals at work on the material. Add in good music and lush set design and it's wonderful to look at, even when the script feels awfully restrained by contemporary standards.

Night of Dark Shadows

Honestly, this is a better movie than the first one, if only because it creates an excellent, spooky atmosphere, and most of the same actors have learned to dial down their performances for film. It does struggle with the same time and logic gaps, mostly toward the end, and this time because of studio-mandated cuts. However, in general, it's a better picture, and a restored full-length edition could go a long way toward fixing some of its flaws.

House of Dark Shadows
½

Here's the thing: this is a movie that doesn't take any prisoners, perhaps more out of na´vetÚ than by design. It expects you to know the various characters and the approximate beats of the Barnabas story; the fun is in seeing it all played out on a drive-in movie screen in vibrant, schlocky color. That aim doesn't really translate for the home media market, where leaps in time and logic are all too easy to scrutinize. It's fun to see as a stepping stone between the TV series and the big-budget Tim Burton film, but it's a curio at best, and at worst, a cheap, bad movie.

Taste the Blood of Dracula
½

A more stylish film than several prior entries, despite a more overtly "modern" feel (the period trappings feel very token). Several recognizable actors really help the goofy - and occasionally even distasteful - elements of the film along.

Dracula Has Risen From the Grave

Fairly standard Dracula film - probably the last gasp of the extremely studio-bound 1950s style - made at least vaguely interesting by the director's original use of color filters. The performances don't rise very far from the grave, though, especially the bimbo blond and her Roger Daltrey lookalike boyfriend.

Alien
Alien(1979)

What can I say about "Alien" that hasn't already been said? A gripping thriller and a marvelously designed film, where the only problem for a modern viewer is the knowledge of the many, many imitations it has inspired. The original cut surpasses the so-called director's cut, too.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

This is one of those movies that is unforgettably, relentlessly eerie - and therefore more frightening than something traditionally horrific. It sticks with you a long, long time after you see it, even though you may not be able to put your finger on the reason why.

Quatermass and the Pit (Five Million Years to Earth)(The Mind Benders)

Easily the best of the Quatermass films, and Andrew Keir is easily the best Quatermass (with very solid support from James Donald and Julian Glover). This is almost certainly the template for the Earth-based revamp of Doctor Who that was completed by 1970. Never mind that the climax is poorly explained pseudo-religion; dramatically, it works.

Quatermass 2
Quatermass 2(1957)
½

This time the production is far more assured, with some really startling moments of violence. Donlevy's Quatermass has been dialed back to a more human performance, too.

The Quatermass Xperiment

The original Quatermass story is still the best, as the endless imitators demonstrate (yes, "The Astronaut's Wife," I'm looking at you). The film version, however, is diluted by a bland and characterless Prof. Quatermass, as well as an explosive ending that negates writer Nigel Kneale's intent. The long-lost BBC serial was almost certainly better.

Excalibur
Excalibur(1981)

Eerie, violent, and strangely ethereal. The first half is marvelous, with special praise reserved for Nicol Williamson's conniving and outrageous Merlin. The second half suffers more from an episodic nature, which keeps the decline of Camelot from being as affecting as it should, but the film has gained enough momentum by then to manage. Certainly worth a look from anyone interested in the source material - there probably won't ever be another version that balances the mystical and the bloody so well.

Yellow Submarine

Very, very silly, and it probably helps if you're high. However, the stuff in Ringo's house, and the final act in Pepperland, are great.

Camelot
Camelot(1967)

This is a lot of fun if you're a teenage girl, but the highly stage bound and rather indifferent direction by Joshua Logan just about kills it. It doesn't help that none of the three leads is quite right; two can't sing and one is dubbed. Harris and Nero get away with it, barely. Redgrave doesn't.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
½

Goofier and flabbier than the first film, but it firms up toward the end at Reichenbach. Stephen Fry and Jared Harris are both great choices for their roles.

Sherlock Holmes

Tremendous fun, with enough little homages to keep any Sherlockian happy. RD Jr is certainly a unique Holmes, but Jude Law is probably the best cinematic Watson ever.

Speedy
Speedy(1928)

Great silent comedy from Harold Lloyd. Not quite the genius of "Safety Last," nor as cohesive, but there's lots and lots to enjoy here - great gags in a doughnut shop, a cameo from Babe Ruth, and some wonderful views of 1920s Coney Island! Plus, there's an adorable dog. 86 minutes without dialogue shouldn't be this entertaining.

Hot Fuzz
Hot Fuzz(2007)
½

A funny take on the British police force (and the "small village murder mystery" tradition), even if it does wear out its welcome a bit by the end. Great just for the big reveal about two-thirds in.

3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma(2007)
½

A *very* enjoyable picture. All the trappings of the Western I enjoy are there - the setups, the suspense, the betrayals - without the sluggish pacing and detached style that dated so many older examples. There's nothing particularly new here, but it's carried off with a lot of energy and just enough modern flair to feel fresh. And yes, I *finally* understand all the hoopla about Russell Crowe. (Plus, I want his hat.)

What About Bob?
½

A definite guilty pleasure, mostly because of the casting. Bill Murray is simply too good at being a supreme naive annoyance, and Richard Dreyfuss too easily prickled. The trick is to side with Murray's character early (fairly easy) and enjoy it as he relentlessly drives Dreyfuss up a wall.

The Day of the Jackal

A real slow burn of a thriller. Although there's not much action, the suspense is taut as the French police race to stop a master assassin from killing General de Gaulle. The best part of the film is the detail, from the construction of the Jackal's gun to the records the police pour through for his faked identity. It's the sort of thing we didn't see much in cinema before the Bourne movies came around.

Yes, it's a slow film, and yes, it has the typical detachment of late '60s/early '70s British cinema. But there's also a wealth of great British and French talent here, from Edward Fox as the titular killer to Derek Jacobi in a very early role and Michael Lonsdale in an unusually understated performance (for comparison, see "Moonraker"!).

An intelligent thriller of a high order. Well worth seeking.

Superman Returns
½

An homage to the first film that works better if you've never seen the original material. It siimply tips its hat way too many times to be taken seriously, although Spacey makes a great Luthor, and Routh is - well - acceptable. Several nice set pieces in this one, but unlike the 1978 original, it's too damn long.

Superman
Superman(1978)

A real comic book movie, from the bright colors to the ending that doesn't make a lick of sense. But there's more good here than bad, upheld by Reeve's amazingly earnest Superman and Hackman's roguishly OTT Luthor. The opening sequence in Krypton is also lots of fun.

Mean Girls
Mean Girls(2004)
½

I shouldn't have liked it. I really shouldn't. But somehow, it tickled a certain nerve, right from the backwoods homeschooling joke onward. Of course, it's not a great film, nor anything worth rewatching, but it's certainly one evening's vengeful entertainment!

The Man with the Golden Gun

Guy Hamilton proves, once and for all, that he's actually not that good of a director. There were signs in the last two films, but this is the one where both Moore and Christopher Lee are squandered; this is the one with a good chase ruined by J. W. Pepper; this is the one where we spend too much time looking at Britt Ekland's rear end. The film is so inept you wouldn't believe it. Easily the worst installment besides "Die Another Day," and the most wretched song, for a long, long time.

Seabiscuit
Seabiscuit(2003)

Oddly underwhelming film. I think I would have liked it a lot more with a good half hour shaved off, never mind the terribly intrusive narration in the in the first act of the film. I tend not to like films that jump run through the decades too fast, and when "Seabiscuit" finally stopped doing that, I had already detached. Still, some nice supporting performances from Bridges and Cooper, and it *was* well-shot.

The Man on the Train

A surprising, character-based treat. Johnny Hallyday and Jean Rochefort basically play out a two-hander between an aging gangster and an old teacher, each of them yearning for the other's life. As with so many European films, the ending is a little ambiguous, but more satisfying than a Hollywood solution.

Life as a House
½

A reasonable but unremarkable film completely carried by Kevin Kline - who is, of course, eminently capable of doing just that. Without him, this would be a maudlin, somewhat over-emoted TV movie. The fact that he is so convincing, and watchable, is a real credit to his ability. But it still can't make this anything beyond a rental.

My Best Friend
½

Cute, if predictable, falling just this side of good on the French cinema scale. The two leads work well together, and for us foreigners, there's an interesting glimpse at the French "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." A pleasant, light afternoon watch, especially with family (which is exactly how I saw it).

Puzzlehead
Puzzlehead(2006)
½

A peculiar little independent sci-fi film that feels like it owes more to Andrei Tartovsky and Eastern European cinema than anything else. It's quite slow, but very interesting, although the middle act should have been better developed. Worth a look for fans of intellectual sci-fi.

Never Weaken
Never Weaken(1921)
½

A funny little Harold Lloyd short with a number of good visual gags - including a whole slew of suicide attempts by Harold (much funnier than you'd think). The previous year's "Number Please?" is even better, but it isn't listed on Flixster. They're both available on the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection 3 DVD release.

The Contract
The Contract(2006)

The very concept of Morgan Freeman - warm, kind-hearted Morgan Freeman! - as a contract killer is enough to make you pick up the DVD box and go, "Hmm." But sadly, the premise doesn't really play out. The worst thing about The Contract is not its acting, its directing, its cinematography, or really anything you can see or hear. The worst is its predictability - and it happens to come in spades.

Read my full review at popsyndicate.com!

Coeurs
Coeurs(2007)
½

This is the kind of quiet film I would enjoy watching on television, although I think I would like a performance of the original Alan Ayckbourn play even more. The film is not terribly exciting, but sometimes it?s good to see our everyday lives, thoughts, and fears reflected back on ourselves.

Read my full review at popsyndicate.com!

Dear Frankie
Dear Frankie(2005)

Much more enjoyable than expected, without a manipulative storyline or a pat Hollywood ending. All three of the leads are very strong, especially the little boy. Just prepare to wade through the Scottish accents.

Another Time Another Place
½

A nice little melodrama in its way, although Lana Turner feels oddly out of place in an otherwise British cast. Mostly, it's fun to watch a young Sean Connery in one of his first big film roles. And then there's that creepy little boy from "The Innocents," too...

Mulan
Mulan(1998)

It's still cute, but "Mulan" hasn't dated that well since I saw it as a kid in the theater. The Westernized take on a Chinese story is culturally iffy, and the gender politics are already cliched. There are, however, some excellent stylized sequences, and the overall musical score is quite nice.

The Bourne Ultimatum

It's very complex, sometimes confusing, with long patches where almost nothing happens in the tensest of rushes - but it's a good film nonetheless. Since it's basically the second half of "The Bourne Supremacy," it's well worth watching that one beforehand.

Stardust
Stardust(2007)
½

A great fantasy film with an *astonishingly* poor ad campaign. Neil Gaiman finally translates to the screen properly. Well worth seeing (and I think it will do a lot better on DVD).

Flushed Away
Flushed Away(2006)

For such a great voice cast - and I do mean a *great* voice cast - this is really a tragically shallow and overdone film. All the jokes are taken up to amp 11, far beyond their natural limit, and everyone but Hugh Jackman has been directed to play it like panto. The best gag involves the singing slugs, and Jean Reno's frog brigade has its moments, too. But can someone explain to me why the MacGuffin of the ruby was even necessary, if it was only going to be abandoned so quickly?

Miss Potter
Miss Potter(2007)

It's sweet. It's cute. It's also very slight. There's not a whole lot of story here, and it hits almost every predictable beat. With the glut of "famous author bio-pics" now emerging, "Miss Potter" does little to raise itself above the norm, except a few animated sequences that, while charming, make Beatrix Potter seem rather mentally disturbed. Renee Zellweger's assumed "jolly hockey-sticks" accent is also a bit grating - but, this said, the film is overall diverting and pleasant. A good one for mothers who dislike conflict.

The Offence
The Offence(1973)

Bleak and, therefore, unsurprisingly overlooked. This is the film Sean Connery returned to Bond to fund. It's a tight, raw film, and a good argument against Connery naysayers - he holds his own in a cast of extremely familiar British faces - but ultimately, it would probably work better as a stageplay.

The Last King of Scotland
½

This film is all Forest Whitaker - and frankly, very little else, especially when you sit back and consider the implications of tampering with the storyline of actual, established (and fairly recent) events. That James McAvoy's character is fictional isn't that much of a problem - but he shouldn't be the catalyst for major events. Take it as a fascinating portrait of Idi Amin brought to life, and then seek out real history.

Waitress
Waitress(2007)

This movie will make you want pie. A very sweet film that just manages to balance the "quirky" element so many films take too far. Keri Russell is a nearly-grounded center, and oddly enough, Nathan Fillion manages to be totally likeable as a guy running around on his wife. However, the best roles are the two supporting waitresses - Cheryl Hines and the film's late director, Adrienne Shelly.

Planet of the Apes

Tim Burton's stupidest, by far. Why did this even end up on the screen? The social aspects of the original book and film have almost completely been wiped out, with more emphasis on action (of course), and an inept twist that makes a complete mockery of the famous Statue of Liberty shot. Just about anyone involved with this film should be deeply ashamed.

Bean
Bean(1997)

A silly compilation of the most memorable sketches from the original TV show, strung together by an ultra-thin plot and re-enacted with as much emphasis on the gross as possible. The character, and his loyal audience, deserved a lot better than this. I'm still trying to figure out why Peter MacNicol even signed up for the film.

The Brothers Grimm
½

Gilliam's most commercial film ,and probably his weakest, hampered by a turgid script and overdone CGI. There a few Gilliam moments here and there - the insanely complicated torture device, the walking trees - but it's all too little too late. Heath Ledger is the film's one bright spot, or at least the only surviving piece of characterization from a convoluted and cliched screenplay. Sadly, with a better screenwriter, this could've been something really good.

Men in Black II

Ridiculous, trite, and too fast-paced for its own good. The opening on the subway is fun, but that's really it. Everything else is just an endless song-and-dance as we cycle through as many characters and situations from the first film as possible - with no room left for any proper comedy.

Nanny McPhee
Nanny McPhee(2006)

Cute - in fact, a little bit twee, especially with the supporting adult cast (I don't know why everybody has to wear silly wigs). However, Emma Thompson manages to ground the whole affair enough to keep it watchable, and Thomas Sangster is turning into a good young actor in his own right. Fun for the kids, certainly.

As Good as It Gets

Is this one old enough I can use the word "classic"? I think I can, because it is. All three leads are playing to their individual skills (and I've never especially liked Helen Hunt before), the story is compelling, and it has the perfect balance of drama and sardonic comedy. That it ends without tying everything up neatly in a little package makes it all the better - there's the suggestion of happier times, but no outright promises. And that's how it should be.

Interview with the Vampire

It doesn't sound nearly as good as it actually is. Tom and Brad, far from being pretty boys, turn in more nuanced performances than you'd ever expect (especially in the latter case). Even Kirsten Dunst gets in on the act, with what might well end up her best job as an actor and not just a pretty face. The story is engaging, and the best part is Neil Jordan's grim but romanticized direction - perfect for the material.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

A ridiculous "sequel" that actually remakes the original, point for point, with very little deviation. The only fun is provided by Tim Curry as a hotel manager who wants, like most of the audience, to strangle Macaulay Culkin.

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)
½

An intricate, complicated "magic trick" of a film that depends on you taking note of just about everything, except for the one or two little things you're supposed to glaze over. I'm not entirely sure it works - it's definitely a film that requires multiple viewings - but the performances are first-rate, the direction is extremely assured, and the result is certainly entertaining if not always comprehensible. Special points for David Bowie, who once again proves his skill at interpreting men that nobody quite understands, and making us admire them.

Dr. Dolittle
Dr. Dolittle(1998)

An absolutely pointless modern-day take on the classic children's books, complete with a silly plot not good enough for adults and jokes that aren't really appropriate for any child.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The quality certainly doesn't flag from "Fellowship," but it's a middle movie and no mistake - essentially, one long set-up for "The Return of the King." There are some lovely scenes here, but it probably suffers from a bit too much Gollum and, in the theatrical cut, not quite enough of anything else. In fact, it's the only one of the three I would say *must* be seen in extended form. Is it a bad film? Not at all. But it only works as part and parcel of its fellows - not something you would ever watch on its own.

Spy Kids
Spy Kids(2001)

Frankly, once you get over the basic conceit of the concept, this isn't all that good. The famous parents are fun when they appear, and Alan Cumming's little musical interlude is quite funny, but the whole thing is far, far too arch to be endearing, and too long to be cute. It rests uncomfortably in the gap between a movie made purely for kids and a movie designed more to amuse parents who are "in on the joke" - and both audiences suffer from the result.

28 Days Later
½

The first half hour is a tense, gripping examination of a man searching for answers in an abandoned metropolis. The second half hour is a good show of people trying to work together against unbeatable odds. The third and fourth half hours, unfortunately, are total, cliched rubbish that should never have made it past the first draft stage.

The Sixth Sense
½

I managed to miss this one in the theatres, but I also managed to miss being spoiled on the ending 'til I finally saw it. And, quite frankly, that's very important for viewing this. Once you know the "big secret," it's still a good film - but more a solid exercise in form and style than anything you want to watch again and again. That's a definite risk when your film hinges on a twist, so the fact it's even worth watching afterward is a remarkable achievement. Just don't expect it to be as entertaining as the first time.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
½

The only one of the prequels I saw twice in the theatre, and man, do I ever regret it. Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor make great protagonists, and the stunts are fabulous, but within thirty minutes all the best stuff is buried under the mire of a kid who can't act and a CGI model who's a walking Caribbean stereotype. Lucas' dialogue is still flat and his direction is barely any better, but in the old days, it was the next generation of mythic archtypes that were already thousands of years old. Now it's just a big damn video game.

Collateral
Collateral(2004)

Surprisingly sharp and very, very tense. It seems the weirder Tom Cruise gets in real life, the more interesting film roles he chooses - and, usually, manages to pull off. He and Jamie Foxx have great chemistry, both as almost-allies and opponents, and they raise the film above the slightly silly office chase that brings down the third act.

The Nutty Professor
½

Painfully unfunny and annoying long - one of those movies I was subjected to when my mother was on an evening out and my father demanded a comedy from Pay-Per-View. Usually, a father and daughter can find something to laugh about in even the stupidest film...but that's certainly not the case here. And I feel sure the sequel's worse.

The Sound of Music

It's not the worst musical ever - there are other Rogers and Hammerstein vehicles to take that mighty prize - but it *is* remarkably tedious, especially after the first half. That's when it suddenly and desperately wants to be a serious drama after a bunch of goofy singing lessons and a tale about a goat-herd. Andrews can't save it, Plummer can't save it, those damn kids certainly can't save it, and at least two of the three deserve much better.

A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life(1998)

Often treated - or rather, flat-out ignored - as the bastard child of Pixar animation, this one actually has quite a lot going for it. The voices are great, with "Kid in the Hall" Dave Foley almost-but-not-quite-famous-enough to be a familiar and endearing protagonist, and Kevin Spacey always makes a better villain than people give him credit for. Yeah, the plot's "The Magnificent Seven." Who cares? It's fun, it's bright, and it's a hell of a lot more appealing than "Cars."

Constantine
Constantine(2005)

Ridiculous. The opening scenes hold some promise, and there are nice supporting turns by Tilda Swinton and Djimon Hounsou, but the whole thing becomes rapidly more and more inane with each passing minute. To remove the film so far from its origins was a bad idea, and to cast the truly wooden Keanu Reeves rendered it dead on arrival. By the end you'll be laughing, not frightened, when Satan finally shows up.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

A rare '80s comedy to survive the decade. Matthew Broderick is at his best here, and his adventures are just this side of realistic enough to accept. That the plot has an undercurrent of the inescapable to it makes it work all the more. We all were, or wanted to be, Ferris Bueller at one time...and then we grew up.

Jurassic Park

Culturally significant - there was a time when you had to have seen this to hold a conversation in public - but honestly not all that fantastic. As with many of Crichton's concepts, the idea is better than the execution, although the dinosaurs are terrifying enough that you never really stop to think about the plot.

The Neverending Story

If you saw it as a child, you'll still love it. If you didn't, you'll wonder what trip we're all on. Okay, so the effects are more than a bit '80s, and the American version has enough pop-synth in the score to strangle a cat. But the story itself is still captivating, and the Nothing one of childhood's worst nightmares. This film is one of the few from the fantasy onslaught to stand the test of time - but you still need a little bit of child in you to appreciate it.

Men in Black
Men in Black(1997)

The original MIB is still a truly funny film, with appeal for both ardent sci-fi fans and occasional B-movie junkies. Smith and Jones have fantastic "buddy" chemistry, D'Onofrio steals the show, and at just under 100 minutes, none of it wears out its welcome.

Pan's Labyrinth
½

Visually stunning at certain points, but definitely overhyped. While the mixture of fantasy and reality works well, the whole thing is too predictable to be an instant classic, and too grisly to be a rainy day favorite. It's worth seeing, but mostly as an artistic novelty.

Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

The funny thing is, this sequel to the so-kitsch-it-hurts "Dr. Who and the Daleks" is actually quite good. In fact, it's better than the 6-part serial upon which it's based. Not everything works, but it gels better with a more studied performance from Peter Cushing, good support from Andrew Keir and (oddly) Bernard Cribbins, and solid, uniform Daleks and Robomen. Still a little kitsch, but good stuff, all the same.

Lawrence of Arabia

You can't deny Lawrence. From that first time he extinguishes a match with hsi fingers, all the way through this four-hour film, Peter O'Toole's portrayal will grip you and never let go. Omar Sharif and Alec Guinness are also superb in their supporting roles. Modern-day moviegoers may be bored by the topic, the lush cinematography, and the studied pace, but any true film buff will never fail to fall in love with "Lawrence" again, and again, and again.

Dr. Who and the Daleks
½

The first of two films starring Peter Cushing as the eponymous Doctor, and definitely the weaker of the two. It's so '60s it's shameless - multi-colored Daleks, lava lamps, blue aliens with eyeliner. Cushing's Doctor oddly pre-dates Patrick Troughton's more endearing performance, but frankly, it's a bit much, and Roy Castle's larking about doesn't help. Recommended only for completists.

How to Steal a Million
½

A 'caper' film and no mistake - it wouldn't work without the frothy, and underrated, chemistry of Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn. The whole film is absolutely ridiculous, of course - but that doesn't stop it being a delightful confection, a sweet '60s treat for a rainy day.

What's New, Pussycat?

The obvious comparison to the original "Casino Royale" does, I think, a bit of a disservice to this film. Yes, it has a similarly chaotic ending, but the bulk of the film works, held together by Peter O'Toole's delightfully OT womanizer (which I'm sure was a hard, hard piece of acting...). Very silly, but very amusing, in that swinging '60s way.

The Ruling Class

A bizarre film made up of two equally bizarre halves. Watching Peter O'Toole believe himself the son of God is quite funny, especially when he breaks into song - but the later delusion of Jack the Ripper turns the whole thing on its head. Not a film to be dismissed lightly, it's also in need of multiple viewings to really comprehend.

Fat Man and Little Boy
½

A compelling subject becomes an absolutely boring film. At times, it seems like little more than a schlocky TV movie, and it's anybody's guess why all these stars got on board with the project. The one truly moving plotline involves Kevin Spacey, who becomes the first man to die of radiation poisoning - terrifying, heartbreaking stuff, but not really worth the rental.

Scoop
Scoop(2006)
½

It is extremely disconcerting to watch Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson both play variations on Woody's classic persona, although they are easily the most entertaining part of the film. The dip into fantasy with Ian McShane - complete with Grim Reaper scenario - feels oddly out of place, and while the mystery is cute, Woody's done better. A pleasant rental, nothing more.

The Bishop's Wife
½

The original version of this simple, sweet story is one of my perennial Christmas favorites. All three leads are expertly cast (despite Niven and Grant having swapped roles before filming!), and the message, while religious, can appeal to everyone. What the remake made saccharine and overt is here presented with a magical sentimentality already ten years out of its era, and this keeps the film light, fresh and for the most part, timeless.

The MacKintosh Man

This should be a great movie. It's not. All the elements are there - a great lead actor, a great villain, a great director. But the storyline is convoluted, slow, and most of all, totally boring. It's a thriller without any thrills at all.

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

Everyone is having fun in this film, and if you get into its mindset, the episodic adventures of the dryly humorous, ever-irritable Bean can be very entertaining. Director John Huston isn't aiming for art, here - more a sort of film version of a cheap, yellow paperback, complete with guest stars who show up for one scene and then disappear (each having managed to increasingly steal the show). When it's over, you won't get any real insight into the life of Judge Bean, but you'll be glad you met him.

Absence Of Malice

A slow, studied film about the ethics of journalism, with solid performances by the leads - and, unfortunately, a rather pat storyline. Everything fits a little too easily, everyone forgives a little too quickly. Sally Field's character keeps making the same mistake, over and over, and barely gets called out on it. Still, the film doesn't deserve to have been completely forgotten in the way it has.

The Color of Money
½

The sequel to "The Hustler" is a totally different kind of film - but enjoyable, all the same. If you can get past the '80s soundtrack, you will find no better performance by Cruise in his 'angry young man' phase, tempered by an older, gruffer Newman. Don't come expecting resolution, though - these are two men from different sides of life, and they can never quite see eye to eye.

The Hudsucker Proxy

A strange, surprising film, this is even more surreal than "Barton Fink" and more stylized than "O Brother." It is, in turns, both bewildering and very funny - although if you don't like fast banter, you shouldn't even bother. Even if you do, you may end the film wondering what it is you just saw.

Road to Perdition

Grittier than even the trailer implied, a very solid first half gives way to a second half you can see from a mile away. Possibly, the compression of all those characters from the graphic novel brought the obvious aspects out (Jude Law's performance, while suitably disturbing, culminates precisely how you expect - but he's actually a combination of three characters). The best thing, unsurprisingly, is Paul Newman - older, frailer than we've ever seen him, but still possessing a tremendous presence.

Cars
Cars(2006)
½

Pixar finally falls victim to its own reputation. "Cars" is as shiny and pretty as a new car - but it runs totally on cruise control. If you aren't into NASCAR, large chunks of the film are frankly unappealing, and it soon descends into a game of guess-the-celebrity-voice. That said, it will probably be the only film where Paul Newman and Larry the Cable Guy share screen time - and definitely the only one where Larry is the more endearing of the two.

Empire Falls
Empire Falls(2005)
½

A somewhat rambling miniseries with terrible accents and few answers you don't expect. Still, the cast is excellent, held together by lead Ed Harris and a delightful Paul Newman, and if the whole thing is a little bit predictable it's easy to forgive; writer Richard Russo always excells in believable characters, and that's certainly evident here.

Howl's Moving Castle

It's too long, and a little too computerized in places, but I can't help but enjoy it. Love the first encounter with Howl, and the chase. Love the attempt to trap Howl mid-film. Love the childhood sequence. Great colors, great visuals, marvelous score.

I, Robot
I, Robot(2004)
½

It wouldn't annoy me so much if it wasn't *obviously* tweaked to use the Asimov title and characters, and if Smith was playing anything other than his smug action-movie persona. The design of the robots is really nice, and there are some nice scenes in the first half. It really doesn't make much sense, though.

Ocean's Eleven

OK, it's a silly movie without a bit of real tension. But I love a good fun heist movie.

Hero
Hero(2004)

Sumptuous. Gorgeous. Amazing. I went to see this without knowing a bit about it, other than it was supposed to be good. I was more blown away by it than any other movie I've seen in a cinema. All I could say was "Wow" for fifteen minutes after the credits rolled - ask my parents. And then I ended up buying multiple copies of the DVD, from around the world, to determine which had the best color and picture - it was that important to me (and the only time I've done such a thing). For those who want to know - the Japanese DVD won, by a very long chalk.

Casino Royale
½

Easily the best James Bond, and the best Bond movie, since the '60s. Nothing about it should work - but it does. It's tense, dark, and unrelenting, with a great song and a solid supporting cast. I can't wait to see another outing for Craig's Bond.

A View to a Kill
½

It's not actually Moore's worst film, but it's damn close, thanks to him being far too old and both Christopher Walken and Grace Jones woefully miscast. The scenes set on the Golden Gate Bridge are laughable - that's how far Bond had sunk. Change was needed, and fast.

Tomorrow Never Dies

This is the only Brosnan Bond film I enjoyed from start to finish. The new regulars have settled into their roles, especially Brosnan, who is as gritty as he ever gets in the role. The plot starts to flag by the final act, but it's more than made up for by Michelle Yeoh refusing to play second banana, a genuinely interesting premise, an unusual villain, and David Arnold's first triumphant score. If only they'd kept the original title.

The Dark Crystal
½

A rare Henson project without any humans whatsoever, this film is more a triumph of world-building than actual finished product. The story is your typical quest myth, and while some of the puppets are amazing, others - especially the heroic Gelflings - are too stiff to completely suspend your disbelief. Still, Henson's vision is remarkable, and it's a shame he had to dilute it for final release.

The Queen
The Queen(2006)
½

As much an examination of Tony Blair as the Queen, setting this film during a week no one wil lforget - the death and funeral of Princess Diana - is very clever. The performances are uniformly strong, and a lot is said without using the sort of dialogue you'd find in a play. There's not a lot of repeat value, though - once you've seen it, you've seen it.

Children of Men
½

Not an easy film to take in, and certainly not comfortable. Its genius lies in the way it is expertly shot. Exceptionally fine filmmaking - this is as much a moving picture of war as any World War II drama, if not more so, for what it says about humanity today. You won't finish it feeling happy, but you won't regret the time you spent.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith's solid and compassionate performance pulls this up above what it should be. Nobody is surprised with where the plot goes, or what happens - this is your traditional film "based on a true story," where the interest is in the journey, not the destination. Smith does a lot for redressing the balance of strong fathers on-screen, and his chemistry with his son is undeniable.

Never Say Never Again

In some ways, it's a better "Thunderball" than "Thunderball" itself. It's certainly more taut, and there's a refreshingly free treatment of old friends like M, Q, and Leiter. Unfortunately, the music kills a lot of the excitement dead, and the producers had the misfortune of catching Connery at a rare time when he wasn't known for being especially dashing. Worth a look, certainly - somewhere within "Thunderball" and this remake are the elements of one, solid gem of a movie.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

The most stylish of the Bond films, right up there with "FRWL." Hunt's direction is tight, and it's the only Bond to really excite me with its editing. Diana Rigg is an excellent choice for Tracy, and Telly Savalas...well, he's Telly Savalas. The weak link is really Lazenby himself, who doesn't seem to feel comfortable in Bond's shoes until the last third of the film, and by then it's a bit late. If Connery had been in this one, it could have been a masterpiece.

Live and Let Die
½

Bond's last gasp at the style of the '60s is also Roger Moore's first outing, and he acquits himself well, showing a rare, mostly serious take on the role. The film itself is marvelously surreal, with an edge reminiscent of "The Avengers." Sadly, though, Yaphet Kotto is a surprisingly ineffectual villain, and Moore's first boat chase is a bad sign of the future.

Diamonds Are Forever
½

It's not "Goldfinger," but it's not bad, either. Connery seems to be playing it for real, this one last time, and Charles Gray has a great time chewing up the scenery. The Las Vegas location does seem to cheapen Bond a bit, and there are some weird cast choices (Putter Smith, anyone?), but its worst crime is simply being very, very 1970s. Not as terrible as some would have you think.

You Only Live Twice
½

It's the Bond movie written by Roald Dahl, and once you know that, it all makes sense. It's ridiculously silly, full of trap doors, mini-copters, ninjas, and bad Japanese "disguises." Connery is treading water at this point, easily overwhelmed by Donald Pleasance in their scene together. Still, with Connery it's never all bad, and if you can let yourself relax into the more light-hearted atmosphere it can be very enjoyable. Great song, too!

Thunderball
Thunderball(1965)

This may be the Connery film I enjoy the least - if only because I expect so much more from Terence Young. His direction is as solid as ever, but the casting is starting to slip and the pace...oh, the pace. The underwater footage is more exciting than it ever would be again, but it's used far too liberally, and the entire picture is over-reliant on gadgets. The result is slick, but a little shallow.

Goldfinger
Goldfinger(1964)
½

The long, slow decline of James Bond begins. This is a picture that works in spite of itself: Guy Hamilton's direction should have ruined the whole thing, and the special effects are far worse than in any of the Young films. But casting comes through again, Connery is still giving it his all, and there's a song that changes the feel of Bond forever. Highly enjoyable, overall, but a portent of worse things to come.

From Russia With Love

The best James Bond film ever. Connery hits his stride, Young's direction is taut and exciting, and Barry's first score moves it right along. Everyone is expertly cast and the picture hardly ever slows down. Best of all, it takes itself completely seriously. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

For Your Eyes Only
½

Not strictly a bad film, just a wrenchingly slow one. All the good stuff takes way too long to achieve, and Julian Glover doesn't get enough of a showdown with Roger Moore. Carole Bouquet is pretty good, a new thing for Moore girls, but Bibi Dahl is atrocious. And what's with the death of Blofeld, anyway?

The Spy Who Loved Me

Mind-numbingly slow in some places, visually sumptuous in others, "Spy" is incredibly inconsistent. It really suffers from a weak villain, who should have been Blofeld, and underwater photography that could probably bore fish. Yeah, it's better than "Man with the Golden Gun," but not much.

Octopussy
Octopussy(1983)

The only thing wrong with this one is that Moore is finally, unavoidably showing his age, and it's easy to notice we've seen most of this before in "Goldfinger." Still, it's a mostly serious effort, set in India (which makes for great filming), and both Maud Adams and Louis Jourdan seem to be having a great time. Surprisingly good, even if it would have been better ten years earlier.

Moonraker
Moonraker(1979)
½

An insane film. It actually goes along okay for the first forty minutes or so, despite the regular Roger Moore one-liners, but once he gets to Venice with his high-powered gondola, everything slips into Mach 9 on a crash course to hilarity. There are reaction shots no real human ever has. There is dialogue nobody ever says. And there's a laser battle in space no one should have even considered.

The Living Daylights

This is a Roger Moore movie in disguise, as we say goodbye to the communist plotlines that have driven the series since "The Spy Who Loved Me." Dalton isn't terrible, but he's distinctly uncomfortable with the lighter side of Bond - watching him smile and laugh at the fair is like watching someone suck a lemon. Even a good guest cast can't save it being any better than average.

The World Is Not Enough
½

The pre-titles sequence is brilliant. The song and the score are great. The twist of the villain is actually clever. So why doesn't it all add up? There's a lot of potential here and almost all of it gets squandered with silly special effects and Denise Richards, who acts like she wandered in from an infomercial. The most regrettable misstep since "A View to a Kill," but sadly, it was going to get worse.

Die Another Day

Almost complete tripe from the moment Madonna's glitzified song kicks in til the last, terrible, diamond-inspired double-entendre. Nobody comes out of this film looking good: not Pierce Brosnan, who seems bored and embarrassed in turns, and certainly not Halle Berry, who ruins the whole thing once she actually opens her mouth. What should have been a triumphant 20-year celebration is one of the most excruciating installments in the whole series.

Casino Royale
½

Possiblythe most insane spoof ever, with five director, numerous big stars, and a plot that totally disappears halfway through the film. The David Niven segments are pretty funny, some of the Peter Sellers stuff works, and you won't get Herb Alpert's theme out of your head for weeks afterward.

Licence To Kill
½

Dalton's second and preferable outing as Bond is marred mostly by an over-complicated script and the sense that it all could have been done better half a decade later. Still, the basic concept is good, and most of the material taken from the "Live and Let Die" novel is put to good use. It would've been nice to see Dalton get a third picture and build on this relative success.

GoldenEye
GoldenEye(1995)
½

Pierce Brosnan's debut as Bond is stylish, thanks to director Martin Campbell, but it leaves a little to be desired. The music and most of the cast still seem to be in the '80s somewhere, with Famke Janssen and Alan Cumming having way too much fun chewing up the scenery. There are some great set pieces, and the villains are good, but it for my money, it never really clicks.

Dr. No
Dr. No(1962)

Sean Connery's first outing as James Bond is remarkably strait-laced. It's a good plot, let down only by an overly-complex ending, and Ursula Andress is noticably beautiful. Even Jack Lord is probably the best Leiter yet. Bring on Istanbul - it only gets better from here.

Notting Hill
Notting Hill(1999)

It's cute. It's pleasant. It's rather forgettable.

Serenity
Serenity(2005)
½

A surprisingly successful transition from TV to film, "Serenity" was mostly killed by Universal's blundering marketing technique - and the fact that most fans had already seen it in free preview screenings. Now the race for box-office success is over and done (and lost), it's still the best franchise transition since the original "Star Trek" films. Watch this without knowing who will die, and you'll be jolted out of your seat.

Edward Scissorhands
½

This is still the only film I cry at every time I watch. It's well-acted, well-written, and the music is beautiful. The second half doesn't quite live up to the first, but taken as a whole, it's a surprisingly sweet fairy tale for adults.

The Princess Bride

It's a cliche to say how brilliant "The Princess Bride" is - but it really is the truth. There's a reason that people in their '20s and '30s can recite half the movie and imiate all of the characters. There were many good fantasy films in the '80s, but they all dated fast...except this one.

The Cat Returns
½

First of all: it ain't Miyazaki. It looks far, far cheaper, for one thing - and I think it may even have a reduced framerate. The story is cute, but a bit inconsequential when compared to other Ghibli efforts. This, and the fact there's no true Japanese subtitle track, makes it a sub-par release.

My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady(1964)

It's too long. Really, it is. Rex Harrison talks his way through his numbers, and it's a damn shame they didn't just let Audrey sing. But somehow, the chemistry works, and the whole thing is very pleasantly enjoyable.

Stranger Than Fiction
½

My surprise film of 2006. The trailer looked good, and lo and behold - it's clever, witty, charming, and just solidly good from start to finish. Special props for Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and the use of a Wreckless Eric cover...

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Slow, tedious, and slavish toward the book. The film that guaranteed I would never be a Harry Potter fan.

House of Flying Daggers
½

It's meant to be as amazing as HERO - but it's simply not. It's long, slow, and devoid of emotion. The drum sequence with Zhang Ziyi is very nice, but it's not remotely enough.

Withnail and I

The most brilliant comedy ever. A friend sent it for my birthday one year; I watched it and thought...it's okay. But I wanted to watch it again. After that, I thought it was pretty good. Five days and five viewings later - absolutely unheard of for me - and it was one of my favorite pictures ever. An absolute winner, in turns hilariously funny and very melancholy, this is possibly the only post-'50s film I would take to a desert island.

The Company of Wolves
½

Unusual picture, based on the feminist fairy-tale reworkings of Angela Carter. For the most part, it works, and it has a refreshing "both men AND women have their good/bad sides" message. But it can come off as a bit surreally camp, like Labyrinth. That wouldn't be a bad thing if it were meant for kids - but it's definitely not.

Spirited Away
½

The very first Miyazaki I saw, with a friend, because we were bored, when it came back to theatres *after* the Oscars. It's a magical film, even if the final third is a touch impenetrable. This is the one to introduce people to Miyazaki with if they resist something as "childish" as Totoro.

Princess Mononoke

I don't quite buy into this one as much as some do, partly because it's more violent than my personal taste accounts for. It's definitely the heir apparent to Nausicaa's environmental message, and it's very masterfully done. It just doesn't hold me like his other films.

My Neighbor Totoro

Now, this *is* the Miyazaki film to show anyone who's never seen his work. It's simple, it's beautiful, and it's probably the only one whose message isn't diluted by an English dub track. The scene at the bus station with the Totoro is probably the single best in any Miyazaki film, ever.

Kiki's Delivery Service
½

Probably the most simplistic of Miyazaki's films, but it has its individual charms. Avoid the English language track like the plague.

Nausicań of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no tani no Naushika)

You just can't deny this one. The obvious precursor to Prinicess Mononoke is still a "children's" film, but definitely Miyazaki's most serious within the genre. It's environmental sci-fi, which is really hard to pull off, but the result is magnificent. Not the Miyazaki I'd show to a newbie, but my personal favorite.

Castle in the Sky

Probably my least favorite of Miyazaki's "traditional" output. It just goes on forever. That said, there are still some great sequences (the first arrival on Laputa, for instance), and Miyazaki's worst is better than many directors' best.

Porco Rosso (Kurenai no buta)

A solid effort from Miyazaki, although I can never quite decide if it wants to be a children's film or a film for adults. The scene where Porco reveals his history is breathtaking, however, and worth seeing the film for.

The Incredibles

Much better than I expected. It's a little long, but it's good solid fun.

Sin City
Sin City(2005)

Another movie that is technically scrumptious...but I found it sadistic, cruel and unnecessary, symptomatic of action pictures today.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

I saw this at 10 AM the day it opened, expecting to hate it. But I got in free, so I thought, why not? Turned out to be a really fun, exciting movie.

Love Actually

I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies - I watch them once and that's it - but this is a marvelously sweet film with great actors, great timing, great use of music. I saw it when I was laid up in bed one birthday, and it made my day so much better. I especially love Liam Neeson's plotline. I try to watch it every Christmas.

Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko(2001)
½

I found this almost impenetrable. Interesting ideas, but I don't ever want to see it again.

The Matrix
The Matrix(1999)
½

I must be the only person who doesn't like The Matrix. The first half is really interesting...but the second half is just a live-action anime.

Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo(2003)

This is one of the rare Pixars I didn't totally fall for. It's cute, it's nice, but it's not Monsters Inc.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I'm not totally sold on Depp's version of Wonka, but everything else in this film is rock-solid. I especially love the Oompa Loompa musical numbers.

About a Boy
About a Boy(2002)
½

Another genius comedy. Nick Hornby is a great writer and up until the end, this is very close to his book. Honestly, I may even prefer the film somewhat. Good comfort food movie.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

I tried to watch this as a teenager. I got...maybe 15 minutes in. Jim Carrey can be a good actor, but I don't like him when he goes overboard.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

I've never been quite as hep on ET as the rest of the planet, but it's a sweet film.

War of the Worlds
½

I thought this was absolutely marvelous. Never felt so much like I was part of the movie since Titanic. And while it's a modernized adaptation of the book, it retains all the core undercurrents. Very well done.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

This is the only one of the prequels I like. It actually has some versimilitude. The main problem is simply that Hayden Christensen can't act.

Shrek 2
Shrek 2(2004)

Just about the only good thing about the film is Puss in Boots. Which is too bad, as the original movie was really fun.

Spider-Man
Spider-Man(2002)

Pleasant. A bit cartoony. The second one is far better.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Largely well shot - but the dialogue has been murdered from the original book, and it was clear the special effects weren't done when it was sent to theatres.

King Kong
King Kong(2005)
½

Another gorgeous film - but it's way too long.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
½

Marvelous film. But not my favorite of the trilogy.

Titanic
Titanic(1997)
½

It's beautifully shot, and there's some lovely detail, but it seems almost exploitative in its depiction of real, human tragedy...I find that hard to watch. Plus, it is noxiously long.