Alex Pawlowski's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Nowhere to Run

Your standard run of the mill Van Damme fare: Misunderstood hero with a checkered past, cursory explanation of why he sounds like that (he's from Quebec!), hot single mom first distrusts him then falls for him after he saves her kids from an attack by thugs who are working for the evil land developer who wants her to sell her land so he can build a golf course resort in the wasteland north of Fresno ... you get the idea. But what makes this special is the performance by Ted Levine (Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs) as Dunston, the head of security for the afore-mentioned land developer (who, incidentally, is played by Joss Ackland of Lethal Weapon 2 and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey).
Dunston is an ex-cop from Cleveland, a genial but menacing guy who just wants to get his job done so he can go home. He's the kind of guy who uses card tricks as a tool to threaten people.
I know, right? How badass is that?
Levine plays this role with nuance and relish, and really holds his own during the final showdown with Van Damme. It's the kind of performance I miss when I watch more modern actioners, which usually forego actual actors in this role and cast some washed up UFC star. Or Channing Tatum.
I also hate Channing Tatum.

The Messenger

The unquestioned Best Film of 2009.
Too bad nobody saw it.
Ben Foster proves he can play something other than psychotics (always knew you had it in ya, buddy.)
Woody Harrelson is a much more versatile actor than anyone has ever given him credit for, and his Supporting Actor Nomination was richly deserved indeed.
Samantha Morton is stellar, as always.
The distinctly American story, with a script by two-foreign born writers, is just about spot-on at all times.
And co-writer Oren Moverman, who also directed, distinguised himself as a new filmmaker to be reckoned with.

Watch this film.

The Caller
The Caller(2008)

This film is not for everyone.
If you don't have A.D.D.,

Starting Out in the Evening

Looks like this year's "Venus."


Streep and Hoffman are PHENOMENAL.

Death Defying Acts

Most of these three and a half stars are for the young actress Saoirse Ronan, who also starred as the young Briony in Atonement.
Ronan, who is Welsh, affected a lovely high class British dialect in that film, and here her Scottish Brogue is near impeccable. This girl is fuckin TALENTED. One to keep an eye on.
Also Tim Stall gives a nicely nuanced performance in a supporting role, and Guy Pearce is dashing, though somehow doesn't have enough to do.
Zeta-Jones is flat miscast. She tries admirably, but ... just no. No.


Okay. Read the synopsis and then add that to the fact that it was directed by the same guy who did Wolf Creek, and if you don't want to see this, too, then screw you.

Raising Arizona

The funniest of the Coen Brothers' films is also their most original. If you ever start to doubt Nicolas Cage (as I did after "Ghost Rider") just watch this film and witness his inspired and brilliant performance.

The Bank Job
The Bank Job(2008)

All right. They totally promoted this as a fun filled romp. It ain't. It's fucking HARDCORE. Dudes get tortured and shot in the fucking face.
All in all, a very slick movie.

The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger could have been the greatest actor since Marlon Brando.
If you know me, you know what a huge thing that is for me to say.

Cassandra's Dream

Woody Allen does Greek tragedy in a Cockney London setting.
Look, I like Colin Farrell, I don't care what anyone says. And I've always rooted for Ewan McGregor to get another great role that he can sink his teeth into (pickings have been pretty slim since the "Trainspotting" days). This looks legitimately very very good. And Woody Allen? Who knew?


"I surrender. I am now a believer in Joy Division. I throw up my hands. Fuckin' Hallelujah."
My sentiments fuckin' exactly.
That quote comes from the mouth of Toby Kebbel, the astonishing young British talent who plays Joy Division's manager, Rob. Kebbel (who was equally outstanding as the mentally challenged younger brother in "Dead Man's Shoes") is pretty much beyond belief in this supporting role, but that's just part of the appeal of this fantastic biopic.
Samantha Morton is also present here, alternately lighting up and tearing up the screen as Debbie, long suffering and devoted wife of Joy Division front man Ian Curtis. In my opinion, Samantha Morton is one of the top five actresses who has ever lived. The only others I can even think of who can match her go by the names of Meryl, Cate and Dame Judi. Anything she ever does, I will watch.
But the movie really belongs to Sam Riley, a relative newcomer who plays Ian Curtis the long and lanky lead singer with the haunted eyes and tormented soul. Riley is an absolute dead ringer for Curtis, and shows a lot of honest to god movie-star potential, with some serious acting chops to boot.
But here's the kicker. Riley and the other actors who play the musicians in Joy Division learned how to play the songs themselves, and that's them playing on the soundtrack. Incredibly impressive. Joy Division are no slouches musically, either. It's not like they're playing the Ramones or something. (I love the Ramones, but their music is pretty simple.) Riley himself does a fantastic job of aping Curtis's onstage persona, complete with his signature spastic military march.
Like many Americans, I had never heard any of Joy Division's music before watching this movie--Ian Curtis famously hung himself on the eve of what was to be their first American tour--but at this point, "I am a believer in Joy Division. Fucking Hallelujah."
The film moves along methodically, shot in stark black and white, and director Anton Corbijn paints his picture with more than a touch of the poet. Some of his shots are just unbelievable. As far as rock biopics go, "Control" is ten times better than "Sid & Nancy" and stands as an example of what you can do with an art-house music picture when you don't fuck it up with gimmicky casting and extraneous bullshit. Are you listening, Todd Haynes? This film is one of the best of 2007 and one of the best films ever made in it's genre.
A word of warning, though: If you're looking for something uplifiting and action-packed, look elsewhere. But if you want a truly great work of art, look no further.

Be Kind Rewind

Half funny, half touching, not all the way there great.

The Orphanage

You know what I LOVE about foreign films?
Apparently English is the only language that has a word for "Formulaic".
I thought thiis was going to be a straight "ghost-story/creepy-kid" horror movie, and it has elements of that, to be sure, but by the end of the film I was weeping, overcome by a beautiful feeling, a combination of sadness and joy that was truly special.
All praise goes to director Juan Antonio Bayona. A truly genius maverick filmmaker to watch.
As you can tell by the five out of five star review, I absolutely ADORED this movie, and if you're the kind of person who doesn't mind reading a few subtitles, I can't recommend this enough.

Men of War
Men of War(1994)

Okay, for whatever reason Dolph Lundgren never caught on in this country as an action star the way Schwarzeneggar or Stallone or even Seagal or Van Damme did.
But if he had, mark my words, we'd look back on this film as a minor classic of the genre. This is a fantastic action film (if you overlook some choppy editing at points), but it verges on great movie, as well.
Not imaginative, mind you, just well written, well filmed, and not terribly acted (with the notable exception of Tiny Lister, who is just atrocious).
I am a fan of Dolph's. Have been since he tried to break Rocky and refused to bow down to Skeletor. His acting improved with each film (he's certainly better than Seagal or Van Damme) and at least he tried to get rid of his foreigh accent (something Schwarzeneggar never attempted). You should really check this out if you're a fan of the now forgotten sub-genre of Reagan era action films--you know, where the hero fights for the American way and blows up the bad guys because dammit, it's just the right thing to do.
The film was released after that genre had fizzled out, if this had come out in '84 instead of '94, I think we'd hold it up along side stuff like Commando and Rambo II.
As it is now, I doubt if it's even carried at your local Blockbuster.
A damn shame, if you ask me.

Showdown in Little Tokyo

Pitch perfect action SCHLOCK.
Dolph Lundgren jumps over a moving car. Dolph Lundgren lifts a car.
Brandon Lee cracks wise and kicks ass.
(I miss that dude so much.)
A lot of martial arts fighting and a pretty good quanitity of boob.
All in all, if you're looking for a grand old time, you could do a hell of a lot worse.


One of the greatest cases ever on record of fabulous potential gone almost completely to waste. A fantastic premise, ruined by a terrible casting choice (Hayden "Annie" Christensen), an awful script which never taps into the full potential of the mythos, and an over-reliance on nifty special effects.
The special effects really are nifty, but they consist entirely of dudes teleporting through space and time, and appearing out of thin air at odd places. On top of the Sphinx's head. Hanging off of the clock face on Big Ben. A crowded street in Hong Kong. But that's a problem for me as the viewer. NOBODY FUCKING REACTS WHEN A STRANGE DUDE MATERIALIZES OUT OF THIN AIR RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
wtf? I call shenanigans.
I'm not really sure why Hayden Christensen has a career at this point. He must just be eye candy for the ladies. Because he sure can't fucking ACT.
Hayden may be a lost cause, but the script should have been better, considering two of the three drafts were written by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Jim Uhls (Fight Club). No idea where they fucked up. The dialogue is stilted and the core story is kind of boring. There are a few phrases included in the film about there being a centuries-old war between "Jumpers" and "Paladins" (religious zealots who have been trying to eradicate Jumpers since the beginning of time). Show me THAT movie. Don't show me Hayden Christensen and his annoying little yapdog of a childhood sweetheart (the cute but insufferable Rachel Bilson). I don't care about their little romantic subplot. What I would care about is a group of Jumpers, living underground and waging a guerrilla war against the Paladins. Think Morpheus and his gang in the first Matrix. That would be awesome. That is not this movie.
Samuel L. Jackson plays the generic villain, Roland, the leader of the Paladins. We never even find out the name of any other Paladin, much less get to know them. And the only remarkable thing about Jackson's character is his ridiculous white wig. However, with a little extra writing, we can establish a motivation for him. I kept waiting for the monologue in which he tells Hayden about his sister or his wife or his dog JoJo, who was murdered or raped or raped and murdered by a Jumper. He says that all Jumpers eventually turn evil, but we have no evidence of that in the movie.
We just have poor, weak, ineffectual Hayden and a young rakish Brit named Griffin, who acts as both mentor and rogue sidekick to Hayden. Griffin is played by Jamie Bell, and his is by far the best performance in the film, making great choices and imaginative line readings. He's also the best written character. He knows what's up, and he's more than a match for the Paladins (which is more than anyone can say for Hayden). I want to see a movie about that guy.
And apparently I might get to. They certainly leave the door open for a sequel, and I guess they were originally planning on making two more of these things, delving into the history of the war and the character of Griffin. So I guess this was supposed to be an origin story for Hayden's character or something, but after the universally scathing reviews, I don't know if this thing has the legs to be a trilogy. But if they insist on making more of them, I hope they aren't as mediocre as the first one.

7 Seconds
7 Seconds(2005)

Straight-to-DVDness aside, this is really an effective heist actioner. Filmed in Europe again, to keep budget costs down, it offers a lot of bang for your buck. Some cool gunfights, a little Snipes ass-kicking, and not one but TWO above-average car chase scenes.
The story is original and well orchestrated. I mean, I correctly predicted the twist ending around the middle of act two, but that didn't ruin it for me. The dialogue leaves a little to be desired, but it could have been a lot worse.
There were some interesting new tweaks on classic formulas: for example, the head baddie has a debilitating illness. The tweak? It's Parkinson's Disease. Eastern Block Organized Crime Don in his forties with Parkinson's. Nice idea, and what actor wouldn't want to test out his chops on that character? Unfortunately they choose to play it for laughs.
(Ha, Ha. He can't eat peas. Ha, Ha. He can't shoot straight. Ha, Ha. He can't light his zippo so as to immolate that person he's torturing. On second thought, no Ha, Ha.)
But I honestly enjoyed the film and would recommend it to fans of the genre, or to fans of the illustrious and underappreciated Wesley Snipes.

The Marksman
The Marksman(2005)

No kidding, a GREAT premise for a covert military action thriller. They just didn't handle it very well. Wesley Snipes is solid as always, but the rest of the actors are terrible. A couple of action scenes are really well played and really well shot, and a couple others look like they were done on a budget of like 20 bucks.
The dialogue is TERRIBLE, but like I said, the premise and the core story is excellent. One of those movies that I almost wish they hadn't made if they couldn't make it right. Hire a dialogue doctor, wait for more financing, cast a couple of decent actors to fill out the ranks, and this might have been a great flick. As it is, I can't recommend anything more than a couple of scenes to the most rabid of action flick fandom.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

What a delightful little piece of fluff. This is the way formulaic inconsequential sequels should be made: jump right into the action, keep the totally preposterous plot moving at a brisk pace, keep the new character introductions to a minimum, make sure the guy and the girl who got together at the end of the first movie are broken up at the beginning of the second movie so that they can get back together by the end of the sequel.
Cage is suitable for this simple stuff (is it just me, or does he not really give a shit about seeming interested about 80% of the time?), Ed Harris is slumming for a paycheck, Jon Voight must have a lot of grandchildren to put through college, Helen Mirren must have been blackmailed or something, Diane Kruger is still working way too hard to get rid of that German accent, and Justin Bartha must be happy to have the work (seriously, has anyone ever seen this snarky little toadying sidekick in anything other than these movies?)
The plot is ridiculous. Somehow Cage's great-great-grandfather's name just being in John Wilkes Boothe's diary makes him a consiprator, and Cage needs to prove his innocence. I guess. By finding the lost Aztec city of gold. In South Dakota. What?
There were some things about the movie that I really enjoyed (the combination-lock desk was pretty cool), but mostly the plot asks you to think a little too much, which is bad for anyone with a college education and a modicum of innate intelligence. Because someone who is smart, when forced to think, will start to see some pretty amazing plotholes. If your brain gets switched on, your suspension of disbelief gets switched off. Bad news for this movie.
And can somebody fucking tell me who the fuck "The Wibberleys" are? Apparently they're the screenwriters for this franchise, but they sound more like an indie rock band. Like they should be touring with The Decemberists.
"Hey man, did you hear who's opening for The Raconteurs? The Wibberleys!!"
(and yes, I'm just too lazy to IMDb them.)

But for all of my complaining, I did enjoy myself throughout most of the film. I've just seen it all before. Would I have absolutely LOVED this movie if I was eleven years old and had never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark? Hell yeah, I would.
But you know what? I'm not eleven, and I've seen Raiders about a thousand times.
Oh, and they blatantly set up a third movie, which I will not see in the theaters but which I will probably catch on DVD, just like the first two. However, unlike with the first two, I will try to make sure that before I watch it, I will take a syringe full of horse tranquilizer and inject it directly into my brain. Maybe then I can watch National Treasure 3 in the right frame of mind--a little closer to their intended demographic. Complete morons.

National Treasure

Cute and harmless little adventurer. The fictional history stuff is fun, if completely preposterous.
The key is to expect nothing more than a bunch of silliness.

The Strangers

Okay. Let me first tell you the things this is not.
It's not Hostel.
It's not Saw.
It's not a halfway-excellent horror flick that runs off the rails due to a shitty "twist" ending.
It's not based on one that was originally done better in Japanese.
It's not some stupid "let's-watch-the-High-School-Musical-rejects-run-from-the-bad-guy" flick.

This is good, old-fashioned, squirm-in-your-seat, nightmare-inducing psychological TERROR committed to celluloid.

A better horror movie of this kind there has not been since probably the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The only thing that could possibly stand up is Wolf Creek. But really, what Bryan Bertino has created here is deserving of its own sub-genre.

The staging is so sparse, so minimal, so delightfully intense. There are long sections of the movie with no dialogue, no soundtrack, nothing but paralyzing fear.

I will not give anything away, because I want everyone who loves horror movies to go see this IMMEDIATELY.

I will say this: Not a lot actually HAPPENS. But I think that's the point. Horror has been gradually ruined over the past fifteen years or so by a seemingly incessant piling on of bells and whistles. Quite simply, horror movies today try to do way too much, and by extension, they wind up doing absolutely nothing. This is a case of addition by subtraction. Anything that is not integral to the action is completely stripped away and what you have left is one of the single greatest psychological thrillers ever made.


Unstoppable (9 Lives)

Somebody blacklisted Wesley Snipes somewhere along the line, and I say that stinks.
"Unstoppable" is an effective and creative little genre thriller, cursed with a terrible fucking title. Snipes is solid, and Stuart Wilson (the baddie from "No Escape" and "Lethal Weapon 3") does good work as the crooked agent villain.
All in all, if you're a Snipes fan, you could do a lot worse.

The Detonator

This is actually a very good action movie, well directed on a dirt cheap budget by filming entirely in Europe.
Some of the gunfight setpieces are really quite nice, and Snipes is solid as ever.
Not a bad plotline, either.

Grace Is Gone

This is an incredibly sad, incredibly sweet, incredibly satisfying little family drama, anchored by the wonderful performance of an actor we are only beginning to fully appreciate: Mr. John Cusack.
This was a very strong year for lead acting performances; we saw D-Day drink other men's milkshakes in the process of giving the performance of the decade, P.S. Hoffman was utterly brilliant in "Before the Devil," Gosling changed the game in "Lars and the Real Girl". Viggo and Denzel gave the performances of their careers, and Benicio came back from a long hiatus and showed he never skipped a beat. Michael Shannon burst onto the scene and Pitt and Casey Affleck performed a country western duet for the ages.
But even with all that, no one actor surprised me more than John Cusack in "Grace is Gone". I've never seen him like this. In most of his performances, he usually relies on a kind of innate snarky intelligence. This is not to say he can only do one thing, or that I don't always enjoy watching him on screen. Because I do. He's one of the most natural and easy to love actors of the past twenty years.
But here, his Stanley Phillips is a lost and timid soul. Cusack gives him a strange gait; the man seems to be both bowlegged and pigeontoed, but it totally fits the character. The performance is subtle and nearly flawless. The Academy should have nominated him. Mr. Cusack deserved it.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Shelan O'Keefe and Gracie Bednarczyk, the two young actresses who play Cusack's daughters in the film. O'Keefe, as 12 year old Heidi, gives her a cynical, world-weary intelligence, whereas Bednarczyk plays 8-year-old Dawn as the kind of precocious, says-whatever-she-thinks little girl that you can't help falling in love with. These two characterizations draw you into these girls and set up a heart-wrenching climax.
Kudos to first time writer-director James C. Strouse. He keeps it simple, which is good. Anything else would have been too much. Highly recommended, but keep a box of tissues nearby.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The best of the trilogy. It's just so CLEAN--it moves so seamlessly from location to location, from predicament to predicament. So many iconic moments: The opening South American Temple sequence, the burning bar somewhere in the Himalayas, the chase scene through half of Cairo when Indy just shoots the guy with the giant sword, the fight with the giant bald guy, the chase scene where he jumps from horse to truck to jeep to on top of a truck to under the same truck and so on. And the opening of the Ark, with dudes' faces melting! All of it just GOLDEN. One of the best pure adventures ever committed to celluloid.

(Addendum:) I just watched the original trilogy again in preparation for Indy 4, and you know something?
This is unquestionably the greatest adventure movie of ALL TIME. It really is. And it might be the best film that Spielberg ever put his name on. (For me, it's down to this and Schindler's List. But how do you compare the two?)
There isn't a false note in the entire thing. The script moves briskly with some good dialogue thrown in. Paul Freeman, a classically trained British theatre actor, is fantastic as Indy's rival archaeologist Belloch. John Rhys-Davies is brilliant as Sallah. As a kid, I remember being scared to death of Ronald Lacey as the Nazi-guy with the glasses and the medallion hand. "Now. What shall we talk about?" Did you know that actor is an agent now?
I know who I'm submitting to.
Then of course there's Karen Allen, who will always be the only true Indy girl. What a great way to introduce her character, winning a drinking contest with a man twice my size. What pluck, what spunk, what innate intelligence. A girl truly worthy of Indiana Jones.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

There are many problems with this movie: Indiana Jones is not Fox Mulder. Cate Blanchett is far too good an actress to be relegated to cheap stunt wigs and a Moose and Squirrel Accent. There are no such things as Peruvian Skeletor Ninjas. Just because a kid has taken a few fencing classes does not make him a master swordsman, and it sure as shit don't make him TARZAN. Hiding in a refrigerator will not protect you from a nuclear blast. Showing an animal looking at a human with a quizzical look is not comedy. Shia LeBeouf can never be compared with Marlon Brando, I don't care if you dress him up in Brando's wardrobe from "The Wild One". Any comparison is an affront to all artist everywhere, living or dead. Daniel Day-Lewis just threw up in his own mouth. Mark Twain and Pablo Picasso are spinning in their graves right now because of the mere suggestion that Shia and Marlon even lived at the same time on the same planet. Shia LeBoeuf is akin to Marlon Brando like Kobe Bryant is a fucking tax attorney. Shia LeBeaoueaoauiauafffe, however you fucking spell his name, is a cocksucking no talent piece of shit. And once again, there are no such FUCKING things as Peruvian Skeletor Ninjas.
The man who is the root cause of all these problems: Steven Spielberg. Or should I say the ghost of Steven Spielberg. Because the man who made Jaws and Raiders and Temple of Doom and Last Crusade and Jurassic Park and Schindler's FREAKING List and Saving Private Ryan, is dead and gone, and the man who replaced him is a terrible fucking director. I wouldn't trust this new Spielberg to direct a third grade christmas pageant.
At this point, I wouldn't work with Spielberg if he BEGGED me.
He just raped my childhood, and dishonored the memory of the greatest artist the craft of acting has ever known. It's as if he took a shit on the Mona Lisa or sodomized the statue of David. What am I saying? He'd never do that. He'd just hire Shia LeBoof to do it for him.


Mark my words: in ten years we'll look back on this "film" as the beginning of the end of legitimate screenwriting.
Many of you know of my sheer, unbridled hatred for Juno. But as of yet, I have not fully explained myself--at least, not in print. Well, it all starts with the "screenwriter", Brook Busey. Oh, I'm sorry. I mean Diablo Cody.
First problem with Ms. Busey: She tries way too hard to be edgy and cool. Here's the evidence of that: She changed her name from BROOK BUSEY to DIABLO CODY. How desperate are you for people to think you're cool if you change your name to DIABLO?
Second problem with Ms. Busey: She's an ex-stripper. Now I have no problem with strippers in general, nor with those who used to be strippers. But I do have a problem with an ex-stripper who takes every opportunity to mention that she is, in fact, an ex-stripper, either because of some deep seeded insecurity or in an effort to further her career as a fucking screenwriter. One of the main reasons she's been put over as a star by the powers that be in Hollywood is because she is an ex-stripper. Supposedly, it's a great human interest story. As a matter of fact, if "Juno" had been written by a legitimate veteran screenwriter, it never would have been nominated for an Academy Award, let alone won.
But then again, "Juno" never could have been written by a legitimate veteran screenwriter, because it's a terrible script. Terrible. Fucking AWFUL.
Which brings us to the third problem with Ms. Brook Busey:
My argument can be summed up in several points.

Point 1: Nobody fucking talks like that. They don't.
Jason Reitman (the somehow Oscar nominated director of this crapfest) has been quoted as saying that Ms. Busey really gets how teenagers talk.
No she doesn't.
No teenager ever has ever said "Honest to blog."
No one has. Not ever.
They haven't uttered "Phuket, Thailand!" as an expletive.
Mostly because teenagers don't know where Phuket, Thailand is.
Not only does nobody talk like that, nobody wants to talk like that. Anyone who does should be drug out into the street and shot. The person who did the shooting would receive a medal of some kind and a delicious roast ham.
The one character who does the most of this is, of course, Juno herself, but her quippy quirkiness extends to a heretofore unheard of level of bullshit, one where she has the freedom to insult her elders without fear of consequences or reprisals. For example, when she meets the lawyer of the couple who is about to adopt her unborn baby, a lawyer who has the misfortune to be named Gerta Rauss, Juno repeats her name back to her in a thick, over the top, bad German accent. Why? To what end? What action is she playing? What tactic? Would she not want to make a good impression on these good people, the prospective adoptive parents of the fruit of her womb? Apparently not, because she spends this first meeting behaving alternately like a spoiled brat or a complete fucking loon. And no amount of apologizing from her father, played by J.K. Simmons (an actor who deserves better than this cloying dreck) can make up for it or explain it away.
And for some reason, Juno has the vocabulary and snarky quick wit of a douchebag English Lit grad student. She says that the the other kids at school call her "the cautionary whale".
No. No they don't. They do not refer to her as "the cautionary whale," nor do they refer to her as any other ironically forced, rhyming idiom. For the other kids at school are morons. Perhaps you call yourself "the cautionary whale", Juno, but that just makes you a jackass. And when you lie to other people about how the kids at school call you "the cautionary whale", that makes you an even bigger jackass.
And Juno doesn't get to call Michael Cera's new girlfriend "Soupy Sales" because it makes no sense for a 16 year-old girl living in 2007 suburban Minnesota to have any knowledge of a 1950s-era puppet show comedian. And even if you have heard of Soupy Sales, Juno, your little friends most certainly have not, so it makes no sense for you to reference him here, because nobody else will have any clue what the fuck you are talking about.

Point 2: Ms. Busey makes entirely too many pop culture references in general, and occasionally, she completely fucks them up.
When Juno calls her little whore friend and the little whore friend asks if it's her, Juno responds sarcastically: "No, it's Morgan Freeman. You got any bones that need collecting?"
The second comment there is referencing "The Bone Collector" a psychological thiller released in 1999 or 2000. In that movie, master detective Lincoln Rhyme is a quadriplegic and must rely on the cunning of a young policewoman named Amelia Donaghy to help him catch a serial killer. The film is based on a novel by Jeffrey Deaver, adapted by Jeremy Iacone, and directed by Philip Noyce. It starred Angelina Jolie as Amelia and Lincoln Rhyme is played by DENZEL WASHINGTON. Not Morgan Freeman. Morgan Freeman is nowhere fucking near this film.
But even if she got that right, it would still be a ridiculous bullshit snarky remark where there was no call for one. The scene is about Juno calling littlewhorefriend to tell her she's pregnant. You can't start that off with a simple "Hey, it's Juno"? You've got to drop in a pop culture reference and make your heroine seem like an obnoxious cunt in the movie's first five minutes? Jesus, Brook, how about some fucking restraint?
The second completely unnecessary, and far more egregious fucked up pop culture reference occurs when Juno is going into labor, and she shouts to her father in the other room: "Thundercats are Go!!!"
Again, you really don't need this, but that's beside the point. The point is that there is nobody you know who loves Thundercats more than I do. I own every episode ever made on DVD, I've watched them all at least five times, and I can tell you that never once did any of the Thundercats utter the phrase "Thundercats are go." Never once. Not ever. You know how else I know that? Because there was another kids adventure show that Ms. Busey is evidently getting confused about. That show aired during the nineteen seventies and early eighties and it was not animated but rather showcased a number of marionette-style puppets who flew around in jet planes, fighting crime all over the world. That show was called the "Thunderbirds" and whenever the puppets got in their jet planes, one of them would say "Thunderbirds are Go!!!"
Speaking as a huge fan of Thundercats, I take umbrage when anyone misrepresents them, but when this talentless hack-twat comes out of nowhere to fuck it up this bad, that's just unforgivable.
(Confusing Thundercats with Thunderbirds, for the uninitiated, would be like talking about Batman's amazing ability to shoot webs from his wrists.)

Point 3: I am so fucking tired of hacky young screenwriters telling the audience about their favorite bands and movies by having the characters talk to each other about their favorite bands and movies. All of the bullshit conversations between Juno and Jason Bateman's character (before he got all pedophile on us) are just that: Bullshit. Having your lead character listen to a particular band that nobody's heard of is not an insightful way of expressing edginess, it's just really lazy character development. Ditto for terrible Euro-trash horror movies. Something worth mentioning here, though. Everyone who likes the horrible fucking script is giving Ms. Busey credit for bringing attention to shitty alt-folk-rockers The Moldy Peaches. But that wasn't her idea. You know when Juno talks about liking The Stooges and T-Rex and Mott the Hoople and other obscure seventies glam bands? That's Busey. But the Moldy Peaches thing? That happened because director Jason Reitman was looking for a cute and sentimentally bullshit way to end his cute and sentimentally bullshit film and he asked Ellen Page what kind of music she liked and she said "The Moldy Peaches" and he listened to one song and said "Eureka, I've got my soundtrack." Everyone attached to this film contributed to that annoying cacophony masquerading as music that stays with you for weeks afterwards.

Point 4: It's full circle to the point of obvious cliche.
"It all started with a chair."
"It ended with a chair."
Are you fucking kidding me?

Point 5: The voiceover narration is spotty and inconsistent at best. It seems to surface only when Ms. Busey wants to include a joke that she couldn't quite fit into the horrific dialogue exchanges.
For example, Juno has a stupid monologue about boys in tiny running shorts just so she can break out a new penis euphemism: Pork Swords.
Then there's that bullshit about Jocks really loving goth librarian chicks, which I suspect is a deep seeded fantasy of Ms. Busey's. But then Ms. Busey found out that Jocks prefer goth strippers to goth libriarians, so she altered her chosen career path.

Point 6: The hamburger phone. Why does Juno have a hamburger phone? And not only that, why does she have to tell the person she's talking to that she's talking on a hamburger phone? That's a special breed of forced edginess. She even says "It's kind of hard to talk on. It's really more of a novelty than a functional appliance." Kind of describes the dialogue as a whole, don't'cha think?

Point 6: Ms. Busey not only gives Juno those ridiculous little snarky one-liners, she gives them to damn near every character. The most egregious offense? When Juno's in the hospital, having contractions and asking for an epidural, which they will not give her, she asks her step-mother Bren, (Allison Janney), a woman who loves dogs and manicures and who lacks a college education, why they won't give her said epidural. Allison Janney (another actor who's too good for this shit) replies with something to the effect of "Because, sweetie, all doctors are sadists who get off on other people's pain and suffering." There has been nothing up to this point in the film (aside from another decidedly out of place rant directed at an ultra-sound technician) that would suggest this as a likely response to come from Bren's character, so it seems obvious that Ms. Busey thought the line was funny and finally found a way to shoe-horn it into her sorry excuse for a screenplay.
Then, of course, there's Rollo, the convenience store clerk, he of the "That's one doodle that can't be undid, Homeskillet?" Well, he's the only character I didn't mind talking like that. Provided of course, that we see him more than once, in the first scene of the movie. It's never said how Rollo and Juno know each other beyond customer and entrepreneur, nor is it stated how they've become so close that he can tease her so mercilessly about her unwanted pregnancy and she can retaliate with a well-placed (yet, of course, bullshit) "Silencio, Old Man!" But if we get another Rollo sighting somewhere in the middle, and near the end Juno drops by for some Sunny D or a blue slushie or some other contrivance, and maybe Rollo shows his sensitive side and he's the one who convinces her to go back to Bleeker or something. See, that's better than the actual Juno script, and I wrote that in like five seconds. But as I was saying, you can have the wacky convenience store clerk talk in those annoying one-liners because he's an inconsequential character and you almost buy that he might sit around all day coming up with weird shit to say (like the characters in "Clerks" for example). And even if some of your audience doesn't like him or finds him annoying, at least he's not carrying the film. So you can have him talk in an original way that's different from your other characters ... provided, of course, that you have your characters talk in different voices. Which Ms. Busey evidently thinks is too "establishment".

This, of course, is the hallmark of the hacky script, having all of your characters speak in the same basic voice, and it is the single biggest reason that Ms. Brook Busey is a shitty writer with an Oscar on her desk that will be forever be seen as a black mark on the Academy.

Oh, and Ellen Page sucks as well.
I can't wait for photos to surface on the internet of Ellen and Ms. Busey double-knob-schlobbing a donkey or something.

Ellen Page and Brook Busey are a couple of no-talent whores, is the basic thrust of the argument, here, is what I'm saying.

Rising Sun
Rising Sun(1993)

Could have been better (read: shorter.)
It's fun to watch if only for seeing what passed for high-tech fifteen years ago.

Sugar Hill
Sugar Hill(1994)

This is pure Shakespearean tragedy, well acted, well plotted and well, GREAT.
Snipes is incredibly solid. Michael Wright (so fantastic on "Oz") is fantastic as the crazy brother. But Clarence Williams steals the show with one IMMACULATE monologue.
I loved the melodramatic ending.

Passenger 57
Passenger 57(1992)

An incredibly well-made, nicely contained little nineties action movie.
God, I love Wesley Snipes.
"You ever play roulette?"
"On occasion."
"Let me give you a little advice.
(camera zooms in)

New Jack City

I have to apologize for never having seen this sooner. Not sure why Scarface has gotten all the street cred among rappers, and this has gotten so much less. Scarface is a better film, to be sure, but still.
Snipes is pure badassery.
"Sit yo five dollar ass down, before I make change."
"Cancel this bitch. I'll buy me a new one."
Ice-T and Judd Nelson are predictably terrible as the black/white odd couple narcotics detectives, but it's a good kind of terrible. Chris Rock plays a crackhead. Not much else to say about that.
Also, this movie was made and set in 1990, so the wardrobe and hairstyles alone make this a must see.

The Art of War

A highly underrated and underappreciated espionage actioner. The gunfight between Snipes and the bad guy (I won't give away the identity) is simply AMAZING.
I, for one, will miss Mr. Snipes during his jail term. Come back soon, Wes.


Okay. There's a way to make this movie and have it not suck. You have to develop both characters in such a way that the audience gets an insight into who they are, and by the time the climactic bout takes place, the audience should kind of be rooting for both of them.
But I wasn't rooting for either of them. I was rooting for the movie to fucking END already. I guess I wanted Wesley Snipes to win, but it wasn't because I liked him or anything--I had no idea who he was (he makes toothpick pagodas, so I guess he's into arts and crafts?). I wanted Ving Rhames to lose, but not because he was this villain who deserved a comeuppance--he was just an arrogant cock.
And after all that, the climactic bout was pretty gay.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The battle scenes are really terrific, but the story isn't as enchanting as the classic "Lion Witch and Wardrobe" tale.

Iron Man
Iron Man(2008)

Robert Downey Jr. is perfect as Tony Stark, Jeff Bridges hams up the villain role, Terrence Howard does well is the Comissioner Gordon role, and somehow, I don't hate Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts.
What do these actors have in common? They have 7 Oscar Nominations between them, and they make an otherwise standard superhero script into something pretty special.
Honestly? I can't fucking WAIT for Iron Man 2.

Bosque de sombras (BackWoods)

One of the biggest surprises of the year.
But perhaps not. I mean, I heard some terrible things about this movie, but I always had faith. A city mouse-country mouse thriller in the mold of "Straw Dogs" and "Deliverance" starring Gary Oldman and Paddy Considine? How could that possibly be bad? Well, I have some good news for you, dear reader. Not only is it not bad. it's probably the best movie ever released straight to DVD in the states.

More tomorrow ...

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

It's really not bad.
Sure, some of the dialogue is shitty, and not delivered all that well, but the battle scenes are well staged, and Statham kicks a lot of ass (imagine the Transporter with a machete).
Unfortunately, the casting suffers quite a bit. Ray Liotta is completely out of his element as an evil sorcerer, and there's a needless Matthew Lillard sighting, who's as believable as a traitorous medieval duke as Burt Reynolds would be as a virtuous medieval king. Oh, wait.
And John Rhys-Davies, who obviously played Gimli in the "Lord of the Rings", is undeniably slumming here as a benevolent wizard. Starring in "Lord of the Rings" and then doing this thing is the equivalent of Tom Brady winning the Superbowl and then joining the Canadian Football League.
Admittedly though, when sworn enemies Liotta and Rhys-Davies duel to the death, they do it by swordfighting via TELEKINESIS. This is, I think, one of the coolest scenes in the history of the genre.

Now, a lot has been made of the fact that this was directed by German crap-master Uwe Boll. I admit I haven't seen any of his other stuff, but on the strength of this picture, maybe he hasn't been getting a fair shake.

Dead Fish
Dead Fish(2004)

This is nothing but low-rent Guy Ritchie, but about half the time it really works.
The problem is that the movie is based around the character of Abe Klein, an American living in London and working as a locksmith when he's not knocking up his Spanish girlfriend Mimi. Mimi wants the baby, Abe isn't sure, so she leaves him and goes home to Madrid. But on the train platform, Abe falls victim to the mistaken identity cliche of the 21st century, the ol' accidental cell phone switch. His phone winds up in the hands of an eccentric hitman by the name of Lynch. Abe owes money to a loan shark named Danny Devine. His roommate Sal (Bollywood star Jimi Mistry) is constantly stoned.
Abe is played by Andrew Lee-Potts, who is thoroughly unimpressive. Most of his "acting" consists of standing around with his jaw hanging open. This wouldn't be that bad if he wasn't on screen for most of the film.
By contrast, Lynch is played by Gary Oldman, one of the most inventive actors OF ALL TIME. He plays the hitman as constantly exasperated, on the edge of reason. It's fascinating, and often quite funny.
Robert Carlyle plays Danny Devine, and it's a welcome return to the kind of role that made him in the mid to late 90s. Manic and near psychotic, shouting everything in a thick Scottish brogue, moving a mile a minute. Bravo. Most of Carlyle's scenes are with far less talented actors, like Lee-Potts and Mistry, but Danny Devine completely takes over the scenes and makes them eminently watchable. Again, Bravo.
When Lynch's contact calls his phone and gets Abe instead, they send a pair of assassins to kill him. These consist of Dragan, an eastern european killing machine who's trying to quit smoking (played by Karel Roden, one of the best parts of "Running Scared"), and Virgil, a high-class British fop with Charles Nelson Reilly glasses and Noel Coward sensibilities (played by Billy Zane, an actor I've been giving far too little credit apparently, because he's GREAT in this). The pairing of these two characters is one of the most original and effective odd couples in the genres history. Think of pairing Stewie from Family Guy and a Predator with a Russian accent. Then think of how much FUN that would be. See, you're smiling already.
Whenever any combination of these four characters are on screen, Lynch, Devine, Dragan and Virgil make this movie special.
But alas, there's way too much Abe and Sal and Mimi for my tastes.
Recommended for fans of Guy Ritchie films, and you may want to keep the remote close by, just in case that fast-forward button starts calling out to you whenever Andrew Lee-Potts comes on screen.

Lions for Lambs

Some sharply written, intelligent dialogue and a handful of nice performances can't change the fact that this is really just people sitting around talking for an hour and a half.
Well done? Absolutely.
Boring? HELL yes.


A thoroughly boring and ineffectual cat and mouse thriller, anchored by the unbelievably bad performance of Wes Bentley, who has become the worst actor working in major films today.

Oh, Wes Bentley, when will you learn? Sucking is not a competitive sport, nor is it a category at the Oscars. If it were, you'd have a trophy case full of memorabilia from "P2" and "Ghost Rider", not to mention a much deeper resume.

Resurrecting the Champ

Best Sam Jackson performance EVER.


This is a version of The Most Dangerous Game, but with cockney juvenile prison inmates. It's also one of the best written, best acted horror movies I have ever seen.
The characters are compellingly well-drawn, and fantastically realized by the young cast. Toby Kebbell, in particular, is a terrifically gifted actor (watch him as the mentally-challenged younger brother in "Dead Man's Shoes" if you don't believe me). He's like the British Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
And Stephen Wight, a young actor whose ImDb resume consists almost entirely of BBC episodic TV, delivers his villainous performance with enough originality and evil joie de vivre to become a contender for the British Ben Foster.
Seriously. Joe Levitt and Ben Foster. That's just about the highest praise I can give a pair of young actors.
If horror movies are your thing, like they are mine, and you're tired of unoriginal, unintelligent, watered-down shit masquerading as horror, like I am, give this a watch.

Dog Soldiers
Dog Soldiers(2002)

This is "Aliens" with werewolves.
If that doesn't sound AWESOME, then don't even bother. But if it does sound AWESOME, which it totally fucking should, find a copy of this and watch the fuck out of it.

Black Water
Black Water(2008)

This movie is "Open Water" with crocodiles.
If you haven't seen "Open Water", then go do that, and get back to me.

Reservation Road


King Kong
King Kong(2005)

The first hour is as boring a film as has ever seen celluoid, but once the crew makes landfall on Skull Island, buckle up, kids. The fight between Kong and 3 Super T-Rexes (THREE!!!) is as bad-ass as anything you will ever see.

Near Dark
Near Dark(1987)

Released three months after "The Lost Boys", this little vampire film didn't enjoy the same box office success and must have been seen as a Johnny Come Lately. But they're not the same film. They're really not even all that similar. For instance, where Lost Boys takes place in California, Near Dark takes place in Oklahoma and Kansas. There are far fewer earrings, leather jackets, and much less eyeliner among the vampires.
But all in all, Near Dark is a cult classic, with a tale that's well told, if not entirely well acted.
Jenny Wright is just AWFUL as the innocently sexual teenage vamp May. She's completely (un)dead behind the eyes.
But Adrian Pasdar (who would go on to play Nathan Petrelli on "Heroes") is serviceable as the young redneck who's been bitten by the girl of his dreams.
And both Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton give career highlight performances as leaders of the vampire clan.
Paxton in particular is so much better here than in everything else I've ever seen. The character Severen is a wild man, completely unpredictable, loving every kill, savoring every drop of blood. Put it this way: If they remade this movie today, Ben Foster would play this role. Now think of Bill Paxton in that part, and amazingly, think of his being REALLY good.
But my favorite character has got to be Henriksen's Jesse. This is classic Henriksen, but it's early in his career. This performance comes immediately after "Aliens", but Jesse is so far from Bishop, it's not even funny.
Henriksen also has the best line in the film:
"Hey Jesse, how old are you?"
"Put it this way, kid. I fought for the South."

Tooth and Nail

I love a great hidden gem horror flick.
This is not one.

First of all, let's get this out of the way now: There are no Human Butterfly Skeletons in the movie. Nowhere. Which kinda sucks.

But not as much as the script for this movie.
Which is too bad, because the writer/director Mark Young is actually a pretty good director. The dialogue is terrible, but the shot composition is fantastic.

It's a great premise and it starts off okay, but it gets kind of slow, and then the ending BLOWS.

Plus, Michael Madsen is on screen for all of five minutes and Vinnie Jones for even less.
You'd think once the producers secured these actors to play two of the cannibals, the writer would beef up their parts a little. But nope. No dice.

If Mark Young ever directs a horror script written by somebody else, that will be one to watch. Until then, skip it.


Equal parts "28 Days Later", "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome", "Escape from New York" and "Aliens", with a few new twists thrown in for good measure.
As far as post-apocalyptic mindless entertainment flicks go, this thing is about as good as it gets. Suspense, hot chicks kicking ass, sharp dialogue, gunplay and hand to hand combat, an awesome car chase, larger than life villains and buckets and buckets and buckets of sweet, sweet gore, Neil Marshall's movie has it all.
I haven't had this much pure fun at a movie in a long, long time.


Pretty good for the first two-thirds.
Then the mind games get a little ...


Oddly disappointing.
This picture really has no fucking clue what it wants to be.
There are some admittedly badass moments, but ultimately the film's identity crisis pretty much cripples it.


This might be Gary Oldman's best performance. It's certainly the only one I can recall where he carries the film from beginning to end. The entire thing hinges on his brilliant work, and he is absolutely marvelous.
It traces the story of Emmett Foley, a PTSD Koren War Vet who snaps one day and tries to commit suicide-by-cop so his wife Mae can collect the insurance money. When the cops refuse to oblige, he tries to shoot himself in the heart, hitting his lung instead.
He recovers from his self-inflicted wound and is thrown in the Florida State Mental Hospital at Chattahoochee. There he meets Walker Benson (played well by Dennis Hopper). Walker is also not crazy, but the regular prison was filled to capacity and they shunted a bunch of guys to Chattahoochee. It quickly becomes apparent that the conditions at the hospital are ridiculously substandard and that the guards are all sadists. Foley begins to write to his sister about the conditions at the hospital as she goes through channels to get his release.
Unfortunately, Oldman has to go through most of the film wearing a terrible fake beard, but somehow it doesn't hinder the performance too badly.
The best scene is when his wife comes to visit and tells him that she is pregnant by another man and wants a divorce. Watch Oldman when Mae asks him if he hates her; his heartbreak and his rage must be uncontainable, but somehow he squelches it all and manages a very simple "Yes, I think I do."
Both Oldman and Frances McDormand, as his wife, are OUTSTANDING in this movie. Oldman's dialect work, in particular, is almost unbelievably stellar. Close your eyes and you won't know it's him. But what else is new? This is the guy who played Count Dracula, the pimp in "True Romance", the dirty cop in "The Professional", Sid Vicious, and the ridiculous over-the-top villain in "The Fifth Element." One of the best actors in the world, has unfortunately been relegated to direct-to-dvd fare and maybe even more sadly, playing small roles in major movie franchises where his talents can't possibly be fully realized (Comissioner Gordon, Sirius Black). Somebody give this man a real role in a real film for god's sake.
They gave him one in "Chattahoochee."
HIGHLY recommended.

Anchorman - The Legend Of Ron Burgundy

Best thing Will Ferrell has ever done.
EVER. Same goes for Paul Rudd and David Koechner. Steve Carell has done so many great things that I can't confirm this is the best thing he's ever done, but he's still fall-out-of-your-chair funny.

Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie

This is basically just a bunch of deleted scenes and alternate takes from Anchorman, and it's still funnier than 95% of the shit that Hollywood has been trying to pass of as comedy over the last five years.


Written and directed by Anthony Hopkins?
This is what the brilliant actor has rumbling around inside his noggin?
Low-Rent David Lynch?

No wonder he's so convincing as a cannibalistic genius.

Prick Up Your Ears

Perusing the Gary Oldman canon.
Very well done. Biting script, intelligent direction, and two outstanding lead performances by Oldman and Alfred Molina (probably and unfortunately best known for playing Doctor Octopus).
The film tells the story of British playwright Joe Orton, who scripted "Loot" and "What the Butler Saw" among others.
In October 1967, Orton was bludgeoned to death with a hammer by his longtime lover Kenneth Halliwell (Molina).
Definitely worth watching for all theatre people and for Oldman/Molina fans.

Sid and Nancy

Two stars taken off for the legendarily terrible performance by Chloe Webb as Nancy. I don't know where they found this no-talent cunt but all she manages to do is shriek 85% of her lines in the same shrill, strident tone over and over again that's so grating and harpy-ish, it makes you want to rip out her fucking larynx. But some of the blame has to go to the casting director. The real Nancy Spungen was only twenty at the time of her death, yet Webb was thirty, and looked about forty-five. The real Sid Vicious wouldn't have fucked Chloe Webb with Tony Bennett's dick. Chloe Webb makes some of this movie almost unwatchable.
The main reason we stick with it is Gary Oldman, who is fucking phenomenal. This was his first major film role, and he fucking NAILED it. God, he's a brilliant actor.
And as a bonus, some guy named Andrew Schofield is excellent as Johnny Rotten, the Sex Pistols' lead singer.

Things We Lost in the Fire

Okay. I am sick of seeing great fucking performances in a year in which they can't get the recognition they deserve.
Make no mistake. Benicio Del Toro delivers an Oscar-caliber performance. But then again, so did Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Before the Devil", Ryan Gosling in "Lars and the Real Girl", Denzel Washington in "American Gangster", and Brad Pitt in "Jesse James...". And they didn't even get nominated.

to be continued ...

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

This film has the best ensemble acting of the year, probably because it also has the best original script of the year. Kelly Masterson (yes, it's a dude) has a crafted a true actor's playground, with complex characters operating under layer after layer of pressure, in a story that doubles back on itself in increasngly complex ways. This is the best thing Philip Seymour Hoffman has ever done, and that's saying something. But it's also the best thing Ethan Hawke has ever done, and the same thing goes for Marisa Tomei. Albert Finney is also very good, and small supporting roles are well-played by NYC stage vets Brian O'Boyle, Michael Shannon, and "Gone Baby Gone"s Amy Ryan. 83 year-old Sidney Lumet directs, proving he's still got the mojo that made "Serpico" into the coolest undercover cop movie ever filmed.

The Darjeeling Limited

This rating also includes Wes Anderson's short, "Hotel Chevalier", a companion piece that preceded the feature and is included on the dvd. The short is a prequel of sorts, so be sure to watch it before the film. The short is a beautiful, bittersweet duet between Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman (who has never been better or more begulingly sexy). The feature is about three brothers, played by Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, and Owen Wilson, brought together by Wilson on the 1-year anniversary of their father's death to travel the Indian sub-continent, ostensibly in search of their convent-bound mother. Both the short and the feature are undeniably Anderson-esque. No one else on earth directs quite like Anderson; if he keeps this up much longer, he's going to need his own genre. The direction varies from undeniably brilliant to amusingly quirky. But Anderson gets three excellent, subtle, finely nuanced performances out of his actors. Even Owen Wilson, an actor whom I can't stand normally, is very good. This film finally proves my theory that Owen Wilson is passable only in Wes Anderson pictures. My theory that Wilson is one of those actors who can only take direction from a friend. I think maybe they know each other so well that Wes can call Owen on all of his shit.
"Hey Owen. You're doing it again."
"Sorry, Wes. Thanks."
This movie will grow on you. I will say that I sat through most of this film not knowing what I thought about it, but by the end, it had totally won me over.

Talk to Me
Talk to Me(2007)

This is truly Don Cheadle's movie, an absolute labor of love that he's been trying to get made for years. It's the biopic of Washington DC icon, Petey Green, a radio DJ and stand-up comedian in the sixties, seventies and eighties. Cheadle plays Green, and the versatile Chiwetel Ejiofor plays his best friend and manager, Dewey Hughes. Much of the film is a duet between these characters, fantastically portrayed by these two brilliant actors. Taraji P. Henson (of "Hustle & Flow") plays Petey's main squeeze and she is positively phenomenal--a lesser actress would let this character remain a stereotypical comedic device, but Henson shnes through. The film is a comedy, but that's not to say it doesn't have some fine dramatic moments--Petey Green's radio address to a rioting DC after the assassination of Martin Luther King is particularly powerful. Director Kasi Lemmons has created a great period piece, with the fashions and sounds of the era on full display. I also loved the script by Michael Genet, which never fails to give Petey something outrageous to say. Recommended highly.

Margot at the Wedding

This is a comedy like "The Winter's Tale" is a comedy; everything kind of works out in the end, so it's not a tragedy, I guess. Regardless, it is a very effective, unique little oddball of a film, written and directed by Noah Baumbach, who co-wrote "The Life Aquatic".
The Margot of the title is a novellist travelling upstate from her Manhattan home to attend her younger sister Pauline's wedding to an overweight, anti-social, out of work musician named Malcolm. She's brought along her teenage son Claude, leaving her husband Jim behind, mainly so she can continue an affair with fellow novellist Dick Koosman. Margot is not a very nice person, judging everyone she meets and never taking responsibility for the problems she brings on herself. She may not be an uplifting character, but as played by Nicole Kidman, she is always compelling. Kidman, for the first time in her career, is not afraid of looking foolish or unattractive, and the performance smacks of truth. A personal favorite actress of mine, Jennifer Jason Leigh, plays Pauline, and she is just excellent, equal parts sweet and irrascible. Young Zane Pais holds his own as the awkward, barely post-pubescent Claude, and Ciaran Hinds oozes just the right amount of slime as the self-centred, insensitive Dick Koosman. John Turturro shows up about halfway through the movie for a short time playing Jim, the only decent character in this little morality. Every other character is so deeply flawed and so deep in denial about their own flaws that Jim shines like a beacon of goodness. Margot says to him "I hate myself when I'm around you"; she can't help but view her own selfishness and judgmental tendencies through the lens of her husband's altruism, and that's the reason their marriage is failing. It's a wonderfully written and fantastically acted scene.
One of the reasons the film is a comedy is that is actually quite funny at times. Most of those times the laughs come from the best performance in the film, that of Jack Black in the role of the pathetic, intelligent, ironically mustachioed Malcolm. This is the best thing and also the most "real" thing I've ever seen him do, alternately making off the cuff deadpan remarks and throwing explosive man-tantrums. He never verges into caricature here, and he holds the film together. The film is highly recommended for people who are tired of seeing too many movies with "perfect" characters leading "perfect" lives.

Eastern Promises

Unlike some very good friends of mine, I really liked "A History of Violence". I thought it had some great performances by Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris and William Hurt, an original and well-written script and the titular violence was well-staged and filmed by David Cronenberg. My main issues were the use of the wife character played by Maria Bello, whose sole purpose it seemed was to engage in deviant sex with Viggo Mortensen, designed to make us uncomfortable. Ultimately, her character is small enough that I could push her to the periphery and just enjoy the rest of the film.

By contrast, "Eastern Promises" revolves largely around its heroine, blandly portrayed by Naomi Watts, an Aussie mangling an urban London dialect (Is the Queen of England? Is she Eliza Doolittle? Wait! She's both!). I realized half-way through this film that I have giving her a pass through all of her roles, simply because she was so excellent in "21 Grams", which happened to be the first film I ever saw her in. No more. Step up to the plate, Ms. Watts. One more of these, and you verge into Gwyneth Paltrow territory. Keep it up long enough and you'll become a Zellweger. And that is a dark abyss from which no actress has ever returned.

Thankfully, she's not terrible here: she's just this side of watchable, which doesn't take too much away from the film.

Viggo Mortensen does some of the most remarkably restrained work that I have ever seen. He is so slick, so smart, so cold, so calculating, so charismatic, so charming. He is such a DUDE. (I've really got to learn that put-a-cigarette-out-on-your-tongue trick. BadASS.) His performance is so damn contained. You're so scared of him but he HASN'T DONE ANYTHING. You know he could. You're pretty sure he would. But there is no evidence of it, until the naked fight scene.

Ah, the naked fight scene. Two fully clothed thugs (one as big as a house) come at Viggo's Nikolai with knives. It should be noted that Nikolai is in a sauna at the time. Thus naked. And you can see EVERYTHING.
The thugs attack him. They die.
In between, there is one of the greatest fight scenes in modern memory. Like all the violence in the film (and there isn't much; it's sparse and brutal and memorable), the fight is so fucking real that it's unsettling to watch. With none of the cartoonish unrealistic bullshit that that invades most film fight scenes, it feels like its actually happening; like bones are actually breaking, like skin is actually splitting, like dudes are actually getting stabbed. I appreciated the way it was filmed, too. Yeah, Viggo is naked. It shows how vulnerable he is (and when he is able to defeat his attackers, how INvulnerable he is), but I wasn't that distracted by it. It's just a great fight in a great film.
It's ballsy. It's the ballsiest scene I can remember. It's also the most penisy.

(my fear is that this will have a weird perverted cult following of slutty girls who rent the dvd just to pause the film at certain frames. just so you know girls, it's not that impressive.)

The film isn't perfect. Armin Mueller-Stahl, who I can't believe hasn't played Gepetto yet, is far too kindly Grandfather-esque to play the role of sinister Mafia Don, and thus at times he seems to be indicating evil. It's a great role, given to the wrong actor.

Vincent Cassel, on the other hand, is nothing short of brilliant in the flashy role of the drunken closeted homosexual crime prince Kirill. What a rollercoaster this role is, and Cassel handles it deftly. The performance is Oscar-worthy, though I don't know if he'll get a nomination.

But my favorite part of the film is probably Watts's krusty Russian uncle, played by Jerzy Skolimowski. I don't know why. I just loved the guy. He's so grizzled, Clint Eastwood WISHES he was this grizzled. This guy gives Grizzle Lessons to actual grizzly bears. I hope I look just like him when I'm 75.

This is a great gangland film, with beautiful touches of family and honor in the vein of the Godfather saga. Watch it.
But not just for Viggo-Dick.


"Rendition" tells the story of Anwar El-Ibrahimi, a Chicago family man of Middle Eastern descent, kidnapped by American agents and whisked to an unnamed North African country where the torture laws are especially lenient. The American Government has reason to believe El-Ibrahimi is in possession of vital information that can help thwart an impending terrorist attack, and they enlist the help of the North African police to interrogate this possibly innocent man. The film splits the story, alternately following Douglas Freeman, (Jake Gyllenhaal, doing the best work of his career) the young Government Agent overseeing El-Ibrahimi's interrogation, and Isabella (a very good Reese Witherspoon), El-Ibrahimi's very American, very blonde and very pregnant wife, as she tries to find answers as to why and where to her husband has disappeared. The film has an all-star supporting cast including J.K. Simmons as a mid-level domestic CIA operative, Alan Arkin as a Democratic Senator, Peter Sarsgaard as the Senator's Aide (who has a romantic past with Isabella), and a chillingly effective Meryl Streep as the head of the NSA. The film's subject matter is important to be sure (the practice of outsourcing torture to third world nations is something the Bush administration has all but copped to), but "Rendition" never verges into the preachy territory of a Message Movie. It's too smart and honest for that. The script by Kelley Sane and the direction by Gavin Hood are both top notch, and the lenswork by Dion Beebe is Award-level as well. The film keeps you guessing, and just when you think you've got it pegged, Sane and Hood give you a shift in narrative that changes the way you thought about film. I know it did me.
This film is almost note-perfect. Watch it.
But when you do, make sure to wear a helmet so it doesn't make a mess when this movie BLOWS YOUR MIND.

The Amateurs (The Moguls) (Dirty Movie)

Goddamnit, I love when I get surprised by a film.
I had no idea what this was going to be and it wound up being one of the top five or six comedies of the year.
Yes, the movie is about a bunch of small-town idiots who get together to make the world's first full-length amateur porno. But there is no nudity (save for a couple of buttshots), and not a lot of swearing. There are, however, a lot of euphemistic discussions about sex, complete with replacement words: "Scrumping" is a favorite of theirs, and mine.
Here's the thing about this film:
It's Sweet. It's a Sweet movie. Yes, it's about making a porno, but it's also about friendship.
(That sounds nauseating, I know, but it's true ... and it absolutely WORKS.)
This movie is blessed with a STELLAR cast, led by the inimitable Jeff Bridges. He might be criticized for going into "Lebowski-Mode", but it really is a decidedly different energy. This guy is smarter than The Dude, and certainly is more socially acceptable. It really is a great performance, and it holds this film together.
Fantastic support is given by Tim Blake Nelson as the best friend, William Fichtner as the sleazy friend, Joe Pantoliano as the mildly retarded friend, and Ted Danson as the closeted gay friend. All the performances are excellent, because the actors don't play the quality of their stereotype, they play the honesty of the situation. Danson in particular is absolutely MARVELOUS. Best thing he's ever done. Consistently funny and, in one scene, genuinely heartbreaking.
The premise appears thin at first, but wait for it. You'll fall in love with these characters, and then you'll fall in love with the film.
HIGHLY recommended.


Okay. It's official. David Fincher is the best pure director working today. This is a BRILLIANT film. The script, by James Vanderbilt, is taut and well written and the shot composition is simply spectacular. This is one of the greatest mystery films of the last ten years, the film also serves as a fantastic vehicle for some great performances by some great character actors. Jake Gyllenhaal performs ably as the heart of the story, but his character is mostly a plot device. Mark Ruffalo makes some fantastic character choices. Robert Downey Jr, when not totally strung out, is one of the best actors of this generation, and he proves it in this film. Just fantastic, fantastic work from him here. Anthony Edwards, Elias Koteas, Dermot Mulroney, Donal Logue, and Brian Cox are all excellent in small roles.But I think that perhaps the best performance is given by John Carroll Lynch (Frances McDormand's husband in "Fargo") as the prime suspect in the case. He's just so damned creepy.
All in all, not just a great mystery/crime thriller, but a truly great FILM. I really wonder why they chose to release it in March. If they had released it three months earlier or waited until this fall, it certainly would have gotten several Academy Award Nominations, but now I think this might just be the best film ever made to go completely unrecognized by all major awards. Pity.
An absolutely glorious achievment in moviemaking.

Michael Clayton

My best friend saw this movie almost two weeks before I did. He and I almost always agree about movies, but I really hoped he would be wrong about this one. I really wanted to love this movie. I really did. And there were some things about it that I did love. And there were a lot more things that I liked. There was nothing I hated. But there was that one thing that I didn't like. And that one thing kind of soured the whole experience for me. Which is the same thing that soured it for my best friend. I hate it when he's right.

That one thing we didn't like is a poor choice in the storytelling method. The movie begins near the end of our hero's story; someone tried to kill him, and failed. Then we get the "four days earlier" placard, and the story plays out from the beginning, slowly answering all of our questions: Who's trying to kill him? What for? Why is our hero so fascinated with horses on a hilltop?
But we also know that he survives the attempt on his life, so when the story comes back to that point, and the film is shot and scored as though it should be suspenseful, it's just fucking irritating.
But here's the thing: if they had just structured the story in a conventional way, when this plot point arose, I really wouldn't have been in much suspense anyway, because I don't think for a second that they would kill off the title character, played by one of the most bankable actors in the world. Honestly, I just think if they skipped this part of the story alltogether, it would have been a much more satisfying film.

What is most mind-boggling about all of this is that this film is the directorial debut of the "Bourne" films' screenwriter, Tony Gilroy. He wrote the script for this, too, and we know from his earlier works that the boy knows story structure. So I just don't get it. I love the characters he draws here, and the dialogue is all top-notch, the story as a whole seems worth telling, so ... what gives? What's with the unsuspenseful suspense climax? It's just CONFOUNDING. By the way, I think Gilroy's sparse direction is damn near brilliant (the opening sequence with Tom Wilkinson's monologue over stationary shots of the nearly empty law firm is fucking breathtaking), and I can't wait to see where his career takes him next.

All in all, without that major gaffe, this would be a very smart, very engaging character drama.

I love the guy that Gilroy has created to be his hero: Michael Clayton is EPICALLY flawed--gambling addict, bad divorce, absentee father to an apparent boy genius, estranged from his father and siblings, in debt to some hardcore people after his restaurant start-up fell through--and as played by George Clooney with fifteen extra pounds and a two-day beard growth, the man is a golden boy turned absolute shlub.
I love watching George Clooney. I just do. I don't care what he's doing. I love watching this man work. My best friend would be quick to point out that the work Mr. Clooney is doing shouldn't be considered ACTING, per se, and I wouldn't totally disagree with him. He doesn't really do anything different with any of his characters; they're all well within his range--because he has a pretty big range. As my friend says, this is just in his darker register. But I think this is a very believable, very nuanced performance, that ranks right up there with the best of his career. (Of course, it doensn't come close to touching the exception to the Clooney rule: his INSPIRED work in the Coens' "O, Brother, Where Art Thou?, which is just one of the finest performances of the last DECADE.) Clooney makes Michael Clayton completely real, and utterly compelling. Clooney is the reason the film works. (when it does)

There are a couple of notable supporting performances as well, given by the afforementioned Tom Wilkinson, and Tilda Swinton. Tom Wilkinson is given the plum role of Arthur Edens, a crazy lawyer with a conscience. It's the showiest role in the film BY FAR, and Wilkinson absolutely KILLS it.
Tilda Swinton, by contrast has a role that is much subtler, and she's equally good, but in a totally different way. Her performance revolves around how ill-prepared this woman is to deal with this cutthroat world of big money litigation. She plans out her entire life through a series of private trial and error exercises, and it's by turns heartbreaking and jawdropping.

So the best way I describe this movie is this: It's a series of brilliant, beautiful building blocks that, added together, make NOTHING. It's frustrating.

I will say this. The last shot of the film is one of the most perfect pieces of cinema I have ever seen.

I just wish the rest of the movie could have measured up.

Shattered (Butterfly on a Wheel)

This is some pretty standard direct-to-dvd fare.
The plot has some pretty amazing gaps in logic, and the actors struggle to overcome the ridiculous things the script asks them to do, but there's a silver lining.
Mike Barker's direction is inspired and innovative. There are a couple of really neat camera tricks and some very cool sleight of hand editing. Kudos to this guy, whoever he is. I'll be keeping an eye out for his next project.

In the Valley of Elah

I still hate Paul Haggis. "Crash" is the absolute WORST film ever to be nominated for an Oscar, let alone to win one (which is all the evidence that I need that there is no God). And his script for Million Dollar Baby blew, too. Old Preachy Paul, that's what I like to call him. While Crash was heavy-handed from start to finish, and "Baby"s third act was entirely trite and utter bullshit, the preachiness of this film exists only in the last shot, but there's enough there to make you puke.
It did me.
Which is a shame, because I loved Tommy Lee Jones. He doesn't deserve his nomination over Philip Seymour Hoffman or Ryan Gosling, but it's great work nonetheless. Redding said it already, but this is a performance about restraint, and it's marvelous.
Likewise Charlize Theron. While she's certainly not all Monster'd up, she's also decidedly not glamorous in this film either, and her performance is quietly brilliant. I really thought Susan Sarandon would be given more to do, but she absolutely knocks this tiny role out of the park.
That's something that really stood out: there's an A-list supporting cast here, and they're almost all totally wasted in teensy inconsequential roles. In particular Josh Brolin, who is WAY too good to be playing bit parts in movies like this. Fucker CARRIED No Country on his back till the Coens took him out like a bitch. But don't get me started on that.
All in all, a very good film, but I had to take off a star for that last shot. Fuck you, Preachy Paul. If you give back that Oscar for Crash and then kill yourself, I might forgive you. But until then, you're on notice, motherfucker.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Johnny Depp elevates this film from simple blockbuster buffoonery to a work of mizzen-mastery.
God, I wish I had been born in the 18th century. I'd've been a pirate SO FAST.

The Brave One

not sure about this one.
I liked where I thought the movie was headed, but then it went in another direction and I was like "WHAAAAAA?"
Not bad. The acting is great, to be sure, but I still don't know if I agree with how they ended.
It's either super ballsy or super safe.

See it and decide for yourself.

We Own the Night

This is Joaquin's movie entirely.
Robert Duvall's is a supporting role, and I was AMAZED at how little screen time they gave Mark Wahlberg.
There's nothing wrong with that, because Joaquin does a great job of carrying this film. It's just not what I expected.

Also the best thing I've ever seen Eva Mendes do, BY FAR.

Well written and expertly directed by James Gray.

Highly recommend this to fans of the cops and robbers genre.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Second best film of 2007, trailing only "There Will Be Blood", which is the best American film since the original "Godfather".

More to follow ...

King of California

What a charming little film.
"Lars and the Real Girl" is the best comedy of the year. But as far as number 2 goes, it's down to this movie, Wes Anderson's "Darjeeling Limited", and "Charlie Wilson's War."
"King of California" is original and compelling, with a pair of excellent performances from its leads.
If you've ever liked Michael Douglas in anything, you owe it to yourself to watch this performance. Personally, I've been a fan since I was a little boy and saw him in "Romancing the Stone". Since then, I've learned to appreciate the Douglasness of films like "Basic Instinct" and "Fatal Attraction" and "Falling Down" and "Wall Street" and "The Game." I am a fan. Even moreso after this film.

Evan Rachel Wood is the best young actress around. Still just twenty, she's got nothing but great things ahead of her--that is, unless her boyfriend Marilyn Manson eats her liver or something. I kid Marilyn, but seriously, he's like twenty years older than she is, and he's also Marilyn Manson ... what is this bitch thinking?

Anywho, this is a film that surprised me a great deal and one that I will highly recommend to fans of either lead actor, or to followers of offbeat character-driven comedies.

This movie made me feel good, which is more than I can say about most films. Please watch this movie.


This settles it. If I ever have a daughter, I'm giving her up for adoption when she's like eleven.

What an amazing film. An important and authentic story, told brilliantly with a discerning eye, incredibly well acted.
Evan Rachel Wood, though misguided enough as a person that she's currently dating Marilyn Manson, is a FANTASTIC young actress, and Nikki Reed has an equally outsized talent. What a pity that her career hasn't taken off in the same manner as Miss Wood's.
An excellent performance by Holly Hunter is the glue that holds the film together, and the script, written by the young Miss Reed as a semi-autobigraphy, is near perfect.

Right at Your Door

A great little indie premise with compelling cinematography and a script that answers all the questions before you ask them.
Why aren't they watching the news on CNN or something? Oh that's right, they haven't got the cable hooked up yet.
Why can't he get ahold of his wife? Oh, yeah, she forgot to charge her cell phone.

This is one of the all time great "What would YOU do?" movies. Well, actually, I guess that depends on who YOU is.
Here's the question:
If your wife had a deadly communicable disease, would you sacrifice your own life just to hold her while she dies?
My answer: Probably.
Maybe like 80-20 yes.
But there's that 20.
The problem with the equation is that the couple in question has no children. That makes it too easy. But if you give these people like a four year old daughter, maybe the answer swings the other way.
Where's this hypothetical daughter, you ask? Why, little Sally is spending the week with Grandma and Grandpa. They wanted to take her to see the Grand Canyon or the Redwood Forests or the fucking Liberty Bell, I don't know, but it makes that question a lot harder if you have to factor in the whole child contingency.
Still, there are some nice incidental pressures woven into the fiber of the story in deceptively intricate ways,(I love the shots of the dwindling supply of bottled water) and the whole picture is buoyed by a fine performance by the constantly underutilized and criminally undervalued Rory Cochrane. Some great work by Mary McCormack, too.

However, there's a cheap and ill-conceived plot twist at the end of the film that turns this thing into nothing more than a bloated, self-important episode of The Twilight Zone. And Chris Gorak may be a gutsy young filmmaker, but Rod Serling he AIN'T.


A compelling film, a film that asks questions and presents few answers. Brian Cox is superb, and I love Michael Cuesta's directorial style. Somebody find this guy and give him money for his next project.

And wow, Paul Dano.
Wow, 15 year-old Paul Dano.

The Invasion
The Invasion(2007)

Not bad.
Not particularly good, either.

Thank You for Smoking

How did Jason Reitman go from writing and directing this little gem to helming the awful Juno?

His shot composition in this film is imaginative without being showy, and the script is economical and inventive.

Juno, by contrast, is none of those things.

I'm willing to accept his Best Director nod for Juno as simply being a year late.

Seriously. Juno sucked.

La Vie en Rose (La Mome)

One of the best films of 2007 is also the best biopic I have ever seen. Imaginatively told without being impossible to follow (I'm looking at you, "I'm Not There"), the script is fucking brilliant and the direction is nothing short of AMAZING. Kudos to you, Oliver Dahan, whoever you are. You're a master.

But this film is nothing without its star, Marion Cotillard. I will say this: Cotillard gives the best female performance I have EVER seen. EVER.


If she doesn't win the Oscar this year, that would be a travesty along the lines of D-Day not winning for "My Left Foot."

And I am dead serious.


I had to see this. I didn't want to, but they forced me.
They're forcing me, what with their four star reviews and their Best Picture Oscar nods and whatnot. But honestly, this looked FUCKING UNWATCHABLE. This appeared to be the kind of film I loathe, where everyone is perfect and proper and British and they're in love but they can't be together, and oh what tangled webs we weave etc, etc, etc ...
It's not that kind of movie. I wanted it to be, Oh, God, I wanted it to be, because I wanted to hate this film SO BAD.
It's really hard to hate this film.

The acting is solid, the direction is near brilliant, and the story, forgiving all of its flaws, certainly sucks you in.

It's a good film, but it's not a great film, and it certainly doesn't deserve an Oscar nod over American Gangster or Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

Oh and BTW, if they give this film the Oscar over There Will Be Blood or No Country or even fucking Michael Clayton, I will get on the next flight to Los Angeles and set fire to the offices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

You think I'm joking.

I am not joking.

A Mighty Heart

It is an absolute OUTRAGE that Angelina Jolie was not nominated for an Oscar for this performance.

More on that later.

There Will Be Blood



I'll try again tomorrow.


The Age of Innocence

The worst thing Daniel Day-Lewis has ever done. Which isn't to say it's terrible. It's just not impressive. He just stands around for most of the film, wanting to do stuff, and then not doing it. It's a performance about holding back. Which is really boring to watch.

My God. I never thought I'd describe a D-Day performance as boring, but that's exactly what it is. Not his fault, though.
The story being told DEMANDS that he be boring.

BTW, Winona Ryder and Michelle Pfeiffer are both fucking awful in this movie. Somebody must have been on crack when they gave Winona an Oscar nod for this movie.

Sumptuous costumes and beautiful cinematography do not a great film make.

A Room With a View

D-Day plays Stewie Griffin.

The Savages
The Savages(2007)

This is a very well put together slice-of-life dramedy with some incredibly fine performances.
But please do not be fooled by the promtional material, as I was. This is not a story about a sister and brother dealing with their dying father. On the contrary, this is a story about a woman and her brother dealing with their father's dementia. Do you get the difference? This is entirely Laura Linney's movie. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is present for most of it, but he's just along for the ride. Linney is in practically every scene of the film, and Hoffman hardly ever appears in a scene by himself. I wanted to see more Seymour, dammit.
Let's get one thing straight here. Laura Linney is a very good actress, doing the best work of her career in this film, but she can't hold a candle to the best actor in the world not named D-Day. (More on PSH later.)
All in all, though, I liked this movie a lot. It's well written, and nicely directed. Both kudos go to Tamara Jenkins, whose female genitalia and sensbility probably account for the bulk of the film's narrative being focused on Laura Linney's character. Like I said, while Linney is very good, and the subplot of her affair with a married man is well-written and well-acted by Linney and Peter Friedman, whenever Hoffman is off-screen, I wondered why. He is bloody fantastic here, which is, of course, no surprise.

Hoffman has had one of the greatest years in the history of performance in the cinema. His three roles in 2007, in "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead", "Charlie Wilson's War", and here, in "The Savages", could not have been more divergent or more flawlessly realized. These are three of the top ten performances of the year, and probably three of the top 25 performances of the decade. If you are a fan of Mr. Hoffman, or indeed an admirer of great acting, you owe it to yourself to see these films as soon as you can.

The film's story revolves around Hoffman and Linney's estranged father, and this subject commands its orbit because of the wonderful performance by Philip Bosco. He is funny and sympathetic, irrascible and heartbreaking.

"Juno" has been promoted as this year's "Little Miss Sunshine", but that honor should have to "The Savages".

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

If you love musicals and Johnny Depp, this must be like crack.

Can't say enough about Tim Burton's direction or the amazing production design. Johnny Depp was pretty good, and so was Helena Bonham Carter, but while they were both nice performances, I can't agree that it's great ACTING. Acting is signified by having goals and using tactics to play an action on another person in order to achieve those goals. This isn't acting. It's not acting when you communicate all your thoughts to your scene partner via song. It may be top notch performing, displaying great skill, but by definition, it isn't acting.

Sacha Baron Cohen steals the show, by the way.
Surprise, surprise.


Run, do not walk, RUN to your nearest Blockbuster and rent a copy of this film.

Danny Boyle does for sci-fi thrillers what he did for zombie horror. He completely revitalizes and reinvents the genre. I cannot speak highly enough about this movie. It isn't what you think it is.

It is IMPERATIVE that you know as little as possible about this film before you see it. Don't read any other reviews. Don't read the back of the fucking DVD case. Just let this movie take you on its journey without knowing the destination. You will not be disappointed.
Cillian Murphy is fantastic, as is the supporting cast around him, led by the always underrated Cliff Curtis.
And you know what else?
Chris "The Human Torch" Evans is all growns up. This movie made a man out of him. He should only take grown up roles from now on. I was so impressed with the stuff he did in this film, and I HATE Chris Evans. Well, I used to hate Chris Evans. Now I like him, and I look forward to seeing what he does in the future. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Chris Evans is a good actor. Wow.

This is the best film of it's kind since the original "Alien".


Death Sentence

Okay. Here's what a little research turned up. First time screenwriter Ian Jeffers adapted this from the novel by Brian Garfield. "Death Sentence" the novel is the sequel to the "Death Wish" novel, which of course, spawned the Charles Bronson movie and a shitload of sequels moving farther and farther away from the original novel. Not sure how much this deviates from the original storyline of the "Death Sentence" novel, but Ian Jeffers, I think, has down's syndrome.
It takes a special brand of stupid to fuck up a simple revenge premise this badly.

Redding and I could bang out a better script in about forty-five minutes ... if one of us was asleep and the other was blind drunk.

Some of the worst dialogue I have ever seen in a film. EVER.

Too bad, because the premise is pretty good, and James Wan made some cool stylistic choices with his shot selection.
Kevin Bacon is serviceable, somehow Garrett Hedlund is good, and John Goodman just has a grand old time.

Ultimately, just plain disappointing.


The most compelling argument I have ever seen FOR child abuse.
This is a very slick, very creepy psychological thriller. It looks a little like The Omen in the trailer, but it's so much more than that.
This kid is like Hannibal Lecter in the 4th grade. I will say nothing else. It will surprise you. It surprised the hell outta me.

The Ballad of Jack and Rose

A perfect film with a star taken off for the casting of Camilla Belle, who is cute and all, but not a great actress by any means. And, brother, do you need a great actress for material like this.

D-Day is fantastic, of course, but what do you expect?

More later, maybe.

I Am Legend
I Am Legend(2007)

This is a good movie that relies on a great gimmick for the first hour and fifteen minutes or so, then becomes completely fucking preposterous. I mean preposterous on a level with anti-stem cell legislation or, I don't know, leprechauns riding unicorns on a rainbow bridge to Mordor.

The great gimmick is, by definition, great. But it is also, by definition, gimmicky. The gimmick is to have Will Smith run around a totally deserted and overgrown Manhattan. There's a lot of ooh-ing and ah-ing at Times Square overgrown with weeds and 5th Avenue transformed into a junkyard of rusted out cars. I even oohed and ahhed myself a tiny bit. But, I got news for you people, it's all fake. All of it is fake. You want to see this gimmick done better, watch "28 Days Later". They did it first, they did it with London, and they did it without a bunch of CGI bullshit.
That's the problem with this movie. They do everything with CGI. Everything. Well, everything except Will Smith and the dog, and I'm not a hundred percent sure about the dog, either.
When Will Smith is hunting deer in Times Square, he loses his quarry to a pride of lions, which is pretty cool ... until you really look at the deer and the lions. They're unabashedly CG. When it comes to animated animals, Bambi and Mufasa are more realistic looking. And after you look at them, then you start to think about them. And after like two seconds of thinking, and you realize that the lions, fake-looking or not, must have come from a zoo somewhere on the island, but they would have to be let out of the cages by somebody. Who might that somebody be, you ask? A kindly zookeeper? Mischievous wayward youths? PETA? Well your guess is as good as mine. I√ʬ?¬?m guessing the lions developed opposable thumbs and problem-solving skills and created a lever and pulley system to ... I dunno. Oh, and I'm pretty sure white-tailed deer are not indigenous to 42nd and Broadway. And you don't see a lot of common native cloven-hoofed herbivores in zoos, so whoever let out the lions probably didn't do the same favor for the deer. Maybe they migrated from upstate, you say? Well, the film belabors the point over and over again that all measures of ingress and egress to and from the island of Manhattan have been rendered impassable. You can't get there. You can't leave. There are no bridges, no tunnels, no nothing. Did the deer get to New York in a HOT AIR BALLOON?
(I'll return to the subject of the "how-the-fuck-do-things-get-to-New-York" question later.)
Much of the beginning of the film is based around fear of the infected vampire/zombie things. Near the end of the movie, the writers give them a name: Dark Seekers. Lame. Totally fucking lame, but I guess they're so called because they're completely nocturnal. They only come out at night. The ultraviolet rays of the sun burn their pigmentally challenged skin. Ooh, cool. Actually, no. It's a fucking cop-out. It's a cop-out because it means there are large stretches of movie in which our hero is in absolutely no danger. Sure it's cool to watch him hit golf balls off an aircraft carrier which is conveniently docked at New York Harbor, and oh, hey, cute, he's fishing in the reflecting pool at the Met, and he and the dog go for a morning jog on matching treadmills ... but what might be lost in all of that is the nagging question of "WHO THE FUCK CARES?" Finally though, Will Smith follows his dog into an abandoned building, and this sequence is one of the scariest in the history of cinema. SERIOUSLY. It√ʬ?¬?s fucking nerve-jangling. My nerves were totally jangled. But by the end of that sequence, I was embarrassed for having been scared at all. Because then they show you the vampire/zombie things. They√ʬ?¬?re CG. All of them. All of them are entirely CG. This technology has been around since Jurassic Park came out in the summer of 1993, and apparently there have been no advances in making things look like the shit they√ʬ?¬?re supposed to fucking look like. I don√ʬ?¬?t know what nocturnal vampire/zombie things are supposed to look like, but I√ʬ?¬?m pretty sure they√ʬ?¬?re supposed to be scary. You know, fearsome looking. The guys in VeggieTales are more fearsome. These guys look like a cross between the Silver Surfer and the Hulk as drawn by Pixar. Pale, bald, muscular, with giant dead eyes and tattered clothes hanging off their bodies in all the right places. I don√ʬ?¬?t know why these vampire.zombie things still need pants at all, but what vexes me even more is why the female vampire/zombie things also feel they need cute little tanktops. They don√ʬ?¬?t need fucking SHOES, but they do need to cover all their naughty bits. Why do they √ʬ?¬¶ Oh wait, that√ʬ?¬?s right, the movie is PG-13.
Which means that when the vampire/zombie things attack, with the gnashing of teeth and the baring of claws and such, there will be no blood, and nobody says √ʬ?¬?Fuck,√ʬ?¬? which is ironic, because if I was the last man on earth and vampire/zombie things were attacking me, √ʬ?¬?Fuck√ʬ?¬? would be right at the top of the list of the things I would say.
Anyway, the main thrust of the vampire/zombie plotline is that Will Smith captures one of them to run tests on, but the one he captures is apparently the girlfriend of the vampire/zombie KING√ʬ?¬?the Alpha Male√ʬ?¬?and he√ʬ?¬?s angry. But it√ʬ?¬?s kind of laughable to watch him be angry, because he√ʬ?¬?s CGI, and it√ʬ?¬?s hard to believe that something that fake looking could possess any sort of genuine emotion. They actually list Dash Mihok as the actor who portrays the alpha male. Dash Mihok is a skilled and underutilized actor who is probably most famous for playing Benvolio in Baz Luhrmann√ʬ?¬?s √ʬ?¬?Romeo + Juliet√ʬ?¬?, but saying he played the Alpha Male is like saying Andy Serkis played King Kong. Putting an actor on a soundstage with ping pong balls taped to his body and have him jump around like a maniac does not a performance make. When Andy Serkis played Gollum in lord of the rings, at least he got to create a vocal life for the character as well. The Alpha Male just yells a lot. The choice to make the vampire/zombie things CGI is the one thing that absolutely CRIPPLES the movie.

Well, that, and the choice to have a woman and kid drop out of the sky in the third act like a deus ex machina. That√ʬ?¬?s pretty fucking crippling, too. Again, this is where the whole √ʬ?¬?How the fuck did they get to New York?√ʬ?¬? comes in. They keep telling us that people can√ʬ?¬?t get to Manhattan (no bridges, no tunnels, etc.), and yet they just show up out of nowhere for no other reason than to convince Will Smith that there is, in fact, a God. Guess what? No sale.

It seems like I hated the movie, but I didn√ʬ?¬?t. The reason? Will Smith. This guy has come a long, long way since the Fresh Prince. When he did √ʬ?¬?Independence Day√ʬ?¬? and √ʬ?¬?Men In Black√ʬ?¬?, it looked like he was the next It Boy of sci-fi action films, a true movie star in the making. When he did √ʬ?¬?Ali√ʬ?¬? and √ʬ?¬?The Pursuit of Happyness√ʬ?¬?, he proved he was a damn fine actor, as well. With this film, he√ʬ?¬?s created a new perfect model of how to be both at the same time. This may be the best work he√ʬ?¬?s ever done. I√ʬ?¬?m serious. He has to carry this whole thing on his shoulders for like nine tenths of the film, and he√ʬ?¬?s just fucking riveting. The script asks him to do some stupid fucking shit.
For example, he√ʬ?¬?s apparently set up a bunch of mannequins in areas of the city, given them names, and he talks to them like they√ʬ?¬?re real people, in a kind of desperate effort to maintain normalcy. This is a stupid, bullshit fucking device cooked up by the screenwriters to hit us over the head with the idea of a man at the end of his rope, but it doesn√ʬ?¬?t play, because he√ʬ?¬?s not at the end of his rope. He√ʬ?¬?s planted corn in Central Park, he√ʬ?¬?s running tests on infected rats to find a cure for the virus, he√ʬ?¬?s created an ingenious way of trapping the vampire/zombie things. A man who√ʬ?¬?s got it that together doesn√ʬ?¬?t need imaginary mannequin friends. But Will Smith somehow makes it work, and when the bit reaches its payoff, he has a scene that is so heartwrenching it defies logic.
If Will Smith weren√ʬ?¬?t in this film, it would be completely unwatchable.
Thank God for him.

All in all, this is a film marred by the excesses of Hollywood and some shitty storytelling.

I'm Not There

This is two and a quarter hours of indecipherable, "hey-look-what-I-can-do" filmmaking. I hate watching art for art's sake. Films should either tell a story or communicate an idea. Great films do both. This piece of shit does neither. I acutally know LESS about Bob Dylan after watching this movie. Todd Haynes has created a few nice moments here, but they don't connect to each other, and it's fucking MADDENING.
This is a huge shame, because when he just lets his actors act, the film isn't half bad. But with the disjointed feel of things, it honestly looks like Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Ben Whishaw are locked in some kind of Bob Dylan-imitating deathmatch. (Blanchett wins, by the way.) Meanwhile Heath Ledger is playing an actor who once played one of the incarnations of Bob Dylan who is actually the younger version of another incarnation, even though they have different names, and a little black boy grows up to be Richard Gere who is actually Billy the Kid who is apparently an immortal, because he's still alive in the mid-1950s and ... oh I don't know ... what the fuck, man.
I just don't get it. And I'm SMART. This is the most inaccessible film I've ever seen.

Cate Blanchett, though, absolutely deserves the Oscar she's going to win for this performance. She does the most convincing cross-gender work I have ever seen, but her portrayal is so much more than that. It's nearly note-perfect, heartbreaking and funny. Trouble is, I don't know how her section of the film relates to anything else. I blame that on the director.
A full star of this rating is for Cate Blanchett. Christian Bale is also great, but woefully under-utilized. Heath Ledger does some good work, too, but I can't figure out the deal with him being an actor who played Bob Dylan, but is he actually Bob Dylan? I mean Jude Quinn, no wait, Arthur Rimbaud, no that was the Ben Whishaw guy, I mean I think he played Jack Rollins, or Henry Rollins ... oh FUCK IT.

I don't think I can ever see this again. My brain might explode.

My Left Foot
My Left Foot(1989)

Daniel Day-Lewis is the world's greatest living actor. Watching this performance makes me weep for all I have not yet learned as an actor. This performance DEFIES THE RUDIMENTARY LAWS OF PHYSICS AND THE HUMAN WILL. There really isn't much more I can say.

The Crucible
The Crucible(1996)

Do you believe in the devil?
If you do, you'll like this movie more than I did.
As it is, this story is more about mass hysteria than anything else.
Well, that and the connivings of an evil little slut. Just one selfish fucking cunt of a twatty little insufferable bitch. If that sounds like I should have given the film less than four stars, you haven't seen the film.
Winona Ryder is ATROCIOUS in the role of Abigail Williams, which is too bad, cuz it's a helluva role.
But ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE ELSE in the film is absolutely balls-to-the-wall brilliant.
I'll save D-Day for last.
Elder statesman Paul Scofield tears into the role of Judge Danforth like it's a rare porterhouse. He savors every word and makes this villain's role into a truly spectacular force of nature.
Classically trained theatre actor Rob Campbell plays my favorite role, that of Reverend Hale, a man of the cloth and somehow, a man of rational thought as well. Campbell fucking belts this thing out of the park. How this man gave this performance over a decade ago and is now relegated to guest shots on Law & Order is far beyond me. Hollywood needs to rediscover this man, post haste.
Likewise the wonderful Karron Graves, playing the tortured soul of Mary Warren, the only girl willing to stand up to the twatty cunt-slut. She's amazing throughout, but watch her in the courtroom accusation scenes, and then you tell me why she's not in more stuff.
And Charlayne Woodard, the beautiful and statuesque black woman who plays Tituba, somebody's gotta put this lady on the side of a milk carton or something. It is inconceivable to me how she's not a fucking star.
(I know that these three actors are probably out there doing great theatre right now, and it's possible they wouldn't trade that for the world, but dammit, I want to see them act more, and I can't and so I'm angry and I think people should just do what I say anyway, so there.)
Other roles are well played by Bruce Davison as Rev. Parris, Jeffrey Jones as Thomas Putnam, and Robert Beuler as Judge Hathorne, just to name a few out of the very large and very stellar cast.
And Joan Allen, an actress whom I unabashedly love, ever since I first saw her in "Nixon", is given the beautifully subdued role of Elizabeth Proctor, and she NAILS it. Loyal and long-suffering, she stands by her man through everything, and would, I think, continue to stand right by him were he standing in hip deep water and being simultaneously eaten by sharks and grizzly bears. She's that loyal.
And oh my god, that scene between her and D-Day on the heath with that New England wind rending the flesh from their bones and he starts to shudder and she immediately buttons the top button on his shirt, and then he asks her to forgive him and she says she can't until he forgives himself. Fucking BRILLIANT.
Which brings us to Daniel Day-Lewis. "The Crucible" was originally written by Arthur Miller five years before Daniel Day-Lewis was born, and performed all over the world in countless productions by hundreds of different actors in the 38 or so years before D-Day got ahold of it. But let me tell you, those hundreds of actors all over the world? They were just keeping the role warm for him, because this fucker was WRITTEN for D-Day. He kills it. He absolutely kills it. He waits for it to be asleep one dark night, and he finds out where the role lives, and then he sneaks into the house where the role lives one dark night while the role is sleeping and then he creeps up to the bed where the role is sleeping in the house where the role lives on that dark night, and he cuts the role's throat. He cuts the role's throat. And he licks the blood from his fingers and then he takes the role and he buries it in the ground. He kills the role and then he buries it in the ground.
Someone should arrest D-Day Lewis for murder, because he killed this role and buried it in the ground and no one else can ever play this role now, because D-Day FUCKING KILLED IT.
I used to think I wanted to play John Proctor one day. I don't anymore. And neither should anyone else. Because anyone who ever plays this role will now be compared to D-Day. And that is not a comparison you want made, because you will lose. D-Day is gonna bury you in the ground.
Seriously though, you'll watch this movie and you'll think to yourself that D-Day is amazing, as per usual, and wow he's good, and what an imaginative choice and everything else, and then the confession scene is gonna creep up on you and you're never going to be the same again.

I cannot wait for "There Will Be Blood", and I love his turn as Bill the Butcher, and his performance in "My Left Foot" DEFIES THE RUDIMENTARY LAWS OF PHYSICS AND THE HUMAN WILL, but this will always be one of my favorite D-Day roles.

Because he killed it.
And then he buried it in the ground.

My Beautiful Laundrette

Okay. So I live in Morgantown, West Fuckin Virginia, and I don't get to see "There Will Be Blood." But in lieu of that, I'm going to watch everything Daniel Day-Lewis has done, starting with the role that made him in the states.
And he is predictably excellent. Problem is, the film is otherwise pretty boring. And D-Day is the only actor who isn't just fucking TERRIBLE. I don't believe a damn thing they're saying. I don't think they believe it, either. The script isn't all that bad, but as delivered by these actors, it's pure excrement. Gordon Warnecke, who plays the lead role of Omar, is particularly awful.
But D-Day, playing a gay former Neo-Nazi punk in 1980s London, is so indescribably natural, he makes the whole film worth watching. All three stars are for Daniel Day-Lewis. If he wasn't in this movie, it would get zero stars.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (AVP 2)

This is probably a reactionary review. 4 and a half stars is probably too high, but you know what? I almost gave it 5.

And I am not kidding.

I snuck into this movie without paying after first seeing "I Am Legend". I wanted to see this flick--it honestly looked pretty cool to me--but I didn't want to have to pay to see it. But let me tell you, this movie was so good, I almost felt like stopping by the box office on my way out and giving the attendant a fiver.

I never saw the first AVP, and I probably never will. I've heard such terrible things about it, but everything seems to derive from the idiotic choice to make the original into a pre-teen friendly PG-13 adventure film.
This one is rated R. Is it ever.
No one is safe. Little kids, loving husbands, pregnant women, ENTIRE FUCKING MATERNITY WARDS get slaughtered in awful and horrible ways in this movie.
It is glorious.
Remember in the first few "Alien" movies, when Ripley was so concerned with eradicating the Aliens so they couldn't make it to earth because if they did, the human race would be totally wiped out? I always wanted somebody to finally grow some balls and make a movie out of that premise. Well, they did. And they brought a predator along for good measure. The result? The most fun I've had at a movie in a long fucking time.
Predator comes to Earth responding to a distress call from another Predator whose ship was overrun by Aliens and crashlanded in rural Colorado. The aliens are running amok in this tiny mountain town by the time Predator arrives on the scene and swears to avenge his buddy's death. Predator then starts hunting aliens, kicking ass and taking names and killing any puny humans who get in his way.

Those humans are a reformed burglar (Steven Pasquale, who plays Garrity on "Rescue Me"), a sheriff in over his head (John Ortiz from "American Gangster"), a mom just back from Iraq and her estranged daughter (Reiko Aylesworth from "24" and Ariel Gade from "Dark Water"), and former burglar's pizza delivery boy brother who has a crush on slutty homecoming queen (played by a generic Shia LaBeouf clone and a Laguna Beach cast off). There's also concerned wife-and-mother and pizza delivery boy's dickhead boss and cookie-cutter high school bully, but for the most part, there's your cannon fodder. A lot of other people die, but these are the ones with anything resembling character development. But you know what? I don't care. I want them around just so they can die in horrible and awful ways, and for the most part, they don't disappoint me. And actors like Pasquale and Ortiz and Aylesworth are skilled enough to do a helluva lot with very little. Ortiz's Sheriff is honorable but misguided. Pasquale's reformed convict is plucky and brave. Aylesworth's Army Mom is resourceful and stoic. Little Ariel Gade's precocious six-year-old is cute-as-a-button and worth protecting.
Everybody else falls at various places on the annoying spectrum, but they wind up dead anyway, so I didn't mind so much.
The dialogue is serviceable, and the tension gets ratcheted up in all the right places. I'm sure there were a few plot holes and illogical-isms that I missed but I didn't care. Everything that that happened with the Aliens and the Predator was motherfucking solid GOLD, so I didn't mind some misfires with the rest of the stuff.
In the most Solid Gold moment, Predator and Predator/Alien hybrid (called a Predalien) get into a fucking FISTFIGHT on the roof of a hospital in a driving rainstorm. (The Predalien is one of the most bad-ass screen creatures ever created.)
As much as I loved the over-the-top violence and gore, I really think the best parts of the movie are all of the little nods and homages to the original source materials. The burglar character is named Dallas, after Tom Skerrit's captain of the Nostromo in the original Alien. The predator climbs a tree and dresses a wound, then roars into the night, and a human casualty is found skinned and hanging upside down, just like in the original Predator. One character tells another to "Run. Go. Get to the chopper!" When the Predator stops to fight the Predalien, he takes off his shoulder cannon, drops his weapons belt, and removes his mask (just like when he fights Arnold! Tee-Hee. This was my personal favorite).
Not to mention that the classic sound effects and visuals haven't been updated in the the almost thirty years, and they still remain completely effective. I love the infrared vision and the throaty clickings of the Predator, and the corn-syrupy drool of the Alien, and I am so glad they're the same now as they were when I first saw them.
One final touch for the uber-fans. If you pay close attention to the original Alien films, you'll see and hear that the global conglomerate Ripley was working for was called The Weyland-Yutani Company. In successive incarnations, we have found that the Bishop android was named and modeled after its creator, Charles Bishop Weyland. In this film, a vital piece of Predator technology finds its way into the hands of a mysterious Mrs. Yutani. Could this item hold the key to interstellar travel?
All of this seems to suggest that there's more to this movie than aliens and predators killing folk. There really isn't. There is no greater meaning, no hidden symbolism, no exploration of timeless themes. It's not a film. It's a MOVIE.
Do not watch this expecting anything other than 86 minutes of blind, brutal carnage.
As a film, this thing is just awful. But it is a truly AWESOME movie.

War (Rogue Assassin)

Utterly worthless.


Oh my god, this movie sucks. They took a ridiculously over the top undead Jason-esque killing machine and dropped him into the middle of a fucking Scooby-Doo episode. This is a shitty horror-comedy, with a ratio of about 85% awful fucking comedy and 15% gloriously gory horror.
Seriously, these are some of the most original and innovative death scenes in the history of slasher-dom. But you have to wade through so much crap with the formulaic characters spouting unfunny attempts at comedy, it's almost not worth it. Here's my recommendation: If you like worldclass gory slasher flicks, give this a rent, then fast forward through all the bullshit until you get to the good stuff. Just push play when you see a giant dude in overalls.

Rise: Blood Hunter

An interesting concept. Some of the dialogue is downright awful, but the story remains compelling throughout. Always a treat to see Michael Chiklis do anything.
At one point, the whole thing devolves into guest star hour, with Nick Lachey and Marilyn Manson popping up in weird cameos. Stick with it, though. It's not that bad.

Sasquatch Mountain

Here are the things you get to do if you put a sasquatch in your movie: You build the movie around the sasquatch.
Here are the things you don't get to do: ANYTHING ELSE.

This movie is Reservoir Dogs but it's a shitty melodrama but it's also a tale of mismatched budding romance but it's also GOT A FUCKING SASQUATCH IN IT.
You don't get to give the lead bank robber a "This is why I rob banks, because my daddy didn't love me enough" monologue. You don't get to put in a "Live, dammit, live" CPR scene. You don't get to have animosity between the bankrobber chick and the hostage chick; the line "I hated girls like you in high school" just rings false WHEN THERE"S A FUCKING SASQUATCH NEARBY.
You don't get to make one of the bank robbers Cockney. You don't get to have the lead bank robber obsessively check his stock profile on his ever-present blue tooth. The hostage girl and the elderly sheriff don't get to conveniently forget that the rakish young bank robber with the charming smile and irreverent sense of humor who has gone through changes and is now done with a life of crime is also AN ACCOMPLICE TO THE MURDER OF A POLICE OFFICER. You don't get to end the film with the good guy and the bad guy travelling down the highway in a beat up truck, each doing the "airplane hand out the window thing". You know why you don't get to do those things?

Every bit of the one star is given to Lance Henriksen. He's the only remotely good thing about this movie.

Half Nelson
Half Nelson(2006)

My god, if you have not seen this film, you are missing out on some fine fucking acting my friend.
THIS is the one reason Ryan Gosling will go down in history as the single best actor of his generation. There's also "Lars and the Real Girl", but I think this might actually top it. He got an Oscar nomination for this movie, and nobody saw it. I mean NOBODY. The box office figures for this this thing were almost in the negative. But everybody missed out, let me tell you.
I said that before, I know, but it's fucking true.
This is one of those movies that I don't think gets made unless a particular actor is available. I can't imagine this movie without Gosling. He absolutely IS Dan Dunne. Watch this movie and be amazed.

The Missing
The Missing(2003)

I forgot how much I love Tommy Lee Jones. Then I saw "No Country".
So now I finally got around to seeing this film, starring Tommy Lee and The World's Greatest Living Actress, Cate Blanchett.
All in all, a good film, made near great by the presence of its leads. Jones and Blanchett are both fantastic, and make up for the shortcomings of the script, written by the same fellow who brought you "Muppets From Space". Majestic and haunting, this has all the makings of a truly great western. Little Jenna Boyd, playing the younger daughter, is a deceptively talented little performer. Keep an eye on her. Also notable for a nice one scene cameo by Val Kilmer.


Cute. Better than most animated films. Visually stunning, as is commonplace with Pixar movies, but some of the "acting" was pretty good, too. Peter O'Toole as the evil food critic was just golden. However, the script structure was utterly predictable.

Little Fish
Little Fish(2006)

This Australian film almost defies classification. Best way I can put it is: It's a seven part character study. Some of the parts are larger than others, but they're all fully drawn, with information given to the audience in little spurts. It takes a while for you to even know who these people are, really, and how they're all related to each other. You have to pay strict attention. Nothing is ever spoon-fed to the audience in this film, and that might be why I liked it so much. It felt like I was watching a really well-written play.
I knew nothing of the movie when I first watched it (I saw it starred the AMAZING Cate Blanchett, and immediately rented it), and I think I enjoyed the movie far more because of my uninitiation. So I will spare you any unnecessary details of the plot.
Suffice it to say, however, that Cate Blanchett is her fantastic self again. This is maybe the most REAL performance I've ever seen her give (in a tie with "Notes on a Scandal"). Let me qualify that statement. Very often, she portrays real people ("Veronica Guerin") or historical figures ("Elizabeth") or a person trapped in a time period ("Charlotte Gray," "Man Who Cried"). Sometimes she gives a dead-on impression of a beloved personality ("Aviator"). Or her character operates under the cloud of abusrdist comedy ("Life Aquatic"), or she winds up in a frivolous movie in which the performance doesn't matter ("Bandits", "Pushing Tin").
But here, and in "Notes", she plays real women, living in the real world, and she uses those opportunities to keep her performances as simple and genuine and honest and REAL as possible. Cate Blanchett is the world's greatest living actress.
All the other members of the cast deliver fine performances as well, but one completely stands out. Hugo Weaving is nigh unrecognizable here, with a grizzly bear beard and bloodshot eyes and terrible fashion sense. He plays Lionel, a heroin addict trying to kick the habit. Lionel is failing miserably, both at rehab and at life. Weaving's performance is as riveting as it is heartbreaking. I honestly didn't know he was that good an actor. I wonder if he curses nailing that audition for "The Matrix." I know I can't look at him without seeing those ubiquitous sunglasses and that cheap black suit. I hope that his playing such an iconic character as Agent Smith won't continue to hold him back as an actor for much longer. He's far too talented to not be in more films.

Charlie Wilson's War

A legitimately great film. Tom Hanks & Phillip Seymour Hoffman acting a script by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Mike Nichols.
The funniest film I've seen all year. The witty dialogue is top notch, and all the performances are very good. Tom Hanks seems to be having so much damn FUN. But Philip Seymour Hoffman steels the show, as expected. His charater is so outsized and perfectly drawn, its like he's playing a fucking cartoon character. He'll get an Oscar nod for supporting actor, and the only man he should lose to is the brilliant Javier Bardem.
(I really didn't give a shit either way about Julia Roberts. The way I figure it, she didn't fuck it up too bad, but she didn't add anything to it either. they could have cast a department store mannequin, and it would have produced the same result.)

Finding Neverland

I am now convinced that Johnny Depp can do anything. Including a damn fine Scottish dialect. He is as understated and restrained here as he is a whirling dervish of rum-drunk swash-bucklery in the Pirates trilogy.
Kate Winslet delivers a typically solid performance as the widow Sylvia. I used to not care for her all that much, but she is an actress who continues to grow on me.
Director Marc Forster seamlessly blends stuffy Edwardian England with a beautfiul imagination land.
I just wish the antagonistic figures of the hag-like mother (Julie Christie) and the ice queen wife (Radha Mitchell) would have been drawn with a few more shades of gray.

But that kid, Freddie Highmore, is creepy talented. Like super creepy. He's the male Dakota Fanning.
Highly recommended.


Sometimes British means better.
I'm trying to cast an American version of this in my head, and I just can't. All four of the major actors involved are damn near perfect, including a guy I've never even heard of before.
The film is told in two parrallel stories. That of young Iris and John, and that of old Iris and John. The scenes from one story often mirror scenes from the other story, and not only is it easy to follow, the technique adds a lot to the dramatic impact of the events.
Old Iris and John are played by Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent. Both are excellent veteran actors that might not have ever been better. Dench is brilliant, here, showing this whip-smart woman desolving into dementia. Broadbent won an Oscar for this performance, and a more justified win there has never been. I take issue with it being a supporting actor award, though. He's just as big of a lead in the film as Dench, who was Oscar nominated as a leading role. ANd he really does carry this film. As Iris falls apart, he is left more and more alone, powerless to help her regain her brillaint mind. He is just so in love with this woman, the only one in his life that would ever have him, but he is so frustrated with the situation that he occasionally explodes with impotent rage. It's a truly great performance by one of my new favorite actors.
Young Iris is played by Kate Winslet. She is very good here, but she can't hold a candle to the guy who plays young John, some bloke named Hugh Bonneville. He is OUTSTANDING. He must have worked alongside Broadbent in order to craft the exact same speech patterns, a specific accent, an intricate physical life, and a similar taste in tweed jackets. Bonneville looks and sounds so much like his old age counterpart, it seems like the producers stuck Jim Broadbent in the way-back machine or found the fountain of youth and BATHED the old fucker in said fountain.
On a more serious note, if you love great acting, you owe it to yourself to give this a watch.

X-Men: The Last Stand

I gotta say, I don't know what everyone's complaining about.
This movie's got balls, man.
They fucking KILLED Cyclops and Professor X. That's ballsy. I honestly thought they would have brought them back from the dead through some kind of bullshit Hollywood happy-ending technicality. But they didn't. They're fucking DEAD. Fucking VAPORIZED. That's fucking BALLSY.
My main problem? Too much Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, not NEARLY enough Ben Foster as Angel.

Waking the Dead

This is an almost perfect romantic drama, containing some of the most honestly portrayed emotions on screen that I have ever seen.
Billy Crudup is a truly great actor, that has avoided becoming a movie star at all costs. Sometimes I just want to punch him for that, because it means he isn't in nearly enough films. His work here is nothing short of absolute excellence. His acting is impeccable throughout, starting in the first moments, when he sees the news report of his girlfriend's death, and we get to watch him go through the full gamut of grief--from shock to despair to anguish. It's riveting, and it sets us up for everything that's yet to come. All I can say is that after finally getting around to seeing this and "Jesus' Son," Billy Crudup has become an actor whose work I will never miss from now on.
Jennifer Connelly, likewise, is one of my favorite actresses. I've had a special place in my heart reserved for her ever since "Labyrinth." This was her coming out party. Without this film, there would have been no "Requiem for a Dream," no "House of Sand and Fog," no Oscar for "A Beautiful Mind". She is marvelous here. Positively spell-binding.
This movie really shines when Crudup and Connelly are on screen together. Their chemistry generates a heat so palpable you can almost feel the warmth coming off the screen. As corny as that sounds, it's absolutely true. The two actors are so natural together, it almost feels like they're improvising. There's an argument between them on a subway that's shot in a single four minute take, and it feels so real it's like you're eavesdropping on their conversation.

Great performances aside, the story is well told and the unorthodox back and forth chronological method really adds to the drama. First-time director Keith Gordon is such a natural filmmaker (a sequence near the end is so original, it's almost impossible to describe), it's hard to believe he toiled for so long as a borderline unsuccessful actor. He co-starred with Rodney Dangerfield in "Back to School" and played the kid with the evil car in "Christine". As a director, he's stayed mostly in television, but he has a deft touch with his actors and a grasp on his subject matter that a lot of more respected directors do not.

My only gripe is that the dvd contains almost 45 minutes of deleted scenes, including one with a cameo appearance by a predictably fantastic Ed Harris. Actually most of them are really great, and some of them certainly should have stayed the the film's final edit.

If you believe in true love, you will love this film. If you don't, just watch this film and you'll likely change your mind.

Into the Wild

All right. Here is this film's fatal flaw:
I don't care.
I don't care about this selfish, self-righteous, self-important son of a bitch. He deserves to starve to death, cold and alone in an abandoned bus in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. He literally ASKED FOR IT. Fuck him.
Maybe that's me reacting the awful, wooden performance by Emile Hirsch.

Hal Holbrook, William Hurt, Jena Malone and Catherine Keener deliver excellent supporting performances. But my favorite in the film might be Brian Dierker as an aging hippie. This role is his only credit on IMDB. I have no idea where Sean Penn found this guy, but he is fantastic.

I'll probably write more on this later.


Gee, thanks for the in depth synopsis, Flixster. Here's one I found online.

Academy-award-winning actor Jim Broadbent portrays controversial British campaigner Lord Longford in this biopic that details the former government minister and then-House of Lords leader's notorious encounter with infamous Moors Murderer Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton). A lifelong Christian who approaches every person he meets with the goodness and innocence of a child, Frank Packenham (aka Lord Longford) receives a letter from convicted child killer Myra Hindley requesting that he drop by her prison cell for a visit. Despite the vehement disapproval of his wife, Longford casually accepts the invitation and forms an unexpected bond with the woman due in large to their mutual Catholic upbringing. When his established notions about Hindley are challenged during a subsequent visit with her demonically manipulative partner-in-crime Ian Brady (Andy Serkis), the humble social campaigner finds his faith put to the ultimate test as public outcry mounts as a direct result of his meeting with the despised couple.

Originally a Film4 production for the BBC, this movie was picked up and shown on HBO last year. Both Broadbent and Morton won BAFTA awards for their performances in their native Great Britain, but this film flew under the radar in the states. I hadn't even heard of it until I found it by accident on, and I've seen thousands of movies.

The Golden Compass

All right. I haven't read the books. Don't know if I ever will. But from all I've heard, this adaptation is less than faithful to the original source material. Since I'm not sure exactly how they fucked things up in the translation, I can only react to how I viewed the film.
Which is this: The first hour really spells some things out for the kids in the audience. The thing I took away from the trailer--the idea that I though was the coolest thing in a long damn time--was that everybody has a animal spirit that is bonded to them and shows the true nature of their soul. Pretty fucking cool.
Daniel Craig's character (who is in the film for all of like eight and a half minutes) is a white tiger. Sam Elliot is a cantakerous jackrabbit. Nicole Kidman is an asshole orange monkey. Imaginative choices all, but the minor characters all suffer from pretty lazy stereotyping. The bully kid is a rat. All the servant characters--from butlers to footsoldiers--are different breeds of dogs. The little man who works for the evil Magisterium is some kind of insect. By the time you see some kind of Magisterium big wig cradling a coral snake, it's like "Why don't you give the guy a Snidley Whiplash mustache while you're at it?" There's a whole lot of indicating evil by the Magisterium characters--a lot of nefarious eyebrow raises and head tilts. Nicole Kidman is serviceable but really her character seems like more of a plot device. Lyra (ably played by Dakota Blue Richards) is a suitably precocious and willful heroine, but we're always a couple steps ahead of her.
I was actually tired of this movie at about the halfway point, but then Sam Elliott and the Ice Bears showed up. I am an unapologetic Sam Elliott fan. From "Tombstone" to "The Big Lebowski," Sam Elliott always adds something special to whatever film he's in. He was even good in "Ghost Rider". It never fails--higher paid actors get schooled by his homespun basso profundo wisecracks and the mischievous glint in his eye. This film is no exception. Motherfuckers get outacted by Sam Elliott's MUSTACHE in this thing.
Now, the Ice Bears might just be the most bad ass things to ever show up in films. I'd take Iorek the Ice Bear over King Leonidas and Beowulf in a handicap match. I think the Ice Bears might be what killed the dinosaurs.
Ian McKellen voices the good bear, Iorek, which is awesome, but with all the references to Iorek being a younger bear, you'd think they could have found a voice actor who sounds less like Gandalf the Grey. Ian McShane voices the evil bear, Ragnar. They have a one on one battle that rivals any fight scene that I've ever seen. That scene alone is worth the price of admission, and all in all, the second hour is pretty enjoyable. But the film fails to overcome all of the first hour's pretentions and misgivings, and it doesn't spend enough time developing some of the more interesting characters--I'm still not sure exactly who Daniel Craig is supposed to be or how a grizzled old crackshot cowboy-slash-airship pilot figures into the story or what the fuck the witches are and where they came from and I've got a lot of unanswered questions about this Magisterium business--so I guess we'll have to wait for the inevitable sequel that they spent ten minutes setting up at the end of the film.

No Country for Old Men

This is absolutely flawless filmmaking.
The first three-quarters of the movie is perfect. I say that without fear of hyperbole or any lingering doubts.
However, at a crucial point in the film, a gross misstep in the storytelling method threatens to pull this thing entirely off the rails. It is a testament to the Coen Brothers and all involved that it survives.
I've been thinking about this a lot in the four hours since I saw the picture, and I waffle back and forth between HATING THE FILM FOR FUCKING ME OVER LIKE THAT and not really minding so much.
My four star rating is almost arbitrary at this point. I could go as low as three stars, as high as four and seven-eighths.
I guess the best way to put it is that this was my favorite film EVER for the first hour-and-a-half, and I walked out not knowing how to feel about it.

I need to see it again before I make a real decision, which I plan on doing as early as tomorrow.

Code 46
Code 46(2004)

The best way to describe this film is "Art House Science Fiction."
Do not watch it expecting any action whatsoever. There isn't any. Don't watch it expecting it to be a thriller. It isn't one.
Watch it expecting a star-crossed love story of the first order, set in a beautiful but oppressive future. Watch it expecting gorgeous cinematography and intelligent direction. Watch it expecting a wonderfully subtle and nuanced performance by Samantha Morton, who delivers further proof that she is one of our greatest young actresses.

In the near future, a huge conglomerate referred to as the company rules the entire planet like a totalitarian government. There are two worlds: The "Inside"--Sprawling cities like New York, London, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires; and The "Outside"--everywhere else, basically an endless desert wasteland, made almost uninhabitable by the penetrating UV rays of the unchecked sunlight.
People have been shuttled back and forth between the cities, placed into factory jobs, turning places Shanghai into giant melting pots--people from every background living and working in close quarters. Everyone speaks the same language--a kind of multi-lingual mishmash of English, French, Spanish, and Asiatic tongues. The characters don't say "I'm sorry", they say "Lo Siento." They don't ask "Why?", they ask "Por Quois?" Of course, this being an English language picture, this mishmash is approximately 92% English, but the effect is still palpable and utterly intriguing.
Once these randomly nomadic people are ensconced in their new hometowns, they have to apply to be allowed to travel. If accepted, they are issued a very specific passport, called a "papelle" (more multilingual mishmash). These "papelles" dictate where and when and for how long a person may travel.

Some papelles have gone missing from a plant in Shanghai, only to show up on the black market, and it must have been an inside job. William Geld (Tim Robbins), a company agent based out of Seattle, has been called in to find the culprit. He has been given a "virus" by the company. Viruses are given out all the time. Though called viruses, they don't seem to be biological, rather they might be a kind of implant. The virus given to Geld is an "Empathy Virus", and thus he can basically read a person's mind.
When he gets to Shanghai, he speaks with the Indian supervisor, who has him speak to the papelle inspectors, a Mexican, an American, a Korean, and a Brit of Hispanic descent, Maria Gonzales (Samantha Morton). Maria makes an immediate impression on Geld, and although he knows she's the one who forged and stole the papelles, instead he asks her out.
Geld has made the same impression on Gonzales, and she agrees, knowing full well that he knows she's the thief. Over the course of one night, they fall in love and end up having sex. This complicates things greatly, for two reasons: 1. Geld is married with a young son, and 2. It's against the law.
Genetic engineering and cloning technology is incredibly advanced and rampantly spread--so much so that laws have been passed requiring all prospective sexual partners to get a DNA test, just to make sure that they aren't related somehow--you never can be sure if your uncle got himself cloned or something. If a pregnancy results from the sex, there will be a company mandated termination of the pregnancy.

The cinematography and art direction are nothing short of brilliant. The direction is well composed by Michael Winterbottom. The script, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, is both original and contained.

Samantha Morton is literally breathtaking as Maria. She does more with less than any actress working today. With her giant blue eyes and porcelain skin, it's easy to see why this man of morality would risk it all to be with her.
However, Tim Robbins makes the choice to underplay the entire role here, and as a result, it just looks like he's sleepwalking through much of it. I found it very hard to believe that Maria would fall for this man, and when your film is a romance, sexual chemistry is paramount. That's the only thing I would change about this beautiful and enlightening film.

Voyage de Morvern Callar

This is an almost note-perfect trip through the existensialist catatonia of a woman on the edge.
Lynne Ramsay is a born Filmmaker and her star, Samantha Morton gives one of the top ten female performances of the past DECADE.

The eponyomous Morvern Callar is a twenty-something British transplant living in a small Scottish town, working at a supermarket and shacking up with her struggling writer boyfriend, James. On Christmas morning, Morvern wakes up to find James must have been struggling more than previously thought--he's committed suicide.

This is where the movie begins, and it is a truly haunting and powerful opening scene. Morvern cuddles and caresses the dead body of her lover illuminated by the dawn encroaching through the living room window and the blinking Christmas tree lights. The scene is bursting with a disconcerting, macabre beauty.

James has left her a note on her computer screen, beginning "READ ME" and ending with "I love you. Be Brave."
In the middle somewhere, he tells her to print out his just finished novel and send it to a publishing house in London.
She unwraps the presents he left for her; among them are a pink Walkman and a mixtape. This mixtape serves as the film's soundtrack (and what a soundtrack.) Unsure of what to do next, Morvern decides to do nothing, opting to leave James's body on the floor in the kitchen. She takes a bath while curled in the fetal position, dresses, puts on makeup and heads out for a Christmas night on the town with her best friend Lanna (played by newcomer Kathleen McDermott). When Lanna asks where James is, Morvern doesn't exactly lie--"He's at home. In the kitchen."
Morvern returns home to James still dead, and re-reads the suicide note. She deletes his name from the by-line on his Novel, and replaces it with her own, then prints out the manuscript and sends it to the publisher. James has left her his bank card so she can pay for his funeral. But instead she disposes of the body in another beautifully macabre sequence, drains James's bank account, and buys two tickets to Spain for her and Lanna.
That's really there is, plot-wise. But this movie isn't about plot. It's about character, and it's about visual style. And on both of these fronts, the film is almost flawless. Lynne Ramsay is without a doubt, one of the top young female directors in the world today, with a completey unique flair for visual imagery all her own. She and her D.P., Alwin Kuchler have adapted Alan Warner's iconic Scottish novel into a cinematic poem of the highest order. The frame composition is just gorgeous, and there are shots that are simply staggering to behold. Also, I would guess that roughly half of the film is without dialogue, and much of that half, including the first fifteen minutes, is done with Morvern on screen alone IN ABJECT SILENCE.
Only an actress like Samantha Morton could pull this off. Her soft expressive eyes speak volumes in their own language when there are no words. She gives this character so much depth, turning in what is undoubtedly one of the bravest performances in recent memory.
Kathleen McDermott is also very impressive as Lanna, considering she used to be a hairdresser and has NEVER ACTED BEFORE IN HER LIFE EVER.

This is a truly independent film, and a truly great one as well.


Instead of being a comedy-horror film, like "Shaun of the Dead", this movie is sometimes a comedy and sometimes a horror film. They do both things well, but the whole picture winds up feeling disjointed and jumbled.

Dead Man's Shoes

This is a truly bad ass revenge parable.

American Beauty

I've never liked this movie. Never. I was so fucking angry when it won best picture. Not as angry as I was when "Crash" won five years later, but still pretty angry.
Here's my deal with this movie:

I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT CHRIS COOPER'S CHARACTER IS GAY. There is no way that guy is harboring some kind of latent homosexual attraction to Kevin Spacey, and so there is no way he goes over there and makes a pass at Spacey, and therefore, Spacey can't reject him, and so he has no reason to shoot Kevin Spacey, and so this movie NEVER HAPPENS.

Also, I despise Annete Bening in this. A TERRIBLE PERFORMANCE IN EVERY WAY. I don't believe anything she does. It's like she's a fucking cartoon.

Both stars are for Spacey. He's very good. But not Oscar worthy. Not by a long shot. The script gives him too many kooky things to do. Alan Ball's story is very original but the characterizations are for shit. Annette Bening is completely unbelivable (though I think a better actor would have done more with the character). The creepy kid and the the retired homophobic Marine are cookie cutter stereotypes. And everybody else (including Spacey) has the same voice--that of a snarky gay man (i.e., Alan Ball). Basically all the lines sound like they should be coming out of Andy Dick.

I know I'm in the minority here, but I just don't buy it.

Dog Bite Dog
Dog Bite Dog(2006)

I liked the way the movie was filmed. The lighting and cinematography were pretty cool.
A lot of people are talking about how violent it was, but it really isn't all that violent. If you could handle "Running Scared" or "The Departed", this'll be a piece of cake.
But the thing about this movie is how bleak it is. It is DARK. I mean, REALLY DARK. When my friend and I got to the last scene of the movie, I just threw out an idea for how they could end the whole thing and have it be the most depressing "screw-you-humanity" movie ending in cinema history. Just threw it out there. As a joke. Not serious at all.
Well, with one minor variation.
I forgot to name the song they piped in over the soundtrack.
So bleak it was hilarious.
Must be seen to be believed.

The City of Violence (Jjakpae)

Think you're pretty cool, don't'cha?
Well, you're not. Not as cool as Ryu Seung-Wan. This guy is only 33. He's South Korea's answer to Quentin Tarantino, one of the most visionary-cool directors working in the world today. He also plays one of the leads in "City of Violence" and is, by all accounts, and damn fine actor. Oh, and did I mention he's also a martial arts master who does all his own stunts?
Still think you're cool?
That's what I thought.

This is one of the slickest, coolest movies I have EVER seen. EVER. The action scenes, particularly the entire last act of the film, are off the fucking CHAIN. And the direction is just inspired. It's such a kick to watch. For many of his transitions, Seung-Wan uses relics of the 1970s, wipes and dissolves and slow fades ... and it absolutely works. Completely and totally.
And I know its a simple revenge story at its core, but the way it's told is so damn cool, it's easily one of my new favorite movies.

Dynamite Warrior

The action is a lot of fun to watch.
He rides rockets!!!
Sometimes the story is slow going, but hey, the plot is pretty involved, what with the need to collect the menstrual blood of a virgin and all.
(yeah, you read that right)

The Mist
The Mist(2007)

Wow. I don't think I could have liked this movie more for the first hour and a half. Then it abruptly started going downhill, winding up at the most bullshit "Gotcha!" ending that I have ever seen.
The creatures are all fucking freaky, the script isn't half bad, and the acting is pretty good for a genre picture, but that ending ... Woof. I saw what Darabont was trying to do, but he fucking failed, man. I wasn't even all that shocked. Iwas watching it thinking, well, he won't do (A), because it's a Hollywood movie, but if he does do (A) then (B) is gonna hafta happen. Well, he does (A) and (B) does happen, and it sucks. Big time.
I won't further spoil the ending here, because there are too many good things about the film to ruin the whole shebang for everybody. But if you want to know how it ends so you can decide if you want to spend actual money to see it, message me and I'll let you know.

Before Night Falls

Only foreign films do this.
In America, all movies fall into a certain limited spectrum.
At worst, they are mindless entertainment. At best, they're a stunningly effective medium for the telling of a story.
Very rarely, if ever, do they verge into this territory claimed by Before Night Falls: It is a singular and sweeping work of ART.

Javier Bardem gives a captivating performance, and the supporting players are all very good as well. (Including a blink-and-you'll-miss-him Sean Penn, and Johnny Depp in a dual role as a sadistic Lieutenant and a tranny with a very elastic rectum.)

The story is at times a riveting tale of courage, and at times it is indecipherable an impossible to follow. The only memorable dialogue consists of poetry recitations. This is where the film suffers and it's the reason for the imperfect 4-out-of-5-stars rating.

However, under a different dictator's guidance, the film would have lost a great deal more than a single star.

But Julian Schabel is an artist, pure and simple. He shows us so much of this story using only ingenious and flawless shot composition and the film's beautiful score, or, better yet, complete silence. It truly is the film that a painter might make.


The Tripper
The Tripper(2007)

One of the worst films ever made.

I officially hate Thomas Jane now. I used to really like him, but I can never forgive him for being a part of this affront to human history.

David Arquette should be summarily executed. Matter of fact, so should his whole family. I want to make sure the Arquette bloodline ends here, so that future generations will never have to endure atrocities like this one.

The highlight of the film is a naked dude.

You think about that.

I should have rented "Transmorphers."

The Slaughter Rule

I really don't know how to feel about this film. At its core, it's an interesting story about a son who needs a father figure and a father figure who needs a son. But then again, that's not what it is. That's what it SHOULD be.
Instead there's a bunch of insinuation that the father figure is just a pedophile, which is fine (it's another pressure to play), but I feel like the script is trying too hard to remain ambiguous. Just give the father figure a backstory where his wife left him with a young son that he couldn't take care of properly and the son ran away when he was a teenager and now he sees kids that remind him of his own and his attachment quickly becomes unhealthy. THAT's a fucking character. Not this might be/might not be Brokeback Mountain queer-eye guy. It doesn't work.
Amazingly, the acting by David Morse as the father figure ("Gideon Ferguson. But my friends call me Gid, and everybody's my friend.") is so good, you forgive all the script's faults. Ditto for the astonishing Ryan Gosling as the son character, Roy Chutney. This character must be so bland and uninteresting on the page, but Gosling makes this guy absolutely riveting. The Smith Twins, who Wrote and Directed the film, give Gosling some pretty stupid things to do and say, and he pulls everyone of them off with aplomb. Seriously, this movie would be UNWATCHABLE without Ryan Gosling. This is going to be one of those films that find a new life when Gosling is in his forties and people are acknowledging that he is quite possibly the best who ever lived.

The Death and Life of Bobby Z

Not bad. Not bad at all.
It's an interesting enough story, with effective twists here and there, believable dialogue and a variety of cool characters.
Paul Walker isn't terrible, and holds his own in the very impressive fight scenes. Laurence Fishburne wears a cowboy hat.

I enjoyed it for what it was.

Running Scared

You know what the problem is with this movie? It's actually TWO movies.
And one of them SUUUUUUCKS.

If you read the synopsis given by Flixster/Facebook Movies, just know that this is only half of the film. There is an entirely separate story that interweaves with this one, and that story stops this movie from being any good.
The opening setpiece, a drug deal gone very bad, is nothing short of AMAZING. Incredibly shot and edited, it's hard to imagine just how far this movie would wind up falling.
One of the stories follows Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker, doing the best work of his career BY A MILE) trying to recover a hot weapon before the mob puts out a hit on his entire family. That story is the most violent and gritty action crime saga EVER FILMED.
Here's the other half of the story: Paul Walker has a kid, and that kid is best friends with the next door neighbor kid, Oleg, the son of Russian immigrants. Oleg's dad is horribly abusive, and Oleg steals the gun in question to shoot his father, then
runs away, taking the gun with him. Now, Oleg meets up with a lot of crazy characters in a lot of way-too-coincidental ways, and the gun changes hands several times between those crazy characters. The style of the filmmaking in this half of the movie differs greatly from the other half. It's weird and it's off-putting and it skews into some kind of alternate reality (or is that UNreality?) You find out during the closing credits sequence that the director intended Oleg's story to be a kind of Through-The-Looking-Glass Grimm's Fairy Tale, which in hindsight, it totally is ... but it belongs in its own film. Don't fuck up your A-story, which is better written, better acted, and infinitely more interesting, by inserting this bullshit concept B-story.
The film's climax, when the two stories finally come together, is set in a Black-lit Hockey Rink, and it's really cool to watch, but the ending of the film is one of the biggest cop-outs in Hollywood history.
Honestly, I can't remember being jerked around so much by a film, and since half was so good, and half was so bad, I'm giving it a halfway rating.

Hotel Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda(2004)

Shame on us. Shame on the world.
That was the the thought that kept running through my mind as I watched this film.
I was about 13 when the atrocities in Rwanda were taking place, and I remember hearing something about it. I remember hearing the term "Acts of Genocide". I remember the words "Hutu" and "Tutsi". But I never really knew how just how horrible things were over there. Did any of us? I mean, A MILLION PEOPLE died? A MILLION? And we did nothing. The US, Britain, France, Japan. We did nothing. Shame on us. Shame on the world.
Thank God we have films like this to remind us of our history, so that we might not repeat it. "Hotel Rwanda" is simply one of the most riveting portrayals of courage that I have ever seen. Terry George, the director and co-writer of the film, has given us one of the greatest inspiriational stories of this generation.
Don Cheadle is one of the greatest actors in the world, and this is the biggest reason why. His Paul Ruesesabagina is just an astonishing figure of strength and humanity. His Oscar nomination was well deserved.
Likewise for Sophie Okonedo, playing Paul's wife Tatiana. She is excellent in this role, giving this woman layer upon layer upon layer. I was so impressed with her, and I can't wait to see her do more work.
Nick Nolte has a very nice supporting turn here, too, as a U.N. Colonel, and Joaquin Phoenix and Jean Reno pop up in small roles as an idealistic journalist and a Belgian businessman. All of the acting in the film is top notch, and it does tremendous justice to George's scripting of Ruesesabagina's true-life story.
See this film.

Devil in a Blue Dress

This is an unjustly forgotten film, a compelling detective story that is incredibly well told. Denzel Washington is predictably excellent as Easy Rawlins, turning in another performance that exudes that exclusive Denzel brand of power and nobility. I will never get tired of watching that man act.
Tom Sizemore, as a seedy private eye, and Jennifer Beals, as the damsel in distress, also do some fine work in supporting roles.
But the real star of the show is Don Cheadle in the role that made him. The role is that of Mouse, Easy's trigger-happy childhood friend. There's a scene where Mouse, drunk off his ass and half-asleep, draws his gun on Easy and challenges him to a quick draw competition. Easy has to talk him down. Just watch this scene between Denzel and Don Cheadle and if you're not inspired and awestruck, then I don't want to know you.
Mouse also gives us one of the most memorable lines in the history of the genre:
"Man, if you didn't want him killed, then why did you leave him with me?"
Here's the thing: Although the film was almost universally acclaimed by critics, it never really found an audience, and thus we were cheated of what was potentially one of the top film franchises ever. That's right, folks, this is based on the first of a series of award-winning novels that follow the adventures of Private Eye Easy Rawlins and his sidekick Mouse. Watching this just makes me sad, thinking about how we might be on like film five right now. They're apparently adapting another Easy Rawlins novel for the screen, but this one stars Jeffrey Wright as Easy and Mos Def as Mouse. Now, I like both of those actors a lot, but they're not Denzel and Don Cheadle. They're just not. If you're a fan of either of these extremely talented gentlemen, you owe it to yourself to give this a watch. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Lars and the Real Girl

I have never watched a movie and walked out feeling so blessed to be part of the human race. This film is a gift to treasure. "Lars and the Real Girl" has the kindest heart and the sweetest soul of any film that I have ever seen.
Ryan Gosling has become, quite simply, the greatest actor in the world under the age of forty (with apologies to Ben Foster and Christian Bale). Gosling plays Lars Lindstrom. Lars is 27 years old. He works as an anonymous cubicle drone and lives with his older brother Gus and Gus's pregnant wife Karin (Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer, both excellent). Well, Lars doesn't exactly live with them--he lives in Gus's garage. He also lives in abject fear of the touch of another human being. He is always respectful and kind to everyone, but he suffers from anxiety attacks whenever people get too close. You see, Lars's mom died in childbirth with him, and Lars's father never really got over it, descending into a deep dark depression. As soon as Gus was old enough, he left home to get away from that gloomy environment. So Lars was left alone with a distant father, feeling vaguely responsible for his mother's death, a woman he never even knew. When dad died a couple of years ago, Gus and Karin moved back home and Lars withdrew even further.

This is the backstory for the film. Lars's cubicle-mate, the pornography obsessed action-figure enthusiast Kurt (Maxwell McCabe) is surfing the net at work one morning and shows Lars a website about Real Dolls, an extremely life-like and "anatomically correct" brand of Sex Dolls. Lars orders one on the sly, and when it arrives, he presents it to Gus and Karin as a real girl, of Brazilian and Danish heritage, a paraplegic named Bianca. She's a Christian missionary with nurse's training, she loves kids and she's going to be visiting for a while. Gus and Karin are justifiably freaked out, and they take Lars (and Bianca) to see the town physician, who also happens to be the town psychiatrist, Dr. Dagmar (wonderfully portrayed by Patricia Clarkson). Dr. Dagmar advises Gus and Karin to accept Lars's delusion, and even to play along. Right now, Bianca fills a need for Lars; eventually, he won't need her any more. Best to just wait it out, she says. It might do more damage to Lars's psyche if they refuse to accept Bianca. Dr. Dagmar tells Lars that Bianca is sick and he needs to bring her in once a week for tests; when he does so, it gives Dr. Dagmar the chance to talk to Lars. It's up to Gus and Karin to convince the townsfolk that they need to accept Bianca as well. They do, and they do it whole hog. Everyone loves the sweet and gentlemanly Lars so much that they will do whatever they can to help. Meanwhile, Lars's co-worker Margo (the luminous Kelli Garner) is falling for him, and Lars is gradually becoming less oblivious to that fact.

I will leave it you to find out the rest. Suffice it to say that everyone in town falls a little in love with Bianca, and the audience does, too. The film's climax had me sitting up straight in my chair, mouth agape, tears streaming down my cheeks in a mixture of grief, joy and pure unadulterated awe. I have no idea how "Lars and the Real Girl" achieves this perfect storm, but I have never felt this way when watching any other film. Not ever.
When I think of all the ways this movie might have gone wrong, it boggles my mind. If you make a movie about a guy who falls in love with a sex doll, there are about a hundred thousand ways to fuck it up, and exactly one way to get it right. Screenwriter Nancy Oliver and Director Craig Gillespie have hit the nail on the head.

Oliver has a nice pedigree, having written several episodes of "Six Feet Under", but Gillespie's only other directing credit is the wouldn't-touch-it-with-a-ten-foot-pole Seann William Scott/Billy Bob Thornton comedy "Mr. Woodcock". Now, I haven't seen "Mr. Woodcock" (like I said), and apparently, that movie was taken out of Gillespie's hands and almost completely re-shot--that particular travesty of cinema belongs to Gillespie in name only. All I can say is that the director's work here is nothing short of a minimalist masterpiece, and I can't wait to see what he does next.

Most of what he does can be summed up by not getting in the way of his brilliant cast. The film takes place in rural Wisconsin, but was shot in rural Ontario, Canada on a budget of about 12 bucks, which means that almost the entire cast is made up of people I've never heard of. But they are all, to a man (or woman), completely fantastic.
The aforementioned Paul Schneider, playing Gus, has a fairly extensive resume, though I admit I can't remember seeing him in anything. I hope his subtle and nuanced turn here gains him some real recognition; I certainly wouldn't object to seeing him get a Best Supporting Actor nod. Emily Mortimer, a British actress, is in half-a-dozen films I've been meaning to see, and after her work here, I've really got to get going on that. She makes Karin into such an adorably idealistic figure, always wanting everyone to get along. You know, now that I think about it, a Supporting Actress nod for her wouldn't be too bad either.
The always outstanding Patricia Clarkson was Oscar Nominated for her role in "Pieces of April", but she is probably most famous for her role as the warden's sick wife in "The Green Mile". In this film she underplays absolutely everything as Dr. Dagmar, practically glowing with a quiet maternal wisdom. Her scenes with Gosling are such a treat to watch.
Again, I have to confess that I was wholly unfamiliar with the work of Kelli Garner, but she is one to watch. All the pictures I can find of her on Google Image Search make her look like a model, wearing evening gowns and a come-hither pout, but in this film, as Margo, she's all cardigan sweaters and apple-cheeked sweetness. She's the kind of girl who you never look twice at, but if you did, you'd spend the rest of your life with her. As cute as can be, with a smile that will make you forget your own name, she absolutely lights up the screen. She's got this angelic quality to her, but angelic is almost too lofty a word for it. Cherubic. That's it. Cherubic. The girl is a fucking cherub. Remember her name. Kelli Garner. This girl is going places.
There's a scene between Garner's Margo and Gosling's Lars that transcends simple filmmaking and verges on the miraculous. A little bit of backstory: Co-worker Kurt likes to tease Margo, she responds by swiping and hiding his action figure collection, and he retaliates by stealing her precious teddy bear and tying a noose around its neck. She retreats with the bear and takes refuge in the break room for a good cry, and Lars finds her there. End of backstory. In the actual scene, Margo reveals that she's just broken up with her boyfriend, admitting that she doesn't even know why she was with him in the first place. As she's saying this, Lars unties the noose from around the bear's neck and performs CPR on it. When the bear is revived, he hands it back to her and exits. She has watched all of this. But through the whole scene, Gosling never so much as looks at her, afraid to meet her gaze. If he did look at her, he would see that her tears are dry now, and she is smiling that amnesia-inducing smile of hers. She loves him, and we do too. It's a microcosm of the beautiful modest uplift that the entire film possesses. Wow.
That's the only word I have to describe Ryan Gosling. Wow. What a talent. What a staggering talent this young man has. His most recent film role, that of a young hotshot District Attorney in the excellent thriller "Fracture," is almost the antithesis of this one. That character, Willy Beachum, was assertive and arrogant and whip-smart, with a chiseled handsome boyishness. Lars, by contrast, is painfully shy, perpetually nervous, and apologetically spastic. He's pale and unkempt and doughy, with a bad mustache; he resembles a young Martin Mull. And he blinks more often and more forcefully than is necessary. It's a character study that is flat-out amazing.
There are two specific scenes that make Gosling's performance the stuff of legend. I refuse to describe them, partly because I want you to experience them for yourself and partly because I know I won't do them justice. I will only say they involve serenading and slow dancing.
Ryan Gosling will win an Oscar in his career. I am positive of that. He's already got one nomination (for last year"Half Nelson", in which he played a crack addicted high school history teacher). He'll probably win two or three times. So he might have to wait beyond this February to collect that little golden man, but I'll tell you this, and of this I am certain: he deserves an Academy Award for this performance. I put it at the level of the great artists at the peak of their powers: Brando in "On the Waterfront", D-Day-Lewis in "My Left Foot", and Sean Penn in "The Assassination of Richard Nixon" (which if you haven√ʬ?¬?t seen, you simply must). Forty years from now, we might very well look back on Ryan Gosling as the greatest who ever lived, and I am dead serious. And we might very well look back on this performance as the greatest one he ever gave. Then again, he might very well surpass this one with his next. But, for the life of me, I don't have a clue how he could manage it. This, dear reader, is one for the ages.


‚??Redline‚?? is absolutely ridiculous. It‚??s like it was scripted by a 14 year-old boy.

The dialogue is a bunch of sophomoric macho bullshit for the most part, and the plot is recycled and clich√©. It even starts out with a voiceover introducing the major characters that is so fucking bad it‚??s silly:
‚??The eccentric: He plays by his own rules.‚??
‚??The war hero: He fights for what he believes in.‚??

There are three guys who like to make huge wagers on stupid shit: A movie producer named Jerry Brecken (Tim Matheson, who couldn‚??t possibly need the money THAT bad), a music mogul named Infamous (Eddie Griffin, selling his soul yet again), and Michael, a guy who is apparently incredibly wealthy but also COMPLETELY FUCKING INSANE (Angus MacFadyen, with memories of Robert the Bruce in his distant past). The stupid shit flavor-of-the-month is street racing. Each guy chooses a car and a driver and they race. Michael‚??s driver is his nephew Jason, who dresses like the blonde from ‚??Queer Eye‚??. There‚??s an admittedly cool sequence over the opening credits where Jason drives a Ferrari from Los Angeles to Las Vegas at night in an hour and forty-five minutes. Just in case you were wondering, MapQuest puts the distance at about 270 miles, so yeah, he‚??s going pretty fast. He has the headlights off, so as not to attract attention from the highway patrol, but that‚??s okay‚?¶ he‚??s wearing infra-red goggles. Neat!
But it‚??s all downhill from there. Jason‚??s brother Carlo (Nathan Phillips from ‚??Wolf Creek‚?? and ‚??Snakes on a Plane‚??) returns home from Iraq, but he really hates Uncle Michael. Uh-Oh, CONFLICT! Carlo gets into fights with groups of guys for no apparent reason. You know, cause he‚??s a WAR HERO.
Eddie Griffin hires Natasha to drive for him, even thought she doesn‚??t want to. You see, Natasha is a mechanic/slash/female-lead-singer-of-a-rock-band whose father used to be a NASCAR driver but he died in a crash and that‚??s why she doesn‚??t want to race, but Eddie Griffin promises her a recording contract for her band which is odd because it‚??s obviously the worst band EVER (Natasha is played by Nadia Bjorlin, who is fucking hot, but also fucking terrible (not as bad as Jessica Alba or Jessica Biel, though)).
So anyway, she races against Jason. Uncle Michael has taken a shine to her, and he bets 5 million against Eddie Griffin, but Eddie Griffin only has 3 million so he also puts Natasha‚??s services in the pot. If Jason wins, Uncle Michael owns Natasha. They race, and it‚??s very exciting ‚?¶ I guess ... and Natasha is about to win, but Jason hits the Nitrous boosters and wins, but the brakes don‚??t work and he wrecks and dies. In a related crash, Natasha is knocked unconscious. Carlo swears revenge against Uncle Michael as Natasha is taken away in an ambulance to Uncle Michael‚??s palatial estate. She is his property now, and she‚??ll learn to love him ‚?¶ in time. Carlo goes to an old army buddy, I guess, and the old army buddy gives him an assault rifle and a couple of glocks and a bunch of C4(!), and he storms the palatial estate to kill Uncle Michael but instead he rescues Natasha, and the two of them go to a bar and do shots of tequila and slow dance and fall in love. But Uncle Michael owes money to the wrong people ‚?¶ a lot of money ‚?¶ 80 Million Dollars Worth! But, oh no! Uncle Michael doesn‚??t have 80 Million Dollars! And he owes 80 Million Dollars to the WRONG PEOPLE ‚?¶ dum dum DUMMMMMMM!!!
So he makes a winner take all bet for one last race, 30 million dollars from each guy. But in order to get Natasha to race for him, Uncle Michael kidnaps her Mom, and says he‚??ll kill her if Natasha doesn‚??t win. And when she gets to the race, the guy who‚??s driving Eddie Griffin‚??s car is the NASCAR driver who KILLED NATASHA‚??s FATHER.
But while she‚??s racing, Carlo stages a daring daylight raid on the boxing gym where Natasha‚??s mom is being held, but luckily she‚??s only being guarded by two guys and, even though one of them is played by martial arts legend Ernie Reyes Jr., they're COMPLETELY incompetent and he rescues Natasha‚??s mom, and he calls Natasha on her cell phone during the race to tell her that Mom is A-OK, and even though she‚??s winning, she stops the car right before the finish line, and Tim Matheson‚??s guy wins the race and Eddie Griffin is pissed and Uncle Michael can‚??t pay his debts and he can‚??t kill Natasha‚??s mom, so the wrong people come to ‚??take him for a ride‚??. Uh-oh, I hope they don‚??t ‚??whack him‚?? or ‚??rub him out‚?? or ‚??send him to sleep with the fishes‚??.
And Carlo conveniently forgets all about his brother‚??s death and Natasha gets a new recording contract with Tim Matheson and she‚??s a certified hit, ladies and gents, and Carlo and Natasha live happily ever after ‚?¶ The End.

Could you follow all of that? Did I move too quickly for you? I know there were a lot of unexpected twists and turns, and I want to make sure you understood everything‚?¶
Didja get it? Good, cause if you didn‚??t, you might want to give back your high school diploma.
Oh, and of couse, not only is it poorly written, it‚??s also like some kind of adolescent fantasy.
Fast Cars. Kung Fu. Explosions. Boobies. They're all here, and that's all there is.

This is the brainchild of producer Daniel Sadek, who apparently is just some real estate shark from Orange County, who used his own personal exotic car collection for the film, and wents millions of dollars in debt in the process. Great job, dude. Got one question for ya. Was it worth it?

Here's the weirdest thing about this movie: I was watching this the whole time, thinking the script is maybe the worst I have ever seen in a fully produced film ... unless of course you count
"Mr. Jingles", which of course, doesn't count, because it's not a film, because it was shot with a fucking CAMCORDER.
But here's the cosmic thing: The story is by Daniel Sadek, and the screenplay was written by some guy named Robert Foreman. His only other writing credit is an upcoming film called "Little Red Devil," which is being directed by Thomasina Brunswick, who is none other than the auteur who brought you ... "Mr. Jingles."



This film is absolutely revolutionary in its visual scope and ingenuity.
The look of this film is completely stunning, achieved through motion-capture technology. Then it's animated in black and white, with no shades of grey. Think of it like this: Everything is either light or shadow, with no in between.
Originally produced in France, with French actors speaking French, they rewrote the dialogue and re-cast the voice actors and re-animated the mouth movements for an English language release. So sometimes things seem a little off. And even with a cast that includes Daniel Craig, Jonathan Pryce, and Ian Holm, the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired.
But the story is engrossing enough to keep you interested, and the visual style of the film is so starkly beautiful that you won't be able to turn away.
Everyone should see this movie. It's as important to the field of animation as was "Sin City" or "Toy Story" or even freaking "Snow White".

Mr. Brooks
Mr. Brooks(2007)

This is one of the biggest surprises of the past five years.
To tell you the truth, I thought this was going to SSUUUUUCCKK.
Why would I choose to watch a movie if I expected it to be so bad, you ask?
Well, how bout a little less questions and a little more shut-the-hell-up?
Maybe sometimes I want to watch a bad movie just to marvel at its badness, and to inform you, dear reader, of its many pitfalls and pratfalls so that you may avoid its trappings. That‚??s right. I suffer through crap so that you won‚??t have to.
But this film is decidedly not crap. As a matter of fact, it‚??s actually pretty good, and parts of it are pitch-perfect. And if there were a couple of different choices made in the casting and a couple of tweeks made to the B-story, this would have been one of the greatest films ever made in its genre.
That genre, of course, is the psychological thriller. The script‚??s main device, dreamed up by director Bruce Evans and his longtime writing partner Raynold Gideon, is totally original and utterly brilliant. The device is this: Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) is a loving husband and father, not to mention a civic-minded businessman who has just been given the Man of the Year Award by the Portland Chamber of Commerce. He is also a cold-blooded serial killer, addicted to the thrill of the kill (he even goes to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, trying to get past this addiction). His fractured psyche is represented in a literal fashion by Marshall (played by the fantastic and perpetually underrated William Hurt). Marshall is the manifestation of Earl‚??s alter ego, the representation of his unchecked id. It is Marshall who coaxes Earl into committing murder; he‚??s like a reverse conscience‚??think of him as kind of an evil Jiminy Cricket. But Marshall is also Earl‚??s imaginary best friend and confidant. We can see Earl and Marshall having conversations, both in private and in front of other people, but no one notices, because both ends of the conversation are entirely in Earl‚??s head. It‚??s a fantastic device and it works 1000% of the time.

If you‚??ve seen the trailer, you know the inciting incident: while committing a double murder of a couple in mid-coitus, Mr. Brooks is captured on camera by a peeping tom, a lonely and slightly demented guy named Baffert. Baffert introduces himself to Brooks as Mr. Smith, and uses the photos to blackmail the killer into teaching him how to kill. Meanwhile, Detective Tracy Atwood is hot on the trail of the Thumbprint Killer (So called by the media because he leaves the thumbprints of his victims at the scene, using their own blood as ink. They never explain why Brooks does this, but whatever).

Here‚??s the movies first problem: they cast Dane Cook as Baffert/Smith. For the three of you out there who haven‚??t heard of the obnoxiously ubiquitous Mr. Cook, he of the 2,158,935 MySpace friends, he is a successful young stand-up comic turned actor.
Now, I believe there are two kinds of people in this world. People who like Dane Cook, and people who want to kill Dane Cook with a hacksaw. I put myself in the latter group. I am president of the latter group. I fucking DESPISE Dane Cook. He is a waste of organic matter, utterly worthless as a human being, breathing air that should be going to a far more deserving individual. Fuck Dane Cook. Fuck him right in his fucking ear. A million people die every day, why can‚??t one of them be Dane Cook? I will admit that there are things he does in this performance that are actually pretty good, but there are a lot of times where he‚??s trying to force comedy into scenes where it flat-out doesn‚??t belong. Overall though, he can‚??t seem to play low status, insisting on being the smartest, strongest and coolest guy in the room. But he‚??s none of those things, and so the character just comes off as an enormous douchebag. Through doing a little research, I found out that Zach Braff from ‚??Scrubs‚?? and ‚??Garden State‚?? was originally cast as Baffert/Smith. I like Braff more than Cook, but that‚??s not the answer either. This character shouldn‚??t be a smart ass, he shouldn‚??t have an post-modern hipster sense of humor, he shouldn‚??t be fucking QUIRKY, he should just be a little off. A guy with an unexplored dark side. It could be an absolute keg of dynamite in the hands of a genuinely gifted young character actor. This is exactly the kind of role that needs to go to the great Walton Goggins, who plays Shane on ‚??The Shield‚??. He‚??s going to breakout into films sometime soon and this part would have been perfect for him. OR OH MY GOD I JUST THOUGHT OF THIS RIGHT NOW OH MY GOD WHAT ABOUT BEN FOSTER!?!?!?!?! I mean he skews a little young, I know, but fuck that, I don‚??t care if this role was originally written for a SIXTY year old, you cast this man! CAST THIS MAN!!! Ben Foster needs to be in everything. My god, I weep when I think of how good he would have been in this role, and how much better he would have made the film as a whole. But no. He‚??s not as marketable as a hack comedian with 2 million MySpace friends. Fuck you Hollywood. Stop giving me Shia Leboeuf and Dane Cook and start giving me Ben Foster and Walton Goggins.
When I take over Hollywood in five years, my first order of business is going to be to order the public execution of Dane Cook in the town square, to be hanged by the neck until dead, so sayeth Alex.

The film‚??s second problem is its B-story. That involves Detective Tracy Atwood, played by Demi Moore.
(Good news, America! Demi Moore has finally pulled herself off of Ashton Kutcher‚??s cock long enough to make a significantly less than triumphant return to feature films!)
For some reason, the writers feel like they need to have Brooks in danger from the law, so they give us a foil for him. But instead of doing something smart and cool, like making Detective Atwood a guy, of a comparable age to Brooks, who is an actual Alcoholic, whose wife has taken the kids and left, who is reckless and violent, yet brilliant and great at his job‚??give Brooks a parallel figure for an antagonist, a guy we actually like and root for in spite of his faults, and this film ratchets up to a tremendous level of excellence. Then hire an actor like‚??I don‚??t know‚??Alec Baldwin or somebody comparable, to play him and you‚??re golden.
But instead of doing that, they make Atwood a woman detective. A woman detective who has a hard-ass for a boss (also a woman and played by former Mamet-wife Lindsey Crouse, coaxed out of semi-retirement) and a (male) partner she doesn‚??t respect, who is in the middle of an ugly divorce from her second, much younger husband, who cheated on her with several women and is cheating on her right now with his divorce lawyer, but the husband wants five million dollars from Atwood, because she is actually an heiress worth somewhere north of 65 million, and by the way, she is also the target of a SECOND UNRELATED SERIAL KILLER named Meeks (called The Hangman because, well, you can guess, you‚??re not stupid) whom Atwood sent up the river but he only recently escaped from jail and he‚??s all ‚??roided out and stalking her and ‚?¶ do you care yet? Actually, maybe you do. When I look at the way I described it, it doesn‚??t seem so bad. But the way it‚??s executed in the script, and the way the character is portrayed by Demi Moore, it just feels like she‚??s a cold, ball-busting bitch in a lame tacked-on subplot. The two threads are interwoven at the end, but there‚??s really no payoff. And in two ridiculous action scenes that are so out of place, they feel like they were edited in from an entirely different film, they make Atwood into Tango or Cash or John freaking McClane. These are the two biggest missteps by the filmmakers, and in a different film, they might have made me hate it. But here, they flaws are so outweighed by the brilliance of the stuff that does work, and I don‚??t really care that much.

The C-plot, which should have been the B-plot, is riveting. Earl and his wife Emma (played by Marg Helgenberger from ‚??Species‚?? and the first ‚??CSI‚??) have a nineteen year-old daughter, Jane (well-played by the young Dana Panabaker), who has just dropped out of her freshman year at Stanford and returned home. I‚??ll leave it to you to find out why. I‚??ll only say that Marshall warns Earl, ‚??She‚??s hiding something,‚?? and he is SO right.

Kevin Costner does his best work in years.
I usually like Kevin Costner, except in two MAJOR instances. In ‚??Dances With Wolves,‚?? I just felt like he was so fucking bland, his character might have been named ‚??Acts Like A Mannequin‚??. And he pretty much RUINED ‚??Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves‚??, but then again, I‚??m an unapologetic Dialect Snob. (Since when is the Sherwood Forest in fucking Iowa?)
But in flims like ‚??Bull Durham‚?? and ‚??Field of Dreams‚?? he‚??s excellent. And I thought he was a better Wyatt Earp than Kurt Russell. But there‚??s a movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, called ‚??A Perfect World,‚?? in which he delivers the performance of a lifetime. In it, his escaped convict goes on a road trip with a near-mute kid in a Casper-The-Ghost costume, and Costner gets to show off a confident darkness that we never knew was in him. More recently, he was the only thing worth watching in ‚??3000 Miles To Graceland,‚?? playing the psychotic criminal Murph. It‚??s a kick to witness. He is having so much fun. Too bad the movie BLOWS.
But here, his performance is so layered, it‚??s hard to describe. Watch for the scene between him and William Hurt in the kitchen. It‚??s written very well, directed even better, and acted to absolute perfection. Every single scene between Costner and Hurt is goddamn fantastic.
Ah, William Hurt. Everyone knows the scene from the trailer where he whispers ‚??I love what you are thinking.‚?? That is his performance in a nutshell. Everything he does or says drips with malevolent glee. It‚??s a joy to watch.

I struggled with how many stars to give this. In the end, I gave it 3-and-a-half, because of the shitty B-Plot and because of Dane fucking Cook. But the stuff that works, works SO WELL, and Costner and Hurt are so good, that in spite of all of this film‚??s poor choices and missteps and shortcomings, I really enjoyed it. I recommend it to fans of the genre or to fans of Kevin Costner or to fans of great acting. And if you‚??re a fan of all three, go rent it NOW.

DOA: Dead or Alive

Come on, film snobs.
This is just 86 minutes of pointless mind-numbing entertainment.
And if you're in the mood for that kind of thing, you can do a lot worse than this little gem.
Now, I never played the video game on which it was based, so I have no idea how true the filmmaker's are to the original source material. But Corey Yuen, who directed the first "Transporter" film, handles all the fight scenes with an extremely deft touch. They really are spectacular.
Admittedly, the dialogue is fucking awful and the acting is pretty bad. But what do you expect?
"Sin City's" Devon Aoki, playing some kind of disgraced ninja princess, apparently can't speak English with a Japanese accent (I would have bet a million dollars the other way), and so a lot of her acting moments are just plain laughable. And she has several duels with the purple-haired ninja who is "honor-bound to kill her", played by Natassia Malthe, an actress born in fucking NORWAY.
Norwegian playing Japanese. Whatever.
But at its core, the movie knows exactly what it is:
Hot girls doing kung fu half naked.
Matter of fact, that should be the freaking TITLE of this movie.
Turn off your brain and enjoy the view.

Also notable for a nifty supporting performance by Kevin Nash and a random Eric Roberts sighting. I shit you not, I thought Eric Roberts was dead.


Special effects are not enough reason by themselves to make a good movie. And if you don't realize that, I can't help you.
No one can.

Home of the Brave

This is an important film, woefully poor in it's execution. People need to see what's happening to the soldiers that are serving over there in this completely unjustifiable war. The script tries to show both sides of the war argument, and it succeeds, but only by demonizing or dumbing down the opposition in different cases:
"Gee, I thought they all hated us over there."
"Why are you going to therapy? To talk about your feelings? What a Pussy."
But when a couple of soldiers speculate about the prospect of statues of American soldiers being built in Baghdad, comparing Iraqis to the French in WWII, I nearly fainted. There's a better chance of me getting a tattoo of Renee Zellweger.
But, anyway the script is fucking awful, the direction is choppy and heavy-handed. (Except for the well-staged insurgent ambush set-piece.) And the acting, by everyone INCLUDING Samuel L. Jackson, is fucking abysmal.
Even Sam Jackson. I know. I'm surprised, too. I'ce never seen this man suck before. But he SUUUUUUUUUCKS in this. It's gotta be the script and the direction, mostly, but there's a scene where he shows up at Thanksgiving Dinner drunk, and he staggers around, slurring his speech and rips a lip ring out of the face of his anti-war teenage son, and the pure badness of his acting is just jawdropping.
Some soap opera pretty boy named Brian Presley plays the lead, and he does a lot of soap opera acting. Which is to say, he blows.
Jessica Biel is now firmly ensconced in the Jessica Alba class of "ridiculously-hot/ridiculously-bad". She plays what should be the juicy role here: Single mom, lost her hand in Iraq, can't look her old boyfriend in the eye ... and she just plays it with no imagination, no creativity, no anything worth watching.
And why the hell is 50 Cent in this movie? I could barely understand a word he said, he mumbles so much. He is just terrible, almost a worthless human being. I hope he dies trying to get rich soon.

Anyway, don't watch this movie.

Cry, the Beloved Country

All right. As any boy who grew up in the eighties, I have a special place in my heart for James Earl Jones. The voice of Darth Vader and the blind guy in "The Sandlot"? I love him. I just do. But here's the thing: When he gets into serious mode, he just sounds like Vader. Which is unsettling when he's playing a benevolent African priest.

Still, this is a touching and powerful film. Richard Harris acts the hell out of this role. His two scenes with James Earl, where so much is left unsaid, are like little minimalist miracles. Seriously.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

All right, Tim Story. Fun is fun, but this is fucking terrible.
Are you making a Superhero/Comic Book movie? Or are you making a juvenile comedy? Or are you making both? Cause it's cool if you are, but right now you're at about 85/15 juvenile comedy, and you're gonna have to reverse that ratio to get me to watch the third one.

This is pretty much the same movie as the first one, and I really liked that, so what's the difference, you ask?
I'm not exactly sure, unless it's just that I got tired of being treated like a seven-year-old boy and wanted some real fucking action, without having to watch Chris Evans try to wring every last drop of snarky wise-ass comedy from each lame fucking joke in the script. God bless him, though, he just tries SO HARD. Too bad he fails SO MISERABLY.
Jessica Alba is an awfully hot actress. Oh, wait. I meant to say she's a hot awful actress.
The best thing I can say about Ioan Gruffudd is that he's gotten pretty good at a generic American accent. He's a better actor than this material allows him to be.
Laurence Fishburne is Morpheus doing the voice of The Silver Surfer. I hope he was wearing those tiny sunglasses in the recording booth, just to help him get into character.
Andre Braugher is the best actor in this thing, and his distaste for the script is fucking PALPABLE.

And oh, Michael Chiklis. I hope you enjoy your paycheck. I hope you're putting your GREAT-grandchildren through college with Fox's money. I love you so much, Chick. I really do. Please do better movies. Please.

And that's it, I realize just now as I'm writing this: I liked the first one so much more because so much of it was The Thing's story--him struggling with his new appearance, him beating on Dr. Doom, him dealing with his fucking WIFE leaving him because he now looks like a monster (there's a pressure for you), and because it's Chick playing him, there is so much pathos generated for the big orange rock man and the first movie works. In this one, he's relegated to the sidelines, reduced to burping in the face of hipsters with afros and getting into roaring contests with German Grizzly Bears. It's just sad.

A World Apart

This is a great story of one woman's standing up for her rights and the rights of every human being. A GREAT performance by Barbara Hershey, and maybe an even better performance by young Jodhi May as her daughter.
Nice supporting turns by David Suchet and Paul Freeman as Johannesburg police detectives (two Brits doing flawless South African dialects), and an appearance by a so-fucking-young-he's-pre-natal Tim Roth.

Black Sheep
Black Sheep(2006)

Okay. The film knows exactly what it is, and it's exactly what you expect it to be.
It's a zombie/vampire/werewolf/genetically-enhanced-mutant-creature film ... but with sheep. And thus it's a near-perfect parody of the genre.
Y'know what? Just watch the trailer and that's what the movie is. If you're not excited to see the film after watching the trailer, this just isn't for you. If like me, you're nearly peeing your pants with anticipation, you'll love the finished product.
The problem is that it tries too hard to be a comedy. If they would have taken a different route, say, being over-serious, the end result would have been funnier than will the lame jokes they decided to use instead. The dialogue is pretty bad (but then again, it's a horror movie). The female lead gets on your nerves (but then again, its a horror movie). The acting overall is pretty cheesy (but then again, its a horror movie).

It starts out kind of slow, but wait for it, because right around the time that men start turning into sheep, this movie stops being a movie and turns into an amusement park ride.
But where this film shines is the gore department. It's INCREDIBLY well done, and there is A LOT of it. I want to make sure I give you fair warning, dear reader:
I have never seen more gratuitous blood and gore.
Never ever have I seen more gratuitous blood and gore.
I really can't stress this enough.

But the way they treat the blood and gore is always tongue in cheek, and while it'll make you cringe, you'll cringe with a smile on your face.
Also, this film has one of the most preposterous and hilarious endings I have ever seen. It's brilliant and leaves the door open for a sequel. (*fingers crossed*)

A Dry White Season

An interesting story about a white man in Apartheid Era South Africa who becomes aware of the terrible atrocities going on around him. Donald Sutherland is good, Susan Sarandon is bad, and Marlon Brando is apparently crazier than a shithouse rat.

Brando is onscreen for maybe fifteen minutes, but he's by far the most interesting actor playing by far the most interesting character. His loopy lawyer Ian Mackenizie is sarcastic and jaded and cynical and good-hearted. This performance got Brando his final Oscar Nomination, and it was the first time he had done a film in almost a decade.
Watch it for the story it tells, watch it just for Brando--watch it.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

All right. I know I'm in the minority here, but I absolutely LOVED this film. The way I see it, if you're going to make a historical epic about the legendary unrequited romance between Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh, about the foiled Catholic coup of Mary Stuart, about King Philip of Spain and his doomed armada, this is the way you do it. You pull out all the stops, you go whole hog, you don't fuck around. I know the plot jumps from espionage thriller to boudoir drama to battlefield epic; I know the costumes and scenery are so opulent that they threaten to drown out the story and make the movie into an art exhibit; I know the score is sweeping and insistent and manipulative; I know the scope is as broad as has ever seen celluoid; I know all that. I am aware of all of those things. I am also aware that the film is rife with gross historical inaccuracies: Elizabeth would have been in her early fifties when this takes place; Blanchett is 38, and might be 32, as radiant as she looks here. Raliegh was 19 years her junior; Owen is 5 years older than Blanchett. Raleigh was nowhere near the shore during the Battle of the Gravelines; Owen hangs off the masthead like Errol Flyn. There are undoubtedly countless other little gaffes here and there, but those are the biggies. And for all the history sheriffs out there, that should be enough to condemn the entire film right there.
Here's the thing though: I don't care.
I like it that way.
This is the most ambitious film I have seen in a LONG fucking time.
Yay for ambition.
Give me political intrigue. Give me a royal love triangle. Give me naval battles with ships aflame aplenty. Give me Geoffrey Rush torturing traitors while being unable to stand because he's dying slowly from an unnamed illness. Give me Clive Owen buckling swash and seducing a virgin queen. Give me Samantha Morton proving the "no small parts" adage with every motherfucking breath she takes on screen. Give me minor characters played by fantastic actors chewing the scenery in deliciously over the top performances. Give me Cate Blanchett looking regal. Give me Cate Blanchett riding side-saddle. Give me Cate Blanchett nearly collapsing with guilt and grief after sentencing her cousin to death. Give me Cate Blanchett threatening Spain with her own personal hurricane. Give me Cate Blanchett in love with a pirate that she cannot have so she gives him to her lady-in-waiting but when the lady-in-waiting gets preggers she loses her frickin MIND. Give me Cate Blanchett in lady armor astride a white horse with a perm giving a Braveheart speech to a rag tag bunch of infantrymen. Give me Cate Blanchett on a cliff overlooking the English Channel as the wind whips around her, clad in only a nightgown, watching and smiling as the breath of God sinks the Spanish armada. Give me Cate Blanchett reading the phone book.
Matter of fact, just give me Cate Blanchett.
Gimme, gimme, gimme. Whatever this film gave me I slurped up and swallowed hungrily. More, more, more!!!!

A great friend said that this film reminded him of Shakespeare, and I think that is a perfect analogy. I view this film as what might have been Shakespeare's version of "The History of Elizabeth I." You know, minus the iambic pentameter.

I liked the way Shekar Kapur made this film. He holds nothing back, pulls no punches. This is as epic as moviemaking gets. There is stuff in here that is just jawdropping. A panoramic shot of the Spanish forests laid waste to build the eponymous Armada. That same Armada burning at sea in a roiling storm. Intercutting Bess and Raleigh making love with Elizabeth looking at her nude figure in a mirror. The times he just lets the elegant and powerful score by Craig Armstrong and A.R. Rahman do its work.
(By the way, if Alexandra Byrne doesn't win the Oscar for Best Costume Design, there's something seriously wrong with the world.)
I want directors to have this kind of ambition, this kind of scope. It's inspiring. And it's AWE-inspiring. Give me more, Shekar. I'm full to the gills, but it tastes so good that I'm still hungry.
Some people find fault with the story and the dialogue, but personally, I liked the script. It's a little uneven in spots, but when it's on it is fucking ON. And then they put it in the hands of a veritable all-star team of British and Aussie character actors.
Not to mention the greatest actress in the world not named Meryl or Streep. You give her a line like "I too can command the winds, sir. I have a hurricane in me that will lay Spain bare if you dare to try me!", and I mean, godDAMN. But more on the brilliant Ms. Blanchett later.

Geoffrey Rush is excellent in the role of Elizabeth's "spymaster", Sir Francis Walsingham. He is so fucking subtle. The scene where he averts the assassination attempt on his life by HIS OWN BROTHER William (played wonderfully by Tony and Olivier Award nominee Adam Godley) is just breathtaking: "Did you imagine I wouldn't know?". Followed by the scene where he commutes William's execution, instead banishing him to France. It's a treat to watch this man work.

Clive Owen is equally good in the role of Raleigh. He is so goshdarn dashing, you can't help but be captivated by his eloquence and derring-do. It's easy to see why a Queen would want him to derring-do her.

Samantha Morton is just bloody fantastic. Her role as Mary Queen of Scots is small and she has a relatively early exit, but she commands every shot that she's in. In the scene where she learns of her imminent death, the lines on the page must have looked like this:
"Traitors. Traitors. Traitors."
But Morton says the word in three ways so different, it's like she's saying it in three different languages. Oh, and somewhere in between she mixes in a gesture that's so off-the-wall batshit crazy, it defies description. Later, the sight of her looking up at her executioner from the chopping block and mouthing the words "I forgive you with all of my heart" is enough to give your unborn grandchildren goosebumps. And you want to know a fun fact that will amaze and piss you off? She's only THIRTY. Give this woman an Oscar. Now. Don't wait till February. Do it now.
(Also worth mentioning here is the work of Susan Lynch, playing Mary's lady-in-waiting. The rage and grief she plays at her mistress's execution makes Morton's victorious stoicism all the more riveting.)

Abbie Cornish plays Bess, the Queen's favorite lady-in-waiting. She's absolutely stunning, and very good in the role, but she's a little young (25) and seems a bit outclassed by her more experienced castmates.

The catholic zealot Spanish King Philip II is played by Jordi Molla (so fantastic in "Blow", playing Johnny Depp's perma-fried Colombian partner-in-coke). His entire part is in his native Spanish, and he imbues the role with a dark, contained fervor that is a total trip to witness.

Even the tiniest of supporting roles is played to near perfection: Welshman Rhys Ifans plays the traitorous mastermind known simply as "The Jesuit", and the cold brutality he shows in his first scene makes us fear him for the rest of the film. Eddie Redmayne (from "The Good Shepherd") plays the assassin Thomas Babington; his gaunt, freckled face lingers in the mind long after he's gone from the film.
A young man by the name of Chistian Brassington plays the Austrian Archduke Charles; he is awkward and out of element in meeting the Queen--when she speaks Austrian to him the look of relief on his face is priceless.
Theatre veteran and Tony nominee David Threlfall plays a Nostradamus-like figure with the preposterous sounding name of Dr. Dee; he has a bigger role in the trailer than he does in the film, but he makes an impression as much on us as he does on the Queen--you understand why she takes such stock in his astrological predictions.
The great Tom Hollander (Lord Beckett from "Pirates of the Caribbean") plays the tertiary role of Mary Stuart's keeper, Sir Amylas Paulet; here is a man who stand all of 5'5" and yet possesses a tremendous presence whenever he's onscreen--this is no exception.
And William Houston, a redheaded British Royal Shakespeare Company actor, puts on a perfect Spanish accent and plays the Spanish Ambassador, Don Guerau De Spes (the guy who threatens the Queen's pride in the trailer) . I was lucky enough to see Mr. Houston play Prince Hal and Henry V in the RSC's History Cycle when I was studying abroad in London in 2001. My class met with him after one of the shows, and he couldn't have been nicer or humbler. But I'll tell you this: I shook that man's hand, looked him in the eye from three feet away, had him wish me luck as an actor, and that moment has stuck with me for the last six years ... but when I saw and heard him up on screen, he was completely unrecognizable. It was awesome to see him work again. Btw, you should have seen his "St Crispin's Day" speech--the stuff of legend.

But, of course, the reason this film works--hell, the reason this film fucking EXISTS--is Cate Blanchett.
She is ASTOUNDING in this, mining every last depth of this fathomless woman. The script gives her about twelve thousand pressures to play and overcome. When she learns that Raleigh, the man she loves but cannot have, has impregnated Bess, the lady-in-waiting she wants but cannot have (*wink*), the meltdown she has is ... astounding.
When the Spanish Ambassador verbally bitch-slaps her with the "wind/pride" threat, the trailer makes it look like her "hurricane" comeback is instantaneous and the last word. But in reality, the Spaniard's comment shakes her. She hides it from him, from her advisors, but not from us. Her eyes dart around, she blinks once or twice, then shouts her "hurricane" line at his back as he is exiting the room. She's flustered and scared and angry and Blanchett plays each of these emotions at the same time in the EXACT proportion and the effect is nothing short of ... astounding.
When she is filled with regret and guilt and remorse knowing she has sent her cousin to the executioner's block, and wanting to stop it but unable to because the beheading is taking place in a castle hundreds of miles away and it's 1587 and y'know, they didn't have cell phones and she's wandering around her palace, knowing she's the most powerful person in the land but feeling utterly helpless, it's just ... astounding.
When she and Walsingham put it together that the Spanish have outsmarted them and that by executing Mary Stuart, they have brought the fury of Holy Roman Empire down upon them, she doesn't even fucking move--she just keeps staring straight ahead and her eyes close slowly, it's just motherfucking ... astounding.
When Babington runs into her own personal chapel, brandishing a pistol pointed at her heart, and SHE JUST FUCKING STANDS THERE ... astounding doesn't cover it.
I could keep going on, but you get the idea. Every scene she is in is a goddamn masterpiece.
I know nobody liked this movie but me, but you gotta give this woman an Oscar nod for this performance. You just have to.
There isn't a better actress in the world right now. Even taking gender aside, I don't know. She might be the best actor, period. She very well might be.

I give this film four and a half stars instead of five, only because the filmmakers do the old "epilogue placard" routine, telling us that King Philip died ten years later, England entered a time of blah blah blah, and giving us "Elizabeth I, 1533-1603".
If you're going to rewrite history, don't call attention to it.

Then again, this movie doesn't back down from any thing. If I had balls the size of Shekar Kapur's, I'd just roll from place to place.

A Beautiful Mind

I finally got around to seeing this film as part of my prep-work before going to "American Gangster." I've been meaning to watch this for a while, and I was bored on a Monday night.

So, yeah. Not that big of a fan.

Let me explain. The first three acts of this movie are excellent. The fourth act, where we see the aged John Nash shambling around struggling to ignore his hallucinations and winning Nobel Prizes, is THE WORST PIECE OF CLOYING, MANIPULATIVE BULLSHIT I HAVE EVER SEEN ONSCREEN.

This movie starts out very compelling, with Russell Crowe playing John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematical genius grad student at Princeton University. He has a fun-loving alcoholic roommate named Charles (played to absolute perfection by Paul Bettany in the film's only consistent performance), two nerdy colleagues named Bender and Sol (played by "Rent's" Anthony Rapp, trying and failing to suppress his gay tendencies and Adam Goldberg, trying and failing to suppress his snarky Jew tendencies (you can see him pining for a smart-ass one-liner)) and a cocky, dickish rival named Hansen (played with his standard, tired cocky dickishness by Josh Lucas). One night while out at a bar, Nash comes up with a theory on how to get laid (as far as I can tell), writes down an equation for it, and wins some kind of competition where the prize is a professorship and a side-job cracking Russian codes for the Pentagon.
This is the mid-point of Act One. So far, so good. (Not so far, so great, but definitely so far, so good.)
One of his students, Alicia, (played the radiant and excellent Jennifer Connelly) asks him out. They begin a courtship, and these are some of the best scenes in the film. Eventually, Charles convinces Nash to propose, and they get married.
Then Ed Harris shows up as FBI Agent Parcher, enlisting Nash in some serious covert shit, complete with code number lasered into his forearm that can only be viewed under blacklight. He cracks topsecret codes that are hidden in newsprint, then drops them off in a mailbox outside a sprawling suburban mansion. One night, as he's doing his patriotic duty, he's picked up by a frantic Parcher, who's being chased by what we can only assume are Rooskeys. There is a high speed pursuit, the Rooskeys are killed, and Nash returns home to his worried wife, who, of course, must be kept in the dark for the sake of National Security.
So far, so implausible. But I'm still with you, movie. The performances are so engrossing, I don't care about the gaps in logic.
Nash keeps getting crazier and crazier, until he has a nervous breakdown during a lecture and the Government comes to take him away. Turns out (GASP!!!) Charles doesn't exist, and (SHOCKER!!!) Parcher is a figment of his imagination. Nash is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, and subjected to ridiculously overboard shock treatement by a Gov't Shrink (played in his sleep by Christopher Plummer).
This is all well and good, but as we start seeing him talk to nobody throughout the latter half of the film, I'm wondering how fucked up you would have to be to imagine being catatonic and horizontal in the back of a speeding Ford Fairlane with a carload of KGB agents shooting at you as Ed Harris hands you a gun and screams at you to return fire. Was that some kind of involved daydream? Talking to someone who isn't really there is one thing, but that's just ridiculous.
So now we get the obligatory human drama. He's released from the loony bin on a regimen of anti-wacky pills. But the math-addict Nash keeps working on formulas to define math stuff. Unfortunately, the anti-wacky pills are also anti-brain-worky pills. It's sad to watch this "beautiful mind" deteriorate, or at least that's what we're being force-fed by professional hack screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (he wrote "Batman & Robin" for Christ's sake). There are some nice genuine moments here: When Sol comes to visit and tells Nash that "There are more things in life than just work," and Nash replies "What are they?". That's followed by Crowe sitting alone in the living room staring into nothingness, half-heartedly holding his infant daughter on his lap. Connelly comes into the room and grabs the child from him, startling him as he grasps at the air when she leaves. This is the shit that Crowe is able to do with the right material, and it's breathtaking. Unfortunately, this is the point in the script where it all falls apart.
He's been pocketing his pills so he can continue working, but of course this means he starts hallucinating again. This time he understands that he's nuts, and with this understanding, he begs for a research position back at Princeton where his old nemesis Hansen is now the dean or something. Turns out Hansen isn't that bad of a guy I guess, because he agrees. Nash eventually starts teaching at Princeton again, and wins the Nobel Prize for something he did twenty-five years earlier.

This is the Fourth Act, where it all goes to shit. Never EVER let Russell Crowe play age. Cause he can't. At all. He goes from a brisk athletic walk to old-man shuffle in the span of one scene. All of a sudden he starts to sound like Foghorn Leghorn with brain damage. The makeup just keeps getting heavier and heavier on all the characters, to the point that I literally did not recognize Connelly in the Nobel Prize scene.

The simplistic cookie cutter nature of the script is just fucking maddening. Goldsman has Hansen challenge Nash to a game of chinese checkers or some shit in 1948 with this exchange:
Hansen: "John. You scared?"
Nash: "Terrified. Mortified. Stupified. By you."

Then THIRTY FUCKING YEARS LATER, both men rememberthe exchange exactly and repeat it word for fucking word. A simple, anachronistic, inconsequential, useless exchange is recalled EXACTLY by both men thirty years afterward? I don't think so. Not unless it's a cheap device in a lazy screenplay by a hack writer who needs to just Stop. Right. Now.
Oh, and even better (worse) than that: Early in the film, Judd Hirsch (yes, THAT Judd Hirsch), playing Crowe's mentor, shows him some old professor sitting in an campus tea room, and a bunch of other guys in tweed jackets come by and they each give him a fountain pen for some reason that I guess is supposed to be a sign of respect. Then, late in the film, some Nobel representative takes Nash into the same fucking tea room to tell him he's going to win the prize, and (you guessed it) a bunch of guys come and each give him a fountain pen. And I shit you not, Nash actually says: "That was unexpected."
Really, movie?
Fuck you, movie.

I was cool with everything up until the fourth act, but I can only be insulted an manipulated at the same time for so long.

The two stars are for the performances. Everything else about the film, even Ron Howard's direction (which is usually top notch), sucked.

Oh and by the way, this is a biopic that conveniently leaves out anything that might make this guy unpalatable to a wide audience: namely that he was married several times, was involved in bisexual affairs, and was a deadbeat dad to a son that he fathered out of wedlock.

It's a bullshit movie, and absolutely did NOT deserve it's Oscars or any of the effusive praise that was heaped upon it.

Mystic River
Mystic River(2003)

A truly great film, but about half as good as the book. Penn and Robbins deserved their Oscars, and Clint Eastwood directs as only he can.

The Kingdom
The Kingdom(2007)

This movie just pissed me off.
Some people might see it as an insight into the horrors we're facing in the Middle East.
For me, the whole thing played like the live-action dramatic version of Trey Parker's "Team America". They might as well have had all the Ay-Rabs speak "Derka Derka".

A schlocky script, Bruckheimer 101 direction, ZERO character development, and a ham-fisted turn by the miscast Jamie Foxx as an FBI honcho all contribute to the movie's downfall.

The one saving grace is the last half-hour which is an expertly staged action set piece, involving a car-bomb, a kidnapping, a high speed pursuit, and the rescue of a secondary character during the taking by force of a terrorist fun house.
The problem with this sequence, is that the carbombing is telegraphed, and the kidnapped character has never been developed as anything more than a cookie-cutter wise-ass, and so I don't care whether the evil terrorists chop his head off or feed him grapes.

One and a half stars are for the Israeli actor Ashraf Barhoum, who gives the only full-fledged human performance in the film.

Gone Baby Gone

A truly inspired piece of movie-making. With this film and "The Assassination of Jesse James", I think Casey Affleck is going to stake his claim as a talent to be reckoned with. Also, Ben Affleck directed and adapted the screenplay, so maybe it's time we all stopped making fun, huh?

30 Days of Night

Two stars are for Ben Foster.

That's right. Without Ben Foster, this movie gets one-half star.

It's that bad, and he's that good.

I wrote a very long review for this movie, itemizing all its faults and describing in detail the genius that is Ben Foster's performance, but I accidentally hit the back button on my browser and lost the whole thing. Maybe I'll write it again. Who knows? I'm just not in the mood right now.

Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver(1976)

What a film. I need to watch this again before I write a formal review.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Fun childhood memories.
Highlights are the anthropomorphic cartoon animal soccer match, and the suits of armor defeating the Nazis.
This is a nostalgia rating, I admit, but nonetheless ...

Office Space
Office Space(1999)

I just don't understand the hype.


I completely forgot that Owen Wilson was in this.

In My Country

More South African dialect research.

Nothing terrible about this film, but overall it's pretty bland. Sam Jackson's performance is weirdly uneven, and Juliette Binoche is pretty good, but something seems off about her, too. Maybe it's the script or the direction or the editing or something, but the film starts out in a kind of funk and goes absolutely nowhere. Right around the time that Sam and Juliette started their affair (their characters are both happily married), I thought they were grasping at straws, desperately trying to generate drama. Which really shouldn't be too hard in a story about Apartheid.

Brendan Gleeson (one of my personal favorites) turns in a nice supporting performance, but the role is much too small and set off from the main throughline to have any real impact.

Like I said. Nothing terrible about it, but nothing all that great, either.

The Condemned

This is a perfect case of wasted potential. This starts out as a neat little premise that quickly gets hard to watch and then becomes hypocritically preachy.

The action holds your attention, and the fight scenes are well staged. Early on, it really looks like this might be something.

Unfortunately, this ultra-violent movie starts to rail against ultra-violence, thus actually chiding its audience for watching it. By the middle of the third act, if I did what the movie told me to, I would have turned it off and told everyone I know to never watch it. I don't really think that's a wise move for a film to make.
We have a deal, movie:
Don't make me feel guilty for watching you, and I might be less inclined to point out all your faults on the internet for potentially millions of people to read.

If this was just 87 minutes of ten deathrow inmates on an island in a fight to the death, it would have been awesome. But it wasn't. It felt long, which, at an hour-forty, isn't a good sign. And way too much time was spent with the millionaire douchebag producer and his sanctimonious girlfriend and his loyal murderous gopher and his hotshot program director who might have a conscience (played by the insufferable Rick Hoffman from "Hostel"). This group of people might be interesting if they were in a different movie, but not when there's a bunch of bloodthirsty criminals locked in a battle to the death on a tropical island. Very few things are more interesting than bloodthirsty criminals locked in a battle to the death on a tropical island.

But if you're going to make that movie, make sure the bloodthirsty criminals are all male. Otherwise, you have to take on the awkward "rape" issue. In this film, fully 20% of the combatants are female, and one of them is actually MARRIED to another inmate. Of course, this makes a "wife-gets-brutally-tortured-in-front-of-incapacitated-husband" scene almost fucking MANDATORY, and this film certainly isn't above the rules. These are the scenes that are hardest to watch. I don't think anything was added to the film by having a couple chicks on the island, except for the gut-churning feeling of "Oh-my-god-is-that-giant-Nazi-going-to-rape-that-African-girl? This-is-just-totally-unneccessary." Having chicks on the island added that feeling. And nothing else.

The script is just uneven and the direction is uninspired.
The diamonds in the rough are the performances. Stone Cold is actually pretty good. Admittedly, this isn't that much of a stretch for him. He plays a brawler from Texas. But he has a certain charisma that is absent from a lot of more experienced actors.
Vinnie Jones (from "Lock Stock" and "Snatch") plays the psychotic anti-James Bond, disgraced SAS Agent McStarley (which I believe is one of the coolest character names in the history of storytelling). He's very effective, and really his performance is the reason the movie works (whenever it does, which is about half the time). I really liked the Japanese guy in the aviator sunglasses, and I thought the huge Russian dude was utterly wasted by going out as soon as he did. Come to think of it, the German got killed too soon as well, and offing the mouthy Italian BEFORE HE EVEN GOT TO THE ISLAND was fucking bullshit.

Actually, here's how this movie becomes comepletely awesome. Put like thirty guys on the island. (And I stress GUYS). After a cursory explanation of the gameshow element, NEVER SHOW THE PRODUCER DOUCHEBAG AGAIN. Then start killing off guys left and right until you get down to like, say, four guys. The Japanese guy in the Aviators--who incidentally, in my uptopian fantasy version of this film, is actually a Thai guy in Aviators and he is played by Tony Jaa--the giant Russian, McStarley and Stone Cold. The last act is just a cat and mouse game between McStarley and Stone Cold a'la' Arnold and the creature at the end of "Predator". And Stone Cold kills McStarley in some Bad Ass way, then walks off into the sunset and his rescue from the island and reunion with single-mom girlfriend is IMPLIED, not shown to us in a lowest-common-denominator bullshit scene scored to some fucking Nickelback song.

That would be an awesome movie.
And what really sucks about this one is that it could have been awesome, but it wasn't.

Red Dust
Red Dust(2004)

A very effective courtroom drama with a post-apartheid backdrop.
I'm now convinced that Chiwetel Ejiofor can do anything. Hilary Swank plays her role well, too. It's very subtle, quiet work, but it's good, nonetheless. Two South African actors turn in excellent supporting performances. Jamie Bartlett plays Dirk Hendricks, a former policeman accused of torturing an innocent teenage boy to death in 1986. This guy is a great actor. I haven't seen anything else he's done, but he makes such inspired choices here, that I can't believe he makes bad choices elsewhere. And Ian Roberts is also very good in a smaller role as Hendricks's even more brutal boss.

All in all, this film deserved better than its straight-to-DVD fate.

Blood Diamond

I saw this against my better judgment. I should have known better. I went into it expecting a very good film made bad by Leo DiCRAPio. What I got was a terrible film, and Leo's performance was one of the better things about it (which isn't saying much). But Leo or no Leo, this fucker was doomed from the get go.
This thing got fantastic reviews, which boggles the mind. It sucks. A lot.
There are weird sidetracks into action sequences that seem ripped from a Michael Bay film, including a couple of random jeep chases. You can't tell a story about African genocide with jeep chases. Did you see "Hotel Rwanda"? There were no jeep chases in "Hotel Rwanda". For a good reason.

That reason being: You can't tell a story about African genocide with jeep chases.

The script is like 80% bullshit.
The son who is brainwashed into being a soldier: Bullshit.
Leo doing the old "go-on-without-me" bit because his fleshwound hurts too much: Bullshit.
Djimon Hounsou thinking he sees his son EVERYWHERE: Bullshit.
The entire love story angle: Bullshit.
And, oh yeah, the jeep chases: Bullshit.

Djimon Hounsou is very good, and absolutely deserved his Oscar nod (he has to do some fucking stupid shit, but that's the script's fault, not his).
The guy who played "The Mummy" has a small role here but it isn't small enough. The performance is shit.
I just feel sorry for Jennifer Connelly. She deserves better.
Leo's performance is completely uneven. He does some good "truth work", but also does a considerable amount of "schmacting". (there's one monologue comparing baboons to men that is one of those speeches that an actor dreams about. Leo completely fucks it up.) But the worst thing about his performance is his dialect work; it's fucking sloppy. I mean, Richard-Gere-playing-Irish-in-"The-Jackal" Sloppy. It's woefully uneven, with a bunch of simple sound changes that aren't even attempted. This fact alone should have disqualified him from his Oscar nomination.

All in all, the film is poorly written, directed with a heavy hand, contains uneven performances, and is about 45 minutes too long. The only reason to ever see the film is for Djimon Hounsou, but I'm warning you, it's 2 hours and 18 minutes that you will never get back.

Things to Do in Denver...When You're Dead

One of the most underrated films in the history of cinema.


By far the greatest of Wes Anderson's comedies, if only because of the noticeable lack of Owen Wilson.

Shoot 'Em Up
Shoot 'Em Up(2007)

This is just a fucking ride. It's fun as hell, but is it a great film? ...

Actually, yeah. I think it is.

It's eighty minutes of absolutely brilliant over-the-top action sequences. It's like a live action Looney Tunes cartoon starring Clive Owen as Bugs Bunny and Paul Giamatti as a malevolent cross-breed of Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam.

Writer/Director Michael Davis knows all the rules of an action movie, and he pays homage to them when it suits him, but mostly, he smashes them into smithereens with a giant fucking sledgeghammer.

Owen and Giamatti are slumming here, obviously--both are past Oscar nominees and both are future Oscar winners--but they appear to be having the time of their lives. Giamatti especially adds a sweaty, teeth-gnashing flare to all of his lines and plays against type beautifully. Owen plays a man who hates everything, and thus his dry sarcasm is almost constant throughout, but he does it so well that it never wears thin. He gets to bone Monica Bellucci while shooting a SWAT team and he kills two different men with a carrot.
I don't know who Owen and Giamatti have for an agent, but whoever you are, Sir or Madam, BRAVO. After "Sideways" and "Children of Men", these guys are in high demand from all sorts of legitimate filmmakers. But they both chose to do the project of a struggling young director who now has a burgeoning career. This is the kind of shit I hope I get to do for fun someday.

The plot is a bunch of hokum about bone-marrow farming and the second amendment, but it doesn't really matter. It's just the right mixture of far-fetched and original to keep you interested, but you don't go see a movie called "Shoot 'em Up" for great human drama. You go see it to watch thing get shot. Up. And things DO, in fact, get shot Up. Not to mention Down. And Sideways. Diagonally, too. Right and Left. East, West, North and South. Port and Starboard.
Oh, and it's got one of the greatest soundtracks ever.
Right about the time Clive Owen is gunfighting with Secret Service Agents while skydiving to the dulcet strains of AC/DC, this movie kicked reached a fever pitch that I did not think was possible.

If you love action movies, this is like Crack.

3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma(2007)

Easily the best western since "Unforgiven" and the greatest western ever made that doesn't star Clint Eastwood.
For the record, I believe that the "Man-With-No-Name" trilogy of "Fistful of Dollars", "For a Few Dollars More", and "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" actually extends to "High Plains Drifter", "Pale Rider", and the aforementioned "Unforgiven". In all those films, Eastwood plays an increasingly grizzled gunfighter who never gives his name, until he is identified as William Munny in "Unforgiven". By then, the old gunfighter is broken down and weary, but he comes out of retirement for one last night of revenge. Those six movies create the best unofficial sextilogy in cinema history.
Putting all that aside, "3:10 to Yuma" is a fantastic fucking western, not to mention a fantastic fucking FILM. The acting by the leads Christian Bale and Russell Crowe is absolutely stellar.
This may be the best thing that Bale has ever done. The only thing that comes really close is his performance in "Harsh Times"; that thing defies explananation. I loved his work in "Rescue Dawn", but I wasn't a big fan of the character he played. His naive optimism kind of bothered me. "American Psycho" is a classic breakout performance, but Bale has grown so much as an actor since then, that I think if he were to play that same role again, he would be much better now. I loved his work in "The Prestige", but he's using something close to his natural London accent in that film; in this one, he's doing a flawless rendition of the clipped drawl of the early American west. Not to mention inhabiting the physical life of a man minus half a leg and under the tremendous psychological pressures that he must never reveal.
Russell Crowe does his best work since "Gladiator" or maybe even since "The Insider". I know that goes back like 8 or 9 years, but he's only made three other films since 2001: "A Good Year" (some kind of dry comedy about a winery owner that got middling reviews and which I have not seen). "Cinderella Man" which was fucking BRILLIANT on all counts--except casting. The whole time Crowe was fighting to get something out of the most important relationship in the film--between James J. Braddock and his wife, played by the actress who is worse than the atrocities in Darfur, Renee Zellweger. I can only assume acting opposite her is like acting opposite a six-year old with down's syndrome. Who has a terribly annoying voice. And no acting talent. So while Crowe's performance is excellent, it could have been LEGENDARY had they cast somebody else, like Robin Wright or Jennifer Connelly or a goddamn cinder block. "Master and Commander" is a great film with a great performance by Crowe, but neither measures up to "3:10 to Yuma". Then there's "A Beautiful Mind", which I have heard is excellent, but I must admit I have not seen. Soon. Certainly before Crowe's next film, "American Gangster", comes out.
In this film, Crowe is the flashier character, with great dialogue and a fantastic speech or two, but a lesser actor wouldn't have done half of what he did with the role.

I love the ambiguous nature of Crowe's Ben Wade. Is he a ruthless murdering outlaw, or a charming western Robin Hood? He's both, and that's precisely what makes this movie work. This movie has prime examples of pure good and pure evil, with Bale being the good and Ben Foster being the evil (more on him later.) But Wade is just a human being, one who reacts to his surroundings accordingly. It's fascinating to watch and it sets up a final setpiece that is so fucking riveting, it must be seen to be believed.

The supporting cast does a fine job in their roles as well. Alan Tudyk (from the cult TV series "Firefly") plays the nebbishy Doc Potter. Dallas Roberts (who was in Mangold's "Walk The Line") is the railroad man, Butterfield. Kevin Durand (Rock fodder in "Walking Tall") is actually quite good as the asshole deputy Tucker. Logan Lerman shows some real promise as Bale's 14 year-old son. Peter Fonda (so awful in the execrable "Ghost Rider", so fantastic here) is a grizzled, dudely bounty hunter. Gretchen Mol (much improved since her debut in the poker drama "Rounders") is Bale's long suffering wife. And Ben Foster, the greatest character actor under 30 in the world, plays Charlie Prince, Ben Wade's right hand man. This role is practically nothing on the page and absolutely staggering in performance. His young, sadistic outlaw is so goddamn malevolent, it's like the antichrist with twin six-shooters. Once again, Foster is nearly unrecognizable, a true chameleon of an actor that throws himself whole hog into every role. Just the way he sits on a horse is a new and different choice. There's a scene where Charlie Prince fools the marshall and his two deputies into leaving town. He does it by pretending to be a simple cowpoke. He snags a wayward coat (to cover his sidearms) and pushes his hat back on his head, and voila, he's a completely different person. It's a great scene that's destined to become a classic when Ben Foster is finally realized for the genius that he is. In his review, Roger Ebert advances the theory that Prince is "half in-love with Wade, or maybe he's only half-aware that he's fully in-love." I can see where he gets the idea. It's right there in the way Foster looks at Crowe, the way he seems to worship him like an earth-bound deity. Like an apostle would follow Jesus. But the thing is, it's never overt. Not once. Maybe it verges into a twisted latent homosexual desire, maybe it's just a kind of man-crush. Maybe it's both, maybe it's neither. But here's the thing. I guaran-damn-tee you it's nowhere in the fucking script. It's all the invention of Ben Foster, and it's fucking brilliant. He's also got one a classic Western death scene. And he gets to fulfill one of my all-time fantasies, which is to kill Luke Wilson who pops up in a random needless cameo. If Foster manages to kill Owen Wilson in a future film, he will become my all-time hero.

Catch a Fire
Catch a Fire(2006)

This is a pretty good against-all-odds story with Apartheid as a backdrop. Problem is, it feels like a top notch TV movie of the week, interesting but overall kinda bland, and thus it never breaks through to decent film qualification. Movies like this can afford to be over two hours; this one clocks in at a little under an hour-forty. Consequently, it feels like they rushed a few things. I would have liked to have had some more character developement. The acting is uniformly well done, but I had to work to come up with any reason to give a shit about anybody.
This is the first thing I have ever seen Derek Luke in, but I really liked his work. His Zulu accent is very good, and he does some very true emotional work. I usally like Tim Robbins, but he comes off a little one-note here. All stoic, all the time. It's not his fault, though. The script really doesn't give him anything else to do. His dialect work is all right but occasionally it seems hesitant, like he's not quite sure how to pronounce certain words, so he funnels that slow, clipped delivery into his stoic character. Fair enough, Tim, fair enough. You made "Hudsucker Proxy" and "Shawshank Redemption"; I would forgive a lot worse than that. I already have. Anybody remember "Nothing to Lose" with Martin Lawrence? Didn't think so. I plunked down hard cash to see that IN THE THEATERS, so if I can forgive him for that, I could probably forgive him for raping my grandmother.

Anyway, back to "Catch a Fire". The movie is never boring, but almost always a little confusing, and ultimately, when we meet the real Patrick Chamusso, and we hear his story, it's actually quite touching. Too bad it was so confusing for so much of the time.


Somehow, I can't bring myself to give this movie five stars. But I can't think of anything this film could have done to make me like it more.
I will admit that I am a relative newcomer to the Halloween franchise, having only seen episodes 2-8 in the past six weeks or so.
The original still stands up as the best slasher film ever, but that's really only because of John Carpenter's direction. It's a masterpiece of low-budget suspense. Number 2 is fun, because it picks up immediately after where the original left off, and follows the main characters of the first. But, honestly, that's where the franchise should have ended. Loomis should have died in that hospital explosion, Laurie Strode still lives, and Michael Myers burns to death. Instead, they give us a couple of ridiculous and unnecessary sequels with Laurie now dead and her young daughter Jamie being stalked by her horribly burned but still somehow living uncle, pursued by an even more inexplicably alive Dr. Loomis. Part 4, of course had the ridiculous cop-out ending of his niece also being a killer. Part 5 explains that away by having Jamie be psychically connected to Michael, which of course, is utter bullshit. You buy it, because if you don't you have to stop watching the movie, and you're a Halloween fan, so you blindly swallow whatever they feed you. After that little gem, they totally jumped the shark, screwed the pooch, and ruined the legacy of a great, great film; they made Part Six, entitled "The Curse of Michael Myers". In that film, they decided to give Michael Myers a reason for why he does what he does. Okay, fine. Sacreligous to some, I'm sure, but totally cool with me. The problem? The backstory they come up with is druids. Seriously. Druids. Something called "The Cult of Thorn" placed a curse on Michael as an infant and commanded him to kill his entire family, somehow appeasing the evil god Samhain and saving the cult from devilish retribution. This is just as stupid as it sounds, maybe even moreso. After that, they drove a dumptruck full of cash up to Jamie Lee Curtis' frontdoor and got her to reprise her role as Laurie Strode, having faked her death and moved out to California under an assumed name in a kind of Michael Myers Witness Protection Program. The film makes no mention of Laurie's left-behind daughter, but instead gives her a teenage son, played by Josh Hartnett. At the end of this film, a lot of people are dead and Jamie Lee decides to face off with Michael one on one. Pretty bad-ass to be sure, and the ending has her finally killing Michael--we think. Then four years later, they brought back the franchise one final time with Halloween Resurrection, which sees Michael somehow still alive (AGAIN) and finally killing off his baby sister. At this point, Michael should be done killing. His family is all dead (except for Josh Hartnett's character, who is conveniently forgotten about), so he should be cool now. But unfortunately Busta Rhymes decides to produce a reality show in his old house and Michael has to kill a lot of annoying teenagers. Never fear, though. Busta's gonna save the day--with KUNG FU. This is by far the worst of the franchise, and it would be easy to see why they might have given up the ghost on this one.
But they found a true horror visionary as a director and gave him full custody of the franchise.
The result is purely amazing. Now, if your unconditional worship of these movies extends beyond part 2, I can understand why you might feel betrayed by Rob Zombie's re-imagining, but I also have very little sympathy for you. Most of the later sequels are just silly, mindless entertainment, and some of them are just plain TERRIBLE. If you hold them in such high regard that you can't get behind a great filmmaker telling the original story in a new and interesting way, then I honestly just feel sorry for you.

(To be continued)

Hard Candy
Hard Candy(2006)

I have never hated a movie more in my entire life. I must have seen thousands of films over my 28 years, and never have I felt the urge to procure every existing copy of a movie and put them through a wood-chipper so that no one else will have to go through the endless mindfuck that is this terrible, terrible film.
This entire review, from here on out, is just one big spoiler, but I hope that you will read it anyway, so you can know why you should never EVER see this movie.

The whole thing is a ripoff of the excellent William Mastrosimone play "Extremities" later made into a film starring Farrah Fawcett. The thing is, these filmmakers felt the need to be all clever and "Indy" and make everything ambiguous so that we really don't know how to feel about either character. I know how I felt, though. I felt bad for one character and I despised another. There was no ambiguity, no waffling, no doubt in my mind.

The plot is this. Geoff meets Haley online and they "MIRL" at a coffee shop. She invites herself over to his fairly secluded house in the Hollywood Hills, then drugs him, ties him up, and tortures him, looking for evidence that proves he's a pedophile. The thing is, we've only seen him be really nice to her.
Okay, so a 32 year-old guy should not be surfing the web for precocious 14 year-old girls; that's a given. But he doesn't ever do anything to this girl. We get to see some of the chatroom dialogue as an intro to the film, and I admit that it looks bad; it's the kind of damning stuff you always see on "Dateline's To Catch A Predator", but still, there are no outright propositions of sexual acts. So we think he's a perv, but we have no real proof. Neither does Haley, and that's where everything falls apart for this film.
In Mastrosimone's "Extremities", we see a man talk his way into a woman's house and attempt to rape her. She fights him off and disables him (spraying him in the face with a can of Raid), then hogties him and crams him into her fireplace. She then has to decide what to do with him. Does she call the cops, or does she kill him? Does she torture him first? The question the audience has to ask himself is whether a rapist deserves whatever he gets. But with that story, we KNOW he's a rapist, and then the dilemma becomes if we're comfortable with vigilante justice.
But with this film, we can only assume or postulate, using conjecture and whatever paltry circumstantial evidence Haley manages to unearth (she finds a picture of a girl named Donna, missing and presumed dead). If we don't absolutely BELIEVE that Geoff is a murdering pedophile, then when Haley ties him down and CASTRATES him, we want him to break free of his bonds and get even with her (and no, the fact that she was only pretending to castrate him doesn't change anything).
Maybe if the filmmakers would commit to having her be a former rape victim, or that Donna was her sister or something, we could feel that her vengeance is harsh but somehow justified. But they don't. They're so dedicated to the ambiguous thing, that they think the film is somehow stronger if we don't have all the answers. It's not.
When it comes down to it, I believe Geoff, mostly because I believe Patrick Wilson. His performance is fantastic. God help me, I believe everything he says.
On the contrary, Haley comes off as totally fake, which ruins the movie.
As Haley, young Ellen Page is INDICATING criminally insane. Some of it is the hackneyed writing, but most of it is her immature, one-note performance. But I don't think any actress could have made me identify with this character, as written by Brian Nelson.
Near the end, the film tells us that Geoff really is a pedophile and that he did have something to do with Donna's death, but by that time, I just wanted him to win, and I wanted her to die. With the new reveal of his true nature, I thought maybe he should die too, but not before he killed her in terrible torturous ways. From the beginning to the end, I was rooting for the pedophile. I was rooting for the pedophile to kill the little vigilante bitch and then fuck the eyeholes of her dead fucking corpse. That can't be what this movie intended, but I honestly don't know how you can watch this movie from any other viewpoint.

Yes, the film is kind of original. Yes, the direction by David Slade is taut and inspired (for the most part). But the film simply can't overcome it's own bullshit wanna-be clever Indy status. I have said this before, and I will no doubt say it again, but I will never say it louder or with more feeling:

Halloween: Resurrection

GodDAMMIT, this is stupid. The first ten minutes is okay, with the long delayed death of Laurie Strode. But I really think they should have just left him killed off at the end of H20 and not figured out a way to explain how he's not dead. As it is, they pretty much buried the franchise with this stinker.
The plot has something to do with stuff that the producers feel is "hip" and "now": the Reality TV fad and all that newfangled "WebCam" technology where you can watch stuff happen live on the "InterWeb".
A eclectic mix of Haddonfield University students are selected to spend the night in Michael Myers' old house, look for clues as to why he did it, and broadcast their findings live on the internet.
First of all, there's a Haddonfield University now? This town has only one high school, not to mention the most underfunded and undermanned police force in the lower 48. Maybe there's a community college there, but a university? COME ON.
The lucky contestants (though its unclear how you win this little competition) include a hot, nervous brunette (played by a poor man's Mila Kunis), a hot, manic blonde (a poor man's Brittany Murphy), a morbid music student (a poor man's Casey Affleck), a redhead classics major who masquerades as a ball busting feminist but actually turns out to be a borderline nympho (kind of like a young poor-man's Julianne Moore), a geek who thinks he's a ladies man (actually played by Thomas Ian Nicholas from "Rookie of the Year") and a young black chef (no, that's not a misprint) (played by a poor man's Sean Patrick Thomas. what? that's actually the real Sean Patrick Thomas. wow, that's sad. guess he should have saved the last dance for later.)
One by one, each of these stereotypes bites the dust in some interesting ways, but sadly, Thomas Ian Nicholas was not killed by a baseball thrown at his head.
The whole reality show charade is being run by internet entrepreneur Busta Rhymes, who appears to be improvising all of his dialogue.
He actually speaks his interior monologue through most of the movie. Then he defeats Michael Myers with KUNG FU. But nothing compares to one priceless moment.

"Trick or Treat ...
... ... ... ... ... ...

That's gotta go down in the Unintentionally Funny Hall of Fame.

But overall, the movie is not scary, not entertaining, and not good.

House of 1000 Corpses

If you've never seen this before, please do this for me. At the end of the BRILLIANT extended slow-motion crane shot when the second sheriff's deputy is shot, stop the movie.
Everything after that is bullshit, and it ruins what should have been a fantastic horror movie.

The Devil's Rejects

Wow. The only way I could have liked this film more is if the last third of House of 1000 Corpses had never been filmed. If you take the first two thirds of that movie, and add it to this fine film, you would have one of the greatest horror movie series of all time.

Rob Zombie LOVES these characters, and somehow he makes you love them too.

Halloween H2O

Okay. Fine. You can come back out and play, Michael Myers.
After 4, 5 and 6 kept fucking the corpse of what used to be the greatest slasher movie franchise in cinema history, this one at least brought back Jamie Lee Curtis. The sequence at the end where she just decides to take him on by herself, one on one, is pretty fucking badass. Too bad LL Cool J is in the movie, otherwise it could have been a lot better.
Watching Josh Hartnett in this film is like watching a baby take his first steps. He continues to surprise me with his recent performances, but back then he was just waddling around, shitting himself and bumping his head on the coffee table.
As a side note, Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes an appearance as Michael's first victim this time (seriously, he's dead before the opening credits). But in about five minutes of screen time, he's completely engaging and creates a fully formed character out of basically nothing on the page. A fantastic actor already, and this was like ten years ago.

Halloween - The Curse of Michael Myers (Halloween 6)

Okay. Just stop it now.
Druids? Really? Druids.
Fuck you. Maybe some other horror movie, but not Halloween. Not Michael Myers. Sorry. That just doesn't fly.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Nobody can explain to me how Michael Myers survived being burned alive at the end of Halloween 2. And even if they could, they can't possibly explain how Dr. Loomis survived the same explosion. At least Michael Myers has been in a coma, in a burn-unit, in a mental hospital for ten years. Dr. Loomis? Facial Scar. That's it. One measly facial scar. I know he's supposed to be a tough old bastard, but COME ON.

John Carpenter was originally attached to the film, but wanted to make it more of a ghost story, like the spirit of Michael Myers would be slaughtering innocent nubile young babysitters. But producer Mustapha Akkad thought it was too cerebral and insisted on having Michael Myers be a flesh and blood killer, and at that point, Carpenter sold the rights to Akkad, and washed his hands of the whole thing.
Thus Alan B. McElroy was hired to write the new script, which he cranked out in 11 days in order to beat the impending writer's strike. Considering how fast it was thrown together, the script really isn't that bad.
The plot is as follows: A decade after the events of the first two movies, Michael Myers is in the afore-mentioned coma, with facial burns so severe, he's still all bandaged up after ten years. For some reason, they're transferring him to another mental hospital, and the ambulance crew (juast making small talk, I guess) give us valuable expositional points that Michael's sister Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis' character) is now dead, but her daughter is alive and well in Haddonfield. Which means that Michael has a niece that needs killing. Upon hearing this information, Michael snaps out of his coma and starts beating a kill path to little Jamie Lloyd, with Dr. Loomis hot on his trail. There are some clever things about the film, such as how he gets his trademark coveralls and white mask (which looks very different here than it did before. No sale. It's weird; too smooth and ethereal. like a simple neutral mask, whereas the old one had some serious character). There are also some inventive deaths (did you know that if you apply enough pressure, you can put your thumb through a man's forehead? I didn't. I was under the impression that your thumb would break, no matter how strong you were, because the bones in your hand are significantly weaker than those in your skull. I thought that the forehead was the hardest part of the human body. Boy, was I wrong).
But there are also some stupid things too. For example, Michael Myers has apparently grown a few inches and put on quite a bit of muscle mass since he's been in a coma. Most people's muscles would have atrophied, but his grew. Also, little Jamie Lloyd has recurring nightmares in which she is attacked by multiple Michael Myerses. This really calls into question her step-parents bedtime story choices. They are suspect, at best. How does she know what Michael Myers looks like? Did somebody show her pictures of her psychotic uncle who terrorized her mother and killed like twenty people ten years ago and is still alive out there somewhere? That would give ME nightmares. I think it would make a seven-year-old girl fucking CATATONIC.

Dwight Little, who up until this point had virtually no resume, directed. Since then, he's directed "Marked for Death" with Steven Seagal and "Murder at 1600" with Wesley Snipes, as well a lot of episodic television, including "The X-Files" and "24". But here his inexperience shines through.

The acting is okay, but nothing spectacular. I guess that's to be expected in a slasher film. Over the course of five Loomis performances, Donald Pleasance somehow came up with 30 different ways to say shit like "He's pure evil," and "Maybe nobody knows how to kill him." As Jamie, Danielle Harris is actually a pretty good child actor. (She later played Bruce Willis' daughter in "The Last Boy Scout".)

And oh, that ending. All right, so by this point, we've established that bullets have little to no effect on Michael Myers. At the end of the film a bunch of sheriff's deputies and flannel-wearing rednecks unload on him. With SHOTGUNS. He is knocked back by the gunfire and falls into a mineshaft (strategically placed). Then everyone takes Jamie back to her house, where her step-mother prepares a bath for her.


So we get another killer P.O.V. shot, as they pull a mask over their face (narrowing the vision) and grab a pair of scissors off a vanity table, then follow them into the bathroom where the step-mom is stabbed. Then we cut to Loomis downstairs, who hears the screams and runs to the foot of the stairs to see ... JAMIE? Standing there, her clown costume all bloody and holding the scissors up in an exact replica of young Michael Myers from the opening of the first film. Nice touch, but what the FUCK!?!
How does that make sense? I mean, if you just watch Halloween 5, they explain the whole thing (it's a stretch, but you buy it), but for those people who waited like seven years for another Michael Myers Halloween film, this ending must have been like a sucker punch to the balls.

The Lookout
The Lookout(2007)

This is a great character-driven heist film. It's an original idea, bearing a resemblance to Christopher Nolan's "Memento", but keeping its own identity.
Scott Frank wrote and directed it. It's his directorial debut, but he's written some of the better screenplays of the last two decades, starting with with the supernatural thriller "Dead Again", way back in 1991, and going through "Get Shorty," "Out of Sight", and "Minority Report". Most of his scripts, while brilliant, are adaptations, and thus are not true tests of a writer's storytelling abilities. This script is such a test, and Mr. Frank passes it with flying colors. He knows that the characters he's created are his selling point, and he doesn't muck things up by needlessly complicating things. What happens if you create a character who has sustained a terrible head injury and now has difficulty remembering the little things about daily life (like how to use a can opener--or, indeed, what a can opener looks like), and you take that character and drop him in the middle of a bank robbery? That's the crux of this story, and it absolutely works--by itself. There are no needless twists and turns, no red herrings--just a lead that you root for, surrounded by intriguing characters, and mired in a situation he can't control. Simple and superb.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is, bar-none, one of the finest young actors working today. His Chris Pratt is nuanced and complex. Gordon-Levitt does more with a few seconds of absolute stillness than most actors can do with Stanley Kowalski or fucking Hamlet. He doesn't need to SHOW us all the time that he has a head injury. We know that. He knows we know that, and he respects our intelligence. Instead, he usually gives us minor hints, like a blink that lasts too long or the way he holds a spoon, and he saves his real "Acting" for a few choice moments. His performance is so damn layered; even his fucking GAIT is a performance in itself. When he walks, it looks like one hip is gimpy and the foot on that leg takes more weight with each step. It's subtle and fucking inspired. This guy is one to watch. Trust me.
In supporting cast news, Jeff Daniels does his best work in YEARS as Lewis, a blind former biker and Chris's only true friend. He is the soulful center around which Gordon-Levitt's Chris can orbit and reclaim himself.
Matthew Goode, an actor with whom I was not familiar, does some nice work here as the villain Gary. What makes this performance stand out as truly high quality is that Goode is British and pulls out a perfect American accent, complete with imaginative tempo and rhythm choices.
Bruce McGill (who has done great character work for thirty years going back to his role as D-Day in "Animal House") plays Chris's rich father, a man who seems to take sick pleasure in beating his handicapped son at chess.
And the beautiful Isla Fisher plays the improbably named Luvlee Lemons, a former "dancer" who unwittingly ropes Chris into the scheme with her considerable feminine wiles. (I can't pin down Ms. Fisher. She was very good here, and terrible and one-note in "Wedding Crashers". Is she an actress or is she the hot girl in the immature comedy flavor of the month? You'd think being married to a comedic genius like Sacha Baron Cohen would preclude her from choosing to do inexecrable waste like "Hot Rod".)
This film has a great look; set in rural Kansas, it was shot in Manitoba, Canada--same difference. There's an isolation to the landscape that works for the story. And James Newton Howard's score is all guitars and sweeping wind, a fitting compliment to that landscape.

The film is not without its flaws. Most notably, there's the character of Bone, who looks like a ghostly brunette Tom Petty in a cheap black suit and John Lennon sunglasses. He's a member of the bank-robbing team, but he's the only one who isn't a twenty-something career fuck-up. He strides around menacingly, near-mute and carrying a shotgun. The only purpose for this character is to be menacing. Make the character nearer to the age and style of his fellow bank-robbers and suddenly he becomes so much more believable; he becomes a character and not a script device. (Still, he is pretty fucking menacing.)

But the real draw of this flick is Gordon-Levitt. Why does someone like Shia LaBeouf blow-up like a hot air balloon and a genuine talent like this guy get overlooked time and time again?
Look for him in the upcoming "Killshot", in which he plays an apprentice hitman with Mickey Rourke as his mentor. That particular film has had issues with re-writes and re-shoots, and there's no date set for a release. But whenever it comes out, go see it, and watch this young man act.
I know I'll be there with bells on.


CLASSIC. The best slasher film ever made. Period.
No argument.
We're given an antagonist that is entirely unpredictable, without remorse, and who absolutely WILL NOT STOP.
John Carpenter starts things off with a steadicam shot that takes us on a murderous journey, seen through a killer's eyes. Then when that shot ends, a crane pulls back to show us a tow-headed boy holding a bloody butcher knife and dressed as a clown. (It just clicked. "Mr. Jingles" is an homage film. I get it now.)
15 years later. Escaped mental patient. Psychologist describes him as pure evil. White Mask, navy blue jumpsuit. Idyllic suburban community. Virginal baby sitter in a world of sluts. Halloween night.

Carpenter does things with a shadow on a wall and a figure in a doorway (there one second, gone the next) that so many hacks have tried to imitate and failed. The problem is they pour buckets of blood everywhere and wonder why their picture ends up so fucking SLOPPY. What makes this film scary even today, thirty years later, isn't the gore (there really isn't any), but the genuine suspense created by the iconic original score (also by John Carpenter) and the fact that you know that fucker is out there somewhere and it's not if but WHEN he's gonna jump out and kill somebody.
It's also amazing how most of the 'rules' used in movies like "Scream" came directly from this film ("Never say I'll be right back", "If you have sex, you die.") and how this film established the slasher genre for the first time as a viable film style.

My favorite moment (not including the opening steadicam shot) is when Michael Myers pins a slut's boyfriend to the wall with a butcher knife, then backs away and looks at him, hanging there, with a tilt of the head like a kitten who's been playing a little too rough with a junebug.
It's almost beautiful, in a strange sick and twisted way.

I can't wait to see what Rob Zombie does with this flick.

Flight of the Phoenix

Goddamnit, Giovanni Ribisi. Stop being so good. You stop it right now.

The film as a whole is a little over-written, a little under-directed, with a lack of character development and a glut of plot holes.

The acting is hit or miss:
Tyrese Gibson--Miss.
Miranda Otto--Miss.
Hugh Laurie--Hit.
Dennis Quaid--Bit of both.

But Giovanni Ribisi, an actor I now realize defies qualification. He is a chameleon, plain and simple. When he is asked to carry a film, like with "Boiler Room" and "Suburbia", he makes his leading men into intriguing, flawed human beings.
But he really shines when he gets to play a supporting role, like in "The Gift", or "Basic" or in this movie.
He makes choices that are so far from the norm of acting, that you just shake your head, and you say "Gio, you can't do that." And then he says, "Yes, I can. I'll prove it."
And you watch the rest of the film and you realize that not only do you believe everything he says and does, but that this role simply could not be played any other way.
Someday somebody's going to give him the right role in the right film, and he's going to win an Oscar. It's just a matter of time.


This movie is TERRIBLE.
Apparently written by some chick named Jessica Kaplan and sold to New Line when she was only 16, it was later re-written by Stephen Gaghan, so extensively that she now only gets a 'Story By' credit. Makes you wonder how awful the first draft was. Kaplan apparently died in a freak plane crash when she was 24, so tragically we won't be seeing any more of her worthless writing translated to film. Too bad. She sucked so young.
Steven Gaghan also wrote "Traffic" and "Syriana" so I find it hard to believe he ever allowed this piece of garbage to be filmed with his name still attached. It will forever remain an indelible shit stain on an otherwise fine career.
The story is trite and unbelievable. OK, we get it. The rich white kids from the Palisades want to be gangsta. Is this supposed to be profound? Apparently the filmmakers think so, because they slather it on pretty thick.
I have no problem with someone like Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem), who actually grew up in the inner city urban culture of Detroit. But these kids fucking piss me off. They couldn't be whiter if they dipped themselves in baking flour. Yet they present themselves as "hard" and "street" and "straight dope" and they rail against all that is "whack". The thing of it is, these kids, they mire themselves so deep in this culture that they can't turn it off. From their style of dress to their colorful vocabulary and hip-hop vernacular, something about this world gets tattooed on their soul.
I know of what I speak.
My brother is one of these kids. I barely recognize him in the pictures on his MySpace page. Smoking blunts and flashing gang signs ... that's not anything he learned from his family upbringing or from his childhood environment. He picked up all that shit by watching MTV Cribs.

The kids in this movie, however, are all pretending to be gangsta. (One of them, played by the atomically bad Mike Vogel, actually pisses himself when an authentic O.G. pulls a gun on him.)
The whole point of the main character, Allison, is that she can choose to play whatever kind of character she wants, because, as she says, "I'm bored."
But the problem therein is that the whole life of the character feels phony.
It doesn't help that Anne Hathaway is playing this character. She's awful. She's abysmal. She gives bad actors a bad name. After doing two "Princess Diaries" films and "Ella Enchanted", I guess she wanted to change her good girl image and so she did this film, where she gets to swear and drink and do drugs and give a guy a blowjob and flash her breasts no fewer than three times. What her manager should have explained to her is that it's not enough to play against type, you actually have to act the role well too. Kudos on the first part, Annie. Definitely playing against type. But it's so far against type that it's out of your fucking league. By light years. Anne Hathaway is so wrong for this role, and she fucks it up so badly ... well here's what I thought when I was watching it.

This is like if Anne Hathaway played a certian WVU grad student who shall remain nameless doing her "Philadelphia Story" thing while pretending to be some white bitch who wants to be black.

It's really that bad.

But I must admit I came into this film thinking that Anne Hathway must have a magic lamp squirreled away some place. A magic genie is the only explanation for her career. She's flat out untalented and not that attractive. And now she's playing JANE AUSTEN? That is an insult to two-hundred years of British Literature.
Fuck Anne Hathaway.
Fuck her sideways with a railroad spike.

Even Freddie Rodriguez is bad in this film, but it's not really his fault; the only character in recent memory more stereotypically Mexican than this guy is the fucking Taco Bell Chihuahua.

The only redeeming factor of the entire film is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, playing Sam, aka White-Boy WannaBe Gangsta #3. This character is on screen for maybe ten minutes, he has no real bearing on the plot or the development of major characters, yet he is the only one who has any air of authenticity to him. He is the only actor that I believe really IS this person. He's a ball of uncontained energy, a self-propelled superball in a rubber room, a kid whose Ritalin has been replaced with No-Doze, and the only thing that slows him down (albeit moderately) is a toke of weed. His speech patterns, his physical life, the way he wears his motherfucking HOODIE, everything smacks of honest-to-goodness truth in advertising, and if that's not what we're trying to do, then somebody please explain to me the alternative.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the only thing keeping this movie from being a half star.

What really worries me is that I first heard about this movie when I saw it in the personal collection of one Mr. Phillip Ward BECK. Come on, Phil. Please tell me this was a gag gift and you're one of those people that can't stand to throw anything away. Otherwise, you got some 'splaining to do.


A clever twist on the "intersecting random plots" genre. Each story is compelling, and the payoff is unpredictable. All the characters are interesting and the roles are played well. Greg Marcks is a talented young filmmaker, and one to watch in the future.

Some specific kudos go to Hillary Swank, playing decidedly non-glamorous as Buzzy, a part that was originally written for a man. She's awkward and ungainly, complete with adult braces.

But Ben Foster steals the show yet again, playing Eddie, an unfortunate young man who loses his "little Eddie" in a tragic peeing-out-the-window-of-a-moving-car accident. None of the characters are given a lot of development, especially the three youths in Foster's subplot, but in about 30 seconds, thanks to Foster's line readings and facial expressions, we know exactly who this kid is. Or at least we think we do, until the pressure of all pressures is applied.
We get to see more of him as he intersects with other characters, and he is riveting. He shows so much range. As volatile, psychotic and wild-eyed as he is in "Alpha Dog", that's how doughy and wounded and insecure he is here. He's just a fantastic actor, and in performances as small as this one (about 15 or 20 minutes of screen time), he brings the whole picture up a notch.

Assault on Precinct 13

Another Carpenter Classic. There are some things that date the film conisiderably, and some of the performances leave a lot to be desired (the main chick is so fucking calm and emotionless she might as well be a robot on valium), but overall, this movie is a great testament to a great filmmaker.
Carpenter builds tremendous suspense and his original score, all high-hat and synthesizer, is one of the most effective I can remember in ANY film, let alone one made 30 years ago on a hundred thousand dollar budget.

Mysterious Skin

One of the most disturbing and beautiful films I have ever seen. I can't really communicate the effect that it has on a viewer. Sometimes you can't turn away, other times you can't watch. It's half heart-warming, half heart-breaking. It's just so fucking REAL. Occasionally, it feels TOO fucking real, and it almost hurts to watch. But it's always compelling, and sometimes spectacular.

The thing is, the film focuses on the stories of two different young men, but one actor is okay and the other is world-changing.

Brady Corbet is pretty good, but most of his performance is one-note (his coke bottle glasses do more acting than he does). He redeems himself slightly during the final scene, but overall, because of the nature of the story, you can't help but compare him to his co-star. And that's always going to end badly for anyone when they line up against Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
His performance is the stuff of legend. It's fucking HAUNTING. He's so sure of himself, but so battered and bruised on the inside. His character has so many levels to him, and Gordon-Levitt hits every one of them. Seriously, twenty years from now, when he's got three Oscars, we're going to look back at this film and marvel at how much better he was than the people around him. It's like watching Al Pacino in "Panic In Needle Park."

This is one of the best truly independent films of the last five years.

Halloween II
Halloween II(1981)

This is the only necessary sequel in the Halloween series.
After he gets shot six times ("SIX TIMES! IN THE HEART!!"), then falls out a window, and then ISN'T THERE a minute later, you knew there had to be a second one.
Where this one falls short is that while John Carpenter is back as co-writer (with his long-time partner Debra Hill) he's handed the controls over to a near novice in Rick Rosenthal. There's a nice homage to the original when this film basically starts out with another steadicam psycho point-of-view shot, but otherwise the direction is kind of hacky and the few inspired moments I'm sure were in Carpenter's script.
The first one was more streamlined, whereas this one introduces characters just so Michael Myers can kill them: Slutty Nurse and her Italian-American stereotype boyfriend? Dead. Fat bumbling security guard? Dead. Bitchy head nurse? Dead. Alcoholic surgeon? Dead. Sweet but stupid brunette nurse? Dead. Sweet but stupid blonde nurse? Dead. Cute white-boy-permed male nurse who's got a crush on Jamie Lee? Dead. (Though that one's hard to pin on Michael; this guy slipped in some blood from an earlier murder and hit his head REALLY HARD, so while the incident itself might have been classified as an accident, it was certainly the result of Michael Myers' homicidal tendencies, so it's really kind of a draw.)
Still, the main selling point of these films is that this motherfucker just WILL NOT DIE. He takes two bullets to the head late in this film (after taking another twelve to the torso over the course of the evening) and HE DOESN'T EVEN FALL DOWN. Blood runs in his eyes and he becomes temporarily blinded. That's it. Jamie Lee could have squirted him with pepper spray or thrown a fucking handful of sand in his face and it would have produced the same effect.
He just isn't human.
That's what Dr. Loomis keeps saying, and we have to believe him, because we see that he won't die. But the film never explains this to us, and that's part of the mythos that keeps this franchise moving.

Michael Myers cannot be killed and nobody knows why.
THAT, my friends, is what a slasher should be.

The Interpreter

A very well-made political thriller.
Nicole Kidman is actually quite good as the titular UN interpreter, American Born but raised in Africa. Her dialect work is excellent, and she plays her role with believability.
Sean Penn is fantastic in a role that might have gone to a lesser actor. The part isn't that impressive on paper. It's a stock cop/protector role (with some nice grief background given by the writers), but Penn invests it with a kind of world-weary intensity that makes this character a viable co-lead.
Catherine Keener does her usual sarcastic broad shtick as Penn's partner. It's hit and miss.

The best sequence in the film is an extended scene in which two agents, trailing three subjects, find themselves on a city bus that may or may not have a bomb on it. It's well-scripted, well-directed, and fucking RIVETING.
This is nicely directed by old hat Sydney Pollack, who also plays a small role as Penn's boss.
The script is pretty well written, but it's written by three separate writers. Two of them are experienced and brilliant scripters--Steve Zaillian ("Gangs of New York") and Scott Frank ("Out of Sight"), but two SEPARATE guys are given a "Story By" credit. So it's impossible to know where the highlights (and lowlights) come from. Who do I give credit for the bomb-on-bus sequence and Penn's character background? Who do I blame for gaps in logic or the tired sarcasm of Keener's character?

There are some plot holes and flawed mechanics and a little too neatly wrapped up ending, but I didn't really care.

I really enjoyed this film, and I recommend it to fans of the genre or admirers of Penn and Kidman.


This film is one of those that come along every few years that deserves your immediate attention. I must apologize for my own delayed reaction. I heard about this film when it was released over four years ago, yet I waited until now to see it, a mistake I will regret for some time. It's as powerful as any film I can remember seeing.
It's a story we're familiar with: a group of teenagers in a counseling center, dealing with anger and self-esteem issues under the guidance of a benevolent yet weary and troubled psychologist.

Think of it as "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" but the patients are all teenagers and Nurse Ratched is a good guy.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who most of America knows from his role as the kid on "3rd Rock From The Sun", plays this film's equivalent of Randle Patrick McMurphy, a kid named Lyle Jensen. He has some major rage issues, stemming from experiences with an abusive father, and having manifested in a retaliatory baseball bat beating of another student. He is sullen and willful, not believing he needs this kind of help in this kind of place.
Zooey Deschanel (Will Ferrel's human girlfriend in "Elf") plays Tracey, who is plagued with terrible nightmares and deals with her verbally abusive mother with self-mutilation. Elden Henson (he played a technician in "Deja Vu" and was the giant hockey player kid in "The Mighty Ducks" series) plays Mike, a white boy wanna-be gangsta who starts fights to pass the time, because, as a large guy, he knows he can win. Michael Bacall plays Chad, the kid who probably needs the most care; he has drug issues and what might be a budding case of schizophrenia. Sara Rivas plays Sara, the goth girl who deep down is the most well-adjusted and may just be here because her mother doesn't know how to deal with her. Cody Lightning plays Kenny, a twelve-year-old child molester who may have learned this behavior first-hand from a family member. Don Cheadle ("Hotel Rwanda" "Traffic") plays Dr. David Monroe, who has these kids' best interests at heart, but might be near the end of his rope himself.

All roles, including those played by actors with little- to-no experience, are executed to near perfection.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the top actors of his generation (born between 1975 and 1990). The list goes something like this: Ryan Gosling and Ben Foster are 1 and 1a, then Gordon-Levitt, then everyone else, trailing by a country mile.
Is he as good as Gosling or Foster? Probably not? He doesn't have Gosling's raw charisma or Foster's animalistic unpredictability. Gosling is pure leading man, Foster pure character actor. But he has the potential to be a hybrid of the two, venturing into both worlds whenever the mood strikes him.
His turn in the criminally unwatched detective-in-denim-jacket drama "Brick" is absolutely fantastic, and here he layers Lyle with multiple levels of rage and pain and love. He is a young man who just wants his freedom, but doesn't really know what it means to be free.
Deschanel, as Tracy, is delicate and fragile, needing the walls of the hospital to protect her from threats both real and imaginary. But Cheadle, of course, is the glue that holds this film together. His Dr. Monroe wants so badly to help these kids, but he knows he can't help them all, and it eats at him.
The movie is filmed by first time director Jordan Melamed in the style of the French Cinema Verite, and as the name would suggest, the style makes the film seem very real--almost disturbingly so. The film feels like a documentary at times, the camera moving around the subjects or staying stationary in the corner of a room, drifting in and out of focus, or zooming in on a blinking eye. The film puts you in the room with these kids and you can't help but get attached to them.
The script, by Michael Bacall and Blayne Weaver, is incredibly well-crafted, considering that it came from two young actors who pulled double duty by co-starring in the film. Bacall plays Chad, and actually has a great amount of acting potential. Weaver has a small but effective role as an orderly at the facility.

The film isn't quite flawless. Elden Henson's performance is stellar, but the character bothered me. It felt like the writers were confused about whether to make him a frat-boy type or a "Wigger". As a result, the character can't help but come off a little uneven. And because the character is so pivotal to the story, the film suffers as a whole.

But I really cannot recommend this film highly enough.

Red Heat
Red Heat(1988)

The most plausible character Schwarzenegger has ever played (why was he not Russian or at least Eastern European in every movie he made?).
The Belushi character should have been played by Bruce Willis. It would have been a much better flick.

As it is, it's fine, though never spectacular.
There is a nifty little action set piece to end the film: a high speed bus chase culminating in a game of bus chicken, followed by a quick draw showdown between Arnold and the bad guy.

Two note-worthy supporting performances: Laurence Fishburne as a smarmy police Lieutenant, and Gina Gershon as an aerobics instructor who somehow gets caught up in the whole thing (if you think she's hot in anything else, wait till you see her when she was only 25 ... damn).


A simple revenge story made watchable by a great director, who had to work against some terrible casting in order to succeed.

Kevin Costner is so wrong for this role, it's not even funny. This role was originally written in 1979 for Jack Nicholson. Several producers didn't think Costner was ready for the role, and I can see why. He just doesn't have that necessary bad-ass quality.
Anthony Quinn does some pretty good work here, but he's miscast, too. As is Madeline Stowe as Quinn's Latina trophy wife. What, were there no Mexicans working in Hollywood in 1990?

Some plot inconsistencies drove me nuts. A recently retired hotshot Navy fighter pilot is old friends with the most dangerous mob kingpin in Mexico? And how did that come about? College roommates? Army buddies? They were in Cub Scouts together?

Everything about this film that's good is because of Tony Scott. The way he uses the landscape it's almost like he creates another character. He uses light and shadow like Picasso used paint. He makes the sex scenes into a violent tango (including the hottest sex while driving scene ever filmed). He is a brilliant director and he single-handedly saves this from being one of the worst films of the last 25 years.

1990 was a bad year for Tony Scott. "Days of Thunder" AND this generic piece of tripe. He must have had a lot of sleepless nights.

The Last Boy Scout

This movie walks the line between terrible-good and terrible-terrible through the whole damn thing. It's a tightrope act, and ultimately it winds up just this side of mediocre.

Some things are genuinely classic action-movie moments:

"I seem to have dropped my cigarette. May I have another? Touch me again, I'l kill you."

But overall the movie can't decide whether it's being tongue in cheek or deadly serious.
The opening sequence of drug-addicted in-debt-to-the-mob football player smuggles a gun onto the field and shoots the guys trying to tackle him is a great example of this. When you're watching it, you don't know whether to drop your jaw in genuine surprise or laugh the fuck out loud. It's an unsettling feeling and when you feel it constantly for an hour and a half, it's really hard to enjoy a movie.

While watching this again recently, I was reminded of how perfect Bruce Willis is in this role and how terribly miscast and film-ruining Damon Wayans is by contrast. I can only assume this role was originally written for Eddie Murphy. I can't imagine he turned down the project outright; the script is too good and the prospect for a blockbuster hit would have been too great. My guess is that he must have not been able to clear his schedule around the proposed shooting dates for this film, and the producers went with Wayans instead. There really wasn't anyone else out there at the time (Denzel Washington and Danny Glover would have been too old for the character). The producers should have waited for Eddie. This would have been a much better movie.

The film has a great look and it is directed very well, thanks to the stylish wizardry of Tony Scott.

True Romance
True Romance(1993)

The mother of all crime romances. Quentin Tarantino's best script, with the main character of Clarence being semi-autobiographical. And the story is fucking brilliant, with snappy dialogue, interesting characters and an explosive ending.
Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette do the best work of their respective careers. Slater is full of youthful hipster fuck-the-world attitude, and Arquette is sometimes cute as a button and other times she's the sexiest thing you've ever seen. It's that combination that makes Clarence and Alabama a couple that you can't help but root for.
If the leads weren't so strong, the film wouldn't work, but it's the supporting performances that make this film special. This has one of the greatest ensemble casts in modern memory.
Chris Penn and Tom Sizemore are thrill junkie narcotics detectives. Michael Rapaport is Clarence's knuckleheaded childhood buddy and the worst actor in LA. Saul Rubinek is the big time movie producer who's in the market for a suitcase full of cocaine. Bronson Pinchot (TV's Balki Bartokomous) is the Preppy Pussy middle man. Brad Pitt is brilliantly cast against type as Rapaport's shiftless stoner roommate. James Gandolfini is a mob hitman and he is outstanding in this role. (The scene where he interrogates Alabama is one of the most intense and brutal I have ever seen.) Gary Oldman is Drexel the pimp, doing some of the best character work in his spectacular career. Val Kilmer is a figment of Clarence's imagination, manifested as the spirt of Elvis past. Samuel L. Jackson is excellent in a two-minute cameo as a double-crossed drug dealer. And of course, there's Dennis Hopper as Clarence's ex-cop father and Christopher Walken as Don Vincenzo Cocotti. Those two actors give brilliant life to one of the best scripted scenes ever written.

"You're part eggplant."
"You're a canteloupe."


But the real star of this picture is its director. This is Tony Scott's Magnum Opus. The lenswork and shot composition is nothing short of flawless. Scott knows exactly how to use Hans Zimmer's beautiful original score, and piping in opera over the Hopper/Walken scene is pure genius. The ridiculous Mexican standoff gunfight between cops, mafia hitmen, and ex-military bodyguards is something we may never see the equal of, no matter how many films try to rip it off.
No film had ever been made like this before, and so many films have imitated it since. It was truly ahead of its time. Remember, the world hadn't been properly introduced to Tarantino yet. This was a full year before Pulp Fiction, and audiences didn't know what to make of a movie that called itself "True Romance" but had the body count of a Robocop sequel. I think if this had been released even two years later, it would have been popularized as one of the iconic films of the 90's. As it is, it stands as an unjustly forgotten masterpiece. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough.

All The King's Men

This movie is pretty damn mediocre, but that's not Sean Penn's fault. Penn himself gets five stars. He is fucking ELECTRIFYING. This role is like sweet, sweet candy for an actor of Penn's caliber and he knocks it out of the park. The world of gesture he creates for this character is just astounding. His dialect work is sublime. But he is the only one in the cast that's worth watching.
This is arguably one of the greatest ensembles put together in the last five years. And none of them do anything to distinguish themselves from much lesser actors.
Kate Winslet and Mark Ruffalo are absolutely wasted in their roles; they just aren't given that much to do. James Gandolfini is pretty good, but his character disappears for large chunks of the film. Anthony Hopkins seems to be phoning in this performance; it's as if he realizes he's the second best actor in the film for the first time in his career, and he just gives up. But the worst part of this movie is Jude Law. I like Jude Law in most things, but here he is supposed to carry the film. There aren't any scenes without him and the character is so boring and Jude does nothing to spice him up. This is precisely this same problem with "Last King of Scotland". Sean Penn and Forest Whitaker are both basically playing supporting roles in these films, but their characters are so much more interesting than the leads played by Jude Law and James McAvoy, that the film gets bogged down horribly when the great actors are not onscreen.
This film is well directed by Steve Zaillian, and I really love James Horner's original score, but the script is focused in the wrong place, so the whole movie suffers.


From the first 5 or 6 minutes, this little creature feature had a lot of potential. The filmmakers use snapshots of each character and superimposed text to give each one a Nickname, a Fun Fact, and a "Life Expectancy", often with hilarious results. But then you slowly start to realize that those snapshots were lying to you and you start resenting the makers of the film.
What the snapshots do is confirm the cliches of horror films with a tongue-in-cheek self-referential style. We already know these cliches exist, and we can assume the annoying comic-relief character isn't going to make it out alive, and that they're never going to kill a kid in a movie like this, and that this character is going to die before that character, and that guy's gonna turn out to be the badass hero ... stuff like that. Then if the filmmakers deviate from that standard gameplan, we can be impressed and say "Wow. That's original." But if a film overtly tells you it's going to follow these rules, then abruptly changes course and breaks them, the film doesn't come off as clever. It comes off as Bullshit.
There are some cool things in this movie, but not nearly enough to live up to the hype that this movie creates for itself.

Rescue Dawn
Rescue Dawn(2007)

This film is a very effective period piece. The way it's shot makes it seem like it's straight out of the era. The story is inspirational and affecting. The roles are all impeccably acted. Christian Bale is excellent as the German-born American pilot Dieter Dengler. His dialect work is spot-on; it's American, but there are little nuances of a German accent dropped in here and there. He carries this film on his back. Steve Zahn does absolutely brilliant work as a fellow POW; there's talk of him getting an Supporting nod from the Academy. He deserves it, too.
Jeremy Davies does some great work, too. His POW character has spent the longest time in captivity and has long gone insane. His character choices are riveting, but the problem is, I saw him play Charles Manson in a TV Miniseries a few years back, and he looked and sounded and acted the same there as he did here.
It's brilliant work, but it's brilliant RECYCLED work.

This is a very good movie, but there's something a little off about it. I can't put my finger on it yet, but as soon as I do, there will be an addendum to this review.

The Bourne Ultimatum

This may be the best of the trilogy. It is certainly the best movie of this summer. The movie starts out with Bourne injured and on the run from Moscow police and it never slows down. It pauses to catch its breath (or rather, to let the audience catch theirs) once or twice, but most this fucker is NON-STOP. There were so many moments where I was looking at the screen with a huge fucking smile on my face and the only way to describe the feeling that washed over me is: Giddy. As a schoolboy.
Bourne uses a penlight and an oscillating fan to outsmart two top-flight agents. He guides a man via cellphone past CIA surveillance through London's Waterloo station. He wins a fight with an assassin, who is armed with a straight-razor while Bourne is armed with ... a hand-towel. The slickest, smartest and coolest safe-cracking I HAVE EVER SEEN. A terrific car chase scene through the streets of Manhattan. There's more, but I don't want to be writing this review all day, and I haven't even gotten to the acting.
Matt Damon really is one of the best actors in the world between the ages of 30 and 40. I honestly think the list is: Edward Norton, Christian Bale, Matt Damon, everybody else. If you just look at "Good Shepherd", "Departed" and this film, all released over the past 10 months, you start to get a sense of the ridiculous range this man possesses. Here, like in "Good Shepherd", he does so much with so little. However, there are no Hand to Hand Combat kills in "Good Shepherd". Damon kicks ass in this role, and he always has, from the first frames of the first movie.
The supporting cast is all excellent: David Strathairn oozes malevolence as CIA deputy director Noah Vosen. Joan Allen is great. Scott Glenn is great (nice to see him back on film again). Paddy Considine is great(he was one of the funniest parts of "Hot Fuzz", here he's nigh unrecognizable as a journalist who knows too much and must run for his life). Albert Finney is goddamn fucking CREEPY as a CIA psychologist. Hell, even Julia Stiles is great ... and I HATE Julia Stiles. In EVERYTHING. Except these movies. I think the greatest achievment of this trilogy is casting Julia Stiles and making me actually approve of the choice. That's a great director, right there.
Speaking of which, can we talk about Paul Greengrass? With this film and its immediate predecessor, "Supremacy", Greengrass has developed a style all his own. (I admit I have not seen his "United 93". Too soon, man. Too soon.) I don't know what's up between him and steadicams; if like steadicams slept with his girlfriend or ran over his dog and then never even apologized or whatever, but Paul Greengrass fucking HATES steadicams. Every goddamn shot is handheld. It's herky. It's jerky. It's disarming and disturbing. IT'S BRILLIANT. It puts you right there in the action and it ratchets up the intensity to unheard-of levels. When the the movie ended, I had never felt so relieved and at the same time so wanting more. I really think that this is where the trilogy should end--it's wrapped up, it's said all it wanted to say--but Damon has said that he might want to make one in about ten years, and I think that might just be a long enough time for me to recover.

Hell, maybe I could play the villain in it. That'd be SWEEET.


One of the worst movies ever made, made even more laughable by the fact that this turd came out the same month as "Jurassic Park". All you need to know is that the dinosaur is apparently part chicken and is played by a rubber puppet.
Utterly terrible.

Alpha Dog
Alpha Dog(2007)

This movie actually has a lot of redeeming qualities. And it also has some irredeemable ones as well. All in all, though, it's about ten thousand times better than I thought it would be.
The writing is off and on. When it's on, it's really good, but when it's off, it's fucking horrid. It's mostly off. It's not directed particularly well, but it's not terrible.
Justin Timberlake has some great moments, and actually has a lot of potential as an actor.
Anton Yelchin, who plays the kidnapped teen, plays the fear of imminent death better than I've seen in a long time. Too bad that's only one scene. In other scenes, I kinda wished they would hurry up and kill him already.
I'm not sure why Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone were in this movie.
Shawn Hatosy, who I have honestly liked in some films, is fucking worthless in this role.
And Emile Hirsch, who I am not familiar with, but who has apparently starred in such gems as "The Girl Next Door" (you know, the boy-meets-girl-but-girl-happens-to-be-a-porn-actress comedy) and the riveting skateboard drama "Lords of Dogtown", got the lead in this film. I have not seen any of his work, and now I know why. He is so terrible in this film that from now on, his prescence in any film will immediately disqualify it from being seen by me. If they had another actor playing this part, this film would have been immeasurably better.

But above all else, the thing I take away from this film is that Ben Foster may be the best character actor under 30 in the world. His performance as Jake Mazursky defies explanation. He's got about twenty minutes of screentime and he owns this fucking movie. To prepare for his role in this movie, Foster asked one of his friends who was an ex-crystal meth addict for guidance. The friend introduced him to a group of people who gave Foster an all-access pass into the lifestyle. The authentic nature of his performance didn't stop there. He risked his sight for this mediocre movie by adding glaucoma drops to his eyes for much of the shoot to dilate his pupils, making him appear to be high. He'd hide in the bushes at night and cover his eyes between takes to keep the lights from shining into them. He would also talk to director Nick Cassavetes with his eyes closed.
In a scene where they have a fight, Sharon Stone hit Foster so hard that his nose started bleeding. He told her to do so, because he said the scene needed to be as realistic as possible.
It's no surprise that he lists Sean Penn as his favorite actor, because that's the only other actor I've ever seen have this kind of balls-to-the-wall ticking-time-bomb volatility to his acting at such a young age.
Foster basically breathes fire throughout this role, which fades into the background all too early in the film. Every second he's on screen is a gift to savor. I can't wait to see him in the upcoming "3:10 to Yuma" and "30 Days of Night" playing a dead-eye outlaw gunfighter and a mysterious prophet in a land of vampires. This could be the season of Ben Foster and finally vault him to his rightful place in the business.


I'm almost ashamed to admit that I watched this film. It represents everything I hate about modern Hollywood and horror movies today.
I really feel like some conglomerate is shoving Shia LaBeouf down our throats and most of us are swallowing him hungrily. He's the lead in "Transformers" AND the star of Indiana Jones 4. Fuck you, Hollywoood. But before all that, first this movie kills at the box office and we're made to believe it's because Shia is such a hot ticket right now. Shia really knows how to open a movie. He's got Buzz. He's got "It". No. He doesn't.
This movie did well at the box office because it was strategically released three weeks before "SpiderMan 3" and a month after "300" and because it was marketed to teens, feeling the first flush of spring and the ever encroaching seduction of summer. Clever, Dreamworks. Somebody over there deserves a raise.
That teen thing is the problem with this film, and a lot of other American Horror films. It's for kids. It's not scary. Not even a little bit. Because it's made for kids, and kids are stupid. So we get cookie cutter plotlines and sterotypical characters and in this case, a modernization remake of Hitchcock's "Rear Window". But that's cool, because 90% of this film's target audience hasn't even HEARD of "Rear Window" much less watched it.

New Rule: If you make a suspense thriller/slasher movie and you submit it to the MPAA and it comes back PG-13, start over. You did it wrong.

Climbing down off my soapbox, here's the actual review.
Yes, it's annoying that Shia LaBeouf is Hollywood's new It-Boy and he hasn't even done anything yet, but you know what? He doesn't bother me as an actor. On the other hand, he's also kind of boring to watch. I mean, he doesn't really DO anything. He doesn't make any choices. There is nothing remotely interesting about him. But the female population has been told that he's hot, and for some reason they believe it, so therefore he's being groomed as a leading man.
Say it with me everyone:
(Come on, girls, if Shia LaBeouf wasn't famous--if he was just another guy in your Biology Lab--you wouldn't give him a second glance. You know you wouldn't.)
All in all, he's a serviceable commodity on film, but by no means is he an actor. He carries this film to the best of his ability, but he's not really acting. He's EXISTING ON CAMERA. He's like the contestants on "Big Brother".
(Listen. I don't hate the kid. I actually liked him in earlier spunky sidekick roles, like in "Constantine" and "I, Robot." And he did hold his own in "Bobby" so I haven't lost hope for him. I just wish I wasn't being force fed a heaping helping of Shia stew. That's all.)
Some chick named Sarah Roemer is the love interest, and I guess she's kind of hot, in a "Barely Legal" sort of way, but as an actress, she has a long way to go.
David Morse plays the villain. Normally he's an actor I love to watch (in movies such as "16 Blocks", "The Green Mile", and "Down in the Valley" (which is his best work to date), but here he is utterly wasted. The movie is as predictable as anything I have ever seen, and this fucks him. We know he's the killer from the fucking TRAILER, and so he's hamstrung from the very beginning. The way the story is told, there has to be a possibilty that Shia is misreading what he's seeing and there really isn't anybody killing anybody out there. It's all just a trick of his mind brought on by cabin fever, and just about the time that he's able to convince himself that he's going crazy, that's when we see that he was right all along. It builds SUSPENSE. And in a SUSPENSE thriller, that's a good thing to have. There isn't anything resembling suspense in this movie. Because we know (well, maybe the kids don't, but I do) everything that's going to happen before the screenwriter does. It's fucking obvious. David Morse, as Mr. Turner, is a serial killer. The movie offers no alternative. Therefore, anything Morse's character does is absent of all real menace, because we know that he's the killer and we know that in a movie like this nobody we're supposed to care about dies.
(That beat cop who gets his neck broken doesn't count. If you didn't see that coming as soon as he stepped foot into the killer's house, then you, sir or madam, are a retard. And therefore you must be part of this film's target audience.)
If a slasher isn't a threat to change the microcosmic world that exists in a film (and the way a slasher does that is to slash people the world cares about), then his character isn't even threatening, period. I have a feeling that the original script was probably a lot darker, and when Dreamworks got a hold of it, they dumbed it down and softened it up a lot. (For instance, the scene where Morse gets into the girl's car and gives her a threat veiled in a creepy seduction is a nice touch but it belongs in a movie with more teeth).
The direction, by "Salton Sea" helmer D.J. Caruso isn't bad at all, but the script has some holes and character inconsistencies that can't be overlooked.

It's hard to call this a spolier, because it happens in the first five minutes, but here we go: Shia's dad is killed in a car wreck. Shia was driving, but it's not Shia's fault. AT ALL. Apparently, the three worst drivers in America are on that strectch of road at the same time, so that one car can breakdown in a lane of traffic and not be pull over to the shoulder and another car (a GIANT Suburban) can shield the first car from Shia's view until it swerves at the last possible second, causing Shia to crash and roll his car. Then just when everyone appears to be okay, a third car (a red pickup) slams into Shia's overturned car as though the pickup thought it was in the middle of a demolition derby. That last shot is what did it, and daddy dies. Right in front of Shia.
So Shia's distraught, obviously, and when the winner of the most-insensitive-teacher-of-the-year award makes a crack about dear old dad, Shia punches him out. I guess this is supposed to make us root for him or something. "He's been unjustly imprisoned", we're supposed to say.
(If he were on house arrest for, say, multiple DUI or robbing a liquor store, this would be a very different movie.)
His mom, (played by Carrie-Ann Moss, all frumped out and with Trinity a distant memory) is the worst mom ever. I think if my dad died right in front of me, my mom would let me use my XBOX when I'm on house arrest after punching out my teacher for using my father's name in vain. Just saying.

Oh, and one more thing that bothered me. Late in the film, Shia's worthless Asian best bud, played by Aaron Yoo, gets hit in the head by David Morse with an aluminum baseball bat. I was overjoyed because I thought this movie just grew some balls and killed off a main character. You see, David Morse stands 6-foot-4 and weighs about 250. If he hits you with an aluminum baseball bat as hard as he hit that Korean kid, you won't be getting up again. Ever. Your skull would collapse. You would die.
Try this at home. Do you have an apple? Do you have a common household hammer? Good. Now hit the apple with the hammer AS HARD AS YOU CAN.

I'll wait.

Very nicely done. Now what is the condition of the apple? It's FUBAR, isn't it? Now think of the apple skin as your skull, and the flesh inside as your brain, and the chunks of apple and juice that splattered everywhere as blood and gray matter. David Morse hit that kid HARD. That blow would have killed that kid twice.
But no, at the end of the film, he's up and at'em, a little bruised but none the worse for wear, videotaping his best bud making out with his girlfriend.
Ah, to be young again. And stupid.

Ah, to be young and stupid again.


I first saw this about nine or ten years ago; I caught it on Cinemax or something. I just saw it a second time yesterday, and it's amazing how much I had forgotten. I remembered thinking at the time, who is this Reese Witherspoon chick and how can I have sex with her? (I was nineteen. I was thinking that about the chick who did the weather for the six o'clock news). Seriously, this young actress was extremely believable in a very challenging role ... and she was smokin' hot. Of course, she would later go on to win an Oscar for "Walk the Line", (She would also go on to make the insufferable "Legally Blonde" movies, but we'll forgive her that) but this performance still stands out as a career highlight.
I remember thinking that I really liked Kiefer Sutherland and I hoped his career would take off. A few years later, Jack Bauer landed on his desk and the rest is history. In this film, made before he turned 30, he appears to be having so much fun.
To put that fun into context, the opening credits roll over a series of drawings depicting the story of Little Red Riding Hood. These drawings look like they were made by a talented 10th grader with an overactive imagination, but that unpolished quality seems to work for the film. It's jarring and disarming. But we understand right away that this is a re-telling of the Riding Hood story, and if we don't get it then, we certainly get it by the time that Reese runs away to find her long lost GRANDMA, wearing a RED LEATHER JACKET and having packed her belongings into A PICNIC BASKET. So we know that there's a big bad wolf out there somewhere. We also know (the film gives us this in a scene of exposition) that there's a serial killer picking up girls on the freeway and killing them. When Reese has car trouble and Kiefer pulls over, offers her a ride and introduces himself as BOB WOLVERTON, we know he's the serial killer; we know he's the big bad wolf; we know he's the villain. Kiefer KNOWS we know he's the villain, and therefore he has the freedom to be as creepy and malevolent as possible. After he attacks Reese and she gets the better of him, he goes from being creepy and malevolent to horribly disfigured and talking through a Darth Vader voicebox. He is having so much fun doin his job, which is what separates this line of work from being a systems analyst or an investment banker.

The film--and Reese's character--lose their way when Reese winds up in a women's prison. But it's worth it for the obligatory scene with Kiefer, wearing a shower cap and a nightgown, hiding under grandma's covers. However, the actual ending seems to think its happier than it really is.

There are a couple of nice supporting performances worth noting: Brittany Murphy as a crazy inmate, and Amanda Plummer as Reese's crack-whore mom. I recommend this movie to everyone so they can make their own decisions.

The Negotiator

One for Jackson. One for Spacey. One for Giamatti. One half for the line "You want my blood!?!? Take my blood!"


That's one star for Phillip Seymour Hoffman and one for Robert DeNiro. Everything else about this movie BLOWS. Somehow Joel Schumacher, a gay man himself (he's the demented genius who put nipples on the Batsuit and ruined the greatest franchise in modern movie history), has managed to make one of the most homophobic movies ever. Compared to this movie, "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" seems like "The Laramie Project". Apparently there are only two types of homosexuals in Manhattan: Drag Queens and Log Cabin Republicans. No happy medium. No middle ground. This is exactly what the red states are afraid of and exactly why the 2004 election went the way it did.
There's a stupid annoying subplot about a big-time Puerto Rican drug dealer named Mr. Z (who apparently has the entire NYPD in his pocket) and his two henchman, one Russian and one big black guy, trying to get back some money that was stolen from them. I shouldn't call this Benneton Crime Syndicate a subplot, because it takes up over half the film. The script is chock-full of terrible cliche dialogue and sterotypes. When the two worlds collide in an overwrought and out of place action movie ending, Schumacher manages to shoehorn even more homophobic humor into the film: Hoffman kills a henchman with his stiletto heel; DeNiro ransacks Hoffman's room for a phone to call the cops and comes up with ... a dildo! Hilarious.

Worth watching for Hoffman's performance, which is outstanding, and a definite highlight of an illustrious career. DeNiro is also excellent, and it's easy to see why both these actors were attracted to these characters, but the script structure and the dialogue are so blatantly awful, that even these two hall of fame actors, at the top of their game cannot save this film from its own fucked-up creator.

The movie should have just been a two-hander. A homophobic cop has a stroke and he has to ask his neighbor, a flamboyant drag queen, to give him singing lessons so he can learn to talk again. In the process, they form a friendship and learn something about each other and themselves.
That's a great story to tell. That's a movie.
This ... I don't know what this is.

Desperate Measures

Okay, first off, the whole plot is completely ridiculous. There's nobody else in the world with matching Bone Marrow? REALLY? But if you can forgive that, this film has some great points. Tight direction by Barbet Schroeder, some well-staged action sequences, a nicely believable performance by Andy Garcia as a father who will do anything to save his son. But everything in this movie hinges on the buh-RILLIANT work of Michael Keaton as one of the better villains of the last twenty years. His performance is simply magnetic. He makes fantastic inspired character choices, speaking with a specifically localized Upper Southern Dialect, and got his body into amazing shape for the role.
The film knows what kind of character he's creating and allows gives him scenes that are just priceless, like the one where he's driving through a residential San Francisco neighborhood, smoking and singing along to the radio playing CCR's "Proud Mary". The film gives him great speeches and one-liners.
"You tell that cop and his dead kid I won't stand for stale cigarettes."

"You wanna test my resolve, Frank? My willingness to go the limit? You want to find out where you stop and I begin? Do you?"

Fucking GOLD.

Then the film gives us one of the top 5 endings in cinema history.

"What kinda car do you have?"
I'm still waiting for the sequel.


I really can't imagine what this movie could have done much better. A very nice premise. A tad unoriginal, maybe, but hey, what's truly original anymore? Bruce Willis does some fine work, mostly in the flashback opening scene. And Jonathan Tucker, a young actor I've liked since his debut ten years ago in "Sleepers," does some damn fine work in this film too.
But the real reason to watch this film is Ben Foster. I think he may have pigeon-holed himself into psycho villain roles with his most recent work, but he has the potential to shock the world one of these days if he just gets his hands on the right role in the right movie. He slurps this part up like a strand of spaghetti.
The film has a great look and is well shot, thanks to French video game director Florent Siri. Keep an eye out for his next stateside production. I know I will be.


This is my new favorite film OF ALL TIME. Not the best film. But definitely my favorite.
It's "Rear Window" with a Bigfoot.
Literally. Except Jimmy Stewart is replaced by Lloyd Braun from "Seinfeld", all the neighbors are replaced with hot sorority chicks, Grace Kelly is replaced with the douchebaggiest mustachioed male nurse in the history of in-home care, and Raymond Burr is replace by a sasquatch.
And not a good-looking sasquatch either. Harry and the Hendersons did it better twenty years ago. Hell, the sasquatch on those beef jerky commercials looks more realistic. This sasquatch looks like what might happen if Paul Giamatti were dunked in a tank of the ooze from Turtles II.
None of that matters, because I literally felt like I was directing this movie as it happened. I would call out stuff that I wanted to happen, and the movie would do it. Just like that. This movie did everything I wanted it to, and when I wasn't sure what I wanted, the movie knew. The movie knew.
It went something like this:
Sasquatch, smash through the kitchen ceiling and pull that chick through the floorboards.
Sasquatch, smash through that tiny bathroom window and pull that naked chick outside.
And you pulled her out so her body FOLDED THE WRONG WAY. Bonus.
Sasquatch, shrug off that axe blade in your back and kill that guy.
You unhinged your jaw and bit off that man's face!!!!
Sasquatch, don't be dead. Throw in a surprise ending. I'm not sure how, but I better be impressed or I will bust you down to Four and a Half Stars so fast it'll make your head spin. Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do?



Mr. Jingles
Mr. Jingles(2006)

Listen. My best friend and I were in market for a terrible horror film. We walked along the new release wall of Blockbuster, bypassing gems like "KVC--Komodo vs. Cobra" and "Bottom Feeder" with Tom Sizemore. When we came across "Mr. Jingles", we knew we had a winner. I mean, come on. It's about a homicidal clown, a clown that looked genuinely freaky on the dvd cover. There weren't any photos on the cover, but that didn't deter us. We took it home and popped it in and the DVD wouldn't even load. Taking a look at the back of the DVD, it appeared someone had attacked it with a butcher knife. We were disappointed. We took it back to Blockbuster and we got another movie instead (amazingly enough, our Blockbuster only had one copy of "Mr. Jingles"). This replacement movie turned out to be "Abominable," which is my new favorite film of all time. (Read my review of that later)
By my friend and I were undeterred. We decided we were going to watch Mr. Jingles by hook or by crook. By hook turned out to be ordering it through Blockbuster Online. The movie arrived yesterday, and we couldn't wait to watch it. This was going to be a great film.

It's not even a FILM.

Because it was shot with a camcorder.

What continues to astound me most about this thing is that someone at Lions Gate watched this and actually thought it was good enough to buy it. I mean, this thing looks like it was shot with a cell phone camera. I don't know what subject the illustrious Dr. Rudolph Hatfield got his doctorate in, but it wasn't acting. His performance as the titular Mr. Jingles basically consists of a ridiculous cackle and some awkward hatchet wielding. There are some ridiculous deaths, particularly when Jingles hacks off a man's penis and then throws it at the man's friend, hitting said friend in the face with it from about 50 yards. Friend looks down and camera looks down with him and we see it--a common household dildo, splattered with red food coloring. Guy looks back up and a hatchet hits him in the face. Derp.
Oh, and when Jingles is stalking his victims, someone off camera shakes some sleigh bells which makes it look like these people are really terrified of Santa Claus. (Little sidenote, after doing some research, I found out that Dr. Rudy Hatfield is Tommy Brunswick's father. Guess sucking runs in the family.)
At one point Mr. Jingles is shot, but they don't even use a cap gun. It sounds like they had their "Foley Artist" bang a tin can with a tablespoon. The "Sound Mixing" is terrible. I don't think they even had a boom mike; in some scenes you can't hear any of the dialogue. That might have been a blessing in disguise, actually. The script is terrible, but it's unclear how much the "actors" are improvising their lines, or rather forgetting what they were supposed to say and trying to wing it with little to no success. There isn't a single person on screen who appears to have had even high school acting training. If they have, they someone should murder their teachers. I can't imagine that any of the "actors" got paid, which brings up another quandry. There are a couple incidences of gratuitous nudity. Two different "actresses" expose their breasts, one pre-shower and one post-coital. The first girl (considerably the hotter of the two) stands topless in front of a mirror for a full minute fluffing her hair and generally doing nothing at all that either moves the plot along or develops her character (although from that scene, I can see that her "character" is pretty "well-developed" already--if you catch my drift). Seriously, how little dignity and self respect do you have to have in order to expose yourself on film (sorry, videotape) for no money. Halle Berry got $800,000 dollars to show her tits in "Swordfish"; you maybe got a catered lunch. I mean, ostensibly thousands, probably more like hundreds--okay, dozens--of people will see you topless now and you get exactly nothing out of it. It's not even integral to the story. Oh, right. There is no story. I forgot.
Basically, it's just a bunch of crap about a clown, once falsely imprisoned and driven insane by the torturous inmates and guards. When he gets out, he systematically murders all those who conspired to put him behind bars. Before he can kill little Angie Randal, he's killed. Now seven years later, Angie gets out of the asylum ON HER BIRTHDAY (poetic) and goes to live with her cousin where all she wants to do is party and hook up with random guys (presumably for the first time, considering she went to the loony bin when she was twelve and is just now turning nineteen). Meanwhile, Mr. Jingles has apparently resurrected HIMSELF using demonic incantations. And he's going to crash Angie's birthday party.

At the end, it looks like they're going to use the "High Tension" twist and make Angie the killer, with Mr. Jingles' resurrected demonic incarnation being just an alternate personality of her twisted, damaged psyche.
The thing is, I buy that twist in this film MORE THAN I BUY IT IN "HIGH TENSION".
But, alas, no.
They pull some kind of double twist, ending the movie so abruptly that I really believe they must have just run out of videotape.

If someone can make this movie and sell it to a fairly reputable studio like "Lion's Gate" and get royalties every time guys like me are stupid enough to rent it, then I have definitely been approaching this whole show business thing in the wrong way. It can't be this easy. It just can't. Mostly, I'm afraid, because I don't know if I could make a film this bad if I TRIED.
The whole time I was watching this I was sure it was a couple of college kids who got a hold of a video camera and a recipe to make fairly good-looking stage blood. Then they called up their friends and shot this in a weekend. But no. I looked them up on IMDB, and Todd and Tommy Brunswick are not college kids. They're not even brothers. They're a husband and wife team (apparently Tommy is a chick's name now; it's short for Thomasita). They're in their mid to late thirties and they have 3 kids. Three kids who were given executive producer credits on this movie. The Brunswicks have made FOUR OTHER FILMS since 2001, including "Biker Zombies", "Lurking Terror", and three movies in 2006 alone "They Must Eat", "The Remake", and of course, "Mr. Jingles". But that's not what's most disturbing...
Their latest, "Little Red Devil", is in post-production and it appears to be a legitimate project. It stars actual ACTORS, including but not limited to Daniel Baldwin and Dee Wallace-Stone (the mom from "Cujo"). Mr. Jingles is the last movie they made before this one, which means somebody saw Mr. Jingles and on the strength of that little gem, they decided to give those creative artists the reins on a movie with an actual budget. This isn't happening. It can't be happening. If this is true, then me and my buddy are going to RUN Hollywood.

In conclusion, I have to believe that the DVD we originally tried to watch--the one that was all scratched to hell--had that done to it on purpose. Someone else saw this movie, realized how terrible it was and wanted to save others from a similar fate.
Either that or the disc committed suicide.

Truth or Consequences, N.M.

Alright. Think of this in its context. Released in 1997, when Kiefer was in a major career slump; 5 years since his great supporting role in "A Few Good Men" and 5 years from becoming Jack Bauer, he was mired in shit like "Eye for an Eye" with Sally Field. A small role in "Time to Kill" did nothing to resurrect his dormant career. Nobody wanted to see a movie just because Kiefer was in it. Also, in 1997 cinema was at the height of the post-modern Tarantino craze, when every other movie released had a botched drug heist and the bad guys being pursued by the good guys (cops) and the worse guys (mafia). It also meant that you had to have ridiculous, inconsequential non-sequitur dialogue. Every screenwriter wanted to create the next "Royale with Cheese" bit.
So when this came out, it flew considerably under the radar, and now, ten years later it remains almost completely forgotten.
But the story being told is hardly cookie cutter, and the cast is jam-packed with great actors doing great things. Kiefer Sutherland plays the anti-Bauer, and he is fantastic. Also starring Vincent Gallo (whom I loved in Buffalo '66), Kevin Pollak ("Usual Suspects"), Kim Dickens (Deadwood), Mykelti Williamson (Bubba in "Forrest Gump"), Martin Sheen (benevolent president in "The West Wing", malevolent mob hitman here), James McDaniel (NYPD Blue), Rick Rossovich (Navy Seals), Max Perlich ("Beautiful Girls"), the late great Rod Steiger and John C. McGinley (overrated in "Scrubs" and underrated in EVERYTHING ELSE).
Everyone does great work. Kiefer proves to be an able director, as well.
My advice to you is to find a copy of this film and watch it. If you haven't seen it yet, stop reading. The rest is packed with spoilers.

The problems with this film are few and small: the soundtrack is obtrusive, with songs being played over anything that doesn't contain dialogue. This wouldn't be so bad if it didn't detract from the few legitimate uses of music: the opening sequence of Gallo's Ray Lembecke getting out of jail and reuniting with Kim Dickens as his true love Addy; the practical usage of the '50s classic "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To" to cover up the screams of a torture victim; and the beautiful artistic usage of Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" over the death scene of Ray and Addy.
The character-building and plot driven dialogue is great (I'm thinking of Ray's line to Pollak's Gordo after he claims his killing of a man in a parking lot brawl as being self defense: "Self defense? That's not self defense. Self defense is I hit you, you hit me. Not I hit you, you kill me. That's not self defense." Gold.)
However, there's a lot of non-sequitur conversations that do nothing for the film at all (like the hotdog vs. breakfast burrito debate and the monologue about why Williamson's Marcus doesn't do blind dates--it doesn't do anything for his character development because by this time we know he's an undercover DEA agent and therefore probably making this story up; if you give this monologue to Gordo, you do so much more with it. It builds his character and gives him an opportunity to try and make friends with the robbers in his midst, which is his superobjective in this film).
Also, much as I like Williamson as an actor and enjoy his performance in this film, I can't buy his gangsta Marcus as being a part of this group of whiteboy thieves. Maybe the DEA would better serve themselves putting him undercover in Compton or inner-city Baltimore, and get the greasy haired redneck to bring down this particular gang. If this character were of the appropriate age in 1968, he would have been President of the Black Panthers. He's that black.

3000 Miles to Graceland

This movie starts out with a daring heist of a crowded casino. That's the problem. This film STARTS OUT with a daring heist of a crowded casino. The sequence is well staged, slickly shot and edited, with lots of guns and blood. The film blows its whole wad right there. There is literally no place else for it to go. Well, there's gotta be some place else, but where ever that place is, I know it's not located at the corner of Scrappy Kid Street and Manipulative Bitch Boulevard.
The film creates a character we love to watch (Kevin Costner doing some fine fucking work and having a whole lot of fun in the process), but doesn't give us enough of him.
Instead, the movie gives us a hour of a road movie between Kurt Russell and this fuckin kid and it gives us Courtney Cox trying in one scene to erase the decade long perception that she's a no-talent whore who got lucky with a role in a sitcom that probably never had a right to be as popular as it was. Needless to say, she's unsuccessful. I don't know what this Demian Lichtenstein was thinking when he made this film, but I know why he hasn't gotten work in the last six years.


As action movies go, this is a work of art. A clever premise, fleshed out by running every mainstay in the action movie playbook. The picturesque locale adds so much (set in the Rockies, shot in the Alps). The film is well shot by action vet Renny Harlin. The opening is brilliant and it sets the stage for a nonstop thrillride. Stallone, who also co-wrote the screenplay, does some great work here, actually acting and not just grunting his way through a role like he usually does. But like I always say, an action movie is only as strong as its villain, and this flick has a doozy. John Lithgow's Eric Quaylen is both brilliant and insane, the two most important qualities for a good villain. The film also has a nice supporting cast too, featuring Michael Rooker, Rex Linn, and Caroline Goodall (the chick who played the mom in "Hook", here basically playing the opposite).
My personal favorite moment of the film:
"Do you know what real love is? ... Ssssssacrifice."

The Descent
The Descent(2006)

Caught the original UK cut (the unrated edition on dvd), which is by all accounts a much better film. So I can't say whether I would have enjoyed this had I seen it in theaters.

That being said, this is the best creature feature to come along in a long fucking while.

Neil Marshall tells a great story here. It's taut and terrifying. The ending (of the UK version) is wonderfully bleak and dark as fuck. Marshall gets great performances out of his actresses, and while it takes a little while for the movie to really get going, it's well worth the wait. The creatures are genuinely freaky and the ladies get to go all Kill Bill on them. Right from the very beginning, the car crash comes as a complete surprise and Marshall always let's us think we know what's up, then tweeks it just slightly, delivering a couple of jump-out-of-your-seat moments.

Here's the thing, though, and this really isn't a complaint with this film, but rather a gripe with the state of films in general; When did American horror films start to suck? Cause they do. Especially in comparison to this film (British), "High Tension" (French) and "Wolf Creek" (Australian). As good as "Dawn of the Dead" was, it wasn't half the film that "28 Days Later" was. Every other horror film we put out stateside is just a lame retread of a Japanese flick. ("Ring" "Grudge" "Pulse")Or it's Torture Porn. (the "Hostels")
Or a shitty sequel to a worthy original. ("Saw II & III)
Come on America. Reclaim your horror superiority.

Danny the Dog

They must have had a team of retard meerkats marketing this movie. There is so much less fighting than is warranted by the trailers, the cover art and the tired fucking title. That's good, because the film really shines when it slows down, giving us Morgan Freeman at his most benevolent and grandfatherly. This is easily the best acting Jet Li has ever done. Bob Hoskins turns in a great performance, too. Like so many others of my generation, I first became familiar with him through "Roger Rabbit" and was SHOCKED when I found out years later that he was actually British. He's an underrated actor and one that deserves much more recognition.
The fight scenes, when they do occur, are expertly staged and shot by the guys who brought you "Transporter". Definitely worth a watch. It has something for everyone, including a true tearjerker of an ending.

Out of Time
Out of Time(2003)

I love Denzel in everything, and he works his ass off to make this lame horse giddy-up, and he almost succeeds. The problem is that he's working alone. Eva Mendes is fucking gorgeous, but she's also a fucking terrible actress and not at all believable as a Homicide Dectective. Matter of fact, the only thing she IS believable as is a hot Latin chick. As if her casting wasn't bad enough, they hired Dean Cain from TV's "Lois & Clark" to play the villain. They even give him a black goatee, making him looking like evil bizarro Clark Kent. They could have given him an eye patch too, but it wouldn't have helped. And that's it. There's literally no one else I recognize (by name or by face) in this film. Some guy named John Billingsley does some pretty nice character work in the comic relief role, but this guy's basically just a poor man's Paul Giamatti. Actually he's more like a homeless man's Paul Giamatti. They should have just hired Paul Giamatti. Oh, and a decent screenwriter. They should have hired one of those too.

Dead Silence
Dead Silence(2007)

Donnie Wahlberg is the only person doing anything resembling acting. God bless him for showing up.
There's a nice reveal at the very end of the film, but ultimately the whole thing is predictable and hokey.

D-Tox (Eye See You)

This movie is worth watching simply for the fantastic character acting of Jeffrey Wright.

High Tension (Switchblade Romance)

The first hour and a quarter is the best slasher movie to come along in twenty years.-5 stars
The last ten minutes is the worst ending of any film I have ever seen.-0 stars

Averaged out that comes to 2 1/2 stars.


Less Glock. More Croc.


It's Top Gun for a new generation!

No. It's not.
However, it is a hell of a lot better than I thought it would be. The best thing about the film is it's look, very slick and stylish, but it's nothing that hasn't been done before. The dialogue is actualy not that bad, and some of the acting isn't terrible. The plot is totally implausible but it was interesting and there weren't any huge holes. The script is by the same guy who wrote "Big Trouble in Little China", so there's that.
However, about an hour and a half in, right about the time a movie like this should be wrapping up, the movie really loses its focus.
They kill off Jamie Foxx (who probably should have turned this project down, considering he had just won the Oscar and the role is just one-dimensional comic relief and an intended tearjerker death scene). Then Jessica Biel has to bail out over North Korea and is chased by a platoon of soldiers led by a man with an inexplicable mohawk. Josh Lucas and the robot plane land in Alaska for repairs, but the soldiers there are under orders from a shadow agency to kill him and destroy the plane in a sinister cover-up effort.
The filmmakers should have realized that this was a simple mindless action flick with fast jets and cool explosions. But instead they tried to make some kind of epic military thriller complete with swelling strings-and-choral score and they fucked themselves in the process.

The Astronaut Farmer

This movie wants to be so inspirational and uplifting, but it just winds up being annoying. Billy Bob tries his best to save this condescending weepfest, but there's really nothing anyone could have done. This movie doesn't inspire me to follow my dreams. It doesn't teach me that my loved ones will always support me. It tells me that you can build a rocket in your barn from scrap metal that you pick up in a junkyard, and that you can mix up a batch of high-grade rocket fuel using household items in the proper proportions. Look, normally I don't go in for censorship but I really think the government should suppress this film, lest it fall into the wrong hands.

Cradle 2 the Grave

This is twice the thrill ride of any of the other hip hop/hong kong flicks.
There are some stellar action set pieces, most notably when DMX leads police on a high speed chase via ATV, intercut with Jet Li fighting pretty much the entire UFC roster in a steel cage match. Somehow, it makes sense when you're watching it.
But nothing can top the final fight scene between Jet Li (doing his emotionless cyborg type thing; if his acting were any more wooden, he'd be a tree) and Mark Dacascos (a Puerto Rican playing Chinese because I guess the producers figured, hey, close enough), during which Jet Li somehow manages to set off a nuclear reaction in Dacascos' THROAT. Must be seen to be believed.
But the script is generic, the direction tired, and the only real acting being done is by Chi McBride in a two scene cameo as a jailed crime kingpin who lives like an emperor in prison.

Romeo Must Die

The first hip hop martial arts flick also boasts the best cast. Jet Li is fun to watch, playing nice guy and not supercop. Aaliyah is fucking HOT. Then. Not now. Now she's probably not as hot.
Anthony Anderson improvs most of his stuff, which is hit or miss. Delroy Lindo lends a little class to the show, and before he was a homophobic sonofabitch, Isaiah Washington was a damn fine actor. He literally licks his chops throughout this turncoat role.
The martial arts fight sequences are pretty well done, but not great, especially when they choose to use wires--it looks so hokey after seeing the stuff in "Ong-Bak" and "The Protector".

Casino Royale

Slick and stylish. Some great stunt work. A nice script with a couple of riveting action set pieces. Tight direction. A great leading man playing a great leading role. Hot babes. A ball busting boss. A threatening and intelligent villain. A scene of torture that'll make any man cringe. The good guy gets the bad guy and the bad guy gets dead. All must-have features of a great action movie, and this is a great action movie. Truly great.
However, it's not a James Bond film. It's just not.
Where are the ridiculous stunt sequences?
(The stuff in this film doesn't qualify because these scenes are specifically filmed in a world of reality, not a fantasy land of jet packs and car-mounted laser cannons.)
Where are the gadgets?
(Don't give me the glove-box defibrillator and the tracking implant. Give me that car-mounted laser cannon and a fountain pen that can kill a man from 50 yards.)
Where are the ludicrous villains with even more ludicrous world domination schemes? (Instead of holding world capitals hostage with an arsenal of nuclear missiles orbiting the earth on a fleet of hijacked space shuttles, this guy is really good at Texas Hold'Em.)
Where are the cheesy one-liners and the multiple sexual partners of increasing hotness?

Let's get one thing straight: None of these absences and substitutions disqualify this film from being great; they just disqualify this film from being Bond.

The Libertine

Johnny Depp DEVOURS this role. He sinks his teeth into it and rends its flesh with every bite. He swallows every mouthful only after it's fully chewed, savoring the taste. I have never seen an actor give a preformance with such relish and sick, sick pleasure. Perhaps Depp's greatest performance in a career of great performances.
Also well written, well directed, and the supporting roles are well played, particularly John Malkovich as King Charles II. He dances circles around Rupert Everett, who played the exact same role in "Stage Beauty", a totally inferior film in every way.

The Last Time

This movie is fucking schizophrenic. It has some kind of identity crisis going on. Is it a character drama, a slick how-to-succeed-in-business thriller, or a zany comedy? It's all three! The core story is interesting, about a hotshot salesman (Keaton) who falls for the fiancee of his incompetent young trainee partner (Brendan Fraser). Every time he sleeps with her, he slides one of his big contracts over to his partner as an act of contrition. Unfortunately, the kid blows the sale every time, and the quarterly stats are starting to worry the brass (Daniel Stern). As Fraser slides into a deep depression, Keaton falls harder and harder for Amber Valletta, further tangling the web of deceit.
All right, that's the plot. It's well written and not-so-well directed by Michael Caleo. However, Fraser seems to think he's making a "Dudley Do Right" sequel or maybe "George of the Jungle 2: The Jungling". He's absolutely insufferable in this role, mugging and overacting and making zany misguided character choices. Meanwhile, Michael Keaton is absolutely fucking STELLAR in this role. He imbues it with so much depth and so many layers, it's nearly mindboggling. God, he is a brilliant actor. And here's the thing, both roles are pretty well scripted, and the Fraser role should be the better of the two. I would kill to have a chance to play that part opposite Michael Keaton. But Fraser fucks it up six ways from Sunday.
Then at the end, there is a clever twist ending that really wraps up the film nicely. Except it belongs in a different film. Young filmmmakers need to stop writing in plot twists just because they're hip right now. This is a good twist, but it come so far out of leftfield that it kind of fucks the film as a whole.

As a result, all three stars given to this film are for Michael Keaton, one of the greatest actor who has ever lived.

White Noise
White Noise(2005)

This whole phenomenon of listening to the dead through static just FREAKS ME OUT. Seriously. I will never listen to the radio again just on the off chance that Evil TripleGhost will force me to abduct and torture people.
But getting beyond that, the film is well written by British scribe Niall Johnson and near-expertly directed by Geoffrey Sax, a director whose resume is wholly unimpressive, but one whose career I will definitely keep an eye on from now on. There are plenty of creepy moments and the film moves along at a fairly brisk pace, coming to a wonderfully dark ending. But this film, like "1408" with John Cusack, is only as strong as its lead actor. Michael Keaton carries this film and he gives a great performance.

(For those of you unfamiliar with my own personal proclivities, I believe Michael Keaton is one of the best actors in the history of the world. He is fucking brilliant. In EVERYTHING. I've seen pretty much everything he's ever done, and he is always BRILLIANT. I admit I have not seen "Jack Frost" but I am confident his turn as a benevolent enchanted snowman is just as Oscar worthy as everything else he's done. Why he hasn't gotten the recognition he deserves is beyond me.)

In this film, the script calls for Keaton to fall asleep in weird positions and he always finds new and different and interesting ways to slumber. This proves a assertion that I have been making for years: Michael Keaton can outact you IN HIS SLEEP.

Sea of Love
Sea of Love(1989)

A solid psycho-sexual thriller. Pacino does some very nice work, and Ellen Barkin really is a better actress than I've ever given her credit for. John Goodman plays his usual loveable lunkheaded character, but he tosses in some clever nuances. Solid supporting performances given by John Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Paul Calderon, Michael Rooker, and Samuel L. Jackson in an early career cameo, playing a character listed in the credits as "Black Guy".
The excellent screenplay is by Richard Price who wrote "Clockers", "Ransom", and the script for the Michael Jackson music video "Bad".

"You ain't bad. You ain't nothin! YOU AIN'T NOTHIN!!!"


Throughout the whole film, they incriminate the Ellen Barkin character over and over again, but because this is the kind of movie it is, you just know that she isn't the murderer. Once you find out who the real killer is, they tie things up well enough (although I'm really not sure what the titular song has to do with ANYTHING), but I actually kind of wanted her to be the killer. Ah, well. At least we get to see her nude. Small favors, right?


This is basically the same plot structure as "Shooter" but actually a better film, considering this was made for no budget in France like six years ago. The whole thing looks like a Made-for-TV movie from the late 80s.
Michael Keaton does typically great work, and Michael Caine looks like he's having a lot of fun. There are some nice plot devices, and some familiar faces in supporting roles, but mainly this movie is worth watching simply for the scene in which Keaton, playing a tight-ass banker, has to act a part during a sting operation, and he acts it TERRIBLY. Think of the worst actor in any intro to acting class and it's twice as bad. It's a crazy choice and it absolutely works. I hope Keaton and Caine realized they were being paid to take an extended vacation in the south of France and make a direct to video movie, and they just got drunk and played cards together every night.
This is the kind of project I want to make with Jon Redding when we're in our fifties.


An stylish and solid actioner. The characters are all played well. Gotta love Sam Jackson. The action sequences are well done and the script is pretty good, too, thanks to a doctoring by David Ayer, who wrote "Training Day" and "Harsh Times".
The centerpiece of the film is well thought out and nicely executed by "Shield" director Clark Johnson. By far the best part of the film is the extended montage of the team training to become SWAT. And as preposterous as the lear jet landing on the 6th Street Bridge was, I felt like the movie earned it. This flick delivers on action thrills, but it's also smarter than I thought it would be.


This is a very clever heist film. Well directed by James Foley, who can handle himself as proven by his brilliant direction of "Glengarry Glen Ross". It's a nice script, too, by TV writer Doug Jung, with plenty of twists and turns.
As far as the acting goes, it's pretty solid all around. I can usually take or leave Ed Burns, but this role suits him. There's great supporting cast, too, including Paul Giamatti, doing fantastic work in a supporting role right before his career took off. Also starring Andy Garcia (some of his best work in years), Leland Orser, Morris Chestnut, Donal Logue, Luis Guzman, Tiny Lister, Brian Van Holt, Frankie G, and Louis Lombardi, who played Edgar Stiles in "24". But this movie belongs to Dustin Hoffman. He turns this role into his own personal playground. He hasn't been this fun to watch since his alcoholic lawyer in "Sleepers" or maybe even his titular pirate Captain in "Hook". This man is a national treasure and we should savor every performance he gives us. The only thing that drags this film down is Rachel Weisz. She's very beautiful, but not very good. I usually like her when she plays British but hate her when she plays American, and this is no exception. Her stock American accent is just plain hard to listen to. It's like a cheese grater on my sensitive ear drums.
But all in all, this film is a winner, especially for Dustin Hoffman.

Pacific Heights

Another film that curses itself by hiring a much better and more charismatic actor to play the villain than the protagonists. Matthew Modine is a terrible fucking actor, and Melanie Griffith, with her grating Minnie Mouse voice, just makes me want to punch her. Whereas Michael Keaton is one of the 50 greatest actors who has EVER LIVED. I'm serious. I know it's hard to compare him to, say, Richard Burbage, but I have a feeling he'd stack up quite favorably. In this film, he plays a psycho better than maybe anyone I've ever seen. His performance is subtle as hell one minute, deliciously over the top the next. By the end of the film, I was rooting for him to eviscerate Melanie Griffith and devour her entrails. Not sure if that's more because I liked him or because I hated her. I'm gonna go ahead and call it even.
This is a very good psychological thriller, well directed by John Schlesinger, who twenty years earlier gave us "Midnight Cowboy", and well written by Daniel Pyne, who would eventually go on to script the excellent thriller "Fracture" with Ryan Gosling and Anthony Hopkins. Unfortunately, the awful performances by Modine and Griffith drag the whole thing down and the film never reaches what it probably should have been. However, if you want to see a great actor doing great work, watch this movie for Michael Keaton and pray along with me that producers all over Hollywood find his phone number and give him the comeback he so richly deserves.

The Contract
The Contract(2006)

Your basic run-of-the-mill straight to DVD thriller ... except John Cusack and Morgan Freeman are in it. I hope they got paid a shitload of cash to make this generic cookie-cutter crap, but then again, how much cash could it have been? There wasn't enough in the budget for a decent dialogue doctor or to hire a single supporting actor that you've ever heard of. Cusack and Freeman are great, but that's to be expected from them. What I didn't expect was that the guy who directed "Driving Miss Daisy" apparently doesn't have a single actor out there who owes him a favor and who he could recruit to play one of the mercenaries or the FBI bitch or the damsel in distress. The Dad from "Life Goes On" was okay as the bumbling sheriff, but after that the pickings get really fucking slim. The only really cool scene in the movie is a hit and run filmed in a totally original and effective way. Other than that, wait for it on cable sometime.

The Number 23

There is a serious caveat when watching this film. If you are the kind of person who can buy into the whole "the number 23 is evil" thing, if you believe that there is seriously something eerie about the fact that the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 am (8+15=23) and the terrorist attack on the World Trace Center happened on September 11, 2001 (9+11+2+0+0+1=23) and that's it's not just an interesting coincidence, then you will like this movie a whole lot more than I did. Personally I think the whole number thing is nothing more than a load of intriguing hogwash. The movie's portending that all eerie events are somehow connected to the titular number just gets crazier and crazier and keeps reaching father and farther. Right about the time Carreya and his son start counting steps in a park and are somehow surprised with they come up with 23, I turned on the film and started rooting for it to suck. I wasn't disappointed.
However, there are some good points: Jim Carrey gets to show us a range that I didn't realize was part of his character spectrum. He really is one of the greatest actors of his generation.
And Joel Schumacher, a director who I will never forgive for ruining the Batman franchise, does some of his best work in years. The film has a great look, particularly when it skews into the alternate reality of the book. And I was surprised and satisfied when I found out the true identity of the author. But the ending is pure Hollywood optimistic schlock, and the whole idea the movie is based around is simply fucking ridiculous, so I really couldn't get behind this film at all.

Slow Burn
Slow Burn(2007)

All in all, a pretty good mystery. Not original, by any means, but still effective. None of the acting is spectacular, but all of it is solid. Some nice twists and turns in the story and a pretty cool false ending. If you're a fan of films like "Usual Suspects", give this one a shot.

Four Brothers

One of those films that I probably would have enjoyed a lot more had I not heard such effusive praise for it beforehand. At this point, I question the brain capacity of a lot of fucking people. The script is TERRIBLE. Not just bad, but motherfucking GOD AWFUL. The dialogue is cliche arrogant-ganster speak. The plot is completely fucked up. There is virtually no character development, and thus we don't give a shit about any of the major players. The whole fucking thing is just tired. John Singleton seems more concerned with shoehorning as many 1960s Motown hits as possible into every scene, rather than directing his actors or setting up a coherent storyboard.
Mark Wahlberg is the only actor of the the titular brothers. Andre 3000 is a musician, Tyrese is an underwear model and Garrett Hedlund, as far as I can tell, is a very good-looking retard. The only acting going on is by Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Inside Man", "Children of Men"), a classically trained British theater actor by trade. His performance as the villain is absolutely magnetic, complete with a dead-on American inner-city dialect.
Terrence Howard is totally wasted in a a role as a dectective.
There are a couple of nice action set-pieces: a car chase on icy roads, and a scene where a bunch of ski-masked assassins with automatic weapons lay siege to the brothers' home. Unfortunately, the terrible dialogue ruins the first scene and a cheap ploy for emotional impact ruins the second. (Can somebody tell me how a bullet to the shoulder and another to the leg results in a man spitting up blood, waiting just long enough to die so that his brothers can tell him not to.)
The ending is just fucking PREPOSTEROUS.
An impromptu boxing match between Wahlberg and Ejiofor that takes place at an ICE FISHING HOLE?!?!

Dark Water
Dark Water(2005)

A surprisingly effective supernatural thriller. Nicely directed by Walter Salles, who also helmed "The Motorcycle Diaries." Jennifer Connelly is very believable, but the film really only works because of its supporting cast. Pete Postlethwaite (Kobayashi in "Usual Suspects"), John C. Reilly ("Boogie Nights"), and Tim Roth ("Reservoir Dogs") are all fantastic character actors doing some fantastic character acting in some secondary roles. These parts could have been played by any number of actors of a lesser cailber. But these actors bring a certain life to these characters that buoy the entire film. Also, little Ariel Gade is cute as a button and a very good child actress.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

This movie is Die Hard with Gremlins. Vastly underrated.

The Incredibles

I just don't get animate kid's films. I wanted to like this one, but it was so damn predictable.

Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko(2001)

This movie changed the way I look at the world. That is the greatest compliment I have ever given any film, or indeed, any book, painting, piece of music or any work of art. I have never failed to be moved by this picture. Original, deep, brilliant, genius.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Overall, a good film. Johnny Depp is just weird. Some parts of his performance I liked, some parts not so much. But overall, very inspired work. The visuals were stunning, as with all Tim Burton films, and I liked what they did with the Oompa Loompas. I can't put my finger on it, but something bothered me about the script, and so the overall rating suffers. But if you're a Depp fan, this should be right up your alley.

About a Boy
About a Boy(2002)

Hugh Grant's best work to date. A surprisingly effective adaptation of a fantastic book by Nick Hornby.

Ocean's Eleven

I love this movie. It's just one of the slickest, coolest movies to come along in a very long time. All the parts are played with such panache, Soderbergh's direction and lenswork is fantastic and the editing is flatout brilliant. So is the "how-they-gonna-pull-this-off" script. Damn, this movie is so much FUN.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

A great film before Spielberg got his little P.C. claws into it for the reissue. The bike ride scene is an immortal one, a scene that will be referenced throughout the history of film. An beautiful piece of cinematic storytelling.

Sin City
Sin City(2005)

I love this movie. I will always love this movie.

Love Actually

Best. Romantic. Comedy. Ever. Seriously.
I hate romantic comedies, and I love this movie.


This is why I will always keep a place in my heart for Mel Gibson. No matter how crazy and anti-semitic he turns out to be, short of re-enacting the Holocaust, I will always love Mel for this film.
Greatest battle scenes ever committed to film. Patrick McGoohan is a fantastic villain. Angus MacFayden plays Robert the Bruce with a tortured soul. One of my favorite character actors, Brendan Gleeson ("Gangs of New York", "Troy", "Kingdom of Heaven", "28 Days Later") is fantastic as the loyal best friend Hamish. David O'Hara is great as the leader of the Irish contingent, as well as James Cosmo as the old guy who simply REFUSED TO DIE. Love that guy. Sophie Marceau is hot and French.
A wonderful supporting cast all around. But the reason this movie works is Mel. He deserved his best director Oscar, but should have at least been nominated for best actor. It's the best work I've ever seen him do. And that last scene:
"Cry Mercy."
Gets me every time.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Okay, first off, I really love Brad Pitt's body of work. I have for years. He's great in this, too. I really love Angelina Jolie's body. I have for years. It's great in this, too. But the plot is absoloutely preposterous, especially the ending. Doug Liman is a master director of action sequences (check out "The Bourne Identity" if you don't believe) and he sells this movie hard. Vince Vaughn is wasted in his small comedic role, and there is very little to no character development of anybody, including the most unobservant spies in the history of the world. But on the strength of Pitt's performance, Jolie's body and Liman's direction, this movie was able to keep my attention, while not being able to suspend my disbelief.

The Matrix
The Matrix(1999)

One of the most original ideas turned into one of the most perfectly realized films of all time. A sci-fi/action classic. As cool and jaw dropping as movies get.

Wedding Crashers

I honestly don't get the appeal.
P.S. Anybody else out there get the urge to punch Owen Wilson in his grossly mis-shapen nose whenever you see him onscreen? Nope? Just me?
Ah, well.

10 Things I Hate About You

10 things I hate about this movie:
1. Julia Stiles
2. Heath Ledger
3. Julia Stiles
4. Heath Ledger
5. Julia Stiles
6. Heath Ledger
7. Julia Stiles
8. Heath Ledger
9. Julia Stiles & Heath Ledger
10. Larry Miller

Saw II
Saw II(2005)

Not nearly as good as the first, but the ending is a stroke of genius.



I know I was.


Willem Dafoe makes this movie.
Tobey Maguire is fine as Peter Parker, but completely unbelievable as Spider-Man.


If you don't love this movie, you have no heart. Consult a physician immediately.

Austin Powers in Goldmember

Okay, the first one was pretty funny.
The second one recycled all the same jokes as the first, and thus, was not pretty funny.
The third recycled all the jokes from the second one which recycled all the jokes from the first one, and thus is a steaming pile of crap. Only Michael Caine makes this watchable.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

When I was a kid, this movie was the funniest thing in the history of the world, While some of the stuff doesn't translate to my now more mature sense of humor, I still laugh occasionally, which is amazing, considering I've seen the movie about a 1,000 times (995 times between the ages of 13 and 17.)

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

This movie blew me away. The visuals were spectacular and the child actors were all pretty good. The White Witch scared the crap out of me as a kid, and Tilda Swinton does a considerable justice to the role. The final battle scene was better than anything from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. One of my all time favorites.

Million Dollar Baby

I think this is an exceedingly well made film, but I didn't enjoy watching it at all.
Morgan Freeman does some great work and absolutely deserved his Oscar. Hilary Swank is very good here, too, but not nearly as good as she was in "Boys Don't Cry". I am impressed by her transformation and I admire her resolution in what must have been MONTHS of grueling training to get herself into shape for this role, but something is missing in her performance. I can't put my finger on it, but something is a little off. Anthony Mackie (who was excellent in "Half Nelson") and Jay Baruchel (proving he can actually act, and isn't simply a comedic stock character like in "Knocked Up") both give great supporting performances.
Clint Eastwood is a GREAT director, but he is a terrible actor. That's not to say I don't enjoy watching him on screen, but he's not an great actor. He's a great CHARACTER. He has no real range, but rather plays the same character in different occupations. Grizzled Boxing Trainer? Check. Grizzled Detective? Check. Grizzled Secret Service Agent? Check. Grizzled Gunfighter? Double Check. And now a Grizzled Boxing Trainer. He's always entertaining, always excellent, but never different. The script is by Paul Haggis, who also wrote and directed the execrable "Crash" and amazingly, this script is actually very good ... for the first hour and a half.
Then the film falls apart. When Swank suffers her ludicrous injury (oh, damn that stool for being there! damn that stool to hell!), the film goes from an against-all-odds surrogate father/daughter story to a cloying and manipulative tearjerker. Even when Haggis is at his most preachy and condescending, Eastwood and company still do great work, but they're not telling the same story anymore, and as a result, the film really suffers.

The Bourne Supremacy

Not as good as the first, but that just makes it the second best spy movie since Sean Connery was drinking vodka martinis.
The filmmakers do something in the first ten minutes of the film that proves they have GIGANTIC jeuvos. One of the biggest risks and out-of-left-field surprises that I can remember seeing on screen. From there, the film basically goes non-stop ... through martial arts battles, cloak-and-dagger thrills, and car chases through the middle of Moscow.
Matt Damon is great again as Bourne, and Brian Cox is fucking evil. Paul Greengrass ably takes the reins from Doug Liman, and Tony Gilroy's adapted screenplay is fast-paced and intelligent.

The Simpsons Movie

Basically just a really good, really long episode of the show. Better than any live-action comedy in the last five years. I smiled through the whole thing. Very funny at times, very touching at others. I actually teared up at one point, and I am not ashamed to say so.

Pitch Black
Pitch Black(2000)

A truly original, well made sci-fi/horror pic.

Once upon a Time in Mexico

Johnny Depp completely steals the show.

Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek(2005)

Completely revolutionized the slasher genre. The way the story is told is completely original and almost sheer genius. John Jarret is the freakiest loner with psychotic tendencies since Leatherface.


A great premise for a horror film. I referred to it as a Zombie Apocalypse film, but with ghosts. However, the film focused almost entirely on how the apocalypse started and not at all on what existence is like AFTER the apocalypse. Best shot of the film: main characters looking up as jumbo jet, all four engines aflame, crashes to earth, presumably because ghosts jumped out of the navigational instruments. But that occurs at the very tail end of the film.
The hour and twenty minutes preceding it is an often run-of-the-mill teeny-bopper scare fest. The frights are mostly telegraphed, but admittedly the ghosts do look pretty freaky.
The acting is non-descript. Boone from "Lost" needs John Locke around in order to be remotely interesting. I am unfamiliar with Christina Milian's work as a recording artist, but I hope it's better than her work as an actress or she'll find herself unemployed soon. And Kristen Bell, while being almost disgustingly hot, is not a great actress. She's adequate in this film and in everything else I've seen her in, but I shudder to think how she's going to handle her first major serious role.

Basically, this film is an outstanding core premise, poorly realized on film.

Smokin' Aces
Smokin' Aces(2007)

This movie is a gigantic cluster fuck. Way too much going on with not enough payoff.
Jeremy Piven does stellar work as the drugged out, sped up, broken down Aces Israel. He holds this film together as long as he possibly can. Aside from him, the best character acting in the film? Ben Affleck, who does his best work in years and then gets killed off in the first twenty minutes, along with Peter Berg. They're killed by three neo-Nazi leather bodice afficionados. Jason Bateman is in the film for like six-and-a-half seconds. Taraji Henson from "Hustle & Flow" is in love with Alicia Keys. Ryan Reynolds pulled off action hero in "Blade 3" but here he just looks out of place. Ray Liotta and Andy Garcia lend some acting cred to this cast but Garcia is unimpressive and Liotta grimaces all the way through this movie--not as a character choice, I think, but rather as a sign of regret for having agreed to doing this role as a favor to Joe Carnahan, who directed Liotta in the astoundingly better "Narc".
The story is convoluted and the twist ending is completely obvious from the first inklings, which would be okay if the movie didn't spell it out over and over again, hitting the audience over the head with it until the audience is lying in a twitching puddle ... and then the movie acts as if we're supposed to be shocked by it.


Is Pauly Shore dead yet?


This isn't a horror movie. It just isn't. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely scary. It delivers some genuine thrills and chills, but it's just not a horror movie. I suppose I should strike that and reverse it and say: It's NOT JUST a horror movie. It's also a remarkably well executed character-driven drama. John Cusack delivers his best work in years. That's not to say his recent performances have been subpar in anyway (check out "Identity" or "The Ice Harvest" if you think he's been slipping recently). But Cusack takes a role that might have gone to, I don't know, Bill Paxton or somebody and he acts the hell out of it, without ever verging into ham territory. It's a tour de force, man. I mean, he's alone on screen for like seven eighths of the film. He carries this thing on his back and shows some fantastic range. The back story the film gives his character is revealed little by little and Cusack makes you really care about this guy. The film is basically an extended waking nightmare and it is fucking freaky. The film goes a little off the rails for a while with an ill-advised false ending bit, but the true ending is so damn satisfying that you forgive the movie for this and all other indiscretions. Sam Jackson is in the movie, too, though I couldn't say why. I keep rooting for him to find another Jules Winfield; another great role in a great movie. He's been doing trash like "Freedomland" and "The Man" and "Revenge of The Sith" where he can't possibly rise above the material. ("Black Snake Moan" is a notable exception; he is terrific in a so-so film). You have to go back to "Unbreakable" to find Sam doing great work in a movie that's worth the effort.) Here's hoping Sam gets back on track.
Back to the film in question: The premise lacks originality, but the details are fresh and unexpected. (The scene where he attempts to escape the room by going out on the ledge will freak me out every time I see this thing.)I recommend this to everyone.

The Machinist

Were it not for Christian Bale's completely riveting performance, this would be the WORST psychological thriller I've ever seen.

I mean, it's basically "Fight Club". The main guy doesn't realize that his new friend is actually himself. Bored and tired by now, that device gets us to a payoff that is slightly redeeming. The last shots of the film are a flashback that shows us Bale's character from two years prior, and we can see what Bale looked like before he lost a REE-DONK-U-LOUS amount of weight for this role ... and then turned right around and bulked up to play "Batman." He is one of the greatest actors of this, or any other generation.

The Mighty Ducks

I just remember that Emilio Estevez was sentenced to coach the team as some kind of community service, and that there was a giant kid with attitude issues on the team and that something called the "Triple-Deke" saved the day. Also there was an actual NHL team named after this movie, which is like naming a Major League Baseball team after the Bad News Bears. This might as well have been a TV movie or a very special episode of Highway to Heaven or some shit. Blah.

The Flintstones

All right. The opening credits re-creation is pretty cool, but after that, things fall apart. The plot is terrible, and there is no real acting to speak of. John Goodman is perfectly cast as Fred Flintstone,but that's where it ends. Rick Moranis does a nice vocal impression of Barney, I guess. Oh, ang he's short. But then the what-the-fuck meter goes off the charts. When I think Betty Rubble, I think Rosie O'Donnell.
What's next? Ricki Lake as Judy Jetson?

Bridget Jones's Diary

One star for Hugh Grant. One-half star each for Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent. No stars for Renee Zellweger.
Renee Zellweger is worse than world hunger.


You know those movies that come along that look so bad, you say "You couldn't pay me to watch that movie."
Well it turns out, you can. I watched this film at work. Seven Dollars an hour, a two hour movie ... I got paid $14 to watch "Norbit."
It wasn't worth it.

Eddie Murphy just gave the performance of a lifetime (by all accounts) in "Dreamgirls", got nominated for an Oscar, WON a Golden Globe, and how does he capitalize off that honor. He makes "Norbit."
This movie is truly UN-funny. Nothing in it made me smile. That's kind of a bad sign for a comedy. If it makes you frown throughout the viewing of it, that is not a good thing for its status as a comedy. This isn't "Hotel Rwanda", I shouldn't be furrowing my brow in angst.

The best thing about the movie is that the fat suit technology is top of the line.


The best of the bunch.
BY FAR. Come one, when you first saw this, you were riveted. Admit it.
A truly original script by Leigh Whannel, tense direction by James Wan. Cary Elwes is deliciously over the top and Whannel proves an adept actor as well. Danny Glover plays crazy ex-cop better than I thought he would. Watching this character, I thought it was like if Riggs had been offed by some serial killer and Murtaugh just snapped and killed the murderer in the courtroom, somehow got off on a temporary insanity plea, and went in a life of insane seclusion.
Michael Emerson (Ben in "Lost") is great in a twisted cameo.
And that ENDING.
The sequels get farther and farther from the spirit of the first, going more toward torture pornos than psychological thrillers. But the original will stand up as a truly great work in the horror genre.

Ernest Goes to Jail

Truly inspired movie-making.

Seriously, though. I will always have a spot reserved in my heart for good ol' Ernest P. Worrell. I watched this video so much as a kid, the tape broke down and my parents had to buy me a new one.


Best Movie Title Ever.

Perhaps the most preposterous Bond film (it's either this one or "Live and Let Die"). Mad Russians try to take over the world using ... a satellite death ray? ... genetically enhanced super soldiers? ... an arsenal of stolen nuclear warheads? ... Nope. A diamond encrusted Easter Egg.

Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

This movie is just so damned odd. It's a work of genius, but a work of mad genius, like Dr. Frankenstein's Monster or the George Foreman grill.

Peter Sellers is one of the greatest creative minds of the twentieth century. Kubrick ain't half bad, either.

Jerry Maguire

Not half the movie people thought it was ten years ago. Nice script by Cameron Crowe, a fine performance by Wacko McCrazypants (aka Tom Cruise). Cuba Gooding Jr. probably didn't deserve his Oscar, but it was sure fun to watch him jump around like a maniac when he won. Although, when you think about it, has anyone ever done less with the clout of an Oscar? Cuba, Cuba, Cuba. WTF? "Rat Race"? "Norbit"? "Snow Dogs?" "Instinct?" Remember "Instinct"? "Chill Factor" with Skeet Ulrich? "Boat Trip"? motherfucking "BOAT TRIP"? And now "Daddy Day Camp"? Come on, Cuba. You're better than this.
But I digress. The worst thing about this film and the thing that ruins it for all time, (aside from the little retarded boy with the glasses) is that this is the film that gave us Rene Zellweger. Think about it. If she's not in this film, doing her little scrunchy-face routine and being had at hello, she doesn't ruin "Cinderella Man." Maybe the insufferable "Bridget Jones" movies would never even have been made, and an entire generation of young men would have been spared the indignity of having to sit through a date with a lovely young lady, watching these films and gritting their teeth through the pain, in a vain effort to increase their chances of getting to second base. Renee Zellweger is worse than global warming.


Okay, can somebody tell me what the hell this was supposed to be? At its best, its a "Fugitive" style man-on-a-mission-to-prove-his-innocence-and-bring-the-real-killer-to-justice thriller. At its worst, its a series of deleted scenes from a direct to DVD Steven Seagal flick.
On this movie's Facebook page, in their "More Like This" section, they nominate the Bourne Trilogy as being somehow similar, indicating that if you liked those films, you'll like this one. That is a lie.
Comparing "The Bourne Identity" to "Shooter" is like comparing "Platoon" to "Delta Farce."
It's written by Jonathan Lemkin, who coincidentally started his career by riding the coattails of future "Bourne Identity" scribe, writing partner Tony Gilroy. The two co-wrote "Devil's Advocate." (See my review of that film for my interpretation of how that project might have gone.)
Lemkin adapted the script from a novel by Stephen Hunter, and I swear he must have lifted whole CHAPTERS from the book and inserted them verbatim into the script. I say this because parts of the movie are exponentially smarter than others.
Wahlberg's character is ex-special forces, and he knows some handy things.
He field-dresses a couple of bullet wounds while going through a car wash? Clever.
Wahlberg meets with an elderly man who may or may not have been part of the plot to assassinate Kennedy? Intriguing.
Ex-Special Forces sniper trains incompetent rookie FBI agent how to be an expert sniper by having him shoot watermelons for fifteen minutes?
Most things are like that in this movie. Plus, there's literally five minutes of decent dialogue in a two hour movie.
It's directed by Antoine Fuqua, one of our finest (watch "Replacement Killers," "King Arthur," "Tears of the Sun", and "Training Day", then tell me if you disagree), this film is absolutely beneath him. I almost think he directed this movie on a dare. Or like he lost a Superbowl bet or something.

Anonymous Buddy: "If the Bears win, I have to go to work in a dress, but if the Colts win, you have to direct the worst script that's been across your desk all year. You know, that script that was so bad you called up people and read parts of it to them over the phone until you were both crying with laughter. That script."
Antoine: "Man, Peyton Manning ain't SHIT. You're on."

Poor Antoine. He never should have taken that bet.
Seriously, some of this shit is so bad, it really is laughable. Then you stop laughing and start throwing things at your TV.
For example, when the bad guys are choosing the law-enoforcement officer who will kill the ex-special forces sniper and thus play the hero in felling the would-be presidential assassin, why do they pick the oldest, fattest beat cop on the entire Philadelphia police force? Was Chief Wiggum not available?

When you're Danny Glover and you've basically just told the Attorney General of the United States to go fuck himself and are meeting with your partner in crime (a blatantly Cheney-esque Montana senator) to drink brandy and cackle over your victory in ruining the good name of a vengeful ex-Special Forces sniper, be sure to do it in a remote and poorly guarded cabin where said ex-Special Forces sniper can easily find you and SHOOT YOU THROUGH THE FLOORBOARDS.
God, what the fuck?
The thing is, Mark Wahlberg isn't terrible in this, but the script is so damned awful that his performance can't help but suffer. The other acting is pretty subpar as well, but nothing can touch Danny Glover. Can anybody tell me, did he have a stroke sometime in the past year that I was not aware of? He speaks with this weird over-the-top lisp. This is either Mr. Glover's own unfortunate speech impediment or a wildly misguided character choice. I mean, he sounds like Kirk Douglas with peanut butter on the roof of his mouth. I think, at this point, Danny Glover may actually, finally, mercifully be too old for this shit.


Largely indecipherable and hard to follow. The premise is interesting, but the film seems to lose its focus at times. Jason Flemyng (of "Lock Stock" fame) does his best to keep things interesting, but he struggles with his American accent and he wears a neutral mask through three-quarters of the movie. Peter Stormare has always been a personal favorite of mine, but here he seems to be improvising all his lines--dangerous fodder for a coked-up German.

Notes on a Scandal

One of the greatest character pieces I have seen, featuring the two best female performances in ten years. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are fucking ELECTRIC. If you are an actor, it just doesn't get any better than this. While I really enjoyed Helen Mirren's performance in "The Queen", I have to say that Dench was at least her equal, and if I were in the Academy, the Oscar would be resting on Dame Judi's mantle. Countless apologies to Helen Mirren. There is another story entirely when it comes to the Supporting Actress category. The title of that story is "Fuck Jennifer Hudson." The lady has a set of pipes that may be unparalelled, but she's a singer and not an actress. I admit I have not seen "Dreamgirls" nor do I plan on it (I don't do musicals), but I guarantee you, there is NO WAY POSSIBLE that Jennifer Hudson is even half as good an actress as Cate Blanchett. She might be a better singer, but she is definitely not a better actress. Blanchett is fabulous in this film, and deserved an Oscar for her work. She is the best actress in the world under the age of FIFTY, and she deserves a trophy case full of little golden men. Commendations also go to Bill Nighy, an actor who I was lucky enough to see onstage a few years back and one who is swiftly becoming a shining beacon of world-class character acting. You know what, not only was he overlooked by the Academy for a nomination, he should have won the damn thing. As much as I loved Alan Arkin, we all know that was a sentimental choice. Arkin was fun to watch, but Bill Nighy was just bloody fantastic.
The brilliant script is by Patrick Marber, far outshining his own adaptation of his stage play "Closer."
Young Irishman Andrew Simpson has a bright acting future ahead of him, and Brit TV vet Richard Eyre shows he has an intuitive director's eye that eluded him on the sadly unsatisfying "Stage Beauty." (Though the casting director probably deserves most of the blame; Claire Danes is a 17th century english actress my FOOT.) Eyre paces the film well and knows exactly how to film actors working their magic. A director with a heavier hand might have squashed these amazing performances and severely damaged a great film.

A question came to mind while watching this film: Why can't America make a movie like this? And almost before I got through thinking the question, I had the answer, of course. There aren't two American actresses who could ever possibly pull this off. There just aren't. Maybe in fifteen years, you could cast Meryl Streep in the Judi Dench role, but there isn't a single American actress of comparable age-range and type who can match Cate Blanchett. Julia Roberts sucks. Gwyneth Paltrow blows. Sandra Bullock? Don't make me laugh. Because I'm also throwing up. And nobody wants to laugh while they're throwing up. It's just unpleasant.


Another "Exorcist" knock-off. Some cheap thrills and a couple of decent performances from Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne.

The Devil's Advocate

Pacino takes huge fucking bites out of the scenery in this flick, more clever than I expected it to be. Keanu Reeves isn't bad, either, but this is the film that made me believe in Charlize Theron. Her descent into madness is utterly disturbing and totally terrifying, without ever going over the top. When I saw this film, I thought, "That chick is going to win an Oscar someday." I didn't think she'd have to get so ugly to do it, though.
Nice direction by Taylor Hackford. The script is co-written by Tony Gilroy ("Bourne Identity") and Jonathan Lemkin ("Shooter"). That's like Tennesee Williams co-writing a play with a rock.

Scene from the writing room:
Jonathan: "Hey, Tony. What if we had the Pacino character walk around with a red pitchfork all the time and we could give him horns! That way we can kind of tip off the audience that he's actually the devil while still being subtle. How bout that?"
Tony: "Well, we COULD do that. Or, we could do something else and achieve the same effect. We could name him after John Milton."
Jonathan: "Who?"
Tony: "The guy who wrote 'Paradise Lost'."
Jonathan: (Blank Stare)
Tony: You know, "Paradise Lost"?
Jonathan: (Blank Stare)
Tony: Seventeenth Century Epic Poem? About the garden of eden where Adam and Eve are corrupted by Satan, who is portrayed as a largely sympathetic character? You know, THAT "Paradise Lost"?
Jonathan: "Is there any more pot?"

Reign of Fire

Wow. I mean, Wow. They just don't make post-apocalyptic dragon movies like they used to. Christian Bale is great in everything, goddammit and Matthew McConaughey is a whole different level of hardcore.
Did I mention it's a post-apocalyptic DRAGON movie?

The Net
The Net(1995)

"I know! Let's make a movie about this newfangled thing called the "Interweb" and let's cast the girl who drove the bus in that hit movie from last summer. We can't go wrong!"

Guess what? They did.


Tim Curry's performance is a work of comedic genius, and the entire supporting case is largely brilliant as well, especially Christopher Lloyd and Madeline Kahn. The script is some of the best comic writing in film history and the direction is solid. One of my favorite comedies of all time.


Steve Guttenberg is in this movie. So is Wilford Brimley. I wonder if they were friends. When Guttenberg's career went down the toilet, and the bank foreclosed on his house and his wife left him for the gardener, did Guttenberg show up on Wilford's doorstep, filthy and unshaven, stinking of booze and failure, shrieking something along the lines of "I GOT NO PLACE ELSE TO GO!"...?
And if so, did Wilford invite him in for a bowl of quaker oatmeal and a lecture about the dangers of diabetes? And maybe Stevie Goots (as his friends call him) crashed on the couch in Wilford's basement for a few weeks, finally overstaying his welcome to the point that Wilford's wife gave him the ultimatim "Either he goes or I go."...? And what was Wilford's response, you ask? Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion of "Stevie Goots and The Wilf-Meister." Same Stevie Goots Time, same Stevie Goots channel.

The Ghost and the Darkness

Val Kilmer tries for half a scene to attempt an Irish accent then gives up. Michael Douglas OWNS this film and then gets eaten half way through it. That pissed me off. Oh, I'm sorry. *Spoiler Alert* I should have said that earlier.
The lions are cool, but the movie never recovers from Douglas's death.

Romancing the Stone

Remember when Michael Douglas was the apotheosis of cool instead of just Mr. Zeta-Jones? I must have watched this movie a hundred times before I was twelve and once since.

Clash of the Titans

Childhood memories. Sometimes I wish that CGI didn't exist so that the magic of stop-motion animation still existed.

History of the World---Part I

Sometimes I really think there's a thirteen year old boy wearing a Mel Brooks suit that makes these movies.


Fun for all the wrong reasons.


Hitchcock at his most Hitchcockian.

Forever Young

Blah blah blah. Mel Gibson is a frozen astronaut or something. Blah Blah Blah. Jamie Lee Curtis is a MILF. No shit. Blah de bloo. Elijah Wood is annoying. Blah de Blee. Whatever.

Dances With Wolves

It was all right, I guess. Nice big scope and everything, but the most interesting thing about Costner in this movie is his fucking mustache.


Cute, I guess. Tom Hanks is fun.

Con Air
Con Air(1997)

Ah. Remember back to the time in the 90s when action movies were opulent and over-the-top and gratuitous AND WELL WRITTEN???
This is one of the best of its time. Great actors making wildly imaginative character choices ("There was this one girl. I drove through three states wearing her head as a hat.") I truly love this movie. This is when the words "A Jerry Bruckheimer Production" were something to look forward to, not meant to strike dread into your heart. Nic Cage carries the film, but the only reason it works as well as it does is John Malkovich's performance as Cyrus the Virus. "My own proclivities are well-known and often lamented facts of penal lore.") A lesser actor would have stopped this film dead. Thank god for John Malkovich.

The Bourne Identity

TRULY TRANSCENDENT SPY FLICK. Matt Damon kicks ass and takes names. Some of the best close-quarters-combat you will ever see on screen, as well as a FANTASTIC car chase. The best part is, the film never once leaves the realm of reality. Everything that happens you believe could happen in real life. Damon is a great hero, Franka Potente is a great love interest, Chris Cooper is a great villain. Brian Cox is great in a supporting role, Clive Owen is great in an early cameo. Great script, great direction. Just Fucking GREAT.

King Arthur
King Arthur(2004)

If you've only seen this movie in the form of the original theatrical release, then please give the Director's Cut a shot on DVD. It is infinitely better. This really is the second best film of its kind, trailing only "Braveheart". I really do love this film. The story is well thought out, if a little cookie cutter, but there are set-pieces to the script that border on creative genius. I'm speaking of the frozen lake sequence--utterly original and totally fucking badASS. Antoine Fuqua is one of the most talented and most prolific action directors working today (it wasn't HIS fault "Shooter" sucked).
Clive Owen is great in everything, and this is no exception. But the supporting cast of Knights of the Round Table, led by the always inimitable Ray Winstone as the bear-like Bors, is the backbone of this hack-and-slash gem. And Stellan Skarsgard is as bad-ass a villain as this genre has ever seen. Keira Knightley, while gorgeous as ever, is slightly unbelievable as a "warrior princess." Her skinny little arms could never operate a long bow. But the swordplay is magnificent throughout. The battle scenes are second to only "Braveheart" in their scope and execution. Bravo.

Sleepless in Seattle

Manipulative and condescending. Even Tom Hanks can't save this dreck.


CLASSIC. What is lost from memory is what fantastic acting work is done by both Travolta and Cage, playing the other actor playing the other character playing the first character. Let's see Olvier and Gielgud try THAT.

Beverly Hills Cop II

Tony Scott directing Axel Foley. Nuff said.

The Rock
The Rock(1996)

Back when Michael Bay had cache.
Nic Cage is great, Sean Connery kicks ass, and Ed Harris takes the honorable villain stock character to new heights. The script crackles and the action is well-staged. One of the best in the history of its genre.

Peter Pan
Peter Pan(1953)

One of my all-time top-three animated films of all time. Captain Hook is one of the best characters in Disney History.

Kerd ma lui (Born to Fight)

From the guys who made "Ong-Bak" and "The Protector", yet sadly, uber-man Tony Jaa is nowhere to be seen. However, Dan Chupong proves to be a competent alternative. While not exactly superhuman, he is pretty damn fearless. This film contains some of the most dangerous stunts ever achieved on film. Just watch the opening truck-chase sequence if you don't believe me. The story, revolving around a ragtag group of charity-minded athletes defending a rural village from Communist Rebels hellbent on launching a nuclear weapon at central Bangkok, is just as ludicrous as it sounds, but it provides for some excellent bicycle-kicking of coconuts at machine-gunners. Seriously, the stunt work alone is worth four stars.

The Protector (Tom yum goong) (Warrior King)

Best Martials Arts movie I've ever seen.
Tony Jaa isn't human.
He just ISN'T. I am inflexible on this. I firmly believe that he is either a race of super-human or a prototype for an elite force of cyborg soldiers, escaped from a secret military laboratory and turned sentient with a desire to kick ass on screen. Because that's what he does.
Highlights from this BRILLIANT film:

1. Tony Jaa fights a platoon of GIANT MEN by lashing elephant femurs to his forearms. This is exactly what it sounds like.
2. Tony Jaa fights a Brazilian Capoeira expert in a room that is simultaneously on fire and submerged in six inches of water. This is twice as cool as you think it will be. Trust me.
3. Tony Jaa fights around seventy men in matching black suits, many of them armed with knives, and breaks at least one limb in at least two places on the body of each of them. This is just breathtaking. Goddamn breathTAKING.
4. There is a four minute steadicam shot, one continuous take following Tony Jaa up a large spiral staircase through wave after wave of unfortunate stuntmen. It is the single most epic and inspired scene in Martial Arts film HISTORY. Period. There is no argument.
Everything that Tony Jaa ever does, I will watch.

Ong-Bak (Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior)

Tony Jaa fights so many men and jumps through so many tiny places. Tony Jaa isn't human.


Non-Stop Action. Seriously. Non-Stop.
Statham is great in the role, and I love Taylor and Neveldine's style as a directing team.
The premise for the film might be the greatest EVER for an actioner, and the dialogue feels authentic. There's some character development on the fly, but mostly this is just relentless stylish action, accompanied by one of the best soundtracks in recent memory.
Dwight Yoakam impresses again in another solid supporting role, and Efren Ramirez (Pedro from "Napoleon Dynamite") co-stars in his first dramatic role as Statham's gay sidekick, which isn't nearly as off-putting as that sounds.

Transporter 2

It's like some producer saw the first one and said "Not bad. But they need more explosions and CGI car-chase-stunts and ludicrous gunplay and a model wearing a garter belt and dual-wielding silenced Uzi's. Also, let's cast Matthew Modine in it."
They just took the first and threw a whole bunch of money at it making a shit action flick instead of a reality based martial-arts adventure.
What was so great about the first one was the hand-to-hand combat, done entirely without wires or trick photography. This one has significantly less combat and it's not nearly as good as the stuff in the first. (Remember the extended fight scenes in the Bus Depot? Sheer Brilliance.) Fuck Hollywood for ruining a good thing yet again. The only real reason to watch this film is for the "Lock Stock" reunion between Jason Statham and Jason Flemyng.

Dog Day Afternoon

God, what a film. Pacino is ridiculously good in this, and John Cazale ... we hardly knew ye. Just a brilliant piece of artistry.


They should just call this movie "Peter O'Toole".
Peter O'Toole is Peter O'Toole in "Peter O'Toole".
I'm struggling with whether or not Forest Whitaker deserved the best actor Oscar over him. It's really close. O'Toole is one of the greatest actors of the past century, and I absolutely love him in this. His performance is so subtle and complex, he absolutely wins you over from the very beginning and holds you rapt in his elderly-man-hands for the every frame of the rest of the film. If you are an actor, or simply love great performances, watch this film and learn something.


Would be a better film, were it not based on an infinitely better play. What confounds me is that playwright Patrick Marber voluntarily mangled his own brilliant play into this piece of inferior Hollywood schlock. Cate Blanchett was originally supposed to play the Julia Roberts part and when I think of that, I almost want to cry. Roberts is by far the worst thing about this movie, and not even half the actress that Blanchett is. Not to mention that her character is supposed to be fucking BRITISH. Maybe Julia's terrible performance would not be so evident were the other actors not at the top of their game. Clive Owen is just fucking AMAZING as Larry, and Jude Law is pretty good, too. Natalie Portman does her best work since "The Professional".

Event Horizon

This movie is so terrible-good. Wow. That glimpse into hell still freaks me out to this day.

The Nutty Professor

So many fart jokes, so little time.

The Scorpion King

I enjoyed myself watching this movie. It doesn't take itself too seriously, unlike "The Mummy Returns".

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

This movie never loses its appeal. I first saw it at age 8. It was the greatest movie I had ever seen. I watched it a few hundred times over the next ten years. I loved it every time. I caught it on cable like a month ago and it still holds up today. Great writing, great filmmaking from Robert Zemeckis. Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd deliver great performances. I'm going to watch this movie with my kids someday and love it all over again.


The first time I saw this movie was in the theaters with a bunch of friends and I don't think I ever stopped laughing. Of course, I was baked. So ...
Then I watched it on DVD with my family and I can't remember laughing once. Maybe this is just one of those movies that loses a lot with repeated viewings. But maybe also it's just a shit movie. I'm gonna go with somewhere in between.

The Fast and the Furious

Vin Diesel tries to be bad ass and winds up looking constipated. Paul Walker sucks, as per usual. Cars go fast. Kind of fun, but not really.

What Lies Beneath

Nicely Hitcock-ian. Harrison Ford is great. I saw the ending coming from quite a ways off, but I still appreciate the way Zemeckis told the story.

Almost Famous

A good movie. Not worth all the ridiculous hype it got, but I love Crudup and Jason Lee as the feuding rockers and Philip Seymour Hoffman is fabulous yet again in a cameo role. The music is great, too. The kid doesn't bother me that much, either, but I still don't get the Kate Hudson hype. I worked with her on a movie ten years ago and she was a total BITCH. She was decent in this, but if she wasn't Goldie Hawn's daughter, she wouldn't have a career.

Little Miss Sunshine

I really believe it's impossible not to love this movie. That anyone who doesn't like it has to be like a Nazi or some kind of android programmed without human emotions. I know these people exist, and I know that most of them are not in fact nazis or androids, and I know that some of them are my close friends and I respect their right to a dissenting opinion, but I really feel sorry for these people.

Black Snake Moan

Southern-fried and sweaty 70s-style exploitation drama where incest-induced-nymphomania is treated as a kind of minor case of demonic possession. Weird. I understand the symbolism. Chains. Father figure. An retired blues guiarist named Lazarus metaphorically rises from the dead to play again. I get all that. But something's still a little off. I mean, Sam Jackson is fantastic, and deserves some major props for keeping this movie watchable all by himself. Christina Ricci, on the other hand, struggles valiantly to overcome what must have been some crazy direction from the used-to-be-talented Craig Brewer:

"OK, Christina, here's where your sexual addiction manifests itself in the form of you clawing at yourself like there are bugs crawling inside your skin and you have the world's worst case of chicken pox and you slept in a big patch of poison ivy and you're jonesing for a fix ... basically, you're really itchy, okay? So scratch yourself A LOT. Also, whimper like a lost puppy. No, no. Not like that. Like a, Like a, Like a REALLY SEXY lost puppy who's just on the verge of having an orgasm. Yeah. Like that. That's great. OK, EVERYBODY! I THINK WE'RE READY TO SHOOT THIS THING!!! Hey, Christina, did I mention how you're a nympho because your daddy used to touch you inappropriately? Yeah. I know. I am so original. Thank you, Christina. Hey, we're sill on for sex later, right? Great."

I know I'm piling on Brewer, here, but I want to stress that this was not a bad film. Just uneven. Maybe I just expected too much from his follow up to "Hustle & Flow," a much better film.
It does have one notable thing in common with that earlier offering, the soundtrack is WONDERFUL. First Rap, now Blues. I hope Brewer does Polka next.
Seriously though. Why is Justin Timberlake in here? I'm assuming the producers added him to generate buzz and add to the box office. But the movie made less than $10 million domestically and failed to recoup its modest budget. How much less could it possibly have made without JT's shitty acting? Is that even worth it? Well, I guess he can't be all bad. He DID bring sexy back, after all.


DUDE, this movie is manly. What a premise, so well done, this movie rises above its origins and becomes a truly great film.
Arnold and crew create an atmosphere of genuine terror and testosterone; this is how a REAL MAN fears for his life. John McTiernan is the late-80s-man-movie-magician with this flick, "Die Hard" and "Hunt for Red October".


Turn off your brain and enjoy the ride.
This is definitely one of those so-ridiculous-it's-GREAT kinds of films. Arnold kills SO MANY dudes in this flick, including the guy who played the psycho villain gang-leader in "Road Warrior" as a chainmail tanktop and fingerless glove wearing Australian mercenary and uber-Jew Dan Hedaya as a South American dictator. Right about the time Arnold kills a guy by dropping him on the leg of an overturned coffee table, you know what kind of movie you're watching and you either settle in for the duration with a smile on your face ... or you throw your remote at the tv and gouge out your own eyes.
Me? I smile and settle in everytime.

Robin Hood
Robin Hood(1973)

Right up there with my all time favorite kid's movies, and thus it gets the highest rating possible for an animated film: 4 out of 5 stars.
When I was six I WANTED TO BE Little John. I like my coffee iced and blended and my animated animals anthropomorphic.

The Secret of NIMH

My favorite animated movie from my childhood. So damn dark for a kid's movie. I particularly like Dom DeLuise as Jeremy the clumsy crow.

The Land Before Time

Okay. True story. I hadn't seen this movie since I was like eleven, and I remembered having loved it back then, and then I wound up catching the end on cable a couple weeks ago. I remember every word of it. Like I wasn't able to predict what was going to happen next, but as they were saying things, I realized I could say the lines along with them.
Thus I have to give it a high rating for a kid's movie.

An American Tail

I actually like Don Bluth's animation more than Disney's in a lot of cases. Fievel is undeniably cute, but kid's movies just don't do it for me anymore.

Fantasia 2000

Beautiful to watch but lacking any real substance.

Days of Thunder

Tony Scott's worst film. Tries to be Top Gun on a NASCAR track and just winds up being a shitty fucking movie. Robert Duvall tries his damnedest, but even he can't rise above the material.

Good Will Hunting

One of my favorites: This movie reminds me of my freshman year in college. Good times, good times.
Anyhow, Matt Damon is utterly magnetic in this role, and Ben Affleck does his best work ever. That scene where they're drinking beers on the jobsite and Affleck tells Damon he just wants him to disappear and go off and live a better life. They don't come much better than that. Williams is great, but his Boston accent is terrible and probably shouldn't have been attempted. That said, he absolutely deserved his Oscar, and so did Damon and Affleck for their damn fine screenplay. It's the reason the whole thing works.

The Ninth Gate

Just great character choices by Johnny Depp in this.

Shrek the Third

Same old thing recycled over again.
I mean, I smiled a lot, but I don't really recall laughing ... except at the Led Zeppelin moment (you'll know it when you see it). Otherwise, just a cute but ineffectual comedy.

Live Free or Die Hard

Listen. The words "Die Hard" shouldn't even remotely be associated with this movie. If you are as big a fan of the first three as I was; if you believe that All Action Movies owe a debt to John McClane; that the first three weren't just great action movies, they were great fucking FILMS, then do yourself a favor and DON"T SEE THIS MOVIE.
If you value the movies in this franchise as equal to all other action movies, then you will probably really enjoy it, provided you can turn off your brain for two hours. The first three had three of the smartest action-movie-scripts of all time, with original, by Jeb Stuart and Steve DeSouza, being a work of staggering genius. This one was written by some chode named Mark Bomback, a hack whose sole major credit is the terrible Robert DeNiro evil-cloned-kid-thriller "Godsend". The first and the third were directed by John McTiernan, a great filmmaker, while the second was directed by Renny Harlin who has proved his action-movie-mettle on "Cliffhanger" and "Long Kiss Goodnight". This one was directed by Len Wiseman whose only credits are the ridiculous vampire-vs.-werewolf "Underworld" flicks. The first three had great supporting casts featuring such actors as Samuel L. Jackson, Dennis Franz, William Atherton, Bonnie Bedelia, Graham Greene, Paul Gleason, Reginald VelJohnson, Alexander Godunov, Robert Davi and Fred Dalton Thompson. The supporting cast in "Live Free" is underwhelming and untalented for the most part. Cliff Curtis and Zeljko Ivanek are two of our most gifted character actors, but they are wasted in a couple of generic FBI roles.
Kevin Smith is in this movie for some reason, and nobody seems to be able to explain why. Justin Long is actually very good as the hacker sidekick; he's funny and irrascible without being annoying. His part is also the best written, but he never should have been in the movie in the first place. John McClane with a comedy sidekick? ARE YOU HIGH? As far as villains go, "Die Harder" had William Sadler and John Amos, who served admirably but were saddled with some fairly predictable motives and choices. The first and third movies in the series were absolutely blessed: Two of the best actors in the world playing two of the greatest villains in the history of cinematic storytelling: Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons as the Gruber brothers. Rickman's Hans is a notch or two above Irons's Simon, but Simon is a hundred notches about most other action villains--including Timothy Olyphant's Gabriel in this movie. Cold, yes. Calculating, sure. But intimidating? Not in the least. I realized during the viewing of this movie that I've been giving Olyphant a free pass for years, simply because he's on "Deadwood", playing an intriguing character on a show I love. But I now see that Olyphant isn't a very good actor. He just isn't. He makes no imaginative choices, he exhibits no range in either his physical or vocal tendencies, and he seems to be playing the same character in every damn thing he does. "My God," I thought to myself. "Is he the new Jason Patric?" You know what, he just might be. I still root for Olyphant, and I hope he gets the right role for him to show his stuff. But if he fucks up playing Agent 47 in the Hitman movie, I will wash my hands of him for good. Stay tuned for my reaction to his henchmen, Spiderboy and Ninja Bitch.
The only thing that qualifies this as a "Die Hard" movie is Bruce Willis. Thank God for him. He's still John McClane, and McClane still kicks ass, but it's like John McClane in some kind of bizarro fourth-dimension. A dimension in which the other law enforcement officers are complete boobs, supportive and incompetent; where the villain, while brilliant and driven is rather ineffectual; where the villain's henchmen are either X-Men or Bond baddies (I almost expected McClane to have to fight Oddjob at somepoint.) And here is the worst thing about the movie: the henchmen. Gabriel apparently has hired the Prince of Persia and Lady DeathStrike to be his henchmen. Some acrobatic Frenchman actually runs up walls and Hong Kong import Maggie Q beats the holy ever-loving FUCK out of John McClane, then gets hit by a car at full speed and this just makes her angry. Is she SHE-HULK? Fuck you, movie. What makes the Die Hard franchise so great is that John McClane is just a ordinary good guy, outnumbered by a lot of ordinary bad guys. He doesn't fight comic book villains and harrier jets. He just doesn't. And if you can't figure that out from watching the first three movies, then you are a retard.
The producers, wanting to get their grubby little hands on as much money as possible, re-cut this movie down to a PG-13. It looks like the finished the final edit like two days before it opened. The sound dubbing is AWFUL, the editing choppy, and the dialogue seems unnatural for such intense situations. The movie isn't entirely without merit. There are some great stunt sequences, but they're all given away in the trailer. The way McClane dispenses with the villain one of the more bad-ass scenes in recent memory and it simply must be seen to be believed, but this movie isn't nearly good enough to deserve it. Wait for the inevitable R-rated DVD release.

Hustle & Flow

Wow. I hate rap, and I love this movie. Terrence Howard is fucking magnetic, and Anthony Anderson is slowly making the transition from the comedy shitpile (i.e. "Kangaroo Jack" and that "Baby Daddy" movie) to a damn fine dramatic character actor. Not to mention, Taraji Henson and Taryn Manning are both outstanding as his "hoes" (I thnk that's how you spell it. I don't really speak Street; because, you know, I'm a honky.) Despite being a fellow white boy, Craig Brewer creates a voice for his characters that is steeped in the oppression and poverty of the inner-city black culture. He's like if Eminem went to film school. Brewer is an immensely talented young filmmaker, and his work will always be on my radar from here on out.

Die Hard: With a Vengeance

Sam Jackson is a great addition to the trilogy and Jeremy Irons is a fantastic villain. This is where the franchise should have ended.

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear

Not nearly as funny as the first, but Leslie Nielsen remains the master of spoof comedy.


Jessica Love Hewitt has nice breasts. That is the only positive thing I can say about this film.


Any film co-starring the ATROCIOUS Tea Leoni automatically gets a a one star deduction. Adam Sandler needs to keep making films like this, because amazingly, he is a talented and skilled actor. Unfortunately, for every "Punch Drunk Love" and "Reign Over Me", there are three pieces of shit like "Click" and "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry". Some story elements irritated me, but overall, not a bad film made better by Sandler's performance. Still, Tea Leoni is SO fucking annoying that she ruins every scene she's in.

The Boondock Saints

Okay, I like this movie. A lot. Mostly for super-crazy Willem Dafoe. But I have no idea how it has gained the rabid cult following that it has. A nice little independent crime film, but come on, folks. Really?

Stephen King's It

Nicely realized Stephen King miniseries featuring Tim Curry as the creepiest clown in Christendom.


Not bad. Not particularly great either. The acting is solid, especially from Thomas Jane as Stander and Dexter Fletcher (Soap in "Lock Stock") and David O'Hara (the Irishman in "Braveheart") as the members of his gang. But the ending kinda blows and the film gets redundant. Still, the soundtrack is great and the script shows moments of occasional brilliance. Overall, the film feels like a brave attempt, and unfortuante failure at making a "Bruckheimer Arthouse Picture".

Seraphim Falls

Pierce Brosnan is FANTASTIC in this film. I had always liked him as an on-screen personality, but up until this point, I had never realized what a damn fine ACTOR he is. Liam Neeson smolders with vengeance and a nice supporting cast of bounty hunters, led by the always solid Michael Wincott, is equally up to the task. I love how you go through three-quarters of the movie without knowing why Neeson is chasing Brosnan, and the movie's steady pacing never lets up ... until the end. I feel like everyone who has seen this will understand when I ask: Really? Indian in a Top Hat? Really? Angelica Huston selling snake oil? Whole movie falls apart? REALLY? Apparently so. I have no idea why the script takes such a drastic and unexplained turn towards the surreal, but it kinda killed my buzz--not to mention what had been my great enthusiasm for this film. My final rating: 5 stars for the first two hours; 1 star for the last 20 minutes. Still, worth a watch for any western buff or for fans of Neeson and Brosnan. Form your own opinions, but to me, it was the most WTF ending I have ever seen.

Scent of a Woman

Okay, obviously Pacino is amazing in this film and completely deserved his Oscar. But I watched this film for the first time a few days ago, and you know who steals the show? Philip Seymour Hoffman. Seriously. I had no idea he was even IN this movie, and he blows everybody out of the water. Poor Chris O'Donnell. He like literally has two scenes where he's not acting opposite two of the best actors in the history of the world, and he gets STEAMROLLED. He does okay, but in comparison to those two master-craftsmen, he blows.

Little Children

I'll never understand why smart people do such dumb things in movies. Nice performances from the entire cast, an interesting structure for film narration (it almost seemed like a storybook), and Todd Field is an undeniably brilliant filmmaker. But something is lacking because the characters apparently can't help making terrible decisions--pitfalling into traps that a bright sixth grader would avoid. Something is off about this movie, but I recommend watching it so you can judge for yourself.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Your typical run-of-the-mill inspirational hard-luck-guy-makes-good story. The only outstanding thing about this film is the performance of Will Smith. And it is OUTSTANDING. A skilled, nuanced performance. The work of a true craftsman. Will Smith is all growns up. Speaking of all growns up, his son Jaden gives one of the finest child-actor performances in recent memory. Keep an eye on this young man. However, the film as a whole is wholly unremarkable. Still, Will Smith. WOW.

The Godfather

Quite simply, the greatest movie of all time. If there is a more perfect piece of storytelling committed to cinema, I don't know what it is. Brando is at the top of his game, and it is something to behold. Nobody except Francis Ford Coppola wanted Pacino to play Michael. PACINO didn't even think he was right for the part. But he is perfect. His transformation from a shy soldier boy embarrassed about his family's dealings, to a cold and calculating crime general bent on revenge. James Caan has never been better: His Sonny Corleone is a pitbull with a sense of loyalty as vicious as the mean streak that runs right down his center. Robert Duvall as the consigliere Tom Hagen, plays the voice of reason with a desperate love for his adopted family. John Cazale doesn't really get to show us Fredo's depth in this first chapter, but we get hints at his cowardice and jealousy. (Cazale is one of the finest actors of the 1970s. He died of bone cancer in 1978, shortly after filming "The Deerhunter".) The acting is all fantastic (Diane Keaton and Talia Shire (Adrian in "Rocky) hold their own in this man's world), but the script, written by Mario Puzo from his own novel, is so brilliant that the performances can't help but be excellent. But the artist who holds the magic paint brush is Francis Ford Coppola. From his eye for superior shot compostition, to his talent for coaxing great performances from his actors, to his phenomal feel for pacing; this is a hall of fame director who has never been better. When coupled with the equally fantastic "Part II", the Godfather saga stands up as the greatest story ever told on film. It is a shame that "Part III" had to sully the legacy, but "The Godfather" stills remains the finest film ever made.

Look Who's Talking Now

My GOD, this is awful. This is the kind of shit Travolta was doing before Tarantino rescued him and made him Vincent Vega.

Look Who's Talking

One joke. Over and over and over again.


Cute, but inconsequential comedy buoyed by Dan Aykroyd's shameless performance. The supporting cast is filled by a bunch of cameos, highlighted by Michael McKean and a young and innocent David Spade as FBI agents on the trail of the aliens.

Alien Resurrection

This movie looks great, thanks to Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the French visionary who created "The City of Lost Children." Ron Perlman and Michael Wincott are bad-ass. Sigourney Weaver is just strange. Winona Ryder ruins this movie. I actually enjoyed the film when she wasn't in it. Unfortunately, she was in the whole goddamn thing. The worst of all four, but not terrible.


Pirates on jet-skis? Okay. I'm in.
I don't care if there are great big ol' gaps in logic throughout every waking second of this film. If there are pirates on jet-skis, consider me on board.


Gilliam is one of the best directors of the last 50 years, and this may be his best film. It is certainly a great film, if a little weird. Well, more than a little weird. It may be the most surreal film in the history of semi-mainstream cinema. Robert Deniro suffers death by litter. Wow. Just wow.


My god, that last scene where the WHOLE FUCKING STADIUM chants his name, and his dad is in the crowd and the janitor-who-mentored-him-and-who-used-to-play-but-has-never-been-to-a-game-since is watching and he gets in the game and sacks the quarterback and the crowd goes nuts and the dad cheers and the janitor/mentor gives that weird man-clap-thing and they carry him off the field!?!?!?!?!?!

The Birds
The Birds(1963)

One of the greatest endings to any film in the history of cinema. My favorite Hitchcock film.


Ugh. Gus Van Sant, ugh. WHY would you make this movie?

Coming to America

The best scenes are in the barbershop. Overall, a cute little comedy.

Double Impact

Van Damme plays the DoubleMint game. Know how you can tell which is which? Well, the good one is Chad. He's an aerobics instructor and he wears pink polo shirts ... like every day. Alex is the bad one. He wears leather jackets and his hair is all greasy and he smokes cigars. They have to team up to fight ... somebody. Does it really matter? Fun for chop-socky aficionados. Dreck for everyone else.

Mouse Hunt
Mouse Hunt(1997)

Both stars are for Christopher Walken who somehow makes this tripe halfway watchable.

Eyes Wide Shut

Oh, MAN, did this blow. This is one of those films that is only as strong as it's leads. Cruise and Kidman are both TERRIBLE in this film. It's way too long, it's fucking convoluted, and it has awful dialogue. You can talk all you want about "paradigm shifts" and "unmasking taboos", but you're just fooling yourselves. I respect Kubrick, too, (that's where the two stars come from) but my respect doesn't extend to blindness. Wake up and smell the crap, film snobs. This movie blows.

The Lost Boys

Kiefer Sutherland was TWENTY when he made this movie. Twenty years old. What were YOU doing when YOU were twenty?
Kiefer was leading a Vampire gang that looked like a Poison tribute band. My guess is, Kiefer wins. He sure as hell's got me beat.

End of Days
End of Days(1999)

Just for fun. Schwarzenegger is in full-on Commando mode and Gabriel Byrne hams it up like an Easter dinner. Hey, if you got the chance to play the devil, wouldn't you amp up the cheese factor? You know you would. Don't deny it.