JasonDennis91786's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Inferno
Inferno(2016)

This book is worse than the other two and the prose in the novel really made it seem like the movie was planned from the beginning. This film changes more from the novel than does the other two. There are two huge simplifications to Felicity Jones' character that makes her story role a lot easier to digest, but also makes her less likeable. They replace one character with a completely different thing altogether, a rogue WHO agent with random selfish motives. Finally, they made the provost character an action hero spy instead of a bureaucrat. I get these choices and in some way they are interesting, but the biggest complaint in the book is with the major twist involving Jones' character, and this film preserves that perceived negative without the final twist that comes in the book. In general, it's a streamlined version of the novel's story, which does not make it tie together any better, but makes it easier to understand and more marketable. It's an adaptation of a mediocre product that changes it into a different, more profitable kind of mediocre product. It's a different, more action-y feel than the previous Brown adaptations, and though it has good acting, the basic structure of the story prevents it from being a high-end experience.

The Secret Life of Pets

It's a very simple story and the previews, especially the second one, were misleading. Interestingly, the voice cast doesn't sound like you'd assume from the characters' appearance. In the end, it's a passable product that goes by quickly.

Sully
Sully(2016)

Honestly I found it boring. Hanks is standable in the lead (notable for a present day true story) but the inherent drama of the angle the plot presents is lacking. It's trying to make hay out of a technicality in an insurance case that many audience members can see right through.

The Great Wall
½

It has great visuals and action. I was impressed with many of the supporting roles. The General Lin character in particular is great. The one glaring flaw of the movie is Damon's voice acting, which is frankly atrocious. But if one goes in without expectations or bias (a white savior movie this most definitely is not), it's quite an enjoyable, brisk flick.

The Polar Express

I was read the book every year in elementary school, so I knew the story. The film was decent overall, but a bit of a let down for me. Maybe it's just because I'm grown up, but I'm pretty sure the pace was too slow for even my younger self. This is one of those short illustrated hardcover books. The movie doesn't add any new story, it just bloats with stunts, musical numbers, etc. But the core concept is good enough to carry things.

Swing Time
Swing Time(1936)
½

Sure, the plot isn't anything to write home about, but it wins with its comedy, which is bizarrely resilient to the modern viewer. This is the first oldie I've ever seen with anti-humor. Seriously, if this is remade, Bill Murray is Fred Astaire's dad. Period.

Gods Of Egypt
½

There's a kernel of a yarn in there. The script is passable, with a few good one liners, and on the negative side, a lot of exposition. But the movie made some high-level mistakes. For one, it needed to make clear that it was an alternate fantasy universe, not Egypt as the viewer thinks of it. Second, it went full out on a somewhat outmoded cornball adventure style from the 80s with a shallow and formulaic, though cohesive, plot and slightly camp acting. Finally, it was an effects romp with relatively poor effects. The settings are wondrous and imaginative. The action sequences, though often very short and ruined by the obvious animation, are spectacular in concept, reminding the viewer of the God of War video game series. And the costume designer deserves some kudos. But the product in my opinion misjudged the tone people want from this type of movie nowadays, and likely had some practical troubles.

Concussion
Concussion(2015)
½

This movie had a middling reception and I was told by some people I know who are aspiring actors that Will Smith did a bad job with the accent. So I figured it would be a mediocre drama. It exceeded my expectations, though. As far as the accent is concerned, I couldn't really tell if Smith was doing a bad job, but I did notice that his character (Nigerian) and his wife (Kenyan) had basically the same accent, which seems wrong. The acting was alright. Smith had good emotive scenes. Baldwin I didn't think was that good.

I felt the movie was well directed. Its major flaw, in my opinion, is that in the second half, the level of detail that immerses the viewer in the situation really falls off. In the beginning, we get a really good look at Smith's character's work. Then, when the rubber hits the road, it's really surficial. We get a Goodell and Tagliabue that look nothing like the real guys, having like ten lines each, and hardly any detail on Smith's character's struggle against the NFL.

Because of the direction, I still think it's a pretty good movie, and give it a B+. It is correctly placed, in my opinion, as a film that got some awards speculation, but in the end did not get nominations. It could be compared to Selma maybe, because it was seen as a "snub" with an AA lead, and for me personally, it exceeded my expectations, just like Selma. But Selma was a better movie overall IMO. By the way, the same person wrote and directed Concussion (I mean, the writer was the director, not that the Selma person made it). I felt it was better directed than written, clearly.

Suffragette
Suffragette(2015)
½

Oh, if only for the blatant story flaw. If Emily Davison's character has the screen time the fictitious character Violet does, this film wins best picture against the weak field. Carey Mulligan gets a deserved Oscar nomination, and other citations could have followed. This historical piece eschewed the minutia of the movement (which would have been Emily's time) in an effort to be more marketable with quick-cutting thriller genre scenes. At a few points, that thriller material is actually very effective. For instance, in the classic horse race, the build up to the climactic event is really well-done. However, the split between genres and the plot hinging on a minor supporting character make the film lack the singular focus it needs to truly go over the top. As a timely and well-acted drama, it's still a good film. But I can't help but think, it could have been truly great. I'd hire the director for anything, but the writer I wouldn't mortgage my prestige pic to.

Thor: The Dark World

Unfortunately, this is a sequel that is not as good as its predecessor. The movie does recover in the middle, and the climax is super epic, but there are too many crossover references and crammed-in plot holes for it to satisfy as much as the first.

Thor
Thor(2011)
½

Imperfect but enjoyable. Some nice comic moments as Thor comes to earth, and the end stages pack their intended punch. It was a bit depressing to see how the fx are already kind of obsolete, though, after only 4.5 years. Portman did well acting-wise. The cast was solid all around. Aasgard was highly imaginative. My favorite thing was the spinning globe thingamadoody with the black guy. You know...

Zootopia
Zootopia(2016)

Darn near perfect for the first hour. Unfortunately, it falls off a bit later on as the plot gets thinner (though like any decent movie, it has a good ending). It definitely earns its PG rating and has a lot of clever subtleties in dialogue. It's more oriented toward adults than might be assumed by its bonanza status. Smart ten year olds should adore it. The race thing is not as dominant as the critics make it seem, at least for the entire runtime. It's prominent, then disappears, then after the big twist becomes very prominent again, bordering on preachy. Anyway, it's good. The lead is really relatable. The world is really interesting. Go see it.

Yankee Doodle Dandy
½

The best parts of this for me were the moments of touching interplay between Cohan and his wife, and a scam he and Harris run. Outside of those sublime witticisms, the film has impressive technical aspects and talented actors who can sing and dance, but is mostly a very conventional biopic, a hagiography with little conflict or obstacles once success is first achieved.

Cimarron
Cimarron(1931)
½

This film has great production value for the time, and that's its only real selling point. At the time this was released, it was probably seen as an effects/art direction juggernaut with a positive social message, a blockbuster epic that didn't emphasize a passable story and characters/acting. Today, the social messaging is very awkward and could be seen as racist, the lead seems super fake and hypocritical, the acting is horrendous, and the story is the definition of a bland paint-by-numbers biopic with no structure and forgettable supporting characters. Think of it as a really poor alternative to Gone With the Wind, or the thing Gone With the Wind obliterated eight years later. It was apparently remade in crap-tastic fashion in 1960, and you and I could probably write a better version today.

Pan
Pan(2015)
½

The film in general has an odd tone. It's blends the feel of a nineties kids movie like Matilda or Little Rascals and a dark action fantasy. The story is pretty basic. It has thoroughly done but stock character development. World building could have been more straightforward. For a while, it doesn't seem to have a sense of its own reality. Oh, it's original as hell, in terms of the Neverland it creates, and the angle it takes with the characters. But it's hard to tell what's going on until well after Neverland happens. You leave WW2 England for space, which then takes you to Neverland. And when you arrive in Neverland, and the pirates are singing... modern rock, which is the one really cringe-worthy thing in the movie. A bunch of character/story/metaphorical content is hinted at, but never really built upon, and there's sequel baiting. I don't know the finances of the film, so I don't know if there will be a sequel.

As far as the acting, I didn't like the Hook guy's acting. Mara was fine after she joined the film at the halfway point, and the kid was pretty good. Smee was a highlight for me. Blackbeard (Jackman), he didn't seem to fit completely with the tenor of the film. He was emblematic of a fully dark action fantasy, and Jackman really went into it. He didn't completely overact, and it wasn't completely clashing like say, Von Sydow in Flash Gordon, but there was just a sense that he was not on the same page as everyone else.

As for the effects, they were not quite at an elite level, and certain effects were clearly not as good as others. You can't complain too much, and it's kind of ridiculous to in a vacuum, but you can see negative comparisons to competing films, if you're "rating on merit."

The movie is all about whether you are into the first half hour or 45 minutes. If it's like, wow this is amazing and beautiful and so original, and you ignore the couple of things that I really had a problem with, then it can carry for you. But I venture most will dislike it, and the rest of the film will seem like a mediocre, forgettable fantasy. Improving a bit as it goes, as coherence improves, but feeling a bit stale story-wise despite the highly original visual content. All in all, mediocre.

Pixels
Pixels(2015)

The movie in general is meant as mediocre fluff. There's plot holes galore and cheesy character development. I don't think people realize that the flick was going for 80s in terms of the general movie style, not just with the video games. And I think the accusations of it being offensive in various ways are overblown. It's mostly innocent. But Sandler tanks this movie. His thrown in asides are horribly unfunny. And he does them so often, and so lamely, and with such mean spirit, as they are mostly insults. The other actors are actually decent. Any one of them could have saved his role. Replace Sandler with anyone but David Spade and Norm McDonald, and have a typical President character, and this movie is your average stupid popcorn action-comedy with some plot holes. Alas...

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Rey is very Kiera, like a pauper Elizabeth Swann from Pirates but with the force. The action doesn't disappoint. I loved the crashed destroyer and the ending climax will be hard to top in the next two movies. I loved how the ending was done, it was so intense even though we knew it was coming the whole movie. And where did they find that scenery?

One thing I didn't like, though, was the very on the nose, marketing-motivated dialogue between Han and Leia. Fisher in particular didn't seem to give a great performance.

Soaked In Bleach

The information is very provocative, but I don't think I would convict. Love's BS can be explained by her drug abuse. The investigator doesn't have dirt on some key players. And honestly, from a production standpoint, it's not that good. So while it has a large positive going for it, that the thesis of needing to investigate the death further is correct, in terms of watching a documentary, it's only an average product.

Southpaw
Southpaw(2015)

I felt this was a competent, normal-ass movie. The one thing it did really well was Hope's psychological angle, though one refusal of a job is petty and seems out of character. I felt it could have been better in other areas. The boxing, while more realistic than, say, Rocky, was still not ideal. Also, I wanted more development on Hope's daughter at CPS. Incidentally, McAdams' character was much more of a siren than I was expecting, though it makes sense given her backstory. I enjoyed Fuqua's direction.

The Grey
The Grey(2012)
½

The moral aspects of the story were well done, and the cinematography is apt. It's an edifying emotional and film experience. But they got so much basic survival stuff wrong, and the characterization was not very realistic.

Trouble with the Curve
½

I thought the love story between Adams and Timberlake was sweet and very well done. The family drama, by the numbers, whatever. However the baseball aspect of it was very disappointing. The knowledge of the game was poor and that's more to be expected. But the staged action was really bad, they looked like little leaguers out there.

Jupiter Ascending

Tons of fx, and usually the fx are good. The one thing this has going for it is originality in the fanciful sci-fi universe. It is really, really out there visually. But the story's just horrible. The prologue is lame and nothing about the current situation is explained until 45 minutes in. After that it becomes a super basic plot that sort of works except all the subplots you expect from a professionally done film are reduced to a line or two - this can sometimes work, but it's pretty rare. Mila and Channing are okay, though Mila is clearly not athletic (which is fine, I'm just saying it's noticeable in the action scenes). Redmayne is just atrocious as the most evil of the monarchs, completely overacting to the point of self-parody. The story has giant gaping holes in it both plot wise and logic wise. At one point Tatum's character hitches a ride on a spaceship, unprotected, and it takes off from earth, goes into space, goes through a wormhole, and goes to another world, and he's still okay just hanging onto the landing gear. The dialogue is humongously expositional, which regular fans might not be bothered by but anyone who's actually tried to write a script will find enraging. Also the tone is childish, yet fully serious. Lots of sci-fi movies are criticized as all-visual, no actual substance. This one is actually deserving of that criticism. It has the sixth best or so visual effects of the year, sure, but in this case, that is literally all that's being offered. You will be zoning out during giant intergalactic space battles.

Sunshine
Sunshine(2007)

Totally different tonally than what I was expecting. I was thinking a fast paced action film, especially if helmed by Danny Boyle. But only in the last third, after a twist some will surely hate, does the cinematography become Boyle-like. Before that, it is a ponderous, exposition heavy, middlebrow Kubrick type of film that takes its seemingly ludicrous premise filled with pretty obvious scientific inaccuracies (though, interestingly, it gets a few things right that so many space sci-fis get wrong) and fills it with deadly seriousness. This tonal mismatch seemed to come through in the acting, which in general was not very good. The kind of a jerk action hero guy was the best actor in the piece, which is odd considering the emo angle this took. However there's still a lot to like. There's a very good emotional metaphor about becoming one with God that plays throughout the film and gives it a good artistic grounding. Also, the visuals are compelling, especially if you know that it's totally against the typical Boyle style. In the end, yeah, it's worth a look. Maybe not a masterpiece, but it avoids disaster.

Vertigo
Vertigo(1958)

Might be my new favorite Hitchcock (I am not an acolyte generally). It's undeniably a good movie. It keeps your interest well, often hard for an old movie. I liked the visuals more than many other titles from the same era and/or auteur. I noticed a lot of things that I'm sure historians have cited as influential. For example, one thing I haven't heard much commentary on - how it's scored. It's scored so much like movies of today, and not like others of its time. There were a lot of other things that I knew existed at the time, but were not common, such as the visions, repeated elements of the story, and moving the biggest event to the midpoint. However, there were also some flaws for me. I figured out the mystery before the protagonist did, which is not that big a deal in this case. But there were some points that stretched believability in the second half (basically how he treats his woman), and in the first half there's really long scenes of blatant exposition. In fact, I think Stewart's character calls attention to it with a line of dialogue, so Hitchcock seems to have acknowledged that flaw.

Night at the Museum

Enjoyable shallow entertainment. Some annoying and elementary historical inaccuracies. For instance, the name Sacagawea is continuously mispronounced, even though a character is writing a dissertation on her. Also, the second half becomes formulaic. Genius this is not. But if you don't think too hard, it's okay.

Terminator Genisys
½

With any time travel story, you're gonna have plot holes. This one has a ton and the premise is a huge stretch, but really, that's okay. FX, standard. Action is fine. What bothered me more was the odd mix of tones. Sure, some action sequels go for camp, but this one has a super-serious attitude peppered by sequences of one hundred percent camp. It was really dissonant. I thought Emilia Clarke was very good as Sarah Connor, but outside of her the acting was middling. Also, how is this going to be a trilogy? Well, clearly this franchise doesn't care about plausibility. But it will be especially true in this case.

The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison

For the most part, this is a very average documentary. However, there are a couple of things that are compelling. As far as the "documentary exposing injustice" portion of things, there's a parole hearing you want to see. It really shows the not necessarily malevolent, but totally apathetic attitude toward the prisoners. They clearly do not care about the guy trying to file additional evidence. In the "broader theme" portion of things, it was interesting to see just how comforting religion was to the prisoners who were lifers or on death row. It would have been interesting to get another viewpoint, though. The God angle is not a new one. And it leads to a slight touch of cynicism when you're talking about every life prisoner filing endless appeals. When it comes to shortcomings, there are several things I wish would have been examined more, such as the humiliating process before visits and possible grouping of prisoners into gangs or other social units. Also the pace was pretty slow. In the end, I regard this doc as slightly above average.

Jurassic World

Before watching, I was warned by a lot of haters. They even mocked the graphics. I didn't see any problem with the effects, let's just put that to bed. The story is as poor as the second and third installments (the second was better than the third due to other factors). Story and characters are thin. But they were just good enough, and the action epic enough, to carry the day. In the end, it's a worthwhile, entertaining film to see in theaters. I guess I'll cite one example. Bryce Dallas Howard's character is not that great, and at the end, she has a kind of predictable action sequence, one that you don't really buy that her character would undertake. But she does a great job acting it. What I was most impressed by was the fear she conveyed as she did her courageous deed. It's a microcosm for the film. All parts of it have some issue, but the diligence was put in to add something positive into every part, and in the end, the positives slightly outweigh the negatives. Maybe it's because we love dinos, maybe we love action to a fault, maybe we want this franchise to succeed, whatever - but in the end, it works.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Nobody expects genius here, but the film fails to discern whether it should be camp or something more mainstream. The effects are half good, half bad. During action scenes the CG is splendid. But at other times the artificiality of the set (for instance when Fox's character goes to the docks early in the movie) is transparent. The flick also can't decide whether to be a PG-13 action movie or a PG movie for kids - the attitude of the characters is very childish and innocent, and the language consists of one use of "ass." Fox's character, for some reason, acts like a teenager while dealing with her adult situation as a journalist and romantic advances from a middle-aged man. There are constant asides to her attractiveness, which are done in a very "teenage" way. Added to this, the dialogue is poor and overtly expositional, and the plot is very predictable. It breaks the fourth wall several times with poorly done news reports and an underdeveloped environment. It's a poor script in most every facet. Finally the acting is universally poor. Fox and Arnett are especially bad, and Fichtner is little better, since his character is so clichéd.

Many dislike the re-imagining of the turtles present in this movie. If this is not a problem, the turtles are the best thing about the movie. Their interactions, while sometimes filled with lame puns, are vibrant and effective. Pathetically, the turtles are also the best actors. And when they go into action, the excitement provides the worthwhile part of the flick. Unfortunately, they don't appear for the first 15 minutes. But once they arrive, they can carry the entertainment for some viewers. Overall, though, it's a stinker.

12 Years a Slave

There's a lot to like in this movie. It's straightforward. The cinematography is outstanding and the lead performance is great. There are several points of interesting symbolism.

However, I do think the film has some shortcomings. My perspective may be warped because I've studied the period extensively. One thing is probably expected: McQueen overstates the brutality a bit. And that's okay. There's an obvious reason and point to that. But there's a really huge plot hole, and it's Brad Pitt. Pitt is at the center of the narrative. He has a conversation with Northrup's owner that would definitely get him fired on the spot, and might even get him killed. It is completely unbelievable that Pitt would get away with what he said to the owner, and be able to aid Northrup as a result. So it ruins the crux of the story. I suppose it could have worked if the owner had challenged Pitt to a duel, and they intentionally missed (which was customary for the time) with some choice words, and the owner telling Pitt he better run when his job is up. Then I could have believed what happened. This is based on an autobiography, so I suppose the circumstance could have been true. But it was presented in the movie like it was a device to give an abolitionist voice of reason, and I highly doubt it was historical.

So that is my one complaint. But in general, it's an excellent movie.

San Andreas
San Andreas(2015)

So much wanton death. Even more than other disaster movies. Character development - not much at all. Acting - mediocre by all. The CGI isn't as good as top-of-the-line stuff, and the story has a lot of gaps and clichés. The clichés are fine, though very obvious. The gaps do hurt the entertainment factor because it's like, I knew the easy way to survive this situation, and then, after all this other trouble, whaddya know they do it to get out of the jam. And those things get worse as the movie goes. Anyway, despite all those flaws, it still passes the overall test because it is really jam packed with action and that action is extremely epic. Or maybe I just feel nice today, or want to be loving in the face of the body count I just had to sit through. Exactly what you expect with this one!

Masters of the Universe

This film fails because of several different things. First off, the main character is poor. I'm not saying Dolph Lundgren is terrible, I'm saying it's a bad lead part. He-Man doesn't dominate the movie. He doesn't resolve the story. He's basically a supporting character.

Here's the thing. The story starts in the middle, without introducing any characters, which kills the franchise marketability because the superhero premise is based on the hero characters! We just get put into the middle of a battle without any world building, He-Man gets sent to earth, and then he and his group must aid this couple in protecting his transport device. This simple story, which would be fine if it wasn't a blockbuster superhero movie, is yet littered with plot holes.

The one redeeming factor of this movie is the villain. Skeletor, played by Frank Langella, is the one character that adds any depth to the narrative. Unfortunately, this is not capitalized on because the climax sequence is disappointing. Added to all of these flaws, the comic relief characters are very grating, and the effects and fights are quite poor. For me, it wasn't even terrible enough for a viewing of laughs - it would probably bore at a bad movie night. I recommend just passing on it completely.

Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon(1980)
½

As an amateur screenwriter I can say pretty confidently that this story isn't terrible. It isn't great, but it isn't terrible. It's got your typical Christian metaphor and action sequences. Another thing that's interesting is the art direction. It's really interesting and original sometimes, and it very much references the time the original comic came out, maybe even earlier. I thought a lot of the sets and costumes reminded me of the silent classic Metropolis.

Characters are middling. There's the serious bad guys and the totally camp good guys. There's some totally cliche characters, and others are original. It's very jarring to see Max Von Sydow across the screen from people going a hundred percent camp. But in general the acting is just horrible. The effects are bad even for its release date, the tone is sometimes offensive, especially when princess Aura is involved, and the action scenes are poor. Make no mistake, this is a bad movie. It is best viewed with friends under the influence of psychedelic hallucinogens most likely.

Birdman
Birdman(2014)
½

This movie really cranks up the weird. A way to describe it is beatnik, or maybe jazzy. Very aggressive bebop jazzy, not smooth, mellow jazzy. A hipster on coke. There are moments of brilliance, to be sure. In some ways its morality was prescient, but at other times it seemed a tad sociopathic. I liked how the voice in Keaton's head was sometimes demeaning and sometimes uplifting, and it seemed very human. But in general, I can't completely get into the style. I'm an emotionally inhibited person. I just can't relate very well to people constantly displaying over the top emotion and always telling people exactly how they feel (and as a guy who writes movie scripts, that's against the rules too) and being really angry and horny and such. Guess that means I'm not ready to be an actor. Keaton gives a solid performance. Unfortunately, he was up against some amazing performances this Oscar season, and I actually rate him at the bottom of the nominees. The supporting cast was stellar. Inarritu, of course, added some really great images. On the whole it was, uh, flighty and slightly disconnected, but that is appropriate. The score is grating and distracting, but fits Keaton's character's mental illness. The structure really does fit the narrative, and the play within a play dynamic I'm sure rated highly with the Academy voters.

The Theory of Everything

For me, this movie was tough to get through emotionally. It made me feel kind of evil and worthless. A lot of the themes in this flick, I have in my writing, but this is hopeful while mine tends to be a lot more nihilistic and negative. I also have some things in common with Hawking (thankfully not any physical problems) but my collegiate years were not marked by such buoying emotional or intellectual development. Therefore I always have to view this narrative with a touch of cynicism. I suppose the lesson is that while Hawking was atrociously unfortunate to have his disease, he was also blessed to find true love and academic inspiration and support.

There are a lot of small holes you can poke in it - the depiction of university is not very realistic, why would Jane be attracted to Stephen, not much development in the beginning of their relationship, common biopic foibles, unending will-she-cheat sexual tension in the second act, etc. But really, none of those very minor things matter much - this movie is all about theme. There's a kind of similar movie from 2001 - A Beautiful Mind. Every once in a while, the dialogue is a metaphor. In this movie, pretty much every line is a metaphor for the emotions of the characters.

Redmayne's performance was very affecting, like Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, before he entered the ASL phases of the script. Once it started coming on, he was very effective still, though his mannerisms reminded me very much of a friend I have with cerebral palsy. Don't know how similar the symptoms are between the two afflictions. After the disease hits him fully, I didn't really buy it as much, particularly because of the voice. Jones was solid as Jane, and the supporting cast did well too. I think in general, both the film and the acting was regarded in the proper light. Maybe I wouldn't have selected Redmayne to actually win the Oscar, but his performance is certainly deserving of a nomination. Meanwhile, the film as a whole is rightly an also-ran for Best Picture.

Nebraska
Nebraska(2013)

I just realized I watched Nebraska on Arbor Day. There are potent themes at play in this story, and the third act is in many ways touching. At the same time the story is very minimalist (Payne didn't write the screenplay, and honestly, I thought it a bit weak, it breaks the ole don't tell backstory rule like crazy), with slow cinematography (though the weather and choice of b/w plays into the theme) and a sense of humor that only works if you demean the residents of the state I am from - the borderline retardation, the crushing boredom (okay that's real), this weird honky accent that doesn't exist - oh sure, there are a few people like that in rural Nebraska, but there are people like that everywhere (the town is fictional, btw, though there are at least a couple of real shots of Lincoln). Really, it's a fine movie. But in my opinion, it is not as good as say, another Oscar bait film. It has that reductivist indie feel where less content is incorrectly equated to more depth, like an indie band stringing out only a couple of notes for a song (it might be a bad metaphor because the unique, unexpected score in this film is definitely a highlight). So while I still fall on the "fresh" side of a Rotten Tomatoes ballot, I lower the rating almost didactically to convey that I think it is not as good as other awards bait.

Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow

Two things the perspective viewer needs to keep in mind - this is much more an action movie than a sci-fi, and the world is in the near future, basically the present in fact, not the far future like the trailer makes it look. It is much more conventional than would be assumed. Because it takes this angle, it has some background plot holes. One thing that is a bit better than normal is Blunt's character. Usually she turns into a damsel in distress and/or bangs the hero, and this story manages to avoid those clichés. So it is a small cut above. But think "modern action blockbuster" and not "philosophical science fiction film."

Snowpiercer
Snowpiercer(2014)
½

Some might expect this to be like an Oscar drama. It isn't. It's like an Asian action movie. In that mold, it's really well done and there are some great things about it. But the story world has giant gaping holes in it. I'm not talking about sci-fi nerdism and background details here. I mean readily apparent logic stuff. So even though it is extremely well executed, it's not possible for the movie to be rated above a certain level by me.

American Sniper

I did not find this film jingoistic like its detractors say. Maybe it's because I don't really admire the protagonist? I don't see the main character as a saint, I see him as a highly flawed individual. Am I supposed to worship the guy or something? The guy actually reminds me of a creepy supervisor I once had more than anything, to be honest. And the thing about that supervisor was, he was a pathological liar with a terrible memory who believed his own BS (like apparently the real Chris Kyle was). Incidentally, he was also a right wing religious zealot and depressed gun nut to boot. So maybe it's a cultural thing. My point is, this is not a hagiography to me, so I see it in a more positive light perhaps, in terms of craft. As for the film in a vacuum, I was surprised by the degree to which it was a greatest hits biopic. I really thought, and the trailer reinforced this, that the movie would go in the direction of the "singular mission experience with flashbacks." Also I did not like the way it ended, with the footage. I felt the story had been abruptly cut off and tied up. It does have very good visuals, and Cooper is very good - he has one great emotional scene, several good hardass scenes. I was also pleasantly surprised by Sienna Miller as his wife - surely she was better than Knightley, who got an Oscar nomination for The Imitation Game in what was a standard performance with comparatively limited screen time and development. Did the voters not know she wasn't American? Well, you couldn't tell by her performance in this flick, she was totally convincing. So that might explain it.

Interstellar
Interstellar(2014)

Man. Even more ambitious than I assumed it would be, if that's even possible. Incredible action scenes with a score that just ratchets it up an order of magnitude in drama - perfectly deployed score. Unfortunately, as is often the case with such huge efforts (for instance, Nolan's own The Prestige), the most important thing is the story is the weakest link. There are other things that can be nitpicked, sure. The huge reveal in the story is very telegraphed, it's slow-starting, the themes are stated really obviously through dialogue, there's a long section where the story seems to be falling apart. A couple of really huge physics plot holes. Does it suck? Of course not. It's awesome. But it's also not the greatest story ever told, though it is clearly trying to be. One pleasant surprise in this is Hathaway. I thought she would stick out like a sore thumb in a bad way, and she completely nails her role. This is a supreme case of a director going for the jugular and cramming a ton of intellect in, so it's really, really hard to distill into a review, but the basic point is, it's like The Fountain or Gravity, it's great because of its ambition, but unfortunately, it is also flawed because of that same ambition.

Gravity
Gravity(2013)

Alternate title "How to make a movie with two characters cost 90 million." Certainly a visual stunner, and to me, really sympathetic characters. I liked how it went for the philosophical jugular, but I felt it was a bit on the nose. Due to various constraints of the concept, we end up just having Bullock state the various themes of the film verbally, which is a slight detractor. The very spare story and the kind of ridiculous obstacles (which honestly get tiresome by the end) are also small nitpicks. I was afraid to watch this for a long time because I write scripts and often explore the same topics with a similar character, so maybe I underrate it - other's opinions on this tend to one extreme or the other it seems. But I see it as properly placed as an also-ran at the Oscars. Is it the best film of a year? Probably not. But I am glad when this sort of effort is put forth - a similar feeling to the one I got after watching "The Fountain." It will certainly inspire some, and that's good. I hope for those that it doesn't, they can appreciate when a team of filmmakers goes for something above and beyond.

Finally to MSNBC host Chris Hayes - there is totally a catharsis. Sandra Bullock shovels the catharsis in our face the entire third act. She literally has a dream where someone literally tells us the catharsis. Are you nuts?

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
½

Watching it you get the feeling Jackson was truly sick of the material. It was as if to announce, "No, I will NOT do a Silmarillion trilogy!" Yes, the effects are great as always, though I wonder about the sudden use of really intense chiaroscuro in Laketown to open the movie. Story. Oh boy. I guess Jackson's decision was "add a bunch to the end of the book." The dragon dies before the title appears, about 15 minutes in. Yeah. Thorin gets and loses dragon sickness really easily. Then there's a gigantic battle including armies we have little or no (in one case) introduction to, and then the battle closes in on one element - and never leaves that element. Dwarf deaths do not correlate with book at all. Once that element is done, the battle is just over. Deus ex machina eagles and all. Then the movie doesn't go for the jugular in the denoument, which is really puzzling. Honestly, most of the film seemed like it was going through the motions and wanted to be over. Every emotional moment was slo-mo, the stunts seem extra CG-ridiculous, it's just oddly soulless in a lot of places. I mean, this is still a Jackson Tolkein tale, it's not like it sucks, but to me it honestly was the worst of the entire group of six.

Maleficent
Maleficent(2014)
½

The concept really comes together in a stirring third act. Also, it's visually spectacular. Really impressive art direction and effects (though due to the PG nature of the battles, there's a lot of obvious CG there). But this film is hindered by a poor first half with terribly on the nose dialogue especially, and some bad acting. I really did not feel these were great performances from Jolie or the king. I've never bought Jolie when she's angry, really. There's just not much story for a long time - the princess does not fall asleep until 2/3 of the way through the movie, and is asleep for all of five or ten minutes. And while the central moral lesson is really effective, in the tangible plot, Jolie's initial motivation is inconsistent. Honestly, it's not a very good screenplay. It had one very good idea and stretched it thin with a trendy dark flavor (though more appropriate in this story's case). My rating might be a bit didactic, but the central truth is that aside from some great visuals, this is a wholly mediocre offering.

The Monuments Men

I like a lot of things about George Clooney but I'm beginning to realize I don't really like him as a director or writer. My first viewing of his w/d work was Good Night and Good Luck, and that was glossed over by an amazing lead performance. I read the script later on, it wouldn't make it on the outside. And I feel the same way about The Ides of March and this film. This should have been a home run for me - I mean it's a period piece, a WWII movie even, and it's about artistic masterpieces - it's visually arresting with incredible landscape shots. But it's this bizarre, episodic, hunky-dory thing that falls into every elementary trap of a historical film - it lacks cohesion, narrative focus, and character development. The delivery of the dialogue is really flat too, and all the serious dramatic moments are really undercut. Clooney's bland speech is reminiscent of Costner. It's right up my alley so it's basically impossible for me to hate it, but gosh darn it, I don't see how many others would enjoy it.

Run All Night
½

I watched this just after watching Get Hard - Get Hard's plot is better. This script is mediocre at best. The director uses a lot of panache to try to cover its flaws but many times this is done at an obvious "mail in" moment by the actors to compound the missed beat. Neeson "Neesons" in this movie and absolutely nothing more. If this is the first Neeson action flick you've seen, sure, you might think it's great, but it's the same thing he's been doing for years. No real backstory - we know nothing about Harris' organization. We only get small glimpses into the personal stuff - and it's just told, not shown, except in one instance, and in fact is told in exactly the wrong fashion, at least by typical writing rules. Everything Neeson and his son say to each other is a thriller cliché. Pretty much every turn in the story is a cliché. Now, the movie doesn't completely suck, because it's really hard to make a truly atrocious thriller. But this thing does not distinguish itself in any way, shape, or form. It's complete mediocrity.

Get Hard
Get Hard(2015)
½

I thought it was hilarious. To me it was not homophobic or racist in the least; the story clearly makes fun of stereotypes. The script is actually solid for the most part - there are a lot of adlibs surely and there are some minor holes in the plot and the yacht assault is in the realm of cliché-referencing, but it wasn't a bother for me. Now, the trailer does make it seem much tackier than it really is - for me, this is another case of the critics mirroring the exact bias I form from the trailer, which is a disturbing trend. It really makes me wonder if they are watching the actual movie. There are a couple of scenes involving graphic nudity that I would not have featured if I were the director, because the rest of the film, if this makes any sense, is an "innocent" R despite the constant profanity. To me, these moments were tonally off from the rest of the film. That, and Ferrell's character is a bit inconsistent - his idiocy and meekness is not always consistent. But this is a low brow comedy we're talking about, people. Get some perspective.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
½

In many ways this is a prototypical sequel. The steampunk premise of the original is stretched thin and mostly moved to the final act. There is not much of a mystery to be deduced, it is more of an adventure plot with Sherlock finding clues that lead to an obvious place. There is a huge emphasis on action sequences. What it does retain, luckily, is the wonderful personality of the first installment and the distinctive panache of Guy Ritchie, whose talents shine through yet again. Also the addictive score. So it is probably not quite as good as the first, but certainly worth two hours of your time.

Cut Bank
Cut Bank(2015)
½

Though there are a few small story flaws and a low production value, I wasn't bothered by these things. As someone who writes scripts, I can say that this script was a pretty good one when it comes to the basic story. There are lots of twists and turns. It was interesting to see the various characters interact with the situation from their various angles. Expectations were built and then they were flouted. Acting all around was competent - while nothing was transcendent, no one sucked unless you really hate the Milton character. The script also did a good job of building the quirky location. It was better than what I expected from a film festival.

Selma
Selma(2015)

After the criticism the film received for perceived complaining about Oscar snubs, I went in with an expectation - "Oh, this will be a typical Oscar-bait historical drama and nothing more. Otherwise, there wouldn't have been such criticism." But the film exceeded my expectations a bit. It is slightly better than most Oscar-bait historical dramas, and oddly, I found its central strength to be what many of the awards pundits considered mediocre - the direction. Now I feel it did get a bit of a bad rap. The Oscar campaign may have been preachy, but the film was not - white supporters of King have linchpin roles in the story. As a screenwriter, I can say the script is not anything special. It leans on the content of Dr. King's amazing speeches. It doesn't do a great job of forming the events into a narrative structure. The supers that some may not like because they do not resolve are script things, not director things as many might assume. Also, there are a whole bunch of characters that are glorified cameos. It's kind of King and everyone else. But the lead's performance, in terms of emotion if not totally in terms of accuracy, really elevates the material, and I would say, so does the direction. The ending of this film, after it returns from news footage of the famed march to a cinematic version of the speech at the capitol, is incredibly stirring and it is that way purely by the hand of the director and the lead.

Slow West
Slow West(2015)
½

Slightly slow but enough going on to make it not an unbearable indie bore. Some story flaws and voice over that is not fully developed, but various things make up for it. Climax sequence is really energetic and involving. A couple of super blatant symbolic things and some vague, though deep themes explored. In sum, a film with a lot of small flaws. But in this particular case, I think the positives outweigh the negatives. An indie film worth checking out.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

It's literally a stock Greek myth, every step of one, copy-pasted into a narrative, and delivered by people around 20 playing 16 and consciously trying to talk like they're 12 and sassy - tone is as bad as you'd expect for a Greek myth transported into present day teenagers and rated PG. Lerman isn't very good, Jackson is good but exemplifies the trashy angle, Brosnan blatantly copies McKellan. Also, the CGI is not that great, nor are the sets, though I'd like to visit wherever that camp was - very scenic. Not really any good messages. All that said, it's an enjoyable yarn. You know, fight scenes and junk. And I caught all the references, so maybe that was part of it. Also I did not go in expecting much. That's probably the important thing. Do not go in with expectations, and you will be okay.

The Imitation Game

I'm a sucker for these types of movies. I really enjoyed it. Cumberbatch was amazing, definitely Oscar-worthy. That he was considered an also-ran for the award really makes me want to see what was so obviously ahead of him according to the critics. Knightley was fine, as was the rest of the cast. The script, story-wise, had some good angles from the morality tale end. But there were some things that annoyed me as a history degree holder, for example nothing about the machine itself, and mere clips to convey historical context. Also, his homosexuality was never fully explored, it only became referenced late on, then all the supers were about his homosexuality. And that, I feel, was bad form and made the whole thing seem unnecessarily preachy. So my general feeling is that this film has some really amazing aspects, but also missed the mark on a few points. I guess that fits its mold as an Oscar also-ran.

The Blind Side
½

This film was nominated for Best Picture (in the last slot of the ten-film year, beating out Invictus), and it is a decent movie. But I did not find it any better than the many similar sports films that come out at a rate of about four a year. Is this discernibly better than Remember the Titans, or Coach Carter? No. But it is as good as those movies. So I am in the overrated camp. But like I said, it's not bad. It is, of course, not really a football movie, but a movie about a woman who takes in a disadvantaged teenager and turns his life around. The thing is, she doesn't come off unusually spectacularly, nor was the performance of Bullock something Oscar-worthy. It was timely, but not in a world-changing fashion. Oher's tough life before meeting his mentor was necessarily sanitized. There are all sorts of negative things you can say socioeconomically, politically, if you choose to pick apart the story, but people didn't feel like it at the time, it seems. I guess it was just lucky.

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
½

It makes sense how this would be marketable. This movie has a lot of really imaginative sequences, and in terms of story and character development, is par for the course. So why did it fall flat with critics?

Where this movie fails spectacularly is tone. The movie is piggy-backing on a true classic that everyone knows the release year for. In certain ways, it is correct to deviate - it's okay to have a different villain, introduce new worlds in Oz, and be animated. But it also abandoned what we love - the known characters from the classic - the lion, scarecrow, and tin man - are nothing like the classics, and terribly delivered by their respective voice actors. Despite the fact that the audience is aware of the old film, the era it took place in, and the way people talked in it, the dialogue is 100 percent MODERN sounding and the story, for some reason, takes place in what appears to be the 1960s even though they reference that for Dorothy, the events of the original happened "only yesterday." As for the serious story stuff, only one character, the villain, is given a character in Oz - the other characters we meet in Oz have no real-world equivalent!

It's a middling product craft-wise, but it's totally tone-deaf, taking away what people liked about the classic, and replacing it with stock filler.

Meek's Cutoff

This might be hard to believe, but this is even LESS commercial than Wendy and Lucy. Imagine all the boring parts of Wendy and Lucy writ large as a purgatorial metaphor a la Bergman filmed in absolutely crystal-clear HD. Williams is good, Patton is good, and there's some good thematic material. There's also very little dialogue, no plot structure, and no ending. Only watchable for snobs.

White House Down
½

Not completely awful and some of the humor was intentional, but bizarre tone problems and some horrific acting, especially from Tatum and Gyllenhaal, mean that I cannot in good conscience rate this positively, given that all of the fundamentals were the definition of mediocre.

Puss in Boots

This movie acts like Shrek didn't exist, which I found off-putting. As a screenwriter, when I evaluate this film, it has a lot of story flaws. Its act one is overlong at 32 pages for only 79 total, it begins with an unnecessary voice over intro of a character we are familiar with, and tells a huge backstory with another voice over. The story for the rest of the running time is very thin. In produced films, most with these large story flaws have excellent character development. This one, not so much. On a technical basis, nothing special. But for some reason, it didn't add up to a terrible movie in this instance. The flick has just enough heart, just enough twists and turns to keep its head above water. The relationship between Puss and Softpaws, and several imaginative sequences save it from the trash bin.

Guardians of the Galaxy
½

Complete balls-to-the-wall action fest and visual blizzard. Despite some witty lines and a few moments of very touching thematic content, script is actually pretty weak. Worlds are not well established and much of plot is random. Characters are okay. Parts were clearly in the "intentionally bad" mode and these were only partially successful. An enjoyable time to be sure but not amazing.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Seemed to have a different tone and feel than the other movies of this series. It was much less Oscar-baity and much more action-movie-y. There were a bunch of ludicrous action scenes and some of these were just mindblowing. On the other hand, other scenes seemed like they had their budget cut, especially early on. The story is more by the numbers when it comes to screenwriting, and an evaluator would rate the script a significant improvement over the first Hobbit. At the same time, the story was nothing like the book, even more so than the first, which could have been called an extremely bloated version of the book. There was a hokey love story put in it, and all sorts of other deviations, all formulaic. The film is basically good, of course, but it is really hard to fully judge its merits on a lot of fronts.

Argo
Argo(2012)
½

I was relatively disappointed, honestly. It was still good, don't get me wrong, but best picture quality? No way. Firstly, despite the color patina I wasn't immersed in the time period. I felt like I was watching hipsters pretend they were in the time period. The acting was not great outside of Goodman. Every plot device in the film was so blatantly transparent, so obvious and heavy handed, so much forced conflict and cheap thrills in every scene. The character development was super hackneyed. It felt like an Oliver Stone film. The daunting images of Iran offered nothing. As a screenwriter, there were also structure issues. No midpoint, for example. Too long of a denouement. Lots of things. However, the dialogue was good, and as far as acting goes, Goodman was excellent and Affleck was also excellent, though others clearly mailed it in. To me, this was a prestige film with nothing special about it. It relied wholly on concept and image.

Elysium
Elysium(2013)
½

This did not go in the direction I expected. Having watched District 9, I was expecting deep social commentary to pervade the story. However, it did not. The story was basically a dumb actioner. Elysium was barely featured. Jodie Foster has about 15 minutes of screen time. In the mold of the dumb action movie, it is fine, not spectacular. There is too much focus on a single combat. But the elevated milieu of the narrative does raise it above typical action fare. So on the whole, I still found the movie to be generally good. It was just that, when I saw the preview, my expectations were off the charts. It was one of those trailers that made you want to give up writing because you could never match the concept you just saw. Not so with this one, however.

Role Models
Role Models(2008)

I was pleasantly surprised. The LARPing scenes in particular were quite funny.

42
42(2013)
½

A solid by the numbers biopic and period piece. It plays much shorter than its running time, which is always a good sign. As a baseball nerd, I knew all of the players in the story (yes, even Fritz Ostermuller and Kirby Higbe) and probably wanted more, but while Eight Men Out was basically just a baseball story, Jackie Robinson's story is obviously something much more, and the lack of baseball minutia is appropriate. I suppose one thing that could have been expanded on is the idea that several other Negro Leaguers were dying to get to the bigs, and jealous of Robinson's opportunity. Also, many other black players got chances shortly after Robinson, and the film only mentions the Dodgers players. I know that several black players played in the minors before Robinson went to Montreal, but several of them did so with the owners knowing that they would never go to the majors. So Robinson, when he was assigned to Montreal, was very suspicious in real life, and did not consider it legitimate. Furthermore, we never got to know Robinson's Monarch teammates. So we could have seen more of the black ballplayer experience. But at the same time, Robinson had to be first, which is hardest, so his experience was in fact singular. The cinematography and art direction are impressive, and while Harrison Ford is pretty cartoonish as Rickey, and basically everyone in the film overacts, there were some interesting tidbits in the story as well. I found it interesting that Robinson was presented as basically a clichéd white guy hero of the time period portrayed in the film. He is muscular with his pocketed white t-shirt and khaki's, much like Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne.

Grudge Match
Grudge Match(2013)

About as bad as you'd expect. Horrible comic timing from the two leads. Extremely formulaic family conflicts. Whole project reeks of minimal effort. Breaks tons of screenwriting rules, most obviously with heavily expositional conversations about backstory. Most disappointing, Kevin Hart, the only person actually funny in the movie, disappears for large swaths of it, and plays a much smaller role than is indicated by the preview.

Despicable Me 2

Pleasantly surprised. Thought the first one was a bit boring and had less visual pop than comparable animated flicks. But this one really zazzed up the visuals and the excitement. There was a problem with wrapping up a couple of character arcs too quickly in acts 2/3, namely the son of El Macho and then the defeat of El Macho afterward, but besides that I was really pleased.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

More story, less gags than I thought. Story basically swiped from Little Miss Sunshine, though.

Fruitvale Station

A solid minimalist character study told with dignity.

Gods and Generals

very dull movie that breaks a ton of screenwriting rules. opening is not compelling in the least, huge act 2 lull after the midpoint, daniels is pointless and doesn't show up until act 2. characters introduced have 2 scenes and die in ten minutes. dialogue is on the nose and characters frequently go into oration of scripture or Shakespeare. Stephen Lang did a good job as stonewall, duvall was fine as Lee. technically middling. basically an unbearably dull 4 hr movie with a terrible script. the civil war movie I wrote is much better even to someone besides me. this was written by a total novice. no redeeming visuals but some good acting to keep it from my worst ever lists.

World War Z
World War Z(2013)
½

It was decent, good even. The plot is fairly simple and I think the film benefited from it. It was a movie with 10-15 major scenes as opposed to an edit fest. Often times, these sorts of stories get way too complicated for their own good and huge holes are blown in the plot. However, there are still a whole bunch of small pot holes that you realize after walking out. For instance, what do the zombies eat? Why are the soldiers on the carrier listening to some UN suit? Why do the Israelis not systematically eliminate zombies? Pitt is super laid back, but I liked that he was the only one not panicking in the action sequences. He pulled it off and added some realism to the script that action stories often lack. Though the family story was a bit cliché, I did like the female Israeli soldier character. There was a lot to like in this movie and it did just fine for me.

Van Helsing
Van Helsing(2004)
½

Seeing it on TV for a second viewing, and having gotten into screenwriting in the interim, this script is retarded. There are so many scenes where the conversation is "What are your feelings?" "These are my feelings." "Oh." The plot is extremely hackneyed, which is okay as this movie is supposed to be a smorgasbord of horror icons. Also, there are some really imaginative elements at a few points. But the dialogue, especially Beckinsale's (and her atrocious accent makes it worse) is so stupid that the movie is no longer an informal tongue-in-cheek, intentionally campy flick like Star Trek (to cite an unusually high-budgeted and well-done example) or The Mummy, but a kind of pathetic and corny B film that views like the third or fourth installment of a low-brow series. To add, the score is highly melodramatic and childishly employed; it seems a mix of the Zorro and Shrek scores and is very out of place.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Just as good, if not better than the first of the new series. Mind blowing visuals abound and the character development is very good. There are a few ludicrous action moments. At the beginning of the film, the main characters dive at an absurdly fatal speed to a submerged vessel. People don't die instantly in space, etc. Also, there are one or two kind of tacky scenes with corny dialogue. But other than that, the film is very rich and vibrant. Spock gets a whole bunch of great situational one-liners. Very, very solid blockbuster.

Lincoln
Lincoln(2012)

This is not like War Horse, a schmaltzy historical piece. Nor is it formulaic. In fact, there's a lot for hipsters to like in this one. Lincoln, the notorious slob, is presented as such and there is some hyper-realistic dismal dredge in the lensing, which I found pleasing. Is Day-Lewis transcendent? Hard to say, it's really great though. Borderline transcendent. One really great surprise is Tommy Lee Jones, not necessarily because of his performance. He looks ridiculous and delivers your classic TLJ drawl. But he had some really great dialogue. If that was what Thaddeus Stevens actually said in the congressional record, then I am now very fond of Thaddeus Stevens. If not, then wow that was a great job by Kushner. I liked the angle Spielberg did take, analyzing Lincoln's conflict in trying to end the war as well as slavery when the two concepts seemed mutually exclusive.

The film is not perfect. For instance, it is a totally positive rendering of Lincoln, saying nothing about the powers he acquired at the beginning of the war. Secondly, there is some lazy writing (or too much cutting) at certain parts of the narrative, making the exposition transparent and unnatural, and there are a couple of conversations that are in the same mold. Finally, it claims to be based on Team of Rivals, which I am reading currently. It is nothing like the book. The book is about fifty times the scope of the movie, and is a quadruple biography, and two of the features barely feature in the film. It's all the more puzzling since I'm pretty sure Spielberg planned his Lincoln movie before that book came out.

These, however, are the nit-pickings of a history nerd. Lincoln is a good movie. You should see it.

Fahrenheit 9/11
½

This is nowhere near as good as Bowling for Columbine as a documentary. It starts off, very misguidedly in my opinion, with the liberal mantra that Bush stole the election, which does not have to do with 9/11 and turns off any potential converts, no matter how good the rest of the documentary is. Also, the film has an over-reliance on soldier sob stories in the Iraq War, which can only have so much effect on someone's perception of facts, especially when there were about 20 high profile Iraq war documentaries every year of the war. The documentary is not without merits, however. Moore cites hard evidence to show Bush's personal connections to the Bin Laden family and integrates this into his narrative very well. While it is successful in making you hate President Bush even more than you already did, the overarching angle of the film is not exactly earth-shattering. Bush lost me with his speech from the rubble of the WTC. We did not universally love him in 2001, though many think that. Of course Bush used 9/11 to invade Iraq, everyone knew at the time he was doing that. So what's the point of this film then? The documentary basically adds up to a sermon to the converted, with a few novel details mixed somewhere in the middle hour. It does not change people's minds.

Sicko
Sicko(2007)
½

This documentary is better than both Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, and is extremely effective. Like in his other documentaries, Moore mostly relies on personal anecdotes and does not provide a ton of hard numbers. However, in this documentary there is enough data to get by. He occasionally interjects liberal politics on foreign policy and European welfare state policies into the film, but those moments are few and far between, and are tame. Like the other films, Sicko contains a publicity stunt Moore orchestrated as well as a self-congratulatory piece which will make the haters continue to hate. The biggest flaw of the film is that Moore fails to give the viewer the tax rates of the European nations with universal health care, although he substitutes a French family not making a declaration that they have high taxes (saying basically it wasn't enough for them to consider it a major expense) as a substitute, and he does not weigh the macro-discussion of America having a huge military, etc. versus having an expensive universal health care system. The other flaw is that he bashes medicare part D with no real evidence for his argument. Also, the conspiratorial may claim that Moore searched for his hapless patients and cherry-picked his testimony (in one case it appeared a man chose death over bankruptcy which is not what typical people would do). But Moore is extremely effective at making the viewer's blood boil at how bad American health care performance is compared to other countries, and reiterating that their main goal is to turn a profit, not save people. Regardless of whether his anecdotes turn out to be atypical (personal experience tells me it's not - both of my parents have had major surgeries and the pricetags even after insurance were insane - the most depressing thing ever in America is reading the lines of a medical bill - $130 for a bandage, $70 for the surgeon's apron, $35 for a towel he reuses, etc.) it must be apparent to even the most hardened opponent of European health care that certain insurance practices need to be amended. We have insurance to avoid going bankrupt when we get sick, and companies have guaranteed profit by the very definition of the system. We get sick, we still go bankrupt because 20% of the bill is six figures. If we are covered. Which we often aren't, even after we have been paying the insurance company for years. At hundreds of dollars a month. It's a shakedown, a racket, not unlike the mafia. This sort of thing makes you want to ban the concept of insurance, period, except maybe term life and auto. If you've ever felt this way, do not consume alcohol or be near firearms or sharp/blunt objects after viewing this film.

Update: After watching this film, I learned that upon its release the American news networks were given talking points that decried the film by health insurance companies, and CNN read them on the air. The PBS anchor instead did a story on how he received the talking points.

Snow White and the Huntsman

The film has a ton of excellent visuals. The costuming is incredible as expected from Colleen Atwood, the cinematography and art direction and the effects are spectacular too. The problem though is that the majority of it is swiped from Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, or the recent Robin Hood. I swear, there's a beach battle that was filmed wherever Robin Hood was! The acting is fine and the script is passable, though I did not really buy Stewart in her moments of rage, which seem out of character for Snow White anyway. As a non-religious person, I liken it to the hypocrisy of crusading Christianity, as Snow White is clearly a Christ figure. I think it would have been more effective to show Snow White as merciful at all points. She does not need to become a warrior, and she could have just let her innately gentle spirit conquer evil. Another problem I had was with the editing, especially through the middle of the film, in which the cutting is extremely heavy and detracts from character development and the flow of the journey story. On the whole, in fact, there is very little character development. Just a few mentions of backstory by the characters to substitute for real arcs, the most blatant of which is by the huntsman just before he kisses Snow White. However, the gritty take on Snow White was refreshing for me and certain parts of the film were better than I expected. I give it a B-.

Too Big to Fail

It's a decent, not-great TV movie. The cast is solid but the script is pretty lazy. Taken in a disinterested macro view, the movie is just a bunch of scenes of suits on cell phones and in board rooms telling each other things are worse than they said last time, and begging people to give other people money. Unlike, say, a documentary of the financial crisis, you don't get much in the way of a technical explanation and the actual problem is discussed very superficially. You do feel for Paulson as he is just bombarded by a demented whack-a-mole game that just keeps getting more and more nightmarish with each hit of the mallet. This company is short 15 billion. Wow, that sucks. Actually 70 billion. Actually 180 billion. Actually 780 billion. Actually all of them and it's going to be worse than the Great Depression. You wonder where was the help for Paulson from the administration, you wonder how nobody in congress even knew what was going on, you wonder why they deal with every problem in an ungodly informal arrangement between chums. But most of the characters outside of Paulson are just stock, type cast, and mailed-in performances, and there isn't that much of a dramatic arc except the arc of history, which is a tension build and a resolution. That's fine with me but not with a lot of people.That the characters do not change is a criticism a script analyst would give of this movie. It deals with present day figures so the acting looks bad throughout with the exception of Hurt as Paulson. All in all, if you were only marginally interested in watching this movie as entertainment and you don't care about the financial crisis, you shouldn't watch this movie. And you might not appreciate it much if you are an expert on the financial crisis. This movie really appeals only to the people in between those two groups.

The Campaign
The Campaign(2012)

Zach G. is surprisingly good. Other than that, exactly what you expect.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The first thing I would mention is that the film deviates heavily from the book. For lack of a good word, the Hobbit as a book in the parlance of a non-fan is much "gayer" than the LOTR trilogy. Half the book seems like it is singing songs and such. Well, Jackson has replaced those songs with superfluous orc attacks and a gigantic goblin battle. The movie is action-packed to the gills and is very masculine, unlike the book. The introduction of the dwarves is really the only part that closely follows the book. Throughout, new characters are added, characters from the book are completely eliminated, etc. The visuals are spectacular of course, but they almost seem to be gratuitous, especially when the mountains start fighting each other. Huge sweeping landscapes every other frame, tons of CGI, battle sequences that clearly translate to video games, etc. Parts of the movie were franchised it seemed, as LOTR characters kept making cameos, and the arc presented at the beginning of the film it seems will not be closed until the third film. Like in the third LOTR, you keep expecting the movie to end and it doesn't. You know there are going to be three movies and you think, oh he could end it here, here, or here, and it keeps going. Finally the acting seems worse, outside of Freeman who was excellent. Perhaps it is just the times. Now with so many sci-fi/fantasy stories going dark, it seems sort of silly to have the super-serious acting amidst dwarves and such.

The film goes over halfway through the book and I am pretty skeptical on the final two parts of the trilogy. I hope at least one of those films is only 90 minutes. It looks like Jackson is going to add a bunch of battles for the forest elves, and the third movie will be about fighting Smaug. Heck, the way they are drawing this out they may make a trilogy of the Silmarillion. References have been made in the four films up to this point, why stop? As for this film, it is of typical quality for Jackson's related films, but it gives me a lot of underlying concerns.

Marvel's The Avengers

story is extra stupid and unbelievable. it's supposed to be, but as a beginning engineer who's taken a physics class the science is like, literally the opposite of what they say. weak gamma rays? also, as an aspiriing screenwriter, the script is very lazy, especially from about page ten through the beginning of act 2, though more effort is made at emotional character development than in most action movies, probably due to great actors populating the roles. all that story stuff aside, the action is insane and the effects are mind-blowing. i still recommend this movie but it is your run of the mill stupid blockbuster, no more no less.

The Ides of March
½

To be honest with you I wasn't impressed. The Ides of March is a pretty cliche script about douchey political operatives trying to manipulate a scandal. Having worked on political campaigns I can tell you they are nothing like in this movie. They're really quite lame and pathetic. No one is even in the building most of the time. The people involved are not whip smart like in the movie, they are basically idiots with no social acumen whatsoever, and they are pretty lazy in general. Of course, that's just Hollywood glossing things over. But what I dislike about this and other movies is the lack of realism in character interaction. You can tell the script was written by a wealthy person with an ego,. One scene that I really hated from this movie consists of Gosling and Evan Rachel Wood in a restaurant propositioning each other. Just once I want to see the hot girl get stonewalled and see how it feels, to be honest with you. I would personally have rejected her in that situation. Also, she does not pull of 20, she looks at least 27.A comparison for this movie would be Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, another kind of crappy Oscar-baity movie with a weak script and unrealistic character interaction amongst the well-to-do.

Shogun
Shogun(1980)

Really impressive technically especially for a tv movie especially for the time. But the story is just ludicrous. I almost burst out laughing when the main character tried to explain the Treaty of Tordesillas to the shogun. Like he would ever understand him or accept his authority.

The Dark Knight Rises

This blockbuster is impeccably executed like its predecessor but is not quite as good. Whereas the previous film's plot was somewhat "realistic" by comparison, this finale is comepletely balls-to-the-wall implausible and is really epic in scope. The action is just ridiculous and reaches its zenith of implausibility in two different scenes, which I won't name because one is a spoiler. The gadgets become yet more impressive. The script has some clever emotional touches to it that close the characters well, but they do border on gimmicky. The way they handle catwoman is maybe the most probelmatic. She is a well-developed character in terms of her arc but the conclusion is only partially satisfying. The devastating pinch 2 twist is apparent before the halfway point of the movie, and you will likely know what the twist is before it happens. This thing goes for the absolute jugular in every way. If you are not a deep-thinking movie fan, this may be your favorite movie of all time. It has ridiculous action, epic scope, well-done characters, and several emotional touches. However, there are a lot of minor flaws.

Northwest Passage

It's actually kinda graphic and might be seen as offensive to a few. The movie plays more like something out of the 50s or early 60s. It is in color with better than average cinematography and kinda preachy and a little campy like films of those times are. It is pretty gritty compared to most, though, and tells of an interesting period in history that is not covered in pop culture much (though liberties are of course taken - the combat is poor and the scale of the indian battle unrealistically large, and the costuming is also bad). All in all, the movie keeps your attention and is basically enjoyable, though it is not exactly intellectual. Sort of like a popcorn movie in today's terms.

The Iron Lady
½

I am usually a fan of historical films and can stand detachment more than most. But this film is an unusually dry "greatest hits" biopic with basically no dramatic angle. There are a couple of positives. Firstly, Streep is very convincing, especially in old age. In fact, Streep is more convincing in the old age scenes than she is in the PM scenes. Secondly, this was a film made by liberals but it avoids bashing Thatcher and in fact accomplishes the rare feat of presenting history in context. This is almost a conservative propaganda piece, it takes to heart all of Thatcher's conservative principles, which is of course the right thing to do in a Thatcher biopic. This movie breaks all the dramatic rules: everything is told in flashback which is a no-no, the character doesn't change by definition, I could go on and on about why an outsider could never get this film past a script analyst. There are also points of departure from the facts, most notably with the depiction of Thatcher's marriage and Denis' death. The film depicts Margaret as being away from Denis when in fact he was present throughout her PM term, and the story, told with Thatcher as an old woman hearing about the Mumbai bombings, depicts Denis as having been dead for a long time, when he had not been dead for very long. This being the emotional centerpiece of the film, the entire work is undercut. Also, to say someone has Alzheimer's without proof is pretty douchey even if you treat her record gently. So in summary, the film avoids coming off as a political screed and features good performances. However, it lacks drama and involvement, and its emotional side is highly flawed.

The Conspirator
½

I was expecting an overly-exact period piece with excellent acting and dialogue, but poor art direction and other technical flaws. However, it was almost the opposite. The art direction is just fine and the biggest flaw of the film is actually the dialogue, which I felt was a bit modern and over-emotional in general, my take being furthered by the modern deliveries of Justin Long and Alexis Biedel, and the few points of on-the-nose dialogue trying to give information on secondary characters who are historical figures. The story is a necessary one and was handled with aplomb, although in my academic opinion as someone who has studied the period extensively and has a history degree, I don't think someone would have been so emotionally against defending Surratt, and it unrealistically exagerrates the lead's emotional switch on Surratt when there is plenty of drama to be worked on the principles he is examining (The main character just has to change, doesn't he? And it has to be on an eighth grade level, I understand). Aiken's initial disdain for Surratt I never understood nor believed, and had I written the movie I would have centered his conflict on the denial of civil rights that clearly took place. I am currently writing some scripts with similar themes from the time period. I feel Redford could have gone further with his philosophical arc in this one, given all of the controversial things Lincoln did with regard to civil liberties during his presidency. That was another flaw in the story. No implication of Lincoln, who inspired all of the crookedness (possibly justified, which is why it would make good drama) of Stanton and Johnson's actions in this film.

Wings
Wings(1927)

This film was technically adept and also contained some innovative stylistic shots. Having the full cooperation of the war department, the film has some really impressive and (at least to modern viewers) revealing looks at pilot training. In a lot of ways, the film is like one made in the 1950s. The people's lifestyle is not very different, the attitudes are not very different, the special effects are not fundamentally different. The main character especially could easily have been a star in the 50s and fit in perfectly.

Bowling for Columbine
½

I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about with regard to Moore's documentaries, and put them (the major ones anyway) all in my netflix queue one after the other. This was pretty good. Moore adds a lot of style and panache and the time goes by quickly. In this doc, Moore prefers the mosaic approach to prove his point. He does not produce much hard evidence and instead relies on personal testimony and situational demonstrations to create an exhaustive experience of the situation. Though this sometimes is the downfall of a documentary, in this case points of bias are easily digested and his premise is more or less solid. The doc is not so much about guns but about the sale of fear by American society and how it affects people. It is a point that a lot of people want to make but few can do so coherently. Though this documentary is not extremely well-researched it does provide a solid entry into the discussion of the abstract issue at hand.

The Adventures of Tintin
½

It's a good product in a vacuum, a nice period adventure with ridiculous stunts not very different from Indiana Jones or the Mummy series. But the whole time I'm thinking, this is nothing like the Tintin that I've read. The books were actually much more lame and boring than the movie, but still, it's nothing like the source literature. Anyway, it is basically a popcorn flick, no real mind-blowing aspects unless you are very into animation technology. Basically enjoyable, not a best of the year or anything like that.

J. Edgar
J. Edgar(2011)
½

the film is a bit distant and there is not much of a story arc aside from the (very well done) smothered love between hoover and tolson, which is a highly speculative angle to go with. the makeup is horrid and watts does not give a good performance, though many of the principals do. the script is entirely told in flashback which is a no-no to evaluators. so there are a lot of glaring flaws. it's still pretty decent because of the great aesthetic sensibilities of clint eastwood. furthermore, it is not boring and goes by very quickly. however it is not a great historical film. it is more on par with recent not-that-great 20th century histories like the queen, w, and frost/nixon.

Casino Jack And The United States Of Money
½

This documentary goes for style over substance. It's slickly presented but has no depth at all, and provides little in the way of tangible evidence, relying almost completely on interviews. Interviews are not good enough when you are trying to indict someone. As far as Abramoff is concerned, you'll basically know every part of the story already. The lack of hard evidence and new material really sucks because people need to know about the insane amount of corruption and the horrid culture of DC, which they only have the most infantile understanding of. Yes, it is effective at making a lot of people look bad, but to be honest, it wasn't the people the documentary needed to make look the worst. Finally, the documentary is intellectually dishonest because lobbying has always been a huge problem in DC from the early 19th century. It's just that back then, it was blatant and in the open, and the land speculator himself ran for congress and told people he was there to get a land grab. Now they're just much more hypocritical and pretending to be noble while doing the same crooked business.

A Man for All Seasons

Knowing what I know about Thomas More's life, I thought this film would be much more exciting. He wrote Utopia, he dealt with Henry VIII, he dealt with the church, he had an interesting personal life to say the least. But basically this movie consists of a few philosophical discussions amid a bland character study that is basically nothing but period pieces and hip-for-the-time direction wrapped in a largely pointless and very inactive plot. Good acting though. Guess that's what you get when you make a movie about Thomas More that is somehow rated G. Trust me, if I wrote a Thomas More movie (which I may well do), it would definitely be an R. Some may be put off by the film's ethical message of obeying the law and canon even if you think it is unjust (something, interestingly, that Luther the Protestant opined late in his career to the delight of satirists). But I guess some people would call him saintly for doggedly following church law over the tyranny of the king. Then there is the whole thing where they ignore how he burned six people at the stake for printing the Bible in English, which would put a whole 'nother arc of intrigue into this thing. I thought critics hated talky historical dramas that are all about the underlying message, especially if they gloss over the unpleasing details. But they love this one for some reason. Maybe it is the times. Or a difference between critics (who are ungodly banal these days) and the Academy. Luckily I am fine for boring, talky historical dramas, so I give it 3.5 stars despite describing it negatively.

The Social Network
½

I loved the cinematography, and I have personally quit Facebook because it made me no friends and did nothing but make people hate me, so I am intrigued by the many angles this could have pursued in its script. And I am not totally put off by the premise they did go for. But I felt the character depictions and interactions were highly unrealistic right from the ludicrous opening scene's utterly implausible conversation. The woman from the first scene might as well have been Helen of Troy, she is so idealized. She just sits there and takes the abuse for a good five minutes like a good little bitch. No woman (or man) has that kind of willpower for resisting the urge to insult someone. I get yelled at before I even say anything to women. If my look at them is wrong they start to insult me. Is she even representative of a real person from Zuckerberg's life? The Winklevoss twins are stereotypes of every private school movie, the Harvard brass is exceptionally caricatured, Zuckerberg gets a random BJ in a bathroom from some Asian fan girl skank, his now-wife. I doubt that story's authenticity, even if it came from Saverin. People don't actually think Facebook makes you cool, as this movie assumes. Just because you invent something and make money doesn't mean that people don't think you're a loser anymore. The Napster guy is a joke (though Timberlake acts the part well), Saverin is blatantly inaccurate, I can go on. I am living through these events, I hate these movies that depict present-day histories with blatant inaccuracies in the name of not-very-high drama. This is not much different than W intellectually, in my opinion. I did not find any of the acting all that impressive either, as in W. Really, Timberlake did the best of anyone. Also I felt there was nothing special about the Oscar-winning score and frankly it should have been DQ'ed because during the rowing scene it incorporated old music. Anyway this was a decent film but not a great one because although it has a good look and feel, and it has an interesting angle for its premise, it is filled with stock characters, which detracts from the film's premise as a critique on today's society because it fails to accurately depict the society it is critiquing. They made these people a bunch of partying, obsessed with social life douchebags when they were actually cold and calculating people who did not care at all about their social life. Is that what they think of Gen Y? Are we profligate whores to baby boomers? Because I know no one like the people in this movie.

The African Queen

The restoration from 2009 is top notch, so the majority of the film looks like it was shot around 1990. It is a very naturalistic cinematography that surely influenced the likes of Herzog and Malick. Lots of shots of water plants and such. The story is compelling and very allegorical, about life in general, especially married life, and it has nice little humorous and realistic touches throughout, but the movie is highly dated, most notably in the acting of the two leads, neither of whom I was impressed with in any way, but both of whom were hugely lauded at the time. Since they completely dominate the film and there are literally no other characters for most of the screen time, the acting is the dominant way by which I perceive the movie. Also there is the whole hate to love thing, except the hate is never there and the love is too easy. I don't hold it in the highest regard with some other classics. Perhaps this is merely a generation gap.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
½

I had a few problems with this mainly well-crafted and informative documentary. Firstly, it was very gimmicky, secondly, it had R-rating elements that were completely unneeded and the R-rating for a documentary decreases potential knowledge on the subject. There are recorded f-bombs. Okay, just bleep them. It has naked strippers in it. Why? Who cares that these guys were also a-holes, just stick to the story. Now you've put naked strippers in it and you can't show it in a classroom! Good job, your documentary will now not have the needed impact on society. Thirdly, it came out before the trials in 2006 which I feel was to soon to render a "final judgment" as this documentary does. That is really important because, well, it is obviously biased, leading, and presents a conflict of interest to the jury. And it makes the whole thing, in academic terms, bunk because it is now hearsay without the intellectual power of a conviction.

They Died With Their Boots On

This is a solidly written if anachronistic studio film of the golden age. It's never dull, the acting is good (Havilland is one of my favorite old actresses), and there are several great scenes of dialogue and a few touches of comedy. It looks at Custer in a very humane way, treating him as a highly noble person. I'm sure he was at least somewhat noble, though certain historical records indicate he was not very bright. If this movie was made today, I'm pretty sure Custer would be treated as an imbecile. They probably would have made him a domineering, idiotic, morally bankrupt alcoholic or something. Today's movies tend to tear historical figures down, especially if they are white men, but this one does not do so. The dated-ness of the film is completely stand-able and even modern viewers who usually hate oldies will probably enjoy it. The negatives of the film are the historical inaccuracies, most of which you will be able to guess as you watch the movie and don't really detract much from the real point of the film, and the clearly rushed and poorly done battle scene at the end. Sadly because that battle scene is the climax it does do damage to one's perception of the film. This might be my favorite Flynn picture, though I have not seen them all.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

I normally don't criticize a movie for being pretentious, but this movie has got way too much of an ego, especially considering where it's coming from. Unnecessarily dark for the sole purpose of being dark because dark is in, this director very misguidedly tries to inject death-oriented new-age western motifs and other metaphors on the human condition into a movie about teenage wizards adapted from a cheery and dumb children's book series marketed to tweens. Overcast skies and drab abandoned limbo-style landscapes dominate, and so do the dour looks of the actors, who simply do not pull it off for me. Did this director watch The Road right before lensing this thing? I mean, the cheery Gollum ripoff dies and they go all serious? What? That is what it's like for the whole movie.

The Last Airbender
½

Not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Apparently the 3D in theaters was bad and that contributed to this film's Razzie status. But I thought the effects in 2D were nice, although there were a few spots where the green screen became obvious. The big problem was the acting and the dialogue, and also the editing. Jackson Rathbone in particular was awful, and the child actors behaved like child actors, totally missing the intended tenor of most of their lines. As a result, the very dramatic approach Shyamalan and Horner take in their direction and scoring is undercut by the overly frank delivery of the dialogue. Dev Patel was actually good though, and did not deserve his Razzie nomination. As for the editing, the film was cut in such a way that one, it swept by long periods of time with very little touching base, and two, it kept cutting from major battle scenes straight to mundane dialogue. The first made the film feel distant, the second made it feel disjointed. My last knock against the film is entirely subjective, but the overlong tai-chi maneuvers used to bend the elements are totally out of place in live action. Long story short, the movie is technically impressive and the story isn't totally bad, but the bad acting and editing really bring it down.

The Grapes of Wrath
½

The movie was more dated than I had thought, with characters that were very much stereotypical and a score that is instantly recognizable as an Alfred Newman. There are some very touching moments, like when the kids are astounded by the public restroom. But like The Ox Bow Incident, this film is solid and noble but I just don't see it as "special." The narrative was quite episodic and this was exaggerated by a great number of blatant fade outs within the film, an indication of a passionless adaptation in which the plot outline was thrown together in a board room the day before shooting. They act as if to say, "we thought these parts of the book were boring, let's skip ahead." Also, the content of the seemingly pro-communist film was obviously neutered. This may sound like heresy to most, but I feel this film could be very well remade with the liberties today's filmmakers can take. But as for the classic version, I just didn't feel it, although I give it a good rating due to its pedigree.

Contagion
Contagion(2011)
½

The movie is well done but what a viewer has to understand here is that there is no plot, and it's basically a running camera with stylistic touches. There's no real narrative structure going on except for the progress of the disease, not much is explained outside of the disease itself and it is a downer. I would call it contingency plotting, but it is not as clever as the stuff you see in the top science fiction literature, and is more like a simple examination of what would happen if there were a novel pandemic with a 25% mortality rate. The various strings of contingency, in other words, are not fleshed out but merely observed. I would say that the film is reflective of today's society in that everyone is seen as a threat by everyone else and people merely observe each other as scientific objects of fear rather than being humane and interacting with one another, revealing a strong social critique, but other elements of the film (i.e. the resolution) torpedo that metaphorical premise. You won't enjoy this as a thriller or any other sort of film unless you are interested in the topic of pandemics itself, and probably only if that interest is casual and not professional.

Anonymous
Anonymous(2011)

I loved it. I thought it was every bit as good as Amadeus (with the drawback that the story is just as much debunked by history BS as is Amadeus). It is similar to the classic in many ways: excellent acting, gothic dare I say Shakespearean overemotion, exceptional sets and costumes that really make you feel like you are in the time period, some spots of uninspiring realism, some very good match cut editing and snappy time jumps. Some criticize it for the extra plot twists given by Cecil but one must remember he is a conman in this narrative, so the whole extra twists thing is in doubt as it could all be his lies. I liked the references provided by using Derek Jacobi as the chorus, also the nice allegorical touches in the plays that I was never taught (the ones that are true anyway). All in all a very entertaining though ludicrous work.

War Horse
War Horse(2011)
½

When I heard critics call it schmaltz, I just thought it was their normal avant-garde whining, but it really is very schmaltzy. It's very much like a 30's western in a lot of ways. It's basically a melodrama as far as characterization, and the rustic 1910s farm may well be from the middle ages, it is so quaint. The plot is predictably over the top. That said, the film is visually dazzling and has at least a couple of magnificently lensed scenes that will be remembered for decades. The cinematography is impeccable, the art direction and costumes are amazing, the color is great as well. This is a technical masterpiece that just has an incredibly infantile story to tell.

Pearl Jam Twenty

I like the band's music very much (my main genre is metal so I like Ten the most) and I agree with much of their politics but I completely disagree with their philosophy and outlook on art and music in general. As a documentary this is completely average, you've probably seen most of it on youtube.

Up
Up(2009)
½

The story is BS. It's an animated film, of course it is ok that the temporal story is really unrealistic and all that, I wasn't bothered. What bothered me was how the emotional story was also complete BS. It is completely dishonest with the intended viewer, meaning kids and hopeful grownups, about what life and relationships and marriage and other moral and emotional aspects of life are like. The main character was marketed as a crumudgeon, and he is emotionally spoiled. As a young child he finds a kindred spirit whom he stays loyal with through all of life's adventure. And while that is a good metaphor for life and a positive way to look at things, the simple fact is the vast majority of people never find kindred spirits. People don't want to join you on what you think is life's great adventure. The script takes a totally ideal situation and just runs with it in a really unnatural way both temporally and emotionally to try to create conflict. I felt deceived. And then you add in all the overt manipulation and schmaltz and the film just rubbed me the wrong way emotionally. It is still excellently made and all that, but this is not something I'm going to buy or show my kids.

Moon
Moon(2009)
½

the movie gives up the twist about a quarter of the way through and it never builds.

Rango
Rango(2011)

The beginning is a bit lame and as a whole the movie is very adult-oriented with borderline inappropriate gags and old-movie references that only adults will appreciate. I don't think kids under 13 will like this near as much as other animated fare. Kind of weird, most animated movies are for kids and try to be just good enough for adults. This one is for adults and tries to be just good enough for kids. The start of the film has Johnny Depp sounding as miscast as you'd expect him to be for a western. However, once Rango pretends to be the sheriff the movie is really entertaining and visually vibrant. The supporting characters are very interesting, the action is intense, the story is good enough and well, even though I was trying to get things done while watching this I could not pause the movie. So there's something going for it.

Limitless
Limitless(2011)
½

Garbage. The plot is retarded of course and the script is full of cliches. The characterization is completely unbelievable also. But the thing that really made me hate it was the incredible vibe of douchiness throughout the whole thing. Right from the glib tone of the opening narration I was turned off and every way the story went just pissed me off more.

Cowboys & Aliens
½

This thing really falls apart once the aliens reveal themselves. It's okay as a mysterious western in the beginning, but once it goes sci-fi the story is just retarded.

The Caveman's Valentine
½

The actual mystery to solve is not that great, but this film has a refreshing ballsy quality to it and brims with visual and narrative inventiveness. I could see a remake of this winning Oscars a generation from now. Excellent character for Jackson.

Battle: Los Angeles

This movie is fine as long as you are expecting a straight up action movie. The marketing for this was very misleading when it came out, portraying the film as something akin to District 9 with deep allegories and all that stuff. So it disappointed critically and at the box office. But it's really just a straight up action movie from beginning to end. In that respect, it's just fine.

Cabiria
Cabiria(1914)

This movie appears to be 10 or 15 years ahead of its time with such advancements as intercut dialogue boxes (though they often contain entire paragraphs with a lot of the story), complex and sprawling sets, and excellent costuming. There are still a few things that can date it. For example, almost the entire film is done with a stationary camera, and there are no matching action shots that Griffith introduced in his chase scenes for Birth of a Nation. In the second half of the film though, there are two moving camera shots. Basically, it is a huge period drama with excellent sets and costumes, and a story that is good enough to keep your interest. Cabiria is also a good film to view for those with an interest in the history of cinema as the viewer can precisely deliniate cinematic advancements and compare it to other early silent features. It is as enjoyable as a movie from the late 1920s and I recommend it for those who can enjoy silents.

Inside Job
Inside Job(2010)

The best aspect of this documentary is its clarity. A sixth grader could understand this narrative from beginning to end, and see why what was going on was wrong. It will only make the viewer more angry, of course, knowing that any idiot in a position of authority with a shred of ethics could have prevented the entire thing from happening. Perhaps the information was not given so clearly to the principals involved, as they don't just make the viewer think the whole world is full of weasals, they also manage to appear to lack even a basic understanding of economics. By the way, they are our government and business sectors, and the professors at all the Ivy League schools.

A King in New York
½

Easily the worst of Chaplin's starring vehicles. Although there are a few moments of witty social commentary, done mostly through visuals and criticizing the advertising culture of America in addition to HUAC, the story is aimless and the movie is severely lacking in entertainment value. First off, anyone hoping for Chaplin doing a funny accent, you will be disappointed, no effort at an accent is made whatsoever. As far as zany physical gags go, they are rare and very tame. Romance? Not really. The film is neither chaste nor romantic, but in a bland middle ground. Timeless? Actually, extremely dated. As for an extremely touching ending like you would find in other Chaplin pictures, well, no, the movie just ends without much of a resolution either way. A King in New York may be a metaphor for the shredding of Chaplin's career by the HUAC. Throughout the movie, there are extremely trite and uncreative sequences, and if these were intended to be so, maybe there is some sort of commentary on how the American socio-political-entertainment system destroys creativity. Also, there is a smart kid in the film whose talents are snuffed, but the kid is such a terrible actor that the whole concept is undercut. I could not find a relevant message with any cogency. Instead, A King in New York is an unfunny comedy and an uneven and unorganized social critique. Let me show you how this corrupt societal class creates shitty art by showing you some shitty art is not a sufficient way of presenting said argument. While Chaplin may have been going for something in the vein of Limelight but instead something very bleak where Limelight was uplifting, he completely failed in doing so. This is the one Chaplin movie I would recommend skipping.

Limelight
Limelight(1952)
½

This is a philosophical art film in today's style rather than a "deep" film like others of its time (quotes not sarcastic, merely indicating a meme). The soliloquy-like musings are a little on the nose for today's style, but the method as a whole is very modern. In the film Chaplin reminisces on a couple of his old gags from his prime, which are incredibly corny and tame. At the end of the film, he does an excellent routine with Buster Keaton, not knowing if it is any good. While at first I thought, wow those first two were lame, I now think they were intentionally lame, which opens up a new line of thinking on the film. Chaplin's character sees himself as past his prime, but it is a false opinion. He is better now in his old age, making his new material, than he ever was. The supposed quality of his old work was therefore an illusion caused by the gilding effects of time on successful art of the past. This, of course, can be carried over into Chaplin's real milieu, the film industry. Limelight, then, makes an interesting commentary on Chaplin's career and the movie industry as a whole. It is also an uplifting message about aging and self-esteem - you should see yourself as always improving in life.

Seven Chances

This film just isn't as funny as some other Buster Keaton pictures, and the second half of it is basically one huge chase sequence. However, being based on a play, it has some advantages in that there's a bit more of a plot to follow than in some other Keaton works. Also, there are some nice editing techniques and the print for the stream version on Netflix is good.

Sherlock Jr.
Sherlock Jr.(1924)
½

This movie impressed me quite a bit. It has some really impressive stunts and technology for its time, shows a lot of creative filmmaking, and it has some good moments of intellectual comedy to go with the typical physical gags you see in other Keaton features. Finally, it does all that in a tidy 45 minutes so you can fit a viewing in any schedule!

Our Hospitality

The first half hour was pretty unwatchable. The gags were so tame it became annoying. Most of it is a really lame train sequence that foreshadows the much better train gags in The General. The only things that even elicited a chuckle were the few humorous references provided by the anachronistic view of history as manipulated for the 1920s audience. However, the last 45 minutes of the movie are up to the quality of other Keaton features. I swear, he seemed to be using the set from Birth of a Nation for most of it. The pace quickens quite a bit, the gags have a little more bite to them, and I feel, at least, that this movie could be rewritten as a really crass R-rated comedy for today's audience, one that pokes fun at antebellum south stereotypes. Just my private thought though. This movie does play on the stereotypes, but only a little. Anyway, the gist is that this movie is just not very good at the beginning, but gets better as it goes along. Not as great as the best Keatons therefore, but still standable.

Priest
Priest(2011)
½

pretty terrible. a really dumb storyline, cliche-ridden character development, every fight scene copied from blade, the matrix, or mad max. and done so with over-the-top brutality if you want to be offended by it.

Girl With a Pearl Earring

Typical period prestige drama. Looks very nice, done very seriously, hardly anything there story-wise. Yes, there are some long looks and there is a lot of interesting turns on moral conventions of the period. And there is the ending taken straight from Andrei Rublev. But as far as the story goes, just nothing interesting. Some stereotypical soap opera intrigue and girlish maid small-talk. I guess I just don't respond to the whole "see who wants to bang who" plot.

Bronson
Bronson(2009)
½

This one was just fuckin' weird. This guy just wants to be famous for no reason and just goes berserk for no apparent reason. Is this some sort of commentary on metal or something? A very vague art-for-art's sake metaphor permeates the film but it is accessible to no one. There seemed to be no point to anything except to show me as much as possible Bronson's weird-ass conical penis.

Broken Trail
Broken Trail(2006)

really solid. one of the best tv movies i've seen. right on par with a good theatrical western.

Be Kind Rewind

the first half of the movie i thought was pretty dull and stupid, the characters being just a bit too moronic. but the second half grew on me. also, the marketing angle and rating of this movie are misleading. i would have given it a g rating, and it's much more of an inspirational-type kids movie with a few chuckles than an irreverent spoof comedy for teens and young adults.

The Fighter
The Fighter(2010)
½

i didn't see anything special in this film. christian bale's performance was excellent, and mark wahlberg's was pretty good, but the female characterizations were completely over the top and driven by stereotype. in the recent glut of boxing dramas vying for oscars, i don't see what makes this film any better than the other entries, which is significant because it is the latest. i mean, to tell the truth, there are lots of oscar bait dramas about drug addled families too. and there are lots of oscar bait dramas about foul-mouthed people from boston.

Jonah Hex
Jonah Hex(2010)

really disjointed and over-cut (was this originally meant to be R-rated?) and this might just be the male in me, but megan fox's character is barely in this.

Shrek Forever After
½

i thought this was the best shrek since the first. i'm glad they toned town the anachronistic pop culture references.

Grown Ups
Grown Ups(2010)

this is a pretty lazy, unoffensive comedy like paul blart: mall cop, and not as good as sandler's best comedies. the jokes are constant, but they are one-liners and often tame because of the pg-13 rating. as a result, the movie is pretty monotone.

Inception
Inception(2010)

the film i felt was wonderfully executed in terms of editing, music, and acting, but the effects i was not as impressed with. of course, that flaw alone is not enough to lower the rating from classic. my biggest beef with the film had to do with plot holes. first off, i have learned from my academic studies that dreams follow the same time speed as normal life. yeah, kinda torpedoes this plot. that and other, more typical stretches are what keeps inception from being a film i call "best of the year" or something to that effect. a great film, but just short of really being "up there."

Clash of the Titans
½

a stereotypical dumb summer actioner with bad dialogue, sweeping landscape shots, tons of cgi, and actors poorly channeling their more highly respected peers. saw in 2-d, so no comment on the reportedly terrible 3-d.

George Carlin... It's Bad for Ya!

this is okay as it IS george carlin, however this is the one and only time he truly looks old, stodgy, and comparatively unenergized. in the video he looks significantly older than even on the cover/poster. the most funny parts were not the social critiques, which were unusually blunt and tactless, but the more silly than funny stories he worked into his gags. had mr. carlin lived longer, this would have been seen as "the beginning of his downturn due to aging."

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

in most ways it was a standard popcorn flick. however i felt the story was not very detailed and felt like the film had been heavily edited. also there was a major plot hole in that the person who becomes king at the original king's death could not possibly have failed to connect the dots after the killing. after all the assassin gave him the thing that he gave to the protag that killed the king. i mean, come on!

The Road
The Road(2009)

like no country for old men in that the world is a metaphor for an emotion and the movie is incredibly depressing. has some philosophical value but not a movie you want to see twice. also i thought theron really mailed it in on this one.

Invictus
Invictus(2009)
½

the movie was fine, with excellent cinematography and good acting in fact, but i found it a tad bit dry and formulaic compared to other oscar bait, so i understand why it was snubbed at awards time. also i thought they used music too much in the movie, just my opinion.

Shutter Island

surprised they moved something this good to trash time. guess it was a pure money play as horror does well in february. the film is exquisitely executed although from a pure horror standpoint, it lacks shock value and is a tad predictable. but i loved most facets of the movie. the acting, cinematography and art direction were all excellent and the story was still good even though it did not ace the horror formula and had several plot holes.

Asteroid
Asteroid(1997)
½

horrible fx and an ungodly amount of family sap.

Failure to Launch
½

there were a few nice moments and some humor, but the characters were unusually mean to each other and thoroughly unlikeable.

Inglourious Basterds

contains all of the trademarks of tarantino and basically preaches to the converted. if you do not like tarantino you won't like this either. ultra-violent but excellent choreography with a heavily dijointed yet slowly-paced narrative structure that would be hated by pro script evaluators. there are of course many nods to the old spaghetti westerns as advertised, but the most interesting intellectual tidbits i found had to do with the film's allegorical guise for the war on terror, with the germans as al qaeda and pitt as bush. it seems to say that our wrathful rhetoric on the war on terror is a cartoonish fantasy a la this film. that is my thesis anyway.

The Book of Eli
½

a few potent moments and some nice cinematography but mostly stupid. not as stupid as legion thankfully. denzel is clearly trying to be like george clooney in this movie, it sounds crazy but watch it! he looks like an overly-tanned clooney!

Delgo
Delgo(2008)

my curiosity was killing me when it came to the biggest box office bomb of all time in terms of number of people who saw it. when released, this film averaged less than two viewers per screening and was ditched from theaters after a week, making 8,000 dollars total. several people went bankrupt because of this film, which shelved its marketing costs when it ran out of money. i think with your typical animated push it would probably have made 30-40 million overall but still would have been a loss.

now to the actual product. is it really that bad? no, it is not. the critics trashed the quality of animation but i had no problem with that. the film also talks about such things as imperialism and racial politics, albeit in very broad strokes fit for youngsters. it is also pretty fast-paced, so i disagree with the critical complaint that it was boring. i found some characters extremely imaginative and entertaining. but two things hurt the movie, aside from the common "unoriginal" complaint (the film is very archetypal and eerily similar to avatar in a few ways). one is the constant wisecracking especially during action sequences. think the amount of wisecracking in the mummy sequels. now triple it. and have chris kattan, freddie prinze junior and anne bancroft doing it instead of brendan frazier and rachel weisz, and having it be incredibly clean cut. not that appealing. the second thing is the lack of a satisfying climax in the final battle, which is moreso referenced than depicted. the final showdown of hero vs. villian is anti-climactic and delayed by several jokes. and then the ending is package wrapped very distastefully as if the producers had run out of money (which i am pretty sure is exactly the case). this film suffers the unfortunate fate of dropping off a cliff in terms of quality during the final ten minutes. before the end, i was thinking 2.5, maybe even three. but the ending really brings it down.

in summary, delgo is not the most horrible movie ever although stephen colbert may designate it so by market performance. however, it is a less than average animated family adventure that is moreso the standard fare for an eight year old to pass a weekend at grandma's on tv than something the family should pay money to see at the movies (or rent).

The End of America
½

the doc is presented in somewhat tacky fashion (think inconvenient truth with only those flashbacks about gore's life, that's the taste of it) and has bad audio. also, a lot of the points are biased, redundant, and something you hear all the time now about obama from the tea party. this film is not of liberal slant but of libertarian slant, btw. however, there are some disturbing moments. for instance, the high amount of legal language taken directly from nazi terms makes you wonder whether there were nazi fetishists in the administration. and the ssss list full of liberal journalists was frightening.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

technically advanced for its time, i assumed when i watched it that it was from 27 or 28 as opposed to 23.

October (Ten Days that Shook the World)
½

I feel not only is this a superior work to Battleship Potemkin overall, but it is also more of an accurate example of the Eisenstein style than was Potemkin. Though it is not subtle, it is highly articulate and incisive.

Aleksandr Nevskiy (Alexander Nevsky)
½

thought it would be a 5-star. but it's very low budget even for the time and there are some really bad battle scenes. there are a couple of amazing scenes, most notably the scene at pskov. you can tell eisenstein put together that scene and not the other director. this film, it should be noted, differs very much from eisenstein's silents, especially potemkin. there is none of the fast-paced editing that defined that film. it is much more conventional.

Where the Wild Things Are

the book was read to me in grade school a good ten times and i thought then that it was stupid and pointless, and i always wondered why other people liked it. the film is okay although it is again somewhat pointless. sure, it describes some child psychology, and the creatures may be psychological archetypes and are definitely stand-ins for his relatives, and there is some universal indie wistfulness to the whole project though max is clearly not a normal child (the actor is about nine and the character acts about four and is aberrantly violent and selfish) and not really relatable. there are also a lot of moments of random humor due to the pointlessness and nonsense that comes with a child's imagination. and there may or may not be some religious discussion too. but the whole thing just didn't appeal to my aesthetic tastes nor did it appeal to my philosophical sensibilities. i feel like this was a dumb idea for a story and the points it ineffectually makes can be made better, i guess.

Phantom Of The Opera

this was very solid although i had some nitpicky issues with it. there is a good production level for a silent, great in fact, and the score provided by the restoration is excellent. the story might be a little different than you expect. in this version, the phantom is 100 percent a bad guy. also his mask is really cheesy.

X-Men Origins - Wolverine
½

this film is more like 3 than like the first two. it is, in fact, more like a steven seagal picture than the first two x-men. i don't know if it was the director or budget or what, but the plot was completely torn apart with several sections skimmed over or skipped in an effort to tell the story as quickly as possible. a few impressive effects and shots, and a few lame ones. trite relationships everywhere. just not trying to be a great action movie, only trying to be an average one.

The Kingdom
The Kingdom(2007)
½

This film I felt was on par with more critically respected titles in its genre like Syriana except for a few plot foibles, most of which occur in the third act. Some will say these ruin the movie, or read racism into these flaws, but I saw them as small, forgivable flaws. For example, at one point the terrorists capture an American. They just have to try to behead him within thirty seconds of reaching their hideout. And of course he gets about three extra chances via technical problems with the camcorder, etc. This of course was a cheesy sequence but I didn't think it ruined the film, others might. There are some more action sequences like this as well as some overacting and overweening, but on the whole I thought the film was fine. The action was fine, the look was fine, the story was fine. Just a few things I would have changed here and there.

Category 6: Day of Destruction

Imagine if we could fit 50,000 weather forecasts into one movie, and show them all explicity, and then derive cliched plot elements to surround these weather forecasts with. A horrible catastrophe, no? I present to you the sci-fi movie, cateogry six.

Chariots of Fire
½

a very artful and nice-looking period drama, but i found it a little lacking in the inspiration and entertainment categories. also, the only decent synth score and ian holm in a role you may not recognize him in.

Legion
Legion(2010)
½

This is basically a zombie movie that tries to get all high and mighty with deep discussions and symbolism. Deep for a first grader maybe. Oh yes, and the zombies are actually angels. Angels sent to destroy humanity. And one angel wants to prove God wrong, which is heretical to the devout. Did I mention he has no powers besides being really great at killing people? But this is also an anti-abortion movie. The themes addressed are tailor-made for twelve year olds, or perhaps dim-witted 14 year old girls at risk of pregnancy, yet the film goes well out of its way to be offensive and adult, with tons of superfluous and dramatic self-righteous f-bombs and gore galore. Add that to some vibrating heads right out of every other horrible horror flick, and tack on a rushed copout of an ending and this is what you get.

Sherlock Holmes

An incredibly well-done film. Great rapid fire script with a lot of panache and humor. Never boring. Excellent acting all around, and all of the unique directorial touches Ritchie brings to the table are enhanced by period drama dignity. The only reason I didn't rate it higher is that well, the story is just so damn unbelievable.

Quiz Show
Quiz Show(1994)
½

Some will find the film boring because the scandal that inspired it isn't exactly earth-shattering in today's used-to-tv world. Today, we all know that every tv show is a complete fake, especially the reality programs, and that no opportunity in TV is anything resembling fair. But this movie is extremely well-done. It is wonderfully put together and the acting is great also. Finally, although the actual legal crusade does not have mind-blowing huge-scale consequences attached to it, the ethical point and comparison to other non-tv realms made at the end of the film are well stated. Think about it. This film had to be pretty good to be nominated in the year it was nominated.

Sullivan's Travels

an eclectic mix of screwball comedy and dialogical profundity that varies in its effectiveness. there are big holes in the plot and some very dated and/or cliche scenes, many of them self-referential (this is one of the first overtly self-referential hollywood movies), but on the whole the film's message is timeless and applies today.

Glory Road
Glory Road(2006)
½

in general, i like sports movies, biopics, and historical films but this one i found to be below average for the genre. the script is really lazy. there's really bad character development (haskins' wife is a throwaway as is a player's girlfriend and other ancillary characters) and a ton of moments that are purely token. the actual basketball games are poorly choreographed and anachronistic (they feature things like alley-oops and flashy dunks when those things did not happen), and there is not enough about the basketball of the time. for example the team loses to seattle university, and the film acts like they were chumps for it. but at the time seattle was one of the best teams in the country and the game would have had big time hype, etc. which was nonexistent in the movie. the team had enough to overcome in terms of lack of respect, etc. so warping history to make the team look worse just before it wins the title is completely unnecessary. i also thought lucas was not very good as the coach. this film plays like it was written and lensed in a couple of weeks. i was expecting something on the level of remember the titans and would have settled for something as good as miracle, but i was disappointed.

Rocky
Rocky(1976)
½

I actually thought it was kinda boring until, obviously, the ending, which just makes you want to root for AMERICUH! and the AMERICUHN spirit! This is embarrassing, but a lot of the parts that are inspiring that I thought were in Rocky were actually in Rocky 2, 3, and 4. Whoops.

Avatar
Avatar(2009)
½

Some criticize Avatar for being similar in terms of story to the Oscar-nominated epic of 1990, Dances with Wolves. But then again so was The Last Samurai. And Dances with Wolves was similar to The Mission. And The Mission was similar to Lawrence of Arabia. The white man meets the natives and becomes a turncoat out of liberal guilt genre is about as old as liberal guilt itself. The story of Avatar cannot be dismissed as derivative drivel. While the story is not remarkable in its complexity or depth, it is serviceable outside of a few unfortunate comments straight out of a left-wing enviropolitical pamphlet that would surely sour some viewers.
However, while Dances with Wolves and Lawrence of Arabia featured breathtaking panorama landscapes and The Last Samurai an impressive CGI recreation of 19th century Japan, Avatar tops them all in technical beauty while melding the enviro-political genre with the sci-fi genre, something many films have tried and failed to do, some spectacularly. These films, while rarely moneymakers, were accepted by critics when they were low-budget, one example being Logan?s Run. It therefore seems odd to me that the aging left-wing hipsters who make up the film critic community sometimes dismiss Avatar as popcorn fare when an enviro-political, anti-imperialist film gets a real budget to work with. It?s sort of like when fans of a garage band abandon them once they get a professional recording or add more guitar solos. I just don?t get it. The turn towards indie self-referential banality by many in the critical community is just as mind-boggling as the music critics? turn to techno dance pop of late. They?ve used self-importance and liberal-slanted intellectual bombast as a prerequisite of a good film for decades and now they?ve left that notion behind.
Avatar walks the line between the enviro-political sci-fi flick and the anti-imperialist epic pretty well when it comes to the filmmaking behind the two genres. One remarkable fact about Avatar is that it won art direction and cinematography at the Oscars. Think about that. Though I would not have voted for the film in these categories because everything is CGI, this sci-fi CGI fest impressed the guilds enough to win these categories tailor-made for period pieces lacking any CGI. Meanwhile, the CGI visuals are insane. The peak hits with the most epic tree felling you will ever see. Wicked color schemes (luminescence is prominent) and direct apocalyptic imagery allegory occur throughout the film also. My brother, who is a graphic design student, commented at length about the director?s use of color in the film. And those epic landscape shots? All over the film, though the landscapes are fabricated. This is the most arty I?ve ever seen CGI utilized. And I did not see the film in what is supposed to be its best format, 3-D. The only technical imperfection, I would say, if you would call it a technical aspect, is James Horner?s score which sounds exactly like every other James Horner score.
Perhaps critics do not like Avatar as much as some other epics because its flaws are in the areas critics are taught in film school. Acting? Nothing special. Character development? A bit rah-rah. Dialogue? Standard quality. Technologically it is remarkable but artistically it is merely good. However, I contend that the film is every bit as intellectually complex and prescient as their recent darling, The Dark Knight, and if someone else played Joker in The Dark Knight, I?d probably put Avatar above it. As it is, I see the two as about equal and I think that will be the long run consensus. Avatar was a great movie experience and a film worth keeping in the collective consciousness.

Broken Blossoms

there are moments that are so melodromatic and parts where the acting is so stiff i could barely stand to watch them, but i appreciated the many novel techniques griffith used in this film that make it seem much later than even birth of a nation which he lensed only a few years earlier. this film is about five years ahead of its time technically. also, the story is of course involving on a visceral level rather than a cerebral one and seems ripe for an update. seriously, i'm thinking about doing a draft on this basic premise. with significant and key changes, of course.

The Life of Emile Zola

i wasn't expecting much and in terms of script and direction, i got what i expected. a run of the mill biopic with nothing special added. it's basically about the dreyfuss affair, except with an episodic prologue of vignettes for the first half hour. but i was really impressed by muni. it's hard to believe this is the same guy who was the lead in scarface. by the way, at no point in the movie does he look like the poster.

The Adventures of Robin Hood
½

the print on the dvd is excellent, the film looks like it dates from the fifties instead of the thirties. very campy and dated dramatically in a way that gone with the wind was not. cheesy physical comedy, cheesy one-liners, cheesy score the whole way through.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
½

features good acting, but is pretty trashy and shallow as far as prestige pics go. just another movie about needlessly depraved white yuppies and how you should sympathize with their "problems." also i found the non-linear plotline to be poorly done and the score to be overly dramatic.

The Queen
The Queen(2006)
½

I was actually expecting this to be terrible despite the rave reviews and Oscar nominations. The president of my university's film club had been on the set and I saw a physical copy of the script (the cover was ripped off, but I could still tell what it was). Anyway, the script reads horribly on paper. Never had I seen so many ellipses in my life....

Luckily, it doesn't play out that badly on screen. However, I found nothing remarkable about the film. There is one parallel allegory involving a stag but besides that it's potshots on royal decorum and token displays of various viewpoints. Much like Frost/Nixon, it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't distinguishing in any way. I just don't see the appeal of hyper-realistic renditions of recent news events with understated, not very deep drama surrounding celebrities. I guess I just don't get people. Or critics.

Max Payne
Max Payne(2008)
½

i was expecting a stupid but exciting shoot em up movie. what i got was an unbearably dull and lazily written cop drama.

A Streetcar Named Desire

the only reason i don't give this a higher rating is because it is basically a thematic copycat of the previous year's film, sunset boulevard. it does have some advantages over its predecessor, though. while sunset boulevard had some great a.d. and such, this film has the better, more nuanced characters and the better acting. this film, like sunset boulevard, explores the theme of passing one's prime and a person's inability to cope with it. however, streetcar does more to examine the effect on others of this mental breakdown, and throws in some damn good character motivation and impeccable sidebar social commentary to boot. brando's performance is magnificent, by the way.

The Da Vinci Code

about the same quality as the book. that is to say, enjoyable, but by no means high art. that is not to say, however, that the two are identical. ron howard chooses to replace some of the academic complexity and pulp novel camp of the book with his trademark type of emotional narrative, and it works well. however, while the book represents the loftiest of premises, it is simply not a story that carries out the premise in a lofty manner, and howard's fairly straightforward adaptation (not a great adapted script, nor is any remarkable cinematography or editing present) prohibits the film from reaching greater dramatic heights. if he had deviated more from the novel, perhaps he could have reached the dramatic loftiness he was hoping for. as it stands, the davinci code is an enjoyable chase movie. the one great thing about it, i guess, is the score.

Flash of Genius
½

i found it dull and cliche-ridden

Wild Strawberries
½

this film is something of a poor man's citizen kane, about a man who seems reasonable to me but is apparently a jerk and everyone he meets keeps telling him he's a jerk, that he has no soul, no feelings, etc. while being entirely hypocritical and causing him to regret the way he's lived his life. except in this movie, the protagonist is very clearly thinking about death, while he isn't in citizen kane. the dream sequences were interesting but i found the allegory of the temporal plot a bit too exact. i found a lot of philopsophy by dialectic in this film, god's existence, death, and love being the topics. i found it interesting how the doctor is so loved by strangers yet treated like dirt by his family, who seems to adore undercutting him with deadpan comments. i want to tell the protagonist in this movie to just accept who he is and quit feeling guilty because other people tell him he should. maybe they, god forbid, could also be selfish and cold, but you just don't say it to their face because you, you know, have decency.

September Dawn
½

this film is very flawed and plays like a tv movie. it has bad acting and badly staged gunfight scenes, some very on the nose dialogue and cheesy personal conflicts. but a lot of the critical panning i've read on the film is just ludicrous to me. first of all, they say the film is bloody as hell. not so. i'm shocked this was rated r. yeah, they kill women and children, which is daunting, but it is not graphic. at all. the critics say the movie overemphasizes the fact that the events occurred on september 11. maybe the advertising did, but in the actual movie there is one damn title card just before the actual massacre plays out and that's it! and, get this, equal emphasis is given to other dates! also, in what way are the settlers idealized and the mormons demonized? maybe because i'm not religious i see all of them as wackos, but there was not much difference between the two sides to me. the settler asks his pastor what should they do when running out of supplies and the pastor leads a group incantation of the funeral psalm. yeah, cause that's inspiring and not incredibly morbid. and the mormons explain themselves over and over and over again, in logic that convinced christians to kill other christians many many times for centuries. clearly the writers put in the effort to humanize the mormon side, even if they were not critical of the settler's side. true, the film would probably have made its point better if both sides were seen as devilish or you saw some real trouble from voight's character, or maybe even if they went south park on it and made it a dark comedy, but the notion these critics put out that there is some cartoonish, infantile dramatic caricature going on here is ridiculous. i really feel the critical reviews for this movie in particular were motivated by an estimation of public opinion and not an objective assessment of the movie itself.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

standard 2.5 blockbuster with ridiculous stunts and gigantic plot holes, but the script is extra bad, so i kick it down. not only is every blockbuster personal relationship cliche in the book present in this movie, but they insert a ton of stupid catchphrases and every good guy has a doppelganger bad guy - and they all face them one on one. there are badly written blockbusters, and then there are BADLY written blockbusters. this is the latter.

Seven Pounds
Seven Pounds(2008)

I was really torn on this one. After the first 20 minutes, this film is 1/2 star. Not to long before the end, it is 1.5 star. And the story is completely unbelievable and highly flawed. Not because there aren't guilty people who do incredibly magnanimous things like Smith's character in this film, but because a) one of them literally can't happen I'm sure and b) one of them is so blown out of proportion so as to detract from the "helpee." May post more thoughts later.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Hellboy 2)
½

this reminded me a lot of spider-man 3, it went for laughs. the character relationships and the backstory are retarded. but there are some sweet fight scenes and interesting creatures.

Valkyrie
Valkyrie(2008)
½

this film struck me as very old fashioned, not unlike a noir from the time period it depicts in terms of characterization

Defiance
Defiance(2009)
½

very beautiful looking and an inspirational story of course. the acting is also good, and this film features a great score. the personal relationships were insufferable, however, and there was a completely inappropriate montage that paralleled a wedding and a raid on a german truck. the film is basically flawless from a technical standpoint, but there are a bunch of stupid moments in the narrative.

The Express
The Express(2008)
½

very very very (x27) standard biopic

Grandma's Boy

obviously, this movie isn't, you know, good, but there is such a constant stream of jokes and gags that i didn't really care.

Breach
Breach(2007)

Best picture contender with a different leading man? Just about. I mean, this was SO close. Also, GREAT ending. You know it's great when you have a great ending and it's not a twist!

State of Play

stellar except for one ludicrous scene in a parking garage. some would also say this is a film with one too many twists.

Firewall
Firewall(2006)
½

There are some movies out there that have a bad premise and a bad script but through the great talents of the director and the cast, they become a decent film. This film is the opposite. The script isn't bad, although like a lot of thrillers you can find a few plot holes in this one. The idea is exciting and marketable. Robbing a bank by framing an IT employee who can digitally cover your tracks. And in the technical regard, believe it or not, there is plenty of jargon and process to make the heist believable. But the acting is bad and, for the first time in a long time, I could discern, even from my narrow perspective as an aspiring screenwriter, that the direction was bad for this movie. The story begins, like a lot of bad thrillers do, with a hokey and cliched scene showing the star's cliched family. As a screenwriter, I can tell you that the scene, without a doubt, was added by the director to quote help the audience understand and empathize unquote. It then moves to Mr. Ford's place of business, the bank. And you know what? Movie's fine when it's at the bank. Then enters Paul Bettany, the very capable British villian, speaking the dialogue you'd expect from a prestige pic hopper. Except they've made him look like Opie. And they've given him three henchmen who all look like lead singers of popular bands. Again, not something the screenwriter does, but something the director does. The heist and chase progresses at standard quality, until you come to the climax, at which point characters have completely morphed and Harrison Ford has to vanquish his enemy, physically, in idiotic, unbelievable fashion. And then the movie ends before tying up loose ends laboriously derived in the plot, again the provenance of the director. So while you can blame a bit of the mediocre quality of the film on its actors (of whom Virginia Madsen is particularly atrocious), I place most of the blame on the director and virtually none on the writer. This film has a lot of good things going for it. Sadly, it was bungled.

Flyboys
Flyboys(2006)
½

i expected to enjoy this on a certain non-cerebral level, anticipating it would be an action-packed flick filled with totally ridiculous but nice looking dogfights. i was ready to forgive seeing james franco with bleached tips in 1916. i was not expecting good acting, and i did not see much. however, the film is much more of a bland, average, and mainstream melodrama than an action-packed thrill ride. yes, it is a period piece, so it gets that little bit of added dignity. and the source material is not bad at all. but is it awards bait caliber? god no. and as for the awesome fights i was expecting? that was the biggest disappointment. yeah, there are a few cool explosions and yes, the flight abilities of pilots a mere 13 years after airplanes were invented are pretty extreme in this film. but the cgi is very cheap on the whole. in between these few explosions are long operatic panscapes with crappy looking, poorly-inserted cg planes that make the movie look like it dates from - gasp! - the early nineties. so while the film might just be okay when looked at from the viewpoint of a cinephile who can see value in just about anything, i recommend you take a pass on this film because it disappoints those looking for action as well as those looking for period drama.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

about the same quality as the first but with a few points of annoyance here and there. i don't like the marital troubles subplot. also, this film seemed to steal bits from other movies. ed harris i thought was an unsatisfying adversary. last and least, during a car chase there is a cut to cage just so he can make a funny eyebrow. this film is pretty enjoyable on the whole, there are just some certain individual elements that detract from it.

Fitzcarraldo
Fitzcarraldo(1982)

a true testament to creative passion

Nattvardsgästerna (Winter Light)

i found this film extremely thought provoking, especially because a lot of the themes in this film are present in the scripts i am writing. i did not agree with some of the cinematographic touches, most obviously a tacky and flagrant display of a momento mori and a six minute close up of a woman reading a letter as if she is saying it to your face. but this is a truly great script and a film that features some great performances.

Bush's Brain
Bush's Brain(2004)
½

the best parts of the documentary pertain to rove's early career, it gets a little obvious at the end of the film.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop
½

one of those movies where you mostly get exactly what you expect. extremely simplistic characters, hokey love story, unrealistic action sequences. but none of these elements is so overwhelmingly bad that the film becomes something distinctly worse than a nineties adam sandler. there are unexpectedly dark moments such as the jerk pen salesman and the a-hole mall cop boss repeatedly demeaning blart even though they are more pathetic than he is. also the fact that blart's love interest is about half his age seems to be just fine by his family. there isn't a constant stream of jokes as in, say, step brothers, but there are two or three gut-busting moments. perhaps i relate to this film more than others because where i come from everyone is like paul blart, and as such he is extremely relatable. he is not a caricatured hardass but an exceedlingly innocent victim in this film. although i spotted a whole bunch of flaws, mishaps, and problems in this film, i still give it the medium rating.

Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider(2007)
½

For the record, this is nowhere near as bad as The Spirit. Yes, the plot is, shall we say, minimalist. The enemies are uninteresting and way too easy to defeat. The fight scenes are not very good. There are huge flaws in this movie, no doubt. But it still manages to keep a short attention span with a quick paced, short, and visually intriguing romp.

Disclaimer: watched on TV.

The Wages of Fear
½

This guy was apparently the French Hitchcock, and I've always wondered why everyone gives that guy a handie all the time. Yeah, it's somewhat tense, like all of Hitchcock's movies, and like all of Hitchcock's movies, it's not that tense. And like Hitchcock's movies, it's extremely dated and cliche-ridden with some interesting camera angles and a tacky score. Every twist was predictable, and one of them, perhaps the most important one (besides the classic ending), was completely glossed over. There were some things going for it, especially if you view the journey as emblematic of life in general. Also, it has some gritty detail permissible in European films and not in American ones. But on the whole, this is, blasphemous as it is to say to most people, only as good as your average Hitchcock. That is probably 5 stars to most people, but to me, that is merely good, not great.

Lawrence of Arabia

some great shots of desert landscapes and some very poignant individual scenes. but i did not see this as a top five of all time movie. it shares a lot of the flaws of historical movies in general, and specifically of the massive epics of its time. it is almost four hours (not DULL though), yet it glosses over so much historical detail? i guess what i can say for it is that the film represents a better version of that inherently flawed genre.

All the King's Men
½

The one major dramatic flaw in the film is that the politician's transformation occurs much too abruptly. Sure, there are a few scenes of him being good at the beginning of the film, but he sees one politician win an election, delivers a great monologue when drunk, becomes disgusted with humanity, and turns corrupt and demagogic at the snap of his fingers? Without its built-in pedigree, a film with that flaw today would be called only one thing - shallow. And this was proven by the critical panning of the recent remake. This film is pretty solid - the right amount of plot complexity, by that I mean some but not too much, good performance by the man playing Stark, a real opinion given on a real issue. But do to the simplification of the book in at least two large areas, namely, the narrative flaw above and the complete exclusion of blacks in this supposedly southern state, I do not feel this is a masterwork deserving of a bevy of awards and status as a classic.

The Illusionist
½

i found it a little disappointing that all of the magic tricks shown in the movie were done with cgi. also, there are no really great acting performances in this movie. until about halfway through, i was pretty disappointed. luckily, though, this was one of those movies that seems very stupid in the first half, but gets much better in the second. the pace quickens, the plot becomes more intricate, and the characters become more sympathetic. also, the ending really makes you question your support of the main character in an interesting way.

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)

when i heard about this movie well before its release in theaters (just after seeing batman begins, no less), i thought it would surely win the oscar for best picture. alas, it was not rewarded on the awards front. like its contemporary, the illusionist, this film is much better at the end than at the beginning. the advantage that this film has over the illusionist is its technical excellence. this film clearly pulled a larger budget than its rival. despite a cast full of headliners, david bowie might have given the best performance of the movie as nikola tesla, though his role is deceptively minor in terms of screen time. interestingly, this film carries with it a bit of historical commentary on the advent of electricity, with an accompanying sci-fi element that borders on the allegorical. clearly, nolan was looking to comment on the power of human imagination and achievement, and its moral implications. despite these turns, the film seems quite average on the artistic front until the final act, at which point it becomes incredibly complex. each of the protagonists scores shots against the other until *literally* the last second of the movie, when one emerges not only the victor, but the vindicated. this last shot, meanwhile, opens up an entire deeper meaning to their conflict and raises the bar of the whole movie if you've caught everything in between. i just wish nolan would have elaborated on that shot rather than having it pass by as quick as possible and undoubtedly losing a bunch of key critics by doing so. and as wonderful as that shot and its accompanying plot layers is, and as wonderful as the technical aspects of the film are, one has to remember that the entire crux of the plot hinges on its most ludicrous anachronism. so while the prestige is a display of technical excellence and an exercise in punch-in-the-gut plot revelations thanks to its very last image, it is still a product that could have been improved upon. as it stands, the prestige is a highly enjoyable, well-made and averagely acted film.

Uncle Tom's Cabin

this is very much in the blockbuster style. not an artsy film at all. very one-note characters and ridiculous sequences throughout. and it looks about five years older than it is, which is significant in the silent film era. but the film is very entertaining. let me put it this way. i was not planning to watch this movie, but flipped to it and kept watching. and this is a silent movie we're talking about here! the plot is a bit disingenuous because of the slightly positive depiction of slavery and the choice of mulatto slave protagonists for the audience to relate to. also, many of the african americans in the film verify stereotypes of them. but tom's character, the best acted part in the film, redeems most of that latent racist pathos with his excellent demeanor. so while it is a bit shallow on the literary front, it is entertaining for a silent film.

Gladiator
Gladiator(2000)

during its glorious action sequences and masterful art shots, this epic, buoyed by mostly immaculate performances, is one of the twenty or so best films ever put to screen. if you asked me five years ago, i may have told you this was my favorite movie. however, having studied roman history in college and the screenwriting craft on my own merit, i have to say that the script of this film is quite weak. it is historically inaccurate, which could be fine given that several characters are archetypal in nature, but good narratives are easy to find in the real history. also, the plot directly steals from the movie spartacus. finally, a lot of the supporting characters, most obviously connie nielson's character, are poorly written and given bad dialogue. so while this film wowed me when i first saw it, over time i have come to recognize its warts. it will always have a special place in my psyche, though.

Highlander 2: The Quickening

sean connery is still juan sanchez villalobos ramirez. but the introduction isn't funny anymore. connor mcleod and ramirez go to some other planet. ramirez picks up a chick in a plane that is clearly held up by strings. then mcleod and ramirez go fight some nefarious organization doing some evil thing with nukes or something at some giant hydroelectric dam. this is not a joke. this is the plot of the movie. you see where i am going with this. when highlander: endgame is a vast improvement....

Free Willy 3: The Rescue

1st free willy: good movie for kids.

2nd free willy: good movie for kids. just as good as the first.

3rd free willy: teen garbage.

see also: mighty ducks series.

D3: The Mighty Ducks

1st mighty ducks: good movie for kids.

2nd mighty ducks: good movie for kids. just as good as the first.

3rd mighty ducks: teen garbage.

see also: free willy series.

The Spirit
The Spirit(2008)
½

I got this for a bad movie night and it did not disappoint. The first 7/8 of the film is universally atrocious though the ending is okay. Throughout the film I was laughing at the awful one-liners like "Let's die!" and the ludicrous plot deviations and stupid-looking fight scenes. The editing of this film is extremely jumpy and clearly the director did not care about transitioning to make the plot cohesive. The spirit character has stupid, sudden, random monologues about his worldview and his past. And he says them to a cat.

There is some sort of metaphor about writing and/or mythology here. But the point seems to be that myths suck ass. Samuel L. Jackson becomes Japanese, German, and Russian, something that seems to label him as a universal other, and these turns are more crass with each iteration. Meanwhile, the Spirit visits the underworld as all Greek heros do. Also, Jackson's disposable henchmen all have words written on their chest. At first they are significant Greek words like logos, pathos, and ethos, and eventually they become stupid words like huevos, rancheros, and dildos, until nervous shows up and the -os rule isn't even followed. I guess it does indicate that Jackson was running out of henchmen! Or maybe, the Octopus saw himself as mythological. Finally the plot revolves around mythical objects, the blood of Herakles and the golden fleece, and with the mythical pursuit of immortality. Every negative thing about a classic myth is present also: jarring intercuts to omniscient characters, interminable conversations in the middle of action, the convenient appearance of unlikely objects to aid in a battle. Apparently we should be disregarding Greek and Roman myths as crappy storytelling, as evidenced by this shallow impersonation of them?

If there is a deeper, philosphical point to this film, it is extremely poorly presented. In the much more likely event that this film does not in fact dive that deep, then we just have a shallow bore of an actioner with a badly executed plot with badly written characters. And to think that when I first saw the trailer, I thought it would be awesome.

Unforgiven
Unforgiven(1992)
½

simply never screws up

Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey
½

I found this film hard to judge. I've seen Dryer's three most famous films, and this is easily worse. All of Dryer's films have similar elements, but in Vampyr the worst of them comes to light.

A lot of people are confused as to whether this is a silent or sound film. Vampyr is a sound film, but it might as well be silent because it is constructed just like one, as far as editing is concerned. This film being at the nascence of sound in film either had a horribly done soundtrack or is the victim of a poor restoration. In either case, the sound is quite poor. The acting, while stilted in all of Dryer's films, is even more so in Vampyr and unlike in Ordet or Day of Wrath, it does little to add to character. In those films, the actor's wooden qualities highlighted their inner paralyzations. In The Passion of Joan of Arc, the paralyzing power of Maria Falconetti is quite frankly frightening. In Vampyr, there is little beneath the surface of the characters, and the obvious posing merely seems to be bad acting.

The story is barely present (not to mention, cliche, being a vampire story) and carries little in the way of conflict, the most obvious shortcoming being the almost complete lack of an antagonist. There are only about twenty lines of dialogue and even then they are very simplistic, as if cave dwellers were doing the conversing.

Also, I was shocked by the poor technical quality of the film overall. This could be the fault of the restoration, but even given a better restoration, the film is extremely primitive for its time. The Passion of Joan of Arc had excellent picture quality and was made before this. Vampyr looked worse than German silent horror films ten years older, i.e. Nosferatu. Present were many shortcomings of the early silent era, most obviously the poor excuse for depicting "night time."

Now for what is good. There is some excellent mise-en-scene symbolism and a few points of excellent cinematography that are very interesting though not perfectly integrated into the plot line. In one scene, the (alive, I think) lead's soul wanders into the evil doctor's office to find himself a corpse in a casket. Then a lid is put on him, but with a window to his face. Finally, caretakers haul the casket to his grave and we watch from the corpse's point of view, though the scene ends before burial and the live hero continues the story from there. These avant-garde scenes are interesting, but they do little to benefit the plot or add to the audience's enjoyment or understanding of the movie. They are pieces of trivia, quite frankly. Daunting extreme close-ups of dead and dying faces can only go so far, and only a little farther in a horror film.

I reserve the right to raise my rating if I see a restoration of better quality, but for now, I have to go with a thumbs down. I was quite disappointed, considering this director gave us what I consider the best silent film ever made.

District B13 (Banlieue 13)
½

i enjoyed this hybrid of the transporter franchise with jackie chan films more than my rating, there were just one or two retarded scenes that i had to take it down for. like this one scene where they fight a damn 400 lb video game boss whose only other mention in the film was a passing quip ten minutes earlier. but this is a non-stop action movie perfect for group viewing. nice and short and quick. no depth of character. just a simple plot with one twist and a whole bunch of fights. no pointless love triangle so often found in an action movie. really convenient when you want to see the shortest movie possible on your netflix.

Touch of Evil
½

this was probably incredible for its day, but after being inured with crooked cop movie after crooked cop movie in my generation, this strikes me as good but not great. welles is magnificent as quinlan, however. and the movie is a bit less dated than i thought it would be.

Public Enemies
½

people probably wonder whether this is a summer actioner or an oscar bait period piece. it is somewhere in between. the film is excellent technically; oscar nominations for things like costumes and art direction could be upcoming. the gunfight scenes were conducted exactly like guerilla fighting is handled in war films, an artistic decision i didn't agree with. but the major beef i had, and one i think critics will have too if i checked their reviews, is that the billie character is extremely weak. she falls for john too easily, forgives his trespasses too easily, and proves a dramatic punching bag as the climactic assassination approaches. meanwhile her character is never examined without dillinger. johnny depp, meanwhile, exceeded my expectations as dillinger, while bale disappointed me a little as the FBI agent tracking him down. a solid period piece and action film, but not something that passes into the realm of elite quality outside of a few moments.

Atonement
Atonement(2007)
½

this film is a bit lacking in the "plot" and "excitement" categories, and is not a masterpiece. but what it does have is spectacular moments. the most spectacular of these is the single most ridiculous long take i have ever seen (yes, even more than touch of evil), which occurs shortly after the one hour mark. also the very heartbreaking ending really tears at you even if it feels contrived.

Bruno
Bruno(2009)
½

when compared to borat, a lot more of this film is very obviously staged. also there isn't as much charm as far as the accent goes. the messages of this film, while necessary, are delivered with much more heavyhandedness and much less subtlety than in borat. this film does not make any effort to expand the audience and preaches to the converted, and i do respect that decision. all in all, however, i expected something with a bit more skill and precision for its narrow focus.

Requiem for a Heavyweight

the story lends itself to a certain minimum quality, but i was somewhat disappointed. i was looking for something that could have inspired scorsese to do raging bull. but this film is rather formulaic in the eyes of someone who has seen raging bull, rocky, cinderella man, and several other boxing movies. the characters in particular fill archetypes: the conniving manager, the ignorant boxer, the loyal trainer. there are a lot of campy one liners in the script as well, and a semi-romantic subplot that's a little dickensian. so while in terms of pedigree this may be a 3.5 star, i will only give it three.

Inherit the Wind

at times corny, dated, and obvious. but there are some seminal scenes in this film and the two lead actors are both excellent.

The Bourne Ultimatum
½

i loved how it incorporated the last scene of the second film into the middle of this one. but there were so many flashbacks and other references to the earlier films that i feel it's detracting to those who haven't seen the first two.

The Bourne Supremacy
½

kind of trails off and fragments in the third act. not quite as good as the first, but still great as an action flick.

Angels & Demons

about a day after watching the movie i realized some of its plot's absurdities. these mostly have to do with the final ten minutes. basically, it becomes unreasonable to assume the bad guy did what he did why he did it and the way he did it. anyway, as far as chase movies are concerned, this one sidesteps some cliches but falls for others. there are a few things i like about this movie. one, that langdon doesn't screw the women he works with. refreshing. more importantly, though, in this film i saw ron howard trying to create indelible images, which is something i do not normally notice from him. the third act in particular is filled with some very picturesque, original stuff. i've seen a noticeable improvement in his technical craft.

Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist(1922)
½

significantly better than i expected. i found oliver twist to be a very boring book, and i had watched the 1920 dr jekyll and mr hyde, which was exceptionally boring as well, save for a great final scene. but this film passed by pretty quickly. there were a few instances of camp, but on the whole the story was effectively told and the message effectively conveyed. and that was significant, given my prior opinion of the story.

Frost/Nixon
Frost/Nixon(2008)
½

good? yes. oscar quality? no. the actual interview was quite riveting and surpassed my expectations. i had reservations about a film that was entirely about an interview. but the film is not boring. langella, despite not looking or really sounding like nixon, nailed his mannerisms and the film was at its best when examining nixon's psyche. one thing i hated, however, was the faux documentary style where the journalists involved gave their faux commentaries on the experience. completely unneeded. also, i did not find frost's character interesting and his girlfriend was nothing but period eye candy. she had less than twenty lines. a decent effort but nothing near a classic and not something i would put on my best picture ballot if i were in the academy.

Quantum of Solace

does this have the panache and sensibility of a bond picture? yes it does. but it also has a lot of things usually reserved for much less intelligent pictures. MI-6 is loaded with even more ridiculous and extremely fake looking holographic technology. but that's not a big deal. there is a smart but half-baked and barely explained subplot which is the justification for the entire official mission, and the vesper story is criminally undermentioned except when trying to pin mr. bond as a ruthless practitioner of revenge. but the thing i was most annoyed by was the prevalence of chase scenes. there's one on foot, one in a car, one in a boat, and, you guessed it, one in a plane. put all of it together and the result is while the film does attain a certain quality as an actioner due to the dignity of the bond series, it does not stand up well to the likes of its predecessor, casino royale. watch as social entertainment, but not as a substantial piece of cinematic art that can be learned from.

Arsenal
Arsenal(1928)
½

don't you dare watch if you like things that come anywhere close to cohesion or a plot. what this is does not constitute a story. it is a one-note painting of soviet propaganda. this film is filled with moments of sheer genius (the excellent use of silhouettes and parallel juxtaposition comes to mind) and moments of sheer incompetence, and many of them are congruent. for example, in ninety percent of closeups the actor stands still, and some of these are in dialogue. there is dialogue for horses at two points. and these are not near the maximum when it comes to the departure from the literal or the realistic. this film represents a zenith of montage-based abstraction.

March of the Penguins

most of us already know this information from tv, but the documentary is very well done and in great artistic taste. i'm sure the cinematography was breathtaking in the theater.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari)
½

for most of the movie i thought the set pieces were understandably expressionistic, but still tacky and not having any substantial reason to be there, and i thought the plot a hackneyed melodrama. i was ready to spring the 3 star rating. but the way it ended made everything fall into place and let all of those things i thought were crappy about most of the movie make sense and become necessary. this is truly a movie you have to watch to the end to enjoy. you will probably not be impressed by the first 7/8 of it. but after it is done you will think, hey, that wasn't bad. i might add that the score on the dvd is excellent.

trivia i learned in film class last fall: the sleepwalker cesare in this movie came to america amid the rise of the nazis and played general strausser in casablanca.

The General
The General(1927)
½

this doesn't have as much comedy as a chaplin movie or a marx brothers movie. it is more oriented towards being action-packed and touching. it took some elements directly from birth of a nation. heck, i wouldn't be surprised if i learned some of the same sets were used. the campy midi score entices a blasphemous comparison to cannibal! the musical. trey parker and matt stone probably got stoned after watching this movie and wrote that one. this movie is definitely a crowd movie and not meant to be artistically high-flown like many silent classics. but it is still a quality flick nonetheless.

The God Who Wasn't There

My belief is that there was a guy named Jesus who was a good guy and was crucified, but that well, let's just say his biography was embellished. This is the "Jesus wasn't real, let me show you by examining contemporary folklore" argument, not the "the Christian church conglomerated the contents of the Bible to justify themselves" argument, which I think is a more interesting argument and would turn more people. The doc makes some interesting points, yes, and it makes at least some effort at balance and entertainment quality. Also, I am interested in reading the books by the authors interviewed. But the basic fact of the matter is this is really dumbed down and not very well produced. I knew everything in here already and it looks tacky. The film focuses primarily on its creator's skepticism when a powerful academic argument is readily available. So my suggestion to Mr. Flemming is to find whoever wrote about the Gospel of Thomas and interview her about the early church of the 4th century CE. Then he'll have some real dirt.

Primer
Primer(2004)
½

don't try to understand what they're talking about, it's scientifically ludicrous anyway (i happen to be taking physics right now). the movie is a well made enough, entertaining enough piece of work. i give it extra props for doing it in a way that i and a crew of about ten other people could probably film.

The Last Laugh (Der Letzte Mann)
½

i thought this would be much better. the critics love this and think it's one of the best silent movies ever. throughout the film, i had it below the other silent classics. i mean, the guy is a hotel doorman, and wearing the uniform is important to him. i get that. it's touching and it matters when he gets demoted. but then all of his neighbors think he's a piece of shit all of a sudden? i mean, this is an old man with an intimate relationship with his neighbors, wouldn't they sympathize? and is it really a difference between hotel doorman and washroom attendant? the psychology of the film is just off to me. finally, call me a douche, but i thought the ending was stupid.

City Lights
City Lights(1931)
½

it has some great moments. the boxing match is hilarious and the ending is very touching. but compared to modern times and the great dictator, this is a highly unfocused narrative.

Appaloosa
Appaloosa(2008)

i was disappointed with how, um, normal this movie was. it was very leisurely paced and contained little action, and I was expecting a new age western. I vastly prefer and recommend the new 3:10 to yuma over this movie. that said, if you like old-style (pre 60s eastwood) westerns, you will notice a heck of a lot of references to movies like stagecoach, the searchers, and high noon. ed harris is just as obsessed with door frames as john ford was.

Saw II
Saw II(2005)
½

a teeny dumbed down version of the first with a maze and a cliche stubborn asshole ruins it for everyone plot.

Hancock
Hancock(2008)
½

the first half is kind of tongue in cheek and that's all good, but after a key plot twist the film takes a screeching dive bomb toward stupidity and ends on a super schmaltzy note. i really dislike these "superhero theories" that are floating around movie scripts these days, trying to make an antihero superhero. it's just a stupid line of thought. don't people realize that it's the attitude, not the powers, that makes a superhero?

Day of Wrath
Day of Wrath(1948)

dreyer is very quickly becoming one of my favorite directors because of the potent themes he writes about and his artistry in depicting them. however this film is not one that will be enjoyed by all. and i'm not just referring to religious people. the acting in this movie is extremely stilted. especially by the two romantic leads. you are dealing with a silent film director here. the dialogue is very play-like, with directly metaphorical conversations dominating the screen time. also if you don't like pans, don't watch this movie. after only two films i can tell a dreyer from anything else because he pans the hell out of everything all the time. don't expect the sets to be great, either. at a couple of points i swear i saw 15 year old sets for the passion of joan of arc. if you can handle a subtly anti-religion, purely intellectual morality play, you will love and appreciate day of wrath. if those things don't appeal to you, don't see anything by this director.

The Caine Mutiny

the first two thirds is solid but nothing special. it follows a young heartthrob. really, i feel the story would be much better served if it followed the first officer. that is one reason i think this movie might be ripe for a remake. i feel that the scene that makes it a classic is bogart's crumbling on the witness stand near the end of the movie, and the lawyer's speech after the trial is over. this film should be watched simply for the last half hour. i am curious to read the book it was adapted from.

Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) (Nosferatu the Vampire)

truth be told, i was somewhat disappointed. i was expecting photographic mastery of the highest order and unending tension. what i got was a pretty simple popcorn-style movie with very few moments of real fear. clearly, however, this is far more advanced than even the cabinet of doctor caligari, which is only 3 years older. in the end, i went with 4 instead of 3.5 because of the clever use of the nosferatu character as a manifestation of death via the plague rather than as a simple queermo emblem of seduction.

The Great Dictator

infinitely better than duck soup, a film i sure it is compared to often. the speech at the end is quite wonderful, as is the mise-en-scene throughout. i think, however, that i am not as big a fan of the chaplin brand of physical comedy as most, and i feel the one liners, while funny, are not utter genius as some claim. the thing i thought was funniest was the random digressions into german whenever hynkel got furious, and the subtle accuracies of the language mixed in with the copious mentions of weinerschnitzel.

Becket
Becket(1964)
½

a two and a half hour british adaptation of a historical stage play. sounds boring, doesn't it? but this film is not. like many films of this type, the soap opera personal stories run rampant, and there are some blatant soliloquys. these small flaws aside, the grandeur and gravitas of the film is very impressive. the sets and locations are astounding, nothing short of demille. the gothic cathedrals that provide the backdrop for many of the scenes may be too ornate to be historically accurate. then again, this is a time at the height of the church's power. this movie could be watched silent, so good the art direction is. also, the two leads are equally magnificent and deserving of any and all accolades they may have received. the film also sports a very solid script with tons of memorable lines and a cynical bent that i enjoyed personally. this movie is fully deserving of its status as a classic and gets my vote for the best picture of 1964. granted i have probably seen about 2 movies from that year.

Leatherheads
Leatherheads(2008)
½

like one of those sports-themed kids movies from the nineties, but for adults. by that i mean similar sports gags, similar romantic subplot, similar lack of vulgarity. an approximation but not exact recreation of the time period. not a masterpiece but not anything wrong with it either. please note the synopsis on the movie page is inaccurate.

Mongol
Mongol(2008)
½

beautifully shot but not the deepest of epics. one repeated technique i noticed was a reversal of the cac method in that bodrov consistently starts with a closeup and widens the shot. this is a good premise and a very well crafted film, but the script was middling at best. mongol reminds me a lot of lesser actioners like 300 and 10,000 BC melded with a quality western. temudgin's relationship with his wife i found idealized, and those with his other associates i found pretty stock.

Mystic River
Mystic River(2003)
½

the next day after watching it, i realized all sorts of bad cop drama cliches and plot holes that are present in this movie. they solve a murder in a few days, apparently none of the characters outside of the cops have jobs, etc. i guess it's a testament to the direction and acting in this film that it took me so long to nitpick like that.

The Stranger
The Stranger(1946)

there's some camp at the beginning and end, but in between it's just as good as any other welles.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

this strikes me as a film with great elements rather than a great film. the plot is simple and has lots of discontinuities, but this is forgivable given the point of the movie. there are a ton of murnau's horror touches in the first half of the film but they seem campy and overemphasized. the acting is better than in an average silent film but not the best i have seen. i did find myself relating to both leads quite a bit, however. the print is fine on the dvd and it has a nice score.

My Best Fiend (Mein liebster Feind - Klaus Kinski)

the only problem i have with this very artful and informative documentary is its lack of objectivity. herzog frequently dismisses kinski's version of events with nary a care, and everyone seems to jump on the boat with him. which is fine, except only a few of the abused crew are represented, herzog directed this film, and this was made 8 years after kinski died, which is something of a dick move. anyway, after seeing this movie, it looks like kinski was bipolar, obsessive compulsive, and deathly afraid of people in general, and women in particular. just my theory.

Once Upon a Time in America
½

extremely poetic visually, and with an extremely touching score. but there are a few bread and butter flaws with the film. the real plot does not begin until the final hour of the nearly four-hour movie, and the first half is like a giant flashback to explain character relationships, many of which seem unplausible. finally, the conclusion doesn't exactly wrap things up. instead, the movie should be seen as a technical masterpiece.

A Beautiful Mind

thematically, one of the most relatable movies you'll find. an allegorical script that examines pride, guilt, the struggle with incapability, failure, and the loss of self-respect. it also features an excellent score.

The Defiant Ones

stands extremely well to the test of time.

The Third Man

an extremely well-made mystery, especially in its final scenes, but it bears a little bit too much resemblance to casablanca to be considered among the greatest of the great.

Metropolis
Metropolis(1927)

incredible visuals for the time, but everything else about the movie is very dated. lots of cliched action scenes and plot twists. there were some interesting allusions that i couldn't put anything very deep onto. maybe if i saw it again. strikes me as more of a blockbuster type film than an arthouse type film, if i am able to accurately extrapolate that far back.

Transporter 2
½

very slick, passable actioner. but don't watch if you want the slightest shred of believability. let's just say the majority of the stunts can only be cgi.

Step Brothers
½

hilarious throughout, but the end tied up way too many loose ends and made it hokey. i know the plot isn't supposed to be serious in this movie, but it did that to such a degree that i had to lower my rating to 2 and a half.

King Kong
King Kong(1933)
½

special effects must have been something for the time. a true blockbuster. people criticize the story, but i encourage the viewer to see the gorilla as a symbol rather than as a gorilla and reap the enlightening benefits.

The Conversation

this is one of my new favorite scores of all time.

Battleship Potemkin
½

certain things about this movie i thought were great. juxtaposition was what i was lectured on in film class, but i found the novel use of intertitles and the shots of the sailboats in odessa harbor to be the highlights. those things really signified valid artistry to me.

however, this will never be my favorite silent film because the propaganda is not subtle like i expected, it's straight out old fashioned camp. i mean, i hate to rain on eisenstein's parade, but people just decide to be on the side of the potemkin too easily in this film. it doesn't strike me as believable in a narrative sense.

The Maltese Falcon

great script, great pacing. not even close to becoming boring in any scene. and remember this movie is going on seventy years old. great acting all around. practically the cast of casablanca. i thought bogart and lorre were better in this than in casablanca, honestly.

Monty Python's Life of Brian
½

look on the bright side, look on the bright side, look on the bright side of life!

The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc)

this is the cream of the crop when it comes to silent film. the actual print is in very good condition on the dvd (at times, it looks as good as prints from the forties) and the acting is excellent in this movie. falconetti's performance in particular is right up there with the all time greats. it could have won an oscar this year, let alone in 1928. note how i am praising the acting in a silent film. note it. the musical score available on the dvd is very appropriate. lots of good scholarly features on the dvd as well. let me put it this way. i am a child of today, and this is the second silent feature i've ever watched. and now i'm going to buy the dvd. that's how good it is.

The Birth of a Nation

the first half of the film didn't seem all that dated to me, like something from the late twenties which griffith so inspired. if the film had ended with ben cameron coming home, it wouldn't be nearly so controversial a classic. of course it wouldn't have been called birth of a nation in that case, but death of a nation (if you've seen the film you know what i mean). i also liked the historical facsimiles very much, and the assassination of lincoln was very well done.

not only is the film's merit degraded because the film goes from being implicitly racist to explicitly racist, but also because the central aspects of filmmaking developed in the first half are not nearly as adept in the second. three loosely related griffith chase scenes (though one was done quite well and surprised the viewer) as part of a convoluted plot basically describes the second half of the film. finally, there are two extremely shoddy allegorical double exposures that end the film (the only parts that are severely dated). add that to the fact that the movie is bigoted in the first place, and you have a very influential but not all that meritous movie.

A Kid in King Arthur's Court
½

this rating is lenient. several movies i watched as a youngster i thought were okay and i was horrified when seeing them at an older age. this one, however, i thought was boring and lame even then. i'm sure if i ever come across it again my rating will go even lower.

M
M(1931)
½

this film made talkies acceptable to critics, or so my film instructor says. it really sucks they've lost eight minutes of this movie forever, and i'm pretty sure it's from the end. speaking of eight minutes, the first eight minutes of this film are absolutely dead on perfect. someone should remake this movie. now. i'll do it if you give me the money.

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers
½

i almost stopped after ten minutes and was prepared to give it a bad rating, but i'm glad i stuck through it. i believe a documentary should be artfully done since that is one thing that differentiates a documentary from a mere video report. this is not the most artful of documentaries. in fact, it is a bit cheesy in the first and last ten minutes. but in between there is a lot of meat. there is some hard evidence for their claims and to hear of the sheer incompetence and blatant disregard for their employees on the part of the companies means this doc serves its purpose. then again, the military and government have never been efficient in their dealings, so what i hear in this film is not all that shocking to me. also, even if you are a civilian, you should expect to be in danger in a war zone. that is just the risk you take. in my mind, this is a good documentary that makes its point effectively, but its not a great documentary that changes your thinking in a highly artful fashion.

Duck Soup
Duck Soup(1933)

okay. i officially hate the marx brothers brand of humor. i will never watch another one if this is the cream of the crop. my 2 star rating is a huge stretch and i give it only because of intermittent political commentary and the musical number that makes fun of mgm productions. there are a few funny gags here and there, such as the mirror gag, but most of it is just insanely annoying. constant streams of puns is just not funny to me. sorry. this should be nowhere near any best of list.

Open Water
Open Water(2004)

nothing happens. it's not scary. there's no plot. there's a pointless sex scene. the ending is a disappointment. the acting is bad. the dialogue is bad. the film is grainy.

update: some people like that the ending is realistic. yes, i see the merit in that. when i write movies they tend to have unhappy endings. that said, this ending was still a copout and the movie still blows hard.

Animal Farm
Animal Farm(1954)
½

right from the book. nothing added or exceptional about the movie.

The Great Train Robbery

i prefer a trip to the moon, but this isn't that bad except when dummies are involved.

Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon)

i was surprised at how much i enjoyed this short compared to say, features made twenty years later...

Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five

when you see this packaged with the movie in the store, realize that it's only a half hour. also it's more aligned to kids than the movie is. but it's not a ripoff or a piece of crap or anything like that.

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

much worse than the first one. it's still really minimalist and yet half the movie is aside jokes and adventures of that guy going after the nut. it's like they put half a movie together with a short and a bunch of self-aware sidecracks. also another one of those animated movies with really annoying "kid" characters who are much more douchebaggy than kids in real life. and parts of the movie are really dark and depressing for something this low brow. then there's the didactic christianity and the lack of humans from the first one.

Do the Right Thing
½

seeing this movie really made crash and babel seem dumb by comparison

Aliens
Aliens(1986)
½

only slightly lower than the original in my book. the props move now, and there are of course lots of aliens, but now they can be killed by mere bullets? didn't the first one not even die immediately when vaulted into space? there are a lot of action and military movie cliches at work, but most of them are subverted slightly and none of the characters are obvious archetypes. a better than average sci-fi thriller.

Alien
Alien(1979)
½

the first 2/3 of the movie is wonderful. the last act is a bit conventional, but it's not near enough to bring the movie down. film classes should screen this as an example of foreshadowing. very thorough and adept filmmaking.

Flawless
Flawless(2008)

good but not great except for demi moore's performance, which is bad but not awful. did they write that bio of her character being an american educated at oxford to make up for moore going in and out of accent? the plot is not great, but the imagery is somewhat redemptive.

Déjà Vu
Déjà Vu(2006)
½

a thriller that tries its darnedest to be complex and prescient, but is based on a completely ludicrous premise.

Rear Window
Rear Window(1954)

looking at this film through a historical perspective via a film class has made me appreciate this film a little more.

300
300(2007)
½

i didn't find it revolutionary on any front. in the literary sense, the film is only about as intelligent as the video game god of war. visually, it's more or less asian cinema in saturated color with some extra cgi. also, i have been to greece. the landscapes are not accurate at all. there were a few dramatic touches that were above average, such as the effort to make the traitor ephialtes a two-dimensional character and a couple of genius lines not taken from history, namely talking about civility as they kill off persian wounded and leonidas telling ephialtes that he hopes ephialtes lives forever, a veiled insult in spartan culture. there's also a lot of christian imagery in the transitions and some pro-war propaganda thrown in the mix too. a quality effort but not exactly extraordinary.

The Pursuit of Happyness

one thing i feel could have helped this movie is more exposition on the protagonist's feelings of worthlessness. the film seemed to have an unneeded emphasis on the child. while i realize the well-being of the child is of utmost importance in the real life situation, the story is after all about the father, not the son.

Seraphim Falls

the first half or so is really well done. i looked at my dvd player and thought wow 48 minutes has already gone by? but the second half delved into allegory. not deep allegory. cheap allegory. and the film went downhill fast.

Singin' in the Rain

stellar acting and production, and a lot of biting dialogue, revealing historical facsimile, and situation comedy. a top ten of all time movie in its best parts, many of which take place inside the monumental (read: mgm) studio. but it's not exactly the most cohesive musical ever put on screen. the second half has hardly anything relevant outside of the come-upance of the silent film starlet, which is sheer genius. a great film to be sure, but not deserving of a top ten of all time ranking like it got from the afi.

Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till

It is a harrowing and necessary story, but very poorly done. It had a very stereotypical format and emotional target, ended very prematurely, and gave me little or no information that I had not already known. The only redeeming qualities were the mother's story and the showing of the beaten face. A documentary should either shed new light or put a twist on known information that is unique and artful. This film did neither. It was people saying obvious things. I was thoroughly disappointed.

Occupation: Dreamland

The documentary is fair and poignant, and doesn't rely on explosions. You feel for the people involved, even though they are far from the best sort. It has very good editing and indicates a dedicated post-production. There are a lot of elements of artistry in the film, and the parallels are exploited. This film does a good job of combining its artistic and temporal aspects. It doesn't say much that isn't known, however. I still recommend it, though, if you have some spare time.

Dinosaur
Dinosaur(2000)
½

lacking in excitement and laughs, which is okay for a drama, but not for an animated film for kids. and a really depressing animated film for kids at that.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

i'm not normally one for musicals, but this is an exception. let me just say that if you hate musicals, this would be the one you still like. the best parts of the movie are its visuals. tim burton creates a product that is extremely compelling visually, something i noticed even though i look at films through the lens of a writer. he uses his horror experience to utmost effect and ends the film with a pose that will remind you of a ghoulish pieta by michelangelo. some have decried the amount of blood in this movie, but in my opinion it serves as an extremely compelling leitmotif. none of this crap mel gibson says about his use of blood being symbolic. this is how blood is used symbolically.

Curse of the Golden Flower
½

not too interesting until the final half. the first half is iterations of the same forbidden city set. not for those who want something fast paced.

Green Street Hooligans

has a certain coolness factor and some visual panache, but the plot is really minimalist and the film is riddled with dramatic cliches.

Drop Dead Gorgeous

flies by quickly and keeps the jokes coming. halfway decent, mildly entertaining chick flick.

Highlander: Endgame
½

believe it or not, this is much better than highlander 2. the creators took advantage of new film technologies and actually tried to insert compelling flashbacks and other forms of cinematic drama. plays like a tv movie, but not a horrible one.

The 6th Day
The 6th Day(2000)
½

really preachy, but basically a passable and forgettable action movie

Eight Men Out
½

this was a very standard drama with nothing to make it stand out, which is disappointing given the compelling nature of the true story, which prevents one from grading the film too low. it's simply too good of a tale to tell.

the 1919 white sox were a veritable all-star team, like today's yankees, except they were paid abysmally, ironic since their owner was a former player. of the eight players involved, four or five would be in the hall of fame if not for the scandal. everyone talks about joe jackson, but at least he is remembered. eddie cicotte and lefty williams were the best pitchers in the game at the time and they have been completely forgotten. i say this not just because i am a baseball nerd but also because there is a lot less baseball history than there should be. only a couple of references to the outlawing of the spitball and the shineball, and the nine game world series. no talk of how home runs were out of style. could you tell eddie collins was considered the greatest thing since paper was invented when he played for the sox? oh wait, you didn't even realize he was in the movie, did you? could you tell the white sox catcher was a hall of famer? not in this film you couldn't. it doesn't exactly ruin the film, but baseball aficionados will not like the lack of baseball minutia in this movie. the writer makes a couple of token mentions of the team's greatness. but it is not elaborated upon. and remember, this is the white sox we are talking about. they did not win another world series for the rest of the century. big consequences for the franchise.

speaking of big consequences, much bigger ones in fact, some of the players involved were illiterate. they had no other job prospects. their lives were inexorably damaged by disinterested, manipulating conmen. this is not capitalized upon in the movie, outside of two successive scenes in which cicotte quips "what's immunity?" and an illiterate jackson signs a waiver of immunity. much more of this stuff was needed.

now for positive points. the acting is quite good, notably in the case of david straithairn as eddie cicotte and john cusack as buck weaver. also, the art direction is excellent, though old comiskey looks pretty small.

but there are a lot of cinematic cliches (ie the score) swiped from other eighties films that take place during this time, and it was extremely dumbed down. the film explored a few of the best players' motivations for accepting the dive money, and the movie also took pot shots at the old baseball bureaucracy with wisecracks a la film noir. but it did nothing to render charlie comiskey as anything more than a caricature, and the short shrift given to the actual investigation after the deal was done reeks of a play adaptation. this movie could have been legendary. instead, it is just what one expects from an old time sports drama and nothing more. if i ever get a chance to be a writer/director, this movie would be high up on my "to remake" list.

WALL-E
WALL-E(2008)

the first ten minutes of the movie are a visual masterpiece, and the concept as a whole is novel and prescient. but i felt the dystopian corporate conglomeration that was humanity in this film was poorly elaborated, resulting in a bit of a conflict between the movie's child and adult dimensions, and that is why i do not feel wall-e is a "perfect animated film." however, with this year's slim pickings when it comes to the 2009 oscar ceremony, the critical circuit is ripe for an animated film like this one to take home that final best picture nod a la beauty and the beast.

On the Waterfront
½

the love story is a little hoaky, but besides that the movie is basically flawless.

10,000 B.C.
10,000 B.C.(2008)
½

astounding in its historical innacuracy (not just the advancement of the civilization, but also geographically, biologically, ethnically), disappointing in its lack of action, hackneyed in its plot and token symbolism, plagiarizing in its frequent swipes from gladiator, and atrocious in its acting, but still for some reason it still isn't all that terrible.

The Fountain
The Fountain(2006)

one thing i like about aronofsky is that he goes for the legendary "six star" movie every time out. and he clearly was in this one. he pulled out every writing, directing, and editing trick in the book. you can trace how he developed the concept when you watch the movie. he started with the present day story of a doctor trying to cure his wife. then he made the mental leap to the fountain of youth, which was his creative nova. fountain of youth leads to conquistadors. conquistadors leads to maya. maya leads to alternate vision of death as creation. name for it leads to nebula. nebula leads to future scene.

he delicately interweavs these threads in as convoluted a way as possible by trying his darnedest to fool the viewer into thinking that the characters are immortal, which of course they are not. through the imagined past and future tenses, isabelle the present-day wife becomes a major beneath the surface player as the one who can frame her love for her husband as well as her struggles apropos coping with death in truly poetic fashion, via her novel and its representational characters. in this way, the fountain is as much an intimate look on the effect of experience on the creative process as it is a philosophical look at life and death. with all of these great things going for it, the fountain could have easily been a five-star flick and an instant classic had aronofsky shown some restraint. but he is not that guy. he went for the jugular. and he missed a bit. but we need more directors like him. the fountain is obviously the product of an incredibly effusive and ambitious mind.

Babel
Babel(2006)
½

the whole movie is like the final act of crash, but more professional and less populist. however, while the end of crash involves one leap of faith when it comes to the interconnectedness of the characters' plot lines, babel's entire premise is based on several such leaps. so i put crash in front of babel even thouugh the filmmaking is much sharper in babel.

Jurassic Park

when i was a small child, i was big into dinosaurs. so i might be more partial to this movie than others. but the real reason this is a classic is its groundbreaking effects work. this film is the birth giver to every cgi-laden action piece to this day.

Primal Fear
Primal Fear(1996)

normally i'd be completely gung-ho for this kind of movie, but gere acting like a tough guy gets annoying after a while, and the twist is really, really stretched.

Misery
Misery(1990)
½

an allegory of creation written by a writer tired of penning mainstream, hackneyed tripe, in which sheldon's prison represents the writer's creative power in the publishing world, this movie is clearly influenced by hitchcock and clearly influenced the coen brothers. while it is at times exeedingly plain, it still manages to stay suspenseful and has an entertaining touch of whimsy.

Semi-Pro
Semi-Pro(2008)

i think it's better than anchorman because it's more cohesive and stays on point. the jokes are related to the plot, rather than being a collection of unrelated gags. the ending is a bit of a disappointment, and the movie is very formulaic in many ways, but semi-pro is still very enjoyable nonetheless.

Without a Paddle
½

saw it on comedy central. not as bad as i thought it was going to be. it's a really low-brow incarnation of the odyssey with a lot stolen from the movie deliverance. furthermore, the action scenes are very poorly done. they are overlong, not exciting, and not funny. but unlike a lot of these types of movies, it has an actual plot and a cohesive message. and it features a seth green character that i manage not to loathe. so it has a few things going for it.

Sideways
Sideways(2004)

i found the lead character very compelling and thought giamatti's performance qualified as a tour-de-force. there are also spots of really wonderful writing. when i send my movie scripts in for evaluation, the guy always talks about the godfather and this movie. that's some pretty good company.

however, there are certain spots in the comedy aspect of the movie that just didn't sit well with me, and i didn't like the supporting characters very much. i was thinking, no wonder paul giamatti's character is depressed, his friend is such a worthless tool. so while i appreciate sideways as a quality film, it is not really among my favorites.

There Will Be Blood

an instant classic. daniel day lewis gives an extremely disturbing performance of a fatally corrupt man with just enough of a tinge of bastardized compassion to frighten the bejesus out of you. you will leave the theater trying to psychoanalyze his character and examine the roots of his injustice. some will assume his character is overly similar to bill the butcher in gangs of new york, but this character is different enough. it is more evil and less evil at the same time.

an extremely allegorical picture, the movie comments on such things as the war in iraq, the consequences of unfettered capitalism and its associated value system, and religious fundamentalism. the mish-mash score provides the film with a daunting infernal quality and heightens the anticipation of every scene. the director also utilizes repeated shots frequently, to thematic effect. the script inserts a great deal of satirical social commentary, on not only economic terms (as would be expected from an adaptation of a sinclair work) but moral ones as well. there will be blood proves significantly more compelling than no country for old men, the film it is competing with for the best picture oscar.

Jack Frost
Jack Frost(1998)
½

contrived and hokey, and it stars michael keaton. not a good combination.

Kung Pow! Enter the Fist

this movie is nothing but kung fu. and you want to fall asleep the entire time.

American Pie 2

a sequel that choose to exacerbate everything that was wrong with the original.

Jurassic Park III
½

it's not as frightening as the first two, has a lot less action scenes, has worse acting, and features a contrived plot and a "that was the end?" ending to top it all off. nowhere near the level of its predecessors.

Last Days
Last Days(2005)
½

nothing really happens in this movie. it's one of those films that has a five page script. the cinematography is nice in a couple of places, but space odyssey this is not. why make a false "story" about the demise of a rock star when the real life case is so much more compelling? i would have rated it even lower had i not noticed all the symbolism put into the backgrounds of the shots, and appreciated the time splicing and other directorial techniques.

XXX
XXX(2002)
½

the random motorcycle stunts every 30 seconds kind of turned me off.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
½

in a large way, the latest installment features the same benefits (token, mostly accurate educational value) and deficits (really unlikely but fun action scenes) as the other movies in the series. theres fencing on top of a jeep, three waterfall leaps conveniently edited over, and a nuclear bomb test.

but this movie more than any other of the Indiana Jones series is a science fiction work. the others feature supernatural elements and the search for ultimate power and all that good stuff. but this movie explicity makes the subject of its quest the postmodern sublime, the total knowledge of a higher state of being. however, like all manifestations of the concept in cinema, the conclusion is disappointing. however, the film does manage to convey the idea that even when it comes to knowledge, the journey is more important than the destination, and as such, knowledge should not be utilized as a cynical will to power.

in short, this installment is a bit more directly theoretical, but provides much of the same thrills as its predecessors. but none of these are done in the fashion of high art. often times, the film falls victim of severe editing and sometimes intentional cliche. not by any means a great film, but an enjoyable enough popcorn flick that dabbles in the realm of philosophy.

The Avengers
The Avengers(1998)

one of the most boring movies i have ever seen in my life.

Pokemon the First Movie - Mewtwo vs. Mew

i had to see this twice. there is a conversation in this movie that goes on for minutes on end without anything happening except the characters mouths opening and shutting. and the dubbing isn't synced up.

Sahara
Sahara(2005)

i read a clive cussler book called inca gold because the cover looked cool. it was garbage. then i heard they were making one of cussler's books into a movie. this movie. i was very fearful when my mother rented it. believe it or not, this is of MUCH higher quality than that book i read. i hope the other book was as relatively good as this movie at least. if i hadn't read that other book, maybe i would have been less forgiving.

The Neverending Story
½

turned me off of sci fi and fantasy for years. god i hate that pink flying dog.

Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2(2004)

a sequel that is just as good as the originial in every way: plot, character, effects.

Syriana
Syriana(2005)

a timely, taut thriller that does a good job of exploring as many angles as possible with regards to the terrorist conflict. falls a little short on the artistic metaphor front, but a noble effort nonetheless.

The Insider
The Insider(1999)

the performance that really made russell crowe a bonafide star. visceral filmmaking (though the topic might not seem so visceral in itself). one of those movies that is the absolute best it could have been, if you know what i mean.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

unfortunate, but this great journey film is likely going to be branded the worst of a trilogy. oh well.

The Molly Maguires

a gritty, realistic drama that was very underrated at the time. makes you think differently of sean connery. features some nice symbolic cinematography too. never goes for the jugular, but very solid all around.

Seabiscuit
Seabiscuit(2003)
½

by the numbers, but by the numbers at its very, very best.

All Quiet on the Western Front

extremely well-done effects for the time, not as horribly dated as some other cinema from the period. still watchable and powerful today.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

a very human picture that serves as a slam on the moral ambivalence of bureaucracy in a very simple way.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
½

impeccable craftsmanship pulls you in to the world of middle earth. a good choice of ending, invoking a philosophy of the afterlife that would be mirrored in the final installment of the trilogy.

Toy Story
Toy Story(1995)
½

the movie that set the bar for cgi animated films, and that bar has hardly been reached since.

The Last Emperor
½

sweeping, majestic, powerful. flows through you, takes you in, all that good stuff.

Vantage Point

a compelling concept that is slick but very low brow. i would not be surprised if this movie was penned by whoever wrote the latest die hard. the first scene of the movie is awful. it's sigourney weaver and three stupid high school news anchors saying "shit" thirty times to fill up space and offering juvenile criticisms of the news media. after that, though, the pov angle is worked pretty well as you get a bit farther in the plotline as the director reveals little clues on every iteration. but in the last third of the movie, the operation is revealed as an overly complex, technologically ridiculous anachronism that portrays a clandestine, far-reaching terrorist group of infinite reach and resources, but no underlying philosophy whatsoever. if you are going to portray a charismatic terrorist, portray a charismatic terrorist, not some yuppie with a cell phone that can start anything! so what could have been a potent best picture winner on concept alone is basically a chase movie of low intelligence. thankfully, it is an extremely slick chase movie of low intelligence, so it is still enjoyable.

Dead Man Walking
½

great lead performances

The Painted Veil
½

it's all very beautifully photographed, and naomi watts is hot and reminds me of a bunch of women i know. ed norton kind of reminds me of myself if everything nerdy and stiff about me was exaggerated ten million times. so the leads i can relate to. all that said, this is one of the most formulaic dramas i have ever seen. strictly by the numbers.

The 300 Spartans

enjoyable enough, but extremely dated. so expect campy war deaths, a pointless romantic subplot, large amounts of cold war propaganda, and at least one shoddy painted background. but the movie is more or less historically accurate (though featuring a very positive depiction of themistocles) and features some nice sets and costumes.

Casablanca
Casablanca(1942)

this film features singular wit and is very well organized in terms of scene and character building, but it is more dated to me than gone with the wind or citizen kane, and while the acting was good, it did not strike me as the stuff of legend. rather than being one of the top 5 films of all time, it is somewhere in the top 20.

Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane(1941)

i tend to react to this movie differently than others do. while most see it as a movie about a man sinking into megalomania, the whole money can't buy love or friendship bag, i see it as a movie about a normal man subject to constant betrayal from dishonest people he thought were his friends. whenever he tries to reach out to people via what he thinks are magnanimous gestures, they simply start insulting his character. finally, unable to hold together his social relationships, the man begins to believe the fictitious picture of evil others have painted for him, until he cannot truly live anymore. in other words, when i watch this movie, i completely sympathize with kane. i find the title, citizen kane, suggestive of an "everyman" angle. in other words, we are all like kane in american society. a very bleak film whether you see it as i did or as most do. also a masterful performance from orson welles. and to think, he was only 24 when he wrote, directed, and starred in this film.

American Gangster
½

technically excellent, but for some reason i didn't really enjoy it that much. the acting was par for the course for both leads. crowe plays the same role he played in the insider and a beautiful mind, and denzel is the same guy he is in every movie. i'm also wondering why they needed so much sexual infidelity in it. but when looked at from a filmmaker's standpoint, the film is virtually flawless. scott's depiction of harlem is much more convincing than say, the crusader era in kingdom of heaven.

Apocalypto
Apocalypto(2006)

much more action flick and much less historical drama than you think. there are some ludicrous plot elements, but the more times you watch it, the more you appreciate how incredibly well it was made. absolutely magnificent in all technical aspects. editing, cinematography, makeup, costumes were all top-of-the-line.

however, the historical inaccuracies are beneath the surface, but fundamental. while the crew went to great lengths to portray material classical maya culture in its urban scenes, it juxtaposed classical maya civilization with an anachronistic hunter-gatherer village, all while saying it took place in 1502, several centuries after the maya "collapse." further, it comes very close to an open endorsement of the white man's burden with its christian imagery (baptism by trial, three day time period, centered on (very aztec-like)sacrifice accompanied by supernatural event, side wounds, birth) and its violent, paternalistic, and stereotyping portrayal of native americans, the "more sophisticated" of which are shown as morally depraved.

so while the movie is technically excellent, in the realm of ideas it is disturbingly regressive as its overall premise betrays a neo-colonialist viewpoint.

No Country for Old Men

the film is basically an allegory depicting a land of confusion in which hope is fleeting and elusive. on this level it is quite thorough, and reaches a touching conclusion through tommy lee jones' character. but i was turned off by the lack of attention given to the material plot, which was left ambiguous and unresolved. adding to this effect, the directors purposefully edited out entire climactic scenes (i thought one of these cuts was genius, but the others i do not agree with). really great performances by javier bardem and tommy lee jones.

I Am Legend
I Am Legend(2007)
½

this film basically amounts to a preachy new-age zombie movie with some touching details. this would be fine in and of itself if not for the irresolute conclusion, which focuses more on making will smith a flawed antihero than on, one way or the other, resolving the conflict set forth in the main portion of the movie. it also fails as an examination of loneliness, as it abandons this angle about halfway through the movie, just as you think it's going to go that route. these major plot failures derail the film as a piece of art, but there are many technical points of merit for those who enjoy filmmaking for its own sake.

Zapatista
Zapatista(1998)

a good, informative documentary because it contains interviews with hard-to-reach "fugitives from justice" and educates the public about an issue it is ignoring. but it mostly fails as a scholarly endeavor because it is wholly populist and one-sided, completely ignoring the stances of the mexican government and the world bank, and it fails on the artistic front because it is presented in tacky fashion, like a high-school news feature.

Alexander
Alexander(2004)
½

watched my mother's copy (note: the director's cut dvd) to see how bad it was. actually, it wasn't as horrible as i thought it was going to be. it has the usual trashy heavy-handedness of an oliver stone film, and most of the art direction looks like it belongs in the 80s, though the cityscape cgis are quite good.

the acting in this movie is always harped upon. i felt that the main problem with the acting was that all of these guys are terrible emoters. colin farrell and angelina jolie cannot pull off rage. it makes you want to laugh when they do it in this movie. otherwise, colin farrell channels russell crowe, which is of course the perfect person to channel.

i liked that stone tried to spin an original narrative in telling the story of alexander. i have read biographies of alexander, and my take would also be psychologically-centered. but stone shortchanges his concept severely. he does not manage to pull his entire picture together, glossing over this fact by using the film's status as a biopic as a crutch. this film could have been magnificent. the general sketch was there. there were several classic shots in it. alexander rearing up against the elephant is one example. this film and subject matter screams for a remake, and i hope someone can pull it off.

The Lion in Winter

great acting, compelling plotlines, not too historically inaccurate, and where it is it uses allegory to make up for it by conveying the overall situation through interaction and dialogue. makes you wonder why many filmmakers today insist on creating movies so historically inaccurate when this writer and director clearly got around it and still ended up with a watchable product.

Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump(1994)

it's a great film with fine acting and direction, but i keep thinking that if i got this script in the mail, i would think "this is retarded baby-boomer pandering" and i would have tossed it in the trash.

Walking Tall
Walking Tall(2004)
½

significantly better than the rundown

The Emerald Forest

i put this in the category of tacky porn. emphasis on tacky, not on porn. powers boothe is exactly as good as you expect powers boothe to be in this movie. which is of course awful. outside of a few sweeping forest shots, this film offers nil in the way of a new look at ecology. naked hispanic chicks does not a powerful movie make.

Lions for Lambs

this film has been panned by most critics for its somewhat redundant "do something about it" message and scathed even more by viewers because it is not a very entertaining film. however, i feel the criticisms of this film are only partly warranted. first off, films with exactly as obvious a message as this one have been celebrated in the recent past. crash and american history x are two well known examples. the mistake that redford made, most likely in striving to evade the label of biased, was placing the redundant message at the center of what was basically a film that should have been posed as a theoretical metaphor for the situation at large. given the archetypal nature of the characters in this film, the layout was present for this to happen. A movie could not pull a cast like this if it was a bad idea. On the whole, the awards-bait actors are highly educated and would have rejected the opportunity to work on the film if they felt it would fall flat wholesale.

the script has been the most criticized facet of the film. the critics say it is not only boring, but poorly organized. while the script forfeits the first point by its very nature, the second charge i feel is unwarranted. the error was the ambivalence of the director. rather than providing what was essentially a philosophical treatise on screen, he presented an ambivalent look at the war on terror which serves little other than to inform the viewer of the basic psychological stances behind the ideological camps. the poor choice of ending for the film and the unnatural nature of the classroom portrayed as the primary vehicle for ideological banter only detract from the film. being an american college student, i can tell you that no political science class cares that much about anything that is said, ever, and when they do, they do not normally engage in such debates, given that most of the students are incapable of informed debate in the first place and further do not care the least about the philosophical nature of the arguments presented in this film. in fact, political science is normally a major for low-testing students. this, of course, only makes the film more ironic and, in another instance of irony, more relevant in its inaccuracy. on a final note, in that class of what seemed like very bright and unafraid students (they are particularly quick to insult people in the middle of class), redford only singled out one of them as having ?true potential.? as an experienced filmmaker, i?m sure he notices the fallacy now, after the fact.

to describe the metaphor i speak of. while the discussions between redford and his student do provide some allegory, namely that the idealistic and nihilistic nature of his students represents a repetition of history in that these dichotomies existed during the vietnam war, the main vehicle for redford?s picture of the situation is provided by the cruise/streep scenes and the pena/luke scenes. the former serves a two-fold purpose, describing both the intriguing nature of the pro-war stance, as well as, more subtly, its hypocrisy. this second purpose is only gradually revealed and i feel it was well handled save for a few potshots in streep?s dialogue. the story of the soldiers in afghanistan, meanwhile, serves as redford's platform for voicing his largely pessimistic view on the prospects of the war, conveying the abandonment of our nation's finest by not only the misguided policy of bureaucrats, but also by the maelstrom of public opinion. in the end, redford sees the war as unwinnable. but he offers little in consolation or in admonishment. he merely places his view on the table.

while the strategy of the film has been panned, the acting of the film has been largely commended, and while none of these performances qualify as oscar-worthy, I feel derek luke especially did a fine job, and tom cruise deserves merit for out-acting meryl streep in what largely constitutes a one-on-one duel in terms of acting, though neither were really stellar.

in the end, lions for lambs is a film that ends up preaching to the converted in an ambivalent fashion, while at the same time making few sacrifices for the sake of popular understanding, a sure-fire recipe for a disastrous reception. however, on the basis of pure merit, lions for lambs is far from a poor film. it simply falls short of its potential.

Halloween: Resurrection

it's technically well made, filled with gruesome kills, and makes sure to avoid what you expect. but all of the acting is awful. and seriously, busta rhymes doing kung fu? come on people.

Halloween H2O
½

better than resurrection because it at least searches for an emotional meaning to the madness. i was actually somewhat interested in the character relationships and grudgingly respected this movie despite the fact that i don't like either horror films or jamie lee curtis. standable.

Chaos
Chaos(2003)

marriage is like running over an algerian hooker and when she gets out of her coma, helping her to destroy the prostitution and heroin ring that had destroyed her already crappy life beset by poverty and overbearance.... wait....

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

this is an existentialist film in the style of the post-Unforgiven western, and through most of the movie the viewer will note both its advantages and shortcomings. some of the character relationships and transformations are poorly explained, but there is wonderful cinematography and spots of light humor. russell crowe, meanwhile, gives his best performance since master and commander. but this film will be remembered for having a really well-done, harrowing ending that lifts the quality of the entire movie.

Miracle
Miracle(2004)

very, very cliche. right from the disney machine. every scene with partircia clarkson makes you want to gag. but i swear, by the end of the movie the filmmaking got better. not only did it get the benefit of the inspiring true story, but the games were better choreographed and the cinematography and editing improved. so, while i was thinking 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 stars throughout the movie, by the end i was like, "what the hell, i'll give it three." on a side note, tretiak looks just like me. maybe the russians should have left him in the game.

Michael Collins
½

so noble in terms of subject matter, but so bloody vulgarized in terms of execution! was this movie made for retards? julia roberts looks much better than normal, but acts awfully in this movie.

Bullitt
Bullitt(1968)
½

the film has a different character today from when it was first made. it's exceptional as far as an action-packed police flick goes, though it has some of the cliches that critics deduct present-day films for. there's unnecessary romance and some caricature in the cast of characters. the famous car chase? it's the worst part of the movie by today's standards. bullit is a thoroughly enjoyable film that stands well to the test of time.

Serpico
Serpico(1973)
½

i appreciate the script. i appreciate the timely nature of the film. i appreciate the technical aspects of what's going on. i appreciate how much i relate to the lead character. but this movie is very slow, especially for a cop drama.

Rashômon
Rashômon(1951)

ah yes, the movie that created the points-of-view template followed by films from hero to hoodwinked! for those uninitiated, every critic loves this movie. if that afi list included foreign films, this would probably be in their top twenty. i found it enjoyable enough, and philosophical enough, and original enough, but not overly exceptional in any of those three categories. however, the director does a great job of letting the drama build as it goes, leading to a powerful resolution. i put this in the pile for solid cinema that manages not to screw up a good idea. perhaps i lessen it because it is dated. but that doesn't mean i don't think it's a very good movie.

Caché
Caché(2005)

this film definitely does not live up to the plug on the back of the case. it's a slow, dry, contemplative piece which does manage to make you try to guess what's going to happen next, but i was never really scared by anything that went on. besides the obvious shock value shots involving majid, the only shot i found mildly disturbing was the last one. then again, i never found anything by hitchcock to be too great, so perhaps my opinion is bigoted and ignorant.

Volcano
Volcano(1997)
½

sadly, i learned in middle school that this movie is horrendous when it comes to geological accuracy. apparently, it's completely the wrong kind of volcano in the first place. it would have been a pyroclastic volcano. oh well.

Dante's Peak
Dante's Peak(1997)

i learned in earth science class in middle school that this movie was much more geologically accurate than the tommy lee jones movie volcano.

Fun With Dick and Jane
½

gets better as it goes, and jim carrey does not disappoint with his antics. but the plot is very thin, the character development is not as good as in the better sandler comedies, the direction is not thorough, going by very slick and fast, and, finally, the overall message is misleading. the definition of a passable, okay movie.

The Deer Hunter
½

a few very intense moments and examples of fine direction amongst a long, mostly dull film. a heck of a lot less involving and compelling than i thought it would be.

Deliverance
Deliverance(1972)

though well photographed and filled with moments of suspense, and making a noble attempt to give you what you don't expect, the basic plot is simplistic and shaky, beginning with an unbelievable premise. there's no way i'd let random backwoods folk take my car somewhere. also, the acting is just solid, not great, and the director wastes the chance to utilize the numerous thematic elements he creates for later in the film. if he would have paid more attention to creating running, lasting themes and images, it could have been a great, truly disturbing movie.

Apocalypse Now
½

perhaps the most thorough "war is hell" allegory ever made, apocalypse now portrays vietnam as a psychotic infernal wonderland rather than attempting to create a naturalistic representation of history. classic dialogue and staggering cinematography assure this film's classic status, but its surreal quality may detract some.

The Simpsons Movie

luckily, it avoided the mistake made by a lot of tv-to-movie adaptations by keeping the action just as fast-paced as in the tv show. it's much more reminiscent of a show from the series' prime seasons rather than from the last few. a truly entertaining, rowdy moviegoing experience that encourages a lot of noise from the audience.

Fantastic Four
½

there's the bad acting, which you expect. there's the thin plot, which you expect. but then there's the middling effects.

Driven
Driven(2001)

some cool-looking crashes, but that's basically all this movie has to offer. acting wise, gina gershon is the best of the film. not good. also, no effort whatsoever in the script. the same drivers are running 1-2-3 before every crash. come on people, at least think up another name or two.

Exorcist: The Beginning

saw only the climax of the movie. and it was just about the worst climax a movie could have. there's absolutely no way this movie isn't awful.

Gangs of New York

technically proficient, with vibrant sets and costumes. but i could not relate to the characters at all. i wanted every character in the movie to die. even cameron diaz's. a very bleak movie.

Amadeus
Amadeus(1984)
½

a truly legendary performance by f. murray abraham and daunting filmmaking by milos forman. i would like it even more if it were from any other decade. instead, it is little more than a pink wig away from perfection (though i guess you could cite its humor and historical inaccuracy).

Superman Returns
½

would be right on par with batman begins if not for the heavy-handed christian symbolism.

Batman Begins

the first portion will remind you of crouching tiger, hidden dragon, as it is filled with landscape shots and philosophical dialogue. the middle part is something of a moralist deviation, and only at the end of the film does batman begins start to look like the other action-packed batman movies. like three solid films in one, it's top-notch entertainment.

Hero
Hero(2004)

artful. sweeping. delicate. meticulous. all great words to describe this relatively simple movie. a word of warning to television viewers, though. this movie adapts horribly to dubbing. buy the dvd.

Transformers
Transformers(2007)

just as cool and just as dumb as you think. they really exploit the robot humor. there are a bunch of funny nerd lines like "that's not lbe 1. that's megatron." there's a stupid character development portion to start it off, and there are so many holes in the hyperspeed plot. but the effects are just incredible. i would be shocked if this didn't win the oscar.

Crash
Crash(2004)

a couple of things struck me as a watched this film for the second and third time. first, the talents of paul haggis. by no means is he a perfect filmmaker. as a director, he is solid, but without much flair. as a writer, he has a ton of flair, but is not that solid when it comes to bread-and-butter story organization. but in an ensemble piece like this, his talents mesh well. as long as he has a couple of important shots playing in his head, the film will be fine. i also thought michael pena was the best of the supporting cast. he is much better in this than in wtc. but, of course, he was pretty much the only one not mentioned in awards talks for crash, and he got a lot of buzz for wtc. what a crazy world we live in.

Adaptation
Adaptation(2002)

kaufman pulled off an incredibly novel idea, bringing it to its fullest extent before anyone else mustered the machismo to pull it off. you know someone like chayefsky thought about doing this, and then thought, "no... that's too cheap."

Apollo 13
Apollo 13(1995)

simply a very solid, well-made film with good performances. can you believe this movie lost the effects oscar to babe? considering a lot of people thought this would win best pic over braveheart, that's gotta be up there on the list of biggest oscar shafts in history.

The Godfather, Part III
½

not as far below its predecessors as you might think. the butt of jokes because of its unlikely incestual relationship, the awful acting of sofia coppola, and the casting of a non-Italian in a prominent role, the movie should instead be remembered for its excellent use of the play within a play and for its ending, which rivals even the first two godfather movies in its potency.

The Godfather, Part II
½

the thing that puts this movie a little below the original is the acting. part of the reason is al pacino. not because he's bad, but because he's so much better than the other actors on screen, and it highlights their shortcomings. nowhere is this more apparent than in his "it was an abortion, micheal!" scene with diane keaton. while she butchers the key line, he simply acts her out of the room. not too far behind is the "i'm smart" scene with john cazale. to add, the movie lost so many great actors from the original. lastly, the flashback scenes with robert de niro outshine the main plot progression. however, despite these small flaws which put it a step below the first film, the godfather, part II is still a classic.

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction(1994)

slightly overrated. the travolta/jackson half is so much better than the willis/rhames half. it could have stood on its own. the scrambled time frame and most of the intricacy could have been preserved. of course, i realize the movie would never have been made that way. jackson's dialogue is magnificent, ebert called it a "bebob soliloquy," and that title is deserved. it is a very entertaining movie for the most part, and has its moments of philosophical potency.

Knute Rockne---All American
½

a solid by-the-numbers biopic that holds up well to the test of time. i just wish they wouldn't show that stupid reel of the 1939 all-americans at the end every time it's on tv.

The Lion King
½

the modern standard for the animated musical. period.

The Killing Fields

would have been four and a half or five if not for a certain scene. let's just say, alright, cambodian guy's family is being evacuated on a helicopter and he may never see them again? cue the synth!

The Departed
The Departed(2006)
½

upon the second viewing, you realize the greatness of the script even more. not just an intricate plot, but a ton of memorable and symbolic lines. a great performance by jack nicholson. why mark wahlberg got his nomination, i'll never know. it doesn't feel like two and a half hours at all.

Letters from Iwo Jima
½

by far, the better of eastwood's iwo jima films. better cinematography, better editing, a more cohesive and harrowing plot, and, frankly, better acting.

But I'm a Cheerleader

a nice thought, but too cheap, slow, and stupid to make its point effectively.

Kazaam
Kazaam(1996)

you may ask why this isn't half a star. i have my reasons, two of them to be exact. one, everyone says shaq has an awful rap. i don't remember it. i just remember he got a girl at the end. now for the second reason. at one point, subject to shaq's insisting that he have three wishes, the child actor sarcastically asks for all the candy in the world, and shaq obliges, making candy fall from the sky. that's a viable special effects shot. and that puts it above open water.

George Of The Jungle 2

way, way worse than the first one. it's like the actors turn to the camera and address the audience every five minutes. i wanted to gag.

Ladder 49