Movie Reviews

[I've retired this page; my newer movie reviews are here.]

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These are (mostly) very short reviews of pretty much every movie I've seen in a theater for the last several years, minus a few I forgot to write about. I guarantee not to ruin your enjoyment of a movie by giving away key plot elements, unlike every professional reviewer on the planet. I reserve the right to ruin your enjoyment through other means, though. I also guarantee that if you share my exact taste in movies, you'll find that the ratings are very accurate.

(By the way, if anyone out there ever looks at this page and has some kind of reaction, however mild, pro or con or otherwise, feel free to email me:

The ratings go from one to four stars. I don't do any of that wishy-washy half-star crap either.

Sweet And Lowdown ****
dir Woody Allen, w/ Sean Penn

Penn gets back to his roots: he breathes life into Emmet Ray, a character nearly as compelling as Jeff Spicoli.

Magnolia ****
dir P. T. Anderson, w/ usual cronies plus Tom Cruise

Too long, but otherwise excellent, so be prepared with an empty bladder and a full bag of popcorn.

Galaxy Quest ****
Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver

Two great tastes that go great together: campy sci-fi and spoof of campy sci-fi.

The Talented Mr Ripley ***
Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law

Solid acting, nice locations, some good suspense with a few surprising twists.

All About My Mother ****

Wacky Spanish stuff, as usual.

Being John Malkovich ****
dir Spike Jonze, w/ John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich

A very funny thing, this movie. Has some of that surreal feeling of Run Lola Run and The Matrix, but taken in a different direction.

American Beauty ****
w/ Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening

A "dark comedy" that's actually both funny and dark. The casting is genius.

Run Lola Run ****

Techno-ish and arty, but watchable. Has some interesting videogame influences in visuals and structure. Julie wanted me to add: "People should know that if you go see this movie, you'll see a lot of Lola running, but it's OK because she's good at it."

Twin Dragons **
Jackie Chan

Had a couple of good action scenes, but otherwise bland.

Star Wars: Phantom Menace **
George Lucas etc

Didn't completely suck, but gets an extra deduction for deflating my too-high expectations.

The Matrix ****
dir Wachowski bros, w/ Laurence Fishburne, Keanu Reeves, etc.

The best movie of its kind I've ever seen, its kind being cyberpunk-techno-sci-fi-action-thriller.

Mercury Rising **
w/ Bruce Willis

Interesting concept, really bad execution.

The Long Way Home ****

Documentary covering the odyssey of Jewish Holocaust survivors in the years between the end of WWII and the establishment of the state of Israel. Pretty incredible stuff.

Nil By Mouth ***

About as grim, gritty and "working class" as it gets. Not a lot of comic relief or heartwarming "Family Ties" moments, so viewer emptor. The accents were tough for me to follow.

Twilight **
Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, more

Lifeless noir with a great cast. Even movie-starved in Botswana I was disappointed.

Sliding Doors ***
Gwyneth Paltrow, etc


Lethal Weapon 4 ***
Danny Glover, Mel Gibson, Joe Pesci, Chris Rock, etc

Good old stick-to-the-ribs big-budget Hollywood action-comedy. Nothing more, nothing less.

Next Stop: Wonderland **
Hope Davis

Indie slow-paced sort-of-romantic, sort-of-comedy. Not terrible, but not great either. Kind of in the lukewarm water category.

Saving Private Ryan ***
Spielberg, w/ Tom Hanks, etc

Vintage Spielberg: the battle scenes are fantastic, while the story is melodramatic puff at the core. Overall it's still solid entertainment.

Pi **

About a tortured mathematician. Has some great visuals and gives a very believable representation of what a migraine headache is like, but it lacks balance and is way too long at 85 minutes. For the record, Julie hated it.

Snake Eyes **
dir Brian DePalma, w/ Nicholas Cage, Gary Sinise

Mediocre. There was one chase scene that I enjoyed, but otherwise it lacked suspense or surprises.

There's Something About Mary ****
Farrelly bros, w/ Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Chris Elliot

I laughed until it hurt. I am a big fan of this movie. If you've seen the preview, you have a pretty good idea what you're in for.

X-Files: Fight The Future ***

This is not really a self-contained movie, it's more of a 2-hour extra-high-budget X-Files episode. Not a bad episode, but I don't feel that the feature-film format adds much to the experience.

Kurt And Courtney **
Nick Broomfield

Depressingly incompetent attempt at documentary, focusing on the death of Kurt Cobain. Not only is Broomfield a terrible interviewer, he has no feel for his subject.

The Truman Show ***
w/ Jim Carrey, Natascha McElhone

The movie is OK, but it could have been much better. Three stars is a bit of a stretch, but I don't do that wishy-washy half-star crap, remember?

Clockwatchers ****
Written/Directed/Produced by Jill and Karen Sprecher, w/ Tony Collette, Parker Posey, Lisa Kudrow

Plain, timid young woman takes temp job and makes friends with the other temps. Threateningly slow and arty at a couple of points, but overall I really liked it.

The Spanish Prisoner ****
written by David Mamet, w/ Campbell Scott, Steve Martin, Rebecca Pidgeon, etc

Quality! Suspense/espionage/con-game kinda story. The Game was this good, in its dreams. And it even features a scene shot in and around the A Street Deli.

The Apostle ****
Robert Duvall, June Carter Cash, Farah Fawcett, etc

I enjoyed it. Follows a charismatic but fairly nutty fundamentalist preacher from Texas through all sorts of hijinks.

The Big Lebowski ****
Coen Brothers, w/ Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, John Turturro

Not as good as Fargo, in my opinion, but still pretty excellent.

Live Flesh ****

Twisted, but great.

The Sweet Hereafter ***

Arty. I think it was a little too subtle for me, because even though I thought some parts were really good, I don't think I really "got" it. Maybe there was nothing to get. Maybe I'm just thick. Maybe you should consult Siskel 'n Ebert.

Deconstructing Harry ***
Woody Allen

Woody plays a brilliant writer who behaves like a pig in his personal life. The execution is clever and hilarious as usual, but while the movie is very well done, I was more than a little distracted because I kept thinking about the parallels to the recent activities of the real-life Woody Allen.

Jackie Brown ****
dir Quentin Tarantino, w/ Samuel L Jackson, Pam Grier, based on a book by Elmore Leonard

Not as good as Pulp Fiction, but what is? Not nearly as graphic, either, for those who care one way or another. Earns extra punk points for casting somewhat chunky and aging (though still "foxy") Pam Grier in the title role.

Good Will Hunting ****
dir Gus Van Sant, w/ Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, written by Damon and Affleck

Story, acting and visuals all come together in a most pleasing manner. Go see it.

One fairly minor point: In Gus Van Sant's last movie, To Die For, I was disappointed by the lack of fidelity to the sights and sounds of Seacoast NH, having grown up in the area, although otherwise it was a great movie. In contrast, Good Will Hunting does an excellent job representing its Boston setting.

As Good As It Gets **
w/ Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr, Skeet Ulrich (!)

Romantic comedy. Nicholson's character says some offensive stuff that's usually pretty funny. On the other hand, I was a tad bothered by the extreme age difference between the positively dewy Helen Hunt and Nicholson's wrinkled old lech. Deduct one star from an otherwise three-star outing.

Boogie Nights ****
w/ Marky Mark, Burt Reynolds, others

This is an excellent movie. (It's a graphic depiction of some folks who made porno movies in the 70's and early 80's, so it's not for everyone. You know who you are.)

Kiss Or Kill ****

A young, attractive but desperate hoodlum couple runs from the law across the (Australian) desert, and it's actually worth watching. Eat your heart out, Oliver Stone.

One surprising thing about the movie is that there's no cheesy alternative rock on the soundtrack. In fact, there's no music at all. It's strange and kind of refreshing.

Beaumarchais, The Scoundrel ***
French, w/ subtitles

Agreeable historical biopic. On the light end of the spectrum, although it depicts some pivotal pre-French Revolution events. Nothing you haven't seen before on Masterpiece Theatre, but hey, history is cool.

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil ***
dir Clint Eastwood, w/ Kevin Spacey, John Cusack

A strange movie. It drags shamelessly, in more ways than one. It's often self-consciously weird, and other times just plain regular weird. And a few times it looks like a mediocre made-for-TV movie. But, I liked it anyway.

John Grisham's The Rainmaker ***
dir Coppola, w/ Matt Damon, Claire Danes, Danny DeVito

Watchable, yet not very involving -- strangely so, in fact, for a big-time director Hollywood formula flick. Not sloppy, just sort of unfocused.

When We Were Kings ****
dir Leon Gast, w/ Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King, Mobutu Sese Seko, Norman Mailer, etc, etc, etc.

I saw this a while ago, but forgot to review it. In a nutshell, it's great. It's a documentary of the boxing match between Ali and Foreman held in Zaire in the mid 70's, the "Rumble In The Jungle". I'm not much of a boxing fan, but I found it 100% riveting. There were some amazing personalities that converged at this event, and the movie really brings out the drama.

The Full Monty ****

I forgot to review this movie also. It's pretty excellent. Hilarious, life-affirming, feel-good, etc, but not smarmy or cheesy, that rarest of combinations.

The Ice Storm ***
dir Ang Lee

A full-on immersion in early 70's Connecticut sex-obsessed suburbia. There are some funny parts, some sad parts, some exciting parts and some boring parts.

Starship Troopers ***
dir Paul Verhoeven, w/ Doogie Howser et al, based on Robert Heinlein novel

Argh!! It's almost worthy of cult-worship, but falls annoyingly short. Heinlein should have included a foreword to the book reading something like: "After I'm dead and buried, when some hotshot Hollywood action-movie director makes a high-budget no-holds-barred extravaganza based on this book, someone please tell him that THE INFANTRY 'SUIT' IS NOT OPTIONAL, DILLWEED!!!" Damn. It's one of the coolest things in the book, and I'm going to tell you about it since Paul Verhoeven dropped the ball: the Suit that the Mobile Infantry guys in the book wear is a high-powered armored exoskeleton bristling with sensors, scanners, guns, lasers, flamethrowers, grappling hooks, jet packs, shuriken, steak knives, silly string, and so on. In it, a trooper can literally leap tall buildings in a single bound and race speeding locomotives, not to mention pound the living crap out of all manner of hostile extra-terrestrials. It's a crucial technological factor justifying the elite nature of the Mobile Infantry: by vastly enhancing the destructive power of the individual, the MI can afford to weed out all but the very toughest, meanest, baddest mofos coming through their boot camp, and succeed even with a relatively small number of troopers -- in sharp contrast to the humans' arch-enemy Bugs, whose military strategy involves swarms of millions of giant bloodthirsty ant-like fighter drones.

Well, they left the Suit out, replacing the few fearsome Starship Troopers of the book with vaguely insect-like hordes of somewhat less fearsome members of the coed varsity football team trudging around in plastic helmets and carrying conventional machine guns. Maybe they were trying to make some subtle meta-point about the inherent similarity between the Bugs and the humans... ah, forgetaboutit, it falls flat anyway.

Aside from that, there's some awesome stuff in the movie. It's kind of an Archie & Veronica Vs The Space Aliens, with an alarming amount of gore and over-the-top, inventive visual effects. The catchy jingoism from the book is well represented, as are many of the pleasingly peculiar future-history twists. The movie could have reached a four star rating, but halfway through the second hour, the highly entertaining cartoonish violence and rocket-age spoofs peter out and the sci-fi movie cliches, loud pointless explosions, and improbable coincidences start to take over.

Fast, Cheap, and Out Of Control ****
dir Errol Morris (the guy who did Thin Blue Line), w/ Rod Brooks, Ray Mendez, two other guys

Documentary about four oddballs, perhaps geniuses as well. Rod Brooks makes biology-inspired robots at MIT, Ray Mendez studies the African Naked Mole Rat, the only known hive-oriented mammal, another guy tames lions and tigers in the circus, and yet another guy tends a topiary garden. The visual and sonic trickery is a little over the top, but it hits the spot if you just sit back and soak it in.

American Job **
part of Fuel tour, sponsored by Levi's 100% Cotton Dockers TM

This is the undisputed King of all slow boring movies. Imagine The English Patient, but instead of watching chiseled actors wearing J Peterman outfits, mapping the Sahara, and running from the chaos of war, focus on a non-descript guy in Ohio washing dishes, operating a plastic-molding machine, and taking warehouse inventory.

In The Company Of Men ***

Yow. This gets a marginal three-star rating, 'cause it's really not that enjoyable to watch. But, it's well made and somewhat thought provoking. Not a good date movie.

LA Confidential ***
w/ Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, other stars

Too many characters and themes even for a long movie like this one, but it's entertaining fake-noir cop stuff nonetheless.

The Game ***
w/ Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, etc.

Too long, but otherwise well done. I feel somewhat cheated, as they certainly could have made the protagonist more interesting, but instead there are lots of long, mostly empty shots interspersed with the action.

Breakdown ****
w/ Kurt Russell

Not quite Dead Calm, but in the same ballpark. Unlike The Game, the pace is perfectly measured and the running length is just right.

When The Cat's Away **

I don't know why I go see movies like this. I guess sometimes they're good. I found this one pretty boring, although it does serve as definitive proof that French people are even goofier than you think.

Chasing Amy ***
dir Kevin Smith

I admit it, I haven't seen Clerks or Mall Rats. Clearly I need to, because the best parts of this movie are the many puerile funny bits. The vaunted 'maturity' of this latest outing comes out a little flat, but hey.

Sling Blade ***
One of the creepiest movies I've ever seen, on several levels at once. My biggest complaint is that it's too long.
Daytrippers **
w/ Parker Posey, Cambell Scott, Stanley Tucci

Low key indie with some funny parts. A little too low key for me, though... verges on pointless.

Private Parts ***

w/ Howard Stern et al

Not God's gift to cinema, but solid entertainment. Stern comes off as the All-American nice guy, making me suspect it's really just a big PR project.

Unhook The Stars ****

Dir. Nick Cassavetes, w/ Gena Rowlands, Marisa Tomei, Gerard Depardieu, et al

Julie loved it (four stars), I enjoyed it. Has some characteristics of the dreaded "chick movie", but overall a thumbs up.

Waiting For Guffman ***

w/ Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, et al

Mockumentary that captures the sights, sounds, and smells of small-time community theatre. This Is Not Spinal Tap, but it's pretty good.

Breaking The Waves ****

Dir. Lars von Trier

Long, arty, and shot with a vomit-inducing hand-held camera, but a great movie anyway.

English Patient ***

w/ Kristin Scott Thomas, Ralph Feinnes, Willem Defoe, Juliette Binoche, etc

Nice scenery, decent story, kind of long, and lay off the hype a little, eh?

First Strike ****
w/ Jackie Chan

Tries to be a James Bond flick, but it's way too silly. Not quite as silly as Rumble In The Bronx though, and there are plenty of awesome stunts and fight scenes.
Ransom ***
Dir. Ron Howard, w/ Mel Gibson, etc.

Pretty good mainstream suspense movie.

Swingers **

Passable Gen-X thing. Some funny stuff, some annoying stuff.

Get On The Bus ***
Dir. Spike Lee

Decent. Has a tendency to get a little cheesy and sentimental, and doesn't really dig too deeply, but it's entertaining. Not one of Spike Lee's best.

Palookaville ****

Funny low-key story about three Jersey losers who try a variety of money-making schemes.

Surviving Picasso **
w/ Anthony Hopkins, Natascha McElhone

Pretty long aimless story about what a pig Picasso was.

Curdled ***
w/ Angela Jones, William Baldwin, etc.

Black comedy executive produced by Quentin Tarantino; contains the requisite gore. Jones is fascinating and super-cute. Well acted, well directed, and the Latin soundtrack is really excellent. My only complaint is that the story is a touch thin.

Big Night ****
written, directed & starring Stanley Tucci, w/ some others you may have heard of

Very simple, enjoyable, slow-paced depiction of two Italian immigrant brothers running a restaurant. Yum.

Tree's Lounge ****
written, directed by & starring Steve Buscemi. w/ many others

A high quality night out at the movies. I generally consider Buscemi's presence on the cast of a movie to be a solid endorsement, and this movie is as good as or better than any other movie he's been in. The cinematic equivalent of a tall pitcher of Long Island Ice Tea.

The Secret Agent **
w/ Bob Hoskins, Patricia Arquette, Robin Williams, Gerard Depardieu, others

Patricia Arquette turns in a typically mediocre performance in this adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel. Everyone else is pretty good. The screenplay butchers the book without mercy, but there are a few bright spots, especially Robin Williams' nihilist bomb-builder.

Independence Day ****

One time on PBS I saw a show about diners. There's a diner in Pennsylvania which has an item on their menu consisting of: a 1/3 pound hot dog, split down the middle and filled with a piece of American cheese, all wrapped in two slices of bacon, breaded, deep fried, and served on a buttered bun with chips and cole slaw. And a large coke. This movie was just like that.

Flirt **
Dir etc by Hal Hartley, Parker Posey stars for about 3 minutes, etc.

A brilliant concept... unless you have to watch it. I don't feel I'm giving too much away by saying that you see the same exact story three times in different settings with different characters. Makes for a pretty boring Sunday Night. I think other Hal Hartley movies are better, but this one makes me wary. There are a couple funny and/or clever parts. So what.

Lone Star ***
Written & Directed by John Sayles, w/ Kris Kristopherson, etc.

A pretty good movie about a small Texas border town. Much of the plot is telegraphed in advance, but there are a few twists and turns that I didn't anticipate. I thought there were a few spots where it seemed a little contrived, but hey, why not.

Trainspotting ****

Believe most of the hype. A Scottish Drugstore Cowboy that gives solid entertainment and maybe a couple of things to think about. If you're squeamish about bad haircuts, heroin needles, or egregious Scottish accents you should think twice, but otherwise I give it a thumbs up.
Heavy **
Liv Tyler, Shelley Winters, Debbie Harry, Evan Dando, etc

For a while, this seemed like an enjoyable movie. Awfully slow, but the art direction is great, and the characters were fairly interesting. After an hour, though, apart from answering the question "Who's a better actor, the greatest Disco-New Wave diva of the late 70's or the pajama-wearing Alternahunk of the early 90's?" (you can guess the answer, I'm sure) I began to fear there would be no payoff for sitting through it, and I was right.
Courage Under Fire **
Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, etc.

Pretty standard Hollywood man-in-uniform wartime morality stuff, not bad, not great, only the war in question is Operation Desert Storm, and who can really get excited about that? Not me after watching this.
Welcome to the Dollhouse ***

Ruthlessly accurate portrayal of sixth grade from the point of view of an awkward bespectacled misfit. Not a real feel-good flick, sort of the flip side of Dazed And Confused.

The Rock **
Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, Ed Harris

A no-holds-barred action-adventure romp. Doesn't even pay lip service to suspense; it just goes ahead and delivers the big explosions, dangerous stunts, and improbable gun battles. In between, I found myself thinking, "Boy this is a terrible script" fairly often.
The Low Life ***
Some unknowns plus Kyra Sedgewick and James Le Gros

This is seemingly another one of those movies about recent college grads grappling with the real world, like Kicking And Screaming (or maybe Reality Bites which I didn't see so I don't know), in which we watch a lot of self-indulgent angst interspersed with jokes that are very funny to those of us 'Gen-Xers' who were nerds in high school, only to find that was a sure guarantee of social acceptance by the really cool crowd in college. In any case, that kind of movie usually rates two stars by me. This one is different due to Andrew, the Journey-listening, stone-washed jeans wearing character who sheds a different light on the whole exercise.
Mission: Impossible **
Dir. Brian DePalma, w/ Tom Cruise, etc.

Vying with Twister (which probably stinks) for the lead in the "huge summer action-adventure blockbuster" sweepstakes. Normally, not my cup of peach cider, but I found it better than I had feared. Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as I had hoped. In the past I've found the average Tom Cruise's movie to be a solid entertainment value, but I wasn't blown away by this one. I actually thought the plot was one of the better aspects -- more interesting than what you typically get in a high-budget action-adventure. There were some Internet & computer-oriented scenes, that while fairly silly, weren't a tenth as ridiculous as what usually comes out of Hollywood. Also, the cloak and dagger stuff was cool. But the pace was just too slow for this kind of movie. Even the action scenes were a little deliberate.
Mulholland Falls **
Written by Chazz Palmintieri, w/ Palmintieri, Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, et al.

Very stylishly made, and Palmintieri's acting is pretty good (what kind of name is Chazz, anyway?), too bad his script doesn't quite do it. There are a few good ideas and some halting stabs as Tarantino-ish dialogue, but it's stretched pretty thin. Add in a heavy-breathing Nolte and the ever-annoying Griffith, and what do you have? A two-star movie.
Flirting With Disaster ****
Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Lily Tomlin, Alan Alda, Mary Tyler Moore, Tia Leone, etc.

A zany, star-studded sex farce about an adoptee in search of his birth parents... it's got to suck, right? Well, no, actually. This is the funniest movie I've seen in a long time. Frequently testing the limits of taste (and occasionally failing), the movie veers into consistently stranger and sillier territory with every scene. Near genius.
Brain Candy **
Kids In The Hall

Not a collection of sketches like you might expect, more of a sustained story. A little reminiscent of Monty Python. It has some really funny parts, but I got tired after a while of watching the same three or four actors play all the major characters. The plot is even pretty decent; it's a send-up of the Prozac et al industry. But it just didn't quite do it for me.
Girl 6 ****
Dir. Spike Lee, w/ Theresa Randle, many cameos

Spike Lee demonstrates once again that he knows how to make movies. This is sort of a character study about an aspiring actress who gets a job as a phone-sex operator. It's good, no matter what the critics say.
City Hall **
Al Pacino, John Cusack, Bridget Fonda, etc

I would have upped the rating at least one star if they had cut the first two minutes and the last 5 minutes. In between, there's a well-acted, fairly engaging story of politics, power, idealism, and corruption. Al Pacino is pretty amazing. The style is kind of slow, kind of dry and understated at times, which is a nice change. But I couldn't shake the feeling that the movie makers didn't always have a completely clear idea of where the hell they were going. And I couldn't get comfortable with John Cusack's cajun accent.
Fargo ****
Dir. Coen bros, w/ Steve Buscemi, etc

The Coen brothers return to good, old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs moviemaking with Fargo, and it ranks up there with Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing and Raising Arizona in quality. I didn't much care for Barton Fink, and I didn't even go see the Hudsucker Proxy, so I'm glad to report that this movie is excellent entertainment, featuring crooks, slimebags, money, murder, a persistent yet pregnant protagonist, and a dollop of midwestern flavor.
Rumble In The Bronx ***
Jackie Chan, dubbed in English

Of the six or seven Jackie Chan movies I've seen, this one is near the bottom. But, with Jackie Chan cinema, like some other things in life, even when it's bad, it's very very good. Cross Arnold Schwarzenegger with Charlie Chaplin, and you'd have an awfully ugly child who might share some of the talents of this grinning Hong Kong kung-fu king. Most of those talents are on display, making this an extremely entertaining show. The script is fairly hokey, and there are one or two slow spots, but overall the movie delivers the bacon. Click here to go to the official Rumble In The Bronx web site,
Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead **
Andy Garcia, Christopher Walken, Steve Buscemi, Treat Williams

First, the good news: Steve Buscemi does an excellent job playing a creepy bad-ass Turkish hit man named "Mr Shush", and Treat Williams puts in a magnificent performance as "Critical Bill", the tough-as-nails nutcase who works at a mortuary and uses the dead bodies as a punching bag when the boss isn't around. The scenes with these two characters are really good. One might even say, "awesome" or "wicked good". Christopher Walken does a decent job as the quadraplegic Godfather character. The rest of the movie has some problems. The love-story subplot is excruciatingly smarmy, and takes up way too much of the movie. Julie says, "it sucked. The script was the worst part." On the other hand, Gavin says, "I was entertained through the entire movie." I'm just hoping for a Mr. Shush/Critical Bill buddy picture.
Richard III **
Based on Shakespeare play

Um... I guess you could call it "interesting". The preview makes it look amazing, but of course the preview doesn't have any dialogue. Kind of ironic, since the lines are straight from the Bard, but really the best part of this movie is the creepy mid-20th-century Nazi-flavored setting of this 400 year old story. The opening sequence is excellent, but things bog down when the actors start spewing Elizabethan couplets while hamming up their best Shakespeare/"serious acting" chops. Add in the excessive British accents and the results are disappointing.
City Of Lost Children ***
Dir. Jeunet and Caro

This is the new movie from those French guys who brought you Delicatessen, which ruled. They don't quite live up to their previous effort, mainly due to some sluggish moments in the story, but the movie is chock full of eye-popping visuals. The "Octopus" (creepy Siamese-twin ladies) scenes are classic.
Persuasion ***
Based on the Jane Austen novel

Enjoyable period movie. The visual style is slightly more adventurous than you usually see in this kind of movie, and some of the cast members have a lot of "character" (i.e. they're ugly) which is kind of punk. One irritating feature is the thespian English accents, which make me want to puke.
12 Monkeys ****
Dir. Terry Gilliam w/ Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt

Ahhh, so satisfying. Finally, a coherent though twisted story to match Terry Gilliam's over-the-top visuals. Will be one of those rare movies worth owning on video.
Shanghai Triad ***
Dir. Zhang Yimou w/ Gong Li

Subtitles, high production values, aesthetic cinematography, good story about Shanghai gangsters, the fabulous Gong Li, and somewhat repetitive and annoying Chinese singing.
Leaving Las Vegas *
w/ Nicholas Cage, Elizabeth Shue

The critics have really dropped the ball on this one. One of the worst movies I've seen in a while. Unholy union of Klute, Barfly, and Pretty Woman. Nick Cage is occasionally funny. Script is usually hokey, the story drags, Elizabeth Shue is as hot as she was in The Karate Kid, but her acting is mediocre. Soundtrack is an unbelievably cheezy blend of Sting, one of those annoying Eagles alums, and some guy who was in the Doobie Brothers. Gack!
The Crossing Guard **
Dir. Sean Penn w/ Jack Nicholson, Angelica Huston

Slow, pretentious, long, and isn't even obscurely arty. Jack Nicholson can only play one character. The guy who plays John Booth is OK.
The Usual Suspects ****

Totally enjoyable noir-ish suspense flick about crooks.
The Underneath **

Somewhat enjoyable noir-ish suspense flick that doesn't quite deliver the goods.
Wild Reeds *

Slooow French arty ho-hum.
The American President **
Dir. Rob Reiner

Not Rob Reiner's best work (that would be Spinal Tap).
Toy Story ****

Enjoyable kids movie with the cool computer graphics. It allegedly took an average of 70-odd minutes to render each frame.
Brother's Keeper ****

Great. Documentary about mentally-challenged backwoods brothers charged with fratricide. Pig slaughtering scene is incredible, along with practically every other scene in the movie. Rent it now.
Sabotage ***
1930's vintage, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Film adaptation of my favorite book, The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. No substitute for the book itself, but it's still a good movie, distilling the basic elements of the story in solid Hitchcock fashion. Bad news: the video I rented was kind of dark and the sound wasn't too good. Probably faults in the source material. The accents of the characters are sometimes hard to understand. Read the book.
Heavenly Creatures ****

New Zealand film about some creepy little girls. I liked it.
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