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The Iron Giant

Excellent, thought-provoking animated feature.
Finally, finally, finally a worthy alternative to the ruthless, cookie-cutter Disney stranglehold on feature animation; this film is not only thoughtful, entertaining, and technically excellent, it avoids all the assembly-line pitfalls the Disney features have fallen into lately. No lame "comic" relief (and even better, no Rosie O'Donnell), no attempts to "update" the story with a "nineties twist", no terrible songs, no multiple story climaxes . . . in short, everything that's wrong with Disney push-button dreck is right about THE IRON GIANT.

The story is told simply, with very little extra embellishment, and with genuine warmth, humor and sincerity, so it's a shame more people didn't see it in the theatres (but, honestly, those are probably the very reasons they didn't). The main character, Hogarth, is a likeable little boy, realistically portrayed. It's a credit to the filmmakers that they didn't feel the need to have the character be hip, flippant or disrespectful, a sad trend in movies. He's very much like a real little boy.

Forget TARZAN, with its main character surfin' through the jungle with his Brooklynite talk-show host gorilla sidekick for painful "comedy" relief (where's the relief from the comedy relief, I'd like to know), and do yourself and your kids (and your brains) a favor, and check out this underrated gem. We took our kids to TARZAN, and they couldn't tell you a thing about it (I'm sure it's blurred together with all the Disney flicks since LION KING), but wouldn't stop talking about THE IRON GIANT.

An absolute treat.

Apocalypse Now

Hellish journey to Heart of Darkness
APOCALYPSE NOW if often criticized for not being a very accurate representation of the Viet Nam war, but this misses the point. It's not really a war movie, nor is it an anti-war movie, really. It's a surreal examination of madness and evil, with the conflict in Viet Nam as a backdrop. Movies like PLATOON and FULL METAL JACKET are ABOUT the Viet Nam war, and probably more accurately portray it, but this film is more chilling, more disturbing, and more surreal.

The ending is often criticized as well, as being cerebral, confused, inconclusive and murky, but after all the madness that precedes it, what other ending would you want? John Milius' RAMBO-ish proposed teaming of Kurtz and Willard to battle the Viet Cong, shooting down the helicopter sent to rescue them? Come on. Maybe in PLATOON. But as slightly muddled as it is, the ending is just right.

Marlon Brando's enormous bulk (though relatively slender compared to the Brando of late) has been criticized as well, but in portraying a man who knows no restraint, has gone way over the edge, his girth works. Sure he's not the skeletal, etherial Kurtz Joseph Conrad envisioned, but he does look like a man who doesn't know when to stop.

Scary, exciting, funny, disturbing, APOCALYPSE NOW is quite a journey, a trippy journey into the Heart of Darkness.

Plan 9 from Outer Space

Every "bad" movie should be this entertaining!
Forget all that "The Worst Movie of All Time" and "Golden Turkey Award" nonsense, PLAN 9 is far from being that! Most of Wood's other output would qualify for those titles more than this little gem does.

One of the most berserk, weirdest, funniest and gosh-darned entertaining movies you could find, this little beauty holds up to countless viewings with new treasures to be unearthed each time. Whether it's new heights of ineptitude on Wood's part to new lows of inadequacy from much of the cast, this movie just gets better and better. Listen to the soundtrack without the visuals, and it's downright psychedelic.

Apparently, whoever wrote those awful "50 Worst Films" pieces of garbage never saw the likes of MANOS THE HANDS OF FATE, MONSTER A-GO-GO, or THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS, films so bad, even the likes of MST3K couldn't make them tolerable to sit through.

Not the Worst Movie of All Time, but one of the best times you'll ever have watching bad filmmaking. A delight!

Caccia alla volpe

Very funny film!
While certainly not one of his greatest works, Peter Sellers nonetheless shines as Aldo Vanucci, aka "The Fox". He underplays the role in his early scenes, as the scheming criminal, but pulls out all the stops when the character hits upon the idea to masquerade as "Fredrico Fabrizi" the great neo-realist. Much like the scheme inspires Vanucci, the disguise inspires Sellers, and his wildly inventive genius kicks into high gear.

Equally funny is Victor Mature as aging, past-his-prime movie idol Tony Powell. It's a well-written part (by Neil Simon), but Mature really brings him to life, and rather than merely making him a buffoon, which would have been easy to do, he gives him a quality of sympathy; deep down, despite all his posturing and pompousness, Powell probably knows he's on the decline.

All-in-all, a very funny film, with a truly inspired Sellers performance, even if it's not his best. Even a little really good Sellers goes a long way. He's sadly missed.

Batman & Robin

Absolutely awful; as bad as you've heard and then some!
Talk about trashing a movie series; the Roger Moore James Bonds brought that series to the brink of disaster before the current crop ressurected it, but that took over a decade. Joel Schumacher drove the BATMAN series into the ground in only two movies!

Granted, BATMAN FOREVER was tolerable, but this is an absolute mess from start to finish. From its incomprehensible "action" sequences (I dunno, usually when a character throws a punch, you see it connect with someone something], but not here), with bodies flying through the air as if made of paper, to its dopey "extreme sports" nonsense (which add nothing but extreme tedium), this is a total waste of time.

I saw it free and felt cheated; it's two hours of my life I can't get back. I could have been watching paint dry, or my hair grow and would have been more satisfied. I brought my six-year-old, a HUGE Batman fan, and he was looking up at the projection booth, at other audience members, ANYTHING but the incomprehensible mess on the screen.

With any luck at all, there will NEVER be another Batman movie directed by Joel Schumacher. Where's Tim Burton when we need him. For God sake, even give me Adam West any day instead of THIS!!

The Party

Howdy Partener!
Absolutely hilarious, totally plotless Sellers/Edwards collaboration that's not a Pink Panther movie. One slapstick sequence after another that, while not quite sustaining its momentum until the end, is truly a laugh-a-minute.

While Hrundi V. Bakshi seems like a mere stooge wandering through the chaos, Sellers infuses him with a stillness and dignity way beyond what the rather sketchy script calls for; but then, that was Sellers particular genius, wasn't it?

A virtual laugh-riot, I've seen this a dozen times and still am reduced to helplessness when Bakshi is playing with the intercom. A must-see!

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

Outstanding, timeless classic!
One of the best films ever made, this remains timeless despite changes in technology, foreign policy and world politics; the military/political madness remains the same. Gets better all the time, with successive viewings and its luster has not dimmed since its first release.

With three show-stopping performances from Sellers (amongst his best work, if not THE BEST), and an unexpectedly hilarious turn by George C. Scott (if Sellers weren't SO dead on-target, Scott would easily steal the show), STRANGELOVE is filled with cartoonish, over-the-top characters that, despite the lunacy, still ring true. Special mention must be made for Sterling Heyden's controlled, brooding paranoia as General Jack D. Ripper. He's funny, he's scary.

All-in-all, a brilliant piece of work by all involved.

Young Frankenstein

Absolutely hilarious!
Without a doubt, one of the funniest (if not THE funniest) movies of all time, with Wilder (whose idea was the genesis for the project, not Mel Brooks as is often indicated) and Brooks at the very top of their form.

EVERYTHING works in this movie, from the writing, directing, acting, sets, lighting, camera work, you name it, an absolutely on-target spoof/tribute to the James Whale Frankenstein films of the thirties (though the plot resembles SON OF FRANKENSTEIN more than either Whale picture).

By all means, see it! See it a dozen times! I've seen this movie at least 2 - 3 times a year and it still never fails to make me laugh out loud. The best!

Dance of the Vampires

Hilarious spoof of Hammer horrors
While probably not everyone's cup of tea, Polanski's loving spoof/tribute to Hammer Films' vampire movies of the late fifties/early sixties (specifically BRIDES OF DRACULA) is often hilarious and superbly on-target.

Like most successful spoofs of the horror genre (YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, et al), FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS maintains a high amount of reverence for its subject matter, treating it with a certain amount of respect amidst all the pratfalls and silliness. The jokes don't always succeed, and the film is more a series of brilliant set-pieces, but all in all a beautiful production.

By all means, if you can, catch it letterboxed to fully appreciate the sweeping, snow-bound landscapes and intricately detailed sets.

Casino Royale

Hopelessly irresistible mess
Possibly a perfect example of how NOT to make a movie (nine writers and five directors, unreliable star, etc.), CASINO ROYALE makes absolutely no sense, is impossible to follow in any conventional plot sense, and just plain completely loopy.

Nonetheless, it does have a quirky, wonked-out charm all it's own (you'd be hard-pressed to find another film remotely like it), and certainly gains with multiple viewing, provided you make it through the first time.

In any case, it's certainly more entertaining than some of the later-day James Bond flicks with Roger Moore . . .


Absolutely awful.
How do people get the money to make things like this? Surely no one figures to get their investment back.

Secondly, why do people make things like this?

Totally devoid of anything remotely resembling entertainment value, this piece of dreck appears to have been made purely as an excuse to ruin some perfectly good film stock.

Putrid script, nonexistent direction, abysmal effects, acting that would shame the worst community theater group, and an apparent contempt for the audience watching it, HOBGOBLINS fails on every conceivable level, even by the low, low standards of low (no) budget filmmaking.

And I use the term filmmaking here in the loosest of possible terms.

Appalling, absolutely appalling.


Gilliam's finest achievement
For someone who is continually labelled an "ex-Python", Terry Gilliam's post-Monty Python work has far outstripped not only his Python work, but most of the others' as well.

Not to denegrate any of the other Pythons, but Gilliam's work has consistently shown more imagination and daring than almost anyone working in film today.

BRAZIL is a case in point, being probably his best work. It is so strong and so full of powerful images that bits of it keep popping up in his other work (most notably 12 MONKEYS).

No need to go on and on about the film, as others before me have done that just fine; suffice to say this is one of those movies that either you'll absolutely love, or it'll leave you cold (though the same can be said for most of Gilliam's work). A demanding, relentless film, it can just as easily the viewer as it can dazzle.

Often described as "futuristic", BRAZIL more accurately can be described as retro-futuristic, as most things "futuristic" are taken either from the past or the here and now (again, later put to more blatant use in 12 MONKEYS). As I sit typing this, I am surrounded by umbilical ductwork and malfunctioning technology.

I'd have it fixed, but I can't stand the paperwork . ..

The Meaning of Life

Gleefully offensive Python movie wallows in its own excess.
While neither the Python's funniest (MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL probably takes that honor) nor their most cohesive (MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN), this film is certainly their most polished, best-looking and most outrageous.

Though the expensive-looking skits tend for the most part to run a little long, most are hilarious, some downright brilliant, with the usual misfires here and there.

After years of re-defining sketch comedy, it appears, however, the Python's themselves had trouble maintaining their own velocity. Returning to a sketch-oriented format for the first time in ten years, MEANING OF LIFE has none of the off-the-cuff, stream-of-consciousness mayhem that made MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS so unique and original. It tends to meander a bit here and there.

Don't get me wrong; I love this movie. It is perhaps my favorite Python product of all. It was the perfect early Reagan-era kick-in-the-pants in an age of bland, inoffensive cinematic junk. I went and saw it repeatedly just to see how many people would get up and walk out as Mr. Creosote spewed vomit all over a posh restaurant. Things like that just weren't done back then.

Then again, what do you expect from Monty Python . . . HEIDI?

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

One of God's own prototypes
Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp), in describing his lawyer/partner-in-crime Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Torro), describes him as being "one of God's own prototypes, never intended for mass production".

The same could be said of this movie; a shameless mess of a film, plotless, leisurely paced, full of unintelligible dialog and disorienting images, it nonetheless has become one of my favorites.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS plays like some early '30's Marx Brothers movie with illicit drugs thrown in. What would be serious drawbacks in most other films by most other directors become this film's greatest assets. There's certainly no other movie like it, and perhaps there shouldn't be. This is a one-of-a-kind experience, and certainly not for all tastes.

But if you're in tune with Thompson and Gilliam's respective world-views, sit back and enjoy the ride, and just be thankful you're only experiencing it through the safety buffer of a movie screen, and not first hand.


This early Terry Gilliam film is better than its reputation.
This often neglected first solo directing effort of Gilliam's is certainly much better than its maligned reputation would have you believe. While it is though sledding the first time through, it gains appreciably with repeated viewings, but does demand you pay attention. Amongst all the excrement, garbage and filth, Gilliam and his co-writer actually have a little something to say about big business, but mainly JABBERWOCKY is very, very funny. Strong stomachs are required, however.

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