strat-8

IMDb member since November 1999
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    IMDb Member
    21 years

Reviews

Rob Roy
(1995)

One of the BEST movies EVER made
I was given free tickets to see this movie on the day that the Oklahoma city bombing occurred. So I remember it well. What I saw was one of the richest and most impressive movies I have ever seen. Michael Caton-Jones deserves to go down as one of the BEST director's EVER for this masterpiece. The screenplay: MASTERFUL. It has EVERYTHING: Action, suspense, drama, romance. This movie is every bit as enjoyable as the Shawshank Redemption. It is a shame that some viewers will find the realism of this movie distasteful. Personally I find the realism EXTRA tasteful. A cartoon, this is NOT. YEAH! A hundred years from now this performance from Liam Neeson will be recognized as one of his finest.

Rebel Highway: Runaway Daughters
(1994)
Episode 4, Season 1

very bland American graffiti
I saw this DVD in an electronics store priced (new) at $20. I'd never heard of it and I'm fairly knowledgeable about movies. I like Paul Rudd especially after seeing him in Knocked Up which I LOVED. I also like Julie Bowen. I like finding quirky movies that are hidden gems so I decided to take a chance.

Ho - hum. After 40 minutes I say to myself, "ya know, any movie that takes 40 minutes to set up the back story, the exposition, really has taken too long.

Here's the whole plot: nothing happens.

This is one of those movies that seems to be nothing but an excuse to showcase a collection of odd-ball characters (i.e. Roger Corman) in cameo roles. That formula can work, as in It's a mad mad mad mad world. But in an 84 minute, made for TV movie, it doesn't cut it. BTW Bowen & Rudd are in one brief scene together making the DVD cover-art highly misleading. You can skip this one. Certainly don't pay $20 for it.

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession
(2004)

A film lover that made a difference
It's true. The question can be asked: Is it a film about an early cable TV mad genius impresario, or the station's impact on the film & cable industry, or simply an exposure and homage to the kind of films that brought the man and his Channel Z their well deserved success.

Of course it is all of the above and thank god for it.

Probably about as good a treatment of the subjects as you could ask for. Studios & "suits" are the bad guys. Film critics are almost as bad. But for those that love the art of film, like these people do, we can join in the celebration. I was never that impressed with the films of Sam Peckinpaw, but now I must take another look. Six hours of Das Boot? Now I know why.

It's also an instructional story of marketing. How to find a niche. How to defy conventional wisdom and find the "uncommon denominator" that brings success. Is there a market for this or that? There is always a market for things that are produced by people simply following their passion.

Agnes Browne
(1999)

Well done, Ms. Houston
Yet another hidden gem. As a dealer in new and used movies, especially since I specialize in unusual, out-of-print, Indies, foreign, and other non-mainstream titles, I have the opportunity to discover many films in the hidden-gem category, like this one. Films get my attention when the demand is unusually high. This is no guarantee that the film is a good one, but if other factors are favorable, I may watch it. This one's a winner.

On my first viewing I thought it was a nice little film but nothing special. Mild thumbs up. I'm not sure why, but about a year later I decided to watch it again. I enjoyed it more the second time. Six months later I watched it a 3rd time and it seemed better yet. Today I watched it for the fourth time and I enjoyed every moment of it tremendously. The opening scene is just delicious, and hilarious. Even though I have a pretty good ear for the Irish idiom, I turned on the English subtitles and caught some bits of dialog that were not clear before.

If you are a film student, this a good one to study. It is extremely well crafted. Yes my dears, with no big stars and a small budget, you can make a fine film. The camera work is first class. Lighting is perfect. The colors pop out at you. No doubt Ms. Houston sought to bring her Ireland to life with all of it's vivid vitality, and she succeeded. She squeezed a lot into a small film. Humor, music, romance, pathos, and even a little suspense. Perfect editing. The film never lags. Perfect pacing. Perfect storytelling. Nothing is unnecessary and nothing is missing.

Yes, it is a bittersweet tale, but so is life. We have all been there. Agnes Browne and her brood are good souls, instantly likable. The beaming faces of those kids, ah, they'll steal your heart. That's what makes this movie a winner above all else. It's a movie with heart.

Before Sunset
(2004)

Disappointed
I love Richard Linklater. He's a terrific filmmaker who's made some of my favorite films. I think Waking Life is absolutely brilliant. However, in my opinion, he's also made some duds. But that is the price of pushing the envelope and I don't want to discourage that. I too thought that Before Sunrise was a warm and wonderful film. I'm a huge Julie Delpy fan. I think the idea of having the actors from the original film contribute to the screenplay of the sequel is inspired. Bravo Richard, Bravo! I love that about you. What I didn't love was the result. Basically it didn't go anywhere. Flat beginning, middle and end. No magic. Maybe that is what it was trying to convey, the loss of magic, inability to recapture the magic. But why make a film about that? Why end the story of these two characters on a down note? You should have avoided the sequel and let us imagine a better future for them.

I wouldn't be writing this except that I was perusing the top 250 list and was shocked to find this on it. Now I accept the fact that the list contains goofy choices and omits some outstanding films. I'm used to that. But, WOW! Its just getting wackier.

Brazil
(1985)

IMDb top 250: 197? Way too low!
I just finished watching Michael Radford's 1984 for the first time. Brilliant and faithful to the book. I also just acquired the Critieron 3 disk edition of Brazil. At the time of its release, I thought 3 disks was a bit overkill, but now I know better. I saw Brazil in the theater in 1985. Dragged to it by a weird friend with strange tastes. I was blown away. I staggered out of the theater. What makes a great movie? Compelling storytelling. Great actors, great script, and above all else, something that takes you to a world you've never been to or imagined before, a world that sucks you in and makes you a part of it. Truly one of the greatest movies ever made. Should be at least top 100 and possibly even top 10. OK, it may not be for everyone. But you can say that about any movie. If you don't like sci-fi (and shame on you if you don't, beside this is not really sci-fi, and hell, everybody liked Star Wars (except my mom, but we don't need to go into that. She doesn't like the Marx brothers, 'nuff said. But she did like Shrek, go figure)), anyway...

I identified strongly with the male protagonist, beset by subversive powers on all sides. And I fell passionately in love with female lead, Kim Greist. Beautiful, strong, sexy, smart, no-nonsense. I'd kill for a woman like that. Yeah, I could go for a little necrophilia. Damn straight.

Employee of the Month
(2004)

Nice little crime-comedy gem!
After seeing this movie it dawned on me that I love this genre.

"Think bad Kevin Smith"? Oh man, is that ever way off base.

Think (other movies of this type that I love): Judas Kiss, Cold Blooded, Love & a .45

What an outstanding cast. Matt Dillon carries the movie, but Steve Zahn gives it zing. Great dialog, especially if you like Don Rickles and insult humor. Writer/director Mitch Rouse is very talented. He takes a predictable ending and dials it up to the max. Its like he's saying, "You want a predictable ending? I'LL give you a predictable ending! Or will I?" Can't wait for his next project. Didn't even recognize Christina Applegate.

I fully expected to find it had a rating of 7+. Hey, I voted for Nader, so what do I know.

Highway to Hell
(1991)

Horror/Comedy hidden gem
You have to be in the right mood. It helps if you know what to expect. If you see this on cable, SNAG IT! Cameos by the Stiller clan are priceless. Good fun! Why does this have a rating of 5.1? No sense of humor! Why is this not on DVD? As a dealer of rare VHS (and DVD) the answer is standard. The copyright owner has gone out of business / has not had any licensing offers and is not prepared to reprint and market on their own. There are thousands of such titles which is why there is a flourishing industry of reprint labels like Alpha Video and many others. We make a good living finding and selling existing copies of movies like this. This is one of many titles that I had not heard of but the high demand for used VHS copies got my attention. I have discovered many enjoyable unknown gems this way.

A Man for All Seasons
(1966)

A Protest
It is a travesty that this film is not in the top 250. Something is very very wrong with rating system that says The Big Lebowski is a better film.

I can't add anything to what has already been said about A Man for All Seasons. Unquestionably one of the greatest films of all time, and stands the test of time. It will be revered as a great film 100 years from now. Will Lebowski? Doubt it. Winner of nearly every award it was nominated for. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, etc. One of the few movies that makes my whole being vibrate when I watch it. I am moved to tears in almost every scene because the scene is executed so perfectly.

Please IMDb, this must give you pause. Any system that does not put this film in the top 100 borders on insanity or uselessness.

Slow Burn
(2000)

slow burn is right
=== NO SPOILERS ==> Don't ya love movies that blatantly warn you how bad they are by their title? Here's a prime example. Oh... My... GAWD! It goes on, and on, and on, AND NOTHING HAPPENS! You feel like you're the one lost out in the desert. I only watched this for Spader and Driver. Spader is almost unrecognizable which is the only interesting thing about this movie. Unbelievably, this thing cost (according to IMDB) $10 million to make? So the backers got feel the burn as well.

Speaking of Sex
(2001)

Good Natured Silliness
Oh c'mon. What were you expecting? Gone with the wind? Some of my favorite stars. Some cast against type (James Spader, Jay Mohr, Lara Flynn Boyle). Bill Murray is ALWAYS watchable and here makes a delicious pairing with Catherine O'Hara. Situations are wacky but plot can be easily followed. This is one of those movies that is like a feature length SNL sketch, only this is actually funny (in most parts). RECOMMENDED.

The Matrix Reloaded
(2003)

The castle Arrrggghhh! Our quest is at an end.
What a disappointment. Just about everything they could do wrong, they did do wrong. Clichéd, trite, dumb & dumber, improbable yet predictable, campy, soap-opera-ish, unimaginative. K.I.S.S.! Matrix 1 has a simple story with only a handful of characters. Matrix 2 has so many characters and no plot. Its just confused and muddled. I don't know who to blame. I'm sure a lot of money grubbing decision makers had a hand in making this the monstrosity it is. Don't ya know that when you have a winning formula you stick with it? You don't take selective ingredients and inflate them to grotesque proportions. This series is over. Its very, very sad.

Sol Goode
(2003)

Hidden Gem #63
Script penned by unknown, shopped around for three years. Financed at $1.5 mil. Shot in 22 days by writer/director/actor. Awesome ensemble cast. That's the formula for a really great cult film and that's exactly what this is.

The themes are universal. Its not about California in the 90's, 20 somethings, or the difficulties of dating. Its about making life work. Everyone can relate to that. But this movie doesn't have a statement to make, except that everyone could stand to laugh at themselves a little more.

Writer/Director Danny Comden understands American dead-pan humor and hits the perfect comedic note in every scene. Outstanding first effort. I am thrilled to have this DVD in my collection.

The Cowboy and the Lady
(1938)

Wonderful, wonderful, charming old fashioned romantic comedy
A modern fairy-tale in the tradition of Cinderella and Snow White. This movie has aged well and should be easily absorbed by today's audience. When you think of it, that is a hallmark of Gary Cooper films. He is the everyman, the themes are simple and timeless.

Cooper is in typically good form in this movie, and so is his beautiful and delightful co-star Oberon. The film is loaded with humor, romance and a touch of social commentary. A must see for fans of Cooper, Oberon, Jimmy Stewart or Frank Capra. A perfect "date" movie. One of my most favorite films. Hidden gem.

The Salton Sea
(2002)

Impressive debut for director D.J. Caruso
I gave it an 8 out of 10. Very good, but not great. Just squeeked into my "A" list. Not for everyone but if you like neo-noir its not to be missed.

Can't understand why the studio didn't promote it. If they wanted to lose money (needlessly) they got their wish. Only made it to 30 venues which means art houses on east and west coasts. Folks in the middle of the country never had a chance. Thank god for DVD (and cable I expect). Would have been easy to market. The trailer rocks! However its a little misleading. A couple of interesting little mini-featurettes on the DVD. I prefer featurettes that really go behind the scenes rather than being an extended trailer.

Once again Vincent D'Onofrio gives a standout performance although I don't agree completely with his interpretation of the pooh-bear character. How can you have a fat speed freak? Val Kilmer is perfectly cast in the lead. Nice little role for Deborah Unger who is always good. Veteran cinematographer Amir Mokri follows the director's vision cogently. I have high expectations for director D.J. Caruso's future projects. Unfortunately for film lovers, his TV career is probably more lucrative at this time.

Wet Hot American Summer
(2001)

A comedy so unfunny... its funny!
Unintentionally funny, as they say. A movie so bad, its good, as they say. Forget about plot. Forget about continuity. Throw the plausibility meter out the window. A real clinic on how NOT to make a film. My favorite bit is where David Hyde Pierce and Janeane Garofalo are standing alone in a field. David is holding a large trophy, moves to embrace Janeane, and hands to trophy to someone offscreen. I'm surprised we didn't see any boom mikes or other crew onscreen. Hysterical.

All this movie is, is a bunch of very short sketches, having the same actors and locations and general theme in common. If you find anything more holding them together, its a bonus.

It is obvious that this film sat on the shelf for ten years. Its also obvious why it did. What is not obvious is how it ever made it to theaters or video or your tv. I bet that story is more interesting than the film. Can't wait for the featurette, "Hearts of darkness in Pennsylvania: the making of WHAS". In the same vein, I recommend Ebert's review of this movie, which is also funnier than the movie (although that's not saying much).

Panic Room
(2002)

Very disappointing
I expected a much better film from Fincher. How on earth can this film have an IMDB rating of 7.5? Fincher did pretty good with a bad script, but that is where he failed. A good director is supposed fix a bad script, plug the holes, smooth over the rough spots; this he did not do. Even if all the implausibles were removed (which could have been done), the story gives us nothing to cheer about. We don't connect emotionally with the characters. That was also true in Fight Club, but it didn't matter because the characters there were quirky and interesting, not so in Panic Room. I also dislike films that are darkly lit all the way through. And in this case, fairly monochromatic. Pure blue flame? It looked like CG electricity. Have the guts to shoot in black and white if you want that effect.

I must say, Forest Whitaker is the perfect good badguy. Thanks for casting Ann Magnuson. She deserves bigger and better roles.

Oh well, even a good director is bound to have a misfire or two. Fincher is lucky. This one will make money.

Lush Life
(1993)

Cool-cat buddy movie worth watching
I really enjoyed this movie. You could call this a "slice-of-life" movie, the kind of movie that I usually hate, so why did this one work?

Reason one: Great stars. The three leads, Jeff Goldblum, Forest Whitaker, and Kathy Baker are three of my favorites. I've seen Jeff and Forest mis-cast in some bad movies, so it does my heart good to see them in roles where they seem to slip into their characters so easily. Forest's earlier experience in Clint Eastwood's Bird (a movie I did not enjoy) may have been useful here. The shots of Goldblum playing the sax made it look like he was really playing it. Kathy Baker can do it all. Her natural sweetness comes through in every performance. The script was probably written with younger actors in mind, and would have worked better, but Goldblum here at 41 and Baker at 43, manage to convince us they are a thirty-something Bohemian couple still working out their life plan.

Reason two: Great supporting cast. Don Cheadle and Lois Chiles head a supporting cast where all the performances are spot-on.

Reason three: Great music.

Reason four: good dialog.

This is a low-key, warm and fuzzy movie you don't have to think too hard about.

The Gift
(2000)

A very good film
This film is a solid 3.5 stars. Good script, wonderful cast, sure-handed direction, not to mention damn fine camera work. It made my "A" list. The special effects illustrating Annie's gift are just right. Not too much, not too little. The plot is straightforward yet has enough unknowns to hold your attention, plus a nice little surprise at the end.

I might not have taken the time to write a review of this film except that I felt I had to set the record straight, seeing that Maltin gave it 2.5 and Ebert 3 stars. Three stars from Ebert is practically a snub, but if you read his review, you'll find its very positive, so I'm not sure what happened there. Its well known that Maltin has a staff that writes reviews for him. My guess is this is one of those.

Goodbye Lover
(1998)

Great film - if you set your expectations correctly
You can't please everyone. If you have a story that's easy to follow people will say its boring and predictable. If you have a richly complex story, people will say its labyrinthine and confusing. The trick is to have something in the middle, and that is what Goodbye Lover gives us.

The central thread is simple. The complications happen on the periphery. You can't watch this movie with one eye closed. You have to pay attention! How can you have a mystery when you already know whodonnit? Ah, that is the question. Are you up to the challenge?

This is a comedy. Comedies have license to be wacky and over-the-top. Patricia Arquette and Ellen DeGeneres give standout performances. I love this movie. Its very entertaining, very clever, very funny, fast paced, never boring. Isn't that what a comedy should be?

Choose Me
(1984)

Sublime Trash
With atmosphere to spare. If you've never wandered LA's back-streets at night, this movie will give you a taste.

The theme of this movie is a common one, the search for love.

Highly stylized. Overloaded with delicious details and clever ideas. Characters with quirky (and intriguing) personality traits. What male viewer wouldn't want to be like the main protagonist, Keith Carradine's character? Fighter pilot, spy, expert mechanic. What female viewer wouldn't identify with either of the two lead female roles? Tough yet vulnerable, sexy, desirable, but unable to play the mating game and win.

All the characters are interconnected, but they don't always know it. The writer/director gets full marks for interesting characters and a story that twists and turns in on itself, but now comes the challenge of making it cohesive and comprehensible. That's where the movie doesn't hold up as well.

There is not enough "glue" between scenes. There are too many places where the plot takes a leap and the viewer is expected to fill in the gap. I found myself asking, "where did that come from?". I kept wanting to replay the previous scene because I had missed the transition, but there wasn't one.

I wish Rudolph had a collaborator with the screenplay and the directing. I feel the casting was very good, but the performances are often stilted, like what you might find in a high school production. Awkward pauses and intonations in the dialog. This also makes the story hard to follow and hard to believe. I can't decide if this was intentional or not. Reminds me of Hal Hartley.

This movie is not for everyone. Personally, I love it, warts and all. I've seen it three times and own the DVD. The Teddy Pendergrass songs are wonderful and I would say under-used in the film. Very surprised to see Maltin give this 3.5 stars, even if it is "a critics movie". He must have been in a good mood that day.

The Fisher King
(1991)

One of Robin Williams' best performances, and that's saying something.
I love Richard LaGravenese. I love Terry Gilliam. I love this movie. Everyone loves Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges; that goes without saying. Each and every actor in this movie gives a sparkling performance. They are all great actors, that is true enough, but credit must go to the director as the enabler, the catalyst. This movie is a prime example of the magic that happens when there is a confluence of a great screenwriter, a great director, and great actors. How does this happen? Like the movie's story, like life in general, it is the combination of random, accidental events, and direction we set for ourselves. Parry had chosen the direction of being a school teacher and presumably living a normal life, when the accidental event of his wife's murder radically altered the course of his life.

For me, the central story was the love story between Parry and Lydia. How many guys can identify with Parry! His adoration from afar. His fear of approaching his beloved. His not knowing how to dress. His not knowing what to say. His indifference to her flaws. But the scene where they are standing at her front door, and he looks into her eyes, he has become completely rational, completely sane, regaining for a moment his old personality that he had before he was traumatized. Parry: "I'm not coming up to your apartment. That was never my intention. Oh I want to. I have a hard-on for you the size of Florida. But I don't want just one night. I have a confession I have to make to you. I'm in love with you. Not just from tonight. I've known you for a long time. I know you come out from work at noon. I know if its a good day if you stop and get that romance novel at that bookstore. On Wednesdays you go to that dim sum parlor. I know... I love you. I think you're the greatest thing since spice racks. And I'd be knocked out several times if I could just have that first kiss. And I won't be distant. I'll call you if you let me. But I still don't drink coffee."

Terry Gilliam has the ability to mix absurdly fantastic scenes with scenes of everyday life seamlessly. Doing so conveys the story with impact and emotion, capturing our attention, fascinating us. No one in the audience nods off during this film. Is it an accident that in an earlier incarnation, Terry Gilliam was involved with a troupe that made movies about Holy Grails and The Meaning of Life? It is no accident that both of those subjects are given a much more satisfying treatment in The Fisher King.

Therese and Isabelle
(1968)

Very disappointing - don't bother
You hope for a good film, you get promised a good film, you pay good money for a film, you view film and... oh jeez, its a load of crap!

Disappointment #1: Its black and white. My fault. Read those labels!

Disappointment #2: The "girls" are clearly in their late twenties. Now I really have to work hard to believe this story, but wait...

Disappointment #3: There is no story! I won't spend much effort describing how thin the plot (and I use the term loosely) is. There is no drama. I expected to see them meet, do things together, friendship deepen, etc. It doesn't happen.

Disappointment #4: Practically no nudity. If you're not going to provide any cinematic value, at least let me see some pretty, nude women! Why do you think people would buy this film anyway? For the record, the women are beautiful, and you do see them naked from the waist up for a few seconds. Not enough to even make it to the "tease" level. Stories can be very erotic without explicit graphics if told with style, but such finesse is beyond the range of this director.

Summary: A complete disappointment on every level.

Family Guy
(1999)

This creative, funny show deserves high ratings
Why aren't audiences more sophisticated? Have we learned nothing from Steve Allen and Jerry Lewis? The writers of Family Guy have drunk deep from that well, which includes the Simpsons. Why shouldn't they be influenced one of the most creative, groundbreaking and hilarious shows of all time? There are in fact many dissimilarities between Family Guy and The Simpsons. The baby on Family Guy, named Stewie (what a perfect name), is a major character and a major reason I love the show.

Bravo to the producers. We need more shows like this. Please make it available on tape or dvd.

Sleepers
(1991)

Near perfect British comedy
The premise is irresistible. Two Russian spies (moles) came to England 20 years ago with the goal of becoming totally English and therefore undetectable. They "sleep" until its time to execute their true mission (which they do not know). After 20 years they have become completely English and have no desire to return to Russia or work as spies. Mother Russia has other ideas and sends modern spies to locate and re-activate them. This sets up a chase that meanders across the entire country. We route for the success of the ex-patriots and we guffaw at the ineptitude of the spies sent to catch them.

I can think of only two flaws. First, the two ex-spies exhibit not one trace of ever having been Russian. Second, the conclusion is pretty far out. A little too preposterous I thought.

Four characters stand out. The two men who play the ex-Russian, ex-spies, the guy who plays Russian U.K. bureau chief, and Joanna Kanska who plays the Russian femme-fatale. She is truly sexy and funny. Wish we could see her in Movies and TV more often.

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