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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Don't believe the hype! This film is not for mainstream audiences.
If you are not a fan of the books or you are not into the whole Dungeons and Dragons fantasy-type genre, then stay away from this movie. While it may be technically stunning, LORD OF THE RINGS is also an overlong and maudlin chore to sit through.

Don't succumb to the impression that LORD OF THE RINGS will be similar to STAR WARS. Yes, both films are cornball fantasies. But that is where the parallels end. STAR WARS had fun characters and an entertaining, high-stakes storyline. LORD OF THE RINGS has no character development. Characters come and go with no adequate introduction or indication of significance. The plot is minimal - it's basically a road trip. The protagonist and his cohorts travel from one location to another, all the while being pursued by monsters that get progressively larger. A number of scenes could have been cut entirely, but assumedly exist because of their presence in the book. And while it IS set in a fantasy world, there are still numerous inconsistencies (the biggest one - the entire `plot' is weighted by the fact that if this magical ring gets into the wrong hands, it will destroy mankind. And yet, during the prologue, when the ultimate bad guy has possession of the ring, it doesn't prevent him from being killed. Apparently the ring gives you super powers...but only some of the time.)

The filmmakers did as best they could under the circumstances. They had to stay faithful to the book so as not to raise the ire of fans. As such, they produced a 3-hour epic (that's right - 3 hours!) aimed squarely at the Tolkien enthusiasts. Judging from the reviews on this site, they seem to enjoy it. You will not.

American Psycho

Pretty much a one-dimensional character study, AMERICAN PSYCHO falters in the third act.
AMERICAN PSYCHO follows the tale of a psychotic serial killer who tries hard (extremely hard – Bale's performance is near perfection) to succeed in a corporate society. But soon this phony world he despises, and uses merely as a cover to his murderous exploits, begins to envelope Patrick, and he finds himself trapped in a torturous façade of his own creation. Enough to sustain an hour and a half? Nope.

PSYCHO presents a unique narrative structure, but it doesn't work. If this were a `Hollywood' movie, the first two acts would be devoted to how and why Bateman entered this cutthroat yuppie world and how he began to succeed, despite his reprehensible motives. But instead, the movie begins with Bateman already a success. We find him nearing the downward slope of his relationship with this phony world. As such, the movie really has nowhere to go and nowhere to take us. The damn thing is over before it begins.

By the third act, we're begging for a payoff and nothing substantial arrives. The denouement is too subtle for just having spent an hour and a half invested in this thing. Mary Harron's stylish and confident directing coupled with Bale's exceptional performance provide for a few stimulating scenes, but only goes so far.

Deep Blue Sea

Deep Blue C**p is more like it
First off, the premise is silly. They're trying to culture some brain matter inside sharks. Wouldn't gorillas or apes be a better choice? And then they put their massive "laboratory" out in the middle of the ocean. What's the point of that? It's not like their important "scientific experiments" require them to be miles from nowhere.

The acting is awful across the board (except for Jackson of course). The biggest role is that of the scientist who uses the brains of sharks to develop some kind of cure for Alzheimers. Very complex material. So who do they cast? A 25 year old girl who looks like a lingerie model. And she recites her lines like a humorless robot with a thick European accent. The hero shark wrangler dude doesn't fare much better. But that role was pretty much uncastable.

I didn't realize before the movie that it was directed by the same guy who did "Die Hard 2", "Long Kiss Goodnight" and "Cutthroat Island". If you liked those cinematic masterpieces, you might enjoy this.

Free Enterprise

What is Shatner doing in this movie?
First off, it's too long. The thing goes on for two hours and yet there is no plot. It goes nowhere. These two nerds meet Shatner in a bookstore and...? And nothing. Nothing happens. Shatner practically disappears for the rest of the movie.

And the dialogue is terrible. The characters don't talk to each other. They just spout monologues that aren't connected with anything. It's like they listed a bunch of pop-culture references, then tried to work them into the scene somehow regardless of relevance. But it really doesn't matter. They don't have original voices anyway. Every character is the same.

It's like a self-indulgent student film. The main characters are irritating but portray themselves as "cool" and "misunderstood". They refer to themselves as "talented filmmakers". There are flashbacks to episodes in which they receive fellatio or verbally berate a woman and then callously prompt her for sex (wow - so cool). And the love story? The love interest is a beautiful babe who recites titles of unknown comic books. Very believable. And then the girl breaks up with the main character because he can't pay his bills. What? This movie tries to be SWINGERS so badly (and I mean badly). But SWINGERS had interesting characters and interesting situations. There's nothing remotely interesting going on here at all.

Plus, the acting is over-the-top. But it's hard not to be when you've got horribly written dialogue like this. All in all, one of the worst things I've ever sat through. Avoid this one like steamy dog doo.


Self-indulgent, boring, etc. etc.
This is no BOOGIE NIGHTS. This is what happens when one of these young hot-shot writer-directors get too much power too soon. A three hour yawn-fest, this film drones on and on with nowhere to go and nothing relevant to say about anything. It's an exercise in super-arsty filmmaking with no reason to watch other than to observe the director's almost ridiculous level of self-indulgence.

The script is just plain weak. It follows five or six characters that sort-of interconnect with one another. But it's hard to put any stake in these characters and situations. The dialogue is like meaningless poetry, where the characters talk at length about love, life and blah-blah-blah. What's the point? One of the stories, featuring William H. Macy as a former game show child-star facing a midlife crisis, is an absolute waste of time. It could be cut entirely and nothing else in the movie would be affected. Shouldn't that tell you something? The rest of the stories you could find on any average prime-time TV drama. The fact that they're well acted and directed with some sense of flair helps, but doesn't serve to rescue the film from tedium.

You know it's a bad film when it could end at any time after the ninety-minute mark and it wouldn't be a jolt to the audience. The thing goes on for three hours, but if you leave at the second hour, you won't miss anything too important. There is no proper denouement in any of the stories aside for the TV game show host (Phillip Baker Hall) subplot. It's obvious that Anderson had no predetermined outcome for this thing.

By the time the third act rolls around, and there's no ending in sight, Anderson attempts two audacious narrative tricks to act as half-baked resolutions. The first is a song, which each character, at their own crisis point, sings along with. It's hard to describe. It's as if the entire film was a super-long prologue to a Tori Amos video or something. It's a bit embarrassing. The second trick is probably the only redeeming thing in the movie and since most of you will go see this mess anyway based on the strength of BOOGIE NIGHTS, I won't reveal it. It's quite imaginative and original, but worth the three-hour set-up? Hell no. Why can't these guys make a movie with some high stakes and a few compelling situations and characters? Is that not "cool" anymore?

Arlington Road

Good concept. Bad execution.
The script is the real problem here. It's a great concept mired in poor execution. The story was written towards the "twist" ending, with little regard for believable characters or (most blatantly in the final twenty minutes) logic. Faraday's detective work is decent, but the script is melodramatic and pretentious throughout. Great plotting, but that's about it. The ending makes up for a lot of problems, but doesn't remedy the jumps of logic the audience is asked to ignore in the last twenty minutes.

Combine the flawed script with some of the most inappropriate and annoying directing ever. Pellington is constantly trying to show off, utilizing every film school trick and moving his camera ever-which-way regardless of propriety. This guy obviously wants to be the next Michael Bay or Dominic Sena. What results looks like a B-grade straight-to-video action film. This is partly due to the awful music, which is so over-the-top to the point of being ridiculous. Angelo Badalamenti should stick to David Lynch films.

Bringing Out the Dead

Natalie Merchant in a Scorsese film?
BRINGING OUT THE DEAD seems like it was directed on auto-pilot. Bland, lifeless camerawork and a pace to rival a snail. Scorsese tries to spice things up every once in a while by trying to make a mini "music video" in between the tedious "talking head" scenes. No good. The D.P. Bob Richardson has done photography for Oliver Stone. It's now evident that Stone is the real genius behind his mis-en-scene. The lighting is beautiful in DEAD, but the composition is unimaginative and flat-out boring. The whole thing looks like it was shot on a soundstage somewhere.

The acting is another weak link. Ving Rhames and Tom Sizemore do a great job, but Cage is no longer able to convey any sort of believability. We're never allowed to forget that this is Nicholas Cage - movie star. And he is ACTING like a strung-out paramedic. His wife doesn't fare any better, having to read dialogue so on-the-nose that it's hard to believe Paul Schrader had a hand in writing it.

The story is weak to the point of being non-existent. So we're left with a bunch of episodes following the deterioration of a paramedic. But there's no insight into this strange and unique world. Haven't we seen all this before somewhere? Add some pretentious and obvious voiceover, and you've got a real winner.

You're going to see it anyway, just because it's Martin Scorsese, the genius. Just be aware (as with Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT earlier this year) that even a genius is not perfect.

Fight Club

Disappointing third act
The first and second acts are amazing. So good, in fact, that they almost make up for the misguided wrong-turn the film takes later on. Go see it and judge for yourself. NOTE: THIS ANALYSIS CONTAINS SPOILERS.

The first two thirds of the film are breathtaking - elegantly written voiceover, dark yet hilarious exposition, well-drawn characters, and beautiful directing. Not only does Fincher know how to convey the perfect tone of the film, but also every frame is like a wonderfully crafted piece of art. Why can't all directors be like David Fincher?

You can't fault him with the film's wrong turn. That blame lies with the script. What we have are two separate concepts:

1) Tyler and Jack fight to experience life, prompting a whole group of disenfranchised men to join up with them. Tyler becomes a hero to the men, utilizing them as his personal army of revenge against all that is wrong with society. But Tyler starts to go too far, and Jack must stop him.

2) Jack discovers that "Tyler" is his other personality. Through "Tyler" Jack has achieved hero status to practically an entire generation of young men. But the "Tyler" part of his personality has laid plans for a massive act of destruction, and Jack is unable stop "himself" from committing this act.

Both are great concepts, but they don't work together. The reason other men join the fight club is because they see Tyler and Jack FIGHTING. This is the entire basis of the concept. But Tyler and Jack are the same person, right? So are the men watching Jack beat himself up? Seeing a man punch himself might incite a few laughs, but it would hardly prompt a group of men to join a radical and violent organization and regard this man as their leader. Is this nitpicking? Am I wrong?

The film would have been better off keeping the whole Tyler/Jack thing as subtext. Instead we get an ending in which Jack shoots himself in the head, causing "Tyler"'s death. But then Jack survives, and yet "Tyler" is still dead? Huh? Are we supposed to put any kind of emotional stake in these confusing events? The whole thing ends up ruining what could've been an otherwise near-perfect film.


Hilarious, brilliant, amazing
My roommate's an assistant on "Deuce", the new Rob Schneider vehicle over at Touchstone. He was telling me that the film's director is just a few years older than we are. So when he brought home the guy's short film, "Herd", I had high expectations.

I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. This film is a work of genius. Instead of being restrained by budget limitations, Mitchell utilizes them for humorous effect. The result is hilarious. The bookmark sequences are beautifully crafted as well, leaving the viewer with a calm sense of awe. All in all, a wonderfully spectacular effort.

I now see why he got the job.

The Astronaut's Wife

So very, very, very, very bad
Unbelievably bad. Melodramatic script and terrible, terrible inappropriate directing. Just astounding how truly awful this movie is. Unwatchable.

Perhaps Johnny Depp thought this could be another DEVIL'S ADVOCATE or something. That is the only reason I could comprehend his presence in the film. So very bad. So very, very, very bad.

The Blair Witch Project

The filmmakers painted themselves into an intriguing but quite confining premise, having to abide by certain rules in order to succeed: The cast must be isolated and not allowed to escape, there must be a reason why these people would continue to record footage even after they've gone insane with fear, and there can't be any definitive resolution with regards to the antagonist. Despite having all these limitations to abide by, the film works.

The directors cover their bases with a few obligatory yet adequate explanations. No, it won't "scare the hell out of you" as some have claimed. The day scenes are basically "MTV's Real World Gets Lost in the Woods", as we watch our protagonists slowly start to dissolve into panic and then madness. The suspense arrives in the night scenes, where the danger is unknown and unseen. Watching (or often merely listening to) the events from the actor's POV makes for quite a powerful experience. The grainy, shaky footage adds an important element of mock authenticity. The performances are mostly solid all around, especially from Williams. Donohue does a good job of playing melodramatic during the so-called "documentary" sequences, making her "normal" performance seem that much more natural. Very effective.

Because this scenario is portrayed so realistically, a large segment of the audience seems to disallow the usual generosity normally given to a film's artistic license. Bruce Willis would never survive a fall from the top of an exploding skyscraper, of course, but we have to ignore that discrepancy in order to further the experience. It is a movie, after all. And even though BLAIR WITCH is supposed to be "real", we have to give it the same amount of latitude. Sure there are a few holes to contend with (why don't they just go to a stream and follow it?), and there's a little bit of overacting from Donohue towards the end. But the bottom line is that, aside from a few minor flaws, the limited concept could not have been executed any better.


Wait a few months and rent the video
A good premise that could've been executed much, much better. Martin's script has the right idea, but could've used a polish or two. And who keeps giving Frank Oz these directing gigs? The guy has no imagination. This premise is so ripe for cinematic potential. Picture a back-and-forth between the actual story and the guerilla movie that Martin and his crew are trying to make - the variations in stock and technique. With a few small tweaks in the script, BOWFINGER could've been another TRUMAN SHOW. Instead what we get looks like an above average movie-of-the-week.

Still, it is a funny attempt at times. Eddie Murphy gives another hilarious performance as two characters (one crazy, one stupid) and the Hollywood details keep the laughs steady. Nothing spectacular enough to warrant a trip to the theater, however. Wait for the video.


Nothing too impressive here. Schumacher's attempt at his own version of SEVEN feels staged and lifeless. Writer Andrew Walker tried to distance himself from this project (after his script was presumably toyed with too much) and rightfully so. Aside from a couple of intense scenes with Peter Stormare, the film never comes to life. The story isn't engaging (note to future filmmakers: quit trying to shock us into interest), and the investigation borders on laughable if not just plain boring. By the time Cage's character goes into his vigilante mode, you're supposed to identify, craving revenge on the ruthless bad guys. But by that point you really don't care what the hell happens to any of these characters.

The hit-or-miss Cage evidently wanted to intensify his character's arc by playing the first half with a wide-eyed naivete. The plan backfires, and his effort comes across simply as poor acting. All in all, pretty lame.

Velvet Goldmine

Unique style, not much on narrative
Impressive opening act - visually stunning with a very unique directing style from Haynes. But these elements can only persist for so long, and about midway the "Citizen Kane"-type structure begins to wane. There's no predominant narrative driving the film and frankly, it starts to get boring. One could leave after the first half and feel confident they haven't missed anything of substance. It would be interesting to see what Haynes could do with somebody else's script. He certainly knows how to direct; now all he needs is a solid story.

McGregor's confident turn as Curt (Iggy Pop) is fantastic.

The Capture of Bigfoot

If you ever get sick of watching ANACONDA, then give this a try.....
Hard to find but if you can get a copy, you're in for a real treat. Years before ANACONDA "terrorized" us with a giant rubber snake, there was THE CAPTURE OF BIGFOOT. If you like outrageously bad special effects and over-the-top acting, this one's for you. A real campy funfest.

Some highlights: * The guy who plays the rich old miser (I believe his name in the film is "Olsen") recites his lines with such vigor and energy, each scene necessitates at least one press of the "rewind" button on your VCR remote. Watch for the scene where he interrogates a hospitalized employee of his. He shakes him vigourously, demanding he answer "Who was it? Was it Arak?!" * The special effects and sound effects are a hoot. Hard to do justice in words, they have to been seen to be appreciated. * And listen closely to the lyrics of the closing credits song. It sounds like a Harry Chapin record but the words must've been written by Ozzy Ozbourne: "You'll never find freedom, you'll only find lies/ You'll only find freedom the day that you die". Yikes. And just what the hell does that have to do with Bigfoot?

Also recommended: STARCRASH (1979)

Eyes Wide Shut

Boring, boring, boring
The only reason people like this film is because of the name "Kubrick". If this came from an unknown filmmaker, people would be calling it pretentious, self-indulgent, boring, and pointless. There's no way anyone would get past that ridiculous orgy party without rolling their eyes. But since it's from the untouchable "Kubrick", it's a work of genius. Well, sure it's boring, but that's Kubrick. Yeah, the pace is mind-numbingly slow but Kubrick can do no wrong!

Yes, the film is photographed beautifully. Gorgeous set design. The camerawork is steady. OK...that's all dandy.

What about the story? Is that not an intregal part of the movie experience? Who cares, right? For nearly three hours we're treated to Tom Cruise walking around the streets of what's supposed to be New York, encountering all kinds of unrelated people and circumstances. Yawn. Finally there's a lackluster wrap-up at the end which is supposed to explain everything. By that point we're so bored it doesn't even matter.

And every scene goes on way too long. There's a scene near the beginning where Kidman and Cruise smoke pot and get in an argument. It takes Kidman about ten minutes to speak three or four sentences. Everything is: "And...(super dramatic pause)...I had....(longer pause)...a...(pauses, closes her eyes)....dream..." Get to the bloody point, woman! She's the worst offender, but almost every conversation in the movie is like this. And this is for almost three hours! It's very frustrating.

What amazed me was the audience reaction to the film. I've heard nothing but praise. (Of course I live in L.A., where every young assistant and gopher is a Kubrick wannabe) Look, Kubrick was a great director. DR. STRANGELOVE, THE SHINING, and FULL METAL JACKET are some of my favorite films of all time. But the man is not God. He is not beyond a poor film. And that's what we got with EYES WIDE SHUT.


A WARNING TO THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE: If after the first half hour you aren't laughing or maybe asking yourself "This is really boring. But it's got to get better - all the critics said it was so great" .... turn the movie off! It does not get any better! If you don't "get it" after the first 30 minutes, don't waste another hour trying to figure it out.

You might think the story is going to develop further. It does not. It's not plot-heavy, and the characters are forced to carry the film. But the main character isn't likeable at all! The humor is so subtle that it's almost non-existent. While the filmmaking may be technically sound, the cinematics aren't any more remarkable than your average movie-of-the-week. Bottom line: it's just plain boring.

On the other hand, there are some who think this movie is "brilliant" and "hilarious". Just goes to illustrate how EXTREMELY subjective film criticism is. Just beware of the hype!!!

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