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The Invasion of the Giant Octopi
Amy Adams plays a cunning linquist who is so smart she's one of only two people in America, the other being a super scientist, to decipher the mumblings and groanings of giant octopus-like creatures like the kind you'd see in an aquarium, only much bigger. Be prepared for lots of interminable flashbacks between Adams and her dead? dying? comatose? daughter who plays with clay animals and whose name is a palindrome, Hannah, which is supposed to be deep, profound and significant.

The octopi, whose are supposedly super-intelligent but can only write the letter "O" -- or is it zero? -- with some inky swirls are apparently benign and get along with Amy really swell. They're dubbed Abbott and Costello and any moment we can expect they'll do a who-s on first? routine in the heptopod language, which is briefly captioned so moviegoers can glean what's really on their minds.

Amy not only learns to speak heptopod but also knows the leader of China who is fluent in English and whispers sweet nothings into her ear. She even has his personal cellphone number, which she eventually uses to save the planet from misunderstanding what the creatures really want: to give humanity a "gift" of some kind, apparently a promise not to do bad things to the earth.

How this stinkbomb gets a 93% rating on RT and 8.5 on IDMB just goes to show how stupid human beings really are and need to be saved.

The Barchester Chronicles

Best mini-series ever!
Anthony Trollope was a much underrated writer and storyteller. "The Warden" and "Barchester Towers" upon which "Barchester Chronicles" is based were great reads. More times than not literary classics are not easily adaptable to movies or TV, but BC is a rare exception.

First, the acting is absolutely stellar. Particularly first-rate are Donald Pleasance as the kindly Septimus Harding, Nigel Hawthorne as the often exasperated Archbishop Grantly and Alan Rickman as the slyly clever passive-aggressive Obadiah Slope, and certainly last but not least Geraldine McEwan as the domineering Mrs. Prouty.

The production design, scenery, directing and music combine to produce a wonderful mini-series that despite its 10-hour, 8-part length, is riveting and entertaining. It is also very funny as well as trenchant in its dissecting the hypocrisies of its time.

I highly recommend BC to all who appreciate great Victorian literature. Kudos to the entire cast and crew, as well as the producers and directors for mounting such a splendid piece of theater.

Midnight in Paris

The "old" Woody was better than the "new" Woody
MIP has some delightful moments but for the most part it's a disappointment in several ways. Woody Allen's earlier films, notably Love and Death (his best) were truly funny. He blended Marx Brothers slapstick with some genuine wit and gag humor and biting satire.

Now we have the "new" Woody, somewhat pretentious in his gray days, trying to mine old territory -- angst, neuroses, etc. -- but failing by not being very funny. Comedy is what reveals the human soul but here in MIP we merely get character sketches that may look good on paper but do not translate well to celluloid. Speaking of which, the camera Woody used to shoot this movie was terrible, producing artificial colors and failing to capture the charm of Paris, though he tried hard in the opening sequence. Soft pastel, less vivid imagery would have worked so much better.

Further, Woody badly misses the mark by pining for a "Golden Age" that was mediocre at best. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, et. al. were all second-raters (even Hemingway wrote bad Hemingway and is parodied to this day, which denotes his second-tier status). The 1920's may have been the gilded age in terms of wealth but when it comes to art, Woody was off by at least 30 years and might have found more inspiration from the Victorian Era and 19th Century when the true greats of literature and the other arts -- i.e., Dickens, Hardy, Eliot, Beethoven, Verdi, Goethe to name but a few -- stood well above anyone who lived and worked in the 20th Century.

As for the lead, Owen Wilson is all wrong for the part, but it's not his fault. Woody reworked the script to flesh out Wilson's character and therein lies in the problem. In his earlier films, Woody played the protagonist as financially struggling, angst- and guilt-ridden, a neurotic nebbish who knows that 2+2=4 but nonetheless worries about it constantly. Here, Wilson is rich, has rich would-be relatives and therefore has no money or status concerns. He's just a romantic, WASPish, hardly sympathetic or interesting, and he does not invite empathy. We don't really care about him like we did with Woody's earlier main characters who tried to come to grips with "the meaning of life." As for the other characters, they come off more like caricatures rather than real people. Hemingway is played strictly as parody (perhaps there is no other way to play him), and the Fitzgeralds were neither interesting nor likable. Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) is largely wasted.

Woody won an Oscar for a screenplay that was occasionally witty and clever but wit and cleverness are not enough. What was needed was more whimsy, drollery and belly laughs. MIP instead pokes you in the ribs now and then but not enough to elicit more than a smile now and then.

The Hunger Games

Quite possibly the worst movie ever made
Never was I more convinced H.L. Mencken was right when he said, "Never underestimate the stupidity of the American people." Here's living proof: a 7.8 rating! for a steaming pile of poop. You people who gave this crappy movie a high rating confirm my worst fears, i.e., American film=goers can't possibly be any dumber. The ONLY reason I went to see this movie was because I liked director Gary Ross's work in "Seabiscuit," which was an enjoyable and well-crafted film featuring fine actors and a wonderful true story. In THG, Ross has lousy source material to work with, true, but also his deft directorial ability is largely absent here as he caves into CGI, an ever-shaky camera and truly pathetic actors. The entire plot was preposterous from beginning to end and so predictable as to make me root for our "hero" and "heroine" to eat the berries and finally be done with it. But no, there has to be a sequel, doesn't there?

It's pointless to try to critique this film because those "who get it" clearly are either on delusion-inducing drugs or have the I.Q. of a fence post.

Finally, what's happened to Stanley Tucci, who has done some good work in film but lately is playing queer roles, starting with Devil Wears Prada. A good paycheck no doubt but he'll never be taken again as a serious actor.

The Heiress

Great movie with one caveat
The 8+ rating is justified, but although I would give this fine film top marks, I cannot because of Montgomery Clift, who is the only false note in this otherwise perfect movie.

Olivia De Havilland and Ralph Richardson are outstanding, hitting the right notes in every scene by the way they deliver their lines and their expressions. Clift, however, does not convey the duplicity that the character calls for. His obvious insincerity comes across as mere ambivalence and except for a few scenes, like in the end when he glances around the big house with obvious satisfaction that he will live a grand life, he does not portray the villain and charlatan he actually is but rather just another guy on the make.

Still, after all these years, definitely worth watching for the performances of Olivia and Ralph, who are at the top of their acting game.

L.A. Confidential

Total crapola
Ellroy must have been on drugs when he wrote this. Maybe you have to be on drugs to understand the convoluted plot, the stupid wild west ending, the shooting of a cop in the back by a guy who is supposed to be all about justice, a Kim Basinger character that adds absolutely nothing, and an annoying music score. Sheesh, are you people nuts, giving this an 8.4? What gives with movie goers these days? You think just before it's complicated that it has to been good; like Inception another totally incomprehensible flick that got over an 8.

OK, I think I satisfied the word count. Now everyone can go back to their tokes.

The Pillars of the Earth

Pillars not so sturdy in TV version
Follett's book was a masterpiece of storytelling, but fails (so far in viewing only one episode) in translation to the small screen. Unless you've read the book, the narrative and opening threads of the story are difficult to follow as too many characters are introduced.

The casting is a mixed bag with some strong acting by McShane and the guy who plays Jack the Builder, but poor choices in the role of Philip, the prior, who comes off as a milquetoast in this version while in the book he is the central character who dominates almost every page. William, the other main villain in addition to the scheming and corrupt Bishop played by McShane, has yellow hair in the book, not dark red, and the character just doesn't work, image-wise nor in projecting the menace in the book.

Direction and script are lackluster. I'll stick with it and give it a chance to improve but based on what I've seen so far, the TV translation is proving to be somewhat of a disappointment.

Shutter Island

Marty has gone bats
Scorsese hit his peak with Raging Bull and it has been downhill ever since. Teaming up with Leo instead of keeping the franchise going with De Niro (OK, he's old but he can still act) was a major mistake. Gangs of NY? A snoozer except for Bill the Butcher; the Departed, overrated, now this turkey.

My wife and I were laughing out loud at Marty's lame attempts to emulate the master, Alfred Hitchcock, at trying to ramp up the tension. It was embarrassing -- spiral staircases, gleaming knife, rocky cliffs, ad nauseum -- never once creating a genuinely believable moment. It was as though a modern artist was trying to repaint the Mona Lisa. This was all by-the-numbers.

A few minutes into the movie, we need Teddy was nuts and hallucinating, and yet we had to endure two hours of sordid flashbacks, dead concentration camp kids, a dead wife who keeps reappearing throughout the movie saying the same thing over and over, and the usually overacting of De Caprio, who can't seem to utter a line without making a face of some sort. All I can remember is his dancing eyebrows and histrionics through a fake boston accident.

Leo would have been a bit player in One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, but here he is the big star that somehow the entire island devotes 2 years, entire staff as well, trying to "cure" him of his insanity only to resort to lobotomy in the end. Now that's realistic. Certainly, asylums spent two years on each patient trying to reconstruct their personalities by everyone playing a different role to accommodate the needs of the nutcase. It would have been a lot easier to lock him in a padded cell and be done with it, but then there would have been no movie.

Mr. Hitchcock, if he could, would roll over in his grave at this blatant and failed attempt at honorifics. Time for Marty to take his millions and play video games.

The Taking of Pelham 123

A movie that goes off the tracks
Technical wizardry does not make for a good film. Mix in an annoying jazzy score, guitar riffs and some violin music, a couple of overrated actors, and you get TTOP123.

First off did Denzel do a reverse DeNiro and gain 50 pounds for this role? He looked like fat Albert "on a good day." Travolta, also sporting an earring or two -- what are these guys, two metrosexuals wanting to do each other? -- alternately drops f-bombs between ridiculous soliloquies about his tortured past and while plugging a hostage or two just to break the boredom. OK, he was reading bad lines, but he did not make for a believable villain, alternately scowling and laughing or otherwise mugging for the camera. Compare to the superb Robert Shaw, who played the character with calm menace that was 10 times as scary.

Plot holes? By the bushel. First off, there's Denzel's wife, in the middle of a tension-filled crisis in which blood is being spattered left and right, badgering her husband to bring home a gallon of milk. Could anything be more ridiculous? Maybe a producer promised the woman some more celluloid time on the casting couch, but the role was entirely superfluous and the 10-minute scene of the couple talking sweet nothings on a cellphone while bodies are dropping everywhere was one of the funniest I've ever seen.

Then there's Travolta, $300 million richer, thanks to his manipulation of the stock and commodity markets, worried about a paltry $2.5 million cut from the heist, weighing around 55 pounds, that he had to lug around at the end during his escape.

No disguise, easily identifiable, Travolta and the rest of the gang blithely stride through midtown Manhattan carrying big heavy satchels of cash, trying to hail cabs with thousands of people milling around and hundreds of cops. Travolta's character was about as stupid as you can get, riding and then walking in broad daylight, inviting easy capture. A more plausible ending would have had him stroll into the Waldorf, get a room and disguise himself until he could try to get away later, setting up a cat-and-mouse finish.

But there was no imagination, no humor, no intelligence, nothing whatsoever to justify making this movie other than its sole purpose: another big paycheck day for the two stars. Watching Gandolfini play mayor, I couldn't help thinking that if he was Tony Soprano, he would clip the entire cast, crew, director and production team and dump em all in the East River.

Save your money and rent the original.


Mankind gets what it deserves
A lot of people like this flick but complained about the ending. I don't know why. Man gets fried in the end, just like predicted. First the flood, then the fire.

Eschatalogy -- the study of the end times -- is a fascinating topic, and here the imagination must rule, not the intellect. Those of you who try to rationalize or everything will find Knowing wanting, but for me it was interesting speculation. If the world does end in fire, then what is man's destiny? Are some saved, none, or all? It's a mystery but one that any thinking person wonders about from time to time.

If you think we're all just worm food and there is nothing beyond the material world, then Knowing will not resonate a bit. However, if you have a spiritual side, and we all do whether we acknowledge or not, then you have to delve into the mysteries that, though unsolvable, are nonetheless there for our introspection and conjecture.

On some levels, Knowing may fall short, such as the less-than-stellar acting, although Nick Gage does a fair job, and the occasionally trite script. But the overall impression is to leave one thinking about the fate of mankind. I, for one, found comfort in the notion that only the innocent deserve a second chance at renewal. The rest of us should go directly into the flames where we belong, perhaps some to rise from the ashes, thanks only to the mercy of God, or Whoever is Calling The Cosmic Shots.

One quibble: Beethoven's 7th was perfectly matched to the scenes in which it is used; his 6th symphony (The Pastoral) should have been used at the end when we see the children in Paradise.

Go see this movie with an open mind and an open heart.


James Bond and Pretty Woman = Stupidiest Movie of The Year
If you think you've been screwed by AIG, wait till you see Duplicity. You'll not only want your money back with interest, but also look to sue for causing possible brain damage.

Where does one begin with this turkey? Lousy acting, convoluted script, bad directing, crappy score. All of the above and then some.

First, the title. That should give one a clue as to what's going to happen. 15 minutes in to the movie, you'll be lost as to who is conning who, only to find out at the end that it's the audience who just got conned out of two hours (three or more if you have to commute), and 40 bucks when you factor in the price of admission and a tub of popcorn.

Sheesh, I've had a better time at the dentist's office. At least I got something from the root canal; I felt better eventually. Now, two hours after having to endure what is supposed to pass as entertainment, I not only still have a raging headache, I'm still wondering if my 135 IQ is still intact.

If there are two over-hyped has-been or never wasses than Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, please point them out for me. Wooden soldiers could act better, but when you're getting 10, 15 mil a film, hey it's another good paycheck. For two hours, they do nothing but talk spyspeak, you know the code language that nobody really understands but pretends to so they'll appear smart and hip.

Then we have the obligatory whirlwind trip around the globe to Rome, Geneva, the Bahamas, Miami, San Diego, Cleveland, Dubai, New York, mixed in with several flashbacks like "two years ago", "10 months" ago, whatever. Don't blink or go to the bathroom because you won't know where or when these cardboard characters are.

Owen not only has time to be an MI6 agent but also works as a spook part-time for a pizza maker while Roberts seems to have been a CIA veteran, plying her trade as a double or triple agent (you're never sure which) while bedding Owen throughout the movie, then pretending not to know him.

Save your money and rent the Bourne movies if you need a spy fix.

State of Grace

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight
Sean Penn and Gary Oldman normally chew up the scenery but both give mediocre performances in this turkey. There are so many things wrong -- weak script, bad directing, lousy editing, etc -- that one is hard-pressed to find any redeeming value or even a shred of interest in characters, plot or the silly shootout denouement.

As I watched, I was reminded of The Departed -- another Irish mob flick by Scorcese that had its moments but also had unintentional laughs at the wrong places. Won't go there, except that one at least deserve 5 or 6 stars.

First off, Oldman, who plays psychos better than most, is way over the top in this flick. His burst of anger at being told that his brother might have capped Stevie tested credibility, to say the least. Ed Harris, the indecisive, wimpy mob boss, commanded no respect and couldn't keep his boys in line, including Oldman who basically gave him the finger for most of the movie. The scene in the church was ridiculous as well. Harris vs. the Italian boss was a mismatch and it was actually funny to see Ed squirm while the gang argued about whether to do a multi-whacking.

Robin Wright as the love interest was wasted. Penn looked lost and the rest of the cast was uninspiring. And when he showed his badge to Ed Harris, you'd think he'd get clipped right there and then, but no -- wait -- gotta build tension for the big stupid finish.

As for the final shootout, it reminded me of Charlie Bronson, who was able to dodge bullets left and right in the Death Wish sequels simply by crouching to one knee. Only in this case, Penn hardly moves except for a few maneuvers a la our old friend Charlie. Harris empties his cannon, and misses him by a mile, though he manages to wing him while Sean gets off several shots that hit their marks, dropping wise guys left and right. Fadeout with a bleeding Penn staring into the lens...

And everyone wonders why box office receipts are down and modern movies can't hold a candle to the great flicks of the past.

Mr. Brooks

Funny movie, I peed in my pants, too
Kevin Costner plays a rich guy who owns a box company and a cemetery is Man of the Year and a serial killer. If that's not enough to pique your interest, Demi Moore plays a cop with $60 million in the bank, but prefers blowing away creeps and getting her name in the papers.

Demi's in such good shape that she can actually fly out of a van at 50 miles per hour, hit her back on the windshield of a moving taxi and come away with a few scrapes to her skull. All this after being punched, kneed and gouged by some neanderthal.

As for Costner, he looks a lot more wrinkled than his smooth-as sed turn in Dances in Wolves. Exchanging laughs and philosophical musings with his Subconscious, played by William Hurt -- who hasn't had a decent role since Body Heat -- Costner chews up the scenery with a lot of praying, mumbling and assorted tics to try to evoke sympathy for someone who should have been strapped to a gurney in San Quentin years ago for wasting people.

The best scene is when Mr. Smith pees in his pants after having declared that he had to take a crap while getting his rocks off watching a couple get whacked. Marquis De Sade would have been proud.

This is one of the funniest movies of the year, Go See It!

Death Sentence

Score another for the Baconator but basically a stinker
I like revenge flicks. Typical cookie-cutter plots: Lawbiding family man with perfect kids or wife has members or a member of his clan killed earlier on by sleazeballs, gets no justice in court or help from stupid police, then goes on a bloody rampage and offs the perps by the end of the film.

Death Sentence follows formula pretty well and is predictable all the way. Chase scenes, shootouts, the Gang Who Can't Shoot Straight, the dumb cops, the narrow escapes, it all works somewhat in DS, thanks to an earnest try by Kev Bacon, who is in usual top form. The script is mediocre, but directing is crisp and performances are fair to good, except for the surviving son, who mopes around the whole movie and does nothing but become another victim.

Alas, I wish I could be kinder to this movie, which has pace and action in spades but lacks logic to the ultimate degree, i.e.: 1. A white-collar guy who has no experience with weapons becomes Jason Bourne almost overnight and outduels, outfights and outguns and dozen or so badasses who have been knee-deep in street warfare since they were sucking lollipops.

2. The chase and shoot-em-up scene in the skyscraper draws no police for several minutes and, a la Die Hard, the bullets just keep missing and missing while Bacon not only outruns his younger and in-better-shape pursuers but manages to beat the crap out of one, toss him off the roof in a car and come away unscathed.

3. The policewoman has about as much empathy for Bacon as Donald Trump has for a losing contestant on The Apprentice. After Bacon's wife and 2nd son are shot and he winds up in the hospital, instead of apologizing profusely for the failure of police protection, the lady with the badge berates our hero for prolonging "the war." Duh.

4. In the final shootout scene, Bacon's arsenal blows off heads and legs and makes mincemeat of his targets while their weaponry amounts to pea shooters. Shot in the neck and other places, Bacon manages to make it back home somehow and sit on his sofa where the cops finally catch up. Is any medical aid rendered? No, another philosopher tidbit from the unsympathetic cop, and a fadeout ending to a schmaltzy vid of family reunited.

There's a lot more to quibble about but why ruin a movie that, with a little more attention to detail and realism, might have earned an 8 or a 9 from me. Instead, a 4 is generous, and I'm thus rating it solely because of the Baconator.

No Country for Old Men

No Movie for Any One
After duds like Intolerable Cruelty, Ladykillers, O Brother and Lebowski, you think the Coen Brothers might be due for a good movie. Alas, NCFOM is about the worst piece of crap to hit the modern screen since Pulp Fiction.

The Coens made one good movie -- Fargo -- but other than that, where is the alleged genius of this overrated pair? I can't imagine Miramax will team up with these hucksters again after realizing poor box office. Yes, the critics liked the film and so do most on this board, but were they watching the same flick as me? I damn near fell asleep from boredom and, in fact, missed the "big moment" during Tommy Lee Jones' pathetic soliloquy that ends "and then I woke up." I woke up when the credits began to roll, wondering where was the music that Carter Burwell or somesuch got credit for, where was the logic of not knowing what happened to the money, who was chasing who, why it was necessary to keep the body count rolling, where were the feds, what did Ed Tom ever do in the movie that resembled efforts of a genuine law enforcement officer, how did Woody Harrelson manage to find Moss in 3 hours, how did Anton escape at the end, ad nauseum.

A wasted 9 bucks. Save your money.

Children of Men

Wait for the DVD
Decent marks for production design, but enough plot holes to drive a Mack truck through and bad contrivances galore, i.e., car chases, an over aged hippie whose sole attempt at comic relief is to tell everyone to pull his finger. Clive Owen isn't bad, Julianne Moore mailed it in and Michael Caine, well, no need to revisit. I liked the cats and dogs, but all the humans were despicable, which is perhaps the point of the movie/book. Most of the people leaving the movie shook their heads, filled with unresolved issues. While I agree that the objective may have been to provoke thought, I don't like movies that leave too many questions unanswered. After all, the aim is to tell a good story, with a beginning, middle and ending. This has no ending and not much of a beginning or middle.

A ship named "Tomorrow," is that supposed to suggest that humanity has a future after all? One baby, whose existence is unexplained, is the hope of mankind? All the fighting suddenly stops when the kid manages to cry for a solid 10 minutes, right on director's cue, and then it all starts back up again? Please, don't insult our intelligence with tripe like this. Sci-Fi only works when the imagination can find a glimmer of plausibility in the premise. One simply cannot believe that in a mere 20 years, 3 billion people on the planet will suddenly lose the ability to bear children. And, then, we are asked to believe that only one, without explanation of any kind, will regain that ability.

I'd like my $8 back.

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