Roger Ebert is one of America's most respected film critics. For those of you on the east side of the Atlantic, think Barry Norman. His reviews appear in the Chicago Sun Times newspaper. You can search all of his reviews since 1986 on their excellent website. I recommend searching for the ones that got zero stars.
This page has quotes from reviews that were generally unfavourable - click here for more favourable reviews.
# ROGER EBERT VERSUS VINCENT GALLO
"Vincent Gallo has
put a curse on my colon and a hex on my prostate. He called me a 'fat pig'
in the New York Post and told the New York Observer I have 'the physique
of a slave-trader.' He is angry at me because I said his 'The Brown Bunny'
was the worst movie in the history of the Cannes Film Festival...
it is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of 'The Brown Bunny.'"
# FILM REVIEWS
Even when a critic
dislikes a movie, if it's a good review, it has enough information so you
can figure out whether you'd like it, anyway. For example, this review
is a splendid review because it lets you know you'd hate 'A Cinderella
Story', and I am pretty much 100 percent sure that you would.
(Attempting to dissuade 14 year olds from seeing "A Cinderella Story")
I am not a young girl,
nor have I ever been, and so how would I know if one would like it? Of
course, that's exactly the objection I get in e-mails from young readers,
who complain that no one like me can possibly like a movie like this. They
are correct. I have spent a long time, starting at birth and continuing
until this very moment, evolving into the kind of person who could not
possibly like a movie like this, and I like to think the effort was not
in vain.... There's no need for me to spoil the plot; it spoils itself.
If I were to describe the characters, you could instantly tell me what
happens in the movie.
(The Princess Diaries 2)
Some movies make me
feel like I'm someone else. Other movies make me wish I were. Watching
"Just My Luck," I wished I were a teenage girl, not for any perverse reason
but because then I might have enjoyed it a lot more. I don't think it's
(Just My Luck)
The story expertly
compacts "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Pretty Woman" and "My Best Friend's
Wedding" into "One Wedding, an Ex-Best Friend and a Pretty Man."
(The Wedding Date)
Vaughn and Wilson do
dialogue scenes together that achieve a poetry of comic timing and invention...
How can this go wrong? You know all those horror stories about a cigar-chomping
producer who screens a movie and says they need to lose 15 minutes and
shoot a new ending? "Wedding Crashers" needed a producer like that.
If I were to attempt
a summary of the plot, this review would continue uninterrupted through
the business section and end somewhere on the sports pages.
A plot synopsis would
require that the movie have a plot... Note to readers planning to write
me messages informing me that this review was no more than a fevered rant
— You are correct.
It's so witless, in
fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so
we don't know the secret anymore. And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding,
until we're back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk
backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the
money spring from the cash register into our pockets.
There is in show biz
something known as "a bad laugh." That's the laugh you don't want to get,
because it indicates not amusement but incredulity, nervousness or disapproval.
John Waters' "A Dirty Shame" is the only comedy I can think of that gets
more bad laughs than good ones.
(A Dirty Shame)
We in the audience
do not laugh because it is not nice to laugh at those less fortunate than
ourselves, and the people in this movie are less fortunate than the people
in just about any other movie I can think of, simply because they are in
(The Perfect Man)
'Pearl Harbor' is a
two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the
Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle... The film
has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you
may walk out quoting lines of dialog, it will not be because you admire
them... If you have the slightest knowledge of the events in the film,
you will know more than it can tell you.
I know there are people
who believe Dan Brown's fantasies about the Holy Grail, the descendants
of Jesus, the Knights Templar, Opus Dei and the true story of Mary Magdalene.
This has the advantage of distracting them from the theory that the Pentagon
was not hit by an airplane.
(The Da Vinci Code)
The person who attends
"National Treasure: Book of Secrets" expecting logic and plausibility is
on a fool's mission. This is a Mouth Agape Movie, during which your mouth
hangs open in astonishment at one preposterous event after another... The
movie has terrific if completely unbelievable special effects. The actors
had fun, I guess. You might, too, if you like goofiness like this. Look
at the cast: Cage and Voight and Helen Mirren and Ed Harris and Diane Kruger
and Harvey Keitel and Justin Bartha and Bruce Greenwood. You could start
with a cast like that and make one of the greatest movies of all time,
which is not what happened here.
(National Treasure: Book of Secrets)
Love is not the same
thing as nudity. This may seem obvious, but I feel it ought to be explained
to director Jean-Jacques Beineix, who has made a film that he thinks is
about romantic obsession, and I think is about skin... and yet the movie
has made millions in France, where it will not have escaped anyone's attention
that Betty is played by an attractive young woman named Beatrice Dalle,
who is naked as often as not... Reviews have been written debating the
movie's view of madness, of feminism, of the travail of the artist. They
all miss the point. 'Betty Blue' is a movie about Beatrice Dalle's boobs
and behind, and everything else is just what happens in between the scenes
where she displays them.
"Catwoman" is a movie
about Halle Berry's beauty, sex appeal, figure, eyes, lips and costume
Neve Campbell is amazingly
cute. I have admired her in other movies, but now, in "Three to Tango"
she is mired in a plot of such stupidity that there is only one thing to
do, and that is to look at her... looking into her wide, intelligent eyes,
cunningly placed 18 inches above her wide, intelligent breasts, Oscar blurts
out the truth: "I am not gay!"
(Three To Tango)
Strippers, on the average,
are always just about the nicest people in the movies where they appear.
The fundamental reason
young males went to schlock double features in the golden age was in the
hope of seeing breasts, or, lacking that, stuff blowed up real good. Now
that the mainstream is showing lots of breasts and real big explosions,
there is no longer a market for bad movies showing the same thing.
Hitchcock said a movie
should play the audience like a piano. “Death Race” played me like a drum.
It is an assault on all the senses, including common... That it will no
doubt do great at the box office is yet another sign of the decline of
the national fanboy mentality.
(Death Race 2008)
Everything else boils
down to the way the characters walk, the way they look at each other, the
personal tics they develop and the new ways the stunt men find for people
Patrick Stewart, best
known for his work on 'Star Trek: The Next Generation,' is an actor of
effortless class and presence, and 'Masterminds' is like an obstacle course
he has to run. Can he make it from beginning to end of this dreadful movie
without lowering himself to its level of idiocy? Or will he go down with
(Read the full review to find out)
I stopped taking notes
on my Palm Pilot and started playing the little chess game.
I hated this movie.
Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering
stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that
thought anyone would like it.
Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.
If you, under any circumstances,
see 'Little Indian, Big City,' I will never let you read one of my reviews
(Little Indian, Big City)
If anoyne in the plot
had even the slightest intelligence, the story would implode.
'Dice Rules' is one
of the most appalling movies I have ever seen. It could not be more damaging
to the career of Andrew Dice Clay if it had been made as a documentary
by someone who hated him.
I didn't feel like
a viewer during 'Frozen Assets.' I felt like an eyewitness at a disaster...
Movies like 'Frozen Assets' are small miracles. You look at them and wonder
how, at any stage of the production, anyone could have thought there was
a watchable movie here.
I detest 'Slaves of
New York' so much that I distrust my own opinion. Maybe it's not simply
a bad movie. Maybe it takes some kind of special knack, some species of
sly genius, to make me react so strongly.
(Slaves of New York)
This is a one-joke
movie without the joke.
'Head Over Heels' opens
with 15 funny minutes and then goes dead in the water. It's like they sent
home the first team of screenwriters and brought in Beavis and Butt-Head...
as if the production was a fight to the death between bright people with
a sense of humor, and cretins who think the audience is as stupid as they
The scene betrays a basic ignorance of a fundamental principle of humor: It isn't funny when innocent bystanders are humiliated. It's funny when they humiliate themselves. For example, 'Head Over Heels' would be funny if it were about the people making this movie.
(Head Over Heels)
The story is recycled
out of a 1983 French film named "Les Comperes", as part of a trend in which
Hollywood buys French comedies and experiments on them to see if they can
be made in English with all of the humor taken out... Robin Williams and
Billy Crystal are so good they could improvise a better movie than this.
Here's a promising starting point: Two comics get stuck in doomed remake
of a French comedy and try to fight their way free.
There is no Lake Placid
in the movie, which may be its most intriguing mystery... This is the kind
of movie that actors discuss in long, sad talks with their agents.
You know a movie is
in trouble when you start looking at your watch. You know it's in bad trouble
when you start shaking your watch because you think it might have stopped.
Walker is played in
the film by that fine actor Ed Harris, who is done in by the script, the
direction and certainly by the agent who negotiated his presence in this
travesty... this movie is apparently intended as a comedy or a satire.
I write 'apparently' because, if it is a comedy, it has no laughs, and
if a satire, no target.
Together we figured
out what had happened, which was useful, but not the sort of conversation
you should be having. When a movie doesn't have a brain in its head, it's
kind of unfair to require thought on
the part of the audience... the cast should be regarded more as victims than perpetrators.
You are familiar with
the Law of Symbolism: If you have to ask what something symbolized, it
didn't. Now here is the Law of Plots: If you can't describe it with clarity,
there wasn't one.
'Blown Away' is the
kind of movie that people should be sentenced to see if they complain that
'Speed' is implausible.
Believe me, I know
how to believe stuff when it happens in the movies. I believe bicycles
can fly. I believe sharks can eat boats. I even believe pigs can talk.
But I do not believe 'Assassins'... The mechanics of it seem to violate
the laws of logic, not to mention physics.
There was never a moment
in 'The Jackal' where I had the slightest confidence in the expertise of
the characters. The Jackal strikes me as the kind of overachiever who,
assigned to kill a mosquito, would purchase contraband insecticides from
Iraq and bring them into the United States by hot air balloon, distilling
his drinking water from clouds and shooting birds for food.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger
character is uncomplicated, loyal, brave and resourceful, and only does
six or seven things that are impossible in the physical universe... He
is your typical Los Angeles fireman if the fire department sent all of
its men through Delta Force training.
The three pilots are
discussing military secrets in front of the Thai girl, who "doesn't speak
English." Beautiful Thai girls who allow themselves to be picked up by
U.S. pilots almost always speak English, but never mind. It's not that
Purcell is too stupid to know that trusting her is dangerous; it's that
the movie is too stupid. How stupid? Nothing happens. The girl can't speak
To call this a comedy
is a sign of optimism.
(Vampire in Brooklyn)
It's the kind of date
movie that makes you want to go home alone.
(Your Friends and Neighbors)
I hope this movie never
has a sequel, because Jon and Sara are destined to become the most boring
married couple in history. For years to come, people at parties will be
whispering, 'See that couple over there? The Tragers? Jon and Sara? Whatever
you do, don't ask them how they met.'
Of course Abbey is
crushed, and so are we, because we realize we are in the grip of a power
greater than ourselves — Hollywood's determination to make films at the
level of remedial reading. No one involved in the making of this film is
as stupid as the characters, so why do they think the audience is?
(On The Line)
This film is no doubt
ideally constructed for its target audience of 10-year-olds and those who
keenly miss being 10-year-olds. I think the future of the Republic may
depend on young audiences seeing more movies like 'Whale Rider' and fewer
movies like 'Scooby-Doo 2', but then that's just me.
(Scooby Doo 2)
Nothing takes the suspense
out of Boy Meets Girl like your knowledge that Boy Has Already Met Star.
It is just too damn
bad this movie didn't take advantage of its right to the pursuit of happiness.
Those who have a serious
interest in the period will find it a cartoon... I enjoyed the the sweep
of the battle scenes, and the absurdity of the British caricatures. None
of it has much to do with the historical reality of the Revolutionary War,
but with such an enormous budget at risk, how could it?
I've argued as a general
principle that it doesn't matter if a movie is faithful to a book. What
matters, is whether the movie is any good in its own right. I think I'd
be willing to extend that argument even into the area of historical drama;
if the movie works, I'm not concerned with its accuracy. I'd rather get
a feel for the period and the characters, and see a director and actors
in the act of invention. You can always check the dates at the library.
So what if events get messed with a little? Didn't Shakespeare do away
with an entire decade in "Richard III" just so Richard could propose to
Anne over her husband's coffin? What we're after, basically, is a good
film and a sense of the people involved. "Cromwell" gives us neither.
Like all of the grand
and corny Westerns Hollywood used to make, it's composed of situations
and not plots. Plots were dangerous because if a kid went out to get some
popcorn he might miss something.
(For a Few Dollars More)
At the beginning of
the film the four women are, of course, prostitutes. The four professions
available to women in the old west were Marriage, School-Marming, Prostitution,
and Old Biddyhood.
Portia has been left
by her father's will in the position of a game show prize; her suitors
are shown chests of gold, silver and lead, and made to choose one; inside
the lucky chest is the token of their prize. Elementary gamesmanship cries
out 'Lead! Choose the lead!' but one royal hopeful after another goes for
(The Merchant of Venice)
Submarine service veterans
in the audience are going to be laughing their heads off... This fictional
movie about a fictional U.S. submarine mission is followed by a mention
in the end credits of those actual British missions. Oh, the British deciphered
the Enigma code, too. Come to think of it, they pretty much did everything
in real life that the Americans do in this movie.
The characters in 'Sleepover'
are shadows of shadows, diluted from countless better, even marginally
better, movies. There was no reason to make this movie, and no reason to
'Mad Dog Time' is the
first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen
viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But
they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching it is like
waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line...
The actors perform their lines like condemned prisoners.
(Mad Dog Time)
I don't want to review
"Friends & Lovers," I want to flunk it. This movie is not merely bad,
but incompetent... I have often asked myself, "What would it look like
if the characters in a movie were animatronic puppets created by aliens
with an imperfect mastery of human behavior?" Now I know.
(Friends & Lovers)
"Sorority Boys" will
be the worst movie playing in any multiplex in America this weekend.
Girls have renounced
thrones and entered convents with less trouble. Even worse, everyone in
the movie, but surely no one in the audience, believes it arrives at the
correct ending. Having tortured us with cliches for more than 100 minutes,
the movie denies us the final upbeat cliche that we have paid our dues
Dylan and Lila have
a Meet Cute. She runs into him and knocks him flat, with her landing on
top, which is about the cheapest Meet Cute you can buy at the Movie Cliche
(Lost & Found)
She can't believe a
guy like that would really like a girl like her, which is unlikely, since
anyone who looks like Jennifer Lopez and walks dogs on the boardwalk has
already been hit on by every dot.com entrepreneur and boy band dropout
in Santa Monica, along with Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen... my reveries
were interrupted by bulletins from my conscious mind, which hated the movie.
I am not even surprised
that the hero drives a classic car — no characters in Jerry Bruckheimer
movies drive cars less than 25 years old unless they are parents or gangsters.
He has a bulb that
needs to be changed, the one right above his head.
(The Dying Gaul)
"Hoot" has its heart
in the right place, but I have been unable to locate its brain.
This movie doesn't
have a brain in its three pretty little heads.
Jessica Simpson is
so remarkably uninformed that she should sue the public schools of Abilene,
Texas, or maybe they should sue her... as it happens, I also drove a 1969
Dodge Charger. You could have told them apart because mine did not have
a Confederate flag painted on the roof.
(The Dukes of Hazzard)
Why is it funny that
the cop causes a massive pileup, with the cars in back leapfrogging onto
the top of the pile? The stunt must have cost a couple of hundred thousand
dollars; half a dozen indie films could have been made for that money.
One of them could have starred Queen Latifah... Doesn't she know that at
this point in her career she should be looking for some lean and hungry
Sundance type to put her in a zero-budget masterpiece that could win her
the Oscar? True, it could turn out to be a flop. But better to flop while
trying to do something good than flop in something that could not be good,
was never going to be good, and only gets worse as it plows along.
A movie that conceals
the identity of a killer is of a lower order, in general, than one that
actually deals with him as a character. To get to know someone is infinitely
more pleasing than to meet some guy behind a hockey mask, or in a puppet
suit, or whatever. some guy behind a hockey mask, or in a puppet suit,
or whatever. There is always the moment when the killer is unmasked and
spews out his bitterness and hate and vindictive triumph over his would-be
victims. How about just once, at the crucial moment, the killer gets squished
under a ton of canned soup, and we never do find out who he was?
I found the third act
to be a disappointment. There was a point in the movie when suddenly everything
clicked, and the Law of Economy of Characters began to apply. That is the
law that says no actor is in a movie unless his character is necessary.
A corollary is that if a minor actor is set up as a suspect, he's a decoy.
(Hide and Seek)
Remember the first
Rambo movie, in which a sheriff paused under a tree, and Rambo dropped
out of the tree and ambushed him? That scene illustrates what I like to
call the Fallacy of the Predictable Tree. You see that fallacy operating
frequently in the movies: A character will know exactly where and when
to position himself to do something that, logically, he could not have
(For Queen and Country)
This is another one
of those never-relenting body-and-mind-swap movies... It makes you kind
of nostalgic for that movie where Chevy Chase turned into Benji. In the
acting sweepstakes for mind-swap movies, Judge Reinhold is still in first
place for "Vice Versa," Tom Hanks is second for "Big" and Corey Feldman
is dead last. The movie itself, to put it tactfully, is incomprehensible
and aggressively unwatchable. "Dream a Little Dream" is a clear violation
of the Stanton-Walsh Rule, which states: "No movie featuring either Harry
Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad."
(Dream A Little Dream)
I went to see "I Heart
Huckabees" at the Toronto Film Festival. It was on the screen, and I was
in my chair, and nothing was happening between us. There was clearly a
movie being shown, but what was its purpose and why were the characters
so inexplicable? ...It falls in its own forest, and hears itself.
(I Heart Huckabees)
Going into this film
knowing what we've heard about it, we're anticipating the scenes in which
the two kids discover the joys of sex. This is a prurient motive on our
part, and we're maybe a little ashamed of it, but our shame turns to impatience
as Kleiser intercuts countless shots of the birds and the bees.
(The Blue Lagoon)
"Return to the Blue
Lagoon" aspires to the soft-core porn achievements of the earlier film,
but succeeds instead of creating a new genre, no-core porn.
(Return to the Blue Lagoon)
The novice lays hands
on some dehydrated Dracula blood, liquefies it during a bizarre ritual
in a bombed-out church, and sets into motion a complex chain of forbidden
rituals designed to display Stephanie Beacham's cleavage to the greatest
possible advantage. This isn't a terrific rationale for another horror
flick but, given Miss Beacham's ability to heave, and her bosom to heave
with, it will have to do.
(Dracula 1972 A.D.)
What's the purpose
of this film, other than to serve as a tax shelter?
Only a cynic could
dislike this movie, which may be why I disliked it. I can be sentimental
under the right circumstances, but the movie is such a calculating tearjerker
that it played like a challenge to me.
They form a herd mentality,
without the mentality.
(Christmas With The Kranks)
To call "A Lot like
Love" dead in the water is an insult to water. Judging by their dialogue,
Oliver and Emily have never read a book or a newspaper, seen a movie, watched
TV, had an idea, carried on an interesting conversation or ever thought
much about anything... two people who have arrived at adulthood unequipped
for the struggle.
(A Lot Like Love)
Yes, I take notes during
the movies. I can't always read them, but I persist in hoping that I can.
During a movie like "House of D," I jot down words I think might be useful
in the review. Peering now at my 3x5 cards, I read sappy, inane, cornball,
shameless and, my favorite, doofusoid. I sigh. The film has not even inspired
interesting adjectives, except for the one I made up myself.
(House of D)
James Cromwell plays
the warden. He is a fiercely intelligent man who takes roles like this
for the same reason I review them, because we are professionals and this
is what we do. He would rather be in better movies and I would rather review
them, but we have both seen a lot worse than this. There is a sense in
which attacking this movie is like kicking a dog for not being better at
(The Longest Yard)
There's probably a
level of competence beneath which bad directors cannot fall. No matter
how dreary their imaginations, how stupid their material, how inept their
actors, how illiterate their scripts, they've got to come up with something
that can at least be advertised as a motion picture, released and forgotten.
But a talented director is another matter. If he's made several good films,
chances are that sooner or later someone will give him the money to make
a supremely bad one... it has not been released until now because almost
every distributor who saw it fled the screening room in horror, clutching
at his wallet. You will notice that I have awarded "Diary of Forbidden
Dreams" one half star. There is a principle at work here, and now's the
time to explain it. No movie, no matter how bad, gets no stars at all in
the Sun-Times unless it is, in addition to being bad, also meretricious
and evil. "Diary" doesn't even have the wit to go that extra step.
(Roman Polanski's "Diary of Forbidden Dreams)
Jerry Lewis has made
his film into an educational experience: See it, and you will learn by
default what competent film editing is.
"Sarah Silverman: Jesus
is Magic" is a movie that filled me with an urgent desire to see Sarah
Silverman in a different movie. I liked everything about it except the
writing, the direction, the editing and the lack of a parent or adult guardian.
"Dirty Love" wasn't
written and directed, it was committed. Here is a film so pitiful, it doesn't
rise to the level of badness. It is hopelessly incompetent. It stars and
was scripted by Jenny McCarthy, the cheerfully sexy model who, judging
by this film, is fearless, plucky and completely lacking in common sense
or any instinct for self-preservation.
The assignment of Anna
Faris is to relate to Rob Schneider's body as if it contained Rachel McAdams,
a challenge I doubt even Dame Judi Dench would be equal to.
(The Hot Chick)
The MPAA rates this
PG-13. It is too vulgar for anyone under 13, and too dumb for anyone over
(The Hot Chick)
David Lynch's "Lost
Highway" is like kissing a mirror: You like what you see, but it's not
much fun, and kind of cold.
This is an old idea,
beautifully expressed by Wordsworth, who said, "Heaven lies about us in
our infancy." If I could quote the whole poem instead of completing this
review, believe me, we'd all we happier. But I press on.
I would give a great
deal to be able to see "The Skulls" on opening night in New Haven, Conn.,
in a movie theater full of Yale students, with gales of laughter rolling
at the screen. It isn't a comedy, but that won't stop anyone. "The Skulls"
is one of the great howlers, a film that bears comparison, yes, with "The
Greek Tycoon" or even "The Scarlet Letter." It's so ludicrous in so many
different ways it achieves a kind of forlorn grandeur. It's in a category
Whenever pirates turn
up in a romance set more recently than 1843, you figure the filmmakers
ran out of ideas... pirates conveniently materialize on two occasions simply
to give the movie something to be about. If you want to see a movie that
knows what to do with a man, a woman and an island, see John Huston's "Heaven
Knows, Mr. Allison".
(Six Days, Seven Nights)
galleons and pirate ships go sailing through the stars, and it somehow
just doesn't look right. I remain stubbornly convinced that pirate ships
and ocean storms and real whales (as opposed to space whales) are exciting
enough. I believe that one should review the movie that has been made,
not the movie one wishes had been made, and here I violate my own rule.
But there was something in me that resisted this movie.
The movie is a loud,
confusing, pointless mess that never seems to make up its mind whether
to be a farce or an adventure... Ah, yes, you ask, but are the pirates
swarthy, the maidens tempting, the savages fierce, the battles thrilling
and the heroes bold and brave? Nope.
(Nate and Hayes)
If Louisiana did not
exist, Hollywood would need to invent it. In fact, Louisiana does exist,
and Hollywood still needs to invent it... So venomous is the atmosphere
of evil in this movie that it permeates everything, which is the only way
to account for Mary Stuart Masterson as the stripper. To be sure, she has
a heart of gold, but then strippers, on the average, are always just about
the nicest people in the movies where they appear... The material is so
absurd that when the characters try to become believable, they only cast
it in stark relief. Somehow a movie like this demands worse acting.
Billy is the kind of
kid who is not satisfied with tattoos crawling up his neck but also has
one of those goatees that tells you, "I am either a perverted madman, the
leader of a suicidal cult, or terrified you will not notice me."
# SCIENCE FICTION
This movie has to be
seen to be believed. On the other hand, maybe that's too high a price to
pay. 'Highlander 2: The Quickening' is the most hilariously incomprehensible
movie I've seen in many a long day - a movie almost awesome in its badness.
Wherever science fiction fans gather, in decades and generations to come,
this film will be remembered in hushed tones as one of the immortal low
points of the genre... If there is a planet somewhere whose civilization
is based on the worst movies of all time, this film deserves a sacred place
among their most treasured artifacts.
(Highlander 2 - full review)
Did you know that if
a certain kind of worm learns how to solve a maze, and then you grind it
up and feed it to other worms, the other worms will then be able to negotiate
the maze on their first try? That's one of the scientific nuggets supplied
in Phantoms, a movie, based on the popular Dean Koontz novel, that seems
to have been made by grinding up other films and feeding them to this one.
Since the Bugs have
no technology, these abilities must have evolved along Darwinian lines;
to say they severely test the theory of evolution is putting it mildly.
Like the bugs in "Starship
Troopers," these aliens are an example of specialization. They have evolved
over the eons into creatures adapted for one purpose only: To star in horror
As a story, it needs
a sequel, a prequel, and Cliff Notes. I'm not sure even the filmmakers
can explain exactly what happens in the movie, and why... It's tricky work,
not giving away the plot of a movie you don't understand.
The evildoers, it must
be said, are singularly inept; they receive bills for medical supplies
under their own names, and surely there must be more efficient ways to
abduct victims and purchase animal tranquilizers. But what they're up to
is so creepy, and the snow-covered Virginia landscapes so haunting, and
the wrong-headedness of Scully so frustrating, and the FBI bureaucracy
so stupid, and Mulder so brave, that the movie works like thrillers used
to work, before they were required to contain villains the size of buildings.
(The X-Files 2)
"Alien Nation" feels
like a movie made by people who have seen a lot of movies, but don't think
the audience has.
Why do these alien
visitations always seem to be aimed at just those kinds of people who are
most likely to believe in them? Why do the aliens always pick people who
summer at Roswell, N.M., instead of choosing someone like Stephen Hawking,
Howard Stern or Dick Cheney?
Going to see 'Godzilla'
at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual
in St. Peter's Basilica. It's a rebuke to the faith that the building represents...
One must carefully repress intelligent thought while watching such a film...
but my brain rebelled, and insisted on applying logic where it was not
was written in 1980 by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. The
film contains no evidence of Scientology or any other system of thought;
it is shapeless and senseless, without a compelling plot or characters
we care for in the slightest. The director, Roger Christian, has learned
from better films that directors sometimes tilt their cameras, but he has
not learned why.
Leo, to be sure, is
not one for effusive emotional outbursts. He's played by Wahlberg as a
limited and narrow person with little imagination, who never seems very
surprised by anything that happens to him - like, oh, to take a random
example, crash-landing on a planet where the apes rule the humans.
(Planet of the Apes)
'Timecop,' a low-rent
'Terminator,' is the kind of movie that is best not thought about at all,
for that way madness lies.
Do they come in peace?
Don't make me laugh... If an alien species ever does visit Earth, I for
one hope they have something interesting to share with us. Or, if they
must kill us, I hope they do it with something we haven't seen before,
instead of with cornball ray-beams that look designed by the same artists
who painted the covers of Amazing Stories magazine in the 1940s.
They've "been planning
this for a million years" and have gone to a lot of trouble to invade Earth
for no apparent reason and with a seriously flawed strategy... why didn't
a civilization with the physical science to build and deploy the tripods
a million years ago not do a little more research about conditions on the
planet before sending its invasion force? ...Perhaps it would have been
a good idea to set the movie in 1898, at the time of Wells' novel, when
the tripods represented a state-of-the-art alien invasion.
(War of the Worlds)
The 'Star Trek' world
involves physical laws which reflect only the needs of the plot. If one
ship rammed another and they were both destroyed and everyone died, and
the movie ended with a lot of junk floating around in space, imagine the
faces of the people in the audience.
(Star Trek Nemesis)
The last thing you
want to do while passing Mercury is respond to a distress signal from a
ship that should not be there...
More rounds of ammunition
are expended in this film than in any film I can remember, and I remember
We see a lot of Sgt.
Lennox and Tech Sgt. Epps. They and their men labor during much of the
movie under the optimistic impression that a metal robot the size of a
10-story building can be defeated by, or even brought to notice, automatic
As for the troops of
'The Hand', they have contracted Movie Zombie's Syndrome, which means
they are fearsome and deadly until killed, at which point they dissolve into a cloud of yellow powder... Maybe this is simply to save Elektra the inconvenience of stepping over her victims in the middle of a fight.
No other movie opening
thrills me more than a vast ship in interstellar space. The modern visual
rules for these shots were set by Stanley Kubrick's '2001,' which used
a detailed model moving slowly instead of a cheesy model moving fast.
How sad it is that humans travel countless light years away from Earth, only to find themselves inhabiting the same tired generic conventions.
Since sunlight is the source of heat and energy, Darwinian principles would seem severely challenged by the task of evolving living things that hibernate for 22 years between eclipses. How does a thing that lives in the dark evolve in a planet where it is almost always daytime? This is not the kind of question you're supposed to ask about 'Pitch Black', but I'd rather have the answer than any 45 minutes of this movie.
I observed once that
'Lord of the Rings' fans should 'get a life'. I meant this as an affectionate
ironic throwaway, but have received dozens of wounded e-mails from Ring
devotees who believe 'LOTR' has, indeed, given them a life, and after seeing
'The Chronicles of Riddick', I agree. They have a life. The prospect of
become an expert on 'Riddick', in contrast, is too depressing to contemplate.
(The Chronicles of Riddick)
It's kind of a letdown
when a movie begins by redefining the nature of reality, and ends with
a shoot-out... 'The Matrix' did not bore me. It interested me so much,
indeed, that I wanted to be challenged even more. I wanted it to follow
its material to audacious conclusions, to arrive not simply at victory,
but at revelation.
Of course there are
no 'laws' of physics — only observations about the way things seem to be.
What you 'break,' if you break anything, is not a law but simply an obsolete
belief, now replaced by one that works better.
The Locker Rooms of
the Future are co-ed. Alas, the Women Athletes of the Future still turn
their backs to the camera at crucial moments, carry strategically placed
towels, stand behind furniture and in general follow the rules first established
in 1950s nudist volleyball pictures.
The movie takes place
in a future world in which all civilization has been reduced to a few phony
movie sets. Leather-clad neo-Nazis stalk through the ruins, beating each
other senseless and talking in Pulpspeak, which is like English, but without
the grace and modulation. It's cold in the future, and it's wet, but never
so cold or wet that the costumes do not bare the arm muscles of the men
and the heaving bosoms of the women.
Call it what you will,
it has the Toronto skyline. Toronto played Chicago in "Chicago" and now
it plays Raccoon City. Some you win, some you lose...
My next logistical puzzlement involves killing the zombies. They die when you shoot them. Fine, except Umbrella Corp. has developed some mutants who wear bulletproof armor. Zillions of rounds of ammo bounce off this armor, but here's a funny thing: The mutants do not wear helmets, so we can see their ugly faces. So why not just shoot them in the head? Am I missing something here? Parents: If you encounter teenagers who say they liked this movie, do not let them date your children.
(Resident Evil: Apocalypse)
The monsters are still
there on Mars. They are big mothers and must have awesome daily caloric
requirements. How they survive, how they breathe earth atmosphere in the
station and what, as carnivores, they eat and drink — I think we can all
agree these are questions deserving serious scientific study. Meanwhile,
their pastime is chasing humans, grabbing them, smashing them, eviscerating
and disemboweling them, pulling them through grates, and in general doing
anything that can take place obscurely in shadows and not require a lot
of special effects.
"Enemy Mine" descends
to the level of 1930's space opera with the arrival of evil human slave-traders
who kidnap Dracs and force them to work in mines. As the slavers stood
over their captives with whips, I found myself wondering how cost-effective
it would be to transport manual laborers millions of light years. Surely
a technology capable of arriving at the planet Fyrine IV would have figured
out a better way to mine its ores?
I always love it when
they give us spaceships capable of leaping across the universe, and then
arm them with weapons so puny that a direct hit merely blows up a few control
boards and knocks people off their feet.
(Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn)
The kind of movie where
the sun god Ra, who has harnessed the ability to traverse the universe
at the speed of light, still needs slaves to build his pyramids.
They're "educated to
the level of 15-year-olds", we're told. There was a time when that would
have made them smarter than most of the people who ever lived, but in this
future world education has continued to degrade, and we see adults reading
aloud from "Fun With Dick and Jane", a book that on first reading I found
redundant and lacking in irony.
# HORROR & FANTASY
Notes jotted down while
watching 'Halloween: H20': Medical science should study Michael Myers,
the monster who has made the last two decades a living hell for Laurie
Strode. Here is a man who feels no pain. He can take a licking and keep
on slicing. In the latest 'Halloween' movie, he absorbs a blow from an
ax, several knife slashes, a rock pounded on the skull, a fall down a steep
hillside and being crushed against a tree by a truck. Whatever he's got,
mankind needs it. How does Michael Myers support himself in the long years
between his slashing outbreaks? I picture him working in a fast-food joint.
(Halloween: H20, one of his best)
When the campus is
in the grip of a mad slasher, the dead outnumber the living in the dorms,
and security guards start sliding through pools of blood — it is seriously
uncool to sneak up silently behind someone and grab them by the shoulder.
If they're packing, you're dead meat... The real killer is the one person
you would never, ever, not in a million years, even remotely suspect, unless
your I.Q. is above 60.
(Urban Legends: a classic Ebert review)
When it comes to fighting
vampires and performing exorcisms, the Roman Catholic Church has the heavy
artillery. Your other religions are good for everyday theological tasks,
like steering their members into heaven, but when the undead lunge up out
of their graves, you want a priest on the case. As a product of Catholic
schools, I take a certain pride in this pre-eminence.
(John Carpenter's Vampires)
Logic applied to this
movie will drive you mad.
(The Mummy Returns)
'Seed of Chucky' is
a movie to be seen on television. Free television.
(Seed of Chucky)
What I have always
wondered about supernatural characters in movies is why their horizons
are so limited. Here are four girls who could outgross David Copperfield
in Vegas, and they limit their amazing powers to getting even.
Now that 'Scream' and
'Scream 2' have given us horror film characters who know all the horror
cliches, the time has come for a werewolf movie about characters who know
they're in a werewolf movie. Not that such an insight would benefit the
heroes of 'An American Werewolf in Paris,' who are singularly dim. Here
are people we don't care about, doing things they don't understand, in
a movie without any rules... Please don't accuse me of revealing plot points:
In a movie with this title, are you expecting that the girl who leaps from
the tower is not a werewolf, her friends are exchange students, and the
club is frequented by friendly tourists?
(An American Werewolf in Paris)
The movie begins slowly,
despite an ominous confrontation with a slack-jawed local man who drives
a pickup truck, an innocent and utilitarian vehicle that in horror movies
is invariably the choice of the depraved. I didn't mind the slow start,
since it gave me time to contemplate the exemplary stupidity of these students...
they haven't even seen "Scream" and don't know they're in a horror movie.
(House of Wax)
After the screening
was over and the lights went up, I observed a couple of my colleagues in
deep and earnest conversation, trying to resolve twists in the plot. They
were applying more thought to the movie than the makers did. A critic's
mind is a terrible thing to waste.
(I Know What You Did Last Summer)
When I say the film
defies explanation, that doesn't mean it discourages it. Web sites exist
for no other reason than to do the work of the screenwriters by figuring
out what it all means.
(The Ring 2)
The philosopher Thomas
Hobbes tells us life can be "poor, nasty, brutish and short." So is this
I am tempted at this
point to issue a Spoiler Warning and engage in discussion of several crucial
events in the movie that would seem to be physically, logically and dramatically
impossible, but clever viewers will be able to see for themselves that
the movie's plot has a hole that is not only large enough to drive a truck
through, but in fact does have a truck driven right through it.
Art Buchwald said the
plot of "Last Tango in Paris" could be understood as the story of what
people were willing to do to get an apartment in Paris. "Dark Water," a
new horror film starring Jennifer Connelly, suggests that in New York,
people are not only willing to kill for an affordable apartment, but may
have to die, too... the rent is right, and Dahlia is desperate. She takes
the apartment, violating the ancient tradition that movie characters always
live in apartments they could never afford in real life
Let this much be said
for Ken Russell's 'The Lair of the White Worm': It provides you with exactly
what you would expect from a movie named "The Lair of the White Worm."
It has a lair, it has a worm, the worm is white and there is a sufficient
number of screaming victims to be dragged down into the lair by the worm.
(The Lair of the White Worm)
I am informed that
5,000 cockroaches were used in the filming of Joe's Apartment. That depresses
me, but not as much as the news that none of them were harmed during the
The ghouls in all of
these movies perform more or less the same function. They shuffle inexorably
toward the camera, drawn by their insatiable appetite for human flesh.
The tasks of the living characters in the movie are threefold: (1) to attempt
to destroy or control the monsters, (2) to flee the monsters in panic,
and (3) to become the monsters.
(Return of the Living Dead)
Gary Sherman is typical
of many horror directors in that he doesn't have the slightest clue what
makes horror films scary. He thinks it all has to do with violence, and
killers jumping out of shadows. Hitchcock knew better. The key elements
in his horror films are (1) a facade of ordinary everyday life, (2) anticipation
of violence drawn out as long as possible before violence occurs, and (3)
those moments when we figure out the danger before the characters do, and
there's no way to warn them.
We are led to understand
that the soul of Max has somehow taken up residence in the gas furnace
in the cop's basement. Don't ask me how. I'm only reporting the facts.
She engages in a deadly
race for control of Pandora's Box, which brought life to earth but was
slammed shut before it could also release a plague that would kill us all.
Devout Darwinians will note that if the box was opened to admit life and
then immediately closed on death, whoever or whatever came out of it must
have evolved with startling speed into a box-closing organism.
(Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life)
This new Jerry Bruckheimer
production is so similar in so many ways to the plot of the Dan Brown best
seller that either (a) the filmmakers are the only citizens of the entertainment
industry who have never heard of 'The Da Vinci Code', no, not even while
countless people on the set must have been reading the book, or (b) they
have ripped it off. My attorneys advise me that (a) is the prudent answer...
'National Treasure' is so silly that the Monty Python version could use
the same screenplay, line for line.
When the hero, his
alter ego, his girlfriend and the villain all seem to lack any joy in being
themselves, why should we feel joy at watching them?
Parker Posey is an
actress I have always had affection for, and now it is mixed with increased
admiration, for the way she soldiers through an impossible role that requires
her to be the first vampire with an iPod.
...A beautiful girl
with long blond tresses named Yvaine (Claire Danes). I think her name makes
her a sort of vain Yvonne.
Strangeness is not
enough. There must also be humor, and characters who exist for some reason
other than to look bizarre. That rule would include Whoopi Goldberg's Death,
who is sadly underwritten, and played by Goldberg as if we're supposed
to keep repeating: "Wow! Look! Death is being played by Whoopi Goldberg!"
It is a truth too often forgotten that casting a famous actor in a weird
cameo is the setup of the joke, not the punch line.
The question that haunted
me during "Herbie: Fully Loaded" involved the degree of Herbie's intelligence.
Is the car alive? Can it think? Does it have feelings? Can it really fall
in love, or is its romance with that cute little yellow VW bug just a cynical
ploy to get publicity, since it has a new movie coming out?
(Herbie: Fully Loaded: written during Tom Cruise's engagement to Katie Holmes)
Here's a kiddie movie
with a nihilistic, suicidal ending because there wasn't enough money to
show Nemo's famous submarine, the Nautilus, actually moving underwater.
Nemo, faced with doom and lacking the expensive special effects necessary
to make his escape, chooses to go down with his ship and save the producers
(The Mysterious Island of Captain Nemo)
There are said to be
many levels to the video game, but I succeeded in penetrating only to the
second before I realized I had to abandon Ninja Turtles that instant, or
risk permanent psychic damage... but this movie is nowhere near as bad
as it might have been, and probably is the best possible Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtle movie... The plot? Do you care?
(Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
One disturbing thing
about the turtles is that they look essentially the same. All that differentiates
them, in the Nintendo game that gave them birth, is their weapons. It's
as if the whole sum of a character's personality is expressed by the way
he does violence. People raised on these principles run a risk of starring
in videotapes of police brutality. As someone who was raised on Superman,
Batman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman, I think the kids are getting the short
end of the stick. What kind of a superhero is a reptile who lives in sewers,
is led by a rat, eats cold pizza, and is the product of radioactive waste?
I liked the older superheroes better. The ones that stood out from a crowd,
had their own opinions, were not afraid of ridicule, and symbolized a future
of truth and justice. Spiderman and Superman represented democratic values.
Today's kids are learning from the Turtles that the world is a sinkhole
of radioactive waste, that it's more reassuring to huddle together in sewers
than take your chances competing at street level, and that individuality
(Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Excerpts from zero star films on Roger's own site.
More quotes selected from scathing Ebert reviews [External Site].
Return to Quotes index, or Site homepage.