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.


"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.'"


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 for grown-ups.
(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.
(Wedding Crashers)

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.
(Southland Tales)

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.
(The Village)

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 it.
(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.
(Pearl Harbor)

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.
(Betty Blue)

"Catwoman" is a movie about Halle Berry's beauty, sex appeal, figure, eyes, lips and costume design.

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.
(Heaven's Prisoners)

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 to die.
(Extreme Prejudice)

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 the material?
(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 again.
(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.
(Dice Rules)

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.
(Frozen Assets)

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.
(Mr Magoo)

'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 are.
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.
(Father's Day)

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.
(Lake Placid)

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.
(Her Alibi)

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.
(Road Trip)

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.
(The Promise)

'Blown Away' is the kind of movie that people should be sentenced to see if they complain that 'Speed' is implausible.
(Blown Away)

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 Jackal)

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.
(Collateral Damage)

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 English.

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.
(Cold Mountain)

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?
(The Patriot)

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.
(Bad Girls)

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 glitter.
(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 see it.

'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.
(Sorority Boys)

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 for.
(First Daughter)

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 Store.
(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 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.
(Coyote Ugly)

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.
(Charlie's Angels)

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 predicted.
(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?
(The Brood)

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 calculus.
(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.
(Hardly Working)

"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.
(Sarah Silverman)

"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.
(Dirty Love)

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 13.
(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.
(Lost Highway)

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.
(Baby Genuises)

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 by itself.
(The Skulls)

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)

Eighteenth century 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.
(Treasure Planet)

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.
(Heaven's Prisoners)

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."
(Death Sentence)


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.
(Starship Troopers)

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 movies.
(Alien Resurrection)

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 X-Files)

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.
(Alien Nation)

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?
(The Forgotten)

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 welcome.

'Battlefield Earth' 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.
(Battlefield Earth)

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.
(Independence Day)

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 'The Transporter.'

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 weapons fire.

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.
(Pitch Black)

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.
(The Matrix)

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.
(Event Horizon)

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?
(Enemy Mine)

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.
(The Island)


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.
(The Craft)

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 movie.
(High Tension)

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.
(High Tension)

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
(Dark Water)

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 production.
(Joe's Apartment)

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.
(Horror Show)

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.
(National Treasure)

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?
(Superman Returns)

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.
(Blade Trinity)

...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 money.
(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 is dangerous.
(Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)


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