Tommy's movie mini‑reviews
I write these to remind me of what I did or didn't like about
movies in case I want to watch them again.
When I say "right stuff", I'm referring to style (of writing,
directing, and cinematography) rather than to the subject matter.
My sensibilities are idiosyncratic and in some aspects hard to
articulate—but I can say that I go for understatement and
attention to detail. And I don't care for extensive narration;
as the maxim says, show, don't tell.
I only started this page in 2009, so lots of movies I've seen aren't listed.
Star ratings à la Netflix: 1=atrocious, 2=lousy, 3=decent,
4=good, 5=outstanding. 4+ means I'm likely to want to see it again
(except documentaries, which I tend not to re-watch).
- A Boy And His Dog (1975) ****
Wild mixture: alternately funny, bizarre, disturbing, crude.
The dog was almost nominated for an Oscar (best supporting actor).
A young Don Johnson is not unpleasant to look at.
- A Bronx Tale (1993) ****
Nice attention to detail in cinematography, writing, and editing.
Some aspects were not to my taste: I could've done without the
early‑60s music (even though it was true to the setting) and there's
some sappiness at the end. But those elements didn't much bother me
because the whole movie is so tastefully and skillfully made.
Watch for: black Edsel, 0:10:47‑59;
square‑aperture bokeh, 1:28:17‑24;
luscious deep blue sky, 1:31:45‑49; a speech giving advice
to do whatever you want even if it's against societal norms,
spoken while driving in reverse just because, 1:20:16‑1:21:08.
- A Coffee in Berlin (2012) **½
Occasional entertaining moments but overall not my cup of tea.
Didn't finish it.
- A Fish Called Wanda (1988) ****½
I've watched this n times (where n >= 3)
and it holds up well. Great acting and writing throughout.
Cleese says he likes it the most of all the films he's in; so do I.
- A Heart in Winter [Un Coeur en Hiver] (1992) **½
Strange love triangle where one of the vertices
is not much of a participant. French‑tedious.
- A Hijacking [Kapringen] (2012) ***½
I'm not excited about the usual kinds of scenes
a film about a ship hijacking will have.
But this is well done for what it is.
If you wanna see a piracy movie, watch this instead
of Captain Phillips--this one's more subtle and more interesting.
- A History of Violence (2005) ***½
Interesting premise, but could have been done in a more understated manner.
I liked it better the first time.
- A Late Quartet (2012) **
Didn't grab me. Didn't finish it.
- A Most Wanted Man (2014) ****½
Practical espionage dilemmas rather than James Bond style fantasy.
Not all film adaptations of John le Carré stories come off well,
but this one does. Well written and acted. Cinematography is OK
except for occasional icky color balance.
Tastefully understated score. Held up well on a second viewing.
- A Murder of Crows (1998) ***
Frequently preposterous but engaging enough to watch.
Originally 1.85:1; the DVD I watched was a sucky
- A Perfect World (1993) ***
I liked this the first time but on a repeat I found it dopey, sappy, overdone.
- A Serious Man (2009) ***½
Good attention to detail, at times quite funny, and thematically interesting
(the parts about uncertainty, anyway; the religious aspects I could do without).
I really liked it the first time but it was largely a chore to watch
on a second viewing. Notable for a masterful flourish: the rabbi
on the word that at 1:02:27, recalling the rhythm of a
drum fill in Hendrix's Machine Gun that played at 1:02:24.
- A Simple Plan (1998) **½
Mediocre treatment of potentially interesting themes.
- A Single Man (2009) ***½
Some aspects of the story and characters are fine and some are tedious.
Too much slo‑mo, variation of color saturation, and other gimmicks.
- A Somewhat Gentle Man [En ganske snill mann] (2010) **
Slow, dull. Didn't finish it.
- A Time To Kill (1996) **
Heavy‑handed. And has a tedious, gratuitous romance temptation thrown in.
I gave up partway through.
- Absence of Malice (1981) ****
Cool opening sequence showing newspaper production.
- Absolute Power (1997) ***½
Starts off strong but gets more Hollywood‑preposterous as it continues.
I liked it OK on a repeat viewing but a half star less than on the first time.
I'm not as taken by Eastwood's acting as some people are. Mediocre score.
- Across the Bridge (1957) ***½
The ruinousness of greed is a good theme to build a movie around.
Dated, jumbled, preposterous--but yet watchable.
Includes a prominent role for
(played quite well).
- Advise and Consent (1962) ****
A solid depiction of political treachery. Well done overall,
although some of the wife‑and‑kids scenes are sappy.
The above is my initial reaction; I had a hard time watching it
on a repeat attempt several years later (didn't like the writing
that much, it seemed way dated, and I just wasn't in the right
mood for a film about Washington politics).
- Affliction (1998) **
Uninspired writing. The beginning gives the impression it might
be an interesting murder mystery, but it devolves into a thin story
about how having a jerk of a father can make you a jerk too.
A Netflix customer's review nailed it: "The best thing
about Affliction is that they used real snow."
- After the Wedding [Efter Brylluppet] (2006) ***½
I liked this the first time but found it only so-so on a second viewing.
- All the President's Men (1976) ****
Good (and true) story, and an interesting look
behind the scenes at a major newspaper.
- All About Eve (1950) **
I got suckered in by glowing reviews. It was not to my taste in
very much the ways I'd feared that a movie about theater life would be.
Yes the writing is clever but it's all too precious. Feh.
- Along Came a Spider (2001) ***
Dopey at times. Plot holes.
But watchable overall and has a twist I wasn't expecting.
- Almost Famous (2000) **½
Irksome enough that I gave up after about a half hour. Occasional nice
touches and attention to detail but generally too dopey for my taste.
- American Gangster (2007) ****
Largely the right stuff. The DVD offers a choice of the released
version and an extended version; I watched the latter. Held up
well on repeat viewing.
- American History X (1998) **
I like movies about difficult issues, but this one just oozed ugliness.
Overwrought. I gave up partway through.
- American Hustle (2013) **
Overdone. Cartoonish. Too long.
- American Violet (2008) ***½
Quite powerful at moments.
Some sappiness, but not laid on too thick.
Generally tastefully done—which makes all the difference.
- Amores perros (2000) ***
Mixed bag. Some good cinematography and some I found irksome.
Long (153 minutes) and at times tedious; I fast forwarded through some parts.
I don't mind a thoroughly dark movie but this got a bit extreme.
Truly disturbing scenes of dog‑on‑dog violence, and although we are
assured they were filmed with the utmost care for the dogs' well‑being,
the animals were sedated for some scenes and that rubs me the wrong way.
- An American Crime (2007) ****
Based on a true story.
It's kind of amazing that someone made a movie about something so horrific.
Not quite the right stuff, but it largely gets out of its own way
and lets the story tell itself.
- An Education (2008) ***
Has its moments but overall nothing special.
The prodigal‑child kind of resolution at the end struck me as corny.
- Anatomy of a Murder (1959) ***½
Many shades of gray, making for a nicely complex story.
But I find bumbling‑lawyer characters annoying to watch (even
when they aren't James Stewart, and I find him annoying too).
- And Never Let Her Go (2001) ***½
Creditable dramatization of a true story.
- And Then There Were None (1945) ***½
Largely tastefully made, and the ending was a twist I hadn't anticipated.
Not sure how well it would hold up on a repeat viewing though.
- Angel Heart (1987) ***½
There is no devil—but given that his character is in the film,
Robert De Niro does a fine job playing him.
Dopey premise aside, the movie is largely well-written and constructed.
- Animal Kingdom (2010) ***½
A little slow at points but generally well made.
On a second viewing, a bit bleak even for my taste.
- Arbitrage (2012) ****
A well-written tale about corruption and deceit.
And it's set in New York City.
- Atonement (2007) **
It's slow and I didn't like the style. I gave up after a half hour.
- Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) ***
I found it powerful at points but at other points just plain. Viewers
with more patience (or more of a taste for stories about adolescents)
will probably give it more stars than I did.
- Barbara (2012) **½
- Barton Fink (1991) **
Every character is a caricature. Some interesting themes but
who cares when you're not digging the way it's all presented.
I gave up after about 20 minutes.
- Basic Instinct (1992) **½
Nothing subtle about this one.
And I find Michael Douglas annoying to watch.
- Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) ****½
Masterful. The nonlinear time and repetition are not really my cup
of tea, but the whole thing is so well done that I liked it a lot
even on the third time watching it. Tastefully understated score.
- Behind the Candelabra (2013) ***½
A bold movie, with creditable acting and direction.
I have always found Liberace repulsive,
so it's to the filmmakers' credit that I found this rather watchable.
But as usual with movies based on real life,
I would've appreciated more faithfulness to the true story.
- Bernie (2011) **
Nevermind that it's a black comedy, it's still a Hollywood
comedy in the sense that I found it tedious rather than funny.
The quasi‑documentary format is unimaginative and inapt.
I fast forwarded a bit and then gave up altogether.
- Billy Budd (1962) ****½
Solid movie. Significant themes. Fine cinematography, acting, direction.
And a cute boy.
- Black Book [Zwartboek] (2006) ***
Based on a true story, but takes too many liberties.
- Black Mass (2015) **
Based on a true story, but has a tone I didn't like.
- Black Swan (2010) *½
Ballet (boring), lust (boring), dysfunctional interactions between
an asshole mother and neurotic young adult daughter (why is she still
living with her mom anyway? boring). I gave up about halfway through.
- Black Widow (1987) **½
Starts off sort-of OK but goes off the dopey deep end in how
the two female lead characters end up spending time together.
Occasional nice touches in the writing but largely it's just plain.
Decent score and cinematography (the latter by Conrad Hall).
- Blackhat (2015) *½
As dopey as I feared it would be. Didn't finish it.
- Blast of Silence (1961) **
Voiceover narration all over the place: feh. I gave up early on.
- Blood (2012) ***
Thin story. Decent acting, photography, and score. Annoying editing.
- Blood Diamond (2006) ***
Uninspired mixing of romance and touching love‑for‑family elements
into a thriller. That is to say, too conventional a movie for my taste.
- Blood Simple (1984) ****½
Creditable writing, direction, and cinematography.
Has the attention to detail I appreciate in the Coen brothers' work.
The shot of the dog jumping into the Cadillac is awesome.
Some of the music isn't to my taste, but you can't have everything.
Held up well on repeat viewing.
- Blood Work (2002) **
- Body Heat (1981) ***
The writing varies from cringe-inducing to decent.
To the extent I liked this, it was for the crime and not the sex.
- Body of Lies (2008) ***
Some good acting (Crowe, Strong), some good writing, and some
interesting themes. But it's marred by elements of hackneyed
spy‑movie dopiness, including but not limited to a hokey romance.
- Boomerang! (1947) **
Plodding and dull. I almost always like courtroom scenes
in movies, but the ones in this film are just lackluster.
- Bound (1996) ***½
Dopey at times, and over‑the‑top most of the time.
Good cinematography though, and it held my interest
after the girl‑on‑girl sex was out of the way.
- Box 507 [La Caja 507] (2002) ***
Mixed bag. Some parts engaging, but it's at times
hard to follow and has some inept cinematography.
- Boy A (2007) ****
A lot of strong points. Liked it a lot the first time
but it dragged a bit on a second viewing.
- Boyhood (2014) ***
I like the concept and I give Richard Linklater credit for
taking on so ambitious a project. But I didn't find his
writing all that skillful.
- Breach (2007) **½
So much dopey Hollywood syrup poured on top that you
can scarcely taste the true story it's based on.
- Breaker Morant (1980) **½
Tasteful but often not to my taste; others might like it more.
Good courtroom scenes but the rest was tedious.
I skipped most of the second half.
- Breaking and Entering (2007) **
"The first third of the movie is intelligent and sets up an
intriguing premise. Then the plot takes unconvincing and unlikely
turns that result in an ending that feels false and forced..."
from a newspaper's review, and I concur.
- Brooklyn Castle (2012) ***
Interesting to hear about the school and its chessplayers, but a lot of the
movie dragged. The topic would have made for a decent half‑hour piece.
- Brotherhood (2010) **
Dark sometimes-comedy but not a style of darkness I care for.
Dopey-contrived. And yet largely well photographed, e.g. the red backlighting
on Trevor Morgan's hair at almost a half hour in. And yes, Trevor is
not unpleasant to look at—but please don't watch this just to see him.
- Buck (2011) ****
Full-on mastery of just about anything is worth seeing. If I fault the film it is in its occasional repetition or at
points where I'd like it to spend more time on a scene for the sake of depth.
One reviewer on Netflix gave it two stars because—gasp—Buck has
some unlikeable qualities. Well, go watch fairy‑tale fiction then.
- Bullitt (1968) ****½
Good attention to detail throughout. The car chase by which all others are
measured. Fine score by Lalo Schifrin. Held up well on multiple viewings.
- Burn After Reading (2008) **½
Yeah it's a Coen brothers movie but it's also dopey.
- Cape Fear (1962) ****
Good buildup of tension. Music by Bernard Herrmann.
- Cape Fear (1991) **½
Scorsese remake. Starts out OK but goes over the top—to the point
of being a parody, and not in a manner that I found entertaining.
- Captain Fantastic (2016) *½
Slow paced. I didn't like the tone. Didn't finish it.
- Captain Phillips (2012) ***
Starts out OK but gets Hollywooded-up toward the end.
And the story is not the basis for a standout movie, for me anyway.
- Carancho (2011) **
Decent acting and photography, and it succeeds at capturing the nastiness
and grittiness of various situations. But substance is lacking.
Thin gruel, character and drama‑wise.
- Carlito's Way (1993) *½
Irksome in several ways but I watched it to the end to see how it turned out.
Stupid romance. Numerous hideous disco songs I would rather never hear again.
- Casino (1995) ***½
Has some Scorsesian lapses of taste (e.g., the music
behind dialogue is often distracting) but overall not as flawed
as some other movies of his that I've seen. Benefits from being
based on a true story, if loosely. Lengthy but not gratuitously so.
Creditable acting and cinematography. Excessive narration but other
than that the writing is pretty good. (I tried watching
it again and didn't like it at all.)
- Cassandra's Dream (2007) ***½
Woody Allen shows that having made a ton of films doesn't necessarily
make you masterful at it.
And for someone who plays music himself, he has so‑so taste in scores.
Some decent writing and themes here, but the editing and pacing are rushed.
Allen has milked the story line of murder followed by a guilty conscience
for several films now. Despite all that, a watchable movie.
- Captive [Cautiva] (2005) ****
Too slow‑paced for my taste at some points but it's a powerful enough
story and tastefully enough done that I give it four stars anyway.
Good acting. Music for the sequence (around 25 minutes in) where the
girl runs out of the judge's office is an (uncredited) adaptation of
Béla Bartók's fourth string quartet.
- Catch Me If You Can (2002) **
Didn't finish it. I don't like Spielberg.
I didn't know it was one of his movies when I queued it up.
- Changeling (2008) ***
Malkovich is great but most of the rest of the characters
- Changing Lanes (2002) ***
Started off promising: good direction, good writing, credible action.
But—you know what's coming next—it goes progressively
farther over the top. Three stars in the sense that a chain is as
strong as its weakest link.
- Character [Karakter] (1997) **
Not my kind of period piece. The cinematography is striking but it
calls too much attention to itself. The score was nothing special.
The story bored me enough that I quit after about a half hour.
- Charley Varrick (1973) ****½
Sly, dark, fun. Nice shots of western scenery and skies.
Fine score by Lalo Schifrin.
- Chronicle of an Escape [Cronica de una Fuga] (2006) **
Tedious. I gave up after maybe a half hour.
- Citizen X (1995) ****½
Tastefully and skillfully made. Fascinating on several levels,
not least of which for the insight it gives into life in the USSR.
- Clay Pigeons (1998) ****½
Reminiscent of Fargo (which the director said was an inspiration).
I liked the writing, the cinematography, the western scenery,
elements of the score (not the country music, but they managed
to keep that from being too annoying), and the attention
And...! A young Joaquin Phoenix is on screen a lot, at times unclothed.
- Closed Circuit (2013) ***
Watchable, some good moments, but overall not all that skillfully done.
- Clue (1985) *
Dopey. Didn't watch much of it. I shoulda read the description better.
- Cold Pursuit (2019) **
Inferior remake. Watch the original (In Order of Disappearance) instead.
- Collateral (2004) ***
Starts off OK but gets kinda tedious. The nightclub shootout is cartoonish,
it makes Tom Cruise look like Superman—which is silly because, well,
he is Tom Cruise.
The coyote seen crossing the street wasn't planned; the use of digital cameras
with low‑light capability made it possible to capture it when it happened.
- Compulsion (1959) **½
A lot of the dialogue is 1950s‑corny.
The Jonathan Wilk character (played by Orson Welles) is overdone.
See Hitchcock's Rope instead.
- Confidence (2003) ***
Complicated cons-upon-cons, in a dopey style complete
with voiceover narration (in a smug tone, no less).
I liked it OK the first time, which was after watching a string
of duds so I was happy to see something a notch above awful.
- Conspiracy (2001) ****
Well written, acted, and photographed.
A chilling story of how consent was enforced.
- Counter Investigation [Contre-enquête] (2007) ***½
Direction and writing are less than first-rate
but the tone is OK and the story kept my interest.
- Cracks (2009) ***
A bit slow, a bit thin, and not really up my alley.
But beautifully photographed and largely tastefully made.
- Crash (2005) **½
- Criminal Activities (2015) **½
Comedic (which is to say largely dopey) take on a crime film,
but it wasn't bad enough to make me give up on it.
Big twist at the end that tries to be clever.
- Crush (2013) *½
Juvenile and banal. I didn't last long enough to watch
the twist that they say happens in the tail end.
- Criminal (2004) **½
Lacks the refined writing/acting/direction of the original (Nine Queens).
I only watched about 1/3 of it. It is so‑so right from the get‑go,
and I saw no reason to expect it would improve in the parts I didn't watch.
- Crimson Tide (1995) ***
Overdone and preposterous. Various dopey and/or irksome touches
the heavy-handed colored lighting effects,
the fucking choir music, ... ).
Creditable performances by Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, though.
- Crooked House (2017) **
I didn't like the period-piece tone and gave up on it early.
- Croupier (1998) ****
Sly, detached tone: the antithesis of sappy.
Good writing and acting. I have no interest in gambling
and yet I liked this. Held up well on a second viewing.
- Dead Calm (1989) **
Thin story. Good photography and occasional engaging scenes,
but it goes progressively farther off the deep end.
The dopiness of the final scene is off the scale.
- Deadline (2004) ***
OK (but not exceptional) documentary. Good subject matter.
- Deathtrap (1982) *
Irksome characters and tone: unwatchable.
- Deliverance (1972) ****½
A ballsy movie; e.g, the actors did almost
all the action shots rather than using stunt doubles.
Fine cinematography. And yes, interesting themes too.
- Derailed (2005) ***
Preposterous and crude plot elements but has decent writing and acting.
- Dersu Uzala (1975) [Дерсу Узала] ***
Touching story if a bit simplistic.
Romanticizes the Dersu character somewhat more than I would've liked.
I didn't think the cinematography was as striking as it's cracked up to be.
- Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) ***
The realistic parts are realistic and the stupid parts are stupid.
- Dinner Rush (2000) ****½
Well written, acted, and photographed.
Not primarily a comedy (and not dopey) and yet at times funny indeed.
Proof that you don't have to spend money on sets
(the action almost all takes place in one restaurant)
and effects to make a fine movie. And the soundtrack uses
to good effect. I mean, what's not to like.
- Dirty Harry (1971) **
Cartoonish. At times the writing makes you wanna wince.
Tedious action sequences. SF scenery and a Lalo Schifrin score are
squandered on a dopey movie. See Bullitt instead,
it's a classier film.
- Dirty Pretty Things (2002) ***
Started out really promising but turned somewhat tedious.
Somewhat absurd at points. Creditable cinematography.
A bit too much of a love story for my taste.
- Dirty Wars (2013) ***½
Strong subject matter and some good interviews,
but the movie is too much about the reporter.
- Disconnect (2012) *½
Unimaginative boring scenarios of pitfalls of various online activities.
I didn't finish it.
- Disgrace (2012) ***½
I liked some aspects of it but somehow the whole falls short of great.
Malkovich does a fine job playing a peculiar, intense character.
I found his daughter's character less credible (although some reviewers
who are familiar with South Africa disagree with me on this).
- Dolores Claiborne (1995) ***
The Vera Donovan and Detective Mackey characters are overdone, as is
the dramatic flourish of killing someone during an eclipse of the sun.
And it's at times tedious—which is to say, the style of the movie
wasn't enough to my liking to make the slow parts enjoyable.
- Donnie Brasco (1997) ***
Generally well made but for several reasons not really up my alley.
Part of it is that I find Al Pacino's style irksome. And
the movie deviates from the true story in ways I don't care for.
- Dream Lover (1994) **
I'm embarrassed. I liked this the first time for some reason and wrote
a complimentary review here. But on a second viewing I found it a disaster.
My apologies to anyone who watched it on the basis of my earlier review.
- Drive (2011) **
The car chases are OK but the rest of the movie didn't do it for me.
The color has the look of a poster that's been in the sun for years.
- Double Indemnity (1944) ****½
My first thought was, why give away so much of the story in the narration
right at the start. I still have to wonder if the device of intercutting
the story with the recording of the confession makes it a weaker film than
it could have been if the story just played out. But why quibble when
everything is so well done. And can I just say that Edward G. Robinson
- Double Jeopardy (1999) ***
Farfetched, contrived, at times sappy, and just not all that skillfully done.
- Drugstore Cowboy (1989) ***
The style and tone didn't grab me.
Lots of voiceover narration.
Worth seeing for the scenes with William S. Burroughs though.
- Eastern Promises (2007) ***½
A Cronenberg film I got after seeing A History of Violence.
It has its strengths—although now after two such films, I've had
enough of his brand of violence. Watchable, but not one I'd see again.
- Easy Money [Snabba cash] (2010) ***
Bleak but not quite the kind of bleak I like. Jumpy editing.
Cinematography (exposure, color) at times not to my taste either.
But enough unlike usual US thrillers to be watchable.
- El Lobo (2004) **
Didn't finish it. I didn't like the tone and writing.
Based on a true story which I suspect could have been made into a strong movie.
- Elevator to the Gallows (a.k.a. Frantic) [Ascenseur pour l'échafaud] (1958) ***½
Good maybe ½ the time, otherwise tedious.
Unrealistic attempted joint suicide scene.
Miles Davis' score is occasionally apt—but only occasionally.
- Elite Squad [Tropa de Elite] (2007) **½
Jumbled and didn't hold my interest. I gave up partway through.
- 11:14 (2003) ****
Good indie flick; a creditable effort for a young director.
As a review put it, the "He establishes a difficult tone —
part dramatic, part comic, part absurdist — and he maintains
it throughout." Nice attention to detail at many points. Tastefully
Held up only OK
on a second viewing though.
- Enemy of the State (1998) **½
Starts off promising but quickly goes all Hollywood‑dopey.
Completely implausible action. Cartoonish government agents
(geeks and brutes). No attention to getting details right.
Gratuitous sappiness (Will Smith's marital problems resolve so you
can feel happy).
- Enigma (2001) ***
Not a bad film by any means, but I just couldn't get
all that involved in this one. I found neither the
romance nor the intrigue all that exciting.
- Entrapment (1999) *½
I woulda known to skip this, had I realized how much it's about the
attraction between Connery's and ζ‑Jones' characters.
And setting the romance aside, the rest is generally uninspired Hollywood fare.
- Equus (1977) ***
I saw the play on Broadway and watched the movie (well, DVD) 35 years later.
Peter Firth's dick doesn't look as big in the film as I remember
it having looked on stage—but lots of things don't seem as big
now as they did when I was a kid.
- Erased (2012) ***½
Has less of the tone that I don't like about modern thrillers
than usual, but enough of it to fall short of four stars.
Decent writing with some nice touches. Score tries a little bit too hard.
- Experiment in Terror (1962) ***½
I see this as a bit of a wry caricature of film noir. The good
guys drive white cars and the bad (or suspected) guys drive black ones.
Striped light—a staple noir motif—is overplayed to amusing effect.
Henri Mancini's score is delightfully sly. A few tense moments
are tongue‑in‑cheek; some look sinister at first
but turn out to be benign, others are just comic‑book‑like.
I was entertained—it's generally the right stuff—but
I'm not sure how well it would hold up on multiple viewings.
- Eye in the Sky (2015) **
Yes it shows how people of all walks of life deal with warfare
but I didn't care for how much formulaic thriller tone was used.
And it's a bit drawn out,
milking a single event for a longer running time than it needed.
- Eyes Wide Shut (1999) ***½
Some Stanley Kubrick movies seem to get better with time, but this one only
a little bit. It's still a thin story and it still stars Tom Cruise.
But it is well‑written given the concept, and the lighting
and camerawork are often stunningly great. Set design is a mixed bag:
the interiors are great but the exteriors look like imitation
New York City streets (because that's what they are).
How well this film was received varied by country,
so I imagine that to some sensibilities it is a worthwhile story.
- Fail-Safe (1964) ***½
Creditable direction. I'm not a fan of Henry Fonda though.
If you're either going to see this or Dr. Strangelove,
go with Strangelove.
- Fair Game (2010) ***½
Based on a true story and reasonably faithful thereto. I liked it pretty
well on the first viewing but it was just fair on the second.
- Farewell [L'affaire Farewell] (2009) ***
Has its moments, but overall didn't excite me.
And I detest Queen.
- Fatal Attraction (1987) **
Dopey-melodramatic. Has flourishes that someone probably thought were clever
(e.g., intercutting the roller-coaster ride with the car accident). Feh.
- Fateless [Sorstalanság] (2005) ****
Honest and artistic. Fine cinematography.
Marcell Nagy is outstanding in the main role.
Warning: some parts are slow‑paced by design,
and portray the tedium of captivity.
- Fear and Trembling [Stupeur et Tremblements] (2003) **½
Starts off promising but goes off the deep end.
- Felony (2013) ***½
Nothing special in the way of plot (and it
gets a bit contrived toward the end).
But I liked the writing and acting.
- Fermat's Room [La habitación de Fermat] (2007) **
Dopey. Contrived. Didn't finish it.
- Find Me Guilty (2006) ***½
Generally entertaining (with lots of courtroom dialogue taken from real life),
but the Jack DiNorscio character gets a bit grating to watch. The music
mixed with dialogue (done mostly in some opening scenes) is annoying as well.
- 5 Fingers (1952) ***
Not all that exciting, although it
has a fair amount of nicely sly writing.
Based on a true story but takes liberties,
including adding a gratuitous romance.
- Five Fingers (2006) ***½
Decent concept, good performance by Laurence Fishburne.
I give it credit for not being in the hackneyed thriller
style that relies on chases, gunfire, and so on.
Relies more on flashbacks than I prefer.
Has some plot holes and other inattention to detail.
- Flame and Citron [Flammen & Citronen] (2008) ***
The cinematography tries to be striking but it often just isn't the
right stuff. With all due respect to the true story this is based on,
the film is tedious.
- Flight (2012) **
Hollywood-preposterous. Too much talk about fate and God and stuff.
And I don't care to watch intoxicated people, for real or on screen.
- Following (1998) ***
Some interesting writing and plot twists, but at times implausible or flat.
Annoying non‑linear chronology.
Low‑budget production values.
- Fracture (2007) ***½
Preposterous and in several ways overdone—but entertaining enough.
- Free Men [Les Hommes libres] (2011) **
Lackluster, boring. Decent cinematography though.
- Frost/Nixon (2008) ***½
Engaging and fun, but disturbingly flawed because of some deviations
from the true story. The filmmakers said (in a DVD extra) that
they deem it faithful to the history—if only.
- Frozen River (2008) ***½
Not an especially ambitious movie but tastefully done for what it is.
- Gattaca (1997) **
Dopey. Didn't finish it.
- Get Low (2009) ****
Dragged a little at times but the good parts are well written
and often quite funny.
- Get Out (2017) *
Horror films usually aren't my cup of tea but there are exceptions and
this one was well-received. I watched about half of it because the
writing, direction, and cinematography are creditable and it doesn't
start to get horror-movie dopey until the second half. I can't even
give the movie credit for dealing with a difficult and significant
issue (racism) because it doesn't do so in a dignified manner. In my
- Gideon's Trumpet (1980) ***
Interesting piece of history but not all that engaging a film to watch.
- Gloomy Sunday [Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod] (1999) **½
Even if I went for romance in movies in general,
the love triangle element here is boring and thin.
As a movie about the Nazi era, it's OK but nothing special.
As a melodrama about life and death it's dopey,
with talk about angels and such.
I didn't care for the song the story is centered on, which matters
when it's played over and over. The best music-related thing
in the film is the photo of Bartók on the wall at 26:54.
- Goat (2016) *
I detested the tone and gave up early on.
Reviews say there are interesting themes if
you stick with this one through to the end,
but that promise wasn't enough to make me watch it.
- Gone Girl (2014) ***
Kept my interest but more melodramatic than I usually like.
And there's a fair amount of dopey stuff that I find annoying to watch
(e.g., TV talk shows figure prominently). Affleck's character sticking
with the girl in the end struck me as preposterous.
- Good Kill (2014) **
Some people think it's a thoughtful movie about (drone) warfare but I found
the tone and writing uninspired. Didn't finish it.
- Good Neighbors (2010) **
Dopey. Watching a dweeb character like Victor is not my idea of a good time.
I chapter‑skipped through most of it.
- Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) ***
Fine black and white cinematography, great performance
by David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow. But I found
it to be a thin movie. The subject matter deserved more
- Goodbye Solo (2008) ***½
A story well written, well directed, well photographed, and—mirabile
dictu—understated, but not a story I found all that engaging.
One of the two main characters is depressed as hell and sits around watching
TV and smoking cigarettes in the last weeks before his intended date to commit
suicide. He is impeccably played (by Red West) but there comes a point where
watching such a character becomes tedious.
- Gorky Park (1983) ***
The plot didn't keep me all that interested.
Nothing big is at stake—I mean, sables?
That said, the style and writing are decent.
- Grand Slam (1967) **½
Maybe if you haven't already seen n other heist movies, this might
be entertaining. Some nice foreign locations but they don't save what
is essentially a thin movie.
- Grande École (2004) *½
Not just tedious and pretentions, but French tedious and pretentious.
I gave up around halfway through. Yes it's got male nudity,
swimmers' bodies even, but if that is the best thing about the movie
(and in this case it is) you might as well watch porn.
- Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) *½
Not sure why I attempted watching a movie described as "romantic comedy".
It was as dopey as you'd expect. I didn't finish it.
- Hannibal (2001) ***
Generally good writing, acting, direction, cinematography.
But (like others in the series) it is over the top, in this
case featuring over‑the‑top gore. Give me Hitchcock,
who could imply rather than resort to graphic scenes.
Held up only so-so on a repeated viewing.
- Hannibal Rising (2007) **½
Plodding, repetitious (multiple dream flashbacks), and generally
less interesting than other installments in the series. That said—there
are occasional strong moments, and Gaspard Ulliel is not unpleasant to look at.
- Hara-Kiri [切腹] (1962) ***½
The gimmick of a lone hero prevailing in battle
(albeit temporarily in this case) despite being greatly
outnumbered evidently transcends culture and time.
Other than that, it's tastefully made—but just not
enough of my cup of tea to rate 4+ stars.
- Hard Candy (2005) **
Preposterous, contrived, crude. Some decent writing and some amateurish
writing, but never plausible. Creditable acting by the girl; too bad her
talent wasn't used for a better film.
- Harry Brown (2009) **½
Slow paced but not in a way that achieves depth. Characters and
their relationships could be more developed if less time were spent
on slow dialogue‑free scenes (some of the characters, anyway;
the lowlife youths were not so interesting). There are strong
moments but not enough to make me wanna rate this highly.
- Haywire (2012) ***½
From the tail end of Soderbergh's directing career,
this has the feeling of someone going through the motions.
Watchable, fun even, but light entertainment. The style
of the score is in keeping with the lightweightness of the
movie but is reasonably well done for what it is.
Soderbergh was also the DP
(credited with a pseudonym); he is evidently not annoyed
by barrel distortion, or maybe even likes it.
- Heat (1995) ***½
172 minutes, which is somewhat longer than it needed to be.
Generally competently made—but it's conventional material.
- Headhunters [Hodejegerne] (2011) ***½
Starts off nicely but goes over the top after a while, although it has
a different flavor than standard Hollywood over‑the‑top so
that adds some interest. Tongue‑in‑cheek at times with
some fun touches. Dopey sappy ending.
- Heist (2001) ***½
Good performance by Gene Hackman.
Some reviewers find the writing dreadful and some find
it playful and entertaining; I'm in the latter camp.
It's farfetched and at times predictable, yes—but
there are also some interesting flavors in the mix.
- Hell or High Water (2016) ****½
Strong movie. Good attention to detail, although not as masterfully done
as, say, No Country for Old Men.
- High Anxiety (1977) ***
Mel Brooks is not really my cup of tea. For one,
he doesn't do understatement. And despite all the references,
this has just about none of the style I like in Hitchcock's work.
- High and Low [天国と地獄] (1963) ****
Masterful in its best aspects. Held up OK in a
repeat viewing although a couple parts dragged.
- High Sierra (1941) **
Corny. I don't know what people who say this is one of
Bogart's best are smoking. Has scenes filmed around Lone Pine.
- Hitchcock (2012) ****
Great subject matter.
Creditable writing/acting/direction, if a notch below what would've made it
awesome. A longer movie that went into more depth would've been nice.
- House of Games (1987) ***
Stylish, and has some interesting themes—but I found
the writing amateurish.
- Hopscotch (1980) ****
Fun. Well written. An exception to the rule
that I usually find comedies dopey and tedious.
It helps that it's a spy‑movie/comedy hybrid,
with the comedy angle restrained.
Held up well on a second viewing.
- Howard's End (1992) **
Some clever and interesting dialogue from time to time, but overall
I am not interested in watching the precious lives and manners
of the high society types who are the subjects of this story. I lasted
about 40 minutes and gave up. Who knows, maybe it gets better later on.
- I ♥ Huckabees (2004) **
Potentially interesting themes, funny at moments, but overall not
the type of silliness I enjoy. I gave up after about 20 minutes.
- I Witness (2003) **¾
Clumsy in its lack of nuance (Mexico=corrupt, corporation=evil, ...).
The first word of dialogue is "dude", incidentally.
- Ice Station Zebra (1968) **½
Nothing special, and in some aspects dopey.
Long. Ernest Borgnine's character is irksome to watch.
Sets and special effects look cheap. The score wasn't to my taste.
Just because Howard Hughes was obsessed with this film doesn't
mean it's worth seeing to find out why.
- Identity (2003) **
Dopey, yet I watched it to the end.
- Illegal (1955) ***
Silly, corny, and sappy—but the writing is
good enough to make it watchable. Edward Platt (Chief from Get Smart)
plays a District Attorney. DeForest Kelley (Dr McCoy) is killed off
in the first reel.
- Ikiru [生きる] (1952) **
Too much of a caricature for my taste. It has some of the tastefulness
I like in Kurosawa films but not enough. I gave up after about a half hour.
- In a Better World [Hævnen] (2010) ****
Striking cinematography, good acting. The subject matter is intense,
normally a good thing in my book but in this case it's laid on a
little thicker than I would've preferred.
- In Bruges (2008) ***½
Some good writing and at times quite funny, but the violence
and crudeness are unpleasant in a way reminiscent of Tarantino.
The Catholic elements are tedious for a heathen like me.
The score demonstrates that there is such a thing
as too much use of divisible-by-three meter(s).
- In Order of Disappearance [Kraftidioten] (2016) ****
Dark humor, more tasteful than (for example) the film listed above
(In Bruges). Nice attention to detail.
- In The Bedroom (2001) ***
One hour's worth of story dragged out to two hours.
The end is striking but you have to endure a pile of tedium first.
- In The Electric Mist (2009) **½
Reminiscent of the Jesse Stone series but not as fine (and there's no dog).
The writing is often amateurish. Surreal/delusional scenes: feh.
- In The House [Dans la maison] (1967) ***
Melodramatic and a bit contrived, but it held my attention.
- In The Heat of the Night (1967) *****
Perhaps overdone or implausible at some points, but why quibble
when the acting, cinematography, and direction are this good.
- In The Line of Fire (1993) *½
I detested the writing and gave up after 25 minutes.
A movie about Secret Service agents that is unrealistic
at just about every turn is not my cup of tea.
- In The Valley of Elah (2006) ***½
Mixed bag. On the plus side, the acting, cinematography, score,
and writing are generally strong. On the other side, it's at
times heavy‑handed, and in some aspects Hollywooded‑up.
- Inherit the Wind (1960) **½
"Old Time Religion" and "Glory, Glory Halleluia" sung ad nauseam.
Weakened by fictionalization (e.g., giving the teacher a sweetheart,
and having the sweetheart be the preacher's daughter)—
as if the real‑life story wasn't interesting or dramatic enough
in its own right. Feh.
Good performance by Spencer Tracy, though.
- Inside Man (2006) ***½
Decent heist flick.
Curious mixture: largely believable action but a farfetched premise.
- Intimate Strangers [Confidences Trop Intimes] (2004) **½
OK premise, reasonably good acting, and some not‑bad writing.
But it's tedious in a characteristically French way, with
irksome cinematography (wobbly cameras, barrel distortion,
what-were-they-thinking camera placements, ... ).
- Insomnia (2002) ***
Nothing special, and at times irksome.
- Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
[Indagine su un Cittadino Al Di Sopra Di Ogni Sospetto] (1970) **
Bizarre surreal commentary on authority and dissent.
Has the occasional OK sequence but was mostly irksome and/or tedious.
So-so cinematography, annoying score.
- J. Edgar (2011) **½
Too much story to try to tell in one movie.
And the faded colors are annoying.
- Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) **
Dopey. Didn't finish it.
- Jack Strong (2015) ***
Based on a real cold‑war story. So-so writing and editing.
But I liked the cinematography and the score,
and there's decent suspense in the last half hour.
- Jackie Brown (1997) ***
A better balance of Tarantino's skill versus his smarminess than, say,
Pulp Fiction. I liked it better on the first viewing than the second.
Irksome choppy editing.
- Jesse Stone: [various] (2005-2012) ****½
Creditable writing, cinematography, music, and acting.
Tastefully understated much of the time, although there are some elements of
Hollywood excess (which I can forgive because everything is so well done).
Features a remarkably subtle role for a
- Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) ***½
Thoughtful treatment of significant issues. Fine acting.
But various points of style (sappy music, the same camera motions
in scene after scene, ...) grated on me—and for three hours.
- Judgment in Berlin (1988) ***½
Strong (true) story. The dramatization and direction are serviceable
but nothing special.
- Just Cause (1995) **½
The first half was strong, with nice attention to detail.
The second half goes all Hollywood-preposterous and overdone,
leaving me no choice but to give it a sub-three-star rating
for how it squanders what could have been a decent film.
- Kill The Irishman (2011) ***½
I can't remember a movie that made me laugh as much at explosions
as this one did. I don't know quite how they did it,
but every time a car bomb goes off (which is pretty often) it's funny.
Not an awesome film, but kept my interest the whole way.
- Kill The Messenger (2014) **
I found the tone and writing irksome and gave up on it.
The story it's based on interests me, I just didn't like this movie.
- Killing Them Softly (2012) ***½
Mixed bag; some parts shine but there are also some dull moments and some
lapses of excess. It gets tedious when it tries to be visually artsy
(by means of slo-mo and/or visual effects that try to mimic drug-induced
perceptual changes). I found a lot of the music irksome.
The background TV chatter about 2008 politics spoils the mood of some scenes,
and to the extent it served any thematic point it could have done so without
having to subject the viewer to it so many times. But at its best, the movie
is finely crafted: smart writing, dry humor, good direction and acting.
- Knuckleball! (2012) ****
Baseball was never a big interest of mine, and
I haven't followed pro sports in general since I was a kid.
Yet I liked this movie, largely because it's about an oddball (pun intended)
type of player.
- Kumaré (2011) ***½
A man pretends to be a guru: arguably unethical, but you don't have
to feel bad about watching it. The climax—where he reveals his
deceit to his followers—has genuine suspense to it.
Some of what the experiment reveals is predictable, some not.
The film is somewhat longer than it needed to be.
- L.A. Confidential (1997) **
Overdone. Cartoonish. Nice score by Jerry Goldsmith though.
- Lantana (2001) ***½
Good acting and some interesting themes, but the movie as a
whole is nothing special. And what was the point in having
the shrink write a book about her daughter, besides contriving
a situation for her to give that speech early in the movie?
- Last Will (2011) *½
Cringe-inducingly bad writing. Cartoonish villians.
Moon Unit Zappa plays a lawyer.
- Laura (1944) ***½
Some absorbing moments and some tedious ones. Some interesting characters
and some dull ones. Your first guess as to whodunit will be correct.
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962) ***
Well made, but not my favorite genre (I'm not big on epics, nor most
military themed movies). Notable for having an all-male cast (speaking parts)
and for how the hero is attended by not-unpleasant-looking teenage dudes.
- Layer Cake (2004) **½
At times convoluted, contrived, and preposterous.
I liked it OK the first time but not on a second.
- Le Doulos (a.k.a. The Finger Man) (1962) ***
Some nice writing, acting, photography, and direction, but the
plot got tedious for me. Unimaginative bad‑guys‑die ending.
- Le Samourai (1967) ***½
Good writing, nice attention to detail, but there are too many segments
of nothing interesting going on (i.e., they are not so skillfully
photographed and scored and edited to make them a pleasure anyway).
Fast forward is your friend.
- Les Diaboliques (1954) ****
Well-constructed movie, although some points dragged on a repeat viewing.
Has a scene with a teenage dude in wet underwear.
- Léon: The Professional (1994) ***
Starts out promising but turns preposterous and over‑the‑top.
That said, there's good direction, photography, and acting.
- Lone Star (1996) ***
When the main character is involved in detective work that the audience
can already see is potentially opening a Pandora's box, someone says to
him (ostensibly about an encounter with a snake), "Gotta be careful where
you go pokin'—who knows what you'll find." Well, duh.
- Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) ***
I liked it the first time but it didn't hold up well on a repeat.
- Locke (2014) **
I couldn't get interested in the situation the main (and only visible)
character is in. I watched about 30 minutes and then skipped to the end.
But it's probably the best movie that takes place entirely within
an automobile, like how Mister Ed was the best sitcom about a talking horse.
- Lord of War (2005) **
- Lore (2012) **½
Some striking moments but in between it just drags.
Too many shots of trudging through the landscape
and not enough character development.
The strong parts are pretty strong but I can't give a lot of stars
to a movie that had me reaching for fast forward a fair amount.
Visually not as crisp as I'd like (it was shot in super 16mm).
- Love Crime [Crime d'amour] (2010) ****
Kept me interested throughout. Good direction and cinematography.
Preposterous at times; I saw that as satire/parody on the first
viewing and as just plain preposterousness on a second viewing,
which is not to say I didn't enjoy it a second time, but rather
just saw it a little differently.
- Lucky (2017) *
Couldn't get into it at all. Was slow and the cinematography was plain.
- Lucky Number Slevin (2006) **
Neither as clever nor as funny as it tries to be.
- Lust, Caution [色戒] (2007) ***½
A bit tedious at points but otherwise a strong movie.
- Magnolia (1999) **
It started out promising but the themes weren't all
that interesting to me and neither were the characters.
I gave up on it after watching about 25%
(a fair amount of time; it's a loooong movie).
Tom Cruise's act is painful to watch.
- Man From Reno (2014) ****
A little uneven but generally stylish and nicely understated.
- Manhunter (1986) **
Cheesy grandiose tone.
- Marathon Man (1976) ***½
Enjoy the photography, music, and direction when they are good—and
don't mind the plot holes, dopey climactic sequence, and so on.
(although I didn't like it much on a repeat viewing)
- Margin Call (2011) **
Dopey. Starts with some realistic scenes and then goes off the deep end.
- Maria Full of Grace [María llena eres de gracia] (2004) ***
Generally tasteful, but nothing special.
- Match Point (2005) ****
Good writing and cinematography. Unmistakably the work of Woody Allen,
who I find sharp at times and tedious at others; fortunately this film
is more of the former (although I could've done without all the opera).
It benefits from Allen not appearing on screen.
- Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012) ****
There are a number of documentaries on child molestation in
the Catholic church, but this is not just a repetition of
what I've seen elsewhere. It shows how long-standing and
entrenched the rot is and how much the church has tried
to cover up and evade responsibility.
- Matchstick Men (2003) ****
Has various tedious silly‑comedic elements
and yet is otherwise well enough done that I liked it anyway. It is a drama
and character study first and a comedy second, which made the difference.
- Memento (2000) ***
It may be a fair depiction of memory impairment but the action is farfetched
in several ways. I don't mind a story about a confused person, but I'm not a
fan of cinematic gimmicks (backwards chronology, shifts between black+white and
color, ...) that evoke a feeling of confusion in the audience as well.
- Michael (2011) **½
A reasonably thoughtful treatment of difficult
subject matter as far as it goes, but it's slow and thin.
- Michael Clayton (2007) *****
Tastefully done with good attention to detail.
Powerful ending. Fine performance by George Clooney.
Held up very well on repeat viewings. The copy shop twink
is played by the son of the director/writer.
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) ****
I liked it a lot the first time but found some elements of it
tedious on a second viewing. I never read the book so I can't
complain that the movie isn't as good.
- Miller's Crossing (1990) **½
The violence is overwrought (risibly so in several machine‑gun scenes)
and the plot is overly complicated. I thought this had very little of
the magic I prized in the better Coen brothers films I've seen.
I like the greeting "what's the rumpus" though.
- Mirage (1965) **
Dopey overall although the writing is skilled at some points.
I tried this after reading reviews that likened it to Hitchcock.
Problem is, it's like bad Hitchcock.
- Misery (1990) *
A true horror story in the sense that I would find it hellish to
spend time with Kathy Bates' character. Problem is, I found it
just about as hellish to watch said character on screen. Huge gulf between
critical/popular reception and what I thought of this movie.
- Moneyball (2011) ***
Way too conventional a movie for my taste.
- Monsieur Hire (1989) ***
The pace is way too languid. Cinematography is often just so‑so
(and a number of shots show a truly annoying amount of barrel distortion).
But the film has an interesting premise and a powerful conclusion.
- Mr. Brooks (2007) ***
Crude, but I watched it to the end anyway.
- Murder in the First (1995) ***
At times grating, e.g. Christian Slater's rookie lawyer character is at
times painful to watch. At times tedious, e.g. all the talk about baseball.
And it's got a number of steadicam or shot‑from‑above
sequences that try to be striking but are just annoying.
- Murder on a Sunday Morning (2001) ****
Creditable documentary, with effective use of actual courtroom footage.
- Murder on the Orient Express (1974) ***½
Largely the right stuff. Great script and acting. Things that might annoy
me in other movies (precious characters, contrivedness) were tolerable here
because I liked the movie's tone and style so much. I liked it better on
the first viewing than on a repeat.
- My Kid Could Paint That (2007) ****
Thought-provoking and largely well made documentary. I would've
done a few things differently but I can forgive a lot because the
director ended up in a more difficult position than he'd anticipated.
- Mysterious Skin (2004) *
Painful to watch not because of the subject matter but because of how
amateurish the screenplay was. I gave up after about 15 minutes.
- Network (1976) *
A friend summed this up quite well as
"A whole lot of nothing."
I gave up partway through.
- New World [신세계] (2013) ****
Fine cinematography, acting, and score.
A little hard to follow at the start but that didn't affect understanding
the rest of the movie. Over the top at points but the cultural
differences between this and what we're used to from movies about
criminals in the West made it fresh. That said, there are some
familiar tropes—e.g. the bad guys drive fancy black cars.
But they're Korean-made fancy black cars.
- Night Moves (1975) **½
Muddled and at times risibly implausible plot;
I had lost interest by the time the final twist(s) came.
Tries hard to be deep and symbolic.
Dopey pun on the title and chess knights.
Creepy sexuality: underage (female) nudity.
- Nine Queens [Nueve Reinas] (2000) ****
Fun. Wry humor and good writing make it more than just another caper movie.
- No Country for Old Men (2007) *****
The right stuff. Quality writing, acting, directing, and cinematography.
Haunting. Some people don't like this movie, complaining about
"no redemption" and an ending that is neither happy nor tidy.
Well, life is like that.
- No Night is Too Long (2002) **½
I normally don't go for movies about relationships but at least this one
has murder thrown in. Not a bad story, but nothing special. Low rating
because of the tedious pacing—it's twice as long as it needs to be.
- Notes on a Scandal (2006) ***
I'm having a hard time describing what I didn't like about this one.
I don't mind that it deals with taboo subjects, and the acting
is generally good. But overall I found it just so‑so.
- Not Safe for Work (2014) ***
Dopey and fairly trivial.
But it had enough style for me to watch it (although by the
end I was wishing I had given up on it).
- Nothing but the Truth (2008) ***½
Watchable but a mixed bag.
Less dopey than the usual Hollywood treatment but that's not saying much.
Well written much of the time but lapses into some truly irksome touches
(e.g., Alan Alda's character's cartoonish vanity).
- Now You See Me (2013) ***
Dopey-overdone. Plot twists you can see coming a mile away. Good cast though.
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) **
Not my style of silly comedy. I gave up after about a half hour.
I suppose it's better if you like bluegrass music.
The Coen brothers' skills are in evidence but do not carry the day.
- Ocean's Eleven (2001) ***
Decent writing and direction but nothing new or imaginative.
- One Hour Photo (2002) **
Tedious, so‑so writing, and watching Robin Williams'
character was just irksome (I'm not a fan of RW in general).
I gave up after about 20 minutes.
- Our Kind of Traitor (2016) **½
Based on a John le Carré book, so on the plus side:
it's more about intrigue and characters than about gadgets and chases.
But it's dopey (the premise of picking someone at random
to hand information to MI6 is inane). And it's sappier
than a spy movie should be.
- Our Man in Havana (1959) ***½
Silly (as most comedies are) but dark and well‑written
enough for my taste.
- Out of Sight (1998) ***
Fucking stupid romance, as hokey as the romance in Three Days of the Condor
that the dialogue makes reference to. The rest of the movie is contrived
as well. It's Soderbergh, so it's watchable—but great it's not.
- Out of the Past (1947) ****
Solid film noir. Perhaps a couple too many plot twists for my taste,
but well written/acted/photographed. And...! Scenes shot in
Bridgeport, California, including several of the courthouse!
- Owning Mahowny (2003) **
Gambling addiction, presented in a way that I found uninteresting.
I skipped a few chapters and then gave up altogether.
- Panic (2000) ***
Dark comedy/drama with a plot whose ending you can guess a mile away.
At some moments well written but at others the dopey kind of comedy
that isn't my cup of tea. The romance (between William Macy and
a woman half his age—yikes) is painful to watch.
- Paper Moon (1973) **
Fine black & white cinematography
but the story and tone bored me. I gave up after about a half hour.
- Papillon (1973) ***½
Based on an exaggerated autobiography and thus larger than life.
But it's well written and has a fine score by Jerry Goldsmith.
A bit long and drawn out.
- Patriot Games (1992) **
Uninspired writing. I gave up partway through.
- Phone Booth (2002) **
- Point Blank (1967) *½
A dreamy film, in the sense that the style either grabs you or not.
For me, largely not. Didn't finish it.
- Point Blank [À Bout Portant] (2010) **½
Thriller with relentless action, leaving no time for character
development and the like. Thus, a thin movie.
- Presumed Innocent (1990) ****
Solid movie. Weak points include a John Williams score (not my cup
of tea) and an ending that seems more artificial and less plausible
than the rest of the movie. But it's tastefully written and directed,
and Harrison Ford does a fine job in the main role.
- Primal Fear (1996) ***
I liked this the first time but only so-so on trying it again.
The writing is dopey at times, e.g. some of the
courtroom scenes are preposterous. Creditable cinematography though.
- Prisoners (2013) **
I didn't like the characters or the tone. Didn't finish it.
- Proof (2005) ***
I didn't find the premise to be all that interesting.
I didn't like the nonlinear chronology.
I didn't care for how Anthony Hopkins plays this role.
The score is OK but repetitive (I like 7/8 time but enough is enough).
Creditable cinematography though.
- Proof of Life (2000) **
Too conventional a movie for my taste. I didn't finish it.
- Public Enemies (2009) **
Too much time spent on scenes of waiting or gunfighting
and not enough spent on developing the characters.
- Puncture (2011) ***
Based on a true and largely interesting story but not translated
into a particularly compelling work of film.
- Pusher (1996) *½
Dope dealers do nasty things to deadbeat customers. The main character
is involved with a girl who has a dog that gets sick. You now know
everything that goes on in the film and don't need to see it.
- Pushover (1954) ***½
Watchable if not outstanding noir-ish film.
Nice black and white cinematography.
- Quiz Show (1994) ****
Strong subject matter and generally tastefully made.
It irks me, though, when a movie about the very theme of deception
takes liberties for the sake of dramatic effect.
- Rashomon [羅生門] (1950) ***½
Has the insight into human nature that I appreciate
in Kurosawa's work but I found it somewhat tedious. The cinematography
is admirable but we see the same settings over and over. The acting is
melodramatic. The pace is deliberate (fast forward helps at points).
Yes it's an important movie and yes it's thoughtful but as a Westerner
I didn't find it all that engaging to watch.
- Reasonable Doubt (2014) **
Dopey, and in an ugly way.
- Red Dragon (2002) ***
Any installment in this series is going to be a ways over the top,
even if skillfully made. The first time I watched it, I thought it
had fewer weaknesses than The Silence of The Lambs, but on
a repeat viewing I found much of it tedious.
- Red Eye (2005) **
Supporting roles are full of unimaginative caricature-like characters.
Got a lot of good reviews from critics for some strange reason.
- Red Rock West (1993) ***½
Good acting and cinematography.
Starts out nicely understated but veers, unfortunately, into excess.
- Red State (2011) **
Caricature, and not an especially tasteful or skillfully made one.
- Rendition (2007) ****
Creditable writing, directing, acting, and cinematography.
A little too much emotion in the mix for my taste, though;
I could've done without the somewhat implausible youthful
romance subplot. But a thoughtful movie nonetheless.
- Reykjavik to Rotterdam (2008) ****
Shady (and violent) characters, dark humor. Nice editing. A somewhat
detached, sly, European take on the thriller genre that I found refreshing.
- Requiem for a Dream (2000) ***
OK for about 15 minutes, then repetitive (and, toward the end, grating).
- Reversal of Fortune (1990) ***
Just not all that skillfully done.
- Reversible Errors (2004) ***½
Generally good writing and a decent story, but
I'd rather not watch William Macy romance a woman.
- Rififi [Du rififi chez les hommes] (1955) ***½
Some parts dragged, but the good parts are quite good.
Very effective use of silence in the heist sequence.
- Ringu [リング] (1998) ***
Cheesy and dopey as horror movies tend to be, yet skillfully directed given
the material (and budget). I'm not a fan of the genre but this movie got
a lot of attention and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Some parts
held my interest and some parts were tedious. Half the appeal for me was
the foreign setting; I don't know if I would've lasted through a similar
movie set in the USA.
- Ripley's Game (2003) ****
Stylish and well-written.
Dark humor doesn't get much darker or funnier than this.
Held up well on repeat viewing.
- Rising Sun (1993) ***
Too Hollywood for my taste but not so bad that I couldn't watch it.
Occasional wipes instead of cuts struck me as an homage to Kurosawa.
If only the rest of the film had Kurosawa's refinement.
- Road to Perdition (2002) ****
5-star cinematography, 3½-star story.
- RocknRolla (2008) ***¼
Preposterous but playfully so and thus entertaining, but it's got its problems.
Unskillful reliance on narration. Frenetic and complicated enough that by
the time a surprise element is revealed at the end, I didn't much care.
- Roadie (2011) *¼
Boring. Didn't finish it.
- Rough Cut (2008) ***
(Disambiguation: this is the crime documentary directed by Todd Klick.)
Interesting enough case, serviceable documentary.
Worth watching but it's not outstanding.
- Rounders (1998) ***
Starts off tasteful but gets progressively more Hollywood as it goes along.
Directed by John Dahl, who also did Red Rock West—I see
a pattern here.
- Runaway Jury (2003) **
Overdone and generally irksome.
I gave up after about 25 minutes.
- Running on Empty (1988) **
They show the prepubescent kid in his underwear but not River Phoenix.
What's up with that. Seriously, though: mediocre screenplay.
- Salt (2010) **
Dopey. Calling this "over the top" is not saying much,
as the top is nowhere in sight. And I didn't care for
the choppy editing in a lot of the action scenes.
- Scarface (1983) ***
Watchable overall, fine writing/acting/cinematography at moments,
but goes progressively farther over the top. Giorgio Moroder's
synthesized score is to music as empty‑calorie junk is to food.
Gratuitous Hitchcock zoom at 49:44.
- Secret Window (2004) ****
Nice attention to detail. Good writing, acting, cinematography, music.
And...!— an Australian cattle dog.
- Separate Lies (2005) ****
Well‑paced, engaging morality tale. Good acting and cinematography.
The reconciliation between husband and wife at the end seems forced though.
Held up OK on a repeat viewing.
- Seven (a.k.a. Se7en) (1995) **½
Strange mixture of tasteful restraint (e.g., Morgan Freeman's character)
and excess (the premise, all the crime scenes except the last, ... ).
Brad Pitt's performance sucks (as do many of the lines the script gives him).
The last scene plays out under
the Pacific DC Intertie.
- Seven Days in May (1964) **½
Not quite the right stuff, and not quite sharp enough.
- Shadow Dancer (2012) ***
Decent story but the way it's paced had me reaching for fast forward a bit.
Picture-wise, a lot of scenes looked washed out, not an effect I liked.
Good performance by Clive Owen. Creditable score.
- Shallow Grave (1994) ****½
Solid writing, cinematography, and direction.
Interesting themes. Sly dark humor.
Some gruesome scenes but not too many.
A young Ewan McGregor is not unpleasant to look at.
- Shattered Glass (2003) ***
Mediocre treatment of powerful subject matter.
I detested the classroom scenes: dopey, artificial-looking,
and unnecessary. And the attempt to end on a bright note (where
the boss is touched by what his staff has done) is... dopey,
artificial-looking, and unnecessary.
- Shimmer Lake (2017) ***½
I usually don't like humor based on characters being dim‑witted
but the writing here is a notch above average.
Thus: entertaining but not exceptional.
The telling of the story in reverse order
is annoying at times but it does serve some of
the film's dramatic purposes.
- Short Cuts (1993) *
Sigh. Too many of the characters are dweebs, and the movie's tone
is annoying. I gave up about 1/3 of the way through; not sure why
I lasted even that long.
- Side Effects (2012) ****
The suspense and the unfolding of the plot are a big part of the
movie's appeal (i.e., it's enjoyable the first time).
People have compared this to Hitchcock, but despite some similarities
this doesn't have the mastery of style and craft that make Hitchcock
films shine on repeated viewing(s).
- Skyfall (2012) ***
Those of us who like understatement are not the prime audience for James Bond.
That said, there's the occasional nice touch—e.g., big lizards.
- Sleuth (2007) ***½
Starts off better than it finishes.
Unpleasantly claustrophobic look to many settings.
Generally good writing, although the homosexual undertones get a
crude treatment. Overall: it kept my interest and was mercifully brief.
- Small Town Crime (2017) ***
Watchable, occasionally funny, but nothing special.
Decent writing and acting but not really up my alley. For one, I'm not
keen on a main character with substance abuse problems (in this case,
- Snatch (2000) ***
Roughly in the same vein as Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels but not as
interesting, in my opinion. Cool rabbit‑chasing footage but not worth
seeing just for that.
- Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) ***
Some outstanding cinematography, and lots of attention to detail.
But the choppy editing and the montages of dialogue are annoying as hell.
Would have benefitted from being more understated; e.g., the D.A. character
(played by James Rebhorn) didn't have to be so throroughly unlikeable.
- Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) ***
I'm not big on movies about fucked‑up rich people. And this
one's on the stupid-melodramatic side.
- Soundless [Lautlos](2004) ****
I didn't expect it to be up my alley (because of
the farfetched love story angle) but I liked it.
Stylish and well-paced. Interesting themes. Dialog felt a bit
amateurish at times (not that I can write screenplays myself).
- Spanish Judges (1999) ***½
I liked it more the first time than on a second viewing.
At its best points it's sly and dark in a funny way
but some other parts are crude and tedious.
- Spanish Prisoner (1997) ****
Entertaining and generally well written, with some nice attention to detail.
Starts out largely believeable but becomes progressively more far‑fetched
in the way that movies about complicated scams tend to be. Held up OK on
a repeated viewing.
- Spy Game (2001) **
The James Bond concept made people think intrigue and romance are miscible,
but they really aren't. But setting aside whether you agree with me on that,
neither the spying nor the romance are especially well done here.
There's the occasional OK scene but overall it's just Hollywood-preposterous.
- St. Ives (1976) ***½
Sly, at times tongue‑in‑cheek, at times preposterous.
Not one of my favorite Lalo Schifrin scores but it's not bad.
One of few instances where a romantic element in a thriller didn't
irk me—partly because the interaction is more implied than shown.
- State of Play (2009) ***
Too often the wrong stuff.
And at times the antithesis of less‑is‑more.
The original BBC series is much better.
- Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2015) ****
One-sided, but let's assume that the viewer is smart enough
to realize that and look elsewhere as needed for a larger picture.
The side of Jobs that this film concentrates on is worth knowing about.
- Stranger by the Lake [L'inconnu du lac] (2013) **
Tedious in that special way that the French have perfected.
Even the sex scenes are boring.
Some nice outdoor photography but the editing sucks.
- Storm [Sturm] (2009) ****
(disambiguation: this is the 2009 Storm
directed by Hans‑Christian Schmid)
Solid story about the tension between justice and pragmatism.
My main complaint is that there's too much annoying unsteady camerawork.
- Strayed [Les Egares] (2004) ***½
I liked this the first time but found it less engaging
when I watched it again a few years later.
|A bit longer than necessary,
and it tries a bit too hard at points.
But stylish and engaging at its good moments.|
- Sunset Boulevard (1950) **½
I liked the macabre aspects, and the Max character (Erich von Stroheim)
is great—but the movie got more and more tedious as it went on.
Norma is annoying to watch in exactly the ways that precious
characters tend to be. Feh.
- Surveillance (2008) *½
Too often dopey and/or overdone.
- Synecdoche, New York (2008) **
Relentlessly bleak, and not in a way I found engaging.
The intensive symbolism and self-reference didn't grab me either.
I didn't finish it.
- Syriana (2005) *****
Tastefully written, photographed, scored, and edited.
Has held up well on repeated viewings. Yes, the threads are hard
to follow at some points; there is no shame in reviewing the plot
details on Wikipedia first to clarify the action.
- Taking Lives (2004) **
Dopey. And although I like some of Philip Glass's
chamber music I am not a fan of his film scores.
I watched the "sexier scarier unrated director's cut", as if that mattered.
- Telefon (1977) **½
Not especially well-written or conceived.
Annoying cinematography (frequent soft focus that looks like haze,
and other lapses of taste). Watchable but just barely.
A scene near the end features a pet snake named Gus.
- Tell No One [Ne le dis à personne] (2006) ***
story first and a thriller second, complete with sappy ending.
Has some good moments, but overall I just didn't find it all that engaging.
When there's no dialogue and a song is playing, that's your cue
to hit fast forward. So‑so cinematography.
- Terribly Happy [Frygtelig lykkelig] (2008) ****
Well conceived, directed, photographed.
It dragged at points on a second viewing though.
- The Accountant (2016) ***
Preposterous from start to finish (and too dependent on fighting
scenes for my taste) but has enough style and attention to detail
that I watched the whole thing.
- The American (2010) ****
Tastefully written, directed, and photographed.
The attention to detail reminds me of Kubrick's films.
The plot could stand to be more solid, but I can
forgive that in light of the film's strengths.
I see a parallel to the ending of
Der Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice)
but I can't say whether that was intended.
- The Anderson Tapes (1971) *½
Part caper flick, part comedy, and part commentary on law
enforcement—and not especially effective in any of those aspects.
Truly annoying sound effects. Tasteless treatment of gay characters,
even taking the prevailing sensibilities of the era into account.
- The Art of the Steal (2009) ****
A nice documentary, with an interesting plot even. The central figure,
Dr. Albert Barnes, had his dog sign rejection letters he sent to people
he didn't like. Fiction has nothing on the characters the
real world serves up.
- The Asphalt Jungle (1950) ***
So-so film noir.
- The Aura [El Aura] (2005) ****
Solid movie. Prominent and striking canine role.
Held up well on repeat viewing.
- The Bad Sleep Well [悪い奴ほどよく眠る] (1960) ****½
One of the most striking films I've seen. Corruption, shame, and power are
among the themes, and all are handled masterfully. I normally get bored
by romance in films but the love expressed by the lengthy embrace (shortly
after the two hour mark) was so moving. Kurosawa's technique impresses
the fuck out of me. 4.5 stars instead of 5 only because of my impatience
with slow pacing at the start.
- The Badge (2002) ***¾
I liked the tone and writing right off the bat.
The substance is a mixed bag: kept my interest although
most of the characters are stereotyped and the ending is sappy.
- The Bank Job (2008) **¾
Based on a true story but substantially fictionalized.
And it's dopey a fair amount of the time.
- The Bedford Incident (1965) ****
Largely solid acting and direction. Occasional weak points
are worth overlooking in light of the movie's strengths.
Captain Finlander and Commodore Schrepke are great characters.
Dr. Potter on the other hand is annoying—but you
can't have everything.
- The Best Offer [La migliore offerta] (2013) ***
Largely creditable writing except for sporadic dopiness.
And it's too much of a love story for my taste.
- The Big Heat (1953) ***½
Corny and sappy at times. But it's by Fritz Lang,
who knew a thing or two about how to make movies.
- The Big Risk [Classe Tous Risques] (1960) ***½
Solid movie. Nice attention to detail.
The violent scenes (it is a gangster movie) are
short and to the point, often even abrupt—a nice
contrast to films that linger on the nasty bits.
I found it somewhat tedious on a second viewing and downrated it to 3.5.
- The Big Sleep (1946) **½
Started out OK but I got so bored with it that ironing clothes
seemed more fun. The good news: the clothes really needed ironing,
and I might not have done it had the movie been more interesting.
- The Big Steal (1949) ***½
Fun little (1:11) movie. Nice scenes in Mexico. I imagine it's even
funnier if you understand all of the occasional Spanish language dialogue.
- The Blue Room (2014) *½
French-tedious. Didn't finish it.
- The Bourne Identity (2002) **½
The star outguns or outfights better-armed opponents on several
occasions—and it's not like the rest of the movie is particularly
The writing is often unimaginative, e.g. Conklin (Chris Cooper)
has some painfully banal lines. And I prefer my thrillers straight,
i.e. without a romance thrown in.
- The Bourne Legacy (2002) ***
Decent tension and mood at moments, modern-thriller-dopey at others.
Over-the-top climactic chase scene with frenetic editing.
- The Brain From Planet Arous (1958) [no rating]
For those who can find low-budget sci-fi entertaining by virtue of how bad
it is. A good brain/bad brain angle, alien lechery, primitive
ominous music and even more primitive special effects—you get the idea.
- The Caine Mutiny (1954) ***
Some good acting. Interesting themes in the conclusion. But I found
the first 2/3 largely uninteresting. The romance and the overprotective
mother are tedious elements that add little of interest to the drama.
- The Cincinnati Kid (1965) ***
When it's good, it's delightful: sly, dreamy, fun. But some sections drag.
The score is also a mixed bag: the New Orleans jazz numbers bored me
but the tense‑moment sequences are typically superb Lalo Schifrin.
Edward G. Robinson is awesome in his role here.
Some people say The Hustler (1961) was better but I didn't much like The
Hustler (for reasons which I cannot recall, and sadly I didn't write a review).
- The Clearing (2004) **½
It had potential to be up my alley: it's understated, well‑photographed,
generally well‑written and acted, and deals with themes of deceit,
compromise, acceptance, and forgiveness. But it's fairly monotonous
in its mood and tone, and it's a bit slow.
- The Client (1994) ***
Hollywood through and through, with characters and action
that are larger, cuter, dopier, or sappier than life.
Creditable performance by 11‑year‑old Brad Renfro
in his first film; they wanted a tough kid for the role
and they got one (he went on to die of a heroin overdose at age 25).
- The Company You Keep (2012) ***
In several ways laudably understated, although the dad-daughter
sappiness is laid on a bit thick. Writing is less than masterful
in its treatment of politics and interpersonal relations,
but not bad enough to make you cringe. Mediocre score.
- The Corporation (2003) **
Too long, not well edited and constructed, and too much stuff you already know.
- The Constant Gardener (2005) **
I was suckered in by good reviews. Stupid right from the get‑go
(the romance after the adversarial Q+A session is hokey).
Not the right stuff. Gets more contrived as it goes along.
- The Contender (2000) ***½
Hollywood-overdone but better written than average.
Annoying score. Creditable cinematography.
One of few movies I liked better the second time.
- The Counselor (2013) ****½
Sumptuous visually, aurally, and verbally. Good attention to detail.
Way bleak, but in the way I like. The dialogue is often philosophical,
at times overly so—but I liked the style enough to not care how
contrived it got. Held up well on a second viewing.
Be warned, though, that it largely flopped with the public.
- The Crown Witness (2007) [Świadek koronny] ***
Watchable but didn't grab me. The ending has a nice bit of irony.
- The Day of the Jackal (1973) ***½
A competently‑made thriller, but it's plain‑jane material.
Nice European location scenes.
- The Deadly Affair (1966) **½
It sounded promising (Sidney Lumet, John le Carré). Has moments of good
writing and humor but unfortunately much of it is tedious—especially
the scenes of the lead character's dysfunctional marriage, during which
hideous easy-listening music plays in the background. Feh.
- The Debt (2010) ***½
Interesting enough story, nice European settings.
The direction and editing and music try a little too hard though.
- The Departed (2006) ***
Kept my interest, but too graphically violent,
too stupid‑music‑y, and too much just not the right stuff.
And too contrived. Fucking Scorsese.
(Note: I watched this again a year or so later and liked it a little
better—although my "stupid‑music‑y" remark stands.)
- The Detective (1968) *½
I didn't care for the tone and writing and gave up partway through.
- The Drop (2014) ***½
A bit slow to start but once it gets going there are many strong points.
Obligatory sappy reconciliation at the end;
I would've had the woman stick
with her decision to walk away (her line "your people" was perfect).
And I could've done without all the Catholic stuff.
- The Double (2011) **
Preposterous. Direction, editing, and visuals are the usual
formulaic Hollywood thriller routine.
- The Double Hour [La Doppia Ora] (2009) **
Slow and thus thin.
Muddled (a portion of it turns out to have been imagined).
The title refers to a pointless little recurring motif about times of day.
Good cinematography though.
- The Equalizer (2014) **½
Graphic violence (unsubtle) and also some sappiness (unsubtle).
Main character has cartoonish superman-like fighting prowess.
- The Falcon and the Snowman (1985) ****
Fun and entertaining on the first viewing;
hard to say how well it'll hold up on a repeat.
Normally I'm annoyed when a movie takes liberties with a true story but at
least this time the point was to make it funny rather than to overdramatize it.
- The Fifth Estate (2013) **
Watch the "We Steal Secrets" documentary (2013) instead—not that it's
without flaws, but at least it's not a so‑so dramatization
of the Wikileaks history like this film is.
- The Firm (1993) ***
Preposterous, Hollywood-trite, at times dopey, and (of course)
has a sappy ending. And, sadly, Tom Cruise. The best
thing I can point to is the nuance in Gene Hackman's character.
- The Fourth Protocol (1987) ***½
First half pretty good, second half less so.
It needs more intrigue and less handling of uranium with bare hands.
Nice score by Lalo Schifrin.
- The French Connection (1971) ***
I don't care what people say—the car chase
is not better than the one in Bullitt.
- The Fugitive (1993) ***½
Farfetched over and over, which normally poisons it for me—but this
is a notch above most such films. Good performances by Harrison Ford
and Tommy Lee Jones, and a good script and score make the difference.
And it's got a train wreck.
- The Gatekeepers (2012) ****
I rate this well based on the importance of the subject matter and
the remarkable access the filmmakers got to (ex-) top Shin Bet staff.
In terms of style, it's only so-so. The filmmakers tried to
balance the talking head interviews with other visuals,
but with mixed results. Some of the interspersed image
sequences are apropos but some are dopey and tedious.
- The Getaway (1972) ***
Slow at points, some inapt music, cartoonish action—but once it got
going it was entertaining enough to be watchable. Worth seeing just for
the closing sequence with Slim Pickens.
- The Ghost Writer (2010) **
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) ***
See the Swedish original(s) instead.
- The Godfather: Part II (1974) ****
A bit jumbled; I didn't find the early‑20th‑century scenes
all that engaging or well‑integrated with the rest of the movie.
But a strong film nonetheless.
- The Godfather: Part III (1990) ***½
Weaker than the first two in the series but still watchable.
- The Good Shepherd (2006) **½
A "cerebral" movie that assumes the audience needs to have points repeated.
In case "we're all bootsmakers for the king" didn't sink in, later on
another character says "in the end we're all clerks".
- The Great Escape (1963) **
"I find it artificial from the outset—from the point where a string
of trucks arrives in the new prison compound and disgorges a crowd of
swaggering bucks, non‑descript British and American fellows, snarling
rudely and pointedly casing the joint"—from a review, and I concur.
This is from the same John Sturges who directed
Bad Day at Black Rock?!
- The Green Mile (1999) ***
Hard to assign this a star rating because it's a hodgepodge of things I like
and things I detest. On the plus side are moments where Tom Hanks' character
shows remarkable composure and civility. The cinematography is largely fine.
Unfortunately, the underlying story is a treacly Stephen King fairy tale.
- The Grifters (1990) **
Dopey writing. Annoying characters. Tedious romantic interludes.
It does, however, have a fine score by Elmer Bernstein.
- The Guard (2011) ****
Sly, fun, funny, devilish. Nice score.
On a second viewing I found it less fun and more crude—but not
as irksomely crude as, say, In Bruges.
- The Hit (1984) **
Bored me. Didn't finish it.
- The Hunt [Jagten] (2012) ***¾
Mixed bag. At its best points a strong movie.
Pacing is slow for my taste; it could've been a half hour shorter.
I found the ending ineptly constructed, especially the church scene.
- The Hunt for Red October (1990) ****
Has its share of Hollywood preposterousness but otherwise largely well done.
- The Ides of March (2011) **½
- The Imitation Game (2014) **
Characters and plot deviate markedly from the real-life versions, for the
sake of making a mass-market product. I didn't finish it.
- The Infiltrator (2016) *½
Not the right stuff. Didn't finish it.
- The Insider (1999) ****½
Solid movie. I would've preferred more fidelity to the true story,
but you can't have everything.
- The International (2009) ****
Mixed bag but the strong points are pretty strong.
Held up OK on a repeat viewing—I liked the overall tone.
Good concept, based on a real‑life corrupt bank.
Amazing full‑scale replica of the Guggenheim museum interior.
Long Hollywood-dopey shootout scene with guns
that fire more bullets than they can hold.
- The Ipcress File (1965) **½
Some entertaining writing but not enough.
By the second half it's gotten tedious.
- The Italian Job (2003) **½
A long, dopey showcase for the Mini Cooper.
- The Invisible Guest [Contratiempo] (2016) ***½
I was not as taken by the writing as people who really like it are.
Too many plot twists for my taste. But it's an eminently watchable movie.
- The Jackal (1997) **
Dopey. I didn't finish it.
- The Judge (2014) *½
Too cutesie for me. Didn't finish it.
- The Killer Inside Me (1946) ***
Good attention to detail in the writing and cinematic style,
but the violence is overwrought. Note that it shows women
being brutalized but when a man dies it's off-camera.
- The Killers (1946) ****
Creditable film noir. Good score by Miklós Rózsa (and was
the source of music for Dragnet).
- The Kremlin Letter (1970) **
- The Last Seduction (1994) ***½
At times dopey and crude, and yet entertaining.
Don't expect plausibility. Contraindicated for viewers without
a taste for thoroughly dark humor. The writing varies from
mediocre to quite good. Was less entertaining on a repeat viewing.
- The Last Seduction II (1999) ***
Same pros and cons as in The Last Seduction.
And also less fun the second time around.
- The Last Stand (2013) ***
Dopey but entertaining enough that I watched it to the end.
I don't remember how this one got in my queue; it's not up my alley.
- The Ledge (2011) ***½
A personal statement—but although I share the author's sentiment,
this isn't quite how I would want to see it translated into film.
Having your characters debate philosophy is less skillful than
creating situations that imply points rather than spelling them out.
And the premise and plot are too melodramatic for my taste.
Creditable cinematography though.
- The Letter (1940) ***½
Interesting theme, and decent writing. Melodramatic in a manner typical for
its era; if that doesn't bother you then you might like it more than I did.
Nice black+white photography (except for occasional period‑typical
soft focus on Bette Davis' face).
- The Limey (1999) *½
I detested the idiosyncratic editing and didn't finish it.
Disappointing, because it looked interesting.
- The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) ***
Reasonably well written although a fair amount of the plot is preposterous.
Kept my interest but not much more.
Occasional distracting gimmicky cinematography.
- The Lineup (1958) ****
Sly, dark, fun. Crisp black+white cinematography. Nice SF locations.
Was somewhat less fun on a repeat viewing but I did finish it.
- The Long Good Friday (1980) ****
British gangster movie, generally well‑conceived,
and generally well realized despite a small budget.
The score is synth‑laden, but decently‑written;
watch for occasional 7/8 meter.
Held up only OK on a second viewing.
- The Lookout (2007) **
- The Machinist (2004) *½
I hated the writing. And it's slow. And it's got a dopey premise.
I gave up after a half hour. Nice score though.
- The Magician [Ansiktet] (1958) ***½
Slow at points, but
thoughtfully constructed and with interesting themes (Bergman is esteemed
for good reason). Max von Sydow does an awesome job even in scenes where he
doesn't say anything. The drama works on several levels, but one of them
is that it's a story about people in show business, some with
characteristically precious mannerisms that I find annoying to watch.
The nineteenth century formality exacerbates
the all‑too‑precious tone.
- The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) ***
This starts out promising but descends into caricature that I
suppose you can enjoy as parody but which I found just silly.
The considerable talents of the Coen brothers are squandered in this film.
- The Master (2012) **
Thin and at times dull. And for a film shot in 70mm it
didn't even look all that great. At least on the blu‑ray
version I watched, a lot of scenes were too contrasty (light
areas washed out and darks too dark).
- The Master Touch (1972) *½
Has a decent car chase scene but the rest is remarkably dull.
The DVD had the worst picture quality I've ever seen for a film
from the 1970s or later; it looked like a crummy 16mm print.
- The Memory of a Killer [De Zaak Alzheimer] (2003) ***
Dopey premise (why hire an assassin who is losing his grip?).
Nothing‑special writing. Gimmicky cinematography.
- The Method [El Método] (2005) **
You know how the character and tone of some movies are evident right off
the bat? This one starts with a couple minutes of stupid split‑screen
effects that had me wondering if the whole movie was going to be that
annoying to watch. The split screen went away but was replaced by other
kinds of annoyingness. When the characters are (mostly) all jerks,
it takes skilled writing to make a film watchable. This has the
jerks but not the skill. I gave up after a half hour.
- The Nines (2007) **½
Has occasional endearing indie‑movie touches but overall it's muddled
and that gives it a clumsy feel. And it has a sappy ending.
- The November Man (2014) **½
Pacing, writing, and tone are often satisfactory
but all that is negated by how dopey and cliched it is.
- The Numbers Station (2013) ***
Started out promising: nice score, good pacing, decent writing.
The rest of it was only so‑so:
unauthentic details, less‑interesting writing.
For a movie that aspired to be more about character than about action
there's still a fair amount of tedious shootouts, wrestling, and so on.
And the cinematography is a bit gimmicky.
- The Other Son [Le Fils de l'Autre] (2012) ***
Largely plain and at times slow, although there are a few engaging scenes
(e.g. hospital administrator explaining the mixup,
rabbi explaining conversion). The ending is too tidy.
- The Page Turner [La Tourneuse de Pages] (2007) ***
Some decent writing and direction but overall a thin movie.
And not plausible, which matters in a drama like this one.
- The Parallax View (1974) **
- The Pelican Brief (1993) **
Mediocre thriller. This one has it all: dopey dialogue,
dopey action (a "pro" assassin shoots himself by mistake),
an absence of humor, and a sappy ending.
- The Perfect Host (2010) **½
Starts off OK but soon becomes preposterous and crude.
The party scenes with intermittently‑present imaginary
guests are tedious and annoying. Feh.
- The Pianist (2002) **
A glowing review (at imdb.com) said "And never once are we reminded
that we are watching a movie." I would say the exact opposite;
the movie‑ness of it bugged me at every turn. I know I'm in the
minority (it's a well‑received film). I gave up on it after a
half hour. I appreciate the power of the story being told;
my complaints are about the film's style, which was just not to
my taste. (That includes the music they have the protagonist
playing; Chopin is not my cup of tea.)
- The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) *½
Boring and annoying. I didn't finish it.
- The Quiller Memorandum (1966) **½
Early on, I wondered is the main character (Quiller)
going to be this dopey throughout the whole film?
Well yes, he is.
And there's gratuitous romance, the full‑on sappy treatment
with soft focus shots of the woman's face. Feh.
- The Raven (2012) **
The tone and mood were annoying and the murder mystery angle wasn't holding
my interest. I gave up after about a half hour. Netflix described this
as a murder-crime story and didn't mention that it's got a love story
thrown in too—as if that were too routine to mention. Feh.
- The Recruit (2002) **
Hollywood‑preposterous. And yet mixed with the dopiness and hokum
there was enough of a flavor of espionage that I didn't give up on it.
That, and the fact that a young Colin Farrell is not unpleasant to look at.
- The Red Circle [Le Cercle Rouge] (1970) ***½
Decent heist/noir. Good cinematography. Dream sequence with a
number of (real) reptiles. Plain‑jane ending (bad guys die).
- The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012) **½
Potentially interesting story but it's as unskillfully written
as I feared it would be—and has a gratuitous romance angle.
I didn't finish it.
- The Right Stuff (1983) *½
Not the right stuff. I detested the tone and gave up early on.
- The Road (2009) ***
Generally tasteful and often touching, but a little thin.
The happy ending was too sappy for my taste.
- The Robber [Der Räuber] (2010) ***½
Based on a true story but only loosely; as long as they weren't
closely following the history of the actual robber, they could've
given us more intricate characters and/or plot.
- The Savages (2007) **
Occasional strong points but overall not my style of humor nor drama.
I gave up after about a half hour.
I didn't detest it but I just wasn't enjoying it.
- The Secret in Their Eyes [El Secreto de Sus Ojos] (2010) ****
Serious subject matter and yet laced with delightful dry humor.
Tastefully understated score. I found it awesome on first viewing
but a notch lower the second time (although still a strong film).
- The Seven-Ups (1973) ***
Characters and story are thin; this is all about atmosphere.
High point is the Bullitt‑esque car chase.
Interesting score, with strings at times reminiscent of Lutosławski or
Bartók. Unfortunately, though, the music isn't all that
- The Square (2008) ****
Creditably photographed, written, acted, and directed.
And it's got Aussie accents. And a canine angle.
Less fun on a second viewing when I knew what was coming.
- The Statement (2003) ****
Creditably photographed, written, acted, and directed.
(no Aussies, though)
- The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) ***
Stylish in its own way—not quite to my taste, but not bad either.
The romance bored me, as did the happy ending.
Note: this is the 1999 remake, not the
- The Visitor (2007) ***
A bit farfetched and a bit cartoonish.
The main character is a loser who, so the story would have you believe,
rises to the level of being cool—as attested to by no less of an
authority than a woman who wasn't happy with
how black her son's girlfriend was.
- The Yellow Sea [황해] (2010) **
Tedious. If it gets better after a while I wouldn't know,
as I gave up after about 25 minutes.
- The Silence of the Lambs (1991) ***½
Hard to know how many stars to give this one. Some aspects
of it are outstanding and some are stupid and sensationalized.
The writing and performance of the Hannibal Lecter character
- The Silent Partner (1978) **½
- The Sixth Sense (1999) **
Dopey. Amateurish writing.
Haley Joel Osment did a fine job playing the role of the kid,
but that alone does not make for a good movie.
- The Sniper (1952) **
Generally good cinematography but the dialogue and action are lackluster.
- The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) *****
Masterful. It drags a little early on when Leamas is taking
on his assumed persona, but don't let that deter you from
watching the last hour. Has held up well for me on repeat
viewings; this is one of my favorite movies.
- The Stickup (2002) ****
Well-written. Fun. I love James Spader's dispassionate manner.
A little silly at moments but tolerably so because it's all so well done.
Held up well on a repeat viewing.
- The Stranger (1946) **½
It sounded promising: film noir, Edward G. Robinson.
But it's corny and farfetched, and with a heavy‑handed
WWII‑colored tone that does not make for a film that ages well.
- The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) ***
Nice performance by Tommy Lee Jones, nice cinematography,
but the humorous elements are often just silly.
It's probably funnier if you're on drugs.
- The Tillman Story (2010) ****
One of those documentaries I wish every American would see.
John McCain blathering about the afterlife followed by
Tillman's brother speaking the plain truth ("he's fucking dead")
is one of the most powerful juxtapositions I've ever seen on film.
- The Town (2010) ***
Yet another thriller with a dopey romance.
And even just taking the thriller elements on their own, it's nothing special.
- The Twilight Samurai (2002) ***
Tasteful, but somehow didn't grab me.
- The Thin Blue Line (1988) ***½
Powerful material and some good editing of interviews, but the
reënactments are not tastefully done (the crime scene is shown
way too many times). Interviews are shown without noting the
speaker's name and position, a frustrating omission in some cases.
The Philip Glass score was fitting for the sequence about hypnosis, but
not elsewhere. This movie worked in that it was instrumental in
Randall Adams' ultimate exoneration, and for that the makers of the film
have my respect—but that's not what I'm rating it on here.
- The Unbelievers (2013) **
An annoying, tedious documentary whether you are a believer or a heathen.
I fast forwarded a bit and then gave up altogether.
- The Vanishing [Spoorloos] (1988) ***½
Interesting idea, some interesting themes,
and it's plenty dark—but the direction and score are nothing special.
And the dream elements seemed pointless.
- The Verdict (1982) ****½
A strong movie, although unrealistic at points.
- The Weight of Water (2001) ***
Mixed bag. Could use more time on characters and less on affectedly grandiose
dialogue‑free sequences. Many reviews liked the historical scenes better
than the present‑day ones (and found the connection of the two lacking);
I found the historical scenes more tedious and liked the undercurrents of
temptation, suspicion, and danger in the present‑day scenes. But I agree
that the film doesn't cohere well.
- The Winslow Boy (1999) ****
Solid movie (well, based on a play, based on a true story).
Good writing and good acting. Shows tasteful restraint at
points where there was a hazard of corniness and/or sappiness.
I often don't like movies about people who behave as formally
as people did at the time and place this story is set in,
so the fact that I liked this one is saying something.
Held up well on a repeat viewing.
- There Will Be Blood (2007) **½
Starts off tasteful and interesting but goes off the rails.
- Thief (1981) **½
I like movies about criminals, but not dopey criminals.
- This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006) ****½
Fun, funny, and interesting.
See also the deleted scene "Telephone call for Mr. Dick".
- Three Days of the Condor (1975) ****
Like lots of people I am partial to things that remind me of the
place and time of my adolescence. The sights of 1970s New York City
are very familiar to me, and a couple minor scenes were filmed on the
NYIT Old Westbury campus (Alexander Schure, president of the university,
has a cameo handing the memo to the dude who gets off the helicopter).
But all that wouldn't be enough to make me like the movie if there
weren't also a lot of good cinematography and direction—which,
fortunately, there is. I have a lot of respect for Sydney Pollack.
But—and this is a big but—the romance is gratuitous,
hokey, and tedious.
- 3:10 to Yuma ** (2007)
I don't like most Westerns but there are occasional exceptions.
I tried this hoping it would be less Western-y than it was.
I didn't finish it. Probably not a bad movie for its genre
but it wasn't my cup of tea.
- Thin Ice ** (2011)
Netflix called this a "meditation on lying and its consequences", which
sounded interesting. Problem is, it's got a comedic tone and it's a
style of comedy I find irksome. I gave up on it right around the point
where some reviews said it starts to get interesting—but if you're
not digging the style, you're not digging the style.
- 13 Tzameti *½ (2005)
French-tedious and with a contrived premise. Didn't finish it.
- 36th Precinct [36 Quai des Orfèvres] (2004) **½
At times interesting—but at times overwrought, at times dopey,
and at times marred by sucky cinematography.
- 360 *** (2011)
I liked this one better the first time I saw it.
The characters and drama are nothing special.
I found the style generally tasteful,
although some of the music was a little irksome.
Incidentally, the airport that's supposed to be Denver at 44:30 shows
a sign for a runway 22/4—but the Denver airport has no such runway.
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) **½
Tries too hard (e.g., elaborate cinematography gets in the way).
Watch the tasteful 1979 BBC version with Alec Guinness instead.
- To Die For (1995) **½
I like dark humor but this has too much comedy‑movie flavor
that I find dopey rather than funny. The characters are
pretty much all caricatures. Yet I watched it to the end.
- To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) ****½
Slow at points but a solid movie.
- Tokyo Story [東京物語] (1953) *½
I gave up after the first 20 minutes or so,
which were about as engaging as watching paint dry.
If I missed out on whatever comes
later that makes many people think it's a classic, so be it.
- Too Late (2015) ***
The writing is often contrived enough to make you wince.
Shot on film (and shown in film projection in its theatrical release)
with affection for the medium (but nevermind that there
was a digital intermediate).
On the plus side, the actors and crew deserve credit for pulling
off the long continuous takes on what I imagine was a small budget.
And at its best points the movie has some engaging tension
and stylistic touches. Thus: a mixed bag that's hard to rate.
- Topkapi (1964) ***
The intricate heist maneuver was an inspiration for the
Mission: Impossible series, and elements of it have been used
many times since (e.g., the acrobatics in the Ocean's Eleven of 2001).
So yes it's a seminal film and yes there is some good writing.
But it's light, it's dopey‑comedic, and it's at times boring.
- Touch of Evil (1958) ****
Filmmaking that lovingly plays with the medium itself.
Sly, at times to the point of cartoonish self‑parody—but always
meticulously crafted, if perhaps at times over‑crafted.
Starts with a tour‑de‑force crane‑tracking shot
that lasts a little over three minutes.
- Traffic (2000) ***½
I really liked this the first time, but nowhere near as much
when I watched it again a year later. Dunno if I was just
in an especially receptive mood the first time, or what.
- Traitor (2008) ****
Sort of a thriller but more nuanced and less about action.
Less farfetched than most thrillers (although that's not saying much).
The premise and continued religiosity are not my first choice
of subject matter but creditable cinematography, writing, and direction
make it a decent movie. Held up OK on a second viewing.
- Trance (2013) *½
Mega-dopey. Didn't finish it.
I got this because it was directed by Danny Boyle
who did Shallow Grave that I liked so much.
- Transsiberian (2008) **
- Troubled Water [DeUsynlige] (2008) ***
At its best quite moving, and it touches on issues of
interest and importance. But it drags, the revisiting of
events from another perspective is tedious, and toward
the end it gets rather melodramatic.
- True Colors (1991) **
I detested the tone, right from the opening scene with the car accident.
I gave up partway through.
- Twelve (2010) ***
Yet another movie about fucked‑up rich people,
this time dopey spoiled teenage fucked‑up rich people.
Clumsy writing. Too much narration. And yet some
elements are tastefully done; I enjoyed the cinematography.
And Chace Crawford is not unpleasant to look at.
- 12 Angry Men (1957) ***½
Good movie, but some characters are a bit overdone.
The format of real‑time presentation (in a closed room
to boot) has its pros and cons.
- 25th Hour (2002) ***½
Creditable acting/writing/direction, but
held up only so‑so on a repeat viewing.
The score is good except when it's sappy.
- Twist of Faith (2004) ***½
Not as well constructed as some documentaries,
but has its share of powerful moments.
- Two Men in Manhattan (1959) **½
Tons of jazz music plays which doesn't make
up for the fact that not a lot happens.
- Under Suspicion (2000) **½
Mixed bag but with too many weak points for me to give it a good rating.
The editing and sound in flashback sequences are dopey-gimmicky.
The ending is either deliberately ambiguous or just inadequately depicted.
On the plus side, most of the interrogation sequences are well-written
with strong tension and drama. Hackman and Freeman are both fine actors.
- Unfaithful (2002) *½
Lust-intensive melodrama with an obligatory reconciled ending.
- Unforgiven (1992) ****½
Solid movie. I didn't give it five stars only because my taste runs to
more understatement and restraint. Yes, I'm stubborn that way.
- Unthinkable (2010) *
Subject matter that deserves a thoughtful film but this is all Hollywood-dopey.
- Up in the Air (2009) ***½
Too much of a caricature for my taste. The folk‑rock music is irksome.
But a decent movie nonetheless.
- Victim (1961) ****½
Remarkably sensitive treatment of gay issues for a 1961 film.
Nice black and white cinematography.
- Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) ****
Creditable film noir. Dialogue a bit corny at moments but not too bad.
Crisp black & white photography.
Has a gratuitous romance subplot but at least it isn't overdone.
Held up well on a repeat viewing.
- Whiplash (2014) **
Overdone and not much of a story.
J. K. Simmons is a fine actor but the movie still is what it is.
- Whisky Romeo Zulu (2004) ***
Would have made a decent short film. Nice aviation photography.
The romance and childhood scenes were boring.
- White Heat (1949) ****
Strong movie. Good writing; at times nicely sly.
Fine performance by James Cagney.
- Wind River (2017) **
Got my attention once it got going even though it's a bit too
conventional for my taste. But the climactic scenes irked me immensely.
One of few movies I gave up on about 4/5 of the way through.
- Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? (2006) ****
Really "who the fuck is Jackson Pollock", but
no one puts the word fuck in movie ads.
Fun documentary, although deficient for not going
into the history of Peter Paul Biro; see for example the
Yorker article (that Biro sued the magazine over).
- Winter in Wartime (2008) ***½
Mixed bag. Some elements wonderfully done and some not.
Lots of good photography. But the color palette is all watered down,
presumably in an attempt to evoke the winter/wartime mood—not an effect
I prefer. The credit for "colorist" could have been for "de‑colorist".
Gets less credible toward the end.
- Winter's Bone (2010) ***½
Well constructed overall, but a bit slow at times.
The music isn't my cup of tea but it seems authentic for the setting.
- Witness (1985) ***½
Uneven but very good at points. The Hollywood‑overdone final showdown
is out of place in this film. The synth‑laden score is at times
annoying but could have been much worse.
- Witness for the Prosecution (1957) ****
Interesting, entertaining, well paced, well directed, well photographed.
Fine performance by Charles Laughton.
- Zero Dark Thirty (2012) [no rating]
Carefully and often thoughtfully made, yet disturbingly flawed.
Although it's less Hollywooded‑up than it could've been, it is
still too much so for my taste. And regarding how it does
(and doesn't) address some weighty real‑world questions, I agree with
Denby: the filmmakers "want to claim the authority of fact and the freedom
of fiction at the same time, and the contradiction mars an ambitious project."
- Zodiac (2007) ***
OK, just not the right stuff.