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18 reviews in total 
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Rounders (1998)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
You almost have to admire how stupid this movie is, 24 October 2009

All I remember about this, from seeing it years ago, is how boring it is. I'm by no means an expert at poker and I figured out the end of the movie about 30 minutes in, the rest just drug it out. I didn't care about the characters either. The reason I say you almost have to admire this movie is that here you have Ed Norton, one of the best actors of his time, Matt Damon, no slouch either, and Gretchen Mol, who gets poor roles a lot of times but is pretty good in spite of that, and John Malkovich who is routinely great...and it's boring. Malkovich is terribly in this, by the way, Mol is kind of annoying so I could use even LESS of her in this movie. It just wasn't that dramatic. It had less tension than a cliff-hanger episode of Full House.

Religulous (2008)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Short on humor and almost devoid of facts, 30 September 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I rented this shortly after renting Ben Stein's "Expelled" and thought it would interesting to compare them. Before I go further, it seems only fair that I point out the following so a reader can see if I'm prejudiced or not. I'm trying to be objective, for the record.

I tend to enjoy Maher's HBO show now and then, though I rarely think he's the source of the humor. I don't really care for his stand-up either. But he makes some good points on the show now and again, and I liked Politically Incorrect, though he was still fairly politically correct (which I deem a negative because the very term sounds Orwellian or at least fascist). As for my religious views, I'll say for simplicity's sake that I'm a non-denom. Christian with some views that are objectivist and some that are agnostic mixed in.

That being said, this a bad "documentary" for reasons that haven't been touched on yet by many reviewers--though the ones mentioned are valid too. The reason it's not convincing isn't just that he argues the main point without letting others talk (and his point boils down to nothing logical either, it's just "come on, really?" which isn't a point, just a question. Try David Hume if you want a decent argument.). The reason this isn't convincing lies in his lack of experts on the subject matter. I saw this about 2 months ago and I only recall him talking to one person whose credentials as a professional were mentioned if he wasn't a clergyman. There are probably hundreds of scientists or at least professors with Masters or Doctorates willing to do a bit of verbal sparring, particularly in the fields of History, Anthropology or a host of others.

If one compares this to Ben Stein's "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" he'll find that Stein interviews about 30 credentialed professors, professionals, clergy, etc. He does this with a variety of sources with various backgrounds. He also makes a point in his film regarding freedom of thought and education. Maher could easily have pointed out wrongs committed by theocratic rules throughout centuries or persecutions from this. Instead he idiotically refers to the 20th century's secular totalitarian regimes as evidence of why secularism needs more socio-political power!!!! (it's in the bonus features where he's standing in front of the Anne Frank house I think.) This is a true Orwellian head-trip. He blames Christianity in particular on many pointless deaths--which has had its share, though far smaller than most!!--without even including a basic view of the evidence. Perhaps this is because that argument is dwarfed by secular humanism's miserable record of the 20th Century ALONE.

Another glaring weakness is his unwillingness to talk to anyone that would be considered a moderate or "average" practitioner. He picks out the weakest gazelles of the herd. How difficult is that? How does proving the existence of exceptions move toward disproving the general rule? It does not. Wow, so people in cults think outside of the norm? How enlightening to know this. Great work Maher! Again, it would be fairly easy to interview someone like Laurence Vance and include his work on refuting the idea of "patriotic duty" that demands a person fight in any war his country is involved in.

Beyond all that, he's just not that funny here. Some of the clips that are overlaid in "clever" out of context/irreverent ways might garner a laugh, but mostly work to illustrate how a real contextual argument from Maher will NOT be forthcoming, much less convincing. He spends most of his time bashing Christians, spouting inaccuracies, and interviewing fringe groups that he doesn't allow to really answer his questions.

For the record, there are good questions to honestly ask of religious folks and many they should ask of themselves. He touches on almost none of these. I get the feeling that I could've responded much better to most of his questioning than the people he interviewed, but the whole thing reeks of deck-stacking in terms of what is included and what was edited out.

Half Baked (1998)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
One of the funniest 90s movies, 24 July 2009

This is a movie about a group of friends whose lives revolve around smoking marijuana. One of the friends ends up in jail and they have to raise money to try to get him out. I don't remember if it's for a fine or for bail or court costs--It's been a year or two since I've seen it--and the guys end up dealing pot to make it happen.

The main thing I do remember is that every time I see it on TV or at a friend's house, I always end up watching it all the way through and laughing like mad. There are never any dull moments with comedians like Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer, two of funniest guys from the 90s. Harlan Williams also has a great but minor roll.

I remember seeing this when i was about 18 and still being somewhat naive I was able to appreciate the whole thing. Years later it's still funny. To this day I've never smoked anything and that didn't effect my appreciation of this movie whatsoever. The jokes aren't all the same old people acting silly because they're high. The marijuana related humor is still funny for most people because the characters remind you of people you probably know and their idiosyncrasies.

It's not a serious movie by any means, and obviously not for little kids. Still, I've watched this with my Dad and even he was cracking up. It's just good, juvenile fun.

Goodfellas (1990)
interesting twist on mob-life, 3 June 2009

There are several good plot synopses up already, so I'll avoid that and just say what I liked and didn't about it. Maybe the few people who haven't seen it will appreciate this.

So apparently this is the one that re-started fascination with the mob. I like how different it was from Godfather. They say it influenced the Sopranos. I can see a little of that, but to me is just not quite as satisfying.

Liotta, Brocco, Pesci and the rest of the gang are all great in this movie. It's cool because of Henry--Liotta--'s outside perspective. I dig how it's not exactly easy being a mobster either. It's never quite as glamorous as it seems, and on top of that, the crazy fellas who are in that business are crazy enough to turn on you at any time. Pesci's famous "Funny how?...Am I a clown? Do I amuse you?" is classic for good reason.

Still, Scorsese has this weird obsession with making at least the last 45 minutes seem like a video for 70s AM radio greatest hits. It really gets in the way of the movie for me...big time. (I'm a musician by trade, so I love music. It's not a prejudice. The songs chosen here are all cool songs too, just way too loud and pervasive.) The big lessons aren't quite so big in this one either. That's fine, but you expect a little more from this crew. On the other hand, maybe that should be seen as refreshing. And in a lot of ways it is.

I would recommend it for anyone who wants a lighter mob movie, and one that seems oddly more realistic because of the domestic issues. Also, the time frame helps it stand out in a cool way. It's very good, no doubt.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining plot and dialog, but some plot problems, 3 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a fun movie about a kidnapping gone wrong. The kidnappers are generally spoiled, rich "kids" in their 20s who trick an old mobster, played by Christopher Walken, into taking a ride with them. They hold him hostage and he cleverly manipulates them to fight with each other.

there's nothing too dark, and the dialog and dynamic with the younger characters is really solid. Dennis Leary's mobster role is funny and angry and brutal in just the right doses.

***Possible spoiler*** Most of the way through the film I was convinced there would be a killer climax. The problem is that the story is leading you to believe that there's an "inside man..." but when you find out who it really is, it seems misleading. The motivations behind the actions of the kidnappers don't quite add up, particularly Avery and Max's interaction. The flashback sections of the story lead you to think one way, but don't come off as too convincing.

On the other hand, the movie's good at digging into these different personalities and Walken, Leary and the Ira character are really compelling. (It seems a lot of people didn't like Ira but he's pretty a very important foil for the others and the film would lose a lot without him. Plus, he's awfully convincing as the uptight kiss-up geek.) The twists are pretty cool, and not too tricky to get, just a little contradictory when you consider all the different ways the movie could have gone. But this was the way to make it interesting and not so obvious.

Well worth renting or picking up used.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Self-aware, but pretty good anyway, 30 March 2008

Almost every technical aspect of this movie was great. The story is compelling and original: there are other movies about mid-life crises, but this one is more complex and has several side plots that include the family and neighbors. The acting very good all around. Spacey is still just a little pushy, but it rarely gets in the way. The Ricky character is a bit overwrought. The pacing was excellent too, because the writing gave you just enough time to think about what you were seeing, or at least get your instinct involved. And of course, it's shot well. For those who think that sort of thing doesn't matter much, this movie will provide many great examples proving my point about the effect of good camera work to the average Joe.

Before you read the rest, keep in mind that I actually recommend this movie for the above reasons. They've all been covered in detail by many others I'm sure, and rightfully so. However, it often gets hyped as "One of the best movies I've seen" whenever anyone makes a list that goes beyond 5 movies. This is as much a reaction to that as it is a review.

There are some funny moments and some graphic ones. There's a good amount of tension and release. All this adds to the realism and is expertly portrayed by the relationships between parents and children and the parents themselves. My main problem with the film is the issue of self-righteousness which seems to be praised throughout. Lester's character is supposed to a hero, and that's fine. But he's a flawed one at least. I think the film tries to convey the opposite message. Selfishness abounds in this movie to the point where it becomes preachy. The message "do what feels good" were subtle enough to fool a lot of people into thinking there was more here than there really was. Tarantino would've had a gospel choir sing a song called "do what feels good" I think. Mendes was smarter than that.

Still, it's well worth watching, but make sure you're mature enough to see past the flaws. A man with Mendes' talent could've easily gotten rid of the preachy implications of Chris Cooper's next-door visit to Lester's garage (I don't want to give it away but you'll know when you see it). Ricky's emotive recount of how he felt filming the plastic bag is kind of vomit inducing too. But these small miscalculations really took a lot away from an otherwise great movie. It wouldn't have been so obvious and wouldn't have been so forceful on the modern existentialism, but it would've been more real as a result. It could've been a masterpiece. Should've been a contender.

Wait for it to be on TV, 30 March 2008

I was really pretty disappointed in this movie. I just watched it on HBO because frankly it didn't look all that funny from the ads. It had some decent laughs strewn throughout but nothing flat-out hilarious. I'm not the stuffy kind of viewer who hates physical comedy either. I can watch Anchorman for the 5th time and still laugh out loud pretty hard a few times, but this never had those moments for me.

It's the typical Will Ferrell movie where he is the idiot savant and the joke's on him. He never realizes it or just rolls with it, you know the rest. He was funny here and there and can still come up with the completely off-the-wall things to say. Heder is better when he talks less. I loved Napoleon Dynamite, but here his character was the Will Ferrell style of over-the-top. Didn't make sense to me so much. Arnett and the SNL chick were OK, but could've been given some funnier things to do.

Really the best part was Jenna Fischer in a corset. She seemed to be well-aware that the role was pretty silly and she didn't fit in the movie that well. But then again, they needed a pretty goody-two shoes and she seems to fit that. I'd like her to aim a little higher though, as I bet she could do some pretty good comedy with a good script.

Better than the 50th showing of "Breakfast Club" on TBS but not better than the 30th you know what I mean? I wouldn't pay to watch it, but then I didn't so it all works out.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Had it's ups and downs, 12 March 2008

I'll spare the details of the plot because there aren't many and you can read the synopsis. Basically Uma Thurman's character wants revenge and wants to kill Bill. There's other people too, feels sort of inconsequential to me. I don't really buy the plot so it was a bit of a let down. I think the way the story is told impresses a lot of people, but I just don't find it that clever.

I don't see how people can truly say this was amazing or horrible when you take in all the elements and judge it on artistic basis. However, just as a general asthetic I can understand people hating it. I am certainly not one of those's interesting to see why people seem so polarized though.

Camera work: great. No argument there from anyone. I do'nt see how you could complain about how this is shot. I didn't read the credits that far because I have no idea who these people are and don't honestly care. But whoever it was, he really brought out the best of what was there.

Acting: pretty damn good considering there's rarely any depth. In spite of such an absence of substance--which anyone in their right mind recognizes--Thurman and Madsen say a lot more when there's no dialog. Carradine's good, etc.

Script: OK. Some people seem to miss Tarantino's overwrought loquaciousness. It would've gotten in the way here...and on the ocassion that it creeps up it continues to get in the way. They're killers not 2nd semester English majors (the kind Quinten puts in every other movie apparently).

Plot: Yeah who are you kidding? It's kind of fun though.

Action sequences: Cool at first, and fortunately there's enough focus to keep you drawn in. Nowadays it seems like there needs to be 15 cuts per second to convey action instead of letting us watch the actual fight. Kudos for not following that trend. On the other hand these become a cliché unto themselves pretty quickly for me.

Style: Look if you want style over substance then go the full way and make it a joke. I think of this movie as an over-budget, less funny, more colorful "Story of Ricki Oh" about half the time. Either put more substance in next time or leave it out.

Pretty much middle of the road in terms of quality for Tarantino, but usually I tend to feel his movies fit the extreme. A little more work on the plot would've taken this much farther.

1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Sure to be a classic, 10 December 2007

The basic premise the Cohen Bros. seem to be working with here is that evil can't be stopped. It's possible that some of my views here might be interpreted differently, but the film seems pretty clear with Antone's character.

So here's what happens (I won't give away the ending): A man called Lewellyn Moss(not sure of spelling) find's a drug deal gone bad where everyone is dead or left for dead in the deserted Texas plains. He comes across a suitcase full of money brought to the deal and sneaks it back to his place. Once he realizes he's being sought after and tracked by a sadistic hit-man, the cat and mouse game begins. Lewellyn tries to hide his wife and his own identity from the hit-man, but as the chase continues he realizes he might be out of his league.

Meanwhile Tommy Lee Jones is the sheriff in the county where this all started. He just be a small-town cop, but he's a good one with a dark sense of humor that seems to blend perfectly with his crime-solving abilities. He realizes early on that Antone is not simply a hired gun, but someone who enjoys his work and is quite crafty. Jones's character wants to prevent any further death and devastation and even with his experience and skill as detective he feels he's up against some sort of evil that may overtake him.

It's a dusty, dirty world that seems real and harsh when you realize that you're rooting for Lewellyn because Antone is coming after him and is a force that can't be stopped. To root for him is to live that Dylan Thomas poem "Do Not Go Gentle." But you root for Jones's character too, and Moss's wife. Most of all just hope that that dark evil that seems to trap everyone wont' win in this case. The money's really not the issue, and this is shown through Moss's reactions, but especially the supporting cast. Moss is more subtle and keeps his cards closer to his chest.

Every line is delivered with just the right amount of weight and there never seems to be a word wasted. While watching this movie I couldn't help but think that the script was so good that it could almost be transfered straight to radio with little narration and still be very effective. The photography is just about as good though. It's a thinking man's movie, but there's plenty of action, swagger and suspense in how this is shot. The backdrop of the desolate Texas towns of 1980 or thereabouts is so real you feel surrounded by it and almost as if you're going to walk into it when you leave the theatre.

The message sinks in slowly but surely. Antone is a badass in the very very "bad" way and you hate him for it, even if you love watching the chase. Every lesser character like Woody Harrelson's, the convenience store clerk (the Cohen's have a knack for finding perfect roles for gas station attendents) the deputy and Moss's mother-in-law add to the stew.

It's fascinating, well-paced, leaves you thinking and just pulls at you. You feel like you've faced just what the sheriff faced by the end and you'll probably come to the same conclusion. Watch it.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A study in style over substance, 13 July 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is probably Quentin's best movie of the ones I've seen simply because it IS so stylized. However, beyond that this is nothing to hold it up. I don't care how great the acting is, there's just no real plot. OK, there is a plot but it's totally beside the point.

There's a heist that involves a group of criminals who have to split up and meet up later. An undercover cop who is in on the heist watches as another cop gets tortured. Tempers flare amongst the criminals and one gets shot. Despite being criminals and not really knowing each other, some show loyalty. That's pretty much it.

Some friends have told me that I missed the part in the end where you hear the cops show up and gun some of the criminals down. That doesn't change much. I'm not compelled in any way to really care for any of the characters. There's not really any background on any of them. There's no substance. It's all one-dimensional even down to the stupid "mr. pink" "mr. white" names they're given. Twelve Angry Men is an awesome film that does the opposite of this and uses pretty much one boring room as the entire setting. Yet it's interesting because the plot is good and it's all about the characters. Breakfast Club is a totally different film that does the same. Both make more lasting statements than are made here. The most memorable of which deals with lyrics from a Madonna song and Michael Madsen's almost comical "Are you gonna bark all day...?" ooh i'm a bad-ass line.

No one will ever make a movie that can beat Tombstone in that category. And yeah that movie is all style, but there's still a story to it. The characters resemble people.

The fact is that Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen and most of the rest are all great actors. They all play their parts well and exhibit that one "color" as it were. There are some cool lines here and there. The music is great. The violence is sort of inventive (using the old trick of letting your imagination fill in the blanks IS brilliant). The rest of it is...well I don't see anything going on. There is no rest of it as far as I'm concerned.

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