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Elephant (2003)
5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Shot to Death, 20 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I find it hilarious that the plot keywords for this film include "shot to death". That, of course, refers to the fact that people in the movie get shot to death. However that's how I would characterize this mess. It was shot to death.

I had just watched Bowling for Columbine, and read a lot online from the reports of witnesses as well as friends and family of the shooters. So I was looking forward to an interesting character study along those lines.

What a disappointment. Just sloppy. The timing is rather difficult to track (I'm pretty sure I understand what the director was trying to do, but it's inconsistent and a few times even contradictory). The character development is sometimes excellent and other times terrible. I mean why do we see so much of John, a character we learn to like, and then the only thing that actually happens with him is he's told to leave? And the black guy who's name escapes me now. We see him walking around like he owns the place and we expect something interesting, but we get absolutely nothing. He doesn't even die in an attempt to be a hero. He just dies.

Nathan's girlfriend is potentially pregnant, and he's a lifeguard. From the moment he put on the jacket I expected he would be a hero in some way, even if only for one person. When Alex is doing eenie-meenie-miney-moe I wanted to yell, "Nathan, charge him! He's going to shoot one of you, make it you, and take a shot at taking him out in the process. Grow a pair! Your girlfriend might be pregnant for crying out loud!" Instead he just waits for it, apparently taking the chance that he might not be the one to get shot. Some lifeguard.

The director clearly loves photography. I mean Gus spent a lot of time in this movie focusing on the guy with the camera and the time in the darkroom. At first the photography seemed interesting, but eventually it was just obnoxious. "Okay, we get it. You like to spin around and around. Can we please get some character or plot development going here?" And the slow panning? Just a waste of time when it's so overused. It loses its impact after the 12th or 15th pan. /sarcasm/

A couple of teenage boys kissing in the shower. I wonder how many panels were dedicated to that in the storyboards? I wonder what thoughts were going through his mind as he did the casting for Alex and Eric...

How about just basic creative writing, which is particularly relevant in character studies? We are introduced to the conflicts of numerous characters, all of whom have names that we are shown (though confusingly sometimes the name is shown before the character, sometimes the reverse). Yet not only do we NOT see any development of their conflicts, we don't even get the vaguest resolution of half of the characters. We see a few get shot, including one of the shooters (and we were never treated to the slightest hint of why that might have been, unless it was provoked by the shower kiss, in which case I can understand; it made me want to shoot someone, too, as it was so out-of-place), yet we don't know if the rest lived or died. Why spend any time developing a character that won't even get a moment of screen time after the initial development?

Here's my theory: Gus had an idea about what he wanted to say. He didn't actually get that written down, though, because he was having fun with the storyboards, planning out how he would shoot the film. He got so excited about the shots that he forgot to actually say something.

He felt each shot was so brilliant that they all needed to be 4 or 5 minute steadycam shots. Just long, long, pointless shots that are "artistic."

As a result, the movie was shot to death.

The best thing about this movie: If you watch it, you'll only lose 1 hour of your life. I, for one, will never again waste another minute on a Gus Van Sant film.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Loved it, 2 April 2005

This was far more enjoyable than I'd expected. I saw all the signs on the side of the bus years ago, so I thought it would be funny, but I didn't expect to be crying. My wife and I spent the whole movie pointing out the references to the movies it parodied. It was on TV tonight, and now we're wanting to see it again.

The rest of this review is just filler because for some reason IMDb doesn't allow short reviews. I have to fill in 10 lines of text in this input box, though it will come through as less than 10 lines in the version you're reading, at least on most people's screens.

So, enjoy the movie!

8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
What a waste of potential, 2 April 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is mediocre at best. There was so much potential but it was wasted on meaningless skits.

Most of the negative reviews of this movie focus on the lack of a plot. I disagree. I think there was a plot, it just wasn't very deep. It wasn't deep because the director didn't want you to focus on the plot. This is a character study, and as such an overly complicated plot would only distract.

What a shame then that the characters were underdeveloped and what little we do experience of their lives is distracted by pointless and meaningless interactions with a phone sex extortionist who also runs a mattress store in Provo, Utah.

Quick sidebar: The guy pays 4 dorks to drive their old pickup to LA to get money from Adam Sandler. He tells them that their expenses are their own, meaning they have to pay for food and gas. Provo is about 45 minutes from my home. I drive a Honda Civic that gets 30 mpg. At current gas prices it costs me over $200 in gas alone to drive to LA and back. The truck isn't getting anything better than 15 mpg, and that's a conservative estimate based on the 3 trucks in my family of similar vintage. So we're looking at over $400 in gas to go retrieve $500. Does anyone else recognize how pointless and ultimately damaging to the movie as a whole the entire Utah/phone sex/extortion scheme is? Couldn't anyone possibly have thought up a more meaningful and relevant conflict for Barry to face? There are so many options:

Man vs. Self; Man vs. Man; Man vs. Nature; Man vs. World; Man vs. Space Aliens is a better option than Barry Egan vs. a weak character who sells mattresses and extorts money from people.

The writing is awful. Every character, no matter what their background, talks the same. This is, in my opinion, a horrible crime in any movie. But in a character study it should be grounds for banishment from Hollywood. Fortunately Mr. Anderson hasn't worked much since PDL.

The positives:

The characters had potential. Barry & Lena could have been the foundation of a moving, meaningful film. Instead they're just a couple of oddballs you won't miss when the movie is over. But because they were original and had that potential, the movie earned a few points on my scorecard.

The photography was impressive. There is camera work that every film student should study. As a professional photographer myself I'll be trying to emulate some of them, though most don't translate well into still images. This was one of the main reasons I stuck with the show instead of going to bed early. And one of the reasons I'm up tonight after the movie ended so I could share all this with you.

Writing: 2 out of 10 (were some funny moments, but not enough to forgive the sloppy character definition); Direction: 4 out of 10 (very consistent, yet consistently headed nowhere); Photography: 8 out of 10 (impressive); Acting: 6 out of 10 (better than average, but nothing to get excited about)

Total scientifically averaged score: (um, carry the two, divide by 4) 5! Perfectly mediocre.

If you want good character studies, go see Lost in Translation, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, or Little Man Tate. Don't waste your time with this one unless you are a student of photography or you're dating the director's daughter or something.

Sloppiest movie ever, 31 October 2004

Okay, enough has been said about the plot holes, illogical storyline, forced dialogue, and the vacuuming of random people. Let's talk about something else: boom mikes.

Normally I enjoy coming here, sometimes even before I see a movie, and reading about the goofs. I then watch for them as I enjoy the movie. Something to keep my mind occupied while I sit through movies my wife makes me see. Like this one, actually. I found it hysterical that there are no boom mike goofs listed here in IMDb. But I realize it's because there are just too many to count.

The first one I was a little surprised and disappointed to see. After a few more I started to think that someone in the projector room was casting shadows, because there just too many of them. (They were all in dark scenes, so they looked like shadows.) But then they started popping up in brighter scenes (other than her memories, there aren't really any true daylight scenes; overcast at best). The most obvious was outside the house on Long Island, where a the mike is wearing a fuzzy blue windbreaker. My wife and I were laughing so hard after each one that we missed some of the story. Well, sort of. There wasn't much to miss.

Anyway, this movie is amateur at best. If I had seen it at a local film festival I would have thought the writers and director had promise and could move on to bigger projects with better budgets. But it wasn't local, and it had a decent budget. It was simply sloppy, and probably rushed to screen in time for Halloween.

Take the time and do it right. Plug the plot holes, hire someone to write the dialogue who actually converses with people now and then, and for the love of all things sacred, get the boom mikes out of the shots!

3 out of 10.

- Jon

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Let's watch two old, rich people have sex!, 19 April 2004

My sisters and a number of friends all said it was great. One of the best movies of the year. It was nominated for a number of awards, which says it's at least worth a moments' consideration, taken with a grain or 12 of salt because nominations are so misleading sometimes. Like this one, in fact.

Let's watch two old, rich people have sex! Surely everyone can relate to that!

As a comedy it's funny. Jack Nicholson's body language alone is worth a short flick. But beyond that there's nothing. The drama and acting were WAY overhyped. Normally I'm not a fan of Amanda Peet's acting, but she was the most natural one in this movie. Keanu was a close second, and that's saying something. It was just awkward and LONG. So cliched I wanted to scream. And I don't think I've ever seen anything so perfectly, precisely predictable.

As a social commentary it has a few good points. But those points are lost in the poorly done drama, overhyped cast, and cliched story/dialogue.

If someone asks you to watch this with them, ask what your other choices are. And make sure that if you do watch this one, you aren't the one paying because you'll probably regret it.

161 out of 253 people found the following review useful:
Just don't take it seriously, 12 April 2004

Wow, there are a lot of bad votes for this movie here. I thought it was great. It's a Will Smith / Barry Sonnenfeld movie. You can't take it seriously. The humor is perfectly subtle and dry at times, and over the top at others. The storyline is only there to give opportunities for the jokes.

If you want a serious western, try The Magnificent Seven (or the original, 7 Samurai), Hombre, or some other classic. If you want a light-hearted evening, rent this. Probably don't buy it, but rent it.

For some reason it says that my review has to be more than 10 lines, so I'm throwing this in to make it work. Really a review for a movie like this doesn't need to be this long, but I guess I'll just comply.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Top ten funniest movies, 17 November 2003

I hate to mention other reviews when reviewing a movie, but Artzan missed the point of this movie. It's not meant to be inspiring or life-altering. It's a humorous view of the afterlife.

If you do not enjoy this movie, you probably won't appreciate any of Brooks' work (Mel or Albert, for that matter). Not only is this a great movie, but it stands up very well to repeated viewings. The humor, not the plot, is more involved than is first apparent, and more of it comes out each time. Mind you, that doesn't mean you should watch it 5 times a week, or even 3 times a year, but it's worth owning and pulling off the shelf now and then.

8 out of 10. (You've got to have some real meaning to get anything more in my book. As a sarcastic movie, 8 out of 10 is a perfect score.)

Now what?, 15 October 2003

Okay, it's good. It's one of the better sequels I've seen in my movie-loving life. But it wasn't great. A half an hour of talking is fine in a comedy, drama, or sometimes even in a musical. But not in an overtly action-based film. No matter how hard you try to explain it otherwise, this is not a drama.

The twins could have been used considerably more. Only one scene? (The restaurant scene doesn't count because they didn't do anything.) However, I have a strong feeling that they will be back in November. The car chase was incredible. Fighting the Oracle's bodyguard was great. I loved the Keymaker. But where's the story? Sure, there's a lot of talk, especially with the Oracle and the Architect, about the background of the Matrix (or Matrices?), but no story. Basically this is a 10 minute story turned into a two hour many-million dollar production. Little more than a blatant excuse to use bullet-time. But where are the new executions of bullet-time that John Gaeta talks about in the making of the original? Very disappointing. Nothing new and novel like the first one. Let's hope this is all part of the Wachowskis' plan to blow us away in the third and likely final episode.

Rudy (1993)
This is a first for me, 23 September 2003

This is the only the second movie I've ever rated as a perfect 10. 'nuff said. (except that the other one is Life is Beautiful) This is the only the second movie I've ever rated as a perfect 10. 'nuff said. (except that the other one is Life is Beautiful)

7 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
As mysterious as Citizen Kane, 23 September 2003

If you were able to sit through Citizen Kane, and maybe even got something from it you'll enjoy One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Sure, Jack Nicholson gives a great performance (he usually does), and Nurse Ratchet is sicker than the patients, but that doesn't make a great movie. Just a long, pointless journey through a psycho-ward. If you're looking for something worthwhile, check out something other than this or Citizen Kane of AFI's or IMDB's top movies list.