Newest Reviews:

New Movies -  

The Tunnel


The Tall Man

Mama Africa





Brownian Movement

Last Ride

[Rec]³: Genesis

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Indie Game: The Movie

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Old Movies -

Touki Bouki: The Journey of the Hyena

Drums Along the Mohawk

The Chase

The Heiress

Show People

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry



Miracle Mile

The Great Flamarion

Dark Habits

Archives -

Recap: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012

All reviews alphabetically

All reviews by star rating

All reviews by release year


Screening Log



E-mail me




May 2004 Screening Log - click for reviews, when applicable. Titles of short films listed in bold.


01. 13 Going on 30 (Gary Winick, 2004) 34 [Everything here suggests the target audience for this naïve romance is thirteen, and not thirty. It’s a consistently stupid movie, with next to no understanding of what it is to have a job, a relationship, or a sense of self-worth. Every character is assayed in sitcom terms (this almost makes the way they all repeatedly and randomly bump into one another appropriate), which helps to avoid any introspection that a thirteen year old might not be able to grasp. Even the comic set pieces are bungled when they become more about meeting the needs of the audience than the realities of the characters (I know the entire film is a fantasy, but it’s just stupid that everyone knows every step to the "Thriller" video years later.). It’s only bearable because of the performances, which are about as good as a script this bad would allow.]

Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004) 67 [Frequently hilarious and fast-paced, this snappy teen comedy more or less lives up to the standard established by Heathers. Most of my complaints are centered on the film’s inappropriate PG-13 rating. This is clearly material that needs to be rated R (though I did enjoy “axe-wound”, the MPAA-acceptable euphemism for “cunt”) to really take off. Some of it is pitched smarter than I expected (the decision to not show one character’s face is especially inspired), and all of it is more entertaining than it would be in less capable hands. Let’s hope Waters and Lohan continue to work together, since he seems to understand the kind of tossed-off confidence she exudes.]


02. Dracula Has Risen From His Grave (Freddie Francis, 1968) 62 [It’s not the best Hammer Dracula movie, but it still reliably delivers the blood, babes, and baroque atmosphere that one would expect from a film in the series. There's nothing terribly imaginative here, but it's entertaining anyhow, thanks in part to game performances. One minor disappointment: the displaced Dracula, who takes up in a sewer to better extract his revenge, never gets to set foot in his castle.] 

Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977) 78 [Absolutely electric energy levels make this routine script come to life. Badham's other films don't seem to contain even a fraction of this one's sense of place or willingness to undermine our ability to identify with its characters. This is a movie of small victories and small defeats, but it still manages to pack a cumulative impact. It must have functioned as a Rebel Without a Cause for teenagers who saw it when it first came out. The ending doesn't quite work, but it's been done with much less skill too many times to complain.]

Rose Hobart (Joseph Cornell, 1936) 85


03. Rose Hobart (Joseph Cornell, 1936) 85

Dark Days (Marc Singer, 2000) 53 [It’s not terribly informative or even that moving, but it’s very atmospheric, which goes a long way in my book, especially with a documentary. The choice to shoot in black and white pays off beautifully, and makes me wish more non-fiction films weren’t so concerned with representing reality. DJ Shadow's music is used adequately, but not exceptionally, which is a letdown since it's exceptional music.]


04. Someone's Watching Me! (John Carpenter, 1978) 55 [Carpenter is working in a Hitchcokian mode with this made-for-TV movie (specifically Rear Window), and for the most part, he manages to pull off the homage without belaboring the point. It's nowhere near as good or as accomplished as Halloween, but it's enjoyable, partially because of its familiarity. Especially noteworthy is the way that the script uses Hutton's headstrong feminism as an excuse as to why she would be willing to stay in a plainly dangerous situation.]

Ella Enchanted (Tommy O'Haver, 2004) 37 [It's always reductive to use a term like "Shrek for teen girls" to describe a movie, but such a quip is awfully applicable in this case. Thankfully, this movie is much more bearable than that soulless CGI torture device. Anne Hathaway is infinitely more charming than Mike Meyers' voice, and the song and dance numbers are actually enjoyable in this movie. It's still too scattershot and clichéd to be truly enchanting, but there are flashes of inspiration (e.g. the medieval shopping mall, complete with escalator) here and there.]


05. Alice, Sweet Alice (Alfred Sole, 1976) 56 [This prototypical slasher movie seems to hit on all of the requirements of the genre, years before they became requirements. Viewed now, it's not especially noteworthy, unless one looks at it from a historical perspective. Still, there are surprisingly gruesome killings here, and a mean streak that directly assaults organized religion (and results in two shocking set pieces).]

A Talking Picture (Manoel de Oliveira, 2003) 63 [Unfortunately, a second viewing wasn't a revelatory experience, but it fortunately wasn't a tortuous one either. The first hour or so is still a bit draggy, the sudden left turn in the finale, still a shocker.]


06. Adrenaline Drive (Shinobu Yaguchi, 1999) 54 [Perfectly adequate and amiable, but not much more. I've seen this movie, give or take, dozens of times already in English, so really it's only the charismatic performances that attract me here. Thankfully, the kids make a cute couple, and the bumbling gangsters made me laugh more than once. It doesn't really add up to much, but the time spent watching it doesn't feel as if it were wasted.] 

Rain (Christine Jeffs, 2001) 57 [I've seen this movie, give or take, dozens of times already... oh wait, I just used that one. Seriously, though, how many of these ultra-specific coming-of-age movies do we really need? It probably could be a transcendent experience for you if it mirrors your personal experiences in some ways, but for the rest of us, we can just nod in half-understanding, and hope that the next one is tailor made for us. Jeffs is a very talented director, and quite capable of establishing atmosphere and non-verbalized discomfort. Sarah Pierse gives a great, very physical performance as the horny mom.]

It's All About Love (Thomas Vinterberg, 2003) 74 [The plot here takes a heck of a long time to reveal itself, and doesn't really resolve itself in the most satisfying way, but Vinterberg still seems firmly in control of his vision every step of the way. The mix of sci-fi elements and a heartbreaking, doomed romance reminded me of Eternal Sunshine, but here I actually cared about the characters. It's a shock and a shame that a movie of this caliber (and with this much star power!) can't net distribution in the US.]


07. Prozac Nation (Erik Skjoldbjaerg, 2001) 59 [It’s much better than I was expecting, given that it’s been in Miramax-imposed distribution limbo for years. It’s too glossy by half, and filled with far too much camera trickery, but very few scenes feel detrimentally extraneous. The script is awfully self-absorbed, no doubt, but it’s tough to see how a movie about clinical depression wouldn’t be. There are fleeting moments when the whole thing seems to scream, “Look at what a monster I was!”, and that makes the movie feel faintly like an ego booster for its writer, but most of it is well-acted enough (Jessica Lange is especially good, despite being miscast as an overbearing Jewish mother) that I was absorbed in its story.]

Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbull, 1971) 58 [This movie presents itself as an anti-war statement then proceeds to be at least as strongly anti-science. Similarly, the displeasure we feel when watching the character's physical condition is matched by the realization of his mental imprisonment. "I don't know whether I'm alive and dreaming or dead and remembering", he muses, and when the ramifications of that statement sink in the movie becomes truly horrific. It's a stylistically adventurous movie, structured with nested flashbacks, dreams and fantasies, but several of these episodes are stunted artistically, without the directorial talent require to fully flesh out the dreamscape. The last twenty minutes, with the inevitable communication breakthrough are riveting, and make up for the meandering nature of what's come before.]

El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970) 77 [Jodorowsky has the rare ability to come up with unsettling images that are able to disturb the audience and not just the characters in the movie. Perhaps it's because he's not really ever aiming for a literal effect. In any case, this Western (clearly in the Spaghetti mode) uses its threadbare plot as an excuse to dole out a series of hallucinatory set pieces, which may or may not be thematically connected. I have to admit that I didn't make much sense out of it on a logical level, but I was continually riveted, and eager to see what was presented next.]


08. Brewster's Millions (Walter Hill, 1985) 50 [This is undeniably a star vehicle for Richard Pryor (even John Candy is background material here), but it works well enough on those terms. Hill's influence can be detected, and comes across strongest in the rapid plot resolution and the scarcity of back story or subplots. Probably because it's a remake, it's dated less that most of its contemporary lowbrow comedies. It's interesting that the script's central, necessary deceit (Brewster can't reveal the rules of the game) is never molded into a morality lesson.]

Carlito's Way (Brian De Palma, 1993) 81 

Barfly (Barbet Schroeder, 1987) 69

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (George Barry, 1977) 40


09. Good News (Charles Walters, 1947) 63

Van Helsing (Stephen Sommers, 2004) 23


10. Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincent Minnelli, 1944) 83


11. Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984) 86

The Ghost and the Darkness (Stephen Hopkins, 1996) 36


12. Abigail's Party (Mike Leigh, 1977) 68


13. Going in Style (Martin Brest, 1979) 54

The Knack... and How to Get It (Richard Lester, 1965) 44


14. Breakin' All the Rules (Daniel Taplitz, 2004) 55

New York Minute (Dennie Gordon, 2004) 58


15. Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004) 73

Smile (Michael Ritchie, 1975) 56


16. Broadcast News (James L. Brooks, 1987) 77

Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980) 62

Risky Business (Paul Brickman, 1983) 65

Excalibur (John Boorman, 1981) 74


17. A Man Shouldn't Be Alone (Pedro Olea, 1973) 60

Love and Basketball (Gina Prince-Bythewood, 2000) 49 [This romantic drama almost works thanks to the chemistry between Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, but it's awfully flawed. The first segment, of four, is nearly unwatchable due to some wretched child performances. There's a clunky made-for-TV feel, which the structure intensifies. Every major character has an opportunity to speak their mind in an overwritten monologue, and the movie seems to see those heart-to-hearts as a complete resolution of their problems. The essential drama, which surrounds a choice between college and the NBA makes no sense, given that both of the main characters are affluent. I imagine the movie is trying to give urban audiences a film they can relate to without confronting the issues that would rise if the movie was set in an urban environment. Instead of examining the ways that the game of basketball skews these lives and perception of these people, the movie is centered on a predictable puppy love plot, much to its detriment. Alfre Woodard, usually so strong, seems miscast in a role of a repressed homemaker. That all being said, there are scenes here that work. There's a sexy game of strip-Horse, and several of the character revelations resonate off each other in ways that I hadn't anticipated (for example, the way one character's advice about gold digging women twists back upon her is sharp). These moments aren't enough though, and at the end of the day the film is too hackneyed to fulfill its grandiose ambitions.]


18. Doppelganger (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2003) 53

Two Can Play That Game (Mark Brown, 2001) 66 [Thanks to its deliberately nasty streaks of profanity, this is much funnier than the average romantic comedy. The cast, especially Vivica Fox and Anthony Anderson, is universally charismatic. No matter how much they talk dirty and play dirty, they seem nice.]


19. Dionysus in '69 (Brian De Palma & Richard Schechner, 1970) 47 [There's only so much one can do with filmed live theater, I suppose, but this early feature uses handheld camerawork and split screens (or is it just two separate rolls of film projected simultaneously?) to imbue the production with even more energy than it already had. For most of its duration, I found it interesting as a reflection of its time, but the ending stunted that reaction in a pleasing way. At first, the sensationalistic, naked orgy at the play's start (with ample audience participation!) seems to be the focus in this liberal adaptation of Euripides' "The Bacchae". By the end, however, it has, at least in theory, turned into a condemnation of those in the audience most eager to participate in the revelry. It does work as a demonstration in the way that the classics can be kept relevant, but only in the most obvious ways. Hedonism is revealed as "bad" and chaos, despite an explosion onto the streets, remains a theatrical concept. The "hip" alterations to the text irked me and the air of exploitation doesn't really ever evaporate (which, more than any other element, makes this distinctly a De Palma film).]

The Responsive Eye (Brian De Palma, 1966) 32

The Wise Little Hen (Wilfred Jackson, 1934) 60 / Donald and Pluto (Ben Sharpsteen, 1936) 66 / Don Donald (Ben Sharpsteen, 1937) 78 / Modern Inventions (Jack King, 1937) 64 / Donald's Ostrich (Jack King, 1937) 54 


20. Eaten Alive (Tobe Hooper, 1977) 45 [A bad movie by any logical estimation, but at the same time an interesting entry in its genre: The theatrical lighting effects are the polar opposite of the gritty, oppressive naturalism of Hopper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The opening scene is quoted in Kill Bill: Volume 1. The first twenty minutes have an unrelenting exploitative quality that promises a sense of danger that the rest of the movie (unfortunately) doesn't really deliver on. Watching victim after victim get scythed and fed to a gator somehow never loses its appeal.]

Avanti! (Billy Wilder, 1972) 38 [The mixture of cuteness and cynicism here just doesn't work for me, but the result is at least a fascinating failure. That Jack Lemmon's character is such an intolerable asshole gets in the way of my ability to take much pleasure in his serendipitous growth as a human being. The plodding pace might have felt like the film's ease with itself if I had been enjoying myself. As it was, however, too many gags came off as too slight to support their buildup. Wilder's "wit" spares no one, and everyone's foibles are laid bare in a way that made me wonder why I should be pleased with the happiness of these characters in the first place. It's easy to see how someone could find the movie's amorality gleeful, but to these eyes, Wilder doesn't quite make it across the tightrope he's treading.]


21. Roxie Hart (William A. Wellman, 1942) 61 [There are some great touches in this comedy, which incidentally served as the inspiration for Chicago. The flashback structure of the framing device (I love that swirling cigarette smoke) completely salvages the story from the cynicism that made that recent musical something of a chore, and the differences in the ending make all the difference in determining the film's attitude toward its lawlessness (good job, Production Code). It doesn't quite ever take off like Chicago does in its best moments, but it's more consistently good, by far. Ginger Rogers gets a lot of mileage out of her kneecaps.]

Dead Calm (Phillip Noyce, 1989) 67 [Noyce, in his way, is an ideal director for this because he opts not to instill any sort of higher meaning in the sadism. He's a proficient technician who often stumbles when he shoots for greatness, and in this mediocrity he seems to have found his métier. That makes the movie something of a well oiled machine, or a disgusting exercise in perversity, depending on your P.O.V.. I remained fairly rapt throughout, even though I've seen it several times before, and that's really all I ask. Zane's performance is wickedly funny. Kidman's is impressive in that her character's exceptionally poor decisions don't make her seem a total fool.]


22. Trash (Paul Morrissey, 1970) 87


23. Under the Skin of the City (Rakhshan Bani Etemad, 2001) 49

Matinee (Joe Dante, 1993) 62

The Amityville Horror (Stuart Rosenberg, 1979) 34

Twentynine Palms (Bruno Dumont, 2003) 83


24. Distance (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2001) 53

Shrek 2 (Andew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon, 2004) 31


25. Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet (Aki Kaurismaki, Victor Erice, Werner Herzog, Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, Spike Lee, & Chen Kaige, 2002) 52


26. PTU (Johnnie To, 2003) 63 


27. Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg, 1993) 33


28. Séance on a Wet Afternoon (Bryan Forbes, 1964) 58


29. Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (Freddie Francis, 1965) 56

Roger & Me (Michael Moore, 1989) 24

Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958) 93


30. Soul Plane (Jessy Terrero, 2004) 60

The Day After Tomorrow (Roland Emmerich, 2004) 17


31. Being There (Hal Ashby, 1979) 28 [Funny that the cinematography is the prime asset in a movie about the way that appearances make us mistake banality for profundity. Everything is precipitously balanced on the unlikely assumption that the characters surrounding Peter Sellers don't pick up on the fact that he's retarded. It's a high wire act that never completely stumbles, but never manages to convince either. Because it's so clearly taking place in an alternate reality -- that is one in which the world ceases to exist once a scene ends -- it becomes very easy to ignore whatever relevance might be present in the satire. Ashby pitches everything at a pace that the mentally disabled can keep up with.]

The House That Dripped Blood (Peter Duffell, 1970) 48 [Moderately entertaining, but not quite scary, this anthology of horror tales (penned by Psycho scribe Robert Bloch) coasts by on the predictable comforts a well-executed genre film can provide. It's slightly goofy from time to time, but that's half of its (limited) charm. None of the segments especially stands out here, which is something of a bummer. After all, a mediocre movie like Trilogy of Terror can become a classic due to one superb episode.]

A Little Princess (Alfonso Cuaron, 1995) 52 [What happened here? A few years on, and what was once enchanting becomes a rather irritating disappointment. None of the characters are well-drawn. Even the monstrous villain is denied her cursory motivation for being mean. Cuaron directs the heck out of it. There are great, obviously studio-bound sets but there is also an unfortunate propensity toward reductive reaction shots, which effectively dictate to the audience how to feel. It's still alright... don't get me wrong, but most of the magic and goodwill that I once observed now feels stilted and forced.]

Only Yesterday (Isao Takahata, 1991) 68 



January 2004 - February 2004 - March 2004 - April 2004 - May 2004 - June 2004