More Movie Reviews!
Here’s a list of movies that I like - or don't like - in alphabetical order, organized by genre. Some of them are relatively unknown (okay, obscure) but have some unique quality that caught my attention. I like to be contrarian. There’s no point in me listing every great movie; everyone knows that The Godfather (trilogy), Jaws (the first one), Schindler's List, Forrest Gump, the original Psycho, etc., etc., were great. If I have something to say about a movie, actor, or director, I make note of it here. Looking for more complete sources of movie info? Try FILMSITE.ORG, run by the American Movie Channel (AMC), and IMDb.COM, the Internet Movie DataBase. You might also try the website of John Varley, the excellent science fiction author. Varley has posted his own reviews of hundreds of movies.
ACE VENTURA, PET DETECTIVE (1994) Jim Carrey’s first movie is still his outrageous best, and I am a lifelong Miami Dolphin fan. Don’t miss Carrey’s under-rated Man on the Moon (1999), where he gives an amazing, spot-on performance as Andy Kaufman.
AIRPLANE! (1980) Who can forget Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as co-pilot? Listen, kid ... And how about Leslie Nielsen? A great, funny actor ... may he rest in peace.
BEST IN SHOW (2000) Christopher Guest and the usual gang lampoon dog shows. If you love dogs and / or satire, do not miss this movie.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998) A cult classic, with Jeff Bridges in his best role, and a fine supporting cast led by John Goodman. I get a lot of comments when I wear my “The Dude Abides” T-shirt. The Coen brothers have done many great movies: Fargo (1996), which is one of my all time favorites, O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000), which is an average movie but does have some very fine music, No Country for Old Men (2007) with Tommie Lee Jones, and their first effort, Blood Simple (1984).
THE BIRDCAGE (1996) Tour de force by Robin Williams, and excellent performances by Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Hank Azaria, and many others. Williams also starred in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and many other great movies. May he and director Mike Nichols rest in peace.
BRIDESMAIDS (2011) Kristen Wiig starred, wrote, and produced this hilarious movie, which includes a breakout performance by Melissa McCarthy.
CADDYSHACK (1980) Maybe the funniest sports movie ever made. A tour de force by Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and many others. How many great lines have come from this movie? Too many to count, Cinderella boy …
CEDAR RAPIDS (2011) Very good comedy starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly. Reilly, a very versatile actor, was also terrific in Boogie Nights (1997) and The Perfect Storm (2000).
FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986) A “Chicago” classic I couldn’t leave off the list. Isn’t this Matthew Broderick’s best? By far? Mia Sara is beautiful in this movie.
THE FULL MONTY (1997) Wonderful movie, and great use of “Hot Stuff,” Donna Summer’s 1979 hit, “You Sexy Thing,” Hot Chocolate’s 1975 hit, and other music.
HOLLYWOOD KNIGHTS (1980) Forget Arliss; this is by far the best thing Robert Wuhl ever did. He is sensational as Newbomb Turk. Great supporting cast, lead by the amazing Gailard Sartain as Officer Bimbeau, and Fran Drescher. Many, many gross jokes and funny lines in this movie. A side note: A young Tony Danza, and a very young Michelle Pfeiffer are the love interest in this movie. Just skip over the love scenes and you’ll be fine.
THE JERK (1979) Steve Martin and Jackie Mason are hilarious.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) Great use of a Rick James song … I won’t give it away … watch the movie. Includes a very good, underplayed performance by Steve Carrell, before he became famous.
MAJOR LEAGUE (1989) Great sports movie, with Charlie Sheen as Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and Bob Uecker as the radio announcer Harry Doyle.
MEN IN BLACK (1997) Great performances by Tommie Lee Jones and Will Smith.
MR. SATURDAY NIGHT (1992) A Billy Crystal vehicle, with a terrific performance by David Paymer as his brother. Crystal made many great movies, including When Harry Met Sally (1989), and City Slickers (1991).
THE NAKED GUN movies (1988-1994) Speaking of Leslie Nielsen … all three of these movies were excellent. George Kennedy was terrific, too.
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998) The “Ben Stiller in the bathroom” scene is beyond funny ... Franks and Beans ... I’m not a big fan of Cameron Diaz, but she dazzled in this movie.
TIN CUP (1996) Great sports movie. How about Cheech Marin! Excellent! And a terrific ending.
TOMMY BOY (1995) I included this because I still miss the extraordinary Chris Farley. Some of his Saturday Night Live skits were sensational!
TRADING PLACES (1983) A classic with Eddie Murphy (at his funniest), Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis. The characters played by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche (Reginald and Mortimer Duke) were the inspiration for the names Mor-tay and Ar-nay used in Chapter 29 of Sex Lies and Soybeans. Curtis also starred in the scariest new-release movie I ever saw: Halloween (1978), and Aykroyd, great on Saturday Night Live, co-starred in one of the best and saddest movies I’ve ever seen: Driving Miss Daisy (1989). John Landis (director) did many great films, including Animal House (1978) and The Blues Brothers (1980), both with John Belushi (Ah, Johnny, you were gone before your time), and the "Thriller" music video with Michael Jackson.
WAYNE’S WORLD (1992) Mike Myers is a genius. I also loved the Austin Powers movies, and many of his Saturday Night Live skits. He’s lampooned the English, Scottish, Dutch, Indian gurus, etc, but he still owes us a “France” movie. Did he miss his opportunity when Steve Martin destroyed the Pink Panther franchise?
WE'RE THE MILLERS (2013) Not a great plot, but funny and entertaining, and Jennifer Aniston in her underwear.
WHAT ABOUT BOB? (1991) A tour de force by Bill Murray. If you're a fan, you must see this!
WEDDING CRASHERS (2005) Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, and even Will “Meat Loaf” Ferrell were excellent. Vaughn also starred in the funny and poignant The Break-Up (2006) with Jennifer Aniston.
Sci-Fi / Horror
THE ABYSS (1989) This terrific movie by James Cameron has it all: excellent plot, very good acting by Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, etc, and fantastic special effects.
ALIEN (1979) Great sets, cast, monster (by H.R. Giger), story, special effects, and Sigourney Weaver in her underwear.
AVATAR (2009) Another amazing James Cameron achievement in special effects, although the plot lags a bit at the end. Must watch in 3D.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) Stanley Kubrick did this interesting, violent movie, which starred a very young Malcolm McDowell. Kubrick made many great movies, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and The Shining (1980) with Jack Nicholson.
DRACULA (1931) The campy horror classic with Bela Lugosi, filled with great quotable lines.
DUNE (1984) and JODOWORSKY'S DUNE (2014). Frank Herbert's original novel, published in 1965, is a SF Classic. Many people pan the 1984 movie directed by David Lynch, but I think it's pretty good, in a campy sort of way. It's got a funky set of actors, and some very decent special effects. Jodoworsky's Dune is very interesting. It includes interviews from Jodoworsky himself, and a few artists from the team he assembled (including H.R. Giger), and many graphics that would have been used if he'd actually been funded and made the film. Too bad it wasn't. It might have been mind-blowing.
GRAVITY (2013) Fantastic special effects and good performances by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney raise this movie from average to very good, but really, not much of a plot. Watch in 3D if you can.
HALLOWEEN (1978) The scariest new-release I ever saw in a dark movie theatre. My hands were sweating, and my then-girlfriend (now my wife) walked out of the theatre before the end. The sequels and remakes ranged from mediocre to horrible.
THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) I watched the movie, then read the book, and then watched the movie again. Both the book and the movie are excellent. In particular, the movie has some spectacular visuals, and wonderful performances by Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, etc.
INCEPTION (2010) The majority of the movie is a dream sequence that bounces quickly between four dream levels—very much like a video game, I’m told. (Like Blackie Blackburn, I don’t waste my time on video games.) The movie can be confusing, but the four dream levels are well differentiated, so pay attention and you’ll be able to follow it. This movie reminds me of The Matrix (1999).
OBLIVION (2013) I stopped watching halfway through, it was that bad. I have mixed feelings about Tom Cruise, who has done many good movies, and a bunch of - my new favorite word - mediocrities.
PROMETHEUS (2012) After all the hype, a big disappointment.
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) A wonderful “Hannibal Lecter” movie, based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris. And don’t forget Manhunter (1986), a Michael Mann film (great mood!) starring William Petersen, which is based on “Red Dragon,” the first Hannibal Lecter novel by Harris. Both movies are great; subsequent “Lecter” movies were not nearly as good.
SOYLENT GREEN (1973) I couldn’t forget this movie, since some people will infer a connection between it and Sex, Lies, and Soybeans. The only connections I see are that both are about future food crises, and both have the word “Soy” in their titles. The last line of this movie, “Soylent Green is people,” has become part of pop culture. If you can remember what Soylent Green was supposed to be made of (not people, and not soybeans), you have a very good memory. Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson are both very good.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) The original is still the best. All the sequels and derivatives … forget them.
THE TERMINATOR (1984) Aaahnold in one of his best, if not best, roles. A great movie, followed by TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991) which was just as good, but with more/better special effects. T3 was not nearly as good. And how about James Cameron, a modern day Renaissance Man who takes on huge projects/goals (Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009)) and then totally demolishes them.
THE UNEARTHLY (1957) A Sci-Fi / Horror film starring John Carradine. I saw it when I was 12 years old, and it scared the hell out of me.
Action / Drama
AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013) A must-see! Great cast and great plot.
ARGO (2012) Ben Affleck's excellent movie - he starred and directed.
BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (2013) Perhaps this HBO movie starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon is a semi-accurate portrayal of a part of Liberace's life, but I did not need to see two major male actors engaged in faked anal intercourse. At least I hope it was faked! Come on, guys!
BLACK SWAN (2010) This movie defies attempts at categorization, but I'd call it a kinky, sex-filled horror / drama. Excellent acting by Natalie Portman and Vincent Kassel, and the soaring music of Tchaikovsky! Some fantastic scenes! You must see it!
BLUE JASMINE (2013) I like some of Woody Allen's early movies, like Annie Hall (1977) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), but many of his movies are just self-indulgent mediocrities. Not so with this movie, which stars the excellent Cate Blanchett, and evokes images of A Streetcar Named Desire's New Orleans.
BLUE VELVET (1986) A nasty, spooky, violent, sexy David Lynch film, worth watching to see the excellent performances by Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini, and others. Great use of the song “Blue Velvet,” and even greater use of Roy Orbison’s classic “In Dreams.”
BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997) Excellent movie about the making of a male porno star. I think Burt Reynolds, a very underrated actor, should have won an Academy Award for his work as supporting actor in this film (or perhaps for Smokey and the Bandit (1977)). Instead, Robin Williams won for Good Will Hunting.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002) A very interesting movie, well played by DiCaprio and Hanks. Of course, Hanks is good in almost everything he does. Check out Nothing in Common (1986), with a young Hanks playing Jackie Gleason’s son.
THE CONVERSATION (1974) Exceptional Francis Ford Coppola movie with Gene Hackman and John Cazale. Hackman did many other great movies, including The French Connection (1971) and I Never Sang for My Father (1970).
COOL HAND LUKE (1967) Great movie, with many quotable lines and a hilarious George Kennedy. Newman also made oodles of great movies, including The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Absence of Malice (1981), The Verdict (1982), and the wonderful Nobody’s Fool (1994), which was based on the great novel of the same name by Richard Russo.
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (2013) If you didn't think Matthew McConaughey could act, watch this movie and some of his other recent work. Jared Leto also great in this.
DIRTY HARRY (1971) Clint Eastwood has been in, and directed, many great movies. This is his best acting performance (Isn’t it … punk?) or perhaps, more correctly, this is the best character he ever portrayed. Also noteworthy is Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (2004) with Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman.
ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000) I am not a big fan of Julia Roberts, but this is an excellent movie, with some great lines and plot twists at the end.
THE FIGHTER (2010) A good movie, good acting, etc, but, at the end of it, I thought "Good, but not nearly as good as the first Rocky." The emotion Stallone achieved in Rocky is missing in The Fighter. Some really good portrayals of the people of Lowell, Massachusetts.
FURY (2014) A movie about WWII tank battles starring Brad Pitt. Very good, very violent, but not as good as Saving Private Ryan (1998).
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009) I much prefer the Swedish movie - movies - to the American one. The Swedish trilogy (Dragon Tattoo, Played With Fire, and Kicked the Hornet's Nest), released in 2009, starred Michael Nyqvist and the wonderful, intense Noomi Rapace. Although all 3 movies are long, together they deliver on many levels, and give you a real sense of Swedish life. The American movie, released in 2011, starred David Craig and Rooney Mara. I'd rate it as OK, but it is obviously truncated so as to appeal (???) to American moviegoers.
GONE GIRL (2014) Gillian Flynn's excellent, disturbing, enigmatic novel turned into an equally excellent, disturbing, and enigmatic film by - screenwriter Gillian Flynn. Well done!
GOODBYE, COLUMBUS (1969) Richard Benjamin as Philip Roth’s alter ego, and a very young Ali McGraw. I don’t care what you think … I liked it. Other noteworthy films Benjamin starred in, or appeared in: Portnoy’s Complaint (1972), The Last of Sheila (1973), and Catch-22 (1970). McGraw became famous after Love Story (1970), but I think The Getaway (1972), with Steve McQueen, is the best movie she ever appeared in.
THE GRADUATE (1967) Great movie and great cast, led by Dustin Hoffman, who made many great movies, including All the President’s Men (1976), Tootsie (1982), and Rain Man (1988).
THE HELP (2011) Some panned this movie because it wasn't a realistic portrayal of slavery in the South. OK, fair point, but it is still a very good movie, and true to the best selling novel by Kathryn Stockett. Emma Stone is excellent and beautiful in this one.
HEREAFTER (2010) Clint Eastwood again shows why he is one of the all-time greats of the movie industry (although I still think Million Dollar Baby (2004) is his best movie). Very interesting plot development of three seemingly unrelated characters. Matt Damon is very good in an understated way, and Cecile de France (where the heck did she come from?) is excellent and gorgeous. My only knock on this movie is that the ending is weak and somewhat contrived.
THE IDOLMAKER (1980) Starring Ray Sharkey, this movie chronicles the development of early teen rock-and-roll heartthrobs of the 1950s and 60s. Great music! The director, Taylor Hackford, went on to do An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), with Richard Gere, and Ray (2004), with Jamie Foxx outstanding in his portrayal of Ray Charles. Speaking of Gere, who could forget the scene in American Gigolo (1980) where he lays out his clothes as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles sing “The Love I Saw in You was Just a Mirage”?
LIFE OF PI (2012) Visually spectacular movie, but the book was much better.
LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003) Bill Murray shows (again) that he can excel in a serious role. From humble roots on Saturday Night Live, who would have thought Bill Murray would become the most successful movie star???
NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) The best of the great Alfred Hitchcock movies. Cary Grant in a cornfield … what could be better?
PULP FICTION (1994) Quentin Tarentino’s best … by far … so far.
THE QUEEN (2006) Outstanding performance by Helen Mirren, and a very interesting, revealing look at the British royal family.
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (2008) Terrific performance by Ann Hathaway.
THE RUSSIA HOUSE (1990) A spy movie, based on John Le Carre’s novel of the same name. The movie is okay, Sean Connery is very good, and Michelle Pfeiffer is not very good, but … this movie is noteworthy for the wonderfully photographed Russian landscapes, and the excellent jazzy score by Jerry Goldsmith, with Branford Marsalis doing fabulous saxophone solos. Watch the movie, then buy the soundtrack CD.
SECRETARY (2000) An offbeat, kinky movie with James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) Great movie, based on a Stephen King short story, and great acting by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012) Excellent performances by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
SKYFALL (2012) and all the James Bond 007 movies. First, I'm old school. For me, Sean Connery was the best Bond ever, and Goldfinger (1963) and From Russia With Love (1964) were the best from his era. Then there were a bunch of Bond movies - some good, some lousy. Then came the franchise reboot, with Daniel Craig as a very good Bond - not as good as Connery, but good. His three movies as Bond: Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), and Skyfall, are all entertaining. Craig just doesn't have the same sense of fun, the polish, the panache, that Connery had.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010) Very good movie that chronicles the excitement around the invention and early development of Facebook. Superbly written by Aaron Sorkin.
SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION (1970) (also known as Never Give an Inch) based on the novel of the same name by Ken Kesey. This movie starred Paul Newman (who also directed) and Henry Fonda. Excellent scenes of the Pacific Northwest logging country, and a great scene where Richard Jaekel gets trapped under a felled tree. And don’t forget One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), based on yet another Ken Kesey novel, which was one of Jack Nicholson’s best.
TAXI DRIVER (1976) One of the great Robert De Niro / Martin Scorsese collaborations, with moody music written by Bernard Herrmann.
THIEF (1981) A dark, moody Michael Mann film, with good performances by James Caan, Tuesday Weld, and Robert Prosky. Great music by Tangerine Dream, and a wonderful performance of “Turning Point,” a Chicago blues classic by Mighty Joe Young and Willie Dixon. See if you can identify the bearded man who tries to break up an argument between Caan and Weld.
TRAFFIC (2000) The all-star cast included Michael Douglas and one of my favorites, Don Cheadle. Douglas did many great movies. Cheadle was also in Crash (2005), Hotel Rwanda (2004), Boogie Nights (1997), and the underrated but depressing Reign Over Me (2007) with Adam Sandler.
12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013) Great, eye-opening movie that tells the true story of slavery in America.
WEST SIDE STORY (1961) It’s old and dated, but it is a spectacular viewing experience, and the music is still fantastic. Of course, I could say the same things about Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Bridge over the River Kwai (1957), and a number of other films of that era.
UP IN THE AIR (2009) I was a “road warrior” for most of my professional career in high-tech electronics. This is a very good movie about road warriors. George Clooney is terrific, just as he was in Michael Clayton (2007) and many other movies.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) Very entertaining, sexy, and occasionally nasty movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Worth seeing ... once.
ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012) Tour-de-force by Kathryn Bigelow about the Navy Seal mission to capture Osama bin Laden.