OK, let me just say it: I liked Waterworld. For some who have wandered onto this page, that is all they need to know, and they can move on without sullying themselves further. If you survived learning that admission, here are various movies that for better or for worse inspired me to write a short review. Note that most of the reviews here date back to the early '90s, since I basically created this page back then to teach myself HTML, not to really rival Roger Ebert. Consider this a mid 90's proto-blog, and just a way to build your Netflix list should something catch your eye.

These are not reviews in the traditional sense of the word, since for me a true review is impossible without revealing large chunks of a film's plot. None of these "reviews" contain more than the most minimal spoilers, and are more comments designed to give an impression of the films rather than full blown critiques.

21 Grams

Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts

Type: Depressing Drama
Rating: Good

This movie revolves around the pain, suffering, temptations to withdraw from the world, and other assorted emotions that arise out of death. Edited in an unusual style where the scenes are out of time order, it takes much of the movie simply to figure out who the main characters are. But the disorienting effect matches nicely the disoriented nature of the characters, and the acting is top notch.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Jim Carrey, Courtney Cox, Sean Young, 1994

Type: Juvenile Comedy
Rating: Watchable

This is one of those movies that teeters between "This is okay" and "I can't believe I'm watching this". Carrey's infantile humor does strike a chord, however, making this a watchable flick if not a favorite.

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

Jim Carrey, 1994

Type: Juvenile Comedy
Rating: Watchable

This is one sequel true to the values (or lack thereof) of the original. Despite the plot being more formulaic than the first Ace Ventura, Jim Carrey still plays an astoundingly obnoxious character. Even as the plot sinks to new levels, Carrey's kinetic performance manages to drag laughs out of a unbelievably stupid movie.


Micheal McKean, Brendan Fraser, Adam Sandler, Ernie Hudson, 1994

Type: Comedy
Rating: Cute, some laughs

This wasn't the greatest comedy in the world, but was far from being the worst. Combining what was essentially a sitcom plot with the talent of quite a number of comedic actors, yields a very light plot with some good laughs.

The Arrival

Charlie Sheen, Lindsday Crouse, Ron Silver, 1996

Type: Conspiracy Science Fiction Rating: Excellent

While this is indubitably a science fiction film, it has far more in common with the likes of North by Northwest than Star Wars. This is not an action film, but rather an intelligent thriller that has a surprisingly high amount of correct science in the film. The tension scenes are well done and involve characters we actually care about. The special effects are clearly not big budget but enhance the mood of the film rather than overshadow it. The ending is predictable, but like most conspiracy films, the fun is in the twists and turns of plot that the hero (in this case Sheen) take in getting there. That is where The Arrival excels, adding clues both subtle and obvious in a patchwork maze of intrigue and suspicion.

Batman Forever

Val Kilmer, Chris O'Donell, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, 1995

Director: Joel Shumacher
Type: Action Adventure
Rating: Good

Not quite up to the level of previous Batman movies, this sequel nevertheless is visually stunning. The new director, Joel Schumacher, has a decidedly different view of how Batman should be run, and adheres far more closely to the old television show for ideas. Back are the clever traps and just in nick of time escapes and getaways which were the trademark of the television series. Kilmer plays Batman in a similar fashion to Keaton, and it is the portrayal of Bruce Wayne that I think he falls short. The acting here is too stiff, especially when compared to Carrey's manic presence.

Baby's Day Out

Lara Flynn Boyle, Joe Mategna, Joe Pantalino, 1994

Director: John Hughes
Type: Slapstick child comedy
Rating: A few good chuckles

This is standard John 'Home Alone' Hughes fare, with a kid (in this case the baby) dealing out pain and punishment to three inept kidnappers. The ultimate sequel to the Ransom of Red Chief. The movie is repetitive, but does deliver some great physical comedy sequences.

Beverly Hills Cop III

Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Hector Elizondo, 1994

Type: Action Adventure
Rating: Medium

This sequel has a surprisingly fresh plot, but seems to lack focus. The characters go through the motions of a detective story without the passion such motions should be inspiring. Murphy is likable as Axel Foley, but the outrageous bullet avoidance finally becomes wearying.


Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan, 1995

Director: Mel Gibson
Type: Historical Action
Rating: Excellent

This dramatization of the life of Scotish hero William Wallace is brilliantly conceived and well worth the time taken to set the scene in the early part of the movie. This movie is very violent, perhaps the most violent I have ever seen because battles like these actually happened. This lends a sadness to the film that serves as counterpoint to the truly heroic actions of the principal characters.

The Break-Up

Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, 2006

Director: Peyton Reed
Type: Not Romantic Comedy
Rating: Excellent

This is a comedy that breaks the rules. The comedic scenes are light-heartedly funny, this is not a dark comedy. On the other hand, the fight scenes are played straight, and to be honest, not fun to watch at all. The Break-Up delivers what it promises: Over 100 minutes of a close view of a slow, painful dissolution of a relationship, with all the pettiness and unstoppable inertia intact. There are funny scenes inserted randomly through the chaos, but make no mistake: this is not a romantic comedy.

Clear and Present Danger

Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Anne Archer, James Earl Jones, 1994

Type: Political Action Adventure
Rating: Good

This movie was criticized for being 'overplotted'. Personally, I feel a movie is overplotted if you can't understand what is going on, and Clear and Present Danger presents a beautifully unfolding plot which gives a convincing examination of the birth of a covert plot. However, the ending in Columbia needed work. Too much action and not enough thought went into that one. Still a worthwhile movie though.

The Client

Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, J.T. Walsh, Brad Renfro, 1994

Type: Legal Drama/Action Adventure
Rating: Good

The nice thing about movies that come from books is that they tend to have a plot. The Client is no exception, with a plot that surpasses most movies, although full of logical holes. For instance, Sarandon's character claims to have been sober for three years, and gone through law school in this time, however, Jones' character claims she practiced law for two years. The single year of law school served her well. Other little mistakes abound. However, the movie is so well-acted and paced that it is easy to overlook minor glitches and retain suspension of disbelief.


Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Justin Walker, 1995

Director: Amy Heckerling
Type: Comedy
Rating: Good. Very predictable, but funny

Clueless has a surprising amount of plot packed in for a movie with such a ditzy heroine. The laughs come primarily from the main character, Cher, displaying exaggerated airhead behavior. This keeps the movie fresh for a while, but bogs down towards the middle when Cher starts to develop a real personality. Fortunately it picks up again towards the end, and even if the story of "girl who thinks she has a great life until she realizes that it's all really fake and becomes a better person" has been done many times before, Clueless manages to remain fresh mainly through the comedic acting of the principal characters.


Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Alyssa Milano, 1985

Type: Action
Rating: Good

Before Doom and Duke Nuk'em 3D swept computers everywhere there were the mindless action flicks of the eighties. Commando is "Ah-nolds" foray into this genre, and he approaches the task with gusto. Do not expect character development or an intricate plot in this film. Expect Arnold as Col. Matrix to kill everyone standing in his way in a cold, ruthless, professional manner, with every implement imaginable. Fortunately, this film doesn't take itself too seriously, and that is part of it's charm. It is a showcase for the kind of "acting" that Schwarzenegger does best, and succeeds admirably in what it sets out to do.

The Coneheads

Dan Akroyd, Jane Curtin, Micheal McKean, David Spade, Jason Alexander, Dave Thomas 1993

Type: Comedy
Rating: Good, would see again

A surprisingly interesting movie, given the plot. The comic acting is superb throughout, and makes even a 'dumb' premise come alive.


Laura Linney, Ernie Hudson, Tim Curry, 1995

Type: Horror/Action Adventure
Rating: Quite good

Quite a thrill ride. Very reminiscent of Aliens, with the basic premise a heavily armed group encountering nature in all its power. The acting is excellent and the plot moves right along but doesn't have the same riveting power as Aliens, perhaps because it seems like three or four formulaic plots are running simultaneously, rather than one semi-original plot as in Aliens.

The Craft

Type: Fantasy
Rating: Good

Not often is the use of ritual magic found in a teenage angst movie. This combination is surprisingly effective, however, peering into the minds of four teenagers who suddenly achieve power, over themselves and over others. The use of magic in this film is far more sophisticated than the usual Hollywood norm, and although the good witch/bad witch idea has been done before, here the personalities come together in ways that are not altogether formulaic. This is an engaging look at the dangers of unbalance which at times borders on campy but somehow manages to stay just on the serious side throughout the film.

Cyborg II

Jack Palance, Billy Drago,

Type: Dystopian action/adventure
Rating: Interesting, but fluff

Usually a sequel in science fiction at least tries to maintain consistency with the first movie, but like the horrible Highlander II, this sequel chose to abandon everything that we knew about the world of Cyborg, as well as the definition of the word Cyborg itself. However, unlike Highlander II, this is actually a decent movie action-wise, with the fights well-choreographed and a good level of tech.

Deep Impact

Tea Leoni, Robert Duvall, Ron Eldard, Laura Innes, Morgan Freeman, 1998

Type: Apocalyptic Science Fiction
Rating: Garbage

Doomsday arrives in the form of a comet headed for Earth, and if this movie was the height of our culture, I'd say it deserves to hit. The title "the thinning of the gene pool" would have been more apt for this piece of junk. Characters behave with remarkable stupidly even for a film that is expected from the start to rely more on special effects than character development. When a car bouncing down a cliff explodes in midair, you know that this is going to be one bad movie. The characters' glaring failures to anticipate the answers to questions such as "will there be a traffic jam when doomsday arrives?" is simply pathetic. Other logic holes defy description. Our heroic spaceship is traveling at the same speed as a comet, whereupon it fires its nuclear powered engines for six months in an attempt to beat the comet back to Earth. Yet the ship arrives back at Earth only an hour before the comet does. A Geo Metro has better engines than that. A small amount of humor, a hint that this movie did not take itself seriously, would have been welcome. Instead, the viewer is subjected to unrelieved scenes of tension between friends and family members. I felt depressed that most of the characters didn't die earlier, and regret that some survived. Scientifically, the beginning was plausible, the ending ridiculous.

Bonus Fact: Typing E.L.E. into MSNBC's search engine, as Tea Leoni's reporter character did in the film, resulted in no hits. Typing in "Extinction Level Event" resulted in two hits, one on the movie Deep Impact, and another article entitled "Democrats who could do in the President" Hmmm.

Die Hard With a Vengeance

Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, 1995

Type: Action Adventure
Rating: Excellent

The movies Under Seige and Cliffhanger are obvious rip-offs of the original Die Hard. Fortunately, the sequels to Die Hard have actually stretched, if not redefined, the boundaries of creativity. Again the general theme is that of an intelligent villain leading well-trained troops against a single individual, but here the story ranges around the entirety of New York, allowing for far more freedom of plot than the earlier Die Hards had. In addition, this freedom allows the plot to be revealed more slowly than in the tightly integrated Die Hard. Hitchcockian twists and turns permute the tale while excellent action sequences keep interest high.


Sean Connery, Dennis Quaid, 1996

Type: Light Fantasy
Rating: Good lighthearted fun.

This is not the movie that is going to establish fantasy as a serious genre. However, it is an excellent fantasy with all the proper mythic elements in place for a heroic quest of good versus evil. The dragon is excellent, for which both ILM and Connery deserve praise. Quaid's acting (and accent) are quite uneven, but manage to keep from falling below watchable standards. This movie is first and foremost is a hero movie, and only secondly an action flick, which should appeal to younger and older viewers for it's humor and easy pace.


Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Caan, Vanessa L. Williams, Robert Pastorelli, 1996

Type: Action
Rating: Okay

If this movie had been made ten years earlier, I feel that it would have been spectacular. In 1996, however, it is merely ordinary, and special effect rail guns and alligators can't make up for what is essentially a warmed over plot complete with unlikable villain, amazing hero, and damsel in distress. The stunts are quite impressive, but lack any kind of structure. In the end, this film is merely Schwarzenegger moving from one preordained battle to another, with nothing to make his battles worthy of our interest.

Exit to Eden

Dan Akroyd, Rosie O'Donnell

Type: Soft-porn Police Drama
Rating: Even the sex is boring in this movie

If this movie has any redeeming qualities I have yet to discover them. Formulaic and cheesy, this stinker moves along at a glacial pace, with nothing to break up the tedium. Full frontal nudity and a few good lines just can't save this movie from its own plodding inertia.

Fever Pitch

Jimmy Fallon, Drew Barrymore, 2005

Type: Romance
Rating: Watchable

Any romantic movie where one member of the couple is obsessed has a fairly predictable outline: fall in love, realize the depth of the obsession, try to overcome obsession, fail to overcome obsession leading to breakup, overcomes obsession leading to happiness. At least the leads have toned down their usual obnoxiousness to the point where the movie is watchable, if not exactly something to seek out.

A Few Good Men

Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nickleson, Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, Kevin Pollack

Type: Courtroom Drama
Rating: Good, Great Acting, Predictable Plot

A Few Good Men really is predictable. With some rare exceptions, a watcher would have to be asleep not to be able to see the next plot twist. Most characters are one-dimensional caricatures of real people. Fortunately, the acting and writing in this movie are both so good that the attention is drawn away from the mediocre plot to the higher moral values being examined in the movie. This makes this an entertaining movie to watch and well worth seeing, even if I wouldn't want Cruise or Moore to be my lawyer.

First Knight

Sean Connery, Richard Gere, Juliette Ormand, Ben Cross, 1995

Director: Jerry Zucker
Type: Fantasy Love Story
Rating: Good acting, but slow

This movie has some of the best imagery that I've seen in years. The bad guy's fortress reeks of evil while Camelot is a wondrous city of light. That aside, the movie moves way to slowly. We all know the plot beforehand, so the subtle development of the love triangle is just overkill. The action sequences are quite well done, but don't make up for the long periods of boredom. Gere plays his usual emotionally withdrawn character, while Connery is excellent as Arthur unsure how to act around the woman he loves.

The Frighteners

Micheal J. Fox, Trini Alverado, John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, 1996

Type: Half horror, Half comedy horror
Director: Peter Jackson
Rating: Great

For me, this was the surprise movie of the summer of 1996. Rarely does mixing genres do anything but leave a muddled mess of a movie. Fortunately, Peter Jackson was able to combine the best elements of comedy and horror in the Frighteners and do it well. This movie alternates between scenes of high tension and scenes where virtually every form of comedy is explored, ranging from slapstick to satire of a parade of supernatural favorites on the big and little screens. This movie is a nonstop thrill ride with excellent special effects and quick pacing.

The Fugitive

Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pantalino, Sela Ward, 1993

Type: Action Adventure/Mystery
Rating: Excellent

It is rare that good acting and a well-plotted movie come together as they do in the Fugitive. We all know the essential plot, but the well choreographed sequences and outstanding special effects employed serve to create a mesmerizing atmosphere which draws in the viewer to the mystery Ford must solve.


Pierce Brosnan, 1995

Type: Action Spy Thriller
Rating: Good

While a worthy addition to the Bond movies, this is by no means the best. The opening sequence is wonderful, with incredible stunts and special effects that quickly drag the audience into Bond's world. Following this sequence, however, the movie lags, taking too long to develop and spending too much effort in taking itself seriously. We all know that Bond is fantasy, we don't need M to point that out for us. That aside, the action returns in the second half of the film, making it a good, if not great action thriller.


Matthew Broderick, Mario Pitillo, Hank Azaria, 1998

Type: Monster Movie
Rating: OK Effects: Outstanding

Sigh. How the mighty have fallen in this latest version of the monster that's great at wreaking metropolitan havoc. In the original movies, Godzilla was clearly an intellegent creature nearly immune to conventional weaponry. In this latest version he's just a big animal who has to duck to avoid getting hurt by missile fire. As in several recent effects films, the characters are routine stereotypes, freeing us from having to think about their motivations and actions. And as is usual with remakes of classic B-movies, the effects are predictably excellent, and the film is worth seeing just for watching the giant lizard in action. But sadly that's all this Godzilla is, a giant lizard acting according to animal instincts. In previous films he played both villan and hero, but always acted with contempt for his opponents. Here he's a bull loose in the china shop with great opportunities for effects shots, but no opportunity to create a giant monster we can root for.


Johnny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Fisher Stevens, 1995

Type: Computer Adventure
Rating: Good: predictable, but flashy

< Hackers bring the theme of a group of kids taking on a criminal mastermind into the 1990's. Here the kids are experts at breaking into computers. The standard cliches are all used, with the incompetent police and nick of time ending, but the graphics are flashy enough to keep the plot rolling to an exciting, if predictable end. On the technical side, computers in Hollywood are slowly converging to the real thing, but they aren't there yet.

I Heart Huckabees

Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Naomi Watts, 2004

Director: David O. Russell
Type: Philosphical Comedy
Rating: Surprisingly addictive

This is a semester or two worth of Philosphy courses, several late night conversations with a roommate about life and a screwball comedy all rolled into one. It's format is classic film noir: protaganist with unknown problem (but who clearly has enemies) hires detective to sort things out. However, the backgrounds are light and cheery, the background music pleasant happy dittys, and our P.I.s are "existential detectives" trying to find the deeper meaning behind a small coincidence confusing our hero. All in all it makes for one of the quirkiest films I've ever seen, a casserole of a film that bounces from slapstick to light-hearted critiques of suburbia in a split-second.

I'll Do Anything

Julie Kavner, Nick Nolte, Albert Brooks, 1994

Director: James Brooks
Type: Comedy
Rating: Not worth seeing

This movie tried way too hard to be a satire of the Hollywood movie making machine, and ended up simply being dumb.

Judge Dredd

Sylvester Stallone, Rob Scheider, Armand Assante, Diane Lane, Max Von Sydow, 1995

Type: Dystopian Action Adventure
Rating: Quite good

This is an excellent translation from a comic book vigilante to the big screen. Lately, the theme of "who watches the watchers" has permeated comic books, and this idea is successfully translated onto the big screen. Although there are a few scenes highly derivative of the Star Wars trilogy (notably the high speed motorcycle chase) most is original. Special effects are excellent, but obvious. It has been a while since a comic sidekick has been introduced which is always with the hero. Scheider pulls it off well.

Mission: Impossible

Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Jean Reno, 1996

Type: Sci-fi Action Adventure
Rating: Poor

Sometimes movies come along which make me want to cringe in fear that they could actually be made. This movie was a perfectly acceptable spy thriller with the occasional logic gaff and overused action sequence. However, shoehorning this film into the mantle of Mission: Impossible was a mistake of the first magnitude. I cannot imagine any afficionado of the original series being anything but horrified at the treatment of Jim Phelps and the IMF organization. At the same time, the opening minutes would be incomprehensible to anyone who wasn't a fan. This dichotomy destroys a film which could have been watchable if not outstanding, and relegates it to the trash heap.

Mortal Kombat

Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Cary-Hirogaki Tagawa, Christopher Lambert, 1995

Director: Paul Anderson
Type: Martial Arts
Rating: Great action, Fantastic Scenery, Recycled Plot

They really had a chance to make a great movie here, with backgrounds drawn from the video game and excellent martial arts choreography. Instead, it's a modern version of Enter the Dragon. I was hoping for more. Still, this is one of the better martial arts movies out there, with a pulse-pounding soundtrack and cutting edge special effects complimenting the action.

Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan,

Director: Chris Columbus
Type: Slapstick Comedy
Rating: Good, warm fuzzy feeling

This is a surprisingly good movie given the premise. Williams gives his trademark hyperactive performance, balanced by the suave Brosnan and down to earth Sally Field. The female get-up for Williams is good enough that suspension of disbelief is eased, and the movie avoids several obvious cliches (Brosnan doesn't secretly hate the children, for instance) which makes it more entertaining.

The Net

Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northam, Dennis Miller, 1995

Director: Irwin Winkler
Type: Conspiracy Thriller
Rating: Technically competent, but slow as molasses

I wanted to like this movie very much. Its combination of likable stars in Bullock and Miller, with a technical expertise about computers rarely evinced in the world of Hollywood, combined to make me really want this to be a good movie. Unfortunately, it falls short as a thriller, moving at a glacial pace that would be acceptable if the 'surprising' plot twists weren't the standard thriller fare that have been served up time and time again. My theory is that they dumbed down the plot because the subject material was more advanced. A big mistake in my book.

Never Talk to Strangers

Rebecca de Mornay, Antonio Banderas, Dennis Miller, 1995

Type: Psychological Thriller
Rating: Okay, but very slow until the end.

This movie's high point was at the end, where the intricate threads woven through the movie come together in an exciting climax. Unfortunately, this doesn't excuse the molasses pace taken by the early part of the movie, where we are treated to suspicion and mistrust, but precious little plot. An audience understands that the male and female leads are going to become involved, a good movie doesn't beat the audience to death with that fact in long, drawn out sequences that make the pace of the movie uneven. Still, the ending does draw a few surprises, moving this film from poor up to okay.

An Officer and A Gentleman

Debra Winger, Richard Gere, Louis Gossett Jr.

Type: Coming of Age
Rating: Excellent

Essentially this film is about what it means to grow up. The title describes the plot of the movie to a tee, as Gere learns through both pain and happiness that he can rely on others and become a better person.

On Deadly Ground

Steven Segal, Michael Caine, Joan Chen, 1994

Type: Action Adventure
Rating: Poor

This is a highly formulaic one-man army type movie, with characters that could have been intelligent but somehow weren't. Acting is excellent, except from Segal of course, but the movie's special effects can't make up for the lack of plot.

Open Fire

Jeff Wincott, Patrick Kilpatrick, Mimi Craven, 1994

Type: Martial Arts
Rating: Okay

This Die Hard clone wisely keeps the action moving with martial artist Wincott. Here a chemical plant has been taken over by the mercenaries led by an intelligent and skilled leader, etc., etc..

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, 1985

Type: Road trip comedy
Rating: Good

Pee-wee Hermann is an iconic character—many who have never seen either of the two movies or the children's show that followed can instantly identify the character who is half man, half child. In this movie, Pee-wee gets to show his range as he crosses the country in an attempt to recover his stolen bicycle. Although Pee-wee does learn a lesson in humility over the course of the film, for the most part this is just oddball fun with no point as Pee-wee is thrust into a variety of bizarre situations. It is definitely a “character” movie that gives itself wholeheartedly to not quite idiot in the gray suit—Pee-wee is even credited as himself in the closing credits.

The Phantom

Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, Patrick McGoohan, 1996

Type: Superhero Action Adventure
Rating: Okay

The Phantom breaks no new ground in what seems to be the growing field of comic strip superhero movies. The visual imagery of the jungle is stunning, but is not enough to make this formulaic adventure exciting. Instead we are treated to the usual round of fistfights, hanging over high distances, and chase scenes with no new twists. In all, this movie reminded me more of an episode of the T.V. show "Lois & Clark" than a blockbuster movie.

Point of No Return

Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Bryne, 1993

Type: Spy Movie
Rating: Quite Good

While this movie does have slow parts where both action and character development seem to come to a standstill, overall it is one of the most intriguing spy movies I have seen with great attention to detail (e.g. the randomly changing numeric keypad lock) and extremely sharp sets. This movie is very well-acted, and by the end we truly feel for the character striving for a second chance at life.


Voices of Mel Gibson, Irene Bernard, Russell Means, David Ogden Stiers, Linda Hunt, 1995

Type: Animated Semi-historical
Rating: Good in itself, but not even close to history

Those wishing to see a love story with cute animals running around won't be disappointed. Those hoping to see even a close approximation of the events at Jamestown will. Disney has woven a love story into two historical events and created a movie out of it. The events (the first of which only comes from the writing of John Smith himself) were the saving of Smith by Pocohontas, and the giving of food to the settlers. Perhaps those who don't know the actual events will enjoy this movie more. It is striking that it is the most pagan movie I have ever seen, celebrating spirits of the air, earth, and of course with Grandmother Willow, wood.


Sean Patrick Flannery, Jeff Goldblum, Mary Steenburgen, Lance Henriksen, 1995

Director: Victor Salva
Type: Science Fiction
Rating: Poor

At best this movie was bad science fiction, and at worst it was dull tripe. Powder was a mishmash of the Frankenstein story, E.T., and Dead Poets Society, with none of the good qualities of any of these films. The title character, 'Powder' alternated inexplicably between being a bully and being bullied, the scenes of love and friendship between characters were disturbing without any redeeming qualities, and the ending seemed like the film wanted to erase the first two hours of the movie. Too bad it didn't.

Quick Change

Bill Murray, Geena Davis, Randy Quaid, 1990

Director: Bill Murray/Howard Franklin
Type: Comedy
Rating: Good

Some comedies can pull off a dumb premise, others can't. This one definitely can, by playing the plot as well as it could possibly be done, and by Murray who is perfect in the role of a smart robber put upon by his uncertain and inept accomplices. Level of tension is brought up and down very adeptly.

Raising Arizona

Nicholas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, 1987

Director: Joel Coen
Type: Comedy
Rating: Good, but quirky

Definitely see once, but the humor is very twisted. As this is a Joel and Ethan Coen movie, there are multiple movie references, of which I'm sure I caught only a few. Good and evil are examined primarily through archetypes. Characters act violently with the same casual deliberateness seen in other Coen and Coen films, such as Miller's Crossing.

Red Rock West

Nicholas Cage, Lara Flynn Boyle, Dennis Hopper, J.T. Walsh, 1993

Type: Film Noir
Rating: Excellent film

This is a non-stop thriller that is well-directed, well-acted, and continues to churn out surprises at every corner. Tension is raised and lowered masterfully clear through to the ending. A perfect example of the genre.

Relentless IV-Ashes to Ashes

Type: Crime Drama
Rating: Okay

This is a surprisingly good film. Well-paced and acted, its plot is somewhere between the level of a good drama and a lousy martial arts movie. The intelligence level is higher than in most such movies, and the physical element isn't that important to solving the case. Closer to Under Suspicion than Dirty Harry.

The Rock

Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, Ed Harris, David Morse, Tony Todd, John Spencer, 1996

Type: Action
Rating: Excellent

This was the last production of Don Simpson before his death. Having produced such films as Top Gun and Days of Thunder, one might expect this film to be more of the feel good hero genre that dominated eighties action films. Instead we are treated to a surprisingly grey film where the villain isn't all bad, the good guys are not wearing white hats, and the hero is just a guy trying his best in an imperfect world. The special effects in this film are adequate to carry the story, and Cage's dedication holds up well against the charisma radiating from Connery. While the final end of the film is never in doubt, the path the characters take requires real pain and real sacrifice, a welcome addition to the genre.

The Science of Sleep

Gael Garcia Bernal, Chalotte Gainsbourg, 2006

Type: Alternative romantic comedy
Rating: Weird creepy goodness to watch

The science of sleep rockets back and forth: between love and hate, English and French, waking and dream. It is when the opposites come together that things really get interesting. As the plot develops, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell one side from the other. I cannot think of a film that more closely captures the otherworldness of the dream state (or the state of young love for that matter.) This makes this a film that is at turns frustrating and intriguing, often at the same time.

Serial Mom

Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterson, Ricki Lake, 1993

Type: Satire.
Rating: See once.

A satirical tale emphasizing the recent problems society wants to cover up under a veneer of suburban civilization. What Picket Fences seems to be striving for. The only fear I have is that someone might actually believe the false documentary look presented by the movie.

Sky High

Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce Campbell, 2005

Type: Light comic books.
Rating: Cute, no surprises, but fun to watch

This is an amazing cast of talented comedic actors—at least when it comes to the adults. The kids are your usual mix of forlorn guy, beautiful girl-who-we-are-somehow-supposed-to-believe-is-afraid-to-display-affection-for-her-best-friend-since-they-were-children and all the other teen movie stereotypes that prevent this from being a great film. This is worth watching for the characters and bit pieces created by the adult actors, but don't expect much in the way of plot.


Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, 1995

Type: Sci-fi Horror
Rating: Excellent

This is the best science fiction films that I have seen in a few years. The characters are competent, but simply outmatched by the alien in what is basically a horror flick. The motives of the alien are presented through dreams which never are fully revealed, making this a rich film which doesn't spell out everything for the audience. Altogether a well-acted, well-plotted film with where the aliens finally take a low-energy approach to conquering the planet.


Jackie Chan, 1996

Type: Martial Arts Cop
Rating: OK

This film steadfastly refuses to rise above the martial arts genre which spawned it. Jackie Chan is amusing as usual in his usual role of pretend befuddlement, but his charm can't carry this usual load of car chases and bullet sprees past the level of an episode of Walker: Texas Ranger.

The Truman Show

Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Natasha McElhone, Harry Shearer, 1998

Type: Near Future Science Fiction
Rating: Excellent

The Truman Show is a modern retelling of the Garden of Eden story with a television producer thrust in the role of creator and the likeable Jim Carrey playing Truman Burbank, a rube who has clearly not yet tasted the fruit of knowledge. Unbeknownst to Truman, he has been the star of a highly rated television show since his birth. Everything that happens to him is meticulously scripted by Christof, producer of the show for the last 30 years. Shying away from his usual over the top antics, Carrey's performance is somewhat subdued, and it is naive charm that drives the film. This film is difficult to categorize as comedy or drama because while Truman is trapped within the show, he does not have the opportunity to experience reality. His life exists, but he cannot make more of himself than what the producer gives him. This is a fascinating film, easily Carrey's best work to date.


Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, 1996

Type: Sci-fi Action Adventure
Rating: Great

As an action movie, this film is superb. The tension rises and falls in ever increasing intervals until the grand finale at the end takes ones breath away. This comes at a price however, as the plot and characters are both undeveloped. Still, anyone who watches the first ten minutes knows what all the characters are like and what the plot development is going to be anyway, so I admire the film for essentially throwing the rest of it out as a foregone conclusion. This is a quintessential action flick with tension being the driving force, rather than a finer look at character interaction.

Under Seige II

Steven Segal, Sandra Taylor, 1995

Type: Sci-fi Action Adventure
Rating: Good, but formulaic

I wish whoever had wrote this screenplay had taken the time to watch The Last Action Hero, because at every step I was reminded of this other film. The beautiful niece who also knows aikido, the talking villain, all appeared in the earlier film as well as here. This film deserves credit for not being an exact remake of the original Under Siege, but other than that, it is pretty stupid stuff. Also notable is that the previews and ads lie about the plot. The satellite is not nuclear, but rather a particle beam weapon. And yes, that kind of thing bothers me. All in all, the sequels to Die Hard have followed the original plot less than the Under Seige series.


Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn, 1995

Director: Kevin Reynolds
Type: Apocalypic
Rating: Excellent, highly original and engaging

Apocalyptic films tend to be action adventures with a touch of social commentary, and Waterworld satisfies on both levels. Filming on water is difficult, and that made the film famously overbudget. This in turn led to questions about whether Kevin Costner had bitten off more than he could chew. The result for me was a simple minded but delightful movie, with Costner in the midst of moving from the wide-eyed wonder stage of his career (Field of Dreams, Silverado, Robin Hood: Price of Thieves) to his more introspective persona. Dennis Hopper doesn't spare the ham as an over-the-top villian bent on Costner's capture. Yes, The Road Warrior is a better film, but for those with a penchant for the genre, Waterworld does not disappoint.

Back to Mark's Home Page