© 2006 Jamie Zawinski
For posterity, here are the movie reviews that I posted to my
blog in 2006.
This is most of the movies I saw last year, and (I think) all
of the movies I saw in the theatre or on DVD. There's a bunch
of late-night-tv crap I didn't bother reviewing. These are
roughly in the order I saw them.
(See also: 2005.)
Call of Cthulhu
I posted about
this a while ago; it's a live-action version of the Lovecraft story of
the same name, done in a silent movie style, with effects that also
look "period". It was surprsingly well done! The lighting seemed a bit
off in some scenes, especially near the beginning, but overall they
did a really good job maintaining the look.
This is a sequel to
Before Sunrise, the movie where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
walk around Vienna all night having a slacker-angst conversation. I
liked that movie (much to my surprise, since I normally find
talking-head movies like that to be a waste of the medium; and also
I've hated everything else by Linklater). Before Sunset is a
good sequel to it. It takes place ten years later, and the two
characters haven't seen each other since. The whole movie is a
real-time coversation where their slacker-angst has been replaced with
middle-aged what-the-hell-went-wrong angst.
Wow, I hated this movie. More specifically, I despised every character
in it. It's a story set over a number of years in which two couples
keep cheating on each other with members of the other couple. There's
a whole lot of repeated "I need you, I can't live without you"
dialog, which, every time, just left me thinking, "ok, why?" Which
maybe was the point, but in the end it was just an exercise in
watching hollow, untrustworthy people repeatedly betray each other,
and really, who gives a shit.
This was great. The whole movie was Dave McKean's artwork come to
life, and that alone is reason enough to see it. (You may remember him
as the guy who did the covers of Sandman.) The plot was surreal
and dream-like, and didn't always make a lot of sense, but that was
totally ok for this kind of movie. It had a lot in common with Labyrinth (of
which it is arguably a loose sequel) but fortunately that similarity
ended well before "David Bowie in a Tina Turner fright-wig".
When Night is Falling
This is a little story about a Christian-school teacher who dumps her
preacher-fiancé and runs off to join the circus with a lesbian
acrobat she met in a laudromat. It's cute. In one of those weird
coincidences, the travelling circus seems a lot like the one in
Some guys with a startup company in their garage accidentally build a
time machine (oh no, I gave away the big obvious secret!) The
fictional science is pretty interesting, and some of the
inter-personal tension and betrayal is well-handled, but the plot is
needlessly confusing. In the commentary they claim that a lot of this
was on purpose, but really, it was just sloppy-as-hell writing. There
were parts that were confusing that were certainly not intentional
They made this movie for approximately no money, so all the
reviewers cut them a huge amount of slack for that -- and they did do
a very good looking job technically -- but you can't blame "failing to
actually express the plot" on budget.
This movie was incomprehensible and boring. It felt like I was
watching The West Wing in Spanish without subtitles. Maybe
there was a good movie in here tying to get out, but I couldn't
tell. Individual scenes were good on their own, but I was left with
little clue how it was all supposed to fit together, or even who half
of the main characters were.
Good Night and Good LuckNight Watch
Also the electrocution-in-the-pool scene pissed me off, because
electricity doesn't work that way.
Sucked. Everyone made a big fuss over the subtitles in this movie
(which slide around and are colored and stuff) which is a neat trick,
but really, so what. The movie starts off as, basically,
good-vampire-cops versus bad-vampires, and then staggers through a few
different disjoint subplots about an apocalypse prophecy, a "chosen
one", etc. It was bleak and dark and grimy and very, very Russian --
which is to say, long, boring, and full of alcoholics. (And dirtbag
men in 1980s Adidas track suits.)
The overriding theme of this movie was "you say you're the good
guys but you're just as bad!" You can tell it's the theme because
it's in the dialog over. And over. And over again. I get it already!
Wow, it's so fucking deep I think I'm getting the bends. I'll be in
the decompression chamber.
In a vampire movie, please stick to the core competency of kicking
ass and drinking blood, ok? Thanks.
Also, I think that if I was the thousand year old leader of all
vampires, I'd have a nicer office. It wouldn't look like the back room
of a sweat-shop, even if I was Russian.
Another day, another shitty vampire movie. Now, I'm one of the few
people who actually liked the first Underworld. I
thought it looked great, especially for its miniscule budget, and I
liked how they pulled off having a dense backstory while still
essentially being a chase-and-ass-kicking movie. Also, hot chick in
corset with sword. Dude.
V for Vendetta
This one, though, was awful. The plot was hard to follow, and I
couldn't tell half of th characters apart: "Wait, is this the same
guy, or his brother? Wait, didn't he die in the last movie? Wait, is
this guy really the flying monkey from earlier? Ah, fuck it, who
cares." It felt like a bad adaptation of a novel, where they tried
to compress 800 pages of prose into 100 pages of script. Also, they
somehow left out the essential Hotness.
Alan Moore disowned this movie because he couldn't get over his bad
experiences with DC Comics and with The League of
Extraordinary Gentlemen movie. That's too bad, because this
movie was really very faithful to his writing.
There were a number of places where it diverged from the comic
where I thought that was a mistake, but the were also a number where
it diverged and I was glad that it did: they excised a few sub-plots
that didn't really advance the story. (For all its awesomeness, the
V comic did bog down in the middle.)
It was a very good movie. Moore criticised
it for changing the story's conflict from "Government versus Anarchy"
to "American Neo-Consevatives versus American Liberals", but I don't
know what he was talking about (perhaps an early draft of the script?)
because the movie I saw was definitely the former.
I think the biggest mis-step the adaptation made was to make Evie
basically lower-middle-class. The comic had a real Handmaid's Tale
feel to it, where women were essentially property, and it opens with
Evie's first night as a prostitute. By starting her off with a
corporate job, they took a lot of the desperation out of
her. Likewise, I thought they didn't really sell why the people were
ready for revolution. All we ever see of the regular citizens is them
complacently sitting in the pub or living room watching TV. What made
them get up and march? The comic handled this with the destruction of
the surveilance network, and the resultant crackdown with government
thugs in the streets; the movie only barely hinted at that.
I thought it was a cheap shorthand to make the government actually
use Nazi-esque imagery (uniforms, color schemes, etc.). That was
silly; actual fascism will never look like that again.
I was disappointed that they didn't include This
Vicious Cabaret, the song that comprised half of one issue of
the comic (and recurs throughout). It was released as a single in the
80s (word by Alan Moore, music by David J of Love and Rockets /
Bauhaus) and it's a fantastic song that perfectly captures the feel of
The "V" single was later re-released on David J's album
On Glass, which is also out of print, but due to be
re-issued soon. Fortunately it's not hard to track down an MP3 online:
posted one here,
and if that goes dead, you can at least hear a 30 second clip at Amazon. (I see
that David is touring with The
Dresden Dolls this year, and there couldn't be a more perfect
Ok, I didn't really watch this; Tivo foisted it on me, and I
fast-forwarded through it and watched about ten minutes throughout,
but my god, how do movies like this get made? Are there people who
think this is funny? These jokes are so old they have Alzheimers! A
fetus could tell you the punchline from the setup. It's like it wrote
itself (which is not a good property of comedy). I guess this movie
demonstrates that it's not "blackface" if black people do it; but
neither is it funny.
(I was flipping channels the other day and came across a stand-up
comic making jokes about Asians having small dicks, and mixing up "L"
and "R" sounds -- but oh the irony, he was Asian! Same thing.)
Anyway, this movie made me wonder a few things:
- Do you think Tom Arnold makes any money doing this kind of crap? I
mean more than he would make doing something he'd be better at, like
actress who played his wife -- the uptight suburban helmet-hair
woman with the too-far-apart eyes, who always plays exactly the same
role -- what do you figure she's like in real life? I mean, she's a
Holywood actress, so she must be an extroverted schmoozer, right? Does
she wear her hair like that to the parties where her agent is doing
coke off a hooker's ass?
- Likewise, those guys whose entire acting career has
consisted of playing cops -- what's that like for them? Did they, at
some point when they were in their drama school "movement" class,
learning how to wave their arms and emote like a tree, really
be the tree, did those guys ever have a moment of clarity where
they realized "I'm going to spend my entire career playing cops
from New Jersey"? These are not, after all, the kinds of people
who become cops. These people were the A/V Nerds.
These are some of the questions I have. I have more.
This movie is awesome, go see it immediately! No, really. It's a
classic monster movie, and has just the right mix of horror and comedy
for that. (It's also full of subtle references to other horror
movies. You know, for the fanboys.) Brick
Surprisingly, it's not the
first movie about space slug zombies: that would have been
Night of the
Creeps, which is also awesome, but I'd say Slither is
better. (Among the
trivia on the
director's site is him claiming that he hadn't seen Night until after
This is a film noir set in a present-day high school. It has the
traditional banter, character types, and plot-style, but doesn't ape
the visual look. The surprising thing is that it almost always
works. There's only one scene where it seems forced, and that
scene is really funny, so it's forgiven. Definitely worth seeing.
I got a kick out of this; the main character is the ship. The humans
are just window-dressing, but not offensively so. It's better than
Titanic. The effects are mostly pretty good, and they weren't afraid
to deal out the "unfair" deaths (being "nice" didn't guarantee
survival, as it usually does.)
Art School Confidential
This movie was hilarious. The characters (caricatures) are the reason
to see it; the plot itself isn't as interesting as the gags about "art
school types", but those are awesome.
Thank You For Smoking
Really great, and hilarious. Bitter and awesome. It's so awesome it
had me rooting for a tobacco lobbyist.
X Men 3
Pretty much crap. I liked the first two, but this one is just a parade
of stupid. Among its stupidities is that, halfway through the movie,
several major characters "die". Which we all know, simply does not
happen in these kinds of movies. So I spent the whole movie
expecting them to pop back in at some point. Then the credits roll,
and I think, "wait, they actually expected me to believe
that?" That was possibly the most insulting thing about the
movie. Well, no, the whole pointless "moving the Golden Gate Bridge"
thing was even stupider. Yeah, "parade of stupid" sums it up.
Mission Impossible 3
Blows up real good. It is what it is, and it did it well. A zillion
times better than X Men 3.
The Girl in the Cafe
A poorly-socialized government finance flunky in his 50s meets a
poorly-socialized girl in her 20s and invites her to go to the G8
conference with him in Iceland. The acting is really great; it's
painful to watch how awkward they both are. There are lots of
great bits like the faces he makes when he's silently talking to
himself, rehearsing what he's going to say when he eventually talks
himself into knocking on the door in front of him.
An Inconvenient Truth
Half a movie about global warming and how we are fucked, and half a
movie about Al Gore talking about global warming. It's entertaining
and convincing, but mostly it makes me wonder where this literate,
human-seeming person was during the presidential campaign. This
guy might have had a chance.
The Lake House
Pretty good for a chick flick. A woman moves out of her house and
leaves a note for the next tenant; he writes back and they eventually
figure out that he's the previous tenant, and somehow they are
exhanging mail backwards in time: he's two years into her past. The
fact that they overlap so closely throws a new twist on the usual
time-travel gimick. Keeping track of the two timelines is a little
tricky, but it seems to hold together pretty well. (I predict most
reviewers will find it "too confusing".) It took me a while to get
used to one of the wierd narrative devices they used: they only
communicate by writing letters, but the voice-overs don't talk
like letters, they talk like low latency conversations. I guess we
were supposed to take that part less-than-literally.
I spent a week at the
Another Hole in the Head festival at the Roxie, like I did
last year and the year before.
Twenty one movies in six days...
Decent by-the-numbers zombie movie, this one set in Greece. It's your
typical "world goes crazy, handlfull of people take a while to figure
it out, then run like hell" scenario. You've seen it lots of times
before, but this isn't a bad version of that same story.
The Last Eve
Complete crap. Imagine Zardoz without the
plot. It starts off with some rather incompetent martial arts
out in some field somewhere, with the actors making goofy faces. They
are subtitled with names like "Lucifer" and "Asmodeus" so I guess
that's supposed to mean something. Some cocks are chopped, and then it
abrubtly turns into some kind of modern-day Mafia/Street Fighter
story. I walked out after about twenty minutes. I almost never do
that. It was that bad.
This is four short stories that were so weird I certainly can't
remember them well enough to describe them. But the last one involves
a guy playing with a dead body, and throughout the story you only see
his weird hallucinogenic fairy-tale interpretation of what's going on,
so it's actually kind of pretty, until the inevitable reveal.
Ed Helms from the Daily Show does a very Daily Show-like short about
the kind of prejudice zombies have to face in today's world. Poor guy
can't get a date, and nobody will shoot hoops with him. It's awesome.
This is, like, someone's halfassed home movie. I've seen funnier
things posted by twelve-year-olds to YouTube. Is this movie what what
people did before the Internet? If so, how did this get made in 2006?
A bunch of high school friends get together for a reunion, and one of
them goes nuts and starts killing the others. It was too long, and by
the time the killer was revealed, I didn't care any more.
The Scooby Gang gets hired to clean up an old house, and Unleash and
Ancient Evil. The Ancient Evil has Boobies. It's campy and ironic and
pretty funny. Most of the characters are cliches, but I still got a
big kick out of it. There are some good bits like, "From now on, we
all need to stick together! Ok, just as soon as I go check out the
basement alone. Ok!" The effects are really low budget, but you
can tell they did well with what they had to work with.
Defenceless: A Blood Symphony
This was pretty cool: the gimick is that there's no dialog at all. A
woman's family is killed over a real estate deal, and is eventually
murdered, then comes back as a sorta-zombie for Crow-esque
revenge. It's played pretty straight, not goofy, and it works well.
After a car accident, a woman tries to track down the nonexistent
ghost-hospital that the evil ambulance took her boyfriend to. It kept
my attention, but then the ending was cheap and stupid (and you've
seen it done before in a much better movie).
This is pretty creepy and incoherent, but interesting. A guy wakes up
in some horrible maze of torture, and every time he passes out, he's
somewhere more awful. It's a bit like Cube, but way more
tense and horrific, and with a resolution that I couldn't make sense
Ghost of Mae Nak
A pair of newlyweds try to figure out what they have to do to get some
kind of vengeful ghost leave them alone. Turns out she thinks the
husband is her long-lost. It's pretty good.
Tiny alien horseshoe-crabs clamp on to people and tentacle-pornify
them into undead fighting Necro-Borgs that can grow power drills and
mysterious weapons! Like Tetsuo The Iron Man if
it that had a plot. It's good clean splattery fun.
This was awesome, and really disturbing. A woman is kidnapped and
wakes up in the forest where some backwoods hick puts her through some
gruesome tests, and then trains her to be his slave. Maybe he has her
daughter captive somewhere else, maybe not. She plots escape. He's not
as dumb as she thinks.
A family of siblings who have recently lost their parents tries to
make it in their new community, and, oh yeah, they're also serial
killers and there's some kind of monster in a box in the
basement. Good twist at the end. I liked this one a lot.
A story about a young serial killer. It was mostly a character study
about this completely twisted guy; he exudes confidence, but he walks
with a limp because he's so insecure about his height -- and yet, so
halfassed -- that he puts crushed beer cans in his boots. It's really
well done, and the acting is great. The main character reminded me a
bit of Rob Lowe in Bad
After a friend's funeral, three people attract the wrath of three evil
ghosts, and recruit some paranormal researchers to try to fend them
off. It's played pretty straight, but by the end it turns into a
fusion of Evil Dead
and Ghostbusters. It's
I liked this one a lot. Couple loses their kid, and moves to a cabin
in the woods; out come the ghosts, but at first, only the woman can
only see them in the photographs she develops of empty rooms at the
local abandoned prison.
This is a fantastic short. A woman sees her friend murdered, and then
a few weeks later, finds herself trapped in a stalled elevator with
the killer. Really well done.
This is The Wicker
Man, basically, updated with new "Burning Man" styling on the evil
Oh man, this was incredibly disturbing. An Interpol investigator goes
on the trail of a porn site where women who are too obese to get out
of bed are fed and fed until the die. Extremely creepy, with a really
well-played villain. It's great, but many scenes were very hard to
(Ok, that's the end of the festival. Moving right along...)
Superman Returns is even worse than X Men 3.
It has at least half a dozen instances of the most logic-defying
intelligence-insulting movie-physics I've seen. Kevin Spacey doesn't
even come close to saving it; there's only one 30 second scene that
he's in that isn't a total snooze, and you saw that one in the
preview. It's hard to decide who's the biggest whiner: the big blue
boyscout, Lois, or Lex. Oh, and the plot is stupid and all the
characters are boring and totally sleepwalking through their
...And there is a precocious child.
I guess it's an adequate sequel to the others, given how much they
sucked too, but ugh, I want those two hours back. Those of you who
told me that this movie was ok are despicable.
If you're feeling tempted to see this piece of garbage, just rent
the DVD of the modern Superman or Justice League cartoons; they were
actually not bad. Clancy Brown is a thousand times the Luthor as the
one in this movie.
A near-future french movie where an acrobat-criminal and a
cop-on-the-edge have to work together to find the dingus and save the
girl before it's too late. CAN THEY GET ALONG? Obviously you've seen
this plot before, but that doesn't matter, what matters is the stunts,
and they are mind-blowingly good: like Jackie Chan good. It's that
"parkour" stuff you may have heard about.
An adequately entertaining sequel. Not as good as the
original, but exactly what I expected. It gives good tentacle.
A Scanner Darkly
This movie is made of drugs. The walls keep seething for at
least half an hour after the movie ends, I swear. It's entertaining,
and certainly the first movie based on PK Dick's work that actually
captured the feel of his stories.
Eh. It was OK. I enjoyed it while it was on, and I've
forgotten it already.
Pretty creepy, but fascinating. This is one of those movies
about sex that makes you never want to have sex again. It's a good
movie, but: Molester guy: creepy. The world they lived in:
creepy. Kinsey's father: creepy. Kinsey: creepy. Kinsey's wife:
creepy. Their swinger research staff suburb: creepy.
A group of women go spelunking and get trapped. I'm not
particularly claustrophobic, but this movie freaked me the fuck
out. The first half of the movie is really just
them-versus-the-caves, and that in itself was a terrifying movie --
and that's before the Bad Things happen. The way this group of friends
let their inter-personal issues completely screw them all over is also
handled really well. Highly recommended.
I described The Descent to someone and they said "Oh,
that sounds like The Cave." Um, no. Except that they're both
set in caves. This movie is bullshit.
A pretty entertaining story about the meltdown of a couple of
Bowie-like glam rockers. I liked it.
It starts off as The Ring and then turns into Day of
the Dead. It's not scary, it's just dumb.
Million Dollar Baby
I guess this, like, won an Oscar or something. It's actually
This was great. Though I wish there was more time spent on the
stage magic itself, and showing how the tricks were done. The ending
has a bit of a Usual Suspects feel to it, but I liked how they
left it ambiguous.
This was exactly what I expected, so good for them: no plot,
lots of ass-kicking. I really liked the editing style and the weird
overlays they used for split-screen-ish effects. In a lot of ways, the
editing was overdone like in Domino (which I
hated), but I thought that worked really well here.
Little Miss Sunshine
This movie is awesome. It's National Lampoon's Vacation if you
replaced the poop jokes with existential angst and suicide. Very dark,
very funny, great pacing. Go see it immediately.
God dammit, it was The Ring, The Grudge, and a dozen
other American remakes of Japanese movies that all have the same plot,
villain, and look! What the fuck! And how do I keep getting
suckered into watching these?
Nausicaä of the
Valley of the Winds
This movie is kind of hard to describe; there's a small village living
on the edge of a toxic wasteland protected by these hundred-foot-tall
semi-intelligent potato bugs. Our heroine has to fend off an invasion
from a neighboring kingdom in order to prevent the giant bugs from
wiping out both sides. It's deeply weird, but very cool.
IFC played all of Miyazaki's movies a couple months ago, so I've
been slowly working my way through the ones I hadn't
seen. Nausicaä is my favorite so far, but I've yet to see one of
his that wasn't great. (For calibration purposes: I think that almost
all of the anime that I've ever seen has been relentlessly
terrible. It's very rare that I see one that I like.)
I loved the book,
and I thought the movie did a good job of
capturing it. It must have been tricky to adapt, since the book is,
basically, two diaries, the first half of the book being the story
from one guy's point of view, and the second half from the other's.
The movie followed a more linear structure, and I think pulled it
off pretty well without screwing up any of the revelations. But, if
I hadn't read the book, I'm not sure I would have really understood
what was going on: a lot of it seemed pretty glossed over.
I liked this a lot. It's weird in the way that 2001 is
weird, and the effects are great in the way 2001's effects are
great. There are 3 interleaved stories, some of which might not
really have happened. It's a cool structure. I also liked that the
connection between the "present" and "future" stories -- the part
where the protagonist finishes his project and changes the world --
is left completely implied.
I only saw this because it was the only movie starting that day at
2pm. Even with my expectations wedged firmly down in the fifth
sub-basement, this movie is complete crap. It's approximately as bad as
possibly even as bad as
Dungeons and Dragons.
Though at least Dungeons and Dragons had
This has no beholders. And the dragon has feathers. Feathers!
Casino RoyaleThe Good Shepherd
This is the one about the founding of the CIA. From this movie we
can learn that: A) secret agents are emotionless bureaucrats, B)
anyone who ever tells you the slightest fib is probably going to try
and get you killed, C) LSD is not a good truth serum, D) senators
and spies like playing homoerotic scat games. It's long, and
didn't quite put me to sleep, but only just.