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Mini Movie Reviews

by Margaret T. Minnick mostly, but also by Chris Minnick sometimes...

Advertising Rules! (2001)
This movie Rules! Crazy German movie about a skinny bird-man who gets an advertising job and a girlfriend in the same week and then craziness ensues. Other than the girl being cute and the guy being funny-looking, it was pretty good.

Alfie (1966) BY CHRIS
Alfie is the story of a wacky not-as-young-as-he-thinks-he-is Englishman (played by Michael Caine) who fools around with a lot of women, breaks a lot of hearts, gets an x-ray for no apparent reason, finds out that he has some sort of lung disease and gets to lay around for 6 months (and get it on with the nurses), gets it on with his friend's wife, has a baby, enslaves a hitchhiker, gets his friend's wife pregnant, gets her an abortion, becomes a right-to-lifer and male prositute to an overweight and old American woman, then finally learns absolutely nothing except that maybe he should get a dog.

The American President (1995)
This is a relic of a bygone era. A movie like this would never be made today, so it was kind of depressing. Annette Bening's head is too big. A smart president?

Antonia's Line (1995)
Really dull Dutch movie about a family that consists of one woman per generation (the men, except for one, are summarily dismissed once the girl child is begat), none of whom look remotely alike. It's one of those movies that goes on and on without you feeling very involved in the people, like a bad biopic. But it's not even a biopic, so what's the excuse here?

Army of Darkness (1993)
Quite simply, the best movie ever made.

L'Auberge Espagnole (2002)
A Frenchman, a German, a Dane (I think), an Italian, a Spanish gal, and an English gal (and eventually a Belgian lesbian lady too) share an apartment in Barcelona and all sorts of wackiness ensues. Of course, I loved it because I am a sucker for (a) multiple languages in one movie* and (b) fish-out-of water movies. Also a good look at people in their early 20's. Of course since it's French, there are several secret affairs too. If all this sounds good to you, I highly recommend it.

* well, ok Korean and Japanese in a movie doesn't do much for me

Before Sunrise (1995)
Face it, this movie is really good. My favorite line comes at the beginning: "Europeans, they're not very customer service-oriented."

Before Sunset (2004)
Ah, it is so tragic to have once been young and beautiful, and now be older and sorta wrinkly ... Actually, I really like this movie, too. My favorite line in this one is something like: "When you're young, you think there will be all kinds of people that you meet and connect with during your life. But as you get older, you realize that it's really only a handful."

Big Fish (2003)
We watched Big Fish last night, and all I have to say is "huh?" It was OK, but not this fantastic tour-de-force whatever that people claimed it was back when it came out earlier this year. First of all, my dislike of Ewan McGregor seems to be solidifying into an impetrable fortress of hate. Those big white teeth! His big head! His mole-covered face! It's so disgusting. And I don't really think he's that great of an actor. I never believe him in his roles -- he's always big, moley-headed Ewan.

Anyway, regardless of that, the whole thing was just dumb. The son was one-dimensional, the father was one-dimensional, and the women were without any dimensions at all, like points on a plane. Why was Ewan in love with Alison Lohman? I have no idea; they never even had a conversation.

I think people liked this movie because it had lots of colors. It was a very pretty picture, I guess, especially if you can like Siamese twins, carnivals, and giants, which I don't. In fact, this is the second movie I've seen lately with Siamese twins (the other was The City of Lost Children), and, frankly, that was two too many. Siamese twins really gross me out. I think movies featuring Siamese twins should come with a warning label so people like me can avoid them. It could be a cool little icon, like a set of shoulders with two heads or something.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
We had friends over who talked through the whole thing, so I really can't say. I wish I had fallen asleep.

Bridget Jones 2: The Edge of Reason (2004)
The tattered remnants of a good movie are in here somewhere, I think. But this movie sucked. Colin Firth's Mark Darcy has become incredibly boring, as opposed to the kind of square handsome nice guy from the first movie. Bridget (Renee Zellweger) is fairly similar to the first movie, but strangely more self-conscious and foot-in-mouthy than before. Basically, this movie just sucks. There's not even anything all that entertaining to say in criticizing it.

The Candidate (1972)
This is a good movie that suffers a bit from the 1970s syndrome of SLOWness. It was just the right pace for the situation in which I watched it -- late at night while suffering from jet lag while in Michigan. I enjoyed Robert Redford's sideburns and belt buckle, and the early 70's views of San Francisco. It was hard for me to get wrapped up in the movie's pessimistic view of political campaigns, just because right now that seems like a cop-out for people who are looking for an excuse to not care.

Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Pretty good, except for me not liking Leonardo Dicaprio or Tom Hanks.

Closer (2004)
People aren't really like this, are they? It's a complete nightmare, this movie. On the one hand, there are a smattering of funny and compelling moments, it's well-made, and I did put off going to the bathroom in order to not miss a moment. But, the people in it are nasty. Alice (Natalie Portman) is the only one I even came close to liking. Anna (Julia Roberts) was perplexing. First she marries a guy who picks her up by claiming he chatted with her in the cleverly-named "London Sex Chat Room" ("I know how you like it up the a**") , and then she leaves him for a guy who's been stalking her for years. Jeez. Maybe should go to eHarmony.com, because she's not having any luck out there on her own.

Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
I fell asleep.

The Cooler (2003)
Kind of good but kind of not. It's one of those movies that's conspicuously "not a mainstream movie", but still plays by basically the same rules as mainstream movies. That bugs me. William H. Macy (Fargo, some other stuff) plays the main character who is Mr. Bad Luck. His job is to walk around a casino in downtown Vegas cooling off gamblers' good luck. The big surprise, which is not really much of a surprise, is that his bad luck turns into good luck in the end. Wow.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 1: Vol. 1 (2000)
This show really stresses me out. All the misunderstandings and social blunders are like a horrible combination of an episode of "Three's Company" and my own special kind of nightmare. If I'm in the right mood, I find it funny but a little stressful. But if I'm in the wrong mood, I find it totally stressful to the point that I can't enjoy it. Do I have a problem?

Down With Love (2003)
I almost liked Down With Love, but then I didn't. My main problem is that Renee Zellweger has turned ugly and no one is admitting it. Her face looks like a newborn mole — all puffy and eyes squished closed — except not as cute. When her editor, played by Sarah Paulson, meets her, she croons, "You're gorgeous!" That just made me laugh because she looks like a total mess. Paulson, who is supposed to be the dowdy brunette sidekick, is 10 times prettier than Renee. It's hilarious. Renee's co-star Ewan McGregor doesn't really do it for me either. His head is just too darn big and he has too many moles on it. And his gleaming white teeth are too big too. Now, for a romance to work for me, the leads don't necessarily have to be attractive. But so much of this movie is about them being GORGEOUS that when they're not, it all just kind of falls flat.

Drumline (2002)
Should have been called "Dumbline". Could have been good, but wasn't. Bands good. Plot dumb.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Fabulous! I really liked it. The flaky mind-erasing technicians stressed me out, though.

Frankie and Johnny (1966)
"Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts, blah blah blabbity blah ..." We're nearing the end of our 1966 film festival (part one, at least) and subjected ourselves to this Elvis movie last night. It was filmed entirely on a soundstage, so the sets were actually lamer than those on, say, I Dream of Jeannie or The Brady Bunch, which made the Civil War-era riverboat setting less than convincing. I kept expecting to see some huge computer or green station wagon in the background. Happily, the filmmakers were not that careless.

The acting was decent, but no one did such a great job as to upstage Elvis. Elvis plays Johnny, a riverboat singer and gambling addict. He has a lady, Frankie, who is a very forgettable blonde type. Much more memorable are the funny drunk ladies Abigail and Mitzi (a redhead and a brunette, in case you're keeping score). Trouble gets stirred up when a gypsy tells Elvis he needs a lucky redhead to win at roulette, and immediately the lovely redhead Nellie Bly shows up. (I always forget who the real Nellie Bly was, but it sure seems like she was fictionalized a lot.) Well, Frankie gets jealous when Johnny is hanging around with Nellie and ... well, you know the song. It goes down like that, but with a nifty twist.

This movie was okay, but if it had been longer than 87 minutes I might have lost my mind. None of the songs does justice to Elvis, and he spends much of his singing time walking in place, rather than dancing, which is really dorky-looking. It almost feels like Elvis is in a community theater production of The Music Man or something. Also, Elvis' pants are disconcertingly high-waisted.

My favorite part of this movie is when Harry Morgan (later of M*A*S*H) sings. He plays Elvis' musician pal, and when he sings, it's like some frog is hiding in the corner of the room singing and Harry is just mouthing along.

Garden State (2004)
Also really good. I actually really liked Natalie Portman in this, which is the first time I can really say that's happened. "If they had a retarded Oscar, you should win it!" Chris didn't like her, though. He liked the boy, Zach Braff, better.

Get Over It (2001)
Embarrassingly bad. The only funny thing in this movie is the musical version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that the kids put on. Skip the rest, I say.

Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
What actress can we find who will walk around with her mouth open, saying nothing? Scarlett Johansson!

Good Bye, Lenin! (2003)
Very good German film about a family in East Berlin and how the fall of the Berlin Wall effects them. There's lots going on, on many levels, and it's much less of a comedy than the previews made it seem.

Junebug (2005)
A huge disappointment. This is the kind of independent movie that is made for the mainstream movie industry to fawn over, which is of course what happened with this one. The character development was minimal, the Southern stereotypes were rampant, and only a few characters were likable at all. For the record, I liked the dad the most because he seemed the most down to Earth. Next, the brother (Benjamin MacKenzie from "the OC"). Next, his wife (played by Amy Adams in her Oscar-nominated performance*).

* Showing once again that Oscar is lame, as if we needed any more proof of that.

Love Actually (2003)
Pretty damn lame, actually! The premise seems to have been to get every famous British actor in the same movie and have put them in a multitude of plots that are somewhere between the sophistication of a television commercial and a sitcom. Not pretty.

A Man for All Seasons (1966)
This is one of those respectable classic historical movies that is actually good. Good acting, good sets, and a healthy dose of personal drama to go along with the historical plot make for a good 3-hour viewing experience. The plot is a sort of inevitable slide to death for the main character, Sir Thomas More, which is a bit of a downer -- but hey, I said it was a historical movie, right? How many of those are cheery?

The Matrix: Revolutions (2003)
Um, whatever. Boring. What happened? I don't know, but that was a really nifty chair made out of computer cords or whatever.

Master and Commander (2003)
I don't think our TV size or sound system did this movie justice, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Sometimes we wondered what the heck they were saying, but most of the time we could understand. The surgery scenes were really gross.

Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Almost good, but then not really very good at all. Julia Roberts as earthy-crunchy Berkeley type is hard to take. Her character goes back east to Wellesley to teach rich girls who are mostly just interested in getting married. There were some moving moments, but those were outweighed by a lethal combination of schmaltz and predictability.

My Life Without Me (2003)
I liked this! Weird little Canadian movie about a young mother who finds out she's dying. It's an interesting film, and even has Debbie Harry playing the main character's mom.

Never Been Kissed (1999)
Good, funny movie right up until the end, when it gets all moralistic and mushy on us. Morals+mush=bad! And Drew Barrymore's mouth is weird ... a little too weird.

Muddy Waters Can't Be Satisfied (2003)
... but I can be satisfied with this movie! Very good documentary. Muddy follows the typical musician's plotline - can't keep his hands off the women, but is a genius - with style. Interviews with contemporaries help set the scene and provide interesting historical context.

Operation Amsterdam (1959)
Mediocre WW2 flick about getting the diamonds out of Amsterdam as the Germans close in. I slept through about a third of this.

Pieces of April (2003)
I really liked this! Very good! Bravo!

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
I fell asleep.

Predator: Collector's Edition (1987)
What the fuck kind of collector would want this shit? There were only two good parts: when Jesse Ventura said "I ain't got time to bleed", and when it was over (which took much too long to arrive).

The Professional (1994)
Oh that Natalie Portman, isn't she so cute? Isn't that professional just so professional? But then not really so professional ... But what's with that scene where Natalie Portman dresses up like old movie stars? That was just about the scariest thing I've ever seen. Not only that, it was really really stupid. In fact, this movie could have done with a lot less stupidity. It was almost good though. Just a bit too stupid. That plant won't survive the New York winter in the yard of your boarding school, Natalie! Come on. (I think this review was actually written by Chris.)

The Rare Breed (1966) BY CHRIS!
The Rare Breed, starring Jimmy Stewart, is just about the worst western I've ever seen -- yes, it was worse than Wild Wild West.

Jimmy plays a cowpoke named Sam Burnett (ya, real original cowpoke name there) who makes the aquaintence of this lady and her daughter from England who brought over an English bull because they wanted to breed it with some longhorns. The lady's husband died on the way over. So, of course, the movie is sort of about the bull and sort of about how the lady and Jimmy eventually get together. So far so good.

But, they also threw in this drunken Scottish guy, played by Brian Keith, who wore a wig and fake beard and talked with a fake accent. He's the guy that the bull was sold to, and he wants to get it on with the English lady too. One would think that a fake Scottish rancher would make a western good (maybe that's what the writer, Ric Hardman, and the director, Andrew V. McLaglen, were thinking). But, no. Fake Scottish guy or not, this movie sucks!

So, I looked up this Andrew V. McLaglen on IMDB, and wouldn't you know it: he's English, and he also directed Wild Wild West. I'm just kidding about the Wild Wild West part, but he is English, and he did direct a bunch of other westerns and some TV movies. He was also 6 feet 7 inches tall!!

Ray (2004)
Hey! This movie is really good. It suffers just a little from the biopic genre's weaknesses, but ultimately is very affecting. Shoulda got the best picture oscar. I haven't seen it, but that boxing movie that won looks lame.

The Sand Pebbles (1966) BY CHRIS
This movie takes place in China in the 1920s and tells the touching story of a young American soldier's personal journey from not caring about anyone or anything (except maybe engines), to his realization that the "slopeheads" aren't all that bad and that war is hell. Along the way, he meets many strange characters and has exciting adventures. This movie was 3 hours long, but it seemed much much shorter than Modesty Blaise.

Sideways (2005) and About Schmidt (2002)
Alexander Payne is obsessed with pathetic men, and apparently movie critics are, too. That's the only way to explain the praise that's been heaped on these movies. The movies aren't terrible, but they're both kind of boring, nauseating, and exhausting. But I guess it's not so surprising that movie critics would like these movies -- I mean, movie critics are mostly middle-aged white guys who never did what they really wanted to do (make movies). Of course this kind of sad-sack man movie would appeal to them.

About Schmidt is definitely the better movie, with more interesting visuals and characters, like the hummels falling off the roof of the Winnebago as it moves, and the neglected, failed daughter (Hope Davis). And the characters, while not at all appealing, are at least somewhat sympathetic.

But Sideways is just irritating. The sitcom-level disparity between the attractiveness of the female and male halves of both couples in Sideways (Viginia Madsen and Paul Giamatti; Sandra Oh and Thomas Haden Church) is offensive. And the two main characters become less sympathetic and more pathetic not only during the course of the movie, but for weeks after viweing, sticking in my mind like the taste of bad food sticks in my body, making me feel ill again and again.

Spellbound (2002)
This is the best movie ever, at least for now. These spelling bee kids are crazy insane. A couple of them were almost normal, but they didn't come close to winning the national bee. If any of those kids read Motel, we'd love for them to write an article for us. Especially since we wouldn't need to spell check it, unlike with all of our other legions of writers ... that would save us some time. (I think this review was actually written by Chris.)

Stalag 17 (1953)
They don't call it a classic for no reason! Rent it now, I tell you!

Swingers (1996)
Almost really good, but then only kinda good. The Vegas scenes are classic. In some ways I wish the movie had stayed there. It was just a little too much "wacky LA lifestyle making fun of itself while taking itself seriously" for me. And oh man do I hate swing dancing.

Tumbleweeds (1999)
This movie seemed really good since we watched it the night after we watched "Big Fish", which should have been called "Big Piece of Shit". Tumbleweeds had more character development in the first 10 minutes than Big Piece of Shit had in the whole 8 hours or however long that crap was.

Venus Beauty Institute (1999)
French, kinda weird but kinda good. Ladies working in a beauty salon and the wackiness that ensues. Also some very strange love stories. Too complex for my simple American brain?

What to Do in Case of Fire (2002)
Oh, me and my German movie rentals ... why do I do it? This one was pretty good, but we watched it too soon after watching "Good Bye, Lenin!" so the material (post-reunification Berlin) felt a little worn out.

Zus & Zo (2002)
Another
Dutch movie, rented in preparation for our trip to Amsterdam. But it didn't provide us with much insight or positive feelings about Holland. In fact, we both fell asleep. Before that happened, I saw enough of this movie to think "people aren't really like that, are they? Barf!" But now that I've seen "Closer," these people don't seem so bad.

 

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