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               Movie Hell - One Thousand Reviews Later

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Contents
========

  - Introduction
  - Letter Grade Analysis
  - Selected Slams
  - Hostile Confrontations
  - I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide
  - My Stunning Command of the Language
  - Perks
  - Great Unknowns
  - The Infamous English Patient Review
  - The Infamous English Patient Letters
  - Elaine, Have You Seen That English Patient Movie?
  - Life, What Life?
  - Invaluable Web Sources
  - Acknowledgements


Introduction
============

Earlier this year, I posted my thousandth review to Movie Hell Dot
Com.  And for a former "math ed" major whose career path hasn't had
a *thing* to do with film *or* film criticism-- computer training
by way of firefighting by way of traffic reporting-- I suppose ten-
hundred write-ups is as good a milestone as any.  Haven't made (nor
*wanted* to make) a single red cent from these missives, but got to
see a bunch of movies for free.  And hog my fair share of Internet
bandwidth.  Might've made a few folks laugh, too.  Here, then, is a
customarily thorough look back at seven-some years of weekly movie
reviewing.  Included is a statistical analysis of the Movie Hell
Rating System that reveals, among other things, that the number of
awarded "A"s' has been dropping.  Duh.  I've also excerpted some
reviews, reprinted some letters, and recalled a couple more memor-
ably embarrassing confrontations with people talking during movies.
Read, skim, wince, snort, shake your head, or line the bird cage.
And be glad that hasn't been *you* in the critic's chair.  Trust
me, it's been... Hell.


Letter Grade Analysis
=====================

[ These tables are at http://www.moviehell.com/comments/1000.shtml
  if incorrectly formatted below ]

:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:------:
:     : '94 : '95 : '96 : '97 : '98 : '99 : '00 :  all :
:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:------:
: A's :  19 :  13 :  10 :   9 :   6 :   5 :   3 :   65 :
: B's :  53 :  63 :  57 :  54 :  58 :  62 :  26 :  373 :
: C's :  42 :  59 :  67 :  46 :  57 :  59 :  43 :  373 :
: D's :  14 :  23 :  21 :  17 :  24 :   9 :  10 :  118 :
: F's :   2 :   3 :   4 :   4 :   3 :   1 :   1 :   18 :
: W/O :   1 :   4 :   4 :   9 :  11 :  19 :  25 :   73 :
:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:------:
:total: 131 : 165 : 163 : 139 : 159 : 155 : 108 : 1020 :
:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:------:

--

:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:
:     : '94 : '95 : '96 : '97 : '98 : '99 : '00 : all :
:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:
: A's : 15% :  8% :  6% :  6% :  4% :  3% :  3% :  6% :
: B's : 40% : 38% : 35% : 39% : 36% : 40% : 24% : 37% :
: C's : 32% : 36% : 41% : 33% : 36% : 38% : 40% : 37% :
: D's : 11% : 14% : 13% : 12% : 15% :  6% :  9% : 12% :
: F's :  2% :  2% :  2% :  3% :  2% :  1% :  1% :  2% :
: W/O :  1% :  2% :  2% :  6% :  7% : 12% : 23% :  7% :
:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:-----:


Selected Slams
==============

 o "If Tom Clancy tried to write a sitcom, he'd probably
    end up with something like [this]"
    GUARDING TESS (1994)

 o "The nicest thing you can say about [this movie] is
    that all of the scenes appear to be in the correct
    order"
    THE TIES THAT BIND (1995)

 o "Sheer idiocy"
    MONEY TRAIN (1995)

 o "Very wrong"
    MR. WRONG (1996)

 o "So utterly flat-- so completely non-compelling-- that
    almost nothing escapes from the screen for the audi-
    ence to connect with"
    FLIPPER (1996)

 o "So laughably ludicrous that you may think you've stum-
    bled into the sequel to MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000:
    THE MOVIE"
    THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS (1996)

 o "Return to sender"
    THE POSTMAN (1997)

 o "And it feels that way!"
    SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (1997)

 o "Sandra Bullock smiles.  That's the plot"
    HOPE FLOATS (1998)

 o "[Renee] Zellweger, a seemingly charming young actress
    with a really weird mouth and who, I decided, is best
    viewed while ducking slightly behind the seat in front
    of you, to better block out certain facial features"
    A PRICE ABOVE RUBIES (1998)

 o "The running time is right around three hours and,
    frankly, I can't recall a more excruciating cinematic
    experience.  Well, apart from THE ENGLISH PATIENT"
    THE GREEN MILE (1999)

 o "Wait for the video and then burn it"
    DUDLEY DO-RIGHT (1999)

 o "Wait for the video and then [skip it]"
    THE BONE COLLECTOR (1999)

 o "The perfect bore"
    THE PERFECT STORM (2000)


Hostile Confrontations
======================

During the initial years of movie reporting, I had yet to master
that seeming Zen-like ability to block out extraneous noise, be it
popcorn crunching, candy unwrapping, or way-louder-than-a-whisper
whispering.  The talkers were the worst, no question.  In fact, my
irritation was so great that even accompanying friends were not im-
mune.  (I'd either "hush" or just strike them from the list of Peo-
ple to Attend Movies With.)  Most of my aggravation, however, was
directed at strangers.  No, didn't get shot, slugged, or swung at
all those years, though I was once confronted in a parking lot, af-
ter an earlier, glare-and-angry-tone accompanied request of some-
one to "please stop talking or leave the theater."  (Said admonish-
ments were usually delivered during the previews, as I had yet to
learn that most audiences "quiet down" after the first five minutes
of *any* feature...)  That evening, the offender, a guy, caught up
with me afterward and noted "you don't have to sound so hostile."
Still seething with the ol' rage, I responded "and you don't have
to be so rude as to talk during a movie."  Sigh.

Oh and another time, at another theater, I was followed to my car
by a pair of boisterous, trash-talking women who were trying their
hardest to sound scary.  Regrettably, they *did* succeed at upset-
ting my date.  (Well, what was regrettable was that Yours Inconsid-
erate didn't keep his damn mouth shut in the first place!)  Often,
and increasingly in recent years, I'd "tattle" and let the "theater
people" handle it.  Such as what happened at a showing of John Sin-
gleton's ROSEWOOD one afternoon, where a dozen or two people were
talking back to the screen.  Loudly.  I complained to the ushers.
Nothing happened.  Then I complained again.  And again, nothing.
And there was a projection problem, which warranted a *third* lob-
by visit.  Needless to say, my blood was boiling by then.  So when
the body of a deceased young girl appeared on screen and inspired
one audience member to exclaim "she's dead!," I wasn't surprised at
all that I turned around and shouted back "gee, do you think so?"
Sigh, again.


I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide
=======================

[ February 1997 ]

> I have an account at panix.com, a mostly-New-York-area provider.
> They carry most of [the] triangle [newsgroups], but not .movies,
> so I asked them to add it, explaining that it's not purely of
> local interest but also contains "literate reviews by a knowled-
> geable moviegoer."
>
> To which the support person wrote back, "Another Michael Legeros
> fan, eh?"


My Stunning Command of the Language
====================================

 o "Dean Martin has been replaced by Henry Rollins.  Who
    sucks"
    THE CHASE (1994)

 o "Too bad the film sucks"
    GETTING EVEN WITH DAD (1994)

 o "Distortion sucks"
    NO ESCAPE (1994)

 o "That theater sucks"
    COLOR OF NIGHT (1994)

 o "Sucks"
    MIGHTY MORPHIN' POWER RANGERS (1995)

 o "Eddie Murphy sucks"
    VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN (1995)

 o "It's just the rest of the movie that sucks"
    MAXIMUM RISK (1996)

 o "Outside of the funnel clouds, everything else sucks"
    TWISTER (1996)

 o "Delivers such an embarrassment of riches that you
    really have to step back from stepping back to get
    cranky about the stuff that sucks"
    TITANIC (1997)

 o "Sucks"
    SMALL SOLDIERS (1998)

 o "You can see the ending coming a mile off, though,
    which kinda sucks"
    LAWN DOGS (1998)

 o "Specifically, it's the score that sucks"
    SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998)

 o "Sucks for several reasons"
    NEVER BEEN KISSED (1999)

 o "Warner Brothers sucks"
    WOMAN ON TOP (2000)

 o "The story pretty much sucks, as well"
    CROUPIER (2000)

 o "It, like, sucks, dude"
    ROAD TRIP (2000)

 o "Some of the stuff that sucks is *also* in the first
    half"
    THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE (2000)

 o "What has nine arms and sucks?"
    COYOTE UGLY (2000)

 o "Sucks that the surrounding movie sucks so badly"
    THE NUTTY PROFESSOR II (2000)


Perks
=====

Forget the free movies, forget the press seats set aside from the
Great Unwashed, forget even the videotapes (and now DVDs) that ar-
rive at the end of every year; the sweetest deal *this* critic has
ever fringe benefited from was dealt some summers back, when I was
briefly dating a theater manager at one of the local chains.  Sam
Raimi's ARMY OF DARKNESS was opening that weekend and, a day or two
before, I was invited to a private screening.  For just the two of
us.  Whatever was *supposed* to shown on that screen that afternoon
wasn't and we stretched out, feet up, heads back, and, in our laps,
a bit of food brought from home.  A better indoor picnic I can't
recall.


Great Unknowns
==============

All "A minus" 'cept for BREAKDOWN, THE DINNER GAME, EAT DRINK MAN
WOMAN, THE ICE STORM, and TO LIVE.  They got straight "A's".

 o BREAKDOWN (1997)
 o CRUMB (1995)
 o DINNER GAME, THE (1999)
 o DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS, THE (1999)
 o EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN (1994)
 o HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994)
 o HILARY AND JACKIE (1998)
 o ICE STORM, THE (1997)
 o IRON GIANT, THE (1999)
 o KOLYA (1996)
 o MADNESS OF KING GEORGE, THE (1994)
 o MIAMI RHAPSODY (1995)
 o NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND (1998)
 o OUT OF SIGHT (1998)
 o QUEEN MARGOT (1994)
 o RED (1994)
 o REF, THE (1994)
 o RUSHMORE (1998)
 o STRAIGHT STORY, THE (1999)
 o SWEET HEREAFTER, THE (1997)
 o TO LIVE (1994)
 o ULEE'S GOLD (1997)
 o WACO: THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (1997)
 o WHEN WE WERE KINGS (1996)
 o WINSLOW BOY, THE (1999)


The Infamous English Patient Review
===================================

Cross LAWRENCE OF ARABIA with CASABLANCA and, say, THE BRIDGES OF
MADISON COUNTRY and you get this tedious, big-scale bodice-ripper
about a man (Ralph Finnes), a married woman (Kristin Scott Thomas),
and their adventurous romance in North Africa during World War II.
Writer/director Anthony Minghella (TRULY MADLY DEEPLY) adapts the
prize-winning novel that, in film form, begs the question:  how do
you treat a movie fairly that's so obviously overlong?  Especially
one that's told in flashback, meaning that the audience has way too
much time to figure out what happens before it happens.  There are
*some* surprises to keep you awake: an exciting sandstorm, a tense
bomb-defusing sequence, and a very cool airplane crash.  Ms. Thomas
gives a passionate, bare-all (and I mean, bare *all*) performance
that miraculously resonates through the entire almost-three-hour
running time. (Believing the early attraction between her and Ralph
Finnes is another matter.  But, hey, they do generate some steam!)

At the packed screening that I saw, butts were growing numb by the
second hour.  A steady stream of survivors knocked knees and sent
beer bottles barreling as they bee-lined for the lobby, or the
bathroom, or the nearest store selling No-Doze.  Oh, sure, there's
probably a lean masterpiece in here, somewhere.  A two-hour quickie
that retains the epic scope, exotic flavor, and big, boo-hoo pay-
off.  (Or, perhaps, a four-hour version with easy-to-follow time
shifts and characters who don't disappear five minutes after we
meet them.)  Bottom line, THE ENGLISH PATIENT is a long sit.  The
viewer has too much time to think about other stuff, such as why
Willem Dafoe's character doesn't have anything to do, or if Ralph
Finnes might make a good Indiana Jones, or how the filmmakers kept
a straight face while recording those swelling, smothering strings?
(Rated "R"/162 min.)

Grade: C


The Infamous English Patient Letters
====================================

> Yo Elvis, did you *really* feel that THE ENGLISH PATIENT was a
> terribly boring flick?  Were you being facetious?  I thought it
> was incredibly beautiful and not at all a "bodice ripper."

--

> I just (finally) saw THE ENGLISH PATIENT and, afterward, read
> your review.  Once again, you're right on the nose, Michael.
> Next time I'll read your review *before* I see the movie.

--

> I just read your review on THE ENGLISH PATIENT on the Internet
> Movie Database site.  Suffice to say that we are at opposite ends
> of the spectrum as far as this film is concerned.  However, its
> good to know that not everyone feels the same way.  I am intense-
> ly curious:  if this film is a long, boring sit, what would you
> give as an example/s of wonderful, inspiring filmmaking?

--

> Don't blame a great movie for the fact that you've been  condi-
> tioned by the media to have a mere two-hour attention span.  THE
> ENGLISH PATIENT is a masterful picture.  It's people like you
> that cause Hollywood to continually release those one-and-a-half
> hour crappy films.  It seems you have little appreciation for an
> artistic picture.  No wonder we only get these types of movies
> every five years.  Well, take heart, I think RAMBO IV is coming
> out this summer.  How lucky for you.

--

> This proves it, Mike.  You need to steer clear of anything more
> literate than Star Trek or Michael Jordan.  THE ENGLISH PATIENT
> is a glorious movie, visually arresting, not a dull, boring, long
> sit. It's true to the atmospheric delights of the novel, beauti-
> fully evocative of the time and place. The novel is phenomenal,
> and I was concerned that the story wouldn't make the leap from
> page to screen. But it did. The screenwriter made a few good
> additions to the story to make it more visual.
>
> At the well-attended screening I saw, the whole lot were enrap-
> tured, not budging, not kicking over beer bottles. And very few
> leapt to their feet at the end, staying in place to read all the
> details of the film. Including the timeless and mournful strings.
> This is *not* a bodice ripper. Even though one bodice does get
> ripped. Go see this movie. Go to the potty first, yes. And then
> enjoy the pleasures of getting pulled into the glories of Tunis-
> ia, Tuscany, and love.


Elaine,  Have You Seen That English Patient Movie?
==================================================

Episode #150 (or thereabouts), "Seinfeld"


Life, What Life?
================

Where in the world have I found the time for all this?  Since the
start I've been

  o single,
  o living alone,
  o in town,
  o with no children,
  o nor high-maintenance pets,
  o nor time-intensive family members,
  o nor evening-filling social circles,
  o nor extensively or even frequently traveling,
  o working 35 hours a week,
  o requiring only 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night,
  o eating most meals out,
  o and doing a fair amount of writing at stoplights.

Piece of cake.


Invaluable Web Sources
======================

The following film sites have been damn useful over the years.  And
still are...

  o Cinematter's Upcoming Releases
    http://www.shreck.com
    For what and when

  o Daily and Weekly Variety
    http://www.variety.com
    For headlines

  o Harry Knowles
    http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com
    For poop

  o The Internet Movie Database
    http://us.imdb.com
    For fact-checking

  o The Movie Review Query Engine
    http://www.mrqe.com
    For forming negative opinions ahead of time


Acknowledgements
================

Ana, Audra, Beth C., Beverly, Bobbie W., Bonnie, Brian Z., Bruce
T., Bryan and Allison, Carol B., Caroline, Carrie and Jason, Chad,
Chip, Christiana, Clint, Connie, Corey, Cynthia, David and Mary,
Debbie B., Debbie L., Dede, Diana, Donna A., Ellen and Bob, Evelyn,
Gloria, Harriette, Janice, Jean, Jeanne, Jeff M., Jennifer B. #1,
Jennifer B. #2, Jim M., Joe G., Judi, Julie K., Julie M., Karen and
Orin, Kendra, Kim, Linda and Dave, Lynn and Mike, Lynn W., Marian-
ne, Mary A., Mayuko, Miranda, Pat P., Patsy, Patti, Peg, Polly, Re-
becca, Richard, Ruth, Sara H., Sara L., Sarah, Sharon S., Sherrard,
Sue, Susan A., Susan W., Therese, Wendy, my brother Tim, my sister
Lisa and her husband Tim, Mom, Dad, my Aunt Suzie, my Cousins
Chris, Kathi, Pam, and Tian, a passel of newsgroup subscribers, a
bunch of Web site visitors, assorted studio publicity houses, Bill
Pebbles and Ambassador Entertainment, the best theater management
company in town period, and anyone else who was along for the ride.
Thanks for playing.

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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