Response to Critics of my Movie Criticism

Lately I realized that a lot of people out there don’t agree with my movie reviews. Especially folks who know me IRL seem to be somewhat baffled by the amount of venom I spew out on their favorite flicks. I wanted to use this post to address some of the recurring comments I get from people who are unhappy with my reviews.

Luke, you seem to hate all movies. Are there even any movies you like?

Of course. I like good movies. For example, I loved Moon, Memento, Donnie Darko and Primer. All excellent films that are well worth watching. Then again all these films fall into certain spectrum that I call “thought provoking” and most other people call “confusing” or “boring as hell”. So let me list some other moves that do not fall into this category.

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Firth Element. I never wrote a review for it, but I probably should just because it is my example for what an action SF comedy type film should be. It’s campy, it’s funny, it is action packed, has great, memorable characters, awesome quotable moments – and above all, it is masterfully shot and directed. I loved Zombieland for similar reasons – fun, well executed, quotable and memorable. Neither of these films can be considered thought provoking or ground breaking – but I love them nevertheless.

I also loved The Watchmen and Lord of the Rings because they were good adaptations of source material that I already liked. And when I say good adaptation, I mean a movie that is close to the source with minimum amount of executive meddling. Hell, I even wrote positive reviews for movies like The Butterfly Effect and Hostel.

Contrary to popular belief I am not some movie snob that only likes foreign experimental films with subtitles. That’s not true at all. I simply like movies that are good. If I watch a movie that is not good, I have no choice but to write a bad review. It’s that simple.

I mean, please – are you really going to look me in the eye and lie to me Transformers 2, the new Indiana Jones or Die Hard 4 were good movies with a straight face?

I would love to see you make a movie that is better than _____

I would love that too. Seriously. I am confident I could do a much better job shooting Transformers than Michael Bay did, or make a much better prequel trilogy than George Lucas. You know why? Because these movies were horrible, and nothing could possibly make them even worse – so any changes would only be for the better.

Do you know how I would go about it though? I would hire directors who can direct and actors who can act. So no Michael Bay, no Hayden Christensen and no Meghan Fox. I would hire real writers to write and re-write the script, then have a team of 20 or more people read, review and give feedback on it, searching for plot holes, and stupidity. I would work at it until it was great. I would find a director with a vision, passion and sense of style and composition – not someone who thinks that putting as much moving CGI into the frame as can possibly fit is a great idea.

Seriously, I do understand that film makers often work under pressure from producers and film studios. I understand that sometimes you get stuck with a team that is less than perfect and a budget that severely constrains the amount of time you can spend shooting or editing the movie. Still, so far most of the pictures I really complained about were insanely expensive sequels to blockbuster movies. They were essentially guaranteed success from day one, and could easily afford to gather a dream team of film makers and spend extra time polishing the final product. They didn’t. The movies are atrocious, visually over the top (good composition and editing triumphs over poorly rendered, busy CGI applied over shaking and rolling camera work), poorly acted and full of plot holes and nonsense situations. Bad movies are just that – bad.

But it is mindless entertainment. Its supposed to be about explosions and car chases.

No it is not. Movies are not supposed to be mindless string of explosions and action scenes. I choose to believe that movie making is a form of art. That movies are supposed to contain characters that we can relate to and tell stories that can affect us in some way. We are supposed to identify with the characters, accompany them on their journey and experience the ups and downs with them. The suspense and drama stems from the attachment we feel to these characters. If they are plastic, shallow and poorly acted it is extremely difficult to care for them, or to take their defeats and victories seriously.

If you just want mindless entertainment, then Ow My Balls should be the ultimate movie – and ideal that all filmmakers should aspire to. Seriously people, would you really enjoy watching two hours of that? Actually, don’t answer that question.

And again, neither The Fifth Element nor Zombie Land can really be called deep or thought provoking. They are fast paced, action packed and silly – but unlike many of the movies I complain about they do have some great entertainment value: well designed characters, clever scripts, memorable quotes, well paced jokes, suspense and great execution. Zombieland for example has one of the best executed random cameos of all time. Transformers 2 has a robot with a gold tooth that talks like a black guy. I think this illustrates my point quite clearly. One of these movies was made by people who were passionate about it, other was a hack job haphazardly put together so that it would appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Here is a question for the readers: I just told you about bunch of movies that I liked. What are your all time favorite movies?

Yep, this whole post was an elaborate ploy to solicit good movie recommendations. Go!

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19 Responses to Response to Critics of my Movie Criticism

  1. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Mac OS Terminalist says:

    American Beauty, American History X, Die Hard (first one), Terminator 1 & 2 (no, there were no sequels or trilogy, what are you talking about?), Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2 (Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique FTW!!), Iron Man, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight. Any thoughts on these?

    Been wanting to watch Exorcist and GodFather trilogy.

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  2. mcai8sh4 UNITED KINGDOM Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    Monty Python (all of them), Yellow-Beard, 51st State, Lock Stock…, Ones mentioned above by both Luke and Mart, Heat, Scarface, Strap-on-sally 9 (actually never seen it, but its been in every hotel…ever, must be worth a watch).

    Depending on my mood there are loads of good films – Barbarella, Italian Job, Great escape, Bullit…

    Although there are quite a few films, that to be honest are crap – but for some reaon, I still really like – Gross point blank! (shame on me), Face off, Gone in 60 seconds.

    You get the idea – I only watch what people give me, I never go out to get myself a film.

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  3. copperfish Opera Linux Terminalist says:

    @Luke Nothing wrong with your reviews, but then you are preaching to the converted. You put me onto Moon which I would never have known about otherwise and I loved it.

    @mcai8sh4 I’m with you on Grosse Point Blank – brilliant film.

    Sticking with the “assassin” movie theme, worth watching are:
    The Professional (a.k.a. Leon)
    La Linea

    Of course my all time favourite movie is still (after 28 years), Blade Runner.

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  4. road UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    you just like what you like, and don’t like everything else. don’t read too much into it. everybody feels that way about what they like.

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  5. Phil UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Besides the absurd plot (relating to the hacking and computers portion) of Die Hard 4, I really did like it. But I really liked the other 3 Die Hards, so perhaps I just really like the John McClane character.

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Mart:

    American Beauty – great movie

    American History X – have not watched, but I think I’ve seen the famous curb stomping scene on youtube.

    Die Hard – I haven’t watched it in years, but I remember it being awesome

    Terminator 1 & 2 – Classics. Also, the second one wraps up the story pretty well so I don’t think anyone would be silly enough to make a third one.

    Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2 – I found it extremely campy. Arguably the first one was better than the second one – but that’s probably because of all the sword fighting Japanese school girls with morning stars and what not.

    Iron Man – plot was a bit weak but Robert Downey Jr was awesome as Tony Stark.

    Batman Begins – I think I wrote about it at some point. Nolan took a franchise that others literally run into the ground and made un-profitable, then turned it around and made it awesome. The most incredible adaptation reboot of a failed franchise that I have ever seen.

    The Dark Knight – I did not believe that Nolan could out-do himself but he did. He created a movie that was even more compelling than the first one. And Heath Ledger’s Joker – OMFG. Period. Best written and best acted villain ever.

    @ mcai8sh4:

    I had to watch Scarface due to peer pressure and I was pleasantly surprised that it was actually a pretty decent film. When I was in college I think every room in the dorms had at least 1+ Scarface poster per male occupant.

    On that note, I have yet to watch “The Princes Bride” from the beginning to the end. I watched bits and pieces of it over the years so I can actually recognize the popular quotes but I have never actually seen the thing as a whole.

    I don’t think I have watched any of the other films you listed. Actually that’s a like – I saw fragments of Barbarella, Face Off and Gone in 60 seconds.

    @ road:

    Leon is such a great movie. I can never remember Jan Reno’s name – but when I want to mention him I just say Leon and everyone knows instantly who I’m talking about. Also Gary Oldman and the pre-beta version of Natalie Portman. Great film.

    Oh, and last time I checked liking Blade Runner is mandatory. If you don’t like it you have to turn in your geek badge.

    @ road:

    Yeah, I know. But criticizing movie criticism seems to be a thing these days. I was driving to work today and on the radio I heard something among the lines of:

    “And after the break we will have our movie review guy tell you why he hates all the movies that came out this week (lol) – stay tuned”

    People literally get offended when they hear someone slam a movie they haven’t even seen yet. Anyone who even dares to be critical of the new Hollywood releases is automatically a movie hater. It’s annoying – that’s one of the reasons I posted this here.

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  7. I’m a book person, not a movie person (don’t judge a book by its movie). Agree with @copperfish; Leon is one to watch – also try out Nikita (La femme Nikita), the 1990 movie.

    For humor; “The Princess Bride” (even if it is a kissing movie :-P ) and then The Blues Brothers for music, fun and a bit of car chaos.

    For seriousness and pretty ok book rendition; Sean Connery in The Name of the Rose (Drama/Thriller).

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  8. mcai8sh4 UNITED KINGDOM Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    Damn, how did I forget Leon?… and Cannon Ball Run for that matter.

    It’s quite interesting to see how everyone here, from different countries, races, blah blah… seem to appreciate the same films. So on that note, I may have to start reading some of these book things you guys (and gals) keep recommending!

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  9. Sameer NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Difficult to name just a few films but Heat is an all time favorite. I like Michael Mann’s style. He creates good atmosphere. I really enjoy crime-epic films like Carlito’s Way, American Gangster, Se7en.
    Sports films (boxing and racing mostly) such as Rocky (though that’s not so much about the boxing, more the character dev), Ali, Any Given Sunday, Le Mans. I basically like anything with fast cars in it :P
    I always enjoy Fantasy/Sci-Fi, as mentioned, Moon was a very pleasant surprise for instance. LOTR, Kingdom of Heaven, The Last Samurai, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Though it is weak compared to the brilliant Robin of Sherwood tv series)

    I think it really depends on what you see in a film. Same with pretty much anything I suppose. One thing is for sure though. Michael Bay is a douchebag…and I’m not the only one who thinks so apparently.

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  10. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    I very rarely go to the movies, preferring watching them at home, even in my smallish TV. The last time I went (to see Up in the Air) it was, well… unpleasant. The movie didn’t help much, though.

    I’m also young, so I prefer to see the classics I didn’t get to see at the time instead of newer ones.

    Well, my favorites are (in no particular order – I’ll try to stick with one per director):
    Dark:
    * Apocalypse Now Redux (Coppola) – Masterpiece. It has so great moments that terrify you and yet you can’t stop watching. And “Charlie don’t surf!” is a quote for life :)

    * Taxi Driver (Scorcese) – Another classic. One of De Niro’s best performances.

    * Clockwork Orange (Kubrick) – Yeah, I like 2001, but I just can’t get the ending. Maybe I’ll change my opinion after reading the book, but until then, C.O. gets the prize. It’s terrific.

    Lighter:
    * Pulp Fiction (Tarantino) – Seriously, I can’t even compare it to Kill Bill. The actors, the dialogs, the soundtrack!

    * Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze) – It’s fucking hilarious. Surreal comedy at its best.

    * Life of Brian (Monty Python) – Why? This.

    Less story, more cinematographic art:
    * Big Fish (Tim Burton) – Movie magic. But it’s hard to decide between it and Nightmare Before Christmas.

    * Mulholland Drive (David Lynch) – Well, it’s the only Lynch I’ve watched, but it’s amazing. It’s art is its purest form. Everything has a meaning. Every moment is important. It’s puzzling and it never lets you rest.

    Well, there are more, but this is long enough as it is. By the way, I have to second the Memento and American Beauty.

    It’s funny how the former can change a lot by missing a little scene at the end. My friend didn’t get it and it was a totally different movie to her.

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  11. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ mcai8sh4:

    Books are awesome – highly recommend them. :)

    @ Sameer:

    Completely agree re: Michael Bay.

    Interesting anecdote: did you know that Scarlet Johanson told Michael Bay she didn’t mind doing a nude scene in The Island and he was like “Nah… I don’t want to do a nude scene…”

    Yeah.

    I’m sorry, but if Scarlet Johanson wants to do a nude scene in your movie, and you don’t have one in the script, you make a last minute addition and squeeze it in and then thank your lucky stars. Seriously…

    Michael Bay couldn’t squeeze it in, because it would ruin the flow of car chase punctuated explosions he had going on. Sigh…

    @ IceBrain:

    I loved Being John Malkovich – absolutely brilliant dark comedy. Big fish was good too though Nightmare Before Christmas is an iconic classic by now.

    Pulp Fiction is another movie that I haven ever watched from start to finish. I have seen pieces of it, I know the quotes – but it does not form a cohesive story in my head.

    Taxi Driver is on my to be watched pile. I picked it up along with Scarface and The Shining when I was on my “I need to watch these cult classics so I can know the memes and references” kick.

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  12. freelancer CROATIA Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    I don’t watch a lot of movies, mostly because they are too short. When I start getting close to the characters the movie is more often than not getting close to the end. That’s why I prefer TV shows.

    That said, when I do watch movies nowadays, 99% of the time it’s movies you’ve recommended, and I’m never disappointed =P I think the only one that went the opposite direction was Primer. Other than those, I think the posts above contain pretty much every movie I’ve watched and liked, so I’m not gonna reiterate that =)

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  13. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    I don’t watch a lot of movies, mostly because they are too short. When I start getting close to the characters the movie is more often than not getting close to the end. That’s why I prefer TV shows.

    Well, you can watch Novecento, unless 5:15 hours is not enough for you :P

    (actually, it’s a good movie too, although it feels somewhat disjointed. But you can watch Donald Sutherland explaining you how to fight communism (he plays a fascist).

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  14. dawn SWITZERLAND Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    It’s funny but, my favorites are the ones you mentioned at the beginning of the article, except Moon which I have yet to watch. I would add Fight Club to the list. Incidently it also falls into the good book adaptations category.

    By the way, foreign movies with subtitles aren’t that bad: Der Leben den Anderen (The Lives of the Others) and Die Welle (The Wave) are rather thought provoking. I also liked L’auberge espagnole and Les poupeés russes which, I suppose, were meant to be more entertaining, but still make you think: they cover ground that no american movie about students I have seen has even the intention to cover. Those two last ones are the kind that you can watch with family or friends and everyone enjoys them even if it’s not for the same reasons.

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  15. Ron NEW ZEALAND Mozilla Linux says:

    Generally Ive found anything by Tarrintino, Cameron to be safe bets. The matrix is always gonna be one of my faviourte movies, simply by how it blew my mind when I first saw it, and as ive gotten older (now 21) it appeals on different levels.

    I quite like movies that mess with you, (mentally) so ill have to add Moon (Im thinking tonight) and Primer to my increasinly long to watch list.

    Anyone got any opinions on the Time Travlers Wife, flatmates have been raving about it, and their taste is genrelly pretty good.

    I also quite enjoy early Peter Jackson movies (Braindead, Bad Taste, The Frightneers), there generrely weired and im finding really hard to describe without them sounding awful. I guess there borderline movies that people will either find dreadful or brilliant. If you do watch them keep in mind the budget he had for them (non-existant, the alien suits from Bad Taste were made in his mums oven, one of scenes was shot by the camera man sitting on the bonnet of a car (no harness, just sitting on the bare-metal) as Jackson drove)

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  16. ST/op DENMARK Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    Moon was great, but I liked Sunshine too…

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  17. Sameer NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ Luke Maciak:

    SJ: “Hi Michael wanna see me nekkid? I don’t mind!”

    MB: “Nekkid eh? …nah”.

    I really wish you hadn’t told me that Luke. I’m quite depressed now *sniffle*.

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  18. MrPete GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    The early works of George “I ruined the series” Lucas, being Indiana Jones 1-3 (so many great moments in these!) and StarWars 5-7 (well, maybe because I love the SF-genre and these were the first epic movies I came across as a kid?).
    And then there is Kingdom of Heaven. I really loved it although it’s a bit too hard on the “I’m from Europe, I have great ideas you would never come to think of.”
    And recently Cameron blew my mind. Bet you know what I’m talking about…

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  19. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    A couple of my favorite movies (apart from the ones already quoted by all of you guys):
    * The Thin Red Line
    * Cyrano de Bergerac (I know it is more a filmed theater play)
    * Much A Do About Nothing (Kenneth Branagh’s version, same issue than above).
    * Full Metal Jacket
    * The Wind Which Shakes The Barlows (Ken Loach)
    The last one is I believe the only movie where I actually cried at the end… ever.

    A remark about Nikita: just like True Lies 1, the original French movie (not La Femme Nikita, just Nikita) was a thousand times better than the US remake. Note: it’s the same guy who made The Fifth Element, so no wonders here. I recommend the pen scene… ;-)

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