Friday, November 24, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

James Berardinelli


American online film critic.
James Berardinelli
There's an old saying that states something about leaving the best for last. [Writer/producer] George Lucas certainly didn't follow that adage when crafting the original Star Wars trilogy. Return of the Jedi, the final installment of the series, is easily the least innovative and most hokey of the three films. In fact, most of the enjoyment derived from this motion picture comes from the simple act of getting together with old friends and enemies one more time. If Luke, Han, Leia, and Vader were replaced by nameless, faceless characters, Return of the Jedi wouldn't be a whole lot more interesting than Independence Day.
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With Batman & Robin, the fourth entry in the recent Batman movie series, the profitable franchise appears poised to take a nosedive. This film, which places yet another actor in the batsuit, has all the necessary hallmarks of a sorry sequel pointless, plodding plotting; asinine action; clueless, comatose characterization; and dumb dialogue. ... Batman & Robin moves at a dizzying pace, yet goes absolutely nowhere.
Berardinelli
Die Hard represents the class of modern action pictures and the standard by which they must be judged. Few films falling into the "mindless entertainment" genre have as much going for them as this movie. Not only is it a thrill-a-minute ride, but it has one of the best film villains in recent memory, a hero everyone can relate to, dialogue that crackles with wit, and a lot of very impressive pyrotechnics.




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The biggest alien invasion picture of the summer of 1996 is Independence Day. But it's not the first. The Arrival, with a significantly lower budget than Fox's July 3 release, has that distinction, and, while this particular film doesn't boast any radical or surprising ideas, it combines numerous familiar plot elements into a suspenseful, entertaining whole. Best of all, perhaps, is the realization that some thought went into writer/director David Twohy's script. This is not a dumb movie; in fact, with its heavy reliance upon real science, it's startlingly credible.
Berardinelli James
When a movie is this bad, it's hard to adequately describe its awfulness in words. The temptation exists to write something along the lines of: "Something this horrible has to be seen to be believed." Of course, that kind of advice would lead to e-mail death threats and other assorted nasty comments from those who spend money on The Devil's Rejects. ... Aside from its poor production values, horrendous acting, and ignoble morality, The Devil's Rejects isn't engaging cinema. Even if the simple act of sitting in a movie theater watching people get hacked up for 90 minutes doesn't bother you, the dullness and repetition is likely to.
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The first star vehicle of the summer of 1996 is also the first major disappointment of the season. Mission: Impossible, the big-screen resurrection of the popular late-'60s/early-'70s series, fails to generate much in the way of excitement or intrigue. This globetrotting adventure looks like an opportunity for Tom Cruise to play James Bond a role he is totally unsuited for. The writing for last year's 007 return, GoldenEye, isn't a lot better than that for Mission: Impossible, but, as an action hero, Pierce Brosnan is considerably more debonair and charismatic than Cruise.
James Berardinelli
Seventeen years after its intial release, The Empire Strikes Back is still as thrilling and involving as ever. Because of the high quality of the original product, it doesn't show a hint of dating. Neither [Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope nor Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi] were able to match the narrative scope of Empire, which today remains one of the finest and most rousing science fiction tales ever committed to the screen.
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Like everything else, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) has had to change for the nineties. The venerable 007, coming off a long hiatus, has taken on his sixth face (the other five being Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton), changed his mode of transport from an Aston Martin to a BMW, and now answers to a female "M" (played dryly by Judi Dench). Bond's attitudes towards women have been modified although not greatly. Also, there's more action in GoldenEye than in previous 007 entries enough to keep a ninety-minute film moving at a frantic pace. Unfortunately, this movie isn't ninety-minutes long it's one-hundred thirty, which means that fully one-quarter of GoldenEye is momentum-killing padding.
Berardinelli
Those who delight in bad movies and enjoy producing their own unfilmed versions of Mystery Science Theater 3000 may gain a measure of semi-masochistic enjoyment out of Van Helsing. There are quite a few unintentionally funny moments, although the overall experience was too intensely painful for me to be able to advocate it as being "so bad, it's good."
Berardinelli James
The Pink Panther is supposed to use humor to uplift. Instead, I departed this movie feeling depressed. Lifeless comedies can suck the energy out of a viewer, especially when they sully the image of an cinematic icon.
James Berardinelli
The potential evidenced by [director James] Cameron in The Terminator the ability to sustain suspense, meld action with story, and provide compelling characters despite the limitations of the actors portraying them would be fully realized in two future features, Aliens and Terminator 2. This movie, however, is in some ways more impressive than either of those because of what the filmmaker was capable of achieving with a limited budget and without significant studio backing. The themes and ideas presented in The Terminator hold up well today, even though we have moved into the post-Cold War era and only the most nihilistic individuals could see 2029 in such bleak terms. It's a rousing science fiction story that proves an on-screen adrenaline rush need not short-circuit the brain.




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It's useless to advise people not to see Independence Day, so I'll issue a warning instead: curb your enthusiasm and don't expect much. With suitably low expectations, you're likely not to be too disappointed, unless you make the mistake of actually thinking about what's taking place on-screen while it's going on. The last half hour is built on a series of contrivances and implausibilities that even a six-year old could find serious flaw with, so be prepared to use the "brain off" switch. But Independence Day isn't about logic and intelligence. It's about space battles, mass destruction, and a laughably "rousing" speech by the President. This is a spectacle, pure and simple. Unfortunately, because the filmmakers mistakenly tried to inject a load of weak dramatic elements, Independence Day turns out to be overlong, overblown, and overdone. For alien invasions this summer, give me The Arrival instead.
James Berardinelli
Looking back at Batman from a distance after all the hype has dried up and the franchise has at least temporarily been abandoned it's easy to see the movie for what it is: a moderately diverting motion picture that should have been shorter and better paced. There are a lot of things wrong with Batman, but it still makes for decent entertainment in the fine tradition of the typical low-intelligence summer movie. The best thing that can be said about Batman is that it led to Batman Returns, which was a far superior effort.
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My hope is that Casino Royale has not only re-invented James Bond, but made him relevant for the 21st century. The target audience has shifted. Although there's nothing in Casino Royale that will exclude teenagers, this 007 is aimed squarely at adults. The November release date is also perfect the film is almost too dark and serious for the kind of lighthearted, mindless fun we associate with summer blockbusters. In recent years, I have come to each new James Bond movie with a series of ingrained expectations. For the most part, the Brosnan films met them across the board. Casino Royale defies many of them, and I couldn't be happier.
Berardinelli James
In 1990, the MPAA introduced the NC-17 rating to provide an outlet for legitimate adult fare non-pornographic motion pictures with content deemed too strong for the under-17 crowd. The first movie released with an NC-17 was Henry & June, whose financial failure was widely blamed on the new rating. After that, all potentially-lucrative films receiving an NC-17 made the cuts required by the MPAA to earn an R. Now, in 1995, there's Showgirls, the most significant test of the NC-17's commercial viability to date. Helmed by Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Basic Instinct) and written by Joe Eszterhas (Jagged Edge, Basic Instinct), this movie is going into wide release with the adult rating. Too bad it's one of the worst films of the year.
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Legally Blonde 2 should never have been made. It is a cinematic abomination a source of embarrassment for everyone involved. There have been worse films this year, but none has been marketed as this fun-loving and upbeat. Worthwhile moments are few and far between, and Reese Witherspoon's incandescent charm, which was one of the original Legally Blonde's saving graces, is so bright that it creates a glare. There's such a thing as being too perky.
James Berardinelli
[Director Christopher] Nolan has not only crafted the best Batman movie, but arguably the second-best motion picture superhero narrative (topped only by the linked duo of Superman and Superman II). For those who thought Spider-Man and X-Men had a lot to offer, wait till you see where this film goes. ... Batman Begins is a strong re-start to a franchise that deserves better than it has often been accorded.
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It's rare that the sequel to a good movie lives up to expectations. Such is the case with Die Hard 2, the somewhat-muddled but still entertaining return of Bruce Willis' John McClane. Fortunately, the original Die Hard was good enough that there's room for the second installment to be enjoyable while still not matching the pace or possessing the flair of its predecessor.
James Berardinelli
Imagine, if you will, the dispiriting experience of listening to an awful cover of one of your favorite songs. That's how I felt sitting through Die Another Day, the 20th official outing for [James Bond]. This is a train wreck of an action film ... What's missing from this movie? Any real sense that we're watching 007 rather than a generic spy in a tuxedo.
Berardinelli James
In answer to the question posed by the title, I can't in all honesty say, "This movie." But that's only because there are far too many Freddy Got Fingereds and Say It Isn't Sos out there. The fact that What's the Worst That Could Happen? is better than these movies should in no way be misconstrued as even a backhanded compliment. It's like comparing stale, moldy, rancid bread with soggy, stale, moldy, rancid bread. Both are equally probable to turn one's stomach, and, if ingested, likely to require some time spent kneeling in front of a toilet bowl.


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