Harvey and Sheilaís Movie Reviews
February 1999 Edition
Meet the Critics
Harvey Parr has been an investigative journalist for the highly respected Philadelphia Star-Gazette since 1962. He became that paperís resident film critic in October, 1995.
Sheila Douglas writes a weekly movie review column for the Independence Shopper, a free publication in the Kansas City metropolitan area. She has been writing her column since July, 1997.
* Bomb ** Poor *** Average **** Incredible
A Bugís Life
Sheila Douglas, Independence Shopper Ė Monday, December 28, 1998
My little boy Bobby just adored this wonderful animated masterpiece. If you know anybody with kids, offer to take them to see this movie. I thought it was such a sweet, touching story, all about how alone you feel when youíve screwed up and nobody seems to care about you. Those clever animators at Disney sure are getting good. There was something so lifelike and real about the whole movie, but I canít quite put my finger on what it was. One thing I will tell you: be sure to sit all the way through the movie and watch the credits at the end. Thereís a little surprise, but wonít tell you what it is. Rating: **** (I Loved it!)
Harvey Parr, Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Tuesday, December 29, 1998
Who the hell wants to see a movie about a bunch of bugs, anyway? Sure, this is a kids movie, but when I was a kid the only thing I liked about bugs was pulling their wings off. (Iíll probably get letters on that one, but I figure I can handle myself against any bug-loving freak any day of the week.) Iíve seen ads lately for these big stuffed toys based on the freakish creatures in this movie and it makes me want to throw up! Do we really want to encourage entomology among the junior set? I donít think so. You want the plot? Hereís the plot: Theyíre blue, plastic, big-eyed creepy bugs with whiny voices and they all look virtually identical. I hope that doesnít "spoil" the story for you. I tried to do my job and watch the credits at the end, but they had some stupid little out-takes thing going on which was pretty distracting. What the hell kind of out-takes do you have in an animated film, anyway? What do they think I am, stupid? I didnít know who was responsible for this mess, but the only name in the credits I recognized was "Phyllis Diller." When I got home I read in the press kit about how a bunch of rocket scientists at some California company called "Pixar" used computers to make this movie. Big freaking deal. Is knowing that a bunch of geeky computer nerds made themselves a movie going to make me want to see it? No. The only reason I managed to sit through this thing from beginning to end is that I watched it with my good friend, Tom Collins. If you really have a thing for bugs (and Iím sure there are more than a few of you freaks out there), why donít you go to the insect exhibit at your local museum. That would be a far better use of your money in my opinion. You just might learn a valuable lesson or two, beginning with the fact that BUGS IN REAL LIFE ARENíT CUTE!! Rating: * (This movie stinks!)
Meet Joe Black
Sheila Douglas, Independence Shopper Ė Monday, December 28, 1998
Just try getting me to stay away from any new Brad Pitt movie. Just try! I got a baby sitter for Bobby and my friends Rosanne and Betsy went with me to see it at the mall. Oh my God! Brad Pitt is just the best! I really donít want to give anything away. Let me just tell you that you have to see this movie with someone you love. It is such a touching, tender film, one that really makes you think. Rating: ***1/2 (Very, very good)
Harvey Parr, Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Tuesday, January 5, 1999
I donít usually like special effects, but in this case Iíll make a small exception. Thereís one involving Brad Pitt (who I hate even more than my editor) about five minutes in thatís the only good thing in the whole damn film. Note: In the original version of this column I went into greater detail, but my editor decided I should remove it because it might "cause spoilage." He said it like it was a cheese sandwich left in a taxi on a sunny day! So I wonít spoil the movie for you. Itís your loss. I donít think anybodyís going to see this piece of crap remake of Death Takes a Holiday anyway. Oh, dear, I hope I didnít spoil anything for anybody by telling you that. Howís the acting, you ask? Brad Pitt turns in a robotic performance as Mr. Black and Anthony Hopkins plays the same damn character he plays in all his other movies. No Oscar nominees in this stinky mess! You want to save yourself some money? Put your $8.50 in a mason jar and stick a label on it reading "funeral expenses." Rating: *1/2 (Bad enough)
Youíve Got Mail
Sheila Douglas, Independence Shopper Ė Monday, January 4, 1999
I just could not stop crying at the end. I bawled like a little girl. I mean (and I hope Iím not giving anything away here), for the life of me I just couldnít figure out how Meg Ryan was going to get together with Tom Hanks. They were such bitter enemies. Meg plays this woman who owns a little book store and Tom is this evil corporate guy whose father owns a big chain of super book stores, kind of like Barnes and Nobles. I mean, he basically puts her out of business, right? I didnít get any of the E-Mail stuff, although my friend Betsy did her best to explain it to me after the movie. It doesnít really matter, though, and it shouldnít affect your enjoyment of it one little bit. Betsy also told me that the woman who directed this also directed Sleepless in Seattle (which I loved) and When Harry Met Sally (which I really loved). Whoever she is, I just hope she keeps plugging away. The world certainly could use a few more movies like Youíve Got Mail. Rating: **** (They donít come any better)
Harvey Parr, Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Thursday, January 8, 1999
Youíve Got Mail? No, as a matter of fact, I donít, unless youíre talking about the junk mail that gets stuffed in my mailbox every day. I personally donít have E-Mail and I donít have any friends who have E-Mail, so who the hell would I send it to even if I got it in the first place? Maybe in 20 years when weíre all forced by the U.S. government to "network" ourselves together at the ankles this movie will mean something to the general population. By that time I pray Iíll be dead and cremated just so I wonít have to deal with it. The only halfway interesting character in the whole damn movie was the whiny guy who collected typewritersÖand everybody made fun of him for it! My editor Stan tells me Iím occasionally a bit too harsh in my reviews. My deepest apologies, Stanley. Why donít you try sitting all the way through this crap someday? Iíll not mince words. I hated this movie, I hate the people who made it, and I hated everybody in it, with the possible exception of the typewriter guy. Still not convinced? Still want to see the movie? I guess I canít stop you. All I can say is that I would have been better off flushing $8.50 down the toilet than spending it on this piece of garbage. Review: * (Rotten and smelly)
Sheila Douglas, Independence Shopper Ė January 4, 1998
I just loved this movie. Maybe Iím a sentimental fool (Iíve been called worse by my ex), but the message of this film really got to me. I think we all need a little more color in our lives, donít you? I took my little boy Bobby with me to the multi-plex at the mall. I know it was playing in one of the big theaters downtown, but I figure whatís the point? Parking downtown is always a hassle and seeing a movie on the big screen just means end up sitting back in the theater than if you saw it on a smaller screen, right? Bobby got a little antsy about half-way through the movie, but heís only 7 and I think maybe the hot-dogs and mac and cheese he had for lunch wasnít sitting quite right. Anyhow, back to Pleasantville. I thought it was just so beautiful when Jeff Daniels started painting. I was horrified when the angry black and white mob turned ugly and started being mean to the "coloreds" (just a little bit of clever symbolism I happened to catch) and smashed Jeff Danielís painted window. This movie is rated PG-13, and there was just a little bit of talk about s-e-x, but I managed to cover Bobbyís ears for most of it. Anyhow, give yourself a treat and go see this movie. I bet youíll love it too! Review: **** (Absolutely the best!)
Harvey Parr, Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Tuesday, January 12, 1999
Who in their right minds would want to live in a place like "Pleasantville?" Certainly not me. Unfortunately if you donít buy into the basic premise of this sentimental piece of crap youíre wasting your time. Iíve seen the actor playing the main character before in The Ice Storm and Deconstructing Harry. Heís equally lame here as he and his slutty sister get sucked into their TV set thanks to a "mysterious stranger" played by Don Knotts. Sound stupid? Thatís because it is. Itís a real shame. Knotts was always such a kill on the old Steve Allen Show. The movie starts out in black and white and color slowly creeps in. Yeah, as if making movies in color was Godís greatest gift to mankind or something. After seeing the movie I stopped by "Cervantesí Inferno" to slam back a few drinks and gab with Jerry McDougall. Jerryís a newhound pal from the old days, back when we covered the crime beat together. We got pretty high on 7 and 7ís and then Jerry got on a jag about what the fifties were really like and how pathetic the kids today are. I knew just what he was talking about. Then I started thinking about what was wrong with Pleasantville. It seems to me that nobody responsible for this film was probably even born in the 1950ís, much less experienced them first-hand. So essentially what these "movie makers" are selling is a second-hand version of something they had no damned right to have an opinion about in the first place. Hereís a tip straight from me to those of you who are even considering seeing this film: Instead of wasting your hard-earned moolah on seeing a sorry piece of crap like Pleasantville, why donít you buy yourself a train ticket for the place you belong: Palookaville. Review: *1/2 (Nearly, but not quite, the worst)
Sheila Douglas, Independence Shopper Ė Monday, January 4, 1999
Wow! What an incredible movie, and I donít usually like horror movies at all. The special effects were just out of this world. The "new" Godzilla is certainly a lot grosser-looking than the original. Bobby, my little boy, wanted to watch it with me, but I told him he wasnít old enough. Why should I have to deal with the nightmares? Matthew Broderick is just so cute I wanted to hug him and say, "Itís all right. Youíll figure out a way to beat the monster!" And of course he does in the end. Iím not going to say anything more about that on account of I donít want to ruin the movie. Matthew plays this super-smart scientist who studies frogs. The government flies him to New York to help them track down and kill Godzilla. Itís a good thing they do, too, because nobody else seems to have a clue except for Matthew. And who should he just happen to run into while heís chasing Godzilla? His old girlfriend! Sheís a news reporter working for a television station in Manhattan. Iíve never been to New York City in my life, but it doesnít exactly look like itís the kind of place to raise a family. Oops! I hope I havenít said too much! Go rent it! Review: ***1/2 (Really, really good)
Harvey Parr, Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Thursday, January 21, 1999
Was there really a pressing need to film a remake of Godzilla? I donít think so. Could Matthew Broderick get any more whiny and annoying? I donít think so. Should you spend your money renting a piece of Jurassic dino-crap like Godzilla? I donít think so. If youíve read any of my reviews you know that special effects rarely impress me. Good directing, writing, and acting does. Is there anything at all resembling any of those three critical components in this movie? No. "What did you think about the story?" you may ask. My response: "What story?" There certainly wasnít any damn story that I could tell. Godzilla swims across the ocean and ends up in Manhattan. He takes the subway to Madison Square Garden and his offspring (am I giving away too much?) chases Broderick and the other thinly-written characters around for a while. Eventually they blow them all to kingdom come. But do they really? Thatís for the semi-retarded audience to decide. Sorry, forget I wrote that. That would be an insult to retarded people. Most of the mentally-challenged individuals Iíve met in my long life have better sense than to rent crap like this in the first place. Me, I didnít have a choice. My editor forced me to watch it. He calls me on the phone and tells me what to watch. Thatís the essence of our relationship. One day I hope he "makes" me go see a good movie, assuming they even exist anymore. Am I asking too much? Sometimes I wonder. When I was a kid and went to the movie palaces to see truly great movies like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, they really made a lasting impression on me. I know those movies are available on video. Why the hell donít the filmmakers of today bother to try to make good movies anymore? Thatís a pretty damn simple question in my opinion and one that nobody seems to have an answer to. Instead of wasting your $4.50 renting Godzilla, why donít you act out your freakish bloodthirsty urges by buying yourself a nice pound of rib-eye steak. Eat it medium-rare, using only your hands and your razor-sharp incisors. Review: * (Absolutely awful)
The Ten Commandments
Sheila Douglas, Independence Shopper Ė Monday, January 4, 1999
Sometimes I have a hard time getting into old movies, but at least this one was in color. I wasnít familiar with the story of Moses before, and I got really sucked into it. Itís an awfully long movie, though. Itís so long, in fact, that at the beginning of the movie a man comes out from behind a curtain and tells you just how long it is and assures you that thereís going to be an intermission. I canít imagine what it was like for the people who were around when this movie was made. For their sake Iím certainly glad there was an intermission. At least Iíve got the handy old "pause" button on the VCR to help me. My son Bobby got bored after about 10 minutes and went into his room to play Nintendo. Itís too bad, though, because there was truly some sensational action. Moses, Played by Charlton Heston, gets to meet God, although you never actually see him. Up on the mountain God carves the Ten Commandments. Thatís where the title of the movie comes from. The most incredible scene is when the Hebrews are trapped between Yul Brennerís army and the sea. Moses prays to God and the sea parts. It was just amazing! I definitely recommend this movie. One thing I should tell you is that usually when you watch movies based on the Bible Jesus appears at some point. I kept waiting, but when I got to the end he never showed up. According to my friend Betsy, the story of Jesus happens much later on. Thatís just a little tip from me to you. Rating: ***1/2 (Almost perfect)
Harvey Parr, Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Tuesday, January 19, 1999
You know, Iíd never gotten around to watching this three-and-a-half-hour "masterpiece," and now I know why. Charlton Heston plays Moses, a real biblical heavyweight. Moses is a moderately interesting guy for most of the movie. He kills Vincent Price (although it looks like Price just kind of trips over something), gets kicked out of Egypt by Yul Brenner, gets married, and settles into a nice quiet (boring) existence raising sheep. Then one day he makes the mistake of climbing Mount Sinai. He sees this "burning" bush that looks like itís illuminated by a red 60-watt light bulb. While looking at this exotic glowing bush (which sounds a lot dirtier than it is), he hears the booming voice of God. Upon hearing Godís voice, Mosesí hair turns gray overnight and Moses immediately turns into a robot. I got so sick of scenes in which Moses responds to any verbal challenge by saying (in a deep voice just slightly less booming than Godís), "Let my people go." On paper, playing the role of Moses seems like it would have been a real challenge for an actor. In reality, Mr. Heston probably didnít really have to do too much in the way of actual acting. He just had to stand in the middle of Egypt with 2000 or so extras behind him and wave his staff a lot. Frequently in my column Iíll make some sort of recommendation as to what my beloved readers could do with their money rather than blowing it on the drivel Iím forced to review. In this case, just imagine all the wonderful things you could do with three and a half hours. Thatís a lot of time. Just think about it, would you? And please donít rent this movie. Rating: *1/2 (God-awful)
Spotlight Film of the Month:
The Little Shop of Horrors Around the Corner
Harvey Parr, Philadelphia Star-Gazette Ė Thursday, January 26, 1999
Ever since Youíve Got Mail was released to the theaters, my editor has been asking (hounding) me to go out and rent the original. Stan (who I hope will die soon) is just full of cute ideas like that. Hell, I didnít know it was a remake in the first place. I never even suspected it. I think maybe it was the prominent role that computer E-Mail played that made me think it was an original story. Stan said the original was called something like The Shop Around the Corner. I went to my local video store and looked for it, but The Little Shop of Horrors Around the Corner was all I could find.
This "gem," which has only recently been released on video, was directed by Roger Corman, a name that always triggers less-than-fond memories. According to the cover on the video box, Little Shop of Horrors Around the Corner was shot in two days in 1960. Naturally, this piqued my curiosity, mostly because I figured that any movie shot in two days in 1960 would star Tempest Storm or Candy Barr. This "classic" actually stars Jimmy Stewart, which really came as quite a shock. As I recall, Jimmy Stewart was a real class act in those days, working with folks like Alfred Hitchcock, Grace Kelly, or Kim Novak. My best guess is the reason they shot it in two days because they couldnít keep Jimmy Stewart any longer than that.
Jimmy Stewart plays this lonely schmuck named Seymour who works in a flower shop. The only thing heís got going for him is heís been trading anonymous letters with some incredible girl. Of course he doesnít want her to know heís a four-star loser, so heís lied to her from the beginning, telling her heís a big shot in the flower delivery business. His real life isnít nearly as satisfying as the delusionial fantasy life heís living in his romantic correspondence. For one thing, thereís this little bookworm of a girl named Audrey who comes in every day for the sole purpose of (as far as I can tell) verbally harassing him. Maybe he gets off on it somehow. The (clever?) thing is, sheís the same girl heís corresponding with, only he doesnít know it. This is the contrived premise on which the movie depends.
One day Audrey sends him a letter asking him if they should meet. This throws Seymour into an absolute panic. The only real evidence of this is that he quits stammering like Jimmy Stewart and starts to stammer more like Buddy Hacket. Seymour decides he has to do something really big to impress this letter-writing woman, whoever she is.
At that exact moment, some "mystery character" (played by Vincent Price, who has recovered nicely from being slayed by Moses) appears. Deux ex machina, anyone? Price presents Seymour with a weird plant. He tells Seymour itís an especially rare and valuable plant and that Seymour should take care of it, feeding it raw meat every day after sundown. The stranger leaves quickly (Vincent Price was a busy guy) and Seymour is left with the plant. So blinded is he by the idea that this plant could be the answer to all his hopes and dreams that he doesnít even think twice about the "raw meat" thing. He also never even bothers to question why this guy would give him such a valuable plant in the first place. I guess if he did, the movie would be over too much soon, wouldnít it?
For some reason I couldnít quite figure out (bad writing, maybe?), Seymour tries at first to treat this bizarre gift like a normal plant. The plant starts to bitch and moan, crying, "Feed me, Seymour!" Jimmy Stewart seems to accept the talking plant with far less stammering than I think would normally be appropriate in such a situation. (Maybe itís because the plant sounds kind of like God.) Seymour decides to feed the plant meat like the mysterious stranger told him to do in the first place. The plant quits complaining and gets bigger.
Due to the commonly-accepted attractive power of large weird plants, people start coming to the shop in droves, just to see Seymourís plant. The plant thrives on the increasing quantities of meat Seymour has to supply just to get the plant to shut the hell up. Finally the plant grows to the size of a small Buick and some big-shot plant expert (played by Charlton Heston) drops by and tells him heíll give Seymour $10,000 for the plant. $10,000 was a lot of money back in 1960 and it still seems to me like a helluva lot to pay for a plant. Seymour agrees to the deal and Heston tells him heíll be back the next day to buy the plant.
Seymour decides his future is looking rosy (no pun intended) and so he stops stalling his letter-girl and agrees to meet her that night at the flower shop. (How he actually communicates this to her using the normal turn-around time of the U.S. Postal Service is never explained. Perhaps this is one of those times when itís best for the audience to suspend disbelief.) When Audrey enters the store he canít believe itís her. She canít believe itís him. Theyíre in shock and just stand there looking at each other. Seymour is so startled that he starts stammering like Jimmy Stewart again. Audrey is so surprised that she has the same reaction that most of the women Iíve ever known have had in such a situation: She walks slowly backwards about ten feet, directly into the waiting maw (is that the right term?) of the giant plant. The plant figures itís feeding time and eats her. Seymour screams "Mary, Mary!" (Which I found sort of strange, considering the characterís name was Audrey.) Seymour rushes over to try to save her and the giant plant devours him too.
The following morning, Charlton Heston arrives to pick up the plant. Heís surprised to find Seymour nowhere to be found. Youíd think with a $10,000 plant the guy would at least lock the front door! However, Charlton forgets all about Seymour when he sees two new (roughly head-sized) blooms on the plant. Heís there just in time (following the magical logic of the rest of the film) to see the blooms open. In one is what appears to be the paper macheí face of a woman. In the other is a paper macheí face of a man. I think the two faces were supposed to be Seymour and Audrey, but Iím not positive. As soon as the words "The End" appeared I hit "stop" and "rewind" so fast I just canít be sure.
Rating: *1/2 (Slightly worse than abysmal)
Copyright © 1999, Terran Boylan.