Tag Archives: Roger Ebert

“To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts.”

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the passing of Roger Ebert.  (Our own Blog Correspondent Pete Harrison pointed it out to the gang on Facebook.)

I still miss reading Ebert’s reviews.  He was such an intelligent man, yet so lacking in pretense or pedanticism.  His had an unassuming, straightforward, everyman’s voice that the average reader could trust and relate to.  His talent for that remains inimitable.

The quote below is one I discovered just today.  It’s a good one.


Image result for Roger Ebert Quotes

“Ben Affleck was the bomb in ‘Phantoms.'”

I revisited “Phantoms” (1998) the other night, and I thought I’d just speak up briefly here on its behalf.  For one thing, I really chatted up Dean Koontz’ 1983 source novel here at the blog not too long ago.  And for another, this critically and popularly panned movie is one that I happened to like.

Ben Affleck actually wasn’t “‘the bomb’ in “Phantoms.'”  (Referring to something as “the bomb” was, at one time, a high compliment in American slang.)  He mostly phoned it in, and even seriously flubbed a scene or two.  (Hey, I actually like the guy a lot, and I’m willing to give him a chance as the next Batman.)  The headline above is actually some particularly meta humor from another character played by Affleck, in Kevin Smith’s “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (2001).  Affleck was poking fun at himself a little here, along with his fellow denizens of Smith’s “View Askewniverse.”

Roger Ebert dismissed “Phantoms” as “another one of those Gotcha! thrillers in which loathsome slimy creatures leap out of drain pipes and sewers and ingest supporting actors, while the stars pump bullets into them.”  You can read his entire review right here:


No, “Phantoms” isn’t classic sci-fi-horror.  It’s sometimes pretty thin stuff on a number of levels … but primarily the levels of acting and screenwriting.

But, dammit, I still liked this movie a lot.  If you’re a fan of the book (I’ve suggested it’s Koontz’ best), you’ll be happy to discover that it indeed conscientiously sticks to its wicked-cool source material.  We see a small Colorado mountain town where all the inhabitants have vanished; a clutch of wayward visitors then try to escape the same grisly, mysterious fate as its residents.)

The book’s central plot device is a nicely conceived and executed idea for a monster, with some effectively creepy historical and scientific context.  (I can still remember a colonial victim’s warning, which is referenced in the book, but not the movie: “It has no shape; it has every shape.”)

Despite its clunky script, the film brings us a story that is pretty intelligent — thanks to retaining so many elements of the novel.  This is a thinking man’s monster movie — like somebody rewrote “Beware the Blob” (1972), but put a hell of a lot of smarts and creativity into it.  We’ve got two groups of bright people who fight back against “the Ancient Enemy,” and their actions and strategies generally make sense.

Also … Liev Schreiber does creepy incredibly well, and Peter O’Toole does everything incredibly well.  The former’s face and mannerisms do much to unsettle us.  And the latter brings the “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) treatment to the fifties-esque trope of the monster-fighting hero scientist.

Finally, this might be an odd thing to praise a film for, but I loved its sound effects.  Because that voice (or voices) on the story’s single working telephone was exactly how I wanted the adversary here to sound.

Slam it all you want.  I’ll watch this one again.



“I begin to feel like most Americans don’t understand the First Amendment …”

“I begin to feel like most Americans don’t understand the First Amendment, don’t understand the idea of freedom of speech, and don’t understand that it’s the responsibility of the citizen to speak out.”

— Roger Ebert


Photo credit: “Roger Ebert crop (retouched)” by The original uploader was Rebert at English Wikipedia – File:Roger Ebert (extract) by Roger Ebert.jpg, File:Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert by Roger Ebert.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I will not be reviewing “The Human Centipede 3” here …

… because I will not watch the movie.  I watched the entire original, and even reviewed it.  (If you guys are ever interested, look up Roger Ebert’s review of the first movie.  It’s a treatise on tactful, oblique language.)  Then I watched maybe the first 20 minutes of “The Human Centipede 2.”  Frankly, that is just about enough human-centipedey-ness for one lifetime.

I keep mistakenly calling them “The Human Caterpillar” movies … I think that might be some form of Freudian repression.

This film is just so … gross that it’s beneath even me and the reprobates that will occasionally populate my peer group.  I can’t link here to the film’s trailer, or even post a movie poster, because they are just too explicit and repulsive.

Why not focus instead on the Camden family, of The WB’s heartwarming Christian dramedy, “7th Heaven?”  They are far more pleasant, and I’m pretty sure that they inhabit a universe where films like “The Human Centipede 3” do not exist.

Oh you quirky Camdens, with your disarming foibles and well-intentioned hi-jinks!!  YOU’VE CHARMED EVEN THIS SECULAR CURMUDGEON, HAVEN’T YOU???


My review of “V/H/S” (2012).

I am blogging my past movie reviews from Facebook; this was my take on “V/H/S.”  The tongue-in-cheek reference to Roger Ebert at the end was written before his passing.


Finally – a horror anthology that’s worth its salt! “V/H/S” (2012) got mixed reviews from both fans and critics, but I personally loved it. I haven’t had this much fun with a collection since “Creepshow” (1982); I’d give “V/H/S” a 9 out of 10.

It definitely isn’t for everybody. This is a collection of five violent, found-footage vignettes, all shot in low-quality shaky cam that even got on my nerves, and I usually don’t mind it too much. It’s gimmicky and low-budget, with brief “urban legend” –type stories that offer little characterization or detail. The quality of the acting was also wildly uneven, and in one segment was so bad that it was distracting.

But, damn it, it worked. This was overall a hell of a lot of fun, with shorts that were raw and inventive. And all of this film’s various flaws were more than made up for by its incredible first segment, “Amateur Night,” which might be the scariest horror film of its kind that I’ve ever seen. (I don’t want to name its sub-genre because I think that even that would be a spoiler. Regrettably, though, I think the film’s advertising sort of does let the cat out of the bag.) Seriously, “V/H/S’” first segment was goddam terrifying, and ought to be ranked right up there with “The Exorcist” (1973). This makes it worth the price of a rental alone. And I think this part was so scary largely because of Hannah Fierman, a talented physical actress who is also unusual looking.

Seriously, if you’re a hardcore horror fan, you owe it to yourself to at least give this a try. Ignore Roger Ebert’s review. He was having a bad morning when he wrote it.