Reviews - What do customers think about ReelViews 2: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Modern Movies on DVD and Video, 2005 Edition (Reel Views)?
*The* seminal critic of our times Dec 26, 2005
(Note: this review assumes that you are not terribly familiar with James Berardinelli. If you are, skip to the last two paragraphs.)
Growing up in a Dallas suburb, there was nothing much to do but to get a ride over to the local multiplex and catch the latest flicks. Early on in my preteen years, of course, almost anything would catch my interest (save for something like Jane Eyre), but after awhile it became apparent that my time would be better spent going to movies that were actually decent. So, this led me to peel open and dog-ear the "Guide" section of the Dallas Morning News, always skimming the review snippets before deciding to which movie I would beg my mother to take me. However, while this system proved adequate early on, it became apparent that I was still spending time watching alot of terrible movies, movies that had been given such wonderful critical catch phrases as "Two Thumbs (Way) Up!" (which I'm sure must be trademarked or something similar by now) or "Four Stars! One of the best movies of our time!" Which, of course, led me to a gradual disillusionment and the growing belief that all critics were cash-mongerers being paid off to write catchphrases to be used in advertisements.
I still think that about many critics. But eventually, I discovered rottentomatoes.com and it proved to be a good, brute force way of finding quality movies to spend a hard-earned 8 bucks. I came to notice, however, that one reviewer in particular kept standing out for well thought out, well-read (and well-seen) reviews, many of which corresponded to my tastes and interests. It was in this way I came to find James Berardinelli. His name was a bit of a pain to remember at first, but it soon became synonymous to me with pure, intellectual and quality reviews.
Very few critics, I feel, are able to properly enunciate precisely why they feel a movie is good or bad. I've read many a four star review of Pulp Fiction, for example, that was filled with vague assessments and ephemereal praise; namely, that the critic had realized they had just seen something wonderful, but couldn't quite express why. And sometimes this enunciation can be done in overkill; however intelligent a review from the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune may be, sometimes they seem a bit *too* intelligent, a critic trying too hard to maintain an image or trying to be Faulkner when Hemingway would suffice.
It is, however, this precise skill of putting down in words that certain "je ne sais quoi" many of us may feel when watching the latest masterpiece that makes Berardinelli brilliant. It is his irreverant attitude to the worst of movies, and his superbly insightful and analytical approach to even the most untouchably brilliant of movies and his refusal to reduce his thoughts to a catchphrase that makes every read an enjoyable one. I never read reviews in my free time for fun before, but now I pour over Berardinelli pages as if looking over a great literary tome. And in fact, his reviews may be; each review opens a dialogue with the reader, explaining everything what one wants to and needs to know. One has a question, and Berardinelli has anticipated it and answered it. If anything, I wish his reviews were longer.
However, it's simply more than just Berardinelli agreeing with my tastes. In fact, I found I disagree with him on quite a bit of movies, but unlike many other critics, a point of divergence is not an irreconcilable-"oh-he's-just-one-of-the-crazies-who-liked-star-wars-episode-one" moment but rather a way to see an alternative opinion presented intelligently and analytically. If anything, if you're used to just reading reviews from your local newspaper, Berardinelli will elevate your level of discourse with movies and will broaden the way you think about the art of filmmaking.
That being said, why do you need to buy the book when all his reviews are archived for free on his website? If you've a soft-spot for reviews and movies, this is a good addition to your library, beating out the more mainstream works such as "Videohound's Golden Movie Retriever year XXXX" (which I never read for fun). Even then, a collection such as this belongs in the category of art criticism, not movie reviews, and for that reason a hard copy will always be welcomed as a permanent reference for the thoughts and analyses of one of the most important critics of our time. If that's not your thing, having a hard copy of the reviews means that you can always quickly look up a review without having to worry about booting up a computer or remembering how to spell "Berardinelli." If anything else, this makes sure that you vote with your dollar and support a critic who deserves greater exposure.
(I realize the overly-glowing tone of this review, but if you've read Berardinelli, you'd understand.)
Thoughtful and open-minded Dec 22, 2005
I have been taking recommendations from Berardinelli's website for a few years. This book is a compilation of his favorites from about the last 10 years, and are arranged by genre (Action/Adventure, Animated, Comedy, Drama, etc.). An appendix uncovers some 'easter eggs' (want to see Gollum's MTV speech from the DVD?), and another reviews directors' cuts. Berardinelli includes only 'recommended', 'highly recommended', and 'must see' movies.
Berardinelli exudes both open-mindedness and conviction in his reviews. He sees through audience manipulation and recognizes artistic vision. He's not syndicated, and has only his fans to please. I get the distinct feeling that he writes reviews to create a more demanding movie viewing audience. If my feeling is right, I hope he succeeds.
You'll have to visit Berardinelli's website (www.reelviews.net) to experience the other half of his vocabulary: the colorful invective he uses to trash truly bad films. A great example: "I have written this review as a public service to those who stop by my video column. I sacrificed my time so others don't have to. Feel free to ignore this warning..".
James Berardinelli = Mr. Movie. Dec 11, 2005
James Berardinelli's Reelviews website has been my go-to source for movie reviews since I stumbled upon it a few years back. I admire his candor and insightful analysis of films and the film world. Just like a previous reviewer said, since discovering James I have not wasted money seeing a dud film in the theater).
Best of all, you can always trust James to tell the truth. If the movie is schlock, he lets you know; if the movie is decent, he'll tell you who might be most attracted to seeing the film in theaters (often times by providing a list of similar films like a "if you liked these, try this" recommendation); and if the movie is great, James sounds the horn. And I must admit, while I look forward to seeing four and five star films, I look forward to reading the one and zero star reviews (there's just something deeply gratifying and entertaining about a reviewer ripping some piece of schlock to the tiny bits it deserves...call it my guilty pleasure).
So if you want a "Reel" honest review, James is your man. Pick up the book, check out the website (I recommend spending some time running through "ReelThoughts" for a few great ideas about what is going on in the entertainment industry, what could/should be going on, and so forth), have yourself a ball. I only hope Mr. Berardinelli can find the time to put together a DVD guide as well for those of us - and he knows were out there, growing in number - who prefer the comfort of home to the current theater experience.
You da man, James. Keep it up!
:) Dec 11, 2005
I've been an avid reader of James' website for the last year of so. I have come to value his reviews over almost everyone elses. He never fails to expose a bad movie and tell exactly why in an intelligent, and sometimes humorous way. I've often been prompted to see a movie that I otherwise would have probably overlooked. James, if you read this, ignore that jerk who gave your book a one star. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but writing scathing reviews that are based on questionable informatio is unecessary. I look forward to reading more of your reviews and your next book. Take care!
THIS BOOK IS LONG ON PLOT SUMMARIES AND SHORT ON ANALYSIS Dec 11, 2005
This book provides heavily edited versions of James Berardinelli's website movie reviews. Unfortunately, instead of skimping on plot descriptions, he skimps on analysis, which is his strong suit.
My first exposure to Berardinelli was the first version of this movie guide. And I didn't think much of it. Some time later, I was discussing Berardinelli with a friend, who advised me to check out his complete reviews posted on his website. After reading the complete reviews, with all of the analysis intact, I finally became a believer. But despite all of this, I now own both versions of his movie guide, which I find useful for quick-reference purposes. (Note: If this movie guide contained Berardinelli's complete, unedited movie reviews, I would bump my rating up to four stars.)
Note to ALL film critics: In the future, try to restrict your movie plot summaries to just one or two paragraphs, and then get on to what you were truly put on this planet for, i.e., providing analysis and criticism.