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In the meadow, we can pan a snowman

You better watch out, You better not cry, You better have clout, We're telling you why, Two Thumbs Down are comin' to town. We're making a list, Checking it twice; Gonna find out whose movie was scheiss. Sandy Claws is comin' to town. We see you when you're (bleeping), We know when you're a fake, We know if you've been bad or good, So be good for cinema's sake!

As I dream back over many happy years of movie going, some of my favorite lines from old reviews dance in my head like visions of sugarplums. Good movies, bad movies, doesn't matter, just so the zingers dance. Today I thought I'd share those lines in the holiday spirit. Curiously, most of the lines come from movies so bad I didn't want a refund, I wanted to collect damages. Movies like "Freddy Got Fingered," of which I wrote:

This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels. 

The movie is being revived around the country for midnight cult showings. Midnight is not late enough. -- Review of "The Beyond

That makes "Hellbound: Hellraiser II" an ideal movie for audiences with little taste and atrophied attention spans who want to glance at the screen occasionally and ascertain that something is still happening up there. If you fit that description, you have probably not read this far, but what the heck, we believe in full-service reviews around here. 

You are a fount of my wisdom. -- e-mail to a plagiarist 

Violet and Corky have a secret tete-a-tete, and vice versa .--"Bound

Maybe another 200 cigarettes would have helped; coughing would be better than some of this dialogue. -- "200 Cigarettes"

"blogart2.jpgDoris: Would you please tell her that you're not really Santa Claus, that actually is no such person? Kris Kringle: Well, I hate to disagree with you, but not only IS there such a person, but here I am to prove it."

Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It's a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It's so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don't know the secret anymore. And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we're back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backwards out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets. - "The Village

I know full well I'm expected to Suspend My Disbelief. Unfortunately, my disbelief is very heavy, and during "Ocean's Thirteen," the suspension cable snapped.--"Ocean's Thirteen" 

"Oh Heavenly Dog" becomes another one of those insufferable movies in which the plot grinds to a dead halt while the trained dog does his tricks. You know: A-ha! The dead woman is connected in some way with the art gallery! Now let's watch Benji pick up a pencil in his teeth and dial the telephone! 

I found a big poster that was fresh off the presses with the quotes of junket blurbsters. "It will obliterate your senses!'' reports David Gillin, who obviously writes autobiographically. 

"It will suck the air right out of your lungs!'' vows Diane Kaminsky. If it does, consider it a mercy killing. -- "Armageddon"

new horrible.jpg"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys." -- "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"

-- This book will be published by Andrews & McMeel in late spring of 2012.

No matter what they're charging to get in, it's worth more to get out. --"Armageddon" 

Keanu Reeves is often low-key in his roles, but in this movie, his piano has no keys at all. He is so solemn, detached and uninvolved he makes Mr. Spock look like Hunter S. Thompson at closing time. -- "The Day the Earth Stood Still

If there is one thing you should know before driving cross-country in an RV, it is: Never eat organ meats supplied by a man you have never seen before, just because he happens to turn up with a lot of organs. -- "RV

Up in the old gothic horror house on the hill, he has found a note from his mother, asking him to meet her in Cabin Number 12. We know that although his mother may have frequent conversations with him, she is in no condition to write him a note. Norman knows that, too. He stuffed her himself.-- "Psycho III

"Mr. Magoo" is transcendently bad. It soars above ordinary badness as the eagle outreaches the fly.

According to the press kit, "Straight to Hell" was filmed in three weeks on a shoestring budget of $1 million, but looks more as if it were filmed in one week on Cox's MasterCard. 

Did you know that if a certain kind of worm learns how to solve a maze, and then you grind it up and feed it to other worms, the other worms will then be able to negotiate the maze on their first try? That's one of the scientific nuggets supplied in "Phantoms," a movie, based on the popular Dean Koontz novel, that seems to have been made by grinding up other films and feeding them to this one. 

A sullen lout who lurks about looking like a charade with the answer, "Leonardo DiCaprio." -- "Marie Baie des Anges"

I am informed that 5,000 cockroaches were used in the filming of "Joe's Apartment." That depresses me, but not as much as the news that none of them were harmed during the production.

"Boat Trip arrives preceded by publicity saying many homosexuals have been outraged by the film. Not that the film is outrageous. That would be asking too much." -- "Boat Trip"

"I know aliens from other worlds are required to arrive in New Mexico, but why stay there?" -- "Thor"

"Dirty Love" wasn't written and directed, it was committed." -- "Dirty Love"

"I would rather eat a golf ball than see this movie again." -- "Seven Days in Utopia"

"The movie didn't have nearly enough scenes of Sheena standing under waterfalls and Sheena going sunbathing. I have a feeling there was a way that Tanya Roberts could have saved this movie." -- "Sheena"


I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that.

Through a stroke of good luck, the entire third reel of the film was missing the day I saw it. I went back to the screening room two days later, to view the missing reel. It was as bad as the rest, but nothing could have saved this film. As my colleague Gene Siskel observed, "If the third reel had been the missing footage from Orson Welles' 'The Magnificent Ambersons,' this movie would still have sucked." -- "Little Indian, Big City

Last week I hosted the first Overlooked Film Festival at the University of Illinois, for films that have been unfairly overlooked. If I ever do a festival of films that deserve to be overlooked, "Friends & Lovers" is my opening night selection. 

I stopped taking notes on my Palm Pilot and started playing the little chess game. --"Masterminds

John Waters' "Pink Flamingos" has been restored for its 25th anniversary revival, and with any luck at all that means I won't have to see it again for another 25 years. If I haven't retired by then, I will. 

They arrive on this "mortal coil" (Shakespeare) from that level "higher than the sphery chime" (Milton), and we expect their speech to flow in 'heavenly eloquence' (Dryden). But when they open their little mouths, what do they say? "Diaper gravy"--a term used four times in the movie, according to a friend who counted (Cleland). -- "Baby Geniuses

Going to see "Godzilla" at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual in St. Peter's Basilica. Film noir is not about action and victory, but about incompetence and defeat. If it has a happy ending, something went wrong. -- "After Dark, My Sweet

If Almadovar is right, some of our most exciting sexual experiences take place entirely within the minds of other people. -- "Bad Education"   

blogart4.jpgThere's always a kid who has to see for himself

The Soderbergh film makes the point that few things are more boring than what arouses someone else -- unless it also arouses you, of course, in which case you can forget the other person and just get on with it. -- "Eros" 

Later Ollie gives her a camera and she becomes a photographer, and even has a gallery exhibit of her works, which look like photos taken on vacation with cellphone cameras and e-mailed to you by the children of friends. -- "A Lot Like Love

He's not an alcoholic, you understand; he's an oenophile, which means he can continue to pronounce French wines long after most people would be unconscious. We realize he doesn't set the bar too high when he praises one vintage as "quaffable." No wonder his unpublished novel is titled The Day After Yesterday; for anyone who drinks a lot, that's what today always feels like.--"Sideways

"Show me a man who is not afraid of being eaten by an alligator in a sewer, and I'll show you a fool." -- "Alligator

Stamp, as Brigham Young, comes across as the kind of man you'd find at the back of a cave in a Cormac McCarthy novel. -- "September Dawn

The Silver Sphere is about twice the size of a billiard ball. It has a couple of very sharp hooks built into it. It flies through the air, attaches itself to your forehead, and digs in. Then a drill comes out and pierces your skull just above the bridge of the nose, while blood spurts out the other end. I hate it when that happens. -- "Phantasm

That creature is called The Licker because it has a nine-foot tongue. At one point it has its tongue nailed to the track and is dragged along the third rail. I hate when that happens. -- "Resident Evil

This is an ideal first movie for infants, who can enjoy the bright colors on the screen and wave their tiny hands to the music. -- "The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas

She and Daredevil are powerfully attracted to each other, and even share some PG-13 sex, which is a relief, because when superheroes have sex at the R level, I am always afraid someone will get hurt. -- "Daredevil

Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly. -- column for Yahoo! Internet Life 

I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than "The Brown Bunny." -- Response to Vincent Gallo hex to give me colon cancer   


Sixty seconds of wondering if someone is about to kiss you is more entertaining than 60 minutes of kissing. -- "The Winslow Boy

I am aware this is the second time in two weeks I have been compelled to quote Lear, but there are times when Eminem simply will not do. -- "The Life of David Gale" 

It was W. C. Fields who hated to appear in the same scene with a child, a dog, or a plunging neckline--because nobody in the audience would be looking at you. Jennifer Aniston has the same problem in this movie even when she's in scenes all by herself. -- "Picture Perfect

The beautiful Monique insists on joining their expedition and cannot be dissuaded; we think at first she has a nefarious motive, but no, she's probably taken a class in screenplay construction and knows that the film requires a sexy female lead. This could be the first case in cinematic history of a character voluntarily entering a movie because of the objective fact that she is required. -- "Around the World in 80 Days

The movie delights me with its cocky confidence that the audience can keep up. 'Primer' is a film for nerds, geeks, brainiacs, Academic Decathlon winners, programmers, philosophers and the kinds of people who have made it this far into the review. It will surely be hated by those who 'go to the movies to be entertained', and embraced and debated by others, who will find it entertains the parts the others do not reach. --"Primer

These people are hanging on by each other's fingernails. -- "Winter Passing

He and the women make out in this movie as if trying to apply unguent inside each other's clothes. --"Ulysses' Gaze

She is the kind of person who can put two and two together using one two. -- "Manhattan Murder Mystery

She and I stripped, covered ourselves with talcum powder, and went bareback riding on a water-smooth silver stallion under the smiling Norwegian moon. We found bliss beside an ancient fjord where the Vikings sailed their dragon ships. Oh, what a night it was!" -- In Time Out magazine, in response to a query about the first time I made love  

blogart6.jpgRalphie about to maybe shoot someone's eye out.

"Heaven's Gate" is the most scandalous cinematic waste I have ever seen, and remember, I've seen "Paint Your Wagon." 

Two things that cannot be convincingly faked are laughter and orgasm. If a movie made you laugh, as a critic you have to be honest and report that. Not so much with orgasms. Ron Jeremy, for those not willing to admit they know who he is, has been in more porn films than anyone else. His popularity is easily explained: Every man alive believes that any woman would prefer him to Ron Jeremy. -- "Orgazmo

I have often asked myself, "What would it look like if the characters in a movie were animatronic puppets created by aliens with an imperfect mastery of human behavior?" Now I know. -- "Friends and Lovers" 

This film obtained a PG-13 rating, depressing evidence of how comfortable with vulgarity American teenagers are presumed to be. Apparently you can drink shit just as long as you don't say it. -- "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Samantha doesn't speak English at first, but quickly learns, no doubt in the same way the other actors have learned: by speaking their usual language, and having it dubbed. -- "Mighty Peking Man

I had a nice conversation with seven or eight people coming down on the escalator after we all saw "Silent Hill." They wanted me to explain it to them. I said I didn't have a clue. They said, "You're supposed to be a movie critic, aren't you?" I said, "Supposed to be. But we work mostly with movies." 

Among the lessons every young man should learn is this one: All women who like you because you make them laugh sooner or later stop laughing, and then why do they like you? -- "Igby Goes Down

Here is a useful lesson. When you go to the pet lady and she shows you a group of Labrador puppies and one is cheaper than all the others, this is not the time to go bargain-hunting. -- "Marley & Me

"This may be the first time in history that people have been asked to pay money to see an annuity in action. -- "Smokey and the Bandit Part 3"   


North Pole! Final stop! (Clickable to visualize 3-D effect)

All comes together at the end. Landmarks are saved, hearts are mended, long-deferred love is realized, coincidences are explained, the past is healed, the future is assured, the movie is over. I liked the last part the best. -- "Till There was You" 

Forget about fighting the ghosts; they ought to attack the sub-woofer. -- "13 Ghosts

All I want for Christmas is to never see "All I Want For Christmas" again. 

Ellen Brody has become convinced that the shark is following her. It wants revenge against her entire family. Her friends pooh-pooh the notion that a shark could identify, follow or even care about one individual human being, but I am willing to grant the point, for the benefit of the plot. I believe that the shark wants revenge against Mrs. Brody. I do. I really do believe it. After all, her husband was one of the men who hunted this shark and killed it, blowing it to bits. And what shark wouldn't want revenge against the survivors of the men who killed it? -- "Jaws: The Revenge

The nauseating sight of baby Sly on a disco floor, dressed in the white suit from "Saturday Night Fever'' and dancing to "Staying Alive," had me pawing under my seat for the bag my Subway Gardenburger came in, in case I felt the sudden need to recycle it. -- "Baby Geniuses" 

Here it is at last, the first 150-minute trailer. "Armageddon" is cut together like its own highlights. -- "Armageddon" 

The Psychlos can fly between galaxies, but look at their nails: Their civilization has mastered the hyper drive but not the manicure. -- "Battlefield Earth

For stunning displays of stupidity, Terl takes the cake; as chief of security for the conquering aliens, he doesn't even know what humans eat, and devises an experiment: "Let it think it has escaped! We can sit back and watch it choose its food." Bad luck for the starving humans that they capture a rat. An experiment like that, you pray for a chicken. -- "Battlefield Earth" 

"Charlie's Angels' is eye candy for the blind." 

On the first page of my notes, I wrote "Starts slow." On the second page, I wrote "Boring." On the third page, I wrote "Endless!" On the fourth page, I wrote: "Bite-size shredded wheat, skim milk, cantaloupe, frozen peas, toilet paper, salad stuff, pick up laundry. -- "Exit To Eden

There's a French actor named George Coraface in the title role, he looks great, he has a terrific smile, his teeth are brushed, but if he were leading me across the street I'd be afraid I'd fall off the other curb. -- "Christopher Columbus: The Discovery


There's children throwing snowballs / instead of throwing heads / they're busy building toys / and absolutely no one's dead!

As Torquemada, the inquisitor, Brando sulks about the set looking moody and delivering his lines with the absolute minimum of energy necessary to be audible. He's phoned in roles before, but this was the first time I wanted to hang up. -- "Christopher Columbus: The Discovery" 

They say state-of-the-art special effects can create the illusion of anything on the screen, and now we have proof: It's possible for the Jim Henson folks and Industrial Light and Magic to put their heads together and come up with the most repulsive single creature in the history of special effects, and I am not forgetting the Chucky doll or the desert intestine from "Star Wars." To see the snowman is to dislike the snowman. -- "Jack Frost

Among the great unrecorded conversations in Hollywood history, we must now include the one in which Chevy Chase's agent convinced him that playing Benji would be the right career move. -- "Oh Heavenly Dog" 

Every once in a while a movie comes along that makes me feel like a human dialysis machine. The film goes into my mind, which removes its impurities, and then it evaporates into thin air. --"Erik the Viking

"Mad Dog Time" is the first movie I've seen that doesn't improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. It is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line.

Hitchcock said a movie should play the audience like a piano. "Death Race" played me like a drum. 

It is an assault on all the senses, including common. The characters have no small talk. Their dialogue consists of commands, explanations, exclamations and ejaculations. Yes, an ejaculation can be dialogue. If you live long enough you may find that happening frequently. --"Resident Evil" 


The end of a long, hard day

This movie is a real curiosity. It's dead. I don't mean it's bad. A lot of bad movies are throbbing with life. "Mannequin" is dead. Halfway through, I was ready for someone to lead us in reciting the rosary.-- "Mannequin"

The press notes say it comes "from the comedy laboratory of HBO's Emmy Award-winning Chris Rock Show." It's like one of those lab experiments where the room smells like swamp gas and all the mice are dead. --"Pootie Tang

I don't recall the Spot books describing the hero rolling around in doggy poo, or a gangster getting his testicles bitten off, but times change. -- "See Spot Run

During the past week, I have seen the end of "The Blind Dead," the beginning of "The Devil's Widow," and two of the three dimensions of "Prison Girls." Here is my report. "Prison Girls" was the toughest because the right lens fell out of my 3-D glasses and got lost on the floor. That was the whole ball game right there.

This movie has to be seen to be believed. On the other hand, maybe that's too high a price to pay." --"Highlander 2: The Quickening

It is an astounding fact. The snowman on Charlie's front lawn is a living, moving creature inhabited by the personality of his father. It is a reflection of the lame-brained screenplay that despite having a sentient snowman, the movie casts about for plot fillers, including a school bully, a chase scene, snowball fights, a hockey team, an old family friend to talk to Mom--you know, stuff to keep up the interest between those boring scenes when the snowman is TALKING. -- "Jack Frost" 

I didn't feel like a viewer during "Frozen Assets." I felt like an eyewitness at a disaster. If I were more of a hero, I would spend the next couple of weeks breaking into theaters where this movie is being shown, and leading the audience to safety. 

Call me hardhearted, call me cynical, but please don't call me if they make "Home Alone 3." -- "Home Alone 2: Lost In New York

The priest, however, has the movie's best line: "I'm busy! I've got chicken entrails to read!" -- "Rapa Nui

I knew we were in trouble when Karen Allen told Thierry Lhermitte he had the most beautiful eyes she'd ever seen. His eyes looked more to me like the kind of eyes where, when you turned up looking like that, the nuns sent you to see the school nurse. -- "Until September" 

A lifetime dedicated to the study of the cinema and I'm analyzing Goobot and Ooblar. -- "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

This movie is shameless. It's not merely a tearjerker. It extracts tears individually by liposuction, without anesthesia. -- "Patch Adams

If this guy broke into my hospital room and started tap-dancing with bedpans on his feet, I'd call the cops. I've been lucky enough to discover doctors who never once found it necessary to treat me while wearing a red rubber nose. -- "Patch Adams" 

This is a role Robin Williams was born to play. In fact, he was born playing it. -- "Patch Adams"


This illustration appeared in a magazine about 20 years ago. When he saw it, Gene said, "Thank God I had my hands above the blanket." (Clickable)

After his big speech, the courtroom doors open up, and who walks in? All those bald little chemotherapy kids Patch cheered up earlier. And yes, dear reader, each and every one is wearing a red rubber nose. Should these kids be out of bed? Their immune systems are shot to hell. If one catches cold and dies, there won't be any laughing during the malpractice suit. -- "Patch Adams" 

I waited all through the closing credits hoping to see a blooper reel from Strom Thurmond's birthday party which would have brought this film to it's logical conclusion. --"Gods and Generals

"Pearl Harbor' is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle. 

She gobbles down tuna and sushi. Her eyes have vertical pupils instead of round ones. She sleeps on a shelf. The movie doesn't get into the litter box situation. -- "Catwoman

The director, whose name is "Pitof," was probably issued with two names at birth and would be wise to use the other one on his next project. -- "Catwoman" 

Some of the acting is better than the film deserves. Make that all of the acting. Actually, the film stock itself is better than the film deserves. -- "Revolver

Any movie that employs an oven mitt and a plumber's friend in a childbirth scene cannot be all bad. -- "Big Momma's House

Will there be a scene where Sara's faithful gay friend bathes and comforts her? Yes, because it is a convention of movies like this that all sexy women have gay friends who materialize on demand to perform nursing and hygiene chores. (Advice to gay actor in next remake: Insist, "Unless I get two good scenes of my own, I've emptied my last bedpan." -- "Sweet November

Pamela Anderson Lee, while not a great actress, is a good sport. She's backlit in endless scenes where, if she could have figured out a way to send her breasts in separately, she could have stayed at home. -- "Barb Wire

"Dear God" is the kind of movie where you walk out repeating the title. 

This is a rare movie with enough common sense that after Crawford has been blown up, dumped in the sea, shot at during a shower and dragged through a parking garage, her co-star has the consideration to say, 'Hey, if you need a clean shirt or something, better do it now.' -- "Fair Game

I began to flash back to "Trog" (1970). This is an example of camp that was found, not made. That it was directed by the great cinematographer Freddie Francis, I have absolutely no explanation for. That it starred  Joan Crawford, in almost her final movie role, I think I understand. Even though she was already enshrined as a Hollywood goddess, she was totally unable to stop accepting roles, and took this one against all reason. The plot of "Trog," which I will abbreviate mercilessly, involves a hairy monster. When it goes on a killing spree and is captured, Joan Crawford, an anthropologist, realizes it is a priceless scientific find: The Missing Link between ape and man. Then Trog kidnaps a small girl and crawls into a cave, and reader, although many years have passed since I saw the movie, I have never forgotten the sight of Crawford in her designer pantsuit and all the makeup, crawling on her hands and knees into the cave and calling out, "Trog! Trog!" As if Trog knew the abbreviation of its scientific name. -- "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra." 

There is a scene in "Exit to Eden" in which the hero butters Dana Delaney's breast, sprinkles it with cinnamon, and licks it before taking bites from a croissant. I'm thinking: The breast or the croissant, make up your mind. 

If you, under any circumstances, see "Little Indian, Big City," I will never let you read one of my reviews again.

Thanks to reader Jerry Roberts of Birmingham, Alabama, and WikiQuotes for some of these.

A package arrives at dinner time

I triple-dog-dare-you to watch this review


"A Christmas Story" isn't on Netflix Instant, but for 99 cents you can stream it on Amazon. This blog originally appeared in slightly different form in 2009.


Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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