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Paramount Pictures / Kokomo Tribune
Paramount Pictures / Kokomo Tribune

13 Brutally Honest Movie Reviews

Paramount Pictures / Kokomo Tribune
Paramount Pictures / Kokomo Tribune

Movie reviewing is a tough job—reviewers have to sum up a movie in just a few sentences. Here are thirteen examples of brutally honest, surprisingly short movie reviews that get right to it. (We have bolded the best parts.)

1. Top Gun

Top Gun (1986, Drama) Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis. The adventures of a Navy jet pilot. Trivializes war by turning it into a music video.

(Source: Kokomo Tribune, 31 Jan. 1991, p. ENT 9. No byline.)

*

2. Cinderella (1997)

Cinderella (1997, Musical) Whitney Houston, Brandi, Whoopi Goldberg. A young woman learns the power of positive thinking.

(Source: Kokomo Tribune 2 Nov. 1997, p. D6. No byline.)

*

3. Casablanca

Casablanca Anti-government insurrectionists with drinking problems hang out in a bar and suppress their emotions. (1943) KQED. 8pm.”

(Source: the Pacific Sun, 13 Feb. 2015. By Rick Polito.)

*

4. The Abyss

The Abyss (1989) Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Like E.T. under water. Spectacularly silly, some awesome effects. (PG-13) (2½ hrs.) HBO, Thu. 9 A.M., 6:30 P.M. (CC)”

(Source: NYT, 29 Jan. 1995. By Howard Thomas or staff.)

*

5. Cujo

Cujo: The film version of the Stephen King thriller about a killer St. Bernard ought to be wrapped up in newspaper and thrown into the trash. It’s one of the dumbest movies ever made, and the only feeling it engenders is pity for the poor dog. R. 1 star.”

(Source: Reading Eagle, 1 Sept. 1983, p.23. By Gene Siskel and syndicated by the Chicago Tribune.)

*

6. Paint Your Wagon

Paint Your Wagon (1969). Clint Eastwood, Jean Seberg, Lee Marvin. Elaborate but rather squatty western with nice music, via Broadway. Clint sings like a moose. (3 hrs. 205 min.) TNT, Sun. 2:40 P.M.”

(Source: NYT, 25 Oct. 1992, p. TV4. By Howard Thomas or staff.)

*

7. Flashdance

Flashdance (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) is another movie nobody seemed to like except the public. A kind of full-length erotic aerobics class on TV, it stars Jennifer Beals as a pretty 18-year-old who works as a welder in a Pittsburgh steel mill by day and dances frenetically in a neighborhood bar at night, dreaming of auditioning for the local ballet company and somehow managing to fit in a steamy romance with her impossibly rich, unattainable boss (Michael Nouri), once a working stiff just like her. Ludicrous throughout—but undeniably sexy.

(Source: LA Times, 16 Feb. 1986, p. 819). By Kevin Thomas.)

*

8. Interview With the Vampire

Interview With the Vampire (1994). Tom Cruise is a bloodsucker who drains the life from everything around him. In this movie, he plays a vampire.

(Source: the LA Times, 6 Dec. 1999, quoting the Marin Independent Journal. By Rick Polito.)

*

9. Young Guns

“½ star Young Guns – (R: Violence, brief nudity) Nominally a western, this wretched waste of a movie is really an insult to the very idea of a western. Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dermot Mulroney and Casey Siemaszko play juvenile delinquents hired by rancher Terence Stamp to protect his property. After their benefactor’s death, these amoral thugs ride around shooting people, and the movie glorifies their ridiculous exploits. Only Kiefer Sutherland comes close to making his part work. Directed, or so the credits claim, by Christopher Cain (That Was Then, This Is Now), from a script by John Fusco.”

(Source: The Palm Beach Post, 21 Oct. 1988, p. TGIF 14). By Michael Mills.)

*

10. Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead (1968). Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones. Revolting garbage, though a camp cult favorite. (2 hrs.) A&E, Wed. 2 P.M., Thu. 9 A.M.”

(Source: NYT, 25 Oct. 1992, p. TV4. By Howard Thomas or staff.)

*

11. Jungle 2 Jungle

Jungle 2 Jungle (PG, 111 minutes) The plot of Jungle 2 Jungle has been removed from a French film called Little Indian, Big City. The operation was a failure and the patient dies. Tim Allen stars as a broker who discovers he has a 13-year-old son, raised by his estranged wife (JoBeth Williams) in the Amazon. He brings the kid back to New York, where the ‘fish out of water’ plot wheezes along without inspiration, interest or comedy. Martin Short is wasted as Allen’s pal, although indee movie fans may be amused that he has stolen Jim Jarmusch’s hairstyle. Rating: 1 star.

(Source: Ocala Star-Banner, 14 March 1997, p. 10. By Roger Ebert, syndicated from the Chicago Sun-Times.)

*

12. Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf (1985). Michael J. Fox, James Hampton. Pretty awful. (PG) (2 hrs.) TBS, Fri./EarlySat. 12:45 A.M./ TNT, Mon. 3:30 P.M.”

(Source: NYT, 15 Feb. 1998, p. TV6. By Howard Thomas or staff.)

*

13. Teen Wolf Too

“Teen Wolf Too (1987). Jason Bateman, Kim Darby. College freshman subject to family curse. A mess. (PG) (1¾ hrs.) MAX, Thu. 6:15 P.M. (CC)”

(Source: NYT, 15 Feb. 1998, p. TV6. By Howard Thomas or staff.)

*

(Special thanks to John Siracusa, who inspired this post by paraphrasing the Top Gun review on the podcast Reconcilable Differences.)

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The Funniest Word in the English Language? 'Booty,' According to New Survey
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Some words, regardless of their meaning, are simply more chuckle-worthy than others. To determine which expressions in the English language are truly the most comical, Smithsonian reports that psychologists at the University of Warwick in the UK conducted a survey in which they asked people to rate the “humor value” of a sampling of chosen words. They recently published their findings in the journal Behavior Research Methods.

The researchers selected nearly 5000 words, and then used Amazon’s online crowdsourcing tool Mechanical Turk to ask more than 800 individuals to rank the humor value of 211 randomly chosen words from the list, on a scale from 1 (humorless) to 5 (humorous). Likely not surprising to anyone with younger siblings, the funniest word ended up being “booty,” with an average ranking of 4.32. In descending order, the remaining top 12 words—which all received a score of 3.9 or higher—were “tit,” “booby,” “hooter,” “nitwit,” “twit,” “waddle,” “tinkle,” “bebop,” “egghead,” “ass,” and “twerp.”

Why these words are so funny remains fuzzy. But when they analyzed their findings according to age and gender, the researchers did find that sexually suggestive words like “orgy” and “bondage” tended to tickle the funny bones of men, as did the words “birthmark,” “brand,” “chauffeur,” “doze,” “buzzard,” “czar,” “weld,” “prod,” “corn,” and “raccoon.”

Meanwhile, women tended to laugh at the words “giggle,” “beast,” “circus,” “grand,” “juju,” “humbug,” “slicker,” “sweat,” “ennui,” “holder,” “momma,” and “sod.” As for people under the age of 32, they were amused by “goatee,” “joint,” and “gangster,” while older participants liked “squint,” “jingle,” “burlesque,” and “pong.” Across the board, all parties were least amused by words like “rape,” “torture,” and “torment.”

Although humor is complex and dependent on elements like syntax and delivery, the study's researchers say that breaking comedy down to single-word units could demystify its essence.

“The research initially came about as a result of our curiosity,” said Tomas Engelthaler, the study’s lead author, in a press release. “We were wondering if certain words are perceived as funnier, even when read on their own. It turns out that indeed is the case. Humor is an everyday aspects of our lives and we hope this publicly available dataset allows future researchers to better understand its foundations.”

[h/t Smithsonian]

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Watch the Original Spinal Tap Short Film
Chris Weeks // Staff // Getty Images
Chris Weeks // Staff // Getty Images

Spinal Tap formed in 1979, five years before the classic film This is Spinal Tap premiered. They performed on TV and began developing their personas as idiotic heavy metal monsters.

When the band, along with director Rob Reiner, went to pitch their mockumentary to production companies, nobody "got it." It wasn't clear what an unscripted comedy pseudo-documentary would feel like. So Reiner asked for the screenplay fee—$60,000—to be paid up front as a budget for a short proof-of-concept film.

That skimpy budget went a very long way, allowing the group to produce The Last Tour, a 20-minute Spinal Tap film exploring some of the plot (and many of the songs) that appeared in the later film This is Spinal Tap. There's a surprising amount of concert footage, as various bits that were repeated in Tap (some interview clips were even used in Tap unaltered).

The Last Tour is delightful because it shows a well-developed idea being implemented on the cheap. The wigs are terrible, the sound is spotty, but the vision is spot-on. The characters and the core story of the group (including a string of dead drummers) is already in place, and we get to see the guys improvise together. Tune in (and be aware there's plenty of salty language here):

(Note: Around 4:38 in the clip above, we see Ed Begley, Jr. as original drummer John "Stumpy" Pepys in the "Gimme Some Money" video. Stumpy died in a gardening accident, of course.)

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