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Horta's View from the Stalls: Solar Systems And Movie Weekends

May 27th, 2003

It’s very difficult these days to find a movie that is worth spending your time and hard earned dollars on, and twice as difficult when both seem to be consistently evaporating. As a young married adult with two children and as the sole provider in my family, finding an in-law that is free to babysit on any given weekend, on a day I am not working on my lawn, house or an article for this site, during a pay week that I can actually squeeze a dollar or two from my budget... ALL so that I can grab a bucket of popcorn and catch a flick with the wife, is tantamount to every planet in our solar system coming into alignment - and it occurs just as frequently. Loathed is the idea of going to a movie, with all the time and effort I put into it, not knowing for sure if I will enjoy my excursion despite the feature, or thanks in part because of it.  SO what do I do?  WHAT do I do?

I USED to look to the movie critics for some guidance... once upon a time, long, long, ago, with a budget that is now far, far, away... and then I got broke... and then I got cheap... and then I got real selective... and then I came to the realization that many of these movie critics are as qualified to review a movie as Richard Simmons is qualified to review a gentleman’s club.  Well OK, perhaps some movie critics are more qualified to review films, but that doesn’t mean I should buy into what they are trying to sell me and as The Numbers will indicate, these sentiments aren’t uniquely my own.  When you get right to it, we probably shouldn’t put much stock into what most movie critics have to say, about ANY movie!  But please, let me explain where I’m coming from with this...

The World Is Coming To An End!

Alright, not to frighten anyone out there because believe you me, no one was more shocked than I... but last Sunday, me and the wife pulled off the ever elusive, self made, double feature: we saw X2 and Matrix Reloaded in the same afternoon.  No, the world isn’t coming to an end (well not that I know of anyway), and the last I checked, all of the planets won’t be coming into alignment until approximately 2468... AND I just recently visited with my mother in-law and her house was a warm 72 Degrees F, so no, Hell did not freeze over either... but we did it all the same, we saw two movies in a single afternoon and WE LOVED IT!  As a matter of fact, we couldn’t decide on which movie we enjoyed more.  And if two great flicks weren’t enough, I decided to give myself a reprieve for the afternoon and went off my diet... "Man oh man I love the smell of movie theaters in the morning. It smells like... Jiffy Pop!"  Best of all, I spent little more than 4 hours with my wife, in close quarters, WITHOUT getting into an argument. And why not. After all we had no reason to even talk during this time... ah yes, what a splendid afternoon it was.  BUT it almost never came to be... thanks in part to so called professional critics.

The Pros and Their Scores

I am reprinting segments from MSN’s critic collection on the two movies I just saw last Sunday.  I would have to say that MSN has compiled some of the most mainstream and most read movie critics in the US.  They include the likes of Roger Ebert, formally of Siskel and Ebert, and Elvis Mitchel of the NY Times.  I think there is some interesting data here in the form of 2 movies with 2 different scores.

X2 (List and Quotes Collected by MSN Entertainment)

Source Quote from the review Grade
Chicago Tribune Michael Wilmington

"Gifted director Bryan Singer ('The Usual Suspects') seems to be having fun with the material instead of being overwhelmed with special effects." Full Review

B
Los Angeles Times Kenneth Turan "Brisk and involving with a streamlined forward propulsion, it's the kind of superhero movie we want if we have to have superhero movies at all." Full Review A-
MSNBC David Germain "The first film intellectualized and moralized more about human bigotry, whereas 'X2' is the cinematic equivalent of a comic, thin on the sociological conflict, heavy on gunplay and hand-to-hand combat." Full Review B
New York Times A.O. Scott "'X2'... honors both the allegorical grandiosity of [its] source and the moods and anxieties of the superpower-endowed individuals who inhabit its universe." Full Review B
Village Voice J. Hoberman "The movie is funny, reasonably crazy, and unpretentiously faithful to its source." Full Review B
Overall Grade: B

Matrix: Reloaded (List and Quotes Collected by MSN Entertainment)

Source Quote from the review Grade
Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert "It is an immensely skillful sci-fi adventure, combining the usual elements: heroes and villains, special effects and stunts, chases and explosions, romance and oratory." Full Review A-
Chicago Tribune Mark Caro "Although the technical aspects don't disappoint, the human ones do. Action scenes can't be heart-stopping if the story hasn't gotten your ticker going to begin with." Full Review C-
Los Angeles Times Kenneth Turan "If a concept is to sustain itself over a multipart story, it must make an emotional connection, and this 'Reloaded,' especially with stars cast for their lack of affect and affinity for blankness, cannot do that." Full Review C
MSNBC Kirk Honeycutt "The Wachowskis may have… started to believe in their own semimythological status, for the brothers seem to be taking themselves way too seriously." Full Review C-
New York Times Elvis Mitchell "[The Wachowski brothers] relentless love of movies, junk-food mythology and thoughtful reimagining of a future endangered by mass consumption and proliferation of pleasure to the point of soullessness makes for a heady and unusual mix." Full Review B-
Slate David Edelstein "'The Matrix Reloaded' is as messy and flat-footed as its predecessor is nimble and shapely. It's an ugly, bloated, repetitive movie that builds to a punch line that should have come an hour earlier (at least)." Full Review D
Overall Grade: C+

Now color me objective, but I am not even quite sure how to read ratings like this.  I mean, in high school, a B was great, and I was appreciative of the grade when ever my gym teacher gave it…that coupled with my long term love affair with Marvel Comics, going to see Xmen 2: Xmen United was a no-brainer.  As far as the C+ that The Matrix sequel received, well…for me…in high school a C meant that I didn’t get a D which was all to close to an F or that horrible new-fangled E which was like the F but with the possibility of Summer school present.  All things being equal though, I assumed that here, a C+ might not be worth my time.  Worse yet, I sincerely considered THESE ratings in particular, before replacing pork chops with pasta on my grocery list just so I could fund last Sundays movie excursion.  Thankfully, The Matrix was such a great experience the first time around that I decided to go with my gut instinct and saw Reloaded anyway.  I again traded down on a grocery item…the pasta for soup, and went for the double header.  No disappointments here…and based on the scores you Numbers readers gave both these movies…you all whole heartedly agreed!

The Numbers Raters-Get It Right

Below are the ratings readers of the The Numbers gave to both X2: X-Men United and The Matrix: Reloaded.  Here is a break down of how you all rated the two flicks as of 5/19/2003.

Movie Rating Breakdown for X2: X-Men 2

Votes: 115 Average Rating: 8.24

10:( 45.22%)
9:( 19.13%)
8:( 17.39%)
7:( 5.22%)
6:( 0.00%)
5:( 1.74%)
4:( 0.87%)
3:( 0.87%)
2:( 0.00%)
1:( 9.57%)

Ratings by Age Group

Under 18:( 5 votes, 8.00 rating)
18 to 24:( 28 votes, 8.43 rating)
25 to 34:( 18 votes, 8.50 rating)
35 to 44:( 9 votes, 9.22 rating)
45 to 54:( 2 votes, 9.00 rating)
55 to 64:( 1 vote, 1.00 rating)

For the most up to date ratings, just click here!

Movie Rating Breakdown for Matrix Reloaded, The

Votes: 125 Average Rating: 8.24

10:( 52.00%)
9:( 16.00%)
8:( 12.00%)
7:( 3.20%)
6:( 2.40%)
5:( 2.40%)
4:( 0.00%)
3:( 1.60%)
2:( 0.00%)
1:( 10.40%)

Ratings by Age Group

Under 18:( 10 votes, 8.90 rating)
18 to 24:( 33 votes, 8.27 rating)
25 to 34:( 13 votes, 8.08 rating)
35 to 44:( 5 votes, 8.40 rating)
45 to 54:( 3 votes, 8.00 rating)

For the most up to date ratings, just click here!

With an average of 8.25 for both movies, I think the fans of this site rated X2 and The Matrix with dead on accuracy.  And why shouldn’t I agree more with these numbers as a whole, if not more so?  Chances are, we all could identify with each other a lot more than we could with an Ebert or a Robert.  After all, unlike many movie critics, we don’t get paid to see films weekly, and when we do head out to the theater, were not over exposed and we don’t suffer from the Ralph Cirella Syndrome.

The Ralph Cirella Syndrome

As sad as it may sound, I have often thought long and hard about people who’s job it is to go out on a regular basis and rate anything, let alone movies.  And not to paint all film critics with a single broad stroke, but other than a knack for the written word, many of these critics are void of anything that uniquely qualifies them for the columns they write.  Quite a few get their start as journalist who early in their career, were tapped to write movie critiques for some obscure local paper.  But, not to nay say anyone’s skill or career, because I do appreciate the difficulties involved with a job like that.  Imagine the tedious effort involved with constantly having to see movies on a daily basis!  And no, not every movie is an X2 or a Matrix: Reloaded.  Imagine having to see 4 to 5 films a week from huge block busters to small independent films and after being exposed to them all, having to write an article or column on what you thought about each flick.  Is it any wonder that some of their critiques can end up so far off base?!!?

To put it into context that we can all relate to, imagine taking part as a judge in a beauty contest, A Miss America Pageant.  Errr... and for you ladies that are reading, whatever the male equivalent would be. You are inundated with beautiful people strutting their stuff for you in hopes of receiving your approval in the form of a good score.  After a while, you're bound to show your favoritism for people who have characteristics you are partial to. Perhaps you favor red heads over brunettes, or guys with 4 packs as opposed to guys with a 6 pack (we're talking abs here).  After a while, you may even become de-sensitized to all but the absurdly obvious or the uniquely and personally attractive.

And this is the life of a movie critic. 

I like to call this, the Ralph Cirella Syndrome.  And for those of you who live in a cave and don’t listen to morning radio, Ralph Cirella is a whiny, mousy, awkward looking member of the Howard Stern show.  He is often called upon by Howard to act as a judge over beauty contests and female fan evaluations.  On any other day of the week, these woman would sooner insert their stiletto heel into his forehead than allow themselves to be evaluated by the likes of him. But because his ego is now swollen from the undeserving attention showered on him from beautiful Howard Stern groupies looking for self-validation, he is able to offer harsh and blunt critiques that are as funny as the situation is ironic.

My Humble Review Without The Flowery Words

Pick a movie, any movie and you’ll see some cheesy quote from some obnoxiously obscure paper similar to:

  • "A knock down, drag out, take no prisoners movie that brings you to the edge, and then drops you off a 1000 foot cliff!"
  • "A life altering experience that will forever linger in the mind like a childhood sweetheart!"
  • "A gut wrenching, knee slapping, split your sides comedy that doesn’t stop until your in tears!"
  • "Best Movie of the year and it’s only January!"

  • "The movie that everyone should see if only to become more enlightened!"

I think these people simply made a wheel of movie quotes out of an old Twister spinner and then gave it a flick come time for quote stamping a movie commercial.  And it’s not like the films that sport such audacious banners are obvious Schindler's List masterpieces.  I mean c’mon, were talking Batman flicks and Jim Carrey films. Fun, yes... enjoyable, certainly... but "Awe inspiring, mind bending" anything?  Please, how about a regular movie review from a regular guy.  Something like this for example:

Movie Critic: George W. Horta III

Brief Bio

George Horta is a hard working, young family man who doesn’t believe in make up for men, refuses to use soaps and personal hygiene products that smell like flowers and that come in colored packaging other than white, often takes the daily news paper with him into the toilet, and who wishes porn was a socially acceptable topic for dinner conversation.  And though he fancies himself a decent and burgeoning writer didn’t graduate from The Shakespearean School of Movie Reviews

X2: X-men United

A Good story line and fantastic visual effects kept me interested the whole way through, and all of the female actors were shapely and buxom.  Women in leather and spandex make me smile, half naked blue super models make me smile, and so does senseless violence involving totally lopsided odds (Like the scene where two military commandoes shot at Colossus with their MP-5’s).  And by the way ladies, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Cudmore (AKA Colossus), run around in this film topless for what seems like half the movie. I really think it was worth paying matinee prices for the film and only a nit picking, anal retentive, Marvel geek would find fault with this movie.  I give it a Go see it if you're not broke rating.

Matrix 2: Reloaded

Carrie-Anne Moss gets half naked in this film, and the bumping and grinding scene in Zion made me sweat a little.  They squeezed Monica Bellucci into a skintight dress that looks so good, you may want to pull a Pee Wee Herman.  Fight scenes were violent and reminiscent of the Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater I watched as a child.  The huge brawl in the first half of the movie does look digital at times, but overall, the hand to hand choreography was so great, you leave the movie wanting to kick somebody’s ass.  Did I mention Carrie-Anne Moss gets half naked in this film and that Monica Bellucci has a dress that was painted on?  And ladies, Keanu’s ass has a few seconds of screen time as well. This movie made me smile and at times it made me horny.  I give it a Stretch the budget a bit if you have to and see it in the theater rating.

Bad Reviews Don’t Mean Bad Numbers

A great review from a big name movie critic tends to encourage people to see a film, hence the flowery Twister spinner of review quotes. On the other hand, I don’t ever think I heard the words "Oh... (Blank) gave it a bad review. Well I’m definitely never going to see that movie."  This list of 5 flicks as compiled by Rottentomatoes.com is proof positive of that fact.  These 5 films received cohesive thumbs down from a multitude of reviewers and these films also averaged over $100 million in box office sales.  (List reported by C.S. Strobridge)

Top Five Box Office Hits that were critically drubbed of 2003.  (In no real order.)

Bringing Down the House: 34% positive, $129 million and climbing
How to Lose a Guy in 10 days: 38% $104 million
Daredevil: 44% and $101 million
Anger Management: 42% and $128 million and climbing
Kangaroo Jack: 8% (Boat Trip was the only wide release to get a lower score) and $67 million (8th highest this year)  

So How Do We Know What To Spend Our Dollars On?

Very rarely, one will find a movie critic that reviews movies with an eye like our own.  I personally find that Roger Ebert often shares my taste in films (coincidentally, he obviously shares my weakness for junk food).  But if it isn’t apparent by now, the most powerful and accurate reviews come from people like you and me.  People who don’t go to the movies for a living.  And even then, you should keep in mind that tastes and preferences vary from individual to individual.  I don’t know what used to upset me more... catching a movie on Pay-Per-View that I would have loved to have seen in the theater, if not for the vile review a pro gave it, or wasting my money on a flick that some other pro gave a thumbs up too, because they were punch drunk with hyper-movie exposure.  Films are made, box office numbers are collected, and in the end, all that really matters is the experience and enjoyment everyone takes from the movie they just saw.  Films will find their own fan fare, and even flicks that aren’t popular in the theaters or popular with the masses, can have an opportunity to show in the privacy of our own homes.  After all, just because it wasn’t worth $9 dollars in the theater, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a gander for $3.50 a three day DVD rental, from the comfort of your own couch... and thank goodness for small miracles or I may never have seen the wonder that is Showgirls!

George W. Horta III

Filed under: The Matrix Reloaded, X2