Steve Kohn's Major Movies to Avoid



my Deserted Island Movies

my favorite foreign films

my favorite documentaries

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Kohn's Corner


my Amazon reviews, mostly about books, movies and music  

Here are a few movies I think should never have been made or were hugely over-rated.

No need for me to beat up the small independents trying their best, or the B flicks that never tried to be anything more. 

No, these movies had big budgets or well known directors or actors, or they received major awards. These movies were big deals, but I think they had big problems. 


SIDEWAYS.  The two protagonists are both losers.

One steals money from his mother's bedroom dresser to feed his wine snobbery and impress his friend. The friend takes advantage of his good looks to sleep with every available female, even days before his own wedding.

 Maybe my fault, but I couldn't get past these two lizards to enjoy the good acting and dialogue.

*** Won Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, another 105 wins & 36 nominations ***



THE DREAMERS.  Big budget, respected director, but nothing more than sexploitation.

Ostensibly about the cultural war in Paris in 1968, it's only a backdrop to three attractive young people walking around undressed and sexually attracted to each other.

Ordinarily, I'd have no problem with that, except that two of them are brother and sister, snobby snots with no redeeming qualities except the gorgeous rack on Sister (Eva Green).

This is the kind of movie you hope lost the producers a bundle.

*** 9 nominations ***


THE PIANO.  I should have liked this movie.

My favorite instrument, the piano, plays a key role and is played beautifully by the starring actress, Holly Hunter.

The story is expertly filmed by New Zealanders, a group unduly represented in my Deserted Island Movie list.

But for all the movie's acclaim, I couldn't warm up to it. The acting was good, the sets convincing. The problem was the script. It doesn't develop the main characters, instead wasting precious time showing how expatriate British families found entertainment across the oceans far away from home.

It's a script that doesn't convince me a piano transported all the way from Scotland to New Zealand in the 1800s could then be left on the beach to rot because the wife's husband thought it too much work to carry home. Though he had plenty of laborers and though it was the most precious possession of his new wife.

The script doesn't explain why the mail-order bride, never having taken to her husband and having fallen in love with another man, did not leave the husband outright, instead sneaking away at night to be with her lover, at great peril to both.

So much more is unconvincing or unexplained, especially (unless I slept through it) how the mother became mute.

Apparently many people ignored my concerns and found the movie captivating. I wish I had been one of them, too. 

*** Won Oscars for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Writing. Another 63 wins & 29 nominations ***


I'M NOT THERE.  Based loosely on the life of Bob Dylan, with a half dozen famous (and good) actors using his words and songs to portray him throughout his life.

Way too artsy for me. Told me nothing the real documentaries, especially Joan Baez's HOW SWEET THE SOUND, haven't told better.

*** Nominated for Oscar. Another 24 wins & 13 nominations ***



THE TREE OF LIFE. Remarkable movie. If you go to, you see that almost every professional reviewer gave this movie a score of 100.

However, when I went to Amazon today (22 June 2012), the breakout was far from unanimous.

5-star: 150
4-star:   31
3-star:   23
2-star:   34
1-star: 135

Fascinating, isn't it. About the same number of people liked the movie a lot (181) as the number who thought it was awful (169). (170 if I'd write a review.)

I found the movie unfocused, self-absorbed, pretentious and a waste of fine actors. (Someone explain to me why Sean Penn was in this thing, with his character almost entirely silent.)

Terrence Malick, the writer-director, must have had childhood demons to wrestle with, but he failed -- it appears he didn't much try -- to include his audience in the effort.

Then again, some Amazon reviewers said this was the best, most meaningful movie they'd ever seen in all their life.

So don't let me dissuade you. As with all films in this section, TREE OF LIFE may not have worked for me, but it sure did for many others.

*** Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 60 wins & 40 nominations ***


THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS. Another movie many liked, but that I found neither funny nor poignant, though it tried to be both.

The movie is full of popular actors, but the characters they play are cartoon cutouts, simply not believable. Which might be alright if they were funny or sympathetic, but mostly they're not.

This is the second Wes Anderson film I've seen in the past weeks (BOTTLE ROCKET, the other). I didn't much like that one either. Guess I just don't get his genius, while I'm sure he's laughing all the way to the bank.

*** Nominated for Oscar. Another 11 wins & 28 nominations ***

January 2015, I watch Wes Anderson's MOONRISE KINGDOM. Terrible. Then LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU. A little better, but what wouldn't be, and what a waste of great actors: Cate Blanchett, Willem Defoe, and Michael Gambon especially, also Jeff Goldblum and Anjelica Huston. A lot of people loved both films, though, so I'll accept it's not Anderson, it's me, and I now think I'll never watch another of his films.