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Reviews for the week of November 29, 1999.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
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Why do Hollywood producers think that making a movie close to three hours long will automatically make it artistic, dramatic, and intellectual? Perhaps a few critics who are into artsy, long movies and minor technical matters might go for it, but the average moviegoer does not want to sit through three hours (give or take a little) of painstakingly detailed drama and technical merit. We want action, big laughs, and emotional or dramatic moments that don't take too long.

And if they have to make a movie three hours long, they should at least pep it up a little so the audience won't slip into a coma from boredom.

Such is precisely the problem with The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. Although this film wouldn't have been fascinating at ninety minutes, it would have been more tolerable.

Most people are probably familiar with the story of Joan of Arc - the young woman who saved France from English invasion and takeover in 1492, claiming to have been inspired by holy visions. Eventually she got burned at the stake for heresy, and a few hundred years later everybody changed their minds again and decided to make her a saint.

Milla Jovovich plays Joan, and the acting is certainly commendable, but the film is still tedious. Plus, Joan is portrayed as an emotional and mental wreck - she goes around acting like a woman with severe PMS, screaming one minute, crying the next, constantly being told to calm down. (Perhaps she could have used some Prozac.)

Based on this portrayal, I would guess that Joan was schizophrenic - she hears voices that tell her what to do. By coincidence, the voices happen to be right, and she does defend France from England. For a while she's a hero - until she discovers her king and most of his subjects are a bunch of French Benedict Arnolds.

Towards the end, The Messenger is not only dreadfully boring, but it deteriorates into a very confusing mess of voices and visions - the viewer can't tell what's real any more than Joan can. A dark, mysterious man (Dustin Hoffman) appears to convince Joan that she imagined the visions and did everything out of anger over her sister's brutal death. (That's an interesting theory, but why is it proposed by one of her imaginary guides? If she was hallucinating him, it would seem unlikely she would imagine him telling her she was crazy - that would be beside the point.) And if Joan's purposes were self-motivated, then why did she hang onto her religious convictions even when threatened with death? You'd think she'd be smart enough to get out while the gettin' was good.

It's too bad Joan didn't have me around as one of her imaginary friends. I could have warned her that the King and his army were jealous, no-good back-stabbers, because it was quite apparent to me.

The only parts of this movie that were even vaguely exciting were the bloody action scenes on the battlefield. (And coming from someone who isn't generally fond of action and war movies, that's saying a lot.)

Audio VersionI'm sure I'll receive plenty of hate mail over this one, but I just didn't like The Messenger. (And I'm not the only one - several movie theatre employees I know told me they, too, were extremely wearied by both the length and the story.)

My Rating = Two Star


Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow
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Sleepy Hollow is an interesting, if not entirely fascinating horror movie set in the 1800's.

Johnny Depp plays a New York City constable sent to the small town of Sleep Hollow to prove that logic and science can solve crimes. The crime in question involves a ghostly headless horseman who chops off people's heads. A few witches and ghouls are mixed in there too, for good measure. Christina Ricci plays a young woman who warns him of the headless horseman and gives him a book of spells for protection. Naturally, he falls for her - but he also suspects she may be a witch, casting harmful spells on him.

I noticed that Johnny Depp looked a lot paler than any of the ghosts, witches, ghouls, and other "unnatural" characters. Hey Johnny, get some sun - you're looking worse than those dead people!

Speaking of unnatural creatures, their depiction of witchcraft is silly, unrealistic, and, at times, totally disgusting - the scene where a witch chops off a bat's head was actually much more worrisome than the scenes where people had their heads hacked off. After all, people can defend themselves - those poor bats can't. Not to mention the scene where a raven's feet are chopped off for another sacrifice - I was pretty angry with these so-called witches by the end of Sleepy Hollow. Forget the headless horseman - I thought the witches were worse!

Audio VersionAs for the plot itself, nothing spectacular happened, although Sleepy Hollow held my attention and had many entertaining moments. At one point, Depp actually sees the horseman himself - then he becomes terrified and illogical like the rest of the town's residents. It is quite amusing to see him in a near hysterical state over an entity he claimed could not exist as anything other than flesh and blood.

My Rating = Three Stars


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