Movie Reviews

bellview--i love movies

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

Movie Awards
2004 Roundup
2005 Roundup
2006 Roundup
2007 Roundup
2008 Roundup
2009 Roundup



Directed by Allen Coulter.
Written by Paul Bernbaum.
Starring Ben Affleck, Adrien Brody, Diane Lane and Bob Hoskins.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  8/17/06


Another in the long list of freebies the last couple of months, I was excited to see "Hollywoodland" because the posters were cool and I had no idea what the film was about.

No, I'm not kidding.  I saw no trailers, read no press, saw no stills, heard no buzz about this film, which meant I had to go see it.  Directed by Allen Coulter (extensive TV work, including lots of HBO shows like "The Sopranos", "Six Feet Under" and "Rome"), "Hollywoodland" tells the story of both the film acting career of "Superman" TV star George Reeves--played well by Ben Affleck, who will not annoy the shit out of you--and the investigation into Reeves' death, which at first looks like a suicide.  The investigation, led by a slimy, alcoholic, press-hungry private detective (Adrien Brody), takes us through Reeves' personal and professional relationships while we get back-and-forth flashbacks on Reeves' career, first just after his appearance in "Gone with the Wind" and ultimately with his decision to star in the "Superman" show, complete with many failures professionally after being typecast as the Man of Steel.  The film also gets into his best break--Reeves' relationship with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane, always great), the wife of MGM head man EJ Mannix (Bob Hoskins).

When all is said and done, here's the best I can think of as to why I only liked "Hollywoodland", and didn't love it--the investigation into the death of Reeves is just not very interesting to me.  In fact, it was enough to deter me from really getting into the backstory because I was so intrigued by the real-life personality behind "Superman."  It's not that Brody isn't interesting, although his character has been done eight trillion times (it should be no surprise that he's separated from his wife and he's got a kid that he's trying to reconnect with, all the while boning a secretary and getting beat up while on the PI trail; come ON).  It's that the meat of this is with the Reeves part, especially his time in television, struggling with stardom of a kind he never wanted and constantly trying to get into films; Affleck, for as much as I don't like him at times as an actor, is actually quite good in this part because it fits--a man who is a star, a true star, with traditional good looks, that is constantly chided by the public for not quite getting it...Affleck has good depth in the role and Lane is a great counterpart for him in this film.

But, the fact remains that half of this film deals with the investigator going places he shouldn't, digging up facts that no one wants dug up, and the film--much like the real-life investigation into Reeves' death--leaves us with a vague ending.  Through a number of sequences where the PI tries to learn more about the true nature of the crime, I found myself always quietly hoping they would go back to the past.  The constant, throughout the movie--it's a beautiful production, capturing life in the 50s in a brilliant way.  The diners, the cars, the pristine lawns, are perfect; smoking cigarettes just looks so sexy in these movies, doesn't it?  Little tidbits, like the fact that the Superman costume was not blue-and-red because the show was originally intended for a black-and-white TV audience, are cool; the supporting characters are strong (Molly Parker, from "Deadwood", plays the PI's wife; Robin Tunney, Reeves' fiancée; Hoskins repeats his role from "Unleashed" in a slightly smaller part).  It's a solid film, just nothing that went above the bar.

I'm not sure when this really opens, but when it does, check it interesting account of a semi-famous guy that is well-performed.

Rating:  Matinee


Comments?  Drop me a line at


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09