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Directed by James Cox.
Written by James Cox, Todd Samovitz, D. Loriston Scott and Captain Mauser.
Starring Val Kilmer, Kate Bosworth, Dylan McDermott and Josh Lucas.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  10/28/03


“Wonderland” my ass!

Val Kilmer as adult film star John Holmes?  Josh Lucas?  Dylan McDermott?  Kate Bosworth?  Faizon Love?  You name it, they’re in “Wonderland”, the story of Holmes just about two years after his illustrious, uh, career ended and during the week of hell that ended with four people being murdered over drugs, money, guns...and, a whole bunch of other shit that falls into the Movie Cliché Hall of Fame.  I came into this thinking there might be some funny highlights about Holmes’ career, the women, the drug downfall, or the fact that he packed 14 inches of manhood into every scene...but NOOOO...

...what I got instead was just a fucking mess, a collage of things that confirm Kilmer plays drug-addicted characters better than anyone in film history, but not much else.  In July of 1981, four people were killed at a house on Wonderland Road in LA over what seemed like a drug squabble.  The owner of the house and its many hangers-on were renowned for their drug consumption; amongst those that used to “hang out” include Ron (Lucas), Dave (McDermott, behind a wall of a beard and tattoos) and Billy (Tim Blake Nelson).  John Holmes, or “Johnny Wad” from his film days, always seemed to be a little short on coke so he hangs out at the house as well.  As the film opens, we learn that Ron and Billy are dead (along with a couple others), so we go into extended flashback to learn how the bloodbath at the Wonderland house occurred, and who was responsible; was Dave in charge of the hit?  Did Holmes himself take part in the crime?

Do I give a chicken fried shit?  Director James Cox (come on, could the name be any more appropriate?) doesn’t seem to give a shit, throwing everything but the kitchen sink into his film and putting it on a pedestal to nearly say “Hey ma, look!” when it’s all over.  What we get to look at include so many name actors I couldn’t keep track anymore; Eric Bogosian plays a sleazy dealer, Lisa Kudrow plays John’s former wife, Christina Applegate plays somebody’s wife...shit, even Carrie Fisher—former Princess Leia—shows up as a holy roller in the film’s opening number.  Wow.  All dressed up and nowhere to go, the performers are mostly energetic, most notably Lucas, who flies all over the place as the principal bad guy in this film.  But, I didn’t really get the chance to know any of them, or care about why they get stepped on, waxed, double-dealt or beaten with a lead pipe before the film was over.  Speaking of which, the violence in this film is “Kill Bill” violent.  Whoa, a couple people get killed and THEN they get demolished near the end, and even I was like “Hey, Cox, easy tiger...I get it already!”

As I said, Kilmer is as good as they come, and his Holmes is doing drugs in almost every scene, so Kilmer is nearly perfect throughout.  The music is solid, and this shot of adrenaline is never slow, even if it is pointless.  The two or three jokes that are made about Holmes’ legendary johnson are good, but for a movie about an adult film star, the language and the visuals are surprisingly intercourse-free.

Disappointing.  Very disappointing.

Rating:  Rental


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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.)

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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