In case there are any faithful readers out there who have noticed, I have stopped writing movie reviews as of fall 2004. I may occasionally write a review, and I might get back into it full time one of these days, but at the moment I can't keep up with it for a number of reasons, the most prominent being that I've gotten sick of it. But there are still about 700 reviews on this site for those who wish to check out an older video, and for the time being that will just have to be my contribution to the industry. Thanks for understanding! --John M., early 2005
Now, on with the bio:
For those who desire information about who I am and why I am so presumptuous as to spout my opinions without being asked, I have put together this short "bio." It may also prove useful for insomniacs, stalkers, and people to whom I owe money. If any questions arise via e-mail, I will attempt to update this page as necessary.
My name is John R. McEwen. I was born in April 1963 in Morgantown, West Virginia, and lived there until I finished college at West Virginia University. While in school, I briefly studied film and photography. I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theatre in 1985 and then moved to North Carolina, where I lived for 5 years. When I married my wife, Mary, we moved back to her home town of Oakland, Maryland where we both began working at The Republican newspaper in 1990. I worked in several different capacities over the years, including reviewing local live theatre productions, before finally becoming the paper's staff photographer in 1996 and movie critic in 1997. Mary is a writer/reporter. We have three sons.
Since my days performing (waaaaay back during the previous millennium), I have been of the opinion that critics of film, theatre, music, or whatever, should be educated at least somewhat in the art(s) which they are reviewing. This arose from an experience I had in college with an English professor who used to review our plays, and while he always seemed well informed about the text and all its thematic intricacies, he had no idea what he was talking about from a theatrical point of view. I mean, I can accept a bad review if one is forthcoming, but this guy didn't seem to understand what was possible and what was not possible when presenting a production on the stage.
Besides, he was a pompous ass.
So I feel that with a solid education in acting, directing, play writing, lighting, costuming, set design, etc., I am perhaps more qualified to judge than someone who has not had any such education. Really this is just my pathetic little rationalization, since I didn't use my college training to become a star.
I want to take this opportunity to remind my readers that my reviews are one person's opinion only. Occasionally readers have become offended when my assessment of a particular film didn't agree with their own, but I assure you it's all just a matter of personal preference. That's why it's good to have a number of critics out there, so one can get a well-rounded idea of what a particular film has to offer and thereby discern whether you have really, really, really, really bad taste.
ABOUT THE REPUBLICAN
Although its name sounds like that of a right-wing conservative party rag, The Republican, of which I am part owner, is really a very non-partisan weekly newspaper dedicated to reporting the local news of Garrett County, Maryland. It was established in 1877 (and at that time I'm sure it was very much more party-oriented) and has been published every Thursday since then, except for a short period when it was printed on Wednesdays. The fact that this county is staunchly Republican, with the exception of myself, my wife, and a few other Democrats, while the rest of Maryland is predominantly Democratic, may be the reason it was established with that name in order to emphasize this area's political orientation.
ABOUT THIS WEBSITE
FilmQuips began as a column in The Republican in October 1997, after we received an invitation from the owner of the recently constructed Garrett 8 Cinemas to come every week and provide commentary on what new films were showing there. Since I had been doing live theatre reviews for the paper for years, and had always wanted to do movie reviews, I accepted the opportunity. A few months later, after spending hours sitting up at night trying to think of something intelligent to say about Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, I bitterly regretted this decision. Just kidding.
When The Republican established its own website, we decided to design a site for FilmQuips as well, including not only the new reviews for each week, but a complete archive of all the previously published ones. I have intentionally designed this as a "no-frills" site, with a minimum of glitz, so as to facilitate the loading of pages. I get quickly irritated at web pages that take 20 minutes to load because they're so full of pictures, ads, and various other flashy things.
CREDITS / ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
FilmQuips is owned by me and The Republican and operated by me. I am its sole contributor, except where otherwise noted, and I update it at least once a week. However, I wish to give thanks to Carol Jo Welch for her assistance and talent in designing this site and helping me get it on the net. Carol's help and patience were invaluable, and she is responsible for everything that could be considered cool or attractive about this site, how it looks, and how it works. I also want to thank the staff and management of Garrett 8 Cinemas for treating me so nicely, even when I say their movies stink.
To research my reviews, I use the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) almost exclusively. I find it to be an extremely useful tool in getting information about the film industry and everyone in it. Although I never read anyone else's review of a particular film until I have written my own, I do usually check out a few others afterward to see how my opinions compare to others' in the industry, and to make sure I have my facts straight. Of course I do not change my opinions after seeing someone else's, but I occasionally need to revise a particular statement if I discover some fact that affects my assessment. For instance, if I write "so-and-so actor portrayed this role as if he were mentally retarded," and then I discover from some other critic that the actor really is mentally retarded, then I would change my review so as not to look like a complete ass. I prefer to avoid looking like a complete ass whenever possible.
The critic I read most frequently, and, I must say, am most influenced by, is James Berardinelli (ReelViews), whose opinions are often similar to my own but whose reviews are invariably much more eloquent. I also usually check out Rotten Tomatoes, an excellent cross-section of critical commentary from various publications around the country. Another excellent resource is the Movie Review Query Engine (MRQE), which, like RT, gives instant access to just about every important critic in the country. I also frequent The Onion A.V. Club. And, of course, Roger Ebert is the industry standard.
If anyone should have any questions for me, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com. I will do my best to answer every message. Thanks for reading.