Weekend Roundtable: Movie Nit-Picks

Let’s face it, few movies are perfect. Even some of our favorite films have flaws. Some may be tiny, but others are really glaring. Perhaps it’s one particular scene that doesn’t work, or an actor who’s miscast, or even a single line of groan-worthy dialogue. This week’s Roundtable is all about nit-picking. What small detail do you wish you could change in a movie that you otherwise like?

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Psycho‘ is such a flawless film in most every conceivable way, and as luck would have it, even its greatest misstep is placed where it can do the least damage. After ‘Psycho’ has drawn to a close, Hitchcock keeps the cameras rolling anyway, overindulging a psychiatrist who drones on and on about what’s running through Norman Bates’ deeply disturbed mind. There’s anticlimactic, and then there’s that. The pseudo-intellectual psychological rambling gives little meaningful insight into what makes Bates tick. Everything the audience needs to know is already on the screen. That meanderingly talky scene is jarringly out of place with the nervous energy that defines the rest of the film, and… well, the movie’s over! What’s the point? I dearly love that final, unnerving smile, but it’s hardly worth slogging through all that expository psychobabble to get there.

Tom Landy

The big ones for me (and probably everyone else in this Roundtable) are all the stupid tweaks that George Lucas has made and continues to make to the original ‘Star Wars‘ trilogy. I cringe every time I see the so-called “Special Edition” scenes with Han getting a piece of tail (of the ugly CGI Jabba variety), Greedo shooting first, and the utterly painful alternate musical number in Jabba’s Palace, to name a few. Plus, after seeing his latest round of tinkering, I flat-out refuse to buy the Blu-rays.

Another nit-pick that stuck with me is from a 2010 foreign film called ‘Aftershock‘. If you haven’t heard of the movie, it’s a Chinese drama about a family that gets separated during the Great Tangshan Earthquake of 1976 (the year I was born). It’s an extremely powerful and emotional production that I enjoyed quite a bit. However, about two-thirds through the film, one of the main characters moves to Canada and marries a Canadian who is played by one of the worst actors I have ever witnessed. Even the friend I was watching the movie with said “That guy can’t act” out loud, and she rarely criticizes anything. I’m not sure if he was the only Caucasian they could find, or was chosen on purpose to make the Chinese stars look better, but whatever the reason, it certainly left a gaping wound on my viewing experience.

Mike Attebery

[Spoiler Alert] I really like the 1999 remake of ‘The Thomas Crown Affair‘, but I have always, always hated the ending. It’s stupid. It involves ridiculous behavior and high-pitched giggling that borders on squawking. If Rene Russo had simply accepted the handkerchief, then turned in her seat, seen who had handed it to her and smiled, maybe with a little music cue and a nod from loverboy before cutting to black, it would have been perfect. Instead, she screeches and cries/sobs/giggles, and climbs over the seat, jumping into his lap for the type of tickle-time absurdity that would be totally unacceptable in coach, let alone first class. Why in the hell couldn’t the scene have ended about ten seconds earlier? It’s just… sooooo…. STUPID!

Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)

The Fifth Element‘ is an awesome flick, but the bad guys (Mangalores) look like guys in rubber suits. I still love the movie, but would have loved it more if those guys looked more dangerous, or at least slightly less ridiculous.

Superman‘: Yeah, this one is a bit ironic, but when Superman flew around the Earth and turned back time, I had trouble buying that. The irony is that I had no trouble believing a man could fly. C’mon, he’s from Krypton and his powers come from the effects of our yellow sun, which is, like, a totally different color from his sun! Also, while we’re nit-picking that one, why does Kal El tell his son about Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity? Based on the actual relativity theory, Jor El’s ship would have blasted off Krypton a LONG time before Albert Einstein was even born. Still an awesome flick, though.

M. Enois Duarte

I suppose the one thing that has always bugged me or that I’ve found absolutely silly, no matter how many times I watch the movie, is an early scene in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street‘. I’m referring to the original, of course, and I love it. But the one thing I’ve always found out-of-place is the moment when we first see Freddy Krueger’s face. After chasing Tina around for a while, the action and suspense weirdly stop to show Freddy jump out from behind a tree that’s probably no more than six inches in diameter. Out of nowhere, he decides to chop off his fingers, and they squirt green goo. That moment has no logic to the action sequence whatsoever. It’s done purely for the sake of special effects. It ruins the pace and momentum of everything preceding it. It makes me laugh every time I watch the movie, but it has managed to grow on me over the years. Still, the scene sticks out like a sore thumb (no pun intended).

Aaron Peck

I love ‘Pulp Fiction‘ as much as the next guy, but as soon as Tarantino plops his big head on scene for his cameo, I’m instantly taken out of the movie. Tarantino’s acting skills have always been subpar, but his part in ‘Pulp Fiction’ brings the up-until-then hilarious Jules and Vincent storyline to a screeching halt. Somehow, his hackneyed acting deflates both the ultra-coolness of Samuel L. Jackson and the silent machismo of John Travolta. Whenever I watch the movie, I honestly can’t wait for that scene to be over, because he’s just so bad in it. It’s like he’s reading cue cards off to the side. Maybe he’s just trying way too hard to meet the cool factor that had already been established by the movie up to that point, but he misses by a mile.

Josh Zyber

GoldenEye‘ is a flawed film in a lot of ways (Alan Cumming’s comic relief character grates on my nerves a little more each time I watch it, for one thing), but it’s also a tremendous amount of fun and is overall one of my favorite James Bond movies. However, there’s one scene that just kills me every time, and it’s the stupidest thing that most viewers probably never notice or even consider a flaw.

About an hour into the movie, Bond and his CIA contact Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker) drive to meet former Russian agent Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane). On the way, we see an aerial shot of Wade’s car and can hear an (obviously studio-recorded) voiceover of their conversation. The way the scene plays makes it seem like the conversation took place earlier (likely before they even got in the car) and what we’re watching is a montage. But then, as the car arrives at the location, the conversation stops and Baker’s voiceover says, “OK, showtime,” as if to connect the conversation to the exact moment the car pulls up. It just sounds so obviously false, and was clearly not recorded in the car, nor does it sound like any of the following dialogue in the next few shots. The voiceover would be perfectly fine and I’d have no problem with it at all if not for that stupid “OK, showtime.” There’s no need for it, and it pulls me out of the scene every time. That’s the nit that I most need to pick.

Tell us about your movie nit-picks in the Comments.

Have a great Presidents’ Day long weekend, folks! We’ll see you back here on Tuesday.


  1. Josh, I know what scene you’re talking about that bugs me too.

    Also, to take it a step further, it’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine when movies and TV shows will feature characters talking to one another in one place, and then cut to a totally different place (and time) as they continue their conversation like no time has passed. The conversation always links up. What do they do? Pause and then walk somewhere else and then pick up right where they left off? This happens way too often.

  2. Alex

    My biggest frustrations in films are when the geography on-screen doesn’t match up with reality. For instance, I actually really enjoyed Transformers 3 (sue me!!) but it made absolutely no sense when they parachuted into the war zone using the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) as cover. All of the fighting is happening on the north side of the Chicago Loop and the Willis Tower is in the southwest, literally the other side of downtown. Makes for a nice shot in the movie, but geographically makes no sense.

    • Alex

      I would call this the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves principal. I still remember in that movie they arrive in England at Dover in the south, then all of a sudden they’re climbing Hadrian’s Wall on the Scottish border, then, by the end of the day, they’re in Nottingham, which is half-way in between. Huh??!!

      • Alex

        Sometimes I don’t notice it because I’m not familiar with the city, but when one real city is used as a stand-in for another real city I find it hilarious. For instance, in Dumb & Dumber, Jim Carrey is driving around “Providence, RI” except that it’s actually Orem, UT and *looks like* Orem, UT and suddenly they wind up at the Providence airport except it’s really the SLC airport with its distinctive escalator configuration. Fun stuff.

        • Barroom Bob

          There is a great send up of this dis-location ruse in “Friends With Benefits”. In the movie within the movie, which appears a couple of times, a couple is pulling away from a totally wrong Grand Central Station NYC , with the famous, palm tree lined, Hollywood street in the background and Jason Segal is going, ” Oh look, there’s the Empire State Building ! Look, there’s the Statue of Liberty ! “

      • Josh Zyber

        Aaron, according to Michael Bay’s commentary track on the Blu-ray, you “geography buffs” should just STFU. Real people don’t know that the Smithsonian isn’t in the middle of the desert – not even when Bay shows the front of the building clearly in metro D.C. Real people don’t know that Washington D.C. isn’t half desert, only annoying nerds like you. 🙂

        • JM

          Also, the Milwaukee Art Museum, which I used to live three blocks from, and have been inside at least twice, doesn’t store Patrick Dempsey’s cars.

      • When I originally saw Transformers 2, and the old Decepticon begins explaining how he will transport them instantaneously across the globe, I thought he had already done that when they moved from D.C. to Tucson, that I had perhaps dozed off and missed a story beat.

        • Josh Zyber

          I think a lot of people who aren’t paying attention assume that, and Michael Bay is probably counting on it. However, if you watch the scene again, there’s no teleportation. They bust through the back wall of the museum and they’re in the desert, because that’s where the desert is.

          • Josh Zyber

            I’ll have to cue up the scene again (groan), but as I recall it, they simply plow through a wall and suddenly they’re in a desert. The fact that Bay felt the need to address this in his commentary (scoffing at “geography buffs”) yet still didn’t say anything about teleportation leads me to the conclusion that he simply thought it reasonable that the back of the Smithsonian would open onto a desert.

  3. Grant Fieldgrove

    Aaron, as to your nitpick about the dialog gaps, there was a great joke in a recent Simpsons episode about it. A man wants to take marge flying in his plane as a surprise and he starts his sentence, then a quit cut to them in the plane where his finishes it to reveal the surprise. Marge makes a comment about her just being happy he’s talking again. He went silent for forty five minutes right in the middle of a sentence. lol

  4. Alex

    Chris, your nit-pick about “Superman” reminds me of the episode of The Big Bang Theory where they discuss how if Superman were to catch Lois Lane falling from a building at 32ft/s^2 by reaching out two arms of steel, she would be immediately sliced into three equal pieces. “If he really loved her, he would have let her hit the ground. It would have been a more merciful death.” -Sheldon

    • paramedic0112

      That’s funny, I never thought about that. I acutally really like the part where he turns back time by spinning the earth, I thought it was a cool idea. The part of Superman that is the worst is the scene where he and Lois go flying around on their first date and it has that cheesy narration about what she’s thinking or something. It’s absolutely terrible!! One of the most cheesy, cringe inducing scenes of all time for me. Horrible.

    • Actually, I remember something in the commentary about that. If you watch the background it goes backwards indicating that he flies down a bit to cushion the catch.

  5. besch64

    I couldn’t disagree more with Aaron Peck. I love Tarantino’s appearance in Pulp Fiction. He kills that scene and it’s better for him being in it. And admit it, the line about “dead ****** storage” would not have been as funny coming out of anybody else’s mouth.

    For me, my list would look something like this:

    -In any movie, when two people plan to meet up at a location, but never arrange a specific time. But then they both show up at the same time. HOW DID THEY KNOW WHEN TO GO?

    -At the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, (SPOILER) when we zoom into Ryan’s eye, as if we’re going into his memories, and then we cut to… Captain Miller? Whaaaat? I understand that Spielberg used the technique ironically to make then reveal at the end a surprise, but to me it just seems broken.

    -I hate how the xenomorph at the end of Alien is clearly a dude in a suit.

    -I don’t like the scene with the baby at the end of Rashomon. It’s too heavy-handed.

  6. paramedic0112

    I like Saving Private Ryan for the most part. It was coolest thing I’d ever seen when it first came out. However, I do have some beef with it. First, in the beginning when they are walking as a patrol across in the countryside is totally bogus. This is enemy territory and they are walking way too close together, talking loudly, laughing, and joking. No way that would happen. Also, all the germans have shaved heads. If you look at photos of the period, none of the germans have shaved heads. In fact, they have more hair than most american soldiers. I guess that was done to make them appear more evil or sub human. My other big issue is during the end battle with the Tiger tanks, Tom Hanks sprays submachine gun fire into the look out visor of the tank. I real life this could not be done. The visor is much smaller and has very thick bullet proof glass.

  7. JM

    The CGI sex in ‘Fight Club.’

    The dwarf jokes in LOTR, and the army of green ghosts.

    Budd’s backstory in ‘Kill Bill Vol. II.’

    The digital presidents in ‘Transformers 3.’

    The mobile brother in ‘Love Actually.’

    Red Skull’s makeup in ‘Captain America.’

    The playboy bunny in ‘Apocalypse Now.’

    The dinosaurs in ‘The Tree Of Life.’

    Val Kilmer’s elbow in ‘Heat.’

    Liam Neeson’s drama queen moment in ‘Schindler’s List.’

  8. Marcus

    Mine is more of a technical nit-pick. EDITING. when I see films more than once, I catch alot of editing mistakes. Come on Editor, you have ONE job. EDIT! One that always sticks out for me, is the yellow Porsche in Commando! He wrecks it, Arnold pushes it over, still wrecked, they hop in, still wrecked, drive off, NOT WRECKED! I remember watching this all the time with friends back in the day when I was 15, and a common comment was “Look! See, it’s all new now!” Bummer…

    • That’s not the editor, that’s the script supervisor. The Editor is stuck with what they give him/her. Often, you can hear an editor screaming at the director for not covering a scene well/properly.

  9. Jon

    A big one for me is when they show bands playing in movies. As a drummer, it irritates the hell out of me when the onscreen drummer is not synched up with the music. Most of the time the ‘drummer’ is just some random actor doing a horrible miming job.

  10. Eric

    My biggest nit pick is filmmakers changing dialogue in scenes to reach the proper rating. Most often it occurs to secure a pg-13, which is annoying and often takes me out of movies. One very bad example occurs in the Mark Walberg version of The Italian Job. I really enjoy that film as a fun popcorn flic, but there is a Simoan character whose dialogue is so clearly adjusted by both his lips and a bad dub that it annoys the absolute crap out of me. I hate the MPAA!

    • JM

      Bloodless violence, clothes on sex, PG-frickin’-13 profanity.

      The MPAA: Making America the artistic joke of the world, since 1922.

  11. EM

    I’m with Tom Landy: it’s the original cuts of the original Star Wars trilogy that I want on Blu. That said, not every single change has been intrinsically egregious; and there’s one alteration I’m surprised Lucas hasn’t implemented. One hour into the first film, shortly before the Falcon drops out of hyperspace, Tarkin and Vader are informed that no Rebel base currently exists on Dantooine. Vader comments to Tarkin, then gestures as though he were still talking. Awkward!

  12. hurin

    ‘End of Evangelion’. First where the automated angel series regenerates, huge anti-climax. Second when the third impact happens and Fuyutsuki is trying to explain things, what is happening is outside comprehesion.

  13. bruce

    Kate fucking Bosworth as Lois Lane in superman returns. worst miscasting choice in the past 10 years.. It killed the movie. Kevin Spacey didn’t help neither..

  14. Alien is nearly a perfect horror film, but I have one huge gripe with it: the creature does not obey the laws of the conservation of mass.

    Between popping out of John Hurt’s chest and attacking Harry Dean Stanton, the creature grows a hundredfold in mass and there is no explanation ever made why this is. Getting into the food stores might have been a plausible explanation, but we never learn what the creature eats outside of human beings.

    It also bothers me that Bruce Banner can bulk up into the Hulk. These two franchises are supposed to be science fiction, but they flagrantly violate one of the most basic tenets of science.

      • EM

        It’s probably the same reason the Hulk’s cousin the She-Hulk manages to keep just this side of decent. John Byrne once revealed that her civvies bear a label with the stamp of approval of the Comics Code Authority.

        In both the Hulk’s and She-Hulk’s cases, as well as those of numerous other Marvel characters, the pseudoscientific explanation of the added mass is that it is drawn from some extradimensional source which, conveniently, need not be specified.

  15. My biggest Pet Peeve is when they use the title of the movie in the movie itself, prime example is Bond and The World is Not Enough, its just poor writing (well that whole movie had poor writing) to make stupid remarks that directly say the title in the film, I can stand this if it relates to something in particular like an object or a creature doing something (like Mimic) but man that hurts my head.

    Also I have to mention SWAT, when the characters actually sing/sound out the theme song of the movie in the movie my head explodes 🙂

    • The worse Bond movie offender of repeating the movie’s title is:

      “What a view!”
      “To a kill!”

      All these years later, does ANYONE understand what the title A VIEW TO A KILL really means? It’s worse that QUANTUM OF SOLACE as far as movie titles go.

    • mlemaire

      So true. I remember a Family Guy episode where Peter says he loves when they do that and they do a few cutaways of him watching movies and getting really giddy while he waits for them to mention it. Why say the title? Just stupid.

  16. One that has bothered me since I was kid was the end of Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country when Kirk, Scotty, and Sulu all strike a pose on the steps leading up to the podium. It has always seemed really cheesy to me and took me out of the flow of the film even as a 9 year old.

    • There are bigger mistakes than that in THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. One that has bothered me since the movie came out is a scene on the ice planet where Bones tells Kirk “He’s definitely on about something, Jim.” The first half of that sentence, McCoy’s mouth isn’t even moving! Bad edit…or as others have pointed out, probably not enough scene coverage.

  17. Lahrs

    One pet peeve I have in movies (Michael Bay’s instantly come to mind, as well as the second Borne movie) is the inclusion of incredibly fast edits to simulate a frenzy pace. For me, this takes me out of the movie faster than anything else because it feels too disjointed for the sake of trying to be cool. With some of the more generic transformers, I had a difficult time keeping up with what was happening to whom because of the quick edits.

    The second, is the super close ups during action scenes to mask the fact that the actor is not doing the super cool moves being shown. I understand not every actor is going to be able to flip, sword fight or whatever, but the long shot (stunt double performing an action) to super close up is quite annoying, can’t they find a better way to edit a scene together?

    • Agreed. These annoyances go hand in hand with shaky-cam. They all seemed to be used to create the semblance of fast, frenzied action without all that pesky choreography that takes time to put together.

      Don’t see ‘Safe House’. You’ll lose your lunch.

  18. Hannes Minkema

    I totally disagree with Adam Tyner’s assessement of Psycho’s final scene. Yes, the scene at the police station is long and slow, and in that respect must be regarded as anticlimactic. Why, it *is* after the movie’s climax, so that is obvious.

    But what Tyner and I disagree on, is that the explanation given by the psychiatrist would be ‘overindulging’ and a ‘pseudo-intellectual psychological rambling’. On the contrary, the explanation is necessary at that moment in the movie, when many spectators wondered what has been exactly going on, what Norman Bates was doing in that dress-and-wig, and why the remains of his mother were seated in the basement.

    Unlike Tyner says, the information that the psychiatrist feeds us never was ‘already on the screen’. All the audience has, are guesses, and they want or even need a solution to the riddle in order for the catharsis to be evoked.

    The scene is not overlong, too. It takes less than five minutes from the entrance of the psychiatrist to the policeman bringing Norman a blanket. It is five minutes of lecture, surely, but an interesting and convincing Freudian lecture – although we may have our doubts about its present-day scientific value. It is all the more interesting because it feeds on one of the main themes in Hitchcock’s work: motherly love, motherly possession, the Oedipus complex, the mix-up of identities, sexual desire.

    Tyner also fails to mention that the psychiatrist’s explanation is *not* the end of the movie. That ending is reserved for Norman, in the guise of his mother, and with his mother’s voice. First there’s the pun of ‘mother’ thanking the policeman for the blanket. Then we witness Norman’s soliloqui, in which he demonstrates what it means that ‘in Norman’s case, the battle is over – and the dominant personality has won’.

    Although ‘mother’ was never a shown as a live character in this movie, we now hear her voice and her thoughts. It once again worries us, spectators, because we thought it was all over and done with – and now ‘mother’ returns to haunt her poor son – and us in the process. Of course stating that she is a ‘sad mother’ and wiping her own alley at the expense of her son. But now we understand from the psychiatrist’s words that we don’t hear mother, but Norman thinking that he is his mother. So *he* is still wiping *her* alley clean.

    The final laugh to which Tyner is so attached, is more than a laugh. It is a grin, and we see an image of mother’s skull superimposed on Norman’s face. Then the image changes into the camera digging up a car from the mud – and we, spectators, know that is in that trunk. Hitchcock takes leave of us by putting us in that well-known situation in which we know more than the characters on-screen. Hitch’s favourite device to elicit suspense.

    In sum, Psycho’s final scene is far from a ‘flaw’. It is functional, and it works well, specially for those who did not watch the movie before and can still be thrilled or reassured. They are Hitchcock’s main audience, of course.

  19. Nagara

    One thing that always takes me out of a movie is when video games are played. 99% of the time they spazz out on the controller and try to press every button possible as fast as possible. It’s really unnecessary ad distracting.

    Also I hate when tires squeal all the time.