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Disappointing, Repetitive, Conspiracy-laden, 19 October 2016

This is a lot of the same material that he says in the director interview that is included in a bonus over the same images over and over. It asserts, without much evidence, masonic and Rosicrucian influence on Carroll. It's interesting, but with so few images and general lack of evidence--the film is narrated by the director and contains no interviews, and has the same footage of his daughter or other child relative repeatedly representing Alice, one wonders about the credibility of the arguments. I think this was made on the cheap to cash-in on the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland. Probably the best thing about this documentary is that it refutes the ideas that Carroll was a pedophile, but it doesn't even do that right--a claim of photographs of naked children being used on Christmas cards is represented by drawings of clothed children on a Christmas card, which is another way he undermines his credibility.

Great characters in bad action movie, 17 July 2011

I really liked the performances and characterizations of the Wyako sisters, but this film just doesn't work. The end of the film puts forward the very problem that everyone was trying to avoid at the beginning of the film, but nothing was resolved. Irene Bedard and Charlotte Lewis were good enough in their roles that they should have gotten a TV series, but this film is way too cheesy to earn that honor. It's loaded with action movie clichés, such as an overturned vehicle that explodes for no apparent reason, throwing people through glass for no good reason (and no offer to pay for it from the cop, either). It's pretty much Bedard and Lewis and some of the other Native American characters that make the film worth watching, but the excess cheese makes the film disappointing. They needed a film with a better, more plausible plot that isn't so full of coincidences and action movie money shots.

Film Geek (2005)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Lame Remake of The Last Laugh, 24 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Being a film geek myself, I was expecting to see a lot of myself in Scotty, but he got on my nerves, going into things that I would rarely say aloud to keep from alienating people. His tastes are also pedestrian and mainstream. The essential story is that a man gets fired from a job that he loves, is forced into another job where he is completely out of his element (in this case, an auto parts warehouse), then has an improbable ending. In F.W. Murnau's _The Last Laugh_, to which I'm surprised the film makes no explicit reference, a man is forced out of a job as a doorman that he loves to a job as a washroom attendant, in which he is ashamed, although the pay is higher. In that film, which is silent with text only in the mise-en-scène until an intertitle punctuates an improbable (in the film's own words) ending in which the man wins the lottery, which he was never shown entering. This film takes the same structure, only it's punctuated with Scotty nude and masturbating before a sink (there are several previous egregious such shots in which he has his rear end hanging out--Mr. Westby, did you really need so show more than Scotty going into the bathroom with a picture of a girl?) rather than a cinematic device. In this case, it reveals that Scotty's Hollywood ending was pure, unmotivated fantasy, even though it at least worked in a semiplausible "how."

This film is alternately cloying and cringe-worthy, with most of the cringing coming from Scotty's alienating persona, and cloying when he discusses his love of film. The biggest laugh I got was when he whispers in his neighbor's ear that Niko's ex likes scat, in reference to a scene earlier in the film in which he saw her while trying to abscond a video that she essentially stole from him.

The most likable character in the film is the beautiful Tyler Gannon, but even she is unpleasant in the way she uses Scotty, and is essentially a bahng-smoking ne'er-do-well who wants to make her boyfriend jealous. If the film were more satirical, it would work, but it seems to want us to like both Scotty and Niko, and fails miserably.

It's easy to understand why Scotty would be fired from a mainstream video store, less so that a niche video store would refuse to hire him, when he clearly has the credentials to do a job. Kim's Video in New York would probably hire this guy in a second, but this guy lives in Portland, Oregon.

Overall, the characters are incredibly flat. There is nothing to Scotty beyond his interest in film, and though Niko is a collage artist, we mostly see someone else's paintings and only get brief flashes of any collages, presumably because nothing suitable could be obtained or made in time for the shooting.

I disliked _Napoleon Dynamite_ immensely, and the comparisons between films are fairly valid, even though the likable girl in that film seemed almost out of place.

If the film had been darker or more satirical, it might have worked, but it mostly goes for cheap laughs with cardboard characters that essentially fall flat. The film is mired in mediocrity. Why didn't Scotty at least try to study film in college instead of live in a tiny apartment as a video store clerk? At least then, the temp services might offer him something more than a warehouse job, although in the current economy, probably not. The film does seem set in another time, probably the late 1990s, as DVDs are only starting to infiltrate the store. As Video Connection is not a niche store, by 2005, it would probably have abandoned all of its VHS regardless of whether a DVD of a particular title was available. These days I know of no walk-in video rental stores with the exception of a few niche shops or a Blockbuster franchise.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Wrongheaded documentary presenting opinions as facts, 29 June 2010

I was forced to watch this propaganda piece several times in middle school. It's essentially right-wing drivel that the media teaches kids to do bad things and championing the 1950s as the American Utopia. For example, they list the top en problems in schools in the 1980s based on teacher surveys and compare that to what they allege is a survey of teachers about student misbehavior where the biggest problems were littering and cutting class, a top ten list that was eventually proved to be a hoax that was based on one man's opinion and not derived from a survey at all.

Another scene shows an episode of _He-Man and the Masters of the Universe_ over which Tom Selleck notes that the series tells viewers that violence is the best solution to problems. This is indisputably propaganda, as the scene shown depicts no violence whatsoever, but is, rather, a dialogue scene between He-Man and Gleegle from the episode "Quest for He-Man." It seems like all the adults I knew took this seriously at the time it came out, victims of the magic bullet theory. I never knew why they didn't understand why showing a clip of dialogue between two friendly characters to "prove" that the show teaches violence, especially when there was no audio has no validity. I suspect it was akin to the letter-writing campaign of people telling the network to take off _The A-Team_ on the grounds that it was "too violent," when probably 95% of the complainers had never watched the show and were going based on what friends heard from friends.

Teabaggers would love this nonsense, but fortunately, it has become difficult to see.

Giovanna d'Arco (1989) (TV)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Great music, bad libretto, adequate and sometimes better production, 30 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As far as the opera, which was new to me, goes, I loved the music, as I typically do with Verdi, as it's very much in his distinctive alternately bouncy and dark style, but it's the epitome of bad libretti (Temistocle Solfera) to the extent that Giacomo D'Arco does the play-by-play of his daughter's battles, which we never see (which doesn't work for exactly the same reason Violetta telling us about Alfredo and Douphol's duel does), and rather than being burned (which one especially expects, since she wears the underwear-looking garb that Brunnhilde wears after the armor comes off to the finale of the Ring cycle where she burns) she is killed in action, but of course, she wakes up long enough to sing a final aria. It's pretty static, but it gets better as it goes along. The story is not what we would really expect it to be, although we have Giovanna and her voices, and we have her father Giacomo who is convinced that he voices are evil, much of what appears on stage is Charles V trying to romance Giovanna, and when that fails, still singing her praises as a warrior and the greatest hero of France.

It kind of surprises me that the quote on the box credits Werner Herzog for the "success" of this production. It's only a couple of steps above Jonathan Miller's Clemenza di Tito for being static and uneventful, and for all Werner Herzog's criticisms about "inadequate images" in our society (of which an Egg McMuffin advertisement seems to be his favorite example), strong images are few and far between, though the very last one is indeed amazing. Herzog comes out for the curtain call, but evidently he didn't really want people to see him, since it cuts away to a long shot as soon as he emerges, but I know well what he looks like and recognized him instantly.

I think it's actually Susan Dunn as Giovanna who carries the production,--she always seems to be in her situation, while Vincenzo de Scola as Charles V is all about his glorious voice and isn't much of an actor.

The costuming has the chorus in tall and colorful masks full of pageantry but looking rather druidic, except for a whole mass of choristers in yellow masks and green who look like homages to Iron Fist, a lesser-known Marvel superhero. Although the removal of armor is an important image in the opera, we never see Giovanna put on or take off any armor, and she wears the nightgown-like costume and socks throughout, and the armor involves other characters.

Herzog first involved opera in his films with _Fitzcarraldo_ (which is about a guy who goes into the rubber business to build an opera house in the Amazon and try to attract Caruso to it), and there he hired a supposed expert to stage the opera at the beginning, and it is more over the top than any opera I've ever seen either live or on video (maybe because that's how they performed them in 1906, but he cast a man in drag as Sarah Bernhardt and has characters complaining that she is an actor not a singer cast in the opera for commercial reasons, even though according to the credits, we're hearing actual recordings of her singing, which sounds fine to me). I've been told that the Met wrote a speaking part for Bea Arthur in _Daughter of the Regiment_ for commercial reasons, by the way. I wouldn't think she would be that big a draw, but whatever. Perhaps this paragraph is too much of a digression, but Herzog fans may well be disappointed. While it doesn't look ridiculous the way the operas at the beginning and end of _Fitzcarraldo_ look, aside from a few frissons, particularly at the end, and the stage littered with corpses even in romantic moments (one blinks, while some look sculptural), there is little here that Herzog fans will find particularly interesting. Indeed, _Invincible_ is more characteristically Herzog than this.

The worst part of all is that I was constantly taken out of it by the LPCM stereo, which is not in sync with the visuals--a Hollywood musical with a canned soundtrack has better lip sync than this stage production (and I watched Brigadoon last week, so I have a recent comparison--I also saw the TV version of Gypsy 2 weeks ago and it looked and sounded like the singing was done live on set). This is also a problem on the Met's Ring Cycle DVD (particularly ludicrous at the beginning of Siegfried when Mime hits the anvil and the sound is completely dissociated), but that gives you a Dolby alternative that is in sync with the visuals. With this one, you're stuck with it. I'm going to post on my film lists to see if that's an equipment issue.

Despite the interest of Herzog as director, I think I'm going to go with an audio-only recording next time I want to experience this opera. While it seems to have potential for exciting staging (though given Giacomo's big aria in Act III it might be somewhat redundant based on the text), Herzog was probably just too new to opera (indeed, he co-directed both the stage production and the video) to really contribute as much to it as he may have liked, or at least as much as his fans would have liked.

41 out of 47 people found the following review useful:
Belongs on its own list., 26 September 2006

This looks like someone's homemade YouTube video, and the level of analysis is no better. In nearly all the cases, all that is shown of the film is the theatrical trailer, which often provides no indication of what makes the film so bad. Early on, we get an exception, with _Mesa of Lost Women_, where the documentarian provides examples of his claims for how bad the film is, but most of the time, we get snide remarks about why the writer perceives the film as bad, without any real demonstration or support, which is certainly difficult if all you can afford to pay for is the trailer. Each film is covered for only about a minute or so, and the segments are broken up with an amateurish computer sequence of thrown popcorn. A coffee table book would be more useful and more fun. This film gets an F.

Cutthroats (1994)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Before Office Space and Fight Club existed; Office Space meets Fight Club, 3 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is an imaginative indie film from the great Michael Legge that begins covering the same territory as _Office Space_, and may make you want to mumble about burning down the building, but Legge takes you to a different place entirely, with enough subtle clues that it stands up to multiple viewings.

For anyone who has ever worked in an office, this film displays the tensions as accurately as _Office Space_ (another great film), also did, but works on a completely different level, that achieved by later films like _Fight Club_ or _Mullholland Dr._ What you're seeing is never objectively what is happening except (maybe) at the end of the film, when it generates the question of how it could be possible for a person of the past to dream up such a recognizable future, our present, distorted by what in their own life's experience is the norm. The more out of sync characters begin to behave, the more normal they are actually behaving for the lead character's reality.

To read this much of the review, although I've deliberately not been too specific, knowing just what I've told you might be enough to figure out what is going on long before it's over, so you have been warned.

Much like _Fight Club_, the main character is an insomniac, and has difficulty telling what is and is not real. When he is told he killed the Pope (who looks like John Paul II, but clearly is not (rather than whoever was Pope when the time-tripper came from, which is never clear)), he doesn't believe it, but like Tyler Durden, as an insomniac he can't believe what he sees in either way, so he has to determine that the Pope's supposed visit is not in the Boston Globe before he can confront the guy who claimed that he ran him over.

Another interesting twist is that the most sympathetic character beyond the main character is the one who is, on one level, giving him his exit to the true? reality, but like all his allies, becomes completely demented in the dream world by its end.

Although this is, ultimately, a rather silly film, its realistic portrayal of office life at the beginning and its twists and turns all make this a hugely thought provoking one. Recommended for anyone who doesn't demand high production values for a film (shot on 16mm) set in an office.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
"It's your reflection, dimwit!" "Hummus brain!", 16 August 2004

I e-mailed Robert V. Barron about this, and he doesn't even remember directing it (though he does remember being a story editor on Funky Fables/Sugar and Spice/Puppy Dog Tales), presumably because he was a mere nominal director in this anime production bought up by Haim Saban. In fact, the fifth video in the series is the piolot for what became _Saban's Adventures of the Little Mermaid_, his brilliant timing making the pre-existing animated series look like a quickie cash-in on the Disney version.

This film doesn't really cohere together. The film has three stories, and the first two are told at a frenetic pace, while the third, though the same length, feels properly paced. It also appears to be an older production, back when beady-eyed characters were more common in anime.

The first story is told in first person by a totally eighties Dorothy in an oversized red hat, whose dog Toto talks in Kansas, but never comes with her to Oz (where Toto was reluctant to speak in the books, _The Lost Princess of Oz_ excepted, and it took eight books for him to admit it). The Good Witch of the North is a hopping/floating hunchbacked old sprite who claims that the shoes of the killed belong to the killer by custom! The shoes are red boots that Dorothy (with a cheesy heart on her frock) wears without socks. She has an abrupt meeting with a Scarecrow, who looks like a rod puppt, albeit with his hands in an odd place. His had looks not unlike a witch's hat, leading to the first of the titular quotes, from the Tin Woodman. Although the theme of the story remains, that the three already have what they desire, the Tin Woodman is nearly as obnoxious as Larry Mann's Rusty in Tales of the Wizard of/Return to Oz, and half of his few lines are insults.

Dorothy then feels the need to recap the story (about three minuts in) before they arrive in the Emerald City, presumably because the frenetic pace makes the story too unclear. The Wizard appears as a wildly animated shadow, and his sequence, as welll as the Wicked Witch's are the more inspired parts of the film. The Wizard creates a door in the wall to take them to the Witch, who has several haunted hollow tree huts filled with fires which she uses her magic to turn into fireballs. We are now five minutes into the picture. Well, the Tin Woodman's remark comes from when the Scarecrow sees himself in a well, and would probably be a good title for a more analytical review of the film than I care to give at this time. The most peculiar thing about the film is that the witch can stretch indefinitely, and she makes a powerful image as she streaks through the air. Once the witch is defeated, the humbug Wizard rings a bell, and the room opens up to another location, where a tiny Glinda (unnamed) is perched on Dorothy's shoulder. While sometimes the pacing makes it feel as though this were cut from a longer production, scenes like this suggest otherwise.

The music is overloud and it often makes the dialogue and narration difficult to hear, whcih applies even more strongly to the second story, "The Magic Carpet," which is set in India and told by a narrator with an Indian accent. The titles of the first two stories are video-burned, and presumably the title originally appeared on the image of the carpet alone that opens (and closes) the story, to little good effect her. It tells of a maharaja who determines his successor by a contest, and his evil adviser insists that because the older brother, Safal, struck the flag, while the younger brother, Safal, shot one beyond what could be measured. And according to custom, JAfal is to be exiled. He eventually finds his arrow in a cave, and when he pulls it out, the floor gives way and he lands in the chamber of a magical princess. Jafal tries to return to his brother, despite the exile, and the adviser steals the carpet and tells Safal to ask him to hand it over, and when he can't, sends him on tasks the princess helps him accomplish. He makes the mistake of bringing her along for her to be abducted by the adviser, but together, they are able to defeat him. Despite the obviously shorter source material, the story is still told at the same frenetic pace as Wizard, which is adapted from a novel, not a folktale.

The third, Alibaba [sic] and Forty Thieves, is the same length, but told at the leisurely pace "The Magic Carpet" should have been told at. This one has a female narrator, who is unfortunately rather patronizing. The film includes several still paintings of action that are wuite effective, but a major plot hole in the slave girl's recognition of the lead thief, when she has only seen one of his lackeys, (whom he calls "hummus brain" when she has Xed every house).

Overall, this film has some visual interest, but it's not very good anime, and has a lot of technical problems.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
as generic as the title, 18 June 2004

The title of this film translates as "Deadly Nightmare," which gives you an idea of how routine this film is. I bought this DVD because the cover makes it look like a Mexican take on a Hong Kong ghost film. Unfortunately, none of the images on the box are in the film, making the entire venture a waste of what little money I have.

Instead, it's a crime thriller with the quasi-supernatural conceit of Aouda suffering from nightmares about the deaths f various people by an assassin. The best thing about this film is the way her nightmares are cut in a mix if dissolves and very rapidfire crosscutting. I think it was André Bazin who said that the worst films have five minutes more interesting that the entirety of many good films. That's this film's moment.

The film sets up Aouda's co-worker, Hector, as being in league with the criminal element, then gives us sledgehammered melodramatic music when he finally turns on her, as if the previous revelation wasn't enough to make it not a surprise. Almost every scene discusses obsessively an "Alejandro," who was never identified while on screen.

Media Trading Network has apparently decided to market this DVD to the most undemanding of Mexican-American audience, as it contains no subtitle options (so much of the dialogue is redundant it only takes close listening and good etymological knowledge to figure out what they're saying if you don't know the language, as I don't), which is minor compared to the fact that everything looks green. Even with the language barrier, it was obvious that some scenes were redundant filler. One scene simply has Hector come into a place and ask where the crime boss is, only to be told he's in the next room, which given the set design, looks like he could probably be seen through the doorway. Alfredo B. Crevenna is certainly not an economical director.

To make matters worse, Aouda romances nearly every character in the film--not that she's portrayed in a sexpot since it amounts mostly to affection over meals where it sounds like the plot is being rehashed, sometimes in picnics or romantic dinners, before finally picking the guy she kissed for a final trite kiss that rounds out the formula Crevenna has so drearily deployed. Beyond the language, there's almost nothing to the film to suggest it's anything other than a rip-off of a Hollywood production. There doesn't appear to be anything intrinsically Mexican about it--not that that is a problem--it just seems overly American, and overly formulaic.

The acting is mediocre and sometimes feels forced, particularly when Aouda helps the investigator examine her mother's house--her tears over the death of her mother are implausibly rendered.

Don't let the box fool you, and pass this one up...4.5/10.

Deadly Tales (1998) (V)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Poorly made and trashy updating not entirely devoid of interest, 5 June 2004

This DVD caught my eye because the box said it had an adaptation of Mary Shelley other than _Frankenstein_, but when I saw the trailer after I got it home that evening, fearing the worst, I decided to read all the stories first. The Wells story is an enigma--nothing happens except that an antique dealer named Mr. Cave keeps looking into an alien world until he is eventually found dead on the floor. Sounds good enough for a frame story, but it's rather artificial here. The best performances in the film are from Greg Cannone as Winston Kale and Oriana Tavoularis as his wife, Alice Cave. Cannone's performance is unfortunately hit-and-miss, with line readings that sometimes feel read for only the second time, but sometimes seem natural and appropriate. He looks a little like Chris Weitz without the annoying ear-indentation. Alice goes a little wacko at the death of her mother, but as irritating as she is with Winston, and as unreasonable as she can be, she always manages to remain endearing through her cute appearance and essential ill-placement in a horror film, as her slightly over-the-top performance seems to belong in a comedy.

The film claims to have been processed in a film lab, but it looks shot on video, and has lame character-generator titles indicative of home video, as well, but if it is, at least Ford had a decent flying-erase head, since the edits are never defect-jumpy.

Mary Shelley, in "Transformation" (not "The Transformation" as on the credits) originally wrote of Guido, exiled from Genoa by a Marchese (also his beloved Juliet's father) after returning from a riotous travel. On an island, he encounters a dwarf who demands a three day exchange of bodies, and in what turns out to be one of her weaker works, does so exactly to take his place and to have Juliet, confirming Guido's worst fears--though how the dwarf knows about him and why he would specifically choose to mess up his life is unknown). All ends happily. Not so for Eric, who is obsessed with a 19th-century dominatrix photo purchased from Cave Antiques. His girlfriend, Virginia, reveals the most hideous boob job ever (disproportionate, lopsided, you name it) in her lunchtime motel breaks with Eric, who then goes to a strip club. Veronica Carothers gives a wonderfully sympathetic performance as Crystal. She reveals without saying anything about it something of a painful past, and she makes you want Eric to give her a hug for being sympathetic with him. Perhaps I should correct myself about the acting since her performance actually distracts from that she's visibly topless the whole scene. Unfortunately, it doesn't last as Shelley's dwarf, whom Guido kills to get his wounded body back, is a cat creature who is also the dominatrix. Here the performance generates into something worthy of edited porn like _Droid_. To little is made of her trading bodies with him, which is surprising considering the film in general and the Shelley adaptation specifically is not in very good taste. Rather than take his girl, she had needlessly gory and fake looking violence in mind.

Although I found Kipling's "The Mark of the Beast" to be the weakest story of the three, it is, for all its updates, the most faithfully adapted and best done, though all the writing in this film is bad, and the dialogue here is like artless Mamet. The decision to retell it as a gangster story, though, actually works, and "Film Star Randal Malone" gives a ridiculously overacted and slightly queer performance as Harry Green, who was Fleete in Kipling's original. The change of the Indian setting replaces a Hanuman statue with the banality of a wolf ring, and an effeminate Craig Johnson, reminiscent of Jaye Davidson in _Stargate_ replaces Kipling's leper. The changes made to the story reflect entirely the gangster world of the film (which intrudes rather implausibly onto the Cave story--their antique store exterior looks wrong for the kind of neighborhood this would occur in, and generally too big), leading again to a ridiculously violent end. I was kind of disappointed that Ford deleted Kipling's shoehorn-gag scene , but the wolf-suit is so rubbery (and rather apelike) it would probably make it look even more fake. It seems strange that the shaman never bothers to pick up the finger they sever so he can go to a hospital and get it put back on. Ford also adds the thugs turning on each other, which at least fits.

The ending, which is given away in the trailer, is a disappointment--Alice gets a death scene unworthy of her that should not have been fatal, creates _Jabberwocky_-like gore, and reduces Wells's octopoid Martian whatsit (perhaps a War of the Worlds prequel?), into ugly anthropophages erroneously referred to as cannibals on the badly typoed box.

Overall, this is a weak film, its chief interest being exactly what I bought it for--that it is an adaptation of these classic stories. It has its moments, but is overall an amateurish work. On the plus side, even though it certainly could have used a once-over by someone more talented at dialogue, the concept isn't too bad and at least gives a better justification for the lame, borderline campy, gore effects that many others will want to view the film for, than most others of its budget and ilk, no thanks to Ford, but thanks to Wells, Shelley, and Kipling.

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