Reviews written by registered user
|17 reviews in total|
Fifty years ago, Klaatu landed his saucer on a baseball diamond in
Washington DC, was surrounded by Army tanks and soldiers. The saucer opens,
a ramp extends, out he walks holding a device in his hand and what happens?
A soldier fires at him, shooting the device out of his hand and destroying
Have we come any farther than this in the treatment of superior race, highly advanced aliens after fifty years of film making? Not really.. not at all. Technologically, we have CGI spaceships instead of painted plywood.
"Taken" had its moments of brilliance, but this 20 hours of over-padded nonsense, loaded down with so many commercials by the SciFi Network as it was (If I NEVER see one of those IBM commercials again, it'll be too soon).. seemed to be leading up to something, to some final conclusion of utter joy and brilliance, and it just simply didn't get there. The ending, which I will not spoil, was an enormous letdown..
I won't try to detail the plot, which spans fifty years, if you're reading this you've probably read a bajillion other comments and know what it's all about anyway, but I will hit two things that really stuck out in my mind..
a) Little Dakota Fanning, as Ally, is an absolutely AMAZING actress, showing a depth of range and ability that is nothing short of astounding. I can't imagine how good she will be, or at least potentially could be, as she gets older.. I wish her the best of luck. She was easily the best actor in this marathon..
b) Matt Frewer, as a brilliant, wise-cracking alien scientist and researcher caused his own demise in on of the shows final hours, with one of the most absurd, unconvincing, hackneyed bits of contrived stupidity imaginable.. in this age of cell phones, he turns his back on "Mary Crawford" within earshot of her while she's taking a shower, just feet away from him in a hotel room, and picks up the room phone to make a call to expose her evil intent. For crying out loud, he saw her have her own father killed, showing absolutely no remorse.. why in the world wouldn't he have gone outside the room, outside the hotel, and made that call with a cell phone? Dooming himself the way he did was incredibly cheap writing, and while it was unexpected, it was also totally illogical for his character to have sacrificed himself so easily..
This twenty hour snooze-a-thon could've been distilled down to two or three two hour segments, and not lost anything at all, and been better for the shortening in every way. As it was, I got the feeling the producers made it 20 hours long (minus endless commercials) just to prove they could do it.
It didn't give us anything new at all. The ending was a gross letdown.
While they're not science fiction, if you ever want to see two absolutely brilliantly written and acted television mini-series, watch "Shogun" and "Roots." Those are commercial television at its finest.
You've probably read a lot of other comments, so I'll spare you the details
of what "RKO 281" is about.. rather, my comments pertain to made-for-HBO
films, particularly this one..
HBO's movies always strike me as a cut above the usual made for the small screen fare, but just a notch below being theatrical quality. There's a strange feeling of being manipulated, that I get from almost all their films, especially biopics like this one, "Truman", and their latest "Path To War" which they're running this month. HBO likes to take on monumental, historical characters, like Orson Welles, Harry S Truman, and LBJ, but seems to always surround them with characters who are portrayed as being slightly dumb, and made to look like fools, on purpose. It's as though HBO is telling us to look back into history and laugh at how naive and silly people were in decades past.. look at the dumb clothes they wore, the silly hairstyles, their mannerisms, while at the same time idealizing them..
In these kinds of films, cars are never dirty or dented. People never flub their words when speaking to each other. Homes and offices are always a paragon of cleanliness. Everything looks brand new. Staged. Too perfect.. Okay, perhaps realism is not what we want in our movies.. we live in homes that have dirty dishes in the sink and rumbled towels in the bathroom, and stacks of magazines on the tables.. but there ARE period films in which the "lived in" look IS quite well done.. witness Bob Raefelson's "The Postman Always Rings Twice."
While the set and art direction of "RKO 281" is stunning, everything is beautiful to look at: all the vast, wood-panelled offices of the Hollywood moguls, somehow, everything has an artificial look to it.
And then, there's Liev Schreiber's portrayal of a young Orson Wells.. Again, sometimes HBO can create a convincing lookalike - Gary Sinese as Harry S Truman was right on the money, Michael Gambon as LBJ comes sort of close, but doesn't quite ring true, but Schreiber simply doesn't look or sound anything like Orson Welles did. Welles had a booming baritone voice, an in-your-face style of projecting his words, and a simply riveting screen presence. Schreiber's lack of a jaw, and his delivery simply never convinced me that this man was Orson Welles.. This is not to take away from Schreiber's acting abilities at all.. he was simply the wrong actor for the part. And since he is the centerpiece of the film, the entire film suffers because of his weak Welles clone..
However, "RKO 281" _is_ worth watching, if just for the lush sets and atmospherics, and the far too few glimpses we get of the making of "Citizen Kane." But again, HBO made this film as a drama, not a documentary, and a drama relies on conflict.. and thus the film concentrates on the clash of personalities, not the creation of the best film ever made..
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Poor H.G. Wells.. he must be wearing grooves in his grave from all the
spinning by now.
About the only thing this film (yet another attempt at an updated remake of George Pal's timeless 1960 feature) has in common with his novel of the same name is tht there's a time machine in it, the destination year of 802,701, a race of people called Eloi, another called Morlocks, and hmm.. can't think of anything else!
Pal's film is one of my favorites, and as such, this new one was a gross disappointment to me, except for some very good effects sequences - the time travel and Moon shots.. in fact with a nice sharp pair of scissors, I think I could edit this film down to about ten worthwhile minutes out of over two hours of padding and dreck.
Wells' entire premise for his protagonist's time travel adventures is summarily thrown in the dumpster, in favor of turning his driving motivation into a love story. Fine, make another movie out of that, but it's not Wells' vision.
** SPOILERS AHEAD **
In Pal's 1960 classic, Rod Taylor as Wells, the time traveller, was always VERY careful to lock his machine, or remove its stick shift before leaving it.. here we have Guy Pearce getting out of his machine in 2030, and wandering through the NY Public Library for who knows how long, leaving his machine in an alley way for anyone to stumble on and mess with.
The device used to destroy humanity as we know it in the new film _was_ a stunning idea, but still, it stretches the imagination to think that a 20 megaton bomb could split the Moon apart..
Flash forward 800,000 years and the Eloi this time around are a dark skinned race of shaved head, tattooed jungle people whose most beautiful inhabitant is a Janet Jackson lookalike. Throw in a child actor for no good reason at all.
And someone really has to explain to me how crumbled remains of New York could survive erosion, winds, the sands of time, and glaciers for 8000 centuries, while we watch rivers carve out entire valleys, and mountains of rock blow away as so much dust.. if that isn't enough of a stretch, explain to me how a holographic library docent could survive for 800,000 years. Who was oiling his gears all that time? What was the power source that lasted that long?
Even in the beautiful time-travel effects sequences, nothing much makes sense.. as the scale of time keeps changing depending, apparently, on what the director wants you to dwell on.. if you're going into the future at such a rapid speed that you can see mountains erode in seconds, you are _not_ going to see individual trees spring up in a meadow.
Okay, so forget all that. Chalk it up to Hollywood not expecting its audience to ask such questions. But why pollute Wells' classic story with new elements cut out of whole cloth and inserted for reasons we can only guess at? There was no "Uber Morlock" in the book or the original film.
And riddle me this - how did Pearce know what effect throwing his pocket watch into the gears of his time machine would have? Did he build a bunch of them and figure out ways he could make them explode back in 1900 first? The effects shot of him and Samba or Mumbo or whatever her name is, jumping out of the blast field is nearly a direct ripoff of Arnold jumping out of the Predator's blast field at the end of that fine film.. Watch the bad guys get vaporized while the hero and his playmate barely escape.. sigh.. how many times have we seen this schtick?
Some films are simply classics that do NOT need to be remade, and 1960's The Time Machine was one of them. Or if you're going to remake it, at least be honest to the original, like the 1980s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers was.
Otherwise, please, don't waste our time.
Read the book and see the 1960 film if you really want to know what The Time Machine was about.
If Binder sold HBO on his pathetic "Mind of the Married Man" series based
having written and directed and starred in this film, it wouldn't surprise
me, as both had a lot of the same elements and ideas, and both were
Binder is no Woody Allen. For that matter, he's no Albert Brooks either. He's not even a Gene Wilder, about the most unlikely actor for a sex farce I can imagine, but then maybe women see some kind of appeal to that sad puppy personna..
But someone must think Binder is funny, else they wouldn't be throwing money at him as HBO did..
Sex Monster (don't let the title deceive you.. this isn't a movie about Godzilla humping Tokyo).. can be taken as a prequel to Mind of the Married Man with one exception.. instead of fantasizing and visualizing in his mind, other women in bed with his wife, this film explores the possibilities in a very tame way. If you're looking for Mariel Hemingway nude, forget it. In fact for a sex romp, this film has alarmingly little nudity at all. Lots of tease shots, and women moaning and groaning behind a closed bedroom door, one almost topless shot in a swimming pool, that's about it.
Mariel Hemingway, still gorgeous after all these years, and quite a screen presence, plays Binder's straight and faithful wife to whom he pitches the idea of a second woman in bed with them.. most every guy's unfulfilled fantasy.. at first put off by the concept, she aims to please him, she warms to it, then dives face first, as it were, into it, to the point that he got what he wished for and now he wants to un-wish it..
The way this film was shot and edited reminds me of an even tamer version of the way "adult" hardcore videos are presented on tape, versus how they end up on channels like "Spice" where you see the tops of a lot of heads bobbing up and down..
I kept waiting and waiting for the big payoff.. but this is a sex film with no "money shot", both literally and figuratively.
It's a one line joke that somehow got stretched to an hour an a half, and it moves at such a glacial pace that I actually fell asleep the first time I tried to watch it.
Mariel Hemingway is still beautiful, still talented, and she deserves to be pitched much better scripts than this one, and someone needs to tell Binder that his fantasies are simply just not rip-roaringly hilarious..
Epoch is a film with an interesting, although re-hashed, derivative
harkening back to everything from 2001 to Sphere, this "Made for the SciFi
Channel" (!?) film had interesting possibilities, but was unfortunately
ruined by acting so wooden that Pinocchio seems downright voluptuous in
A mysterious "thing" crashes into Earth four billion years ago, and just as mysteriously erupts out of the ground near the Chinese border, present day, causing worldwide electronic glitches, immediately attracting the attention of the shadowy gubmint agency in DC who decides it's their job to find out what it is, send in the G.I. Joes to surround it, call in the world's smartest guy (David Keith??) to figure out its purpose, and make sure the Chinese don't get at it.
How convienient that it appears in some stinkin' desert somewhere, and not in the middle of, oh, I dunno, Cleveland.. this way the cast can be kept small, and the effects a lot easier to accomplish..
Some of the special effects, particularly the long shots of the thing, which resembles a tornado funnel made out of rock, are well executed.
The thing has mysterious powers, seemingly able to bring the dead back to life, and heal the maladies of anyone who gets near it, including the terminally ill character played by Keith.
But this whole premise is blown to bits (eventually literally).. by the horrible acting and dialog that sounds like it was written in a high school class. Ryan O'Neal and Craig Wasson, both of whom have practically carried entire films by themselves (Barry Lyndon and Body Double for two examples).. are totally wasted in minor roles. The Chinese who confront the Americans, both diplomatically and militarily, are cardboard cutout cartoon characters.
And the military sent along to keep the Chinese away from the thing while they guard the scientific probing, and eventually ordered to destroy it, are simply interchangable, unthinking, faceless toy soldiers, incapable of independent thought. This reminds me of the early scenes of the original Stargate film, where, right after being transported to the other side of the Universe, the soldiers accompanying the geek Egyptologist, have absolutely NO sense of wonder and amazement, but rather, they entertain themselves by throwing his research books at him.
Since the time of The Day The Earth Stood Still, when all Klaatu wanted to do was give the Earth leaders a groovy gift and got thanked by having it shot out of his hand, and in a multitude of other films since, Hollywood has taught us that when we are confronted with something of superior intellect, or of mysterious origins, if we don't understand it, if it doesn't look like a fluffy kittie, we are to shoot first, and ask questions later.
"Guns, guns, guns - is the signal we want to send this thing?" Asks Keith early on in the film.. although he is called in to analyze the thing, almost everything he suggests is summarily ignored, laughed at, or cast aside because, well, I suppose your average 12 year old viewer finds constant machine gun fire much more compelling viewing than a lot of talking or philosophical speculation. This is *exactly* the kind of film for people who hated 2001 because they didn't get it.
If all this wasn't enough, Epoch has one of the stupidest, pat endings in my recent memory.
What could've been a fascinating film is thus turned into unintentionally humorous dreck. Will humanity ever learn? Not if Hollywood has anything to say about it..
In 1958 I was nine and many screamers, like "House on Haunted Hill" filled
theatres for the teen crowd. I was too young to see this in the local movie
house, but it made it to television a couple years later and was a regular
staple, along with Castle's other pieces, on Saturday afternoon shows such
as "Chiller". I probably watched HoHH dozens of times as a kid, and it
me some very serious nightmares back then, but it seemed to vanish from
small screen for a very long time.. finally, I caught it last night,
commercial-free on Turner Classic Movies, for the first time in at least 25
Viewed with an adult's skeptical viewpoint, this is really a pretty awful film. It tries so hard to be horrific, but it's hard to watch Vincent Price, a much missed, very cultured and smart guy (read his biography some time) and not think he had one really good time making this film.. it's absolutely one of his best performances in his long career.
By now you probably know the plot, but briefly, a wacky millionaire rents a big old spooky house for a night and invites five people he doesn't know to spend the night there on a dare, telling them if they make it through alive to the next morning he'll give each of them $10,000.00. Hey, that was big money in 1958.
The guests all arrive in hearses, and quickly get to know each other, but why were they invited? None of them know.
The house itself, a strange architectural style, looking almost like a fortress from the outside, is quite Victorian on the inside, and reminds me a lot of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.. velvet curtains and wallpaper, candle-filled chandeliers, big old wooden doors everywhere, lots of creepy dark corners, not the kind of place you'd want to spend the night alone, especially not after its owner tells you it's haunted, and that there are a couple of unaccounted for heads bouncing around the place..
Okay so what makes a bad film so good?
An awful lot of screen time is spent following the seven characters (the five guests, Price and his bitchy wife who wants his fortune) go in and out of bedrooms, up and down hallways, down to the basement, into closets, behind mysterious curtains.. it seems like none of them can stay put for more than a couple minutes at a time. You will get to know this house, or at least parts of it, quite well, as the camera tracks and pans around the same rooms and hallways an endless number of times. C'mon.. just lock yourself in your room, read a book, wait till morning and collect your money.. but NoooOoOooo..
And then there's the basement, which, oddly enough, has a huge vat of acid under the floor.. closets with secret spaces between the walls, lights that go on and off by themselves, doors that open and close for no reason.. eeek!
And oy the screaming. A sexy young female character named Nora, apparently one of Price's steno pool girls invited quite by random to the party, screams and screams until you'd think her tonsils are going to fly out of her mouth. She makes you wonder where the poor girl gets the strength. Nora is the epitome of every 1950s horror movie screaming girl you've ever seen, but again, wonderfully portrayed.
And if you thought any one of these characters should lock herself in her bedroom until down, Nora would be the one you'd pick. Does she? Hah! Fat chance! Handsome leading man Richard Long obviously has eyes for Nora, and she for him, but just when you think there's a remote chance for an embrace and a kiss, something horrible happens again..
Blood dripping from ceilings. An old woman who floats across the floor. A haunted rope that snakes in through the barred window and wraps itself around its victim's feet, a woman hanging from a noose in the hallway, seven people running around through this mayhem with guns, that vat of acid in the basement that you just KNOW is going to be put to good use before the titles roll.. All of this is both hilariously cliche' and yet somehow devilishly spooky at the same time. And these little set pieces just add to the images that HoHH will burn into your mind.
HoHH would be up high on my list of Halloween movies, along with John Carpenter's film of that title, both versions of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, and both version of The Thing.
Modern remakes of horror classics CAN be done well, as the remakes of IotBS and The Thing prove. Unfortunately, the remake of HoHH, except for a wonderfully shocking first 15 minutes, is pure dreck, and just besmirches the memory of Castle's wonderful masterpiece.
Thanks again to cable channels like TCM and AMC who show these old films commercial-free, as they should be seen. It's almost like having the Saturday matinees back again..
I'm dumbfounded that in all the commercial and user reviews I've read so far
about "Strange Days", especially those that describe its central element of
the "playback" device as being such an original one, reviewers (and shame on
Ebert for not mentioning this) are ignoring the fact that in 1983, there was
a much superior big budget film, Douglas Trumball's "Brainstorm" which used
exactly the same kind of device - put on a headpiece and put yourself in the
brain of someone else, living experiences they had had, and recorded,
through all your senses.
No, "Brainstorm" doesn't have that dark and dirty look that seems so popular these days. But it has many more truly memorable scenes that stick in the mind forever.. Christopher Walken experiencing Louise Fletcher's death when he plays back the "toxic" tape. Walken and Wood's rapture under the sheets. The Brainstorm company salesman, stuck in an all-night orgasmic frenzy, to the point of collapse as he plays back a looped sequence from a tape a lab engineer had recorded while he was being humped by a sexy blonde.
"Strange Days" has nothing to equal these scenes still vivid in my mind from a film I saw 18 years ago, compared to one I saw yesterday.
And given the choice of watching Walken and the radiant Wood (in her final film appearance) as married lovers, versus Ralph Fiennes and Juliette "Look! I'm reprising my role from 'Natural Born Killers' again for the 29th time!" Lewis, well to me, there just ain't much to decide.. Someone needs to take Ms. Lewis out back and tell her that the harder she tries to appear sexy, the less she is..
There's absolutely NOTHING original about "Strange Days." From the device itself, to the dark gang-infested streets, to the year-early Millennium hysteria (you want Hollywood hysteria? Try watching "Miracle Mile" sometime!)
Nearly all reviews mention the "Blade Runner-ish" noir look it has, and the original concept of the playback device. This is an extremely derivative film with almost no original ideas wrapped in a very nicely photographed, forgettable package. People sure have short memories, and Hollywood sure has no more original ideas..
I'm still waiting for the $150 million "Hazel, The Movie" and "Strange Days" just tells me that sooner or later, it'll come..
There's a scene in "Three to Tango" in which the two leads, Neve Campbell and Matthew Perry, are platonically (Well, she is, he really isn't..).. cuddling on his sofa, as they watch Laurence Harvey and Kim Novak in bed together in 1964's remake of "Of Human Bondage." Let's just say that if you're looking for a GOOD romantic movie to rent, leave the former on the shelf and rent the latter, which is a masterpiece of a tear-jerker and doesn't pretend to be something it's not, as does the former.
The two films make an unintentionally ironic comparison of just how good actors used to be, and just how bad they are these days. I couldn't help but grin as I watched Neve Campbell watching Kim Novak and nearly shouted at the screen "See, Neve?? Now THAT'S Acting!"
How many times have we seen the "Three to Tango" plot in the past ten years? A couple million? A case of mistaken intentions and identities as the girl Perry loves must continue to believe he's gay, and thus "safe" to confide in and even live with, because he must pretend to be gay to keep his lucrative contract with the rich jerk who has assigned him to spy on her.. The same rich jerk who she believes she's in love with. Why? If she's so smart and so streetwise and hip and savvy, can't she see what a fool he's playing her for? Of course not, because, if she could, there'd be no movie, would there..
Neve Campbell is nice to look with her ample figure almost falling out of every low-cut costume she's poured into, but at the same time she crosses the line over into the county known as annoying. She forces her cuteness and sexyness, but she doesn't have to.
Matthew Perry plays the same character he plays in "Friends" with a different cast in a different situation, but the badly-written and terribly predictable script don't give him a whole lot to work with.. nevertheless, he has a certain appeal as he scrunches up his lower lip in his continual quest for the unobtainable.
Oliver Platt as Perry's non-gay gay business partner is really the most gifted actor in this film, while Dylan McDermott's one-dimensional rich bad guy is pure cardboard.
The plot device driving this whole thing is just old and tired and in the case of "Three To Tango", simply unfunny.
Will the right guy get the girl before the end titles roll? Do you really have to ask?
Blake Edwards, in his long career churned out many memorable films, not
least of which were the wonderful, but uneven, Pink Panther series, and,
favorite, the Bo Derek vehicle "10", easily Dudley Moore's best film..
thinking about poor lovesick Moore hotfooting his way across a Mexican
beach, or trying to explain who he is after a long dentist's visit and too
much brandy and painkillers, makes me chuckle..
In "S.O.B." Edwards tried to expose/dissect/shred the inner workings of Hollywood, the rivalries, deals, back-stabbing, all as a film-within-a-film, a dismal flop called "Nightwind" is being re-made by hapless Felix Farmer (Richard Mulligan, who earned his claim to fame in the TV series "SOAP")..
In 1981, S.O.B. was looked upon as daring. It has not aged well.
It's two hours that feels double that length.. it has its moments but I found it for the most part, insufferably self-indulgent and brimming with poorly-executed good ideas.
Watching it twice on HBO this month I couldn't help but think how distracting the Disco era wardrobe was.. how so many films have done certain similar pivotal scenes so much better.. "9 to 5"'s stealing a body from a Funeral Home was 100 times funnier than the one acted out in "S.O.B." Hard as this may be to say, "Weekend at Bernie's" excruciatingly reptitive jokes about transporting around a corpse were absolutely hilarious compared to the way Edwards tries to pull off the same routine..
A lot of "S.O.B." is like that - you feel like you're being set up for something truly hilarious, but the payoff is a huge let-down..
And the yelling.. and more yelling.. if there's one thing that grinds my gears, it's films in which nearly *every* character spends much of their on-screen time YELLING. One-dimensional Loretta Swit with her enormous Steven Tyler mouth is the worst offender here. Mulligan doesn't know the meaning of the word "finesse." Julie Andrews and so many others are guilty of this too, and her much-touted topless scene is, well, just plain lame. It's just another very long buildup to a disappointment. (Although a brief topless scene with a very young Rosanna Arquette almost makes up for it ;)..
The film is absolutely chocked-full of legendary actors, and the late Robert "The Music Man" Preston as a wacko flaming Doctor to the stars, (with the film's worst hair-styling).. easily steals every scene he's in. But it's still not enough to save this self-indulgent shoutfest.
"S.O.B." leaves me feeling like I'm watching some kind of huge Hollywood in-joke that never truly draws me in. I always felt like an outsider, watching some very good actors, playing very bad actors, playing very bad actors. If you want to see Edwards at the peak of his Directorial skills, doing a truly fine dark comedy, leave this one on the shelf and watch "10" instead.
I caught this film on HBO and it was really quite a remarkable experience.
I had never heard of it before, and checking the "External Reviews" Link,
I'm surprised so little of the mass critic media never reviewed it, such as
The title of this film is completely deceptive.. you'd think it's a kiddie film.. trust me, it's anything but. It has NOTHING to do with "Little LuLu" or kids for that matter.
This is a deeply disturbing, involving, dark, mysterious mystery/romance/thriller with some fantasy elements, but totally without glitz or pretension, beautifully filmed and acted, with a twist ending right out of Ambrose Bierce. Saying any more about the plot would spoil it, so that's all you get out of me..
I will say this.. if you enjoyed "Jacobs Ladder" you'll like this one.
Even more so, if the title "Occurance At Owl Creek Bridge" means anything to you, then you'll know what I'm talking about.
As to the two leads: Mira Sorvino is absolutely stunningly beautiful and radiant and you simply can NOT take your eyes off her.. she goes through a myriad of hairstyles and styles of clothing, everything from bed-wear (lingerie), to around-town casual, to elaborate film costuming (she acts in a film towards the end of _this_ film), and she is totally convincing, believable, and riveting.
Harvey Keitel delivers an absolutely gut-wrenching performance - as good as anything I've ever seen him do.. considering the emotions required of his character, and what he's put through, he too is totally convincing and riveting.
Here you have a pair of leads who spend a LOT of on-screen time together in a VERY complicated and mysterious relationship and they meld with each other almost perfectly.
The supporting cast is also excellent. Willem DaFoe does fine work in one of his dark, sinister trademark characters. The other big-name actors, including a cameo by Lou Reed as "Not Lou Reed" are solid as you could want.
This is an engrossing, engaging, adult film that for some reason, the critics almost completely ignored. Why?
If you sit down to watch it, watch it from end to end without interruptions.. you will be drawn into it, and involved and aborbed in it and when it ends, quite unexpectedly, you'll be left with some very interesting emotions.
If only they had given it a more suitable title..
9 out of 10 on a scale of 10.
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