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I just could not get involved with this mess.
16 June 2007
I'm not a great follower of the Marvel Comics pantheon of heroes, 'tho I recall the Silver Surfer's appearance. I thought the concept was silly then and I still think it's silly. But, I was prepared to accept it in the spirit of a fun time at the movies.

Maybe I didn't get enough sleep the night before, but for whatever reason,I sat in the theater totally incapable of connecting with the characters or the story. Perhaps this was because most of the characters seemed to be acting or speaking to be "funny." Humor of this sort can work, but here it seemed totally artificial and forced.

As in most CG-intensive movies, there were scenes that were outstandingly impossible. Impossible doesn't need to mean unbelievable, but when it does -- as it does here -- the story falls apart under the burden of computer graphics trying to substitute for a story.

The admission ticket plus the snax would have easily paid for the upcoming DVD, and more than paid for renting it. Your TV is where this movie belongs, preferably when it's free on a movie channel, or even later when it's on broadcast TV. You won't miss anything by waiting, and you'll probably enjoy watching it in an environment where you can pause the movie to get something to eat, answer the door, call your friends, or consume drink after drink.

It's that bad.
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King Kong (2005)
Suspension of disbelief suspended
31 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The willing suspension of disbelief is what allows us to enjoy movies. We know that Jack and Rose didn't exist, yet we accept it as part of the story. Similarly, we would head for the nearest psychiatrist if a baseball field suddenly appeared in the middle of our corn crop, yet in "Field of Dreams", it's openly accepted, without question. It's the MacGuffin, and almost all movies have one.

But somehow it didn't work in KK. Perhaps I'm too literal, but given the obvious work and intelligence that went into the film, these three problems kept dragging me out of the story and back into my theater seat when I saw them. Maybe they won't bother you, but both I and the friend I saw the movie with noticed them.

1. For the story, I can accept that KK holds the heroine in his hand while he goes about running, jumping, and killing assorted beasties. Yet his movements in CGI were so abrupt that poor Ann Darrow would have suffered severe whiplash at best, and most likely, a broken neck. In a movie as CGI-dependent as this remake of King Kong, ignoring basic physics like this is as inexcusable as having the ship rise and float above the rocks near Skull island.

2. Later, in New York, in mid-winter, Ann stays outdoors with KK for what must be several hours, dressed in the thinnest of dresses, yet never once seems even the least chilly. The poor lady would have frostbite by the time she reached the Empire State Building. Forget climbing ladders; she would have been lucky to have used her hands at all.

3. Finally, it's windy near the top of the ESB. Very windy. The St. Louis arch is considerably shorter than the ESB, yet service people need to tie themselves securely with ropes before they change the aircraft warning light because the wind is so treacherous.

I was tremendously disappointed that someone with the genius to direct the exceptional "Lord of the Rings" could treat the intelligence of his audience so cavalierly. The audiences of 1933 would have been caught up in the unique stop-motion spectacle that was the original "King Kong." The audience of 2005/6 accepts the more sophisticated CGI of the present, yet that very sophistication demands more attention to the physics of the real world in making the effects work.

You can't remake a classic; you can just re-imagine it. But to make it work for the current audience, you must accept that the current audience is not the same audience that saw the original. They are not in the same time. They are not in the same space.

King Kong didn't do this, and that's a great shame.
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Forgive and Forget (2000 TV Movie)
This could have been a contender
8 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I enjoyed watching Steve John Sheppard and John Simm in the lead roles. They handled their parts as competently as the script allowed.

The script, unfortunately, is the problem. It appears that homophobia is alive and well in the UK, as is the convention that gay romances must end in violence to show how unspeakably nasty the gay character is.

Boy comes out. Admits to his best friend of 14 years that he loves him (on a Jerry Springer type of show, no less). Father throws boy out of house. Ex-best-friend assaults him with a pipe. End of movie.

This is formulaic to the point that reactions are not developed. The scriptwriter assumes that the audience will use their own prejudices to help advance the development of the story and, thus, things occur without background exploration. They just happen, in a typical homophobic way.

The mother makes a homophobic comment about an ex-schoolmate, but it's she who supports her son when he comes out. The father--for no reason we're given--throws the boy out of the house. The best friend of 14 years seems to have ignored the signals that must have come from a close relationship of that length. If this is typical of UK television, I'll stick with HBO and Cinemax, thank you.

Rent the movie if you must, but don't buy it. That will just encourage more of this type of tripe being produced in the future.
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The South Park movie has the same theme but it's more fun!
14 March 2002
I am reviewing this movie as a movie. Period. Not as dogma.

The Omega Code 2 is a rip-off of South Park, The Omen, The Bible, and the paying public. Cinematography and sound editing were good. Special effects were about par for a made-for-TV movie. Writing: pompous. Acting: pompous and wooden in varying amounts. Story: nearly unintelligible at times; logic and continuity were sorely absent. Ending: abrupt, as if the producers ran out of funding.

There were several opportunities for Michael Biehn to burst into song with South Park's "What Would Brian Boitano Do" but he never did. Of course, an anti-European version of "Blame Canada" would have also been appropriate at times, given this film's obvious identification of Europe as the source of the Anti-Christ.

I'm also confused about the "miracles" at the end. They seem more Old Testament than New Testament. All of the really flashy miracles occurred before Jesus was born. Those in the movie appear largely taken from the finale of the first Indiana Jones movie and Close encounters. Spielberg should sue!

Military accuracy was courtesy of GI Joe. In an all-time low, General Eduardo Yáñez was wearing both four stars AND Warrant Officer insignia on his lapels. From his medals, Michael York served in the Vietnam conflict (as a European?)! He also wore not one but two gold laniards normally worn by Generals' aides.

Movies can, and often do, present a viewpoint within the story. This is best managed with a light touch and a gentle hand, and it can cause the audience to take a moment to think and examine their beliefs. However, Omega Code 2 does this so unskillfully that the story shudders to a halt while this antagonist or that protagonist expound on their views. That the acting is both overblown and wooden is a combination that boggles the mind. That the dialog was written by someone with no sense of the cadence of spoken words is a showstopper - and not in the adulatory sense.

In conclusion, to view this movie at its best, watch it with the South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut soundtrack in mind, and decide which songs would best go where. That will give you at least minimal entertainment from this flick. If you don't like South Park, rent Dogma. It's a far better film. And probably better theology.

The Omega Code 2 should make all self-respecting born-again Christians crawl back into the womb.
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6/10 captures reaction, not explanation.
3 October 2001
Cinéma-vérité is difficult. Telling a story by capturing reactions requires extensive filming, tight editing, and a clear sense of the documentary's purpose.

Unfortunately, I found the sense of purpose lacking in I understand that you often don't know where you're going when you start, but still, if the documentary is to work, the viewer must be able to follow the events and relate through them to the subjects.

The beginning, rise, and eventual fall of govWorks happened. But I have no idea which events were key in any of these phases. Perhaps the story was too complex to tell without stepping outside the cinéma-vérité format for some explanation of events. Still, that is the director's and editor's responsibility, not mine as a viewer. is a good movie if you want to see two old friends talk and argue with one another about the company they're trying to build. But if you're trying to learn the facts behind the rise and fall, you'll wonder where the "meat" of the story is. is worth watching when it comes on cable. However, I think you'd be better off spending the price of the DVD on any number of books at your local bookseller.
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Thank heavens it was only 90 minutes long!
22 July 2001
To me the first Jurassic Park was magical. I saw a fully imagined world with seamless (for that time) computer-generated dinosaurs.

By the second movie much of the magic was gone to be replaced with Saturday-afternoon-matinee action. And by the third, I simply couldn't get involved with any of the characters.

CGI can enhance a movie if there's a story. But if you can't identify with the story you can't identify with the CGI, except to notice its professionalism. The actors for the most part did a good, professional job. But they couldn't act past the limitations of the script or the limitations of the story.

Unfortunately, JP III is one of the movies where I kept glancing at my watch and waiting for 90 minutes to pass. I suspect it might be better suited to video than to a theater, since part of the theater experience is audience participation, and audience participation was painfully lacking during this movie.
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The last half hour of the movie is very loud.
12 May 2001
I went to The Mummy Returns expecting to enjoy a couple of hours of action and some great special effects. But for some reason, the picture just didn't pull together for me into a coherent whole. There were about a half dozen young teens in front of me and I expected they'd be noisy, but they just sat there - no reaction at all to the movie.

I suspect this might play better on a TV at home. It's not the traditional small movie, but for all its effects and noise it never reaches the status of "large" movie that deserves an auditorium viewing.
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What makes a movie enjoyable?
1 August 2000
I'm not sure what makes a movie enjoyable, but with home video I think I can say that, for whatever reason, movies I watch several times are enjoyable.

"The Hunt for Red October" is near the top of that list. I bought it in LaserDisc, later in LD AC-3, and finally in DVD. I've watched it probably 15 or 20 times, and unlike a lot of replays of movies, I keep getting drawn into the story. I can't leave it on just as background noise!

I know that my number of viewings don't approach Gene Siskel's viewing of "Saturday Night Fever," but as that movie was to him, "Red October" is a guilty pleasure to me.

Two things stand out for me. First is the music. Poledouris' score had me so convinced that it was classical Russian music that I was scouring the library to try and find it!

Second was the extremely inventive handling of a foreign language in an American movie. The first few minutes have conventional subtitles. But soon, in Captain Ramius' (Connery's) cabin, the political officer (Firth) begins quoting Ramius' wife's bible. The camera closes in on him reading it in Russian. After reaching a closeup of Firth's mouth, the camera pulls back and Firth begins speaking English. This trick is repeated near the end of the move when Ramius and his crew speak Russian to Ryan (Baldwin), who speaks some Russian. We hear the words in English, but American sailors obviously can't understand what the Russians saying without Ryan's interpretation.

There's scarcely a wasted moment in this film. And, although you'll have a good idea how the movie will end, getting there is more than half the fun. It's a lot of fun, and it will be as you revisit the characters.

If you've read Clancy's novel, you'll find the movie a little disjointed. But if you see the movie first, you'll probably wonder why the book wasn't as succinct.

Acting is top notch. And aside from Connery's odd behavior at the meal in the officers' mess, when he seems to ignore the concerns of the officers he chose to join him in his adventure, all the characters have consistent behavior. If the inside of the submarines don't represent subs, then subs should be changed, since this movie shows what they SHOULD look like!

Rent this movie, or better yet, buy it on tape or DVD. You'll watch it many times in the coming years, and buying it now will save you lots of rental costs later.

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On the Beach (2000 TV Movie)
Excellent, but probably the most depressing movie I've ever seen!
30 May 2000
Nightmares are very personal things. Probably because I was in the military at a time when nuclear war seemed more probable than it does now I occasionally had nightmares involving nuclear weapons - the end of all things I hold dear. Regardless of what that says about me, it is a problem that has not been resolved with the end of the Cold War.

I had read some negative reviews about Showtime's remake of the classic picture, so I wasn't sure it was worth watching. That was a mistake as large as the one that frames "On the Beach." This version far surpasses the original in presentation, depth of character, and, of course, effects.

Quite simply, "On the Beach" is the story of the crew of the last surviving American submarine, an Australian Naval officer, and that officer's wife and friends. A nuclear holocaust has created a cloud of radioactive dust that destroyed all life in the Northern hemisphere and is gradually making its way south. Worse, the Australian survivors have a good idea of when the radioactivity will arrive and kill them. When it does, humanity, and presumably most other life, will vanish from the planet. We may as well not have existed.

I've felt up until now that the 1959 classic with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner was the most depressing film ever made. However, director Russell Mulcahy and an excellent cast including Armande Assante, Rachel Ward, and Grant Bowler make the 1959 version seem stilted and pale by comparison. This remake - perhaps reinterpretation is a better word - gives the characters a depth that now seems missing in the original film. Commander Towers displays an increasing disorientation as the film progresses. Moira has more to her character than that of a lush. And Lt. Holmes is clearly not happy about the time spent away from his wife who, in this version, better illuminates her increasing disconnection from the real world.

Still, I find one thing missing from both films. Dylan Thomas exhorted us not to go gently into that good night. Yet Australians and Americans - at least those in Alaska - seem to have no trouble taking suicide pills (with injections for pets and children - seems like it should have been the other way around.) There is a great ethical issue in taking the pills and injections that is not explored in either version, and yet what deserves more ethical and moral debate than whether it is human, in the best sense of the term, to slip silently and uncomplainingly from life? Aside from the insanity of humanity eliminating all higher life on the planet, this lack of exploration of ethical issues is the point that most bothered me about "On the Beach."

I've not read the book so I can't comment on which picture is closer to it. I will say that I think the ending of the newer version seemed at odds with Towers' character - perhaps it was merely a fantasy of Moira while she was dying, or perhaps a critical scene was deleted for timing. I hope it was not just the tendency of modern film makers to sweeten the ending! The earlier movie is much more consistent with Dwight Power's character.

So. This is a movie well worth three hours of your life. Aside from occasional histrionics from Julian Osborne in both versions, it presents people going about their lives as best they can. You are left to decide the meaning behind it, as we always are as individuals. There are no simple answers here, and even the questions the movie raises aren't simple.

The movie will leave you depressed. That shows you're thinking. Perhaps there's no solution to the conundrum of stellar forces, chemicals, and biologics available as weapons. Some serious thinkers have postulated that the reason we don't receive any radio signals from others in the galaxy is that civilizations reach a certain level, and then, when they have learned to unleash powers far above what evolution trained them to comprehend, destroy themselves.

It's a serious thought and a serious movie. I recommend it highly. A solid 9+ from me.
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Trick (1999)
Funny, sweet, and frustrating
12 February 2000
Trick is a sweet, light romantic comedy. The hunt for love, and the frustration that goes with it is as universal as anything in life. If you ever saw someone and felt your heart pound, you'll love this movie, whether you're gay or straight. If you've every felt the fates throwing obstacles in your path, you'll love this movie.

There's no explicit sex here - at least no gay sex - but there's frustration as love tries to triumph but is defeated (or at least deferred) by the fates. That, to me, is one of the major charms of Trick.

The leads are all cute. If the male leads don't seem to have fully developed personalities, well, that goes with youth. And if you're getting frustrated by the story's path, the ending will resolve all, and do it well.

Trick deserves a nice quiet evening with your loved one, a bowl of popcorn, and the ability to relax and watch the story unfold. Be warned: You will be frustrated at the twists and turns. But at the end, you will smile and admire this movie for what it is - a sweet love story with a happy ending.
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Catch it before it leaves the theater!
22 August 1999
The Iron Giant has some of the best animation and one of the most adult stories I've seen from a U.S. firm in some time. Much of the animation was so smooth it must have been done on a computer - but it wasn't intrusive; it just made the story flow better visually.

The sole complaint I had was that there were kids in the theater whose parents had never taught how to behave in public. It was bad enough that the kids talked but even more inconsiderate that their parents were holding conversations with them!

So, aside from the danger of young kids in the audience, the Iron Giant is about as good a show as you're likely to see this year. And please see it in a theather - you'll lose a lot of the visual scope of the film if you wait for it on video.
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Xanadu (1980)
You had to be there to appreciate it!
19 July 1999
The early 80's, that is. The acting ranges from nonexistent to wildly overdone, the plot thin at best, the color uneven, and the sound - even on DVD - dynamically limited and lacking in both low bass and clear high treble (but the surround mix is very well done).

Still, Siskel's guilty pleasure was "Saturday Night Fever," Ebert's seems to be "Valley of the Dolls," and mine is "Xanadu!" There's something about the two set pieces that fascinate me more than they probably should. "Dancin'" - about half way through - mixes an 80's version of a 40's group with a Hollywood version of an 80's group. Whether you like the music, you should enjoy the unexpected moment when the two disparate styles merge.

And "Xanadu," the finale, mixes roller dancing, a low "high-wire" act, a group jerking around like miswired animatronic puppets, and Gene Kelly trying valiantly to stay upright while being pursued by a dancing posse on roller skates.

So tune out, turn up the volume, and pretend that you're back in the 80's. Oh, and leave your critical faculties in the other room. You won't need them and you won't want them while Xanadu does its best to take over the home theater. Go with the flow. Enjoy it!
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Excellent but too realistic for many viewers
28 April 1999
The story is excellent, the animation effective, but the lack of in-between frames is intrusive in spots. For the full story, read the graphic novels. They provide an even more effective tale.

As with Nosaka's "Grave of the Fireflies," Gen deals with a Japanese youth in the waning days of WW II. The first 30 minutes shows him to be typical for his stage of life, swinging between a self-centered boy and an adult. He is suddenly thrust into the position of head of the family after the Hiroshima bomb kills his father, brother, and sister, and destroys the city. The remainder of the movie deals with his transformation into an adult, with adult sensibilities and adult responsibilities.

Gen is clearly a Japanese story - the author, Nakazawa, lived through the event as a child. But the story could have taken place in Dresden or London just as easily. Although the atomic bomb is the event the movie revolves around, the story is really about the people - the children - and the effect the event has on their lives.

It's too bad that so much of the books had to be sacrificed to the time limits of a film. The novels delve much more deeply into the cruel society that Japan was in the 1940s. For example, much more was made of the neighbor's Korean background in the book; in the movie, you wouldn't realize the ethnicity if you didn't think about the name.

As a conventional film, Gen would probably be too honest to find real appeal in the U.S. Worse, the animation format will probably dissuade those who would otherwise see and appreciate it. Like most Japanese anime, this is not a "cartoon." It is a serious film in an unconventional - for the U.S. - medium.

The DVD transfer is excellent and belongs in your collection. This is a movie that continues to educate and enlighten with each viewing.
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Armageddon (1998)
It blew!
14 January 1999
"It's gonna blow," the characters said many times in the movie. And it did.

Armageddon blows. MTV-style edits, loud, LOUD special effects.

Suspend belief. Suspend everything. Armageddon still blows.

One-word summary: Sucks!
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