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Suspiciously distant and un-engaging, though the film has more than enough redeeming values
Steven Spielberg's Amistad is more of a lesson in history and the brutalities of mankind than an effective narrative, but as one, it's not only informative, but often entertaining. Though the length is ridiculously long (don't get me wrong, I enjoy long films, though not when the story itself is this poorly developed) and the scenes rarely make as much of an impact as they should, the acting is absolutely mesmerizing. Throw in fabulous cinematography and a heartbreaking flashback (the films best scene), and you have the makings of a great film, though it isn't quite there as it is.
So kill me - I enjoyed it
I can, however, understand the almost universally negative press for this film. Hannibal is a movie made to be enjoyed rather than admired. It's briskly paced, meanders back and forth, requires an incredible suspension of disbelief, yet is so much fun it's scary. Or is it the other way around?
This film's predecessor, the acclaimed Silence of the Lambs, is the opposite of Hannibal in that it is a movie made to be admired more than enjoyed. And admire it I did, but I did not particularly enjoy it. I am unfortunately part of a generation greatly desensitized towards violence and gore, so the film did not even begin to scare me (which is ironic, considering both Angela's Ashes and Sleepers, two films not intended as horrors, did scare me), and I wasn't particularly impressed by the formulaic ending, most likely because it has been duplicated to no end in countless B movies.
Hannibal was a refreshing change of pace, a Hollywood blockbuster that's actually fun, a rarity in the days of mindless trash like Armageddon. Gary Oldman just sits back and has a good time playing his character, the villain of the piece, for laughs, and Julianne Moore is unexpectantly good in playing a slightly older version of Jodie Foster's naive Clarice Starling. Ray Liotta is hilarious in his first successful comedy role (though it generally isn't meant as such), and Anthony Hopkins delivers a deliciously over the top performance as Hannibal.
The locations, especially those in Italy, are stunning and beautifully shot, and director Ridley Scott thankfully doesn't take the material seriously. I'm surprised that there hasn't been more spoofs of this film, as the material seems perfect to take a few shots at. I did my own spoof of the film that fared incredibly well, and I know that Dr. Dolittle 2 had a scene which spoofed it, but that's it, to my knowledge at least.
Bottom line: You could do a lot worse, this is good material if you're looking for a mindless thriller
A tedious act in self-indulgence, I couldn't even make it through the whole thing
Hurlyburly is hands down the worst film I've ever had the misfortune of seeing. For starters, it doesn't have a single sympathetic character, let alone one that the audience can even bear to share two hours with. It's slow paced (that can be a good thing - just look at Shadowlands, but it isn't here), boring beyond belief, and just plain annoying. Watching a few characters we despise in the first place self destruct is not my idea of a good time. It even got to the point where I just turned it off, after an hour or so. I'm surprised that I even got that far.
It's labelled as a comedy, but garners only a single laugh, in the first five minutes. Sadly, the film boasts an outstanding cast (sadly because I wish that they had gotten together on a better project). Though I'm not a fan of Sean Penn, Chazz Palminteri or Garry Shandling, I respect the work they've done in the past, and there's no doubt in my mind that they are good actors. Both Anna Paquin and Meg Ryan, two of the best actors in their respective generations, are underused, but again, neither are playing characters you'd want to see overused. Kevin Spacey is, besides Haley Joel Osment, my favorite actor (yet, ironically, Pay it Forward, which featured both of them, was a beyond mediocre film), but it seems that he picks films that really aren't very good, or have box office prospects, either of which necessary. He was in Swimming With Sharks, one of my favorite films of all time, American Beauty, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and a few other great films. That is the Kevin Spacey who is one of my favorite actors. But that same actor was also in the substandard Big Kahuna (another picture without any characters with redeeming qualities), Doomsday Gun, and now this.
The sets are bland, the writing uninspired, the story nonexistent and the actors wasted (in more ways than one). Do yourself a favor and give this a hearty pass. Actually, what I'm trying to get at is: AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS.
0/10 (yeah, that's right, it's a first for me)
The Fugitive (2000)
All gloss and no substance, very Bruckheimer like, but still entertaining
"The Fugitive" is no classic, but it was a good series nonetheless. I caught the first dozen or so episodes of the season, then just lost interest because of the repetitive plotline and bland characterizations. The individual episodes were great, it's just that they were so similar to each other! Ever seen the same movie more than three or four times and just got sick of it? That's what happened with this series...
However, it was still entertaining, with a good score, tight direction and strong performances by the two leads. However, due to mediocre ratings and a high cost ($2 million average per episode, making it the most expensive series on TV), CBS axed it after just one season. And yes, there was a series finale rather than just finishing it without a conclusion, but it probably would've been better without the finale... (possible spoiler), as Dr. Richard Kimble, played by Tim Daly, was just shot in an alleyway, clearly a last minute add on after the series was killed.
Annoying bland and faceless
To give any sort of praise 'Brainscan', a film coincidentaly lacking a brain, requires you be either a teenage girl with a crush on Edward Furlong, or a 20 something video gameaholic. The movie itself is bleak and tedious, completely deprived of any resemblence of what could be humor. The script is contrived and cheesy, with awful dialogue and no memorable lines whatsoever. Furlong, in my opinion one of the worst actors to ever grace the silver screen, lacks the charisma to make the lead character fun to watch, and he doesn't even succeed in making the character the least bit likeable. All in all, this superficial thriller has pretty much no redeeming factors, though you could, theoretically, do worse.
Miss Congeniality (2000)
Finally Bullock gets a hit
After a seemingly never ending streak of box office (and critical) bombs, Sandra Bullock gets her first hit in a long time. Though the movie itself may be little more than a dressed up sitcom with fancy sets, special effects and acting, you can't help but resist it's charm and end up throwing away your expectations and just immerse yourself in the world of the film, laughing along at every moment. This is Bullock's first film in a long time that actually isn't a chick flick (I'm a 15 year old guy who can't stand chick flicks, but I loved this movie), and it's a lot of fun, as long as you don't take it seriously.
It starts off slowly and your interest will inevitably waver a bit at the beginning, but the laughs start piling on top of each other fast and furiously soon. Bratt is just plain annoying (a brat, if you will), but the rest of the cast is great. Besides Bullock, there's Candice Bergen is a great villainous turn and William Shatner as a seasoned beauty pageant host, among a slew of others. Sure the films' contrived and unoriginal, but it's a lot of fun, and you can't resist it. So stop poking holes in the wafer thin plot or saying the characters are thin and undeveloped and just realize that it wasn't meant to be taken seriously, it's a lightweight comedy and should be treated as such.
Open Mike with Mike Bullard (1997)
Funny, in a corny sort of way
I know that many people will disagree with me, but Mike Bullard isn't a bad talk show host. He definitely can't hold his own against Leno or especially the great Conan O'Brien, but he's original and often pretty funny, and is the best Canada will ever have. For the first few seasons of the show, the guests were all no names, and only recently have they started getting higher profile stars (Leslie Nielsen and Ricky Martin in recent weaks). The most refreshing aspect of the show is the daily "make fun of the audience" segment (not actually titled that, but you get the idea).
He seems shy around the guests though, and the interviews usually suffer because of this, but he's great before them. As for the show, technically it's perfect, with good lighting and great sound, not to mention good camera work and graphics.
Look Who's Talking Now (1993)
Enjoyable and fun... until the ending
I couldn't resist the temptation, and I found myself liking 'Look Who's Talking Now', even though I knew it wasn't really a... what's the word I'm looking for here... good movie? I think it was because I had gone into it expecting absolutely nothing. It's not the kind of movie that'll change your life, and you'll probably forget you had even seen it the next morning, but it's fun and lightweight, just as films in this genre should be.
The last week, I've gone a movie watching spree, watching at least eleven films in seven days, and this is probably the biggest treasure out of the bunch, if only because it was so much better than I had hoped. Angela's Ashes, The Running Man, Blow, Memento, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Empire of the Sun, Paper Moon, Jacob's Ladder, Leaving Las Vegas, Along Came a Spider, The Stand, the list goes on and on, and, of all those films, this is the one that stands out... if you can believe that. Of course it had it's share of flaws, probably more than the rest of those movies combined, but hey, it just added to the fun instead of detract from it.
I did see Look Who's Talking. I hated it. I hated it with a passion. That was a year ago. Why I hated it, I don't know. I just know that I didn't like it at all. The only reason I rented this movie, it's SECOND sequel, was to see how the series had deteriorated since the first film. Well, if nothing else, it's really improved. I haven't seen the second in the series, but I doubt it could even begin to match the third.
One can guess that Travolta didn't want to be here. You've gotta feel sorry for the guy. Once one of Hollywood's biggest stars, through the eighties he was reduced to parts in TV movies and bland films like The Experts. He struck box office gold in 1989 with the first Look Who's Talking, and then made a few wrong moves and was right back down at the bottom of Hollywood, even appearing in both of the sequels. Well, if he was bored here, he sure didn't show it. Though his performance seemed to wane a bit towards the end, he was engaging all the way through, and obviously didn't feel as though the material was below him like many actors would've had they been in his position.
Kirstie Alley, however, is entirely a different story. Never a particulary good actress, you have to wonder how she rose so high into Hollywood's elite, before plunging again after the first Look Who's Talking. Her screen presence here is non existent, and she is about as much fun to watch as this review probably is to read. Though she doesn't bring the whole film down with her, she comes pretty close at times, and for me at least, didn't garner a single laugh.
As the voices of the two dogs, Rocks and Daphne, Danny DeVito and Diane Keaton fare a lot better than Alley. Given some of the best lines in the film, they add a certain flare to their characters, making us believe that dogs actually can communicate with each other as illustrated here, even if it is clearly not possible. It takes real talent to make the audience believe that. Even if it is just through voice work, chemistry between the two is clearly evident, and you wish they had been given more scenes together, or even seperately. The writers seemed to forget about the dogs for long periods of time and focusing instead of the family, even though the movie was supposed to revolve around the dogs, at least according to the advertising.
Though she is third billed, Olympia Dukakis has little more than a cameo, given five or six lines at the absolute most. Rounding out the main cast was the two actors who played Travolta and Alley's kids, David Gallagher as Mikey and Tabitha Lupien as Julie. Lupien is funny at times, especially with her obsession with basketball star Charles Barkley, but it's clear that was too young to really know what was going on, and just following the orders of the director. She did have some good lines, and that wide eyed gaze she had is priceless. Gallagher, who was later cast as one of the leads on the television series 7th Heaven, is impressive here, turning in a surprisingly good performance for someone so young. Though his character was shallow and obviously wasn't drawn out much (strange considering he's on screen for most of the movie), he makes good use of the weak material given to him.
Spread out through the movie were five or six dream sequences. There's only one word to describe them, downright hilarious. Wait, that's two words. Oh well, they were really funny though. I'm not going to go through describing them, you'll have to see them for yourselves, but take my word on it, it doesn't get much funnier than that folks.
Well, I've spent long enough praising the movie, now to the flaws I mentioned earlier. For one, I don't know if this was the fault of the boom operator or if it was my particular cassette, but the on location audio was dreadful. The voices were muffled and hard to understand, and it weakened the impact of many of the dialogue based jokes. Any chemistry between Travolta and Alley that may have existed in the first Look Who's Talking has vanished. Though many may not agree with me, I put the majority of the blame on Alley, who probably took this role only because of the paycheck.
The last third of the movie, especially the sappy happy ending, is contrived beyond belief and not the least bit funny. It's as if the producers hired a seperate writer for the ending, the style is that much different from the rest of the movie. The songs are unimaginably bad. Well, it's not so much the songs, but the obtrusive way they were edited in, with the audio levels at least 50% higher than the rest of the movie. I'm not going to drone on and on, like I already have, so I'll end this quick.
Look Who's Talking Now is a surprisingly entertaining little movie, easily better than the lackluster first entry, just don't go in expecting too much (which shouldn't be too hard given the horrible reviews and low IMDb rating), because you're bound to be disappointed.
The General's Daughter (1999)
Meant for the Bruckheimer crowd, 'The General's Daughter' is lackluster escapism
It's obvious that this movie was made solely for those people that ignore critics and go see these mindless big budget summer blockbusters (Armageddon, Godzilla) no matter how shallow they truly are. I do have to admit, however, that the film is slickly done, with great direction by Simon West and a few good twists along the way. For once, I'd like to see one of these high octane directors (Michael Bay, West or Tony Scott) take on a project with some depth and complexity rather than these banal popcorn flicks. It'd be interesting to see how it'd turn out.
Travolta here is positively awful. It's clear that he took on this role for the paycheck rather than the script, and it shows. Though his character was poorly written and bland (so not all the fault falls on him), he looks tired and bored during most of the scenes, and is hardly any fun to watch. The rest of the cast turns in relatively weak performances, especially James Cromwell in a tedious outing as the villain of the piece. And to top it off, the audience really doesn't care what happens. None of the characters are the least bit likeable, the dialogue is flat and lifeless, and I knew I was just waiting for the film to finish up so I could go on with my life.
Simon West's direction and the high technical values are little reason to see this heartless, disappointing action flick
Paper Moon (1973)
Fun and enjoyable
'Paper Moon' is probably the biggest surprise I've encountered film wise in the fifteen years I've been on this planet. It's not the greatest film I've ever seen, not even close, but I turned it on expecting nothing and I got something, more than something, a wonderful piece of entertainment. It was three in the morning on a Sunday night and I had school starting in about five hours. I had just finished watching 'Empire of the Sun' for the first time, easily one of the best films I've seen, and when I turned the VCR off, it went to channel three, where this old black and white movie was playing. Seeing the cars and the quality of the picture, I immediately thought it was from the fifties or earlier, and decided to keep it on until I was tired.
Well, I ended up watching the whole thing. I was blown away by both Ryan O'Neal and especially Tatum O'Neal's performances, I can't believe she didn't become a bigger star. Great writing, and great chemistry between the leads (no wonder, they're father and daughter) make this one of the best films of the 70's.