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Ecstasy drug, but no ecstasy to be found
This is an okay movie if you find yourself in awe of the local high school drama productions. Otherwise this movie is one you probably want to give a pass. Despite the promise of an ecstasy type drug (Ace), there's very little nudity or sex. Which is one of the plot holes of the movie: the drug seems to give about 30 seconds of sexual bliss, and then people start drinking other people's blood. So you have 30 seconds of great sex and then start killing people: who would take this drug? There's a toss away line about how the drug affects different people differently, but still, it hardly seems worth it.
The only decent sex-type scene is with Amanda Phillips solo. She manages to be more erotic with her clothes on (although how erotic can the drug be if you keep your clothes on after taking it?), then the other actresses who go topless. However, she doesn't seem to be hopelessly addicted. Phillips has some talent throughout, doing an amusing Renfield impersonation at some points, and conveying the paranoia of the drug in others. Hopefully she'll move on to bigger and better things.
The other actors are execrable. Todd Swift is the worst example, coming across as a poor man's Jake Busey. His character Matt has no redeeming social value whatsoever: moving in with his "friend" Tuesday (how that comes about is never explained), slipping her a drug, leaving her with the tab for delivery pizza, and casually blowing off the deaths of two of his friends. However, nobody else is any better, Ms. Phillips excepted. Swift just gets more screen time.
Plot holes abound. Tuesday apparently kills two of her friends, somehow tracking them several miles as they're driving in a car and passing over hundreds of other potential prey. As noted, the sex drug only seems to cause ecstasy for about 30 seconds. The zombie- victims go from bouts of insanity to perfect lucidity. Some of the zombie-vampires wear masks, which prevent them from actually biting people.
The movie also provides a near-perfect example of Chekhov's smoking gun maxim: the guys find a functional gun in an abandoned house for no particular reason, and you know they're going to end up using it later.
And despite their relatively short run time, the movie is hopelessly padded with scenes of people walking... and walking... and walking... and staring off into the dark trying to see something. And then more walking.
Production values are non-existent, and the flashback historical sequences seem to have been mounted by dropouts from the local SCA group.
Really not much to recommend for this one other then Scene 6, but you can watch for the unintentional camp value.
Tales from Beyond (2004)
Tales from Beyond... the garbage can
This doesn't quite plumb the depths of Creepshow 3, but it comes close. It also uses the same technique of using some of the same actors in multiple roles throughout the anthology, which is distracting to say the least.
It also rather irritating rips off The Twilight Zone (with the bookshop being comparable to Serling's later Night Gallery). Unfortunately, the producers & writers forgot that Serling would build up sympathy for his characters before messing them over. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic or interesting until the last segment.
Framing story: Adam West is... well, himself. He doesn't go the Bruce Wayne/Batman campy 60s route, but he rarely does. He simply plays the not-particularly-enigmatic "Jay" (there's an ominous spine-chilling name to compare to the likes of Dr. Terror, Eramus, and The Cryptkeeper), and makes some mildly awkward/creepy statements.
Abernathy: Seen Rod Serling's "A Stop in Willoughby"? Then you've seen this. The red herring of the nutso wife is introduced to no purpose, but even the main character's friend identifies him as a wimp. As well directed as can be expected, but basically incoherent.
Nex's Diner: Reminiscent of various Serling time travel stories, mixed with Steve Allen's "A Meeting of Minds." Most of the actors aren't too bad (except for Josh Astin as Cassius, who manages to walk, talk and even breathe awkwardly), and the idea is mildly interesting. But like Abernathy, it doesn't go anywhere. The main character raises some relatively reasonable questions, bugs out a bit (who wouldn't?), and for some reason he ends up banished to a nuclear wasteland.
Life Replay: Not a bad little piece, and manages to predate both Click and Creepshow 3. I suppose it says something that people are fascinated by the magical properties of remote controls. The main character is mildly sympathetic. Nothing substantially innovative here, but it's okay.
Fighting Spirit: You see the twist coming a mile away but like the main character, it has some heart and it's a decent story of defeat and redemption.
Finale: So... why do people end up in cold storage in silver lame suits? Don't know. And doesn't make sense. So... all the protagonists wandered into the bookstore and became trapped? Kinda undermines the happy ending with the boxer (thanks, guys!), and the guy in the first segment died. So how did he get trapped? Did he visit the bookstore before he died, got trapped and... didn't die? What? Huh? I supposer this isn't expected to make sense because it's supernatural. But still...
Overall: basically not dissimilar from the two newer Twilight Zone series, or some episodes of Tales From the Darkside or Monsters. The last two stories and part of the second are probably worth your time. But there's nothing really spectacular here.
Fat Albert (2004)
Movie with Heart & Courage - not much Brain
Generally I found Fat Albert entertaining. I'd have to disagree with some sites like screenit.com - I thought the whole "we're cartoon characters in the real world" thing was played pretty well, and consistently throughout. They're not portrayed as idiots (like in 'The Brady Bunch' movies) but rather as cartoon characters who both know their limitations, and start figuring out how to overcome them.
Generally the whole "message" thing was done pretty well, given who the film is aimed at. Most of the characters were pretty well done, and at least we didn't have to watch some Brittney/Lizzy Maguire/Amanda Byrnes clones have some kind of crisis. And of course the tribute at the end is good.
Main flaws were that the movie was kinda rushed - it's like, wait - who are half the Cosby Gang characters? For those of us not so grounded in the original series, it was kind of confusing - it took me half the movie to figure who had what name. Also, the last act thing didn't make much sense. They can only go back to the show at 2:30 once every 24 hours. So Bill and Rudy jump into the TV, Fat Albert stays behind, and suddenly...it's just under 24 hours later.
Also the whole bad guy/villain thing was pretty feeble - Reggie didn't make much of a real-world villain and the buck-buck thing in the cartoon wasn't much either. That part they could have skipped. Also the animation in the cartoon seemed...off. I thought I was watching Space Jam there for a bit. It's one time when they might have been better off not upgrading the animation style from the 70s stuff.
Overall though I'd rank it fairly high - there are worse ways to kill a few hours.
The Towering Inferno (1974)
Best Disaster Movie of the 70's?
Well, yes it is the best disaster flick of the 70s. But that's damning with faint praise. We've got Earthquake and Poseidon Adventure. Earthquake is just bad - Charlton Heston is the worst of the big-budget disaster actor-leads. Cruddy subplots, Marjoe Gortner as a sex-crazed National Guardsman, Walter Matthau embarrassing himself, and Victoria Principal in the worst 'fro in screen history. Poseidon - Gene Hackman in one of the worst portrayals of a man of the cloth in screen history, Eric Shea (arrgh), and Shelley Winter's death scene.
So Inferno is a classic by compare. Steve McQueen remains pretty much unscathed, Paul Newman seems only mildly embarrassed (what blackmail material did Irwin Allen have on him? - Paul ended up in Krakatoa, East of Java too), and Fred Astaire is charming. On the other hand, Robert Wagner gets the most embarrassing death in scene history ("I ran the 100 meter in college" - *snap crackle pop*) after trying to "hide" from a fire. "Be very very quiet - maybe it won't find us." And Richard Chamberlain is inexplicably made up to look like an Auton (that's for you Doctor Who fans). Sadly, the likes of Faye Dunaway and William Windom are reduced to non-entities, and O.J. remains a non-entity. And cripes, how many shots can Irwin Allen put his wife Sheila into? There's some shoddy blue-screening - usually in the mid-shots - the longer shots look okay but watch when Robert Vaughn and party go up the elevator, or McQueen holds on to the firefighter on the elevator. But the fire F/X sequences are good and there's decent miniature work. The plot is kinda non-linear - people wander in and out of the penthouse and you kinda lose track of how the firemen get in there, and Chamberlain leaves and comes back, and Newman and Mike Lookinland (who never says his dad is a better architect - one for you Brady Bunch fans) get up there. The setting has some potential for both claustrophobia and expanded outdoor/height stuff (unlike Poseidon Adventure) but sometimes it's a bit too "open". Overall it's pretty good though - watchable, at least, and it holds up fairly well unlike the other two big 70's disaster flicks.
Lovecraft my feathered a**.
H.P. Lovecraft rolls in his grave anytime someone compares his books to this flick. Me and my wife just watched the movie (thanks, AMC!) and god is the sleeping bag sequence funny. The kid doesn't just hit the rock - he frickin' EXPLODES into a cloud of feathers far larger then you'd find in any sleeping bag this side of a Himalayan expedition. Sorry, but if the Great Old Ones had turned their victims into feathers Lovecraft would be a long-forgotten hack and thankful for it. As to the rest...well, the film is certainly earnest. And there's an eeeevviil corporate tycoon type - poor Richard Dysart trying out a Maine accent. And watch poor Talia Shire when she discovers the mutant baby - she can't seem to decide if she's laughing or reacting in horror.
Director Frankenheimer tries his best to make this an artsy-fartsy "significant" movie but any hope he had is undercut by David Seltzer's pretentious script. He did this between Omen flicks and it has the same solemn earnestness of those flicks and all the way up to Dragonfly in '02. I think it's Seltzer's script more then Frankenheimer's directing that makes this a piece of garbage - Seltzer was big at the time and one suspects he had much more say in what appeared on screen then Frankenheimer did. Frankenheimer was on a downward slide here, though - his "The Challenge" in '82 is good for laughs but then he gave us the equally cringe-worthy Holcroft Covenant in '85. Maybe Seltzer's "talent" was contagious? Or maybe it's a curse and Prophecy represents some elaborate ritual on Seltzer's part to transfer his bad movie skills to Frankenheimer.
Either way, Prophecy remains a hilarious late 70's relic you really have to see to believe.
Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)
Depressing cookie-cutter family-flick
I found this an odd movie - despite the fact it's a supposed comedy, it reminded me of a gloomy version of Daddy Daycare. Turn loose some screaming kids and you've got 75% of your flick. Steve Martin seems oddly miscast - there's a few moments when he goes into his "schtick" that stand out like a sore thumb (like when Mom drives away to New York and he does "mad scientist Steve"). But basically this is a guy running his family into the ground because of putting his personal dreams before his kids. Wow, what a good cheery family concept! Yeah, by the end he's learned a valuable lesson (as presumably so have we), but one suspects most of the kids will be traumatized for life.
Bonnie Hunt is likeable enough as always - Tom Welling seems pretty much wasted as a sulky teenager who gets picked on and goes through several changes of character for no reason. I'm heading home, Dad. I'm moving out. I'm going to stay. I hate you. You were right. Welling doesn't have that much screen-time and it seems every time he appears on screen he's got a different personality. Hillary and Piper are tolerable. Ashton Kutcher is...well, Ashton Kutcher. He's annoying but since we're supposed to be rooting for the family against him, that's not too surprising. he's a bit too broad, though.
The movie really belongs to the kiddies - Bill Mumy's kid is cute, as is the Landis boy, a newcomer. They're all annoyingly precocious but that's pretty much par for the course with such movies. The supporting cast of non-family members don't have much to do and truth be told, the film is busy enough with the family subplots as it is. But sheesh, overall, this movie seems to go a bit too far into the third-act pit of depression and tragedy before pulling it together for an upbeat conclusion.
Good, but too fast
Generally enjoyable - Hyde, Nemo, Quartermain, etc., are well portrayed and there's plenty of subtle detail here. In fact the movie might be too subtle for many, who expect everything to be laid out for them. Whether that means Norrington and Robinson are just lazy, or figure that the audience should know who, say, Nemo is and don't want to talk down to them, I'm not sure.
The only three gripes I had were that a) Did they ever mention that Tom Sawyer's first name was "Tom"? If so, they must have jumped over it very very quickly. b) Wish they had mentioned Sherlock Holmes in conjunction with the revelation of Moriarty's identity. and c) Norrington's directoral style is all wrong for this - you can't bloody see what's going on? That works fine for, say, Blade, when they're fighting in a disco with strobe lights blaring. But that's what I felt I was watching here...and there's no disco, and no strobe lights (although he uses falling book pages to do the same thing). I should have said Nemo "appears to be" well portrayed - his fight scenes are so badly cut and quick-cut, who can tell for sure?
Director's Cut "Official"?
Not really. It's arguably better, but...I like how some people think that the Planet Zeist makes the whole thing impossible to be in the Highlander world, but guys in jet packs with ray guns arriving via time travel from "The Distant Past" somehow, someway, fits in with the Highlander continuity. Let's face it - time travel doesn't fit with any other Highlander movie or TV spin-off. The Director's cut makes H2 almost a tolerable movie, but it's still a stain on the whole Highlander mythos.
The Musketeer (2001)
What folks seem to be missing is that this isn't supposed to be that serious a movie. It kind of is, but no more so then, say, your average Hercules or Xena episode. It's no more true to the source material then those shows are to Greek myth (and the couple dozen other things Xena "borrowed" from, i.e., Caesar, Norse myth, etc.). I think some of the fight scenes they actually did in those shows, for that matter... And those shows did pretty well. Take this movie in the same spirit, and you should enjoy those shows. If you hate those shows, you're not going to like The Musketeer either.
Stunts A+, Acting C-
When XXX focuses on the action sequences, it does pretty well. Van Diesel's physical work is good, they blend him (as opposed to his stunt doubles) into the sequences pretty well, and the movie has just enough outlandish Bond-style stunts to work. The only thing odd is that the movie almost treats Diesel himself as a extreme sports star. Ever seen Gymkata? It's kind like that, where they set up Van Diesel to "Do something that spotlights your XTreme Sport Talent of parachuting/skateboarding/skiing/whatever". Except...Diesel doesn't have any such talents (as opposed to the guy in Gymkata who did). Weird.
When it comes to something besides action and one-liners, Van Diesel doesn't quite have it. His chemistry with Asia Argento (also good) is not very good, and he looks like a fish during his romance scenes. He also doesn't really capture the "Uncaring anarchist-type guy who learns to care when confronted by real anarchists! vibe that the movie requires of him.
Samuel Jackson is okay, the techno-geek is okay, and everyone else is...passable but forgettable. There are some odd filming and story decisions. The villain gets killed off prior to the climax, which leaves it curiously flat. The big build-up to the high-tech super-car is somewhat of a let down: Xander doesn't _use_ any of its capabilities. And for some reason the director felt obliged to intercut a high-volume super-fast chase sequence with shots of low-volume couples kissing and children playing - I guess to capture the pathos of what is going to be destroyed. Totally disrupts the flow.
Overall a good fast-action low-brainer kinda flick. It's basically a star vehicle for Van Diesel, and I'd like to see him succeed. But he needs to get in a little more work before he can pull it off entirely.