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Lost Continent (1951)
An excruciating viewing experience
"Lost Continent" is one of the toughest cinematic experiences I have had for quite some time. I'm pretty sure even audiences way back in 1951 found it hard to sit through. There's nothing wrong with the basic premise (stumbling across a previously unknown prehistoric world), even though it's been done many times before. However, it's this particular execution that kills the movie. It is ridiculously padded out - there's endless talk before the protagonists start their journey, and once the journey starts, it takes an unbelievable amount of time before they really get to see the prehistoric world, mostly because (as others here have mentioned) there is a rock climbing sequence that doesn't know when to quit. Eventually we get to see some dinosaurs, but it's not worth the wait - there are only a handful of (short) special effect sequences depicting the dinosaurs, and the stop-motion effects portraying them are kind of amateurish. This is one movie that should have been lost.
Has everything it needs but a coherent script
I picked the Blu-ray of this movie from my local library more or less as random. Sometimes this way of choosing a movie can have you uncover an unknown gem. This particular movie, however, left me with mixed feelings. To a degree I can understand why others here at the IMDb have liked this movie so much. The direction is very atmospheric, managing to replicate at times what a real life dream can be like. The production values are solid for what couldn't have been a big budget. And actress Abigail Breslin does very well in the lead role, playing her role in a way that's likable, believable, and intelligent.
But as I indicated in my summary line, the script for this movie should have been worked on some more before filming started. It often doesn't make that much sense, with rules and events suddenly changed around for no particular reason at all. And what happened in the past to put Breslin's character and her family in their predicament doesn't seem all that clear apart from there seemingly being more than one explanation; I'm unsure how the killer got all of his power as well as victims in his clutches.
Despite the script problems, I admit that the movie did keep me watching to the very end. Any movie that can remain interesting despite major problems shouldn't be dismissed immediately. If you're willing to put up with a number of murky plot details, you may find this movie of some interest.
The Leech Woman (1960)
Kind of tough to sit through
This movie came out the same year as the Roger Corman production THE WASP WOMAN, which was also a movie concerning an aged woman discovering a secret procedure to make her younger, but with deadly consequences. I don't know if the similarities of the two movies was a coincidence, but the similarities are the only interest one can possibly find from this cinematic yawn. Though the movie is only seventy-seven minutes long, it soon becomes painfully clear that there is only enough story for maybe one of the stories in a multi-part horror anthology; this story is ridiculously stretched out. And there is nothing particularly interesting along the way; the story is very predictable, and the so- called horror is flat. Is there any unintentional camp? Maybe in a few places, but it's not aggressive or plentiful enough to make the movie entertaining on a so-bad-it's-good level. This movie will make you feel your alertness leeched out enough to quickly put you to sleep.
Ted 2 (2015)
Uneven, but there are many comedies that are a lot worse
I thought that the first "Ted" movie was a decent comedy - far from a classic, but I did laugh enough that I was glad to have seen it. Despite this, I was a little wary about seeing this sequel, knowing how inferior sequels usually are as well as the fact that Seth MacFarlane's "A Million Ways To Die In The West" was mostly a misfire. But I ultimately decided to give this sequel a chance when I got the opportunity to see it for free via my local library.
First I will give MacFarlane credit for coming up with a premise for this sequel that, unlike many sequels, gives a fresh premise instead of recycling the same basic story - the desire for Ted to be legally classified a human. The satiric possibilities for this are endless. Surprisingly, though, the movie does not spend too much time in direct focus on this. There are short bursts of this plot from time to time, with lengthy focus on generating other kinds of gags in between.
Actually, that isn't as bad as it sounds, because these gags are often at times very funny; I did laugh a good amount of times throughout the movie. Though MacFarlane and his co-writers do try too often to generate gags through shock alone instead of making the humor more creative. A bigger problem, however, is that the screenplay is much too long and slow. Now, I watched the unrated version of the movie, which is nine minutes longer than the theatrical version - that might have contributed to this problem. But I think that viewers who watch the shorter version will notice how thin and slow the story is.
If you really liked the first movie - and are in a patient mood - you'll probably find a good amount of "Ted 2" to be entertaining despite its often greatly uneven nature. It will probably help if you manage to see it for free as I did.
Yi ge ren de wu lin (2014)
It's not outright bad, but it is a little disappointing.
I'm always up for a good old Hong Kong martial arts action film, so when I found the Blu-ray for this movie in my library, I snatched it up. But as I said in my summary line, I found the movie somewhat of a letdown. It's not a BAD movie; it does have some genuine merit. The production values are excellent, from the cinematography to the sets. And the fight sequences, particularly the climatic bout, do have some genuine excitement. But all the same, I felt the fights weren't as good as they could have been. They have the unfortunate trademark of many modern day Hong Kong martial arts movies - quick editing and the camera zoomed in really close. The best Hong Kong martial arts movies step back to see the performers in long takes. Another problem was that I didn't think that there were quite enough action sequences - a couple of more would have helped. This may explain why I often thought the plot to be slow moving, as well as lacking urgency. Die hard fans of Hong Kong martial arts movies might get enough out of this (not just with the many cameos of famous Hong Kong movie figures), but I would not recommend the movie to more casual viewers of Hong Kong filmmaking.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Amusing vampire comedy
After hearing so many good reports about this movie - and remembering that New Zealand has made some really funny offbeat comedies (like the early works of Peter Jackson) - I decided to give it a look. And for the most part, I am glad I gave it a chance. It is indeed very amusing at times. I think that the reason the movie is humorous is that it has a very warm viewpoint towards the characters. Yes, some of the acting is a little rough, but these characters come across as HUMAN despite being vampires. They have needs, they have weaknesses, and other attributes that we in the audience can identify with. You'll like them despite their blood sucking. Speaking of blood sucking, the gore and the special effects are quite good for what had to have been a really low budget.
If there is a weakness to this movie, it is in the story department. I realize the movie is a mockumentary following the characters in a day by day format (or make that night by night!), but for the longest time the movie is pretty episodic. After a while, you'll wish for some plot to come in to challenge the characters and add in some real drama. This lack of plot I believe holds the movie back from being great. But there's still enough here to make for a very enjoyable viewing.
Project Almanac (2015)
Sometimes intriguing, but too long and drawn out
It seems the "found footage" film genre is in no danger of dying out any time soon. This one at least tries to mix in another genre that has proved popular over the years, the time travel genre. Not only that, but it also makes the main characters teenagers. Naturally, with the movie covering more than one angle, the results are interesting at times. The screenplay does try to make the movie more intelligent and logical than usual - for example, the movie takes its time by showing the teens (realistically) making multiple tests on the time travel machine before trying it on themselves. And when they do start trying it on themselves, the actions they do one by one do seem believable.
Unfortunately, while I did appreciate (at first) this slow and methodical treatment, ultimately it backfired. The movie eventually becomes too long and too slow; it takes more than three quarters of the running time before the central characters find themselves in trouble. Curiously, while the movie is too long, there are some plot points that are never explained, like why all of a sudden the police are pursing the main character.
The movie probably would have worked better if it had taken a page from the 2012 found footage "Chronicle" - that movie had a good balance between showing enough planning and detail by the teens who find great power while bringing in conflict much earlier. (And the movie was twenty minutes shorter.) As it is, "Project Almanac" does have some interest and intelligence, but I think many viewers will soon become impatient with it.
Open Windows (2014)
Never dull, though eventually gets really hard to swallow
In yet another case of filmmaking coincidence, "Open Windows" shares the same idea as another movie made around the same time ("Unfriended") - that idea being a "live" (or "real time") movie seen almost entirely through computer screens. This effort goes a step further by eventually getting the characters out and moving around, which I admit does help prevent the movie from getting tedious. There are certainly some creepy and suspenseful moments, though I have to admit I found them mostly in the first half of the movie. Eventually, the movie gets really hard to swallow, with some really unbelievable revelations and actions by the various characters. And when you start to think about the movie after watching it, you'll be able to realize some additional plot holes. Also, the French accents of several characters are so thick that their dialogue is really hard to make up at times. Despite these problems, I admit that I was never bored by the movie, but all the same I felt unsatisfied at its end. "Unfriended" did it better despite being cheaper and less elaborate.
It's clear that writer/director Kevin Smith with this film was trying to be both funny and creepy - often both at the same time. But this particular mashup of two different genres doesn't really work. Horror comedies can work, but the two extremes usually have to find a shared tone. The comedy in this movie is extremely goofball, and the horror of the movie is really sick and twisted. So when the two meet, I honestly didn't know how to feel. Also, Smith seems to be sending a message with this movie, but I'm not sure what it is (unless maybe it's that while it may be funny to see someone in a situation of misfortune, it's not funny when it personally happens to you.) The movie is fairly well put together on a low budget, the acting is pretty good, and there are moments of dialogue that are very colorful. But aside from the basic problem with the movie I mentioned earlier, there are some real stupid things with the script (For example, why does the hero call his girlfriend and then his buddy when he's in trouble, and not the police?) And the concluding sequence is ludicrous and unrealistic, even for a movie that's partly goofball comedy. Fans of real bizarre cinema may get something out of this movie, but I think even they might have some serious issues with what they watch.
Walking Thunder (1997)
Unexceptional family film
I really enjoyed the family movie "The Long Road Home" by prolific family filmmaker Craig Clyde, so I sat down to watch Clyde's "Walking Thunder" with some enthusiasm. Sad to say, this particular effort is pretty disappointing. Like TLRH, this movie didn't have much of a budget; there's little in the way of production values, unless you count the admittedly spectacular Utah scenery. But TLRH had things to make up for the low budget like a solid script and good acting. This particular script is lumbering and padded out. (And what's with the set-in-present bookends? They don't add anything to the story!) The acting by the almost totally amateur cast is pretty mediocre. The one star in the cast (if you don't count narrator Brian Keith), John Denver, seems bewildered by his surroundings. About the only positive things to say about this exercise are the pretty good musical score and a balanced view about how Native Americans were in the frontier west. But these things aren't enough to prevent kids as well as their parents from fidgeting in their seats while watching this.