Reviews written by registered user

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100 reviews in total 
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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
CGI basically kills it, 4 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

All other weaknesses of this film aside (and there are several), it could have been an effective thriller if real people were used. I mean, why not go the extra mile and create real monsters? The cartoon ghouls are just not scary at all. They evoke laughter more than fear. When these CGI monsters open their jaws impossibly wide, it doesn't look scary, it looks stupid. Hollywood, buy a clue. Even when monsters are strapped to tables on labs, they're digital. It's utterly unbelievable.

Real effects could have made something of this movie, which otherwise is rather dull, with frequent flashbacks to before the apocalyptic virus wiped nearly everyone out and scenes of Will Smith picking corn, talking to mannequins and shooting golf balls. There is one horrible scene where Smith is watching SHREK and parroting the lines spoken on the screen.

But everything really falls apart because the protagonist is never threatened by anything real. SCOOBY DOO holds more thrills and suspense.

7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Oxygen in Space, 30 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Wow, this film just wasn't very good. Nothing wrong with the visual aspect, that I noticed, and the basic premise seems to be a sound one, but its execution and just about everything else about this movie stunk. You probably know the premise (JUMANJI in space), so no need for me to go over it.

But I bet you didn't know that there's oxygen in space. Or so this movie would have you believe. Aliens and a robot move around and about the house and liberally smash great big holes into the house but the inhabitants, two boys and their elder sister can breath just fine. One might chalk this up to this being a fantasy or some such, if not for the fact that the characters themselves make a point about the concern about air. Also, at one point, a couch is set on fire, set loose into deep space and continues burning, blithely unaware of the laws of physics.

As for the acting, the two boys and teenage girl are grating and their acting is not very good but I blame this on a terrible script. The actors do the best they can with the lines given.

As for the plot, it's just an exercise in random events. Let me cite a few examples. At one point, the game produces a gold card, granting the player a wish. What does the kid wish for, while they're flying around, lost in space, with a murderous robot in the basement, and aliens blowing firing laser cannons at their house, and they're constantly screaming at each other at the top of their lungs? He wishes for a football, signed by Brett Favre. No, really.

But the stupidity doesn't stop there. The sister quickly develops a crush on the Astronaut, a man who got rescued from space as a result of the boys playing the game. This Astronaut reveals to the older brother that he too played the game, got a gold card and wished his brother were never born. Thus he strongly cautions the the boy about what he wishes for (before he wishes for a football). This is significant because, later in the game, the same kid gets another gold card. This time he wishes for the Astronaut's brother to come back...

And then, we have a "twist." The vanished brother is none other than the younger brother. The Astronaut is none other than the older brother aged about 20 years and trapped in space from playing Zathura. The movie does nothing to explain this odd paradox (or anything else for that matter); you're just meant to accept it.

Of course, we're also either asked to accept or expected to forget that the Astronaut wasn't able to recognize his younger brother, nor his younger self, nor the sister who had a crush on him (btw, we're meant to find this particular development humorous). The only twist here is in the movie's logic.

13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Very little to like about this film, 14 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is an unlikable mess and somehow I got suckered in to watching the whole stupid thing. No well-ordered review here; I'm just going to list things about the movie I hated (which is just about everything).

At the beginning of the movie, there is a weird old man who wanders in. He knows a scandalous secret and comes to tell it. The secret is that one Rachel Zachary, living amongst her adopted white family for all her life, is not white herself but an Indian.

That's right, the film would have us believe that Rachel Zachary (Audrey Hepburn) is a full-blooded Indian (of the Kiowa tribe) somehow living amongst her adopted white family for a number of years before the secret is out. I could accept that she is a "half-breed" (and indeed I was under that impression for most of the film), which would go a long way towards explaining how the secret could be kept for so long, but, really, to reveal that she is a full-blooded Indian (and that she needs to be stripped down in order to confirm this) is simply an insult to the intelligence. BTW, the weird old man ends up getting hung, but I couldn't for the life of me say why.

This movie is making some sort of statement about racism. Well, if it wanted to give the idea that whites were racists against Indians, mission accomplished. Everybody in this movie hates Indians, and that includes Rachel, even after she finds out she is Indian. And at one point, after she makes the point that she is a Kiowa, her adopted brother, Ben (Lancaster) declares "only in blood, not in anything else." Let's just say my sympathies were not with the Zachary family from this point.

Actually, they had already lost my sympathies when Ben orders his youngest brother to kill a Kiowa who had come in peace. The Indians also learn Rachel's secret and want her back into the tribe. They're willing to barter for her and come to the Zachary home under a flag of truce. Then Ben gives his order, which effectively ends any peaceful negotiation. The Indians then besiege the Zachary home. But here I find even if my sympathies somehow were with the Zacharys, I would have little need to worry. Because every single shot the Zacharys fire, hits and kills and Indian. Every. Single. Shot. Even Rachel, conflicted over her heritage and loyalty to her family, manages to kill one without even trying. The Zacharys meanwhile, suffer one fatality, Mother Zachary. And the Kiowas don't seem to have a single firearm. Later, when the Zacharys are cornered in their cellar by a fair number of Kiowas, another brother of Rachel's comes to the rescue and turns the tide all by himself. It's another insult to the intelligence.

The reason Ben orders his brother to kill an Indian is because Rachel intended to go to the Kiowas willingly and Ben did as he did to prevent this (also, his family became ostracized after Rachel's secret was revealed, so Ben felt there was no way out in any case). But Ben's love for his sister is revealed to be more than fraternal, which is disturbing despite the obvious fact that Rachel is not his biological sister. Rachel, meanwhile, ends any doubt that she hates Indians when she murders one (who turns out to be her own, biological brother) at point blank range.

There is happy music at the end of the movie, when the Zacharys (sans Mom Zachary) walk out of their house and stand awkwardly in the sunshine, beholding all the dead Indians and a flock of birds flying in V formation, symbolizing...something...

Anyway, I detest this film. It makes me feel ill just thinking about it. I can completely understand why director John Huston didn't like it either.

Dead Snow (2009)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
As if they weren't bad enough when they were alive..., 9 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie isn't great or original by any stretch of the imagination. And it's certainly not as funny or clever as SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but it is entertaining enough in its own right. Still, again, not the roaring success it's made out to be. It's actually kind of spotty and it's mostly that it's reasonably well-paced that it isn't a disaster.

The movie includes the standard stupid teenagers or twenty-something vacation goers, in this movie, medical students, caught in an isolated place (references are even made to this by one of the ill-fated campers); in this case, a cabin in the snowy Norwegian mountains, just asking to get picked off by something; in this case, Nazi ghouls who, at one point are stealthy enough to swiftly run past a man to slit his throat or strong enough to physically pull apart another man's skull, then later fall down at will or have their heads kicked in and burst apart like rotten melons.

But it's not these incongruities that are the main problem. The film evidently has a twist at the end. Apparently, all the ghouls are after is a small box of treasure they'd amassed during WW2 and that one of the twenty-somethings found in a hole in the floor of the cabin. Apparently, it was finding this box that awakened the ghouls and one of the characters revealing it to them seems to appease them. But if this is the case, it fails to explain why two other characters, who have nothing to do with the treasure, are killed. If the answer is that the ghouls kill because they are ghouls, then what's the big deal about the treasure?

But it has some good makeup and effects going for it and, as I said, it's well-paced. Certainly not the worst movie of its type.

Epic Movie (2007)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Ipecac Movie, 29 November 2009

It's disappointing enough to see Jennifer Coolidge and Fred Willard in this turd (I missed the Crispin Glover as Willie Wonka) but it's a severe disappointment to see Kal Penn in this, who'd recently starred in the thoughtful and, well, epic THE NAMESAKE. This is a rather extreme step down from that movie. Heck, this is a step down from HAROLD & KUMAR. IPECAC, sorry, EPIC MOVIE is just epic trash. Penn and the others named couldn't have been in this for anything more than the paycheck.

It's almost inconceivable that this was even meant to be funny. Almost as if the aim was to make a purposely unfunny movie and see who would be dumb enough to laugh.

Just RELENTLESSLY unfunny.

7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Excruciatingly dull, 16 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I dunno, maybe the fault is with me; I'm open to that possibility. But I just couldn't sit all the way through this one. I gave it about 2 hours (of its 160 minute running time) but it felt more like four. THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is one minute longer than this film but it's highly watchable from beginning to end.

I realize the movie was perhaps more character-driven than plot-driven, but that's still no excuse for a film to be this lugubriously paced. Check that, there is no pacing in this film. It just sort of rolls along like the clouds that are frequently and lovingly focused on in this movie. As with rolling clouds, it's hard to get a sense of movement in the movie.

To be fair, the cinematography and the photography is gorgeous but it doesn't make up for the lack of anything interesting going on. Characters sit around and talk a lot and there are a lot of what I think are supposed to be menacing and enigmatic looks from Jesse James but which only really added to the overall tedium.

And here I thought ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST was slow. And it was, but it has absolutely nothing on THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES (and at least the former film had Claudia Cardinale to look at). WEST is actually 15 minutes longer than this film but I wouldn't be able to notice the the difference.

On a different note, it says on the Trivia page that "When casting for the role of Robert Ford it came down to Casey Affleck and Shia LaBeouf. Affleck eventually got the role, because LaBeouf was felt to be too young." Weird, since Robert Ford was 20 and LeBeouf was 21 at the time of the film's release, while Casey Affleck was 32.

16 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
I will NEVER believe the hype again..., 8 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Or never pay 11 bucks for it again, anyway. All I've heard was good things about this movie and assumed it would be $11 well spent. Well, so much for that.

This movie is a "boy meets girl" fairy tale story, and I don't mean that in a good way. I know it's supposed to be uplifting and heartwarming but it rings hollow. It's based on nothing more than a gimmick. Seriously, this movie is about a series of improbable events and the rationale by which we're to believe it all is that it's destiny. And, the thing is, I'd buy into it if I could buy that the two characters (boy and girl) had any sort of chemistry. But they don't.

To sum up as briefly as possible: boy meets girl (who, along with his brother, is orphaned at a young age), then boy loses girl. Luckily, some years later, boy finds girl again. But, since his brother is a dick, he loses girl again (he loses contact with his brother as well). Some years after that, he is able to find her again (as well as his brother), but things are complicated. She has somehow fallen in with the wrong crowd and is married to a gangster, who then whisks her away, so boy again loses girl. But he doesn't give up and gets the idea to go on the popular game show "Who Wants to Me a Millionaire," which, he reasons, she'll be watching.

He then goes on the show and answers all but the last question before the show's hour is over. He then ends up at the police station where he is roughly interrogated on suspicion of cheating. It is this point at which the movie starts, and we are then given the rest of the story alluded to above via flashbacks. That is the film's narrative device, to show each question and flashing back to the point where the boy got the answer (except for a few questions for which he uses his lifelines). Turns out, each answer was gotten in the same order as the questions on the show.

As you can probably imagine, yes it's all HIGHLY improbable. ASTRONOMICALLY improbable even. But hey, it's DESTINY and the girl actually does come to watch the live broadcast of the game show and even ends up being one of his lifelines! (Although she doesn't know the answer – more on this later) Then they meet at an oddly empty train station, declare their love for each other and touch lips. Then they, and a bunch of mysteriously appearing other people, go into a funky Bollywood dance number over the end credits. YAY! Except not YAY! BOO! Again, I think I'd be willing to buy this fairy tale if the love angle between the boy and girl was in any way believable. But I didn't see it, feel it or believe it for a second. The characters barely had time to know each other. When the two first meet, they're about seven years old, i.e. a while before puberty, and together for a few days at best before they are separated. When they are reunited a few years lager, they are together for perhaps an even shorter time. When they meet still later, well the girl is hot, but the chemistry between the two still fails to come through, mostly because it's never adequately established before this. The fact that the two characters (as well as Salim) are played by three sets of actors (young, older, oldest) doesn't help. Thus the message of destiny ultimately falls flat.

The movie even poses a multiple choice question asking how Jamal could have known the answers to the WWTBAM questions. Choice A was "he cheated," choice D, "it is written" (I forget what the other two were). When I saw this, I had no idea that the answer would actually turn out to be D, "it's written." Yep, it's written alright. And do you know where it is written? In the script. I'm sorry to say, it really doesn't go any deeper than that.

A mess, 25 January 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hard to fathom how this scored a 7. It's also hard to say which is worse, SPIDER-MAN 3 or this turkey. I'll call it about even. Both feature shoddy plots and poor characterizations with dubious motivations.

The most egregious example in X-MEN 3 is the Jean/Grey Phoenix character. Jean Grey died in the 2nd movie and is reincarnated here as the Phoenix? Why? Because it happens in the comics, I guess. But what's missing from the comics is the story behind it all. I'll admit, I missed the first 20 minutes of this movie so I missed the actual resurrection but I somehow doubt I missed enough that it would have made any sense in this movie. Killing Cyclops and the Professor sure didn't make any sense. In short, the idea of the Phoenix is poorly realized here (for starters, the Phoenix-Force manifested itself as a bird of fire, not some sort of bug-eyed vampire queen). The filmmakers simply have no idea what to do with it. At the end, the solution is for Wolverine to stab her. Yay. (As a brief aside, Wolverine, it seems, is the only one who can approach the Phoenix because, while she is able to disintegrate everyone else, she can't do the same to Wolverine because he can instantly heal any damage done to him? How does this work exactly? Where does he get the biological material to patch up such terrible injuries? Is it magic?) Other characters hardly register. The new characters are just there, though admittedly there isn't enough time to develop their characters. But the established characters hardly fare any better.

I'd like to comment about the look of the film. The effects are nice but I'm finding less and less reason to give a movie good marks because of them. Good effects should be a given. Of course, so should a good story but I would suggest maybe it's not as easy to craft a good story as it is good effects.

Anyway, the characters all wear fancy leather uniforms in these movies because, supposedly, "spandex" would look stupid on film. But the movie outfits look stupid in their own right, with a few arguable exceptions, and lack the pizazz of the comics. Magneto looks sillier than most, certainly a ways sillier than his comic book counterpart, and would look silliest of all if it weren't for the film's Juggernaut character. I mean, were they serious about this? Did they really think this is an improvement over the comic depiction? I'm beginning to believe that it's not the comic book costumes that look silly, it's the filmmakers' inability to bring them properly to life. So we end up with these ugly "leather" uniforms. Blah. Meanwhile, Wolverine's hair looks atrocious. Storm's hair is actually an improvement over the banged wig but it's still not a style that works for the character. Lastly, I was never much of a fan of the casting in any of these films. Magneto, for instance, was never a wrinkled, joweled old man in the comics.

Anyway, to sum up, the movie lacks in just about every area except special effects but so what? I can only hope this really was the "Last Stand."

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
This simply can't be a movie about Superman, 6 January 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How could this have scored a 6.7 out of 10??? HOW??? This movie is a wreck, a disaster on practically every level. It fails as a Superman movie and as a movie period. Let me say I'm not a big fan of Superman. That's not to say I dislike him but he just never struck me as all that interesting. But he doesn't deserve this kind of treatment. Even I, a casual fan at best, am aware of the qualities that define him and the poser seen in this turkey lacks some the basic ones. To wit: - I can understand wanting to have a movie in which "Superman Returns" after a long absence, but you've got to come up with something better than that Superman learns of chunks of his home planet floating around and just HAS to go investigate. And these are chunks, right? So why assume there's going to be a habitable world? And, if this is so important, it should be worth an explanation to the people you're abandoning for 5 years, especially the love of your life instead of just taking off without a word? Then come back and expect everything to be as it was? Utterly ridiculous. And NOT Superman.

- The character this movie tries to pass off as Superman is seen STALKING Lois Lane. To be particular, he is spying and listening in on her. Again, this is NOT Superman. This is a super-powered creep.

- More creepiness: the kid Lois has seemingly conceived and is raising with her new husband is actually "Superman's" kid by Lois. At the film's conclusion, the character that looks like Superman is seen standing over his son's bed and saying something like "mumble, like the father, so the son, mumble mumble." Creepy as all HELL.

Random reasons why this movie otherwise sucks:

- The pacing is dull and plodding. The film seems more concerned with showing off effects than telling a story. The effects are nice, but who cares if there's no story and what little there is moves like a drunken snail?

- The characters are dull and plodding. Hardly any of these characters except, perhaps, for Spacey's, seem to exhibit any sort of pulse; not even the alleged comic relief character, Jimmy Olsen (played by Sam Huntington) who comes off more annoying than anything. Frank Langella, playing Perry Mason was just...there. Ditto for James Mardsen, playing Richard, Lois' husband. Lois (played by Kate Bosworth) shows some personality, but it's mostly annoying and her expressions show either a sense of mild annoyance and vague concern. Brandon Routh, playing the titular hero, comes off as a mannequin (I understand he wore blue contacts for the part but they look more like black. It adds to his creepiness). And the kid seemed positively catatonic, or at least bored. As for the villains, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor does his best (I suppose) but doesn't really do anything interesting and Parker Posey and Kal Penn (Kumar, of Harold and Kumar) barely register. The former mostly just struts around carrying a dog and crying and fretting a lot. The latter hardly even says a word. Their parts could have been played by anyone.

- Lois Lane is not only annoying, she is also an idiot, going alone into a strange place and taking her son with her. She also leaves her cel phone in the car with the window open.

- When Richard, Lois and her kid fly back to retrieve Superman (once again, putting the child at risk) the catatonic (or bored) kid casually mentions seeing Superman in the ocean. How long was casting held for this role, I wonder? It's a performance that would make George Lucas proud. Anyway (to my annoyance) we don't see what the kids sees, just a random POV shot of Superman in the water. Blah!

- The colors are drab and depressing. The red parts of Superman's costume reflect this being more of a dull burgundy, almost murky brown. And his cape looks like it's made out of vinyl. It's gag-inducing. And what's up with the 'S' on his belt? A bit redundant, no?

- Crystals that grow? Really? Okay, sure, whatever. But how about this plot of Luthor's to grow his own continent? He explains that "people will always want land." Meaning the (billions of) people he intends to wipe out and the land (the continental US) he intends submerge under water? Cripes, what a s***#y plan.

- The film is inconsistent. As noted by others, Superman (or, rather, the unreasonable facsimile) loses his strength when standing on an island infused with Kryponite and then being stabbed with a shard of the stuff. Yet later he is shown to carry the entire island and hurl it into space, with the stuff all in his face, no less. Why not quickly fly down, quickly nab the villains, take them to justice, then deal with the island? He can fly really fast, right? But, no, there has to be a big dramatic scene where "Superman" has to sacrifice himself for the world. Gag me with a rusty spoon. The film wants to milk every scene for as much drama as possible, with the end result that there is little to no drama at all.

- The villains' (Spacey and Posey) big comeuppance comes down to a very anticlimactic fate of being stuck on an island and Luthor contemplating eating Parker Posey's dog. Ugh! Luthor's mute henchmen, meanwhile, have a large rock fall on them, which likewise doesn't produce any sort of payoff. It's just something that happens.

Anyway, I could go on, but why protract the pain? This movie should never have been made. It simply should not be.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Runs a fine line between ridiculous action flick and brilliant parody, 30 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I caught this on "American Movie Classics" last night. Presumably, the definition of the word 'classic' has been altered since last I checked.

Anyway, Seagal plays his standard invincible cop/military man/whatever, with an apparent license to kill, who's out for "justice" against a wannabe wiseguy who has killed his best friend in front of his family and about 20 other witnesses. He also shoots a random woman driver for mouthing off at him. The zaniness starts there and it only gets worse (or better, depending on what kind of movie this is).

Seagal assigns himself to the case. There is no due protocol, no authority figure. Nothing. Seagal just goes after the perp. Jerry Orbach makes an appearance; perhaps to impart a sense of respectability and the idea that Seagal is not a one-man police force in the borough of Brooklyn. Though he might as well be, since few, if any, other police are visible and Orbach does nothing other than, essentially, appear.

Seagal is also apparently friendly with the local mob, who are painted as being somehow noble and who are incensed at the rogue gangster's actions. They, too, vow to find the gangster, though it becomes apparent that these folks can barely find their way out of a paper bag.

The real tragedy (or triumph) of this movie is the actor playing the rogue gangster, William Forsythe, who has earned my eternal respect for his brilliant turn in "Raising Arizona" but he utterly debases, abases and freebases himself here. He seems to be doing everything possible to destroy the respect he gained in that other movie. Or he's doing a brilliant send-up. Hard to tell which.

Anyway, when his time is finally up, there is little drama in his one-sided confrontation with Seagal (which occurs in a kitchen), only more comedy, as Forsythe grabs every possible item available, lunges at Seagal with it and has each weapon blocked in exactly the same way and turned back on him. Finally, Seagal takes one of Forsythe's makeshift weapons, a corkscrew, and rams it into his forehead. When a noble mob guy shows up, Seagal takes his gun and pumps a few shot into Forsythe's bloody corpse for good measure. The End. Or it was for me, anyway.

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