Reviews written by registered user

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220 reviews in total 
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Plot/story is fine, CGI, subtle racism hold it back, 6 March 2017

One of the few people that actually kind of liked Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal skull. I thought the basic story was good not any more ridiculous than any of the other ones. Settings characters and acting were all good.

If they had just resisted the urge to use so much CGI and hadn't produced so much totally unbelievable action, it would've been another classic of its kind. Not only is the CG are used to make the characters do things to hurt physically impossible, it is also not very good CGI with a fake green screen kind of look that I haven't seen for 30 years.

They should've just stayed totally practical use the old time effects.

Secondarily I was struck by the total lack of any actors of color. No black people Asian Indians no arabs. Nothing but white folk. None except "natives."

Might've been cool back in 1981 but now that just makes the film stick out. Any number of supporting characters could've been something other than white. I have to say that on the second viewing this kind of stuck in my craw.

5 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
I couldn't get through the first 20 minutes, 4 October 2015

I will assume that the intent of the kids involved in this was good, and I'll admit that there is a remote possibility that the remaining hour--had I been able to get to it--may have turned things around.

But I doubt it. All I was seeing were some over-privileged boys who thought it'd be a lark to do this as a school project (and I'm sure the young filmmaking crew were doing the same).

The first thing that struck me, besides the OVERWHELMING shallowness and self absorption of the kids involved (probably normal for their age) was that their premise WAS STUPID. They were going to rural Guatemala with enough money already in pocket to average out at a daily allowance of $1 a day each. That is NOTHING LIKE having to WORK and EARN at least a dollar a day in rural Guatemala and THEN live on it.

So basically what they were doing was living on $1 of WELFARE a day--an option the working Guatemalans did not have.

The whole thing--at least in the first 20 minutes that I was able to stomach--was so glib, condescending and self-congratulatory that I can't really think of an ending that would make me hate it less.

How do people get the money to make and distribute stuff like this? Trust fund?

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Good Adaptation. (and Visible Boom Mics are NOT Filmmaker's fault), 21 September 2015

I like "The Dark Wind." Though it didn't follow the novel to the last detail, it did follow it much more than the subsequent "Mystery" TV movies did. And this one definitely has the flavor of the Hillerman novels. It's not a blockbuster. In fact THIS probably should have been a TV movie as well. While they cherry-picked some details from other novels, the details of Navajo life and behavior that Hillerman describes in his novels are there. Some people didn't like that Leaphorn was inserted in the story though he wasn't in the original novel. I didn't mind that at all--they were intending to make more of these and the most popular stories have both characters. And the handling of Leaphorn is SO MUCH better here than in those Mystery TV-movies (in which they made Leaphorn Chee's "City Guy" foil.)

There is one thing I want to clear up though--the "boom mic mistakes: so many folks mention. The boom mic that intrudes in to several shots in the home video version (which is the only version we have, unfortunately)is NOT A MISTAKE BY THE DIRECTOR OR THE CINEMATOGRAPHER. It is an error in the transfer of the film to the home video format.

Many 1.85:1 widescreen films shot in the 80s and 90s were really shot at 1.33:1, non-anamorphic. The "widescreen" effect was then achieved by masking off the top and bottom of the image. Sometimes the studios did this on the print itself, but sometimes they would leave it to the projectionist in the theater--if he/she projected it so that each side reached the edge of the screen and centered the imaged vertically, the "masking" was achieved simply because the top and bottom of the image was bleeding off the screen. I know that was done because back in the day I saw several films where the projectionist did not center the image vertically and all kinds of stuff the audience was never meant to see would be visible--boom mics, lights, rigging, and etc. I have specific memories of seeing this in "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie" and Richard Pryor's "Busting Loose." So, if the folks who released "The Dark Wind" to home video back in the day had given a crap, they'd have either 1) masked the film to 1.85:1 or cropped it in on ALL sides for a proper old-type TV 1.33:1 ratio.

Anyway, if you have a widescreen TV (and wide is the norm now) all you have to do is blow up the image so that the right and left sides of the image go all the way to the edge and the tops and bottoms get cut off(on my Samsung it's the "Zoom 1" setting). THEN you'll see the image as it was meant to be framed, with no boom mics in sight. AND, I might add, the landscapes and other scenes will look much more impressive as well, as it emphasizes the wide horizons.

Wonder Woman (2011) (TV)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
half and half, 10 August 2015

They got the look right. They got the action right. I like the actress. I like the costumes. The rest? Dang, how weird! Plot and dialog no better than the 1970s show--really, really bad. And a real fascist slant to the whom thing. And wonder woman seems to change size pretty drastically throughout. Sometime she looks very amazon tall and imposing, other times not. And her voice sometimes drifts into SoCal valley-speak tones. Anyway...the look of the actress and costume and how she looked kicking add worked. But that's about it. The whole thing seemed kind of ill thought out and a bit rushed. This was from a major producer known mainly for his writing?

3 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Four-Hour Prequel Exactly the Same Style as Original, 3 August 2015

I enjoyed this slightly more than I did the movie. HOWEVER, you won't really get it unless you've seen the movie first--not only because you won't get the "prequel-ness" of it all, but you'll also have no idea why people in their 40s and 50s are playing folks in their teens and twenties.

From the fast paced preview I saw on YouTube, I was expecting the series to be more quickly paced and relentlessly foul (in a funny way) than the movie. But it's really pretty much exactly the same style as the original movie. In fact you could edit all 8 episodes of the series together and make one 4 hour film that would actually be more cohesive than the the original movie. And if not for the fact that the cast (who were all too old for their parts in 2001) are all 15 years older, you'd think this was made in 2002. And whether you think that's good or bad news depends on your love of the original film

Not a Big Enough Story for Theaters, 28 March 2015

I think that the main reason X-Files 2 failed at the box office but has gone on to have a relatively successful life on home video is that it was just not a "big" enough story for a big, pop-culture based theatrical film. I remember going to the theater and thinking, that's all there is to it? But now that I've watched it again, after watching a bunch of the series episodes on Netflix (including the finale) I can see that it is an excellent coda to the series and that it should have played on television in the first place. The main drama in this movie is not in the visual sci-fi/horror element--which is what theatrical films excel at.

The main drama in XF3 arises from the relationship between Muldar and Scully, which is the kind of intimate, small stuff that television can excel in (especially when it has 9 years to develop the relationship in the first place). It is interesting to see how the two characters have changed. (and, it is worth noting that while Anderson is till three times the actor Duchovny is, he holds his own in this one, instead of being outacted to a distracting degree as in the first theatrical effort).

Secondary are the themes of faith and belief that were the bread and butter of the series (they weren't deep, but they were there).

If the movie had been from a foreign director or an indie, and had not been tied to an iconic pop culture phenomenon, it is ironic that it probably would have been more successful at the box office (partly because much less money would have been spent making it, partly because of lowered expectation).

So, I challenge anyone who is a fan of the old series, and who may not have enjoyed XF2 when it first came out, refresh yourself on the series on Netflix or DVD and then watch this movie again, but just think of it as an extended episode. I think you'll find you really enjoy it. It won't blow your mind, but you will enjoy it.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not as Good on the Big Screen, 3 March 2015

The X-Files movie (or, as it is now called "X-Files: Fight the Future") was a disappointment to me when I saw it in the theatres back in the day, and I had the same reaction watching it on Blu-Ray just today.

It's an OK movie, but it suffers in comparison with the best of the TV episodes. The story isn't as interesting, crazy or scary as many in the series, the pace of the story is much slower (whole film should have been at least 15 minutes shorter), and the banter between the main characters is not as sharp.

And since ALL of this is also true of the later "I Want to Believe" feature film--except even more so-- then the only conclusion I can come to is that Chris Carter should stick to TV. At least as far as X-Files goes. A genius at TV, he just doesn't seem to get what works in movies.

I hope they revive the series with Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in the leads. It would actually make more sense for experienced FBI agents to be in their mid 40s to early 50s, in my opinion. (of course, it helps that Duchovny is still quire handsome and Anderson has gotten even hotter in her mid years). If they do it as a limited series,like House of Cards or American Horror Story, I think it could be a big hit.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Great Idea for a Movie, 13 January 2015

This is an amazing job for a first feature film by a writer-director who was still in film school. A fine effort by a talented amateur with very little money on hand.

But, seriously, it's not a particularly good film overall. It starts strong--the scenes in the religious country home all ring true. I think that's because this is the part that the writer-director was actually familiar with in real life. Once Racheal gets to Vegas, however, the movie falls apart into random, loosely connected scenes that feature what seems to be very, very poorly improvised dialog. The poor actors just seem to be at a loss as to what they are supposed to be saying or doing. And the effect isn't "natural," it's just the opposite. You are totally aware that these are actors trying to think of what to say and do, not real people who just don't know what to say. Like a bad home movie or a the plot part of a porno. Incongruities abound as Racheal, who was so sheltered that she had never heard pop music, talked on a cell phone, and didn't even know what a tape recorder was all the sudden starts tossing around terms she would never have heard before like "rock and roll" and "cell phone." And the revelatory scene (can't tell you what it is)is implausible beyond belief. It, and many other parts of the Vegas section, was an interesting idea that the filmmaker apparently just didn't have time to work out in a way that worked.

The acting was pretty good, when dialog was scripted. Billy Zane as the religious nut dad was smooth and professional, but seemed way too nice and reasonable to be the relative heavy of the piece; a hint of darkness in dad would have made the whole movie a bit better. The woman who played the mom was very good too, in a limited role.

The guy who played Racheal's newly found boy friend was easily the most accomplished young performer in the movie, even handling his part in the pointless, rambling Vegas scenes as though he actually knew what was going on (I don't think anyone else did).

But I have to say that, when they were given written dialog, the other young performers were for the most part very appealing. The girl who played Racheal was quite charming. She drifted from sheltered religious cult girl to valley girl without warning, but she was very expressive and had a good presence.

But overall, what we have is a very good 20 minute short film about a girl in an isolated Mormon cult who discovers rock and roll. And that is followed by over an hour of what seems like a first draft of a story that the filmmaker hoped would come together as they went along.

And who knows? If she had been afforded the time and resources of even a low budget Hollywood film, maybe she could have brought it together at that. There is obvious talent there!

67 out of 119 people found the following review useful:
Tedious, Ponderous, Clichéd, Pretty Series, 2 October 2014

"Pretty" is the only positive comment I can think of after having just suffered through the first episode. The Scottish backdrop is gorgeous and the performers are predictably attractive. The plot is an incredibly cliché mix of young adult fantasy and harlequin romance. Now that combo could have worked, but unfortunately that possibility was killed by the poor pacing of the story. The...pace ... is ... GLACIAL. So slow. The first dull hour I watched only had enough story for twenty minutes of film at best. What's even more annoying is that much of the outrageous padding is due to the almost constant narration that stretches out every non-dialog scene. Its tedious and redundant, adding to nothing but the running time. The entire first episode could have easily been edited down to 20 minutes. Zzxxxxxxxxx zzzzzzzzzz

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
charming performances don't quite save it, 29 May 2014

D.W. Young's "The Happy House" is a mixed bag. The actors and performances are quite charming and several notches above those found in most super-low budget HD features like this (the female lead is especially effective). It is also well shot and the sound is good.

The story starts as a variation on Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" with some "Tucker and Dale vs Evil" overtones. However, Young's screenplay is all set up and no follow through and degenerates from quirky to sub-par dull about ¾ of the way through. IMDb shows that Young's previous films and videos have been shorts, and the construction of this story bears that out—there's only about 45 minutes of story crammed into this hour and a half.

It's not mentioned on IMDb, but I'd bet that the majority of Young's experience is in live theatre and not film. I say this because he obviously has a talent for working with actors and getting the best out of them—this is an area where low budget films are usually at their weakest, but it is HH's greatest strength. Young also seems uncomfortable with film editing, which makes much of the movie seem like an adapted stage play. He prefers very long, static shots, as though the camera was set up at the edge of a stage and just left to run while the actors stand or sit in one spot and talk. While this does often show off the skills of the actors-- who interact in these dialog-heavy sequences with a rhythm and naturalness that rarely rings false— it doesn't allow the protracted scenes to be edited for pace and is undeniably boring from a visual standpoint. And when young does employ standard editing—over the shoulder shots or povs—they are clumsily handled, as if he didn't really want to insert them, but felt he had no choice. Also, when locations shift between sequences, the screen simply fades to black and then back up again, like a curtain falling and rising. However this technique seems less like a stylistic choice and more like an "I'm doing it this way because I don't know another way to get from here to there."

Anyway, I don't want to sound like I'm ragging on the film. Young does many, many things right. As I said before, he gets very good performances out of his actors (and we all know that horrible acting is usually a low budget film's major weakness).

This movie was just a third of a screenplay and one professional editor away from being a classic indie comedy-horror flick along the lines of Ti West's "The Innkeepers." I look forward to more from all the folks involved in "The Happy House."

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