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Dead by Midnight (1997)
A Hilarious Comedy!
hahahaholycowthat'shystericalheheheehcan'tstoplaughingsomeonehelpmehehehehe! = My reaction to this entire TV movie. This is a hysterical laugh-out-loud yuckfest.
The fact that it's a drama makes it even funnier. I make a point not to review made-for-television movies since they're obviously low-budget time fillers that don't aspire to be anything more. But this one is the King. Truly an exceptional work. The acting is a step below atrocious, like watching a high school play, only slightly worse. Then there are the golden nuggets of dialogue destined to cause a couple of laughter-induced hernias:
"Are you telling me you've lost control of my precious creation?" "I have the right to know who I am!" "Those were my eyes he pleaded with!"
The plot is so ridiculous it's fabulous...I've seen more complex commercials. The most intriguing question here is WHY did Academy Award-winning actor Timothy Hutton resort to this trash, and why has his acting deteriorated to the point of idiocy?
It's too bad Mystery Science Theater is now defunct. They could have had a field day with this.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Let me tell you just how good "A Beautiful Mind" really is. I have a kidney disorder that makes it necessary for me to visit the restroom every hour. I was on the verge of exploding halfway through this movie and yet I didn't move for fear of missing even three minutes of this fascinating event. (As soon as the closing credits rolled, I ran.)
"Mind's" greatest achievement, in my humble opinion, is the way it makes schizophrenia accessible to sane people. The general public knows schizophrenics tend to talk to themselves, repeat certain actions and do things generally at odds with the norm. But why? It's nearly impossible for a sane individual to understand why this happens...and more importantly, what that feels like. Without this essential empathy, many people become frustrated with the mentally ill, asking why patients can't pull themselves together and just bear up. We express this same impatience with the criminally insane who act upon delusions with disastrous results. It is incomprehensible.
"Mind" does all it can to change that, and it succeeds. Unless you are familiar with John Nash's story, you probably won't guess he's schizophrenic until partway into the movie. He's eccentric, abrupt, and highly intelligent, but doesn't seem crazy. The reason: His delusions are as real as reality to Nash, and likewise, they are real to the audience. *(SPOILER)* I suspected the decoding fantasies weren't real, especially when Nash began postering the walls with newspaper clippings. But his fictictious roommate threw me---and there is the point. The audience is just as fooled by the delusion as Nash is, who cannot tell the difference between truth and delusion.
Incidentally, I came across a professional review that blasted "Mind" for including "all that spying stuff that had nothing to do with Nash's work that was thrown in for Hollywood thrill." I feel badly for that chap, since he missed the entire point of the film. But that just proves Ron Howard's genius in creating a picture of insanity indistinguishable from reality.
There are some truly shocking moments in "Mind." When Alicia finds her husband's secret cache of newspaper clippings behind their house, I was eerily reminded of Jack Nicholson's wife in "The Shining" discovering his endless, typewritten pages of the same phrase. The scene that follows, culminating with Nash's realization that his delusions are indeed a false reality is brilliant. In a moment, remembering "Marcie," Nash has a flash of insight, and he finally accepts his illness--ironically, through his intellect.
When Nash imagines that someone is going to kill Alicia, he lunges at her--and only through his eyes do we see how a seemingly senseless actof violence is a gesture of love, filtered through the smog of delusion.
Now my take on the acting: Superb in every sense of the word. Russell Crowe sure knows his trade. There's never any question about the authenticity of his character, although the accent wasn't consistant. Crowe doesn't rely on his elaborate makeup to age Nash---his walk, words, and voice do that elegantly in the movie's end. Crowe will probably get at least another Oscar nomination out of this one. Heck, he might even win it again.
Ed Harris is, as always, perfect. Harris continues to be one of my favorite actors, simply because he's flawless. With delusions like these, no wonder Nash was torn between treatment and "spying."
I hope people see this film. Not just because Russell Crowe is cute or because it's a Ron Howard piece, but because you will learn something important. You will learn why compassion is an absolute must when dealing with the mentally ill. You won't glare at the next person you see muttering to themself. And when someone you love is dealing with a disorder, be it schizophrenia or depression, you won't ask them to "pull themself together." You will understand why they need your love--because they are just as confused as you are.
Dead by Sunset (1995)
Read the book
If you enjoy true crime (well, as much as anyone can "enjoy" it) read Ann Rule's book by the same name. The movie is a typical Lifetime production (overwrought acting, breathlessly uttered corny lines, and a truly laughable soundtrack.) Brad Cunningham seems like a villain that could only exist in a TV movie, but sadly, he really did the monstrous acts portrayed. Read the book, which goes into far greater detail and will leave you wondering how anyone could be this evil.
The Dead Zone (1983)
Stephen King Cameo?!?
Other users have graciously critiqued this movie, and I agree with the majority in saying it's a wonderful, creepy movie. (It had the same effect on me as "American Beauty"...I just couldn't get it out of my head afterwards.) So I won't repeat the same praises. But I do want to point out what I think was Stephen King's customary cameo. I was looking hard for his face, and although it seems odd I think he was the seriel killer--but just in the glimpse of him in the gazebo, when he rips off the hat. Look for it; I could be mistaken but it sure looks like the master of horror!
Atomic Train (1999)
For lack of a harsher adjective, this movie was bad. I suppose you're not surprised, considering it's a TV movie with the requisite impossible plot, wimpy soundtrack and endless....endless.......poor writing.
My only question: Why on earth did Mena Suvari do this movie?
Ein Toter hing im Netz (1960)
Gee, a REAL classic!
I make it a point to occasionally review a truly awful movie, and Spider Island certainly fits the bill. The only way on God's green earth I'd recommend watching it is on Mystery Science Theater. The blistering wisecracks highlight and mock this horror of a movie, which is really quite funny when the women start making idiots out of the female race. Other than that, don't watch Spider Island--opt for watching apples rot, or something of comprable excitement
Dead Again (1991)
Dead at the end
Dead Again is a hammy name for a melodramatic farce. I never would have rented it, but I saw its trailer on another video and thought it looked interesting. That it is, but I found myself losing interest and faith in the last half-hour. (I will not reveal it, for there IS a good plot twist leading up to it.)
Dead Again sports many familiar faces: Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson (real life husband-and-wife), Wayne Knight (Newman in a reincarnation flick??!), and even Robin Williams (who knew?) Branagh is especially charming as Roman--his meeting with pianist Margaret while madly directing the symphony is memorable. But although Dead Again serves up some very inventive, creative moments, the final scene was hideously overdone and much too melodramatic. The slow motion sequences never settle well with me, and here they only highlighted the incredulity.
However, Roger Ebert gave Dead Again four stars, so many people will enjoy it. I did, up until that unbelievable finale. Afterwards I did get to thinking (and I say a movie is only good if it makes you think.) So if "fate" really determines who we meet, who we will spend eternity with, and we DO have multiple incarnations, then that creep who followed me around downtown last week will keep coming back, and back....and back.....???
Clue is just down right hysterical. Not only do we recognise most of the faces in the dinner party, the writing is fabulously on target. The dialogue and one-lines fly fast and furiously. Tim Curry displays enormous, very entertaining energy near the end trying to explain what happened(choreographed to music, very funny) while the rest of the cast shout unison retorts. It's great. The multiple endings are hammy and hilarious.
Independence Day (1996)
ID4 isn't meant to be a thinking person's movie. You don't hold life-altering discussions afterward. It IS, however, a roller-coaster ride with plenty of dips and loops to make it worthwhile. Roger Ebert described it as "silly summer fun," and that it is. Much of the story remains under-developed (I wanted to know where those beastly little b***ers came from) but the triumphant spirit in the end really is something.
ID4 also boasts an impressive ensemble of big-name performers. Will Smith demonstrates he's a darn funny guy. Bill Pullman carrys himself and his charisma much like the ideal President should--(and whether it's formulatic or not, you've gotta love it when he takes to the skies with the rest of humanity.) Brent Spiner--Star Trek's Data without the gold makeup, throws in a colored cameo as an underground mad scientist type. Harry Connick, Jr. is as suave as ever. Judd Hirsch is Jewish. And of course anything with Jeff Goldblum in it won't be a total loss. Also, watch for the actor who plays Mr. Nubicki (Bill Pullman fires him in the end.) I swear he's the biggest character actor in Hollywood today--he's everywhere! (Basic Instinct, The Game, several others I can't remember...)
I also liked the cute tie-in to Jurassic Park. When fleeing the Mothership, Jeff Goldblum repeats his same line from the dino-fleeing scene in JP: Must Go Faster! Who thought of that one??
A final note: Independence Day really is a decent film as far as action blockbusters go. You do develop some caring for the characters, and the idea of all humanity teaming up against E.T. from Hell is heartening. Watch Armageddon and you'll feel like nominating ID4 for an Oscar.
Solar Crisis (1990)
Crisis is right
What was Charlton Heston thinking when he signed up for this disaster?? Alright, I'll be fair. I rented Solar Crisis (translation: wasted a buck) with an open mind. It had an interesting plot, so it seemed, and some famous guys. So there must be something there. Man oh man was I wrong. I realized that with the opening scene in which cheap subtitles scrolled across the screen, describing the Impeding Doom of Earth. To make matters worse, a voice-over further insulted my intelligence by reading the words too. Gee, since I was dumb enough to rent the film, they must figure I can't read either. Then came the real blow: The weak, weak acting (usually showcased by laughably over-dramatic monologues) coupled with the bland, bland writing, strewn together with the lousy, lousy soundtrack make for one nose-wrinkling mess. Dr. Haas was especially bad, as was the ship's commander whose name escapes me. We are treated to such memorable lines as: "Our only security blanket out there is ourselves" and the immortal "I'm the only one who can ever free you!" Please. Free me, for the love of God.