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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Pulpy romp, fun but half-baked, 8 June 2011

"Hobo with a Shotgun" is a fairly impressive debut film considering it sprang from a two-minute "fake trailer," but there are a number of issues which may keep it from reaching true "cult" status (for which it was clearly intended)...and a number of notes it hits perfectly.

Rutger Hauer is a perfect fit for his role and as charismatic as always; anyone into schlocky cult films will feel right at home seeing him play the title character. This film also wins on atmosphere--I really felt as if I was watching something straight out of the 80s. The music is right, the vaguely post-apocalyptic feel is right, the lighting and production design are also just right. There are some great gore scenes here and some wonderfully indulgent bloody action sequences (if somewhat small-scale). It also doesn't hurt that some of the most gruesome moments are treated with a devilish sense of humor.

What hampers "Hobo" is its narrative--confused editing and confused scripting result in a jumbled plot, leaving one to wonder if something was left on the "cutting room floor." The writers seem to have rushed through their story simply to reach an unsatisfying climax; I felt much more could have been made of the title character's transformation from "Hobo" to "Hobo with a Shotgun." This crucial epiphany is cheaply handled and consequently the mythic persona at the center of the film feels shallow.

(as an aside, it seemed the character should have led some sort of heroic uprising, which I can't really hold against the film as this is simply what I would have liked to see. My point is, it seems there are a lot of missed chances here)

While the end also feels rushed, abrupt and incomplete, I would have to say this film is worth checking out...for fans of this kind of thing, which I certainly am. I was just expecting a little more. In any event, I'm glad it was made!

(P.S. There's a nice use of the Canadian pop song "Run with Us," from an obscure--obscure in the U.S., anyway--animated show called "The Raccoons" over the end credits. It adds to the 80s atmosphere beautifully. Bonus points!)

Dead Snow (2009)
7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Does Anyone have an Original Thought Anymore?, 19 July 2010

I'd seen this pop up (believe it or not) on a "Best Zombies Movies" ever list, and though skeptical after watching trailers for DEAD SNOW several months ago, it happened to be in the "Freezone" of my Cable On Demand, so, I thought I'd give it a shot.

And I'm glad I did. Because what's wrong with "DEAD SNOW" is what's become wrong with horror, and Dead Snow helped me see it. It's a LOT easier to make a film than it was in the heyday of the directors whom these young filmmakers so desperately wish to emulate. As a consequence, this and other indie horror flicks have no weight to them anymore--they simply feel like a series of cheeky references only die-hard horror fans would understand. And in the case of Dead Snow, it seems as if a bunch of uninspired (but somewhat technically talented) film students were given a little too much money and time to live out their teenage fantasies in the woods.

And heck, it's just not a good movie.

It's a pretty typical setup. College kids head up to the woods for a weekend of skiing and partying. A stranger imparts to them a creepy story about Nazis that died in the surrounding hills and a dire warning about not disturbing "the evil." And then, for reasons that aren't particularly clear, the Nazis rise from the dead and terrorize the living. Hilarity ensues.

The film never really breaks free of its prosaic structure, glossy finish on the final product notwithstanding. The zombies, whose motivations we care little about, are predictably calculating monsters who are easily dispatched. They've little menace and all seem disposable. At least George Romero treats his zombies with a modicum of respect.

The script and editing are awful, both working in concert to show a confused narrative and the filmmakers' willingness to cut corners. And for a horror film that opens up with dialogue referencing the "dos and don'ts" of other horror films, the script--somewhat surprisingly--slips into humdrum stupidity, with characters suggesting the group "split up" (and then not doing it, and then -- huh? They split up after all? See the 'bad script' complaint), running off into a freezing wilderness when staying put is clearly the best option, etc.

Most insulting of all is the cute, referential camera cuts, close-ups and the blatantly derivative final battle. Oh! Look at this! Another Raimi fan! We don't have enough of those.

The Sam Raimi/Evil Dead thing is getting REALLY old. I swear, it seems as if more and more of these horror films are being written by 14-year-olds on an "Ash" high. As far as I'm concerned, the Evil Dead camera tricks pushed this film over the edge of forgivability.

DEAD SNOW is another one for the heap, yet another small film by small-minded people which will quickly (and hopefully) be forgotten when something more inspired comes along.

2012 (2009/I)
0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Really, what were people expecting?, 28 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"2012" is a fine film, well-acted, tightly scripted, highly entertaining, and good old American edge-of-your seat fun. But going in, we must remember two things: One, this is a "Disaster Film." Two, it is directed by "Roland Emmerich." The first would have been enough to warn any movie viewer that the sole aim of this film is to ENTERTAIN; the second should have further reinforced that fact. And yet, there's a lot of snobbery and what I think is a bunch of people refusing to let themselves have a good time, all in the name of...well, I'm not really sure. Pretentiousness?

Look. I love film. Real film. "Cinema." And I also love "movies." To me, there is a distinct difference between the two. "2012" certainly falls into that latter category, and the reason I'm giving it 8 stars out of 10 is due to the fact that this disaster flick achieves what it set out to do, and with flying colors at that. The characters are likable and supported by a stellar cast of acting talent, the story never slows and the action sequences are incredible.

Sure, we run into those annoying "we're almost there but someone's gotta go below decks and sacrifice themselves because of this last- minute problem that seems to have conveniently popped up or everyone dies in 15 minutes" moments as well as a few repeated "escape" sequences, but once again: does "2012" do it well? Absolutely, and probably the best I've ever seen a big, dumb Hollywood vehicle do it. This is disaster schlock at its finest.

On the brighter side, as a fan of science fiction, I couldn't help but enjoy the "Ark" elements of the film and how world governments are portrayed attempting to preserve the human race. It's decent speculative fiction, and gives the overall story of 2012 a little more meat. My point is, 2012 is a big, glossy Hollywood epic. But it's not without its merits, and it's worth seeing as long as you don't go in expecting high drama or an exploration of fate vs. character a la Shakespeare.

Sometimes, the simple act of watching a film can get one's mind off life's troubles, if only for a little while. So, by all means, go see 2012, whose sole purpose is to distract us. What's the harm in that? Have FUN, and take delight in the destruction of the earth!

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Wanted to Hate it...couldn't. Pleasantly surprised., 22 May 2009

After a lot of negative feedback from the online "geek" community, my worst fears nearly ruined my going to see this flick. I have loved the TERMINATOR series since I was a kid; I watched every episode of the ill-fated but great TV series, and though I knew Terminator 3 would be a misstep, I was there on opening night anyway.

From having a director called 'McG' to the early buzz about some rather clunky plot devices and dialog in SALVATION, I was afraid the newest and best chance to again realize the great potential of this cross-time saga would fail. I entered the cinema with slumped shoulders and horribly low expectations, ready to hate and come home to write a scathing review on IMDb.

And then a funny thing happened. From the opening credits onward, I found myself enjoying the film and trying hard not to.

First, Bale owns this picture. I liked Worthington, but he doesn't steal the picture from Christian Bale as some have been saying. The title character was an engrossing presence on-screen and it's a shame we don't get more time with him. But I guess wanting more is always a good sign in showbiz.

The action, of course, is great. The "mushroom cloud" scene, "Harvester" scene and the climactic battle at the end are all very memorable and well-executed. What's more, they further the plot.

Which brings me to my next point. The story moves along at a well-developed clip, cleverly (but not brilliantly) handling dueling plot lines and, for the most part, managing to hold the viewer's attention and keep him or her guessing what might happen next.

Yes, there could have been more character development. But a few of the performances are absolutely just knocked out of the park. The real hero of this film is Anton Yelchin, embodying the intense but noble Kyle Reese (as portrayed by Michael Beihn) in the first film. He succeeds in creating a convincingly tough but sympathetic young hero-to-be. His performance, in fact, is one of the hallmarks of the film.

The film's weakest attributes are, as mentioned, some amateur dialog, a feel-good and tacked-on ending, and last (but certainly not least), the "Star" character, a mute little girl played by "Jadagrace." It feels like I've seen this character a million times, and a cutesy cliché such as this has no business in a serious movie where the human race is being exterminated in a global war against machines.

Another unfortunate side of this film is the editing and runtime. It feels as if whole chunks of plot are missing; moving lines that you might hear in the exciting movie trailers and TV spots promoting the film are not here. If I didn't know as much about the movie as I did going in, I imagine I would be quite confused. The editing itself is also choppy and in places disjointed. Personally, I'm getting tired of the "Aw heck, we'll just put it on the DVD" mindset. The best film should always be put forward during its debut. Herein lies one of the problems with TERMINATOR SALVATION.

With that said, I couldn't help but like the film, and felt QUITE relieved that this wasn't the cinematic cataclysm I was afraid would ruin a franchise. As flawed as it is, it's not a bad start. And you know what? I was entertained and thinking about it the next day.

How bad can that be?

71 out of 103 people found the following review useful:
Never Have Zombies Been This Boring, 25 November 2008

In this age of the zombie renaissance (which seems to be giving way to a revitalized interest in vampires, thanks to TWILIGHT...yawn), we seem to be surrounded by all things undead. No mystery there: thanks to the spread of information on the internet in the late 90s and, soon after, the film 28 DAYS LATER, common moviegoers finally caught on that there was more to horror than lame slasher flicks featuring an endless succession of bemasked murderers.

They rediscovered the works of Romero and others, and found that there was something about the zombie sub-genre that spoke to our deepest nightmares: a fear of society, its inhabitants, and its collapse. This seemed especially relevant in the post-9/11 era. Watch news coverage of the zombie crisis in George Romero's NIGHT and DAWN and try not to think about that terrifying, fateful day in September, 2001.

What remains a mystery, however, is that almost no one --during the Romero heyday of zombies or their 21st Century 'renaissance'-- got it right. In this reviewer's opinion, there are about seven, yes, SEVEN films that have truly realized the full potential and promise of the undead theme, and sadly, two of them are remakes and two are semi-satirical send-ups of the genre.

So I shouldn't be too surprised in the disappointing and wasted effort that is THE ZOMBIE DIARIES. I'd heard a lot of good internet buzz about it, so I decided it was worth the three dollar rental. I knew there was a problem when I had to turn it off about halfway into the film. Was it too gory, too intense, too scary? Not in the slightest. Though I returned a day later to finish DIARIES, my opinion of the film on my first attempt hadn't changed.

What could have been an interesting premise --a zombie outbreak documented by several camera-toting groups in the English countryside--falls flat on its face before the opening credits have even finished. We're treated to an anti-climactic interview about a nasty plague sweeping Asia at the beginning of the film, which marks the only occasion I can recall that a movie loses its momentum within a few minutes of the opening titles. Even worse is the stiff, pompous cast we're forced to contend with. Not one of the cast members convincingly sells any urgency, not to mention the fact that the dead are returning to life and the country has been plunged into total chaos.

The narrative and script are seemingly aimless; we're bored quickly by the pretty scenery of the countryside, where (occasionally) non-threatening zombies show up and stumble about. DIARIES loses itself in an insular and uninteresting world -- what's going on in the cities? What about TV and Radio news reports, which in the other films (like NIGHT, DAWN) proved the most stirring and memorable moments? I understand small productions like this have budgetary constraints to consider, but the filmmakers missed an all-too important cue in not giving their boring little universe some scope. What should conjure feelings of isolation in the audience only makes us lose interest before the second act has even arrived.

The zombies themselves are shambling Romero knock-offs, and not well-done, either. The special effects used to create the monsters are professional enough, but rubber stamped with all the "ooh" and "aah" trademarks any college film student hopes to afford. "Look, the zombies have white contact lenses! How creepy!" Aside from the fact that these ghouls are among the least scary I have seen in a long while, the reactions the characters have to them are even less convincing. A group of survivors seem to have no fear confronting a cadre of marauding flesh eaters in one shot, but are ostensibly paralyzed at the appearance of a single ghoul the next. Also, though agonizingly slow, these zombies seem to have no problem sneaking up on adrenaline-pumped humans in wide open grazing fields. Go figure.

The ending of THE ZOMBIE DIARIES is a feeble attempt at throwing the audience a curve ball, and while I won't give anything away, the film's conclusion is completely tacked on, and frankly, a cheap shot that seems at once out of place and mundane.

DIARIES is just one example (in a LONG list of books, graphic novels, films, video games and other media) of why the zombie resurgence failed. Few of these works seems to have had the guts to break away from the "rules" laid out by the "...of the Dead" films, ultimately to the artistic detriment of each.

Due in part to these reasons, THE ZOMBIE DIARIES fails in originality, and succeeds in not much else. One wonders how good a zombie film this MIGHT have been.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A Flawed Classic, 16 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While THE BREAKFAST CLUB is a lesson in expert film-making, and a potentially profound statement on the 'substance' gap between social stereotypes and the individuals therein, as well as a critique of the loss of inter-generational communication, the film may not have stood the test of time for every audience member.

Breakfast Club is a classic, to be sure, and one cannot deny the film's cultural impact. It was one of those "It" films I just had to watch when I was younger, but upon viewing this 80s cult hit through adult eyes, I can't help but backlash against its more latent subtexts, some of which are just plain offensive.

The 'Brat Pack' pioneers here (Ringwald, Hall, Sheedy, Nelson, Estevez) each represent the classic High School castes; the Princess, the Jock, the square-peg of a basket case, the trouble-making ne'er-do-well, and the brainiac. Does writer-director John Hughes (himself from an affluent Illinois suburb) imply that these stereotypes -- who sit in a ridiculously well-funded library the likes of which few audience members have encountered in their own high schools -- are the only ones in existence, or the only ones who matter?

While I am not a proponent in any way of Political Correctness, how can an average kid -- who might be a minority, or from a poor neighborhood -- relate to any of these characters?

Even John Bender ("The Criminal," Judd Nelson), who seems to be the most economically disadvantaged of the bunch, speaks of an abusive father who beats him for spilling "paint in the garage." This makes Bender far more affluent than many of the kids I went to school with, a great deal of whom had lived in apartments their whole lives, sans garage, and sans father figure. The rest of the characters are likewise white and upper-class. Is John Hughes leaving anyone out? I think so.

Most shockingly, the purest outcast of the group, Allison, who can quickly be described as eccentric, conforms to her peers' social standards at the end of the film -- she is disrobed of her dark pre-goth Garments by Prom Queen Claire, and made to look pretty, thus becoming acceptable. What sort of a message is this? The true loner of the group gives in to the cliquism of her environment, trading her individualism for some sort of forced happiness that seems a lame contrivance at the film's close.

While The Breakfast Club does have a lasting message about the cruel high school caste system, I believe one must look at its content with a critical -- and adult -- eye.

13 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
After Much Deliberation, "C.S.A." Gets a 'Thumbs Down', 17 March 2006

There was something bothersome about "The Confederate States of America" evident even in its trailer, but as a Civil War buff and armchair historian, I was nonetheless enthusiastic about this "mockumentary" currently making the Indie theater circuit.

The plot should be obvious enough: in an "alternate universe," the Confederacy won the Civil War, conquered the Northern States and continued into history in the U.S.'s place, as covered in this "controversial tell-all British documentary." Slavery continues into the 21st Century, as many interviewees and even a Presidential candidate try to apologize for, justify, and even glorify the Confederacy's misdeeds.

For any fan of what historians call "counterfactuals" (essentially historical "What If's"), "C.S.A." seems built on a great premise, and one that has indeed been debated over since the fall of the real Confederacy in 1865. In that way, this film succeeds on a default level; it's interesting to see such a thing realized and played out before your very eyes. Almost understandably, though, C.S.A., attempting to tackle such a huge, epic, yet nebulous issue as a non-existent country that *could* have been, falters in it its overall delivery. Sadly, this audience member felt that these mistakes could have been avoided and that the film, as a whole, could have been better-handled.

The end product of filmmaker Willmott's venture is considerably uneven; at times the "documentary" approach looks and feels very professional, enough to rank with a "PBS" Frontline production. In other areas, the production value of C.S.A. seems almost sophomoric: poor sound and film quality, and poorly synthesized music make this mockumentary look as if it came out in 1992.

The blaring flaw in this film, for me, though, was first in its mishandling of the historical complexities of the Civil War and all surrounding issues, and secondly and most importantly its apparent indecision over just what "sort" of mockumentary "it" wanted to be: serious satire of spoofy comedy? The near-slapstick, goofball approach of the commercial spots bring down the quality of the rest of the film. Ads like the slave "Shackle" seemed more like something belonging in an SNL skit than in a nationally-released documentary (even if it is fake). It just didn't fit, and in my opinion, represents a wasted opportunity on the part of Kevin Willmott to make "The Confederate States of America" a worthwhile, valid and even intellectual piece of satirical American Cinema.

Though ultimately silly and nowhere near "consequential" a film as it could have been (one gets the feeling that any number of historically-inclined filmmakers could have made a far superior and far more stirring and dramatic film out of the subject matter), it does keep your attention as a small "plot" of sorts develops around the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Fauntroy --scion of a Confederate dynasty-- as a political "bombshell" explodes during his candidacy. This was definitely a curve ball, and one of the finer angles of this documentary.

While the discriminating (pardon the term) armchair historian (and 'actual' historian as well) won't be able to abide the suspension of disbelief required to make the premise of this film believable, "C.S.A." remains marginally enjoyable, but a bit of a disappointment for anyone who has ever wondered...

What if the South won? Just a bit too goofy for its own good.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An Open Letter to the Filmmakers:, 18 October 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This time, I am going to skip a conventionally formatted "review." No need for that here. All I want to do is ask those involved with the production of this "film" a question:

1) Did you actually WATCH the original? Wait, dumb question. I know you did. I remember, a couple years back, reading some comments from the film's writer (William Butler, a veteran actor of such late 80s B-horror films as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Ghoulies 2, and the Night of the Living Dead Remake) that he was enthused to be making two new sequels to such a great film. Okay, well, perhaps I should REPHRASE my question. WHEN was the LAST TIME you watched the original? Let's get some things straight -- in the original, the zombies are completely unstoppable. You can't kill them -- not even with a gunshot to the head.

What? You want to "change things up" a little? Okay. I can live with that. So, gunshots to the head DO kill these zombies. Okay. I can live with that too. I'm all for artistic expansion and exploration. Just promise me one thing: BE CONSISTENT. In the ENDLESS slow-mo scenes of zombies getting shot you threw in, shooting them TWICE in the chest also seems to do it. This must be a new and effective technique of dispatching the dead, because it happened no less than six times in your film.

As for other matters of authenticity, I'll reserve my observations on the overall "feel" of the film (or lack thereof) in respect to the originals as that would require an entire essay to get into.

2) What was Peter Coyote doing here? And what was with that awkward grimace on his face? He must have been hard up for cash. I will never look at E.T. the same again.

It's really hard to critique this film using the normal methods. All I can say is, what SHOULD have been a revitalization of a franchise wound up as nothing more than a shining, blunt example of what a monumentally wasted opportunity is.

Return of the Livig Dead 4, like its sequel part 5: Rave to the Grave, are the kind of movies that make moviegoers sit in their seats during the end credits and think, "I could have done it better." If any of those responsible for the RETURN sequels happen to be reading this, feel free to email my IMDb profile to answer my questions and perhaps continue this discussion. I promise I will be civilized.

And while I'm at it, an open letter to the Sci-Fi channel: you might want to look into funding and/or programming better films for your "Sci Fi Originals" line up. Let's put it this way: you're quickly becoming synonymous with sub-par crap.

Return of the Living Dead. May you rest in peace.

5 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
An Overrated, but Visually Beautiful Classic, 25 September 2005

Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" has gone from a cult status to mainstream classic with 20-somethings (and others) who have fond childhood memories of this film.

In true Tim Burton form, however, "Nightmare," is certainly visually stunning, bursting at the seems with raw imagination, and, of course... grossly over-hyped.

Once you get past the remarkable and unique animation and visual style, what you're left with is a rather boring tale that you'd frankly have to be under the age of 12 to truly enjoy (I was 11 when I saw it, and didn't like it then, either, so go figure). Sure, the premise is wonderful on paper: The "king" of Halloween, akin to Easter's rabbit and Christmas's Santa Claus, becomes disillusioned with Halloween and discovers Christmas, becoming inspired to take over duties for Santa Claus...but royally jeopardizes the new holiday he has grown to love when he kidnaps Saint Nick.

Yes, it's definitely a cool idea. To see it play out over the course of an entire feature length film? That's something else entirely. Especially if that film happens to be, essentially, a kid's film (and despite the spooky visuals and dark tones, let's not kid ourselves, this IS a children's film). What starts out as a great idea for a plot turns into a boring and predictable ride through a world you can't wait to get out of. The musical aspect, which is a large part of what makes this film, is another complaint. I'm sorry to say it, but these songs are largely laborious to endure -- contrived pieces that drone on annoyingly and seem rather uninspired. Normally, I'd let this sort of thing go, but when the music is such an integral part of a film (and this film IS a musical), it's hard to ignore. I'm sure many would disagree with me on this, but think about it -- besides the decent "flagship" track ("What's this?") are you really going to catch yourself humming any of the songs from this film after only one or a few viewings the way you hum tracks from Jesus Christ SUPERSTAR or TOMMY? I don't think so.

Yes, the film is annoyingly over-hyped, overrated, and to some extent, overdone. All negativity aside, though, I do think this makes a wonderful children's' film -- surely, one of those special flicks we can all relate to that stick with us and perhaps even shape us when we see them in those magical and formative early years. As I mentioned above, the visual style is unforgettable and the tone and feel of "Nightmare" accomplish what I believe Tim Burton set out to achieve (as far as "tone and feel" are concerned). This is definitely one I think I'd been better served to watch at the age of 4, 5, 6 or 7, but unfortunately it came out a few years too late, I suppose.

For kids -- a winner. For adults -- well, bring your watch. You may be checking it a few times.

Fahrenhype 9/11 (2004) (V)
31 out of 46 people found the following review useful:
An Important Must-See, 29 December 2004

If you've seen FARENHEIT 9/11, you probably fall into one of two categories: you are an ardent anti-Bush liberal, or you are an anti-Moore conservative going to see the film out of a morbid curiosity. I fall into the latter -- however, I went with an open mind, and I went to educate myself. FARENHEIT 9/11 was most successful at doing one thing: casting the President in a less-than-flattering light. The "facts" brought up in FARENHEIT didn't bother me -- it was mostly grandstanding, and unlike most young Americans, I actually pay attention to the news (as it happens -- anyone who actually watched any news at all during the 2000 election debacle would know how outlandish a statement like "Bush stole the election" really is), so I was able to look at Moore's presentation with an objective and skeptical eye.

For anyone who has seen Moore's disgusting attack on the President -- be they liberal or conservative -- FarenHYPE 9/11 is must viewing. It proves the fallacies in Moore's "muckracking," debunks his dubious claims, and pulls the curtain on Moore's cute editing tricks. While watching FARENHYPE, I was reminded of ANOTHER controversial documentary -- I am speaking, of course, about BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE. In that film, Michael Moore also used carefully-edited footage and the convenient omitting of key facts and dates to deface another public figure: Charlton Heston. His manipulation of the facts in this "documentary" were personally sickening, and though I questioned his presentation at the outset, I still felt cheated and manipulated. It was plain dirty. In his most current travesty, which is expertly dissected and debunked in FARENHYPE 9/11, we see that he is up to the same old shameful tricks, except on a far grander scale and with a far more epic goal: to shame and unseat the 43rd President of the United States. As history has recorded, however, he was unsuccessful. Still, it is disquieting that a film which rivals propaganda on par with Leni Riefenshtal's work with Adolf Hitler could even come close to holding so much sway.

If you are a passionate Moore supporter, I don't imagine you're going to like FARENHYPE 9/11, but still, I urge you to watch -- just to open yourself to a counter view of things. Whether you buy the facts presented or not, at least take into account that there IS an opposing view, and ask yourself -- why is such a view possible? Perhaps men like Michael Moore are not as pious as we were lead to believe?

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