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450 reviews in total 
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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Unrelentingly pretentious twaddle..., 14 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers *** which nudity is the only redeeming value, "Sleeping Beauty" is as soporific as its title suggests. Emily "The Host" Browning sleepwalks through her role of an anomic student who opts for some easy pin money by dozing her way through various somniferous episodes with old rich stiffs who aren't, and can't. Occasionally, she visits a dying friend, apparently in some vague attempt to connect on a genuine human level. How quaint, and unconvincing. At least she's not a cutter, but that may have been too interesting a story for first-time (and hopefully last) writer/director Julia "I have raised boredom to a new level!" Leigh. That this tedious bunkum was apparently touted by Jane "The Piano" Campion bedevils me. I'd watch it again to see if I somehow missed something germane, but my liberal employment of fast forward on first viewing tells me that's an unlikely prospect.

Watch and yawn at your own risk; learn that naked bodies can be remarkably dull and uninspiring, even good-looking ones.

A little too invested in touting the Jackson films for my taste..., 13 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...although I understand that approach entirely, "Ringers: LotF" doesn't quite reach Mount Doom to fulfill its quest. From the looks of its IMDb entry, though, it appears that many people felt the same way, despite the other blurbs you'll find here. Perhaps this is just the result of poor theatrical and video distribution, or a general waning of interest in the subject in the several years after Jackson's film trilogy swept box offices worldwide; I don't know. What I do know is that I wish this doc had been better, more willing to probe, more interested in detail and thoughtful commentary. Director Carlene "This was my calling card" Cardova and writer/director Cliff "Yeah, me, too" Broadway are obviously devotees of Tolkien and his masterwork, but in their eagerness to cover as many bases as they can, they end up with a somewhat shallow final product, or so it felt to me.

In its attempt to marry the whimsical with the serious, "Ringers: LotF" somehow cheapens the widespread influence Tolkien's fantasy epic had when it was "rediscovered" in the Flower Power 60s; Monty Python-esque cartoons and bogus recreations of hippie "read-ins" just don't cut the mustard, no matter how many straightforward interview snippets with counterculture spokespersons like David "Kung-Fu" Carradine or literary mavens like Peter S. "The Last Unicorn" Beagle are shoveled into the mix. It feels like Cardova/Broadway were a little too worried about minimizing the geek factor in their peek at Tolkien fandom; their apparent desire to distance their film from *Trekkie-ness* gives the film a certain desperate veneer, as if they're somewhat embarrassed by the underlying obsessiveness of the legions of new fans spawned by the Jackson films.

This is not to say "Ringers: LotF" is without merit. It does possess many charms. It's worth a watch, primarily by the legions of faithful. It seems a shame, though, that so few of those legions have bothered so far.

Dark Skies (2013)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Not quite up to snuff, but worth a watch..., 10 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...if only to enjoy the nice performance turned in by Keri "Waitress" Russell, an actor I definitely look forward to seeing in the upcoming "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." The rest of the cast doesn't quite measure up, but aren't awful, and I pin that mostly on writer/director Scott "Legion" Stewart's script, which seems more intent on misdirecting audience expectations than it does in telling a tight, believable story.

The technical aspects of the film are more than passable; I have no complaint with those. The scripting is what fails to transcend Sturgeon's Revelation. It seeks to mine territory already exhaustively explored by previous horror/sci-fi thrillers, and confronts the viewer with far too many "oh, c'mons!" and tired plot devices to elevate it into the realm of memorable. An example of this comes early in the film when the mom is confronted with a kitchen that has been filled with impossibly-stacked items of every sort and stripe (much like the scene in "Poltergeist" from which it's stolen), and this preternatural event is quickly written off as the work of neighborhood intruders or the mother's children. I found it utterly impossible to believe that anyone seeing such a thing would not immediately experience such an intense feeling of disorientation/dismay/fear/wonder that they would be able to accept such a glib explanation and carry on normally, and yet more and more extremely impossible things continue to happen while this mother and her family continue to go about their business as if these things were little more than a mild annoyance. I felt it just didn't jibe with human nature and normal behavior.

The husband, played reasonably well by Josh "J. Edgar" Hamilton, is the worst offender with his ultimately oblivious refusal to accept his wife's contention that all of this malarkey just might possibly be the work of aliens. The viewer can only wonder how many hammers need to be applied to his suddenly granite skull. There are various other such mishandlings of human nature (and common logic) that outweigh whatever positive aspects there are to the film. Ultimately, this is just another watch-once, in one eye and out the other movie. It's not a bad bit of entertainment, mind you; it simply doesn't live up to its potential.

Evil Dead (2013)
15 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
It's official: I have matured..., 31 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers *** the point where a gore-fest like this reset of "The Evil Dead" series failed to impress me. Sadly, mindless Grand Guignol appears to be still popular, and the profit margin of this one will undoubtedly spawn a sequel. More's the pity. Truthfully, the ensemble acting from a quintet of relative unknowns is passable, the DP work from Kiwi Aaron "Spartacus: War of the Damned" Morton is quite nice, and certainly the goo and gristle are up to snuff (been looking for a place to stick that pun for awhile), but unfortunately it's all in the service of tyro auteur Fede "Yes, my first feature film!" Alvarez' pedestrian script and workmanlike-at-best direction. Others are apparently also to blame for the script, including Diablo "Juno" Cody, and likely should be held equally responsible---small recompense to the viewer, though.

After a pointless prologue that could have easily been dealt with in a one-minute flashback, the story (such as it is) settles into an uninspiring realm of hack work, providing nothing in the way of interesting characters to latch onto and even less in the way of surprises, tension and---most important---scares. The film's tagline is sad example of hyperbole and hubris; the only thing terrifying about this misfire is that so many people fell for the hype, and now we'll have to put up with another one down the line. Gone are virtually any traces of what made Raimi's original film memorable, mostly a sense of humor and the spark of genuine imagination. Alvarez' "Evil Dead" is deadly serious and deadly intent on making money from an indiscriminate audience, which renders it deadly dull.

Let's put it this way: when several of the main characters purportedly wait "all morning" for the rest of their party to arrive at a remote cabin without any of them bothering to check and see if they can actually get in the place, only to discover upon that arrival that the door has already been breached by forced entry...well, you know as an audience that your intelligence and willful suspension of disbelief are not going to be respected, and that all the homages and references to the original film aren't going to make a bit of difference.

I shudder to think what sort of self-congratulatory extras are going to be in the BluRay/DVD release. They're certainly going to be more entertaining (but not in a good way) than this hapless remake of a classic lo-fi horror movie that should have been left alone.

8.27.13 edit: Against my better judgment, I revisited this one on DVD (okay, fine, it was from the library, shoot me) and stand by everything I said above. Thankfully, the three promo featurettes were not, as I had feared, overly self-congratulatory, and actually left me feeling a little more charitable toward the writer/director and his leading lady, but none of them altered my opinion of the film itself. "Evil Dead" is make-work, Sturgeon's Revelation all the way.

Taken 2 (2012)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Might have been better titled, "Taken Again"..., 27 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...since that is assuredly what happened to audiences worldwide. The first film was really no great shakes, but at least maintained a sense of consistency and reality that didn't leave viewers shaking their heads. This follow-up from the same writing team of Luc "The Professional" Besson and Robert Mark "The Fifth Element" Kamen just doesn't cut the mustard, the cake, or even the cheese. It's tired, trite, and terminally boring, and I can't really blame the new director, Olivier "Columbiana" Megaton. It's all in that lackluster script, as is always the case in duds like this one. Liam "Thanks for the paycheck" Neeson brings nothing new to the table (and hasn't for quite some time now), and the rest of the cast is, well, happy to take their paychecks, too. In a nutshell: utterly disposable and forgettable. Don't let yourself be taken as well; there are far too many better films out there for you to be wasting your time with this one.

Bio-Dead (2009) (TV)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Another fearsome blow..., 21 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers *** the reputation of my local library system's video buyer, "Bio-Dead" features absolutely nothing worthy of a viewer's time whatsoever. Burdensome dialog, tons of badly-filmed actors running around an empty building in hazmat suits; this is the sort of trash that makes people actually enjoy the dross that folks like Rob Zombie and Eli Roth put out. Trust me, there's nothing in "Bio-Dead" that offers any respite from sheer boredom. Nothing. I am unsurprised that most of the links from this site to external reviews now lead nowhere, and you can bet there's good reason for that. I'm pretty sure I've written the bare minimum by now, so let's just say you've been warned, and if you don't pay attention to that warning, well, you're going to get exactly what you deserve: nothing.

Fragments (2008)
Fortuitously retitled..., 6 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...although one can easily spot visual cues to the original, "Fragments" suffers from far too much similarity to prior films like "Crash," "Magnolia," and "Powder Blue." Essentially, we follow the altered lives of a number of survivors of a random act of violence until a full account of that act has been revealed in bits and pieces. The ensemble is commendably effective, with especially notable performances from Forest "Panic Room" Whitaker and Kate "Underworld" Beckinsale, the score by Marcelo "The Words" Zarvos is effectively melancholic, and Eric Alan "Copland" Edwards' camera-work is far better than other scribes on this site are willing to allow. Director Rowan "Farscape" Woods does what he can with Rory Freirich's script from his own novel, but the sketchiness of the characters makes them harder to latch onto than most, at least from what I gather on this site and others. I didn't have as much of a problem with that, and in fact sat through the entire film without breaking for a cigarette, which is fairly unusual for me, so I know that all in all something right was done, and I bumped my rating a notch over what I would have otherwise given it. If you're into watching actors do their thing without a lot of fanfare and whofoorah, I say go for it.

Cleanflix (2009)
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Obviously flying well under the IMDb radar..., 25 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...judging by the fact that I'm putting up the very first review of this film on this site (a situation I've never encountered in the thirteen years I've been visiting here), but the truth is that I'm not overly surprised. Documentaries simply aren't IMDbers' cup of tea, as I have noticed time and time again.

Never mind that; if you're actually reading this, then you've either already seen the film, in which case anything I say isn't going to make a bit of difference to you, or you're actually checking here first to see what others have to say before you spring cold, hard cash to buy or rent the thing (does anyone even rent any more?), in which case you're one of the people I'm writing this for.

"Cleanflix" presents a tale of profit motive meeting religious impulse to satisfy an unserved demand for bowdlerized film entertainment. These sorts of things always amuse me, since the impulses are so rarely pursued with the purity otherwise subsumed by the motive. In this case, it's the heavily Mormon population of Utah wanting to partake in mass culture without the onus of exposing themselves to corrupting influences, which is to say, they want to watch R-rated movies stripped of the stuff that makes them R-rated, or even PG-13, for that matter, since apparently films like "Pirates of the Caribbean" got the same scissor-wielding editorial treatment from an enterprise called CleanFlicks. Lordy-lord, how they must have had to be careful how they designed the logo for that business!

This all started up in the late 90s, when a Utah theater cut the naughty bits out of James Cameron's "Titanic" to make it safe for its predominantly Mormon clientèle; a video shop then followed suit, and after Paramount Pictures got wind of it and reacted accordingly, an idea was born in the head of a guy named Ray Lines, who promptly co-founded CleanFlicks to provide edited content for what was obviously a large and demanding demographic, never mind pesky things like copyrights and artistic integrity. A booming business was born, and thrived quite handily in Utah and other enclaves of aggrieved morality for a number of years until Hollywood (and most pointedly, the Director's Guild of America) finally said enough is enough, bringing the full weight of its legal arm to bear on the profiteering censors.

That wasn't quite good enough, though, because a seeming loophole existed, enough of one for guys like video shop owner Daniel Thompson to try to squeeze through. Thompson, a profound attention whore and consummate hypocrite, along with various other bottom-feeders, simply found new suppliers once Lines' operation was shut down, and kept at it, nobly defending his illicit enterprise right up to the day Hollywood's lawyers shut him down for good. Thompson even got a bit of extra comeuppance when he was arrested and convicted on a sexual misconduct charge involving minors; amazingly, he served less than two months in jail!

At any rate, "Cleanflix" does a fine job of delineating the whole affair. Anyone interested in issues of censorship, creator's rights, and a particular strain of religious morality that holds great sway in this country is well advised to seek this one out. I found it at my public library, and for once applaud their buyer's good sense in acquiring it.

Sinister (2012/I)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Perhaps mistitled, but still effective..., 18 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...this third full-length outing from writer/director Scott "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" Derrickson squeezes great value out of its relatively minuscule budget (and was certainly a success at the box office, earning more than fifteen times its production costs!), thanks to a relatively tight script, solid ensemble acting (including fine work by Ethan "Tape" Hawke---ignore the naysayers), effective sound design and equally effective cinematography by Chris "Trumbo" Norr. I won't belabor the plot---others have done that already---but if you let yourself go with the flow, the ride is satisfyingly creepy. "Sinister" isn't really a scare-fest; there aren't a whole lot of "Boo!" moments, but it accomplishes its goal of unsettling you, and leaves you with a distinct interest in a sequel, if only to find out if anyone can deal with "Mr. Boogie."

I caught this for free, thanks to my public library, but I think if I'd sprung for it in the theater, I wouldn't have felt ripped off. Despite his having been saddled with the disappointing remake of "The Day The Earth Stood Still," Derrickson bounced back nicely with this one, and I look forward to his future endeavors, particularly his remake of "Poltergeist" and an adaptation of George Alec Effinger's cyberpunk novel, "When Gravity Fails."

This Derrickson guy is a director to keep an eye on; I predict great things for him in the future.

The Hidden (1987)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Another hidden gem from the 80s..., 16 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

..and one that almost begs for a high-budget remake in these retread days, "The Hidden" opens with a bang and takes off down a hellbound highway at full speed. Its rather simple tale of what turns out to be an alien criminal on an earthbound spree being pursued by an alien cop features a nice gimmick: each of these beings resides within a human host, typically a dead one, and can shift from one body to another when required. The baddie has to do this physically, while the hero does so via energy transfer. The audience never learns how they got here, but that's not important; what matters is the dog-and-cat chase and the relationship the good alien strikes up with the human partner he acquires after the rousing opening sequence.

Leads Kyle "Twin Peaks" MacLachlan and Michael "Flashdance" Nouri form an appealing team as they pursue their nefarious quarry jumping from one host to another while enjoying the pleasures of loud music, fast cars, and indiscriminate carnage. All sorts of recognizable character actors pop up along the way, including a blink-and-you'll-miss-him Danny "Machete" Trejo, but the real pleasures of "The Hidden" are on display in its straightforward storytelling and honest humanity.

Claudia "Babylon 5" Christian fans already know that "The Hidden" was her very notable film debut; not so many folks remember that it was only the third film for Kyle McLachlan, after "Dune" and "Blue Velvet." Sadly, it was pretty much the high-water mark for director Jack "Alone in the Dark" Sholder, who after another few decades in the trenches of television, finally left show business to go into teaching. That's okay; he left us one truly fine guilty pleasure to enjoy.

Highly recommended.

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