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409 reviews in total 
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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Deeply moving parable, fine dramatic debut for Ashton Kutcher, 14 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound formats: Dolby Digital / DTS / SDDS

A young man (Ashton Kutcher) is 'cursed' with an ability to travel back in time to a series of traumatic childhood incidents and change the course of history, but his thoughtless actions have far-reaching - and often painful - consequences...

Astonishing, complex film, distinguished by Kutcher's heartfelt performance as the haunted character whose attempts to rectify past transgressions meet with disaster at every turn. The emotional pay-off is quite profound (especially in the director's cut, much better than the theatrical edition), though viewers are advised that the material is often VERY heavy indeed - you have been warned! An unexpected masterpiece.

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Fine showcase for Tom Savini's makeup effects, 4 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Mono

An abusive caretaker at a lonely summer camp is disfigured by fire during a prank which goes horribly wrong. Five years later, he returns to the area to take revenge against one of his former persecutors (now a camp counsellor) and the kids in his charge.

Makeup artist Tom Savini rejected an opportunity to work on "Friday the 13th Part 2" (1981) in order to create effects for Tony Maylam's THE BURNING, yet another in the assembly line of low-budget horror movies which emerged in the wake of HALLOWEEN (1978). Savini warned the film's producers - including a fledgling Harvey Weinstein! - that the script for THE BURNING shared uncomfortable similarities with the "Friday" sequel, though fans may have been too dazzled by the gruesome set-pieces to either notice or care. In truth, THE BURNING shares only a handful of superficial details with "Friday 2", including a late night campfire episode in which the villain is dismissed as an urban legend, culminating in a false 'scare' which today's audiences will probably see coming a mile off. Despite a couple of groan-inducing incidentals ("Oh, I forgot my vitamins - I'll have to go back to my cabin through the dark, creepy woods!"), the narrative develops organically from one scene to the next, and characters react believably to the escalating situation. Unfortunately, the climax - set mostly within an abandoned mineshaft - is staged and executed with little flair or suspense, and amounts to something of a major disappointment.

Of course, the main point of interest - besides seeing some familiar faces in early roles, including Jason Alexander (TV's "Seinfeld"), Fisher Stevens (SHORT CIRCUIT) and an unrecognisable Holly Hunter - is Savini's horrific makeup effects: Victims are slashed, stabbed, punctured and poked in graphic detail, and blood flows copiously from some horribly convincing wounds. Indeed, the film reaches a crescendo of horror during a notorious sequence involving an 'abandoned' canoe (I'll say no more), one of the most vicious set-pieces of the 1980's 'slasher' cycle. Briskly paced, and scored with a series of electronic doodles by no less than Rick Wakeman (!), THE BURNING may seem awfully simplistic to modern viewers, but it delivers the gory goods in no uncertain terms. The movie was censored for an R-rating, but the uncut version has since been released on home video.

The Fog (1980)
93 out of 116 people found the following review useful:
Old-fashioned horror movie works like a charm, 1 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)

Sound format: Mono

While celebrating its centenary birthday, a small Californian coastal town is visited by a ghostly fog containing an army of murderous spirits who take revenge for a terrible injustice.

Released on a wave of expectation following the worldwide success of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978), THE FOG surprised everyone by generating only moderate returns at the US box-office, though it's arguably the better of the two films. Beautifully photographed by Carpenter stalwart Dean Cundey (BACK TO THE FUTURE, JURASSIC PARK, etc.), this unassuming 'ghost story' opens on a lonely clifftop at midnight, where crusty old sea dog John Houseman tells an audience of wide-eyed children how their home town was built on the foundations of tragedy. As with HALLOWEEN, the pace is slow but steady, punctuated by a series of well-judged scares, and there's a relentless accumulation of details which belies the script's modest ambitions.

Jamie Lee Curtis headlines the movie opposite her real life mother Janet Leigh, though Hal Holbrook takes the acting honors as a frightened priest who realizes the town was founded on deception and murder. As the fog rolls in, the narrative reaches an apocalyptic crescendo, as the film's principal cast are besieged by zombie-like phantoms inside an antiquated church, in scenes reminiscent of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968). Scary stuff, to be sure, though Carpenter was forced to add new material during post-production in an effort to 'beef up' the movie's horror quotient, including a memorable late-night encounter between a fishing boat and the occupants of a ghostly schooner which looms out of the swirling fog (similar scenes would be added to HALLOWEEN II in 1981 for the same reasons, though under less agreeable circumstances). Production values are solid, and Carpenter cranks up the tension throughout, resulting in a small masterpiece of American Gothic. Highly recommended.

Ringu 2 (1999)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
No better or worse than the first one, 1 April 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

RING 2 (Ringu 2)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: DTS Stereo

A young student (Miki Nakatani) and a TV journalist (Yûrei Yanagi) go in search of the evil spirit which caused mayhem in the original RING (1998), only to unleash a fresh wave of supernatural horror.

Hideo Nakata's commercially-driven sequel employs the same funereal pacing and one-dimensional characters which stifled the first film, and the results are no less disappointing. Denied the element of surprise which invigorated RING's closing sequence, Nakata and screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi are forced to rely on a dissonant music score, creepy sound effects and a handful of traumatic set-pieces (such as a nightmarish vision outside Nakatani's apartment window, and a heartstopping encounter with supernatural horror in a dilapidated well), though much of the material feels contrived and superfluous, and the climactic sequence (in which rational science is defeated by paranormal forces) is wholly inadequate. Clearly, Nakata understands the concept of 'creeping dread', but is unable to deliver a satisfying pay-off.

Already the subject of a comprehensive TV series ("Ringu: Kanzen-ban", 1995) and a theatrical spin-off (THE SPIRAL, directed by Nakata and released in Japan at the same time as the original RING), the series represents little more than a millennial update of old-fashioned Japanese kaidan, though its ghostly villain ('Sadako') is now a part of the cultural lexicon throughout SE Asia (rather like Freddy Krueger in western society). For some, however, the international success of Nakata's humdrum 'spook show' is baffling, to say the least. RING 2 was followed by the Korean/Japanese co-production RING (1999) and another Japanese entry, RING O: BIRTHDAY (2000), before the series relocated to America for Gore Verbinski's THE RING (2002), bringing the mythos to a wider audience than ever before.

(Japanese dialogue)

Ringu (1998)
1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Burns slowly without ever truly igniting, 31 March 2005

RING (Ringu)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Stereo

A TV journalist (Nanako Matsushima) joins forces with her ex-husband (Hiroyuki Sanada) to trace the source of a strange videotape which brings death to anyone who watches it...

Hugely successful on its home turf, Hideo Nakata's cult favorite (based on a novel by Kôji Suzuki) ignited a worldwide interest in supernatural horror movies (consolidated a year later by the international success of THE SIXTH SENSE) and spawned a wave of sequels and spin-offs, many of which have since been optioned and/or remade by US studios. On its own terms, however, RING is a huge disappointment. Things get off to a bad start with the opening teaser, a slow-burning 'scare' scene which builds toward nothing more than a lacklustre freeze-frame, ruining the intended effect, and the subsequent narrative relies too heavily on mood to be truly effective. Nakata generates tension through a gradual accumulation of details, as Matsushima and Sanada follow a series of clues to a remote island where they uncover the identity of a 'character' in the cursed video, whose restless spirit seeks vengeance for a past transgression. The movie closes on a scene of stunning, visceral horror (impressionable viewers are warned that this sequence is *profoundly* frightening), but it's the only highlight of an otherwise mediocre movie. Nakata has since built a career on such material (CHAOS, DARK WATER, etc.). Followed by RING 2 (1999) and the tangentially-related THE SPIRAL (1998).

(Japanese dialogue)

2002 (2001)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
GHOST BUSTERS meets THE MATRIX, Hong Kong style!, 30 March 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

A psychic cop (Nicholas Tse) who battles wayward ghosts for the Hong Kong police department is teamed with an eager rookie (Stephen Fung) destined to die and become his ghostly helper. But their plans are thwarted by a vengeful water spirit (Alex Fong), who emerges from the Other Side to destroy them both...

Long on spectacle and short on plot, Wilson Yip's half-hearted blockbuster contains a typical mixture of awkward comedy and heart-rending melodrama, assembled in piecemeal fashion by no less than four credited screenwriters (Vincent Kok, Gwok Ji-kin, Szeto Yam-kuen and Yip himself)! Fate and Destiny play an important role in the patchwork narrative, though such philosophical musings are quickly submerged beneath a tide of CGI effects and wire-fu combat sequences (choreographed by Poon Kin-gwan), including a remarkable fight between Tse and Fong in a swimming pool which rings the changes on an old formula, in no uncertain terms.

However, the film exists primarily as a vehicle for its leading men, both of whom are rendered beautiful by Poon Hang-sang's flattering camera-work and Stephen Tsang's 'Matrix'-style costumes, co-designed by Stephanie Wong. As with so many HK movies of this type, Tse and Fung are given a couple of lacklustre romantic interests (Danielle Graham and Rain Li), but Yip focuses primarily on the intense relationship between the film's male protagonists, and their mutual affection is invested with a fair degree of homoerotic pathos. Sam Lee and industry veteran Law Kar-ying are featured in supporting roles, while Yip himself cameos as a doctor.

(Cantonese dialogue)

"Colditz" (2005)
17 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Fine war yarn, with melodramatic ending, 29 March 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

(2 episodes)

A desperate POW (Tom Hardy) plots escape from Colditz after learning that a former inmate (Damian Lewis) has returned to London and stolen Hardy's fiancée (Sophia Myles).

Lively addition to the 'heroes of WWII' subgenre, filmed on location in London and the Czech Republic, and directed with cinematic flair by Stuart Orme (THE PUPPET MASTERS). Richard Cottan's screenplay (co-written with Peter Morgan, based on the book by Henry Chancellor and the 2000 TV series "Escape from Colditz") cross-cuts between events at Colditz castle - where Hardy and fellow inmate Laurence Fox (DEATHWATCH) hatch multiple escape plans, only to be thwarted by a combination of bad luck and reckless bravado - and the less-interesting relationship which develops between Lewis and Myles, though the two plot threads merge neatly for a melodramatic finale. Lewis gives the showiest performance, playing a selfish character whose charming demeanor masks a propensity for greed and violence, though Hardy and Fox are suitably intense in crucial supporting roles. James Fox (father of Laurence) and Timothy West make extended cameo appearances as senior members of MI9, while former teen heartthrob Jason Priestley plays a Canadian POW whose burgeoning drug habit pays lethal dividends. Fine cinematography and production values.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
One of the finest ghost stories ever filmed, 28 March 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Stereo

Whilst recovering from a recent tragedy, a widowed composer (George C. Scott) takes residence in a brooding mansion haunted by the spirit of a little boy who was murdered for political reasons in the 1920's.

Peter Medak's elegant chiller ranks alongside THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941) and PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948) as one of the most accomplished ghost stories ever filmed. Sidelined on its original release by a glut of low budget shockers dominating US theaters at the time, the movie has since been rediscovered on TV and home video, where viewers have responded with enthusiasm to its stylish visuals and classy production values.

Like the mansion in which its horrors unfold, THE CHANGELING is a grand and stately affair which forsakes all-out supernatural mayhem for quiet, creepy details (a door creaking open of its own accord in broad daylight; a cluttered attic room festooned with cobwebs where a child's wheelchair betrays evidence of a guilty secret, etc.), culminating in one of the most frightening scenes of the entire movie, in which Scott replays an audio recording of an especially memorable seance and hears... well, let's just say, it'll keep some viewers awake long into the night! For maximum impact, try to hear it in the original Dolby sound configuration...

Performances are top-drawer, including Melvyn Douglas as the ageing politician whose career was constructed on the foundations of murder, Trish Van Devere (Scott's wife at the time) as the real estate agent who becomes mixed-up in the inquiry, John Colicos as a cop who thinks Scott's investigation amounts to little more than an assault on Douglas' integrity, and Ruth Springford as an elderly patron of the local historical society who provides vital clues to the mansion's tragic history. Jean Marsh cameos as Scott's ill-fated wife. Hungarian-born director Medak - who began his career with a number of critically acclaimed black comedies like NEGATIVES (1968) and THE RULING CLASS (1972) - later distinguished himself with the intense true-crime dramas THE KRAYS (1990) and LET HIM HAVE IT (1991), before getting lost on the Hollywood treadmill.

"10.5" (2004)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Soulless disaster movie goes through the motions, 26 March 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

Once upon a time, US network television produced memorable, must-see miniseries' like ROOTS, FATAL VISION, HELTER SKELTER and THE ATLANTA CHILD MURDERS, movies with real grit and integrity. Nowadays, they produce rubbish like 10.5, an unmitigated disaster in every sense of the word, in which an earthquake in Seattle triggers a sequence of equally devastating tremors - each one worse than the last - which seismologist Kim Delaney believes will culminate in a massive, landscape-altering quake along the West Coast. Naturally, the l-o-n-g bits between disaster set-pieces (including the destruction of San Francisco and a spectacular climactic deluge) are populated with boring characters mouthing the usual soap opera clichés, while the scenes of destruction are as dramatic as they are scientifically unsound (ie. there's no such thing as a '10.5' earthquake; the Golden Gate Bridge was built to withstand even the most violent tremor, and will NOT collapse during seismic activity; nuclear explosions CANNOT seal faults in the earth's surface, etc.).

The script is utterly predictable throughout (virtually every character is divided from their loved ones, either geographically or emotionally, yet the quakes bring them together in the end and, yep, make them all better people as a consequence - puh-leeze!!), and Beau Bridges plays the President with such overstated 'fortitude' and 'compassion', he comes off looking like some godawful televangelist, and is just as convincing. Even worse, David Foreman's largely hand-held camera-work - a swirling mess of zooms and zip-pans, borrowed from TV's "NYPD Blue" and designed to convey a sense of realism where none exists - seems calculated to drive viewers up the wall. The much-heralded visual effects are only intermittently successful, and most of 'em look like what they are - CGI images (EARTHQUAKE, SAN FRANCISCO and THE BIG ONE: THE GREAT LOS ANGELES EARTHQUAKE contain much better depictions of widespread devastation). Appalling stuff, directed by John Lafia (CHILD'S PLAY 2 - 'nuff said), and promoted under the title 'Earthquake 10.5'.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Archetypal Laurel and Hardy comedy, 26 March 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Sound format: Mono

(Black and white - Short film)

During a heavy blizzard, boarding-house tenants Stan 'n' Ollie hide their dog from an unsympathetic landlord (Charley Hall) who threatens to evict them if they don't follow the rules. Chaos ensues...

Archetypal L&H comedy, played and filmed to perfection, as the boys' efforts to protect 'Laughing Gravy' meet with disaster at every turn. Ollie's attempts to get back into the house without being noticed by the sleeping landlord is only one of the film's many highlights, leading to a precarious rooftop episode (!) and a series of blunders and disasters. Fine comic timing, excellent set-pieces, great fun. Directed with typical gusto by L&H regular James W. Horne.

The film exists in three separate versions: It played theatrically as a two-reeler, following the elimination of a third reel in which Stan comes into an unexpected inheritance. This material has since been restored to a second version which omits the original's ending. A third edition - which appears to exist only in colorized form - contains ALL extant material, including the inheritance AND the original ending.

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