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570 reviews in total 
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De Palma (2015)
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Good look at a fascinating filmmaker, 23 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How much one enjoys DE PALMA depends almost entirely on one's opinion on the work of Brian De Palma or De Palma himself. For those who like De Palma's films, this new documentary will be a real treat. For those who dislike or are relatively indifferent to De Palma will most likely be completely bored throughout the entire running time. This is a documentary made for a very small audience: De Palma fans and general film fanatics.

The whole movie consists of De Palma going through his complete filmography, talking about each one of his films with clips spliced into the mix. There are no additional interviews, which would be a problem if De Palma wasn't such an engaging speaker. In terms of modern day filmmakers, De Palma, even after a career that spans several decades, is still of the most fascinating personalities in the film industry, something that is clear throughout almost every minute here. While I won't say there's never a dull moment, a good 85% of De Palma's stories are entertaining and insightful. Even the stories he tells about his biggest flops like The Bonfire of the Vanities adaptation and Wise Guys starring Danny Devito are fun to hear. De Palma doesn't disown any of these productions, but he is quite candid about why certain ones weren't well received critically or commercially.

The only real flaw is that a few of De Palma's films here get too much commentary, while a few gets too little commentary. Some of De Palma's most recent movies like The Black Dahlia and Passion are barely mentioned at all. Even if they are among his least popular films, it's disappointing that they aren't discussed enough here given the treatment all the other films seem to receive. Even with this imbalance,this is something that's worth watching more than once, just like the De Palma's films themselves. 8/10

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
An improvement in every way, 10 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While I definitely wouldn't consider 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to be one of the worst movies ever made, it was certainly the most disappointing film of that year. Horribly written, flatly acted, and filled with unfinished-looking CGI, the film was reviled by fans who grew up with Ninja Turtles in the 1980s and 1990s, yet was still amazingly successful at the box office, as it connected with the under-12 demographic. Realizing that film played best when aimed towards the younger children, the producers wisely decided to make the sequel goofier, more like a cartoon series, and focus more on the Ninja Turtles this time around. The result, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is probably the best sequel to a bad movie that I've ever seen.

'Out of the Shadows' is not a masterpiece. It still suffers from some incredibly sloppy writing (the clumsy exposition in the dialogue is everywhere) and there's still a bit too much CGI for my liking, but everything else about this sequel is a vast improvement over its predecessor. The acting, especially from Megan Fox, is much better. The action scenes are actually watchable, and directed with enough visual flair that, at the best of times, it seems like a comic book come to life. The cinematography is no longer dark and dirty looking. There's no aspect that isn't improved.

While 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tried to be a mix between being "gritty" and being a goofy kid-appropriate film, 'Out of the Shadows' sets its sights on really only being a goofy, action-filled family flick, albeit one with enough swear words and explosions to get a PG-13 to not turn older audiences away. There's no other way to explain it other than 'Out of the Shadows' is a dumb film designed to mostly appeal to children, but it knows its dumb. The filmmakers know that this is a movie designed to sell toys, and they don't hide that fact. The jokes are juvenile, the plot is simplistic, and not everything makes a ton of sense, though none of that matters, because, first and foremost, the film is fun. By not taking itself seriously and embracing both its comic book and cartoon series roots, 'Out of the Shadows' is way better than anyone should believe it could be based on the previous film in the series.

Judging from the box office results, there are many people that stayed home after the disappointment of the movie they saw two years ago, and the decision to skip this is perfectly understandable and logical. That said, old fans of Ninja Turtles should probably give this movie a shot, as it's way closer to the movie audiences deserved in 2014. 6/10

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fun, but not groundbreaking!, 6 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After so many years of terrible remakes of hit films, it's rather sad that it seems downright refreshing when a studio decides to make a sequel to an established property rather than remake it. For years, I assumed Independence Day was a movie that would eventually get remade,not because it was calling out for a remake, but simply because it's one of the few hugely successful science fiction blockbusters from the past twenty years that hasn't been remade yet. When Independence Day: Resurgence was announced, I didn't have the negative opinion many seemed to have towards the project. I was just happy there would be no remake.

As far as sequels go, Independence Day: Resurgence is a fairly enjoyable two hours at the movies. It's not necessarily a whole lot better or a whole lot worse than Independence Day. Those who complained that Independence Day had too many convenient plot points will find plenty to hate here. Those who claim the special effects take priority over the story are probably right. And Will Smith fans will definitely miss his presence here. Despite all that, Independence Day: Resurgence delivers exactly what people should expect: lots of aliens, explosions, and Jeff Goldblum being Jeff Goldblum.

A good comparison for Independence Day: Resurgence is The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Both tell a story very similar to their predecessors, both had much bigger budgets to work with than their originals, and both feature Jeff Goldblum going from co-star to full blown lead. Of course, there's a lot of hate for The Lost World: Jurassic Park, just as there's a lot of hate for this movie already. For me, in the cases of both films, Goldblum's presence elevates the material significantly. While he doesn't quite have the charisma of Will Smith at his best, Goldblum is nonetheless a great, funny, and all around entertaining actor to watch. Whenever Goldblum is on screen, Independence Day: Resurgence is infinitely more interesting than when he's not. Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, and Jesse T. Usher take up much screen time as the younger generation of pilots that must fight back against the aliens, but their parts aren't as well written or exciting as director Roland Emmerich might think. The casting feels like a studio mandate, almost as if Fox said, "you can bring back Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, and Bill Pullman, but the rest of the cast has to be under 25." To Emmerich's credit, his film is never boring, it's just uneven. This is not a mind-blowing sci-fi masterpiece, though it is Emmerich's best film is quite some time, mainly thanks to Goldblum's performance.

The biggest mistake Emmerich makes with Independence Day: Resurgence is due to his complete confidence that there will be another sequel. Emmerich ends the film on a note that couldn't be a bigger tease. I won't give away what happens, but it's safe to say that more than a few audience members are bound to feel cheated by the last scene of the film. As the end credits rolled, I expected there to be something more, something that would make what I'd just seen not feel like such a cheat. Nothing else ever came.

Even with such a cheap ending, this is one of the better sequels of 2016 has had to offer so far. It won't be one of the best movies of the summer but it certainly isn't the worst. The film is a true Independence Day sequel, for better of worse. It's fun, summer popcorn entertainment and nothing more. Recommended to fans of the original. 6/10

Goosebumps (2015)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
More or less what fans have been waiting for, 26 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Given the enormous popularity of the Goosebumps franchise back in the 1990s, it's pretty astonishing that a theatrical Goosebumps feature didn't make it to screens until late last year. The potential for a great Goosebumps film franchise is immediately obvious to anyone who has ever picked up one of the books. Of course, the potential for Goosebumps to be a complete failure when translated to film was just as high. Luckily, the final version of Goosebumps that made it to screens works quite well as a movie for kids, and for those who are nostalgic for the old Goosebumps books and television series. The film is by no means a masterpiece, but it's a lot of fun to watch and full enough cool, semi-creepy visuals to keep adult horror fans happy.

The best decision made by director Rob Lettemran in regards to keeping fans happy was to throw as many of the creatures from the books into the film as possible. Perhaps sensing this may be his one shot at bringing the series to life, Letterman fills the second half of Goosebumps with all the fan favorites that anyone could want, most notably Slappy, the creepiest doll to be on screen in quite some time. With an impressive budget to work with, Letterman mixes just the right amount of practical and CGI effects to create the monsters that terrorize the protagonists. Not all the monsters look perfect, but the film never falls into the trap so many special effects-heavy creature features do of looking like video games. Being a kids film, the monsters are never terrifying. They are all just unnerving enough to be menacing without seeming like they belong in a more adult, R-rated horror movie.

The big risk with this type of movie is that it gets dumbed down or diluted into only being accessible to children. In the opening scenes, this seemed like it could have been the case. However, once the initial ten minutes go by, Goosebumps finds its groove and manages to become a thoroughly enjoyable horror-adventure picture not tonally far off from something from the 1990s like the great Small Soldiers. Jack Black brings just the right amount of weird and goofy to make his portrayal of R.L. Stine fit the overall tone, and none of the young actors ever make their characters too annoying or over-the-top. None of the performances are fantastic, though they are pretty much all better than the acting on the "Goosebumps" television show ever was. Ultimately nobody is watching a Goosebumps movie for the acting anyway. The film exists to give younger viewers and life-long Goosebumps fans some good old mildly spooky fun, and on that count, Goosebumps delivers.

Whether or not a Goosebumps sequel ever gets made is up in the air. This was not a gigantic hit, and its big budget is evident in most scenes. While Goosebumps ends on a scare that could be seen as a cliffhanger, the film wisely pretty much ends the story where it needs to end. There are no obnoxious dangling plot threads that are so common in potential franchise starters these days. When the end credits roll, Goosebumps is a satisfying experience which, despite its flaws, is more or less what long-time fans have been waiting for since the 1990s. 6/10

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A great show that gives comedy its due, 20 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Comedy is, without a doubt, the most underrated genre in film. Even the very best comedies rarely get the respect that they deserve. A comedy, even a expertly made one, will almost never be nominated for Best Picture. Professional film critics will, more often than not, trash comedies for not being high pieces of art. Yet, comedies tend to be the types of films that achieve cult status. "TruInside", a great show with a bad title, goes inside the making of some of the most popular cult comedies of the past few decades with the directors, writers, producers, and actors of the respective movies. As each episode is only around 45 minutes, these are not as in-depth as some of the more comprehensive DVD documentaries, but they are always nonetheless informative and fun to watch. How one feels about the show greatly depends on one's opinion on the titles discussed. Since I'm a big fan of Airplane, Heathers, Tommy Boy, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the episodes that focus on those movies are nothing short of fantastic. Even the Comedy Cellar and Groundlings episodes, the only two episodes so far that don't directly tie in movies, are well worth watching. The only consistent flaw with "TruInside" is that oftentimes movie clips will be heavily censored for content since the show airs on basic cable. Other than that, "TruInside" is a must-see for fans of comedy. 8/10

3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Instant classic!, 23 May 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If I had to pick my favorite screenwriter of all time, I would probably have to pick Shane Black. Despite not being nearly as prolific as he once was, every time a new Shane Black penned film rolls around, it's always a treat. The trailer for The Nice Guys made me hopeful that the film would be the kind of comedic action flick that used to be made in the 1980s and 1990s, one where the plot actually mattered. As it turns out, while the very action-heavy trailer for the film is somewhat misleading, The Nice Guys is still not only a great surprise, but also my favorite movie of the past decade.

Those expecting non-stop gunfire and constant jokes may be disappointed by the fact that The Nice Guys is, first and foremost, a period piece mystery. Set in 1977, the story follows hard-drinking private detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and hard enforcer Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe in his most entertaining performance ever) as they try to find Amelia Kutner, a missing young woman who may be in way over her head. This may sound like a plot that would be full of clichés, predictable story beats, and characters that have been seen over and over again. While it's true that The Nice Guys does lean on a few staples of the genre, it's also consistently surprising, completely fascinating, and even unexpectedly touching in a few places. This being a Shane Black film, there's still plenty of hilarious lines and comedic elements, but it's a bit less jokey and quip-filled than a lot of his previous work. The story and the characters come first here. When the occasional action scene does happen, it feels purposeful rather than just thrown in to be cool or keep the audiences' attention. Black's direction in these scenes is better than ever, as the shoot-out that concludes the film is the most entertaining action scene I've seen in at least five years.

The biggest surprise for me is how great Crowe and Gosling are together. I've never loved or hated either one of them, as I've always been kind of indifferent to their respective careers. But here, Gosling and Crowe are absolutely perfect in their roles. Funny, sad, mysterious, and cool at times, both their characters are ones that are great to spend the entire screen time with, even when they aren't necessarily, as the title puts it, nice guys. They are insanely well written, damaged, and completely compelling characters throughout every scene. In supporting roles, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, and newcomer Angourie Rice shine in parts that could have been stock characters. Every person in this movies so amazingly good that it's hard to pick a favorite.

If there's one flaw in The Nice Guys, it's that the very end, while totally in line with the type of story being told, is a minor letdown. The ending is an appropriate one for the film, but it could have used a bit of punching up. The ending leaves things open for a sequel, one which will never happen due to the low opening weekend numbers. There's no movie I would rather see than The Nice Guys 2. The characters lend themselves to the possibility of a great franchise.

I can't overstate what a blast The Nice Guys is to me as a movie fan. I won't go as far as to call it flawless, but it is as close to perfect of a film as I'm likely to see the rest of 2016. I loved almost every second of it, and would gladly sit through a longer cut in a heartbeat. The Nice Guys is an instant classic, one that I will definitely be watching over and over again. Highly recommended. 9/10

Dirty Work (1998)
One of the most underrated comedies ever, 18 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

No comedian on earth makes me laugh harder than Norm MacDonald. While MacDonald may be an acquired taste, his deadpan delivery can pretty much make any joke hysterical. MacDonald's unapologetically un-PC brand of comedy combined with his dry delivery can make people uncomfortable. His "Weekend Update" segments on SNL were consistently controversial, but also consistently hilarious. After being fired from SNL, movies seemed like the best next step for MacDonald. Unfortunately, his first starring role in Dirty Work didn't pan out quite like MacDoanld or his fans would have liked. The film was a box office failure, and pretty much derailed MacDonald's film career as a leading man. However, a film's box office is not a fair measurement of a film's quality. Some of the most memorable comedies of all time have been box office failures. While I won't say Dirty Work is an all time cinema classic, I will defend it as something close to a comedic masterpiece. It's an off-the-charts stupid comedy with plot holes and obvious editing galore, but it is also, above all else, one of the funniest comedies ever made.

The most surprising part of Dirty Work is that was directed by Bob Saget. The knowledge that the guy who made hundreds of corny jokes on "Full House" is responsible for one of the most side-splitting comedies of all time is fairly hard to believe. What makes Dirty Work such a joy is the confidence Saget shows as a director. There is never a moment in which the movie retreats from what it is: a dumb, raunchy comedy determined to go for most low-brow joke possible at every turn. The film is absolutely juvenile in the best way, and knows it. The film never tries to be something it's not. Every scene is filled with crude humor, somewhat obvious jokes, and easy targets. But every scene is also filled with memorable lines delivered by actors who know exactly what type of comedy they are starring in, for better of worse. Norm MacDonald and Artie Lange are aware they are not the world's greatest actors, so any moment that would usually require a convincing emotion is almost immediately undercut with a dirty joke. Any scene that could fall flat is instantly beefed up by a celebrity cameo by the likes of Adam Sandler, Gary Coleman, John Goodman, Don Rickles etc. Bob Saget is completely aware of how awful certain scenes could be, and does everything to ensure that every scene is better than it has any right to be by simply providing another solid joke at every turn.

The flaws of Dirty Work are completely apparent. The editing for the PG-13 rating is hard to ignore, especially in the jail scene. The pacing is almost too quick. And, although it's certainly not the fault of the filmmakers, it would have been nice if the last film of Chris Farley released in theaters contained slightly more of him. Despite the obvious imperfectness of the film, it's hard for me not to love it. I could probably watch this movie every day of my life without tiring of it. It's one of the few movies that gets funnier every time I watch it. There's no comedy that deserves a special edition DVD or Blu Ray release than this one. Highly recommended. 9/10

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A great watch, 27 March 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I just caught Spring Broke tonight on Showtime, and despite the somewhat awkward title of the documentary itself, had a great time watching it. I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before tuning in. I had no idea whether the movie was going to be a serious look at the history of spring break in America, or a more sleazy, exploitative feature. Luckily, Spring Broke is definitely the former and is far more interesting, informative, and entertaining than one might expect. The film chronicles the origins of spring break in the 1960s, its huge rise in popularity in the 1980s due to MTV, and its steady decline in the 1990s. Rather than take on the subject of spring break throughout all of America, the filmmakers wisely keep the focus on the state of Florida, specifically Daytona and Fort Lauderdale. There are interviews with a number of celebrities from the 1980s and 1990s including Pauly Shore, Ed Lover (probably the best interviewee), and Dave Barry. Every participant has a lot to say about the subject, and there is rarely a dull moment. While there are definitely pieces that could have been more in depth and the running time is way too short, Spring Broke is a great little documentary that is well worth checking out. 8/10

Phantoms (1998)
Worth watching for genre fans!, 20 February 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Phantoms is probably better known for being a great punchline in Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back ("Affleck, you the bomb in Phantoms yo!") than it is as an actual movie. One of the many late 90s horror offering from Bob and Harvey Weinstein's Dimension Films, it was a box office flop when it hit theaters, and unlike several other Dimension releases from the same era, it hasn't become much of a cult favorite. Adapted by Dean Koontz from his novel of the same, Phantoms is Koontz's only screen writing credit. Reportedly, Koontz wasn't crazy about the final cut, blaming the editing in the postproduction process. While Koontz maybe right about the film's editing being messy, and while Phantoms is far from a great movie, I still kind of like it.

Like most Dimension horror flicks, Phantoms has an amazing cast. Ben Affleck, Rose McGowan, and Liev Schreiber were regularly cast in Dimension Films, and it's not hard to see why. Their performances don't necessarily elevate the material, but they are a lot of fun to watch on screen, especially Affleck in a role he was especially too young for at the time of filming. Peter O'Toole is one of the most legendary actors who ever lived, and his presence definitely makes Phantoms seem classier than it would have been otherwise, although O'Toole plays his role straighter than I would have liked. Overall, the whole tone is a bit too serious considering how silly everything about the story is, but when Phantoms does show a sense of humor about its ridiculousness, the movie is at its best.

Phantoms didn't have a huge budget, though visually it holds up better than a lot of the bigger budget offerings of the era. There seems to be very little CGI, and a lot of cool-looking practical special effects. Whether one likes or hates Phantoms, it's clear that there was hard work put into making the film look slick in a way very few horror flicks actually do. The cinematography looks great, the sets provide the film with the isolated atmosphere the story requires, and the directing is legitimately suspenseful in places. Phantoms is the type of film that almost never gets made anymore: an interesting R-rated horror flick not reliant on computers to make stuff look scary, and not reliant on twist ending after twist ending just for the sake of it. If made today, a movie like Phantoms would be either a limp PG-13 offering, or a much lower-budget, possibly found-footage VOD premiere not worthy of anyone's time.

Unlike most horror movies made in the late 1990s and today, Phantoms wasn't made to launch a franchise. It was made to provide audiences with a 90 minutes' worth of scares and adrenaline, and more often than not, it succeeds at doing so. Phantoms may not even be close to the best the late 90s had to offer. With one more try to smooth things out in the editing room and a slightly firmer grasp on tone, Phantoms could have been a better movie, one that wouldn't be remembered just for being a joke (albeit an absolutely hilarious one) in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. As it is, the film is still fairly entertaining and worth checking out for genre fans. 6/10

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A good start, 19 February 2016

Craig Ferguson is the most underrated comedian in America. "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" provided the best late night entertainment had to offer for a decade, and he remains the funniest comic I've ever seen perform live. Needless to say, I'm a huge fan. His new show, "Join or Die with Craig Ferguson", is likely to please those like me who are fans of Ferguson's, as it seems like a natural extension of "The Late Late Show." The show has Ferguson doing a bunch of his usual jokes and accents in a monologue that introduces the topic of the given episode, then the show transitions to the discussion period with three celebrity guests. The three celebrity guests and Ferguson then discuss the historical topic of the episode with various side stories and lots of crude jokes. At half an hour, there are times when this second part of the show seems to go on a bit too long, though the majority of each episode is highly entertaining and occasionally hilarious. Ultimately, the success of the series will depend on how interesting/funny the celebrity guests of each episode are. Ferguson makes for a perfect host, but the three guests do most of the talking during the panel discussion, for obvious reasons. As long as the topics and guests remain engaging, the show should be able to remain as enjoyable as it is now. The format and content of "Join or Die" may not be ground-breaking, but the show itself is very funny and well worth checking out. 7/10

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