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I stated in my comment for last summer's X-Men: The Last Stand (a movie
I loved the first and second viewings, and found many flaws with the
third time around) that with 'Stand' and the preview for Ghost Rider
that "This could be the beginning of a long line of great Marvel
pictures." It seems that I was one of the only fans that thought so as
the anticipation for Ghost Rider was lukewarm at best. Critics and
moviegoers took notice of the delay from its summer release date and
lambasted the unfinished special effects as well as the story. Still, I
always maintained that the picture would be nothing short of great. It
met my expectations.
Taking cues from the underrated and brilliant John Landis, Ghost Rider mixes comedy and elements of horror perfectly, combined with over-the-top action and an occasionally unusual sound track to form a truly different and highly entertaining motion picture. Simply put, it's the best John Landis-esquire film not to be directed by Landis himself. Writer/director Mark Steven Johnson, almost always reliable in the story department (with the exception of 1998's Jack Frost), provides the audience with the right amount of character development, back-story, and exposition to keep the two hour running time from getting bloated. Directing with attention to detail, Johnson has managed to make a comic book flick seem like an art form as opposed to just a blockbuster extravaganza.
However, credit must also be given to the amazing cast Johnson has put together. Nicolas Cage IS Johnny Blaze. There could have been no substitute. Eva Mendes as love interest Roxanne Simpson, is actually a character as opposed to just eye candy (although there is some of that). Wes Bentley makes for a fantastic villain. Last but not least, is Donal Logue, an actor who despite almost twenty years in the business, has yet to become the gigantic star he deserves to be.
As a fan of the comics, I was not disappointed. My only nit-pick is there were times when it was painfully obvious the filmmakers were forced to stay within the limits of the PG-13 rating (I don't remember a drop of blood in the whole picture). Rest assured, this is nowhere near being the cinematic atrocities of Fantastic Four and Hulk, which are two of the worst movies I have ever seen. This is a must see for comic fans. 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's no question that the IMDb page for The Quiet has been clicked
on a lot. I'm sure several guys in the 18-29 demographic have clicked
on it while viewing Elisha Cuthbert's filmography and thought, "what is
this?" A better question would be, why didn't this get a bigger
release? After all, Cuthbert has become one of Hollywood's hottest
young stars in the past few years, making it easy for a good marketing
campaign. Unfortunately, The Quiet is yet another great movie that was
virtually dumped by its distributor, given no chance to succeed.
Shot in 2004, The Quiet is director Jamie Babbit's second feature following 1999's well-made satire But I'm a Cheerleader. The main character in Babbit's follow-up is also a cheerleader: 17-year-old Nina Deer (Elisha Cuthbert) is the daughter of an architect father (Martin Donovan) and a pill-addicted mother (Edie Falco). They have recently adopted Dot (Camilla Belle), a deaf 16-year-old who unlike Nina, doesn't fit in at school. While the plot at first sounds like an American Beauty knock-off, without giving away spoilers, it goes in a very different and braver direction than that film did. As with American Beauty, however, the performances are flawless with Cuthbert and Belle giving two of the most real portrayals of high school students I've seen in years.
Even with the excellent cast, The Quiet could have run the risk of being an all-out sleaze-fest thriller like Wild Things, but Jamie Babbit manages to keep everything tonally right, giving just the right balance of drama, mystery, and suspense. Although some have complained that the twist in the end is obvious, I personally never saw it coming and I can normally spot plot twists an hour before they happen. In fact, the only complaint to be had with The Quiet is with the constant use of voice-over. While voice-over was appropriate for the picture, it was used too often and dampened its effect. Even with that fault, The Quiet is still a powerful and unexpected surprise that deserved better. 9/10
It's hard to think of a more underrated entertainer than Louis CK. The multi-talented writer/director/comic/actor, best known for his work with Chris Rock, has been a driving force for the state of comedy for over a decade. In a perfect world, or even a decent one, Louis CK would be as big as Chris Rock. Unfortunately, a little unfunny frat-boy by the name of Dane Cook stole some of his best material, and legion of drunken college students who worship Cook helped make him the celebrity he is today. If I were Louis CK, I'd be taking legal action, but Louis is smart enough to let it go, and continue coming up with new, funnier material. That better material is prominently featured in 'Shameless', one of the few stand-up specials that have truly left me crying from how much I laughed. Like George Carlin, Louis CK has the ability to show that anything, no matter how mean-spirited or dark, has the capacity to be funny, if not hilarious. He also has the type of brutal honesty that the popular comedians of today lack. He's not afraid to talk about any aspect of his personal life. His humor is frank, original, and daring. 'Shameless' is a must-see for anyone with an interest in comedy. 10/10
So far during its second season, "Masters of Horror" has strictly been a hit-and-miss affair. While the first season was full of groundbreaking and daring one hour films, the second season has been a mixed bag. For every truly great episode like John Landis' "Family" and Joe Dante's "The Screwfly Solution", there's been a batch of unwatchable episodes like Tobe Hooper's "The Damned Thing", Daria Argento's "Pelts", and John Carpenter's "Pro-Life." With the exception of Rob Schmidt's "Right to Die", one element all them have had in common is that they haven't been very original. Tom Holland's "We All Scream for Ice Cream", on the other hand, is one of the most original horror tales to come along in quite some time. While shades of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET can be found, "We All Scream for Ice Cream" is fresh and exciting, just like one would expect from the director of such classics as FRIGHT NIGHT and CHILD'S PLAY. This is Holland at his best, expertly directing an emotional and character-driven story with intensity, tight pacing, and style. Credit is also due to writer David J. Schow, who also wrote last season "Pick Me Up", which despite repeated viewing I still am not a fan of. Schow successfully adapted John Farris short story and even managed to improve it. Here's to hoping Holland and Schow team up again for Season Three. Final say: Best episode of Season Two. 10/10
Years ago when Wes Craven was still attached to direct this American remake of the almost perfect Japanese thriller, I was quite excited to see it. Seeing as Craven had never made a bad movie (except for the Hills Have Eyes sequel, which was taken away from him), I thought it would be great. Unexpectedly, the project was canceled when Bob Weinstein thought it was too similar to THE RING and sent Craven to work on the disastrous CURSED instead. Eventually Weinstein found a way to make a cheaper, ultra dumbed down version of PULSE, completely scraping any intelligence left in Craven's original screenplay (he still maintains a writing credit, which Craven says does not reflect his work). The result is one of the top five worst horror movies ever made. A complete and total insult to anyone who pays money to watch it. This made-for-teens only abomination represents everything that is wrong with the horror genre today: over-explanation to the point of aggravation (the producers must think we are brain-dead as an audience), the casting of pop stars instead of actual actors (Christina Milian), and cookie-cutter editing due the number of times the picture was re-edited and re-shot to get a PG-13 rating. Even Kristen Bell, great on "Veronica Mars", seems bored here. You will be too if you make the mistake of watching this. It's ironic that a movie called PULSE doesn't have one. 0/10.
Despite its flaws, I enjoyed "Cigarette Burns", John Carpenter's Season One episode in the Masters of Horror series. Yes, the story seemed like a cheap cross between IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS and 8MM, but it was still quite good for the budget and time constraints given to it. With "Pro-Life", however, the low budget and time constraints definitely show more than anything else. There is solid directing as always from Carpenter yet there is a quality to the writing and whole production itself that gives the feeling it was made in a total and complete rush. The script isn't always clear, the message fuzzy, and the story is full of plot holes once you look back on them. Maybe had Carpenter re-written the script, it could have been a worthwhile episode. Instead, it's a mess that only hardcore Carpenter fans will find the slightest enjoyment in. Definitely the worst Carpenter has ever done. 2/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Last season with "Masters of Horror", Daria Argento presented fan boys JENIFER, a creepy adaptation of the Creepy comic that managed to combine a great deal of sex, violence, and gore while still providing an intriguing and fascinating tale of obsession. The episode was a favorite among "Masters of Horror" fans and was quite popular so it's understandable that Aregento would want to do a similar story for Season Two. This time Argento directs an adaptation of a short story by F. Paul Wilson, written by newcomer Matt Venne, about a man who runs a failing pelt business that is obsessed with becoming wealthy to impress a stripper (Ellen Ewusie) that he is infatuated with. Being a horror film, his success may come at a price. Naturally, there is an extreme amount of violence, gore, sex, and nudity, but unlike with JENIFER, Argento doesn't know how to make it all fit together to keep a proper narrative. The gore is over-the-top and cheap-looking, the violence comes across as more laughable than disturbing, and the excessive sex/nudity seems a bit gratuitous, even for a "Masters of Horror" episode. Only a brief appearance by the always dependable John Saxon keep 'Pelts' from being the worst episode of "Masters of Horror" yet. 1/10
I know what you are thinking. Why would I watch PLEDGE THIS? Why would anyone watch PLEDGE THIS? I can't speak for everyone else who has had the misfortune of sitting this disaster, but I watched it as a favor to my sister who didn't want to watch it alone. I guess the National Lampoon banner appealed to her. I learned long ago that any direct-to-video Lampoon flick equals torture. As bad as some of the previous DTV Lampoon movies were, none of them have been completely devoid of laughs as in the case of PLEDGE THIS. First time screenwriters Cheryl Guerriero and Anna Obropta have managed to write a script so unfunny and clichéd that not even talented cast members like Simon Rex, Geoffrey Arend (also serving as an associative producer), and Sarah Carter can do anything with it to make the material bearable. I'd love to share the blame with director William Heins, but he lost control of the production and various scenes were re-shot with another director. It's hard to tell how much is actually his vision. Whoever's vision winded up being the final cut, I give it 0/10. You know a movie is unwatchable when even Paris Hilton herself disowns it (she objected to the additional shooting involving nude scenes).
Was there anyone that was actually surprised when it was announced that there would be an Omen remake released on 6/6/06? Perhaps the greatest ploy of all time, The Omen remake could not have been released at a better time. Not only did it have the 6/6/06 release date to its advantage, but in a time when 70s classics are being remade into gorefests (Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas), it was time for a remake that relied on more than shock value. Under normal circumstances, I'd whine about how The Omen being remade is pointless, how it's all about money, etc. though ultimately when the film it theaters, I was tired of every R-rated horror flick being about blood and sadism than genuine scares. To my surprise, I enjoyed this remake, even more so the second time around. It's almost scene for scene the same picture as the original, only not as good. Although director John Moore is no Richard Donner, he still impresses with plenty of slick shots, effective shaky cam moments, and when he wants, a style other than Donner's. If only he went with his own style more, this remake could have been a classic in its own right. As it stands, it's a well done horror remake, and one of the best horror pictures of 2006. 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A critical and box office flop (it grossed less than $5 million during its theatrical release) LET'S GO TO PRISON, based on the book "You Are Going to Prison" by Jim Hogshire, is one of three strong comedies from 2006 that were completely dumped by their distributors (the two being Fox releases, the Adam Sandler produced GRANDMA'S BOY, and Mike Judge's IDIOCRACY, also starring Dax Shepard). Put out during the competitive Thanksgiving season in just over 1,000 theaters with virtually no advertising, there was no chance of the film surviving longer than two weeks in theaters. Not that's it's the most marketable picture. It's not light enough to be a straight forward comedy, though it's not that dark. Darker than most comedies, but compared to Very Bad Things, it's nothing. Although the tone is never quite perfect, the film is nonetheless hilarious throughout most of its insanely brief running time. Dax Shepard, Will Arnett, Chi McBride, Bob Odenkirk, and David Koechner are all very funny in their roles and appear to be having a good time with their parts. Odenkirk, obviously working with a low-budget and limited resources, directs admirably even when it is obvious even wasn't given complete creative freedom. The ending definitely seems like something that was changed. It seemed much of the movie was changed, probably due to studio tampering so it's not nearly as good as it could have been, but it's still worth renting on video. Fans of "Mr. Show" and "Arrested Development" should especially enjoy it. 8/10
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