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Alone in the Dark (2005)
A big Boll movement
DISCLAIMER: This is my second time to post this. Apparently, I accidentally created a duplicate account.
This is one of those movies that in every message board regarding film making on the internet warns you to avoid, but you proceed anyway. In all fairness, my wife ordered this from Netflix and she doesn't know about Uwe Boll, but I'm just as guilty for sitting down to watch it.
In case you haven't already perused the commentary, this 'film' stars the fading stars Christian (I'm a poor man's Jack Nicholson) Slater and Tara (see my botched liposuction procedure pics in People magazine) Reid. You can tell Uwe Boll directed this travesty, because only he would cast Tara Reid, and have us believe she's an archaeologist. Christian Slater gives us his "I got out of bed, so now what?" performance as a paranormal investigator with a secret past.
Anyway, the plot is a hodge podge of thrown together scenes, which lack any direction or continuity. The acting, what there is of it, can be compared with those Sonic commercials, where the people sit in their car bantering back and forth until that punching sound is edited in for effect (see Youtube if you have never seen one). Most of the CGI is pretty laughable and the action is like going on a high speed chase through Disney World's 'It's a Small World' ride at half speed.
I gave it (2) stars because, it was awful, but not AS awful as other Uwe Boll movies I've seen. You could tell there was almost an attempt at some level of competency, but at the end of the day everyone cashed their paychecks and went home.
Someone mentioned that Christian Slater's career will hopefully be able to recover from this debacle, but honestly, what kind of career has he had in the years leading up to this or since? I say, no harm done.
Kataude mashin gâru (2008)
How can I rate this a 9/10 when it so fails so handily on so many levels.
Cheap effects, recycled (borrowed) plot lines and under and over performances from all entities involved. Was this a problem for me? No. Why? It works well as pure, guilty, demented entertainment.
The Machine Girl is as much fun as the literally gallons of blood that were splattered on screen. As someone else commented, every cut hit an artery and even then the blood released was so grotesquely copious that you either laughed or became nauseous.
So much violence. Once The Machine Girl became equipped with her machine gun, just about every scene became a blood bath. When the bullets started flying, anyone in the way was torn to shreds, piece by piece, with those pieces flying all over the place. Heads and limbs exploded, were severed, cut in-half, fried in tempura (you have to see that one) or became mangled by the 'bra of death'.
Maybe you have to be mentally disturbed or have a sick sense of humor to enjoy it, but my wife and I did. I'm sure there will be those who decry just how gory and violent Machine Girl is, but it's so cartoonish that you can't take any of it seriously.
Believe it or not, I'm a fairly sensitive person and am not desensitized to real human pain and suffering. Machine Girl is nowhere close to reality. The action is comical as is the delivery. Maybe it's a guilty pleasure to enjoy something that others would be repulsed by, but to each their own. If I want to be revolted and repulsed, I'll sit through another installment of Twilight.
I Sell the Dead (2008)
Even after reading other reviewers comments on Netflix, I wasn't really sure what to expect.
This movie aligns itself more with the classic horror movies, which relied more on the story, acting, mood and what was unseen than the effects and amount of blood that is spilled.
For those expecting to see yet another slasher/gore fest, 'I Sell the Dead' will be a huge disappointment. It gets started rather slowly, but picks-up the pace as it goes along, moving from the mundane to the bizarre as the stories unfold. It's also not a 'scare a minute' type movie, although it has a few 'jumpy' moments intertwined.
The true beauty of this film is the delivery of the actors, especially by Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings fame... I'm sure he's tired of that by now) as the character Arthur Blake. The tales play out, one after the other, each as tongue-in-cheek as the last, no matter how wild they get.
Even when the story moves from robbing the graves of the 'naturally' deceased to those of vampires and zombies, the mood of Blake doesn't change. He shrugs it off as being all part of the job and takes it all in stride. That's why it works. You ending up buying into the day-to-day reality of being a grave robber and 'almost' feel sympathy for the guy and his current state.
This film will not work for everyone. It may be too slow for those who want a fast-paced, blood and guts film that are so common. On the other hand, if you're a fan of old-fashioned storytelling this may just be you 'cup of tea'.
Light ropes, disco, Jerry Orbach and Bull...
Buck Rogers is pure schlocky, fun, camp.
This episode has it all: cheesy disco-rock, over-the-top quasi futuristic clothes, awful dialog, pre-Law and Order Jerry Orbach and pre-Night Court Richard Moll (ala the Bull reference). It was cool to see Richard Moll with a full head of hair and a few less world-weary lines on the late Jerry Orbach's face.
I'm giving this a (10) based solely on the Buck Rogers rating system: disco (check!), rope dancing (check!), hammy acting (check!), ruthless, conniving villain with henchmen (check!), form-fitting and revealing costumes (check!) and even some decent special effects.
I'm so glad Netflix put the whole series up for instant viewing (god bless their little souls). I can now share the pain, embarrassment and nostalgia of late 70s sci-fi with the whole family.
Stock footage a-go-go
I remember seeing the Buck Rogers movie in 79', which was obviously trying to cash-in on the Star Wars craze that was still roaring across the world. Ironically, my brother and I tried to see a showing of the Buck Rogers movie (later re-worked and shown as the t.v. pilot) on Easter and it was actually 'sold out'. Funny the things you remember, but we did see the movie later in the month.
Moving on. Watching with the wide-eyed glee of a nine year-old, even then I loved it, although it wasn't 'as good' as Star Wars. Many, many years later the show has not stood the test of time that well, although on a campy/nostalgia level, it's great fun.
Flaws? So many flaws. They shaved the budget down to Kleenex level by re-using stock footage and the same shots over and over and over and over again. Even at nine, I realized it. Looking at it now, it's amazing how EVERY marauding ship is Draconian in nature. There was a scene where a shuttle leaves the hanger in one form and the next shot, it's Princess Ardala's ship from the pilot episode.
So much spandex. All the women either wore a variation made from curve-hugging spandex, a raunchy, revealing leather outfit or some god awful be-jeweled costume that also left nothing to the imagination. Did I complain? Back then, maybe. I wanted to see some space battles. Now? Not so much.
The ships themselves were pretty cool and the effects weren't too bad, aside from those terrible 'explosions' that were obviously super-imposed over certain vehicles (I guess they needed to save the models). Remembering that this was before anybody with a laptop could create an entire armada for about.99, Buck Rogers was actually decent. All in all, not too painful to watch.
Now for the characters. Buck had charisma and charm. Wilma had looks, although as wooden as a tree stoicism. Twikki was a C3PO wannabe and could be annoying, but gave needed comic relief. There were hordes of character actors who could be seen in other shows of the day and probably worked on the cheap. I mean, how often does (did) Frank Gorshin get work outside of sci-fi conventions and Batman reunions? I really didn't mind the switch to the new style with the bird guy back in the day, but I haven't gotten that far on Netflix yet, so who knows how I'll feel now? Along with all of the cameos, how about that one by the late Gary Coleman? I'm looking forward to that one.
Anyway, it seems there's a movie in the works. I really hope someone is able to update Buck Rogers for a whole other generation. Still, I have good memories of the show and have introduced my wife to it as well.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010)
Some painful memories
My wife and I took our nine year-old daughter and her best friend to see this at the discount movie theater (only .75 that day... cheaper than RedBox). I know that their age group is their intended audience, but had a small amount of interest in seeing it after perusing the books. I think the material is timeless, no matter who reads it. Most of us have experienced at least one of the incidences or feelings described.
As for the movie itself, the two young reviewers we took felt that the book was better. I have to agree. I don't feel the movie was nearly as clever as the source material, even with the interlacing of animation in the style of the book series. There were some of those 'ewwww!' moments, but personally, I see those as cheap humor (potty/fart/booger jokes) but, it's always guaranteed a laugh from the tween and younger set.
I also won't take 'it was a kids movie' as an excuse for lack of character development and plot. It wasn't insulting, but pretty tepid overall. I did relate to Greg and had an overall sense of 'been-there-done-that' when he let his friend take a fall and then regretted it. That scene made me uneasy and took me back to elementary/middle school. My favorite part of the entire film was the 'Just Be Yourself' and the cheesy 80's portrayal of self-esteem through break dancing. Truly awful and funny. If they'd just release that scene by itself, I'd buy it.
Now, this was by far not the best movie depicting the throws of youthful angst, but it was OK. The characters were once again, OK. Most were stereotypes, with little depth. There was an actual life lesson thrown in for good measure, but I don't see this one as staying above the fray for movies of this type. If you do like this one, you might check out 'Angus'. Although it pre-dates this one by a long time, it's worth watching, plus it's George C. Scott's last film.
Princess of Mars (2009)
I read somewhere that the makers of this travesty wanted to get something out in advance of the forthcoming 'Warlord of Mars' movie slated for 2012. Anyway, they certainly beat everyone to the punch (and unfortunately, put a turd in it).
Honestly, I hadn't expected much, since the 'big names' in the production were former adult film and now c-movie actress, Traci Lords, plus the unbankable, yet always eager to make a buck, Antonio Sabato Jr. I'd be willing to cut either one of them a bit of slack if the puffy-faced Lords or the overly tanned Sabato, Jr. could give a less wooden performance than a forest of oak trees. Maybe it was just the lack of decent dialog, poor CGI, or shoddy sets and costumes. It was less a made-for-direct-to-DVD-release than it was a poor execution of a YouTube video, but with less of a budget.
I've read the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and this production didn't do the subject matter justice. If Burroughs were alive today, he'd be well into his 100's, but he'd also sue for defamation of character.
It wasn't 100% awful. I gave it (2) stars because I saw it for free and it helped me catch some sleep (I did manage to watch most of it though). I wouldn't pay to see this, but if you're an insomniac, this is a great remedy.
I wasn't an avid 'Firefly' fan when I first saw 'Serenity' back in 2005, although I'd heard of the show. I actually happened to catch Serenity on HBO and that's what introduced me to the characters and storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie (I've seen it about five times), but by that time the series was long gone and I never seemed to catch it on re-runs.
We recently got Netflix and my wife and I both sat down over a period of a couple of weeks, and watched all of the episodes in order as they were supposed to be originally. It saddened me that a jewel of a show was lost because Fox managed to screw-up something worthwhile again, because it wasn't some reality show or sitcom. Firefly isn't easy to pigeonhole into one genre or another: true, it's sci-fi first, then it has western overtones, drama, comedy and amazing simple, yet effective character dynamics and story lines.
There's nothing convoluted about how they go about things in Firefly and I enjoyed it because, it wasn't a 'feel-good/happy ending'show. There are interpersonal issues and underlying feelings between all of the characters that are very strong and sometimes unpredictable, such as with River Tam portrayed brilliantly by Summer Glau.
Now that I've watched the complete series and know how the characters fit into their roles, I've re-watched Serenity through different eyes. Is it as good as Firefly? Mainly yes. The CGI and action in the movie was beyond what the show offered due to its budget and so there were improvements in that area.
I think for me the shortcomings were not giving a bit more of a role to Shepherd Book played by Ron Glass. I realize that his part in the series wasn't pivotal, but he helped give a different insight and viewpoint, especially given their exploits. To me, there was a lot more to him that they weren't fully able to explore in the series, such as how exactly he had all the military knowledge that was inferred in the t.v. show. He only made one vocal nod to Mal that there was indeed more to him, but that he wasn't willing to share it. I also thought more could've been done with Inara, but to those who didn't know the back story, it probably would've been confusing.
I understand why Books and Inara weren't given larger participation, because Joss Whedon wanted to make a movie not only for the fans, but also for a much wider audience. I don't want to nitpick the movie to death, because it is what it is and I still enjoy it. All in all, Serenity can easily stand on its own, but hopefully there will be more stories to tell someday.
Mutant Chronicles (2008)
I'd seen a trailer for 'The Mutant Chronicles' back in 2008 and then it quickly disappeared. The concept looked intriguing as well as the feel of the film.
Before I was formally introduced to the whole 'steam punk' genre and knew that's what it was called, I liked it. There's a lot of material out there with the juxtaposed futuristic/antique look (ie. Hellboy, Sky Captain, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Golden Compass, etc.). Some do it better than others, but I felt that 'The Mutant Chronicles' used just enough to give it a twist, without overwhelming the subject matter.
I won't delve too heavily into the storyline except to say this earths alternate time line looks pretty bleak. You could easily draw comparisons between the corporations who rule this (the movies) world and our own, although ours isn't nearly as extreme. Much like other films of this type, there's the despair regarding the loss of humanity and then the proverbial 'light in the darkness' in the form of a savior (no, this isn't a religious movie per say, although one of the main characters is).
Moving along. The lack of development in each characters personage was to me the biggest shortcoming. They were all vehemently different and had their own minutiae, but just seemed to lack a 'soul'. I hate to say that the CGI saved this project, but in this case it helped to prop up the weaker areas and allowed it to not get too bogged down by the negative aspects.
I won't give it an A+ for being the best movie of its kind out there, but it was well worth the time it took me to finally hunt it down on Netflix.
This movie is what it is, a terrible mess of CGI, overly dramatic schmaltz and has the honor of being an absurd, high-handed morality play. It's all of these things, but it's great fun. If you want a film with brilliance, depth and well-crafted dialog and a good plot, look elsewhere.
I realize that watching a disaster movie like this, you'll probably be knocked down a few IQ points, be disbarred from Mensa and end up wearing a bib from all the drool, I still enjoyed it. Roland Emmerich is also responsible for other great fiasco's like 'Independence Day',' The Day After Tomorrow' and 'Godzilla' all of which had their fair share of cheese ball, over-the-top effects, throwaway lines and mostly forgettable characters.
There's obviously a market for these types of films, because the movie-going public has been watching the world end in various ways for more than six decades. Up until the last 10 - 15 years though, the effects were usually not the centerpiece and they relied more on the localized, stark emotional after-effects of a major cataclysm than the huge, grand scale of it.
If 2012 was trying to be anything else other than a 'popcorn' film I wouldn't be able to forgive just how unapologetically tacky it all is. Personally, I feel that this was step backward for John Cusack's career, but after seeing other projects in the future, I'm not sure that this was merely one step in a long march into the manure pile of b-movies and/or anything by Uwe Boll.