11 Reviews
Sort by:
Swordsmen in Double Snooze town
12 February 2005
While not a bad film, this isn't terribly exciting, interesting, or memorable either - especially compared to some of the beautiful and excellent martial arts films coming out of China these days. There is a fairly interesting tale of a young martial artist who comes to a distant outpost village to claim his bride from a previously arranged marriage. As expected, the girl wants nothing to do with the stranger at first, but begins to develop feelings for him after he is forced to defend her and her father from a local gang of thugs.

The premise is no different in most ways from the standard Western genre - only it's the Old West of China and they use swords instead of guns. But it moves at a snail's pace much of the time, and the action sequences are few and far between and poorly edited so that you can never really see much of what's happening. There are lots of long lingering shots of people staring at each other across the desert, riding horses, etc. etc. It all gets rather dull after a while, and the cinematography is bland and washed out, as is the print that the DVD was transferred from.

Do yourself a favor and rent something by Zhang Yimou, or even one of He Ping's later and more polished films like "Warriors of Heaven and Earth" instead.
1 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Get Up! (2003)
This was a fun movie.
27 April 2004
I found it to be a fun and lighthearted comedy, with more than a few touching moments as well. The James Brown lookalike subplot was amusing, but the strongest element of the film is the Yakuza boss's attempts to reunite with his daughter, and bond with the granddaughter he never knew he had. The cast was fantastic, especially the stunning woman playing Kaori, and the super-cute little girl playing her daughter. More than anything, this is just a fun film, even if it does get pretty silly and contrived at times. And by the way, I'm a film critic, and one not easily swayed by crap movies. I'm not a James Brown fan at all, either (don't dislike him, just not a fan). Nevertheless, I still dug this movie and the soundtrack.

9 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Vault (2000 Video)
About as scary as an After-School special adaptation of an RL Stine book.
3 February 2002
This is the danger of picking up something you've never heard of before at the video store , simply because the cover looks cool . ..

It's hard to know what demographic this movie was made for. It's like some ghetto-style Blair Witch Project Lite, with an African-American cast set in an abandoned school. It is supposedly about a history teacher and a group of students who go into the school to retrieve any historical memorabilia before it gets torn down, but end up finding something horrifying in the basement. Sounded like a good premise on the cover description, except that the story is woefully bad and completely unfrightening. It is far too poorly written and executed to satisfy any serious horror fan. It certainly has the production values of an After-school special, and could have been a good scary movie for kids, except that it has far too much profanity and gore.

I blame the writer/filmmaker James Black. His cast could be accused of bad acting, but the truth is these kids probably could have turned in some decent performances if they'd had a workable script and some good direction. Instead, they run around spouting cliche'd lines, trying to act too hip, and arguing with each other about everything. Likewise, the school where they shot this film could have been a great location for a scary film - except that they filmed everything there in the DAYTIME!! Hey, first rule of horror films, James - all the best ones take place at night. It looks like they probably shot the whole thing in one day, as a matter of fact. And the back-story of why the basement is haunted is completely ludicrous, historically inaccurate, and even a bit propagandist.

So, in short. Stay away from James Black films. Stay away from Full-Moon films. And especially, stay away from The Vault.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Death would have been a relief.
12 January 2002
with a name like "Wisconsin Death Trip", and a premise of a small turn of the century town plagued by murder, arson, suicide, and insanity, you'd think that this would turn out to be a pretty interesting flick. At least, I did. Boy was I wrong. This plodding series of dry, dull newspaper clippings, narrated by Ian Holm (even having a good actor associated with this can't redeem it), has got to be the most tedious hour and a half of film since the old filmstrips we used to see in grade school. The only thing missing is the loud BEEP in the narrative between frames, letting the teacher know it was time to turn the film. Those beeps would have actually been welcome here as something to keep the audience awake. There is no plot, no point, and no emotional connection to anything going on. All it is is Ian Holm reading 100 year old newspaper clippings that say things like "Mary Brown threw a brick through several windows today." or "Farmer John decided to kill himself today by laying down on a stick of dynamite and lighting the fuse". These dull narratives are accompanied by old photographs or poorly-staged re-enactments shot in black and white film. There is no attempt to present the subject matter in any kind of compelling or coherent format. There is nothing entertaining, enlightening, or even historically valuable about this film. All it confirms is that people a hundred years ago did as many insane or inexplicable things as people do today. Big deal. That certainly doesn't qualify it as any great insight into the human condition.
6 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Yes, I know Rock n' Roll wasn't around in the 1400's. Just ROLL WITH IT.
12 May 2001
The most common description I've heard of this film from critics is that it is like "MTV's Gladiator". That is misleading, but not by much. A more apt description would be "VH-1 presents: Camelot".

This is one of those films that should suck. The anachronistic costumes, Classic Rock soundtrack, and all-too-contemporary sounding dialouge should make this a real stinker. And the running length of over 2 hours would make one think that it goes on seemingly forever.

However, it goes by surprisingly fast, and the tongue-in-cheek approach to the storytelling, combined with all the lance-shattering, sword-clanging, and knights being slammed off of their horses at various film speeds and angles, makes it a highly entertaining 2+ hours. You would think that watching 2 guys gallop at each other and knock each other off their horses with long pointy sticks for 2 hours would get boring very quickly. However, you would be wrong. The jousting scenes, though all quite similar, still manage to be exciting, as is watching some poor bloke in a full suit of armor fly from his horse and tumble to earth in an "OH, THAT'S GOTTA HURT"- style landing.

In a nutshell, the film tells the story of William Thatcher, a peasant squire whose Lord dies of natural causes in the middle of a tournament. William dons his master's armor and finishes for him, winning the contest. However, he then uses the opportunity to pursue his dream of becoming a knight, and continues to pose as his master in order to compete in the jousting tourneys.

Heath Ledger was a good pick for the title role of William Thatcher. Not only do the chicks love him, but he carries himself with an unassuming charm and confidence. His love interest, Jocelyn, played by Shannon Soassamon (a poor man's Angelina Jolie) is far less dynamic. Though stunning in the role as his aristocratic love interest, she brings no real charm or depth to the part and is ultimately just another pretty face. The beautiful, sharp-tempered blacksmith, played by Laura Fraser, would have been a better romantic choice, but alas the script took the more predictable and far less interesting path of having William win Jocelyn in the end.

Of the film's many comedic moments (whether intentional or not), the best are those that feature Paul Bettany as the famous poet Geoffery Chaucer, who unites with William and his crew and becomes their official documents forger (so that William, a mere peasant squire, can get into tournaments that allow only nobles to compete) and master of ceremonies. The outrageous introductions for William that he gives to the crowd just before every tourney never fail to deliver the laughs.

As for the rock soundtrack, it ends up feeling much less intrusive than you would think. Though it seemed jarringly out of place at first, I quickly got used to it and found myself later singing along to Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town" as William and company rode into London to a hero's welcome.

The trick to enjoying this film is to just enjoy it. Put all those nagging little complaints about it in the back of your mind, and you will have a fun ride.

3/4 stars
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Superman (1978)
You'll still believe a man can fly
12 May 2001
Every once in a while you'll be flipping channels or meandering through the aisles of the local videorama, and you will stumble upon a film that takes you back to your childhood - and the child-like wonder that accompanied it. After 2 decades, as well as numerous (inferior) sequels and remakes, the original Superman is back.

Well, okay, maybe this wasn't the ORIGINAL one, but certainly no other version of the legend has had such a lasting impact as this one. Nor has any other telling of the tale been as thorough and ambitious as that put forth by Director Richard Donner and Story writer Mario Puzo. Add to that the utterly inspired (and inspiring) score by John Williams, and you have a dose of that good old movie magic. Even the opening credits manage to raise your adrenaline levels, as the Superman symbol soars through space across the screen and Williams' opening theme perfectly builds to a masterful crescendo. It will make you want to stand up from your couch and soar out of the nearest window, though I don't recommend it if you live on anything above the first floor.

The film begins on Superman's home world of Krypton, a dazzling planet dotted by crystalline cities which, combined again with William's incredible theme music, seem to present an image of heaven itself. A super-race of highly advanced beings, the Kryptonians' only weakness is their pride, as the infant Superman's father, Jor-el points out. It is that pride that leads them to ignore Jor-el's warnings that the planet is doomed by an impending supernova. In a last ditch effort to save his son, as well as some remnant of his race, he sends his infant son Kal-el to the planet Earth in a deep space probe. Marlon Brando, in the role of Jor-el, gives one of his best performances. His role is the stuff of Hollywood legend, since he was paid 4 million dollars for his role of about 10 minutes, but despite his exorbitant fee and minimal screen time, his performance is no less worthy.

The probe crashes in a farmer's field in the early 1950's, to be discovered by the Kents, with Glen Ford in the role of Pa Kent. Though he seems to have even less screen time than Brando, his role as the young Superman's moral example is no less pivotal to the story. Superman's childhood and most of his teen years are completely skipped over, however, Jeff East gives an excellent portrayal of the teen Clark Kent, who is only beginning to discover the real extent of his powers.

Most of the supporting cast equally distinguish themselves. Gene Hackman creates a charming and amusing villain in Lex Luthor, and while Margot Kidder's portrayal of Lois Lane is a bit forced and grating at times, she still shines with a kind of charm, and it is always fun to watch her slip from the tough-as-nails reporter to the flustered schoolgirl every time the Man of Steel hits the scene. If you still don't like her performance, watch the "Lois Lane screen tests" in the special features section of the DVD, which includes tryouts by various prominent actresses of the day. After watching them, I think you'll agree that the filmmakers made the right casting choice.

But of course, the person we will remember the most is Christopher Reeve as Superman, and this is the way he should be remembered. It was certainly his greatest role, and although he overplayed the nerdy and fumbling Clark Kent, and his Superman sometimes pauses to deliver silly platitudes, he does so with an air of wry amusement. He may act like a goody two-shoes, but mostly he just seems to be having a good time showing off, and damn it, why shouldn't he? He's Superman, after all. If I could fly, you could damn well bet I'd be showing off too. This is confirmed in a brief but enjoyable restored scene in which, after saving Lois Lane and the President, as well as foiling several crimes, Superman flies back to his Fortress of Solitude to discuss it with his "Father", or rather, the persona of Jor-el which has been preserved in memory crystals and sent to earth with the infant Kal-el, so that he could benefit from Jor-el's knowledge and wisdom. He admonishes his son that, while it is natural to enjoy being able to show off his powers, he must learn to be humble and keep his vanity in check.

It is surprising how little moments of restored footage such as this one seem to breathe much more life into the characters, giving them a depth not seen in their previous cinematic incarnation. And while the film is a tale of the power of good, it is ultimately a tribute to the power of love. It is love that makes Superman more vulnerable than even kryptonite, love that makes him betray his Kryptonian father's admonition to "never interfere with human history", and love that makes him truly human.

Though it is nearly an hour into the film before Superman finally makes his first heroic and world-stunning appearance, it is well worth the wait. The action gets more and more exciting, rivaling anything that today's action counterparts, like "The Mummy Returns" can dish out. The effects, though antiquated by today's overblown CGI standards, are still impressive and manage to maintain their looks and grace in their old age. As Lex Luthor launches a diabolical plan involving hijacked twin nuclear missiles, the subsequent chase, followed by Superman's efforts to save an Earthquake-ravaged California, are breathtaking even by today's standards.

Like the superhero of title, the film itself is not without its weaknesses. In trying to keep in touch with its vintage comic book roots, it can be a tad cornball at times, and occasionally gets bogged down by what I call the "golly gee-whiz" factor. Yet it does so in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, retaining enough adult sophistication and genuine drama to keep it from lapsing into a mere kiddy show or a parody of the source material. In fact, the film has several surprisingly mature nuances. If, like me, you hadn't seen this film since you were a kid, then you will be in a much better position to fully enjoy the subtleties of the film now. (i.e, Lois Lane, in her rooftop interview of Superman asks "How big are you . . . er, I mean . .. how TALL are you". I obviously missed that as a kid, because it had me rolling with laughter this time around.

But despite a few loose threads in the cape and tights, The Man of Steel remains quite intact and appropriately larger than life. It is therefore fitting that this film has been re-mastered and re-released in collector's two-sided DVD format. The sound and picture quality are excellent, wiping away the tarnish of age and making the film shine again. Some of the many features include the aforementioned restored footage (about 10-15 minutes worth), a few additional deleted scenes (which, I thought, should have been restored into the film as well), commentary by director Richard Donner, the Lois Lane screen tests, specials on the making and origins of the film, and a music-only track (well worth the price of the DVD alone).

If you haven't seen this movie since you were a kid, and you want to feel like a kid again, rent it now. If you've never seen it at all, then the release of this DVD has taken away your last excuse. You will believe a man can fly.
92 out of 114 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Big Dumb Loud Violent Sexy Trashy FUN
7 March 2001
You know, I think the makers of this film have established a formula that works: Elvis impersonators + automatic weapons + trashy women - any socially redeeming value = GOOD TIMES.

This film is a guilty pleasure. I was fully aware that this movie was an utter train wreck from the opening credits, yet I enjoyed every worthless moment of it. Lots of crude humor. Lots of eye candy (Courtney Cox in tight trailer trash pants being the main offering in this area). LOTS and LOTS of gunfire (almost enough to give John Woo shell-casing envy). All the critcs hated this film, and when the critics universally hate something, it's either really really bad, or it's so bad that it's good. This would be one of the latter.

Don't think about the plot (such as it is). Don't expect any credibility in the characters or their actions or motivations. Just shut off your brain and roll with it.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Just say NO to wire work
13 January 2001
Damn you, critics. You all hyped this movie up as the ultimate end-all, be-all of Martial Arts adventure films. Well, as someone who has been watching Hong Kong action cinema and Samurai films for years, I must honestly report that this film, while enjoyable and excellent in many respects, does not quite live up to the hype.

But let's discuss the good, first. Casting is excellent. I've loved Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat for years, and it was a genuine pleasure to see them together in this film. Both of them excel in both acting and martial arts abilities here. Also excellent is the beautiful young actress Ziyi Zhang as Jen Yu, and Chen Chang, as the bandit "Lo", brings a much-appreciated dose of humor and charm to contrast the more severe and reserved characters played by Chow Yun and Michelle. Their intermingled stories of unrequited love are funny and heartbreaking and provide some enjoyable "down time" between combat sequences.

The Action scenes are also, for the most part, lighting-paced and exciting. I especially enjoyed the sword styles used in the film. The sword battle between Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang is amazing, and Chow Yun Fat seems to effortlessly make "Green Destiny" dance like a living thing.

However, the one thing that completely detracted from the film's magic was the overblown use of wire work. Characters seem to fly more than they walk in this film, and the whole thing takes on a ridiculous "Peter Pan" quality after a while. I know everyone thinks that wire work is new, a trend started by "The Matrix". The fact is that it's been used (and overused) in many Martial Arts films for years. I've never been a huge fan of it. However, I enjoyed the wire work in "The Matrix" because it was used relatively sparingly and punctuated the action perfectly. It was also much more believable once we understood that the world of "The Matrix" was a computer-created illusion, unfettered by real physics. However, I fear that the popularity of "The Matrix" has created a disturbing new trend of using wire work as a crutch to boost the action sequences, as seen in "Romeo Must Die", the horrific "Charlie's Angels", and now here. But the thing that bothered me the most about the wire work in this film is that it LOOKED like wire work. It was much more clean-looking and effective when used in short bursts in the "The Matrix". Here, however, characters float from roof to roof as if Peking were one big trampoline, and it is blatantly obvious in their movements that they are suspended from something (although the wires themselves have all been digitally erased, of course). While it didn't completely ruin the film for me, it did keep me from taking it very seriously a lot of the time, and that is too bad because this epic story was meant to be taken seriously. In my (not so) humble opnion, however, the best martial arts films are those that can display amazing physical feats while still observing the basic laws of physics. Perhaps that is why some of the old Japanese Samurai films (for example, the "Lone Wolf and Cub" series) are so incredible, because the strength of the action sequences flowed from the actor's skill and lightning-speed with his blade, rather than his character's supposed ability to jump into the air and run across his enemies' heads like stepping stones.

So, bottom line, this is a film worth seeing, and there is much here to enjoy. Just don't feel guilty about laughing at the excessive wire work, and don't go into the theater expecting it to be the Second Coming of Bruce Lee.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Bring It On (2000)
Lots of Eye Candy, not much Brain Candy.
20 October 2000
I saw this film "accidentally" (It was the second feature at the local drive-in, and I ended up staying for it). Didn't know anything about it going into it, and was pleasantly surprised when I came out of it - not that it wasn't without it's flaws.

First of all, the eye candy is superb. Not only the dazzling choreography, with cheerleaders being tossed twenty feet in the air and doing all kinds of elaborate gymnastics and dance routines. But this film also reminds me that it's been a while since I graduated from high school, because when did cheerleaders start showing this much skin? Practically every scene features tight clothes and bare stomachs, and there is even a completely gratuitous and pointless bra-and-panties locker room scene.

Not that I'm complaining too much. These young ladies are quite pleasant to look at, especially Kirsten Dunst, Gabrielle Union, and Nicole Bilderback. However, I think it all detracts from whatever "deep social commentary" this film is trying to make.

There are some funny lines and moments, but many of the jokes are poorly delivered and scripted. The funniest thing about this is how self-important and serious these characters are, although I guess that was the whole point. Still, I kept thinking "It's @&%?ing CHEERLEADING, for crying out loud". Fans of Dunst will probably be better off seeing the very dark and witty "Drop Dead Gorgeous" if laughs are the primary goal. However, the talented Ian Roberts of Comedy Central's "UCB" fame is absolutely hilarious as the mercenary dance choreographer, and delivers the comedic highlight of the film.

Despite its flaws, however, the film is infectiously cute and fun, and I actually got sucked in to the whole cheerleader competition thing at the end. Worth the price of a ticket or rental.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Hunted (1995)
It's bloody all right - bloody good fun!
30 August 2000
I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of this film. While not as good as the ultra-violent Lone wolf and Cub "babycart" series (but then, what is?), it has some pretty good sword battles, and Yoshio Harada, who plays the Samurai Takeda, reminds me of the great Wakyama Tomisaburo: Stoic demeanor, doesn't talk much, kicks a lot of ass. Christopher Lambert, who I usually find mediocre at best, provides some good moments as both underdog hero and comic relief. If you like samurai flicks at all, then watch this one for a warm up. Then go out and buy the LW&C series (yes, buy, not rent - they're worth it).
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
He Slices, He Dices, let the blood fly!
27 June 2000
I love samurai films. But my one big problem is that they often don't have enough action. It's usually a bunch of dudes standing around talking for two hours, until they finally have a big sword fight at the end (kind of like Phantom Menace). Also, the fights are often pretty bloodless, which takes some of the fun out of it. But with this movie, you won't have to wait two hours for the payoff, and it doesn't pull any punches on the blood, either. Swords will flash and blood will spurt every ten minutes or so.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this