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robertllr

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27 reviews in total 
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Prometheus (2012/I)
8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Too awful to rate, 16 February 2013
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are not enough negative stars for me to adequately describe how bad this film is.

I'm sure it's no surprise by now to anyone that Prometheus is nothing more than a remake of Scott's own sci-fi/horror classic, Alien. Prometheus has the same line of action, the same characters, and the same design elements. It begins, after two limp prologues, the same way--with a ship in deep space--its crew in cryostat's; a human looking android with it's own agenda--dictated by a higher authority--who holds humans in contempt,; and a perky heroine increasingly on her own as the expendables drop off. The same design of the alien artifacts; the same girl stuck in a lifeboat with a parasitic alien. Scott even quotes his own images--like the android's severed head still talking, fluid dripping from its mouth. Yeah, Riddley, we get it. And ultimately, of course Scott ends the whole affair making it clear that the whole silly affair is not only a reprise of Alien, but its prequel.

Then there is all the malarkey. Prometheus has a standard sci-fi plot: life on earth was seeded by aliens, and an expedition goes back to find them. Indeed, the premise and the film's ending are lifted exactly from the 2000 film Mission to Mars. The science in Prometheus is dreadful--a hodge-podge of inconsistencies and non-sequiturs. For example, two expendables are attacked by the same alien parasite. One dies, the other is turned into a zombie. Why? And then David and Elizaeth also have different physiological reactions to being infected. And don't you just love the way the blasted ship falls back to the ground--so gently that the two women stranded there can stand and watch it, and then run away fro it. Hello, gravity accelerates falling bodies. Sheesh.

What is the first prelude supposed to suggest? And why would the engineers, choose as a way of wiping out humanity on earth, to export such vicious creatures, creatures they cannot control and that would, in effect would sterilize the whole planet, rendering it unfit for engineer habitation as well. Say what? Prometheus's end made me laugh out loud. Our heroin determines to track the engineers to their home-world and find out, "Why create us and then decide to kill us?" The android asks her why it matters. She replies that it matters to her because she's a human and not a robot. On the other hand, to the film's audience--comprising, we assume, humans and not robots-- it doesn't matter either.

The Ten (2007)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Nice mix of Classic Woody Allen and early Zucker/Abrahams, 6 January 2013
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Too bad I could only give this flick a 9. It could have been a 10; but there were a two somewhat lame stories, and the first episode is only so-so. But he rest were brilliant. This comedy doesn't do anything that hasn't been done before. It's very much in the vein of the earlier, zanier Woody Allen films like "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex," and many of the better Zucker/Abrahams stuff, like "Top Secret" or "Airplane." Which is to say, the main humor comes from parodying movie genres, film techniques, and tired romantic plots. It's a pure delight to see these things yanked apart and roasted to well done.

What's particularly nice about "The Ten", though is its excellent cast who, with inspired direction and writing, can get deep into the material they are satirizing. The clever way the stories get (loosely) tied together is also nice.

Using the ten commandments as a frame, is a very tenuous hook. Though the frame itself, with its narrator adds something to the mix--a sort of story around the stories, so to speak. But don't expect any religious commentary or even irreverence. (Well, maybe a little irreverence. Jesus Christ as a Mexican lothario might be somewhat--no make that very--offensive to some people. Indeed I suspect the low ratings here on IMDb come mostly from people so tied to their sacred cows, be they philosophical or aesthetic, that all they can see is the crudeness that sometimes surrounds the humor, and don't get any of the sophisticated irony.) In the end, then, the link to any specific commandment is more a quick throwaway line than anything structural or moralistic. Which is part of the strength here: there is no attempt to delve into the commandment itself; it's just a convenient tag line, really.

This, then, is comedy strictly for film buffs--people who recognize a convention and the wit with which that convention is being skewered. In my opinion, there are just not enough movies of that kind around; and some of what we do have is pretty lame. ZAZ, for example have low production values. this film, can actually parody not just a plot or character convention, but a stylistic one as well.

Try it; if you have an critical faculty, you'll see what I mean.

Solitary (2009)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Based on A Short Story, 27 December 2012
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film belongs--more or less--to the genre of the, "I'm already dead" film; probably the most well-known of which would be "The Sixth Sense." (See my review of "Donnie Darko" for a fuller list of moves that use this device.) What makes this movie a bit different, is that our protagonist is not exactly dead--she's in a coma, fantasizing her entire life and it's seemingly inexplicable oddities and terrors. Moreover, her psychiatrist in her fantasy is in reality the doctor presiding over her life support. The movie goes in for a bit of sci-fi, in that the doctor has some kind of techie wizardry that allows him to witness and participate in the patient's subconscious. The point of this "mind reading" is for the doctor to bring the patient to an understanding of her situation, so that she can choose either to stay on life support and live a dream life for the rest of her biological existence, or to die and move on. The rationality here is that it is the patient--not her loved ones--making the choice.

Sort of cool. But it's a dead steal from a science fiction story written at least 40 years ago, which used this exact same idea. The film makers could easily be sued for plagiarism if the original writer ever found out about the existence of this film. I don't remember the name of the story or it's author or even whether I read it in a magazine or a book all those years ago. But it just goes to show there is nothing new under the sun.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Mos Def is most definitely the strongest part of a weak film., 2 August 2011
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

First of all, "Journey To The End Of The Night" has nothing to do with the 1934 novel of the same title by Louis Ferdinand Celine. If the script writers borrowed Celine's title for some allusive reason, it escapes me.

The movie is an unremarkable and predictable crime thriller/family drama. The dimly-lit and grainy cinematography--set in the seamy red-light district of Sao Paulo, Brazil--is nothing special; and the sentimental sound track, weak plot, and un-inspired dialogue contribute nothing original to the genre.

The roles are thankless, and the actors in them give about the performances you'd expect from their B-class status. The worst by far is Brendan Frazer. He makes a fine Dudley Do-Right; but his performance as a ruthless crime lieutenant is laughable. Frazer's baby face, squeaky voice, and limited range couldn't convey threat, malice, or even the weak psychological conflict the script calls for--even on his best days. The other performers are just about as bad.

However, there is one astonishing exception to all this lack-luster ness; and that is the performance of rap artist Mos Def, who plays a Nigerian dishwasher turned drug courier (when the real courier--a genuine tough guy--drops dead while having sex with a transsexual prostitute.) Mos Def's character, Wemba, is a retiring young man, a meek, short-statured student with only the most modest of aspirations in life. When we first meet him, his drug-dealing boss asks him about his background. Mos Def replies laconically; but his dropped words, half-finished sentences, and subtle facial gestures convey his melancholy character and difficult and disappointed past to us at once. It's a beautiful morsel of acting.

Wemba takes on the job partly out of need, but mainly out of loyalty to his boss. While the written role of Wemba is hardly Shakespearian, Mos Def is brilliant in what he does with it. And while one could barely give a damn what happens to the rest of these flat and unappealing characters, Mos Def creates for his unenthusiastic but diligent courier a vivid, likable, three-dimensional figure--a simple soul who, when push comes to shove, shows unexpected courage—not because he has anything to back it up, but just because he is good guy--the sort of person who naturally does the right thing. He is not smart, or capable, or strong. And when he politely sticks to his guns (figuratively speaking, he is practically the only person in the film--other than the blind soothsayer and his dog--whose isn't popping a cap into someone at some point) and defies the people who threaten him, you know that he certainly won't be rescuing his own behind.

Fortunately, (for Wemba, if not for the movie) the writers have thrown a bit of magic and fate (predictable as always) into the story mix here. And it is only that little bit of luck that leaves Wemba as last man standing in this otherwise silly little drug-dealing bloodbath.

I know nothing of rap music, or Mos Def's career as a performer. But, if this part is any indication of his thespian potential, I'd say that boy can act!

The Road (2009/I)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Grim, predictable, unimaginative nonsense, 10 December 2010
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I make it a point to suffer, if at all possible, through even the worst of movies. One handy tip is to enable the captions and use your fast forward button. You can cut the movie's run time by maybe 20 or 30 percent and not miss a thing except the incidental music. Moreover, there is plenty of movie time in this turkey where there is no dialog at all, just the very predictable gloom of slogging through a devastated landscape, or running endlessly from the "bad guys"--as the younger of our two protagonists terms the cannibalistic refugees of this film. So you can even raise the forwarding speed a bit and still miss nothing.

However, let me say, I did watch probably 80% of this movie at normal speed, so this is a legitimate review.

But I digress. "The Road" is a particularly silly example of the already silly sci-fi genre of post-apocalyptic adventure. Cormack McCarthy, who is responsible for the story behind this dull movie adaptation, apparently thinks that by giving us the standard sci-fi "what-if" premise of "never mind that none of the plot makes any scientific sense just take it as read that somehow in some unexplained fashion the earth has come down to this" that he can then give us a story with plausible actions and emotions from a particular set of characters--in this case, a father-son pair of refugees.

I won't say this type of narrative set up never works, but what you have with this particular film is just another "remaining-humans versus a lot of flesh-eating zombies" plot. OK, so the zombies are not biologically different from the humans--and they don't shuffle along, decomposing as they walk--but they are essentially the same, and the horror thereby created is tediously familiar.

McCarthy gives us only these two kinds of characters: those who prey on others, and those who live in fear of them.

No great moral questions get answered. I'm not sure any even get asked. The boy is constantly trying to temper his father's ethos of self-protective, survivalist "do-unto-others-before-they-do-unto-you" behavior with a sense of charity, sharing, and trust. And...well, that's it.

The cinematography amounts to little more than familiar depictions of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and the plot is mainly a series of close encounters with the "bad guys." The film tries to establish some sort of character for the father with flashbacks to his former life, both before and after the unexplained disaster. And, as a thoughtful viewer, you ask yourself in response: "Would I (or another person) react like that?" But you are forced to answer: "Who cares?" Indeed, children often pester their parents with similar sorts of hypothetical questions. Such as: "If a great white shark were about to eat me, mommy, and brother, and you could only save one, who would you save?" Your kids expect to learn something from your answer, and parents, do their best to answer thoughtfully. But the only answer to questions like this is: "No one knows for certain how he will act in a given situation; but there is no such situation as the one you propose, nor is one such even remotely plausible. So what is the point of trying to answer it? More importantly, there is much great narrative art based on placing characters in realistic situations. Moral quandaries abound in every-day life. Why attempt to ponder unimaginable ones?

74 out of 128 people found the following review useful:
You were expecting another "Mulholland Drive?", 29 September 2007
1/10

Let me start by saying I've admired every single Lynch film to date, and I've seen all his feature films—not only all the original work, but also the non-auteur stuff (like "Elephant man," "Straight Story," and "Dune") as well.

Moreover, "Mulholland Drive" is on my short list for best movie of all time—a hands down perfect piece of art. And I really liked "Lost Highway" and even found "Eraserhead" engaging.

However, I must say the first 90 minutes of "Inland Empire" ranks as some of the most boring and pretentious film making in the short history of the art. I can't speak for the rest of the movie--as 90 minutes of unrelieved murky shots of Laura Dern looking distressed, while the dialogue-obscuring sound track of a B-movie organ drone desperately tries to create some kind of suspense--was all I could stand.

Lynch's images have always been arresting, sometimes even pretty. But he seems to want to play against that here, creating choppy, grainy, bad-home-video-style visuals that just beat down the viewer trying to let them flow. Hey! art should require its audience to work for its pleasure and meaning; but the effort required here is just too much for me.

I think film should tell a story with pictures—hopefully a complex story with emotionally and intellectually engaging pictures. But this film is just ugly chaos.

22 out of 45 people found the following review useful:
"Awful" doesn't begin to describe it..., 29 June 2007
1/10

This movie could well be one of the worst films ever made. I only wish I could give it the negative-ten stars it richly deserves. Indeed, I only continued to watch it (after the first graphic and brutal murder) to see the depths to which film making of this type can sink.

How deep can it sink then? Very deep...deeper in fact than you can possibly imagine. This movie has not the slightest speck of originality, wit, or even meaning in it. From beginning to end, it is no more than a sadistic gore-fest masquerading as an art film. As for its vaunted production values, I find myself astounded that anyone would find them remarkable. Design? It's all been done before in any one of dozens of modern fantasy movies. (Here I must admit, however, that I am puzzled that modern movie goers still find that sort of thing interesting. Special effects have now reached a level of sophistication beyond which there can be little technical improvement. As a result, no bizarre fantasy, no matter how gloriously depicted, will ever enchant the intelligent viewer--unless the images can engender something more than a "gee, whiz" response—that is, unless the images mean something.) Creating images with meaning is what good film making has always been all about. But the images in this film mean nothing. The story is bankrupt, too, with characterizations that are laughably cartoonish, and implied values that are hopelessly vague, jejune, or even outright contradictory.

However, even worse than the movie itself, perhaps, is the moronic praise that this piece of tripe has garnered in what (I am now realizing) is a depressingly demented world of film criticism.

Alas, further words fail me. But there are a good number of well-written reviews on this site that take the time to painstakingly spell out some of the many shortcomings of the film. So, if you despise this movie as much as I do, I heartily recommend perusing those reviews as an antidote to the pain and outrage you are feeling at, A) having wasted your time on this stuff, and B) having shaken your head to the point of a headache at the critical praise that has been heaped on it.

8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Worth a look, 24 June 2007
5/10

This three-vignettes-in-a-frame movie is not all bad. Indeed, the first segment features Henry Fonda and James Stewart in a brilliant comic pas de deux which leaves you wondering why they didn't become a cinematic pair. Given that the plot-ette they work with is unremarkable, their joint performance is even more of a miracle and a treat. Also fun is the little jazz score, which features not only Stewart doing his own tasteful piano comping, but also a guest appearance by Harry James, who not only provides the behind-the scenes music of the trumpet-playing "babe" but actually puts his mug in as well.

The second story is a bit weaker, though Dorothy Lamour does a song and dance number that sends up contemporary Hollywood clichés in a wittily sophisticated manner.

The last sequence, however, is truly lame: the pacing is slow and all the actors (especially child actor David Whorf) are annoying. The zany Hugh Herbert nicely finesses a small role but his little performance can't save the segment.

The frame itself is also uninspired, but not so deadly that it drags the film down.

Had the last two segments been as marvelous as the first, this entire movie would have been a classic. But in any case, you simply must see it for the Steward-Fonda collaboration. They command the film from the moment the camera turns on them and never disappoint.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Typical Holllywood drivel, 30 September 2006
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The idea of building a flyable aircraft out of a plane wreck is a fine plot for a movie. Obviously so, I suppose, since this "Flight of The Phoenix" is a contemporary-setting remake of the classic 1960's film.

The film, however is effectively ruined by the actors, their lines, and the unbelievable characters they portray.

When we first meet Captain Towns (played, ineptly--as is his wont--by Dennis Quaid), he has no apparent redeeming qualities. He is sexist, heartless, overbearing, willful and utterly without judgment.

When faced with a severe sandstorm, he refuses to turn back to base because he would have to refuel…"and who knows how long that will take." He and his obnoxious co-pilot berate the hapless oil crew they are pulling off their jobs, then proceed to make several more stupid decisions, at least one of them in the face of good advice. Then they crash the plane.

Towns refuses to allow the survivors to follow the advice of Elliot—one of the passengers who clearly knows what he is talking about. Then, despite Towns's knowledge that there are dangerous marauders in the area, he decides later to try to parley with them.

When Elliot turns out to have credentials as an aircraft designer and suggests rebuilding the plane, Towns vetoes the plan—as if he has the authority to do so.

The copilot also threatens to kill Elliot if he mentions that it was Towns's poor judgment that caused the crash in the first place.

In short, the pair of aviators is irredeemably despicable. And yet, clearly we are supposed to see Towns as the macho hero, with the woman he disses falling all over herself complimenting him.

Meanwhile, Elliot--who at first seems sensible and deferential--begins acting like a spoiled brat--for no reason that is made clear--and is obviously supposed to be a loose cannon. His character, like that of most of the others, flip flops in unpredictable ways that have no discernible motivation. Indeed, the whole multi-ethnic, multi-class, multi-generation crew of characters is the same witless group that Hollywood has been using in war flicks since the thirties—with a woman thrown in as a sop to modern feminist sensibilities.

The only things that save this picture are the desert scenery, the scenes of the ingenious construction of the Phoenix, and the aerial footage. The rest is pure B movie.

November (2004)
10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Not this stupid plot...again!, 15 September 2006
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For anyone who gave this movie a high rating, and thinks he is cleverer than those who gave it a low one; let me ask you this: have you ever seen the 1962 film "An Incident At Owl Creek Bridge."

No? I thought not. Perhaps, then, you've seen one of these four films—and I list them in no particular order:

"Lulu On the Bridge"? "Final Approach"? "A Pure Formality"? "Sixth Sense"?

These are just the ones that come to me off the top of my head. They all have the same manipulative plot; and I'll bet if I had a dollar for every film in which the protagonist is dead but doesn't know it till the end of the film, I'd be a wealthy man.

I gave it a low rating, not because I didn't get it, but precisely because I did. In fact, the only reason I gave it any stars at all is because this version of the same old story is, admittedly, a stylish and well-constructed piece of cinema. Unfortunately, it's precision is also its downfall. There are so many clues that no seasoned cinema aficionado would fail to figure it out--long before the word "Acceptance" is flashed on the screen.

"November" resembles—much as "Sixth Sense" does—a pretty puzzle in which you are shown all the pieces--individually, and then in various groups--until at the end, in a flurry of prestidigitation, they are all put together so you can see the actual picture. But then, it all evaporates.

That kind of thing may be clever; but it makes for a film that is, at best (as in "Sixth Sense") charming; while at worst, it is merely a pointless exercise. Moreover, while some of these films have had me going for a while, half way through "November" I knew what was coming. There are just so many times you can set up an audience like that. It's a bit like all the recent movies that have been made since "The Sting" ("Ocean's Twelve" and "The Spanish Prisoner" leap to mind) in which the grift you are supposed to think is going down, is really something quite different. By now, it's just not a surprise, and--its like, you know--who cares?

There really ought to be a law against reusing these apparently irresistible (to even some seasoned directors—i.e., Polanski) ploys.

To close, let me compare this tidy and trite approach to film making with something like Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" or Resnais's "Last Year At Marienbad"—or even "The Draughtsman's Contract". These are pictures that give you a mystery without the cheap "gottcha" at the end. I'll be thinking about "Mulholland Drive" for a long time, watching it over and over, discussing it, reading about it and writing about it. "November," on the other hand, is signed, sealed and delivered even before it ends. The picture on her wall of the outstretched arm that clomps so heavily throughout the film, for example? Just to make sure you get it, we are shown this (imaginary) picture one more time as our heroine's dying gaze falls on her lover's hand. Take that! And that! Cheese…talk about beating you over the head…


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