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It's another in the line of cheap, tawdry, lousy Poison Ivy movies. For
a while it seems this one might rise somewhat above the rather awful
first two movies in the series. It's not good by any means but it's not
completely hideous. But then it really crumbles in the end. The last
thirty minutes of the movie are excruciatingly bad with absurd plot
twists, terrible acting and stupid characters doing incredibly stupid
things. In the end this movie which had the promise of being at least
passable ends up being just about as bad as its predecessors.
The movie makes a tenuous connection to the first Poison Ivy film, setting up the main character here, Violet, as being the sister of the first film's Ivy. And then it proceeds to pretty much do that first film all over again. Same setup, same story. A family invites a trashy young girl they barely know into their home, said girl uses sex to destroy that family. One difference between the two films is that in the original Drew Barrymore kept her clothes on. Here Jaime Pressly is on full naked display throughout. This is definitely not a bad thing. To say Pressly looks stunning does not even begin to do her justice. Absolutely amazing. Unfortunately it takes more than a hot naked girl to make a good movie. The story has enough erotic entanglements to hold your interest to a point. Yes, the dialogue throughout is pretty terrible. Kudos to Pressly for managing to keep a straight face while talking about the ups in the stock market. Hint: she's not really talking about the stock market. But for as bad as the dialogue is and as bad as some of the performances from the supporting cast are Pressly manages to hold the movie together and hold your interest. She makes Violet into a compelling character and whenever the movie starts to drag she takes her clothes off again which is nice. But Pressly can't salvage the ending and it is that ludicrously bad ending which sinks the movie. A movie maybe worth seeing once to see Pressly in all her naked glory. Maybe you'll get lucky and the power will go out and you won't be able to see the last thirty minutes.
It is a brave film which has a song called That's Entertainment! as its
signature number. Because if, as is unfortunately the case with The
Band Wagon, the film is not great entertainment...well, the negative
review practically writes itself. This is a film which has the good
fortune to have two great talents, Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, and
the misfortune of completely wasting them. It's a film full of largely
forgettable musical numbers and it has a story which never really
engages and which in the end goes off the rails completely. To call the
film tedious would be harsh but not entirely untrue. The film goes for
laughs but fails rather miserably in that regard. It tries to give you
a little romance but that angle never heats up. The film has no flow to
it, there is a real disjointed feel throughout. No, this is not
Astaire plays declining movie star Tony Hunter. His friends Lester and Lily Marton have written a stage show which they think can revive his career. They bring it to noted Broadway director/producer/star Jeffrey Cordova who decides to turn what was written as a light comedy into a serious, and seriously bizarre, retelling of Faust. Not surprisingly this proves disastrous. Lester and Lily start bickering. The play, which no longer makes any sense whatsoever, spirals out of control. And all the while tension rises between Tony and his costar, ballerina Gabrielle Gerard. Tony is intimidated by Gabrielle's youth and beauty, not for no reason with Charisse playing the part. And he thinks this classically trained ballerina has no respect for his style of hoofing. Tony and Gabrielle have no chemistry, can't stand one another, can't work together. Eventually they do come together somewhat which provides the film with perhaps its one true highlight, Astaire and Charisse with a wonderful, beautiful dance in a park. Unfortunately after that Tony and Gabrielle's play continues to crumble and so does the film. By the time Astaire and Charisse dance together again much later on the film is past the point of being salvageable.
Astaire and Charisse really were hung out to dry here. The supporting cast adds nothing. The loony Cordova character is meant to be over-the-top but Jack Buchanan goes way too far with it. This character is too nuts for the film's good. At least he has some spark to him which is more than can be said for the writing couple, Lester and Lily. Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray play those parts quite lifelessly. And James Mitchell, playing a romantic interest for Gabrielle, is a total wet blanket with all the personality of a doorknob. The musical numbers all fall flat and many make no sense whatsoever. By the end the film is just throwing random songs up on the screen to see what sticks. None of it does. Some of the numbers in the film's homestretch are obviously meant to be funny but they are just terrible, producing groans not laughs. The big final number is a little better even if, as with so much of what preceded it, it makes very little sense. The best musicals have a lot of life in them. The Band Wagon does not. The energy just is not there. The story doesn't work, the songs are forgettable, the performances of the supporting cast leave much to be desired. Astaire and Charisse have a couple of moments. A couple of moments is not enough to make a good film.
Dangerous Liaisons is not your typical period piece. Yes it has that
familiar period look, the costumes and the settings screaming out
18th-century. But the story has a decidedly modern feel to it. It's a
tale of sexual scheming, intrigue, revenge. It's also a story that has
great wit to it, much more comedy than you would expect from a typical
costume drama. The story may unfold in long-ago France. But the movie's
modern sensibilities put a unique twist on things. The movie is
actually quite fun. Wickedly devious fun at that.
The story centers around the Marquise de Merteuil, played by Glenn Close, and her one-time lover Valmont, played by John Malkovich. Valmont is a notoriously amoral ladies man and Merteuil wishes to use this to her advantage. She seeks revenge on another recent lover (yes, she's a woman who gets around), wanting Valmont to seduce that man's young fiancée Cécile, stealing her virginity before her wedding night. This will cause quite the scandal and much embarrassment for the man who shoved Merteuil aside to take a beautiful, new and notably much younger bride. You don't mess with the Marquise de Merteuil, she will ruin you. But her scheme hits a snag. Valmont is not interested. Seducing this pretty young thing would be too easy. He has his sights set higher. He wants to bed the notably virtuous, highly religious, and very much married Madame de Tourvel. Now that will be a proper challenge. It's a complicated web of intrigue, lust and deception. And it is highly entertaining, helped in no small part by a script which shows that great wit you just don't expect from 18th-century French romantic drama.
The film is helped along by the excellent performances of its two leads. Close is simply brilliant as her character pulls all the strings, moving the pawns around on the chessboard of life. Malkovich was certainly not the conventional choice to play a notorious womanizer but he brings great personality to the role. Michelle Pfeiffer, playing Madame de Tourvel, is very good as well. Tourvel's struggle to resist Valmont's unique charms is etched on Pfeiffer's face throughout, she captures the character's angst wonderfully. Uma Thurman does well portraying the almost impossibly innocent Cécile. The only glaring casting misstep is Keanu Reeves who plays another of Cécile's admirers. Reeves is just as terrible as you would expect him to be in an 18th-century romantic costume drama. To say this is not his type of thing would be quite the understatement. But the rest of the cast manages to work around the wooden Reeves as best they can. The story really crackles along for the first half of the movie. As things take more serious turns in the second half of the film the lighthearted wit fades away. That second half of the film is somewhat less enjoyable but certainly still compelling. It's a fascinating bunch of characters, led by the ruthless Merteuil and caddish Valmont. The story's twists and turns lead to very interesting places. The film, with its period setting and wonderful costumes, looks fantastic. An entertaining film, a story about a very particular long-ago time and place but a story which stands the test of time.
Swimming Pool is one of those films which leaves you questioning
everything you've seen. Once it concludes you immediately start running
the whole thing back in your mind, trying to piece it all together.
It's a film which entertains you while also compelling you to think.
That's a very good combination. It is a slow film, taking its time in
setting itself up and really taking its time in fully revealing itself.
But while there may be moments where you wish the film would pick up
the pace it certainly manages to hold your interest throughout. And in
the end it is clearly worth having taken the sometimes slow journey
towards its intriguing conclusion.
The story follows middle-aged English novelist Sarah Morton who, with a bad case of writer's block, has holed up at her publisher's French country house. Alone there Sarah can clear her mind and find her inspiration. But she won't be alone for long, her peaceful serenity disrupted when her publisher's young, nubile and quite oversexed daughter Julie shows up to stay in the house with her. To say that Sarah and Julie don't hit it off would be putting it mildly. Furious with the intrusion Sarah calls her publisher to complain but oddly seems unable to reach him. Little oddities continue to pile up. What exactly is going on here? The film is not going to give up its secrets that easily, you have to wait to the end. But there is really good entertainment to be had as the plot weaves its way to the finish. Sarah does find her inspiration. Where she finds that inspiration and what it leads to is both surprising and smart. Writer/director François Ozon thought his story out very well and executed it in fine fashion.
The film's smart, compelling and very intriguing story is played out very well by Charlotte Rampling playing Sarah and Ludivine Sagnier playing Julie. There are other characters who come in and out of the story but it is really all about Sarah and Julie. And both Rampling and Sagnier do excellent work portraying these two very different women. Sarah is cold, stern, reserved. Julie is free, open, wild, full of life. And prone to quite often putting her bodily assets on full naked display. As much as acting the part looking the part was important for the character of Julie and Sagnier is certainly up to the task there. The initial clash between the two main characters is inevitable. But as the story evolves the characters do too and Rampling and Sagnier capture the evolution wonderfully. As Sarah and Julie come to understand each other a little better you would think things in the home would become a little more peaceful. In reality it is at this point where the drama and tension get ratcheted up. The film has some thrills in store. In the end the film gives you much to appreciate. And much to think about.
Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer play Roy and Jessie, an American
couple headed home from a Christian mission in China. But rather than
simply fly straight home they're taking the adventurous route, a trip
on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow. For train
buff Roy this is a dream come true. Dreams sometimes become nightmares
and that will be the case here. Roy and Jessie find themselves mixed up
in something way beyond what they're equipped for. There will be
thrills, chills and grave danger as this American couple faces the
possibility of becoming, quite literally, another of Russia's buried
The trouble begins when the couple meet their cabin mates, Abby and Carlos. Abby, played by Kate Mara, seems innocent enough. But Jessie immediately picks up on the fact that there's something not quite right about Carlos, who is played by Eduardo Noriega. The movie builds slowly as the foursome come to know one another. And then bumpkin Roy misses the train after getting off at one of the stops to look at some old steam engines. But is it just as innocent as Roy simply having missed the train? All of a sudden Jessie is alone on the train, in a foreign and unforgiving land, with Abby and Carlos. For Jessie things will only spiral out of control from there. Eventually Russian narcotics officer Grinko, played by Ben Kingsley, boards the train. As with all Russian authority figures there is a good chance Grinko may not be what he seems. Maybe he's playing both sides. Maybe he's entirely on the bad side. Whatever the case he is clearly an ominous presence and he certainly takes an interest in Jessie. As you might expect for Jessie this proves to be a rather bad thing.
After starting out slowly the movie picks up the pace in the second half. There's some good action and some real thrills. Not everything works perfectly though. Some of the story's twists are a little bizarre and don't seem particularly well thought out. Mortimer does a good job of holding the film together as best she can. The story unfolds from her character's perspective. We live the story through Jessie and Mortimer holds up well throughout her character's ordeal. Harrelson doesn't come off quite as well. His character, Roy, is a rather hopeless rube but Harrelson makes him a little too hopeless for the film's good. Kingsley is excellent as ever, creating a very intriguing character. Noriega also does well, Mara has less to do but does fine with what there is for her to work with. There's enough suspense here to hold your interest. The odd twist here and there may leave you scratching your head at times though. The end result is a film which is reasonably satisfying. The cast, aside from Harrelson, does commendable work. The story has its faults but still manages to be compelling. And the film certainly looks great, some truly magnificent photography capturing the bleak, wintry landscape. Not a great film. But good enough.
Kudos to director Michel Hazanavicius. He had the audacious idea to
make a black-and-white silent film more than eighty years after movies
had begun to talk. And then he executed that idea brilliantly. The film
had the potential to be a cheap, if interesting gimmick. It proved to
be so much more than that. It proved to be a great film. The fact it
was so unique only added to its allure. Helped by a terrific cast
Hazanavicius produced true movie magic.
There are so many ingenious things about The Artist but the smartest thing the film has going for it is its subject matter. It's a silent film about silent films. And that opens up so many delicious possibilities. The film's star, Jean Dujardin in a truly mesmerizing performance, is playing silent film star George Valentin. Valentin is on top of his game and on top of the world. The biggest star of his era, adored by legions of fans. One of his biggest fans is a young woman, Peppy Miller, who audaciously sneaks in a kiss with him outside the premiere of Valentin's latest smash hit. Little do either of them know then that they are two ships passing in the night. The silent movie era is about to end. George Valentin is on the way to ruin. Peppy Miller is on the way to stardom.
Peppy starts out as an anonymous extra on one of Valentin's films. From there her star slowly rises. Meanwhile his star burns out completely. The world forgets George Valentin. But Peppy does not. She remembers that man she once so admired. They had but a brief connection but it meant the world to a young woman just getting her start in the business. If anyone can save George Valentin it is Peppy. With a little help from George's wonderfully cute four-legged friend Jack the dog.
All of this is told so wonderfully and, to modern eyes and ears, so uniquely. Producing this particular story as a silent film was simply ingenious. It's both a love letter to old-time Hollywood and a thoroughly modern film. The film has so many nods to that long-gone era but still works so well for a modern audience. When characters in this film dismiss silent stars as just mugging for the camera it reinforces the point that this film's stars are not doing that. Yes, it's a silent film but unlike any we have ever seen before. And yet with enough of those old silent movie touches to make it a worthy homage. A very delicate balance was required and Hazanavicius created that balance perfectly. Of course it never could have worked without the right cast. What a challenge these performers had, doing something quite unlike anything they had done before. And they all nailed it. Dujardin was simply amazing. Bérénice Bejo, playing Peppy, matched him stride for stride. What a delightful pair they prove to be. James Cromwell gives such a heartfelt performance as Valentin's loyal chauffeur. And as head of Valentin's film studio John Goodman manages to be a loud presence even in complete silence, he's simply perfect for his role. Helped along all the way by a wonderful old-time sounding silent movie score the film gives you comedy, drama, romance. And often does it in ways only a silent movie can, Hazanavicius taking full advantage of his medium. Intertitles are used sparingly but to great effect, most notably in the film's most dramatic moment which so cleverly becomes the film's funniest moment. That great silent movie moment serves as a reminder of what films can be with a little imagination. Hazanavicius had the imagination. And he had the talent to bring his vision to life. It all adds up to a wonderfully unique, incredibly entertaining and supremely charming film.
Upon its initial release critical reaction to Alien was mixed to
negative. One notable review described it as an empty bag of tricks.
One critic dismissed it as an overblown B-movie. Another called it
deeply dislikeable. Then a funny thing happened. Audiences saw the film
and liked it. The film became a big success. It wasn't long before the
film was being touted as a classic of its genre. Critics who had
initially panned the film went back and wrote entirely new reviews
praising it. The film was now beyond criticism. Nobody would dare admit
they did not love it. Truth is the critics had it right the first time.
This film is just not very good.
Alien is meant to be a scary monster movie but the scares certainly don't come fast and furious. This film takes a long, long time setting itself up. Director Ridley Scott tries to build suspense. But this slow build drags on far too long for the film's good. Tension and intrigue drain away, boredom sets in. The film is often described as "Jaws in space" in that it's a monster movie in which we see very little of the monster. But where Steven Spielberg kept Jaws crackling along Scott's film gets terribly bogged down. Jaws also benefited from compelling characters. No such luck with Alien. Sigourney Weaver has some presence to her playing the key role of Ripley. But that character doesn't really spark to life until very late in the film. The rest of the cast has very little to do. A boring group of characters prone to doing stupid things. Like searching for a cat instead of, you know, escaping the giant murderous Alien. There are some notably fine actors here, including John Hurt and Ian Holm. But the script fails them. The characters never inspire much feeling in you at all, giving you little reason to care about their fate. There is very little story here, no character development whatsoever. A late reveal of one character's background proves more silly than shocking. The film has a memorable moment or two. But one or two moments in a two-hour film aren't nearly enough. This monster movie is monstrously overrated.
Bruges. It's in Belgium. And after a job gone wrong two Irish hit-men,
Ken and Ray, are sent there to hide out. Their boss loves the place,
calling it a fairytale town. Ken becomes a happy tourist, embracing the
chance to explore the best-preserved Medieval city in Belgium. Ray is
not happy. He wants out of Bruges from the moment he gets there.
Touring a Medieval city is not his thing. And it also becomes very
quickly obvious that Ray is tormented by something. The film is very
smart in waiting to reveal exactly what it is that is weighing so
heavily on Ray's mind. When all is revealed a new spin is put on
things. The story, which to that point had seemed to be an odd couple
comedy, takes an emotional turn. But the film never stops giving you
plenty to laugh at. And when Ken and Ray's boss reveals exactly why he
sent them to Bruges the film turns again, giving us some action, drama
and real suspense. But still laughs too. Always laughs. The film has
serious elements but at heart it's always a comedy. A very dark comedy.
And a very good one.
Much of the credit for the film's success has to go to the actors portraying Ken and Ray. Brendan Gleeson is perfect as Ken, the older and wiser of the pair. And Colin Farrell is excellent as young hothead Ray. Farrell is hilarious in Ray's biting exchanges with Ken about the merits, or lack thereof, of Bruges. But Farrell also nails the serious, emotional side of the character. Gleeson and Farrell really do make for the perfect screen pairing. It helps that they have a great script to work with, writer/director Martin McDonagh providing them with plenty of hilarious dialogue all along the way. The starring pair are also ably supported by some other performers. Ken and Ray's boss is not revealed until well into the picture and when he arrives things really kick up a notch. This guy is explosive and, in his own unique way, hilarious. There's a woman involved, she's about the only thing in Bruges which Ray finds appealing. Oh, there's also a cocaine-snorting racist dwarf with an affinity for hookers.
In this film the city of Bruges itself is just as important a character as any of the people. What a lovely city, and director McDonagh shows it off beautifully. It may not be Ray's thing but chances are you'll want to visit the place after seeing the film. And you'll probably want to see the film another time or two as well. It's a dark comedy which gives you plenty of laughs but it has a great deal of heart as well. And some good action too. It's wonderfully scripted, performed perfectly by a great cast and it looks spectacular. Well done by all involved.
George Taylor leads a group of four astronauts sent to explore the
farthest reaches of outer space. Hibernation, time dilation and light
speed travel combine to send them 2,000 years into the future. They
crash-land on a distant planet. What they will discover will shock
them. Shock us too.
One astronaut, the female of the group, didn't survive the journey. The other three have to abandon ship in a hurry because they've landed in water and that ship is sinking. With only the sparest provisions they make their way ashore. What they find is a barren, seemingly uninhabited, desert-like world. But they eventually do find some humans. But not humans like we know them. These humans are primitive creatures. Mute, dressed in rags, seemingly devoid of any intelligence. And then the apes arrive. Gorillas attack the humans, killing some and capturing others. Taylor is shot in the throat and dragged away to the ape habitat. Here he finds that in this world it is the apes who have evolved. They walk, they talk. They have their own society. Gorilla hunters, chimpanzee scientists, orangutan leaders. In this world Taylor is the animal.
His throat wound rendering him unable to speak Taylor is unable to convince the apes he is intelligent, evolved, unlike all the other primitive humans they hunt for sport. But a chimpanzee psychologist, Zira, sees a spark of intelligence in him. She and her fiancé, Cornelius, take great interest in Taylor, who is unlike any human they have ever seen. Unfortunately Dr. Zaius, the orangutan who oversees Cornelius and Zira's work, has no use for an intelligent human. He wants Taylor disposed of before he causes any trouble. It becomes pretty clear that Zaius knows more about Taylor, and humans, than he's letting on. What is he hiding? The answers will rock Taylor. And the audience.
Now this might all sound somewhat silly, like a bad B-movie. That is not the case at all. This is a serious movie, with a serious message. And it's very well done. Charlton Heston, playing Taylor, is the big star and while he may be a little melodramatic and over-the-top at times it is a fine performance. But for the movie to really work it was the performers portraying the apes who really had to do a great job. They had to convince you that these creatures were intelligent and they had to infuse each individual ape with its own unique personality and motivations. The key roles of Zira, Cornelius and Zaius are performed by Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall and Maurice Evans respectively and they brilliantly bring these apes to life. No easy task showing personality through ape masks but these actors pulled it off, helped no doubt by the fact the ape costumes look so convincing. Truly excellent makeup and prosthetic work was done here. To believe in the movie you had to believe in the apes. You do and that allows the movie's very smart story to truly shine. It's a bit of a slow build but from the moment Taylor utters his famous "stinking paws" line of dialogue the movie picks up steam as it hurtles toward its brilliant, stunning conclusion. A very well thought-out, and very well executed, sci-fi success.
Clark Griswold just wants to spend some time with his family. So he
plans a big old family vacation, a cross-country drive from their home
in Chicago to California. Ultimate destination: Wally World. That's
Disneyland with a moose instead of a mouse. Unfortunately Clark's
best-laid plans go horribly awry. You see, Clark is a bit of an idiot.
And a rather spineless idiot at that, constantly taken advantage of.
The tone is set right at the beginning when an unscrupulous car
salesman foists a total lemon on Clark. And thus the Griswolds set out
on the road in the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, the most ludicrous
station wagon to ever hit the highway. Let the laughs begin.
Except...where are the laughs?
Vacation is a movie which has acquired a glowing reputation but truth be told it just isn't funny enough. There are no huge laughs. There really aren't even that many mild chuckles. Much of the humor falls flat and there are some lengthy lulls where there is absolutely nothing funny going on. Chevy Chase puts in a game effort as the bumbling Clark but he gets very little help. Beverly D'Angelo has nary a funny moment as Clark's wife. The two kids are nothing more than annoyances, unfunny annoyances at that. A stop at Cousin Eddie's house to meet up with the Griswold hillbilly relations provides a few decent jokes but some real groaners as well. This pit-stop also saddles the Griswolds and us with Aunt Edna, a character which doesn't work at all. Anything funny the movie tries to do with her pretty much fails completely. The Griswold family adventure continues, mishaps and misadventures all along the way. The movie tries for a madcap big finish. It needed a big finish after being rather mundane throughout. But much like everything else that finish is a bit of a dud too. It's a movie which has its moments. But not nearly enough of them to make you want to relive the Griswold family journey again.
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