15 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Professionally made and imaginative adventure film of the early 70s
27 June 2012
The Cave Man vs Dinosaur movie is ridiculed as unscientific. Harryhausen came to the defense of the concept in his Film Fantasy Scrapbook-casually suggesting archaeological evidence was pushing back human origins or closing the gap between them and dinosaurs. We will never prove 100 percent what was living in prehistoric times and I could not care less one way or the other. This is supposed to be a fantasy film. The idea of humans alongside dinosaurs isn't meant to be historical fact, but imaginative fun.In watching this film and its predecessor, what strikes me the most is the total professional manner the actors treat the subject matter. Especially impressive is Patrick Allen who spends a good deal of time shouting Neekro but handles it like he's doing Richard the Third! He behaves as professionally as Frank Langella playing an evil toy in Masters of the Universe.

These days people would wink at the camera or have a joke-filled script--claiming that its the only way to deal with such nonsense. One thing about the 60s and a studio like Hammer was that they treated their films seriously.

My only real criticism is the inclusion of a quick shot from Irwin Allen's despicable Lost World where in two reptiles were mutilated and killed for the film. Other than that I think the movie does its best with its budget and resources and its unfortunate movies today are too uptight and unimaginative to try something like this.
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I like watching this movie on hot days
27 June 2012
I was really impressed with this film the first time I caught it on a sci-fi TV channel in the late 90s early 2000s. The way the story weaves between marital conflict and alien invasion was rather neatly done, and while the creatures aren't ALIEN quality they serve well enough. This is the kind of film that shows how unprofessional movies of today with 10 times the budget have become--since the people making this film had limited resources but they gave it their best effort. Has some memorable and funny lines and situations. Pity on those who cant appreciate its merits. I can watch it once a year and still find it amusing.
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Better than I expected
30 May 2012
This film got little coverage in horror books or magazines I collected growing up, and I only became aware of its availability in the internet age. The premise was intriguing, although I assumed it to be more of a comedy and probably cheaply made. As a fan of Crain's Blacula I was pleasantly surprised to discover his involvement-even more so when "Big Skillet" Ji-Tu Cumbuka shows up--playing a straight talking police detective who reminds one of Samuel Jackson. The film does appear cheaper than Blacula and has less dramatic tension--on the other hand it manages to give its central character a bit more depth than one would expect from the Jekyll and Hyde story having been done so many times previously. The scene where Casey tells the prostitute about his childhood and mother is poignant, and makes his request to her all the more chilling since we realize he has some sincere reason to do his research and wont take no for an answer. A mad scientist with a twist.

The makeup by future fx star Stan Winston who had worked with Casey on the TV movie Gargoyles isn't a big deal by today's standards and despite the title he doesn't really look caucasian but more like a Haitian voodoo zombie. Whether Winston was hampered by budget or it was a conscious decision to make him more of a ghoul is an open question.

There are some story lapses and the ending seems rather abrupt and too basic for a story that had established such a dramatic impetus for the main character--but it has a few amusing lines and is probably worth a look for people seeking an alternative drive-in horror film. 6 1/2 out of 10.
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Death Hunt (1981)
A movie about Canada that Canada would never make
30 April 2012
Here is a story set in Canada about Canadians and yet it was made by the US. I have to ponder why Canada didn't jump on doing this story themselves. If one wonders why Canadian movies are so lame (about failure, disease, depression, weird humor) I would say it is because culturally we have an aversion to examining ourselves in a critical fashion whereas other countries do it quite naturally. England has made films about notorious murders, same with Australia, or Germany (Tenderness of the Wolves), and of course, the US. This story would have been perfect material for a domestic movie--but I can find no evidence that Canada ever sought to make this story themselves. I can understand with the stars involved that they dramatized it and changed the facts, but if it were done with no stars, and kept to the historical story, it still would have been fascinating. But the government film funding bodies don't like stories that present Canada in a negative light. At least in the English side-I know Quebec has covered stories on its history in fictional fashion. I remember the furor over a Canadian murder case when a Canadian producer wanted to make a film about it and was harshly condemned, so the US made it-and Canadian crew people vowed not to work on it. This is seriously screwed up thinking. If Canada wants to develop a normal film industry it needs to be less reserved and more self-examining.... On the film itself, I agree with the sentiments that you wouldn't see this film made today-and if you did, it would star model-types. Character actors have really gone extinct. Some of the melodramatic touches in the film worked for me (the dog, the trapper Bill), others fell flat(the inserted love story). Still, Bronson was effective (you could totally believe he was a rugged mountain man) and Marvin had some good lines (I am sure Canadian government culture ministers would have axed his comment calling the trappers "savages" if it was made in country).
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Themes of POTA 1968 versus today
11 August 2011
Another reviewer said the 1968 movie was really about the civil rights movement but I don't think that is supported by the film itself. The source novel was specifically about human nature in general, and made direct reference to the use of primates, especially in labs. The 68 movie was more of a general commentary on human nature than the book, but retained reference to hunting and vivisection(which has been criticized in literature at least since the time of Shakespeare so it wasn't started by Peta) and a cynical view of human nature (the Lawgiver's scripture at the end makes that clear). Taylor goes from being misanthropic-perhaps a disillusioned idealist, to a champion of humanity, only to have his arrogance ripped away from him. If the story had merely been an allegory for the civil rights movement it would have been as dated as something like the Defiant Ones. The timelessness of human nature makes it work 4 decades later. The later movies had more of a civil rights/Vietnam allegory, and have become more dated as a result. It is rather interesting how the gorillas, who were the most important ape class in the novel, became much more war-like and barbaric as the film series progressed. Maybe the new movie takes a more heavy handed approach but even that would be more logical and less jarring than attempting to portray it as a civil rights allegory the way District 9 did(which implied Nigerian prostitutes were having sexual relations with the insect-like aliens!).
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Impressive non Hollywood "Hollywood" movie
21 February 2011
In film history class we were usually shown a silent era German movie followed by Triumph of the Will. This film ought to be included. It is surprising on a few fronts. One is the high production values. Not a cheap movie at all. Even when compared to a US technicolor film of the period, this had a few advantages like real European locations, access to the Venice canals (a movie in colour first?). It could also be the first colour film to show a space-science fiction sequence. The effects were impressive for the time and its clear that the Gilliam version borrowed some fx ideas from this. The often heard assumption that Germany's best film technicians all fled or were killed simply isn't true judging by this. Very colourful film. The language barrier prevented me from judging the comic timing very well but looked as though the performances were on target. As others have pointed out the nudity and sexual talk is rather jarring to see when you think of the US censorship board of the period. Probably the two biggest surprises were the black people(!) and the not so unsubtle digs at the regime. The villain with the moustache talking about invading Poland really came as a surprise. This flies in the face of what I often heard-that Germans were brainwashed by Hitler-clearly there was some dissent judging from this. And it also counters the idea that was put froward in the last 10 years that in war time one doesn't criticize the sitting president. They did in Nazi Germany!
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Predators (2010)
Poor copy of the original
5 December 2010
I give it 5 out of 10 although if it was not based on Predator I think it would earn a 6.

The original Predator was a fun hokey sci fi action film with off the wall characters, dialogue and a closing credits sequence which was pretty unusual (the cast salute to the audience). It benefited greatly from production problems and some changes that allowed the story to play out as it did(with an alien design that is very memorable).

Predator 2 was not in the same league of course-but Danny Glover was a compelling enough lead that I can watch it from time to time. But it started the downward spiral. The problem is that the predator worked great as an Arnie menace--but it seems that filmmakers don't know what to do with it in his absence. The main problem plaguing every movie since is that they make the predator weaker, and open to truces and friendship pacts with humans, they take the "you aren't armed, no sport" line which was just an easy way to explain why the woman wasn't being targeted and used it as a "noble hunter" device to spare women and children and justify lazy writing. The original Predator was a very strong, violent sob--when he loses a fight he laughs as the bomb counts down-he doesn't let Arnie go. He's a hunter-a jerk. Evil. Even against armed humans he has the advantage and he hides behind camouflage and shoots injured men and skins others alive. Not noble at all, but for some reason there is a fan base around the character, that has turned it from a menacing figure into a bumbling goon.

The AvP movies were bad, partly for the reasons cited above, although Requiem at least had a predator close to the original height and the fight between it and the predalien mimicked the original movie enough that that sequence was almost competent.

Now we have Predators once again trying to keep the predator franchise going without Arnie. I liked the basic concept and some of the ideas-(although the alleged original Rodriguez script of Dutch and other aliens who had killed a predator being dropped on a planet where they are hunted as a spectator sport for the predator homeworld could have been so much better if they had been given a budget to match). Unfortunately the execution on this version fizzled in my judgment. It copied aspects of the original movie a little too much, and as indicated at the beginning, they had to make the predators dumber, weaker, and prone to helping humans a little bit. The original Predator script wasn't exactly smart, but this one is dumber with less interesting characters. I liked Fishburne's fat faced nutty survivor and the humor of the convict but that wasn't enough. The Braga character was better than I expected, I didn't mind the doctor until near the end or the convict (until he was able to survive what Jesse Ventura could not and fight back). But I feared Adrian Brody would be annoying and he went far beyond what I expected. Not only was he super smart, never made a mistake, unlikable, but they had him take off his shirt and use Arnie like lines and SPOILERS successfully punch the predator a few times.

Not even Arnold's best punch could hurt the original predator, and somehow Brody was able to whack these super-predators with ease. This was not suspenseful. It was horrible.

I liked the concept of the predator dogs--but like so many recent Hollywood movies with fx and monsters, they do a poor job of establishing suspense and menace. The predator dogs appear, chase, get shot, retreat. Reminded me of the abysmal Clash of the Titans remake where giant scorpions that could easily crush a person were handled as if video game phantoms. As an audience we want to see why these predator dogs are scary or dangerous. We don't get to see it. They needed a few more parachute drops and allow us to see someone getting ripped apart.

By the end of it I was rather irritated by Brody's character and the decisions of the filmmakers. I am not convinced a Predator movie can work without someone like Arnuld, maybe a Jason Statham would have been better for this--but they would have needed to be more inventive in defeating the predators on their own world. using alien technology, or the help of fellow alien prey.

It could have helped maybe if it had taken a page from the Expendables in tone--while not a great movie, it did have some of the character camaraderie and casting that was inspired by the original Predator.

The Predator alien is a cool design all dressed up with nowhere to go without Arnold Schwarzenegger to fight.
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OK action flick-main draw is the big three scene
21 August 2010
I went to see a movie in a theater after a long absence simply because seeing Stallone and Schwarzenegger and Willis on screen together was a historic film moment for someone who watched their films in the 80s. It was a long time coming and didn't disappoint(although I wondered how Willis would appear alongside them-and given the short time they probably had to film-its not quite the three of them on screen "together"). Still a great classic scene.

As for the movie itself--it was OK-had some one liners, action, had some throwback to the 80s moments, but it was a little on the cheap side--I would have expected a big action finale back on the home turf--and it could have used stronger-more caricatured villains.

The action scenes were rather generic. Lundgren was decent in his part-I think Van Damme would probably have felt the part too much of a supporting character. This is a case of star power smoothing over the rough edges so i give the film a bit more slack (especially since it did get me out into a theater after almost a decade due to its 'stunt' casting).
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District 9 (2009)
Amazingly overrated weak comedy or terrible drama?
2 February 2010
If this movie was meant to be mostly humorous or silly, I give it a 4 out of 10. I did laugh a couple of times, but for most of it I was just smiling at the absurdity of it. If however, this was meant as a serious movie, then I would give it a 1. Please tell me it wasn't meant to be serious. Please tell me when I heard them say "human rights groups would be monitoring the evictions closely" that they actually said "nonhuman rights groups," because having a human rights group at the evictions of alien cockroaches makes as much sense as them being present at a whale hunt. If it was meant to be comedic, it is still pretty lazy in writing. Peta would have made more sense. But that's a sloppy line if I heard it right. If this movie was meant to be taken seriously it had many more problems. Such as the idea that the US and other countries would leave an alien ship and weapons in the hands of South Africa. Never. They could have written a few lines to explain it away well enough but they didn't bother. Or that any country would tolerate such obnoxious looking and behaving aliens on the doorstep. They would have been quarantined right at the beginning unless they were worried an alien ship would come back looking for them-a few lines would have explained it. The refugee scenario worked OK in Alien Nation because the aliens acted more human like and it was a cop drama anyway--but here, there wasn't much done in an effort to make such a scenario realistic. And the idea that one was supposed to feel sad for them--I am afraid the director didn't do a good job making me feel that way, and I avoid stepping on insects when I walk! I felt nothing for them. Spoiler: When the main character gets sprayed with goo and has a change, it was so clean and perfectly done that it reminded me of 1950s cartoons where someone drinks a potion and their head changes into a frog (while their hands stay normal). If this was serious, the guy's face would at least have had a rash! And the way they stick him in the gun for the test--it just made me smile. It was ludicrously presented. So i have to believe it was mostly meant as a comedy, but it didn't work for me. Also the use of shaky cam annoyed me, and the docudrama style was inconsistently used. I had heard it was like this generation's 2001, Robocop and Star Wars. Big praise. The movie borrowed a few elements from them but wasn't fun like those movies. The aliens spoke in a bizarre clicking fashion and the humans could perfectly understand it--in Star wars this was done in a comic book manner, and the Stormtroopers were wearing helmets that may well have had a translator device. That was cartoonish. The alien arm transformation was cartoonish. I know it was a bad summer for movies, but really, was this that much of a breath of fresh air? It only came about because the video game movie Jackson had planned was canceled-and they needed to do something with the money they had. It wasn't as if the director had a script about alien race relations sitting on a desk. And there was precious little about that in the movie. I cant remember one quotable line of dialogue. I keep coming back to it being a comedy--even the idea that Nigerians would prostitute themselves for the aliens as suggested in a line--hard to imagine. Seems more like they just threw everything they could at the screen and hope it stuck. Lucky for them they had the backing of a big studio and director. The effects were quite good though-I just wish they had used them in a better story.
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Amazing Stories (1985–1987)
Spielberg was no Rod Serling
15 March 2009
When this show premiered Spielberg was at the top of his game/fame. He was a director(Jaws, Raiders, ET) and executive producer(Gremlins, Back to the Future). Amazing Stories was a big event series. It had a million dollar per episode budget(quite high for the 80s), state of the art title credits and many famous faces(especially behind the camera). It didn't even need to show its worth in the first season, it was locked in for two seasons. Alas it was mostly a dud, and was nowhere near as good storywise as the original Twilight Zone or Outer Limits.

There was no equivalent of "To Serve Man" or "Nightmare at 20 000 Feet" in Amazing Stories. No "Zanti Misfits" or "Architects of Fear." Stories that you could watch once and probably remember well, and be able to relay to someone else in a few sentences and still be entertaining because the idea was good.

The best live action episode was in my opinion, "Mummy, Daddy." It had energy, humor and clever ending, which was improvised, and if it had followed the script as originally written(concluding in the hospital) would have been a dud as well.

"Family Dog" also stood out.

I remember "the Main Attraction," "The Mission" (mainly for the cartoony ending), "Gather Ye Acorns," "Miscalculations," "Mirror, Mirror" and "Go to the Head of the Class."

But beyond some fancy special effects and occasional laugh, the stories just don't hold up.

Doing a memorable anthology show is hard, but the cheaper Tales From the Darkside was locked into the horror genre and didn't do so badly.

The most memorable thing about it was in fact the opening credits, and as others have said, the series never lived up to the concept. It was probably held to a higher standard because of Spielberg's film history at the time, but for the small screen, he was no Rod Serling.
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Grindhouse (2007)
Rodriguez delivers, Tarantino annoys
16 March 2008
The idea of a 70s era double feature with fake trailers was an inspired idea.

Machete was my favorite trailer, followed by Thanksgiving, then Don't (Where did they find that Roddy MacDowell look alike, doing a Hell House impression?).

Movie wise--Planet Terror was amusing, clever, just the type of inventive energy I expected from something like Slither, but didn't get.

It was disgusting, offensive, but you had to admire it for not holding back, and I laughed out loud a few times.

Great to see Jeff Fahey again--he stole the show along with Josh Brolin. I almost didn't recognize Michael Biehn! Death Proof on the other hand--I just couldn't stand it. It didn't even feel like an old movie. Rodriguez put a huge amount of effort into his, Tarantino, evidently did not(though he was good in the Planet Terror cameo).

One odd thing about the whole project was how they tried to make the film look old(not so much in Death Proof) even though people are using modern technology. I would have preferred more of a retro consistency.

The only aspect of Grindhouse that made me think of the 70s was the title credits for Death Proof and bits of the Machete and Don't trailers. Otherwise, Planet Terror seemed more like early to mid 80s in terms of subject matter and feel.

It was nice to see that cartoon panther cub morphing into the Restricted sign. Haven't seen it in ages.

I give it a 7 for Planet Terror and a couple of the trailers, but Death Proof gets a 0.
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A half decent episode but not a great movie version
22 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Some bits were funny (I liked the beginning) but I wasn't laughing my head off.

There are episodes that just stand out like the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon banning episode, the monorail, Homer wanting to catch the big fish, Homer becoming sanitation commissioner, working at the Qwiki mart, Bart and Fat Tony, Pin Pals, Bush and Ex President Bush, and some great Halloween specials.

This movie lacked the edge and while it tried to capture some of the touching family aspects that used to be in the show--it just seemed wishy washy and forced.

It didn't seem epic enough. Why president Schwarzenegger? Did they ask him to do a cameo and he turned it down? It wasn't even a real caricature of him--they just dressed up Rainier Wolfcastle and used the same voice!

It should have been Bush! Having Bush and Homer meet would have been great (I know they showed a picture of him meeting Bush in one episode).

I can only assume they didn't want to offend any of the sad leftovers who love him. Or Murdoch objected--or they just don't want to offend their merchandising sales.

Too bad.

Plus there wasn't any great musical number like you get in the series.

I liked Spider Pig though.
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Transformers (2007)
A terrible fx movie from a truly talentless director 2/10
16 December 2007
This film was a disaster. A mess. Unwatchable. The worst direction of a movie since the Island. I don't know what I enjoyed less, this or the Star Wars prequels.

The script was non existent. Confusing--stupid. Not even the writers of the cartoon show would have stooped to a level as mentally challenged as this. It wasn't even tongue in cheek or camp. It was just bad writing. Shame on the screenwriters--though is suspect the director had a lot to do with it so let me save my venom for him...

The fx: yes the compositing of cg into live action was very good--not as impressive as Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean but still very good. Unfortunately, the direction was so rotten as to spoil the sense of awe you might have expected from it and the fx sequences. For one thing--these 10 ton machines ran around like..well, 8 inch toys. They were hiding under bridges, stumbling through backyards without making impact tremors, basically reduced to a joke. Truly. There were very few moments where they behaved like actual gigantic machines. But who cares right? Its fantasy. OK well then give me great action sequences. But they weren't great. They were confusing and poorly edited--so much so you could hardly stay focused on the action.

This is why Michael Bay deserves a kick between the legs for being such a failure as a storyteller. Above all its his fault(and Spielberg's for urging him to do it.). If I go to see a movie about giant fx monsters, I expect bad writing, even bad acting, but I want to see cool action scenes if nothing else. But he directed them like he did the Island, confusing, choppy, constantly moving cameras that didn't focus on the characters long enough to stay absorbed in the moment of the story.

The only irony in the film is that when i heard about it I thought it was like Small Soldiers in reverse, so it was amusing for half a second to see the father from that movie playing the same role in this one. Small Soldiers was a much better movie.

Masters of the Universe 87 was a better movie. The animated cartoon movie better (and that is saying a lot). I actually wish it was as good as the first Jurassic Park--which had a lame story and weak dialogue--even that was genius next to this.

Its a shame someone like Paul Verhoeven couldn't have made this--he knew how to do an action sequence and if he was going to throw humor in it would have been more sophisticated

I give the film 2 points. 1 for the fx and the 1 for the casting of Cullen as Optimus Prime (even though his design was an eyesore and he didn't behave in a very dignified fashion).

I read somewhere that Bay used to work for George Lucas and when he heard about Raiders of the Lost Ark he dismissed it as a "toy movie." Well Bay really showed that he knows how to make a movie as if he was a 3 year old playing with a camera. This was one truly infantile movie.

A big budget Hollywood movie at its worst.
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Fido (2006)
Canadian filmmakers fascination with necrophilia
4 December 2007
There is a joke that a standard Canadian film is a "quirky" story that involves despair, odd humor, incest, bestiality or necrophilia.

This movie goes for the last category.

I really don't see other countries that have such a fascination with the subject matter and get mainstream government funding for it. I suspect that one of the appeals of funding a a film like this is that it pokes fun at US culture. The irony is that in the 1950s Canadians were watching the same movies and TV shows. Our own shows and movies were awful or non existent. I wish Canada would expand its horizons and try making horror, fantasy and science fiction films that aren't meant to be quirky satires. There ARE other stories out there. New Zealand and Australia are able to do it--I don't see why Canada can't. The only exception seems to be when one half of the film-making team(writer or director) comes from another country. The case with Rituals, Terror Train etc.

PS A poster from Finland said people who prefer non human animals to other humans as company suffer from a pathology similar to the idea in this film that humans would take zombies as pets and servants. I pity someone who thinks that there is a link between a fondness for living species and necrophilia. Human nature is a scary thing.
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Thank the maker! This painful cinematic experiment is over.
17 June 2006
I like Star Wars--the original movies are watchable but certainly not high art. They took A movie technology to illustrate a B movie-kind of story. Mainly for kids but with some ideas and moments that adults can enjoy. Lucas had a vivid imagination--and with help/guidance from gifted artists like Ralph MacQuarrie and a competent producer like Gary Kurtz, was able to get two decent escapist movies..when Kurtz left, we got Return of the Jedi.

Revenge of the Sith is the only movie worth judging as a prequel to the 1977 film, because it addresses all the issues that one expected to see in the Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. How Darth Vader came to be, the Emperor, the Lava planet duel, etc. If this film had been the one to premiere in 99, I don't think Star Wars fans would have been quite as shocked or as disappointed--at least initially. Unfortunately, because we have had two previous prequels to endure, any novelty effect of seeing the Emperor don his hood for the first time and C3PO and R2D2 standing in a familiar ship corridor is lost. You go into this movie just hoping it wont be as unwatchable as the previous ones.

Unfortunately, it isn't any better.

I give this movie 1/2 star star for the the running lizard creature and another half star for 2-3 lines of dialogue (with political overtures) that were a bit amusing given the current state of world affairs, and 1 star for the visualization of the Lava planet--which is about what i had expected when I first read of the scene in the Return of the Jedi novelization of 1983.

But that's it. I am harsher on Lucas than other filmmakers because he had total creative freedom, millions of dollars and 20 something years to make a decent movie-and he failed miserably. Some movies can have a handful of scenes or moments where you can suggest how they might have done things differently--but with the prequels--they fail from the concept itself. People who can watch these films and actually believe that they fit into the style of the previous ones(at least SW and ESB) or any other film where there are characters and plots that one cares about, are cinematically illiterate. I pray they never get behind a camera.

I am not quite sure how Lucas did it, but he managed to write and direct a story where we care nothing about any of the characters. The action scenes are mostly flat--with none of the excitement you find in say, the asteroid chase from ESB.

Look at John Williams musical cues for this film and you can see how uninspired it is--I don't blame JW for this--surely he uses the dramatic thrust of the film to rev it up--and couldn't find anything to latch on to for inspiration.

Acting wise-there is one scene near the end between Macgregor and Portman, and Portman and Christensen, where I almost felt I was watching a real movie. That moment did not last long. The rest of the time, good actors are struggling. Samuel Jackson looks confused. Christopher Lee held his own for the few fleeting seconds he was in the movie.

The Jedi come across as the most incompetent and witless band of knights you ever met--cruel, unwise, and militaristic--and the poorly conceived, convoluted method that Palpatine uses to come to power is awkward at best. Darth Vader's introduction provides little excitement. At least if he went on a Jedi Knight killing rampage the audience could have a moment of nostalgia. But Lucas wastes every chance to exhibit showmanship or storytelling prowess(which was never his strong point).

Stylistically, these movies are meandering, half-baked attempts at Classical Rome political intrigue, with none of the serial adventure spirit that you found in SW and especially ESB.

In short, the prequels are no fun. And at the end of the day--isn't that what it's all about?
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