Reviews written by registered user

9 reviews in total 
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3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Dreadful and Infuriating, and That's Being Kind, 22 January 2011

Disclaimer first: I viewed this film in 2D rather than the theater-released 3D. If a movie can't stand on its own without visual augmentation, it doesn't make the cut, in my very humble opinion.

That said, 2D is the least of "Legends" problems. Simply put, this movie is an absolute mess. Incoherent plot (since I hadn't read the books, and once again, a movie should be able to rise and fall on its own merits). Undistinguished voice characterizations despite some top-drawer vocal talent. Virtually indistinguishable characters. Murky visuals (the fight scenes in particular). Uninspired direction. Zack Snyder did a terrific job on the first ten minutes of "Dawn of the Dead," gave a good college try with "Watchmen." But he is utterly out of his depth when it comes to children's movies. But then, this isn't really a children's movie. Mind-numbingly dull and viciously frightening scenes alternate with incomprehensible dialog. I can't figure out who the intended audience was supposed to be for this movie, but it wasn't kids, and certainly not parents.

The trailer for this movie was much, much better than the actual feature. My advice is to watch it instead. You'll save yourself time for superior animated fare, like "How to Train Your Dragon."

Avatar (2009)
7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Hoodwinked again, 27 December 2010

Let me begin with a confession or two: first, I rarely walk out of movies, but I walked out of James Cameron's last must-see movie, "Titanic," well before the iceberg made its appearance. I figured, I already knew the ending, so why endure another hour or so of Rose and Jack, two characters so thoroughly calculated and cliché that I wanted to throw them both overboard myself.

Second, when "Avatar" was released, with all the hyperbolic language Hollywood could muster ("movies will never be the same" was one tag line I remember), I didn't see it in its intended 3D glory. Fact is, I was suspicious of the hype, and felt a little snake-bitten from my last foray into Cameronia. Instead, I waited, and endured in the meantime the jibes of those who saw and loved the movie -- one relative saw the darn thing SEVEN times -- who just could not believe that I had not yet seen it after all this time. Fact is, I really wasn't all that interested. When someone else said that they originally had a similar level of indifference but, after having seen it, ended up loving it, I figured that I would finally invest the nearly three hours. I sat down with my wife last night to watch it. On Bluray, on a beautiful Sony Bravia with a great surround-sound system. But no 3D.

Having done so, I can firmly make this statement: without 3D to distract and/or amuse you, this movie is one big steaming pile.

Plot: little, and what there is of one is predictable and cliché. Others have documented the blatant similarities and outright lifting of the plots of other, better movies. Let's just say that if Cameron did in fact write the script in three weeks, he must have spent two of them in a coma.

Dialog: burp. From the opening line of someone having had "a hole blown through his life," you know you're in for more cheese than a Wisconsin harvest festival. Junior college creative writing students would have been embarrassed to turn in such work.

The vaunted CGI: not to put too fine a point on it, but it was SyFy Channel quality at best. Having on the previous night watched a much more convincing CGI flying beast movie "How To Train Your Dragon," I was absolutely shocked by the poor quality of the CGI. The textures and lighting were lame and unconvincing, and I never for once suspended any sense of disbelief.

Acting: who was in this movie again? Between Sam Worthington's Aussie-creep accent in what was supposed to be a flag-flying-red-white-and-blue jar-head character to the Na'vi who fluctuated from speaking halted English to perfect and back again, lets just say that I was left unimpressed and unmoved.

Direction: so "nothing special" that I can hardly believe the raves this movie got. Fail.

And don't even get me started on the "unobtanium."

I am completely sure that in 3D, this movie was a wonderful visual experience, and enough of one to distract a viewer from the utter lack of originality and substance in the movie itself. Viewing it without this visual aid, however, the movie's flaws are glaring and hard to overlook. Still, Cameron made a bucket-load of money on this movie, so I recognize that mine is a minority opinion. But my wife hated it too, so I got that going for me, which is nice.

However, one thing is absolutely and completely certain: I will never again be hoodwinked into turning over my hard-earned cash to the snake-oil salesman who is James Cameron. "Avatar" is a movie for thirteen year old male video game enthusiasts or those easily amused by sparkly things. Otherwise, save your dough and your time. You'll be glad you did.

7 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Shoulda Known Better, 26 October 2009

Now, I'm not saying that just because a studio (or, in this case, every studio) passes on a distribution deal, the film in question isn't worthy of release.

I'm just saying that in THIS case.

What an utter waste of celluloid, talent and the viewer's time. And above every other sin for which it is guilty, it commits the ultimate sin: it is boring.

The high-gloss veneer of the film can't conceal that there is no there there. The notion that Halloween has rules which must be followed is hinted at, but dropped almost immediately (or, I guess, they were saving it for the sequel, God forbid).

Don't make the same mistake I did and fall for the hype. You want a good Halloween movie? Watch "Nightmare Before Christmas," or, for that matter, "To Kill A Mockingbird."

Up (2009)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Astonishing is not a strong enough word for "Up", 22 July 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After the brilliance of "Wall-E," Pixar had nowhere to go but down. Instead, they went "Up," way up! I defy even the most cynical viewer to watch the Carl-and-Ellie opening montage and not shed an honest tear. So emotionally overwhelming is this astonishing piece of animated film making that the viewer is completely sucked in to the rest of the story. The technical and artistic brilliance of this sequence is worth the price of admission, but, happily, there is much to come that is comparable.

There are characters, authentic in their realization, utterly believable in their execution, wonderfully written and voiced. There is spectacle, there is adventure and suspense and a great many out-loud laughs. There is poignancy and heartbreak, heroism and redemption -- all of the things that create a memorable movie-going experience.

A brief word about the 3-D work in the film: utterly flawless and free from the obtrusiveness that mars so many 3-D efforts. Pixar did not use 3-D as a trick to be exploited, but rather as an element that enhanced the wonder of the visuals and extend the story. This is a lesson in how to use a technology to actually advance a story. Well done!

I can only hope that with the Academy's expansion of Best Picture Nominees from five to ten this year that "Up" will at least get a nomination. If there is real justice, it will receive the award that "Wall-E" should have won. But "Up" is altogether deserving of the award on its own merits. This is a movie to be treasured, to be seen with someone you love.

9 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
All the Superlatives are Deserved, 19 March 2009

After having heard and read reviews and comments about "Let the Right One In" for months, and being unable to find a local screening when it arrived in the US, I was eager for the DVD release. The day I picked up my copy, a huge banner near the checkout stand touted the upcoming DVD release of "Twilight." I couldn't help but compare the two a bit, considering their seemingly parallel material. Let's just say that, after finally watching LTROI, I can confidently say that it's the "anti-Twilight." And that's a compliment.

Plot synopses are given elsewhere, so I won't bother too much with those details. But, yes, there is a vampire, and yes, there is a certain amount of on-screen bloodletting, as is required by this sort of movie. The brilliance of the vampire aspects of LTROI lies in its construction of classic vampire-movie elements -- the vampire's assistant, the fate of those bitten by the vampire, the attempt to destroy the vampire in its lair, the reaction of animals to the creature. Vampire-movie lovers will not be disappointed in the least by this film.

But, as has been said in other reviews, the film ascends over and above a simple genre picture, due to the relationship between the two principal child characters. The actors depicting these roles are, to put it simply, astonishing. How the director, Tomas Alfredson, managed these performances is a wonder. Of special note is Lina Leandersson, playing the pivotal role of Eli. With her expressive eyes and older-than-her-years face, she is perfect in this role. You won't find a better child performance on film this year.

The central relationship and its tensions will be familiar to anyone who remembers the awkwardness of early adolescence, the pain of being an outsider, the blossoming of a first love. You may actually find yourself shedding a tear at certain points, unusual for this "type" of picture, to say the least.

I cannot commend highly enough virtually every aspect of this film. Cinematography,casting choices, score, direction, art direction, script -- all excellent. When the final credits roll, you may find yourself in stunned silence. This would be, I think, an entirely appropriate reaction.

There are some moments that are not for the squeamish, so be forewarned. However, some of what could have been the more grisly moments are handled discreetly off-camera, making the impact even more pronounced.

Pre-teen females will probably not seek this film out, form fan clubs and put posters of it on their walls, as they do for an afore-mentioned movie. Except, perhaps, for a certain type of pre-teen female: paler than most, usually seen only after the sun has set, able to complete complex puzzles with ease. If you don't know that type, pick up a copy of "Let the Right One In." Once met, she will remain with you for quite some time.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Will you like AD? Depends..., 15 August 2008

And when I say "Depends," I REALLY mean it, as in "Lay in a month's supply of Depends, because you'll pee yourself laughing so hard." Having loved the show in its initial airings, I have revisited it again on DVD and can say, without fear of contradiction, that it is, as has been stated here, often, THE funniest network sitcom ever made. How can one extol the virtues of perfection? Come on! Cast: Jason Bateman -- the 80s could've crushed this guy into oblivion, but no, he's just too darned talented. As Michael Bluth, long-suffering, put-upon, but every bit as devious (but in a nice way) as his wayward family, he is comic bliss. Michael Cera -- BEFORE SuperBad -- we early viewers knew we were seeing something special. David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor ("Im having the time of my LIFE in here!"), Portia DiRossi, Wil Arnett, Alia ("Marry me!") Shakatt, and last but NEVER least, Jessica Walter. And the guest stars, like Henry Winkler, Liza Minnelli, Carl Weathers, Scott Baio (as a lawyer named Bob Loblaw) -- well, there's a casting director somewhere who was seriously underpaid, no matter how much he made.

Writing: Again, one word: Depends.

Keith Olbermann, keep lobbying for an Arrested Development movie. If it happens, I'm first in line.

If you are a fan of subtle but outrageously funny stuff, get AD on DVD ASAP. You won't have made a big mistake.

"Mad Men" (2007)
191 out of 411 people found the following review useful:
Going Nowhere, 14 August 2008

I am generally not a fan of series TV shows, since I don't have much time to devote to them. Still, having heard the hype surrounding "Mad Men," and seeing that the entire first season was being repeated on InDemand, I figured to make the time commitment.

The first few episodes were strong, well-written, and full of promises to come (or at least I thought). Every show of this type needs to establish its characters, relationships, and plot points. But with each successive episode, I began to get a vaguely unsettling sense that the show was actually going nowhere.

Soon, little things became bigger and bigger annoyances: I began to notice an almost fetishistic obsession with "things:" typewriters, fish sticks, bric-a-brac, as if the art director wasn't confident in his ability to establish a time period without beating us over the head with how "authentic" everything was (and it isn't, as I know this period well). Then, lead Jon Hamm plastered a single expression on his face and left it there, episode after episode, something between chronic constipation and wizened incredulity, and even the charms (there are many)of Christina Hendricks couldn't overcome my irritation.

So much could have gone right with this show, that to see how much has gone wrong is downright painful. If you're gonna write a show about reprehensible people (and nearly everyone in "Mad Men" is exactly that), then you either better have a kick-ass plot (think "The Sopranos") or give me a reason to care about what happens to the characters. Sadly, "Mad Men" fails on both points. It coulda been, but probably never will.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
In a word: Astonishing, 25 July 2008

Millions upon millions of words will be written about "The Dark Knight," from far better writers. I will offer only these few: You are not likely to see a better movie this year, possibly next, possibly ever. An amazing movie, in every respect. The acting is absolutely convincing. The direction is stunning. The script, well, it is simply brilliant. The score is subtle and at times oppressive, completely right for this material. The Christopher Nolan Batman is the one we've been waiting for since forever. "Batman Begins" was top-drawer stuff, but "The Dark Knight" takes the series to another level altogether. Go see it. Today.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fine Adaptation of a Great Book, 28 July 2006

It took me weeks to read the book, which, for me, is unusual. It wasn't that I didn't like it; to the contrary, I couldn't believe how terrific it was. But I could not put my finger on why it was taking me so long to read, until I reached the final third of the book: I simply did not want it to end. I had come to know the characters so well, through the deftness of Richard Russo's prose, and had come to like (at least most of) them, that I couldn't bring myself to say goodbye.

Such was my reaction to HBO's film version of this great American novel.

Others here have praised the production, so I'll only add my brief thoughts: The cast, from the main players to the secondary characters, is uniformly excellent, with one or two exceptions. It was thrilling to see Joanne Woodward back on the screen, but she interprets the role with a softness that, in my opinion, was entirely absent from the actual character she was portraying. So, a point or two off there. Otherwise, the acting was brilliant.

The screenplay adhered very closely to the novel, but some key dialog was disappointingly missing. I recognize that a 400+ page book, to be translated to film, requires editorial discretion. Still, a few things were lost that should have remained.

While the first half takes its time to establish characters and relationships, the second half feels rushed, and the ending definitely so. I couldn't help but feel that something was left on the cutting room floor. But then again, I didn't want it to end in the first place.

Because I am such a fan of the book, I was eager for my wife to see the movie (she hasn't read the book). So, I had a lot invested in the hope that they wouldn't screw it up. When the final credits rolled, I looked over at her, and her tears were flowing. "I didn't want it to end," she said quietly.

And neither will you.