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14 out of 37 people found the following review useful:
I'm Already Hooked, 1 July 2014

From the beginning to the end, I was glued to the television. Thank goodness for shows like this (and "The Walking Dead," "Boardwalk Empire," "Ray Donavan," etc.) whose creators paint a story, and characters, that completely draw you in from the start, and who respect the intelligence of their audience.

What more could one ask? "The Leftovers" features a cast that is fascinating and that is truly diverse, in an organic and not contrived sort of way. They talk and react as real people would in such situations, if they happened in real life. The dialogue and plot are as aggressively void of clichés or predictability as that of any of the best shows I can recall.

There's no special effect more fascinating and riveting than the human condition, and "The Leftovers" illustrates that with near perfection. Virtually every character, from the sheriff, to the members of the mysterious cult, to the town's Mayor, are not only fully sketched at the surface, but are layered such that there is clearly far more to them beneath what one sees. The story and premise, and all the follow from it, are presented in a way that is completely credible.

Thankfully, I haven't the slightest idea of what will happen next. I can't even begin to guess, though I'm dying to know (but I feel assured that the answers won't come easily or neatly or quickly).

If the rest of the episodes are in the same league as the pilot, I don't plan on missing any.

Kick-Ass (2010)
44 out of 87 people found the following review useful:
Count me in the minority, 27 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Oh, well. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the reviews for "Kick Ass" on this site range from glowing to downright worshipful, I guess I'll have to dissent.

I didn't hate the film--in fact, I think it's well written, and very well paced. Technically, it is excellent. It does have some holes and inconsistencies in the story. There were a couple of plot twists and deus ex machinas that you could see coming from a mile away, and/or were a bit much to take, but that's par for the course with films such as this.

A lot has been made of the character of "Hit Girl," played by Chloë Grace Moretz, and for good reason. She's the reason that "Kick Ass" is groundbreaking, in its way--not necessarily a good, way, IMHO. We have a character, an eleven or twelve year old girl, who proficiently, sadistically and graphically kills people, with smiles and taunts, and graphic profanity. It's safe to say that she's responsible for the vast majority of of the film's prolific body count.

Take a kiddie/teen tongue in cheek fantasy/adventure film. Add a heavy dose of Scorsese-style profanity and Mob themes, along with Tarantino-style graphic, splattering gore, spurting blood, and dismemberment, and you've got "Kick Ass."

It's far more violent and gory than "The Dark Night," either "Hulk" movie, either of the two "Spiderman" movies that I've seen, or for that matter, any of the other superhero movies that I remember. In another time, and not long ago, no one under the age of sixteen would/should have been allowed anywhere near it. But this movie has demonstrated--emphatically-- that just about anything regarding violence and gore goes as far as getting young people into theaters these days.

I want to take nothing from Chloë Grace Moretz; she's likely a superstar in the making. There are very few other actors her age that could have made such a character as hers work, but she pulls it off brilliantly, and as believably as could have possibly been done (even though most or all of the martial arts/bullet dodging/gun fighting feats that her character performs are absurd even for this genre of film). She strikes me like Dakota Fanning or Jurnee Smollett, the amazing young actress in "Eve's Bayou." They're those very young actors who--at least regarding the acting craft--each seem to carry very old and world wise souls inside their child's bodies.

But I can't help but be given pause regarding how far we've come (or regressed) as a society when a sadistic child assassin (who among other things in the movie, pursues and then murders a fleeing, unarmed woman) is one of the "heroes" of a top grossing film, to all of these effusively approving reviews. I suppose the saving grace is that practically all of the people that she kills are scumbags.

As a person of the male gender, I have no problem with woman characters who kick butt as well as or better than any man--quite the opposite. But this was not quite the same.

If the film had been more serious about what made Mindy/Hit-Girl tick, and emphasized the context of her as someone profoundly screwed up, and the product of a profoundly screwed up life experience (there are some things in her past that it alludes to that much more could/should have been done with), then it would have been far more compelling and defensible--I'm particularly thinking of "Let The Right One In". Instead, what is emphasized is the violence that she metes out--the thrills of her stylized, computer enhanced, artfully choreographed acrobatics and battle scenes and killing. That, in the view of the makers of the film, is apparently all that the demographic that they were aiming at is interested in (and unfortunately, they're likely right).

In that regard, I think the biggest stretch of all was toward the end. That after having faced--and decimated--a roomful of mobsters shooting at her (on two separate occasions) along with everything else that she's been through, she enters school, on the verge of interacting and socializing with people her own age for the first time in her life, and apparently just carries on like any normal girl (though she beats up the two inevitable bullies who demand her lunch money). Huh?!?!

I'm sure that even now someone, licking their chops at the prospect of matching or surpassing the box office receipts that "Kick Ass" has brought in, is probably thinking of how to top this, and is working on a pitch for the next rendition of this film genre.

What's next? With CGI these days, anyone, even an infant or toddler, can be transformed, on screen, into a near indestructible martial arts master and firearms expert mass-killer uber-assassin.

Will we witness, in the next movie, profanity shouting five and six year old killers? Or two year old toddlers mowing down and slicing apart crowds of people with machine guns from their strollers while yelling the "c" word? In the context of a film designed to get laughs?

I think "Kick-Ass" is worth seeing, if only because of its role as a landmark where the line of what is acceptable to us as a society has been pushed, irrevocably, ever further. I just don't share the opinion of some of the people on this site who consider it a transcendent masterpiece, yet it is definitely not boring.

But I have very mixed, even foreboding feelings about the experience.

Avatar (2009)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Not the best film ever made (but outstanding for the kind that it is), 19 January 2010

My curiosity finally got the better of me and I went to see Avatar.

First of all, that the Golden Globes saw fit to name it the best dramatic motion picture of 2009 is a bit much. Their objectivity must have clearly gotten swept away in all of the hype, and the the enormous and growing sea of box office dollars.

That being said, there's no denying that visually, the film is an almost transcendent, stunning technical achievement. I've been to 3D movies in the past; Avatar distinguished itself in that it succeeds where other 3D films have not--rather than the method being a gimmick or a novelty, in Avatar it actually immerses you in the world that the film has created, for the most part. No argument that the visuals are brilliant, breathtaking, beautiful, and unlike anything that has ever been done.

Nevertheless, someone else here on IMDb posed an excellent question. If not for those dazzling visuals, what would the film have that would distinguish it (in terms of plot, character development, acting, story)?

I won't hesitate to admit that I was swept up into that story, and was cheering and clapping at times (I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't seen the film yet). And to my surprise, unlike some of the reviewers here, I did develop a strong affinity for some of the characters, though others were no more than cardboard cutout caricatures, designed for the audience to hate, but to think nothing more of. There were also a number of fallacies in both the plot and the pretense of the story (which have been pointed out elsewhere), but they were no worse than those of many films that I've otherwise enjoyed.

I did have a heck of an enjoyable time watching the film, which I guess is the whole point.

But I also had a heck of an enjoyable time watching any number of other action films that were low tech or no tech, but were just as absorbing, and that set my heart racing just as fast and sitting just as erect in my seat.

Avatar and the genre of films to which it belongs (despite its unique technical features) are certainly not top-notch, absorbing and though-provoking drama, of the caliber of films like "Revolutionary Road," or "Sounder," and "A Face In the Crowd," the last two of which I watched again on TCM the other day, or the very low tech "Open Water," or the absolutely brilliant "Requiem for a Dream, that was also recently on cable (no 3D or high-tech visual effects in those!).

I don't think that Cameron makes any pretense of Avatar, or of any of his films, being in the latter category. I would imagine that that doesn't bother him in the least, given that this latest film of his will probably be the most financially successful in movie history.

IMHO, the best special effect, by FAR, is the human condition. That can only be rendered by a strong story, and top notch acting. Any fancy effects and bells and whistles are only gravy.

Avatar was a lot of bells and whistles and gravy; the story was, for the most part, extremely predictable. But I don't hold that against it in that Cameron told that familiar story in an innovative and different way. But the sole foundation of that innovation and difference is the 3D, the visuals, and the effects. About halfway through the movie though, I found that I had gotten used to them and the 3D, and was coming to take them for granted. It was not long after that that most of my ooohs and ahhhs were past me, and at times I had even nearly forgotten that I was watching a 3D film. By then, however, my interest was sustained in that the epic confrontation between the good and the evil sides (not much gray area there!) was gearing up, and I was definitely rooting for one of the sides--guess who?.

Will Avatar completely change movie making (other than pushing the boundaries of the state of the art of movie special effects)? Is it the greatest, or one of the greatest films ever made? I note the swooning of many or most of the reviewers here, who are convinced of that. I suppose that would be true if one feels that dazzling technical effects and 3D and gigantic box office receipts alone are in and of themselves what the art of the motion picture is all about. I take exception to that, and could not disagree more.

IMHO, Avatar was great fun, is a stunning technical achievement. But it's by no means the best movie that I've ever seen, or even one of the best--though it is indeed one of the best of its kind.

The bottom line for me? Avatar is well worth seeing; it was a great experience. I enjoyed it, and I'm glad I went. But one should take it for what it is.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Great Potential Ruined by Plot Absurdities, 19 July 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first scene of the film was very well done; it set up what I thought would be the makings of a very intelligent theme for exploration. In escaping the zombie attack on the farm house, the sole survivor, having left his wife behind, has to live with himself. Given the circumstances presented, many viewers would be torn between hating him and understanding his decision. It was clear that in staying behind and answering his wife's plea for help, he would have died. He later tearfully apologizes to his surviving kids in what I felt was a very effective scene. The daughter tells him that she and her brother are glad he survived. And that is exactly the point, isn't it? Had he answered his wife's call, he would have needlessly died, and the children would have had no parents at all. Nevertheless, his guilt was clear and consuming. What a great potential issue to explore in a horror movie, and what immense possibilities it could have led to.

I was disappointed that such was not on the filmmakers' agenda. What could have been an intelligent and unconventional approach to such a film was abandoned in short order. All the more disappointing in that the movie devolved into just another guts/guns/gore flick, with much sound and fury signifying nothing.

Apparently that was all that the makers of the film were really interested in producing, with little or no point to it. Especially in that, in terms of the "plot" they threw logic and common sense to the wind. Apparenlty the mission was to ensure that the outbreak recurred, ensure mayhem and holocaust and death, no matter what. Perhaps in the midst of the chaos, the viewer would forget about, or excuse, the absurd liberties they had taken with the storyline and character development and motivations. I could not do it.

The great potential set up in that first scenes was spectacularly and almost criminally repudiated by the film, when the wife that the viewer thought was dead is miraculously found alive. Then found to be an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. Then, despite being of crucial importance as a source of a potential cure and a critical hazard in that she could readily infect someone, is left all alone and unguarded in a room for the husband/father to just waltz in with his access card, be infected, and then kill her. Huh?

It has also been noted by many here: 1) a military operation so lax and incompetent in terms of security and crisis response that one would be excused for thinking that the people in charge were actually yearning for, and actively trying to engineer, a provocation to give them an excuse to eventually blow everything up and kill everyone that they had been assigned to protect 2) the zombie dad who was apparently modeled after Forrest Gump, who appears everywhere, at the most ridiculously contrived times 3) two children who it is all but impossible to root for or care about, given that they, along with the mind-bogglingly incompetent military, were instrumental in reigniting the contagion 4) the million times before used plot device wherein the young medical officer (or scientist, cop, engineer-fill in the blank-) whose concerns are ignored or dismissed by superiors who are blind to what would have been obvious to any person with an IQ in the double digits.

A few plot holes can be explained or rationalized, but those in this film were so vast as to overwhelm everything. What started--I thought--as a thinking person's horror flick ended as just another mind numbing exercise in gore porn.

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Stunning and Groundbreaking, 28 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are only three other movies that I have seen that have evoked such intense empathy on my part as did "Cloverfield"—"Open Water," "The Blair Witch Project," and "Wolf Creek." All of them shared, to a varying degree, features that I consider extremely effective: a cast of unknowns, minimal to no musical score, a minimal to nonexistent use of sets, and dialogue that one must think was improvised or so ingeniously written that the viewer is convinced that the people on the screen are not actors, but are real, and ordinary people that are being eavesdropped upon. A large part of making that work is that films such as these take their time in getting the viewer to the crisis/disaster, and convince you of the fact that the people on screen don't just exist for the sake of the movie, but existed, and have lives and concerns and issues that began, long before we are introduced to them on the screen.

Thus, when they experience the horrors that they eventually do, one feels right there with them, and feels that what is on the screen is really happening to them.

There are no opening credits; the opening scene of the movie is of one of the twentysomething male characters in a rather posh upper Manhattan apartment, clowning around with his camera, and then rousing his sleeping girlfriend. They tease each other about what they are going to do with the day. In the background, out the window, are Central Park, the forest of buildings and the streets far below, teeming with traffic. The dialogue is completely mundane and real. The view of the city, on the eve of what is to happen, is majestic, and spectacular. That is clearly for a reason.

Eventually, we see the preparations for a party, one of the characters arguing and bantering with his other friends, shopping at a corner grocery store, one of the women getting off a line that causes the cashier to laugh.

Then the party at a midtown Manhattan walk up apartment—again, all captured by the hand-held camera that changes hands and is there for posterity—a send off gift to one of the principal characters who is off to Japan for a big-time job.

The movie spends a lot of time at the party, one attended almost exclusively by other twentysomethings gossiping, dancing, goofing off, drinking, making fools of themselves, and flirting. Again, I got the sense that it wasn't a movie, but a documentary or reality TV show of a real party. It, and the participants were in and of themselves so believable and interesting that I and some of the other people in the audience chuckled at what was going on.

Disaster, and the end of life as was known, begins without warning, and in the blink of an eye. The amount of time that the movie has spent showing us the characters, and the city, during normal and ordinary life renders what unfolds for the rest of the movie all the more wrenching. Life, and reality, for the characters, and for New York City, is turned upside down, and irrevocably, in an instant.

Unlike any previous such disaster/monster film that I know of "Cloverfield," shows in graphic and realistic horror (with the viewer in the middle of it) what the people on the ground would experience were such a thing to really happen.

In reading some of the reviews online or in the papers, I've noted that people have talked of, or criticized, the movie's implied allegories to 9/11. I think that's overly simplistic. The source of the chaos and death is almost irrelevant. The human condition/reaction under such circumstances would be the same whether one substituted any sudden real world calamity--a mass terrorist attack, an earthquake, a bombing raid, or tsunami. The horror would not only stem from the source of the destruction, but the suddenness of the event, the complete lack of knowledge (at least initially) of what is happening, and the utter helplessness. In communicating this, "Cloverfield," was unsparing in depicting what it would probably be like to be at that age, to begin an evening, at a party, with a vast future seemingly assured and taken for granted, and then, by wee hours of the following morning, to suddenly have the rug pulled from under you, and to suddenly be in the middle of a war zone, fighting for your life, clawing for survival, seeing the city you live in crumble, and seeing people--including people very close to you--dying en masse and violently, before your eyes.

The special effects were all the more potent in that the advent of the attack begins at night, amid a sea of light and explosions. The depiction of the collapsing of the buildings was not merely effective—it looked as if it were really happening. Initially all that we, and the characters know is that a vast and destructive force has been unleashed, and is completely out of control. The creature, when finally revealed, is all the more terrifying in that it is totally malevolent, destructive in the extreme, and in that no one we encounter in the film, from the military people to the newscasters, seems to have a clue as to what it is, where it came from, or how to stop it.

An especially effective, and heart sinking scene is when the soldier confides in one the characters and his companion, the true magnitude of what is happening, and that if they're to try to find one of their friends, they have little time and need to get out of the city as soon as possible. It is all but confirmed to the viewer that there will be no eleventh hour triumph, or happy ending.

"Cloverfield" is a first of its kind meld of drama and science fiction that I think is destined to be a classic.

194 out of 295 people found the following review useful:
Yawn., 26 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I eagerly watched the previews of the show on NBC's site, and more than once. The first time, months ago, I was really looking forward to the show. It looked like a fresh, original, and much more character driven, less hokey version of the '70s version.

The actor playing the lead is quite lovely, but in an approachable and down-to-Earth type of way. The storyline with Jamie's deaf sister, and the scenes between the two, looked really interesting-- real drama mixed with the science fiction motif. I hoped for a storyline that approached just the right mix between drama, SciFi, and action that involved a strong woman lead coming to terms with a drastic and permanent change in her life. One whose remarkable new superpowers if anything, complicated things for her even more.

It's emblematic of how something with great potential was greatly compromised, in that I noted that they got rid of the actor playing Jamie's deaf sister, and that whole storyline, and replaced her with an Olson Twins lookalike, stereotypical angst-ridden, smart-Aleck caricature of a teen.

That was only the first, and worst, of the sell outs. Perhaps all else was going to be the same anyway, but with what could have been one of the most durable foundations of the story taken away, what was left was a glorified, extended play music video.

The writing and pace of the story seemed intent on cramming in as much, with as much flash, in as little time as possible. There was no room to connect with any of the characters, or to really care about them.

Within fifteen minutes we are introduced to Jamie, her sister, her scientist professor boyfriend (another two-dimensional cardboard cutout hunky guy with a stubble); we learn that she's pregnant, compulsory tender moment over dinner at a restaurant, and then poof, accident, secret underground lab, bionic woman, other bionic woman....pant, pant.

Of course, there was the compulsory, only been done a million times before, attacked-by-and-beats-up-thug in the alley scene.

The chemistry between Jamie and her "boyfriend" was nonexistent--or we weren't given time to even see it. What little we were allowed to see of it, including the scene in the restaurant where she tells him she is pregnant, was superficial to the point of being almost laughable. And the scene where she confronts him about what has been done to her, they go to bed, and then he gets shot--what was the point?

What could have been a truly effective and interesting depiction of her transition to a cyborg, and adjustment, was instead given only cursory note. It was as if the writers weren't interested, and, just as regarding the part of the story before her accident, were impatient to just get it over with.

I know that Michelle Ryan can act; the long ago, very promising previews--with the deaf sister and accompany storyline--on NBC's website demonstrated that. But the glitzified, hurry-up writing, and frenetic pace of the story, and the changes that were made that I mentioned in the beginning ensured that there was little opportunity for any of the actors to sink their teeth into their characters, or the story.

The first bionic woman, the storyline with the Russian, and the man released from the supermax prison would have been all the more interesting if they had not been introduced in the tepid context of the overall story.

What a disappointment; I had almost completely lost interest in the episode before the ending. For me, I don't know if it's going to be worth the time to stick it out for another episode or two.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Best Bond Ever, 14 December 2006

In "Casino Royale," the James Bond legend has been taken to a new, never-before achieved level.

Many movies reveal that they are something special from the first frames. An unconventional and original opening sequence is among the things that grab me from the word go. The opening (black and white) sequence of "Casino Royale" is probably the best of any of the Bond films. It is minimalist but riveting. It takes place in just the sort of unglamorous locations that one would imagine a real-life endgame of that sort would take place. It tells the viewer, with no bones about it, that a new, deadly serious era in the Bond franchise has begun, and that the jokes are over.

Many, many kudos to the director and the writer(s) of the screenplay.

All of those who ridiculed the choice of Daniel Craig as James Bond had better sit themselves down for a huge helping of crow. He is far and away the best Bond since Sean Connery, and in my humble opinion, gives even Connery a run for the money in some respects.

In the beginning, Daniel Craig's James Bond is not a nice guy. He is arrogant, reckless, impetuous, and an upstart. But he's also brilliant and resourceful. He's also an expert martial artist, a ruthless and proficient killer (who even smiles and smirks as he watches some of his adversaries die), and a daredevil who has no compunctions about getting his hands and face bruised and dirty. His interpretation of James Bond, far more than any other, is truly frightening at times--a guy who could walk into any rough-and-tumble setting, of any kind, anywhere in the world (without the tux), and be right at home. He is utterly focused and driven, and it is abundantly clear that he will let absolutely nothing stand in the way of accomplishing his mission--including conscience. He is fearless to just short of the point of a death wish. In short, he is exactly the type of guy that you would expect and want, in real life, in the trenches battling ruthless criminals, defending his country.

But that is only part of the story. Craig's version of Bond, though extremely capable and dangerous, makes some crucial mistakes. "Royale" is easily one of the two or three most intelligent of all the Bond flicks in that the villains he faces--even some of the bit players--are not cardboard cut-out caricatures, but are presented as resourceful and crafty as he is. None of his physical encounters are cakewalks.

The women he has in the film are not helpless smitten damsels; one is, in terms of intelligence and wit, more than his match.

I found "Casino Royale" not only a top-notch action thriller, but one that even pushed strongly at the boundaries of intelligent drama. None of the Bond films that I remember delved as deeply into the complexity of the man, and gave as much of a sense of why he is as he is. The film eventually reveals that beneath his seemingly impenetrable armor, he is very much a human being. Toward the end, after having seen Bond experience something that will obviously affect him for a long time, if not forever, the viewer, in seeing how those things change him, will while not necessarily liking him in the end, at the very least, understand him. This is by no means an easy mission for Bond, nor an easy story for the viewer, with predictable sequences and outcomes.

Gone are the ridiculous camp, tongue-in-cheek comical plot elements and elaborate, almost satirical gadgets. As elaborate as some of the action sequences were, they were all completely consistent with the dark, hard-edged atmosphere of the story. Nothing funny or comical about any of them; one does not forget for a moment that these encounters are life-and-death. One can legitimately put "Casino Royale" in the genre of serious spy stories.

The martial arts skills of this James Bond are by far the most believable of that of any other Bond rendition. In that vein, no objective, fair-minded person can deny that the fight sequences in "Casino Royale" are far and away the best of those in any of the Bond films.

And I cannot possibly fail to mention Judy Dench, who, though always superb, delivers the best portrayal of "M" of any that she has before. We get to see a side of her that we never have before as well.

In summary, "Casino Royale" has it all--great action, an intelligent, even believable storyline, and better character development than any of the Bond flicks that I remember. Daniel Craig--along with some superb direction and a great screenplay--has given the James Bond legend an array of qualities, and a new dimension, that have never been seen before, at least for a very long time. Bond is now his; he's more than earned it. I hope he keeps at it for a very long time to come.

29 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
I'm Hooked, 1 August 2006

When I discovered that "Blade" was going to be made into a series, I was extremely skeptical; I didn't go out of my way to watch it when it first aired. That being said, I am extremely grateful that decided to watch the July 26 episode. I am all the more grateful that Spike, during that episode, announced their Sunday marathon, and that I watched. The storyline is extremely interesting and imaginative (the "ash" drug was an ingenious idea), and very intelligent.

"Sticky," while no Wesley Snipes, pulls off his portrayal quite well, and seems to be growing into the role; I think he'll only get better over time, and truly make "Blade" his own. Also, I like that the writers make it harder for his Blade than Wesley Snipes' portrayal, in that his encounters with them are not, consistently, one-sided massacres. The Krista character (aka Jill Wagner) is an absolute gem of a find. Very believable not only as an ex Iraq veteran, but as someone struggling with the hand she's been dealt, and with the inherent conflicts that come with it. Van Sciver and Chase are yet additional examples of excellent casting. Jessica Gower nails the Chase character as the ruthless and sadistic enforcer, and Neil Jackson portrays Van Sciver perfectly as the outwardly elegant but ruthless, ambitions operator--it is clear that he has ulterior motives coming out of his ears.

And that incredible child character, the pure-blood vampire "boss," was absolutely riveting, and from the second she entered the story. Hopefully we'll see plenty more of her. She looks absolutely frightening.

Am anxious to see more dimension to the Blade character--in fact, I think, that is going to be essential to the long-term success of the series. While interesting, he is not, by a long shot, among the most fascinating and intriguing characters we've been introduced to--and it's his series, after all. His sidekick (Nelson Lee)--who is clearly fearless and dedicated--is also sorely in need of more development; I'd like to know what drives him, as well. Since this is to be a series, however, there's time (hopefully) to take care of those essential elements.

Overall, "Blade" the series far exceeded my expectations; hopefully it will be on long enough to reach its full potential. As I've stated, I'm hooked.