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lwjoslin

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64 reviews in total 
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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Dead letter office, 24 October 2003

"The Postman" represents the total squandering of 80 million bucks by people who should've known better. With this turkey and "Waterworld" back-to-back, somebody may have finally wised up and driven a wedge between big budgets and Kevin Costner's crummy, dated, post-apocalyptic ideas. (His more recent success, "Open Range," is carried out on a more modest scale.)

As hokey as it is overlong and dull, "The Postman" presents a post-nuclear-war 2013 in which, apparently, not a stitch of 20th-century clothing has survived. Everybody wears outfits that look homemade from drab gray and brown rags and tags; not one leather jacket, or sweater, or red windbreaker, or even a pair of jeans, is anywhere to be seen. Even the marauding army of the villain (idiotically named Bethlehem, as in "What rough beast," etc.) aren't dressed in camouflage. If the military's entire wardrobe perished, then how did their guns and ammo survive? It's also unbelievably inconsistent that the survivors, who sing '60s pop songs as though they're ancient folk tunes, don't recognize the name of Richard Starkey (aka Ringo Starr) when it comes up.

All told, an amazing colossal waste of time, talent, and money, good only for unintended and derisive laughter, and as more evidence that "Dances with Politically Correct Overlong Incredibly Boring Wolves" was a fluke.

Henry Fool (1997)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Sophistry on parade, 24 October 2003

"Henry Fool" is well-cast (then again, I'd pay cash money to watch Parker Posey read the phone book), but it's wildly uneven. And it goes on forever, apparently without figuring out what it's trying to say. Is it a comedy? a drama? a social/cultural/literary satire? At the supposed-to-be-funny parts, the rest of the audience were laughing more than I was; I found the humor to be rather obvious. This is one for the nose-ring crowd. Adults, keep moving.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
The roaches are revolting, 24 October 2003

"Joe's Apartment" is a feature-length adaptation of a short film previously seen on MTV. Joe is played by Jerry O'Connell, who had the lead whiz-kid role in the TV series "Sliders". His girlfriend Lily's father, a scheming congressman afflicted with deviant sexual fetishism (and therefore obviously a Democrat), is played by the remains of Robert Vaughn.

But of course the real stars are the hordes of digitally animated cockroaches who infest Joe's NYC digs. They not only talk, they also sing, dance, and do synchronized swimming in the toilet. Joe, an Iowa innocent new to the Big Apple, is horrified when the bugs take a liking to him because he's their kind of slob. But his new "friends" are impossible to get rid of, just like in real life, so Joe just has to make the best of the situation.

Otherwise, the plot is dumb to the point of irrelevance: the congressman wants to level Joe's building, the last one on its East Village block, to make way for the vast new Manhattan Maximum Security Prison (which makes him a Democrat who's caved in to Republican priorities -- again, just like real life). But Lily wants to make the block into a park-like garden. See? Just the sort of tooth-grindingly stupid drek that begs to be livened up by swarms of wisecracking, punning, music-loving arthropods. As silly fun, it works quite well, and would make an interesting second feature after "Phase IV," a dead-serious 1974 SF effort about a colony of intelligent ants in the Arizona desert.

7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
No strings attached, 24 October 2003

This is a lavish, sumptuously-mounted version of the classic story. Great costumes and location work, with Prague as 18th-century Italy. Top-notch FX: Pinocchio himself; Pepe (not Jiminy) Cricket; a hUge, whale-like sea monster; boys morphing into jackasses.

Good cast: Martin Landau (fresh from his Oscar-winning portrayal of Lugosi in "Ed Wood") as Gepetto; Genevieve Bujold, whom I hadn't seen in ages (and who is aging very nicely), as his long-term love interest; Udo Kier as the heavy; plus an assortment of other character actors mostly unknown to me.

Altogether well-done, its only drawbacks being a couple of lame songs, plus occasional slapstick for the kiddies. And it must be admitted, the Diz cartoon is a tough act to follow.

Willard (2003)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
My expectations weren't high, but still..., 24 October 2003

When I first heard, some months prior to its release, that a new version of "Willard" was in the works, I wondered who would play the title role -- Crispin Glover? Bingo! And R. Lee Ermey similarly seems a natural choice to reprise Ernest Borgnine's role as Willard's one-dimensional troll of a boss. (Bruce Davison, who played the original Willard, is a good enough sport to allow the use of his face in pictures of the new Willard's late father.)

Regrettably, Elsa Lanchester's role as Willard's mom is played in a shrill, one-note fashion by whoever that was in the fright wig, making it impossible to believe that Willard loves her as much as he says he does, or indeed, that anyone could. And Willard's only unlikely sympathetic human connection, a young woman at his workplace who must be attracted to the worst losers she can find, bails on him at a critical moment, so that what starts out as unbelievable turns out to be inconsistent.

The remake has decent production values, including suitably creepy atmosphere in Willard's Norman Bates-ish house, and very good rat wrangling, involving (apparently) fewer CGI scenes than I'd expected. Unfortunately, the main element of the movie that doesn't work is the title character. Willard is such a spineless schlub that one wonders what even a rat would see in him. Crispin Glover could've given the character a dark, brooding, subtle intensity that erupts in a volcanic flow of rats from the id, and that appears, at times, to be what the director had in mind. But instead, Willard snivels, blubbers, whines, pleads, and screams to the point that he quickly becomes tiresome. If "Vampire's Kiss" was Nicolas Cage's over-the-top self-parody, and "The Witches of Eastwick" was Jack Nicholson's, "Willard" does the same for Crispin Glover. But it's no fun at all; it's as much of a wet blanket as Willard himself is. We can pretend we sympathize with him, but let's face it: if we knew somebody like this in real life, we'd alternately ignore him and take advantage of him too.

The movie's one apparent attempt at humor is an astoundingly wrong-headed scene involving the fate of a cat that finds itself alone in a houseful of rats. Scored (via contrivance) by the treacly title song of "Ben," the 1972 sequel to the original "Willard," the scene brings the story to a standstill, and is as embarrassingly bad as the sequel it evokes. It's one of those jaw-droppingly awful moments that make you wonder what the hell the writer and/or director was thinking. And as one who has lost three cats to various misadventures in a little over a year's time, I certainly didn't appreciate it.

Worst of all, "Willard" commits the unpardonable sin of being dull. It's a tedious, unpleasant chore to watch. This is a pity, since Willard Stiles may well be the role Crispin Glover was born to play.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Moonbat mythology yellows with age, 14 October 2003

Recently had the occasion to see "Yellow Submarine" again for the first time in years. It's still beautifully and imaginatively rendered, but it's either dated poorly or else I've grown up a tad. It's an undisguised drug trip; its heroes (the Beatles in cartoon form) are aimless and muttering; the plot is underdeveloped, serving only to string the songs together into a 90-minute Beatles video. Worse, the flick illustrates the basic tenets of the liberal-moonbat philosophy: that life is a pastel dream; that All You Need Is Love; that anybody who harshes your buzz is a Blue Meanie; that pop music is the single most unifying force in the world; and that the answer, whatever the question may be, is YES. Candy-coated poison, and as dated in its own way as "Billy Jack."

Quasi meets the Mouse, 14 October 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With the release of Disney's take on "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," Victor Hugo no doubt flipped in his crypt. While the story lends itself well to song and spectacle, both of which are abundant here, the novel is just too sad to pass through the Disney prism unreformed.

Gone is all reference to Quasimodo's deafness. Gone is the poet/playwright; much of his role is commandeered by Phoebus. A vain, shallow jerk in the original, who thinks Esmerelda is a piece of a$$, Phoebus, in Diz, becomes the romantic hero, if something of a jock. (He also has an inclination to pun, as when he commands his horse, "Achilles! Heel!" -- or when, regarding Esmerelda's goat, he says, "I didn't know you had a kid.") And, of course, both Esmerelda and the reconstructed Phoebus survive in the Diz version; in the novel, Frollo murders Phoebus and successfully frames the girl, who is executed for it. (So a Diz movie has a happy ending. Don't try to tell me that's a spoiler.)

The unspeakably sad conclusion of the novel is supplanted by cartoon Quasi's emergence into the sunlight, at Esmerelda's urging, to be hailed as the toast of Paris. The theme, fortunately, isn't so much the hackneyed lesson to "accept people no matter how they look," and more the question of what makes a monster and what makes a man (i.e., a retread of the core concern of the Diz "Beauty and the Beast"). Still, when Mel Brooks finally gave Frankenstein's monster a long-overdue happy ending, at least he had the sense to do it in the context of a satire.

Then again, there ARE those gargoyles.

Underworld (2003)
Underwhelmed, 14 October 2003

Despite its vampire-'n'-werewolf content, "Underworld" isn't a horror movie, but an action/terror movie. Almost nonstop gun battles between the hunters (vampires) and the hunted (werewolves), who are about to turn the tables with a bit of insider help. For semi-coherent reasons, a young male human becomes a pawn in the war between bloodsuckers and shapeshifters.

As usual, almost nothing crosses over to the screen from actual folklore. Folkloric vampires are NOT destroyed or harmed by sunlight -- not literally much of an issue here, since almost the whole story takes place at night, though the werewolves have managed to get their paws on some ammo that fires an ultraviolet charge ("liquid sunlight"). Folkloric lycanthropy is NOT contagious by the bite. Folkloric vampires and werewolves are NOT social creatures who form "covens" or travel in packs. And the very premise of an ethnic war between vampires and werewolves is inauthentic. The two "species" are NOT anything like now-and-forever separate: in certain folklores, werewolves BECOME vampires after death, and vampires can transform into wolves.

All that having been said, what works? Good atmosphere: lots of darkness, rain, and subterranean locations. Good art design, ranging from the sets and locations to the props, weapons, and costumes. Good action and FX, and the pace generally keeps moving. Good cast, though none of them seem to be enjoying themselves.

What doesn't work? It's all very grim and solemn, and not very much fun. Kate Beckinsdale as Selene (basically Buffy the Werewolf Slayer) is admirably intense, focused, loyal, and fearless: like everybody else in the movie, she's formidable, but not likeable. We have nobody to root for: there are so many double-crosses and betrayals -- and, during the gun battles, both sides, clad in black, look so much alike -- that it's hard to ward off confusion after awhile, not to mention apathy.

A good dose of clever dark humor would have helped this movie a lot. But ultimately, all the characters take themselves SO seriously that it's like being a captive audience at a Goth party. This is how the Goths of my acquaintance view themselves -- sleek, sexy, and dangerous -- instead of as the chubby, pasty losers they are.

The Rock (1996)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Rockin', 23 September 2003
6/10

Slam-bang high-tech action-thriller stuff. Ed Harris, as a much-decorated combat commander of legendary status, deploys a hand-picked squadron of elite renegade Marines to take over Alcatraz. He holds hostage not only a civilian tour group, but the entire city of San Fran, at which he's aimed 15 tactical missiles armed with the nastiest nerve gas in the universe. His goal? To get the US government to acknowledge, with posthumous honors and compensation to family members, about 100 men lost -- and unacknowledged -- in covert operations ranging from Vietnam to Desert Storm.

Here come the Feds: they send in a team of SEALs led by Michael Biehn (in a reprise, basically, of his role in "Aliens"). Their ringers: Nicolas Cage, in a rather John Cusackish performance as a lab-wonk toxic-weapons expert, hilariously short of combat experience; and Sean Connery, as a long-held secret prisoner of the US, a Brit agent who has all the dirt on the FBI. He knows all the secrets from Roswell (!) to the JFK assassination, and he's the only man ever to escape from Alcatraz.

The scripter's inclusion of the presence in San Fran of people who are near and dear to both these characters is more than a little contrived. It has MOTIVATION written all over it in the case of Connery's character, and UP THE ANTE in the case of Cage's. But what the hell: this isn't drama, but melodrama, essentially an hyperbolic mismatched-buddy-cop movie, and the pace, the action, and the stars' charisma are equal to it. An enjoyable cliffhanger, if wildly improbable.

The Rock (1996)
Rockin', 23 September 2003
6/10

Slam-bang high-tech action-thriller stuff. Ed Harris, as a much-decorated combat commander of legendary status, deploys a hand-picked squadron of elite renegade Marines to take over Alcatraz. He holds hostage not only a civilian tour group, but the entire city of San Fran, at which he's aimed 15 tactical missiles armed with the nastiest nerve gas in the universe. His goal? To get the US government to acknowledge, with posthumous honors and compensation to family members, about 100 men lost -- and unacknowledged -- in covert operations ranging from Vietnam to Desert Storm.

Here come the Feds: they send in a team of SEALs led by Michael Biehn (in a reprise, basically, of his role in "Aliens"). Their ringers: Nicolas Cage, in a rather John Cusackish performance as a lab-wonk toxic-weapons expert, hilariously short of combat experience; and Sean Connery, as a long-held secret prisoner of the US, a Brit agent who has all the dirt on the FBI. He knows all the secrets from Roswell (!) to the JFK assassination, and he's the only man ever to escape from Alcatraz.

The scripter's inclusion of the presence in San Fran of people who are near and dear to both these characters is more than a little contrived. It has MOTIVATION written all over it in the case of Connery's character, and UP THE ANTE in the case of Cage's. But what the hell: this isn't drama, but melodrama, essentially an hyperbolic mismatched-buddy-cop movie, and the pace, the action, and the stars' charisma are equal to it. An enjoyable cliffhanger, if wildly improbable.


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