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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Yeah, go and believe all the user reviews for this movie, and go the theater and waste the price of admission, whatever it is. Or, give me the benefit of the doubt, and trust what I am saying when I tell you that this movie stinks to high heaven. The CGI is top notch, but it ends there, and CGI by itself does not a movie make. There has to be a story, and this movie does not have any semblance of a story, at least not one that anyone could possibly follow or make any sense of, or one that, if published as a book, any sane and intelligent person would ever bother to read. The story told by a movie has to be good enough such that, if published as a book, it would be entertaining enough that people would bother to read it. This movie is nonstop action and fighting. In order to tell a story, it has to slow down a little here and there, but this movie never slows down at all. There is an orb, everyone wants it, and everyone fights over it. This really is all that there is to the story. I hated it so much that I wanted to walk out, but stayed, thinking that eventually it would have to get better, but it never did. This movie must have cost a lot to make, but the money they spent, however much it was, was spent manufacturing compost.
King Solomon's Mines (1950)
A pathetic remake of a good movie that was made in 1937
This movie is a bad remake of a very good movie that was made in 1937. The only advantage of this particular version is that it avoids the silly, comical aspects of the later versions. Most people who recommend this movie are comparing it to the more recent remakes, and most likely have never seen the 1937 version. The 1937 version tells an exciting story, and the acting is good. In this 1950 version, the plot is downplayed and becomes secondary to the romantic goings-on. Basically, it has been turned into a sort of soap opera set in Africa. Yeah, a lot of the scenery is good, but the special effects are not even as good as they are in the 1937 version, and the acting is deplorable. It is decidedly inferior to the 1937 version.
The Walking Dead (1995)
Give me a break. The Vietnam war was a real war where real people died. Total U.S. fatalities in the theater were over 55,000, if I recall correctly. And as wars go, this one was not managed very well, in my opinion, but this movie is disgraceful in its blatantly dishonest portrayal of the war. All of the characters are basically comic book characters. All of the behaviors displayed by all of the characters are behaviors that would never have been exhibited by anyone who actually found themselves in a war zone. The movie implicitly wants to be taken seriously, but you cannot take it seriously. The white officer leading the platoon is especially a comic book character. His enlisted men show him a level of disrespect that is so far over the top, and so far beyond what any officer in the U.S.M.C would ever tolerate of his marines, that the movie becomes a comic book within just a few minutes. And it is a bad, bad, comic book. In reality, a marine officer will put his life on the line for his marines at the drop of a hat, and his non-commissioned officers will do the same for him. No non-commissioned officer in the marines would ever speak to his superior officer in the way that these jackasses do. Anyone that did would find himself doing hard time. In the U.S.M.C., discipline is everything. Discipline is the life blood of the Marine Corps. This movie isn't just unrealistic, it is disgraceful. The people who made it are shameless, and have no knowledge of the Marine Corps.
Femme Fatale (2002)
This is without question one of the very worst movies ever made. I ca't think of a single good thing to say about it. At a critical point about halfway through the movie, the main character appears in the same hotel where she was staying at an earlier point, clearly implying the familiar device of jumping back in time to fill in the plot holes. The story seems to be going nowhere. And at this point, the viewer is not altogether certain whether the character went to new york, or whether that was the other girl whose identity the main character is supposed to have assumed. But eventually, the apparent explanation is that she went to new york and married the US ambassador to France, none of which is explained in any clear way. And then there is the other guy who is sometimes with her and sometimes following her, and who passed her in the hotel lobby after she stole the jewels. This movie stinks to high heaven.
August Rush (2007)
So, it is okay to have irresponsible sex with a stranger that you have only just met
The message of this movie is simple and direct. It is okay to have irresponsible sex with a complete stranger that you have just met. Everything will turn out okay. The kid will overcome all the emotional trauma of being raised in a succession of foster homes, and will turn out to be a musical genius. Everyone will live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, reality is very different. The unfortunate reality is that this sort of irresponsible behavior usually only occurs under the influence of alcohol, among people who have no sense of moral, social obligation at all. The unfortunate reality is that the couple wouldn't be separated by either parent, and that the father of the kid would skip town the instant that he learns that he is about to be a father. The mother would raise the child alone, almost certainly having to struggle with poverty, and, more often than not, alcohol addiction. Whether the child does or doesn't end up in foster care, the child's prospects in life will suffer a serious handicap. The realistic outcome is a life where there is little in the way of education but a lot in the way of crime, alcoholism and addiction.
This particular fairy tale is so unrealistic and so annoying that I just couldn't stomach it. I watched it on Lifetime Movie Network, and it is very much the caliber of movie that routinely is shown on LMN. There are no redeeming qualities to this movie whatsoever. Nada. Zilch. It is a complete, total waste.
Racist Crap, and not a Singleton thing more
This movie can be summed up in two words: Racist Crap. Well, make that four words: Intellectually Insulting Racist Crap.
I am old enough to remember the '70s and the original Shaft movie and the "Blaxploitation" period. This movie is purported to be a nostalgia trip to that era, but it is really a caricature of the very worst movies made in an era when a high percentage of the movies that were made were just garbage. A caricature of garbage cannot possibly hope to be anything other than garbage.
It was perhaps five minutes into the film when it was made apparent to me that this was going to be a very stupid, intellectually insulting movie. Why would anyone want to make a movie that is this intellectually insulting, and what is it about a movie of this sort that appeals to other people? I don't get it. Can it possibly be that even at this stage in our cultural evolution that there are enough black people who still deep inside are so bitterly angry with white people that a movie of this sort will have an audience? Evidently so. According to IMDb, this piece of racist garbage has grossed over one-hundred-million dollars.
Everything about the character played by Christian Bale is engineered toward the purpose of arousing the audience's inner hatred of racist white-supremacist jerks. The only people in the audience who could not react in that way to this character would be white-supremacists jerks who, like that character, suffer from an obvious psychological affliction. The movie is much more about this character than it is about the character played by Samuel Jackson. The character played by Christian Bale is the main character in this movie. Yet, this character is not so much a character as a caricature, that exists for the same purpose that the movie exists: to manipulate and exploit black people.
Now here is what I find especially disingenuous about this movie, and about John Singleton's making of this movie. It isn't so much a nostalgia trip back to the era of blaxploitation, as it is a blatant example of the exploitation of blacks! It is as if it is permissible for John Singleton to exploit blacks in the way that he has done, because this was commonly done in a far less skilled and far less insidious manner several decades ago, and because he can consequently make the claim that it is a nostalgia trip back to that fond era. Well, perhaps there is some nostalgia to it, but people, this is just a bad, bad trip. There is nothing good about this sort of exploitation of blacks, not back then, not now, and especially not when it is done with this level of insidiousness. This movie is just plain old racist crap.
John Singleton ought to be ashamed of himself for having made this movie.
The Blu-Ray version is a total Rip-Off!
The Blu-Ray version of this movie is a total rip-off. The package includes two discs. Contrary to what is indicated on the back of the case, the Blu-ray "high-res" version, encoded in MPEG-4, is not on the same disc with the bulk of the "special features". Rather, the MPEG-4 high-res version is on one disc, and the special features that are listed on the case are on the disc that has the DVD version.
Even though high-res version is encoded in MPEG-4 (vs. MPEG-2) and even though it is encoded at a bit rate about 10x greater than the bit rate used for the MPEG-2 (DVD) version, it is not very much sharper at all. In truth, it is just barely possible to tell any difference at all. I had to switch back and forth several times to convince myself that there was any difference at all, and prior to doing that I was ready to conclude that they had simply taken the DVD version and re-encoded it in MPEG-4 at a higher bit rate (which is technically possible). The Blu-ray version also suffers a terrible annoyance that the DVD version does not have: each and every time that you press the pause key or the fast forward key, there is a large progress bar that covers up much of the screen. The capability for the disc to implement this progress bar is one of the features of Blu-ray (which I feel is entirely pointless), but this annoying progress bar is much larger and more annoying than any other such progress bar that I have seen to date, on any of the Blu-ray discs in my collection of several dozen.
The bottom line is that this Blu-Ray is not appreciably better than the older DVD version, and not worth the additional cost, even for someone who does not own the DVD version and who, for whatever reason, wants to own a copy of this ridiculous movie. The only attraction here is Elizabeth Berkley, and there just isn't any reason to buy the buy the Blu-Ray version. If you have to have it, save yourself a few bucks and get the DVD version.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Too bad the action scenes are all chopped up
There is no point in my repeating all the stuff that you can read in the hundreds of other reviews, so I am going to talk about one aspect that no one else seems to want to talk about. The action scenes are unwatchable because they are all chopped up. They are filmed from multiple camera angles and then the footage from the different cameras is spliced together in a way where no single camera remains for more than about a half second. I have noticed this technique in several other movies in recent years, a notable example of which was the first Bourne movie, and one of the Batman movies. This is a decidedly inferior technique, and any director worth a fraction of what they are paid should know better than to use this sloppy technique. The reason for using is probably twofold. They probably believe that many viewers like this technique, because the rapid camera cuts simulate fast action and increase the adrenaline level of the viewers. For me, it just creates nausea. The other reason is that it is cheap in terms of time spent with the highly paid actors. Rather than have them go through lengthy rehearsals with professional stunt people so that they can pull off a decent semblance of a fight scene, they step through a sequence of stop-motion or slow- motion poses. It amounts to stop-motion animation pulled off with real actors. It comes off as fake, and merely annoying. No movie that relies on this technique deserves a good rating, no matter how good it is in other respects. Were it not for this problem, I would have given this movie a 9 rating, because other than this, it really is an outstanding movie. But it is pulled way down by the use of this decidedly inferior cost-saving technique.
Star Trek (2009)
Don't bother with IMAX versions -- even the real IMAX
All in all it was a decent Star Trek story, and acted reasonably well, but from standpoint of special effects and technical matters generally, it just doesn't measure up to the standard established by many other movies in recent decades. The quality of the directing and editing also leaves much to be desired, particularly the fights scenes, where it is apparent that instead of having the stunt professionals take over and/or teach the actors how to pretend fight, they just had them go through some slow motion choreography and then tried to simulate fighting by chopping up the sequences very badly. This is one of my particular pet peeves with certain movies and certain directors. If there is going to be a fight in a movie, it should look like a fight, and the technique of chopping up the film to the point that you can't really see anything at all just does not achieve any realistic effect.
I made the unfortunate decision to see this movie at a regular, full-size IMAX theater, and this was a disaster. It has been widely reported that many of the screens at regular theaters are nowadays being promoted as IMAX, but using screens that are not particularly large, and using digital projectors, actually DLP projectors, instead of the big projectors that real IMAX theaters use, which run 70mm film through, oriented sideways. If there is any point at all to these digital IMAX theaters, it is so that real IMAX movies can be shown in regular theaters. But when you start off with a film that was shot in 35mm Panavision anamorphic format using an aspect ratio of 2.35 : 1, it is difficult to find any point in presenting this on any sort of IMAX screen at all. Even if they stick with the same original 2.35:1 Panavision version shown in regular theaters, the only discernible advantage of converting the film to digital media and using a DLP projector, is that of reduced cost. But for the real IMAX theaters, the problems are more significant, starting with the need to transfer the movie from the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio to the IMAX aspect ratio, which, at 1.43:1, is only slighter wider than old-fashioned non-HD television (1.33:1). The problem is entirely the same as the familiar, long-standing problem of how you show Ben Hur on a regular old-fashioned TV set. They obviously would not get away with having black bars on the top and bottom of the screen (it would have been 40% of the total IMAX screen area), so they had to pan-and-scan. That's right, folks, the IMAX version that you paid an extra $5 to see on the giant IMAX screen is a pan-and-scan version. The 35mm negative film doesn't have nearly the resolution needed for this large a screen, so what you see is a large pan-and-scan version that is so blurry as to be distracting. On many of the close-up scenes where two of the actors were interacting, they were unable to get them both into the frame, and it was apparent that they were panning and scanning back and forth between the two actors, whereas the original undoubtedly had a stable camera view with both actors. This was very noticeable in several places, particularly toward the end when the two Spocks were conversing. When they panned to Leonard Nimoy they also zoomed in on his face, which makes sense given that you have decided to pan to him, but in addition to the loss of detail that happens when you try to blow a picture up too large, something else had to have been done incorrectly, because the image was blurry beyond what you would believe if you did not see it for yourself. I noticed this several times throughout the movie, and my guess is that whatever sort of camera they used to photograph the original movie (the process that they refer to as "converting to IMAX format") was not properly focused on the film whenever they panned away from the center of the frame.
Bottom line, the IMAX (real IMAX) pan-and-scan version of this movie is a technical abomination, and I encourage you not to encourage the jackasses who made the decision to do this, whoever they are, by rewarding those jerks with your money. Any movie that is shown on a regular IMAX screen ought to be filmed originally in an aspect ratio very close to the IMAX aspect ratio. Ideally, it should also be shot using regular 70mm cameras in the very least, but the issue of resolution is secondary to that of the aspect ratio. The Batman movie that was shown in the large IMAX theaters was shot specifically for the IMAX theaters using either IMAX cameras or some other camera suitable for IMAX screens, which is why on the DVD, it still has the IMAX aspect ratio. You can shoot a movie in a widescreen format, or you can shoot a movie in IMAX aspect ratio, but no way, no how can you shoot a movie in the widescreen format in which this movie was shot and then try to show it on an IMAX screen.
A truly lame excuse for an action movie
The problem with this movie is singular: an action movie needs to have good action sequences, but the action sequences in this movie are dreadful. It is difficult to say whether the directing is to blame, because whatever may have been in the raw footage was chopped up like Cole slaw by the time it reached the theater. If you have ever seen a bad action film where the action is filmed too closely such that all you see are arms and legs flying across the screen, and where the camera cuts are fast and quick to simulate real action, then you know what this movie is in essence. Throughout the movie, almost from start to finish, the character played by Liam Neeson is involved in physical, hand-to-hand combat. But you don't every actually see any of it. I would estimate that during these sequences, the average amount of time that any one camera angle remains in place is less than a full second. Chop, chop, chop. These fools evidently believe that they can have the actors do everything in slow motion and then during the editing, chop it all up in a way that makes it seem like real action. Well, it just doesn't work. This very trick, in fact, is the signature of a cheaply made action movie. If a movie such as this does not have good action, what else does it have? In this case, not much. Neeson never really shows much emotion, and that makes it difficult to identify with him as he tries to rescue his daughter. There isn't really anything that convinces us that he really cares about her, other than the fact that he goes to save her. Even when she is first taken, he does not show anger. This was probably intentional, but it was a bad decision, because he comes across like a stick of wood. Come to think of it, I don't recall Neeson every showing emotion in any movie, and on that basis, I would have to say that he is not a good actor. They could make a mask of him and let another actor wear it, and then dub in his voice later, and the effect would be much the same. As for the story, the movie that I was most reminded of as I sat there and waited for it to end, was a Charles Bronson movie made in the late eighties, titled, "Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects".
Bottom line, an action movie needs to have good action sequences, and the action sequences in this movie are very badly done. You cannot get good action sequences by filming actors while they perform choreography in slow motion and then chop up the film later to hide the fact that they were in fact performing choreography in slow motion. It just doesn't work. This is a cheaply made, inferior action movie.