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ksj870

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116 reviews in total 
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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An interesting idea that goes nowhere, 10 March 2015
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Prisoners of the Sun" starts out with an interesting premise--the idea that elements of Egyptian mythology actually represent extraterrestrial powers who may be brought back to Earth when the signs are right-- but unfortunately fails to develop this idea very well. Admittedly, some of the problems the film has are the result of a low budget, but there are dramatic weaknesses that go beyond that. First and foremost, the script is incredibly tepid, and not much of anything happens for long stretches of time. Even towards the end, when our cast of characters are on the brink of a historic discovery in the haunted catacombs of an ancient pyramid, there is little action or suspense. Naturally, since this is a film about ancient Egyptian mysticism and curses, there is an undead mummy, but despite the mummy's prominent disposition in the film's trailer it actually has only a tiny role in the story and disappears from the proceedings pretty quickly. The screenplay needed a healthy dose of adrenalin to bring the admittedly interesting plot to life, but instead there is simply a lot of unconvincing exposition from one scene to the next. As a result, even the film's relatively short running time seems to go on interminably. One the plus side, the cast is for the most part decent and capable, though regrettably the one exception is the actor playing the part of Dr. Adler, the film's hero, as he is badly miscast as a scholar and is totally unconvincing in the role. Overall, "Prisoners of the Sun" is just too uninvolving and lackluster to recommend. There was the potential to make a respectable movie, but the opportunity is never realized.

Ragnarok (2013)
1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Hooked by a misleading trailer, 19 December 2014
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are certain things this Scandinavian production has going for it: the actors all do commendable jobs with what they are given; the wild scenery is beautiful; and there a few moments (not many, but a few) of very well orchestrated suspense. But none of that matters because "Ragnarok" simply isn't what its trailer leads one to believe it is, namely a scary monster movie. There is a monster, or at least a big creature which may have inspired certain stories from Norse mythology, but the monster action is decidedly limited and while there occasional moments of tension there are no real scares. I don't think the filmmakers had any real desire to make a scary picture, but rather an adventure story with a few ideas borrowed from American monster movies. The result is incredibly dry, boring, and unsatisfying, particularly the climax. If you're hoping for the kind of explosive grand finale "Jaws" gave us, forget it. Suffice it to say the creature from "Ragnarok" is only dangerous because our human explorers provoke its maternal instincts. As a longtime fan of both monster movies and Viking mythology, I really expected to like "Ragnarok." More's the pity.

Tepid underwater remake of Alien, 8 December 2014
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite a very solid cast and some fairly good production values, DeepStar Six sinks under the weight of it own inertia. This is an extremely uneventful film, and though ostensibly a monster movie there is almost no monster action whatsoever until the final twenty minutes or so, and even then what we get is extremely lackluster thanks to some very poor special effects. The script presumably aims to build tension gradually and spends a lot of time focusing on the ensemble cast (with a little extra emphasis on our heroine, played by Nancy Everhard), but while this may sound like a good idea in theory, in practice it fails utterly, as even a character-driven story needs a certain amount of drama and tension, which DeepStar Six totally lacks. As a result, I zoned out at numerous points in the tedious plot line and found myself strongly considering the stop button more than once...but I persevered in the vain hope that at some point a monster would rear itself from the mysterious depths and serious havoc would ensue. Never happened, as even when the sea monster that is our villain finally awkwardly asserts itself, the resultant action is poorly executed and the creature effects are inferior to similar designs from the 1950s. Some quality performances from a respectable cast that tries hard are unfortunately wasted, and while the aforementioned Everhard does a good job as our likable but underdeveloped heroine, the best performance probably comes from Miguel Ferrer as a burn-out victim whose sanity is slowly slipping away from him after six months of arduous underwater duty. It wouldn't have taken a whole lot for DeepStar Six to have been a solid b-movie, or maybe even a little more than that, if only the script and direction had made action a higher priority and perhaps developed a couple of the key characters a bit better. But as it stands, DeepStar Six is simply monotonous and underwhelming in the extreme.

The sun demon may be hideous, but the movie is wonderful, 3 December 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Hideous Sun Demon is an overlooked winner from the legendary canon of 50s science fiction/monster movies. The eponymous "sun demon" is actually quite impressive and hideous indeed, a reptilian nightmare on two legs and, in a neat twist, summoned forth by the rays of the sun. Robert Clarke does a yeoman's job as not only the lead character--a flawed but likable young scientist who finds himself cursed with a monstrous alter ego after being exposed to atomic radiation--but also as the director. Indeed, the entire cast is quite proficient, and everyone acquits themselves honorably in their respective roles, particularly the gorgeous Nan Peterson who plays an especially curvaceous barroom singer that catches the troubled protagonist's eye. The film is quite well-paced with a good mix of action and drama, and the characters are all realistically developed as believable individuals. The special effects are handled nicely, and the scenes of monster mayhem are surprisingly brutal and pack quite a nasty punch. The ultimate climax is perhaps inevitable, but nonetheless exciting and expertly staged. Often neglected in conversations of 50s genre classics, The Hideous Sun Demon is a fine example of monster movie excellence.

The Outlaw (1943)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The Outlaw's only saving grace is the great Jane Russell, 28 November 2014
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Outlaw is remembered today primarily for being the film debut of the great Jane Russell, and while there are times badly-reviewed films are simply underrated, this is not one of those occasions. Direction is unremarkable, pacing is slow and tepid, and the script never settles on a genre. Is The Outlaw a romance, a comedy, or an adventure film? The screenplay jumps from one to the other, without ever establishing a personality or a consistent tone. The dialog is particularly bad, and even a better cast probably couldn't have done much with the ridiculous things the script requires the performers to say. Miss Russell is literally the film's only bright spot, and while it goes without saying that she brings a lot of beauty and natural sex appeal to the movie, she is also by far the film's most talented actor. Ironically, despite the fact the film is in large measure a vehicle for Miss Russell, she doesn't feature as prominently as she should in the plot, and often disappears for interminable stretches in which nothing much of interest otherwise happens. The Outlaw is simply a failure on almost every level, and even Jane Russell's unique screen presence isn't nearly enough to save it.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Inferior Sequel, 7 August 2014
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The original Ironclad is one of the most underrated movies of 2011, and arguably one of the more unappreciated action films of all time. The sequel--Ironclad 2: Battle for Blood--tries to replicate the formula of its predecessor but fails in almost every regard. The plot still centers around an English castle under siege, but this time the attackers are a raiding party of Scottish rebels. Desperate to hold on to his ancestral home, the lord of the manor sends his young son out to find his cousin, Guy, an accomplished but disillusioned warrior who has forsaken the ideals of his youth and turned mercenary. Guy, along with a few other malcontents apparently chosen at random--including an obnoxious executioner and the female serial killer he was about to behead--follow the nobleman's son back to the castle, and the fighting begins in earnest.

It's a shame the final product isn't a better film, because there's nothing wrong with the basic plot (not much is more fun than a medieval siege!) and the cast is actually pretty impressive. Tom Austen is well cast as Guy, and plays the part with the requisite intensity, and fans of Game of Thrones will appreciate a solid (if limited) performance from Michelle Fairley as the lady of the castle. Roxanne McKee is excruciatingly beautiful as Guy's romantic interest, Blanche, and though her sheer attractiveness guarantees an elemental level of sympathy from us male viewers, her character doesn't really have any other admirable qualities. And that gets to one of the film's major flaws: almost none of the protagonists are the least bit sympathetic, as the best of them are extremely self-centered and the worst actually psychopathic. The only truly sympathetic characters are the nobleman's son and his youngest sister, but they are really only supporting characters. There appears to be a change of heart on the part of one of the main players near the end of the film, but the narrated epilogue which wraps up the picture seems to undercut this so that any imagined character growth is apparently short-lived. Moreover, too many illogical things happen for which there is no reasonable explanation. Characters make decisions for which there is no plausible motivation whatsoever, and the plot develops rather haphazardly from beginning to end. The film is extremely violent, and the many action scenes are the movie's saving grace, and the film is never boring, but even in terms of action the film sometimes disappoints. Many of the action scenes are badly directed, and their potential impact diluted by the infamous "shaky cam" technique. Finally, the film's low budget is a real problem. The original Ironclad only had a modest budget, but the sequel must have had a fraction of that. The opposing forces are absurdly motley, and the attacking Scots never seem like a credible threat to take the castle. There are some good atmospheric shots of wild, beautiful mountain tops and dark forests, but the director never manages to make the battle scenes come alive against this backdrop.

Overall, this simply isn't a worthy follow-up to the original Ironclad. There are a few good performances and the battle scenes keep the plot moving and intermittently entertaining, but ultimately the film is undone by a low budget, an implausible script, and weak characterization. You could do worse if you are in the mood for a little medieval action, but you could do a lot better, too...particularly by merely watching the first Ironclad again.

SnakeHead Swamp (2014) (TV)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Leave this one in the swamp, 30 June 2014
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mutant snakehead fish run amok in a small Louisiana town. Not a bad template from which to craft a fun b-movie, but SNAKEHEAD SWAMP is anything but fun. The potentially entertaining plot is spoiled by sorry effects that never make the monstrous fish remotely believable, much less frightening. The director might have tried showing less of the snakeheads to build up suspense instead of throwing the silly looking monsters at us full on, but one gets the impression there was little intention to make a truly thrilling movie on any level. The script makes fun of itself at every opportunity, so much so that it goes way beyond camp and seems to actually wallow in self loathing, as though everyone involved realizes they are in a terrible movie and want you to know that yes, they know it too. The monster action is lackluster and even the explanation for what caused the outbreak of killer fish remains muddled: was it because a truck crashed into the river with unnatural cargo inside, or due to a voodoo curse, or both? The question is never really answered, and I guess the viewer isn't supposed to think about it too much. The main characters, which range from a crazy old voodoo guy who lives in the swamp to a gang of young people on a boating trip and a female park ranger, are uniformly bad and underdeveloped even by the standards of b-films. In defense of the cast, however, I think the utter hopelessness of the characters has more to do with how they are written (or not) rather than due to the talent of the actors involved, most of whom do a pretty good job with the material as it is. The same cast might have done quite well with a better script to work from, and/or a director with a better handle on things. Sometimes for all their flaws b-movies are tremendously entertaining, but SNAKEHEAD SWAMP never manages to be anything but a very slow, painful experience in dramatic futility.

Worthwhile Gothic in the Hammer Mould, 12 June 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR is an entertaining Gothic chiller in the Hammer fashion, albeit lacking the production values Hammer films are often fondly remembered for. Peter Cushing carries off the role of the film's hero--a detective on the case of a series of unorthodox and bloody murders that start off in London and move out in the countryside--with his usual charisma and professionalism, and he's ably supported by a number of solid co-stars, including Robert Flemyng (well-cast as a scientist with a dangerous secret)as well as the lovely and talented Wanda Ventham and Vanessa Howard. The script drifts into the doldrums now and then,and the comic relief isn't always well-conceived, but a rich atmosphere and a measure of unpredictability carry the film through. The eponymous "Blood Beast" is scary enough if you can make the necessary suspension of disbelief often called for in science fiction and horror films. The climax is fitting, if perhaps a bit perfunctory. A better overall production than its given credit for, and certainly superior to many horror films to have been released since.

Beowulf (2007)
Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time, 29 May 2014
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first problem this film has is that it simply isn't BEOWULF. It may be inspired by the classic saga of a Nordic warrior and his battles with diabolical monsters (Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a particularly wicked dragon), but it certainly isn't a faithful adaptation of that seminal poem. The script makes huge alterations in both the plot and characters, resulting in a story that has only vague similarities to its source. Grendel isn't a very formidable monster in this film, and his mother, as essayed by Angelina Jolie's CGI avatar, is transformed from a loathsome goblin to a devilish seductress. As for the CGI animation, I've seen both better and worse. The dragon comes across very well in animated form, and is actually one of the most fearsome looking fire- breathers the movies have given us, but the humans all look quite fake and even rather silly. Beowulf isn't the man he is in the original saga, either, where he is portrayed as an honorable and even God-fearing warrior of Good. In this film, he is not merely flawed, but duplicitous, and certainly no Christian (for whom he has little respect). Unfortunately, the film as a whole shows a similar disdain for the poem upon which it is based. Better film adaptations are the also unconventional but basically honorable efforts of BEOWULF AND GRENDEL starring Gerard Butler and THE 13TH WARRIOR featuring Antonio Banderas. As for this film, it is an unreserved failure, save perhaps as a parody of the great work from which it is spawned.

Creature (2011)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Horrendously Bad, 27 May 2014
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When a group of young tourists decide to take a detour on their way through Louisiana, they discover there's more than a legend lurking in the murky swampland. Not a bad idea as b-movies go, but CREATURE is a failure in every department of film making. The script is awful, the dialog crass and unrealistic, and the six young leads are totally unsympathetic and impossible to identify with. There isn't much action, but a few horrific set pieces are extremely gory and exceedingly unpleasant. The eponymous monster doesn't have much to do and it might have been wiser to make the villain one of the several alligators that populate the region in which the story takes place. Failing that, I imagine we're supposed to see this as some sort of homage to CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, but this film has absolutely nothing in common with that classic. Insipid, vulgar, and insulting, CREATURE is an altogether toxic film experience.


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