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6/10
Perfect for young families and animation fans, but not for everyone else.
16 December 2009
Saw an early screening. I never saw the first one, but within the context of it being a kids' movie, it was actually quite well made. I actually laughed at the jokes, and I'm 33 and educated. If I were a young kid, I'd love this movie a lot, but I'm way past that and am often quite critical of children's genre films these days. The plot was coherent and the moral issues were clear. The characters stay true to themselves, much to anyone who is a fan of the original cartoon characters, and the dynamic of character triads works well for moral storytelling.

The moral lesson to be taught is about learning to be selfless and considerate of others. This is explored through Alvin and his ego problem, and the consequences it has on his friends and family. Other characters have their own arcs as well, and they read clear and convincingly.

On the downside, I think there are some choices that hurt the quality. Dave, the most famous human character in the franchise is probably in the film for about 5 minutes total, however the human characters we're left with are good performers with decent subplots. I did not care for the cliché use of a fart joke, but I forgive it because there was only one, and it was used in a way that's actually still funny to adults.

Sure, it's not the most intellectual film for an adult audience, but it serves its purpose and achieves its goals, despite being the result of commercialism. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to take their small kids out to a movie.
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Religulous (2008)
10/10
This movie is a giant domino, set to virally cause people to question their moderate faith.
5 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Comedian and Intellectual, Bill Maher presents us with this comedic and dramatic exploration of the insanities and dangers of organized religion, while preaching his rarely-heard yet valid gospel of "I don't know". It is his plea to the world that it is safe to admit we don't really know things like what happens to us when we die, and that emotional certainty leads to terror, oppression and doom. Through most of the film, it's all laughs, and ends explaining what Maher (and folks like myself) thinks is a serious problem, partly citing how those who believe in the biblical "End Times" don't care about saving the planet from either war or pollution, and in some cases are driven to kill because they use a voice in their head to justify their actions. Some of the most profound moments for me, without giving away too much, includes a scientific priest, a Vatican priest who bashes Catholicism, the entire Muslim world worships a meteorite that they think is from "paradise" and not outer space, orthodox Jews who are so obsessed with the rules of the Sabbath that they invent and sell machines that avoid using electricity that normally would, and best of all, a giant landscape drawing of a naked man with a huge penis that is maintained by people to this date for centuries, yet they don't know why it's even there. I think one of the most powerful moments was Maher saying to the audience, "I don't know what happens when we die, and you don't either. You know how I know that? Because you do not possess a mental power that I do not.".
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5/10
The most overrated film I've ever seen...and I love Hitchcock.
16 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I love Hitchcock's movies, but this one's WAY overrated! You have a criminal on the lamb who makes no behavioral attempt to blend into straight society and seem like a regular person. He ALWAYS acts suspicious and vicious like a criminal, and nobody is smart enough to pick up on this.

The niece reacts to seeing her long lost uncle whom she's supposedly never seen before as if she misses having sex with him, which would be incestuous, and she's so seemingly smitten with him, she gets defensive when it's suggested he might be a murderer.

A cop spends probably about three hours with the girl in a non-intimate manner, and suddenly he's ready to marry her. Like that marriage is going to work.

(SPOILER) And the movie ends with this villain who we're supposed to be scared of slipping and falling to his death, purely by accident. WHAT KIND OF MEANINGFUL ENDING IS THAT? A good ending involving a villain failing is supposed to happen because of the villain's Achilles's heel. Not a Deus ex Machina!

I'm shocked that this is Hitchcock's favorite film. Frenzy, The Lady Vanishes, Dial M for Murder, Rope, and The 39 Steps are all rated lower on IMDb, but are actually much better, and more credible stories.
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6/10
Technically brilliant, but still missing the most important ingredient: captivating writing
23 January 2006
Len Wiseman, apparently, is a fine fine director, particularly when it comes to perfecting the technical and visual aspects of film-making, and for that, I still enjoy "looking at" his Underworld movies.

Sure he's shown some improvement from the previous installment. He's backed off of some of the horrid clichés of Gothic culture and concentrated more on being serious about the characters and their world. The hard goth rock music is gone now, and the matrix-like shots are toned back to reality, making the film feel less gimmicky. The vampires are no longer sitting around sipping wine and smoking in a mansion for no apparent reason. The irritating and corny character of Craven is not in the movie for long. Tony Curran's design, although not groundbreaking, provides us with something new to look at for those of us not involved in the story. These are good improvements.

However, the biggest problem with the first film was not these things, and it continues right into the second one without wavering. It was the story and its structure. It was the screenplay. It was the writing itself. The problem with the writing is that it does not get the virgin audience involved in what is going on. There are too many names to memorize. Too much back-story to keep up with. All the characters, including the protagonist know way more than we do, even after the inciting incident. We don't care what she wants to learn. The mystery is meaningless to us, in the same way a mechanic would try to get a soccer mom interested in knowing what exactly is causing her carburetor to fail. It's over our head. All the characters are dead serious, have no complexity, and are one dimensional. They're all immortal, important and dangerous. That's all they seem to be, and that's all they are. The main character has issues about loyalty, but we feel nothing. We just don't care where it's going. We don't want to know what happens next. We have no burning questions in the back of our mind, except "how long is this movie, again?".

In "Hellboy", we have this character who is a powerful demon from hell who is of great biblical significance to the entire universe, but how does he act? Does he act like a pompous Shakespearian actor in a goth club, like every single character in the Underworld movies? No, he acts like Bruce Campbell, puffing on a cigar, while having a soft-spot for cats. Which character would we rather watch? The one who plays the opposite to his stereotype. (Bear in mind, Hellboy isn't a completely unique character. We've seen this kind of juxtaposition in Army of Darkness and Big Trouble in Little China, so just using that idea as is will just be another cliché, but it's a step in the right direction.)

I think Wiseman is salvageable as a great director, and I think McBride and his fellow writers have some great ideas and concepts, but they really need to learn how to get the audience to care.
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2/10
Obviously, this film was made just to make money from exaggerated claims.
22 January 2006
I love movies like The Exorcist, and Ghostbusters, which are admitted works of fiction, but this one attempts to claim it's based on a true story, and sounds more like religious propaganda against skepticism and science that conflicts with people's personal feelings and world-views.

Remember when people thought "The Amittyville Horror" was a true story? Turns out the family that lived in that house made up all the ghost stories to get attention and money from the movie rights. They confessed to it. Studios continued giving the public what they wanted with more sequels and remakes of this confessed lie, all for the sake of profit.

This film is based on something that supposedly happened in Germany in the 1970's, and now it's a film put in theaters, charging $10 a person, where it takes place in America in present day, playing to a population of 300,000,000 people who 85% believe in God, and 75% are Christian. That's a lot of money to be made. Just ask Mel Gibson, and the creators of Narnia.

The only message of this film is, skeptics are just crabby and not realistic, and anything that's weird or coincidental in life has a purpose, and anything new to science is spiritually related. Science and reason are the bad guys, while irrational hopes for the fantastic to be true are more than hopes. It's a feel-good movie for people who fear or dislike skepticism. There is an attempt to make it sound like a balanced ending when she talks about "possibilities", but that's inconsistent with the rest of the film which says "demons are real, demons are real, demons are real!".

Most people would rather believe the film's message because most paying customers don't consider skepticism an option, but yet want to make sense of this "spiritual world", without even considering once that the REASON the spirit world doesn't make any sense because it doesn't exist in the first place, so a movie like this will get high marks, even if it were shot with a home camcorder, and acted with the local neighbors.

I call a mistrial.
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Hostel (2005)
7/10
Almost a classic. The best film of its kind since the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".
7 January 2006
This isn't a perfect film, but this is far better than Ego, I mean Eli Roth's previous effort, "Cabin Fever", which failed at marrying serious horror with zany comedy. I guess he's been trained to be a good filmmaker by Tarantino himself. Even the speech about the torturer wanting to be a surgeon seemed like something out of "Pulp Fiction". There even seems to be a repeat of the "Pulp Fiction" scene where Bruce Willis spots Ving Rhames crossing a street.

I came in expecting it to be a gimmicky exercise in freaking out the audience and nothing more. I was pleased to find that it engaged my interest beyond the simple showing off gore and violence as if to say "Look what we can get away with on film!". Yes, there are character arcs in this. The film is similar to Wes Craven's "Last House on the Left" in terms of basic events.

Here's the weaknesses:

-The first half feels a bit slow and empty and could have cut out about 5 minutes of under-dramatized setup.

-While KNB gave us top-notch gore, the eyeball makeup effect (you have to see it to know what I'm referring to) was over the top, phony-looking and anatomically nonsensical for the sake of shock value.

-Towards the end, things seem to become conveniently coincidental and all downhill for our hero, taking away from the tension the ending could have had.

Still, I came away rather satisfied once we get into the second half of the film. The audience was loudly cheering in satisfaction upon witnessing bloody comeuppance. I'd say this is a good start for 2006. Let's hope the rest of the year will wash away the bland aftertaste of 2005.

Much better than "Saw" and "High Tension". Go see it before it gets ruined by bad sequels and copycats.
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The Ring Two (2005)
6/10
Thank Nakata for creating it. Thank Verbinski for perfecting it. Hate Nakata for nearly ruining it.
3 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It wasn't as terrible as people are saying. People say that it didn't make any sense. I understood it. If anyone can understand it, then it can't not make sense.

There were just a FEW isolated things that didn't make sense, but they were minor and short-lived things supposedly put in for cheap scares or they were small logic gaps that exist purely so that the story can work when suspension of disbelief is applied.

Overall, there's somewhat of a good movie buried beneath the bad decisions, kind of like "A History of Violence". There are some good ideas in "Ring Two", but nothing that makes a landmark scene in film or horror history.

I would say the first "Ring" is like "Nightmare on Elm Street", while "Ring Two" is like "Nightmare on Elm Street 2". The similarity I'm referring to is that the first film is about learning how to survive a serial killer, and the second film is about the killer coming back to the land of the living through possessing someone, while at the same time making it less engaging than the original film.

While the acting is good, a lot of the direction, photography and editing is not as effective, authentic or creepy as the first film. In short, I miss Gore Verbinski. I think if he were directing it, the franchise would have more strength to go on as the next Elm Street series. Instead it seems possibly doomed to be like the "Exorcist" franchise. One good movie, the rest either so-so or crap. I guess it depends on the quality of "The Ring Three".

I think the franchise has potential to make a comeback. There were some unanswered questions at the end of part two that could help breathe life into a third film. This isn't much of a spoiler, but we still don't know who Samara's biological father is, and we still don't know why she's evil in the first place, and the way she's defeated at the end of part two doesn't really destroy Samara, but rather contains her.

So to sum it up, I thought it was OK, and that Gore Verbinski could have made it closer to par for a potentially memorable horror trilogy (or so).

Message to Dreamworks: Respect Verbinski.
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5/10
A potentially great film ruined by bad acting and bad directing
3 October 2005
I'm going to try to keep this short.

There's a really good story here, but it's hard to enjoy this good story when we're constantly bombarded with bad performances, purely gratuitous gore shots that serve no story point, and equally pointless and awkward sex and nude scenes that don't seem to fit in with the plot at times. The bad acting mostly came from the little blonde girl who doesn't seem to be an actress at all, and shockingly enough, William Hurt, doing some sort of combination of William Shatner and Tony Soprano.

To cap it off, the film ends somewhat ambiguously when answering the burning central question of whether or not a person can move on from such events. I can understand if they want to IMPLY the answer, but the implication is incomplete.

Real shame. This could have been such a solid film.
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Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005 Video)
3/10
A fine example of how not to tell a story
21 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I really wanted to like this. After five bad sequels of a potentially likable franchise had passed, I had hopes that somewhere along the line, someone actually cared.

The biggest problem with this film is the script, or at least how it turned out on film. The story is SUPPOSED to be a mystery, but it's not.

In a mystery, the audience has one big question and a few smaller questions that drive our attention from scene to scene, in hopes of finding out the answers to those burning questions. In the case of Hellworld, we're given no clue as to what question we're supposed to be asking, except to ask, "what question are we supposed to be asking?".

We're in a perpetual state of not knowing what we're supposed to be concerned about until 80 minutes into the film, when instead of revealing the answers to the mystery by making connections in our mind for ourselves, we're dealt a five minute scene of the villain saying, "Let me explain my dastardly plan that's been going on for the last 80 minutes, that you as an audience were completely unaware of, while you watched random scenes that still don't make any sense or have any connection to the plot, even after I've explained it." During the first act, assuming there was one, I was getting a sense that the film was predictable, but I was wrong. You might think that's a good thing, but it's not, because the predictions I made were way better than the actual unfolding. I was teased into thinking there was a chance this might be good.

Pinhead shows up only a few times briefly during the that first 80 minutes, only to do things that his character never does or would do.

The film is full of "red herrings" disguised as important subplots. Subplots are supposed to mean something and have an arc. For instance, Lance Henriksen's party has a system to it, in which the party-attenders wear white masks with a number on their forehead. When a party-attender sees someone whose body they like, they dial their cell number to engage in sexual activities. You would think this mask thing would play into the plot, especially since it's discussed in detail and used throughout the film, but it doesn't do anything except make the audience go, "Hey, that's kind of a neat idea for a party.". Nothing else is done with it. It's one of many wasted opportunities in the story.

The predictable ending comes where Lance Henriksen has to face Pinhead and go to hell. Instead of torturing him and taking him to hell, Pinhead just chops Lance into three pieces for no apparent reason. Then the ghost of Lance appears briefly in the car of the barely known "protagonists" to scare them, also for no apparent reason or logic. The movie closes on police finding the bloody room where Lance got chopped up and we see the puzzle box on the floor and we stare at it for about 10 seconds........also for no apparent reason, as loud, awful and completely out of place rock music plays over the end.

On a technical level, this film was obviously shot in a hurry. There's never a single noteworthy shot in the film. No angles that were carefully chosen. No artsy one-point perspectives to make it feel like religion was a topic of the film. Just mostly regular 3/4 angle point-and-shoot. The editing work does not belong in feature films. I don't know if it was the editor or the director making this decision, but the film is chock full of MTV music video time-jumps and aperture flashes that don't do ANYTHING significant. In fact, even if there was a good story, these flashy techniques would pull you right out of the film because all you can think about are the "clever" editing techniques.

Still, this is way better than "Urban Legends 3".

3/10
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Garden State (2004)
6/10
I thought this was supposed to be good, but it's just another powerless quirk film.
27 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
When at a climax of a story where your hero must decide between love and something else, that something else must be worth going for, or else it's a pointless no-brainer of a decision that falls flat.

In this case, the guy was miserable, bored and empty in Hollywood. Then he goes to NJ and meets a girl and falls happily in love with her, and for some reason thinks it's worth even driving to the airport to go back to Hollywood. WHY???? It's FALSE DRAMA! Braff should either LOVE Hollywood, or get offered a dream-job in Hollywood, or just really hates New Jersey apart from Natalie Portman. This would fix the problem.

There's more! He's supposed to play an actor, but for the last 11 years, he's been on a drug that dulls all his emotions. If he can't feel emotions, how on earth could he have made it as an actor in a TV movie football drama, playing a memorable character? It's INCONSISTENT CHARACTER TRAITS! Also, when the guy in the trailer told Braff to enjoy exploring the infinite abyss...what the hell does that mean? Life isn't infinite, so it can't be that. Maybe he's referring to life's problems and how they never end. I don't know, but it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the fact that the main character needs something to feel and care about.

It's POINTLESS PHILOSOPHY! This was a nicely directed weak story combining concepts from "Equilibrium", "Lost in Translation" and "The Royal Tenenbaums".

Overall, it's interesting with some fresh ideas, but weak on the drama. 6/10
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Dark Water (2002)
DARK WATER vs. DARK WATER
2 December 2004
This is going to be a rare review, for I have seen both the original "Dark Water" as well as an early test screening of the American remake of "Dark Water" with Jennifer Connelly. This will be a comparison of the two as well as a standard review.

THE SIMILARITIES:

Both the original and remake are about a mother and daughter in the midst of a custody battle, and must move into a dilapidated apartment building with a creepy elevator and a water tower on the roof. Meanwhile supernatural occurrences involving water seem to be coming from the apartment upstairs. These strange occurrences start to affect the mother in such a way that it makes her seem too unstable to win custody of her daughter over her competing ex-husband. Both have a similar conclusion to a plot that has doesn't drive the audience's interest other than to figure out what all the supernatural stuff is about.

This is where the similarities end. Other than the above paragraph, the two films are written completely different.

THE ORIGINAL Japanese VERSION:

The original "Dark Water" shares the same creative minds as "Ringu" and it shows, but "Ringu" is far superior. It comes off more as leftovers from their creative process. It's yet another Asian horror film where the "villain" is a long dark haired dead girl whose face can't be seen clearly.

As the plot unfolds, I get the feeling this film is going somewhere interesting. Then the end comes and it makes almost no sense. I didn't understand the actions that occurred, and when I guessed at what I saw, the motives didn't line up with those actions. It didn't communicate properly to me as an American, nor anyone else in the room with me at the time. There's a sense of a complete story being there, buried beneath the poor communication, but if you asked me what happened at the end, I couldn't say.

If you see it, you too will probably ask, "What's with the neck pinching?", or "Why did she do that?".

THE American REMAKE:

When America remade "Ringu", Gore Verbinski kept the visual creepiness of the original, if not improved it. Instead, the remake of "Dark Water" loses some of that visual creepiness the original had, but trades it for a better and more comprehensible script, at least for a western audience. The "villain" isn't all that creepy on a visual level. The remake is missing the mark on creating creepy visuals that aren't tired cliché's, like submerged bodies who open their eyes suddenly in someone's daydream. Didn't we just see that in "The Two Towers" and "Resident Evil"? New material please! You know how some cold days have a misty, rainy grayer-than-gray sky that gives you a dreary depressing feeling that makes you want to get as far away from it as possible? Well, the remake has chosen to make that the setting for the ENTIRE FILM! I understand a mood must be set, and it's supposed to be a creepy movie, but does it have to make me want to stop watching the film?

The remake decides to focus on the custody battle over the daughter in order to make sense of the confusing ending to the original film. This gets boring early on, yet its necessary to understand the characters' poorly emulated motives and feelings. The writers for the remake have done something clever to improve it. They created a much bigger part for the apartment building caretaker, played by Pete Postlethwaite, who does an excellent job playing the shady suspicious character somehow involved in the mystery. Man, I missed Pete. I was happy to see him.

While the writing for the original "Dark Water" felt similar to "Ringu" or "The Grudge", the remake feels more in tune with a cheap, unimaginative version of "The Shining" or "The Sixth Sense". Where the original didn't make a clear telling of its story, the remake makes up for that...somewhat. However, the remake is overall dull and boring most of the time, and it lacks a clear sense of direction and has almost no suspense until the very end. The first two thirds of the film will make it difficult to answer the question, "What is this film about?". A good mystery gives us clear questions to ask that the hero wants to find out. In this case, it's the other way around. The hero seems as though she wants to ask the audience what this film is about, and they just don't know.

In summary, the remake is an improvement in script, but a degradation in visuals. It's unscary, unsuspensful and too mediocre to be worth a full ticket price. I'll beat the other reviewers to the punch on this obvious pun you'll see all over Rotten Tomatoes, and say "Dark Water is watered down."

Original: 5.0 / 10 Remake: 5.5 / 10
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Spiral (2000)
6/10
Too weird to officially form an opinion.
27 September 2004
I kinda liked it. I didn't hate it. I don't know what to say. I'm speechless, therefore I type instead.

It's like a Twilight Zone episode that starts with mysterious questions being raised, then it raises new questions and, ends with a bunch of unanswered questions.

Must be some kind of pointless art piece. It manages to be entertaining on some sort of brainless level. I'll give it that much. It has the illusion of meaning something, but I don't think it does.

I don't care. It's cool to watch when you're not in the mood to keep your time useful. Maybe some mind-altering drugs will improve the experience, so long as you can still read subtitles.

6/10
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1/10
Everyone! Remember the name "Uwe Boll", so we know whose balls to kick in a dark alley.
24 September 2004
huh? ...What th'? (snort) Alright, the director's official new name is "Uwe Bowel"! OK? OK. We're just going to call him that from now on.

Someone stop me! PLEASE! I'm about to actually write a review for this waste of time, life, money, labor and space! STOP ME! ....anyone? ...must stop fingers from....typing......RRRRRRRRRRR......AHHH!!! (snap)

What the hell was that? Wowwie! I'm amazed. I had no idea that human excrement could be rented at Blockbuster. Little did I know you could put it in a DVD player. This film is so crappy, I could almost hear Uwe Bowel grunting, popping blood vessels and fart-splattering in a little plastic outhouse in Vancouver, directly onto the lens of the camera. I had to keep leaving the room. Really. I couldn't stay there watching it. It hurt too much. It's like watching a whino vomit on his shoes just for fun. I now understand the concept of Chinese water torture. I think I lost a few 7th grade English classes there. I can't even write an intelligent review anymore.

This film is called "House of the Dead", but there's no house in it. Right off the bat, it's false advertising. hehe... It even suggests that this is supposed to be a movie that you pay to see.

What's with the spinning camera? It serves no purpose but to make it look like there's a reason for this to be shot on celluloid instead of an old VHS camera found at the local Goodwill.

I especially loved the zombie-on-a-stick that pops up like a whack-a-mole, to have a firecracker go off in its head as if it were getting shot by the girl who jumps up to fire for no apparent reason other than to look pretentiously cool.

I know horror films are usually bad, and most bad horror flicks go directly to video. How the %#@$! did this end up on big screens across the USA?!?!? Is there a new market for diarrhea on celluloid? It's gotta be this whole "video game movie" trend. The producer obviously got a drippy erection when he heard that he could make a movie based on a semi-popular video game for a low budget. I'm sure they spent a fortune on Clint Howard's lousy cameos. Poor Clint.

The saddest part about this is the director is STILL GETTING WORK, and I can't find Rod Serling standing around smoking a pipe talking to a camera anywhere! Believe me, I've looked. Who's pipe is Uwe Bowel cleaning to be this lucky?

Nice film...for me to poop on! 1/10
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Garfield (2004)
10/10
Good lord. It's an 80 minute commercial break disguised as an unfunny family film.
23 September 2004
Boy, you can really tell this was designed by FOX to be nothing more than a throw-away instant-money maker. There's more product placements than jokes.

I'm not kidding, either! Just you watch! You'll count more Pepsi cans, Goldfish crackers, Doritos, Iams and Friskies pet food, Petco, and existing restaurant names mentioned than you'll feel that little feeling down in your belly known commonly as a giggle. Keep a scorecard if you don't believe me.

It seems the only good things about this film are Bill Murray's patience, and the CGI from Rhythm & Hues used to bring Garfield to life. Too bad the concept of bringing a cartoon character like Garfield into the real world is a bad one to begin with.

Most Garfield fans, at least the ones who are particular minded, will hate this film. All the characters look different, act different and sound different.

Odie's a real dog. The real dog give a great "cute" performance, and that's good on it's own...but it's supposed to be Odie. If Odie doesn't look like a cross between Beaker and Pluto, it ain't Odie. If Arlene doesn't have giant eyeballs, it's not Arlene.

Then there's Nermal. Nermal has been a cult favorite character from Garfield because his character has been so well defined as the cute gray kitten who makes Garfield insanely jealous and pushes Garfield to be sick of him. You won't find that here. What we have is a full-grown siamese cat who plays Garfield's dumb buddy whose sole purpose is to provide a target for Garfield's unfunny insults. Why was this change made? What greater good does it serve? Why rip out what fans adored for something that isn't better? Would it really be cheaper or more entertaining to kids? Would it hurt to have a kids' movie that didn't make the adults cry in the theater louder than the tykes?

Another problem is that this film is obviously aimed at the youngest of children. It's too stupid and safe to not be. The problem here is that Garfield's fans are probably all over 20 years old. These kids don't know who he is, and I don't think this insult to intelligence is going to get the new generation interested, especially when they're more into Yu-Gi-Oh, or however you spell it.

We could talk about plot-holes and other technical shortcomings, but at this point, it's futile. What's that? You want more dirt? Fine. Here you go. Breckin Meyer is lousy. I don't believe for a second that Garfield is really his cat, and his line delivery is pedestrian at best. There's a part where Garfield is lost, and he says, "We have to find Garfield. I can't live without, Garfield." Really? I wouldn't have thought so. There wasn't a single scene prior to that moment that shows a clear dependency that Jon Arbuckle has for his fat cat that he constantly yells at for being lazy. This is bad writing, with bad acting on top as the icing on this wedding cake of neglected badness.

This film could not be any less funny. It's a snoozer. The plot is so cliché', that there's no surprises expected, even or kids. They've seen this story about 1000 times by now. Something tells me that even if the top execs at FOX read this part of my review, they'll still continue to do it because it's all a safe investment if it worked in the past, no matter how much people prefer new material. Know what's funny about this film to me? Petco exists, and so does a milk man. What time period is this?

On the plus side, this is still better than Mike Meyers' "Cat in the Hat", and here's why... While "Garfield" fails to entertain, "Cat in the Hat" UN-entertains, sending people screaming for the door, leaving claw marks in the wood. At least Garfield isn't that bad. At least you can have fun keeping score on those product placements.

4/10
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Fight Club (1999)
10/10
I want you to hit me as hard as you can.
23 September 2004
This is your movie. It's playing one minute at a time.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this film will forever be in my top 5 favorite films of all time. I've never been more impressed with editing and storytelling done so stylish yet clearly readable at the same time. Every shot has a mood. Every cut is perfect. Every poetically narrated line is memorable. Every scene is profound. The strange music gets you into the original mood that the film emulates. Every character is defined. You can relate to every character in some way, whether it be a bit of yourself or a bit of someone you closely know. This film, if you're open enough to pay attention to its meaning, will set you free of the burden of becoming a pack rat trapped in the rat race. Of course, in the end, we're given a balance of philosophy. "The Man", and the human spirit can manage to find harmony, once given the proper grown-up philosophy, I suppose.

The only god I worship is Tyler Durden. Well...maybe not worship. More like agree with and try to live by the same thoughts. Don't get me wrong. If I were that close to his lifestyle, living in a dilapidated house in the middle of a seedy part of town, I probably wouldn't be able to type this review. I also wouldn't be sharing fluids with the likes of Marla Singer. Ewwww...

Joon B. Kim is one of the luckiest guys in the world in my book. Not only did he get his own scene with Brad Pitt holding a gun to his head in back of a convenience store, but he participated in what I think is one of the most inspirational scenes in cinema history. Just ignore the soda machine advertising itself in the background. Why is it that those set dressers think that convenience stores would put their soda machine in the back? Not a a very convenient convenience store.

I can never get sick of this film, unless I watch it over and over for every waking moment for every day of the rest of my life. Then I might get a little bored.

Was I typing? Had I typed?

Go FINCHER and writers! 10/10
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Dark City (1998)
10/10
DING DING DING! You've found it! ...My #1 favorite film of all time!
23 September 2004
This must be by far, the most underrated film of its time since Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" (1927). For once, Roger Ebert and I agree, this is our favorite film of 1998. Too bad that goggle-eyed albino zeppelin claims he enjoyed "Garfield" and "Nutty Professor 2", otherwise, he'd almost have credibility.

In case you haven't done so, you should watch the movie again with Ebert's commentary after you've watched it normally. It's quite observational about the film's references and hidden metaphors. Oddly enough, Ebert pointed out a plot-hole that I never noticed before. Just how does Jennifer Connelly's character know where the prostitute lived? Oh well.

I just have to add this at random... Richard O'Brien's "Mr. Hand" is the creepiest villain EVER! Better than Darth Vader, Freddy Kreuger, Jason Vorhees, Michael Meyers, Agent Smith and Dick Cheney combined. I love this guy, and I'm not even that big on "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".

My original complaint when I first saw this film was that the ending seemed inconsistent with the mood established in the first 85% of the film. Now it doesn't bother me so much. The ending makes perfect sense, regardless of the change of the mood.

The film bombed in theaters, and I blame the chosen cast, and the lack of explanatory advertising. Nobody knew what it was about, and the biggest star in it at the time was Kiefer Sutherland, who isn't an A-list guy.

In a way, I'm kind of glad this film bombed, only because if it didn't, they'd try to make a sequel and tarnish the image of the original. Just look what sequels did to the original Matrix. It's funny when I think back and remember liking Dark City more than The Matrix, and everyone else telling me they thought the opposite. Ha! Talk about a reversal. You can't look at the original Matrix without thinking about how all the fighting that's going on is over that lousy excuse for an underground city of Babylon-5 extras. If they do that to Dark City, then that's it. I'm packing some pyramid-climbing equipment and tetnis shots and getting my ass to Mars like the Ahhnold.

Go ALEX! Bring me more! 10/10
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1/10
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.... yeah.
23 September 2004
OK. If you plan to rent this movie or have already done so, and you are indeed aware that the title of this film is "Invasion of the Blood Farmers", you had better not be expecting anything reasonably decent.

There are three basic reasons for anyone to watch this film.

1- Most obviously, to laugh at the lack of another person's talent, and perhaps to start a neighborhood cult-film trend with your local nerd friends and create a drinking game of sorts.

2- To learn how not to make a film. (Bring a huge fresh notebook and extra pens. Get a few packs, actually.)

3- To force someone you hate to watch it so they become more stupid than they were, previously.

I've never seen movie where the cinematographer decided it's better to shoot a blank wall with the top of the actor's scalp, than the face of the lead character when he's speaking on a phone. This is one example of the rest of the movie. I never knew that blood was pink and bubbly, either.

This ranks up there with "Troll 2" and "Manos: The Hands of Fate" for worst film ever made. I don't know if this one is as funny.

1/10
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Super Size Me (2004)
More Honest than Moore.
22 September 2004
This is the best documentary I've seen this year. It beats out Fahrenheit 9/11, just for having been more honest and pursuing a less hateful path.

The points that this documentary makes are that:

A: Most fast food is bad enough to pickle your liver and kill you by heart attack, much like the effects of a raging alcoholic.

B: Fast food doesn't have to be this bad for you. (This is where it becomes suspiciously similar to becoming a Subway commercial)

C: It's as much YOUR responsibility as it is the fast food industry's.

These are all noble, balanced conclusions. This film rises beyond total leftist propaganda and provides more solution than inspires pointless hatred of "the man".

I feel more educated because of this film. On a shallow mischievous note, I found it hilarious that the fattest state in the USA is Mississippi. It figures the more conservative states are the ones who can't control their eating or exercise habits. How indicative.

10/10
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7/10
Art deco fans and aging comic nerds will love it. Story fans will hate it.
22 September 2004
As a fan of art deco, I enjoyed watching this film from beginning to end, but mostly just for the art direction. It's beautiful, aside from being too blurry. Careful folks, this may cause your eye muscles to get sore from all that attempting to adjust for focus without ever succeeding, so maybe watching on a small screen isn't so bad. Since I'm a fan of art deco and well made hammy fantasy action films, I liked it enough to overcome the uninteresting story and characters and boring "between action" scenes.

The films two biggest sins are as follows...

#1- The hero is not memorable in any way. He's not Batman or Indiana Jones or James Bond. When you leave the movie, you remember the art direction more than you remember Sky Captain himself. He's not much fun to watch, and has no defining personality or skills apart from flying a plane. He's completely generic. In fact, he's probably the most boring big-budget action hero ever put on film. Well, maybe not as numbingly bad as Kevin Costner, but still not sufficient enough to get little kids to buy the posters, play with the toys, eat the cereals, and pretend they are Sky Captain, shouting "Pew! Pew!" while wearing a goldfish bowl on their heads, shooting their next door neighbors with their index fingers held together. Not gonna happen. As good an actor as he is, Jude Law is not masculine enough to play the 1930's action adventure hero. I look forward to seeing him in better roles.

#2- The female lead sucks. Gweneth Paltrow SUCKS! I couldn't put it more vague or specific. You're supposed to LIKE the female lead in these stories. In this case, I HATED her. Aside from acting so bad that she sounded like a pedestrian just wandered onto the set and started asking what's going on, her character constantly did stupid things, and her whole purpose in the film was to be rescued. She's a clear rip-off of Lois Lane. No, not a character inspired by Lois Lane. I mean a real honest to god rip-off. She was always in peril. When giant robots were repeatedly coming dangerously close to falling on her as she tried to take photos of them up close, I literally yelled at the screen, "JUST DIE ALREADY!!!" My favorite part of the film is when Jude Law punched her in the puss, rendering her unconscious. It provided great long-awaited relief.

Aside from the artwork, there were some good qualities that kept the film afloat for me. The action scenes, the comedy, and Angelina Jolie. Why oh why!? Why didn't Angelina have a big part? Why couldn't SHE be the lead actress? Why couldn't her character be more significant to the plot? She was absolutely submerged in her character. Not only does she look better than Gweneth, but she actually entertains the audience with her presence as an actress.

For you folks who like old movies occasionally can have fun pointing out the inspirational references, such as the RKO Pictures logo, War of the Worlds sound effects and flapping planes that resemble the Martian war-ships, the Fleischer Superman cartoons, Flash Gordon, Thunderbirds, The Shadow, WWII propaganda posters, Godzilla, and The Iron Giant. Etc. Etc. Etc. This film was probably assumed to be a likely success based on its artistic stylings, but audiences don't seem to care about that at all. That's why this film bombed. You need a premise that sucks people in, or it's a waste of good artwork.

A very personal 7/10.
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Saw (2004)
6/10
Awesome for a newbie. Awful for a pro.
19 September 2004
I saw a free screener copy of this film after having seen the trailers. What I got from the trailers is that this film was going to break new ground in suspense and shock-value.

It didn't. It's no more suspenseful than "Psycho" (1960), and less shocking than Wes Craven's "The Last House on the Left".

What worked for this film enough to get it sold was the original concept. It breaks the typical barriers of they cliché' serial killer genre. In this case, the villain doesn't kill. He forces people to kill other people or themselves. There is a reason the killer does this, and it will actually make sense to the audience. He's not just simply crazy. That would be bad "cop-out" writing, otherwise. The directors are not afraid to show disturbing images, and knows when to cut away from them before it becomes cheaply gratuitous. The mystery unravels itself cleverly, keeping the audience guessing at what's going on, and just when the audience is sure the mystery has been solved, it turns out there's more to learn.

However, this is a new young director and it shows. It shows terribly. The editing is paced far far too slow. There's probably 5 minutes of film that could be cut out, where the audience is not gaining any new knowledge, and there's no anticipation for anything. For instance, there's a scene where one character asks his partner to come over and look at something. It takes the guy a good 10 seconds to get over and have the audience look at it. I was tired of waiting by 7 seconds. Gotta shorten this stuff, guys.

Also, we see a car chase (or race) in which everything is in fast-forward, MTV style. Why? It's distracting from the story, and it looks laughably silly. There's other parts of the movie that do this fast-forward technique, as well as a circular track around that does nothing logical for the audience's intake of information. It's just silly, and obviously done for style, and the style is NOT subtle enough to get by without the audience questioning the director's decisions. A good director is taken for granted while people watch the film, and are appreciated after the film is over.

Ever notice in some films that an actor who is usually great is suddenly a bad actor? That's when a film has a bad director. Well, a bad director as far as directing actors or finalizing the editing ADR dialogue. This film manages to make Danny Glover suck. The dialogue is at times trying too hard to be colorful and creative. It tries so hard that the audience can hear the writer in an imaginary flashback, talking to himself about how to make the dialogue more fresh. A true master can keep it colorful, yet natural and logical.

6/10 Good in originality. Poor in technicality.
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Amélie (2001)
10/10
In my personal top 5 films of all time.
17 September 2004
I was a fan of Junet just from seeing City of Lost Children. Later I saw Delicatessen. It's dark humor and dreary atmosphere made it entertaining. When I saw the trailers for Amelie, I was skeptical. It looked completely different. It looked like an ordinary romantic comedy, but with a wide-angle lens and cranked up chroma.

I decided to see it anyway.

This is the first "positive message" film that didn't make me feel like it was phony sugar-coated BS, trying to pass itself off as a moral by filling the background with violin music and Julia Roberts', or Meg Ryan's, or Sandra Bullock's surgically enhanced faces.

I've never felt so good about life after watching a film. It should be used as an antidepressant for people who have the patience to read subtitles. Play it for suicidal people. Even the smart and skeptical ones will like it. Besides, Audrey Tautou is cute!

10/10
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6/10
A fun kid's film!
16 September 2004
Yeah, I know it's not the best film in the world, and it may be very commercially driven, but it's WAY better than the first film. This is what the first film should have been, if not better. There's no Scrappy Doo ruining it for fans. There's better soundtrack songs plugged into the film.

Better character focus, although there's too many "violin scenes". There's much more nostalgia for the fans, as the original monsters are in it this time.

Fred was an appendix in the first film. This time he actually brings some entertainment and purpose with him.

Daphne's action scenes are more suited this time around, and the action has a little suspense this time.

Linda Cardellini's performance is perfect as Velma. She's the female Clark Kent.

Shaggy and Scooby have never been more buddy-buddy.

There's plenty of color and silly monsters to go around, so the kids with short attention spans will have plenty to pacify them. Check your brain at the door and enjoy.

6/10
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Duel (1971 TV Movie)
9/10
Spielberg's best Hitchcock impression.
16 September 2004
Simply put, I loved this film! This is now going near my personal top ten films of all time.

If you like films like "The Birds", "Rear Window", "Phonebooth", and "Speed", then you will love this film.

This is what I refer to as a "minimalist suspense thriller". It's a simple situation involving things that we see every day, but a situation that never occurred before.

When Hitchcock did Psycho and The Birds, people started feeling nervous about taking showers and approaching seagulls. This film will make you nervous about being an aggressive driver around big-rigs.

Like in "The Birds", a seemingly harmless item of everyday sort suddenly turns against us, and the characters don't have an immediate solution.

What does one do? Oh, what will we do? As the lead character encounters the truck, suggestions start to build that this is no ordinary truck driver.

We are with him all the way, wanting to know what he wants to know. Is the unseen truck driver human? Is he a murderer? Is he crazy? Is he drunk? Is he just having fun scaring us? What if we just drive somewhere else for a while? Will he go away? Where is he going? Is it where I'm going? How far will he go to scare me? Will he kill me? Who can I turn to? How will I be able to point him out to the police? Oh god, how can I reach the police? What happens when I run out of gas? Will I ever stop being scared and face him?

The suspense is killing me!

9/10
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6/10
Entertaining stupidity
14 September 2004
This film is entertaining, no matter how low-brow or cliché. Way better than I thought it would be. I thought it would be like Batman & Robin bad. It wasn't. You will not be bored or mentally scarred by poor craft. In fact, it's so stupid and clichéd that one could just be entertained by laughing at it with your smart friends. That's what I did.

It sort of weaves in and out of cool, suspenseful moments, and then back into the worst acting in recent cinematic history.

There seemed to a different accent for every character. It's completely ridiculous. I had to laugh at that.

Every character is a rip-off of a character we've all seen before. The street-wise black guy character is a complete cliché' and an obviously inserted "comic relief" character, but for some reason, he actually manages to be funny, and not in an unintentional way.

The plot was actually kind of cool. It got me into it...a little. It was a rip-off of "Escape from New York", but it worked for this film.

Also, we get to see one or two original zombie scenes. When is the last time you saw a group of zombie children?

Great combination of action, horror and funny bad acting! It's the unintentional comedy of Troll 2, crossed with John Woo and George Romero.

6/10 for entertainment value.
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High Tension (2003)
5/10
When good movies turn bad. (minor spoilers)
26 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This film started off being a scary thriller. Feeling similar to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but with a more complex character-driven layer upon it. The acting is excellent, among the protagonists. There are some stupid moments that reflect the contrived flaws from the low-brow slasher films of the 1980's, where characters never seem to do the right thing if survival is an instinct they are supposed to possess. When a killer who is after you gets knocked out when you have a weapon, you'd finish him off, right? You don't look close to see if they're breathing.

But anyway, if you ignore these little things, the suspense is done incredibly well. Until the third act, this film is just the best film of its kind since The Hitcher. ...then....in the third act, all of a sudden, it becomes a whole new movie. We get a twist ending.

Usually when you don't see a twist ending coming, that means it's a clever twist.

Not in this case. No.

In this case, the reason I didn't see the twist coming is because it makes NO SENSE when you think about the scenes that precede it. Suddenly the plot's holes are bigger than the plot itself! The entire film was based on this twist ending, and therefore tarnished all the stuff I liked during the first 90% of the running time.

You just don't do that to us and get away with it!

8/10 before the ending. 5/10 after the ending.
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