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jdollak

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114 reviews in total 
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11 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
How can people who don't like Spider-Man make a Spider-Man movie?, 5 August 2014
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm a mid-level Spider-Man fan. I've read most of the comics, at least up to the mid-90s when the continuity got harder to follow. I still follow what happens in the comics now. So I like to think that I have a handle on the character of Peter Parker.

What I see is a movie that was made without any consideration as to what makes Peter Parker a likable character. I'll ignore all the missteps of the first Amazing Spider-Man, and instead focus on how they messed this movie up. After Spider-Man enjoys a bit of action, he arrives in time for Peter to get his diploma. He strides onto the stage, wearing his backpack, takes his diploma, then delivers a substantial kiss with Gwen Stacy. This is not a Peter Parker that I've ever read comics about.

Later, Peter is transfixed by Gwen as he crosses a busy street to get to her. He steps forward and back, avoiding cars, until he just decides to hold his hand up, motioning for a truck to stop for him. Now, I know that a lot of people do this kind of thing. I think they're inconsiderate. Why is Peter like this?

There are two other key aspects of the movie that I think are indicative of a bigger problem. First, Gwen Stacy's death. In the comics, the direct cause of Gwen's death was uncertain. It could have been the Goblin, before she was thrown, it could have been Spider-Man's web breaking her fall. Peter isn't certain, and the uncertainty plagues him. Here, her cause of death is explicit. The script misses the point of the story.

The other thing is a little more abstract, and most of you won't understand, but some of you might. The planes. This is one of the most terribly done ticking-clock scenarios I've ever seen. It's clunky. Spider-Man gets no motivation out of it, since he doesn't know it's happening! The scene exists to try to force the audience to raise the tension. But why do we care about it? We don't!

There are a number of other problems - the storyline about Peter's parents. Aunt May becoming a nurse for some reason, Peter finding his father's secret lab. Peter's remarkably short 1.5-scene long friendship with Harry. Peter decides to retire from being Spider-Man for one whole scene, then comes back immediately. Why? This was a storyline that took a lot longer, and was developed and played out far more carefully in Spider-Man 2.

I have lots of other complaints about this movie, but mostly, I think it boils down to this.

We really don't have many non-fictional heroes nowadays. Spider-Man is one of the only characters I actually can look up to. This version of Spider-Man is not a hero. He's an annoying teenager with powers, and not even a smart or nice one at that. He doesn't have heart. He doesn't feel hurt. And somehow, he's well-liked around the city. The police like him. Why should I root for this guy? Cause he gives people hope, as the movie says? No. Spider-Man isn't about giving people hope. It's about inspiring people, and showing them that doing the right thing is its own reward.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A fiasco, 15 July 2014
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I tend to watch just about every Stephen King adaptation. I'm awfully forgiving, and I usually understand the limitations that filmmakers have to put up with in adapting a piece of writing to the screen. With this in mind, I thought that the pilot of Under the Dome was passable TV. As a miniseries, the show could work. But I already knew that they were planning on making this a longer series. That's an obvious problem, when you're dealing with a plot that has a finite end. We know that the premise constrains resources.

With every episode of the first season, it became more and more of a chore to keep watching it. Eventually though, my enthusiasm came back. But it wasn't because the show had improved. It was because the show went off the rails. Characters say and do ridiculous things in every episode. Townspeople seem to be taking their crisis pretty calmly. Every plot point that was created early on in the series - like the girl being held prisoner - results in a few developments that are discarded after an episode or two, as soon as they become inconvenient. When you consider how time passes in the show, you realize that people are willing to forgive really bad behavior in about a day.

The writing is the biggest problem, since it's hard to take any of the acting seriously, especially when they start talking about "the dome" as a character. "What does it want." "The dome wants us to kill him!" "The dome doesn't want any more killing!"

I've kept up with this show during the second season, and I can't imagine it getting better.

While I don't care what happens to the characters, I am very curious to see how the writers will manage to squeeze this premise if it runs past a second season.

A strange extension of the movie, 4 June 2013
6/10

Linda talks about her engagement to Doug in class. There is a push from her friends to meet him. Damone starts a rumor that Mr. Hand has a glass eye. Everyone seems to believe it, and the stories start getting exaggerated.

I'm getting really confused. During the Pilot episode, Linda is broken up with Doug. This is made more confusing by the fact that they had broken up by the end of the movie. I could probably deal with the TV show breaking continuity with the movie, but this is only three episodes in, and it's not consistent with itself.

I have some mixed feelings about how this story plays out. Linda's relationship with Doug was always supposed to be fishy, but it's actually a disappointment to have a conclusion to that story. Keeping the mystery from the movie would have been a little difficult to sustain over the course of a series, I guess.

This was an improvement on the prior episodes as well. The storyline with Mr. Hand is very charming, and I have a suspicion that the rest of the series will manage to get these stories right, even if they never get the other characters.

A flawed show, but reasonably enjoyable for the time period., 31 May 2013
6/10

Fast Times was a pretty poor sitcom spin off of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which has kept a pretty solid reputation in the decades since it was released.

It's easy to focus on the problems caused by re-casting most of the characters. In truth, those differences do matter, but they aren't the root of the problem. The core of the problem is that this show doesn't understand what made the movie special.

The movie has a fair share of laughs. But it has a certain sentimental angle to most of the stories. We feel terrible when Brad is fired because of an abusive customer. Sympathy for Mark's pursuit of Stacy. Sadness in how poorly Damone treats Stacy. Even Spicoli's relationship with Mr. Hand is interesting.

Underneath the fun of the movie is a story about the desperation most teenagers feel to grow up faster than they need to. This is really missing in this show.

This episode in particular, is better than the Pilot episode, but it still has some problems.

The core stories involve Damone dating Stacy in an effort to collect information for Mark. Spicoli decides that he wants to see Mr. Hand laugh. Linda and Stacy have some tension because no one wants her to date Damone.

First, it's hard to get past the issue of Stacy dating Damone. Does this show exist after the events of the movie? Concurrently? Prior? In every case, it's wrong.

Second, Mark Ratner is no longer being played the same way. In the movie, he's a kind-hearted guy, insecure, but not at all creepy. In this, he seems more like a serial killer than an insecure nice guy.

Third, Mr. Hand is being developed into a more complete character. This is interesting, but it doesn't keep with the perspective that students have during high school. He does some strange things. He's kind of a jerk to his colleagues. He's still overly strict in the classroom. But we also see him flirting with another teacher, which is pretty nice.

To be fair, I actually liked the Spicoli/Hand storyline. Even if Spicoli is being played in a way that I don't quite understand.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
It's a shame what they did to Harry for this one, 21 September 2012
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

To be fair, the movie has a lot going for it. The movie paces well, it didn't get boring. The plot is pretty fun. It's great to see a younger Liam Neeson and Jim Carrey. The misdirection of the audience is enjoyable. Harry's romantic interest in this movie doesn't feel right. She doesn't come across as the type of woman that would interest him. But she plays a small enough role that it doesn't bug me much. His new partner is hilariously stereotypical, and that is a pretty big wink at the audience.

But what bugs me is that Harry no longer even tries to act like a cop. In the first five minutes, he shoots two attackers in the head, and shoots a fleeing attacker in the back, killing him. When he finishes off the villain at the end, the villain is out of ammo, and Harry acknowledges this. Then Harry kills him. A guy that he knows has been diagnosed with mental problems.

Harry was fairly heroic during the other four movies, to varying degrees. In this one, he's not a good guy anymore. He's just bloodthirsty.

Pool Party (2007)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
I'm sorry, but it's possibly the worst movie I've seen, 26 April 2012
1/10

I love bad movies. I've seen The Room several times, I've seen Birdemic at least twice. And I like sleazy movies. I like cheap stuff. I picked this on Netflix since I had been watching a string of 80s teen sex romps.

There are a few positive traits to this movie. It's generally well lit. The sound is clear. The editing is competent, in that I don't feel confused about what I'm being shown.

But all of those positive traits come with caveats. The lighting is fine - but many indoor scenes, which have lower light, somehow make the picture look a bit more blocky. The sound is mostly fine, except for a few sequences, where the sound takes on a hollow effect. I think those were recorded on-set with a camera mike, possibly. Then the editing was also strange. There are minor continuity errors between shots, like a person's arm being raised, then in the next shot, it's down. It isn't horrible, but it's distracting.

And there isn't a message to this movie that comes across preachy or even vaguely offensive to any sensibilities. But the movie is so painfully unfunny that it made me feel mildly ill.

I am not joking about this.

I almost cracked a smile once, as Buck is calling out, trying to find his "towlie." But that was it.

This movie is so packed with "wacky" that there's nothing else to it. Everything is a joke, but it's not a funny joke.

I look for the things that are well done in cheap movies. In this case, they barely competently made a movie that is dull and a bit annoying. This is as low as you can go without getting entertaining for camp value.

One addendum is that I understand exactly where these people are coming from. I loved the same movies that they pay tribute to. The problem is that the movie would be impressive if it were written by a couple guys right out of high school.

Fear (1990)
An enjoyable, if flawed, thriller, 5 April 2012
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I picked up this movie because it was paired with the movie Parents, which is spectacular. I had no particular interest in Fear, but I never turn down a horror movie.

The premise of this movie actually makes it sound much more boring than it is. It's handled pretty well, and I never felt like it was dull.

But the writing ignores some very basic things. Her abilities seem to vary throughout the movie. This isn't too bad, but her description of her powers does not reflect what she actually does.

But the thing that seriously bothered me was how much information she didn't share. She sees the tattoo that the killer has, and she never mentions it. She finds out where the killer is at that moment, and no one bothers to report it to the police? She even saw that a policeman was at that location, and all it would take is a few phone calls.

I don't mind these sorts of things, except that by not addressing them, the movie came across sloppy.

I have to praise the ending though. It would be typical to make it so the killer is someone we've seen periodically throughout the movie, but this one bucks that.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Watchable, but not much else, 2 April 2012
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The positive traits of this movie are largely technical. The sound is clear. The lighting is actually sort of pleasing, since they don't rely on shadow for tension. And the picture is entirely focused well. The pacing is perfectly fine. Despite the weaknesses of the movie, I rarely felt too distracted, and the story moved right along.

But those things said, this movie feels sort of like a restrained Uwe Boll movie. The plot is pretty straightforward, but there are reversals on reversals as the story moves further.

The enemy the team is facing seems to be the same black cloud that appeared in The House on Haunted Hill. But this time, they can fight it with fire extinguisher guns!

The plot doesn't bother me too much though, it just felt like an adaptation of a video game.

But what does play badly in this movie is that the cast is inadequate for the silliness of the script. By this I mean, the cast is probably just fine. But the script has so much comic-book dialogue that it's hard to play those lines and come across genuine. As a result, there are a lot of people who sound like they're acting as hard as they can.

The IMF team goes out on a fun note, 29 March 2012
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This episode feels a lot like they were trying to make an Indiana Jones-esque adventure. Either that, or something vaguely like Young Sherlock Holmes. But that's probably just since it's an Egypt themed episode.

A museum curator is secretly heading a cult which plans on taking over Egypt by killing political leaders, and thus "restoring her former greatness." So we get to see a guy dressed as a mummy, strangling people. There are some fun sets and props. Not as many gadgets.

I was pleased with one aspect of the script. They establish early on that their communicators have a hard time getting through the rock in the tombs. This came across as obvious foreshadowing. I was pleased that the information came into play twice in the episode.

The limited budget had a strange effect on the episode - several shots really looked like they were shot on video. Movement didn't seem natural, and during the big finish, they try to give the impression of an earthquake by shaking the frame. It's not convincing.

But still, it was a charming episode, even if it wasn't especially clever for Mission Impossible.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A pleasurable, if dated, update, 28 March 2012
8/10

When this series originally aired, I remember watching it with my father. I remember being enthralled by the gadgets.

Now that the series is available on DVD, in two sets, it was a pleasure to watch through the whole thing.

As an adult, I'm much more able to see the weaknesses the show had, but I also can appreciate some of the more responsible approaches that the show had, especially in the sense of being a largely peaceful team.

The budget isn't great. Some sequences appear to have been shot on video. Several episodes use stock footage, especially later ones.

The cast is remarkably attractive.

The area where the show falters is later in the first season, and during much of the second. The writing got lazy. The plots got more linear, more predictable. And in some cases, the gimmick for the episode got in the way of making a decent plot.

Another thing that gradually got on my nerves was the laziness in writing the opening scenes, when Phelps retrieves the mission. In many of these, he winds up retrieving the disc, and watching it, in a place much more public than usual. In one of them, he watches it on an amusement park ride, and we see people walking around in the background. Hardly a secure location.

I've been watching episodes from the original series, and while the writing was more careful, and better plotted, the biggest improvement that the 88 Mission Impossible had was the pacing. The episodes felt like they moved along very quickly.

This series is entirely worth watching. But, especially with the reliance on stock footage, the show looks far more dated than it should.


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