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rbsjrx

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71 reviews in total 
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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Guilty pleasure, perhaps..., 17 May 2009
9/10

...but I really love this movie! It's a pity this was released on the coattails of "Home Alone", since it's inevitably perceived as a knock-off. But the comparison is really unfair. "Home Alone" featured McCauley Culkin as annoying, precocious, and self-sufficient far beyond his years. The criminals who were his foils were reminiscent of The Three Stooges in their ineptitude. The one quality both Culkin and the criminals shared was a being mean spirited to some degree.

Baby Bink in "Baby's Day Out" is a true innocent who survives on luck while remaining adorably unaffected. His criminal foils are more reminiscent of Laurel & Hardy than The Three Stooges - cleverer and more subtle. In this case, the quality shared by Baby Bink and the criminals is innocence and an underlying decency.

The supporting cast is superb, led by Joe Mantegna in one of his best comic roles.

If you're not too jaded to appreciate it, I highly recommend this movie.

Jaws (1975)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Iconic but still less than the sum of its parts, 3 January 2009
8/10

"Jaws" is an iconic American film, as pervasive within its generation as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "Star Wars", "The Godfather", or "2001: A Space Odyssey". However, it remains a flawed film.

So, what's good about it that it achieved icon status? The cast could hardly be better with Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw all at the top of their game. John Williams' score is just about perfect. The dialog and pacing are uniformly excellent for a top-notch thriller.

So where does it fall down? First of all, the animatronic shark is somewhat anticlimactic and generally unbelievable. Fortunately, it doesn't get much screen time and what it has doesn't leave the audience too much time to think. And that brings us to the second problem. Spielberg failed to achieve the suspension of disbelief that the film requires. Although the audience doesn't have quite enough time to see the holes in the plot or the shabbiness of the FX, both are lurking in the viewers' collective subconscious.

Everyone should see "Jaws" at some point in their lives, but I can understand those from later generations wondering what the big deal was.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Almost a 10, 8 December 2008
9/10

Burn Notice is that most rare and refreshing of TV shows - one with truly clever scripts that doesn't assume the viewers have millisecond attention spans and the IQs of ornamental shrubbery! More than being simply an entertaining actions show with undercurrents of humor, it is also a showcase of the ways that most action shows may be criticized - one that proves that "intelligent" and "realistic" can be paired with "entertainment" without creating an oxymoron.

So, why not 10 out of 10? Simple - none of the characters are all that likable. This is, I suppose, a side effect of the show's attention to realism. Still, there are simply too many character flaws to really root for everyone. Michale Westin (our hero) is a realistic spy - which is to say someone who can easily blend in and be overlooked. His mother? I find myself rooting for her to succumb to her multi-pack per day smoking habit. His brother is pretty much a waste of groceries and best left unmentioned. His bast friend Sam (the always excellent Bruce Campbell) is the only character to strike just the right balance. His erstwhile girlfriend is OK, but I can't help but wonder why he'd ever be attracted to her.

In short, recommended, but I have to say I admire it a little more than I like it. That doesn't stop me from being a regular viewer, but it does keep it from being an all-time fave.

"Leverage" (2008)
51 out of 79 people found the following review useful:
Generally positive, but the jury's still out, 8 December 2008
8/10

I could tell from the trailers that Leverage would be the kind of show I'd enjoy - good guys vs. bad guys without the ambiguity of the legal system to get in the way. It did indeed deliver on that promise. It was cleverly paced and scripted and populated with interesting, likable characters.

So why is the jury still out? The short answer is that I DVR'ed it and watched it more than once.

Although it's slick, the script had holes it just hoped you wouldn't notice. When compared to a show with really clever scripts (e.g. Burn Notice), I found too many "wait a minute" moments - places where your successful suspension of disbelief depends on the viewer's short attention span or lack of reasoning ability. I won't drop spoilers to name some of the more obvious ones - if anyone doesn't notice them, who am I to point them out?

There's a lot of talent in this series. I only hope that in the future they allow the scriptwriters a little more time to work out the kinks before shooting.

Depth Charge (2008) (TV)
10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
UInder Siege, underwater, underwhelming, 2 September 2008
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In "Under Siege", a group of terrorist/extortionist wackos hijack a battleship and threaten devastation with a nuclear cruise missile. Unknown to the bad guys, they don't completely get rid of the crew and the hero (Steven Seagal) kills them off in reverse order of billing.

In "Depth Charge", it's a submarine rather than a battleship, Trident missiles rather than cruise missiles, and pair of generic white and black guys as the heroes. The only big names were Eric Roberts (villain) and Barry Bostwick (president), both of whom I noticed were missing from the credits list.

As a TV movie, I might have given it a 5 or 6 for most of the show. However (and here comes the spoiler) I bumped it down to a 2 because of the ending. The script was passable and the performances reasonable (we won't go into the plot), but the direction was terrible - an example of paint-by-numbers direction! Toward the end, it got rushed which made the big climax anticlimactic. Worse, there was one bad guys left alive on the ship who's conveniently ignored as the two heroes congratulate each other on a job well done.

I really wanted to throw things at the screen because of the director's incompetence! AVOID!!!

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A standout in the world of 70's clichéd disaster movies, 23 August 2008
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The 70's were rife with disaster movies. All were formulaic and most were pretty bad. Aside from the formula, they were bad because they hung flimsy plots and characterizations on spectacle and hoped we wouldn't notice. Two that stood apart for me were "The Cassandra Crossing" and "The Towering Inferno". "The Towering Inferno" was among the most technically silly of the bunch, but it had some good performances to redeem it. "The Cassandra Crossing" took a different tack, eschewing spectacle to tell a good tale.

Another hallmark of 70's disaster films were the roster of capable performers who weren't current A-listers. "The Towering Inferno" broke the mold with a number of A-list talents. "The Cassandra Crossing" followed the trend but made up for it with shrewd, savvy casting choices. Richard Harris spent a lot of time flirting with A-list status, but never rose above an A- despite his talent. Sophia Loren is a classic, but this film was made when she was getting old enough that the studio suits considered her a relic. Obviously, Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster were past their career peaks, but still capable of turning in a better performance that the material could justify. And with only a little screen time, Lee Strasberg delivers a master's class portraying the (minor spoiler) Heroic Sacrifice character.

The two weakest characters were cast for obvious reasons that had nothing to do with the film - O.J. Simpson at the height of his celebrity, Ann Turkel because she was married to Richard Harris. Another interesting point is the international flavor of the cast. Ingrid Thulin, in particular turns in a memorable performance.

The plot is a mishmash of terrorists, government conspiracies, with a central plot device that anticipated "Speed" by 17 years. As with most disaster movies, the plot is almost incidental. We know going in that some characters will die, others will live, but disaster will be narrowly or partially averted. As in all disaster movies, it's the journey rather than the destination that's important. "The Cassandra Crossing" takes us on a better than average trip.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A(nother) review of two films, 20 August 2008
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This review is of both "Secondhand Lions" and "Big Fish". Both films share common themes, but develop them in different ways. Although both have been out long enough to be seen on TV and DVD, still this review does contain minor spoilers for both.

Both films deal with boys growing into manhood with male parent figures who are notable for telling tall tales. Both are feel good movies with bittersweet endings where the children have grown up and the parents die at the end. But the devil is in the details and despite such similar plot synopses, these films could hardly be more different.

In "Secondhand Lions", which I consider to be the superior film of the two, the father figures are two uncles of the protagonist with a secret related to their seemingly endless supply of money. In "Big Fish", the father figure is the biological father of the protagonist.

The essential difference in the two is honesty. In "Big Fish", the tall tales are just that - stories with a grain of truth (which is revealed at the end), but which the dad exaggerates into fantastic lies. The dad, a big-mouthed salesman, spouts his tales as naturally as breathing - and just about as often. In "Secondhand Lions", the uncles are quite taciturn and only tell their stories to the boy after being prodded, and then over a period of time. Not surprisingly, by the end of the film, you learn that the tales were essentially all true.

"Secondhand Lions" has a lot of heart and is based on characters you can believe in and admire. "Big Fish" is nothing more than a film which preaches tolerance of lies if they make someone feel good.

The performances in both films are first-rate, but "Big Fish" is handicapped by the fact that it is ultimately a fantasy. The cast of "Big Fish" also lacks the depth of talent on display in "Secondhand Lions". While "Big Fish" contains some standout performances, "Secondhand Lions" features Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, Halley Joel Osment, and Kyra Sedgwick at the top of their games. I really liked all the principle characters in "Secondhand Lions", but the characters in "Big Fish" were either not particularly likable or were fantasy caricatures so it was hard to feel much of anything for them.

I own both DVDs and enjoy both films from time to time, but "Secondhand Lions" is a personal favorite. I watch it about three times as often as "Big Fish".

Big Fish (2003)
A(nother) review of two films, 20 August 2008
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This review is of both "Secondhand Lions" and "Big Fish". Both films share common themes, but develop them in different ways. Although both have been out long enough to be seen on TV and DVD, still this review does contain minor spoilers for both.

Both films deal with boys growing into manhood with male parent figures who are notable for telling tall tales. Both are feel good movies with bittersweet endings where the children have grown up and the parents die at the end. But the devil is in the details and despite such similar plot synopses, these films could hardly be more different.

In "Secondhand Lions", which I consider to be the superior film of the two, the father figures are two uncles of the protagonist with a secret related to their seemingly endless supply of money. In "Big Fish", the father figure is the biological father of the protagonist.

The essential difference in the two is honesty. In "Big Fish", the tall tales are just that - stories with a grain of truth (which is revealed at the end), but which the dad exaggerates into fantastic lies. The dad, a big-mouthed salesman, spouts his tales as naturally as breathing - and just about as often. In "Secondhand Lions", the uncles are quite taciturn and only tell their stories to the boy after being prodded, and then over a period of time. Not surprisingly, by the end of the film, you learn that the tales were essentially all true.

"Secondhand Lions" has a lot of heart and is based on characters you can believe in and admire. "Big Fish" is nothing more than a film which preaches tolerance of lies if they make someone feel good.

The performances in both films are first-rate, but "Big Fish" is handicapped by the fact that it is ultimately a fantasy. The cast of "Big Fish" also lacks the depth of talent on display in "Secondhand Lions". While "Big Fish" contains some standout performances, "Secondhand Lions" features Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, Halley Joel Osment, and Kyra Sedgwick at the top of their games. I really liked all the principle characters in "Secondhand Lions", but the characters in "Big Fish" were either not particularly likable or were fantasy caricatures so it was hard to feel much of anything for them.

I own both DVDs and enjoy both films from time to time, but "Secondhand Lions" is a personal favorite. I watch it about three times as often as "Big Fish".

14 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Ignore the reviews, make up your own mind, 9 August 2008
7/10

I almost didn't see this in the theater due to all the bad reviews. What changed my mind was Roger Ebert giving it a rare positive review. Since I agree with Ebert more than most critics, I decided to go see it.

I have to say that none of the reviews or comments I've read tell the whole picture, IMHO. Neither Ebert's praise nor other critics' pans are entirely appropriate. Lets' start with the basics... "The Mummy" was a modern retelling of a 30's "B" monster movie with up to date FX. It wasn't great drama, but it was a rousing thrill ride that capably did its job of entertaining you if you weren't too picky about plot, etc. The two sequels have continued this tradition. I'd rate this as inferior to the original but slightly superior to "The Mummy Returns".

Much has been made about the casting of Maria Bello in the role originated by Rachel Weisz. While I'm not a Rachel Weisz fanboy, she is a very capable actress and I just don't believe Ms. Bello was up to the role. There is simply no chemistry between Bello and Brendan Fraser. There are basically only two legitimate reasons to make a sequel: 1) either there are loose ends to tie up, or 2) people really like the characters and want to see more of them. Each film in the Mummy franchise ties up its own loose ends, so the producers are risking commercial suicide to change the characters in any significant way. If they couldn't get Rachel Weisz, they should have been much more careful in recasting the role. There's very little physical resemblance between the two actresses, and Ms. Bello simply doesn't seem to have the acting chops to carry it off. That unfortunate casting choice casts a pall over the whole enterprise - but not enough to sink it.

Some have criticized the film because they don't believe that Brendan Fraser looks old enough to have a son Luke Ford's age. That's arguable (all of the holdover cast is starting to show their age - especially John Hannah) but, again, it's not a deal-breaker.

OTOH, the secondary roles are excellent. Michelle Yeoh and Isabella Leong are excellent while Jet Li gives another great performance as the evil emperor. Luke Ford is somewhat bland, though, and doesn't appear to be a good candidate to carry the franchise into the future.

The CGI FX are generally excellent but nothing we haven't seen in the first two films. The exception to this are the yetis! With only a few minutes of screen time, they pretty much steal every scene they're in. Where the FX do seem lacking is in imagination, scale, and scope when compared to the previous two films. Perhaps that's because more of the action in the previous films took place in dark, claustrophobic settings, while here many of them are in brightly lit sunlight. The battle scenes in particular suffer in the inevitable comparison to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Was this film made principally to milk the franchise? Almost certainly, but then so was "The Mummy Returns". But that doesn't mean it fails on its own terms. It is entertaining and supplies much of the same appeal as its predecessors. If you can watch it on those terms and if Maria Bello's casting isn't too disappointing to you, then go see it - you may have a good time. I did.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Just barely within the tolerance level for real arachnophobics, 27 July 2008
8/10

Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias, and one of the strongest among those subject to it. I tend to be one of those and so have never much enjoyed horror films featuring giant or menacing spiders. Although I was uncomfortable during "Arachnophobia", it was tolerable. This and "Eight Legged Freaks" are my two favorite spider films.

"Arachnophobia" benefits from an excellent script, great casting, uniformly good performances, and the injection of enough comic relief to calm anyone from getting too uncomfortable. Jeff Daniels is as reliable as ever, but it's John Goodman's gung-ho exterminator character that balances what would otherwise be a really uncomfortable movie. This isn't to say that it's light entertainment, as was "Eight Legged Freaks". It's not, it's a real horror film. But it will only make you squirm, not run for the theater exit.


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