46 Reviews
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Hall of Shame
22 December 2016
If there was a Christmas themed film that failed to deliver any entertainment as completely as this one, I would like to know what it was.

I only watched it because I was unable to go somewhere else to see something on TV, and was pretty much stuck where I was.

I like Danny De Vito but he seemed to be wishing he were in some other movie here. I like Matthew Broderick but his character is kind of colorless. These actors were wasted in the movie and it is a shame. The other actors were lacking in appeal. I could not understand why any parent would think that maxing out his credit cards to do something as inane as decorating a house so brightly that it could be seen from space, at a time when he was fired from his job, would consider this a positive goal. Maybe he is just nuts. It was not a funny film in spite of or because of this theme.

Just bad.
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The Big Bang Theory (2007– )
Not just unfunny; actually harmful influence to young people wishing to pursue STEM careers
17 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Several people suggested I watch this series, so I saw three episodes. As I watched each one, wondering when I was supposed to laugh at its lame humor, my jaw began to drop more and more as the moments passed. My thoughts were: "are you scriptwriters kidding me?" These people are physicists. Being a physicist reaps some of the best and highest incomes among all the scientific fields, as soon as they finish college, and these so-called physicists share cramped, messy and impoverished looking quarters with other physicists?" Does anyone actually believe such a thing is even remotely realistic? I can tell you, the answer is no.

I am a scientist myself (not a physicist) and the stereotypical nerd characters in this series do not think, talk or live like any scientist I have ever met or worked closely with. 100 per cent of my colleagues have meaningful personal relationships and normal homes where yes, a good many of them raise families. Most participate in sports.

Not only is The Big Bang Theory not entertaining, I find it harmful in its potential to discourage some young people from pursuing science and math careers. If a young person is influenced into believing that these are typical scientists and they are sharing tiny and inferior looking domiciles with other scientists and having difficulties in sustaining relationships with other adults, are the young people going to think that being a scientist is a good choice for a career? After all, the TV says scientists are poor and weird. If there are no real scientists in these children's' lives to show them that the sitcom is pure fiction, the young viewers might actually believe the show.
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Born Free (1966)
A Great Film to See When You Need a Psychological Lift
26 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
George and Joy Adamson may not have been the first individuals to rehabilitate wild animals for release back into the wild, but they were certainly the first to garner world attention and inspire several hit books and a magnificent film.

The beautiful score by John Barry opens the film and carries the film-goer into the world of Kenyan game warden George Adamson and wife Joy, a seemingly idyllic world at first glance. They have problems, however, trying to maintain a realistic approach to wildlife and its inevitable conflicts with human desires and interests. In one such instance, they have to help lion cubs whose mother has been killed. (Minor spoiler)

They find homes in captivity for all but one, the smallest, whom they have named Elsa. George's supervisor says Elsa cannot stay with them and keeps setting deadlines for her to go to a zoo. Instead, the Adamsons make the momentous decision to teach her to be a wild lioness. It is a difficult and emotional experience for them.

Even if you don't care for big cats one way or another, you will enjoy this fine film worth sharing with the whole family.
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Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend Needs to Stay Lost
26 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The film is one of the rare ones that deals with the subject of dinosaurs in modern Africa. A brontosaurus like creature about the size of a grown hippopotamus has been rumored since the 1920s to live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Cameroon. Many expeditions have gone to the difficult to explore wetlands and rivers where it allegedly lives, only to return with no compelling evidence to show for their expensive efforts. A pretty good action-adventure film could be made in which a real dinosaur family is found. Unfortunately, what we get from Disney is boredom and a frustrating, hopelessly lame plot.

For example, our heroes, played by William Katt and Sean Young, with no help from anyone, find two 70-foot parent dinosaurs and their five foot long baby living in nice dry park-like land after less than one week of checking out the bush country, and all it takes to lure the big brutes is some food! These same heroes then drive the baby off when he pesters them as they are too busy kissing to worry about safeguarding this priceless discovery. He is promptly caught by the evil scientist Patrick McGoohan who wants to make a fortune from him. He had killed a man in an African city some months before to obtain his blurry photos of the dinosaurs. (No, I am not making this up.) Plot developments go from bad to worse as every major character makes bad decision after bad decision. Just labeling it a "kid movie" and excusing its flaws on that basis does not work in my book. Disney was releasing some poorly received fantasy movies in the mid 1980s and BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND was definitely in that group.
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Hell's Angels (1930)
Fascinating spectacle and human interest
29 December 2015
I'm glad that my fondness for Jean Harlow led me to see this amazing film. So many scenes haunt me from this film, especially the pilots, the night before a crucial bombing run, talking about the futility of worrying about whether or not they were going to die... they probably were... and the man who was accused of being "yellow" because he dared question why they were Over There to begin with .... the Germans taking orders from their commanding officer in the zeppelin (I won't tell you what they are so as not to place spoilers in my review). The plane crashes in the hillsides were real planes and they were really crashing. The score was great as well. One of the great war epics.
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Ghost Ship (1992)
So let me see if I have this right.. a sailing ship run aground in the middle of Nevada?
25 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Plus points: The cinematography and score were better than the norm for a typical 1990s "family" movie.

Minus points: Goofy idea of a ship run aground this far inland less than 200 years ago. High schoolers on an overnight science field trip with two teachers are looking in the Nevada desert for geodes. Because of a photo shop mistake two of the boys in the class, when going to pick up their prints, accidentally get hold of someone else's photos of a map showing a sailing ship buried in the sand. Now the boys want to beat the people who photographed the map to the treasure that is doubtless in the ship's hold. They decide to combine this geode expedition with a treasure hunt. Wow, the scriptwriter must be seriously hard up for ideas and believe that any viewer over the age of 8 is going to believe that the flooding of the Colorado River brought a ship as far inland as Nevada. I also have a quibble with language. There are several four and five letter words in a supposedly "family" film.
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Cats & Dogs (2001)
Wow, was this ever terrible!
24 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
If you like cats or dogs or both you may find a lot to dislike about this film. I love both cats and dogs. Why did I watch this, then? Because I was a guest at someone's home on Thanksgiving Day and they picked this DVD of all possible DVDs to show. I don't think the elderly lady matriarch of the family was any too pleased at the choice of film and probably wondered about her daughter's taste or lack of same. There were no other rooms to go to and no escape! Cats are not all evil and dogs are not all good. I think that is a terrible message for impressionable small children. Some of the cartoon violence against Mr. Tinkles the cat was disturbingly realistic from a distance. The special effects were a little too good.
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The Jungle Book (I) (1967)
The Kipling stories were 200 per cent better
17 November 2015
Like someone else who wrote a review of this film, I saw this at a drive in way back in the late 1960s and I, too, was displeased. I was only a kid, but kids know good art and bad art. It was too commercialized, and I sensed this. So what if Louis Prima sang some of the numbers? I did not know Louis Prima from Adam because I was not a sophisticated grown up. All I knew was the movie lacked heart.

The only good that came of my seeing this film was becoming interested in reading the original works by Rudyard Kipling. The difference was like night and day between the deep thoughts expressed in Kipling's stories of Mowgli and the Disney version. It also kind of soured me on all subsequent Disney movies, which even Pocahontas could not fully cure.
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996–2003)
27 August 2013
The first ten episodes of the series reminded me of the clever film from which the series sprang.

Dialogue was snappy and sprightly during those first ten or so episodes and the series did not take itself too seriously.

When the characters became bogged down by "layers" of complexity and had "dark" edges, I began losing interest. The series began to take on the uncomfortable impression of now being created by committee. Vapid stereotypes did not help. For instance, is it a prerequisite that Wiccans are lesbians? Do librarians have to be experts on every chapter in every book in their library collections? Do all vampires have to be good looking? The makeup for the vampires when they sprout their fangs was beyond bad. And the Buffy musical episode was cringe-worthy. The terrible lyrics still resonate through my cranium.

The only bright spot in a sea of stereotypes was the female demon who was afraid of bunnies.
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Underworld (2003)
27 August 2013
Some movies are a chore to sit through because they are one cliché after another. This was one of those.

Someone please tell me.. it was supposed to be a spoof. Right? No? All I remember are chases ... werewolves chasing vampires. Vampires chasing werewolves. In fast sports cars. In heels.

The pacing was as follows: Ten minutes of action followed by ten minutes of regrouping of the vampires in their "lairs" to plan and execute another series of attacks against the werewolves.

I suppose that all the fast cars and smashups and blood are supposed to give me a sense of suspense and tension. All I derived was boredom. There did not need to be vampires or werewolves in this picture. It would work nicely as a gang war movie. The plot was, barring the fantasy elements, the conflict of one gang against another. That was what I took away from the film. Somehow I suspect that the characters were supernatural rather than human to bring in the horror fans.
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Intriguing use of real time data collection in chemistry labs and in a laboratory working on communication with "departed hypothesized co-investigators"
17 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
In "The Life After Death Project" we get to see real time research on psychic phenomena by a serious scientist, Dr. Gary Schwartz, seeing the data gathered in the laboratory, something one rarely gets any access to in a televised documentary. I cannot say if this info is a "spoiler" or not, but I became interested in learning more about Dr. Schwartz' work when I saw this film so I looked him up on the Internet and found that a paper on this experimental regimen and some results was published in Explore, volume 6 number 3, May 2010. Explore is a peer reviewed scientific journal. Dr. Schwartz invites "departed hypothesized co-investigators" to participate in the experiments using a device that is currently used in biomedical imaging. Basically it's a device that detects minute amounts of light at the level of one or two protons, then graphs the light variations that are detected in the device when questions are asked. It's the device shown in this documentary.

The work Dr. Schwartz was carrying out in apparent communication with Forrest J Ackerman's spirit or mind, if you will, is intriguing enough but that was not the only interesting part, by any means. A strange inkblot that inexplicably showed up on an otherwise ordinary document at the filmmaker's house is what really started his whole quest for answers. The inkblot was to be analyzed by two top notch forensic chemists.

I liked the way Paul Davids hand delivered the document to the chemists as shown in the documentary.

Over the years I've read in various books accounts of odd paranormal occurrences that defy explanation like "blood stains" that will reappear after repeated scrubbing on the floor of a house where a murder allegedly took place, pastel paintings that lose their hues for no apparent reason, said colors then reappearing later, et cetera, but none of these were subjected to any rigorous scientific investigation that I can find and read for myself or see in a film and unfortunately I took them with a very large grain of salt for that very reason.

In "The Life After Death Project" we see scientific experimentation conducted upon something that would seem to fit that general class of occurrences: pigments that appear mysteriously and defy ordinary explanations.

Some other highlights include discussions with authors Richard Matheson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and accounts of odd phenomena other friends of Forrest J Ackerman experienced. Skeptic Michael Shermer offers his own opinions on the matter of survival of consciousness. "The grownups are in charge" in this film, and there is no sensationalism at all.
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Monster House (2006)
Ecchh... not good for children, not interesting to adults
2 October 2012
Parents: do not be fooled by the cute character animation. This is NOT an appropriate film for children under the age of 14. Little ones will be disturbed. The images are too intense and there is too much of them. In addition, the film teaches disrespect for police officers (they are incompetent and incapable of seeing a potential danger). The idea behind the house could have been worked into something much more clever and less predictable.

Adults and teenagers will probably find that the film dragged. Was it boring!!! Try something better for your children. I recommend Disney films; specifically, films from the 1970s and before, or perhaps the Francis the Talking Mule series. For horror, just about any of the classic Universal monster movies are fine for the little ones, especially Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, A & C Meet Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde, etc.
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The family patriarch is moving on, and the family hangs on...
9 April 2012
With "Before We Say Goodbye", Paul Davids has created a work that will only grow in popularity as the years pass. An Albuquerque, New Mexico father, Carlos, is dying, and his wife, who rarely travels, makes a special pilgrimage with the help of her sister to see the Virgin of Guadaloupe cloak at a special church in Mexico City. Here she will pray that her husband might not die. She does not know how she will keep going if he dies.

This film feels real throughout and the characterizations of the family members are memorable. The cinematography is excellent and you feel that you are right there with the family.
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I honestly do not know what the fuss is about with this film
18 August 2011
I tried to like this movie, I really tried, but the early scenes with the hobbits were dull and clichéd. Nothing interested me. The fireworks scene was trite. I have seen thousands of films, and so I feel I have the ability to evaluate a film based not on who directed it but how well it is paced, the quality of the film score and how the characters engage the viewer. This one was lacking in almost all departments save the special effects. The big battle between the two wizards during the first hour did nothing for me or my sister, who sat down to watch the DVD with me. We both got bored and turned the movie off after an hour. She read all the Lord of the Rings novels in college and told me that the film departed too much from the novels. I read The Hobbit when I was in high school and liked it. But I won't be bothering with any other Lord of the Rings films from Peter Jackson.
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Hank and Mike (2008)
Stale candy
24 March 2010
With its unusual premise of a company that owns all American holidays and hires seasonal employees to be Easter bunnies who have the difficult job of delivering chocolate eggs to kids in the middle of the night, this should have been a cute comedy but alas, it fell flat.

My sister and I believed the DVD blurbs about it being a clever satire of corporate America and tried to watch it. The vulgarity and the repetitive jokes made that too much of a chore. There is nothing funny about two chain smoking, junk food eating, depressed people who are out of work. It should have come as no surprise to either Mike or Hank, since they were abusive to their fellow employees and sexually harassed every woman in the office. Characters can be sympathetic losers if they are lovable losers (as Bobcat Goldthwait was in HOT TO TROT). We could stand about a half hour of HANK AND MIKE and no more. I was sorry I rented it and still am!
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Redneck caveman invades Maryland!
25 November 2009
It's silly and funny and entertaining, with implied rather than shown violence. A caveman is discovered in Iceland and a scientist has him shipped back to America in a block of ice. Naturally, there is an accident and the ice block falls off the ship and is last seen off the coast of Cape Henry, Virginia. The caveman is next seen running amok in West Virginia. How he got there is never explained.

I was especially amused at how the potbellied caveman who emerged from a glacier in Iceland wears a cheetah fur instead of... oh, I don't know... seal, maybe? And he knows how what a doorknob is and how to work it when he enters a science fiction convention hotel.

Conrad Brooks arrives in town on the Amtrak to work with the military and the local gendarmes. Clad in workmanlike Western clothes, his goal is to capture the Beast. Can he succeed? See the movie!
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Hey, Rookie (1944)
Morale Booster for the Nation at War
9 October 2009
I love this movie... it has funny bits of business and great songs like "I Hear Taps" and "You're Good For My Morale", sung by Larry Parks and Ann Miller. The story is about Jim Leighter (Parks), a producer of hit musicals, who enlists in the Army during wartime. He wants to forget about his ex sweetheart (Miller) who walked out on his last production. Leighter's C. O. at Fort MacArthur directs him to put on a show for the men and some visiting Army brass on two hundred and fifty dollars... in his spare time... and in three weeks. How will he do it, especially since his ex girlfriend has shown up to "help" him?

Joe Besser is a delight as "Pudge", a lazy "rookie" who pitches in to help. Besser later became one of the Three Stooges. Also appearing uncredited in the cast is Forrest J Ackerman, the famed "Mr. Science Fiction", in his very first cameo. Forry was the real life editor of the Fort MacArthur Bulletin/Alert that is shown in the picture.
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Utterly hilarious!
8 October 2009
"Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth", though vulgar in spots, offered small enough doses of vulgarity that they did not stop the humor from coming through. The "Scream" mask used by the villain of the piece was funny in context and the repeated scene where the teenagers vow "this NEVER happened" left me in a helpless state of laughter. The film does everything that a good parody should.

I have not even seen most of the (mostly dreadful) pictures this film lampoons, and now I don't have to because I now know all their clichés! It is almost as good as what Mel Brooks would have done if he directed a send up of the slasher genre.
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Red Velvet (2008)
Campy take off on the slasher genre
7 October 2009
The cinematography and music are excellent and real standouts in this parody of the slasher films that have dominated horror movies for many years. Henry Thomas is a screenwriter who takes a break from his work because of the screaming matches going on in the apartment across from his. In the laundromat down the block he sees the very girl (Kelli Garner) who has been arguing with her boyfriend in the apartment across the hall. They are antagonistic toward each other at first but before the second rinse cycle they agree to eat lunch together. To entertain her he tells her tales of the untimely demises of all her friends who are at this moment at a cabin deep in the woods, throwing a birthday party she could not attend because her boyfriend did not want her to go.

Later, she and the screenwriter take an impromptu drive up to that very cabin. I won't reveal any more of the plot, but suffice to say that the story is well written and the ending will shock you! "The Sci-Fi Guy" himself, "Mr. Monster", Forrest J Ackerman, has a cameo rather early on in this movie. Watch for him!
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King Kong (2005)
Peter Jackson does not understand the original movie, and so his remake was absurd
4 September 2009
Peter Jackson's "vision" of KING KONG makes me think of the Kong story as retold by a 17-year-old student whose main hobby is computer games and the XBox. The original fantasy film was a grand adventure tale that Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack called their own "dream" adventure... the sort of film-making expedition that they would have loved to have added to their impressive resume if it had only been possible.

In the original, Ann Darrow was NOT in love with the big ape. It was not a love story between a woman and a large endangered primate. That is an absurd plot. Even MIGHTY JOE YOUNG did not attempt such a plot line. KING KONG was a story of a lonely beast who tries to find some companionship with a female that is intelligent like him, and cannot because something always eats it or it tries desperately to escape him.

Then there is the childish attempt Jackson's film makes to "outdo" the RKO KING KONG by, for instance, having two carnivorous dinosaurs for the big ape to fight instead of one, and he never even had the opportunity to place Ann in a tree; he had to hold her the whole time! The spider pit sequence was so over the top, it was laughable. I haven't even discussed the trip to New York or what happened there. It was pretty ridiculous. That is all that really needs to be said.

Peter Jackson only managed to demonstrate for the second time in film history (the first one being the Dino de Laurentis remake) that the majority of filmmakers who attempt to remake the original fast paced roller-coaster ride of a film will make a s-l-o-w, unrealistic one. Even if there had never been a 1933 KING KONG, this 2005 version would have still been an exercise in yawning due to its lack of anything remotely real.
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Wild Beauty (1927)
Two horses, a man, and a war
1 March 2007
I was thoroughly impressed with this film, even though the DVD copy I obtained came from a mail order company that has done nothing to restore their print. I hope someone with the means and time to do so will take an interest. WILD BEAUTY was a Universal Jewel production. The hero of the film. Bill Moran(Hugh Allan)is an infantryman in World War I. He rescues a white Thoroughbred mare from a hastily abandoned château that both the Germans and the Americans want. Bill takes "Valerie" back to the United States after the War and is vexed that a wild stallion (Rex) tries to steal her for his herd.

There is the usual plot wherein the hero's girlfriend is in some sort of trouble. This time the trouble is caused by her father, who is somewhat of a gambling fool. The villains of the story want his land really badly and are pretty sleazy in the means by which they trick him to try to get it. The wild stallion character is the fulcrum by which the story is spring-boarded. Unlike contemporary films with plots similar to this one (see American BLACK BEAUTY), the action is nonstop and the plotting is relatively free from contrivance. Producers and scriptwriters of modern family films would do well to study silent films because they could learn a thing or two about pacing.
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Not bad!
3 April 2006
Far from being the worst movie ever made in the United States, this one is fun to watch, if only to laugh at its embarrassing gaffes and loopy characters. The plot is memorable and the actors.... well, shall we say, they are memorable too, in their way.

Bad films are films that have so much vulgarity you want to throw hard objects at the screen. They have excessive violence, disjointed plots, contrived dialogue, or an underlying promotion of mindless killing, sexism, racism or ecological destruction. Bad films are films whose plots you cannot even remember two weeks later, much less two years later. This is because the film was either so slipshod or so horrible you subconsciously blot it out of your mind.

PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE has none of these flaws which would place it in the "worst film" category, or even in the top 100 worst films category. I must have seen it four times by now. I can honestly say that most people I have met who have seen it have told me they liked it.
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Hot Dog (II) (1930)
Bad producer! Bad, bad!
21 September 2005
I love films of the era when "Hot Dog" was made, and my love for that time's motion pictures encouraged me to dig deeper into the history of the industry at that time. I learned that animals used in film had no advocates to prevent this sort of mistreatment. It was a good day when these shorts ceased production and I hope no country makes similar films today.

Watching these bloodhounds, Boston terriers and other precious living creatures in "Hot Dog" forced to bend their bodies into contorted positions and jerked around by wires while wearing clothes and "shooting" guns evokes pity for them (and disgust for the producers and directors) rather than amusement. I am so glad we now have the American Humane Association and other organizations who work closely with the filmmakers to monitor the use of animals in film and on television.
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Pretty, but one can get some false impressions from seeing it
28 July 2005
This film is very interesting and expensively mounted. I recommend it with a few caveats. For instance, the water ballets could not have looked the way they looked in the film because they simply did not have the electrical devices necessary in the 1910s and 1920s to create these effects. They did in the 1950s, of course.

Secondly, Annette's former flame, Mr. Sullivan, was not the guy who raised and trained Rin-Tin-Tin and got him started in Hollywood. For the life of me, I cannot understand why this was in the film. Lee Duncan, a former Army airman, was Rinty's owner and trainer, and as far as I know he had no connection to Annette. I don't know why 1950s biographical film had the tendency to do this sort of thing, but it is very common.
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Just strange
6 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
*Spoiler Ahead*

I love horses and nature and thought when I saw the DVD in the rental store, "Hmmm, this ought to be a good couple of hours." The first ten minutes were absolutely beautiful... wild horses gamboling in gorgeous animated scenery full of eagles, clouds, mountains, and prairie grasses.

Then the actual narrative started and the plot began to move into high strangeness. Not too surprisingly, horses are shown not with intelligent horse minds but human minds. "OK," I thought, "I guess I can handle that, it certainly is not the first film to give animals human minds, attitudes and viewpoints." I was disappointed, though, because Disney has made an industry out of same, and other non-Disney productions like Dreamworks could blaze a little new territory if they were willing (and obviously, they are not).

The strangeness kept coming. In one prolonged scene, Spirit enlists the aid of teams of horses used to lay the railway through the mountains to instead destroy it and the train manufacturing facility. The idea is to keep the trains from bringing more settlers west to ruin the land. What action could be more pointless and destructive? We all know that the railroad did come West, to the Pacific. Spirit's actions did nothing to help his land or his fellow horses. We see the liberated horses fleeing into the forest. What happened to them next? The film glosses over that. Horses living in a forest do not necessarily live happily ever after. For one thing, appropriate food is scarce.

I'm as ecologically conscious as the next person, probably more so, since it's my career. Couldn't Spirit have done something a tad more constructive to help preserve his native land and educate the humans, since he is so smart? What a missed opportunity.
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