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Awaken the Dead (2007)
Awful sums it up.
I tend to be undemanding with micro-budgeted horrors, especially when they are made by inexperienced filmmakers. I'm predisposed to look on the bright side, to excuse technical limitations, clunky scripts, plot holes, incompetent direction, bad acting, etc. Instead, I'll focus on the positives: the odd witty line of dialogue, a gripping plot, interesting characters, an unexpected exceptional performance, isolated pieces of directorial flair, surprisingly imaginative and effective special effects and stunt work, or even a well-chosen soundtrack. Things that show promise of future growth, of better movies down the line.
This movie contains none of these things. In fact, it may well be the worst movie I've ever managed to sit through from beginning to end. The barely competent direction and cinematography tries for style, but ends up pretentious and annoying. The grainy and colourless (almost monochrome) visuals don't seem to be the fault of technical limitations, but rather an aesthetic choice that simply doesn't work. The plot is senseless, the characters worthless clichés; the dialogue tries to be witty, but fails. The effects are unconvincing even when the budget is taken into account. There are no shocks, no scares, no laughs, no thrills of any kind. There are a lot of tracks on the soundtrack (in fact, much of the movie plays like a series of music videos), but they are uniformly lame. The acting never gets above adequate, and is often far below that level. You can tell that the three lead actors are better than their material, but there is nothing here for them to work with.
As bad as this movie is, I recognise that completing any kind of movie is very difficult, and I have to give the filmmakers credit for their effort. I wish them all the best for their careers. From here, the only way is up.
Mercury Rising (1998)
Killed by its own premise
This movie has one huge problem: *its basic premise makes no sense at all*. Killing the kid is in absolutely nobody's interest. His codebreaking skill would be of immeasurable value to the very people who are trying to kill him, while safeguarding the code without killing him would be fairly straightforward. This is so obvious that it essentially ruins the whole movie.
The rest of the movie is OK if you ignore that problem. The performances are generally good, and Miko Hughes is excellent as Simon. There is nothing here you haven't seen a dozen times before, but it's generally well done. It's not worth making any real effort to see this movie, but you probably won't have a bad time if you do.
Shakespeare in... and Out (1999)
A surprisingly charming movie
Before you view this Troma-distributed mockumentary, it's easy to imagine that you are about to see a bawdy, campy, semi-ironic soft porn movie. If that is the movie you want to see, then you will be disappointed. However, what you will see is a gentle, charming story that, despite its porn industry setting, contains surprisingly little gratuitous nudity.
This is not a wacky, laugh-a-minute comedy; rather, Writer/Director Peter Shushtari has chosen to take the route of low-key comedy-drama. The cast of little-known actors deliver performances which fit perfectly into the mock-documentary style, as does the funny but believable dialogue. This movie is well worth your time.
Will & Grace (1998)
This show always has lots of good jokes and quotable lines, but I can take it or leave it. I will watch it if there is nothing better on, but it never really engaged me. The reason? Every single character is a vain, shallow narcissist, and nothing else. You never really believe that they really care about each other; and if they don't, why should we? Compare with shows like *Friends* or *Frasier*, where you get involved in the characters lives, and actually make an emotional investment in them. This doesn't happen in *Will & Grace*. They deliver the lines, you laugh (or don't), and that's all.
Good Old-fashioned Fun
Despite being released in 2001, this is a mid-'80s Comedy-Horror movie, like *Fright Night* and *Night of the Creeps*. I don't mean that it is a tribute to mid-1980s Comedy-Horror movies, or a pastiche of mid-'80s Comedy-Horror movies, I mean it *is* a mid-'80s Comedy-Horror movie! It has the same kind of humour, the same kind of plot and dialogue, and the same kind of cast as those movies. Its also so low-budget that it's not even filmed in Canada, another thing that has been rare since the mid-1980s. If you loved the aforementioned movies, you will love this movie. At the same time, despite what I've just written, it doesn't *feel* like an exercise in '80s nostalgia. This is a very enjoyable movie, and, if it wasn't for some gratuitous nudity and strong language, an ideal family movie. Still, I did like the gratuitous nudity...
Bruce Almighty (2003)
Wait for this one to hit cable
Watching this movie was a strange experience. I both enjoyed it, and felt like asking for my money back. The 1st half hour or so is just a compilation of "Jim Carrey's greatest hits", he just recycles his old jokes, catchphrases and facial expressions. It gets a little better when he starts to come to terms with the consequences of having God's powers, but the ending is predictable, saccharine in the extreme, and, worst of all: Not funny. If you see it, you will laugh a lot. However, you will laugh just as hard when they show it on cable next year.
15 Minutes (2001)
This movie is hugely enjoyable, but it completely fails to hit any of its satirical targets. I think this is mainly due to the fact that THERE IS NOT A SINGLE PLAUSIBLE SCENARIO, OR A CHARACTER WHOSE ACTIONS MAKE ANY SENSE. This is a major problem for a movie that aims to comment on modern American society. You can't even argue that the makers aimed to make their point through exaggeration, the tone is wrong. While there are some moments of (intentional) comedy, this is clearly meant to be a "serious" thriller, about a "serious" subject, i.e. the role and responsibilities of The Media in society. If this was a wacky, *Dr Strangelove*-style satirical comedy, everything would fit just fine. If this was a fantasy, full of magical powers and mythical creatures, we could suspend our disbelief. But the characters in this movie are supposed to inhabit this world, and they just don't. Therefore, you just can't let the absurdities past, and you spend the whole movie thinking "they wouldn't do that", or "he wouldn't say that", or "that just wouldn't happen". In addition to this, the dialogue and exposition are just plain bad. However, *15 Minutes* is a lot of fun, and would make a good double bill with *Rising Sun* (which much of this review would fit just as well).
Ai no korîda (1976)
This movie is beautifully shot, beautifully directed; full of great costumes, locations and period detail; and the dullest thing I have ever seen. The pace of this film is very slow indeed. Slow is not necessarily the same as boring (see *Ride With The Devil*), but it doesn't help. The much-talked-about sex scenes are devoid of passion, a major handicap for a study of sexual obsession. Like most of its French-Arthouse-Movies-With-Hardcore-Sex-Scenes cousins (it's a Japanese/French co-production), it is not remotely erotic, and has nothing very interesting to say about sex and relationships. If you want to be aroused, watch a good porno (believe it or not, they do exist). If you want a good Japanese period drama, you have dozens to choose from. If you suffer from insomnia, watch this.