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31 reviews in total 
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Venom (2005)
not a bad idea gone way wrong, 6 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I never intended to see Venom, but I caught it on cable. It does have good elements. The Louisiana swamp atmosphere for one, something we will unfortunately not see so much of in movies because of Hurricane Katrina. It is based on an interesting concept, a regular man imbued with the spirits of evil. His confrontation with his son could have been interesting, as could much of the movie. But as tends to happen in Hollywood, an interesting idea goes down a familiar direction:

Kill off all the characters save the good girl, starting with the Black guys. I'm a fan of Agnes Bruckner, but the other characters, the villain's afore-mentioned son, CeCe who must become a voodoo priestess, are more interesting. And for the love of God, just once I would like to see the virgin get killed. We all like the easy girl, why can't she live? In this case it was Bijou Phillips, and we love her.

The ending made no sense considering what had been established about the villain's invincibility. All the carnage and atmosphere, and it leads to nothing.

Bulworth (1998)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
enjoyable with a flaw, 6 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bulworth cracked me up throughout. Bulworth speaking at the Black church is especially entertaining. Warren Beatty gave one of the best performances of his career. This is also a political film, which brings up a flaw.

It is not by any means that this movie cannot forward a Liberal point of view. Beatty, like all Americans, has the right to express his beliefs. But I am an American as well, and I can express mine.

The flaw is that the only person you ever get to hear from is Warren Beatty. Those who disagree with him are silent and ineffectual. One particular scene of note is Bulworth's television interview, in which he was supposed to debate others. Among them is Steve Forbes, and there is stock footage of Forbes just sitting there. Beatty went on a rant, took a dig at Forbes and the others, and Forbes is just seen being silent and impotent.

To me, the true test of any political film is, are you willing to allow the other side to be articulate? In Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, Lee's own view is made clear, but there are other characters offering counter-balance. Do the Right Thing is ambivalent, allowing viewers to sort out for themselves what is right. Even The Green Berets had a Liberal reporter following along.

Bulworth is worth seeing, very entertaining, and its political views are worth considering, but it must be seen in the context of pushing one political view. Yes, Conservatives do it too, but they are not able to do it nearly on the level of Hollywood.

Mirrormask (2005)
destroying someone's world, 6 August 2007

Yes, this is very much like The Wizard of Oz, among other things, but Mirrormask is much better and much deeper. Don't get me wrong, I love The Wizard of Oz, but I don't think Dorothy grew too much as a person, other than realizing there's no place like home. And I'm sorry, but I think Stephanie Leonidas is a better actress than Judy Garland.

Mirrormask is about growing up, and teenage rebellion, and very much about mothers and daughters, and the difficulty of one losing the other. There is the line in it 'But you can't run away from home without destroying someone's world'. This is literally true in the context of the movie, but it was later that the meaning of it hit me.

I'm usually against over-analyzing movies, and maybe Neil Gaiman and David McKeen did not intend this, but the line I think means you cannot leave a loved one without destroying that person's world. Your mother, father, friends, are too involved with you.

The mirrormask concept was more integral to the story than I thought, it was not just about finding it but about what it can do. The scene where it is put into use is as magical as you would expect.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
good enough, 22 April 2007

I didn't see Kull when it first came out, not a fan of the Hercules TV show, or all the over-ironic self-parodies of the time, save Scream. But after becoming a fan of Robert E. Howard, and reading the original Kull stories, I decided to check it out.

Dare I say it, I liked it better than the John Milius Conan the Barbarian. Kull the Conquerer, parodic though it was, still used more elements from the actual Kull stories, right down to character names. Taligaro, Zareta, although no Brule, maybe they were saving him for a planned sequel. Plot elements were there as well, including the famed line 'By this Axe I rule!' The characters speak in hip modern dialogue, part of the joke. Usually, this kind of thing gets on my nerves. But thinking about it, in Howard's stories characters were always articulate. In the John Milius/Oliver Stone scripted Conan movie it was apparently decided that because the characters were barbarians they...must...speak...very...slowly. At least in Kull we have complete sentences.

Kull is still a very loose adaptation, but I found myself having fun during many of the fight scenes. From what I've heard, the new Conan movie in development is to be more loyal to Robert E Howard's work. I hope so. Until then, Kull, surprising as it is, will have to do.

34 out of 89 people found the following review useful:
racist and overrated, 22 April 2007

I've never been that interested in seeing this movie, but I finally decided to watch it, to see what the deal was. In the opening scroll, as it described the glories of the Old South, it spoke of 'Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave...' My mouth hung open. I couldn't believe it was so overt about slavery. I expected it to circumvent the issue, much like The Patriot and Cold Mountain today. Instead Gone with the Wind glorified slavery, right in the opening act a character decries the North for telling them they can't have slaves.

We see Black children fanning napping White women, an abhorrent image. Blacks working in the cotton fields seem to be having the time of their lives. In the post-Civil War years, the character of Ashley talks of how well-treated he treated slaves, never mind that they were human beings treated as property. Ashley saying he would have freed them is a nice way to evade what he was.

As days went by and I couldn't get Scarlett always saying 'fiddle-dee-dee' out of my head, I realized I also hated this movie as a movie. As so many old movies, it was completely overacted. The colors were too good for their own good, bright to the point of being fake. The more realistic colors of today are a vast improvement over the gaudy colors of old.

I will admit Scarlett's escape with woman and child as Atlanta burns was well done. There is room for moral complexity in this movie. People fighting on the wrong side still have romantic entanglements, and still are devastated by the effects of war. Rhett and Scarlett could be seen as flawed characters not just because of personality but because of racism. But there is not much room for moral complexity in Gone with the Wind, it takes a clear stand.

Unlike DW Griffith's Birth of a Nation, Gone with the Wind does not have the KKK riding in as heroes in the last act, instead its last act was tedious and overly weepy. However its portrayal of Reconstruction South was not much different than Birth of a Nation, with Blacks as either newly wealthy bullies or animalistic rapists of White women.

Gone with the Wind does have important technical and artistic innovations, but so did Birth of a Nation. The difference is that with Birth of a Nation there is no separation. You cannot talk about Griffith's innovations without talking about his abhorrent politics. Gone with the Wind seems to get a free pass. The majority of IMDb reviews do not talk much about the racism. I found the usual digs at CGI in today's movies to carry an irony. The CGI alien character of Jar-Jar Binks is reviled as a racial stereotype, where as the flesh-and-blood racial stereotypes of Gone with the Wind are mostly ignored.

What is most shocking is that to this day liberal Hollywood, and liberal critics, celebrate Gone with the Wind as a masterpiece, while ignoring and apologizing for its overt racism, which went beyond the usual stereotypes of the time, but in fact idealized the slave-owning South. How can this be?

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The circle is complete, 17 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I admit, I am the heretic who likes the Prequel Trilogy, even as much as the original.

In my review of Attack of the Clones, I had said that love was the driving force that pushes Anakin to the dark side. This continues in Revenge of the Sith, completing the arc, but it was Anakin's relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi that struck me as the most interesting. In Episode II they were friends, with some tense moments, but it is in Episode III that we see the full strength of their friendship, and that makes its collapse all the more tragic.

Obi-Wan lets Anakin have his moment of glory after Palpatine's rescue, sincerely happy for his friend. Their conversation before Obi-Wan leaves to hunt General Grievous is a moment to remember, the last time the two have kind words to say to each other. It is unfortunate that Lucas edited in Hayden Christensen as the force ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi. Along with not making any sense (Why do Obi-Wan and Yoda look the same age as they were at death but not Anakin?) we lose the sense of the friendship rekindled.

The final duel in Revenge of the Sith is perfect. Anakin's sheer hate for Kenobi is the most profound case of friends becoming enemies. Obi-Wan versus Vader in A New Hope looks clumsy by comparison, which was the idea, they are not what they once were. In Revenge of the Sith we see them in all their fury. Obi-Wan, not as powerful as Anakin, has the patience and wisdom to defeat Anakin's brute strength.

The first lines spoken by Darth Vader with the James Earl Jones voice threw me off at first, but it all makes sense. The last thing Anakin said in the Darth Vader voice was something human to his son Luke. It is appropriate that the first Darth Vader lines would be something human as well.

For that matter it is interesting in Revenge of the Sith to see Anakin propose to Padme what he later proposed to his son Luke, that they rule the Galaxy together. Padme, like Luke, was too smart for it, knowing such power would be corrupting, and unable to see a loved one become so evil.

The Original Star Wars Trilogy was essentially a post-apocalyptic story, of a galaxy where all was in ruin. Watching the beautiful fairy-tale world of The Phantom Menace be destroyed was the idea of the Prequel Trilogy. The deaths of the Jedi, the deaths of the children, even the deaths of the evil Separtatists were disturbing images. All Anakin's good intentions lead him to evil, and that is as stunning a thing to watch as any of the movie's special effects.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Good and better than the first, 17 July 2005

Whenever stars are selling sequels, they always brush off the original. 'Okay the first one sucked, but this one is actually good.' I actually liked the first one, and I really wanted to see this one, but I still went in somewhat skeptical. In this case it actually did turn out to be better than the original. The first Tomb Raider was a well-made action movie, but I would not put it on the level of The Matrix or Hard-Boiled. The Cradle of Life actually does stand with those movies, dramatic with good characters.

The story was fascinating, and Angelina was great as usual, as was every outfit she wore, especially the silver wet suit. I'd been following Gerard Butler's career for a few years, since his turn in the mostly forgettable Dracula 2000. He almost steals the show as the Han Solo figure. His character is in every way equal to Lara Croft. They work perfectly off of each other, and their fate is just the cathartic ending I look for in any movie. And I love the soundtrack.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Left very disturbed, 17 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had plenty of things to work out with this movie, but strangely enough not political. Yes, the romance amidst the Cambodian crisis seemed too much, and yes no one ever seems to want to do a movie from the point of view of a refugee, only the White Westerners trying to help them. In real life Angelina Jolie is sincere about wanting to help people, but her character in the movie does seem self-focused, doing things out of her own guilt. And the plot did seem disjointed.

But it was the ending that stayed with me. I had to think about it for one, to figure out why she did what she did after stepping on the landmine. If she just waited, Clive Owen's character would get to her and die as well. If she told him she had stepped on a landmine, he would have very definitely gotten to her and died as well. She sacrificed herself for him, knowing it was too late to save herself. I admit it was unrealistic that the Chechen rebels would want him but ignore the wealthy American woman. But the emotional resonance made its way over the logic. Such a thing as a pretty woman being blown up by a landmine could easily be melodramatic, but somehow it was tragic, at least from my point of view.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Brilliant Kubrick, 17 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One thing I have to get out of the way is that I did not like the first half of 2001. I know that's blasphemy to many, but I'm an avid Star Wars fan who's heard nothing but complaints about Star Wars, so give me this one. I dislike the Blue Danube Waltz. It's the classical music equivalent of bubblegum pop. All the ship movements and people walking on the ceiling is just gratuitous special effects, ironic since most hold 2001 up as sci-fi movies that does not rely on pointless fx.

But it's the second half where the movie comes alive. We get to know these characters, the humans and HAL the computer. The scene where HAL watches the astronauts talk about its mistakes is haunting. The machine is suffering from human paranoia, and as in any psycho movie, we see the frail character act out violently.

It is as David is sneaking back unto the ship to shut down HAL that Kubrick's slow pace works perfectly. David must be meticulous, the slightest mistake and he will die. His breathing and his careful actions make up one of the most intense scenes ever.

Then the finale, going through the stargate. If you didn't know this was a 1960's movie before, you would know it from this scene. It is haunting and beautiful. No, like most people, I don't quite get the scenes of David as an old man on another planet, eating dinner. But there's always been something interesting to me about people in the far reaches of space doing very normal things in normal-looking, places. I can't quite put it into words. The loneliness of the scene is a fascinating thing.

I could analyze the ending, 'the Star Baby represents the id' but that kind of thing has never been important to me as a viewer. It's the dramatic resonance of 2001, and the glorious music finale, that leaves me with something positive, a plot that starts out simply enough and veers into something larger, a regular human in the midst of a grand universe.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Not so great, 17 July 2005

Usually with a movie like this the complaint would be that it's too slow. But in Cold Mountain, things really move too quickly. I did not have much time to know these characters and build empathy. Jude Law's character survived so long because of so many people helping him, but he never seems to care about this. He was supposed to be broken down on his journey, but apathy by others would do this. Some people were uncaring, but so many were kind.

The scenes with Natalie Portman, the strongest in the movie, also show its weakness. She helps him and he just leaves her. 'Good luck with the sick baby, but I've got to get back to Cold Mountain. My girlfriend's there with that dude from The White Stripes.' Speaking of whom, Jack White is another of the film's strengths, along with all of the music. The soundtrack was good throughout.

Renee Zellweger on the other hand is simply annoying. And she won an Oscar? Holly Hunter was robbed! The movie simply seemed disjointed. Usually I love barren, gray scenery, but in this case it did nothing for me. And how is it that Liberal Hollywood keeps making movies sympathizing with the slave-owning South. From Gone with the Wind to The Outlaw Josey Wales to Cold Mountain, Glory being a notable exception, the Confederates are the heroes, or at least the ones who are supposed to hold our sympathies. Yes, most people in the South did not have slaves, but they were pro-slavery and wanted to keep it that way. And Hollywood seems fine with this.

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