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The Last American Virgin (1982)
The Last American Virgin is an odd product of its time.
This is not an easy film to review. On the one hand, The Last American Virgin is an obvious cash grab. It's a teen comedy with plenty of female nudity, something that was seemingly popular with audiences back in the early-1980s. This not only speaks about the ongoing degeneration of Western culture but also about what people generally enjoy watching now - mainly nudity, horror and fantasy. So, The Last American Virgin sort of follows the Porky's (1981) formula, but with considerably less style and imagination. I'm thinking that the title too was chosen simply to attract male viewers. And don't forget about those jeans with an open zipper on the film's poster. On the other hand, the two leading actors, Lawrence Monoson and Diane Franklin, deliver good performances, especially in scenes dealing with love and heartbreak. The coming-of-age drama featuring their characters is like a different film within this film. The cast is made up mostly of Jewish-American actors, and director Boaz Davidson is from Israel. The Last American Virgin is a remake of Davidson's 1978 film Lemon Popsicle. Davidson teamed up with Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus of Cannon Films to get The Last American Virgin made and released in the USA. By the way, Cannon Films is best known for releasing several cheesy patriotic action flicks starring Chuck Norris in the 1980s. And so, if you're an adult like me (I'm a young adult) and you get to watch The Last American Virgin, you'll notice that something isn't quite right with this film. And I'm not talking about the not-so-good direction by Davidson. I'm talking about the behavior of the characters and the situations they get into. These characters just don't behave like American teens. This is made clear by the fact that Davidson also wrote the screenplay. What might have looked familiar to an Israeli audience, looks odd to me (I'm Canadian by the way). And I kept thinking that the behavior of these supposedly American teens is intense or strange. It's no wonder that film critic Geoff Andrews called this film "sickening junk." But when this film isn't showing us a group of young men desperately trying to get into the pants of young women or a prostitute, it's showing us one of those young men longing for a beautiful transfer student. How about that? Also, I couldn't believe it when I saw Diane Franklin. I kept thinking that she is too good-looking to be in this film. She has little to say, but her performance is clearly one of the best. When talking about The Last American Virgin, people often mention the soundtrack. The decision to include popular new wave rock songs from that time period was clearly made to appeal to an American teen audience. But these songs aren't used to good effect in the film. Some of them don't even fit the scene. So, given all this, is The Last American Virgin worth recommending? In my opinion, it's not worth recommending. I'd say that it's one of the worst teen movies of the 1980s. It's entertaining, but that's one of the few good things that I can say about it. It's not worth watching even if you're interested in American '80s culture because only the setting and the actors are American.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Terminator Salvation is a visual treat with thrilling action.
Too bad I didn't see this film in a theater when it was released back in 2009. For me this is the most enjoyable Terminator film since James Cameron's last effort in 1991. The reason for this is the absence of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Salvation. In addition, the filmmakers dared to try new things, resulting in an interesting, entertaining and gritty film. Schwarzenegger, a great presence in the first two Terminator films, should have left the role of the T-800 when he became old. This is my opinion. This would have resulted in better sequels or reboots after James Cameron stopped making Terminator films. Schwarzenegger's presence requires screenwriters to construct a plot revolving around his T-800, and this has resulted in two repetitive and average cash-grabs titled Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003) and Terminator Genisys (2015). This problem is especially clear in Genisys, for which, instead of trying something new, the screenwriters (Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier) delivered a poorly-written and confusing screenplay because Schwarzenegger, who's 68 years old now, agreed to return. As a result, we got an "old but not obsolete" good Terminator, yet another attempt to prevent Judgment Day, an evil John Connor (something that I really didn't like), and an overstuffed plot with unimaginative details and possible plot holes. Well, Genisys was just another uninspired attempt to make money, however, I still enjoyed the film despite its faults, and I recommend seeing it. Schwarzenegger is no longer the box office draw that he used to be in the 1980s and 1990s, but Emilia Clarke is definitely a good screen presence. And so, Terminator Salvation doesn't have this 'Arnold problem.' It introduces new characters, and further develops established characters like John Connor. On second thought, Connor has little or no character development in this film, but it's still good to see him. We also get to see the future in 2018, after Judgment Day. For the most part, the designers and special-effects technicians did an excellent job creating the robots, vehicles and buildings. Though there are some missteps when we get to see Skynet headquarters. The action scenes that one expects from a film like this are mostly exciting and even original. The images are memorable as well, be it a nuclear explosion, a ruined city, a big deadly Terminator, or an apocalyptic wasteland. Because of all this, Terminator Salvation really deserves to be called a science fiction action film. On the downside, the screenplay by John Brancato and Michael Ferris is unfocused and rather simple. One can say that there are two main characters, but neither one gets enough development. The exploration of human nature that was present in James Cameron's films is absent. But at least the dialogue is fine, for the most part. Director McG can be applauded because he knew what he wanted this film to be like, and he followed through with his vision, resulting in a film that's epic, enjoyable and a bit disturbing. So, I definitely recommend Terminator Salvation. It has its faults, but it does not, as Arnold said, s*ck. It rules.
Terminator Genisys (2015)
Terminator Genisys is the best film in the franchise since Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
I'm going to get something out of the way immediately. Terminator Genisys is the best Terminator film since Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). This doesn't mean that it's great. But it is the most enjoyable and most consistent Terminator film since 1991. Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003) and Terminator Salvation (2009) are remembered for their action scenes and little else. Terminator Genisys, on the other hand, stays solid from beginning to end. The marketing campaign for this big budget science fiction action film has been problematic. The trailers weren't really impressive, and the last trailer revealed a part of the plot that should have been kept secret until the film's release. I only like some of the promotional posters. Another thing that seemed strange is the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger (who's 67 years old now) as a T-800 Terminator. Why would an old man play a Terminator? Fortunately, Schwarzenegger's age isn't a problem in the film. His return is welcome by me. He also delivers one of the best performances. Another good performance is by Jason Clarke, who plays leader of the human resistance John Connor. What Clarke does in this film is much better than Christian Bale's bland performance as Connor. I won't even complain about the acting because Jai Courtney (Kyle Reese) and Emilia Clarke (Sarah Connor) are fine as well. They do the best with the dialogue that they've been given. The film's biggest problem is the screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier. It's by no means a wreck, but it's sometimes formulaic, unoriginal and poorly written. Perhaps there are even a few plot holes present. It's one of those things that people have come to expect from Hollywood films these days - a screenplay with poorly written characters. It was written with profits in mind. Still, there are a few good ideas in it, and it provides some good character interactions. When it comes to the characters, what works for me is the relation between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese and the relation between Sarah Connor and Guardian. These are characters that one grows to like in the course of the film. So, even with the problematic screenplay, no one can really say that they hate Courtney, Clarke and Schwarzenegger in this film. There's a good amount of humor in Terminator Genisys. The film also has a lighter and brighter tone than its gritty and dark predecessors. This is something that I definitely enjoyed because the ending has an optimistic note. By the end, you want these characters to succeed. When it comes to how the film was scored, I can say that Lorne Balfe's music is the best since Brad Fiedel's score for Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Balfe's score isn't full of memorable themes, but this is definitely above average film scoring, with several pleasing tracks. I recommend buying or downloading the score. The biggest draw is, of course, the action. There's nothing here that we haven't seen before, but the film is action-packed nonetheless. The young audience will especially enjoy the robot vs. robot fights. Terminator Genisys has a PG rating, so there's nothing in the action that will offend people. This is what brings me to what mostly upset some fans of James Cameron's Terminator films. Because the filmmakers wanted this film to be family-friendly, they made it like a typical inoffensive summer blockbuster. But, in my opinion, this criticism has been harsh. It's been 30 years since the first Terminator film. One simply can't expect Hollywood to deliver something like James Cameron's effort again. Well, Cameron himself made Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) since then, two films that not many people enjoy watching. So, do I recommend Terminator Genisys? Yes, I definitely recommend it. The 2014 remake of RoboCop, for example, really disappointed me, but this reboot of the Terminator franchise made me want to see Terminator Genisys again after it ended.
A good but formulaic film for children about innovation and utopia.
If you go to see Tomorrowland you should know that this is a film that's aimed at children. I took my girlfriend with me after telling her that I'll pay for the tickets. However, I didn't enjoy watching Tomorrowland as much as I thought I would. That's because there are a number of problems with this film. Firstly, this is more of an adventure film than a science fiction film. It's not so much about Tomorrowland as it is about getting to Tomorrowland. Secondly, while the characters are a likable group of people, they're not that interesting and their motivations aren't that clear. This is mostly a fault of the screenplay by Damon Lindelof. By the way, I was a bit impressed that they were able to find a young actor (Thomas Robinson) who actually resembles George Clooney. And, for once, we get to see a robot in a movie that's good and helpful and not bad and menacing. Thirdly, Tomorrowland is not a well-paced film. Scenes just happen, and you don't get the feeling that there's much of a purpose to what's going on. Logic also goes out the window during some scenes. Perhaps this wouldn't have been such a problem if a number of exciting action scenes were included. But there's hardly any action in the film. The best thing about Tomorrowland is the special effects. This is what one would expect from a $190 million production by Walt Disney Pictures. Tomorrowland itself is mostly a well-designed place. It's a futuristic city that one would definitely want to visit. It's best presented in one memorable lengthy sequence after Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) touches the T pin. But, again, the way that it's presented is best suited for a young audience because Tomorrowland seems more like a theme park than a place where people actually live. And in Disneyland it is a futuristic themed land. Before going to see this film, I watched many of the promotional videos on the internet. The filmmakers and actors mentioned that Tomorrowland is about optimism and innovation. This is something that, I think, works well in the film. While I was watching it I did get the feeling that I can get things done. This message of achievement and positivity is in great contrast to our current stagnant culture of doom and gloom. In a way, Tomorrowland is meant to represent the 1950s and 1960s, a time when things were much better in America. So, do I recommend the film? Yes, I recommend the film. It is, for the most part, enjoyable to watch. It has a good message. But keep in mind that it's a film for children, so adults won't like it as much because the end result is more formulaic than inspired.
A serviceable adaptation of the book with a surprisingly effective ending.
I wasn't really excited to see Insurgent, but since my girlfriend wanted to see it I went along with her. I've seen Divergent last year and thought that it's a fine science fiction adventure film for young adults. Though there was too much fighting and too many guns for my taste. Insurgent begins three days after the previous installment and immediately seems like a more entertaining film. That's because it's not burdened by exposition describing what the world is like in this series. There's also more action, something that helps to keep momentum until the thrilling ending. This is again a story about Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) and her fight against Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and the rest of Erudite. In this difficult struggle she gets help from her boyfriend Four (Theo James), who's really just about every girl's dream man. This time around Woodley shows that she's a very good actress by providing Tris with a considerable amount of depth. There's a reason why the trailers for this film featured footage from the ending. The ending is easily the most compelling part of the film. That's when the science fiction elements come into play. That's when the CGI is used to good effect for the simulations, which are reminiscent of some of the best parts of The Matrix (1999). That's when there are dramatic scenes that truly leave viewers in wonder. In fact, watching the ending of Insurgent was the best time I've had in a movie theater this year before I watched Mad Max: Fury Road. But Insurgent is no Fury Road, and unless you're familiar with the world of this series by author Veronica Roth you won't get much enjoyment out of watching this film. So, do I recommend it? Yes, I recommend Insurgent. You get to see Woodley, James, Zoe Kravitz and Miles Teller on screen, along with accomplished actors Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts and Ashley Judd. The film was scored well by Joseph Trapanese. The CGI is used to good effect in the film's impressive visuals. Sure, Insurgent treads water for the majority of its running time, and the concept of this dystopia story is near ridiculous. However, there's some interesting science fiction on display in addition to the action.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The haters are wrong. Avengers: Age Of Ultron is another fantastic Marvel film.
When I was in a movie theater waiting for Avengers: Age Of Ultron to begin playing, I had low expectations for the film. I've read the reviews online, and many people were saying that Age Of Ultron is dumb, boring and overstuffed with mindless action. In other words, they were saying that this is Marvel's first turkey. So there I was sitting and expecting the worst. After what seemed like half an hour of commercials and trailers, the film began with thrilling action, with the Avengers on a mission. During the fighting new characters were introduced and their powers were demonstrated. This set up everything that followed. I definitely enjoyed the opening act. But wait, some reviewers mentioned that there's a dull middle section after the thrilling opening. So I kept on waiting for the film to get stuck in the mud. An hour passed and Age Of Ultron continued to entertain. In fact, even though the film is over 2 hours long, the time just flies by. After an hour passed I began to realize that the reviewers were wrong or that they were judging the film harshly. I'm pleased to say that Age Of Ultron is another success for Marvel Studios. Actually, I wasn't even thinking about this much because the film kept my attention until the very end. Sure, it's a Hollywood product, but it's a Hollywood product written and directed by Joss Whedon. So Whedon once again delivered what he should have delivered - a real superhero movie. People seem to forget that Age Of Ultron is a superhero movie. It's not The Godfather (1972). It's not Chinatown (1974). And it's not serious science-fiction like Solaris (1972). It's a film based on comic book material. And it delivers what it should - action, comedy, special-effects, fantastic characters and a world under threat. By the way, Whedon delivered all this with intelligence and style. The Avengers - Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye - are as good as ever. Their interactions are witty, fun and dramatic when needed. The new characters - Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch - are welcome additions. They're played well by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. But there's also Vision (Paul Bettany), whose role in the film is almost as important as that of the villain Ultron (James Spader). So I've got to say that this film really surprised me. It's even more entertaining than The Avengers (2012). It may not be better than the first Avengers film, but it's another solid entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the impressive Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) I was a bit disappointed by Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014). After watching Age Of Ultron I had the same feeling that I got after watching The Winter Soldier - that things can only go up from here. I definitely recommend Age Of Ultron, and I can't wait to see it again myself. The battle at the end was amazing too by the way.
Annabelle isn't offensive. Annabelle is pleasing. And that's good.
I can't say that Annabelle is a good film. There's nothing original about it. But I can say that I found it to be fine and pleasant to watch. Sure, there are a number of well executed scares, but its 1969 setting and cinematography by James Kniest provide it with a dreamy quality. Annabelle isn't about gore. It's that rare film these days that aims to scare you by building dread with patience and restraint. Director John R. Leonetti should be applauded for this. The best executed sequence occurs at the beginning of the film when we get to see what happens to Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John Form's (Ward Horton) neighbors through their bedroom window. On the downside the script by Gary Dauberman just doesn't have enough good material for the film's 99 minute running time. Just like in The Conjuring (2013) there is a buildup of scares until the shocking ending, but in Annabelle this becomes repetitive because the scares are practically the same. This didn't bother me much though because Wallis and Horton are charismatic enough actors to make us care about Mia and John. I definitely liked them more than the characters in The Conjuring. It's not hard to realize that Annabelle is influenced by Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. While it's not as good as that 1968 film, Annabelle is still a good time at the movies and I recommend it. The film may seem like a cash grab after the success of The Conjuring, but Leonetti and the actors turned it into something enjoyable.
Just as well-made as Catching Fire. Another solid entry in the series.
I wasn't excited to see this film. That's because I've read all three Hunger Games books by author Suzanne Collins, and I knew that the first part of Mockingjay includes very little action. Still, I like what director Francis Lawrence did with Catching Fire (2013) so, when I had the time, I watched Mockingjay - Part 1. This was over a month after it was released in theaters. I have to say that I was again impressed by what Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson managed to do. Mockingjay - Part 1 is not a dull film. In fact, it's quite entertaining. In my opinion, director Lawrence should get most of the credit. Together with the producers he once again made a thrilling and well-paced film in which not one scene is wasted. Parts of the film can even be called inspired. The actors also did a good job. I don't think that there's one performance that stood out for me but every actor was solid. This time Josh Hutcherson, playing Peeta Mellark, managed to pull off a good performance. It's particularly effective during the Capitol television interviews. In my previous reviews I mentioned that Jennifer Lawrence doesn't have the looks to play Katniss Everdeen. But I admit that she really is a good actress, and for this film she delivered her best Katniss performance yet. But it's Donald Sutherland, the master actor, who continues to impress the most as Coriolanus Snow. The way he speaks and his facial expressions are mesmerizing. He makes every second count, and in the bleak offering that is Mockingjay - Part 1 he is particularly memorable. Of course, this film is a Hollywood product, even if it is very well-made. It also doesn't leave a lasting impression on viewers, which is the big reason why reviewers didn't like it as much as, for example, Catching Fire. There's no big payoff or struggle at the end of the film. It can only be viewed as the first part of a larger film. But I still recommend it. The film's marketing campaign made me interested, and when I watched Mockingjay - Part 1 I wasn't disappointed at all.
Penguins of Madagascar (2014)
Don't miss this comedy-filled animated adventure.
I can't say that I wanted to see Penguins Of Madagascar, but my girlfriend convinced me to go with her. I wasn't against it because for me there weren't any exciting movie releases during December of 2014 and January of 2015. I've seen the penguins (Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private) before in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012), a film that I definitely enjoyed because of its creativity and comedy. The penguins are adorable secondary characters, and I thought that they should have their own spin-off movie. It seems that others thought so too because now we have Penguins Of Madagascar, which takes place right after the events of Madagascar 3. It is unrelated to the TV series about the penguins. It's a kid-friendly movie, but it still contains the comedy and action that adults love. Directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith squeeze in a few lessons during the film, most importantly it's what you do that counts and not how you look. But these don't make much of an impact in the formulaic setup. Penguins Of Madagascar is an obvious attempt to make more money, so it never seems like an important film. Still, the jokes come often, and the brief origin story at the beginning is fantastic. What follows doesn't measure up to the inspired opening though. The film never becomes desperate or lazy even when it's not particularly funny. The voice cast did a good job bringing the characters to life. Tom McGrath (Skipper) in particular never ceases to amuse with his fearless drill-sergeant voice. So, even if there's nothing great about Penguins Of Madagascar, it's definitely a good time at the movies. My girlfriend and I both liked it. I recommend it.
Gone Girl (2014)
Gone Girl is disturbing, yet undeniably entertaining.
When going to see this film I had no idea what it's about or what it'll be like. I only knew that David "Seven" Fincher is the director of the film. Two things become clear when you're watching Gone Girl - it's surprisingly entertaining and it's for adults. Only adults will appreciate the clever humor and characterization in this film. Most people have been raving about how good Rosamund Pike is in Gone Girl. She's definitely good but, in my opinion, Ben Affleck is the one who provides the best performance. In fact, casting him was a brilliant move. Affleck does expert work as the "lazy, lying, cheating, oblivious" Nick Dunne. With his excellent performance Affleck carries most of the film, especially the first half. The scenes that Affleck shares with Carrie Coon, who plays Nick's twin sister Margo, are some of the best in the film, easing the tension that's been building up. Coon is very good, as is the rest of the cast. Rosamund Pike, playing Nick's missing wife Amy, sure does deserve the praise that she's been given by critics. Pay attention to her facial expressions, especially in the second half of the film. Her attention to detail is commendable. She practically makes every second worthwhile. I've watched the cast interviews on the internet, and author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn has pointed this out too. I generally like British actresses, even if they are from the establishment. Pike looked terrific in her first film, the entertaining but ridiculous Die Another Day (2002), and she's delivered good performances in other films, like Barney's Version (2010) and Pride & Prejudice (2005). Pike is bewitching in the film, especially in the first half, but when it comes time to show "amazing Amy's" or rather "pretending Amy's" mental imbalance she's frightening. Even Tyler Perry delivers his first solid performance as Nick's attorney Tanner Bolt. The plot of Gone Girl is similar to a number of Alfred Hitchcock's films. In this mystery thriller a man is accused, maybe falsely, of a crime. What follows is compelling and often unexpected, as Fincher and Affleck examine dishonesty, the media, the economy's effects on marriage, and the way people perceive one another. For some time I couldn't figure out what the establishment message of Gone Girl is. But when I was writing this review it finally hit me - the message is that marriage is a difficult and unpleasant affair, especially after the initial "good" days have passed. Still, I recommend this film even if it does have this anti-marriage message. It's Fincher's most entertaining release yet.