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Diane Keaton goes all out in this critically maligned film., 2 April 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I was a little kid, my parents let me watch most anything back in the early days of cable TV. The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, Alien...I saw a lot of grown-up stuff in the late 70s/early 80s, barely out of kindergarten. But not this one. The night my mother was planning to watch this, I was sent to bed. After finally watching the whole thing, its easy to see why. Looking for Mr. Goodbar is a sexed-up misogynistic tale of a young teacher (Keaton), raised in a strict Catholic home, now on her own and eagerly diving into the swingin' 70s singles bar scene. After a rugged affair with her jerk of a teacher, she moves on to a series of increasingly intense affairs and drug use. As one would expect, it can be difficult to be an effective teacher of hearing-impaired students if you're living such a raging lifestyle every night. Clearly something has to give. After seemingly seeing the light Keaton makes the mistake of going home with the wrong guy, with terrifying results.

The biggest problems with this film are the (likely) exaggerated scene she falls into, and the lack of any kind of likable male character. William Atherton (the jerk in so many 80s movies) is a sensitive-seeming lover. Every time it seems Keaton is making anything deeper than a superficial connection with him, she pushes him away. Though they weren't yet major stars, you wish we would learn more about Richard Gere, Levar Burton, and especially Tom Berenger's characters. You'll see why if you watch this. You'll want to know their backstories to see what made them either dangerous or impenetrable. Keaton is terrific. She went all out for this role, at a time in her career when it probably made more sense to play it safe. Even though she is making such terrible decisions, but you end up feeling sorry for her since most men in her life treat her worse than dirt. The disco soundtrack is outstanding. And how about hearing legendary broadcaster Johnny Most talk about Boston Celtic basketball in the background of the family home? A nice touch. Also it was interesting how we see detailed teaching techniques for hearing-impaired kids. This film could have merely glossed over that, but they didn't. The film is difficult to watch at times, but you won't likely turn it off. 7 of 10 stars.

The Hound.

Life sucks, then things get even worse., 11 March 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a skillfully crafted, yet ultimately impenetrable film that will not be for all audiences. For my money, Coen brothers film really run a wide gamut in terms of how good they are. You have some spectacular efforts (No Country for Old Men, Fargo), some very good efforts (Raising Arizona, Blood Simple.), overrated fare (Big Lebowski), and some downright tedious (Burn After Reading). A Serious Man would rate above average in terms of the Coen catalog. It is funny, dark, richly-textured, but it really ends abruptly and doesn't seem to have a specific point. Beware that this review is written by a "goy", and much of the Jewish symbolism and possible inside pool are unknown to me.

After a Yiddish prologue that takes place in a Jewish village many years prior to the main events of the film, we are then introduced to man with many, many problems living in late 1960s Minnesota. The Coens' own upbringing is obviously the inspiration for the world this man, Larry Gupnick lives in. He seems like your average mild- mannered college physics professor, and that's exactly what he is. But for reasons we never really understand, EVERYTHING bad that could happen seems to be happening to him. His wife is leaving him for a pompous widower, his children are ingrates, an Asian student is attempting to bribe him and accuse him of defamation all at once, a neighbor is encroaching on his property, an annoying relative has moved in.... you name it. Is this all a punishment from God? If so, why? Who can he turn to for help? Lawyers? Too expensive, considering his wife has emptied their bank account. The rabbis of their synagogue? They talk in circles, and don't seem capable of offering any helpful advice. All we are left to do as an audience is feel sorry for Larry. But we are basically left in the dark as to what he has done, if anything, to deserve it all.

The film is an interesting character study, but where it really shines is in the detail of its production design. Its as if the Coens took every detail from all of their family albums or home movies and crafted a world for these characters that only someone who lived in this environment could have captured. I love No Country for Old Men, but even that film did not convince me it was happening in 1980. They did much better this time around. The son's bar mitzvah ceremony (while he was stoned) is perhaps the film's most memorable scene, and probably based on one of the most memorable events of their own lives. Overall, a very good but mysterious film. Coen fans will appreciate it a lot more than casual viewers. Don't expect to figure out the meaning of life by the time the credits roll, however. 7 of 10 stars.

The Hound.

Rogue One (2016)
3 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
A Tale of Sacrifice., 15 December 2016
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

First off, this was so much better than I anticipated! Possibly better than all three prequels combined. Overall, a spectacular blend of the best aspects of all Star Wars films. I was impressed last winter by Episode VII, and I'm excited to see where those new characters take us, but for now, this Episode serves as a wonderful present under the holiday tree!

There are various reasons why Episodes I-III fell short of many of our expectations as long-time fans. Too much reliance on CGI, wooden acting, clichéd writing at times... Lucas seemed to be phoning some of it in. Rogue One is intense, intelligent where it needs to be, and a wonderful blend of modern effects with a retro production design. Even the comic relief character is tolerable! One thing I really like about this film and Episode VII, is the different and more detailed ways they film ship movement in relation to planets and other ships. Space seems to be more three-dimensional. The acting is quite good. Unfortunately, the nature of this story does not give is characters that we will get to know over several episodes. They perform their functions, and the well-crafted story allows us to see what their sacrifices will ultimately lead to. It takes special skill to make us care about a story that can only lead to a certain place. Rogue One has this quality more so than the prequels.

By all means, see this film. A bravo effort from a mostly unheralded cast full of action and exotic set pieces both familiar and new. The Star Wars Universe is capable of expanding... if you do it right.

9 of 10 stars.

The Hound.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Shocking, to say the least., 23 October 2016

This would-be documentary is one of the most outrageous and dangerous pieces of propaganda ever conceived. At just over an hour, this indictment of the Jewish people fails at almost every level. It is biased, factually incorrect, cheaply thrown together, poorly structured and edited, and just plain hateful. About the only thing it has going for it is the shock value that the presentation creates. In other words, its like a terrible car crash you can't help but take a look at and thank your lucky stars you weren't involved in. The sheer brutality of WWII and the 40 million or so lives it took are the reason that films like this, and those who made them cannot and must not be forgotten. Every now and then we have to look, no matter how terrible the sights may be.

The Eternal Jew was thrown together by Fritz Hippler, a crony of Dr. Goebbels, and it doesn't pull any punches regarding the Nazis' feeling toward Jews, not only in Europe, but world wide. It starts out by showing Jewish daily life in the Polish ghettos. The narrator starts with some truly ridiculous claims. Since I have only seen an English language version, you wonder if anything was lost in translation. The narrator states that "Jews have not suffered from the chaos of war like the native Pole." Huh?? So the Nazis didn't put them in those ghettos after stealing their possessions? We are shown footage of dirty, possibly starving Jews haggling in the streets, while urgent music is playing like Jews doing business is akin to the most terrifying moment in a horror film or something. The narrator sounds almost snarky as we see footage of Jews being forced to clear rubble. He says something along the lines of "These Jews aren't used to working... and don't like it either!" That's just the first few minutes, and it sets the tone for the rest of the picture.

The film goes on to try and explain how Jews have wandered from place to place "mercilessly looting the rightful inhabitants" and other allegations of wrongdoing. The film goes to great lengths to warn that Jews who are surrounded by non-Jews will always attempt to conceal their identity, and that this is "the greatest danger" and such. The middle of the film lists various Jewish political figures and tries to explain how they have intermingled into royal families and exerted global political and financial interest through illegitimate means. It also attempts to blame Jews for corrupting the arts and sciences. It even claims Charlie Chaplin was a Jew which he most likely was not. The final segments are equally repulsive, with graphic footage of the Kosher slaughter of cows. True, this is hard to watch, but honestly is there a truly humane way to kill an animal and eat it? The final moments of the film proclaim Hitler and the Nazis as the only solution to the "Jewish plague". We all know how that turned out.

Who is this film for? I guess people like myself who are curious about such tragic events in history and are maybe trying to somehow understand them. But a film like this probably leaves more questions than answers. Neo-Nazis may find this film entertaining, and may even get off to it. Persecution of Jews did not begin in Nazi Germany, nor has it ended with their defeat. Interesting that Nazi filmmakers like Hippler and Riefenstahl were not severely punished for their works and both lived into this century. I can't really even rate this film due to its incompetent style and shocking niche material.

The Hound.

A must-see curio for history buffs., 9 September 2016
8/10

Perhaps if this diminutive propaganda minister hadn't been such an outcast as a youth, he wouldn't have grown up to be such a jerk. The Goebbels Experiment is definitely worth your time if you're into WWII history, and hope to learn what might have made some of these villains tick. Kenneth Branagh lends his voice to an hour and a half of diary entries from Joseph Goebbels, a would-be novelist, poet, propagandist, and fascist anti-Semite who rose from obscurity along with Hitler, and helped his fuhrer terrorize a great many people. We learn of his painful and lonely childhood marred by crippling polio and then being shunned by his schoolmates. We hear the angst felt by many during the Weimar years, and the antisemitism pooling inside him. By the early 1920s, Goebbels has fallen under Hitler's spell, and the two men's destinies are intertwined for the rest of their lives... until their brutal suicides.

Anyone looking for insight into the cause of this man's hatred of Jews won't find much. Antisemitism in Europe hardly began with the Third Reich, and didn't end with it either. The bulk of this film centers around squabbles within the party, and Goebbels' ideas of what make good or bad propaganda. Despite his extramarital affairs (which he only hints at), Goebbels still attempts to portray himself as the quintessential German family man. With WWII raging around him, he still lives the high life by hobnobbing with actors, traveling to swanky Paris and Venice, all the while enjoying the power his position has afforded him. The journal entries turn noticeably pessimistic and more urgent, from the moment he mentions reading a letter from a commander on the eastern front. Suddenly, the fortunes of war seem to be turning. Not much in the way of specific battles are mentioned. Again, this is not exactly a blow- by-blow account off the war. Just the musings of one of the key players. His relationship with Hitler starts as some sort of a man-crush, then goes through a phase of distrust, then ultimately ends up trying to reason with him over mistakes he has made fighting the war. Goebbels also claims to be one of the few Nazi leaders respected by their soldiers on the battlefield.

From the time he hears of the trouble in Russia, Goebbels can most likely guess that his future, and that of the people closest to him, looks quite dark indeed. Still he urges the German people to fight on, and many do... until the very end. And we see this end in graphic detail. Do we the audience feel in any way sorry for him? Maybe for his family, but the words of this man deserve a harsh punishment. And they must never be forgotten. The Goebbels experiment is worth your time. A good blend of newsreel footage, speeches, and an inside look at one of the most notorious figures of perhaps the most evil regime of all time. 8 of 10 stars.

The Hound.

But if we legalize it, does that nullify years of great stoner humor?, 4 July 2016
7/10

With so many people here in the US hell bent on legalizing recreational marijuana, and some states actually doing so, where does that leave the decades of stoner humor we've had in so many films? This is a question we will ponder later in this review. But first, I implore you to sit back and watch this fitfully funny Cheech and Chong effort in which the duo sell their high-quality weed from an ice cream truck, evade the cops, chase scantily clad women, make a fortune, get locked in a mental institution, lose the fortune, somehow get it back, and then apparently lose it once again. As far a crisp direction (from Chong), and a tight story line, forget it. This largely improvisational film is a series of oddball vignettes and typical drug humor. With Chong at the helm, instead of Lou Adler from Up In Smoke, this film meanders more than it should, but still contains plenty of laughs. Many of them are supplied once again by Stacey Keach, reprising his Sgt. Stedanko role from Up In Smoke. Apparently he has never recovered from his freak-out in front of the rock club while standing too close to the duo's burning pot van. Now he has gotten a hold of a specialized form of pot the duo have been growing in their laboratory at the bottom of an empty swimming pool. It turns anyone who smokes it into an iguana. Yep, its better if you don't ask any more about this plot.

As I was chuckling through this film, one major question kept gnawing at me.... what would nation-wide legalization do to the concept of stoner humor? Think back to all of the films and characters in movie history that have used marijuana to define themselves as counter-culture. Think back to Easy Rider, and Fonda and Hopper introducing Jack Nicholson to pot while sitting around a campfire. Think of everything Cheech and Chong have done. Think of Jeff Spicoli. Harold and Kumar. The Pineapple Express.... Would legalizing this stuff throw all of that out the window? Or would it grant them their place in American history as some sort of pioneers? As someone who hasn't touched the stuff in over a decade, it's hard for me to say. I do not look down at people (many of whom I know) who still use Marijuana, but I cannot help but think it wouldn't be as fun if it were legal. I think of something I heard from filmmaker John Waters once homosexual marriage was declared legal here in the states. Waters, out decades before it was considered acceptable, was almost lamenting the fact that it wasn't as fun to be gay anymore. It was almost too mainstream for him! Anyway, my instincts tell me that marijuana use may lose its edge if it becomes legal everywhere. Were it legal, would stoner humor even exist anymore? Would a couple of stoned characters be any more humorous that an couple guys drinking a beer? Well, Strange Brew was funny enough, I guess....

7 Of 10 stars.

The Hound.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Neither perfect, nor subtle, but a very good film., 17 April 2016
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Definitely one of Oliver Stone's better films, this indictment of corporate raiders and unscrupulous stock brokers hasn't lost any of its impact since the same type of activities are still in practice, and the gap between rich and poor in the United States has never been higher. But nowadays, since Wall Street has learned to finance the Democrat Party and pay lip service in the press to liberal causes, we hear a lot less about "wall street greed" in the national media. Now many of them are just as hypocritical as they are greedy. But Stone's film is all about the Wall Street of its day. In other words, we get lots of suspenders, big gray cell phones, women with big hair, and shots of people smoking in public. Throw in a scene with a cheesy robot, and you have a an 80s film on your hands. Seriously, what was is with lame robots in 80s films? Rocky IV, R.O.T.O.R., Revenge of the Nerds, Short Circuit.... digressing here.

The plot deals with a fresh-faced, but oily-haired Charlie Sheen working as a hustling young stock broker. He doesn't seem to be doing that well at it, he is mired in debt, and his working-class hero father doesn't respect his line of work. He spends every free minute trying to get into business with Michael Douglas, who is one of the most feared and respected traders in the business. Finally a box of Cuban cigars hand delivered on his birthday is enough to get Sheen into the door. Desperate to get on Douglas's good side, Sheen leaks some insider info about the airline his father works for. It ends up making Douglas some $$, and starts Sheen on his way quickly up the financial ladder. But as you'd expect, Sheen wants it all too fast, and he ends up not only using illegal insider trading practices, but he also ends up as a pawn in Douglas's plan to take over the the airline. You don't have to know all that much about the business to follow the story, but it helps to pay attention. There is a lot of dialogue, and most of it is important.

The casting is exceptional. Charlie and Martin Sheen make a great father-son pairing. Probably better than they do in real life. Martin Sheen gets to do plenty of sermonizing about the value of hard work and whatnot, and you have to think he loved the chance to play this character. Michael Douglas gives probably his most memorable performance as the evil Gordon Gekko. "Greed is good..." etc... He is almost good enough to convince you his character isn't even that bad of a guy. Douglas actually rises about the character in a sense. Hal Holbrook is on hand as a veteran broker who tries to talk Sheen out of chasing the quick buck. He is always appreciated in any film. Wall Street strikes out, however, with its two main female characters. Darryl Hannah is lost as Sheen's tacked-on love interest. Its a thankless role she isn't even talented enough to handle. Honestly, why was she wearing a wet-suit in her scene on the beach. Wouldn't some kind of swimsuit have been more logical or hot? And Sean Young as Douglas's wife?? Always a train wreck, she was apparently such a problem on the set that her role was drastically reduced. Overall, a very good film though. 8 of 10 stars.

The Hound.

He is not a hermaphrodite any more than he is a pseudo-hermaphrodite... he just likes to wear angora sweaters.., 3 February 2016
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Over half a century before Bruce Jenner decided to step out as a woman, Edward D. Wood Jr. came out with this daring, yet incompetently filmed would-be documentary about cross-dressing and sex changes. Wood, a notorious cross-dresser, insisted he was the perfect director for this subject, and with a budget smaller than the amount of change in a normal person's couch cushions, he sort of made a little movie about these themes. At just over an hour, this hodgepodge of stock footage, poorly written and acted scenes, odd fantasy sequences, and old Bela Lugosi rambling on about life and death is truly a finished product that defies a typical synopsis. "Pull the stringk!!" Lugosi shouts, and he theoretically represents some sort of a puppet master presiding over the human condition.

Though Wood should be applauded for his courage in dealing with these subjects, one cannot forgive the incredible ineptitude with which this thing was thrown together. Some of its more interesting and racy moments were apparently thrown in post-production by the producer who obviously wasn't expecting any attempt at a thoughtful documentary from his director. The dramatic scenes deal with a young man (played by Wood under the pseudonym Daniel Davis) engaged to be married, but he's hiding a huge secret. The man loves to wear women's clothing, particularly angora sweaters! Should he tell his fiancée? How should he tell her? What if she doesn't want to marry a guy like that? The horrors! The scenes dealing directly with this plot make up about a third on the screen time. The biggest chunk of time has a doctor narrating about the differences between transvestites/homosexuals/hermaphrodites among many other things while at the same time explaining them to a police detective. It is in these scenes where some of the most laughable use of stock footage ever can be found. The funniest is perhaps where Wood has inserted footage of a steel mill and two off-screen blue collar types are talking about transsexuals while railroad rails are being forged out of molten steel and sparks are crashing all around! Other random shots of traffic and stampeding buffalo are thrown in. There is a suggestion that some random guy changing a light bulb in a rail yard might be wearing pink satin panties or something... hilarious!! The fantasy scenes go on for about 15 minutes, and make very little sense.

Finally, we see the story of a WWII veteran who goes through a sex change. I'm sure they thought this was graphic back then, but its mostly a shot of doctors looking down at the patient while the narration explains in very general terms what is taking place. And the WWII veteran angle only gives Wood even more chances to throw in stock footage of soldiers in battle. The film's conclusion would probably not satisfy the militant LBGT (or is it LGBT?) community of today. It seems the doctor thinks and recommends that the young transvestite man can somehow be cured from his fetish, but I forgot how. Somehow his wife ends up taking the place of Glenda (his cross- dressing alter-ego) and they live happily ever after. Whatever. Anyway, give Wood some serious props for attempting to take a thoughtful look at trans-gender and transvestite issues at a time when they were probably only hinted at within the moldy pages of dime detective novels. 4 of 10 stars.

The Hound

Effective thriller, despite awkward story arc., 29 November 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When A Stranger Calls does so many things well, that you can almost forgive the fact that acts 1, 2 and 3 don't really seem to fit together so well. The first twenty or so minutes deal with a teen-aged baby sitter receiving anonymous phone calls from a creep asking if she has "checked the children", a question we the audience also find ourselves asking since the kids are upstairs, apparently sick, and she never once checks on them. Being the 1970s, there is no caller ID at the house, and it takes the police a while to trace the call... to another line inside the same house! Yikes! This scenario is based on an old urban legend, and had been used before in Black Christmas. However the encounter is well-filmed and undeniably suspenseful. After a moment of sheer terror, this situation seems to be resolved.

The remainder of the film takes place seven years later after the psychotic killer from the the beginning of the film has just escaped the mental institution where he had been confined. The father of the dead children from the first scene attempts to hire the now-retired police detective from the case to track this man down and kill him. The ex-cop, realistically played by Charles Durning, agrees. Finding him doesn't prove that difficult. The eccentric Englishman with no concept of social restraint leaves a trail of fear and bad feelings everywhere he goes. And he sticks out like a sore thumb among the skid row missions of downtown Lon Angeles. But actually catching the man can be a difficult thing for an aging, out of shape former cop. The middle part of the film, dealing with Durning's attempt to find the killer, is its best. The third act just isn't plausible in any sense of the way. Nothing about the film's conclusion is truly possible, and it all basically seems tacked on. I'm sure the killer knows where the babysitter from seven years ago is out to dinner with her new husband.... how hard would that really be to find out??

Truth be told, the film has plenty going for it, particularly in the acting department. The fact that Tony Beckley was never heard from again could only be explained by his death shortly after the film was made. He is terrific as Kurt Duncan, the psycho. Not cold, boisterous, or sophisticated like some arch villain. More nervous, fragile, desperate... even pathetic. But very dangerous. The other characters aren't stereotypes either. They are people. Anyone expecting a better than average thriller will appreciate that. But maybe not the ending so much. 7 of 10 stars.

The Hound.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
If you decide to skip this film, YOU ARE A LUCKY MAN!, 11 October 2015
3/10

To refer to this 3 hour monstrosity as simply "self-indulgent" would be an understatement of breathtaking proportions. I write this brief review as a warning, and nothing more. To waste time critiquing its many pointless scenes would be useless, since many are just forgettable. But what we have here is a very talented cast wasting our time and theirs with several useless, random scenes barely intertwined into a dated critique of capitalism. And don't believe what you've heard about the music, either. Even that is bad. The basic plot synopsis that you will read on this site and in many film review books covers only a small fraction of what this film actually contains. It plays like a series of twenty minute short films, held together only by McDowell, and the little rock band. As good as McDowell is (and he acts well here too) even he can't sustain your interest. I mean this film is BAD. About the only other positive aspect of this is a young Helen Mirren who looks kind of like Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. That's as good of a compliment I can come up with. That's how bad this is. Don't see it! 3 stars is all I can muster. Only for McDowell and Mirren.

The Hound.


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