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Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Not terrible but lacks the fun songs and the heart
I recall towards the end of 'The Wizard Of Oz' the wizard explains to Dorothy that he is a good man, just a bad wizard. In the case of 'Oz, The Great And Powerful', the wizard is really not a good man. He is greedy. He will seduce anything in a skirt only to run away after 'scoring'. Granted, he makes up for it at the end but it doesn't feel genuine or heart-warming. For myself, this is not exactly what I expected as the prequel to the character made so memorable by Frank Morgan in 1939. Instead, we have James Franco somewhat lampooning his way through his lines. In fact, this is but one of the many downsides to this alleged prequel. None of the characters save for the Wicked Witch (of the West) seem to contain any hint of personality of their eventually older 1939 counterparts, though this witch is without her wart for some reason. I kept thinking throughout that to achieve any resemblance would not have been that difficult. These characters are so branded in the mind that they border on easy parody. Alas. Even Glinda lacks any of the Billie Burke's lovely cadence. Michelle Williams tends to sleep her way through her role frequently looking spaced-out. Mila Kunis does a good job though she is no Margaret Hamilton. The best character here is arguably the China Doll, and that was CGI (again). Yes, ho-hum, CGI rules the day in this movie, but it is not so flamboyant that it becomes overkill like too many other movies we know. It seems to support what is going on rather than overwhelm and astound. And where are the catchy songs?? No, this is not a musical. In fact, when the Munchkins start to deliver a song that might have actually been worthwhile it gets hushed up. No, this is not y our grandmother's Wizard of Oz. It is an attempt to deliver a prologue to the 1939 classic. Story-wise, it appears to succeed though I would have not liked to have known that the Wicked Witch's biggest problem is that the Wizard spurned her and she is bearing a grudge. That felt like an insult to my intelligence for some reason. Could it have not somehow been more clever than that? Soooo
this movie has none of the heart, none of the music, none of the compelling characters of the original. The acting is pedestrian
almost flippant. The script is razor thin on moral. I guess I would have liked to have seen the Wizard glue all of China Doll's family back together that would have saved the ending, IMO. Yet, if we are to judge this movie on its own, it isn't that bad. I did enjoy it mostly. So I gave it a 7. In comparison to its predecessor, it would be a 5, but it was entertaining and the special effects are fanciful.
The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
Like a train wreck
I'm not writing this because I believe I am necessarily going to add anything to the static that hasn't already been said. I'm not writing this in order to defend or criticize either. It is a terrible movie and it rests comfortably as one of the legendary worst movies ever made. It is righteously bad. Yet, having just watched it, I am somehow compelled to watch it again. That is why I am writing this. It made me smile. It will be fun to put in words what I just saw. It astounds with its logic defying momentum and brow-furrowing narration. What sets this movie apart for myself and, I feel, other procrastinating viewers is that even if I completely fill the space with 'spoilers', I won't spoil a thing. This one truly needs to be seen to be appreciated. I guarantee you will discover a newer dimension of badness here that you never previously considered. Every scene seems to just border on potential viability but is somehow decorated with at least one instance of purposeful bad direction. Taking into account the well-known fact that the sound was obviously dubbed well after the movie was 'in the can' one can easily surmise that the director is off-screen screaming directions to advise the actors how to act. So, you will see Tor staggering around in the desert both before and after his nuclear encounter as if he is waiting for someone to tell to take his next step or walk to his left - ('No, Tor! Your other left!) You'll see people firing guns -- or did they? In probably one of the most polite gun battles ever filmed (I almost expected a pinkie or two to be raised during the battle), the looks on their faces frequently appear as if even they are uncertain if their gun fired or not. (Am I out of ammo? OK. Did I just get shot? So, should I die now? OK, thank-you.) **By the way, everyone who dies keeps breathing - sometimes very noticeably.** A woman loses her kids in the desert somewhere. (Should I be sad in this scene? What? OK. Put a tissue to my face like I'm crying? Wait! I haven't dried yet! You don't care? OK.) This kind of stuff goes on throughout the whole production...except, oddly, the very first scene. The very beginning of the movie is actually quite good. A woman dries herself in a bedroom while a very loud clock ticks away in the background and her appointment to destiny. She sits on the bed, looks up, is choked to death (but continues to breath) and the unseen killer raises her legs to the bed. The scene ends with a close-up of her dead (yet breathing) head pistoning up-and-down in a very suggestive repetitive manner caused by something the killer is doing to her from off-screen. The only thing is that this scene has nothing to do with the rest of the film. You won't know this until the end of the film though. It doesn't matter anyway. It is what it is.
So, while the actors robot through the movie, the narrator accompanies the action in a droll documentary-like fashion with some of the most inane phrases ever to be uttered without intending to be funny. He attempts to provide the same sort of colorful insight that Rod Serling was so adept at in 'The Twilight Zone'. Naturally, the problem here is that the narrator is NOT Rod Serling. His comments certainly have all of the dry seriousness and alliteration without any of Serling's gift for being compelling. But, it is thought provoking. You will curl your face and ask, "Why did he say that?" and feel as though you missed something. You didn't.
Lastly, one could write volumes detailing the leaps from logic this script provides. After Tor lumbers into the desert just in time to absorb a nuclear blast to become the 'beast', he finds a couple on the side of the road (flat tire), kills the man and leaves his body on the highway behind the car, then kills the woman riding shotgun (who continues to breath), and carries her across the desert for some reason while occasionally sniffing her hair. The local sheriff is alerted to the body on the highway, drives there, and formulates a theory after pacing a few steps around the vehicle. He doesn't have a radio(!) so he jumps back in his car and has to drive all the way back to his office for help thereby leaving body, car, purse...evidence!! unattended. He gets his deputy and they begin to go after Tor without actually knowing what they're going after in the first place. They seem to know that Tor is carrying a body across a desert but have somehow reasoned that he has managed to climb to the top of an inaccessible bluff. After spending too much time climbing and almost falling, it is decided that there is 'no way' to get to the top unless you parachute. It somehow fails to impress them that Tor didn't have the resources to parachute himself - oh well. Besides, it gives the sheriff to break out his plane (budget for a plane but not a radio?) and his rifle so he can go sniping the killer. Then comes the rule-of-thumb advice before taking off, 'Shoot first and ask questions later.' Thus the sheriff ends up sniping a man searching the desert for his lost kids!!! Shades of poor man's 'North By Northwest', Batman! Well, this is the bad film that just keeps on giving. Folks who aren't into films can easily dispense this in ignorance. It is bad, no doubts. But if you give it a chance and can get to the end, like me, you kind of look forward to seeing it again and invite a friend so you can share the wonder and take turns teeing off on the insanity. A good movie to bond over.
Is it just me or is there something grating with a movie that has a title that has nothing to do with the movie?? There is no phantom. It's a creature that sits just offshore at the bottom of the ocean protecting a glowing radioactive substance for some reason. And the creature is not from 10,000 leagues. People are able to dive down to the creature without being crushed by the water pressure, after all. Taking this into account and the length of time to get from the creature back into that leaking generic rowboat that absolutely everybody is using, I would place the creature at about 30-40 feet. Of course, the movie would have probably not fanned interest with a title like 'The Thing From 5 or 6 Fathoms'. Oh, well. Yes, it's a low budget capsule of a movie - not particularly well-acted and motivations are not consistent. For example, knowing that a creature you created is killing people in a body of water your lovely daughter may decide to swim in doesn't motivate you to want to eliminate the creature, I don't know what will? But when confronted with these facts, the 'scientist' is unable to decide. Yes, let's let the creature live so it can kill even more people. Good idea! And then there is this 'secret agent' woman that has somehow convinced this young hot-head that he must break into the scientist's lab to discover the secret that is being worked on because there is a lot of money involved. One assumes that the hot-head's life is in peril and yet he cannot figure out a way to break down a single wooden door (despite the locks) to get at the secret. This was before 'big-brother, folks. Wait until after-hours and ax that baby down. Even the so-called fisherman casting his net at the beginning of the movie obviously doesn't have a clue how to actually cast a net properly. Somehow, nearly all of the men in this flick have nothing else to wear on the beach except dress shoes, suits and ties. Formal business attire on a beach is somehow disturbing. Keep an eye out for the '3 Stooges-like' stunt where hot-head gets a fist in the face from behind the beach umbrella he expects to find the lovely 'secret agent'. Okay, okay. It is a low budget release with almost 4 sets, 1 boat, a creature that sincerely tries to be threatening. Oh, yes, and there is radiation involved - so that should be a cause of some trepidation for the 1950s crowd living in the dread fear of the time. And the script was based on a story someone had actually written!!
But I like bad movies. This one isn't entirely terrible and does have some entertainment value despite the gaps in logic and credibility. Good for a rainy day, young kids who aren't dismissive of movies without color and special effects, and popcorn.
The Outer Limits: ZZZZZ (1964)
Near and dear
When this was first aired back in the 60s, I felt a strange love and empathy for 'Regina'. I was only 6 and I fell in love. I felt gutted by the episode's conclusion. But that was when I was 6. Decades later I was happy to be able to view this again through the magic of DVDs. Yes, I own them ALL. I was hesitant to watch this episode. I still had this pit in my stomach. There was something about this episode that lingered and haunted. The title....UGH! Is it corny or clever? After putting it off long enough I finally sat down with it. Here is an excellent example of an outrageous story...an unlikely tale. I know the Outer Limits of the 60s had nearly no budget, but these special effects were surprisingly poor. And yet, despite the apparently ridiculous plot and the dismal effects, I found myself suspending disbelief. The effects, as bad as they were, were simply a device to portray the idea of what was happening, not an attempt to dazzle the eye. Somehow, I overlooked the poor effects and found myself focusing on the story. The acting was superb. Joanna Frank's unsettling beauty and unbalancing sultriness brought me back to being 6-years old again. I fell in love and was ultimately gutted at the conclusion. I wouldn't take anything away from Philip Abbott or Marsha Hunt. Both are more than convincing in what would by all other definitions a ludicrous idea for an episode. The tension between Frank and Hunt ends up being fine drama as does Abbott's final tirade to an unwelcome Frank. Frontiere's usual anxiety provoking music seemed to be practically non-existent here. It's there, but this is an anomaly...a quieter episode. So, I may have a bias since I hold the original series in reverence. It was a part of my childhood and was the only fantastic oddity on TV then. But, I was once again enchanted by this episode. It should have been lame. It wasn't. A fine example of better than average story telling enacted by a committed cast of professionals delivering credible performances. I'm sorry I didn't watch it sooner.
Super 8 (2011)
Absolutely nothing new here
Yes! It is one part 'Cloverfield' with a dollop of 'ET' and a dash of 'Goonies'. Now, if it was a bad movie then the vultures could gather and shred this corpse. It wasn't a bad movie. But, it is far from original in any respect and, unfortunately, it began to be a let-down, plot-wise, toward the end as you witnessed all of the formulaic elements come together and merge into an ending that tries so hard you compel a tear from the viewer's eye. There's no surprises. It's almost thought provoking -- just barely -- yet it tsunamis any morals away by the time the alien makes his(her?) final exit. I suppose if you like good sci-fi with entrenched morals you could always go watch an old Outer Limits. You won't find it here. Still, the acting is excellent, the special-effects are top-notch....in fact, the movie is made very well. But, we've been down this road before...and we'll be going down it again. It's inevitable. I don't mind. A little originality would be a nice surprise though. I do think "they're" running out of ideas for alien configurations, though. There is a long build-up before you get to see it and then it's >groan<. More convoluted spins on ideas already used. At the end of the day this movie is most likely for the mid to low adolescent crowd. It has at least that much wisdom.
Absolutely nothing funny here
After watching this movie I became 'sicko'. The realization that people would do this to each other and find it easy to side-step responsibility by blaming a nebulous 'system' only highlights the fact that each and every single unconscionable action really boils down to what an individual would be willing to turn a blind eye to. Capitalism usurping the Christian values we here so much about. So, if you accept this movie's allusions as factual, then this nation should be ashamed. My knee-jerk reaction was to book the first flight out of this country. And yet, I believe Michael Moore continues to claim his citizenship. Thus, I have a quandary to deal with. If you have to rate a movie on the overall impact it will have on you, then it should be rated very high. It sticks to you and you will continue to dwell long after viewing. If ranked on factuality??? Well, the facts are there - those that serve the political agenda of the movie and its maker. What I didn't see is any real confrontation. Moore was willing to get into the corporation's face in 'Roger And Me'. Considering that the 'heartless' corporation that was cabbing sick people and dumping them on the street was just down the block, and Moore didn't even try to take his case to their door makes me scratch my head and wonder why not? I felt that Moore missed some opportunities here - and others. But then I am watching an old 'House' episode where a man is losing his home because of the bill to sew back on his severed thumb. After some 'beat around the bush' dialog, Cuddy finally turns and says that if she has to take the man's house to pay the bill, she will. If that didn't send chills down my spine....because this is considered normal here - and it shouldn't be. I give this a 7 because I felt Moore could have done more.
Not nearly as bad as expected
I gave 'Left Behind' a chance and didn't get 30 minutes into it. In that movie the acting was horrid and the situations strained to become credible. So, it was with great reluctance that I came to 'Deceived'. This time the acting wasn't horrid and the situations didn't try so hard to beat me over the head. In fact, this was no better or worse than an average X-files episode including the speculative ending. The Christian message was inserted here and there but it seemed to become part of the story rather than try to take over the story. There are logic gaps that need explaining. It was nothing too distracting though and if you accept this as a standard B-pic you can actually sit back, relax and be entertained.
A Sound of Thunder (2005)
Sympathy needed here - a budget would not have hurt either
Within the first 10 minutes, the first dinosaur in all its plasticity walks onto the screen with trees offering no resistance whatsoever to his lumbering lethargy and the viewer feels let-down. This could have been a really great scene. There is a seed of a good idea in the mix. I've never read the Ray Bradbury story this was based upon but I have a feeling that the core of the concept, that is, what could have made this movie a real thought provoker, is buried by the semi-good acting and distracting half-conceived special effects. Ben Kingsley actually shines in the movie - but no one else does. The computer, TAMI, was more memorable than any of the other cast. As for the effects? Nothing disappoints me more than seeing what could have been a really good effect wasted because it was half-finished. The baboon-lizard creatures are actually a good idea and quite frightening but are frequently stiff and cartoonish. Too bad. All other creatures are disappointing in the 'could have been great but falls annoying short' category. Perhaps a wasted moment came after the 'final time wave' and the viewer gets a glimpse of what humans would become. I know I was curious. And then there it was - and there it goes. The depth of this movie can be summed up with that brief encapsulation - nearly no thought went into the conception of the neo-human. There it is....it blinks...the end. It might have been more interesting to get a bit of reaction from this new creature - but no. Why start making a movie with substance now when it is nearly over? Bottomline: I didn't hate the movie really. It only came close to being unwatchable. I was mostly irritated by what it could have been. Thus, it ends up being a waste of the space-time continuum.
The Bad Seed (1956)
It leeched onto me from the very first
I first saw this back in the '60s when all that was available was late at night was a television. I wasn't feeling very well and couldn't sleep. As I recall my mother recommended this film. I was not into slow moving dramas but because I was a pre-adolescent male I developed a quick crush on Patty McCormack. She is so cute and proper. How could you not just want to hold her? But then the plot unfolds and your preconceptions of this cutie are ripped away. She is so evil. I hated that she made me fall for her and then shredded my reality. I knew this was 'just a movie' but she was so good in the role that I lost myself in the illusion. And then that ending came. Wow! I didn't like that at all. I was very upset and my mother could see that. She tried to engage me in conversation but I declined and went to go lay in bed and stare at the ceiling. I didn't sleep that night. I was haunted forever. When the movie was repeated later that year I declined to watch it. I couldn't take that trip again. Many years later, more like decades, I watched it again. Some of those old memories came back but I could distance them. This film is really quite a gem. For me, it has lost nothing of the disturbing quality - which is entirely its whole intention. Patty is still cute as the dickens --- and then she kills. The shell of very grim despair covers this film. None of the characters are flawless though and I ended up with a new perspective that the little girl ended up being a product of the dysfunctional environment. It's a bit of a difficult film to categorize. Is it horror? I was horrified. But compared to today's definition of horror it doesn't quite gel. It is definitely a stage drama but keeps waltzing out of generic drama every time it creeps back into horror. It most assuredly plays on the psychological. Hey, I might actually know someone like this -- and I'm not talking about ONLY the little girl here. Even today I do not think this is something I would invite just anyone to watch. It will disturb younger kids and even some adults. I would think most teenagers would not have the patience to sit through this. It has been compared to Hitchcock in some aspects, but I usually have a good time with Alfred. It is a disagreeable film. It is not fun. But it is powerful and has continued to concern me for over 40 years. The last film to do this for me was Lynch's "Blue Velvet" - but he didn't have any cute little girls in that. That quality alone puts this one into another realm.
Battle Los Angeles (2011)
Next to nothing awesome, but next to nothing horrible either
I expected nothing from this movie except maybe a bit of entertaining distraction. I thought I would be falling asleep or audibly yowling about something insanely stupid - but this ended up being a completely serviceable remake of about a hundred other similar movies. The special effects were actually quite good and appropriately realistic. I expected to see yet another alien ala 'Alien', but that isn't here. In fact, it's never very clear what they are or how they are put together. It doesn't really matter anyway. They create what is needed for an alien threat and are effectively mortal...eventually. Why they bothered to come here is briefly assumed and summarized, but that isn't dwelled on either. They are simply here and are willing to kill to colonize the planet. We are in the way. In many ways, the aliens are very much us. But I wasn't looking for philosophy or logic. This movie doesn't try to get into this at all. All we are doing here is following some marines who are propelled into having to defend a piece of LA. The camera jumps and jerks with the action which doesn't give the viewer much time to focus. Some would find this annoying and complain of motion sickness. Typically a movie will try not to allow the viewer to focus if the effects aren't up-to-snuff. Yet the effects are really quite good here. And there is a creepy familiarity to these aliens, perhaps they do bear a behavioral similarity to us up to and including their lapses of battle-field judgment. For what it's worth, if you aren't looking for anything more than a well-made alien versus marine vehicle and don't expect much in the originality department or too much depth of character or storyline - this film can be exactly what one needs to escape for a while. There are few burdens the viewer must put up with. Just watch it. It's not great, but it is far from horrible as some jaded individuals have professed.