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CelluloidRehab

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JCVD (2008)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
JC is "Jerry Lewis-famous" in Belgium. Watch out Steven., 7 May 2009
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jean-Claude Van Varenberg is not a name you would typically remember. Now replace the last name with Van Damme and that changes dramatically. They are one and the same, but the latter name invokes a certain response. Fame and celebrity invokes a certain universal scrutiny that a "normal" person lives without. It is this theme that the movie cleverly uses to spin a fictitious (and sometimes surreal) dark comedy about the random events surrounding the life of the real Jean-Claude Van Damme.

An immediate JC association is that he is an aging but once prominent international action-movie star, who is well past his prime and now making B-movies exclusively to pay the bills. The movie is constantly juxtaposing that image against a "real life" person trying to play themselves, outside of a movie. The introduction and opening credits is a 3 minute, complicated action sequence of which we would be expecting from a movie starring JC. It's the best JC action sequence of the last 10 years and it turns out to be just another scene in one of those B-movies he is making. This is NOT an action movie, however. He takes his first hit from the 20-something Asian director.

JC takes another hit during his divorce/custody hearing, in which his daughter doesn't want to be with him because friends laugh when he is on TV. Because he makes action movies he is associated with violence and all that implies. He cannot get the roles he wants, because he is typecast. It becomes a vicious cycle to pay the bills through B-movies. He returns home, to Belgium, to figure things out. He just needs to get some cash from the Post Office to pay the cabbie. A mundane situation. Then fans notice him. Everyone starts to notice. Too bad the post office turns into a hostage drama with the cops making a command center of nearby video store. Subliminally we all expect JC to take care of the situation in action-movie style. He does and he doesn't.

The movie is shot in a gritty, digital format reminiscent of a documentary/reality show style. The colors are generally muted in faded gray, greens and browns. Nothing pops but instead screams industrial and earthy. Gritty & real. I saw the dubbed version of the film and as bad as it sounded, it did not affect my enjoyment of the movie. I do recommend you watch it with the original soundtrack and JC talking in his native language.

In this era of films where I have to prepare myself before going out to the theater (by prepare I mean, leave most expectations at home & bring a flask with me), this was a surprise. That is a beautiful and rare thing these days. Though JC is playing a role, namely himself in a fictional situation, you can tell he brought some acting muscle and lay himself upon the alter for exposition. I have always had an affinity for the accent-laden action hero (Schwarzenegger being the other) and this does for JC was Danny the Dog did for Jet Li. It opened my eyes to the untapped talent still residing within an aged action star.

JC ,in an amazing gesture, transcends the movie at one point and his image by stopping the film (pre-climax) and rising about it (literally) to speak to us directly. It feels like a heart-to-heart moment between JC the man addressing his audience and critics alike. The scene, though seemingly out of place, works because it seems like a genuine glimpse into the man. He talks about things that are important to him and even cries several times. I felt as if I had just been witness to a communal exorcism and rebirth. If it was all acting, I have nothing but praise and admiration for JC. He entertained me, inspired and taught me something, all within the span of 90 minutes. He can live contently in the knowledge that he is and never will be Steven Segal. And that's a good thing.

-Celluloid Rehab

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
It loses something in the translation and thankfully Kevin knows Farsi, 6 May 2009
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a staple for many. When it went off the air, we searched for an outlet. Out of the darkness & rubble, first arose the Film Crew(now defunct) and RiffTrax. Both these endeavors revolved around Mike, Kevin & Bill. This is last movie of the four movies (picked democratically by the "Internet") the Crew laid track for before disbanding. Honcho Home Video Presentation's motto is "every movie deserves a commentary." Mr.Honcho decides to go Greek and makes the Crew lay down a track for the Giant of Marathon (original Italian titles translates to "the battle of Marathon").

The format of the DVD is identical to the other 3. There is an introductory scene with Bob Honcho on the phone selecting the movie, a lunch break in the middle of the movie(where they end up not eating usually) and a finale sketch (in this case making outrageous hats and a racial rambling about the Basque). As with the other DVDs there is bonus selection. This one is in two parts. The first is Mike's apology attempts towards the Persians and Italians. The second part is the commentary track of an electrician extra from the movie (sketch).

This is the typical Italian sword & sandal epic : low budget, melodramatic cardboard acting, repetitive, horrible dubbings, sub-par action sequences, "loads" of homo-erotic imagery & one chiseled foreign bodybuilder on the marquee. In this case, a beardless Steve Reeves as the marathon's progenitor, Phillipides.

We start with the story of how Phillipides becomes champion of the olympics, as the credits & titles roll. This is immediately followed by a lengthy written paragraph, setting up the back story of the love rectangle between Phillipides and Theocratis' arranged wife (Andromeda) and his concubine (the mannish Karis). The front story is your basic power struggle, mixed in with conspiracy and some battles with the Persians. We can't forget the Spartans. Then toss.

These epics seem like historical re-enactments in terms of the dialog, acting, costumes, sets and battles. History is the casualty in most, however, as is the enjoyment level and consciousness. The historical aspect would have been the only saving grace. Instead, crack the grappa, watch this with friends and savor the unintentional comic genius present in this movie. It is a rare and beautiful thing for the genre, though most of good ones star Steve Reeves. Also see Hercules and Hercules Unchained for reference.

Even though the internet picked this fourth, it is arguably the best of the four Film Crew movies. I dare to say that it is comparable (if not better) to the MST3k version of Hercules or Hercules Unchained (both with Steve Reeves). This movie is dedicated to men in diapers.

-Celluloid Rehab

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
It loses something in the translation and sadly it's not the only thing, 6 May 2009
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the typical Italian sword & sandal epic : low budget, melodramatic cardboard acting, repetitive, horrible dubbings, sub-par action sequences, "loads" of homo-erotic imagery & one chiseled foreign bodybuilder on the marquee. In this case, a beardless Steve Reeves as the marathon's progenitor, Phillipides.

We start with the story of how Phillipides becomes champion of the olympics, as the credits & titles roll. This is immediately followed by a lengthy written paragraph, setting up the back story of the love rectangle between Phillipides and Theocratis' arranged wife (Andromeda) and his concubine (the mannish Karis). The front story is your basic power struggle, mixed in with conspiracy and some battles with the Persians. We can't forget the Spartans. Then toss.

These epics seem like historical re-enactments in terms of the dialog, acting, costumes, sets and battles. History is the casualty in most, however, as is the enjoyment level and consciousness. The historical aspect would have been the only saving grace. Instead, crack the grappa, watch this with friends and savor the unintentional comic genius present in this movie. It is a rare and beautiful thing for the genre, though most of good ones star Steve Reeves. Also see Hercules and Hercules Unchained for reference.

-Celluloid Rehab

9 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Fewer laughs than X-Men: The Last Stand. Have adamantium bullets on standby., 6 May 2009
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After the X-Men's "Last Stand" and Wolverine's indestructible leather pants, my expectations going into a movie about Wolverine's origin story were extremely low (bordering on nonexistent). For this movie to be exciting in any way, you must either be a vegetable or seeing a "movie" for the first time. Sadly I fit into neither category.

I was conscious of my bias from the start. I own first editions of just about any comic book with the words "Wolverine" on it as well as Joe Madureira feral-Wolvie ink on my arm (circa 1997). I liked the trailers and word-of-mouth from the leaked torrent viewers was good. The thing that I saw was not.

The opening scene recounts the basic story of the "Origins" limited series, in which the the man who would be Wolverine started off in the mid 19th century as the sickly child of John Howlett. After an altercation between his dad and the groundskeeper, an enraged boy pops his claws, murders and then runs for his life. The groundskeeper's son, Victor, accompanies him. According to the movie, Wolverine's mother had an affair with the groundskeeper and Victor is his brother. Fine, artistic licensing.

The best part of the movie ensues, with a montage of the two "brothers" fighting in every major conflict throughout the world. With the montage complete, the drudgery ensues. They are then recruited by William Stryker for a covert team, comprised of other mutants. While Victor becomes increasingly bloodthirsty over the years, Wolverine increasingly finds it distasteful and eventually drops out. He ends up living as a lumberjack in the wilds of Canada with this girlfriend, Kayla Silverfox. Just as Michael Corleone could not escape his "family" neither can Wolverine. His past returns and his girlfriend ends up as collateral damage. Revenge trip ensues.

The remaining lump of coal is a confused mash up of CG, explosions, random occurrences of X-Men characters (Emma "Silver Fox"??, Cyclops, the Blob, a should have stayed hidden Gambit and an almost unrecognizable Deadpool), wire work, violence and convoluted conspiracies gone awry. I was prepared for a mindless action-butchering of the Wolverine character. It was definitely a mindless butchering, but the action was less than gratifying. Ridiculous is a more accurate description of the action (there is no tongue in cheek here). The movie feels rushed and confused. It wants to be a mindless and enjoyable summer action movie (the result is ridiculously derived and boring) and also wants emotional depth (the motivations are there, paper thin and transparent).

The closest comparison I can muster is the emasculation of Thomas Jane's Punisher. Wolverine, just like the Punisher, will probably never have a good live-action adaptation because the people involved do not understand the characters or imbue them with characteristics not present. The failure is not in the adaption of the source, but in the very essence of the movie. It is flawed all around and tries to tell too much of the story in one sitting. I was ready for a completely different origin story from the comic sources. I was ready for mind-numbing action (see Crank for an example). Instead (and based off the title), we are left with a cheap looking (not cheaply made, however) and marketing based serial action film. Expect X-Men Origins: (fill in the X-Men member here), soon in a theater near you.

-Celluloid Rehab

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
WARNING: Rue McClanahan stripping with sweaty, naked back. WARNING, 16 April 2009
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a staple for many. When it went off the air, we searched for an outlet. Out of the darkness & rubble, first arose the Film Crew(now defunct) and RiffTrax. Both these endeavors revolved around Mike, Kevin & Bill. This is the first of four movies (picked democratically by the "Internet") the Crew laid track for before disbanding. Honcho Home Video Presentation's motto is "every movie deserves a commentary." CEO, Bob Honcho, has a thing for Golden Girl, Rue McClanahan, so the Crew must do Hollywood After Dark.

The format of the DVD is identical to the other 3. There is an introductory scene with Bob Honcho on the phone selecting the movie, a lunch break in the middle of the movie(where they end up not eating usually) and a finale sketch(in this case the replication of the light bulb strike to the head). As with the other DVDs there is second selection, usually a short vignette. This one is title "Ode to Lunch" where Bill recites a short poem(about lunch obviously).

Unless you have ever thought about what it would be like to see your grandmother in her prime, wearing a bikini or less, don't bother watching this. The only remarkable thing about this film is Rue McClanahan and the possibility that she took this role because she saw something of herself in the character. Don't eat a heavy meal before or any meal while you watch this, as it can prove to be a choking risk.

Locations: A Hollywood junkyard, a Hollywood beach, a Hollywood highway, and a Hollywood set made to resemble your typical international burlesque house & LA lofts.

Plot: Jack Webb lookalike attempts to recruit an ex-navy & hyper-cynical underwater demolition expert, named Tony (the hairy Jack Vorno), for a heist.

Subplot: Rue McClanahan is an aspiring actress who works at Jack Webb's brother's burlesque, to pay the bills. After a confusing transition and conversation with Tony in which Rue explains that there are limits to her stripping, Tony expresses his stark cynicism. Stripping at the burlesque, by the way, is down to underwear and pasties. The only nudity here is Rue's sweaty, bare back (literally, back). Then the date at the beach.

Conflict: Rue meets with a "writer" at his "office"(apartment) to do a "reading." After what seems to be hours, Rue has been drugged(or not) or very drunk(or not) and the writer either makes out with her(or not) or rapes her(or not). Insert fisticuffs. Keep the audience confused.

Conflict resolution: Rue descends into hell as she bares her top for the lascivious W. Hollywood mob. Show Rue's sweaty, back. In the midst of his guilt, Tony agrees to the heist; his share to go to Rue, so they can start over.

Twist: 15 minutes of dialog free "action" followed by double-cross.

Morale: Hollywood will destroy you, first morally and then physically. Don't bother coming here.

-Celluloid Rehab

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Imagining Rue McClanahan stripping, then vomit. Then eat more Drano., 16 April 2009
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Unless you have ever thought about what it would be like to see your grandmother in her prime, wearing a bikini or less, don't bother watching this. The only remarkable thing about this film is Rue McClanahan and the possibility that she took this role because she saw something of herself in the character. Don't eat a heavy meal before or any meal while you watch this, as it can prove to be a choking risk.

Locations: A Hollywood junkyard, a Hollywood beach, a Hollywood highway, and a Hollywood set made to resemble your typical international burlesque house & LA lofts.

Plot: Jack Webb lookalike attempts to recruit an ex-navy & hyper-cynical underwater demolition expert, named Tony (the hairy Jack Vorno), for a heist.

Subplot: Rue McClanahan is an aspiring actress who works at Jack Webb's brother's burlesque, to pay the bills. After a confusing transition and conversation with Tony in which Rue explains that there are limits to her stripping, Tony expresses his stark cynicism. Stripping at the burlesque, by the way, is down to underwear and pasties. The only nudity here is Rue's sweaty, bare back (literally, back). Then the date at the beach.

Conflict: Rue meets with a "writer" at his "office"(apartment) to do a "reading." After what seems to be hours, Rue has been drugged(or not) or very drunk(or not) and the writer either makes out with her(or not) or rapes her(or not). Insert fisticuffs. Keep the audience confused.

Conflict resolution: Rue descends into hell as she bares her top for the lascivious W. Hollywood mob. Show Rue's sweaty, back. In the midst of his guilt, Tony agrees to the heist; his share to go to Rue, so they can start over.

Twist: 15 minutes of dialog free "action" followed by double-cross.

Morale: Hollywood will destroy you, first morally and then physically. Don't bother coming here.

-Celluloid Rehab

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Glaucomic Projectionists from Space, 16 April 2009
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a staple for many. When it went off the air, we searched for an outlet. Out of the darkness & rubble, first arose the Film Crew(now defunct) and RiffTrax. Both these endeavors revolved around Mike, Kevin & Bill. This is the second of four movies the Crew laid track for before disbanding. In this session, Bob Honcho Enterprises' president, Bob Honcho, selects Killers from Space.

The format of the DVD is identical to the other 3. There is an introductory scene with Bob Honcho on the phone selecting the movie, a lunch break in the middle of the movie and a finale sketch(in this case demonstration of a "Robichet" acting device). As with the other DVDs there is second selection, usually a short vignette. This one is a series of 5 audio outtakes for one scene, called "did you know."

The movie begins in the middle of stock footage of U.S. Air Force planes (black & white, 1940's & 1950's), radar dishes, people messing with knobs, dials and switches, planes flying, planes landing, planes taking off, etc. A nuclear test in about to commence. Peter Graves is Dr. Martin, the lead scientist on the test. He is up in a plane (designated "Tar Baby 1"), circling the event and gathering data.

Shortly after the explosion, something unexpected occurs and the plane crashes. Martin mysteriously shows up at the base, with no memory of what has transpired and a scar over his nipple. He starts behaving strangely or so it seems to everyone else in the movie. To the people watching, we hope Peter Graves won some sort of acting award because it can't be easy to act while in a coma.

This is a truly epic horror movie. The horror is not the subject but rather the effect on the individual. The "Killers from Space" don't appear until more than 1/2 way through the movie and our protagonist, Dr. Martin, has the personality of a Fuccon. Add to this 20 minutes of a sodium amethol(not sure this kind of truth serum exists) induced flashback, a 5 minute chase scene in a power plant (involving running up & down the stairs, as well as using elevators and hiding behind things) and an unusual number of grisly close ups.

I didn't even mention the all too numerous shots of Peter Graves in front of a screen showing a reptile or insect close up or that the plot revolves around a clichéd group of extraterrestrials who's home planet is unlivable and they want to squat or take over our planet. Did I mention the heavy tobacco sponsorship? I counted 8 scenes in the movie, where the sole purpose was to showcase cigarettes or pipe tobacco. In one scene, all 3 characters conversing in the scene are smoking. Was the world really like that or what big-Tobacco wanted it to be? Not even a cameo by Coleman Francis can save this movie from the fate of being watched at 2x speed, from now on.

I struggled with rating this movie. The movie is truly horrible and the jokes aren't the best of the series but the overall score is indicative of the timing of the jokes to maximize relief from the pain. It's like eating something when you are really starving. The jokes, even though they're average, have a bigger impact on a much more horrible and dull movie. The impact is larger and so is the score.

-Celluloid Rehab

Any episode of Biography is way better than this., 16 April 2009
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The movie begins in the middle of stock footage of U.S. Air Force planes (black & white, 1940's & 1950's), radar dishes, people messing with knobs, dials and switches, planes flying, planes landing, planes taking off, etc. A nuclear test in about to commence. Peter Graves is Dr. Martin, the lead scientist on the test. He is up in a plane (designated "Tar Baby 1"), circling the event and gathering data. Shortly after the explosion, something unexpected occurs and the plane crashes. Martin mysteriously shows up at the base, with no memory of what has transpired and a scar over his nipple. He starts behaving strangely or so it seems to everyone else in the movie. To the people watching, we hope Peter Graves won some sort of acting award because it can't be easy to act while in a coma.

This is a truly epic horror movie. The horror is not the subject but rather the effect on the individual. The "Killers from Space" don't appear until more than 1/2 way through the movie and our protagonist, Dr. Martin, has the personality of a Fuccon. Add to this 20 minutes of a sodium amethol(not sure this kind of truth serum exists) induced flashback, a 5 minute chase scene in a power plant (involving running up & down the stairs, as well as using elevators and hiding behind things) and an unusual number of grisly close ups.

I didn't even mention the all too numerous shots of Peter Graves in front of a screen showing a reptile or insect close up or that the plot revolves around a clichéd group of extraterrestrials who's home planet is unlivable and they want to squat or take over our planet. Did I mention the heavy tobacco sponsorship? I counted 8 scenes in the movie, where the sole purpose was to showcase cigarettes or pipe tobacco. In one scene, all 3 characters conversing in the scene are smoking. Was the world really like that or what big-Tobacco wanted it to be? Not even a cameo by Coleman Francis can save this movie from the fate of being watched at 2x speed, from now on.

-Celluloid Rehab

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
The Best of the Film Crew, 15 April 2009
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a staple for many. When it went off the air, we searched for an outlet. Out of the darkness & rubble, first arose the Film Crew(now defunct) and RiffTrax. Both these endeavors revolved around Mike, Kevin & Bill. This is the third of four movies the Crew laid track for before disbanding and I believe is the best of the bunch.

In this episode Bob Honcho picks the Wild Women of Wongo for the Crew to lay down a commentary track. As usually there are 3 sketches; beginning, lunch & end. The first sketch is about the air conditioning of the building. The lunch sketch is all about a map of the world and the final sketch is the testing of a match-making computer. As compared to the sketches in Hollywood After Dark & Killers from Space, these seem less forced and somewhat funnies. Sadly, none of Film Crew sketches compares to any from MST3k. There is a bonus section on the DVD and it contains two sketches: the Crew is forced to DANCE by the dragon god priestess & reenactment of the final scene of the movie, with cutouts.

A disembodied Mother Nature narrates a story 10,000 years in the making. The events of the great "Wongo"-"Goona"-"Monkey Men from the Sea" conflict are recounted. The manipulative Mother Nature has placed all the prettiest women with the Wongo tribe and the good looking men in the rival & nearby Goona tribe. The men of Wongo & women of Goona are suppose to be fugly. The Monkey Man threat is severely over-hyped, as is their involvement in the film.

The conflict arises when the son of the king of Goona arrives by canoe, waving the white-wing of peace, to warn Wongo of the arrival of the Monkey Men from the sea. The Wongo men, obviously jealous of his good looks, devise a plan to kill him. The Wongo women, lusting over the pretty man, decide to step in. The origins of humanity start are becoming clearer, but it just needs a few more ingredients.

Add a "Dragon God" (a.k.a. crocodile/alligator), the god's temple complete with one crazy priestess, some modern dance, leopard print & leather slips, lots of hair spray, blue hair, empty scenes of the "jungle", at least 12 cut-aways to an annoying parrot, stock footage of crocodiles/alligators, scenes of wandering through the jungle, several repetitions of previous footage, a scene of a woman trying to drown a crocodile/alligator and page upon page of horrible "savage-man" dialog (i.e. "me go", "Wongo not friend to Goona", Yoda teaching English class, etc.). Anyone can film a movie like this. Just go to the Florida Everglades or Keys and hire some bodies from Gold's Gym, don't forget to cater it and remember the script will figure itself out. The pain is excruciating. This is definitely the kind of movie to watch at 1.5x and not by oneself. Do NOT attempt this without the Crew, moreover bring many friends and several bottles of bourbon.

-Celluloid Rehab

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
It's a miracle the human race survived., 15 April 2009
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A disembodied Mother Nature narrates a story 10,000 years in the making. The events of the great "Wongo"-"Goona"-"Monkey Men from the Sea" conflict are recounted. The manipulative Mother Nature has placed all the prettiest women with the Wongo tribe and the good looking men in the rival & nearby Goona tribe. The men of Wongo & women of Goona are suppose to be fugly. The Monkey Man threat is severely over-hyped, as is their involvement in the film.

The conflict arises when the son of the king of Goona arrives by canoe, waving the white-wing of peace, to warn Wongo of the arrival of the Monkey Men from the sea. The Wongo men, obviously jealous of his good looks, devise a plan to kill him. The Wongo women, lusting over the pretty man, decide to step in. The origins of humanity start are becoming clearer, but it just needs a few more ingredients.

Add a "Dragon God" (a.k.a. crocodile/alligator), the god's temple complete with one crazy priestess, some modern dance, leopard print & leather slips, lots of hair spray, blue hair, empty scenes of the "jungle", at least 12 cut-aways to an annoying parrot, stock footage of crocodiles/alligators, scenes of wandering through the jungle, several repetitions of previous footage, a scene of a woman trying to drown a crocodile/alligator and page upon page of horrible "savage-man" dialog (i.e. "me go", "Wongo not friend to Goona", etc.). Anyone can film a movie like this. Just go to the Florida Everglades or Keys and hire some bodies from Gold's Gym, don't forget to cater it and remember the script will figure itself out. The pain is excruciating. This is definitely the kind of movie to watch at 1.5x and not by oneself. Bring many friends and several bottles of bourbon.

-Celluloid Rehab


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