Reviews

12 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Wheelman (2017)
10/10
What Driver Should Have Been
23 October 2017
This spare, stark, simple double-cross story is hung on the bones of some of the best road-action camera work I've seen since the 1980s. The chase- scene shot sequencing hearkens back to the early giants of the genre: Bullit, The Driver, The Blues Brothers. The makers spend plenty of attention on watching the Wheelman manipulate the controls of his car and presenting realistic, easy-to-follow driving choreography. Nothing in this thing breaks your suspension of disbelief... unlike other multi-million dollar, CGI-choked car-chase franchises I can think of. Yes, as some reviewers have complained, most of the conflict is advanced through cell phone conversations, but that merely serves to throw the many actions sequences into even sharper relief. The director never pulls you out of the car to set you safely on the sidelines as the action goes whizzing by; you're in the seat with the bullets flicking past your head. Sit down, listen to the dialogue, and you'll like this inexpensive little jewel.
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Chewing Gum (2015– )
9/10
British Comedy for the 21st Century
17 April 2017
This show could have been ruined by a heavy hand on the Director's controls, but it perfectly threads the gap between a bleak-and-gritty portrayal of London's working class (which it is not) and a zany, Poly Anna Utopia where's everything's perfect and nothing is permanent (which it also is not.) The lead actress, creator, and writer, Michaela Coel, is also spot on, ticking all the right boxes of "Hot," "Cute," "Silly," "Vulnerable," and -- yes -- even a deep-seated "Intelligent" with her character. She reminds of classic comediennes like Lucille Ball and pre-political-insanity Jenny McCarthy. I hope Netflix gives several more seasons.
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Macbeth (2015)
3/10
High Hopes Utterly Dashed
17 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This version of the play represents opportunity squandered. An excellent cast is wasted on this vision of the play that takes too many liberties with the source material: rearranging scenes, dropping characters, and perhaps trying to be too historically accurate to the setting rather than the stage production. While the Scottish Play isn't exactly a yuk-fest comedy, the director has wrung every last drop of levity out of the script, leaving it unnecessarily bleak: where's the porter, cursing as he stumbles out of bed to answer the midnight knock? Where's the badinage between Lady Macduff and her son before the murderers descend? Where's the exchange between Malcom and Macduff, when the prince tests Macduff's loyalties? And where in the heck is Donaldbain? My most strident complaint, expressed by others here on the review board, too, is the delivery of the lines. The intensity and emotion are there, thanks to a superb set f actors, but sometimes the script requires volume (and not just during the slow-mo battle scenes. Every single line in this thing is delivered like a couple having a lover's spat in a library: fierce whispers and swiveling eyeballs.
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Final Girl (2015)
7/10
Could Have Been Better
3 April 2016
I've seen other reviewers of this movie complain about low production values and an under-developed plot; neither of those things bothered me. I thought the story and the look of the movie were perfectly serviceable. The things that broke my suspension of disbelief were the action scenes. For a trained-from-childhood, meat-eater assassin, the protagonist -- while cute -- was a little soft and doughy, and her fight scenes were a bit stiff and sluggish. Ms. Breslin isn't quite the second coming of Cynthia Rothrock (or even Chloe Moretz)... but she could be with training and a coach. I'd watch a sequel or a remake with a few improvements.
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Why We Ride (2013)
4/10
Couldn't Make It All the Way Through
7 May 2015
I REALLY wanted to love this movie, but it falls short of the benchmarks in the genre: "On Any Sunday" and its sequel, "Long Way Round" and its sequel, and the "Faster" franchise (MotoGP racing.) Slapping up a bunch of talking heads to blather on about their emotions would be more effective if they were at least identified by name, and preferably by accomplishment up front, but for the first third of the film, they remain anonymous. The history lessons were somewhat interesting, but somehow the "hook" was missing. I wanted a movie I could show the wife to fully explain my love of the sport, but I'll probably have more luck stirring her interest in motorcycling by putting her through the MSF's Basic Rider Course. "Why We Ride" had its heart in the right place, but its execution was flawed.
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Gamer (2009)
4/10
Serviceable story torpedoed by terrible camera work.
3 March 2010
Great cast, good premise, adequate script, stoned director and/or cinematographer. I had low expectations of this thing, but even they weren't met. All the cast members did as well as he could with the material they had, but Michael C. Hall's character was horribly flat (not his fault)and Butler's felt stilted and constrained. Hall's song-and-dance number near the end ALMOST redeemed the picture, but the dreaded "documentary-style" camera work (which was almost constant) was near-seizure inducing. This might appealed to Ritalin-deprived teenagers so ADHD that their teeth buzz in their sleep, but grown-ups should steer clear.
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Man Hunt (1941)
3/10
Timeless Classic book dumbed down by Hollywood.
28 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The Book gets 10 out of 10 stars...

PROBABLY CONTAINS SPOILERS OF BOTH THE BOOK AND THE MOVIE!!!

If you've never read Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male, the source material for Man Hunt, you'll likely enjoy Fritz Lang's treatment of the story. On the other hand, if you're in my camp and have practically memorized the book, the movie will be a crashing disappointment. I'll assume you've already read a synopsis of the story, and proceed to my complaints. Household's little novel is one of the all-time great suspense classics, taut and spare, with only a bare handful of characters to propel the action. Fritz Lang and his screen writer Dudley Nichols feel the need to throw in the protagonist's brother and a sympathetic floozy, the latter of which reduces the depth of the story by injecting an extrinsic motivation into the screenplay where the novel needed none. In fact, the true climax of the book was not the nameless narrator's escape from his underground lair, but rather his self-acceptance of his true motive for going on his hunt in the first place. And that's another thing: if David Fincher and Quentin Tarantino can get us all the way through Fight Club and Kill Bill 1 without revealing the names of their respective protagonists, why can't Lang? "Thorndyke?" What hat did they pull that out of? Which brings me to my bitterest complaint: Household's hunter is so quintessentially British,he would bleed a Union Jack if you cut him. But Walter Pigeon, who plays him, is Canadian! He can barely sustain the accent, which is only slightly deeper and more convincing that Kevin Costner's in Robin Hood. He looked about right in the role, and was a fine actor for the 1940s,but as Rogue Male's reluctant hero? Let's look to the Sceptered Isle itself for a more convincing version. Remake soon with subtlety and with, please! I'll direct it for free…
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7/10
Not as Bad as You Remember
17 July 2009
This movie was much maligned when it came out in 1985, but that was due to the spectacular qualities of its predecessors, "Mad Max" and "The Road Warrior." Taken out of comparison with the other two, this movie is still solid post-apocalyptic fun, but it's lighter and slightly less violent than "Road Warrior" (as is evidenced by the PG-13 rating.) The actors' performances are perfectly adequate for the action, and the chase scenes bear all the hallmarks of Miller's craftsmanship (which contemporary directors should seriously consider studying and revitalizing.) You just won't see any arrow-riddled bodies slamming into the pavement at 60 mph or watch manned motorcycles sucked under the wheels of a big-rig. This one is about the kids. Think Hook in the wasteland and that starts to approach it.

If you saw this movie in the theaters 25 years ago and walked out hating it, give it another chance. Just don't see "RW" right beforehand. No reason to hobble your experience with unrealistic expectations.
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The Hunted (2003)
9/10
First Blood for the New Generation.
11 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Complaints about this movie's lack of characterization and thin plot miss the point. This is a stone-simple "bad-guy-on-the-loose-chased-down-by-good-guy" exercise. The fact that both characters DO have some depth (Aaron's troubling wartime operations, his attempt at a relationship; LT's baggage concerning his work for the military) simply adds to the believability. The story overlays very neatly atop the map drawn by David Morrell over 30 years ago in his novel First Blood, which spawned the Rambo franchise. You want soul-searing inter-personal navel-gazing (like I do every now and then?) Try a Gabrielle Muccino movie. You want gripping suspense; startling action; a thoughtful, REALISTIC car chase; and a blessed amount of hard, fast, well-sorted out martial arts with NO nauseating cinema verite' camera work? Give The Hunted a spin.

Oh, and my spoiler? My one complaint: In the climatic fight scene, Tommy Lee Jones' LT character takes more knife damage than appears survivable. I could be wrong, but it looked like he would have been in MUCH worse shape (as in wheelchair bound for life) by the end of the thing.
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The Thing (1982)
9/10
Classic Cold War Science Fiction
28 April 2009
As a teenager, seeing this movie in the theater in 1982, I was gleefully ecstatic about the gore factor in this movie. The nightmarish body props coupled with artfully selected sound effects put this film solidly in the "hard R" category -- and my younger brother and my cousin's squeamish reactions bore that out. Unfortunately, at the time, the critics couldn't see past this, and The Thing was panned and then forgotten.

But 20+ years later, the violence scale has slipped enough that when you get past the ooze and the blood and the ripping teeth, you're left with a model of paranoia-packed, "who-can-you-trust?" invasion-type Sci-Fi. The cast's performances and the taut dialogue really string you out then leave you hanging -- in a great way. And Ennio Morricone's understated score perfectly seals the deal. Carpenter should have called him up when he started production of "The Mouth of Madness."

If you're looking for a good Cold War alien yarn, and you want something a little harder-edged than "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," but didn't enjoy the remake, give "The Thing" a spin. You won't be disappointed.
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