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5527 reviews in total 
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Reds (1981)
epic both personal and geopolitical, 25 July 2015

It's 1915 in provincial Portland. Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) is a liberated married woman who is at odds with her husband. She goes to the Liberal Club to hear Jack Reed (Warren Beatty) who claims the war is for profits. She is drawn immediately to him and interviews him. She follows him to NYC but she struggles in Jack's shadow. She has an affair with Eugene O'Neill (Jack Nicholson) but marries Jack anyways. Jack and his colleagues rally against the declaration of war. The marriage is not going smoothly and Bryant goes to France to be a war correspondent. Despite his medical problems, Reed goes over to Europe and convinces her to join him in Russia. They become writing partners and witness the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917. The second half has Reed struggle to bring Revolution to America but faces infighting with Louis Fraina (Paul Sorvino). He struggles even more in Russia as he fights with Bolshevik revolutionary Grigory Zinoviev with his declining health.

The movie is very long although I understand why it had to be so long. There is an epic both the small scale personal romance and in the geopolitical world. The acting is superb. Keaton and Beatty really pushes hard. I'm less certain about the inserts of the real people. Most of the people are not well known. It gives it flavor but it also disrupts the flow. The movie needs faster pacing.

The Quest (1996)
Van Damme's weak directions, 25 July 2015

Christopher Dubois (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a street performer and pickpocket leading a group of orphans in NYC. He escapes gangster by stowing away on a ship. The ship is smuggling guns and the crew enslaves him. They are attacked by pirates led by Englishman Lord Edgar Dobbs (Roger Moore). Dobbs sells Dubois where he's trained in Muay Thai fighting. There is a secret tournament that invites the greatest fighters of each disciple from around the world. There is American reporter Carrie Newton (Janet Gunn). American heavyweight boxing champ Maxie Devine (James Remar) surrenders his spot in the tournament to Dubois as he fights to win against the best of the best.

This is a copy of Bloodsport except it's stupider and inferiorly made. I don't know why Dubois has to go through all of that idiotic journey. It's a lot of badly written plot. Then there is Van Damme as a director. He really tries but lacks the skills to pull it off. He throws a lot on the screen but it looks cheesy. The acting is bad. Van Damme is highlighting the worst aspect of himself. The one hope is the fighting. While it may be compelling in real life to see the various fighting styles, Van Damme is not a good enough director to capture it. Most of the fighting lacks life or tension. It's slow-motion weak. Van Damme needs to let a better director to do the job.

same irreverent chaotic fun, 25 July 2015

The Krusty Krab family and Plankton get into a food fight. The secret formula disappears into thin air. After running out of Krabby Patties, Mr. Krab blames it on Plankton and leads a mob after him. SpongBob knows that Plankton didn't steal the formula and helps him escape Bikini Bottom. While Bikini Bottom becomes an apocalyptic dystopia, Plankton builds a time machine to go back before the chaos to get the formula with SpongBob. With the help of magical dolphin Bubbles, the SpongBob crew goes to the real world to confront the pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) who has stolen the Krabby Patty formula.

It's chaotic fun. It's random. It's sarcastic. It's the cartoon turned into a movie except the 3D real world action. For some reason, the real world isn't as much fun. It becomes SpongBob superhero action. It's still the same irreverent idiocy but I just like them more in 2D animated form.

symphonic style, 25 July 2015

The man with a Harmonica (Charles Bronson) arrives at a desolate train station. He's met by three gunmen sent by Frank (Henry Fonda) and he promptly kills them. Jill (Claudia Cardinale) is a new young bride from New Orleans. She arrives to live with her husband Brett McBain and his family in an isolated desert homestead he calls Sweatwater. She finds the whole McBain family massacred. Cheyenne (Jason Robards) is the prime suspect but he joins her along with Harmonica to seek revenge on the real killers, Frank and his men who are working for the railroad.

This is a western dripping with the Sergio Leone style. The story is simple. It's a lot of attitude. The movie starts with the great Harmonica arrival scene. Woody Strode and Jack Elam are so great that I wish they survived to stay in the movie. A minor problem is that the opening scene is so great that the rest of the movie struggles at times to return to that level.

nice noir style crime drama, 24 July 2015

A mystery man stakes out the delivery schedule at a Kansas City bank. He recruits Pete Harris (Jack Elam), lady's man Boyd Kane (Neville Brand) and cop killer Tony Romano (Lee Van Cleef). He makes everyone wear a mask and keep their identities a secret. The four masked men rob an armored truck of $1.2 million and frame flower delivery truck driver Joe Rolfe (John Payne) by using a replica of his truck. The mystery man sends the other three to other countries to wait for the final payout. Flower truck driver Joe is quickly arrested and his past hounds him during the police interrogation. He gets fired from his job. After he is finally released, he tracks down Pete Harris to find the rest and exact revenge.

It's a hard-boiled crime drama. There are a couple of questionable turns. I'm willing to buy that the three robbers would wait for their money especially since the guy is pointing a gun at them. I'm less willing to buy that the mastermind would ever fulfill his obligations especially since none of the other three men can identify him. The plot is a bit too convenient and it has a few holes in its logic. It does have some nice noir style. It's got good violence and abrupt brutality.

compelling Shailene in sputtering mystery/coming-of-age movie, 24 July 2015

It's 1988. Seventeen year old Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley) has a seemingly perfect suburban life from the outside. However, her mother Eve (Eva Green) had grown tired of her father Brock (Christopher Meloni) over the years. She belittles him all the time and then she vanishes. Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane) investigates but there are no leads. Kat seeks affections from her dumb boyfriend Phil from across the street and help from her psychiatrist Dr. Thaler (Angela Bassett).

This is part coming-of-age movie and part mystery. The most important word is part. This is partly good. Shailene Woodley is a winning actress and she keeps interest in the movie. The mystery part is pushed aside for the first hour and then it lays an obvious big clue right in the face of the audience. For the first hour, I keep waiting for Kat to start looking into the mystery but she does everything except that. After the big giant clue, the story stops to be a mystery and I'm waiting for Kat to see the big flashing neon sign. It's a complete fail as a mystery but Shailene is still a compelling actress. There are a couple of twists at the end but it's a bit too late.

slow but good spy thriller, 24 July 2015

An agent crossing back over to the west in Berlin is killed. Alec Leamas (Richard Burton) is called back to London for the failure. His boss would like to bring him in from the cold but he wants to stay operational. He gets demoted and becomes a depressed drunk. He gets an idealistic communist girlfriend Nan Perry (Claire Bloom). He is then recruited by the East Germans except they don't know that he is in fact disseminating false information to implicate East German intelligence leader Mundt.

I like one of two things or both in espionage movies. I want either action or paranoid drama. This being a John le Carré novel means that there is almost no action. There is a bit of paranoid drama although I like it portrayed more intensely. This is a good thinking person's spy thriller and a great antidote to Bond. I can do without the idiotic naivety of Perry. She could be smarter than her cardboard cutout character. Richard Burton is solid. The last scene is amazing and well worth waiting for.

quirky romance, 24 July 2015

Wayne 'Mad Dog' Dobie (Robert De Niro) is a lonely crime scene investigator with his partner Mike (David Caruso). He likes his neighbor Lee (Kathy Baker) but she is abused by her police boyfriend. One night, he rescues Frank 'The Money Store' Milo (Bill Murray) from being held hostage in a convenience store robbery. Frank turns out to be a mob boss and sends barmaid Glory (Uma Thurman) to be his companion for a week. Frank also sends Harold (Mike Starr) to watch over them.

Bill Murray and Robert De Niro are switching roles in this. It's a bit quirky to have Murray as the mob boss while De Niro is the romantic lead. This is a lot light quirky but no big laughs. Uma Thurman is endearing. The relationship is charming. It has some darker tones but it never gets too dark. It's an odd rom-com but it does work on a certain level.

snappy writing, 24 July 2015

Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is a moderate Republican and the star news anchor on ACN. After a rant that turns PR nightmare, his EP Don Keefer abandons him for another show on the network. His boss Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) hires Will's ex MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) as his new producer. She brings with her sharp new producer Jim Harper. He develops feelings for Will's assistant Maggie Jordan. Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) is a smart socially awkward business reporter. Neal Sampat is working the internet media. The network is owned by a family conglomerate led by Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda) and her son Reese (Chris Messina).

This has the snappy writing of Aaron Sorkin. It also has his idealism of what a newsroom should be. It's pithy. It incorporates real stories into the show. The problem is that this show feels 5 years too late. The discussion being discussed has already been discussed after old media lost. Instead of being a powerful forewarning, this is a loser's lament. It's not until the last season when the network got bought out that it feels somewhat real. The idealism of principals over money gets to be too manufactured. This place needs to face round after round of firings to get some realism. Sorkin is making a point but too often, it feels like he's preaching. The writing is too cute at times but everything is first rate.

In addition to great writing, there is great acting. Jeff Daniels shows depth in his skill set. There are great actors like Emily Mortimer and Sam Waterston. The surprise comes from Olivia Munn who actually comes off as funny and endearing. It's her best work ever.

2 great comics 1 uninspired show, 23 July 2015

Billy Crystal is a veteran comedian trying to get a sketch comedy show on the FX network. To his dismay, he is forced to take on edgier young comic Josh Gad. It's Josh's dream come true but not for Billy. Kristen Laybourne (Stephnie Weir) is the struggling producer. Mitch Reed (Matt Oberg) is the overlooked head writer. Esme (Megan Ferguson) is the disinterested P.A.

These are two great comedic talents. The material is uninspired. The limited comedy isn't all that funny but Billy and Josh do a commendable job. The show within the show is not funny. Other than the top two, the comedy drops off. The writing is simply not sharp enough.

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