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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
So Far Quite Impressive, 14 September 2016
8/10

It's called "Bizaardvark" and involves the video production efforts of two teenage girls whose straight-laced school with its standardized uniforms and robotic student body does not get them. Lacking a creative outlet at school they have turned to online videos to express themselves, discover their identities, and maintain some level of sanity.

This unapologetic "iCarly" clone is of interest because it amps up the script sophistication while dialing down the gross-out infantile humor of that series; all the while taking a gentler tone. On its face this would appear illogical as it seems to be contradictory, saying goodbye to the "basket of deplorables" portion of the "iCarly" demographic while trying to attract some younger viewers and at the same time a more sophisticated audience segment.

Amazingly they seem to have succeeded in both, mostly by vastly improving on"iCarly" four main characters, while adding a hilarious Southern Belle version of Caroline Sunshine's "Shake-It-Up" character. As you become familiar with the series you begin to realize that it is closer in spirit to "Victorious" than to "ICarly", with much the same undercurrent of healthy subversion.

All five of these actors are easy to take. Olivia Rodrigo and Madison Hu bring a lot of effortless charm to Paige and Frankie. Jack Paul's and Ethan Wacker's characters grow on you after watching and re-watching several episodes. And DeVore Ledridge's Amelia is an absolute gem. The show might be derivative but Amelia breaks conventions by defying stereotypes, she is in effect a parody of herself beneath which one finds that she has considerable dimensionality.

Amelia best illustrates the unifying theme of the show, which is all about Paige and Frankie discovering that the cost of rushing to define and dismiss people is failure to discover important depth and dimensionality in each one of them. They already know this from how they are treated at school but are learning that it applies universally.

The videos each character creates for their respective internet audiences represent them living in their imaginations. And it is at this point that the link to "Victorious" becomes most obvious:

'Cause you know that if you live in your imagination, Tomorrow you'll be everybody's fascination

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

Ambitious, 8 September 2016
10/10

Last night I happened to see an episode of Gunsmoke called "The Bobsy Twins" which was originally broadcast on May 21, 1960. This was the most philosophically ambitious episode of the entire long-running series. It concerns two aging brothers (Merle and Harvey Finney) who come west with the simplistic mission of ridding it of Indians. The viewer is introduced to them immediately as they cluelessly stumble across the prairie in search of Dodge City; hillbilly eastern rubes completely unequipped for navigation and survival in the sparsely populated vastness of the West. They are on foot, have not eaten in two days, and look scruffy enough to be Lil' Abner characters. "The Bobsy Twins" title is gradually explained as the viewer comes to understand that like Bert and Nan, these two brothers are children forever - at least mentally.

One of the most fascinating things about the Bobbseys is that they never aged. After the first books the publisher of the series realized that in real time Bert and Nan were soon going to be too old for their target audience, and he put the brakes on their aging. After that Bert and Nan were forever twelve and Flossie and Freddie forever six.

In the allegorical Gunsmoke episode Merle and Harvey are childlike characters, almost witless. They trace their simplistic but somewhat contradictory value system back to a revered father who among other things felt that it was not proper to murder anyone on Sundays, not because it is wrong to randomly kill but because Sunday should be a day of rest. But these impulsive and bloodthirsty "twins" find it impossible to keep even this basic commandment. Frustrated at encountering no Indians they instead kill a man who refuses to share his Sunday dinner with them and then kill a friendly cowboy in order to keep their involvement in the first murder a secret. Both murders are a little contrived, with the brothers basically looking for an excuse to kill someone.

Once in Dodge a cowboy (Richard Chamberlain) in the Long Branch tells them that the livery store owner is a full-blooded Cherokee and they set out to hang him.

What makes the episode so special is that writer John Meston (who originally wrote the story for radio) is not really going off on the hypocrisy of Christianity or of religion in general. Although after the murders they repent having done these deeds on what should have been for them a day of rest, Meston is using the "day of rest" thing allegorically to represent the many childlike minds that grasp hold of whatever simplistic influence is out there as a way to justify their self-indulgence. And their revered father represents those who would use the fear, hate, and prejudices of simpletons like the Finney's to manipulate them for their own purposes (a certain presidential candidate comes to mind).

While the brother's nativist banter in this episode is sometimes amusing, it is mostly in the script to humanize them enough so that they cannot simply be dismissed by viewers as creatures of a more barbaric species.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Profoundly Bad, 19 August 2016
2/10

Rebecca: This is so bad it's almost good.

Enid: This is so bad it's gone past good and back to bad again.

Felt far more like a dumbed-down version of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) than a remake of a 1960's secret agent show. Ill-conceived and poorly executed attempt to cash in once again on the pre-sold audience for anything "remotely" related to the U.N.C.L.E. franchise. Since the main appeal of the original 1960's television show was its campy take on the 60's secret agent craze, a direction that the James Bond films would not take for another ten years, viewers would expect a homage with more of the same. This would mean cheapo production design, unrealistic action sequences, and Napoleon Solo in lip lock with six different beautiful young actresses every thirty minutes. Unfortunately nobody associated with this production had much of a grasp on subtle or even unsubtle comedy and the thing is turned into an typical exercise in special effects excess and hyper-editing. Pretty much the opposite of everything that gave the original series its charm.

The target for this box office disaster was ladies and pre-teen girls getting off on Superman/Clark Kent actor Henry Cavill; whose minimalist acting style (or perhaps absence of acting talent) make him a worthy successor to expression challenged Robert Vaughn's Napoleon Solo. But this is a prequel and we learn that the first time Napoleon and Illya operated as a team was in pre - U.N.C.L.E. days. Robert Redford reboot Armie Hammer painfully plays the blonde Russian. For obvious reasons Hammer has generally been the kiss of death for all movies in which he has appeared over the past ten years. A "Springtime for Hitler" sort of thing.

In an effort to expand the target demographic the producers seem to have geared the promotional campaign around eye scorching Elizabeth Debicki who plays the bad girl. Those viewing the film for that reason will be somewhat disappointed. Although Debicki's performance is fine her screen time is brief and almost entirely in wide master shots. And while the promotional campaign sets you up for a decisive catfight sequence with the other actress (someone named Alicia Vikander); nothing happens between them. Despite all this Debicki easily wins the memorable character battle and you forget that Vikander and her tedious character were even in the film.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

A Fascinating Dynamic, 3 July 2016

"A girl, sent by her parents to live with her two eccentric aunts and attend a new high school, finds out on her sixteenth birthday that she is a witch". This premise sets up Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996) to be a blend of "Bewitched" and "Mean Girls".

This teen movie belongs to the "high-school-queen-bee-gets-her-comeuppance" sub-genre of which there are endless examples. Apparently there is a huge viewing demographic who on some basic level repeatedly get off erotically or emotionally on this humiliation dynamic. The friendship and coming-of-age elements are almost incidental to the story.

More central for your thinking viewer are the moral dilemma and ethical considerations raised by the story. Sabrina competes with other girls in track and field events; winning several of them by using her powers to cheat. Little effort is made to show her in any sort of quandary over her decision to cheat. The story hedges a bit on this issue, as her magic is mostly used in response to unwarranted attacks by her rival; but in several of the track & field events her cheating makes losers out of all the other participants and no attempt is made at rationalization or justification.

The problem with casting someone like Melissa Joan Hart as your good girl love interest is the absence of even a hint of physical sizzle. Which means that to stay remotely credible with viewers, the bad girl she plays off has to be several erotic levels below Megan Fox; hence Tori Spelling lookalike Lalainia Lindbjerg as Katy Lemore (apparently a play on L'Amore). And Hart's rival Libby in the 1996-2003 series would be played by the even less sizzling Jenna Leigh Green. Which makes their inevitable comeuppances almost sterile. And since Katy does not rank especially high on the queen bee badness scale Sabrina's extreme revenge is way out of proportion. To appreciate the missed opportunity just check out Samantha's inspired abuse of rival Sheila Sommers (played by gorgeous Nancy Kovack) in several episodes of "Bewitched".

But the producers should get some credit for a glammed up Katy in the "Zapped" (1982) inspired final comeuppance scene. Although Sabina has tortured Katy throughout the movie she saves the most extreme for the end, reducing her rival to a disheveled and whimpering wreck. With this "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" sets a new standard in teen movie queen bee degradation, if that is your idea of a turn on or a good time. Going any further with this sort of thing would cross into "Carrie" territory and that is an entirely different genre.

Sabina's bad boy hunk Seth is played by sleepy looking Ryan Reynolds, he is relatively harmless and almost cluelessly disengaged. Reynolds would play an almost identical character three years later in "Dick". "Dead Like Me's" Daisy - Laura Harris - plays one of Katy's friends and has a lot of what the main actresses are missing.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

10 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Currently the Best "Eye Candy" On Television, 22 January 2016
7/10

Wow, "Shadowhunters" in tight and shiny spandex, latex, and leather outfits; shades of "Barbarella"! Best eye-candy on television, at least until "Lab Rats" decides to lure viewers by prominently featuring Kelly Berglund parading around in her original spandex uniform with the knee-high black boots. And way better than Victoria Justice's short-lived and misnamed "Eye'Candy" MTV series. After watching the "Beyond the Shadows: The Making of Shadowhunter" I did not expect to like the actual episodes but so far they have exceeded my expectations.

I see a lot of Joss Weedon influences, especially in the creative ways the production designer gets a lot of mileage out of a modest budget. "Shadowhunters" is most like his "Dollhouse" (2009-10) series, or at least if "Angel" had been working out of that location.

Katherine McNamara has always been incredibly videogenic, but extremely sterile. She's a little older now and her Clary Fay costumes and action sequences give her actual sizzle.

Emeraude Toubia's "Isabelle Lightwood" character simply scorches your eyeballs in both close-ups and wide-shots. And she delightfully teases this role with a nice tongue-in-cheek parody quality that works to make Isabelle more accessible to viewers.

I'll leave it to others to comment on the three main brooding male cast members.

Like all the "Hunger Games" films, the series can be painful and insulting to viewers who have read the books.

The acting is weak, McNamara has a squeaky voice, and the story lines could be more engaging. But pretty much everything in the production is on a level far above such mainstream garbage as "Supergirl"; and given "Shadowhunters" elevation above that sort of dreck it is hard to understand the one star comments. Ratings should on a relative scale.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child. Comment

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Kathy Nolan Channels Mary Pickford, 20 December 2015
10/10

"Call Me Dodie" is my personal favorite of the many "Gunsmoke" episodes. The story has considerable charm and a remarkable portrayal of the title character. And it introduces a nice bit of symbolism, bookending the 60 minute September 1962 episode with a kite. In fact, it goes out on a shot (panning up) of the kite and its string tangled in the Pleasant Valley Orphanage sign; symbolic of the controlled freedom of Dodie's expected future. An absolutely brilliant ending.

Dodie was one of the first parts 30-year-old Kathleen Nolan played after leaving "The Real McCoys", at the conclusion of the series' fifth season. It was a remarkable performance as Dodie was a wide-eyed seventeen year-old orphan out to aggressively experience the world, starting with Dodge City. That Nolan is completely convincing in this part, both from an acting and a physical perspective, is simply amazing. You recognize her voice but there is complete physical transformation, wiping years off her Kate McCoy character.

The episode simply transplants the storyline of "Sparrows" (United Artists' 1926 silent feature) to Dodge City with Nolan playing Mary Pickford's Molly character. Molly was also the oldest child at an orphanage. The orphans in both stories are treated like slaves. Pickford was 34 when she played the 17 year-old Molly. I suspect that the casting of Nolan was inspired by Pickford's believability in this similar age disparity situation. In both the character takes on a dimensionality from the stretch required of both actresses, who sell their young characters so effectively that little suspension of disbelief is required of viewers.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Excellent Book - Very Ordinary Adaptation, 29 November 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Like many adaptations, this one leaves you amazed at Lionsgate's staggering contempt for the movie viewing public, a contempt similar to the "Capital's" contempt for the populations of the "Districts"; so perhaps their attitude is appropriate.

Susan Collins' source novel (she is complicit in this insult as she had a least some part in the adaptation), the first of a trilogy, is the story of an existential heroine (Katniss Everdeen) who performs a single heroic act, volunteering to take the place of her younger sister in the post-apocalyptic games from which the grim trilogy gets its name.

But Katniss immediately knows that there was nothing heroic about her action, that her lightening fast decision required no contemplation but was something she was compelled to do. For the rest of the first book (upon which the 2012 film is based) Katniss is buffeted along by mix of free will and destiny, second-guessing each of her decisions and feeling far more guilt than satisfaction over the consequences and (more fundamentally) over her decision to essentially prostitute herself to the Capital in the service of survival.

And the reader gets full access to the inner working of her mind because the story is told entirely (100%) from her point of view. This storytelling device shrinks the scale of the story, as a reader never goes out beyond the reach of the first person storyteller. This fosters the sort of reader identification Edgar Rice Burroughs brought to his "John Carter of Mars" series.

Apparently Lionsgate felt that viewers were not up to the mental challenge of Collins' storytelling technique and they converted to a third person POV, going so far as to completely dispense with a voice-over narration by the main character. A puzzling decision since film offers wonderful opportunities for the juxtaposition of objects of contrasting scale.

Lionsgate also felt the need to draw in characters and events from the second book in the series (endless scenes of President Snow and signs of the beginning of dissent in the Districts). These immediately destroy the scale unique to the first book and the concept of a faceless enemy, so that the progression of the trilogy from small to vast is compromised. Overt dissent in the Districts appears far too soon in the adaptation, effectively spoiling both the intimacy of the first book and the expansion of the struggle in later books.

The film's ham-handed treatment of the story is reflected in Haymitch's explanation for the high score Katness receives after shooting the apple out of the pig's month. He says it is because they liked her guts; but his explanation in the book is that they liked her temper, that this exhibition of her fierceness has made her a player who they believe will bring some heat to the games. Guts are not going to attract sponsors or win the games, nor are they going to incite anyone to revolt. It is a critical change of phrase because throughout the trilogy it is not her courage but her mix of fierceness and humanity that is the difference maker for Katniss, and it is this mix that gives the character the dimensionality necessary for reader identification.

Most remarkable, however, is Lionsgate's inexplicable failure to feature the most powerful and most memorable moment in the entire trilogy; the moment Katniss receives the bread from District 11. Arguably the most intense segment ever written. This is really the first book's climatic scene, as Katniss slowly grasps that the bread was originally intended for Rue, with those in her district making a great sacrifice in order to support her. And that after Rue's death they elected to redirect the gift to a participant from another district, the first time in the 70+ year history of the games that such a gesture was made. And the first hint of a unification of the twelve intentionally isolated districts.

This is the turning point of the entire story, much like the moment in "The Magnificent Seven" when the Villagers tell Chris they collected everything of value in their village to hire him and he accepts this small sum, saying: "I have been offered a lot for my work, but never everything".

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

"Miss Walsh, Time for Dictation", 30 July 2015
4/10

I can't in good conscience give "Screwball Hotel" more than four stars but it is still a must see. Buried throughout what is otherwise a moronic exercise in low-budget torture are short vignettes between the hotel manager and his secretary Miss Walsh (Laurah Guillen). These inspired scenes feature their active costume and fantasy sex life, these assorted scenes are inventive and hilarious enough to belong in a much better film. Despite their almost nonstop silly coupling, the two characters never call each other by their first names; maintaining the executive - secretary formality as they do erotic takeoffs on "The Wizard of Oz", "Star Trek", "Raider of the Lost Ark", "Snow White", and "Jaws". At one point a bellboy dresses up in a frog costume hoping to make it with Miss Walsh.

Miss Walsh is arguably the most erotic character in movie history (Guillen being an irresistible combination of cute face, killer body, and self-knowing whimsy). She surprisingly upstages Penthouse Pet-Of-The-Year Corinne Alphen (whose scenes are the only other ones worth watching) in the sizzle department.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A Flying Saucer and A Villainess With Orange Skin, 29 July 2015
3/10

"The Ambushers" (1967) is the third film in Dean Martin's four-film "Matt Helm" franchise. It is significantly weaker than the other three and the only one which does not feature a song by the Steubenville Thrush, I don't think that omission impacted the film's relative quality. Martin was not in Sinatra's class as a singer or an actor but he was effortlessly likable and had some comedic talent. "The Ambushers" gets two stars instead of one because Janice Rule gives a solid performance in the face of what must have been a professionally embarrassing production for her. She looks extremely uncomfortable when she is not looking bored - I imagine her mind alternated between these two states. I can't imagine that the typical Irwin Allen production design motivated any of the cast.

That said the film works quite well as a window into the pre-Woodstock era cultural vacuum. It throws a bevy of pretty young starlets onto the screen, none having the slightest dimensionality or being involved in anything remotely erotic. Sizzle-wise it's all form over substance.

Rule (whose character physically looks a lot like Mrs. Peel) does provide a bit of erotic voltage in much the same classy detached way Diana Rigg did in a standard episode of "The Avengers". Working against all the females in the cast are some of the worst costume choices you can imagine. Apparently for a few days in 1967 dull finish boots that look to be made from shag carpet were trendy, unfortunately those days appear to have been the days when the wardrobe choices were made.

The film had a villainess or at least the Francesca Madeiros character was intended to serve such a purpose. Francesca is played by a foreign actress named Senta Berger. She has orange skin, no waist, and wears large Christmas tree ornaments for earrings. It is rumored that Francesca's look served as the inspiration for the Oompa, Loompa characters in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory".

The film features a flying saucer and I wonder if the original script called for Francesca to be from Venus, perhaps they forgot to communicate the changes to the wardrobe people. That might explain the incredible leaps of logic and obvious gaps in the development of her character. Berger's character is so garishly moronic that it elevates Rule's character or at least helps you appreciate the degree to which Rule was able to transcend this hopeless mess.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

C.O.D. (1981)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Front-End-Loaded, 9 March 2015

Now almost forgotten, C.O.D. (1981) (German title "Snap") was a staple of the old "usa-up-all-night's" programming. The humor was a bit more sophisticated and satirical than most of their exploitation film selections; perhaps reflecting the German influence in the writing and the production. And unlike most it had a quality cast, many of whom have gone on to assemble impressive acting resumes.

Chris Lemmon plays Albert Zack, a relatively dim young advertising executive whose client is the financially failing Beaver Bra Company. The company chairman believes the enterprise can be saved if Albert can get their bra line endorsed by famous busty woman. He has selected five celebrity women and the film consists of five separate segments with the blundering Albert and his female secretary / good-girl-love-interest (played by Olivia Pascal) devising ways to meet them and pitch the endorsement idea. Getting past the escorts and security people involves an assortment of costumes and subterfuge. Working against them is a board member who wants the company to fail, with the biggest laughs coming from his female associate's (played by Jennifer Richards) attempts to stop Albert.

Corinne Alphen and Carole Davis play two of the celebrity women. They were arguably the two most erotic actresses of their decade and are both nicely showcased in their segments. Both had an instinctive acting for-the-camera ability. Former Penthouse Pet-Of-The-Year Alphen was the Nancy Kovack of the 80's, with a remarkably low upper arm to bust ratio. Even in this early role Davis radiates an intelligence and self-knowing whimsy that nicely complements her obvious physical assets.

The front-end-loaded pun refers to the ordering of the segments, as Alphen and Davis are featured early and the other three actresses are simply not up to their standard. Although "The Toy's" Teresa Ganzel does her standard airhead blonde quite competently. This peaking early is the film's only weakness, with little to hold your interest after Davis' hilarious film-stealing appearance as the mega-erotic Contessa Bazzini.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.


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