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The Perfect Stranger (2005)
It's smarter than you are
I have to say, this film is way deeper than most critics give it credit for. Sure, upon superficial viewing, "The Perfect Stranger" is Christian propaganda of the shoddiest kind, openly bad-mouthing other forms of monotheism. But that's the whole POINT, don't you see? Christ would never do any of the petty things depicted in this film. He wouldn't belittle others, he wouldn't play head games, he wouldn't show pride, he wouldn't seduce.
But you know who would? C'mon, people, wake up--it was Satan disguised as Jesus! Brilliant twist, and kudos to the director, scribe, and marketing department for respecting the audience enough not to spell it all out for us. The actors weren't incompetent, either: they were acting as bad actors, hinting at the lie beneath it all. Again, brilliant!
Waitasec--nah, it probably really is just another steaming pile of programming (in the literal sense) from a triple-digit cable station. You want a great Christian film? See "Life of Brian" again.
Firebird 2015 AD (1981)
I love Darren McGavin, but I couldn't make it past the first twenty minutes of this film--and that included a lot of fast-forwarding past the tedious driving scenes. Boring premise, cheesy dialog, and pacing that made me rather watch my clock's hour hand move. And come on--if the hero is going to restore some classic automobile, why would he ever waste his time and effort on a crappy Firebird?!
I literally threw away the videotape when I was done. Lucky for me that it was a gift from a friend (who also saw no reason to hang on to it). If you're looking for a silly high-speed movie, watch Smokey and the Bandit or any Steve McQueen movie. There's no reason to waste time with this drek.
Firefly: Out of Gas (2002)
Best. TV. Episode. Ever.
"Out of Gas" is the "Citizen Kane" of television episodes. Everything about it is perfect: the stellar cast, Tim Minear's brilliant and moving script, David Solomon's direction (fantastic pacing), the melancholy soundtrack, the clever lighting--everything. I can watch this ep over and over, which I can't say about any other ep of any TV show I can think of.
I disagree with the other commentator that "Out of Gas" should have been the final ep; the best series finale to "Firefly" was never made because it would have given closure to seven years of outstanding television.
Watch the Chernobyl opening, then eject
I was really impressed with the atmosphere created by the first ten minutes in Chernobyl. The grim surreality of the actual setting perfectly set the mood for living death.
Unfortunately, the film plummets from that point. The two-dimensional characters and talentless cast are forgivable--no one rents a zombie flick for Shakespearean depth--but is basic continuity too much to ask from the fourth installment of a series? Or how about some black humor, which made the first two films stand out from vanilla zombie flicks? After the Chernobyl opening, there's no reason to waste the next hour of your life. There's not even a titty flash to wake you up. Peter Coyote was a near-relief from the rest of the dreck, planting his thumb firmly in cheek as if to say, "Yeah, I know: this film is runny crap and I apologize, but I have gambling debts to pay off by Thursday or they'll break my kneecaps. But hey, dig my impression of a James Bond villain." Lots of people gave this film a 10 rating. Don't be fooled--they must be friends and family of the film-makers. "Dawn of the Dead" deserves a 10; the original "Return of the Living Dead" an 8 or 9. But this movie has next to nothing going for it.
Perfect casting redeems vanilla script
The leads were amazing: Fillion is the ultimate dramedic actor, Banks is like Jim Carrey's mind in Nicole Kidman's body, Michael Rooker was pretty much still creepy-as-ever "Henry" (but even buffer), and Gregg Henry did an amazing job of channeling James Karen ("Do you want to keep this job, boy?!") of the "Return of the Living Dead" series. The script was predictable (a fact that the soundtrack indicated was intentional via its pomposity), and every character was little more than a stereotype (hence no real heart to the movie), but Gunn was at least clever enough to play to the actors' strengths. Larfs and chills were about evenly balanced. There was something oddly sweet about the movie in a '50s-drive-in sorta way. "Slither" is a solid early-summer flick: forgettable but fun.
Van Helsing (2004)
Worst movie EVER
I was expecting this movie to be a typical summer movie: mindless but fun. I was half right.
To help bring myself down to "Van Helsing"'s level--you know, to get into a less critical, fun-anticipating mood--I had three martinis before entering the theater. It wasn't enough.
I've seen better F/X in Ed Wood films. Abbott and Costello met scarier monsters. Video games have more engaging (and credible) plots. The jokes were painful; the drama riotous. Whatsername was hilarious as her accent ranged from Natasha Fatale to a German Scot. If the movie had been tongue-in-cheek (e.g. "The Night Stalker" or "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things"), it might possibly have succeeded.
It's hard to believe, with the time-tested material they had to work with, that they could possibly have failed to make an entertaining movie. But they did.
Charming li'l zombie flick!
Yes, the acting ranged from poor to hilariously bad (although Val has a good moment or two), and yes, the dialog indicates that the script was written by a couple of kids in a clubhouse after reading lots and lots of mouldering EC comix--but beyond that, it's a fine li'l film. The makeup was credible, and the sound effects were quite creative: I've never heard loons used to such disturbing effect.
But what makes this movie shine is the direction. The idiot kids time and again tempt fate, and the camera zooms in on what you fully expect to be the object of explosive action...and nothing happens. Over and over, you're teased to the brink of jumping out of your seat and screaming, 'Enough already! Kill 'em all!' The low budget was accommodated by brilliant pacing, condensing all the action into the final moments of the film.
The fact nearly everyone who's seen this movie saw it on the little screen, and that so many of them (like me) were scared out of their minds is proof that this movie is a must-see for any fan of the macabre. It's not Shakespeare (the title kinda gives that away), but it's a terrific first effort by a talented director.