Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
PIRANHA (3 outta 5 stars) If you are in the mood for a stupid movie but don't want to waste your time with total crap... then Piranha may be the movie for you. It is an early collaboration between director Joe Dante and writer John Sayles (who went on to much bigger and better movies) and, in spite of the obviously low budget, their talents shine through. The dialogue is much better than you tend to get in movies like this... even though the actual plot (government-bred fresh water piranha mistakenly get fed into the US river system) is quite silly. Bradford Dillman makes a good leading man... this is probably one of the best roles he ever had... a drunken recluse who rises to the challenge when his young daughter's life is threatened. The movie was obviously made to capitalize on the success of "Jaws" (just check out the original poster artwork) but it is by far the most entertaining of the countless rip-offs that came out after Spielberg's blockbuster. Even though the fish puppets are far from convincing there are some very gruesome special effects... it's very unnerving to see young children screaming in terror as the bloody water starts churning... you'd never see anything like this in a mainstream horror movie nowadays.
Neither Better Nor Worse Than The Original
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (3 outta 5 stars) A decent enough version of the classic children's story which was the basis for the beloved musical "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." I didn't find this movie any better or worse than the original version... just different. Johnny Depp's bizarre performance as Willy Wonka is definitely the best thing about this movie... just as Gene Wilder was the best thing about the original "Wonka". I was a bit puzzled as to why they decided not to use the original songs from the first movie... but then they went ahead and created new songs for the Oompa-Loompas anyway... I guess it was cheaper to make up new songs than to pay the original composer for the rights to re-record them. I like the character of Charlie more in this new version that the annoying little goody-goody in the first movie... but I think I prefer Jack Albertson as the original grandpa. The storyline basically is the same as the earlier flick... except for the conclusion (I'm not sure which ending is closer to what was written in Roald Dahl's novel... I guess I'll have to read it one day). I was a bit dismayed by the fact that the greedy, nasty kids in this movie don't seem to learn a lesson from their harrowing experiences in the chocolate factory... they seem just as selfish and ill-mannered when they leave as when they arrived... you'd think a near-death experience would shake them up a bit more...
King Kong (2005)
Best Remake of an Ape Movie Ever!
KING KONG (4 outta 5 stars) Of course this movie is not quite as good as the 1933 original movie... how could it possibly be? But for a remake of a certified film classic to be as good as this movie is... that's still a significant achievement. Sure, I could nitpick about little things here and there where this movie goes awry... I hated the fake CGI native pole-vaulting from rock to rock, I hated when they brought in the "celestial choir" to pump up emotion at the end when anyone who was going to be affected was *already* choked up, I hated when Naomi is climbing the ladder to get to Kong at the end and the ladders breaks away from the building... helloooooooo, does *every* ladder have to break in *every* movie whenever someone is climbing one... there was more than enough exciting stuff going on... did we really have to see Kong reach out and pull Naomi back to safety once again? These are all minor flaws, though... the bulk of the movie is truly awe-inspiring... some of the best CGI effects to date (and I am *really* picky about CGI), a decent script and better performances and characterizations than one tends to see in a "blockbuster" movie like this. The action on Skull Island might seem a little overdone at times (the brontosaurus stampede could probably have been cut without anyone feeling cheated) but the most exciting sequence for me was the most superfluous: Kong fighting off a bunch of hungry dinosaurs while tumbling through a thick tangle of jungle vines. Great stuff... much more fun than those dreary "Lord of the Rings" flicks.
Oh No! Not Down Into The Basement AGAIN???
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1 outta 5 stars) Dreadful piece of garbage. You will probably enjoy the movie if you are really into gruesome special effects... but if you are looking for an actual story... or real characters, forget it. A totally generic family (father, mother and annoying young child) move into a scary house so the father can do some research for a book. There's a little ghost girl that only the young boy can see. She hangs around and keeps warning the kid to stay out of the house... but will he listen? No! There is a weird babysitter who keeps popping up out of nowhere and a landlady who may as well walk around with a big sign saying "Next Victim" around her neck when she comes to visit. Some of the "going down into the basement" scenes are kind of suspenseful... but this is negated by the totally over-the-top blood and gore that is usually the next step. Plus there are about FIVE "going down into the basement" scenes... one right after the other. I was already rolling my eyes after the third one. Apparently some US copies of this film have a couple of reels mixed up... which would explain a lot of headshaking moments in this movie but by no means ALL of them.
Land of the Dead (2005)
Yep, Romero Is Back!
LAND OF THE DEAD (4 outta 5 stars) George A Romero returns to the zombie genre to show that the old grandmaster hasn't lost his touch. Okay, right off the bat it has to be said that the movie isn't quite the groundbreaking work that the original "Night of the Living Dead" was... nor does it have the epic grandeur of "Dawn of the Dead"... but it definitely equals and/or surpasses "Day of the Dead" and 99% of the Romero-inspired ripoffs and homages that have been churned out in the last 20 years or so. The zombies in Romero's world continue to evolve from film to film... in this latest installment they seem to be developing better reasoning skills and learning how to communicate with one another. They still move slow but danged if they don't have the nastiest habit of suddenly popping out of nowhere. Unlike previous installments, this time Romero has put a few "name" actors in the lead roles: John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper and Asia Argento to name a few. While this means a goodbye to the almost documentary-like ambiance of the previous "Dead" movies... it was probably necessary in order to get this movie made in the first place. The actors do a good job of inhabiting this universe, though... they never seem out of place, like "stars" doing their "thing" sometimes do. This doesn't quite have the sweeping scope that I was looking for in a Romdeo-directed continuation... so here's hoping that he gets to do another final chapter in his decades-long "living dead" saga.
The Candy Snatchers (1973)
Thought "Devil's Rejects" Was Rough? You Ain't Seen Nothing' Yet...
THE CANDY SNATCHERS (3 outta 5 stars) Very nasty, ugly movie about a trio of luckless kidnappers who abduct a teenage girl and bury her alive. They call up her stepfather, a diamond merchant, and ask for a fortune in diamonds as ransom. Well, wouldn't you know it... the stepfather has been looking for a way to get rid of the bratty young teen anyway as he stands to make a lot of cash after her untimely demise. A young mute boy happens to see where the kidnappers bury the girl but, being mute, he can't make her whereabouts known to the police and his shrieking shrew of a mother won't listen to him anyway. The kidnappers get more and more desperate and the violence and depravity become more and more extreme... ending the movie in one of the most nihilistic and gutwrenching finales ever seen on film. Anyone who thought movies like "Natural Born Killers" or "The Devil's Rejects" were rough-going... well, you ain't seen nothing' yet.
The D.I. (1957)
The Toughest Dang Drill Instructor Ever!
THE D.I. (4 outta 5 stars) Wow, I certainly did not expect to be enjoying this movie as much as I did. I had never even heard of it until I saw it sitting in the discount video bin one day. I figured Jack Webb playing an army drill instructor might be good for a chuckle but figured the drama would pale in comparison to such recent movie D.I.s as portrayed in "Full Metal Jacket" or "An Officer and a Gentleman". Boy, was I wrong. This is probably the best work Webb has ever done... far and away better than his one-note "Dragnet" performances. The delivery of his tough guy dialogue is just brilliant... done in his patented deadpan monotone and yet you *know* that the guy means every word of it. The story might seem a little hokey compared to the grittier military movies that have followed but I still found the movie fascinating and compelling. Even a completely unnecessarily musical interlude in an army nightclub had me hooked. Anyone know where I can get a copy of that terrific Ray Coniff song "If'n You Don't, Somebody Else Will"? Webb plays the toughest dang drill instructor ever... and he's under pressure to kick out the deadbeat Private Owen but, by golly, he sees a man buried somewhere in that sissyboy and he's gonna drag him out kicking and screaming! Great stuff!
There's a Girl in My Soup (1970)
Gratuitous Nude Scene For Goldie... This Must Be The '70s!
THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP (3 outta 5 stars) This movie has always had a bad reputation and I could never figure out why. Sure, Peter Sellers has been in much better movies than this... but he's been in lots worse, too. He plays the smarmy, self-absorbed star of a TV gourmet show who enjoys the swinging bachelor life, even as he hits his mid-40s. He meets up with Goldie Hawn, a hip, sexually-liberated young gal of less-than-20 and the sparks, as they say, fly. There are some really funny lines but a lot of missed comedic opportunities as well. To this day I still wonder why there is no big payoff to the wine-tasting scene... after all the time spent trying to teach Goldie that one is supposed to "spit" and not "swallow" I wonder why she doesn't wind up spitting up during a fancy dinner scene. This may not be one of Sellers' best but Goldie Hawn does a fine job... breaking free of the one-dimensional blonde ditz character that she was known for at the time. (She even gets a totally gratuitous nude scene... wow, this must be the '70s!)
A Kinder and Gentler Peeping Tom Movie
JUNK MAIL (3+ outta 5 stars) Offbeat but sincere comedy-thriller about a lonely postman who comes across a set of keys accidentally left in the mailbox by a cute young girl on his route. He makes a copy of her keys and secretly checks out her apartment while she is at work. He also has a habit of disposing of junk mail in an out of the way train tunnel (whether this is out of sheer laziness or to spare the people on his route the bother is never really explained). One day he accidentally falls asleep and is trapped inside the girl's bedroom when she comes home from work and then... well, to give any more away would definitely ruin your enjoyment so I'll stop there. Suffice to say that things get a little more complicated. This quirky little Norwegian film didn't get a whole lot of attention on its US release. Too bad... it's well-written and well-acted and definitely worth checking out. Sort of a kinder and gentler version of "Blue Velvet".
Professione: reporter (1975)
Art With a Capital A
THE PASSENGER (3+ outta 5 stars) Most viewers will be put off by the extremely slow pace of of this fascinating movie. I tried to watch it a few times many years ago but just couldn't get "into" it. The plot is intriguing enough: a TV reporter, bored and disenchanted with his life, gets the opportunity to trade passports with a dead man while traveling abroad. After assuming his new identity he discovers that he is an illegal arms dealer... with some very serious clients. It sounds like it would be an adrenalin-pumping thriller but Michaelangelo Antonioni paces it like a slow funeral procession. That is not necessarily a bad thing... but I can certainly see why the movie didn't click with a big audience when it first came out. Jack Nicholson (in his prime) stars in one of his most subtle and low-key performances ever as the reporter. Though the plot may be somewhat Hitchcockian this is an Art Movie with a capital A, make no mistake. Topping things off is a seven or eight finale, done in one take, which manages to circle entirely around the climax without ever showing it on screen. I'm still unclear about what exactly happens at the end (thanks to a bad video transfer) but, from what I understand, it's all open to interpretation anyway. Like I said, Art.