Reviews written by registered user
jonathon_naylor

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219 reviews in total 
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54 out of 72 people found the following review useful:
This Is Not A "Friday" Film, 12 August 2007
4/10

If longtime fans of the "Friday the 13th" saga have anything to say about it, the people behind this film will burn in the same place as its hockey-masked star. "Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday" is completely preposterous, out of place and an affront to what had been a dependable horror series.

Admittedly, director and co-writer Adam Marcus deserves credit for his boldness. He seemed inexplicably convinced that the wheel of the "Friday" series needed to be drastically reinvented, even though fans had lined up for basically the same plot eight times prior. But the brainwave of having Jason possessing one body after another alters the very fabric of what made these films good. Suddenly it's like we're watching an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" rip-off. Throw in Jason's newfound grunting, a far-too-heavy plot and a magical dagger (!) and you have something completely unworthy of the "Friday" moniker.

"Jason goes to Hell" is also incredibly lazy. All "Friday" films, by their very nature, require a leap of faith, but this is really too much. Firstly, this marked the first time that no explanation was given for Mr. Voorhees' reemergence. Were we all dreaming when we watched him get melted down to goo in the sewers of New York City? And what about Jason's rebirth toward the end (the most ridiculous moment of any "Friday" film)? How can a little slimy demon be reborn into a man already wearing ripped clothing and a hockey mask? And what about bounty hunter Creighton Duke? It's never explained how he knows so much about Jason and the mythical circumstances surrounding his life. In each of these instances, there seemingly are no easy answers. So rather than be inventive, the writers just threw all of this at us and hoped we would lap it up like thirsty kittens at a milk dish. This sequel completely ignores the continuity of the Jason legend that had been meticulously built up over the years.

What's equally tragic about "Jason goes to Hell" is its insistence on mocking the series. At one point, John D. LeMay's character sarcastically asks a trio of teens headed for Camp Crystal Lake whether they plan to smoke dope, engage in premarital sex and then get slaughtered. Har har. The transformation of Jason into some kind of media star is just as unnerving. Jason is a legend, a mythical figure whispered about in wildly imaginative campfire stories. Yet this movie turns him into a serial killer so well known he makes the TV tabloids and is targeted by the FBI. This is not the Jason we know, and "Jason goes to Hell" is not the "Friday the 13th" we love. It essentially breaks the fingers of the hand that feeds it.

The failure of "Jason goes to Hell," both in terms of concept and box office revenue, inevitably draws comparisons to the much-panned "Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning." That film drew plenty of boos for its Jason-less gimmick, but at least it had the feel of a "Friday" flick. "Jason goes to Hell" is substantially worse than any other entry, mainly because it is completely unrecognizable. Like "Part V," it probably would have worked better as a horror film independent of the Jason saga, rather than dragging Mr. Voorhees into a place he has no business being.

Clearly, Adam Marcus was wrong. The "Friday the 13th" wheel did not need reinventing. The failure of this film (and "Jason X" years later) shows that fans want a return to simpler times when horny teens in cabins were afraid to look out their windows. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

13 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Furie Strikes Again, 11 August 2007
3/10

Sidney J. Furie ("Superman IV", "Iron Eagle") hasn't made a good movie in his nearly five decades in the director's chair, and he wasn't about to start with "American Soldiers."

It's not that this film had zero potential. The short-lived TV series "Over There" proved that a dramatized look at the ongoing Iraq conflict could be entertaining and real without crossing an uncomfortable line with men and women still dying on the frontlines. But stunningly clichéd dialog dogs "American Soldiers" from the opening sequence. There's the prisoner meet who is only too happy to share his evil plans for the future with his American enemies, reminiscent of something out of an old superhero cartoon. There's the forced "why are we here?" discussion. And who could forget the soldiers who offer some timely advice before dying, a crucial component of unimaginative movies.

The acting is no better. I can usually handle a sub-par performance here and there, but these guys are so bad it detracts from whatever enjoyment may have been possible. Instead of being sucked into the story, you find yourself wondering if this was the best Central Casting could do. The actors aren't helped by the aforementioned dialog; in fact, you really get the sense that they know how terrible their lines are as they reluctantly recite them.

The Furie staple of senseless violence (remember "Iron Eagle"?) is omnipresent here as well. The pattern is detectable within 10 minutes: clichéd dialog, horrible acting, big, fiery explosions, repeat. Of course things blowing up is a part of war, but Furie uses it as a misguided means to liven things up rather than portray the brutality of conflict and its impact on GIs. There are moments where you'll swear this film's target audience is violence-obsessed adolescent boys (again, remember "Iron Eagle"?).

But enough about the negative. No one expects a direct-to-DVD film from Sid Furie to be a masterpiece. The truth is, "American Soldiers" does not deserve to be in the IMDb's bottom 100, where sits as of this writing. Trust me, there have been much, much worse. "American Soldiers" even has a few decent moments once you're willing to forgive its shortcomings. But depending on your viewing habits, that's a big if.

Vigilante (1983)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Imperfect, But Fans Will Be Pleased, 5 August 2007
5/10

VIGILANTE is the sort of film critics hate, but that genre fans love. And while it's by no means perfect, this gritty revenge flick pleases those whom it was designed to please.

Fred Williamson is at his best as the leader of a working class group of friends who just want a safe neighborhood. So much so, in fact, that they take it upon themselves to pick up where the police leave off (or fail to start) when it comes to street scum. Straight-laced Robert Forster reluctantly joins this crusade after a brutal (and hard to watch) attack on his family.

Williamson is definitely the high point here, but Forster and the other vigilantes have their moments. VIGILANTE survives its boneheaded attempt to be a social commentary because you don't go into a film like this expecting to do some deep thinking. It's not a DEATH WISH clone, but fans of that film (and particularly its sequels) will want to catch this one, now out on DVD.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
As Far As Low-Budget Shockers Go..., 5 August 2007
5/10

As far as low-budget black-and-white shockers go, THE MONSTER MAKER is pretty good. J. Carrol Naish is terrific as the doctor impostor obsessed with pretty blonde Wanda McKay. So obsessed, in fact, that he takes it upon himself to infect her father with a disfiguring disease, then uses the anecdote as a bargaining chip for her hand in marriage.

Everything about THE MONSTER MAKER is surprisingly up to par, at least by genre standards, from the plotting and writing to the makeup effects and acting. Poverty row director Sam Newfield (probably best known for his work on several LONE RANGER pictures) knows how to keep things moving, particularly since the film has a running time that only inches past an hour.

What I liked best about THE MONSTER MAKER is that it lives up to its promise by offering the sort of late-night fun that only old horror creakers can.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Just When You Think You Know What's Going On..., 2 July 2007
8/10

Just when you think you know what's going on, another wonderful twist throws you for a loop. That's what helps make CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER a standout film and the most entertaining of the Jack Ryan series.

CIA analyst Harrison Ford (in vintage form here) is left in the dark on secret plans by the U.S. government to fight the fire of Colombian drug cartels with the fire of cream-of-the-crop soldiers. When the mission is aborted and the soldiers left for dead, the stage is set for an emergency rescue and tense White House confrontations that go all the way to the top.

Between the taut action and the crisp storytelling by director Phillip Noyce (surely his best effort to date), there's certainly no time to be bored. And unlike far too many films with a 141-minute running time, CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER doesn't wear out its welcome. This one's an intelligent winner.

5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Leno's Swearing All That's Memorable, 30 June 2007
3/10

The novelty of hearing clean-cut Jay Leno spout four-letter words is the only memorable aspect of this formulaic mismatched-police-partners caper. In COLLISION COURSE, the pelican-faced comedian teams up with the late Pat Morita to track down a stolen prototype turbocharger (think car lover Leno played a hand in the plot?). The two leads try hard, they really do, but Leno is no actor and Morita's fish-out-of-water routine gets old in a hurry. The film carries a bit of cheesy '80s appeal, but its worthy moments become increasingly scarce as it fills out its overlong 100-minute running time. Fans of Leno's considerable comedic talents will feel let down; everyone else will just be bored.

Fat City (1972)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Depressing But Involving, 24 June 2007
7/10

It's gritty, disturbing and depressing, but FAT CITY is quite involving and rarely boring.

This obscure character drama follows the parallel lives of worn-out Tully (Stacy Keach), a once-promising-boxer-turned-alcoholic, and his young and eager protégé, Ernie (Jeff Bridges). Bridges' success mirrors what could have been for Tully, who struggles with low-paid labor and a loud, rarely-sober girlfriend, Oma (Susan Tyrrel). Though Bridges encounters challenges of his own, he purposely grows emotionally detached from the older boxer. The final scene, where Bridges reluctantly humors the pathetic drunk by talking over coffee, is poignant and drives home the purpose of the film.

Far from a feel-good ROCKYesque effort, FAT CITY chooses instead to tell the story of a boxer who doesn't make it and the vast untapped potential that will be forever drowned in glass after glass of liquor.

Jaws 3-D (1983)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Cool Concept, Bad Delivery, 17 June 2007
3/10

This is a movie I had always wanted to see, not because I'm a huge fan of the series, but because the concept sounded cool. A killer shark terrorizes an underwater park... awesome!

Unfortunately, JAWS 3 fails to capitalize on its intriguing premise. There's so much wrong here, I would need all of the memory power on IMDb to list each fault. It's a dull, cheap, overlong mess which, on DVD, loses almost all of the appeal it may have carried without the 3-D effects to rely on. The acting is atrociously fake, with even the normally reliable Louis Gossett Jr. and Dennis Quaid looking embarrassingly unseasoned. The plot is overly convoluted and hazy, and it takes far too long to get to the shark; in fact, 15 minutes in you'll be praying for the big Great White to charge in and eat everyone in sight.

Unless you thought JAWS: THE REVENGE was a cinematic masterpiece, you won't want to waste your time on this one.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Can't Live Up To Concept, 22 May 2007
4/10

I found the concept of this film irresistible. Who wouldn't want to see Fred Williamson, Jim Brown and Pam Grier -- they of '70s blaxploitation action fame -- back kickin' some butt again. Unfortunately, ORIGINAL GANGSTAS doesn't live up expectations. The plot sees cigar-chompin' Williamson returning home after his elderly father is nearly killed by thugs for giving police information on a deadly drive-by. Freddy soon teams up with Brown and Grier for some vigilante justice that comes far too little, too late for the viewer. After a reasonably strong start, the film unravels in a myriad of awful dialog, uninteresting subplots and a lack of action. If you're looking for a better film about an aging vigilante, try the later DEATH WISH entries.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Dry And Unsubstantiated, 22 May 2007
5/10

This micro-budget "documentary" is really just a series of unsubstantiated claims by a handful of anti-war Iraq veterans. There are no reenactments, few photos (even when intriguing photos are being described, they're not shown) and a stunning lack of other sources -- military or otherwise -- to confirm or deny the stories we hear.

That doesn't make "Back From Iraq: The U.S. Soldier Speaks" an awful film, but it is certainly dry and largely uncompelling. The soldiers, who all deserve our respect, bring up some valid points, but they too often sound like cookie-cutter activists in the tradition of Michael Moore ("It was for oil!"). Moreover, too many of the arguments the film makes could be applied against any war, not just Operation Iraqi Freedom; that is, the brutality of battle, civilian casualties, heartache of those back home, etc.

"Back From Iraq" is a disappointment for those with an interest in this conflict.


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