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Nothing new here...been done better.
Slapped together with a boring narrator and lots of stock shots you've seen before, this copycat series won't tell you anything you don't already know. It begins, oddly enough, with the Boston Tea Party and you will see a few scenes that appeared in Mysteries at the Museum, the one with the original Tea Party crate! They justify this padding by pointing out that a "mob" was involved. And to make matters worse ALL the old stock shots and clips from '30's movies are STRETCHED to fill the wide screen ratio making the old-time gangsters look like obese little people. Shots of WWI...which have little or nothing to do with "the mob" are stretched as well and vintage troops fight with mobile artillery on egg-shaped wheels. Some of the stuff looks lifted from VHS tapes, low-res, blurry fuzzy shots, some shown at the wrong speed, a real mess. There have been so many good series about gangsters, prohibition etc that this one is simply unnecessary. Strictly for those viewers who want to see every last gangster themed show.
Hidden in America (2012)
Disappointing and shallow.
This series pretends to inform us of strange and sinister groups and persons of which we would be ignorant but for this show. Thus the title. In fact the revelations are much more mundane. A show on "The Mormons" tells little that has not been revealed by previous documentaries or even the South Park show. A show about a scary "outlaw motorcycle gang" consists of a few fuzzy clips, an interview with the clubs alleged president's brother and some still photos. The few clips are shown again and again until the repetition becomes annoying. The photo of the evil scary biker is zoomed in and out, panned right and left, up and down until he becomes so familiar that he doesn't look frightening anymore. We are treated to the old "voice and appearance disguised" bit as a fuzzy blur tells us of the crimes of the cyclists in a gurgling altered audio track. Of course this out of focus blob could be anybody, perhaps the shows producer and it could be anybody reading....anything. In one ridiculous scene eight or ten people are seated in an office discussing the evil bikers. All but two have their heads fuzzed out and one person, seated in front of a window, is obscured by a large rectangle making him appear to have a carton over his head. I suppose there was a recognizable object visible in the window. Much is made of three "brave" cops, also blurred out, who infiltrate the gang and participate in their mayhem for three years, all to gather evidence to punish the bikers. But despite the narrators frantic rant we learn that all they have discovered is that the bikers fight and stab one another from time to time. Virtually no drugs, guns, WMDs, pornography, slaves or anything else is revealed. It's quite a letdown.
All the episodes I saw suffered from overly dramatic narration, use of inserts culled from Hollywood movies, blurring of details or even entire scenes, perhaps to hide the fact that they are using video clips of a totally different subject and endless repeats of the few minutes or seconds of actual relevant video. This show is on par with the "Gangland" shows and suffers from the same music video style editing. Every visual cliché is used to the limit; inserts with the edges out of focus, phony "scratches" to make digital video look like beat-up movie film, flicker-frame montages and more "Dutch-angle" shots than "Battlefield Earth"! Unless you are bored stiff and will watch just about anything that moves, forget about this series.
Crime Scene Cleaners (2000)
All about the crew, not crime scenes
After 12 years this odd documentary is just about lost. It has the look of a series pilot that didn't sell. If you expect to see bizarre crime scenes on the order of a "Hoarders" episode you will be disappointed. The show is mostly about the crew members who are made to look weird. One woman is homeless and sleeps in bus shelters. One man sexually harasses a woman worker. Several times the workers seem to be purposely acting silly just to make the scene entertaining. But the actual crime scenes are shown only in the briefest manner, perhaps for legal reasons. As a result the people profiled don't seem to be taking their job seriously regardless how much they talk about safety. Their job isn't funny and making these people into weird and goofy characters spoils the show.
Keepers of the Frame (1999)
Fascinating but not altogether truthful documentary.
It is ironic that this documentary about preserving films is itself almost lost. Today Amazon has for sale a single videotape of the show and I saw it only because someone put it on Youtube. While the show is clearly made by people who love film, they are sometimes wrong about the subject. Alan Alda opens the discourse and tells us about nitrate film. "First it turns green and then it turns to powder." Well, it doesn't turn green. And there are many stages of deterioration before the powder phase. We have film stock shown to us, supposedly old silent rarities that is clearly sound film. Old lost silent prints are presented wound on modern plastic cores. And the original camera negative of "The Great Train Robbery" is obviously a modern positive print, and it is about 400 feet shorter than the film it pretends to be. The very idea that something so rare as the original negative of such a landmark film would be rattling around in a METAL can without tissue or plastic wrap and wound in such a sloppy fashion is absurd.
OK, I'll concede some of these anachronisms would not register with the majority of viewers. What should not be ignored is the fact that the loss of so many titles and the deterioration of so many prints is due, not to fate or unstable film base or the ravages of time but to the carelessness and appalling policies of the film copyright owners. Roddy MacDowell begins to speak of this in one segment and is almost immediately cut off.
Leonard Maltin introduces us to a fellow who set up a Cinerama system in his home. Mr. Maltin thinks it's wonderful that this individual cared enough about the films to preserve them. What he doesn't mention is that film collectors were systematically hounded and harassed by the film studios and the FBI in the years before DVDs and videotape. Many had their collections confiscated and destroyed and some were sued just as so-called "film pirates" are today. Yet it was the collectors who saved the "one last print" of so many films that would otherwise be lost. The Cinerama guy probably paid somebody to give him the print that was destined for destruction and technically he stole it! Another segment describes how a silent film lover set up a silent theater and lovingly accumulated a library of rare silent prints. What they don't tell you is that the copyright owner of "The Covered Wagon" sued this man for showing the film.....even though they cared so little about it that they junked the negatives for their silver content decades earlier.
And one thing you might not notice until the show is over; where can you and I see these wonderful treasures that have been preserved and restored? Well in many cases, you can't. Unless there is a DVD release such as "Metropolis" received recently, you and I must depend on somebody leaking a copy when they get their hands on a DVD at a film festival. Films must be preserved for the future generations, but not for the likes of us. Well, at least we know they still exist. Better than nothing.
On the bright side, this is a fascinating show. Check it out on Youtube and hope that an updated edition might someday find its way to a DVD and maybe get packaged with a few of those restored treasures as well.
The Forger (2012)
Hackers and forgers.
This movie does for forgers what the movie Hackers did for hackers, which is attempt to make them look like the mainstream folks in the audience. Oh, sure, they had silly clothes and some goofy quirks but the bottom line was that they were like everyone else, only more so. And just as Hackers was nonsense, so is Forgers. Real hackers didn't sit around bragging about their computers' specs like a bunch of boy-racers talking about their engines.
In fact the Forgers characters are even worse, depicted as talentless con-men or child prodigies who can pick up a brush and dash off a flawless imitation of an old master in a few hours in a gloomy basement.
For a real insight to the persona of an art forger look up the career of Eric Hebborn, who really did paint stuff that was often mistaken for very valuable pictures. But he never became wealthy as a result of his work and he was not 15 years old at his peak.
Since the story is rather thin, the producers have made it more relevant to the intended audience by adding a drippy love story and a maudlin tale of parental abandonment, made even sillier by casting a 20 year old man for the part of a young boy. He is supposedly a high school freshman and at one point a character states that he thought the boy was "maybe 12 years old". There is no way Mr. Hutcherson would be mistaken for a 12 year old child.
One wonders why the writers didn't simply make the character a college dropout. The story would have been just as effective and the romantic dialog would have been more believable. The screenplay has all the traits of a work by a committee. Adults will probably find this movie tedious and rather predictable.Younger viewers may enjoy the romantic aspects of the story.
Suing the Devil (2011)
McDowell 1, God 0!
The idea of hauling The Devil into court to answer for his "crimes" has been done before but never as badly. There are two major problems with this low-budget indie show. First, the script is a shambles. Is the movie about a man coming to grip with his shortcomings? His shaky faith? His rage against corruption? His failed career? His grief over his mothers death? Take your pick from an overabundance of themes in this script-by-committee because every few minutes it lurches from dark comedy to weepy romance then back to a saga of "everyman against evil", and finally finishes as a maudlin endorsement of fundamentalism.
The second problem is the utterly unconvincing acting of Bart Bronson, the central character and semi-hero of the piece. A gangling clumsy fellow, he is unimpressive physically, unemotional in his delivery and alternates between sleepwalking through his scenes and simply yelling at the top of his voice. It doesn't help that the costumer has dressed him in a cow-boyish outfit more appropriate for a club than a courtroom and added a mop of hippy hair that would look great if the movie was set in 1970. He plays the part of the worlds most clueless attorney. His illogical arguments wouldn't get a traffic ticket dismissed and he commits courtroom errors that would have a real lawyer disbarred.
The only saving grace of this dreadful story is Malcolm McDowell who seems to have written his own lines. He is witty, clever and makes far more sense than stammering Bart. Casting Mr. McDowell opposite an unprepared hobby actor is a puzzling strategy and makes Mr. Bronson look even more inept.
Clearly the intended audience for this creation is fundamentalist Xians who will cheer for any story, however dreadful, that supports their particular beliefs. So much do they love this movie that they have apparently conspired to elevate it's deservedly low rating by reviewing it as a mindless mob, rating it a 9 or 10, that is, right on par with Gone With The Wind or Citizen Kane! Unless you are a "fundie" and feel required to buy or rent anything that screams "I am a believer!" as Mr. Bronson does, the only reason to ever watch this is to see a very entertaining performance by Mr. McDowell. But if you have a functioning mind, be prepared to be somewhat infuriated by the ridiculous and illogical screenplay that shoves religious nonsense in your face every few minutes.
Chasing Madoff (2010)
Tedious and annoying
There have been many documentary shows about Madoff. It's a fascinating and horrifying story. But this example resembles a low budget episode of a "crooks and grifters" TV reality show. Obviously, video of Madoffs early career is rare. But the producers fill the void with stock shots, clips from old time movies and inserts that are clearly meant to provide something to watch as the narrator drones on. And to keep things interesting they rely on every cinematic bromide that their computer can manage: inserts with the edges out of focus, sepia toned clips to simulate "vintage" material and flicker-frame montages that repeat the same pointless visuals over and over and over. Its a 40 minute TV show inflated to feature length. Frontline, BBC and others have covered this material better. And the video is well laced with sobbing investors, folks rich enough to interest Madoff with their millions, yet foolish and careless enough to have blindly put all their nest eggs in the same basket. They claim over and over that they have "lost everything" when it is well known that the investors did get a substantial portion of their money back. The Frontline Madoff Affair is a much better watch.
Urban Explorer (2011)
Underground plot holes galore!
If all you want is a spooky movie with monsters and atmospheric settings, this is as good as any. If you expect anything like a logical story, well, maybe not so good. The film depends on a common misconception; every big city has endless tunnels beneath and they are all connected as well as lost and forgotten. And this is nonsense. Unlike Paris which has quarries beneath it, most cities do not have anything like a connected maze of tunnels. And most tunnels, even abandoned subway stations, are used for something and are well documented.
This film, like others of its type, substitutes basements or even abandoned factories with their windows covered for underground areas. One look at the brickwork of these phony tunnels is enough to reveal the sets are ordinary locations dressed as spooky tunnels. The huge size of many of the locations should tip off the viewer that they are seeing nothing more mysterious than an old warehouse.
And our explorers are totally unprepared for their adventure. The have no hardhats, no first aid kit, no proper clothing, nothing but a few dinky flashlights. If not for their "guide" somehow toting 5 sets of rubber waders in his tiny backpack they would never have made it through a flooded tunnel. We are further told that scrawny teens can climb 50 feet, hand over hand, on a thin rope. And thats up and down. Small wonder the actual climbing is not shown! And of course the abandoned tunnels are full of improbable characters who survive on.....what....rats? If you like to suspend your disbelief totally, you will probably enjoy this film. But if, like me, obvious plot holes spoil the experience you may wish you watched something else.
3 Musketeers (2011)
A comic book screenplay
Imagine taking the dialog from the balloons in a comic book and simply using it as a screenplay. Would it work? See this movie for an answer. The story of the 3 musketeers has been shoehorned into a paint-by-numbers spy/secret agent/commando story by assigning the names and some plot points of the original to the rather un-original characters and story of this deadly opus. I admit I didn't make it through the whole thing so I'll tell you what I saw before giving up in disgust. A crack team of "musketeers" has penetrated some major military installation in (I guess) China and is trashing their warlike computer which has been cleverly designed to resemble some high voltage switchgear. The location has been cleverly disguised as a factory or oil refinery or something with a lot of pipes. In the process our heroes kill the half dozen useless guards, blow up an airliner, a helicopter and a few other things. The computer whiz hacks an anti-aircraft gun with his tablet computer, poking the poor thing savagely with his index finger. A dozen jabs or so and he has logged onto Chinese wi-fi, cracked the firewall of the internet enabled gun, aimed it, fired it and blown up the enemy fighters, all with less keystrokes (finger pokes?) than it took YOU to get the movie to play! We never find out exactly why they caused all this havoc. Somehow they get back to safety where they regroup and meet up with the girl "musketeer" who is meditating in a brief two-piece swim suit, perhaps hoping to remember where she left the rest of her costume. The single sentence, comic book balloon style speech continues throughout this mayhem, branding all involved as 2-D cardboard totally disposable and boring characters. Even the sexy girl is uninteresting and dull.
At first I thought this would be a spoof of this type of story and looked forward to some entertaining gags. But no, this thing is apparently meant to be "for real" and we must suffer through the antics of two brainless lugs and one bimbo as they karate-chop their way through life.
This clunker has the appearance of a costly production, what with many 'splodin' things, flyovers of a big city, cgi space satellites and such, but it's still small enough to require the crew to post bogus favorable reviews, hoping to bolster the pathetic rating and maybe con a few credulous viewers into buying or renting this wretched dog! It's a stinker of the bottom tier! Avoid!
Drive-In Horrorshow (2009)
Movie makers that don't know how movies are shown.
An anthology film with the segments bridged with supposedly humorous antics of ghosts and zombies who visit their own drive-in theater to watch movies about more ghosts and zombies. Why, you ask, do the undead go to a drive-in theater when they don't drive? Wouldn't an indoor theater be more to their liking? And such a drive-in! The film makers apparently had access to an actual drive-in theater but were not allowed to touch the projection equipment. So when it's time to show a film the print magically changes from 35mm to 16mm and an old pre-war Bell & Howell model 138 is switched on. The monster projectionist hasn't actually put the film IN the projector,but he gives the reel a spin and as we zoom in on the reel of 16mm film spinning like crazy the picture is somehow projected out of the big 35mm machine. And they do this goofy act for each of the segments as though the viewers won't notice. The films come in absurdly tiny cans which should hold a preview at most. Nit-picking? Maybe. But if there is one thing a movie maker should know it is what film is like. And these guys obviously don't. They can't act either. The ghost "manager" tries to do a funny/sinister accent as he tries to be a version of "The Cryptkeeper" but he isn't very good and drops his dialect repeatedly. Some of the undead actors don't speak at all so they thrash around trying to be over the top funny but just look silly. The performers in the story segments are so-so at best and none of the stories would scare anybody. I'd like to give these folks something for effort but considering they didn't even try very hard, I won't. I suppose you could sit through this if nothing else was on hand and you were really desperate for entertainment. Recommended only for those die-hard fans who want to see every last horror movie ever made.