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Miracle at St. Anna (2008)
I was set to like this but was very disappointed. The battle scenes were poorly done. The music score was horrendously bad at times. I rarely notice a score, unless it's exceptionally good, but I noticed almost immediately this score and how unusually awful it was. Just painfully bad. Complete silence would've been better. The acting also was often over-the-top bad. Especially the racist captain, who was so racists, it seemed comic to me and trivialized to some extent the racism he was supposed to represent. The majority of the movie has 4 soldiers stuck behind enemy lines, yet at almost no time do they act like soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. Instead it's like they're on vacation or something. Wouldn't most soldiers in this situation set up look outs, keep a low profile? Not these guys. Attend a dance at a church, sure why not? It's not like we're surrounded by Germans or anything.... And the love triangle subplot just felt very under developed. And the opening and ending stories, just painfully bad, especially the end part.
Crimson Force (2005)
A textbook on the many ways a movie can be bad
This movie offers some textbook examples of why most low-budget sci-fi movies are bad.
(1) A story scope that way exceeds the budget. I don't know what the budget for this movie was, but they clearly didn't have the money to pull off what they were trying for. If you've only got a million bucks or whatever to make a movie, you're better off making a small sci-fi movie rather than try and pull off a BIG movie with lots of sets, CG FX, action scenes, and characters. The result is, you don't have enough money for realistic sets, good CG FX, and good actors. THe final result is sort of like throwing some chrome on the bumper and adding leather seats to a ford pinto and trying to sell it off as a Cadillac. It so doesn't look like a Cadillac that it becomes an unintentional farce.
(2) It's too derivative of other sci-fi classics, in this case Stargate.
(3) The tone of the story is all over the place because of the varied acting styles/talent levels. The lead actor, C. Thomas Howell, clearly thinks he's in a bad movie and is giving a performance that wavers between phoning it in and camp.. Perhaps he thought it was a bad movie because he spent so much screen time with a really bad actor who's name I thankfully don't know, and maybe Howell was just staying on his level. Now at times, chewing the scenery fits if the movie isn't taking itself seriously, but this movie is trying to take itself seriously.
David Chokachi and the blond actress on the other hand seem to be in a completely different movie than Howell in both tone and look, and are actually pretty good and are taking the movie seriously and acting in a very naturalistic style. Chokachi in particular was really good, but his good performance only sort of magnified how off most of the other acting was. And then there's this third movie that's sort of a soap opera on Mars, and they think they're doing Shakespearian theater, very theatrical and over the top stylistically.
Plotwise, I gave up trying to fathom it at about the 1 hour mark. I don't mind complicated story lines when they're interesting, but when they're not, the movie just lays there. When you're well into a movie and you all the sudden cut to a title card reading "8 years before", you know you've got severe story structure problems. It's one thing when it's the Godfather part 2, but I didn't get why they had this scene. If I didn't know better and if I actually hadn't seen various actors together in the same scenes occasionally, I'd think this movie was an amalgamation of three different movies directed by three different directors. Towards the end of the 2nd act, it's as if the movie knows that it makes no sense, so an alien comes in and gives a long expository scene to try and explain the movie a little. By this time I didn't care.
In other words, a total waste of time unless you want to watch all the ways a movie can go wrong.
Way better than I expected
After watching crap like Raptor Island from the scifi channel, I had shall we say, LOW expectations but was pleasantly surprised. Despite a no name cast with the exception of Jeff Fahey, the acting was solid. In terms of plot, it was REAL DIREVITAVE of James Cameron's Aliens, and a had a few moments from other classic action movies like Predator. But as a low- budget knockoff, it was done quite well. I know a lot about the limitations directors have on low budget action movies. WIth little money or time, its hard to make an action movie that is as slickly made as this movie is... The FX weren't that good however but that's largely the problem of the budget, not the director.
Professione: reporter (1975)
As Homer Simpson might say "BOOOOOOOOORING!"
Maybe this has spoilers in it, but I don't see how since nothing much happens in the story. As a mid-70s travelogue of North Africa and Franco era Spain, its sort of interesting just to look at. Storywise though, to say that it slow paced would imply some sort of forward movement to the story. Basically, its a series of shots of Jack and some girl tagging along as they visit uniquely designed buildings. Why any character is doing what they are doing is a bit of a mystery, and not the good kind of mystery either. It just doesn't make sense.
I think this film got made for one of two reasons. (1) The filmmakers wanted to go on a vacation so they constructed a paper thin story that allowed them to do some traveling on somebody else's dime, or (2) It's all a big joke to see just how boring they could make a movie and still have it heralded as something brilliant and profound.
Der Untergang (2004)
A+ Production but morally, I have my problems with this
"Nazis... I hate these guys"... Indiana Jones
In terms of production design and acting, it's flawless. Everything looked dead on real. What absolutely infuriates me though is the whitewashing it does of some of the Germans, particularly the doctor who's an SS Colonel, who's portrayed as a good guy. I'm not a historian, but everything I've ever read about the SS makes me certain that some good hearted decent guy isn't going to become an SS officer. The whole basis of the SS was totally evil. They were completely steeped in all the racist Nazi ideology, and to portray a Colonel in the SS as totally sympathetic is to me offensive.
Most of the controversy I've read about has been about how Hitler was portrayed, but I didn't have a problem with that at all. I think it makes the Monster that he was all the more scary simply because he was human, as opposed to some made up Hollywood villain like Hannibal Lechter or something .
It's amazing to me why one of the regular army Generals didn't just stab that guy. For years, any of them with any kind of rational mind would've had to have known that Hitler was leading the country to destruction, yet they just stood around following this guy to the end... Must be a Prussian thing.
Stone took the wrong path
You know you've got a stinker of a movie when they won't even release the theatrical cut on DVD... I skipped paying $10 at the theater to see it, so all I have to go on is the "new and improved" version on the DVD... After watching it, and the commentary track version as well, the core problem seems to be that the story of Alexander just isn't well suited to the format of a a 2 and half hour movie... There's just too much story.
The only way you could make a good movie about Alexander IMO is to do something similar to Amadeus, and make the lead character an observer of Alexander, that way you can skip the boring parts and focus on one aspect... For instance, Amadeus focused on the "genius" aspect, with a subplot around the Father...
But with Stone's Alexander, we get too much... There's the whole Father thing, the whole Mother thing, and then there's a series of battles that takes him all the way to India... In the end, its just WAY too much.
A good look at Southern extremes
Grew up in similar places, but its a bit skewed. Don't really think you can get the whole of the South by going to a prison, some roadside bars and some Pentecostal churches. Its basically rubbernecking anthropology, searching for and finding the extreme without bothering to mention that it is the extreme...
Not every southerner is poor, or has to either be a holy-roller or a heathen. Southerners generally are more religious than the norm, but for every Pentecostal, you'll find a baptist, Methodist and a Church of Christ patron that isn't nearly as eclectic and thinks the Pentecostals are a little weird too.
But I've never been all that bothered by the Southern stereotypes (they are sort of true) so beyond that, a real entertaining film.
The Hidden (1987)
One of the best B movies of the 80s
Clearly, this film has a following, but its shocking to me how this film isn't more well known than it is. I always saw this as Terminator meets Lethal Weapon. From the first scene, the plot just moves like a freight train. Besides the plot and the great action scenes, what really elevates it above the typical B movie is the humor and the quality of the acting...Typically, this genre piece would've starred Chuck Norris and Dolph Lundgren or something along those lines, but instead, we get McLachlan and Nouri, and they infuse a reality into the scenes that your typical monotone actor can't dream of. Even minor characters have good moments... Plus, I have a theory that any movie with Ferarris and hot girls is a masterpiece, and this movie didn't do any thing to shake my faith in this theory.
White Noise (2005)
Got better as it went
First off, its good to see Keaton again. He's one actor who I don't know why we don't see more of. Maybe he's just rich and doesn't feel the need to work all that much, or maybe he's "difficult" on the set and people don't want to work with him, but as for what's on screen, he's consistently good. In that age group, I think only Tom Hanks is better, and Tom Hanks can't do every film... Oh well, enuf on my "why don't we see Keaton more" rant.
Overall, the film not nearly as good as a similar flick like The Sixth Sense, but then again, what flicks are. Based on the reviews, I rented with very low expectations but I wound up enjoying it quite a bit. The first part was a little slow, and I really thought they missed the chance of some more drama by not having Keaton's character be a bit more skeptical at first, but once the second act started chugging along, it got pretty good... If anything, the most frustrating part of the movie was how they underplayed some 2bd act revelations that I thought were in theory quite cool, but as filmed, they underplayed it quite a bit. Don't want to give a spoiler, but the part I'm talking about is the "who and why" of the dead people we're hearing and seeing... The whole "why is this happening stuff" which was pretty cool, but it should've been threaded into the story earlier.
But wishing good scenes were better are my main criticisms, as opposed to them being just plain bad.
The Core (2003)
Pretty fun to watch if you aren't looking for a masterpiece
Definitely not worthy of paying to see in the theaters, but its a pretty entertaining piece of cheesy popcorn if you don't go into it expecting a serious sci-fi film. What sells it for me is the acting. Stanley Tucci in particular comes off well. Its clear he knows he's in a cheesy movie, but rather than pull a Dustin Hoffman and try and take it seriously, he dives right in and starts chewing scenery in a big way. I half expected him to literally start gnawing on the set. The plot is pretty clever and keeps throwing obstacles in the way of the crew that they have to use their smarts to overcome.
But anyway, if you've got some bucks to spare and like a cheesy flick now and them, you could do worse.