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All the tools, poor execution, 27 December 2013

When one comes across a movie like this, you tend to lower expectations to a pretty base level. Zombie action, some scares, low budget cheese, and an overall good cheeky time.

The 30,000 dollar budget is apparent, but not as much as you'd think. There's some good bang for the buck, but not nearly enough bang. We'll start with the lead actor. Forgoing all subtlety, he's AWFUL. Most of the laughs in this came from cringes induced by his ridiculous and amateur performance, gun handling, smirks that scream "I look like a cool action hero to myself" only to look idiotic and embarrassing to the audience.

There is some gratuitous nudity that likewise illicit some groans here and there. It's as if the filmmakers did not realize that with the production value they had, a GOOD zombie cowboy movie could have been made. If you're going at it from the view that no matter what you do, the movie will be crap, then at least make it entertaining crap.

There must have been several 15-20 minute stretches in this movie where characters fall victim to the "we must sit down and tell our sad story" syndrome, when due to the level of acting, or lack thereof, a greater focus on the action and horror would have been preferable whereas to not make the audience feel like they've been ripped off in the end.

That said, there are two scenes that come pretty close to showing how this could have been a GOOD little low budget genre mash-up and both of those scenes involve the main actress encountering zombies (a standout being a creepy hide and go seek scene that belongs in a better movie). What both of these scenes have in common? The horrible lead actor is nowhere to be found. Also these two scenes (due to their isolation from his awfulness) seem to have been filmed after the fact (after shooting was completed?) to fill out what is already a pretty short movie.

All in all, don't let the cover fool you. There's not much action to be had here. Just long stretches of characters talking about back story that would have been better left in the subtext in place of what your audience was told to expect: Action.

The good: A few inventive zombie make-ups, a couple genuinely creepy scenes with the main actress escaping zombies, and some nice location photography.

The bad: Most of the performances, the music, pacing, and lack of action.

The ugly: Every time the main actor shows his face or opens his mouth. He really is that bad.

9 out of 49 people found the following review useful:
Back to basics, 15 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Having just attended a screening of The Last Stand I couldn't help but wonder if my thoughts would have been kinder to my favorite action hero had he chose the now shelved "Cry Macho" as his comeback vehicle instead of this one.

The Last Stand is a paint by numbers throwaway action movie that is far less clever than the snazzy animated poster art would have one think. It brings to mind similar movies like Harrison Ford's Firewall or just about any Nicolas Cage movie in recent memory.

The story is simple: A drug cartel leader with an inhumanly fast car is trying to make his way into Mexico with a small town sheriff caught in the middle. You can guess what happens. Bullets fly. One liners are dispensed like so much ammunition, but all the while it's missing something. This is less a film than it is a distillation of what an aging movie star thinks his audience expects of him...and he tries very hard to please...a little too hard. Arnold usually performs solidly as a rock, but his timing is off with this one. The persona gets in the way of the person.

As an outspoken fan of Arnold's underrated acting ability, the amount of mugging in the first 40 minutes alone is enough to turn the audience from laughing to groaning. His saving grace is in the film's numerous actions sequences, a surprisingly emotional reaction to a tragic event, and a climactic fight scene that will leave most UFC fans going home happy.

Johnny Knoxville injects zany energy into the proceedings and his chemistry with Schwarzenegger is good enough that you wish they would have been a team for the whole film. Forest Whittaker plays an FBI man, phoning in most of his performance (literally) while the rest of the supporting cast do what they can with the material given. The villains are as clichéd as one would expect, the one flash of brilliance being a small role played by Billy Blair.

The action, while smaller scale than the usual Arnold film, has a surprising amount of impact, but the predictability of the script works against it at every turn, cutting momentum just as it begins to build. In the pantheon of Arnold action films, this one rates somewhere behind Raw Deal and neck and neck with Collateral Damage. For serious fans only. This reviewer is a serious fan, so perhaps The Last Stand is best intended for Arnold fanatics.

In short: this is not a film per se, it is a gets the Arnold fan you where you need to go, but the parts are salvage and the model needs an overhaul.

High hopes for The Tomb and Ten to be the comeback Arnold deserves.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
For those who don't want to grow up, 3 April 2008

10/10 for the Nostalgic little kid in me I never want to lose.

6 for the jaded film snob in me I'm trying to kill off.

Guess who's winning?

This was the first film I ever saw in the theater. I was 3 years old and remember it very well. The smell of popcorn, my friend running up the aisle screaming when Skeletor first turned to the camera, my refusal to leave while he waited in the lobby. I always liked Skeletor more than He-Man and a lot of that came from this movie. I watched the cartoon, but the movie is what did it for me as a 3/4 year old. It really influenced me a lot, especially my action figure play as a goofy little kid who enjoyed doing long Skeletor dialogues alongside the usual action figure...action.

All these years later, I really do still have a fondness for this film and since it was such a big part of my childhood...I can't judge it too harshly. As a Screenwriter/Filmmaker myself, I understand the problems this movie faced in fitting an epic universe into a less than epic budget. For what it is, the movie works today, but beyond the nostalgia factor, the three undeniable things that still hold up are the realization of Skeletor's character (look, costume, LINES! ACTING!) the set designs for the greyskull throne room, and the majestic score.

I don't turn my nose up at good entertainment(I can watch this film and Apocalypse Now in one sitting and enjoy both for different reasons), and this is good entertainment, certainly with more substance than the 2 dimensional crud kids get today.

"Tell me about the loneliness of good, He-Man. Is it equal to the loneliness of Evil?"

Think about that line, and the underlying theme that Skeletor, even though he has "won" will never be whole because greed needs conflict to survive (i.e. more greedy pursuits, hence Skeletor's obsession with "breaking" He-Man).

"Men who crave power look back over the mistakes of their lives, pile them all together, and call it destiny."

What it did not have in budget, the film made up with heart. Some of the technical things aren't up to snuff, but again great writing will seep through even when hampered by the constraints of budget (meaning a last second..."let's set most of it on Earth" note from the producers) David Odell and Gary Goddard did the best with what they had, as did everyone else. Some went above and beyond, Bill Conti, Frank Langella, and for those reasons and more many of us remember this film fondly and enjoy watching it again.

56 out of 72 people found the following review useful:
Slasher flick: a breakdown of AVP-R, 30 December 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With this movie I was really hoping that the idea was to make up for the hashed together ineptitude of the first AVP, and yet to my horror: Requiem is far worse than I could have imagined.

My hopes were up in the opening moments of the film inside the Predator ship, and I almost breathed a sigh of relief when we finally saw the Predator home world (a throwaway digital matte painting, but still nice to finally see it) and then of course, the humans (if such poorly written characters can be referred to as such) are introduced...

One must wonder why it seems to be impossible for Fox to make a good film out of Aliens and Predators. At the very least the supposed filmmakers could have done their homework.

Characters are set up in the same manner in which we would expect from the worst Friday the 13th Sequel. The pizza delivery scene was cringe inducing as was every other scene of character interaction that followed it. Bimbos and teen non actors do not make for a REAL film, they make for a cheap flick, and Alien 1-3 and the Predator movies were good because they were produced above the concept (remember that the 1st Alien is a "B" movie done as an "A" movie) The Strause brothers really missed an opportunity, that could have been rectified by simply knowing their Alien+Predator roots: In both the Alien and Predator films we are introduced to characters that are part of a larger group (Alien: Refinery workers, Aliens: Marines, Alien 3: Convicts and in the Predator films we generally follow a main hero part of a unit; Predator, Arnold--Special forces, Predator 2: Danny Glover, Police) and it's easy to see where the filmmakers of both franchises started to go wrong: in Alien Ressurrection we have pirates...or something, AVP we have...explorers?...with guns?? and of course in AVP-R we have teen slasher clichés. What is there to identify with here? In concept the idea of a convict returning to a small town and a war vet returning seemed a set up for a First Blood type of action hero, but like many things it was never paid off.

The Film-making is equally devoid of rhyme of reason. There is no sense of forward momentum to the action, just small sequences that build the most minuscule levels of tension or interest only to cut away just when they're getting interesting...taking the audience out of the movie at every turn. The action scenes themselves, though much ballyhooed in the trailers, are so darkly lit, it is literally impossible to tell what is going on during the fight scenes when they finally occur. Basically, the movie is hindered from many levels. Bad actors combined with poor direction and an atrocious screenplay (which as a screenwriter myself I noticed, seemed to hit every wrong note and cliché that only the most untalented writer devoid of ideas could have hashed together) The WRITING, if it can be called that, is not even direct to video quality, nor does it demonstrate a shred of respect for the established lore of the previous entries in the series. Why does the Predalien all the sudden have the ability to shoot alien embryos down a pregnant woman's throat to use her as an incubator for chestbursters? More than likely because the brain dead screenwriter needed a way to have more aliens for the predator to fight (and given the accelerated growth time even more so than the first AVP: as quickly as possible. Why must meaningless small talk between cardboard cutouts on sticks (meaning the supposed characters)substitute for real character development? (Remember a character is defined by what they DO, not SAY). Why is the Sheriff leading civilians to a cache of guns? (isn't he an officer of the law?) How does the bimbo of all people know where they are? Why does the Predalien wait for the Predator to VERY SLOWLY remove his mask before it attacks? Why are the aliens still falling into that nasty series-post-Alien 3 habit of hissing all the time to let their prey know to run? How on Earth did this series devolve to a character saying "People are dying...we need guns!" (how this writer even works is beyond me, and reflects badly on Fox's already destroyed artistic reputation. It's like everyone involved in the making of this film suffered from a mental impairment or really are that inept at every level of the film-making process.

The EFFECTS are pretty lousy this time around. The Aliens look like men in suits and ADI is just getting lazy with their creature design. The Aliens look like modified leftovers from Alien Resurrection, with that same bulky musculature around the arms as if they did not learn from that movie that it was not a good design, nor a good one to recycle. Again, everything is shrouded in such a state of darkness not to create mystery or atmosphere, but simply to hide how bad the creatures look. And just like in AVP, Stan Winston is sorely missed when the fake looking Predator face is revealed.

There are too many faults to list so I will just say this: Do not waste your money on this movie. Fox is beyond caring about the fans, as this cheap and trashy film is clearly evidence of. I felt bad having taken my girlfriend to see it (though it was free) and apologized to her profusely after. This is one die-hard fan who is done with the franchise.

Note to Fox: What we really wanted wasn't a mindless slasher flick, it was a film adaptation of the original Darkhorse Comicbook, which was better than anything you've produced for this franchise post 1993.

Signing off.

76 out of 134 people found the following review useful:
An Indictment of American Apathy, 5 November 2007

This is easily a film that will come under fire for having something to say, but what is the alternative? Making a film that has nothing to say? That seems to be the norm nowadays as the box office grosses of the terrible trio of threequels demonstrates. Lions for lambs reminds me of a time when Directors had greater ambitions than to make a huge opening weekend before people realize their film is garbage (Transformers, Pirates, etc...but being saturated with these types of films for so long I doubt many remember what film can be, and accomplish.) Robert Redford strikes me as someone who wants to make a difference and the problem is that the audience has become more deaf to reason than ever.

Lions for Lambs is more of a filmed essay than a narrative feature, and being a Kubrick fan, I am all for changing the classic form of Hollywood narrative structure. This is a film based around ideas, and exploring them to raise awareness that our own apathy will lead to our undoing as Americans. Let me invoke Batman Begins "People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy"...etc. So people won't get off their posteriors and respond to the chaos around them, perhaps because there seems to be no direct connection to the news, or as this film so brilliantly points out: we change the channel. This film is a dramatic example of where we're going as a nation and what we're becoming as a people. I doubt anyone will listen but I applaud the filmmakers for at least making an attempt.

This film presents the facts pretty much up to the minute, from many angles, and yes even the Republicans get a sympathetic view of their strategy. Whose fault is it that the economy is in a downward spiral? It's all too easy to point the finger at the Bush administration and leave it at that, but what about the media? The corporations that own the media that favor news as entertainment rather than news as information by which to empower the people via knowledge? What about the public themselves? V for Vendetta, another film centered around powerful ideas that didn't have nearly the impact it should have, said "People shouldn't be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people."

Has the public become so passive that they just ignore the big issues whenever confronted by them? This film suggests that and much more, but more importantly the film asks: What are you going to do about it?

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Director's cut is the only cut, 17 June 2006

When I first saw this film in may of 2005 I had read all the stories about extensive cutting, and outright deletion of scenes. I was hesitant to even see this film in the theater because why bother? It is not the true version. My curiosity eventually got the better of me and I went to the early show. I have to admit it was one of the more frustrating filmgoing experiences I have ever had. Nothing seemed to be payed were haphazardly rushed through, depth of character was obviously missing. The most painful thing about Kingdom of Heaven (the theatrical cut) was that is was so obvious that it was a great film that had been butchered into a "studio approved version." What more would I expect from Fox, the most creatively stifling, money grubbing studio of the new millennium. The theatrical version was a film cut into something it was not meant to be (much like Ridley Scott's Legend). Is this film an epic? Yes. Does it have battles? Of course. Is that all that the film is about? Absolutely not.

For over a year I had been waiting for the director's cut to come to theaters (it came to ONE screen in Fairfax for 2 weeks...nice job, Fox)or DVD. When I finally got the DVD and I was absolutely unprepared for the beauty and grandeur of a film the film that deserved to be seen in theaters as it was intended. There is simply no excuse for what Fox did, even if they did not do it directly (Ridley's reasoning: "If you don't cut it they will cut it for you")

The Director's cut of film is an absolute masterpiece, one of the greatest films of our time and easily would have been the best picture of last year had the director's cut been the version that was ultimately released. Every character, plot, sub-plot, action sequence, and scene of dialogue takes on so much more meaning in this new cut that it feels like an entirely different film.

Every aspect of Kingdom of Heaven is of the absolute highest quality. Ther performances, the writing, the music (Gregson-William's score was the best score of 2005, but just like the film, it got no recognition). Ridley Scott is perhaps the greatest working director alive today, more so than Spielberg, or Cameron because he is one of the few true artists of the cinematic form. A Ridley Scott film is like a great work of art that can be observed many times with new meanings being taken from them with each viewing. With Kingdom of Heaven: The Director's Cut, it is a bittersweet triumph that one of his greatest masterpieces has finally seen the light of day, but it should have been the version that was released to theaters in the first place.

See the Director's Cut, it is one of the greatest films you will ever see in an age that produces few that are even memorable

Hard Times (1975)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
overlooked, 31 May 2006

As an auteur, Walter Hill's 1975 film Hard Times is a perfect example of what to expect from him. It is uniquely his film made evident by the economy of dialogue, the simplistic, uncomplicated narrative, and numerous tough guy moments that are all trademarks of his. It was Walter Hill's first film as a director, and set the stage for much of his later work. Hill's unique style, tone, and his vivid, mythic characters are thematic elements that he would keep constant for the majority of his career, and it is all clearly evident in his first film. From the start of the piece Walter Hill sets a tone that clearly reflects the title. He creates an uncompromising view of the 1930's Depression. We see the run down buildings, the rust and grit covering everything in sight. This is where one of the director's trademarks comes in. It is evident from his later works, such as Last Man Standing or Wild Bill that Walter Hill has always had a soft spot for the American western, or more accurately the western ideology. His films consistently uphold the system of beliefs associated with the American western. His films contain constants of the western such as a stoic leading man, a realistic setting, and a showdown at the climactic scene between his heroes and villains. Hard times contains all these things. The lead up to the climactic fight scene near the end of the film is written shot and executed like an old western showdown. All the elements that are associated with such as scene are in play. The ticking clock, the hero's friend in the clutches of the enemy, and the doubt of the hero's return all fall well within the western aesthetic. Chaney's grand entrance from the shadows into the old abandoned warehouse is a visual homage to countless similar scenes in American westerns where the hero appears at the last second to save the day. The warehouse is a stand-in or metaphor for an old western battleground, similar to the O.K. corral in the Wyatt Earp stories. Is it a coincidence that three of his principal actors, Bronson, Coburn, and Martin are best known for the westerns they made in earlier years such as The Magnificent Seven, and The Wild Bunch? Hill knows what he is doing and the casting of his leads was no accident. Like most of his films Hard Times could have been set in the old west with gunfighters in place of street fighters and all the basic elements of the story would still be there. Hill uses the conventions of the western to create mythic character archetypes that are easily identifiable like Bronson's stoic stranger, and Coburn's colorful gambler. He uses the conventions of the genre to shape the world of his film. The lone figure of Charles Bronson as Chaney, strolls assuredly into town not unlike an old western gunslinger. It is a great deal of screen time before we actually hear Chaney speak his first lines of dialogue, and keeping with the conventions of the western Chaney is a man of few words. On the opposite side of the spectrum James Coburn's character, Speed, never seems to shut his mouth, and is portrayed as Chaney's sly, witty opposite. One is a character of economy while the other is a character of excess. Both give off the sense that they have complete histories outside the confines of the film, and both would be perfectly at home in a western setting.

Hard Times is less visually mobile than Walter Hill's later works, most notably The Warriors which was the first film where he made a conscious effort to create a dynamic visual style. Hill takes the less is more approach in this film and whether it was out of caution since this was in fact his first film or whether it was born out of the stark realism of the story he does it effectively. The minimalist style works very well for this film, and is perfectly in line with the 1930's tough guy aesthetic. The characters in the film reflect the sensibilities of Tough Guy literature by showing as little emotion as possible.The cynicism of the 1930's is inherent in the film's period dialogue which is replete with tough guy witticisms. The film is thematically consistent in both its visuals and dialogue since both are concise and to the point. The action is close and brutal. He does not want the audience to miss a thing, and in numerous point of view shots the director allows the audience to see from the character's perspective. Each fight sequence as an intimate dance of violence choreographed to be as realistic as possible.

Like his other action oriented films the fighting is nothing fancy, just fast and brutal. With Hard Times Hill does not indulge himself with gratuitous violence. There is no making fun of violence. He simply shows violence as something that is a part of life for both the characters and the world in which they inhabit. Typically in a film by Walter Hill, the world that the characters live in is symbolic of violence, and he came about at just the right time to tell the kinds of violent, uncompromising stories that interest him most.

Walter Hill is a director who has definite ideas about what he intends to show the audience and what impact it will have. His sensibilities are perfectly evident in what was only his first film, and he has kept them consistent throughout the duration of his career. Hard Times is a fine film by a fine director. It is brutal and uncompromising in its depiction of violence, but rich in character, atmosphere, and subtext. Walter Hill has made a quite a name for himself by creating vivid characters and populating them within a detailed, realistic context. As an auteur Hard Times is a definitive product of his unique vision.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Reality comes through, 31 May 2006

Real Women Have Curves is a very enjoyable film, and also a very real film. It deals with very real issues concerning women and especially young women. The main character is of the Hispanic persuasion and though she is a very bright girl and could possibly get into a good collage she runs the risk of being swallowed up in the death trap job of making dresses that cost them 18 dollars to make but get sold in department stores for 800 dollars. Her mother keeps telling her she's overweight overlooking the fact that she is heavier than her daughter. This film is very much set in the real world, and the problems facing the characters are problems we all face at one time or another like "can I pay the rent on time?" or "will this person like me for who I am instead of what I look like?" Within the context of the film the answers to those questions are yes, and yes which may be one of the reasons this film is so enjoyable. America Ferrera's performance is reminiscent of the kind of girl you would see at your local high school, and the message of this movie is one that more people should take to heart. Be who you are, not who others want you to be, follow your dreams, and the like. I was surprised with how frankly this film deals with teenage sexuality, and how it challenges the concept of what beauty is in modern culture makes it a very progressive film indeed.

7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
A Triumph...fifty years too late, 31 May 2006

Far From Heaven is one of those movies that lends validity to the saying that film is an art form. It is a film that just refuses to leave your thoughts for days after having seen it. Moore plays your typical 50's neglected housewife with so much energy and grace that it is very easy to forget that she is acting, or that this is just a piece of cinema. Her mannerisms, facial expressions, and tone of voice all feel exactly within the period. This film does have quite an effect on anyone intelligent enough to appreciate it. The look, feel, and mood of a 50's era film is wholly recaptured to tell a story that would never have been told if this film was to be made at that time. Censors, congress, and that damned Catholic Church would never allow a film like this to be made at the time. Heaven forbid that a film portray gays, blacks, and women as real three dimensional human beings. Everything about it down to the last detail has been so meticulously thought out that suspension of disbelief is never a problem unlike some other films that came out around the same time ::cough:: Chicago ::cough::. It would not be going to far to say that this is one of the greatest films ever made, but the most interesting thing is that it was made at all.

1 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Wow, 31 May 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Every director should have a vision, but so should every dictator. Francis Ford Coppola must have worshiped Stalin at some point because his directing style in Apocalypse Now seems to indicate a predilection for ruling with an iron fist. Personally I've never thought much of Apocalypse Now, but respect it in that many good points and observations of human nature are made. Kurtz, being shown and introduced as almost god-like. Having complete control over his men who speak of him as if he was the second coming of Christ. Willard is somewhat of a curiosity. He mulls on about how he admires Kurtz and......this is so hard. I am completely indifferent to this movie. Most of the performances are unbelievable in that the actors always seem like they're acting. One only has to watch Dennis Hopper to realize that. " I...I..I wish I had the words man..", Hopper says of describing Kurtz, but what he really means is " Hey man...I cant think of anymore dialogue man". Marlon Brando so full of himself and self aware of the clout and power he has in the entertainment business that he just rambles on for days while Coppela is hoping enough of the footage will be usable or make enough sense that it can be used in the movie. Francis pushes all his actors like he is the plantation owner and they are the slaves. After seeing Hearts of Darkness I lost even more respect for this film. The continuing battles of Coppela's obsession with making his epic, Brando trying to prove that big stars have the power to do anything they want, and a bunch of actors that don't know what they are doing. Sure the film is nicely shot, but it couldn't be taken seriously. Apocalypse Now is a very funny movie, and perhaps that was all intended to end when Willard killed the woman on the boat showing that he is completely obsessed with getting up river to Kurtz, but then the laughs continue. Let us not forget Kilgore, the name alone is hilarious. Not a slight on Duvall but Kilgore comes across as more of a cartoon character than a real person. Perhaps intended, but it took me right out of the movie. Improvisational movie making is not my cup of tea. The real madman here is Coppola; he spent an unbelievable amount of time and money on a complete mess, and only through generous editing found some meaning in it. The original version of Apocalypse Now was somewhere around six can only wonder.

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