62 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Black Sash (2003– )
I'll sass you back & lash out at Black Sash bashers!
25 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Ten years after this show's brief run, here I am watching it for the first time. I enjoy(ed) many WB shows, but missed this one, and seeing it now certainly makes me nostalgic for the good old days before The WB became the vastly inferior CW of today. The WB shows had more heart. And they weren't quite as incessant with their product placement, and thus weren't as focused on the lives of the rich and vapid.

Black Sash is refreshing by comparison, since it deals with Troubled Teens from a less privileged economic bracket. I know nothing about martial arts and can't tell you how realistic the portrayal may be. But it was nice to see such a diverse cast, and 3 generations interacting instead of focusing solely on teens. (Whoa. An actual *elderly* person on TV! I'm talking about Master Li, of course.) I also appreciated the attempt to actually send young viewers positive messages. That's right, Black Sash is kinda heartwarming, with it's main character trying to reconnect with his 12 year old daughter (Ha! Good luck finding a *pre*-teen on a CW show! If they can't be shown having sex yet, The CW ain't interested in 'em, basically), and being a father figure of sorts to his students as well. Not just a martial arts instructor, Tom Chang is a mentor who goes above and beyond, taking in an abused teen, and helping them all out of various predicaments.

Of course that's partly 'cause we have to showcase the star, Russell Wong (and his students, to some degree) kicking butt at least once per episode. So they all regularly get into dangerous situations, which may seem like overkill within a mere 6 episodes, but hey, I can deal with this contrivance. At least the fight scenes depict some struggle and feeling of realism in that the kids don't defeat the Bad Guys *too* easily. Fans of the Canadian band, Spirit Of The West, keep your eyes peeled for lead singer, John Mann, as one of these thugs. Poor guy kinda looks the part and gets typecast. He was also a shady underworld figure on Stargate SG-1.

I wonder about the comments I've read, disparaging Black Sash for being more of the same typical teen angst/high school drama. Is it so common for teens to be framed for murder, or to have to deal with gangsters and thugs coming after them because of their shady parent's criminal dealings? I *hope* it's not a "typical teen experience" to be stalked by a potential rapist? (Nice job showing the girls fighting back and protecting each other, btw... nowadays they'd probably just fall in love with their stalker.) Well, despite these dramatic sounding plot lines, Black Sash is pretty down-to-earth and feel-good entertainment. I know many people today balk at anything "too preachy" and prefer soulless anti-heroes and serial killers, but I'm hoping folks get sick of that trend soon. Maybe return to shows with likable protagonists - decent people trying to make a difference? It's so rare today, it would actually be a "daring" and "edgy" choice, TV writers! :P Btw, those of you comparing Black Sash to truly preachy, nauseatingly narrow-minded and just plain badly written junk like 7th Heaven, need to broaden your TV horizons and gain some perspective. There's a difference between a teacher providing guidance but helping teens gain self-esteem and encouraging them to do what's right for them... vs. being a religious nut who won't tolerate other ways of doing things and looks down on/pressures kids to conform to your belief system. Also... good kind of message: if a guy stalks you, be creeped out, not charmed. Learn to defend yourself if attacked by would-be-rapists. Bad kind of message: Never have sex before marriage! No abortions allowed! Even if you're raped! I know which show I'd rather watch. Hint: the one that doesn't hate women.

Of course the show had it's flaws, like pacing issues and trying to juggle all those characters. Bryan never really got a backstory. Nick vanished, rather implausibly. Trip had nothing to do in the last few eps, becoming irrelevant after his story with his Dad wrapped up...which happened too quickly, really. A lot of the character development (and romances) happened too quickly. Is Allie shy or not? Inconsistent characterization, or a fast-tracked character growth arc? I guess the showrunners knew they had only a 6 episode order, so they crammed a lot in. I read that there were a couple other unaired pilots that were reworked due to last-minute character changes, and you can kinda see some remnants from those "earlier drafts", if you squint.

At least the last episode ends with a feeling of hope, despite some unresolved story lines. I was half-expecting a horrible cliffhanger with everyone's life in jeopardy. So many writers continue to believe cliffhangers will get their shows renewed, but then they get cancelled anyway and leave fans in traumatized limbo forever. Yet another thing that makes Black Sash feel like a breath of fresh air now, to jaded TV viewers like me. I can live with the ending. Still it's a pity this series was cancelled so early. Six measly episodes, but the writers and actors managed to make me care, and I enjoyed these 6 eps more than a bunch of shows I could name which have inexplicably lasted for years. Too bad the suits at The WB didn't really give Black Sash a chance, nurture it, and have a little more patience - despite Mr. Chang's lesson on that very subject in the finale. :P
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Hooray for Hollywood Heights!
23 November 2012
I tuned in to see two childhood favorites, Meredith Salenger (The Journey of Natty Gann) and Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables) acting on-screen together. And then I found myself pleasantly surprised by the show as a whole.

Hollywood Heights is current but pays homage to Hollywood's history too. There's a nice blend of pretty much every genre... family drama, witty banter like you'd find on Gilmore Girls or classic screwball comedies, romance, backstage musical/songwriter biopic/showbiz rise & fall stories, even crime drama and film noir elements near the end of the series. As a fan of classic movies, I got a kick out of picking up on certain references (to A Star Is Born and Gone With The Wind, among others), which were well-integrated and fun for those who get them, but not out-of-place and confusing for younger viewers.

I admit I've got songs from the show stuck in my head, and I can't stand most of today's popular music. It helps that it doesn't feel like the showrunners are aggressively promoting soundtracks they want to sell, and wallpapering every scene with songs that drown out the dialogue (unlike all those teen shows on The CW or whatever.) There's some interesting insight into the way the music industry works, and modern internet trends/fan reactions vs. the way rock & roll stardom used to be, and I think a lot of it rings true.

Plot aside, I've got to care about the characters to really get emotionally involved in a story. Hollywood Heights impressed me there too. Most of the acting is strong, and the characterization and continuity is better than I've seen on many recent (and more popular but overrated) shows. The actors and writers really know how to make you root for (or hiss and boo at) the characters and get invested in their story lines, which, again, isn't easy to find on current TV, in my experience.

I could go on about how satisfying the show is from a feminist perspective, with a rare emphasis on mother/daughter and female friendship scenes. I was glad they hired actresses based on talent and included a variety of body types other than the anorexic. And I think the show subtly delivers a good message promoting healthy romantic relationships between independent equals, which young girls probably need to see more examples of in their fiction these days.

I'd buy this on DVD, yes, all 80 episodes, as pricey as that may be. Personally, I'm fine with not getting a second season as this one wrapped up nicely. It's so refreshing to have closure in a TV series, instead of leaving us with unresolved cliffhangers. I felt like I was watching a really long movie, with a satisfying ending that rewarded the time & emotions invested in it. Definitely a rarity in TV. When 80 episodes fly by and never feel like a chore to watch, you know they're doing something right.
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Bundle of Joy (1956)
more like a Bundle of Diaper Doodoo
28 August 2011
Poor Debbie should've realized Eddie was a jerk and their marriage was doomed, when his ego demanded top billing ahead of her... in his very first movie. (And it's no surprise that Eddie's only other movie appearances were in Liz Taylor films, once they got together.) If this non-actor couldn't concede his then-wife was a bigger movie star and deserved to be billed before him, clearly the guy didn't respect or love her as much as he loved himself.

The only reason to see "Bundle Of Joy", is as a Debbie Reynolds fan and completist. She's pretty much always fun to watch. But, even though I like Debbie more than Ginger Rogers (who stars in the original movie), "Bachelor Mother" is vastly superior to this remake. The original is laugh-out-loud funny. David Niven is, needless to say, a much better actor and infinitely more charming than Eddie Fisher. I notice they cut some of Niven's best scenes, I assume because Fisher couldn't deliver the witty dialogue.

Even as a fan of musicals, there's not much point watching this. The songs are pretty forgettable. I don't mind musical remakes when you get quality numbers, such as in High Society, the musical version of The Philadelphia Story. Not the case here. I don't see anything very special about Eddie's singing. And that insufferable smirk on his face! His expression never changes.

I guess there are other reasons to watch this movie. Morbid curiosity to witness the lack of chemistry between Debbie and Eddie, and his total non-charisma. Or a need to watch a baby-centric storyline played by two people who were about to become parents (of Carrie) in real life. Behind-the-scenes film-buff stuff may provide some small entertainment. But certainly no joy.
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Calm Yourself (1935)
Chaotic & cruel comedy agitates me. Title doesn't help.
25 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Even a weaker B-movie like "Calm Yourself" is more entertaining to me than your average blockbuster of today. However, the humour is rather frantic and forced, as other reviewers have mentioned - plus that unfortunate blackface gag must bring the rating down. Madge Evans deserved to be a bigger star, and deserved better scripts than this one. I enjoy Robert Young in anything, but he plays a slightly less likable character here than usual. Preston (Young) comes across as rather callous in switching from one fiancée to another, even taking into account that this is standard behavior in screwball comedies. However, I did enjoy the fact that he made romantic doodles about both know, the kind we usually see adolescent girls scribbling in movies, writing their names in combination with the names of their crush-object. My main beef is that Preston shows no qualms or regret about sabotaging the potential relationship between a father (Ralph Morgan) and daughter (Madge Evans), who don't know each other. Although initially working at the father's request (he's trying to keep his daughter away until he can muster the courage to tell his young second wife about the existence of a grown daughter - and thus, his real age), Preston goes a bit too far in deceiving both of them and badmouthing each one to the other...apparently for purely mercenary reasons. But of course it all works out in the end, and I'm definitely taking this silly movie too seriously! I should, ahem, calm myself.
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The Forgotten "My Man Godfrey"
16 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Of course, the original My Man Godfrey from 1936, starring William Powell and Carole Lombard, is an absolute masterpiece, and never should've been remade. But I do like June Allyson and David Niven, so I had to see this 1957 version.

It completely lacks both the laugh-out-loud hilarity of the original, as well as the more serious social commentary resulting from being set during the Great Depression and dealing with "The Forgotten Man". Godfrey's backstory has been altered to one of hiding in fear of deportation, having arrived in America illegally, for rather contrived and convoluted reasons. I don't really understand why someone of his wealth and position couldn't just go through the proper channels. As far as I can tell, the character's not making some sort of statement, there's no real point to the story, and the whole thing seems devoid of drama.

What's left, but to focus on the love story here, although that doesn't necessarily make it more convincing than the Powell/Lombard version. Still, the lack of a larger message does leave the remake more time to devote to the relationship between Godfrey and Irene, and some viewers might prefer that. (His somewhat paternalistic fondness of this prattling child - who is somehow also maternal and domestic! - feels very 1950s to me.) Whereas 1936 Godfrey was sort of swept away by whirling dervish Irene, against his will, 1957 Godfrey seems to be making a more conscious choice to be with her. He also seems more amused by her family, less stunned by their behavior... but then, they come across as only mildly eccentric in this version, despite a fair amount of re-used dialogue. Must be because the pacing is more sedate, and most of the actors are calm and subdued.

It's interesting that the first film is stronger in both the comedy and the drama... Perhaps you can't experience such highs, without addressing the lows? Basically, the remake is more bland, and more of a conventional romance. Lacking in substance, but it's pleasant and enjoyable enough, if you can forget the madcap brilliance of the original. David Niven and June Allyson are charming, as always. They deserved better than the thankless assignment of appearing in a destined-to-be-forgotten, watered-down remake of a classic film they must've known could never be surpassed.
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Destiny (1944)
Dust be it's Destiny. And a defense of Deanna.
12 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Is Cliff a sympathetic figure or a monster? A wronged man, looking for redemption and something to believe in? An idiotic weakling who lets himself be led astray? A calculating criminal mastermind plotting the murder of innocent people who have only been kind to him? These questions might intrigue you, but don't be fooled. These questions come up because of bad writing, that's all. It's no wonder the protagonist is written inconsistently (not even taking into account the scene where it turns out he's dreaming) with new scenes being shot around footage cut from another movie - as other reviews have explained - "Destiny" has an interesting history - more interesting than the story the movie actually tells, about a cynical ex-con, constantly being duped and drawn into crimes. The dumb schmuck even drives a known robber to a bank, and waits for him to finish what he foolishly believes is an innocent transaction - this after the guy already got him into trouble with the law and sent to jail. Naturally he's just using Cliff again, as a getaway. Hard to have sympathy for someone so stupid. The opening police chase reminds me of an Ed Wood movie. It certainly looks low-budget. Most of the actors are Ed Wood-calibre as well. Alan Curtis seems to be attempting a Chester Morris impression, which only makes me want to re-watch some of Chester's great gangster movies.

I suspect the writer or director of "Destiny" was influenced by Disney's "Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs". I'm thinking of the best sequence in "Destiny", wherein Cliff (after killing her father with a hunting rifle) chases Jane, and her apparent power of nature causes the trees to aid her by entangling him and delaying his pursuit. This is reminiscent of Snow White running in panic through the forest after the Huntsman tries to kill her, and she imagines that the trees come alive to attack and thwart her escape. The villain (Cliff) even falls into deadly water during a raging storm, similar to the demise of the Wicked Queen from "Snow White". Jane is quite like Snow White, both being incredibly innocent and good. Birds even land on Jane's shoulder. And she sings operatic arias while she works!

I'd like to respond to a few things in Tom Barrister's IMDb review. Although I agree with him that Gloria Jean gives a fine performance (making the best of a super-saccharine role as a cheerful blind girl who communes with nature and prays a lot) and the tacked on footage brings down the quality of the film, I question his conclusion that Deanna Durbin is responsible. According to his review, "Years later, it was stated that an unnamed major Universal stockholder wanted Gloria's sequence cut from Flesh and Fantasy" - and I ask, it was stated by *whom*? He also claims Deanna "was jealous of anybody else who cut into her fame." This seems like a baseless generalization. What are his sources? How on earth can he possibly know this about Deanna? Especially considering how reclusive she's been since retiring, rarely giving interviews. I respect her desire for privacy, so refreshing in this age of obsession with celebrity. I don't see how anyone can come to decisive conclusions about her character or state of mind, when Deanna's such a mysterious figure. However, I'd conclude that she cares little about fame, since she willingly left it behind.

I admit, as a fan of Deanna's talent and on-screen charm, I don't want to believe her capable of viciously sabotaging anyone's career. But I also have a hard time believing she could, even if she wanted to. One thing that *is* well-documented about Deanna Durbin, is her frustration with Universal typecasting and giving her poor-quality (in her opinion) scripts. That's why she retired so early, while still a major box-office attraction. The one interview she's done since then, discusses her desire for script approval, which she couldn't get, despite making tons of money for Universal. But this was a common complaint in those days when the studios pretty much owned the stars under contract. Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Tyrone Power, etc, bemoaned the movies they were forced to do. Even Oscar noms/wins were no guarantee an actor would receive better material next time. So I find it improbable, this accusation that Deanna Durbin had the power to dictate the quality of Gloria Jean's scripts, when she was powerless over her own, and quit for that very reason. This alleged jealousy of anyone she might perceive as a threat to her fame, seems unlikely coming from someone who chose to give up the spotlight while still in her prime, and who gives no indication that she wants to change her current obscure status. From what I can tell, Deanna values integrity, privacy and her family, over the pursuit of fame.

Why was Gloria Jean's segment cut from "Flesh & Fantasy"? My personal theory is that preview audiences or studio execs found it too bleak & frightening as it originally was. What with the attempted sexual assault and murderous chase of a sweet innocent blind girl, the murder of her father, and a total lack of redemption for the criminal. I can see how it might be an awkward segue into the happier segment that was to follow. Although Edward G. Robinson's segment in "F&F" also deals with murder, the tone is more black comedy, and it's just not as upsetting as watching poor Gloria's character terrorized in "Destiny". In the classic era, many movies with downbeat endings were re-shot due to audience reaction. It seems plausible that altering it in order to soften Cliff's character, make the worst of his actions only a dream, and contrive a happy ending, required a full-length film. It's too bad they didn't spend more time or money on the new footage, but Universal could be cheap. Deliberate sabotage or incompetence/carelessness on the studio's part? Guess we'll never know for sure.
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High Society (1956)
On personalities...unique, bland, or annoying. Guess which is which.
4 June 2011
Maybe it's not fair, but I dismiss Grace Kelly as just a pretty face (who won an Oscar because she was willing to go "ugly" once, ie: wear no makeup - c'mon, Bing played the really tough part in The Country Girl). She doesn't seem to have a strong personality on-screen, and I don't think much of her acting. It doesn't help to watch The Philadelphia Story and High Society in quick succession, because it's quite obvious that Grace studied Katharine Hepburn's performance and is copying her blatantly. I guess mimicry takes some skill, but I'd rather see a different actress do her own interpretation, instead of a pointless imitation. Even if it might be intimidating, especially since Katharine originated the role on the stage as well. Heck, it was pretty much written for Hepburn, tailored to suit her and help her career at a time she was considered "Box-Office Poison". It's not that I think Kate's an untouchable goddess (like her character ;)) - in fact, Hepburn's mannerisms can get on my nerves. But at least she had her own style. As far as I can tell, Grace Kelly...didn't.

Remakes usually stink, but I'm not completely in love with the original anyway (see my IMDb review). High Society is worth seeing for Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and the addition of some great songs. Bing is just as charming as Cary Grant was in the role (but in his *own* way!), however, Frank Sinatra is a poor replacement for Jimmy Stewart. Although I like Sinatra in his earlier MGM musicals, when he had a shy, awkward, innocent persona (yes, really), by this point Frank was becoming cocky, and much less likable as a misogynistic ladies man than he was when he played guys who were nervous around women. Poor Celeste Holm, such a smart, witty presence and always enjoyable to watch, gets to pine over unappreciative Frank, in both this movie and The Tender Trap. She really deserves better.

My favorite bit in High Society is the musical number "Well, Did You Evah?", where we get to see Bing and Frank try to upstage each other. Well, Frank tries. Bing doesn't even *have* to try - that's the beauty of it. With his laidback, natural charm, he just steals the scene effortlessly. Frank hams it up, playing "drunk" in an over-the-top way. Meanwhile, Bing, for the most part, just sits there, delivering some great one-liners (the way he says "Don't hurt yourself" just cracks me up), as he watches Frank make a fool of himself. And no matter what Sinatra does, your eyes follow Crosby. Even when he's just sitting there. I always marvel over that. He is cool. He is charismatic. He is Bing Crosby! There's nobody like him.
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The Amanda Show (1999–2002)
Moody's Point - wrong mood & misses the point
19 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Although I've come to appreciate Amanda Bynes' talent and general likability in the movies She's The Man and Hairspray, I dismissed The Amanda Show as way too broadly acted and juvenile in it's humour, much like Lizzie McGuire, That's So Raven, and all those other tween-girl shows which I've channel surfed quickly away from.

Recently I came across positive comments about one recurring segment called Moody's Point, which sounded interesting - intended as a spoof of teen soaps like Dawson's Creek. That actually has the potential to be funny (although I don't dislike the Creek). So I thought I'd give The Amanda Show another chance. Luckily all of Moody's Point can be found on youtube.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Like many so-called spoofs, Moody's Point fails to address (and mock) the actual conventions of the genre or specific show/whatever it's supposed to be mocking. Instead of being a clever satire, the writers rely on easy gross-out gags and slapstick. They don't even bother to recreate famous moments from Dawson's Creek and put their own (hopefully humorous) spin on them. With the exception of the opening credit sequence. It seems clear to me that the writers/producers aren't very familiar with Dawson's Creek, and probably never watched an episode all the way through. I guess they never got past those opening credits.

The "characters" on Moody's Point are ciphers, not clearly defined or recognizable archetypes. Meanwhile, the storyline... emergency surgeries/heart transplants, babies switched at birth/mysterious parentage ... all of these things are staples of daytime soaps for housewives. Not primetime teen dramas. With all the silly hospital hijinks and medical mix-ups on Moody's Point, I figure The Amanda Showrunners were inspired more by that Muppet Show sketch "Veterinarian's Hospital" (no doubt a staple of their childhood), moreso than Dawson's Creek or any other teen soaps.

In any case, The Muppet Show was much funnier, Moody's Point was a waste of a good idea, and I still don't like The Amanda Show. Oh, she deserves her own show, but with better writers.... and better supporting actors. The rest of the Moody's Point cast was horrible. Amanda's the only one who realized that she should play her character earnestly and seriously, in order to best capture that teen angst mood. The other actors were so over-the-top with their exaggerated screaming and crying, they belonged in a spoof of I Love Lucy instead. (I realize that Amanda's a fan of Lucille Ball, but, whatever, I hate Lucy.) At least Amanda seems to understand that you don't need to bleat and bray and generally make an ass of yourself in order to be funny. The best comedians are equally good at drama/tragedy and can convey pathos. Bill Murray, for instance, or Charlie Chaplin. And (while I'm not saying she's the next Chaplin!) I thought I saw a bit of that in Amanda's performance, especially the scenes involving meeting her birth parents/saying goodbye to her old life. Glad Amanda Bynes said goodbye to this show, and hope she keeps moving on to bigger and better things.
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Darkman (1990)
Darker Woman ... or Why Can't I Learn To Stop Worrying And Love Misogyny?
7 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Well, I couldn't even finish this movie, which is very unusual for me since I normally *have* to know how a story ends. I only got as far as the funeral and following hospital scene where Liam Neeson's character is an unidentified patient. Some will say that means I'm not qualified to review the film. But I'm not claiming to be a professional critic - I'm just a viewer who's entitled to stop watching a movie in disgust, and give my reasons why, because it feels good to vent.

Basically this movie's too sadistically violent and misogynistic for my liking. The filmmakers seem to have a great love of brutality, and great contempt for women. Sometimes the two go hand in...fist... as in the opening scene when a gangster cracks a joke about breaking a woman's leg. Speaking of that opening, with two gangs battling for dominance - does it have anything to do with the plot? Is it truly necessary in order to establish the gang leader's ruthless character? I think not. The next time the gang appears in the film, the same point is made, while moving the story along.

The attack on Liam, in his lab, also seemed unnecessarily vicious. The thugs got what they came for, so why did they linger to cause extreme pain? It's not like the document had been stolen from them, and they were motivated by revenge or something. So, why? Sure some people are just sadists who love to torture others, but it still seemed gratuitous on the writer/director's part. (And how did the gang even know who had the document when Liam didn't know, himself? No explanation. Let's just get to the extreme violence; never mind if the script makes sense.)

Even worse, to me, was the message Sam Raimi seemed to be sending about women. I don't know if it got better later (doubt it - there probably aren't any other significant female characters in the film), but the first two women we encounter are demonized. Although one is more sympathetic, on the surface, as a "love interest" who can be "redeemed" since she hasn't become totally "unwomanly" yet.

Liam's girlfriend's carelessness is indirectly to blame for his being viciously attacked in his lab. The implication being that she should've thought more of him/her romantic relationship instead of focusing on her career...emphasized by the fact that she resisted her lover's attempts to delay her from going to work (and a man's need for nookie should always come first, right?) *and* dared to ask for time to think of his marriage proposal instead of jumping at the chance. Uppity bitches! Thinking they can have careers and valuing their independence! Well, we'll show her. She'll regret that decision when she thinks her boyfriend is dead! Having her show up to witness the apparent death, felt like a cruel "punishment".

The second, more obviously "Evil" Woman, is the doctor in charge of Liam's case, after his burned, unrecognizable body is brought to a hospital. We see her taking interns on a tour and treating Liam's character callously, like a speciman she's exhibiting, smugly bragging about her treatment of him, and insensitively talking about him like he can't hear her. Including making a tasteless joke about his condition. This extremely unprofessional and cartoonishly nasty portrayal of a doctor, was really the last straw for me. The writers chose to make her a female physician, and then chose to ram home the Heartless Career Woman cliché for the second time in this movie.

This hateful characterization might be an unconscious bias against professional women. Still, it sickened me. Sexism and misogyny are sadly widespread in movies, but when it's *that* blatant, I can't concentrate on anything else the story might be trying to tell me, or derive enjoyment from other aspects of the movie. I don't want to stay in that world another minute. Might as well just live in our real world and not watch movies at all.

(And this Raimi guy was hired to adapt the relatively light-hearted and kid-friendly Spider-Man comics for the big screen? Wow. Hollywood is weird.)
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SHAMityville Snorer
4 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
So this haunted house gives people colds and swipes money from their pockets like a mischievous prankster? Oooh, spooky! I liked Amityville 3 better. At least I felt sorry for some of those characters. And Lori Loughlin was great. Why was the first Amityville a bigger hit? Because of the lie that it was based on a true story. Without that thought to creep you out, this is a pretty incompetent horror movie. I'm not one who craves blood and gore, and I appreciate more subtle, slow-building movies like The Haunting (directed by Robert Wise). But The Amityville Horror is not in that league at all. The characterization is non-existent, and the pacing... my god, the pacing. It's not a good sign when even the edited-for-TV version of this movie feels *way* too long. Was the extra time devoted to making us care about the characters? Nope. I kinda hoped they'd die, particularly the whiny kids. Especially the little girl who seemed more creepy to me than any ghostly presence that may have been haunting the house.

The evidence: She calmly leaves her babysitter locked in a closet and is totally immune to her hysterical screams. Oh sure, her ghost pal wouldn't *let* her open the door. But I didn't see her trying to change ghostie's mind, or feeling remorseful afterwards (or even reacting normally with fear/disgust when babysitter comes flying at her with bloody fists). Also, Little Miss Innocent seems smugly satisfied at the thought of her dad being in danger. And *then* the little brat sends him back into the house for the freakin' dog. I'm supposed to believe this demon-child who hasn't cared about anybody else, cares about the dog? Not only that, when they're all escaping at the end, she's got a choke-hold on Margot Kidder's neck, slowing her down, while her brothers slip and slide down the bloody stairs by themselves. So why does the little girl need to be carried, huh? Evil! Oh, almost forgot: right after bugging his sister by dangling a fake spider through a window, who should happen to get his hand smooshed in that window? Coincidence? Ha!

Ahem. Anyway, I couldn't root for the parents either. James Brolin's the Spirit Of Wooden Acting (An affinity for wood may explain the constant fireplace-gazing and axe-chopping). Margot Kidder takes forever to actually try to *do* something. Like, the obvious things a horror movie character should know to do right away: talk to a priest and do some research about the real-life murder that took place in your house. Duh! She waits 'til the last minute.

The best thing I can say about this movie is that the tagline is very appropriate, because you too will find yourself screaming at the stupid characters to just Get Out Of The House already. Much is left unexplained, and I'm pretty sure it's a result of bad filmmaking, as opposed to scenes cut for time in the TV version. Or, y'know, trying to build mystery/create suspense.

Why does James Brolin's co-worker's wife/girlfriend suddenly switch from "I can't go in the house...bad feeling! I'll just shiver in the car, okay?" to "Ooh, let *me* lead the Scooby Gang down to the basement, which my psychic sense tells me is the source of all evil. Whee, this is exciting!" Why does the dog keep digging away, with bloody paws, to uncover the Tunnel To Hell, and then as soon as it's uncovered...what? He whimpers and hides? Why'd you wanna get in then, boy? Huh, boy? Come to think of it, I'm not a dog-owner, but I hear they can be indecisive about going outside for a walk/to do their business...pawing at the door and then changing their minds after it's opened. So I guess the dog behaves most realistically of all, and I'm glad he survived.

Why does the younger priest not try to help Margot Kidder when she's looking for the older priest who's a friend of hers? I mean, the guy *knows* Rod Steiger wanted to warn Margot's family about the house, and was supernaturally foiled in his attempts to reach them. So, even if he doesn't want to disclose Rod's location, why not pass the message on, since she's so conveniently shown up? Not that she shouldn't be able to figure out that they should move out of the house, without being told by a priest, but still. Why does the cop want to talk to the priest, and then just give up? Why does the cop station himself outside the house and then just disappear? Why the pointless scenes that go nowhere? Why such incompetent filmmaking?!

The movie fails to scare, but I fear these questions will haunt me and keep me up at night. Not really.
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