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Goon (2011)
If Forrest Gump were written by Evan Goldberg and set on the ice rink..., 11 January 2015
8/10

I'm not much of a sports fan, but I do enjoy the good occasional sports film or documentary, whether it's about football, baseball, snowboarding or hockey.

And this is a great sports film --if you're not turned off by excessive amounts of violence, profanity and generally vulgar language.

Pardon the crass review summary, but there are indeed a lot of parallels between this film and Forrest Gump:

- Seann William Scott plays Doug Glatt: a quiet and somewhat innocent protagonist who's not the brightest bulb in the box (especially compared to his physician father and brother) but demonstrates great heart and is endlessly sweet and endearing. His sweetness and generally meek and naive demeanor contrast starkly with the physical prowess he demonstrates as a bar bouncer/back alley enforcer.

- Our simple-minded hero is dragged out of his dreary, mediocre existence by a chance but dramatic demonstration of his physical talent: a superhumanly thick skull and ability to knock guys out cold without breaking a sweat. He's quickly recruited by a local hockey team and sets off on his athletic adventure.

- Doug falls head over heels for a flighty bad girl who has some emotional issues tied to self-destructive sexual promiscuity. She wants him but keeps pushing him away and alternating hot and cold because she knows she's bad for him. Yet our romantically naive hero never wavers in his adoration for this troubled hockey groupie.

OK, so it's not an exact point-for-point matchup with the multi-Academy-Award-winning 1994 classic. But Goon does have a lot of heart and will surprise those who give it a chance.

Obviously, being written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg (frequent collaborator with Seth Rogen), Goon is of a different ilk from more "serious" dramedies like Forrest Gump. This film features the same style of man-child pothead humor that has done so well in films like Pineapple Express, Superbad and This is the End. There are tons of memorable lines and gut-busting scenes that keep the energy level of the film high without encroaching on the plot or drama.

For a short dramedy that emphasizes the comedy, there's a fair amount of character development as we see Doug grow into his role on the team, discovering what it means to be a "goon" while also helping his girlfriend, Eva, and teammate, Xavier, get over their respective issues.

And really that's all the character development you need in a satisfying and life-affirming sports comedy. The main character doesn't need to experience a personal catharsis or undergo a sweeping character arc to touch the audience. And the hilarious supporting characters in the film (notables include the goalie, the best friend, and the Russian brothers) don't need to change in order to deliver compelling and thoroughly entertaining performances that sell the camaraderie between friends and teammates or create a convincing portrayal of hockey culture.

This is a very well cast and directed film in which pretty much every character works and adds their own contribution to the movie. Even the more minor roles, like the sportscasters, the donair restaurant owner, Ricky Mabe's character, etc. tie in so well to the feel of the movie and the comedic effect of each scene.

Schreiber also delivers an excellent portrayal of the "bad" goon and makes for an excellent antagonist/rival in a genre that often has very cheesy, hammed up "villains." Instead, Ross "the Boss" Rhea is shown as a tragic anti-villain who receives the audience's sympathy as much as he gains their antipathy for brutalizing the protagonists.

Overall, this is just a great feel-good sports film with lots of lewd language and hilarious characters. There's certainly drama as you watch the protagonist struggle against the odds in the rink and struggle with life and relationships on and off the ice. But it never gets too heavy and keeps you gripped with its abundant humor and action.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
How to turn $28M into $14M by recycling the Escape From... franchise, 4 November 2014
3/10

An earlier reviewer asked why this film is so hated, so I'll try to summarize the answer to that question in my review: Firstly, this film has a competent cast of actors--no one exceptional, but most of the protagonists are recognizable from TV series or films that have been largely successful.

The project started out as Escape From Mars--the latest installment of the Snake Plissken / Escape From N.Y. franchise, which was then changed when Escape From L.A. failed to meet box office expectations.

So a successful 80s franchise was given a late-90s early-2000s facelift. A much heavier metal and industrial-influenced rock soundtrack replaced the tamer pure-synth soundtracks from Escape From N.Y. and Escape From L.A.

Carpenter actually received help from some pretty good guitarists, but the soundtrack itself is hardly a masterpiece. It tries hard to give the film an edge that just doesn't materialize in the rest of the film.

To start with, while the acting isn't terrible, the writing and directing in the film really limits the effectiveness of the acting talent. Most characters are relatively flat and uncompelling. Some pseudo-futuristic slang is thrown in, but the dialog feels unnatural and perfunctory. The interactions between Statham and Henstridge, in particular, feels a bit creepy at times (I really thought Statham's character was going to rape our heroine during the setup to the kiss scene).

Worse, Pam Grier's character comes off very unconvincing as a police commander, and her wardrobe/makeup didn't help matters.

Which brings me to one of my main gripes with the movie: the set design and overall aesthetics of the film has the quality of a late 80s/early 90s B movie. I don't doubt the sets and props were expensive to build, but the very outdated aesthetics and lazy designs (e.g. the alien corridor, the freight train, the buildings, etc.) simply don't hold up to the standards of films released after the mid-90s.

Maybe as a designer, I'm more sensitive to these things, but what makes older sci-fi movies look dated is often a lack of attention to detail in the design of props and sets, or having designs that just don't mesh with the trends in industrial design/fashion/consumer tastes in the intervening years.

Ghosts of Mars' costumes (especially the police uniforms), sets (the small mining town is really the only setting for 99% of the film), props (the heavy machinery and weapons) all look very amateurish compared to the much more convincing and skillfully executed designs of other contemporary sci-fi films. Granted, Mission to Mars and even Red Planet had much larger budgets, but good design doesn't cost that much.

The film can be forgiven for the low quality practical effects and makeup, which are often laughably bad. But other poorly executed details are simply the result of sloppiness and lack of effort.

Case in point? The Martian language basically boils down to the actor just repeating "lah-lah-lah-lah-lah..." I'm dead serious. It comes off exactly as stupid as it sounds.

The leather police uniforms also look tacky, further giving the film a cheap, straight-to-video feel. I can see an 80s audience believing that this is how future police officers might dress, but it has zero relation to the evolution of police uniforms (in any country) in more recent decades (which tends towards utility over arbitrary aesthetics).

But the greatest sin of this action horror film is the terrible action scenes. I can live with low production values and a simple plot. I can even live with the abundant plot holes (like the rookie shooting the possessed prisoner and endangering everyone for no reason and the complete lack of reaction from everyone else, or the implausible plan used to attack the aliens). I can even ignore the cheesy special effects and makeup, as well as the 90s metal band look that all the aliens have.

However, I can't overlook the terribly choreographed fight scenes in the film and the stupid, contrived weapons that the aliens wield. An abundance of gory deaths doesn't come close to making up for Carpenter's utter lack of talent for directing a contemporary action film. The fights look incredibly fake, and the gruesome deaths and dismemberment scenes are clumsily edited in a way that disrupts the pacing of the action sequences (as if all the action pauses for a second as everyone watches someone get decapitated).

All in all, this is just an incredibly mediocre film from a director who seems to have either lost his touch or simply fallen behind the times. It's incredibly disappointing to say the least.

31 out of 137 people found the following review useful:
As much talent as they have integrity..., 8 October 2014
1/10

Here's yet another filmmaker using bots and puppet accounts to astroturf their IMDb entry.

This film has had 6000+ votes average to 8/10, yet has only 16 reviews, the majority of which are negative, and the only positive reviews are by accounts that have no other activity on them.

Unsurprisingly, the movie is terrible. Filmmakers who resort to stuffing ballots (like companies that spam their products/services) generally don't have the skill or character to produce a competent product. But, if anything, the trailer's at least good for a few laughs.

It's an incoherent montage of bad CGI and poorly shot, and even worse acted scenes that run more like screen test rejects than a promotional trailer for a commercial film. The clumsy, ham-fisted dialog will leave you scratching your head and feeling embarrassed for those with their names actually attached to this trainwreck. I'm not sure you could make a worse movie trailer if you tried.

I have no problem with people making and promoting bad films. Everyone has to start from somewhere, but IMDb really needs to address their astroturfing problem or IMDb ratings will soon completely lose their credibility.

45 out of 51 people found the following review useful:
Pathetic..., 21 January 2013
1/10

So a movie with a 2.8 rating has 22 reviews, all giving it 8, 9, or 10 out of 10 stars and filled from beginning to end with soapy blind praise for the film and over-the-top fawning for the film makers. Oh and surprisingly all of these rather generic and utterly useless reviews have 100% usefulness ratings.

But the really odd part about all this is the fact that all 22 users have only a single review to each of their accounts and no message board posts. So they happen to have no interest or strong feelings about any movies except this one--amazing! Well, this is either the best indie film ever made or a film so bad, by filmmakers so incompetent and with so little professional integrity, that they actually resorted to such a tactless and blatant astroturf job.

And it should be no surprise to anyone that it's not the former. This movie is really, _really_ bad (even worse than the trailer). Paying barely literate people to spam positive reviews for their film on IMDb and YouTube is pretty much the only way they can trick anyone into watching this rubbish. But they couldn't even do that right.

What they really should have done was use all that money to hire some professional writers and film makers to make an actually decent film for them.

P.S. See the message board discussion entitled "Reviews" for more anomalies.

10 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Starship Troopers ...anime-style, 12 August 2012
4/10

I didn't have high hopes for this film, as Starship Troopers is the type of franchise where, like Aliens or Terminator, you really need a big budget to properly do justice to on screen. And seeing as this clearly wasn't a major production on the same level as FF: The Spirits Within, GitS (1995), or even FF7: Advent Children, I was expecting it to be on the same level as Appleseed or Renaissance or, at best, Ultramarines. I mean, just look at what happened with ST2 and ST3 with their $9M budgets (about the same budget as Ultramarines).

However, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the animation quality of this film. It's not The Spirits Within, but it's at least on par with Advent Children. The film doesn't go for an ultra photo-realistic look, but the bugs, the armor, the ships, the environment, etc. are all exceedingly well rendered. The bugs in particular look extremely realistic (especially being chopped down by machinegun rounds), as do all the on-screen physics.

Still, there _were_ some flaws... First off, there's a distinct anime aesthetic to the film that seems ill-suited for this franchise. You'll recognize the costumes, equipment, etc. as being from the ST universe, but still with an anime-spin to it. This is especially obvious in Carmen's weird Gundam-style sci-fi-Victorian uniform. Somehow, a baby blue "crop top" military dress jacket and matching corset just doesn't seem to fit the ultra-macho, utilitarian culture of the fascist Terran Federation (nor the rest of the ST universe). In fact, she looked more like a flight attendant than a starship captain.

Likewise, the body and facial styles in the film are all stereotypical of anime characters--to the point that most of the male protagonists look pretty much alike. I suppose that's why they had to resort to giving Rico an eye patch, Hero a distinctive scar under his eye, and Holyman his weird anime-style tattoos and pale complexion.

Even the semi-mechanized mobile infantry body armor/spacesuits seemed to have a bit of a corseted waistline. That said, the ships, armor, and space station designs in this film are still very high quality overall, rivaling even the first movie in some respects. Even the overly-Halo-inspired-corset-wearing MI battle suits are better looking than the armor shown in any of the previous ST works. Though I personally would have stuck with the black and field grey color scheme for the mobile infantry gear/costumes instead of the jungle green cameo (this is supposed to read C-A-M-O, as in camouflage; please ignore IMDb's idiotic autocorrection) they used in the film, which is more reminiscent of U.S. marines than German storm troopers (and also not making much sense in space or inside of the silvery monolithic starships and space stations).

The overall CGI quality is actually very impressive considering that in theory, Stage 6's target production budget is at most the same as that of Ultramarines (the admirable but ultimately disappointing WH40K animated film), and yet ST: Invasion is head and shoulders above what Ultramarines managed to achieve with their budget.

If you want to be picky, sure, there are a few stereotypical mannequin moments that nearly all 3D animes tend to have, where the body movements seem a bit too rigid or the facial animation doesn't seem quite right (like the virtual actor had too much Botox). But all of this is fairly easy to overlook when you're fully engaged in the plot and action.

Alas, there is ONE critical area where ST:I falls flat on its face: voice acting. Carmen and Johnny's VO actors were decent, but much of the rest of the cast did not seem to be voiced by professional voice actors (or at least properly cast voice actors)--another sign of the film's anime heritage--and was quite painful to sit through. Like so many other great Japanese animated works, this one was ruined in the final leg of the race by a studio that just didn't care enough about the English voice-overs to get it done right.

It's a real pity, as the story was actually pretty serviceable and the rest of the film was very high quality overall, with only the aforementioned quibbles (all fairly minor and easily overlooked), and would probably do well with a major release in North America if not for the painfully bad English VOs. And supposedly this film was never even dubbed in Japanese (at least Akira and most other animes with poor English dubs are watchable in Japanese with English subs). It's such a severe flaw and stands in such stark contrast with the rest of the film, that I'd consider petitioning Stage 6/Sony to release the raw audio tracks of the film and let the community re-dub the VOs.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Great comedy, but not for everyone, 21 September 2011
7/10

When I was a kid, my dad absolutely refused to allow me to watch Jim Carry movies. Now, Jim Carry may have some more adult material in his stand-up and has done comedies and dramas aimed at adults, but the reason my dad refused to allow me to watch his kids movies like The Mask and Liar, Liar was simply because Carrey's very frenetic, over-the-top, physical comedy style really turned him off. He didn't get it; he saw it as low brow/low class; and he saw Carrey as a sleazy person and an idiot.

Now, all of that seemed pretty judgemental to me, but it's understandable considering my father's background and personality type. And I think it's reasonable to expect a lot of people to be similarly turned off by Chris Kattan's equally eccentric and outlandish slapstick style. I think a lot of people enjoy his characters and skits on SNL, but certainly not everyone. And I can see how some might find it annoying (even without having an extremely uptight personality like my father).

However, if you do enjoy that type of bizarre slapstick comedy, Corky Romano is right up your ally. It's it's weird; it's funny, and it's just a lot of feel-good fun.

If you like watching a sweet, lovable goof get in way over his head but always come out on top due to fortunate and funny coincidences and mishaps (frustrating the bad guys to no end), then this is the movie for you. If you're looking for an intelligent film with witty writing or edgy humor, then this film will absolutely disappoint you. But taken for what it is, it's a solid comedy in its category.

Basically, if you haven't watched Chris Kattan on film or on TV, you should probably check out an SNL skit first to find out if you like his style of comedy or not. Otherwise, you could end up loving the film or absolutely hating it.

Leprechaun (1993)
An early 90s classic, 3 September 2011

The first 3 films in the Leprechaun series have a place in my heart for being one of the most original, memorable, and most of all, _fun_ horror movies of my childhood. Sure, there are better and more critically acclaimed horror franchises (Friday the 13th, Halloween, Alien, Hellraiser, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.), but it has a unique appeal in its own way.

As a horror film, Leprechaun has a very original and creative premise. The concept of a killer leprechaun seems ridiculous (because it is), but it's this whimsical and fanciful nature that gives outlandish horror films like Leprechaun, Tremors, Critters, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, etc. a magical quality that enthralls audiences, especially the young.

Warwick Davis was ideally cast as the titular villain, and he performs the role brilliantly, creating one of the most memorable and interesting monster characters in horror film history. Sure, the Leprechaun is evil and vicious and incredibly hideous, but he also has a comical and playful nature that almost makes you root for him instead of the good guys. Even though he stands not 3 feet tall, he has a giant personality and a larger-than-life attitude. This, really, is the key to Leprechaun's appeal and the reason why so many sequels were made.

As typical of films in this genre, Leprechaun and its sequels adhere to a set of spoken and unspoken rules which spell out whom the Leprechaun goes after and who will die. The Leprechaun doesn't just kill randomly; there is, after all, order to the chaos. For the Leprechaun's ultimate goal is to simply reclaim that which is rightfully his--his gold. So, as a villain, the Leprechaun actually has a unique sense of justice--albeit medieval justice--and this makes for an interesting dynamic not found in more typical horror movies, allowing the Leprechaun to be friendly to some individuals rather than killing everyone he comes across. It's also these rules which put a limit on the Leprechaun's almost unlimited powers. Hidden in these rules also lies the Leprechaun's weakness, making for some very interesting plot devices throughout the series.

I particularly enjoy Leprechaun and its kin because they balance out the dark, morbid aspects of a horror film with a somewhat light-hearted and less-than-serious tone, creating a fun and uplifting film-going experience. And true to the genre, Warwick's often comical Leprechaun character adds some welcomed comedic relief, even as he's torturing & killing his hapless victims.

Outlandish horror flicks like Leprechaun are also usually much more original and creative than the typical slasher movie and generally embody more elements of sci-fi or fantasy to their story lines. The Leprechaun films exploit this to the fullest, using the magical abilities of the Leprechaun to murder and maim people in inventive and occasionally humorous ways. Here, the rules of the Leprechaun universe allow the Leprechaun to turn people's desires and vices against them, though to be perfectly honest, this element of the franchise isn't really exploited until the second and 3rd films.

Lastly, unlike films like Gremlins, which are also very imaginative and maintain an upbeat mood and fantastical premise, Leprechaun is not a watered down made-for-kids family-friendly horror film. There is still all the gore, violence, uncensored vulgarity and creepiness that a real horror film should contain. But unlike many of today's horror films, it doesn't rely exclusively on gore and jump scenes to reel the audience in. It uses everything in the perfect amount--as the plot dictates. This, to me, is one of the hallmarks of good horror.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Best episode in the series, 3 June 2011
8/10

Perhaps it's just a more historied company, but I found this episode (which focuses on the aviation arm of Rolls-Royce) to be the most interesting installment of the 3-part "How to Build..." series.

This episode focuses on the Trent-700, one of the most popular turbofan engines in the world, and the newly developed Trent-1000 jet engine, designed for the high fuel efficiency Boeing Dreamliner. But the program also touches on the company's heritage, which is tied to the Trent family engines' original ancestor, the RB211--the first true three-spool turbofan jet engine in the world, and the engine that put Rolls-Royce in the jet engine big leagues.

I'm not a huge fan of the reality-TV style of engineering/construction documentaries that many educational networks have switched to. They do give you a look at the very personal side of the industry, showing you the real people behind these amazing machines, but there's less informational content usually than traditional science documentaries. However, this episode is a nice blend of science/engineering, history, and the human interest side of the story.

Unlike the other two episodes, even though there are still top secret proprietary processes involved, there's more detailed explanation of the manufacturing processes and engineering techniques put into the product. For example, how are super light, super strong titanium fan blades manufactured? How is a turbofan different from a traditional jet engine? How do the internal components withstand the tremendous forces and heat produced by the engine? How does Rolls-Royce support the fleets of airliners that employ their engines, preventing failures before they happen? All of this and more is answered by this hour-long documentary.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Jean-Claude's Rocky Balboa, 30 November 2010
9/10

It's been a while since I've seen a Universal Soldier film, but this film seems to stand apart from all the others as an exceptionally well-crafted entrant to the series. (I've voted 9/10 since I couldn't select 8.5 and I feel the current score is too low.)

When you see a JCVD film, you expect to see intense and well-choreographed fight scenes, maybe some gunfights, maybe some explosions, and just generally lots of gratuitous violence without much plot or depth.

And considering that JCVD is now going on to 50 years old, I wasn't really expecting a lot from this film. I mean, unless they pulled a Terminator: Salvation and replaced Jean-Claude with a CG actor, I didn't really think the action would be that good (even Arnold's CG fight scenes weren't particularly exciting). And seeing as everything was riding on the action, this had the potential to be a complete dud.

However, this film proved me wrong on all counts. By some magic of editing or special effects, we see Jean-Claude as both an aging arthritic veteran as well as a spry killing machine with superhuman reflexes. The stark transformation from one into the other using the UniSol chemical cocktails was astonishing yet believable.

Not only that, but the performances given by all the main actors were excellent. From the complex character of the rebel leader (a villainous terrorist but also a fair leader and patriot) to the quirky and megalomaniacal evil scientist to the beautiful and compassionate Dr. Flemming... all were portrayed convincingly and flawlessly. Despite the presence of several familiar Hollywood archetypes, none of the intense performances were overacted or cheesy. But most surprisingly, Jean-Claude and Dolph Lundgren both deliver exceptional performances that take the movie to a whole 'nother level.

Lundgren's performance in particular was bone-chilling. In his brief monologue we're given an unnerving glimpse into the twisted psyche of a true psychopath--a scientifically engineered killing machine with no conscience or moral inhibitions. Although his lines are few, they reveal a man facing an existential crisis and gripped by a consuming nihilism, an understandable condition for a soldier robbed of his humanity and now knowing only violence.

That's not to say that Universal Soldier: Regeneration is some deep philosophical film. The movie's main focus is still intense action and gratuitous violence. But it's a layered work with nuance and surprisingly well-crafted characters. These small touches give the film subtle flavor and set it apart as an exceptionally thoughtful film for its genre.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A solid and strangely underrated comedy, 29 November 2010
8/10

I really wanted to give this movie a 9 to counter the unjustly low score it has on IMDb, but if I rate it honestly, it's a solid 8--no more, no less.

First off, Will Ferrell is great. His sense of humor seems to connect with most people, and even though, like most comedians, he plays very similar characters in all of his movies, it's still always enjoyable to see him on screen. And he's made some great movies: Anchorman, Old School, and Talladega Nights are hard movies to top, but few comedians can crank out so many hits in so short a time.

Land of the Lost may not be quite the gut-buster that a few past Will Ferrell movies have been, but it's still an exceptionally well-written and entertaining film. I'd put it on the same level as Step Brothers, though it's more accessible and makes use of more sight gags than offbeat humor and awkward situations.

The chemistry between the cast is terrific, and Danny McBride's whitetrash goofball antics really compliments Ferrell's pretentious yet clueless scientist character. And even though the movie has its fair share of quotable one-liners, a lot of the film's less overt humor isn't dialog-derived but rather situational. They're scenes that remind you of your own experiences in similar social situations presented with subtle humor that you just can't help but chuckle at. There are many of these familiar and extremely relatable moments interspersed throughout the film that keep you grinning between the tear-inducing sight gags and side-achingly funny dialog. And it's this mixture of comedic elements that keeps the pace of the movie just right and makes the film and its characters so endearing.

This isn't a comedy that relies on the character's extreme awkwardness or that's filled with cringe-inducing embarrassing moments. The humor is accessible and characteristic of Ferrell's films but still remains fresh and dynamic. And it's because of all of this that I really can't imagine why so many people dislike the movie. Still, I think if you enjoyed films like Talladega Nights or Year One (another underrated film), you'll enjoy this well above average comedy.


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