26 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Detachment (2011)
Not great, but nearly there
26 March 2013
I rented this solely on the trailer, and on Brody's strength as an actor. While I wasn't disappointed to have seen it, I have to say it came across more than a little heavy-handed. I'll tell it to you now, without spoiling the movie: the message is we're ruining our civilization by not raising our kids properly. So, if you want to sit through an hour and a half of bleakness to be spoon-fed that fairly obvious concept, there are worse ways to do it than to watch this film. It's a solid (if peculiar) cast of mostly character actors, who clearly felt a need to put their muscle behind this story; otherwise, they're strangely placed here. Everyone turns in perfect performances, sometimes in difficult roles (Caan's restrained kindly-but-scary is wonderful to behold), and visually this is a striking work. But beyond the surface, it's a bit thin in character, motivation and plot, so won't end up on anyone's Great Movies list.
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A waste of a dynamic, gorgeous animated film
8 March 2013
When I first heard about this project, I was excited. How could I not be? I've been a monster fan since I was able to be a fan of things, and have enjoyed Genndy Tartakovsky since my very first exposure to his vivid, highly-stylised work. Then came the bad news: the voice cast. Upon seeing that not only Adam Sandler, but also David Spade, Kevin James, Fran Drescher and Selena Gomez were attached, my heart sank. What was this? The worst, most pandering cast they could find? So, I decided I could skip this one, Tartakovsky or not. The film showed at our local theatre, and I let the wife and daughter go with friends and without me. They came back pretty pleased, but not excited enough to make me feel like I'd missed anything. So, I waited for it to come out on home video. Having finally gotten to see it, all my expectations have been confirmed: the film was fantastic to look at, with animation more full of animated life (as opposed to 'real' life, a la most computer-animated films) than I've seen in...maybe ever; the voice cast was awful. It's an entertaining premise (though one I feel has been visited before), and one that has the potential to gather together great monsters in a human-free environment to unwind and show us their 'true' personalities. That much was realised, but only as far as the voice talent could take it. Sandler's Dracula was lackluster and as empty as his performances tend to be. Most of the rest of the cast could have been anyone, really. Even their heaviest hitter talent-wise, Steve Buscemi, was so underplayed as to be non-existent. And Samberg's character, the sole human in the story? Oof. Could they have made him sympathetic to anyone but the most obnoxious late-teen douchebags? And I'm not even going to touch the non-Mothersbaugh soundtrack. Though, to paraphrase the young son of an eminent animation man: movies always end with dancing anymore. Okay, I know that cranky geeks in their 40s are not the target audience for this movie. But maybe it should have been. Clearly, they weren't going to get the Twilight crowd, and the movie was a little too light-hearted for the Twilight-lash-back crowd. Outside of that, who was going to see this movie and actually care what was on the screen in front of them? Monster fans and animation freaks! While neither of those are likely to be completely let down by Hotel Transylvania, I doubt this is one of which any audience is going to need repeat viewings. Except, perhaps, with the sound off.
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The ONLY true inheritor to the mantle!
10 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
After having seen this movie countless times, I finally felt obligated to write a bit about it. I've no idea how many horror fans -- and thus fans of 'The Exorcist' -- I've talked to who saw 'Exorcist II' and were so dispirited by it that they never bothered to see this one! This is so completely regrettable as this third installment is superb. Out of the three sequels to the original, this is the sole one worthy of having been made. Perhaps not coincidentally, it is also the only sequel Blatty (the authour of the book the first one was based on) wrote as a novel...and he wrote and directed this film! The story picks up 15 years after the original (and rightly ignores whatever happened in the second film). The cop Kinderman from the first movie returns, now portrayed by the fantastically intense George C. Scott. He is our lead character this time, as the story is more like a serial-killer mystery than the straight demonic-possession of the first two. Several gruesome murders have occurred in Georgetown, and Kinderman's investigating. He finds all the murders share MO not only with each other, but with a series of killings from around the time of the first story...the perpetrator of which was caught and executed. Events lead Kinderman to a local hospital, where he's shocked by what he finds. After a handful more scares to keep you watching, everything eventually builds to a suitably horror-y (if somehow disappointing) climax that's considerably less nasty than the first, and in totally different ways. This film is dominated by Scott, of course, as his presence is always overwhelming. Brad Dourif is his typically riveting self, and serves as a perfect equal and balance to Scott (though the peculiar and seemingly random pitch-shifting of his voice is a little distracting). Jason Miller returns as Father Karras, surprisingly enough, and is just as perfect in the role as he was over 15 years earlier. There is another exorcist this time 'round, but Nicol Williamson (perhaps best remembered as Merlin from 'Excalibur') is no Max Von Sydow. (I could swear there's a little Mercedes McCambridge voice cameo over the first little old lady, but have no way to confirm this...) And on top of all this are bizarre cameos from C. Everett Koop, Larry King, Samuel L. Jackson and FABIO, among others! All that said, this is not a perfect movie. There are some noticeable discrepancies between this and the first (though I must assume they're truer to the book, considering the source), the most obvious of which is the playing up of Kinderman's relationship with Karras. In the first movie, they met only once, I believe, before the latter died on those infamous stairs. In this film, however, it's repeatedly established that they were bosom companions. In addition to this are some problems with the crime mystery angle, mostly concerning police work, but nothing to spoil the movie. It's clear Blatty learned a great deal from Friedkin, as the latter's stylistic fingerprints are all over this. Granted, there are a couple directorial stumbles but for his second film (the first the very solid 'Ninth Configuration,' based on another of his novels) it's a decidedly decent effort. From the scene-establishing montage shots to the agonising attention paid to the sound engineering, this is a perfectly crafted sequel to the first film. Skip the second one (and the fourth, for that matter), and just make this THE 'Exorcist' sequel you love.
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Relentlessly bleak
26 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In all honesty, I started watching this on the suspicion that it may have been the source of comedian Chris Rock's 'Salad-Tossin' Man' routine. It wasn't, but I'm certainly glad I saw it anyway. This is a fairly frank (if somewhat dated now) look at prisoners' life within the prison system on Riker's Island in New York. It tries in an hour and a half to cover the various buildings and prisoner-groups housed across the island. At times the narrative is a little choppy and the camera work is entirely freehand. In spite of this, we are given chilling insight into the truly awful conditions in which these people live. Sprinkled throughout the film footage are numerous startling facts and statistics dealing both with Riker's in specific and the American prison system in general. Many of the inmates on Riker's, as we see here, are charged but not yet convicted, some are mentally ill, MANY are drug addicts in dire need of rehabilitation more than incarceration, some of the women are pregnant and give birth in the prison (there were, at the time of filming, twice as many births as deaths on Riker's) and most are very poor. If nothing else, this is yet another indictment of both the American prison system and the American economic system, both of which conspire to keep poor, uneducated people poor and uneducated...and in prison. Though at writing this film is a decade and a half old, this writer doesn't imagine things on Riker's have changed, save for the worse. This documentary remains vital, poignant and moving. Certainly, this is recommended viewing, but not for the weak of heart.
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Torturous and unending!
9 April 2007
You'd think that between Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt (not to mention the inimitable Jeffrey Tambor), an at-least-decent movie would emerge, but that was regrettably not the case here. That is not to say that Hopkins and Pitt turned in bad performances; they were both what you'd expect of them: Hopkins at turns stiff and explosive, Pitt utterly chameleonic. Rather, it is the ineptitude of the writers (all FOUR of them!) and the director that fails this movie so miserably...and what is there to a movie after that? So much of this film reminded me of Peter Sellers' 'Being There,' but that movie worked with a fluid story, single-minded direction and all spot-on performances. This...well, the story is single-minded, the direction is sloppy and the performances are (at best) spotty. Even the usually excellent Pitt's character is all over the place: one moment he's naive or petulant as a 5-year-old, the next he's as omnipotent and stern as a god! Again, not his fault clearly. His performance at every turn is solid, but the turns he's given are just too much. Behind all this is a score that sounds like it's been lifted from 3 or 4 other movies. It sweeps, dips and soars often completely counter to the action on the screen. Nowhere is this more evident than in the last conversation between Hopkins and Pitt. My wife and I were convinced at any moment they were going to be pressing their faces together in a climactic kiss! But, no, it was just a chat...that went on forever. My pregnant missus was laughing so hard, she felt certain it was going to induce labour! The writers of this movie should've stuck to TV scripts. It's clearly what they do best. Too much of this story was too trite, and too much of the dialogue sounded like it was pieced together from greeting cards. The best example of this is Hopkins early speech to Forlani on the plane, regarding looking for true love. That monologue jumps from one cliché to the next, as though the writers stood in a drugstore on Valentine's Day, rifling through a rack of niceties and copying down the insides. I gave it a 4 out of the IMDb 10, and that mainly because it wasn't '"Manos": The Hands of Fate,' and did have a pretty solid core cast. But do yourself a favour: avoid this movie. I watched it with my wife (though at my own suggestion, I'm ashamed to say), and it's truly surprising we both made it through all three hours of this dreck. Don't do the same. Go watch any of the number of other better movies either Hopkins or Pitt have done...then just put the quality together in your mind. You'll be a better person for it. I only wish we'd done the same.
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Förortsungar (2006)
It was 'okej'
26 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is no great shakes, but it's certainly not bad. It reeks of independent film, which makes it particularly strange when the MUSICAL NUMBERS happen! Otherwise, this is a cute story about a young immigrant who (I don't really understand why) is living with her grandfather in a ratty apartment with a (Swedish) 'rocker.' Grampa dies pretty short into the film, so the kid is alone with the nice guy, who's promised the grand-dad he'd take care of her. Meanwhile, the girl makes friends, has fun...and solves a crime! And in the midst of all that, we get songs and dances from just about every member of the cast. In America, this'd be strictly a kids' movie. So should it be here.
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Stealing a Nation (2004 TV Movie)
Heartbreaking, infuriating and embarrassing
29 December 2006
The endless bounds of our inhumanity to our own kind never fails to stun me. This truly astonishing story of a horrifically abused and largely unheard-of population is compelling, well-documented and enraging. As an American, I am constantly humiliated by my country's behaviour and this is just another in our long catalogue of international debasement. We suck. This is probably the first John Pilger documentary I've seen, but it immediately made me want to see what else he's done. My only complaint, and the reason I gave this film only 8 out of 10, is that Pilger shows us this travesty and the appalling collaboration of the US and UK governments, demands that we viewers/citizens are complicit in our own inaction...but makes no suggestion of how to help. I don't know about Britain, but America's made it nearly impossible for the citizenry to take part in their government's doings. A gesture in the right direction might help these islanders' cause.
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Could have been good
29 October 2006
If there is any one thing that REALLY holds this movie back, it's probably MTV eye-candy Ashton Kutcher. Sure the script is weak and smacks of late night pot sessions, sure the direction is alternatingly sloppy and overwrought, and sure I reached the movie's end thinking 'why the hell should I care?'...but all these considerations are nothing compared to the mess that is Kutcher's acting! The kid can not act his way out of a paper bag, and I don't know what would possess anyone to put him in such a demanding dramatic role (more demanding, honestly, than popcorn fare like this should ever expect). The only reason I can see to have put this guy -- whose previous credits included portraying the chowderhead on 'That 70's Show' and HIMSELF on the idiotic 'Punk'd' -- in this role was to get ANYONE to see it! Seriously: would anyone have gone to see a movie about the paradoxes of time travel if some schmuck nobody knew was in the lead role? Almost certainly not. At least with Kutcher on the posters you'd at least snag the poor suckers who thought 'Donnie Darko' was the deepest thing ever... Aside from they abysmal Kutcher, this movie had certain things going for it. It is, essentially, a clever premise, but a tough one to tackle. A writer could never be certain how far to go when trying to calculate the changes one could effect in one's own life and the world if able to go back and change key events in one's past. And the creators of 'Final Destination 2' are not necessarily up to the task. But why should they be? Nobody expects much of them, and this movie will assuredly become another short-term classic for high-school/college half-thinkers to hash over as they play it again and again, searching for greater meaning than will ever be there. See this movie only if you're a time-travel nut...or a 13-year-old with pretensions toward genius. Otherwise, anyone could sit this one out, and spend the time changing their own life.
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Diner (1982)
As good as they got
29 October 2006
Before Steve Guttenberg's career became a joke at the hands of the 'Police Academy' series, before Mickey Rourke turned himself into a battered meatmonster, before Kevin Bacon became Skeletor, before Paul Reiser restricted his own public image via his television pairing with Helen Hunt and Daniel Stern became better known for his criminal bumbling in the 'Home Alone' movies than for anything else he'd do...before all this happened, all these men came together for this one little gem. 'Diner' covers the misadventures of a small band of college-age men in the 1950s in America. There is the expected misogyny, drinking and general misbehaviour one would expect of such a situation. However, looking at the cast, one might not expect fluid and energetic performances delivered by a cast that would later essentially be embarrassments to themselves. This is no classic, nor is it even a cult classic, just one of those countless largely-forgotten flicks that would be worth your time some late night on TV. It was worth mine, and I'd seen it already!
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Spider-Man (2002)
No 'X-Men,' but still entertaining
29 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I should preface anything I'm about to say by saying I don't like superheroes. These men (and women) in tights are holdovers from when comics were aimed strictly at kids, but now are being read by adults. They cast the world in tones of black and white (or, in the case of this movie, red-and-blue and green...) and oversimplify morality in a way only the real-life comic logic of organised religion does better. This said, I have to admit that I liked this movie. I worked in a comic shop for 10 years, and during that time witnessed the beginning of the recent boom in comic-book movies. Customers would get completely worked up over the latest spandex thriller to hit the big screen, but I'm only catching these movies years later on the small screen. Originally, I hadn't planned to give any synopsis on this story, thinking that if you were going to see this and didn't already know the story behind the spider I had no sympathy for you. However, I then found my own wife had no idea how Peter Parker got his superpowers, so here goes... Mild-mannered ubergeek Peter Parker lives with his elderly Aunt May and uncle Ben, next door to his longtime crush Mary-Jane Watson(who doesn't have any interest in him, of course). On a field trip, he's bitten by a scientifically altered spider, and finds himself endowed with special spidery powers...and a buff new physique! Naturally, being a much-downtrodden teenager, his first instinct is to use these powers to impress girls. Or, more specifically, one girl: Mary-Jane. However, through a series of events, his own actions lead to his beloved uncle's death, and he realises what his late uncle said was true: 'With great power comes great responsibility.' He thereafter commits himself to fighting crime with his newfound abilities. Wackiness ensues...I mean, ADVENTURE ENSUES! The story, at its roots, is pretty true to the source material, for better or worse. On the plus side, the movie maintains the childish charm of a comic book; on the minus, the movie doesn't really surpass the childish charm of a comic book. My only real beef with this movie was probably just a technical limitation of the time (only a few short years ago) when digital effects were STILL not up to bringing this particular character to the screen. While Tobey Maguire pulls some great physical acting out of his performance, it becomes all too clear when the switch is made to a computer-generated 'person' clumsily climbing the side of a building or swinging through the city. I can only imagine such effects looking much, much worse twenty feet high on the big screen. Sam Raimi, who brought us the much-beloved 'Evil Dead' trilogy (and countless other truly crappy movies), is a good choice to helm this flick. His work in 'Army of Darkness,' 'Darkman' and others show he has both an understanding of what makes these stories appealing as well as an appreciation for faithful adaptation of the superhero ethos. The downside of this, is that Parker, arch-nemesis Norman Osborn, Aunt May and the others end up consigned to the otherworldly realm of comics. They never at all approach believable real-life characters, and this removes the viewer from the 'reality' of their world (both the viewer's AND the characters' worlds). Compare this to Bryan Singer's work on 'X-Men.' He managed to take the equally ridiculous other Marvel/Stan Lee icons and mold them into acceptable members of the world we live in. Sure, they have superpowers/mutations, but they also have believable personalities and interactions with reality. I suppose the difference lies in what you want from your superhero: for a reasonable adaptation of the superhero into our world, see the 'X-Men' movies; for pure escapist fantasy, see 'Spider-Man.' Either way, you're not liable to be disappointed as both pack thrills and visual excitement into their brightly coloured packages.
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