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The Dilemma (2011)
Don't let the negative reviews fool you. This is a pretty good comedy/melodrama. Particularly it is intelligent and well-played. It cuts through a lot of stuffing that other dramas indulge in, and fleshes taut roles with a crisp pace, and crisp performances.
The characters were interesting and mundane enough. Even the subplots such as the engineering angle was enjoyable. which reminds me ...
Admittedly this probably plays better to guys than to gals. i'm male and I haven't asked any women about the film. but i found a pretty satisfying viewing experience.
i give it a 6 only because, while a good satisfying movie, it is not in classic excellence territory.
Casino Jack (2010)
Barry Pepper rocks
Bottom line: This film is recommended as a political drama, a history movie, and as a well made movie.
Barry Pepper does his part very well. Wish I could see a lot more of his work.
The rest of the supporting cast also does a good job.
This has been the best movie with Kevin Spacey in a quite while. Because starting with K-Pax, his work was in poorly conceived movies, to my taste anyway and he was only playing himself. Oddly it feels like he was playing himself here too.
Overall, this is a well made production; well paced, well directed and the subject of course is interesting due to its sheer evil and its corruption of the largest democracy in the world.
Fear Itself (2008)
calling this tripe horror is fraudulent
If you are looking to be scared, this is not the show for it. This network TV show showcases the worst possible writing in the Gothic genre.
The one good thing about this show, is that I can look up the monkeys that wrote/produced it in one convenient page under "cast and crew" to avoid all their works past and future.
Despite all the resources of NBC, this tripe is what they came up with. Written by complete morons and delivered by equally tasteless artless frauds.
That it is a network show is no excuse. You can cause great scares without nudity and without gore or excessive violence or time limitation. For an example of this, see Tales of Terror from Tokyo http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468774/ and the TV series, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0808067/ .
Although you'd think Amnerican creativity has run dry from watching "Fear Itself" (which is anything but fear), it has not. It is just that the TV and motion picture culture is awash with talentless sharks and low lives who elbow real artists and writers out of the business.
only thing good is the opening credits sequence
the rest is just so bad. such bad art. bad animation. watch the characters rock their shoulders like pansies when the makers want to convey "walking". don't they ever watch anime or any self-respecting animation from anywhere else in the world for that matter? bad writing, but that's a matter of course. WGA writers stopped writing anything good past 1998.
Such bad ripoffs of Marvel characters ( i guess this goes for the DC "graphic novel" and comics too!)
Even a character that looked like thor, but had wings. grundy -> the Hulk Gorilla Grodd - ripoff from Tintin, but get this, it's the gorilla that's doing the mind control now not the other way around.
Mostly falls in the so bad it's funny category.
With the resources thrown at this, if there was real talent, it would have been a hoot.
Futurama: The Late Philip J. Fry (2010)
best of the season so far
This episode is classic Futurama - something that's been missing since the series' end and in this season/series so far.
It's got the elements that made Futurama such a good show: an amazing voyage, a decent dose of actual science, a sentimental element that somehow lingers for eons of time (in the story), humour in the face of the universe, and bender being impossibly annoying.
i don't recall ever wanting to kick bender's shiny metal a** as much as in this episode. if you watch you'll know why.
the writers for this episode cannot be the same ones that wrote the previous six. I wish they would write more of the episodes since their material so obviously is the essence of Futurama that made the show such a hit in the first five seasons.
One thing i miss however is that the graphics could have been more elaborate particularly for the big bang.
Tummy Trouble (1989)
Marketing gimmick ... nothing else
This was zanny just for the sake of appearing zanny. It wasn't even *really* screwball.
Typical of early 90s shallowness and self-centered mentality of Hollywood, and Eisner's Disney at the time.
As a smart-alecky marketing gimmick for the Who Framed Roger Rabbit feature released, They thought let's do Roger Rabbit cartoons to look just like the classic shorts of the "golden age". Even reviving the form, this was shipped to theaters to be played ahead of .'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids'; likewise with two other Roger Rabbit shorts, "Roller Coaster Rabbit was played with "Dick Tracy" and "Trail Mix-Up" was included with "A Far Off Place".
But the cartoon has little to nothing to do with the so-called "Golden Age" of theatrical American animated shorts of the 1940s and 1950s.
No story, no clear dramatic progression, no climax buildup, no gags, no sense, no quality, nothing.
Its makers are so hell-bent on zanny action, and it is so full of action that it crosses an unspoken barrier between the screwball but somehow tamed action of the golden age cartoons, into the territory of scaring and confusing little kids.
I am sure a lot of kids would find this cartoon (and the two others) frightening. something lost on its careless filmmakers.
It is just a marketing gimmick that plays like a horror film for a child.
With the cast boasting some name recognition, the film being multi-lingual, and the title referring to one of the epic episodes of the soviet theater of WWII, I was expecting something like Stalingrad. Boy was I wrong! There narrative meanders from the highest echelons of power (eg, meetings with Hitler, NKDV meetings) down to encounters with petty thieves on the street. It has no focus and no organization.
The way the story unfolds - the dramatic action - is so disjointed - i've had a hard time figuring how characters met each other , or informed each other of when to meet. Events seemed to happen haphazardly leaving the viewer feeling like an outcast to the characters of the story.
Relationships between the characters just announce themselves, instead of letting see why how or when they developed, leaving us wondering what did we miss.
The story itself is centered more on a British-Russian journalist and a soviet policewoman who somehow strike a dear friendship, rather than on the atrocity of Leningrad. It should have been called "Kate" in order not to mislead. I mean the film closes with nostalgic footage of the two women dancing. It's a story about them, not about Leningrad.
The urban destruction scenes are very narrow scale, cheaply made, not at all conveying a sense of reality.
The sound is very bad. It seems dubbed throughout, as if they did not have microphones on the set! This film is of low quality and diverges wildly from a string of good Russian films of international renown.
I've decided to re-rent Stalingrad just to wash the memory of this film out of my brain.
The House of the Devil (2009)
Nice find! a well-made gem
This movie is a gem, in no small part thanks to its angle of being a faux 70s/80s flick, but also because it stands very well in its own right.
The film has the same look and feel of one of those 80s off-mainstream horror classics.
The two lead characters (the lead and her friend) were likable and fun enough - just my kind of friends i thought, good-natured and fun.
The execution of the film was excellent. Quality is evident in the pacing and framing of the shots, the unfolding of the dramatic action.
Of particular not are the scares. Instead of relying the musical cues to deliver jolts to the viewers, the musical cues here intelligently respond to the events that occur.
So it is worth noting due credit that the scares were genuinely crafted, and enhanced by the music; rather than the habit of too many movies to entirely rely on auditory jolts to frighten the viewers.
This said, though the scares are decent, they are of the type that work best when just in the right mood for them.
Its 80s style revival, which was meticulously attended to, in not only film grain, costumes, music, props but also - crucially - the characterizations. For instance, the two lead girls were not the cynical consumerist oversexed types of the past two decades, but really render the way people acted and behaved in the age of innocence as it were. This is also evident with the landlady that goes by her intuition something hardly any landlord would do in today's jaded world.
Props here to the direction and acting.
Nine stars out of Ten for class and style and quality.
Wonders of the Solar System (2010)
Shallow and annoying series - worst i've seen from BBC
There are many things that are infuriating about this series.
1- material is poorly written, very poorly presented and little new information is shown. Most staggeringly, there is no mention of the heliopause and the heliosphere or the gigantic Oort cloud that surrounds the solar system or even of the planetoids and minor planets.
2- footage is mostly extreme closeups of the presenter's face, rather than planetary footage and graphics - as if the filmmakers were amorous of the presenter rather than with the subject matter. The next most common footage is of Earth environments - filmed on location! Footage and graphics of solar system objects take a back seat in this production, making up less than a third of the video content of this series.
3- the presenter is extremely annoying in demeanour, speech, even his scientific and philosophical attitudes are quite shallow and problematic to say the least.
4- The editing is distracting. Often photos or footage of actual solar system objects are presented in quick succession using annoying cut effects that detract from the time needed to look at "the wonders of the solar system".
5- the production seems to be dedicated more to whatever wonders they see in the annoying presenter than what its title says.
1- The material (i.e. commentary) is poor AND very poorly written consisting largely of inane effusions and endless repetitions. Information is sparse, repeated often and the subject matter is disorganized and shallow.
Compare with nature documentaries with David Attenborough where the material is quite dense, chock-full of information, without much repetition and is well ordered and well written.
Not so in this case. After making a certain assertion, for instance Jupiter's gravity is the source of maintaining Io's internal heat, the presenter will repeat the same thing over and over again, interspersed with repetitions of how he finds the matter fascinating.
Given the poor production values, the following disappointing omissions were no surprise:
a. Uranus and Neptune are only mentioned once without detail on the frozen geysers of one their moons, their rings, and none of the great footage/photography we have of them.
b. no mention at all of the minor planets their odd shapes and trajectories.
c. no mention of the heliopause and the heliosphere.
d. no mention of the gigantic Oort cloud that surrounds our solar system!
e. no mention of the neighborhood of the solar system in the local star group.
The entire series offers less content (visuals and written material) than can be had by one evening browsing wikipedia!
Add to this the near absence of the complex physics that make the stability of our solar system a veritable wonder. None of these subjects are even mentioned: chaotic orbits, Lagrange points, Trojan asteroids, n-body problem, the future of the solar system, etc. Even though the presenter is purportedly a physicist not an astronomer !
2- The sheer cost of going to all those locations is particularly infuriating. After all this is a series about the solar system and yet, the self-satisfied host is seen hopping about in every kind of vehicle and filmed on location at every kind of environment on earth - just to illustrate the similarities that exist (that may exist) between other planets and ours.
Contrast this the sparse amount of actual graphics of the solar system. It is dwarfed by the amount of screen time given to the presenter and to earth environments . Solar system objects in their hundreds between planets, planetoids, moons, asteroids, Oort cloud objects and so on account for LESS THAN A THIRD and possibly less than a quarter of the video content.
3- the presenter is annoying in demeanour, speech, even his scientific and philosophical attitudes are quite shallow and problematic to say the least. His material (the writing) also is shallow and disorganized, consisting - as i pointed out - mostly of meaningless effusions and repetitions - rather than densely packed organized material. As a scientist he sees no problem at the expense of gratuitously flying so many airplanes and riding so many vehicles and going to so many remote areas just to stand there and tell us remote planets may or may not be very similar to those environments.
This viewer kept wondering if all this expenses wouldn't be better spent on actual educational programs around the world or spent to protect the environments he kept visiting.
The series was more like footage of the swaggering presenter on a needless tour around the world.
What do the BBC comptrollers think of this?
Furthermore despite actually showing us two or three scientist experts (eg, astrophysicist, exo-geologist, ...) he draws very little information from them. We do not hear them talking at length - just short sound bites as if the series is only 1 hour long rather than 5.
4- What little actual footage we are shown is presented in quick edits separated by very annoying (bad reception) edit effects. Viewers are not given the luxury to look long enough at the footage or photographs in detail. This is particularly evident with photos of other planets' moon surfaces. The editing mangles much of the visual treats - again no surprise given the generally low production values on display.
5- the ungodly screen time given to the presenter - including not a small amount of extreme close ups on his face are detracting and needless. One only wonders what's going through the filmmakers' minds. It helps the impression given that this is more a vehicle to promote a shallow self-promoter, rather than a vehicle to educate and fascinate us on the wonders of the solar system.
Creepy as hell but the horror is wearing thin
(No hard spoilers here but there are references to the plot line) The atmosphere was very creepy, but I was not as horrified as in prior Shimizu or other j-horror works.
Despite my less-than-mortified reaction to the film, however, this is a fine work of horror. If this sound paradoxical given my reaction, read on.
I don't know if I weren't in the proper mood or what , but I found myself deconstructing much of Shimizu's horror constructions.
perhaps, it was due to the story of the film which features a horror director making a horror movie, which sort of broke down the fourth wall often, when the horror and the film-inside-the-film coincided.
Or perhaps I've gotten used to the hooks that the director uses often, and scenes that I knew would be freezing my spine had this movie been the first j-horror I would ever watch, were just noted in my mind as such.
Warning: hard spoilers begin here ...
I think part of the reduced effect of the movie on me, was that I could tell the movie's big "twist" half way away from the ending. This was partly due to all the users alluding to the "TWIST" at the ending on the forums. (Note to self, never read forums about a movie I'm about to watch again!). But yeah I could see the big twist.
Also Shimizu, and I think j-horror's signature method, which is to confront the very object of the horror head-on and portray it with frightening reality (I mean basically the notion that the ghosts are visible throughout), may be wearing thin a bit.
Particularly in this work, the ghosts are not only visible, but they are there throughout. They eye the protagonist, then eye us , the audience, they jump about, knocking on doors, playing with balls and dolls. I think that there was just so much of that dampened the effect quite a bit.
I was not frightened in the library scenes, in the closet scenes, and even the vaunted final scene. I would've if it were the first movie of its kind that I was watching. But it wasn't.
I have to admit the doll could've been ingeniously used to squeeze out more scares and fears, but I felt it was either overused or not used properly.
Or indeed , it could be the director's way of deconstructing his own horror techniques. As an obvious master filmmaker, Shimizu , may be approaching this work of horror (and a fine work of horror it is) more academically.
Indeed he lets us in on the making of horror scenes, on perhaps even the motivations of a horror film maker.
So do not get me wrong. It is a very creepy movie. And actually, if the central theme on which the movie rests is new to you, it may prove downright and shatteringly frightening to you.
To me it was less frightening that prior j-horror works by Shimizu and others, but it was still a fine piece of cinema.