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580 reviews in total 
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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
For laughs only, 28 May 2012

Pretty obvious the only reason to watch a movie titled "Supershark" on the SyFy channel is that you just need a good laugh. These knock-off movies of other stuff (in this case, Jaws) are the cable TV equivalent of the old Drive-in 2nd feature; made quickly and on the cheap, and it gives a few actors and tech people a chance to pay the rent.

Lead actress Sarah Lieving hopefully will get some better roles; she's definitely easy on the eyes, and not half-bad an actress, either (even with a ridiculous script like this). She plays a rogue scientist who got the boot for weird ideas, and now wants to find a big shark and yell at some big companies about being more green to the environment.

I love how the army sends about five guys to combat a monster killing people left and right: a captain and a few grunts. Their most powerful weapon is a tank designed to walk on feet. The director's idea of an army is not the only thing exposing the $99.99 budget; he also skimped on the FX, they're pretty much home PC grade CGI. The actors aren't given much guidance on what he wants them to do. It was humorous to see that the shark only ate dumb people that stood there on the beach waiting o get devoured. There's also a gabby DJ that talks to people on the radio as they're getting killed. Judging from how annoying he was, they may have been better off.

Utter nonsense, but good for a few laughs.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Emotionally charged journey of a child trying to breathe order into a chaotic, fateful moment, 5 May 2012

An ambitious effort that, like so many risk-taking movies, had its share of both memorable, touching aspects and others that were grating and overdone.

To say it's emotionally charged is an understatement. Thomas Horn's performance as an autistic child is outstanding and noteworthy. At times the character is grossly overstated by the script and the direction. These occasional exaggerations of the nature of autism undermine the very real personification by Horn. At times the character is endearing, but at other times is rendered as a screaming, irritable, detestable monster who annoys people and oftentimes drives himself into contrived and irrational frenzies. You can only portray mental illness effectively up to a point, then it becomes milking for schmaltz, even exploitation. The director reached this tone a few times.

The story is not about Sept. 11, but the unpredictability inherent in life and common to us all. That horrible day provides an effective base, however, as the backdrop for the story, as the child (named Oskar) embarks on a quest to find out about a key he finds in his father's effects about a year after the the disaster. In a cruel twist of fate, his father was one of the dead in one the collapse of one of the towers of the World Trade Center, and the child is still trying to make sense of the chaos through his grief. The key, an obvious metaphor, is marked only by the word, Brown. He assumes it's a person's name, and launches a campaign to meet each and every person he can find by that name; people whose lives have their own sorrows. The journey itself is the story, and Oskar learns: in ways even all of his obsessive calculation of numbers and time-lines could never reveal to him.

Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks, as his parents are magnificent, and the methodology of using montages in memories works adequately. The story is paced well, with important revelations being complete surprises toward plot development. The epilogue sequence of the characters evaluating what they've experienced is well done; it avoids expository lines, and just unfolds.

In some ways the story goes beyond the realistic. The child being allowed to wander about New York's 80 zillion people, just doesn't make any sense in any reality, even a movie. Nobody stops him, questions him, or anything, in spite of lame lies that he tells. Especially a movie about a child with emotional instability. It's hard to swallow, and will be in the back of your mind even as he travels about on public transit (notorious for its very real dangers) seeking out people. This may have been necessary to thread the story, but there must have been a better way for him to contact people. Call? Write? Try finding them on-line at Facebook? Anything?

So the movie has its extremely emotional moments and a few incredibly goofed up parts. Overall, though, it's touching with a clearly stated moral to it.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Old fashioned screw ball comedy, 29 April 2012

Screwball comedy at its finest. This fond tribute to Fanny Brice craziness features great chaos and confusion, the first act in a hotel where all sorts of colorful characters interact covertly, to a second act of wild gun shooting and car chases throughout the hilly terrain of San Francisco.

Let's see: there'a rich lady with a suit case full of diamonds, and house thieves that want to get their hands on it. There's a government agent with "Top Secret" documents, and a conspiracy theorist who wants to get a hold of those documents. There's a timid music professor who has igneous rock samples, and a career college student who's after him. Oh, and she has a suit case like the other three, hers filled with ordinary clothing. There's some crooks, a guy who wants to offer grant, other music professors, a jealous fiancé who "studies karate," and still more.

Try to keep up with which bag is which, while a series of sight gags and one-liner quip-style jokes come one after the other.

The car chase is second only to the one in Mad, Mad World. Everything from a costume shop to a Chinese dragon is incorporated in a wild chase scene that ends in as spectacular a fashion as you'll ever see. Peter Bogdanovich's proclivity for milking every possible bit of silliness out of the premise as possible is on display throughout this movie. The cast of many character actors are all hilarious, and every minute of footage has something crazy going on.

What's Up Doc is very re-watchable. It never gets old, and is fun to visit every once in a while. It hasn't been dated at all since it had a nostalgic theme to begin with. Other than the automobile models, everything looks pretty much contemporary. Only the best comedies remain funny, and this is one of those.

Mulan (1998)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Mediocre effort at telling Chinese folk tale, 29 April 2012

Not really poor, by anybody's standards except Disney's, that is. This movie shot for yet another in a long line of breath taking animation extravaganzas for the famed studio. It fell a bit short.

The movie has many scenes of wide shots, enormous structures, army multitudes, and feeds its dialog with plenty of ancient Chinese wisdom. But there is little involvement for the audience where the central characters, especially Mulan herself, are concerned. In a movie about a woman who impersonate a man in order to become a soldier, that is integral to invoke interest. But the story never pulls it off; at best, Mulan comes off as a spoiled rich daughter who whines to herself, and sneaks around regardless of the consequences. It's difficult to accept her as a heroine of ethnic diversity (as was intended, it seems) when the character sounds more like a modern western middle-school girl talking on her like cell phone. The Chinese folk tale character was lost in translation somewhere.

By the time she does her super hero routine in the battle scenes, it only evokes a ho-hum response: did we (yawn) beat the bad guys, yet? Most scenes from the film are too over the top to be taken seriously. Others are forgotten soon after seeing the film.

The film has its moments, but it's among the weaker movies by Disney.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Well executed futuristic dystopia tale, albeit an unlikely scenario, 29 April 2012

Like any blockbuster movie with a futuristic dystopia theme, this one will have its hard core fans as well as equally passionate detractors. The one thing you can count on from any movie of this ilk worth its salt is that there'll be plenty of discussion--both on the positive side regarding its imagination and vision, while being vulnerable to ridicule about where it's over the top and unrealistic.

The vision is impeccable: a brutal government rules with unilateral control over a meek, broken, and battered proletariat. This was the result of a failed rebellion 70 years or so earlier, to the misfortune of the contemporary citizens. The government insulated their future control by rendering the rebels to little more than submissive, powerless slave colonies. Their ultimate symbol of their unquestioned authority was to force each of the 12 colonies to send two young people, through lottery, into a free-for-all challenge to the death. Only the last standing fighter would be allowed to live, in this apparent reference to ancient Roman Gladiators. Not an exact parallel, however; this challenge makes the Romans pale by comparison: it pits children/teens against one another, and no quarter is ever given. Kill or be killed is the only rule.

The story depicts the central government as something akin to the self- indulging phonies that Alice met in Wonderland. Fashion styles that would make the 80's punkers blush or laugh; hair styles that were even sillier. The inevitable mockery and finger pointing of modern society is not left out, usually expressed in the forms of technology, weaponry, communication, and social behavior. The arena-style presentation over television for a population of passionate spectators is a prime example of this. If taken at face value, the artistic point is clearly made through these exaggerations. The absurd styles seem unlikely (we're moving away from that, not towards it right now), but watching violence for vicarious pleasure is indeed already evolving in ever weirder and more dangerous reality show competitions.

The action of the film is appropriately brisk, and also masterfully tempered. Bloodbath scenes are measured by often being implied rather than brazenly shown for the sake of gore. This balances the intellectual moral of its dystopia message, with just enough violence to support why such a future is negative in the first place. Still, even though the movie successfully avoids overdoing the violence, the plot's idea of children killing children should give you pause before taking your entire family to see this.

The acting, by a mostly unknown cast, is exceptional, at least for the actors with a character that is developed enough to give them a chance to stand out. The settings and backdrop decor are impressive, and the flow of the story is spot on. The story is told well, the characters are interesting, and the world that is imagined leaves an imprint after leaving the theater. There are minor faults in the execution, but this is overall, a worth while film to see.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
What were the Sith getting revenge for?, 18 March 2012

Mercifully for Starwars fans, the prequel fiasco went out with a whimper, with this stumbling, awkward closer. Throughout all three of the prequels, we were assaulted with inside-out thinking, inept useless Jedi knights that couldn't protect the universe from a teddy-bear, Aniken Skywalker groaning and blubbering, idiotic political intrigue, and occasional mugging by C3PO and Jar-Jar Binks. Tack on the repulsive romance of Princess/Senator Whateverhernameis and Darth Emo, and you've got quite a mess.

We're supposed to see the background of how the empire was formed, how it became evil, how the Emperor rose to power, how Darth Vader turned to the dark side, etc. The movie just throws in new questions that are never addressed. For example, we are told the Sith want revenge on the Jedi. What for? Did they steal your lollipop, Sith? Did they cheat you on an E-Bay sale? Personally, I want revenge on the prequel script writers, but that's just me.

What once was set out to be the Genesis of characters we met in the later years of the first three films, soon became a wild hodge-podge of loose fitting subplots. Inherited story-arc ideas from the earlier films are twisted, or just ignored. For example, a droid with a zillion arms wields the force through light sabre attacks. Since when do droids use the force? The covert clandestine activities of the future emperor are laughable. More light sabre fights. More inept Jedi get zapped. More of that bizarre romance. Why doesn't Queen/Senator Whateverhername was dump that idiot Aniken. He confesses to genocide of sand people. She stares blankly, but doesn't do anything, or seem to care he's a mass-murderer. What? Then Aniken whines some more and does more emo stuff.

The harder the prequels try to impress and fill in blanks, the more it proves futile. When something does occur, it's almost a letdown, since it was all explained in the first Starwars movie (aka: Chapter 4) anyway. The brightest positive here was of course the brilliant special effects technology which is almost over-used. However, all of this movie's dazzling special effects cannot disguise its abysmal writing and acting. Or the fact the entire prequel trilogy does not deserve to be called "Starwars."

The Bat (1959)
Seems to be almost a parody, 18 March 2012

The mystery writer and her maid hear something go bump in the night and grab each other in exaggerated mock fear. Apparently a tongue in cheek approach at noor mystery, especially with all the one-liners. Agnes Moorhead (as the mystery writer) does that signature suspicious squinty-eye glare of hers at everything, and Vincent Price as a doctor seems to be laughing at the murderer's folly rather than be very concerned.

There aren't too many clues given for the audience, except maybe for when a character is seen with the killer, and so can then be exonerated from the suspect list. The black-cover face disguise and other attire of the suspect seems to be deliberate parody, and there's no rhyme or reason to who gets killed off. Cliché alert: There's even one point where one guy confronts another with a gun; and instead of killing him right off, he stands there and tells him his plans Darla Hood makes a rare post-Little Rascals appearance, and there are a few other recognizables in the cast. Not bad for a nostalgia piece, but not the most scintillatingly scary movie by any means, either.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Utterly ridiculous: a must-see for "so bad it's good" fans, 11 March 2012

"Oh, Priestess, we request permission to find mates!" The narrator explains: "Nature made a mistake." Two independent tribes that mistrust but leave each other alone finally interact, as an alliance to fight some other weird tribe is proposed, then rejected. A parrot is perched somewhere, and periodically shows up to mock the characters, as if we the audience aren't doing that already.

Basically, some prehistoric guys and gals from each tribe run around the forest and occasionally meet each other. There's one girl (from the "pretty woman" tribe) who beats the snot out of a baby crocodile, and the monster people show up briefly. Her tribe has women with 50's hair styles, shaved legs, lipstick, and other make-up. The other tribe has women with buck teeth and attitudes that scare their sheepish men.

Beware of the soundtrack. They actually use some of the same music as the infamous "Plan 9 from Outer Space," and this movie makes that one look good by comparison. The acting is oafery, the director must have been out in the sun too long, and the story line is uhh, was there one? There's only one way to watch this: MST3K style. Get your buddies together and mock the thing, when it isn't bashing itself that is.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fast food romantic comedy that works on that level, 11 March 2012

The movie has a sweet "feel good" premise, and if you're in the mood for very light fast-food Rom-Com fluff, the movie works OK. The Italian countryside makes for a beautiful backdrop, and the always likable Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave are two of the leads

A woman had left a letter at a wall dedicated to requesting advice from the Sisters of Juliet, but her letter got lost for 50 years until a visiting tourist and aspiring writer (Seyfried)arrives to find the old letter. The Sisters of Juliet are a group of ladies who respond with advice to the lovelorn, and Seyfried joins in. OK, contrivances are rampant, but it is after all a romantic fantasy named after the famous star-crossed lover of Romeo, right? Soon, the author of the long missing letter (Redgrave) appears, and an amusing hunt for her long lost lover throughout Italy ensues. Seyfried and Redgrave's nephew are also on the adventure looking for a man with a common name. There are some great lines as the long list of candidates are visited; "Take him! Take him!" being the best.

Predictable rom-com clichés include: guess who doesn't get along at first? Both of the young leads are in romantic relationships that are going nowhere. The woman has a job where her talents aren't appreciated. The guy has an accent. Misunderstandings of various types occur, to inhibit the story from moving too fast to its ultimate obvious conclusion. What rom-com doesn't have these elements?

Viewing this with grand expectations of a Casablanca level love-story will lead to disappointment. If you view it with an attitude for a silly, playful date movie, then it will suffice. The acting is sincere, the touchy-feely moments work, and the ending is unashamedly self-satirical sweet nonsense. Worth a watch, if you're a rom-com fan.

The Road (2009/I)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
This Road is somewhat tedious, 11 March 2012

If you've ever driven across the Nevada desert on US Highway 50, the notorious "Loneliest Road in America," then you have some idea what to expect from this Road. Both are hundreds of miles of sameness, seemingly without end.

The notion for the film is worthy: post-Apocolyptic survival battle for a father and his young son. What sacrifices will the father make to protect his son from a savage, ruthless world? Will they have to betray their values and morality to survive? Who can they trust? (etc.) However, the film drives in neutral so much you wonder if there two survivalists will ever reach the end of the road. Or, if you will.

The characters are not likable, nor or they very believable. The father looks like a retro hippy, his son a crybaby who never stops whining. Through flashbacks that are useless to the story, we see the deceased wife; she fails to impress the audience for (apparently intended) schmaltz. She was just a jerk, actually. We also occasionally meet other people that the lead characters encounter in a series of vignettes on their quest. Some good, some evil, each to represent different types of survival strategy. About the only one that is memorable is an old man played by Robert Duvall. The veteran actor delivers a very poignant speech with dignity and emotion; easily the movie's standout moment. Another strength of the movie is the cinematography of deep hues and darkness that not only augments the tone of despair the story is trying to relate, but fits the post-Apocolyptic premise.

There aren't enough such moments as the Duvall scene. A pity, since it appears the director and cast really seem to be trying to offer us a touching picture of innocent victims of a chaotic world. Perhaps they tried too hard. Most characters become clichéd baboons filled with angst that the audience finds too annoying to care about. This story asks you to invest too much, and offers little pay-off. The deliberately dangling ending works, but most of the preceding portions of the film do not. I wouldn't go so negative on it as to say to detour away from "The Road" entirely, but be prepared with plenty of patience if you do see it.

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