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586 reviews in total 
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2 out of 7 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

Outrageous camp factor, and every bit as weird and mindless as you've heard.

"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.

Wild Women (1951)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Great camp for insomniacs, 4 March 2012

I'm hoping whoever was involved with this foolishness 60 years ago was just kidding. It takes "exploitation movie" to the outer limits. The outer limits of Africa, to be exact. There, a mysterious band of Amazon beauties frighten the bejeebies out of their neighboring tribes.

There's plenty of extraneous stock footage shot by some long-ago National Geographic safari tourists: I love that same hippo that floats by every few minutes in a river that is nowhere near the action taking place. There's also a curious chimp that is shown repeatedly watching something--I guess the Prehistoric women(?), as well as several other animals.

Some guy named Trent who, as a boy, saw a blonde siren up on a mountain, wants to find these ladies, and gets two other comic relief guys from Brooklyn to join in the quest.

The women are, like any women who have been cut off from civilization for generations, dressed in tailored leopard skin. They have their hair done in downtown Hollywood, carefully filed and polished nails, shave their arms and legs, and wear cool moccasins. Everybody has a spear and says, "huzzzzbennnndddd..." Also, the routine cat fights take place, and they worship something while dancing the Shake and Shimmy. How the Amazons got there in the first place is questioned, but never explained.

This is a must-see for anybody who wants to see a movie that makes you exclaim, "Did they really make a film like this?"

Tangled (2010)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Animated adaptation of Repunzel both funny and touching, 19 February 2012

One thing I've got to say about this movie before anything else: it spares us that post-millennial mentality of mocking any existing story a la Shrek, Robot Chicken, Simpsons, and so many others. It is faithful to the original story, even presenting elements of the original fairy tale that had been rendered obscure over time. It has respect for the source material, knowing it can stand on its own, without gimmickry.

It's truly a splendid mix of childhood fantasy, action, adventure, and comedy. It preserves the soul of the fairy tales's moral, by not watering down the scary and ruthless villains in animated movies or grossly overdoing them to the other direction. This gentle yet playfully mischievous rendering of Repunzel is truly the best I've ever seen. The fact the movie makes chose to title it Tangled even though it's a very faithful telling of Rapunzel suggests the intent to have a good laugh with it. And you do get the laughs but there are no shortage of dazzling and intensely emotional moments. The candle-light lantern bags vigil on the anniversary of the princess's disappearance is lyrical, impressive, and moving. It's magnificently presented and this scene is woven with purpose into the plot. Events that happen there serve as a stepping stone for the characters as they move toward the resolution of what is happening.

The villain is superior; the wicked "step mother"/kidnapper is threatening and deliciously evil; you can't wait to see her get her come-uppance. The gallant bad guy turned good guy/romantic interest couldn't have been better; very reminiscent of Aladdin who trail blazed that pattern.

Action moves, characters develop, the audience's emotions are touched. A fabulous story; and an expert job of adapting it for animation. Wonderful for kids, and has something for adults too. Recommended.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Throws out the old show's endearing hokiness; substitutes weak dialog and slapstick, 19 February 2012

Just barely funny in a few scenes, with a hackneyed script that lacks the soul of the classic kids' TV show. First of all, it's like somebody took the fabric of the original and dissected it. "Let's change Holly from Will's daughter to his colleague and gf." As the movie drags on, this change serves no purpose and is in the way. Leave Holly as a little girl; and leave Will as her brother, too. The new Will is a bumbling oaf who has converted a trailer junkyard to a penny-ante amusement park attraction. The operation has nobody visiting, and when you see it, you'll know why. I think this whole desert place was supposed to be funny, but even Cha-Ka isn't laughing.

Rick turns on his time machine device aboard the water ride there, which takes them "sideways through time?" and they are in the Land of the Lost. Home to Sleestack, Grumpy the T-Rex, that little Cha-Ka guy, and others There's some running around, some skull-duggery involving the Sleestacks, and a lame fight with Grumpy. I wish he ate Rick and spat him out. The slapstick approach to spotlight Farrell just doesn't work--a fond portrayel for nostalgia fans approach would have been so much better.

One of Will Farrell's worst, and he really needs to turn the tide on these duds soon. Time to get a new agent, or you might just be working at that desert roadside amusement park for the rest of your life, Will.

I hear some really LOUD crickets tonight...., 19 February 2012

I love Bert I. Gordon flicks. He used the same shoestring budgets as his contemporary, the legendary Ed Wood, did. However, he seemed to have a knack for pressing the cheese into something pretty tasty. Not Oscar brilliance, mind you: just good old amusing chaos.

Some grasshoppers get a hold of radioactive feed. As usual, soon giant 1950's bugs with voracious appetites go on a vicious hunt for McHuman Combo-Plates. The couple making out while they listen to rockabilly are the oft-seen first victims in a remote place, but many will soon join them, as the (real) town of Ludlow, IL mysteriously disappears. Fresh from exterminating ants in "Them!", Peter Graves comes to the rescue, telling Generals how to eradicate the infestation. Meanwhile, the hoppers have ideas of their own, as they swarm north towards Chicago.

The battle scenes are hysterical: shooting the big bugs off of skyscrapers is one of my fondest memories of childhood late night rerun movie watching. The way they slide off, with antennae flapping is extremely hilarious yet oddly scary in some way. Finally a way to re-enact a biblical extermination of locusts is devised.

Filmed in delightfully cheap ways, this movie is worth re-watching again and again in its naive but enthusiastic approach at classic drive-in horror/sci-fi.

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