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7/10
"Indy" May Not Be "Crystal," but it's a Fun Ride
8 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Walking into the midnight screening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gave me such a feeling of exhilaration. A film that was nineteen years in the making, that seemed to be in development hell, I would finally get to see with my eyes. When the film ended, I felt I had seen a great film. It wasn't perfect, but I had been entertained. Then, after a few days of thinking about it, I felt that the movie was not as good as I may have thought it was. Yet despite these flaws, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Dr. Henry Jones (Harrison Ford) is back and with World War II over, Russian communists become the bad guys for Indy to defeat. A badly accented Cate Blanchett plays Col. Dr. Irina Spalko, who is on a quest to find the Crystal Skulls, which is said to have the power of mind control. Indy meets up with a young rebel (Shia LaBeouf), who comes complete with a switchblade, leather jacket, and motorcycle. He wants to find his father and his mother who went missing looking for the skulls. Eventually, Indy finds himself once again facing off against the forces of evil and along the way, learns a secret he may not be prepared to handle.

A lot of personal hype was riding on this movie. I don't sugarcoat the fact I'm an Indiana Jones fan. I have the box set and have seen all three films numerous times. My personal favorite is the first one. Keeping with the tradition of the Indy films, the film has great action. There is a great motorcycle chase, a chase through a mysterious jungle, and a fight scene involving killer ants. The scenes are wonderful and just fun to watch. They don't have the Michael Bay style of editing so we get to focus on the action instead of being distracted by the technical aspects of the film.

One addition that turns my heart to gold is seeing Karen Allen back as Marion Ravenwood. She is an unrecognized actress who never got her due in Hollywood. She didn't do much after the 80's, and I can't name off the top of my head anything noteworthy after Starman, but she brings back the strong will and fierceness that she gave to her character. Despite her age, she is not a helpless woman. She can hold her own against the main cast in the film. Another talent is Shia LaBeouf. This kid has a great future in movies. He will be going on to great things. He's smart, funny, and tough who plays the role of a rebel just right.

All praise aside, I for some reason feel more inclined to discuss the downsides of this film. First off, this movie doesn't look like an Indiana Jones film. It has a new cinematographer, which is the reason why. The first three were filmed by Douglas Slocombe, while this one was filmed by Janusz Kaminski, a favorite of Spielberg's. The first three films had this unique comic book look to them. I can't explain that well how this one looks, but it doesn't look like an Indiana Jones film. The film is also too long. Some scenes go on with too much yap and not enough zap. A scene with Indy talking to the dean of the college he works at in his office really was just more of a nod to the fans of the series and it should have been handled with less time consumption.

It is well noted that director Steve Spielberg has claimed this film would use little CGI. To be honest, it was producer Frank Marshall who said this: "Steven (Spielberg) is very aware of the process and we're not cheating with CG (computer graphics) at all. It keeps the B movie feel." It doesn't seem like they kept their word. The film seems to be heavily laden with computer effects from backgrounds, animals, sets, and other entities that probably could've been used with traditional effects. It's disappointing to see these effects. I am sure that some scenes had to be done with CGI, but that doesn't give the filmmakers the excuse to use it ad nauseum.

Perhaps my biggest problem is the ending. This a minor spoiler for those reading. I think Spielberg has an affinity with aliens. Aliens are his deus ex machina. It was great in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., but it gets very tiresome. Aliens did not have to be answer to this film's conclusion. It doesn't fit into the Indiana Jones arc. There have been elements of fantasy in these films, but they fit well into the films. The aliens don't. It feels very forced, as if the director said "I have to make a reference to aliens and UFOs somehow." It should be in a scifi film. Not an action-adventure-comedy.

Was the fourth installment of Indiana Jones worth it? I say yes. It's got flaws. It's a much different movie than the other three. It could've been a lot better. Maybe I'll even say the movie was not necessary to make. Indeed, Spielberg could have just re-released all three films ala Star Wars, without the updated effects of course. But I can't hide that I did enjoy the film. It's got great action and the nostalgia is just too much to turn it down.

Verdict: 7/10
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8/10
"The Deed to Hell" is Low Budget Film-making Worth Your Time
8 June 2008
It's unfortunate that the current theater going experience seems to be only saturated with big budget comic book adaptations, lame romantic comedies, or films graced with the presence of CGI anthropomorphic lions. Just some days it's great to get away from the big multiplexes with the barrage of previews and commercials that precede the film and heading out to your local art house dive where you can see a well crafted. That might just be the medicine worth taking. Enter "The Deed to Hell".

Long Island independent filmmaker Glenn Andreiev has created a film not with a single narrative, but instead takes the approach of multiple character stories and then interweaving them at the end. Lynell Campbell (Shawna Bermender) is determined to get revenge on heavy metal rocker Zad Zolock for drugging one of of her friends. A husband and wife (Roy Frumkes and Wendy Marquez) are facing a marital discord stemming from the wife's struggle to create a perfect family. She is reminisicent of Mary Tyler Moore from Ordinary People. Two men rob a million dollars, leading to one of the men betraying the other. It leaves one man wounded (Frank Franconeri) and the other (Glenn Andreiev) hiding out in Europe. Eventually the lives of all these people come together for their own unique trip to Hell.

It's great to see a little film with such a big heart. It succeeds in the areas that many other low budget films tend to fail in. With low budget films, performances can either be really good or really bad. There isn't a middle ground. The acting by the performers in the film is top notch. I get a lot of motivation and feeling from each of the protagonists (or antagonists depending on how you view main characters). Shawna Bermender feeds her character with hate for Zolock, but yet despite her actions, you feel sorry for her and that does come into play at the end. She is not an evil person, but a scorned woman who feels that she only has one way of dealing with Zolock. Many of the other actors are first time performers and you would not be able to guess that. None of them under or over act their performances, something that trained actors do quite often. Instead they each bring their own unique nuances to the characters they play. But the one who steals the show is Roy Frumkes as Vince Cataco, the cheating husband. His face speaks wonders when he is dealing with his stubborn wife putting him down or yelling at him. It is both funny in a tragic way and tragic in a humorous way.

Something this film does really well is the merging of three different genres. You got a heist, a thriller, and a family drama all rolled into one movie and they interweave so fluidly. Many films that take this approach get it wrong. A lot of them have one story which is given priority over the others, the stories do not seem to fit, or all three stories are just plain bad. But each story in this film is given an adequate amount of time to flesh itself out and nothing feels rushed or overdrawn.

However, the most intriguing aspect of the film is its vision of Hell. Ever since Dante's Inferno, people have been mystified of what Hell must be. Is it a place where fire and brimstone burn the flesh away from your body, is it having to relive your most painful memories, or is it ruled by a demon who is having a homosexual affair with Saddam Hussein? The film's interpretation of Hell is unique, and I don't want to give too much away on it. I'll just say, it is creepy and extremely gory.

According to the Internet Movie Database, the budget is estimated to be around $70,000. You would not guess that from watching the film. Locations from Long Island to Greece are used as the backdrop of this film and nothing is against a blue-screen as far as I can tell. And if anything was, I was fooled. A bigger budget film would have filmed in Canada for the tax breaks, but the film has an authenticity to it that is missing from most films. Nothing seems "fake" in that CGI or some trickery was used to for the location shootings.

I had the pleasure of seeing this film at an early morning screening at my local art house cinema. It is refreshing to see a film that is pure guerrilla film making. I hope the film is picked up by a good distributor and can release it so others at some point can enjoy it as much as I did. To put it in a food perspective, seeing all those blockbuster films would be akin to eating candy everyday. Not a lot of people can live on candy only. Sometimes you got to pick the fresh fruit to keep yourself in balance.

Verdict: 8/10 http://andrews-views.blogspot.com/
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King Kong (2005)
3/10
Truly one of the worst remakes/films/etc ever made
18 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Hollywood can't just stop loving them remakes. No matter how bad they do critically or at the box office, there is almost a fetish like appeal of remakes to writers/producers. I don't think they will ever learn, but it's their money and they can do what they want with it. Oh and I believe I'm supposed to review the second King Kong remake. Well in a nutshell it stinks.

It makes me want to cry to describe the film for the uninitiated reader, but I shall. It is Depression-era America. Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is down on her luck. By good fortune she is discovered by big shot director Carl Denham (Jack Black, in a horribly miscast role). He wants to go an island where rumors of a giant monster lurk. They set forth, Kong captures Ann, and that is all I have to say about that.

Why is this movie bad? I got a laundry list of them but I'll make the most my 1,000 word limit. I will say what I liked first. I enjoyed the back story of Ann Darrow that Jackson added at the beginning of the film and how all the characters lives interconnect. It helped put some context behind the story.

I gave one good thing and that is all I liked. Now for the horrible, putrid stuff. The performances are all wrong. This movie has to be judged as a remake. It is not an adaptation of a book, it's purpose to be remade was to be better than the original. The plausibility of Ann Darrow falling in love, and that's the key, in love, with a gorilla, is beyond logic. Kong is still a monster first and foremost. That's what the original got right. Fay Wray's performance is exactly one would give if that person was being held against their will by a giant ape. Watts also does not have the innocence that Wray's Darrow had. She is too spunky. There is not feeling that she is a fragile human being.

Jack Black is, like I said before, horribly miscast. Black's performance borders on psychopathic. Robert Armstrong had the gusto and ego that Denham had. Black does not. All he does is bug out his eyes and raves like a madman.

But the person who was not right from the beginning: Adrien Brody. Brody is a great actor. I was one of the few who believed he would win the Acadmey Award for The Pianist. However, thank God the same thing did not happen hear. Brody does not have the body type, look, or feel of a tough sailor. Cabot nailed it. Yes, Cabot was very stiff, but that was then, this now. Brody is a great actor, but you can't look at this guy and say "He's a tough, handsome sailor." Apart from the acting, the movie is melodramatic slumber trying to be much more than a giant monkey movie. Simply, the movie's ego is too big. The ice skating scene in Central Park is vomit inducing for the sheer pretentious of it. So King Kong falls on the ice. It does nothing except wanting to get "aw's" from high school girls. The special effects are nothing special. To me special effects should not be recognized as special effects. I have yet to see a movie that does that.

I also believe in suspension of disbelief for films. It is necessary to enjoy them. However, when a Ann Darrow is tossed around like a rag doll every which way and comes out unscathed is pushing it. If Jackson is asking us to "believe" this film is real, you have let physics be real as well.

I am not surprised to read that most of the positive comments for this film are from either people who have not seen the original, didn't like the original, or are Lord of the Rings fans. That tells me where much of the fan base of this film comes from. That is truly sad.

Please avoid this film. See the original, which is a masterful piece of film-making. There is a reason why that movie is still being talked about today. It's been 2 years since this film came out. Guess what? No one's talking about it anymore. It's now in the pre-viewed section at Blockbuster Video with all the other forgotten films.

3 out of 10
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7/10
Goblet is good, but just too long to sustain its Fire
20 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The time is upon us. No, not the holiday season.. It's the fourth film in the highly anticipated Harry Potter series. For those who are interested, the first was simple children's fare, the second was better, and the third was the best. The fourth is quite enjoyable in many respects, but feels too long to be thoroughly entertaining.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is in his fourth year at Hogwarts. It is also time for the TriWizard Tournament, in which a select trio of young wizards and witches perform deadly feats to be the winner for their magic school. Even though Harry Potter is too young to enter the tournament, his name somehow ends up in the Goblet of Fire, and he is chosen to be a competitor. There is more to this mystery, and he will soon learn that a lot is at stake.

The Harry Potter films are definitely different from most run of the mill fantasies. For one thing, in most fantasy films, the acting is atrocious. With the Harry Potter series, the acting, especially by the three main protagonists, gets better and better. It seems as they get older, the three actors greatly exhibit their teenage angst with the characters. The returning cast is great of course. Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black) and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), all play their roles with entertaining fervor. Even though they all played much better parts in the past, they seem to be enjoying their roles, and overall are great to watch. Brendan Gleeson is the most impressive, as Professor "Mad Eye" Moody, who specializes in teaching the dark arts. His performance is so full of energy and passion that it is just absolute fun watching him perform as this nutty character. Ralph Fiennes, despite his short role as Lord Voldemort, is quite terrifying. His voice eerily fits this villainous character. He's bound to scare the children.

This film is a great example of visual cinema at its best. The beautiful Gothic sets evoke a dark, mystical feeling that helps add to this fairy tale story. The cinematography by Roger Pratt captures a very ominous and creepy settings gives the viewer the feeling that they are a part of this world of mystery and magic. The special effects are also well done. They seem are when necessary and come off well.

Unfortunately, this movie's strong parts are hampered by an editing job that seems to have gone unnoticed. The movie feels too long. Had it been cut down by a mere twenty to thirty minutes, it may have turned out a lot better. Some scenes just go on for longer than they should. There is no need for Harry Potter's dream to be repeated as much as it is. There are also scenes that seemed unnecessary to the story.

One example is when McGonagall is teaching the boys of Hogwarts how to dance. She chooses Ron as her partner, much to his embarrassment. This is an unnecessary scene that could've been put on the cutting room floor to help keep the story moving along. Another such scene is when Professor Moody turns Draco Malfoy into a ferret after he attempts to perform a spell on Harry Potter while Harry's back is turned. It is a funny scene, but in the end, does it further the story at all? Barely. The most it shows is how powerful Professor Moody is, but we all already know that by the middle of the movie. The film is two hours and thirty minutes long, yet feels like four hours and fifty minutes.

This movie is very enjoyable, despite its shortcomings. It's got action and thrills that will please parents as well as children. While the story is not as intriguing as the third, it's still enjoyable.

Final Grade: B
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10/10
Best film of the year 2005
20 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The period piece has never been a favorite film genre for reviewers. There have been excellent ones, such as Barry Lyndon and awful ones, such as Sense And Sensibility. Perhaps the worst quality is the tendency for these types of films to just stop and ponder. Pride & Prejudice is thankfully not that type, but will instead enter the pantheon of great period films.

The film takes place in 1797. Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) is trying to get her five daughters married off. In hopes of doing so, she brings them all to a dance where the dashing Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) will be attending. One of the daughters, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), falls in love with Darcy, but can't stand his arrogant personality. She tries to wow him, but is unsuccessful in many attempts. Through this tale, all the characters come to know what true love is in their own way.

The acting is absolutely fantastic. Keira Knightley has never been as impressive as she is in this role. She projects a virgin innocence to her character. Knightley brings complexity to what could've been a clichéd, one-note female character. Matthew MacFadyen as Darcy is awesome in his role as an emotionless, unlikable man. For a film in this day and age, it was a pleasure to see such an arrogant, pompous character portrayed realistically. The scene that best stands out is at a dance party where Elizabeth offers to dance with Darcy. He turns her down, saying "I don't dance if I can help it." Just the sheer tone and mannerisms of his character make him unlikable in a performance that deserves an Oscar nomination.

Brenda Blethyn, one of the greatest British actresses to grace the stage and screen, gives a magnificent and hilarious performance as Mrs. Bennet. She has such a natural ability, it doesn't seem like she is acting. There are so many layers to her character and she gives equal emotion to all her personalities and feelings. It is also great to see Donald Sutherland back on the screen, as the caring and loving father Mr. Bennet. He gives a sweet and lovable performance.

The actor who gives the best performance in this film is the great Judi Dench as Darcy's callous aunt. Though she doesn't have a big role, she has a fierce and imposing manner on screen that makes her impossible to ignore. She chews up the scenery every time she appears on screen. Her cold, emotionless stares send shivers down the audience's spine.

The writing for this movie, especially for a period piece, is quite fantastic. While it cannot be judged as an adaptation, the dialogue is not boring or overly fancy with hefty amounts of old-English colloquialisms. It has some, but overall, the dialogue is written in such a way that will satisfy audiences without confusing them. The comedic dialogue is well balanced against the dramatic side of the movie without one over powering the other. Therefore, the audience knows they are seeing a dramatic comedy, not a comedy trying to be a drama or vice-versa.

Director Joe Wright smartly keeps the film moving at a fast pace, which happens very rarely in period pieces. In most, the directors just stop and let characters talk for what seems like forever. Instead, Wright constructs every scene with integral importance to the story.

He treats all the characters, especially the males, with respect. The film could've turned out to be a one-sided woman's picture, but thankfully doesn't turn out that way.

Wright makes the film stand out from the others in the genre. His use of the zoom and hand-held camera is quite unheard of in period pieces, but he uses them sparingly and at the right moments. His use of the zoom on a character's face during a highly emotional moment is executed very well and helps heighten the emotional effect. Overall, taking on a novel that has been adapted countless times is a daunting task, and his version is very well done.

A period piece can't be reviewed if the visuals are ignored. The cinematography by Roman Osin is like a beautiful painting. The lighting and colors are so vibrant and stunning, making one wish they could live in such a time period. His color schemes capture the English countryside at its best, particularly in a scene where Elizabeth is just strolling across a hill. The costumes and sets are all gorgeous as well and also enhance the love for this film. In many period pieces, these factors tend to be the main distracters in the film, thus leading to the term "costume drama." Going into a film with negative expectations and coming out with the exact opposite is a great feeling. Those who go into Pride & Prejudice do not have to be fans of period pieces. It is recommended that everyone goes see this film. The mature romantic nature of this story will even make the most stoic person want to bawl. Come Oscar time, this film better rack up several nominations.

Final Grade: A+
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Saw II (2005)
5/10
Saw II: Another Mediocre Sequel
20 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Sequels, especially to horror films, seem to pop up every year. Many are unnecessary, like the Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels. It is hard to judge these films on their own merits, especially while comparing them to the film they follow. Saw II is a very uneven film with many highlights, but also many downfalls.

For those who are not familiar with the plot of Saw, it is about a serial killer who puts his victims in life and death situations. For example, a character will wake up chained to a pipe and be forced to kill the person who is also chained across from him if he wants to live. If he does not commit the act within a certain timeframe, both of them will die.

In this sequel, Detective Eric Mason (Donnie Wahlberg) finds out his delinquent son is one of the few unlucky people forced to use their intellect and cooperation in a booby-trapped house. The catch is that all the victims have inhaled a nerve gas that will kill them within a few hours if they don't escape. Mason has to cooperate and play Jigsaw's "game" if he ever wants to see his son again.

The movie works well within the conventions of the horror genre. It has the violence and murders that the audience expects from horror films. The unique deathtraps in this movie will, doubtlessly satisfy gore-hungry fans.

The acting is also quite impressive for a horror film. All the actors seem to understand the parts they play and play them with great realism and human emotion. Wahlberg is believable as a detective who can't balance his work and troubled life. He depicts the pain of a father whose life seems to be at its worst. Tobin Bell is very creepy as Jigsaw. From his cold stares to his devious smile, this man, who considers himself a prophet, is quite obviously a psychopath and finds pleasure in seeing others fight for their lives.

The actor who is the most impressive out of the ensemble of victims in Jigsaw's game is Franky G, who plays a Puerto Rican drug dealer. The fact that the actor, who has a very macho physique and demeanor, plays him with such depravity and cowardliness lends a realistic desperation to the character: the scene where this is most evident is when he has to find a key in a pit that is filled with syringes in less than two minutes. Instead of going in himself, he throws a woman, who is a part of this group of victims, in without any thought.

The attempt of the director, Darren Bousman, and cinematographer, David Armstrong, at giving the film a low-budget look and feel should be applauded. While it is quite obvious that this movie had quite a hefty budget behind it (unlike the first film) the attempt comes with clear artistic intentions.

Unfortunately, not everything about this movie is milk and cookies. Quite a few aspects of the script are very poorly written. A few times, the technique of scaring through a "jump out of the closet" is used, which is quite annoying and gains absolutely nothing in terms of scares.

Another terrible aspect of this film is the scriptwriters' decision to reveal the killer, Jigsaw, so early in the movie and spoon feed the audience his motives.

What made him such a great character in the first film was the fact that the audience barely knew anything about him. In this movie, his motives are explained so clearly that it completely ruins what Jigsaw was all about. Imagine if Alfred Hitchcock had revealed Mrs. Bates in Psycho. Would the movie be worth watching? This unfortunate little detail takes away so much from the movie. It doesn't ruin it, but it is a detraction. He becomes a caricature instead of a character.

What's worse is the "twist" (if one could call it that) at the end of the movie. It just does not fit Jigsaw's profile. Without giving too much away, the end is completely unrealistic and dumb and contradicts the first movie.

It's hard to decide who should see Saw II. While the film is clearly for fans of the horror genre, it should be noted that this movie does not even come close to the psychological terror the original achieved so well.

This movie is, without question, for people who enjoy seeing lots of blood and violence and are perhaps even turned on by it.

For those who really loved the first one, it's hardly worth shelling out hard-earned cash to see the sequel. Perhaps these fans should instead wait for next Halloween and rent it.

Final Grade: C
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10/10
George Clooney and David Strathairn give career-defining performances in this Edward R. Murrow biopic
20 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The truth is a complex concept. What is the truth? When do people deserve to hear the truth? But most important, whose job is it to tell the truth? The film Good Night, And Good Luck, directed by George Clooney, not only expertly deals with truth in journalism, but also the ethics all journalists should follow and owe to the public. It is also the best movie of the year thus far.

The 1950s brought many changes. Television was beginning to come into everyone's homes, motion pictures were starting to be filmed in the widescreen cinemascope process and the American people's fears of communism had reached its peak. The most respected newsman at the time, Edward R. Murrow, and his producer Fred Friendly, want to go after Senator Joseph McCarthy for his unsubstantiated charges against supposed Communists in the U.S. While Murrow wants to do hard-hitting news, CBS' sponsors want nothing to do with it. Murrow must also be prepared to face McCarthy himself and risk having his career ruined by being labeled as a Communist sympathizer.

The acting by this ensemble cast is truly magnificent. Each actor performs their part with every right note and never falters. David Strathairn should get an Oscar nomination for his career-defining performance as Murrow. He plays the role with the integrity and honesty that made Murrow loved and trusted by so many Americans. George Clooney also gives the best performance of his career with his role as producer Fred Friendly. Unlike most of his past roles, which have been one-dimensional, here he gets to show us his real dramatic side, throwing away his pretty-boy charm in favor of a tough and serious part.

Jeff Daniels, who is the most overlooked actor in Hollywood, plays CBS president Sig Mickelson and shows us, once again, why he can perform in just about any genre and any role with ease. He presents a human character who knows that he has responsibilities to sponsors and the business side of entertainment and he would probably be the evil corporate bad guy in a more typical Hollywood film.

The film also sports excellent performances from Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. as a married couple who work behind the scenes on Murrow's program.

This is George Clooney's second stint as a director. His first was the mediocre but visually enthralling Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. Along with cinematographer Robert Elswit, the decision to shoot this piece in black-and-white helps the dark atmosphere of the film, but also gives it a period feel and authenticity. Clooney's decision to have most of the characters smoking also helped give the film more of a '50s feel. Seeing the cigarette smoke float into the lights puts the audience right in the middle of this time period. Clooney, above all things, should be praised for not opting to use an actor as Senator Joseph McCarthy and instead uses archival footage.

The Senator himself was a great "actor" who managed to convince the public that Communists could take over the United States. With this film, Clooney doesn't water down any details or make it an audience friendly film. There are no clear good guys or bad guys. Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov create real people, great dialogue and a fantastic film of historical importance.

The music, with jazz vocals sung by Dianne Reeves are beautifully edited into the film at the right times. There is no background score, but instead music is heard on the radio and through the airwaves. The editing itself is very well done. There are no quick cutaways. Editor Stephen Mirrione doesn't go off on tangents and the action isn't coming out at lightning fast speed.

Overall, this is the best and most important film of the year. Clooney has proved that somewhere in him is true talent as an actor and director. The cast gives magnificent performances, the stark black and white cinematography is beautiful, and the importance of this film, especially with the type of news outlets that are prevalent today, is too important to be ignored. Come Oscar time, this better win some acting awards, as well as Best Picture.

Final Grade: A+
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Summer School (1987)
9/10
I went in with bad expectations, and came out quite surprised how funny and enjoyable this movie was
27 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I have never been a fan of teen comedies for many reasons that I can't possibly list here. Most are menial, mediocre movies that have little or no effort put into them and usually just fall down the pits into low brow comedy including but not limited to scatological humor and/or perverse sexual jokes. Am I saying all comedies of this nature are like that? No, absolutely not. I really enjoyed "American Wedding". Though there are others like "The New Guy" that are just plain awful. While "Summer School" has nothing to offer the film medium in terms of new stuff, it manages to be an enjoyable romp.

The story concerns a gym teacher, who goes by the name "Shoop" (Mark Harmon). School has ended for summer vacation and students and teachers alike are eager to get out. The exception is for the teachers who have to teach the summer school students. When the original English teacher supposed to teach the summer school students bails out, the Vice Principal (Robin Thomas), puts Shoop on the job. If all goes well, Shoop will get tenure. But considering the type of kids Shoop will have to deal it, it will be a long road ahead. Shoop also strikes an unsuccessful string of dates with another summer school teacher, Ms. Bishop (Kristie Alley). Will Shoop be able to get the kids to study and not only get a date with Ms. Bishop? It's one of the hardest to things to review a film that is good, but offers little in being able to be discussed. The actors overall seem to be having a fun time with the characters they portray. They aren't dull for a moment and everyone brings they're own amounts of energy to the roles they play. Mark Harmon in particular has not only a lot of energy, but has charisma that helps to add to his characters enjoyable nature. This not only helps with his on-screen chemistry with Kristie Alley's character. They play well off one another in key scenes very well, and are overall fun to watch. Robin Thomas also does well as the stereotypical evil principal.

The comedy works for the most part in this movie because it deals with clichés and stereotypes, and plays exactly off of both. The students all have "Breakfast Club-like" stereotypes including a jock, nerd, losers, and outcasts. The writers and director Carl Reiner seem to enjoy these clichés and go far to make them funny, but not crossing that edge into annoyance and stupidity. All of this culminates into somewhat of a non-stereotypical which satisfied me and partly surprised me, which I'd prefer not to give away as it help adds more to this funny movie.

Overall, if you just want to see a movie that you know you will have a goodtime at, "Summer School" might just be the selection for. Just don't go in any with any expectations. I went in with bad and came out with good. As Alfred Hitchcock would say "It's only a movie."
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Titanic (1953)
4/10
Titanic is an uneven melodrama, that sinks just as slowly as the maiden ship did
21 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Review for Titanic (1953) The Titanic has had an interesting place in cinema. It has been chronicled in silent films (1912's "Save the Titanic"), as the basis for a Nazi propaganda film (1943's of "Titanic"), a historical drama (1958's "A Night to Remember"), and most recently a romantic epic drama (James Cameron's "Titanic"). Jean Negulesco's 1953 version of Titanic tries to be like a historical drama and fictional drama at the same time, succeeding in some areas, but failing in most areas.

Rich, upper-class married Julia Sturges (Barbara Stanwyck) separates from her stuffy and uptight husband Richard (Clifton Webb), wanting to bring up her teenage daughter (Audrey Dalton) and young son as middle class Americans in Michigan. Richard doesn't want his kids to have such low lifestyle, so after buying a ticket from a steerage passenger aboard the Titanic, is set to stop his wife from taking "his" kids. Aboard the ship, the daughter strikes up a romance with an American college student (Robert Wagner), a defrocked priest (Richard Baseheart) is running away from his own problems, and the eventful April 15 sinking of Titanic will change everyone's lives forever.

Let me start off with the positives. As a historical drama, this movie does pretty well in most areas. The sets are pretty awesome in scope and detail. You get the sense of the vastness of the Titanic from the many rooms and wide shots throughout the film. While it is normal for Hollywood to take artistic license with anything that has historical significance, the things that I know beforehand and know are historically inaccurate, I can't let fly by. There was no explosion on board the Titanic as it would've been impossible, right before the Titanic sank in the ocean the passengers didn't stop and sing a Welsh hymn. Those two things that happened in the movie really bothered me as anyone who is not familiar with the Titanic should know that stuff never happened. Hollywood can take artistic license as long its believable to some degree.

Now the movie as a drama is so uneven I may not have the right words to get my point across, but I'll try my best. The actors are for the most part great. Barbara Stanwyck has yet to fail me. Clifton Webb as well. He is very good as unhumorous, spoiled man who wants to do things for his benefit and his ways. They both have a sincere love and understanding for each other as characters, yet still have a true yearning to do things their own ways for their own reasons. This was my first Audrey Dalton film, and she gives a well enriched performance as an arrogant, stuck up, spoiled rich girl, who knows that the one thing she can't buy is love and wants it from the right person. Thelma Ritter who plays a "Molly Brown like character" is fantastic as usual. She delivers lines like she was born to say them. Another one that has never failed me. Richard Baseheart is also very good, and quite possibly the best actor in the film, as the priest who is running away from his own demons. There is a scene with him and Barbara Stanwyck in his cabin and she finds out he was priest. The monologue he gives about his family and his reasons why he left the priesthood is so poignant and heartbreaking. The one who has though in this film, is Robert Wagner. I personally feel his character is so out of place, like he is from the wrong time period. His dialogue, actions, and overall conduct seem too 1950's for me. It seems more that he should be more in a 50's sitcom as an older brother like in "Leave it to Beaver." His romance with Audrey Dalton works, mostly because Dalton isn't so upfront with her emotions. I could believe more that she loved him, and not the other way around.

While having good actors is a plus, the writing and direction are another story in there own ways. Jean Negulesco unfortunately doesn't seem to know pacing because the movie at many times just seems to stop, with characters just talking. The actors are great to watch, but even a great speaker should know when to stop talking and take his seat. I understand this is a melodrama, but even melodramas should have their own distinct pacing. The writing is probably the worst, which surprises me as there were three of Hollywood's most adept screenwriters writing on this film. Charles Brackett wrote another great melodrama with Billy Wilder, Sunset Blvd., but I have no idea what went wrong here. The dialogue ranges from good to acceptable with the actor's delivering the worst lines in the best way they can.

Titanic is a movie not for people looking for history of the Titanic. It is for people who like Hollywood melodramas. If you want to see the best film about Titanic in my opinion, see A Night to Remember.
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2/10
Bad Movie. Nuff Said
15 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Remakes seem to be the big thing in Hollywood now. Every month, there seems to be a remake of a movie coming to theaters. I try to judge movies on their own merits rather than comparing to them to their originals. If you remember my review of Seed of Chucky, I quoted Pauline Kael as saying "Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them." Unfortunately there is always times where the trash really stinks and you just want to get rid of it anyway you can. Enter the film, The Amityville Horror.

George (Ryan Reynolds) & Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) and Kathy's 3 children are moving into an elegant Long Island home for a reasonable price. The reason why is that 5 savage murders were committed there the year before by Ronald DeFeo Jr., son of a wealthy car dealer who murdered his parents, brothers & sister by shooting them in November 1974. No sooner when the Lutz's move into the house, they begin seeing horrible things - the ghost of Jody DeFeo, horribly disfigured bodies, and hearing ghostly voices throughout the house. George seems to notice it the most, and it isn't long before he becomes a danger to those around him.

First I want to get this out of the way: This is NOT based on a true story. Both Ronald DeFeo and George and Kathy Lutz concocted this story for their own personal reasons. However, it is true that I wish I hadn't seen this movie. This is such a flawed movie, that not even a blessing from the Pope could save it. Since Michael Bay is attached as producer, you know there will be such wonderful bits of dialogue like "There is no bad houses. Just bad people." Go figure. I was also appalled and insulted by this movie's exploitive nature. There were at least 4 to 5 separate scenes with actor Ryan Reynolds without a shirt, yet the camera makes sure to film him from the top of his head to right below his abdomen to show off his manly and muscled physique. What was the purpose of this? That's right: it had no purpose except to appeal to the brain-dead audience members in the hopes of distracting them from this god awful "script." Let's go right into the reason we see horror movies: to be scared. This movie does not even come close in trying to be scary. It wants to be a cross between The Shining and The Haunting, and expectedly, miserably fails at both. Alfred Hitchcock once said "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." This movie bangs in your face so loudly that you wonder "What the heck was that?" That's what made The Shining and The Haunting so frightening, while you knew something was going to happen, you didn't know how or when. Even Helen Keller could've predicted this movie's "scares" from a mile away. Those silly, fast jump cuts and "scary ghost is behind the character" really didn't help that much either.

As for the actors, they try their best with what they are given in the script and by the director. Ryan Reynolds is tolerable and does his split-personality scenes very well. Melissa George is just there honestly for eye candy. The kids are barely interesting as characters. The only person who seemed interesting at all was the babysitter played by Rachel Nichols who seems to be genuinely having fun with her role. The makeup by KNB Efx. is up to their usual great standard with their penchant for over-the-top blood and gore.

I am not happy writing this review. Unlike with The Aviator, which I felt motivated to make sure people didn't see, I feel sick writing a review for a movie that I absolutely did not like. While there needs to be a great balance between seeing art and trash, no one should find time to see garbage such as The Amityville Horror.
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The Island (2005)
9/10
Michael Bay's First Great Movie
15 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I have never been a fan of Michael Bay for numerous reasons. The main one being he made intelligent insulting action movies. Yes, they are good action movies, but far from good movies. Also the terrible acting, writing, and vomit inducing editing didn't help as well. But, after seeing The Island, I am now convinced Michael Bay does have the ability to make a good movie. The movie takes place in the future. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) are citizens of an underground Utopian society, people who survived an Earth destroying apocalypse. Everyone wears white, goes through the same daily routines everyday, eat the same foods, work at the same places, and don't ask questions. The one thing that everyone wants though in this society is to go to the Island, which could be compared to Heaven in many ways. The only way you get there is through a lottery system where a winner is picked (a parable to how soldiers were to be drafted and sent off to Vietnam in a similar lottery system.) Lincoln starts to develop an inquisitive mind about the world he lives in, the Island, and what lies beyond the world he lives in. When Jordan is picked to go to the Island, Lincoln discovers the real truth about the Island, and escapes his city with Jordan into the above unknown world to discover the truth behind the meaning of their existence, while trying to be stopped by a expert mercenary (Djimon Hounsou). What makes this movie better than all of other Michael Bay's movies, you may ask? EVERYTHING. The characters are strong from the start. We are drawn into their naive world and minds because we take an interest in finding out the true meaning behind everything. As the characters take steps to discover this, we are with them throughout the film. Michael Bay infuses the audience with questions about what is going. He explains little, but enough to not be too complex or too dumbed-down. He lets the characters slowly discover the mysteries that the audience is eagerly trying to solve themselves He keeps the plot moving at a brisk pace. He spends time with the characters in the plot so we know and understand why they do the things they do. There are many messages that this movie has to say and I'm quite glad they aren't hammered into us. Ewan McGregor is one of the best actors working now. He can even make a mediocre film have some credibility (ala Trainspotting). The actors love their characters, especially Ewan, whom I get the feeling, from his charisma and screen presences, was having a ball of a time working on this movie. He is an actor who always knows how to play just right. Scarlett Johansson is truly one of the best young actresses working. She isn't there just for eye candy (though she is darn good looking) or a "damsel in distress", but is integral to the plot as much as Ewan's character is. The other actors such as Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi and Djimon Hounsou are just great as well.

I can't talk about a Michael Bay movie with mentioning the action scenes. They are done superbly; they are well edited, greatly choreographed, and are rousing, thrilling spectacles. I have no quibbles with them. There is some controversy that Michael Bay put too many in. I think the action's work very well with the film and they fit very well into the film. Of course, I have some minor quibbles with this movie. The main one being the blatant, overuse of product placements in this movie. As far as product placements, they should be saved for commercials, not movies. Overall, The Island is a redemption for Michael Bay. Without the tight leash of Jerry Bruckheimer producing the film, Michael Bay has made a symbolic and movie that will bring many questions about monetary and moral ethics. It is not to be missed.
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Serving Sara (2002)
10/10
A funny screwball comedy
25 August 2002
Its been years I believe since there has been a screwball comedy. The last one I saw was the classic Bringing up Baby. I was glad to see this movie. There were some jokes that made me cry or made me smile. Bruce Campbell is always great of course (love that Texan accent). See it you won't be disappointed.

10/10
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Marilyn's real final movie = a gem
28 July 2002
First of all if it hadn't been for the people who restore movies, we would have never seen this film. Now on to the movie. I thought it was fantastic. This movie if it ere finished would've gotten Oscars for best picture, best director, and best actress Marilyn Monroe. If your a film buff, Marilyn Monroe fan, or anything similar get this. It is a real gem to have.

10/10
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5/10
The worst of the series no doubt
28 July 2002
Usually when a movie goes into its thrid sequel the second and this one stunk but there are a few exception (ex. Evil Dead, Indiana Jones, Star Wars etc). This is definitly not one of the examples. The thing that ticked me off most about this film was the childish humor it was going for. I admit at laughed at some of it, but then it got really annoying. Also what did they do to Falkor, they totally changed his physical appearance not to mention the way he acts. And if this movie was supposed to be based on the characters where was the main character Atreyu? Overall a big disappointmeant. See it just for Jack Black who is hilarious.

5/10
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6/10
Definitly not as good as the first but I would overall say enjoyable for kids
28 July 2002
When I first rented this sequel I knew for sure it want going to be as good as the first (ex. reviews on this site) and I definitly turned out right. First things first the special EFX were used a little too much and weren't as good as the first. Also this one got a little bit too kiddyish with jokes. I also didn't like how the Rockbiter had a new voice that really didn't match him. Oh and I absolutley hated the Rockbiter jr.

6/10
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Troll (1986)
3/10
A horrible disaster of a film
28 July 2002
I already knew this film wasn't going to be good so this review wont be as different as the others. This movie is horrible. Put it that way. While I can't judge the acting or the comedy I can judge the actress who played the little girl. God was she a horrible possessed thing. Maybe if they got that girl from Poltergeist this film would've been good.

3/10
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10/10
My favorite fantasy movie of all time
28 July 2002
This movie I just have to describe in one word: the best, my fav, the greatest, etc fantasy film of all time. This movie has everything a good fantasy movie has: fantasy. Also it has good acting (even though I shouldn't judge since its not in the dramatic category), good special effects (I loved the blue screen effect), and a great story which a certain movie called Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring didn't have. Please all who love fantasy watch this movie.

10/10
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Fanalysis (2002)
10/10
Bruce Campbell delivers an excellent documentary
19 July 2002
Bruce Campbell, a multi-talented actor makes his documentary debut and just like Bruce always does, he succeddes. This is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. I think its safe to say that it is my favorite documentary of all time. Just like the title says Bruce tells us his opinion on fans, as well as other people about fandom etc. See this and you will not be disappointed.

10/10
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6/10
A somewhat decent naked gun like movie
19 July 2002
Movies like the Naked Gun and Airplane are classic comedies. This movie while DEFINITLY not up there it at least was somewhat decent. A lot of the humor is actually quite funny I thought but then there are many stupid I just didn't laugh at. Depending on your type of humor will most likely depend on much you enjoy the movie. Unless you are a die-hard Leslie Nielsen fan, I would definitly say you won't enjoy the movie totally.

6/10
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10/10
My 2nd of the whole trilogy and one of the BEST movies of the year!!
3 June 2002
Star Wars Episode II was one of the most anticipated movies I was waiting for. Plus when I heard about this new digital projection, my mouth litteraly dropped. The day came when I saw the movie in DLP. I left the movie with eyes wide dry from not even closing my eyes. The movie was amazing. The special effects are 100% Oscar calibur, the acting was good (especially from Ewan who is now one of my top 10 actors), and the action scenes were spectacular. Hayden Christensen was good as the soon-to-be evil Anakin. The dialogue was acceptable (yes there were some cheezy lines, but hey what about Lord of the Rings?) Oh and Christopher Lee is the master of evil. He was excellent. And Yoda, move over Ah-nold, Stallone etc. thus nearly 2 million year old man has out done you. I also saw it in the regular film version which was good, but the EFX wasn't as good as it was in the DLP. Overall one of the best films of the year, Oscars are going home with it no doubt, and can't wait for Episode III. Lucas your a GOD.

10/10
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2/10
Truly one of the worst (well mostly overrated) films of all time
2 June 2002
When I went to see The Lord of the Rings: FOTR, the trailers no doubt looked interesting. When I saw the movie, I got a totally crap fest of a movie that wasn't even as good as the trailer. My reasons for hating are: 1. Why don't they just go to Mount whatever and destroy the Ring, instead of just blabbing about it how it takes over your mind. 2. What the heck was with that Gadriel character. First off she is blabbing nonsense about the smallest person can change and blah, blah, blah. Oh give me a break like I haven't heard that before. And please for the sequels turn off those lights of hers. Those 200+ watts in her almost made me blind. 3. The dialogue is cheezy okay. People I liked Star Wars II. I admit some of the diaglogue was crapy. But so was this. No one I don't care what frickkin Earth you live on, if your wizard, hobbit, mortal, etc No one ever says those lines like "If you want him come and claim him" Ohh how breathtaking. 4. The acting. Don't get me started. The really one good, no GREAT person in this movie was Christopher Lee. He should've gotten the nod for best supporting actor not McKellan. Not to mention Wood's acting (thats how I can describe his acting, stiff as wood) and Astin (he must've taken lessons from Shatner for crying out loud) 5. The EFX were not amazing. The backround was but the EFX :cough: Gollum. As for the movie being overrated it that is a fact. Any movie that is not even out for year is put over movies that deserved their places like A Clockwork Orange, 2001, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc etc does not even deserve to be placed there. Also the actors are overrated (Wood, Astin and Bloom will never rank up to actors like Bruce Campbell, Harrison Ford and Ewan Mcgregor in a million light years) as well as the director (Jackson will never rank up to Kubrick, Spielberg, Raimi, etc in a 100000000+ million light years). I had put up another comment for this which was more praise but after thinking about I couldn't come to terms with this movie. I will no doubt see and hope the sequels are better (please be better dialoge, acting, and PLEASE NO MORE GADIREL)

2/10 (Christopher Lee saved this craptacular movie by a LOT)
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10/10
A funny and at times a serious crime gone wrong film
8 May 2002
Reservoir Dogs is a totally different and original film (but not as original as Memento). The cast I thought was great especially Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi and Harvey Kietel. At times this movie really made me crack up like the Anne Francis joke. Other times it will make you scared at what some of these things these people do. Overall it is a great film and the way they made those gun shots look real was great.

10/10
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Spider-Man (2002)
10/10
One of the best films of 2002, if not the best film
5 May 2002
Spider-man is another comic superhero to go to the big screen. The final result is a perfect film. Yeah that's LOTR fans. This is a perfect film. It has a great cast who do not disappoint at all. If at all Willem Dafoe should get a Best Supporting Actor nod. The EFX i though was good. I think the Oscars this should definitly get nods for are: Best Editing, Best Effects, Visual Effects, Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing,, Best Costume Design.

10/10
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Frailty (2001)
9/10
A pretty good old-fashioned thriller
2 May 2002
In my opinion the greatest horror thriller I ever saw was The Shining. Frailty while not in the same league as The Shining, was pretty good. Matthew McConaughey surprised me the most with his great acting. Unfortunately, Bill Paxton occasionly suffers from the Kevin Costner syndrome. He is great at some parts, horrible in others. I also love the few twist and turns that happened. Overall, a good movie.

9/10
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Airport '77 (1977)
9/10
A pretty good third follow-up in the Airport series
2 May 2002
Airport '77 is not that bad of a sequel for a series that is in its third part. Usually movies up to their third usually are bad (ex.Batman). The acting is actually pretty good. Even though this movie didn't have the many thrills as Airport, it is pretty good.

9/10
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