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Blew me away
1 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
For Halloween this year (2015) I watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM) and The Evil Dead in the theater.

I'm a big fan of the "Evil Dead" movies and I heard good things about this film. I went in knowing almost nothing about the film.

This film deserves its position at the very top of the horror genre. I was totally entranced and creeped out, this was truly a scary movie. And as I believe Hitchcock stated, you can often terrorize an audience by showing less. This film isn't actually that violent or gory, but the film does an excellent job not showing you things and allowing your mind's imagination to run wild. It's all about pacing and setup here. The very first brutal act is actually barely shown and over in a split second but there is a huge impact.

Everything in the film was done so well, from the sinister interiors of the brothers' home, their bizarre family rituals, the look of rural Texas. Compared to modern films, it has a wonderful organic quality.

The film, shot on 16MM, looks simply stunning. The level of grittiness is perfect for this type of film.

The story starts off slow, but the "Hitchhiker" (a wonderful performance that steals the show) gets it going and once we're introduced to Leatherface things really heat up.

People were hollering and screaming in the theater. 10/10.
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The Interview (II) (2014)
Entertaining and much better than I had expected
27 December 2014
I admit I mainly went to see this as a protest movie ticket purchase.

Don't expect another "Dr. Strangelove," "Life of Brian," or "Ruthless People" when you go and see this.

This is an R-rated gross out farce of a buddy comedy full of potty and sex humor. It's also unbelievably graphically violent at times.

However, I can honestly say I was entertained. Although interviewer Dave Skylark's (James Franco) character was a bit annoying and grating at times, there was genuine chemistry with his producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen). There were so much gay sex humor in the beginning of the film that I'm still a bit confused whether Skylark is supposed to be gay or straight.

It turns out the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, is a fan of their show and wants to be interviewed by Skylark. The CIA recruits the pair to "take out" Kim Jong-un.

Most of the movie is so ridiculous that it insults your intelligence, such as a scene where Skylark is allowed to go wondering the streets of Pyongyang without any minders. Both characters play on the dumb American fish out of water stereotype.

One highlight was early on in the film with an "interview" with Eminem - it was very funny and kudos to Eminem for poking some fun at himself. A scene later in the film where Skylark makes fun of Rapaport being Jewish also got big laughs.

I saw this at an art-house theater about 3/4 full in Berkeley, California. The audience was laughing quite a bit.

Randall Park was also very good as Kim Jong-un, the young tyrant who just wants to be loved and understood. Until you get on his bad side, of course. In the tradition of the "Great Dictator," what better way to get back at these psychotic mass murdering totalitarians than by making fun of them?
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Star Trek: Voyager: Distant Origin (1997)
Season 3, Episode 23
10 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I had missed this episode when the show first aired, and I'm happy to have been delighted when watching it recently for the first time.

This episode really shines and shows the kind of thought provoking concepts and ideas, Star Trek, and science fiction in general, can deliver when executed properly.

It's amazing how many concepts the writers managed to include in one single episode which doesn't feel rushed at all:

1) A novel explanation of an advanced species descended from dinosaurs 2) A species far more advanced than our own yet sharing the same societal problems as we do 3) The city ship, a very interesting addition to the Trek Universe 4) A vastly technologically superior foe that Janeway has no chance of defeating or even matching 5) The trial of Galileo in space 6) Aliens studying us like we study lower life forms in laboratories.

This episode shares a few things in common with the episode "Scientific Method," from season 4. Both episodes are first rate.

In particular, the dialog and acting of the Voth scientist and his assistant were very well done. They radiate intelligence and scientific curiosity.

The resolution was also well done with no Deus ex machina making a last minute appearance. Chakotay gives an impassioned plea for the triumph of reason over orthodoxy, but just like on our world, the powers that be could care less about truth. They care more about maintaining their power and the status quo.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Scientific Method (1997)
Season 4, Episode 7
One of the best Star Trek episodes period
10 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I still remember the chill I got watching the moment the episode was first broadcast on TV and ***SPOILERS*** Seven of Nine walks the deck with her adjusted vision and can see the aliens monitoring the effect of the devices on the crew.

It genuinely creeped me out; it was a big shock and I remember the feeling because it came out of nowhere and I was not expecting it! Very well done!

Janeway got the best line as well: ***SPOILERS*** "These lab rats are fighting back". Captain Janeway played the migraine afflicted captain very well, being irritated about everything and losing her cool, and her solution to the problem had her kicking ass all over the place.

The Tom Paris/B'Ellana Torres romance got kicked into high gear as well, which brought some entertaining character developments, and the doctor and 7 had some good moments as well.
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Just simply wonderful - go see this film!
13 May 2012
This is one of the best films I've seen.

It combines a wonderful cast with an engrossing story, and I became quite attached to all the characters due to their sublime performances. I've always enjoyed Bill Nighy, ever since "Underworld" and he was excellent in this as well. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith also give stellar performances but the entire cast was uniformly excellent.

The movie is not a comedy but it was very funny in many places. In the packed theater I was in (I think I was was one of the few there under 50) was often roaring with laughter.

The film also did an excellent job of building the back story about how these different seniors all ended up in the same hotel in India. Dev Patel was a bit over the top, but I think the love story involving him worked well. That part of the film was not as strong as the bits dealing with the British characters.
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I was stunned at how awful thus movie was
16 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Explanation of the 3 stars instead of 1: the robot CGI, special effects, sound effects and sound editing were all excellent. Kudos to the technical department for their work, it was flawless.

You know how certain kinds of pain are horrible in totally different ways? A really bad toothache is a different kind of awful pain than getting kicked in the balls (I'm sure there is a lady equivalent but I can only speak for my own gender on this subject).

Watching this movie was like discovering a new, different kind of pain that's horrible on a new special level. I've seen bad movies before, but this film just stunned me in its utter contempt for the art of making a film.

There is no coherent plot or structure of any kind, characters just whiz around the globe for the flimsiest of reasons. New artifacts and concepts are introduced and discarded haphazardly and constantly throughout the movie.

The motivation of every character is bizarre to the point of being surreal. This kind of conversation happened at least 3 times in the movie:

Person in position of authority (admiral,colonel,etc.): Wait, you want me just to drop everything, ignore all my rules and procedures, and just do what you say even though it makes no sense whatsoever? Transformers character: Yes. Person in position of authority: OK, I'll do whatever you tell me to do.

The whole movie feels like a series of CGI action scenes just strung together in whatever sequence was convenient. I can't remember seeing a movie where in EVERY scene something utterly illogical is going on.

This film takes the "battling robots take a cigarette break whenever main characters talk" concept from the original movie and abuses it over and over again. You'll be watching this overly long conversation between Sam and some other character and start wondering, hey wait, isn't there a battle going on around them? Why did it stop? Decepticon union regulations?

These robots are super fast and can outrun any human and yet they can't catch Sam in open desert territory, or hit him with a weapon, even after they have had almost an hour of being right on TOP OF HIM.

There's even an inside joke when the characters are searching for alien technology inside Egyptian ruins ("archaeologists have been all through this, what makes you think we'll find anything?"). Ha ha ha archaeologists can't find stuff that's right in front of their face.

I lost count of how many troops were killed in this movie, it must have been well over 1,000 if you count the number of tanks, planes, ground troops, etc., that were wiped out. But in the end, it's all feel good wonderful with no sense of loss whatsoever. That's another problem with the movie: there's absolutely no consequence of ANY action in the movie. If anyone or anything dies, it's ignored. When it is some character you're supposed to care about, they'll be fixed in some magic way right away and be back in the movie. The movie gives the viewer nothing and no one to care about. Compare that to a movie like Up, where you make an emotional connection to the main character almost immediately and it's a cartoon!

I guess the humans must have beefed up their weaponry since the first film, since their weapons seem to actually affect the robots this time around. Barely. You'd think soldiers would be smart enough not to bother using ineffective weapons against an enemy since that's pointless. Apparently, all the soldiers in this film come from the Lemming division. Getting decimated by the Decepticons makes them only more eager to suicidally attack; are these US soldiers or Al Queda?

This movie makes Star Wars: Episode I look like the The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I read one review that summed it up well: This is the movie Ed Wood would make if he had ILM and a $200 million budget.
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Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Offspring (1990)
Season 3, Episode 16
Absolutely wonderful
27 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Data surprises everyone by creating an android "daughter". What's so wonderful about this episode is many things, foremost the excellent performances by Data (Brent Spiner) and Lal (Hallie Todd), interesting philosophical and ethical issues brought up in the episode, as well as excellent dialog between the characters.

The ending is also very, very touching. Perhaps one of the most tender moments in Star Trek history.

At the heart of the story is one of the main concepts that Star Trek has always conveyed: that certain rights are universal, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, etc. Star Trek just adds a few new dimensions we do not have to deal with: unusual alien sexualities, inter-species relationships, inter-planetary issues, and with Lt. Cmdr Data, the rights of sentient artificial life-forms.

What I thought made this episode so superlative is the conversation that Captain Picard had early on with Data. Picard is chewing Data out for creating another life-form without first consulting him when Data points out that other crew members do not consult Captain Picard with their plans to procreate.

Captain Picard's reaction is a typical one of someone being faced with something he doesn't want to deal with and doesn't understand and he reacts accordingly. However, over time, Captain Picard learns that he in fact is wrong about his judgment of the situation. This journey from ignorance to enlightenment is exactly how an educated, thoughtful person can evolve their positions when more facts are discovered.

It helps that Data is absolutely objective since he has no emotions. Captain Picard cannot argue with Data because Data always argues from facts and logic.

In the trivia section, there is mention that Guinan changed a line of dialog describing human affection as between a man and a woman to between two individuals. This obviously ties in nicely with something that wasn't as much of a national issue in the US back in 1989 but is a big issue today, namely gay marriage and gay rights. There is a nice parallel here with Data and Lal and same-sex couples. Someone like the Admiral who wants to take Lal away for study simply cannot imagine a parental bond between the two. This is similar to those who simply cannot imagine a bond between a same-sex couple today and don't wish them to have the same rights as opposite-sex couples. The hope is that more and more people will be like Captain Picard and evolve their positions over time. Evidence shows that is happening.
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Screamers (1995)
Great adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story Second Variety
5 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is the only movie (so far) that for me captures the depressing isolation and desolation that is the most common post-nuclear dystopia for so many of Philip K. Dick stories. I've seen several other movies based on this great author's work (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, etc.) and this one really captures the feel.

This movie is full of empty landscapes of Sirius 6B, and although it makes some changes for the silver screen it stays generally faithful to the excellent Philip K. Dick story throughout.

Screamers contains one of the two main themes that Philip K. Dick likes to explore: "what is human?" (the other common theme is "what is reality?").

Another thing this film captures really well is the paranoia in Philip K. Dick's stories ... You don't know who to trust or what is real or fantasy and in this movie the main character (played very well by Peter Weller I thought) constantly has to change his assumptions about what is possible and not in his reality, who is an enemy or friend, what is a machine, who is human, etc.

The concept of an automated factory being left alone by humans which then decides to accomplish it's mission without human oversight is also well presented here. That is another common theme in Mr. Dick's stories; when artificial intelligence is running things the results can be unexpected and usually bad for the humans.

Some things in the movie, such as who is a screamer and who is not, are purposely left vague and the ending is also up for debate.

There were some comments about this movie being cheesy or having some low budget special effects but I prefer the look of this movie to most modern high budget films with their CGI effects that are almost interchangeable from one film to the next. The special effects in this movie have an organic feel to them that I miss. I also prefer the effects in the original Star Wars movie to the later films.
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Six Feet Under (2001–2005)
The best thing ever on television
29 April 2010
I just wrote this update on my facebook: I just finished watching the very last episode of Six Feet Under, which is, without a doubt, the best thing I have ever seen on television: perfect amazing brilliant thought provoking philosophical superlative etc. acting, casting, writing, directing, scene composition, character development, lighting, stories ... It was funny, it was sad, it was crazy, it was EPIC! That pretty much sums it up for me. The show always centers around death and funerals but so much happens and so many things are examined, I simply do not remember ever seeing anything like it on TV.

Setting a drama in a family run funeral home turned out to have been a great idea, but it's the characters and the life the actors and actresses lend to their characters that really sets this series apart.

Also notable are the very strong female characters and that one of the main characters is gay and his life is examined in detail just as much as everyone else.
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Brüno (2009)
Laughed even more than in "Naked Gun"
12 July 2009
This movie will offend gay people, straight people, black people, Africans, Austrians, Christians, Jews, Hindus, terrorists, ... you get the picture. It's completely outrageous comedy with a HUGE amount of gay stereotypes and frankly almost X-rated sexual scenes.

It's also most likely the funniest movie I've ever seen in the theater. I'm not sure how well this movie will play in the bible belt, but in the theater I saw it in San Francisco the whole audience was roaring with laughter almost continuously.

The movie follows the adventures of Bruno, disgraced Austrian fashion commentator, as he attempts to become a famous celebrity in the United States. If you've seen 'Borat' you know what to expect.

Note: there is an awful lot of exposure to the "gay lifestyle" in this film, including quite graphic gay sex scenes, practically gay porn. I guess one of the points of the movies is lampooning homophobia but I'm sure there are plenty of people who aren't homophobic who may be extremely offended by the material. I thought many of those scenes were extremely funny and I found myself practically crying from laughing so hard.

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Religulous (2008)
Finally a celebrity and film that represents my point of view
26 May 2009
The amazing thing watching Bill Maher on his Real Time show and in this film is not to find someone who shares my life philosophy (agnosticism), but someone who actually comes out and says it loudly and clearly.

As Bill Maher points out in the movie, 16% of Americans are non-religious, a very large minority. About time this minority got their message out! Now to actually talk about the movie. I thought Bill Maher did a good job of exposing how patently ridiculous the tenets of so many religions are if you really think about them in an objective fashion. The beliefs of the REALLY out there religions like Mormonism and Scientology are not that much more wacky than mainstream religions. They are all fairy tales! In the case of Scientology, we actually know for sure why and how the religion was created (to win a bet with fellow science fiction writers).

I subtracted one star because he uses the one tactic I despise in documentaries, which is editing in footage of people he is ridiculing in unflattering moments, such as testing their mikes or putting on make-up. Michael Moore did this in Fahrenheit 9/11, and it's a cheap gimmick to automatically sap the authority of a person.

I think overall Bill Maher succeeds in making his points in the movie, such as the fact that so many religions are designed to further the goals and expand the power of the religion.

I don't think the movie is anti-God, it's anti-religion. That's a big distinction because I don't think Bill Maher is a gnostic atheist, he's clearly agnostic.

There were some moments in the movie that I thought were actually thought provoking, such as the interviews with the Catholic priests, and some religious people articulated their views in interesting ways.

Overall, the movie was funny, thought provoking, and quite cathartic for me.
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Just plain awful
25 April 2007
This movie is a standard hack and slash picture where a bunch of pretty, slutty (for the most part) and vulgar sorority chicks are brutally slain one by one.

The movie was pretty boring but the positive bits are: 1) short running time so you don't waste too much time 2) the hottest actress in the movie has a NICE shower scene and 3) the Christmas decorations in the house are really pretty.

Other than that, there is nothing much to redeem itself. No real plot twists or surprises, just watch a bunch of people get killed in various grotesque ways.
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Idiocracy (2006)
Great concept, so so execution
27 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't enjoy this film that much, but still the concept of a future where all intelligence has been bred out of the human race is a great social commentary on the current anti-intellectual atmosphere in the United States, where we have a President who people vote for precisely because he DOESN'T appear to be too bright.

Not to mention the comment on our ultra consumerist society, where mega-corporations engage in a furious race to the bottom, trying their hardest to satisfy our basest desires when it comes to sex, violence, and fatty foods.

Unfortunately, the execution of the great concept (tm) doesn't work so well. I caught myself laughing a few times through the movie, but mostly it's just amazement about how the world portrayed in the movie really isn't that far removed from our current reality.
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19 October 2006
Napoleon Dynamite is one of those "hate it or love it" movies. I can identify with people who HATE this movie, because I HATED "The Big Lebowski" and some people find that movie to be utterly brilliant.

The movie isn't clever, doesn't have a great plot, it's mostly made up of nothing. But, for some reason, it struck a chord in me and I found it hilarious.

The characters all seem to not only not fit into their place in high school, but in life in general, and that is perfectly shown by having Napoleon say everything with his eyes practically closed. Are these people breathing the same air I am? Of course, it helps that I grew up in the 1980s and one of my best friends was from Columbia, so I can identify with the Napoleon-Pedro friendship.

Not only that, but I attended UC Berkeley as a computer science major and I met so many characters like Kip and Napoleon there, and one of the things this movie answers is "how do these people actually function day to day?" I may be a geek, but I'm nowhere as far gone as the characters in this movie.

Highly recommended, especially if you're a gen-Xer or geek.
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Best of the 8 short BMW films
14 July 2003
This short film is the most stylish and funny of the 8 bmw short films I have seen so far (I got them free on a DVD at the he2003 convention). Whether or not you will like the film depends on if you like the Las Vegas loud tackiness of Tony Scott's style, which meshes perfectly with James Brown and the usual over the top acting from Gary Oldman. I enjoyed it immensely, and the Marilyn Manson cameo at the end is quite amusing. The story is extremely simple: James Brown sold his soul to the devil to become the godfather of soul, and now he has aged and wants to race the devil for another 50 years of life. The directing style reminded me of the hyper-kenetic Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt). Gary Oldman as the frenetic devil is an interesting contrast to Clive Owen as the calm driver. Very enjoyable.
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15 October 2002
This is definitely one of the most worthless movies I've ever seen in the theater. I'm STUNNED that it has been voted in the top 250 movies, which shows you that this must be a movie you either love, or totally loathe, as I did.

I'm not going to be like most other negative reviewers and just post "it sucked" and not give any reasons for that opinion.

I'd gotten a ride to the movie theater so I didn't have any way of getting back, so I sat through a movie I ordinarily would have walked out of.

My main problem with this movie is the dialogue. It is laced with so many swear words, yet this doesn't give the dialogue any additional kick. I have nothing against swearing in movies as long as it accomplishes something. The fact that nihilists feature prominently in this movie makes sense since the whole movie is pretty meaningless. No real plot, random and incoherent dialogue, just a loser of a main character (Jeff Bridges), and I really didn't care if he lived or died.

Obviously the "genius" of the movie eludes me. Note that I have nothing against the Coen brothers, I thought Fargo was brilliant.

This movie was awful though.

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Fortress (1992)
Just plain terrible and dull
13 April 2000
I saw this in the theater, and came close to walking out. Almost every tired science-fiction cliche you can think of is utilized in this poor film. Although the film has a few interesting ideas, overall it leaves you not caring for the characters and cringing at some of the hackneyed scenes.
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Fortress (1992)
Just plain awful
2 February 2000
This was one of the worst movies I ever saw in the movie theater. The premise of the movie (it is illegal to have more than one child) is ok, but the movie seems to abuse almost every science fiction cliche there is. See this movie only if you are a diehard sci-fi fan who must see every science fiction movie ever made.
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