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Kung Fu Yoga (2017)
6/10
Where are the Mirimax scissors?
17 August 2018
Kung Fu Yoga has a little if fun stuff in it. But it also suffers from a great deal of dull and/or extraneous filler (who thought watching camels race until they foam at the mouth was entertaining?). Almost half an hour goes by before there's any action at all and half the movie has passed before there's any of Chan's classic comedy fight choreography. This film could have used some good old 90s miramax-styke editing. Hack away 15 minutes of boredom and you'd have a classic.
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6/10
Quirky comedy ruined by lame, lazy conclusion
11 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I had high hopes for this movie. For most of its running time it was an original, subtle, quirky story with believable characters. But (SPOILER) 4/5ths of the way through it enters Tarantino land. In other words, the gentle quirkiness is traded for gratuitous violence. And that's not even the bakery. The bad part is that its a lazy, derivative, stupid violent ending. It's like when young filmmakers can't figure out how to end a film they automatically resort to blowing everything up or big shootouts. It is lazy and boring.
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Hinterland (2013– )
5/10
Gets Old Quickly
19 January 2018
The first two episodes of this series (a single feature-length film as I watched it on Netflix) was very stylish and quite involving. I was impressed. The second story in the series however was overly complex and difficult follow. By the third story it had turned into a moody, well photographed Welsh version of Murder She Wrote. The story had the exact same rhythms as the first two stories and the suspect characters were never developed in an interesting way-- they were just cardboard cutouts waiting for the main character to tag them as the solution to the big-secret mystery. It's kind of sad quickly to show the evolved into just a repetitive collection of its own cliches. It would have been better as a cereal with one mystery to be solved over the whole 12 episode series.
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5/10
First Half is Classic & Inventive. Second is Overstuffed and Confused
18 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I just rewatched the Frighteners years after having seen it in the theaters. I remember being disappointed when I left the theater way back in the day. But I thought I'd give it another chance. I enjoyed the first hour immensely and figured that has misjudged the movie all these years. Then the second half kicks in and the whole thing devolves into a mess of too many characters, too many ideas (there is such a thing in a story), and too much frantic, teen-minded violence. Part of the problem is the change from strictly spooky stuff to the more "serial killer" tropes. It turned on a dime from a clever twist on "GhostBusters" to "let's joke about slicing people up." The tonal shit was jarring for me. Another part of the problem was the performance of character actor Jeffery Combs. Don't get me wrong--he is GREAT in the film, like a uber-creepy, coked up Tony Perkins. It is such a vivid characterization, so bizarrely powerful, that it throws everything off--he's just too crazy, intense and interesting to be the plot device his character is. He deserved his own movie. As it was in this one, though, the point where his character takes center stage also marks the point where the film starts to collapse under its own weight (especially considering he is neither the hero or the real villain).

Anyway, the set up of the Frighteners was SO good. It's too bad the punchline was such an overwrought mess.
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The Saint (2017 TV Movie)
3/10
Cheap, Lazy Adaptation with Charmless lead
28 August 2017
I've been a fan of The Saint for a long time. And it's no wonder at all that this new version didn't get picked up as a series. It plays more like one of those made-in-Eastern-Europe Steven Seagal quickies than even a decent TV-movie. So many MST3K-worthy technical errors and illogicalities (car tires that keep squealing after the car has stopped, for instance. As well as people knowing things they couldn't possibly know). Also, the filmmakers couldn't decide whether they were doing The Saint or Mission Impossible. The classic Saint never had more than one helper--usually a cabbie or some other unskilled person. His wit and abilities alone got him through, and that was the appeal. In this version, he has a whole team of very capable helpers and it makes him seem unnecessary to his own adventure (I mean, seriously, in this version his female "helper" is super-skilled in technology and can kick major ass even thought she's only 5 feet tall--so we need Simon why?). But, to be honest, this new film could have overcome most of those shortcomings if the actor playing Simon Templar, one Adam Rayner, displayed even an ounce of charisma. OR, better yet, they should have eliminated Adam Rayner entirely and switched the genders. Eliza Dusku has 100 times the charisma and wit of Rayner--and is a much better actor to boot-- and would have made an awesome Simone Templar (her presence is why I gave the film 3 stars instead of 1). If they had done THAT, the show might have been able to at least mitigate the idiotic, clichéd storyline, cheap production values, bad supporting cast and overall aura of crappiness.
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6/10
Plot/story is fine, CGI, subtle racism hold it back
6 March 2017
One of the few people that actually kind of liked Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal skull. I thought the basic story was good not any more ridiculous than any of the other ones. Settings characters and acting were all good.

If they had just resisted the urge to use so much CGI and hadn't produced so much totally unbelievable action, it would've been another classic of its kind. Not only is the CG are used to make the characters do things to hurt physically impossible, it is also not very good CGI with a fake green screen kind of look that I haven't seen for 30 years.

They should've just stayed totally practical use the old time effects.

Secondarily I was struck by the total lack of any actors of color. No black people Asian Indians no arabs. Nothing but white folk. None except "natives."

Might've been cool back in 1981 but now that just makes the film stick out. Any number of supporting characters could've been something other than white. I have to say that on the second viewing this kind of stuck in my craw.
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2/10
I couldn't get through the first 20 minutes
4 October 2015
I will assume that the intent of the kids involved in this was good, and I'll admit that there is a remote possibility that the remaining hour--had I been able to get to it--may have turned things around.

But I doubt it. All I was seeing were some over-privileged boys who thought it'd be a lark to do this as a school project (and I'm sure the young filmmaking crew were doing the same).

The first thing that struck me, besides the OVERWHELMING shallowness and self absorption of the kids involved (probably normal for their age) was that their premise WAS STUPID. They were going to rural Guatemala with enough money already in pocket to average out at a daily allowance of $1 a day each. That is NOTHING LIKE having to WORK and EARN at least a dollar a day in rural Guatemala and THEN live on it.

So basically what they were doing was living on $1 of WELFARE a day--an option the working Guatemalans did not have.

The whole thing--at least in the first 20 minutes that I was able to stomach--was so glib, condescending and self-congratulatory that I can't really think of an ending that would make me hate it less.

How do people get the money to make and distribute stuff like this? Trust fund?
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The Dark Wind (1991)
7/10
Good Adaptation. (and Visible Boom Mics are NOT Filmmaker's fault)
21 September 2015
I like "The Dark Wind." Though it didn't follow the novel to the last detail, it did follow it much more than the subsequent "Mystery" TV movies did. And this one definitely has the flavor of the Hillerman novels. It's not a blockbuster. In fact THIS probably should have been a TV movie as well. While they cherry-picked some details from other novels, the details of Navajo life and behavior that Hillerman describes in his novels are there. Some people didn't like that Leaphorn was inserted in the story though he wasn't in the original novel. I didn't mind that at all--they were intending to make more of these and the most popular stories have both characters. And the handling of Leaphorn is SO MUCH better here than in those Mystery TV-movies (in which they made Leaphorn Chee's "City Guy" foil.)

There is one thing I want to clear up though--the "boom mic mistakes: so many folks mention. The boom mic that intrudes in to several shots in the home video version (which is the only version we have, unfortunately)is NOT A MISTAKE BY THE DIRECTOR OR THE CINEMATOGRAPHER. It is an error in the transfer of the film to the home video format.

Many 1.85:1 widescreen films shot in the 80s and 90s were really shot at 1.33:1, non-anamorphic. The "widescreen" effect was then achieved by masking off the top and bottom of the image. Sometimes the studios did this on the print itself, but sometimes they would leave it to the projectionist in the theater--if he/she projected it so that each side reached the edge of the screen and centered the imaged vertically, the "masking" was achieved simply because the top and bottom of the image was bleeding off the screen. I know that was done because back in the day I saw several films where the projectionist did not center the image vertically and all kinds of stuff the audience was never meant to see would be visible--boom mics, lights, rigging, and etc. I have specific memories of seeing this in "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie" and Richard Pryor's "Busting Loose." So, if the folks who released "The Dark Wind" to home video back in the day had given a crap, they'd have either 1) masked the film to 1.85:1 or cropped it in on ALL sides for a proper old-type TV 1.33:1 ratio.

Anyway, if you have a widescreen TV (and wide is the norm now) all you have to do is blow up the image so that the right and left sides of the image go all the way to the edge and the tops and bottoms get cut off(on my Samsung it's the "Zoom 1" setting). THEN you'll see the image as it was meant to be framed, with no boom mics in sight. AND, I might add, the landscapes and other scenes will look much more impressive as well, as it emphasizes the wide horizons.
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Wonder Woman (2011 TV Movie)
5/10
half and half
10 August 2015
They got the look right. They got the action right. I like the actress. I like the costumes. The rest? Dang, how weird! Plot and dialog no better than the 1970s show--really, really bad. And a real fascist slant to the whom thing. And wonder woman seems to change size pretty drastically throughout. Sometime she looks very amazon tall and imposing, other times not. And her voice sometimes drifts into SoCal valley-speak tones. Anyway...the look of the actress and costume and how she looked kicking add worked. But that's about it. The whole thing seemed kind of ill thought out and a bit rushed. This was from a major producer known mainly for his writing?
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6/10
Four-Hour Prequel Exactly the Same Style as Original
3 August 2015
I enjoyed this slightly more than I did the movie. HOWEVER, you won't really get it unless you've seen the movie first--not only because you won't get the "prequel-ness" of it all, but you'll also have no idea why people in their 40s and 50s are playing folks in their teens and twenties.

From the fast paced preview I saw on YouTube, I was expecting the series to be more quickly paced and relentlessly foul (in a funny way) than the movie. But it's really pretty much exactly the same style as the original movie. In fact you could edit all 8 episodes of the series together and make one 4 hour film that would actually be more cohesive than the the original movie. And if not for the fact that the cast (who were all too old for their parts in 2001) are all 15 years older, you'd think this was made in 2002. And whether you think that's good or bad news depends on your love of the original film
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7/10
Not a Big Enough Story for Theaters
28 March 2015
I think that the main reason X-Files 2 failed at the box office but has gone on to have a relatively successful life on home video is that it was just not a "big" enough story for a big, pop-culture based theatrical film. I remember going to the theater and thinking, that's all there is to it? But now that I've watched it again, after watching a bunch of the series episodes on Netflix (including the finale) I can see that it is an excellent coda to the series and that it should have played on television in the first place. The main drama in this movie is not in the visual sci-fi/horror element--which is what theatrical films excel at.

The main drama in XF3 arises from the relationship between Muldar and Scully, which is the kind of intimate, small stuff that television can excel in (especially when it has 9 years to develop the relationship in the first place). It is interesting to see how the two characters have changed. (and, it is worth noting that while Anderson is till three times the actor Duchovny is, he holds his own in this one, instead of being outacted to a distracting degree as in the first theatrical effort).

Secondary are the themes of faith and belief that were the bread and butter of the series (they weren't deep, but they were there).

If the movie had been from a foreign director or an indie, and had not been tied to an iconic pop culture phenomenon, it is ironic that it probably would have been more successful at the box office (partly because much less money would have been spent making it, partly because of lowered expectation).

So, I challenge anyone who is a fan of the old series, and who may not have enjoyed XF2 when it first came out, refresh yourself on the series on Netflix or DVD and then watch this movie again, but just think of it as an extended episode. I think you'll find you really enjoy it. It won't blow your mind, but you will enjoy it.
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The X Files (1998)
6/10
Not as Good on the Big Screen
3 March 2015
The X-Files movie (or, as it is now called "X-Files: Fight the Future") was a disappointment to me when I saw it in the theatres back in the day, and I had the same reaction watching it on Blu-Ray just today.

It's an OK movie, but it suffers in comparison with the best of the TV episodes. The story isn't as interesting, crazy or scary as many in the series, the pace of the story is much slower (whole film should have been at least 15 minutes shorter), and the banter between the main characters is not as sharp.

And since ALL of this is also true of the later "I Want to Believe" feature film--except even more so-- then the only conclusion I can come to is that Chris Carter should stick to TV. At least as far as X-Files goes. A genius at TV, he just doesn't seem to get what works in movies.

I hope they revive the series with Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in the leads. It would actually make more sense for experienced FBI agents to be in their mid 40s to early 50s, in my opinion. (of course, it helps that Duchovny is still quire handsome and Anderson has gotten even hotter in her mid years). If they do it as a limited series,like House of Cards or American Horror Story, I think it could be a big hit.
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5/10
Great Idea for a Movie
13 January 2015
This is an amazing job for a first feature film by a writer-director who was still in film school. A fine effort by a talented amateur with very little money on hand.

But, seriously, it's not a particularly good film overall. It starts strong--the scenes in the religious country home all ring true. I think that's because this is the part that the writer-director was actually familiar with in real life. Once Racheal gets to Vegas, however, the movie falls apart into random, loosely connected scenes that feature what seems to be very, very poorly improvised dialog. The poor actors just seem to be at a loss as to what they are supposed to be saying or doing. And the effect isn't "natural," it's just the opposite. You are totally aware that these are actors trying to think of what to say and do, not real people who just don't know what to say. Like a bad home movie or a the plot part of a porno. Incongruities abound as Racheal, who was so sheltered that she had never heard pop music, talked on a cell phone, and didn't even know what a tape recorder was all the sudden starts tossing around terms she would never have heard before like "rock and roll" and "cell phone." And the revelatory scene (can't tell you what it is)is implausible beyond belief. It, and many other parts of the Vegas section, was an interesting idea that the filmmaker apparently just didn't have time to work out in a way that worked.

The acting was pretty good, when dialog was scripted. Billy Zane as the religious nut dad was smooth and professional, but seemed way too nice and reasonable to be the relative heavy of the piece; a hint of darkness in dad would have made the whole movie a bit better. The woman who played the mom was very good too, in a limited role.

The guy who played Racheal's newly found boy friend was easily the most accomplished young performer in the movie, even handling his part in the pointless, rambling Vegas scenes as though he actually knew what was going on (I don't think anyone else did).

But I have to say that, when they were given written dialog, the other young performers were for the most part very appealing. The girl who played Racheal was quite charming. She drifted from sheltered religious cult girl to valley girl without warning, but she was very expressive and had a good presence.

But overall, what we have is a very good 20 minute short film about a girl in an isolated Mormon cult who discovers rock and roll. And that is followed by over an hour of what seems like a first draft of a story that the filmmaker hoped would come together as they went along.

And who knows? If she had been afforded the time and resources of even a low budget Hollywood film, maybe she could have brought it together at that. There is obvious talent there!
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Outlander (2014– )
2/10
Tedious, Ponderous, Clichéd, Pretty Series
2 October 2014
"Pretty" is the only positive comment I can think of after having just suffered through the first episode. The Scottish backdrop is gorgeous and the performers are predictably attractive. The plot is an incredibly cliché mix of young adult fantasy and harlequin romance. Now that combo could have worked, but unfortunately that possibility was killed by the poor pacing of the story. The...pace ... is ... GLACIAL. So slow. The first dull hour I watched only had enough story for twenty minutes of film at best. What's even more annoying is that much of the outrageous padding is due to the almost constant narration that stretches out every non-dialog scene. Its tedious and redundant, adding to nothing but the running time. The entire first episode could have easily been edited down to 20 minutes. Zzxxxxxxxxx zzzzzzzzzz
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6/10
charming performances don't quite save it
29 May 2014
D.W. Young's "The Happy House" is a mixed bag. The actors and performances are quite charming and several notches above those found in most super-low budget HD features like this (the female lead is especially effective). It is also well shot and the sound is good.

The story starts as a variation on Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" with some "Tucker and Dale vs Evil" overtones. However, Young's screenplay is all set up and no follow through and degenerates from quirky to sub-par dull about ¾ of the way through. IMDb shows that Young's previous films and videos have been shorts, and the construction of this story bears that out—there's only about 45 minutes of story crammed into this hour and a half.

It's not mentioned on IMDb, but I'd bet that the majority of Young's experience is in live theatre and not film. I say this because he obviously has a talent for working with actors and getting the best out of them—this is an area where low budget films are usually at their weakest, but it is HH's greatest strength. Young also seems uncomfortable with film editing, which makes much of the movie seem like an adapted stage play. He prefers very long, static shots, as though the camera was set up at the edge of a stage and just left to run while the actors stand or sit in one spot and talk. While this does often show off the skills of the actors-- who interact in these dialog-heavy sequences with a rhythm and naturalness that rarely rings false— it doesn't allow the protracted scenes to be edited for pace and is undeniably boring from a visual standpoint. And when young does employ standard editing—over the shoulder shots or povs—they are clumsily handled, as if he didn't really want to insert them, but felt he had no choice. Also, when locations shift between sequences, the screen simply fades to black and then back up again, like a curtain falling and rising. However this technique seems less like a stylistic choice and more like an "I'm doing it this way because I don't know another way to get from here to there."

Anyway, I don't want to sound like I'm ragging on the film. Young does many, many things right. As I said before, he gets very good performances out of his actors (and we all know that horrible acting is usually a low budget film's major weakness).

This movie was just a third of a screenplay and one professional editor away from being a classic indie comedy-horror flick along the lines of Ti West's "The Innkeepers." I look forward to more from all the folks involved in "The Happy House."
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Parker (2013)
6/10
Good action, 20 minutes too long
30 December 2013
This would have been a much better action-crime drama if it had been 20 minutes shorter. No crime action flick needs to top an hour and forty minutes. This one had loooooong stretches of nothing going on. And I don't mean just "not action." I mean, there were sequences full of cars pulling into driveways, people prepping for future events in uninteresting ways, repetitive dialog--just wasted storytelling time, etc. Stuff that should've been left on the cutting room floor. Did Hackford not use an editor?

Also, why did they waste Jennifer Lopez in the female lead? The way they used her, that part could've been played by any competent Hollywood actress who was good looking and the right age. Lopez was natural in the part, and very good looking, of course. But she was given practically nothing to do. Come on! If you're going to cast J Lo, make her character interesting. And bring her in earlier! And while you're at it give her some personality other than being attractive. They should have either hired a lesser actress and made the part much smaller, or written a decent part for Lopez and beefed her part up. As it is, I kept asking myself-- why is Jennifer Lopez in this at all?

Bad screenplay and weak editing.
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5/10
Good Concept, Some Good Jokes, But Not Really a Movie.
24 June 2013
This is the End plays less like a real movie and more like the longest video ever featured on Funny or Die. Imagine if Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd had played themselves in Ghostbusters, add in a TON of dick jokes, toss in the inspired Danny McBride, remove virtually all plot, reduce the maturity and intellectual levels of the all-male thirty-something cast to that of 15 year old virgins--and you've got this movie.

There are a lot of good ideas here, but this is strictly first draft stuff. Rogan and company should have worked with a REAL screenwriter who could give the movie a real story and help to flesh the characters out a bit (I mean, are we really to believe that not ONE of these successful GROWN UP male comic actors has a wife or girlfriend? That THEIR ONLY relationships are with each other, like they are all 15?). This is the rare occasion when at least SOME studio intervention would have helped, as Rogan is apparently too inexperienced a story teller to know what to keep and what to toss.

The middle sags especially, with one disconnected, overlong improvisation after another doing little more than filling time. Only Danny McBride really excels at this type of thing, and he's kind of the "Richard Pryor in Silver Streak" element in this--not really the star, but easily the most memorable player).

The offhand comments by Rogan and Craig Robinson are funny, but are better used to complement actual dialog, not replace it. And the over-reliance on this kind of dick-joke mumblecore is what almost kills the movie.

But if you're a huge fan of even half of these guys, the movie is worth it. I watched many a bad flick back in the old days just because it starred John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Cheech and Chong or one of the Monty Python gang. But this should have really gone the direct-to-video fans only route.
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Hexed (1993)
7/10
I saw them shooting this one in Fort Worth.
15 March 2013
I was working in downtown Fort Worth when they were filming this. I was working in a nearby office building and we could see them shooting part at the end when Gross sees Hexina's eyes in his rear view mirror, but it's really just a poster on a city bus, and then he wrecks the car (well, they were shooting the car/bus part--I assume the close ups were shot separately). They did that all day. They were still out there the next day. I was just working temp, so I took off to check out the shoot (don't worry, I didn't claim the hours). I watched them filming the ending scene, after the bus incident that wrecked the car. They wrecked the car a couple of more times, but it didn't look wrecked enough for the director, Spencer, so he had some guys smack it with a bat (I think it was a bat, maybe a hammer?). Then they filmed the last scene where the dude jumps out of the wrecked car and attacks Arye Gross. Over and over again. The actor was improving it each time, egged on by the director. Then the camera, which was on a crane, craned up to the big billboard. Once Spencer got what he wanted (or close to it, I guess) he put his hands up in the air and the crew cheered. At the time I didn't know it was the last scene of the movie. Perhaps they filmed the movie in sequence and that shot wrapped it. I remember that director Spencer seemed to be a naturally funny guy; he was kind of performing for the crew and small crowd, I think. It was a fun intro into how movies were actually made. I saw the movie during it's kind of limited theatrical release and was a bit disappointed. (maybe I saw a preview). I remember thinking at the time that watching the director make the movie was funnier than the actual movie was. But I just re-watched it and liked it a lot better. I read that the studio downgraded this movie from a major production budget and schedule to very low budget just a month before they shot it, so it's really pretty amazing Spencer got it done at all. Probably would have been really great if he'd been able to do it as planned.

Is there anyone else out there who saw the shoot in FTW, or perhaps acted in the film or was an extra? What are your memories?
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7/10
Classic late-Chan, today!
7 February 2013
This is a classic late-period style Jackie Chan Chinese action-adventure. Not quite as good as the Operation Condor/Armour of God movies it's supposed to be a sequel to (nor as good as Supercop/Police Story films) but every bit as good as The Accidental Spy, Who Am I?, and The Myth. And I thought all of those were quite enjoyable.

This movie shares all the great features and all of the flaws of Chan's self produced and/or directed films. They have a great sense of humor and the stunt/action sequences are quite inventive. But they are also quite cartoony--the acting is VERY broad--and there's quite a bit in it that defies any common sense. But who really cares, right? This is Chan unfiltered.

The only REAL flaw to the film is the clumsy way Chan keeps inserting his moral messages. He has characters tell us what's right and wrong in very stilted dialog instead of creating situations that demonstrate his points. (not to mention that a few of his morals seem to have been government imposed--"we are not to interfere with the social structure in any way" a protest leader incongruously says as Chan nods wisely and says "That's right!") But I think this will make a fine home video release for the US audience, once they edit out some of the more China-centric chit chat, re-dub the dialog (or at least all the English, which is horribly spoken by the international cast) and replace a couple of oddly inappropriate pop tunes).

I'll be buying it for my JC collection!
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5/10
Great setup, lame payoff
8 October 2012
"The Innkeepers" has a great, if overlong, set up. The characters are engaging and are well played by very talented actors--especially Sarah Paxton. The film is almost a comedy, but there is also a well-constructed sense of suspense. Unfortunately, both the affection that the filmmaker Ti West is able to make us feel for the characters and the slow-boil suspense that he builds are wasted on an extremely pedestrian climax. I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say that no one can blame the obviously clever Mr.West of getting "too clever" with his film's conclusion. I can't help but say that if West had come up with a better ending "The Innkeepers" would have been a classic. As it is, though, you can have fun with this movie if you go into the attitude that the journey is more important than the destination (it's not really more important, but that's the attitude you'll have to have not to feel ripped off).
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4/10
Well made, but I don't get it
17 August 2012
First, let me say that, technically, this was a very well-made film. It is amazing to me that a first time filmmaker could create something this professional with only $50k. It looked and sounded like a real movie, and the acting ranged from OK (as in the lead actress/director/writer) to excellent (Jemima Kirke as the wacky friend). An excellent effort for a first timer.

So, with that caveat out of the way, let me say this: I just don't like films about spoiled, whiny, wealthy white kids who can't figure out what to do after college. It's a world I (a) don't "get" and (b) don't care to "get." I mean, maybe the pointlessness of that kind of life was the point of the film—but I can't honestly say for sure because the movie seems to be as listless as its main character. There are a few funny moments (all from Ms. Kirke), but there's also an awful lot of staring into space.
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Mystery Team (2009)
7/10
Fun Indie Comedy Missing Only One Thing
22 February 2012
I enjoyed the ultra-low budget "Mystery Team" a whole lot, just like I enjoyed the equally low budget comedy "The Foot Fist Way." The concept is a great one--three grown men who used to be a locally famous mystery solving team when they were kids (like Mystery Incorporated or the Hardy Boys) but who never grew out of it. The jokes and the story are funny, but the premise isn't set up early enough in the story. It seems to me like a whole opening segment is missing--one that showed the Mystery Team as children solving at least one kiddie mystery and becoming famous for it. The refer to this history quite frequently, but it's never explicitly shown or explained. If you didn't already know (by reading a synopsis or the box) then you might be a bit lost the first half hour or so.

But still, a pretty amazing job for a zero-budget comedy.

UPDATE: I just watched the DVD with the commentary and learned that just such an opening sequence as I described above was filmed--one that showed the Mystery Team as kids, wearing the same clothes and everything. The Derrik people explained that "it just didn't work." Now I'm even more disappointed! It's even worse that this CRUCIAL SEQUENCE did indeed exist, and they actually edited it out! That's right--they purposely edited out the set-up to the high-concept joke that is the basis for the entire story! It's tantamount to editing out the first 30 minutes of "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" because you don't think it's all that important to show the audience that he was a wacky guy who time traveled from the sixties. (he's still funny, right?)

Mystery Team would have made TWICE as much money ($10k?) if they had included the set up to their hour and a half joke. Coulda been a "10" instead of a "7." What an f up!
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The Artist (I) (2011)
5/10
I Don't Understand the Universal Praise
30 January 2012
I really don't get it. My wife and I went to see The Artist this past Saturday and I was left with an overwhelming feeling of "meh." Which is really surprising, given the almost universal, glowing praise this film has been getting--what with Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations, etc (not to mention all the 10-star reviews here on IMDb).

I just didn't see anything special here. I mean, they filmmakers did a fairly good job of recreating a silent film, but they didn't take it any further than that. The plot, acting, etc, was no better or worse than a real silent film. I've seen many much, much better silent films on TCM's Silent Sundays each weekend. Those who are gushing over this movie have apparently not seen very many real silent films from the 20s. If they had, I think they'd have found this film kind of a "been there, seen that" kind of experience as I did. Or maybe this Artist-Praise-Hysteria is mostly the result of folks desperately wanting to jump onto the bandwagon of the newest "cool" thing.

The thing that bothered me most (besides the stretches of tedium) was that the cinematography was distractingly flat and gray--there were no real blacks and no real whites. I understand from articles I've read that this low-contrast, glowy B&W was intentional. But I didn't like it. Just looked like it was poorly shot with a bad video camera with the contrast turned all the way down. (this wasn't helped by the fact that the theatre I saw it in now presents all their "films" via digital projection--a process that, in my opinion, has NOT been perfected yet and is still too "low res" for cinema).

All in all, "The Artist" should be nothing more than a minor, vaguely interesting experiment that would have had a better home on video. How it has become an indie sensation with Oscar nominations is a totally mysterious to me. Wonder how much money it took to convince us all that is was a masterpiece?
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Pink Lady (1980– )
Awesome Show--Wish There Were 100 Episodes
18 September 2011
First, let me be very clear: "Pink Lady" was not a good variety show. It was a pretty horrible one most of the time. BUT it WAS at the same time a truly awesome show. The 70s also gave us variety shows from Donnie and Marie, the Mandrell Sisters, Captain and Tennile and many, many others. All of them sucked--lame comedy, bad music, horrible production values. That was the standard in the 70s--especially from producers Sid and Marty Kroft. "Pink Lady (and Jeff)" rises above all these by being just plain weird. Casting two unknown Japanese pop stars along with a homegrown but not really any better known comedian was so stupid a thing to do that it bordered on genius. In other words no one in their right mind would have thought of it. The result 30 years later is a great 1980 time capsule of the clash between American Crap-Lame culture and the rising Japanese pop culture that you're not going to see anywhere else. Lots of jokes are made at the girl's expense--especially by semi-regular Sid Caesar, who does a recurring samurai bit that makes John Belushi's old SNL routine look PC by comparison. But the Pink Ladies get their digs in as well, making fun of Altman's non-celeb status, height, and lack of manliness. And its even funnier when you can tell that they have very little idea what they're even saying.

The culture clash plus the language barrier plus the really poor taste plus the ultra lameness of the comedy bits, mixed in with the super-peppy, semi-sexy disco performances (in English and Japanese) by the perky, super happy Pink Lady makes for a late 70s Variety Show parody you could not make up today. It is a time capsule of stupid fun that makes me nostalgic for the days when "crap TV" was good natured goofiness instead of "reality" show meanness.

Screw the 21st century! BRING BACK PINK LADY AND JEFF!
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4/10
Is this a lost Troma film?
12 July 2011
This seemed just like a Troma film to me--over the top nonsensical wackiness combined with over the top cruelty and violence. The only real difference here is the presence of Rutger Hauer. Hauer has such a command of the screen that he seems to be spliced in from an entirely different movie than the rest of the actors. He only has a couple of scenes with any real dialog, but they are clear standouts--mini nutjob soliloquies that wouldn't have been out of place in an art-house film. But Rutger aside this is pretty much just a dumb, gross-out fest for drunken college kids to hoot an holler to, like The Toxic Avenger was a generation ago. In other words: I'm too old for this sh**.
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