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Grizzly Man (2005)
9/10
A bizarre dichotomy...
24 July 2006
Is the man Timothy Treadwell, and a fascinating subject for a movie. Although 'Grizzly Man' features bears, foxes and other animals in amazing wildlife footage, you find that it turns out to be more about Timothy than his self-styled peers. Going beyond that, it's more about all of us.

I get the feeling most people, on viewing this film, would have one of two reactions - perhaps depending on your politics or world-view. One is, "What a brave/noble man!", for standing up for what he believed in so strongly, even unto death. The other is, "What an impossibly stupid man!", for ignoring and taunting the dangers he knew so well in his head. The strange thing is, I can see both viewpoints - and it reminds me of how my own ideals don't mesh with reality. He's more like us than most of us will admit, just to an extreme.

Treadwell fashioned himself as a preservationist, standing up for the bears who could not speak for themselves. He did teach many children and others about their plight, which is undoubtedly helpful. Problem is, most of the bears he 'protected' were in national parks and not in much danger from humans, aside from necessary and controlled huntings. He became more of a Don Quixote figure, more tragicomic than effective. Most of the experts in the movie believed he may have done more harm than good.

The bears became his family/friends, or so he thought. I actually thought he had a bit of the right idea early on - if you are going to try to stand up to them, intimidation/confidence would be important. Perhaps the bears sensed that he had that confidence, and that's why he survived so long. Perhaps it's like one of the contributors said, and they thought he was 'brain damaged' and not worth the trouble, or perhaps he got lucky. Probably a combination.

And I find that combination is something of a parallel to our coexisting/struggling with nature, something most environmentalists don't acknowledge. Nature is beautiful, but harsh. You only see the bleakness and pain, and you'll miss the wonders there, like the awesome foxes that befriend Timothy. At the same time, to romanticize it is to do a disservice to truth. No matter how much Treadwell loved that bear, it remained hungry, and he was a convenient food. Keeping the balance in your thinking is the key, and the difficulty.
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9/10
It's no Crouching Tiger...and that's a good thing
3 November 2001
My subject line about sums up my feeling for this movie...and that guy who had the 'artsy crap' quote below hit the nail on the head also. CTHD was amazing, but its rather mundane plot was stretched out and drawn out so much that much of the energy was lost, leaving a movie tending to wallow in its own pretentiousness. Iron Monkey, however, doesn't know the meaning of the word pretentious. It does know the meaning of kung-fu.

That kung fu has a long line of greatness and cheeziness before it in many Hong Kong actioners, one that Iron Monkey stands proudly with. Yes, the action is amazing, but more what caught me off guard is the humor, like the 'cleansing the palate' scene...it's all built up perfectly. Its robin-hood-esqe storyline is pared down to the basics, but still comes across clearly and somewhat freshly.

Anyhoo, it all comes down to the kung fu. If you watch it for the plot alone you may be disappointed, but as a whole it's one of the best I've ever seen. As the kid said, in a line repeated in most of these movies, "My kung-fu is very powerful!"
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2/10
Incredible...but not in a good way
9 August 2001
Oh, come on. You didn't actually expect this movie to be good, did you? It's about a game with too many characters, unwieldy fighting mechanics, and a 'plot' that is simply an excuse for the characters to beat up on each other. So, in other words, MK: Annihilation is a perfect adaptation of MK3:Ultimate Turbo Spaz Fighting or whatever the final sequel of that one they came out with was.

Don't try to follow the storyline. As far as I could tell, these 3-5 people who seem to be the main good guys (Rayden, Liu Kang, Sonya, Jax, Kitana) walk around randomly and fight random people, for little to no reason at all. They're supposed to be building up an army and building their skills or something, but that never happens. In fact, Liu Kang just magically gets his skillz back before fighting Mr. Evil Man for no reason also-after having spent most of the film getting beat up by everyone and their second cousin. I think even I could have a good chance of giving this yutz a beatdown, as directed.

Don't try to follow all the characters. MK:A tries to force in EVERY SINGLE OBSCURE CHARACTER that's ever been in these games, which I guess may be good if you're initiated. Otherwise, you won't give a Motaro's tail about anyone. I suppose even Boon Saibot was in there somewhere-and Stryker (the dopey-cop who only I ever played in the game) even gets a mention. You'll just throw up your hands in the first 15 minutes, and give up on these people.

Don't count on the effects or the fighting to save you either, because both are woefully poor. Your best bet for entertainment is to try to count the plot holes. I myself lost track. They build characters and points up, never to use them again. Oh well. It's a great bad movie night flick, but don't expect any more. It could probably be a great drinking game, too. Take a shot whenever a new character is brought in, and if you're not wasted by the end, well, you probably turned it off already.
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Mazes and Monsters (1982 TV Movie)
2/10
Blurs the line between fantasy and stupidity
9 August 2001
I didn't even know this was originally a made-for-tv movie when I saw it, but I guessed it through the running time. It has the same washed-out colors, bland characters, and horrible synthesized music that I remember from the 80's, plus a 'social platform' that practically screams "Afterschool special". Anyhoo.

Rona Jaffe's (thank you) Mazes and Monsters was made in the heyday of Dungeons & Dragons, a pen-and-paper RPG that took the hearts of millions of geeks around America. I count myself one of said geeks, tho I have never played D&D specifically I have dabbled in one of its brethren. M&M was also made in the heyday of D&D's major controversy-that it was so engrossing that people could lose touch with reality, be worshiping Satan without knowing, blah blah. I suppose it was a legitimate concern at one point, if extremely rare-but it dates this movie horrendously.

We meet 4 young college students, who play the aptly named Mazes and Monsters, to socialize and have a little time away from mundane life. Except that M&M as presented is more boring than their mundane lives. None of the allure of gaming is presented here-and Jay Jay's request to take M&M into 'the real world' comes out of nowhere. It's just an excuse to make one of the characters go crazy out of nowhere also-though at that point we don't really care. Jay Jay, Robbie, Kate and Daniel are supposed to be different-but they're all rich WASPy prigs who have problems no one really has.

But things just continue, getting worse in more ways than one. The low budget comes dreadfully clear, (I love the 'Entrance' sign and cardboard cutout to the forbidden caverns) Robbie/Pardu shows why he's not a warrior in the oafiest stabbing scene ever, and the payoff atop the 'Two Towers' is unintentionally hilarious. Tom Hanks' blubbering "Jay Jay, what am I doing here?" made me laugh for minutes on end. Definitely the low point in his career.

Don't look at it as a cogent satire, just a laughable piece of 80's TV trash, and you'll still have a good time. That is, if you can stay awake. The majority is mostly boring, but it's all worthwhile for Pardu's breakdown at the end. At least Tom Hanks has gotten better. Not that he could go much worse from here.
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9/10
Love is Dangerous
21 July 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Oh wow. This movie...I'm not certain how coherent my review of it's going to be, because this was a maddening film to watch. I loved most of it-it set up a believable world, where the relationships between man and machine/God and man are paralleled brilliantly. And the questions it forces one to ask out of that are not easily answered, as I also enjoy. Do we really want that kind of power-to be able to grant something that close to the yearning of real life, without giving that life the ability to adapt or let go? And what does that say about our own existence-if we someday find that we, like David, are not as unique as we once had thought?

It was the questions about Love that really had me reeling, however. Can it really be manufactured/implanted like that? Are the feelings and pleasures of Love worth its dear, great cost? And is that kind of love perhaps even greater than our own-because it does not give up, does not let go, past what it knows is realistic. I can't even explain most of what this film put into my head, but suffice it to say it is mind-boggling for the most part.

The ending, however-I don't want to give away spoilers, and I know the creatures in question are meant to be mechas, not CE3K aliens, but it still is too pat, too easy. It attempts to put a semi-happy closure to what should not be a happy ending for David. They had a couple of earlier parts where they could have ended it and it would have been perfect-you'll see what I mean when you see it.

Thought-provoking, brutal, pretentious (in a somewhat good way), artistic, beautiful-all words came to my mind throughout the running time. See it for yourself, and see better what I mean. Not everything comes out well in words.

P.S. I agree with that reviewer who was wondering where the Religious Right was in picketing this movie-it has more mocking of religion and God in general than the whole of Dogma, or Monty Python's Life of Brian. I suppose that since this is sci-fi, it went off people's spiritual radars. Well, forget that-if you have faith, you need to see this movie, to see some of the upcoming thought about God. It is a deeply spiritual movie-just watch out for it in some of those 'throwaway' lines by Gigolo Joe and such.
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8/10
Flying Wombat, Spitting Llama, Dancing Walrus...or something like that
12 May 2001
This movie's gotten some pretty amazingly glowing reviews lately, some of which I suppose are earned. I'm sure there's artistic beauty in some of the scenes for those looking for it, and fight choreography (by that Matrix guy) is of course superb and amazing. It's by no means a very bad movie. I just have trouble believing that all the people praising Crouching Tiger... really understood it correctly. I'm just wondering because I consider myself a semi-literate moviegoer, and I don't think I understood it to the full extent. I'll just tell you what I came away with.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (and I have the director's quotes to back me up on this one) is basically a glorified kung-fu-theatre flick. That means you should expect some conventions, which I believe CTHD adheres to pretty soundly. One is unrealistic, cheezy fight scenes. Oh sure, people trump it up in all ways like "they're let loose of the bounds of gravity" and what not, but ask yourself, the first time you saw those people just take off and fly like it was an everyday occurrence, did you not say to yourself, "What the heck?" Kung-fu-flicks have wacky fighting, so does CTHD. Two is a meandering plot, that mostly exists only as filler in between said cheezy fight scenes. Anyone who says CT's plot is clear and fresh is lying. It's a simple idea, told in a roundabout way, with some heaping melodrama thrown in for the ladies, I suppose. Ah, that's not giving the ladies enough credit-that stuff's mostly too thick to convey much real emotion, and they'll see that. But that's not really the point either.

What makes CTHD more of a homage than a rip-off of kung-fu is the spirit of the thing, that Ang Lee gets pretty well. However, to the uninitiated, I'd think most people would have more of a "What the heck" reaction than all the unadulterated praise. I will not give unadulterated praise here. I like it okay, it's just somewhat of a disconcerting movie, so I'd urge any wonderers to be aware of this. Kung-fu fans will have an easier adjustment.

Side note: Ebert says he'd talked with Lee about the choreography and how it was done, and the only primary special effects were some computer work to remove the wires the actors used. They're all really doing those stunts, folks. Even if the story gives you pause, it's worth a gander just to gawk at the finesse and skill on display here.
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9/10
A dry, clever, wacky groove. Recommended.
11 May 2001
I had heard that Disney was trying something a bit different with this picture, and knew from Kuzco's "Bring it on." waterfall line in the preview that I'd probably like this form of different. This is the first Disney pic in awhile that doesn't really take itself seriously at all, and it flourishes as a result.

There's a plot, but it's not such a big deal as in most Disney fare. Jerkish emperor receives his comeuppance and learns a lesson, yada-yada. The fun's more in the telling, as given here. The change of heart doesn't come so terribly quickly as to be disconcerting, and feels somewhat earned through the chaos that ensues. And chaos it is...through a rollercoaster ride of sight gags, verbal wordplay, conventional satire and a semi-talking squirrel.

David Spade lends a biting sarcasm to Kuzco that is rare for "hero-types" in cartoons, and Patrick Warburton really steals the show with his understated and underneuroned Kronk. I came to be waiting for every dry aside out of Kronk's mouth, he's so hilarious. Such a lovely eulogy.

I don't understand why some have said this is boring, as it's a pretty snappy ride. I do understand why some haven't laughed so much-you need a pretty quick and warped mind to catch some of their throwaway lines, which are really some of the funniest. Kids will like the sight gags, but will miss much of the verbal humor. Take it out for a spin, you may be pleasantly surprised. Just, don't diss Kronk's spinach puffs. He's a little sensitive about that, you know.
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Blade Runner (1982)
9/10
See the movie most SF tries to emulate
27 March 2001
No, this movie won't appeal to everyone. Anyone expecting an all-out action fest should probably look elsewhere; this film has a bit of that but the thrills are lugubriously spaced out in the time allotted, save perhaps for the ending. Anyone expecting a general, modern Sci-Fi pic may be disappointed as well, in that things aren't quite as outlandish as you may be used to. Still, this is the seminal SF flick, and it did surprise me that it spaces out the plot not as an actioner, but as a mystery!

We puzzle along with Deckard through the running time of Blade Runner the various themes that are laid in front of us. He's supposed to kill these replicants, but how to find them given they are so close in manner to regular people? And how can he reconcile that morally, since these constructs may, for better or worse, have developed some form of free thought, a soul if you will? If he exterminates them, what will that do to his soul? If AI keeps progressing as it seems wont to, we may be presented ourselves in reality with some of these same questions.

Thus, the amazing sets and feel of BR may be escapist, but the adventure and themes are chillingly down-to-earth. The acting is quite good too-one of Harrison Ford's best, and definitely Rutger Hauer's best. Catch it if you haven't, and think about it if you have.
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Godzilla 2000 (1999)
8/10
Now this is what Godzilla should be...
26 March 2001
Let's all think back to the wonderous year of 1998, shall we? Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the schlock-meisters who brought us the snazzy and brain-dead ID4, give up yet another big-budget hollywood CGI-fest named Godzilla. I go to see it, for some odd reason. I leave lamenting on our American society's belief that we can always do things better. Sure, just add some CG-wait, better make that a LOT of CG, some rip-offs of action movies of the time (cough, Jurassic Park, cough) and a blatant disrespect for the source material, and you have a sure winner, right? Well, it made some money, and was destroyed by critics, but oh well. At least it was better than those cheezy old Japanese pics, right?

Toho obviously thought differently, and brought us Godzilla 2000-a wonderfully-old-school return to the Godzilla we know and love. Yes, it's a guy in a big rubber suit. Yes, he tramples on cardboard buildings. Yes, it is a Japanese film with laughably-sub-par dubbing. So why do I like it better than the big-money one? Because this one is really Godzilla! He doesn't run away from the army, he takes them all on! He doesn't hesitate to let loose with his primal scream or his ATOMIC BREATH! He doesn't have kids! He makes sense in what he chooses to fight, when to defend Tokyo and when to destroy it! He's just plain freakin' awesome!

Okay, so this probably doesn't make much sense unless you've seen the older Godzilla vs. movies. If you have, though, you know what I'm talking about. It's all in the spirit of the thing, and that's all that the Hollywood version laughed at and stomped on. Go rent this, and see how it's supposed to be done, silly dialogue and all. No, it won't give you any new insights into the human condition. But it may restore a bit of your joy with it, and that's worthwhile in my book.
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3/10
Pure unadulterated cheese. 100% Mozzarella, no preservatives.
23 March 2001
Looking for a film that will open your eyes to the world around you, that will engulf you like nothing else? Go watch Princess Mononoke. Looking for a film that will show what fantasy is all about? Go watch Time Bandits. If, however, you are looking for a shameless, plot-hole-ridden, Jeremy-Irons-powered big ol' greasy CGI-fest of a movie, you've got it right here. Yes friends, D&D is just as bad as you think it is, but at least it's quite entertaining.

Um...isn't Jeremy Irons a good actor? What is he smoking here? Your guess is as good as mine, but he hams up most every scene he has with hilarious efficiency. John Steiner (of Sinbad fame) should be proud for the homage, though I think Irons was in on the joke. Thora Birch (the teen-angst chick from American Beauty) doesn't fare near as well, with her amazing cross-pollination of William Shatner with Queen Amidalia. She manages to get the worst aspects of both, while still giving a completely straight delivery-I'd venture to say she's worse than Irons. Oh, the others need some work for sure, but those two are standouts.

The hero guy is passable but imminently forgettable, Marlon Wayans is...surprise, Marlon Wayans, the dwarf is there for the sole reason that he is a dwarf-a tall one at that, and the elf-lady knows entirely too much about the plot. I guess the best actors are really the mage girl, who does a decent job with what she has, and the blue lipstick guy, who would be more credible if not for his makeup job. It's hard to be cowering in fear from a man who looks like he just had his Mary Kay makeover...I'm guessing he's a winter.

But I'm going into too much detail. It's fun, gosh darn it! It has big CGI dragons fighting each other! It has overacting out the gazombus! It has an incomprehensible ending! It's hardly like the paper game or the books! Get your MST3K gang together, and go to town. Now that's entertainment.
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1/10
Super-predictable, super-painful. Avoid at all costs.
14 February 2001
Okay, so I've only seen bits and pieces of the original. It's basically Bad News Bears on Ice, correct? Bunch of losers (underdogs, of course) get better steadily and win the big game, with hijinks to boot? Why would I complain about predictability from such a movie? Shouldn't I predict its predictability? Maybe I'm getting too metaphysical here...okay, I'll calm down. Maybe it's just that this movie very nearly made me physically ill...

I've had about enough of these things. Okay, they don't say how much they spent on it, but it was probably quite a lot. It did make about 23 million USA, so it seems, so it probably did make money. Who saw this? Parents, shame on your kids for letting them see this. No, it's not harmless! It's sap-filled poison, melodrama heaped upon melodrama, 0-dimensional characters in totally unnatural situations. Sigh. I don't know why I'm so angry-it's not going to change anything. I don't even want these people to get the dollar I spent on this rental now. Ah well-make your own choices. I just hate these movies that think they can play people like pianos, just pushing the right buttons. Fight the man. Don't watch this. The man won't notice, but I guess you'd make me happier.
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Bulworth (1998)
9/10
A brave look at politics and racism, with a dopey white guy rapping...
10 February 2001
I'm a fan of satires in general, so I made a rental try out of Bulworth one night. I don't think I'll see it again, but I definitely needed to see it once. It's the same kind of story as the wonderful "Network"...powerful man is released of his inhibitions by his pending desire to do away with his life, and so is released to tell the truth about things. The difference is where "Network" targeted television and media, Bulworth aims for the trickier subjects of race and politics. So this is a political bore-a-thon, right, with more of Beatty's (and Hollywood's) liberal rhetoric? You'd be about a quarter right, but still mostly wrong.

Beatty seems to revel in his uptight white-ness, creating a character cringe-worthy in his rap attempts, yet somehow lovable and sincere in his aims to help the african-americans he's come to know. This makes the film's attempts at racial reconciliation realistically raw (whatever the alliteration) and totally refreshing. You get the feeling that if more politicians who claim to be 'for' their constituents actually understood them like this, politics would be in better shape.

When "Bulworth" decides to take the satirical knife to the ways of politics, its results are more hit-and-miss. The movie tends to be more accurate when it condemns both Democratic and Republican policies, claiming they both miss the point on so many things, as well in its blasting of special interest groups, whose money make the politicians' wheels go round. Beatty's answers ring false, however, with solutions like socialized medicine that won't work either. There's still a good bit of truth to be gleaned here, if with a more careful eye.

My suggestion for watching "Bulworth" is to see it if you either have a penchant for political satire, or a strange desire to see a big white dork in baggy pants pretend he's hip. I found both quite enjoyable, your milage may vary. (Note: the profanity count is pretty darn high, which would normally turn me off, but is applicable in such a movie attempting to portray rap culture. Deal with it if you can, or just don't watch if it gets to you.)
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1/10
What a revolting development
13 November 2000
Okay, first things first. Upon renting or viewing any Hulk Hogan movie, one should never set their sights very high. You have the constants of bad acting, senseless and cartoonish violence, and groan-worthy puns. You can also pretty much expect a super-contrived happy ending. However, even taking these aspects for granted, Santa with Muscles still will leave you stunned. It isn't quite the worst movie I've ever seen (Manos, Hootch County, and Ninja Wars beat it there) but it's definitely down there.

The Hulkster stars as Blake Thorne, a big dumb prig with more money than he knows what to do with, so he spends his days playfully tormenting his house-servants. (The 'Stop and smell the roses!' line is a hoot!) Through a ludicrous turn of events, Blake gets amnesia and is convinced by a jerk named Lenny that he is the real Santa Claus. Hijinks, fistfights and eye-rolling sappiness ensue. Watch for two-count 'em-TWO instances of giant candy canes being used as weapons, a horrible song by Hulk and the little whiny girl, the equally stupid 'Blake's rules' and 'Santa's rules', and what is perhaps the most ridiculous McGuffin I've ever seen-but I'll leave that for you to discover.

I can only recommend Santa with Muscles if you happen to have great patience and a high threshold of pain. I wondered about half-way through, "Has this been over 2 hours yet?"...but despite what you may feel it is only a bit over 1 1/2. Not a very merry way to spend your Christmas.
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7/10
Ambitious, but flawed and ultimately pretentious
9 October 2000
Warning: Spoilers
This movie won best picture?!? Okay, I can understand Kevin Spacey for Best Actor, as he wasn't bad in the movie. But the academy had to be crazy to nominate this for best picture, and - especially crazy - for Annette Bening as Best Actress. Let's start with the movie as a whole, then I'll get to Mrs. Caroline Burnham...

(Mild SPOILERS below...)

It's not a bad idea, though not an original one. Expose the hypocrisies and idiosyncrasies of suburban life, sure. However, the suburban world this paints just does not ring true. The primary reason for this is the simple fact that nearly every character is a stereotype, not someone you might possibly ever meet in real life. The father is the mid-life crisis burnout guy, the wife is the workaholic-obsessive, the daughter is the cynical, disaffected Gen X'er, the neighbor is the militant latent homosexual homophobe...you get the idea. The stock characters turn the whole deal sitcomeque and rather predictable, to the point where I laughed at the movie instead of with it at various parts. Much as I do at B movies, though AB is admittedly technically superior. Some of the writing and performances make me wonder, though...

One of the especially laughable characters is the neighbor's son, who is such a pretentious artiste' that he finds beauty in floating plastic bags. It's meant to be profound and pseudo-spiritual, but ends up being laughably old-hat. It's not such a new idea-Wordsworth and Browning had much the same points, even Solomon if you care to go back that far.

Annette Bening almost rivals Jon Voight of Anaconda fame in her over-the-top performance here...she throws off just about every scene she's in, and it's painfully funny sometimes. I'm not sure if the crazy performance is a result of bad writing or bad acting, so I'm guessing it's a combination. The director should have stopped her sometime. One scene of hers, the one where she's cleaning the house, even reminded me of Creedence's "This is MY houssseee!" line in Troll 2. In case you're wondering, no respectable movie would ever want to be compared to Troll 2.

I suppose I've gone out of the way to accentuate the bad points of this movie, simply because so many say it's so brilliant. It's not, quite simply. I'd merely call it decent, mainly for the fun of watching Kevin Spacey act like a jerk. Definitely undeserving of #5 on the IMDB listing, at the time of this writing. 7/10.
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3/10
Yep, it's bad all right...
3 October 2000
Well, given that the first Dragonheart was no Citizen Kane - heck, it wasn't even an Excalibur in itself - my expectations were low for this movie. And those expectations were met in full. Dragonheart: ANB builds on the contrivances of the first and offers its own; now there's a new semi-evil ruler guy (you'll love his beginning speech decreeing that citizens must always speak the truth), a new convenient dragon (whose 'ice lung' ability is just a little too powerful) and a wimpy hero who learns to deal between the two, sort of.

One of the more humorous things about ANB is its unnatural PG rating, which means swordfights and such must be bloodless. It makes many of the fight scenes more laughable than they are naturally, which is considerable already. And it gives no particular creedence to the inevitable dragon-heart-changing-sequence, which you know must be coming - you just don't quite know where. Sigh. I shouldn't waste much more time on this. It's a fun dumb movie, but don't expect much more from it. At least they didn't contrive a romance between the hero and the 'foreigner' bodyguard, who is quite clearly female but at whom every character seems surprised to discover this fact.
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Mars Attacks! (1996)
8/10
It's not unusual...
11 September 2000
If I could, I'd like to start with a rather interesting comparison I noticed. IMDB (which I suppose simply recommends similar movies based on their broad themes) suggested 'Independence Day' if the viewer likes this movie. Which I find rather ironic, considering the two movies could hardly be more different. Oh sure, the plots are similar (aliens invade, good ol' USA has to find a way to defeat them) but the tones are worlds apart. Where ID4 wallows in its annoying, cloying patriotism, Mars Attacks! sends it up brilliantly.

Tim Burton's movies are almost uniformly strange in some regard, and MA does not disappoint here. What other director would gather so many big hollywood stars, only to kill most all of them off in one way or another? It's hilarious fun, depending on how warped your sense of humor is. Here's a guideline: if you couldn't stop laughing at Lancelot's violent crusade into the Swamp Castle in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', then buy this movie. You will treasure it forever. Otherwise, you will probably hate it. The aliens playfully destroy things in the most deranged ways-or nonsensical, if it's not your thing.

And hey, how can you not like a movie with Tom Jones in it! Especially where he becomes a hero...along with the most banal characters the story has to offer. Maybe this is some of Burton's social commentary...but maybe that's thinking too deeply. This is either a movie you love or loathe, in summary. Guess which side I'm on :-)
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1/10
Was this movie supposed to be this funny?
31 July 2000
Oh boy, I just had the time of my life watching Battlefield Earth tonight, but I don't believe it was for the reasons the filmmakers intended. This is the single funniest movie I've seen all year, and I am still somewhat in shock that someone, anyone involved in this 70-million dollar-plus travesty didn't stop and say, "Is all this really wise?" I'm somewhat glad they didn't, don't get me wrong, but oh my lord where to begin...

The plot? You really want to know? Okay, it's 1000 years into the future, and earth hasn't changed all that much. Except for the fact that humanity, and much of the known galaxy, it would seem, has been mostly wiped out and subjugated by the Psychlos. Who are the Psychlos? They're dreadlocked, platform-shoed, Klingonesqe morons, to put it succinctly. These are, quite honestly, the stupidest aliens I have ever seen on film, and that includes the hapless Stormtroopers as well as those Independence Day dolts. However, these aliens don't just shoot badly-they blather on about 'the corporation' and 'leverage' like 8-year-olds made vice-presidents for a day. You will not believe their petty bickering until you hear it, and I'm still not sure I believe it. Someone actually had to write this.

Oh yes, there's still some humans on Earth too, though they're not a whole lot smarter than the Psychlos. They mainly only succeed through deus ex machina plot contrivances (Fighter jets and weaponry stationed at Fort Hood still work after 1000 years of neglect? They can just waltz on into Fort Knox too? What the HECK?!?) and the blundering vapidity of the vaunted Psychlo 'Chief of Security', yes, our very own John Travolta! For such a self-aggrandizing vanity picture as this movie seems to be, Travolta really doesn't come out looking very good. He makes possible nearly every step in the human's revolt, supplementing it all with the worst dialogue imaginable, and diabolical laughter over every tired joke the audience will see coming from a mile away. To go along with the stupidest alien race, he's just about the worst evil villain I've ever seen too. Only just about though.

If you have even a shred of scientific knowledge, you can rip apart most all of this movie, so just go to town. Oh, and don't get me started on the rip-offs of The Matrix, which was a rip-off of other sci-fi in and of itself, so that's just doubly lame. Well, to sum up, if you like bad movies, you'll love this one. If you don't...um, don't touch this one with a ten-foot ugly stick.

Oh, and "Piece of cake. Piece of cake." is now my new catch phrase for however long till I get bored of it. Just thought you'd like to know. Nice that idioms survive the coming apocalypse as well as thermonuclear bombs and library books.
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Time Bandits (1981)
9/10
Masterful fantasy, in the purest form
27 July 2000
Finding Terry Gilliam's "Time Bandits" in the bargain bin at the local movie store was too good a deal for me to pass up, and I'm so glad I didn't! This movie is probably one of the greatest modern-day fantasies I've seen, due primarily to the amazing vision of Gilliam. I was disappointed with it on my first viewing years ago, expecting a rehash of Monty Python material, but yesterday watching it I just couldn't stop grinning. This movie knows its sources, and sends them up right.

For starters, I love how Gilliam handled the boy 'hero' in "Bandits". He's not anyone spectacular, aside from an active imagination (over and above his banal parents), and he really doesn't contribute much to the story-it simply passes him by. Most of the other characters don't like him that much even. (the "stinking Kevin" line just makes me howl!) He's also not that cute, which is a rarity with child actors and which sinks most films with them. Plus, the danger of the story doesn't stop at him, as shown by the rather sobering finale. No 'It's all a dream' type cop-out here. Having studied the form of the fantasy as explained by Tolkien myself, Gilliam obviously understands how it works.

Of course, because it works, "Time Bandits" is just plain fun. The plot's out of nowhere-just kind of trips along through time and space and stranger things. Napoleon as a height-obsessed drunkard? Robin Hood as the aloof, unlikely leader of a band of violent, too-merry men? Agamemnon as the ideal father figure? It's all here, plus the technocratic, pyromaniac "Evil" vs. the Supreme Being. Ah, you always knew He was an staid Englishman in a pinstripe suit, didn't you? ("Dead? No excuse for laying off work.")

Perhaps it's not Gilliam's masterpiece, as "Brazil" could be argued for that...though one could also argue "Time Bandits" gives a bleaker perspective through the contrast of the fun and whimsy. If our reality is depressing now, and Kevin's was, is the fulfillment of our fantasies any better? Perhaps Randall said it best himself - "Heroes, bah! What do they know about an honest day's work?" :-)
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Fight Club (1999)
8/10
It's either incredibly intelligent, or incredibly stupid.
19 June 2000
Warning: Spoilers
After watching this film, and beginning to puzzle over just what the heck I'd seen, the above came to be my conclusion. This film has a lot to say-and it is, for the most part, a scathing and accurate critique on our materialistic society. The narrator has a void in his life, that he finds he can't fill with more things. However, the movie steadily gets more chaotic, perhaps on purpose, as he begins to fill that void with self-destruction/anarchy instead. It's scary, and it's supposed to be, so I did not fault the movie on this. I don't mind a movie not coming to a clear plan of action after its running time. Complex social directives are not going to be spanned/solved in 2 hours+, and this particular one is no exception.

Perhaps my biggest problem with the film was that confusion resulting from the anarchy, however. It's like the movie wanted it both ways-it wanted to rail against the chaos and mindlessness of Tyler's Fight Club, and the resulting "Project Mayhem", but still offering such a bleak world that that chaos may be the only way out. It's the same unnaturally hopeless feeling I get from Hardy's "Jude the Obscure", though that may be an unfair comparison. Then again, Hardy may have enjoyed this movie, who knows...

I can't finish this review without commenting on the *surprise* ending, though a responsible covering of said ending would involve spoilers, so I'll be vague. Suffice it to say that it's somewhat of a copout, and makes much of the rest of the movie make even less sense than it did before. It creates plot holes where there shouldn't be. Maybe it worked better in the novel, but I don't know. In closing, I'll just say that whatever you think about this movie, you'll probably break the first two rules of Fight Club over it. And in this idea-starved climate, maybe that makes it worthwhile watching on its own.
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10/10
Wonderful, amazing movie
3 June 2000
I'm pretty stingy about giving out my 10's on this site, but this movie did get one of them. It's quite simply that good. Anyone who misses out on it because it looks like a kiddie cartoon is sadly mistaken, as it features better characters and a more heartfelt story than most any other hollywood movie. You'll care more about the Giant in the end than any cookie-cutter stereotype in that "realistic" movie you were thinking about seeing.

The parallels to E.T. in the storyline are undeniable, but this film has a philosophical twang to it that in my opinion gives it the edge. The joy of childhood, the realities of death, the possibility of afterlife, the numbing effects of paranoia-no other film deals with such difficult subjects, and is fun to boot! Watch it with your kids, or someone you care about. You'll like it, I think.
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Dogma (1999)
9/10
No, I'm not the director/writer/star...
3 June 2000
Actually, this is the first Kevin Smith film I've ever seen-and I quite enjoyed it. Sure, some have remarked on the sloppy direction, but Smith self-admittedly is a better writer than director, and I thought things went fine. The plot is fresh, the dialogue fresh (if more than a bit profane) and the characters are wacky as all get out. Plus, it's pretty funny.

I thought the Film Geek's review was dead-on when he said this was the best religious satire since Monty Python's Life of Brian, as the films have quite a bit in common. Both take religion seriously enough that they're stable enough to joke about its foibles-and I appreciate that. Good satire has its basis in truth, and desires to bring about change, and Dogma definitely accomplishes this. I especially appreciate how earnestly it deals with the difficulty people have with relating to God. Why do his plans so little coincide with our own? Does knowing things are 'in his plan' make hardship any better? And Metatron's exposition on having to tell Jesus what was in store for him is profound, and thought-provoking. It's strange that all this works, along with a demon made out of excrement working into there somewhere...

Many reviewers have said that the Catholic League is insane for boycotting this movie, as you will rarely find a greater proclamation of faith in film. I'd have to agree. The only reason you might want to boycott this is if your faith is so small that you cannot question what you believe for fear it might disappear, or if you're prudish enough to dismiss it on the language and themes-which are admittedly juvenile in parts, but understandable. Dogma's not perfect-but it is very good, and I do recommend it.
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10/10
Beautiful. Absolutely Beautiful.
3 June 2000
I had heard so much about this movie that I traveled an hour and a half to Dallas with my friend to see it in the theater, and I can honestly say that it was a 5 hours well spent. Hayao Miyazaki has created a true work of art in this film, and its questions will stay with you long after its viewing. Please do not dismiss its power on the basis of it being Japanese animation, long a realm merely championed of geeks and fanboys...

This world is so completely realized that it gave me goosebumps on occasion. The plot cannot be summarised in a mere blurb-it involves an ancient curse, demons and forest spirits, society and modernization, greed and sacrifice. And that's leaving a heck of a lot out. I especially like that the evil is so hard to define, kinda like real life, eh? Who are you gonna side with? The forest protectors are violent and cruel, but what they defend is surely worth defending in such drastic means. Irontown may be destroying the land thus, but those people have to work somehow, and Lady Eboshi's motives are humanitarian therein. These are some of the conflicts the hero has to puzzle through, and you may find along with him that there is no clear answer.

In short, I recommend this movie highly, to anyone who enjoys film that makes you think. Sure, there's action, quite a bit of it too intense for children, but it's never wanton. 10/10, and a huge thank you to Miyazaki and his animators for this beautiful vision brought to life. Oh, and the American voice acting's not bad at all either.
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1/10
Repulsive, bizzare, and worst of all, boring.
3 June 2000
I can't do enough to dissuade anyone from seeing this movie. Oh yes, it's bad. Evil bad. And I've seen plenty of bad movies. This one's even worse than Hootch County Boys-and that's bad. You want to know how bad?

Okay. The plot involves this guy who wants to seduce a high-up lady in society, so he needs this aphrodesiac-making kettle thingy, but he also for some reason switches the heads on these two other girls...see, it's all very confusing, and makes little to no sense whatsoever. Yes, like all ninja movies, it has the prerequisite cheezy fighting scenes, some of them quite hilarious (like the barfing coolie-hatted ninja and the guy who shoots blades out of his eyeballs) but they are not numerous enough to assuade the pure monotony of most of this picture.

Unlike Hootch County, you cannot even put this movie on if you want to go to sleep soundly, as it is too distrubing for this. Oh, just don't see it under any circumstances, and you'll be all right. No, it's not even funny bad! Okay, well I warned you...
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2/10
It's the cheeziest!!!
15 May 2000
No, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo will never win any awards. It'll never even come close, but for some strange reason I still enjoy it. I'd much rather spend a night watching it than some pretentious Hollywood garbage like Armegeddon. Let's see if I can find a few reasons why.

This movie is sort of like a Scooby Doo episode-you know the plot already, and can predict it easily. Oh no! The youth center's in trouble! How much you wanna bet that the Breakin' kids will come through with the money just in time to save it? How much you wanna bet that'll involve an inordinate number of spontaneous dance scenes, and supa-dope fly moves? Yep, you might be able to guess the answers.

It's just fun to see these people play it out, because they're obviously having fun. Yeah, even the straights like Kelly's parents finally get on the train. And watch for the scene in the hospital. Yes, the miraculous power of break dancing can bring your loved ones back from the dead!

Oh well, maybe I can't defend this intellectually, but this movie's still great. Watch it, and just try to do the robot as well as Turbo or Ozone...just be careful, or you might actually have fun too...
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Troll 2 (1990)
1/10
There must be some logical explanation for this...
9 May 2000
Oh my GOD this movie is bad. The first time I saw it, I simply sat there with my mouth agape at the incomprehensible dialogue, the pathetic acting, the grade-school costuming. However, I may advise you that it does get better with multiple viewings, as you start to see more of the subtle nuances of the badness. For instance, in most other movies I can single out one or a few actors who are not good. In this movie, the best actors are the extras. From the hideous mugging of Joshua, to the bizarre lines of Sheriff Gene Freak, no one comes out unscathed. Especially bad are the mom, who shouts all her lines in a grating monotone, and her daughter, who dances for no reason and has a love/hate relationship with her quasi-homosexual boyfriend. As in, she loves him in one scene, and hates him...in the same scene. But then, I haven't gotten into the goblins.

Yes, Troll 2 has no trolls at all. These are goblins ("spiteful, and impudent", the 'wise' Grandpa Seth explains), also known as squat burlap-sack-clad midgets with Wal-Mart $2.95 Halloween masks and work gloves. Of course they don human disguises for most of the movie, because this is easier to film. They are led by Deborah Reed as Creedence, who rivals Jon Voight of Anaconda and John Steiner of Sinbad of the Seven Seas for my hilarious overacting award. They are vegetarians who listen to intricate sermons on the evils of meat-by-products, while still loving to eat people, just so long as they're "purified" by dry-ice concoctions or green-toothpasted food. Which, by the way, none of the family finds strange in the slightest. Green corn-on-the-cob? Sure, eat it every day. No problem.

I won't spoil the magnificent ending for you here (though many have already) except to say it nullifies the entire struggle against the goblins up to that point. Which I suppose is indicative of this entire movie. It's pointless to the nth degree, but I love it. If you like bad movies, you will too. Heed the advice of Grandpa Seth. They can. They CAN!!!
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