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Saints Row IV (2013)
This is a great ending to the Saints Row series.
The ridiculous fun of the series comes to a crescendo in this superhero romp. The game makes good use of the map from the previous game, with enough changes to keep it from seeming stale. Adding super powers speeds up the game-play and helps avoid the dull commutes that mar many sandbox titles. Again the story and characters are funny, which is rare in most games. I would recommend playing Saints Row 3 before you tackle this one as they're deeply linked but be sure to add this one to your wish-list.
Fireball 500 (1966)
Not one of the 1960's greatest achievements.
** of ***** Below Average
Pros: Some interesting footage of vintage cars and early NASCAR. Cons: Most everything else.
Viewed: 3 February 2006 Format: DVR recording from Showtime Extreme
It's interesting that my first Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello movie isn't one of their famous beach films but a racing flick, the other big teenage film fad of the early '60's. Since most of these films were mostly background for necking at drive-ins, plus the fact it produced by American International, I wasn't surprised to find this a lightweight piece of filmaking.
"Fireball 500" starts and ending with an interesting (but very, very short) piece of claymation made by Chokey Films ("Gumby") before we meet our hero, Dave Owens, winning the eponymous race of the film. He's driving Richard Petty's car, Number 43, which strikes a weird note but I'm guessing Petty wasn't yet nationally known, so the director used it to match with the stock footage.
About the stock footage: There's a LOT. And since the races in the film consist mostly of that and rear-projection shots, they really lack any tension at all. However, in the final race there's footage of a multi-car pileup that must be seen to be believed.
After winning and during the opening credits, Dave heads south (for no apparent reason) while singing the first of several banal songs and driving a far-out custom car that I doubt any real racer would be seen dead in. Once below the Mason-Dixon line, he starts dirt racing on the local track. Why, I don't know. He's going to Dayton soon and I would figure the prize money from the race at the start of the film would tide him over until then, so maybe it's just for kicks.
In short order he half-heartily romances Funicello (who appears so little in this film it's practically a walk-on), annoys the local racing big shot by beating him and is tricked to unknowingly moving a load of moonshine at night. Yes, really.
Most of plot involves a rather silly and threadbare mystery that I won't spoil. Of course in the end there's the Big Race!
Frankie Avalon was really not suited for the role of tough racing driver here. The lines really don't sound natural coming from him and the fact that seems a good half-foot shorter than any other male in the film doesn't help either. This makes the fight scenes look even faker than they probably would have.
The Bottom Line: Skip unless you're into these kinds of films.
Recommend to a friend?: No.
Spy Kids 3: Game Over (2003)
Spy Kids 3-D: A pain in the eyes.
Speaking as someone who really enjoyed the first two Spy Kids films, I'm afraid I must say that Roger Ebert's right, "3-D sucks, always has, maybe always will" and watching the 3-D part is like seeing it "through a dirty window". The fact that it's really hard to get the 3-D effect to work when you wear glasses like I do doesn't help either. The eye strain's bad as well with mine practically burning by the end. I'd be waiting for the DVD where I could hopefully watch it normally, but there other problems that keep me being too excited.
For a movie has which has a theme of counting on your family, there certainly isn't much family to be seen. It feels like the title should have been "Spy Kid: Juni's Big Adventure" since he's the only one of the Cortezes to be seen for what seems to be about 80% of the runtime. Grampa Montalban wanders in and out of proceedings seemly at random and doesn't do much to further the plot. Carmen only enters the film near the end and seems to gotten a whole lot grumpier since we last saw her. The rest of the family's parts are miniscule, basically glorified cameos.
It seems like a lot of necessary footage was left on the cutting room floor and a lot of unnecessary stuff left in. The reasons for Juni's situation at the beginning and what the Toymaker did in the past are barely even hinted at. Along with the whole "trapped in cyberspace for 30 years" thing which doesn't make a whole of sense, an ending which makes no sense whatsoever, and endless action sequences with little point to them, it makes for a confusing and frustrating film which feels like it takes forever to end.
I did enjoy Stallone in his first good part in ages and the reunion at the end was nice to see, but in the end I have to give this one a thumbs down. Wait for the rental.
Bella Martha (2001)
I highly recommend.
I just saw this today and wonder why in the world this didn't get a wider US release. It's a charming little movie with wonderful acting that deserves a bigger audience. It's not really a classic, but it's better than 95% of what's been in theaters this year.
Martina Gedeck, who plays Martha, is great actress who I'd love to see more of. Her performance is very lifelike, Martha's actions always seem like those of real person. Though she can be very stubborn, we really feel for her.
Maxime Foerste, as Lina, gives one of greatest performances by a child I have ever seen. Again, very lifelike and touching.
Segio Castellitto's Italian cook Mario is more of a stereotype, reminding one of Jean Reno in one of his lighter roles. I think this mostly a writing problem, and Castellitto does a very good with what's he's given.
Overall, I highly recommend you watch this movie (assuming you can find it).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
A surprise to say the least.
One goes into this film expecting a stupidity fest, but you come out pleasantly surprised. Maybe it's low expectations, but it turns out to be much better than you would think. This picture is one of the series of children's character movie tie-ins, and by all rights it should be unbearably awful, just like the rest.
Luckily for us, the filmmakers seemed to realize that the turtles had a large adult audience from the comic books out there, so they managed to sneak in a little real drama and some actual character development into this so-called children's movie. Unfortunately, as the cartoon show came to dominate and the turtles were seen as only a kid's phenomenon, this element was sadly taken out of later entries in the series.
Many things were thankfully gotten right. The turtles were done very well here. Unlike watching, say, `Howard The Duck', I found it rather easy here to suspend my disbelief and forget that I'm watching four guys in rubber suits. The comedic aspects of their personalities were hit bang on as well, the banter flowing smoothly and true to form. The fight scenes, while not very memorable, were done with some talent behind them and turn out rather well. The character of Casey Jones is surprisingly believable and likeable.
Now, I'm not nominating this film for any awards, not by a long shot. It's a quickie tie-in, so there is the expected large list of flaws. April O'Neil, as in all the other entries in the series, is acted horrendously badly. The filmmakers go through the background story so quickly that it would easy to miss something. The final fight with Shredder is woefully disappointing, with this supposedly unbeatable ninja being taken in by a childishly simple trick.
But, overall, I'd say this is a good family picture, better than most of junk that's put out in the genre. The kids should like it, and hopefully the parents won't be bored out of their skulls by it.
Welcome back Herbie! I think you need a new agent.
First off, let me say I'm glad that this film exists, it being our first Herbie fix in fifteen years, the abortive 1982 television series being the last one. It's great to see good old Herb again, even if it's only a TV movie.
Having said that, let me continue by saying they screwed up pretty bad. There were many major mistakes in this film (which had a good idea and was set up to be a nice nostalgia fest) that really drug the whole thing down. Here's a list, in no particular order. WARNING: The following contains info that could be seen as spoilers.
1. Herbie. Call me a perfectionist, but Herbie just looks wrong here. He should have a gray interior and sunroof, not white. The racing stripes are supposed to be painted on the sunroof, too. The 53' is up way too high on the hood and it's the wrong font as well. They managed to get these things right all through four feature films and a TV series, why not here?
2. Kevin J. O'Connor. I know he's supposed to be an artist, but this guy is just waaaaay too creepy for my taste. It was a good thing in `The Mummy', but here it's out of place.
3. The origin story. I'm sorry, but this just does not jive with what we've been told before. The impression given in `Herbie Rides Again' was that some machines just develop personalities. And did Dr. Stumpfel also build the Lancia in `Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo'? Plus, I'd like to think my government is not THAT stupid. I found their portrayal of our military in here fairly insulting. Plus, in the eighteen years it took to build Herbie, you'd think they'd figure out it was just a translation error.
4. The final race. It was SLOW. In the other films you got a sense of speed. Here it seems like both cars are going thirty-five, a situation which one shot shown at high speed just doesn't fix. Plus, unlike the previous films there is absolutely no suspense about Herbie winning. The character of Simon Moore seems to almost go out of his way to make it easy for them. (Also, Chuck's car troubles were barely worth the first scene with them, we definitely didn't need to cut back to him two more times.)
5. CGI effects. Back in the sixties and seventies, Disney, using only some creative editing and some mechanical know-how, made Herbie appear to do amazing things. It was cheap and you knew it was an effect, but the end result always seemed to look pretty good. Now it's the days of digital effects and we have a digital Herbie. It screams `FAKE!' Unlike the old effects, it's impossible to suspend your disbelief watching this thing. Come on Disney, you sometimes need a guy with a wrench, not a computer, to make things look good.
6. Title. Thanks to lack of creativity in thinking up a title, most people think this film's a remake. It's not. Although it shares a bit of story arc with the original, this is a new film.
7. Horace. The idea of an evil Herbie is seriously creepy, but the filmmakers didn't do much with it. Horace seems to be only a fraction of the menace he could have been.
8. Writing. The dialogue is terrible. It sometimes seems like they wrote the children's novelation first, then the script.
9. Bruce Campbell. Bruce, I really like you as an actor, but could at some point in this film, try acting a just a bit? Just a suggestion.
Well, having said what was wrong, I want to mention something they got very right. The scene where Jim Douglas gets behind the wheel of Herbie for first time in years is a great piece of acting. You can practically see the memories running through his head. It was so perfect, it bought a tear to my eye. Good work, Dean.
Daffy Flies North (1980)
Not nearly up to snuff.
This work shows just how good those old time Warner Bros. animators really were. The comic timing here is way off, I did not even crack a simile watching this. The jokes are more likely to elicit groans than laughs. The lesson is that if you're going to use these great characters, be sure to put some talent behind them.
Das Boot (1981)
It's not fair!
That's what I silently scream each time that I see the ending to this film. It's not fair that this crew, which had gone through unspeakable horrors for their country, couldn't enjoy a moments respite from the terrors of war. No, they get bombed, their ship sunk, with many of them injured and the officers dead. It's not fair that Captain Hans-Jürgen Hellriegel's last sight on this Earth was his 'amazing boat' sinking.
Many out there probably thought the same thing. But history tells us that those were American planes destroying that submarine base, so it was a good thing, right? Right?
Das Boot has got to be the ultimate anti-war movie. It doesn't preach, doesn't wail about men in power sending boys off to die, it simply strips the illusions away from war. War is not glamorous, it's an act in kill or be killed survival. The boys in the U-96 were each a disposable cog in a much larger machine, all doing they're best to stay alive.
This is more than movie; it's a hard look at ourselves.
Titan A.E. (2000)
Great looking, but with problems.
Titan A.E. is great idea that very nearly worked. It was made as an animated film that wasn't for little kids. The aim is mainly at the 12-year-old to young teenager crowd. To do this, it has many action-flick elements, like fast chases, loud gun battles, a rather gritty hero, and at one point a death of the major character by snapping his neck. During a majority of the film, it pulls the action-animation blend very well. The movie is fast-paced with an appropriate love interest and some interesting plot twists. The animation is extremely well done, with the old-fashioned hand-drawn characters blending well with the computer-generated background. The major problem with this film is the characters. Our hero, Cale (Matt Damon), is drawn with very plain looks. This is also the problem with Akima (Drew Barrymore). In fact, of the humans, only Korso is that distinctive. The most expressive face in the entire movie is that of an alien, Preed, who, voiced by Nathan Lane, is also by far the most interesting character as well. The Drei, the villains, just are too vague to be that frightening. The filmmakers don't bother to disclose the fact that they're made of pure energy until midway through the film. We never do find out the details of why the Drei want to destroy the human race. `They're afraid of what we might become.' is stated by Akima at one point. Become what? And why should they care? Overall, although it has many flaws, Titan A.E. is a fun film with breathtaking visuals. Plus, I love that `Planet Bob' joke at the end. Grade B
The Last Days of Patton (1986)
It's far too loooooooong.
The first Patton movie was a classic, but some stupid TV exec had to convince George C. Scott that this sequel was a good idea. Of course you wouldn't expect much from a TV movie, but this... What were they thinking? This depressing slop just seems to drag on and on, until at the end you're almost happy he's finally dead. The last few days of Patton's life would never be fit for an entire movie. The ending of one, maybe, but it should impossible to stretch Patton dying in a bed into feature length. Yet somehow they did, and even longer. My theory is that at the last minute, someone told the writer they wanted a two-parter. That would explain the huge amounts of padding in this film. My advice, stick to the original and forget this one ever existed.
Courage the Cowardly Dog (1999)
We interrupt this program to bring you...
The adventures of Courage as he has to continually save his beloved Muriel from the strange and dangerous stuff that seems to happen every day in Nowhere, where they live, is a pleasant and interesting watch. The animation is very good for a weekly series and flows well. I enjoy his show quite a bit, through it's hard for them not to repeat themselves.
`Chef' is an utterly hilarious show that I love to catch an episode of on BBC America. Lenny Henry's portrayal of the short-tempered Gareth Blackstock is right on the nose. It's hard to believe, but I have met a couple people quite like him. Unlike them, here you can sit back and laugh at these poor souls who are forced to work with him. My dad says it's just a show about a guy shouting at people, but I disagree. Few if any people have such a great wit when they're angry. `Chef' is about a man who has a great deal of frustration like many of us, but, unlike most of us, he's not afraid to vent it at the people who much of time deserve it. It's painfully funny, too.
The Truce Hurts (1948)
Another Classic Tom & Jerry Short!
This film seems to be well remembered as the time Tom & Jerry signed a peace treaty. Things are idyllic for a time but, predictably, it goes sour. Probably the most memorable moment was the endless fight involving a pipe, a frying pan, and a baseball bat that the two plus Butch the dog engage in at the beginning and end of the short. I enjoyed one a bunch and you should try to catch it on Cartoon Network.
A Real Thrill Ride!
Modern movie critics disdain special effects. The good movies are quiet and make you think. They may be true in some cases, but well done f/x can be very good at causing emotion. Who wasn't thinking "All Right!" when the alien spaceship was blown-up at the end of "Independence Day"? Who didn't have a tinge of fear during the flight through the meteor shower in "Armageddon"? "U-571" has many very good tense moments due mainly to special effects. Watching the deadly depth charges floating down, ready to explode at any moment was edge of your seat. This movie had several flaws, but these can be overlooked in light of the strengths. "U-571" is not a thinking movie. Like most summer blockbusters it's meant to cause emotion. I enjoyed this flick and recommend it.
The Angry Beavers (1997)
Oh No! It's Baron Von Once Bad Then Good Now Bad Again Beaver!
The Angry Beavers has got to be my favorite Nicktoon of all time. It has an off-kilter sense of humor that only `Rocko's Modern Life' ever came close to. The dialogue never is predictable. Your brain goes `Okay, now he's going to say
HUH?' What other show could come up with "Old Gramps," a muskellunge so huge he can supposedly "swallow a Swede'? A movie called `The Crawling Spleen'? A hundred-foot-tall rampaging splinter? The plots are off the wall too, such as this one: Norbert falls under the influence of slimy pond scum and becomes possessed by the spirit of un-goodliness. The Evil Norb causes undue harm to his neighbors until Daggett comes to the rescue. This show is destined to become a classic in my eyes! Watch it with some Yoo-Hoo and a case of Lickity-Splits.
Murder at the Gallop (1963)
Not as good as the first in my opinion, but still very good.
I watched "Murder, She Said" just before watching his film and must say I enjoyed that one more. The plot was tighter and more believable than this one. This movie is still enjoyable and fun, but still a slight step down. Points of "Murder at the Gallop" seem to be either overdone or unbelievable. Robert Morley overdoes it trying to get us to suspect him. The rest of the family never quite convinces you that one of them could be a murderer. The main reason for watching this film, as with the first one, seems not to be the mystery but the personality of Miss Marple. Margaret Rutherford is delightful and simply perfect as the elderly spinster with a love of mystery who never hesitates to tell you what she thinks. It's not hard to see why they made four movies with her as Marple in only five years. This film, however flawed, is still a pleasant watch and I hope you can see it for yourself sometime soon.
Ed, Edd n Eddy (1999)
Just why does Ed never take off his hat?
Cartoon Network originals tend to be an iffy proposition. `Johnny Bravo' is good, `Cow & Chicken' tends to be gross and stupid, `I Am Weasel' goes to between funny and extremely dumb, `Dexter's Laboratory' is funny a lot of the time but tends to have a dark side, `Mike, Lu, and Og' is just dull, `Powerpuff Girls' is very good but tends to repeat itself. I would have to say `Ed, Edd, and Eddy' probably ties with `Johnny Bravo' as the best of the bunch. The antics of these three unpopular kids as they try one after another of Eddy's schemes to make money for jawbreakers are wonderful. Ed is the classic cartoon idiot with the brain capacity of shredded wheat and an obsession for monster movies. Edd is the neatness obsessed brains of the bunch whose advice, through he builds the gadgets, is rarely ever listened to. Eddy is the con man who's driving force is to trick the other kids of the neighborhood out of their cash. In fact, when everyone else was sick with the chicken pox and there is no one to con, he starts to use his grip. The rest of the kids in the neighborhood are all eccentrics of one type or another and make a perfect backdrop to the plans of the Eds. A great show which I enjoy a bunch.
Murder She Said (1961)
A surprise to say the least.
I must admit I just borrowed this from the local library as time filler. I wasn't really expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Murder, She Said is a fair mystery (I never was quite sure of the murderer, but they made the real culprit rather easy to make a good guess at) but is best as a vehicle for the talents of Margaret Rutherford, a very fine actress whose talents I had not had the pleasure of knowing about before. Her attitude throughout the film as the elderly spinster with a refined manner and love of mysteries is perfect, through from my limited experience of the works of Agatha Christie, I agree that she's Mrs. Marple in name only. I great film which I couldn't stop watching for a moment, which is a novelty for me when watching movies on tape. I really thought highly of this film and think you should watch it today.
The Bowling Alley-Cat (1942)
Truly A Classic
This is one of the early Tom & Jerry cartoons and also one of the best. The animation is superb and extremely well done. The antics of both Tom and Jerry as they try to outwit each other are classic. The parts of Tom trying to bowl with a ball that's much too heavy for him are some of the most fluid and natural looking animation of the entire time period. This and another two other sports shorts they made (Tennis Chumps, 1949, and Cue Ball Cat, 1950) have to be on list of top Tom & Jerry cartoons ever. Definitely one of my all-time favorites.
Mouse Into Space (1962)
A very deep dive.
I love Tom & Jerry. I think, along with the work of Tex Avery, the Hanna-Barbera Tom & Jerry cartoons are some of the best theatrical short animation ever. When Hanna and Barbara struck out on their own, MGM felt the need to continue the series without them. They hired Gene Deitch to take over. This was a very poor choice as I see it. Deitch's style is very two-dimensional and not very suited to the action of a Tom & Jerry short. The plots tend to be thin as paper and occasionally disturbing. Plus, in the Deitch shorts, both Tom and Jerry seem to have developed a mean streak. They have never been nice to each other, but in these they seem to sometimes act downright evil when it comes to the other. One of the main complaints with the Deitch Tom & Jerry shorts is the music and sound effects. Both are rather obviously artificial sounding and downright creepy. Probably the worst thing was the way Deitch treated the characters. In this short, you have Tom turned into a drunk tramp. That's just plain wrong. That's in any cartoon, but especially a Tom & Jerry one. Overall, this is a very poor short from a very poor series.
Mighty Ducks (1996)
Flawed, but was showing promise.
The basic premise of this show tended to be weak, but their were moments when it showed a spark of inspiration, such as the Duck's initial distaste for humans and the conflict at first when Dragonas threatened Earth. Why should we help this alien civilization? Once they became standard-issue superheroes, the show lost much of its interesting parts. It became just another Saturday-morning cookie-cutter action cartoon. The only interesting part was the subplot of trying to get back to Puckworld, and with the cancellation of show, that was left unresolved. This show only needed a little tweaking to put near `Gargoyles' in strength of narrative.
Mickey's Service Station (1935)
A change for the better
The best Disney shorts were when they put a Disney character or characters in an everyday situation and let the chaos begin. This one was an early example of them moving away from the song and dance cartoons which they had been doing for so long and into that sort of thing. The antics that Mickey, Donald, and Goofy go through to fix Pete's car are genuinely funny, with a wonderfully loud end. A very good watch.
Surprised Parties (1942)
Two years after this short, the last "Our Gang" short was made. After seeing this, you wonder how it even lasted that much longer. The quality of "Our Gang" nosedived soon after moving from Hal Roach to MGM, and this short is a perfect example. The gags are all very unfunny and Froggy's last line of this being the happiest day of his life paints a bad picture in your mind of what it's like for him the rest of the time. A very poor example of film making.
The Omega Code (1999)
The movie that's worse than having a tooth drilled
This movie sucked. There's no better way to put. The whole thing is just a propaganda tactic to get people to go to church. If you were going to do that, you could that least come up with a better script. A main character who complains and acts smug most of the time, a bad guy who seems like you could send your six-year-old to defeat, world leaders who seem to be about as smart as fungus, and two of god's representatives who bug you so much you want to go to the dark side. BAD, BAD, BAD!
Great Show Of His Acting
My favorite parts of Ernest movies is when he plays several different characters one after another. This one has the mother of them all with him doing about two dozen different people in a sketch of his relative Davey Worrell. A real knee-slapper as he changes from one guy to another guy without letup. A great watch.