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Exam (2009)
from the first 8 minutes....til the credits roll: why was this thing that way?
6 January 2018
The first 8 minutes tell you everything that you need to know..but you don't know everything that you have been told until the credits roll.

The film presents many questions, EXAMines them, and answers a few of them such that I was almost satisfied.

Firstly, the film is intended to be racist, not only with the naming of the characters, but with each character's actions reflecting actions that might be expected of their race/gender. Guess which one will choose to use fisticuffs, torture, guns, sympathy, deceit, etc. It is intended to show the futility of the 'personalities' that are attributed to each race trying to work together in a zero-sum contest. Many people seem to miss that the rather human and intelligent characters are also caricatures because it is subtly done, though the movie hits you over the head with the nicknames.

It kept me guessing through the film (and afterwards) who will be the winner? who is a plant? who is in charge? What do the designers of the EXAM want to happen here? When the CEO is revealed, which one will it be, or might it be the invigilator or the guard? One of the best questions is: for a corporation of limitless technology, what illusions are they purposefully creating in the EXAM room and why?

Also, who is the corporation...really? what type of product do they have now? are they really this ruthless for their hiring? Are they a benevolent corporation (if there can be such a thing), or are they a cruel, profit-centric monster? They are so powerful that they are a nation-state, what does that mean?

Did you listen to the words at the beginning of the EXAM? They rules are twisted like a lawyer would enjoy but each rule-breaker clearly breaks them and if asked would agree that they did! Did you hear that the laws of the outside world don't apply? What part of the outside world's norms will the characters maintain, and then do these norms help or hurt them with the EXAM?

By the end, the writers have been able to squeeze every ounce of meaning from the words and events of those first 8 minutes.

This would make a stunningly good live production. I love it, it's twisty and mostly unpredictable and left me constantly questioning: why was this thing that way?
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The Lobster (2015)
humans being cruel, terrible definition of love, wooden dialog.
3 July 2017
Even the beautiful Weisz could do nothing to make this a worthwhile 2 hours. Not worth wasting anyone's time to watch. I don't think that I give anything away with the review, so I am not marking this a spoiler, because the movie has almost nothing to actually spoil.

I guess the movie is a commentary on the fickleness of love and the things that we do to be in love, and what we think love is, and etc. Somehow the whole thing is predicated on a view that love is merely an on-off switch that requires equal defects between two persons. Maybe if you asked an alien what love is, this movie would be the answer.

I think of the movie as 2 narratives stuck together: 1) a man that isn't in love being in a place where he tries to force love, followed by 2) that same man being in a place where love is forbidden and he is in love. Both settings show absurd personal and institutional cruelty against humans, animals, etc.

Some of the sexual dialogue is clearly intended to shock or amuse, but it doesn't and it seems out of place. There is a light torture scene with a toaster (no worse than Ghostbusters 2). The delivery of dialog is purposefully stilted/wooden and the characters are 1- dimensional. The training skits are like kindergarten meets 1984. I guess this all contributes to the simplistic view that this movie takes.

That's it.. that's the whole movie.

If there were some depth of the characters....if they had found true love in a world of simple love, it could have been a tragically beautiful love story. Instead, it's 2 hours that you won't get back.
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Listen (III) (2013)
A more indie version of OXV: The Manual (Frequencies)
19 February 2016
It is a very good indie with a similar story to OXV. I did not find it atmospheric or with great cinematography, but for the budget, they did well. If I were the filmmaker, I would look upon this with pride. As other reviewers noted, empathy for the characters is a bit difficult.

I did enjoy the score. I loved the premise, and the moments of lightness (OkCupid and "Landline") were well-done and necessary. The philosophical underpinning to the moral conflicts were excellent. This reminds me of stories like the rise of apple, Microsoft, and facebook, each is world-changing technology started by a few nerds.

I have to "ding" it a bit in ratings because production values could not let the filmmakers explain a few scenes as well as they needed to be. It also had some plot points that were annoyingly contrived (leaving the device at home). My biggest complaint is that it had some direction changes in the 2nd half that I could not follow quickly. The plot jerks around quite a bit. Usually that is a positive when the direction changes due to reveals; here it was not pleasant and slightly confused me. I had to re watch the second half, just to make sure that I didn't miss something.

It took my mind on a journey akin to OXV and to Primer. The best movies ping pong around in your brain long after the credits have scrolled, and this one does that for me. So overall, I enjoyed it.
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Drones (2013)
Mamet could have made it worthwhile
4 July 2015
Not an action movie!

I tend to like movies with onion layers to their central conflict, and this one did have them. It was not well written or acted though. Echoing the opening scene of WarGames, the movie explores the well- trodden dramatic area of 'orders versus morality' found so often in movies such as A Few Good Men.

Better Dialogue, character development, and acting would add to this and crank up the tension. The perfect soldier (trainee) was difficult to believe as having moral qualms. The fundamental difference between warfare with piloted versus drone aircraft (in harm's way) was all but ignored with more of a focus on collateral damage. Well, F22's kill innocents too, so I have trouble understanding why the trainee has reservations. Assuming her strong education, not only in the military, but in theories of war and government, she should have come to grips with "following orders" long before she was put into this situation. The senior pilot (trainer) was a reasonable 1-dimensional character as the pizza- eating, video-gaming pilot that had no care in the world. The character growth and changes in point of view during the movie is sudden and slightly inexplicable. Additionally, the contact with the chain of command and the lack of support from the military for this pair of drone pilots was unbelievable.

As all of the action takes place in a desert trailer, this movie would be better-suited to a stage presentation.
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actually surprisingly good
21 May 2008
Yeah, it telegraphs all of the big "reveals", it has some overly dramatic acting, the major plot points are easy to see coming, the "red shirts" are obvious, the scenes are kinda cheesy, the characters are all one-dimensional, the plot motivators are simple ("he needs fresh air" or "we didn't have time to test the torpedo tubes") but dang I loved it! It was almost like a bond movie without the gadgets, the unbelievable stunts, or the bad double entendres. It is an instant classic in my book; it is just on the edge of something that you can take seriously. If you go in not expecting much and you realize that this was made many years ago before all of the methods used in it became trite due to overuse, then you will walk away with a smile. There are many worse submarine movies, some of which consist of "I'm in charge!"..."No I'm in charge", while this one has some strategy, some minor humor, some action, and some larger-than-life threats, and some explosions.. all in all worth the rental.
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I am torn
3 January 2008
28 days was surprisingly good.

This one wasn't bad....BUT...

In the shadow of fine films such as Blues Brothers 2000 and Terminator 2, this sequel was needlessly oriented on kids. I can handle a story about a MAN who has to transport a kid (Children of Men), but this went a little too far paying attention to the kids. Unless it is oriented at kids, the children should be nothing more than a wiggling package to be dealt with in an action movie. Child/Teen mischief should not be a plot device (and it is in this one).

I didn't expect a great storyline and I didn't really get it, the movie is about constant frenetic escapes from the flesh-eating zombies as well as some escapes from an overzealous military thrown in to boot.

Somehow though, I still did enjoy it. They aren't afraid to kill off important characters and they do play with your expectations as a moviegoer. There are a couple of scenes where you are expecting shocks and they just laugh in your face. Also note the presence of a "Dead Meat" character. You halfway expect a particular monster to have a hesitation due to emotion while he is attacking certain victims. The movie makers almost use the typical tricks of a horror movie as red herrings to mislead you about where the plot is going to go.

Other things to look out for: multiple shots surreptitiously highlighting the chests of the leading ladies. humor is present, but at a different level than the obvious. you have to laugh at yourself and at the way they made the movie. I actually liked the slightly-sped-up effect, I felt it belonged here because it enhanced the way that an attack from a zombie would feel: quick, dirty, and to the point. a theme is that anyone with emotion tends to regret it, while the "by the book" military or the one-track-minded zombies survive and thrive. As soon as anyone stops having a rational reason for doing something and is working strictly from an emotion, then things go horribly wrong. The CG wasn't great, it was okay. Fire and smoke were a little unbelievable. I did enjoy seeing parts of London decimated. The movie does stand on its own, with or without the first one. A very "safe" sepia (filtered lens) scene at the beginning showing an attempt to return to normalcy followed by a gory bloody color as the attacks start. Tight hallways, scary medical facilities, tube tunnels. The swarmlike convergence of the infected zombies in multiple scenes.

All in all, I did really enjoy it and will be thinking about it long after the curtain has fallen, but found the "children" distracting. the thematic rising pitch detuned guitar motif.
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surprisingly good spy yarn with some depth.
2 January 2008
Watching them weave the story of a novice spy stay one step ahead of the Germans was great fun. He works from his gut and his emotions rather than from his rationality, and as the story tellers ratchet up the suspense, we see our protagonist acting more and more desperately.

The sets and locations make this great. We see a devastated Munich, various petroleum refineries, a scary old-fashioned paternoster, air-raid shelters, Nazi prisons, red-light districts and cathedrals.

It delivers for the genre: it has indoctrinated children ala '1984', a slow-hanging scene of a prole, ever-present gestapo, secret signals, blackmail, the moral uncertainty of actions during war, a kitten with a whip, an execution scene, an escape attempt from Germany through the underground, cyanide capsules, chasing German Shepherds, etc.

If I had a complaint, it would be that the love interest story seems unmotivated by the plot and moves too slowly. There is no humor, but then again, I don't miss it.
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Pink Flamingos minus white trash, plus Jesus.
11 December 2007
I am shocked. I am sickened. I want the last 2 hours of my life back. I want to get at my brain with an eraser. Some images should probably not ever be put on film. I truly hope that as I mail this back the red envelope gets lost and they don't ever press any more DVDs of this. The ATF could use this film to torture people out of their homeschooling arms-hoarding compounds if they could figure out how to put it on every TV screen in the compound. Not only am I aghast that this film was made in the first place, but someone took the time to restore it for a DVD!?! (by the way, I would say that they did an excellent job of restoration). There were some minorly intriguing scenes, and the film is a bit of a quest for something. I won't give away the ending, but I can say that you will either laugh yourself silly or be sorely disappointed.
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Renaissance (2006)
dropjaw good
29 November 2007
I have to mention two failures for you to understand that this movie brilliantly succeeded where they failed: "A Scanner Darkly" and "Immortel Ad Vitam". If you were excited by the concepts of these two movies and felt woefully disappointed (like me), you will probably enjoy Renaissance. It immerses you into the world of a future Paris. It is not quite dystopian. They did the animation so well that I thought it was rotoscoped, but from what I can tell, it was not, it was merely motion capture. The facial expressions are amazing! Not since TRON have I seen a fantasy world so well displayed in an animation/live hybrid. The Black and White medium is used to slowly direct your attention to the subject of the scene; my favorite effect was what they did with headlight beams, watch for it. The director plays with your attention and confusion but you are satisfied eventually by finding the thread that he wants you to find. The overall effect is a harsh and gritty urban world filled with small surprises.

The plot is secondary, but it isn't terrible. It is noir-ish. There is a backstory for most of the major characters giving them some depth. There is weather. There are "sets" so you can feel like you are in different places in Paris. There is some action, and even a car chase. I am going to have to see this one again to get everything. I also recommend a very large screen to view it as the "sets" are detailed and the credits are small.
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not quite Mamet
5 November 2007
B for effort. C for execution

They tried, they really tried to be Mamet. It is set in Chicago, there are twists in the plot, the dialog is stilted and but informative, there is dramatic gun-play, the situations are contrived, there are hidden motivations. Even the actress Berman (would really like to see more of her) resembles Eisenstadt from Oleanna. But in the end, too much information that was not presented in the movie becomes relevant to the unraveling and the characters were not distinct from one another. Another key about Mamet that this movie lacked is that his dialog is stilted, but it usually accelerates to become rapid-fire and intelligent near the climax, where this movie did not. I still did think a bit about it though AFTER the curtain fell. I'd be interested to see what some seasoning does to the next production from this team.
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The Noah (1975)
wow is it bad
11 October 2007
I think that someone was trying to be allegorical. They Failed.

The first 2/3 of the film are mildly interesting as Noah invents friends and something resembling _DRAMA_ shows up, you almost feel as if maybe a _PLOT_ might ensue. There are nascent _CHARACTERS_ and some minor _CONFLICTS_ hinting that a larger conflict could occur. (Protagonist is up the tree, we know that rocks can be thrown at him.. and we are eagerly anticipating the first volley...) But then....nothing happens.

The final third of the film degrades into a cacophony of a history-buff's self-serving game with an audio tape recorder. All links to plot, allegory, drama, character, conflict, and sanity are severed. Maybe this is supposed to represent Noah's ever-less-grounded state of mind, but the degree of his grasp on reality was well-established earlier in the film and the noise becomes as annoying as a Phillip Glass composition.

Now to 2 small details worth mentioning: 1)There are some weak humorous points such as Noah's ability to construct a latrine or Noah's resemblance to one of the Marx Brothers. 2)The in-your-face allusion to The 10 Commandments was out of place and over the top.
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It didn't make sense when I was 8, It STILL doesn't.
9 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers follow, but not really, because IT MAKES NO FREAKING SENSE!

They threw in a few phrases such as "event horizon" to prove that someone somewhere in the production of this movie had read some science, but in the end it just doesn't make sense. As can be seen by the much later (and also bad) "Event Horizon," movies should not speculate that something religious is on the other side of a black hole. The movie has all of this (psuedo)science and then when it climaxes it retreats to Judeo-Christian religious images. It is like you have had an "okay" soup, some passable bread, an edible entrée, and then for desert.. you are served oysters covered in chocolate sauce and whipped cream. NOTHING FITS. After watching the DVD extras, an EFX guy admits that they had no ending written whatsoever. Now that I know that, it is unmistakable.

Following are things that make no sense about the ending: A long-haired guy (presumably Reinhardt) conjoining himself with Max the robot and becoming encased in him. Angelic beings flying through arched hallways Fire spewing from somewhere on a Vulcan-like planet with Max standing on high as if he is a Satan figure. In this hell, the androids (innocent pawns) standing as if in worship to Max. To me the androids should have been redeemed because they are not evil. Our remaining protagonists able to fly through it all to bright planet. Are these planets or states of being? Just because Kubrick can get away with "My god, it's full of stars" does not mean Disney can get away with "My's full of gods"

And finally..our little robot, Vincent, could barely save himself from the black hole at the beginning, but at the end can save both himself and a free-falling crew member?

One thing that did give me nightmares when I was a kid was not Max the robot with spinning blades for hands, but instead it was Dr. Kate wrapped up in a sack that prevented her arms from moving. When they put her under the "transformation device" and it started to zap her in the forehead to android-icize her that frightened me quite a bit.

The visuals were stunning. Absolutely stunning. But visuals alone do not make a movie.

The music was not really worthy of being combined into an overture, it wasn't bad, but it was not great, and the movie wasn't that epic.

Not that I am a physicist, but I was waiting for our protagonists to bifurcate. I felt very disappointed when they did not.
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Deep Red (1975)
A couple small things to add
7 October 2007
In 2007, it does look a little dated, but then again, so does Hitchcock. For modern US audiences, the score won't seem to fit, but it is excellent music and this is Argento's style, to intermix a different type of music with his murderous video.

I saw the 120 min intermixed Italian-English version.

Listen for the purposefully out-of-tune acoustic bass in the scenes in the "to let" building and the Jr High. This adds a feeling of unease. But hearing the frantic Rock/Fusion as Marc is climbing around the outside of a building was a bit much for me.

I love the motifs and the humor. This movie likes falling plaster, drooling/dripping from the mouth, and Marc is a bit of a closet-klutz. He almost trips over a can or bucket, at one point, he cannot reach a grated door, and has to try again, and he locks himself and the woman into the little car. This adds humor, without spoiling anything, his klutziness comes in handy at the end.

Other things: It has been said over and over, every shot is a work of art, there is a coherent (for Argento) plot, and while not graphic by today's standards, people do die in "icky" manners.
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The Enemy Within (1994 TV Movie)
see Seven days in may
7 March 2007
You need to see Seven Days in May before seeing this movie or before posting an opinion on it. This movie is really a poor remake of it. The former occurs in a tense cold-war America and the Black & White photography adds to the eerie feel. (Black and White, just like the general sees things.) If after seeing the original, you wish to compare, then see this one. I made the mistake of viewing this first, and then I enjoyed the original less than I should have. I guess the only positive difference that this movie added to the story is that the high-stakes players were not all white men in "The Enemy Within" with other characters in predictable roles. The Enemy within has women and black men in high positions. It also wraps a family around the main character to make him elicit more empathy. Every actor in this made-for-HBO thriller needs to be forgiven for needing a paycheck.
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I tried to like it, I really did
25 January 2007
Top notch actors. A well-known espi author. 6 hours. No suspense whatsoever.

I really tried, but I did not get into this. Maybe I have been Americanized too much, but in the end, I didn't care. I don't need guns and bombs and chase scenes to care. I even can handle the understated British ambiance. I just didn't care. There was nothing on the line; they didn't stop some major act of war; they didn't stop some terrorist plot or some threat to anyone. It was just "blah". I admit that I have not read the book. I shouldn't have to read it to enjoy the dramatization of it. I just didn't care if there was or was not a mole in some emasculated spy agency. Not once was our hero in any danger. Never was he emotionally torn, he had buried all of the feelings for his wife long ago. He was SMART at strategy, and that was about it.
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Testament (1983)
alas drama, but no suspension of disbelief
22 January 2007
I had to see it, and I felt as I did when reading Alas Babylon: Nice drama, but I cannot suspend my disbelief, and that takes away from my enjoyment of the drama.

The population is worried about things like trash pickup, rites for the dead, and manages to put on a children's play at school. I must believe that in the event of a nuke attack, civilization will end and the world (even in the suburbs) will descend into the state of nature within hours not days.

Still, there are some poignant moments, including the daughter's talk with her mother about sex, the symbolism of the bicycle and the "bad" kid stealing food. The scene of the boy (Brad) riding his bike along a trail as graves are dug to me was great. In fact, the actor who played Brad (Ross Harris) deserves kudos, and if the story had been focused on him from the beginning it would have been better. So if you can believe that certain aspects of civilization will remain, you may be affected by this movie.
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Epidemic (1987)
I rarely stop a movie, but I couldn't choke this one down.
15 December 2006
I have sat through some crappy movies, but 53 minutes in, I just don't care. The movie has found my inner apathy and it has embraced it.

It has some pretty B&W images here and there, but not enough to garner interest. Even Lemmy Caution couldn't save this stinker.

In my mind's eye I see a buxom Bugs Bunny on the back of a fat horse and Elmer Fudd in a horned helmet.

Into the mail-DVD-service (not the "red" company) return envelope it goes, unfinished, unenjoyed and rejected in favor of an hour of spider solitaire on my notebook computer. They should pay me to watch this one.
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Bad on multiple levels
25 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This will contain spoilers. If you skip the movie though, that won't matter! It is not a sequel. It looks like it was written as a bad sci-fi filme and to save some dollars they decided to re-use the already-built CG bugs from the first film as the evil aliens. It has a few nods to the original film such as "Do you want to know more?" and some nice gory stabbing scenes. Another nod is the quick pairing-ups that occur and some no-nonsense military views. There is a tough old general with a decent heart under it all, and the good guys sacrifice at times. The original showed a stylized and exaggerated view of the military,i t did explore multiple sides of the issues. That exploration of both sides in a satirical manner was a fresh idea in film-making. This movie (2) was pretty one-sided: 'War consumes youth.' The bugs in this movie seemed less aggressive than in the first. In the first movie, bugs would attack and slaughter before you knew what happened and main characters died. In this sequel, the bugs seemed to be a little slower and the deaths all seem like staged events rather than a "what just happened?" sort of thing. The first showed MI as an elitist and spooky :) organization but that MI actually made a contribution to the war effort, definitely not weenies. The first glorified the infantry without taking away from the other military contributors. This one showed some less-than-top-notch infantrymen, and no glory. I spent needless time wondering if they were going to link Brenda Strong's character with her character in the first, say a twin sister or something, and they never did.

Now, since I determined that this movie does not make a good sequel, I would like to evaluate it on just a "movie" level. There are 3 complex characters. Dax, Sahara, and Rake, and all others are pretty shallow. The movie is titled "Starship Troopers 2". Where is the starship? Okay, it does not have a completely candy ending, Dax is the tragic hero and Sahara just does her job. When the 3 newbies show up, you just know that one of them is going to be dangerous.. I spent some time wondering which one was going to turn up as the bad guy, imagine my surprise when it turned out to be all 3. I also spent some time trying to determine who would be a trekian "red shirt" with a throw-away death; imagine my surprise when everyone was. There were some plot holes such as why didn't they use the flashburn a few more times? Why didn't they just shoot the compromised general immediately instead of listening to him ramble? What was with locking Sahara into a room with only 1 bug guy? Why didn't they transmit the supersecret intel while the power was still up? Enough on plot holes. It was dark (cheap but effective), It was in a single location, it had pretty decent CG bugs, it had some pretty cheap shocks. Thats all the time I want to spend thinking about this movie.
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