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Auto Focus (2002)
Best Film I've seen this year
13 June 2003
I love biopics and this one is one of the best I've seen. The story of Bob Crane, even if you aren't too familiar with Hogan's Heroes, is engrossing and the cinematography plays well with it. It starts out as a crisp, clean sit-com like atmosphere with bright colors and geometric patterns and then devolves into a dark world of bars and apartments, hand held, shaky cameras and jumbled action.

The acting is top-notch, especially Kinnear and DaFoe as a sick team of thrill seekers. Throughout the film Kinnear plays Crane as constantly denying his obsession, which could only work with an actor so well known for his good-guy roles. DaFoe is creepy, much like his Green Goblin in Spider-man, at one point understanding the next vindictive and bitter.

Crane's son is trying to discredit the film on his website (which oddly enough exploits his dad's life by selling glimpses to the treasure trove of pornography that Crane produced in his life), but for the most part I feel his protestations are ungrounded. Sure, the film was over-looked by the Academy but it doesn't mean that the movie isn't worth watching.

Well worth buying, or at least renting. As far as biopics go, this could be one of the best.
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The film that couldn't find its pace
25 August 2002
Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn seems to have blew its wad on the monster effects and ignored crucial things like pacing, storytelling, dialogue and continuity. The big monster effect looks great, but that's no reason to watch this film, since you have to wade through a story that tells like molasses. For every minute of action (the aliens attacking the old people, the little kid fighting the alien in the attic) you get about 8 minutes where nothing of interest happening (the kid wandering blankly through his own basement, the uncle questioning the kid about monster movies, the excruciatingly drawn out scenes of the preparations for the old people's lunch party). It's like the movie runs out of gas then picks back up then slows down again.

The movie doesn't endear itself to you from the start, with the first four characters we are introduced to getting eaten within the first 5 minutes. The characters you like die and the ones you hoped would die don't. Also, the exterior shots of the house look to be bad (really bad and obvious) Claymation and I was just hoping for Davey and Goliath to walk through.

On the whole, though, the film wasn't too bad, which is as wishy-washy and answer as you could possibly get from a review. Entertaining, low-quality, but not the worst film I have ever seen.

Oh, and the goofy guy in overalls's hair length changes from scene to scene. It really makes the movie.
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Ginger Snaps (2000)
I don't understand why so many people liked this film.
24 December 2001
As a film itself, Ginger Snaps is an ok one, technically. The cinematography is a breath of fresh air from the dull, predictable shots that are used as standards nowadays. It's something I noticed early on, and if it stood out that much, it has to be good. The acting is a little stiff and/or bad sometimes (I see Mimi Rogers underacting a little too often and Katharine Isabelle going over-the-top way too often), but Emily Perkins did an incredible job. See this movie for no other reason but her.

Besides those good qualities, I found the movie to be a let down. It seemed to promise a good time, but never really payed off. The werewolf (looks like a dog) puppet did a great job of staying immobile most of the time the camera was on it (ala "Elves" and "Hobgoblins") and when it did move, it did so off camera. If anything, it seems like a cop out by the director; this film had such promise! It was torn between a regular old werewolf movie and the bonds between two sisters, a plot that we were unfortunately thrust into and doesn't really go anywhere. "You'll take it and you'll like it, movie-goers." Questions go unanswered, characters disappear, and nothing seems to be consistent at all through the whole film. Plus there are stretches of time where you don't care for any characters and just wish the whole film had ended early.

Bah.

A little too much like "An American Werewolf in Paris," except "Ginger Snaps" happily did not make the same error of relying on computer generated images. Some parts were good, some characters were good (others just grotesquely bad stereotypes), some dialogue was good, but nothing was ever consistent. You don't rejoice while watching this movie-you just sit through it.
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i worked on this film
13 August 2001
I worked on the production team for the movie as the office intern during the summer of 1998. I saw the film grow just to see it cut off when no studio would pick it up. But I got to see a screening of it with Mary Stuart Masterson's parents in NYC, and by the time it was over most of the theater was crying. It's a great movie with great performances. And the score is something to be experienced. I've never been so blown away by the music in a film. Find a copy of this if you can, because it's a great film that no one has heard of.
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Emperor's New Clothes
12 August 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Why does everyone think Ashley Judd can act? SHE CAN'T!!!! Want proof? "Kiss the Girls". "A Time to Kill". "Double Jeopardy". She plays one character and it's unbelievable and boring and everyone thinks she's a star. It's a case of Hollywood telling us who is good and who is a star without controlling quality.

First of all, the film is a waste of time. If you've seen the trailer, or even read the video box, you know the plot. "She already did her time for killing her husband, so she can't be convicted again..." Legally, she could serve more time, and that fact was verified before the movie even came out. You know how it'll turn out, and it's not even fun to watch the ins and outs up until that inevitable point. It's entertaining if you just like to see characters do action-like things on screen, but there's no meat to it. Please, just turn the TV off and read a book instead. You'll like it more.

Second, the movie is unbelievable. My friends say "oh, you have to suspend disbelief", which I can do for something like Star Wars or Ninth Gate, but there's just too much to ignore here. I don't want to post spoilers, but I'm going to border on it, just to show anyone who hasn't seen this why it's unbelievable and why they should see something else. Ashley Judd gets out on parole, so technically she can serve the rest of her time if she kills her husband again. Parolees can't cross state lines. Parolees can't carry a weapon. Parolees in this film have to be back in Tommy Lee Jones's boarding house by a certain time or they go back to jail. Ashley Judd breaks all those rules yet no one seems to notice those obvious flaws. She pays for a plane ticket with cash too, which I thought was pretty funny.

Thirdly, the acting was embarrassing. Ashley Judd doesn't change facial expressions throughout the movie. She's determined to kill her husband no matter how illegal, illogical and just plain unrealistic it is. Tommy Lee Jones has done so many other great films but it looks like he's just going through the motions and he looks weary of the plot. The hard nosed parole officer suddenly gets a heart of gold and wants to see a man killed? That don't add up.

So this film is the Emperor's New Clothes. Everyone will rave about it but they're raving about something with no substance. Frustrating and unbelievable, uninspired and overpraised, "Double Jeopardy" is a bad movie caught up in the Hollywood press machine. You'll like this if you enjoyed "Boys and Girls" or any other movie Hollywood likes to force down our throats with big stars and not much else to them.
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God Is in the T.V. (1999 Video)
a good video, but nothing special
27 July 2000
As much as I love Marilyn Manson, "God is in the TV" is a little disappointing. I can't help but feel that he's trying to cash in on the success of the Nine Inch Nails video set "Closure", a collection of videos, live footage and backstage stuff. But where NIN's production quality looked great, Manson's video looks kind of tossed together, without "Closure"'s linking scenes. Could be the downside of squeezing at least two videos worth of material into one: you don't get much segway time.

But the material on the video itself is pretty good. All the videos from the unreleased "Coma White" to the early "Get your Gunn" are included, along with some interesting concert footage. The backstage stuff isn't too memorable and a bit too random, but the scenes with Manson talking about burning a flag and tossing burritos are enjoyable. If you're a fan of Manson on any scale, this is a good video to pick up, mainly because the entire band is interesting to watch. Although I felt a little disappointed by the production quality, the videos themselves are great to watch, and that's the reason you'd see this anyway.
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1/10
This movie is a cinematic virus
26 July 2000
Warning: Spoilers
"Boys and Girls" is total teenage date movie waste-of-seven-bucks garbage. Hollywood makes these movies because they know that they're trash but the opening sales will cover the cost of the production and still make a small profit. There was no feasable reason why this movie would be made. Did someone say "hey, we need a movie that has attractive stars but let's not add depth, good plot, good dialogue or interesting funny parts"?

Well, maybe someone did say that, because that's what they got. At least in "When Harry Met Sally" you felt there might be some small tiny chance that the two main characters wouldn't get together at the end. Here's the spoiler, because I have to identify it: once you see the first ten minutes you know how the film will end. The film just plays with you and wastes your time, delaying the inevitable. A lot of romance movies are like that, but this one doesn't have any good qualities, except maybe Jason Biggs, who really wasted his time on this.

Take my advice. Never see this film.
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Baby Snakes (1979)
good if you like Zappa concert footage
26 July 2000
Like anything else that Frank Zappa did, if you don't understand it you won't like it. And it's really easy to miss Frank's point sometimes. "Baby Snakes" is simply footage of a Zappa Halloween show cut with Bickford claymation footage. Good if you like that kinda stuff, but dreadfully dull for everyone else. The best place to start learning about Frank Zappa is from his albums, NOT from the videos.

For Zappa fans, the footage is great, and the sound quality is excellent (much better than "200 Motels"). The animation doesn't make much sense. Plus, this video has the great scene of legendary drummer Terry Bozzio singing "T*****s and Beer" in a devil mask.
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200 Motels (1971)
mostly for Zappa fans
26 July 2000
If you don't know Frank Zappa, you won't like this movie. It's full of in-jokes, references to previous material and basic on-camera weirdness that can only be understood in context. Of course, it also works in reverse: if you enjoy Frank Zappa, like I do, you'll love to see this Zappa masterpiece. Zappa references this movie in loads of albums (Playground Psychotics, Best band you never heard in Your Life), and finally getting to see the much talked about magnum opus culminates the Zappa experience. The in-jokes make sense when you look at the rest of the Zappa past, and so does the premise of "a look at life on the road".

The context aside, the movie is just weird. It's not really "life on the road", it's random scenes of Keith Moon as a nun, a man falling in love with a vacuum cleaner and the band scheming against its leader. There's no real plotline, and Zappa isn't even played by himself for half the film (he's played by Ringo Starr). Honestly, it's not that good. Unless you're a fan of the Zappa mystique, it won't make much sense. Even the dynamite soundtrack is lost due to bad sound quality.
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A film that has everything
22 July 2000
"A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" is a film that has a little something for everyone, and that is what makes it a winner. It has the right blend of humor, action, intrigue, music, fantasy and charisma. One of the few total straight-to-finish feel good movies, "Yankee" is great for everyone in the family. And of all the films I have ever seen, this is my favorite. A pretty good recommendation, and I can't make it any stronger!

Bing Crosby plays a regular Joe who is mystically taken to the realm of Camelot. Basically he bums around and goes on adventures, bringing his 20th century wit and know-how along. He teams up with spectacular William Bendix's Sir Sagramore and falls for the beautiful Rhonda Fleming. Battles, music, evil plots and laughs ensue.

At times it seems a little too self-serving to Bing Crosby, but it's understandable and at times actually enjoyable. Bing has his run of Camelot, singing and bringing mirth to everyone. The technicolor is a little cheesy at parts, but by no means does it ruin anything. It doesn't matter what you're looking for, this movie has it; "Connecticut Yankee" is the perfect movie for when you're looking for something that takes its joviality seriously.
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well crafted and engrossing
21 July 2000
Maybe I'm a little biased, but any movie where Christopher Walken pops up when you don't expect him to just becomes ten times better. His role isn't big, but it's very important and he does a great job. I like Christopher Walken.

But he's only a small part of a great movie. "Milagro Beanfield War" is about a group of New Mexicans trying to save their homes from being bought by developers who want to turn it into a resort. The interaction between the townspeople is wonderful, and you probably won't find this kind of community spirit in any other movie. At some times it's touching, at others it's humorous. In fact it was a funnier movie than I expected it to be, so if you're looking for a mix of light comedy and serious subject matter, this is for you.

You can find a downside to most films, but it's tough to find one with "Milagro Beanfield War". The directing is great, the script is great, the actors are endearing, the music is great and it makes you think and feel like no other movie.
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the best feel-good movie ever
21 July 2000
"A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" has become my favorite movie of all time because it is a movie that has it all and works at a level where you feel relaxed and happy the whole time you're watching it. Most movies nowadays try to involve multiple elements in their plots but none of them come close to what "Connecticut Yankee" accomplishes. It has action, it has romance, it has good comedy, it has fantasy, it has intrigue, it has music and all of them weave into each other well. Extraordinarily well to the point where it becomes a joy to watch.

Of course, modern audiences might shrug off this movie as just another piece of fuddy old Bing Crosby fluff, which it is, in the sense that Bing seems to have absolute control over every situation and basically plays himself in a light-hearted movie. It's not deep, but sometimes that's not what we look for when we watch movies. This is a good "sit down with a loved one and a bowl of popcorn and just enjoy yourselves" film, one of the best in my opinion. Ok, the garish technicolor does get annoying, but it's the only downside to a great great film. Enrich your life! Please see this film!
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King Frat (1979)
7/10
Second only to Animal House
4 July 2000
This movie severely thrashes all the other college movies out there. It tramples on the "PCU", "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Road Trip", although if you liked any of those you'd love "King Frat". Instead of being one continuous unbelievable story, like "Nerds" or "Animal House", "King Frat" is more of a compilation of vignettes about the frat boys, which, when you think about it, is really closer to what college life is really like: one prank after another. It pulls each scene off well, except the prostitution scene, and keeps themes running through the film. But what separates this film from the rest, and even bigger budget movies with a wider release area, is the characterization. I have never seen a film where the characters are as well portrayed and with such honesty. It's a gem, if you watch this film prepare to be amazed. I've actually had friends write term papers on this movie.

Ok, some of the scenes do go nowhere, but that's not the point. It's a movie about college pranksters and if you're looking for Shakespeare, this ain't it. But it is entertaining in a crude, heart-of-gold kind of way. A lot like "Animal House" (John DiSanti plays the Budget Belushi well), of course, but unique and special in itself. It's a shame that "King Frat" didn't get a large theatrical release, or any publicity of any kind, because it really is a pretty good goofy movie. Everyone to whom I showed this movie loved it and I've heard it has a pretty good cult following (in Australia of all places).

If you can find it, get it. It's not for everyone but it's a film everyone should give a good fair chance.
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Hardware Wars (1978)
20 minutes where you can shut your brain down
4 July 2000
20 minutes of purely wholesome, silly Star Wars spoof fun. Watching "Hardware Wars" really made me think about how there wasn't really that much to the whole first Star Wars film (it boils it down into less than half an hour and still has the same themes and story as the original). It's a good film just to watch if you want to amuse your friends, but I could see how "Hardware Wars" could lose some of it's spunk after a few viewings. A few friends of mine actually couldn't wait for it to be over, which is understandable if you get tired of lowbrow, silly humor easily. The newly added computer generated graphics seem to detract a little from the whole, but hell, if it drags it out a little longer, all the better. Imagine a MAD Magazine article brought to life, and that's the perfect summation of "Hardware Wars". And the box cover looks pretty neat too.
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Beware bad film quality!
4 July 2000
If you've seen "Reefer Madness", you can skip "Cocaine Fiends/Pace That Kills". The same overblown scare tactics used in "Reefer Madness" are tried again here, but to limited success. At least "Madness" showed what marijuana looked like; cocaine is mentioned and abused but never actually shown. The same old plot of "good kids turned bad by dope" is re-hashed, but not as directly as in other films, so it gets talky when it shouldn't. The first taste of a drug apparently turns you into a monstrous irresponsible waste of humanity, or a "hop head" as the main character laments. Besides exaggerating consequences to the nth degree, "Fiends" has editing that makes you seasick. Characters simply vanish between film splices and cars appear out of nowhere. It's not funny, it's annoying. Although I'm not in favor of drug use at all, it's fun to see something subvert straightlaced black-and-white America. Anarchists will love this movie, but everyone else will find it rather dull.
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Spine (1986 Video)
2/10
worse than public access TV
3 July 2000
"Spine" is what happens when you combine a video camera, a free weekend and two weeks of acting lessons. It's pathetic, and the video quality brings that point home. Pathetic movie shot on pathetic video. Not film, video. Even awful films like "Murderlust" were shot on film, but not "Spine". Basically a guy stalks and kills nurses but you don't see a lot of that in the beginning, only hear that it's happened. The cops are clueless (of course), probably because all their scenes appear to be filmed in an office building rather than a police station. If real police operated this way, I fear for the nation. So the villain, who looks kind of like an evil Jim Henson with aviator sunglasses, terrorizes two women in their home while dramatically posing and spouting off awful dialogue. Does this sound like an interesting, fun movie? It isn't. It isn't even fun to laugh at because there's no real action, mostly just talking and menacing gestures.
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HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! no, seriously, HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
3 July 2000
The epitome of slasher films, "The Redeemer/Class Reunion Massacre" actually introduces characters for the sole purpose of killing them off. There's no development, just a body count.

Seven graduates, representing the seven deadly sins, are invited to their old high school for a reunion. Then the killer bumps them off creatively one by one. Ta-da, the plot. The "Redeemer" is a child who comes out of a lake in the opening scene for the sole purpose of sneaking into a sleeping priest's house to give him a second thumb, which signifies that the priest has been selected to kill the graduates. Yes, it's as stupid as it sounds, but actually well worth the rental. There's nothing that can be taken seriously about this film, so it's a good comedic romp through mayhem and fake blood. It's hard to tell if the humor was accidental, but it's great for parties, so I recommend it for anyone who enjoys cheesy films.

It has a good stable of slasher movie stereotypes too: the humorous fat guy, the good-looking Italian guy, the slutty girl, the evil priest and, of course, the lesbian. Is it just me or do these same character types appear in most every horror film ever made? These roles, the pompous preachyness, the creative yet pointless murders and laughable logic make this film a treat, and if you can find a copy, don't pass the rental up.
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Police Woman (1973)
2/10
DON'T BE FOOLED!!!!
3 July 2000
This is a sad example of bad marketing on everyone's part. Jackie Chan appears on the box and headlines the credits although he's only in the movie for a handful of scenes. I guess it was retitled "Rumble in Hong Kong" by the Americans to cash in on "Rumble in the Bronx"'s fame, even though the two movies have nothing in common. Even the Chinese title "Police Woman" is misleading; sure, there's a police woman in the film, but she's not the main character and the story doesn't follow her like the title suggests.

But as a film it isn't really 100% bad. Ignoring the unfairness of using Jackie's image and the misleading titles, the film is a basic "police vs. evil crime lord" story with the usual twists and turns, good guys and bad guys and the occasional action sequence. A good movie to see with friends, but kind of gets boring if you watch it alone. The hero isn't a police woman though, it's a taxi driver. Go figure.

Hardcore fans of Jackie's will like this film because you get to see him play something other than the hero. He's not the main villain though, only one of the henchmen, so everyone else will be disappointed by his amount of screen time. Deprived of his characteristic moves, humor, and even basic character development, he becomes just another thug (they give him an enormous ugly mole on his neck too, for reasons unknown).

So as a whole the movie's ok, just don't expect to see a lot of Jackie Chan or police women.
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if boredom hurts, this movie is an ax to the skull
3 July 2000
"Three on a Meathook" is a catchy title. And that's the only redeeming quality about this movie. This film has been mentioned in about every book about Ed Gein as being "inspired by the true-life killings", but there's absolutely no connection aside from the fact Ed Gein killed people, and so did the guy in "Meathook". If you heard about "Meathook" while doing research on Ed Gein, watch "Deranged" instead; it's closer to the true story.

There is nothing gory about this movie, except a few frames in the beginning and a few frames in the end. I'm talking about less than seconds worth of gore. After the deaths in the first 5 minutes, the supposed killer is shown farming, dancing and falling in love. I personally would like to see a movie about what happens after murders, but I wish it wasn't as boring as "Meathook". Who wants to see this David Letterman look-alike farm? Love is great, but I don't want it clogging up my slasher movie! I rented it for a reason, and it wasn't to sit there watching some normal guy's life for an hour.

"Three on a Meathook" was, quite simply put, boring. There was action in the beginning, a little tiny bit of action in the end, and an expanse of drearyness in the middle. It gives a new definition to the word "slow". Don't waste your life watching this.
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Screamers (1979)
5/10
surprisingly not awful
2 July 2000
Screamers was supposed to be about men turned inside-out. So said the box. But it turned out to be about fish-men, which was pretty good anyway. Decent effects for a cheesy movie. And it was very very cheesy. Not shocking horror cheesy, but pure mad scientist-movie cheesy. It's about escaped convicts who land on an island of fish men run by the scientist and his obligatory beautiful daughter. The fish-men costumes are laughable and the storyline has some flimsy turns, but it's actually not a movie that makes you feel sorry for renting it. Good if you're in the mood for simple cheese.
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Island Claws (1980)
Please talk through this movie
2 July 2000
This was perhaps one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time. Because it was bad (of course!). There is no reason to sit through this movie seriously like you would with "Schindler's List" or even "Fletch". Talk with your friends through it. Laugh. Make comments. PLEASE!!!! The plot involves little crabs ganging up on people and killing a few (the best scene is where all the tiny crabs manage to overturn a trailer home and catch it on fire). There's a giant paper mache-looking crab too, but I wasn't too sure of its purpose. That goes to show how bad this film was. When you don't know why they had the giant crab (it appears on the box! grrrrr! beware humans!), then it's a bad bad movie.
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Outstanding from Akira
2 July 2000
Sugata sanshiro is a wonderful feel-good film. It's tough to say that about a movie with martial arts where violence abounds, but Kurosawa's subtle approach to character development and mood carry this film above and beyond. Even those who don't look for the art in films will see the beauty of this direction. The definition of characters is difficult to follow in the early scenes, but Susumu Fujita does a marvelous job with his portrayal of an-unsure judo student. Definitely a film that deserves your full attention.
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