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Cartoonishly bad
7 October 2016
I wish it were otherwise. I'm Canadian and I love the source material, the gold rush days of the turn of the 19th to 20th century, the characters of the time, and the setting. I had high hopes for this film and it started out wonderfully, what with the paddle wheeler filled with eager miners landing at a well portrayed Skagway. I forgave the movie makers for inserting the dognapped Buck from one of London's stories, but the manner in which the dog was introduced set the stage for the movie's failing: simplistic one dimensional characters of unlikely and unlikeable makeup and a nonsensical plot. Jack London is a sullen, petulant and uncooperative member of his little partnership, with his more well grounded partner always trying and failing to make his impetuous protégé see reason and to get on with the trips purpose. The card sharp, whom London outplays for $500 ($25,000 in today's money!) is at first suitably sullen and angry and yet next thing you know and for the rest of the movie, he's a happy go lucky friendly fellow adventurer!

The bad guys are baby kicking bad (well, dog kicking), with no apparent other purpose or goal than to be bad guys. Soapy Smith is presented as just evil and venal, hardly historically accurate nor fair, and I almost laughed when Soapy's right hand man in malfeasance, the dog handler, was introduced and he is made up to look just like Popeye's nemesis, Brutus! Yup, I get it, that's the bad guy.

The movie loses its momentum shortly after the characters set off for the gold fields. I found myself thinking, 'OK, come on, what's happening? Let's go.' I noticed my wife had started playing on her cell phone. The movie's pace had stalled and in increasing measure the followers needed to employ suspension of disbelief.

Somehow, up the Chilkoot Pass. a trail that we have seen can barely be negotiated on foot, a stage coach appears (!) with three dance hall 'ladies' accompanied by the now cheery gambler. Should I mention the remarkably unlikely part that follows, where all travelers in their various groups are stopped at a waterway and while we have been made to understand that there is a great hurry on all parts to get to the gold fields, they all take the time to build boats entirely from the surrounding standing timber? Or the remarkable scene where the women are stranded on shore and call out for rescue to London and his partner in their passing boat? They say the gambler has taken off down river on foot to look for help, as their boat was stolen! (if he can hike down river then why on earth was it necessary for all those travelers to build boats?) Once the Jack London boat has negotiated the swift water with the women on board, that the gambler had evidently skirted on foot, there he appears and somehow he has the boat again!

In fact a great deal of the movie Klondike Fever requires suspension of disbelief, and while this is not an unusual requirement in movie watching circles, too much of it detracts from the experience and the production starts to appear cartoonish. I suppose that with Brutus as a bad guy, that was to be expected.
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Missed opportunities
2 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Saw this last night on the big screen, not expecting much but hoping to be entertained. Sadly that didn't happen. Why? I has to have been the movie's writing and the way it was directed. It just never got started, and while the actors' delivery in the various scenes had to have been what the director wanted, it just never rang true. I'll leave off any explanation of the plot and story line, others have done a great job at that. I'll just stick to what I feel are the failings of the directing and writing.

The movie starts out well enough, we get the transformation of the formerly bullied fatty 'Rob Wierdich' into the now huge and muscular Rob Stone and how this man now re-enters the life of co-protagonist Calvin Joyner, a man whose great high school promise has in his own estimation fizzled. Stone is over-the-top enthusiastic and presumptive while Joyner plays the baffled and grudgingly accommodating nebbish. But it is carried on too long, straining for the laugh. Hart as Joyner goes from normal speaking voice to Chris Rock style falsetto screeching with apparently little provocation and Dwaine Johnson's Rob Stone plays his overplayed huge smile and light hearted repartee gag so often that it becomes tiresome and distracting.

The mishandled opportunities in the movie get worse as it goes on. Late in the movie comes the anticipated high school reunion. The movie's makers seem to have had no idea how to tastefully or effectively tie it all up and make a satisfying conclusion to the story. The principal bully who has harassed and humiliated Stone throughout the movie could have been dealt his come-uppance in some turnabout humiliation of his own, and I was expecting and even looking forward to this. Instead the writers blew this chance and had Stone simply haul off and knock the far smaller man unconscious with a single blow to the head, in front of the whole crowd. Nice. Way to transform your hero.

More disturbing by far is the next scene in which Stone takes the stage and while accepting an honor, begins to take off clothing. No... he's not going to... but yes. Not only do the writers have Stone strip off his shirt to show off his muscles in a display of vanity, they have him strip completely naked, to the ooo's and ah's of the assembled crowd, and then walk around like a regular dance attendee. What was the purpose of the full nudity? Are we supposed to believe that Stone has altered his genitalia to the better as well as his muscles? (while it isn't shown of course, the implication that Stone is totally nude is clear when Stone tries to hug Joyner and the latter says, "Not now with your junk hanging out!"

I'm not offended at the scene, but I really have to wonder what motivated the writers to think they were advancing the story arc with this uncomfortable and implausible gag. What were they thinking? It's just weird.

Lots of action scenes, cool stunts, but the story was dealt a poor telling.
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Revolution (2012–2014)
Unwatchable television
3 May 2014
I gave this series an honest try, as the premise intrigued me: a world in which electricity has stopped working. This series however appears to either be made for a target audience whose IQ is no greater than the speed limit on American highways, or is made by writers and directors who express an overriding contempt for their viewers. I understand the need to give a certain amount of leeway via suspension of disbelief in order to advance a story that is set in proposed 'interesting times', but this one requires the viewer to accept so many implausible events and circumstances that ones tolerance of the incredible is reached and exceeded almost immediately. The protagonist who obviously is in on the know about the pending catastrophe, is almost immediately killed, and the brother whom he'd attempted to call at the time of the event just happens to be the toughest guy on the planet, and get this, the friend in his car at the time of the catastrophe just happens to become the head honcho of the new para-military regime, he's the new Sheriff of Nottingham.

The pretty but remarkably naive daughter Charlie happens to collect postcards of the prominent cities of the world. A motor home she and the brother explore happens to have a same size Chicago Wrigley field postcard, and that city happens to be where they go, and they happen to find it exactly at the spot the postcard depicts, there the first person they meet and ask after in this teeming and lawless metropolis happens to be the very man they are searching for. (go figure) And he is indeed 'good at killing people' according to the dying brother's description. With just a sword he is capable of killing a room full of attackers armed with both swords and long guns! Meanwhile the protagonist, just prior to his capture and killing, passes to a most unlikely fat geeky bespecticled ex-dot com millionaire character, the McGuffin: A little amulet thing with a USB port.

Oh, and the whiny Justin Beiber lookalike brother who is captured in lieu of the protagonist, well he manages to escape and make his way across the countryside for a while, and who's home does he find in all the world? That of the woman to whom the McGuffin is to be taken! Yeah, that'll happen.

Everywhere there are warriors armed with swords. Makes you wonder who's making all these swords? And if the metallurgy exists for these to be made then why can't cartridges be made for the many guns that must still exist? That would detract from the bow and sword world the writers want to advance, I guess. And speaking of swords, when oh when will the makers of movies ever come to the understanding that five and ten minute long sword fights with all the acrobatic twirling and clanging up and down stairs and around posts, is not thrilling? Not thrilling at all! They are boring. Audiences have had it up to their eyebrows with sword fights that consist of swords clanging off each other like the dinner bell in a logging camp. Stop it already.

I lasted for two episodes of this tripe and I have had my fill. It isn't going to get any better.
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I had good expectations but upon actually seeing this movie...
12 January 2014
...I found it about as exciting as watching paint dry. The story is so uninspired that I wonder what the director was trying to say. That white people are almost all bad? That there is fulfilment in simply serving and acting like a piece of furniture while overhearing momentous things while pretending not to?

I find now, helped immensely by this movie, that I'm getting awfully tired of Forest Whittaker and his trademark lazy eye. According to this movie, dumb luck in stumbling across a series of kind benefactors allows a man to achieve a pretty high calling for an unschooled southern boy, and Whittaker ends up carrying serving trays for a series of laughably portrayed presidents for the next four decades. (unfortunately they ignored the Carter administration and they could have had Ron Howard or maybe Chuck Norris appear as the peanut farmer cum President) For that matter, the way the casting choices for presidents went they should have kept going and got Steve Martin as Bill Clinton (with a cameo by Roseanne Barr as Monica Lewinski) James Cromwell as Bush Sr., Pee Wee Herman as Bush Jr., and Will Smith for Obama. In the end though, nothing happens. The Butler has a son who joins the Black Panthers, another who joins the Army (all fabrications) and a wife we hear has a drinking problem and then we hear she doesn't anymore. (!) And you look at the clock and see that there's still forty minutes of run time left and the paint hasn't dried yet.
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Paint dries faster
21 April 2013
Well, since I watched this movie I gave it a couple of days to sink in, that I might not write overly critically of it in the moment. Nothing has changed however. The movie just didn't do it for me.

Not that I was 'offended' by the racism, or depictions of racism, nor of the depictions of virtually all whites with the exception of the doctor protagonist as shallow, hateful and prejudiced. That didn't colour my opinion.

Not that I was offended by the violence and the expected over-the-top gore of a Tarantino work, in fact I laughed at the campy treatment of the lawyer in the big shootout, repeatedly getting unintended hits in the crossfire, spraying gore and howling at each new injury. (kind of sick when you think about it, but I laughed as was intended)

Not that I was bothered by seeing Tarantino in his hubris, again insert his awkward and unconvincing actor self into a cameo role in one of his films, though the cameos would work better if he didn't look so much like a shorter Richard Keil knockoff ('Jaws', of James Bond fame) and stand out so obviously.

The movie was just too damned long and too... boring. The 25 minute long dinner scene for example. Some think it brilliant and if they think so, well and good. But to me it shows a lack of editing. Tarantino must believe so deeply in his own cinematic excellence that he cannot allow what he has deemed should be filmed, to be trimmed. All footage stays in. But that's what editing is for, to keep a scene concise and keep the production from dragging, and folks, a 25 minute dinner scene doesn't build tension the whole time, it drags. Hitchcock would agree. Ditto the handshake scene. "Shake my hand, it's what we do around here." "I won't shake your hand" "Shake my hand" "No, I won't"... on and on. It doesn't build, it drags. By that time the movie is already two and a half hours in and desperately needs to end, and lo and behold here the viewer is treated to a silly protracted argument that could have taken place in any playground, by little kids.

Some epic tales such as Ben Hur are convoluted and involved and they take a long run time to depict on the screen. This is a short simple story that has been drawn out far longer than necessary and longer than it is comfortable to sit through.

If I may employ a metaphor, Tarantino the film maker has always given me the impression of an impulsive adolescent who has taken dad's powerful sports car without permission, and is doing crazy things in it. He does things behind the wheel of that car that others haven't done, that the makers of the car never intended it to do, and people see it and say "WOW, did you see that, that was amazing!". But the more often you see Tarantino drive, the more it becomes apparent that what looked at first to be an astonishingly talented new driver, is in fact just a rather rash and undisciplined driver who is willing to take wild chances. Sometimes the result is brilliant, but things don't always work out for the best on every outing.

This one, Django Unchained, wasn't one of Tarantino's better drives.
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The key word for this duster is, 'Implausible'. (spoilers?)
12 January 2011
It started off pretty good: 1858, lone traveller (Pierce Brosnan) setting up camp and cooking up some critter for dinner. He pays little attention when his horse starts skittering around and acting like its surrounded by rattlesnakes. Can't be a very bush savvy man. Then the ambush, he's under attack from unseen foes. Barely escapes with his life. Eludes pursuit and shows some remarkable survival skills.

But a nagging question lurks in the background. If he's such a keen bush fellow then why was he so blind to his horse's manic activity? And why would a horse get so frightened in the first place because of the approach of other men and horses? It's kind of... implausible.

And that sets the tone for the whole movie. It just keeps getting more implausible. Why would a crafty guy risk everything and corner himself by climbing a tree and hoping his pursuer does not see him but that he will stop and linger directly below him in the tree, and stay in that exact spot long enough for our protagonist to drop his big knife so accurately?

Why would our hero, when pursued by four horsemen on whom he has a two hour lead, stop and build a smoky fire and then leave his horse and hide in the trees? There's no ambush, no plan, He just waits in the trees until after dark and he's so inept that he can't keep track of four men around a fire so that one doesn't leave the fire and sneak up behind him, which happens. That's Liam Neeson, the principal pursuer who's companions are in his employ for the purpose of catching Brosnan. But this time Brosnans character gets away from Neesons. How? By running off! Yes, after he and Neeson have a short discussion in which we the audience learn something about why these two are at odds with one another, the guy with a shot arm just ran away, and Neeson didn't see where he went and couldn't stop him. See what I mean? Implausible.

Why would a pursued man with a two hour lead just give up his horse to his pursuers? Why would a woman who's baby is inside a burning house, not scream out 'My baby'? And when she went in and gathered the baby up as the flames approach, why would any modern human being, let alone a sturdy and capable frontier woman, not think to break that second story window and get the heck out with said baby, risking at worst a sprained ankle? Instead she just stands there in the window, holding the baby and looking sad while the flames approach. Is that plausible? Why Why Why?

Let's leave alone the question of whether a six plus foot wounded and exhausted man could pull the entrails out of a dead horse and hide himself in the abdominal cavity for an unknown length of time in the desert heat, only to burst out and instantly get control of a healthy man and hold a knife to his throat. Let's not argue that one.

Well, to cut to the chase the two combatants finally have at it in one on one hand to hand combat. Brosnans character, despite a virtually useless arm, manages to beat the heck out of Neesons. 'Don't keep following me.' Brosnan is astride Neeson and completely controls him. Could kill him. He lets him live. Rides away, taking both horses. This might make a decent ending of the movie. But no. In a manner totally lacking in common class and dignity, after being bested by his foe and let live despite all that has passed between them, just like an overgrown Energizer Bunny Neeson's character gets up and staggers off once again in pursuit of Brosnans! That's the point at which I finally lost all respect for this movie and those involved in it. I stopped caring.

And then the Indian by the water hole appears. No reason for being there, not a popular enough route that he supports himself by hanging around the hole and putting the arm on anyone passing who might need water, he's just there. Avaricious enough to demand a horse in exchange for 'his' water. OK, I'll buy it. But wait, the Indian just gives that horse to the now lone pursuer! He didn't want it? Or does the Indian a gimmick, just there in order to re-balance the horse-to-rider ratio between the two? It's slap the forehead time. Implausible

But wait, there's more! They had to go and introduce the supernatural. Soundlessly and instantly a coach with 'Louis C. Faire' on the side appears in the desert. (Get it? Lu-C-Fer? Oh how sly) The devil makes an appearance, in the form of a woman (Angelica Huston) hawking snake oil, who is only there in order to barter possession of a single bullet for each of the combatants.

OK so there's a devil that can take earthly form and take part in things. Did the devil influence things before this or is this the first hand it plays a part in? Is that why Brosnan backhanded the Chinaman so hard when there seemed no reason for it, because the devil made him do it?

I'd have been not a bit surprised at this late stage if some extraterrestrials had marched out to take a part in the proceedings. Or Elvis appeared. From a promising beginning, this films entertainment value just went down and down the longer it played. Three out of ten rating, and that just for the good survival stuff at the start. That part was well done.
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Hunt to Kill (2010)
Oh it's a stinker alright
16 November 2010
And I was generous with three stars, of ten. Explanation to come.

A buddy rented this one and brought it over. Starring the only two known 'actors' Steve Austin and Eric Roberts (who has stumbled along on his acting career, never approaching his more famous sister Julia's prominence), Hunt to Kill starts out with a familiar formula: Two cop (southern border guard?) buddies, the two already mentioned, staking out a trailer in the desert. It's desert so it must be the southern US border. They call for backup and then decide to storm the trailer without waiting for the backup to arrive.

At this point we can see what's going to happen in this movie. The writer is going to have the characters do totally illogical things because he hasn't taken any care to advance the story in a plausible fashion, and we the audience will spend the rest of the show rolling our eyes saying all the while, 'Now why on Earth would somebody do that?'. The movie delivers.

Of course the bust goes wrong. Eric Roberts must have been expensive because he's only on the screen long enough to get killed. The trailer is full of hidden bad guys and everything blows up in magnificent fashion, leaving only Steve Austin knocked flat but alive.

Next thing we know it's four years later and Austin has transformed into some sort of Rambo-like master of the forest and now he's in the Pacific Northwest. All the setup with the trailer and the killed partner? It has nothing at all to do with the rest of the movie except maybe to establish that Austin is tough. Oh, and we see him being given a birthday present of a watch with a woven band that can be unravelled into a rope.

The story shifts to a group of bad guys who have stolen some bonds and who are not only baby kicking bad but who betray each another at the drop of a hat. They kidnap Austin, actually kidnapping his newly appeared incredibly stupid daughter to force his cooperation in order that he should lead them through the forest to their fellow bad guy who has stolen their stolen bonds (don't ask) and taken off with a guide to sneak into Canada through the forest... (I warned you) The watch with the magic rope band that we expected Austin to use to save the day at some point? At one point the McGuffin (bag of bonds) had fallen off a cliff, Austin volunteers to go get it and just up and produces this magic watch band rope in front of everybody, unwinds it, and heads over the edge! Oh, that twist caught me by surprise! I had a great laugh over the fact that the watch-band rope once unravelled, became a half inch line of a good couple hundred feet in length.

Of course the bad guys betray him, grab the McGuffin, cut the rope so that Austin falls off the cliff, and leave him for dead. Of course he's not dead.

The forest part allows the story to go the way of presenting Austin as Rambo, although he runs through the bush in a very awkward fashion as though he were wearing high heels. We get to enjoy seeing such eye rolling and laughter inspiring events as Austin leaning back against a log in the middle of the forest and discovering a bag slung up into a tree, that contains a compound hunting bow! How handy. You can almost hear the scriptwriter say to himself, "Now I want to introduce a hunting bow for Austin, how can I do that?" "I know, he just finds it in a bag, strung up in a tree!"

Mind you, later Austin discards the bow when he has shot all of the arrows. You can't reuse undamaged arrows, it seems.

There are enough scenes to inspire laughter that I didn't pull the DVD out of the player. It was funny enough to keep watching, I'll give it that. There were some visually stunning scenes shot around the abandoned Brittania copper mine in Southwest British Columbia and cliff scenes obviously shot around nearby Squamish.

I can't give it all away but I've said enough I think. Austin has to rescue his daughter before the bad guys can escape with her to Canada. It's not so awful you can't get a laugh or two, but it's pretty awful.
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Let it end, please
27 October 2010
A video rental. The girlfriend picked it out, that's the memory that I cling to.

I started with an open mind. There are chick-flicks that I have thoroughly enjoyed, I am unashamed to say, and I was ready to see another such. Not this time, as it turned out. The girlfriend relayed the cover info and the whole plot, as it turned out: Lonely city woman with ticking biological clock and no prospects decides to go with artificial insemination and then promptly meets man of her dreams. What to do?

The movie attempts to place Jennifer Lopez into a quintessential Sandra Bullock role ala 'The Net', 'Speed', 'While You Were Sleeping' et al, a slightly naive, sweet dispositioned perky young thing who doesn't seem to be aware she is pretty. Bullock pulls it off naturally, while Lopez in some way doesn't quite reach it.

The setup requires we the audience to accept the notion that a young lady as attractive as Lopez undeniably is, is unable in her whole given decade or so of adult life, to find a suitable live sperm bearing man in this teeming city who is willing to donate same to her cause. One brief scene involving Lopez asking a gorky co-worker for such a donation and the guy flubbing his chance, is meant to suffice in this question. What the scene does is illustrate the absurdity of the premise. If she's willing to use this loser's essence for the purpose then there are at least a million chances in this city every day for Lopez' character to fulfill her child bearing urge. A woman looking like that can't find anyone at all in the city, in ten years, to donate sperm? In what universe?

But we must get beyond this flight of fancy, cut the director some considerable slack, and let the movie get on with it. And gradually, like a Cambodian water buffalo hooked to a huge plow and goaded by a tiny child perched on its neck, the movie gets underway. But my God does it take it's time about it.

She meets Mr. Perfect when they both escape the pouring rain by hopping into opposite sides of the same cab, and then arguing on who 'owns' it. Lame, but they had to meet somehow. Then the two 'happen' to bump into each other often enough for a relationship to develop, though it is a wonder this happens because they show no on screen chemistry what-so-ever. Now there it is: she has a bona fide boyfriend, and is knocked up via artificial insemination sperm doner. The stage is set, just like the video box described.

Now what? Well... nothing.

Granted there isn't much to build on once the premise is established. Does she keep the A/I child or what? Obviously the production has got to have a nice ending that won't offend its audience, be they of whichever popular religious or moral persuasion, so the movie is already guaranteed to have the most politically correct outcome. She's not going to have an abortion (heaven forbid!) or spontaneously miscarry, or adopt out, or anything that might smack of controversy. Similarly it won't end with Mr. Perfect leaving her to her own devices because the kid(s) aren't of his issue. It has to be a 'happily ever after' ending.

The unspoken thing in our minds, that is never hinted at in the movie, is of course, 'Will she quickly consummate the relationship, lie, and say the pregnancy is his doing? She met him the same day she had the transfer after all.'. To the movie makers this rather obvious potential scenario simply doesn't exist. They don't touch it with a ten foot pole. Back Up Plan is far too politically correct a confection to even allow such a thought. We the audience are left to think it, and to consider ourselves 'dirty' for thinking of something so underhanded when the nice movie and its pure leading character never even gave consideration to such an idea. Thanks.

So where is there left for this movie to go? Nowhere. Nothing to say but to fleshing out more than an hour of our movie sitting time with silly fights, making up's, misunderstood meanings leading to more fights, breakups, making ups... Wasted time, in other words. We get about 70 minutes of what is basically a reality show peering into two unconvincing love interests' dating adventures with the oh-so-racy theme that she's carrying child fathered by a sperm doner. With a foreordained predictable nicey-nice ending. The pain of that final 70 minutes is the reason for my title, 'Let it end, please'.

I really regretted not looking at the label before putting the DVD in the machine, so that I might at least know just how long it was going to be before this movie would be over. That bad, yes.

I'm happy that Sandra Bullock was not the principal actress in this clunker. She'd have done it much more justice but I don't think she could have in any real way, saved it. 2/10
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White Sands (1992)
Of course you have to suspend your disbelief...
7 November 2009
In order for a movie to hold our attention by presenting interesting and exciting events that exceed what might happen in our normally more mundane lives, we have to suspend our natural critical view that, 'things wouldn't happen that way in real life...'. 'It's a movie', so we cut it some slack and accept things that on the whole, might be somewhat unlikely.

Right at the outset White Sands demands a great deal from our reserves of suspended disbelief, and this is because a small hick town sheriff, who turns out to be a very thorough and exacting crime scene detective, responds to the discovery in his jurisdiction, of an apparent suicide victim who has a briefcase containing a huge amount of money, by becoming the sole self-appointed investigator. Then he discovers a lead, and with no backup what-so-ever he decides to take the whole briefcase full of money and set out in a convertible '65 Corvette no less, on a quest to find information about the deceased through pretending to be that person!

As our good sheriff drives off and away from his beautiful wife, in his oddly chosen very valuable classic convertible sports car, all alone and with half a million bucks in unknown and unsecured evidence in a briefcase on the seat beside him, we know that he has no idea whom he might meet. What will such people think of this money-stuffed briefcase packing shill of the victim whom for all our sheriff knows, might know is in fact dead? We may well be excused for thinking, 'That wouldn't happen that way in real life'.

Do ya think?

With a lesser actor in the lead role we might be inclined to see if it isn't too late to get out of our seats and go back to the ticket booth and make a scene about a refund, or to make a phone call and see if the video store is still open, but it's Willem Dafoe and he does pretty darned well with the material.

If our next thought, seeing this lone man set off on his quest with his unsecured briefcase of money, is something along the lines of, 'This can't be good...' then we are treated to the fulfilment of our forebodings. It does become much better though. If we forgive the movie's presumption to this point then we are treated to a somewhat less demanding remainder. To say any more would be to do a job of telling that the movie actually does much better than I can.

There are several big names in the cast and they do a commendable job. The plot thickens, the characters develop and the viewer is never required to strain credulity to the degree demanded by that setup scenario. It's a generally satisfactory movie and if not in the league of the giants, you shouldn't regret viewing it.

Present ratings are rather harsh for this drama but for my part I'd think it warrants a solid 7.
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The Descent (2005)
What the heck was this? (Spoilers within)
14 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Bought with a package of previously rented movies from a local rental shop, I chose this one and sat down to watch this movie with no expectations and no prior knowledge of it. Just the title.

As often the case after watching a clunker, (as such I judged it to be) I logged on to IMDb to see how bad it fared in the popular opinion. Imagine my astonishment when I see it popularly rated at 7.4! What did so many other people see that I missed? Who's off base, me or them? What did I fail to appreciate, if anything?

Now I have no problem with a virtually all female cast. No misogynist here, I can handle women being depicted as strong and assertive, in fact I find it a refreshing approach to what has so often been the more common role of women in horror movies, that of obligatory pretty screaming victims. What seemed to turn me off from taking the movie seriously at an early point was the sense of insincerity in the actresses. Now that I'm aware that it is a British movie, I wonder if perhaps it's a subtle cultural difference in the way the cast is directed or in their presentations, but I was always aware that they were acting. It was palpable. Then the mood was further broken by the standard low budget horror movie ethos, that the lead characters should make implausibly foolish decisions, which no one in their right mind would make, but which permit them to be killed in succession. EG: The lead spelunker left the guide book behind, so that they could all explore a 'new' part of the cave system! She is obviously a skilled and experienced climber/caver and yet she decides to deceive her companions by leading five people into a cave system she knows nothing about! When did she intend to tell her 'good friends' that she has led them into the unknown so that they could 'all discover it together'? Were they all going to giggle together over the prank around a wiener roast?

Then the cave creatures. They can skitter around on any surface even the ceiling, like spiders, showing that while blind they are still able to detect what is around them, yet they cannot detect living, breathing, hearts beating sweat smelling frightened people who are laying down on a ledge an inch in front of their faces as long as the ladies don't move! And despite the creatures' obvious great strength and agility in being able to zip around like squirrels, they get killed by the dozen by these exhausted and injured slow moving humans. Yeah, that could happen.

Then there are the quite unlikely plot twists and the odd moralistic rationalizations. -It's alright for the lead protagonist to deliberately mercy kill one of their number, but wrong and evil for the one who originally injured her to have done so purely without intent while surrounded and attacked by creatures! -It's a good idea for one of two people who are fighting for their lives against great odds, to deliberately injure the other and doom her to a grisly death, before they have reached safety!

And the final twist? Not horror inspiring but eye rolling. Of course by that time I'll admit I'd become thoroughly jaded with the show and it seemed more like banana peel humour, someone pulling your chair back as you are about to sit down, than any horrifying development.

No, the movie had turned me off long before this point, and I'd resigned myself to getting a laugh or two out of yet another badly done B flick. That so many thought so much better of it still amazes me. Wes Craven might have made a better movie out of it.
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The Friendly Giant (1958–1985)
A fine memory from early childhood.
28 October 2008
I can do no more than echo the sentiments of others on here, that there was something magical about the calm and jocular Friendly Giant and his limbless companions. Loved seeing the cow make its jerky way over the moon. Loved the stories and the walks over the countryside. Loved the arranging of the furniture in front of the fire, a big chair for two more to curl up in. The rocking chair, for someone who likes to rock. All the reliable and comforting things that a child never tires of hearing again and again. It is telling that there is not a single non-positive comment on the IMDb about the Friendly Giant. Click on 'Hated it', and you just get another positive comment. Bob Homme left a fine legacy.
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Perhaps the most revealing documentary on the 20th century's most poignant disaster
9 August 2007
The sinking of the Titanic is a tragedy that grips our collective attention and won't let go. All of the elements of what would be a rather fantastic fictional story are present in this real life historical event. A ship, technically the largest and most luxurious of it's day (in a day of sumptuously elegant upper class shipboard appointments), packed with the famous and the wealthy in the elegant first class as well as many hundreds of third class immigrants huddled in the depths of the hold, sinks on it's maiden voyage with tremendous loss of life.

Many documentaries have been made and books written explaining and forensically dissecting the events of that April night in 1912 in the North Atlantic and I have most of them in my personal library, but if I were to take it upon myself to describe why and how and what brought about the tragic loss of 1503 souls on that night I could do no better than to simply screen 'Titanic, A question of murder' and let this production do all the talking for me.

While the narration begins over the depiction of a seance in which the medium is seeking to communicate with a victim of the disaster (this tack did not gain my personal confidence in the documentary, on my first viewing), the production quickly finds its pace and dissects the story in a way that few other such productions have been able. Survivors are interviewed including a heart wrenching interview with the last surviving crew member and that man's haunting reflections. We are given to understand the logical progression of decisions made during construction which made sense to the owners and builders at that time but led to terrible consequences during the disastrous hours of the sinking. We are shown the working relationship and complex interplay between the owners of a ship and the builders who are contracted to fill the order for a great vessel, and how this played out in the event. We are shown how the British Board of Trade had been asleep at the switch as ships in little more than a decade had increased in size and tonnage at an astonishing pace.

In short this documentary tells how it all happened, in such a way that the viewer understands and can appreciate how technology, confidence and a lax bureaucracy contributed to so much human loss.

The closing chilling reflection by that sole surviving crew member gives meaning to the title. I could rate this special nothing but a 10/10.
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Windwalker (1980)
"Grandfather, why is it I cannot walk on the wind?"
15 October 2006
A native Indian family fleeing from an area struck by disease, is forced to be on the move during winter, and grandfather is sick. With the last of his strength the old patriarch ascends to his death platform to join his ancestors. In these hard times resources are dear, and a sick and dying old man with nothing more to contribute to the family must do the noble thing and not be a burden to his kin. He would slow them down and consume food, blankets, space and warmth that should nurture those who will carry on his line. He must go with dignity and walk on the wind. It is his time.

But as it happens this old man's greatest adventure and finest moments are yet before him, and as we shall see, he will not only contribute a much greater boon to his family than they or he could ever imagine, but he will ultimately find closure to a great tragedy he suffered in his own youth.

Windwalker is a refreshingly different film. All dialogue is spoken in authentic native dialects, with subtitles where necessary to aid the telling. The story unfolds through the use of the sparing English narration and wonderful visuals.

Also refreshing is the absence of any caucasian/native interaction and angst. All characters are native North American Indian. Good guys, bad guys, those whom the viewer decides himself/herself are good bad or otherwise, all are seen in a setting that predates the arrival of Europeans on the scene.

Too, it can be seen that the indigenous way of life really wasn't idyllic just because Caucasians had yet to come along and 'ruin' it! There is disease, famine, rapacious attacks from neighboring rival bands... Sort of like Europe in a way, wasn't it?

Free of heroic 'indian fighter' themes such as early cowboy movies had, Windwalker is also free of the latest theme in which the 'white men' are portrayed as having destroyed the native's presumed blissful former lifestyle. It is a blessing to be able to watch and share a movie with a North American native setting that is completely free of any political leanings one way or another. No racial tension or posture exists because it's all native. Bravo!

The story unfolds with enthralling straightforward simplicity, and spiced with occasional dry humour, reaches a satisfying conclusion. Suitable for all ages, this is a movie well worth watching.
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Patton (1970)
Stirring jingoism for Americans
4 August 2006
The target audience was never a more willing pawn! I approached this viewing with an open mind, particularly as Scott is one of my all time favorite actors. Sadly, though I tried to keep pace with the unfolding events, the ceaseless pro-American propaganda eventually wore me down and I ended up leaving the room for other more interesting pursuits.

It's not that I resent nationalistic pride nor patriotic ferver by any nationality, be it the U.S. or any other nation, but this production just never stopped laying it on thicker than meringue on a lemon pie, beginning with Scott's pacing and prolonged opening pro-America bombast, against the backdrop of a gigantic American flag.

American readers who cannot understand what might be cloying about that performance might gain a bit of perspective by imagining any other nation being so represented at the start of a movie. Imagine, for instance, a gigantic Soviet hammer and sickle flag and a Russian general in full uniform spending ten minutes pacing in front of it and telling the audience how Russia will never lose and that Russians live to fight will plough through any enemy etc. etc. Wouldn't you roll your eyes? But then I'm not the target audience. You are.

But of the movie, when it finally got underway... We step into position as vicarious viewers of Patton as a fully developed General, and take up the story as Patton commands in his blustering style, the North African campaign. Battles are fought, jeeps roar around and are sometimes blown through the air, but no story ever seems to develop. It's just Scott roaring and behaving like Patton is expected to behave. As events progress to the invasion of Sicily, nothing new there either. Patton roars, Palermo is occupied, the infamous battle fatigued soldier gets slapped and Patton delivers the insincere apology, and on we go. It just got so dull that I finally gave up on the movie.

I must be in the minority though, because this films aggregate votes place it in the top 250!

I have to wonder however: The vote database compiles stats from gender, age and so on (females under 18 tellingly rate it at an average 5.5!) but voting demographics do not include nationality. I wonder how those statistics would look regarding this film? Edit: By gosh strike the last, I just found the very stats, and it is as I thought!
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The World at War (1973–1976)
Of unmatched significance in the library of video productions
22 January 2005
This series, produced at probably the most propitious time following the events of the second World War, is on a scale of value that stands far above any individual's presumption to criticize.

The timing of World at War's production in 1974, amounting to some three decades after the events of the war, permits an accurate relating of events in a manner uncoloured by residual propaganda and slant. The passage of thirty years allows the telling to be backed up by an impressive and fascinating panoply of the very individuals involved, ranging from some of the highest military and political figures down to the field soldiers, civilians, and such survivors of the death camps as have remained to bear witness to the unimaginable inhumanities of which civilized humans are capable. Most approaching or well into their senior years, the interviewed subjects have had enough time to reflect on their experiences and in most instances have had enough time for whatever propaganda and fervor may have affected them in the past to have receded away, leaving only the memories of what they saw and what they did.

The information that these survivors give, strikingly reinforced by the postures and expressions they display while telling their part, give their stories all the more impact. Such names as Ira Eaker, Adolph Galland, Louis Mountbatten, Albert Speer, Gertrude Junge (Hitler's personal secretary)... the list is far too long to relate.

Today, within the lifetime of the survivors of this enormous lesson in the hideous price of political ambition, are young people who chant the same sort of militaristic and nationalistic war promotion as led to WW2. The DVD series we discuss here ought to comprise the core of a mandatory history subject in schools, that the lessons bought at such a horrible cost in those days should not have been wasted but should be taken to heart by those who did not see firsthand the terrible price.

I am almost done watching the 11 disk set, having seen most of the series when a local TV channel aired it more than 10 years ago. It has lost none of its poignancy to me, indeed has become even more of a magnificent chronicle of some of the very darkest days of human times.

The highest possible rating seems unworthy of being applied to this presentation. I think the value of this series is beyond counting.
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Hero (2002)
I tried to like it.
13 December 2004
But failed. Obviously someone reasoned that if 'Crouching Tiger...' made money, that they could do it again and cash in a second time. Still to this day the Chinese film industry seems incapable of creating a production with a plot more sophisticated than that found in any of the Bruce Lee productions. This one, in character with the ilk, is about as deep as a kittens saucer of milk.

I honestly tried to be forgiving, to 'get into it' and to accept the cultural differences that may make it difficult for me to adopt the mindset needed for this to entertain me, and I succeeded for a while until the cumulative banality got the better of my efforts.

Can someone please tell these people that watching two opponents whirl swords around and clang them off each other is only entertaining for a very short time, and that after ten minutes of clangity clang clang clangity clang spin clang clang spin clang spin clang, we have had about nine minutes too much? It isn't suspenseful or entertaining, it's boring. BORING! Then, I suppose to spice things up, the directors have the fighters able to flit around in the air at will like chickadees or strike a pose and shoot straight through the air in one firmly held posture, with sword held out front like the cowcatcher on a locomotive. I suppose that displaying these physically impossible antics is meant to make up for the lack of a story.

(I just wonder why it is that Western audiences are so forgiving of Asian movies that are so insulting to the intelligence? Can you imagine an audiences' reaction if John Wayne or Clint Eastwood as 'Dirty Harry' were to strike a pose with his gun extended in front of him and fly screaming through the air on wires, parallel to the ground for 50 feet or more? The exits would be jammed faster than if someone yelled 'fire!'! Yet people call this 'beautiful' in an Asian film. Go figure.)

I look at the ratings this movie has garnered, and wonder if there is some deep meaning and value here that I am just too rough hewn to appreciate, for so many to praise it and I to scorn? But alas, I am left to conclude that no, there appear to be great many people who praise this genre of tripe as great stuff, in order to appear themselves as artsy and cultured. The same kind of people who don't understand Italian, but go to an opera and listen to people howling an aria in Italian, and come out saying it was a wonderful and moving story! Knock yourselves out, poseurs. This movie was pretentious garbage.
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Still hard hitting
2 June 2004
I must get this one off my chest, having just read the reviews posted to date. Why do so many want to slag this film so badly, even those who admit having liked, nay loved it? Is it a wish not to seem shallow in fawning over every work by a given great director? Could it be real disappointment? How so? The movie just rocks, still. Does the Wang Chung music so upset you? As has been pointed out, musical score is GOING to become dated in ANY movie. It's only today for one day fellows, get used to it.

As you'll have divined already, I liked the movie. No point describing the plot lines again, it's been well covered by the contributers below. Dafoe conjures up a suitably believable self motivated and brilliant but heartless villain figure. Peterson is a believable good cop driven to near madness in his goal of avenging his partner. The action sequences, the violence, graphic rather than gratuitous, and the unpredictability with which characters, ANY characters at any given time, may come up against some grim or at least painful event. There is no guessing or predicting the flow of events and the action is most gratifying. What else do you want from a picture show? It to cook you dinner? I enjoyed 'To Live and Die in L.A.' heartily and I may have to write myself a note to see it again and then undergo hypnosis so I can forget how it goes. Yes it's that good.
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A powerfully shocking movie if you let it be
10 October 2003
I first saw 'The Changeling' in the mid-eighties and it has lost none of its edge. A few of the reviews I see below seem to be written by those who have read glowing reviews but just didn't get it: Comparisons with 'The Exorcist', a story of demonic possession, are inappropriate. This movie isn't a visual shock feast nor a gore fest, this is a powerful psychological drama. The penultimate ghost story. If you just sit back in a defensive posture and challenge the movie to scare you, you will lose out completely. If however you choose to get involved, you will find yourself going for one hell of a ride. Few scenes in moviedom rival the poignancy, for instance, of the disbelieving George C. Scott character when he is reviewing the tape of the seance and comes upon the inescapable evidence that there IS a paranormal presence in the house. Here I will make my own inappropriate comparison: In the context of this story, Scotts ultimately human and believable response and the collapse that follows is far scarier than Exorcist's Reagan spewing green puke, by a long shot.

And the little girl going alone, summoned into the haunted room in her house at night? Forget about it. My hair stands on end.

If 'The Changeling', watched at night doesn't give you a fright, then there are at least six 'Hallowe'en' movies on the rack that should suit your particular needs. The Changeling is something else: the fear of the spiritually macabre.
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What a gobbler
16 August 2003
Enough fawning over the fact it was a Martin Scorcese film, this thing is dreck. DiCaprio is terrible, Day-Lewis overacts to an outrageous degree and the fight scenes are so full of obviously pantomimed fakery they are insulting. I watched for an hour and a half, hoping for some improvement or at least a reason why these things depicted were happening in this unlikely way before giving up, thus salvaging the next hour and a half of my life in time before I wasted it on the rest of this bad movie. If the departed Ed Wood Jr. had ever had a budget the size of what this turkey must have enjoyed he could have doubtless directed a much better production than Scorcese did here. Cinematic garbage. 2/10
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Rapa Nui (1994)
31 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The studios should be applauded when they take on a movie that involves an all new setting and topic, and encouraged to do so more often. We have plenty of stupid eye candy car chase movies and murder mystery flicks for those who enjoy that stuff. Rapa Nui goes somewhere else entirely. The road less travelled as it were.

Set on Easter Island, isolated as it is literally thousands of nautical miles from its nearest neighbour, the movie fleshes out the most pivital time in that islands history, as we understand it from the archeological evidence available. The residents had every reason to believe they represented the only life in the universe. Those of the population with vision must have been appalled to watch their religeous zealots engineering the destruction of the only habitat in the world. The protagonist seems to be one of those who sees the folly and wants to prevent it.

** spoiler coming?**

I am not the first to note that this film weakens its message by allowing, even fostering unintended humour at places where it is not appropriate. The head engineer of statue construction falling to the ground and flailing in a tantrum when the chief glibly states the statue, carved and transported with many months of tremendous labour is dismissed and ordered broken up as being "too small", and that chief, when he complains to his obviously self serving and manipulative with doctor/adviser,"I've been coughing up and vomiting blood lately. Do you think that means anything?" "No, replies the adviser, it's nothing". It seems as though the screenwriter thinks the viewer must have some levity to break up the serious subject matter. The humour takes away much more than it adds to the story however and hearing a couple of audience members guffawing from time to time when we should be sympathising with the frustration of the main character has the effect of pulling the rug out from under the mood. Even the 'last cutting' scene is overblown and rendered campy when this scene, of which perhaps the most empathy might have been drawn of any in the entire film, is played out almost as satire.

**End of spoiler**

So much for the 'It could have been better' part, the movie does deserve kudos for tackling new ground. The cinematography is beautiful, the love story plausable and the main characters earn our support. Bravo for being daring enough to make this flick. I just wish it had been distributed.
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Fight Club (1999)
27 May 2003
I won't try to write an outline of the film, others have done a good job of that here already, I'll just confine myself to observing my own reaction to it: This is one poor movie. Due to the buildup I expected something pretty good. My enthusiasm went progressively downhill as I watched the story develop and when Ed Norton performs the revealing scene (Which I suppose I should not describe here) I felt like pulling the tape out right there, I was that insulted. I am struck with jaw dropping amazement at the vote results here in IMDB. What possible value does this movie have to place it higher than so many great films in the top 250 list? I have a feeling that this flick speaks to the 16 to 21 year old male (the same group that the worlds armies traditionally love to make eager immortal uncritical soldiers from). I would like to see a demographic breakdown of the registered voters in IMDB. I get the impression that a hoard of enthusiastic male youths flooded the IMDB with high votes immediately after the release of this puerile tale. Oh well, if you want to vote this sloppy trash highly, knock yourself out.
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Red Dragon (2002)
Spoiled by Norton
25 May 2003
What would have been a very effective thriller on the Hannibal Lecter theme is regrettably spoiled by the badly mis-cast Ed Norton. What was the casting director thinking by retaining Norton in the role of Will Graham? The part called for someone of greater years than Norton, someone able to play a troubled investigator with an unwanted empathy to diseased-minded killers. Norton acts more like Adam Sandler in a lame comedy.

Compounding this is Nortons thinly disguised hubris in which he appears to consider himself an actor at least on a level with Feiness and Sir Anthony. Sadly he is not, and his youthful banter in delivering his lines before these masters lends the impression of arrogant disrespect and detracts both from his performance and theirs. Imagine for example Steve Buscemi in that role and grieve for what might have been. Good movie but for that faux pas. Save Ed Norton for the roles he is good at, portraying someone who is shamming a disability.
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Misleading title
28 April 2003
I found this gem in a rack the local video rental store had of tapes which are exchanged among various rental outlets. 'The Man who Skied Down Everest'. Hmm... never heard about it. The box reads of some Japanese fellow who always wanted to ski down Everest and actually did it. Sounds interesting. I rented it. As expected it was documentary style. The first part can be summarized so: "I always wanted to ski down mount Everest". This is followed by some footage of preparation for the event. LOTS of preparation footage. OK, I suppose it takes a lot of preparation. Then we are treated to a protracted piece on the skier, Yuichiro Miura's philosophy on life etc. More filler follows and I begin to wonder where the skiing fits in to this show. More preparation is shown and they begin to make the trip to the mountain. More philosophy is shown. At last they arrive at the mountain and maybe perhaps he will get around to skiing down the friggin' thing. Lots of climbing footage later there is a description of the parachute device intended to slow Miuras' speed on the steep slope. Finally he straps on the skis and gets ready to go.

He's off... He skis about twenty feet and his skis shoot out from under him, he deploys the parachute and tumbles in an inglorious bundle for some distance down the mountain and that's that. End of story. What the heck was that?

OK I can buy that he always wanted to ski down Everest, made extensive preparations and actually tried it with camera crew in tow. It didn't work and he ended up tumbling down and almost killing himself, so what egregious hubris would inspire the man to release a film of it and call it skiing down Everest? Perhaps the title,"The Man Who's Feet Shot Out From Under Him and He Slid On His Ass Down Everest" was just too long for the tape box.
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What is all the fuss about?
16 April 2003
I like to think I am broad minded about cultural matters but given the great number of accolades for this movie juxtaposed with what I experienced, I may be a narrow minded lout. That or the gushing praise is largely generated by copycat reviewers that praise the hell out of it because they want to be seen as sophisticated. I watched the developing plot with interest and forgave some of the over the top early martial art excesses. Then there came a sequence in which the characters were able to accomplish feats that absolutely defied physics. Ok maybe it is like a dream effect. Then the feats of levitation and flying became so ludicrous as to be insulting. What would ever be the need to fight if one had such abilities? Just take off like a concorde and be done with it. The movie became so stupid I shut it off.
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Sling Blade (1996)
Riveting film
19 March 2003
Thornton has crafted a character in Karl Childers so guileless and true to himself that we instantly find ourselves on his side. We see the incongruity of trailer trash hick types that will call Karl a re-tard when they themselves have not a tenth the strength of character and goodness of heart of Karl. He does not understand the world of police, laws and the justice system but he has read the bible and recons he understands a great deal of it. He recognizes a kindred good heart in 'that boy' and his mother.

Karl knows the evil side of people perhaps better than we do, being raised as he was and having been made sport of quite a bit. (probably a vast understatement by him) When he is faced with a choice of what to do when people he has come to love are in danger, what would a person like Karl do, think of himself?

I am in awe of Thorntons characterisation in Karl. Billy Bob is unrecognizable and the character is striking and unique. While John Wayne was an acclaimed actor, it mattered not what role he was playing be it Rooster Cogburn or Gengis Khan he was always John Wayne, same same. Billy Bob as Karl Childers is acting defined. No actor is to be seen and there is this remarkable fellow name-a Karl Childers in his place. Outstanding tale and deserving nothing less than 10.
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