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7/10
An immature and under-developed Shell
4 January 2014
For fans of the original film and the 2004 follow-up Innocence, this will be both impressive and disappointing. It seems to be intended as the first part of a TV series rather than a film, so it feels abrupt and under-developed. I may be biased as someone who deeply appreciates robot sci-fi stories but also has high expectations for them.

For first time viewers of any Ghost in the Shell animation, this may be as mind-opening and impressive as the other 2, although the animation style reverts to the original and may seem a little old to people used to more recent animation/cartoon advances. The essence of the science-fiction story remains, with some more modern realism thrown in to keep the story relevant.

The makers should either rebuild and expand this into a proper film or follow-up with another short film that fills in the gaps and then combine the 2. It would be sad to see a great film series like this turn into half-developed TV melodrama.
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Flesh, TX (2009 Video)
6/10
Low Budget Guts Potential Horror Classic
7 February 2010
Money for 2 more weeks of edit/review time and post-production could have turned this into a horror classic. Great story line, even if a bit of a stretch, along with some very realistic nuances along the way bring it to life.

As it is, it's basically the 2000s version of a B-movie. The audio is horrible and there are some scenes that are begging to be cut as the actors are basically left to ad-lib. A little time to step away and watch this again would have made this obvious while better post-production (or maybe just any) would have edited it out.

What isn't hurt by the budget is the acting. They clearly found lots of unknown talent on the cheap. Too bad they couldn't find a wardrobe and sound person equally cheap.

Hopefully, this film gets picked up by a bigger studio that gives it the attention it deserves. The writer and director definitely deserve another film with actual, skilled post-production people as much as this film deserves the same and an attempt to redistribute to theaters.
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Uncertainty (2008)
3/10
No Uncertainty - a copycat film to capitalize on a hot actor
29 December 2009
I can understand when an actor gets hot wanting to capitalize on it and make some money, and of course this is even truer for film companies, but this is just pathetic. It's so obvious here and the film is so pointless that I can't see why the actor or studio would want to risk their reputation on the potential for a very quick buck that may lead both to being unemployed again for an extended period while the certain stench of this film wears off.

Another reviewer mentioned Run Lola Run. In concept, yes, there's a similarity, but don't confuse the two or hope for something remotely near that quality. I never even thought of Run Lola Run watching this and I feel like I'm insulting that film even mentioning it. I expect this will get dumped on theaters around Valentine's day to make some easy money. Run Lola Run is a great film that can be watched at any time of the year, and I highly recommend that instead if you want a suspenseful relationship film with actual uncertainty.
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Hooking Up (II) (2009)
8/10
One of the Best Teen Films in History
27 December 2009
As teen films go, it doesn't get much better. Yeah, the acting may not be perfect, but it's very believable and you'll find yourself woven into the story, feeling it.

It's unique or near unique in the approach. This isn't a happy ending teen romantic comedy. It's comedy, it has romance, and of course nudity because it's intended for young males mostly, but this is a film that girls must see. There's enough male flesh that teen girls don't have to be concerned about suffering though just the typical teen guys with lots of hot naked chicks film.

It's also an excellent story for guys without sisters. It brings reality and perspective into teen relationships while still being funny and sexy and having a good enough soundtrack to not feel like it's another film directed to sell you old music.
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10/10
The Invention of Intelligent Romantic Comedy
27 December 2009
An inventive, quirky, funny, love story morphed into some sort of alternate Earth that reminds me of a film like The Truman Show.

It's extremely well thought out from beginning to end. Sideways, Meet the Fockers and American Pie certainly deserve mention as other great romantic comedies, but this literally raises the bar sky high. So, let's call it the invention of sci-fi romantic comedy, minus the aliens and robots and most of the other nerd stuff.

Find that hard to imagine? Don't worry about it, an expansion of your imagination is one of the joys of the film.

Need something funny and uplifting without having to suffer through something stupid after seeing a great, mind-bending but not happy film like Martyrs or Food, Inc.? This is it. Unless you also want a cartoon, in which case check out Delgo or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
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9/10
Not as Unstable as I'd have Liked
1 September 2008
A 3D cartoon that provides more than just a graphically different perspective on a well known, or at least loosely known and widely recognized, fable.

Unfortunately for my taste, it wasn't unstable in the way Happy Tree Friends or South Park is. It's more along the lines of Monsters, Inc. A kid-friendly story with enough complexity and adult issues woven in that parents will be happy they watched with their 8-year-old, and 13-year-olds won't complain that they were forced to come along.

And you get some impressive 3D animation that rivals the kind you see in computer games for its ability to feel the depth and dimension and bring you into the situation more than standard films are capable of doing.
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The Note (2007 TV Movie)
1/10
The Kind of TV Film that Caused me to Stop Watching TV
1 September 2008
Poorly written story that's internally inconsistent, amongst other problems, including the dialog and acting.

Clichés: now, let's write another movie filled with clichés in an hour to dump on TV so the station can sell ad-time to holiday card makers. Halmark and others are losing money to the more enjoyable and personal emails, videos, and photos that can be shared directly without trying to find and pay for a card that sort-of says what you're really trying to say. So, they basically pay for movie length ads, in addition to the more well-known TV shows employing more obvious product placement.

The story had potential as a concept, but it's clearly motivated by the desire to promote and sell other things. In short, it's one more reason to limit your TV watching to PBS and Comedy Central and to demand some form of rebate system for the time wasted watching such simplistic stories.
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Quid Pro Quo (I) (2008)
7/10
Wheelchair Variation on Cronenberg's Crash
17 August 2008
Movie about an odd, underground segment, the intellectually passive version of Cronenberg's Crash. People who want to be crippled from the waste down and confined to a wheelchair.

It is more than that. It's set within a mystery as to whether a radio reporter is getting lured into a trap or fake story. And unlike Crash, there's no drug connection. It's more psychological, but equally dark, simply without the ambiance and style that Crash had.

The downside is that some of it seems too setup and the story under-developed. The result is that it seems less like a theater film and more like a TV movie, but worth watching.
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2/10
Weak Attempt to Cash in on School Shooting Curiosity
24 June 2008
While Rachel is still a young teen herself, ignorant, and gullible, it amazes me that Uma took a film this bad. The story is like something made up for a religious magazine or booklet handout.

In short, had I seen this before Juno, I wouldn't have been so hard on Juno. As bad as Juno is, this is easily one of the worst teen films ever made. It doesn't even offer a soundtrack worth listening to unless you include a brief clip of The Zombies "She's Not There". If only the film wasn't there, my time wouldn't have been wasted.

Besides the simplistic religious preaching at the core of the story, the worst part may be the attempt to cash in on the interest and curiosity about school shootings. The film provides absolutely no insight into them. If anything, it might promote a school, theater, camera, or TV shooting.
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2/10
Proof that Imitation is Mess, not Flattery
16 May 2008
Outside of Forest Whitaker putting in another outstanding performance, the film reeks of imitation. How he ended up in this film would make a better film than this. It may be the case of another seemingly hot writer/director who has a good idea but fails to expand it beyond some notes.

This is why when it doesn't reek of imitation, it reeks of stupidity. It's not well thought out. If it were a smarter film, you might say it attempts to morph different aspects of great films into a single film. One might say that it's intelligent for a thriller/horror type film, but it's not.

It attempts to cover the stupidity by using a smart art technique of separating the film out of normal story continuity and then bringing it all back together again at the end by seeing an incident near the beginning from a different perspective. Outside of not screwing that up, the film fails completely.
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2012 Doomsday (2008 Video)
1/10
Worst end of the world film since Armageddon
9 April 2008
Another film that should rebate the time you wasted watching it.

As bad as Armageddon was, the people who made can now at least feel better because there's a film about the end of the world that is even worse. And not just a little bit.

The dialog and acting don't help. You get the feeling that the actors realize just how bad the story is and can't convince themselves to take it seriously either.

For those interested in the Mayan calendar and 2012, I would stick with the history programs for now. What you'll see on the History Channel and the like is not just far more real, it's far more entertaining. Last year, the History Channel released Decoding the Past: Doomsday 2012. And the year before, it aired a British documentary called Who Killed the Maya. Both deal with 2012 and the Mayans in far more detail than this movie, which really just uses it as a selling point for a story about something else.
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9/10
Nearly Everything a Film should be
30 March 2008
All the basics you want in a film. Fun, villains, sex, humor, heroes, and a happy ending. But not predictable. No intense thinking material, yet there is intense thinking underneath.

It might be viewed as a light-hearted Elizabeth the Golden Age, though on a smaller scale and in a different part of England. Out in the country where the big bad wolves and princesses in distress mingle.

Makes me wonder why it didn't do much better at the box office. It certainly deserved to. I guess it's hard to market a film that may seem old, religious, and historical. In reality, the religion and history serve as a backdrop and the film never feels old.

Tim Roth leads a cast of great acting. He makes the villain both hate-able and amusing.
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You Move You Die (2007 Video)
6/10
A Unique Gangster Comedy
30 March 2008
While it's not a great film, it is close to unique, consistently fun to watch, and keeps you interested until the end. A crime-action film like Crank in some ways.

It's the light-hearted version of a film like American Gangster, and gangster films in general which almost always take a very serious thriller angle to the story. The difference here is you really don't realize you're watching a gangster film until near the end. You get some strong hints of it, but it's never clear.

This is the type of film that should get a best screenplay award. The beginning and end tie together perfectly, yet you never see the connection until the end. I probably should give it a higher rating for that alone, but it's not without a few annoyances. Very much worth seeing nonetheless.
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9/10
A film can be real, awkward, funny, romantic, and suspenseful
15 February 2008
Along the lines of 40-Year Old Virgin and Stranger Than Fiction, but unique and with a very distinctive atmosphere.

Early in the film, just when you think you know where it's going, it takes a really, truly weird turn you would expect more in a purely teen or college comedy that nobody takes seriously, yet makes it all very believable. Then it throws in another bigger twist while still being funny, relaxed, and creating an element of suspense.

Because of those first dramatic turns, you don't really know what to expect next, so the element of surprise and wonder is built into the film.

What amazes me is the huge quality difference in the original story for this film and the much more hyped Juno. Anyone who's seen both would know that Juno shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath, much less the same Oscar list. It's like comparing commercial copy writing to a book. Lars' writer has a far firmer grasp on comedy and satire that goes beyond single scenes and lines. At the same time, the story doesn't have any severe plot twists that would cause the attention span deprived to lose interest.

Despite not being too complex for a teenager, it remains touching, meaningful, and works in a happy ending that doesn't seem forced upon it. Luckily, the Oscar nomination for best original screenplay may get it some re-release time around Valentines Day where it would fit much better.

A part of this film that can be compared directly to Juno and that the director deserves a lot of credit for is that you actually feel like the film could be taking place in Minnesota, other northern states like Iowa or Wisconsin, or even Canada. Juno has that filmed in Hollywood or other crafted purely for filming location. If Lars lacks in anything compared to Juno, it's the soundtrack. Fortunately, that isn't emphasized the way it needs to be in Juno so it doesn't hurt the film.

And you still get a pregnancy and much funnier sexual innuendo thrown in for free.
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4/10
Half thought-out good idea
13 February 2008
A faux documentary about home buying. A mockumentary. I'm sure real estate agents won't appreciate it, but at least it's not an actual documentary and they can get a chuckle or two. All acted, nothing real, though the scenarios feel real enough.

Great acting carries the film, which, while it has an interesting starting concept, pretty much depends on the interactions of the characters to carry it.

So, in short, a good idea half thought out and rescued by the acting. As a short or part of a 2 part film that doesn't require the parts come together it could work. The problem may also be that there were some of the cliché Hollywood scenes that seemed to be built in after the fact for the sake of wider audience appeal, leading to less audience appeal.
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4/10
Standard Self Discovery Film
16 January 2008
Rutger Hauer helps along a film that basically can be summed up in the young person finding themselves category, and rather obviously so, so it needs a lot of help.

The beginning holds a lot more promise, of a film that could turn into Michael Clayton or Stranger Than Fiction. It's too bad because I really got hooked into the beginning. Then, like the opening soundtrack, it went from great and intriguing to basically nowhere.

It's fun enough with plenty of curiosities and interesting characters acted well. I'm sure that will be enough for many people. The problem is it all feels contrived and empty which, ironically, is supposed to be the main discovery for the character's self realization. Not the film itself (it's not a self aware film), but that the character is supposed to recognize his own life is contrived and empty.
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Juno (2007)
3/10
Commercializing Teen Pregnancy
16 January 2008
Either the story or the director completely fails this film. I'm guessing the script because there's only so much variation the director and actors to do. They'd have to basically rewrite it. Worse, it seems like a teen copy of a 20-something film done earlier this year, which was an even worse film (and I won't mention it's name for that reason).

Is Fox now manufacurting films for each age group based on a single script?

There are things I like about it, like the soundtrack and the acting. The lead actor, Ellen Page, pulls it along. She is much better in Hard Candy, largely because the script and dialogue are not done by somebody randomly picking slang from the past 20 years in a failed attempt to make the teens sound like real teens.

Back to the story, it feels vague, disconnected, and pointless, lacking even the typical joy of some young, naked flesh. If sarcasm was intended, it need about 10 more minutes of film to setup. It's as if a commercial copy writer decided to write a film. Not so bad that I want my time back, but you'll be happier spending your time listening to Moldy Peaches, Antsy Pants, and Sonic Youth (the bands most featured in the soundtrack).
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Smiley Face (2007)
7/10
Drug Satire with Punch
1 January 2008
Rare, if not next to unique, is a film that, not by accident or error, but by intent, actually makes you angry at, maybe even hate, the lead character. It appeared in Atonement, and that's what you have here. Both could be viewed as a new type of film. Smiley, however, is all based on the silly and light-hearted drug-comedy, yet it goes well beyond that.

It really can't be described in simple categorical terms, but more like irritant, annoyance, or maybe even skull f**k*r (you'll get it after seeing it). The protagonist (Anna Faris) does increasingly stupid things to the point where you actually get angry at her. Thus the potential skull humper.

As such, Faris finds the perfect film to put her empty-headed blond acting to use, and I found a new and much deeper appreciation for her acting. Translation: She's not just another passing bimbo on the screen anymore. I actually know who she is now.

Back to the film, it's best not to get stuck on it being a "laugh riot", "stoner flick", or some other overly simplistic movie marketing phrase. The first part is clearly comedy, but it turns into a satire and tragedy. If you're expecting and only want empty-headed druggy laughs all the way through and nothing more, you'll probably end up banging your head against the wall, an angry emotion the film is actually trying to direct at the main character.

What's funny is, people with functioning brains will actually be very happy with the film. Meaning, you'll smile lot more if you're not high.
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5/10
Traditional Old Timer Lessons Story
1 January 2008
This is really just your traditional, getting close to cliché, old-timer, getting close to death, recognizing you've missed out and been caught up in the trivial film. You'll notice this by all the "live life to the fullest" comments in other reviews. There's nothing new in terms of what the "fullest" is here.

Add Reiner as director, Nicholson and Freeman to be the buddies, and suddenly people start talking Oscars. They shouldn't be. Any year this film or any part of it gets mentioned in an Oscar is a year the Oscars should recognize that the year in film has been so bad they are officially not holding Oscars for that year. It will never happen, but it should if this film gets a nomination. Fortunately, there are enough really good films already this year that it shouldn't be a problem.

It's not a bad film, which is why I gave a better than average rating. The title of the film and its integration into the story is probably the best and most original part. Beyond that, it depends heavily on the acting and Freeman's voice, both of which are very good but far from the best.
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I Am Legend (2007)
6/10
Smith may be legendary, but not the film
28 December 2007
A variation on recent zombie films like Resident Evil and 28 Weeks Later. But it's more isolated/disconnected than either, a lot more. If you can imagine either of those zombie films combined with Vanilla Sky, you'll get a very good feel for how the film comes off. As good as that may sound, it doesn't actually come out as well as either. Like Resident Evil and Vanilla Sky, it's centered all around a single character (acted by Will Smith). Unlike either, the film takes this a step further and Smith is literally the only character, unless you count a dog, for 90% of the film.

In terms of the opening setup and overall story, it's very impressive. There are some annoying product placement moments involving cars and promoting a very bad film that get in the way of what is otherwise a very impressive performance by Smith to make the story feel real. But the story, or the directing, doesn't fill out what Smith filled in, and the result is interesting but not legendary.
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Shattered (2007)
2/10
Another film you'd like to demand your time back for watching
26 December 2007
Basically, the kind of overly simplistic, TV movie of the week story you'd expect from basic network TV or from the formula Hollywood films that also end up making little or no stop at theaters.

Besides being boring and predictable, it lacks any significant meaning. It's difficult to fill up 10 lines for IMDb describing in detail what I'd prefer to forget. The acting isn't bad, as you'd expect from the actors involved (though you'll ask yourself why they'd be involved at all with this). There are issues, like Brosnan's voice sometimes feels like a voice-over, and it's difficult to tell if he's supposed to be doing an Irish or Scottish accent. Given the way the film is largely talk driven and his talking is featured, you'd think there'd be some significance to it, but it doesn't really matter.

The single biggest problem besides the shallow, imitative, factory-made story is the lack of plot development. I suppose they thought it added suspense and mystery. It just made it seem completely unthought through.
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Mr. Woodcock (2007)
6/10
Enjoyable, funny, yet too bizarre and over-the-top
19 December 2007
I thought of Dodgeball watching this film. It pretty much explores the same self-help and junior high/high school psychological trauma that gym class can leave. It's a good concept film and, in this case, thanks to Billy Bob, it comes out well, even if a bit empty in terms of the overall story. The ending is too abrupt and hurts what was turning into more than just the standard comedy.

I see IMDb recommending Sideways if you like this. I'd recommend Sideways simply because it's a great film and everybody should see it. I'd recommend Woodcock to people who enjoy over-the-top comedy a lot. If you enjoyed Dodgeball or Blackballed, you'll like this. IMDb does recommend Meet the Fockers, which is also a good fit, but IMDb's film comparing/recommending has a long way to go yet. 1 out of 4 or 5 is not an impressive match rate.

Woodcock, however, isn't simply all absurd, awkward, gross-out stunts. Maybe it should have been, maybe it should have pursued the drama more. As it is, the result is enjoyable, but far from great.
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Day Zero (2007)
4/10
The Failing of a Good Idea and Star Actors
15 December 2007
I doubt this film will ever serve as anything more than film school proof that a good story idea and a couple star actors alone do not make a film, even if you set it in New York City.

The film largely focuses on the 3 draftees reactions as their report day approaches. While you can appreciate some of the inconsistencies and complexities in character, it's also largely cliché characters and some of the inconsistencies defy all logic, both formal and psychological. The ending looked like, for a moment, it was going to resolve all this and make up for the complete lack of insight the rest of the film provides, but once again fails. The result is a mess that's more annoying than entertaining.
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Interview (I) (2007)
4/10
Very Well Acted Mess
9 December 2007
Either over edited or poorly written from the start, leaving a really pointless story that is an entertaining enough cat and mouse game to get your attention, but takes it nowhere.

Both Buscemi and Miller do great jobs acting, and it would be fair to say Buscemi did a great job directing. But the story...

Unless the point of the story is that actresses and journalists think more clearly and sharply as they drink, smoke, and snort more, there is no point. The only other possibility is to provide an extended product placement piece for odd cigarette lighters.

So I'm guessing that there was an assumption made somewhere that should have been explicit and developed in the film or a key part got edited out post-production.
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The Abandoned (2006)
3/10
Better Not to Know
15 April 2007
To quote the film, "It's better not to know. Better still to forget. Best of all to be abandoned." Oh, the irony.

A ghost story with all the technical refinements of a Hollywood horror film, but horrifyingly bad dialogue after the first quarter of the film, and you feel like you're being preached to from the start.

It's as if the writers' cumulative character dialogue can be summed up by bad cop TV and a Jerry Springer show. Fitting, maybe, for a film like The Hitcher, not a Russia-set horror film. The result is that a potentially great setting and some potentially great gore scenes go to waste and become just silly, not scary or meaningful.
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