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8/10
Extras included on "Killer Shrews" DVD
23 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Fairly representative of what the boys can do with vintage filler material, if a little low-energy. Some good chuckles here.

"Assignment Venezuela" follows a clean-cut Creole Oil employee as he starts a new assignment in South America, writing home to his family and narrating his sightseeing, language class, etc.

"Century 21 Calling" is Bell-sponsored tour of the Seattle World's Fair which follows a blond boy and girl as they see the modern wonders of call-waiting and touch-tone dialing.

"A Case of Spring Fever" gives the "It's a Wonderful Life" treatment to a guy who curses springs while fixing a couch only to have all springs taken away by Coily the Spring Sprite. He then bores his golfing buddies with the wonders and omnipresence of springs. Yes, really.

Joel appears in "Century 21 Calling" and Mike is in "Assignment Venezuela" and "A Case of Spring Fever."
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The Stunt Man (1980)
10/10
Interesting and fun
16 July 2003
I was surprised to read such negative comments here on this movie, but there is no accounting for taste. Several find fault with the "cinematography" without going any further to explain what they mean by that. It was well-reviewed when it came out, and several of the External Reviews linked in here that I read were equally complimentary on this very aspect. This movie is both a glimpse of reality and fantasy, and it picks and chooses from both columns of that Chinese menu. It deals with manipulation, illusion, and chaos and is, in turns, manipulative, misleading, and chaotic. It has great energy which is owed to peak performances from the three principals and a story that is both intricately involved (a fugitive, impersonating a stunt man, who stands in for an actor...) and charmingly simple (leading lady falls for mysterious stranger). The interpersonal dynamics are dealt with in very realistic fits and start, and the action is peppered in perfectly to keep the frantic, kinetic momentum hurtling forward. The main character must cope with situations where he is off balance (figuratively and literally), misinformed, and not in control, and this makes me sympathize with him. We are all writing, acting, and directing ourselves in life, and a film on film-making is commentary on this. Overall, the movie is good fun that doesn't insult the intellect and is full of little artistic touches and tricks. The poster art does, after all, feature a devil at the camera, not an angel.
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Read the book, skip the movie
9 May 2003
I can't think of a "disaster movie" that I liked, so I may be the worst judge. Sebastian Junger's book was engrossing to me for the many things that cannot be expected to translate to the screen: detailed meteorology, a description of the physiology of drowning, the details unearthed in his investigation, and the rough portrait of the people involved that emerges. In the movie, we travel toward a known destination, so the question is, "why make the trip?" The director appears to think that it is to bear witness to the heroism of superhuman George Clooney (not Billy Tyne) as he improbably hangs onto an outrigger during a hurricane with an inextinguishable torch to cut loose a chain threatening to flail them to death. He does! Hurrah! Other crewmen are saved from drowning, too, but they are all doomed, so concentrating on this drama felt unsatisfying. To be fair to the real people involved, this sort of Hollywood action should have been jettisoned, and we should have been treated to a more documentary treatment of the story to do the book justice, as well. The closest we get to that is the painstaking recreation of reality through the setting, costumes, etc. Why wasn't this the movie I wanted made? Because an actual rotting swordfish would attract a bigger audience than a documentary about Gloucester fishermen. Audiences want to see George Clooney and some special effects while they munch their popcorn. This is also why the musical score is an intrusive element that lacks any subtlety, whatsoever. Moviemakers are not so unlike fishermen in this regard, and they cast their nets where the shoals of patrons are, and must use flashy tackle to attract them. If you are a little more discerning in your choices of entertainment, you probably would prefer the book.
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Dark City (1998)
Mood piece, not puzzle piece.
28 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers
A "puzzle movie" satisfies the mind of the viewer who tries to figure out what is going on, and is all in how all the little things seen in it reinforce the eventual resolution. "Dark City" is not that kind of movie, since as soon as you start to logically consider what is going on it it things fail to make sense. It is a gloomy, gothic study in nightmare images that keeps a steady tone of unease and tension, but it does not have an intricate and coherent narrative. If you enjoy wonderfully creepy sets and art direction, a 50's noire-ish character, and sinister, "Kafkaesque" tones, you will like it. For me, the distractions started to mount up after a while, and I found it disappointing. Kieffer Sutherland gives an extremely mannered portrayal of the doctor, and the problems (see spoilers below) kept nagging at me. Entertaining if you don't think about it too much. Like a dream, it sometimes makes no sense, and there aren't answers to everything. Like ...

*** SPOILERS FOLLOW ***

Why do the bad guys try so hard to kill the protagonist when he is the entire reason for their experiments? How can they have so little knowledge of his whereabouts and activities during the story if they are supposed to be observing him? The cop has a gun, why don't they have guns? Why don't they all get sucked out into space when they (improbably) break a hole in the wall and see outer space? Why do we only see them shutting everything down at midnight--wouldn't there still be daylight hours that follow the tunings? If they can tune the whole environment, why do they not use this ability to overcome the hero when they are trying to detain him? If the Strangers are a group mind, they would not need to converse with each other the way they do. If they designed the machine that changes the environment based on their telepathic powers, why can't they control it as well as the hero, or at least prevent him from using it?
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Michael (1996)
Supernaturally bad
19 March 2003
This is so bad that it does not make me mad, it makes me embarrassed for everyone involved with it. The low point for me was Andie MacDowell singing a country-western song. About pie. It contains the memorable lyric, "Pie, pie: oh, my!" The most tragic sequence occurs when a little dog manages to escape this Pinterian nightmare by getting killed, but is dragged back to life--it is to weep. If it were just bad, I would have gotten up and left, but is was so jaw-droppingly, abysmally bad it made me forget how to work my legs. The concept makes no sense, the script is numb and featureless, the humor is strained and insultingly feeble. Work out your own salvation: save yourself from this film.
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Skin Game (1971)
Two pros at the top of their game
18 March 2003
James Garner's cowboy con man character familiarized to us as Bret Maverick and Latigo Smith ("Support Your Local Gunfighter" was filmed the same year) is in full bloom here as Quincy Drew in this classic, modest buddy movie done to a "T." Paul Bogart (who also directed Garner in "Marlowe" two years earlier) directs with a sure hand, with Lou Gossett is excellent as Quincy's partner and amicable rival. Realistically set, made with confidence and mastery, it is a gem that does not aspire to "great cinema" but still scores a bullseye. Well-written dialogue, plenty of humor, and a nice, quick pace make it sparkle. Who knew Ed Asner could make a passably good villain, too?
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