Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Mommy, I Didn't Do It (2017)
If Ever A Movie Did Not Need A Sequel
Every movie that wins over viewers does not need a sequel. Danica McKellar held her own in "The Wrong Woman," but she doesn't even bother holding anything in for this sequel.
In brief, Danica reprises her role as Ellen Plainview, who was nearly convicted of a crime she didn't commit. In the ensuing four years, she managed to get through law school, pass her bar exam and become a very successful defense attorney in record time.
She'll need it because her daughter is now falsely accused of murder, this time for allegedly killing one of her teachers. Danica defends her daughter.
From the start, this movie is just ripe. Overacting with more ham than a thousand Christmas dinners is the norm (no pun intended since George Wendt has a small role).
Seriously, the acting is more like a high school drama, something out of "The Wonder Years."
The only credible performances come from Wendt in a small role and the judge, played by Veronica Cartwright ("The Birds," "Alien").
The rest of the cast is horrible. Jaleel White, also reprising his role from the first movie, chews all of his scenes with abandon, making us all wish he would just be Urkel again. Jamie-Lynn Sigler as the ADA apparently learned nothing from her years on "The Sopranos."
To add injury to insult, the movie tacks on a by-the-numbers, duh- moment "twist" where the daughter suddenly figures out who the real killer is. That person confronts her since she stupidly goes out to talk to the person without letting anyone know. The killer tries to silence her with all the effectiveness of a stand-in holding a spot for the star. Mom arrives and intervenes in a scene so poorly done you wonder how it made it through post.
The gist of this whole thing is that the sequel looks more like the entire cast was rehearsing their lines for the first time and the director said, hey, let's just go with this.
I only watched this because the house is filled with female relatives and I was outvoted 10 to 1.
After the movie was over, it was 11 to 0 in favor of never watching this thing again.
Blade: Trinity (2004)
Audiences Said It Wasn't So
Don't get me wrong. Blade: Trinity is an okay actioner, just not the film fans expected. The studio wanted to draw in a younger audience and David S. Goyer, writer of the first two films, tries to deliver in only his second directorial effort. Unfortunately, Goyer as director comes off more like your dad trying to rap or your mom trying to twerk.
But, I digress. The movie opens with lots of explosions as Blade takes out a warehouse of vampires and chases down fleeing bloodsuckers. He causes the last vamp to crash into an outdoor mall and then, before the horrified eyes of shoppers and diners, he shoots the vampire. Only, it's not a vampire, but a human and it is all captured on video.
Soon, the video goes viral and two of the most overeager FBI agents since the knuckleheads in "Die Hard" raid Whistler's hideout. Whistler, who was resurrected for "Blade II" gets knocked off quickly as he destroys his computers to prevent them being taken. It's an unceremonious end for Kris Kristofferson, who must have seen the full script and requested to be written out early.
Blade is captured by the FBI, who then get usurped by local police chief Vreede (Martin Berry) and police psychiatrist Dr. Vance (an excellent John Michael Higgins). They, of course, are familiars who try to hand Blade off to head vampire Danica Talos (Posey).
Blade is saved, however, by the timely entrances of Hannibal King (a funny Ryan Reynolds) and Abigail (Jessica Biel, who can't rise above eye candy status). The trio fights their way out of the police station and escape to the safe house of the Night Stalkers, a young group of modern-day vampire hunters, led by Abigail, Whistler's illegitimate daughter.
Danica Talos, meanwhile, unearths Dracula (a wooden Dominic Purcell) in hopes he will take care of Blade, so they can implement their so- called "final solution."
While the plot plays out like a potentially good action flick, David Goyer's direction and script hamper things quite a bit. It's a shock from the man who gave us "Dark City" and would soon introduce the Dark Knight trilogy.
Reynolds as Hannibal King is funny, with plenty of great one-liners. However, he doesn't get the chance to develop further than his humor and can't come off as an effective vampire fighter. His scene at the end taking on Jarko Grimwood (wrestler Triple H) isn't believable at all.
Biel is worse. Goyer does little for her other than make her as eye candy for the teen boys and young male adults. She's supposed to be hip because she listens to New Age music when she fights. Yet, Abigail Whistler also is underdeveloped. Her emotional outburst upon finding one of her fellow Night Stalkers dead is forced.
The vampires are embarrassingly lame. Dracula (aka Drake) does almost nothing and is not threatening in the least. He kills some idiot store clerk and bites the clerk's girlfriend, supposedly to let the world know he's back, but we never hear of the deaths after this. He kills Vance, wounds King and tries to kill a baby before running away from Blade. Even in the climactic fight against Blade, he transforms into his true creature form but the costume (worn by stuntman Brian Steele) appears to hamper the fighting moves.
Posey as Talos is just plain awful. Her acting is as wooden as a stake. Her costumes and hairstyles are hideous and it seems her fangs don't fit right during the whole movie.
Callum Rennie as her brother, Asher, could have been left on the editing room floor without the audience being the wiser. Triple H's Jarko Grimwood had little to do but sneer.
The rest of the cast was wasted, the exception being Eric Bogosian as Bentley Tittle, one of those conspiracy theorist talk show hosts. He only appears in the unrated edition in the prelude to Blade's opening action scene but gives more character acting than just about anyone else in the film.
Finally, we have Blade. Wesley Snipes had the chance to grow as a character in the second movie. This time, though, he is forced to take a back seat to Reynolds and Biel. This is like Batman giving way to Robin and Batgirl (and we all know how that turned out). Snipes reportedly was moody and distant on set, though one could hardly blame him as it was clear the studio wanted to highlight the younger actors for a planned spin-off (seen among the deleted scenes of the DVD).
The Night Stalkers are rather one-note, with Sommerfield (Natasha Lyonne) and Hedges (a wasted Patton Oswalt) getting a wisp of character building. When they all bite the dust, there is little emotion felt.
The so-called Final Solution is revealed and then quickly discarded, never to be visited again, making Danica's whole reason for bringing Dracula back completely wasted.
Blade being set up by Danica comes across as fake, too. We know from the first two movies that Blade and vampires can easily tell human familiars from vampires. Blade shoots a guy in the back with a silver stake and then wonders why they guy doesn't turn to ash, making Blade come off like a moron.
Overall, "Blade: Trinity" is a big let-down. It's not the one-star so many other reviewers give it nor is it the superior sequel overly devoted fans believe it to be.
It's just a disappointing sequel in a series where we expected to see Blade's character continue to grow while facing an even more dangerous threat.
Goyer doesn't deliver. Fans wanted a big sendoff and were disappointed. Studio heads wanted a younger audience and a spin-off and were disappointed.
Best word to describe "Blade: Trinity" -- Disappointing.
The Deep Six (1958)
See the Movie, Then Go Read the Book
"The Deep Six" is a standard World War II actioner with credible performances almost torpedoed (pun intended) by Hollywood's need for sap, melodrama and comic relief.
The film is based loosely on the bestselling novel of the same name by Martin Dibner. "Loose" is being kind. I recommend reading the book and only viewing the movie as a way to pass a few hours until the rain stops.
Alan Ladd, who would die six years after this movie came out, plays Lt. Austen, a pacifist Quaker who, nonetheless, joins the Navy. He is sent aboard a destroyer as an assistant gunnery officer (a point made in the book, but left out of the movie). He spends the movie trying to overcome his pacifist ways, finally "being forced" to kill Japanese soldiers to save his shipmates. Alas, the whole moral quandary comes across as placid and lacks energy, much as Ladd's career was by the mid-50's.
Ably supported by a veteran cast that includes James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Perry Lopez ("Chinatown"), Nestor Paiva, William Bendix and Joey Bishop in his film debut. Look quick for Jerry Mathers (no, not as the Beaver), Ross Bagdasarian (better known as Dave Seville of "Alvin & the Chipmunks" fame), Robert ("Hideous Sun Demon") Clarke and Edd "Kookie" Byrnes without his comb.
Though director Rudolph Mate does a good job with what he has, he is saddled with the book of Hollywood clichés. Bishop's character was added for comic relief as a womanizing sailor with a gal in every port. A hard-nosed officer acts the way he does because he is dying of cancer and wants to get a few of "them" before he dies, so he is forgiven for berating Austen and the crew. Austen leads a rescue mission so he can get the chance to overcome his pacifism under fire. Yada, yada, yada.
The best way to describe this movie is "cowardly." It fails to explore any of the themes portrayed in the 1953 novel. Author Dibner based the book on his own exploits aboard the cruiser USS Richmond during the Aleutian Islands campaign.
His book is almost just name only for the movie. A big reason is that Alan Ladd is one of the producers. By 1958, his career was on a downward slide because he refused to transition into older or supporting roles. He changed the movie to make his character virtually the only conflict in the movie.
Case in point, in that book, Wynn's hard-nosed LCDR Mike Edge is Lt. Mike Edge, a sexual predator of sailors, as well as a virulent racist. Whitemore's commanding officer character is a coward forced back to sea because he makes too many enemies ashore. Austen has Quaker parents but does not espouse their beliefs. Zimbalist's Doc Blanchard is a drunkard.
Slobodjian (Bagdasarian) actually lives to the end of the movie and is instrumental in stopping Edge. In the movie, he is rarely shown and gets killed before the halfway mark.
Most egregious of all, the character of Henry Fowler, a black steward who is actually the best gunner on a ship (a cruiser in the book) desperate for gunners, is completely eliminated. Racism keeps him from getting that job until Austen convinces Meredith to let the man be a gunner during combat and a steward the rest of the time. But, Edge goads him into violence and tries to murder him twice. You can almost see an actor like James Edwards, Ossie Davis or Woody Strode in the role.
The book explored racism, homosexual rape (present but always covered up in the Navy), archaic customs and practices that hampered the Navy during the early years of the war, the simmering resentment felt by Naval Academy graduates toward Navy ROTC and Officer Candidate School- commissioned officers and the continued decision of Naval brass to put unfit or undeserving officers in positions of authority.
Also, the movie ends with a whimper of a mission, namely the one with Austen going on a secret rescue mission on a Japanese-held island in the Aleutians. In the book, the cruiser participates in the real-life Battle of the Komandorski Islands, which would have been a far greater climax for the movie.
Overall, the film, as I've said, is okay. Joey Bishop's humor gets stale after a while (which is probably why he was always on the fringes of the Rat Pack). You also lose interest in Austen's pacifism, which becomes as interesting as his two-dimensional romance with Dianne Foster (in the book, it was central to Austen keeping his sanity).
This is not a movie worth seeking out, but rather one to catch on TCM during an Alan Ladd marathon.
Maybe one day, Hollywood will finally make a movie based on the book and not just the title.
Project Moon Base (1953)
A Moon Shot with Blanks
One of the worst mistakes Hollywood keeps committing is taking a strong premise or idea and executing it with all the finesse of a hatchet job. And in the 1950's, this was the norm.
Before I start, let me clarify the script credits. Credit is given to Robert Heinlein and Jack Seaman. Seaman wrote the script but Heinlein was given credit as well because it was based on his classic short story. However, according to Heinlein's wife, the copyright had lapsed on the story and it was snatched up in the public domain. But, to avoid a lawsuit, the studio gave Heinlein credit (alas, this was an oft-used way for Hollywood to avoid paying royalties).
Heinlein loathed the final product and rightly so. This film was a piece of that horrible 1950's theme -- strong female characters who bow out to men when the going gets rough (such as in "The Thing From Another World," "It Came From Beneath the Sea," "Tarantula" and "Them!").
The plot, based on the short story, involves a short space mission to photograph the dark side of the Moon so that a base can be established. Though the movie is set in the 1970's, it was filmed in the 1950's, meaning the base will be a military installation filled with nuclear weapons to help maintain freedom and peace on Earth.
Leading the mission is Col. Briteis (played by Donna Martell, a beautiful but second-tier actress). Her co-pilot is Major Bill Moore (Ross Ford), which provides internal conflict as both officers hate each other. Briteis became world famous for being the first human to orbit the planet but it is soon made clear that she only got the mission because she weighed 90 pounds (the upper limit of the orbiter because of all the equipment aboard), not because she was qualified.
Commanding the overall mission is Gen. Pappy Green (Hayden Rorke, long before he became Col. Bellows on "I Dream of Jeanie"). Also aboard is an enemy spy (in 1970, he is "enemy," which is a stand-in for "Communist") and he seeks to destroy the Space Station from which the mission to the Moon is to be launched.
Purportedly, this movie started out as a failed television pilot in the mode of "Tom Corbett: Space Cadet." That may explain why the movie looks so cheap and disjointed as science fiction TV in the 50's had even lower budgets than an Ed Wood project. Whatever the case, the movie hits a stumbling block right out of the gate by spending the first several minutes showing our "enemy" agents plotting to destroy the station and then finally switching out a real scientist for their fake guy.
The entire movie played out as a hokey TV episode that makes "Tom Corbett" seem like classic drama. Director Richard Talmadge does his best to pull off a futuristic space atmosphere but is undone by not being creative enough. He comes up with a nifty interior shot of the space station and splices the film to make it seem as if crew members are walking on the ceiling with magnetic boots.
Yet, the uniform for the astronauts looks like leftovers from Buck Rogers -- shorts, a tight-fitting tee-shirt and a head covering straight out of a Crash Corrigan serial. This is also the uniform for takeoff, a launch that shows the crews gritting their teeth and screaming as G-force crush in on them. Even in 1953, it was generally known that astronauts would need protective suits to protect them from G-forces during launch, so one must chalk this up to no money for the effect.
What I need to talk about is the cast and how they are portrayed.
Though the mission commander is a female, when she learns she's going to get Maj. Moore (whom she loathes) as second-in-command, she whines and says she won't accept it. Gen. Green's response is to tell her he has half a mind to put her over his knee and spank her!
Also, by the end of the movie, she gladly gets married (a plot hatched without her knowledge) and requests Moore be promoted to general so he'll be superior to her.
Also, a female reporter is named "Polly Prattles," is overweight and complains more about her weight than getting information on the space station.
So much for feminism and equality in the future.
Overall, the acting was okay. Rorke was his usual professional self. Ford was serviceable, as was Martell. But, the best actor in the cast was Larry Johns as both the real and fake Dr. Wernher. Alas, all except Johns acted down to the script.
Talmadge makes a game attempt here. From his start as a stuntman back in the days of silent film, he pretty much did everything -- direct, produce, write, edit, etc. It was a useful thing in the world of low-budget science fiction.
I can't even recommend this for a late-night stuck-in-the-house-because-of-thunderstorms kind of viewing. Stick with "Riders to the Stars."
Avengers: United They Stand was an attempt by Fox Kids to create a kid-friendly version of The Avengers. While not great, it wasn't as bad as some have made it out to be.
The lineup here is almost strictly West Coast with Wonder Man (here called "Wonderman"), Scarlet Witch, Vision and Tigra. Hawkeye, Wasp, Falcon and Ant-Man are included as links to the original team. Though Iron Man and Captain America each get a guest appearance in the series, neither Thor nor the Incredible Hulk show up. (Apparently, there was a copyright battle between Marvel and Fox over rights to the more famous Avengers).
That said, this cartoon finds Ant-Man, of all people, in charge of the Avengers in a setting a few years into the future. The group is government-funded, forcing them to have to listen to the rantings of a government liaison named Sikorsky. Sikorsky is so two-dimensional that even the young adult audience the show is geared toward must have wanted to knock out his teeth.
The main villain is Ultron, though there are also appearances by the Swordsman, the Masters of Evil and Kang the Conqueror.
As the show skewed younger, adult viewers may find it tough to follow, especially those who have seen the later series like "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes." The animation pales in comparison to later shows and often looks like the G.I. Joe and Transformer cartoons of the 1980's. The show also copied the Japanese anime of the time, with every transformation of the heroes shown. The heroes also sport cool-looking armor, though Hawkeye's looks ridiculous.
In the surest sign that the show is kid-friendly, the main foes are robots and lasers have replaced bullets.
The plot lines are easy to follow, but continuity is a problem. For example, in the pilot episode "Avengers Assemble, Part 1," Wonder Man absorbs a laser blast meant to incinerate Ant-Man. The injury leaves the hero in a coma, leading to the comic plot where his memories are placed into the Vision. Yet, Vision hits several of the other Avengers with the same lasers and they are barely fazed. If Wonder Man fell, how do Janet Pym or Tigra walk away unscathed? In the same episode, Tigra is hit in her knee and further injures it when she hits a tree and the ground. She is incapacitated enough to be unable to defend herself, whereupon Falcon makes his entrance to save her. Seconds later, she thanks him and then gets back into the action, without so much as a limp.
As it is a Fox Kids show, character development is given short shrift. Even Hawkeye's hotheadedness sounds forced. This must be taken into account for those who think they're getting one of the later series (the presence of Tigra should dispel that since she was never a major player in the comics).
Another problem lies with the voice-overs. None of the actors providing the voices gives much life to their characters. This would be corrected in the later series but hampers this one. There isn't a memorable one in the bunch.
Overall, for the audience it aimed for, it mostly hits the mark. As far as its place in the Avengers line, it's a weak placeholder. If you view this, don't compare it to the more adult-oriented versions.
Monster a-Go Go (1965)
This is not an overview as countless others have done, but a simplification.
"Monster A-Go-Go" is actually two films put together. This isn't a new concept. TV networks do it all the time when a show isn't picked up for the fall schedule; the pilot and first few episodes get slapped together into a movie for LMN or Bravo. Of course, the episodes are related.
In Hollywood, there is a tendency to add new footage to flesh out an incomplete film. Examples include "Half Human" and "Best Defense" (yes, the Eddie Murphy movie where Dudley Moore's scenes look added on to save the film).
For MAGG, director Bill Rebane started a movie called "Terror At Halfday." 7-foot-6 actor Henry Hite was tabbed to play the monster. However, Hite wasn't available more than a day or so a week, so Rebane filmed around him, doing many dialogue scenes, as well as the aftermath of the monster's attacks. Then, when Hite was available, Rebane got three or four scenes done.
Then, the money ran out. What Rebane had was a ton of raw, unedited footage that was out of sequence because of shooting around Hite's personal schedule.
Herschell Gordon Lewis, the legendary Z-movie director/producer/actor/extra, needed a film to fill out a double bill. So, he purchased Rebane's unfinished film (Rebane, unable to find further financing, lost the rights to the original). Lewis decided to film some additional scenes and added his own voice as narration to futilely try to cover the numerous Grand Canyon-size holes.
Unfortunately, most of the actors from "Terror At Halfday" were either unavailable or unwilling to return. A few did, including a man who gained a bunch of weight in the intervening years and had to play the brother of his original character! Facing a time deadline to get the double bill out, Lewis simply added the additional scenes on to the end of the original. He cobbled together the previous scenes and narrated past the attack scene aftermath portions without a monster. No narration was done to explain why the original cast simply disappeared, except for the "brother." No real ending was done. Lewis wasn't interested in a coherent movie. He just needed something to fill out the double bill. Unfortunately, what he put out was so horrible and so atrocious, it was all people could talk about. No one even remembers "Moonshine Mountain," the film at the top of the bill. It was much better.
The bottom line is that the film was a travesty. It should have stayed on the shelf where Rebane left it. And Lewis should have stuck to single bills or possibly paired "Moonshine Mountain" with "Two Thousand Maniacs." And while Rebane is really blameless here, it's not hard to understand why people think he actively helped Lewis in making MAGG. Rebane did give us the atrocious "Giant Spider Invasion," the abominable "Capture of Bigfoot" and the absurd "Blood Harvest" with Tiny Tim tip-toeing through the tulips as the killer.
Coincidentally, both Rebane and Lewis are still alive and capable of knocking Uwe Boll from the top of the dreck heap.
The Wrong Kind of Shakespeare
"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." This quote from Shakespeare's "MacBeth" best describes Michael Bay's loud and confusing reboot of the Transformers franchise.
The basic plot begins with the voice of Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) telling the audience the history of Cybertron and its fall, with the Allspark, the energy source that powered the planet somehow ending up on Earth. Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving) tries to catch it but misses and lands in the Arctic Ocean, where he will be found in 1897 by Captain Witwicky.
The movie opens to Special Operations soldiers landing at an American airbase in Qatar. We meet Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel), Tech Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson) and a few others. We also see a Blackhawk helicopter. It refuses to answer hails from the air base, so is escorted to the base and allowed to land where it transforms into a Decepticon that destroys the base.
Cut to an awkward Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf), descendant of the aforementioned Captain Witwicky. He's likable but constantly picked on at school and laughed at.
I won't explain the whole movie but soon Sam has a secret protector in a yellow Trans-Am later revealed as Bumble Bee. He also had Megan Fox interested in him for some reason. Then, he meets Optimus Prime and the other Autobots, including Jazz (Darius McCrary of "Family Matters") and Ratchet (Robert Foxworth of "Falcon Crest"). They explain that his great grandfather has the secret location of Allspark imprinted on his ancient spectacles.
From exciting auto chases to thrilling fights to the freeing of Megatron from beneath a secret base under Hoover Dam to a city-wrecking finale, director Michael Bay keeps the action going, which is what fans want.
That said, the movie is ultimately forgettable. LeBeouf gives a credible performance. John Turturro is his usual over-the-top self, but the rest of the cast is flat. Jon Voight looks completely lost. Kevin Dunn and Julie White as Sam's parents are embarrassingly clueless.
Then, there are the questionable and wasted roles of Maggie (Rachael Taylor) and Glen Whitman (Anthony Anderson). Bernie Mac's cameo as a used car salesman had more weight in two minutes of film reel than Taylor and Anderson in the entire movie.
And a special acting hell must be reserved for Megan Fox. She's hot but she's plastic. She delivers her lines as flat as a board. Listen when she tells LeBeouf "No matter what happens, I'm glad I got into the car with you" and, later to a wounded Bumble Bee, "I'll drive, you shoot."
Other problems? The CGI was excellent but Bay's shaky camera style gave me a headache.
The sound department did a fantastic job...during the non-action scenes. During the fighting, it was just deafening. And the music felt ripped off from other movies.
As for the Decepticons, what happened? It was next to impossible to tell them apart. They had absolutely no color. Starscream is an F-22 Raptor, yet we see Megatron transform into a jet as well, making people think he is Starscream. Brawl is a tank but his shells have less pop than the grenades the Army hits him with.
I mentioned plot holes and stupid scenes. Too many to name, but here are a few:
Autobot Jazz, as voiced by McCrary, sounds ghetto.
Bay eliminated the cartoon's best conflict, namely between Starscream and Megatron. Save for one last of admonishment, we don't see any conflict between the two Decepticons. We also don't see Soundwave, Megatron's true second-in-command or Laserbeak, both of whom would have been better than Barricade or Scorponok.
Lennox, Epps and the U.S. Army do a better job at stopping Decepticons than the Autobots. We have to believe that Lennox and company use 40-mm grenades to put down the likes of Brawl.
The finale has to be the most inane. The Decepticons attack S7, the secret base under Hoover Dam. To keep Megatron from getting the Allspark, Lennox sends Sam and Bumblebee, with the Autobots to the center of a major American city, knowing the destructive, human-hating Decepticons are in pursuit.
As you can expect, downtown is wrecked. Occupied cars and buses on the highway are destroyed. Bridges are knocked down. Scores of people are killed or injured. Thousands flee in panic. Air Force jets and helicopters are shot down to crash into skyscrapers or onto crowded streets.
When all is said and done, however, we see Sam's parents giving an interview where the reporter asks them about alleged alien invasions. They deny anything happened. Optimus Prime then narrates that the Autobots hide in plain sight, in secret.
So, no one in the city had a cell phone with a camera? Did all these innocent people die horrible deaths by invisible beings? It all gets covered up?
Bay assumes the audience is stupid and will buy it. Judging by ticket sales, he's probably right.
If so, then Shakespeare's quote of sound and fury most likely applies not to him, but to us.
Very Touching Film, but Just a Tad Too Short
First of all, let me give this disclaimer. I am one of the background actors in the movie (African-American male at the picnic, soccer games, factory and town hall), so there might be a little bias.
The movie is actually very good, but, alas, is a Disney film and Disney tends to keep their movies under two hours to match the attention span of the intended audiences.
That said, this movie could have used another 15-20 minutes to help flesh out the main and supporting characters. Having spent almost 20 days on the set, I can say director Peter Hedges (About A Boy, What's Eating Gilbert Grape) probably did have such a film only to have to cut another chunk or two.
Sadly, those chunks would have helped.
The story begins with Jim Green (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Cindy (Jennifer Garner) talking to an adoption agency administrator (Shohreh Aghdashloo). The Greens have left key portions of their paperwork empty -- the parts concerning prior experience and why they would make good parents. For that, Jim and Cindy decide to recount the odd life of Timothy Green.
From there, we see, in flashback, Jim and Cindy being told by a doctor that Cindy cannot get pregnant. The couple go home to cry about it, but Jim doesn't want to give up. So, he puts all the wishes he's had for a children on paper and encourages Cindy to do the same. They bury the wishes in a box in a hole in the garden.
A strange rain storm hits. When Jim and Cindy investigate, they find a mysterious boy covered in mud in the room they'd set aside for the kid that would never be born. His name is Timothy and he's soon calling Jim and Cindy Dad and Mom. And he has a big secret -- he's got leaves growing out of his ankles, leaves so strong and natural that local florist Reggie (Lin-Manuel Sanders) breaks his shears trying to snip them.
Afterward, the story goes in a whirlwind. Timothy is introduced to the rest of the family -- Cindy's sister Brenda (Rosemarie DeWitt), Uncle Bub (M. Emmet Walsh), Uncle Mel (Lois Smith) and Jim's dad, Big Jim (David Morse)-- as well as friends (Gregory Marshall Smith, Paul Kakos, Sonia Guzman, Chance Bartels, Paul Barlow Jr., among others. It's here we see the effects of the editing as the introductions of these characters is missing, leaving us a bit confused. We know Jim and Big Jim don't see eye to eye but we get no real sense of the tension. We learn Brenda is more successful than Cindy and has three kids but we can't get a feel for the sibling rivalry. Uncle Bub and Aunt Mel look like they were thrown in.
And this is how much of the film plays out. When we meet Bernice Crudstaff (Oscar winner Dianne Wiest), whose father started the town's pencil factory, we only catch glimpses and only learn her name later. Her husband, Joseph (James Rebhorn), is virtually a ghost, getting perhaps two scenes. Their son Franklin (Ron Livingston) runs the pencil factory and is supposed to be a hard case but we only see a few wisps of his snobbery, including at the crucial town meeting where he gets called on the carpet.
About the most interesting parts of the movie are Joni Jerome (Odeya Rush), a local girl with her own little secret, and Coach Cal (rapper Common), who treats Timothy as a mere water boy for the factory's soccer team. Joni gets a chance to reveal her secret and find a friend (and vice versa for Timothy), while Coach learns it's more about gamesmanship than winning.
Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner make a charming and believable couple, but C.J. Adams, who plays Timothy, steals the show. He ably and superbly plays all of the emotional weight put upon his shoulders as he has to emulate all of the wishes of his movie parents.
Knowing what I know of the production, I honestly believe another 15-20 minutes of footage from the Scott Sanders/Ahmet Zappa production could have done wonders for plot and character development.
Overall, though, it was a very good film that could have been better. For now, just revel in Timothy's wonder, Jim and Cindy's growth as parents and the fun of the soccer games. Yes, it's odd but so is the life of Timothy Green.
I Love the 80's, but I Hate Asylum
From an article with SyFy's head honcho three years ago, we learned that SyFy pays $2-3 million to groups like The Asylum and Roger Corman to make "original" pictures. Apparently, The Asylum is keeping most of that money.
This time around, instead of the bodacious Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, we're stuck with Danny "The Partridge Family" Bonaduce and Barry "Greg Brady" Williams battling each other and Bigfoot in Deadwood, South Dakota.
I won't spoil the ending but remember this is an Asylum flick, which means high body counts, people dying in incredibly stupid ways and, most of all, crummy special effects. I thought CGI was going to be the wave of the future? The effects in this movie look like a video game.
Even worse, the acting in this movie is more atrocious than usual for an Asylum movie. Bonaduce is his usual hammy self, just a bit more over the top than he is on "World's Dumbest..." Williams, however, has to play the straight man and fails miserably.
As for the plot, in a nutshell, Williams and Bonaduce play former singing partners who have parted ways 180 degrees. Bonaduce is a bigshot radio hack/producer whose greed knows no bounds, going so far as to take credit for a bloody Bigfoot attack bringing the town much needed publicity. Williams has gone environmentalist on us when he isn't trying to hit on his almost underage groupies.
Neither man is likable enough to root for. By the time we get to the inevitable fight scene between the two, it's too late. We can hit the restroom or make popcorn instead.
And I have to pity the poor city of Deadwood. The locals are portrayed as complete morons. Bigfoot annihilates about 10-15 construction workers yet no one in town pays attention. Tons of people go missing and business goes on as usual. Even when Bigfoot attacks a big concert stage, absolutely nothing fazes the citizenry until Bonaduce pays them to go after Bigfoot.
We got to see a more enthusiastic response from the rednecks in the notorious "Giant Spider Invasion" back in 1975. The Asylum needs to take a look at "Kingdom of the Spiders" or just about any Toho monster flick to show how the citizens are supposed to act when the monster attacks.
Oh and before I forget, Grade Z horror and monster flicks have had one thing in common from -- they either begin a great actor's career or show just how far the actor has fallen. SyFy abounds in the latter.
This time around, we get to see just how far Sherilynn Fenn of "Twin Peaks" has fallen out of favor in Tinseltown. She plays a deputy doing a poor imitation of Frances McDormand from "Fargo." Her hat has more to do than she does. Joining her is Howard "WKRP In Cincinnati" Hessman as the Murray Hamilton-style mayor and Bruce Davison as another deputy.
By the way, Davison directs and shows he apparently learned nothing from "Lathe of Heaven." He can't even successfully direct his own death scene.
Overall, by the time we get to the ending (hint: think "Piranhaconda"), we just want this film to be over with.
P.S.: The best part in this whole movie is Alice Cooper challenging Bigfoot for the title of "world's scariest creature."
Dallas: A House Divided (1980)
J.R. At His Best (and Worst)
"A House Divided" is, of course, known by the more familiar nickname "Who Shot J.R.?" In only its third season (and just its second full one as the first season was just a five-episode mini-series), "Dallas" had cemented itself as a top-rated fixture on American nighttime television. However, it needed just one more thing to get it to number one and that was a season cliffhanger that would keep viewers guessing until the following season debut.
This episode did that. J.R. (Larry Hagman, far removed from Major Nelson on "I Dream of Jeanie") is at his evil best, somehow managing to finally and fully alienate not just the Cartel, but Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), Bobby (Patrick Duffy), Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby), Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) and Alan Beam (Randolph Powell), all in less than an hour. And he does it convincingly, unlike future rivals like "Dynasty" and "Falcon Crest."
The Cartel: Like idiots, they let their greed get the better of them and buy most of the Asian oil wells. Just about all of them, including Jordan Lee (Don Starr) lose their shirts and one commits suicide. The worst is Vaughn Leland, who loses everything but true to his nature, blames J.R. instead of himself.
Alan Beam: Thinking he can take on J.R., Alan is brought to J.R.'s office by Det. McSween (James L. Brown) and has a charge of rape of a woman to be named later hung over his head.
Kristin: Conspiring with Alan Beam, she tries to get J.R.'s right-hand man in SE Asia to send damaging documents directly to Kristin. Instead, Hank (Ron Hayes) calls J.R. Kristin then gets her own visit from Det. McSween, who has an arrest warrant in hand for prostitution unless Kristin gets out of town. Neither she nor Alan can agree who will kill J.R. first.
Cliff: He finds a document signed by Jock giving Digger and Digger's heirs half the profits from Ewing 23. J.R. acquiesces, then shuts down Ewing 23, so Cliff doesn't get a dime.
Bobby: Already disgusted at how J.R. treated the Cartel, Bobby completely breaks when he learns J.R. shut down Ewing 23. He seeks Jock's support but Jock backs J.R. Jock would never be in business with any Barnes. Bobby knows where he stands in the family. He tells Pam they're leaving Southfork. He's had it with J.R.'s schemes and Jock's lack of support.
Sue Ellen: She tells off J.R. in front of a distraught Miss Ellie. J.R. tells her he's calling the sanitarium in the morning and will personally have her committed.
End result: J.R. hides out in his office with shots of Jim Beam but, also gets two shots of hot lead.
Everyone manages to pull off their parts with aplomb and total believability. Jim Davis is especially effective at expressing equal parts ruthlessness and dismay as Jock. Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie makes naiveté completely believable.
Though we wonder what's taken Bobby so long to get a clue, when he finally does, it's heartbreaking. The only disappointment is Victoria Principal as Pam. She still seems to be sleepwalking through her role.
The rest of the cast is serviceable. Randolph Powell (Beam), Mary Crosby (Kristin), James L. Brown (McSween), Dennis Patrick (Leland) and Don Starr (Jordan Lee) only need a few words to communicate threats and they pull it off.
The most important part is they create enough reason that, when J.R. is finally shot down in his office late one night, we don't know who could have fired the shots.
And, with that, Lorimar Productions cemented the legends of J.R. and "Dallas."
Missing: The Hard Drive (2012)
Finds Promise but "Missing" Believability
I was hoping that "Missing" would blow me away, like "Taken" or "Bourne Ultimatum" or even "24."
Ashley Judd is certainly an actress who can pull off the trying role of anguished mother very effectively.
However, it's Judd unbelievability as an action star that continues to hurt this show. The viewing audience is conditioned to expect knock-down, drag-out fights or car chases.
Judd is somewhere between Claire Danes in "Homeland" and Maggie Q in "Nikita," alternating between wilting or wanting to take on the whole world. If she didn't try both aspects at the same time, it would be a lot better.
Well, enough of that. On to this episode.
Rebecca breaks yet another rule and heads to France where, years earlier, we learn she killed two French DGSE agents. She contacts the deputy director of the DGSE. He is Antoine Lussier (Joaquim de Almeida, from "Clear & Present Danger"). Like anyone who spends a career in covert intelligence, he has a lot of secrets.
Rebecca and Lussier make a deal. Lussier will find Rebecca's son, Michael, while Rebecca gives him Hard Drive, not a computer program but a man (Lothaire Bluteau looking eerily like Anthony Perkins) with a computer-like memory. He has secrets Lussier wants.
Bluteau clearly carries the episode, often being the voice of reason to counter Rebecca's character switches. Whether it's a rigged swap or infiltrating DGSE headquarters, Bluteau's Hard Drive is the model of efficiency and acting.
Rebecca, however, is not. She's supposed to be a professional, one of the CIA's best. Yet, at times, when she sees Michael being slapped around, she acts cries, freezes and acts like she hasn't got a clue. Okay, we get it. She's a mom (as she tells us 50 times). She wants to find her son. But, she's also one of the CIA's best agents. She should be like Jason Bourne when his girlfriend was murdered in India.
To get information on her son, Rebecca decides to break into DGSE HQ. Now, when Jason Bourne does it, it looks believable because the technical consultants go over the scene two hundred times and the director films it 50 times.
Rebecca has none of that. Instead, she has Hard Drive use a stolen ID badge to activate a fire alarm. The workers leave. Rebecca then scales a wall, runs across a beam, jumps to the floor of the main offices and goes right into the computer room.
She gets her info, lets Hard Drive in and then lets him hack Lussier's computer. Seems okay, right? Well, there's no believability in the entire scene. Not one person in the entire parking lot sees Rebecca scale the wall. No one sees her standing in plain view on the cross beam. No one sees her run across the floor or enter the computer room.
Are we to believe that DGSE headquarters does not have a security system, that there are no security cameras anywhere? And Rebecca gets the info she needs because ALL of the computers are logged in. Even a low-level government agency or business requires workers to log off or shut down computers in case of an emergency.
It's like the producers told the writers to hell with reality, just speed things along. When you think about, though, breaking into DGSE headquarters sounds like something an entire episode should be devoted to, not 15 minutes.
A couple of security officers investigate but Rebecca gives them a couple of backhands and they're out cold. If it's Jennifer Garner or Linda Hamilton, I'll believe it. But, not Ashley Judd.
When Lussier returns, he sees his computer was hacked and then sees a damning article on Wikileaks detailing all of his dirty dealings. Wikileaks has been a pain in the backside to many governments, but Julian Assange has never posted anything this fast.
Rebecca gets the info she wants, steals a motorcycle and races to an out-of-the-way airport. There, she sees her son being hustled onto a plane. She runs after it like that ever works on anything but "Walker, Texas Ranger," doesn't catch it (darn) and, she collapses to the ground, crying. Again, the professional goes bye-bye and the emotional wreck takes over.
As I said before, the show has promise but it can't be slapdash. It has got to be believable.
Ashley Judd's face may be puffy because of the medicine she's taking, but she still needs to hit the gym and get a personal trainer. Right now, she looks like what she is -- a movie actress desperate for work even if the role isn't a good fit.
There's still time to fix things (including getting Judd a personal trainer), but as Spielberg learned with "Terra Nova," a big name producer doesn't guarantee anything.
As it stands right now, the only thing "Missing" may be the show's name from the Fall 2012 lineup.
CSI: Miami: Manhunt (2010)
Horatio Lets the City of Miami Down Big Time
One of most irritating thing about TV cops is the writers' need to make them constantly appear humane, mostly through being overly attentive to females, both criminal and innocents.
Horatio Caine is among the worst (with CSI New York's Mac Taylor a close second, though neither holds a candle to Walker, Texas Ranger).
"Manhunt" shows the worst decision making of Caine thus far and the citizens of Miami pay for it dearly.
Five hardcore criminals escape from a maximum security penitentiary. One of them is Memmo Fierro (Robert LaSardo), the man who murdered Marisol Delko.
In short order, he robs and murders a wealthy boat owner, guns down emergency room nurses, blows a child case worker's brains out, wounds a foster mother and then gets away clean.
Meanwhile, Ivonne Hernandez, Memmo's former lover and mother of his daughter, Elsa, lies through her teeth time and again, only telling the truth after a bunch of innocent people are killed.
Eventually, Horatio and Eric Delko corner Memmo but, inexplicably, let him get away with a hostage (guess what happens to the hostage?) The writers have piled on the schmaltz in attempting to somehow paint Memmo Fierro as having noble ambitions with his killings. See, he is trying to rescue his daughter, Elsa, from a broken foster care system that let her fall through the cracks.
The nurses Memmo guns down in the ER just happen to be the same ones who turned away his daughter when she came in with second-degree burns from a household accident. Memmo found them out from Ivonne, but his lover failed to mention that the ER was very busy that night and Elsa could not be seen right away. Though the nurses (Vera Miao, Juliet Sorci) were a bit rude, they did suggest a different clinic that could help faster than Miami General.
The case worker is the same one who place Elsa in the home where she was burned. Ivonne told Memmo about him, too and he had his brains blown out.
We find out William McGuire, the head of the private foster care firm, is selling Elsa to a rich family. Yet, this fact is only revealed in the last five minutes and actually weakens the already thin plot.
Anyway, Ivonne gets to reunite with Elsa and things seem to go happily ever after. Yeah, Ivonne lies and people who might have been warned aren't so they die. Yet, she gets to reunite with her daughter.
Also, the boat owner's death is never explained. He is just a random victim, so how can Memmo justify that? Finally, Horatio suffers his greatest inexplicable action. Among all the dicey things he's done, letting Memmo go is the diciest.
Yes, McGuire was selling Elsa. But, does that justify letting a cold-blooded murderer take the man hostage since we all know what's going to happen? Delko has a shot, yet H stops him. When Memmo forces McGuire into a stolen cab, he lingers outside with his gun away from McGuire's head. Still, H doesn't shoot him. Memmo gets into the cab and gets away clean.
Later, Frank and the Miami Dade police find the cab, with McGuire dead inside. As Ivonne reunites with Elsa, we see a montage of the cab, McGuire's corpse and Memmo walking away into a crowd.
Really? Memmo gunned down Marisol in H's arms. He murdered a boat owner. He killed two nurses and wounded a cop in the ER. He murdered a child care caseworker, wounded a foster mother and Horatio lets him go? That means every death at Memmo's hands from now on will be blood on Horatio's hands, especially since we known Fierro returns next season to seize control of Mala Noche and wreak havoc on Miami.
Overall, there is very little CSI work, save for identifying that Ivonne broke into her daughter's bedroom, leaving behind two scraps of paper from a wire hanger cover.
The CSI's mostly running around failing to save anyone. They get lied to by Ivonne repeatedly and yet she comes out smelling like a rose. Memmo is turned from cold-blooded killer to sympathetic anti-hero and allowed to escape.
Not one of CSI: Miami's finest moments or episodes.
Too Much Like Port-2-Port
I think the NCIS writers are running out of ideas. Several old ones get rehashed in this episode.
Namely, a military Special Forces officer recruited into a secret ops unit to kill bad guys but who then turns on his fellow Americans and starts killing the good guys. Here, it's Stratton (Scott Wolf). Before, it was the P2P killer.
Also, federal agent suddenly can't trust even her closest friends and goes on the run. Here, it's E.J. Before, it's any number of episodes, from both "NCIS" and "NCIS: Los Angeles." You can also see it in "Criminal Minds" "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" when Goren went undercover to get his job back and nearly got killed by Eames.
And, finally, SPOILER ALERT: Killer finds NCIS safe house and blasts it only to find the target(s) in question weren't there. Here, of course, it's Stratton again. Before, it was Rivera (Marco Sanchez). The only cliché worse on this show (and its spin-off) is faking the death of bad guys who were forced to be bad because they or their families were threatened.
Anyway, in this episode, Stratton (aka Capt. Wolf) is still hunting E.J. who disappeared from the scene where he gunned down Cage and DiNozzo. Gibbs finds E.J. and puts her in a safe house with DiNozzo while he forces SecNav to get Latham to set Stratton up.
Needless to say, we all should known Latham's fate after this.
Overall, the show was rather average. In some ways, it was below average. There was no real tension. Even when Barrett made her grand entrance, you could see it coming from a mile away.
Abby and McGee really seemed to be wasted this time around. Ducky was almost on hiatus, while Director Vance must have been on vacation (hard to imagine Gibbs being able to interrupt SecNav's lunch without getting an earful from the director).
As for the finale, that was embarrassingly stale. Latham, before meeting his doom, tells Stratton where E.J. and DiNozzo are hiding. Stratton heads there, blows up the house with a rocket and then is herded by Gibbs, Ziva and McGee into a roadblock filled with heavily-armed SWAT and FBI agents. He smugly gives up, thinking Tony and E.J. are dead.
Gibbs then calls them and Stratton blanches to know they're still alive.
I would, too. SecNav and Latham both say Stratton was a top-notch Special Forces officer. A top-notch officer (any SpecFor officer, for that matter) would have cased the house to make sure the targets were there. This isn't some grieving corrupt Mexican cop who thinks his sister is already dead and is going to fire at anything that moves.
But, we should have expected it. The episode began with a Navy commander crashing full-speed into a parked car in a quiet neighborhood. He had been shot in the neck and killed. E.J. had been a passenger in the same truck and Stratton had been in a passing vehicle taking the shot. Two kids hear the crash and arrive on scene in seconds, yet Stratton's car is nowhere in sight on a straightaway street.
Even more puzzling, E.J. is nowhere to be seen either. If the killer was after her, he would have or should have seen her fleeing the truck. At the very least, he should have scoured the streets to look for her until he heard sirens. Yet, he allows her to escape on foot in a suburban area and then loses track of her until the last few minutes.
Finally, at the end, when Gibbs talks to a chained Stratton, he says he and Stratton are nothing alike. He doesn't kill innocent people.
Stratton then says he knows about Mexico, somehow inferring that the drug dealing father of Rivera and Paloma Reynosa was innocent. Of course, one can hope the writers finally got original and are setting us up for something else. Yet, Mexico has been done to death, what with Col. Bell, Reynosa, Rivera and Mike Franks. They need to pick another part of the world.
Perhaps all this time at no. 1 in the Nielsen's has made the writers soft. Maybe Mark Harmon, as executive producer, is coasting on his laurels while he devotes his creative energies to blasé dreck like "Certain Prey" and "Weathergirl." In this episode, the only remotely interesting thing is that Tony and Ziva begin making subtle romantic overtures to one another. Even here, unless it's done carefully, it's liable to come off clumsy (clue: watch the early years of "Cheers" and not the later years of "Moonlighting").
Here's hoping Harmon and company get back to the good stuff quick.
Criminal Minds: Psychodrama (2006)
Stretches Reality Too Much
The team flies to Los Angeles to help find a bank robber who is becoming more and more violent. At first, he simply robbed banks. Now, he humiliates customers and shoots the guards.
I would have ranked this one higher except it defied logic too many times. The unsub, named Sheppard (Jason Wiles), robs another bank but a customer hides and calls 911. L.A. Detective Murad (nice to see Marco Sanchez from "Sons of Thunder" and "Desperado" in here) announces it to the team. Yet, Hotchner, Gideon and company get stuck in traffic.
They arrive after Sheppard has made all the customers strip, has violated one of the women, has killed the guard and has hunted down and killed the man who called 911. He calmly walks out and cripples a meter maid before roaring off on a motorcycle. A minute later, here comes the BAU.
During the ensuing chase, Sheppard slips by numerous roadblocks and drives through the L.A. River Basin to escape. Not once does anyone shoot at him. They know he's already killed several people and yet, they let him get away. I realize the tension has to be drawn out but I have to wonder how letting a psychopathic killer escape makes the BAU effective.
Anyway, the real problem is that we, the viewing public, have to believe that, in Los Angeles, if someone calls in a bank robbery, the only cops who respond are coming in from the L.A. field office of the FBI, located in the LAPD main HQ. There was not another patrol unit nearby or cops on lunch in a nearby restaurant or off-duty cops in the vicinity? I will admit I have relatives who are cops but I hate any police procedural that makes the local cops look incompetent or the Feds look like cold-blooded jackasses.
I am keeping in mind that this in only the second season of the show, so the writing isn't quite there yet. However, Mandy Patinkin is already showing the same character he portrayed in "Chicago Hope." I wish he would slip up and let out a little Inago Montoya from time to time.
On a brighter note, the cast is beginning to finally develop the character traits that will make them three-dimensional. Reid is still awkwardly trying to fit in. In a previous episode, Elle made a mental profile of an unsub who was an arsonist and it fit Reid to a tee, so he knows he needs to open up more.
Hotchner's home life is unraveling and he keeps putting off his wife, who wants to talk about that no cop ever wants to hear -- the need to quit.
The only disappointing member is Derek, who remains basically the same 2-D character even into the current season (even the episode about him revealing childhood sexual abuse failed to make a dent in his hard exterior).
The Perfect Roommate (2011)
This Is Payback For Canada Helping Us in NATO
Canada must have us by the you-know-what. They help us in Afghanistan and we have to keep importing these awful Canadian dramas and TV shows.
Case in point, "The Perfect Roommate," which feels like two movies rolled into one.
The plot is atrocious and outrageous, not to mention far-fetched. The acting is barely passable and the dialogue is almost funny at times. As a villainess, Boti Bliss should have asked for her role back on "CSI: Miami" to at least see what a villain should be like.
William R. Moses should be ashamed. He starred convincingly on "Falcon Crest" for 11 years and then did about a decade's worth of "Perry Mason" movies. Yet, in this film, he's not just naive, he incredibly naive.
The plot is basically a conniving murderer and her ex-con friend go after the filthy rich Richard Dunnfield (Moses). To do it, Carrie Remington (Bliss) plays the femme fatale. Less than a year removed from framing her former husband for a murder she and her friend Anna (Cinthia Burke) committed, she gets a job as a waitress with Richard's daughter Ashley (Ashley Leggat). She then worms her way into Ashley's life as her roommate and uses that as a springboard to hook up with Richard who, by turning 50, apparently has dementia.
The plot is ridiculous. The movie begins by having the police arrest Carrie's former husband. Then, he completely disappears from the movie until about midway when he's referenced for two seconds.
Anna breaks into Ashley's car and steals her computer, which she uses to find out information on her and her father. Apparently, no one in Canada uses passwords as Carrie and Anna have no problem getting into anyone's e-mail accounts. Carrie waltzes into the café's employee file room and steals Ashley's personnel jacket.
She finds out Ashley's allergic to shellfish, poisons her and spikes the antidote. Then, she throws away the tainted food and disposes of the antidote she tampered with. Ashley never gets wise to it and lets it slide. No lawsuits, no talking to a lawyer, no nothing.
I won't go into all of it, but the movie loses credibility right from the start for one reason -- Boti Bliss. If you're filthy rich like Dunnfield, you get a trophy wife like Paula Wickless (Teresa Donovan). Paula gets bumped off by Anna so Carrie can have no obstruction to her seduction of Richard.
Let's face it. Bliss is not a hottie by any stretch of the imagination. Otherwise, she would have been more than just a recurring forensics tech on "CSI: Miami." She'd have been up there with Eva LaRue.
In this movie, Bliss looks even worse. Her hair makes her look like Meryl Streep in "A Cry in the Dark." She also looks like she's had a bad breast job and facial cosmetic surgery. Her backside is too wide and she looks ridiculous running around in Ashley's style of clothing. And we have to believe Richard would fall head over heels for her instead of the gorgeous Paula.
As the cold-blooded killer Anna, Burke is serviceable. Yet, she is two-dimensional and gets no time to even halfway develop her character. She's like a stock red herring-style character from, well, from just about any number of Canadian Lifetime Movie flicks.
It seems as if this movie should either have had Bliss as a demented roommate of Ashley a la "Single White Female" or had Donovan as an evil woman trying to seduce and then kill Dunnfield. Trying to combine the two and using Bliss in a role she was ill-suited for only resulted in an epic fail.
Glass House: The Good Mother (2006)
Perfect for Lifetime, Way Imperfect for the Rest of Us
I came across this movie on the Lifetime Movie Network this past Saturday while scrolling the channels. I probably should have flipped back to "Quatermass and The Pit" on TCM or "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" on AMC.
Anyway, this movie, which is an "in name only" sequel to the less-than-stellar "Glass House," concerns Eve (Angie Harmon) and Raymond Goode (Joel Gretsch), who have just lost their son David. They become foster parents to Abby (Jordan Hinson) and Ethan (Bobby Coleman).
Right off the bat, Eve, who suffers from Munchausen's Syndrome, goes overboard in being a good mother, to the point of being psychotic. She ultimately terrorizes the children by stitching up wounds with no anesthesia, "curing" rashes with oven cleaner, etc.
You can read other reviews for the gist of the story. Harmon is an amazing actress. However, she is hampered by her goody-two shoes image. It's hard to imagine her as a villain, especially when she almost comically snarls, rears back and gives Abby a Steffi Graf-level backhand.
Hinson is adequate as Abby. Gretsch is completely useless as the spineless hubby Ray and the actor annoys by being up and down in his performance, as if he's following the director's cue every moment.
The worst part of the movie is the entire premise. The Goodes are wealthy yet we never see them at work, though Eve is supposed to be a nurse. We don't know what Ray does but the pair have a huge Gothic-style mansion and a large estate. Yet, we see no groundskeepers, no maids, no gardeners.
We learn the Goodes took in another kid before David but he simply disappeared. But, no one from Child Services bothers to ask what happened to him before giving the Goodes more kids to destroy.
The kids don't go to school, yet no one comes around to ask. Even worse, Abby never leaves the grounds. She doesn't do anything a normal teen girl does -- call friends, make friends, head to the mall, hang out, text. She doesn't even make phone calls to the police to alert them to what's happening to her.
The movie is low-budget which hampers the director's ability to have the police come out in force. However, that doesn't excuse the director from doing common sense things to give his film credibility.
Finally, the ending is totally contrived and uses just about every cliché in the Hollywood suburban thriller handbook. Abby can't do anything to get out of the house. The lone cop (Jason London) never calls for backup even after discovering a body. Eve is kicked down a flight of stairs and cracks her head -- twice. Yet, is up and brandishing a cleaver with no ill effects. Even Ray, the spineless hubby, finally grows one and saves the day with a gun out of nowhere.
The whole movie would fit neatly into the Lifetime network's brand of tear-jerker, damsel in improbably danger kind of plot. For the rest of us, it's just lazy, clichéd and imperfect.
A Good Show but Unrealistic to Prove Its Point
I'll admit that I was very skeptical when this show came on because it was a Canadian show going up against American cop dramas. But, it does have its moments.
The SRU definitely have a way with words and it's nice to see cops try to talk a perp down from a situation much like negotiators do in real life.
What gets me down on this show is that it goes out of its way not to solve issues with violence, but to the point of being contrived. For example, in one episode, a kid who wants to be the next Son of Sam is holed up in a motel room with a violent felon.
He pistol whips the ex-con and escapes through a secret hatch into the sewer. The hatch is beneath a carefully made-up bed and a carpet so smooth it isn't wrinkled. The room is also on the second floor. So, we have to believe he pistol-whipped the felon, lifted the bed, pulled back the rug, lifted the hatch to the sewer and got down there through another room. Meanwhile, the hatch is put back, the rug smoothed over and bed set back down, the sheets and blanket neatly fixed by an unconscious man on the floor.
I'm not sure if the Toronto emergency response team that the SRU is based on is based on the SEALs or Delta team, but it's difficult to watch a team that is "Law & Order," "CSI," "SVU" and Goren from "Criminal Intent" all rolled into one.
Still, Hugh Dillon carries his weight. Amy Jo Johnson is okay, although I still can't picture her as anything but the Pink Ranger.
Personally, I'll stick to "Criminal Intent" until it ends. I don't think I'll replace it with "Flashpoint."
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Why Stephen King Should Stick to Writing
"Maximum Overdrive" isn't a dreadful movie, but neither can it be considered any kind of classic as some reviewers have anointed. At best (or worst), it's just a slightly below average flick by a first-time director. It's only real draw is that it's Stephen King's directorial debut and swansong (or ugly duckling, depending on your viewpoint).
If you haven't guessed, King took his classic short story "Trucks" and fleshed it out into a full-length movie. He also took the directorial reins for the only time.
The movie deals with the after-effects of a comet that passes Earth, bathing the planet in its tail radiation for three days. As a result, trucks and other mechanical items come to life with deadly results. A group of survivors gather in a roadside diner as semis besiege them.
Some have described the movie as tongue-in-cheek and some of the performances might make you think so. But, the movie, overall, tries hard to be dramatic and kills the humorous side of it early on.
The problems here in the movie come mainly from King himself. If you've ever read his stories, he puts so much detail into them that the reader can not only believe them, but imagine that they are part of the tale. Of course, words often work better than pictures because we have to imagine what we're reading.
In "Maximum Overdrive," King adds in a lot of inconsistencies. Trucks come to life, but not cars. An M-60 not only shoots more bullets than it carries but somehow manages to swivel around on its own. Yet, no other gun in the movie fires on its own.
Somehow we are supposed to believe that an electric knife can come to life and chase a waitress. A hairdryer can somehow choke a woman to death with its cord. A Walkman can kill a man by sending...what, a weak battery surge into his ears? King lets us down with his lack of believability, surprising from a man who terrorized us with a demonic dry cleaning press ("The Mangler" short story).
The cast is not awful, but not great. Emilio Estevez as the hero is, well, just okay. Not particularly believable but he gives it some gusto. Yeardley Smith as one half of a married couple is hilarious and it's fun to listen to her, if only to hear shades of Lisa Simpson and other characters she did on shows like "Herman's Head," "Brothers" and "Dharma & Greg."
Laura Harrington as "Brett" is so bland she blends in with the woodwork. Oddly, she dresses like Emilio's fellow Brat Packers. Pat Hingle is over-the-top (as usual), but after about 30 minutes you just want to kick his a**. The only person more annoying is waitress Wanda June (Ellen McEldruff), who actually makes you want to see her killed (not a spoiler alert since you know she has to buy it).
Fortunately, a few supporting cast members liven things up a little. J.C. Quinn and Frankie Faison as truckers aren't around enough. Look for Leon Rippy ("Saving Grace," "Eight-Legged Freaks"), Giancarlo Esposito ("Do the Right Thing," "Homicide: Life on the Streets"), the ever reliable stuntman/actor Dean Mumford and even Marla Maples before she added "Trump." King himself has a cameo as a not-too-bright man at an ATM.
The trucks here look fairly menacing (when you're not accidentally seeing their stunt drivers), the one with the Green Goblin exterior is especially terrifying. Unfortunately, when the trucks actually attack, it's sort of lackluster because the survivors become rather stupid. So, it seems more like the victims were just idiots instead of the trucks being homicidal.
King tries but can't make the trucks as terrifying as he can in his story. He probably could have had he followed his own words. For example, in the story, a man makes a run for the diner and escapes the main truck. He staggers for the door only to have a smaller, faster moving van come from the side and knock him out of his shoes. Such a scene in this movie could have gone a long way in making it scarier.
The action scenes are also so-so. While most of us try to figure out why Pat Hingle has an arsenal in the basement of the diner, the survivors don't really put that arsenal to good use. And when they do, it's hard not to laugh. Whether it's Hingle reloading and firing a LAW rocket launcher (a single-shot weapon) or waitress Wanda firing the same launcher almost straight up and having the rocket shoot straight out, it looks as if King thought a few explosions would liven up his dull script.
Try as he might, King is totally out of his element. For whatever reason, he cannot re-create the suspense and terror of his short story. He can't impart the sense of foreboding or doom.
That said, King does include a killer soundtrack with AC/DC, so you can score him one for that.
In the end, we have characters we really don't care about fighting trucks that are about as terrifying as Tonka toys.
It's easy to see why King never directed another film.
The Mummy Returns (2001)
A lot of fun and a lot of errors
I would have rated it hire if the producers hadn't tried to cram so much action down our throats. "The Mummy Returns" picks up seven years after the first film. Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evie (Rachel Weisz) are married and have a precocious (and stereotypical) son named Alex (Freddie Boath).
Unfortunately, their peace is about to be shattered. Anck Su Namun (the incredibly gorgeous Patricia Velasquez) has been reincarnated. She has teamed up with a museum curator (Alun Armstrong) and his cult, led by Lock-Nah (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who should get an award just for hanging onto such an difficult name in Hollywood circles). Together, they excavate the ruins of Hamunaptra and unearth Imhotep. Later, they will revive him in London, try to revive the Bracelet of Anubis, kidnap Evie, sic mummies on Rick, Jonathan and Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr), kidnap Alex and lead our heroes on a dangerous search for the Oasis of Ahm Shere, where Imhotep hopes to defeat the fabled Scorpion King (played mostly in CG by The Rock) and take control of the Army of Anubis.
Whew, that's a mouthful. The film has great action. A big fight scene in Rick's house, both upstairs and downstairs. A shoot-out in a museum. An exciting bus chase through the streets of London. A race between a tidal wave and a dirigible. An attack by strange-looking (and, ultimately, annoying) pygmy skeletons. A showdown between Imhotep and Rick, Jonathan and Anck Su Namun and then Evie and Anck Su Namun.
Definitely worth the price of admission.
However, the film had too many errors to warrant more than a five. Let's face it. Most movies had continuity errors (even "Raiders of the Lost Ark") but this film goes way beyond normal. It's almost like no research was done for this film and the director just went for what he thought the world of 1933 would look like.
1) There's a woman-on-woman fight scene in ancient Egypt before Pharoah Seti I, featuring sai blades. Sai blades were not in Egypt, but were created in China during the Ming Dynasty, which did not come about until 1368.
2) Alex's slingshot wasn't made until 1954.
3) Jonathan breaks off a key in the ignition of Rick's limousine, yet ignition keys for cars didn't come around until 1949.
4) The double-decker bus Jonathan commandeers in London was not designed until 1954.
5) Izzy (Shaun Parks), pilot of the dirigible that takes Rick and Evie to Ahm Shere, uses a fire extinguisher that seems old but wasn't made until 1980.
6) Alex is supposed to be eight years old. The Three Stooges -- actually three schmucks (Bruce Byron, Joe Dixon, Tom Fisher) written in only to be cannon fodder for Imhotep's assimilation -- comment that the Black Book of the Dead meant death for the Yanks of the original film nine years earlier. Much of the original film was set in 1926, a mere 7(!!!) years earlier. Somehow, the script writers fixated on 1923, the year in which the original movie was begun (remember, after Rick's escape from Hamunaptra, the film advanced three years to 1926).
7) There are a few other major hits, but none worse than (possible spoiler) a massive fight between the 12 Tribes of the Medjai and Anubis' warrior army. The 12 tribes seem to have 10,000 men on horseback. After the first round of battle, they're whittled down to several hundred, but we see not one body -- of Medjai or horse nor will we. If the film was trying to capture the magnificence of "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" or even "Spartacus," it failed horribly.
But, perhaps the most egregious problem is how the sequel screws up the events of the original film. In "The Mummy Returns," Evie is presented as the physical and spiritual reincarnation of Nefertiri, daughter of Seti I. In the first film, however, Imhotep mistakes Evie for a reincarnation of Anck Su Namun. How could he have not recognized Nefertiri? In "TMR," he doesn't seem to recognize her as Nefertiri either. In fact, Anck Su Namun doesn't recognize Evie as Nefertiri until almost the end of the film. What gives?
Also, at the end of the first film, when Imhotep sinks into the Well of Souls, he loses all the life he ripped from the Americans and the Egyptologist. We see his eyes and tongue go last. In "TMR," he reawakens with eyes and a tongue.
Oh, well, maybe I'm being too harsh. Brendan Fraser was his usual cool self and Arnold Vosloo almost stole the show again. The Rock was not in the film enough (but was in "The Scorpion King" way too much). The fight scene between Rick and Imhotep was fantastic with its array of weapons. It was also nice to see Jonathan stop being a cowardly wuss and Alex did tone down the annoying "mischievous kid" act by the end of the film. Anck Su Namun was particular seductive and evil (see her first meeting with Alex), although I had a hard time believing how her (oops, spoiler potential)...demise was presented. It seemed suddenly out of character and forced.
So, just go with the flow on this on. Watch it for the action and try not to be too cerebral. For action flicks, thinking too much can hurt.
The Professionals (1966)
One of the best Westerns of all time
Richard Brooks still hasn't gotten the adulation he deserves for this 1966 classic, which easily ranks up there with "The Magnificent Seven," "The Wild Bunch" and "Once Upon A Time in the West."
Basically, the plot concerns slimy multimillionaire J.W. Grant (perfectly portrayed by film legend Ralph Bellamy) hiring four mercenaries to rescue his kidnapped wife (Claudia Cardinale, who isn't Mexican, but when you see her, you won't care) from a brutal Mexican revolutionary names Jesus Raza (Jack Palance, also not Mexican but who cares?). Grant promises to pay each mercenary $10,000 for the safe return of his wife.
The Professionals are slick and well cast. Lee Marvin, late to the silver screen after a successful TV career on "M Squad," is Henry "Rico" Fardan, an Army veteran of the Spanish-American War and former compatriot of Raza when both rode with Pancho Villa. Burt Lancaster is Bill Dolworth, a dynamiter and adventurer without principle. Football legend Woody Strode plays Jacob Sharp, an expert tracker. Robert Ryan is Hans Ehrengard, a master horseman and pack master.
They're given an almost impossible assignment and slowly learn throughout the film that all is not what it seems. There's plenty of action, including Raza's revolutionaries defeating a trainload of the Mexican army's toughest soldiers and an attack on Raza hideout that has to be seen to be believed.
Some of the previous comments have complained that, in real life, such an attack would be impossible. In reality, it wouldn't be too difficult. In 1983, when the U.S. invaded Grenada, four Navy SEALS held off a battalion of Cuban soldiers for two hours, inflicting heavy casualties. And it is standard procedure for modern armies to send in scouts, who can slip easily through enemy lines to gather intelligence. You'll find plenty of examples in history, including the American Revolution and Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
That said, the acting is first-rate. It's clear that all four mercenaries have seen better times. Lancaster is sprung from jail for the mission because he gambled with money he didn't have and lost. Army vet Marvin is stuck demonstrating machine guns for the U.S. Army for $40 a week. Strode is still having to run down fugitives to make a living. A clearly aged Ryan is still running ranch operations when he should be living the quiet life in retirement. For each, $10,000 is too much of an opportunity to pass up, no matter what it calls for.
The supporting cast is also first-rate, especially Marie Gomez. Director Brooks puts in a lot of tension, too, with blazing action scenes, an all too real ambush and a potential shootout that almost blows the entire mission out of the water.
Personally, I believe the best part of the movie is the attack on the Hacienda, Raza's hideout. Marvin and Lancaster, knowing the truth about the kidnapping, still go through with the rescue. It's too late to turn back because the fuse on the dynamite is about to send things sky-high. Their code of the professional is too great for them to beat a hasty retreat.
To answer some other critics, yes, the Mexicans have a hard time shooting straight (in two scenes in particular). But, the film doesn't portray them as imbeciles. In real life, Villa's revolutionaries often held fiestas after victories. In their desert hideouts, they were (rightly) convinced they were safe. In real life, if someone shot arrows with dynamite taped to them, all hell would break loose.
Also, someone said nobody would try to shoot from horseback with bolt action rifles. Au contraire. It was typical of both Villa's men and the Mexican army cavalry to use bolt action rifles. The U.S. wouldn't sell repeating rifles to Mexico and pistols were hard to come by. Keep in mind that most revolutionaries, no matter how dedicated or fanatic (like the Iraqi insurgents or extremist American militias), are essentially amateurs. They take what they're given, counting on fear and surprise to help them out.
All in all, it's a great film, despite the stilted Mexican accents of Claudia Cardinale and Jack Palance. Pick this one up on DVD as soon as possible before the oft-delayed remake shreds its credibility.