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Monsters: Dark Continent (2014)
A Huge Disappointment after the first Monsters
First the good -- excellent monster special effects.
Now the bad -- everything else.
The movie is filled with pointless denigration of the soldiers. They are either hyped up on killing like madmen or so busy ignoring orders and philosophizing so as to be useless. The Arabs either act like Taliban or are monster loving mystics and are entirely one dimensional. Five or six soldiers are sent into what is supposed the most dangerous sector in the war. They can't even get proper air support.
All of this is jumbled into a long drawn out hodgepodge which -- is both pointless and boring. l only give it a three because the overall plot and special effects cry out for better treatment.
The Medic (2012)
Why is one of the leaders of a Canadian infantry squad wearing an Arafat kifaya scarf? He even pulls it over his face every time combat starts, as if he is afraid the aliens might take his picture and put it on the internet.
The squad actually decides to just abandon a moderately wounded sergeant because "ya can't save everyone" and he "might slow us down". Worse, despite the script, they don't seem to be in much of a hurry.
Others have commented on the misleading cover, poor acting, and shallow plot. This movie stinks.
That's a shame because I love the "Earth invaded" genre, and there are some potentially creative plot elements including a mysterious alien pod. But that's not enough to overcome the shallowness and boredom.
No God, No Master (2013)
Starts off well, dissolves into political swill
The start of the movie is crisp and taut, and lays out a tragic crime and some capable characters to solve it. Unfortunately the film quickly loses its way, snarking into class warfare, and derailing completely into the fever swamps of apologetics for Anarchism. The latter comes complete with drippy lines from Bakunin (although nothing of his hatred of "blood sucking" Jews).
After all too much of this, the plot tension over the dramatic opening crime is squandered, replaced by obvious preachy vignettes designed to push the concept that the 'real' villains here are the thuggish cops and the rich. They have to put in yet another crime to recapture any sense of purpose after the class warfare lecture. Unfortunately, this little pick up is immediately metamorphosed into another political lecture, complete with printed jabs at J Edgar Hoover.
In summary: Unsatisfying and trite.
Last Will (2011)
Propaganda for illegal immigration
Good grief, the poor poor exploited downtrodden illegal aliens with their darling sweet children with freshly scrubbed faces and impeccable manners and sweet rosy smiles who can't even get a Federal grant (no really, the movie says that) to fix up their buildings.. get the picture? If you didn't, there is a giant sign in the movie proclaiming "IMMIGRATION REFORM NOW".
The comedy relief is the rich Anglo woman dressed to the nines walking through the depths of the barrio, snapping pictures right and left with her stylish mobile phone. Except the movie doesn't even seem to get the joke, so busy are they burping out their stereotypes. Yikes!
If your idea of a great time at the movies is a ham handed propaganda soufflé, your going to love it.
Return to Paradise (1998)
Oh come on people, this movie is stupid
What kind of demented nonsense is the plot in this clunker? American hedonists and hippies at play forced to face unlikely consequences in highly concocted plot. Young starry-eyed animal activist's plan to save the world for baboons -- oh scuse me, orangutans -- disrupted by missing bike and eeevil third world uppity Asians. Cutesy sister posing as attorney screws narcissist to save brother's life, blows it at the last minute but promises to stick around and watch newly discovered idealist turn into a babbling hunk over next six years.
Doesn't anyone recognize pure trash when they see it anymore?
This movie is enough of an embarrassment just to watch. It's even more so when such drek is passed off as an 'emotionally wrenching' performance or given high cinematic marks.
A tangled hodgepodge, unfortunately
The acting was good to excellent, and the overall plot themes were clear. This group of friends leaps into post-Soviet Russia and makes a fortune by bending the rules such that there are rules, and playing the political side of the economic game. In the course of doing this, they run afoul of a government that is equally corrupt. This is a setting that a well made film might turn into a masterpiece.
Unfortunately it doesn't happen. There are so many throwbacks and forward scenes that one would need to watch the movie with pen and paper in hand, tracing the characters and their actions to try and keep track of the specifics. The movie tries to help out by actually labeling each scene with a timeline, before and after the death of Plato, the central character. But even with these guideposts, the back and forth movement of time requires extraordinary effort to translate into meaningful flows and never develops a satisfying momentum. It is akin to reading a history in which a few paragraphs of Alexander are followed by a series on Hiroshima and then by a brief exposition on the founding of Rome, followed by a vignette on the Crusades.
No doubt some will see this approach as a puzzle challenge. Personally I thought it interfered with both the entertainment value of Tycoon, and the capacity of the movie to sustain intensity of interest. The end result is a crippled performance in which one is tempted to throw up their hands and say, "Ah, they are all just crooks, let's see some action". If that was the intent, the movie does provide some gratification, but it could have been so much more.
The Claim (2000)
Great scenery but an incredibly boring movie
The scenery is breathtaking, and the pervasive sense of cold in the high Sierra in winter is communicated well with a howling wind that will have you wanting to curl up near a nice hot fire.
Unfortunately the rest of the movie will make you want to go to sleep. There is one stereotype after another of the old west portrayed in the bar/bordello and the main plot creaks out at a snails pace, telegraphing every move well in advance. Dillon the Younger sells his wife in exchange for a gold claim. He builds a little town empire that he rules like a king. Then Dillon the Elder gives it all up with guilt and remorse and literally burns it down.
OK. And? Would anyone actually do this? The central plot is unconvincing to say the least. A man who is coldly calculating enough to sell his young wife and child suddenly leaves his beautiful mistress 'to make it right' with no explanation as to the source of this massive change in attitude. And yet he is too weak to tell his daughter that he is her father until her mother is dead? There is no consistency here at all.
Yet it could still be interesting if there were some underlying tension developed, perhaps with a twist or two. But alas it just plods along, the actors almost sleepwalking through their parts until the slow as molasses in December ending.
Starts out superbly but rapidly devolves into classless stupidity
During the first half of the film we are introduced into the marvelous and alien world of Pandora. Special effects are top flight and oonceptual science fiction elements are tightly woven.
Alas this marvelous setting is squandered on some kind of wacky morality play in which evil humans driven by overbearing caricatures of the military and corporate worlds act like monsters to destroy the hippie wonderland.
The whole second half is boring and rather predictable, although I'll admit I never thought it could plunge to this level of crude self=satire. By the end I was reminded of Sigourney Weaver's plan to "nuke the place from orbit", just to rid of these ridiculous stereotypic Natives being saved by the Great White Hunter and his renegade sidekicks.
There is no subtlety at all in the second half morality play. We are being force fed a phony morality until it is reborn in a massive episode of projectile vomitus of hovercraft brought down by pterodactyls. Enough. The beautiful people with their private jets and hundred million dollar self aggrandizing lectures don't expect to have to live in the jungle. They expect us to live their, in obeisance to their Angry God of Carbon.
Way to ruin what could have been a very good movie.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
I'm stunned by how underwhelming this movie was
Alice in Wonderland is an amazing story on both a child and adult level, in large part because it is so clever and filled with double meanings pervaded by a sense of unreality. Take an awesome story like this, combine it with a great actor like Depp and an obvious master of CGI like Burton and one expects to be blown out of their seat with wonderment and magic.
Unfortunately the reality is not so much. None of the characters are particularly endearing -- although Alice gives it a try -- nor memorable. The card/soldiers were actually better in some of the cartoon versions of the story -- at least they had faces and expressions. These were neither scary nor did they show discernible emotion but came off like characters in a low resolution video game. The "hookah smoking character" we know and love was a complete dud. At least the Red Queen was mildly amusing, but never much more than that. And Depp, incredibly enough, was more boring than anything else.
What can I say? Ouch.
Brother's War (2009)
A major disappointment -- becomes almost unwatchable
Let me agree that this movie is, as claimed, "based on real events". As in, there was in fact a Second World War, and there was fighting in Poland. Beyond that, I'm not sure that this movie is based on anything.
Many reviewers have pointed out numerous mistakes in uniform, tactics, arms, and the like. I will add to that the fact that the British officer who becomes part of the main story group raises not a single eyebrow when they enter the German formation in the truck and decide to 'help the wounded'. What could have and should have been a taut cat and mouse game of deception turns into yet another farce, joining the incredible stereotypes overplayed foppishly throughout the movie. Virtually all the Russians are portrayed as cruel, arrogant, incompetent and/or drunk. The Gestapo are like caricatures from Hogan's Heroes, except we are meant to take them seriously.
Anyone looking for a good World War 2 movie about the undercovered battles in Poland during the Nazi retreat will be disappointed by this film. It's only real value is that it addresses a seldom seen aspect of the war; it's too bad that it does it so poorly.
The Human Contract (2008)
SPOILRRS Two talented but deeply flawed individuals have an affair, revealing that their respective houses are built upon sand. The man is a hard driving alpha male businessman who lets the affair completely destroy his opportunity through foolish choices, and reveals an ugliness of ego and jealousy when he is unable to make the rules. The woman is revealed to be a repetitively suicidal, unstable and shallow despite her glamorous presentation and veneer of sophistication.
All of this is reasonably entertaining in and of itself. But the Deep Dark Mystery of the Dark Room is inflated into a tantalizing enigma that turns into a near parody of the movie. What could be there that drives Julian's life? A string of serial murders? An affair with an exotic spy? A penchant for torturing small children? Why does he need an entire room to remain locked with a double super secret combination? The answer is so banal as to defy belief. And appears to revolve items that fit into a shoebox. To say this is a letdown after plying through 90 minutes of barely passable acting and cornball anti-morality would be an understatement. Far from being a 'free spirit', Michael is just another "messed up chick" trapped in shallow values. And Julian is a rather obnoxious guy who needs to get over himself. There is no real 'justification' for either of their behaviors offered. The spoiled nouveau riche on a lark, and they can't even handle that. In the end, it is a letdown.
Dolan's Cadillac (2009)
Good concept, horrible execution
I'm not a major King fan although some of his work is clearly brilliant. I didn't read the story here but the basic concept is pretty obvious and it seems quite workable.
The problem with the movie was that it dragged and dragged and dragged while beating us endlessly over the head with the fundamental plot points. Slater's character is a bad guy. We get that. It is not necessary that we go through scene after repetitive scene to prove the point. His rival is slowly driven nuts, becoming a sadist in his plans to seek revenge, however justifiable that might be. Unfortunately the acting is not strong enough to carry all this in a way that is entertaining. In fact it becomes downright boring. Do we really need to watch him shoveling dirt, falling over, shoveling more dirt, grabbing at water, pushing around a machine -- this plot line goes on and on and endlessly and pointlessly. Or rather the point is made in the first minute and followed by and endless sequence making the same point. Were they getting paid by the reel inch? I'll bet the short story was good. It's too bad they didn't make a short movie, because it might have been better.
Spectacular special effects but the biggest disaster is the humans
Whiny, annoying, preachy, with over the top ham handed idiocy for Glover, Harrelson, Cusack, and double for the President's daughter and that moron science adviser. I can hardly fault them for what was written into the script but a barf bag should have been provided for stunts like the President suddenly deciding to stay behind and the science adviser risking the survival of the human race for what was a drop in the bucket group when billions had already died.
Worth seeing for the utterly spectacular disaster special effects, even if many of them are tongue in cheek as when the novice pilot flies a plane through the collapsing buildings of Santa Monica. Still, much of it looks like it might actually look given some latitude on science and the unlikelihood of a tsunami cresting the Himalayas.
Somebody in the studios should get smart and release a version that spares us all the histrionics and keeps the special effects.
Bajo la sal (2008)
Very good, entertaining murder mystery in an interesting setting
Good acting, decent plot, an interesting setting in a town that has a huge salt producing factory which plays well as a backdrop. There is a lot of intriguing character development and interaction, including that between the law enforcement characters, the school characters, and at the funeral home. I disagree with reviewers who said that we don't really care about the characters -- I would rate this aspect highly.
I was less impressed by the doll play which struck me as a bit gimmicky but overall the movie was definitely worth seeing as a slightly gruesome horror/mystery. I'm fairly bilingual, and the subtitles were very well done -- often they are not.
Someone said the reason for the low ratings is that expectations were too high
OK, go expecting a rather disappointing mediocre movie and you will not be disappointed.
I love movies set in the bitter cold and the setting is fine in this clunker. The cinematography is adequate with many beautiful shots of the ice and the mountains. It even starts off with beautiful southern lights.
Now, if they could just do something with the rest of the movie. There is walk through say your lines acting, enough throwbacks to choke a horse, a plot that is barely passable, and little in the way of redeeming features.
One you get into the station, it starts off with a cheesy sequence of Beckensale parading around in her underwear, followed by shower views of her head, and the gradual introduction of characters and plot. Someone has been killed, and a hilarious looking storm is on the way. Beckensale is having some kind of emotional crisis, as is almost everyone else in the main cast. There are some plot twists along the way to resolve these elements but nothing you can really sink your teeth into and care about. Then its over, other than a painfully anticlimactic but blessedly brief epilogue.
Dark Streets (2008)
Starts off well and steadily goes downhill until the eye rolling end
If you like blues music in a glitzy chorus girl setting you'll enjoy the good but not great soundtrack and initially fun choreography. The sets -- uh, make that set for most of the movie -- is initially intriguing. The problem is, the movie never goes anywhere once the table is set. The choreography becomes repetitive, the nightclub becomes boring, and most of the rest of the movie is the distinctly unlikeable protagonist walking around in the dark and talking to people. None of the acting is outstanding, the plot not only telegraphs what is coming, it rather explicitly lays it out in the narration, leaving no room for twists, surprises, tension, or anything else. It's like reading through a book you didn't really want to read just because there is no other way to reach the end. You keep hoping a gem will show up but... alas. Talk about the blues.
A good disaster movie ruined by a twisted attempt to defile the military
Starts out well, and features a pantheon of top actors. But instead of staying on the course of Man vs Microbe, we end up with a potpouri of twisted nonsense in order to turn it into another 'Evil Military' movie from Hollywood. That moves it beyond the intriguing entertainment of the subject matter and turns it into a rather stupid movie. First we have to believe that the Army has worked on this weapon for 30 years, then that a President is ready to firebomb an American town, then that two guys in a tiny helicopter can not only outmaneuver combat helos in pursuit but stop a bombing run by flying around in front of it. Only after it has all failed do the good guys emerge and arrest the evil general.
Everything in the second half of the movie is predictable, boring, and preachy. A disappointing movie, ruined by a political agenda. Too bad, but one of many.
Staten Island (2009)
Good acting but trivialized nonsense
The introduction was very well done, and the acting across the board was quite good. Other than that you have a draggy film with lots of repeat footage that devolves into the Godfather as tree hugger as hippies take over a small woods. What? Drama into farce.
How many times did we have to see Scully (?) come in to pick up his bologna? Each time with an extra second which reveals another detail in the plot, I suppose. The problem is that none of this is really important and after the fifth or sixth time you begin wondering if something is wrong with the CD.
I really wanted to like this movie because my Dad grew up in Great Kills. And the background material was interesting. But despite the best efforts of the actors and actresses the movie never really went anywhere. A few poignant vignettes does not a movie make; at least not a good one.
The Cold Equations (1996)
A surprisingly excellent gem of a movie
People under pressure do foolish things at times, but nature is indifferent to intent.
I didn't expect much from this movie which I picked somewhat randomly out of a bargain bin, but it pretty much blew me away. The acting, which is 99% of the movie, was excellent. There were no cheesy special effects on what was obviously a low budget, and no hammed up characters. What surprised me most was how the story drew me in and forced me to re-examine my initial opinions of the characters.
It reminded me in an odd way of 12 Angry Men. Most of the focus was on human interaction, and initial impressions gradually evolved through the movie. I went from "jeez, chuck her out" to seeing the deeper implications of it all.
The one negative imo was the usual attempt to lecture us on 'evil corporations'. This is a really tiresome theme, but one that was at least not repetitiously intrusive.
I gave it an hour and it didn't pass the sniff test so I moved on
Mediocre acting, ponderous political pandering, and the total implausibility of the plot execution finally overcame the desire to seek entertainment value or insight in this clunker. We are supposed to believe that the CEO of the world's largest corporation spends his time watching some guy walking around on the streets. This is like a movie about Bill Gates watching somebody's home computer crash and cackle about it.
Evil corporations control the world now. We can tell because they have hologrammed commercials erupting out of every building and national landmark in sight. This is a movie element designed to appeal to five year olds with paranoia and dementia. Yeah, we get it. Pass ObamaCare or else heartless corporations will scoop people off the streets who have been in car wrecks and upon finding them uninsured, pop a microchip the size of an ipod into their heads and harass them into buying watches. Got it.
This doesn't qualify as science fiction, it is somebody's private delusion made into a movie. No doubt by an evil corporation.
I can see that some would like this one; I didn't
This is not a movie with much in the way of action, plot, or anything but thick sentimentality which is gradually revealed. Once the basic plot is revealed (hardly a surprise or a twist by that time), you can look forward to a long slow epilogue in which all the loose ends are tied up. The problem is that you saw all this coming halfway through the movie and other than an attempt to extract every last tear from the audience that enjoys this kind of thing the last half of the movie is pointless.
Not that the first half offers much. None of the characters are particularly convincing in their roles, least of all Claire who is attractive to look at but an absolutely horrible therapist. She interacts with her patients in a very unprofessional way, and that does not refer to the big plot element which is obvious. In fact nobody really seems real in the first half of the movie, and by the last half you have already figured out why. And unfortunately they are insufficiently endearing or charismatic to really care much one way or the other. The only 'character' with any real charm was the dog.
Given the lack of suspense, action, plot twists, or memorable characters you are left with a very boring movie unless you want to suspend belief and get caught up in the sentimentality. That would be OK for some, but the movie adverts and intros imply that this is something more on the order of a horror or mystery movie. It's too shallow really to be a good drama.
Bottom line -- unless you are looking for a superficial tear jerker find something else.
The Burrowers (2008)
Quite excellent actually
Good acting, interesting horror plot, and a realistic portrayal of characters and events makes this a compelling low budget film. It's not an action movie and is not particularly frightening, but there are plenty of creative twists and turns and the characters carry the ball. The special effects are adequate to portray what is happening while avoiding a cheesiness common in low budget movies because they don't try to be spectacular. We actually see the rarely seen realism of men shooting with revolvers and missing most of the shots. The idea of being buried alive, then eaten, is sufficiently eerie to lend an aura of horror which is quietly reinforced but not overly dramatized.
Definitely worth seeing. It drags a bit in the last hour but not much. Underrated.
La linea (2009)
A Major Disappointment
This movie had a great deal to be excited about, including the setting in TJ, some fine actors who actually turned in excellent performances, a few memorable vignettes that built expectations, and a plot flip late in the movie that was well executed.
Unfortunately these component parts were hashed together into an agonizingly slow moving hodgepodge world where nothing made much sense. It was difficult to build tension, or even interest as a multiplicity of characters were tossed into the mix without clear purpose or clear connection to the main storyline, and the storyline itself included major elements that made no sense at all. I don't claim to be the most observant person in the world but I spent most of the movie wondering what the heck was happening. What was the relationship between Liotta and Cruz? Why did she take care of him? Why bring a hired gun into your home with your little girl and get involved in some kind of fight between cartels? Cruz was cast as a big hearted street-wise prostitute, so why would she act so stupidly? And there was no chemistry at all there, so what's the point? Then we have supposedly highly skilled assassins trying to 'get' one kingpin and they take on about 20 guns in a parking lot -- two of them. Really slick. And Liotta, the professional's professional suddenly goes rogue and single handedly takes on a building full of thugs like something out of a Rambo movie. Give me a break. Don't lure us into believing this is some kind of a thinker's gang movie, then toss in some silly one man against the mob action scene.
It's worth watching for the scenery, the vignettes that work, and some of the acting. But don't get your expectations up too high. There isn't enough action to make this really exciting, and the plodding sentimentality of much of the plot is sundered by the absurdity of some of its elements.
Mysterious Island (2005)
Disappointingly pathetic, might be OK for children
I read Mysterious Island as a child many years ago and I remember being fascinated by it. This version might be OK as a family evening to pass the time -- there is no foul language, no nudity, barely a hint of a romantic relationship with one kiss.
However as entertainment for adults it fails on every level. As many have mentioned, the special effects are not special at all, the dialogue is stilted, the acting for most of the cast is charitably mediocre, and the plot elements come across as contrived. And it is long, without good timing.
Apparently the director decided that this timeless classic novel needed a major rewrite to pass muster in the new millennium. Two woman are thrown in as major characters; the younger manages a new wardrobe almost daily, and neither have so much as their hair mussed for more than five minutes, despite fighting off pirates, giant ants, sea monsters and what have you. They manage to build a house inside a nice clean cave with amenities that probably rival those available to a typical country cottage in the 30s. I was almost surprised that they didn't manage a washing machine. Smokeless fires conveniently illuminate the giant cave better than track lighting. Everyone in the main party manages to be fresh scrubbed and well groomed at all times.
The pirates are like the Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyworld, highly stereotyped caricatures. At least the Pirate Captain is entertainingly bombastic, but realism has definitely been left marooned on the shore somewhere.
Nothing even approaches being frightening, or intriguing. For a movie for those interested in Verne's work or a well told adventure tale, this is a waste of time.
Clichés and stereotypes limit what could have been a great movie
Very good pre and post quake special effects, a believable buildup, and overall decent acting all contribute to a very entertaining if somewhat horrifying movie experience. It's definitely worth a watch.
What detracts from the film are a number of bogus subplots which add nothing because they are either contrived, stereotypical, or too obvious political lectures. The assassination has absolutely nothing to do with anything, and doesn't fit into the movie. Most people are not going to be watching this to see the dynamics of a family squabbling over a birthday party or marrying off a daughter. Many of us are tired of being hit over the head with a sugar coated lecture about illegal aliens being God's gift to humanity. There was no need to have another subplot about evil real estate owners somehow being responsible for a massive quake. And the angst over nobody wanting Claire to speak up was misplaced. If anything she may have contributed to the casualties by causing mass panic with her assistant.
Why put all these mini-morality plays into a good disaster movie? There are ways to make us care about the characters without shoving them down our throats.
Still, worth seeing, especially for those of us who live or lived in Los Angeles. There is just 'something' about seeing what is familiar reduced to ruins that is an humbling experience.