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Anon (I) (2018)
8/10
Decent Sci-Fi with some basic philosophical/political points--insignificant spoilers
28 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Overall, I'm not a huge fan of Netflix productions, but this is one I liked. The plot moves at a somewhat languid pace, but that seems appropriate for the type of modern society it depicts. If you're paying attention to what's currently going on in China with the citizenship "FICO" system they're developing, the approximate future society depicted in this film is definitely a possibility. When lead characters talk about how anonymity conflicts with larger interests, it's an obvious dig at Google, Amazon, etc. (of course, we really should include Netflix here also). "Anon" doesn't have a really hard punch to it, but my interest never flagged, and I was never tempted to fast forward or anything like that. There is a bit of sex and nudity, if parents are interested, and the sporadic violence is quite tame by today's standards. It basically succeeds in making the philosophical/political point that we should not be so quick to surrender our personal privacy for a few bucks and probably not even for perfect law and order. Of course, there is the requisite Sci-Fi hand-waving behind the basic super-high tech depicted in this film, but a reasonably close approximation of this hyper-surveillance society is certainly within the real of the possible. (P.S., if you're a car person like me, there are a few cool ones in this flick--not too many, but a few.)
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2/10
Starts mediocre and slowly and steadily goes downhill from there.
27 October 2018
I wanted to like this, but it's a horribly cheap copy of the first one. I only vaguely remember the exact details of the original "Smokin' Aces", but recall the mood and essential plot well. This film is blatantly trying to cash in on the first by reusing its essential mood and plot, but, just like with a tea bag, you only get weak tea the second time around. The assassins are painfully overdone and cartoonish, and, while the plot rescues itself a little bit at the end, the big "reveal" is still pretty guessable. It's no great mystery why this went straight to dvd. This film's best hope is that it's viewers haven't seen the original, so that they don't know how bad it is, and, second, that they can legally smoke some excellent recreational marijuana (maybe this is somehow better when super stoned).
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Cube (1997)
5/10
Won't be watching the sequels.
18 October 2018
Meh. "The Cube" offers a few interesting (although far from original) philosophical points mixed into a film that's a cross between a rather mild horror/thriller with, unfortunately, only a few humorous moments. I'll grant that it keeps trying, but it just can't seem to get up and go anywhere (which might be partly intentional). In any event, at the end, I felt like I had a somewhat interesting movie experience, although I would have watched something else if I really knew what I was getting into, and I definitely won't be watching any sequels. Really, the best I can say is that the creators at least tried something halfway original, although unfortunately not particularly satisfying. Let's just say that the souffle collapsed.
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The Killing (1956)
10/10
One of the Best Classic Film Noir.
18 October 2018
One of the older classics that serve an archetype for many modern films. Black and white is ideal for this film, as it adds to the grittiness and atmosphere, while I can't imagine how color would improve it at all. Really tight film in all respects from beginning to end; however, as is pretty common from the 1950s, the film revolves around men, while women are nothing more than decoration and trophies. Still, if you're into thrillers, and even if you're a card-carrying, man-hating feminist, you should watch this film because it helped lay an important part of the foundation of modern cinema. (It's also really good, too.)
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The Game (1997)
1/10
The trials and tribulations of drowning in money.
30 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
"The Game" plays about as well in today's world as "Let them eat cake" did in Marie Antoinette's. I just can't bring myself to care about Michael Douglas's investment banker character who lacks nothing in the material world but apparently needs to have ungodly millions spent on him to open his eyes to life again. Poor guy. It also doesn't seem that Michael Douglas cares much about the character either, since there is nothing particularly engaging about his acting; on the other hand, to be fair, Michael Douglas pretty much never does anything except play Michael Douglas, so what can we really expect. Sean Penn is superb at being super annoying, but then we all know that's not really acting either. The premise is that friends or loved-ones pay a company to subject ultra high net worth clients to bizarrely complex, supremely dangerous, and highly improbable games in which they're pushed up to and beyond their physical and mental limits. It's supposed to be good for them. In reality, the various kinds of trauma this would produce would inevitably lead to huge lawsuits and significant jail time for the perpetrators. It didn't even look to be the slightest bit fun or spiritually enlightening as a movie, never mind in real life. I kept thinking that maybe this was all going to play out as some kind of supernatural horror story along the lines of "Angel Heart" (which was truly horrifying), but instead this plot was somehow supposed to be possible. You simply cannot suspend disbelief with this film. In reality, Michael Douglas would be dead 100 times over, so the fact that the story was somehow supposed to happen completely killed the whole experience for me. And finally coming back to the beginning of my review, this film was made in 1996. The world has changed a lot since then. The gap between the haves and have-nots is now a yawning chasm, and when you imagine the preposterous level of financing the company behind "The Game" would have required to "awaken" its super-spoiled clients, the whole theme of the movie doesn't play well today. It's like, "Oh, you poor dear, you really had to make do with $10,000 a bottle wine. How did you ever survive?" Especially after all of the twists were revealed at the bitter end, I was only left feeling that I couldn't have cared less if every character in the movie had died a violent, horrible death. All of these insufferables would have been "friended" by the guillotine not so long ago in history. Therefore, other than excellent production values, no other values of any kind in this movie. I really wish I hadn't fallen for the high rating on this movie, so I gave it one star rather than the two I'm more inclined towards in a futile effort to bring the rating down a little bit.
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Inside Man (2006)
10/10
Spike Lee should "sell out" more often.
30 September 2018
"Inside Man" convinces me that Spike Lee would actually be a much more effective social activist if he would just get off of his insufferable soap box, stop incessantly speaking down to white people, and simply make movies showing black people every bit the equal of white people. This is really nothing more than a superior popcorn movie, but I think it's more likely to actually ease racial tensions than any of Lee's films that are much more intentionally intended to do so. I'm not even going to pretend to hide anything here. I'm a well read and educated white guy who od'd a long time ago on Spike Lee's simple-minded lectures on the problems of race relations in America and pretty much all of his associated work. Lee's interviews always seem to indicate that he believes he's making brilliant, original observations, but I've never heard him say anything that hasn't been said before. Now, on the other hand, I'm sure that Lee would say he "sold out" when he made this big-budget, conventional, Hollywood blockbuster, even though it's leading character was Denzel Washington and other black actors played significant roles. I, on the other hand, have to say that I think it's the slickest heist movie I've ever seen, even better than "The Usual Suspects". It's easily my favorite Spike Lee film, and I don't think the plot made one meaningful misstep the whole time. It was never difficult to suspend disbelief, and the storyline never bogged. Simply casting black people in favorable leading roles works better with me personally than constantly hammering on me for my lack of melanin, which I get really, really tired of. In the same way that not all black people are violent, sociopathic, drug dealers, not all white people are truly deep-down racists suffering from all kinds of "implicit" biases and relentlessly expressing "microaggressions". So, while overall I've had way too much of Lee's intellectually trivial sermonizing for a lifetime, and I think that nowadays he's only insincerely inflaming further racial division (as if we needed more) to further inflate his already monstrous ego (Clooney, a white guy, does the same thing using other excuses) rather than to actually benefit society, I fully endorse "Inside Man" as the the best film of its type ever made.
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8/10
Remember when you were a kid? Me neither, but now I do a little bit.
28 September 2018
This is not aimed at adults. I'm a guy, and I watch movies aimed at adults (sometimes maybe even literally--too much tmi there, no doubt); yet I still have to give "The Adventures of Tintin" very high marks. One way to put it is that the animation is as clever as "Sin City", but the mood is the polar opposite. I strongly dislike excessively pollyannaish films, since they don't at all reflect the world I seem to be living in. This is why I don't much care for Spielberg movies, which always seem to spring from the mind of a simple-minded, optimistic, eunuch. I hardly read any Tintin growing up, so I'm no fanboy and could care less if it followed the source material well or not. This was just a really well-made, fun, PG movie that parents can safely watch with children without worrying about moments of uncomfortable blushing. Surprisingly, I'm not at all embarrassed or ashamed to admit that I really enjoyed it. Simply put, the family-friendly story was satisfying enough, the run-time wasn't excessive, and the visuals are frankly fantastic. I would tire quickly if I watched too much uncomplicated "feel-good" stuff like this, but every now and then, a little bit of it might do the mind good.
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4/10
What, is everyone on Ambien?
27 September 2018
Maybe these actors needed some serious amphetamines to knock some life into them. "A Murder of Crows'" deserves to be straight-to-DVD or straight-to -TV, where it could serve out its sentence as a mindless, but rather harmless time-killer. This is the kind of stuff you would expect to be watching out of the corner you eye while wolfing down some greasy crap in your Motel 6 room. It's not very involving, the acting defines ordinary, and the big mystery is just contrived to keep things moving. "A Murder of Crows" simply plays like a halfway decent made-for-TV movie straight out of the 1970s or 80s--nothing more, nothing less. It's about as simple as that. So while I can't in good conscience recommend this cliched dreck, if you're bored out of your mind and don't have anything else to do, maybe it prevents an unnecessary suicide, or at the very least, drinking yourself into a drunken stupor.
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7/10
Not quite as good as original, but still way better than "Lethal Weapon" and like.
27 September 2018
This Canadian buddy cop movie sequel is far superior to any American movie of this same genre, simply because the humor is generally more understated, and, most of all, it has a actually has a heart. It's just a wonderful relief from American movies which substitute special effects for plot and character development. There's no point in pretending that this is anything other than an action/comedy experience, it's just that it sacrifices a bit of action for some actual emotion (not so much that it will tear you up too badly guys). You don't have to worry about getting enlightened here--about the only positive effect that may stick for a while is that you'll probably consume a little less popcorn and coke. This is not a "deep" film by any means. It simply does everything that a Hollywood production does better, except for blow stuff up (but it does some of that too). I actually enjoyed the switching back and forth between English and French--it was an integral part of the story and the humor, and the French subtitles were very easy to read. Unfortunately, the second time around is not as good as the first "Bon Cop Bad Cop", mostly because the plot gets too preposterous towards the end, although still much less so than any "Mission Impossible" or typical American serial killer movie. It easily deserves a superior rating, but it would have been higher yet if they wouldn't have called in the "B" team to finish the script. Still, the difference between this and any "Lethal Weapon" is the same as the difference between "Time" and "The Economist"--one's aimed at the lowest common denominator with many years of High School suffering still head, while the other is aimed at those who have passed along College post-graduate degrees. Ask yourself where you fit.
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Let Me In (I) (2010)
10/10
Brilliant and heartfelt horror and suspense.
26 September 2018
Even though I haven't yet seen the original, I going to hazard a guess this is one of the exceptionally rare foreign films that American don't kill in remake. It's quite European in its mood and details and all the better for it. It's extremely difficult to criticize a nearly flawless work of art, so I'm not going to be putting much effort in it. If you really work at it, there are no doubt a few plot holes, but nothing that requires anything other than the most minor suspensions of disbelief. In addition to the horror and suspense, it very effectively brings back long lost memories of childhood innocence ends up on a note of total moral ambiguity, leaving you a lot to consider. I'd have to call this true, pure horror. Unlike simple-minded torture porn, this is the stuff that really forces you to think and feel.
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Sin City (2005)
7/10
Very dark adult comic book with phenomenal visuals.
26 September 2018
First and foremost, if it weren't for the visual effects "Sin City" would be nowhere; however, the visuals are absolutely gripping. The material itself is dark. Not like new moon dark--more like 2000 feet below the earth cave dark. Frank Miller frankly paints an absurdly evil world, and I that I think he actually has pretensions of making some sort of points about actual life, but this film is far too extreme, simple-minded, and cartoonish to constitute a significant contribution to the western philosophical canon.. No matter how extreme the violence, and it's pretty awfully extreme, it has minimal emotional impact--it's pretty much like you're watching a movie, so to speak. If someone accused Miller of "toxic masculinity", I wouldn't be standing up to defend him. All of the women are so hot, you'd scald yourself just brushing up against them, and all of the guys (both good and bad) work out all of their problems with extreme violence. Not really a happy place, although I do have to say an exceptionally stylish one. The plot ties together brilliantly as the film moves along well. If it could just have been edited down around another 20-30 minutes , I would have tossed it an extra star or two. Unfortunately the unrelenting bleakness just wound up overwhelming my tender.sensibilities
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Body of Lies (2008)
4/10
A decent TV show, but it's supposed to be a major motion picture.
25 September 2018
Let's start with my biases. I cannot stand DiCaprio, I'm ambivalent about Crowe, and I think that Ridley is one of the finest directors in Hollywood. My politics are a bit left of center. This is the first time I watched this film, and it hasn't aged well. It's obviously supposed to illustrate the moral ambiguity of the modern political world, but in the end it's just blunt, simple-minded, politically-correct preaching from your run-of-the-mill, left-wing, Hollywood, limousine liberals. It's completely lacking in subtlety. It's about as transparent as a jellyfish, although I'm sure that everyone involved considers it thoughtful and sophisticated. It's also scores nearly a perfect 10 in predictability. I have to acknowledge the very high production standards, but we're used to that even on TV nowadays. I got absolutely nothing out of watching this at all. Really, you're telling me that global politics isn't simply black-and-white? I had no idea. Every character and plot device in "Body of Lies" has been stolen from prior films. It's an empty desert as far as originality goes, right to the bitter end. It wasn't even necessary to number the dots on this plot to connect them. I'm thinking that maybe this is the first movie script generated by a computer. On the other hand, if you want to kill some time with a slick but mindless political thriller spiced up with sporadic violence and wearing its heart on its sleeve, this might do just fine. I can't honestly say it's actually bad, but instead so painfully ordinary that I sure wish that I had spent my time otherwise. (Did I mention it's quite long too.)
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The In-Laws (1979)
10/10
God, I wish they still made movies like this.
15 September 2018
I should probably only give the "The In-Laws" 8 or 9 stars, but I can't because it reminds me how badly I miss good-hearted, low-key, tongue-in-cheek movies built around a clever script rather than special effects. I'm not going to give anything away beyond saying that this is simply a near-flawless, light-hearted, spy spoof. Give me a film like this over any Tom Cruise movie ever made (with the possible exception of "Risky Business"). I can't count how many movies I've seen in my life of all different kinds, but I'll still take a good plot and solid writing over really cool explosions and stunts every time. The Michael Douglas remake of this film is a perfect example of the messed-up direction we've been heading in ever since "Star Wars". While still being reasonably decent, in an effort to amp up the action, the remake sacrificed nearly all of the original's simple charm. I'm honestly not a total hater on modern cinema, but this is one of many films that demonstrate indisputably that the "old days" actually were better, at least as far as movies go. "The In-Laws" just furthers the argument that we'd probably have much better films if budgets were drastically reduced, a change that would hopefully force more grey matter into work and cut much of the flailing (and dismembered) arms and flying bullets. Unlike older cars are so much more visually interesting than today's boring transportation appliances while simultaneously being ill-performing death traps, this old flick simply runs rings around anything found in a theatre today, and, sadly, I can't even imagine how this film would be anything other than a straight-to-dvd production in our always-on, non-stop, ADHD world. So, in conclusion, if you're looking for a little break from our modern hell, "The In-Laws" is a little slice of heaven.
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Wind River (2017)
5/10
Conventional, predictable, but excellent cinematography and solid.
7 September 2018
Overall, nothing really new in "Wind River", although the outstanding scenery all by itself makes it arguably worth the watch. The entire story is well-trod ground with minimal originality; however, all of the acting is much better than workmanlike, and, again, it's mostly filmed out in nature at it's finest. The dialogue is quite heavy-handed, unsubtle, and melodramatic, which, aside from the lack of fundamental originality, is my biggest problem with this film. I don't necessarily expect a murder mystery to be light and witty, but this script was too much nonstop preaching from beginning to end. In the end, if you're looking for a solid, conventional murder mystery with very high production values, "Wind River" might not be a bad choice. On the other hand, this film will never be a classic, because it doesn't bring anything significantly new to the table at all (and it's not like I missed the Native American element either, as if that were even somehow possible given that it's hammered into your head in a such a blunt fashion).
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Hudson Hawk (1991)
7/10
Not for everyone, but I liked it.
3 September 2018
I watched "Hudson Hawk" with my 80+ year old parents. To put it bluntly, they hated it. They just didn't get any of the cultural references or the fact that it was a parody of James Bond-type and similar action movies. By no means is this a great film, but it's got quite a lot of funny lines and scenes, with a bit of somewhat harsh violence thrown in sporadically. For instance, it's best to be able to reference James Coburn from his "In Like Flint" movies, along with his more serious roles in this same vein, to appreciate what is going on with his character. Same with the supervillains, who are just grossly exaggerated characters out of something like an 007 flick. This movie isn't meant to be deep, but it is a decently humorous romp if you get where it's coming from. One of the easiest ways to tell if you might like this film is whether or not you cared for the "Austin Powers" series, even though those are even much less serious. If "Austin Powers" falls flat for you, "Hudson Hawk" will probably likewise disappoint. Do go in with the understanding that this really is nothing more than a popcorn flick, not a serious "work of art". If you expect to expand your mind in any way at all, expect to feel you've wasted your time.
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Sausage Party (2016)
9/10
Seth Rogen must have a death wish
20 August 2018
Wow. OMG. First North Korea and now, maybe, the most brutal (and definitely the most offensive) takedown of religion ever made. Seth Rogen really baits some potentially dangerous people. This kind of comedy would quite literally put your life at risk in many parts of the world currently. (Thank goodness for freedom of speech and expression, since underneath all the filth some well-known but still perceptive observations are really hammered home.) The foul language along with the sexual crudity and innuendo are so non-stop you'd have to watch this flick many, many times to catch all of it. It's a really tight script, but an adult film in every sense of the word, and I really do mean in every sense of the word. I can imagine kids wanting to watch this movie, and parents wanting to watch it, but I can't imagine either of them wanting to watch it together. I took one star off of a perfect 10 because the continuous obscenity started to exhaust me some towards the end; however, I still really liked it, and the world is a much better place for stuff like this being out there somewhere, at least as far as I'm concerned.
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Automata (I) (2014)
6/10
Thinking Sci-Fi, no Death Stars here.
19 August 2018
"Automata" touches on quite a few legitimate philosophical questions about artificial intelligence and what it means to be alive, while spurning the destruction of Death Stars and such. It's definitely a bit slow-going and could have been sharpened up some, although I'm certain that it plays the way the director intended. Melanie Griffith couldn't act her way out of a wet paper bag, and it's even worse now that all of that plastic surgery has rendered her face immobile--it's really quite a sad situation. Antonio Banderas is his usual overwrought, melodramatic, brooding self, which just gets to be annoying after a while. Still, it's a thinking person's movie, which in this day and age of special effects driven plots, is a very good thing. Thus, even with some reservations about the acting and the slow pace, I'm giving it a solid 6 stars, and considering that maybe I should have given it 7 instead.
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8/10
Hackneyed film noir, but still highly enjoyable if that you're kind of thing.
17 August 2018
Much like creating a successful stew out of miscellaneous ingredients lying around the home, this modern film noir takes mostly much-used characters (alcoholic ex-cop, cold-blooded assassins, etc., etc.) from past films, stirs them into a pot, and comes up with an excellent dish, although it lacks fundamental originality. Still, speaking as a better-than-mediocre cook, I was quite impressed with the taste, and much enjoyed the meal. I really don't want to give anything away, because it's got some interesting flavors. Therefore, all I'm going to say is that this is a fine addition to the film noir genre, and if that's one of the things you're into, this will probably be satisfying treat, even if it misses scoring any Michelin stars. Bon appetit.
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8/10
Like fine wine, it gets better with age.
17 August 2018
I saw this a long time ago and remembered liking it OK, but I'm definitely liking it better now than when I originally saw it. This is probably because it actually has a plot, unlike the majority of modern American movies which are simply built around special effects and cartoonish action. It is frequently downright hilarious and brings back memories of the 1980s, which seems like a painfully innocent time compared to today. It is also quite politically incorrect at points, something that' harder to get away with nowadays, even if it rings totally true. It would be a straight up 10-star flick if it weren't for the awful casting. Every major star (although they weren't major stars when this was filmed), while not completely terrible, just feels wrong for their roles; however, the strength of the script rescues the film, and, like fine wine, it only gets better with age. So ignore the mediocre acting performances, and just enjoy a really fun (and for many of us, nostalgic) motion picture experience.
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Objectified (2009)
1/10
Don't have an Ambien?
12 August 2015
I'm into this kind of stuff, but, man, dull, dull, dull.

It starts off with some promise, but gets slower and slower and more and more boring as it goes along. The talking heads (some of whom are quite famous) get more and more full of themselves as the agony progresses, although, surprisingly, there aren't quite as many skinny jeans and narrow rectangular glass frames as expected (and where were all of the black tee shirts?). On the bright side, this film may be perfect for the hipster-in-training.

There were hardly any actual objects of interesting industrial design (really hardly any objects at all), a deficiency, I guess, that was supposed to be compensated by the rich and sumptuous feast of self-important blather.

I occasionally subscribe to "Dwell" and "Architectural Record", as much for the cool things, as for the entertainingly complex, pseudo-intellectual claptrap that "designers" and architects spout. Unfortunately, this program has few very few cool things, but an awful lot of very tedious designers (!!!) very tediously elucidating their very tedious design philosophies. (I'm pretty sure that after most of the interviews were finished the subjects lay back, cuddled with their laptops, and smoked a cigarette.)

In the end, it just became all too much (or is that, too little?), so I didn't quite make it to the bitter end--I had to do the dishes. On the other hand, if you're having trouble falling asleep...
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6/10
The heart wants what the heart wants.
12 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Charming and annoying.

Charming because at a superficial level it's an agreeable and well- produced story of a extremely rational and stiff guy opening his eyes to a wider world, which allows him to experience true happiness in life.

But later, if you reflect on the film, it's annoying for a number of reasons. First, the plot hinges on the idea that if one takes a rational, skeptical, and scientific world-view, happiness, joy, and pleasure will escape you. In the words of the movie, if you don't "delude" yourself, you can't be happy. This is obviously patently untrue, as there are many happy unbelievers, and, to make matters more confusing, many unhappy believers. At best, I suspect that there is at most only a weak correlation between being "deluded" and happiness.

Second, in what must have been an effort to keep the plot moving along, our "doubting Thomas" has such an abrupt and dramatic change of heart that it badly breaks the flow of the story. His "road to Damascus" moment is just too quick and extreme. More evolution and less revelation would have been a lot slicker.

Lastly, Woody Allen's unending obsession with age-inappropriate love interests is no longer cute, if it ever was. It's utterly blatant that this film is another attempt to justify his current creepy relationship, and there's no way he's not conscious of that. The lead character is obviously Allen's alter ego, while the young ingénue clearly represents his current wife (and former teenage stepdaughter/lover/target), but, you know, "the heart wants what the heart wants". And now I'm gagging, and I'm a sometimes slightly sexist guy.

Thus, if you don't think about the movie too much or how it relates to Allen's personal life, you will likely find this movie to be charming, but think too much, and you might find yourself feeling much more ambivalent about it, as I do. C'mon now Woody, how about something along the lines of "To Catch a Predator"? That would make a truly novel addition to your oeuvre.
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Der Fisch in uns: Your Inner Fish (2014)
Season 1, Episode 1
10/10
Science documentaries have really evolved.
12 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Brilliant. Just brilliant. A really friendly introduction to the evidence for evolution built right into our own bodies.

My only hesitation about recommending this series is that the presenter teaches human anatomy at the University of Chicago Medical School, and, in the first episode, there is a little bit of actual human dissection (real corpses) that might make some people uncomfortable. I would urge people to get through these parts which might be a little gruesome for ordinary people, because the show as a whole is outstanding.

Even though I am very familiar with evolutionary biology, I still learned many interesting things and felt that this was time very well spent. If you're looking for an excellent way to introduce open- minded people to evolution, this would be a great start--I've already suggested this production to one interested person.

The scientists depicted in these episodes are all exceptionally nice and totally normal people, so they come across as completely nonthreatening. Also, it helps that religion is never even mentioned once, so there is less likelihood of alienating a part of the potential audience. No strident and aggressive atheists driving off anybody here. (Whether you think that is good or bad is up to you.) Just super-friendly and enthusiastic experts explaining the facts of existence as we best understand them currently.
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Der Fisch in uns (2014– )
10/10
Science documentaries have really evolved.
12 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Brilliant. Just brilliant. A really friendly introduction to the evidence for evolution built right into our own bodies.

My only hesitation about recommending this series is that the presenter teaches human anatomy at the University of Chicago Medical School, and, in the first episode, there is a little bit of actual human dissection (real corpses) that might make some people uncomfortable. I would urge people to get through these parts which might be a little gruesome for ordinary people, because the show as a whole is outstanding.

Even though I am very familiar with evolutionary biology, I still learned many interesting things and felt that this was time very well spent. If you're looking for an excellent way to introduce open- minded people to evolution, this would be a great start--I've already suggested this production to one interested person.

The scientists depicted in these episodes are all exceptionally nice and totally normal people, so they come across as completely nonthreatening. Also, it helps that religion is never even mentioned once, so there is less likelihood of alienating a part of the potential audience. No strident and aggressive atheists driving off anybody here. (Whether you think that is good or bad is up to you.) Just super-friendly and enthusiastic experts explaining the facts of existence as we best understand them currently.
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3/10
A sloppy kiss.
12 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Purely an utterly mediocre TV-quality movie that Morgan Freeman no doubt chose to star in mostly to pad his bank account. (I truly hope that he doesn't actually have this bad a taste in scripts, except when he's hungry for Benjamins.)

I can't honestly say that it was completely terrible, but it definitely wasn't worth the time lost, and it wasn't all that original either--just a jumble of stuff that mostly seems to have been used before with, admittedly, a few new elements.

There are plot holes left and right, and the cops and FBI all seem to be pretty incompetent (God, I hope I don't ever have to depend on this quality of law enforcement). The mild torture porn scenes were so intentionally aimed at titillation that they were basically just annoying. No performances, including Freeman's, were particularly captivating, although none embarrassingly bad either. Uninspired would be the best way to describe this whole experience.

I have to admit that I didn't know who was the killer until it was revealed, but when it was, it was totally unconvincing. A day later, it's even more unconvincing. The reason you can't guess the identity of the evil mastermind is that it doesn't really work well with the story at all--the motive and personality never seemed like it was ever there. That particular character was never developed much at all in the movie.

It looks like the story writers (Patterson doesn't write most of his own work, as I understand it) picked the villain simply because it would be very hard to guess, and for no other reason. (Maybe the book was better, but in this case I seriously doubt it, and the book would waste more of your life.) Therefore, as far as who did it, I don't feel thick at all for not having a clue. Which is a good way to summarize this movie: clueless.
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The Big Empty (2003)
8/10
Weird and wonderful.
12 August 2015
When I noticed that the other reviewers said it was weird, I was there in a heartbeat. And, yes, it is weird and unusual.

The story line moves in a really unpredictable manner, and you keep watching to see what happens next. It's a mash-up of suspense, comedy, sci-fi, and drama. I really liked it, and found it much, much more entertaining than the vast majority of movies made on multiples of it's budget. I guess, when you can't spend, you've forced to think.

All of the performances of the offbeat characters (nobody close to normal at all, with the possible exception of the seriously appealing girl-next-door neighbor) were very strong. The only problem I had with the movie was the ending, which I found too ambiguous, but then, I'm sure that that's what the filmmaker was aiming for. I don't actually mind ambiguity, but in this case, it just didn't work that well for me, although, on the other hand, I would hardly call it a fail. I guess that's a pretty ambiguous statement, but I am totally unambiguous about recommending this movie to other connoisseurs of the weird and wonderful.
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