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Lost Lake (2012)
Depressing without being scary
The makers of this film were inspired by the town of Trona, California, at the entrance of Death Valley. The location is rather haunting, but little is done with it. The story of two young fiances who come to help the bride-to-be's eccentric ghost hunter uncle is trite and most of the film is depressing rather than scary or suspenseful. The ghosts in the town make very little of an appearance and most of the film is people fleeing from a serial killer in a ghost town. The actors are OK. But the story is tiresome and the ending so dreary, you'll be sorry if you watched until the end.
Poorly made pack of lies
This poorly made movie failed to get the facts. Donna Yaklish was proved to be a liar. In fact, she abused her stepchildren when her husband was at work. On the TV show "Evil Stepmothers," her stepdaughter claims for the record that Donna threatened and beat her. While Donna is portrayed as prisoner in the home, she actually led a very active social life, which included cheating on her husband. She stole money from her husband's parents. No one ever saw bruises on her even when she wore revealing clothes. The autopsy showed no steroids in her husband's body. After her husband died, she kicked her stepchildren out of the house and kept the insurance money for herself.
This film is not only a slander to an innocent man, but it's a disservice to women who are real victims of domestic violence.
What was the real story?
I saw this years ago and it was an OK made for TV drama. The climax was satisfying. The buildup was convincing. I caught the growing mood of the country when "Death Wish" was a box office smash. Robert Culp displays the growing frustration with bad neighbors and ineffectual law enforcement. In addition, Beah Richards makes the most of a small role. What caught my attention was that this was based on a true incident. But what really happened? Where are the real people now? If this were to happen now, it would be featured on an episode of "Fear Thy Neighbor" from Investigation Discovery. Does anybody know the real story?
San Andreas (2015)
Irwin Allen on steroids, it's good dumb fun
This is the very definition of mindless summer escapism. It's like a roller coaster on film. It promises a wild ride that excites the audience without any intellectual effort and it delivers on its promise. Many have complained that the script isn't very intelligent. They're right. Every character is just a prop with an invisible label, every actor in it has nothing to do but act out their characters' clichés, every disaster movie cliché is recycled, and every major scene will surprise no one who has seen a disaster movie before. When the end comes for so many millions, no one stops to mourn, they just rush to the next scene with no thought. It was brainless and obvious, but so what? I was on the my seat anyway. Films like "The Poseidon Adventure," "Independence Day," and especially "Earthquake" have done the same thing, deliver mayhem and near-death experiences with style and expertise. I enjoyed it in spite of myself and so will anyone else who sees it.
The Reflecting Skin (1990)
How could anybody enjoy this movie?
This is one of the most dreary, unpleasant, and pretentious movies I've ever seen. Every character in it is a freak of one kind or another. Is there any place in real life that's entirely populated by people like this? The scenes include a frog inflated and exploded, a man commits suicide in front of his wife and child, a crazed mother abusing her younger son and making a pass at her older son, and a child seeing a woman stimulate herself. Who wants to watch that? Oh, I admit that there is some very good atmosphere and that the photography and music are right. But so what? I didn't enjoy one moment of this film. The culprits who made it are just determined to rub the audiences' noses in the gutter. I could feel their contempt for me and everyone who watched this movie. To those who enjoyed this movie, it's your life and I'm glad I'm not part of it.
I suffered more during this movie than the dying heroine
I remember watching this film on the late, late, late show during the early 1980's. I suffered from insomnia and still do. But when this movie was over, I slept soundly. In fact, I had a hard time staying awake. This just might be the most boring movie I've ever seen. Perhaps the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor opus "Boom!" is more dull, but don't waste your life comparing notes! Faye Dunaway as a fashion designer with incurable movie disease and Marcello Mastroianni as the engineer who gives her one last fling on her way to the cemetery deliver sleepwalking performances. There is some comic relief with the musical score, which is so overwrought, it made me chuckle during some of the dramatic highlights. Whoever gave this film a positive review must have been bribed to do it.
Not the ScyFy Channel's worst, but still pretty lame
The ScyFy Channel strikes again with another cheap science fiction thriller. This time, it's a legendary monster which lives deep under a volcano in the Pacific northwest. It has most of the clichés, including the usual stock characters & situations, and it never surprises. The script is more literate than typical for a film like this, which I applaud, but there is also too much filler material. Also, the title monster is not bad and I wish it had gotten more screen time. The best aspect is the beautiful scenery, but there are plenty of ways to see that without spending money on this film. It's just never exciting or interesting enough.
Grave Halloween (2013)
Gross, boring movie wastes good idea and beautiful scenery
The idea was quite good. It's about American college students in Japan traveling to the notorious "suicide forest" to make a documentary for a film class, only to be haunted and stalked the the spirits of the people who died there after a couple of friends desecrate a death site. And the forest chosen as the backdrop is haunting and beautifully photographed. But nothing else is done right. It's followed by a bunch of gory killings which occur with little logic or reason. Many victims are people who have done nothing to wrong the dead. In the end, it's just another excuse to watch young people get slaughtered in gruesome ways. I felt cheated.
Another ScyFy Channel quickie
How quickly was this grinded out? Here, a bunch of college athletes on a plane crash into the Himalayas. While waiting for a rescue party, they get stalked by a very unconvincing Yeti with bad teeth. Why can't they outrun it? Because it can jump long distances like a grasshopper. In the meantime, the crash survivors mostly behave in the stupid, irritating way one expects from impending horror movie victims. It includes one obnoxious character named Ravin, whose sole purpose is to have us cheer for his demise. There is a Donnor Party subplot about whether to eat the bodies of those who didn't survive the plane crash, but that's just filler material. It stars a bunch of non-stars, but has an appearance by Peter DeLuise as one of the rescue party, who's clearly just here to collect an easy paycheck. I hope he enjoyed spending it. If so, he's the only person who got any enjoyment from this lame, no-budget flick.
Deliver Us from Evil (2014)
Cross between "The Exorcist" and "Seven" is competent but routine and too long
This sounds like a good film. It wasn't a bad movie, but it wasn't the horror masterpiece it was obviously intended to be. In fact, while it's based on a true story, it plays like an ordinary horror film. In it, three marines stumble onto some kind of satanic temple or something like it during the Iraq War, and they become possessed. Then, a string of strange violent crimes takes place in New York City, where a tough yet spiritual and handsome policeman is called to investigate them. It turns out those crimes are connected to each other and to the marines at the beginning of the film. He meets an unconventional but fervent Catholic priest who specializes in demonology and it becomes clear to them that this is not the work of humans, but a demon. The thing is, it takes them so long to figure out what the audience has no trouble learning. There are a number of set pieces which are well staged on their own, but don't hold together very well. A result of this film is that it's way too long for such familiar material. There are no bad performances in this movie and Edgar Ramirez is quite good as the priest who has a past. Scott Derrickson has done this sort of film before, as in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" and "Sinister." He and cinematographer Scott Kevan can shoot a scene capably. But it never offers anything new or surprising. The inevitable exorcism scene at the end is OK, but it's still nothing that hasn't been done before. As a result, I can only recommend this to die-hard fans of movies about demons and exorcism.
The film has serious flaws, but it's best scenes are terrifying
This movie had me on the fence. This film is shown as hand-held footage of a camera-phone found after the fact, like with "The Blair Witch Project." The first 15 minutes of the film are so boring, I nearly gave up on the film. But when the action starts, it takes off. Unlike most monster films, this shows an on-the-ground view from beginning to end. The hand-held camera is a truly mixed bag. On the plus side, you get a convincing ground view of what it's like to be caught in a city being attacked by a giant monster from outer space. The truth is that most people caught in the middle would have no idea what's really going on, only that the city's being destroyed and they need to run for their lives. On the down side, the camera is so shaky, it's often hard to watch. While the monster itself is nothing great, it's filmed so effectively that it scares anyway. As the lead characters risk their lives to save a semi-girlfriend who's trapped in her apartment, the fear and chaos are very real. On the down side, some characters recover from injuries far too conveniently to be believable. Then, when the end comes, it's so abrupt and leaves so many unanswered questions, it almost ruined the film for me. But by then, I'd gotten enough thrills and suspense to satisfy me.
A Boyfriend for Christmas (2004)
Watchable Christmas time filler
I watched this movie on Hallmark last night. There wasn't much Christmas-oriented entertainment in spite of being Christmas Eve. It was OK, even if I didn't really believe it. The movie is another one about nice people with money who have personal problems, which is what fills up most of the Hallmark Channel. It could have been called Chistmas Chick Flick, as that's all it was. On that level, it was good enough. Kelli Williams is pretty as a cynical social worker who needs some Holiday Cheer and 1990's heartthrob Patrick Muldoon is likable and competent as the boyfriend she gets for Christmas from a tree lot owner who might be Santa Claus. Some familiar names are included in the supporting cast and they help make it easy to take. One complaint mentioned by another reviewer is that in spite of the winter season, the plants and trees were in full bloom, which didn't help credibility. It looked like it was filmed in the Spring. It won't matter much if you keep your expectations from getting too high.
The actors are OK but the script belongs in a toxic waste dump
I thought that this would be bawdy fun. With talented and popular comedic actors like Seth Rogan, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, and Dave Franco, it could have been a raunchy but likable comedy. No such luck. The fault lies not with the lead actors, who do what they can, but with the screenplay. In fact, if it weren't for the leads, this film would deserve a negative rating. The film's ideas of humor are just disgusting. I don't mean that it's dirty or raunchy in a funny way, either. Raunchy humor has its place if its done with wit and talent. But not here. There are lines and gags which are so gross, they would embarrass as sex-starved 13 year-old. The condom swallowing scene is among the most offensive of any film this year or even decade. The breast milk clogging scene deserves dishonorable mention, as well. Seth Rogan delivers his lines very well, but he should be banned from ever doing a nude scene. Zac Efron can give a good performance, but here his shirtless torso does most of the acting. Rose Byrne is likable and looks nice topless, but her talent and breasts are wasted in this rotten movie. Were there actually people who enjoyed this? The fact that this film made money is very disturbing to me.
The Nine Lives of Christmas (2014)
Chick flick is predictable but pleasant and easy to watch
Here you have two nice, attractive people of the opposite gender bound for professional success. the problem is they're too busy for love and romance. The woman is a compassionate brunette pet store employee who's studying to become a veterinarian due to her love for animals. The man is a hunky and affable junior firefighter who upgrades and flips houses on the side. He does have a casual girlfriend, a glamorous but bitchy professional model who'll make the women viewers say, "Why can't he tell she's wrong for him?" Conveniently, he working on a beautiful Victorian dream house, while she's in a campus apartment that doesn't allow pets, and of course she loves cats and secretly keeps one. They live in a nice small town where most people know and are nice to each other. If you don't know how this story ends, than you've never watched Lifetime of the Hallmark Channel before. All that being said, it's completely painless to watch and it'll appeal to its target audience. The leads are likable, the supporting cast competent and the technical aspects are satisfactory. I enjoyed it enough and so will most people if the plot interests them.
The Skeleton Key (2005)
Competent but uninspiring film with a bad ending
The film begins with too much talk and the ending is a real let down. There are some good scenes in the mid section, though. It has an interesting premise regarding Southern folk magic called Hoodoo. In it, a hospice nurse in New Orleans quits her job at an exploitive old folks home to take a job helping an aging woman caring for an invalid stroke victim in the swamps of southern Louisiana. However, she becomes convinced that he is the victim of Hoodoo magic and tries to save him. The movie features capable acting by a cast of pros. It is occasionally compelling and it sometimes kept me glued to the screen. I wish I'd enjoyed the movie more. The problem is that the lousy ending ruined it for me.
Great CGI, but too much filler material and not enough Godzilla
Godzilla fans like myself aren't here to watch Masterpiece Theater or a soap opera, but to watch the monsters battle it out. So why did Godzilla have such a small part in this movie? It took so long for the beasts to fight it out. Meanwhile, way too much time is devoted to Aaron Taylor-Johnson's family life. It wasn't acted or scripted badly, but it contributed little to the movie except for length. The film has an openly anti-nuclear power message, which is fine, but that was stated too many times. The result of a nuclear power accident is that it causes the creation of two monsters, which resemble locusts, and if they mate, it'll endanger the human race. As a result, Godzilla awakens and arises from the ocean to protect the earth. The special effects and computer generated imagery are excellent, the best ever in a Godzilla movie, and when the battle finally comes, it's well staged. Problem is there isn't nearly enough of it. The closing scene is quite good, but I still felt cheated.
Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda (2014)
It took three years to make this junk?
This film is another terrible creature feature from the ScFy Network. No one should be surprised by its low quality. Roger Corman is a master of lousy science fiction and this is no exception. A half-Shark, half-Octopus does battle with a half-Pterdactyl, half-Barracuda. It has all the expected elements, half-hearted acting by the stars, hammy extras, and lousy special effects. Of course, the creatures snack on the extras and destroy a few boats before the inevitable battle between them takes place. Coreman has described the schedule as "grueling." That also accurately describes sitting through this whole movie. What took so long? It's no better than the no-budget quickies that this resembles.
The many good elements don't combine to make a good movie
When one sees all the talent that came together, you'd expect a really good movie. There is a premise with much promise, which was written by acclaimed British screenwriter Peter Morgan, directed by respected director Fernando Meirelles, and features some top acting talent from around the world, notably Anthony Hopkins. It's beautifully photographed in various parts of the world. So why didn't it work? Mainly because no one was given anything interesting to say or do. It's one of those connections movies with an ensemble cast, which had been done so effectively in movies like "Short Cuts" and "Magnolia", and it's hard to say how disappointing this film was. It wasn't a terrible movie, but it's so shallow, uneventful, and mediocre that I spent some two hours just waiting for something interesting to be said. I could have spent two hours at the airport observing various people and come up with something more interesting. As one critic put it, "It's a dull world after all."
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Good elements that never come together properly
In spite of a great premise, capable cast, realistic sets, and passable special effects, this movie never really worked. The script is the main culprit, which forces a bunch of intelligent scientists to act like dumb teenagers at summer camp. The result is nothing more than a slasher movie with sharks instead of serial killers. There are also an improbable piling of coincidences that become increasingly illogical. It actually reminded me of "Leviathan," another underwater horror film which had a similar combination of assets and problems. The resulting film will be passable for horror and science fiction fans, but do nothing for anyone else.
Summer Heat (1987)
Film beautifully evokes time and place, but the soap opera story is dull
This romantic crime drama takes place on an North Carolina tobacco farm during the Great Depression, where a young farmer and his beautiful wife reside and struggle to make a living. Roxy, the heroine, lives a life of isolation and monotony, constantly doing housework and caring for their toddler daughter. She and her husband Aaron can make a living, but are just going through the motions and there doesn't seem to be much love in their marriage. Her husband doesn't seem that interested in her. When a good-looking farm hand named Jack arrives to help her husband with the work in exchange for room and board, it's a disaster waiting to happen. Of course they have a passionate affair and after a while, Aaron suspects what's happening. Most of what happens is predictable and more importantly, it happens very slowly. I give credit to the film, it looks great. The sets, props, and costumes really take us back and the atmosphere is superbly caught. Yet by being so beautifully photographed, it inevitably glamorizes the grueling life of the times. There are a lot of scenes of farm work and while it's no doubt accurate, it slows down the story. The film seems much longer than its 80 minute running time. More importantly, the story itself is mere soap opera. Every plot twist is "been there, done that." Most of the acting is adequate. Anthony Edwards as the husband and Bruce Abbot as the lover are OK. There are some fine actors in secondary roles(Kathy Bates, Clu Gulager), but they're stuck in two-dimensional roles. It's up to Lori Singer in the lead role to carry the film. Yet while she's beautiful, she isn't memorable otherwise. Ironically, her performance sets the tone for the entire movie. For all its visual appeal, there is just no interest in any of the characters.
The Canyons (2013)
Low-budget film has a few good points, but too dreary and sordid to enjoy
While "The Canyons" is not a total loss, it still doesn't work. As mentioned, it's about this spoiled and mentally unbalanced trust fund baby named Christian (James Deen) who's accustomed to getting his way, and his gold-digging yet not entirely unsympathetic girlfriend, former actress Tara (Lindsay Lohan). They live in a stylish mansion and have sex with each other and sometimes have guests join them. Partly on his father's insistence that he work, Christian produces the occasional film and one of those films stars Ryan (Gerard Funk Nolan), a hunky actor whom Tara was once lovers with and whom she still secretly loves. This unexpectedly makes Christian violently jealous (even he's surprised by his reaction) and sets in motion eventual tragedy. None of the people here are all that likable, not even the seemingly idealistic Ryan, and the low budget shows. The gratuitous sex and violence is reeks of exploitation. Yet the film is watchable at times. The entertainment industry is somewhat captured and some of the dialog is perceptive. The acting is somewhat better than one would expect. James Deen is a porn star, yet he shows he can carry a lead role without sinking a legitimate film. More importantly, Lindsay Lohan gives her best performance in years. She's a greedy user not because she likes to be, but because she believes she has no choice, yet she's still capable of love isn't really out to hurt anyone. I don't recommend this film, but it's not as terrible as it could have been. For all its faults, "The Canyons" has its moments.
The Colony (2013)
Film is watchable but should have been much better
The filmmakers decided to combine a post-apocalyptic adventure with a zombie picture, and it was a pretty good idea. Here, Earth has entered a second ice age, killing most of the human race, but scattered outposts of survivors remain in underground locations. One such place is Colony 7, where about 50 people hunker down in an abandoned factory and try to survive off of some saved seeds used for farming in a greenhouse along with melted water. It's not easy, with the common cold being fatal and infected people forced to either leave or be shot. There are several stories going on, the efforts to survive, the well-meaning but not entirely successful leadership of Briggs (Laurence Fishbourne) the love story between Sam (Kevin Zegers) a young resident loyal to Briggs and pretty botanist Kai (Charlotte Sullivan) who is in charge of the seed inventory, and militant army veteran Mason (Bill Paxon) who wants to install himself as the colony's dictator. This comes to a head when a distress signal is picked up from Colony 5,a similar outpost a couple of days away. When Briggs, Sam, and another resident (Atticus Dean Mitchell) hike there to provide aid, disaster strikes. The film boasts convincing sets and snow, good photography, decent acting, and a some intelligent ideas. So why isn't it all that exciting? For some reason, the writers never do anything new or novel with their material and everything dissolves into routine zombie mayhem, except that these zombies are just too clever to be believable. Not only are the various stories not resolved successfully, it's becomes increasingly unbelievable. Clear footprints in the snow when it's snowed non-stop for 48 hours is one of the more ridiculous events. There are others, as well. The ending is also so rushed and abrupt, I felt cheated and so did many other viewers, judging from the reviews.
In My Sleep (2010)
Great premise, mediocre results in routine low-budget mystery
This film starts with a great idea, that a young man with a severe and unusual form of insomnia may have murdered someone while sleepwalking. If only the people who wrote and produced this film knew what to do with it. Unfortunately, they weren't up to the challenge. The result is a cheap-looking murder mystery that's completely ordinary. The low budget shows and it's more like watching a television episode than a motion picture. In fairness, The film could have been worse. It is tolerable and at times it's mildly interesting. Also, women who watch will enjoy the site of the hunky lead Phillip Winchester shirtless much of the time. My only complaint is that it could have been so interesting and so suspenseful, much better than it was. Alfred Hitchcock could have worked wonders with the idea.
Excellent special effects, but that's about all
Most are familiar with painting-by-the-numbers. This needless remake of "The Poseidon Adventure" is filmmaking-by-the-numbers. The original, while no classic, is fun. Well, this film takes the premise but dumps everything else. The biggest liability is the script by hack screenwriter Mark Protosevich. In this film, a new cast of main characters is brought in. They include a former New York City mayor who was once a fireman (pushes all the post 9/11 buttons), a former Navy Seal, the ex-Mayor's daughter, her fiancé, an elderly architect, and a few stock characters. What are the odds that a former Navy Seal, a former fireman-turned-Mayor, and a successful architect would be among the handful of survivors? Talk about convenient. When a tidal wave turns the ship upside down and splatters most of the passengers on the ceilings, the handful of survivors must make their way to the hull to escape before the ship sinks under the ocean. The director, Wolfgang Peterson, directed exciting sailing-themed movies like "Das Boot" and "The Perfect Storm" and he excels in these kinds of films, so the action sequences are superbly staged. In addition, the sets are convincing and the special effects are impressive. So why does the film fall so flat? It never gives the audience any reason to care. They go from one near-catastrophe to another with little character development at all. The whole film seems mechanical, as though it were developed by a computer instead of a human writer. In fact, the actors are little more than props. None of them give bad performances, but none stand out, either. Kurt Russell as the ex-Mayor and Josh Lucas as the veteran are talented enough to get through this film, but neither are able to carry it. The rest of the roles are pretty cardboard. Kevin Dillon is convincing enough as an obnoxious drunken gambler (wearing black, of course), but his two-dimensional character serves no purpose except for the audience to hiss at. He might as well have been Snivley Whiplash. Richard Dreyfuss plays an aging, despondent architect who's unlucky in love well, but his character has little screen time. Mike Vogel is OK as the fiancé' of the Mayor's daughter, but he little to do but look good in a wet t-shirt. The three female leads (Emily Rossum, Jacinda Barrett, and Mia Maestro) are pretty brunettes who look great in evening gowns and perform competently. But they all look and dress so alike and their characters are so so underdeveloped, they are interchangeable. The only things the female characters contribute to the film are screaming and cleavage. Also, they go from one near-death experience to another so quickly, it became numbing. I felt sorry for the actors. They visibly struggled in realistic sets facing real deluges of water and it's sad to see them work so hard for a film that wasn't worth the effort and did nothing for their careers. I hope they were well-paid.
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Disaster film is fun and efficient
This and "Airport" two years earlier helped make the disaster movie a staple of 1970's filmmaking. It's also the movie that got Irwin Allen's career going in a big way, before it sputtered out a few years later. In it, on New Year's Eve, a ship captained by Leslie Nielson is turned upside down by a rogue tidal wave which kills most of the extras. Nearly everyone The star-studded cast of survivors must climb up the ship before it sinks entirely and must undergo some terrifying risks to survive. I'm not saying this is any kind of masterpiece. Most of the story isn't hugely believable, but it's plausible and entertaining, thanks to the solid special effects, talented actors, and the enthusiasm that went into the project. If you're in the mood for a disaster movie, this is one of the better ones.