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Finally The Buckey-McMartin Family Gets To Tell Their Side Of The Story
"Indictment: The McMartin Trial" is a quite biased dramatization of the McMartin Preschool Case, as it should be. The case was a fraud from beginning to end and probably the most outrageous example of the allowance of mass produced coached witness testimony in the history of the justice system in the U.S. The shameful conduct of the prosecution and the judge in the case also included the introduction of perjured adult testimony as well. This case might very well be the most shameful prosecution in U.S. history.
I really liked James Woods as Danny Davis, Ray Buckey's attorney, and Henry Thomas as Buckey.
My favorite scene in the movie is the one with the child witness with the story of digging up all the graves in a grave yard. On cross examination Davis put before the boy several face pictures and asks him to identify who helped them dig up the graves. One of the people whose face picture he circled was of actor Chuck Norris. That scene of the defense demolition of the prosecution's coached child "testimony" more than any other left me wondering why the judge in the case was allowing this farce to continue his court room.
We all supposedly learned in grade school history class that children can be coached by adults into saying anything, including the most sensational accusations of debauchery against them on the part of adults, as happened at Salem in 1692. It's amazing how easily this lesson of history can be discarded by all of the adults who were hell bent on persecuting the Buckey-McMartin family. This is why it's a shame that this movie didn't get a major theatrical release. It deserved it.
After enduring a torrent of abuse at the hands of the prosecution, their "witnesses", and the media, the Buckey-McMartin family finally gets to tell their side of the story in "Indictment: The McMartin Trial".
A 94 Minute Music Video
I give "Flashdance" a lowest rating of 1 out of 10 because it's nothing more than a series of music videos with a movie short surrounding the music videos, in order to clock in as a feature length film. Since when does that count as film? Jennifer Beals plays Alex Owens, an aspiring 18-year-old dancer, who, incomprehensibly, has a job as a welder in a Pittsburgh steel factory. Not a line of work most older women find their way into, much less 18-year-olds fresh out of high school. Meanwhile, at night she works as an exotic dancer, who never actually takes off her clothes, in a greasy spoon bar called Mawby's. Yet looking at the well choreographed and well polished dance routines the girls do every night at Mawby's, you would think they were working at the best casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Alex ends up having a predictable romance with her boss, Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), who is about twice her age. After resisting Nick's advances, because going out with the boss isn't a good idea, she wastes no time in going all the way with him after their first date. Alex and Nick make no effort to hide their relationship on the job, which makes no sense given how it is likely to look to Alex's co-workers.
When Beals isn't being doubled for the many dance sequences in the movie, her character spends most her time throwing temper tantrums. Alex's dream is to get an invitation only audition at the prestigious Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance. Inexplicably, when her boss/boyfriend helps her get the audition she's been dreaming of, she's throws one her tantrums. She angrily tells Nick she isn't doing the audition because of his intervention, and then gets out of his car in the middle of a busy tunnel. This is just one scene that leaves you wondering what the hell the makers were thinking when they were making this.
Of course, Alex does eventually get her audition at the Conservatory. She puts on a dance routine before the Conservatory board that is so ridiculous that you would think it was in a movie marketed to the MTV generation. Oh yeah, it is a dance routine in a movie marketed to the MTV generation.
I don't think I can judge whether or not Beals can actually act well on the basis of what I saw in "Flashdance". This is because the character she is forced to play is so poorly written, that I don't think it is a fair litmus test of her acting abilities.
You have to hand it to the makers of "Flashdance" though. This movie is proof that the poorest film making can be covered up by a slick marketing campaign. In this case a best selling and award winning soundtrack and music videos for said soundtrack in heavy rotation on MTV. If they had devoted more of their energy to the writing of the script, then they might have been able to come up with a plot and a story with characters that I cared about. Instead what we get are stock characters put in ridiculous scenes any viewer with a functioning brain can't take seriously. A truly forgettable "film".
Xi yang tian shi (2002)
Cartoonish And Silly Eye Candy, And A Hell Of A Lot Of Fun
Corey Yuen's girls with guns film "So Close (Chik yeung tin si)" is cartoonish and silly. By the end it has probably exhausted the list of Hong movie clichés, including lots of shoot ups with guns and over-choreographed fight scenes with humanly impossible stunts by the actors, but never mind. The three pretty female leads in the movie (Shu Qi, Zhao Wei and Karen Mok) are so much fun to watch that I didn't care. It creates characters I care about and want to watch.
The movie is about the lives of a pair of super human sisters, Lin (Shu Qi) and Sue (Zhao Wei), who are assassins for hire, and the super human Hong Kong Police detective, Hong (Karen Mok), who is trying to catch them. Lin does the killing while her younger computer savvy sister Sue assists her with the help of their father's satellite tracking software. Lin is protective of her younger sister, insisting that she be the one who does the killing, in order to spare Sue the guilt that comes with being a killer. Lin has tired of being a killer and longs for the life of a normal person. She jumps at the chance to get out of the business when her boyfriend asks her to marry him. Believing that we all reap what we sow, Lin fears that she will eventually meet the same fate she has dealt her victims. Meanwhile, lonely Sue develops a crush on the detective hunting them down, Hong. It also happens that Sue is probably the biggest fan in Hong Kong of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David written song "(They Long to Be) Close to You". The song inspired the name for the English title of the movie. The cover of the song sung by Singaporean singer Corrinne May is featured prominently in the film, most notably at the beginning when it is played by Sue to help avoid a drug lord's security measures. A strange but interesting choice of music for a Hong Kong film.
If you're looking for cinematic realism, then "So Close" is definitely not your kind of movie. I see "So Close" as akin to a super hero movie. There is no explanation why the three main female characters have such exceptional physical abilities, other than that they're possibly angels inhabiting the bodies of three Chinese women. Just sit back, enjoy the ride and you'll have a good time watching "So Close."
Been There, Done That, And Much Better Than This
Unfortunately, any new "Indiana Jones" movie is going to be compared to its predecessors, especially the epic and magical "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (ROTLA). "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" feels like ROTLA Redux, only this time I wasn't enthralled by every minute of the proceedings on the screen, but counting down the minutes for the end to finally come. Although I was only ten back when ROTLA was first released, I can't imagine the average 10-year-old would enjoy this latest "Indiana Jones" movie as much as the original.
After many years of trying to come up with a story for the fourth "Indiana Jones" movie, George Lucas comes up with what is easily the most incomprehensible and unbelievable mess of the entire franchise. ROTLA allows the viewer to suspend all disbelief and go along for the wild ride happening on the screen. It also didn't hurt that the goal of ROTLA was finding one of the most sought after archaeological finds in history. The goal in "Crystal Skull" is to return an artifact to the site of a mythical city built by a mythical alien race during pre-historic times. I know this is just a fantasy film, but the search for the Ark will always be more believable to me as a viewer. What we find at the end of "Crystal Skull" isn't nearly as interesting as what we find at the end of ROTLA.
"Crystal Skull" leaves the viewer wondering "Just what the hell was Lucas thinking?". Indy survives a nuclear test blast by encasing himself in a refrigerator. A group of Soviet agents and soldiers are able to pull off a heist in Area 51 in Nevada and get away without being caught. Along the way there are stunts that you would expect to see in a "Spider-Man" movie.
I can tell Harrison Ford really enjoys reprising his role as the action hero archaeologist Indian Jones. Yet these days the older Ford as Indy looks totally out of place as an ass kicking, bullet dodging action hero. Yes, he's still Indy all right. He's got on his trade mark hat, clothes and bull whip. Yet I couldn't stop thinking about how he looks like he belongs in a nursing home growing old with Marion Ravenwood.
"Crystal Skull" is there for curious fan of ROTLA, but I can't recommend it as an introduction to the Indiana Jones character for those younger people who might have never seen the original. Seeing "Crystal Skull" only reminded me of how much I need to see ROTLA again some time soon.
The "Battlefield Earth" Of "Star Trek" Movies
I have seen the face of God, and it's not William Shatner.
"Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" is really as bad they say it is. It is about as low as you can go for a "Star Trek" film. Bad writing. Bad directing. "Aliens" who look like humans with stupid masks and make up jobs. Lame special effects that look out dated even by the standards of the time it was released back in 1989. The four predecessors to "The Final Frontier", hardly the greatest films ever made, look like Citizen Kane compared to this steaming pile of a movie.
All the attempts at "humor" in this film pale in comparison to the laughter generated by the ineptitude of this Shatner directed turkey. Along the way the viewer gets to laugh at camp fire sing alongs by Kirk, Bones and Spock, two of the lamest battles in sci-fi movie history, a lame lap dance by Uhura and the lamest sci-fi bar scene in movie history. In the middle of all the silly proceedings is a renegade Vulcan's quest to find the Garden of Eden and God.
What the viewer finds along the way is a lame sci-fi film of "Battlefield Earth" quality.
The Violent Years (1956)
Proof You Don't Have To Be Ed Wood To Direct Badly
I was concerned when I saw that "The Violent Years" was only written by Ed Wood, but was directed by William Morgan. I was concerned that it might come off as something other than an Ed Wood movie. Yet if you had to guess who directed this one without know anything about the movie, then I'm sure most b-movie lovers would guess it was Ed Wood.
"The Violent Years" has everything you could want out of an Ed Wood directed and written movie. Bad dialogue, bad editing and ham acting plague "The Violent Years" as much as any other Ed Wood production.
"The Violent Years" follows the exploits of a gang of four school girls led by the daughter of the local newspaper publisher. The "girls" all look like actresses who are closer to 30 than 20, but nobody should care since this is an Ed Wood written production. The girls get their thrills by staging armed robberies of gas stations and unarmed lover's lane couples. Along the way we get to see hilariously bad shoot out and crash scenes, an even more hilarious scene where the girls "rape" a man they discover making out with his girlfriend at the local lover's lane, and arguably the most hilarious monologue by a judge in film history.
The aspect of an Ed Wood written film that provides me with the most amusement is the dialogue. Like the above mentioned monologue by the judge. No judge would write a decision in a court case like the one we hear in "The Violent Years", except if he were at least as drunk as Ed Wood was when he wrote it. People just don't talk like they do in an Ed Wood movie, and this has provided many an Ed Wood movie viewer with many laughs over the years.
"The Violent Years" is there for the Ed Wood fan. It doesn't have much to offer to people who like to see good film making when they see a movie. However, if you're looking for an exercise in film making ineptitude for laughs, then "The Violent Years" is your movie.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Big-Budget Special-Effects Extravaganza, Out Of Focus
"Spider-Man 3" comes really close to being as difficult to follow as an "X-Men" movie. Well, maybe not that close since an "X-Men" movie requires the viewer to try to follow the lives of at least a dozen different characters. But I think it was a mistake for the makers to have Spidey contend with three different villains in one film. Unlike the two superior predecessors, it felt like they were trying to cram three movies into one with "Spider-Man 3".
I was most disappointed with the use, or misuse, of the Harry Osborne/Green Goblin character. We know that Harry must become the Green Goblin if he is going to have the ability to take on his super hero nemesis Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The makers of "Spider-Man 3" waste no time in picking up where "Spider-Man 2" left off. Not only does the movie not allow the viewer to observe Harry's transformation into the Green Goblin, but Harry doesn't even dress appropriately for his role. He wears a black uniform and never becomes the public menace his father did. I was looking forward to the Daily Bugle covers about the return of the menace of the Green Goblin. Instead Harry's campaign of revenge against Peter is quickly side tracked by a bout with amnesia after suffering a blow to the head in a fall during his first fight with Peter. After all, the film needs to introduce two more villains, Sandman and Venom, before it ends.
Whereas, in the first two films the viewer really gets to know the Norman Osborn and Otto Octavius characters, in "Spider-Man 3" the length of time devoted to the villains amounts to a movie short. Along the way Peter Parker must also contend with his dark side and his troubles in his relationship with his love Mary Jane Watson. Meanwhile, the landlord's daughter, Ursula, is back to amuse viewers once again with her adolescent crush on Pete. Add to all this the time needed to develop the Sandman and Venom villains, plus Gwen Stacy, and I was left wondering exactly what the movie is about.
"Spider-Man 3" is big budget extravaganza that is out of focus in the areas of character and plot development. While it has its laugh inducing comic moments and the best special effects sequences money can buy, it has little else to offer. While I really wanted to see the first two movies again, because I enjoyed the transformation of the main characters into super heroes and villains, it feels like the only reason to see "Spider-Man 3" is to check out the special effects again. If there are more Spider-Man films made, and there is no reason to believe there won't be given the money involved in releasing another film, then I would hope that the makers would simplify the story once again and do what made the first two films so enjoyable to watch.
Saw III (2006)
I Want To Play A Game...
...It's called Contrived Horror Movie, which has a contrived horror movie villain, who has a contrived horror movie villain voice and is represented by a contrived horror movie puppet, that engages in contrived horror movie puppet laughter.
Can you withstand the torture of sitting through yet another Saw movie? Make your choice....
Same crap, different pile. The tag team duo of Jigsaw and his obedient apprentice Amanda, who have way too much time and money on their hands, return in "Saw III" to trap, torture and kill more of their hapless victims. This time they've managed to find the time to kidnap a man named Jeff, who recently lost his son in a criminal accident, the perpetrator in the case, a witness in the case, the judge in the case and, oh yeah, Jeff's wife...and daughter too.
If you're willing to suspend your disbelief and forget about the chances of Jigsaw and Amanda not getting caught, and you get a thrill out of watching people get trapped, brutally tortured and killed, then "Saw III" is your movie. There really isn't much point to any of the "Saw" movies, besides watching people getting trapped, cruelly tortured and killed.
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
A Must See For Any Fan Of Low Budget Camp
Yes, it's one of the most poorly written and executed films of all time. Yet I found myself laughing non-stop at the silly proceedings in Ed Wood's opus "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and I forgave Wood and company for all the bad dialogue, cheesy sets and poor execution. I forgave because I knew "Plan 9" was written, shot and edited on the fly with no script rewrites or retakes. Yet "Plan 9" provides me with a good time every time I watch it. If anybody else could do better than Ed Wood did on a shoe-string budget, then I would like to see it. When George Lucas writes bad dialogue for a film with a $100 million-plus budget, you know it's because he can't write a lick of good dialogue to save his life. When Ed Wood does it for a film with a five day shoot, you forgive him because you know he didn't have a penny for every hundred dollars George Lucas has to produce a movie.
I picked up the black and white DVD for the film at the video store for the first time and I ended up watching it three times. How could a film viewer not be charmed by Criswell's incoherent ramblings as the film's narrator or Tor Johnson speaking English with his thick Swedish accent or the archived footage of Bela Lugosi or the sexy Vampira, and the countless other charming aspects of this camp classic? That's why I can't bring myself to deduct more than a point for the many dozens of examples of bad dialogue and mistakes. Never have I had such a good time watching a film maker try and fail.
The Wicker Man (2006)
LaBute, Cage And Company Have Committed Murder, And The Victim Is A Great Film Called "The Wicker Man"
I saw a murder committed this Labor Day at a movie theater near me, and the victim's name is a great film called "Anthony Schaffer's The Wicker Man". Neil LaBute's dreadful remake of "Anthony Schaffer's The Wicker Man" might very well be the most unnecessary remake since Gus Van Sant's shot-by-shot remake of "Psycho". This movie should never have been made.
This an utterly dreadful contemporary Hollywood defiling of a British classic. The remake follows the basic plot of the original. A cop, named Edward Malus, a.k.a. Sgt. Howie in the original, played by an overacting Nicolas Cage, is lured to an island called "Summersisle" by a letter reporting a missing girl, this time on Puget Sound in Western Washington state instead of Scotland. Like in the original, Malus discovers an unhelpful neo-pagan community who appear to be ready to sacrifice the girl he is looking for after a disastrous crop failure the previous year.
Along the way the makers of the remake have made some "creative" changes to the original. Gone is the clash of religious beliefs, replaced with a battle of the sexes. The island in the remake is a matriarchy filled with unlikable, man-hating females, and subservient mute males, and led by a matriarch named "Sister Summersisle" (Ellen Burstyn).
Gone is the compelling character of the devoutly Christian cop Sgt. Howie from the original. Gone is the ideal sacrifice who is a virgin, a man who represents the law and is King for Day, replaced with an aimless, secular, pill popping dolt of a cop from California named Ed Malus, played by an overacting Nicolas Cage, who, in an extraordinary departure from the original plot, turns out to be the father of the girl he is trying to rescue.
In the original the Punch costume worn by Howie symbolizes the Fool and the King for a Day, or part of what makes Howie an ideal sacrifice for the islanders. In the remake comedy ensues as Ed Malus dons a silly bear suit. The islanders never tell Malus the meaning of his suit or what it has to do with his impending sacrifice. Hence, the silly bear suit symbolizes all the attributes of a movie that seems to be trying to get multiple Razzie nominations (Cage and his bear suit received a nomination for "Worst On screen Couple").
The sacrifice of Sgt. Howie at the end of the original is a chilling homage to Christian martyrs of the past, and the viewer doesn't doubt for a second that he is a martyr who is sacrificed in part for his religious beliefs. In the remake you can only laugh when Malus is told that he is dying a martyr's death. Martyr for what? Popping pills all day and his self-help book? Yes, the ineptness of the execution of the film is so bad it makes you laugh, but this is hardly a credit to the makers of the film. The film is not categorized as a comedy and yet viewers are counting the ways it made them laugh. The funniest line of them all is when Malus yells, "Killing me won't bring back your goddamn honey!" More comedy ensues as Cage knocks out three female cast members. Some are arguing that it should be a comedy, and they've got a point. It just doesn't raise my opinion of the film.
Watching the actors in the film deliver their lines you get the sense that nobody in this movie is taking it seriously, and are only doing it for a paycheck. Perhaps this is because everybody in the cast recognized that they were making a turkey that would be ridiculed as one of the worst films of the year.
May this dreck garner many a Golden Raspberry nomination (It got five) this Spring. May it also be sacrificed to the Gods and Goddesses of Great Film-making this May Day, so that we might have a better crop of Summer movies to see next year. Overall, a dreary moment in film history I regret having seen.