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Suspiciously distant and un-engaging, though the film has more than enough redeeming values
Steven Spielberg's Amistad is more of a lesson in history and the brutalities of mankind than an effective narrative, but as one, it's not only informative, but often entertaining. Though the length is ridiculously long (don't get me wrong, I enjoy long films, though not when the story itself is this poorly developed) and the scenes rarely make as much of an impact as they should, the acting is absolutely mesmerizing. Throw in fabulous cinematography and a heartbreaking flashback (the films best scene), and you have the makings of a great film, though it isn't quite there as it is.
So kill me - I enjoyed it
I can, however, understand the almost universally negative press for this film. Hannibal is a movie made to be enjoyed rather than admired. It's briskly paced, meanders back and forth, requires an incredible suspension of disbelief, yet is so much fun it's scary. Or is it the other way around?
This film's predecessor, the acclaimed Silence of the Lambs, is the opposite of Hannibal in that it is a movie made to be admired more than enjoyed. And admire it I did, but I did not particularly enjoy it. I am unfortunately part of a generation greatly desensitized towards violence and gore, so the film did not even begin to scare me (which is ironic, considering both Angela's Ashes and Sleepers, two films not intended as horrors, did scare me), and I wasn't particularly impressed by the formulaic ending, most likely because it has been duplicated to no end in countless B movies.
Hannibal was a refreshing change of pace, a Hollywood blockbuster that's actually fun, a rarity in the days of mindless trash like Armageddon. Gary Oldman just sits back and has a good time playing his character, the villain of the piece, for laughs, and Julianne Moore is unexpectantly good in playing a slightly older version of Jodie Foster's naive Clarice Starling. Ray Liotta is hilarious in his first successful comedy role (though it generally isn't meant as such), and Anthony Hopkins delivers a deliciously over the top performance as Hannibal.
The locations, especially those in Italy, are stunning and beautifully shot, and director Ridley Scott thankfully doesn't take the material seriously. I'm surprised that there hasn't been more spoofs of this film, as the material seems perfect to take a few shots at. I did my own spoof of the film that fared incredibly well, and I know that Dr. Dolittle 2 had a scene which spoofed it, but that's it, to my knowledge at least.
Bottom line: You could do a lot worse, this is good material if you're looking for a mindless thriller
A tedious act in self-indulgence, I couldn't even make it through the whole thing
Hurlyburly is hands down the worst film I've ever had the misfortune of seeing. For starters, it doesn't have a single sympathetic character, let alone one that the audience can even bear to share two hours with. It's slow paced (that can be a good thing - just look at Shadowlands, but it isn't here), boring beyond belief, and just plain annoying. Watching a few characters we despise in the first place self destruct is not my idea of a good time. It even got to the point where I just turned it off, after an hour or so. I'm surprised that I even got that far.
It's labelled as a comedy, but garners only a single laugh, in the first five minutes. Sadly, the film boasts an outstanding cast (sadly because I wish that they had gotten together on a better project). Though I'm not a fan of Sean Penn, Chazz Palminteri or Garry Shandling, I respect the work they've done in the past, and there's no doubt in my mind that they are good actors. Both Anna Paquin and Meg Ryan, two of the best actors in their respective generations, are underused, but again, neither are playing characters you'd want to see overused. Kevin Spacey is, besides Haley Joel Osment, my favorite actor (yet, ironically, Pay it Forward, which featured both of them, was a beyond mediocre film), but it seems that he picks films that really aren't very good, or have box office prospects, either of which necessary. He was in Swimming With Sharks, one of my favorite films of all time, American Beauty, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and a few other great films. That is the Kevin Spacey who is one of my favorite actors. But that same actor was also in the substandard Big Kahuna (another picture without any characters with redeeming qualities), Doomsday Gun, and now this.
The sets are bland, the writing uninspired, the story nonexistent and the actors wasted (in more ways than one). Do yourself a favor and give this a hearty pass. Actually, what I'm trying to get at is: AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS.
0/10 (yeah, that's right, it's a first for me)
The Fugitive (2000)
All gloss and no substance, very Bruckheimer like, but still entertaining
"The Fugitive" is no classic, but it was a good series nonetheless. I caught the first dozen or so episodes of the season, then just lost interest because of the repetitive plotline and bland characterizations. The individual episodes were great, it's just that they were so similar to each other! Ever seen the same movie more than three or four times and just got sick of it? That's what happened with this series...
However, it was still entertaining, with a good score, tight direction and strong performances by the two leads. However, due to mediocre ratings and a high cost ($2 million average per episode, making it the most expensive series on TV), CBS axed it after just one season. And yes, there was a series finale rather than just finishing it without a conclusion, but it probably would've been better without the finale... (possible spoiler), as Dr. Richard Kimble, played by Tim Daly, was just shot in an alleyway, clearly a last minute add on after the series was killed.
Annoying bland and faceless
To give any sort of praise 'Brainscan', a film coincidentaly lacking a brain, requires you be either a teenage girl with a crush on Edward Furlong, or a 20 something video gameaholic. The movie itself is bleak and tedious, completely deprived of any resemblence of what could be humor. The script is contrived and cheesy, with awful dialogue and no memorable lines whatsoever. Furlong, in my opinion one of the worst actors to ever grace the silver screen, lacks the charisma to make the lead character fun to watch, and he doesn't even succeed in making the character the least bit likeable. All in all, this superficial thriller has pretty much no redeeming factors, though you could, theoretically, do worse.
Miss Congeniality (2000)
Finally Bullock gets a hit
After a seemingly never ending streak of box office (and critical) bombs, Sandra Bullock gets her first hit in a long time. Though the movie itself may be little more than a dressed up sitcom with fancy sets, special effects and acting, you can't help but resist it's charm and end up throwing away your expectations and just immerse yourself in the world of the film, laughing along at every moment. This is Bullock's first film in a long time that actually isn't a chick flick (I'm a 15 year old guy who can't stand chick flicks, but I loved this movie), and it's a lot of fun, as long as you don't take it seriously.
It starts off slowly and your interest will inevitably waver a bit at the beginning, but the laughs start piling on top of each other fast and furiously soon. Bratt is just plain annoying (a brat, if you will), but the rest of the cast is great. Besides Bullock, there's Candice Bergen is a great villainous turn and William Shatner as a seasoned beauty pageant host, among a slew of others. Sure the films' contrived and unoriginal, but it's a lot of fun, and you can't resist it. So stop poking holes in the wafer thin plot or saying the characters are thin and undeveloped and just realize that it wasn't meant to be taken seriously, it's a lightweight comedy and should be treated as such.
Open Mike with Mike Bullard (1997)
Funny, in a corny sort of way
I know that many people will disagree with me, but Mike Bullard isn't a bad talk show host. He definitely can't hold his own against Leno or especially the great Conan O'Brien, but he's original and often pretty funny, and is the best Canada will ever have. For the first few seasons of the show, the guests were all no names, and only recently have they started getting higher profile stars (Leslie Nielsen and Ricky Martin in recent weaks). The most refreshing aspect of the show is the daily "make fun of the audience" segment (not actually titled that, but you get the idea).
He seems shy around the guests though, and the interviews usually suffer because of this, but he's great before them. As for the show, technically it's perfect, with good lighting and great sound, not to mention good camera work and graphics.
Look Who's Talking Now (1993)
Enjoyable and fun... until the ending
I couldn't resist the temptation, and I found myself liking 'Look Who's Talking Now', even though I knew it wasn't really a... what's the word I'm looking for here... good movie? I think it was because I had gone into it expecting absolutely nothing. It's not the kind of movie that'll change your life, and you'll probably forget you had even seen it the next morning, but it's fun and lightweight, just as films in this genre should be.
The last week, I've gone a movie watching spree, watching at least eleven films in seven days, and this is probably the biggest treasure out of the bunch, if only because it was so much better than I had hoped. Angela's Ashes, The Running Man, Blow, Memento, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Empire of the Sun, Paper Moon, Jacob's Ladder, Leaving Las Vegas, Along Came a Spider, The Stand, the list goes on and on, and, of all those films, this is the one that stands out... if you can believe that. Of course it had it's share of flaws, probably more than the rest of those movies combined, but hey, it just added to the fun instead of detract from it.
I did see Look Who's Talking. I hated it. I hated it with a passion. That was a year ago. Why I hated it, I don't know. I just know that I didn't like it at all. The only reason I rented this movie, it's SECOND sequel, was to see how the series had deteriorated since the first film. Well, if nothing else, it's really improved. I haven't seen the second in the series, but I doubt it could even begin to match the third.
One can guess that Travolta didn't want to be here. You've gotta feel sorry for the guy. Once one of Hollywood's biggest stars, through the eighties he was reduced to parts in TV movies and bland films like The Experts. He struck box office gold in 1989 with the first Look Who's Talking, and then made a few wrong moves and was right back down at the bottom of Hollywood, even appearing in both of the sequels. Well, if he was bored here, he sure didn't show it. Though his performance seemed to wane a bit towards the end, he was engaging all the way through, and obviously didn't feel as though the material was below him like many actors would've had they been in his position.
Kirstie Alley, however, is entirely a different story. Never a particulary good actress, you have to wonder how she rose so high into Hollywood's elite, before plunging again after the first Look Who's Talking. Her screen presence here is non existent, and she is about as much fun to watch as this review probably is to read. Though she doesn't bring the whole film down with her, she comes pretty close at times, and for me at least, didn't garner a single laugh.
As the voices of the two dogs, Rocks and Daphne, Danny DeVito and Diane Keaton fare a lot better than Alley. Given some of the best lines in the film, they add a certain flare to their characters, making us believe that dogs actually can communicate with each other as illustrated here, even if it is clearly not possible. It takes real talent to make the audience believe that. Even if it is just through voice work, chemistry between the two is clearly evident, and you wish they had been given more scenes together, or even seperately. The writers seemed to forget about the dogs for long periods of time and focusing instead of the family, even though the movie was supposed to revolve around the dogs, at least according to the advertising.
Though she is third billed, Olympia Dukakis has little more than a cameo, given five or six lines at the absolute most. Rounding out the main cast was the two actors who played Travolta and Alley's kids, David Gallagher as Mikey and Tabitha Lupien as Julie. Lupien is funny at times, especially with her obsession with basketball star Charles Barkley, but it's clear that was too young to really know what was going on, and just following the orders of the director. She did have some good lines, and that wide eyed gaze she had is priceless. Gallagher, who was later cast as one of the leads on the television series 7th Heaven, is impressive here, turning in a surprisingly good performance for someone so young. Though his character was shallow and obviously wasn't drawn out much (strange considering he's on screen for most of the movie), he makes good use of the weak material given to him.
Spread out through the movie were five or six dream sequences. There's only one word to describe them, downright hilarious. Wait, that's two words. Oh well, they were really funny though. I'm not going to go through describing them, you'll have to see them for yourselves, but take my word on it, it doesn't get much funnier than that folks.
Well, I've spent long enough praising the movie, now to the flaws I mentioned earlier. For one, I don't know if this was the fault of the boom operator or if it was my particular cassette, but the on location audio was dreadful. The voices were muffled and hard to understand, and it weakened the impact of many of the dialogue based jokes. Any chemistry between Travolta and Alley that may have existed in the first Look Who's Talking has vanished. Though many may not agree with me, I put the majority of the blame on Alley, who probably took this role only because of the paycheck.
The last third of the movie, especially the sappy happy ending, is contrived beyond belief and not the least bit funny. It's as if the producers hired a seperate writer for the ending, the style is that much different from the rest of the movie. The songs are unimaginably bad. Well, it's not so much the songs, but the obtrusive way they were edited in, with the audio levels at least 50% higher than the rest of the movie. I'm not going to drone on and on, like I already have, so I'll end this quick.
Look Who's Talking Now is a surprisingly entertaining little movie, easily better than the lackluster first entry, just don't go in expecting too much (which shouldn't be too hard given the horrible reviews and low IMDb rating), because you're bound to be disappointed.
The General's Daughter (1999)
Meant for the Bruckheimer crowd, 'The General's Daughter' is lackluster escapism
It's obvious that this movie was made solely for those people that ignore critics and go see these mindless big budget summer blockbusters (Armageddon, Godzilla) no matter how shallow they truly are. I do have to admit, however, that the film is slickly done, with great direction by Simon West and a few good twists along the way. For once, I'd like to see one of these high octane directors (Michael Bay, West or Tony Scott) take on a project with some depth and complexity rather than these banal popcorn flicks. It'd be interesting to see how it'd turn out.
Travolta here is positively awful. It's clear that he took on this role for the paycheck rather than the script, and it shows. Though his character was poorly written and bland (so not all the fault falls on him), he looks tired and bored during most of the scenes, and is hardly any fun to watch. The rest of the cast turns in relatively weak performances, especially James Cromwell in a tedious outing as the villain of the piece. And to top it off, the audience really doesn't care what happens. None of the characters are the least bit likeable, the dialogue is flat and lifeless, and I knew I was just waiting for the film to finish up so I could go on with my life.
Simon West's direction and the high technical values are little reason to see this heartless, disappointing action flick
Paper Moon (1973)
Fun and enjoyable
'Paper Moon' is probably the biggest surprise I've encountered film wise in the fifteen years I've been on this planet. It's not the greatest film I've ever seen, not even close, but I turned it on expecting nothing and I got something, more than something, a wonderful piece of entertainment. It was three in the morning on a Sunday night and I had school starting in about five hours. I had just finished watching 'Empire of the Sun' for the first time, easily one of the best films I've seen, and when I turned the VCR off, it went to channel three, where this old black and white movie was playing. Seeing the cars and the quality of the picture, I immediately thought it was from the fifties or earlier, and decided to keep it on until I was tired.
Well, I ended up watching the whole thing. I was blown away by both Ryan O'Neal and especially Tatum O'Neal's performances, I can't believe she didn't become a bigger star. Great writing, and great chemistry between the leads (no wonder, they're father and daughter) make this one of the best films of the 70's.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Though it's short, it's also unneccesarily slow
Personally, I didn't really enjoy Shadow of the Vampire. Then again, it is a movie that's more to be admired than enjoyed, and yet, it still didn't garner a single Academy Award. John Malkovich steals the show as an obsessed silent film director, and Willem Dafoe is easily his equal playing the... uh... different leading man. Is he a vampire, or isn't he? Does anyone really care? That's what I thought.
More for the art house crowd than mainstream moviegoers.
Shadow Conspiracy (1997)
Just plain awful. Or plain AND awful
Leave this one alone, not only is the acting (from a first rate cast, nonetheless) horrible beyond words, but technically, the film is a complete mess. It's obvious that both the crew and the studio really didn't care about 'Shadow Conspiracy', as the end product is a jumbled wreck with plot holes the size of Texas and a script that's so bad, a group of six year olds with big sheets of paper and a few red crayons could do better.
Enjoyable if you think about it as a cheesy B movie, just don't expect a good film.
7th Heaven (1996)
Treads a fine line between soap opera and hour long drama
I've reviewed '7th Heaven' here before, over a year ago, and since then I've had a chance to watch a few more episodes of the show, and not just base a review on one episode. Unfortunately, that first episode I saw was by far the best. A few months ago, the heart of the show, Jessica Biel, was fired for posing topless in a magazine, and since then the show has progressively sunk deeper and deeper into the realm of the daytime soap opera, at least judging by the increasingly awful production values. No wonder, Aaron Spelling (king of the daytime soap) is the executive producer.
Still, much of the acting is good, if inconsistent, Catherine Hicks and David Gallagher being the standouts. Hicks hits the bullseye in depicting the mother of the Camden family, and the producers must've realized that, giving her most of the screen time. The rest of the cast is really hit and miss, and a few of the major characters are nearly indistinguishible for the others, that's how two dimensional they are.
The two worst elements of the series, besides the unrealistic writing that's been pointed out in previous reviews, are the utterly dreadful sets and the horrid music. I mean, the music here sounds like it was played with a banjo by some three year old, that's how bad it is. The show unfortunately relies on coincidences to drive and progress the action, and it suffers immensely because of this, making it likely the most contrived show on television today. However, it's not all that bad, and it's not hard to get hooked on this show, so check it out, you may be surprised.
Lily in Winter (1994)
Little more than standard TV material
This film, seemingly neglected by Universal, is watchable, but for the most part it's little more. It doesn't have the impact that a comparable theatrical drama does, and it was obviously done on a limited budget, but at the least the heart was in the right place. In the leads, both Natalie Cole and Brian Bonsall deliver good performances, especially Cole, making her film debut here. However, there's little other material of interest here, it's a good pick if it's on TV and there's nothing else to do, but it's not worth going out of your way for.
Father Hood (1993)
A good premise in the wrong hands, the film ultimately fails
This is one of those rare comedies that would've worked better as a drama. Possibly that's because, as a comedy, there isn't a single laugh, but the movie had a good dramatic premise, along the lines of Rain Man almost. The film's biggest fault, besides the dreaful, unfocused script, is the mediocre acting. Swayze is decidedly wooden, a sign that even he knew the film had little hope, and doesn't even attempt to breath any life into the bland film. The two actors who played his kids, Sabrina Lloyd (a 23 year old playing a 10 year old) and Brian Bonsall, don't fare much better. Though neither of them had roles that had any sense of depth, they still manage to disappoint, though at times Bonsall does hint that he has the makings of a Culkin like star. The film's sole redeeming performance comes from then-unknown Halle Berry, playing a reporter. Though her role is a small one, it is pivotal to the story, and it's clear why she became such a big star afterward.
Another problem with 'Father Hood', is that the lead character, played by Swayze, isn't the least bit likeable. If their intentions for the movie were for it to be a family film, it's unneccesarily dark and violent, but as a serious action/comedy, it's just too bland and boring. Pass on this one, it isn't entirely bad, but it's pretty close. For serious Swayze fans only.
Snowboard Academy (1996)
Well, that sure sucked
Snowboard Academy is a decidedly bad, uninspired "comedy" (there was once a time when that word was reserved for movies that were actually funny). The sole bright spot here is the underrated (yes, that's right, think about it for a moment) Jim Varney, who tries hard, though it is hardly enough to even begin to save this film. I don't know how this movie could have been released so widely, as it's little more than a *barely* dressed up B movie, chock full of has been stars. This was Haim's last widely released film, thankfully, as his career started well then dropped dramatically after The Lost Boys. Can't say I've heard of the female lead (Brigitte somebody) before, and with a performance like this, I'm sure this'll be the last time I see her. Thought I might as well point out the editing, which is actually half decent, if only the footage was good enough to match it.
Pass on this one folks, there's (read carefully) nothing to see here
The Running Man (1987)
Disappointing, though not without entertainment value
Well... I watched this back to back with Angela's Ashes, and I don't think this one even deserves a one out of five going up against that, but I'll resist the temptation to compare them (pretty much impossible, because you can't get two movies more different from each other than those two). On it's own, The Running Man is at the very least entertaining, with Schwarzeneggar delivering some very good one liners. However, the script is shallow beyond belief, and the film lacks focus and direction. The acting is very stock, with Arnie given a role that requires him to only grunt and utter lines that you see in all his other movies (I'm innocent and I'll be back among them). Maria Conchita Alonso fares no better, given a flat, two dimensional character and asked to deliver. Yaphet Kotto is very underused, and as the only true actor in the cast, disappoints.
See it if you're a die hard Schwarzeneggar fan (and if you are, you've probably already seen it), otherwise stay clear and rent one of his better films, either True Lies or The Sixth Day
It Came from the Sky (1999)
Acting is generally very good, though the film isn't much to speak of
At times, 'It Came From the Sky' is little more than standard, movie-of-the-week fare, jam packed with tedious scenes and bad dialogue. But there are moments where it seems to break free of that mold, to expand beyond the territory usually covered in TV movies, which is why I am giving this movie a 7/10.
The cast, comprised mainly of fading stars whose better years are far behind them. Yasmine Bleeth, of TV's 'Baywatch' is in a role made for her as a sexy but dim witted girlfriend of a man four times her age, a rich oil tycoon played by Christopher Lloyd. John Ritter fares the worst, making his character completely unlikeable, and the scenes centering around him are easily the film's worst. Kevin Zegers, as the film's protagonist, is possibly the brightest part of a dull film. JoBeth Williams also manages to rise above the weak screenplay and create a genuinely interesting character, and one wonders why she was ever attracted to John Ritter in the first place.
I have to get back to Bleeth for a second here. She is so unimaginably entertaining in her role, it's hard to believe that she isn't more of a star. That isn't to say that she's a good actress, as she obviously isn't, but her screen presence is enormous, and she has fun with the character.
I've noticed that many of the reviews here seem to be written by teenage girls who have a crush on Zegers. If that's all they could get from his character, or the film in general, then it's too bad. Prior to this, the only film I'd seen him in was the entertaining, if shallow, horror flick 'Shadowbuilder', and I was blown away by his performance here. Along with Haley Joel Osment of The Sixth Sense, he's easily one of the most talented actors of his generation, and I'm surprised he doesn't get more roles other than tepid family films like 'Air Bud' (I haven't actually seen that movie, I'm going on purely critical response here).
I'm not going to waste your time talking about either Ritter or Lloyd's characters, as they were horrible and average, respectively, nothing worth noting. However, I was impressed by JoBeth Williams, who's been unfairly reduced to films such as this from hits such as 'The Big Chill' and 'Poltergeist' earlier in her career. Not only is her chemistry with both Bleeth and Zegers superb, but her character is probably the deepest in the film, and has a hard to describe commanding presence.
Well, I'm low on time so I'll wrap it up quickly. The production values rarely rise above the norm for TV movies, and most of the film is a bore, though the ending is amazing. If you do rent the movie and are tempted to turn it off part way through, don't... stay around for the absolutely chilling finale.
7/10 (I know, I'm being generous, but the film does have a lot of good points)
Meet the Deedles (1998)
Really, really sad
This is hands down one of the worst films ever. I'm not going to waste my time commenting on such a travesty, so I'll sum it up in two words: this sucks.
Disney deserved this one to bomb, it blows me away that they managed to spend so much money making it. Completely incompetent, humorless filmmaking, actually surprising considering the source. And I didn't think Dennis Hopper could do worse than Space Truckers... well I was sure wrong.
With a little work, this should've been a theatrical release
First off let me say one thing... B horror and drama are the only two genres that really don't mix at all. That said, Komodo, one of the few films to actually try to combine those two genres, isn't all that bad of a movie. The special effects are in fact pretty impressive for a straight to video cheesefest, and the cinematography is definitely worth noting. The cinematographer somehow made Komodo look like a big budget studio piece, with some very inventive camera angles and my favorite... a LOT of movement. I don't know why... I'm just a fan of camera movement.
The acting, though it wasn't great, was decidedly above average for a film such as this. Jill Hennessy, star of TV's Law and Order, put forth a decent performance, but her... errr... assets seemed to have a lot more screen presence than she ever will. Kevin Zegers, one of the most talented actors of his generation, showed little of that talent here, sleep walking through his role with ease. The remainder of the supporting cast was average, with the exception of Patrick's grandmother (I think), who was just begging to be eaten. Remember that one moment in Deep Blue Sea when Samuel L Jackson got chomped up by the shark? Remember how you felt when that happened? Were you cheering? I thought so. That's exactly how you'll feel when she gets swallowed whole by the Komodo Dragon (cue cheesy Dum Dum Dum sound), and trust me, you'll be wondering why Jill Hennessy even bothers to try to save her. And thankfully it's in the film's first twenty minutes.
Well, all that said, the movie did have it's share of problems, and then some. First off, THERE WAS NO CLIMAX!
The biggest one however, was the movie's tremendous lack of focus. Many movies do have trouble focusing, but never has that been more evident than in Komodo. First off, the movie can't seem to decide whether it wants to be a Jurassic Park-esque sci fi horror flick, which it hints at in a few scenes, a Carnosaur-esque Jurassic Park rip off, which it also hints at, or a full fledged character study/drama, which I actually wish it had turned into, and also... yea, you guessed it... hints at that. It had the promise, starting off a subplot where Jill Hennessy's character has to crack through the veritable shell Kevin Zegers has created around himself, shielding him from reality. But, alas, that subplot was thrown out halfway through the movie, the main plot with the killer lizards taking over.
Secondly, the movie doesn't want to decide on who the main character is. It starts off with the focus on Kevin Zegers, shifting to Jill Hennessy, back to Zegers, then staying on the two for a while. Then, about an hour through, Zegers is completely forgotten about for over twenty minutes, not a second on screen during that time, until the end, where he's brought back for some reason. If you're gonna have a main character, you can't throw them off to the side?
I made my own Jurassic Park rip off (well, technically it was a spoof), a couple of years ago titled Catastrophe: Jurassic Park (With Cats), and I did the same thing. That was before I knew anything about filmmaking. Now that I do, I watch a Hollywood film like Komodo do the same thing and I'm blown away. Have these people even gone to film school?
Bottom line: Komodo is an entertaining B flick, but little else. But hey, if the considerably worse Bats made it to theaters, why didn't this?
Plato's Run (1997)
Why do they keep making these movies!?! And why do I keep watching them!?!
'Plato's Run' isn't just bad, it's disgustingly awful. Not disgusting, but disgustingly awful. That's right folks, this movie sucked. OK, think for a minute here, why does these independent video labels keep making movie after movie, with the same cast, same plot, same twists, same everything. I know, I know, they're B movies that aren't meant to be taken seriously, but why oh why are there so many of them? They really can't make that much money, and are hardly much fun to watch. Well, I suppose that's kind of a lie there, they're a ton of fun to make fun of, but... it's two hours of my life which I'll never get back again.
And the sad thing is that there are these actors, many of them good actors, that will probably be stuck doing these low budget actioners forever. Roy Scheider for instance... he was nominated for a couple of Academy Awards way back when, had a series of high profile hits (2010, Jaws), then made a wrong turn somewhere along, and got stuck doing movies like this. Same with Gary Busey. Steven Bauer looks like he's found a way out if he can hold onto roles like the one he has in 'Traffic', but Jeff Speakman and the rest probably don't have a lot on their side.
First let's start with the plot. Actually, let's not. There isn't much of one, and you already know it by now, even if you've never heard of this movie. The technical values are pretty lackluster, even for a B flick like this one, the direction is really sub standard and the cinematography is nothing to write home about.
Unless you're a die hard Busey fan, this shouldn't be watched by anyone
Vertical Limit (2000)
A dressed up B movie, complete with minimal direction and awful dialogue
Were we supposed to take this movie seriously?? It was entertaining, but that's pretty much all that could be said for it. The dialogue is on par with modern B flicks like 'Bats' and 'Bad Moon', the direction (by the talented Martin Campbell) was way off, and it's obvious that there were a lot of problems during production. Why do I say this? It looks like they went with an early, unfinished cut, and that the production team just wanted to get it over with and go on to bigger and better things, and didn't even bother to do more than a take or two, so ultimately the entire film has this crude, unpolished look to it.
Piling on the criticism, did anyone even bother to hire anyone to monitor the continuity in this movie?? I mean, even my films have fewer small problems with it than this. For starters, the entire thing takes place above 26,000 feet in the middle of the snowstorm, but not once is the characters' breath visible, and it makes you feel like you're in the tropics, even though all of the faces are constantly frozen, everyone's always shaking so much that it's almost nauseating, and wearing a ton of heavy clothes-- but you don't see their breath. Additionally, there a ton (literally) of small errors and places where computer effects are obviously added in. For example, one scene has a shot of the midday sun, and tracks out to reveal that the camera is actually inside a hut looking out a barred skylight, but when the sun is supposed to go behind the bar, the special effects/cgi crew apparently forgot to actually put the sun behind the bar, so it just goes over top of it and looks fake beyond words.
The dialogue is unbelievably bad for a movie that had an estimated budget of over a hundred million dollars. A four year old could've written a better script. The characters aren't really flushed out, and other than the two main characters (Peter and Annie Garrett), you barely know the names or faces of the others, and feel for them or generally care when they run into the inevitable troubles that seem to happen in every climbing movie. The villain of the piece doesn't emerge until minutes from the end, and never is actually very menacing, it seems he was just made into a villain to spice things up a bit... as if the mountain wasn't bad enough already.
I know it sounds like I've absolutely trashed this movie, but I can't say I didn't enjoy it. The stunts and locations were stunning, and rare action scene that actually worked was exhilarating... but that wasn't often enough. The acting was surprisingly good for a script this bad, Scott Glenn being the stand out. He was given one of the weakest, most two dimensional character in the piece and almost succeeded in making Montgomery Wick fun to watch.
There's no doubt that this had potential, but it is little more than a bloated disappointment. It runs way too long, takes forever for anything to happen, and is generally, well, bad. This film supposedly went way over budget during production, but it doesn't really show. Only a few shots actually had a high gloss, refined look to them, and a more efficient director could've made the film on far less. A really good climbing movie still has yet to be made, as neither 'Cliffhanger' or 'K2' were really all that good, and this sure doesn't fit the bill.
Entertaining, but little else. It's better to stay away from it, especially after it leaves theaters, where at least the action and scenery seem impressive.
The Cat Came Back (1988)
A hilarious, non stop rollercoaster ride
'The Cat Came Back' is likely the best short ever assembled, at least coming out of Canada. Not only is it drop dead funny, but it's original and the animation is great. I caught it on CTV about five minutes ago right before 'Open Mike', and this is the first time I've ever rushed up to the computer so fast to see if it had an IMDb listing and to comment on it. Being only seven minutes long, there isn't much to say about it, except that, if you see only one short movie in your entire life, make it be this one.
Red Planet (2000)
The funnest space movie in a long time
'Red Planet' is probably the most entertaining movie set in space since 'Armageddon'. Don't stop reading there just because I said that... 'Armageddon' was one of the worst, most shallow films I've ever seen, but it was entertaining as hell. Same goes for 'Red Planet', though it at least did have something below the flashy exterior, unlike 'Armageddon' and pretty much every space movie since 'Capricorn One', especially the disappointing 'Mission to Mars'. That something was an urge to become a better film, to break away from the over used scenes and space cliches. All the elements were in place, great direction, a capable cast, good dialogue, lots of action, only it's too much like the other recent space films.
The plot is more plausible than most space flicks, a bleak vision of the future, where humans have depleted all of the Earth's resources and must find a new planet to colonize in order to survive as a race. The planet they decide upon is our neighbour, the 'Red Planet'- Mars. Since the early 2000s, they have been sending probes to Mars filled with algae to promote growth and allow the atmosphere to become more Earth like. Everything seems to be going well until the year 2050 when all of the algae begins disappearing and the oxygen levels drop without any explanation. NASA (presumably, even though it's only referred to as 'Houston'), has planned the first manned mission to Mars, consisting of six people, to find a possible cause for the recent problems on the planet. Once they land, the pieces slowly fall into place, revealing nothing less than sheer terror.
The casting was very good, getting the perfect combination of talent (Terence Stamp, Carrie-Anne Moss) and star power (Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore). The inspired direction by newcomer Antony Hoffman also helped rise it above the norm, same goes for the exceptional sound design. To really appreciate the sound in this movie, you have to see it in theaters, and if it doesn't at least get an Academy Award nomination in that field, I'm sure a lot of people, including myself, will be disappointed.
If nothing else, 'Red Planet' is a whole lot of fun, with good special effects and some funny one liners from Kilmer and Moss. A good film for a Saturday afternoon matinee, and if you miss it in theaters, then you're not missing all that much. A treat for your senses, but not your mind.
Swimming with Sharks (1994)
Spacey's best film, and I'm not exaggerating
'Swimming with Sharks' may be the best example of a neglected and forgotten film ever. I mean, Trimark didn't even bother transferring the movie onto tape in it's entirety, the tape runs out half way through the end credits. I first caught this film on late night TV up here in Canada, and I was amazed at how good it was, and how I could've missed it earlier. After that I spent the next four months searching every video store in Calgary for a copy to rent, eventually finding one in a small store on the other end of town. Once I took it home, I was ecstatic, popping it into the VCR immediately. It was as good... no, better than I remembered. I saw it five times that weekend.
Spacey's portrayal of Buddy Ackerman, the boss from hell, is right on target, and will go down as his best performance up until 1999's 'American Beauty' (in my opinion it was better than Beauty, but the critics apparently didn't think so). Frank Whaley, as Guy, the films protagonist, is Spacey's equal, or pretty close, he gives a great, underrated performance here. Michelle Forbes and Benicio Del Toro also provide great support in two pivotal roles.
The script couldn't have been better. The one liners fly in fast and furious, mixed in with some drama and a great ending, all wrapped up in an unconventional format, moving between the present and past effortlessly. George Huang's direction is also superb, he creates a great atmosphere and it lasts throughout the entire film, no small feat. It's too bad he hasn't gone on to bigger and better thinks yet, as he has a wealth of untapped talent.
Still, despite the great acting, writing and direction, the best part may be the haunting piano music, which stays with you long as the film has ended. The most incredible part of it all is that the soundtrack only contains a single short track from the movie's score, with the rest coming from a random assortment of songs by famous artists that don't even appear in the movie.
A brilliant, twisted character study, with an ending coming right out of the blue. I don't understand why people disliked the ending so much, to me it was one of the best parts of the film. See it if you haven't already, you surely won't be disappointed