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Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)
Pulpy romp, fun but half-baked
"Hobo with a Shotgun" is a fairly impressive debut film considering it sprang from a two-minute "fake trailer," but there are a number of issues which may keep it from reaching true "cult" status (for which it was clearly intended)...and a number of notes it hits perfectly.
Rutger Hauer is a perfect fit for his role and as charismatic as always; anyone into schlocky cult films will feel right at home seeing him play the title character. This film also wins on atmosphere--I really felt as if I was watching something straight out of the 80s. The music is right, the vaguely post-apocalyptic feel is right, the lighting and production design are also just right. There are some great gore scenes here and some wonderfully indulgent bloody action sequences (if somewhat small-scale). It also doesn't hurt that some of the most gruesome moments are treated with a devilish sense of humor.
What hampers "Hobo" is its narrative--confused editing and confused scripting result in a jumbled plot, leaving one to wonder if something was left on the "cutting room floor." The writers seem to have rushed through their story simply to reach an unsatisfying climax; I felt much more could have been made of the title character's transformation from "Hobo" to "Hobo with a Shotgun." This crucial epiphany is cheaply handled and consequently the mythic persona at the center of the film feels shallow.
(as an aside, it seemed the character should have led some sort of heroic uprising, which I can't really hold against the film as this is simply what I would have liked to see. My point is, it seems there are a lot of missed chances here)
While the end also feels rushed, abrupt and incomplete, I would have to say this film is worth checking out...for fans of this kind of thing, which I certainly am. I was just expecting a little more. In any event, I'm glad it was made!
(P.S. There's a nice use of the Canadian pop song "Run with Us," from an obscure--obscure in the U.S., anyway--animated show called "The Raccoons" over the end credits. It adds to the 80s atmosphere beautifully. Bonus points!)
Død snø (2009)
Does Anyone have an Original Thought Anymore?
I'd seen this pop up (believe it or not) on a "Best Zombies Movies" ever list, and though skeptical after watching trailers for DEAD SNOW several months ago, it happened to be in the "Freezone" of my Cable On Demand, so, I thought I'd give it a shot.
And I'm glad I did. Because what's wrong with "DEAD SNOW" is what's become wrong with horror, and Dead Snow helped me see it. It's a LOT easier to make a film than it was in the heyday of the directors whom these young filmmakers so desperately wish to emulate. As a consequence, this and other indie horror flicks have no weight to them anymore--they simply feel like a series of cheeky references only die-hard horror fans would understand. And in the case of Dead Snow, it seems as if a bunch of uninspired (but somewhat technically talented) film students were given a little too much money and time to live out their teenage fantasies in the woods.
And heck, it's just not a good movie.
It's a pretty typical setup. College kids head up to the woods for a weekend of skiing and partying. A stranger imparts to them a creepy story about Nazis that died in the surrounding hills and a dire warning about not disturbing "the evil." And then, for reasons that aren't particularly clear, the Nazis rise from the dead and terrorize the living. Hilarity ensues.
The film never really breaks free of its prosaic structure, glossy finish on the final product notwithstanding. The zombies, whose motivations we care little about, are predictably calculating monsters who are easily dispatched. They've little menace and all seem disposable. At least George Romero treats his zombies with a modicum of respect.
The script and editing are awful, both working in concert to show a confused narrative and the filmmakers' willingness to cut corners. And for a horror film that opens up with dialogue referencing the "dos and don'ts" of other horror films, the script--somewhat surprisingly--slips into humdrum stupidity, with characters suggesting the group "split up" (and then not doing it, and then -- huh? They split up after all? See the 'bad script' complaint), running off into a freezing wilderness when staying put is clearly the best option, etc.
Most insulting of all is the cute, referential camera cuts, close-ups and the blatantly derivative final battle. Oh! Look at this! Another Raimi fan! We don't have enough of those.
The Sam Raimi/Evil Dead thing is getting REALLY old. I swear, it seems as if more and more of these horror films are being written by 14-year-olds on an "Ash" high. As far as I'm concerned, the Evil Dead camera tricks pushed this film over the edge of forgivability.
DEAD SNOW is another one for the heap, yet another small film by small-minded people which will quickly (and hopefully) be forgotten when something more inspired comes along.
Really, what were people expecting?
"2012" is a fine film, well-acted, tightly scripted, highly entertaining, and good old American edge-of-your seat fun. But going in, we must remember two things: One, this is a "Disaster Film." Two, it is directed by "Roland Emmerich." The first would have been enough to warn any movie viewer that the sole aim of this film is to ENTERTAIN; the second should have further reinforced that fact. And yet, there's a lot of snobbery and what I think is a bunch of people refusing to let themselves have a good time, all in the name of...well, I'm not really sure. Pretentiousness?
Look. I love film. Real film. "Cinema." And I also love "movies." To me, there is a distinct difference between the two. "2012" certainly falls into that latter category, and the reason I'm giving it 8 stars out of 10 is due to the fact that this disaster flick achieves what it set out to do, and with flying colors at that. The characters are likable and supported by a stellar cast of acting talent, the story never slows and the action sequences are incredible.
Sure, we run into those annoying "we're almost there but someone's gotta go below decks and sacrifice themselves because of this last- minute problem that seems to have conveniently popped up or everyone dies in 15 minutes" moments as well as a few repeated "escape" sequences, but once again: does "2012" do it well? Absolutely, and probably the best I've ever seen a big, dumb Hollywood vehicle do it. This is disaster schlock at its finest.
On the brighter side, as a fan of science fiction, I couldn't help but enjoy the "Ark" elements of the film and how world governments are portrayed attempting to preserve the human race. It's decent speculative fiction, and gives the overall story of 2012 a little more meat. My point is, 2012 is a big, glossy Hollywood epic. But it's not without its merits, and it's worth seeing as long as you don't go in expecting high drama or an exploration of fate vs. character a la Shakespeare.
Sometimes, the simple act of watching a film can get one's mind off life's troubles, if only for a little while. So, by all means, go see 2012, whose sole purpose is to distract us. What's the harm in that? Have FUN, and take delight in the destruction of the earth!
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Wanted to Hate it...couldn't. Pleasantly surprised.
After a lot of negative feedback from the online "geek" community, my worst fears nearly ruined my going to see this flick. I have loved the TERMINATOR series since I was a kid; I watched every episode of the ill-fated but great TV series, and though I knew Terminator 3 would be a misstep, I was there on opening night anyway.
From having a director called 'McG' to the early buzz about some rather clunky plot devices and dialog in SALVATION, I was afraid the newest and best chance to again realize the great potential of this cross-time saga would fail. I entered the cinema with slumped shoulders and horribly low expectations, ready to hate and come home to write a scathing review on IMDb.
And then a funny thing happened. From the opening credits onward, I found myself enjoying the film and trying hard not to.
First, Bale owns this picture. I liked Worthington, but he doesn't steal the picture from Christian Bale as some have been saying. The title character was an engrossing presence on-screen and it's a shame we don't get more time with him. But I guess wanting more is always a good sign in showbiz.
The action, of course, is great. The "mushroom cloud" scene, "Harvester" scene and the climactic battle at the end are all very memorable and well-executed. What's more, they further the plot.
Which brings me to my next point. The story moves along at a well-developed clip, cleverly (but not brilliantly) handling dueling plot lines and, for the most part, managing to hold the viewer's attention and keep him or her guessing what might happen next.
Yes, there could have been more character development. But a few of the performances are absolutely just knocked out of the park. The real hero of this film is Anton Yelchin, embodying the intense but noble Kyle Reese (as portrayed by Michael Beihn) in the first film. He succeeds in creating a convincingly tough but sympathetic young hero-to-be. His performance, in fact, is one of the hallmarks of the film.
The film's weakest attributes are, as mentioned, some amateur dialog, a feel-good and tacked-on ending, and last (but certainly not least), the "Star" character, a mute little girl played by "Jadagrace." It feels like I've seen this character a million times, and a cutesy cliché such as this has no business in a serious movie where the human race is being exterminated in a global war against machines.
Another unfortunate side of this film is the editing and runtime. It feels as if whole chunks of plot are missing; moving lines that you might hear in the exciting movie trailers and TV spots promoting the film are not here. If I didn't know as much about the movie as I did going in, I imagine I would be quite confused. The editing itself is also choppy and in places disjointed. Personally, I'm getting tired of the "Aw heck, we'll just put it on the DVD" mindset. The best film should always be put forward during its debut. Herein lies one of the problems with TERMINATOR SALVATION.
With that said, I couldn't help but like the film, and felt QUITE relieved that this wasn't the cinematic cataclysm I was afraid would ruin a franchise. As flawed as it is, it's not a bad start. And you know what? I was entertained and thinking about it the next day.
How bad can that be?
The Zombie Diaries (2006)
Never Have Zombies Been This Boring
In this age of the zombie renaissance (which seems to be giving way to a revitalized interest in vampires, thanks to TWILIGHT...yawn), we seem to be surrounded by all things undead. No mystery there: thanks to the spread of information on the internet in the late 90s and, soon after, the film 28 DAYS LATER, common moviegoers finally caught on that there was more to horror than lame slasher flicks featuring an endless succession of bemasked murderers.
They rediscovered the works of Romero and others, and found that there was something about the zombie sub-genre that spoke to our deepest nightmares: a fear of society, its inhabitants, and its collapse. This seemed especially relevant in the post-9/11 era. Watch news coverage of the zombie crisis in George Romero's NIGHT and DAWN and try not to think about that terrifying, fateful day in September, 2001.
What remains a mystery, however, is that almost no one --during the Romero heyday of zombies or their 21st Century 'renaissance'-- got it right. In this reviewer's opinion, there are about seven, yes, SEVEN films that have truly realized the full potential and promise of the undead theme, and sadly, two of them are remakes and two are semi-satirical send-ups of the genre.
So I shouldn't be too surprised in the disappointing and wasted effort that is THE ZOMBIE DIARIES. I'd heard a lot of good internet buzz about it, so I decided it was worth the three dollar rental. I knew there was a problem when I had to turn it off about halfway into the film. Was it too gory, too intense, too scary? Not in the slightest. Though I returned a day later to finish DIARIES, my opinion of the film on my first attempt hadn't changed.
What could have been an interesting premise --a zombie outbreak documented by several camera-toting groups in the English countryside--falls flat on its face before the opening credits have even finished. We're treated to an anti-climactic interview about a nasty plague sweeping Asia at the beginning of the film, which marks the only occasion I can recall that a movie loses its momentum within a few minutes of the opening titles. Even worse is the stiff, pompous cast we're forced to contend with. Not one of the cast members convincingly sells any urgency, not to mention the fact that the dead are returning to life and the country has been plunged into total chaos.
The narrative and script are seemingly aimless; we're bored quickly by the pretty scenery of the countryside, where (occasionally) non-threatening zombies show up and stumble about. DIARIES loses itself in an insular and uninteresting world -- what's going on in the cities? What about TV and Radio news reports, which in the other films (like NIGHT, DAWN) proved the most stirring and memorable moments? I understand small productions like this have budgetary constraints to consider, but the filmmakers missed an all-too important cue in not giving their boring little universe some scope. What should conjure feelings of isolation in the audience only makes us lose interest before the second act has even arrived.
The zombies themselves are shambling Romero knock-offs, and not well-done, either. The special effects used to create the monsters are professional enough, but rubber stamped with all the "ooh" and "aah" trademarks any college film student hopes to afford. "Look, the zombies have white contact lenses! How creepy!" Aside from the fact that these ghouls are among the least scary I have seen in a long while, the reactions the characters have to them are even less convincing. A group of survivors seem to have no fear confronting a cadre of marauding flesh eaters in one shot, but are ostensibly paralyzed at the appearance of a single ghoul the next. Also, though agonizingly slow, these zombies seem to have no problem sneaking up on adrenaline-pumped humans in wide open grazing fields. Go figure.
The ending of THE ZOMBIE DIARIES is a feeble attempt at throwing the audience a curve ball, and while I won't give anything away, the film's conclusion is completely tacked on, and frankly, a cheap shot that seems at once out of place and mundane.
DIARIES is just one example (in a LONG list of books, graphic novels, films, video games and other media) of why the zombie resurgence failed. Few of these works seems to have had the guts to break away from the "rules" laid out by the "...of the Dead" films, ultimately to the artistic detriment of each.
Due in part to these reasons, THE ZOMBIE DIARIES fails in originality, and succeeds in not much else. One wonders how good a zombie film this MIGHT have been.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
A Flawed Classic
While THE BREAKFAST CLUB is a lesson in expert film-making, and a potentially profound statement on the 'substance' gap between social stereotypes and the individuals therein, as well as a critique of the loss of inter-generational communication, the film may not have stood the test of time for every audience member.
Breakfast Club is a classic, to be sure, and one cannot deny the film's cultural impact. It was one of those "It" films I just had to watch when I was younger, but upon viewing this 80s cult hit through adult eyes, I can't help but backlash against its more latent subtexts, some of which are just plain offensive.
The 'Brat Pack' pioneers here (Ringwald, Hall, Sheedy, Nelson, Estevez) each represent the classic High School castes; the Princess, the Jock, the square-peg of a basket case, the trouble-making ne'er-do-well, and the brainiac. Does writer-director John Hughes (himself from an affluent Illinois suburb) imply that these stereotypes -- who sit in a ridiculously well-funded library the likes of which few audience members have encountered in their own high schools -- are the only ones in existence, or the only ones who matter?
While I am not a proponent in any way of Political Correctness, how can an average kid -- who might be a minority, or from a poor neighborhood -- relate to any of these characters?
Even John Bender ("The Criminal," Judd Nelson), who seems to be the most economically disadvantaged of the bunch, speaks of an abusive father who beats him for spilling "paint in the garage." This makes Bender far more affluent than many of the kids I went to school with, a great deal of whom had lived in apartments their whole lives, sans garage, and sans father figure. The rest of the characters are likewise white and upper-class. Is John Hughes leaving anyone out? I think so.
Most shockingly, the purest outcast of the group, Allison, who can quickly be described as eccentric, conforms to her peers' social standards at the end of the film -- she is disrobed of her dark pre-goth Garments by Prom Queen Claire, and made to look pretty, thus becoming acceptable. What sort of a message is this? The true loner of the group gives in to the cliquism of her environment, trading her individualism for some sort of forced happiness that seems a lame contrivance at the film's close.
While The Breakfast Club does have a lasting message about the cruel high school caste system, I believe one must look at its content with a critical -- and adult -- eye.
After Much Deliberation, "C.S.A." Gets a 'Thumbs Down'
There was something bothersome about "The Confederate States of America" evident even in its trailer, but as a Civil War buff and armchair historian, I was nonetheless enthusiastic about this "mockumentary" currently making the Indie theater circuit.
The plot should be obvious enough: in an "alternate universe," the Confederacy won the Civil War, conquered the Northern States and continued into history in the U.S.'s place, as covered in this "controversial tell-all British documentary." Slavery continues into the 21st Century, as many interviewees and even a Presidential candidate try to apologize for, justify, and even glorify the Confederacy's misdeeds.
For any fan of what historians call "counterfactuals" (essentially historical "What If's"), "C.S.A." seems built on a great premise, and one that has indeed been debated over since the fall of the real Confederacy in 1865. In that way, this film succeeds on a default level; it's interesting to see such a thing realized and played out before your very eyes. Almost understandably, though, C.S.A., attempting to tackle such a huge, epic, yet nebulous issue as a non-existent country that *could* have been, falters in it its overall delivery. Sadly, this audience member felt that these mistakes could have been avoided and that the film, as a whole, could have been better-handled.
The end product of filmmaker Willmott's venture is considerably uneven; at times the "documentary" approach looks and feels very professional, enough to rank with a "PBS" Frontline production. In other areas, the production value of C.S.A. seems almost sophomoric: poor sound and film quality, and poorly synthesized music make this mockumentary look as if it came out in 1992.
The blaring flaw in this film, for me, though, was first in its mishandling of the historical complexities of the Civil War and all surrounding issues, and secondly and most importantly its apparent indecision over just what "sort" of mockumentary "it" wanted to be: serious satire of spoofy comedy? The near-slapstick, goofball approach of the commercial spots bring down the quality of the rest of the film. Ads like the slave "Shackle" seemed more like something belonging in an SNL skit than in a nationally-released documentary (even if it is fake). It just didn't fit, and in my opinion, represents a wasted opportunity on the part of Kevin Willmott to make "The Confederate States of America" a worthwhile, valid and even intellectual piece of satirical American Cinema.
Though ultimately silly and nowhere near "consequential" a film as it could have been (one gets the feeling that any number of historically-inclined filmmakers could have made a far superior and far more stirring and dramatic film out of the subject matter), it does keep your attention as a small "plot" of sorts develops around the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Fauntroy --scion of a Confederate dynasty-- as a political "bombshell" explodes during his candidacy. This was definitely a curve ball, and one of the finer angles of this documentary.
While the discriminating (pardon the term) armchair historian (and 'actual' historian as well) won't be able to abide the suspension of disbelief required to make the premise of this film believable, "C.S.A." remains marginally enjoyable, but a bit of a disappointment for anyone who has ever wondered...
What if the South won? Just a bit too goofy for its own good.
An Open Letter to the Filmmakers:
This time, I am going to skip a conventionally formatted "review." No need for that here. All I want to do is ask those involved with the production of this "film" a question:
1) Did you actually WATCH the original? Wait, dumb question. I know you did. I remember, a couple years back, reading some comments from the film's writer (William Butler, a veteran actor of such late 80s B-horror films as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Ghoulies 2, and the Night of the Living Dead Remake) that he was enthused to be making two new sequels to such a great film. Okay, well, perhaps I should REPHRASE my question. WHEN was the LAST TIME you watched the original? Let's get some things straight -- in the original, the zombies are completely unstoppable. You can't kill them -- not even with a gunshot to the head.
What? You want to "change things up" a little? Okay. I can live with that. So, gunshots to the head DO kill these zombies. Okay. I can live with that too. I'm all for artistic expansion and exploration. Just promise me one thing: BE CONSISTENT. In the ENDLESS slow-mo scenes of zombies getting shot you threw in, shooting them TWICE in the chest also seems to do it. This must be a new and effective technique of dispatching the dead, because it happened no less than six times in your film.
As for other matters of authenticity, I'll reserve my observations on the overall "feel" of the film (or lack thereof) in respect to the originals as that would require an entire essay to get into.
2) What was Peter Coyote doing here? And what was with that awkward grimace on his face? He must have been hard up for cash. I will never look at E.T. the same again.
It's really hard to critique this film using the normal methods. All I can say is, what SHOULD have been a revitalization of a franchise wound up as nothing more than a shining, blunt example of what a monumentally wasted opportunity is.
Return of the Livig Dead 4, like its sequel part 5: Rave to the Grave, are the kind of movies that make moviegoers sit in their seats during the end credits and think, "I could have done it better." If any of those responsible for the RETURN sequels happen to be reading this, feel free to email my IMDb profile to answer my questions and perhaps continue this discussion. I promise I will be civilized.
And while I'm at it, an open letter to the Sci-Fi channel: you might want to look into funding and/or programming better films for your "Sci Fi Originals" line up. Let's put it this way: you're quickly becoming synonymous with sub-par crap.
Return of the Living Dead. May you rest in peace.
An Overrated, but Visually Beautiful Classic
Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" has gone from a cult status to mainstream classic with 20-somethings (and others) who have fond childhood memories of this film.
In true Tim Burton form, however, "Nightmare," is certainly visually stunning, bursting at the seems with raw imagination, and, of course... grossly over-hyped.
Once you get past the remarkable and unique animation and visual style, what you're left with is a rather boring tale that you'd frankly have to be under the age of 12 to truly enjoy (I was 11 when I saw it, and didn't like it then, either, so go figure). Sure, the premise is wonderful on paper: The "king" of Halloween, akin to Easter's rabbit and Christmas's Santa Claus, becomes disillusioned with Halloween and discovers Christmas, becoming inspired to take over duties for Santa Claus...but royally jeopardizes the new holiday he has grown to love when he kidnaps Saint Nick.
Yes, it's definitely a cool idea. To see it play out over the course of an entire feature length film? That's something else entirely. Especially if that film happens to be, essentially, a kid's film (and despite the spooky visuals and dark tones, let's not kid ourselves, this IS a children's film). What starts out as a great idea for a plot turns into a boring and predictable ride through a world you can't wait to get out of. The musical aspect, which is a large part of what makes this film, is another complaint. I'm sorry to say it, but these songs are largely laborious to endure -- contrived pieces that drone on annoyingly and seem rather uninspired. Normally, I'd let this sort of thing go, but when the music is such an integral part of a film (and this film IS a musical), it's hard to ignore. I'm sure many would disagree with me on this, but think about it -- besides the decent "flagship" track ("What's this?") are you really going to catch yourself humming any of the songs from this film after only one or a few viewings the way you hum tracks from Jesus Christ SUPERSTAR or TOMMY? I don't think so.
Yes, the film is annoyingly over-hyped, overrated, and to some extent, overdone. All negativity aside, though, I do think this makes a wonderful children's' film -- surely, one of those special flicks we can all relate to that stick with us and perhaps even shape us when we see them in those magical and formative early years. As I mentioned above, the visual style is unforgettable and the tone and feel of "Nightmare" accomplish what I believe Tim Burton set out to achieve (as far as "tone and feel" are concerned). This is definitely one I think I'd been better served to watch at the age of 4, 5, 6 or 7, but unfortunately it came out a few years too late, I suppose.
For kids -- a winner. For adults -- well, bring your watch. You may be checking it a few times.
Fahrenhype 9/11 (2004)
An Important Must-See
If you've seen FARENHEIT 9/11, you probably fall into one of two categories: you are an ardent anti-Bush liberal, or you are an anti-Moore conservative going to see the film out of a morbid curiosity. I fall into the latter -- however, I went with an open mind, and I went to educate myself. FARENHEIT 9/11 was most successful at doing one thing: casting the President in a less-than-flattering light. The "facts" brought up in FARENHEIT didn't bother me -- it was mostly grandstanding, and unlike most young Americans, I actually pay attention to the news (as it happens -- anyone who actually watched any news at all during the 2000 election debacle would know how outlandish a statement like "Bush stole the election" really is), so I was able to look at Moore's presentation with an objective and skeptical eye.
For anyone who has seen Moore's disgusting attack on the President -- be they liberal or conservative -- FarenHYPE 9/11 is must viewing. It proves the fallacies in Moore's "muckracking," debunks his dubious claims, and pulls the curtain on Moore's cute editing tricks. While watching FARENHYPE, I was reminded of ANOTHER controversial documentary -- I am speaking, of course, about BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE. In that film, Michael Moore also used carefully-edited footage and the convenient omitting of key facts and dates to deface another public figure: Charlton Heston. His manipulation of the facts in this "documentary" were personally sickening, and though I questioned his presentation at the outset, I still felt cheated and manipulated. It was plain dirty. In his most current travesty, which is expertly dissected and debunked in FARENHYPE 9/11, we see that he is up to the same old shameful tricks, except on a far grander scale and with a far more epic goal: to shame and unseat the 43rd President of the United States. As history has recorded, however, he was unsuccessful. Still, it is disquieting that a film which rivals propaganda on par with Leni Riefenshtal's work with Adolf Hitler could even come close to holding so much sway.
If you are a passionate Moore supporter, I don't imagine you're going to like FARENHYPE 9/11, but still, I urge you to watch -- just to open yourself to a counter view of things. Whether you buy the facts presented or not, at least take into account that there IS an opposing view, and ask yourself -- why is such a view possible? Perhaps men like Michael Moore are not as pious as we were lead to believe?
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
There are always Three Sides to Every Story...
Your side, the other guy's side, and the truth. It's funny to me, how when two sides (liberal and conservative) battle each other so intensely, the weaker side will find a way to win the argument. It seems any opinion can be "proved" right; one just has to log on to the internet, or thumb through some independent, slanted magazine, to find SOME story that will vindicate their claims. I miss the days when there were absolutes, the truth and lies. Now every "fact" claimed is FALSE and TRUE, depending on who you ask.
And I guess in a political climate like this, men like Michael Moore, who hold such sway over an already fickle and ignorant electorate, can flourish. And so can their films.
FARENHEIT 9/11 is basically two hours of conspiracy theory, chock FULL of "facts" that, again, are both TRUE and FALSE, depending on what website you happen to read. Moore asserts, that according to many newspapers and independent investigations, and post election private recounts, Al Gore was SUPPOSED to win Florida. HMMMM. I remember reading, at the time, that several independent recounts were launched, some by liberal newspapers, and all found that BUSH did indeed win the Florida election (narrow margin irrelevant -- a win is a win, fair and square). I guess I read different newspapers at the time. Also, Moore again jumps on Bush for the infamous escape of the Bin Laden clan from America (which he also had a whole chapter on in his last book). While I agree that it was a massive security oversight, I seem to remember a blurb from Richard Clark's 9/11 testimony that HE was the one that allowed that to happen, as he was still in power at the time. Also, everyone seems to forget that the Bin Ladens left on private jets, three days later when airports had re-opened.
Like I said, there are three sides to every story. Hell, maybe ten. In any case, Moore goes on with his massive conspiracy theory, manipulating the audiences with the heartbreaking story of a patriotic woman who loses her son to the war effort in Iraq. While her loss is devastating, and heartbreaking, I'm sure lemming-like audiences will forget that she is one of MANY who has lost a son, daughter, brother or husband to this war effort, and to the countless wars before it. Death is always a risk when one joins the military; that's why it's always considered such a massive tragedy when civilians are killed in a war. That is part of a soldier's duty: putting his or her life on the line. Sorry folks, but despite what shady recruiters tell you, joining the military aint just about getting the government to pay for your college tuition, it's about sacrifice. I guess it's our own fault we have lost sight of what it is to give part of one self, or sometimes, all of one self to the greater good. I'm sure if you tracked down someone from the depression area, they would tell you we've had it too good for too long. This is not the rainbow-colored paradise sheltered college students seem to think it is...this is an angry planet that is constantly trying to kill you from the moment you are born. While my words sound cold, that is war. People die, and it is sad. War is sad. But it is also infinitely more upsetting when someone uses those deaths to his advantage to sway opinion and make money. That is a dishonor.
To make a long review shorter, I can live with these wild conspiracy theories. Nevermind the ridiculous fact that people have drawn up this Machiavellian drama which implicates the Bush family as a sinister bunch maneuvering about a global chess board in the quest for ultimate power (what is this? Star Wars?), afterall, it's popular to hate a Republican president. I can forgive Moore and all his fans for that. But what really upset me was Moore basic thesis statement: "Bush is evil, and his misled us all, and the military is made up of nothing but poor people from poor neighborhoods who are doing all the dying for us, and we should be grateful to them."
This is UNACCEPTABLE. I'm sorry, but that makes just about as much sense as the old claim that "It was mostly black people who died in Vietnam." Neither are true. While not to downplay the contributions of the poor, and for that matter, EVERY class in American society to the United States Armed Services, it currently is, and always has been, the MIDDLE CLASS that has made up the military, and its casualties. A warning to you easily-swayed folk: THIS is how communism rises, and freedom is lost. Someone comes along, and turns people against the "evil" rich, by saying that they are out, 24/7, to screw you over. This is dangerous stuff, and if these people get their way, we will all be in a big mess...just ask Russia, Cuba and China. It's FUN to be a communist, isn't? In the end, everyone envies our American freedom. Let's not lose it.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
First, let me say, as one of the FEW die-hard fans of the original who decided it was better to live with his mind OPEN instead of CLOSED, I embraced the idea of something *different* when I heard about this remake. For your own sake, whether you have seen this film or not, you should too. DAWN OF THE DEAD is a great experience in horror movie-going, and this film really deserves to be viewed with a scared audience in a theater.
Don't be afraid...DAWN 04 not only does justice to its namesake, it becomes its own film entirely while never forgetting its roots. It borrows masterfully from elements of 28 Days Later but doesn't take itself too seriousley (as that film, though also great in its own right, did). The plot is very clever, fast-paced and original; never have I seen "zombies" handled quite like this. James Gunn, unlikely scribe of DAWN 04 (I say unlikely because he's responsible for the so-so SCOOBY DOO film and is also a TROMA alumnus), knows how to do zombies -- he nails the action in a way every fan of the undead dreams of. The pacing is breakneck-quick, but not to DAWN's detriment; you are never allowed to feel safe or get comfortable. In this case, that's a good thing -- you are constantly on your toes and biting your nails.
Technically speaking, I'm not a big fan of claustrophobic closeups, and although this film has its share, it's not that distracting and it's more than made up for in the excellent camera work. Some may be reminded of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN; there is almost a documentary feel in certain scenes. The visual work in DAWN OF THE DEAD underscores the film's intended atmosphere perfectly -- you are almost thrown into the action.
Some in internet gripe circles (heh, as if there's any other type of "circle" on the internet) have complained a bit about the "lack" of character development due to the large cast, but I could find no real cause for that here. True, DAWN 04 is not the social allegory, nor the drama that its namesake was, but it doesn't pretend to be what it's not. It also doesn't pretend that it wants us to get to know every single character introduced; the leads make themselves known, and the script "develops" them appropriately in the parameters of the kind of film that this is. There is indeed a good human element in this script -- not heavy handed, gooey or predictable, but just right for the film.
The cast is well-picked, and the acting top-notch -- there were a few really memorable performances here (most notably in the characters of "CJ" and "Steve"), as well as a few hearty laughs thrown in for balance, but once again you never feel safe. The humans make fun of the marauding dead in the parking lot below the mall, but it merely serves to make the sense of morbidity, human mortality and fear stronger; we know they're only out for a nervous laugh to forget their miserable situations. Again, the human element is handled well for such a horror film. Kudos to James Gunn.
DAWN OF THE DEAD isn't perfect, but you'll be so busy hanging on to your seat, laughing and screaming that you won't notice.
Go see it.
A Friday Night Date (2000)
Awe-struck. Completely, utterly, awe-struck...
Well, what can I say? Without getting too negative here, I'll say that I should have known better when I saw the name SIDNEY J. FURIE (the "director" of the inexcusably awful SUPERMAN IV) pop up in the opening credits. I guess it's my fault that I lost nearly two hours of my life watching "Road Rage."
I've never been in film school, but even I, a layman, can confidently judge the direction of this film as nearly non-existent and completely third-rate (and that's being nice). I won't go in to how bad the dialogue, script, and plot were, because clearly the people responsible for this film have no business being responsible for films. This film, in my opinion, is beyond conventional criticism. If Francis Ford Coppola makes a bad film, you give him a bad review, because you expect better from him. This is not the case here; it is evident that the filmmakers, bless them, just do not belong in their industry.
The acting is beyond subpar -- I even expected a bit more from Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers). With actors of his variety, however, his performance depends on the guidance of the director, and accordingly, he is completely lacking in Road Rage (to put it mildly). Annoying and hollow would be other words. His leading lady, beautiful and somewhat likable at the start of the film, blows her performance overacting -- which isn't always a terrible thing, but getting away with "overacting" requires knowing something about "regular" acting in the first place. The only decent acting came from the three jocks in the truck. You will grimace and groan through the entire picture. Completely painful.
This may sound dramatic, but ROAD RAGE ruined my Saturday night, and has no redeeming qualities (save, perhaps, for the good looks of the two leads). Disjointed, confused, contrived, and completely lacking in any of the ingredients necessary for creating a suspenseful atmosphere in what is supposed to be a "Suspense" film, ROAD RAGE is definitely one you should give a miss.
A note to Casper Van Dien: since I liked you in Starship Troopers, I'll pretend I didn't see this.
Avoid at all costs!
The Getaway (1972)
Have a RIB, Harold!
The Getaway has the very important "Three S's" which are so crucial to any film: Style, Substance, and Steve McQueen.
This film, right behind PAPILLON, is definitely my favorite McQueen vehicle -- it's a big, BIG film (which makes sense, it takes place in Texas), has an epic feel, yet at the same time is very gritty and very honest in its approach to storytelling. The simplistic yet larger-than-life style of THE GETAWAY makes this flick a great watch on a Saturday Night.
Oh, and you can't go wrong with Steve McQueen. At his side is *THE* girl-next-door type, the ultra-likable Ali MacGraw. Their chemistry is very obvious (which would make a lot of sense, the two had an on-set affair which was followed by a five year marriage), and it carries the film. The score, composed by Quincy Jones, hits all the right notes in all the right spots, and is definitely pivotal in giving THE GETAWAY its "feel." The supporting cast couldn't be better-suited to their roles. The bad guys are really bad, and quite despicable. Despite the sinister villains, this early 70s gem has a sense of humor. At times the more "innocent" characters are mocked by the situations they find themselves in, much to your amusement or disgust (I, for one, found laugh-out-loud moments all the way through). By the very nature of a McQueen film, the characters are all "approachable," and down to earth in their own strange way. In a nutshell, a simplistically epic film that finds the time to not take itself so seriously.
While THE GETAWAY may not be the best to bring out at a movie get-together due to its slightly slow pacing and early 70s narrative (which, unfortunately, due to the breakneck music-video pacing of most "modern" films, tends to turn off anyone with a less-than-sufficient attention span), it is definitely worth a purchase, and something that you will be proud to say that you've seen.
Long Live McQueen, and Have a RIB, Harold!
Action Jackson (1988)
The Best Film ever Made
Yep, you read me right. What's not to love? It's from the 80s, it's got Carl "Apollo Creed" Weathers, over the top villains, cheesy action that could have only come from 1988, and plenty of ridiculous scenes that defy the laws of physics, and common sense. Two words can sum this film up (notice I don't say "movie," because ACTION JACKSON is so much more than that): Big Fun.
The story is simple, but entertaining enough. It centers around the notorious "Action" Jackson (Weathers), a legendary Motown cop with a reputation for fighting crime -- with his gloves off. Craig T. Nelson, a reigning auto manufacturer who is assassinating his way to political power, pretty much signs his own death warrant when he crosses Action Jackson, and we get to watch the result. What follows is a hilarious and exciting journey through the seedy Detroit underworld (so...Detroit?) as Action Jackson strives to clear his name and hunt down the maniacal Craig T. Nelson.
I'm sure I ruptured my lungs laughing when I first saw this film. It is so painfully 80s and full of machismo that you can't help but be charmed. Look, ACTION JACKSON doesn't pretend to be GOOD film making, because it isn't. It is what it is, and the film plays this simplistic fun to the hilt. So, what is there to complain about? For a six dollar DVD at Wal-Mart, you can't lose.
Bring it to your next get-together, you'll be the life of the party.
Die Another Day (2002)
Classic Bond Washes Away the Sins of the Last Two Entries
I can barely describe in words how pleased I am with the 20th Bond installment. It is such a triumph for the franchise, in my eyes, for two reasons: it brings the series back to its roots, while throwing in a few twists that carry "Bond" into the new millenium. It also helps that Mr. Bond has bounced back from two unredeemably bad adventures (Tommorow Never Dies and World is Not Enough), and has done so in a blaze of glory.
The story is strong, exciting, and impossibly entertaining. The locations are stunning, and lend much to the flow of the film. The action sequences are great in number, and amongst the best I've ever seen in the Bond saga. The sets, locations and villains harken back to the Connery/Moore Golden Age of Bond; all are over the top, rather ridiculous (in a good way, though), and bloody charming. The Machismo oozes from Brosnan's 007 in a way that would make Connery proud. In a nutshell, DIE ANOTHER DAY gets back to basics. However, there is some character development in the film which adds some welcome depth to Bond, and as mentioned above, a few twists that turn the conventional 007 formula on its ear whilst never abandoning it.
It must also be mentioned that John Cleese as "Q" fills his shoes nicely. He is a charming replacement, and I can see him assuming the role for years and years to come. Thanks must also go to the filmmakers for giving him the name "Q", and not "R." Old Q would have wanted it that way. His chemistry with Brosnan is warm and hilarious, and he is definitely a welcome addition to the series.
To make my long story short, this is definitely one of the best BOND outings of the series -- kudos to the filmmakers and kudos to Mr. Brosnan, who is hopefully up for another two or three adventures of Super Agent 007.
What a bummer, dude!
This silly, ridiculous, unintentionally hilarious and at times disturbing "public awareness" short will leave you wondering what Sonny Bono was thinking. This film is full of "pro/con viewpoint" discussions, but lacking in substance (pardon the pun) and that F-word that everybody hates: facts. With a poorly written narration, Sonny Bono comes off as the weird guy next door who knows little to nothing about drugs or any surrounding issue -- the damaging effects of THC weren't even discussed -- the "facts" presented are extremely superficial (thank you, Sonny, for telling us that a big danger of getting high is a bad bummer). But what do I know? Perhaps Marijuana/drug research was behind in those days and the science behind these stupid drugs wasn't available. Who knows? In any case, the acting is awful, the film is a pandering, patronizing waste of time, and if you watch it, don't expect to learn anything. In short: absurd.
While I'm on a negative tirade, I must ask: did Sonny Bono have a lobotomy before filming this documentary? It's like watching one of George Romero's zombies give a lecture -- get this guy some coffee! And, did the "film" makers decide to show up and shoot his scenes while he was in full new-age Dojo mode? What's going on here? God only knows, but his lines are so bad that he even starts to break down and almost laugh during his utterly ridiculous closing statement. Even Bono knew what a joke it was.
In closing, the film is actually a lot of fun! You will be disturbed, yet hysterical all the way through -- if you can get your hands on it, this one is great for parties! Play this at a get-together and people will always invite you over!
One of the finest computer games of all time...
At first I was skeptical -- one day my little brother came home with a copy of STARCRAFT -- and I dismissed it as another stupid fad my brother had bought into. Well, after a while, my brother somehow managed to introduce me to WARCRAFT, a game also from BLIZZARD, and I was hooked after almost a year of laughing it off. And STARCRAFT looked to contain more of the same strategic war gaming, so I tried it out. Wow.
STARCRAFT is by far a more intelligent game than its BLIZZARD predecessor WARCRAFT -- in both creative and technical terms. Unlike Warcraft, there is an actual plotline here, and it is wonderfully engaging -- you'll find yourself speeding through levels just to see the next story development -- and the action, interface, units (and overall game) are like nothing I've ever seen before, and make STARCRAFT superior to anything else in the field.
What I REALLY love about Starcraft though, is the 80s SciFi vibe that it creates. It really brings me back to all those "post-apocalyptic/alien war" science fiction films of the period. Upon playing Starcraft, you can't help but be reminded of ALIENS and the like.
My only complaints, however, are some absurdly difficult levels that can make the gaming process tedious and frustrating -- but don't let that stop you, all the other wonderful qualities more than redeem this (and you probably shouldn't take it from me -- as much as I love PC games, I've never been particularly good at them).
Go out and buy it. And pat yourself on the back for making such a wise decision. Have fun.
Before watching ANY made-for-TV movie, one must know that, on average, TV-movies have never been that great. So, now that that's out of the way, I'll get to the review.
The way Brian Wilson discovers that "Beach Boys" sound was very convincing. It didn't seem abridged, it felt real. The acting, for the most part, was top-notch. The actor who portrayed musical genius Brian Wilson, while likeable, could have used a few acting lessons. However, the part of Mike Love was dead-on.
The film is very enjoyable, and really "connects" any music listener to the Beach Boys, and especially Brian Wilson. It was only after watching this film that I truly began to realize that Wilson was a true genius, perhaps one of the best writers/musicians to come out of the 20th Century. I KNEW he was good, but it is really only now that I know just how influential he really was/is to the music industry.
Things did get corny, however, but remember -- this IS a TV movie. The first half of this miniseries is far superior to the second.
Also, I must complain about the horrible under-use of the Carl Wilson character. Carl, the Beach Boys' strong and steady voice of reason, deserved alot more than what he was given in this film. Carl would go on to lead the band in the 80s and 90s, and he was the most stable of the Wilson brothers -- don't you think his dedication warrants a little more "air time"? I do.
To focus more on the positives, however, all the actors and characters are likeable, and I found this miniseries to have some generally touching moments.
Overall, a great watch. If you appreciate good music, and if you are a fan of the Beach Boys (casual or fanatic), you should buy this TV-movie whenever it becomes available to buy on video.
Surprisingly Wonderful Show!
Despite negative reviews, I actually loved the film "STARSHIP TROOPERS." It ran on a feasable and likable theme, and had a good "feel" to it, even if it was a little campy. Why the critics seem to hate it is beyond me.
But to get on with this review, I didn't expect much from "ROUGHNECKS," The Starship Troopers Television series, but in the morning before going to work I managed to catch an episode. I was impressed at first by the visual computer effects. The movements of the CGI characters are very lifelike and believable. But what really had me tuning in from then on were the great storylines. They are deep and intelligent; I have no idea why this show is marketed to children. As an adult, this is one of the few "cartoons" I can still sit through, probably because this show isn't exactly written for younger audiences. From the few episodes I've seen, I can already tell that "ROUGHNECKS" is a completely valid series, and not just because it is entertaining. It refrences many classic moral themes that pertain to the horrors of war, and also references many historical points in military history (most noticeably the Roughnecks' Home Ship, the VALLEY FORGE).
My only complaint is that the three main characters should
closer resemble their real-life counterparts. Call me shallow for wanting to see the familiar faces of Hollywood celebrities, but I can't think of "Johnny Rico," "Dizzy Flores," or "Carl Jenkins" without seeing the faces of Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer and Neil Patrick Harris in my mind (though to be honest, the CGI character of "Diz" actually does resemble Dina Meyer).
All in all, a great show that is very worthy of all praise it receives. Don't miss "Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles." You won't be sorry.
The Dame Was Loaded (1996)
An excellent adventure into the 1940's detective world....
This awesome video game works on all levels. First of all, one must admire how the producers of this PC game have re-created an inviting 1940's atmosphere. Secondly, you get to know the characters. They become your friends. Third, the action can be unrelenting. I found myself being scared out of my wits.
While it becomes very hard to get to the next step towards the very end of the game (I still haven't solved it, and now I can't because the CD was damaged), you still have a hell of a time playing this great game. The music and characters set the mood, and the player becomes very involved with everything in this unsure world that THE DAME WAS LOADED has created.
If you can find it, by all means, pick it up! You won't be sorry.
Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)
After an onslaught of mass murder in PSYCHO III, Norman Bates is back....in a nice suburban home, with a lovely wife, and a new problem. He has to kill again.
Norman Bates, once again played excellently by the late, great and highly-talented Anthony Perkins, calls in to a radio talk-back show, where the topic of the night is matricide. Norman relives his past, and through these flashbacks we finally meet "Mother" -- played wonderfully by Olivia Hussey (man, she is SCARY!).
This film is a delightful surprise....there's not much bad to say about it. Henry Thomas captures "young Norman Bates" nicely, though I remember Norman Bates as being a bit more polite and friendly than portrayed here....but he still pulls off a good job as a mentally-abused and opressed psychopath in the makings.
Be aware, that this is not appropriate for anyone under the age of 15. No, it isn't "shocking," but there are strong incestual undertones. They are necassary, however, because they give more valid reasons for Norman's descent into sick obsession, rather than "He had a domineering mother," which we've all known for years.
PSYCHO IV has alot of character as a film, and is hard to forget. Perhaps the best sequel of the three.
Trilogy of Terror II (1996)
Decent 90's TV Horror
Anyone born before 1980 can't help but remember that video cover that stared up at them from the spooky horror section shelf at the "Video Library." It was the one all the little kids loved to rent...it was also the one all the little kids loved to fast-forward through 80% of to get to the Zuni-doll story.
And about 20 years later, the Trilogy of Terror is back, and the Zuni-Doll once again steals the show....but not entirely. The first story, about giant rats in a graveyeard, is well-written and memorable. The second story, while a bit creepy at the beginning, is for the most part....stupid. But not terrible. The third story (saving the best for last) marks the return of the infamous Zuni-Warrior doll. The sad thing about it is, is that it is really a cheap rehash of the classic original. Entertaining yes, but original? Hardly.
But at least the first two stories were a little more memorable. The first two in the original TRILOGY were very well-written, but easily forgettable.
The beautiful Lysette Anthony does her best in this made-for-TV horror flick. Actually, I was impressed with her acting, considering this film was, in a way, standard USA network fare. She seemed at least somewhat enthusiastic about this gig, and filled Karen Black's shoes nicely.
All in All, TRILOGY OF TERROR 2 is good, clean fun for the whole family. That is of course, sarcasm...but, it IS good clean fun for that son of yours who makes a B-line for the Horror section whenever you visit Blockbuster Video....
6.5 out of 10.
The Wall (1998)
I'm sorry to use such a vague word as "lame" to describe THE WALL, but that's truly what it is. Lame. The acting is decent, but this film is such a wasted effort that it is probably not even worth a rental.
It's as if no one put any effort into the stories of this immensely-flawed Vietnam flick. The tales spun in the Showtime War "film" are either full of characters and storylines that no one cares about, or are just downright silly.
For instance, one of the stories, titled "The Pencil Holder" (such a weak, laughable and uninteresting name is a bad sign from the start), is about a young boy, living with his father -- a high-ranking Army Colonel (Edward James Olmos) -- in Vietnam (was this sort of thing REALLY allowed? I doubt it). The kid likes to run around and collect Army unit patches so he can add them to his giant collection. He seeks attention from his stoney father, and even goes so far as to make him a dull pencil-holder out of wood. The boy's only parent criticizes his son's effort, in a wasted attempt at drama (which is what "THE WALL" is full of). One day, the young lad runs into a seriousley-wounded black soldier, and notices a patch on his shoulder -- one that is not in his collection. He asks the dying man for it, but instead of a simple answer, the wounded trooper grabs hold of him -- tightly -- and talks to him as if he was his own son. What ensues is a boring turn of events that will have the viewer asking, "Who approved this story?" I myself was asking, "Hey fellas, it's called EFFORT. Look it up."
On the technical side of things, THE WALL also falls short. In one story about a young black man who carries a tradition of wartime bravery, the main character finds himself alone in the "jungles" of Vietnam. To make matters worse, he is being stalked by a detachment of Viet Cong. While a DECENT story, the jungle he runs through doesn't look like "Jungle" at all -- it is obviously just a stretch of forest somewhere in Northern California; we can tell by the trees that AREN'T indigenious to Southeast Asia. How shameful.....this is the same thing that John Wayne's THE GREEN BERETS is guilty of.
As mentioned before, THE WALL attempts, not-so-desperately, to display deep, compelling drama....and misses the Bull's Eye by miles. The other "story," probably the most boring, is about....well, it isn't really about anything. The only shred of plot here, if you can call it that, is about a brilliant guitar player in Vietnam, who is noticed by a lazy Sergeant. Now THE WALL, in general, is SO unmemorable that I have no idea why this two-dimensional guitar player was so important to the Sergeant, but for some reason, he was. The ending is uninspired and weak; just a complete waste of time. This tale TRIES to be dramatic in many places, but you wouldn't notice because most likely you were trying to fight off sleep (or welcome it).
Folks, I could go on and on, but in the end, THE WALL is nothing but an example of a horribly wasted few million dollars. It is very disappointing that this pay-TV movie was such a failure, because it could have been a chance for the writers to tell some compelling yarns about the Vietnam conflict -- but obviously they didn't take that chance.
If you want to see a good made-for-TV pay channel War Flick, rent WHEN TRUMPETS FADE, and avoid this piece of rubbish like the plague.
The Ren & Stimpy Show (1991)
One of the better offerings of the early 1990's....
I remember how amazed everybody was when they saw "That cartoon on Saturday night" for the first time back in its early MTV days. It was strange, and it was extremely funny.
Ren and Stimpy will be remembered for its hilariously offbeat humor, whacked-out but remarkable artwork, and its odd characters.
R&S has the kind of humor that has you belly-laughing when you see the joke, and giggling later at inappropriate times just upon thinking of it.
Unfortunately, as the show progressed and the number of seasons grew, the creativity and raw energy that made the show so great in its infancy dwindled; with new leadership and cheap, mass-produced comedy, Ren and Stimpy seemed to lose its edge.
I don't know if the show has been cancelled or not, but when I remember the early 90's, perhaps my memories of Ren and Stimpy will stick out the most.