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Limitless (2015–2016)
Great premise; lazy execution - analysis why it was cancelled
14 February 2020
I love this show because of the premise and the idea that we could all improve our lives by just making smarter choices. It's also fun with a likable protagonist.

Even though I would have loved to see a season two, I can understand why this show was cancelled.

-- The protagonist, Brian is laid back. I get it. He's showing that he's a regular guy the audience can identify with. But ultimately, it undercuts tension for him to be a party dude in a thriller. A show that played this well was Psych.

-- The show is laden with soap opera dramas that linger too much on emotion and don't ultimately change the big story. Whenever the father shows up, for example.

-- Although the show has a high-level story arc, it is fragmented. Without a strong sense of purpose, and momentum, the high-level story can't be gripping. I got the sense that there wasn't a well-mapped-out big idea driving the backstory and mystery, but rather guesswork by the writers.

-- Beyond the high-level story, the procedural nature of the show underserves its premise (an intelligence pill), and the smart cop thing has been done before. It's Sherlock Holmes all over again. It's so repetitive that the show has to keep coming up with unusual crimes and unusual crime-solving methods. But a TV show shouldn't be about the mechanics; it should be about the people. The premise naturally leads to more of a thriller / horror / drama like Breaking Bad or The Man in the High Castle.

-- Plot holes take us out of the show. I get it, a cop show isn't supposed to be realistic. But there are some sloppy twists and turns, choices that don't make sense for the characters or their organizations.

-- The show seemed caught between celebrating the intelligence drug and showcasing the horrors of addiction. You can't do both. It learned more towards the celebrating. I read online that the superpowers coming through a pill-based drug was a major factor in the show not being renewed. It's too close to the implication, "taking cocaine is okay if it makes you productive".

-- Finally, and most fatally, one of the show's heroes is under the thumb of (omitted), and gives in too much, seeming not to be bothered when crimes are committed. A protagonist with moral failures becomes less likable, less easy to root for. There should have been a giant struggle there instead of camaraderie, like in Daredevil and Luke Cage fighting the organized crime trying to blackmail them.

A lot of TV shows have a bumpy first season, for example Star Trek the Next Generation or Veep. I would love to have seen if they could have turned this into a miracle show. And I still love the premise. But I think structurally, there was too much wrong with this. So I can see why they cancelled it.
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Coherence (2013)
More of a thought experiment than a story
2 February 2020
Instead of keeping the mystery to the end, the writer has the characters figure out and emotionally accept the mystery quickly so that he can play with aspects of the science.

I get it, a good premise makes a movie fun. But the story must be about the characters, and be a single story, not toying with the many ways the premise can be interpreted.

It's a mistake for two reasons. First, it takes the story away from people. Good stories are about people, not a science lecture. It just doesn't make sense that the characters are so logical and getting out dice, when there could be emotional points to make. Too many scientific themes are explored and not enough personal ones. For example, it's not clear which of the characters this story is "about", the protagonist we're supposed to identify with.

Also, and this is not a spoiler (it's in the movie poster) for a film about doubles... Where are the doubles? We don't see much of two people in one shot. Even for an indie film, splitscreen is a basic technique.

It's a fascinating premise, and has a good ending. But there just wasn't a strong story.
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The Mandalorian (2019– )
The face is where the acting happens
24 January 2020
How can you have a drama where your protagonist always wears a mask? That's where the face is. That's where the acting happens.

The characters in this series didn't engage me at all. I don't know why it's okay to kill Jawas that stole from you. Or why the Mandalorians would rally support even though one of them "broke the rules". We get a repeat of the worst part of Star Wars VI, when primitive people with sticks take down elite troops with guns.
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Doom Patrol (2019– )
Suffering is not enough to build character
23 January 2020
I get it. When a character suffers, the audience wants to empathize. But suffering doesn't shine a character. We need to know and come to like the protagonists. The origin stories in episode 1 just weren't compelling enough for me. I didn't know who these characters were, why I should care, or get a sense of where the show was going. I don't know that covering an actors entire face with a mask helps us see them as human, relatable, to see their emotions.

I could have persisted, but I saw from the IMDb ratings that episode 1 was rated about the same as episode 2 and beyond, so since it wasn't about to dramatically improve, I decided not to push through. I stopped watching.
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Messiah (2020– )
A Drama Must Make You Care; A Spy Thriller Must Have High Stakes
23 January 2020
I'm sorry, but I just didn't care about the characters enough for this to be a compelling drama. In the first episode, there's a throwaway scene where CIA lady interviews someone. It doesn't move the plot forward, but is supposed to make us think that she's tough. Okay. But who is she? Why should we care?

We come to like and empathize with characters based on their actions, but the plot moves slowly, so we don't get many actions. Messiah Guy is too mysterious to get to know. Palestinian Suffering does not make his own decisions so we don't know his character. Jewish Spy Torture Guy seems mean. I get that Preacher Guy is suffering (money) and so is his daughter (lack of independence), but suffering isn't enough to define character. As for CIA Lady, she seems really alarmed, but I don't get it. Nothing seems at stake. You can't base a thriller on some non-violent refugees doing nothing.

The story moves slowly. A lot of it is preaching, about how Messiah Guy draws his followers, which isn't that interesting. I'm not saying I'm anti-religious. I'm saying it is boring to watch a group of people, only one of whom has some character depth, get lectured on morality by a mysterious guy who also lacks character depth.

We don't get enough signposts to understand the geopolitics. There are too many characters. When characters don't clearly state their goals, then we don't feel a sense of tension and direction. I'm sorry, but I lost interest in this show quickly, having nothing to do with the religious themes. I just found it uninteresting.
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Watchmen (2019)
"Back to the Future" Level of Perfect
9 December 2019
I've rated nearly 4,000 shows and movies on IMDB, and am totally put off by people who have to rate a 1 or a 10.

This show is a genuine 10. Like Back to the Future (1985) it is perfectly conceived, perfectly written, perfectly acted, and perfectly directed. It creates a mystery but then the mystery is solved in a way that's free from deus ex machina, unlikely coincidences.

Although it's a new story, it fits thematically with the original. Ignore the reviews saying that it's too "woke". Frankly, I think some people just can't handle African-American history. Keep in mind that people on IMDB write reviews from all over the world. The haters don't necessarily represent Americans. They're the kind of people who twist themselves into knots if Batman were remade with a black man, and no, it's not literary purity that's driving that.

Unlike the powerful imagery of Twin Peaks and Lost, which promised much but ultimately had no answers, this series is going somewhere. Try it.
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Glorifies Avoiding Life
16 November 2019
Literally putting on a blindfold isn't the best way to live life to the fullest.

This movie glorifies escapism over actually embracing the world.

There's so much CGI over reality.

Making friends online simply is not as fulfilling as making friends in the real world. Living life online isn't that way either.

Years from now we'll look back at VR as quaint, a strange "futurism" that never came true. There's nothing wrong with a little escapism, but don't live that way.
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Treadstone (2019– )
Beautifully Shot, But Ordinary, Joyless
12 November 2019
Treadstone has remarkable cinematography from all over the world, and exciting action scenes. It's got an interesting premise that arguably has something to say about humanity.

Unfortunately, it's just too ordinary to engage me intellectually, and too bleak to be a mindless, fun romp. The characters that we're supposed to root for are, because of the mind control, prevented from being the kind of brave, decision-making heroes that we love to root for. Perhaps there's too much mystery and complexity for me to care about the characters. Perhaps the show just doesn't have a sense of style that sets it apart. It's not bad, and there are hints of greatness, but it lost me by episode three.
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Counterpart (2017–2019)
Intriguing, but confusing
7 November 2019
I like intelligent dramas, and Counterpart has engaging characters and good commentary on how life's choices can set one's destiny, and even personality.

The acting is good, the story is good, but it's also drab. We get tired of the grey colors and backstabbing. There isn't a joyful spy element of accomplishment. Just a spiral down.

Most importantly, it's just too complicated to keep track of. In every scene I need to think for a moment. Which of the two worlds are we in? Which character is this, this one or the double from the other world?

The show does not give us enough signposts. The two worlds are not shot differently, like the many-colored levels of Inception. They don't even name the two Earths. So every reference is "our side", "their side", but the meaning of those terms varies depending on the side that the person who's speaking is coming from.

It's distracting enough that, combined with a bit of joylessness, I fell out of love with the series.

I originally rated this a 9, but by the end of season 2, only 7 stars.
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Funny in places, Not much of a story
20 September 2019
I'm sure they could have made Zach a really good guy deep down in this film, who's just incompetent on his TV show, but they didn't.

I did not want to root for him, or for his team, who are not given interesting backstories or a plot purpose.

I sense that Zach sometimes chooses to play unlikable characters on purpose, and that must be a kind of comedy that others like, because it doesn't appeal to me.

Make the protagonist likable. Set a clock ticking (the one in this movie doesn't count, because there's no real tension). Add madcap antics. End with something spectacular.

To me, this film is like how some people insist that jazz is music. I guess dark comedy is a valid kind of comedy. I guess that appeals to some people.

I'm sorry, it didn't work for me.

Just off hand, I have a better story idea. Zach needs to sneak into the TED conference or a Comic Con to interview a famous woman. You begin thinking that it's just an obsession, but then it turns out that they recently broke up, and he wants her back before she marries Evil Celebrity. It's a reason for him to trek across country alone, but along the way (like The Muppet Movie, or The Wizard of Oz) he picks up unlikely companions.

There's a lot of back stage antics, with traditional comedy not in the Ferns format. At the last moment, thanks to his new friends, Zach breaks into the conference, Oceans 11 style, and gets on stage to interview Evil Celebrity just before he proposes. Using his Ferns ability like a superpower, Zach nudges Evil Celebrity to admit to something illegal or have a breakdown (think Tom Cruise freaking with Oprah). Zach wins the gal.
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Jeeves and Wooster (1990–1993)
Sometimes great, but dated, repetitive, with two racist episodes
28 July 2019
I was such a fan of this series when it first came out. It inspired me to read several of the books, and I've met and greatly respect especially Stephen Fry for his advocacy.

The show is great because of its premise, which satirizes the powerful, elevates the working class, and where Jeeves lovingly approves of Wooster's good character if not skill set ("He shows promise and I may make something of him.") I also love the old time setting, mansions and costumes, and the magical lifestyle of the idle rich. Wodehouse wrote through war and depression without mentioning them. It's a pure fantasy.

I must also note the chemistry between the two leads. There is a lot of great humor, too.

However, rewatching the show in 2019, nearly 30 years after it was made, the show I originally loved seems dated. Sometimes the plot twists are a delight. But often the plots are repetitive (I can't believe we're still repairing Gussie and Madeline's engagement in Season 4).

These days we're used to binge watch TV with strong casting and an overarching storyline with characters that change over the seasons. Jeeves and Wooster displays its era's interchangeable episode format, intended for viewers who might miss an episode, where nothing changes. At least they don't have a laugh track, something I find unwatchable in old shows.

From season to season, main characters are played by different actors, which is confusing, undercuts our growing fond of characters, and seems to break a basic rule of casting: put them in multi-year contracts.

Finally, and I can't believe other reviewers haven't mentioned this, two episodes (Season 2 Episode 5 and Season 4 Episode 6) have blackface, which there was no excuse for in 1990. Modern productions can and should update their source material, which of course I understand was written in the 1920s. When white actors dress in blackface, they reduce Africans to stereotypes, an exotic costume. This is especially jarring in the idyllic, endless summer that the show portrays. It's a racist part of the original books that should have been more completely excised.

Some episodes of Jeeves and Worcester (1990-1993) are true classics, 10 stars. But taken as a whole series, and in the context of what to watch today, I've reduced my rating to 6.
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Support the topic, but Dark Humor doesn't work for me
4 June 2019
I believe in criminal justice reform so much that I literally moved to Washington DC to work for a criminal justice non-profit. And I love edutainment shows such as The Daily Show, Adam Ruins Everything, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I've enjoyed Wyatt on The Daily Show and on podcasts.

Unfortunately, Wyatt Cenac's jaded and cynical approach just isn't engaging, and the cutaways and digressions seem to muddy the topic instead of adding to the fun. Of course, society's problems can certainly lead to cynicism and anger. He is right to feel that way! But it's just not enjoyable to get brought down, and putting full stops in the show to sigh and make snarky comments destroys its momentum.

The show tends to assume audience support rather than building support through argument, and the topics meander. More structure is needed, and as a super-liberal I would even question some of the points being made. Is Wyatt seriously suggesting that Hollywood movies should cut back on gun violence? Or that we should be recycling our chicken bones? If so, why should these topics take precedence?

Finally, I'm sorry to say that the show seems underfunded. The direct-to-camera approach walking in a small studio with no audience, and the strange decoration, are hard to get a grip on. The editing of the field pieces into a coherent narrative isn't as top notch as we expect for a scripted show. Creative risks take courage and should be appreciated, but in this case, it just didn't work for me.

It's a 5-star show, but I have given 6 stars because of its important topic.
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A Quiet Place (2018)
Deeply Flawed Premise
17 December 2018
It's no spoiler that the aliens in this movie are blind, but they can hear. You get that in the trailer and in first few minutes of the movie.

Unfortunately, this premise is flawed in multiple ways:

-- Sound cannot travel in space. How did the aliens even find Earth if they have no visual technology? How did they tell that there's a civilization here?

-- Why can't the aliens hear breathing or walking when they are so close?

-- How are the aliens even finding the door to the house, to go in?

-- Why would aliens who are stalking prey by sound make so much noise?

-- Why can the humans make loud noises like starting a fire?

-- Sound decreases sharply with distance. What are the chances that even aliens with super hearing would be nearby enough to hear medium sized sounds like breaking glass or a child's toy?

-- So what if the aliens are bulletproof? Human armies have tanks and grenades.

-- If the alien attack was slow enough to allow some newspapers to be printed and distributed, why was it fast enough that humans couldn't discover their weakness?

-- If it's safe to live next to loud water, why aren't they living next to loud water, or broadcasting the sounds of loud water?

To me, the film just seemed silly, like the film Signs, and not scary at all.
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The Interview (II) (2014)
The Best Kind of Comedy: Relevant, Uplifting
25 December 2014
Mel Brooks said it best. He's the Jewish comedian who wrote The Producers, the movie and Broadway play that features a Hitler impersonator. He said that some topics are so traumatic that they can only be explored through comedy.

In the same way, The Interview takes an important issue of our time and satirizes it without becoming dark. North Korea is essentially a death camp for its millions of citizens, and the main plot focuses on bringing down the dictator a peg or two.

To my delight, I not only laughed out loud, but had prolonged laughter where I could not believe what was happening on the screen. The film is not just a satire, it is genuinely funny.

You have to expect a certain kind of comedy from Seth Rogen: it's enormously intelligent, yet also full of dick jokes. That contradiction is resolved through the personalities of two best friends, ignoble interviewers, who get the chance to visit North Korea, and then are approached by the CIA to do something noble.

There could have been more foreshadowing in the film, for example in the romance subplot and in a build-up to the climax, but otherwise was excellent. The starvation of the North Koreans is satirized but without a dark scene showing the misery, keeping it a comedy. The mission to kill off Kim Jung Il goes awry immediately and the film heads into territory that you will not expect.

It would have been easy to make this a fictional dictator, but keeping it real makes the film relevant and even important. Too many people turn their eyes away from this important topic. Not only is a comedy the best way to discuss such the horrors of totalitarianism in a mainstream way, it may be the only way.
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Jericho (2006–2008)
Fascinating premise but a bit too 'soap opera'
9 February 2014
Jericho has a fantastic premise: the result of a nuclear Armageddon on a small Kansas town.

Unfortunately, the show can be melodramatic in its romance plots and in after school special moments such as the broken-hearted teenager who always does the right thing, with too soulful and heavy handed music. Being understated is best.

On top of that, the ensemble cast has nearly 20 main characters, so we don't get to know any of them well. The plots are necessarily shallow. For characters to make choices that seem realistic, we need to get to know their motivations and goals. For this reason it is not nearly as interesting as The Walking Dead.

On the positive side, Jericho does not have the trap that Deadwood had, the Old West TV show. Deadwood never seemed to go anywhere. The characters didn't have clear goals and a high-level direction. In Jericho you always know what the town and individuals goals are scene to scene.

It's worth watching, just not the best. My trick? I fast forward through the lingering looks.
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The Big Bang Theory (2007–2019)
Dead in the first 100 seconds
7 June 2012
Having heard good things about the strength of Big Bang Theory's writing, I am sorry to say that I immediately hated the show.

Rather than having an intelligent plot with character depth, they seem to wander wherever they need to, to drop in one-liners. For example, their friend may have a peanut allergy in Season 1, Episode 2, but they joke about it even though it may be life-threatening. Having a medical receptionist tell them to wait in Season 1, Episode 1 so that she can work on her crossword puzzle is also out of character -- something she'd be fired for -- and was clearly dropped in so that the geeks could solve it and show their intelligence.

The acting and awkward pauses for audience laughter seem forced. All this I get from the first 100 seconds of episodes 1 and 2. It is easy for me to conclude that the show lacks story, and with its laugh track (I don't care whether it's live or recorded) it seems like a throwback compared to shows like Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Extras, and Community. I recommend these shows to you highly.

My intuition is that this is not a show for intelligent people who might playfully call themselves geeks. This is a show for the butt-heads who may lack refinement but like to laugh at what they think a geek is.
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The Ledge (2011)
Stunning, intelligent thriller about the dangers of heart vs. head!
14 June 2011
It's not hard to put together a monster film. You throw one insane guy together with a hero, and add a car chase. The Ledge is nothing like this, and that's why it's so impressive.

The main struggle is between a Christian with extreme beliefs, and an Atheist who just wants out. Uniquely, it's the only film I can think of that has an openly atheist hero and an A-list cast. And ironically, the few people who have complained about this show exactly what the film is trying to portray: that some people are so intolerant of atheism that even one movie among the thousands in history is too much for them.

To me, the star of this film is Patrick Wilson, who plays the fundamentalist. Instead of becoming a monster, his portrayal links completely normal passions like love and protection and revenge that we can all identify with, but then takes it to the natural conclusion, egged on by his convictions that anything he decides to do must be blessed.

Thus the central thesis of the film -- that belief can go too far -- is played out on a small stage. This is a drama of just 6 people, but the intricate explosions between them pull at the heartstrings far more effectively than a car chase in an action film would. We hear so much about the dangers of religion in big stories like 9-11, gay rights, and abortion rights. Here is a film about the dangerous of religion in the everyday, the dramas so commonplace that everyone who watches can find something in their own lives to compare it with.

Sure, I've never walked out onto The Ledge. But something about the masterful writing and acting in this film creates an authenticity that is undeniable.

Go ahead. Rant against atheism. Show us how intolerant you are. Violent words and deeds are the response of someone backed into a corner, desperate not to lose it all, just like "Joe" is in this film.
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Vastly underrated, a terrific intellectual thriller, no need for blood
24 December 2010
I'm tired of horror films that shock you with trick camera cuts or lots of blood and gore. To me, the intellectual thrillers are the best, like Silence of the Lambs, or the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.

I'm aware that it's a minority opinion, but I really enjoyed the film and I would urge you to overlook the huge fans of the original. Fans are a strange bunch. They have such nostalgia for the past that they can't see that the quality of movies have improved vastly in 40 years. Instead of celebrating the attention that a remake (of whatever quality) brings to the original, of course they can't help themselves in a frenzy of shredding it because their favorite plot points are gone.

My, my. Aren't we serious.

I've seen both versions and to me the remake is superior. The production quality is higher, as reflected in the costumes and visual and sound quality.

Also, the "Christians as victims" theme has been removed, leaving, to me, a purer, distilled theme: that humans can do unimaginable things to each other. Of course, it's horrific because it's also true. Humans did create the Nazis. We do create cults.

The plot is tighter, with fewer lags for exposition, and the nudity in the original is really unnecessary.

To me it was spookier than The Island of Dr. Moreau. And the original is great too. I think we should support them both and stop being such whiners.

I give The Wicker Man (2006) an 8 out of 10 and if you're looking for just one good review to encourage you to give this film a try, you have found it! :)

Johnny Monsarrat Consulting. All content by Jon Monsarrat!
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True Grit (2010)
Every Moment Gripping From Start to End - A Must See
15 December 2010
I've just seen a preview of True Grit and could not speak more highly of the film. I'm not much for Westerns because I have no fondness for the prairie or animals, but this one is an exception.

The story focuses on a 14-year-old girl whose father has been murdered. She wants justice and she goes at it with both barrels, drawing in two bounty hunters and several criminals into a scheme that spirals up and out of control. Although the characters showing true grit are deadly serious, the film has laugh-out-loud humor that keeps it from going so over the top as to be unbelievable. The girl performs several heroic deeds that show her mettle but do not swerve into "superhero" territory -- there is nothing goofy or "kids movie" about the film.

Each of the traditional Western themes is given an original twist. There's no face off at 20 paces to the film, and the action scenes if anything add to its veracity instead of being a draw away from it.

Redemption, justice, vengeance, bravery, holy mother of God, with Oscar bait performances by Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld. If you do not see True Grit when it hits the theatres on the big screen, you will regret it.
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Rebecca (1940)
He's mean. She's brittle. This is a love story?
26 March 2010
I'm forced to say I just didn't "get" or enjoy Rebecca at all. I'm sorry.

Our male hero alternates between making his love interest cry and heckling her for trying to please him. He proposes by mentioning it in a flippant and sort of insulting manner from the next room. Our female hero tries so hard to please everyone that she's constantly excusing herself and breaking down.

Sure, people like this exist in the real world. But this is not a Leaving Las Vegas story of crippled people... it's portrayed as a true love story. I find it sickening. These days, we look up to strong women, and we certainly don't want people (of any gender) constantly saying thing that are mean.

To add on top of this, I didn't feel any chemistry between the characters... declaring their love felt quite sudden, I didn't feel any real chemistry about the hero's angst about his dead wife... the whole film just seemed contrived. The scenes where the heroine isn't quite ready for rich living become repetitive, like beating a dead horse. It would feel preachy if only there were some message to preach. Finally, I'm sorry to say it, but cinematography and things like color have been in films for a long time now.

This film left me even more confused than Chasing Amy and I couldn't get all the way through it. I can see from other people's reviews that a murder mystery eventually surfaces. But hey, I did get an hour into the film without a hint of tension so I guess that all happens later. I'm forced to give it a 3 out of 10.
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Drained of tension, preachy, irrelevant to the war, & showing its age
24 March 2010
So World War II, the biggest event of the century, just ended and the best film topic they had was a fictional mutiny on an tow ship that does nothing? You couldn't find any compelling real-life stories, eh?

Tsk tsk. This courtroom drama could be interesting if the viewers are kept in doubt as to the guilt or innocence of the accused, for example in 12 Angry Men (1957). But the first half of the film demonstrates it clearly, at a very slow pace. Humphrey Bogart, the subject of the mutiny, doesn't even come onto the ship for 30 minutes.

Then, he's supposed to be crazy but the way it's dramatized and acted just isn't that thrilling. Even the scene where they might lose the ship itself somehow is underdone, lacking the witty dialogue and tension of, for example, the mutinies in Crimson Tide (1995) or Star Trek (2009).

The courtroom scenes are pretty lackluster as well. The actors involved don't seem to get very heated and that communicates. The romantic side plot adds nothing. The side plot with Fred MacMurray is supposed to be a shocker but is both telegraphed beforehand and brushed off as nothing afterwards. Also, I'm sorry to say it, but thrillers and special effects have come a long way in 60 years. The film shows its age.

I would give the film a watchable 5 or 6 if it weren't for the preachy tone at the end. I won't spoil the ending for you, but the verbal sparring about incompetency vs. mental illness vs. duty vs. showing respect for those who sacrificed just didn't move me. (That being said, the high point of the film with Bogart's speech was dead on.)

I'm forced to give The Caine Mutiny an unwatchable 4 out of 10, sort of a bonus 5 for failing to do a WWII story that's in any way relevant or actual.
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Showing its age musically and couldn't identify with hero or plot
21 March 2010
Yankee Doodle Dandy was made in the last decade before rock and roll and when vaudeville had barely left the stage. I've got no problem with musicals: I love Singing in the Rain and The Sound of Music, for example.

But I just wasn't captivated by the music of Yankee Doodle Dandy. They repeat all the songs two or three times, James Cagney tends to "speak sing" too much, and the production value... well, this isn't Chicago (2002).

That might have been excused. Unfortunately, the main character is egotistical and unlikeable. Of course, that's his character flaw. But I found myself unable to root much for him. I understand that this is a true story of a real person, but the rags to riches concept works so much better when the hero is a good guy. In addition, the story doesn't flow along easily. The story covers twenty years and the plot seems like an excuse to tack together pieces of musical productions the main hero is involved with. There's little character depth, and while there's humor... it's not chock full of humor. It's really showing its age, and even includes whites performing in black face and corporal punishment of children.

It's supposed to be one of the best musicals of all time. But I guess this is one of those classics that only film school or musical theatre majors can love. Even the music isn't fresh, as it is drawn from George Cohan's previous shows.

I'll give Yankee Doodle Dandy a disappointing 5 out of 10.
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Better than the trailers... A typical romantic comedy, but solid & with a fantastic ending!
17 March 2010
I'm a guy who prefers action movies and not quite the romantic comedy type, so I wasn't expecting much from She's Out of My League from the trailers, and the oddly touched up movie poster that leaves Jay Baruchel looking not quite human. However, I was surprised to find it an enjoyable comedy.

The film centers around Kirk Kettner (Jay Baruchel) a man with self- esteem problems whom a dream girl (Alice Eve) fancies. I never really felt the chemistry between the two leads since the premise -- his anxiety -- kept getting in the way. In fact the premise is sort of beaten to death, making the film a little repetitive. I'm reminder of the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in which the premise is that a couple breaks up and runs into each other. But after a half hour, the film goes in new directions. She's Out of My League never escapes its premise. That being said, the supporting cast are all given something real to do and characterizations that are mostly real. I was particularly amused by T.J. Miller's performance as the best guy friend.

There's some original toilet humor and plenty of laugh out loud moments, especially those involving Kirk's family. However, plenty of moments flop as well, such as picking a fight in a bowling alley. Alice Eve played her role a little too straight, in my opinion, unlike her best girl friend, played by Krysten Ritter, who was just wacky enough to keep the comedic momentum going. Do you know what I'm talking about? If the pain and conflict that keep plot tension going are a little too real, it's not as comedic. I'm thinking of the films "Meet the Parents" and "Meet the Fockers" in which the characters are all a little batty and we can tell that any conflict is cartoony and not going to lead to real pain.

That being said, the film has a phenomenal ending, and this is why you should go to see it. Everyone's felt the frustration of flying through airport security and the film ends with a power fantasy of circumventing that, in a harmless way that involves the entire cast of supporting characters. It's even better than the airport ending of "Love, Actually."

So yes, if your girlfriend wants to take you to see this, go! It's a solid comedy, not one for the ages, but worth your time.

I'll give She's Out of My League a respectable 7 out of 10.
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The Crazies (2010)
Solid but not outstanding. Gave me nightmares! :)
26 February 2010
The Crazies is a remake of a film that was once original, but these days zombie films are a dime a dozen. Does The Crazies stand out?

I felt it to be a solid film but one that did not come across as overly original. However, just when I was thinking, "this is going to be pretty formulaic", there was a plot twist involving outsiders that changed the entire nature of the film. Unfortunately, this new premise was never explored or explained fully enough to build tension. If we don't know what the protagonists are fighting against, and therefore what their goal is, how much can we root for them?

Although people have called this film a commentary on environmental damage and pollutants -- the thing that causes the Zombies -- isn't fleshed out enough to be a real talking point of the film. Anger and fear of the government don't constitute political commentary, I'm sorry. Also, there's confusion as to whether it's really a pollutant or more like a virus that is contagious. If it's contagious, it is a good thing that the protagonists want to escape the zombies and possibly infect the world?

To its credit, there is plenty of action, and the action sequences play into the drama. There's some random violence, but most of the conflicts build character development and push the characters even further into terror and desperation. The film also avoids superhuman stunts. There's no MacGuyver or Keanu Reaves type in the film who knows exactly what to do and makes the film too campy to be scary.

That being said, the action scenes aren't overly original. And the power of the big bang ending is wasted, neither being adequately built up nor adequately used as an obstacle to be overcome. The tension in the scene of crossing the highway is sort of wasted as well. And I do wish movieland people driving dangerously would fasten their seat belts.

All in all, The Crazies is a solid film that really did give me a nightmare. I'll give it a respectable but not classic 7 out of 10.
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Cop Out (2010)
Original and entertaining -- all-star cast keeps you guessing!
26 February 2010
Cop Out is more than yet another cop buddy film. They manage to walk the line so that the film is goofy enough to be funny but not so goofy that you don't care what the characters do or what the outcome is. To me it seemed very much like Beverly Hills Cop, perhaps because the music was done by "The Heat is On" composer Harold Faltermeyer.

Comedic duos sometimes work and sometimes they don't. Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the "Rush Hour" series often stepped on each other's toes, for example. I'm pleased to say that Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan have amazing chemistry together. Bruce has the humility to play the straight man while Tracy rants, and occasionally they switch roles. It's beautiful and I laughed out loud several times.

But wait, there's more! They also add in Seann William Scott, the guy from the American Pie series, in a role that should have been bigger but added just the right touch of madness.

Best of all, the film is far from formulaic. I've got pretty good spidey sense but I had no idea what was going to happen next.

So Cop Out was surprisingly original and entertaining. That being sad, the plot with the daughter's wedding didn't really interest me, the badguys were sort of generic and the film fell short of being a classic, although you should definitely hang around during the credits to see the classic moment there.

So I'll give Cop Out a solid but not for-the-ages 8 out of 10.
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