Bizarre Confessions

General => Arts & Entertainment => Topic started by: random axe on December 30, 2009, 11:44:15 AM

Title: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on December 30, 2009, 11:44:15 AM
Kinda felt like I've been unfairly drowning the general film & TV thread with my constant movie reviews, especially since a lot of these may be movies no one else ever sees.

Saw Ils (, aka Them, a French horror film from 2006.  The film is apparently loosely based on a true story, which, if you accept it, makes an excuse for the somewhat weak ending.  A young couple (she's French, anyway; he might be Romanian) are living in a huge rented house in Romania.  One night, they're plagued by horrible unknown assailants with unknown motives.  It doesn't work out well.

This concept has been done a zillion times, with the slider moving from Suspense to Action, and this one has a fair bit of both.  The characters don't do the smartest things they could to protect themselves, etc, but they're not complete failures.  Still, I think you'll be mad at them a lot.  The acting is better than average, and, although some of the camera is shaky, it's mostly a good-looking film.  And short (about 75 minutes).

I still found it unsatisfying.  It's the kind of movie where you want to see all the villains get killed nastily, and you're still wanting to hurt people when the movie's over.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on December 30, 2009, 11:55:33 AM
Also saw Korei (, aka Seance, a 2000 made-for-TV Japanese horror film by the artful director Kiyoshi Kurosawa and based loosely on the 60s British film Seance on a Wet Afternoon (or at least based on the same novel).

In a nutshell, a Japanese couple who are unhappy in life but don't know how to make things better have a very strange opportunity thrown into their laps.  They make a bad decision, and things go from bad to very very bad.  The film doesn't really emphasize enough, especially at first, why they make this bad decision, or the impulsiveness of it, if you ask me, and how the initial situation develops has a large logic hole or two.

The essential theme seems to be that life tends to be unhappy -- until you make a mistake, and then you're screwed and probably deserve it.  The husband seems to feel that it's better to take the wheel even if it means the fate you choose is pure doom.  I'm not sure the film backs him up on this.  His wife is a psychic who sees ghosts whether she wants to or not, and it's never done her much good.

The cinematography is beautiful, and the scenes with ghosts are often quite effective.  The actors are great, conveying the hollow hopelessness of their lives with hardly a word.  But this story is just never going to be my cup of tea.  To the extent that I agree with the film's theme, it's just depressing, and I don't even usually like comedies where the main characters just get themselves into trouble.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on December 30, 2009, 03:52:16 PM
i've seen alot of them. i've also seen a few new ones based on your advice.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on December 30, 2009, 04:11:41 PM
is the strangers ( a remake of ils?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Encino Man on December 30, 2009, 07:05:50 PM
Saw Sherlock Holmes today in the theatre. It was quite good. The ending was a little macabre if you can recall who Roberto Calvi is/was.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on December 30, 2009, 07:12:23 PM
The banker? Vatican, Banco Ambrosiano scandal? Yikes.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on December 30, 2009, 08:41:04 PM
is the strangers a remake of ils?

There were a lot of complaints on the internets about who ripped what off and who was better and yar yar yar, but I really don't think so.  In any case, the basic concept goes way way the hell back.  Probably the most prominent was a late 70s / early 80s (I think) European (Swedish?) film I can't remember the name of in which, yeah, some folks at a lakeside vacation house get horribly abused by some creepy young people who seem to just happen by. 

That one was a trendsetter, but even it wasn't the first incarnation of the story.  Heck, even Deliverance is in much the same vein.  There are different flavors, the fear of strangers / foreigners / foreign places, and the fear of the invasion of one's home, and so on, but the basic concept is someone who's out to get you for no apparent reason.  I mean, in The Hills Have Eyes or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film goes out of its way to emphasize that the villains are intensely abnormal people.  Not just murderers, but mutant freakjobs.  When you make the villains more normal, you reduce some of the easy shock value but create a different kind of nightmare.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on December 30, 2009, 09:00:36 PM
Suggestion:   for your reviews you should give a number of axes pertaining to your rating of the movie.   We had two comedians here who would watch bad movies and review them for a radio morning show.  And they'd rate them with kicks to the nuts, basically saying that they'd rather get x many kicks to the nuts before they'd see that again.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on December 30, 2009, 09:11:44 PM
was it last house on the left?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on December 30, 2009, 11:16:42 PM
Even for movies I really hate, I don't think I'd rather get hit with an axe than see that movie again.  I got hit with a hatchet once, and that was pretty bad.  Wait, I also hit myself in the knee with an axe once.  Oh, and in the shin, another time.  Yeah, I'd probably rather watch the movie again . . . .

Last House on the Left wasn't the one I was thinking of, but it was actually based on a Swedish horror / drama film, in fact:  The Virgin Spring, which, in fact (!), was directed by Ingmar Berman and stars Max von Sydow.  Um . . . IMDb says it's from 1960 (  The plot is similar:  A couple sends their young teenaged daughter on an errand, and she's brutally raped by a gang of locals.  Later, the locals unwittingly wind up staying at the parents' house, and you can guess how that turns out.

I've actually never seen The Virgin Spring (it's famous among horror film geeks, is the only reason I'm familiar with it), but it's in my Netflix queue.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on December 31, 2009, 08:41:52 PM
Man With The Screaming Brain ( -- This Bruce Campbell production of a Bruce Campbell picture, starring Bruce Campbell . . . looks like they had fun making it.  It's an attempt to make a very 'B' schlock SF/horror film, mostly a mild one that could easily be cut for a Saturday afternoon on USA.  It doesn't have a lot of suspense in it, though, or a lot of action, or really a lot of humor.  It's not terrible, but it's a long way from great.

Basically, watch this movie to see Bruce.  Ted Raimi mugs up a storm, and Stacy Keach has fun playing a sort of mild-mannered mad scientist.  Also, it takes place in Bulgaria and was filmed on location, although I don't think any of the characters are, in fact, Bulgarian -- there are three Russians, two Americans, and a gypsy among the major players.  There's a recurring minor character named Uri who might be Bulgarian.  He only speaks English, but this isn't a subtitles kinda movie.

I enjoyed about half of it, and I feel glad that I saw it, and the other half was just sort of dull, not unpleasant.  I'd say it definitely wasn't as good as My Name Is Bruce, except that I really hated the fanboy character in that one, so in the end I'm just not sure.  Most serious Bruce fans seem to have liked it a lot more than I did, for what it's worth.  Frankly, I'd watch Bruce in Scooby-Doo 3: What The Hell Are We Thinking?, myself.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on December 31, 2009, 09:35:46 PM
Rate them as ___ Boot To The Head
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on December 31, 2009, 11:52:14 PM
OK . . . I just finished watching this movie called The Signal (, and I'm glad I finished it before midnight because it was -- seriously -- one of the best movies I saw this past year.  And I saw it on a total whim after just happening across it at Netflix.

The Signal is a horror film that's kind of like what Stephen King's Cell might've been if Steve-o hadn't punted it. 

(I feel for ya, Steve.  Your writing suggests a certain frustration, like you've got a lot of stories you want to write and not enough time, and I feel like a lot of your later novels should've been short stories or novellae, but the editors and agents said, no, make 'em books, and it's so easy for you to spin them out to 200k words even if it means diluting them to the point of homeopathic snake oil.  But, still, much love.)

Basically, a weird signal invades TVs, phones, etc, and makes people, well, crazy.  Not always the exact same kind of crazy, but mostly they wind up thinking it's a good idea to start killing each other, and often their perceptions get a tad confused.

The movie's made by three guys I never heard of, and I when I say "made by", I mean they wrote it, directed it, shot it, and edited it.  And they did an amazing job in each case, which, by my count, is twelve chances to screw up, with zero screw-ups.  The film's divided into three segments, and they each get one; the stories overlap in a way that could have been gimmicky but instead works brilliantly.  The script is consistently pretty damned brilliant, smart and sharp and with great dialogue.  The cast is pretty damned amazing, too, although I never heard of any of them before, either.  I think the second segment was my favorite.  The first is tense, grim, and gruesome, as is the third, while the second is tense, hilarious and gruesome.  I can't remember the last time I laughed so much at things that were so wrong, and keep in mind that, yeah, I spend a lot of time on the internet.

Now, this film is as graphically violent as, say, Saw or Hostel, although not as frequently as Hostel, but although gruesome is its mode, it's not its purpose.  The characters and story are great.  The theme's aren't bad, either, but I'm more in it for the characters and story, which are 28 Days Later good or better.  And I was routinely amazed by how ingeniously and incredibly successfully the film deals with the problems of a tiny budget.

If you don't mind violent horror movies and can deal with a film that sometimes adopts the perspective of people who have lost their perspective (it's sometimes confusing but always resolves itself), then I'd seriously recommend this movie.  And if a studio like Lions Gate, or something, had a chance to distribute this and passed on it, then they deserve to go out of business immediately.

Seriously, I liked this movie.  Oh, it opens with a brief shaky-camera teaser, but be assured that that doesn't last.

Yeah, :thumbsup:.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 02, 2010, 11:48:55 AM
Last night I saw Mirage ( (1965), directed by big-shot director Edward Dmytryk and starring Gregory Peck, Diane :knotty: Baker, Walter Matthau, and George Kennedy.  Overall, I liked it, but it was more interesting than anything else.

The basic plot:  Peck plays a man who has a number of strange experiences and slowly realizes that (A) he's lost about two years from his memory, and (B) he's mixed up in some kind of conspiracy or plot that he (now) knows nothing about.  Matthau plays a private eye that Peck hires, and the rest of the major cast play mysterious people that Peck obviously used to know.

Matthau and Kennedy are really good in this, and it would be weird / interesting to see it back to back with Charade.  I usually think of Kennedy from his later roles (like the police captain in the Naked Gun films), and it's always strange seeing him play a heavy, but he was really good at it.  Peck is curiously wooden in some scenes and yet amazingly emotive in others -- usually he's best in the scenes that seem like they'd be the most difficult, especially some tricky bits at the end.  Baker is good in a role that borders on 'thankless' -- she just doesn't have much to do for most of the film.

The actual secret of the conspiracy is OK and was probably more shocking in 1965.  The secret of Peck's amnesia is one of those things you think is going to be an anticlimax, but actually it works astonishingly well.  The majority of the film is quite well-written, with clever touches (and a good Why Don't They Just climax) and better than average characters.  It was based on a novel by Howard Fast, who also wrote Spartacus.  Fast and Dmytryk were both tripped up by the Red Scare, which is another interesting point for people who follow that sort of thing.

The first third to half of the film has an intriguing X Files quality to it, and it's commendable how Peck's character deals with something that's too bizarre for him to immediately believe, too strange to be easy to approach, and endlessly awkward.  The rest of the film is all suspense and action.  The action scenes are often oddly filmed -- not badly, but unevenly; Dmytryk generally wants to suggest violence rather than show it directly, but he picks his moments.  For instance, there's a scene where Peck loses his temper completely and goes fairly nuts which wouldn't be so striking if the earlier violence hadn't been shaded from the viewer.

Anyway, I liked it, and I think it's unnecessarily obscure.  It was remade just three years later as Jigsaw, with a less stellar cast and added drug references, but I haven't seen that one.  Watching it made me want to see a bunch of other Peck films.  Not to mention Diane Baker.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on January 02, 2010, 02:18:56 PM
I think I've seen this one a really long time ago. He's in a skyscraper when the power goes out, and then he goes down the stairwell? There's some kind of flashback thing about a golf course? That's about all I remember about it, other than it being a good movie. I used to think it was Hitchcock.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 02, 2010, 02:28:47 PM
He's in a skyscraper when the power goes out, and then he goes down the stairwell?

Yep.  That's the one.  And it's pretty Hitchcockian, as they say, but, yeah, not actually Hitchcock.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 02, 2010, 03:51:56 PM
OK . . . I just finished watching this movie called The Signal (, and I'm glad I finished it before midnight because it was -- seriously -- one of the best movies I saw this past year.  And I saw it on a total whim after just happening across it at Netflix.

haha, i just watched that last night. i liked it, too. i watched it on a whim as well. i think i googled something and saw it. it was a neat take on the zombie genre.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 02, 2010, 05:47:02 PM
It's just sad that a movie like that was so obscure, whereas, say, the really pretty mediocre Blair Witch Project was the media's chew toy for weeks on end.

What about that recent one with the haunted apartment?  I haven't seen it yet.  Was that actually good, or was it just a media darling?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 02, 2010, 06:24:53 PM
It's just sad that a movie like that was so obscure, whereas, say, the really pretty mediocre Blair Witch Project was the media's chew toy for weeks on end.

What about that recent one with the haunted apartment?  I haven't seen it yet.  Was that actually good, or was it just a media darling?

turned if off after about 1/2 hour. it was boring for me. i think the whole viral marketing thing was more interesting than the movie.

oh, i should add i don't watch and can't stand ghost hunter type shows. nothing is more boring to me than watching people in green night vision looking back over their shoulders at the camera whispering to it. it makes them look stupid and is an insult to people.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 02, 2010, 07:03:30 PM
Yeah, I gotta agree with that.  Ghost hunting itself interests me, but most ghost hunters are just crap, and their shows aren't any better.  You're almost certainly not going to capture anything inexplicable on camera, but don't drum it up with bad nightvision and bullshit.  A show about ghost hunting is really going to be a show about ghost hunters and ghost history more than a show about ghosts.  The ghost hunters have to be interesting, not just puffed up.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 02, 2010, 07:18:59 PM
I saw The Young Visiters (, which requires a brief explanation:  In the late 19th century, a young girl named Daisy Ashford and her sisters used to make up stories to amuse themselves and their parents.  Their parents took to writing these stories down, and when Daisy was nine she decided to write her first novel, The Young Visiters, which she in fact wrote down herself in a notebook. 

It's a romantic comedy of manners in which an ironmonger tries to enter the ranks of nobility in order to propose to a young woman.  Complications ensue, but the real charm lies in a 9-year-old's naive views of Victorian upper class life and how adults behave in matters of romance.  A lot of it is simply charming, and a lot of it is unintentionally funny.  Daisy stopped writing while she was in her teens, but, after her parents passed away, one of her sisters found the manuscript, and eventually it was published around the end of World War I.  They even kept many of Daisy's misspellings.  The publisher got J M Barrie (author of Peter Pan) to write an introduction, and the perhaps predictable result is that everyone thought it was a hoax and had really been written by Barrie.

The book has allegedly never gone out of print, although it's less common in the US.  I used to have a copy but (d'oh) never read the whole thing.  It's been turned into a play, a musical, and at least two films.  The film I saw is the most recent, starring Jim Broadbent and Hugh Laurie and Lyndsey Marshal (who might be best known as Cleopatra from the recent HBO production Rome), as well as Bill Nighy, excellent as a boozy earl. 

I'm told that this version isn't all that true to the original, but it's pretty damned funny (and slightly sad) and quite beautifully done.

Unfortunately, either Netflix or the Silverlight player is bollixed up lately, and everything I try to watch is slightly garbled.  In particular, it skips ahead about one second every thirty seconds or so, on average, and sometimes in little clusters of jumps.  Extremely annoying.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on January 02, 2010, 10:38:54 PM
Our library system has both the book and the movie you saw.  HOLD'D!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Tripper on January 02, 2010, 10:43:43 PM
That's funny Axe, because I have several friends who were in The Signal.  The only one named in the credits was
Kalina McCreery - Tongueless Woman (as Kitten McCreary), but another one, Jill Brandenburg, played one of the numerous people that get killed.  She's briefly seen in the trailer.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 02, 2010, 11:45:15 PM
I have several friends who were in The Signal.

:shock:  Sweet.  Seriously, I liked that movie.  I can't tell how much of it is that I liked it and how much is that I was so surprised by how well-done it was (because it was such a random pick that I never heard of), but I'm sure I'll watch it again in the next six months.

I really hope all those people who worked on it keep making movies.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 03, 2010, 03:27:50 AM
it was a few years ago, i have no hope for more movies by them. good, well thought out, cheap and insightful movies are so far and few between these days. i may just be spouting my cynicism, but mainstream movies play to the masses. (saw . . . .sssss, friday the 13th . . . ssssssssss, aliensssss, freddies . . . . . chuckiessssss . . . .

geeze, you know, the freaking clown in king's it movie was a little original because it wore just normal makup. well, normal clown makeup. plus some pointy teeth. would've been better if it was a giant spider clown with tim curry's face . . . but, whatever.

i'd like to make bucketfulls of money. i really would. i'd like to think that once i had a bucket or two, i'd make some stuff i like. i know there's some people out there that do that. i'd be one. don't know if anyone here has seen ink (, but that's what i'd put my money into. i didn't really care for the movie too much, but it was very, very well made. good story and good cinematography and especially good effect considering their budget. just left me flat as a viewer. i've heard it's a little of "like it or love it" move. i loved the ideas and originality and the production. i didn't really love the depth of the story. i don't know if that makes sense. sorry, that's not what this post is about. more vodka . . .
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 05, 2010, 07:14:44 AM
Garden State . . . I dunno.  It had a lot of nice moments but was pretty random and generally really uncomfortable.  I like Braff, and he seems to be a good enough director, but the whole thing seemed (if you will) like an unfocused existentialist exercise in dread, with weird unformed social commentary (mostly about money) and a lot of dog genitalia.  I don't think I believed the ending, although I wanted to.  The film constantly felt like it was going to end with him going back to California and killing himself, with possible other deaths thrown in.  And the humor in it is a little too random, really. 

The cast is good, though, and it's always nice to see Natalie Portman in something more natural than the Star Wars prequels.

Too depressing, though.  :shrug:  I kept wanting to shut it off.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 07, 2010, 07:39:51 PM
Devil's Backbone.  It was good, but it didn't strike me as great.  In fairness, I've seen too many movies lately that revolved around the Spanish Civil War, and while Devil's Backbone is certainly well-made, I didn't think it was quite as good as Pan's Labyrinth.  And not as good as The Orphanage (although that doesn't take place during the Spanish Civil War.)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Tripper on January 07, 2010, 07:58:27 PM
I don't think much can touch Pan's Labyrinth on either side of it's story.  I'd love to hear Guellermo Del Toro talk about it.

And this from my friend who was in The Signal - SWEET!!! Thanks. Did they watch it on DVD? If so, did they watch the bonus features? (Yeah, I am conceited enough that I want more people to watch The Hap Hapgood Story. :-) )

I don't know what the Hap Hapgood story is.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 07, 2010, 08:18:59 PM
I'd love to hear Guellermo Del Toro talk about it.

In the commentary for Pan's Labyrinth, he talks about both movies -- so don't listen to the commentary unless you've seen both.  He says that Backbone is his favorite of his own films and that it's the "masculine" counterpart to the "feminine" LabyrinthBackbone is compellingly told and beautifully acted and shot, but it's less personal and . . . sort of . . . less imbued with a heavy depth than Labyrinth.  It's less dreamlike, too, but I don't know that that's a weakness.

I actually felt that some of the fantasy elements of Labyrinth either didn't quite work or didn't quite go far enough, but it was so gorgeous visually and so cleverly conceived that it's just amazing.  I think Backbone is more personal to del Toro and one of his idols, a Spanish comic book illustrator who did at least some of the storyboards and who one of the characters is partly based on.  The story is also partly based on some stuff from del Toro's own childhood and family.

I saw The Signal on Instant Play -- it was one of the last things I managed to see that way before that stopped working for me -- so the DVD extras weren't available.  I may still buy the DVD when I get some extra money, though.

The Hap Hapgood Story, as I understand it, is a short indie horror film (serial killer mode) made by at least one of the guys who directed The Signal and starring one of the same actors.  A little bit of it is shown at the beginning of The Signal.  That's all I know about it at the moment.  It looked unusually gritty but it had shaky hand-camerawork, which, as everybody knows, usually doesn't work for me.  But I haven't seen it yet.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on January 10, 2010, 05:44:53 PM
Our library system has both the book and the movie you saw.  HOLD'D!

I got The Young Visiters (the book) today from the library.  It's making me giggle. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 10, 2010, 08:43:50 PM
Awesome.  I really want to read it now, myself.  And I'll probably have to resort to the library or buy it online.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 10, 2010, 08:51:27 PM
Well, I finally saw Dark Knight

Eh.  I know not many people agree with me, so feel free to skip this.

Cast is awesome (even the cameos :lol:), and there are a lot of other good bits.

The voice . . . uh-uh.  The film loses five points out of ten every time Batman says something.  The first costume's cowl's all wrong.  Ears look soft and rubbery; eyes look like he's about to cry; nose looks like he got hit with an iron.  The second costume has an embarrassing gorget that looks like he folded down the collars of two Bat-turtlenecks; he looks like an elegant 60s transvestite furry, like he should be smoking a long cigarette out of a long cigarette holder with one eyebrow permanently raised and holding some kind of cocktail made with hyssop.  The brow tapers too sharply and makes him look like he has a pointy head.

Some of his equipment is clever, and some of it is wrong and/or lame, but it's not such a big deal.

The Batmobile . . . it's a cool vehicle but ridiculous as the Batmobile.  Put a couple of fins on the Lambo he also drives, and you'd have a better candidate.  (And, uh, what was with that cheap off-the-rack motorcycle he drives at one point?  The actual Batcycle was better, not terrific.)  The car chase stuff in this one was better than the nonsense in Batman Begins, but not great. 

He clearly has superhuman powers.  Bending the rifle barrel in one hand, for starters.  He should not have superhuman powers.  It's bad writing, flat-out, wrong for the character and a sign of insufficient imagination.  In fact, the whole thing would be five times better if it were just more realistic.  Superhero stories should generally either go full-fantasy or bring as much verisimilitude as possible, to make it maximally cool by making it seem plausible

And most of the fight scenes are awfully slow and stagey, with a lot of extras waiting around for it to be time for their stunt, and not terribly well filmed.  You can't blame Bale -- watch Equilibrium.

After seeing it, I feel like this film should've been Year One, or even Year Two.  The story isn't an improvement on either of them, and it's far less logical from a franchise series standpoint.  It's more elegant than the pre-Bale films, god knows, but it's still too Star Trek: Generations.  Don't try to make OMG The Biggest One Evar.  Just focus on making a good one.  (And, it should be said, the Scarecrow is really lame in this.  I am not looking forward to more of him.)

The Joker is an entertaining guy in this movie, and Ledger's great, but for the most part . . . that character is not the Joker.  In fact, if they'd just left off the lipstick and changed his name, they could've kept him as is and had the best new supervillain in god knows how long.

A lot of little details are really poorly thought out.  Really, really poorly.  How the hell am I supposed to believe you can back a school bus at 30 MPH through the main doors of an insanely heavily secure bank . . . even do that in the first place . . . and not even scratch the paint?  It's like throwing a beer stein through a TV without spilling the beer.  There's a lot of that kind of thing in this film.  The Mob has a metal detector at the entrance to their criminal meeting but don't use it correctly, and they don't have anyone guarding the other entrances.  This is typical of the film.

The writing's just incredibly uneven.  And what happened at the party after Batman chased the girl out the window?  WTF?  The bad guys just got bored and went home?  And then there'll be a great bit of dialogue . . . followed by some idiotic hackneyed lines.  The whole bit with the plan to assassinate the mayor was incredibly dumb.  Many, many other instances where the writing just falls down a deep hole and where scenes make no damned sense.  Some of the major plot points were just surprisingly stupid.  And it goes on too long.

The decision to skip the Joker's origin was spot-on, though.

Some of the good moments are great; don't get me wrong.  It's OK -- it's better than, say, the Spider-Man films -- but it's no Iron Man.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 15, 2010, 08:21:27 AM
Forest of Death ( (2007).  Meh.  Worst Pang Brothers film I've seen -- makes The Messengers look well-rounded.  The cast (especially the two female leads, including former softcore starlet Qi Shu) is fine, and there are just enough striking moments to make a trailer, but the script doesn't even get halfway to half-baked.  There's this mysterious forest, see, that people are drawn to in order to commit suicide.  And then there's a reporter, a police detective, and a botanist who has a rather vague theory about how to communicate with plants.

Then there are ghosts (maybe), fox spirits (maybe), aliens (maybe), various random minor details (the victims' watches stop at the time of death . . . even digital watches!  a victim's been missing for 40 years but appears to have died within the last 48 hours!).  There's a rape-murder, various suicides (or are they), psychic phenomena, weird mists, moving trees, earthquakes, an unseen force that steals some rope . . . and usually when something paranormal happens, as soon as it stops everyone acts like they forgot about it.

About three-quarters of the film contains nothing except character development and slow vague police procedure, but only one of the three main characters manages to develop at all.  The cinematography isn't bad, but the direction is really weak, and there's just nothing coherent going on.  People have said it's an anti-suicide movie, but, really, if that's its goal, it hardly even tries.

Re-Cycle was never dull, but this one's pretty much never interesting.  Weak.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 16, 2010, 04:20:17 PM
i think at some point morgan freeman put some type of strength enhancing mechanics in the new bat suit.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 16, 2010, 11:09:13 PM
i think at some point morgan freeman put some type of strength enhancing mechanics in the new bat suit.

Possibly.  But that's just silly.  And it still wouldn't explain his jump down onto the van, for instance.

Saw The Anderson Tapes (, from 1971.  Basically, this is an ensemble heist picture, ala Ocean's Eleven, and the ensemble cast is great -- Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, Martin Balsam (priceless as a gay fence), a young Christopher Walken, Dick Williams, Alan King as a mobster.  Directed by Sidney Lumet; screenplay by Frank Pierson, who also did Cat Ballou, Cool Hand Luke, Dog Day Afternoon (which Lumet also directed). 

The gimmick in this one is that everywhere Connery goes, he's under surveillance of some kind from a different source -- a PI, the cops, the FBI, the Treasury, feds looking for black radicals, etc.  None of them are actually looking for him.  It's a reflection of the paranoia of the times, as the public was just realizing, in the late 60s and early 70s, that the government could and would spy on them in all kinds of ways.

The period touches are awesome.  Music by Quincy Jones, bizarre space-age electronic sound effects, and especially all the surveillance equipment that's pure museum-piece ancient history now.  The huge recording equipment!  The police telephone switchboard!  And, especially, the computers!  Not to mention the cops with Thompson submachineguns.  It's a completely different film now than it was when it came out and interesting for different reasons. 

The script is striking, and the performances are great.  The funny parts are funny, and the tense parts are tense.  It's fun recognizing actors, some you can name and some you just vaguely know.  Conrad Bain (from Diff'rent Strokes) has a great bit, for instance.  Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West, among other roles) appeared here in her last picture in a hilarious bit as the nurse of an elderly woman who's thrilled to be robbed.  Garrett Morris as a cop not entirely happy with his commander. 

Oddly enough, the film's allegedly being remade right now.  I guess it could be good -- the surveillance issue is certainly just as real today, but the details are entirely different.  But they don't make films like this anymore.

A word of warning -- this is a gritty 70s film, so it's not what you'd call romantic.  It's funny and entertaining, but bleak, not unlike Dog Day Afternoon.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 16, 2010, 11:14:42 PM
i think at some point morgan freeman put some type of strength enhancing mechanics in the new bat suit.

Possibly.  But that's just silly.  And it still wouldn't explain his jump down onto the van, for instance.

most comic books are.  :love:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 16, 2010, 11:38:11 PM
I know, but the thing is . . . most comic books are pretty bad.  This is sometimes forgiveable simply because historically comic book writers and artists got paid almost nothing and had to churn out multiple titles, month in and month out, under all kinds of unhelpful restrictions.  Comic books generally have awesome, mythic premises, and the potential there is really why people keep tuning in.  They're illustrated, but the reader's imagination filling in the gaps and expanding upon the material present is more important with superhero comics than it is with non-illustrated general fiction.

And, of course, there are glimpses.  One flash of true awesome will keep you reading at least three mediocre issues.  Every comic book reader knows this phenomenon -- you're a junkie who's supplier is unreliable.  Four times out of five, that coke is mostly confectioner's sugar . . . but once in a while you get two or three ounces of something pure, and it's a rocketship to God's theme park.  That high keeps you coming back, and it's not until a title goes a year of nothing special that you finally stop buying and reading it.  The attachment is sometimes so strong that you keep buying a formerly high-percentage title for a year after you stop reading it.

As time goes by, though, I find myself less willing to put up with the weak bits.  And the thing is, the more creative control the artists have, and the more emphasis that's put on a given production, the fewer and weaker are the excuses for the mediocre bits.  I'm most unforgiving about things that could have easily been fixed.  You know?

When you're talking a major motion picture with a budget of tens and tens of millions, the missteps and bad ideas hurt a lot more.  If I'm reading some webcomic and the creator does something dumb, it's easier to let it slide.  My problem isn't that Batman is a sacred text that has to be fulfilled but that these are tropes that have so much potential to be mined.  It's kind of a crime to get it wrong.  Which is a lot of pressure to put on the creative people, but there are always other projects they could work on instead.  (And if they screw up a Jane Austen picture, it won't matter so much to me, but naturally the Austen fanatics will be the ones ranting.)

Superheroes and SF are serious business to me.  I mean, you can certainly goof around with them, but if you're going to try to be serious, then the stakes are high.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 16, 2010, 11:40:43 PM
I should add that within comics there are certainly comic book genres that aren't serious, don't try for verisimilitude, etc.  And often that's exactly right, for those comics.  But you don't make gritty movies out of those comics, either.  For instance, The Phantom gets away with a certain amount of silliness flat-out simply because it's done in the mode of four-color pulp high adventure (whether the source material was actually like that or not).
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 18, 2010, 09:02:03 PM
Phone (, a 2002 Korean horror film which is now being remade in the US, with the same director.

Well . . . in some ways, this is a pretty generic Asian horror movie, with a lot of standard tropes:  ghost, cell phones, mirrors, water water water, creepy hair, blue lighting.  It's shot really nicely, and the cast is good.  The story is actually more coherent than some, but the meandering way it's told is either pretty amateurish or pretty Korean.  I can't tell. 

The first forty minutes made me really, really like the actress (Ji-won Ha) who I thought was playing the main character.  She's not in the rest of the movie nearly as much, though, and the film somewhat clumsily slips away from her point of view.  Her character is great, although some of her story doesn't entirely fit in this film, and there's at least one part that left me unsure if it really happened or was just a dream, and I couldn't even tell if it was supposed to be ambiguous.

The other standout is the little girl.  Seriously, child actors in horror films are usually a bad idea.  This kid's performance is worth the rental.  I'm guessing she's four or five, but I have not seen a creepy kid like this probably since The Exorcist, although she's not that kind of creepy.  A lot of times, with child actors, films will 'cheat' by doing lots of cuts, so that the kids don't have to jump between emotions in the same shot or perform long unbroken sequences.  This movie doesn't cheat, and this kid can go from cute to several kinds of otherworldly in about half a second.  Borders on unbelievable.

The movie goes on a bit too long.  Some of the horror-movie bits are too obvious or belabored.  It doesn't like to put a lot of gore on the screen, so it's mostly left to your imagination, but this is more about suspense than splatter anyway.  I think it could've been streamlined, but, really, if you ask me, it's worth a look just for the kid.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 18, 2010, 11:14:10 PM
Oh.  Another thing about Phone:

The credits start to roll, and oddly enough they're most in Korean.  But there's a Disney symbol . . . and then the rubric Toilet Films.

The Engrish is one thing, but that juxtaposition just made it even better.

edit:  You can bet I'm not GISing for Korean Toilet Films, either.  :uncertain:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 19, 2010, 11:45:13 AM
Finally saw No Country For Old Men.

Eh.  Pretty good, not great.  Wildly uneven.  Lots of cute touches, really good performances, lots of good bits -- especially the dialogue -- but the best parts have next to nothing to do with the plot.  The action isn't dull to watch but isn't exactly believable.  The film has an unusually realistic tone, for the Coens, but isn't particularly realistic, which was more than occasionally distracting. 

There's nothing special about the story itself except for how it's told and that it's a downer; it's all color and atmosphere.  The characters really don't have much to do, and their intelligence levels seem to fluctuate wildly.  The film does have the feeling of being highly condensed from a longer story, so it might all work a lot better if you've read the book, which I haven't.  The dialogue occasionally flirts with melodrama edging on bathos, and I can't tell if it's just threatening or if the cast (which, really, is pretty excellent) pulls it back and makes it work.  Javier Bardem got the Oscar, I believe, and he's certainly good in this, but Tommy Lee Jones should've gotten the award, since he got all the hard parts.

Ironically, the film that kept going through my mind while watching this was Raimi's A Simple Plan, which I believe the Coens were somehow involved with, and I think that, overall, that's a better film.  I admired a lot of No Country For Old Men, but honestly I didn't exactly enjoy it.  There aren't many characters to root for or even feel sympathetic to -- only two leap to mind, in fact -- and the ones I did care about are ineffective at best.  It's not so much that it was bleak as that there was a lot of sound and fury where I didn't really care which way things turned out.

Weirdly, it makes me consider that maybe I don't like the Coens as much as I thought I did.  I'm not annoyed with them, or anything, but I think I've seen . . . nine of their films, of which three were awesome (Raising Arizona, Fargo, O Brother), one was good (Lebowski), and the others had flashes but didn't quite come together for me (Blood Simple, Barton Fink, Hudsucker, Man Who Wasn't There, No Country).  I might be expecting the wrong things from them -- although, actually, I didn't realize No Country was a Coen Brothers movie until the end, which shows how out of it I am.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 19, 2010, 11:47:20 AM
Oh.  Also, Kelly McDonald is gorgeous in this movie, and I was going crazy trying to figure out what else I'd seen her in.  As near as I can tell . . . nothing I would have remembered her from.  Huh.

Also, she had me fooled.  I would not have guessed she was (recently) Scottish.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 20, 2010, 07:01:05 AM
Eyewitness ( (aka The Janitor) (1981).

In 1979, Peter Yates directed a film written by Steve Tesich, a small character-driven piece about a teenager obsessed with bicycle racing.  The teenager was played by Dennis Quaid, and the movie was Breaking Away, and it did rather well.  Yates and Tesich followed this up with Eyewitness, a rather different movie about a janitor who's indirectly involved with a murder (he finds the body), a TV reporter he happens to have a crush on, and a conspiracy revolving around smuggling Jewish dissidents out of the Soviet Union.  It's a little complicated, a little disjointed, and features at least a couple of awfully unlikely coincidences.

Yates actually made the film by combining two of Tesich's screenplays that didn't work on their own.  Whether or not they really work together is sort of beside the point -- this is one of those movies that really exists to show the cast playing characters.  The characters are not developed directly; their backstories are not spelled out.  Instead, they have conversations where they reveal little bits of history and personality.  The plot is advanced, but not urgently or particularly coherently.

William Hurt is good, if weird, as the janitor, who himself is more than a little weird.  Frankly, you can't be sure if you like him or not.  He may be a nut, possibly even on the edge of being a hopeless loser who might be a bit of a danger to himself and the woman he's in love with.  He's far too certain he wants to marry this woman who, before the film starts, he's only seen on TV, and he's not just awkward.  He's a little off.  He's a pleasant and upstanding kind of guy, but you keep wondering what else is wrong with him that's not obvious yet.

Sigourney Weaver plays the TV reporter.  She's good . . . and a little weird.  She generally doesn't know what she's doing with her life and doesn't seem entirely aware of that.  She makes some awfully strange decisions, although she makes it believable.  There's something wrong with her, too.

Christopher Plummer plays her boyfriend, older and cultured and more or less a professional spy.  Is he a little creepy?  I think you know he is.

James Woods plays the janitor's Nam vet loser friend.  Yes, definitely a bit unhinged.  There are a couple of scenes in the movie where he walks out into the street without really checking for traffic, and I think it's a testament to Woods' acting ability that he can be startled by a car swerving to avoid him and really look like he wasn't aware it was going to be there.  I don't think I could do that.

The supporting cast is very good, including Woods' character's younger sister, who's quite entertaining, but the standouts are two police detectives played by Morgan Freeman and Steven Hill, who might be recognized as one of the DAs from the first decade of Law & Order.  Really, it's an impressive cast.  It's also one of those movies where you notice how the same Asian actors have been playing fairly stock Asian characters for a really, really long time.  At least it's work, I guess.

The plot really never gains much momentum, although there are some nice set pieces and some controversies where the film doesn't take a lazy, easy way out.  There's nothing too earth-shaking, but if you like the sound of the cast, then this is worth seeing, despite some awkwardness.

Incidentally, this is the film being parodied in the Hot Shots! bit with the horse and the motorcycle.  Also, Yates should be remembered (if you're having trouble placing him) for also directing Bullitt, Murphy's War, The Hot Rock, Mother, Jugs & Speed, and, perhaps most importantly, Krull.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 22, 2010, 05:58:39 PM
so, i watched phone last night.

what is is with asians and ghosts having really long hair?

would it have made sense to turn off the phone?

why do these people keep going back to the same houses? move. the. fuck. away.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 22, 2010, 08:28:07 PM
:lol:  People in Western horror movies often fail to do the obvious thing, too.

Yeah, I would've turned off the phone.  Gotten rid of it, in fact.  I think the woman who had it was supposed to be kind of obsessed with finding out what was going on -- she was an investigative reporter, after all.  But if I were one of the high school kids, for sure, I would not have answered a call FROM A DEAD PERSON.  They were not prepared to handle that kind of shit.

The little girl, though.  Pretty amazing, didn't you think?  Maybe she just made such a strong impression on me.  If the whole movie had been about what was going on with her, I would've liked it five times better.

The ghost-hair thing is an Asian trope that comes up constantly.  In Japan, for instance, there's a long tradition of a female revenge ghost called an onryo (ō), which comes up a lot in kabuki, and hence the makeup effects generally used for it.  But the magical revenge hair comes up in Korea and China and even Thailand a lot, too.  If you've seen the famous kung fu film The Bride With White Hair, for instance, you know what I mean.  But the droopy face, with the hair hanging straight down, and the jerky movements -- that's apparently been standardized by kabuki, from what I understand.

TV Tropes ( has a bunch of examples, too, including ones from Vietnam (and a possible one from Britain -- it's not so dissimilar from some Western supernatural females, like the lorelei sitting brushing her hair while hypnotizing men into drowning themselves), although some might be considered spoilers.

The water thing is another Asian ghost trope.  They have lots of traditional stories of women, especially, and sometimes children (and cats) either being drowned in wells (not invented for The Ring) or being left outside in the wet and cold to freeze to death.  This compares to the Western 'cold lady' /  'shivering girl' ghost, like the rusalka or the Vanishing Hitchhiker.

:shrug:  Some archetypes really do cross all kinds of cultural lines.  I agree, though, that when the same cliches come up over and over again, sometimes they get really tired.  Chinese vampires / revenants are traditionally blind and hop instead of walking (because their eyes are glued shut and legs tied together at burial), and so they find you by sniffing.   For whatever reason, I'm not as tired of that as the wet hair girl stuff, but maybe it's because it fell out of fashion around ten or fifteen years ago, tops, whereas the wet hair girl is really overdone right now.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 22, 2010, 08:41:10 PM
i thought she was an outstanding actress for her age. very convincing.

yeah, i meant all people in haunted houses. yeesh. the house tells you to get out, you get out.

i like the water/woman thing, too. i enjoyed ringu.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 23, 2010, 11:05:53 PM
Saw Tokyo Zombie (, a very Japanese movie from a few years ago.  Um . . . it's very Japanese.  Did I mention that?  I have a feeling that most Western audiences will be mystified at stuff that makes more sense and/or is funnier to a Japanese audience.

Basically, this is a surreal comedy, particularly a parody of zombie films and fighting-sport films, although its affection for jiujitsu (specifically Gracie Brazilian style) is real enough.  It's based on a cult manga of the same name, which I'd never heard of before -- it's got non-standard manga art, so it wouldn't tend to get pushed much in the US market.

The basic plot is that two oddballs, one bald and one with an afro, have lowly factory jobs near a gigantic mountain of garbage.  They spend their time training to be jiujitsu masters instead of working, and then the zombie apocalypse arrives.  Complications ensue.  The film has bizarre transitions, scenes that seem pretty random, and various impossible moments.  My brother and I would be bored, and then laugh out loud, and then be bored, and then be mystified, but in rapid succession.  This is the kind of movie where when the action slows down, you can be bored in under ten seconds.  But if you just wait another ten seconds, something worthwhile will happen.

There were a lot of good parts.  I generally liked the absurdism.  The movie has a strange concern with homosexuality in ways that I don't usually see in Japanese films.  It's not a friendly concern, but the gay characters portrayed are deviants, not merely gay, so who knows.  It's not like anyone else in this movie is normal or hugely admirable, either.  The film also reveals that apparently the infamous soft drink Calpis (pronounced, by the Japanese, quite similarly to 'cow piss') is kind of a joke over there, too.

The writer/director also wrote for Takashi Miike (best known for gangster and horror films, but he also does surreal, including comedies), and one of the stars (the 'afro' guy) is known as the Japanese Johnny Depp.  If you saw Mongol, he played Temujin (Genghis Khan).  The actor who played the bald guy is also a big star in Japan, apparently, but I don't think I've seen him before.  He played a main character in Takashi's Gozu, a bizarre surreal gangster film sometimes compared to Eraserhead, which was written by the director of Tokyo Zombie.  If you watch the extras, they spend about equal time (maybe ten minutes!) marveling at the jiujitsu and at the fact that this guy was willing to wear a bald cap on screen.  I'm not sure why this was such a big deal, but in real life he has peculiar high-style hair, something like a fancier cross between Dick Clark and Donald Trump.  Maybe it's his trademark.

I think the bottom line is that if you see a lot of Japanese movies, you might like this one, and you might like parts of it a lot.  If you haven't seen a lot or lose patience quickly with movies that are so peculiar that they're completely unpredictable, you might find this tiresome, although there are definitely parts that most people would find funny.  The Japanese idea of comedy pacing is quite different from ours.  There isn't a lot of graphic zombie violence, and mostly the violence is very cartoonish.  There's a lot of cursing (in subtitles; apparently the dub is much less foul-mouthed) and a scene of a school teacher spanking an unwilling half-naked teenaged boy. 

And if you're hoping for a movie in which two losers buddy up and use martial arts to fight a lot of zombies, you're probably going to be a little disappointed, even though, yes, a fair bit of that does happen.  This is not an action film, just a comedy.  In fact, if you've never seen Brazilian jiujitsu before, you might think they were just making up all the martial arts for laughs. 

It's . . . a weird movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 25, 2010, 12:04:18 PM
Sars Wars (, a 2004 Thai zombie comedy.  Goofy, not horrible, not great.  Basically an Airplane-style parody of Asian zombie movies, and the trailer is genuinely funny.  The film itself has funny moments, plus a lot of gore (the effects and CGI are both surprisingly good, although it doesn't add that much to the film), but it's not brilliantly funny.  More like the recent spate of parodies from the Epic Movie people.  Lots of flat moments.

There are lots of transsexual jokes, weird superhero jokes, and breakdancing jokes.  Honestly, a lot of it is pretty mysterious, perhaps less so if you're Thai, which, of course, I am not.

If you like crazy comedies, I recommend the trailer (which is available at YouTube), but the movie will probably not wow you.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 25, 2010, 04:48:11 PM
seen this? (
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 25, 2010, 07:32:55 PM
No, not yet.  Have you?  Any good?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 25, 2010, 07:51:36 PM
not yet.

tokyo zombies tonight.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 26, 2010, 01:39:10 AM
eh, went with old boy again tonight. such a feel good movie.  :P
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 26, 2010, 11:06:07 AM
Old Boy is fun until the slow serious ending, which, for my tastes, slows down a bit too much.  I think he went past 'suspense' and into 'impatience', but I appreciate that mysterious ambiguous mirror bit, even if I can't remember exactly how it works.  I'll see it again at some point and pay closer attention.

Old Boy is quite cheery compared to Sympathy for Mr Vengeance.  Haven't seen Lady Vengeance yet, the third film in the trilogy, but it's in my queue.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: sm0k4 on January 26, 2010, 09:56:05 PM
Lady Vengeance is THE SHIT.  I'd say I prefer it to Old Boy except the hammer fight from Old Boy is so exponentially awesome that it automatically wins.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on January 26, 2010, 10:29:05 PM
Hammer fight? What the hell?  :lol:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 26, 2010, 11:02:39 PM
( VS (
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on January 27, 2010, 12:36:45 AM
Please Hammer, don't hurt Hammer.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 27, 2010, 03:04:03 PM
Saw True Stories (  Reviews I saw of this movie kept me away from it since 1986, but now that I've seen the film I don't think any of them were good reviews.  After I saw it, I hunted down Roger Ebert's original review, and, if I'd seen that one in the 80s, I would've seen the movie a long time ago.  :shrug:

True Stories is more or less David Byrne's take on small-town America.  If you've listened to a bunch of Talking Heads songs and liked them, you'll probably like the movie, quite frankly.  It's kind of like if Twin Peaks were set in Texas and nothing bad or spooky happened, except with little dashes of Tim Burton and Garrison Keillor, narrated by out-of-towner David Byrne (playing a character or playing himself? and what's the difference?) who's wandering around as if making a documentary, although it's not clear if he is or what.

Strange stuff happens, but no one much seems to consider it to be out of the ordinary, and it's never violently strange.  None of the people in this town seem to dislike each other or their town.  Byrne's comments are often funny, often random, occasionally seemingly beamed in from outer space.  There are some slow stretches, but nothing painful, and there are a few musical numbers, which are pretty good.  The supporting cast ranges from amateur, to amateur but impressive, to hypnotic, to standout performances by Spalding Gray and before-he-was-famous John Goodman.  (Actually, it made me want to see Barton Fink again, which is not something I often say.)

Back in the 80s, I was lukewarm about the Talking Heads, but their stuff has grown on me as the years went by.  Maybe I wouldn't have liked this movie if I'd seen it twenty years ago.  I don't know.  Now, I feel like Byrne should've made more films.  The studio had no idea how to market this one, and although every rental place had it, the box didn't sell it very well, either.  But I liked it, and there were parts that I liked a lot.  It felt like it was a hair long at 90 minutes but could've made a great TV series.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: sm0k4 on January 27, 2010, 07:20:57 PM
Hammer fight? What the hell?  :lol:

Hell yes. One guy with a hammer vs like 47 dudes. In a hallway. Epic badassery. And when he gets knocked down he just starts breaking feet.

Sorry if that's a spoiler.

Here (
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 27, 2010, 07:37:52 PM
The hammer fight is worth seeing more than once, assuming you like that kind of thing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on January 27, 2010, 08:41:37 PM
Oh my god.  :lol: :lol: :lol: :rollin: :rollin: :rollin: :rollin:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on January 27, 2010, 09:17:37 PM
in my opinion, while it's a great scene, there are far more disturbing scenes in the movie. truly cringe worthy.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 28, 2010, 12:51:08 PM
For reasons best attributed to insomnia, I saw Don't Mess With The Zohan, which I think I can sum up pretty easily in bullet points.

- Ben Stiller would have gotten in shape for this movie.  Seriously, this movie is like 20% about Adam Sandler naked or shirtless or flexing his arms, and he looks like he didn't know that was going to be in the script.

-The supporting cast is fine, but 90% of the SNL cast who appear in this are flat at best.

-There's about six minutes of funny stuff in this movie, despite an inexplicable almost two-hour run-time.  I think this is actually the least funny Jewish humor film I've seen.  It makes The Hebrew Hammer look like Sleeper.  Some parts of it are certainly potentially offensive, but they wouldn't be if they were funny.

- Mariah Carey, John McEnroe, and that guy who played Paul Blart have cameos in which they're funnier than Adam Sandler in this.  MARIAH CAREY, making a joke about Bluetooth, is funnier than Adam Sandler.  And I really liked Adam Sandler in some of his other movies.  This one's just terrible.

- Some of the CGI is interestingly well done.  The end results aren't great, but the proficiency of the effects is interesting.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 28, 2010, 10:42:37 PM
Spirit Trap (, a British horror film from 2005.  I don't think I'd heard of it, but Netflix recommended it because it has Billie Piper in it.  OK, I hadn't seen anything she'd been in except Dr Who.  I imagine I'll see at least some of the call girl series eventually.

This film, well, the writing's off.  Direction is OK, nothing obviously fantastic.  Acting is OK.  The screenplay is not OK.  A large percentage of horror films don't really make any sense, but this one's just broken.  It's a mysterious ghost story that's so-so but is told really badly.  Characters constantly have to utter horrible dialogue -- especially awkward, unprompted, ill-timed, or nonsensical exposition.  They don't talk about the things that, if you think about it at all, you think they'd very likely talk about.

It's just weird in a lot of ways.  Virtually all of the action happens in the haunted house.  But when the characters (who are college students) have dream sequences, the dreams always take place at the college, which is otherwise not seen.  This is not a plot point.  And that's kind of how the whole movie is.  There are lots of random details thrown into the story; they don't belong, and they don't fit.

Still, it's not terrible.  And it features an unusual death-by-pendulum that I know I've seen before . . . and now I'm going to wonder and wonder where I saw it. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: stormneedle on January 28, 2010, 10:50:51 PM
Edgar Allen Poe?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 28, 2010, 11:02:08 PM

No, it's a very specific way of being killed by a pendulum.  It requires a clock and everything, although it's not some indirect method.  I know I've seen it before, somewhere, quite a long time ago.  Oh, well.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on January 29, 2010, 02:07:24 PM
Weren't Batman and Robin about to be killed by a pendulum in that one episode?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on January 29, 2010, 02:38:36 PM
I seem to remember one, but I'm not thinking of Batman.  No, this is a specific and fairly unexpected way of being killed by a pendulum.  The spoiler tag isn't working, but I can at least say that it does not involve the pendulum swinging back and forth.

Batman and Robin, quite memorably, were once going to be killed by being run through a machine (well, two machines, side by side) that punched tape for player pianos.  The machine 'heard' the music being played and automatically punched the tape correctly.  Batman sez, 'Robin!  Sing exactly the notes that I sing!'  And he sang a series of notes that made the machine punch holes around him instead of through him.

Most awkward escape EVER.  That might've been an episode with Liberace as the villain.  I can't remember.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on January 29, 2010, 07:39:18 PM
Weren't Batman and Robin about to be killed by a pendulum in that one episode?

I remember that but they weren't killed only almost, because Batman is too wise and good looking and Robin is a little too slippery from all of the massage oil.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 03, 2010, 10:53:41 PM
Saw The Eye 2 (, a HK / Thai film from 2004.  I actually haven't seen The Eye yet -- including the US remake -- but this isn't really a sequel, anyway.  I didn't realize it, but it's another Pang Bros movie.

OK, this film . . . not exactly a horror film.  It has a lot of horrific moments in it, and it deals with ghosts and Bad Things, but it's not built like a horror film and doesn't exist principally to shock the audience.  Kind of in the same way that The Sixth Sense is not really a horror film.  If you have issues with heights, suicide, ghosts, or complications of pregnancy, though, this movie may rate an 11 on the Disturbing scale.  Seriously.  It does have moments intended to shock (although they're played in a smarter way than most US films would play them), and it certainly has grim and gruesome parts, but they're really for atmosphere and a side effect of the subject matter more than anything else.

I've seen a number of reviews online saying that this is another Christian moralistic Pang Bros movie, this time preaching against adultery or suicide.  Really, I have no idea if the Pangs are Christians, but I tend to think not so much, and I don't think this is that kind of film.  The Pangs seem to take serious, disturbing subjects from real life and then exaggerate them into uncomfortable spectacles.  A lot of the deeper horror writers do this, too, and it's a risky strategy (for instance, I remember Stephen King taking flak over Apt Pupil, his story about a kid fascinated by the extremism of the Nazi atrocities to the point that he's seduced by psychotic sadism), but it can certainly pay off.

I think The Eye 2 is about how people's lives can spin out of control, how tragedies that are small and perhaps transient when seen from a wider perspective can be intolerable and hopeless.  I think the film recommends against suicide on the grounds that suicide isn't sufficient -- that death itself won't set you free from your problems.  Definitely a grim concept, if not an original theme.  The movie's really about what it does take to move on and make a fresh start and not be overwhelmed by despair and personal tragedies -- and it offers multiple solutions, some of which are completely upbeat and some of which are sad but spiritually uplifting.  Really, it's a very Buddhist film, if anything.

It's also kind of ambiguous.  It says that a lot of things in life are scary . . . and may be scary and painful even if they're good . . . and it may be hard (or even impossible) to know if they're good or not.  It's very numinous.  I often wondered, while I was watching it, if I was going to like it or not after it was over.  And it seems longer than it is.  (The version I saw was 98 minutes, subtitled, which is apparently the 'long' version.)  And when it was over, I did like it.  It kept me anxious right up until the credits rolled.  And, seriously, a lot of people (especially, I suspect, women -- even women who generally like horror movies) will dislike quite a few parts.  It's often uncomfortable, even if most things turn out well.

I also have to say this:  This movie stars Shu Qi (aka Qi Shu, aka Hsu Chi, etc), who started off years ago as a nude model / soft porn actress in Taiwan, moved to late-night-Cinemax steamy thriller sorts of films, became an advertising model and actress, and worked her way all the way up to serious and starring roles.  She's probably best known to Western audiences as the girl in the trunk in The Transporter.  She was famous, early in the non-nude part of her film career, for having a crazy manic-character acting style, and she played a bizarre shit-eating-grin semi-airhead in a romantic comedy (with some kung fu) opposite Jackie Chan (Gorgeous). 

Watch her in a serious film now, and it's incredible how good she is.  Not incredible-for-a-porn-star, but just really good, and incredible compared to her early roles.  In fact, she's won the HK equivalent of the Oscar.  She's pretty amazing in The Eye 2, if you ask me, especially considering how much of the film asks her to be terrified, shocked, unhinged, or deeply depressed.  Her nonverbal skills are impressive.  She's famous for having a huge mouth, which in China and Japan has certain connotations, but her face is extremely expressive.  (It did look a little weird in Gorgeous, where she spent about two-thirds of the film grinning so hard that it looked like she might be about open her doublejointed jaw and swallow a motorcycle helmet or something.)

They're apparently remaking this film in the US (as In-Utero, not a great title) with Renee Zellweger.  I don't hate Renee, but that would be odd.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 04, 2010, 12:58:11 PM
Last night, I watched Club Paradise ( for reasons that mostly have to do with nostalgia and a persistent curiosity I have about testing my memory, to see if I'll react to things the way I think I remember having reacted to them a long time ago. 

This is a 1986 Harold Ramis film about a guy (Robin Williams) trying to run a resort on a tiny island in the West Indies.  He finds a girlfriend (Twiggy, in her mid-30s and looking great) and a local partner (Jimmy Cliff, a reggae star) and lots of local color while butting heads with the local British governor (Peter O'Toole) and heavies (including Brian Doyle-Murray as a genial villain who'd like to make another few million dollars but isn't, you know, all that interested in having to be too evil about it).  Political intrigue and reggae revolution are a-brewin'.

Meanwhile, there's a large cast of SNL and Second City tourists, etc, including Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin, Mary Gross, etc, etc.  And there are some interesting players in smaller roles, like Simon Jones (Arthur from the Hitchhiker's Guide TV miniseries) as an uptight British yachtsman and Carey Lowell (looking about 19) as another tourist.

The plot about politics and business really doesn't mesh with the wacky-tourists schtick.  And Williams, though trying hard and honestly mostly trying not to just do crazy standup, keeps puncturing scenes by trying too hard, although some of that is clearly the fault of the script and direction.  O'Toole doesn't get enough time, and too much of the picture falls flat.  When it tries to be halfway serious, it suddenly collapses into Island cliches, mon, and a lot of the slapstick is quite weak.

It has moments, but it's no The Gods Must Be Crazy, and it's weaker than my memory of Water, which came out the year before, so maybe I'll watch that one tonight when insomnia strikes.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on February 04, 2010, 03:53:10 PM
jimmy cliff is very underrated as an actor.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 05, 2010, 07:28:00 AM
I've never seen Cliff in anything else, as far as I know, but I only hear good things about him.  I don't know how much of that is that the only people who talk about him are fans, but he seems OK to me, certainly.

OK, I like a lot of 70s kung fu films.  I don't want to watch three of them back to back, and I don't love all of them (there were a lot of mediocre formula ones churned out, god knows), but My Young Auntie, yes, absolutely, and etc.

Netflix has finally been stocking up a bunch of classics, but . . . they're all in the Hey, Black People!  Crack A Forty Of Malt Liquor And Spark Up A Fat One Because It's Time For Kung Fu! editions.  Those editions were funny back in the mid and even late 90s, but by now the offensive racial aspects of it have more than overpowered the ironic humor of it.  I mean, even the Wu Tang Clan seems to have gotten pretty bored with it.  These things are usually awful even for cheapass exploitation dubs.

So while I'd like to see a subtitled version of, say, the classic Vengeance of a Snow Girl (a fine 1971 Shaw Bros film), it's really not the same watching a bad US edition retitled Old Skool Killaz: Daughter of Vengeance, badly dubbed with 'funny' voices, the story altered, and cut by 30 minutes.  I wouldn't mind if Netflix also had this version, if it had a 'real' one as well, but c'mon.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on February 05, 2010, 01:11:24 PM
the harder they come (

while certainly not everyone's cup of tea and at times hard to follow or understand (jah, man), he really brings it as ivan.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 05, 2010, 05:01:56 PM
Apparently there's a subtitled edition of that one out there somewhere.  I have a feeling that's what I'd need.  :lol:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 05, 2010, 06:49:30 PM
This morning, I watched about an hour of a movie called Passengers (, from 2008, and I finished it while eating dinner tonight.  Never heard of it, and I'm not even sure how it wound up in my Netflix queue, especially since Netflix thought I would hate it. 

There's a plane crash.  Anne Hathaway plays a grief counselor assigned to talk to the handful of survivors.  Patrick 'Hunky Smile' Wilson (aka Nite Owl, from Watchmen) and Clea 'Always Good At Acting Angry And Miserable' DuVall (probably best known right now for playing an FBI agent on Heroes) are among the survivors.  Ultra-reliable character actor David Morse plays an airline rep who may be trying to cover something up.  Dianne Wiest plays Hathaway's odd neighbor.  William B Davis (the Cigarette Smoking Man) plays a mysterious guy.  Andre 'Overbearing Black Intellectual Guy' Braugher (who played the neighbor who just won't listen to Thomas Jane in The Mist) plays Hathaway's mentor, who may or may not be trustworthy.

The survivors don't all remember the crash the same way.  Was there an explosion or wasn't there?  The airline says it was just pilot error.  Creepy people are creeping around, and some people start to go missing.  It's a romance and a mystery with a dash of X Files

I could give away a lot more -- and everybody who wants to talk about this film seems obsessed with giving out spoilers -- but, honestly, the surprises aren't that surprising.  It doesn't matter.  This is a film that depends on the process of the story, not the destination.  You might like it better if you don't know what the mystery's all about, but it shouldn't ruin it if you do know.  Still, I won't say.

Honestly?  There are other movies like this, and this one does have some awkward moments.  But for the most part it's nicely written, nicely shot, nicely directed, nicely acted.  It makes interesting use of color.  A lot of people think it's slow and dumb.  I didn't think so.  It's deliberate, but I think the pacing is just about right.  It's not an entirely happy movie -- hey, it starts with an airliner crashing into the beach -- but it's not a total downer, either.  Still, some people are going to hate it, and I think that'll usually be because they just aren't going to like this kind of movie, not because this is a bad example of the genre.

It was written by a guy I never heard of and directed by another guy I never heard of.  The director, though, worked on The Sopranos, did five episodes of Carnivale, did five episodes of Six Feet Under, did the pilot for Big Love, did 22 episodes of that show In Treatment.  If he's got a pacing issue, it might be because he usually does miniseries for cable.

But, yeah, I liked this movie and was quite surprised by how effective and moving it was.  Not everyone agrees, god knows, but it's one of the best dramas I've seen in some time, and it certainly held my attention.

Apparently, Sony buried this one because another Anne Hathaway movie came out the same year and had Oscar buzz.  I haven't seen that other film, Rachael Getting Married, because the only consistent review I've heard of it is that it's packed full of horrible hand-held shakycam crap.  I hate that and I'm firmly against it, so either way . . . no dice.  But if it's true that the studio buried this one, then I hope they lost a huge amount of money, because they deserved to.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mrcookieface on February 05, 2010, 07:28:41 PM
Hey axe?  How did you interpret Tommy Lee Jones' dream at the end of No Country For Old Men?

I've been wrestling with that ever since I saw the movie.  I can't quite figure it out and I like hearing everybody else's take on it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 05, 2010, 09:22:05 PM
Well, at the beginning, in the opening lines, Jones says  [and, yeah, I used IMDb to get the quotes right]

My grandfather was a lawman; father too. Me and him was sheriffs at the same time; him up in Plano and me out here. I think he's pretty proud of that. I know I was.  [...]  I always liked to hear about the oldtimers. Never missed a chance to do so. You can't help but compare yourself against the oldtimers. Can't help but wonder how theyd've operated these times. [...] The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He'd have to say, "O.K., I'll be part of this world."

I think all of that means:  He admires the tradition that precedes him, and he worries about measuring up to it, wants his father to be / to have been proud of him.  He wonders how the oldtimers would handle the modern world because he's never sure that he's handling it right, himself.  He's not afraid of dying, but he's afraid of the tasks of living, and he's determined to be brave enough to simply accept the world and keep going forward and doing the right thing.  Right?

Then, at the end, in the bookend closing lines, he tells his wife:

Both had my father in 'em . It's peculiar. I'm older now then he ever was by twenty years. So in a sense he's the younger man.

I think this reflects his ongoing wonderment at the world, that it can be as strange and confounding as it routinely is.  He doesn't try to expect how things are going to be; he just tries to react to it with aplomb.  And I think he's saying that he feels old, and he doesn't remember his father ever seeming as old as he now seems to himself.  It's his insecurity surfacing.

Anyway, first one I don't remember too well but it was about meeting him in town somewhere, he's gonna give me some money. I think I lost it.

Same deal.  He's afraid he's fumbling the legacy.

The second one, it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin' through the mountains of a night. Goin' through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin'. Never said nothin' goin' by.

That legacy precedes him, again, and you can't ask the oldtimers for advice.  All you can do is observe their example.  You can see he wishes he could ask his dad about the things in the modern world, but he knows he can't.  It's existentialist.

He just rode on past... and he had his blanket wrapped around him and his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryin' fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. 'Bout the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin' on ahead and he was fixin' to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold, and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there.

His dad's gone on ahead, out of the world, and he knows he's going to go, too.  He's not sure he's doing everything he's supposed to do, and getting everything done, but he feels like his dad did such a good job that the way is going to be prepared for him after he's dead, even though his father's remote now.  He's trepidatious about leaving the world just the same as he is about staying in it, but he feels some comfort at the thought that the oldtimers died, too.  He's just trying to follow in their footsteps, and he'll be OK so long as he tries to do that.

And then I woke up...

Yah, it ain't over til it's over.  He has to come out of the dream and return to the world and keep dealing with it. 

If you ask me, and you did.  :2cents:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on February 05, 2010, 09:40:45 PM
Apparently there's a subtitled edition of that one out there somewhere.  I have a feeling that's what I'd need.  :lol:

the dvd i have has a subtitle option.  :lol: you can borrow it if you'd like.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 05, 2010, 10:50:42 PM
:lol:  Sweet.  But don't risk mailing it to me -- I'm drowning in stuff to watch right now.  I'll check later to see if Netflix has it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on February 07, 2010, 01:29:00 AM
so, i finally got around to watching tokyo zombio. WTF? i feel dirty.  :lol:

continuity? fuck that! fight zombi!!! hehe great sound track. several LOL moments and several WTF moments and enough eeewww to make it kind of fun.

i still feel a little skeeved.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 07, 2010, 01:50:31 PM
i still feel a little skeeved.

Because of the scenes with young Afro and the teacher?  And I guess there were a couple of similar scenes.

A little skeevy.  They think that's hilarious in Japan, though.  Actually, a lot of East Asian film culture is full of naked little boys (yikes, in some cases) because that's just funny there, whereas here we tend to get a little creeped out.  I know I sometimes do, but I just don't need to see naked children, or naked adult men, or naked elderly people . . . I'm basically either prudish or frankly by and large not a big fan of the species, however you want to look at it.

Years ago, I finally got my hands on a Yuen Biao / Vivian Wu movie called Dragon From Shaolin that had gotten great reviews.  Basically, Biao plays an Indiana Jones sort of character who has an evil, money-grubbing half-brother, Vivian Wu plays a petty thief trying to go straight.  The movie revolves around a stolen artifact and a little kid (maybe 10 years old) from Shaolin who's trying to get it back, plus the fat orphan kid he befriends.  And it's mostly pretty good, with some great moments, but it's more about the kids than Biao and Wu, and . . . there are at least a couple of scenes where the human revolves around the kids being naked, including frontal stuff and penis jokes . . . .


There's reportedly an obscure US edition that almost certainly has the nudity cut out, but it's probably also butchered and horribly dubbed.  If you can even find it.  But that's just how foreign movies are -- foreign.  And sometimes the culture clash is uncomfortable.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 07, 2010, 01:56:55 PM
OK . . . I found a deeply kludged way to hook my headphones up to the subwoofer of my speaker set, which produces hissy but acceptable sound at a TV volume that doesn't disturb my tenants.  And since the computer's dead, I watched a couple of DVDs.

Run Fatboy Run (  Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran, Hank Azaria.  Screenplay by Pegg and Michael Ian Black.  This can't be a bad movie, and I really liked David Schwimmer's first full-length film, Since You've Been Gone.  He's great at assembling ensemble casts and doing little moments.

This movie is a long, long way from perfect, but it wasn't bad.  I haven't seen Thandie Newton in a lot, and she was kind of flat here, but there wasn't that much for her to do.  The film is a tad ham-handed at times, especially when it tries to get a little heartwarming -- it tends to go right into the schmaltzy end of the pool -- and the pacing isn't perfect.  But the cast is great, and there are lots of good moments, and none of it was painful to watch.  There are a bunch of nice cameos and little details.  As a warning, you do see Dylan Moran's ass twice.

It's not Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead, but it's not bad.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 07, 2010, 02:19:49 PM
I wanted to but did not see the Grindhouse feature in the theater.  I just now saw Death Proof ( (seriously, Hollywood, do you have union rules against spelling and punctuating titles correctly? or is this meant as a pun?), and this was the longer 'uncut' version, although I've heard rumors there's an even longer 'special' version.  This one was around 115 minutes but felt more like four hours.  IMDb and the internet describe scenes, though, that weren't in the version I saw.  Whatever.

Quentin Tarantino, you are a deeply disturbed guy.  I don't mean that in a good way, and I don't mean that your movies are too 'intense' for me.  I mean you have serious problems, especially with women, but we'll get to that.

The Good:

- Three excellent classic muscle cars.  Personally, the Mustang Mach One was my favorite, but the evil one is good, too.  (I had to go online to find out it was a Chevy Nova.  I admit I couldn't recognize it.)  The Challenger is a legit classic but just not for me.

- Some hot chicks.  I use that phrase advisedly because I'm sure that's how they were written.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whom I'd never seen before, is especially hypnotic, although she's actually not in the film too much.

- Kurt Russell.  Seriously, he's not just good in this; he makes everyone else look pretty bad.

- Classic music.  The theme song, which was apparently written for the film but sounds like Nancy Sinatra wishes she'd recorded it, is pretty awesome and will be stuck in my head for weeks.

- Lots of retro fun and fun retro stuff.

- A few great moments, 95% of them being scenes with Kurt Russell.  Some great car chase bits.

The Bad:

- Long, long moronic conversations.  These mostly consist of the hot chicks talking about people who aren't in the movie, making lame smalltalk about their sex lives (occasionally funny, but mostly just realistically dull), cursing unimaginatively, and generally being irrelevant.  It's not the kind of thing that much illuminates their characters, largely because, for the most part, they don't have any depth, which brings me to . . .

- Craptastic shallow characterization.  Truly.  The film forced me to listen to those conversations, and consequently I couldn't help but purely root for the bad guy.  These chicks are not people I need or want to see a movie about.  When they look good, that's great, but when they speak I want to change channels.  They're vapid, crude, dumb, and boring.  And it seemed like at least 75% of the movie was nothing but them talking, or talking while drinking, or talking while smoking, or talking while driving.  And 90% of what they said was not worth overhearing.

- They're asking for it, too.  I'm not saying any of the people who wind up getting hurt in this movie necessarily deserved it (in at least one case, yes, but no spoilers), but it was inevitable.  These are not smart, careful people.  If this particular villain didn't get them, odds are they'd be dead before age 30 from drunk driving or some random predator or possibly exposure.

- About half the car chase stuff is actually pretty bad.  You have (and this is really not a spoiler) a long driving sequence where two professional stunt drivers are driving around like crazy, and neither of them seems to understand how to do this.

- The retro stuff is sufficiently consistent that the film could almost take place in the 70s . . . but then it'll viciously remind you it's in the present when someone whips out a cell phone or iPod.  It's shoved right in your face, and it really doesn't even make sense.  It's so heavy-handed that it seems like it must mean something, but I couldn't figure out what, and I really didn't care.  It was just annoying.

Some of these negative points . . . Tarantino can get away with the It's Supposed To Be Kind Of Crappy 'Grindhouse' thing . . . to some extent.  But not enough.

Still, the second biggest problem with this movie (after the whole Endless Boring Conversations thing) is that Tarantino's creepiness comes through too strongly.  Watching this movie, you can't help but feel that he's obsessed with being One Of The Girls . . . but also wants to kill them, possibly because, you know, he's not going to pass for a woman, not even in professional Hollywood drag. 

There's an obsessive eavesdropping quality to the script -- hence all the boring conversations -- where it seems like we're supposed to be thrilled because we're hearing young women talking to each other Like They Do when no one else is around.  By ten minutes in, I was really sure there was going to be a protracted conversation about menstruation, and maybe it wound up on the cutting room floor.  But these women have no depth to them, and the film takes glee in having horrible things happen to them.  They act stupid and sleazy-glam, and an older man comes along to victimize them in horrendous, violent ways.  That's basically the whole theme right there.

I definitely got the feeling that Tarantino is fascinated by these women, and sexually excited by them, but god knows I didn't get the feeling that he respects them (except, maybe, when they either string men along -- or get violent against men), and I sure didn't get the feeling that he likes them.  He's like a kid pulling the legs off a Barbie doll.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on February 07, 2010, 03:23:01 PM
the cool thing about the blonde chick is that she's a real australian stunt woman. the part was written for her. plus, i think she's the best looking of the bunch.  :knotty:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 07, 2010, 03:49:17 PM
Yeah, I liked the credit to the stunt people thrust of the film, although she wasn't my favorite character.  (I laughed when Kurt Russell's character mentioned stunting for Lee Majors because . . . Majors starred on The Fall Guy, a show about stuntmen who lament that stuntmen get no respect.  And the show was wall-to-wall stunts.  But the stuntmen were not particularly credited.  Ironic.  And stupid.)

She wasn't my favorite, but I did like her better once she got violent.  At least this wasn't a violence-on-women horror flick where the women just shriek and run like girls before getting knifed.  And it's funny that she was Darryl Hannah's stunter for Kill Bill -- it makes the conversation about Hannah's stuntwoman 40x better, although still not very good.

Oh . . . WTF is up with this DVD having virtually no extras, incidentally?  That seems awfully weak for Tarantino.  Zero Grindhouse trailers, for instance.  All it had was the trailer for the movie I just watched and stills of the promo posters.  FAIL.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on February 07, 2010, 04:30:09 PM
Oh . . . WTF is up with this DVD having virtually no extras, incidentally?  That seems awfully weak for Tarantino.  Zero Grindhouse trailers, for instance.  All it had was the trailer for the movie I just watched and stills of the promo posters.  FAIL.

step 1: make movie with two movies inside

step 2: release two movies seperately with no extras

step 3: release "special edition" edition box set with both movies, extras and blood packet.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: sm0k4 on February 07, 2010, 07:42:44 PM
The stunt chick is Zoe Bell. She's a Kiwi and started out as Xena's stuntwoman. She's a stone cold ( badass (
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 08, 2010, 12:54:57 PM
I think Zoe's cooler in real life than she is in the movie.  In the movie, she comes across as kind of dumb for most of the time she's on, and then she finally manages to get cool toward the very end.  Really, the movie is not friendly to women at all.  I heard that Tarantino's now working on a remake of Faster, Pusscat Kill Kill, and all I can say is that I'm not surprised but he's not the feminist Russ Meyer was.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 09, 2010, 11:34:52 AM
King of Beggars (, an early-90s Stephen Chow kung fu comedy.  Not bad, but very half-baked and uneven, maybe even for HK, and certainly no Kung Fu Hustle.  It's kind of interesting to see because it shows an evolution of Chow's style, combining his full-on nonsense humor with Jackie Chan's kung fu parody stuff.  Chow's character is a rich playboy who (complicated) winds up being condemned by the emperor to be a beggar for life; eventually, he becomes the King of the Beggars, who were sort of unionized in China at the time, and saves the emperor's life (and wins the woman he loves).

The story, pacing, and tone are all over the place, but there are a bunch of good moments.  The cast is pretty terrific, with stalwart Norman Chu as the bad guy (he was also the bad guy in Wing Chun, for instance, and the Japanese Sword Saint in Duel to the Death) and Sharla Cheung Man as Chow's love interest (I always think of her as the evil princess in Kung Fu Cult Master).  The effects are elaborate, sometimes good and sometimes not as good, and it's a big production.  The end is kind of weak, but it's not terrible, just not a must-see.

Also saw Blow Dry (, unexpectedly -- it was on a DVD I thought had a Naked Gun movie.  I hadn't heard of Blow Dry, but it's another British hair styling competition movie.  There've been three or four of those in the last ten years -- I'd already seen two, but the only other title I can remember is Craig Ferguson's The Big Tease.

This one's less satirical, but still weird and often funny.  Even when it's not funny, I was hooked by the cast:  Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Bill Nighy, Rachel Griffiths, Rachel Leigh Cook, Josh Hartnett (awkwardly faking a Yorkshire accent), and Heidi Klum.  Yes, Josh Hartnett plays Alan Rickman's son, and he's not terrible but isn't 100% believable, either, not that it matters. 

The film has some surprisingly serious bits that mostly work, and a large number of scenes that could've gotten ugly if the characters (most of them) weren't so British.  Rickman, Richardson, and Nighy would be fun to watch if they were hosting QVC, so there's a limit to how far wrong this could have gone.  It's sort of slight, but nothing bad.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on February 09, 2010, 02:07:04 PM
King of Beggars wAs on the now defunct Kung Fu Network aaaallllll the time.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 09, 2010, 04:33:27 PM
All the time is too much.  I hope they at least ran the Royal Tramp movies, too.

edit:  Incidentally, the "King of Beggars" is a legendary character of the sort who's allegedly based on a real historical person, but I have no idea what part of the story is real.  Probably not the magical kung fu parts, but even the rest of it . . . who knows?  Kinda like a Robin Hood movie where Robin can shoot twelve other arrows out of the air, but they say 'Based on historical events!'
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on February 09, 2010, 05:20:37 PM
Well, England does exist.  Is that enough?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 09, 2010, 06:06:29 PM

Although, to be honest, I've never been there myself.  Still, it seems more likely than not.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 10, 2010, 09:24:18 PM
Water (  To be honest, it's not anything like as funny as I remember I thought it was in 1985.  But what is, right?  Or something.  But it's not bad.  It's just mostly kind of flat, with moments.

Michael Caine is the governor of a minor and unfortunate but not desperate Caribbean island.  Brenda Vaccaro is his crazy overbearing Guatemalan wife who doesn't want to live there, and Valerie Perrine is the activist romantic interest.  Billy Connolly plays a half-local singing rebel.  Jimmie Walker plays a wiseass radio DJ.  Fred Gwynne plays an evil US billionaire, and Dick Shawn plays his eager toady.  Alfred Molina has a great cameo as a French mercenary describing gourmet emergency rations.

In a nutshell, the island is worthless until mineral water is discovered, whereafter everyone wants the place, and chaos ensues, with sprinklings of hilarity.  The end features Connolly singing with a backup band that includes Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and Eric Clapton.  The whole schmeer is directed by the guy who did Bullshot, which is about thirty times funnier, but you can't win them all.

Like I said, it's not bad, and I probably would've liked it better this time around except that I thought it was much, much funnier the first time through.  :shrug:

Bonus:  The DVD has two AWFUL trailers for The Long Good Friday and Time Bandits.  The one for Time Bandits is deeply, deeply bad.  Guess the studio didn't know what to make of that film.  Go figure.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 11, 2010, 11:05:14 PM
The Missionary (, a 1982 Michael Palin film about a CoE missionary in about 1905 who returns from Africa to get married but is sent to work with inner-city prostitutes, with British sex-comedy results.  It's . . . OK.  It's a strangely untidy little film, with weird shifts in tone and location, as if written with abrupt chapters by more than one writer, and even the editing is often a bit severe -- several scenes end so sharply that it's downright surprising.

Still, the cast is good, especially Palin, and there are some pleasingly eccentric characters, and the sets are good.  The whole is pretty mild, but also pretty straightforward and good-hearted.  It's not bad, if not Palin's best 'solo' work, either.

The same director had Brimstone & Treacle ( come out the same year, and that's also on my list of films to see.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 13, 2010, 11:34:52 AM
Tuff Turf (, a 1985 80s-tastic new-kid West Side Story kind of movie.  It's not great, and its very uneven, but it's very, very 80s.

James Spader plays the East Coast used-to-be-rich new kid who moves to a California town and finds the high school full of 80s Movie California weirdoes.  Seriously, did gang members anywhere ever dress the way they did in 80s movies?  They all look like unused extras from Fame, mesh half-shirts and bandanas all over their bodies.  This movie is largely about music, some of it good and some of it not so memorable, and there's more than one scene involved unlikely impromptu choreographed dance numbers.

But, still, James Spader, the gangs, and the gangleader's hot (!) girlfriend, played by soon-to-vanish Kim Richards, with amazing long crimped hair and showing quite a bit of skin.  Weirdly, this film came out in the same year as The New Kids, where it's Spader who plays the evil gang leader harrassing the new kids.  To be honest, he's better in that one . . . he comes across as a bit psycho even in Tuff Turf, and you keep waiting for him to open a can of unrighteous ice-cold lunatic whup-ass on the bad guys.  He finally does, sort of, which is a strange sequence all by itself, but it's not everything you'd hope for.

Robert Downey Jr, in his eyeliner and moussed spikes phase, appears as a rock'n'roll drummer who's kinda sorta Spader's sidekick but seems to have been mostly written out of the final cut.  Frankly, you get more of him doing much the same thing in Back to School a year later opposite Rodney Dangerfield.

If you keep your eyes open, you'll also see Cat Sassoon as one of the gang girls.  But, seriously, Kim Richards has this one in her pocket.  I've heard she left show biz to focus on her kids, which I can understand, but it's a shame -- she vanished until five years later when she and her sister were in a weird Escape to Witch Mountain homage film (just called Escape ( and then a weird parody of Witch Mountain and Blair Witch and then eventually Black Snake Moan, which I still haven't seen yet.

Anyway, like I said, the music in Tuff Turf isn't bad but is largely forgettable -- although Spader serenading Richards at a piano is surprising -- except for Jim Carroll's People Who Died.  Until I looked at the IMDb page, I, uh, didn't realize that was the same Jim Carroll as Basketball Diaries (I am always out of touch on these things) . . . or that People Who Died is also in the soundtrack for ET.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mrcookieface on February 13, 2010, 06:37:50 PM
Ha!  I totally forgot about Tuff Turf, but now I remember that I actually saw it in the theater when I was like, 15 or so.  Good god, I had a serious crush on Kim Richards when I was a kid.

That wasn't her boob in the movie, by the way.  She had a body double for that scene.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 14, 2010, 12:47:44 AM
She had a body double for that scene.

That was, of course, my immediate thought at that scene.  :lol:  And then IMDb said so, too.  But she shows a lot of leg and is often not wearing a bra and, regardless, just looks great.  Except that I never liked crimped hair, which includes Darryl Hannah's crimping in Splash, which, to me, especially made no sense for a mermaid, anyway.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 14, 2010, 01:01:34 AM
'Party' at my brother's place tonight.  We each brought a movie we'd rented.

His:  I Love You, Beth Cooper (, which, I admit it, is really about seeing Hayden Panettiere as much as anything else.  This is basically one of those 80s teen comedies updated to the 90s, like American Pie, despite coming out in 2009.  It was so-so.

The premise of this one is certainly John Hughes enough:  valedictorian gets up nerve during graduation speech to confess his love to girl who doesn't know he exists, and the ensuing day and night and next morning.  The characterization was too weak, though, and the main character, especially, was too much a tissue of cliches that grated.  No offense to the actor playing the kid, but he was not a sympathetic, believable, or likeable character, and it was hard to believe the romantic angle -- not that the girl couldn't fall for a nerd, but that she would fall for this particular one.

The humor was really uneven, and, because it didn't have that Hughes spark to carry it, the gaps in realism were awfully awkward at times.  Still, it had a number of genuinely funny moments and some cute scenes.  There were a number of puzzlingly weird aspects to it, though, such as a running joke about one of the characters being gay.  That character's name is Rich Munsch.  At no point does anyone point out that he could also be Dick Munsch.  It seemed certain that this would occur.

Neither of us realized until the film was over that it was directed by Chris Columbus, or we probably would've skipped it -- I'm not in any position to judge any of the Harry Potter movies too harshly, but, for my money, Columbus hasn't directed a solidly good film since Only The Lonely, back in 1991, and not many people think that was a solidly good movie.  I can't endorse Home Alone, so if you throw out Only The Lonely, that leaves him with just one good, if uneven, film, Adventures in Babysitting.

I Love You, Beth Cooper was often really uneven, with scenes that drag, shots that last too long (with the actors even just standing there as if they're wondering why no one's said CUT!), and huge pacing problems.  We both figured it was a rookie director's first job.  I may not be a big fan of Columbus's work, but I would have previously at least described him as 'slick' and meant it partly admiringly.  Beats me what happened here.

So . . . not great, but not terrible, with definitely funny moments.  Slightly racy for the normally pretty conservative Panettiere, but don't see it on that basis.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 14, 2010, 01:10:14 AM
Mine:  The Machine Girl (, a Japanese parody of yakuza action flicks.  It's over the top in ways that are hard to describe but has the gore of a Dan O'Bannon zombie movie except without zombies and with ninjas and gangsters and a high school girl who has a sort of gatling gun where her left arm used to be.

It's more complicated than that, but it wouldn't help to explain it.  This is a great movie for people who laugh when zombies tear someone apart and it's meant to be funny, especially if they like Japanese movies.  It's probably not a great movie for anyone else.  We both liked it, even though my brother is much less of a fan of zombie movies than I am, which shows that it has some greater breadth of appeal, but, frankly, he might like a movie where a cute Japanese girl kills 1500 people with a spoon for no apparent reason.  It could happen.

In fact, that movie might already have been made, but I'm not so interested that I'd go looking for it.  The same director who made Machine Girl also made the even further over-the-top Robogeisha, which I do want to see, but according to IMDb he's also made hard core porn and god knows what.  They don't pigeonhole you so much in Japan as they would here.

Unless 'pigeonholing' is something they do in Japanese porn, in which case . . . I don't wanna know.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 16, 2010, 07:40:27 AM
Rewatched The Omega Man ( this morning.  I revise what I said after seeing I Am Legend:  The best version is the 1964 Vincent Price Last Man on Earth, although that one is more seminal than great.

I'm not sure how long ago I last saw Omega Man, but it definitely wasn't nearly as good as I remembered.  It's clumsy and often dumb (as soon as you become a vampire, you get a nifty black robe from somewhere), and a hell of a lot of it is not well thought out.  It's occasionally unintentionally funny -- you can sometimes see random passers-by in the background of the 'deserted city', and there's a long motorcycle scene in which the stuntman is really obviously not Heston.  But a hell of a lot of it is painfully dated or just painfully awkward.

Heston made three and a half gloomy SF movies in about five years at the end of the 60s (which, you know, really ended closer to 1975 than 1970):  Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (the 'half' movie, since he's not in a lot of it), The Omega Man, and Soylent GreenOmega Man is the weakest of them.

This film's an early member of the Post-Apocalyptic Mutant Death Cult films, along with Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  I mean, Last Man on Earth has similar zombie/vampire/mutants, and they're organized into a sort of coherent enemy group, but they're not really a cult and don't all wear black robes or similar.  Maybe we can largely blame Heston movies for this unfortunate trend.

I actually can't think of many major post-apocalyptic films from much before 1970.  La Jetee and Panic in Year Zero are both famous ones from a few years before Last Man on Earth, but I don't think either of them features mutant cults.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on February 16, 2010, 09:42:10 AM
Yeah but ... Anthony Fuckin' Zerbe, man.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 16, 2010, 11:09:00 AM
:lol:  True, Zerbe is great in the role.  Most of the casting is a bit weak, but he and his primary flunky are great, as is the guy who plays Dutch.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 18, 2010, 11:41:51 AM
Late last night / early this morning:  Easy Virtue (

Um.  Well . . . OK, this is an adaptation of a Noel Coward play which apparently hadn't been filmed since Hitchcock did it as a silent film in 1928.  :eek:  Strange but apparently true.  In a nutshell, an upper-class kid from a British Stately Home (played by Ben 'Nice Guy Or Am I A Psycho' Barnes) comes home from vacation unexpectedly married to an American fast-living race-car-driving blonde bombshell (played by Jessica 'Am I An Actress Or Are You Just Staring At My Ass' Biel), much to the disapproval of his stiff-despair-is-my-milieu matriarch of a mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) and the amusement of his WWI-shell-shocked father (Colin Firth).  And etc.

Directed by the guy who did Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Welcome to Woop Woop, with a bizarre but engaging Jazz Age soundtrack that includes period covers of recent music (which sometimes works and sometimes is a bit jarring, as in the case of their version of Billy Ocean's When The Going Gets Tough).  It's not exactly a comedy, definitely not exactly a romance, and, if you try to chart the plot in terms of rising action and such, not exactly a drama.  Mostly, it's an excuse for period whatnot and for the cast to perform.

But the period stuff looks great, and the cast is pretty awesome.  Biel fluctuates from awkward to perfect in her role -- her character is not a stupid floozy -- and doesn't quite look right with platinum hair and makeup that often makes her face look like someone's tugging on the edges from behind.  Firth steals scene after scene without having to do much of anything, and Thomas gets to bring out every tense defensive British matriarch that ever made you want to shout CUT IT OUT at a TV or movie screen.  Ben Barnes is befuddled and bemused and believable, even if his character ultimately lacks character:  he plays a young man who's plausible if a bit disappointing.

Meanwhile, Kimberley Nixon is great as the naive, excitement-starved younger sister.  The other sister doesn't have enough to do; she's the slightly delusional, slightly besotted one in this family.  The butler is magnificent, and I'd hire him in a second.  The other Brits all walked out of one of the better BBC old-school soaps, like Flambards or something.

There are a few bits that don't work so well, like the 'funny scene' with the death of a small dog almost a la Something About Mary.  And some scenes drag, and some scenes involve people being cutting in ways that were very sharp in the 1920s but seem unsatisfyingly elliptical now.  You want them to cut to the quick more often instead of just dropping evil hints.  And the film seems longer than it is.

On balance, though, I liked it; the good outweighed the bad. 

Seriously, though.  Colin Firth?  Gold.  Oddly enough, he and Ben Barnes also both starred in the Dorian Gray movie that came out around the same time.  Haven't seen that one yet.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on February 18, 2010, 04:13:21 PM
bizarre but engaging Jazz Age soundtrack that includes period covers of recent music (which sometimes works and sometimes is a bit jarring, as in the case of their version of Billy Ocean's When The Going Gets Tough). 

Oh god. I hate that shit. Moulin Rouge, to me, was a waste of good celluloid that could have been used to blow up mailboxes.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 18, 2010, 05:03:07 PM
:lol:  It's not terrible in Easy Virtue.  They did one earlier in the film that worked a lot better, but I can't remember what it was.  :crazy:  IMDb has almost nothing listed for the soundtrack, which is stupid -- the movie doesn't exactly revolve around music, but it's a big deal, big enough that the closing credits are played over music where the film's conductor names each member of the score orchestra, and each of them has a quick solo.

They mostly do period music -- Let's Misbehave gave me the urge to charleston a few times.  But the credits start with the Billy Ocean cover, and, what, was that the theme to the sequel to Romancing the Stone (two references in one week, I know, I know) or is it my imagination? 

At least they didn't do a 20s cover of Spies Like Us.

I watched about five or six minutes of Moulin Rouge and felt it was best to stop.  Someone convinced me to watch Chicago, and I got about halfway through it.  For one thing, I didn't feel either did a good job of theater-to-film -- they just felt contrived -- but there was something wrong with each of them.  I couldn't even explain it.  And I'm someone who often discovers he's humming Take The 'A' Train or Let's Go Slumming.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 18, 2010, 09:58:32 PM
Cleaned house all day, rearranged a couple of rooms.  Bleh.  Watched Big Trouble (  Honestly, I don't understand how Barry Sonnenfeld can make a few perfectly good movies and a few perfectly crappy ones.  Or why people liked the Men In Black movies (cast and basic concept, yes, but otherwise mostly ugh).

Anyway, I liked this one.  Holy hammertoes, what a cast.  I must say that:

-- Zooey Deschanel, Sofia Vergara, Janeane Garofalo, and Rene Russo are all magical creatures.  Janeane remains absolutely one of the loveliest things on this planet.

-- If Patrick Warburton and Janeane had a show where they were cops, I would get cable just to watch it.

-- Ben Foster really annoys me, and I'm not 100% sure why, but he's not a bad actor.

-- With a weaker cast, this film could've dragged or been dull, but it worked for me.

-- Seriously, Janeane.  So amazing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on February 18, 2010, 10:07:28 PM
I haven't seen it! That was written by Dave Barry right? I read the book. Hilarious. Kind of like Carl Hiaasen Lite.

And I agree about Janeane. She'd hate us if she knew, though.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 18, 2010, 10:11:04 PM
:lol:  I know!  It would be worth it, though.  Besides, my track record so far is 100% hot women who're convinced they aren't hot.

That's the Dave Barry one, yeah.  I thought I'd read that one, but I guess I read his other one.  He's written more than one crazy crime novel, right?  Either that, or there's something wrong with my brain.

The movie feels like the book is probably better, but even so.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on February 19, 2010, 12:32:53 AM
There was also Tricky Business, which I read but barely remember.  Big Trouble I've read multiple times.  Every time we go to the airport we have a discussion about whether we want to go to "arrivals" or "departures".  The book was better, but the movie was pretty true.  I believe the frog had Elizabeth Dole's face in the book.  It was Martha Stewart in the movie, wasn't it?  I totally did not realize that Jenny was Zooey Deschanel or that Nina was Sofia Vergara.  Now I feel like I have to watch it again.

If you remember, it was supposed to come out the same week that 9/11 happened.  It got postponed because of the whole bomb-on-a-hijacked-plane storyline.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 19, 2010, 12:53:40 AM
All true.

I'd never heard of Sofia Vergara before, as far as I know.  She's breathtakingly picture-perfect gorgeous in a small role in Big Trouble, almost eerily beautiful, but still not as compelling as Janeane.

I guess Tricky Business must be the one I read.  Honestly, all I remember is that it was better than I expected.  I like Barry's stuff, but I didn't know if he could write a novel or not, since it's really not the same thing  as the stuff I'd seen from him before.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on February 19, 2010, 12:59:00 AM
She's breathtakingly picture-perfect gorgeous in a small role in Big Trouble, almost eerily beautiful

Yeah, she's supposed to be Madonna-ish (as in the Virgin Mary, not the ropy scary woman).  The only other thing I've seen SV in is "Modern Family", where her character is a little over-the-top in her Colombian-ness.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: TehPnuk on February 19, 2010, 02:55:35 AM
Watched Terminator: Salvation. I actually liked it. Right up until the "heart transplant" and then I literally screamed, "FUCK YOU McG! FUCK YOU RIGHT IN THE ASS! THAT'S THE STUPIDEST FUCKING ENDING TO A MOVIE EVER! YOU FUCKING COCK!"

Stupidest fucking Terminator of them all. Yes, and that includes 3. Take out the last 90 seconds, it ain't bad.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on February 19, 2010, 09:48:33 AM

Good points. Although the scene in the Arnold factory was stupid. I did like parts of the movie, oto.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 19, 2010, 11:03:36 AM
He directed both Charlie's Angels movies, which I think proves that he can do good things and he can do bad things and he doesn't know what the difference between them is.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 22, 2010, 10:12:05 PM
Dhoom (, a 2004 wunza action-comedy-musical from Bollywood.  It's sort of an adaptation of The Fast and the Furious.  Sort of.  Netflix was pretty sure I'd like it.

Well . . . it has a lot of good moments, especially if you :trance: at weird-ass Bollywood musical numbers and over-the-top action scenes.  But it's two and a half hours long, and parts are hard to follow, or else it just wasn't holding my interest enough.  Also, the subtitles occasionally vanish.

So the good bits are good, and the crazy parts are crazy.  It felt like they could have cut almost an hour from it for a US DVD edition, though, and few people would have complained.  A lot of it is posturing and posing by actors who are bigshots in India but who I don't know, oddly enough.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 23, 2010, 10:18:13 PM
I've been trying to watch My Best Friend's Wedding because about half a dozen people have recommended it to me after hearing my complaints about typical romantic comedies.  I can only seem to watch about 10-15 minutes at a time, though, and I just checked . . . I have about 45 minutes left.  And I think I'm going to give up, at least for a couple of weeks.

The problem is that it's so damned flat.  It's not full of comedy.  The romantic angle is (A) solid Bad Idea, which the film knows, (B) not romantic, and (C) not going to make anyone happy if it succeeds.  There are four main characters, and they're all played by good actors, but none of them are very likeable.  Rupert Everett's character is the most likeable, and he's in the movie the least, and only to prop up Julia Roberts' character -- the star -- who is the least likeable. 

Dermot Mulroney plays a guy who's getting married to a much younger, much wealthier woman who's crazy about him, but he doesn't seem to know why he's marrying her.  Frankly, his character seems like a very mild jerk.  Cameron Diaz plays the young debutante, and the character's so dumb and shrill that they had to give her two dumber, shriller sluts for friends.

With a better script and direction, the movie would be about Roberts engaging in crazy schemes to get Mulroney back, and it'd be funny.  Or her character would have enough depth so we'd care more about what she wants, and she'd be learning something faster, and it'd be poignant.  But mostly . . . it just feels long.  And a few scenes are excruciating. 

The highlight of the film itself so far has been Rupert Everett leading a crowded crab shack in a spirited music hall rendition of a Dion Warwick song.  That was OK but hasn't justified the hour or so I've already watched.

I have to say, though, that it was 100% worth giving this movie a try in order to see the opening credit sequence, which has a bride and three bridesmaids (or perhaps an alpha bride and three beta brides?) performing a hypnotic rendition of Wishin' and Hopin' that's as impressive and amazingly sugary as a six-tier wedding cake.  I may have to go back and watch that again.

But the movie itself keeps putting me to sleep.  I imagine it'll build somewhat toward an uncomfortable climax, but I don't enjoy seeing these characters get all emotional.  Still, at least, for a change, this is a Dermot Mulroney movie where he plays an unrequited love interest . . . who doesn't get killed in Act Four.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on February 23, 2010, 10:26:03 PM
if you want to watch a goofy comedy, i'd recommend role models.

i think you might find it funny. it also has some of that romance crap in it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 24, 2010, 10:11:35 AM
:lol:  I don't hate romance in a film if it's done well.  I am a huge sucker for sympathetic romance, especially if appropriately cute.  British romance often works because the characters often seem hopefull but hesitant; if they're desperate, they accept it.  I was ridiculously fond of Bridget Jones' Diary and Love Actually, for instance. 

Huh.  I went to Netflix, and they seem to have changed something -- I can't find a listing of just the movies I've rated.  Bugger.  And if I call up the Romance genre and tell it to include movies I've rated . . . OK, Love Actually isn't listed as a Romance movie.  Well :shrug:

Also, no matter what subcategory I look at, it insists I'm looking at Foreign Romance.  Well, they'll probably fix it eventually.

Anyway, Role Models is in my queue.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 24, 2010, 10:17:13 AM
When I just want to be distracted, I often go for a horror film.  Late last night, I watched Red Hook (, an indie slasher film from last year.  It's about college kids in New York who go on a scavenger hunt that includes more homicide than average.  It was OK.  It has the look and feel of working around a tiny budget and a semi-pro cast and so on.  The gore effects are the kind that would be considered very good for a stage show, and the film uses a lot of cuts and camera angles to suggest what it can't afford to (or prefers not to) show.

The director mostly does live theater, in fact, including directing a stage musical of The Last Starfighter.  :trance:

She also did a critically acclaimed (but little seen) comedy-drama rock musical about 9/11.  :hmm:  And right now she's finishing up an SF movie I don't know nothin' about.  You gotta keep working.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on February 24, 2010, 01:07:35 PM
Concur on Love Actually and Bridget Jones.   :love: both of those.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 24, 2010, 02:15:23 PM
A weird thing happened to me with Bridget Jones.  Can't remember if I've mentioned this before.

It was the winter of 2001, and I'd recently seen Jerry Maguire and wondered WTF had happened to Renee Zellweger, who at the time seemed too good to be stuck opposite Tom Cruise.  I visited my parents, and when I got home there was a copy of Bridget Jones' Diary (the book) in my suitcase.  I thought, well, that's odd, but my mother must've thought I should read this book.

And I did, and it was pretty good.  But the next time I talked to her . . . she said she'd never heard of it.  Odd indeed.  I never did find out where the book came from.  Not long after, the movie came out, and I was suspicious . . . .

If it was a viral marketing campaign, it was a doozy.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 24, 2010, 02:16:36 PM
Derp.  Just noticed that Richard Curtis (of Blackadder fame, among other things) worked on the script for Bridget Jones and wrote Love Actually.  This explains a good deal.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 25, 2010, 10:35:29 PM
Finally finished watching Season Four of Doctor Who, which of course is what they call the fourth season of the recent semi-reboot, even though it's a patently stupid way to refer to the series.  Season Four occurred in 1966-67 and had Hartnell and Troughton as the Doctor.  :harumph:  I think it's actually Season Thirty.

Anyway . . . Season Four has David Tennant, who's really quite excellent, and Catherine Tate as companion Donna Noble, who varies from annoying to really quite excellent.  This season has a couple of standout episodes.  The climax two-parter has its good points and bad, and all in all I'm not that fond of it, but it was a bit of a reunion show (sort of like, say, The Five Doctors, in a good way), and that was pretty sharp.  Elisabeth Sladen is STILL a hottie. 

They're still tending to reach for pathos and step in bathos by accident; when they go for pulse-pounding, tear-jerking drama they tend to overdo it and pump the corny quotient up higher than anything else.  They also try too hard to make each season an interlocking puzzle (with mixed results) and try WAY too hard to introduce red herrings, which after awhile simply degenerate into nonsense and plot threads that go nowhere. 

The cast is so good that they carry most of it flawlessly, but sometimes there's nothing for it.  Still, it's great to see. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: vox8 on February 26, 2010, 03:12:12 PM
I really like Tennant, but I do not like the way that they are humanizing the Dr to appeal to a broader audience. Having him actually fall in romantic love with a companion is a complete crock of shit.

The whole point is that he is an alien, not just a really quirky and super powerful human.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 26, 2010, 04:14:03 PM
I was OK with that, but not super-convinced.  I could buy that certain Doctors had a thing for certain companions -- it's sure seemed like it at times -- but it seems like he would pretty much never act on it.  And as much as I liked the companion in question, I just never got the feeling that Tennant's Doctor was so particularly madly in love with her.

But I've often not been too impressed at the way Davies has had the Doctor interact with the companions.  In some ways, great, but in others, not so great -- and especially at moments of high drama.  Tennant's Oh, Hey, Sarah, You Were Always Great non-explanation to Sarah in her return episode was a good example of weak writing on that score, as is Donna's farewell.

The resolution of Rose's story wasn't a terrible idea, especially given the corner the story had gone into, but it was handled in such a wishy-washy and unpromising way. 

The bathos thing I was talking about is probably this same "humanizing" you mean, though.  It's WAY too Marvel Comics.  The better Doctors were always very human in the ways that mattered, alien in ways that were cool and demanded by the plot, and generally otherwise James Bondish.  I mean, a lot of what made Tom Baker's Doctor so awesome was the way he never, ever admitted defeat and rarely even admitted discomfort.  He always had another idea, even if it took a minute, always made a calm wisecrack in the face of certain doom.  Better-than-human.

Tennant and Eccleston were both more frenetic and exciteable, and it mostly worked great, but Tennant was asked more than once to practically break down in misery, and that doesn't work for the character.  The Doctor doesn't cry and go on anyway; he just goes on anyway.  He's veddy British, after all.  Plus, he may have regrets, but he has a different perspective -- longer times, bigger scales, been here before.  You know?

So . . . yeah.  Not just a quirky guy.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 26, 2010, 07:01:40 PM
Saw the first episode of Primeval (, an ITV (British but not BBC) show more or less about dinosaurs in modern Britain, with a bit of an X Files flavor to it -- two-way temporal anomalies, a missing wife who shows up mysteriously, etc.  The two main creators are a guy who produced the Walking With Dinosaurs, etc, and a guy who wrote a recent version of The Lost World, so it all seems likely enough.

It's OK, based on one episode, which had a few weaknesses I attribute to opening-night jitters.  The cast is solid enough, made up of people from the New BBC Attractive stable.  The writing's not fiercely gripping but not problematic, except that sometimes huge animals seem to make a lot of noise that only travels a short distance, allowing them to be ferocious but still sneak up on people.  Eh. 

They used three dinotype animals in the premiere, one of which they more or less made up.  Bonus points for going Permian instead of dinosaur.  Slight minus for the apparently made-up critter being able to fly without so much as a retcon comment from the scientists.  (I'm not saying the creature is impossible, and there's something at least a little like it in the fossil record, but that's a glider, not a flyer.)  Slightly bigger minus for exaggerating the size of the big monsters -- by at least a factor of two.  A gorgonopsid is scary enough at its actual size (about as big as a large bear).  Although, again, if one of the scientists had said 'It's a new species -- bigger than anything we've seen a fossil of!' they could easily skate by.  Still, not everything has to be gigantic.

The effects are WAY better than I would have expected, I must say.  Seriously, good for British TV or Hollywood.

So . . . I'll watch some more, eventually.  I think the series was completed or cancelled last year, but I'm not sure.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 27, 2010, 12:00:28 AM
Also saw a few episodes from the first season of Big Train (, a British sketch comedy show from about ten years ago.  Ups and downs.  The main problems are that (A) it has a distracting laugh track and (B) most sketches go on too long.  The cast really commits to each sketch, though, and there were definitely funny parts.  Maybe it gets better as it goes on -- it did seem like it was.

Young Simon Pegg in there, though.  This was filmed a little before and during the same years as Spaced.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 27, 2010, 12:25:01 PM
FG got The Scarlet Empress ( from Netflix -- I don't know how she chose it -- and so we watched it last night.  It's Josef von Sternberg's weird-ass 1934 Marlene Dietrich film about Catherine the Great.  It's worth seeing, although the second half drags.

Von Sternberg was obsessed with Dietrich and with weird arty filmmaking, and, boy, does he emphasize both in this picture.  Regardless of the character, it's all American accents, and the elder Russian Empress sounds as much like Joe Pesci as she sounds like a Russian Empress.  It's bizarre, to the point where you'll keep wondering if it's supposed to be funny.  The sets have to be seen to be believed.  Really, I don't think the inside of the Kremlin was ever so crammed full of hyper-Victorian furniture and grotesques, but maybe it should be.  A lot of scenes are insanely busy with extras, and, holy crap, the costumes.  It's all a frantic and peculiar spectacle that makes you wish it were in color.  The number of 10" or higher fur hats in this movie must set an all-time record.

Dietrich plays the first half (of so) of the film as a stunned and naive young woman who seems, to be frank, more than a little stoned.  Her big eyes, razor-thin eyebrows, and bright lighting even when everyone else is in shadow is supposed to be erotic but in modern terms suggests clown makeup about half the time.  John Lodge plays the partly-seductive, partly-sinister, all-lunatic Count Alexei like he's going to grow fur and fangs at any moment.  He has a scene with Dietrich where he invites her to whip him in a fine understated raunchy fashion that contrasts well with Call Her Savage, and another peculiar seduction scene where she keeps putting straw in her mouth and he keeps removing it.  That sums up much of the film:  Strange things happening for no apparent reason, but it looks like it means something.

Sam Jaffe plays the halfwit Grand Duke Peter, Dietrich's arranged-marriage husband, who slips in and out of lunacy but grows more lucid for some reason as the film moves on.  Dietrich's character gets smarter as the film goes on, too.  I think the plot was just too anemic otherwise.  The constant references to sex are mostly kept quiet, but this is a mostly pre-conservatism movie, as the glimpses of nudity in the opening montage of torture demonstrate. 

The movie's 105 minutes and doesn't have a huge amount of plot, but it's so concerned with atmosphere and sideshow weirdness that it still needs lots of montages, in fact, and screen cards summing up major plot elements that it skips over.  Catherine's alleged sexual excesses are nodded at but not dwelt on -- at one point, a screen card implies that she seduces the entire Russian army, but the film certainly isn't judgmental.

Like I said, the second half is less hypnotic than the first, and you'll probably laugh a few times and wonder if you were meant to.  But it's definitely weird enough to be worth seeing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on February 27, 2010, 12:31:40 PM
Seriously, if the Doctor's not banging his Companions, I don't know what to say.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 27, 2010, 12:46:26 PM
Considering he started as a family man, he's certainly capable, and the Eccleston episode The Doctor Dances implies rather strongly that he almost never gets it on but that he probably is going to have sex with Rose.  Rose later makes comments that suggest that it never quite happened and she's sick of waiting.  Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead explicitly spells out that he not only gets very involved with a companion but at least more or less marries her.

The goodbye with Sarah at the end of, whatsit, Hand of Fear rather suggests that the Baker Doctor never crossed that line with her . . . but was more than merely fond of her.  And the same Doctor was strongly suggested to have a romantic relationship with Romana, although some people say that doesn't count.  (Of course, Lalla Ward was involved with Tom Baker.  And now she's married to Richard Dawkins . . . who appeared as himself in the season finale of the Tennant Baker season I was just talking about up there ^.)

But, then, there used to be a famous rule for the show from the producer that there was "no hanky-panky on the TARDIS".  Not on-screen, certainly.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on February 27, 2010, 01:13:15 PM
 :tmi: ;)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on February 27, 2010, 01:30:25 PM
They frequently imply he's had sex with various historical figures and alien women.  But, you know, the BBC remains convinced that it's a kids' show with a little T&A and humor so the dads will watch, too.  And, more recently, the moms and gay men.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on March 01, 2010, 03:49:53 PM
Captain Jack should be the next Doctor. He has sex with everything.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 01, 2010, 03:52:24 PM
:lol:  I know!  He's one of their bravest companion choices EVAR.  And he's pretty excellent.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on March 01, 2010, 06:30:21 PM
couldn't sleep last night so i watched they wait (

seems like they left out a lot when they wrote it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 01, 2010, 06:57:36 PM
Looks a little odd, but it does have Pei-pei Cheng, which is something.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 03, 2010, 10:36:24 PM
Singin' in the Rain IS one of the very greatest musicals ever.  What went on behind the scenes, plus all the subtext and weirdities, make it even more amazing (if somewhat bittersweet), but it's a home run.

Also, I just have to say, fashion has sucked since around 1967.  Sucked.  Continually and almost entirely without respite.  And this is particularly, painfully stupid because as the decades have gone on, our ability to draw on the stronger elements of Fashion Past has gotten better and better.  Our judgment, though, has not. 

FG was suitably impressed by the color and costumes.  At one point, she said, "Why are all modern movies so blah?  It's like they have almost no color." 

Which made me think, has anyone seen that 60s revival film that Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor did a few years ago?  I saw part of a making-of, before it came out, that made it look like it had potential, but that was pretty much the last I heard of it.  It's an easy thing to screw up, but if Chicago could be big, then why not?

I wonder if Netflix has Sebastian.  I could just go watch the opening credits.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on March 06, 2010, 10:10:06 PM
hey, axe, can you share your queue with me? i think i saw somewhere that you email it or something. my netflix ran out a year or so ago and when i reactivted it i lost mine. now i'm looking for new stuff. i'd go through this thread, but i'm lazy.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 06, 2010, 11:14:33 PM
Yeah . . . I'll have to figure out how to do that.  Give me a little bit.

I watched a weird movie called Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (  :hmm:  Made me think of The Last Broadcast, actually.  Behind the Mask is to Scream what Last Broadcast is to Blair Witch -- a mostly better, smarter treatment of the same concepts, but still not quite altogether there.

The schtick of Behind the Mask is that movie serial killers are real, not movie characters, although also not supernatural.  Their legends grow beyond their actual deeds -- but not necessarily by accident.  It posits that there's a secret semi-society of larger-than-life serial killers who have a whole subculture of monsterism.  

The first two acts of the film are done documentary-documentary-style as the viewer follows an indie documentary team that's gotten to ride along with a budding Jason Voorhees, basically, as he explains his craft and preparations.  There's a really neat bit with his mentor, a retired serial killer.  The third act is weaker but still decent as it shifts to something else -- it becomes more predictable, but not dumb.  

The film never quite slides into parody and does a pretty good job of exposing and exploring the tropes of the genre.  It could be done better, but as far as I've seen it hasn't been before.  A lot of it is quite a lot of fun, especially seeing things from the killer's perspective, although it does occasionally slow down a bit.  Overall, I liked it.

edit:  Oh, also, it has Robert Englund in a cute role that demonstrates yet again that it's a shame he was typecast as a crazy psycho.  Not that he's bad at being crazy and creepy, but there's more latitude to even that than he's usually been given.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 08, 2010, 06:14:00 PM
Pin (, a 1988 thriller I'm surprised I'd never heard of.  This is a restrained little Canadian psychological horror film that's somewhere between Psycho and Dead Ringers, but not as extreme as either.

Basically, two strange people raise their kids to be strange -- not horrible, just odd -- but the kids wind up on their own in their late teens.  Their father was a pediatrician and had an anatomical mannequin he used as a ventriloquist's dummy to help kids relax, and his son turns out to be just a little too convinced that the dummy is a real person.

The film handles this stuff better than most.  The crazy kid is pretty convincing, to the point where he's often more uncomfortable than outright scary, and this isn't a gorefest, more a slow, suspenseful thriller with a creepy ending.  It's nothing revolutionary, just unusually serious about its subject matter, without excess sex, violence, or ironic humor.  Thing is, it loses a lot of its impact because it's mostly not stuff you haven't seen before, but it's still nicely done.  It feels a bit like a TV movie, which probably isn't a coincidence, as its director mostly did TV work.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 08, 2010, 10:12:43 PM
We're watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and FG told me to pick which of the girls was my favorite, like I was picking a horse or something.  So, OK, I picked one who had a sort of pinup look.  :knotty:

I said, She's my favorite, but she looks like she's six inches taller than I am, too.  :lol:

As the film's going on, yes, damn, she's tall.  But also kind of familiar.  Jane Powell, Richard Keel, Russ Tamblyn, that guy who plays the reverend . . . I don't think I recognize anyone else in particular.  So who is she, in a fairly minor role?  She has less screen time in the dancing scenes, etc, than the other girls.

Once I manage to catch her name -- Dorcas :lol: -- IMDb knows:  It's JULIE NEWMAR.


I had to explain to FG who Julie Newmar is.  :harumph:

She liked Jeff Richards (Benjamin) the best.

/smilies a lot  :eyeroll:

edit:  Julie Newmar's like five inches taller than I am.  I'm a freakin' genius, apparently.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on March 08, 2010, 10:28:26 PM

edit:  Julie Newmar's like five inches taller than I am.  I'm a freakin' genius, apparently.


Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on March 08, 2010, 10:56:30 PM
Fantastic. She'll always be Catwoman to me :D
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 08, 2010, 10:57:43 PM
Catwoman and Stupefyin' Jones.

Man.  I never realized she was so tall.  I rarely feel so short . . . .
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 08, 2010, 11:06:32 PM
Jane Powell, Richard Keel

:eyeroll:  I mean HOWARD Keel.  Although, weirdly, IMDb says she was in a movie with Richard ("Jaws") Kiel.  Not a good movie.

Omigod, I never realized she played the fembot in My Living Doll.  I've never actually seen that show, but, uh, hmm.

And speaking of omigod:  Up Your Teddy Bear (, a trash fetish comedy starring Julie, Angelique Pettyjohn, Wally Cox, and Victor Buono, with a plot that hurts you brain:  Newmar plays "Mother", a woman who owns the biggest toy company in the world.  She wants Cox (so to speak) to work for her because he makes good toys; he also enjoys stalking women.  She tells Buono, her sidekick, to hire Cox, but Cox thinks Newmar reminds him of his mother, which upsets him but also gets him hot and bothered.  Buono tries to convince Cox to come work for them by tempting him with women to stalk -- and even dresses up in drag as a prostitute to try to lure him.  And it apparently goes downhill from there.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on March 08, 2010, 11:10:03 PM


"In the world of 1960s television, no idea was too ridiculous as long as you put Julie Newmar in it. "

My golly that picture. Golly.

"Wow, the 1960s really were an untouched oasis of awesome" :galm:

that whole article is awesome.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: vox8 on March 08, 2010, 11:21:21 PM
I agree:

In the Alien universe, androids look and behave like humans except for two big differences: 1) androids have exceptional intelligence, reflexes, strength and other abilities that far surpass their human makers and 2) they're filled with vanilla pudding and pasta.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on March 08, 2010, 11:31:07 PM
I looked up a few more images of Julie and DAAAAAAAAAAAMN.  :detta: :detta: :detta:

I also ran smack dab into this picture and  :lol: :lol: :lol: :rollin:

[attachment deleted by admin]
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 08, 2010, 11:32:51 PM


My golly that picture. Golly.

Holy crap.  When I first saw it, my brain confused her arm and the shadow of her arm, and for a second I thought she had her hand inside her bikini.  I was entirely :shock: :asplode:.

Jeez.  I think I nearly broke out in flop sweat.

Julie was like a smarter, wittier Bettie Page who also might throw you on the floor for good or bad at any moment.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: TFJ on March 09, 2010, 10:24:56 AM
read that as
Julie was like a smarter, wetter Bettie Page

 :trance: :trance: :trance: :trance: :trance:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 10, 2010, 03:07:46 PM
Seen three episodes of Primeval now.  The writing is better than average but not quite sharp enough to really grip.  The characterization is 90% provided by the cast rather than the script, although there's potential there, especially since the cast is good.  It's occasionally gotten a little formulaic already, and it opens a LOT of plot holes that, you feel, may or may not get explained.  Still, it feels like they might get explained.  If they don't, it'll severely downgrade the show, I'm afraid.

Three episodes in, though, and the plot moved ahead at least twice as fast as I thought it would.  The stuff with the monster attacks is weirdly flat at times, though, even though they don't use the cliche monsters of the past.  First episode, gorgonopsids.  Second, giant bugs from the Carboniferous.  Third, mosasaurs and Hesperornis.  And they haven't been dumb about the time-travel anomaly thing so far . . . .

So I'll probably give it a few more episodes, anyway, and see how it develops.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on March 10, 2010, 05:23:43 PM
MIIKE!!! (
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 10, 2010, 06:07:22 PM

I have Zebraman in my queue somewhere.  Miike is one weird, weird guy.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on March 10, 2010, 06:23:59 PM
have you seen bird people in china? it's actually very beautiful.

the guy is coockoo for coco puffs but talented.

sometimes i'll mess with people and tell them to watch audition as a first date movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 11, 2010, 10:53:32 PM
Have not seen Bird People in China.  I'll try to, though.  Miike is a weird genius.

My brother and I watched Linda Linda Linda ( (2005) which is about some Japanese girls forming a band to play in their high school festival.  It's generally described as a comedy, but it's really just a slice-of-life film about being in a band -- nothing worse than 'awkward' happens, and there are funny moments, but it's really about being a high school kid and being in a band more than it's trying to be funny.  It's not intensely aimed at any particular part of that equation, though; it doesn't obsess over any one facet.

The film opens with a girl band breaking up and reforming.  The three girls who stay in the band recruit a Korean exchange student who doesn't speak a lot of Japanese to be their vocalist.  Stuff happens, a lot of it fairly strongly Japanese, but it's accessible.  The hardest part is keeping track of which girl is which, especially at the beginning, but there's no crucial confusion.

They cover songs by The Blue Hearts, who were like the Japanese Ramones.  The title song Linda Linda will be recognized immediately if you've seen enough Japanese movies.  You also get to hear (parts of) a haunting Engrish rendition of O Wailee Wailee (aka The River Is Wide), which is a truly :trance: moment.  Awesome.

It's an upbeat, feel-good little film with catchy music.  In Japanese fashion, it's not a Battle of the Bands or anything.  There's some mild regret and resentment at times over who's late for rehearsal or who used to be in the band, etc, but there's no hated villain to be defeated or anything like that.  No nudity, no violence.  They practice, they try really hard, they get to perform on stage, and it's basically all nice.  Very pleasant.  And I'd buy the soundtrack, myself.

If you don't see it -- or you just want to know if you'll recognize the title song -- there's a decent YouTube capture of them playing at the festival (  They look damp because they got caught in the rain.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 12, 2010, 12:08:39 PM
Also, very late last night, I watched Spring Breakdown ( on Netflix's recommendation.  I am amazed by the positive reviews, because this is one of the worst pseudo-SNL movies I can remember seeing.  Seriously, it's really bad.

Basically, Parker Posey (why?), Amy Poehler, and Rachel Dratch play women in their 30s who wind up at a stereotypical Spring Break.  There's slightly more plot, but not in a constructive way.  The cast also has Amber Tamblyn, who has virtually nothing to do.  Posey just seems really out of place.  Poehler does the same Making Fun Of White Teenagers Who Act 'Black' routine that can be sporadically funny, but, seriously, it's not her best schtick, and it gets old really fast.  Dratch, likewise, is not on her 'A' game, mostly just being shrill and bug-eyed as hard as she can.  Seth Meyers has a couple of reasonable moments as Dratch's jackass gay fiance.

Virtually the entire film falls flat.  There's almost no humor whatsoever in the script; it basically depends on the cast mugging and acting funny, and they mostly don't.  'Thrown together' would be an exaggeration.  None of the Spring Break stuff is original or entertaining -- in fact, it's the mildest Spring Break movie I've ever seen.  There's no nudity, no sex, and even almost no cursing.  I'm not sure how the movie got a 'R' rating.

The climax of the film is an unfunny triumphant group rendition of a Wilson Phillips song.  Seriously.  I understand that Netflix was led astray by all the people claiming they loved this movie (maybe they've never seen a teen comedy?), but still . . . FAIL.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 15, 2010, 02:02:34 PM
No sleep last night.  Watched The Man With Two Brains (, which I hadn't seen in a long, long time.  Most of it holds up well, and it has lots of great moments, remaining eminently quotable.  It kind of made me miss the casual-nudity of 80s films, too.

Also watched Ryeong (, aka The Ghost, a Korean horror film.  Well, it's a ghost film; it's only partially a horror film.  It's also a mystery and a tragedy.  Like a lot of these films, it has a Cold Girl water-ghost and a semi-coherent surprise twist ending. 

Frankly, it'd be better off if it ended about ten minutes early, without the twist.  It's not that the twist is bad so much as that it doesn't improve the film and feels tacked on.  Remember when every horror movie ended with The Evil Isn't Dead After All! shock punch-out?  This is the Asian film equivalent.  It's more sophisticated, but still not a terribly good idea in many cases.

As with most of these, though, the cast ranges from solid to excellent, the use of color and light is impressive (if, by now, a little standard), the tone is good, and the whole thing has a certain dignity rarely seen in US films.  The main actress has a slightly otherworldly beauty and a very expressive face, which makes her pretty much perfect for the dual role of a genuine good person who has amnesia and the evil teenaged bitch she used to be.  A ghost is stalking her and killing her friends, and of course she doesn't know why.  The unraveling of that mystery is nothing earthshaking but satisfying and really well-done.  The follow-up twist at the end isn't completely awful but doesn't add anything, either.

The moments of horror are fairly far between and pretty mild -- this is mostly a suspense picture -- but it's not a good movie for people with phobias about drowning.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on March 15, 2010, 05:24:11 PM
No sleep last night.  Watched The Man With Two Brains (, which I hadn't seen in a long, long time.  Most of it holds up well, and it has lots of great moments, remaining eminently quotable.  It kind of made me miss the casual-nudity of 80s films, too.

Huh. I remember really liking that movie a lot when it first came out, and I haven't seen it since, or heard much mention of it - compared to The Jerk. I wonder if I would still like it as much. I'd kind of like to see it again too.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 15, 2010, 06:34:47 PM
OK, took a Hay Fever Is Making Me Crazy break from chores and watched 'the beginning' of a movie that turned into 'the whole movie'.  It's called The Last Winter (, and it's from a few years ago.

Basically, it'll remind you of The Thing in tone, but without 85% of the FX stuff.  A bunch of oil company people are up in the Arctic Circle, in Alaska, and things start getting weird.  Stranded and on their own, they try to cope, not always cooperatively.  Two of them are there to do an environmental impact study, and that doesn't go so well with the guy in charge of making sure that an oil well happens.  Meanwhile, the weird gets weirder and worse.

There's an environmental message that's pretty Global Warming and that vacillates from half-baked Don't Piss Off The Earth to pretty clever X Files territory.  Are there really monsters?  Is the Earth fighting back?  Is it methane poisoning?  The film is not quite ambiguous, but you can see it however you want to if you try.  This is one of those low-budget films that makes the most of what it's got.  Part of what it's got is a very strong cast doing a really good job.  I'm surprised I haven't seen Connie Britton before, but I just haven't seen the things she's been in.

A lot of people hated the FX in this film.  Personally, I think they're spot-on groovy.  Similarly, the sometimes 'half-baked hippie-ish' stuff that occasionally pops up didn't bother me, especially considering (A) the characters are all a little off their rockers anyway, and (B) there are two Native characters, but the film doesn't go over-the-top with that.  Rare.

I had two big problems with the movie.  One is that it takes place above the Arctic Circle in February, yet the sun rises and sets about every twelve hours.  They do at least show the sun on the horizon a couple of times, although the shadows tend to belie that, but still.  It's one of those movies.  Still has far far far fewer gaping plot holes than, say, 30 Days of Night.  It would be really cool to see one of these movies done entirely at twilight (albeit not set in February), but I realize that would be expensive to film.

And I forget what the other big problem was, so it can't really have been that big, eh?  Anyway, this is the kind of movie that 'creepy foreboding' was made for.  I liked it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 15, 2010, 06:37:57 PM
Incidentally, I'm not sure they ever say 'methane' in the film.  They do mention sour gas several times and specifically mention hydrogen sulfide, but I believe (though I could be totally wrong) that you can easily smell hydrogen sulfide at levels below toxicity. 

Methane makes just as much sense in the story, even if the characters seem to have been too effed up to think of it . . . .

Yeah, I liked the film enough to totally cut it that kind of slack.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 16, 2010, 10:30:35 PM
Watched Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (  Haven't seen it since like 1983.


Parts of it actually work really well.  Other parts are pretty disastrous.  Some just don't work but aren't unbearable.  A lot of it is worth watching just for the bizarre -- the intended camp and the misfire god-we-were-stoned kitsch.  The Frankie Howerd bits were strange in 1983 and largely don't hold up well, either, but that's show biz.  And Frampton struggles at times, but the Bee Gees are pretty damned solid.  Watching Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, and Aerosmith was still fun.  Watching Donald Pleasance camp it up like a mad bastard is just peculiar.

I still don't understand why Sgt Pepper turns the villains into members of the clergy at the end.  The villains clearly don't understand it, either.  My theory is that they had the costumes, hadn't used them, and hadn't any better ideas left.

During the crowd scene at the end, I saw a lot of people I knew I recognized but couldn't name or place.  The ones I did fully recognize . . . Wolfman Jack, Sha-Na-Na, Herman's Hermits, and Carol Channing, who got more camera time during that bit than anyone else.  :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 17, 2010, 09:49:34 AM
Lost in America (, from 1985.  Back in the day when even the smallest town had a Mom and Pop video rental place, this was always one of the movies they had, but I never saw it.  Now I've seen it.

I like the two main stars, and there's nothing wrong with the supporting cast, but this is a type of comedy I just don't get and never have.  Brooks plays a high-strung anxious LA sort of guy, and Hagerty plays his mild but somewhat repressed wife.  They stress out, drop out, and set out for the East Coast in an RV. 

It's a decent setup, but the basic methodology of the film is that many bad things happen to them.  It's not slapstick, so we're not supposed to find it funny that bad things happen to them.  It's not surreal, like a Woody Allen anxious-guy movie might be, so we can't laugh because these things can't happen.  The film is intended to be realistic, and it is. 

These are people who weren't happy, realize just how unhappy they are, give up to follow their dreams, fail even more miserably than before, and decide that giving up even more completely looks pretty good.  There are a few funny moments, but the characters are sympathetic enough so that you feel bad for them.  Frequently.  On the other hand, they're not that sympathetic.  I've seen lots of glowing reviews, and I think it's interesting that some of them hold the characters up as Every American Couple, whereas other delight in their misery because they're Archetypal Stinking Yuppies who deserve to suffer.

To me, this isn't really comedy.  It's more like a tragedy where nothing too terrible happens.  Lots of critics say it's hilarious, though, so I must just not get it.

There were two moments where I laughed out loud.  But mostly I just wanted all the characters to relax and leave me and each other alone.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: sm0k4 on March 17, 2010, 06:00:35 PM
I'd just like to chime in here and say that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is my favorite musical. It's a guilty pleasure for the progressive feminist I am now, what with the kidnapping by mountain men and all. It seemed a lot more romantic when I was younger. Was Dorcas the one with the long black hair? She was always my favorite.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 17, 2010, 07:35:30 PM
Yep, that's Dorcas.  :knotty:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 17, 2010, 09:47:02 PM
Netflix appears to have the entire run of Soap.  Actually, I've never seen it in order, or with a clear picture, so this is pretty interesting.

And damn, Diana Canova was hot.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 18, 2010, 01:24:32 PM
In the throes of not sleeping or getting anything else done, I put on the DVD of There Will Be Blood.

First reaction was, Good god is this arty -- it better justify that.

Second reaction was, Daniel Day-Lewis is a really fine actor.

Third reaction was, You know, I think I hate Paul Thomas Anderson.

Eh.  I turned it off after about 40 minutes.  It still had like two hours to go, and about all that had happened is a bunch of characters I didn't like or care about were introduced -- not established, mind you, because the only depth to them was what the actors (Day-Lewis, mostly) projected.  It just utterly failed to capture my interest at all.  Didn't like the cinematography, didn't like the pacing, didn't like the tone (it felt like the entire movie was going to consist of foreshadowing punctuated by an anticlimax).  Act Two would have to have had a gala musical number and a laser war against the angels to make up for Act One's attitude of Your Damned Right You'll Sit Through This And Love It.

I wasn't completely wild about No Country For Old Men, but it had a TON more going on:  Far better characterization, better cinematography, strong dialogue, activity, changes of pacing.  It may have been pandering a bit, may have been unusual just for the sake of being unusual, but it was making a first-class effort.  There Will Be Blood felt like it was based solely around the principle that bleak grim shit is deep, man.  Serious business.  But if there's any real substance under its style, it didn't make itself evident in the first forty minutes or inspire any confidence in me.

I hated Boogie Nights, too, which I thought was an endless parade of boring pretentious nonsense and a waste of a great cast and a potentially good subject.  I still hadn't seen Magnolia, despite its Aimee Mann connection, because of how bad Boogie Nights was (and, well, Tom Cruise), and now it seems increasingly unlikely that I'll see it.

I usually think David Mamet is total crap, too, which I think is not completely unrelated.  As far as I can tell, he peaked in 1987.  Between those two, I feel like Bill Macy's career has been raped, although I imagine his opinion about it is a bit different.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on March 18, 2010, 01:27:04 PM
Non sequitur, sorta: Did Mamet actually write the whole "coffee is for closers" rant Alec Baldwin delivered in the Glengarry Glen Ross movie? Because of it wasn't in the play. SPEAKING OF WASTES OF GOOD ACTORS (and alec baldwin).

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 18, 2010, 01:33:21 PM
I don't know.  I actually haven't seen that one yet.

Mamet films are sometimes bizarrely fascinating.  Oleanna used to be on cable a lot, many years ago, and every time I happened on it, I'd have to stop and watch for at least fifteen minutes.  The dialogue is so incredibly stylized and inhuman . . . Bill Macy and the actress who plays the title character -- I never remember her name -- are amazing in their ability to go back and forth with it.  But it might as well be kabuki.  No human talks like that.  Not even language academics.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on March 18, 2010, 01:48:52 PM
Yeah, I didn't care for GGR. It was too bleak and I didn't like the dialogue.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: TehPnuk on March 18, 2010, 02:32:49 PM

The entire movie is a setup for a speech and punch line at the end. And that makes it all worth while!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mrcookieface on March 18, 2010, 04:15:00 PM

The entire movie is a setup for a speech and punch line at the end. And that makes it all worth while!


I love that movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 18, 2010, 04:22:03 PM
People seem to love it or hate it, but to me it was like dating an unpleasant old man and considering marrying him in the hopes that he'd die soon and turn out to leave me a lot of money.  Except the DVD had already told me he was going to live a long time . . . .

Not for me.  Anderson ain't drinking my milkshake.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on March 18, 2010, 04:40:39 PM
I can only remember bits and pieces of There Will Be Blood. I wish I could remember the ending now. The main thing I remember is Daniel Day-Lewis. I watched Gangs of New York again the other day, and his performance in that just totally fascinates me. If he wasn't in it, watching it once would have been enough, but I could could watch it over and over just for his performance.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on March 18, 2010, 04:56:35 PM
Oh yeah. ( (SPOILER)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on March 18, 2010, 05:39:16 PM
Heh. I haven't seen the movie, but DD-L is TOTALLY doing John Huston's voice. Totally.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 18, 2010, 05:42:51 PM
:huh:  I think that spoiler lasted an even briefer time than the one for Sixth Sense.

:shrug:  To me, it's just sound and fury while unpleasant and often annoying people very slowly fight over petty things.  And there isn't even enough sound and fury, considering its running time.  You've got to root for DDL's character because he's the only actor in the film who can bring a spark to the material.  

I see grimy people every day who'd bash your head in for a better-than-average sandwich -- or at least for $100, easy.  And I know people get cheated and murdered every day for oil.  The film just needs more.

A lot of people seem to compare it to Unforgiven, which I think is unfair to Unforgiven, which seemed to know that it had the potential to be slow and dull and was accordingly spiced up with quirks and humor and sympathetic characters.  Still, I didn't think Unforgiven was all that great, either -- it was good, but certainly not Eastwood's best Western.

:hmm:  You know?  Actually, Unforgiven is the most recent Eastwood movie I've actually seen.  I have Gran Torino in my queue, but I have serious doubts about or little interest in most of his other recent films.  Now that I think of it, I like Eastwood better than I like most of his movies -- and I haven't seen that many of his movies from beginning to end, just bits and pieces, and I haven't seen much he made after the 70s.  I hadn't noticed that before.  But I liked Joe Kidd and Pale Rider, High Plains Drifter, Kelly's Heroes, the Spaghetti Westerns, even Coogan's Bluff.  I've never actually seen more than bits and pieces of the Dirty Harry pics or Josey Wales.

Huh.  Or more than bits of Paint Your Wagon . . . .
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on March 18, 2010, 06:14:10 PM
gran torino is a pretty fun movie if you watch it with the right mindset.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: sm0k4 on March 18, 2010, 06:16:20 PM
I really really liked Mamet's Redbelt. That's about it though.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 18, 2010, 06:46:13 PM
Redbelt is such a weird concept for Mamet . . . I do want to see it.  I don't want to read anything much about it first. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 19, 2010, 07:51:22 PM
Saw the recent Dr Who special The Next Doctor (, whose title is intentionally misleading.  It was cute, and most of it was quite clever.  Well, let's say 60% of it was quite clever, and then 20% of it didn't make sense but was fun, and then 20% of it was pretty dumb and/or nonsensical but not too hard to overlook.

It definitely suffered from the ongoing We Spent A Hell Of A Lot Of Money On These Costumes issues that Dr Who has had the last few years.  Yes, the costumes have been great, but it's meant that they same couple of major enemies are featured in half of the stories.  That gets real old.

On the other hand, if you've ever wanted to see a gigantic steampunk robot stomping on Olde London Towne, this is a good opportunity.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 19, 2010, 09:32:19 PM
Watching more of Soap . . . Diana Canova is my favorite among the regulars, but Jennifer Salt was awfully attractive, too.  Her career started off in a big way but sort of petered out -- I didn't realize until tonight (thank you, IMDb) that she'd largely moved from acting to writing.  For instance, she wrote something like 20 episodes of Nip/Tuck.

How 'bout that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 20, 2010, 01:10:53 PM
Late late last night and early early this morning, in two separate bouts, I watched Year One (  Clearly, this movie was made with minimal scripting, and they just kept filming until they had enough footage to edit 90+ minutes out of.  Frankly, per that formula, they needed to film at least twice as much footage, because more than half of the movie just isn't funny.

Still, you throw out the poop joke, redo a couple of flat scenes, and remove most of David Cross's character, and you've got . . . something, anyway.  It's not Caveman or Wholly Moses or, certainly, History of the World, but it's not hopeless.  It has definite moments.  It relies too much on Jack Black winging it -- he's got the energy but should be riffing off of something else, not just riffing.  Michael Cera can make almost anything funny with his dry-Woody Allen schtick.  Not Superbad, but almost anything.

David Cross is great when he's great, but he's really hit-and-miss, and here he manages to dominate most scenes he's in without actually being funny.  Oliver Platt's craziness worked for me, on the other hand.  But this film isn't even half-assed.  Harold Ramis is also really hit-and-miss, and most of this is a miss.  A lot of scenes just go on too long, and a lot of 'C' jokes get emphasized like they were 'A' material.

Still, some good moments.  And ironically the TWBB moment in the outtakes during the credits is pretty damned funny.  Frankly, the shaman should've been in more of the movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 21, 2010, 10:31:33 PM
Netflix strongly recommend Lo (, a movie described in blurb as Lovelorn Justin sees his life change for the better when quirky April lands in the middle of it. When she's abruptly kidnapped by a band of demons, Justin sets out to rescue her, with the help of the hellion Lo, who has an agenda of his own. Hell, musical demons and oversized rats complicate the path to love in this horror-comedy hybrid.

OK, that sounds like it's worth a try.  And . . . the blurb is rather misleading.  It's sort of Joss Whedon-lite.  The charm and snazz and polish aren't quite up there, but it's not quite as mawkish, either.  As a film, it's basically a stageplay -- and a slightly avant-garde one at that, with open scene changes and visible off-stage stuff and so on.  Eh.  There's one musical number, which is so-so.  It has some nice bits, some parts that are too cute, and some parts that don't work. 

Overall, it feels like a film-school junior-year product -- except with superior makeup effects.  I was surprised to see that all four of the main actors were quite experienced; two of them I would have pegged as decent but not amazing amateurs.  :shrug:  The script is just not anything like as fancy and deep as it wants to be, but it's not atrocious.  There's a twist ending that you'll probably see coming about half an hour ahead, maybe more, but it's not a terrible twist.

So I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.  Still, the makeup effects were the best part, and then mostly because they looked like they belonged in a much more expensive film.  Comedy-horror isn't really the right billing for this film, either -- it's more of a curiosity piece.  Not as funny or scary as a typical episode of Supernatural, but I think it's trying more to be thoughtful than funny or scary.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on March 22, 2010, 07:33:15 PM
thought you might think this interesting:

film trivia game
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 22, 2010, 07:42:22 PM

I'm not great at trivia, but I'm curious.  I'll take a look at it later.

Early this AM, I watched Mr Frost (, which I hadn't seen in like 20 years.  Jeff Goldblum plays a mysterious serial killer who claims to be Satan and who gets into a battle of wits with his shrink in the midst of mysterious supernatural goings on.  Eh.  It's a tad slow, and a bunch of the actors were clearly re-recorded in post-production, probably because 2/3 of the cast was French.  It's a bit awkward and slow.

The main problem with it, though, is mostly that this Is It Really Satan film has been made several times or more, and, for my money, nobody's ever gotten it quite right.  Denzel Washington starred in a pretty good version with a great cast a few years ago called Fallen, which I think was a little better, albeit too long and not quite entirely satisfying.  And Eriq La Salle was in a love-it-or-hate-it version a few years ago, although I haven't seen that one yet. 

The scripts are never quite up to the task.  They always wimp out at a key moment, or stumble from Faust into cheese, or the philosophy is naive, or all three.  The good parts tend to be good, though.  The real central tension isn't theodicy but the question of how a figure of ultimate evil would or should behave and how such an entity would or could fit into modern society.  It's a concept with legs.

If anyone ever does one of these that beats Christopher Walken and Viggo Mortensen as uber-fallen angels in The Prophecy, I'll be surprised.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on March 23, 2010, 04:48:42 AM
Jeff Goldblum plays a mysterious serial killer who claims to be Santa

This is the way I read that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 23, 2010, 06:22:39 AM
That would have been good, too.

Late-Night Insomnia Theater presents: X Imp (, aka Devils Offspring [sic].  Uh . . . what?  This is a Hong Kong horror movie of sorts from 2001 (or possibly 1999, depending on who you believe), but it looks and feels more like it was made in 1991.  It's cheap.  The effects are not merely bad but inventively zero-budget bad, with strange changes of camera angle to try to make you think something spooky just happened.  Except that it clearly didn't.

Filmed without sound, which was clearly added in post-production, this film has the charm of something badly dubbed -- because it is -- but it's also badly subtitled.  The subtitles are the old hard-to-read plain white variety, badly translated, badly edited (ie, "You want to dare her" for "You want to date her", and so on), occasionally missing, and often incomprehensible.  The characters have names like Connie, Nokia, Graveyard, and 123.  The big star 'carrying' the picture, although there are large parts he simply isn't in, is Michael Wong, who plays a police inspector who periodically speaks (poorly) in nonsense English.  When he does, it's not clear if the other characters understand him.

The story revolves around a boarding school that may or may not be haunted.  I can't tell how old the students are supposed to be, but some of the actors playing them are in their 30s and look it.  Among other things, they eat borscht (yes) that turns out to have a dog's head hidden in it, which horrifies them for about fifteen seconds, after which they decide to have the world's most unlikely four-person "rave", which consists of a gymnasium, a fog machine, and a Casio keyboard on 'auto'.  One of the 'kids' wears a shirt that says I TUMMY and has a picture of a hand flipping you off. 

This same character plays basketball using a stepladder (although he still can't even make a layup, much less dunk).  He later sees the stepladder . . . well, it's clearly stolen by a stagehand who's just offscreen, and then it vanishes, and I'm not sure what he's supposed to have seen, but presumably a ghost or spirit or something has stolen his stepladder.  That's no way to play basketball.  He reacts in amazement as the stepladder vanishes but doesn't bother, say, mentioning it to his friends.

This is one of those movies where you keep trying to guess if it's meant to be funny.  The acting and direction often seem campy, but is it intended as ridiculous or just comic relief?  A character commits suicide in an unlikely way, and then the detective tells the rest of them the next morning that if they stay at the school they'll get scared, so they should all "check into a resort to relax."  He's quite serious.  It's quite strange.  Is the new student possessed?  And what about the mysterious Catholic priest who turns out to be her father by adoption?  Since just two weeks earlier?  And why does the school have just five students and two employees?

It's not exactly dull -- not quite -- but the MST3K folks wouldn't know where to start.  And I only managed to watch half of it, although I admit wondering WTF would happen in the second half.  Netflix guessed that I would give this four stars, which was optimistic.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on March 23, 2010, 11:40:44 AM
that was only half???

wtf? i read that and kept thinking, "hmmm, too many words, wait, what? hmmm, too many words, wait WHAT?? . . . "

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 23, 2010, 12:25:51 PM
That was the edited version.  It was kind of a provocative film, as far as WTF commentary goes.

And I've seen kind of a lot of Chinese movies.  This was no Bite of Love or Dr Vampire.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 23, 2010, 10:18:23 PM
Watched The Call of Cthulhu (, from 2005, a short B&W silent Lovecraft adaptation.

Hmm.  Well, I'm not sure I liked it, really, but it's certainly interesting.  Basically, these folks wanted to make a faithful Lovecraft film on a tiny budget, and part of how they did that was to make it a silent film -- and try to make it like a silent film from the 1920s.  That meant that the effects, sets, props, costumes, and acting didn't have to be, shall we say, up to modern standards.  The makeup could be really stylized and simple, you could film it without sound, and so on.

The whole silent-film thing sometimes works and sometime seems to be just trying too hard.  It goes from effective to cutesy and back every few moments.  Part of the problem is that a Lovecraft serial certainly could have been made back in the day, but it would've been incredibly cheesy.  They copied that much too faithfully here, and the result is really cheesy.  If it had settled into a more serious King Kong (the original, I mean) sort of vibe, that would've been different.  And the dramatic lighting that's intentionally not that good . . . is often too much.


I'll be honest:  People always say that Lovecraft stories are too hard to film.  Personally, I think this is rarely true.  I think the key is to play it straight and rely -- as Lovecraft did, for crying out loud -- on the characters' reactions rather than on the spectacle.  You've got to have some spectacle for a lot of his stories, and in many cases it's got to be outrageously spectacular, but none of it has to be anything harder than the Jurassic Park sequels.  Much less any of the green-screen epics that have been made by now.

Still, don't get me wrong:  This is a noble experiment and pretty interesting.  I do think that (Sky Captain-style) their attempt to make it look 'period' included degrading the picture too far.  One thing that we tend to forget is that really old movies often look like crap now because they've actually degraded.  A lot of them looked a hell of a lot better when they were originally shown.

But whatever.  It's no From Beyond or Reanimator, frankly, but the budget was reportedly something like $50k.  You sort of have to think of it as a community-theater Lovecraft film, and in that context it's a damned good one.  And only like 45 minutes long.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 25, 2010, 12:00:28 AM
Netflix recommended and, what the hell, I watched Carny (, a firmly B-movie horror flick from last year, apparently made for the Sci Fi Channel.  (I know they tried to change their name, but I'm not going along with that crap.)

Well . . . it ain't perfect.  On the other hand, it's a damned sight better than a lot of bigger-budget horror films that opened in theaters.  Lou Diamond Phillips is pretty good as an underwritten sheriff in a small town somewhere.  The blurb said Nebraska, but it looks as much like Hong Kong as it does like any small town I ever saw in Nebraska -- mostly windy dirt roads over hills through the woods.  But whatever.  A carnival and freak show come to town, pissing off the local Crazy Preacher, and the Sinister Carnival Owner has just acquired a scary new attraction, the Jersey Devil.

Things get out of hand, of course, but in a very reasonably decent fashion.  The movie starts off very coy with its monster, so that you start to wonder if they had the budget for more than stagehands just off-stage.  But by the end of the movie, you get lots of good looks at the monster -- which is actually a pretty good monster with pretty good effects.  Even if it seems to change size somewhat. 

There are some fail moments and some logic holes.  Such as when the sheriff gets locked in a cell that seems to also contain a gun rack full of loaded shotguns.  Not the best jail in the world, I guess.  There are some minor continuity issues and such, too.  But the monster's victims wind up looking surprisingly gruesome, and the monster's pretty good, and what do you want from this anyway?  The ending is somewhat peculiarly rendered -- it involves a big complicated shot that, I have a feeling, simply turned out to be too difficult -- but whatever.  Not great, but a lot better than, say, the Ben Affleck / Peter O'Toole / Rose McGowan big-budget Phantoms.

Apparently, several versions of this shown on TV and out on DVD are actually missing the last 5 minutes or so, including the climax.  Oops.  If your version ends with the hero telling the damsel to RUN! and then the credits roll, you got screwed, but you already saw the best parts anyway.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 26, 2010, 04:50:41 PM
Early this morning, I watched The Stabilizer (, a mid-80s Indonesian action film that is SOLID GOLD.  Except that it has not one but two scenes in which a guy eats a live goana (lizard), which is not cool with me.

Otherwise, though, this is a truly epic bad action film.  It's consistently hilarious.  The writing is ridiculous (think 1980 Italian-American low-budget SF film ridiculous), and the acting is painfully amateurish.  Much of the cast belongs to the high school play school of acting where you gesture and emote while speaking . . . then freeze in pose when you stop speaking . . . then start up again when you have another line.  There's an Indonesian Mr T, complete with mohawk, and all manner of absurd riff-raff. 

The dubbing's bad, too -- in terms of voice acting and consistency.  The cursing is incredibly variable.  A typical rant will go Bloody bloody bloody F-BOMB darn bloody darn F-BOMB.  Bizarre.  The dialogue is generally as bland and generic as you could hope, and then someone will say something like, "Dance to your grave, whore!"  Awesome.  Meanwhile, there are secret prisons, ambushes and traps, and a suave supervillain who wears spiked shoes.  Even in his own bathroom.

The hero -- who looks like Brian May's chowderhead steroid-popping younger brother -- is so cool that he has an excellent photo of himself in a mesh shirt and mirrored sunglasses, holding a gun, on his own wall.  Weirdly enough, the villain has the exact same photo of him.  Not sure how THAT'S supposed to have happened.  One of the romantic interests in the film has her bedroom walls covered with framed 8x10s of herself, too.  These are strange people.

In its defense . . . and you gotta give it this . . . this is a movie that has ambition.  Not to be the best in the world, but to go the distance.  There are a LOT of stunts where you can be pretty sure someone got hurt.  They're really trying.  There are fight scenes where the choreography is embarrassing, but then all of a sudden it's actually pretty good.  They get bonus points for having more than one thing happening at a time, too, although that's mostly the case with the half-assed kickboxing.  When it comes to gunplay, there are many, many scenes where you'll wonder why someone's waiting instead of shooting.

Also, there's something endearing about the scrabbling untidy I Screwed Up My Stunt A Little nature of the fight scenes.  They're so unpolished that they start to look more realistic.  Nobody in this movie is Jackie Chan.  It's more like they're all self-impressed steroid-injected freakjobs who think they're Jackie Chan.  And they go all out.

This is a movie where a guy clinging to a flying helicopter lets go and drops so he can shoot it up with an M-16 as he falls.  It's that awesome.  Really bad, but awesome.  But bad.  But awesome.

Now if they could just edit out the two bits with the lizard-eater . . . .
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 27, 2010, 11:53:56 AM
I finally saw The Prestige (  Eh.  Well, great cast, I should say, doing good things.  Great cast.  Worth seeing just for the cast, although the film could still stand to lose 30 minutes.

The real problems with it are all in the script.  First, it's a Twist movie, and three-quarters of the twists, including all the major ones at the end, are way WAY too easy to see coming.  Second, there are too many huge plot holes, and I mean just implausibly large ones.  And that doesn't even get into number Three on my list, which is the uneven tone -- it's historical realism with a bit of flare . . . until they introduce Tesla and His Magical Powers, at which point it becomes a completely different film.

Fourth, and probably most importantly, the film is convinced it has a great emotional depth that it just never actually creates.  This is a top-notch cast, but there's still almost no character whatsoever to these characters.  I couldn't care if they fell in love or didn't fall in love, because they're not real people.  At best, this is a story about two miserable pricks who devote themselves to destroying each other's lives and careers.  Tesla and Michael Caine's character are far more interesting.  I don't care if Huge Ackman and Christian Baleful tear each other into fish food.  Neither of them plays a sane, smart, likeable character in this film.

So there's a lot of cleverness (even if much of it is too predictable or preposterous), but it's all for not too much.  In the film, Caine characterizes a magic trick as having three parts.  I'm not a magician, and I don't know if these are accurate historical terms of art, but it's still one of the loveliest bits in the film . . . except that it misses an incredibly important sine qua non of the magic trick:  the presentation:  the patter, the pageantry, the showmanship, the staging. 

Jackson and Caine's characters criticize Bale's for lacking showmanship, which is weird since his magician frequently displays better showmanship than Jackman's . . . but the painful irony is that the film is specifically set up with the structure Caine outlines for a trick -- and it, too, lacks presentation.  It's not enough for a trick to have flashy props and scantily clad assistants and a silk top hat.  Your patter has to be engaging.  And the film just isn't.  It exists to do some wacky stuff with Tesla and to set up a multiple-trick ending that's OK but wouldn't have been out of place on an episode of Blacke's Magic, either.

Caine's character says, of the magic trick, The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled.

I did want to be fooled, but the film drained the desire to play along right out of me.  So I did start looking for the secrets of the trick, and it undermined the whole thing, like watching a dull magician and seeing the doves squirming under his jacket.  Then he stamps his feet and the music goes BUM-BA-BAAAH! and the doves appear, and . . . yeah, you know, I kinda knew that was going to happen.  There are limits to the responsibility of the audience when it comes to willing suspension of disbelief.  You can't put it all on me.


Great cast, though.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on March 27, 2010, 03:00:07 PM
I started watching that yesterday, but I fell asleep. I've seen it before, a while back, and couldn't remember exactly how it ended, but I figured Michael Caine had the last laugh.

When I woke up this morning (different sleep cycle - I didn't sleep all that time  :P ) the TV was still on and Hot Rods to Hell ( was playing. What a classic. And I mean "classic" in the Reefer Madness melodrama sense.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 27, 2010, 11:27:14 PM
SIL is away, so my brother begged me to come out for a bachelor night.  Bad pizza (seriously . . . urp) and random DVDs.

We're, uh, the manliest of men.  We rented Enchanted ( and Fantastic Mr Fox (  Well, the time before, we watched a Japanese zombie movie, and before that was a Thai kickboxing movie, and before that was a sukeban girl-gang movie, so I suppose it was fairy tale time.

Enchanted was better than I expected.  It's one of those movies that has a cute concept that could easily have fall totally flat, but it was surprisingly good.  Most of it worked really well, even if it was a bit split-personality.  The big musical number in the park was probably the best part.  I have to say, though . . . that brocade jacket and vest Dempsey wears at the ball?  I could totally wear that.

Fantastic Mr Fox was fantastic.  I loved Rushmore but never got hooked by Bottle Rocket or Aquatic Life enough to sit down and watch them, and there's something about the ads and blurbs for Royal Tennenbaums that always makes me put it off for another day.  I would give up all future James Bond sequels, though, to get more Mr Fox movies.  It was damned clever, very rich. 

Aardman movies aside, it was probably the most original and best non-cartoon animated film I've seen since Nightmare Before Christmas.  That may seem like a lot of qualification for praising an animated film, but cartoon animation and Aardman stuff are like totally separate categories from Mr Fox.  I don't mean to take anything whatsoever away from Henry Selick, but Mr Fox is better than Giant Peach or Coraline, although the tie-breaker is certainly the depth of content.

I haven't seen Up yet, so maybe it did deserve the Oscar over Mr Fox.  Have to wait and see.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 27, 2010, 11:29:15 PM
Oh . . . re: The Prestige, I think that in the interest of fair disclosure I should probably add that I've seen, I think, four Christopher Nolan films now, and the only one I really liked was Memento.  Most people, I think, would rate that lower than The Prestige or either Batman movie.

:shrug:  But just to be open about it.  Nolan's stuff apparently just doesn't 100% work for me.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 28, 2010, 06:20:22 PM
So . . . my brother's all OMG, you've gotta see this show by the guy who did Home Movies (but not the one who also did Metalocalypse), and it's about the Devil's 20something daughter.  Yuh, OK.  That sounds promising.

It's called Lucy, the Daughter of the Devil (, and apparently it's available free only until April 2.  Each episode seems to be around 5 min long.  It's pretty good.  H. Jon 'Coach McGurk' Benjamin as the Devil is the best part, naturally. 

But I watched the first episode, and it had a Tim & Eric show on a TV in the background, so it lost like half its points right there.  Seriously.  Don't do that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Tripper on March 28, 2010, 09:04:47 PM
Got one for your queue and one to look for.  First is Cargo ( made in Sweden and released last year.  I'm going on a couple of reviews (including this one), but it looks cool as hell.  I can't find it on Amazon yet or (ahem) from "various sources" with a English subtitle attached.

The second one is, well, start with the title Iron Sky ( and go with "Space Nazis" from there.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 28, 2010, 09:15:11 PM
Iron Sky will be awesome if they ever actually finish it.  What, was it like eighteen months ago they put out the teaser trailer?  I know it takes time to do an independent SF film, but people are starting to give up on it.

I hadn't heard of Cargo.  Netflix doesn't have it yet, but I put it in the Save part of my queue.  I have no idea if it's true, but my hope is that when people do that, it encourages the Netflix people to go get it.

The Netflix people don't seem to be that much better than Blockbuster when it comes to movies.  What I mean is, they don't seem to give a crap about the movies themselves.  They'll pick up whatever edition of whatever, whether it's a terrible transfer or a bad dub or pan'n'scan.  Maybe they're getting whatever they can license, or saving money by going with a crappier distro, or what.  I don't know.  But it's not impressive.

Still, they have a pretty good selection, and their pricing is decent.  Could be a lot worse.  And as far as I know, unlike Blockbuster they don't pressure distributors to not release widescreen editions.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 28, 2010, 09:47:01 PM
Forgot:  Early this AM, I watched the 1964 The First Men in the Moon (, which I hadn't seen since I was a kid.  It's an adaptation of a Wells story, and, weirdly, it's sort of contaminated with elements from The Time Machine and War of the Worlds.  It has alien effects by Harryhausen, and I believe it was one of his last films.

It's kind of odd.  Much of it is played for comedy, and, in fact, it takes about an hour for them to even arrive at the moon.  That first hour approached tedium for me, and the very end was a bit of a wakka-wakka anticlimax.  The twenty-five minutes or so that actually deals with the Selenites is pretty dynamite stuff, though.  The alien costumes are excellent, very good even by modern standards, and the Harryhausen mooncalf and 'Brain Selenite' effects are great.  It's a shame they couldn't think of more to do with them.

It's also worth noting that Martha Hyer was about 40 when she filmed this, and she looks more like 25.  She plays the love interest of Edward Judd, who was around 32, and I'm pretty sure her character is supposed to be younger than his. 

Lionel Jeffries, who passed away last month, did as well as anyone could as the rather eccentric Professor Cavor. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 29, 2010, 09:52:40 PM
Netflix recommended a recent thriller called Population 436 (  A guy ends up in a small town that's had exactly the same population for over 100 years.  Is something creepy going on?  Obviously, yes.

Here's what I liked about the movie:  The cast is decent, including Fred Durst, and being in this film kept him from doing other things for awhile.  It's sort of a USA weekend afternoon kind of horror movie.  It's not anything you'll be eager to get your friends to see, but it's not actively bad.

Here's what's not to like:  It rings the FORESHADOWING bell as hard as it can about ten times as often as it should.  Seriously, having Rod Serling step out, break the fourth wall, and tell you directly that something creepy is going on around here would be more subtle than the foreshadowing in this movie.  Luckily, at some point it gives up and stops trying to be a What's Going On Here suspense film and settles down into a This Is How This Plays Out suspense film.

Otherwise . . . eh.  If you've seen too many Creepy Little Town movies, this one won't do much for you.  If you haven't seen that many, or it's been a long time since you saw one, this one isn't bad.  I've certainly seen a lot of worse horror films.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on March 30, 2010, 04:37:15 AM
That one's available On Demand. I considered watching it the other day, so this review was helpful  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on March 30, 2010, 05:46:14 AM
I went to Wikispoilia and then I  :eyeroll:'d
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 30, 2010, 07:56:26 AM
:lol:  Like I said, if you've seen some Creepy Little Town movies, you've basically already seen this one.  You're not going to be OMG WTF.

Some of the online reviews are funny because people are either I've Never Seen Anything Like It!!!! or Oh God, Not This Crap Again.

I watched about half of Alien Apocalypse (, another On Demand film whose availability is about to expire.  It's a cheapie Bruce Campbell film that's sort of the weak cousin of Man With The Screaming Brain.  It is BIZARRE, but not in a way that was gripping enough to keep me.  The basic plot is that astronauts return to Earth after 40 years (mostly in hibernation) and find the planet overrun by giant termite aliens who've enslaved humans to make them work in lumberyards.

The Good:  Bruce, although he has very little to actually do or even say.  Renee O'Connor, aka Xena's sidekick, in a white jumpsuit, although she has very little to actually do or even say.  The aliens, who look ridiculously good for a movie this cheap.  The general bizarreness, although it's mostly apparently unintentional, such as how about a third of the cast wear incredibly ridiculous fake beards.  I mean, $15 Halloween costume kind of fake beards.  Strange.

The Bad:  It's a bad movie.  Most of the cast can't act.  The writing is really bad, effortlessly bad.  Most of the scenes are pointless.  You know those painfully bad filmed-in-a-week slightly funny soft-porn parodies of blockbuster movies that Cinemax and Showtime seem to have a new one of every month?  This movie is like one of those, except with better special effects but without the nudity and without the jokes.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 30, 2010, 10:35:47 PM
OK, I just watched The Caves of Androzani (, a Dr Who serial from the Peter Davison years that I never saw.  It didn't work on Instant Play, so I had to wait for the DVD.  I like Davison but generally didn't like his tenure as Doctor, although honestly I didn't much like anything between Baker and Eccleston.

The reason I went out of my way to see this one is that I learned it had been voted the best serial of all time not once but twice in polls by Dr Who Magazine, in 2003 and 2009. 

OK, it wasn't the worst one I've ever seen, but really?  Really?  Honestly, I'm not outraged or anything, just completely mystified.  It's bizarre.  I certainly wouldn't have put it in my top ten.  Or probably top twenty-five. 

Seriously, I can't even begin to understand how it could've been rated #1.  Like I said, not the worst one I've seen, but I can't think of anything about it I'd describe as being particularly good.  For Davison alone, of the ones I've seen, I'd put it awfully far behind Earthshock, just for starters.  I can't imagine telling anyone that they have to see this one.  I don't know.  I don't get it.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 30, 2010, 10:45:51 PM
Incidentally, over 6700 fans voted in the 2009 poll, and the others in the top ten were:

2. Blink (2007) (David Tennant, although he's mostly not in it)

3. Genesis of the Daleks (1975) (Tom Baker)

4. The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977) (Tom Baker)

5. The Empty Child (2005) (Christopher Eccleston)

6. Human Nature (2007) (David Tennant)

7. Pyramid of Mars (1975) (Tom Baker)

8. City of Death (1979) (Tom Baker)

9. The Robots of Death (1977) (Tom Baker)

10. Bad Wolf (2005) (Christopher Eccleston)

The only one I'd be really tempted to change is Human Nature, which off the top of my head I'd swap for Silence in the Library.  They're both really two-part serials, so that seems fair.  Human Nature has some really good bits and some really silly bits that are out of balance, whereas Silence in the Library does something rather impossible and pulls it off astonishingly well.

But I'd say everything 2 through 10 is at least an order of magnitude better than Caves of Androzani, which just doesn't have much to it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: vox8 on March 31, 2010, 07:37:14 AM
The only one I have really liked that I have seen so far is the one where the aliens are selling some thingie that makes you lose weight by having 1 lb lumps of fat spawn off of your body and run to the mother ship.

And they are all secretive about it and get in trouble.

It makes me laugh because they didn't have to be secretive about it. If they popped up and said:

"OK, you can eat all you want and you will lose weight but every night a small, cute, fat blobby thing will pop out of your abdomen and run home to us to be used as a catalyst for alien reproduction." people would have said ".... ummmm OK! How much does it cost?"
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on March 31, 2010, 09:26:38 AM
:lol:  Yeah, a good point.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on March 31, 2010, 10:46:42 AM
Unless the fat never stops leaving. That could be fatally problematic.

I am an over-thinking enthusiast.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: stormneedle on March 31, 2010, 11:11:55 AM
I would wonder what the original source was, and what happened to them.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 01, 2010, 05:32:29 PM
I just rewatched Earthshock, since I haven't seen it since it came out and was starting to think maybe I was wrong about it being so much better than The Caves of Androzani.  Wikipedia tells me it came out in 1982.  Ouch.

Yeah, no, it's at least several times better than Caves of Androzani.  It's not perfect, but it's still much better in almost any category you care to name:  story, script, dialogue, pacing, cast, costumes, props, effects, importance to continuity . . . .  I'm not sure it's the best Fifth Doctor serial, but it's definitely one of the better ones and better than Androzani.

Seriously, I remain mystified.  It's not like I usually agree with the bulk of fans about any given thing, but it's like . . . it's like if The Alternative Factor were voted best episode of the original Star Trek series.  It's not the worst possible choice, but, uh, what?  Exactly.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 01, 2010, 10:05:16 PM
Finally saw Brothers Grimm (  Eh.  Very half-baked, very uneven.  Gilliam often fails to keep total control over his projects, obviously, but it's often charming.  Here, it's more of a mess, but this time it definitely smacks of interference. 

I wasn't too surprised to see IMDb telling tales of Brother Grimm getting monkeyed up by the Brothers Weinstein, and I'm generally not impressed with the work attributed to screenwriter Ehren Kruger, either.  And it's one thing to want to inject a dark moment or two and another thing entirely to liquefy a kitten.  I don't know how that wound up in this film, but uh-uh.  :thumbsdn:

Heath Ledger has some terrific moments in this, as does Jonathan Pryce.  And I kept looking at the female lead and trying to place her . . . turns out it's Lena Headey, who played the title role in The Sarah Connor Chronicles show.

All in all, I doubt I'll be the first person to say it was better than Van Helsing but not nearly as good as Sleepy Hollow.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on April 02, 2010, 01:51:17 AM
I was wondering when you'd get to this one.
It was appealing visually, but there was so much wrong that it made me want to reach out and punch someone and that got to be distracting.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on April 02, 2010, 02:05:32 AM
the tower scene was cool. there were a few props and effects that were neat.

matt damon should be cock punched.

heath should be very well remembered for his great works. (i even liked a knight's tale because of the absurdity. queen during a joust!! brilliant!!

gilliam must have had some bills to pay. he slacked on that one. i think there was just too much computer/hollywood crap for him to process. i think maybe he wasn't around for a lot of the filming. just phoned it in.

i can watch about 10-15 minutes when it's on tv.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on April 02, 2010, 02:08:28 AM
axe, check out bollywood hero (, unless you told me about it. can't remember. it's fun. maybe i just like bollywood stuff.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 02, 2010, 07:29:43 AM
I was reading that apparently Gilliam got into a fight with the Weinsteins and stopped filming Brothers Grimm, left the country, and filmed Tideland, then came back and finally finished Grimm.

A Knight's Tale is a very strange movie that, objectively, ought to be a train wreck, but I really liked it, too.  Except I felt he should've gone after the blacksmith chick.  I didn't expect to like Ever After, either, though -- I got dragged to it by a female friend -- and I liked that one enough to see it in the theater twice.  Sometimes a movie is just straight-up enough fun that any weaknesses become irrelevant, which is how the suspension of disbelief ought to work.

check out bollywood hero

Wow . . . that's kind of unexpected.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 03, 2010, 09:41:31 PM
Been watching some Terrahawks.

OK, so . . . I've seen some of Gerry Anderson's stuff, mostly Thunderbirds, some UFO, some Captain Scarlet, a bunch of Space: 1999.  They each have something to recommend them, although Thunderbirds is overall the best conceived and best realized, if you ask me.

But over the years, I've seen various reviews and fan claims saying that one of the other series was better.  Captain Scarlet is more serious and has better puppets than Thunderbirds, but it's just not as cool and has inferior machines.  UFO has a lot of awesome, and no puppet issues since it's live-action, but, again, the machines just aren't as cool.  Space: 1999 has great props and sets, but the writing and acting are often just afterthoughts.

In the last few years, I've seen lots of reviews saying that, no, Terrahawks is far and away the best Anderson show.  Until I saw reviews making this claim, I'd never even heard of Terrahawks, which didn't originally air until I was almost in high school.  So, OK, although dubious, I got the first DVD from Netflix.

And WTF.  Maybe people who were little kids when Terrahawks came out could prefer it.  First, Gerry Anderson's involvement seems to have been comparatively minor, and it shows.  Some of the designs are elaborate, particularly for the little spherical robots, and a few of the effects are pretty good, but the ship and other mechanical designs and effects are generally far below the Anderson standards and certainly no Thunderbirds.  There are minimal sets.  The whole production often looks cheap and fairly slapdash.

The puppets . . . OK, there was a break with the previous marionette technology in favor of muppetesque rod-driven puppets, and you can see how this could have been an improvement.  But the puppet designs are, um, pretty crappy.  Many of them are comically bad, such as that of the main character, Tiger Ninestein, who looks like the world's ugliest transsexual in a cheap wig.  His head is totally shaped wrong -- his eyes are much too close to the top of his head.  Freaky, and I mean scraping the bottom a wagon wheel rut in the lowest point of the Uncanny Valley.  Seriously, they sometimes make me a little queasy.  In Captain Scarlet, they'd finally managed to make the puppets completely proportional, but here their heads and hands are too big for their bodies.  And for some reason their arms almost never move.

Meanwhile, where the characters in previous shows were mostly done with dramatic dignity, in Terrahawks they're mostly played uncomfortably for laughs, such as the Japanese character who (ha ha!) can't pronounce the letter L, or all the little robots with (ugh) 'funny voices', such as The British Sgt Major, The Gay Robot (which assists the Japanese caricature), The French Robot (which has a handlebar mustache . . . ), and an effeminate Rolls-Royce that makes KITT seem like The Fonz.  Oy.  The principle villains, meanwhile, look and act like tremulous gargling rejects from Fraggle Rock.  Of course, Gerry's wife, Sylvia Anderson, wasn't involved on this show, and my understanding is that she had a great deal to do with the puppet and set designs for his earlier shows.

And the puppetry here is totally campy.  Even though these puppets have realistic mouths that move automatically in time with their speech when they talk, the puppeteers usually make them nod frantically while they speak.  When the villains cackle to themselves (ie, constantly), they shake like Katherine Hepburn on a mechanical bull.  Their eyes wander from side to side at all times, like they're having seizures.  They generally appear more than a little stoned.

Meanwhile, the writing is mostly for little kids.  Little kids.  Thunderbirds was more like Doctor Who:  Largely aimed at children, but generally not dumbed down, so that kids would aspire to understand it all but feel like they were watching something serious, and adults would appreciate it.  Terrahawks has extremely infantile plotting -- the villains make The Hood, from Thunderbirds, seem like Keyser Soze -- but casually obtuse dialogue, stories that make no sense, whiplash plot developments, and jokes no child would get but no adult would find very funny.  Meanwhile, the main character is a huge jerk, especially in how he constantly ridicules and belittles the robots, and the other heroes have zero personality.

The show's not totally bad, and no doubt there were budget issues.  It's not entirely awful, and I'm sure that people worked hard on it, but it just doesn't work.  Like I said, some of the mechanical effects for the robots are interesting, and I can certainly see how the robots would appeal to little kids.  And maybe it somehow gets a LOT better as the series goes on.  Maybe I should've started with the second DVD.  But the best of the Anderson shows?  It's far and away the weakest that I've seen.

Ridiculous.  First The Caves of Androzani, and now this.  Ridiculous.

Seriously:  Our hero, to haunt your dreams (

A good summary review that will confirm I'm not just crazy. (
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 03, 2010, 10:03:24 PM
Watched Marebito (  Kind of an odd film.  Shot in a week by the director of Ju-On between that film and his own US remake The Grudge, written by the guy who wrote Serial Experiments: Lain, and starring the guy who made Tetsuo, it's . . . sort of a horror film.

The main character is an obsessive camera guy, the kind where reality's different through his own eyes than it is through the lens or a monitor.  He's also obsessed with fear, and he comes to believe that the secret to it lies underground, where he meets a ghost who tells him that reality is altered by narrative and belief.  Then he finds a huge set of impossible ruins beneath the city, including a cave where he discovers a naked young woman chained to the rock.  He takes her home with him, but she doesn't seem to be exactly human, and complications ensue.

It's all pretty nicely done.  It takes itself seriously without becoming pretentious or too heavy-handed, and it strives for dignity, not cheap scares, although it certainly does have some graphic scenes of people getting hurt.  There's inevitably a bunch of shots taken through the guy's camera -- shaky, amateurish, etc -- and the rest, I think, is all digital stock anyway, although fortunately pretty smooth and easy to tolerate.

The whole story is really a Jungian nightmare, the question of what's real and what isn't being wholly subordinate to the issue of what it all means to the protagonist.  It submits well to analysis, too; it's pretty well-written.  Personally, though, I felt it was a trifle dull most of the time.  My problem is that I don't really care that much about this guy's interiority or psychological problems.  I want to see underground ruins and inexplicable marvels.

So I guess I'd say it's a good movie, but not entirely of a sort that appeals to me. 

Also, one of these days I'd like to see a movie about an obsessive camera freak that DOESN'T have a single moment of footage that's shot through the character's camera.  Frankly, I think that would be brilliant, like Fargo having a heavily pregnant major character who does not give birth during the film.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Tripper on April 05, 2010, 09:23:12 AM
Hey, Terrahawks was no Supercar.

Thank God.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 05, 2010, 11:47:24 AM
I don't think I've actually seen Supercar, but as a puppet-based precursor to Speed Racer the concept comes across.  The puppets are basically always going to be the likely weak link in these shows, for a variety of reasons, and the Thunderbirds cast, cheesy as it was, was the standout there.  Those characters just had more character than the other puppet groups, and the show was chock-a-block with mechnical stuff.  The Thunderbirds themselves had half a dozen interesting vehicles, and practically every episode had at least one new vehicle in some capacity or other.

Supercar and the submarine show tended to rely on one main vehicle too often.  Captain Scarlet . . . the vehicles featured again and again were the plane, which wasn't too remarkable by Anderson standards, and the pursuit vehicle, which was so-so.  Terrahawks so far has one giant plane (which has a smaller plane that can clearly detach, although that hasn't happened in the episodes I've seen so far) that looks like a pregnant Firefox; one two-part plane that has two pilots but seems to only need one, and one part of the plane is basically (and kind of stupidly) a kamikaze drone; and a big space station that doesn't do anything.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on April 05, 2010, 12:10:40 PM
A lot of my generation really liked Thunderbirds but damn that puppets were way too off-putting for me.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on April 05, 2010, 12:14:01 PM
they creeped me out.

i liked ultraman.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 05, 2010, 12:35:04 PM

The Anderson puppets can be awfully hit-or-miss.  Actually, they're really variable.  When they're done just right, they can become really convincing, but all it takes is one dip in the uncanny pool to screw it up.  The Thunderbirds era ones usually work for me, but then all of a sudden I'll see a puppet that's too puppet-ish (Brains, typically, with his oversized glasses), or they'll have an ill-advised walking scene, or something like that. 

They definitely take some getting used to, though.  Of course, you could always play with the toy versions of the vehicles and skip the shows.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: stormneedle on April 05, 2010, 12:42:07 PM
A couple of weeks ago I saw the Thunderbird vehicles done up with the livery of Air Force One, and I drooled a bit.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on April 05, 2010, 12:47:58 PM
Ultraman! Yeah!!!!

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 06, 2010, 07:55:42 PM
Terrahawks improves as it goes along . . . because it gets all effed up.  I sometimes can't tell when it's trying to be funny, but it's definitely sometimes funny, and it's definitely sometimes on purpose.  It's bizarre, but . . . .

Dr NinesteinI feel great!  It's amazing what a little sleep can do.

RobotYes, sir.  I had a bit of sleep myself, and I feel like a new man.

Dr Ninestein:  [dickishly]  How is that possible, when you don't know what it feels like to be any kind of man?


Dr NinesteinDon't be stupid.  Robots don't have intuition!  Women do.

RobotInteresting.  What do men have?

It's also frequently racist and peculiar and just plain . . . effed up.  And the characters who are supposed to have US accents all add an /r/ at the end of any word ending in an /ah/ sound, so that they pronounce NASA as Nasser, and so on, which is really annoying after awhile.  But the show's sort of freakishly hypnotic, or hypnotically freakish.

The three main villains are android copies of aliens, yet they constitute a family unit somehow, two sisters and a son.  The son is retarded and has tusks sticking out of his lower lip and hair sticking out of his nose.  The sister has a blonde wig that slips over her face whenever she goes into a giggling fit.

If you just saw a clip or two of this show, you'd be sure it was a parody.  It's just damned bizarre.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 07, 2010, 03:20:31 PM
Last night I watched Spiral (, a little thriller from a couple of years ago.  It was OK. 

Joel Moore plays an asthmatic neurotic nervous wreck who might actually be dangerously unhinged, and from the moment the film starts you're going to feel like you've seen him play this character five or six times before.  I'm not sure you have, and he plays it convincingly enough, but it immediately seems old, somehow.  Zachary Levi plays his asshole childhood friend who's given him a job out of pity and, to his credit, refuses to give up on the guy despite what a pain in the ass it is looking after him.  Amber Tamblin' gets to play an attractive normal young woman for once; she befriends the crazy guy and starts to bring him out of his shell. 

The question of the whole film is whether this guy is a dangerous psycho or just crazy enough so that even he's not sure.  And it's all done pretty well, except for the occasionally ill-advised artsy extreme close-up.  The photography is mostly good; the direction is mostly good; the actors are good; the soundtrack is good.  The pace is a tad slow, but it's a suspense film that wants to show you the suspenseful character's life from moment to moment, so it can't get away with too much.  The climax and ending are even pretty good, although the very end is a cop-out and a cliche.

Still . . . the problem for me is that through the whole movie, you're not rooting for the main character.  You want to know more about the past that the film hints at, but you don't believe this guy has a future.  And since the movie has Thriller written all over it, you're just waiting for him to finally go nuts.  Once in a great while, in this kind of movie, there's a real twist in the final act, so you can wait to see if that'll happen.  But mostly you're just waiting to see how it plays out.

Weirdly, for no reason I can entirely describe, it put me in mind of a half-baked movie from 2000 called Paranoid (, which starred Jessica Alba as a fashion model who has a problem with stalkers and winds up at a dinner party where there's a good chance everyone else is a lunatic.  That movie had one really good twist about 3/4 of the way through.  You could imagine it ahead of time, and if you do you're going to really be hoping that they do it, and then they do, and it's pretty excellent.  The very end had a much lamer twist, and most of the movie just didn't click, but there was that one good twist. 

I think maybe Spiral could've used one good extra twist like that . . . but it's meant to be more realistic -- and it very mostly is -- and so a big plot twist would probably damage its tone.  Still, there's a reason why good fiction often shoots for verisimilitude instead of realism.  Real life is usually pretty boring.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on April 07, 2010, 03:43:53 PM

check out bollywood hero

Wow . . . that's kind of unexpected.

unexpected because i like bollywood or because it wasn't too bad? or was it that i'd think you might enjoy it?

well, "unexpected bad" or "unexpected good"?

been meaning to ask that, just kind of forgot.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 07, 2010, 04:42:47 PM
well, "unexpected bad" or "unexpected good"?

I couldn't know until I see it.  Chris Kattan in a Bollywood movie is kind of a disconnect, like having Rob Scheider star in a remake of Wharton's The Buccaneers.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 09, 2010, 04:41:43 PM
Trying to catch up on Torchwood while I'm waiting for the new Doctor Who.  If you haven't seen Torchwood, this won't make a lot of sense, but . . . basically, it's a Doctor Who spinoff in a sort of X Files / Avengers mode, except more adult.  There's bisexual foolin' around, graphic violence, cursing, even occasional nudity (almost always male, stupid reverse anthropological rule).  It often overlaps the Who continuity, and the shows have crossovers. 

John Barrowman stars as the hunky pansexual pulp hero / freakdog from the future, and the main character (sort of) is an actress who just needs a year of Invisalign to take away the Young Catherine Zeta Jones Award for Smokingly Hot Welsh Women.

Season One was better the first time through, partly because I already knew what was going to happen and partly because the soap opera bits had less punch.  Still good to pretty good.  John Barrowman's haircut goes from Carelessly Casual to Looks Like It Needs Combing by the end of the season.

Season Two opens with an episode where James Marsters shows up as Barrowman's long-lost future-scam-artist ex-partner.  If you ever wanted to see Marsters and Barrowman punch each other silly or make out (srsly), here ya go.  It's funny to me that these are two guys who are in their forties but could easily pass for ten years younger.  Marsters, in particular, was a great choice to play a vampire because HE DOES NOT FREAKING AGE.  Well done.

The second episode of Season Two is a good 1950s SF story, quite PKD, which is only marred by backup character Ianto's personality change (good change, but much too abrupt) and horrible, awful, distracting and bad stupid amateurish freshman-year-film-school camerawork.  Lots of weird camera angles, which change at random intervals for no reason!  Lots of quick cuts to suggest something emotional!  Montages to create bathos!  Rapid camera zooms to create urgency!

You can get away with a LITTLE BIT of this kind of thing once in a while.  Use any of those techniques more than three times in 45 minutes -- or more than five in any combination -- and odds are you're doing it wrong.  In this episode, I'm afraid to say, director Colin Teague seems to be sitting on the Pretentious Camera button and not realize it.  It gets deeply tiresome in the first ten minutes and keeps crapping on the story.  Teague also directed the fourth episode of the same season, but hopefully he was punished and learned not to do that anymore.  Ever.  Because it's crap.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 12, 2010, 08:51:59 PM
I watched some gunk while failing to sleep a few times of late:

Teenape Goes To Camp:  There's a guy, Chris Seaver, who's often described as a kind of post-Troma filmmaker.  Personally, I'd describe him as sub-Troma filmmaker.  I'd never seen anything by him, but Netflix recommended this one, and it's one of those things that looks like it could be a crazyass surprisingly funny low-budget whatever. 

It isn't.  It's a movie that's trying to be bad . . . and is really REALLY bad and still manages to fail at the whole trying-to-be-bad thing.  A one-schtick white kid in a bad rubber ape mask talks like a really bad impersonation of a dumb white kid trying to sound like a stereotypical black rapper is surrounded by a bunch of community-theater rejects, using a script that, honestly, you couldn't fail to do better than.  I mean, if a dog sneezed on the script and obscured some of the dialogue, that would be an improvement.

A lot of colleges used to have a public access channel that didn't go wider than the college itself (if its broadcast circle was that wide).  Probably now those have mostly been replaced by YouTube and whatnot.  But most of those colleges inevitably had some group of 'comedians' who thought they were inescapably hilarious even though NO ONE else thought they were funny at all, and usually those kids would do a really really bad sketch comedy show that they thought was epic because it was full of bad words and crude sex jokes that would be funny to a 10-year-old who somehow understood them.

There you go.  That's what this movie is.  This same group made a whole bunch of movies.  They're kind of like 'funny' low-budget porn films except without the actual porn content.  If you've ever seen a Misty Mundae porn parody of a blockbuster film that wasn't good in the first place, dumb it down by 50%, take out the porn, and sprinkle over it all the crudest fell-flat jokes from the weakest season of South Park.  That's this.

Maybe if you were really stoned.  I dunno.  I don't need to know.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 12, 2010, 09:02:59 PM
Day of the Dead (, the recent remake by horror movie legend Steve Miner.

OK, first:  This isn't actually a remake of Romero's Day of the Dead.  They both have zombies and the same title.

Second, this one has a bona fide unusual element:  The zombies are like Spider-Man.  They run, they jump ten feet at a time, they can cling to the ceiling.  They're usually really tough to even significantly injure.  They're also often undercranked, which frequently gives them a sort of Keystone Kops quality.  Some of them are pretty smart, for zombies.  Not saying this is good but just unusual.

Third:  This has some of the most unrealistic military stuff you've ever seen.  Within fifteen or twenty minutes, if you're thinking at all about what you're seeing, you won't be able to take it halfway seriously.  The main character is an Army corporal who acts and is treated more like a captain; she has her own staff and pretty much gets to do what she wants.  Odd.  There's a bit where two characters have identical sidearms (Berettas, I think they use now), one of which seems to hold about thirty rounds while the other seems to hold six or seven.  Odd.  And they have Humvees that need car keys.  Odd.  It's all like that.

Fourth:  The zombies appear to be nearly indestructible except for in the many scenes where they appear to be made of exploding pudding (seriously) and/or those sawdust-and-wax firelogs.  Frequently their heads come off in response to trauma that wouldn't decapitate a dandelion.

Fifth:  Some of the casting is peculiar.  Mena Suvari is a capable actress, but am I the only one bewildered by how incredibly attractive her characters are often supposed to be?  She's not ugly, god knows.  But she's not the impossible vision of hotness that films often make her characters out to be.  In this movie, at least half the male characters keep commenting on how unbelievable attractive she is.  Frankly, it's pretty weird.  

And Nick Cannon should very possibly either take up a new line of work or refuse to take any more roles where his character is supposed to be funny or a Token Black Guy, because good god is he annoying in this movie.  I would not have taken his character with me.  He turns out to be a master zombie killer, but in a world overrun by zombies I'd still rather not have that character hanging around.

Otherwise, this was just a standard Fast Zombie zombie movie, cliches and shaky cameras and all, and I didn't bother watching the second half.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 12, 2010, 09:07:48 PM
Oh, and I also started watching Alone in the Dark II because many reviewers said it was better than the first one, and, you know, the first game was pretty awesome.  But, no, the movie is horrible.

Biggest WTF moments of the first ten minutes or so include a professional occult asskicking team trying to protect themselves from a ghostly spectre by . . . shooting it a lot . . . and the Christian Slater character being played, in this Does It Really Even Matter If It's A Sequel? movie by Rick Yune.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 13, 2010, 07:36:03 PM
Season Two of Primeval has THREE major characters who changed their hairstyles in ways that are serious serious downgrades.  I wouldn't have thought I cared, but then I saw the new styles.  Only one character has an excuse for the change -- she's an alternate-future version of herself, or something. 

Season Two of Torchwood is also a disappointment so far.  Episode 1 was mostly good but also kind of No Way Would They Do That.  Episode 2 was mostly good but had some wretched camera stuff I already complained about.  Episode 3 continued the Bad Camera Habits and had a story that was just way too predictable and way too OH THE PATHOS! cliched.  And the directors of Episodes 2 and 3 have four more episodes between them in the season. 

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 13, 2010, 10:10:42 PM
Tooth and Nail (

Durrr . . . this got a lot of press for being an 'original' apocalypse horror movie, but, actually, the whole plot of civilization reverting to barbarism because we run out of oil was a regular staple of apocalyptic films in the late 70s and early 80s.  You know, the so-called Oil Crisis years.  Go figure, eh?  And even if reviewers hadn't seen the many godawful Italian-American low-budget films along those lines, surely they saw The Road Warrior.  One would hope.

Anyhoo . . . this one has Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones, which is OK.  Robert Carradine, which is risky but worth a shot.  Rachel Miner, who I remember was a promising starlet a few years ago but not one whose career I could be bothered to even half-assedly follow, although she seems fine.  Rider Strong, a young actor who seems destined to play characters that annoy the crap out of me.  And so on.  

Generally there isn't much acting or tension, as the dialogue is mostly flat and the characters are unsympathetic.  They're dumb -- very dumb -- and you can't really root for most of them to survive.  The villains perhaps needed more time so they could be characters instead.  That might've helped.

Eh.  I watched half an hour and was just bored.  It didn't seem completely awful, but I was at least ten minutes past the last point where I cared what happened next.  They were just getting to the point where the bad guys attack.  The good guys were so dumb that they should've been wiped out within a couple of hours, but even if that happens it wouldn't be interesting to watch.  I've heard that this film has a twist ending, but I feel like I'd probably think it wasn't worth the wait.  I'd rather be wrong about that than watch another hour and find out I was right.

The bottom line is that there's no dramatic tension if you don't care what any of the characters do, and half an hour was enough to convince me that none of these characters were going to do anything I would care about.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 15, 2010, 12:11:01 AM
My brother and I rented Ninja Assassin (  He'd seen reviews that said it was surprisingly good.  I didn't remember ever having heard of it.

WTF.  Seriously?  I've seen hundreds of martial arts movies from the last fifty years.  Hundreds.  I cannot remember the last time I saw one that was this all-around bad -- and I am not exaggerating.  I'm not saying I haven't seen worse ones, but I can't think of one.  I know I've seen ones that were harder to sit through, but the only reason we watched the entirety of this one was because of the MST3K entertainment we added ourselves.

This is a sort of ninja-vs-ninja film, except that it also involves Europol, the European international police organization with the unfortunate name.  The movie basically has no characters, as it has virtually no characterization.  It nevertheless has a LOT of dialogue, all of it bad, almost all of it expository.  The exposition is pointless because (A) you won't care, (B) the same plot points are repeated in case you already forgot or weren't paying attention, (C) it doesn't really make sense, and (D) the parts that do make sense are incredibly, incredibly cliched.  Really cliched.  And somehow both overblown and underdramatized.  If this film were somehow more jejune, it would have caused a world famine.

The cast isn't exactly bad; they just have nothing good to do.  It's all basically bad, pointless scenes, and then a fight.  The fights are embarrassing, nothing but jumping and twisting and shadows and lame CGI, with occasional and inconsistent additions of lame ninja magic.  You keep waiting and waiting for there to be a fight, and then when there's finally a fight you're waiting for it to end, please god let it end. 

There's zero tension.  In the whole movie, there's only one character we didn't want to see get killed, and that character gets killed pretty early on as a painfully obvious plot device.  The only distinguishing characteristic of the fight scenes is the CGI gore, which is occasionally funny in its excess.  I don't think it was supposed to be funny.

The badness of this movie is hard to describe, and I will say that it does not use lots of shaky camera and half-second edits for its bad fight scenes.  It at least does not go there.  But, for instance . . . the ninjas are from a ninja training school that is nestled into the sheer side of a jagged snow-capped mountain of a sort that I'm pretty sure they don't have in Japan.  I think they must be in China.  Anyway, how they get food, etc, is a mystery, but never mind.  The ninjas speak English at all times.  Most of them have caricature Japanese accents, but some have European accents, and some have American accents.  Hmm.  They have a magic powder, sometimes in goop form, that heals wounds really quickly, but sometimes they can heal wounds really quickly without it.  Hmm.

At one point, the ninja academy is attacked by Humvees that crash through its gate.  Immediately after this scene, the movie shows a helicopter approaching the school . . . and also shows that there's no road anywhere near it.  Hmm.  There are many, many training sequences.  None of them are good or original.  Much of the film's attempts at tension revolve around the main ninja trying to protect a policewoman who you won't care about and who he barely knows.

Seriously.  This movie is retarded.  The IMDb trivia for it says the Wachowskis didn't like the script and had J. Michael Straczynski rewrite it, which took him less than 53 hours.  Yes, and it shows.  Frankly, I find it hard to believe he didn't pad his timesheet.  Possibly by about 52 hours.

I'm not that hard to please.  I've seen Bloodsport more than once and didn't hate it.  If you want to see a ninja movie, try Azumi or Duel to the Death or any of the other ninja movies I've reviewed.  I've seen martial arts TV series that were consistently far better than this movie.  Sho Kosugi is in this movie, and I feel like no one should see him in it because it's an insult to him.

Incidentally, the pointless 'other' Europol cop is played by Ben Miles, and if you're like me you'll be trying to figure out where you know him from.  Coupling.  Which is also a better ninja movie than this one.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 15, 2010, 05:58:08 PM
Finally saw I Am The Cheese.  It was OK.  A somewhat difficult book to film, and I imagine it would have been tough to make it as sinister and grim as the book, but a really good effort by a first-time writer-director.  I can't decide if the Barre locations are a plus or a minus.  The whole movie certainly looks like Vermont, but I didn't actually recognize any particular spot with any certainty.  I also missed the cameo of a high school teacher I had.  Ah, well.

I should probably also disclose that I didn't have any particular urge to see it today.  I bumped it to the top of the list because the On Demand availability for it was going to expire.

Did I happen to mention that that ninja movie from the other night was bad?  I still feel like I'm being slapped about the eyes and temples with sardines, or something.  That was a bad movie.  It was bad.  Man, what a terrible, terrible script.  Like it was written by a high-school junior who'd seen eight bad ninja movies and thought that, really, they had some cool stuff in there that surely could be capitalized on.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on April 15, 2010, 07:29:49 PM
IIRC he was wearing a straw hat and riding a bike.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 15, 2010, 11:13:53 PM
Yeah, I vaguely remembered something like that, but I missed it.

Tonight we rented Whip It (, Drew Barrymore's roller derby movie from last year.  It was enjoyable.  Great cast.  It was weirdly understated, though, especially for a roller derby movie, but this seems to be the tenor of a lot of films right now.  Someone told me this was an international influence.  I have no idea.  But this is another movie that's about teen struggles . . . sort of . . . but without disasters or villains.  On the one hand, it seems a little underdramatized, but, on the other hand, it's sort of pleasant and relaxing.  Sometimes it seems more realistic, and sometimes less.

Great cast, though -- worth mentioning again.  Juliette Lewis even comes off well.  Also, you get to see a surprising amount of underwater footage of Ellen Page's underwear-clad ass.  I mention this because I'm sure it's important to a fair number of people.  I felt pervy at first, both for myself and the film, but actually she was 22.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on April 17, 2010, 03:28:29 AM
I think we've discussed Axe's Wachowski bias here before (wait, even Bound? That one was fun), but I gotta back him up regarding that Ninja Assassin movie, cause it's pretty shit-terrible. Yes the fight scenes are boring, which is not a good sign in a movie about fuckin' ninjas. The cultural sloppiness bothered me too, like they just figured who cares what country it's from, it's all "Asian" amirite? So throw it in there! Bleh. I recognized Sho Kosugi since my friends and I loved those ninja movies he made back in the day, but it was only later I found out the lead actor is that guy "Rain" you might remember from the Colbert Report, a Korean pop star. That made the "This guy's a killer? He looks like he's in a boy band!" joke a little funnier I guess. And the ninjas-vs-modern-military scene elicited a chuckle or two of the Han Solo hokey-religions-and-ancient-weapons variety, but that sort of thing was explored better and more deeply in stuff like "Once Upon a Time in China" really, so I dunno. It's not even campy enough to be a guilty pleasure watch.

(I did like Whip It though. Turns out Kristen Wiig can do something besides annoying voices and facial tics, wow! I found that to be a little surprising.)

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 17, 2010, 07:45:40 AM
I thought Bound was great and couldn't believe Matrix was by the same guys.  I sometimes wonder if I'd like Bound as much if I saw it again now, but . . . the world needs movies where Gina Gershon hooks up with Jennifer Tilly.  A lot of films would be improved by some of that.

Yeah, I felt kind of bad for Sho Kosugi, a guy who could bring some dignity and credibility to the lamest of 80s ninja movies.  I was always up for a sighting because he was always worth seeing, like his small role as the ninja hired to stop Rutger Hauer in Blind Fury.  And he even got to play a good guy in a movie where Van Damme plays a bad guy.

Rain . . . I can't tell if the guy can act.  He's certainly in good shape, though; he's got that going for him.  They said he didn't know any martial arts before preparing for this movie, but, of course, there's hardly any martial arts in the movie.  He certainly learned how to jump and spin, though.

In any case, there's no sense in blaming the cast.  Incredibly lame screenplay, bad direction, boring fights.  I'd rather rent Pray for Death or something.  My brother and I kept making jokes based on Chuck Norris's big ninja movie, The Octagon . . . .
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 17, 2010, 09:42:01 AM
Oh, yeah:

Turns out Kristen Wiig can do something besides annoying voices and facial tics, wow!

Yeah, she was really good.  I'd only really seen her in The Brothers Solomon, which I've happily almost entirely forgotten.

I pretty much stopped watching SNL long before she joined the cast, so I have no idea about that.  The funny thing is that on IMDb I noticed she was credited as "Bear Handler" for Semi-Pro, and I immediately thought, Oh yeah -- she was kind of hot in that.  :lol:  She's apparently in a new Simon Pegg / Nick Frost movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 17, 2010, 08:10:03 PM
Tales From The Dead (  Kind of an odd horror movie from a couple of years ago.  It's in Japanese, with Japanese actors, but was written and directed by an American I'm told doesn't understand any Japanese.  It's OK . . . more like a 1960's horror film, nothing scary by modern standards, an anthology of four linked ghost stories.

Weirdly, the Netflix version, at least, appears to be a badly pirated copy.  Whatever the problem is, it's blurry enough that it's sometimes hard to read the subtitles.  A bunch of the reviews say the same thing, so it wasn't just me.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 17, 2010, 09:47:26 PM
2+5: Missione Hydra (, aka Star Pilot, an Italian SF film from the mid-60s.  Uh-huh.

Well, the first half or so is awfully slow and a tad awkward as Our Heroes -- including a distinguished scientist, his sexbomb daughter, and too many miscellaneous other blokes -- vaguely battle Asian secret agents (who exclaim "We're not Chinese!  We're Oriental!" for some reason) while investigating some slightly weird goings-on that naturally turn out to be caused by an underground spaceship.

Yes, well . . . the aliens turn out to be very human and from the planet Hydra -- and short on crew.  So, in the second half of the film, they shanghai the humans.  And then the film really picks up, although if anything it makes even less sense.  The special effects pick up big-time, mostly because a lot of them are stolen from a US film that stole them from a Japanese film.  But the best part is that abruptly it goes from Beach Blanket Bimbo to Barbarella, with ridiculously scanty space costumes of serious awesomeness and a blatant tendency to look up the sexbomb daughter's skirt.

Then the film ends mysteriously with a cautionary nuclear apocalypse out of nowhere.  But, still, half-naked Italian sexbombs from the 60s.  I've seen worse. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mrcookieface on April 17, 2010, 11:17:22 PM
I'm interested.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 17, 2010, 11:39:43 PM
Sample 1 - Left to right, scientist, daughter, alien captain.


Sample 2, an alien crewman and the daughter, who's changed into something a little more comforting.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on April 18, 2010, 06:15:04 AM
The daughter looks like she's covered in Tribbles in the second pic.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: vox8 on April 18, 2010, 08:17:25 AM
OK, I have had just about enough of gender inequality in Sci-Fi flicks. Why is the Alien Crewmember fully clothed? He should just have that leather shoulderpad thingie on without the underpinnings.

And really, Star Wars? When the female Jedi cast off those voluminous over robes they pretty much fight in glorified bikinis. When the male Jedis cast of the cloaks to get down to bidness what do they have on underneath? MORE CLOAKS THAT FIT SLIGHTLY TIGHTER.

NO FAIR - I really needed to see me some Qui Jean and Obi Wan abs. And I bet Yoda is ripped.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on April 18, 2010, 08:37:23 AM
I would agree with that and expand it to most other genres too
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 18, 2010, 09:28:37 AM
I wouldn't say she's covered in tribbles.  Lightly dusted, more like.

I agree that there's never parity.  (I don't remember lots of bikini-clad female Jedi, though.  Perhaps those movies ruined my brain for the viewing duration.)  The thing that annoys me is what's sometimes snarkily called the Reverse Anthropological Principle, which produces more casual male nudity nowadays (roughly since 1990, maybe) and much less female nudity.

If you watch films from the 70s and 80s, there's tons of boobs and naked female butts, occasionally frontal nudity.  Generally much less male nudity, and male nudity only from behind.  The censors had never seen a penis and planned to die before they ever saw one.  But this disparity gradually became more and more widely noticed and complained about -- and it got linked to (among other things) longstanding complaints about National Geographic, et al, showing lots of 'native' boobs.  Lots.  Because, don't fool yourself, the science people knew damned well that boobs sell magazines and TV documentaries.

Around 1990, it became uncool to show so much boob and casually OK to show male ass, to the point that male ass started even showing up on TV in glimpses.  Female ass, no.  And if you watch enough Discover Channel, etc, you start noticing that they show a LOT of naked dudes when they're doing anthropology, even if the dudes have horrendous body mods throughout the genital zone, and they'll show lots of naked old people and little kids of any gender, but women from about 15 to 35 will be covered up and avoided (from the neck down).  The squeamishness has been flipped. 

Then it suddenly got cool to show weiners when you were being brave, from Bad Lieutenant on -- Harvey Keitel has been a groundbreaker, although many of us have seen all seven degrees of Kevin Bacon on more than one occasion.  If you want to see young Kenobi's light saber, there's famously a film called The Pillow Book that has a lot of nudity including Ewan's McGregor.  Whereas in 1985 or so, you couldn't show a weiner unless it was a glimpse on a guy who was running quickly in a scene intended as humor.

There are other factors in there, like the rising awareness of the use of body doubles, the random career-boost / career-suicide for actresses who took their clothes off for the cameras in the 70s and 80s, and so on.  But Harvey Keitel hangs it out and gets on Oprah (er, so to speak), whereas Sharon Stone crosses her legs and never hears the end of it.  Nudity's probably helped her career more than his, but at a steeper price, and she's a bit of an exception to the rule.

They need to just decide if they're going to do nudity or not.  HBO and Showtime seem to have decided that they can do serious drama with whatever nudity they feel like using, and it seems to be working, and the younger generation is for some mysterious reason pretty jaded, so maybe we're finally getting to a point where it can stop being such a big deal.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 18, 2010, 08:07:38 PM
Revenge of the Ninja (, the second Golan-Globus ninja movie, from back in 1983.  Filmed in under 50 days for maybe $50k.  This one has it all:  Sho Kosugi (and his young son, playing his young son) as the hero; Keith Vitali as a random sidekick; Virgil Frye (briefly) as a cop.  Bad acting, bad post-production sound, and 2600 lb of cheese.

I think Kosugi may be the only actually Asian ninja in this movie, although there are at least half a dozen white guys playing ninjas, some of whom are awfully chubby.  Still, not Sammo Hung-chubby.  Unfortunately, they don't have Sammo's chops, either.  Kosugi lends a serious upgrade to the action scenes, but still a lot of them have people standing around waiting for their turn to get killed and Hang On While I Set Up My Stunt.  There are also some great moments with mismatched stunt doubles, such as a guy in a fake mustache whose stunt double wears glasses.  :lol:

Still, this is a very easy movie to watch -- if you have an open mind.  It's unintentionally funny, and some of the action sequences actually work quite well, once in a while.  Continuity errors and editing gaps keep you on your toes.  The violence ranges from graphic gore to You Totally Missed.  Some of the ninja stuff is passable, and some is laughable, and some is just WTF.  The Mafioso are peculiar at best, and the random villains make the Village People look like the doormen at a GOP conference in Utah.

BUT.  You gotta give them marks for trying to be all they can be.  If you squint a bit, some of the sequences are awfully ambitious.  And it's crazy but not dull, like the scene where the evil ninja punishes his girlfriend by stripping her to her underwear and tying her up in a jacuzzi.  Traditional ninja execution technique.  Tip of the iceberg.

It's not what you'd call a good ninja movie, but it's a great example of the 80s, and certainly a ton better than Ninja Assassin.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 19, 2010, 07:23:25 PM
More or less home sick today -- well, I was at work until noon, but after that.  I managed to get a few things done but (and?) also watched The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (, from 1975.  Written and directed by Gene Wilder, it's basically a Mel Brooks movie with slightly fewer potty jokes and fourth-wall stuff.  It stars Wilder, Madeline Kahn (looking especially ravishing), Marty Feldman (looking especially ravaging), and Leo McKern (stupendously good as Moriarty), among others.  Also Dom DeLuise in not exactly a small role, but his character doesn't appear until the last third of the film.

I saw bits of this on cable over the years, but you really have to see the whole thing to get it, I think.  I'd say about 75-85% of it works pretty marvelously.  On the other hand, this is one of Kahn's saucier roles, yet you see Wilder and Feldman's asses.  I suppose this is inevitable, but it's nonetheless massively disappointing.  The film is something of a musical, which also mostly works just fine, and the bits don't tend to overstay their welcome. 

Wilder also wrote much of Young Frankenstein, but, for whatever reason, his films went a downhill after this.  He wrote and directed the not-as-good World's Greatest Lover, the mostly-misfire Lady in Red, and the sometimes-funny Haunted Honeymoon.  His acting career fared better -- he did The Frisco Kid, with Harrison Ford, in 1979 -- and there were the movies with Richard Pryor, although actually, personally, I never thought those were very funny.  :shrug:

Still, Wilder was pretty all-time-classic magnificent for about ten years.  Sherlock Holmes was his first time directing, and I thought it was pretty damned funny. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on April 19, 2010, 09:00:08 PM
I loved that movie. Kahn was fantastic. :googily:

Also, I will confess I loved Young Sherlock Holmes and I have no idea why that flopped so badly.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 19, 2010, 09:20:25 PM
Young Sherlock Holmes, I know!  Unfairly obscure, especially considering -- Spielberg, ILM, the film that brought Pixar into being, for crying out loud.  Not to mention Sophie Ward.  And, I mean, Barry Levinson and Chris Columbus made a good movie together.  That should not be forgotten.

It's a little uneven but full of win.  And better, all in all, than Young Indiana Jones stuff.

edit:  Forgot to mention that in some film circles YSH is famous for being a 'cursed' film.  Apparently it was the last film for a bunch of the cast, and various stuff went wrong, and then it disappointed commercially.  Meh!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 20, 2010, 09:04:08 PM
Er . . . Alice (  :eek:

OK, here's my theory.  Henry Selick had a sleepover at Tim Burton's house in 1988, and they took some bad acid and had this conversation:

BurtonI saw Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions, and I liked it very much.

SelickTim, I won't even finish MAKING that movie for another three years.

BurtonYes, but this is some strong acid.

SelickFair enough.  You know, I'd really rather make a feature film.

BurtonI know, and I think I have the right project for us to collaborate on -- we should do Alice in Wonderland!

SelickUm, isn't that kind of . . . normal . . . for us?

BurtonI'll do a normal version later, but we should do it our way first.

SelickYou mean creepy and surreal.

BurtonI mean F#@!ED UP.

SelickSurreal and creepy?



BurtonYes!  Very disturbing.

SelickDisturbing like a singing zombie walrus driving a garbage truck full of exploding transformers into the bedroom while you're trying to have a sneaky nooner with your Teamster neighbor's wife?

BurtonYes.  Like that.  Upsetting, even, if possible.

SelickDid you know that your dining room table is starting to eat its chairs?

BurtonThis IS some strong acid.  I bought it from one of those kids strapped to the Ghost of Christmas Future's legs.

SelickThe little boy?

BurtonThe little girl.  Anyway, naturally it'll have to be stop-motion, but we'll need an actual child actress in there to give a more grounded sense of creepiness, with just a hint of inappropriate perv.

SelickJust a hint?

BurtonOK, a strong hint.

SelickPuppets.  Puppets made of . . . animal skeletons!

BurtonNow you're talking.

SelickEach one a demented chimera, with taxidermy and bare little skulls stapled to dolls' bodies.

BurtonMake the March Hare a double-amputee!  And have him spread mashed potatoes on a pocket watch!  And have the occasional unsettling upskirt shot of the little girl and some weird phallic imagery.  And raw meat!

SelickIf you say so.  Hey, why not have a laquered frog with a grotesquely large tongue that it uses to destroy kitchenware?  And why not have the little girl drink a lot of ink?

BurtonLet's just have Alice fighting with the monster-animal-dolls through pretty much the whole thing.

SelickLike . . . shoving and arguing?

BurtonLike grievous bodily harm.  Oh, we won't hurt the little girl.  Not much.  Just the puppet-things.  A lot.  And graphically!  Keep it grim and generally messed-up.  And make the sound effects as harsh as possible.


BurtonDid you ever see the Tool video for "Sober"?  No, wait -- "Prison Sex"!  That's kind of the vibe I have in mind.

SelickNo, those haven't been made yet, either.

BurtonOh.  Still.  Oh, we should throw a lot of keys in there.  And stuck drawers that have to be pried open!

SelickWe can have recurring images of scissors!  And slamming doors!  And scissors!  And we can have, uh, a rat that hammers things into the girl's scalp!

BurtonYes!  Great!  Man, the clock in here really stinks like purple.  You gotta get a new clock.

SelickScissors.  This is your house, and that's your clock.

BurtonOh, right.  Well, I'll refill it in the morning.  But one more thing:  Before we can make this movie, we have to swallow this magic thimble.

SelickScissors.  Why?

BurtonIt'll make us combine physically into a reknowned Czechoslovakian film director.

SelickScissors.  Oh.  OK, then.

And they did.

Seriously, this movie is effed up.  Effed.  Up.  There's a lot of art in it, and it's certainly . . . impressive.  But don't show it to your kids until they're at least 25.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: vox8 on April 20, 2010, 09:15:28 PM
I have not seen it yet - but sounds like one of my friend's descriptions of the flick Hero

"You know how some movies have gratuitous sex, and some have gratuitous violence?"
"This movie was full of gratuitous Art. Really annoying Art for no fucking reason whatsoever."
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 21, 2010, 10:03:59 AM
:lol:  Hero is in a tradition of Chinese wu xia films to be more about atmosphere than anything else.  It's truly gorgeous, and it has an amazing cast, but the story is a little mysterious to Western audiences, and it's awfully stylized. 

Still, don't let your friend see the legendary Ashes of Time, which is kind of similar but 5x as arty, 10x as complicated, and edited so that events occur out of order without much explanation.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 21, 2010, 09:52:14 PM
Obnoxious head cold turned ugly after I got home from work, but I finished watching Tuvalu (, a very strange German fantasy from about ten years ago.  Hmm.  A young man runs a once-glorious but now decrepit bath house / indoor pool under the dominion of his blind father and semi-helpful mother, occasionally with the interference of his evil brother.  Complications ensue, including the arrival of a spirited young woman and a plot to destroy the bath house to make way for something or other.  Romance, villainy, devious tricks to subvert government inspection, and so on in that manner.

Er.  There's very little dialogue, and what does occur is in random languages.  The exteriors are shot (to my eyes) almost in black-and-white, and the interiors in a kind of metallic sepia.  Everything is strange.  The blind father likes to wear an inflatable bathrobe sort of outfit.  The main character is sort of a village idiot.  The evil brother looks like Snidely Whiplash bred with Jack Nance's character in Eraserhead.  And so on.

Frankly, the action is only fitfully entertaining, if you ask me, although the good bits are definitely good and the whole thing reeks of a sort of vision that doesn't quite make it to the screen intact.  The only part of the film that I would describe as genuinely pleasant to look at is the young woman, a tartar-saucy character played by one Chulpan Khamatova, who is apparently a movie star in Russia.  She is unrealistically attractive, and her character mostly consists of mugging and winking and gasping and smiling and frowning and generally emoting like crazy, although the girl's personality is mysterious.  Plucky, certainly.  Somewhat childlike, and yet seemingly a tad sexually desperate.

If the movie were about the girl rather than the bath house, I suppose it wouldn't have been the allegory the director had in mind, but I, for one, would've been much more interested.  The film contains some nudity (incidental or stylized, depending on the scene), but to be honest it's not needed.  This girl couldn't be cuter without being an anime character.  Alas, her motivations are often obscure or implausible, and, really, there just isn't that much to this.  As I said, it has good moments, but it seemed about twice as long as it was.  Maybe I've just seen too many weird movies lately. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 22, 2010, 08:14:50 PM
During the insomniae, I watched Crashing (  Movie boasts an impressive cast, including Campbell Scott and Lizzy 'Only Good Character In Cloverfield' Caplan in major roles and Alex Kingston and David Cross in smaller roles.  An actress I don't know named Izabella Miko (a shortened Polish name; she's not Japanese) played the other major role and was fine in it.

The movie . . . is basically about the process of writing.  Scott plays a one-shot-cult-book writer who's been struggling to write another one.  His wife dumps him, and he winds up staying with two female college students who are aspiring writers.  Not all that much happens except much discussion of writing.

Personally, I was very bored, not because the movie is bad but for two key reasons: 

1)  I've found over the years that I'm only interested in talking about how I write, and hearing other people talk about how they write, for maybe twenty minutes per month.  Tops.  Tops.

2)  The way these people write is utterly unlike how I write.  I don't relate to it, don't (to be honest) much care, and just found it tiresome.  I know for a fact that some other writers love this kind of talk, though.  I'm basically interested in stories and storytelling, not writing or nuts and bolts of the craft or etc.

It didn't help that the kinds of things the characters in the movie write about are the kinds of things that make me tend to avoid non-genre fiction and a lot of out-of-genre fiction.  It's mostly about Truisms Of Life that strike me as banal and about the interiors of characters whose interiors don't interest me.  A lot of times the Great American Novel is, to me, about nothing much at all.  I suppose if I wanted to hear that kind of thing, I'd ask random people to tell me their life stories.

Eh.  That's just me, shallow and looking for weirder things.  It just takes one hell of a particular voice and style to grab me if the story stays in the real world.  The characters in the film are very human, quite ordinary, and just don't do enough to pique my curiosity.

Campbell Scott is a seriously good actor, but I prefer him in comedies.  He's excellent in The Impostors and Top of the Food Chain (aka Invasion!), for instance.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 25, 2010, 07:53:00 PM
Two strikeouts and a full count:

Blackballed (, a paintball mockumentary starring Rob Corddry.  Thing is, it's full of people doing a good job of pretending to be these people they're pretending to be, but these people aren't very funny.  I watched about half an hour and only saw a few things that I smiled at.  It just wasn't working for me.

Wrong is Right (, a 1982 Sean Connery satire where he plays a globetrotting war-correspondent journalist.  The rest is sort of Strangeloveish, except with terrorists instead of Russians.  The film has the form of a satire -- Robert Conrad plays a military advisor named General Womabt -- but again I watched like forty minutes and didn't see anything that struck me as funny.  It has an amazing cast, including John Saxon, Henry Silva, Dean Stockwell, even Leslie Nielsen.  But there just wasn't anything funny.  I saw a lot of reviews saying the film's message of government coverups and media duplicity were 20 years too early.  It's not far-fetched now, but . . . just wasn't funny, either.

Children of Men (  Yeah, I finally saw it.  OK, here's the thing:  REALLY well-made, well-shot, well-staged.  The pacing could've been better.  But the screenplay is a huge mess.  I was unsurprised to see half a dozen people credited with the adaptation. 

The biggest problems with it are two things:  First, there were really only two characters in the movie that I liked or cared about.  Kee is OK, and Michael Caine's character is OK.  Still, neither of them were fascinating or overflowing with the spark of human anything.  Caine's character was better, but the movie's not about him.  The other characters are all scum, stupid, or stupid scum, and I didn't want to keep watching them buzz around, except that there were a few I wanted to see get killed.  The main character has exactly one moment where he does something smart (he uses a car battery in an obvious fashion), and he doesn't learn anything from it.

Second, who the hell watches this movie, sees the world that's portrayed, and thinks If only people could still have children!  Yeah, that's what every hellhole of despair, deprivation, torture, and murder needs: the patter of little feet.  WTF?  Among movies that make a case against perpetuating the species, this has to be in the top ten.  This is a movie that makes you wish for its basic premise.  The main character says, early on, that sterility wasn't the problem.  No, obviously.  If anything, it was a blessing -- and the world depicted in the film would be a lot better off if the population dropped by 90% before anyone found a cure.  And if they never found one, OH WELL.

The action scenes, though grim, are spectacularly well done.  You shouldn't enjoy them, but, seriously.  OK, the soldiers aren't much better at tactics than the terrorists, but the effects and CGI are maybe the best I've ever seen for military combat.

So, anyway . . . it's worth seeing.  It's bravely uncommercial.  It's chock full of clever references and little touches.  I wish the writing had been better.  I've seen several reviews where people protest that it's realistic, and that's why everyone acts so stupidly most of the time, etc.  Well, a lot of it is hugely unrealistic, and, anyway, you can't go with a realistic tone of We're All Screwed And We Deserve It and then still intend a hopeful uplifting message.  The first 90% of this movie seems to be begging for the end from The Fog, which would've been appropriate. 

Eh.  Nicely shot, and everything, though.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 26, 2010, 05:35:16 PM
Ping Pong Playa (  I kept laughing out loud at this movie and then thinking it really was an OK film but not that funny.  And then I'd laugh again.  It just works for me.  All in all, it might be the best ABC comedy I've seen since The Wedding Banquet (with all due respect to, say, Double Happiness).  It's aided by a star who can play an Asian guy who wants to be a black guy but who doesn't come off as a total tool, a strong cast, a good pace, a couple of hot actresses (the improbably named Smith Cho, yo), and a surprisingly excellent bunch of kids.  It's arguably not entirely politically correct, but it's also 50% spoof, so I didn't care.

The soundtrack includes a number by Chops called I Like Cereal that had me :lol:.

It's weird to think it was last August that I saw Ping Pong (, which was excellent in a different way -- artier, in a good way, and more surreal rather than goofy.  I still have the much goofier still Balls of Fury in my queue, but I can only watch so many ping pong comedies in so many weeks without losing perspective.

Also watched, thanks to insomnia, Bandolero! (, which I've wanted to see for years.  Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin, Raquel Welch, George Kennedy, even Denver Pyle and Harry Carey Jr are in there.  How could it be bad?  Well, it's not bad, but it's extremely uneven.  The first half or so is understated comedy, and the second half is underwritten suspense and action, and a lot of it drags more than a little.  It's too nice a picture for the good guys (who are good) to have to shoot it out with the bad guys (who are also good . . . some of them), but it's not a nice enough picture to have a happy ending.  Instead, the ending features an attack by a generic band of disposable and amateur Mexican bandits, just to force the plot to go somewhere.

The principle cast is all good in this one.  One bit of trivia about it is that it's where the name July Johnson comes from, although the character is apparently unrelated to the one in Lonesome Dove.  Another is that, thin as the story is, it was originally written by Stanley Hough, who only wrote one other Western, The Undefeated, with John Wayne, Rock Hudson, and Lee Meriwether.  Say what you want about Hough's ability to write a Western, but his pictures got good casts.

He also produced both Emperor of the North Pole and Viva Knievel!.  I don't know what that means.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 26, 2010, 07:39:32 PM
Oh, almost forgot.  The other night I watched Doomwatch (, a Netflix recommendation.  It's a 1972 film about an island where the locals are mutating due to an unknown contaminant.  Well, sort of.  Really, it's a suspense film in which an EPA sort of scientist tries to find out what's going on among the secretive islanders and, eventually, what's causing the secret they're trying to cover up.  The mystery itself gets solved too early and in rather prosaic fashion (they confront various suspects, who are all very Britishly politely forthcoming about their part in it), and then it's just TV drama.

As it turns out, the film was a TV feature made for a BBC show . . . that was still in production.  Kind of odd.  Even stranger, the regulars from the show are only minor characters in the film, whereas a new guy was brought in to be the star.  Kind of like if they made a CSI movie and had Nicholas Cage play the head CSI guy and kept the TV cast to be the folks back at the lab.

Still.  Not entirely bad.  The show (of the same name) was very X Files with an environmental angle and probably ahead of its time.  The supporting cast of the film includes George Sanders (who wrote I'm A Little Teapot and married TWO Gabor sisters) and Judy Geeson, an underrated and underused actress who ended up being a bit of a B-movie scream queen but who, if you're lucky, you might remember from Star Maidens, a sexual-politics SF show Sylvia Anderson made after she and Gerry Anderson broke up.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on April 26, 2010, 09:25:38 PM

Same George Sanders that was the voice of Shere Khan in Jungle Book? He was awesome in that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 26, 2010, 09:56:19 PM
Ummm . . . yes, actually.  I didn't realize that was him, too.  And he played Mr Freeze twice on Batman . . . as did Eli Wallach and Otto Preminger.  :trance:  How did I never hear that before?

Wow, he had an . . . interesting career.  He played the villain ("Mr. Mordicus / Knife McBlade / White hunter / Zarubian" according to IMDb ( in Good Times (no, a film by that name in 1967), a multiple-parody film starring Sonny & Cher, which was also William "The Exorcist" Friedkin's first major film.  (Friedkin also directed Blue Chips, the college-basketball-corruption movie starring Shaq back in 1994.  Odd.)

And he was in a Jess Franco psychotronic femdom fantasy film ( with Maria Rohm based on a Sax Rohmer book.

He was the villain in In Search of the Castaways.  I don't remember him in that -- I don't remember the film's details all that well.  If Hayley Mills had been a few years older when they filmed it, maybe.  He starred in Village of the Damned.  He played the heavy in Rebecca, and I remembered he played The Falcon in a series of mystery movies, but I didn't realize he'd also been The Saint.

Most of his big roles were pre-1960 in movies I haven't seen, but now I'm wondering just how much I've missed.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on April 26, 2010, 11:58:08 PM
OK that whole post was like completely off the rails.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on April 27, 2010, 12:05:50 AM
Children of Men is more a director-nerd kind of movie than anything. I'm told the book is more coherent, but really all plot and etc aside it comes down to those two astonishing one-shot sequences: the one where the whole thing is filmed from inside the car, and the dramatic battle scene towards the end. That alone is enough to ensure it a place in film geekdom, along with the AICN poster whose sole gimmick is to pop into threads about crummy new movies and yell "CHILDREN OF FUCKING MEN!" all the time.

Also, it makes those recent commercials about the unfortunately named new prescription drug for tinnitus a lot more funny. "I'm leading a better life now, thanks to Quietus!"

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 27, 2010, 11:06:34 AM
OK that whole post was like completely off the rails.

Well, I hardly sleep.  Also, Sanders' career details are a bit startling.

Children of Men is definitely amazingly filmed.  The story in the book is apparently very different -- I didn't even realize P. D. James had written a non-mystery, but I'll keep my eyes open for it.  The scene in the car is brilliant from a technical perspective, although elements of it are somewhere between illogical and unlikely at best.  Not the action so much as what exactly is going on and what the Fishes are thinking and trying to do.  They weren't the brightest terrorists / revolutionaries in the world, but even so.

Similarly, the extended battle scenes at the end are marvelously filmed.  Seriously.  I'm still turning them over in my head.  The tactics exhibited by the military are . . . would they really do that?  I realize it's a cramped urban environment, but, just a quick for-instance that I don't think is a spoiler, they have a ton of infantry out in the open, firing blinding at the side of a building which they know contains (somewhere) enemies who have heavy weapons.

It's not that that couldn't happen, but it's awfully poor tactics.  The film intends the military to seem brutal and uncaring, but I couldn't tell if they were supposed to be stupid.  But almost everyone in the film acts and reacts as if confused, dulled, and maybe panicked, pretty much all the time.  I can't tell how much of that is thematic and how much is just not strongly conceived.

One thing I should definitely note, though, is that Children of Men uses a LOT of handheld / fast-dolly / floating camera stuff.  And it works.  Ninety-five percent of the time, that stuff looks like crap, but not this time.  Still, I'm afraid it'll inspire a hell of a lot of film geek directors to do the same thing . . . and ruin their films as a result.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 27, 2010, 08:05:26 PM
Started watching Die You Zombie Bastards! (, a film that is probably best described as Hillbilly Troma.  I see what they were trying to do, but it wasn't working for me, and I quit it pretty quickly.

I also started watching Gosford Park (, but, uh . . . to be honest, I couldn't understand an effing word they were saying.  Seriously, I caught less than half of it, maybe less than a third.  The sound was really muddy, with a lot of ambient noise (from rain, from goings-on in the house, etc), and the accents were a bit thick and varied at times, but I watch a lot of British stuff and can't for the life of me remember ever having THAT much trouble.  Less than ten minutes in, I had no idea WTF was going on.

It might be the online version / Silverlight player.  I'll try the DVD sometime.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on April 27, 2010, 08:36:27 PM
I loved Gosford Park.  Give it a second try and just turn up the volume.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 29, 2010, 11:39:04 PM
In my tiredness I put some reviews in the regular movie thread, but I'm assuming there's no harm done.

While I was cleaning this afternoon, I put on a 1970 Pinky Violence movie (ie, Japanese girl gang film) with the imaginative title Nora-Neko Rokku: Sekkusu Hanta! ( (Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter!).  The title doesn't describe the movie very well, as there is no 'sex hunter' in the film, but it's appropriate that half the title is in English.  I'd read a lot of reviews saying this was a dull (and, specifically, 'unimaginative') Pinky film, but Netflix had it available for Instant View.

It's not unimaginative, although it's arguably a bit dull.  There's almost no nudity and not much explicit violence, although that suits me fine since I really watch these for kitsch value and Japanese weirdness.  But this movie is (A) staged and filmed pretty creatively, not unimaginatively, and (B) practically choking with theme and subtext.  It's kind of dull as a movie, if you will, but interesting as a film.  If that makes sense.

The heroes, such as, are a female gang.  The villains are an all-male gang of racist Japanese who specifically hate anyone hafu, which is to say half-Japanese, usually meaning anyone descended from a liaison with an American soldier, which was still a big issue there in 1970.  Even today, the Japanese have mixed feelings about racial impurity because they're so insular (figuratively and literally) and yet so attracted to foreigness.  There are quite a few hafu celebrities in Japan, but a hafu kid is going to have problems growing up.

Anyway, the movie is full of commentary on this issue.  The bad guys all drive US Army jeeps.  The good guys are dating hafu boys (some of whom work at a Coca-Cola plant, with many images of that fine and staunchly American symbol), and the film prominently features a band called Golden Half that's made up five girls who are all half-Japanese.  (Their go-go dance songs are pure pop awesome nuttery, such as one where they stop to say in English, "Two, Three, Four!  Do you understand for me?")

There's all kinds of Japanese vs Foreigner imagery, such as when the bad guys set up one of their victims to be chased explicitly in imitation of a British fox hunt, or when characters abruptly start singing traditional-style Japanese songs.  This movie is not going to hook the average viewer unless they're just agog at the Japanese quotient of it, but I bet Quentin Tarantino watched it with his pants off, despite the lack of nudity.  The violence is stylish in that brash grindhouse way, the subtext is multilayered, and it's just so very very 1970.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on April 30, 2010, 12:48:11 AM
you really need to get some sleep. maybe some meditation.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 30, 2010, 04:16:41 PM
I need money and some kind of womanation, too.  You know what they say:  Crap in one hand and wind your watch with the other, and, uh, you'll wonder why the hell you were crapping in your hand.

OK, I don't know how that proverb works, apparently.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 30, 2010, 04:19:32 PM
Oh . . . I started watching Night of the Living Dorks (, but Netflix only offers the dub in the Instant View, and the dubbing is SO BAD that I stopped it after less than sixty seconds.

Netflix does this on occasion, and it's one of those things that shows they really, really don't care about movies and don't much care about customers either.  Right up there with the No Customer Service Email among reasons to jump to a competitor as soon as they have a real competitor.  There's a lot to like about Netflix, and they make cable look like crap, but the things they do wrong are so very wrong that they temporarily lower them to Phone Company equivalence.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on April 30, 2010, 05:43:42 PM
Guru, The Mad Monk (, from 1970.  OK, I'd never actually seen an Andy Milligan movie, and a lot of his more interesting-sounding films have been lost, but Netflix had this one, and the version they have is less than an hour long.  It was . . . watchable.  Largely because it was short.

Milligan was what would happen if you put Roger Corman, Ed Wood, and John Waters in a blender that made movie writer-director-producers instead of human mush.  He was a nut who made bizarre low-budget schlocky exploitation films, but he had a streak of real artist in him, too.  The Mad Monk is a rather loose adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with hints of The Monk and a dozen Corman horror films.  Basically, a monk named Guru (yes) runs a church / prison and conducts a sort of inquisition, with the help of a hunchback and a rather fancy woman who may be a nun and/or vampire but is certainly a hypnotist and poisoner.  Oh, and Guru has a split personality, one good and one evil.

They have nice costumes, considering that the movie appears to have been made in under a month for maybe three grand.  The acting is not even community theater but more mediocre-ren-faire-act.  The dialogue is almost entirely modern (as are the New Yawk accents), and the camera techniques are almost home-movie.  The story is weak and often ridiculous, occasionally nonsensial and lacking continuity.  If there was anything particularly graphic in this movie, it's in the six minutes missing from the version Netflix has.  The church has a fluorescent cardboard sign.  It's all pretty awesome.

And strangely watchable, as I said.  Oh, and there's a sort of major character named 'Nadia', but most of the cast pronounces it 'Nausea', which helped me stay amused.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 01, 2010, 09:56:19 PM
Brainstorm (

I saw this movie on cable sometime around 1984 or '85.  It was pretty good.  Twenty-five years later, it's pretty awesome.  For one thing, if you watch this, consider how much more ground it covers than, say, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  The screenplay for this movie is somewhere in the range of 10-15 years ahead of its time, especially for film SF.

Mind you, the concepts of telepathy and mind recording and transfer in written SF go back at least as far as the 50s (Asimov) and 60s (Zelazny), and that's just that I can remember.  But film and TV SF is usually at least 20 years behind the curve -- which is not always a bad thing, but when a show or movie gets ahold of a 'new' idea and makes really naive boneheaded mistakes with it, you can usually bet that that wouldn't have happened if the people writing, directing, and/or producing the film actually knew SF.  There's a lot of intelligent depth and thought here.

Trumbull (and his writers) sure seem to know some SF.  There are a few moments of cheese, and of course many details are outdated, but the outdated stuff is retro and sweet, with computers that look like verdammt computers recording stuff on fat shiny tape, etc.  Yes, I even love the phone-cradle modems. 

And the effects!  One or two moments of weakness, but otherwise it's great stuff that must've been even better on a big screen.  Trumbull originally wanted the brain-recording scenes in a hi-def format he invented, but naturally it was too expensive.  The flying-through-space effects make the flying-through-space effects in, say, every Star Trek movie of the last twenty-five years look pretty damn lame.  The acting is generally great, as is the cast.  OK, the film ends with just a few things unresolved, but I think Trumbull was trying to make a point about what he thought was actually important and what wasn't.

Now.  Trumbull.  Trumbull was largely responsible for the special effects for a few big SF movies . . . such as 2001, The Andromeda Strain, Close Encounters, and the original Star Trek.  Himself, he only directed two feature films, both of them brilliantly executed, intelligent SF -- Brainstorm and the earlier Silent Running.

Natalie Wood died before Brainstorm was completed.  The studio (MGM, if memory serves) never liked the film, since it was high-concept science fiction, and when Wood died they practically had a party for themselves and tried to kill the film, knowing that her death would mean that insurance would cover their expenses, plus.  Trumbull had the final say-so in his contract, though, and of course he preferred to finish his film.  The studio fought with him over it, and he vowed to never work in Hollywood again.  He made some independent short films and did some IMAX and theme-park-ride films, but that's about it.

What a goddamned waste.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 01, 2010, 09:59:29 PM
I just found out that the principle photography for Brainstorm was actually finished in 1981, the same year Wood died, and that the fight with the studio delayed the film for two years.  So it was even more ahead of its time than I thought.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: stormneedle on May 01, 2010, 10:06:22 PM
It seems so obvious now that people would use the recordings for porn. At the time I saw the movie, it seemed original to me. /innocent
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 01, 2010, 10:13:44 PM
Heh.  Exactly.  And they immediately go there, and to the issue of addiction, and etc.

One thing that REALLY struck me about it is that I read a whole heck of a lot of SF where telepathy and mind reading led to lots of introspection of the interiority of relationships and emotional landscapes and yadda yadda.  The 60s and 70s was full of that stuff.  And it generally bored and/or embarrassed me.  But in the film, they handle it really, really well.  I hadn't remembered any of that bit and was quite surprised and impressed by that, although it's still not my favorite part of the movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: stormneedle on May 01, 2010, 10:18:56 PM
We watched D.E.B.S. ( again. Silly little movie, but it's fun.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on May 02, 2010, 12:17:30 AM
axe, just wanted to say, "thanks". a few pages back you posted that you had watched sgt pepper's lonely hearts club and i added it to my que. just watched it and it made me feel good. so much of that movie and the songs make me think of good childhood memories and my dad. good jorb!!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on May 02, 2010, 07:44:06 AM
Brainstorm was awesome. I watched a clip from it not too long ago, and was surprised how old it had gotten - it was so modern when it first came out. The whole movie is on youtube, in 10 minute clips, of course.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 02, 2010, 09:24:33 AM
:thumbsup: pdrake.  I understand why so many people didn't like that movie, but I think their expectations were wrong.

Every time I watch an old SF film and see the computers, I long for the age of the black rectangle to finally pass.  The rounded-corner white rectangle phase is a slight improvement, but if I'm paying $300 or more for something it should have some real character.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 02, 2010, 09:20:19 PM
Started watching Audition ( last night and finished watching it this evening.  I liked it OK, but it's more interesting than enjoyable, and it's not my favorite Miike film so far.

The first half an hour, maybe forty minutes, play out like the first half of a really sweet romantic comedy, although unless you were at Sundance you're probably not fooled.  Done with a really good touch, though.  Ryo Ishibashi is a great actor with a wide range; I first noticed him in two of my favorite Western Easterns, American Yakuza (in which a young Viggo Mortensen infiltrates the yakuza) and Blue Tiger (in which it's Virginia Madsen who's turning Japanese in a quest for revenge), and those were both in the early 90s. 

The rest of the cast is new to me, I think.  Eihi Shiina, as the female lead, is sort of colorless . . . but I think she's supposed to be.  I'm not sure how much it's been said before, but my suspicion is that about half the film, including the more, um, strident parts, is meant to be Ishibashi's character's imagination.  I don't think it really happens.  Miike does something with color and light that I couldn't quite follow in one viewing but I think he's signalling Ishibashi's projections, especially with light and dark.  When Shiina's character is his imagined perfect woman, everything's bright and her clothes are white, and etc. 

The film is very factious in tone, but it also has continuity issues that are clearly not accidental.  Some scenes are repeated in different forms, which is kind of a giveaway that you can't entirely trust what you're being shown.  I know people complained about the graphic images -- and although Netflix claims it has the unrated version, I'm pretty sure the Instant Play version has some of the gruesomeness clipped -- and, sure, it's gross and horrific at times, but not grosser than lots of horror movies.  It's just that the horror here stands out more.

There's also a lot of symbolic stuff going on with phones, alcohol, family, and women-as-objects, but I'd have to watch several times to try to pick it apart.  Just watching it for entertainment, it seemed a bit long, and I think if I watched it again I'd be dissatisfied with the ending.  I'd just want Miike to show me something that confirmed or denied my interpretation of the film, but, well, that's not really his thing.  But it's a beautifully shot, beautifully acted film.  Good for a film class that can deal with the harsher images.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 03, 2010, 09:12:14 PM
Just saw a movie called Cashback (, from 2006.  I'd never heard of it, but Netflix recommended it for me pretty highly, and they were right.  It was written, directed, and produced by Sean Ellis, who I never heard of, and has a sort of autobiographical fantasy tone to it -- for instance, the main character is named Ben Willis, and although Ben Willis must've been born around 1980, his childhood depicted in the film includes things that would require him to be several years older, like Sean Ellis.

But that's beside the point.  Ben is a British art student who's depressed (his first serious relationship has ended, and badly) and unable to sleep.  He takes a night job at a supermarket and learns he can stop time for everyone but himself.  He also falls in love with a co-worker and has various interactions with his other co-workers, who are a traditional colorful bunch.  Some stuff happens.

To be honest, this is not a perfect script.  The film is full of powerful elements that don't really seem to belong in the same movie.  It wanders, and it doesn't care.  Ultimately, the only trajectory is the main character's journey from heartbreak to hopefulness, so it's basically a romantic comedy, one more insightful than most. 

The time-stopping aspect is mostly used as a device to do a couple of things:  A) Have fun.  B) Reflect on a thinking heterosexual man's unrequited obsession with beauty and women -- unrequited because it's ultimately an atavistic obsession.  C) Allow reflection on various philosophical topics.  The movie has a lot of narration, which mostly works well, and the time-stopping can be seen as a rather concentrated form of introspection.  It often doesn't make sense, from a literal point of view, but this is definitely more magical realism than science fiction.

The movie's often quite funny.  The cast is very good and full of people I was sure I recognized but couldn't quite place.  I have to say, too, that this movie has perhaps the most graphic nudity (virtually all female, and varied, and generally quite attractive) of any 'R' rated film I can remember.  Personally, I don't think it was gratuitous, and not just because I liked it -- the movie has intelligent things to say about male desires and frustrations, and it depicts what is certainly a sort of assault as a rather poignant existentialist defeat.

Still, in the end, it's a gentle, thoughtful rom-com that gets awfully creative, if a tad distracted by itself.  And if it seems a little too scattered, here's one possible reason why:  Ellis originally made a short film of the same name.  When it was nominated for an Oscar, he got the funding to make a feature . . . two years later.  He incorporated the entire short into the feature but was under rather a pressing timetable to write the script and film the thing if he wanted to keep the same cast.

I liked it. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on May 04, 2010, 12:17:08 PM
Netflix highly recommended that one for me too.  I already had it in my instant queue.  I'll move it up and maybe catch it in the next year or so, time permitting...
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on May 04, 2010, 02:59:45 PM
i watched that a few weeks ago.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 06, 2010, 12:13:52 PM
Last night I watched My Man Godfrey (, which was . . . OK.  Honestly, I was entertained throughout, and I liked it, but I didn't think most of it was terribly funny.  Another one of those ones that was more interesting than anything else, especially for its perspective on the Depression era.

In a nutshell, William Powell plays a vagrant who's secretly a dropped-out Harvard-alum old-money businessman becomes the butler for a crazy wealthy family.  The flaky younger daughter (Carole Lombard) falls in love with him in an impulsive teen-crush kind of way, while her older sister resents him and tries to cause trouble. 

The story is a tad slapdash, partly because it was largely improvised during filming, and the movie rests on the strength of the cast, especially Powell.  Lombard is good at times, but her hysterical act is a trifle tiresome.  The movie has a nice flavor of the pre-conservativism of the 30s and comes across as fairly alien -- the people look and largely act modern enough, but Lombard's character is supposed to be about 18 while falling in love with her mid-40s butler / pet.  It's not quite creepy, but not a convincing romance, especially since Godfrey doesn't seem more than paternally fond of her.  Lombard actually was Powell's ex-wife, though, and he was something like twenty years older than her.  I can't guess what contemporary audiences thought about the film's romantic aspects.

To be honest, since the film is far from bad, I was destined to enjoy it simply on the strength of the Boston accents of a couple of the characters -- this being 1930 and the characters being old-money, that means Brahmin, not a nasally Hahvahd Yahd.  I got addicted to the almost-RP British Brahmin accent when I was at Emerson, and it never fails to amuse me.  The Brahmins I met were always a sort of ideal dissipated upper-class:  genial, relaxed to the point of harmlessness, effortlessly polite, well-educated without being too snobby, and socially liberal, like the loveable gin-tinged heroes of a fin de siecle BBC miniseries.

Anyway, they remade My Man Godfrey roughly twenty years, I guess, with David Niven, June Alyson, and (I think) Eva Gabor.  So now I want to see that one, too.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 07, 2010, 10:03:29 PM
Watched Big Fan ( because I was feeling edgy and thought a comedy might change my mood.


I wouldn't describe this movie as a comedy any more than I would describe it as a ham sandwich.  It's a nice little film, for people who like this sort of thing, but it's basically a tense, fairly dark drama with a few comical moments -- if you find heavy irony funny.

Patton Oswalt plays a small man leading a depressing small life that he's basically comfortable with.  His only ray of light is his love for his pro football team, but then he meets his favorite player in a nightclub, says the wrong thing, and gets a serious beat down, nearly to the point of being killed.  His problems thereafter aren't so much a loss of faith in the team or the player as an inability to return things to the way they were, especially since his family (including his ambulance-chasing litigation-happy lawyer brother) is far from understanding. 

Oswalt, like a lot of comedians, has a definite genius for playing a slightly sympathetic and certainly pathetic loser who staves off deep depression mostly through an awesome power of denial.  Kevin Corrigan, who's always good, plays his less confident but slightly more centered loser friend.  The rest of the cast is good, but their characters are generally even less sympathetic.  It's not a happy film.  At the same time, it's not a total disaster story that has nothing but unrelenting misery to offer, either.  But it's not a movie where the characters learn valuable lessons and fix their lives.

If you're going to like this movie, it'll be because you're impressed by the performances.  That's probably about it.  I thought it was OK, but this is the kind of film where I'm not sure what the point was.  As a character study, it's believable but not that interesting.  It was written and directed by Robert Siegel, who also wrote 2008's The Wrestler, and I saw a lot of reviews that said the problem with it is that it wasn't directed by Darren Aronofsky.  I don't think that's the problem with it.  It's just a movie that will quickly convince you that nothing very fun is going to happen with or to these characters, and you watch to see how bad things will get.  That's not many people's idea of a good time. 

IMDb and Netflix both primarily characterize it as a comedy.  I can only assume no one at either site watched it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on May 08, 2010, 12:10:58 AM
i like patton oswalt and watched because of that. it was very similar to his spence character and that was okay because it fit the movie. i liked it. i wouldn't watch it again, though, i just wasn't disappointed or upset that i spent the time watching it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 08, 2010, 04:14:46 PM
Yeah, I feel the same way.  It wasn't a bad movie, but it's not a movie I'd really recommend to anyone.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 09, 2010, 05:56:23 PM
The Lady Vanishes (, a rather famous classic from 1938 that I'd never managed to see.  One of Hitchcock's last British films before he went to Hollywood, it's a fairly gentle mystery that's more of a romantic comedy with mystery and suspense.  A young woman on vacation in Europe meets an older woman as she boards a train, and then her new companion vanishes before the train reaches its first stop . . . and no one else on board seems to have ever seen her in the first place.

Margaret Lockwood is terrific in the lead -- and quite :knotty:, too -- and Michael Redgrave plays the young man who drives her crazy and then, after she gets to know him, drives her crazy.  The whole thing is a hoot, frequently very funny and very well-paced.  It's got the most modern feel of any film I've seen from the 30s and seems like it could just as easily have been made during the last days of black-and-white films . . . except that it's not conservative enough to have been made in the 50s, and it has a few moments that probably wouldn't have made it past the British censors in the early 1960s -- there's more than one scene with young women undressing, walking about in their underwear, or a blatant upskirt shot, although there's no nudity, and there's frank talk of adultery and divorce, as well as a few gay jokes.

But it's not too salty by modern standards, god knows.  The dialogue is great, though.  It was remade in the late 70s with Elliott Gould, Cybill Shepherd, Angela Lansbury, and Herbert Lom, but Netflix doesn't have that one.  Reviews of that one are mixed and peculiar enough to make me want to see it someday.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 09, 2010, 10:48:19 PM
And . . . I just now finally saw 300.  OK, it was mostly very pretty, and very, very silly.  Not dull, though, and entertaining enough.  I did occasionally laugh when I probably wasn't supposed to, though, and, uh . . . .

OK, Frank Miller can often get away with stuff that's sort of hard to defend and that other people generally can't get away with.  Sometimes even he can't.  300 just comes across as really racist.  Gotta say it.  I know the movie isn't meant to be historically accurate or even sensible, but I begin to understand why the Iranian government was upset with it, assuming anyone in their government saw the film.  Every member of the Persian Empire is apparently either (A) black, (B) a total dillhole, (C) a stupid coward, (D) a monster, or (E) a stupid black cowardly dillhole monster.  The exception being Xerxes himself, who for some reason is the bigger brother of
Ra from Stargate.

Seriously, WTF?  I only ever glanced at the comic (sorry, Frank -- our tastes diverged sometime during the 90s), so I can't remember if it was so characterized by scary black people who are only black in order to be scary.  Even if the comic's like that, I know the film was substantially changed from the comic, which I understand didn't have quite so many grotesque monsters.  I'm not exactly the biggest Zack Snyder fan in the world, but still.  I'm pretty sure the Spartans (et al) fought the Persian Empire, not the Swarthy Carnival Sideshow Empire.

The costumes for the Persians also got old pretty fast.  You'd think their empire was entirely based on asymmetrical jewelry.  Pretty strange.

The only issue I have with the historical stuff is that personally I think the actual historical story is at least as good as typical fictionalized accounts, including this one.  Frankly, the actual Persian forces were more impressive than the ones in the movie, if a trifle less . . . florid.  And Xerxes got pretty crazy in real life -- when storms slowed his progress in building a bridge of boats almost a mile wide (!) so his army could just freakin' march across the Hellespont, he sent men into the surf to whip the water.  That'll show it.  And I think the actual historical military stuff is cooler, too -- OK, a xiphos hoplite sword is depressingly modern-looking in most incarnations, but the actual kopis looks better than the Hollywood version.

But whatever.  They did use a lot of actual quotes that come from ancient Greek historical sources, allegedly spoken by the actual people depicted in the film, and so that's pretty cool.  And it brings me to a point of personal interest:

What's so great about the Battle of Thermopylae?  Seriously, the Greeks lost.  The Persians got what they wanted out of it, and more or less how they planned it.  Xerxes had fought the Greeks before, and after Marathon (a much cooler battle with about the same odds . . . except the Greeks won) he knew what to expect.  He just had so many soldiers that he figured he could get through or around the Spartans and their cohorts.  And he did.

Marathon was a much sexier battle.  And Salamis was the one that crushed the Persian fleet and made Xerxes go home, although it didn't end the war.  The Athenians (and their allies) actually did most of the heavy lifting, not the Spartans.  The Spartans were awesome military bastards, with the help of their helots and a lot of other fighters mostly left out of the movie, but . . . well, among other things, they were freaky-weird by modern standards.  The Athenians were much more like modern Westerners.  The Spartans were strange, and I'm not talking about homosexual or pedophilic tendencies.  And for all their talk of free men, they were a nation that mostly consisted of helots, who weren't quite slaves but who could, for instance, be killed at any time by the Spartans for no reason except divine right.

No, but the Spartans had one truly key attribute that we still desperately love, and I think that's what makes them everybody's favorites.  And you know what it was?  They were WISEASSES.  Damned straight.  The Athenians were arrogant self-impressed bastards, but no one had the balls of a Spartan -- and no one had the dry wit.  We still say laconic wit (well, some people still do) to mean the terse dry wit of a smart ass, the James Bond cutting remark, the stinging zinging comeback.  Laconic basically means Spartan. 

They really did say Come and get them! when the Persians demanded their weapons.  Gorgo's line about
only Spartan women giving birth to men was a real quote.  When the Persian ambassador came asking for the soil and water of Sparta, Leonidas actually said Get it yourself and threw him down the well.  They really said that thing about fighting in the shade.  They were so damned quotable.  Even Socrates famously said that he never argued with a Spartan because even their children would just stand there like they didn't understand a word you were saying . . . and then they'd make one sarcastic comment that would make you feel stupid.  :lol:

However, the great bit about Those at the back cried 'Forward!' and those at the front cried 'Back!' :harumph:  That's from someone or other's poem about Horatius at the Bridge, a famous Roman battle, where three guys (two of whom eventually legged it) held a narrow bridge against an entire army.  I thought that was a great battle when I was a kid, but apparently the story is considered apocryphal nowadays.  You can't win.  And probably neither could Horatius.

Incidentally . . . the modern phrase That that! is actually directly from Spartan dry wit.  The quip about come-and-get-them was a common Spartan response to demands that they lay down their arms, and their helots had slings with lead bullets that had Take this one! stamped on them in Greek.  :lol:  Hey, here, have another one!

Anyway.  The movie.  The cast is great.  Man, those guys really worked out to get ready for the part, too.  And Gerard Butler is particularly great.  When I was watching, and listening to his accent on occasion, I couldn't help but think . . . it's time to remake Zardoz.  We have our Zed!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: vox8 on May 10, 2010, 08:09:46 AM
How bloody is it? I don't like bloody. Gladiator was ruined for me because of all of the gratuitous blood. I don't mind violence - I just prefer it unrealistic.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 10, 2010, 11:11:21 AM
The violence in 300 is very unrealistic but also very graphic.  If you didn't like Gladiator because of the blood, you definitely won't like 300.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on May 10, 2010, 02:34:43 PM

I'd put it on par with the violence in Rome - only there was a lot less buttrape in 300.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: vox8 on May 10, 2010, 03:55:56 PM
The violence in 300 is very unrealistic but also very graphic.  If you didn't like Gladiator because of the blood, you definitely won't like 300.

Yeah, that is what I thought.

Still haven't seen Saving Private Ryan because of the issue.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 10, 2010, 08:57:57 PM
The Sasquatch Gang (, a teen comedy from a few years ago.  For teen comedy, think more Napoleon Dynamite, not American Pie.  Never heard of this one before Netflix recommended it.  It's OK, maybe pretty good, verging on better than that.  Maybe a near miss of great.

Some misfit high school kids in the Pacific Northwest deal with bullies while struggling through teenage stuff.  There's sasquatch intrigue (but no actual sasquatch), foam-rubber medieval combat, and a subplot about a couple of eccentric rednecks a few years older.  The film seems to be set in the mid-80s, but if there were any giveaway clues, I missed 'em.  Still, VHS is a big deal, as are laser tag, mullets, and a sweet T-top Firebird, although the laser tag is more modern than mid-80s stuff . . . well, whatever.

The characters of the kids are pretty well-drawn, but they're SO awkward, and for this kind of movie I'd honestly rather see kids who have a little more going on, or see them more from the kids' point of view.  Kids always think they're smoother than they actually are, but it's more fun (for me, anyway) to laugh with them than laugh at them.  The Girl character is probably the best one, and the actress who plays her (Addie Land) seems to be in a slightly different zone from the other actors a lot -- but, then, the two redneck characters seem to be in a slightly different film, too.  It's not a big deal, though.

There are a lot of funny elements.  There's quite a bit of good dialogue.  A lot of the observations of teenaged kids are dead on, and the cast is great.  Also, you get to see Carl Weathers put poop in his mouth, for people who have been waiting to see that on film.  The pacing is good, and the film's structure is a little creative without being tedious.

A lot of it just didn't quite click for me, though.  Like I said, I wish the kids had had slightly more to them.  It's not that they're unrealistic; maybe it's that realistic kids are, to be honest, generally pretty boring.  John Hughes' characters talk like teenagers think they talk more than how they actually do, and the Donnie Darko bunch are just sharp as hell, while the Rushmore cast is more like how teens could be improved, and the Napoleon Dynamite kids are excellently amusing distortions of reality.  It's possible, too, that this one is just aimed at actual teens, who can very possibly relate to the kids on screen better than I can.

Still, not bad.  Some parts of it are better than that.  The two rednecks are kind of hypnotic strange dumbasses.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 12, 2010, 10:16:32 PM
The Third Man (, from 1949.

The British Film Institute decided this was the best British film ever, even though it's really only about half-British, and it gets lofty rankings like that all the time.  It starts Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard, the very lovely Alida Valli (those Slavic eyes!), and Orson Welles.  It's filmed in lavish black-and-white, largely on location in postwar Vienna.  Screenplay by Graham Greene, based on his own story.

Well . . . it certainly has its moments.  It also has a couple of big holes in its plot, and, if you ask me, a whole bunch of slow stretches.  To be fair, the edition I saw is (A) the American edition, which has some footage edited out, most of which apparently adds to Cotten's character, and (B) not a very good print or transfer or whatever.  Grainy and, I suspect, with some contrast problems. 

Also, although I sometimes see a B&W movie and feel suitably impressed by the B&Wness of it, I often don't.  This one was up and down for me.  Sometimes it just felt stagey and visually contrived, and sometimes it was more impressive.  The dialogue snaps in some spots and drags in others.  Eh.  If you ask me, it's not bad, but it's no Lady Vanishes.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 13, 2010, 11:10:17 PM
Pandorum (  In a nutshell, Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid in a Hollywoodized version of Heinlein's 1941 novella Universe (yes, Hollywood gets there slowly, but they get there) -- except with one leg humped by Event Horizon, the other leg humped by Ghosts of Mars, and the weaker elements of the Alien films roaring up the back passage.

This movie's trying.  I've got to give it that, because it really does want to be clever and fresh and do a better job than the usual Sci Fi schlock.  It just can't help itself.  The monsters . . . they're too generic and too nebulous, too much of a cliche.  Joss Whedon can get away with this particular type of generic monster that doesn't quite make sense, but only because Joss Whedon does so many things so very well.  And this movie is full of action scenes that are badly staged and badly filmed.  If there weren't so many of them, and there was a lot more going on, it wouldn't matter, but there are and there isn't, respectively.

The characters don't do enough.  They don't seem to have more than one plan.  The one plan they do have isn't a very good one, isn't well-conceived in the story, because even if it succeeds they're still screwed, and they don't seem to have thought of that.  They don't do anything clever, and the things they do do, they don't do cleverly.  They don't do a good job of anything.  They keep running into problems that are entirely their own fault.  For the most part, they don't say anything too interesting.

Then there are plot holes.  There are lots of them.  There are occasional continuity errors, some of which might be explained away by an unreliable camera, which is to say that maybe characters are a little crazy and maybe we can't trust what we're shown.  There are a number of scenes where it's not clear exactly what's happening, but you don't get the feeling that the details are all that important anyway.  And then the movie goes on too long.  At one point, I felt like surely we must almost be up to the climax, but I checked . . . and there was almost an hour left.  It wasn't a good thing.

The movie does have a lot of twists in it.  Like I said, it's trying.  If you're not galvanized by what you're seeing, and aren't bored to a stupor by it either, you can generally guess the twists, on average, about twenty minutes before they're revealed.  Some of them are pretty good twists.  About half an hour in, I thought, hey, you know what would be a good twist for the end of the movie?  But they probably won't do that.  And then maybe five or ten minutes later, I had another thought of what would be a good twist.

And you know what?  At the end, they used both twists!  On a scale of one to five, that earned the movie an extra half point.  Probably would've been a whole point, but they bungled one of the twists in a strange, inexplicable, needlessly talky way.  There are times when a bit of revelatory exposition is exactly the right thing.  Having a Bond supervillain explain his fiendish plan is a great piece of Tell, Don't Show.  Having the Bond villain hint at his fiendish plan and then rave nonsensically for four minutes to show that he's crazy?  Yeah, that's not so good.

In the end, this felt like one of those movies made from a computer game, except apparently it's not.  Eh.  It was a good try.  I know it was originally intended to be a low-budget film shot on video for about 1/1000th (literally) of what a studio turned it into instead.  There's a good SF movie lurking in there, but this isn't quite it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on May 13, 2010, 11:16:45 PM
And nobody got the bends at the end.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 13, 2010, 11:57:28 PM
Heh.  I can't tell if they should have or not, but I'm not sure why a high-tech deep-space escape pod isn't waterproof.  Seems like shoddy construction to me.

Of course, it's a multi-generational ship on a century-plus-long mission through deep space, where no other ship except a tiny probe has ever gone before, and the escape pods don't seem capable of, say, making a landing somewhere.  So what's the point?  You're in interstellar space, and something goes wrong with the ship . . . ejecting in a phone booth with a two-day air supply is dumber than staying and trying to salvage the ship.  It's hard to imagine a likely situation where the escape pods are useful.

There are lots of things much wronger with the story than that, but they tend to involve fairly major spoilers.  Again, if the stuff that happens in the movie had been more interesting, it would be easier to overlook the errors.  I mean, the solar power stuff in Pitch Black isn't plausible, but the movie mostly succeeds in keeping you from thinking or caring about that kind of thing.  Pandorum needed a sharper story.  A premise is not a story.  There's some potentially interesting stuff about What Went Wrong, but it's not quite told right, and it's a much smaller part of the movie than Running From Monsters.

You have to do Running From Monsters really well if that's almost all you're going to do.  Really really well.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on May 14, 2010, 02:52:55 AM
I love The Third Man! All the Dutch angles and zither music. For some reason the local PBS station plays it a lot. Yeah it's pretty slow going at times until Orson Welles shows up, but then he does that amazing cuckoo clock speech on the ferris wheel (which apparently wasn't in the script, he was just freestyling his whole Orson Welles thing), and I always chuckle at the ending, a classic among movie endings...

(There was a BBC series about Harry Lime which starred Michael Rennie from Day the Earth Stood Still; haven't checked that out yet but would like to do so. I see it's on the Amazons and etc, cool.)

Eww, they're doing a remake with Tobey Maguire and Leo DiCaprio now.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 14, 2010, 08:21:02 AM
Wow, that is the wrong cast for a remake.  If they wanted to do a remake, it should be Coen Bros, with Clooney in the Cotten role (and bring back the alcoholism angle), no question.  The film lives and dies on the bitterly dry dialogue and camerawork.  Maguire and DiCaprio are too young -- and much too young-looking.

This is just like when they remade Charade a few years ago.  Bungled.  It's not that the cast was a bad cast, but it was a bad cast for that movie.  I could give Thandie Newton a chance in the Hepburn role, but Mark Wahlberg in Cary Grant's role and Tim Robbins in the Walter Matthau role?  Jeez, why not get Mickey Rooney for the George Kennedy part?  Oy.

Actually, they remade Charade in the 70s, too, with Farrah Fawcett and Jeff Bridges.  That remake apparently didn't go over well, either, but god knows I've never seen it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 14, 2010, 09:26:19 PM
Miller's Crossing (, which I'd been meaning to see pretty much since it came out.  Well, better late than never.

Overall, it's full of great moments, interspersed with some moments that are not as great, plus a bunch of filler, although the filler is pretty colorful and has a lot of period charm.  The cast is excellent, and you have to give a shout to J. E. Freeman, as Eddie Dane, who obviously should have gotten more big parts.

However, I've heard lots of people say this is the best Coen Bros movie, and, personally, nuh-uh.  For one thing, it's got a very complex story, but personally I didn't find it too involving.  The basic problem is the characters.  They're played with a great deal of intensity and conviction, and most of them have that quirky Coen charm, but . . .

OK, Tom, the protagonist (Gabriel Byrne), what's going on with him?  He seems, as they say in the business, to lack motivation.  I didn't feel the love between him and Leo (Albert Finney), his longtime boss; I didn't even understand exactly what kind of gangsterism he did that was why Leo kept him around.  Just for advice?  But Leo never took his advice.  Sometimes Tom is just trying to stay alive, but the film never gives him a reason to stay in town.  Bugger off and get away with it.  Instead, he's always getting himself further into the middle of things.  At the end, they reveal one possible motive -- maybe -- in which case he was sure doing things the hard way.

Verna (Marica Gay Harden) is the femme fatale.  Her character needed more depth, too.  Leo's a schmuck, but he's entertaining.  Caspar (Jon Polito) is a strong caricature of a gangster, and I mean that in a good way, but the Dane might be the best character in the film.  I wanted Tom to win just because Byrne was so strong, but honestly I sympathized a lot more with the Dane.

It's a very strange adaptation of Hammett's Red Harvest, previously filmed in various versions as Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars and, although I've lost track of whether it was before or after Miller's Crossing, Last Man Standing.  In Yojimbo, there's humor, and you understand why Sanjuro is getting mixed up in things.  He's the world-weary outsider who's had it with this crap and will risk his own life to set the two groups of bastards against each other.  Tom isn't quite an outsider except that he seems to be a gangster who doesn't actually do much gangster stuff.  And his plan, if you can call it that, is impossibly complicated and mostly made up in desperation as he goes along.

There have always been gangster stories that are about how the business of crime gets in between friendships and screws things up and, as in a morality play, leads to doom for most of the people involved.  And those stories often have philosophical conversations.  The speeches in Miller's Crossing are good, but they're not revolutionary; they have counterparts in Shakespeare and in Greek tragedies. 

That doesn't mean it's not worth doing, or not worth watching, because it's mostly done really, really well, but I can't say it's the best Coen Bros movie.  It's got nothing on Raising Arizona or O, Brother, Where Are Thou for originality.  But it was OK.

Also, the Sam Raimi cameo was one of many excellent moments.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 15, 2010, 08:58:07 PM
In 1987, there was a big big HK movie called A Chinese Ghost Story (, which was about a lowly tax collector (Leslie Cheung) who becomes tragically romantically entangled with a ghost (Joey Wang) who's controlled by an evil spirit, with interference provided by a Taoist monk (Wu Ma).  It's one of those major international films that everyone's supposed to see.  Unfortunately, I've never managed to see it.

When I joined Netflix, they didn't have it, either, but they did have a movie made the next year, Portrait of a Nymph (, one of many derivative films about forbidden love (:knotty: . . . well, actually just tame and sweet, this being a regular HK film) between a human and a ghost.  The ghost is usually the woman in these films, maybe because it seems more tragic, and maybe because the ghost usually has to (A) seem vulnerable and (B) be more or less helpless against some evil spirit.  The evil spirit wants to kill the human, and some ghostbuster interferes.  A Chinese Ghost Story wasn't the first -- there's a nifty forbidden-ghost-love subplot in 1985's awesome Mr Vampire ( -- but it was certainly the most influential.

Portrait of a Nymph not only came out while Chinese Ghost Story was still in theaters, but it has Wu Ma, again, as the ghostbuster and the lovely Joey Wang, again, as the ghost.  Wu Ma directed, too, and this time around there's a bonus:  Yuen Biao as an apprentice ghostbuster.  All in all, it's agreeable but not fantastic.  The action sequences are good, and often rather elaborate, and they include one with perennial favorite and chameleonic bad guy Yuen Wah as an 'eyebrow' ghost.  The major twist of the film is that Joey Wang's ghost takes up residence in a portrait drawn by the scholar she falls in love with, and this affects the plot in various ways.

So, it's OK.  At some point, Netflix got A Chinese Ghost Story and moved it from the Saved part of my queue to the regular part, so I'll eventually get to see that as well.

We Ma went on to make several more films in this vein, including a film I like much better, Burning Sensation (, in which a firefighter in modern-day HK attracts the love of the ghost of a Peking opera star who died in a theater fire many years before.  The ghost can appear through the TV, for some reason, and the twist is that in real life 'she' was a man, a professional transvestite who played female characters on stage.  I'm not actually sure if she was gay during her normal life, but as a ghost she's all woman -- and played by a woman, Carol 'Dodo' Cheng, a HK comedian who you may have seen as 'the Chinese one' among the three women who play Jackie Chan's sidekicks in Operation Condor (
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 15, 2010, 10:32:35 PM
Gah . . . Netflix doesn't have A Chinese Ghost Story.  They lied to me and let me add it to my regular queue (not the Saved) part, but it's "Unavailable" with no projected availability date.

:eyeroll: :thumbsdn:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 17, 2010, 06:33:04 PM
Catching up a bit, two oldies but goodies:

How to Steal a Million ( (1966).  I'd never heard of this one, but we have an original poster for it at work, and, I mean, it appeared to be a heist romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole, directed by William Wyler.  Well, OK, then. 

Watching it, I wasn't so much disappointed as bemused.  It has a nice little plot in which Hepburn and O'Toole do pair up in order to steal a million-dollar artwork from a Paris museum.  It's almost the height of fab, and Hepburn is not only great and not only looks great but also appears at some length in a fairly short nightgown that's cut up the sides and shows more of her than I think I'd ever seen before.  (As it turns out, her legs continue their excellence at least as far up as the hip.)  The heist has some clever moments, although it's nothing earthshaking, and the dialogue as some good moments.  There are some nice supporting characters.  As if that weren't enough, O'Toole drives an E-Type Jaguar convertible, while Hepburn drives an impossibly tiny red Bianchina convertible that's not merely adorable but makes a Nash Metropolitan look like a station wagon.

Still . . . somehow it was a little flat, I though.  I don't know.  I kept waiting for it to ramp up, but it stayed gently pleasant.  Nothing wrong with it, but it wasn't quite what I was hoping, either.  Nice enough, though.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 17, 2010, 06:52:51 PM
Calamity Jane ( (1953).  Doris Day in the title role, and Howard Keel as Bill Hickok.  What happened is that Warner wanted to make Annie Get Your Gun but couldn't, and so the studio spun this together. 

As far as I know, Howard Keel was never bad in a picture.  This isn't his strongest role by any means, but it would've been a lot weaker if not for him.  Doris Day is always adorable, at least, and her idea of playing a tomboy largely consists of wearing stretchy 'deerskin' pants and sticking her hips out a lot while she jumps all over the place.  That's not horrible.  The screenplay is cornier than Kansas in August, to paraphrase South Pacific, and if Day played Jane any broader, she'd stick out off both sides of the stagecoach. 

Holy hell, this is a hokey film.  I mean, Annie Get Your Gun is pretty hokey, but still.  The direction veers between film and filmed-theater in an occasionally awkward way, but a moment's reflection reminded me that if Doris Day were somehow replaced with Gene Kelly, the movie would've been filmed in much the same way.  I think the problem is that when Jane's all consarn-this and hornswoggle-that and firin' her shootin' irons, and then she stays in character during a musical number, and at the end they zoom in for a close-up with her pearly whites and blazing blue eyes, there's a bit of dissonance.  Not that it's her fault.

The musical numbers were killers on the 1954 charts, but frankly they're just OK, not the most memorable musical numbers of the era.  What always kills me about Day is that she could actually do a whole range of stuff and was, in particular, very sharp at cerebral comedy, but Hollywood wanted an endlessly sunny ball of harmless cheer, and she was up for it if that's what they wanted.  She did other stuff here and there, but she could have done Lauren Bacall roles and Alfred Hitchcock villainess roles, too.  Ah, well.  Sandra Dee had similar problems a decade later.

Still, this movie handles the tomboy-to-belle-of-the-ball transformation less awkwardly (if less dramatically) than most films do, and it certainly has some nice moments.  Of course, it's also unnecessarily racist toward Indians, which is an awful groaner by now.

Amusingly, at work we have a bunch of old celebrity paper doll sets, and one of them is Doris Day "With Her Magic Stay-On Clothes!", and more than one customer has made the same remark I made first time I laid eyes on the set, that it would've been a better seller if they were magic not-stay-on clothes.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 19, 2010, 11:57:00 PM
District 9 (

Hmm.  Well.

Gotta say, first off, that the effects in this movie are awesome.  Awesome.  They're (mostly) unusual, and not all of the same type, but extraordinarily convincing most of the time, not excessively flashy, and consistently interesting.  Peter Jackson produced this film, and the CGI effects are far better, oddly enough, than those in King Kong -- they're a heck of a lot better than most of the CGI in the LotR movies. 

Granted, there's an interval of several years, but I can't think of the last time a movie's effects were so striking and successful.  Interestingly, Jackson funded the movie after its director, Neill Blomkamp, had another project fall through -- a film of the game Halo.  I don't know who dropped the ball on that project, but that was a huge mistake.

OK, though, this was not a perfect film.  One problem with it is that it starts off as a mockumentary, which is fairly successful but not fantastic.  It's not super-funny, and it just kept making me think that Alien Nation did the same thing but better.  Worse, for me personally, is that the parts of the film that aren't mockumentary are often still mysteriously filmed as if they were, upto and including stuff getting on the camera lens.  Huh?  It just doesn't make sense.  The camera is steadier and chooses angles that are more cinematic during the non-mockumentary scenes, at least.

As an analogy for Apartheid, yes, and it seems heartfelt, but . . . the film has a lot of black characters, and they're almost all fools, toadies, or scuzzy villains.  Erm.  Also, the aliens are mostly depicted as actually being stupid, crude, animalistic, and, well, subhuman.  Awkward, that.

And then the main character takes a long time to become very interesting.  In fact, the effects are about 90% of what kept me watching during the first 85 minutes or so, although there were a few really good bits in there, and then the last twenty minutes of the film was pretty awesome.  I checked the Ebert review out of curiosity, and he liked the issues raised in the first 85 minutes and felt the last twenty were a jejune action cop-out.  :lol:  Well, to each his own.  I think it was a pretty superlative action cop-out. 

Interestingly, in the deleted scenes on the DVD there's one that absolutely should've been left in.  It's a TV show in which they discuss the aliens and the ship.  The whole Apartheid issue is drawn nice and sharply and succinctly, and there's speculation about why the aliens could cross interstellar distances and yet seem so helpless and stupid. 

There are a lot of plot issues concerning how the government and evil corporation go about the things they do, the world and local policies concerning the aliens, not to mention exactly what happens with the fluid and the main character's health problems, and so on, but I was entertained enough so that frankly none of those issues bugged me.  And you've got to give this film props for trying to make a serious film.  It's not I, Robot or Paycheck or any crap like that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 21, 2010, 09:11:57 PM
I'm watching Star Trek III because I rewatched Wrath of Khan and realized I very possibly hadn't seen number 3 since it came out.  Was it really as bad as I remembered it?  It's been twenty-five years, so . . . .

Well, the funny parts are still funny.  And the Excelsior doesn't look as awful as I remembered, or as it always looks on paper.  (Godawful ugly in flat profile, I must say.  And the warp stanchions and main deflector just don't look right.  And the proportions of the secondary hull can't be right.  But it still looks much better when it's moving and viewed at an angle.  Besides, the Oberth-class ship design is almost cool but it has scaling problems and needs its hull separation explained.  I could explain it, but it's not my job.)  And some of the effects are good.

The cheese and corn is thicker than Shatner's toupee, though, and the writing is awfully variable -- the treknobabble exposition is terrible.  Nimoy's direction is occasionally too stagey, and there are way too many closeups.  And I have nothing against Robin Curtis, but her Saavik is too much of a departure from Kirstie Alley's.  I mean, why the sudden Jeri curls?

I'm mixed on Christopher Lloyd as the Klingon captain.  He's good, but he often seems to be in a different movie of his own.  The part was originally going to go to Edward James Olmos, and I try but cannot quite imagine that.  It probably would've been good, too.

I have to say, though, it's worth seeing again just to see the hilarious expressions on the various members of the Grissom bridge crew when they hear that Spock's been regenerated.

And I know it's funny in the next movie, but how the hell did they think it made sense for PaVel ChekoV to be unable to pronounce the letter V?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 22, 2010, 10:38:33 PM
Well, if you're going to watch Wrath of Khan and then Star Trek III, you might as well watch Star Trek IV, too.  And it holds up really well, almost 25 years later, which is nice.

In no particular order, things I somehow never noticed before:

- I'm pretty sure this film has the first two female Star Fleet captains ever shown.  And one of them . . . hey, wait, she looks familiar.  Yep, it's one of the Go-Gos.  :lol:  Specifically, Jane Wiedlin.

- Gillian (the whale expert) goes without a bra through most of the movie, and in many scenes it's REALLY OBVIOUS.  Seriously, I didn't even notice this when I was a teenager?  Or ever before, and I must've seen this movie four or four times already.  Oy.

- During the bit where Scotty deals with the computer and gives up the formula for transparent aluminum, James Doohan finally slips up and gives you a good look at his injured right hand.  (He lost his middle finger in WWII, on D-Day, when he was hit with several rounds from a machine gun.)  You can see his hand clearly when he picks up the mouse thinking that it's a microphone.  Weirdly, IMDb lists several instances on Trek where you can see his hand clearly (he was very good at hiding the injury), none of which I'd ever caught, but doesn't list this one.  Just a bit of Trek trivia for obsessives.

- During the alien courtroom thing scene at the end, there's a Kzin (after the Animated Series rendition, not the Niven text descriptions) among the various aliens.  There's also a pretty good Andorian.  The Andorian costumes in Enterprise were admirably elaborate, but I never liked them as much as the one in Journey to Babel -- who, oddly enough, just looks more natural to me.  Anyhow, during the same scene, a Vulcan ambassador congratulates Kirk with a big shit-eating grin on his face.  Oy.

And IMDb taught me a few weird things I didn't know about this one, chiefly:

- The Gillian character came in after a re-write.  Originally, her character was a male whale expert . . . to be played by Eddie Murphy.  :eek:

- In earlier versions of the script, Saavik stays on Vulcan because . . . she's pregnant with Spock's child, what with him having gone through a crazy-fast pon farr during his regeneration in the previous movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 23, 2010, 08:47:38 PM
The Wrong Guy (, a comedy I'd never heard of, from 1997.  Maybe the DVD is from 19-friggin-97, too.  It tries to automatically install ancient DVD-playing software on your computer and crashes if it fails.  Tremendous.  I eventually managed to make it shut up, get Windows to let me view the DVD without autoplaying it (I thought if you held down Shift when you put media in, Windows would skip the autoplay? WTF?), and use InterDVD or something to play the film manually.

OK, the movie:  Dave Foley, taking time off from NewsRadio, plays a schmoe who thinks the police believe he killed his boss.  They don't, but he goes on the run and keeps crossing paths with the actual killer.  The first fifteen minutes, maybe, are not fabulous, and not funny, but it wasn't bad enough for me to stop the disk.  Then funny things started happening, although not every joke was gold.

Then Dave reaches a small town where he falls in with Joe Flaherty (playing a rural banker who's getting screwed over by a farmer -- actually pretty funny) and his Sexy Farmer's Daughter, played by Jennifer Tilly.

Must pause here.  Jennifer Tilly was almost 40 when this movie was made.  She looks about 30.  This film was made shortly after Bound, but somehow she's hotter here, despite not getting it on in the nude with Gina Gershon.  I'd always thought Meg was hotter -- and Meg is more my type, physically -- but now I'm not sure.  Holy crap, Jennifer Tilly is hot in this movie.  Also spectacular in the acting department.  I mean, she was good in Moving Violations, back in 1985, but she was the agreeable hot chick who plays straight man to Bill Murray's younger brother.  In The Wrong Guy, she's hilarious.  She should've been a bigger star than Jim Carrey.  Speaking of which, I may now finally bother to watch Liar, Liar, since she's in it.

Anyway, stuff happens.  The last 2/3 of the movie are pretty consistently funny, even if a lot of the jokes can be seen coming over the horizon.  Colm Feore is awesome as the bad guy.  He's one of those excellent character actors you'll recognize by his face even if you can't place the name.  (Just for instance, he played the leader of the bad guys in Chronicles of Riddick.  And there are a bunch of good people in small parts.  So, overall, not bad at all -- just uneven.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 26, 2010, 11:45:35 PM
Alone in the Dark (  No, a 1982 horror film, not the more recent film not-so-much based on a great game.

Well, the great Dwight "Murdoch and Barkley" Schultz is the new psychiatrist at a mental hospital run by Donald Pleasance, who always seems to get mixed up with serial killers and psychos.  The main psychos are played by Jack Palance, Martin Landau, and Erland van Lidth, who's better known as Dynamo from The Running Man, although it seems unfair to remember him for that movie.  Yeah, it's a good cast.

Tom Savini did some of the effects, which in general (whether done by him or not) are better than average -- better than most slasher films twenty years later.  A lot of the stunts are surprisingly good, too.  It helps that when van Lidth's character has to pick up or manhandle a victim, van Lidth was big and strong enough to just actually do it.  And the film has a lot of nice moments.

However . . . several elements go nowhere, such as the clearly telegraphed idea that something very wrong is going on at the asylum, where Pleasance's unconventional doctor gets results no one else can produce.  And too much of the film is Schultz and his family cowering or recoiling in horror.  It's not unrealistic; it just also isn't very interesting.  More confrontation, more clever cat-and-mouse stuff, less of the characters indicating how frightened they are. 

Still, it's a fairly groundbreaking and unfairly obscure film by Jack Sholder, who also did the oddly cheesy but pretty snappy The Hidden and the second Elm Street movie.  And it has a neat twist that you might or might not see coming, depending on how much attention you're paying to the film.

Seriously, though, what is it about Pleasance that had him in so many of these movies?  In a career lasting a little over 40 years, he was in 214 movies, and I estimate that 211 of them had a serial killer or crazy person in there somewhere.  I'm not saying he wasn't good in these movies, but . . . he could have had a normal career just as easily.  I guess he just doesn't seem inherently creepy to me.  It's also kind of strange how in the later 1970s, with movies like Suspiria and Halloween, he went from being the psycho to being the guy trying to stop the psycho. 

Typecasting, I guess, but it's probably better than not getting work.  I'm sure David Warner and Christopher Lee understand that.  I mean, Terence Stamp is just effortlessly mean / evil, and Peter Cushing could do Arrogant Sadist like he was ringing a bell, but Warner and Lee could both do Shakespearian comedy as easily as Mad Scientist or Vampire, and yet it was almost always the horror movie thing.  I guess Lee was under contract to a horror movie studio, and all, but . . . whatever.  Jack Nicholson almost got pulled into that, too.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 28, 2010, 11:11:00 PM
Black Sheep (, a New Zealand zombie movie from four or five years ago, with the twist that most of the zombies are sheep.

It's very Kiwi, with effects by Weta and a strong inspiration from Braindead (aka Dead Alive).  It's gross, but it's a particular kind of gross, mostly EC comics-style zombie effects, mostly played for gross laughs.  There are family issues, a bit of perversion, and an underdog protagonist.  Lots of humor.  They do try to be creepy, but I don't think they're actually trying to be scary.

That said, you can't possibly enjoy this movie if you can't escape the idea that animals are getting hurt.  It's cartoonish and consistent enough that I didn't have a problem, but I can certainly imagine some people getting bent.  Plus, you know the groundbreaking scenes in Dawn of the Dead with zombies graphically devouring people who are still alive?  Kiwi zombie movies have like fifteen times as much of that sort of footage.  It's not like Italian zombie movies that have slow-motion close-ups of all manner of gruesome injuries that will make you wince, and it's not torture porn.  But you can expect a minimum of a dozen or two people to be slowly eviscerated, chewed up, and torn apart, and you can figure the fake blood will be measured in gallons.

Anyway, about the first half of this one sailed right along, and then it started to drag a bit, but with good moments.  The cast (of nobodies, as far as IMDb cares) is generally great, and the direction isn't bad -- there are some framing issues at times, but the use of light is often very careful and effective.  An actress named Danielle Mason (not the one related to an East Enders actress) is good in this and phenomenally attractive.  Unfortunately, she's hardly done any other filmwork.

Anyway, if you like zombie movies, can handle animal-zombie violence (by animal zombies and against them), and you like Kiwi quietly straight-up absurdism, it's worth a rental.  Personally, I'd have to say it's a little tamer than Braindead and not quite as funny, but it's definitely in the same vein, and I liked it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 29, 2010, 08:48:22 PM
The Man Who Knew Too Much (, the second version.  OK, gotta be honest, this was the most boring Hitchcock movie I can remember ever seeing.  And it's pretty muddled -- it almost makes Marnie look sensible.  It definitely has good moments, but there are a lot of stretches where nothing satisfying happens, and there are many segments that . . . was that supposed to be funny?  And so on.

Jimmy Stewart and his character both don't know what to do in this film.  Doris Day is pretty awesome here, but her character does almost nothing of any consequence for most of the film, either.  She basically gets to sing one song (Que Sera, Sera), but she has to intentionally sing it super-extra-loud, and it's not the best arrangement.  This is basically a movie about a loving couple (allegedly -- they didn't seem too married to me) who have some problems that don't really feature in the film, and they're frantic about various things that they can't figure out what to do about, and it doesn't have any great characterization or psychological depth.  Also, they keep trying to involve the police, who consistently act like it's all just too much of a bother.

Eh.  I haven't seen the original, and I might someday, but this is so not my favorite.  It was OK, but it's nothing to get excited about.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 30, 2010, 11:58:04 PM
Deadline (, a 2009 horror movie starring Brittany Murphy.  I'm not sure what made me put this movie in my Netflix queue in the first place, but it was about to expire, so I watched it.

It's a fairly typical suspenseful-thriller sort of thing, where Murphy's character is alone in a big remote house that might be haunted, or she might be losing her mind.  She finds and watches a bunch of home movies of the prior occupants.  The movies are impossible -- the person holding the camera is routinely shown in shot-reverse-shot, for instance -- but is she just imagining the whole thing?

Odds are you won't really care.  It's not very suspenseful or original, and the characters aren't gripping.  The end features a twist that, to be honest, I'm not sure makes sense . . . but, again, I didn't really care.  It was all pretty boring, kind of a slower film in the same genre as What Lies Beneath but with fewer characters.

Murphy looks terrible in this movie.  I have no idea what was going on with her during the last ten years or so of her life, but, whatever it was, it didn't agree with her.  She lost weight she didn't need to lose, and too much of it, and went from attractively quirky to glamorously generic, which was not a step up.  Here, she plays a character who's a bit strung out, but she just looks overtired and ill.  Seriously, she looks like her hair could start falling out at any moment.  Was she on drugs?  Chronic illness?  Crazy health-fad cult?

She did a bunch of great bits in the 90s, but afterward the studios seemed to be trying to shoehorn her into roles that probably weren't the kind of thing she should've been doing.  Poor thing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on May 31, 2010, 01:48:33 AM
She was severely anemic, addicted to pain killers, and had a heart condition. That never looks good on anyone.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 31, 2010, 01:54:42 PM
True enough.  Man, what a shame.  She was great in Clueless, Freeway, Drive . . . .
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 31, 2010, 09:06:44 PM
I was going to watch Primer, but its Instant View option expired before Netflix said it was going to, which is kind of annoying. 

Instead, I watched a German movie called Antibodies (  I couldn't tell from watching it why it's called that, although I could make something up.  I didn't realize until afterward that it was written and directed by Christian Alvert, who also did the disappointing Pandorum, which I just recently watched.  This one didn't have additional screenwriters and isn't as much of a trainwreck, but . . . .

Basically, this is a cross between Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, not as good as the former but not as in love with itself as the latter.  A Good Policeman winds up interviewing a Bad Serial Killer while trying to solve a cold case that has personal implications, with psychological damage resulting.  The characterizations are mostly pretty good, and the dialogue is mostly pretty good, and there's a decent amount of tension at times.

There are problems, though.  First, a fictional serial killer who's interesting, realistic, and original is REALLY HARD to write.  Seriously.  I mean, I like Dexter, and the guy who plays Dexter is pretty excellent, but I do not buy the character of Dexter; the show's just good enough to skate over that.  This isn't the only kind of character that's really hard to write -- I can't watch House, much as I love Hugh Laurie, because the maverick anti-hero genius doctor who's always right in the end is also nearly impossible to write.  Everybody wants to do a scary supervillain psycho, but it's not something that can easily be done.

Second, the main character, the cop, is a Catholic boyscout who . . . let's be honest:  This is a guy who is built to snap.  I'm not sure you could count on him not to flip out and start shooting people if he were on a long elevator ride with a guy who'd had too many burritos at lunch.  You know?  This is a brittle cracker.  I'm not sure Kevin Spacey should be too proud of turning Brad Pitt, but this guy I wouldn't want babysitting an active toddler.  And there generally just weren't enough sympathetic characters in the movie to begin with.

Third, some of the writing is really good and some of it is awfully sophomoric.  The serial killer's name is "Gabriel Engel", and that's not the only eyebrow-raising name in the film.  Similarly, a lot of the cinematography is nice, but then some of it is way too early-film-school show-off.  Some of the coincidences in it are just a tad hard to swallow.  The cast is really good, and the film is really trying to be a serious and intelligent thriller, which I respect, but I just didn't like the protagonist that much.  You could see the climax coming from a long, long way off, and the only questions are whether you care and whether they'll be another twist.

So, not terrible, but not great, either.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on May 31, 2010, 09:40:28 PM
have you seen timecrimes (
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on May 31, 2010, 09:43:39 PM
Not yet, but that one's somewhere in my queue, too.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on May 31, 2010, 10:30:20 PM
There's a guy in this one called Miguel Angel Poo?


Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on May 31, 2010, 11:28:32 PM
Not yet, but that one's somewhere in my queue, too.

move it up.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 01, 2010, 10:50:44 AM
There's a guy in this one called Miguel Angel Poo?

There's always a worse name you could have.

move it up.

:hmm:  All right.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 01, 2010, 09:45:06 PM
For the past couple of weeks, I've been chewing up the DVDs (on loan) for an anime series called Last Exile (  It actually came out in 2003 and is by the same team that did Blue Submarine #6, which I haven't seen.  I bought the art book for Last Exile when it passed through the shop just because the design (by Range Murata) is incredible.  A lot of it is sort of retro-futuristic, but this is a guy who could draw girls in goggles all day long without repeating himself.

Last Exile is 26 episodes, the end, and usually described as steampunk, although it's one of those not-quite-steampunk things.  It's definitely SF, but hard to describe much without giving away spoilers, as the story revolves around quite a number of mysteries.  But basically, think Horatio Hornblower in a late-WWI era except with antigravity (the ships are in the air, not in the water) on a complicated planet.  Then it gets complicated.  A lot of the characters zip around in "vanships", which are antigrav crosses between post-WWI fighter planes (but before the enclosed cockpit became vogue) and motorcycles.

The show mixes hand-drawn animation and CGI.  Well . . . the concept art is fabulous and looks like Murata and Mahiro Maeda (who also designed anime mechanical elements such as Angels in Evangelion) spent about six years on it.  The CGI is mostly pretty fantastic, too.  The hand-drawn stuff is rather varied and often looks rushed, and the characters rarely approach the awesomeness of the concept art, but I guess you can't have everything.

The story, though.  It's a good story, and the characters are carefully chosen and spun out.  The pacing is a bit off, though, with too much suspense and too many elements rushed.  In watching 26 episodes, I think there were five times when I paused the show to go check to see if I'd missed an episode somewhere.  Transitions are sometimes missing, and the story occasionally jumps ahead so quickly that something which should've taken ten minutes is instead told through twenty seconds of cut scenes with no exposition.  If you're not occasionally mystified, you probably missed something that would have mystified you.  The whole thing feels like a 40-episode story whittled down for US television, complete with stuff cut to make room for ad breaks.

But it's still pretty excellent.  The story has a couple of cliches, no question, but they're handled well, and the whole thing is interesting.  I do wish a few bits had been expanded just a tad more, but there were probably budget issues and time issues and . . . hey, I've watched enough anime to see this happen before.  (I'm looking at YOU, Gainax.)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 02, 2010, 10:47:01 PM
Spider Baby (, a 1968 horror film, more or less.

OK, this one is like a winking-beatnik cross between The Addams Family and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with a hint of Freaks.  There's a wealthy family in a decrepit house outside of a small town, and the locals consider them too creepy to admit they exist.  The only person who ever leaves the estate is the Lurchesque chauffeur-for-life, Bruno, played by Lon Chaney Jr in fine form.  The family, we're told up front, has a rare genetic disorder that causes them to regress mentally and possibly physically after they reach late childhood.  There are some more severe cases hidden away, but mostly we see two probably-teenaged girls and a boy of indeterminate age (played by a young Sid Haig).

Meanwhile, distant members of the family have gotten wind that the patriarch of this inbred clan may be dead, and they come sniffing around to see about getting their hands on the money.  Bruno's carefully managed the creepy family for a long time, but can he keep things together when outsiders come visiting and snooping around?  Well, of course not, or there wouldn't be a movie.

This one was written and directed by Jack Hill and made in one week, and, frankly, it's pretty fantastic.  Hill did a number of groundbreaking exploitation movies, such as Coffy and Foxy Brown, and boy could he direct.  This movie's cast is mostly minor weird character actors, and he gets a lot out of them, not to mention his great use of light, timing, and camera angles.  If you want to make a tongue-in-cheek horror movie, you should be required to watch this one first.  It borrows from Corman (who Hill worked with -- he helped direct The Terror), but it's got a lot of ground-breaking and trendsetting stuff.  IMDb tells me this movie is currently in the works of being remade.

Interestingly for me, Mary Mitchel, who plays Ann (the lawyer's secretary), looks eerily like PG in a number of scenes, except blonde.  Hill also worked on the screenplay for Dementia 13 for fellow Corman alum Francis Ford Coppola, and he wrote and directed the cult train wreck exploitation fantasy film Sorceress, which I still haven't managed to see.  He also made the cult classic sexploitation film The Jezebels, which I've only seen in a fairly lame cut-for-TV version as Switchblade Sisters.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 03, 2010, 09:51:52 PM
Elephant Parts (, yes, the 1981 Michael Nesmith sketch comedy and music videos film that he made with Bill Dear for like $3000 or something.  Another one I've meant to see for a long time.  I didn't know until recently that this movie spawned Nickolodeon's Pop Clips (or that that was Nesmith's show), although I did know that Pop Clips got watered down and became MTV, and it turns out that that happened after Nesmith declined to sell the show to WB.

It's pretty funny, and the music's good, and Nesmith is effortlessly charming with his weird and endearing ability to be goofy and sincere at the same time.  His intelligence also comes through.  The movie's also weirdly prescient -- the music video segments contain so many freaking elements that became music video cliches in the 80s that, seriously, I was astonished that I didn't see slow-motion doves.  Pretty much everything else is in there, though. 

There's also a sketch that predicts and mocks The Real World eleven years before that show aired.  There's also a distinct vision of the Chainsaw Vigilante in a sketch that makes fun of Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  There's also a good sketch about a charity for The Tragically Hip, which the band of the same name was named after, according to the commentary.  And there's the Pirate Alphabet, and . . . yeah, a lot of it's good.

The foreign film parody was one of my favorites.  Of course, I like Head, so maybe I'm just biased, but I'm hardly a fanatic -- I didn't even know Nesmith wrote Rio.  It's one of those songs I've heard parts of a zillion times but could not have told you who was singing.  I might've guessed Willie Nelson.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 03, 2010, 09:59:25 PM
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on June 06, 2010, 12:09:33 AM
Spider Baby (, a 1968 horror film, more or less.

would've been better if russ meyer had directed.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 06, 2010, 12:12:54 AM
Ehhh . . . it would've been different, certainly, and probably even more of a Tarantino favorite.  I don't know.  I'll stick with it as is.



Tonight, I watched Slap Shot (, which I'd only ever seen bits and pieces of.  Well . . . it's certainly one of the better hockey movies I've seen, even though there isn't much hockey in it, and I didn't know Lindsay Crouse was so cute when she was young.  There are tons of great bits, but the movie's all over the place for more than two hours, with a rambling screenplay that was clearly cut down from a much longer script.

Eh.  It's not bad, and it's worth seeing for the odd classic moment here and there, but it wasn't as good as I was hoping.  It looks like they had fun making it, though.  And I'm not a traditional sports movie kind of guy, so there's that.  I usually like the parodies much more than the serious ones.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on June 06, 2010, 12:27:04 AM
well, would've been better if he designed some of the costumes . . . .  :D
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on June 07, 2010, 02:28:31 PM
It's been probably a decade since I've seen either Elephant Parts or Slapshot.  Loved both.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 07, 2010, 08:08:05 PM
YT and I just watched Night Watch ( 

WTF was that?

(This review may contain spoilers.  I'm really not sure, or sure if that even applies to a movie like this.)

Holy crap, for a movie that was hyped (from what I heard, anyway) by fanboy word of mouth like nothing since The Matrix, that was not so good.  OK, I didn't like The Matrix, either, but I didn't hear any hype about it until after I saw it, and I was at least not bored during it.  Night Watch was like two hours long but seemed more like three.  It had some good moments, but . . . .

Basically, it's a Russian epic Good vs Evil fantasy with lots of special effects.  Part of the problem is that it didn't make a lot of sense, which is unfortunate since seemingly 75% of the movie or more is exposition.  Lots and lots of talking, but mostly the characters were either saying things that were really banal and generic or dark-fantasy-amateurish, or they were saying things that were incomprehensible or that contradicted other things or that just didn't fit together.  We really didn't care who won or lost, lived or died, and so there wasn't much tension anyway.

A lot of the effects are surprisingly nicely done, but pointless.  There's a lot of . . . are those blood vessels?  What are we looking at?  And why?  There's a recurring tornado of crows, which seems like it must be hard on the crows.  There are ambiguously bad Others, many but not all of whom are Vampires, plus good guys who might or might not be vampires (but not Vampires, I think), plus a were-bear, a were-tiger, some witches, a seer, another guy who can Google the future, a psychic surgeon, an owl that turns into a sorceress (who wasn't Welsh and doesn't seem to have many magical powers), a guy who can pull his spine out and turn it into a sword (he can also play prophetic videogames that don't exist), a cursed virgin, some dogs that are magical in some way, and a bunch of other otherful stuff. 

That's just scratching the surface.  There are magic flashlights, a jet-propelled truck (not like Buckaroo Banzai's, though), an airplane with clearly magical properties, a nuclear power plant that can un-explode itself, magic sunglasses (I think), and I don't know what else.  There is MUCH that is not explained and/or doesn't make sense.  There are many parts that we laughed at, but we honestly couldn't tell if they were supposed to be funny, and there were several parts we laughed at that we were sure were not supposed to be funny.  We checked the runtime at least five times.

Again, there are some cool bits.  As an action film, though, this doesn't have much action.  Russian film has a tendency to have a lot of talk and not much walk, and this one carries on that tradition.  It's the first part of a trilogy, but I don't know if I'll watch further.

In the film's defense:  There are multiple versions out there.  The DVD I got from Netflix doesn't seem to have any of the versions generally described online.  It did not have a Russian-language option, which is a shame for several reasons, not least of which is that that version apparently has entertaining and creative subtitles that change color, font, and location depending on the scene.  That sounds like it could be obnoxious, but the reviews I saw all suggest that it works.  However, the International Version has a bunch of edits (some of which seem almost implausibly large changes), and the version we just watched only had some of those changes. 

Well, beats me.  But I can't believe any other DVD-release version of this film would have been all-around awesome.  If you like crazy movies and can't get enough GvE / vampire gunk in whatever forms, then this one's worth a rental, but it's just not anything as original or brilliant or startling as I was told to expect.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 08, 2010, 11:35:17 PM
The Pajama Game (, from 1957, with Doris Day, John Raitt, Carol Haney, and Eddie Foy, Jr.

Well . . . I've never seen a stage version, but I've heard a couple of stage versions, mostly back in the days when I was a tiny bit of a theater rat.  Gotta like it -- it's a noisy, slightly raucous musical about a bunch of people who are going through one of those economic situations where they can't tell if they're at temporary plateau on their way up or if they've crested and are about to plummet, and it has that fin-de-siècle-without-a-calendar frantic energy to it.  These are people who work a little too hard, play a little too hard, talk a little too loud, and generally try a little too hard to make sure that they don't stop to consider their situation too closely.  It has an awfully rough and adult undercurrent for a musical of the 1950s.

Many years ago, my ex bought Loverboy's Greatest Hits on CD, and it made us think there was something wrong with our new stereo.  The songs sounded like they were playing about three-quarter speed.  I mean, the pitch was right, but the tempo sure seemed slow.  She mentioned it to a guy she worked with, and he said, oh yeah, that happens with ZZ Top, too.  Turn it up.  And we tried that, and, yes, it fixed it.  Weird but true.

The reason I bring this up is that several of the musical numbers in the film version have that same problem -- the energy level is just slightly low.  I also didn't like a lot of the camera work, and this isn't an unrelated problem, although that takes a moment to explain.  There are several scenes where the camera's range of motion is clearly constrained, and the worst of these is during I'll Never Be Jealous Again, which takes place on the claustrophobic factory floor, with the camera moving on a dolly so it can shoot up and down the aisles.  Moving the camera smoothly, with precise stops to line it up with the aisles, in time to the music and dancing . . . is awkward.

The film also has a bit of awkwardness with the whole filmed-stage-show thing, where sometimes the performers play directly to the audience and sometimes the characters don't know they're performing.  Not as bad, actually, as in Calamity Jane, though, and not a big deal.  They also cut Her Is, which was one of my favorite numbers.  And the movie's implicit message isn't as laudable as possible -- the female lead and the union organizers are actually helpless, and it takes the machinations of the single macho guy to solve the labor problem.  But you can't have everything.

So it's OK, not terrific.  In fairness, I should add that Bob Fosse's choreography has never thrilled me.  I don't hate it, but it often doesn't do a lot for me.  I've often thought that he's a dancer's choreographer, not an audience's, but, then, I'm no dancer.  For me, Steam Heat is one of the weaker numbers.  :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 09, 2010, 10:54:41 PM
The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (, a 2001 low-budget parody of 'B' horror / SF films.

Starts off a little slow, but by half an hour in it's really picked up.  It's sort of like an MST3K movie but with the jokes built in.  It's uneven, but the good parts are definitely good.  Overally, I'd say it's about as good as Lobster Man From Mars, if not as good as the brilliant (and much crazier) Top of the Food Chain (aka Invasion!). 

Lots of very quotable lines (, but a lot of them wouldn't work unless the people you were talking to had also seen the movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mrcookieface on June 09, 2010, 11:41:22 PM
I've got that DVD because I used to get free stuff like that at my last job.  I thought the schtick got old pretty fast though, but the dinner scene was brilliant.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 10, 2010, 12:00:46 AM
I liked it better, but I know exactly what you mean.  It's really HARD to make a bad movie on purpose and have it be any good.  At the very least, you generally have to film like four hours of footage and then cut it down to just the best 90 minutes.  Cadavra has a number of spots where the schtick wears thin, but then it has moments that work perfectly.

They made a sequel and a few similar films.  I'd watch another one, not necessarily the sequel to this one, and not necessarily all of them, but I'd watch another one.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on June 10, 2010, 12:31:17 PM
I loved it but then again I'm a b-movie fan.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 10, 2010, 12:34:44 PM
A weird thing that I kept thinking while watching it is that Mars Attacks! should've been edited down a bit.  It had some great moments but, similarly, had a bunch of sections that just weren't so great.

The 'B' movies have given us an endless rich lode to mine, though.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 10, 2010, 08:32:43 PM
Partly last night and then partly while fixing a fan today I watched Gotcha! (, which I hadn't seen since the 1980s.  It holds up really well, actually.  Linda Fiorentino was always hot, and the spy-action stuff is better than I expected.

The line about the big yellow crayon has been quoted many times in the last 25 years, and it was nice to hear the original version again.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 10, 2010, 11:06:29 PM
Forgot to mention that I was surprised (but not annoyed) by the product placements in Gotcha!.  I usually think of overt product placement in films as starting from Return of the Killer Tomatoes, which I'm sure is wrong but makes sense if you've seen that movie.  But Gotcha! has an amusingly prominent Diet Pepsi can, for instance, and the line, "It's not a camera!  It's a Nikon!"  :lol:

Anyway, I just finally watched Up (, in regular 2D.  It's cute and has some really good moments, but . . . it's not up to the standards of WALL-E or certainly The Incredibles or Toy Story, if you ask me.  Personally, I found a lot of it very depressing, but I suspect that's mostly just me.  Still, the details are quite excellent, and there are a bunch of sharply clever and inventive bits, and it would be crass not to say so.

IMDb makes me realize how many Pixar films I haven't seen yet, and it's a surprisingly large bunch, but, much as I've liked the ones I've seen, I just don't feel that motivated to see the others.  Eventually, I'm sure.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on June 11, 2010, 07:18:58 AM
 :love: Pixar!  And that only has a little to do with me having a 5 year old.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on June 11, 2010, 11:15:06 AM
I loved Up and just saw it last week.  I appreciated the dark parts, reminded me of Triplets of Belleville.  But the dog parts were amazing.  Loved Alpha's malfunctioning voice modulator and loved the "Cone of Shame"
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 11, 2010, 11:53:22 AM
I mentioned it at work and IJ immediately said she liked it but found it depressing.  And she's young.  She mostly just found the first 10-15 minutes depressing, but depressing enough that it lingered through the whole movie.

I know it's supposed to be uplifting, no pun intended, but sometimes the depressing parts are too realistic and the uplifting parts too unbelievable to counter that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 11, 2010, 08:52:58 PM
Spurred by pdrake, I saw Timecrimes (, a Spanish SF / suspense film.  It's very good, but I had a couple of minor issues with it.  There isn't a whole lot that I can say about it without giving away spoilers because it's a carefully crafted puzzle film, but basically it's a particular type of time-travel movie. 

If you've read and seen enough science fiction, you've already seen a ton of these stories.  This one's better than most, and god knows it's far better than most film and TV attempts.  Spanish movies often seem to maintain a serious tone with these kinds of suspense stories, these days, and the first ten or twelve minutes of this movie are flat-out masterful.  But because I've seen so many of these kinds of stories before, the movie basically didn't have any surprises for me once the plot got rolling.  It's really about how things happen as much as what happens, but for serious SF people it'll mostly be a chance to see it done seriously and intelligently.  You know, not like an Ashton Kutcher SF film.

So . . . it's really good, but its impact will be much greater for people who haven't already seen a ton of time-travel stories, is what it boils down to.  Still worth seeing, though.

As a side note, I have to say that for me Spanish movies are the easiest movies to watch with subtitles.  I don't speak Spanish, and I'm not being modest when I say that -- I could barely muddle through a Mexican restaurant menu if I were ordering things I don't usually order.  And I don't watch a whole lot of Spanish movies, while I do watch quite a lot of Chinese and Japanese stuff subtitled.  But Spanish subtitles are, for some reason, just incredibly easy to read without hardly looking at them.  French movies, for instance, can't compare.  A friend of mine once said he thinks it might be because the Spanish tend to speak in short sentences.  I really have no idea.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 11, 2010, 09:07:09 PM
If you do get the Timecrimes DVD, be SURE to watch the short extra film 7:35 in the Morning.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 11, 2010, 10:35:22 PM
After looking around online, I found a LOT of people complaining about Timecrimes in ways that, I think, show some misunderstanding.  A lot of people think the main character is an idiot and that he does stupid things.  Well, even if you don't buy into the immutability of paradox (I don't, for instance, regardless of the many physicists who do), there are two important things to keep in mind:

1)  The experience the main character is going through is very unsettling for him, and it's also rather rough on him physically.  He shouldn't be expected to always come up with the cleverest course of action.

2)  What the film shows the viewer is not always the same as what the main character sees.  The audience gets to know more about what's going on than he does -- the basis of dramatic irony, after all -- and so it's easy to second-guess him but not always fair.

It reminds me of people complaining that the guy in Memento should have just kept a record of what was going on.  That's what he was trying to do.  When you don't have his problems, it's easy to imagine how to circumvent his problems, but his problems were complicating that very same process, for him.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 15, 2010, 11:01:14 PM
Zebraman (, another strange one from Takashi Miike.  This one's essentially a comedy with lots of kinda-sorta serious drama shoehorned in, which is part of Miike's sense of humor.  Hard to explain.  It's not that the dramatic elements are exaggerated or played for laughs but just the inappropriate juxtaposition of having them in there.

Zebraman is about a silent, lonely loser, disrespected at work and by his family, who dresses up as a corny 1970s kids' TV hero who's kind of like a Power Ranger and kind of like Ultraman except with a zebra theme.  Then aliens actually do invade, and he has to become an actual superhero. 

Some of the funny and ironic elements work great.  The crazy action stuff is mostly awesomely weird -- Japanese and out the other side.  I don't think the film contains anything terribly perverse, but it knows it's weird and pushes for weirder.  Some of the dramatic elements seem to just go on too long, though, and the whole movie seemed about twenty minutes too long at almost two hours. 

Thing is, Miike doesn't want to just make a parody or straightforward over-the-top comedy.  He can't really help being stranger than that.  Sort of like how if you watch Twin Peaks for a second time, a lot of the soap opera elements really drag slowly.  Miike's off in his own little world, and odds are that no one else is as comfortable there as he is.  But I liked this better than Audition, if not as much as The Happiness of the Katakuris.  Still have Ichi the Killer and Gozu in my queue. 

There's a sequel to Zebraman that came out earlier this year.  It's apparently substantially crazier, which doesn't bother me; my main question would be if it has a slightly faster pace.  I'm thinking it over, but it's not available through Netflix yet anyway.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 17, 2010, 10:39:41 AM
Thai actioner called Kon Fai Bin (, aka Dynamite Warrior

Fairly weird.  It's circa-1910, maybe, in southern Thailand, where Westernisms are just getting in.  Rice is the fabulous export, but there aren't enough buffalo to pull all the plows to ramp up rice production, so buffalo traders bringing herds south are the local cowboys.  Meanwhile, a small-pond bigwig wants to sell tractors (the Next Big Thing) and works to keep the buffalo supply stymied through any means necessary.  At the same time, a young kid uses muay thai and homemade rockets in his masked-vigilante search for the evil buffalo rustler who killed his parents.  Oh, and there are two sorcerors, which also means Force-style telekinetic battles, good old spirit-possession kung fu, and miscellaneous voodoo.

It's no Tony Jaa picture, but it's not terrible.  Weirdly, a lot of the kung fu choreography is neither especially spectacular not all that convincing, but the wirework and sorcery special effects are surprisingly matter-of-fact and good.  The cast is mostly good, although this is a foreign film, and some of its antics may offend Western sensibilities -- people get gruesomely hurt a lot, although rarely actually killed, and there's a moment of cannibalism, and the preening sneering giggling villain has a distinguishing harelip that's not exactly politically correct over here.  Reading a few online reviews, I see that some people were offended that a key bit of Thai sorcery in the movie revolves around menstrual blood, but there's nothing graphic or, I thought, tasteless about how it's handled, and there are a few sequences where it's played for laughs as the clueless and naive hero has to ask the sorceror's daughter to cooperate.

All in all, it went on a little long, but it's not bad.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 17, 2010, 09:32:15 PM
Severance (, a horror-comedy from a few years back.

It's . . . pretty good.  There are about half a dozen really good comedy moments, and a few decent horror moments.  There's a bit too much that's cliche or anticlimactic, and there were a few scenes that just didn't work for me.  Cast's not bad, but the characters are largely pretty annoying, and, although some of them improve as the film launches into its last half hour, the ones I would have preferred die first naturally hang around longer than that.

Ultimately, this is one of those survival horror movies, with killers killing and surprised victims out of their depth.  For me, those generally boil down to the survival attempt.  I prefer to see people fight back with a bit of creativity and intelligence, not just panic and shouting at each other.  This film has more going for it than most, but, still, it's mostly luck that decides who lives or dies and when, and to me that's not too gripping.  Still, it does have that handful of really good moments. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 19, 2010, 11:04:11 PM
Meet The Spartans (  OK, so, these recent movie-parody movies have typically been really, really bad.  Airplane!, they ain't.  I mean, they're not even Spy Hard.  But few movies beg for parody like 300.

This movie feels like it was written over about a week and a half, but the problem is that there were only two days where they had any funny ideas.  I'd say that it breaks down like this:

- 25% of the jokes are really funny

- 25% of the jokes are passable

- 25% of the jokes are not funny

- 25% of the jokes are so deeply bad that you want to put the two writer-directors through a garlic press

There are a lot of jokes in there that revolve around someone's crotch in some way, and I don't remember a single one of those that wasn't really stupid and unfunny.  I'm not saying I don't like crotch jokes; I'm saying these were all really bad crotch jokes.  Just not funny.  Also, the celebrity impersonation stuff was often not funny and almost always went on about five times too long.  Kicking Britney Spears into the Pit of Death is worth seeing.  Fake Britney improv-ing about her Britney life stops being funny as soon as it starts.  Paris Hilton as the hunchbacked Ephialtes isn't even a funny idea in the first place.  If you have eight American Idol sequences, you should be smart enough to know that not more than two of them will possibly be worthwhile.  And so on.

Also, rather weirdly, there's a Dozens scene (a 'yo mama' fight), and it has absolutely the weakest string of yo-mama jokes I can ever remember hearing.  Seriously, it's so lame that it's just bizarre.  Thirty seconds with google would have improved this scene by at least three orders of magnitude.  It was a trainwreck but perversely interesting because I kept waiting for them to get to the good yo-mama jokes, except they didn't.

Still, the good bits are good, and I needed the actual laughs.  Sean Maguire is often surprisingly good in the lead.  Kevin Sorbo and Diedrich Bader . . . seriously, I've seen them in bad things, but I don't think I've ever seen them be bad in anything.  I watched at least a dozen episodes of Andromeda because Sorbo can do no wrong.  The Raimis should have put him and Bruce Campbell in like ten awesome films together by now.

The end credits -- and I think this says a lot about the writer-directors -- include outtakes, some of which are among the better scenes 'in' the movie.  It makes me wonder how much stuff wound up on the cutting room floor that was far superior to, say, the scene where a giant painful-ghetto-talking penguin takes a crap in Leonidas's mouth.  You could edit a very funny 30-minute featurette out of this film, though.

Incidentally, IMDb tells me that Sean Maguire stars in a sword-and-sorcery parody TV series called Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire (, apparently made by the BBC and Comedy Central.  I'd never heard of it.  Reviews are rather polarized, but has anyone here seen it?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 20, 2010, 05:43:13 PM
I started watching Dirty Harry ( last night and finished it after work today.  I'd never actually seen the whole thing.  It's certainly iconic and trendsetting, but . . . honestly, I think Coogan's Bluff is better, if less intense and grim, and if you want to see a weird 1970s action film with Eastwood doing his own stunts, I'd say watch the much more unusual Eiger Sanction instead.

Weird to think Eastwood made The Beguiled with the same director at about the same time.  His acting in Dirty Harry has two modes -- under and over.  The laconic, bitter cop with a wise mouth is OK, but whenever he actually gets angry, the snarling lip-twisting word-biting scenery-chewing gets to be just a tad too much and slightly comical.  The villain's certainly creepy but not very plausible as written.  And the movie drags.  Strange that it was seen as so very right-wing when it came out, but cops weren't too popular at the time.

It's no Bullitt, but Bullitt is a lot slower than a lot of people remember, too.  In film trivia news, at one point Dirty Harry was going to be directed by Irvin Kershner (who directed Empire Strikes Back), with Frank Sinatra in the lead and possibly James Caan as the villain.  That would've been different.  I can't decide if it would likely have been better, but I think it would have been a more relaxed film.

What I was mostly struck by:

- Eastwood runs, jumps, fights, etc . . . generally wearing a three-piece suit.  Oy.  Poor bastard.

- There's a LOT of female nudity in this movie, and I mean a lot, including full-frontal, and virtually all of it is utterly unnecessary to the story.  Odd considering the movie came out in 1971.

- There are, nonetheless, almost no female characters.  There's a secretary who has a few lines, and toward the end of the movie Harry's partner suddenly has a wife who actually has a short conversation with Harry.  And there's a female bus driver who has a couple of two-word lines. 

- I don't know if it's part of the remastering for DVD or what, but the film seemed very modern in one unfortunate aspect:  The sound effects are often mixed in at 9 while the dialogue is mixed in at 4.  Seriously stupid.  Gunshots are loud enough in real life, and my old Dodge van wasn't that loud when its muffler was missing.  I had to keep turning the volume up and down.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 20, 2010, 05:53:34 PM
OK let's hear your review of The Eiger Sanction, because I friggin' love that bizarro movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 20, 2010, 07:02:30 PM

It's messed up.  I haven't seen it in years and years, but I still have flashbacks.  The story in a nutshell, as I remember it, is that an art professor who used to be an assassin is called out of retirement by a truly odd secret group (government agency?) to perform one last job, whether he likes it or not.  The job involves climbing in the Alps (and how!) with a group of people, one of whom is a spy and the target, but Eastwood's character doesn't know which one.  Plus, he may have been doublecrossed.

Worth seeing for the climbing scenes alone -- and I'm not a technical-climbing person whatsoever.  Thayer David (maybe most famous for playing Stokes on Dark Shadows) is bizarre and noteworthy as Dragon, the rather unusual head of the sinister agency behind it all.

I should see that one again.  I'd love to take a month somewhere and see a bunch of 60s and 70s dark action films.  I never saw most of The Osterman Weekend or all of Black Sunday, and there's a nifty under-known 60s spy film I once saw and liked called Assignment To Kill (

Hell, I could do two weeks just with Michael Caine.  Never seen Ipcress File, or most of the original Get Carter, or the second half of the original Italian Job.  With the latter two, it's due to a faulty DVD in both cases.  Maybe I'm not meant to see them.

Speaking of Eastwood, I'd also like to see Kelly's Heroes again. 

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 20, 2010, 11:56:11 PM
Oh yeah, those were great. Also The Quiller Memorandum and The Odessa File and (my personal fave) Funeral in Berlin! I grew up on Cold War spy tales.

Edit: Caine was in Funeral -- in the other two the protagonist is played by George Segal and Jon Voigt, respectively.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on June 21, 2010, 05:26:03 AM
I think Deathtrap ( was my favorite Michael Caine movie.

Kelly's Heroes is worth watching several times. Great cast of characters. I loved the bit about playing music from the tank as they blew up stuff.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 21, 2010, 10:54:11 PM
I saw some of the Justice League TV show from a few years ago, and, I think, a couple of episodes of Justice League Unlimited, and part of a TV movie where they fought Nazis with giant flying-wing aircraft, I think.  It was a while ago.  But the show was freakishly good, extremely smart and geeky, often doing the kinds of things that people who read comics constantly say Why don't they just DO THIS OBVIOUS THING?!? 

And the real reason that superheroes (and villains) don't do that obvious thing is because it would complicate the writing too much.  But with clever, ballsy writing, you can get storylines like one where the Justice League decides to hell with this and has Superman just lobotomize most villains with his heat vision.  Still, the show stumbled here and there with its insistence (What, were they under contract?) to shoehorn one lame / ill-fitting member of the expanded Justice League into almost every episode.  You can't really have a problem on a distant planet and send Hawkgirl, Aquaman, and Jonah Hex.  That's stupid. 

But, well, nothing's perfect.  Still . . .

I just watched Crisis on Two Earths (  Wow.  Putting The Rocketeer and Iron Man aside, that might have been as good as all the major live-action comic book movies' good parts put together.  It has an amazing blend of classic DC comics atmosphere and is true to its zeitgeist, and yet it does a whole lot of those Why Don't They Just moments where, in fact, they do.  The silly comic-book SF is a million times better than, say, the cold-fusion stuff in Spider-Man 2, and the writing is packed with smart in-jokes and comic book references (many of which, I don't mind admitting, I didn't get).  The dialogue is snappy and Whedon-sharp.

The voice acting, seriously, is excellent.  Gina Torres as a sexy evil Superwoman?  James Woods as Owlman, a Mirror, Mirror Batman?  Oh, yes.  Plus Chris Noth as Lex Luthor, Mark Harmon as Superman, and William Baldwin (but he's good!) as Batman, rounding out the star power.  The lesser roles are all good, too.  The villains (especially Owlman and Superwoman) are perfectly written and executed, and the evil Marvel family is priceless.  The movie's chock full of superpower action sequences that the live-action films couldn't duplicate, and they work great -- the martial arts and brawling is surprisingly well-done, especially for animation.  It's all good.

Minor lapses are easily forgiven . . . even an appearance by Firestorm.  Look, Firestorm was always a bad idea.  The character is just a mess, overpowered and nonautochthonous, with not one but three painfully overcomplicated and uninspiring origin stories.  They made him black and somewhat cooler at some point, but, seriously, his set of powers doesn't even stay constant, and it's always ridiculous, with the ability to change anything into anything else, to fly, superspeed and strength and invulnerability, the ability to merge with other people, powerblasts of different unrelated types, ability to become insubstantial, some kind of psychometric thing that I never understood, ability to see the future too, and I don't know what else.  I think he can install telephones.  But comics only needs a very, very few superheroes whose heads (and only their heads) are on fire, and Flaming Carrot, really, has this one covered.

But I digress.  Seriously, the movie's good.  Even Aquaman comes across well.

The same team is allegedly currently doing an animated version of Batman: Year One.  There are no guarantees, but that could be awesome.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 23, 2010, 12:58:33 AM
My brother and I watched JCVD (  Well.  Odd film.

Basically, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself, almost, in a film where he gets taken hostage during a bank robbery, of sorts, except that the police think he is the bank robber.  It's really not an action movie, although it has some action, and it's really not a comedy, except in the sense of its absurdism.  It's more a film about films and about celebrity.

It's pretty arty, and there are plusses and minuses to that, here, but mostly it works.  A lot of the absurdism will at least make you smile -- we really liked how relaxed the cops mostly seem, as if they can't believe this is happening and can't quite get into the spirit of it as a result.  But the film isn't terribly lighthearted.  There are a bunch of parts that don't quite make sense, and I don't think it's the subtitles.  The hostages in the bank pass the time by watching a TV show (or maybe more than one) that definitely doesn't make sense.

We were occasionally a little bored, I admit, because there are a few slow stretches, but it was never painful.  And there are some truly brilliant parts, crazy but brilliant.  All in all, Van Damme comes across very well both as an actor and as a person.  You can't really dislike him for making cheesy movies.  He's just doing what he does, within the limitations that are beyond his control, and I'm glad he was able to do this movie and demonstrate that his cheesier movies may largely define his career but don't define him as a person.

If you have trouble sitting through foreign films, you probably won't like a lot of this movie, but otherwise . . . it's actually pretty fascinating.  It's not incredibly deep, but it's certainly reflective, and it seems heartfelt.  And it's weird.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on June 23, 2010, 08:20:28 AM
Jean-Claude Van Damme only ever plays himself.  You know why?  CAUSE HE CAN'T ACT!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 23, 2010, 09:12:50 AM

He can act a bit.  I don't think he's often asked to.  He reportedly turned down a part in Stallone's new action extravaganza because the script was basically unwritten at that point and Stallone couldn't give him any information about who his character would be.  It would be interesting to see him in a smaller, richer part in a movie with a dramatic director. 

Lots of people said Stallone had no depth until Cop Land.  I guess Rhinestone and Over The Top weren't convincing.  And Dolph can act, but, again, is rarely asked to do much except be big and mean.

Van Damme's movies have often not been great, let's face it, but he's been very straightforward in them, not trying to push political views or get preachy.  He's there mostly to do spin-kicks, and his kicks look good on the screen.  His life outside of the movies has been kind of a disaster, and he always came across as sort of bewildered, even when blustering, like he got there late and isn't sure yet exactly what's going on.

I've watched a lot of movies made with people who are trying to do the same thing.  A lot of them don't have the career success of Van Damme, regardless of their acting or action talents -- Gary Daniels and Richard Norton spring to mind.  These people all want to make kick-ass ass-kicking films with a bit of heart and some cool dialogue.  The really really want it, and they grasp at straws, because straws are about all the genre usually has to offer.  Not that many great kickboxing parts; not that many great kung fu parts in Hollywood.  Ask Robin Shou.

Or ask Jackie Chan, who keeps killing himself making mostly dreadful Hollywood movies after having previously been literally the most popular movie star in history.  This is a guy who wrote / produced / choreographed / directed and starred in action films that Hitchcock would have admired, but these people can't stop chasing that star, and this is how he winds up sticking with Hollywood despite The Tuxedo and Rush Hour III.  Meanwhile, his friends like Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao labor mightily in his shadow, wishing like hell they had a bigger piece of his success.

You'll notice even crazy-ass Seagal can't seem to stop.  JCVD has a very honest bit where Van Damme vacillates between really clearly knowing that it's all Cinderella-unlikely that he's gone from being an angry scrawny kid to international stardom, and good god he wanted to do that, and he's been incredibly lucky to manage it, but at the same time he can't possibly be satisfied with the movies he's made but doesn't know how to make better ones (if it's even possible for him to).  You can't spin-kick the whole world, man.  Hell, in real life, you can't spin-kick much of anything, which is why those kinds of movies are popular in the first place.

I saw a DVD preview for a 'new' Universal Soldier movie that I guess actually came out last year, and . . . you gotta feel sorry for these guys sometimes.  I feel like we have some kind of obligation to put them in better movies.  I felt the same way for Kurt Russell and Jason Scott Lee when I saw Soldier.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on June 23, 2010, 10:41:07 AM

Yeah, Van Dammit has never really shaken the awkward out of himself. I boycott Chan's American films. I <3 him too much to sit through those paychecks. I have his book, I am Jackie Chan, and it's an outstanding read.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 24, 2010, 11:24:34 PM
So, Josie and the Pussycats (, mostly because it was expiring.  I always heard it was awful, but it has a good cast, and when they tell you that you can't see it, well, now you want to see it.

Really, it's not bad.  It's not brilliant, but it's actually trying to go somewhere, and it's still a good cast.  It has a lot of good moments, and then it gets boring on and off in the second half. 

But here's what I have to say to Hollywood:  MEDIA RES.  Learn it and live it, you dumb crapjockeys.  If you find yourself doing an origin story and it's not at least the second sequel, then you have failed.  I don't just mean artistically, or in some la-di-da Doing Justice To The Original way.  I mean commercially, too, because you are hammering nails into the franchise and marketing coffin lids.  I mean you picked up the ball and crapped your pants, period. 

Origin stories are usually pretty lame.  And there's a reason for that.  Your basic narrative that even has an origin story, hmm, why does it even need one?  We've long since passed the age that more or less ended with Dickens, where audiences expected to hear right off the bat where the protagonist was born and how they go into the premise and why people call them Pip.  Fact is, we dropped that shit because No One Cares. 

Yet certain stories -- serials, mostly -- do seem to beg for origin stories.  Well, think about it and see if you can divine why, because if you're a storyteller the reason should be pretty obvious.  It's because there's something in the premise that is ridiculously unusual, and that wants justification and backstory.  If you're doing The Big Chill, you don't have to tell the audience how the characters got to be normal mid-life-crisis neurotics, but if you're doing Spider-Man, at some point people are going to wonder.

And a key phrase there is "at some point".  The rule is simple:  Make the audience fans, and THEN they'll want to see the origin story.  Non-fans don't care.  Do at least one really solid in-the-premise adventure, and then you can do an origin.  Not the other way around.  Putting the origin first is an amateur mistake.  I don't care if you're rebooting Star Trek or doing a Popeye musical or what, and I don't care if you get away with it, it's still almost always a mistake. 

That aside . . . it's particularly pointless for Josie and the Pussycats.  Also, the story they went with doesn't justify keeping some of the original characters (the Cabots, Alan), and the film didn't really need those characters but awkwardly kept them anyway.  The Cabots work out OK, mostly because Missi Pyle is awesome, but Alan is (A) miscast (no offense to whoever that was; he just isn't an Alan), (B) pointless, and (C) doesn't have anything interesting to do, except for one scene where he gives Rachel Leigh Cook a hint of an excuse to go all googly-eyed lunatic, and that's all the excuse she needs.

Quick passing thoughts:

- I first noticed Rachel Leigh Cook and her lunatic eyes when she played (in a subtle but truly lunatic fashion) the younger version of a Parker Posey character in The House of Yes, a film so rare and exquisite that Tori Spelling and Freddie Prinze Jr are good in it.  Here, she teamed up with Parker Posey again for an odd bookend set of crazy roles.

- This film is partly responsible for Robot Chicken.  I'd heard Seth Green say so, but I never had any idea why until I saw it.  Now I see the cast connection.  Kind of funny.  Green and Co's small roles as a boy band are pretty awesome.

- The meta-film jokes in this movie work better than I expected.  The product placement was even cute, and I hate product placement.  (The product placement in Casino Royale annoyed the crap out of me, and I've never heard anyone else complain about it.)  Alan Cummings' joke about Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion made me laugh out loud.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on June 24, 2010, 11:34:33 PM
JCVD is an interesting movie even for those who aren't much into Jean-Claude's movies. It's kind of like a deconstruction of his whole image, in which he willingly participates.

The best part is his monologue toward the end, which was apparently improvised in one take (not too surprising, since a lot of it sounds like some of the crazy stuff he says in interviews)

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 24, 2010, 11:45:17 PM
I know!  A lot of critics apparently felt that bit was too arty, but my brother and I both liked it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on June 25, 2010, 01:14:47 PM
I enjoyed Josie and the Pussycats.  Especially Parker Posey's role.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on June 25, 2010, 02:04:24 PM
 :love: Parker Posey!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 26, 2010, 12:45:13 AM
I know -- she's another one who's never bad in anything, and quite the hottie.

I made my brother watch Bolt (, which was just as "fully awesome" the second time.  Personally, I like it better than Up.  I didn't realize before that it was specifically made to be 3D.  Eh.  It works fine in 2D.  I'd also like to note that this movie has HILARIOUS pigeon characters, none of whom, at any time, crap on anything, or even refer to crapping on anything.

We also watched Hamlet 2 (, which I don't think I'd even heard of.  It's a complicated not-quite-any-one-thing parody movie with South Park genes, with Steve Coogan as an inspirational drama teacher (sort of), Catherine Keener as his long-suffering wife, and Elizabeth Shue as Elizabeth Shue, plus a bunch of rabbly high school kids as those kids who don't really want to be here.  It wanders wherever it wants to but is mostly a parody of Inspirational Teacher movies, with a lot of parody of bad near-Broadway theater.

Coogan's character puts on a production of his own musical sequel to Hamlet (which involves Jesus and a time machine), despite community outrage.  The film's frequently quite funny and occasionally quite uncomfortable.  Everyone in the front row will see Coogan's ass.  It's not Airplane!-absurdist but doesn't care if it loses track of realism altogether, and a lot of the funnier moments are pretty inexplicable.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 26, 2010, 01:40:16 AM
I'd also like to note that this movie has HILARIOUS pigeon characters, none of whom, at any time, crap on anything, or even refer to crapping on anything.

Wait ... really?!? I didn't notice. Interesting!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on June 26, 2010, 05:38:41 AM
Bolt was really good.  One of those good for kids good for real people ones.  Like cartoons used to be.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 26, 2010, 09:25:50 AM
Bolt's one of those Dixar films, with production from Pixar but Disney studio work and writing.  Frankly, the whole merging of Disney and Pixar is almost too confusing to follow, but as far as I can see it hasn't hurt either company, which is pretty remarkable.

Incidentally, Pixar's in charge of the live-action John Carter movie that's still supposed to come out . . . at some point.  I think 2012 is the last date I heard.  That should be an interesting test.  The director is the Pixar guy who directed Finding Nemo and WALL-E, and the script was rewritten by Michael Kavalier and Klay Chabon.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 26, 2010, 12:53:36 PM
They're one - maybe two - generations too late for a success with a John Carter, Warlord of Mars movie. I don't think any of the primary moviegoing audience would be able to name Edgar Rice Burroughs or associate Tarzan or John Carter with him. Shame, but I think it's gonna die like Speed Racer. Which I still think was a fantastic movie.

ETA: In the interest of full disclosure I thought that Burroughs wrote the Conan stories. Whoa, not good. They're going to take my nerd card away.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 26, 2010, 01:50:17 PM
It would be a huge HUGE mistake for them to make a John Carter movie based around nostalgia.  That would be idiotic.  They should go for reto-futurism and swashbuckling and pure spectacle -- Carter like a bionic sword-wielding Wolverine against a Martian backdrop of red skies, airships, mountain fortresses, four-armed mutant-ish giants, a scantily-clad princess or two, and monsters.  Make Carter a dry rogue who'll coldly kill you if the situation calls for it and who really enjoys being a superman in the low gravity.  What's not to like?

It's not like Pirates of the Caribbean traded on nostalgia for pirate serials, after all.

Of course, they very well might muck it up with a bad labyrinthine story (which seems to be the rage nowadays for Get To The FX Already blockbusters), lame dialogue, and bad acting.  And the guy playing Carter also played Gambit.  But at least Megan Fox isn't in this one.

edit:  Also . . . you liked Speed Racer?  I didn't see it and don't have an opinion (the ads were sure awful, though), but this is the first time I've heard anyone say anything good about it.  Maybe I should netflix it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 26, 2010, 03:01:18 PM
I think the Wachos tried to do a non-nostalgia based Speed Racer, but I really think if you weren't a fan of the original this one wouldn't have been much fun -- ALTHOUGH serious anime nerds hated it (they hate everything, so whatever). It was much like a live-action Pixar movie, really. Only thing I didn't like was it was a bit too long. But I bought the DVD.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 27, 2010, 10:05:44 PM
The Closet ( (Le Placard, 2001), a French film by Francis Veber starring Daniel Auteuil (Girl on the Bridge), with a strong supporting cast that includes Gerard Depardieu.  Short version:  A man pretends to be secretly gay in order to avoid being fired when the condom manufacturer he works for is downsizing, but the repercussions go off in strange directions.

This is one of those films that's classified as a comedy mostly because it's harder to say what else it is.  I don't think I actually laughed, although I certainly smiled, and I wasn't bored.  The cast is terrific (oh, those French women who work in his office!), and the film has that European refusal to settle into easy this or that.  Depardieu plays a homophobic co-worker, but his character and how the film treats him isn't the lazy, easy way out, and nothing much is camped up, and the movie rarely even touches on potentially offensive issues.  A casual attitude toward some teen drug use is about the most shocking thing.

But the characters are nice, and the cast is fun, and the pace is pretty breezy, despite not a huge amount happening.  No chase sequences.

Veber, the director, isn't all that well-known in the US, but he wrote and/or directed films like the original The Toy (before it was remade with Richard Pryor), Three Fugitives, The Tall Blonde Man With One Black Shoe (remade here with Tom Hanks), and La Cage Aux FollesThe Closet has a likeable schmuck named Francois Pignon as its protagonist, and Veber has used more or less the same character -- with the same name -- in several films.  Kind of odd, that.  And like a lot of The Closet, it's the kind of thing you could read a lot into, or you could just be a little amused.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on June 28, 2010, 12:50:09 PM
Thanks.  I just added Bolt to the instant queue.  Loved Hamlet 2 and Le Placard.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 28, 2010, 03:55:14 PM
Finally saw Brick (, just three short years after Dogbone's recommendation.  Well, better late than never.

Hardboiled guy finds the body of the ex he never got over, which sends him into a seamy underworld in search for her killer and a story to explain it, despite pressure from the police chief who tells him that he'll give the guy some leeway but send him up the river if things go sour.  The twist is that the major players are all high school kids,  the cop is a Vice Principal played by Richard Roundtree, and the whole thing takes place in godawful ugly California suburbia.  The detective is played by, yes, that kid from Third Rock From The Sun.  IMDb tells me he was also Cobra Commander, which is a little like finding out that Keanu Reeves played Buddha in a film.

But anyway.

Brick is really clever . . . sometimes too clever.  It has a zillion homages to film noir detective stories, and, oddly enough, Dark Shadows, with Lukas Haas playing a teenaged crime boss who wears the suit Barnabas Collins was repeatedly buried in.  Weirdly, IMDb tells me the Third Rock kid was in the NBC early-90s remake of Dark Shadows, so maybe that's it.  Haas makes it work, regardless. 

The hardboiled schtick occasionally grates, usually when too much 1940ish slang gets packed into one conversation or when the young cast stumbles on something that just doesn't come naturally to them, but 90% of the time it's amusing.  There's also an intermittent tone issue where the reality of these characters being teenagers either wanders off (where you think, what, really?) or where it wanders in (and the protagonist, in particular, stops being very hardboiled). 

The transposition of hardboiled to high school has been done before, although I can't think of when it was done so thoroughly, and it's a great idea mostly because hardboiled is quintessentially adolescent:  The men get to be tough, cool, direct, forceful, and so confident that they don't have to feel anything they don't want to feel, except lust for revenge and dynamite romantic love.  The women get to be tough, cool, direct, forceful, confident, and naughty and glamorous.  Everyone talks great.  It's an exaggeration of an adolescent's imagination of the cool side of being an adult.  Even the misery is glamorized.

All in all, the film's got a lot of excellent.  I think it's probably a brilliant early effort from a filmmaker who'll do a lot more amazing things.  That filmmaker, Rian Johnson, also wrote and directed The Brothers Bloom, which I haven't seen because I get sick of Adrien Brody very quickly, although that could just be me.  But I'd keep an eye on Rian Johnson.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 28, 2010, 03:56:54 PM
Oh.  Also wanted to say that the director, among other people, attributes the film mostly to Dashiell Hammett, and there's definitely Hammett in there, but by and large it felt more to me like Mickey Spillane, specifically Mike Hammer, with the constant beatings and the Brain character and so on.  But I'm no expert.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 28, 2010, 04:52:41 PM
Oh, see The Brothers Bloom. Mark Ruffalo owns that picture. It's great. I don't think your Brody aversion will be too badly triggered. Plus; epic Maximilian Schell cameo.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 28, 2010, 07:42:44 PM

Literally all I know about it besides what you've said is what I already said, so at least I can approach it with an open mind.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 29, 2010, 08:57:25 PM
The Dead and the Deadly (, a HK film from 1982.  Hmm.  OK.

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, HK film comedies were entering strange new territories.  If anything in the entire world was ripe for parody, it was traditional kung fu movies -- as all stoners in the US had already realized, but, then, they had the advantages of cheap pot and ridiculously atrocious dubbing, and they didn't take kung fu movies so seriously to begin with.  In HK, going from Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan was more of a revelation.

Before Jackie was destroying box office records with kung fu comedies, one of the early pioneers in the field was a guy named Wu Ma.  If you've seen five movies from Hong Kong, you've probably seen Wu Ma, or seen a film he wrote or seen a film he directed, or both.  IMDb, I'm sure, does not have all his credits, but it lists 217 films he acted in and 41 that he directed, in a career of less than fifty years.  The HK film industry is a very busy place. 

Wu Ma directed Picture of a Nymph, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, and also played Yuen Biao's master in it.  He also directed and appeared in a film called Burning Sensation that I like a lot, which is more of a supernatural romantic comedy.  I think I reviewed that here at one point -- it's the one about the firefighter who falls in love with a ghost.  One of the actors Wu Ma liked to work with is Jackie's 'big brother' Sammo Hung.  In 1980, Sammo wrote and directed and starred in a very influential (and awesome) movie called Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind, which Wu Ma appears in, about a loveable schmoe whose wife is trying to use ghosts and spirits and sorcerers to kill him. 

So two years later, Wu Ma makes The Dead and the Deadly, with about half the principle cast of Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind in different roles.  It's substantially wackier -- crazier, even -- and has less of an emphasis on kung fu, but Sammo stars again, and this time the plot is more complicated but pretty clever.  In fact, it could stand to be remade by Hollywood, with the right touch.  Also in Dead and the Deadly is Lam Ching-Ying as a taoist sorcerer / funeral home director / ghost buster, a role he reprised in various forms so often that he's known as the Vampire Buster in China.  Especially, if you're curious about Chinese vampire movies, you've got to see him in Mr Vampire.

Dead and the Deadly is far from perfect, and, for me, just not in the same league as Spooky Kind or Mr Vampire, but it has a bunch of great moments and ridiculous situations, and the taoist magic in these films is never dull.  You often wonder how much of it is based on folklore and how much is made up on the spot.  For instance, in this film, the touch of a pregnant woman's underwear will send a ghost directly to hell, and at one point the sifu whips out a special magical vine made specifically for beating ghosts.  At the end, Sammo's girlfriend, in rather complicated fashion, has to fight three ghosts who look like the children of ET and the leprechaun from those Leprechaun movies.

So it's pretty good, but not something I'd watch over and over again.  Wu Ma, as an actor, is kind of a chameleon but in films I've seen usually plays fairly quiet middle-aged men, relatively non-taxing roles.  In this one, he wears a peculiar wig and novelty nose and does quite a lot of wirework, rather adroitly, so that was interesting to see, too.  And Sammo's never bad, although this isn't in his top ten movies.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 29, 2010, 09:15:29 PM
Hey! I wasn't a stoner!

Well, okay, culturally I was.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 29, 2010, 09:34:24 PM
It's true, you don't have to be stoned to appreciate some of those bad chopsocky dubs.  You might need to be stoned to watch a LOT of them, though.  I don't know.

Years ago, there was this girl who was after me for months, not understanding that I couldn't date anyone until the last girl I'd been involved with started seeing someone decent.  I guess I can't blame her for not understanding that.  Anyway, she finally gave up and started dating this guy . . . well, one nice thing I can say about him is that he deeply liked kung fu movies.  And she wanted us to be nice to him, so my brother and I invited him over to watch kung fu movies, and he was very enthusiastic.

But he was quite surprised to learn that we didn't intend to get high, and that the movie we planned to watch was subtitled.  It was a good one -- I think it was Drunken Master II, in fact -- but he stayed for maybe half an hour and then bailed.  That was almost the last we ever saw of him.

Well, different tastes, and all that.  Now I wonder if he's seen Kung Pow!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 30, 2010, 12:22:28 AM
Tonight, on Insomnia Theater, Hopscotch (, from 1980.  It's a spy comedy starring Walter Matthau, Ned Beatty, Sam Waterston, and Glenda Jackson. 

In a nutshell, Matthau is a longtime spy who gets shafted by the CIA and decides to go rogue and piss them off by publishing his memoirs.  They chase him, and he tries to stay one step ahead.  It's all deftly handled, with good dialogue and mostly perfect pacing.  The film's mostly relaxed and self-amused, in a good way, rather than tightly strung, and in fact the whole thing is very pleasant -- again, in a good way; I'm not using the faint praise.  It's mostly just extremely smoothly done.  It'd make an excellent lazy weekend film.

Glenda Jackson's part could've been bigger and better, but it's not a bad part, and she's good in it, albeit not as good as she was on The Muppet Show that same year.  Matthau's always good.  Beatty used to play miserable pricks a lot, and he's good at it.  (He played another one in a brilliantly odd and tragically little-known movie that also came out in 1980, The Great American Success Company, where Jeff Bridges stages his own kidnapping and impersonates himself . . . ahh, just go find a copy if you can.)

Hopscotch was written by Brian Garfield, by and large, from his own novel.  He also wrote Death Wish, The Last Hard Men, and the original The Stepfather.  It was directed by Ronald Neame, who also did The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the Albert Finney Scrooge, The Poseidon Venture, and The Odessa File.  So there's your pedigree.

One odd thing about this film is that Netflix's Instant Play version is the TV version, with the bad words awkwardly overdubbed, alas.  My understanding is that that's the only alteration, though.  Another odd thing is that Matthau got both his son and his step-daughter parts in the film.  They'd both acted in at least a dozen or so things before, but for both of them this was their last screen credit.

Another amusing bit of trivia:  The film has spies named Westlake, Ludlum, and Follett.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 30, 2010, 10:14:40 PM
Cherish (, from 2002.

My first thought is that Robin Tunney is a weird actress, and I'm really not sure what her acting range is like because I only see her in strange roles and/or in mixed films, but she's still a perfect example of an actress who could only improve a movie if she replaced Megan Fox in the cast.

This movie's about a socially awkward young woman (Tunney) who's being stalked, and after plot complications winds up awaiting trial, stuck with a parole ankle bracelet and confined to her apartment.  Stuff happens, although not a huge amount of it.  She has a cranky gay Jewish crippled dwarf neighbor, a role written and played with admirable dignity, and a possible romantic interest in her parole officer (Tim Blake Nelson).  Rounding out the cast are Nora Dunn, in a good small bit as an acerbic defense attorney, and Liz Phair, as Tunney's bitchy co-worker, not to mention Jason Priestly in a small, funny role as another co-worker.

The plot takes a few unlikely turns, and the end's too abrupt.  This is one of those films that spends a lot of time on character stuff where very little actually happens but then glosses over pretty major plot points.  On the other hand, the character stuff is probably the right emphasis, and it's pretty endearing, as is the Classic Pop soundtrack.

Tunney . . . is strange, in general.  I've only seen a couple of films she's been in, including The Craft and Julian Po.  She's odd-looking, especially when she holds still, but not necessarily in a bad way.  Sometimes she's distinctively lovely, and sometimes she's cute and girl-next-dorable, and sometimes she's very elegant.  Other times, she looks like a demon queen, hard-ridden vampire, or much older than she is.  On the other hand, she was around 30 when this film was made, and she could have passed for 20 without any trouble. 

But directors often don't seem to know how to make the best use of her, and, frankly, neither does she.  She does have a penchant for odd expressions and both hair and hat choices that don't suit her.  Still, she mostly comes across extremely well in this movie.

Tim Blake Nelson has always been good in everything I've seen him in, and he's good here, no question.  The dwarf neighbor is played very well by Ricardo Gil.  I liked the film, despite its occasional lapses into arty film-school camera gunk that, yes, is kind of impressive but also seriously distracting.  It ain't perfect, but for a little indie film it's pretty fine.  But if you don't like Tunney in this, you won't like the movie.

I went online looking for pictures to demonstrate her good look / bad look weirdness, but I just don't feel like a long GIS session.  I did, however, find this excellent possibly NSFW picture ( of her in an assless skirt and slightly see-thru top, with a strange onlooker.  :lol:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 30, 2010, 10:39:02 PM

Damn you, sir.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: stormneedle on June 30, 2010, 10:48:22 PM

Damn you, sir.
From the 403, cut and paste his link and things work fine. (somebody didn't write all the exceptions correctly.)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 30, 2010, 10:51:52 PM

Well, it was OK.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on June 30, 2010, 11:11:15 PM
:lol:  There are hotter pictures of her out there, certainly, but that one just cracked me up.

IMDb says there was a masturbation scene in the original script for Cherish (her character spends a lot of time very bored and looking for distractions), but her father made them take that bit out.  Considering how old she was and that she did an arty softcore film the year before, that strikes me as a bit odd, but who knows.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on June 30, 2010, 11:22:42 PM
I know what you mean about her occasionally looking odd. Same deal with Natascha McElhone.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 01, 2010, 09:22:54 PM
On the advice of Netflix, I watched a movie called Pervert! ( that's listed as a horror film but whose description suggested ironic campy comedy.  I had my doubts, but it's not a long film, and I just wanted to put something on while I was working.

Well, uh, it was OK for that purpose.  It's kind of like if Russ Meyer had made a fairly low-gore Troma picture while getting a hand job from John Waters.  It's a softcore T&A parody film, and neither great nor atrocious . . . for that genre . . . which is to say that as a film it's a little better than porn.  A little better than the two Misty Mundae movies I've seen, but not quite as wacked-out peculiar.  The dialogue and absurdism has flourishes that keep you from turning it off in disgust, and occasionally the nudity is pretty good.

Still, I wouldn't just sit and watch it; I'd have to be doing something else, too.  No, not that.  The film's not that exciting.  Mostly what it made me think of, for no particularly great reason, is the legendary dirty-joke serial Can I Do It 'Till I Need Glasses? (, from 1977, which is basically bad dirty jokes acted out in a PG-13 manner but which, too, is redeemed by occasional flourishes, such as Tonto's performance in the famous Lone Ranger snakebite joke.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 01, 2010, 09:32:47 PM
As an aside . . . Can I Do It 'Till I Need Glasses? was a favorite of my ex's, back in the day, and so was a movie I've long wanted to see again, Off The Mark (, which is sort of what you'd get if the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team had done a high school sports / sex comedy right before they did the first Naked Gun film.  It starred a very foxy pre-DS9 Terry Farrell, and at the time we thought it was very funny.  I haven't seen it since the 80s, and god knows.  (It was apparently released on video as Crazylegs, for better or worse.)

It was directed by Bill Berry, who only directed one other film, the rather different 70s blaxploitation flick Brotherhood of Death, in which the Washington Redskins fight the KKK.  Haven't actually seen that one myself.  Oddly enough, Netflix has Brotherhood of Death but not Off The Mark.  :eyeroll:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 02, 2010, 08:28:46 PM
During the long hours of no sleep . . . Keep Your Distance (  Not sure how it wound up in my queue, but whatever.

Um, so, good cast, very solid, very smooth, with weird in-their-spare-time cameos by Stacy Keach and Elizabeth Peña.  Gil Bellows, whose career has not been what he deserves, plays a talk radio dude (but not a really obnoxious one).  Kim Raver plays his wife.  They have some issues.  Meanwhile, Christian Kane (Lindsey on Angel) is a rich kid and Jennifer Westfeldt is the woman he wants to marry.  Westfeldt's character has trust issues, and rightly so, and Kane's character means well but is a little too intense.  Maybe more than a little. 

And they all cross paths, plus there are some other characters, but it feels like this was two or three scripts that weren't going anywhere, got mashed together, and had a bad anticlimactic suspense ending (or two) tacked on.  Nothing goes much of anywhere until the last ten minutes or so, and even then there isn't much of a payoff.  Still, a lot of online reviews are all Worst Movie Ever, which is ridiculous.  I mean, I'd rather watch this one again than any thirty minutes of Bay's Transformers.

But, yeah, I'm afraid that everybody in this has been in stuff that's more entertaining.  It's nicely shot, nicely acted, has good character moments, but you keep waiting for it to pick up.

Speaking of not being sure how things wound up in my queue, Netflix mailed me a DVD of the 80s Keanu Reeves teen romcom The Night Before.  I might watch it just for Lori Loughlin, but I saw this movie at some point in the last 20 years, and I don't feel like I really need to see it again.  I'm 100% sure I didn't put it in my DVD queue, and I just checked that queue early this week to see what they'd send me next.  It wasn't this. 

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 03, 2010, 09:46:17 AM
Well, OK, so, The Night Before (  It had about fifteen good bits and 3600 really weak ones.  Keanu Reeves is badly miscast and stumbles stiffly through most of the film, but, really, if you want to see a Thom Eberhardt film, put this one further down the list than Night of the Comet, Captain Ron, Without A Clue, and Gross Anatomy.

There's probably some industry name for this kind of movie, but I don't know what it is.  I always think of them as Into The Night movies because one of my favorites is the very aptly named Into The Night (  The basic concept is an odyssey where the character goes from the normal day world into a surreal, often nightmarish night world while on some kind of quest that should have been simple.  They also usually go from a wealthy neighborhood or suburb into more impoverished, more ethnic regions.

There are a billion of these, and they probably go back to the days of silent film.  I don't like most of them -- they tend to be too episodic (or even more scattered) and too unrealistic.  Even Scorsese's After Hours doesn't work for me, and Kubrick's lame Eyes Wide Shut certainly fits into the same genre.  I personally feel they tend to work best when they're least serious, since the lack of realism usually makes it hard to take them seriously anyway.  Adventures in Babysitting is an example of a comedy that worked for me, or Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, whereas I watched most of Trojan War because of how much the cameos were talked up, and Anthony Michael Hall as a demented bus driver was funny but not enough to sell the film.

The Hangover is in many ways a direct copy of the concept of The Night Before, and certainly a more polished film.  I just didn't think most of it was funny or well-conceived. 

These movies often feature painful ethnic stereotypes (especially black and hispanic) but usually have a good black band in them in a bar scene.  Seriously, it's like they're all made from the same blueprint.  If you've seen the Going Into Town scene in Weird Science, you get the idea already.  Into The Night has George Clinton, with Bootsy Collins, et al, funkin' it up real good, so there's that.  But still.  Wealthy white people are afraid of minorities, OK, I get it.

But what occurs to me is . . . a surreal into-the-night genre . . . how has Tim Burton not made one of these?  If anyone should be making one, it's probably him.  The closest he's come are Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and Alice in Wonderland.  :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 03, 2010, 09:52:13 AM
Anyway.  Speaking of John Landis (Into the Night), he of course indirectly helped popularize the classic 80s phrase 'See You Next Tuesday' by putting the not very disguised phrase 'See You Next Wednesday' in almost all his films.

I forgot to mention that Glenda Jackson uses the phrase 'See You Next Tuesday' in Hopscotch -- rather offhandedly, too, which suggests to me that they figured censors and audiences generally wouldn't know what it meant.  I laughed out loud.  I think it's the earliest pop culture reference to it that I've heard, although the googles suggest D G Compton used it in a 1974 SF novel that was, oddly enough, released as a film (Death Watch) the same year as Hopscotch, although I don't know if the film also uses the phrase.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 03, 2010, 09:58:34 AM
Oh:  Thom Eberhardt also made a movie called Sole Survivor in 1983, a remake of a 1980 Australian movie (starring Robert Powell, Jenny Agutter, and Joseph Cotton) that's not bad and basically pretty similar to the idea for Final Destination.  I gather the earlier Australian version is pretty different, but I haven't seen it yet.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on July 03, 2010, 05:39:54 PM
Heh. Yeah, I remember Into the Night from back in the 80's. I don't think I've seen it since. I watched it really late at night, which was appropriate and made it much more enjoyable. Other than The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai, that was really the start of Goldblum's career.

I don't think Tim Burton would be very good at something like that. Like you said, it's a fine line of surrealism that needs to be achieved. If you go over the line too far, it kind of ruins it. Maybe a collaboration of Spielberg and Burton to kind of balance things out.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 03, 2010, 06:24:58 PM
Maybe, maybe -- but I think the problem (and I guess I didn't say this well) isn't so much surrealism as tone.  The unreality in a lot of these movies just seems too random and disconnected.  The unrealistic bits don't even go together.  I don't know if Burton would make it better or worse.  I definitely don't think a lot of directors are cut out for it, though; for instance, I don't think Barry Sonnenfeld should go there.  Joe Dante, maybe, if he buckled down.

Goldblum got talked up a bit for a role in an ensemble movie about a small newspaper, back in the 70s.  IMDb says it was called Between The Lines and that he played a perpetually stoned music critic.  I never saw it.  The first thing I saw him in was a detective comedy show with Ben Vereen called Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, in which Vereen is a con man and Goldblum is an accountant who fantasizes about being a hard-boiled detective, and for whatever reason they start a PI firm.  I remember it as being terrific, but, to be fair, that was the early 80s, and who knows what I'd think now.

According to IMDb, it ran ten episodes plus the pilot, and it's Bill Clinton's favorite TV show.  :lol:  Netflix and Hulu don't even list it.  Fancast lists it and has an episode guide, but it's not available to watch.  :thumbsdn:

Geez, Goldblum's career really took off in the mid-80s.  You weren't kidding:

1983 - The Big Chill, The Right Stuff

1984 - Buckaroo Banzai

1985 - Into The Night, Silverado, Transylvania 6-5000

1986 - The Fly

Huh.  Vibes and Earth Girls Are Easy both came out in 1988.  Must've been a strange year for him.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on July 03, 2010, 07:23:09 PM
I remember the name Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, just because it was so odd at the time, but I don't recall ever watching it. I think I actually saw Into The Night before Buckaroo Banzai, or maybe his acting abilities were just more heavily utilized in Into The Night, whatever, I just remember being really impressed with him after seeing that movie, and then The Fly.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: bit zero on July 04, 2010, 05:37:02 PM
During the long hours of no sleep . . . Keep Your Distance (  Not sure how it wound up in my queue, but whatever.

The only thing I know about that movie is when my former employer moved from their old office to their new one, the old office (in Distillery Commons, in Louisville) was immediately used as dressing rooms/catering/etc for that movie the very next week.  Seems they were filming at Headliners Music Hall, which is right next door to Distillery Commons.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 04, 2010, 06:03:36 PM
the old office [ . . . ] was immediately used as dressing rooms

The film does have two very attractive actresses, so there's that.

Actually, ol' Gil has had some luck in the casting department.  He rolled around with a young underwear-clad Renee Zellweger in Love and a .45, played Sarah Jessica Parker's fiance before she got weird, got it on with Mia Sara and Michelle Forbes in Black Day, Blue Night and Nicollette Sheridan in that Navy SEAL movie, with Vanessa Paradis in that weird French fantasy movie no one saw, not to mention Courtney Thorne-Smith on Ally McBeal . . . .

IMDb says he's also played romantic roles opposite Parker Posey and Vanessa Williams, for starters.  I guess his career's been better than I realized.  Sheesh.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on July 05, 2010, 12:10:39 AM
Wait, wait. Oh dear Bob there I thought you said Gil Gerard. I was having a major wtfattack.

Gil Bellows was that guy in Ally McBeal, rite?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 05, 2010, 11:35:49 AM

Gil Gerard did OK, too, all in all, for what it's worth.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 05, 2010, 04:01:17 PM
Last night, on Insomnia Theater:  Once Upon A Time In The West (

Sergio Leone was like Quentin Tarantino -- in Tarantino's dreams.  He's both an iconic stylist and a master of the post-modern film that borrows from all over to make something epic.  This movie isn't perfect, but it's got so many great bits that there's no point in dwelling on any weaknesses.

Great, great cast, too.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on July 05, 2010, 04:30:37 PM
That's the one where Henry Fonda is eeeeeeeeevil, right? Love it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 05, 2010, 04:59:57 PM
He sure is.  He does a great job of it, too.

If you liked Fonda's performance in Once Upon A Time In The West, you might like the (very different) There Was A Crooked Man (, a very strange Western in which Kirk Douglas plays a deeply evil prick stuck in a prison run by a very moral Henry Fonda.  The film's not really entirely sympathetic to either of them, or anyone else.  Fonda really had a flair for creepy.

That film has a great cast, anyway.  And it's pretty odd.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 05, 2010, 09:26:13 PM
Despite tropical zombification, I managed to get a lot done today and also finish watching the Netflix-recommended Visioneers (, an indie written-directed-by-two-brothers corporate-dystopia film that, well, is sort of a black comedy and sort of confused.  I kept thinking I knew what they were going for, but sometimes I couldn't tell if maybe I was reading too much into it. 

Basically in the same general pool as Brazil and Schizopolis, but not quite as clever or weird as either, this one follows Zach Galifianakis, a mid-level drone at a giant corporation that . . . you've seen this kind of thing before.  His wife (the very lovely Judy Greer) has lost most of her mind and will to live from watching TV in their horrible McMansion.  His co-workers are horrible and may explode.  His brother (James LeGros, in 1973-mode) has dropped out of the corporate world to be a pole-vaulter and cult leader.  His therapist sexually harrasses him.  And all he does is obsess over a co-worker he's only ever heard over the phone, although of course she turns out to be gorgeous (Mia Maestro).

Meanwhile, various supporting roles are filled by guys who . . . hey, that guy's familiar, and so's that one.  OK, somehow there are several people in the cast who were in an obscure (except in Seattle) sketch comedy show I used to love, Almost Live, which, incidentally, was the first big break of Bill Nye The Science Guy, who, among other roles, played a superhero named Speedwalker.  But I digress.

Sure, the film sounds crazy and interesting, probably, but it's slow and serious, and a lot of it, though the small details may be original, will feel very familiar to a lot of people.  The moral of the film seems to be that if you hate your life and are too tired to try to do anything about it, maybe you should consider cheating on your wife.  Or maybe any act of rebellion that will probably ruin your life is a good idea because your life sucks anyway?  I don't know.  But if you've been hoping to see Zach Galifianakis get it on with a hot chick, well, you're probably Zach Galifianakis.

The cast's good -- Zach has by now convinced me he shouldn't be doing comedic roles -- and the film's polished, but it just doesn't quite work.  Not as well as, say, Idiocracy, all in all.  I'd watch another movie made by the same two brothers -- I think this is their first feature film -- but I can't really recommend this one.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on July 06, 2010, 05:17:33 PM
i had nothing to do with it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 06, 2010, 06:08:32 PM
Fair enough!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 06, 2010, 11:34:43 PM
Oh yeah . . . I watched Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs ( the other night.  Not sure which night, at this point, but whatever.  All I knew, going in, was that (A) it was an 'off studio' animated feature (ie, not Disney or Pixar or Dreamworks), (B) it was based on a children's book, and (C) it involved food weather of some kind.

OK, OK -- it was pretty good.  I liked it.  A lot of brilliant bits and good moments, although there were a couple of occasions where it was intended to go to ten and it only went to seven or eight.  The voice acting's good and sometimes excellent.  I did not even recognize Bruce Campbell, although I probably would've if I'd noticed he was in the cast.  Neil Patrick Harris (as a monkey) and Benjamin Bratt (as a character who develops unexpectedly) steal a bunch of scenes.  Mr T also has a good role.  The leads are good, don't get me wrong, but they have to stay more plausible for the most part and can't ham it up as amusingly.

The film's full of great little details, good use of effects, and general cleverness.  It's pretty consistent throughout.  Certainly better than I expected.  My understanding is that it's not all that much like the book and that it was released in 3D.  Whatever.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on July 06, 2010, 11:51:53 PM
I think I fell asleep watching it, but it is very unlike the children's book.  Movie was cuter, the book was kind of depressing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 07, 2010, 12:25:51 AM
I think I fell asleep watching it

I liked it, but I still would've been OK with falling asleep while watching it.  :lol:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: TFJ on July 07, 2010, 11:34:47 AM
Last night, on Insomnia Theater:  Once Upon A Time In The West (

masterpiece. one of my favorite films of all time. that's right. OF ALL TIME. great score, great cast. great lines.

You know, Jill, you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman that ever lived.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 08, 2010, 02:10:52 PM
Blue Submarine No. 6 (, an earlier effort from more or less the same team that did Last Exile.

Nutshell:  In the near future, a mad scientist drowns the world by melting all the ice, throws the poles off, and starts a gigantic mutant army ala Dr Moreau, except with sea monsters and battleships, too.  Some very large proportion of the human population dies, and the survivors fight back using submarines (both high-tech and out-of-mothballs) and such. 

There are curious plotholes -- you'll wonder why they don't just nuke the mad scientist's polar lair with missiles -- and little bits missing from the storyline, but it's all here:  The hard-bitten misanthropic mech pilot and his spunky teenaged female assistant.  The no-nonsense grizzled captain.  The little girl sonar tech who seems to be psychic.  The sympathetic alien chick.  The alien warlord who has justification for his own human-hating point of view.  The painfully long-winded nihilist mad scientist.

But the seamonsters and submarines are cool, and the space combat is actually underwater.  There's your hook.

CGI's better than I'd heard, and it meshes OK with the hand-drawn stuff.  There are a lot of nice touches, and some of the underwater scenes and combat scenes are excellent.  But this is an awkwardly paced four-episode miniseries with an ending that made me grit my teeth.  It just replays various incredibly cliched tropes that plague way too many Japanese ecological and anti-war movies, in a very naive way, to say nothing of being an anticlimax.  It's the kind of anti-war movie that makes part of you much more sympathetic to war.  I'd rather have seen the story end with the planet sterilized and waiting for life to start over again, if it ever did.

So it's got moments, but I can't recommend it.  It also suffers from some of the story-compression issues of Last Exile, although there is was mostly an issue of pacing and here it's mostly (I think) an issue of brevity.  I'd definitely say Last Exile is several times better, overall.  I think a lot of the reviewers who really REALLY liked Blue Submarine are just too young or too new to Japanese culture to have already seen all the thematic elements 6500 times before.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on July 08, 2010, 02:17:27 PM
The painfully long-winded nihilist mad scientist.

I'm not long-winded, I'm eloquent!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 08, 2010, 02:55:38 PM
I believe it.  Just so long as you don't slowly use 300 melodramatic words to make a 10-word point that everyone already knew you were going to make.

I think I'd like to see more casual, flippant mad scientists who aren't even interested in being grandiose.  I mean, Dr Horrible is excellent, but largely because he's ironic.  Ozymandias, in Watchmen, is pretty darn good but still a trifle dramatic. 

Wouldn't, just once, you like the Bond to confront the villain and say Why?!  Why?! and have the villain say, Well, my original plan was to create a master race, but it was obvious almost right away they weren't going to be better than regular people, so I decided, what the hell, to destroy the world.  That's really about all there is to it.  Lots of people would've done the same thing.

I'm sure someone's done it, but I can't think of a good example.

It makes me think of the Tom Baker episode with the Daleks where he confronts Davros and is trying to explain to him that the Daleks won't really be a perpetuation of the Kaled race but will just be a cancer that will cause insane amounts of evil throughout the universe.  And Davros is like, well, that sounds good, too.  And Baker's like, hmm, what if you had a test tube in your hand, and in it was a plague that would wipe all life everywhere.  And Davros is like THAT WOULD BE AWESOME I WOULD SO BREAK THAT TEST TUBE I WOULD BE A GOD.

Even as a kid, I was all :rollin:.  Not because I'm rooting for Davros but because, yah, he's a lunatic.  It's fun to tell him off, but you're not going to reason with him and make him change his mind.  Chew him out and shoot him in the head.  If time's pressing, do that in reverse order.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on July 08, 2010, 06:34:52 PM
Seriously loved Davros. Role model!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 09, 2010, 11:55:31 PM
I've watched most of the first DVD of Danger Man this week.  It's certainly got a certain something.  You can see how it influenced the screen depictions of James Bond.  McGoohan's portrayal of the main character is damned weird, with his bizarre American accent, his odd expressions, and his almost Shatnerish emphatic and oddly timed delivery.  He's not bad, and I don't mean to suggest he is, but his work in the first season of this role is definitely unusual.  I understand that eventually they made a no-comment transition to his character being British, once they realized it wouldn't make a difference on the show's success in the US market.

It's funny because people marvel at the Beatles' American accents when they sing, but lots of British stuff from the 60s used American accents to try to appeal to the huge US market.  When I was a kid, I couldn't understand why the main Thunderbirds characters were Americans, either.

But anyway.  Danger Man occasionally doesn't make much sense if you stop to think about the plot dynamics, but it doesn't matter, either, and while it's not as FAB out-there as The Avengers or as kitschy as The Man From UNCLE or as exaggerated as James Bond, that's part of its charm.  McGoohan doesn't get into bed with each lovely (he stipulated that in his contract, as he felt it was immoral), although there's still plenty of sexual tension.  There are fewer shoot-outs and more fistfights, which are generally very well-choreographed and pretty well-executed.  And his gadgets tend to be actual devices used by spies or even commercially available. 

His character is a thinker and is pretty clever in how he gets around obstacles and through sticky situations, yet he's direct when it makes sense to just be direct.  In one scene, he uses a bamboo umbrella pole to pole vault over an electric fence in the middle of a sandy desert, and I rolled my eyes briefly at the difficulty level of this -- but the show has a stunt man actually do the stunt in one shot (twice, even!), with an actual bamboo pole that's too thick to even bend.  It's not an easy stunt, but doing it rather than faking it helps maintain the realism of the show.

Plus, you know, 1960 locations, costumes, cars . . . it's still pretty fabulous even without trying.  At one point, he drives an Aston Martin Mk III convertible that's pretty gorgeous.  Of course, everybody smokes.  The show's also conspicuously progressively unsexist for its era, which is to say that it's still sexist by current standards, but the female characters tend to be brave, intelligent, independent, and resourceful.  More impressively, the show does that without going out of its way to draw attention to the fact that it's doing that.  It's not preachy about it.

If the show's a little mild, it's not dull, and each episode goes by pretty quickly.  Not bad at all.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 10, 2010, 12:08:58 AM
Tonight, I wanted something to just half-watch while I was working, and out of curiosity I put on the Asylum Princess of Mars (  I didn't watch all of it.

Seriously, one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time, and in so many ways.  The sad part is that even people who like it often seem to agree that the last half hour is especially awful, and I didn't watch that far.

Briefly, first, the good:

- Some of the CGI is astonishingly competent.

- The airships and giant beasties often look good and relatively appropriate.

- The music isn't terrible.

The bad:

- A bunch of the story was rewritten . . . badly . . . and for no reason.  It's this last part that offends me.  The first ten minutes of the film that set up the story could have been cut entirely.  I think they were kept because they were filmed separately, as part of an unrelated project that wasn't finished, and the director desperately wanted to use the footage.  There's this whole bit about how Carter is a Special Forces guy in Afghanistan and almost killed but saved using an experimental method that rebuilds him atom by atom but not here, on Mars, but not the Mars in our solar system but another one a long way away, and . . . WTF? 

Shut the hell up.  This adds nothing and is purely retarded and terrible terrible terrible SF and NO ONE CARES.  Get to him being on Mars.

- Antonio Sabato Jr sleepwalks and smirks through his role as John Carter.  Yes, Antonio Sabato Jr mailed this in, and if you've seen his regular acting . . . .  Similarly, Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris is a creative piece of casting, but this is the worst acting I've ever seen from her.  Yes.  The direction is beyond amateur, beyond high school all-student-production bad.

- Some of the effects are so bad you WILL laugh.  It's worth skipping the first ten minutes and then watching the next fifteen or twenty minutes.  It'll get old, but you'll have some laughs.  Carter's super strength comes and goes randomly, but, boy, can he jump, and the jumping effects are insanely cheapass and bad.

- The film's generally crappily made.  Bad edits, scenes cobbled together from clearly unrelated closeups, wildly varying sound levels and out-of-sync dialogue, and stuff that will make you wonder if it's supposed to be funny, such as how during long journeys they keep passing the same Star Trek rocks from slightly different angles.  Are we supposed to notice that?  Film's so bad, you can't tell if it's on purpose.

- WAY too many upskirt shots of Antonio Sabato Jr.  Seriously, WTF.  I put up with that for exactly ONE so-bad-it's-hilarious Barsoomish movie, and that's Outlaw of Gor, which has twenty years of seniority.

In a nutshell, you know all the parts of movies like Red Sonja where they clearly had already burned up their budget, writing, and enthusiasm but still had to film another forty minutes of movie, and it shows?  Well, that's what 90% of this movie is like.  I let it play for about forty minutes, I guess, then fast-forwarded in jumps for a bit, then stopped it.  You probably wouldn't blame me.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on July 10, 2010, 02:24:08 AM
hahaha, i watched that a few months ago. the makeup was atrocious. i'm looking forward to the new john carter movie if they do the effects like the prelim character work i've seen.

i have always had a thing for traci lords, though.  :knotty:

i watched it as a background noise movie, too. heh
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 10, 2010, 08:31:05 PM
The Dish (, a dignified and very antipodal Australian film about the Apollo 11 moon landing, as seen through the eyes of the people in a small rural town that happened to have a huge radio dish.  NASA used their dish (and its crew) to provide contact with Apollo when North America was on the wrong side of the planet.

It's a good story with truly remarkable moments, apparently following the actual historical drama pretty closely, and it's one of those Australian / Kiwi films that stays very comfortable in its own skin.  A lot of the films from that part of the world seem to feel almost humble, like it would be embarrassing to try too hard.  It gives you the feeling that Emmerich, Bay, and the rest of those would be jeered out of the Australian equivalent of Hollywood, whatever it is -- not for being stupid or wasteful so much as just for being ridiculously self-impressed.

Anyway, the film has a great cast, including Sam Neill as the director of the dish facility and Patrick Warburton as the NASA rep sent down there.  Actual footage of the astronauts, etc, is used where appropriate, to good effect, and the historical setting is convincing.  The period soundtrack is slightly pushy, but, c'mon, it's like the KTEL Best of 1969, and you can't mind.  The whole film's very evocative. 

It's billed as a comedy, and it's certainly not a tragedy, anyway, although you'll smile a lot more than you'll laugh.  There is an awesome scene, though, where a high school band is supposed to quickly learn the US anthem to honor a US ambassador, and instead they play the theme to Hawaii 5-0.  This is not only funny but a stark reminder of how much most national anthems really suck.  If our national anthem was the theme to Hawaii 5-0, we would be SO much more popular internationally, and everyone would hope we won constantly in the Olympics.

There's also a great science moment where the team has an epiphany while trying to solve a difficult problem.  I won't give it away, because it's worth seeing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on July 10, 2010, 08:43:49 PM
Fantastic. That is going right on the queue. Thank you. Warburton! SPOOOOON!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 11, 2010, 07:14:41 PM
Netflix, seriously, get rid of the Silverlight player or demand that MS fix it.  It has almost no useful features.  It can't buffer for shit, so

(A) videos always look like crap for a few minutes because the player starts playing without buffering properly, and pausing and waiting won't help, and

(B) it frequently halts and tells you your internet connection has slowed -- usually because of a minor change in bandwidth, such as a medium-sized file downloading on your other computer -- and starts redownloading the video again.  Which not only means that it stops the video for no good reason, but also that it sometimes takes over 30 seconds to restart, and the picture quality is crap for that half-minute or so after it restarts.  If there's the slightest trouble with your internet connection, the video may stop and restart every few minutes. 

This is not competent service.

Also, seriously, get off your asses, pull your heads out of those asses, and offer a choice of language for foreign movies offered on Instant Play.  If subtitles are available on the DVD, put both damned versions on Instant Play.  You're acting like the movie-haters at Blockbuster, for crying out loud.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 11, 2010, 07:38:55 PM
Now, see, I don't hold it against Netflix when it recommends movies like the one I just watched, The Feral Man (  Well, to be fair, I fast-forwarded through about half of it, and it's only about 45 minutes long if you don't count the credits.  It was still too long, though.

An unsympathetic doughy schmoe with all kinds of problems but an unreasonably hot and patient girlfriend is attacked by an unseen assailant at his father's funeral.  He suffers a head injury but refuses medical attention, and later his personality (such as it is) changes, and he becomes . . . kind of a dick.  And maybe a werewolf!  Ooooh . . . but maybe it's not him.  Maybe he just imagines he's turning into a werewolf and goes out at night stalking people (and trying to rape prostitutes) and wakes up at home with blood on him, etc, but someone else is the werewolf!  Haven't you seen a movie like this before?  And did you really want to see a movie like this, anyway?

Well, if you did want to see one, this still isn't it.  It's extremely low-budget, which, you know, is what it is, but, seriously, this is like one of those undergraduate college projects, the kind where you wonder how they talked the girls into agreeing to be in the movie.  None of the actors can act much, and you'll suspect that they haven't acted before and are in the movie because they know the director.  The monster attacks are wisely off-screen, with ketchup from a squeeze bottle sprayed onto a tree while you watch.  It's chilling.  The police who investigate are especially unconvincing, and there are plot holes and dumbness galore. 

I especially liked the girlfriend sitting perfectly still on the couch while (A) the werewolf (actually just a crazy person) is chewing on her friend's neck, (B) the cops come storming in, (C) the werewolf fights the cops, (D) the werewolf gives her a personal letter, and (E) the cops shoot the werewolf.  Yep, she's still calmly sitting there, waiting until they get to the next part where the script says her character does something.

For the first ten minutes or so, I felt kind of bad for the people in this movie, especially the guy who directed, wrote it, and stars in it.  But after that I felt resentful, and in the end I only felt bad for the actress who takes her clothes off.  I mean, she looks good with her clothes off, but for this movie?  Maybe she lost a bet.  I don't know.  I hope it somehow gets her bigger roles.

However, I will say that this film would be perfect for an amateur MST3K party.  It's short, ridiculous, and hasn't got a lot of dialogue.  Apparently its triple-threat star went on to make a bunch of other 'C' horror movies, many of which are wisely intended to be funny, but I'm not sure I want to risk them.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 11, 2010, 09:07:15 PM
On a hunch, I tried another obscure Neflix recommendation, Kung Fu Mummy (  I try to see these as 'blank' as I can, without prior contamination, so while I might look a movie up before adding it to my queue (sometimes I do, but not always), I don't look at the summary or anything before I watch it.  I prefer seeing it without expectations.

This one, yeah, is awful.  The IMDb page says it was made for $500.  That sounds about right, but it's no excuse for the script.  The movie's bad even for amateur actors, improvised story and dialogue, and being largely cobbled together out of footage that was obviously already lying around.  It's shot on video, out of focus as often as not, and is not quite as well done as a lower-tier home movie.  The jokes aren't funny, the concept goes nowhere (and in the half hour I watched isn't even much in the film), and nothing makes a favorable impression.

This looks like the kind of movie that was made on a lark, but watching it you get the feeling that less than halfway through production everyone involved started thinking they'd made a huge mistake to try to make a movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 12, 2010, 05:46:37 PM
Over the last few long nights, I watched both Repo Man ( and Caveman (  I'd definitely seen big chunks of both of them at least half a dozen times, but I couldn't remember if I'd ever seen all of Caveman, and the only time I saw all of Repo Man was a horrible video that was almost too blurry to bother watching.

Both good from a nostalgia point of view.  Repo Man holds up fine and affirms its value as a cult film.  Caveman was funnier than Quest For Fire and not terrible.  IMDb says that's where Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach met and started dating before eventually getting married.  I had no idea Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach had ever been married.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on July 12, 2010, 07:52:36 PM
I saw Caveman in the theater when it came out.  I was probably an adolescent at the time and loved Barbara Bach.

Finally saw Bolt.  That was good!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 12, 2010, 08:39:54 PM
:thumbsup:  If you saw Bolt on DVD, be sure to watch the bonus Super Rhino short.  I would totally watch a superanimal Incredibles movie from those people.  :lol:

I started watching the original 3:10 to Yuma, as I've been threatening to since I was kind of bored and disappointed by the remake (,52.msg83452.html#msg83452).  Well, :sleeping: . . . I made it through about an hour, but I'll have to watch the rest some other time.

Seriously, I'm a Glenn Ford fan, but the original is substantially more boring than the remake, albeit not as ridiculous.  The story has potentially winning elements, but it's just not happening.  Ford (in the role later played by Russell Crowe) and Van Heflin (in the role later played by Christian Bale) are so laconic they seem simply disinterested.  The dialogue, just like in the remake, seems to think it's deep, but there's nothing so impressive being said.  The villain's a slightly unusual Western villain, but by 1957 revisionist Westerns were already all the rage, and, seriously, there's nothing too dynamic here.

It seems hard to imagine the film was such a big deal when it came out.  I mean, the John Sturges / Burt Lancast / Kirk Douglas Gunfight at the OK Corral came out the same year.  Glenn Ford didn't usually play villains, but . . . I don't know.  Film people say the B&W cinematography is great.  Maybe it's all just over my head.  But this isn't a Western I would've put at the top of my list to remake.  James Cagney's bitter Run For Cover from two years earlier, maybe.

Actually, now that I think of it, I'm kind of surprised Tarantino hasn't remade The Professionals or Rio Bravo or El Dorado.  Maybe it would just mean too much time outside.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 12, 2010, 11:03:11 PM
Infernal Affairs (

One of the major genres of HK film is the Bitter Crime Movie, cops and robbers pictures in which the characters have quirks and some depth, everyone has a heartfelt motive for why they do what they do, loyalties become complicated, and everything is very serious.  Not many happy endings.  They're often beautifully shot and very carefully made, and fans of the genre go bananas over them, insisting they're the highest form of art ever. 

In the West, John Woo is the famous director in this genre, with blockbusters like A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Bullet in the Head, but there must be forty or fifty of these movies made every year in HK.  They're very influential.  I didn't realize it until after I rented Infernal Affairs, but it was remade over here as . . . The Departed.

I'm not usually a fan of the genre, personally.  I feel like if you've seen five of these movies, odds are you'll feel like you've already seen the next one, too.  I'll watch these if they have certain actors in them, though, or cross over into other genres.  Years ago, Yuen Biao made one called Righting Wrongs with Cynthia Rothrock (who was actually a big star in Chinese action films; her HK movies are usually much better than her US ones), and I like that one, but even Jackie Chan's no-comedy / little-kung-fu entry into the genre (Crime Story) is pretty boring.

Infernal Affairs has an awesome cast, including two actors who usually pretty much automatically make the movie for me (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang and Tony Leung Chiu Wai), plus Andy Lau (who's a big star and quite good), and the gorgeous Kelly Chen, and Eric Tsang, who I mostly know from earlier comedic roles, as a hard crime boss.  The plot structure is complex and painstaking, with parallels between the police organization and the criminal organization, and there's suspense over who's playing whom and who'll survive all this nonsense. 

But I watched 45 minutes and was bored, bored, bored.  I gave up.  I know how this plays out.  Maybe if there were more crazy HK action.  I respect the attempt to do a serious crime drama, and the film looks great, and the cast is great, but I just don't care about the story.  Like I said, for me, if you've seen enough undercover cop / crime syndicate movies, it takes something amazing to refresh the genre.  It's just not for me.  Honestly, I don't even like most John Woo movies, and I don't usually like these movies any better when Hollywood does them, either.

Haven't seen The Departed.  Maybe I'll get around to trying it.  I still haven't seen Heat yet . . . .
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 12, 2010, 11:07:28 PM
And in crazy film news, Netflix recommended this film called The Dark Backward (  I never heard of it, although looking at the summary I feel kind of surprised I never heard of it.  Judd Nelson as a bad amateur stand-up comedian with a third arm.  Bill Paxton as his crazy pervert accordionist friend.  James Caan as a bad doctor.  Wayne Newton, Rob Lowe, and Lara Flynn Boyle, among others.

People seem to love it or hate it, period, and I found it described online as Dumb and Dumber meets Pink Flamingos at the carnival in Something Wicked This Way Comes.  And I think that was a positive review.  I admit it makes me curious, but Netflix only has it on DVD.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on July 12, 2010, 11:21:43 PM
Honestly I didn't like The Departed either, except for Marky Mark, who was so epically profane in every scene he was in it was great.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on July 13, 2010, 11:37:49 AM
Nope instant play.  Anymore I'm too lazy/time poor to be bothered to put a DVD in the player.  Netflix instant or Tivo only for me.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 13, 2010, 12:55:48 PM
The main thing for me is the spur-of-the-moment option.  With the Instant View, I've got like 300 things in my queue, including TV series, and I can watch whatever catches my interest.  I'm on a 3-DVD plan, and I usually have two at home at any point, but I may not feel like watching the ones I happen to have.  Especially since I feel like I have to watch 'em and send 'em back.

Instant View seems like it must be more profitable for Netflix.  It's certainly less complicated.  You'd think they'd do a better job with it. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 15, 2010, 01:32:19 PM
Children of Earth, a five-part miniseries that's the third season of Torchwood.


There are enough good parts to make about a three-part series, and then there's a bunch of padding, excessively drawn-out guff, and bad ideas.  The good parts are generally good, sometimes very good.  Some of the cloak-and-dagger stuff is badly bungled and illogical, though, and a bunch of the SF elements (not that there are actually all that many) don't make sense.  A couple of story elements apparently get forgotten.  A surprising amount of nudity, all of it male, some of it unfortunate.  By this season, there aren't that many members of the Torchwood team left, and, frankly, the ones who are still hanging around curiously mostly don't get to do all that much.  Even Jack doesn't get to do all that much.

This feels like a story we've seen from Torchwood before.  The end is largely anticlimactic.  It's not even really clear that the major problems have been solved or the enemy defeated in any relevant sense.  All good guys are watered down, and since the bad guys aren't really dealt with, it's not exactly a satisfying adventure story.  WAY too much of the story consists of that tiresome middle part of almost any X-Men story arc where the team gets downhearted and displaced and you're just waiting for them to pull up their tights and do something constructive.

Children of Earth also loses 50 points for relying on Spooky Children.  SF and Horror writers, especially those working in TV or film, take note:  Spooky Children are almost always unspooky and uninteresting and unoriginal.  As a trope, it completely sucks.  And not realizing this marks you as amateurish. 

Another 30 points are deducted for the aliens, who don't make much sense, and who, more importantly, are nothing but a big tease . . . that's used over and over again.  The aliens are spooky at first (unlike the children), and then hokey, and then dull, and then irritating.  They're all sloppy and no joe.

So, really, for me this is the weakest season of Torchwood so far.  They did introduce three strong female characters, which was nice to see, and it seems to be implied that one them might join Torchwood for the next series, which wouldn't be a bad thing.  But, seriously, no more spooky children, and no more nebulous aliens, and less wishy-washy, OK?  Children of Earth is really dark at several points, but I didn't feel like it had quite earned it, especially since the payoff in the final episode was so weak.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 16, 2010, 04:28:45 PM
Battle in Heaven (, a Mexican art film Netflix recommended. 

OK, this movie has some beautiful cinematography.  Otherwise, 90% of it is really amateurish, and not in good ways.  The principle actors are not professional actors, and it shows.  The movie shows a Mexico City that is populated chiefly by people with flat affects.  They barely react to sex, violence, and the destruction of their lives.  This applies to the downtrodden and the idle rich alike.  Either the director is really pretty bad or else he's really depressed.  Maybe both.

The story is paper thin -- this movie is about tone and image, and not much else -- and revolves around a working-class dog named Marcos and his wife, and prominently features the wealthy teenage daughter of the general Marcos works for.  Marcos and his wife have some serious problems, not least of which is that they appear to be mentally ill.  Marcos confides in the general's daughter, a rather blase young woman who works as a prostitute apparently for the hell of it and whose boyfriend doesn't seem to care one way or the other.  It would be misleading to say that things go bad, because things didn't start off good, and this is the kind of art movie that suggests that a mercy killing is probably the best that any of us can look forward to.

There's also a bunch of graphic sex, and I do mean graphic.  The actress playing the general's daughter is what you might call 'conventionally attractive', despite her generally unwashed and disaffected air.  Marcos and his wife are perhaps average, and not Hollywood-average.  They don't look healthy -- nowadays, not many people do -- and they're not the kind of people you expect to see having graphic sex in a feature film.  They're not Vincent Gallo unattractive, but I suspect the director expects most viewers to wince.  The film makes some reasonable symbolic use of sex and religion and landscapes and so on, but all in all it still feels like the sex is there explicitly for gratuitous effect.

All in all, it's the kind of film you could only recommend to someone deeply interested in art films.  It's mostly pretty dull to sit through, with some beautiful moments . . . that tend to go on too long.  The director's cut is apparently half an hour longer, and you have to hope that there's more story in that extra footage.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 16, 2010, 04:48:13 PM
Also last night, I finished watching Roughnecks ( on Netflix, which is a CGI TV series extension / alternative version of Starship Troopers, from about ten years ago.

The bad news is that the CGI for the humans is not great at the beginning of the series and not great by the end of the series, either.  The combat strategy and tactics are purely videogame-level, complete nonsense, although somehow not nearly as offensively stupid as in the film.  I generally found it easy to overlook that.  Some of the action becomes a bit repetitive, although not nearly as much as you'd think.

The good news is that the writing isn't bad.  The voice-acting is generally terrific.  Elizabeth Daily I expect to be terrific, and there are some stars in minor roles (Irene Bedard and R. Lee Ermey play top brass, and Clancy Brown reprises his role from the film for a few episodes), but the cast and dialogue were routinely better than I would have hoped.  The characters don't get a lot of backstory but come out through, you know, their characters, and several of them are distinctly fun.  About half a dozen characters are reused from the book/film, and, although there's no Michael Ironside or Neil Patrick Harris, there's no downgrading.  A character or two that were awful in the film are OK in the series.

The CGI for the bugs and for the spaceships and other mechanicals is very solid.  This makes sense if you stop and think about it, since the bugs and ships were mostly CGI in the film.  The series goes a lot better than the film, introducing multiple kinds of mechs, cyborgs, aircraft, ground-effect vehicles (I seriously love the skimmers), watercraft, submarines, new weapons, etc.  Probably a dozen new kinds of bugs.  Some of it is pretty awesome, and, really, soldiers in powersuits fighting giant alien insects is what you're here to see, right?  Lots of that.

The series is divided into several campaigns, each one a miniseries.  The first campaign isn't the best, but it's not bad, and things pick up pretty quickly.  The series aren't numbered, and the DVDs / Instant Play descriptions don't make it easy to tell what order they go in, which is:  Pluto, Hydora, Tophet, Tesca, Zephyr, Klendathu, Homefront.  There's also a 'bonus' series, Trackers, that falls between Klendathu and Homefront, but only the first episode is a real one; the other four are clip shows. 

The reason for that is that Sony stupidly cancelled the series THREE EPISODES FROM THE END.  Three climactic battle episodes that were more than half-finished.  They financed two godawful and obviously far more expensive live-action sequels to the film, though.  Idiots.  The series is still worth watching, though.  The clip shows were produced to fulfill contractual obligations, but someone at Sony needs their testicles nailed to a chair.

Anyway, each episode runs a little over 20 minutes, and they're like popcorn.  You get used to the human-character CGI pretty quickly.  The show was made as a kids' cartoon, so while it's actiontastic there's virtually no cursing, no nudity, and no graphic human casualties.  The dialogue zings along with the profanity; the human CGI doesn't justify any nudity; and there's plenty of bug splatter.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 17, 2010, 09:40:35 PM
Er . . . last paragraph above, that should say "zings along without the profanity". 

Recently finished watching all of Soap (  The fourth (and last) season wasn't as strong as the first three, but the series is still extremely excellent.  Easily one of the best TV comedies ever.

I also just finished watching the first compilation DVD of Not The Nine O'Clock News (  I was worried it might be 50% British political humor from the 1970s, but actually most of the political bits were about the royals, Thatcher, or Reagan, so that was fine.  There was a lot more musical comedy than I expected.  I don't think I ever heard Rowan Atkinson sing before, unless you count the abortive goblin song in the Beer episode of Blackadder II.  He sings OK.  His impersonation of Barry Manilow is funny without being eerily accurate; the group parody of ABBA is better still.  It's mildly surprising how raunchy they could be in 1979 -- you sure couldn't have gotten away with that shit on US television.

A lot of the sketches are pretty brilliant.  Mel Smith is so young that in some sketches he's dressed up respectably and looks . . . respectable.  One sketch features a scary 70s Billy Connolly :lol: although he only has one word of dialogue.  I didn't realize that Pamela Stephenson, the only woman in the principle cast, later married Connolly.  Hell, I thought he was probably gay, not that it matters.

Douglas Adams was one of the major writers for the show, and the wide variety of the sketches keeps it moving.  I deeply, deeply loved the one about the bishop (Atkinson) who makes a movie about Jesus that's set in the modern day, and the film critic (Smith) who's deeply offended because the movie is clearly a parody of Monty Python.  BRILLIANT sketch.  Brilliant.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 18, 2010, 06:50:54 PM
I avoided seeing Slacker ( back in the day because it looked like the kind of movie I wouldn't like.  Now I've finally seen it -- Netflix amusingly classifies it as Classic -- and, yeah, I was right.  I didn't really like it. 

It definitely has moments, but they're mixed in with a lot of footage of tiresome people who think they're clever, and people who are crazy but not fascinating, and people who are stupid and doomed, and people who are putting up with the other people in this list because they don't know how to get away from them or don't think they can do better.  A hundred minutes of this is not my idea of a good time.  The film does win points for PixelVision, though, Fisher-Price's crazy it-really-works camcorder for kids that recorded video (no sound) on audio cassette tape. 

I never really gave it much thought, but this film convinced me to look up what the heck else Linklater has done, and, long story shorter, I realize now that I don't really like Linklater movies.  I don't hate him, but he seems awfully fascinated by people who I just want to be assured won't breed.  The exception is School of Rock, which was OK.  His films aren't terrible, or anything, but they're not the sort of thing that I like.

I didn't guess it but wasn't surprised to see that Slacker is what convinced Kevin Smith to make Clerks.  I really didn't like Clerks.  It, too, has moments (more than Slacker does), but it's just not a movie I can get excited about, and I'll never understand why it's so popular.  Hell, I like Mallrats a lot better, even though I totally understand people who complain that it's a commercialized sell-out.

I don't seem to agree with most people on this stuff, though.  I was underwhelmed by Dogma.  I liked Chasing Amy but don't need to see it twice.  I liked Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back quite a bit, and I even liked Jersey Girl.  As for Linklater, I never need to sit through even ten minutes of Dazed and Confused again.  I'll be rewatching The Stöned Age ( instead.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on July 18, 2010, 07:31:29 PM
Haven't seen it in a long time but mostly I just remember little bits and pieces of it. Madonna's pap smear, the JFK conspiracy guy, the television dude, the girls with Eno's "Oblique Strategies" deck, the cool old anarchist dude (actually a professor at UT who died recently), etc.

I remember once trying to convince some people (before everybody had the internet) that Pixelvision even existed. Saw them once in a toy store, a video camera that used regular ol' cassettes and cost less than a hundred bucks...went back when I had the money to get one and they were gone already. Now it's a whole hipster subculture.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 18, 2010, 08:02:39 PM
The PixelVision was a big deal to A/V nerds way back when.  Sony tried to produce a little portable camcorder that recorded on audio cassette and failed -- and then Fisher-Price made one that worked pretty damn well and sold it as a toy.  It was like $150 back when a regular camcorder was four times the bulk and six or seven times as expensive.

I had no idea it was a hipster thing, although in retrospect it's not surprising, especially given the age of the device now.  It doesn't hurt that it looks pretty cool -- it looked cool back then and is retro now.

Wikipedia says it does record sound.  Huh.  My memory of reviews of the thing from, what, the late 80s are obviously hazier than I thought.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 20, 2010, 10:54:02 PM
Er, so . . . started watching Bad Biology (, a 2008 film by cult director Frank Henenlotter, who did Basket Case and Frankenhooker.  I saw parts of Basket Case many years ago, and it looked like it could justify its cult following and academic reputation for historical significance among horror films.

Well, Bad Biology is a shock sex horror film of the sort that probably freaks out people who aren't legally old enough to drink, but half an hour was enough for me.  Because the film trades so heavily on shock value -- and it does try, god knows; it's not for the faint of stomach or anyone easily squicked by chan-trolls -- I shouldn't say anything about the premise or plot, but if you're curious and have no intention of seeing the film, IMDb is full of spoilers.

The lead actress is attractive enough, and I'd say she's at least partly naked for about 18 minutes out of the 30 minutes I watched.  I'm sure the movie's often trying to be funny, almost in a later-generation Troma sort of way, but it's often ridiculous without actually producing any laughter.  I think one problem is that flailing, screaming, unrealistic sex scenes that are intended to be funny often just make you feel a little embarrassed for the actors, who are getting naked on film and acting like spastic monkeys in the hopes that you'll like it.  It's a little awkward.  And after the first three or four sex scenes like that, it's just tedious.

I think the moral here is that although it's sometimes funny to go way over the line, you can certainly set out to be Wrong without being funny.  And it's a bit of a gross-out film, but not likely scary otherwise.  Nothing to get too excited about, although predictably it nonetheless has a cult following.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 21, 2010, 11:49:15 PM
Black Christmas (, aka Silent Night, Evil Night.  Saw this one a million years ago and didn't really remember it.  All in all, it's pretty good -- an early slasher (1974) that set trends made more famous by later films like Halloween and When A Stranger Calls.  In a nutshell, a psycho terrorizes a sorority with creepy phone calls and, you know, murdering.

The film's more serious than most slasher films, and the violence isn't graphic by modern standards.  The cast is pretty terrific -- Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea, John Saxon -- and the dialog isn't bad.  The cinematography and direction are a cut above, no pun intended, and the film's pacing is deliberate, although possibly a little slow by later standards.  The ambient sound effects and background music are strange and effective, too, and at times the psycho really does seem bizarrely unhinged.  The fact that so much of the mystery remains a mystery throughout the film only adds to the atmosphere.

Black Christmas was directed by Bob Clark, one of your stranger directors.  Sometimes he's mostly remembered for creating and directing Porky's and its sequels, and sometimes he's remembered for directing Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story (rather different from and ten years later than Black Christmas).  He also did Rhinestone, Turk 182, and the unfortunate Baby Geniuses movies.  Kind of an odd career.

Speaking of which, why wasn't Olivia Hussey's career more spectacular?  OK, she's forever immortalized by her role in Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, but it's always been weird to me that she didn't get more big roles, and that such an incredibly beautiful woman was working so often as a voice actress.  Mysterious to me.  Noteworthy is that she did a movie (with Burt Lancaster and Ben Cross), The Jeweller's Shop, that was written by Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 22, 2010, 05:08:08 PM
Partly in the wee hours when most people were sleeping, and partly between thunderclaps and emails today, I saw Notting Hill (, which I realize most people have either seen or are not likely to see.  Well, thing is, I often like Hugh Grant, and I usually like Julia Roberts, and I sometimes like Richard Curtis's writing very much, and the supporting cast certainly has some stars. 

On the other hand, I don't like Curtis's writing nearly as much when he's being schmaltzier, and although I knew this wasn't going to be like a Rowan Atkinson vehicle, I was hoping against hope it would somehow be closer to The Tall Guy than Four Weddings and a Funeral.  The latter film has moments but frequently bored me, to be honest.

Notting Hill, too, has moments, and a winning cast, but about half of it feels like it was directed at half speed, and most of the schmaltz is pretty schmaltzy.  Needs more bite.  Grant overplays his typical awkward nice guy character a tad, mostly because the script usually doesn't give him much else to do.  Roberts' character has a few moments of lucid depth but often doesn't justify her tetchiness.  Yes, being a celebrity who can't go out in public without having to dodge paparazzi -- that must get awfully tiring by about the third week.  But I wasn't feeling it.  Her character seems too level-headed not to just say to hell with it, let them print what they're going to print.

So it's not quite there.  Critics often say Roberts makes films work because her smile is so great, and 95% of the time it's one of the better smiles on the big screen, yes.  But she's also great when she's angry or otherwise determined.  I think the real thing is that when she looks lost or hurt or genuinely upset, she's so good at it that you want her to stop -- you want someone (including her) to fix the problem, whatever it is.  It's too bad that so many of the films she's been in have been so air-puffed and spineless, but I think she may have more staying power than a lot of the rom-com actresses of her generation.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 22, 2010, 08:13:36 PM
Netflix really really thought I was going to like The Illusionist (, so I got the DVD, and . . . no, I didn't like it.  I guess I liked it even less than The Prestige, since I didn't bother to finish watching it, but, then, it didn't have David Bowie setting up fierce camp in the middle, either.

The basic problems with The Illusionist are the slow plot, melodrama, and the magic tricks, most of which look really, really fake -- but if you take them at face value, then because they're so outlandish they can only be explained as being real magic, not stage magic.  It's as if someone wanted to make a movie about a fabulous stage magician but had no idea how stage magic works or what is and isn't possible.  Since some of the tricks, I know, are based on actual historical magic tricks (the Orange Tree, for instance), I think this must be a case of a love of CGI running off with someone's better judgment.

There are minor problems, too, such as a lack of sympathetic characters and a menagerie of wandering accents.  Still, Paul Giamatti manages to be interesting whenever he's on screen, whatever he's doing, the same as always.  Jessica Biel continues to demonstrate to me, against my expectations, that she has several looks and can actually act, and even play different characters.  Rufus Sewell is great at these mustache-twirling bad guys, but, seriously, can we get him a new agent?  It's not the only kind of role he can play, and it doesn't do him or the audience any favors for him to be typecast as Snidely Whiplash's more sinister older brother.

Edward Norton . . . you know, I've always liked Edward Norton, always thought of him as an amazing young actor who just took a lot of roles I didn't happen to like.  But I really hated him in this.  And I went to IMDb and was really startled to realize that so far I've only liked him in ONE MOVIE . . . Keeping The Faith.  Every other movie I've seen him in, and it's gotta be close to ten or twelve of them by now, I've thought, well, I don't like him in this, but it's just this movie.  Now I'm starting to suspect that I just don't like Edward Norton.  I don't buy him as the characters he plays.  It's like with Uma Thurman.  I always still feel like I'm watching an actor acting, not the character in question.

Anyway, I watched an hour, right up to the point where a major plot point occurred, setting up a very obvious twist near the ending.  I'd been bored for at least half an hour at that point, and I don't think the second hour would have changed my mind.  I will say that the director was certainly making a bold effort.  I didn't always like the cinematography or the sudden changes from Humor to Serious Business, but the film is really trying, and I can give credit for that.

But, no sir, I didn't like it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 26, 2010, 11:18:16 AM
Catching up.

The Quiet Earth (  Mid-80s post-apocalyptic SF film from New Zealand, directed by the same guy who did Goodbye Pork Pie (and with the same star).  Makes the most of a small budget and has a lot of truly beautiful, haunting photography and a lot of strong writing.  Makes The Omega Man look very weak and amateurish by comparison.  A man wakes up to find that everyone else on the planet seems to have vanished during the night.  Some of the SF elements are handled very well, and some not as well, but most of the film is about being the last person (and then last few people) on the planet. 

The cast is good.  I didn't really need to see Bruno Lawrence naked so much, but it was nice to see Alison Routledge with her clothes off, so I shouldn't complain.  People complain about the ending, which is beautiful but certainly leaves room for a lot of interpretation -- of the entire film, even.  Compared to, say, the ending of 2001, I have no problem with it. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 26, 2010, 11:22:51 AM
Finally saw MirrorMask (  Well . . . lots of good stuff in there.  I did like the film, even though I missed the Farscape joke, but it's kind of typical of both the strengths and weaknesses of Gaiman:  Great elements, clever little twists and touches, genuine sense of wonder -- but a premise that's not entirely solidified and a plot that doesn't really come together.  There's nothing wrong with a dreamlike story, and Gaiman's certainly good at them, but personally I think his work is best when it's more cohesive.

I'm not trying to divorce Dave McKean from the film.  The direction's pretty good, and the art and design for it are generally superlative.  Certainly the film's worth seeing.

One weird thing about it is that I saw it just a couple of days after I saw Notting Hill, where Gina McKee plays a character in a wheelchair, and it was rather odd to see her so soon after in this film as an acrobat / invalid / matched pair of fairy-tale queens.  Not bad, but just a strange transition.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 26, 2010, 11:28:18 AM
And . . . a French film released internationally as I've Loved You For So Long (  Kristin Scott Thomas (who turns out to be fluent in French) gets out of prison after 15 years and is taken in, rather enthusiastically, by a younger sister she hasn't seen or spoken to for that same span of time.  The film is occasionally amateurish in its manipulation of the audience's emotions, but in most ways it's very European, with some loose ends not merely being left untied but also, in some cases, not even addressed, and one or two rather large ones are introduced apparently just for the sake of it.  It's not as entirely predictable as a Hollywood remake would inevitably be.

The acting's good, and it's an intelligent character study, but it's a bit slow at times.  Not entirely happy or sad, although mostly uplifting.  There were times I was tempted to stop watching, but, honestly, what kept me hooked was the younger sister's little girl, a Vietnamese 8-year-old who was just too damned entertaining.  I'm hoping that kid doesn't give up acting.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on July 26, 2010, 05:59:04 PM
I remain blown away by the ending of "The Quiet Earth." J.J. Abrams should have taken note.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 26, 2010, 06:42:01 PM
New Zealand, huh?  Good track record with the movie thing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 26, 2010, 09:02:58 PM
Shakespeare Wallah (, an 'Indian Period' Merchant Ivory film from 1965.  I got it because it was Felicity Kendal's first film, and Netflix actually doesn't have all that much of her stuff.

OK, so, when Felicity was young, her family operated a Shakespearean troupe that toured India.  James Ivory was a family friend, and there you go.  The film's semi-biographical, and her parents play her parents, while Felicity plays a teenager (she was 17 during filming) who falls in love with a local boy.  This is slightly odd just because (A) her older sister is in the film, uncredited, as another British expat, and (B) the actor who plays her boyfriend in the movie was actually dating her sister, whom he later married.  Maybe they didn't start dating until after the film was made.  I don't know.  Seems awkward, though.

The film talks about the life of the itinerant stage actor, theater vs film, Brit vs Indian, racism, the expat experience, imperialism, coming of age, getting on in age, and all manner of things, in a rather slow and wandering fashion that might be described as 'indulgent' or even 'casual'.  Felicity's OK, as a teenaged actress, surprisingly chubby-cheeked (adorable, don't get me wrong) and restrained.  Her mother (played by her actual mother) is interesting partly because of how much Felicity grew to look like her later in life.

Otherwise, watching the DVD, I had to wonder if there was a better edition available out there.  The film is black and white, and often quite faded and grainy, sometimes cloudy near the edges.  The sound is sometimes weak and sometimes not in sync.  The edits are sometimes abrupt and sometimes even catch the boundaries of dialogue.  All in all, there were several parts of the film that looked more like they were from 1935 than 1965, but this was before Merchant Ivory was a big name, so maybe they were operating on a shoestring budget.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 27, 2010, 11:33:35 PM
The Last of Sheila (, a mystery-comedy-puzzle film from 1973.  Honestly, it didn't work all that well for me, but I could stand to watch the credit sequence again -- just for the names.

The screenplay is by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim.  WTF yet?  James Coburn plays a dissipated rich bastard who's obsessed with a young woman named Sheila who was killed by a hit-and-run driver after a party.  Years later, he invites half a dozen of his Hollywood friends to spend a week on his yacht, figuring that one of them was the driver who killed Sheila, and he sets up a complicated game to discover the culprit.  But things go wrong, Agatha Christie-style, except more early-1970s.

The friends are played by Richard Benjamin, James Mason, Dyan Cannon, Raquel Welch, Joan Hackett, and Ian McShane.  And the film's directed by Herbert Ross.  You might not recognize his name, but he also directed Goodbye, Mr Chips; Play It Again, Sam; Funny Lady; The Seven-Per-Cent Solution; Footloose; Steel Magnolias; and Boys on the Side; among others.  Kind of a pro.

The film's very clever, but it's a little too complicated.  Some parts are hard to follow or hard to believe, and some characters just sort of vanish from view at times because there's too much going on.  But it's fun to watch these people all in a movie together.  The satire of Hollywood is OK and probably seemed a lot sharper at the time.  Apparently, when the movie came out, critics made guesses as to who the characters were supposed to 'really' be.  Weird trivia:  Dyan Cannon's not entirely flattering character was actually based on a bigshot Hollywood agent . . . who was also Dyan Cannon's agent and got her the part.  That's dedication, baby.

There are also a lot of weird little jokes, and I'm sure I missed most of them; you'd probably have to watch the film more than once.  If you stick with it, it's got a Christie-like ending that's pretty entertaining.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 28, 2010, 09:54:57 PM
V for Vendetta (, which I'd avoided seeing.  Yeah.

Well, stupendous cast.  The V costume isn't bad.  Otherwise . . . I actually watched a little less than ten minutes before stopping it.  Just dreadfully, dreadfully awful.  The action scenes are so impossibly bad that they're more like failed parody.  The direction is a total catastrophe -- bad timing, bad cinematography (framing, light, anticipation), bad sound.  The screenplay is also awful, like being bludgeoned with a dampened version of the comic; first it insults your intelligence and then it rambles on with dialogue I doubt many people followed unless they'd memorized the comic, in which case they were probably annoyed every time the film varied from it.

This is not a comic adaptation that wants cheese spread over it or hyperbole interjected into it or ridiculous crap shoveled over it.  This is exactly the sort of fantasy that wants matter-of-fact verisimilitude.  There's greatness in it, so you don't have to puff it up, and it's the grossest, most inept and tone-deaf sort of mistake to try.  You should make the audience believe the story, not pummel them with Summer Blockbuster! bullshit.

IMDb says the Wachowskis wrote the script, which I'd completely forgotten, so there's that, and the director is the same poor clueless bastard who did the laughably awful Ninja Assassin.  Doomed.

Great cast, though.  A shame.  Still, the comic is brilliant enough so that it's far from impossible that someone sensible might make another film of it someday.  I will say that this improved my opinion of the Watchmen movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on July 28, 2010, 11:45:21 PM

One of my favorite words.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 28, 2010, 11:50:51 PM
Srsly.  Millions of dollars so his damned knife makes a 110 decibel metal-on-metal noise when he's casually lowering his arm.  It would be funny if it weren't so sad.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 29, 2010, 12:49:27 AM
I can already tell I won't sleep much tonight, but I watched the Netflix-recommended Happy-Go-Lucky (, a Mike Leigh film from a couple of years ago, and I have to say . . . Excuse Me, WTF Are You Doing?

After having skimmed a bunch of reviews and arguments about the film, I'm still not sure WTF.  Interviews with Leigh make me wonder if he's being coy.  Seriously, I'm not sure yet what I think about the movie, but I really can't say I enjoyed watching it.

Allegedly a romantic comedy, it's about a British woman named Poppy and a few months of her life.  She's about 30 and teaches elementary school and lives with a sarcastic friend.  She meets a nice guy and thinks about dating him.  She takes flamenco lessons with a friend.  She takes several driving lessons.  She meets a homeless guy.  She hangs around with her friends, and there is much dialogue.

Poppy is peppy.  I don't think she's a bubbly carefree happy person, which allegedly she's intended to be.  I think there's something very wrong.  I've known people who act like she does, and it's always been associated with trauma they can't deal with.  The film doesn't so much as hint at this, though, and people online who love the film (and there are many) seem to think that anyone who takes Poppy at anything less than shiny face value must personally be miserable and traumatized. 

Poppy is not so much optimistic and fun as manic, though.  She chatters like a hysteric, repeating phrases pathologically ("If you say so, gigolo!"), and can almost never stop moving almost frantically.  Her driving instructor is not a well person, either; he's full of anger and paranoia and frustration.  She bugs the hell out of him, and, frankly, being in the car with her for very long would bug the hell out of most people.  I'm quite sure of it.

The film doesn't have a whole lot of plot.  It just shows some slices of Poppy's life.  The acting's good, and the dialogue seems natural, if not necessarily always fascinating or reassuring.  Poppy is played by Sally Hawkins, whom I don't think I'd seen before, and it's a brilliant and convincing portrayal, although, for me, painful to see.  When the film's over, I don't know why they did that or why I sat through it.  I admit it was partly because Hawkins is attractive and sometimes only wearing her underwear.  It's partly because the film's unpredictable, and I was curious what else would happen.  But it was uncomfortable to watch.  For one thing, I'm not sure I think Poppy should be teaching small children.  I kept waiting for the big scene where she explodes or melts down.  I didn't know anything about the film and was cringing as it drew to a close because I really thought it might end with her stepping off a bridge, or something.

I guess a nutshell summary of this movie might be this:  Imagine Educating Rita, if you've seen it, but magnify all of Rita's buzzy personality traits by a factor of ten and take away most of the rest of her personality, and then replace Michael Caine's character with an enraged driving instructor.  It definitely has some good moments, but . . . yeesh.  And it seems very low on self-awareness.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on July 29, 2010, 04:54:19 AM
Hey man, have you ever seen Painted Faces ( The whole thing is on Youtube. I'd been wanting to see it for a while, but forgot the name and never could remember to ask you, haha. Anyway, it's about the opera school where Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao all grew up (Sammo plays their stern teacher, Master Yu). It was a very rough and grueling way of life, and they got the hell beaten out of them at every opportunity, but the light 80s-ish soundtrack and Sammo's nuanced portrayal of Master Yu help to soften it up quite a bit (according to the Youtube notes, Jackie didn't like the movie because the real life master wasn't quite as sympathetic a character as the onscreen version).

There's a bit of the old "Western culture is fucking everything up" theme involved Once Upon a Time in China it was guns taking over from blades, but in this movie it's electric guitars and the Beatles killing off traditional Chinese acrobatics and opera. It's all very interesting, and the young actors do a nice job. Anyway, those guys came a long way and put in a lot of work to get to where they are today, and this movie gives some insight into the earliest parts of their now-legendary careers.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 29, 2010, 10:58:26 AM
I've heard a lot about Painted Faces but never seen it.  I ordered it on DVD once, but it was out of stock.

Yeah, Sammo said he felt he didn't portray the Master sympathetically enough, but he also said the conditions at the school were a lot harsher even than the movie makes them appear.  All the actors from that school seem to have wound up with a serious love/hate relationship with it and Master Yu.  Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah and Corey Yuen all kept professional names that they got at the school, named after the Master.  It's all kind of . . . odd.

Even Jackie went to Master Yu's funeral and made a big public show of respect, although maybe he was just going to make sure.

I've never watched a full-length movie on YouTube.  Must be an illegal copy?  Merrrrr . . . conflicting impulses . . . but Netflix not only doesn't have it but doesn't even know it exists.  Their foreign stuff is totally random and undoubtedly reflects what's offered by licensing partners, with no relation to what's good or popular or wanted by the old customer base.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on July 29, 2010, 11:04:55 AM
Even Jackie went to Master Yu's funeral and made a big public show of respect, although maybe he was just going to make sure.

Man, I know what that's like. My advisor just emailed me and said she's thinking about retiring. I'll believe that when they clean out her office ... :yikes:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on July 29, 2010, 03:39:09 PM
Apparently it's hard to find anywhere else. Somebody mentioned in comments that they had seen copies going for like $1k on Amazon or somewhere?

There are a lot of out of print movies uploaded like this in ten minute chunks to Youtube. It's not the best copy, obviously a VCR rip (a couple of times the "VIDEO CALIBRATION" notice pops up, haha), but this appears to be the only way to see this film now, apart from paying big bucks for some bootleg version that probably doesn't look much better. It's been up for a year or so and hasn't been taken down; in fact the uploader has a bunch of old Jackie Chan movies posted up that look interesting...

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on July 29, 2010, 03:49:32 PM
Apparently it's hard to find anywhere else. Somebody mentioned in comments that they had seen copies going for like $1k on Amazon or somewhere?

LOL That reminds me.  I ordered a book from the library called Votan.  It came from Central Storage and was all beat up.  The cheapest you can get it on Amazon is $225 (hardcover).  You can get it on for £6.30 (paperback).
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 29, 2010, 04:05:23 PM
I have most of Jackie's movies -- well, up to the first Rush Hour and Gorgeous, anyway; 2000 is around when his career mostly really nosedived Hollywood-style.  I'd like to at least see a good copy of Island on Fire and own good copies of Mr Canton and Lady Rose (the kung fu 1920s period remake of Capra's Pocketful of Miracles) and Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin.  I've seen and/or own all the others.  Of his later ones, I still need to see the new Karate Kid, Rob-B-Hood, The Myth, and New Police Story.

I looked around online, and there seem to be two plausible rumors about Painted Faces:

- The rights are jointly owned by two HK film companies that can't come to terms on distribution.

- The Weinsteins (or, a little less likely, Tarantino) bought the Region 1 & 2 distribution rights but then decided it wasn't worth marketing, so they're sitting on it.  This could very well stifle Region 3 distribution too; I don't exactly understand why, but it has before.

Amusingly, the HK Flix page for Painted Faces has a warning that says URGENT NOTE: This DVD was before it was ever released.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 29, 2010, 09:40:01 PM
Monarch of the Moon (, a 2005 parody of WWII-era action serials.  It follows a secret agent / semi-superhero called Yellow Jacket as he fights the Krauts, Japs, and Moon Monarch.  Yes, the racism is intact, but as satire, and it's actually milder than a lot of the racism peddled to kids at the time.  Or, for that matter, the anti-Islamic stuff peddled now.

Yellow Jacket has the whole standard entourage and encounters a range of colorful characters.  The film tries for the look and feel of the serials, with mixed results.  Scenes I'm guessing were shot earlier (mostly meaning about the first third or so of the film) have the picture aggressively fogged and faded, and the sound is slightly out of synch.  This schtick is never as bad as the Sepia Plague that afflicted Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and fortunately it mostly vanishes as the picture goes on.  I know what they were going for, but it's not necessary and really isn't helpful.

The cast is pretty terrific.  The writing and humor are a little uneven but mostly vary from good to really good.  The actors even manage to have names appropriate to the era.  Blane Wheatley is spot-on in the lead, although he could've been even hammier, and Monica Himmelheber is particularly excellent as the sidekick dame (and more).  Sometimes the film can't decide how broad its humor should be, but it mostly works, although it does seem to go on a bit long, and maybe it's best broken into two or more viewings.  In serial fashion, it's divided into chapters anyway.

All in all, it's not the best thing you ever saw, but it's pretty good, and probably filmed for less than a hundred grand.  Also, the effects are astonishingly good.  Really, it's a lot better than, say, Spielberg's War of the Worlds.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on July 31, 2010, 11:27:45 PM
If you've watched other people play console games enough, you know how it is when they're playing a game that has action scenes that look cool but make no sense.  You're not actually the one playing, so there's a rather sharp remove to how engaged you are, and you can't help noticing, now and then, that these scenes make no sense.  Maybe they're fighting awesome high-tech giant robots that keep forgetting they have really good guns.  Maybe the enemy's air support comes and goes randomly, even though it was hovering right there just a moment ago.  Maybe nothing about it makes sense, but the robots really look cool, and there's a lot of running around.

Of course, if the game never really gives you a good look at the cool robots, that's pretty annoying.  Also annoying is when the bad guys fight like chumps for awhile and then suddenly remember they outclass you and summarily kick your ass.  Hey, robots, you spent ten minutes just tossing me around, and now when I was almost at the save point you whip out the laser cannon and just cap and cauterize my ass?  What a stupid rip.

Now if this goes on and on and on for, say, two hours, you're going to get pretty bored watching this other person play the game.  It gets old pretty fast.  And since the story of the game makes no sense, all there is to it is the action scenes, which are repetitive and nonsensical (even if the robots are kind of cool and had potential), and the cut scenes, which are intolerably stupid, full of As You Know Bob exposition and I Should Tell You exposition and We Just Wanted You To Know exposition.  All of which is really poorly thought out.

Oh, also, there's a time-travel story in there, written by people who don't understand the rules of time-travel stories.  And almost everything that happens only happens because the plot requires it, even if it doesn't make sense in the context of the plot, which also doesn't make sense.

Yeah, I saw Terminator Salvation.  It sucked.  Relentlessly stupid in a whole almost impressive mix of ways, and just flat-out boring.  I could spend ten pages picking apart how dumb it constantly was, but it's just not worth even going into.  It had about five minutes of good action scenes -- and would have had more like twenty minutes of good action scenes if McG knew how to frame a scene.  Seriously, McG, you peaked with Charlie's Angels, which I am now convinced was a fluke.  Maybe you could work in advertising.  If not, you could probably manage a car wash or something.

I have to say, I am flabbergasted that people blamed Christian Bale for this being a bad movie.  I don't love a lot of what he's done recently, but I thought he was as good in this as anyone could have been.  You can't blame any of the cast of this film.  That'd be like blaming the highway for how much your pimped out Chevette sucks.

As far as I'm concerned, there were only two Terminator movies, just like there were only two Alien movies.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 01, 2010, 01:07:42 PM
Oh my god that movie was bad.  My brain is still trying to barf it up.

It did, however, give me a new appreciation for movies like Screamers (  Screamers wasn't what you'd call 'good', but it wasn't completely awful, and it seems better now.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 01, 2010, 11:20:26 PM
The Proposition (, an Australian Western from 2005, written by Nick Cave, oddly enough.  Good cast, serious business, and it's one of those Waterworld films that goes all-in for authenticity.  I read that -- in an effort to achieve maximum costume authenticity -- most of the buttons on most of the clothes in the film were handmade just for the film.  And since it takes place in the late 19th century, that's a lot of buttons.

The authenticity's fine.  The characterization is mostly fine, although one of the main characters, an Irish criminal played with conviction by Guy Pearce, needed more character written in there, if you ask me.  And the film doesn't much go into anyone's motivations in any explicit fashion.  It figures you've seen this kind of thing enough to draw your own conclusions, and generally, I think, it'll be right about this, even if you don't know anything about Australian history.  But the characters and their backgrounds are the most interesting thing in the film, and mostly we just watch them and try to infer.  For me, it was a little . . . unsatisfying.

Beyond that, this is a Bleak Western.  I gotta say, I'm kind of sick of Bleak Westerns.  Like, I get it, already, life sucks, and life especially sucked on the lawless frontier where people shot each other a lot (especially in movies).  I'm way way past the point where that's shocking, so now it's just kind of depressing, at most.  You need more to really do it for me.

IMDb tells me this is the same director who did The Road, which I haven't seen yet.  It also tells me Nick Cave wrote the screenplay for a reboot of The Crow due out next year.  Umm . . . what?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 02, 2010, 01:34:24 PM
The Answer Man (, a romantic comedy of sorts from last year.  This is the kind of movie that doesn't get a release despite being much better than most of the romantic comedies that go out with huge marketing campaigns.  On the other hand, most romantic comedies try harder than this one does to be funny.

Jeff Daniels rather excellently portrays Arlen, a guy who wrote a book twenty years ago about a question-and-answer session he had with God.  The book went supernova, and he became a recluse, hiding from all the people who wanted to ask him about God and how they can deal with their problems.  Meanwhile, Arlen's own problems are not magically solved, and he understandably winds up frustrated and bitter.

Lauren Graham gives a perfectly subdued performance as a chiropractor (but still) whose husband vanished, leaving her overprotective of her seven-year-old son.  She, too, is a trifle frustrated and bitter.

Then there's a young recovering alcoholic (Lou Taylor Pucci, who looks familiar to me, but apparently I don't know him from anything else) trying to run a local bookstore that's going out of business, not quite aided by his entertainingly kooky assistant (Kat Dennings, who was Norah in Nick & Norah).  And Graham's character has a receptionist played with some depth by Olivia Thirlby (who played Juno's friend in Juno).  

They're all great in this.  The little kid who plays the seven-year-old is great.  Nora Dunn, as Arlen's agent, is great.  This is a first feature film from a writer-director who hopefully has more good movies in him.  All the characters are intelligent and variable and seem to have more going on than the movie has time for, which is how it should be.  Personally, I would've replaced 'chiropractor' with 'licensed physical therapist', but whatever.  A lot of characters have a lot of difficult questions, and Arlen delivers a lot of platitudes and some actual good advice, and the ending is a little contrived, but moreso by the characters than by the writing.  It's believable, and it's not an excessively tidy ending, but it's enough to feel good.

I think the last romantic comedy I saw that was this enjoyable and affecting might've been Love, Actually, although this isn't quite so romantic or comedic.  It's a little heavier, although it does have funny moments.  And Daniels, often underrated, is brilliant at playing a guy who would clearly like to flip out and melt down but is too smart to let himself quite go that far.

Seriously, I liked this cast and set of characters enough that I kind of wish it were a TV series instead of just a film.  I'd like to see more of it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 02, 2010, 11:49:49 PM

Finally sucked it up and watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Fail.  Hey, that wasn't half-bad.  It was fucking terrible.  MST3K terrible.  Watchable, once, if you look away now and then, because you keep figuring Harrison Ford will charm you, and here and there he still will, despite the movie around him, which was godawful right from the opening CGI bit with the prairie dog.  In fact, there's a lot of CGI in this movie, even in 'mundane' scenes where it's clearly used to 'enhance' stunts, and a vast amount of it looks like fakey crap.  Really sad, especially since this stuff looked so much better in 1981.

This movie doesn't even make sense.  Never mind the alien crap that's only magnetic when it's convenient.  Just as one example, Jones holds a gun on the enemy leader, right, while about twenty of her soldiers are pointing guns at him.  He says, well, lower your guns, or I shoot her.  So they lower their guns.  But then one other guy points a gun at Jones from a different angle, and he gives up.  Uh, your threat to shoot the leader . . . still works.  WTF?  It's constantly like that.  The test-site mannequins are in front of the TV, OK, but the TV is on?  Really?  The overpressure from the bomb blows windows and roofs apart but doesn't even nudge the mannequins standing in the street?  A psychic villain who's extremely easily taken by surprise even when the audience isn't? 

The story, a lame 15-year-old's bad rip-off of a rip-off of von Daniken and bad 1950s occultism, is too incompetent and awful to even go into.  Were Spielberg, Lucas, and Koepp unaware that their story was also the story used in parodies of Indiana Jones movies since, oh, the mid-80s?  Movies like Vibes and Firewalker and four dozen others?  (Firewalker, I must say, now looks a lot better.  Those Lara Croft and Nicholas Cage movies still look horrible, though.)  Oh, it's supposed to be an homage to the B science-fiction movies of the 1950s?  Well, it sucks at that, too.

Doesn't make sense even moment to moment, and the direction . . . seriously, I've seen Spielberg be bad before, and do dumb stories with bad scripts, but I've never seen him incompetent before.  At least half the cuts in this film are amateurishly mistimed.  It's painful.  Person talks, camera cuts to second person, second person talks, camera cuts back to first person, first person talks, and there isn't even any reacting going on.  There's no rhythm. 

Hell, there isn't even any continuity.  Although the refrigerator may have protected Indy from the nuclear explosion, it couldn't save its own freezer section, which was somehow vaporized by the blast.  Or there's Mac's instantly healing nose.  But never mind simple continuity.  I mean, er, the convoy through the jungle (the perfectly flat jungle in the mountains of the Peruvian Amazon) is being led by a giant machine that cuts down the many, many trees in their way.  Then that machine gets destroyed, which is immediately followed by a high-speed car chase through literally miles of the jungle along the road that the tree-cutting machine was just starting to clear when it got destroyed.  Hmm. 

And early on, there's a scene where a character in close-up suddenly kneels down, revealing gunmen behind him, but . . . the soldiers taken by surprise by these gunmen are not in the film audience and could, of course, have seen the gunmen all the time.  Just plain dumb.  And you can't see the Nazca Lines from the Peruvian Amazon -- Nazca is on the coast on the other side of the country, hundreds of miles away.  The freaking Andes are in the way.

And, although I was surprised by it, the film's renowned cinematographer obviously learned film by watching porn, because at least a third of the film is shot from low camera angles for no good reason.  It looks awful.

I've seen Harrison Ford in bad films before, and I forgive him.  The last good movie I saw him in was Six Days, Seven Nights, which was twelve years ago.  I didn't see Saving Private Ryan or Catch Me If You Can (I'd had enough of Hanks and of Spielberg WWII movies for awhile), so the last good movie I saw that was directed by Spielberg was in 1993.  I gotta say that David Koepp's work has pretty much sucked since 1994 or so.

I didn't realize Cate Blanchett could be terrible, though.  She sure was in this.  I assume she was trying to camp it up, but ye gods.

Shia LeBeouf has always sucked.  What, Dustin Diamond wasn't available?  This guy is strictly a supporting-role actor.  In this movie, I kept wishing for a young time-traveling Marlon Brando to show up and beat LeBeouf to a crunchy paste for trying to look like him.  Brando may not have been available, but I could have spared some time.  Still, I realize the Tarzan thing was not actually his fault.

And how come Indiana Jones says nuculur and liberry?  And thinks scorpions have a poison bite and that snakes are slimy?  What, is the theme of this film Insult To Injury?

Worse than Temple of DoomSubstantially worse than Temple of Doom.  Shut your eyes, Marion.  Don't look at it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on August 03, 2010, 06:04:17 PM
Spielberg and Lucas raped him.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 03, 2010, 06:34:58 PM
Spielberg and Lucas raped him.

Who, Indy?

Seriously, that was a bad movie.  I still can't get over how bad it was.  I don't mean how disappointing it was, but just on a basic level.  The lighting in shot-reverse-shot is really obtrusively uneven sometimes, so that there are a lot of simple dialogue scenes where it still looks like there's poor use of a green screen.  And a lot of those scenes look like they're cobbled together entirely from different takes, almost like the the actors involved were filmed separately, at different locations, and then the footage was all edited together.

Man, it's just bad.  Bizarrely bad.  Not fair to compare it to the first one, but it's just awkward and bad even compared to the others.  Even the third one is too contrived, awkwardly constructed, with Here's An Action Sequence! blocks crammed in and OMG Tomb Traps that make the stuff in Raiders look completely plausible by comparison.  But the third one redeemed itself a lot.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on August 03, 2010, 06:57:25 PM
It's a reference to the South Park ( in which the old AICN "George Lucas raped my childhood" meme is played out in the literal sense, after the kids see the movie and try to recall their repressed memories of it. There's a scene a la The Accused, for example, in which Lucas and Spielberg rape Indy on the top of a Howard the Duck pinball machine.

Speaking of Nick Cave, check out the synopsis of his screenplay for Gladiator 2 ( Whoa!

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 03, 2010, 08:24:11 PM
Hey, I actually like Howard the Duck.  It's an incredibly quotable parody with excellent lovecraftian monsters.  Howard, himself, is one of the weaker elements, but otherwise it's one of the better comic book adaptation films.

I know my ideas are often not popular, but I've never thought of popularity.

Speaking of Nick Cave, check out the synopsis of his screenplay for Gladiator 2.

:eek:  :rollin:

That can't possibly be true.  Even if it's true.  It sounds more like a spin-off sequel to that God of War game.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 03, 2010, 08:37:30 PM
I should add:

I fully blame Spielberg for dicking up ET because of his lack of faith in children. 

And the re-release versions of the original Star Wars films are pretty dickish, and the prequels 90% suck.  BUT.  The thing about Star Wars is that it was too strong, and it's beyond Lucas's control.  We all know Han shot first.  Lucas can't change that.  You can smear a little crap on a diamond, but it washes right off.

The prequels can largely be dismissed as non-canonical because they can't possibly be right.  Jar-Jar, no -- he was written out of the early drafts for the first film because he's a stupid character and clearly doesn't belong.  Obi-Wan's remarks about the Clone Wars are hardly justified by the prequel.  And that Anakin couldn't possibly turn into Darth Vader. 

The thing is, for any story, there's a sort of archetypal ur-story in the distant background, and a true story in the middle ground.  The story the audience receives is in the foreground.  You can often feel how closely the foreground reflects the true story in the middle ground.  If the true story is awesome, it's usually built on really solid ur-story bits, and if it's reflected clearly and cleanly in the foreground, then you have an awesome result.

Star Wars is solidly awesome.  Empire Strikes Back is mostly awesome, with a little distortion here and there.  Return of the Jedi has some confusion, mostly involving Ewoks, but you can still feel a lot of the true story that they were trying for.  In the prequels, there are only moments.  You could rewrite them around a broad outline derived from the movies we got and wind up with something good and 'right', but it would take a fair bit of work.

But Spielberg and Lucas didn't rape the originals (except maybe for ET, which wasn't as important to me anyway.  The shitty sequels just don't count.  You can safely go back and watch Star Wars (the original) and Raiders.  They're still beautiful.  Spielberg and Lucas aren't the boss of you.

The weird thing is that inevitably, in another twenty years maybe, rights will expire or become irrelevant or get sold, and someone will remake Star Wars, at the very least.  Or maybe YouTube means that lots of people will remake it, possibly all in CGI.  (Jar-Jar-less Phantom Edit, eh?)  I don't know.  But it'll be interesting.  You just can't take it too seriously if it sucks.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 04, 2010, 11:31:38 PM
Cube (, from 1997, sort of an existential SF version of Saw crossed with William Sleator's 70s YA book House of Stairs.  A group of strangers find themselves imprisoned without explanation in a three-dimensional arrangement of cubic rooms that each have a hatch on each side leading to more cubic rooms.  Many of the rooms have exotic and deadly traps.  Can they get out?  Should they try?  Should they trust each other?  And WTF is going on, eh?

The good:  The entire thing was done in like three weeks on a tiny budget using a single cube set -- and it's amazing, considering.  The technical execution is great, embarrassing a lot of big-budget films.  There's a good deal of creativity on display.  A lot of critics have gone medieval on the acting, but frankly I thought the acting was surprisingly good; complaints of overacting seem to have lost track of the characters' predicament, which I think would very much tend to cause some real-life overacting.

The bad:  Don't get your hopes up too high for explanations, but at least the film doesn't build up to an explanation that's idiotic.  The puzzles the characters have to solve in order to survive don't always make sense.  A lot of them revolve around math, and the math isn't that complicated but is consistently badly wrong.  A math expert among them, for instance, has some trouble telling if three-digit numbers ending in 2 or 5 are primes.  Um.  But you can just sort of squint a bit and get past that.

Unfortunately, it mostly falls back on the old chestnut of People Are The Real Monsters, which I personally have been sick to death of since like 1984 came and went.  Yes, in real life, people are usually the real monsters, but for me it's one of the least interesting themes for a thriller of any kind.  To say nothing of least original.

The characters include a couple of cliches that aren't so much horrible as a little disappointing.  The film also occasionally slows down too much.  I think they ran out of things they particularly wanted to do after maybe an hour.  But if you ask me it was as good as or maybe better than, say, the first Resident Evil movie.  (I haven't seen the sequels to that one.)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 05, 2010, 04:58:17 PM
At lunch, I started watching Breakfast of Aliens (, a 1993 comedy with an SF / horror theme of sorts.  An intentionally desperately unappealing schlub, who could be Lennie to a George played by Jerry Lewis's nutty professor, wants to be a stand-up comedian, but he's almost too stupid to stand up in the first place, much less tell a joke.  He accidentally eats some extraterrestrial substance that I think was supposed to be alien poop.  Then he becomes a better comedian . . . at least within the fantasy world of the film . . . and apparently there's a Troma-style horror ending with face melting, etc.  I didn't watch that far.

If you've ever been to a bad comedy club where no one on stage was remotely funny but all had screeching schtick fake 'funny' personalities, this is basically the same experience.  It's gross, but not inventively gross, and so on.  There's a scene in a filthy kitchen where a dwarf sneezes on a lump of pizza dough, drops it on the floor, and cleans it off with Windex.  Of course he still uses it to make a sort of pizza.  That's the film in a nutshell.

Netflix, I am disappoint.  I gave it a third as many stars as you predicted.  Amusingly, over at IMDb, there are comments from people in the film saying it's only good as a drinking game or complaining that they never got paid.

BONUS:  The guy who co-wrote and directed it is writing and directing a remake of A Boy and His Dog.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 05, 2010, 08:23:07 PM
Picking something from the queue at random, I watched Soap Girl ( while doing some other stuff, and now I'm wondering how it got in my queue.

Basically, this is an Asian exploitation film, apparently made entirely by Asians, combined with a really weak romantic comedy, done in such fine amateurish indie style that it's downright watchably bizarre.  A young Asian woman with serious problems takes a job at an Asian massage parlor full of young Asian women (and partly Asian women, and one girl who seriously doesn't even look like she's trying to look Asian).  Various slices of life happen, with varying levels of realism and art.  There's a really awkward white guy who falls in really awkward love with the main Asian girl, but they're star-crossed lovers.  Plus, some Asian gangster wants protection money from the massage parlor, and so on.

The film doesn't go many places.  There's some relatively tasteful footage of naked Asian women, and quite a bit more footage of naked doughy white guys.  Not much footage of massages or actual sex, in case you were wondering.  Most of the acting is really, really bad.  There's an incredibly watchable, incredibly unrealistic catfight.  A lot of the scenes are in no particular order.  The background music seems to have perhaps been stolen from a bad 1982 skiing movie and is often wildly inappropriate and/or unintentionally funny.

The awkward white guy is SO awkward that I really thought the guy playing him was an extraordinarily bad actor who was uncomfortable being filmed.  At the end of the movie, though, the white guy becomes much less awkward, and I realized he WAS acting.  It was just an unbearable character.

The amount of unfortunate stereotypes in this movie makes Coffee look like Philadelphia.  And the acting is generally really bad, as I think I mentioned.  I watched the whole thing, mostly like this:  :shock: :trance:  It's a peculiar trainwreck.

Trying to figure out how the hell it got in my queue, I figured someone who's in it must've been in something I actually liked them in.  Going through the cast at IMDb, I don't think so, though, so who knows.  I did, however, find Rectuma (, which is billed as a Godzilla parody that substitutes a guy's giant rogue ass for Godzilla.

I think I'll skip that one, but if any of you have seen it, I wouldn't mind reading about your reaction.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 05, 2010, 10:32:17 PM
While sorting nuts, bolts, and screws (no, seriously -- I just bought a couple of those little cabinets with all the little transparent drawers), I watched Management (  Uh-huh.

OK, Jennifer Aniston plays an intelligent, largely competent woman who has clearly been exposed to a lot of trauma but refuses to be traumatized.  She has a successful career, although she doesn't like her job, and a social life of sorts, and even hobbies.  But she's very low on self-confidence and self-esteem and thinks she owes the world a lot but that she should expect nothing in return.

She runs into Steve Zahn, who plays a mentally challenged probable virgin failure-to-launch type with no social skills.  Steve thinks she's hot, because she is, and he proceeds to do dumb things that are usually either offensive or insulting, but also pathetic.  It's like he wandered out of one of those Very Special Stories where two mentally challenged people fall in love.  He needs someone to help him back into that film.

Nevertheless, things happen.  You'd never believe that they do -- Zahn's character is not charming -- but Aniston manages to make it halfway believable.  Then she comes to her senses, but he stalks her.  We get to see a long scene of her sticking her ass out, and we get to see her playing soccer, and, seriously, Jennifer Aniston is hotter than the sun.  I think she's more appealing in these more dramatic roles now than she was as a frantic bubble-head in her youth, and she even looks better, even with half her eyebrows missing.  Smart, funny, deep, and she plays vulnerable and accessible (in a good way) so well.  I wouldn't have left her for Angelina Jolie even if she gave up bathing forever.

The trouble is that you can't root for Steve Zahn in this movie.  His character mostly ranges from pathetic to creepy.  You feel bad for him, and you feel bad for her, but if they get together you're still going to feel bad for her.  It's not even, and it's not fair.  So the movie cheats in two rather distinct and clumsy ways. 

First, Zahn's character improves -- not quite to the point of being normal, maybe, but his intelligence rises by about fifty IQ points (seriously) and his maturity goes from about age 13 to about age 17, maybe.  Second, Aniston inexplicably runs off to marry an ex-boyfriend (played loudly by Woody Harrison) who is so awful that, OK, now you don't feel so bad if she winds up with Zahn.  But you seriously start to wonder exactly what is wrong with her.  Aniston acts so well that she's almost too believable, and her character in this movie is not less messed up than her character in The Good Girl.  I almost wondered, at one point, if this movie was going to end in a similar way.

Meanwhile, there's a long stretch of the film where the script isn't sure what it should do, and so it goes off on tangents, mostly about Zahn's character.  His parents are well-played, and Fred Ward has an excellent bit as his dad.  And he meets (and is weirdly taken in by) a Chinese guy whose parents run a restaurant, and, honestly, I started wishing the movie was about Zahn and the Chinese guy, because that seemed like it would be a lot more fun.  But I still wanted to see Aniston doing her stuff.  Just not with Zahn's character.

So . . . I didn't like the movie.  It's not Zahn's fault; there's just a limit to how awkward and stalkerish these romcom characters can be, and to how mismatched the lovers can be.  Aniston's character falls for him because she's big into taking on projects and because he genuinely tries to be nice to her.  It's sweet, but if his character hadn't undergone an implausibly unlikely transformation during the film, it'd be like she was marrying an adolescent with major problems.  Zahn made me think of a doofier version Jake Gyllenhaal saying You just don't want to get me because I'm too intensified for you!

But Aniston's a joy to watch, and I don't mean just because I think she's hot.  Still, for a romantic comedy, this one isn't very romantic, and the comedy bits are few.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on August 06, 2010, 12:09:18 AM

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 06, 2010, 12:38:52 AM

Because I like Howard the Duck, because I like Jennifer Aniston, or because you're too intensified?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 06, 2010, 06:37:10 PM
WAIT -- it's because I don't prefer Angelina, isn't it.

She had great potential, but she followed the Catherine Zeta Jones of peaking early and then going crazy and excessively glam-intensive.  She was great in (the admittedly mediocre) Hackers, and holy crap I thought she was going to be big.  She was OK but too predictable in Foxfire.  She was naked a lot and a little pleasantly kinky in Gia, but honestly the film felt like an unnecessary puff.  I think she was pretty good in Playing God, but I barely remember it.

That was, what, 1997 or so, and I haven't seen her do anything good since then.  Well, I guess she was OK in Sky Captain, but it hardly seems significant -- all she had to do was put on the uniform and squint with one eye.  Meanwhile, she's turned into a Hollywood cliche at the bad end of the spectrum.  I almost expect to read about her robbing a gas station or something.

It's not like I think she isn't attractive, but she might as well be a poisoned porcupine, and I don't think I've seen more than three facial expressions out of her in the last ten years.

Remember, this is a woman who not only married what's-his-face from Hackers but instead of a wedding gown wore a shirt with his name written on it in her own blood.  Plus, she did the Tomb Raider movies.  :harumph:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on August 06, 2010, 06:40:37 PM
I liked her in Pushing Tin.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 06, 2010, 06:48:50 PM
Eh.  I saw most of that one and didn't like it, and it didn't stick in my head.  I only remember little bits, none of them impressive.  :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on August 06, 2010, 07:04:10 PM
Yeah, the movie was pretty lame, but she was great.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 06, 2010, 07:44:41 PM
Gia was effing brilliant. The bits with Elizabeth Mitchell were quite possibly the sexiest things I've seen on screen.

All downhill after that, imho :galm:

I liked her in Pushing Tin.

Oh I forgot about that! Yeah, I liked that movie. Cate Blanchett! Of course I saw it on a boat.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 06, 2010, 07:55:17 PM
Cate Blanchett was in that movie?  Wow, I guess it really didn't make an impression on me.  :trance:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 06, 2010, 08:04:47 PM
She was unrecognizable. More proof of her awesomitude.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 06, 2010, 08:45:41 PM
Now I want to see The Gift again.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 09, 2010, 09:33:23 PM
Brother and I watched 9 (

Well . . . it was strange.  The whole thing was kind of weird half-baked, but alchemy references were particularly oddly fitted in there.  Still, at least they didn't go the semen / clay / mandragora / dung / athanor route to make the homunculi.  I can live with that.

It was very Henry Selick-ish, but not quite as developed.  Nothing against Shane Acker, who, for one thing, has a name that suggests he'll succeed in film.  I've read that the film went from student short without dialogue to feature CGI film in less than a year, so it's pretty amazing, considering.  A lot of sequences are nice to look at, and it's not afraid to be a little creepy.  The plot doesn't really build properly, and the climax isn't all that satisfying, and the characters could use more characterization.  Plus, the premise doesn't really seem to make a whole lot of sense even after it's somewhat explained, if you think about it.

But it's certainly not bad, and it's like 80 minutes long.  Interestingly, although it has a cast of stars, we only recognized Christopher Plummer and Elijah Wood's voices, and we already knew Wood was in it.  And the world-ending But I Meant Well scientist is voiced by Robert Oppenheimer's cousin, Alan Oppenheimer.  :trance:  Nice casting.  Al's most famous role was probably voicing Mighty Mouse, although he was also Skeletor.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 11, 2010, 12:18:38 AM
Back helping my brother, and we watched Kick-Ass ( with a friend's kid.

I'm really not sure yet if I liked it or not.  About 50% of it was pretty awesome, and about 25% of it was either too half-baked or too far over the line, and about 25% of it was just middling.  Seriously, the foul-mouthed gore-drenched mutha-capping brutal-beating-receiving little kid stuff went too far at times, and it's not so much that I was uncomfortable as that it just seemed to go through Ironic and Gritty into Bad Taste and Trying Too Hard.  It just seemed a trifle tone deaf, like someone at a party who tells three hilarious ethnic jokes and then one really, really tasteless one that ruins the atmosphere for twenty minutes.

Similarly, some of the action scenes are excellent, and some are not.  Some of it's clever, and some isn't.  A lot of the Teen Angst Comedy stuff, frankly, has been done a million times before and is so generic that it didn't need to be done, especially since most of it wasn't terribly relevant to the film's story.  It's like they ran out of superhero observations and action scenes but realized they only had two-thirds of a movie, and so they padded it out with stuff rejected from American Pie.  The stuff with the girlfriend was fine, but a lot of the first, I don't know, twenty minutes or so was pretty dull.  Hey, he fantasizes about his busty teacher!  Actually, I think that may have been done before.

My brother said, "This hardly seems important to the film."  And I said, "If it IS important to the film, I'm not sure I want to watch the rest."

But there was a lot of good stuff in there.  One issue we did have is that there's a scene where Nicholas Cage (who was good in this!  about time, dude) keeps shouting instructions to his daughter, and none of us (including the 19-year-old) could understand what he was saying.  We rewound several bits a couple of times, but we had to go look up what he was saying afterward.  :shrug:

They're making a sequel.  I can't make promises, but it might be better just because the girl will be older.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 11, 2010, 03:38:41 PM
Forgot -- late last night I watched Session 9 (  Like another Brad Anderson movie I liked (Next Stop Wonderland), it takes place in a part of the Boston area I used to live in, and it uses the locale in ways that help hook me.  I wasn't a huge fan of Anderson's The Machinist, but it's just that not much happened in that film, and the surprise ending was really no surprise.

This one's a bit meatier.  A hazardous-waste demolition crew gets hired to remove asbestos, etc, from an old (and architecturally awesome) mental hospital.  It's a rush job.  There's some tension to begin with, and things go bad.  What exactly happens, I shouldn't say, but the film works well as either a psychological or supernatural thriller.  It flirts with cheese but mostly keeps things grimy and real, and if you choose to view it as a psychological thriller, the whole thing is real-world plausible.  The cast is generally really good, as is the writing, and I liked most of the cinematography.  Definitely one of the better Decrepit Mental Hospital films I've seen.

David Caruso does star in it, and he's not bad -- it's just hard to take him seriously after CSI
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 11, 2010, 09:58:26 PM
The Netflix server is down or at least struggling mightily :thumbsdn: but they just sent me a replacement disk for Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (  Not a success when it came out in 1974, this movie kicked Hammer Films in the crotch while it was already down.  But it's not its fault.

Kronos is a cavalry officer retired from some or other Napoleonic army, with a new career as a vampire hunter.  He's assisted by a refreshingly non-sniveling hunchbacked sidekick, in this case a cross between Van Helsing and Q.  Although they're pros, Kronos and Professor Hieronymous Grost aren't yet sure what vampire legend is just legend and what's actually useful, and the film decides on its own mythology rather than settling for the usual.  Kronos quickly picks up a lusty semi-feral peasant girl played saucily by Caroline Munro (of The Spy Who Loved Me and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad).  Sample dialogue:  "I'll stay with you . . . if you'll have me."  "Oh, I'll have you."  Ba-ZING! Ta-ran-ta-ra!

Kronos has been around.  He meditates (in a rather odd fashion) and wields both a saber and a katana.  He's pretty fearless but fairly zen, almost in Man With No Name style, but he's not humorless.  He buckles his swash.  He's smart and is generally a step ahead of his enemies.

The film was written and directed by Brian Clemens, who wrote a great deal (Danger Man, The Avengers, Golden Voyage of Sinbad, etc) but unfortunately never directed anything else.  The film has a great Dramatic look and feel to it, with creative if not entirely original use of framing and shadow, and a great deal accomplished without dialogue through skillful use of the cast's reactions.  Some of the action scenes are great, although some are a bit weaker.  But all in all, I think it's a lot of fun.  It was also meant to be the first of a series.

Unfortunately, it was not what people expected from Hammer vampire movies:  Fewer heaving breasts, less red satin, no Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, no really traditional vampires or traditional stakings.  And it's a trifle ironic and knowing, but perhaps campy in the wrong direction for Dracula fans.  I don't know.

Doubly unfortunately, the edition I got is slightly edited, with some of the gore removed.  I've heard unconfirmed rumors that the uncut version also has more heaving breasts and even some substantial nudity, but I was just happy to finally see the film from beginning to end.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 11, 2010, 11:32:46 PM
I understand that. Would not want to watch a Hammer film without the heaving breasts.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on August 12, 2010, 09:22:20 AM
The Hammer is ...

Sorry. Fucking Whedon'd
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 12, 2010, 10:18:59 AM

We do the wierd stuff ... !
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 14, 2010, 08:19:16 PM
I grant that the show is extremely silly, but . . . women today need to dress more like Diana Rigg did on The Avengers.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 14, 2010, 10:40:08 PM
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 14, 2010, 11:54:05 PM
As usual, I assume that you're saying you agree with me.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on August 15, 2010, 07:04:47 AM
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: stormneedle on August 15, 2010, 10:57:36 AM
When it concerns complimenting Diana Rigg, I'm only right behind you because I had to stop to pick up my jaw.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 15, 2010, 12:02:35 PM
Diana Rigg, yes, is naturally stupendous.  I was speaking specifically of her wardrobe, though, which often showcase the best of 60s fashion, from 1950s lines to the later use of color and futurism, but restrained to the bounds of pragmatism.  And a lot of it looks like nothing I see anyone wearing today, alas. 

A lot of it is like when you happen to see a costume on a Star Trek show that makes you think people could actually wear that now without drawing laughs or critical comments.  It's novel without being too risky, and it generally manages to be imaginative but practical.  It looks great on her, of course, but I think it has broader applications. 

(And I don't just mean to wind up on the bedroom floor in my time machine, either, wiseguys.)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 15, 2010, 12:36:29 PM
I think for a while one of the 4m regulars grafted her head onto the body of Diana Rigg in an Avengers catsuit for her Frak profile. Ah I remember! It was Zchamu! Anyway, it worked great. GREAT. However, you'd probably have to have the body of Diana Rigg to make it work as well. Igor! Fetch the chloroform and the wag... *cough*


Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 15, 2010, 11:16:44 PM


Watched Natural City (, an oddly titled South Korean SF movie from 2003.  It's basically drawn from Blade Runner, with bits of Ghost in the Machine and Chobits (et al) thrown in and muddled around. 

It's the future, after some war, and there's a future city and a bigger future ghetto.  The story mostly takes place in the ghetto, partly, I think, because it's so much cheaper to film.  Two cops, formerly friends, one a hardline straight-nose type, and the other a nihilist who dabbles in corruption when he feels like it.  The nihilist takes home a cyborg exotic dancer who's approaching her expiration date.  (Androids -- I mean, cyborgs -- get 3 years in this world.)  Meanwhile, a mad scientist is up to something tricky that involves combat-grade cyborgs.

It's a lot more complicated than that, and a lot of it doesn't particularly seem to make a lot of sense.  It's mostly about style and theme -- future nifty vs future grubby, ethics vs pragmatism, human vs cyborg, immortality vs ephemerality, alienation vs human contact vs the (automatic?) love of a good appliance. 

Problem is, the themes aren't explored in any depth at all, and at least a third of the style consists of chopped up nothing much that's more in the style of a style than anything else, like beef tips floating in a bowl of A-1 Steak Sauce.  Too much of it just not what you'll be hoping for.  The action scenes are often particularly bad, with brief cool moments embedded in long lame sequences of fast-and-slow motion, lots of spinning, rapid jump cuts, questionable choreography, and stuff you certainly won't believe even cyborgs four times as fast as humans can do. 

The actors seem to really feel their characters, but it's an act of will; the script doesn't give the characters background or depth, just type.  Still, there are quite a few cool moments, cool props, cool sets, nice little touches.  Unfortunately, there's not really any payoff.  It'll just make you want to see Blade Runner again.

It's weird, but, now that I think of it, I can't quite think of a movie that's really done a good job exploring the many, many social ramifications of artificial 'people' (and maybe even artificial people) who can be programmed to be what people intend them to be.  There are various movies that explore it in moments while mostly doing something else, like Blade RunnerAI kept flirting with saying something important about it and even nudged up against it in its first chapter, and Westworld brushes by it.  But I can't think of any movie that's even quite done what Futurama joking did with its Space Pope PSA.

Years ago, I read a really chilling, really effective SF story about a woman who goes to visit her estranged father after she hears he's got Alzheimer's and is in managed care.  She drives to this little gated community that turns out to be full of houses built to maybe 1/3-scale.  The address for her father is a reduced version of the house they lived in when she's a kid.  Her father doesn't recognize her, and the woman is bemused and eventually unsettled to find out that his caregiver is a robot that looks like she did when she was 10.  The robot pretends to be her and helps her father through his day, and he doesn't realize it's not her.  When her father's asleep, the robot tells the woman to leave because she's just going to upset him.

Yeah, that could happen, and pretty soon, and it's the tip of the iceberg.  Angry robot revolutions and sexual obsession with robots aren't the only ways that they can screw us up.  But of course they can be helpful, too.

I don't know.  What films am I just not thinking of?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 15, 2010, 11:17:56 PM
I forgot:  I read online that Natural City had a budget under $7 million US.  Considering, if true, the effects are truly stupendously good.  For what it's worth.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 16, 2010, 07:25:25 PM
I just saw Cactus Flower (, which I thought was going to be a different Walter Matthau movie I last saw about thirty years ago, but I'm not sorry I saw this one. 

Matthau is dating Goldie Hawn (in her first starring film role) but doesn't want complications, so he's told her he's married, which he isn't.  When he decides he does want to marry her after all and promises to divorce this fictional wife, Hawn wants to meet the wife first.  Matthau convinces his starchy receptionist (Ingrid Bergman!) to pretend to be his wife, and it gets complicated. 

In 1969, Matthau dating a 20-years-younger Hawn was less automatically funny, but this movie (based on a US version of a French play) has surely always been funny.  The dialogue is great, and there's a lot of you-have-to-see-it 60s dancing to a sleepy instrumental version of Daydream Believer.

    Matthau:  I think I'm going to kiss you.

    Bergman:  When will you be sure?

Hawn played a similar role opposite Peter Sellers a couple of years later, and it didn't work nearly as well, but this one's great.  Very snappy.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 17, 2010, 11:18:32 AM
Late last night, unable to sleep, I watched Triangle (, which, uh, kept me awake just fine.  There isn't much you should know about this movie beforehand if you're going to see it.  The less you hear, the better the viewing experience will be.

It's basically the most messed-up Twilight Zone episode of all time.  There's some graphic violence, and it's not a terribly happy story.  It's certainly fair to call it a horror movie.  Melissa George is pretty awesome in the main role, and I really liked the supporting cast fine.  Pretty much the entire cast is from Down Under, but their American accents are excellent.  The film was written and directed by the same guy who did Severance, but it's a much better film, far more clever.

There's a lot of subtext and symbolism and weirdness, and a lot of people find it somewhat confusing; there are questions that aren't answered.  But if you can put up with Lost, you can certainly put up with this.  Definitely one of the better horror / 'mind frell' films I've seen in some time.  The core concept isn't original, but the execution is far, far above average, and there are at least a few scenes where you'll probably realize what's going to happen next but still be shocked and impressed when it does.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on August 17, 2010, 05:18:22 PM
...there are questions that aren't answered.  But if you can put up with Lost, you can certainly put up with this.

I think Lost might have been better if they never even did the last season. In hindsight, the questions were better left unanswered.

I went and watched the trailer ( for Triangle and then read the comments where everyone was basically saying "DON'T WATCH THE TRAILER! SPOILERS!"  :eyeroll: That's alright. By the time I get around to seeing it, I will have forgotten the trailer.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 17, 2010, 05:23:32 PM
I'd never even heard of it before (lucky!), but I did read a lot about it afterward, and apparently it was marketed as a Slasher On A Boat movie, which could not have helped it find its audience.

Besides, there's already at least one awesome Slasher On A Boat movie from Down Under:  Dead Calm.  Sam Neill, Billy Zane, and as a bonus a pre-famous uncolored-redhead freckles-evident Nicole Kidman (with a brief nude scene, even).
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on August 17, 2010, 05:27:28 PM
Yeah, I've seen Dead Calm  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on August 17, 2010, 07:36:44 PM
I think for a while one of the 4m regulars grafted her head onto the body of Diana Rigg in an Avengers catsuit for her Frak profile. Ah I remember! It was Zchamu! Anyway, it worked great. GREAT. However, you'd probably have to have the body of Diana Rigg to make it work as well. Igor! Fetch the chloroform and the wag... *cough*


Great now I have Tissue Sample as an earworm.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 18, 2010, 11:57:28 AM
Netflix is losing the rights to streaming for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which I haven't seen since maybe 1980.  But it's pretty awesome.

Ep 1 -- Vera Miles (:knotty:).  Story's fine, a little tame by modern standards, nicely directed by Hitchcock himself.  Best (and strangest) moment is when Miles strips down to a bathing suit to get a tan (:knotty:) and gets a long look up and down by a suddenly sweating nice older neighbor . . . played by Frances Bavier, Aunt Bee of Mayberry fame.  :eek:

Ep 2 -- John Forsythe should have played Bogart's younger brother in something during the 1950s.  Never noticed the resemblance before, but maybe he should've co-starred in Sabrina, no offense to William Holden.  And Cloris Leachman playing a gorgeous, demure young debutante!  Married to Rojan, no less.

I've got to say, too, that perhaps the most impressive thing about this new media age is how good all these old shows and films look.  I'm so used to only seeing them on staticky UHF or bad VHS transfers.  The irony is that the Hitchcock show looks better now, after all these years, on my computer monitor than it ever looked when it was brand new on a 1950s TV set.  And you can't really appreciate B&W without a really clear picture.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 18, 2010, 11:50:05 PM
The Brood (, which I'd only ever seen little pieces of.  It's pretty good.  I can imagine it was a lot more powerful in 1979.  Most of the horror elements aren't that horrible by modern standards.  What was actually the most unsettling is a scene where a teacher (maybe first or second grade?) is brutally beaten with hammers in the middle of her class.  The wide shots show that the little kids really are right there in the scene.  I'm sure they added the sound effects later and used editing to make it look more . . . vigorous . . . than it probably was, but I can't imagine how they filmed that without freaking the kids out.  Hopefully they didn't freak the kids out.

Cronenberg being Cronenberg, there's some fine gruesomeness, an inventive concept, and plenty of body issues.  I love the total calm and academic interest of the coroner in a short scene.  And, really, young directors nowadays should watch this film to see how cleanly Cronenberg constructs the simple, mundane scenes in the film.  No excess camera gunk.  No unnecessary cuts or close-ups.  He shows you what he wants to show you rather than trying to bludgeon you into submission.

Oliver Reed is great (ie, creepy as hell) as the psychiatrist.  He's just too good at playing a slightly overbearing guy with unexplained internal tension.  He can be friendly and controlled and sophisticated and still seem like he might fly off the handle without warning and be on you like a crazed dog at any moment. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on August 19, 2010, 04:51:18 AM
sorry, i haven't been around. been dealing with "in my face and unavoidable" crap. i'll catch up. this is one of the threads i really try to keep up with. you guys mean a lot to me. mom's quite sick.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 19, 2010, 09:43:12 AM
Brave heart, man.  You gotta deal with what you gotta deal with.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 19, 2010, 11:00:18 PM
The Ghost and Mrs Muir ( (1947), which is based on a Gothic romance novel that was very much the style at the time.  Gene Tierney is gorgeous, naturally, and what they used to call 'spirited' (no pun intended) but a bit directionless.  She moves (with her daughter and servant) to a small seaside cottage roughly the size of a large house, and of course it turns out to be haunted by the sea captain who originally owned it.

The sea captain is played by Rex Harrison, and his romantic rival (a wealthy London author) is played by George Sanders.  Harrison and Sanders are heavily salty hams in this one, and the film at times can't quite decide on its tone, but that hardly matters.  It's slow at times, at least by modern standards, and occasionally surprisingly racy, considering both when it was made and that it takes place before WWI.  Sometimes very funny, but actually not all that romantic for the most part.  It also has some weird plot holes, but you shouldn't be watching this for continuity.

It's fun to watch the cast chew up the script and scenery, but . . . seriously, this is basically a chick flick.

edit:  Also, seriously, Harrison stops saying "seaman" so much after the first half of the film.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: stormneedle on August 20, 2010, 12:00:48 AM
The TV show's main theme was part of "Polka and Fugue from Svanda the Bagpiper" by Jaromír Weinberger. I haven't seen the movie so I don't know if it's in there or not.

That pair of songs kept coming up right in the middle of the commute I shared with my mother-in-law for a while.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 20, 2010, 12:22:45 PM
That pair of songs kept coming up right in the middle of the commute I shared with my mother-in-law for a while.

Wait.  What?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 20, 2010, 07:18:00 PM
Last night, I finally saw most of Shampoo (, and I finished it during dinner tonight. 

Honestly, I don't think it's any kind of great movie, although of course I can't travel back to place it in its mid-70s milieu where the subtext about Nixon was so much more immediate and relevant, the sexual content was more daring, and the this sort of rooster-hidden-among-the-hens story was (so I'm told) much rarer.  But I have to say that this film seems, to me, to be much too much of a mess, and far too feeble when all's said and done.  And Beatty didn't impress me favorably.

Beatty (Warren, not Ned) plays a Beverly Hills hairdresser who sleeps with any woman who doesn't move out of his way quickly enough.  A local gangster thinks Beatty's gay and gives him unusual access to his wife and his lover, with predictable results.  Beatty sleeps with the guy's teenaged daughter as well, plus he has a sort of serious girlfriend (or so she thinks, anyway) on the side.  Two of these women are played by Goldie Hawn and, in her debut, Carrie Fisher (at 17), which is most of what kept me watching the film.

The story takes place right before and right after the 1968 election, and a big chunk of it happens at a rather peculiar Republican party, and then at a Hippie Party, capital letters firmly in place.  The movie's allegedly a comedy, but it's not funny; it really plays as a tragedy with moments of absurdity. 

The clothing fashions are worth looking at, but for a movie about a hairdresser and his clients . . . seriously, worst hair ever.  Beatty, in particular -- and I know it's meant to be 1968, but still -- he generally looks like Frankenstein in a bad padded rectangular wig just after a night spent under a pine tree.  Distractingly ridiculous.  Hawn, with her Twiggy low-drama hairstyle, and Fisher, with her "I've never been to a hair salon" no-drama hair, have the only good hair in the whole movie, although there's briefly one epic afro that must be respected.

Beatty's character is too unsympathetic.  Not because he's a rake, but because he's a dopey jackass without principles or judgment who doesn't enjoy what he does, has no larger view of anything in life, and is too utterly self-centered to even realize he's self-centered or that he might have any kind of negative effect on other people.  You feel bad for him when he's at the bank, trying to get a loan, but can't understand anything the banker says -- the banker is a bit of a wheeler-dealer asshole, too -- but mostly you just wish he'd go away and leave everyone else alone. 

The film's drama is supposed to revolve around whether or not he'll wind up with the simple but good Hawn character (you wouldn't wish that on her), or with the venal and fragile and shallow Julie Christie character (which could only lead to murder-suicide, one way or the other), or if the gangster will have him killed (I was kind of hoping, but not vehemently). 

I've got to be honest . . . I saw Heaven Can Wait a zillion years ago and liked it, but I barely remember it now.  Otherwise, I kind of liked Beatty in movies where he more or less parodies himself -- I thought he was OK in parts of Ishtar and Dick Tracy.  I don't even remember him in Bonnie and Clyde.  Haven't seen $ or McCabe & Mrs Miller.  Otherwise, I've thought he was wooden and always looked a little confused, like he thought it was just going to be rehearsal and hadn't a hundred-percent learned the script yet.  Kind of an older Keanu Reeves.

Is there any Warren Beatty movie out there that any of you people think is dynamite?  Because I'm starting to think that he frankly was never a very good actor.

I also only learned today that he's Shirley MacLaine's brother.  That seems . . . odd to me.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 21, 2010, 09:53:34 PM
Speaking of Alfred Hitchcock mystery anthologies . . . one thing the show is repeatedly reminding me of, and which I'd forgotten because it's been so long since I read the books, is that many of the urban legends of the 80s and 90s were crime stories from the 30s through the 50s.

I bet Snopes has seen this whole series.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 23, 2010, 02:19:52 PM
Saw the Wallace and Gromit Loaf and Death, which I noticed by luck was available for Instant Play.  Netflix . . . not so good at the notification thing.  I also hunted around and found a few other things I wanted to see that, as it turns out, are now available.  :eyeroll:  Well, I'm more happy that they're available than I am annoyed that I 'saved' them to no avail.

Loaf and Death was fun but hardly the greatest installment in the series.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on August 23, 2010, 02:25:01 PM
You should really try Shaun the Sheep,  we like it way better than Wallace and Gromit
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 23, 2010, 03:07:20 PM
Some of the Sheep bits are available Instant Play, and some aren't.  The ones that are are already in my queue.  I just haven't gotten to them yet.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 23, 2010, 04:50:26 PM
A Town Called Panic (


Etc.  Wow.

Hadn't heard of it or the TV show that preceded it, which was apparently dubbed by Aardman (speaking, coincidentally, of Wallace & Gromit & Shaun) and shown on Nickolodeon at some point.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on August 23, 2010, 05:43:00 PM

Thank you. I needed that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 23, 2010, 07:16:06 PM
I, uh, eating supperish, watching the 5th episode of the 1967 season of The Avengers.  You know, some of the action sequences on this show are surprisingly good, and many are embarrassingly casual, more of a suggestion than a depiction of any sort of violence.  Kind of a You Get The Idea and That Sort Of Thing sort of thing.

This episode has Mrs Peel in a wet jumpsuit strangling a man with her legs, which is worth seeing, and then she has an absurd choking / slapping fight in a too-small coach with a man who keeps grabbing her chest.  Not that I blame him.

At the end, she changes into easily the most bizarre outfit I've seen her wear in this season so far, and the only one I can't really recommend as current fashion.  It's basically a blue version of some SF costume I know I've seen before, a short-legged jumpsuit with the legs connected by straps to high leather boots.  :trance: 

That outfit also includes, as the piece de ridicule, a separate oversized white tube collar, with a vent over the mouth and nose and a clear visor that extends upward to the brow.  :huh:  Yeah, not so much.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 23, 2010, 07:33:33 PM
You just don't appreciate that flavor of Awesome. Who cares about the outfit, it contained Diana Rigg! I mean she could wear nothing at all and it would still be great!

Er. Of course. :innocent:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 23, 2010, 08:15:43 PM
Hey, it's possible to care about both things!

It's not just fashion sense that makes me notice when her pantyline is visible.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 24, 2010, 11:19:09 AM
Last night I watched Night Moves (, from 1975, a detective movie directed by Arthur Penn and with Gene Hackman as the detective.  Netflix recommended it, and I vaguely remembered having heard of it, and I carefully didn't read the blurb, etc.

It's one of those 70s post-noir things, where the film's about the characters much more than the story and where the point is that the detective can't understand what he's seeing because life is like that.  Unfortunately, this focus is so pronounced that there's very little meat to the detective angle -- you don't really get any intrigue developing until over an hour has gone by.  The characters are all odd, although most of them actually have verbal quirks rather than depth, but if it weren't for the nudity and strange conversations you'd be likely to lose interest and possibly fall asleep halfway through.

This is the 70s, though, when film nudity was still used for effect instead of merely as an affect.  The largest percentage of nudity is courtesy of Melanie Griffith, playing a rudderless teenager.  I did not expect that.  She was actually 16 when the film was made, too, and she looks it.  James Woods is also in the film, also looking uncharacteristically young, although fortunately not naked.  (No offense, James.)

Hackman's good, and Jennifer Warren is especially good as a very strange woman, but much of the film is awfully awkward.  Some of it's supposed to be, as part of the, what, existential malaise or something, and I'm pretty sure a lot of it is just awkwardness.  Hackman went on to play so many more roles similar to this, where he's an intelligent potential badass who's not really sure what he should do, that the role's undoubtedly lost a lot of its punch by now.

The whole thing comes across like Dashiell Hammett's kid had an affair with a young V. C. Andrews.  For my tastes, it needs more activity.  Some great moments, but it's not supposed to signify anything in the end, and maybe it overachieves.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 24, 2010, 10:42:00 PM
Moon (

Man, I didn't really like it.  The trailer is way better than the movie.  The mysterious whatnot hinted at in the trailer is not a total cop-out, fortunately, but frankly this is a 1950s SF story (with a dash of 1961 Solaris) executed with all fiction and no science, and honestly most of the Star Trek series could have handled the theme better.  Plus, way too much of it is dull, there's very little characterization (and, I mean, Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey . . . these guys can put character into a character), and the implausibility factor kept strangling it.

Implausible story aside . . . the moon has Earthlike gravity, you can see the Earth (the HUGE Earth) from the dark side of the moon, and a million other things.  And that's just without giving spoilers.

They were trying, I'll grant, but it's no Silent Running.

Oh, and the promo stuff for it included alleged reactions from an alleged early audience of NASA scientists who were allegedly awfully unfamiliar with some extremely common concepts of lunar bases, such as turning regolith into concrete.  Really?  I find that hard to believe.  That sounds just plain made up.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 24, 2010, 10:45:43 PM
I love the word "regolith" - it's cool.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 26, 2010, 11:12:50 AM
Regolith is awesome -- as a word, as a concept, as a fact, as a potential resource for people on the moon.  It's all good.

Last night I watched The Big Bad Swim (, a film I'd seen a few parts of before.  It's quite strongly indie by nature:  ensemble cast of excellent lesser-known actors, writer and director you never heard of, slice-of-life plot without a whole lot of resolution, and an ending that's very upbeat but that only flirts with wrapping anything up.  Characters make progress but don't 'win' by the end, you know?  Which is OK.

The cast, pretty much led by the always awesome and tragically underused Paget Brewster, is pretty excellent.  There are a handful of characters you'll want to choke the shit out of and a bunch to root for.  The story revolves around an adult swim class, but not like Adult Swim, although Paget Brewster, at least, has been on Adult Swim, if that makes sense.  (She was the voice of Birdgirl on Harvey Birdman and has done voices for Family Guy, etc.)

It's more feel-good than feel-bad, the characters never quite drift wholly into stereotypes, and the whole thing is pretty sharp.  However, it's not riotously funny or choked with quotable lines or nudity, so you really only like it if you like the cast.  I do, so I did.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 26, 2010, 11:30:10 AM
I don't object to films that are choked with quotable lines or nudity. I like nudity. ANYWAY.

I'm intrigued by Paget Brewster. I wonder how she got her first name. I know a few Pagets but they are all from Bermuda (Paget Parish is one of the more populous central parishes in the archipelago, and it's where the hospital is so on my son's totally unacceptable to the right wing consular record of birth his birthplace is given as Paget Parish, Bermuda, so he'll never be president of the united states :eyeroll: ). They say she's from Connecticut, but maybe there are some roots ... ?

We saw Fantastic Mr Fox this week. It was, amazingly enough, a Wes Anderson film, with standard Wes Anderson characters played by the voices of the standard Wes Anderson actors. To be perfectly honest I was not expecting that, although I should have been. So whether or not you like this film will depend strongly on how you feel in general about Wes Anderson films. Only this one is stop-motion animated (and very well). After a slow start (caused no doubt by my expectation that this would not be a Wes Anderson film) I liked it. Dumbledore was awesome as the chain-smoking violent farmer.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 26, 2010, 12:01:38 PM
Yeah, I'm not against those things.  Big Bad Swim just doesn't happen to be that kind of movie.  You can see her be quotable (and often very sexy) in Andy Richter Controls The Universe, if you can find it.  She was also in some brief sitcom medical thing with Hank Azaria.

Fantastic Mr Fox is a very Wes Anderson film.  It does take some time to reach critical mass, but then there's a whole lot of excellent radiation.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 26, 2010, 09:12:10 PM
Finished watching Titan Maximum (, which is kind of like if the Robot Chicken guys had done Team America, except as a parody of Voltron instead of a parody of Thunderbirds, and without getting sidetracked for the 346th time by their jealous hatred of celebrities.

It's funnier in concept than in execution.  It's consistently watchable, but nowhere near the brilliance of Robot Chicken.  Way too many jokes are built solely on bad language or sex, and while some of them are good, a bunch are just so-so, and it's like 75% of the show.  Also, the action sequences are disappointing compared to the same kinds of jokes on Chicken, although the animation looks much more expensive.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 26, 2010, 09:57:24 PM
I was looking for something to have on in the background while I was doing other things, and Netflix was pushing Ice Castles for some reason, and I figured what the hell.  OH MY GOD SO BORING EVEN WHEN I'M NOT PAYING MUCH ATTENTION TO IT.

So I stopped it.  But I looked at the Netflix reviews to try to get an idea why Netflix thought I would like it.

WOW.  I am impressed at how many people complain and complain about all the blasphemy.  I suppose that if you're that sort of religious, there aren't many movies you can approve of, so if you see one that has unnecessary blasphemy in it but is otherwise OK to you, you get kind of frustrated.  Still.  It may be funny to other people.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 28, 2010, 04:00:33 PM
Last night I tried two low-budget indie horror films.

Unearthed ( (2007) got generally good reviews and was part of the After Dark Horrorfest.  However, it was deeply bad.  Lame story, full of Is That Meant To Be Cute schtick (archeological dig, so put the camera in a hole, facing up, with glass over it and a little dirt on top, while the archeologists dust the dirt off . . . no, just stop), bad direction, mediocre acting at best, and worst of all shot on video with MANY EXTREME CLOSEUP shots.

You know how on the original Star Trek they'd sometimes go full-on melodrama and show Kirk in a close-up, in shadow, with just a bar of light across his eyes?  It's an affectation.  Now imagine shooting an entire movie that way.  Yeah.  Don't do that.  Sergio Leone liked lens flare, but he was way too smart to use it in every damned scene.

So I shut that one off after maybe ten minutes.

The other one was Raising Hell ( (2003), which was no masterpiece, but I found it watchable while also getting a little work done.  The plot's nothing special, and everything about it is amateurish, but for me the amateurishness mostly ranged from 'charming' to 'cheesily amusing'.  One of the leads is an attractive professional singer named Mirinda James who apparently isn't doing any more acting, although she's not terrible at it.  The effects were better than expected.  And it wasn't filmed entirely in goddamned close-up.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 28, 2010, 04:08:00 PM
Also, over the last two nights, watched Magnum Force ( out of curiosity.  And curious it is -- it's kind of a thematic reversal of the first Dirty Harry movie.  And it's often pretty dumb and/or random, but it has a great cast and spawned a few 70s TV shows.  (It contributed directly to Starsky & Hutch, SWAT, and Vega$, at the very least.)  And it has some notable gritty qualities.

A good showcase of how the 70s could be ugly without also being very interesting.  But it goes on too long and is too unfocused, doesn't really build.  Eh.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 28, 2010, 10:23:55 PM
2012 (  Disaster movie, meet movie disaster.

Less than five minutes in:

It looks like the neutrinos from the sun have mutated into a new kind of nuclear particle.  They're heating up the Earth's core and suddenly act like microwaves.

Congratulations.  There it is -- the dumbest thing I've heard in a movie during 2010.  But the movie gets better, which is to say worse.  It's actually dumber than Deep Impact, which it repeatedly rips off (along with The Simpsons, of all things), with none of the attempt at human drama.  And what a wasted cast.  The stars of this movie should have always had cash just spilling out of their costumes in every scene to remind me that I should neither feel bad for them nor hate them for agreeing to be in this craplog. 

Still, I don't understand why John Cusack, in particular, does so many crappy movies these days.  He could be doing as well as Robert Downey Jr, but he seems determined to do sucky films.  I should disclose, again, that I hated High Fidelity, though, so if you put that in the Good pile, you may cut him more slack for these crap money-projects.  But don't forget he was in Con Air, too.

It's hard to say if it's as breathtakingly stupid as The Day After Tomorrow, but the As You Know Bob exposition is even clumsier, like something written by a high school sophomore.  This is deeply lame even for Emmerich, witless and surprisingly dull.  Dull!  He doesn't use up a lot of his runtime before starting the destruction, but the majority of the film's still as boring as reading about watching paint fail to dry.  And a lot of the effects sure look crappy and half-assed, as evinced by the actors not being sure where they're supposed to be looking when CGI happens.

A few parts work OK as parodies of disaster movies, but it's nothing worth sitting through the rest of it for.  And some of the spectacle is OK, so if the movie had just abandoned its exposition, setup, most of the lame-ass characters and 'plot', and been shortened to about forty-five minutes, it might've been OK.  Flying in the chasm as it opened up was kind of cute, but that was early, and pretty much everything else was downhill.

At the end of the movie, the world miraculously and suddenly becomes a tranquil, pleasant place again, against all sense and reasoning.  Similarly, at the end of the movie, the movie ended, and the world became a more pleasant place, although that doesn't explain my morbid curiosity.  The whole film is like someone saw When Worlds Collide and thought, Gee, with enough money, I could really do a crappier version of that!

Just imagine if that budget had been used on, say, Footfall, or something else that didn't completely suck.

This movie was so bad, I can't even recommend this review of it.  Use the Search and find cookieface's admirable short review instead.  If you already read this far, you've no one to blame but yourself, which is how I feel about having seen this movie.  (Question is, will I be compulsive enough to see 10,000 BC?  Not soon.)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 28, 2010, 10:57:10 PM
Wait, what? Footfall did in fact completely suck. ;)

I liked Lucifer's Hammer from the point of view that all the standard issue disaster stuff got taken care of in the first half of the book, and the rest was an exploration of what could happen in the aftermath. Of course, the aftermath part completely sucked, too but still. They gave it a whirl. Can't top Earth Abides for aftermath.

Honestly, Niven and Pournelle, as a partnership, should have packed it in after Mote. That kicked ass. The rest? Gah.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 28, 2010, 11:03:37 PM
I thought Mote was gripping (no pun intended) but really mixed.  The good parts are awesome, though.  I liked Footfall, but I admit I haven't read it in forever.  I didn't get that far into Lucifer's Hammer

I usually don't like Disaster Novels With A Cast Of So Many That We Need A Dramatis Personae At The Front.  Like, I get it, you're going to spend forever building up three dozen characters so you can meaningfully kill most of them off during the course of the book.  But I won't care about most of them.  I read the disaster novel for the disaster, so disastrate already.

Alien invasions are tough to do.  We have one of those books at the shop that has War of the Worlds as if it had been written by a dozen different authors, and I often think maybe it's clever . . . but maybe it's lame.  I have so many other books to read, anyway.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 29, 2010, 08:44:20 AM
Netflix recommended 9 Songs (, a 2004 explicitly explicit film by Michael Winterbottom, a 'serious director' who also did, um, Welcome to Sarajevo and the recent Killer Inside Me, which makes me less enthusiastic about that last film.

9 Songs is one of those movies that's apparently meant to be groundbreaking because it's pretentious cinema verite about -- get ready -- sex.  Unfortunately, that's been done before, a few times, and doubtlessly done better.  This movie shows a young couple, mostly through their sex life and through clips of concerts they go to.

The sex life is nothing very impressive.  Sometimes it seems natural enough, but not terribly interesting to watch, and sometimes it's staged and fake, and not terribly interesting to watch.  The actors aren't hideous, or anything, but they're not shot very flatteringly, either, and their sex life is not made poignant or heartfelt, nor is it inventive or, you know, very sexy.  Maybe if you were there, but the film didn't make me wish I was.  They don't say or do anything unusual.  Maybe that's the point of the film, but it's not a very interesting point.

The concert footage is just average concert footage, and frankly it seems shoehorned in from an unrelated project.  Some of the bands are ones I'd heard of -- Franz Ferdinand and the Dandy Warhols are in there somewhere -- but I didn't bother watching long enough to see them.  YouTube videos will save you a lot of time if you just want to see random footage of bands playing shows.

So, no, didn't do anything for me, and I turned it off out of boredom at 4 AM when I was too bored to sleep.  A lot of reviewers gush endlessly about how beautiful and artistic it is, which is nice for them.  The internet tells me the lead actress wanted her name taken off the film.  I'm with her.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on August 30, 2010, 09:20:00 PM
I finally saw Cashback.  I really enjoyed it.  I found myself trying to stop time during a meeting today.  I guess I need to be more insomniac for it to work.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 30, 2010, 09:24:58 PM
:lol:  Speaking of insomnia, I barely even remember that movie right now.  The sleep dep often kills my memory transfer.  

I wrote a huge proposal-for-work thing the other morning, right after I woke up, and emailed it to myself -- but to the wrong one of my accounts by accident.  I'd utterly forgotten about it by the time I got to work.  Then I got home, checked my other email accounts, and was like WTF is this thing I sent myself?  I had almost no memory of even writing it.

Fortunately, of all the things that run in my family, senility, per se, isn't one of them.  Although I just read the other day that family history doesn't seem to be relevant for that one.  Figures.

/going to look up my review of Cashback

edit:  OK, I read it.  :lol:  Now I remember a lot more about the movie.  But that was less than four months ago!  Damn.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 31, 2010, 08:58:27 AM
Must have been some meeting. I usually try to accelerate time.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on August 31, 2010, 01:13:19 PM
By freezing time I would have at least been able to entertain myself for hours on end.  See the movie and you'll see.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 31, 2010, 02:48:48 PM
Yeah, at the very least you can get up and go do something else.  Take a two-hour meeting in ten-minute bites over two days . . . just for starters.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on August 31, 2010, 03:20:10 PM
Laundry day, see you there
Underthings, tumbling
Want to say, "love your hair"
Here I go, mumbling.
With my freeze ray I will STOP ... the world
With my freeze ray I will find the time to find the words to ...
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on August 31, 2010, 03:33:09 PM
I don't know what movie you are talking about but if I could freeze a meeting I would do things like change people's clothes around, put things in inappropriate places, etc. but that's just me.  :D
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on August 31, 2010, 04:13:43 PM
Yeah, you should see the movie, unless nekkid women offend you, or something.

The IMDb page is here:  Cashback (

But you might be better off trusting us and not knowing too much about it first.  IMDb may give too much away.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on August 31, 2010, 05:08:54 PM
I haven't watched a totally grown up movie in 5 years
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on August 31, 2010, 05:29:59 PM
Instant netflix through the tivo.  Usually only when I get insomnia and then go out to the couch.  The rest of the time it's Backyardigans, Dinosaur Train, Curious George, Thomas, et al.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 01, 2010, 06:52:26 PM

We saw Fantastic Mr Fox this week. It was, amazingly enough, a Wes Anderson film, with standard Wes Anderson characters played by the voices of the standard Wes Anderson actors. To be perfectly honest I was not expecting that, although I should have been. So whether or not you like this film will depend strongly on how you feel in general about Wes Anderson films. Only this one is stop-motion animated (and very well). After a slow start (caused no doubt by my expectation that this would not be a Wes Anderson film) I liked it. Dumbledore was awesome as the chain-smoking violent farmer.

the animation style reminds me of time lapse footage of rotting animal corpses being consumed by maggots. i can't stop thinking about that long enough to enjoy the movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 01, 2010, 07:27:09 PM
I can see how you could have that reaction.  It took me awhile to get used to, but it didn't bother me quite that much to begin with, either.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 01, 2010, 07:50:45 PM

Now that you mention it... yeah! Now I can't get that out of my mind.

Well, good thing I already sent it back to Netflix!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 02, 2010, 12:00:46 AM
Night Passage (, actually the second Jesse Stone TV movie but chronologically the first.

Heh heh.  Gloomy.  Srsly.  Great cast, nicely done.  Not exactly a close adaptation of the book, but the tone is right, and it's good on its own.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 02, 2010, 11:55:46 AM
Easy (, a vaguely rom-com from 2003.  Slow, meandering character-driven slice-of-life stuff about love and sex and yadda yadda.  This is one of those movies where there are like 12 characters who seem to be the only people on the planet, and if two of them split up, they don't seem to have any choice but to hook up with someone else in the same circle of acquaintances.  The soap opera stuff is a trifle unlikely, as a result, and implausibly tidy.  The direction is mostly fine.  The characterization is nothing astonishing, but it's generally realistic, and the dialogue is mostly natural.

Still, if you're not bored, it's because you like the cast.  Marguerite Moreau plays a promiscuous and confused young woman who's not happy with her love life but is pretty clueless as to why.  Emily "Bones" Deschanel plays her older sister.  Naveen "Sayid" Andrews plays a romantic interest, as does Brian O'Byrne.  D. B. Woodside plays a friend and John Rothman plays her dad.  It's all very indie, in a good way except that the film could use a little more plot structure.

Moreau's character needed more character written into the script, but she acts just fine and certainly looks fine, including in the many scenes where she takes her clothes off.  If you watched Lost hoping to see Sayid's ass, you get a glimpse here.  Film's not perfect, but there's nothing so wrong with it -- the story just isn't very believable and doesn't have a whole lot to it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 03, 2010, 12:09:48 AM
Justice League: The New Frontier (, from 2008.  WTF!  How is it that no one I know in real life has ever mentioned these movies?  Or, as far as I can tell, seen them?  I can't decide if this one's as good as Crisis on Two Earths, and my guess is that it's not quite as good.  It would be nice if it had been a little longer, although it seemed -- in a good way -- longer than it was.

OK, this is basically a Justice League version of Watchmen's sociopolitical issues except set in the late 1950s, introducing a lot of the characters as they're just getting established, as they have to overcome McCarthyism and mutual distrust so they can band together to fight more-or-less Shub-Niggurath.  And this ain't Comics Code Approved.  There's cursing, there's graphic violence, there's death, there's crap like you probably haven't seen.  It doesn't wallow in it, but it goes there.

And, like Crisis on Two Earths, it has an awesome cast.  I mean, seriously, if this were somehow live-action, would you not go see this cast?  They're voice-acting, but they could play the actual roles, even if the fit is a bit weird or a few of them might be slightly long in the tooth.  It would at least be worth seeing. 

- Kyle MacLachlan as Superman. 
- Lucy Lawless as a gritty Wonder Woman. 
- Jeremy Sisto as old-school Batman. 
- David Boreanaz as Green Lantern. 
- Neil Patrick Harris as the Flash. 
- Miguel Ferrer as the Martian Manhunter. 
- Kyra Sedgwick as Lois Lane.
- Brooke Shields as Carol Ferris (Green Lantern's billionaire aircraft-mogul girlfriend.)
- JFK as JFK.  OK, archival footage, but it fits.

Hell, the Avengers movie won't have a cast that compelling.  They even had a guy named Lex Lang as Rick Flagg.

Anyway, pretty magnificent, and for my money smarter and cooler and more fun than any of the live-action DC movies so far.  The fact that it's animated and not closely leashed by a big studio lets them do all kinds of good things you probably wouldn't get otherwise.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 03, 2010, 02:17:26 AM
okay, i don't write movie reviews as well as you, but i just watched, raising hell.

how does crap like this get made? i don't have a job and i'm looking every day and this shit is produced? it's like 12 hours of the worst episode of tales from the dark side.

seriously, do the people and actors involved in this look at it and even feel that they can tell their friends and others that they were in any way a part of this pile of excrement?

dood . . .

oh, and i guess there was a sequel. un-fucking-believable.

yeah, yeah, i know, "why did you watch it?" well, honestly, i heard it was creepy and good. i was working and guess not paying a lot of attention and just kept waiting for the good stuff. not even a money shot of the monster.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 03, 2010, 10:48:02 AM

Don't watch Unearthed, then.

I'm not sure why horror attracts so many This Looks Like It'll Be Easy directors.  Maybe because the Raimis and Evil Dead are so famous?  Or because they think it'll give them an excuse to have a lot of scenes where it's too dark to see what's really going on?  I guess horror is also like porn in that a certain amount of mechanical production will at least produce the product -- show this, have that, use a lot of fluids, badda bing.

It's real easy to make a bad horror film.  But even so.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 04, 2010, 09:14:57 PM
Something like a dozen movies on my Netflix list became available for Instant Play.  Alas, Netflix apparently doesn't notify you when that happens.  I just happened to look at the bottom of my Instant queue and see that they'd appeared.  I suppose there's no harm done . . . so long as they don't pass out of availability again before I notice them.

Anyway, I rewatched Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which I've always thought was a strange title.  I guess if they'd called it Star Trek: No, It's A Movie This Time, that wouldn't have gone over well.  And I never thought ST: Phase II was the best title for the proposed second TV series, but it wouldn't have made a worse film title. 

I also would have accepted:

Star Trek:  Holy Crap, It's V-Ger
Star Trek:  This Time, It's Impersonal
Star Trek:  The Next One Will Be Even Better
Star Trek:  You've Waited Long Enough
Star Trek:  To Baldly Go

Because, seriously, as a nation we were jonesing for Star Trek.  I won't pretend it's a prefect movie.  A whole bunch of it is seriously self-indulgent, but, again, it was intended as a fangasm.  There are a whole bunch of bits where the direction stalls out -- the tone gets confused, the acting gets wooden, the pacing falls apart, and it's just awkward.  There are several jumpsuit moments where better underwear was definitely called for.  And it would've been nice to have a story that involved the major cast a little more.

And, of course, it's a recapitulation and expansion of The Changeling, the original episode with Nomad, which wouldn't be a big deal if only Kirk had at some point turned to Spock and/or McCoy and said, hey, doesn't this kind of remind you of that time this happened before?  Then they re-re-used the idea for the funnier, faster-paced, better-loved Star Trek IV, which got away with it by smothering it with cheese, like it wasn't so much a storyline as a bad pizza sauce.  But I digress, and it's not like Trek didn't get away with foolish stretches before.  Or afterward.

Still.  The cast almost looks young, seen now.  The script isn't bad.  And the effects are freakishly good.  OK, a few moments are awkward and dated, or the matting edge is visible, but for the most part if you put this up against a much later big-production SF film with a constant-dollar similar budget . . . Stargate, let's say . . . it still looks awesome and original.  I guess it's time again to thank Hollywood for driving Douglas Trumbull away.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 04, 2010, 09:29:27 PM
Netflix also sent me Dragon Tiger Gate (, a HK kung fu film from 2006.  The DVD was so badly scratched and scuffed that I couldn't get it to play until I had a chance, this evening, to try it on my brother's super-duper-expensive DVD player.

Meh.  Shouldn't have bothered.  Donnie Yen and Yuen Wah, gotta be worth a try.  I didn't watch enough of it to see either of them.  In less than ten minutes I could see that no way was I going to like it.  The lead, Nicholas Tse, wasn't cool, and he might be able to do kung fu . . . but you can't tell from this one.  This film is of the CGI-altered wirework bullshit genre.  I cannot BELIEVE how many reviews I saw that said the fights looked realistic.  Compared to Dragonball, maybe.  This isn't a wu xia or superhero movie, but people can change direction in mid-air just by trying, etc, etc. 

And it's edited all choppy, and they kick people not only right off the ground but through the ceiling, and . . . you know what?  It doesn't even look good for what it is, so just stop right there.  It's a kung fu movie where the kung fu is stupid and fake and looks like crap.  Never mind.

It kills me, too, because I know damn well that Donnie Yen and Yuen Wah, getting older or not, can do amazing kung fu with no wires, no CGI, with the camera just sitting by itself on a tripod.  What a waste.  It might be a little harder to film, but it looks a hundred times as good.  I'd rather rewatch a good older film every time than watch this junk.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 05, 2010, 02:54:44 PM
Timerider (, from 1982, a time-travel Western that I mostly watched (A) because it was made by Michael Nesmith and his compatriot Bill Dear, and (B) because of the cast.  Man, that's a good cast for a very B movie -- Fred Ward, Belinda Bauer, Peter Coyote, and an excellent backup cast.  It does have one of the weaker subtitles in film history, The Adventure of Lyle Swann.

Truth be told, this movie's mostly best for kids in the 10-15 age range, I'd guess, although it has a couple of racy moments which probably aren't racy by current standards.  The direction is very made-for-TV, not cinematic, and the cast acts like they got the script the night before.  Also, much of the plot depends on two things that aren't entirely easy to believe.  First, it takes Fred Ward an awfully long time to realize he's traveled back in time.  It's plausible enough at first that he thinks he's just among backwoods yokels and nuts, but still.  Second, the locals are too impressed by his motorcycle -- and at times a little too confused by it.  I think a lot of them would at least know what a bicycle is.

Still, this isn't really important to the movie, which is fine in a Saturday afternoon Tremors sort of way.  And Belinda Bauer, how did she not get more big parts?  (I would certainly have given her one, wink wink nudge nudge.)  Actually, in RoboCop 2 (where she played the scheming psychologist / cyberneticist / whatever), she struck me as resembling MFM except much too tall.  In Timerider, there are a few scenes where she looks eerily like MFM, except too tall.  Seriously, it was extraordinarily distracting and a little depressing, although of course not many people will have this issue.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 05, 2010, 10:42:58 PM
I forgot that Belinda Bauer was also in the great underknown film The American Success Company, where she was the gorgeous evanescent and slightly dim but demanding wife of Jeff Bridges, a downbeaten man who tries to turn his life around by kidnapping and impersonating himself with the help of a prostitute played by Bianca Jagger.

But anyway.

Saw Girly (, aka Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly, a 1970 British horror / exploitation film that nowadays wouldn't pass for either and could almost be aired uncut on USA any afternoon.  The basic story is one of a demented family (whose members may not actually be related) living in a big rundown estate outside of London.  The kids (who are probably around 20) go into town occasionally to bring new people back to the estate, one way or another, and the family plays games with them until the guests are dead.  But a new guest arrives who is keen to stay alive but not so keen to escape, which upsets things a bit.

The Girly of the title is played by fine the under-used actress Vanessa Howard, who is fairly eye-popping as a psychotic Lolita here in schoolgirl outfits three sizes too small.  The violence is almost entirely off screen, often described or shown symbolically.  It works fine.  It's more of a charming dark comedy than a horror film, but there's a bit of suspense, especially as to how crazy and what kind of crazy the various characters are.  If it were remade today, it would probably be even broader and wind up too much like House of 1000 Corpses.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 06, 2010, 10:34:07 PM
Looooong night, and I forgot one from a little while ago.

Horsemen (, a horror film from last year.  And what a horror it is, oy.  Dennis Quaid plays a police detective who could have quickly and easily solved a string of gruesome Bible-inspired murders if only he'd ever seen three bad 'gritty' horror movies.  Lame.  Seriously, there are exactly two twists of any significance at all in this movie, and you should be able to guess both of them within about sixty seconds of meeting the relevant characters.

Even better, the film's directed in the most pretentious tiresome artiste style -- all while still recycling one sad cliche after another without a hint of irony.  I mean, are there crime scenes?  Of course, so we must have jump-cut shots timed to the flash of crime-scene cameras.  A moment of trauma?  Have the perspective character walk down a hallway in slow motion, ignoring what's going on around him, with the sound drowned out by a high-pitched tinnitus whine.  And so on.

Plus, it's violently dumb, implausible, and poorly constructed, meandering about in confusion and filmed with an impatient camera that seems to need to go to the bathroom.  Oh, and is there an overpowering abuse of the close-up?  Of course there is.  And its main gore gimmick, which is just not that great, appears to have been ripped off from Embodiment of Evil a year or two earlier.

Ziyi Zhang plays an 18-year-old who was adopted by Peter Stomare at age 8 but still has a strong Chinese accent, which is about logic par for the course.  And how is it Quaid can't get better films than this?  I mean COME ON.  He is trying so damned hard in this movie, and he doesn't suck, but here he is again.  IMDb says he's playing the John Lithgow role in the musical remake of Footloose coming out next year, and I gotta say I'm not going to hold my breath on that one.  But that one's gotta be better than this one.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 06, 2010, 10:35:08 PM
I also started watching the recent remake of The Stepfather (  The original is a cult classic, so I guess I can see why they remade it, but you can't really replace Terry O'Quinn or Jill Schoellen.  Dylan Walsh and Sela Ward don't stink, but they replace Schoellen and the nicely creepy electra issues with oedipal issues revolving around some Dawson's Cricket (Penn Badgley?) who doesn't seem to be all that much. 

The script really has very little too it, though, and it really doesn't give you the feeling that any exciting twists and turns lie ahead.  I was bored senseless and gave up after about half an hour that felt like at least an hour.  Good cast, no tension.  Director has mostly done TV work, and the film has the look and feel of a TV movie -- but at least the camera is nice and steady, important details are in the frame, and there are very few extreme close-ups.  I'll take unexciting but effective camerawork over trendy crap anyday.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 06, 2010, 10:35:28 PM
Annnd fortunately I took a whirl on one I'd never heard of, The Goods (, from last year.  Basically, it's PCU crossed with Anchorman and Used Cars.  Jeremy Piven is the exaggerated fast-talking head of a specialist-for-hire sales team that's contracted to save a struggling car dealership.  It's just rapid nonsense, frequently absurd and crass and random, and I don't always like this kind of thing, but the tone here works for me.  I laughed regularly.

Ferrell's touch is evident, and the cast just seems to be enjoying it.  Kathryn Hahn looks so familiar, but looking down her IMDb resume, I think the only things I've seen her in are maybe three episodes of Crossing Jordan and Anchorman, although I don't remember her part in Anchorman.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 07, 2010, 10:02:00 AM
Alien Trespass (, a 2009 homage to 50s SF films.  Will from Will & Grace plays a Leading Scientist and an alien who copies his form.  Robert Patrick plays a cop.  To be honest, I was pretty bored.  The production values are good, and the saturated-color sets look nice, but it's kind of a dull wandering 50s SF film except the picture's crystal clear.

I guess I watched about half before I actually dozed off.  As a tribute, the tone's not quite right, and there are a few tiny jokes here and there, but this is not a parody like Monarch of the Moon.  Eh.  A nice effort, harmless result, but eh.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Tripper on September 07, 2010, 12:59:18 PM

I have this on VHS and cassette somewhere.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 07, 2010, 01:23:03 PM
Yeah, I would pick up the DVD if I saw it cheap somewhere.

Battle For Terra (, a strange little CGI SF film from 2007.  A lot of people have noticed similarities to Avatar -- humans come to ravage ecologically pristine alien world inhabited by tree-dwelling low-tech peaceful aliens, but a guy from the human vanguard gets a little emotionally involved with a female alien and becomes unhappy with the human plan, yadda yadda.  I really don't think Avatar in any way ripped this one off.  I think it's just a very old and generic SF trope.  I mean, I'm sorry, but this is basically FernGully, too, just for starters.

Anyway, Battle For Terra is a bit of an oddity.  The beginning is a bit twee for adults, but a lot of the movie is a bit dark and intense for little kids.  Probably about 10-15 is the right age range for this.  Also, although it has Evan Rachel Wood and Luke Wilson in the lead roles (and David Cross as the not-wisecracking robot and Brian Cox as the hardline general), the cast is littered with big names in small roles:  Mark Hammill, Dennis Quaid, Rosanna Arquette, Beverly D'Angelo, James Garner, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet, Ron Perlman, Danny Trejo . . . weird.  Not a bad thing, just weird.

The story is occasionally a little half-baked, but the animation is mostly nice, and the fight scenes and spaceships and such are non-generic and look sharp.  It's not Spirits Within, but it's easy to sit through and has a better ending, so there's that.  I heard critics really hated this movie, though, which doesn't seem warranted.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 07, 2010, 07:39:16 PM
Eating dinner / unpacking movie was Monster in the Closet (, a very unusual Troma film from 1986, although it was filmed a few years earlier.  What makes it unusual is that it has no gore, has almost no nudity (just Stella Stevens in a shower with some brief exposure of the north slope), and has a bunch of actors who have had careers outside Troma.

Seriously, they're mostly in small roles, but it has John Carradine, Claude Akins, Donald Moffat, Henry Gibson, Paul Dooley, and the aforementioned Stella Stevens.  Kind of surprising.  Oh, and the kid scientist is played by a young Paul Walker, of Fast and Furious, et al.  So there's that.

I chose it at random, but it's basically another parody of 1950s monster movies, which Netflix is clearly convinced is what I want to see.  And it's pretty funny, also sending up as many SF and horror films as it has time for.  It's all very gentle, and with the lower half of certain parts of Ms Stevens edited out, it would be no more risky for USA than Saturday the 14th.  It does slow down in the middle, but it's fine to have on in the background, and it has a lot of nice little touches.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 07, 2010, 11:22:46 PM
Return of the Living Dead II (, eh, not so much bad as flat.  Doesn't recapture the magic of the original, despite reusing some of the cast and making a few sly references.  It's too tame and aimless, although the doctor is fairly funny.  Well, you can't have everything.

IMDb tells me that the original's German release title was Verdammt, die Zombies kommen, which is possibly the best and funniest news I've had all week so far.  I may start using that phrase at work whenever a clustomer comes into the shop.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on September 08, 2010, 08:21:37 AM
CLUSTOMER!  :rollin:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 09, 2010, 09:57:17 PM
Just saw Link (, a strange horror film from 1986.  About 90% of it is Elisabeth Shue, Terence Stamp, two chimps, and an orang.  It's . . . uneven.

A lot of reviews go on about how great the score is.  It's good for awhile, but it gets more incongruous as the film goes on -- it's a sort of Early Elfman kind of thing (actually by Jerry Goldsmith, who might bristle at the comparison), and it gets more bombastic and cartoonish as the film is getting more violent.  Odd, that.  The movie starts off all suspense and forboding and weird menace, but the last third or so is all conventional When Animals Attack.  It kind of peters out.

For awhile, though, it's downright disturbing on several levels.  The orang is the title character and supposed to be a 45-year-old male, although it looks like an adolescent female was used, unsurprisingly.  Violence against animals is usually harder to take on film than violence against humans, and the Uncanny Valley capacity of primates is used pretty well in this.  The orang wants to watch Shue take a bath in a scene that definitely succeeds at being creepy.  

Interestingly, Australian cult director Richard Franklin (who did Roadgames, the psychic-coma-patient horror film Patrick, and the infamous True Story of Eskimo Nell) made this one just a few years after directing Psycho II, which also has a creepy bath voyeur scene.  That scene had Meg Tilly, so you certainly can't complain about his casting.  

Anyway, Link.  Shue's character has to spend a lot of time just talking to the apes, much of it wheedling, so it's not her best performance ever, although several wags have said it was still a step up from working with Nicholas Cage.  (Her major nude scene in this may have used a body double.  I didn't rewind and squint to try to be certain.)  Stamp's fine in an unsympathetic role.  The orang is pretty impressive in that uncomfortable trained-ape-in-clothes sort of way, and unfairly isn't named in the credits.  Well, no wonder these creatures go nuts in movies and wreak havoc.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 10, 2010, 06:07:09 PM
The Avengers is often a bit slight by modern standards, perhaps a trifle padded, and the plots verge on children's fare at times, as many of BBC adventure shows did -- Dr Who is still widely considered a kid's show over there, with a bit of humor and T&A to get your dad to watch with you.  And so sometimes I'll put an episode on and then think, well, I don't really need to watch more of these, I get the idea.

But the guest cast is often wonderful, and then I'll see an episode with a young Charlotte Rampling dressed as a cowboy, and then an 'Emma' episode where Mrs Peel goes around in outstanding scarlet silk pajamas the whole time.

Hrm.  Yes, well, that'll do.  That'll do.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 10, 2010, 08:42:55 PM

Charlotte Rampling dressed as a cowboy!

I've had that fantasy dream
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 10, 2010, 08:57:06 PM
It's worth it.  1967, "The Superlative Seven".  It's a 'Tweed' episode, though, so you get Rampled but not so much Rigged.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 10, 2010, 08:59:17 PM

the possibility of being Rampled and Rigged at the same time is ...
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 10, 2010, 09:00:26 PM
There's some of that toward the end, which I guess prevents an anticlimax.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 11, 2010, 06:05:30 PM
Last night, Ballad of Cable Hogue (, reputedly Peckinpah's favorite of his own works, a Western about a guy who finds water in the desert and yadda yadda.

To be honest, it's pretty aimless, mostly a collection of fairly random things that happen to some guy and the people he bumps into.  (He bumps into Stella Stevens a lot, which was kind of weird for me since coincidentally I just saw her in that closet-monster movie.)  The cast is great, and there are a lot of great moments, but the overall plot is surprisingly not so much, and it has some really contrived and lame tear-jerking bits.  At the end, I was mostly just aware of how much untapped potential the film still had when it was over.

Actually, now that I think of it, it's like Peckinpah was channeling Joss Whedon.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 12, 2010, 10:09:36 PM
Some damn Netflix or IMDb review of some movie that I liked in the last year or so specifically recommended a film called The Draughtsman's Contract (  As per my usual, I decided to see it mostly on a whim, preferring not to know too much about it before I saw it.  The DVD arrived yesterday.

Sometimes, at a party or something, you'll meet someone who's definitely attractive, quite attractice, and also quite distinctive.  Not generically attractive, certainly, but quite compelling.  And even brief conversation will reveal that they're intriguing, too.  But also that they're crazy.  And at some point you have to decide if they're worth the effort to get to know better.  How deep is that craziness, and how tiresome?  How interesting will they actually turn out to be if you make the extra effort, and how much extra effort will it take? 

Peter Greenaway movies are like that.  The Draughtsman's Contract is a Greenaway movie.  It's easy to describe it so that it sounds intiguing.  Staged like a play, it's a decameronish tale of a cast of Jacobean characters, mostly nobility, who dress like Monty Python caricatures and talk like they fell out of Moliere.  A draughtsman is hired to make several drawings of an estate; his price is an equal number of sexual favors from the lady of the house.  The woman's daughter has a devilish plan of her own.  There's also a living statue that most of the characters apparently can't see, and so on.  A car is visible at one point.  Yadda yadda.

Thing is, this film didn't seem to me worth more than maybe twenty minutes' conversation at the party.  The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, OK, worth more trouble, possibly mostly because of Helen Mirren and my inability to tell how seriously I was meant to take it.  I've seen pieces of Prospero's Books, which I'm not sure really pays off but is pretty damned hypnotic, and 8.5 Women, which did nothing for me, and most of The Pillow Book, which has Vivian Wu naked (nice) and also a full-on hog shot of Young Kenobi (which I didn't need but it doesn't kill me, either).

Greenaway is probably too clever for his own good.  Still, he seems to like what he does, and unlike a lot of artistes he manages to make a lot of movies, which for some reason I feel is a point in his favor.  To me, Draughtsman's Contract was like an incredibly dull episode of Serie Rose (aka Softly, From Paris) with pretty much all the sex scenes cut out.

AND of course now I have no idea WTF film I saw and liked that had the review that likened it to this film.  Seriously, it's making me slightly crazy, but I looked through my own reviews and Netflix history, and I have not the slightest idea.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 13, 2010, 05:35:21 PM
So . . . late last night I started watching The Girl Next Door (, a 2007 film Netflix lists as a horror film.  It's a horror film, to be sure, but not like monsters-under-the-bed.  More like a fictionalized Escape From Sobibor -- that sort of horror, the kind that's all too real.  I thought it was going to be a monster or slasher film, so it wasn't what I was expecting.

It's based on a novel by Jack Ketchum, a horror author I didn't think I'd read (maybe a short story here or there?) until I checked Wikipedia and remembered that I read She Wakes a few years ago.  That wasn't my kind of thing.  The Girl Next Door is a completely serious and realistic movie about people doing horrible things.  One of these people is crazy, in a very realistic and unhappy way.  The others are all children who are trained to be crazy and sadistic.  The victims are children, too.

The film starts off by saying that it's based on a true story.  After a bit, I began to wonder if I knew the true story in question, and it turns out that I do, and I really don't want or need to see a fictionalized account of it.  If you crossed Flowers in the Attic with Misery, cranked the child abuse up to about a 9, and held it there until you realize there's no happy ending, that's about right.  I watched about 40 minutes and had had enough.  I probably would've quit earlier, but it's really well done, with a compelling cast.  I'd really like to see the lead actress, Blythe Auffarth, in something else.  Something really different.

Ketchum was criticized for using the real-life case as the springboard for a horror novel, but I can't comment on that without reading the novel -- which some people feel takes advantage of what happened and some people feel brings needed attention to it.  Another movie that came out the same year, An American Crime, is a much more direct version of the story, using the actual names and dates.  That one stars Catherine Keener as the psychotic woman and Ellen Page as the girl who fares the worst.  Yeesh.  It's apparently really well done, too.

Personally, I've seen enough stuff detailing child abuse in realistic narrative, and I'm not looking to be disturbed in that particular way.  The movie's well done, like I said, and not really sensationalistic.  The girl is a little sexualized, without question, but it is absolutely integral to the story and certainly serves a purpose.  I think the character is about 15, and the actress was apparently over 20 at the time.  But this isn't a movie going for entertainment.  It's sober as the grave and looking to make you uncomfortable -- and extremely likely to succeed.

Flat-out depressing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 13, 2010, 05:48:34 PM
I rewatched "Tron" the other night. It's better than I remembered.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 13, 2010, 05:53:24 PM
It's a little slow until he breaks into the lab, and then it's silly but awesome.  The door into the lab always kills me. 

I do wish there was a re-release with an added scene where Sark hits Neo in the face with a light-up Frisbee, though.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 13, 2010, 05:56:36 PM
It's worth it.  1967, "The Superlative Seven".  It's a 'Tweed' episode, though, so you get Rampled but not so much Rigged.

You did not mention Donald Sutherland ... !

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 13, 2010, 06:28:14 PM
Yeah, the awesome episodes are fully awesome.  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 13, 2010, 06:44:04 PM
you need a rating system.

stars are overdone, thumbs is dumb . . . maybe swords . .  :hmm:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 13, 2010, 09:09:29 PM
Everything I see at Netflix, I rate at Netflix.  Everything I've already seen that Netflix has listed, I also rate at Netflix if I find it there.  I could just add here what I rated it at Netflix.

I do a lot of half-star ratings at Netflix, which isn't actually kosher with them.  I seem to get away with it, but for all I know their system ignores all of those.  They're happy to give a fractional star rating in a recommendation (ie, "Best guess for you is 2.8 stars").  And if I bother to review a movie there, it seems like the system rounds my rating down to the nearest full star.

Five stars is probably enough breadth in most cases, but they insist on having the mouse-hover tell you that two stars means you didn't like it and three stars means you did like it.  There's a lot of space in between there . . . .
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 13, 2010, 09:22:11 PM
The Haunting in Connecticut (, from last year.  Gee, you gotta love that definite article.  To hell with any other story about any ghosts in Connecticut.  This is the one. 

From the writing team that brought you that Snoop Dogg horror movie of a few years ago -- half that team also came up with Revenge of the Nerds and Kalifornia, oddly enough -- this film is based on a documentary of an allegedly true story, yadda yadda. 

The film has a bunch of fairly original touches, a pretty strong cast, and mostly shoots for a dignified ghost story.  Unfortunately, it's also riddled with unnecessary cliches that only detract from its merits.  There are quick flashes of spooky things, 'shocking' jump cuts, loud musical stings, and a soundtrack seemingly pieced together from the most derivative moments of a hundred earlier derivative ghost movies.  I mean, 75% of the score for this film must say 'rushing noises here' and 'open piano and slide hand along wires'.  Lame.

There are also some continuity errors and anachronisms that are just lazy.  Based-on-a-truish-story or not, don't set the film in the 1980s if you can't bother to keep the story in the 1980s, with modern cars and references to the internet popping up.

Oh, well.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 14, 2010, 02:02:59 AM
no, that's just asinine. if i wanted netflix ratings tempered by all the luddites i would go by them. i want a quick RA icon rating. fuck, don't be difficult. i'll have to smack you with a trout.

maybe just turnips. 2 turnips is star wars ep 1 . . . 5 turnips is 2010 and 10 turnips is the movie you worked on, what was it, "instigation? insertion? infection?" sorry, my dvds are packed away.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 14, 2010, 10:35:43 AM
:lol:  I didn't work on the movie; I was just on a consultant contract to help with the marketing.  That was Impostor, which is pretty good but has a few bizarre mistakes.  Off the top of my head, it has a Giant Futuristic Display Screen in one scene where it's really illogical and ridiculous, and there's a fight scene that's wildly unrealistic for no reason.  But mostly it's sharp.  It probably suffers from having been expanded, at the studio's insistence, from a half-hour short (one episode of a three-episode feature) to ninety minutes.

I'll have to think about a rating system, I guess.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on September 14, 2010, 02:58:52 PM
I liked the ratings system Kevin Avery and W. Kamau Bell devised for watching bad mainstream movies.  They used the number of kicks to the nuts that they would rather endure than having to watch the film again.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 14, 2010, 04:43:28 PM
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 14, 2010, 05:07:54 PM
I really, really hate getting kicked in the nuts, though.  Even more than I hate a stupid movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 14, 2010, 05:10:42 PM
I like how it's an open-ended rating system, though. I mean in the traditional way, once you've given out a "zero" there's really not much you can do to rate a worse movie, so you're kind of reluctant to give that one out. On the other hand, this way there's still a possibility for there to be a worse movie in the future. It makes more sense than the usual way, where you're allowing for better movies - there aren't that many of those.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 14, 2010, 05:11:40 PM
I can give out negative stars.  You get stars for doing things right and lose them for doing things wrong, but the number line goes both ways.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 14, 2010, 05:14:06 PM
hmm. Maybe a purely numeric system would be more appropriate then.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 14, 2010, 06:23:56 PM
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 15, 2010, 12:01:49 AM
The axes are cute, but not quite me, although I'm not suggesting they're of evil.

Saw Attack Girls' Swim Team Versus the Undead (, aka Undead Pool, aka Joshikyôei hanrangun, from 2007.  It's about a Japanese high school girls' swim team fighting a bunch of zombies.  Well, in theory.  Actually, very little of the movie is about that -- which is kind of a shame, because that concept is better than the film itself, a low-budget affair shot on video and probably mostly made up during filming.

Instead of going with the zombies vs girls concept, the film is mostly sidetracked with an incredibly typical Japanese plot about a secret agent assassin girl who escaped from the organization that trained her and who's being tracked down by her mad scientist-sensei.  The mad scientist has a magic flute that makes girls sexually helpless (well, there's your subtext), and if that doesn't seem strange enough he can talk and play the flute at the same time, and when he plays the flute it doesn't produce flute music; it produces electronic pipe organ music.  Heh.  Pipe organ.  ETC.

Unfortunately, the sexploitation (which is almost entirely of the late-night Cinemax variety, complete with unrealistic cross-eyed-nipples breast implants) is pretty boring, as is most of the exposition.  There are some funny bits, and there's some ho-hum but at-least-they're-trying gore, and there's a brief return to the core concept when it's announced that the chlorine in the pool water can cure zombies.  The swim team looks better in their suits than out of them, although this is probably mostly because of the difference in cinematography, and the violence is often amusingly campy.

But the boring won out, for me, and I wasn't even that impressed when a villain was destroyed with a vaginal laser.  After all, I've seen a far better version of that trope in Kunoichi.  So I'd give this one a 4/10.  It's harmless and no travesty, and possibly impressive if you haven't seen weird Asian films before, but it's not deserving of cult status.  Try Machine Girl instead.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 15, 2010, 12:45:36 AM
did you see the random one? ;)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 15, 2010, 08:50:21 AM
:lol:  I thought that just meant four and a half.  Or maybe four and a hatchet.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on September 15, 2010, 02:58:12 PM
Imaginary number scale would be interesting, especially for the fantasy genre...
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 15, 2010, 10:08:34 PM
Death Race 2000 (, which I hadn't seen in over twenty years.  Yeah, it holds up great.  The violence is campy, the undercranking is funny, the pacing is light, the nudity is gratuitous and lush, and the tongue is in cheek.  Mary Woronov looks great despite her lack of eyebrows, and Simone Griffeth is particularly :knotty:.  The cars are cute, too.

I couldn't help thinking that someone should remake it with a slightly better budget, but then I remembered, so I guess someone should remake it without trying to re-invent it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on September 16, 2010, 12:36:24 AM
Oh, Death Race.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 16, 2010, 01:05:00 AM
Er . . . yeah.  :lol:  Typo fixed.

One thing that was weird for me is that I first saw it around the same time I first read King's The Long Walk, and yet the similarities never struck me before.  I was distracted in those days, but still.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 16, 2010, 04:30:26 AM
I finally saw Death Race 2000 within the last year or so. Some things are better left to the imagination, but it got a few chuckles out of me. It's hard to go wrong with such a great concept for a movie.

I'd like to see it remade sort of like It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (, with a lot of old celebrities and more horrific violence.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 16, 2010, 04:46:24 AM
Burt Reynolds in the Trans Am
The Hoff in Kit
Starsky & Hutch
Dukes of Hazzard
Sean Connery in an Austin Martin
...or maybe Mike Myers instead
Emilio Esteves and Harry Dean Stanton in the Caprice from Repo Man


I'll probably be contemplating the rest of the cast all day. Stupid brain.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 16, 2010, 04:56:59 AM
Keanu and Bollocks in a bus...

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 16, 2010, 04:57:37 AM
I can't think of a car for Shatner.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 16, 2010, 09:34:28 AM
TJ Hooker cop car with, um, whatsername, the blonde.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 16, 2010, 11:18:40 AM
Heather Locklear.  But in that case, you have to also have a cameo from Adrian No-Shirt Double Zmed.

It sounds more like you guys are doing Cannonball Run than Death Race.  But I don't have a problem with that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 16, 2010, 11:33:15 AM
Why not mix the two?


Mix the two, and have them directed by George Romero.


Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 16, 2010, 11:38:11 AM
And speaking of random:


Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 16, 2010, 11:39:01 AM

That would really have changed Fatso.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 16, 2010, 12:35:47 PM
emilio estevez and charlie sheen in a garbage truck
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on September 16, 2010, 12:48:20 PM
you people!  YOU PEOPLE!

Bud Cort in his Jag-Hearse
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 16, 2010, 01:32:37 PM
Yes! Yes!

Hawkeye and Trapper John in a Jeep?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 16, 2010, 02:49:24 PM
Magnum in the Ferrari.

The A Team in the van.

Jan-Michael Vincent in the Landmaster.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Psidefect on September 16, 2010, 03:10:17 PM
Danny Bonaduce and Shirley Jones in the Partridge Family bus.

Greg Evigan and a chimp in the BJ and the Bear rig.

The Munster Mobile with any of them that are still alive.

The guys from Bonanza on horseback (again, the alive ones, if there are any).
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 16, 2010, 03:11:24 PM
You guys REALLY need to see Fire, Ice, & Dynamite.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Psidefect on September 16, 2010, 03:13:13 PM
And both on and off topic, IMDB your new site design blows.

Here's a term your web designers should look up: usability.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 16, 2010, 03:20:48 PM
luke skywalker, obiwan and the droids in the speeder
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 16, 2010, 03:25:10 PM
IMDB your new site design blows.

OH MY GOD, seriously, what the fuck.  SO HORRIBLE.

I am now officially eagerly awaiting the day when wikipedia pushes IMDb into obscurity.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Psidefect on September 16, 2010, 03:35:18 PM
I am now officially eagerly awaiting the day when wikipedia pushes IMDb into obscurity.

That's the day Wikipedia will hire IMDB's out of work designers so they can do the same thing to Wikipedia.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 16, 2010, 03:57:16 PM
I just threw up a little bit.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Psidefect on September 16, 2010, 04:00:20 PM
I thought you might.

There is no waiting out incompetence.

The Universe is creating it faster than it's reabsorbing it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 16, 2010, 04:17:26 PM

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 16, 2010, 04:21:40 PM
Burt Reynolds in the Trans Am
The Hoff in Kit
Starsky & Hutch
Dukes of Hazzard
Sean Connery in an Austin Martin
...or maybe Mike Myers instead
Emilio Esteves and Harry Dean Stanton in the Caprice from Repo Man
Keanu and Bollocks in a bus
Shatner and Heather Locklear in the TJ Hookermobile
emilio estevez and charlie sheen in a garbage truck
Bud Cort in his Jag-Hearse
Hawkeye and Trapper John in a Jeep
Magnum in the Ferrari.
The A Team in the van.
Jan-Michael Vincent in the Landmaster.
Danny Bonaduce and Shirley Jones in the Partridge Family bus.
Greg Evigan and a chimp in the BJ and the Bear rig.
The Munster Mobile with any of them that are still alive.
The guys from Bonanza on horseback (again, the alive ones, if there are any).
luke skywalker, obiwan and the droids in the speeder

We'll never be able to afford this crew. We haven't even gotten to the pedestrians yet!

I wonder how much Carrot Top would want? He'd probably be cheap.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 16, 2010, 05:00:52 PM
Not cheap enough.

I've rated something getting close to 2300 items so far, over at the Netflix.  I could rate a hell of a lot more if I were willing to wing it, rating a whole show based on a few episodes (or one episode), rating things I barely remember, etc.  I could probably add a couple hundred if I just sat down and looked shit up to see what else they had listed that I've already seen.

The Netflix recommendation engine follows some kind of extra set of hidden rules that probably makes sense in terms of how Netflix actually works but isn't straight-up.  I mean, it probably does things like being more prone to recommend films that Netflix has a lot of copies of.  When Netflix partnered with Starz, gee surprise, suddenly it was recommending Starz-sponsored films like crazy. 

It doesn't just look at what you rated and then push the stuff in its database that you haven't seen (as far as it knows) and that it has the highest predicted rating for.  It really doesn't do that -- I frequently stumble across items that Netflix has never mentioned but that it thinks I'd rate at 4 or higher.

Any discussion of the Netflix rating system that doesn't mention MovieLens is stupid.  Frankly, it makes me feel like maybe the UMN people should sue.  They should at least get a mention.  Their system was the exact same concept (Still is? I haven't checked to see if it's still going.) but worked better and had a much more usable interface.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Psidefect on September 16, 2010, 05:22:10 PM
Re: Pedestrians for our greatest movie ever - We could just schedule Congrescritters to meet a "big oil lobbyist" along the route, then call 'em a minute or so before the pack gets there and tell 'em the meeting's across the street.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Psidefect on September 16, 2010, 05:23:44 PM
Ooo, points awarded based on pork allocation!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 16, 2010, 05:39:40 PM

Yeah, I was thinking politicians too, but I neglected lobbyists. Gotta have some lobbyists.

I was thinking tea party drive-thru, but that might alienate too much of the audience.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 16, 2010, 05:44:06 PM

Yeah, I was thinking politicians too, but I neglected lobbyists. Gotta have some lobbyists.

I was thinking tea party drive-thru, but that might alienate too much of the audience.

Why just alienate that part of the audience? How about eliminate them? Audience participation!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Psidefect on September 16, 2010, 05:45:10 PM
Yeah, fuck the audience, this is art, dammit!
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 16, 2010, 05:53:28 PM
Oooo... sort of like Rocky Horror... I think we're onto something here...
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 16, 2010, 06:25:55 PM
Eh.  Too heavy-handed, if you ask me.

I say just make the rule of the game be that you can hit anyone who's using a cell phone.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on September 16, 2010, 07:11:32 PM
The guys from Bonanza on horseback (again, the alive ones, if there are any).

You could fill in for :hoss:


Love the pedestrian ideas.  Congress is a good start, everyone responsible for US television news would be a good addition too.  And then for guaranteed laughs we could throw in a couple midgets.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 16, 2010, 10:48:30 PM
okay, i just went to IMDB since the reformatting. WTF??? cock punch those pricks.

they listed helena bonham-carter's birthdate and then proceeded to list her "star sign", gemini.

is this part of the dumbing down of the world?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 17, 2010, 11:21:49 AM
I particularly resent having to click to see, say, all the film credits.  Fuck you and give me back the database.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 17, 2010, 11:22:53 AM
Wikipedia is instantly preferable.

Which I hate.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 17, 2010, 08:56:17 PM
Hmm.  OK, The Crimson Rivers (, a 2000 wunza movie from France, starring Jean Reno, as a wise but tired older cop who used to be a maverick, and Vincent Cassell, as a young cop who still is a maverick.  Weird murders in France!  Unlikely developments.  Foreshadowing all over the place, but the film doesn't make a big deal of it.

Honestly, the story doesn't make sense if you stop to think about it, but the actors are good and the pace is pretty fast and the style is slickly Gallic and cool.  By the end of the movie, you'll probably realize the director doesn't care if it makes sense, and even I didn't particularly care.  I read that he edited out almost all the exposition from the screenplay on the grounds that it would slow the story down too much.  When Hollywood movies do this, it usually pisses me off, but I think this film has a point.  It's all about style and execution, and it's not shoving it in your face in a BAH-BAM! I AM SO AWESOME fashion, and the result works for me.

That's probably 70% purely because of Reno, who is pretty goddamned magnificent at almost all times.  Hell, I liked his bit in the US Godzilla disaster.  When I was watching the Peckinpah film the other night, I enjoyed how much Jason Robards acts without saying anything, and Reno is even better at it, or at least he accomplishes as much with less effort.

So I liked it, but it's not exactly a good mystery, especially if you analyze it.  But it's well done, for what it is.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 17, 2010, 09:04:09 PM
Crazy Little Thing (, a romantic comedy 2002.  I watched it because it was 3 AM and because it has Jenny McCarthy and Chris Eigeman as the unlikely couple.  That's a pretty unlikely couple.

McCarthy is an outspoken nut, and in a bad way, but I have a weird soft spot for her as an actor -- and I do mean a soft spot, not a hard one.  She can be cute, but I really haven't seen her be sexy.  Generally, she's trying too hard.  If you ever saw her comedy show, for instance, you totally know what I mean.  She can be funny, though, and, as I said, cute, and she's actually a more competent actress than most people would think.  Certainly, she can act rings around, say, Megan Fox.

Eigeman . . . often doesn't come across as particularly straight, and his brand of humor is a trifle different from hers.  So, seriously?  Well, the film works OK, although it's awkward at first, and it's never what I'd call terrific, but it's not bad.  McCarthy's character is subdued, so she doesn't go apeshit, and there are adequate bit characters and cute bits (as well as some that fall flat) to carry the runtime.

So I thought it was OK, but she still shouldn't try to make public medical policy, because, seriously.  You are not a scientist, Jenny.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 18, 2010, 08:44:44 PM
So what the hell happened to Kate Beckinsale, anyway?  She was such a promising young British actress, and as it turns out she can do a vanishingly convincing US accent.  In 1998, she did The Last Days of Disco, a Whit Stillman movie that feels like even he didn't really want to make it, and it's been downhill from there.  Well, not on an even slope -- Pearl Harbor was in 2001 and was probably lower than, uh, The Aviator, or something.  But seriously.  Fire your agent, Kate.

Point is, I saw Vacancy (, which was not good.  I'm not really surprised to see Luke Wilson or Frank Whaley stuck in this movie, although neither of them deserve it, but somehow seeing Kate in it is worse.  Sort of like if Emma Thompson showed up as one of the chum bucket trap victims in Saw 5, almost.

This is a horror movie about innocent dipwads falling into the web of a bunch of creepy spider psychos.  Been done before, and the execution here is like a particularly half-assed (if unpretentious) David Fincher movie.  Basic problems with Vacancy:

- The main characters are really stupid.  They keep trying to stop and think, and it never works.  They know they're facing a small number of assailants who typically (yes, they know this) use knives.  And they're smart enough . . . eventually . . . to fashion demolition tools.  But not smart enough to even pick up rudimentary weapons that a damned chimp would have availed itself of.

- The main characters are also insufferably annoying.  The film opens with twenty minutes of them bickering snottily and being dumb.  Hurrah!  Tough to root for them, and what a cliche it is anyway for their failed marriage to be miraculously resurrected through the shared ordeal of being in a bad horror movie.  Knock it off.

- The villains are morons.  We're supposed to believe that they get away with this kind of thing all the time.  I have trouble believing these rubes consistently put their pants on with the zipper in front.

So it's a dingy gladitorial contest in the dark:  Dumb yuppies you dislike vs Dumb mouth-breathing grubby sadists.  Eventually, a number of people die, but having no survivors would have been an improvement.  There's a moment or three of good tension when the sappy couple realize their predicament, but the movie is much longer than that.

The movie made me think of Breakdown, that Kurt Russell (and great supporting cast) wife-disappears-on-the-highway suspense film from, what, maybe ten years ago now.  That film had good suspense and didn't need to rely on darkness in order to be dark.  It had good dialogue.  And it built to a surprisingly ferocious climax.  Watch that one instead.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 18, 2010, 08:53:41 PM
Speaking of Fincher . . . in a roundabout way . . . Netflix abruptly started pushing its Top 100 my way.  I hadn't noticed this before, and presumably these are based on customer reviews.  The list apparently changes as often as week to week, but it was a little interesting.  Here's the top ten:

10 - Gran Torino

 9 - The Proposal, the recent Sandra Bullock / Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy.

 8 - The Pursuit of Happyness

 7 - The Blind Side, the recent Sandra Bullock movie that has something inspirational to do with football.

 6 - No Country For Old Men

 5 - Iron Man

 4 - The Departed

 3 - The Bucket List

 2 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button  (See?  Fincher again.)

 1 - Crash, that 2005 many-crossing-lines movie that was partly about race relations.  It, too, had Sandra Bullock.

So . . . Sandra Bullock, huh?  Hey, I like her too.  Iron Man and No Country are the only ones in there that I've seen so far, although Gran Torino is on my list.  Netflix thinks I'll like Blind Side, but not any of the rest.

If Netflix's system were as good as the MovieLens one, it could easily give me a Top 100 list of films it thinks I'd like that I haven't rated yet, but of course Netflix exists to rent me movies, not to necessarily steer me to the ones I'd like best.  And it's a business; I don't begrudge them that.  For all I know, their Top 100 is weighted toward films they already have a lot of copies of.  It doesn't seem to be weighted toward ones they have Instant Play licenses for, though, which is interesting.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: stormneedle on September 18, 2010, 09:03:15 PM
Love Potion #9 ( I've quite enjoyed Sandra since then. It's a completely silly movie, and I suddenly realized I haven't seen it in years (the tapes are probably disintegrated by now).
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 18, 2010, 09:09:30 PM
Yep, Love Potion was the first thing I saw her in.  Good flick.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 19, 2010, 09:02:02 PM
I was in the mood for Star Trek, don't ask me exactly why, and Netflix doesn't have all that much, so I watched First Contact ( in one of those Was It Really That Bad moments.

Well, it had some moments that were better than I remembered, but it had all the Next Generation movie faults:  cheesy 'dark' cinematography that doesn't fit the concept, characters freaking out for the sake of added drama, lame self-indulgent fanboy cheese, awkward dialogue, bad story that doesn't even have room for most of the 'main cast' even though they added screen-time-eating dialogue-sopping new characters, yadda yadda. 

Seriously, another time travel story?  And if it's so easy for the Borg to travel through time, then . . . no, never mind, none of it makes sense.  Nor does the Borg Queen, although she could've been explained away easily enough if they actually thought their exposition through.  But, ultimately, meh. 

You know what?  Just watch the Next Generation series-ending two-parter instead.  Because that was actually good.  And the Next Generation cast deserved the better film scripts they never got.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 22, 2010, 03:43:30 PM
During some extended moments of not sleeping, I watched Star Trek V (the one where Spock's ill-conceived brother takes them to visit God) and Solarbabies.  I thought surely this would make me sleep, but not quite.

Star Trek V had one good moment (when Kirk fidgets in the new command chair and tells Bones "I miss my old chair.") and one OK, That Was Kind Of Funny one (when Kirk says he needs a shower, and Spock agrees with him).  I'm told the studio cut that latter moment from some versions.  That figures.

Seriously, it's just a bad screenplay, and I know that it got rewritten while people weren't looking, and then it got eviscerated belatedly (and deservedly, I suspect) when Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley various refused to go on because some bits were just too bad.  A lot of people blamed Shatner's direction, but come on.  The screenplay mostly treats the 'minor' classic characters like schmucks, doesn't know the Trek continuity, and generally blows.  The bit about Kirk knowing he won't die if Bones and Spock are with him is actually kind of nice, but nothing's saving this turkey, not even Kirk sassing God.

Solarbabies I hadn't seen since it first hit video, and it's actually not as twee as I remembered.  It's certainly cheesy and doesn't make an entirely huge amount of sense, but it works fine as a kid's movie, providing the kid isn't under nine or ten, considering some of the violence.  It's kind of like if they did Saved By The Bell meets Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, except with rollerskates instead of cars, plus a smattering of ET.  Harmless.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on September 22, 2010, 04:12:26 PM
This historical event reimagining ( was on earlier, which you can appreciate if First Contact is fresh on your mind...

Unfortunately, I think that's more accurate as to how people would react in real life to an alien landing.

(Speaking of Trek stuff and Vulcans, I've been throwing the "Obama is Tuvok" analogy around a lot lately and people totally Get It. "I do not understand the emotional outbursts of this...Tea Party. The questions about my religious beliefs are...highly illogical.")

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 22, 2010, 04:26:05 PM
Heh. That was the only Enterprise episode I saw that I liked ;)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on September 22, 2010, 04:32:45 PM
I like Enterprise better than most people, after watching the whole thing a few years after the fact. At the time, it was admittedly fairly WTF when I ran across it here and there, Space Nazis and whatnot.

The mirror eps are from the final season, which does have its moments even among Enterprise non-fans. Brent Spiner's scenery-chewing bad guy turn as the creator of the Augments also comes to mind, and some good bits with Commander Shran and etc. Really everything except the wretched finale.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 22, 2010, 04:49:52 PM
There was a lot that I liked about Enterprise -- the theme song even grew on me, and the cast was mostly really good.  The conception and story were usually pretty damned bad, though, lame, weak, dumb, and impossible for continuity.  Prequels are almost always a bad idea, and you should never do one unless you really, really want to do it.  With Enterprise, the moment you see the interior of the ship you can tell that they really wanted to be doing something else.  It almost made me think Star Fleet Academy would have been a slam dunk by comparison.

They did have their moments, though, and the Mirror episodes were not too shabby.  I did think of the alternative version of the First Contact when I was watching the Next Gen movie.  :lol:  It's actually better than the one in the movie.  T'Pol was definitely one of the handful of successful Vulcan characters, pretty surprisingly.  They did OK with the augments, and the tie-in to the old-look Klingons was one of the cleverest bits of retconning of all time.

Enterprise did have the stupid Dark In Here disease, and as much as I like Jeffrey Combs I wasn't wild about all the newly imagined Andorian stuff, or the new makeup, as technically impressive as it was.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on September 22, 2010, 06:38:04 PM
i'm watching that episode as i read this. spooky   :nuts:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 22, 2010, 11:09:49 PM
Tonight I rewatched Robot Jox (, which I hadn't seen since shortly after it came out.  OK, now, Stuart Gordon has made a bunch of films I really like, but this one and Dagon are real misfires.  (King of the Ants is . . . so-so, at best.) 

Gordon came up with the story for this one, possibly after watching some or other mecha anime, and Joe Haldeman somehow got attached to write the screenplay.  Haldeman is a big-time serious SF writer, although this doesn't really seem like his thing, but he and Gordon disagreed constantly.  Gordon famously said to him afterward Joe, our problem is that you're writing a movie for adults that children can enjoy, but I'm directing a movie for children that adults can enjoy!

A lot of what's wrong with the film is implicit right there.  I mean, why was Gordon trying to make a kids' movie?  And with his pedigree of very adult horror films (Re-Animator, for starters) and no SF (at that point) or children's films, who would hire him to do a kiddie robot movie?  Just bizarre.  In any case, the film has some graphic violence and some nudity, and in the '80s, when the film went into production (its release was delayed), that was not going to fly as a kids' film. 

The budget was clearly too small, anyway, and the film needs about four times as much robot fightin', with better robot fightin'.  The effects sometimes work and sometimes really don't.  Ironically, the worst effects are the chroma key process shots, which look painfully bad . . . and really are never necessary but were probably a relatively cheap way to stretch out the expensive stop-motion sequences.  The script often signals what it wishes it could do, with cute little touches that either don't quite work or that pass in a flash. 

(There's a small motif of vital repopulation, so watch for pro-pregnancy propaganda posters that look better than most of the sets but seem out of place.  Also watch for the Jeffrey Combs cameo.)

Seriously, though, it's more fun to watch the cut scenes in MechWarrior 2.  Weirdly, a lot of people who trash this film gush over Gunhed (, another bad live-action mecha film made at about the same time and on about the same budget -- but in Japan (and with Brenda Bakke as eye candy).  It's not better . . . and has even less giant robot action . . . but for some reason William Gibson and James Cameron, among other notables, have praised it.  The director took his name off it, for crying out loud.

One way you could tell Gunhed is a wreck without even seeing it:  The original screenplay was the runner-up in a Hey, We Bet YOU Could Write A Godzilla Movie contest that Toho did.  That story had Godzilla fighting a giant computer that had taken over the world.  Um . . . maybe in the end he beat it at chess.  Anyway, Toho had the rights and, you know, second place, anyway, so they wrote out Godzilla, added a mech-tank thing (that isn't even in the movie much), and made the film.

Yep.  Anyway, I'd say watch Space Truckers instead.  The beginning's a little slow, but it picks up, and Dennis Hopper hams up a storm.  Of ham.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 22, 2010, 11:35:29 PM
/me was thinking that a storm of ham could be battled by the Nippon Ham Fighters
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 23, 2010, 12:14:44 AM
Led by Ham Solo?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 23, 2010, 11:22:14 PM
Catching up . . . .

I was in a discussion about whether Star Trek V is better or worse than Star Trek VI, as if this mattered a lot, and, well, have I seen #6 recently?  So last night, fine, I watched it, and honestly a lot of it was dumb but not nearly as bad as I remembered, whereas I think a lot of #5 was actually worse than I remembered.

Undiscovered Country is still awfully and implausibly dumb, though, and the entire trial and prison section is a mistake.  I was looking at the Wikipedia page for it, and the scripts they didn't go with are worse concepts, so I guess there's that.  But, seriously, this is not a good Trek film, and I can't understand why it's so popular.  It constantly makes no sense, and most of it is a going-nowhere whodunnit that relies on ignoring realities of the Trek universe.  Plus, again, the whole artificial gravity is a can of worms that should never have been opened, and it's sad to think brave Klingon warriors are unfamiliar with zero-G.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 23, 2010, 11:32:08 PM
Netflix sent me Book of Eli.  Ugh.  SO lame.  The only things that distract from the tiredness of the concept:

- Denzel Washington.  Yeah, that's why I gave it a try.

- Glare, flat color palette, grime, wasteland fashions, whatever.  You're trying too hard to convince me this is a grim devastated world because you have no faith in the material itself.

- We killed a cat, so you know we're hardcore.

- The macguffin is ridiculously implausible and the subject of endless exposition, very little of it even slightly interesting.

The Hughs Bros cannot direct an action scene.  I'm sorry, those are not good action scenes.  Some of them are ridiculously poorly filmed, most of them are too wildly unrealistic for the gritty tone the film is so hamhandedly trying for, and the choreography and staging is just dumb.  My personal favorite was the shootout at the house, where, among other idiocies, one of the bad guys yells Cease fire! . . . and the good guys stop shooting, too.  WTF.  Who knew it was that easy?  So he just strolls out from behind cover and casually points an RPG at the house . . . from maybe thirty feet away.  Does he get shot?  Or even shot at?  No way, man.  He totally called timeout.

Anyway, I shut it off shortly after that, which I guess was like an hour and twenty minutes in.  I wouldn't have watched that much if I hadn't been catching up on Facebook at the same time.  Years and years ago, I would've been amused by its craptessence, but now that I'm older and perhaps more aware of the dwindling time left until I'm dead, it just pisses me off.  I hate to see something done badly like that.

Oddly or not, while I was watching it I was reminded of another dumb post-apocalyptic actioner, that Doomsday movie from a few years ago.  That one wasn't any smarter but wisely didn't take itself so seriously, and it was definitely a lot more entertaining.  Book of Eli is no Zardoz, what can I say.  More like a joyless Warriors of the Wasteland that wants to be preachy but can't really think of anything to say.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on September 24, 2010, 09:50:52 AM
The Undiscovered Country lost me when Klingon blood turned out to be Pepto-Bismol.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 24, 2010, 09:59:13 AM
It's all so wrong, so very wrong.  The giant energy wave from the Praxis explosion looks kind of cool, but it's a 2D wave coming from a hemispherical explosion many lightyears away, traveling FTL via subspace (they say it's a subspace distortion, and it arrives within hours of the explosion) but moving very slowly relative to the non-FTL Excelsior, and it doesn't get better from there.

The explosion is so big it blows away maybe 3/4 of the moon, but the Klingon homeworld the moon orbits is going to slowly be destroyed over 50 years due to oxygen depletion because of radiation from the explosion . . . what?  Are you even trying?  So the Klingons realize they can no longer afford a fully military posture, sure, fine, decent premise, but no one even considers how the Romulans might react?  Or even how, you know, the KLINGONS might feel about it?

And they eat blue spacefood, which I understand was horrible for the cast and made that scene take forever to film.  Because, you know, if you're in space, you have to eat freaky spacefood, just like the only real booze is Romulan ale.

Meh.  Doesn't scratch the surface.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 24, 2010, 09:58:04 PM
Last night I watched The Claws of Axos, a Third Doctor (Pertwee) Doctor Who episode.  Mixed, but better than average.  The aliens were not imbued with a great personality, but, you know, they're aliens -- and they were pretty weird, with the widest variety of costumes, props, and effects I can remember any Who alien race having.  The effects in general are pretty spectacular for 1970, quite on the better end of psychadelic, and wisely using chromakey mixed in with other things.  The story doesn't entirely make sense, and Jo has nothing to do but run around in a very short skirt, although she does an admirable job of it.

Failing to sleep, this morning I watched the two-parter pilot for Airwolf, which actually holds up far, far better than I expected.  I honestly thought it would probably put me to sleep, but it was very watchable.  Pretty remarkably, a lot of the technobabble exposition is actually pretty close to what was actually cutting edge at the time.  The sound effects are still hilarious and evocative, and the music is still funky.  The acting is clunkier than I remember, and I don't mean Ernest Borgnine's ham.  Weirdly enough, Belinda Bauer has a big part in the pilot (and the pilot of Airwolf has a big part in her), although fortunately for my brane she looks much less like MFM here than she did in Timerider.  Strange, though, to run into her again so soon, as it were.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 24, 2010, 10:00:40 PM
And while trying to convalesce today, I watched Blood Simple (  It's expiring from Instant Play at Netflix, and I realized I hadn't seen it in so long that I could remember the cast but not really remember the story.  It's a great noir film.  One thing I really like about it is that it's so messy.  This isn't one of those simple-plan movies where something goes wrong and it throws everything out of whack.  This is a more realistic movie, in many ways, where different characters come up with different unworkable plans, do stupid things under stress, panic, miscommunicate, and are hopelessly confused.  The ending's perfect, too.

edit:  According to the Wikipedia page I linked to, above, Zhang Yimou made a noodle-shop parody of it last year.  I . . . can't even really imagine that.  I might have to see it.  I usually like his films, anyway.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mrcookieface on September 25, 2010, 01:54:35 PM
Agreed on Book Of Eli.

God, that was a disappointment.  I watched it right after The Road too, as part of a fun, post-apocalyptic weekend.  I was drawn toward it because it starred Denzel and left kind of surprised that he even agreed to do it.  Ugh.  Just awful.

I'd rank it right up there with Costner's The Postman (
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on September 25, 2010, 02:19:37 PM

I watched 2012 last night with Drew and WOW, that was ... something.  :trance:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 25, 2010, 02:39:09 PM
Yeah, 2012 is kind of apocalyptic, all right.  The writing's just so lazy -- and if all you want to do is bridge the effects sequences, why bother with cumbersome nonsense exposition?  It's the bad SF writer's disease all over again.  The audience doesn't care why the Earth is kerploding, and you don't have a decent explanation, so just don't explain it.  We just want to see the spectacle.  Keep the other gunk to a minimum.  Especially since you're incompetent at other gunk.

The Postman is just flat-out bizarre.  I'm not really surprised Costner didn't have the balls to keep the Woman Power ending of the novel, which is like 60% of the point of the novel.  And the novel is a fix-up, with a bunch of only loosely related shorter stories, which lends itself to a TV series or miniseries but not so much a regular film.  But sheesh.  It was kind of like his Robin Hood movie, where you keep wondering what the point was.

The internets did tell me the incredible twist endings of Book of Eli.  One of them, the main one, is a total cheat, and I wondered briefly if they were going there -- the film does drop hints, but it also, and much more frequently, does stuff that completely removes the possibility.  So . . . no, no way.  Don't be dumb.  The other twists are OK but kind of point up the basic implausibility of the plot.

Of course, through most of the movie Gary Oldman is desperate to steal the book from Denzel, but his attempts involve trying to shoot the crap out of him (with heavy weapons, even . . . not to mention the anti-tank weapon), and you have to realize that this would not give you good odds of getting the book.  The blood-soaked, charred, tattered remains of the book, maybe.  But, then, Oldman's character is clearly an idiot who only thinks he's smart, and no supervillain.  He's doomed whether he gets the book or not.

Meh.  The film exists 90% as a style exercise, and the style is not persuasive.  I mean, if you're having a magically awesome kung fu fight, and the hero has an 18" knife, he doesn't have to behead fully half of his opponents.  That's too hyperbolic.  That's like how a thirteen-year-old would script it.  The action scenes are the Penthouse Letters equivalents of real action scenes, and, no, nobody believes them.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 25, 2010, 07:31:35 PM
Agreed on Book Of Eli.

God, that was a disappointment.  I watched it right after The Road too, as part of a fun, post-apocalyptic weekend.  I was drawn toward it because it starred Denzel and left kind of surprised that he even agreed to do it.  Ugh.  Just awful.

I'd rank it right up there with Costner's The Postman (

So, The Road was good? I was going to watch that tonight, but it was out-of-stock. I got The Watchmen instead. Yes, I have not seen that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mrcookieface on September 25, 2010, 07:41:56 PM
Oh, The Road is a rib tickler!   :lol:

Seriously though, I loved it, but it's pretty bleak.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 25, 2010, 08:25:15 PM
I guess the question is, should I read the book first?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 25, 2010, 11:22:50 PM
The Awful Truth (, a 1937 screwball comedy, one of the first of its particular kind:  Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play a married couple that gets divorced, and then they both realize they'd rather still be together, but neither of them wants to be the first to say so.  They're wealthy, as was so often the case in movies of the period, but, I mean most people weren't and liked the contrast, plus they have such lovely Art Deco and graceful industry lines and patterns in their clothes and props and surroundings, plus it means they don't have jobs or the like to get in the way of the advancement of the story.

The film's been impressively restored, although there were a couple of small glitches near the beginning.  Grant is about the most perfect actor of all time for these roles, and Dunne is pretty amazing -- she was knocked during her career for being flat-chested in a Mae West age, but she could probably suggest more cleavage with her facial expressions than Mamie Van Doren could with her actual breasts twenty years later.  Dunne can do amazing things with her eyebrows alone, which is especially impressive since they're pencil thin in this film.  She and Grant play their roles with an easy vigorous good humor.  When Grant's character seems to be heading toward getting engaged to an heiress, Dunne shows up to ruin things, and Grant's character is so amused by her performance that he can't bear to stop her.

The beginning's a little slow, but then it picks up nicely.  And all in all it has a surprisingly modern feel for a film of the period.  It's definitely a good one.

The director, Leo McCreary, won the Oscar for it, and in his acceptance he said his other movie that year was better.  That other movie, though, was Make Way For Tomorrow, a Depression story (and how) about a retired couple who lose their home and find none of their children will take both of them in, and so they have to split up.  It's apparently a beautifully made film, but it's been called the most depressing movie ever.  Hardly surprising the award went to the screwy romantic comedy.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on September 26, 2010, 11:37:53 AM
Rather than get into a thing about Watchmen the book vs "The Watchmen" the big budget Hollywood movie, I'll just mention that Dave Gibbons' Beneath a Steel Sky ( adventure game from the mid-90s is free right now ( on Good Old Games. I haven't played it, but it looks interesting, and like all their stuff it's good and old so it'll run on anything. GOG had a bit of a marketing hiccup this past week--note to those in the business, the "death flounce" ( trick is a non starter--so this appears to be "please don't hate us" freebie promo stuff. I appreciate their DRM-free approach and ease of downloading the games whenever you want, though. I suggest browsing through their lineup; there are probably some oldies you enjoyed on the list...

Since we're in Axe's thread I dunno if I mentioned that Mechwarrior 4 is free now as well ( It's not MW2, but it's still pretty low-spec and is generally considered one of the best entries in the series.

The only part of The Road that seemed unrealistic was that they were able to get over on Omar like that.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 26, 2010, 01:06:47 PM

I don't currently have a complete machine that has the video to drive MechWarrior 4, but it'd be worth downloading while it's available.  If I ever finish refurbing my desktop machine . . . .
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 26, 2010, 02:57:29 PM
Yes, Watchmen, not The Watchmen. Excuse me, no irreverence intended. I enjoyed it :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on September 26, 2010, 04:13:37 PM
Not at all, the distinction was a particularly nerdy one in the first place :) In the book, there's really no group called "the watchmen" as the title comes from a line in the speech that JFK was scheduled to deliver in Dallas before he got shot (also referenced in the "who watches the watchmen" graffiti allusions) but then in the movie they're all like "We've got to warn the rest of The Watchmen!" and shit like that and it's just, bleh. I still like the idea of doing it as a 12 ep HBO miniseries much better, but I guess they did the best they could within the framework they had. The intro with Dylan and "Good luck, Mr Gorsky" is pretty cool.

(From what I understand, MW4 is free forever. These MekTek guys are maintaining it now; it's all through this little portal thing that torrents the game and its updates. Apparently there are more addons coming. I need to fire up the multiplayer sometime and see if there are many people playing it...)

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 26, 2010, 05:10:40 PM
I know the whole Watchmen thing is something some people get kind of sensitive about, like a Star Trek debate or whatever, and I never read the series, so I'm totally out of the loop on all that. I never was much into comics (if you could really call something like this comics), but the movie intrigued me enough that I would read them now. I'm sure it would cheapen the movie experience for me. There were a few cheesy moments already. It also seemed like there were a few anachronisms, some intentional based on the history changes they created, but some not. It was difficult to tell because they kept jumping back and forth at time. using 99 Luftballons, for example, seemed too early.

Before I rented it, I did a search here to see if Axe reviewed it and didn't come up with anything...

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 26, 2010, 05:51:32 PM
Huh.  I totally did review it here, but you're right, it's not coming up on the search for me, either.  The search function at SMF is kind of inconsistent, but even so.

edit:  It was hard to find, too. (,52.msg89564.html#msg89564)  I posted it in the other movie thread and saw it longer ago than I realized.

SANMAN reviewed it, too, which also didn't show up when I searched for it.  :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on September 26, 2010, 06:26:50 PM
Thanks. Maybe in a way I'm fortunate to have not read the comic before seeing the movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 26, 2010, 08:15:17 PM
I know a lot of people were upset that the film changed the ending -- it's a pretty big change in how things occur, not so much in what eventually happens -- and, oddly enough, that didn't bother me at all.  What happens in the comic is cuter, sort of, but not nearly as tidy, and the story is long enough and complicated enough so that it deeply needs to be tidier to be a feature film.

Really, my basic two problems with it are that I disagreed with a lot of the characterization (and, really, Manhattan is the biggest issue there) and I hated that the violence was exaggerated so absurdly.  I disliked the film's portrayal of Rorschach, but I understand why some people liked it.  And it would've been nice to see Dan done right and Ozymandias more dispassionate and internal, but it's not such a big deal.

Anyway, I feel fairly sure it'll be redone in a longer format eventually.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on September 27, 2010, 01:20:58 PM
Last night I watched a movie called Molly ( that Netflix was pushing.  It honestly didn't look like my kind of thing, but it has an impressive cast, and it expires from Instant Play at the end of the month . . . .

Er.  Basically, it's sort of Flowers in the Attic for Algernon.  Elizabeth Shue plays an autistic / retarded woman who winds up in the custody of her previously pretty distant brother (Aaron Eckhart, sporting what must be the worst haircut of his career).  She winds up undergoing an experimental surgical process that temporarily increases her intelligence by a lot.  Jill Hennessy plays the doctor and Eckhart's love interest, while Thomas Jane plays a man with an unspecified "learning disability" who's Shue's love interest.

I said "retarded" up there because the film does and because I know that's how this film must've been pitched to the studio.  Seriously, stop making these movies.  I suppose it's too much to hope that Tropic Thunder put a stake in the heart of this Dropped Out Of School Special bad idea, but I am going to hope.  For every decent uplifting movie about a dysfunctionally mentally abnormal person (um . . . Benny and Joon, Short Circuit), there are many, many appalling ones (which I won't even bother to enumerate).  Hell, I hated Rain Man, which I thought was pretty embarrassing.

The actors in this film try real hard.  The script is often so twee it would make a fluffy kitten throw up, and the swellingly sentimental score makes that even worse.  And then the script will take a sharp turn into awkward territory, such as the lame (but, I admit, :trance:) scene where Shue takes off all her clothes and walks into a board meeting.  Or the several scenes where she can't understand why she can't have sex with her brother. 

The movie is about four feet from the line that designates parody.  Every cliche is there, from the valuable lesson that every person is a person no matter what disabilities they may have to the old chestnut that surely if you're retarded, you must have superpowers to compensate for it, such as the memory of a savant, or superhearing (seriously), or the ability to count (I shit you not) 800,302 stars just by glancing at the sky.  I only kept watching out of insomnia, morbid fascination, that nude scene, the cast's general excellence, and Lucy Liu appearing in a small role, although alas she did not come back.

Seriously, WTF, please stop making these movies.  It is monumentally difficult to make them without creating a train wreck that's just plain wrong, and most of these films are just exploitation anyway.  Making tearjerkers or unrealistic heart-warming fluff about people with disabilities is not really that different from laughing at them.  Just cut it out.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 01, 2010, 09:38:36 PM
Last night, I finally saw Three Days of the Condor (1976), a sort of Robert Redford spy movie.  This is the one where Redford plays a slightly nebbish cultural intelligence analyst (he reads recent books looking for possible hidden spy stuff, more or less) who goes out to lunch and returns to find everyone else in his undercover CIA office mysteriously killed.  Bum-bum-BUM! 

Well.  The performances are mostly really good and pretty complex.  Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, and especially Max von Sydow in a strong role.  It's meant to be a clever spy caper, though, and like a lot of those it's actually not very clever.  I had the same reaction to The Bourne Identity, although, I mean, these films are still not Mission: Impossible movies or something. 

You've got your really smart guy (usually it's a man) trying to outwit an unknown well-connected enemy, and inevitably he finds a reluctant ally.  One thing our willing hero needs to do is explain the situation and plan ahead.  They never do a good job of this, until suddenly in the third act they make a huge leap forward in their cat-and-mouse abilities.  These films usually try showing them off-balanced and panicky at first but gradually getting their shit together, but I dunno.  They're usually TOO dumb in the second act, in particular.  To me, this is weak writing that says that if the hero was smarter, it would be too hard to figure out how the bad guys stay close. 

I don't think it would be that hard, but the main thing is that in a smart movie with a smart hero you have to have consistently smart writing.  Condor has some nice spy stuff and some well-done political and moral ambiguity that's just as timely today, but there are some stretches where you're going to be annoyed with Redford.  Still, it's fun, and the 70s sure were ugly, but the cast is nifty.  And that's still a good premise, although apparently that's almost all that they kept from the original novel.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 02, 2010, 09:08:34 PM
Last night I watched The Lady Eve (, a Preston Sturges romantic comedy from 1941 that stars Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda.  Honestly, it's mostly comedy -- most of the romance in it isn't particularly justified, although most viewers probably won't care.  The dialogue is fast and witty without being too forced, and the characters are mostly interesting.  More importantly, the comedy is generally quite funny.

Fonda plays a young rich schmuck (also a bit of a jerk) who meets a witty, pretty woman after a year in the Amazon with no female contact.  She's not merely interested in him but downright aggressive, and he's kind of desperate and naive.  Trouble is, she's a grifter, along with her father and their servant.  Trouble for her is that she actually falls in love with him.  Complications ensue, many of them broad and implausible.  At times, it becomes slapstick, and at times farce, and it's hard to believe that it all got past the Hays Office.

Fonda's character is much weaker than the rest, sort of an island of schmuck in a sea of fast-talkers, eccentrics, and oddballs.  At the same time, he's not strictly an Everyman kind of guy.  He's utterly devoted to one woman, his first love ever, until he meets someone else (whom he implausibly doesn't realize is actually the same woman), whereupon he recycles his smooth romantic banter from the first time around.  Mostly, though, he just plays straight man to Stanwyck's craziness.  When the film came out, her sexual aggression and general assertiveness were considered a bit outrageous, whereas now it just seems pretty modern.

There's a romantic scene where a horse keeps butting in, as well as an unromantic scene where a train whistle keeps intruding, and both had me laughing out loud.  The film sometimes seems pieced together, but it really doesn't matter.  It's funny.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 06, 2010, 11:39:43 PM
Last night I tried Sweet Charity (, 1969 Bob Fosse musical of his own stage show, music by Neil Simon, starring Shirley MacLaine and Ricardo Montalban.  Stubby Kaye's in there, and so are Sammy Davis Jr and Ben Vereen.  Gotta be good, right?

Frankly, it was terrible.  Every Fosse excess is represented even in the many, many, many scenes that don't feature dancing -- it's garish, brassy, cluttered, intentionally cheap-looking, and ironic as if it's either too good for you or too insecure to commit to what it's doing just in case you think what it's doing is stupid.  The cinematography is awkward and stagey, with the dialogue chopped up by too much camerawork.  A lot of the dancing is filmed by only showing the dancers from the waist up, which is like the biggest mistake in filming people who are dancing.  The entire production is perhaps best characterized by the phrase jazz hands.  Most of the songs are pretty bad, and even Big Spender is unnecessarily nasal, strident, and generally unpleasant.

The story is episodic nowhere.  It's an adaptation of a Fellini story that probably worked better as an unstructured European kind of thing.  Presumably the story exists as an excuse for the musical numbers, but there's way too much in between the musical numbers, and they generally aren't worth the wait.

Some of the dancing is nifty.  Can't deny that.  Some of it.  Basically one three-in-one number that doesn't have any of the principle cast in it.  MacLaine looks pretty bad in this, and although I know she can dance, she doesn't have much interesting dancing to do.

I watched an hour and a half and realized there was still a whole hour left and turned it off.  Seriously, it's no Irma La Douce.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mrcookieface on October 06, 2010, 11:56:32 PM
Music by Neil Simon?  Well, there's your problem right there.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 07, 2010, 12:15:27 AM

Story, I mean.  But maybe it would've been about the same either way.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 07, 2010, 01:13:07 PM
Last night I was awake until almost 5:30 and watched the Netflix DVD of Promised Land (, a You Can't Go Home Again movie from 1987.  Netflix's description of this movie is very wrong.  Wikipedia's summary is wrong, too, although not quite as wrong -- but, of course, full of spoilers, perhaps to make up for being wrong.  Apparently not many people can sit through this and pay attention.

Four main characters in their early 20s:  Jason Gedrick plays the kid who was high school basketball star.  Tracy Pollan plays the woman who was his cheerleader girlfriend but went to college.  Kiefer Sutherland (at his most awkward ever) plays the kid who was the local destined-for-success nerd who somewhat inexplicably ran off to Arizona to do nothing instead.  Meg Ryan (against type) plays the crazy dumbass drunk woman who's with Sutherland's character for some reason, and whatever it is it's not a good reason.

They all wind up stuck in their hometown, near Christmas, because none of them really have anywhere else to be, either.  This isn't one of those heartwarming movies where they learn stuff or luck into good developments, and the characters have no insights whatsoever into their problems, or into anything else.  Pollan's character is the only one who has a chance, and the movie would be nicer if it just showed her driving the hell out of town.  The film is allegedly based on a true story, but not the kind of true story that's very interesting unless maybe it happened in your town.

This kind of movie was a cliche when it came out, and it's certainly been done to death by now.  It's arty and occasionally pretentious and unrelenting, with depth only ever hinted at but not developed, and there isn't much story.  The acting's fine, but the only thing that surprised me here was Meg Ryan briefly topless.  Even so, if I had to watch one of them again, I'd rather see, oh, Leather Jackets (
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Talix on October 07, 2010, 02:02:50 PM
Meg plays the crazy dumbass drunk in When A Man Loves A Woman...or were you being sarcastic?   :huh:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 07, 2010, 02:44:37 PM
I thought she played a sad, self-destructive drunk in that one, not a crazy manic everyone-destructive drunk, but I didn't see it and didn't think of it.  What, Andy Garcia is the man who refuses to quit in that one, right?

Two unhappy drunks still doesn't overwhelm 622 happy cute-as-a-buttons, I think.  I think she's generally thought of as dimpling and squinting, but I could be wrong.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Talix on October 07, 2010, 03:23:22 PM
Actually, I just remember the dumbass drunk part.  I don't remember whether she was sad, but she was certainly crazy in some important way.  Yep, Andy Garcia plays the Man.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 07, 2010, 08:22:45 PM
Finally saw The Royal Tenenbaums.  Eh.  I think it was more depressing than anything else.  It's full of cute touches, but I didn't actually laugh at any point, and it's more admirable for the depth of effort than any particular cleverness.  Frankly, it feels like Anderson conjured it up out of boredom and just spun it out until he felt there was enough of it.

Great cast, though.  I actually haven't liked most of the movies I've seen Gwyneth Paltrow in, but damn she's watchable regardless, and I surely do not always say that about many people.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on October 08, 2010, 12:26:12 AM
great cast, fell flat. if i want to see whiny, rich, bitch kids i'll surf fark. shtick got old real fast.

boo hoo, dad doesn't care and all i have is my material stuff.

well, guess what, dad doesn't care about a lot of kids. get over it, do something to help others, be better than dad or just shut the fuck up.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on October 08, 2010, 07:03:03 AM
I actually haven't liked most of the movies I've seen Gwyneth Paltrow in, but damn she's watchable regardless, and I surely do not always say that about many people.

I know what you mean. I can't think of a movie with her in it, but I remember watching her on this food show ( and being kind of mesmerized... okay, I was probably drooling a little bit. And it's a food show, nothing sexy about it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 08, 2010, 07:48:40 AM
She's attractive, of course, but she just has a compelling face.  I think her career could still be strong when she's in her sixties.  She should look for more dynamic roles, though -- she so often plays characters who are holding everything back, and I don't think she needs to.

You'd think I'd be less enthusiastic about her, considering how little most of her movies have done for me, though.  They often have good casts but just fail to engage me.  I actually gave up on Young Shakespeare in Love before they got to her nude scenes.  I heard a lot about those when the movie came out, and I can't remember if I've seen her in anything with nude scenes, and the movie has a truly awesome cast, but it was just boring the hell out of me.  Decent concept, great cast, good effort, and I kept waiting for it to get better.

I haven't seen that many of her movies, though, so maybe I've just seen the wrong ones.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on October 08, 2010, 08:31:07 AM
She's more than a pretty face, it's not that. It's hard to quantify what I find attractive about her :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on October 08, 2010, 08:35:46 AM
I am in the same boat with you guys. I don't think she's a great actor, but I love watching her, clothes on or not.  Shakespeare in Love really did grab me. I guess because she reminded me of a high school girlfriend I met while I was in a production of Romeo and Juliet so, yeah. hmm.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Talix on October 08, 2010, 08:58:00 AM
Shakespeare in Love is on my top five most hated movies list.  In fact, it might be my top five list.  Historical fiction is one thing, historical fantasy is another, but that?  Was non-historical did-you-ever-actually-read-any-of-the-sonnets crap?

Not that I have strong feelings about it. :innocent:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: hajen on October 08, 2010, 09:58:21 AM
I liked Shakespeare in Love, despite Joseph Fiennes, whose acting I did not enjoy. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Stoppard. It was fluff but I thought it was done well. I liked the actors, I liked the visuals, I liked the wordplay, and somehow all that got me past the historical fantasy crapola and cliches. I'm pretty picky about movies but I was able to check my brain out and just ride the story, which usually doesn't happen. I don't know if I'd enjoy it as much now if I rewatched it tomorrow, though.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 08, 2010, 10:47:39 AM
See, I thought I was going to hate it, and then as it got going and I realized it was Stoppardish and had such a great cast I thought I was going to like it, and I just kept waiting for it to pick up and grab me, but . . . it seemed like such a slog.  :shrug:

I didn't just mean she has a pretty face, though.  A lot of it is how she uses it.  She projects a lot of unused potential, which I guess I'm a sucker for.  Her characters always seem sad but cheer-uppable (er . . . word awkwardness), seem more intelligent than they let on.  They always seem like they're waiting for some opportunity that just never comes along.  Jennifer Aniston actually plays versions of the same sort of character a lot, although usually in a breezier style.

How did Brad Pitt wind up with Angelina? 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Hedaira on October 08, 2010, 11:26:46 AM
Because he's criminally lucky.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on October 08, 2010, 12:43:01 PM
I always heard that she wanted kids, and he didn't.

Ha, ha.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 08, 2010, 01:17:27 PM

He is criminally lucky, and it's not like Angelina's completely awful . . . although she's thoroughly badged with nature's Do Not Touch warnings . . . but, I mean, come on.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Tripper on October 08, 2010, 03:04:40 PM
For my best friend Fong's birthday, another friend and I took him to see "Resident Evil 4" (he has this thing about Milla Jojovich). In 3D.


Decent "park your brain and watch a hot chick kill bad guys and zombies in as many different ways as possible" flick.  After that, I can't recommend it much.  No nudity, but Ali Larter is hot in no matter what she wears.

What I *didn't* expect was the "Ghost in the Shell" homage in the beginning.  I half expected to see Batou come running in after her.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 08, 2010, 03:21:30 PM
I only saw the first one and thought it was pretty deeply bad.  Started out OK, had some OK moments, generally got worse and worse in the last third or so of the movie.  I like Milla, but she hasn't been in a lot of good movies.  Fortunately, she'll always have the Multipass.

I almost forgot -- last night I tried Air Force One, which I'd never gotten around to seeing.  Good cast.  I watched about 25 minutes and was too annoyed with its whole tone and shut it off.  It reeked of that Tom Clancy THIS IS SO REALISTIC lack of realism that's like sitting on a bike without a seat -- the scenery is just not going to compensate.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 09, 2010, 12:13:20 AM
Oh, I also rewatched Murder By Death, in parts, over the last few days and finished it early this morning.  Er, yesterday morning, technically.  It remains awesome, although less balanced than I'd remembered, but surely deeply inspired.  Also, this was the first time I got the "Lionel Twain" joke . . . argh.

Reading comments about it online, I discovered that there are apparently several 'missing' scenes that are sometimes shown in TV broadcasts.  I've never seen them, and they're apparently not on any DVD edition to date, either.  WTF.  Annoying, that.

Tonight, I watched a random horror film, Shallow Ground (, an indie from 2004 that doesn't entirely feel like a low-budget indie.  OK, you won't know the actors, there are basically two a few sets plus the woods, and one of the main cast members has a lot of his dialogue clearly re-recorded in post-production for whatever reason.  But the acting is fine (the female cast is especially decent), the stupidity is at a minimum, and the effects are way better than I expected.

The story doesn't entirely make sense, but it doesn't really have to.  There's some exposition toward the end that could have come sooner and could have been clearer, but frankly I didn't care.  Hell, I lost track of who some of the characters were and how they related to each other, but I still didn't care.  Of course, I had the film on while I was doing other things, and maybe I'd've been bored or annoyed if I hadn't been a little distracted, but, seriously, the decent effects alone were enough to keep recapturing my attention, and at least the film has some ambition.

So it was OK.  Kind of a gory supernatural slasher-in-the-woods sort of thing, but not as run of the mill as that probably sounds.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 09, 2010, 09:50:03 PM
Netflix is reminding me that I saw a few and didn't rate them, and I forgot to mention them here, too.

Burnt Offerings (, from 1976, film adaptation of the horror novel by Robert Marasco which was one of the main inspirations for The Shining.  Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis, with Burgess Meredith in a small role -- they didn't skimp on the cast.  The film is so-so, slow and talky, meant to be suspenseful but liable to make you impatient.  The characters aren't deep enough, and one of the major 'scary' elements (a funeral chauffeur) isn't likely to scare anyone older than 13 or so.  The scene of the house rejuvenating itself has some nice touches, though.

Weirdly, Black looks creepiest in the first part of the movie, mostly due to an unflattering hairstyle.  She's supposed to be creepier in the second half, but for the most part she looks more normal.  Reed doesn't have much to do except BE INTENSE, which is just as hammy as when Nicholson did it in Kubrick's Shining except that the script gives Reed less to do.  Davis is great, frankly.  But all in all, it's kind of plodding.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 09, 2010, 09:59:58 PM
Also finally saw Bowfinger (, which has been recommended to me by at least two dozen people and comes up anytime someone says Steve Martin or Eddie Murphy hasn't made a good movie in forever.  I haven't seen many recent movies by either of them, although I'd like to see Shopgirl.

Anyway, Bowfinger is . . . OK.  The first twenty minutes or so just depressed me.  Then it became sporadically funny, although for about the first half I thought Murphy was pretty bad in this one.  It definitely has its moments, but it never entirely came together for me, and it's just so awkward.  I think it would've been funnier to establish the concept quickly and then, as the bulk of the actual film, show the completed film they were working on.  Watching them make their film is probably much funnier to a Hollywood audience, and I'm as generally sick of films about making films as I am of books about writing books. 

There are exceptions, of course, like Tropic Thunder, but as a rule . . . meh.  I don't think I'm really all that hard to please, though.  I must've seen Martin's widely panned movie Mixed Nuts like four times, and I always like it fine.  Like that one, Bowfinger has a really nice cast, which definitely helps.  Heather Graham has an impressive ability to continue to look 25, although it was weird to look at the dates and realize she made this one just a year or two after Boogie Nights.  Wikipedia tells me she started dating James Woods while they were making Diggstown, which is mostly weird to me because I'm sure I've seen it at least twice (I have two friends who are both huge fans of that film for some reason), although not recently, and I never realized she was in it.

Well, whatever.  Anyway, Bowfinger definitely has its moments, but it's not as good as I was hoping.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mrcookieface on October 09, 2010, 10:07:59 PM
Watch it again in a few months.  It gets better with every viewing, like Lebowski.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 09, 2010, 10:17:01 PM
Oh . . . and Heaven Can Wait (, which I'd seen chunks of before but never the whole thing.  I've seen chunks of Here Comes Mr Jordan, which it's a remake of, too, so maybe I'll see that one, too.  Anyway, the remake of course stars Warren Beatty, with Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, Julie Christie, James Mason (not actually playing God, but close), Buck Henry, and Jack (I've Played A Lot Of Football Coaches) Warden.  It's pretty good.

Beatty isn't bad in this, although Christie is weirdly flat and frankly looks bored most of the time.  There's no real chemisty between them, which is a shame since about a third of the plot depends on it.  But the supporting cast is great (Grodin is particularly funny, and James Mason is James Mason), and the football scenes aren't bad.  A bunch of it goes on too long, and quite a few bits that could've been played for a lot more comedy are too short.  Beatty trying to shed the eccentricities of the millionaire's life he's usurped, for instance, or him trying to get the butlers to play football with him.  

Ah, well.  The last ten or fifteen minutes really drag on, and the way the second-chance-at-life bit gets wrapped up is pretty disappointing and clumsy.  But you can't have everything, even if you get multiple chances at life.  Beatty and Buck Henry directed the film and allegedly originally wanted Cary Grant in the James Mason role (but Grant had retired and declined the offer) and wanted the movie to be closer to the original (which was about a boxer, not a quarterback) and to star Muhammed Ali (!).  I can't even really imagine that.  The film was shot, what, around the time of the Thrilla in Manila?  Did Ali ever do any film acting?  I'm not saying he couldn't have, but I can't imagine what the film might've been like.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 09, 2010, 10:18:39 PM
I've only seen Lebowski once.  I thought it was OK -- well, better than OK, certainly, but no Fargo or Raising Arizona.  My favorite scene was the one where he checks in to check what condition his condition is in.

Maybe I should see it again.  I might be too much of a nihilist to appreciate it properly on one viewing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: First Post on October 09, 2010, 10:27:13 PM
It's funny how in Bowfinger, Eddie Murphy said he was just basically playing his brother Charlie Murphy, and nowadays Charlie Murphy is more popular than Eddie thanks to "I'm Rick James, bitch!" ( and basketball with Prince (

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 10, 2010, 08:26:11 AM

I didn't know Eddie Murphy really had a brother.  Well, in Raw he talked about growing up with a brother, but that could have been just standup.

I will say, Bowfinger was the best Eddie Murphy movie I've seen since Coming to America, if you don't count his voice roles in animated films.  I guess Boomerang was OK, but I haven't seen it since the year it came out.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 12, 2010, 11:50:29 PM
Watched Legal Eagles ( for the hell of it.  Hadn't seen it since the late 80s.  This is the one where Robert Redford and Debra Winger are semi-antagonistic attorneys and Darryl Hannah is semi-crazy. 

First time I saw this, I didn't realize it was supposed to be a comedy.  Well, I was probably distracted.  To be honest, it's perfectly passable but not wonderful, even though the cast also includes Brian Dennehy and Terrence Stamp.  Amusingly, Steven Hill plays the DA, just like he later did on Law & Order.

The film's too slow, though -- I got the feeling that Ivan Reitman (who directed this one in between Ghostbusters and Twins) couldn't bring himself to cut any shot in which either Redford or Winger was smiling or raising their eyebrows.  And the mystery starts off with a perfectly good premise but then wanders.  And Hannah looks pretty good in this, but I would've chosen Debra Winger right off the bat, even if some of her scenes are pretty awkward.  This film put a real spike in her career, though, because it made her dump her agency.

Actually, the trivia I discovered about this movie online is more interesting than the film itself.  Apparently it started off as a documentary about a real case.  Then it became a non-romantic comedy intended to star Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray.  And apparently there are four different endings due to audience dissatisfaction, with different verdicts being returned by the final jury.  Bizarre.  I'm about 90% sure the Netflix Instant Play version is the same version I originally saw.

I also have to say that I don't really understand how Reitman's films can be so uneven.  Maybe some scripts just work for him and others don't?  Weird, though.

Oh, also, Redford has chest hair that makes my carpet look like hardwood flooring.  Shocking.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on October 13, 2010, 12:06:59 AM
It's funny how in Bowfinger, Eddie Murphy said he was just basically playing his brother Charlie Murphy, and nowadays Charlie Murphy is more popular than Eddie thanks to "I'm Rick James, bitch!" ( and basketball with Prince (

he's also getting his own stand up shows. i'm sure he does quite well on the road. he's quite talented.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 13, 2010, 12:44:37 AM
Oh, I also saw Sunshine Cleaning (, one of those indie films that's marketed as a comedy.  Not so much in the usual modern sense of 'comedy', although there are funny moments.  It's also frequently described as a black comedy, which it is not; it's a slice-of-life movie that's sometimes funny and sometimes tragic.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the director is from New Zealand, where they excel at these kinds of things.

Amy Adams proves she can be plenty appealing in a role where she's not playing a crazy person, and Emily Blunt -- who looks awfully familiar but whose other movies (Devil Wears Prada, for instance) I have not seen -- is excellent as her disaffected screw-up sister.  Alan Arkin, in a role he's great in but which I've seen often enough by now, is their driven but slightly sad-sack father.  Clifton Collins Jr -- who to me will always be first and foremost always be Tack, from The Stoned Age -- plays a memorable low-key nice guy.  Steve Zahn plays a jackass.  In fact, last time I saw him play a jackass (a different kind of jackass, though), he had sex with Jennifer Aniston.  This time, it's Amy Adams.  Guy gets good parts, gotta give him that.

In fact, the movie won an award for casting, and I should think so, since it was made for about $5 million by newcomers.  Anyway, the film is good, but frequently pretty depressing, and it's dark enough to keep you on your toes because you really won't feel you can trust it to be nice.  Does anyone go to see these things hoping for a miserable ending?  I think it's not so much a spoiler as a reassurance that the movie doesn't so much come to an end as it does bow out during a nice little upswing.  Still, it deals with multiple suicides and other deaths, lots of personal setbacks, and failed relationships.

All in all, I'd roughly compare it to another sad-sack Arkin picture, Slums of Beverly Hills, although it's a bit less comedic.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on October 13, 2010, 01:16:30 AM
yeah, it was kind of a good movie and kind of quirky, but overall it just didn't fill out really well.

i liked slums of beverly hills better.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 13, 2010, 01:38:02 AM
Slums of Beverly Hills is pretty random but also pretty awesome.  Its characters are more eccentric, and the film's trying harder to entertain, not just to serve its own characters, although of course it has serious parts, too.  It's weird though how it has unnecessary nudity (nice, but not necessary) that's obviously shot with body doubles.  I always wondered if the writer-director was making a point there.  She also did a movie a couple of years ago called The Savages, I think, that I'd like to see, but I get the impression that it's not as much of a comedy.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on October 13, 2010, 02:02:49 AM
Loved Slums of Beverly Hills.  Marisa Tomei :thud:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 13, 2010, 07:55:21 PM
So little sleep.  Let me see.

Puppet Master (, which I'd never seen all of.  Better than average indie horror film by actual horror-film afficionados.  Not fabulous, but better than you'd think, and not afraid to go for it.  A bunch of assorted psychics of different kinds are called to a closed hotel for the funeral of the founding member of their little circle.  A handful of sinister animated puppets are also there to kill people, and the Why of it is a mystery you gotta solve before you get killed.

The acting and direction are mostly better than you'd expect, and so are the puppets.  Legendary horror film dude Charles Band produced, and Wikipedia says there are NINE sequels so far.  Of mixed quality.  This one's certainly watchable, anyway.

Bright Lights, Big City (,_Big_City_(film)), one of those movies that for years people were telling me I had to see.  Um.  Well, the cast is good, and it's got Phoebe Cates and Tracy Pollan, so what the hell.

Alas, I hate this kind of story:  Young yuppies and their go-go lifestyle problems.  Michael J. Fox plays a dipshit who can't do his work when he's at work (and doesn't care), can't keep his wife (she ran off to Paris, and he does care), and can't stop doing drugs.  His even shallower jackass friend (Kiefer Sutherland) is not a good influence, but, really, people like this rarely respond to good influences.  He's doomed and unlikeable, despite having legitimate problems (the runaway wife, his mother dying of cancer), since he's incapable of doing anything about his problems except causing trouble for other people and sucking cocaine up his nose.  But watch him wallow in self-induced misery for two hours.  There's some techno pop and 80s stuff, and some seriously good actors in small supporting roles.

Cates is hardly in the film, and I'm told most of her scenes were cut.  Pollan's in there briefly as a possible new girlfriend for Fox's character, but you don't wish that on her.  I kept fast-forwarding, and then the movie ended.  Fine, whatever.  I guess I won't bother watching Less Than Zero.  I've known too many people like these characters, and they're depressing at best, obsessed with the stupidest self-delusions, drowning as a result, and clawing everyone around them underwater in their flailing narcissistic attempts to reach the top.  Seriously, no thanks.

American Psycho and Cruel Intentions are a huge, huge improvement on this genre, I must say.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 13, 2010, 11:56:49 PM
Finally saw The China Syndrome, which I'd only ever seen pieces of before.  Wow.  That was MUCH better than I'd heard.  Best suspense movie I can remember seeing for long enough that I can't think of what the last best suspense movie I saw was. 

Also far more realistic and less hyperbolic than I'd been led to believe.  I've heard a lot of objections that of course the so-called China Syndrome is nonsense, but (A) it's only mentioned once, briefly, in the film, and (B) immediately the person who mentions it says that of course it's not realistic.  He explains that the runaway core would melt down through the ground until it reached groundwater, and then it would explode.  In fact, I've never heard a definitive opinion on this -- it's never been tested, oddly enough -- and the internets suggest that the matter has never been settled by experts.

Regardless, a total meltdown like the one described in the film would probably destroy the containment vessel depicted in the film, and the burning core would release large amounts of uranium aerosols.  (Depleted uranium ammunition does this, too, as do many airliner crashes.  Experts disagree about how dangerous this is.)  But more important is that the film doesn't dwell on the details too much; it's not shrill or actually very propagandistic.  It depicts most anti-nuke demonstrators as, um, well-meaning kooks, I guess, and it depicts corporate villains as corporate villains.  It only depicts nuclear power as potentially beneficial and potentially dangerous.  Really, it's very fair about it.

Similarly, the film does simplify the workings of a nuclear plant, etc, but not absurdly.  This isn't The Day After Tomorrow or something.  I kept feeling a little shocked at how much the movie wasn't insulting my intelligence or sense of taste.  The first fifteen minutes or so are a little rough, but for the most part it's so . . . well done.

The irony that the film came out two weeks before the Three Mile Island accident is pretty startling.  Roland Emmerich wishes.

The weird coincidence is that, uh, James Bridges, who directed this, also directed Bright Lights, Big City, which I didn't realize until I went to Wikipedia after I watched China Syndrome.  Total coincidence.  He also directed The Paper Chase, which I've never seen all of and dithered about putting into my queue earlier today.  :shock:  :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on October 14, 2010, 02:00:55 AM
that movie was one of those that carried the suspense with good writing and good acting. they didn't have michael bay to direct the movie, thank gob.

it also came out at a time when the subject matter was very relevant. (unlike now . . .  :eyeroll:)

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on October 14, 2010, 09:31:23 AM
I went with my mom to see that movie (at the pruneyard, :flipper:) when it first came out. The thing I remember best was walking out after the movie was over. Usually it's noisy. People are chattering, discussing the movie, talking about what to do next, bla. This time people were utterly silent. It was remarkable and it's really stuck with me. Obviously a make-you-think sort of picture, and everyone was clearly thinking about it.

What I don't remember is whether this was after the :tmi: accident or not. If it was, then it was less surprising. That was quite an interesting time.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 14, 2010, 09:46:41 AM
The movie ends on a well-done note of unresolved tension, where you can't tell if there's going to be a real investigation or a whitewash.  It makes it really clear, without actually saying it, that maybe the 'harsh light' of the media can force corporations to obey the law and force the government to enforce it, and maybe it can't.

Then the credits roll with no music.  Seriously, the movie's incredibly sort of tastefully done.  Fonda was awkward during the beginning, and Michael Douglas initially comes in with too much intensification, but they both settle down as the film goes along, and Jack Lemmon and Wilford Brimley are perfect.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 14, 2010, 02:06:40 PM
I just wanted a movie I wouldn't have to pay close attention to, and I put on Dragonfly (, partly because I was too lazy to look through my queue for other suitable films.  Ergh.  Watching this movie, even while you're doing other things, is like sleeping fitfully under a heavy blanket of hot stinky cheese.  It's awkward and bad and cliched and mostly really dull.

Then it has a twist ending that (A) isn't hard to guess, and (B) isn't the best possible twist ending you'd probably guess at.  Worse, it doesn't even make any sense if you stop to think about it, although I can't recommend thinking about it.  The whole production is muddled, with little feints at story threads that are quickly dropped and motifs that come and go as if the director (who, I'm sorry, seems to have peaked with Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, although I did like that film) lost interest in them.  The writing is also frequently odd, such as a conversation in which a nun tells Costner's characters that the afterlife is created entirely by our imagination, which is not a very Catholic point of view.

Reportedly, the Costner role was originally intended for Harrison Ford, who read the script and decided he'd rather not make any movies that year than make this movie.  Good choice.  I also learned that Alison Lohman shaved her head for a role as a cancer patient in this film, and then all her scenes were cut, and that she wore a wig while filming White Oleander.  These bits of trivia are more interesting than the film itself.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on October 14, 2010, 02:39:05 PM
Heh, Three Mile Island = :tmi:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 16, 2010, 04:17:52 PM
Couldn't sleep last night, but the compensation is that I watched Homicidal (, a William Castle horror film from 1961.  Holy crap!  That was awesome.

Castle is the guy famous for using schtick and weird tricks to promote and enhance his movies.  This one has a Fright Break right before the climax, where the narrator (Castle) stops the film for 45 seconds so anyone who's too freaked out can leave the theater.  It's cheesy, but actually it's an effective way to increase the suspense, and it's pretty charming in and of itself.

The movie . . . is freakish and bizarre.  It's creepy but easy to watch.  It mostly seems like it could be an A-list movie of the time until weird step-brother Warren shows up in one of the most peculiar performances in decades.  I didn't know whether to laugh or be disturbed, so I did a little of both.  If ever there was a movie for MST3K where the movie itself wasn't dreadfully boring, this might be it.  Castle's conscious imitation of Hitchcock is kind of funny, and the movie is a sort of ripoff of Psycho but not a close ripoff, and the story moves along pretty well.  Some of the dialogue is fine, with a few really good lines, and some is mind-bendingly awkward, which just lends to the atmosphere.

It's got strange little details, too, such as a major character named Miriam Webster.  And the suave soda jerk / pharmacist is played by Glenn Corbett, who also played the original Zefrem Cochrane on Star Trek.

Awesome.  The ending is great, too.  Now I have to figure out who I can show it to.

edit:  NB!  Do NOT go read about this film if you think you might see it.  See it first.  It's such an old film that everyone and their cousin gives away the surprise ending without a second thought.  Just watch the movie.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 17, 2010, 07:37:44 PM
Last night I watched The Eiger Sanction (  Well, it's not exactly how I remembered it, but it's still good.

In the early 70s, Clint Eastwood wanted to do a spy thriller, but something different, and he wanted to do his own stunts.  The film is based on a Trevanian spy novel that's actually meant to be a sort of dark parody, although the film mostly comes off as quirky rather than satirical.  It's so odd at times that you wouldn't necessarily think it was trying to be funny, just unusual, and it's certainly unusual.  Eastwood directed the film himself, he said, because so many of the locations were so difficult that he doubted he could find a director willing to accompany the crew and actors.

Much of the film revolves around mountaineering and climbing, which Eastwood learned to do for the film.  One of the most spectacular climbs (and he did actually do the climbing you see him do in the film) is up a sheer pillar of rock in Monument Valley.  He was the last person to climb it for the sake of climbing it -- afterward, the Navajo had the film crew remove all the pitons, etc, left behind by earlier climbers and made the pillar (aka the Totem Pole) off-limits.  Some sources claim there's one stunt that Eastwood didn't do, where a dummy was used, but it really doesn't matter.  The conditions really were as dangerous as they look, too.  On just the second day of filming, an experienced mountain climber was killed by a falling rock.

The spy stuff in the film is occasionally a bit muddled, but not so much that you can't keep track of who's doing what and why.  The film also has that charming too-casual-to-be-racist racism, where as long as the racism is emphatically acknowledged and not hostile, it's OK.  It seems quaint now, but 1975 was a long time ago.  Anyway, the cast is good, the giant glasses are relevant again, Eastwood is young, and it all moves along just fine. 
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 17, 2010, 07:50:40 PM
This evening, on the other hand, I watched a movie Netflix recommended called Heartbreaker, from 1983.  Netflix describes it as a movie about underground drag racing and gang warfare in LA, starring Miguel Ferrer and Apollonia.  Doesn't sound like my thing, but whatever, and Miguel Ferrer is always good.  Besides, I figured, I can't even remember what Apollonia looks like.  I haven't seen Purple Rain since the year it came out, which was 1984.

As it turns out, Miguel Ferrer is in a fairly small supporting role, and, although Apollonia's in there, I didn't see her.  In reality, the movie is about lowriders in East LA and, a little bit, about race relations, romance, and, well, not much else.  It actually stars Fernando Allende, who at the time was a very popular Mexican actor and singer, and Dawn Dunlap, who was still mostly remembered for appearing in a David Hamilton soft core art-porn film (Laura) when she was sixteen.

This was Allende's first English-language film, and it was a big deal -- the mayor of LA sent an oversized congratulations card to the film's opening.  Allende plays a pretty stereotypical LA street kid, but not a horrible stereotype, not negative.  Dunlap plays a white girl from a family apparently too poor to afford a single bra.  (She has a few topless scenes, too, and although she's gorgeous, she still looks sixteen.  The internets say she was 23 when they made the movie, but I still felt pervy.) 

Meanwhile, an unscrupulous car-show promoter torches someone's car and tries to blame a rival car club in a plot that frankly doesn't make much sense.  The movie is mostly pretty underwritten and slow, and not all that much honestly happens, although god knows I've seen worse.  The cars look pretty cool, and eventually there's even a car chase of sorts, although apparently they couldn't get a permit to use the river basin.  (WAT.)  There's even a dwarf in there.  Seriously, if you're watching this movie now, it's probably to see Dawn Dunlap and/or the paint jobs on the cars.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 18, 2010, 01:41:13 PM
Last night I watched The Opposite of Sex (, which I saw about a third of several years ago.  It's a little uneven, but pretty excellent.  Christina Ricci is almost too good as the scumbag messed-up teenager.  

The cast and characters are good.  Barring Ricci's teen mean queen and two dumb gay guys (there are three major gay characters, one of whom is smart), I would be happy to be friends with these people.  Yes, they are sometimes real downers and/or quite bitchy, but I could live with that.  Martin Donovan is great in roles where he plays reserved characters; he does a good running-on-the-inside bit.  I always felt Lisa Kudrow was kind of wasted on Friends -- and I'm not one of those people who compares Phoebe to her character on Mad About You, as I never saw an episode of the latter with hre in it.  Phoebe was just written too unevenly and too shrill, acting randomly crazy in any direction that met the whim of the script.  She's great here as a bitter sharp-tongued wiseass.

Lyle Lovett, of all people, plays a sheriff.  It's a small role but in its way almost as good as Frances McDormand's police chief in Fargo.  The characters say various things about love, sex, and relationships, with varying results, but on balance the film's a lot smarter than most of the characters.  And it's pretty funny, too.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Talix on October 18, 2010, 01:52:52 PM
Wasn't her character on Mad About You Phoebe's twin sister?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 18, 2010, 02:34:48 PM
:hmm:  I don't know, but I have some vague recollection of my mother saying so, or that there was some crossover between the shows, or something.

The only episode of Mad About You I remember seeing is the one with John Astin.  It was OK, and all, and I don't think I've disliked Helen Hunt in anything ever, but Paul Reiser was driving me crazy.  I often like Reiser fine; it was just this show, for whatever reason.

Wikipedia says, yeah, she played an acerbic waitress who was Phoebe's sister or something.  Huh.  Also that regular guests included Judy Geeson, Hank Azaria, Carol Burnett, Carroll O'Connor, and Mel Brooks.  That's pretty damned good.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on October 18, 2010, 02:50:52 PM
yes, there was a good twin/evil twin.

she was also good in "romy and michelle". not a big stretch for her character-wise, but she plays dumb blond well.f
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on October 18, 2010, 04:47:26 PM
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on October 18, 2010, 04:53:43 PM


Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 18, 2010, 08:32:04 PM

Yeah, my first thought was Don't underestimate the importance of BODY LANGUAGE.

But I figured it out after a few.  Drinks.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 18, 2010, 10:46:23 PM
Angel on My Shoulder (, kind of an odd comedy from 1946.  A gangster is double-crossed and killed by his friend.  He goes to Hell and meets the Devil, who takes him back to Earth and puts him in the body of a judge.  In return, the gangster-judge is supposed to do small favors for the Devil.  Meanwhile, he meets the judge's swell fiance and is exposed to the kind of positive environment he never knew in his first life, with largely predictable results.

The concept is a bit awkward, especially since the actual judge doesn't, say, die, but is simply usurped.  Also, the gangster is played by Paul Muni (awesome birth name: Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund), who seems to be in a different sort of comedy film from the other characters.  Of course, halfway-serious narrative comedies were often broader back in the day, and the director did a Marx Bros movie that same year, but still Muni sometimes seems like he's in the wrong gear.  He certainly wasn't a bad actor, but he didn't usually do comedy.

Claude Rains is purely awesome as the Devil: elegant, long-suffering, and annoyed.  Anne Baxter is plenty appealing as the girlfriend.  The script isn't always as clever as it wants to be, but there are a lot of good parts.  Most of the actually funny bits come from the gangster incorrectly repeating things he's heard the Devil say, repeatedly mispronouncing "Mephistopheles" (as "Mestipopolis", for instance) or saying "the people worse than" instead of "the People versus" while trying to cite a court precedent.

A lot of the Trading Places-style fish-out-of-water jokes are pretty stale by now -- and frankly weren't anything new in 1946, either -- but maybe they were funnier at the time.  So it's a little slow at times, but it has nice moments.  By the end, I liked it pretty solidly, but largely due to the strengths of Rains and Baxter.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 19, 2010, 11:01:49 PM
The Illustrated Man (, from 1969.  Eh.

In 1951, Ray Bradbury published a pretty excellent collection of short stories loosely linked by a framing story about two drifters, one of whom is covered in tattoos that affect your brains and tell you stories about the future.  Spooky stuff.  Frankly, I thought the framing story wasn't that great, but some of the stories are certainly good.  The Veldt is a fine holodeck story written a good 35 years before Star Trek used the idea, and The Rocket Man is where Elton John got that idea from.  This particular collection has more stories with theological themes and somewhat fewer horror stories.

The film adapts three of the stories and expands the framing device quite a bit.  Frankly, the framing bits still don't work all that well, but now they go on a lot, with Rod Steiger in the title role chewing up scenery like a starving langolier.  The stories adapted are The Veldt, the fine holodeck / evil children story, which features truly groovy 60s-futurism set designs; The Long Rain, a 'wet Venus' story set on a Venus with a breatheable atmosphere, constant heavy rain, and what appears to be lichen-based life; and The Last Night of the World, in which everyone on Earth becomes convinced that the world is going to end the next morning.

The first story is pretty good.  The second one is kind of hypnotic because of the sets and all the rain.  The third story is weaker, and if I remember correctly it's not much like the original.  Meanwhile, as I said, the bit with the two drifters goes on and on and on.  I suspect that may be because it was so hard to apply the tattoo makeup to Steiger's body that they felt they had to make the most of it, but who knows.  The film's long enough so that it certainly didn't need any padding.  Then the very end is mighty weak and peculiar, too.

All in all, it's more of a curiosity, for people who haven't seen SF films from the late 60s and are curious.  But you could just see 2001 -- which I think is overrated but still basically superlative except for the end sequence -- or even Truffaut's peculiar adaptation of Fahrenheit 451Quatermass and the PitPlanet of the Apes.  Or if you want something psychedelic (The Illustrated Man was advertised as being psychedelic, although, really, not so much), Barbarella.  Hell, Fantastic Voyage.

Or Alphaville.  I still haven't seen that one, even though I own (around here somewhere) a couple of albums by the band named after it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 19, 2010, 11:02:56 PM
Oh, yeah -- the internet tells me Zach Snyder has been signed to direct a remake of The Illustrated Man.  What?  I could maybe see him doing a remake of Fahrenheit 451, which at least has a lot more action in it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: pdrake on October 19, 2010, 11:13:34 PM
heh, just about to post about the remake. the old movie had great lighting.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on October 19, 2010, 11:17:52 PM
Imagine a really nice digital big-screen version of The Veldt. That might be very nice.

I read *so many* Bradbury short stories I've forgotten which were in which collection. I remember The Veldt was the first one in The Illustrated Man, but I couldn't tell you what any of the others were.

He was so, so, so good. I loved those short stories.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 19, 2010, 11:37:27 PM
There are a lot of his stories that can be adapted well to the screen, and a bunch that just can't.  Some rely hugely on imagery, and some rely on language and theme.

That miniseries adaption of The Martian Chronicles was mighty weird, too, I must say.  I haven't seen that since it was first on.  It was . . . striking, anyway.

The lighting in the 1969 film is actually pretty interesting, pdrake.  The night-for-day is so then, and the light and set design for some of the futuristic parts is pretty excellent.  Of the outdoor stuff with the framing story, though, what I mostly kept noticing was the little dog.  :lol:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 20, 2010, 11:53:48 PM
Years ago, I saw part of an odd gangster movie on cable.  At some recent time, it became available for Instant Play, and I just finished it.  It's Mad Dog Time (, from 1996.  I admit that I like it, and I also admit that a very small part of why I like it is that its name backwards is Emit Goddam.  I put this out in the open because it may qualify the fact that I like this movie.  Many, many people hate it.

I'm not 100% sure why they hate it so much.  Siskel & Ebert rated it the worst movie of 1996, for crying out loud, and Ebert gave it a zero-star rating.  Now, Ebert may just be my favorite film critic, and he's the only one whose reviews I actively seek out these days, but I often disagree with him about films; I just find his reviews and columns worth reading anyway.  A lot of people feel this movie is boring and/or incoherent.  It's slightly hard to follow if you don't pay attention, but is it really harder to follow than, say, Miller's Crossing?  And it's damned weird, but I think that's a fair comparison, because in some ways it feels more like a Coen Bros movie than even Miller's Crossing does.  It goes through 'quirky' and comes out on the other side of the mirror.

In a nutshell, the premise is that a major gangster, Vic, checks into a clinic because he's unstable and it's screwing things up for him.  Now Vic's getting out, and everybody figures it's going to mean a bloodbath -- partly because Vic is going to try to clean up everyone who tried to horn in on his action while he was gone, and partly because everyone who was doing the horning in wants to kill him and his loyal cronies so they can keep horning in.

There are complications, but it's not a gigantic puzzle.  And, frankly, I don't think you have to follow the ins and outs.  It's a tongue-in-cheek movie.  As far as the story goes, what matters is the outcome, period.  And as far as the film goes, what probably matters more is watching the cast have fun with this.

Because it's quite a cast.  The film was written and directed by Larry Bishop, Joey Bishop's son, who also appears in it.  Here's some of the cast:

Richard Dreyfuss
Jeff Goldblum
Gabriel Byrne
Ellen Barkin
Kyle MacLachlan
Larry Bishop
Gregory Hines
Diane Lane
Henry Silva
Billy Drago
Burt Reynolds
Angie Everhart
Billy Idol
Paul Anka
Richard Pryor
Joey Bishop
Rob Reiner

I mean, holy crap.  Even Tarantino couldn't get that cast.  The art deco furnishings, wiseguy whatnot, and Rat Pack soundtrack are pretty golden.  The dialogue is clever and usually works well.  If you don't like Goldblum, be warned that he plays a relatively low-key character in this one and has a lot of non-verbal reactions, meaning a lot of slow blinking and smirking, and if you hate him you probably won't like those bits, but it doesn't bother me.  His character, like Dreyfuss's, seems to know exactly what kind of movie he's in.

It's not perfect.  If you pay attention, you can see that the insanity angle seems to have been planned to be played up more, possibly with implications that what we see happening isn't necessarily happening but just how Vic sees and imagines things.  Also, some bits clearly didn't work and were almost cut, and instead they were just cut to the bone so they wouldn't have to be thrown out completely.  Pryor's bit seems that way, for instance.

Eh.  Nothing's perfect.  This isn't a movie I'd watch once a year, but I'll want to see it again in a couple of years.  It's not to everyone's taste, of course, but I don't know why it was so hated by so many people.  :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: vox8 on October 21, 2010, 07:51:41 AM
A large % of people don't like things that make them think.

Ebert's problem, no idea.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 21, 2010, 03:12:28 PM
Continuing with the bizarre . . . a couple of months ago, I guess, Netflix recommended a movie called The Babysitters (, and I thought WTF, but it has a good cast and had a good rating.  So what the hell, I put it in the Instant queue, which costs nothing.  Then this week Netflix warned me that the movie was going to expire, so I watched it late last night.

And what the hell was that supposed to be?

It's like an After School Special made by the people who do late-night Cinemax shame-porn.  It's the age-old lame-ass story of high school girls who start their own prostitution ring.  And that's about it.  The main girl wears shirts that are more like insufficient shirt efforts, but otherwise there's nothing graphic . . . until an hour in when suddenly they decided they didn't have a movie without some breasts, and she has a totally gratuitous topless scene.  Otherwise, there's a lot of footage of simulated sex acts that the movie isn't trying to make sexy.  It can't decide if it's exploitation or a cautionary tale or indie art or what, and it ends up not being any of these.

The dialogue is sometimes pretty good but often ridiculous instead.  The plot is nowheresville.  The end has a twist that won't impress you, and then there's narration saying Oh Well and the credits roll.  WTF.

The cast . . . how did this movie even happen?  John Leguizamo and Cynthia Nixon are in there (playing a married couple).  The main character is played by Katherine Waterston, who has promise, but it was hard for me to think she was sexy because I can totally see the resemblance to her father, Sam Waterston.  Also, the movie made me feel pretty skeevy in an unnecessary way.  It's not that the characters are so young -- the actors who play them are all probably in their mid-20s.  It's that the movie is so unjustified yet trying to have dignity that you feel like it's degrading.

Meh.  What a pointless film.  It starts off like it's going to be halfway serious and shoot for depth, like The Graduate or something, but not so much.  It's not very good even if you've just got it on in the background.  I did hobby stuff and then crossword puzzles through the whole thing, hoping to get sleepy.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 22, 2010, 08:46:18 PM
Catching up . . . I've now seen the entire first season of 30 Rock.  I don't love it, but it's extremely easy to watch, if that makes sense, and I really don't feel that way about most sitcoms.  The infamous Cleveland episode is ironic because the show unintentionally completely fails to sell Manhattan to me, so . . . well, even without this particular show, I'd still probably prefer to live in Cleveland than in Manhattan at pretty much any range of income.  :shrug: 

I know, I know, this is not a popular sentiment.  If someone gave me five grand to spend on a one-week vacation where I wasn't allowed to bring more than $50 in souvenirs home, I'd rather go to Manhattan than Cleveland, as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does nothing for me but I could spend three consecutive days in the New York Museum of Natural History.  But NYC is just not for me.  I'm abnormal, yadda yadda.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 22, 2010, 08:49:40 PM
Also, I watched the TV pilot for The Rockford Files.  I always liked James Garner (I mean, c'mon), but I only ever saw maybe four episodes of the show, and it's on Instant Play now.  The pilot apparently came out a few years before the show started, and it features Lindsay Wagner and Bill Mumy as brother and sister, which for some reason seems really weird to me.  Also, the Mumy character (no fault of his) doesn't really fit -- there's a whole mystery-clue about him, but it never gets resolved or explained.  Weird.

It's good, but the electrosnazz soundtrack . . . must've seemed like a good idea at the time.  It settled down by the time the series started.  And Lindsay Wagner was good -- I barely remember The Bionic Woman, but I seem to recall that it won ridiculous amounts of awards.  Then she did Lifetime-style movies and eventually became a spokesperson for novelty mattresses.  WTF.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 22, 2010, 08:59:14 PM
Oh.  AND late late last night I finally saw a cult horror film, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (, an Italian-British effort from 1974, about halfway between Romero's Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead.  First, I have to say that the picture quality is excellent.  It helps make the film look much more recent.  You can tell some of the actors are dubbed, but whatever. 

The story starts off slowly, and you may wind up thinking there isn't going to be any graphic zombie stuff.  WRONG.  No wonder this was a cult film.  It's at least as graphic as Dawn of the Dead and came out less than five years after I Drink Your Blood got an X rating for being far, far less graphic.  Times change, I guess.

And unlike a lot of insanely over-the-top Italian zombie / gore films of the 70s, this one has no animal violence (real or special effects) and, really, isn't very exploitational at all.  Some of it is pretty compelling, and some passages are fairly dull, and the anti-establishment hippies-vs-older-people stuff is kind of quaint.  All in all, it's not bad if you don't mind gore, or pretty good if you're a zombie afficionado.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mrcookieface on October 22, 2010, 09:37:28 PM
That electrosnazz soundtrack for Rockford Files was done by Mike Post.  He's also responsible for the themes for Magnum PI, The A-Team, Hill Street Blues, Greatest American Hero, and every other series I liked back then.  He's had a fantastic career so far.  I dig how his music is iconically linked to all those shows.

Oh, and the dun duhh at the beginning of every Law & Order?  Yep, Post made that too.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 22, 2010, 10:02:22 PM
Honestly, it's not that the soundtrack in the pilot is bad.  It's just a little too pleased with its electronic sound (with a little extra distortion), a sound that is just not so fresh and futuristic now, and the background music is occasionally (in long shots, mostly) incredibly loud.  Seriously, I laughed purely because of how unexpectedly loud it was.


But, yeah, that's a hell of a resume.  The A Team theme was the first thing I learned to play on the piano.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mybabysmomma on October 23, 2010, 07:26:17 AM
It's funny you should bring up Rockford Files.  My husband wants to change the name of our foster shepherd from Shaun the Shepherd to Jim Rockford.  Oh, yeah, and he told me last night he wants to keep him.

How many dogs are TOO many dogs in one house?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 23, 2010, 07:30:27 AM
If he wants to add a skeevy smaller dog named Angel, tell him no.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 23, 2010, 09:43:23 PM
Hickey & Boggs (, a 1972 daylight noir detective film set in LA.  The film reunites Robert Culp and Bill Cosby as hard-luck private investigators who start out on a simple missing person case that gets them into trouble with both the mob and the cops.  The screenplay was reportedly Walter Hill's first (although The Getaway came out that same year), and the film was directed by Culp.  Its meandering style and refusal to indulge in much exposition works well with its theme, that things happen in life but don't have deeper meanings.

The movie's an interesting contrast to, say, Dirty Harry, which came out the year before.  Culp and Cosby both use extremely large revolvers but have trouble with their marksmanship -- which is only fair since they're often shooting at considerable range and under duress.  One of the film's taglines, which has been reused since, was that "they keep firing until they hit something . . . anything."  Still, it's not all action.  The movie goes to pains to show seedy corners of contemporary LA, and it has an amazing cast.  Half, maybe two-thirds of the supporting players are familiar faces, although you may have trouble spotting, say, the mild-mannered bald DA from Law & Order (Michael Moriarity) in his guise here as a hairier 70s mobster. 

James Woods also appears as a young police lieutenant, which is a little weird because last night I also saw him on an episode of The Rockford Files.  He's following me.  Cosby is cool to the point of being cold in this one, and Culp's character is a little anxious and distracted.  This came out the year after he played a cool and intellectual quick-draw bounty hunter in the very fine Hannie Caulder, so he shows some range as well as being able to direct.

The action sequences are often quite impressive.  The gunfire is more convincing than average, and the situations are a little unusual.  It all has an excellent gritty 70s feel to it, too.  Frankly, I really liked it, and I'm surprised I never heard of it before.  Apparently the existing DVD transfer is pretty awful, with a really bad grainy picture, but the Netflix streaming version is nice and clear, and apparently Fancast has it for free.  Pretty good!  And a lot of people have reviewed the film as being a downer, but it's not totally depressing; it's just gritty and not exactly upbeat.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: flipper on October 25, 2010, 01:47:52 PM
It's funny you should bring up Rockford Files.  My husband wants to change the name of our foster shepherd from Shaun the Shepherd to Jim Rockford.  Oh, yeah, and he told me last night he wants to keep him.

How many dogs are TOO many dogs in one house?

In San Jose one household is allowed up to three cats/dogs but only two of one species.  It really depends on the size of your house/yard and the time you have to devote to them.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 25, 2010, 04:38:17 PM
Sullivan's Travels ('s_Travels), 1941, another Preston Sturges film.  I liked it.  Weirdly, most reviews I've seen, both pro and amateur, have warned against it.  I'm not entirely sure why.

First, gotta say the Netflix Instant video quality for this one, too, is excellent.  I'm so used to grainy TV, grainy cable, grainy VHS, and bad DVD transfers that I'm always impressed to see an old film looking crisp and clean.  It's like magic.

This film is an homage to comedy and a satire of well-meaning but pretentious socially conscious films.  A lot of critics commented that unfortunately it fails to be all that funny and, in fact, gets pretty pretentious in a socially conscious way.  Arguably, yes.  It's also all over the place in a way that I'm beginning to suspect was typical of Sturges -- and it's strange, but it's not entirely objectionable.  You just sort of have to roll with the changes. 

Frankly, the film feels like it had different directors at different times.  The slapstick comedy near the beginning (especially one memorable undercranked chase scene) is in stark contrast to much of the rest of it, and the matter-of-fact romance is mostly not so much romantic as kind of bracingly fresh.  The two leads like each other, and both realize it, and pretty much just agree that they're right for each other.  Complications rear up, but they don't mope.

The nutshell:  Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is a winning young director who's made a string of pointless but popular comedies, and now he wants to make an important movie about poverty and hardship.  It's the Depression, after all.  His producers insist no one wants to see such a film, and, anyway, he's a young millionaire, so what does he know about it?  Sullivan promptly decides to become a hobo for awhile and bum around the country.  Turns out he's not very good at that, but a young woman (Veronica Lake) -- who's never named in the film -- has seen more ups and downs and latches on to help him out.

Sullivan encounters comedy and tragedy and learns more about hardships than he intends.  Some complications are pretty random, and some are quite clever, and then there's a happy ending with an important lesson learned, that everybody can benefit from comedy.

McCrea is pretty terrific, and Lake is . . . I would take a time machine and go fight McCrea to steal Veronica Lake.  (Similarly, I would go fight Joe Pesce to get Marisa Tomei.  Pesce probably fights meaner, but McCrea is a lot bigger.  Ideally, I could somehow get them to fight each other while I abscond with the ladies.  But I digress.)  Lake's a little weird in this, but (A) she was a trifle crazy, or moreso, (B) she was six months pregnant when they started filming (and you can't tell from watching the movie), and (C) Sturges clearly couldn't decide how to direct her.  She's best when she's most natural, and more awkward when she's trying to vamp it up.  I'd forgotten what she sounds like, but in this movie she sounds like Judy Garland trying to sound high tone.  She's not quite five feet tall and looks like a blonde Jessica Rabbit (well . . . Jessica Rabbit was meant to look like her crossed with Rita Hayworth), and McCrea has got to be at least 6'3".

But anyway.  I liked it fine, although I'm not sure I'd need to see it again in less than a year.  Lake, who was more star-crossed than most, had a rocky career but often starred opposite Alan Ladd because he was only about 5' 5".  She was apparently pretty feisty, bordering on bitchy, and had issues with schizophrenia and booze, so she had quite a reputation for being hard to work with, but she combines her peek-a-boo look with a kind of I'm Fine On My Own reserve that I've always liked.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 27, 2010, 11:14:21 AM
I often avoid seeing movies if they're hyped too much by people I know.  It's just too frequent that I like movies they think are dumb and am far less impressed by movies they pretty much universally think are terrific, and apparently it's too difficult for me to just lie about having seen a movie.  Of course, sometimes if you skip seeing a movie until everyone's more or less forgotten about it, you forget about it, too, and never see it.

But, because it's expiring from Instant Play availability at the end of the month, I finally saw The Commitments ( last night.  And . . . eh.  I'm glad I saw it.

The first hour is fairly random but good, with good performances and quirky little touches and a basic frame of plot -- the band forming and learning to perform.  Sure.  Lots of fun.  But right around the hour mark, the screenplay wilts and the film seems to lose direction and originality.  Some time gets wasted fruitlessly, the 'voice' mostly goes out of it, and the developments that follow are pure cliche.  The music's fine, but even the performances are filmed awkwardly, as if the director is just trying to burn up more film.

I didn't always 100% buy the band, either -- they get awfully good awfully quickly and, in general, seem to have a compressed career where they go through all the normal band incest and infighting in record time.  I mean, it's not horrible, god knows, but it stopped feeling like something that maybe happened and started feeling like a movie, period.

Wikipedia tells me the book has a different ending, one that doesn't tie things up so neatly, which isn't surprising because it's the first book in a trilogy.  I utterly did not realize that there are two more films in the trilogy -- The Snapper (which I saw a long time ago and really liked) and The Van (which I'm aware of but haven't seen).  The sequels were made by a different studio, and so they weren't allowed to use the family's original last name.  Some studio exec at Fox needs to get kicked in the crotch.  Well, probably all of them do, but I mean specifically for this.

I do really like the central family (the Rabbittes, in this film; the Curleys, apparently, in the sequels), who manage to embody the Irish stereotypes that it doesn't seem possible to tell an Irish story without and yet who aren't typical at all.  I love how they flare up, Irish-style, but don't actually lose their tempers at much of anything, which is more evident in The Snapper.  The first half of The Commitments is really refreshing in how the young kid tells his parents that he's going to form a band instead of looking for a real job, and they . . . are mildly derisive.  That's it.  No scenes or You're Throwing Away Your Life cliches.  This is a family that's in it for the long haul.

Anyway, the music's fine, although I felt it could have been showcased better, and I wish they hadn't gone to such lengths to make the lead singer a stereotypical dickhead, but clearly they had an ending in mind and were determined to get there somehow.  A lot of critics complained that the cast was selected for their musical ability, not their acting skill, but I thought the acting was fine, especially considering how so much of the depth evaporates as the film goes along.  I'm not sure what the cast might have done wrong.

So:  First half excellent, second half so-so.  It was pretty good.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: vox8 on October 27, 2010, 01:06:55 PM
One of my favorite quotes ever is in that movie. When the one guy is in the alley and some random person comes up to "audition" and just starts singing the Colm Meany character pops his head over the fence and says:

"Aye, I bet U2 is shaking in their boots now."

Cracks me up every time.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 27, 2010, 01:30:02 PM
Colm Meany is pretty solidly awesome at pretty much all times, from what I can tell.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 27, 2010, 01:40:43 PM
Oh, also, early this morning I watched another expiring film The River King, a 2005 soi disant thriller based on an Alice Hoffman book.  I haven't read Hoffman, although I know several of her books have been made into movies.  I think the only other one I've seen was Practical Magic, which I mostly liked.

The River King is about a hot-headed guilt-ridden small-town cop (Edward Burns) investigating a murder at a prestigious private school.  The school doesn't want the case looked into, and the other cops are cooperative, so Burns is the loose cannon who's taken off the case, blah blah blah.  He even resigns, although he keeps acting as a cop and no one seems to care. 

The murdered kid's friend is played by Rachelle Lefèvre, although for about 2/3 of the film I thought she was Lynsey Bartilson.  A sympathetic (and how) teacher is played by Jennifer Ehle.  The friend thinks she may be responsible for the kid's death, and the teacher takes photographs around the school that appear to feature ghosts . . . although the movie mostly forgets about this, and at the end you'll wonder why it was even in there. 

A lot of the movie is like that, with threads that go nowhere, but do you even care what happened to the kid?  I don't know if something counts as a red herring if you're not distracted, and they don't feel like red herrings.  It feels like the film is trying to suggest that a numinous universe where the truth might be unknowable, and bad things happen in the cold and dark for no reason, or whatever.  Honestly, I liked some of the characters, and the cast doesn't suck, but the story did nothing for me.  Reviewers who loved the film were very caught up in the Burns character's grief over the suicide of his older brother many years earlier, but I wasn't feeling it.

The film mostly looks nice, but when it was over my reaction was mostly just WTF was that supposed to be?.  :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on October 27, 2010, 02:48:56 PM
Alice Hoffman. :ttth: All of her books feature children being put in danger, murdered, whatever. It's her thing. It got old, fast.
That said, I thought Practical Magic was cute, although I'm sure there were many technical inaccuracies in there. ;)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 27, 2010, 05:01:11 PM
The child-in-danger suspense device is a common trope in gothic novels, though -- Barbara Michaels used it, too, for instance.

Barbara Michaels is really Barbara Mertz, who's also Elizabeth Peters.  I think the only Elizabeth Peters book I've read is Summer of the Dragon, which is about equally gothic romance and mystery.  I don't know how gothic her Amelia Peabody mysteries get, but they're late-19th-century Egyptologist mysteries, right?  So I'd imagine they get fairly gothic.  Still, you don't have to have a child in peril for a gothic, especially if you have a young woman in peril instead.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 27, 2010, 11:59:29 PM
Continuing my parade of expiring-soon films, Then She Found Me (, from a few years ago, according to Wikipedia the first film directed by Helen Hunt.  Hunt also stars as a 39-year-old Jewish schoolteacher with various family and romantic problems.  She is helped and hindered by Matthew Broderick, Colin Firth, and Bette Midler, among others.

Netflix has this listed as a Comedy, and the blurb they have says Romantic Comedy.  Not exactly.  If there were a Jewish Lifetime channel, this would be a five-hanky four-shalom epic in bi-monthly rotation.  This is the kind of movie where if the last five minutes went the other way, you would probably want to kill everyone associated with it.  It's often pretty brutal.  The happy parts are perhaps a relief as much as a pleasure because of the contrast.  Saving graces include the performances, the direction, the good dialogue, and the fact that the characters generally refuse to panic or flail.

Hunt apparently got all the major players to work for minimum scale in order to get this thing made, and that seems nice.  Also, there was a weird moment where I thought, hey, that doctor really looks like Salman Rushdie.  And it was.  I can't explain that, but he was perfectly fine in the role.

Oh -- the film uses a Jewish "joke" that's really more of a proverb (unless your sense of humor means you don't see a difference there) that I've always liked, but I originally heard it differently, and now I can't remember the version I first heard.  It's driving me crazy.  But it's really not the film's fault.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 28, 2010, 11:11:42 AM
Oh, I forgot to add kind of an odd note . . . Helen Hunt doesn't look so well in Then She Found Me.  I don't mean she wasn't as attractive as in other films or that she looks older; in at least half her scenes she looks unwell.  Some of it is definitely a deliberate makeup choice, which is pretty brave, I have to say.  It works fine for the character, and it worked to make her more sympathetic in some scenes.  But she sometimes looked like she'd just survived a rough month of dysentery and gotten three pieces of bad news.

Seriously, it made me go look online to see if there was some bad news.  Apparently it's just the film, but it was kind of a shock at first.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on October 31, 2010, 12:25:44 PM
Last night I watched Murder on the Orient Express (, the 1974 Sidney Lumet adaptation.  It's an Agatha Christie story, and . . . basically, it's Murder By Death except essentially serious.  It is a little campy and self-aware.

The story is ludicrous if you take it too seriously.  The basic outline is that about fifteen people are in the European section of the Orient Express and, en route from Istanbul to the west, the train is halted by a small avalanche on the track ahead.  It's discovered that one of them was murdered during the night, and as Poirot happens to be one of the people on board, he endeavors to solve the case, which is linked to a fictionalized version of the Lindbergh kidnapping.  Virtually every other person has reason to be a suspect.  Poirot eventually manages to imagine how the insanely complex murder occurred, but he virtually overlooks the most obvious clue, which I can't divulge without giving away too much.  Suffice to say that in retrospect none of it really makes sense.

The clues are mostly pretty weak, to say nothing of obscure, and despite the film's run-time of over two hours there just isn't time for most of the characters to be fleshed out at all.  A couple of characters who appear in the half hour to be questioned and fitted into the reveal are so unfamiliar to the audience that the mystery of where they came from all of a sudden is perhaps more arresting than the mystery of the murder.  I'm sure it's easier for them all to be juggled in the novel.

But the cast!  This is another ensemble movie with an unbelievable cast.  I don't remember seeing Albert Finney play a 'character' before, and although it takes a bit to see him as Poirot, I was pretty impressed with his transformation.  I think I prefer Ustinov's Poirot, though, and I understand now Alfred Molina has played him, which would certainly be worth seeing.  The film is worth seeing just for the cast, if you care about that sort of thing.

As for the story's lack of sense, Christie wasn't trying to write realistic mysteries but was elaborating on Arthur Conan Doyle's style of writing puzzle mysteries, which are meant to be cleverly constructed, not true to life, so I give the story a pass.  It is what it is, which is why camping the film up slightly is a very good way to go.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on October 31, 2010, 10:55:39 PM
I loved that one. Also the Mad Magazine parody of it was wonderful.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 02, 2010, 03:47:14 PM
Netflix recommended a 70s flick that I'd never heard of . . . but the average review was below 2 out of 5, so I decided to go ahead and watch it.  As usual, I didn't read the blurb or any of the reviews first.  I like to take them fresh.

The movie's called Fyre, and it came out in 1979, although apparently it was filmed somewhat earlier.  It's 50% indie drama, 50% exploitation, or maybe more like 40/60.  OK, 30/70?  It's one of those Young Girl Winds Up On The Streets pictures, and like many of them it has an unconvincing veneer of No, We Were Trying To Be Serious.  In its defense, it's not as dull or hypocritically trashy as some members of the genre -- say, Boulevard

And, as an aside, how do you make an exploitation movie so dull with Rae Dawn Chong and Kari Wuhrer as bicurious prostitutes, Lou Diamond Phillips as a psychotic pimp, and Lance Henriksen as anything?  Probably by starting off with a 'message' drama and turning it into an exploitation flick along the way at the demand of the producers, if I had to guess.  But anyway.

Fyre stars Playboy cover girl Lynn Theel (aka Lynn Schiller) as a starcrossed redhead who doesn't own a bra.  The supporting cast is largely less distinguished, including Warhol junkie Tom Baker (not the rather more famous British Tom Baker, as Netflix believes) and professional Thug #2 Frank Sivero.  And a guy who looks like Dennis Weaver plays a corrupt cop.

Fyre (Theel) has her problems.  Her boyfriend is killed by rednecks, and she gets raped.  The next day, her father, realizing she's sad but not knowing why, tells her that life always gets better.  Then he, her mother, and her brother go on a picnic, where the brother briefly befriends another local family (who, for some reason, have brought a mule along for their own picnic).  Things turn sour, and the brother and father get their asses kicked by the other family. 

They pile back into the car to go home.  The brother makes a joke . . . well, it's not much of a joke, but they all start laughing.  How they laugh!  They laugh so much that they drive off a cliff and die.  No, seriously. 

Then a title card says "Los Angeles 8 Years Later", and now Fyre is an apprentice prostitute.  Rather amateurish -- she cheerfully asks a john, "Now who are you?"  We also see a preacher give an interesting outdoor sermon where he describes the sun as a pimple on Jesus's ass.  And the film goes on, generally fairly interesting because of not making any sense / being peculiarly amateurish / softcore nudity.  Theel is a little strange but certainly not unattractive.  You can't tell from this movie if she can act.

I spare you most of the details -- it ends with multiple homicides and Fyre taking a bus to some new town, over the strains of a song that could almost be The Partridge Family.  Also, there are two half-naked girls who, uh, really look like they can't be more than fifteen.  That was a little awkward.  So . . . not a great movie by any stretch, but the scene where the family goes off the road was pretty funny.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on November 02, 2010, 04:38:53 PM
I have to admit I sometimes scan through your reviews. Scanning this one, these are the things that caught my eye:

Netflix recommended a 70s flick...

The movie's called Fyre...It's 50% indie drama, 50% exploitation, or maybe more like 40/60.  OK, 30/70?  It's one of those Young Girl Winds Up On The Streets pictures...

...Rae Dawn Chong ... bicurious prostitutes...Lou Diamond Phillips...psychotic pimp...

Fyre stars Playboy cover girl Lynn Theel (aka Lynn Schiller) as a starcrossed redhead who doesn't own a bra.

They pile back into the car to go home.  The brother makes a joke . . . well, it's not much of a joke, but they all start laughing.  How they laugh!  They laugh so much that they drive off a cliff and die.  No, seriously. 

 :lol: At that point I had to go back and re-read the whole thing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 03, 2010, 09:07:49 PM
Last year, maybe, I finally read Matheson's Hell House, a fine 1971 haunted house novel that sort of expands upon Shirley Jackson's Legend of Hill House.  Jackson left everything very vague, quite intentionally, with her paranormal investigators observing unexplained phenomena but not getting anywhere, and at the end you don't know what was supernatural and what was the result of the main character being mentally unbalanced.  It's a fine book, but I totally understand why Matheson wanted to push it the other way, and his book has more violence and sexuality and not only makes it very clear that ghosts are about but also deals with them from a science fiction perspective.

The film The Legend of Hell House, from 1973, has a screenplay by Matheson but suffers greatly from the transfer to the screen.  The violence is not so much toned down as compressed and seems much less noteworthy, more formulaic.  Meanwhile, most of the sexuality is stripped down or stripped out. 

That's a shame, but what's much worse is that most of the exposition is also stripped out, possibly due to time constraints.  It's a rare story that needs more exposition, but Hell House is not merely a What If story but a How Could It Be story, and it does the very rare thing of explaining what is actually going on, and how, and what it means.  It's a little bit Ghostbusters meets The Shining, in fact.  The movie, much less so.  In fact, there are many scenes where it's hard to tell exactly what is happening or why.

Instead, it tries to rely largely on atmosphere and flares of intelligence and dignity.  The direction and cinematography are perhaps a bit peculiar -- I wouldn't say they succeed completely, but they try.  And a lot of the forthright haunting-related events in the film have been imitated so much that they unfairly seem like cliches now.  At the time, the film was pretty original for having a haunted house that is chock full of haunting.  There's some suspense as to the outcome, but you're not waiting and waiting for something to happen.  It's a shame that the narrative frame can't keep explaining it.

So the book is far better, and what really mystifies me is that this one hasn't been remade.  It's not like studios are afraid of Matheson, and they remade The Haunting (which is based loosely on the Jackson book).  Weirdly, there was a Haunting of Hell House movie made in 1999, with a fairly serious cast (Michael York was in it, I know), but I haven't seen it -- and the internet says it's based on a Henry James story, although no one seems sure which story.

Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 04, 2010, 08:00:48 PM
China 9, Liberty 37 (,_Liberty_37), a cult spaghetti Western from 1978.  It's . . . OK. 

Basic problems:  The plot is kind of slow and lazy, and the film misses a lot of chances to play up suspense.  The action sequences are often so-so.  The music and effects and nice and LOUD, but the dialogue is often quiet and muddy.  The accents don't help, especially from romance-cover Italian leading man Fabio Testi, who is a passable actor but hard to understand.  The sex scenes are more explicit than you usually see in Westerns, but also not terribly convincing.

On the other hand, Warren Oates is good in this, while Sam Peckinpah has a small role as a writer of Western dime novels.  Jenny Agutter plays the female lead, and is excellent as always.  The story intentionally sidesteps a lot of cliches, and there are some very nice moments.  I particularly liked it when the last bad guy in a big gunfight throws out his rifle and comes out with his hands up saying "Don't shoot!  Don't shoot!" -- and Warren Oates tells him "You must be crazy."  And then shoots him, of course.

And, for good or bad, it's got some weirdness stuck in there.  For instance, when the romantic couple goes on the lam, they quickly befriend a dwarf, see a circus, and try cocaine (in elixir form).  This has nothing to do with the plot, but it falls under the mantle of 'period color', I suppose.

So it's OK, but it's mostly notable as a cult film, widely beloved by various directors (yes, Tarantino, naturally), and yadda yadda.

Incidentally, looking this one up online taught me that two of the last things Sam Peckinpah ever directed were Julian Lennon's videos for Valotte and Too Late For Goodbyes.  Wait, what?  That's just crazy.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on November 04, 2010, 08:49:52 PM

I did not know that.

I've been thinking of Peckinpah lately because of this article (, which is pretty damned awesome.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 04, 2010, 09:53:49 PM
It's sad how many of those movies I haven't seen.  I doubt my list would be the same, but I can't come up with a list off the top of my head, either.  I'd probably need a week to think it over.

And I actually liked Boondock Saints.  It's not perfect, but it was unusual enough, and fun.  I've never understood why so many people hated it so very much.  On the flipside, I'm really not a John Woo fan.  I wanted to be, I tried to be, I liked The Killer, Broken Arrow, and for what it is Hard Target (although I haven't seen it again because I suspect I wouldn't like it the second time around).  And I love Chow Yun-fat.  But I really didn't like Hard Boiled, not to mention several others.

Shoot 'Em Up is just a very, very strange movie.  The Bugs Bunny references alone put it over the top, and it's a miracle that it works as well as it does.

Unforgiven is pleasant to watch, and it's fun to see the cast doing their stuff, but I still don't understand the ginormous accolades.  I wouldn't rank it as the best of his Westerns.  I think it's good; I just don't think it's that good.  I dunno.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 05, 2010, 02:47:53 PM
Last night I watched What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (, as I slowly make my way through the horror classics.  So, 1962 thriller starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis as elderly show biz sisters with, uh, a bad family dynamic.  One sister was a sour child star whose career failed disastrously as she grew up, and she turned to the bottle and continued to sour.  The other sister was long-suffering as a child but turned into a major star until she was crippled and confined to a wheel chair.  They live together, uneasily, surrounded by the last vestiges of their former wealth.  And then things go bad.

The major twist is that it's Davis who plays the crazy one.  The two stars were Hollywood rivals decades earlier, but they work together beautifully here.  In fact, the direction is OK, but the script has weak plotting, as if it knows it has a dynamite creepy premise but can't figure out what the execution should be.  The acting of the two leads is phenomenal, but a remake could surely improve the script.  (Could.  God knows, there are no guarantees.  Wikipedia says it was remade for TV in 1991, starring the Redgrave sisters, but Netflix doesn't have that version.)

Davis's performance is excellent to the point of being not merely creepy but a trifle repulsive.  It's the sort they call 'brave' nowadays.  Crawford is excellent but has less to do; still, she gets a lot communicated through limited action.

The film's often described as grand guignol (and, in fact, as the first in a subgenre of psychotic older women terrorizing family members called grand dame guignol), but personally I hate that usage.  I can't even tell what critics are trying to get at when they use the phrase to describe a horror movie -- they seem to mean 'fancy classy horror film'.  But the Grand Guignol was not classy, and the whole POINT of it was pure cathartic horror:  terrible acts played out in graphic but obviously fake form, without moral structure.  The villains weren't punished, and the plot wasn't terribly important except as a way of creating tension.  It was entirely about the horror itself, and the term actually means 'big puppet', which gets right to the root of the objectification of the characters as targets for violence. 

If anything, grand guignol should be used as a label for the stuff they call torture porn.  It may not be good grand guignol, but that stuff, the slasher movies, that's the same genre.  Things like Baby Jane are closer -- a lot closer -- to being Greek tragedies.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 08, 2010, 07:04:15 PM
I tried to watch Ink (, an indie fantasy film from last year.  It's in the continuum of films like Labyrinth. Re-Cycle, and MirrorMask.

OK:  It took about ten minutes for the story to be extremely promising.  The little girl who plays, uh, the little girl is quite awesome, and I only rarely like child actors.  Some of the effects are very non-stereotypical and cool and used well.

BUT:  The film has a posterized shot-on-video look to it and makes enormous artsy use of extreme close-ups and extended sequences of rapid jump cuts.  During action scenes, a sort of visual-stutter is used that's almost akin to strobe lighting.  And a sort of spectrum-smeary filter is sometimes in there, too.  AND shaky camera.

I really, really got the feeling I was going to like and maybe love this film, and then less than twenty minutes in I had to shut it off because I was literally nauseated.  My eyes were trying to hurt my brain.  Seriously, those were just horrible, horrible effects choices, even worse than the overuse of sepia that visually ruined Sky Captain.  

Which sucks, because otherwise . . . could've been a home run.  But there's no way I could keep watching it.  :thumbsdn:  I am hugely disappointed, but no.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 09, 2010, 11:59:30 PM
Yearsnyears ago, someone told me I absolutely had to see this movie called The Emerald Forest (  Directed by John Boorman, it came out in 1985, and it's more or less about a white hydro-electric engineer who's working on a dam in the Amazon when his six-year-old son is abducted and raised by a local tribe.  Things get complicated after the film jumps ahead ten years.

This kind of movie was probably less of a cliche in 1985 (OK, there was Fitzcarraldo a couple of years earlier), and so some of the stereotypes can be forgiven, and I tried hard to overlook the Tarzan-esque moments where the white guy inevitably turns out to be a better native than the natives.  Fortunately, there wasn't much of that stuff.  And this is a mostly quite serious film that makes Medicine Man look a bit more like Jungle 2 Jungle.

I don't know shit about indigenous Amazonians and tried not to draw too many conclusions about the anthropology or politics in the film.  There are multiple tribes of natives; some are 'good', and some are 'bad'.  The same goes for the other kinds of people in the movie, and it could have been so much worse (and often is, in films).  I remember I was kind of creeped out by the portrayal of the 'evil' Indians in the Daniel Day-Lewis Last of the Mohicans, but I couldn't exactly say why that seemed wrong to me.  Maybe just because I like Wes Studi?

What, uh, bothered me more, albeit in a different way, was all the naked girls.  :shock:   I went online to check, to the extent I was able, and, yeah, most of them were probably 15-16.  The film doesn't really veer into exploitation significantly, as these things go, and all of the nudity is arguably justified, but I won't pretend that it wasn't distracting ( :trance: ) or that I might be going to a special hell.  I must not be refined enough, or something.  And the film is saying something about nudity, among other things, but, seriously, that's a lot of teen-aged nudity.  A lot.

More effective than Ferngully, though.  Anyway, all in all, an OK film that was probably a lot more impressive when it came out.  The cinematography's nice. 

Oh -- also, Boorman originally wanted C. Thomas Howell to play the teen-aged white-kid-gone-native, but when Howell wasn't available he cast his own teen-aged son instead.  According to Wikipedia, the kid had also been in Deliverance and Excalibur already, so maybe he wasn't that surprised his father asked him to put on a thong and stomp around the jungle barefoot with a naked native girl.  At least his father didn't put him in Zardoz.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 12, 2010, 08:45:15 PM
Equus (, which I'd never seen all of before, in either film or stage form.  Hm.  Well.  You can see what all the fuss was about, in any case.

The film is a trifle histrionic, but I saw much of a celebrated stage performance once (albeit on TV), and I thought it was a trifle contrived.  In both cases, it seems that it's trying too hard -- shouting, as it were, in its efforts to convince you that it's got something important to say, and shouting because it's not sure it can make itself clear.  The film overuses nudity toward this end, long after it stops having so much shock value and merely becomes distracting, and it includes violence against the horses, violence that's graphic but not realistic, although it's presented as if it were realistic. 

In fact, the violence, though very grim, is almost cartoonish, and quite peculiar, and certainly would have been more powerful if it had occurred off screen, or even if the suspense had not been relieved with the act itself.  The audience hears at the beginning of the film what has happened, why the boy is in a mental facility.  But the film also doesn't really have an entirely believable lead-up, either, which is perhaps another reason why leaving things a bit vague would have worked better.

There are lots of good moments, but other problems that were hard to overlook.  Richard Burton does a very good job of delivering a lot of unlikely and involved dialogue, but his psychiatrist employs methods no credible psychiatrist would use, such as putting the patient under hypnosis and then telling him what happened as a way of finding out what happened.  Or having him act things out in hysteria, even when it involves masochistic violence and/or removing all of one's clothing.  Your better child therapists don't go there.  The Burton character seems pretty weak on symbolism and psychology, in fact, which is odd for a psychiatrist obsessed with Greek myth, but there you go.

The acting is good, all around, but the action is exaggerated in many cases, and you can't help but feel that it works better in a stage performance where it's handled more symbolically.  It's allegorical, and if you try to make it too real, it just doesn't fit. 

I found a lot of people complaining that the play is all about repressed homosexuality and that this is left out of the film.  A plot point about homosexuality is left out, but the film is dripping with gay subtext.  I mean, seriously, just the scene from the boy's childhood with the insanely manly rider on the beach has as much gay subtext as a comparable scene from Top Gun or Fight Club.  Personally, I've heard lots of stories about repressive society and homosexuality, and I was more interested in this story's commentary on modern society and one of the most historic forms of paganism, the representation of the divine in the form of a domesticated animal.  That's always been a difficult archetype; you just don't get better complexity than that.

It was nice, although a little surprising, to see Jenny Agutter again.  Seems like she's everywhere, all of a sudden.

Oh, the internet also told me that there's a 'horse enthusiast lifestyle' magazine called Equus that was launched during the height of the popularity and notoriety of the original stage run, just a few years after the play's debut.  Seriously?  Maybe they never heard of the play?  Pretty damned weird otherwise.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on November 12, 2010, 09:53:25 PM
My parents have gotten that magazine as long as I can remember.  I never heard of the play until Harry potter was in it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 12, 2010, 10:30:38 PM
I can see how that could happen, but it was sure a big deal when the magazine debuted, and you'd think the people behind the magazine would have heard of it.  Although I wouldn't expect them to talk about it a lot in their magazine.

I guess I would expect they would have heard of it, anyway.  Hell, anything's possible.  There's lots of 'big' stuff that I never hear about until years later, so I shouldn't throw stones.  It seems kind of like coming out with a new classical music magazine called Elvis six months after Elvis was on The Ed Sullivan Show, though.  Or something.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on November 12, 2010, 11:15:31 PM
Heh. We read the play in high school.

Someone should parody this with unicorns and call it Monoceros.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 13, 2010, 12:06:23 PM

I think it works TOO well with unicorns.  There must be a zillion dudes out there engaged in erotic unicorn worship, and I would not want them offended and huffing at my door.

Rhinos, maybe.  Hopefully there aren't enough cultish rhino fanciers out there to mount a serious protest campaign.  The script is definitely so bombastic that it cries out for parody, though.  I've often had mixed feelings about Burton's acting style, but he sold that particular character pretty well.  I just wish the colleague he vented his personal issues at had been better equipped to debate them with him.  She did try, but the script is not very kind to female characters and does not want anyone to give the good doctor any solutions.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 17, 2010, 03:50:48 PM
I've mostly been watching TV programs, when I've been watching, but last night I saw The 10th Victim (, a campy Italian SF film from 1965.  Nutshell:  In the near future (of 1965), Ursula Andress and Marcello Mastroianni are both players in The Great Hunt, a computer-driven The Running Man sort of game.  When you enter the game, you go in the computer, which randomly selects you for ten one-on-one hunts, assuming you survive long enough, five where you're the hunter and five where you're the victim.  The Hunt has replaced warfare, and people with antisocially violent impulses apparently just kindly volunteer to play.  You make money for every hunt you survive, and if you win ten hunts, you get a million bucks.

Andress, in various states of undress, has won nine hunts, and Mastroianni is her "10th victim", although of course he must only be her fifth, since she was the victim in five of her prior nine hunts.  Well, never mind that.  Mastroianni is a sort of nihilist who has fewer hunts under his belt but is pretty sneaky himself.  Andress can't kill him outright because she's agreed to kill him in a certain place so her triumphant last kill can be part of a tea commercial, and her refusal to try to kill him everywhere else they meet makes Mastroianni not completely sure she really is his hunter -- in which case he can't legally kill her.

So they wrangle, mostly conversationally, and become romantically involved, which makes it all awkward.

I saw a lot of reviews from people who thought the movie was trying to be completely serious, and, although I'm not sure how you could make that mistake, it would certainly make the film look extremely dumb.  However, it really is camp, and pretty charming, although it periodically runs out of steam.  Andress was between James Bond movies at the time and looks great.  She also makes use of what's apparently the first double-barreled gun brassiere in film.  The futurism looks very much like low-budged 60s Italian futurism, go figure, and varies from contemporary mod to unlikely kooky.

The whole thing is based on a Robert Sheckley short story that Mastroianni read, and it's directed by a political director who mostly avoids putting any heavy message in there but can't resist repeatedly having sheep in the background for no reason.  :lol:  And if you do watch it, the English dub is actually better than the Italian dub and subtitles, as the subtitles are pretty bad and the mouths still don't match the spoken words.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 18, 2010, 04:45:04 PM
Son of Rambow (  I . . . liked it?  I'd say I really liked about half of it, and was OK with the rest, but for one thing it seemed much longer than 96 minutes.  I would have guessed it was at least two hours.

I also was pretty convinced that it was a Michel Gondry movie.  I didn't pay close attention to the opening credits.  It's actually by 'Hammer and Tongs', the same two guys who made the Hitchhiker's movie, and I definitely liked it better than that, anyway.  But it's heavily about kids, family, making amateur films, and the awkward meeting of French and English cultures . . . and the story just kind of goes wherever, feeling like at least two unfinished screenplays mashed together . . . and it mixes realism with chunks of surreal fantasy.  I seriously thought it was Gondry.  

The kids do a good job, and there are a lot of really good moments.  It takes place in the 80s and is 80stastic.  But, yeah, a real mash-up.  Weirdly, I saw a lot of reviews where people said they laughed like crazy through the whole thing.  It has a lot of cute scenes, and a few that I smiled at, but I didn't laugh, and I wouldn't describe it as a comedy.  More of an uplifting fantasy.  But side-splitting, no.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 19, 2010, 10:39:34 PM
Last night, I watched Labyrinth.  Hadn't seen it since high school, when, by chance, I saw it and Phenomena ( in the same week or so.  Which was a little weird.

Anyway, Labyrinth is still good.  Muppets of 1986?  Yeah, still look better than 95% of CGI in 2010.  Ditto for the carefully constructed physical visual effects.  Oddly enough, the barn owl is occasionally computer-generated, though, but it's quite convincing, especially considering the work was done in the mid-80s.

When I first saw the film, I remember thinking Jennifer Connelly looked like a kid (ie, not old enough to drool over); now she still looks too young to drool over, but maybe because I've seen so many films where she's an adult she somehow doesn't look 15 in the film.  Which is especially unfair since she was 15 when they filmed it.  I didn't remember so much sexual imagery, or Bowie being so cocktastic.  Seriously, the combination of some of his costumes and some of the camera angles was kind of distracting.

It's a good menarche adventure, very classical in a lot of ways, although it occasionally wanders a bit and has odd details.  (The little dog-knight is named Sir Didymus, and didymus means 'twin' and comes up in Christian symbolism, but the reason for using it in the film escapes me.)  I didn't notice before that it was so similar in many ways to Sendak's Outside Over There, but the girl rescuing the baby from the fairies is a classic trope, and Wikipedia tells me the creators acknowledged Sendak's influence.  It's all good.

Things the internet told me:

- It was a box office disaster, making back only about half of what it cost.  Really?  Some critics complained that it lacked suspense.  What, you thought it was going to have an unhappy ending?

- The screenplay was by Terry Jones.  Huh.  But apparently his ending wasn't used.

- It was the last film Henson directed.

- Bowie's crystal ball tricks were done by the film's choreographer, a skilled juggler, who hid behind Bowie and stuck his arms through the sleeves of Bowie's costumes while Bowie kept his own arms out of sight.  And the guy actually doing the tricks couldn't see his hands while he was doing them.  :trance:

All in all, I don't think I like it quite as much as The Dark Crystal, although I haven't seen that in over 20 years, but I think I like it better than MirrorMask, which was just too unfocused.

I've been told many times that Yoda appears briefly in the film, but I didn't see him.  The internets tell me where and when he appeared, but even going back I didn't see him.  :shrug:
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 20, 2010, 11:37:46 PM
Watched Brain Twisters, a non-descript 80s horror film from 1991 about some or other damned thing.  The script is a trifle unfocused, and they seem to have jettisoned about 50% of the plot, which is a little weird since the movie's so very slow.  There are these psychological experiments involving computers and flashing lights, and then sometimes the volunteers go crazy when they see other flashing lights, etc.  You know -- that sort of thing.

The script has flashes of unusual and better than average, but the pace is too slow, and the whole thing is just above 'amateurish' but not above 'undistinguished'.  It's the kind of movie that people say would be great for MST3K, but really it only would be if the MST3K crew was in the right mood.

Weirdly, the movie has no nudity and no graphic violence to speak of -- almost all the mayhem occurs off-screen or with some screening object in front of the camera.  I think this was due to a special effects budget, but there's also not even any significant bad language.  If the film were any milder, it wouldn't be there.  Still, it's not too cheesy or pretentious, and the cast plays it pretty serious.  Just an odd flop.  I couldn't say why Netflix recommended it for me.  I wanted to see The Sleeping Car again, but they don't have it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 21, 2010, 11:01:36 PM
Watched an indie horror film called Death of a Ghost Hunter (  I can't recommend it.  It's a haunted house movie done about 50% Blair Witch-style, with a self-described skeptic (who's not a skeptic), a videographer, and two hangers on investigating the house, and the investigation turns out badly. 

First, very low-budget, and generally not in ways that will impress.  Second, 90% of the story is really cliched, and/or slow, and/or uninspiring.  The effects are very variable.  Third, if you do watch this one, seriously try skipping the first forty minutes or so. 

The 10% that wasn't a cliche had some interesting and unusual bits, but nothing to make the whole film.  The end of the main action is deeply anticlimactic, and then, in a strange move that seems to suggest this was originally a short film, there's a long and redundant re-enactment of the events that led up to the haunting itself, and then there's a weak coda.  It all seems very long, and there's no real suspense -- the film begins with titles that, like the actual title, explicitly tell you how the film ends.  Spluh? 

This is also one of those films that pretends it's all true.  Not even vaguely convincing, yet the internet is full of indignant fifteen-year-olds who swear they loved the movie until they discovered it was a LIE.  Kids, don't look up those Twilight movies.

Anyway, I haven't seen Paranormal Activity yet, but this one's not as good as Paranormal Activity.  You can see what they were going for, but their reach exceeded their grasp, and it's a jumble of not-quiteness.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 23, 2010, 09:12:51 PM
I'm like halfway through Season 2 of Psych, and things I love about it include:

- They ALWAYS put on their seatbelts.  Seriously, how rare is this on TV and in movies?  But always.  If he gets in the car to talk to his father and the scene ends before they even drive off, they still put on their seatbelts.  It's amazing.

- The funny dialogue is genuinely and consistently funny.  Often best-of-Scrubs funny, but less sitcom.  It often (not always, but often) makes you genuinely believe these people are having this funny dialogue in real life.

- Kevin Sorbo guest-starring as a bounty hunter.  Seriously, I didn't like either of his shows all that much, but how awesome is Kevin Sorbo?

- Spencer and Gus make fun of Sorbo's bounty hunter get-up, including his leather 'Hercules' bracelet, saying they don't need that stuff to catch bad guys.

Sorbo:  [pointing to bracelet]  Yeah, they don't make these in Tiny.

Spencer:  I'll just get a Women's Large.

Yes, I :lol: ed.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on November 23, 2010, 09:33:46 PM
Love that show.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 24, 2010, 01:09:54 AM
Forgot I also watched The Resurrected ( the other night.  Dan O'Bannon film from 1992 based on Lovecraft's Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward, starring mostly minor actors (most notably the actress who played Ross's ex-wife on Friends) plus Chris Sarandon in the Charles Dexter Ward / Ward's evil ancestor role.

The film's OK, as these things go.  A bunch of the not-so-much-horror parts are amateurish, slow, and dull -- frankly, they feel either like O'Bannon wasn't interested or like they were farmed out to a second unit and somewhat carelessly edited.  Most of the more horror-film segments are much better, but as much as half an hour will go by without anything very interesting happening.  Also, there are a bunch of important scenes that take place in dark catacombs, and, seriously, too dark.  That's the stuff we've been waiting to see.  I can't tell if that was a directorial error or meant to hide limitations of the budget or what.

It's a reasonably faithful Lovecraft adaptation, I suppose, but it's not Re-Animator or From Beyond.  It's just too padded.  The acting is so-so, but, seriously, the slow parts . . . no actor's going to make those great . . . and the horror-movie parts largely consist of reacting and screaming.  Sarandon occasionally manages to bring some real energy to his part, but . . .

How did Sarandon wind up with the career he's had?  He was nominated for an Oscar for his first film (Dog Day Afternoon), and then things were slow for awhile, and then he was a sensation in the second half of the 80s with Fright Night and Princess Bride.  He got shoehorned into horror movies, but kind of randomly -- he played a cop in the first Child's Play.  Doing the voice of Jack in Nightmare Before Christmas is pretty cool, but you look at his list of credits and ought to feel surprised he didn't have more big films.

Anyway, The Resurrected (lousy title, by the way) is fine for people who are looking for this kind of movie, but you can fast-forward through most of the dull parts if you want to.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on November 24, 2010, 01:11:44 AM
Did I hear Chris Sarandon had HUUUUGE 'holisms and had a rough time keeping jobs?
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 24, 2010, 01:13:26 AM

I never heard that.  I wondered, after this particular film, but the little bit of internetting I did before I forgot about it didn't suggest he was difficult to work with, yadda yadda.  But it's certainly possible.

Shame, if true.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: vox8 on November 24, 2010, 09:01:51 AM
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 25, 2010, 10:41:40 PM
Last night I watched The Last Picture Show (, one of those films you're supposed to see.  Directed by Peter Bogdanovich (his first major film) based on the book by Larry McMurty, with a really impressive cast.  It came out in 1971 but was shot in black and white and covers a year of small town life in Texas in the early 1950s, mostly focusing on kids just getting out of high school.

The film is very well done, assuming that intentional choices, like the grainy black and white, don't bother you.  However, this is one of those American Misery stories, where people who are not worldly or clear-thinking or enjoying many advantages suffer through one sort of hardship after another and, generally, don't cope all that well.  The story could certainly have more tragedy shoehorned into it, but this isn't a film where you're waiting for the other shoe to drop.  They just keep dropping.  This is the kind of story where you try to guess exactly what it is that will go wrong and just how bad it will be.

For me, this rips about 90% of the impact out of it.  The suspense doesn't lie in what happens, but only in the details, like the murder in a murder mystery.  The dramatic agony is just there to prop things up, but unlike in a typical mystery there's no countering action here.  Nobody learns much of anything, is significantly tempered by their experiences, makes any decisions that will give them a good shot at turning their lives around, etc.  Some people will sympathize with the characters on the grounds that all this could certainly be real, but it's not the kind of story that I strongly admire as drama.

The DVD and Netflix Instant Play version is the Director's Cut, which adds about nine minutes to a two-hour movie.  Big deal, I thought . . . but reading Wikipedia I was amazed at the particular footage restored.  In particular, the sex scene in the pool hall is certainly one of the best scenes in the film, and rather important, so I'm certainly glad Bogdanovich was able to restore it.

I also learned that Ben Johnson only agreed to be in the film after Bogdanovich promised him he'd win an Oscar.  And he did.  So did Cloris Leachman, who is excellent in this.  Really, it's a good cast, and impressive partly because a bunch of the youngsters more or less debuted in this one.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on November 26, 2010, 06:57:04 AM
I don't know how I've managed to never see that. I went to youtube and looked at some clips to make sure that I hadn't seen it and just forgotten it. I'm not a fan of American Misery stories, but that one looks like it's got enough other stuff going for it to make it worthwhile viewing.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 26, 2010, 10:48:15 AM
It's kind of a film school film.  If you appreciate it as film, it's really pretty impressive.  If you want to appreciate it as a film, you might be a little let down.

The cast pulls you through well enough.  If you ever wanted to see Timothy Bottoms make out with Cloris Leachman or see a young Cybill Shepherd take off her clothes, this is probably the right film.  It's never going to be one of my favorite movies, but I'm glad I saw it.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on November 26, 2010, 01:04:49 PM
Yeah, I never saw it either. And I keep running into the cast members!

Actually I heard Tim and his wife (a painter who my wife knows and has worked with) are getting divorced so it's much less likely I'll run into him any more.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 26, 2010, 03:46:57 PM
Huh.  You know, while I was watching Last Picture Show, I kept thinking that Timothy Bottoms didn't look like I would have thought and that I would never have recognized him.  Eventually I realized that I was thinking of Timothy Busfield.

I went to Wikipedia and looked up Bottoms . . . er, so to speak . . . and I realized that this is apparently actually the first thing I've seen him in.  Ever.  Where I noticed him, anyway -- apparently he was in awful Elisha Cuthbert movie The Girl Next Door somewhere, and many years ago I saw about fifteen minutes of The Paper Chase.  He also starred in that early 90s remake of Land of the Lost, which I never bothered with because I assumed it was awful.

Weird.  Really a prolific actor, but I kept missing him.

Speaking of awful, I watched part of Clean Slate, that Dana Carvey movie, on a whim -- I mean, Valeria Golino, Olivia d'Abo, Kevin Pollak, James Earl Jones, and directed by Mick Jackson, some of whose work I've certainly liked (Indictment, LA Story).  But good god that was awful.  Seriously, some parts are incredibly bad, and some are just incompetent, and at no point did I see anything that would even qualify as a joke.  The closest thing to even attempted comedy that I saw was when a minor character tells the ancient joke about blind skydivers and frightened dogs.

I kept jumping ahead to escape from dumb, tedious sequences, but there was no escape.  I did see Olivia d'Abo's butt, which is always nice, but all in all I probably watched half an hour, tops, before giving up.  People used to blame Carvey for the bad movies he did, but no one could have fix this thing.  It didn't even make sense.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 26, 2010, 11:34:28 PM
Arthur Penn's The Chase (, from 1966.  Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, E. G. Marshall, Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Angie Dickinson, and I don't remember who else.  Oh, Paul Williams is in there in a slightly creepy role.

Another American Misery story, but not of the average-slice-of-life variety.  Bubber Reeves breaks out of prison, and this triggers all sorts of nonsense.  It's a 1960s movie about the South, with everything that goes into that, and also a 1960s Western.  Brando's the outnumbered sheriff trying to do what's right, and the town is full of drunken vigilantes.  The story is packed with character details, but it's more hypnotic than Last Picture Show, partly because it's more lurid but largely because there's a hell of a lot more suspense.  And violence.

The story takes place in the all too common kind of small town that's too boring for its own good and is populated by a quiet majority of sensible people and a loud minority of drunks, troublemakers, gossips, busybodies, hooligans, douchebags, etc.  It's the kind of town where either there's something in the water . . . or there ought to be.

Good performances all around, good direction.  Brando is a little hard to understand at times (he tends to pronounce 'Bubber' as 'Brubba' about half the time and frequently tries and fails to talk around a cigarillo), and Fonda gives one of her mannered performances where she seems to slip in and out of character.  But it's all good enough, certainly.  The ending is pretty rough, and yet it seems like it should be rougher.  There's a lot of widespread comeuppance that hasn't occurred yet, and I guess it's up to you to decide how much of it actually comes up.  And there are moments where you think a few kilotons would do the town a lot of good.

So not a film where you end up liking a lot of the characters, but a good hard-boiled Western in what used to be modern times.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: Dr. Leonard HmofCoy on November 27, 2010, 02:29:46 AM
Oh, Paul Williams is in there in a slightly creepy role.

Isn't that redundant? Unless you're pointing out that he's only slightly creepy in this particular role? ;)
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 27, 2010, 11:06:50 AM
Yeah, sort of appropriately creepy.  According to the internets, he thought his part in that film would be his big break, and he was disappointed at how many of his scenes were cut.  I can't really imagine the movie with a lot more of his character in it, though.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 27, 2010, 08:01:39 PM
Oh, yeah -- Things Change (, a 1988 comedy-drama by David Mamet.  I generally don't get along well with Mamet, whose dialogue and direction I find kind of hypnotically fascinating but so mannered and unnatural that it constantly pulls me out of the story.  I mean, I've never been able to watch more than about half an hour of Oleanna, but I don't think I've ever managed to watch less than ten or fifteen minutes of it, either.

His casting is always noteworthy, though.  I actually originally watched House of Games, back in the day, because Mamet cast some of his personal friends, and one of them is the father of a couple of friends of mine from high school.  The film itself is worth trying but awfully mixed.  It plays out like a clever but stilted stage play being run through for the first time by really good actors who haven't rehearsed it together yet.

Things Change was his next film.  It's about a regular guy who, through a complicated setup, gets mixed into the world of the Mafia and accepted as a bigshot, while an actual low-level mafioso has to work hard to keep the mistake from being discovered.  It's not that simple, but that's the basic setup.  Don Ameche (who is never less than awesome) plays the regular guy, and Joe Mantegna plays his keeper.  The rest of the cast is great, too.

The film wanders a lot and keeps acting like it's going to do something -- get deeply philosophical, become a buddy film, become a comedy, become a thriller -- but it feints and feints and feints without landing a significant punch.  It would have been very, very easy to make it several times funnier just by adjusting the tone or direction, and it would have been easy to make it far more suspenseful.  Frankly, I wish it had been funnier.

But the cast is so good that it's easy to keep eating it up.  Ameche and Mantegna have good characterization that they level-up effortlessly.  There are several plot points that either aren't very plausible or flat-out don't make sense, including one huge deus ex machina moment that simply happens off-screen and isn't explained, but what can you do.

Oh.  The weirdest thing?  The screenplay was co-written by Mamet and Shel Silverstein.  I did not expect that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 27, 2010, 09:24:08 PM
Oh, last night I tried Borderland (, a horror movie from a few years ago.  It's very loosely based on a true story, but not in ways that make it interesting.  Basically, three horror movie formula characters (the stupid jerk who thinks he's a genius, the schmuck, and the brooding sensitive guy you're supposed to root for) are partying in Mexico before they go off to college, despite being 30.  They take drugs, find prostitutes, walk down deserted streets alone at night, and run afoul of cultists, just as they deserve.

There are flashes of originality, but not many.  The most interesting thing about the movie is that Sean Astin plays a villain, but not in a major role.  Otherwise . . . you've probably seen this movie before.  An hour in, I didn't care what else happened to these people, so I stopped watching.  Foreign countries and religious fanatics can be scary, sure, and idiots from the US do stupid things while traveling.  This one has more plot and action than, say, Hostel, but it's only marginally less boring.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: feffer on November 27, 2010, 10:24:19 PM
partying in Mexico before they go off to college, despite being 30. 

:lol:  The wiki says they are graduating from college.  I guess they did the 12-year plan.

P.S.  Rider Strong.  I love his name.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 27, 2010, 11:28:25 PM
:hmm:  I guess one was going to Wharton (the jackass), and one to Stanford (the brooder), and one didn't know where he was going to school.  Plausible enough as college grads, I suppose.

Rider Strong is a pretty hilarious name, but I only seem to see him playing weenies in horror films.  To be honest -- and it's not like this is his fault -- I'm pretty tired of weenies in horror films.  I'd rather see adventure-horror than fools-suffering-horror.  Maybe I'm just getting older.  But a lot of these modern horror films are like Friday the 13th except that the stabbing scenes drag on for fifteen minutes at a time.  It's often gross, but much more than that it's just boring.

Blair Witch might've been the end for me of the fools-suffering genre.  Those people would've died in the woods of exposure in any forest, no haunting necessary.  And by the time we get to Cloverfield, enough already.  I'm not sure how those people survived subway stations when monsters weren't attacking the city.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on November 28, 2010, 07:17:45 AM
I'm pretty sure I watched this one within the last year or so, but I don't remember much about it. For a while I was watching a few OnDemand horror flicks on FearNet. They all just kind of run together.

This reminds me, I watched an old Dick Cavett episode ( on TMC the other night. The whole hour was an interview with Alfred Hitchcock from the early 70's. Cavett did a really lousy job of interviewing Hitch, but it's partially understandable because Hitchcock was very intimidating. Anyway, yeah, I sometimes think I'm just getting too old to enjoy horror flicks, but watching this changed my mind. The problem lies in the movies and the people making them, not the viewer.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 28, 2010, 09:49:41 AM
Borderland was a Horrorfest featured film, so it was probably on FearNet, yeah.  If you saw it in the last year but barely remember it, that doesn't say much for it, either.

Last night I watched Patrick (, a cult horror film from 1978 by Australian direction Richard Franklin.  I didn't realize until I looked it up this morning that Franklin was a Hitchcock protege of sorts and also directed Psycho II, the unbalanced but interesting horror film Link that I saw earlier this year, the horror film Road Games (which I'd like to see), and the infamous True Story of Eskimo Nell.

Patrick, anyway, is one of those films that comes up in books about the history of horror films.  Patrick himself is in a coma and is believed to be brain dead, but strange things happen around him, especially when a pretty new nurse takes an interest in him.  It's really more of a science fiction / suspense film than straight horror.  It has a deliberate pace and realistic tone and builds pretty nicely, although some of the very end gets a bit silly in ways that probably seemed much cooler in the late 70s, just as the premise was more original at the time, too.

The acting's all good, so if the pace doesn't bother you, it's quite a nice film.  The effects are generally pretty impressive, especially considering what the budget probably was.  Robert Thompson, the actor who plays Patrick, does an impressive job of not reacting -- Patrick is in a coma but has his eyes open, and tests are performed on him, etc.

There's one scene that depicts very realistic, if not gruesomely graphic, medical violence against a frog while the hospital's chief doctor is making a point about brain death and nerve impulses.  I'm not sure they didn't actually just do what it appears he does.  I didn't think that was necessary, and some people will squirm more there than during any other point in the film, no question.

edit:  Oh, there's also a test done with a strobe light, and it produced an unexpectedly strong strobe effect from my monitor, so if you're sensitive to rapidly flashing lights . . . watch out for that.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: random axe on November 28, 2010, 09:31:13 PM
Went to my brother and SIL's place for dinner and watched DVRed episodes of NCIS and most of one for Walking Dead.  I hadn't seen either before.

NCIS was really bad.  Seriously.  First of all, the construction is all wrong -- there are WAY too many characters, and in scene after scene they're fighting for scraps of dialogue.  The camera is rarely pulled back, either, so that it jumps frantically from one person to another.  The crime scene stuff is dumb and stupidly accelerated, and the forensic stuff is more ridiculous than the worst technobabble of Star Trek.  Desperately preposterous.  A lot of it honestly played like a parody of a forensic mystery show.  It did have one attractive woman, two funny lines of dialogue, and, in a sadly ridiculous role, the guy who played Ilya on Man From UNCLE -- a semi-parody that was still better and more realistic.

But anyway.

Walking Dead was so-so.  The characters were smarter than average zombie-movie characters, but still awfully dumb.  They kept repeating that the zombies are attracted to noises, but at no time did the concept of a diversion occur to them.  Meh.  If they don't survive, you can't be surprised.  The episode I saw was also about 60% People Are The Real Monsters, which, as I frequently say, I'm basically done with.  I don't watch a zombie story to see living people fighting among themselves.  You can get that without zombies.
Title: Re: Random Reviews
Post by: mo on November 29, 2010, 05:33:19 AM
I got started watching NCIS because it was on at a certain time when nothing else was on. It grew on me, then I got to where I didn't like it anymore. I don't know if it was because the older versions are better than the newer ones or I just got sick of it. There's been like a million episodes - it's been on forever. Also there's different ones now, like NCIS LA or something like that - never s