Arnold-10

IMDb member since March 2000
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    IMDb Member
    22 years

Reviews

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(1997)

The most emotionally rich and thoroughly entertaining show on television.
Any naysayers who brand the show "silly" or "stupid" just don't get it. This has been one of the most critically acclaimed, thought out, applauded series of the past decade, and at the very least the first several seasons deserve every ounce of critical attention and academic analysis that it has been given. And naysayers can conveniently point out that these critics or college professors are either stupid or insane, but then they'd only prove their own closed-minded ignorance.

The high school years of Buffy is truly great television. While because of the presence of vampires, demons, and other monsters, it might not capture the reality of adolescence, it captures its essence through the metaphor. High school is hell. While it may not be the most difficult part of your life, it certainly feels like that at the time. And that's what the show's trying to say.

And it doesn't do any of this through "Very Special Episodes," rather it uses clever writing, irony, and wit to put the metaphor in a thoroughly entertaining package. It simultaneously embraces pop culture cliches as well as satirizing them. Look at the title itself- "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", simultaneously embracing and skewering the cliche of the nubile horror movie victim.

Irony is not lost on the characters in the show either. Rather than accepting their world as it is, the characters fully realize that they encounter situations that most other people would only see in cheesy horror movies. Heck, in the musical episode, the characters sing a song about trying to figure out why they're singing a song. (And how many other programs would even dare to pull off a musical episode, or an almost-all-silent show?)

And of course there's the show's incredible ability to walk the line between comedy, drama, horror, and action, without making the transitions seem strange. How many other series can have an episode like "Band Candy", where grown-ups start acting like teenagers, fit with the series just as well as "The Body," an episode dealing with the confusing, frustrating, shocking experience of dealing with the death of a loved one?

Even a single line of dialog in the series can be simultaneously funny and sad, and that's a credit to both the writers and the actors. When Willow confronts Xander about his kiss with Cordelia, the scene is, for us, believably heartbreaking and hilarious. Heartbreaking because of Willow's lost Xander, her lifelong crush, to their hated "enemy" Cordelia, nd hilarious because of the childlike innocence of the "We Hate Cordelia Club," of which Xander, of course, is treasurer.

Sure, the show has lost some of its luster over the past few seasons, (particularly parts of Season 6, where the characters I've come to love have been replaced by jerks)but for the most part it still remains a top-notch show that far exceeds most of what the rest of television has to offer.

The Mummy Returns
(2001)

A decent effort, but somehow lacking...
Everything from the first film was there. Yes, there were the cornball one-liners and banal dialog. Yes, there was the Mummy. Yes, there were some great special effects and stuntwork. And yes, there was the requisite comic relief, this time represented by John Hannah and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Everything that made the first film a work of mindless, popcorn munching, B-movie fun was there.

But somehow, it didn't quite click. The first one was thrilling, funny, and entertaining, albeit in a turn-your-brain-off kind of way. The sequel is... well, it's somewhat thrilling, kind of funny, and I guess moderately entertaining. However, compared to the first, the film lacked a little focus. I presume the filmmakers tried to follow one of the common sequel "formulas"- that is, take everything in the first film and make it 100 times bigger. Make it wall to wall action, and even throw a little bit of globe trotting in. More thrills, more cheesy one liners, more special effects. You think the face in the sandstorm was cool last time? Well, we'll do something like that but even better.

But in the efforts to make the film bigger and better, even less thought was gone into making it than the first film. Some of the action scenes, while thrilling, also seemed a little superfluous and arbitrary, and as a result it lacked a sense of urgency that some of the best scenes in the first film had. And while they were quite well done and entertaining, many of the fight scenes as well as the special effects felt like they were already accomplished in the first movie. (The only notable improvement in the CGI is in the mummy's not-fully-formed stages, which is probably the most underused CGI in the film) The one liners were funny, but were said a little too often with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge that it can go from amusing to somewhat arrogant. And while Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the black pilot and Freddie Boath as the kid were surprisingly entertaining, I got to be a little annoyed with John Hannah.

This film had all the ingredients of its predecessor, and yet it fell a little short. Was it a horrible movie? No. Did I find it entertaining? Mmmm... I _guess_ so. Just not as much as I'd hoped to be after watching the first film. Would I recommend it? I'm not sure.

Shrek
(2001)

Truly inspired.
A long time ago, I saw a movie that was a parody of fairy tales that was both heartwarming and laugh out loud funny, that succeeded in _being_ a fairy tale as well as sending up many of its conventions through a strong sense of wit.

That film was "The Princess Bride", possibly the best fairy tale comedy ever made, and Shrek is quite worthy of following in its footsteps.

One of the things that comedies these days tend to forget is that the characters have to be _likeable_. If they repulse you, then the whole thing will come off as not funny but extremely obnoxious. In TPB, Wesley and Princess Buttercup were _very_ charming. This film features some truly endearing characters, especially the flawed but loveable hero Shrek. Yes he's antisocial, but there's a sweetness and warmth to him, no doubt thanks to the great animation team and Mike Meyers (who, however, put a wee too much "Fat Bastard" into the performance). Cameron Diaz's Princess Fiona shows a lot of depth, as she is remarkably at the same time spunky yet passive, as she shows a surprisingly take-no-crap attitude for someone who's waiting to be rescued by a handsome prince. She also shows surprising vulnerability in a scene that would spoil the film if further discussed.

Then there's the donkey, who in his sidekick role is notably non-annoying and actually quite entertaining, and is played on the mark by Eddie Murphy. The amusing Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow)rounds out the cast of characters.

But the question is, is it funny? Yes, very much so. Ignore the flatulence jokes after the first few times, this movie has a sense of visual wit paralleled by the verbal gymnastics of The Princess Bride. All of the fairy tale references (and the none-too-subtle digs at Disney) were completely spot on, especially memorable moments like the torture of the Gingerbread man, or any of the 100 mile an hour references in the fairy tale character trade-in during the beginning. However, the cream of the crop by far has to be one particular fight sequence involving the princess- Eat your heart out, Carrie-Ann Moss.

Simply put, this film is the most purely entertaining film I've seen in some time. Pay no attention to some of the surprisingly negative user comments here; if you do, you're probably missing out on one of the most enjoyable comedies of the year.

Good Will Hunting
(1997)

Good film made even better by great acting and a phenomenal script
Yes, the genre of the troubled genius given guidance in the finer aspects of life is a cliche. Yes, it's somewhat predictable. And yes, there's a lot of cursing. However, all the other elements in Good Will Hunting help the film not only succeed, but soar.

The script Good Will Hunting is the antithesis to the Hollywood system as we know it: Two talented young actors, yet to make their big break, come up with a polished, original, and personal script, rather than the screenplay-by-committee published by the major studios for the sole purpose of commercial gain. Every line of dialog here, rather than succumbing to the pit of tired cliches, comes off original and with personality. Every scene here, the characters relate to each other believably, while remaining completely engaging. One of the best examples of this is in the fantastic scene between Will and Chuckie at the end about what Will would be doing in 20 years. Through Chuckie's blunt honesty he shows us how true of a friend he really is, and the true depth of their relationship. Outside of maybe Pulp Fiction, I don't think I've seen a script this original and absorbing in some time.

Robin Williams gives the performance of his career here, even topping his great work in Dead Poets Society. Here, he's not the schmaltzy, kindhearted savior he's been in his last couple of movies. Rather he's a good, intelligent, but flawed man who is there originally just to guide Will, but ultimately his experiences with will help him confront his own issues. His performance is not superficial, but nuanced- knowing about life, but at the same time, not knowing, and learning along with Will. Similarly, Matt Damon did a great job giving us the outwardly cocky genius-with-an-attitude that is deeply hurt inside and grows to show us that he doesn't know everything, but is willing to learn. Ben Affleck is amusing and honest as his friend Chuckie, and Stellan Skarsgard and Minnie Driver do great jobs in their respective roles as well.

Looking around here, I see quite a few negative comments for this film. Frankly, I'm stunned. The work of everyone involved in the film, particularly Damon, Affleck, and Williams, raises what could have been a complete cliche to cinematic excellence. Everyone criticizes the Oscars for their dubious selections. However, when they honored this script and Robin Williams' performance, they couldn't have gotten it more right.

Best of the Best
(1989)

Not great, but frankly, I don't care.
This is a film that would probably best be enjoyed by those of you who are martial arts fans that like Rocky IV for its training sequences and shameless audience manipulation, and can make an exception for its severe deficiencies in acting, script, directorial effort, and any attempt at originality.

Luckily for me, I'm one of those people.

Mononoke-hime
(1997)

What a movie!
I came into the theater with _soaringly_ high expectations for the film, and still found it to be a great work of cinema in the end. The animation was absolutely brilliant and gorgeous to look at, and the visuals of the various gods and forces of nature were incredible. The story is also far more complicated than anything American animation has imagined, illustrating the true nature of conflict and its resolution better than any of them. It also features a truly great character in Eboshi, whose motives aren't as black and white as western animation might have made it.

But most notable was the running time. No, not how long it was, but how short it felt to me. I really don't understand when others complain of it being too long. To me, not only did it seem that every scene was significant, but it actually felt like it was 25 minutes _shorter_ than it actually was, because I felt so compelled by just about every frame of the film.

Fantasia
(1940)

A real visual and musical symphony
Very few films are as far ahead of its time like this one. Initially a bomb, it took decades for it to be recognized as the work of art that it is. The animation was amazing for its time, and still holds up beautifully today. This film was just so visually inventive and flexible, from the abstract yet completely appropriate imagery of the Bach piece in the beginning, to the epic grandeur of the creation of life on earth for Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring", to the dark and hellish feel of "Night on Bald Mountain". Even throw in the giddy silliness of the dancing hippos, and the famous "Sorcerer's Apprentice", featuring Mickey Mouse at his best.

And not to forget the music, either, which features some of the greatest pieces from composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Tchaikofsky, my personal favorite of which was Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. And of course, the people behind the music- conductor Leopold Stokowski and the Philadephia orchestra- sounded completely on the mark and accomplished in their trade.

And both of these aspects perfectly mesh in the 120 minutes of this film. This time, the music does not simply aid what happens onscreen, but the animation and music are accompaniments for each other. Normally, music supplies the emotion, and visuals convey story. Here, it's a little bit of both- the music clearly weaves part of the story itself, and the animation adds to the feeling of what's going on. Never before have music and visuals so perfectly intertwined like in this movie.

Gone in Sixty Seconds
(2000)

Mediocre, predictable, and a waste of talent
Jerry Bruckheimer tends to be very hit and miss with his movies. Some of them are very entertaining, like The Rock and Crimson Tide. Some of them are, well, like Armageddon. Gone in Sixty Seconds tends to fall in the lower half of the spectrum. It's not a complete dud like that aforementioned Bruce Willis flick, but very mediocre.

First off, there wasn't a single part of this movie that I couldn't call five minutes ahead of time. I mean, it just runs straight through, twist free. Who couldn't see that the last car he steals would be the one he has the history with?

Secondly, there are a lot of great actors in this movie that aren't given much to do. Nic Cage shows none of his trademark quirkiness, Angelina Jolie is just some pretty window dressing, and Robert Duvall apparently doesn't do anything but cross car names off the chalkboard. Even Delroy Lindo, who's usually incredibly cool in everything, doesn't have much to do here.

However, I will give the film credit for a really great chase scene featuring my favorite car of all time, the Shelby GT 500. That scene, and the really impressive cars throughout the movie, made me enjoy the film a lot more than I would have otherwise.

Mission: Impossible II
(2000)

Slightly disappointing, but not that bad...
Okay, so the critics have been less than enthusiastic about this flick. Does the movie live up to the hype? Not quite. But it's really not that bad. There are some truly cool moments in the beginning- I personally liked the chemistry between Cruise and Newton in the bathtub scene, but was weighed down by a rather boring middle where honestly, I really couldn't care much for the plot. But it picks immensely in the last third of the film, just enough to make up for the boring exposition of the middle. Here, the movie resumes typical John Woo form. The action is absolutely insane, and it's got some of the best motorcycle work that I've seen in a long time, and the last third basically made the whole film for me.

And how does it compare to the first movie? While I enjoyed the first film's superior pacing and feeling of suspense amidst technology, the sequel has a real sense of style that was missing from the first film. Both films have their merits, and I'd say that they're almost like two different animals.

Invasion America
(1998)

A cliched letdown.
This TV series has received some praise here for being some "groundbreaking" sci-fi, dramatic animated TV series in prime time. The dialog was absolutely weak, the plot was flimsy, and much of it seemed to be cliches taken from tons of other science fiction programs. Now while I don't have a problem with borrowing ideas, unlike something like Star Wars, it doesn't transcend them and create something new. Plus the animation was uninspired, and the CG stuck out like a sore thumb.

There are better dramatic animation titles with adult appeal than this on television. Watch Gundam Wing Uncut, which has the same level of violence and language, plus relatively original plot elements that haven't been used 100 times already. Or watch the hugely underrated Beast Wars, Batman, or Gargoyles.

Science Court
(1997)

A miracle- A show that's well written, genuinely funny, _and_ educational
This is one of the most underrated and pleasant surprises among television shows today. it's an educational show that manages to be witty and funny on an adult level, at the same time. Just about every minute of the show, something funny is either said or done, usually by either Prof. Parsons, or the gloriously incompetent lawyer, Mr. Savage (who, according to the judge, can actually drop his pants in court and somehow maintain the same level of credibility). Unlike the incredibly obnoxious Histeria, this is one case where the jokes _don't_ come out flat and uninspired.

And you learn a little bit, to boot.

Space Ghost Coast to Coast
(1993)

Great animated talk show...
Take "Late Night With Conan O'Brien". Throw in a little of "The Tick". Add a cup of Monty Python for good measure. Shake well.

Voila! You've got yourself a serving of some "Space Ghost Coast to Coast", one of the strangest, funniest, and most twisted shows on television. Chock full of purposely bad stock animation, this is an ingeniously written show that deserves to be considered among the funniest shows on the air today.

Misery
(1990)

Good movie made great by Kathy Bates
This is a good, suspenseful thriller that's taken up another level by Kathy Bates. Simply put, that is the scariest performance I've ever seen by any actress in any movie. Her character can go from kind and gentle to absolutely insane in a heartbeat.

Otherwise, without her, the film is good, but sometimes is a little cliched in its suspense. Still a great film, though. I give it a solid 7/10.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
(1987)

Ridiculously bad.
I cannot believe how much I loved watching this movie when I was nine years old. The problem with this movie is that its flaws are so glaring, and it lacks the fun, fantastic, escapist sensation of the comic books that the first two contained. I mean, not only is this film without logic, but is utterly ridiculous with the whole "nuclear man" thing, or taking a woman up to space without _anything_ happen to her body. Sure, the third movie was silly too, but that at least has the saving grace of being _intentionally_ so. And I like Richard Pryor.

And when it's not being rediculous, it's contrived and pedestrian, like the Superman/Clark/Lacey/Lois fiasco in the middle. This plot was just poorly strung together, and it sounds more like a soapbox for an anti-nuclear weapons cause rather than anything for a movie.

No other film series that started so promisingly with its first two have turned into such utter crap. Superman I and II were fantastic. III was a disappointment, but it wasn't bottom-of-the-barrel like this.I mean, at least Batman and Robin had some cool visual effects.

The Mummy
(1999)

A brainless, yet entertaining popcorn movie
To paraphrase Roger Ebert in his review of this film, I have really no legitimate grounds on which to recommend this movie... except the fact that I liked it. Yes, the dialog is cornball, most of the acting is unremarkable at best, and there's no emotional core to speak of. But it doesn't matter, in this kind of film. This is a film that only takes itself seriously in its amazing action sequences, and its visual effects, and even then it's often done in a tongue-in-cheek manner. This is a film that knows it's not meant to be entertaining on more than the basest of levels, and it does that with flying colors. This is the kind of movie where the actors are supposed to be second banana to the visual effects, and while I sometimes don't condone such films (the '98 Godzilla comes to mind) if they're successful enough in tapping into my sense of imagination and adventure, it can work. I mean, the scenes with the unformed Mummy himself, the guards that come out of the wall carving, or the giant sand storm are visually stunning and imaginative. So much so that I really don't care that there isn't an original line of dialog in the entire film. "The Mummy" is the Mortal Kombat movie with an Indiana Jones motif, and it doesn't pretend to be anything else.

U-571
(2000)

Fair, sustaining, yet ultimately empty movie
When I left the theatre after watching this movie, I wasn't really sure what to think. Yes, I was reasonably entertained by the film, and drawn in by the pedestrian, if not effective, use of suspense. However, what did I spend my time in the theatre watching? Ultimately, not much. This film is very, very thin on plot in the second half, and it felt like one scene after another was just more of the same stuff- either there's something wrong with the sub, or it's being attacked, or there's some unruly crew member that has to be dealt with. And the characters don't help things out much- most of them seem to be either cardboard cutouts, or indistinct from one another. This is a film that had a good deal of entertainment to it on the surface, but very little substance inside.

Last Action Hero
(1993)

Silly and weak...
Am I the only one around here unimpressed by this film? This is a silly, silly film that I found hard to swallow because it was so self conscious of it being a parody. But at the same time an action film, and yet both really kind of work against each other. This film works neither as action or as comedy, especially since the very premise of this film is just ridiculous. It undermines the film's stance as an action film, and as a parody of the genre.

Shin seiki Evangelion Gekijô-ban: Air/Magokoro wo, kimi ni
(1997)

An ending worthy of a series like Evangelion.
This film is an impressive, impressive work that has just about everything that makes Evangelion a spectacular series, and then some. Everything in the series has led up to this absolutely stirring climax. You have the power of jaw dropping power of Third Impact. You have twists and turns everywhere. You got one of the best fight scenes ever animated. And most of all, you have the culmination of the powerful psychological aspects of the program that have been Evangelion's hallmark. All topped off with great classical music, great animation, and Anno's virtuoso directing in the vein of David Lynch.

If there ever was _any_ doubt that Hideaki Anno is one of the best anime directors not named Miyazaki, this film removes it.

Ekkusu
(1996)

Beautiful, but ultimately, a mess
First of all, let me preface this by saying that I am a big time fan of anime. I spent way too much money and way too much time watching way too many videos, and yet I still love it.

That said, this film is on the short list of anime films I wouldn't bother watching again. The plot is utterly muddled and a complete rush job, as you'd expect from cramming a 22 volume manga (comic) series into one movie. I had no idea what was going on, I had no interest in the characters, the fight scenes were cool occasionally, but that didn't sustain my interest. To the film's credit, it did _look_ nice, and the animation is as impressive as any I've seen in anime. But nice visuals doesn't save a confusing story.

Don't get me wrong- I like anime that has depth and requires a bit of effort on the part of the viewers. But this is a challenge that's just beyond worth taking. If you want to see a work that's complex, "deep", visually arresting, _and_ maintains a viewer's interest, ignore this and head for Evangelion or Ghost in the Shell.

Doragon Hafu
(1993)

Silly, silly anime...
This video is just an absolute hoot. Overall, next to the Slayers: Dragonslave and the vastly underrated Shinesman OAV dub, this is the most belly-achingly silly anime tape I've ever seen. From the self absorbed part time dragon slayer, part time teen idol Dick Saucer, to he ever so cute Mink, to the adorably silly Super Deformed modes, to Dug Fin complaining about how they cut out his part in the first episode, this one will just have you rolling on the floor.

And that's not even getting to the danceably silly, nutty, kooky, ending theme song. It's Beethoven in a way you've never heard before. I've heard that the only point of the lyrics was to match the melody and rhythm of the song, and I believe that! Absolutely silly.

The Transformers: The Movie
(1986)

Watching Star Wars in the theater for the first time must have been something like this...
...And no, this is aside from the obvious Star Wars "ripoff" themes...:)

Seriously, this is a vastly critically misunderstood and underappreciated film. They say it's a toy commercial. They say it's too violent. They say they don't get it.

What they don't say is that yes it's violent, but it's extremely focused and energetic-violent, the kind that's just plain exciting to watch. They say it's a toy commercial, but that doesn't matter if it involves characters that you genuinely care about, like Optimus Prime. They don't talk about the beautiful, anime-style attention to detail- I swear, if I didn't know better, you could tell me that this was done by the same people behind Macross: Do You Remember Love, and I would have believed you. Yes, it borrowed themes heavily from other sources and was a "toy commercial", but it's the same case with another Sci-Fi classic. It's called "Star Wars". And like Star Wars, it transcends crass commercialism, and takes these overused themes and injects them and the film on a whole with new life. In my opinion, it is indeed the "Star Wars" of American animation.

However, they do say they don't get it, and they're right. This is a film that's virtually impossible to truly appreciate without the perspective of the television series behind it. It's like watching the climax, the turning point of a film or series without having watched anything of it before. If you're an anime fan, it's like watching End of Evangelion (another spectacular piece of science fiction) without watching the TV series before it. So in a sense, I don't blame them for not getting the film.

But if you are a Trans fan, or have at least _some_ memories of transformers growing up, _ignore_ the critics. This is a spectacular film in the overall scheme of the Transformers that's more than worth your time.

Apocalypse Now
(1979)

A good film that could have been better.
This film is one of the more disappointing "great" films I've yet to see. Don't get me wrong, I think this is a _good_ movie. The cinematography is excellent, I thought the Helicopter attack scene was magnificent, and the performances by Sheen, Duvall, and to an extent, Brando's as well, and I felt the pacing was great, if not just a bit slow, but was an excellent parallel to the nature of the war in Vietnam. For the first 3/4ths of the film, I thought this was a great movie...

And then I reached the ending. This ending was so drawn out and mind-numbingly slow that I couldn't wait for the film to wrap up. I heard that the reason behind this was that originally Brando's part was relatively short, but he wanted to get more screen time, so he stretched it out as far as humanly possible. It certainly seems to be the case. And as such, it is a detriment to what otherwise is a fantastic film.

Citizen Kane
(1941)

One of the greats...
This film's greatness is everything that Hollywood has seemed to have forgotten these days. First of all, a great script. Very little can save a poor script, and great ones these days, with the exception of Good Will Hunting, are fairly rare these days. The script provides a framework from which a director and actors flesh things out, and Mankiewicz and Welles have provided just that. Secondly, great cinematic effects are used best when complementing and at the service of great filmmaking and a good story, not in place of it. The use of music overlapping scenes, the camera coming from the ground to give the illusion of size, and the track backwards from the young Kane to into the cabin are marvelous, and add a great sense of perspective and almost commentary on their respective scenes- and these are just two of many examples from the film. The reinvention in plot structure, something that's happened only once this decade, in another great film called Pulp Fiction. All of these elements combine to make an absolutely fascinating portrait of the rise and fall of an infamous, legendary man. Arguably the greatest film of all time, and definitely one of my favorites.

Beast Wars: Transformers
(1996)

Top quality show with a great plot.
Flat out, this series is one of the most underrated on television. More intricate and interesting than anything on prime time this side of the X-Files, this show is more than a worthy successor to the original. Good characters with depth, solid and complex storylines, plot twists, and the occasional witty sense of humor make it one of the better programs on television, and one of the few that tries to blur the distinction between good and evil. I never miss it.

Star Wars
(1977)

What else is there to say? One of the greats.
Star Wars,quite simply, is one of the great film spectacles of all time. Watching this movie reminds me of precisely what makes the cinematic experience so wonderful. Some people go one way and talk about the poor acting or the stock characters, but what they forget or ignore is that this is possible the most purely, thoroughly entertaining film ever. And that it certainly is- it's an escapist movie. From the opening shot of the Imperial ship looming overhead, to the supreme adrenaline rush of a climax in the Death Star trenches, this film is completely absorbing in its escapism. Truly one of the great adventures of all time.

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