Tresix

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Reviews

Mockingbird Lane
(2012)

Certainly not what it could have been.
Brian Fuller, the man behind the dark fantasy TV series "Pushing Daisies", decided to do an equally dark update of "The Munsters". For those not familiar with "The Munsters", it was a sitcom from Universal Pictures that parodied their classic movie monsters like Count Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster by taking these terrifying creatures and placing them in suburban America as the typical family. Fuller attempts to present the Munsters as their dark original counterparts with "Mockingbird Lane".

However, that negates the point of the original series: It was how these ghastly individuals got along with the average American in a very humorous vein. Instead, "Mockingbird Lane" seems to be trying to be a straight horror show with little glimpses of comedy. The problem with this is the horror overshadows the humor. For starters, the original Munsters all looked like monsters except for "poor" Marilyn. In this version, everyone looks close to normal, yet they still pick on Marilyn because of her "looks". Marilyn here (played by Charity Wakefield) is still a beautiful girl who is thought of as unattractive by the rest of the family. The thing about this is that Herman in this version (Jerry O'Connell) is rather handsome even though he does have spare body parts (he's having trouble with his replacement heart). Also, Grandpa (Eddie Izzard) and Lily (Portia de Rossi), though they are vampires, don't have the pallor that they had in the original series. Even young Eddie (Mason Cook) looks like a normal little boy until he transforms into a werewolf under the full moon. Every one plays their role too seriously except Izzard. He has great lines and is the only one who seems to be having any fun at all.

On the plus side, the special effects are great. Especially in the introduction of Grandpa and Lily. However, if the series is picked up, things need to lighten up greatly. Make the show fun to watch and it might pick up where the original series left off.

The Great Train Robbery
(1903)

How the Western was born
Prior to THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, all early silent movies did were show things like horses running, people dancing and kissing, even sneezing. THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY was the first movie to tell an actual story, thus explaining and justifying its place in American film history. A railroad clerk is accosted by a gang of bandits who tie him up to prevent him from sending a telegraph. The thieves then board the train, kill the stoker and throws the body from the train (there is an edit cut that shows a dummy being substituted for the actor that is pretty fluid for its time). Admittedly, when some of the people are shot, their histrionics are over the top as they die. But you'd have take into consideration that acting on camera was something new in 1903. Also, a lot of things that have become western clichés were introduced here: the kerchiefs over the bandits' faces; the tenderfoot being made to "dance" by having guns fired at his feet; the gathering of the posse and "head 'em off at the pass" chases. This is the movie that also contains one of my all-time favorite movie images: the cowboy pointing his pistol at the camera and firing it. There were stories that when this movie "premiered", audiences ducked in terror at that moment. Who knows? Without this movie, there may never have been a John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or "Gunsmoke".

The Looney Tunes Show
(2011)

Funny enough.
I had expected to hate this show, but I actually like it quite a bit. It borrows the legendary characters of the Looney Tunes cartoons from the past but sets them in a sort of sitcom setting. Bugs Bunny is sort of like Jerry Seinfeld while his roommate Daffy Duck is George Costanza. The other characters are spread around the neighborhood and give a little seasoning throughout the series. A lot of people have complained because it's not done in the tradition of the original cartoons. However, since the show is done like a sitcom, that format wouldn't quite work with this show.

Also funny about this show, are music videos done by some of the characters that highlight their personalities such as Marvin Martian's "I'm a Martian". Another segment is computer-animated bits done with the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote that truly captures the spirit of the original Roadrunner cartoons, only shorter. Apparently, this doesn't seem to be enough for some people, but I say give the show a chance. It's nowhere near as awful as some detractors will have you believe.

Downfall
(2010)

Fun variation on "Pyramid"
This show looks like it's a lot of fun. I'm a trivia geek and seem to do quite well while watching at home. I don't know how I'd do with the actual game on the line. For those of you not up to date on "Downfall": a contestant is attached to a harness that is attached to a crane. The contestant stands next to a conveyor belt with a variety of prizes and cash on it. As the contestant has to list some items in a given category (similar to "The $20,000 Pyramid"), the belt moves, sending the prizes over the edge of the building that the contestant is standing on. A panic button sits on a podium in front of the contestant that can be hit twice to stop the belt. The contestant can also put a personal item on the belt or a "panic buddy" on the belt if they hit the button. However, if the money goes over the edge, the contestant gets dumped over the edge.

The host is wrestler Chris Jericho and he actually comes across as likable, a complete 180° from his wrestling persona. Also, as has been stated here and on the show, replicas representing the actual prizes (except the contestants' personal items) are sent over the edge of the building. Thus, no need to get upset about expensive items being destroyed for entertainment purposes. I hope this lasts a while, it looks enjoyable.

The Dark Knight
(2008)

A Batman for all fans.
In the modern era, we finally get the ultimate Batman movie. The one that most fans have been waiting for since roughly the early Eighties. Christopher Nolan, who rebooted the franchise with BATMAN BEGINS, gives us the excellent follow-up THE DARK KNIGHT. Christian Bale returns as the haunted Bruce Wayne and his caped alter ego Batman, as do Michael Caine (as loyal butler Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox, financial adviser and inventor), and Gary Oldman (Lt. James Gordon, who's about to get a big promotion). Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over for Katie Holmes in the role of D.A. Rachel Dawes, a much better trade, in my opinion. As in BATMAN BEGINS, Chicago once again stands in for Gotham City and the city looks even more nightmarish than it did in the previous film.

Batman now has to contend with a town that has gone over the edge with both imitators (like a chubby, shotgun-toting Batman) and a new criminal: the Joker (the late Heath Ledger). Unlike the previous men who have played the Clown Prince of Crime, Ledger's Joker isn't interested so much in making a profit from his crimes, just the kick that he gets from causing havoc. I still wish that they had gone the route of the comic books and had Joker actually have white skin instead of wearing make-up, but they do a good job with what Ledger does with the character. He practically transforms the Joker into his own. Meanwhile, Rachel, after breaking up with Bruce, is now dating the new chief D.A., Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who we know is doomed to become the coin-flipping Two-Face. Batman wants Dent to be the white knight that he feels Gotham needs in order to combat villains on the order of the Joker while he is the dark knight of the title.

As dark as this movie is, I certainly hope that this isn't the last we see of certain characters that were shown in this movie.

The Boondocks
(2005)

More vulgar than the comic strip, but still worth watching.
I had been a fan of Aaron McGruder's comic strip "The Boondocks" since its debut. The strip drew controversy because of the way it deals with current events such as the Bush Administration, the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, to name a few. It also takes great jabs at racial stereotyping of many cultures. Some newspapers put the strip in the editorial section instead of the comics due to its subject matter. "The Boondocks" now makes the leap from the funny pages to television via the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim line-up. After viewing the first episode, it's safe to say there are quite a few changes that have been made from the strip. It is a little more on the vulgar side than its print counterpart. The strip and show deal with the same cast of characters: Huey Freeman (voiced by Regina King) and his younger brother Riley (also voiced by King) are two young boys from the South Side of Chicago who go to live with their grandfather Richard (the always hilarious John Witherspoon) in the suburbs. Being thrown into an environment of mixed races doesn't exactly set well with the boys: Huey is a militant-type who wants to shake up the Establishment while Riley is a gangsta-wannabe. Both drive Grandpa up the wall with their antics. The show's first episode, entitled "Garden Party", allows each character to jell into their roles. As the show starts, Huey tells the audience about a dream he has where he tells whites at a garden party that "Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the Devil and the government is lying about 9-11. Thank you." These comments send "Whitey" into a panic. However, when he makes the same comments in at a real garden party, he's only commended for being an articulate speaker, much to Huey's chagrin. Riley, meanwhile, meets an Iraq War veteran and is only interested in shooting one of his guns.

Also at the party is a black valet car parker who is intent on keeping the Freemans out because "there ain't no room for no mo' n-----!" This scene made me feel a little uncomfortable. Maybe that was the effect that McGruder was going for, maybe not. I just felt that this bit of vulgarity wasn't necessary. The show could have made its point in the same manner that the comic strip does without crossing that shock value line. Still, I think that the show will strike nerves with viewers. Both good and bad. I think I'm a fan of the show, as long as it doesn't push the envelope so hard that it rips.

Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue
(1990)

Unfair REEFER MADNESS comparisons! This was good.
A lot of people have been making what I think are unfair comparisons between this cartoon and the 1939 movie REEFER MADNESS. First of all, when MADNESS was released, there wasn't sufficient information out about the effects of marijuana on the human brain. Thus, the filmmakers didn't really know what they were talking about when they had their "weed addicts" getting all hyper and everything. Weed isn't like cocaine or heroin. Second, this show was aimed at very young children and children don't pick up on subtlety very well. Most of them take things at face value, so simply stating "Don't do drugs" without an explanation wasn't going to cut it. I was already in my twenties when I saw this and think that they did a good job without too much preaching nor hitting over the head with its message.

If you ask me, either this could use a rerunning or a remake/update. Things are starting to "go south" in a very big way. Too bad there aren't that many really good Saturday morning cartoons out anymore. Could you see the Rugrats or Lilo & Stitch in a production of this type? Darn you, corporate takeovers!

Rio Bravo
(1959)

HIGH NOON vs. RIO BRAVO; Round 2
They say that the best way to make a comment about a movie is to make a film of your own as a form of rebuttal. Both actor John Wayne and director Howard Hawks were not fans of the classic HIGH NOON: Wayne (who had been offered the part of Will Kane) felt that the movie was an un-American portrayal of the Old West while Hawks simply felt that Kane was a wimp for asking for help from the very people he was assigned to protect. That dislike led to the making of RIO BRAVO. Is it better than HIGH NOON? I don't think so, but it's still a good movie.

RIO BRAVO stars Wayne as sheriff John T. Chance, who always totes his trusty Winchester rifle (because he doesn't feel as confident with a six-shooter). At the opening of the movie, Chance and his drunken deputy, Dude (Dean Martin), are bringing in outlaw Joe Burdette (Claude Akins). After Burdette's arrest, his brother, Nathan (John Russell), brings in his gang to bust him out by any means necessary. Meanwhile, cattleman Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond) comes into town and hears about Chance's problems. He offers his men as help, Chance refuses, feeling that they'd be no match for the professional guns hired by Burdette. However, when Wheeler is killed, one of his men, Colorado (Ricky Nelson), decides to help out Chance. It ends up being Chance, Dude (nicknamed "Borachon", Spanish for "the drunken one), the gimpy Stumpy (the irrepressible Walter Brennan) and Colorado against the killers of the Burdette gang.

Also thrown into this mix Feathers (Angie Dickinson), the woman who just may have sent Dude on a drinking spree. She's not a femme fatale but she is also no damsel-in-distress neither as she makes romantic overtures towards Chance. This leads Dude into getting captured by Burdette and sets things up for a big showdown that ends with a bang in more ways than one.

The best performance in the movie, hands down, goes to Martin, who sort of dirty ups his "lovable drunk" image here. Nelson does well too as a fast draw. However, as comparisons to HIGH NOON come up, I find this film lacking: in the former film, the hero asks for help, doesn't get it and ends up standing alone. Here, the hero is offered help, refuses, but gets help nonetheless. The villains here aren't exactly given much screen time and what they have isn't utilized well. I had no idea why the Burdettes were supposed to be such bad men. The shootouts in both films are good for different reasons; HN's is more suspenseful while RB's is pure action. The women in both films are good, again, both for different reasons. I still like HIGH NOON more, but RIO BRAVO isn't a bad way to spend a night if you're in the mood for a good Western.

High Noon
(1952)

HIGH NOON vs. RIO BRAVO; Round 1
HIGH NOON is often regarded as one of the best Westerns, if not one of the greatest films, ever made. Based off the short story "The Tin Star" by John W. Cunningham, HIGH NOON tells the story of sheriff Will Kane (Gary Cooper), who is getting married to Amy (Grace Kelly), a Quaker, and stepping down. But a dark cloud comes over this happy occasion: Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), a man Kane sent to prison, is getting out and will be arriving in town on the noon train. It is 10:35 AM at the moment and the movie unfolds in an approximation of real time. Waiting at the train station are Miller's boys, they all have one objective: kill Kane.

At first, Kane and Amy are going to just leave, but Kane feels that he owes the town one last defense. This goes against the pacifistic beliefs of Amy, who simply wants to leave town. Back in the town of Hadleyville, the citizens are divided over what should be Kane's course of action: some think Kane should just leave and there won't be any trouble. Others want to see Kane gunned down because he cleaned up the town and they all lost money from when Miller ran things. One of those who wants Kane to leave is his former deputy Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges), although not for any altruistic reason. Pell wants the sheriff's job and feels that it will impress his woman, Helen Ramirez (Katy Jurado). Helen has had romantic dealings with both Kane and Miller and, from the looks of things, is constantly comparing Pell to these two men. This leads to a big fight between Pell and Kane and further isolates Kane from the situation.

Kane tries to get help from the townspeople, but feel that it isn't exactly their problem anymore since Kane has resigned. As the time runs down and no one will stand with him, Kane is shown to be more human as the film progresses. This is also shown in one of the best shots in cinema history as Kane is shown alone on the streets of the town. The climactic shootout is a real nail-biter and a departure from the conventional way gunfights had been shown in Westerns up until then. Despite being deserted by the townspeople, Kane receives some help from a very unlikely source, which I feel heightens the situation even more. The movie's final image is now iconic.

One might wonder why John Wayne didn't play a part like this. He had been approached, but thought that HIGH NOON didn't properly portray the true spirit of the Old West. He would later lament that he wished he could get a part like Kane when he presented Cooper with his second Best Actor Oscar. The film also won Oscars for its film editing, musical score and song "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh, My Darlin'". Do not forsake this classic.

Wild West Tech
(2003)

The truth behind some Western legends.
I am a late comer to this show, but I found it very informative. Hopefully, the History Channel will rerun the episodes narrated by Keith Carradine, I'm currently seeing the ones with David. I find it kind of ironic that David Carradine is on a show discussing guns and other weapons of the Old West considering that on "Kung Fu" he basically played a cowboy who didn't use any sort of firearms. This series lays bare the truth about some of the "heroes" and "villains" of that time period. Like the lawman who allowed a prisoner to escape only to shoot him in the back just so that the sheriff could attend a dance! Or just how really overwhelmed the people at the Alamo were (1300 Mexicans vs. 200 Texans). Or just how bright (or maybe not) some desperadoes were when confronting the law and a Winchester rifle at 90 yards. Like I said, I hope that History Channel reruns the series in its entirety. Nothing like finding out how "wild" the Wild, Wild West really was.

Batman Begins
(2005)

Back in black and it feels so good.
Okay, I know I'm gonna catch Hell for this, but I still love BATMAN FOREVER as my favorite Batman movie. BATMAN BEGINS, however, is a very, very, VERY close second. I just knew that they couldn't let the franchise end with the dismal BATMAN & ROBIN and I guess the best way to revive it was to go back to the beginning. Christopher Nolan of MEMENTO fame takes over the director's reins and practically gives the movie a British flavor (or would that be "flavour"?). Christian Bale takes over as Bruce Wayne/Batman, who we first see in an Asian prison where he beats up six men attacking him. The guards then take Wayne to protective custody, "I don't need protection!" Wayne tells them. "Not you," a guard tells Wayne, "Them." referring to the now unconscious prisoners. Wayne is then trained in the art of ninjitsu by Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) and his right hand man Henri Duchard (Liam Neeson). Duchard tries to get Wayne to the point where he will kill for justice, Wayne doesn't want to go that far. We then see flashbacks of the night his parents were murdered as they left the opera "Mefistofeles" (wouldn't "Die Fledermous" (German for "The Bat") been a better choice? just asking). Bruce feels guilty over this and almost murders his parents' killer. When he unable to, he then goes on a journey that takes him into criminal organizations around the world. This prepares him to understanding the criminal mind, Duchard and Al Ghul's training gives him the ability to fight and vanish at a moment's notice.

Wayne returns home to Alfred (Michael Caine), the faithful family butler how still oversees Wayne Manor and assists him in his quest for justice. Wayne also finds out that Gotham City has now fallen into even deeper corruption under the hands of crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson, a long way from THE FULL MONTY) and Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), who moonlights as the Scarecrow and drives Falcone's enemies insane with a fear gas. It would seem that the only two honest people left in Gotham are police Sgt. Jame Gordon (Gary Oldman) and ADA Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), an old friend of Bruce's. We also learn that Bruce as a fear and obsession with bats stemming from a childhood incident. He adapts the bat as his symbol to give criminals a taste of his own fear. He then gets gadgets from Wayne Enterprises inventor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), including a Batmobile that looks like the love child of a Humvee and a Lamborghini.

The set designs have a real feel to them, just like the previous Batman films, only more so because some of BATMAN BEGINS was filmed right here in Chicago (ah, if only there REALLY was a monorail going down LaSalle Street . . .). Thus freeing the film from a studio-bound feel. The performances are good, especially Bale, who can snarl with the best of them. I was a little disappointed in that one of my favorite villains from the comic books, Ra's Al Ghul (whose name here is pronounced differently than it is in the comics) is only in the film for a short time. Also, some of the fight scenes could have used better editing, all we see are a blur of fist and feet. It's like showing a dancer on film but only showing his feet instead of his whole body as he moves. But, overall, BATMAN BEGINS is a good return to the Dark Knight's roots laid down by the late Bob Kane back in 1939. With Superman set to return to the big screen next year, might we start putting in our bid now for the crossover film that just HAS to get made one of these days?

Hardcore TV
(1992)

Great . . . and gone too soon.
When this show premiered on HBO, I didn't know what to expect. When, in its opening skit, they had a man beat Wayne and Garth from WAYNE'S WORLD (and anyone else who quoted their lines) with a club, I knew I had found my show. "Hardcore TV" was what you would have gotten if "SCTV" had no network TV censorship. The show was hosted by a guy who was sort of like Rod Serling on "Night Gallery" that brought on the skits. Some of the recurring gags were "Rastapiece Theatre" with a Jamaican man retelling old TV show plot lines but with raunchier results. There was Tracy Vilar from "The Steve Harvey Show" (and the only performer linked to this show whose name I remembered) as an astrologer whose predictions always centered on her cheating boyfriend and the punishment he would suffer. There was a fairy tale segment that always sounded like a "Penthouse Forum" letter come to life and "The Sports Lady" who would always ask prominent athletes (played by themselves such as the late Reggie White) if they liked it "doggy style". How funny you found most of this would depend on your threshold for the amount of profanity you could stand such as a "Barney" parody in which the dinosaur became a stand-up comedian.

Sadly, "Hardcore TV" didn't quite catch on like its other shows like "Dream On", "First and Ten" and "The Larry Sanders Show". But it will always have a special place in my heart. Especially after the club guy administered a beat down of epic proportions on Susan Powter.

Grayson
(2004)

Not quite in same league as BATMAN: DEAD END and WORLD'S FINEST
Once again, a film maker risks a lawsuit by making a short film based off of comic book characters that he doesn't have the rights to. GRAYSON is another in the tradition of super-hero shorts like Sandy Collora's BATMAN: DEAD END and WORLD'S FINEST. John Fiorella directs and stars as Dick Grayson, the original Robin, Batman's sidekick. In this "trailer", Batman has been taken down in the line of duty. A long retired Grayson returns to his crime-fighting ways to avenge his mentor's death. Other DC Comic heroes (Superman, Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern) make quick appearances as do Batman villains Joker, Catwoman, Penguin and Riddler. One wonders why Grayson wouldn't come back as Nightwing, his current identity instead of going back to the role that he considered merely the second half of "Batman and . . . ". GRAYSON does have the look of a professionally done "trailer" that would probably make a good feature-length film. However, it just doesn't quite have the touch that Collora showed in his shorts. I will say this: Fiorella has the chops, now if he can just really learn to master the instruments, he'll be good. Really, REALLY good.

World's Finest
(2004)

Warner Brothers, the ball in now in YOUR court!
Sandy Collora made an impressive eight-minute film called BATMAN: DEAD END which pitted Batman against the Joker and two surprise movie monsters from a rival studio's franchises. Collora returns to the comic book genre with WORLD'S FINEST. Longtime comic book readers will recognize that title as the monthly book that teamed Batman with Superman. It's also the title of a three-part episode of "The New Batman/Superman Adventures" that was released on video as THE BATMAN/SUPERMAN MOVIE.

Once again, we can see the influence of artist Alex Ross on Collora's cinematic work as early in the six-minute film we see Clark Kent (Michael O'Hearn, who looks as if he just flew out of the pages of "Action Comics") changing into Superman while being lit by a single, small spotlight. Very similar to some of Ross' artwork. WORLD'S FINEST is shot in the format of a movie trailer for an "upcoming" production from Warner Brothers, who owns both the literary and cinematic rights to the characters. It would appear that Clark/Superman is having trouble with President Lex Luthor (Kurt Carley, who played one of the surprise creatures in BATMAN: DEAD END). So much trouble that he needs the help of Batman (Clark Bartram reprising his role from the previous film). Luthor, meanwhile, enlists the aid of Batman foe Two-Face (Michael Antonik)instead of the Joker like in the animated film. The action primarily takes place in Metropolis as we only see Superman's supporting players: Perry White (Joseph Collora), Jimmy Olsen (Andrew Decker) and, of course, Lois Lane (Nina Kaczorowski).

For a low budget attempt, some of WORLD'S FINEST looks great. There is a scene where Superman catches a car falling from the sky that will remind you of the cover of "Action Comics" #1 and then flies away with it. However, other flying sequences look kind of cheesy. Also, as with BATMAN FOREVER, Two-Face is portrayed as a cackling Joker-wannabe. Two-Face is a very tragic character who seldom laughs. But, for the most part, Collora has done a very good job. Which leads me to issue this challenge on his behalf: Warner Brothers, if you've seen this short, the ball is in your court. With your talent and money behind you, you should be able to produce a film to go with this "trailer". It's all up to you now.

Batman: Dead End
(2003)

Highly ranked effort
I had been hearing about his film making the rounds at comic book conventions across the country. It has now been posted on ifilm.com, so I decided to take a peek. And damned if it isn't as good as I've been hearing. It's plain to see that the movie's director, Sandy Collora, is greatly influenced by the artwork of the legendary Alex Ross. This is evident in his use of minimal light, especially at the beginning as he shows Batman (Clark Bartram) putting on his costume. Bartram just might be as close to being perfectly cast as any of the big-screen Batmen. The eight-minute film centers around another escape from Arkham Asylum by the Joker (Andrew Koenig, looking very frightening). Batman catches up with our favorite homicidal maniac in an alley. A brief fight ensues and the two adversaries each give the old "You made me what I am" speech to each other (just like in the first film) before Joker is snatched away. All I'll reveal is that two creatures from a rival studio make appearances, both have appeared in the DC Comics universe before. But it's quite a shock to see them here, especially the first creature to show up. With this minimal budget, Collora (who works primarily as a special effects man) shows that a humongous budget isn't totally necessary to make a captivating film. From this effort, here's hoping that Collora can get more work behind the camera. No matter what the budget.

The Batman
(2004)

Liked it, but . . .
Once again, the cartoon world takes a stab at reinventing Batman. "The Batman" gives us Batman (voice of Rino Romano) in the third year of his crimefighting career. As usual, the origin stays the same: Thomas, Martha and young Bruce Wayne are walking home from a movie when a hold-up man kills Bruce's parents. He swears to wage a war on crime, goes into training in various fields of martial arts, science, athletics in order to become a creature of the night and strike fear in the hearts of the criminal element. The first episode of the new cartoon has Batman still being thought of as an "urban legend" when Gotham detectives Ethan Bennett (Steve Harris, formerly of "The Practice") and Ellen Yin (Ming Na from "ER") being assigned to investigate his comings and goings. He also has his first run in with the Joker (Kevin Michael Richardson), who looks totally different than his usual appearance. However, he IS just as insane as ever.

Since this is early in Batman's career, there is no Commissioner Gordon or Robin in the picture. From the opening credits, all of the well-known villains such as Penguin, Catwoman, Croc and Mr. Freeze will be making appearances in the future. The artwork and the animation are well done. However, the main weakness I find with "The Batman" is the voice of Batman. Romano sounds like a good fit for Bruce Wayne, but he doesn't have that mysterious, tough-guy edge to Batman that Kevin Conroy portrayed so well. But, this is, after all, Batman, so I really have no choice but to at least stick around to see which way things will go: "Batman: The Animated Series" or "Batman and the Super Seven". Time will tell.

Plan 9 from Outer Space
(1957)

Very bad, but not THE worst.
Needless to say, this movie's reputation preceded it. In all honesty, I hadn't even heard of it until I read the Medved brothers' book "The Golden Turkey Awards". It was listed as "The Worst Movie of All-Time" with its director, Edward D. Wood, Jr., receiving the "Worst Director of All-Time" honors. With credentials like that, of course I just HAD to see it. I got my chance later that year when a local theater had "Golden Turkey" night. PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE was part of a triple-bill with ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES and ROBOT MONSTER. I actually think KILLER TOMATOES is a good movie (and will go to my grave defending it). ROBOT MONSTER, which I had seen before, turned out to be the highlight (or, in this case, would it be the "lowlight") of the evening. It is far worse than PLAN 9, however, that does not absolve PLAN 9 of its cinematic sins. There's the bad acting, the bargain-basement set designs, the "el cheapo" special effects (or should that be "defects") and, of course, the haphazard direction courtesy of Wood. The "Plan 9" of the movie's title (after the failure of the other eight plans to conquer the world) is the resurrection of the recently deceased. This includes a woman who looks like the Fifties version of Elvira (Vampira, who once sued Elvira for copyright infringement), a murdered police detective (the mammoth Tor Johnson) and the vampire woman's husband. He is played by the legendary Bela Lugosi, a long way from Dracula. Hell, he's a long way from SCARED TO DEATH. This is the infamous film in which footage of Lugosi in his Dracula costume was shot before the film's release, but Lugosi died before more film could be shot. Thus, Wood used his chiropractor, Dr. Tom Mason, to fill in for Bela. Never mind that Mason is about a good six inches taller than Lugosi with a different hairstyle. As long as Mason holds a cape in front of his face, we're not supposed to notice the difference between the two men. It doesn't work. This zombie trio is controlled by aliens Eros (Dudley Manlove) and Tana (Joanna Lee), whose acting isn't much different than that of the undead. The heroes are led by intrepid airline pilot Trent (Greg Walcott) and Gen. Roberts (the inimitable Lyle Talbot). As bad as PLAN 9 is, there is one thing that I found interesting: that the aliens make mention of God. Though I am an atheist, I think it raises a good matter of discussion about whether beings from other planets know of Him and what do they call Him. However, I think this was added by Wood in order to get the funding from the Baptist church. Still, that is the one rose that rises from this trash heap of a movie. But, if you think of it as a "comedy", you might get some enjoyment out of it. Otherwise, you'll feel, as Eros would put it, "That you of Earth are idiots!".

Tupac: Resurrection
(2003)

Good for fans, all others beware.
I'll preface this by saying that I was not a fan of rapper Tupac Shakur when he was alive. His death (and, yes, I DO believe he is dead) hasn't done anything to make me fall in love with his work. The documentary TUPAC RESURRECTION attempts to shed some light on the young artist . The movie was produced by his mother in connection with MTV Films. The format used for telling his story is unique: Shakur is shown in various interviews telling his tale while incidents from his life are shown. Starting with his childhood in New York, born to a woman who was in the Black Panther movement. He and his family then moved to Baltimore where Shakur was enrolled in a performing arts school where he took ballet and acting lessons. Kind of a bizarre beginning for one who would become one of the leading voices in rap. Not only that, but one who seemed to embrace the violent "Thug Life" that he spoke of in his songs and had tattooed on his body. RESURRECTION follows Tupac from the Bronx, Baltimore, onto the West Coast where he began to really gain attention. Both for his music and movies as well as his run-ins with the law. As he put it "I didn't start to sell records until I had a record". Shakur claims that he was providing the voice for all of those who were in poverty and couldn't make their voices heard. All well and good, but why the violence directed at other people who were in the same boat as he was as opposed to the people in power? There is a segment where he makes known his dislike for such artists as Spike Lee, Eddie Murphy and the Hughes brothers (he was arrested for an assault on them, a fact that he did not deny), feeling that they are sell-outs and cowardly. Needless to say, Shakur's outspokenness makes him a target from both authority figures and his peers. Of course, it is believed that that in-your-face attitude was what got him shot twice in separate incidents. Most of what is shown in RESURRECTION I already knew from what people had told me and what I've read. The movie didn't shed any new light on him. My guess is that this movie is already preaching to the converted and will be a hit amongst them. All others, like me, will still be out in the cold.

Underworld
(2003)

Outmatrixes THE MATRIX
When I saw the trailer for this movie, the first thing that ran through my mind: "THE MATRIX with fangs". Leather trenchcoats, large-caliber automatic

firearms, wirework fight scenes. I received a pass for an advance screening and went, not expecting too much. I must say, after seeing the movie, I was

pleasantly surprised. UNDERWORLD was everything that THE MATRIX

WISHES it could have been. The movie basically continues a feud that was

shown in the movie THE HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS: vampires and

werewolves do not get along. They have been warring for over a millennium. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a vampire known as a "death dealer", she

especially trained to kill lycans: Werewolves. The leader of the lycans, Lucian (Michael Sheen), has been killed. Or so we are led to believe. It turns out that not only is he alive, but he is tracking a young man (Scott Speedman) who is a descendant of a man who is supposed to have the blood of both lycans and

vampires flowing through him. Selene is also trying to get to Michael

(Speedman) before Lucian. As fate would have it, Michael is being hunted at

around the same time that Viktor (Bill Nighy), the leader of the vampires, is going to be resurrected. This isn't sitting too well with Kraven (Shane Brolly), the current leader. He'd just as soon kill Michael as try to find out the plans that Lucian have for him.

The fight scenes are pretty impressive as is the unique ammo that each side uses to exploit the other's weaknesses such as bullets that emit ultraviolet rays inside of a vampire's body and others that are loaded with silver nitrate to get into a lycan's bloodstream quicker. I repeat, I was expecting a weak MATRIX clone and instead found a movie that, I think, sets the bar high for THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS to top.

New Monkees
(1987)

Died a mercifully (for us) quick death!
I saw an ad for this and, being a fan of the original Monkees, decided to watch it. BIG mistake! All of the new band members had the exact same hairstyle (and before someone says it: YES, I could tell Paul McCartney's hair from Ringo's). The story of the episode was forgettable . . . and I did. All I remembered was that these guys had no charisma whatsoever, nor were they particularly distinguished musicians. That was the only episode of "New Monkees" that I recalled. If there were more, it would have been a miracle.

The Matrix Reloaded
(2003)

No improvement over the first film.
As you may recall, mine was one of the few small voices who didn't sing the praises of THE MATRIX in 1999. Granted, the film had a unique look to it and became heavily imitated and parodied. But I found it to be rather pretentious in its intentions. After viewing THE MATRIX RELOADED, all I've got to say is: It's more of the same and not too different. Keanu Reeves returns as Neo, the one chosen to free humanity from the enslavement of machines that are feeding off of it for power. As before, the machines have set up defenses in the form of the reality-altering Agents led by the ever soulless Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who now has the power to multiply himself by jamming his fingers into a person's chest and turning them into a replica. The relationship between Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) is now deepened to the point where they have a sex scene while the citizens of Zion, the last city of humans, dance in mud like an underground version of "Soul Train". Reeves, Moss, Weaving and Laurence Fishburne, as Morpheus, all return from the first movie. They are joined by Harold Perrineau as the new pilot of the Nebuchadnezzar with Nona Gaye (taking over for the late Aaliyah) as his wife. There is also Monica Bellucci as a mystery woman who may or may not be quite on the heroes' side, Jada Pinkett-Smith as Niobe, another ship captain who had a relationship with Morpheus but is now involved with one of Zion's city leaders (Harry Lennix).

As with the first film, the stunt work and special effects are dazzling to the eye. An opening sequence showing Trinity being chased in a freefall by Agents has to be seen to be believed as bullets (and bodies) literally go flying across the screen. However, as with the first film, the story seems to be a little full of itself. I understand that there are quite a lot of religious references in the MATRIX movies, but I find them to stand out like a sore thumb. Maybe my atheism makes them go over my head. Perhaps this movie seems so spare because it is the second in a planned trilogy. Maybe that will make everything crystal clear when it ends. Maybe they'll also explain why nearly everyone is wearing dark glasses when there's precious little sunlight in the movie.

Baby Buggy Bunny
(1954)

Had a big influence on me.
This is one of my all-time favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons, if not cartoons period. BABY BUGGY BUNNY opens with a bank being robbed by a tall man in a long coat and snap-brim hat. As he's making his getaway, he reveals that he is actually "Anthill" Harry, a midget(dwarf, little person, whatever the short are calling themselves these days) who disguises himself as a baby to make his escape. He fools the police, but his loot ends up falling down the whole of Bugs. Harry gets into a bastinette and puts a note on himself saying that he is a baby named "Finster" and that Bugs should take him in and give him a good home. As anyone who knows me can attest, I always refer to little babies as "Finster" (especially bad ones). NOW you know where I got it from. Anyway, the bulk of the cartoon consists of "Finster" trying to get to the money (that "Daddy" Bugs has warned him not to play with because it's dirty). BABY BUGGY BUNNY is fun because, at least for a little while, it shows Bugs on the receiving end of torture for once before becoming the wise-ass Bugs that we all know and love when he learns the truth about "Finster". The fate of "Baby-faced Finster" is sure to bring a smile, if not an outright laugh, to anyone who watches it. And you DEFINITELY should be one to do that.

Jeopardy!
(1984)

I FINALLY MADE IT!!!
Some game shows have come and some have gone, but there's only one that is still withstanding the test of time: "Jeopardy!". Some game show s seem to rely on pure dumb luck or humiliation to get over. Not "Jeopardy!". It still gives its contestants and audience points for actually having knowledge. I should know because I actually got on this game last year! Let me tell you, if you think it's tough trying to guess the answers (actually, questions) from the comfort of your own home, try doing it with cameras in your face and two other people trying to outguess you. The tryout quiz alone will have your brain itching. Being behind the scenes of the show makes it no less fun to compete like you would at home, just a LITTLE more pressure. How did I do? Well, let's just say I can FINALLY take some overseas trips like I've always wanted to do.

Recess
(1997)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I only began to follow "Recess" in reruns. Now I wish I had watched it while it was still on the air. The show is funny and very enjoyable. I can still identify with a lot of the things that the fourth graders at Third St. Elementary School (named after millionaire philanthropist Thaddeus T. Third III) go through even though it's been thirty-four years for me. First, let's look at the gang themselves: T.J., the undisputed leader of the gang and master prankster. Gretchen, the smartest kid in the school REGARDLESS of grade. Gus, the mousy new kid. Vince, the school jock. Spinnelli, the toughest girl, if not kid, in the school. Mikey, the big kid with the soul of a poet. Each kid has their own unique personality and strength (for the record: I was like Gus while in the fourth grade, now I'm probably more like Mikey). Then, there are the suppporting players like the Ashleys, who act not unlike the title characters in the movie HEATHERS. Randall, the school snitch. The Diggers (named Sam and Dave, after the famous singing group). Upside-down Girl and Swinger Girl. Office clerk Menlow (does this kid EVER go to class?). Lawson, who is constantly on the losing end of any competition with Vince. And the Kindergarteners, who look and act like escapees from "Lord of the Flies". Then there are the grown-ups of the show: The appropriately named Principal Prickly (voiced by Dabney Coleman). Flowerchild teacher Miss Grolke (Alyce Beasley of "Moonlighting" fame). And last, but certainly not least, Miss Finster (April Winchell), the school disciplinarian, described as "a 200-lb. gargoyle in orthopedic shoes". Watching this show brings back a lot of memories, both good and bad. It's a trip down Memory Lane worth traveling.

Barbershop
(2002)

Laughs outweigh the controversy.
First of all, the movie deserves a big thumbs-up from me for being filmed in my neighborhood (southeast side of Chicago). The story of BARBERSHOP deals with young Calvin Palmer, Jr. (Ice Cube), who has inherited his late father's failing barbershop. He wants to sell the shop and open up a recording studio in his basement, which is why he makes a deal with Lester (the silky-voiced Keith David), the local loan shark. Lester, however, wants to turn the location into a strip club while retaining the name "barbershop". Through the course of the day, Calvin has to figure out how to break the news to the people who work for him. There's Ricky (Michael Ealy), an ex-con who already has two strikes against him. Terri (rap artist Eve), the lone female barber who is in a bad relationship and is constantly having her apple juice stolen. Jimmy ("The District"'s Sean Patrick Thomas), the college man who kind of looks down his nose at the other barbers and customers. Isaac (Troy Garity), the token white who acts black. Dinka (Leonard James Howze), a big African man who has a crush on Terri. And then there's Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), the barber with the most "seniorority"(sic) and a hairdo that could use another barber's touch. Most of the laughs (and controversy) come from Eddie's comments about such Civil Rights leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. He also has a VERY choice comment directed at Rev. Jesse Jackson! It should be noted that the comments about the Civil Rights icons are Eddie's and Eddie's alone. The other characters in the movie get on his case for uttering those words. But, as Eddie puts it: "If we can't talk honestly at the barbershop, then where can we talk honestly?" There is also another subplot dealing with Anthony Anderson and Lahmard Tate as a pair of thieves who have stolen an ATM and lug it all over town trying to get it opened. At first, it seems as if this point is going nowhere, until the end. If you let the controversy about the Civil Rights comments keep you away from this movie, it will be YOUR loss. You'll miss out on one of the year's funniest movies, plus let it be known that you are a sheep willing to be led others. See it for yourself and make up your own mind.

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