emguy

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Reviews

Marley's Ghosts
(2015)

Good cast, clever writing
Sarah Alexander, John Hannah, and.Jo Joyner do an especially good job.

Yeah, it's a "gimmick" show in that only Marley can.see her ghost friends and hilarity ensues, but it's cleverly done and the cast is good. It's only nine episodes. The show didn't last long enough to run out of steam.

Shark Season
(2020)

Not great
The movie seemed like an earnest newcomer effort to create a suspenseful shark attack movie (not over-the-top silliness like Sharknado (2013)), but now I see that several cast and crew have a list of credits behind them. They couldn't do better? Several crew members are credited in both movies; both movies are from The Asylum.

The basic premise is straightforward: Three people get stranded in rising waters while a shark circles them. Will they survive? That's the story.

The writing was amateurish. At a few points, it seemed like the screenwriter was thinking, "I looked up some stuff for background, so dang it, I'm going to squeeze it into somebody's dialogue somewhere." For example, the distraught father is on the phone with his frightened daughter, who had just indicated that she and her cell phone might die at any moment. Did he really need to go into an extended explanation of king tides, instead of quickly telling her what to do before her phone shut down?

The characters repeated themselves a few times unnecessarily too, which felt like padding. They also flip-flopped a few times (for no apparent reason) about what they should or shouldn't do next.

There were a few disjointed topic changes in the dialogue, as if the screenwriter decided to shoehorn an arbitrary subplot or two into the script -- but only in the form of dialogue, not activity. Whether it was the writing, the direction, or the acting that was inadequate, they couldn't make up their minds about each character's attitudes toward the subplots.

The performances weren't great. Paige McGarvin had the least amateurish performance, although this included screaming "What do you want?" at the shark. Seemed to me that the shark was pretty clear about its intentions. Michael Madsen just phoned in his performance, literally. Almost all his screen time had him, by himself, on the phone.

One ludicrous bit was when the operators of a small boat told the girl treading water -- water that was entirely too deep for her to stand in -- that they couldn't come to her because the water was too shallow.

The title "Shark Season" seems pretty arbitrary. How was this shark season, really? I guess they were desperate to find a shark title that hadn't been used previously.

Deep Murder
(2019)

Wow, awful and poorly done
Reviews giving this a 10 must have been written by the publicists. It's a warning sign when a reviewer says they created an account just so they could review one movie.

This wasn't funny in the least, although it was obviously trying to be. It wasn't a good parody. It wasn't silly fun, cheesy fun, campy fun, or raunchy fun. I saw no cult film potential. An Ed Wood movie would be a big step up in quality.

I have to wonder if the cast members took these roles on a dare, or because they were desperate for work, or because they have really bad agents. The cast members I've seen in other roles definitely have more talent than they showed here. Maybe the filmmakers wanted to see just how terrible they could make the movie and still have it see the light of day.

Four Dogs
(2013)

A slice of life, decently shot and written
It's a slice-of-life story centered on two bored, sad, lonely men who hang out together. One lives with his aunt, doing household chores. The other is an aspiring actor.

There isn't a plot, just a series of conversations and vignettes. There's a little humor and a little drama, but not a great amount of either. A friend of the aunt's drops who's also sad and lonely drops by for a few days.

Frankly, that all sounds dull, doesn't it -- watching sad people muddle through a few days? The movie's saving grace is that it's well-acted, well-written, and nicely shot. The characters seem real and you wish each of them well.

As slice-of-life stories go, this was decently done. If you're looking for a comedy, a drama, or a story arc instead of a character study, you'll be disappointed.

The Andy Griffith Show: Barney and the Choir
(1962)
Episode 20, Season 2

"Sweet" if you ignore all the deceit
A fundamental challenge of the half-hour sitcom that's short on big story arcs is that the writers have to pretend everything is wrapped up neatly within the space of one episode. Sometimes that calls for serious hand-waving to pretend that something simply didn't happen.

It's supposed to be "sweet" that Barney's friends deceive him. They deceived him when the choir agreed to meet elsewhere, without telling Barney. Singling out one person and ditching them is the stuff of nasty school cliques, and not a nice thing to do to a friend. They deceived him by omission when they could have talked to him honestly (yet kindly) about his singing voice, but chose to let him make a fool of himself instead. They deceived him when they led him to think there was a special microphone he had to whisper into. They deceived him when they got someone else to dub his voice, while having him think he was hearing his own voice. They deceived the judges and audience at the competition too, by having them think Barney was the soloist - not terribly ethical.

One problem with that sort of lying is that everyone would have to maintain it over time - an element that was addressed in other episodes. They'd have to keep pretending he can really sing, and perpetuate further lies to stop him. They'd have to keep pretending that one microphone was different from the rest. Eventually, someone would slip up, and he'd realize that a bunch of people he trusted had been lying to him all along. Not exactly sweet.

But the writers took the easy way out, and pretended it'd never matter again. End of episode = end of consequences.

This would have been a much stronger episode if Barney's friends realized that by sneaking around and lying, they weren't doing Barney any real favors or acting like responsible adults.

Gunsmoke: He Learned About Women
(1962)
Episode 21, Season 7

The ending was good except...
My immediate thought as the episode went to the credits was, "That's it? You ended it there???"

Everything was fine up until the last moment. Chester learns of Chavela's noble sacrifice and of her feelings for him, when he had been feeling betrayed. Great. But then, instead of saying, "So let's go get her before she makes a terrible mistake," Matt and Chester just shrug the whole thing off, and that's the end of it. Matt speculated that Chavela would eventually kill Solis, as if that made it all okay, or as if that wasn't a hint that this was a bad situation to leave her in.

This is one episode that should have ended with "To be continued."

Gunsmoke: Catawomper
(1962)
Episode 19, Season 7

A dud
This episode expects viewers to feel sympathy or maybe amusement for the relationship between a manipulative brat and a violent, possessive bully. Someone might invoke "60s TV" or "the Wild West" and say that was acceptable behavior for the one or the other, but neither Miss Kitty nor Marshal Dillon seemed to think so.

The script meanders about and seems padded. Kate was petulant over and over, and Bud was bone-headed and obnoxious over and over, without furthering the story.

The Army bit toward the end was almost a deus ex machina to force the ending. I suppose the ending was intended to be happy or amusing, yet it looked like the prelude to an abusive, unhappy marriage.

But Dennis Weaver goes all Andy/Mayberry and offers a song halfway through, so it's not all bad. (The Andy Griffith Show was in its second season at the time.)

The Twilight Zone: The Bewitchin' Pool
(1964)
Episode 36, Season 5

The accents are plausible
To those who complained about the children and their parents having different accents... This happens all the time. Almost invariably, no matter what sort of accent the parents have, or no matter what language is spoken at home, young children automatically absorb the local language and the local accent of wherever they're growing up. Once kids hit the age of 12 or so, their accent locks in and probably won't change much after that. I've seen this over and over and over. Clearly, the kids in this episode grew up in the US South, but the parents didn't.

I thought this was a decent episode. It looks at the impact on the children when the parents have become hostile toward each other, and then they take it out on the kids. This being the Twilight Zone, it gave the kids a TZ way to handle the situation. Since it's basically a short story format, it left a few mysteries behind, and that's okay. TZ episodes are often about the mystery, not the explanations.

Why didn't the episode show the parents calling the police? Turning this into a police procedural about missing children would have been off the point.

The Twilight Zone: The Obsolete Man
(1961)
Episode 29, Season 2

Irony meter
I found the episode a little too heavy-handed and preachy. However, I usually like reading IMDb commentary on TZ episodes, because the comments are generally of high quality, and you can find interesting reactions and perspectives.

This time, I think my irony meter broke. I'm astonished at the comments suggesting that we ALREADY live in the world depicted by this episode. The irony of such a comment is apparently lost on those commenters. No government dictated what they could watch. They were free to comment in a public forum without repercussions. Their comments weren't edited or removed by anyone. They can easily read from a vast, massive variety of books that are published without governmental interference. And yet they think we're already living this episode.

I'll have to get a new irony meter. This one is smoking and making sad popping noises.

The Twilight Zone: The Brain Center at Whipple's
(1964)
Episode 33, Season 5

Lackluster effort
This story takes the easy way out. It has an easy villain, a heartless corporate exec. His comeuppance is obvious and simplistic. He gets the same treatment he gave others - not the sort of TZ-worthy twist one comes to expect. There's no nuance, no insight, just a black and white Good vs Evil, human beings vs corporate efficiency. The erstwhile corporate exec doesn't even seem to realize that he's now the victim of the same thing he did to others.

A more nuanced approach would have given the exec a little bit of a journey to discover the heartlessness of his approach, instead of cutting directly from perpetrator to victim. A more nuanced approach would have shown the staff realizing that refusing to accept change carries its own risks.

I'd rate the episode lower, but hey, it's still the dear old TZ, and you try to be forgiving when an old friend lobs the occasional dud. The episode gets some credit for casting a non-white actor whose role isn't just to be "the black guy." And Robby the Robot gets a cameo appearance.

The Twilight Zone: The Old Man in the Cave
(1963)
Episode 7, Season 5

Decent cautionary tale
As a cautionary tale, it works well. It takes a look at how different people react in dire circumstances. In one sense, everybody is a sympathetic character, as they band together in different ways and try to get through trying times. In another sense, none of them are sympathetic, because they all engage in self-defeating behaviors. Even the John Anderson character is guilty of this, because making yourself a single point of failure and hoping people never find out you've been deceiving them aren't good long-term strategies.

In terms of execution, John Anderson and James Coburn do what they do best. It's a well acted episode.

As sci-fi, it leaves something to be desired. A computer has been running for years, in a cave, apparently without a power source and without the sort of climate control that big computers need. It also has the ability to know which cans of food are tainted and which aren't, without any apparent method for making this determination. It can predict the weather, without any apparent method for collecting world climate data. As sci-fi, it's all "fi" and no "sci."

The Twilight Zone: The Masks
(1964)
Episode 25, Season 5

Mixed feelings
I have mixed feelings about this episode. On the one hand, it's well acted, and it has a memorable, classic Twilight Zone twist.

On the other hand, the story loses something for me by being about a last cruel act by a lifelong crabby, difficult person. His relatives were unlikable people, sure, but so was he. It didn't seem that they had done anything especially bad to him. He was no more kind and loving toward them than they were toward him, yet he took it on himself to mete out a punishment that far exceeded the crime, while letting himself off the hook. If this had been a "cosmic justice" episode instead of a tale of personal spite, he would have gotten some sort of comeuppance too. The household staff and his personal physician had apparently been loyal and reliable over the years, so cosmic justice would have seen them rewarded, but they got nothing. He went out on a mean-spirited note.

In addition, we're supposed to believe that Wilfred and Wilfred Jr. are a generation apart, when the two actors were only 8 years apart, and looked it.

The Twilight Zone: The Changing of the Guard
(1962)
Episode 37, Season 3

Simple but powerful
At a certain level, this episode is so simplistic you could capture the entire plot, with the ending, in a single sentence. A lesser production would have delivered a treacly bit of fluff, padded out to fill the time slot. But Donald Pleasence turns the story into a powerful tale that puts a knot in my throat.

This one's not about the plot. It's about the character. It's about dedication to a purpose even though you may never find out if you were successful.

This episode is among my favorites. Maybe it's all the teachers in my family. Maybe it's the teachers I wish I could tell about their positive impact on me, or the teachers I've been able to tell.

(P.S. If this was written grammatically, it's thanks to Mrs. Prokopik in the 7th grade, and Mr. Carroll on the high school newspaper.)

The Twilight Zone: The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms
(1963)
Episode 10, Season 5

The powerful evidence of a canteen
This episode has a TZ twist, as one would expect, but it seemed to violate a certain rule observed by other Twilight Zone time travel stories. In the other stories, like "Back There" or "The Odyssey of Flight 33," the characters don't start with the time travel explanation. Instead, they come round to it only when there's copious evidence right in front of them.

In this episode, however, they leap directly to the time travel explanation with very little evidence. The canteen? A tourist could have dropped a souvenir. The distant sounds of battle? A recorded program for the tourists, or a reenactment group. Unoccupied tepees? Something for the tourists. Regular watchers of the Twilight Zone know right away, of course, that the canteen is no tourist souvenir. The 20th- century characters in the story, however, weren't regular TZ watchers, so for them, it was a big leap for anyone to conclude that time had been traveled.

The Twilight Zone: Probe 7, Over and Out
(1963)
Episode 9, Season 5

Definite spoiler: Someone had to do the cliché first
Good performances and all, but the ending is one that shows up on lists of overused sci-fi story devices. It was something like 30 years ago that I recall a sci-fi editor complaining that he had endless submissions about a couple finding themselves the only people on the planet, and then the big reveal at the end was, "And their names were Adam and Eve."

It's been a cliché for a while, but somewhere back in time, somebody wrote a story like that for the first time. If I give Serling the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was the first to turn that particular Bible story into a sci-fi tale.

Peter's Friends
(1992)

Not entirely a comedy, not entirely a melodrama
It wasn't a bad movie, but with a lesser cast it would have been. It kept flirting with amateurish melodrama and the occasional attempt at broad comedy while still wanting to be a witty comedy, yet somehow the performances kept it together (except for one highly over-acted scene from Branagh). Knowing we were basically watching "Kenneth's Friends" with various points of similarity to the actors' real lives put an unfortunate air of "vanity project" about the movie.

How ironic that comments here have commented on the extreme Britishness of the writing, when at least one of the two screenwriters was American. Rita Rudner slipped at least one line from her stand-up act into the movie (about not falling in love), and found a way for one of the characters to praise the line too.

Those who are in denial about similarities to The Big Chill are just in denial. The comparison was inescapable, and I kept thinking of it as The Brit Chill while I was watching it, before I had read any reviews or IMDb comments. Kevin Costner didn't show up as the dead guy that prompted the reunion in this one either! :-)

'It's Alive!'
(1969)

I *love* this hideous movie!
I give this movie 1 star, but I mean it in a good way. ;-) How do you rate a hideously awful movie you have so much fun watching? It makes "Plan 9" look good. It makes "Manos" -- okay, never mind, not Manos. "Eegah" maybe, but not "Manos." This is one for the MST3K crowd. My brother and I had stumbled across it on TV many years ago. It was by far the worst movie we had seen up to that point, and we cracked up all the way through it.

Years passed, and we had completely forgotten its title. I was on a slow quest to try to find the title again. Finally, finally, I described it in an online forum (before IMDb) and someone told me the title. The next quest was to find a copy. Time passed, and my lovely bride got me the DVD as a gift. We had to share it with our horrible-movie-watching gang.

La lupa mannara
(1976)

"Intelligent" bad movie?
I started watching this movie expecting some barely tolerable Hammer horror film wannabe... and I wasn't far off. There's a fair amount of glimpsed gore, and they threw in lots of nudity, but the latter half of the movie presents a few ironic twists. Holy cow, they actually put a little thought into the story, and didn't completely fall into the predictable stuff one expected at the outset. And dare I say it, some of the "gratuitous" nudity wasn't so gratuitous after all, because it fit in with the story and setting.

Don't get me wrong, it's still overall a bad movie, but as bad movies go, it's a shade more intelligent than the REALLY horrible tripe like Mesa of Lost Women and Robot Monster.

Swimming Pool
(2003)

The Twist
Beware of spoilers in the comments that follow. I'm going to assume you've seen the movie.

I didn't see the twist ending coming, but once it came, I didn't feel puzzled by it. Clearly, the movie was showing us the writer's creative process: Take inspiration from a situation, and explore how your fictional characters react to various situations. There'll be false starts and changes in direction, but that's all part of the process.

I'm assuming that the scenes in the UK were "real." Did she really take John up on his offer to stay at his house in France? Maybe, but whether she really went there or not, Julie was her imagined version of John's daughter.

Sarah took the basic situation -- a very nice house, a picturesque region of France, an unknown daughter who occasionally shows up at the house -- and began imagining what she could do with such a character in that setting. Sarah didn't even like the character at first, and found her too challenging, but then she decided to get to know her better.

This explains the odd moments (like people just standing and staring) and the inconsistencies (like who really has the job of cleaning the pool, or Sarah's flip-flopping between helpless fear of a suspected killer and willing, sympathetic helpfulness for a known killer).

What we see on Sarah's return to London is her happy ending in the real world. She has successfully completed a story to her satisfaction, knowing full well that it wasn't what her usual publisher was looking for. We find she doesn't know the publisher's actual daughter, but she imagines a fond farewell to the fictional character and the real person who triggered the inspiration.

Six-String Samurai
(1998)

Bizarre - simultaneously derivative and original
The 'Road Warrior' ties are obvious, as others have noted. Throw in some deliberate clichés from cheesy martial arts flicks, cheesy 60s rock-and-roll movies, Clint Eastwood westerns, some 'Wizard of Oz' references, and a dollop of 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.' And maybe a touch of 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes' too.

The plot, such as it is, is bare-bones simple and has been done a jillion times. In fact, it's more predictable than one would expect at several points, though I won't give away the ending. The story is really just a rack on which to hang lots of campy, cult-film-wannabe moments.

Jeeves and Wooster
(1990)

Great fun, a few nits
I'll second a lot of the comments already made here -- the great work done by Fry & Laurie, the spirit of fun, the parade of Brit actors who couldn't do American accents, the jarring cast changes -- and I'll add a couple more.

On the good side, the series captured an essential characterization from the stories that, in my experience, many readers of the original stories miss. That is, Bertie isn't the stereotypical upper-class idle rich twit. While he's lacking in book knowledge, he's not stupid; he has a flair for expression. While he often appears to lack sense, it's frequently because his helpful, generous, loyal nature takes priority over his personal dignity or common sense. He's a product of the class system, yet as a rule he's genial, generous, and non-condescending toward all. Laurie's portrayal captures the fact that Bertie is a "good egg." One complaint I had is that the later episodes sometimes descended into cheap, uninspired slapstick. Also in the later episodes, Jeeves did some very un-Jeeves-like things, like enthusiastically learning to play the same sorts of music he sniffed at in earlier seasons. The final episode of the final series stooped to a Benny Hill ending.

And isn't it ironic that the show hired all those British actors who couldn't do American accents, when Hugh Laurie has demonstrated that he does them very well? I've known people who've seen "Stuart Little" or "House" who can't believe Laurie isn't American.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
(2004)

Yawn, yawn, yawn
This movie was forced, formulaic, padded out unnecessarily, utterly predictable, and unfocused.

The romances were pulled out of thin air, and did not seem genuine at all.

The cameos from the first movie were contrived afterthoughts, and could have been omitted without affecting the thin plot or the thin characterization.

Even the seasoned pros -- Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo, and John Rhys-Davies -- didn't seem to have their hearts in this movie.

Most of the humor fell flat: not terribly funny, and largely unrelated to the rest of the movie.

The poor individual who was dumped virtually vanished from the movie at that instant, without any compassion, sympathy, or even acknowledgment from the other main characters.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
(2003)

Semi-literary fun
The movie scores points for using characters out of literature. Even though the movie takes quite a few liberties with the characters, if it gets people interested in reading the originals, cool!

I don't mind the anachronisms and implausibilities -- a 22-foot car, in that era? Venice streets drivable by same? a palatial submarine? Venetian canals navigable by same? and so on. After all, the works these characters came from reveled in their anachronistic and/or implausible elements. That was supposed to be part of the fun.

I'm just hoping that nobody naively assumes the movie versions of these characters were good matches for their literary originals. Go read the originals, and have fun finding out how the "real" fictional characters were different from what you see in this movie!

All About Eve
(1950)

Good, but overhyped
I'm afraid I'm not going to join the gush parade for this movie.

The performances are good, Eve and Margo are well-done characters, and the ending is like something out of the Twilight Zone, but the movie also has a number of shortcomings.

It's very talky -- nothing but talk, hardly a moment of silence. The dialogue seems more stagey than natural. The characters don't converse so much as declaim or emote. The dialogue doesn't seem witty as some have claimed, just bitter and cynical (for the most part).

The visuals aren't very visual. The shots are mostly ordinary shots of whoever's talking at the moment. There's little character movement. This could easily have been a radio play.

The relationship between Margo and boyfriend seems contrived. There's no apparent reason why they should be so attached to each other. It doesn't come across. In fact, they seem quite unattached to each other initially, but the movie changes its mind abruptly in midcourse.

I'll confess a bias against actors acting about acting. It's the kind of self-referential, self-reverential stuff that bugs me, like news reporters reporting on each other instead of the news, or playwrights writing plays about plays. It smacks of taking oneself far too seriously. (Okay, it's a pet peeve, but there you go.)

But despite these shortcomings, it's still worth watching to the end.

Popeye
(1980)

Charming fun, eccentric songs
This movie recaptured the spirit of the old comic strip and the old animated cartoons, including the odd little mumbled comments. Shelley Duvall was the perfect Olive Oyl. The wacky songs were different and fun. (My wife and daughter know and sing most of the songs, just for fun.) The movie looked great.

The movie also has a moral center, focusing on honor and loyalty, with no pandering to "Hollywood" morals.

Dennis Franz looks a little different in this early role!

The musicians were cameo roles for professional musicians: Klaus Voorman, Doug Dillard of The Dillards, Van Dyke Parks.

I was fortunate in seeing this in theater release, because there were quite a few Popeye fans in the theater. There's an extra element of enjoyment in a movie if you're seeing it with people who are there to enjoy themselves.

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